Friday, May 30, 2008

First Guns, Now...

I've long been a proponent of loosening our overly restrictive gun laws. Yes, that's right, I want more guns sold to more folks who obey those various laws already in place. I want to be able to carry my weapon anywhere with me, and not have to worry about silly little power-hungry bureaucrats trying to tell me that I cannot carry my gun.

The reasons for this are many, and diverse, not the least of which is the simple fact that I believe it's my right to be able to defend myself from anyone who wishes harm to me or mine.

Anyways, Britian went through the whole hassle of taking all of the guns away from their law-abiding citizens--and conversely, they managed to get a decent number away from the non-law-abiding citizens as well.

So, what did those criminals begin to do? Why use knives of course. After all, a knife is the next best thing to a gun; plus it's quieter! According to an AP report, 15 teenagers have been murdered in London this year, with 11 of those being stabbed to death.

Now, like any responsible, intellect group of people, Britain looked at this situation, and thought, "Hey, we can't stop criminals ourselves, let's make sure that our people can defend themselves."

And then I woke up.

No, what those intelligent, responsible pansys and appeasers in the British government decided was to try to convince the law-abiding citizens to not even carry their knives anymore.

Here's the relevant sentence of the AP report:
Britain's government has begun a campaign of graphic Internet advertisements aimed at warning young people about the dangers of carrying a knife.
Brilliant eh? The dangers of carrying a knife.

Let's be honest here, I carry a knife every day of my life. In the past year, I've not carried it on two distinct days--and both of those days were when I was visiting an airport to get on an airplane. If you reached into my left, front pocket right this second, you'd find it--at which time I'd have to hit you for sticking your hand into my pocket.

Digression aside, I've been doing this for years. In fact, long before it was a pocket knife, it was a six-inch, folding knife I carried on my belt. Quite useful for when I was out in the woods. The relevant thing though is that I carried it nearly every day.

And you know what? I've not once hurt myself or someone else with any of my knifes. I've used my pocket knife to cut things (including straws for my kids) and all sorts of other legitimate uses. Amazing how someone can carry a knife, or a gun, and not hurt someone with the thing.

My point is that a weapon is an inanimate object. No gun or knife ever killed anyone. Not one. It's a literal impossibility that one could do it (at least yet, I'm sure one day we'll have smart, autonomous weapons that will kill their creators). They can be the CAUSE of death; but so can keys, screwdrivers, automobiles, tree limbs, bricks, hands, rolls of quarters or even a rusty spoon.

What is Britain going to take away from its citizenry after all the knives are gone? Forks? Screwdrivers?

It's insane to think that just because a weapon is removed from the people, that the people won't figure out a way to kill one another. Like it or not, it's in our nature to be aggressive beings.

I don't see that changing, no matter how many weapons the government takes from our hands.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

To Knock, or Not To Knock....

Back in 1995, case number 514 U.S. 927 appeared before that highest of high benches; those keepers of the writ of law; the new High Priests of our land: The Supreme Court. Commonly known as Wilson v. Arkansas, this case gave the land the joys of the No Knock warrant.

For those of you who are unaware of this particular travesty, the No Knock warrant is the type of search warrant which allows police to enter your home without identifying themselves. Basically, it's the Gestapo, bursting down your door, usually between 1 and 4 in the morning, with their guns pulled, in the hopes that you won't destroy your drug evidence--because evidence can always be destroyed in the 30 seconds it takes a cop to announce himself.

Unsurprisingly, this type of search warrant has led to the unnecessary deaths of police and citizens alike. People like the father of 3, Police Officer Ron Jones. Officer Jones was playing stormtrooper, when he burst through the door of one Corey Maye. Maye had a young daughter in his house, and being the responsible father, when he was woken by someone breaking and entering, he made a decision and protected his family. After killing Officer Jones, he realized that it was the police breaking into his home, so he surrendered; only to now be serving a life sentence without parole solely for the perfectly reasonable action of protecting his family.

