What If?

Today I ran across a very interesting video on YouTube. It was a rant about politics, politicians and the government by Judge Napolitano on The Plain Truth. Now I do not watch Fox news, however I have to admit, for something that aired on Fox news, it was remarkably insightful.

Not surprisingly, Fox dropped his show, however I thought I’d share the clip in questions here with you. Much of what he is saying makes a lot of sense. they are things that I have often wondered about myself, but this is the first time I have heard anyone in a good position to talk about it, lay it all out there like this, much less someone from the Faux News camp.

Anyway the video is below:

 

This piece raises some really, really good questions: Why does our political system revolve around the segregation of the American populace? What possible benefit could that have? To whom? And more importantly, if our government system is supposed to operate the way we the people want it to… Why can’t we change anything? Chew on that for a bit…

PB out.

What if you were being lied to? – [YouYube]

Guns, violence, and you…

There’s an interesting case taking shape in Washington. It involves guns and the second amendment. Looky:

The justices are facing a decision about whether to hear an appeal from city officials in Washington, D.C., wanting to keep the capital’s 31-year ban on handguns. A lower court struck down the ban as a violation of the Second Amendment rights of gun ownership.

The prospect that the high court might define gun rights under the Constitution is making people on both sides of the issue nervous.

Are they now…?

Critics say the law has done little to curb violence, mainly because guns obtained legally from the district or through illegal means still are readily available.

And I just so happen to be one of those critics…

Heller said Washington remains a dangerous place to live. “People need not stand by and die,” he said in court papers.

And I would tend to agree…

He said the Second Amendment gives him the right to keep working guns, including handguns, in his home for his own protection. -[Yahoo/AP]

We shall see. To be perfectly honest, this whole debate makes no sense, and really overlooks the fundamentals of the problem at hand.

Removing guns from the picture will not remove the threat of violence. The Brady bunch seem to think that guns are a big problem in our society. They are wrong. Our society is jacked up. That’s the biggest problem with our society today. They need to focus on fixing our societal problems, not treating the symptoms of the these problems.

Even if they are to make all firearms illegal in the US, criminals who need weapons will simply get them on the black market. They are simply making it difficult for law abiding citizens to acquire guns. The criminal element doesn’t use legal channels to procure firearms anyway, so it won’t make any significant difference to them. And while this is a secondary issue, violating another’s rights just so your irrational fears can be assuaged is sheer, unadulterated nonsense.

And no matter what any law makers say, law enforcement officers cannot possibly protect everyone. The result? Law abiding citizens of the good old U.S. of A. will be left defenseless, while the criminals remain armed. If an armed robber breaks into my home while I’m in bed one night, I would consider being unarmed a darned bad position to be in. But somehow this group of illogical, emotionally blinded gun pacifists seem to think that this won’t ever happen if they make firearms illegal.

The funny thing about these people is that most of them are so focused on the “guns” that they don’t seem to be able to see anything beyond that. Let me give you an example to illustrate how some Brady folk think:

A man is robbed at gunpoint. When asked what the most heinous thing about the experience is, he responds: “Having that gun pointed at me was so scary. He could have shot and killed me! We need better gun control laws.” OK. That sounds rational doesn’t it? But wait, it gets better. A week later he’s robbed at knife point. When questioned again about the experience he proclaims “It’s a good thing he didn’t have a gun. He could have just shot me and taken my money!”. Aaalrighty then. I suppose knives can’t kill then. Right.

A week later this same man gets beat up, in the same area he was robbed twice before, by a high schooler with a baseball bat, then robbed, stripped naked and left bleeding in a ditch. Later, queried once again, he replies, “At least he didn’t have a gun. He could have shot me.” Heh. Sure thing. If you aren’t at least chuckling to yourself at the narrow mindedness of this perspective, you should slap yourself. Twice. Really, really, hard.

