Author Archives: Michael Froomkin

Wonderful Layered Short Story

Sleeper by Jo Walton at Tor.com crams in themes about dystopian spying, virtuality, how we create our pasts and our futures, and identity. All in just a few words.

When I grow up, I’d be happy to write something Jo Walton feels is worth re-reading.

Posted in Kultcha, Readings | Leave a comment

David Brin Epic Takedown of Fox’s Soros-Haters

Epic indeed:

Let’s illustrate the mad-right’s narrative machine, and how sadly incurious millions of our neighbors have become, nodding and swallowing anything that gets fed to them on Fox. 

Use this!  Ask your crazy uncle what he thinks of a man named… George Soros. 

Oh, any Fox-watcher will tell you about Soros! How he is a criminal mastermind with a huge media empire that has suckered millions of Blue Americans into raving socialist-communist frenzy. 

Never mind that Soros’s wealth and media “empire” are minuscule compared to the triumvirate of Rupert Mudoch, the Koch boys and the Saudi royal family, all co-owners of Fox. Folks following the narrative call George Soros a “super-leftist” master-demon.

A special moment: they nod in terror when Glen Beck howls “Soros toppled EIGHT foreign governments!” 

In fact, that’s true! For once, Beck ain’t lying at all. George Soros did help to topple eight foreign governments! He is, indeed, a formidable fellow. Alas, in a sign of how far GOP intellect has plummeted since days of Goldwater and Buckley, not one audience member of the Beck or Limbaugh or Fox riefenstahl-rallies ever lifts his head to ask … 

“Um… Glen? Rush? Sean? WHICH eight foreign governments do you credit Soros – the super leftist with toppling?”

 In ten years of daring these guys, none of the Fox-ites I’ve  confronted has ever been able to name even one of those toppled foreign governments. It just never occurred to them, to ask.

Are you ready to ask? Ready for the list? Here are those eight foreign governments Beck/Limbaugh/Fox credit George Soros with toppling.

The communist dictatorship of Hungary.

The communist dictatorship of Poland

The communist dictatorship of Czechoslovakia

The communist dictatorship of Romania

The communist dictatorship of Bulgaria

The communist dictatorship of Estonia

The communist dictatorship of Latvia

The communist dictatorship of Lithuania

And mind you it isn’t just uber-conservatives Beck and Limbaugh who credit Soros with this terrifying feat! The Heritage Foundation and AEI and most rightist pundit-castes have repeated it! Along with many GOP candidates. (Though sometimes the figure is nine since it rightfully should include East Germany.) Indeed, Soros’s relentless efforts to undermine the USSR and communism made up his core life’s work and even many sane political observers credit him substantially.

Let’s make this explicit. Glen Beck and all those other right wing mavens officially credit terrifying leftist George Soros with the toppling of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Warsaw Pact, the liberation of hundreds of millions and the victorious end of the Cold War. 

Huh. I thought it was that other liberal (compared to today’s GOP) Ronald Reagan. In fact, they both share equal credit with Michail Gorbachev and with the architect of our grand 1945-2000 plan — George Marshall. (With Jimmy Carter deserving more of an assist cred than you’d believe.)

Look, the crux here is not who actually tore down the wall. Hey, let’s credit the people of those nations, above all. 

No, the core point is this: why are the viewers of Fox and Beck/Limbaugh so cosmically stupid that they never — any of them — ask enough questions to notice the tsunami of ironies and contradictions and outright lies at their Nuremberg Rally? 

So… um… where does this ghastly example of looniness, incuriosity and knee jerk obedience to declared dogma leave the credibility of today’s monster that has hijacked the once intellectually solid American conservative movement?

Oh, pity Barry Goldwater. spinning 6000 RPM in his grave.

Posted in Politics: Tinfoil, Politics: US | 1 Comment

Anyone Interested in Data Anonymization or Differential Privacy Should Read This

Riding with the Stars: Passenger Privacy in the NYC Taxicab:

Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club is in a fairly isolated location in Hell’s Kitchen, and no doubt experiences significant cab traffic in the early hours of the morning. I ran a query to pull out all pickups that occurred outside the club after midnight and before 6am, and mapped the drop-off coordinates to see if I could pinpoint individuals who frequented the establishment. The map below shows my results – the yellow points correspond to drop-offs that are closely clustered, implying a frequent customer.

The potential consequences of this analysis cannot be overstated. Go ahead, zoom in. You will see that the GPS coordinates are terrifyingly precise. Using this freely-obtainable, easily-created map, one can find out where many of Hustler’s customers live, as there are only a handful of locations possible for each point. Add a little local knowledge, and, well, it’s not rocket science. “I was working late at the office” no longer cuts it: Big Brother is watching.

Even without suspicions or knowledge of the neighborhood, I was able to pinpoint certain individuals with high probability.

Differential privacy — blurring the info — can work here. Note however, that for differential privacy to work, it must be applied with a very clear idea of the future uses that could be made of the data. This is often not at all easy.

Posted in Surveillance | 1 Comment

Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Nobel-PrizeTSA Questions Scientist Trying to Bring His Nobel Prize Through Security:

“They’re like, ‘Sir, there’s something in your bag.’ I said, ‘Yes, I think it’s this box.’

“They said, ‘What’s in the box?’ I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.

“So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’ I said, ‘gold.’ And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’ ‘The King of Sweden.’ ‘Why did he give this to you?’ ‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.’

