Profit-Driven Surveillance and the Spectrum of Freedom: “We will offer electronic monitoring services in every state.”

Matt Stoller is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.  You can follow him on Twitter at

The question of civil liberties versus privacy carries with it an entire set of tired arguments and predictable political posturing.  The debate, however, is changing radically, because the capabilities to invade and control privacy have become extremely granular, and the profit motive has now changed the traditional actor in surveillance from the state to the private corporation.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported on new facial recognition technology to be used by police, in which a cop can use an iPhone to snap a photo of someone and cross-check that against a criminal database.  Developed to deal with insurgents in foreign wars, this technology applied domestic is predictably making civil liberties groups queasy.  But there’s a new wrinkle – the company that makes this technology says that “it will be sold only to law-enforcement agencies, although it is considering building applications for the health-care and financial industries.”

Health care and financial industries.  That is interesting.

Meanwhile, in Houston, two school districts are requiring students to wear electronic tagging badges formerly used on cattle. The badges “improve security and increase attendance rates, a figure that’s important because some school funding is tied to attendance.” Students are often attending a different school, while marked absent, and these devices allow funding models to more accurately flow funds. These devices impose a novel degree of surveillance on young adults, observing where they go, with whom they spend time, for budgetary reasons.

Profit-driven surveillance does not starts and stop with young adults. It is, in fact, becoming pervasive. The main theme of a recent IBM consulting document on the future of the insurance industry is how much more money an insurance company can make if it tracks and tags its customers. This is particularly true for auto insurance companies, some of whom like Allstate and Progressive are experimenting on new technologies. For instance, IBM suggests that “A “pay-as-you-live” product would trade some location and time-of-day privacy data for lower insurance bills overall.”

IBM is recommending these companies stick a sensor in your car, measure where you go and when, your speed, acceleration and deceleration, etc. The progression over time could be to withdraw traditional insurance products, so that you won’t be able to get an insurance product without sensors attached. As this presentation offers, “The aforementioned rising tide of technology also empowers insurance underwriters to bring their products closer to realtime interaction via sensor networks and enlightened privacy regulations.”

As Michael Lewis has noted in articles and books on Wall Street and sports, you can slice and dice a mortgage into its component interest rate segment and principal. You can build a baseball team based on aggregating and disaggregating statistics. This kind of analysis is relatively new, a reconstruction of the world based on atomistic level quantitative attributes. For instance, you can track geographic areas based on cell phone relationships rather than borders. Financial engineers believe they can pretty much put a price on anything (whether those prices are any good over time is another matter). So what is your freedom worth? You need air, water, food, and relationships to survive. You want to go shopping, to the movies, to see friends. You have kids, romantics attachments, familial obligations. You like being able to travel, to explore, to watch TV. You need medical care. What are each of these worth? It’s a question that analysts are thinking about.

It’s not just sensors in your car – insurance companies are modeling tighter and tighter risk chunks. IBM goes on, saying that new products “will facilitate “just-in-time insurance” as a person moves through a set of “spaces.” Each step of the journey represents a different risk such as car-to-train-station, train-to-city-station, station-to- office, and so on. Each leg of the trip truly represents a varying amount of risk.” Tracking these movements could require nothing more than downloading an app on a smart phone, or some other device. But it is literally the application of financial engineering to your very liberty, or the toll-boothing of your life.

There are innovations in injustice that could accompany these products. Traditional illicit corporate profit-taking has been about denying certain products to segmented groups of people – segregation in housing, lower quality of medical care for ethnic and gender groups, predatory lending etc. But technology has now opened up a new model of profit-taking – if a company knows where you go, who you talk to, what you buy and eat, and your medical history, then it can charge you premium pricing by denying you exactly what *you* want. It can bypass your ethnographic group, and focus on tolling off component parts of what you as an individual want.

Imagine a new financial product targeted at people who have defaulted on debt and have a history of avoiding debt collectors. It’s a new kind of credit card, by a bank, which offers a reasonable rate of interest. You don’t have to put up cash or collateral. You don’t have to pay on time. The catch is that the financial institution requires that you wear a small tracking device on your ankle, so that their debt collection department knows where you are at all times. And if you violate the terms of service, the device blares out messages from debt collectors, wherever you are. The device could also be set up to blare out messages whenever you enter a “restricted zone”, say, a shopping mall or a store that the bank has put off limits to you.

Or imagine that a corporation decides that new employees must wear one of these for the first 30 days of employment, to ensure that he or she isn’t tardy, and to more accurately clock people in and out of work. The technology exists, and is being marketed, by private corporations. And it is being used by private corporations everywhere in America, to track tens of thousands of people. I drew this example from a specific device that could do this is called the ExacuTrack One) – the web page describing its technology leaves open all sorts of chilling possibilities. The reason you haven’t noticed is because these products are tracking prisoners, ex-felons, and people on parole.