Seriously, the man was robbed three times, almost stabbed once, and beaten half to death with a baseball bat, and yet all he could think about is “I didn’t wanna get shot.” Yes, OK, you got me. This story is fictional. But it accurately illustrates the error of the many arguments gun control lobbyists are using. Guns do not cause violence. They are simply a tool, like a knife or a bat.

You are no safer if guns are outlawed because they can still be obtained illegally. And more importantly, you can still be killed, quite easily in fact, without the benefit of a gun. Banning anything that can kill you is a senseless endeavor. Even as you sit there now reading this, there are at least 10 non-firearm related items in your immediate vicinity, that can be used to kill you. Trust me.

Honestly, I think the only people that can make these arguments are people with a blind, abject, paralyzing fear of guns, unable to see nothing else. But the problem is that these people will still continue live in fear, even after guns have been make illegal, and will proceed to try and ban anything and everything they can think of.

Whereas, on the other hand, there are actually some very tangible benefits to everyone being armed. I think a criminal would think twice about robbing some random people on the street, if they though there was a good chance they might get shot in the process. But that could just be me.

Now truth is, I don’t keep a gun cocked and loaded on my nightstand at all times in case of a break in. Primarily because my little cave isn’t likely to get burgled out here in the middle of nowhere. And also because nothing I own is irreplaceable. But I don’t see where I have the right to do anything to prevent others who live in more dangerous neighborhoods from taking steps to defend themselves against a break in. That just isn’t right. And that is where I have a problem with these people.

OK, I’ll stop preaching from atop my pile of automatic rifle crates now.

Supreme Court could take guns case – [Yahoo/AP]

Contrary to what the evidence might suggest…

You know, one of the things I find amazing about the current administration is how flexible their definition of events and scenarios are. And how they see whatever they want to see, and declare whatever they see fit, ratified by presidential decree. Even when it is obvious as the light of day that the truth is actually contradictory to the presidents view of things.

Like the President declaring “Mission Accomplished” without having achieved any of the stated mission goals. Or that the national outrage about the war in Iraq is little more than the opinions of a focus group. Or even that global warming is a natural phenomenon. Or that you can win a war with terrorists using conventional warfare. Or that you can introduce national stability into a country torn by civil war using the aforementioned conventional warfare. I could go on, but I think the picture is abundantly clear.

But then again I’ve never governed a country. But when former presidents of said country begin to speak out against the current administrations actions then, well, hey there has to be some merit to it right? Apparently not.

Former president Jimmy Carter, in a recent interview, called out the president on the issue of prisoner torture and the violation of human rights, in regard to:

… secret Justice Department memorandums supporting the use of “harsh interrogation techniques.” These include “head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures,” – [CNN Politics]

The Prez’s response?:

Responding to the newspaper report Friday, Bush defended the techniques used, saying, “This government does not torture people.” – [CNN Politics]

The white house response?:

After reading a transcript of Carter’s remarks, a senior White House official said, “Our position is clear. We don’t torture.” – [CNN Politics]

Well OK then. I am by no means an authority in torture, however slapping a person upside the head until they sing like a bird, sounds like torture to me. I mean, it ain’t exactly the same as a swedish massage now is it? But if the President and White house officials say it’s not torture, well then I stand corrected!

But if I slap my next door neighbor cross-eyed while attempting to find out what he did with the lawn mower I lent him last year, I better not hear any lip about it from the peanut gallery. And I’ll sue whoever calls the police…

Presidential ignorance is a curse…

You may remember many moons ago I posted about American citizenship, and whether or not a citizenship exam should include questions on things like sports, world events, and cultural awareness. Now in this bloggers humble opinion, these things are not a true measure of whether or not a person will be a good American.

I would rather have every aspiring American citizen take an ethics test and be done with it. In fact I’d like to see every young American, not just immigrants be required to take a federally mandated ethics test when they reach legal age, before they are allowed to be considered a legal adult. I think the country would benefit from this more than anything else. The rest of it is almost inconsequential by comparison.