“At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humour. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?’”

Daily Telegraph via View from the Wing.

Posted in Law: Right to Travel | Leave a comment

Eric Fresen Must Go

If there’s one thing about local politics that ought to be beyond debate it is that Eric Fresen (FL House District 114) is a an example of most of what is wrong with the state of the polity.

He’s in the pocket of Big Gambling, and has tirelessly worked to legalize big casinos despite the fact that other communities that have invited them in don’t get good jobs and do get much more organized and even petty crime. Even if you manage to make a destination location, the hard-core gamblers don’t as a rule leave the facility to spread their money around.

He’s basically a walking ethical swamp:

The $1,500 penalty was assessed in 2003 because Fresen did not file a financial disclosure while serving as legislative aide the year before.

Commissioners said it was “horrific” that Fresen had not paid the fine, and called the case among the worst they had ever seen. One commissioner likened the circumstances to a bank robbery.

“Can we do a public censure?” asked Commissioner Linda Robison. “I find this appalling and I think his constituents need to know he never paid a fine that was assessed.”

Experts agree that this is not an isolated issue, either.

But today the Miami Herald (truckling to the establishment since long before I moved here), endorsed every incumbent legislator. Including Fresen. Maybe because Herald ex-publisher David Lawrence, Jr. has some sort of crush on him?

And this in the year when Fresen has what may be his best challenger ever, Daisy Baez. I’ve met her and I was impressed. Unfortunately, Ross Hancock is running as an independent after dropping out of the Democratic primary when Baez demonstrated financial muscle and support. I supported Hancock when he ran against Fresen last time (and he did well because a lot of folks really hate Fresen) but this is just splitting the vote.

Vote Baez if you live in the 114th District.

This really one isn’t about party (I don’t think Baez is a liberal, she’s ex-military and a corporate executive) — it’s about basic ethics and decency.

Posted in 2014 Election, Miami | 3 Comments

Guest Post at The Volokh Conspiracy

See Self-defense against overflying drones (with Zak Colangelo). It’s a quick summary of some of the arguments in our (draft) paper on Self-Defense Against Robots.

I wonder–am I the most liberal guest-poster ever at Volokh’s blog? Must surely be in the top five at least.

Posted in Blogs, Robots | 1 Comment

We Robot 2015 Call for Papers

We invite submissions for the fourth annual robotics law and policy conference—We Robot 2015—to be held in Seattle, Washington on April 10-11, 2015 at the University of Washington School of Law. We Robot has been hosted twice at the University of Miami School of Law and once at Stanford Law School. The conference web site is at http://werobot2015.org.

cropped-werobot-webheaderWe Robot 2015 seeks contributions by academics, practitioners, and others in the form of scholarly papers or demonstrations of technology or other projects. We Robot fosters conversations between the people designing, building, and deploying robots, and the people who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots will operate. We particularly encourage contributions resulting from interdisciplinary collaborations, such as those between legal, ethical, or policy scholars and roboticists.

This conference will build on existing scholarship that explores how the increasing sophistication and autonomous decision-making capabilities of robots and their widespread deployment everywhere from the home, to hospitals, to public spaces, to the battlefield disrupts existing legal regimes or requires rethinking of various policy issues. We are particularly interested this year in “solutions,” i.e., projects with a normative or practical thesis aimed at helping to resolve issues around contemporary and anticipated robotic applications.

Scholarly Papers

Topics of interest for the scholarly paper portion of the conference include but are not limited to:

  • The impact of artificial intelligence on civil liberties, including sexuality, equal protection, privacy, suffrage, and procreation.
  • Comparative perspectives on the regulation of robotic technologies.
  • Assessment of what institutional configurations, if any, would best serve to integrate robotics into society responsibly.
  • Deployment of autonomous weapons in the military or law enforcement contexts.
  • Law and economic perspectives on robotics.

These are only some examples of relevant topics. We are very interested in papers on other topics driven by actual or probable robot deployments. The purpose of this conference is to help set a research agenda relating to the deployment of robots in society, to inform policy-makers of the issues, and to help design legal rules that will maximize opportunities and minimize risks arising from the increased deployment of robots in society.

Discussants

We also invite expressions of interest from potential discussants. Every paper accepted will be assigned a discussant whose job it will be to present and comment on the paper. These presentations will be very brief (no more than 10 minutes) and will consist mostly of making a few points critiquing the author’s paper to kick off the conversation. Authors will then respond briefly (no more than 5 minutes). The rest of the session will consist of a group discussion about the paper moderated by the discussant.

Demonstrations

Unlike the scholarly papers, proposals for demonstrations may be purely descriptive and designer/builders will be asked to present their work themselves. We’d like to hear about your latest innovations—and what’s on the drawing board for the next generations of robots as well, or about legal and policy issues you have encountered in the design or deploy process.

How to Submit Your Proposal

Please send a 1-3 page abstract outlining your proposed paper, and a c.v. of the author(s) to papers@werobot2015.org.

  • Paper proposals accepted starting Oct. 1, 2014. See http://werobot2015.org for further information.
  • Call for papers closes Nov 3, 2014.
  • Responses by Dec. 14, 2014.
  • Full papers due by March 23, 2015. They will be posted on line at the conference web site unless otherwise agreed by participants.

We anticipate paying reasonable round-trip domestic coach airfare and providing hotel accommodation for presenters and discussants.

Posted in Robots, Talks & Conferences | Leave a comment