This specific technological application is an outgrowth of a part of the for-profit prison industry, the for-profit parole segment. This industry, by design, is based on profiting by denying freedom to groups of people. And the more freedom denied, the more profit. Prisons are a blunt instrument in terms of restricting movement; parole is more like quasi-freedom. Sensors to track parolees can blur into sensors used by insurance companies to lower your premium or cattle tags to track students for better school district accounting. And selling tracking gear is the strategy pursued by the multi-billion dollar for-profit prison company Geo Group to differentiate itself from the more traditional “lock ’em up and profit” competition. The Geo Group doesn’t just own and operate “beds” for prisoners, it has done what any good management consultant would tell a company to do in an expanding market with a lot of different customer needs: diversify its product offerings.

Prominent in the Geo Group’s annual report is what the company calls its “Continuum of Care Services” strategy. In December of 2010, Geo Group bought an electronic tagging company called BI Incorporated. Here’s how the company explained the deal.

Founded in 1978, BI is the largest provider of comprehensive electronic monitoring services with a full complement of technologies, including radio frequency and global positioning system equipment, voice identification, and remote alcohol detection systems, which track more than 60,000 offenders on behalf of approximately 900 federal, state, and local correctional agencies located in all 50 states.

It is tracking 60,000 people. And in the company’s 10K, the company wrote that, “following the BI Acquisition,” it “will offer electronic monitoring services in every state”. So it’s everywhere in the US. Its business solutions are unique. For instance, BI has an “exclusive contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which we refer to as ICE, to provide supervision and reporting services designed to improve the participation of non-detained aliens in the immigration court system.” This means that the company is in a regulatory role over the behavior of large groups of people, who are not in prison. The Geo Group can now “offer turn-key solutions to our customers in managing the full lifecycle of an offender from arraignment to reintegration into the community, which we refer to as the corrections lifecycle”.   Again, this is the language of a bureaucracy of management, transmuted as easily from one industry to another.

Check out BI’s website; it is selling to State Departments of Corrections, parole departments, sheriffs, county executives, pretrial and probation officials, and judges. That’s a lot of customers. The company has a blog which answers such helpful questions as “What type of criminal defender should be on GPS tracking?” (every type of offender, as it turns out, including “juveniles”). There’s a products page, which looks like a demented Sharper Image catalogue.

The Geo Group now operates a whole host of corrective services, including prisons, youth prisons, psychiatric hospitals, electronic tagging, parole services, and secure airborne and ground transportation of prisoners. It also has facilities in the UK, South Africa, and Australia.

Mike Konczal picked up a 2007 report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on the push to privatize parole, or “community reentry services”. It’s not a surprise that privatization advocates would want to do to parole what they did to prisons. The question, though, is why a for-profit prison industry seek to push people out of prison?

The answer is, it depends on how much money you can make money by tagging and tracking people. The embedding of the profit motive into the criminal justice system is a profound shift in how we govern ourselves. That a private corporation has better data on tracked offenders than the 900 Fed and local jurisdictions it serves is potentially a threat to sovereignty. It means that traditional powers held by the state are now being moved into a whole host of actors, a kind of soft authoritarianism in which you can vote for politicians but the corporate entities that track and tag your freedom are impervious to social pressure.

It’s not too hard to imagine these services and products being sold to private actors to track employees, debtors, dissidents or anyone else.   The plans are already laid out.  Corporations are already tracking Facebook accounts, have extremely detailed information on financial and web usage, and frequently use credit checks before hiring someone. This is all an increase and broadening of coercive techniques in managing human resources.

This shouldn’t be shocking to those who have studied real American history -American corporations used to have their own quasi-military forces. Congress even set up an anti-Pinkerton law; Pinkerton was the Blackwater of the 19th century, and was used to break strikes back when that meant gun battles, rather than showing anti-union video tapes to new employees.

In fact, whether you are tracked because you get a discount on your auto insurance or whether you have broken some arbitrary rule or fit in a non-mainstream class of person, innovation in technology and autocratic organizational forms means that there will be a whole new category of constraints on freedom.

It is very much like the plain vanilla loan, which could be held by banks, being disaggregated into its component parts and sold to investors with varying degrees of risk. This then led to investors demanding more exotic loan products whose risk attributes they wanted to own. This can happen with human freedom. Based on what you are willing to pay, how much power you have, and your desires, our culture will begin offering extremely granular freedom zones.

Many people think that the current Supreme Court and political arrangement means that America is heading back to a 19th century political economy, with 21st century technological possibilities. Thinking about for profit prison and parole companies combined with GPS is a way to imagine what this might look like. When you layer on the clear trend of insurance companies that seek to track you with sensors, and school districts who want to track kids for accounting purposes, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the systems we’ve set up to run our society are increasingly, well, running our society.

The financial engineering of component parts of freedom, and the removal from the state of the monopoly rights to track and/or restrict movement, represents a novel form of social organization. It could be nothing less than a new form of authoritarianism, a soft version in which there are political choices and a measure of openness, but a jello-like network of corporate cartels holding power. In this society, you’ll get whatever zone of freedom you can pay for, and if you can’t afford any freedom, you won’t get any.

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About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.


  1. F. Beard

    When did we take that wrong turn? I’d say it was 1913 at the latest but more likely it goes back to Alexander Hamilton in the US and the BoE in the UK.

    I used to think Dante was being hard on bankers but not so much lately.

    1. Mark P.

      Very out-of-date, naive post.

      “It’s not too hard to imagine these services and products being sold to private actors to track employees, debtors, dissidents or anyone else,” Stoller writes.