Almost. There are many positions where I think a broader, more comprehensive test of ones knowledge, ethics, social awareness and general knowledge of world events and character should be a mandatory requirement. High ranking police and military are a couple that come to mind some of them. Even your average street cop should ideally have comprehensive periodic psych evals, as well as more ethics and social training. But most important of all, President of the United States of America should be one of those positions that requires all of the above.

Before you ever get to see elections, or even start running for president, I think you should, at the very least, be able to demonstrate significantly above average ability on an IQ test, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of social, political and world issues. This should be a requirement for the position.

Why? Because ignorance has absolutely no place in a presidential office. No self respecting IT department would hire a professional bricklayer for their server administration. Nor would a construction company hire a nerd for manual labor. Why does the same not apply for the oval office? People with that kind of power need to know how to use it intelligently. And when I read some of the (many) questionable things our outgoing president has to say, It is clear to me that he is lacking in that department:

In a speech defending his administration’s Iraq policy, Bush said former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s brutality had made it impossible for a unifying leader to emerge and stop the sectarian violence that has engulfed the Middle Eastern nation.

“I heard somebody say, Where’s Mandela?’ Well, Mandela’s dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas,” – [Reuters]

Saddam killed all the Mandelas?!? You know, any country as great as this one really ought to be run by someone who has a modicum of awareness about important world leaders, events, issues, etc. I’m all for presidency being open to any American citizen, but shouldn’t there at least be some sort of IQ requirement? World knowledge? Social awareness? How about the basic ability to form coherent, meaningful and intelligent sentences?

The presidency should be open to everyone, but at the same time, becoming president should be a highly selective process. I don’t believe that it should be solely the domain of highly educated aristocrats though. Lord knows we don’t need more classism. But I think that maybe the presidency shouldn’t be an option for your common, average everyday ignoramus either…

Mandela still alive after embarrassing Bush remark – [Reuters]

Mission NOT Accomplished…

Today, I read an article that, I think, basically confirms what I’m sure most of us already figured out.

 Congressional auditors have determined that the Iraqi government has failed to meet the vast majority of political and military goals laid out by lawmakers to assess President Bush’s Iraq war strategy, The Associated Press has learned. – [Yahoo/AP]

I’m not going to go into all that much detail about it because it’s all in the article (the link is below)  But I will say this. As an American citizen I feel that we have been mislead, lied to, and flat out treated like imbeciles, by our government. No matter how much spin you put on a deception, it is still a deception.

The fact that our president could brazenly claim “Mission Accomplished” when so many of the goals we believed he intended to achieve had not been reached, is to me, showing a lack of respect for the citizens of this great nation. We have not accomplished our mission. I say we have been party to an “Epic Fail”.

Little progress seen on Iraq goals – [Yahoo/AP]

The RIAAs Worms Turn!

The RIAA seems to be a prominent fixture in the online media these days. And given that they seem to have adopted the rather short sighted strategy of knowingly suing both guilty as well as innocent members of the very demographics that they could have been legitimately making a lot of money from, it isn’t hard to see why. But now it seems that they may truly be getting ready to experience a full size serving of their own brand of justice:

In cases which should by rights have been initiated by the Bush government on behalf of innocent families across America, falsely attacked by Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG, RIAA victims Tanya Andersen and Michelle Santangelo are determined to make the Big 4, as well as companies involved in the sue ‘em all morass, pay, literally and figuratively, for the distress they’ve caused and are still causing.

Go Tanya and Michelle! Though I have some reservations about the long term repercussions of Michelles’ legal approach, ( I think the justification for her claims and the resulting targets are only half right) , I was suitably convinced by Tanya’s list of complaints:

Her amended complaint is impressive. She’s citing negligence, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, federal and state RICO, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, trespass, invasion of privacy, libel and slander, deceptive business practices, misuse of copyright law, and civil conspiracy. – [p2pnet.net]

Wow. It looks like the RIAA is getting ready to have the book thrown at them. As I have said on many occasions, I have always felt that the big entertainment industries had all the right in the world to try and protect their business from pirates.