Of course, things don't always end up this nicely for those being served warrants. Kathryn Johnston, a 92 year old woman, was surprised by one of these things, and she ended up dead. Despite the fact that anonymous tips--which are almost universally the cause of no-knock warrants--informed the police that Mrs. Johnston held a large cache of drugs in her home, no drugs were ever found. All that happened was Mrs. Johnston was killed. Oh wait, that's not all that happened; in an effort to exculpate themselves from the blame of the death of Mrs. Johnston the officers on the scene planted three bags of marijuana.

How's that for police work.

Amazingly for Mrs. Johnston family, Mrs. Johnston is apparently getting some justice in this world. Fox News is reporting this morning that the officer in question gets to spend the next 5 years in prison.

How did we become this? At what point did our homes stop being sacrosanct and start being subject to searches and invasion all at the random voice of a drug informant?

If someone breaks into my home without announcing who they are, I am going to do everything in my power to stop them, and leave them dead. My family is that important to me--and quite frankly, other humans just aren't.

Of course the easiest way to stop all of these senseless killings, of both the gestapo and those being ground under their heel, is to simply outlaw no-knock searches. Make everything be a knock-and-announce search, and at that point, the folks inside the house know it's a cop coming through their windows waving guns at their family.

Wilson v. Arkansas gave us three guidelines for a no-knock search:
  • "Circumstances present a threat of physical violence"
  • There is "reason to believe that evidence would likely be destroyed if advance notice were given"
  • Knocking and announcing would be "futile" Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385, 394 (1997)
Let's be perfectly honest here--the first, the threat of physical violence, is always there. This is America, I have guns. Other folks have guns. It's a part of our national identity and culture. We have a strong history of self-defense, and I for one refuse to rely on the gestapo for that defense; especially where my family is concerned. Additionally, if there weren't guns, then there would be knives, swords, baseball bats, screwdrivers, forks, chainsaws, rakes, shovels, and all sorts of other implements with which I can carry out all sorts of body harming, if not outright deadly, violence.

The other two, those are just silly. Even with no-knock, evidence can be destroyed, and if it's "futile" to knock and announce, it's also not hurting anything to do so.

Of course, those "reasons" are really just random justification for the act. After all, the law of the land as defined in Hudson v. Michigan is that violations of the knock-and-announce rules (i.e. not knocking on a knock and announce warrant) is not a valid reason to exclude evidence.

Kind of scary, no?

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Food Fight!

Food Fight!The simple joys of life are fairly well and truly dead. Especially for children. Our schools have become war-zones, where if a child has the audacity to protect themselves, they are suspended if not outright expelled.

Additionally, such childhood rights of passages as the simple food-fight are now arrest-able offenses. An unattributed story on the WLBT Channel 3 website states:
A food fight leads one Jackson public school to recommend several students be arrested and suspended.

According to JPS, a food fight started around noon Wednesday at Peeples Middle School on Treehaven drive. Eleven students participated and the fight lasted under thirty seconds.

Fourteen students were recommended for arrest and all were recommended for suspension. There are only two full days left of school this year.
Let's put this into perspective here: a bunch of middle school students (as in pre-pubescent to just barely pubescent kids) had a food fight. Eleven participated, while fourteen were suspended and recommended to be put up for arrest.

To start off with, how exactly did more people get punished than participated? That's the first utter and total stupid thing that I'd like to know.

But even going beyond that, since when did childhood pranks warrant an arrest? I can understand the participating students being suspended. They broke the rules, and as such should be punished. Personally, I think a half-dozen or so Saturday detentions would work better, but what can one do about that. At the same time, I have to firmly believe that the officials in this scenario are taking things way too far.

These kids do NOT deserve to be arrested. Who didn't participate in at least one food fight growing up?

What is wrong with my generation, and the generation before me that we feel the need to suck the life and joy, and the sheer utter childhood-ness from our children's childhood?

What is wrong with school officials that zero-tolerance policies are more important than common sense.

Oh, right, busy-body Leftists.