      It all had already happened a decade ago. When John Poindexter, Robert Popp and the Total Information Awareness (TIA) crew were trying to figure out how to handle full-spectrum data mining and fusion 2003-2006, they were amazed to find how pretty much all data on the US population (and many other nations’ citizens) was already out there and for sale from private sector companies like ChoicePoint, etc.

      And Poindexter and company were, relatively speaking, the good guys as they wanted to use anonymized data —

      — and have a public discussion about how to do surveillance. After the uproar, TIA was closed and all the viable TIA projects were simply moved into the black and continued at places like NSA, DIA, etc.

      There are some interesting toys emerging as technology marches on. For instance, by 2010 they’d already automated Paul Ekman’s FACS system (as in the TV series LIE TO ME)with the Computer Expression Recognition Toolbox (CERS) —

      — and were rolling that out to TSA and such places.

      Two take-away points —

      [1] There’s too much data for the authorities to assess. If you’ve played your cards right and have developed some set of practices like FrankZ below, you can largely stay below the radar.

      [2] A lot of these systems are multi-use and could eventually be used by ordinary citizens against personnel in corporations, government, police by citizens. For example, facial recognition in general has improved orders of magnitude in the last half-dozen years and is largely software-based.

      Thus, one possible use of the CERT system is by citizens against bank executives and politicians to tell when they’re lying; the system has at least a 90 percent success rate and the only thing that fairly reliably beats it is Botox, which freezes the facial muscles. (CERT is not admissible in court.) The lab that developed CERT will license it out to anybody.

      1. Warren Celli

        I disagree with your two takeaway points…

        Mark P. says; “[1] There’s too much data for the authorities to assess. If you’ve played your cards right and have developed some set of practices like FrankZ below, you can largely stay below the radar.”

        Not true. Continuous top level comparative global sorting can constantly monitor strength of spheres of influence and constantly work to break them down and keep them broken down. Mega corporations, and the self anointed aberrant elite psychopaths that own and control them, control the governments and already impose the rules on all individuals to limit their spheres of influence. That’s what unwarranted energy dissipating taxes, excessive and selective regulations and debt loads are all about domestically, and what foreign agitation is about externally, like arming one drug cartel against another in Mexico. Perpetually grinding — and now more eliminating — the spheres of influence for control. The data increases exponentially, yes, but the underlying resources that many who use the data rely on, are, at this point relatively finite, and again, controlled by the few. This also impacts controlling spheres of influence.

        Mark P. says; “[2] A lot of these systems are multi-use and could eventually be used by ordinary citizens against personnel in corporations, government, police by citizens. For example, facial recognition in general has improved orders of magnitude in the last half-dozen years and is largely software-based.”

        The spread in the power of the deceptive externalized tools of dominance, what you call ‘the systems’, is also increasing exponentially. The power falls to those with the strongest tools and the most tools, all others are controlled by them. One atomic bomb can wipe out a multitude of lesser spheres of influence. Few will develop one in their garages or have access to one. Having said that there is an outside chance that some individual, or group of individuals, could come up with a new technology that could asymmetrically wipe out entire existing military systems or populations.

        You can run but you can no longer hide. Yes, individual wrenches can be poked in the spokes of the wheel, but unless a concerted effort — combining all of the lesser spheres of influence into one directional super force, like election boycotts — is made to wrest control from the immoral direction of the controlling few, they will remain in charge. When they want FrankZ they will have him. I predict drones being partially replaced and augmented with cheap to manufacture miniature rockets mounted on selected red light cameras within five years. Coupled with all sorts of data and sensing devices they will be used first to ring fence and protect elite determined properties, e.g., Camp David, the White House, and then rolled out globally. Think miniature star war missile defense systems and let your mind wander.

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. Mark P.

          @ Warren Celli —


          I don’t know a nice way to tell you that you’re being ludicrous, but we’re not spectacularly more advanced over where we were on September 11, 2001. For example, at least till a couple of years back TSA primarily used a sorting algorithm, SOUNDEX, that was developed in the late 19th century and implemented for the 1918 US census —

          I talk to scientists who compete for DARPA money to do this stuff, and I could walk through various technical domains and tell you to some extent specifically what and where the limitations are on most of it.

          Essentially, unless we develop the capability to solve NP-complete problems via quantum computing or something similarly magical —

          — the kind of unbeatable surveillance you imagine as existing currently is simply not possible in the universe in which we live. Period.

        2. Mark P.

          Oh yeah, Mr. C, you write also —

          “Having said that there is an outside chance that some individual, or group of individuals, could come up with a new technology that could asymmetrically wipe out entire existing military systems or populations.”

          That technology already exists, if you knew what you were talking about. Today, a couple of topflight guys in a garage with some of these toys, which are available via Internet sites like LabX and even eBay —

          — could in principle do what took a hundred top Soviet biologists at Biopreparat just over two decades ago.

  2. Frank

    Very good points. We are facing a “full disclosure future,” thanks to the economic dynamics you point out. Scott Peppet’s work on this is very smart:

    Given the ease of data collection, question is no longer how to block data flows, but how to assure “Equal Surveillance Under Law” (the title of a “Ewen Lecture on Civil Liberties” I recently gave at Brooklyn College).

