Death, Taxes and Surveillance: The Updated 3 Certainties No One Can Escape From

There is a protest against the GCSB bill today. It won’t achieve anything.

The updated 3 certainties that we all face adds surveillance to death and taxes.

The democratic myth was that we lived in a democracy where there was some level of informed discussion amongst people of differing views, we all sang kumbaya and then suddenly a law was either passed or not passed.

That has never been the case. Politics is about power. The way that power is currently distributed in New Zealand means that the people have no power.

I’m agnostic about whether or not that is a bad thing – if you know you have no power, you can adjust your behaviour so that the impact of surveillance is minimal.

Change your default search engine to DuckDuckGo, don’t put embarassing stuff on Facebook and look into anonymous browsing with Tor.

Funnily enough though, if you get a search warrant against you, there is a strong likelihood that the absence of metadata on your day-to-day activities will be accepted by a court as implicit evidence that you were committing a crime.

Innocent until proven guilty doesn’t exist in New Zealand. I would recommend reading R v Hansen to see the mental backflips of police prosecutors and the “independent” judiciary at work. The Bill of Rights is a pretty little lie that enables the Crown to feel good about itself at UN Human Rights conferences.

It might sound defeatist but I’m just being realistic – no protest ever achieved anything except making the protest attendees feel better about themselves because they were “doing something”.

How many Arab Spring demonstrators ended up with a bullet in the back of the head or victim of a sectarian car bomb?

To protest is to signal to the world that you have no clue as to how power is distributed in the modern constitutional democracy.

It is a fundamental misunderstanding of the average citizen’s place in the world.

You can’t control the level of surveillance you will be put under by almost every firm and government you interact with.

You might as well get on with your life and acknowledge that we are inching closer and closer towards the asylum every day.

A lot of the protestors really have gone “full retard” on this issue. I mean, getting word about it out via social media? Do you not see the irony there?

Crack Down On Tax Avoidance, Don’t Fix Spending Problems

The OECD is releasing an “Action Plan” to “crack down on international tax avoidance, particularly by multi-national companies”.

The head of the OECD thinks that the rise of online commerce and the fact it is harder for global tax authorities to compete against firms who might employ dozens of tax lawyers let alone accountants is a bad thing.

He is borderline insane. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has morphed from a pipe dream of anti money laundering conference attendees into changing how literally every participant in the global financial markets must conduct business.

New Zealand recently “updated” its anti money laundering and compliance rules. It will be interesting to see how that plays out over the past few years. A lot of firms -particularly SMEs – have literally no idea how they are now breaking the law by not performing sufficient customer due diligence.

But let’s go back to the OECD and its plan to make information sharing easier for global tax authorities. How on earth can that be a good thing? Here in New Zealand we already have a situation where the law as it exists on paper isn’t the same as how Inland Revenue will actually apply it.

This is not a good thing – tax issues alone are becoming a deterrent to overseas investment in New Zealand. The bleating about big corporates cutting their tax bills forgets that the complainants have not stopped purchasing Apple products or searching the internet with Google.

Focusing on making it easier to extract tax revenue ignores the fact the governments around the world have proven pretty poor managers of the taxes they do raise.

Does it surprise you that so many Greeks don’t pay their taxes? Why would they throw good money after bad when Greek public servants and politicians have basically done nothing except sell out their fellow countrymen?

But if there is one thing that makes me laugh out loud it is this – how many of the people absolutely furious about PRISM and NSA surveillance are cool with tax authorities sharing information to raise more revenue?

What is the difference between “we need surveillance to get the terrorists” and “we need more information-sharing to get tax avoiders”?

Please share your thoughts below. I suppose it’s one of those things where people demonstrate how their thought processes are more to do with what “their team” thinks than consistently applying principles to different policy situations.


Complaining About Government Surveillance

It is a bit rich to complain about government surveillance. We’ve known about the potential for technology to be used in ways that are against any right to privacy we think we might have for a long time. But in our own lives, revealed preference tells us that many people are more than happy to share their entire lives with the world on social media.

There is an asymmetric information problem with marketing intelligence collection to the general population – intelligence agencies sometimes do foil actual terrorist plots, but they don’t make the news. Only their failures or incompetence do. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some level of surveillance needed to stop car bombs in London or passenger plane hijackings.

The use of the legal system to obtain authorisation for surveillance is ridiculous. Intelligence agencies are not going to stop collecting intelligence no matter what the courts say. They know that the consequences they face for failing to identify a threat exceed those from bearing the criticism they get from revelations that the FISA is letting the NSA have daily call records from Verizon.

You’d have to be a very silly person to think that your complaints matter. Here in New Zealand, the GCSB has just been given retrospective permission to do stuff that is pretty dodgy including helping the police go all paramilitary on drug crime and organised crime. All the lefty protestors complaining about the GCSB since they found out about it in the 1970’s have accomplished nothing, it’s not like a groundswell of public opinion would change anything either.

When you read widely about counterintelligence operations and have a reasonable grasp of how the world works, you soon realise that tapping everyone’s phone is pretty pointless. Even in the realm of “big data”, there simply isn’t enough analysis power to make connections between prepaid cellphones that haven’t been registered. And it’s really hard to digitally intercept a piece of paper or memorised message using a one-time pad.

If you think about how Pakistanis and Afghanis have started torturing and killing people they suspect of helping the CIA’s drone strikes, you’ll realise that the whole goal of stopping terrorism with surveillance is a waste of resources. All the surveillance in the world doesn’t matter when you don’t have enough manpower to analyse it or computing power to analyse it and make connections that almost always end up being false positives.

When I watched Zero Dark Thirty, despite all of the Hollywood bravado put on a special forces operation, I couldn’t help thinking – if capturing or killing Osama bin Laden took so much intelligence manpower, resources, time and plain “dumb luck” – what is the net loss to society from this sort of activity?

The lack of appreciation for the term “blowback” and “no foreign entanglements” will only become worse because globalists think that everyone wants to come under their thumb where their human rights will be protected and we shall all be singing kumbayah whilst dancing around a Maypole.

So don’t bother complaining about government surveillance. You’re probably not that interesting anyway, you naive narcissists who think that the scarce resources of the global intelligence community would be applied to your Instagram bikini pics or Xbox Live game communications with your “bros”.