However I think they crossed the line when they started attacking any technology that could be used for file sharing, especially when these same technologies have proven so beneficial for so many other legitimate purposes. Even more heinous was the decision to sue people, en mass, without any kind of conclusive evidence, and use their legal and financial clout to extort them into settling.

What was the worst was when it became obvious that they were knowingly subjecting innocent people to this form of legalized extortion. I kinda think that they were definitely asking for this. And to be honest, the first line of the article actually echoes my sentiments exactly. Why has this obviously monopolistic corporate activity been ignored by the federal government? I am really interesting in seeing how this turns out.

RIAA named in first class action – [p2pnet.net]

The latest oxymoron… “Military Progress”

In this bloggers humble opinion, following in the uncompromising traditional paradox of “Military Intelligence” and “Military Solutions” follows the idea of “Military Progress”:

Even some critics of President Bush’s Iraq war policies are conceding there is evidence of recent improvements from a military standpoint. But Bush supporters and critics alike agree that these have not been matched by any noticeable progress on the political front.

Despite U.S. pressure, Iraq’s parliament went on vacation for a month after failing to pass either legislation to share the nation’s oil wealth or to reconcile differences among the factions. And nearly all Sunni representatives in the government have quit, undermining the legitimacy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite.

OK, so apparently there has been no real governmental progress in Iraq, no political stability. What they do have is a stalled legislature, parliament on vacation and the mass departure of all Sunni reps. But that troop surge sure is is going good!! Yay for “Military Progress”!! So that’s why we are there is it? Military progress? Huh?

Actually, read the second paragraph of the excerpt again… I think the real reason we are in Iraq is hidden in there. I’ll give you a hint… Black Gold… And notice that it comes before the reconciliation of the different factions… Yeah…

Petraeus asserted that “we are making progress. We have achieved tactical momentum in many areas, especially against al-Qaida Iraq, and to a lesser degree against the militia extremists.” Still, he told Fox News on Tuesday that “there are innumerable challenges.”

Yeah. Innumerable. Like the fact that terrorists are guerrillas whose modus operandi usually does not include toe-to-toe battles with conventional armies. We can’t beat terrorism with sheer force of numbers people. Wake up!

“Barring a miracle, there will be very little political progress to point to in mid-September,” Cordesman said Thursday in a briefing on his trip.

Michele Flournoy, a former Pentagon defense strategist and now president of the Center for a New American Security, said that “the clock in Washington is running down pretty fast. There’s sort of a wall next March-April. That’s when they’ll have to start replacing units, which will hit the 15-month mark.” Bush recently extended tours of duty from 12 months to 15 months.

“They’re going to have some very tough choices then. Either the ‘surge’ will de facto end and they’ll start bringing people out because there’s no units to replace them. Or you’re going to have to have a presidential decision to extend tours from 15 months to 18 months,” Flournoy said.

Yeah. Lets just keep increasing the tour lengths. Throw more troops out there. Keep on burning our tax dollars on a fruitless pursuit of terrorists hiding on their own turf with home court advantage. They will keep hiding until we leave. 6 months from now, a year, it won’t matter. And just think, in the interim we can create more terrorists by racking up civilian casualties engage and eliminate insurgents. You know. While we are in the neighborhood… Yeah. Great plan.