    Here are some examples: (related to the Office of Financial Research’s Legal Entity Identifiers project)

  3. James

    It could be nothing less than a new form of authoritarianism, a soft version in which there are political choices and a measure of openness, but a jello-like network of corporate cartels holding power. In this society, you’ll get whatever zone of freedom you can pay for, and if you can’t afford any freedom, you won’t get any.

    BINGO! Gives new meaning to the classic lyric “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Time to opt out while you still can. Time to re-remind ourselves that there ARE still options left to this nightmare corporate dystopia, but time’s running out fast.

  4. FrankZ

    Just say “No”

    Learn where chips are located. Like in your credit card?
    A tap with a ball peen hammer renders chips junk.

    My drivers license has a magnetic strip on the back. First then I did when I got it was run it over a video tape eraser. The numbers are there printed in counterfeit proof ink if a cop wants to read it.

    Cell phones. Turn them off when not in use. Not only for your privacy but your health.
    (Worried about birth control? Leave it on in your pocket and you’ll be sterile soon enough.)

    Take the battery out and you can still be tracked. Huh? Yup, there is often a second smaller battery in the phone. Google how to remove this without affecting the funcionality of the phone.

    Learn how to make a “Faraday Cage” for your cell phone, basically a barrier to microwaves so that you can’t be tracked with precision my micro triangulation.

    1. Lidia

      Thanks, Frank.

      I’d bought some stuff online a year ago, and wanted to buy again from the same store. When I went to sign in, there was nowhere to put my email address of old; I had to sign in via Yahoo!, Google, or AOL. Fuck that shit!

      These big entities (Google, etc.) have backdoors which allow the gov. to track our purchases, I have heard. This is not paranoia, but truth. So now, even if you buy from, you might as well be buying from or via Microsoft or AOL or Google or Amazon. That’s how it seems to be rigged.

      If there’s a trustworthy cyberexpert who can deny this, I would be happy to be refuted.

    2. nonclassical


      some new televisions already include technology to watch the viewer…

    3. ThomasW

      FrankZ, the problem is: I do not want to have to do all this. As technology and a monitored society continues to develop, I have to more and more find ways to hide, which costs a lot of time and effort. And at the end, when I am still successful doing so, I am probably among the most conspicuous people on the planet: among those few, who only have few records in the databases of the surveillors. And it was never difficult to track a few suspicious people at any time in history.

      1. enouf

        AFAICT — the way to defeat any hidden watch list is to embed all their keywords (and variants) within every transmission.


  5. James

    And to take it a step further, most or all of those remote tracking devices could easily be converted to remote punishment – aka “motivational” – devices as well once everyone got comfortable with the idea of big brother 24/7 and enough suitably hysterical false flag security breeches had been drummed up in support of furthering the concept. An seemingly innocuous example that might take off right away: Can’t muster the willpower to lose those stubborn pounds and/or keep them off? No problem! Have WE got a solution for YOU! I could easily imagine people even PAYING for the privilege.

  6. NeoHelvetian

    Privatized electronically monitored parole makes a lot of sense for the prison industry. A by-the-book enforcement of parole conditions made possible by electronic monitoring will ensure that very few parolees will successfully make it through their parole period thereby kicking them back to for-profit prison. Walk past a bar, crack den or gun shop while on parole and the position error of the system may place you inside the door rather than simply walking by on the sidewalk. The possibilities are endlessly profitable.

    But hey, I’m being cynical. What do you have to fear if you’ve done nothing wrong? I mean only bad people will be on parole. This is a good thing, right?

  7. Rehabber

    The USDA, with prompting from Big-Ag, attempted to require microchip suveillance of every farm animial in 2005. The US-duh backed off when small farmers/livestock owners exploded in outrage. Look at the supporters:

    If the program does not serve the goals of disease prevention or control, then why is the USDA proposing it? To answer that, critics have looked to where the program originated, and whom it benefits.

    According to the draft plan, in 2002 the National Institute of Animal Agriculture (NIAA) initiated meetings that led to the development of the ID plan. The NIAA, it turns out, is a private organization whose membership reads like a who’s who of agribusiness: Cargill, Monsanto, the National Livestock Producers Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Renderers Association, and veterinary medicine companies such as Pfizer and Schering Plough.

    Manufacturers of animal ID and tracking systems, such as Cattle-Traq and Digital Angel, also are members. Their interests in such a program are pretty clear. No one knows exactly how many animals would be affected by mandatory animal ID, but starting with the nation’s 63 million hogs, 97 million cows, 300 million laying hens and 9 billion chickens for meat, the market is vast.”

    Read more:

  8. Psychoanalystus

    “In this society, you’ll get whatever zone of freedom you can pay for, and if you can’t afford any freedom, you won’t get any.”

    And if you dare to stray from your “zone of freedom”, no problem. Obummer will just add your name to his “kill list” and put you out of your misery once and for all:

    You call this “soft authoritarianism”? Stalin and Hitler could learn a few things.

  9. K Ackermann

    I’ve never had a great enough excuse to purchase a spectrum analyzer… or beter, a signal analyzer, but that is rapidly changing.

    With the upcoming proliferation of drones and now this, having the ability to mimic the telemetry and/or issue commands would seem a good ability to have.

