What kind of kids are we raising?

I think that America, as a culture, we have started down a long slippery slope towards self imprisonment. We are stripping away from ourselves the very freedoms we hold dear. I see it every day. Even in some of the most innocuous things:

On the playground of a northern Colorado Springs elementary school, tag is not “it.”

The touch-and-run game and any other form of chasing was banned this year at Discovery Canyon Campus’ elementary school by administrators who say it fuels schoolyard disputes.

“It causes a lot of conflict on the playground,” said Assistant Principal Cindy Fesgen. In the first days of school, before tag was banned, she said students would complain to her about being chased or harassed.

Fesgen said she would hear: “Well, I don’t want to be chased, but he won’t stop chasing me, or she won’t stop chasing me.” – [The Colorado Springs Gazette]

Is this what we want our kids to do? How do we expect our kids to learn anything about people and life, if every time they run into a problem we ban it wholesale? How are they going to learn how to deal with each other? Learn how to handle people and their idiosyncracies? When will they understand that not everything is going to go our way, and that not everything is under our control?

And even worse, how do we teach those kids what they can and cannot do? How do we teach kids that you cannot harass someone just because? Banning tag isn’t going to teach that. All this teaches them is if you don’t like it, get it banned. No tolerance, no patience, no  understanding. Nothing else will be learned by this action. The playground will have one less game, and the children will have one less avenue  to learn about others and themselves.

 Nationally, several schools have done away with tag and other games because of the accidents and arguments they can lead to. It’s a trend that has rankled some parents and childhood experts who say games such as tag contribute to children’s social and physical development. – [The Colorado Springs Gazette]

Apparently, even childhood experts can see the flaw in this way of thinking. And yet we have schools, communities, cities, states and even federal legislation that allow exactly the same thing to happen on a national level. What’s the betting that this is all fueled by the same mentality? People don’t seem to be able to see the big picture. It may sound like an unlikely slippery slope, but at the rate we are going, sooner or later, we will legislate ourselves out of our own personal freedoms.

Believe it or not. Your choice. But I have seen enough insanity to tell me that it’s possible. I can only hope we either come to our senses, or I’m not around when we finally lock ourselves in and throw away the key…

Springs elementary gives tag a timeout – [Colorado Springs Gazette]

Sex on the job? Only of you’re a sex worker…

So I came across an unusual story about an officer who decided to get himself some nookie while on duty:

The jury quickly came to a unanimous verdict as the policeman proved he was able to respond to all emergencies as he was equipped with an earpiece tuned in to the police radio frequency.

“If there was a call for me, I would have answered it and I would have dealt with it,” he told the court, according to the Times newspaper.

His lawyer Kevin Baumber believes that the inspector certainly misbehaved, but his bad decision is not a crime. – [Yahoo/AFP]

So here’s my issue. I am not sure what he was being charged with, but how, in the name of all things holy, did this officer prove that he was on duty? To my knowledge an “on-duty” police officer is supposed to be on patrol right? It may just be me, but I find it difficult to see how he could have been on patrol while engaged in the horizontal mambo.

A police officer in the sack is one less officer on the street, or on patrol, or wherever they are supposed to be. Yes, perhaps this is no different from playing golf, but that would still mean he was off duty. Unless he is trying to tell us that he gets paid to play golf whenever he feels like it. Sure he could have responded to a call, but how many crimes are prevented simply because a cop was physically present at the scene?

Even if we disregard the ethically and morally dubious nature of this case, there is a very big difference between being present on the street as a physical, visible deterrent to crime, and being retroactively available to assist after the crime has been committed. How did these jury members not see that?

I’m beginning to think that part of the problem with the world today is that nobody is holding anyone else accountable for their irresponsible actions. Probably because they don’t want to be held accountable for their own actions either. At this rate we will all be going to hades in a hand basket…

British cop proves he was still on duty during sex romp – [Yahoo/AFP]

U.S. Patents “Out of Bounds” or “Sheer lunacy”?

A recent article attempted to describe the procedural war zone that the patent process has become:

 The U.S. patent system has veered off course and is being abused, executives of three top technology companies said Wednesday.

The problems include damages that are too great, patents for insignificant innovations and poor quality patents that haven’t been researched enough, participants said in a panel discussion at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit in Palo Alto, California.

