New Adventures in Casual Privacy Violations

Today I went to the grocery store and the nice guy at the door showed me the cool new thing that my loyalty card can do. Apparently, I can now log into the store website and browse through all of the coupons on offer and choose the ones that I would normally clip in order to have it automagically apply at the checkout when I use my store loyalty card. Neat?

Here’s the thing- I know that store loyalty cards are about marketing and data collection. The fact that I buy certain products, combined with my basic demographics and location are valuable to all kinds of people. This is sort of creepy, but discounted food is worth something to me and even if I’m getting ripped compared to the value of my data at least I’m getting something. There was a bit of a pact when first signed up for a loyalty card. I would use it and let them build up their data profile and it would at least free me from the inconvenience of worrying about what coupons to take to the store (not that I ever bothered). The idea was that all of the discounted stuff would be marked, using my card would take care of the paperwork. No more fucking coupons!

That state of affairs lasted for a few years. I got really good at browsing the shelves for marked-down food. “2 for 1 with card” was a selling point for me if the math worked out. Then coupons came back. People with obsessive compulsive disorders could now combine loyalty card discounts AND coupons. My refrigerator again started sprouting bits of clipped advertisements that I would set aside in the hope the I would actually plan ahead to buy cat food instead of randomly picking some up on the way home from the bar. This was one of those low-grade indignities that you deal with like when they put advertising back on cable tv.

Now, the grocery store wants even more information (my email? that won’t be spammed of course) as well as making me actively choose what discounts I want before I get to the store rather than letting me pick stuff off the shelf based on price. Not only is that a significant addition to their marketing data, but they also get the bonus of me forgetting which brand of canned tomatoes was on sale by the time I’m staring at the shelf.

Seriously, fuck those guys.

p.s. There’s another freaky feature that I found. I’ll have more once I’ve figured out how it works

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A good news day, encapsulated

twitter capture announcing civil rights advances


And now, something completely different

In that past month or so, I’ve been speaking to groups about free speech issues and my experience with The Howling Pig. Lots of people have asked me about what I’m doing now. Usually I mention that I’ve been active in local politics and that I do some freelance copy writing to get by. That’s not the whole truth. One of the things that I’ve been doing quite a lot of recently is read comic books.

Yes, comic books damn it. I’ve been lured back into the realm of graphic fantasy by my fiancee’s new-found love for blockbuster comic book movies. When I was a kid, my dad and I read comic books together. We weren’t really collectors and we didn’t have subscriptions but every couple of months we would drop into a comics store for back issues and take home armloads of comics to read. It’s kind of a nostalgia trip, but I have to say– fucking comics don’t make a damn bit of sense.

Maybe it’s because I’m all grown up now, or the English degree is fucking with my ability to sit back and read without being critical. There are some serious logical inconsistencies in these bitches that I can’t quite get past.

Yeah, I know the soap opera storylines stem from decades long print histories, and the origin stories are pretty laughable from a scientific point of view. I don’t really have a problem with that. It’s the lack of internal consistency that takes me out of the story enough to say WHAT THE FUCK?

Por ejemplo- Reed Richards aka Mr Fantastic is the leader of the Fantastic Four. He’s really really stretchy. The back story in the comics makes a point to establish that his superhero suit is also stretchy in order to accommodate his powers. So… dude is just personally bendy and has to wear super spandex to deal with it without sliding out of his pants in the middle of a fight. What about his colon? Yeah. That dinner he just ate before heading out to fight evil is also regular old stuff travelling its way through his digestive system. When he squishes himself into a long skinny rope to fit under a door, what’s keeping his last meal from squirting out like somebody stomped on a toothpaste tube?

Then there’s the sex. Sure, between the longstanding censorship rules and the ostensibly younger audience, any sexual relations up until about the 90s happened on the down-low and off-frame. The thing is that there’s obviously been a lot of fucking over the years since superheroes keep making babies. The logistics of this is pretty mind-boggling. Quite outside of the potential physical incompatibilities of some of these people, friggin Superman conceived a child with a normal woman. This is a guy whose sneeze can blow over a building. Lois Lane must have a cast iron cervix to handle that load. Hulk got bouncy with at least a couple of ladies and they must’ve had some keen superpowers to avoid becoming greasy smears in the process.

It’s probably just a limitation in the writers and perhaps in the audience that comics generally don’t explore the idea of superpowers more thoroughly. I would think it’s similar to the fact that it has taken decades of cellphone use before movies have finally started incorporating them into their plots. The ramifications of superpowers would be much harder to get into beyond whatever parable the current issue is trying to show. It’s more fun to employ your character that can generate vast amounts of free energy in a way that’s explodey than to think about the fact that hitching her the electrical grid for eight hours a day would probably accomplish more social good than shooting thunderbolts at bad guys.


Criminal libel repealed in Colorado

The governor has signed SB-102 to repeal criminal libel. Supported by the Attorney General as well as journalism associations and the ACLU, the repeal will make Colorado similar to the vast majority of states in which libel is a purely civil crime that is subject to First Amendment protections.

Hooray! Even though my case was uppermost in my thoughts in supporting this bill, the testimony from the Attorney General’s office pointing out that 24 people have been charged with criminal libel since 2007 shows that this was a much-abused law that absolutely needed to be repealed.


The Last Legislative Hurdle Passed for Repealing Criminal Libel

SB-102 passed the Colorado House today on its third reading with a unanimous vote. So far, the bill has passed both houses of the General Assembly unanimously with no amendments. That means that the final step is for Governor Hickenlooper to sign the bill and criminal libel will no longer be on the books in the state of Colorado. It’s about damned time


Yippee! SB-102 Passes House Judiciary Committee

I went down to Denver today to testify in favor of repealing criminal libel again, this time in front of the House committee. Along with me, the ACLU, Colorado Press Association, Colorado Bar Association, and the Attorney General’s Office all testified in favor of the bill. The committee voted unanimously to forward it to the full House with a positive recommendation.

I may be a little early in celebrating, but it seems that this thing is sliding right through the process on rails. 8 years in court and all it takes a wacky conservative senator from out on the plains to push a criminal libel repeal through the legislature in record time. Who knew?


Another Quick Update on Colorado SB-102

After passing the Colorado Senate unanimously, the bill repealing Colorado’s criminal libel law will come up for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, March 22nd at 1pm. I’ll be there to testify again. With any luck, this will receive as much support as it did in the Senate.