    It’s not just criminals that are tracked. The government has a long history of tracking people who are interesting. I have a some interesting friends.

  10. Lambert Strether

    “the toll-boothing of your life.” Philip K. Dick, as usual, calls the shot. Ubik:

    He fumbled for the doorhandle of the refrigerator, to get out a carton of milk.

    “Ten cents, please,” the refrigerator said. “Five cents for opening my door; five cents for the cream.”

    “It isn’t cream,” he said. “It’s plain milk.” He continued to pluck – futilely – at the refrigerator door. “Just this one time,” he said to it. “I swear to god I’ll pay you back. Tonight.”

    1. F. Beard

      I watched “A Scanner Darkly” recently – twice. Thanks for the recommendation. The premise is weak but the characters were interesting. Barris was something else and well played by the guy who played “Ironman”.

    2. Stufmp

      Dick is often terrible writer – the fact that he wrote quickly and was paid by the word is evident. But man, the ideas were great. Has any writer had more tossed-off ideas from short stories become major motion pictures?

        1. Mark P.

          Hollywood generally murders Dick, because Dick’s original ideas are generally deeper and more intellectually dangerous than anything Hollywood can put in a popular entertainment or even get its collective mind around.

  11. Goin' South

    It’s getting’ hard out there for a Capitalist.

    They must have more mandated consumption in order to survive. Those darned internal contradictions. You buy political power in order to screw workers. Then you screw the workers. But then your demand drops to zip.

    The solution? Private prisons, health insurance mandates, privatized schools combined with truancy laws.

    State + Capitalism. Ain’t it fun?

    Get rid of both is my recommendation, because unless you commit to that, you’ll get rid of neither. They need and reinforce each other.

          1. Lidia

            Beard, you REALLY BELIEVE that whatever authorities happen to exist are instituted by God!?!?

            So: the Taliban is instituted by God.

            The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Stalin) was instituted by God.

            Hitler’s Nazi exterminators… instituted by God.

            Pinochet: instituted by God.

            The Khmer Rouge: instituted by God.

            Latin American death squads: instituted by God.

            GWB’s (“preventive”) global war regime: instituted by God.

            Rumsfeld’s torture regime: instituted by God.

            The Pope’s pedophile racket: instituted by God.

            Obama’s drone ascendency: instituted by God.

            If you’re so hep to what your God character is up to, can you ask when we can finally be rid of him?

            We need a better show-runner for this series.

          2. F. Beard

            OTOH, when the State is in opposition to God, then:

            When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “ We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:27-29 New American Standard Bible (NASB) [emphasis added]

          3. F. Beard

            God sets up authorities but if those authorities clearly disobey Him then we must “obey God and not men”.

            The Lord initially picked Saul to lead Israel but Saul was disobedient so the Lord changed His mind and picked David instead.

            That “free-will” thingy, you know.

            It makes sense to me now but initially I was as frustrated as you are. The solution is to keep reading the Bible until a consistent solution appears. It took about 3 years of daily reading with me but then I’m a slow learner.

          4. skippy

            @beardo…. you are a moron, you have zero comprehension of which you opine, see.

            Skip here…

            Any way beardo, it seems that as a christian[?] – you – on one hand – claim to be beholden only to the New testament and on the other, cherry pick from the Old testament, that’s called data mining. Which is a dishonest act IMO.

            Skippy… “Plus he (falsely) says that is what the Torah teaches.”… beardo.

            Skip here… Doesn’t grok the Golden Rule… when he is the author…. AAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


            Skippy… . It took about 3 years of daily reading with me but then I’m a slow learner… beardo.

            Skip here… that’s called conditioning you idiot. Repetitively reading the same book over and over for three years, without any or little additional references or consultation from others, especially if there views are contrary to yours. Ipso facto – you – are a cultist or belong to one, you have created your own reality and now try and influence others as you are the final arbitrator of – your – delusion[s.

          5. K Ackermann

            F. Beard – How do you determin which parts of the Bible to take literally… or how literal to take each part?

            Man is made in the image of God… does that mean God can get cancer or die from old age?

            And what about the paradoxes that arise from omnipotence?
            Is it possible for God to kill Himself?
            Can He make 2 plus 2 sum to 5?

            Is the church really affiliated with God? Is there anything they can do to prove it? The church promises so much in the afterlife for deeds done now?

            Personally, I put myself in His grace and chucked the book. He approved, and said that was actually the test of faith.

          6. skippy

            You and I know, the discussion was about Judeo – Christianity – Abrahamism and not the repetitive thread that extends via commingling of thought by human interaction, through out history.

            “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your friend. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary – go and study it.”… Hillel the Elder skip

            You said…”Wow! What an ignorant statement!- ” It is only a negative version of the Golden Rule”… beardo

            Skip here… He is attributed as having added that – observation – in it’s form – to the culture – of which you believe (even if in a derivative form – sect). So your link to the gross generalization of the Golden Rule, does not apply, we are talking about a specific region and culture. And extremely intellectually dishonest attempt on your part as HE IS attributed to it and there is no getting around it.