“The problem is that nobody in the United States sees any significant progress on the political front. The Shiites and Sunni factions in the government don’t seem to be able to get along. And that makes Congress wonder whether we’re making any real progress. Because, even with better security, the country can’t figure out how to take care of itself,” Thompson added. – [Yahoo/AP]

Thank you! Finally! A voice of reason. We can chase terrorists till we are blue in the face. If that country is unable to maintain a working, self regulating government, all on it’s own, it will all have been for naught. We should have thought of that before we even went in there. Oh. That’s right. We let the military do the thinking…

Iraq critics concede military progress – [Yahoo/AP]

Constitutional violation solves nothing…

Today I came across an article about a California judge who appears to be able to recognize when an unconstitutional law is being passed, and has the foresight to veto them. This is an unusual development from The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia, where local police, activists and Lawmakers seem to have an impressive track record of passing unreasonably draconian, even unconstitutional laws in the name of “The Public Interest”:

A federal judge ruled on Monday a California law to label violent video games and bar their sale to minors was unconstitutional, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to say he would appeal the ruling.

Of course you will.

California passed a law in 2005 regulating video games with strong support from Schwarzenegger, the former star of many violent action films. Legislators argued violent video games could bring psychological harm and spark aggressive behavior in minors.

Can anyone say “Anecdotal Evidence”?

The Video Software Dealers Association and the Entertainment Software Association promptly sued to block the law, arguing their games were protected under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

Uh Huh. “Free speech”? That’s your reason? It would probably be mine, but the ESA and VSDA? Yeah… I don’t think so. Now cash flow… That I’d buy…

Judge Ronald Whyte, who had previously granted a preliminary injunction against the law, issued a permanent order that also cited conclusions from judges facing similar laws in other states.

“At this point, there has been no showing that violent video games as defined in the Act, in the absence of other violent media, cause injury to children,” he wrote in his decision. “In addition, the evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, Internet sites or other speech-related exposures.” – [Reuters]

Thank you. Sanity at last. Now I’m not saying the law didn’t have any value to it. The part where developers are required to label them is just common sense. We need to know what kind of content is in the games we give to our kids. But banning them? Who are they kidding? So it’s OK to let my kids watch “Saw” on video, but heaven forbid they play “ManHunt“? Come on!

OK Look. I understand that as a parent, you may be willing to do anything and everything in your power to keep your kids safe. And I agree. Anyone who doesn’t feel this way can’t really be called a parent. The problem arises when you decide that it is OK to violate the rights of others in order to achieve this.

That is a double standard don’t you think? Nobody should violate your (and, by extension, your childrens’) rights, but it’s OK to violate others? Sounds like a double standard to me. If you, as a parent, decide raise your kids on video games, you also have to take the responsibility of talking to them about what exactly they are looking at. The same applies to movies, and even music.

It seems like some parents will bend over backwards to get a movie, album, video game, etc. Off the shelves. The outrage is always fierce and unrelenting. But here’s my question. Why can’t you just talk to your kids about these things? When they leave the house they see these things everywhere. Our culture is permeated with them. We, as adults, have become so desensitized that sometimes we don’t even see it, but it is there.

If your kids don’t learn, early on, about what they are see everyday, and what is right and what is wrong, then how do you expect them to tell the difference? Banning games won’t help you one whit. Denying them TV, radios, computers and video games for the entire tenure of your custody of them won’t save you either. Unless you live in a very, very, isolated community. Instead I see people embark on epic but fruitless crusades against violence in the media, gun control, school practices, regulation, etc. As I have stated in a previous post, I think these are little more than very poor crutches.

The gang member running around with the gun in their waistband was/is someones kid. Just like yours. What kind of lessons do you think he/she learned growing up? Do you think they would be in the gang if they learned from childhood that doing so could easily reduce your life expectancy by 50%? Do you think they would even pick up a gun if they thought there were other, better solutions? It’s hardly the gun we should be worried about. It’s the fact that the kid doesn’t know any better. Why is that?

What they need is education and guidance. And as parents we need to give it to them. No one else can, will, or even should do it for you. Do whatever it takes. And I don’t mean waste time protesting about pointless things. Work less hours, and spend more time with your kids. Engage in more group activities. Have one parent actually stay at home. It doesn’t matter who. Move into a smaller house/apt/condo to make ends meet if you have to. You may physically have less, but I believe the quality of your kids lives will be richer. It’s not always possible, but I submit that they are worthwhile sacrifices.