“The patent system, right now, is tilting out of bounds,” said Chip Lutton, chief patent counsel at Apple Inc. He compared the situation to a bubble market, as companies buy up patents just to use them to get overinflated awards. Courts have failed to rein in these speculators, he said. – [Yahoo/PCWorld]

The patent process in the US has simply failed to keep up with the technology. More importantly, it has failed to properly address the specifics of what defines new technology, and what criteria needs to be met in order for a company to be able to patent these new technologies. As a result, the patent system has been the target of unbelievable levels of abuse.

As I pointed out in a recent post. There are some companies whose only purpose is to patent as many ideas as possible, wait for another company to invest the time, energy and funds to make the idea work, then make a healthy payday by filing patent infringement suits.

The entire patent system needs an overhaul. I believe there is a use and place for patents, but as it currently stands, the patent system no longer functions, and no longer protects the risk takers and true industry innovators. It has been turned into an easy way for those who can’t to make money of the backs of those who do.

I don’t think the phrase “tilting out of bounds” properly captures what is going on. I think the patent process is far beyond bounds. I think it as crossed over to the realm of lunacy, and been completely out of control and for at least a decade and half now…

U.S. Patent System ‘Tilting Out of Bounds’ – [Yahoo/PCWorld]

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]

Government intelligence goes P2P (and is apparently also an oxymoron…)

Just read a jaw dropping article that described how government employees had inadvertently shared sensitive documents on a P2P network:

Robert Boback, CEO of P-to-P monitoring service vendor Tiversa Inc., and retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, a Tiversa board member, said the company found more than 200 sensitive U.S. government documents during a recent scan of three popular P-to-P networks. The two testified earlier this week before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee. …

… Many lawmakers directed their criticism toward the Lime Group LLC, distributor of the popular P-to-P software Lime Wire, during a contentious hearing Tuesday. But Boback, in a later interview, said his testimony wasn’t intended to cast blame on Lime Wire.

In many cases, P-to-P users override the default security settings in the software. In Lime Wire, the default setting allows users to share files only from a “shared” folder, but many users apparently override the default settings, ignore warnings from the software, and share their entire “my documents” folder or other folders, Lime Group CEO Mark Gorton testified.

In other cases, government employees or contractors apparently ignore policies prohibiting the use of P-to-P software on computers containing sensitive government information, witnesses testified. – [Yahoo/PCWorld.com]

And to top it off, some government officials tried to blame the P2P provider for the breach in security. You know what? I’ve got nuthin’. Just dunno what to say. Either someone has been slippin’ crazy pills into my food, or people are actually thinking less these days. I would much prefer the first alternative to be true…

P-to-P Users Expose U.S. Government Secrets – [Yahoo/PCWorld.com]

The Internet is NOT JackA$$ protection…

The Internet is a great thing. It has brought people from diverse cultures together in ways that could never have even been dreamed of 10 years ago. And I believe that one of the reasons that this has been so positive is the ability to communicate without the racist, sexist, or plethora of other cultural barriers that tend to automatically (and often subconsciously) rise when dealing with people with different backgrounds on a face to face basis. The Internet tends to anonymize us, forcing us to deal with others as they are, not as we assume they might be.

However as with everything, this anonymity also has a down side. There are those who, emboldened by the safety of the computer screen, tend to become more disrespectful, rude and insensitive, and are more likely to mouth-off than they would had they been engaged in a one on one conversation with someone in real life.

[Begin: Rod Serling from”The Twilight Zone“] :

Allow me to submit, for you consideration, a story of two men, and two computers, connected by naught but over 1330 miles of combined copper and fiber, whose virtual conflict transcended the bounds of the virtual world, and ultimately ended in incarceration and flame:

A Navy man who got mad when someone mocked him as a “nerd” over the Internet climbed into his car and drove 1,300 miles from Virginia to Texas to teach the other guy a lesson.

As he made his way toward Texas, Fire Controlman 2nd Class Petty Officer Russell Tavares posted photos online showing the welcome signs at several states’ borders, as if to prove to his Internet friends that he meant business.

When he finally arrived, Tavares burned the guy’s trailer down.

This week, Tavares, 27, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading no contest to arson and admitting he set the blaze. – [Yahoo/AP]

These two men, as a result of their insensitivity and lack of respect for each other, each paid a terrible price, in spite of the gulf between them, perhaps proving that, even in an age of circuits and virtual interaction, there is still a place for tolerance, courtesy, respect and consideration for our fellow human beings.

More importantly, it is hoped that all will heed the lesson in this: That the Internet is no protection against idiocy. Even here, In The Twilight Zone…

[End: Rod Serling Impression]

Man burns down trailer in online feud – [Yahoo/AP]