            “Plus he (falsely) says that is what the Torah teaches.” beardo

            Skip here… The memory of posterity Hillel lived, on the one hand, as the scholar who made the whole contents of the traditional law his own (Soferim xvi. 9), who, in opposition to his Judaean colleague, Shammai, generally advocated milder interpretations of Halakha (Jewish law and tradition) and whose disciples stood in like opposition to Shammai’s disciples. It was in this time that the rabbinical tradition was recorded, with Hillel as its ‘founder’. Modern-day Rabbinic tradition descends from the law that Hillel recorded.


            Skip here… how the Fook do you make that observation, as he is recognized as the founder of modern-day Rabbinic tradition. FFS.

            And a gentle moderate compared to the house of Shammai’s IE during which Shammai passed “18 ordinances” in conformity with his ideas. The Talmud states that when he passed one of the ordinances, contrary to the opinion of Hillel, the day “was as grievous to Israel as the day when the [golden] calf was made” (Shabbat, 17a). The exact content of the ordinances is not known, but they seem to have been designed to strengthen Jewish identity by insisting on stringent separation between Jews and gentiles, an approach that was regarded as divisive and misanthropic by Shammai’s opponents.

            In addition how is it, that a self professed new testament type, is so put out of joint by some actions in the old testament. Why the kerfuffle? Your views on property seem to dovetail with Shammai’s house, the elitist mob.

            Skippy… I would also proffer, that your attempts to rebut factual information with one link (barely applicable) or a cheery picked verse is indicative of your inability, to grok, that you are wrong or even begrudgingly accept that – your – proclamations are yours and yours alone.

            PS… you either have a completely screwed view or your gaming the bible to fit your own personal agenda… cough… a bullshit artist thingy…. ummm…. now didn’t you and moonshine take effort to push the hole *Life is Art*… meme… bullshit artists methinks

          7. Lidia

            @K. Ackermann, the part that I find funky is how the god character sacrifices himself TO himself. A more narcissitic system one would be hard pressed to find.

          8. wb

            @beardo…. you are a moron, you have zero comprehension of which you opine, see.


          9. F. Beard

            How do you determin which parts of the Bible to take literally… or how literal to take each part? K Ackermann

            Experience; the Bible interprets itself if read sufficiently. And the Spirit of Truth (the Holy Spirit) helps too as the Bible is read.

            And what about the paradoxes that arise from omnipotence? K Ackermann

            One should limit himself to what the Bible actually says about God. For example, the Bible does not say that God is infinite. He is certainly the Supreme Being, Most High and the Creator though and there is no escaping Him. What more do you need to know?

            Is the church really affiliated with God? K Ackermann

            Jesus said: “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. Matthew 18:19-21 New American Standard Bible (NASB) [emphasis added]

          10. F. Beard

            So your link to the gross generalization of the Golden Rule, skippy

            You have it backwards. Hillel grossly LIMITED Leviticus 19:18 to one’s friends and and to negative acts. One was commanded to love his enemies and strangers too and with positive acts:

            “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.” Exodus 23:4

            The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:34

            If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; Proverbs 25:21

          11. Bill the Psychologist

            Do you see how right wing christian trolls can take over the blog if you respond to them ?

          12. F. Beard

            Right-wing!? Only in your imagination. Not that I am a Lefty either. Anti-fascist is how I think of myself.

          13. K Ackermann

            Beard is not right wing. He’s aligned very much with this blog. He just factors externalities a little different.

          14. skippy

            K.Ackermann et al.

            Beardo is a freemarket, private issuance of money, libertopian, self evident, rapture ready – fook the planet, can’t tell the difference between bad government and captured government, the Bible interprets itself if read sufficiently (all the evidence one needs to grok the world), 3rd rate pitchman.

            Skippy… the only reason he hangs around here is… every other blog gave him the flick (ZH was the last). MMT seemingly, is the only thing that grounds him around here.

            PS. he ignores empiric evidence with the wave of the bible for FFS.

          15. wunsacon

            Lidia, your 6:48 pm post seems to be based on a questionable inference. Beard didn’t say the Bible condemns us to suffer horrible governments. More likely, Beard merely said governments have to exist.

            Skippy, I don’t recall seeing evidence (over the past months/years of my reading NC) to properly support your 8:08 pm post about Beard.

          16. skippy


            Anyone that dismisses empiric evidence is a moron. Anyone that thinks conjecture is a material fact is a moron. And anyone that uses a system that existed thousands of years ago, with a long and bloody history, is something… that I fear, has no name… as it is just to stupid* to give it one.

            *Fritz Perls claimed of Albert Einstein’s remark that “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity,” that “what is much more widespread than the actual stupidity is the playing stupid, turning off your ear, not listening, not seeing.”[11]

            Umm… Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. – Charles Mackay

            The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.[1]

            Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. As Kruger and Dunning conclude, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others”.

            Skip here… beardo only uses one book to view the world, as if all the rest never was or happened along side it and has any relevance. In other words facts don’t matter, just blind obedience too – his interpretations – of the NASB.

            Skippy… BTW NC is just one data point, there is a preponderance of evidence, out in the tubes.

          17. Lidia

            Wunsacon: @Lidia, your 6:48 pm post seems to be based on a questionable inference.