I mean, a set of policies have GOT to be bad when even Lawyers are saying that these things are counter-productive. Consider this quote from this article:
"Schools are confusing equal treatment with equitable treatment. . . . Kids in middle school and high school care most about fairness. When they see two students whose 'offenses' are vastly different being treated exactly the same, that sense of fairness is obliterated and replaced with fear and alienation."
An attorney said that, in an American Bar Association article. The article goes on to state how Zero Tolerance policies even contravene the ABA's non-discrimination rules. So not only are Leftist oppressing our children through these policies, but they're actively fostering an environment of fear and alienation as well as subtly discriminating against minorities, especially those of the African-American persuasion.

How's that for Zero Tolerance. Then of course is the fact that the teachers and administrators are rarely, if ever, subject to the same Zero Tolerance style of punishments.

What is left? How can we fight these zero-tolerance nightmares?

It's simple, we just have to vote in common-sense back to our governments. We can start with Ron Paul

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Air Force wants your machine

In something of a frightening follow up to my last post, I stumbled across a HIGHLY interesting article on WIRED today. One entitled "Air Force Aims for 'Full Control' of 'Any and All Computers.'"

Maybe because I just read Little Brother yesterday, but I'm horrified at the concept of this.

Basically, what they are wanting to do is build a BOTNET, which sits behind the scenes on your PC, until it is called forth to wreck havoc on the online world. For a more detailed description, I direct your attention to the Wikipedia.

While I can see allowing my CPU to be used for distributed processing by such organizations as SETI@Home, I cannot see myself allowing the United States government the same type of access to my machine.

First and foremost, once they do have access, what is to stop them from installing keyloggers, rootkits or other forms of malicious software?

Why do I worry over such things? Am I trying to hide something?

No. But THAT DOES NOT MATTER.

The machine belongs to me. It is mine, to do with as I please. My belongings can be neither searched nor seized without proper authority by a Judge. That's a Constitutional mandate; despite the fact that the so-called Patriot Act allows for sneak-n-peek searches.

The only bright point, if it can be called that, in this whole fiasco is that their goal is unattainable. The Air Force is wanting to spend $11 Million in an two-year study to determine the information necessary to accomplish this. Which is a joke, since within two years of the study being finished, all the findings and information collected will be essentially useless.

Now one can understand why at best, it's a very dim bright point.

I still find it hard to believe that the government of Jefferson, Washington and Franklin has stooped so low.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fear in a book

It's not often that a book can scare me. It's not. Consider, I was reading Stephen King in the fourth grade.

I found his books mildly amusing.

Horror movies were a staple growing up. It's just not in me to be scared of the things most folks are. Oh, sure, I can be shocked or startled by sudden onslaught of sound and light, but scared? That's hard for me. I don't get that rush of adrenaline, that understated fear that I've felt in the past when I have been scared.

For the record, the last time I had felt that was when my first son was being born and the doctors discovered that he had had his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck three times.

Tonight, I finished a SF novel that scared me. It left me feeling paranoid and suffering under that intense fight-or-flight syndrome one gets when confronted by things that scare you.

Which book might that be?

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother.

This is a novel that combines technology with common, daily events, and then shove them out until you reach their ultimate conclusion. The fact that Big Brother is watching you. Using everything from wifi sniffing to Bayesian statistics, Mr. Doctorow spins a story about the DHS and its crackdown on the civil rights, all in the name of security, in the setting of San Fransisco.

What is sad, is that I can so see this happening.

Maybe it's because that I knew all the technology he discussed, and the small bits he created I could see how they are logical extensions of existing tech. Maybe it's because a large part of my job is sorting through datasets, and creating algorithms to help people do tasks. In fact one project I worked in the past on required that I track where every login came from, passing authentication information back and forth transparently to the user.

I must be afraid because I can see it happening today.

The closest I've ever come to this feeling before was after reading the novel Dark Rivers of the Heart (0-553-58289-5). That particular novel teaches much the same story, with a focus on how our Congress has taken a liking to writing laws which they are exempt from. For example the drug search and seizure laws, and of course the various perks they give themselves such as free tax filings (for more, see this fun Time article).

Regardless, read the book. Become scared with me.

And remember these two quotes:
Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
That was from the Declaration of Independence. This one is from Ben Franklin:
He who would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will lose both and deserve neither.

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