GPS Equipped Census Worker Murdered, Is It GPS Tracking Related?

In September a brutal murder occurred that could be related to the government ‘s  stance on marking every residential dwelling in America with a GPS tracking device for the upcoming 2010 census.  [A description of how the body was found is to follow.  It is a little shocking so please only read on if you are interested, otherwise skip to the next paragraph.] The part-time, temporary census worker was found hanging from a tree in a rural Kentucky cemetery.   The body, identified as the remains of a 51 year old cancer survivor Bill Sparkman, was stripped naked by the murder(s) and his hands and feet were bound with duct tape.  His eyes were also duct tapped and his mouth was gagged with something resembling red rag according to the person that reported finding the body.

According to coroner reports, the word “fed” was written on the deceased’s chest.  His census bureau credentials were also taped to his forehead and shoulder area.  These two clues clearly indicate that the murder(s) were either enraged to their despicable deed because he was working with the federal government or that they want the authorities to think that the murder because of his connections with the government.

But what is it about what Mr. Sparkman was doing with the government census bureau that would so fill a person with hate that they would consider murder?

From what I can tell, the deceased, Bill Sparkman, was involved in a push by the government to mark the front door of every residential dwelling in America. While many conservative conspiracy theorists are attacking the current administration over the use of ACORN to do the marking, the actual plan to do so dates back over 2.5 years to no later than July 2006, a time when the Bush administration was still in office.

The idea at the time was to send out temporary staff to gather the exact location of the front door of every residential home in America. This information would be useful to ensure that every household would be counted in the 2010 census, but I am sure that there were additional benefits that the government garner from this move. One of them would certainly be aiding them in identifying tax household that are not reporting information on their tax returns.

It is my guess that this GPS marking activity was what that sent Bill Sparkman out into the Kentucky countryside in September and would eventually lead to his death. I have no way of verifying this information and have not read any reports confirming it – it is simply my guess. If I am right, it might be the first government GPS tracking related death in American history.

My theory goes like this. The deceased was just doing his job going out and marking homes with his GPS tracking device. Part of his instruction was to be relatively extensive in his search of homes – identifying whether or not certain buildings on a property were residential in nature and if someone was living inside them. My guess is that someone took extreme offense at his presence and confronted him about his presences on their property and his use of the GPS tracking unit.

A brief exchange occurred where things got heated and the deceased was attacked. He was then killed for some reason and then his body was dumped in the cemetery as described above.

This would be very sad if true, but I think that just the idea of it warrants a closer look at the use of this GPS information by the government to see if there is any good that can come from it.

Good Government GPS Tracking

We have already discussed what good government GPS tracking implants can do in a previous post, but what about simpler GPS tracking data? Will non real time tracking data also be useful in the hands of the government? The following is a story from NPR from April of 2006 discussing the government’s planned use of GPS to mark all the residential areas in the US. It lists some interesting things that are certainly worthy of consideration.

If the player does not load you can listen or read the story here: Census Bureau Adopts GPS to Find American Homes

This is the flood map mentioned in the story that the GIS director created with the GPS data that her city had collected:

Government GPS Map Flood Threat

I had never thought of using GPS data in this way, but apparently there are a lot of smart people using this information who can see all the wonderful ways that governments can use this type of GPS to better inform their citizenry about natural disasters. Just think of all the good that would have come of this if it could be used during the wildfire season in Southern California, or in the hurricane season along the gulf coast, or when the Mississippi or one of its tributaries decides to flood. The government could reliably and efficiently notify its citizens about their impending danger, all thanks to the GPS information gathered by a government employee with a hand-held GPS tracking device.

Wouldn’t that be good?

Evil Government GPS Tracking

Then there is the bad that could be done with this type of tracking.  One conservative website [Infowars.com] already mentioned one of them in a recent article from their site.  They write:

The 2% of Americans, who have served military duty at some point in life, are very familiar with the most common use of GPS target painting. The other 98% of Americans might want to pick up a book on the subject, such as The Precision Revolution: GPS and the Future of Aerial Warfare

The idea is that the government would use the GPS information to wage war against their own citizens.  While this is unlikely that they would fire missiles from planes at our homes (after all, that is a really expensive way to kill one family) it does mean that they can break down your door with some serious accuracy if ever a police state becomes the norm in America.