            I said “who says The State is a given?”, and Beard cited some Babble verses, to wit:

            {1} Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

            {2} Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

            {3} For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

            {4} For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

            {5} Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

            {6} For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

            {7} Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

            Beard didn’t say the Bible condemns us to suffer horrible governments. More likely, Beard merely said governments have to exist.

            a.) Beard didn’t “say” anything. He just points and grunts to his magic book.

            b.) Name a government which isn’t horrible.

            Beard, if you’re reading this, you may enjoy the following web site. It’s for people who still believe in a big sky fairy, but who are fed up with excuses for earthly totalitarianism (supernatural totalitarianism still peachy keen):


          18. skippy

            @beardo…. The only desperation I see is your manic desire to print private issuance and the 3rd rate sales pitch you use. At least when I call you a fool, I back it up, rather than play the rubber – glue kids game.

            Skippy…Personally, I find those that refuse to acknowledge facts to be the desperate type. You are an ideologue, not beholden to facts, the king of conjecture, a piper.

            PS. Remember I’m the ex military – merc – ex-executive guy. Been around the world, seen the parts most haven’t and the 5 star parts too, what are, where is, your bonafides? The bible? Reading of economists?

          19. F. Beard

            I’m not desperate; this is fun in kinda of a morbid way.

            Also, it strengthens my faith that you:

            1) feel the terrible need to refute it.
            2) do such a poor job.

          20. skippy


            Nothing you just said is factually based, it is opinion only, as you say – *faith* based.

            I feel the need to correct factual misstatements as they are a tool, of those the use information arbitrage, to an advantage, their advantage. The other choice is they are misinformed or daft.

            What has your contribution to this blog been over the years? Bible verse, a few links to science daily, some ideologically blinkered blog that asserts the spreading sky’s = big bang thesis, when the empiric evidence is just the opposite.

            Go search mine, like the IMF working paper just submitted to you and crazy. That’s something called material evidence and not pure conjecture.

            Skippy… I’m not desperate; this is fun in kinda of a morbid way…. beardo.

            Yeah I get that from you.

      1. Ruben

        You don’t know that really. Anarchy hasn’t been tried in any major community in the last few thousand years, except perhaps Iceland in the middle ages. It might be more stable.

        1. F. Beard

          I would like to reduce the NEED for government over time so that much of it can “wither away.”

    1. enouf

      Just getting rid of the State–or atleast the opportunity to opt-out should suffice for starters. Getting rid of the motivation for self-aggrandizement will be much harder (IMHO).


      1. enouf

        Oh. .. btw, seems the BRICs nations (well, Russia and China atleast) are doing just fine whilst on their uptick swing into the Fascist-Capitalist-Corporate-Commie-Pig State that we here in the Western World have perfected.


  12. spooz

    Thought I was reading the fight club for a minute there. Lines are starting to blur.
    I was arguing for electronic health records as part of single payer over on ZH the other day and someone raised the concern about privacy. The problem is the insurance industry. Letting them have the information makes it a tool to use against you. I came to the conclusion that as long as they are in control of our health care system, adding an unnecessary layer of profits/cost, the benefits of having all your health records in a single file probably don’t outweigh the risk of them using it against you.

    1. Lidia

      If there’s no profit motive, is there something that can “be used against you”?

      I have lived through the roll-out of a nation-wide electronic health-care database in Italy. Our old health service cards were replaced with new ones with micro-chips and passwords (turns out the password needs to be changed every 3 months, but they don’t tell you that).

      It’s only in a patchwork of a private insurance/non-insurance system where past health issues “can be used against you”. If the system covers everyone, discrimination of that sort is impossible. There’s no such thing as Not Being Covered because one is diabetic, or has been diagnosed with cancer, etc.

      1. Ramon

        Not to mention that with single payer, with everyone covered, no exceptions, there is so much less paperwork! Paperwork is about excluding, about proving that you are entitled to be in that Zone of Care (like the Zones of Freedom).

        1. Lidia

          Yeh. Too bad I have to renounce universal HC in Italy in order to take care of a 24/7 Fox-watching parent in the US.

  13. John Lenihan

    Hammers are too low tech! Any microwave will scramble the chip much better without obvious physical damage.

    1. Phillip

      Yeah right, and burn a hole in whatever the chip’s in.

      Hammer or *very brief* microwave is probably better.

  14. JIm

    “It would be nothing less than a new form of authoritarianism.”

    The commetariat on NC should focus on the view that what is in the process of formation in the United States is, in fact, a new form of authoritarianism.

    But, it seems to me, that this new form of authoritarianism assumes a continuing collaboration between the public and the private, the market and the state, in which these two spheres( and the networks which connect them) are so structurally enmeshed that any conceptual framework trying to draw a distinction between the two is largely inaccurate and tends to end up becoming an apology for the status quo.

    In other words, there may be something more going on here in 2012 then simply “the class war” of the 1930s.

    One of the many reasons why the New Left of the 1960s collapsed was because of its failure to articulate a vision of an alternative political and economic/financial structure infused, as well, with an alternative set of cultural values.

    Is there a logic of domination beyond the traditional progressive/left paradigm of capital/labor conflict and good State as savior, which is being ignored in the present conceptualization of the new authoritarianism?

