Docket #17-001: Activism and the Citizen Lobbyist

Citizen Lobbyist: A How-to Manual for Making Your Voice Heard in Government

Amanda Knief is the Author of Citizen Lobbyist

Thanks to a wedding, this episode is going to be a short one. Coming up:

I’m Geoffrey Blackwell, and don’t get me wrong, I’m glad last year is behind us, and I don’t want to be a downer, but I’m already certain that before the dumpster fire that was 2016 managed to burn itself out, a few embers drifted over to the nearby tire pile and you can already smell the burning rubber. Yeah, it’s gonna be bad. And you’re listening to Docket #17-001 of All Too Common Law.

Opening Statement

One of the unfortunate aspects of our system of government is that societal change inevitably outstrips the law’s ability to keep pace. One of the first episodes of this podcast dealt with a Supreme Court case involving police searches of cell phone data and my concerns over whether the Court had a proper understanding of the lives of average Americans.

Now we have a fresh reminder of just how important it is that we do everything we can to make sure the law keeps up with how we live our day-to-day lives.

A controversy has erupted around Alexa, Amazon’s version of the Google assistant. Back in November of 2015, a man was killed while visiting the home of one of the Amazon Echo’s early adopters. As part of the investigation into the killing, the police served a search warrant on Amazon, seeking any data recorded by the device at the time of the murder.

There are a number of problems with this request. The most glaring issue is that the Echo only starts recording audio when it hears its “wake word:” “Alexa.” So unless the killer decided to order the first season of How to Get Away With Murder as he was committing the crime, Alexa probably didn’t record anything at all.

It is likely that the police were unaware of the exact details of how the Amazon Echo works its magic and just assumed that the device streams all audio back to Amazon’s servers all the time.

These sorts of technical issues seem minor, but I think this case shows just how important it is that law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges know how the technology we use every day works.

Because you need probable cause to get a search warrant. And if a police officer and a judge are under the impression that Amazon’s Echo is streaming everything it hears back to Amazon, then sure, they’ll think it’s more probable than not that that data would contain evidence of the crime that happened here. But if it only streams audio in very limited circumstances, and the police have no indication that it was streaming anything at all back to amazon at the time? Then it would seem to me that it’s highly unlikely that the Echo data would contain evidence of the crime. Which could render the search warrant unconstitutional.

I don’t know how our legal system will adapt so that it can keep staying only a few steps behind, but we’re going to have to come up with something so that we don’t wind up fully ushering in the era of Big Brother.

Docket #16-008: Next year has to be better… right?

In this episode:

  • The Supreme Court is set to decide how fair a fair trial needs to be;
  • What Attorney General Jeff Sessions would mean for the legalization movement;
  • It’s been a tough year for the International Criminal Court, so I sat down for a chat with Roger Clark, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee who helped create it;
  • Plus a surprising amount of abortion law news. What fun.

I’m Geoffrey Blackwell, I’ve set up a Google alert for Archduke Ferdinand, and this is Docket #16-8 of All Too Common Law.

Opening Statement

Guest Roger S. Clark during UN conference on nuclear weapons.

I understand the conservative point of view. The classic liberal and conservative political philosophies are more about different priorities than anything else.

But we aren’t even working in that spectrum anymore. Classical conservativism is essentially dead. The libertarians make feeble head-fakes toward it–when their party isn’t nominating goofballs like Gary Johnson.

It’s not about balancing different sets of priorities anymore. What the Republican Party is about now is holding onto power. To the exclusion of everything else. Don’t get me wrong. All politicians want power. I’m not naive. But their motivations and how they use the power when they have it makes all the difference.

We’re watching this all play out now in the microcosm of North Carolina. And I want to set aside the ins and outs of the bills that the lame-duck legislature and outgoing governor Pat McCrory passed and signed into law. Just consider the general principles of democratic societies: government by consent of the governed, an informed electorate, fair and open elections, all of that. Hold those bedrock principles in your mind while you consider that after the people of north Carolina voted for the candidates they wanted to hold elected office in their state, the party that lost power decided that the proper thing to do was to change all the duties of a whole slew of elected officials.

Democracy cannot work if the people don’t know the powers they’re voting to give to candidates. If we’re holding elections for sheriff and the county board doesn’t like who the people pick, the answer is not to strip the sheriff’s office of all it power and give it to the dog catcher instead. The people elected a dog catcher for that job. They didn’t know she would also be vested with police power.

But that’s exactly what we’re watching go down in North Carolina. The Republican legislature didn’t get the governor they wanted so they’ve reallocated all the authority in the state into offices they still hold. The governor appoints a majority of the state board of education? Take their authority away and grant it all to the state superintendent. The governor appoints Election Board officials? Let’s change the very nature of the Board.

This is greed. This is avarice. This is lust for power.

This is why I will never vote Republican.

Docket #16-007: Orangefinger!

Orangefinger doesn't want this image distributed.

Orangefinger doesn’t want this image distributed.

Coming up in this episode:

  • Can a republican president be held accountable for anything at all under a republican-controlled House and Senate?
  • What can our new Dear Leader’s potential Supreme Court picks mean for the next thirty years of Supreme Court decisions?
  • Colombia nears a deal to end its half-century long civil war.

Plus a few other bits of fun along the way. I’m Geoffrey Blackwell, I’m taking bets on how long it will be before would-be Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions renames the Justice Department the “Not You Just Us Department,” and this is Docket #16-007 of All Too Common Law. Continue reading Docket #16-007: Orangefinger!