The government could also sell your information on the open market, a notion that we discussed when examining the bad governments can do with GPS tracking implants.  While this does seem terrible, it almost seems inevitable since the citizens have a right to all the intellectual property that the government creates.  As long as the information isn’t correlated with other information about you that the government has also compiled than that seems less evil than if they did sell the GPS information in that way.

What’s the Verdict?

Is this death GPS tracking related or not?  I certainly don’t know, but it sure seems like it could be.  I personally cannot dream of being so outraged by a census worker’s activity that I would kill them.  Smash up their GPS tracking device – yes.  Intimidate them and scare them off – yes.  Murder them – hell no.  That is just plain wrong and is just as evil as anything that you could think the government would do with your GPS information.  And that is truth you can take to the bank.

Geomate Jr: A Kids GPS For An Active Child

Geocaching is a great way for kids to ditch their video games and TV for an active outdoor adventure.  Kids need some type of excuse to get outside and play in the great outdoors. A life of video games and TV has led to high levels of obesity in America when combined with a steady diet of processed food. Our children need to exercise if they are to break the cycle, so finding interesting and compelling reasons to get them out the door is something that parents are going to be looking for at every opportunity.

Geocaching combines our children’s love for technology with their need to get outside and DO something.  It is like a real life video game, kids must use an electronic device to find a hidden treasure located somewhere around them.  The device guides them to their location and helps them navigate the world around them.  The can run, or bike, or even walk on their search – all of theses activities are recommended by government orginizations as great ways to improve your child’s health.

But there is one catch with geocaching, the GPS devices traditionally used for it are anything but cheap.  Devices like the Garmin GPS 60CSx Handheld GPS Navigator and the Garmin eTrex Vista HCx Color High-Sensitivity Mapping Handheld GPS run somewhere above $200 a piece. Sure, they are great devices that can be used for way more than just geocaching, but do you really want to bed dropping that much money on a device that will help your kids play?

Savy to this issue, a company and product was create to solve this issue: Geomate.jr.  The product is significantly cheaper than the more traditional geocaching alternatives provide by Garmin and other GPS manufacturers.  Right now, you can get it for about $70 at REI. The only thing that even really comes close to this in terms of price is the Garmin eTrex H Handheld GPS Navigator, which is being sold four about $85.

The Garmin eTrex has received some pretty high praise from its users as a geocaching GPS.  Here is one that I though was particularly telling:

This is my primary Geocaching GPS. The high sensitivity chip has the same strong processing power, and thus signal sensitivity and position resolution, as any of the more expensive units. It gives me excellent accuracy in areas where my older GPS units just give up, even dense forest cover.

If you’re only interested in point to point navigation (geocaching, trail tracks or just finding your way back to the car or the ski chalet), then this unit will do a great job for a no-regrets price.

In my opinion, this is going to be the product that you are going to want to compare the Geomate.jr up against if you begin to seriously consider it as a geocaching tool for your child since the price difference is only about $15.

So, what are the Geomate.jr’s features?

  • Comes preloaded with about 250,000 geocache locations covering all 50 U.S. states
  • Turn the unit on and it will load up the closest geocaching location stored in memory; to find another location simply press the next button and the GPS device will automatically load the next closest cahce
  • Not only does the location of the nearest cache appear, but other important details also are displayed, such as the Geocaching.com ID code, the terrain, difficulty rating, and the size of the cache
  • Has a “Home” waypoint that will assist you in returning to your point of origin
  • Displays compass heading, latitude and longitude
  • You can keep a log of all the caches that you have visted so far so that you don’t do the same cache twice if you don’t want to
  • The ability to add more caches at a point in the future (at an additional cost)
  • Powered for 12 hours on AAA batteries

The features that seem the nicest about the Geomate.jr is that the loading of the geocaches is automatic.  You don’t need to input the coordinates into your device yourself since they already exist within the memory.  This seems idealy suited to kids who might not be familiar with how to input some information into a handhelf GPS navigation device like the Garmin eTrex H Handheld GPS Navigator.

But I also think that this feature is also the biggest drawback to this device.  Without the ability to add your own caches to the device you run the risk of the Geomate.jr running out of caches for your child to go and find.  Do you really want to fork out money for cache updates that you could do for free on the more traditional handheld GPS?  I don’t think I would as long as my child was wise enough to be able to input coordinates into the GPS device themselves.

It is also pretty important to note that none of these devices are going to let you be able to track your kids with GPS.  Instead, they are just there for enterainment purposes.

What do you think, is the Geomate.jr worth buying or would you rather go with the Garmin eTrex H Handheld GPS Navigator?