This is what I believe it means to be a parent. If you really want to protect your kids, I think this is the best place to start. It is no good to provide all of our kids materialistic needs if you fail to teach them about morals, ethics, good bad, right wrong, the light, the dark, all the gray areas in between, and about life in general. I honestly believe this is where we are failing as a country.

Forget about the TV, radio, music, video games, etc. Play with your kids. Talk to your kids. Teach them something positive. That way when you let them loose, you will hopefully be able to worry less about whatever it is they encounter on the street. Yeah. I sound like a bad public service announcement. But there it is.

Judge blocks California’s violent video game law – [Reuters]

China’s gentler, kinder side…

China has banned crude birth control advertising slogans for it’s national one child per family policy:

China has banned crude and insensitive slogans promoting the country’s ‘one-child’ family planning policy, such as “Raise fewer babies but more piggies,” which have stoked anger in rural areas, state media said Sunday.

China’s 28-year-old family planning policy limits most urban couples to just one child and allows some families in the countryside to have a second child if their first is a girl.

Critics say that has led to forced abortions and sterilizations and a dangerously imbalanced sex ratio due to the traditional preference for male heirs, which has prompted countless families to abort female fetuses in hopes of getting boys. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now the real reason I posted this was not because of the slogans, but because of the interesting detail that it seems that many Chinese families are aborting female fetuses in order to get boys.

It seems to me that, after a few generations of aborting female fetuses, your overall population production ability would drop dramatically. Which could be a good thing to begin with, but could turn bad really, really, quickly.

And it would suck to try and find a wife if you are a guy, because your selection would be slim to none. I really hope the Chinese what they are doing…

China bans crude birth control slogans – [Yahoo/AP]

Automated plate readers: A violation of civil rights?

The Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Springdale, OH Police department has the local ACLUs panties in a twist over the use of plate scanners on police cruisers:

The Mobile Plate Hunter 900 – two cameras mounted atop a cruiser – can read up to 900 license plates an hour on vehicles driving at highway speeds. …

… “It’s unreal,” Springdale Police Chief Mike Laage said. “It’s the best technology out there.”

The State Highway Patrol has been using the plate hunter in six spots along the Ohio Turnpike, but Springdale police are the first to use it on regular patrols.

Since the patrol began using the scanners in 2004, it has recovered 95 stolen cars – valued at $740,000 – and made 111 arrests, said patrol spokesman Lt. Shawn Davis. The plate hunter has made roads safer, he said. …

… The scanner’s gaze is too wide and it’s an infringement against the innocent drivers whose plates get captured, said Jeff Gamso, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

Using the plate hunter to scan all license plates is a civil rights violation and could lead to government abuse of the information, Gamso said.

I think they should just knock it off,” Gamso said. “Is the marginal benefit likely outweighing the danger of increased surveillance of everything we do?”

Laage finds nothing wrong with casting the wide net. – [WBNS10TV/AP]

Well I have to admit that I am on the fence on this. This system has many advantages. It is indiscriminate, and does not profile anyone based on color, creed, etc., like a regular police officer could. It is also noninvasive, i.e. traffic stop is not required to do spot checks etc. and it does it’s job while on public roads, where there should be no reasonable expectation of privacy.

But while I can clearly see the advantages of this system, as a law enforcement tool, like any tool, it can be abused. There does not seem to be much difference between this and the covert surveillance of American citizens by government agencies without probable cause or due process.

I’m sure many will agree that we don’t want an America where our every move is observed, logged and recorded by government agencies, and our every action subject to the interpretation of a paranoid. Technologies like this always seem to take us closer, one step at a time, to that scenario…

Plate reader draws objections of ACLU – [WBNS10TV/AP]