    Are many of those (think, for example, most economists) who possess “cultural capital” (i.e. the brains, credentials and proper network affiliations linking them to the key institutions of Big Capital and Big State) key players in the new authoritarianism?

    Has the progressive/left community thought through the concept of direct democracy and what kind of political/social/economic structure it would require?

  15. indio007

    IBM must be starting back where it left off with the Third Reich….

    In regards to sovereign state… pfft….

    The words “sovereign state” are cabalistic words, not understood by the disciple of liberty, who has been instructed in our constitutional schools. It is our appropriate phrase when applied to an absolute despotism. The idea of sovereign power in the government of a republic is incompatible with the existence and foundation of civil liberty and the rights of property. Gaines v. Buford, 31 Ky. (1 Dana) 481, 50L

    1. enouf

      that’s right; Sovereignty begins/ends within each human being–Unalienable Rights are not those given to the (any) State or Body of Governance, anymore so than “Corporations are people my friend”.


  16. mvw

    Let it be said that “If something is legal, free, and not taxed, someone is always working to change that”

    1. enouf

      Reminds me of the saying; “If elections changed anything, they’d be illegal”


      1. JCC

        “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”
        — Emma Goldman, anarchist

        She also said, “Politics is the reflex of the business and industrial world.”

        She was an interesting character, believing and preaching anarchy to whomever would listen. She made some good points.

      1. ambrit

        Dear David;
        When we start living in space and on barren planetoids, someone will. The Science Fiction writers have had lots of good ideas along those lines. Human nature is remarkably consistant that way.

  17. Kunst

    We need a worldwide EMP blast that puts an end to our demented technology. Yes, it will take a lot of people with it. The alternative is 9 million robots in human bodies. Homo sapiens is an evolutionary dead end.

    1. ambrit

      Dear kunst;
      I beg to differ about your last thought.
      Homo Sapiens has proven to be very adaptable, as a species. It’s the social ‘systems’ that tend to fail from time to time. Fifty thousand years ago, we were mostly roving bands of hunter gatherers. Now we’re trying to work the kinks out of this ‘settled agriculture’ business. Woah there! Did I mention the sudden explosion in sophisticated tools yet?

  18. ThomasW

    About the insurance issue: What insurance do, who do a fine granular risk managment, is cheating their customers. It is basically the opposite, what insurances should do: normally the do not deal with risks but with the managing to share the costs of the total damage their customers have among all their customers. This takes the individual risk from the customers and that is, what the insurance companies get the money for.

    With a fine granular risk managment, things do not become cheaper, since the total damage does not shrink. What they do, is to indivudualise the costs for the damage back to the customer, so some will pay less and others more. And they probably find more reasons for not paying the damage at all, since the chances for violations of some terms of agreement will rise too.

    So at the end, you have to take your individual risk yourself and pay for your individual dammage, which means you are not insured. But you still pay your insurance fees. So the insurance has turned into a bank, where you have to pay, to deposit your money with no guarantee, to get it back.

  19. Paul leighton

    BI Inc started off as a dairy management business (B is for Bovine) – tag the cows, see how much they feed, how much milk they produce, etc. Over time, they moved into court management systems and tagging people.

    Their 1995 SEC filing makes mention of this briefly (see p 3 or search for ‘dairy’)

    There’s more about them, based on SEC filing not available on the web, in my book on private prisons, Punishment for Sale: Private prisons, Big Business and the Incarceration Binge.

  20. c s

    IBM – managing criminals since they contracted to manage the Nazi concentration camps – complete with hardened architecture for their on site offices.

  21. Rob C.

    While I think Mr. Stoller’s got definite point as to the threats that technology brings to our freedoms, I think he’s a bit behind. Take a look at Brin’s “The Transparent Society” from 1999 (, he goes into most of these issues.

    The big problem we’re going to have is not these little steps that Stoller mentions, it’s that technology will march to the point where other parties will not need your consent to gather any amount of data they want on you. Cameras, sensors and information processing equipment will be so cheap as to be ubiquitous, and the cost of maintaining privacy will far outstrip most people’s ability to pay, and even for those who can it will not be an insignificant cost. It appears we ultimately have two choices: ubiquitous surveillance by a government and other powerful interests, who will likely promise not to surveil, or ubiquitous public surveillance.

  22. Enraged

    It won’t get that bad: Fukushima reactor 4 blew yesterday. I know it’s all hush hush(what, with populations so close to rioting worldwide, can’t risk telling the truth, right? Well, just take a look at the frantic “decontamination” going on over there. And take a look at the last pictures of the plant. There is absolutely no doubt that reactor 4 is gone.)

    By the time it is implemented, there won’t be enough people left to run the damn systems.

  23. Polk

    Mr Stoller

    DTE energy in Michigan is installing smart electrical meters despite broad public opposition. The Michigan public services commission has rubber stamped the meter installation.

    DTE energy has no privacy policy or terms of use for the information collected from these meters.

    Ask DTE energy about the meters and they’ll say there is no opt out policy and the information collected from the meters is DTE property. No doubt data is being sold to credit card companies, employers and debt collection agencies.

    1. Mark P.

      @Polk –

      You raise a substantial, sensible point.

      A smart, efficient grid should be part of the energy future, but the concerns you raise are significant.

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