More car crushing idiocy…

It would appear that Australia is taking a page from Californias law book of senseless and excessive practices:

Street racers in Australia will soon see their beloved cars being deliberately smashed by the authorities in videos posted on the Internet.

The often flashy, souped-up vehicles will be wrecked in crash tests under laboratory conditions, the New South Wales state government announced. – [Yahoo/AFP]

Now I’m sure some of you out there are thinking “Serves them right!”, but I assure you, this law is not a good thing. There is a reason this hasn’t been done in the past. This is technically a violation of an individuals rights. When convicted killers go to prison, even they do not have their belongings destroyed. They may be confiscated and cataloged, but they get them back when they get out. If they get out.

So how exactly can anyone think that this is a fair penalty for any lesser crime? I’d rather impose this penalty for drunk drivers, rather than street racers. At least the street racers are actually in full control of their faculties, and some of them (let me iterate the *some*) are actually really good drivers. The same cannot be said for drunks. But the kicker is that ultimately, as a deterrent, it wouldn’t work for that either.

These kinds of knee-jerk, intimidation-based legislative decisions set very dangerous precedents that could have very profound future ramifications. And to top it off, it’s not like this is going to deter anyone from street racing anyway. Most of the folks who street race will do it regardless of the penalties. Literally. These laws are little more than public displays to make others feel like something is being done about the problem, when in fact, it will have little effect on any hard core racers.

However to their credit, the Australians have adopted a better use for the vehicles than just crushing them. They will be used for crash tests. Which is orders of magnitude better than Californias pointless “crush ‘em all” solution. But both laws are seriously troublesome. The law will have to be very specific on what constitutes “street racing”, and even then I’m sure many police officers will still abuse it, much like how the “aggressive driving” box is seemingly checked on tickets at will, as opposed to, let’s say, the tickets of drivers who actually meet the legal definition of “aggressive driving”…

Aussie street racers to see cars crashed by govt – [Yahoo/AFP]

Laaaaaaaw, is a many splendored thiiiiiing… Not.

OK, forgive my musical refrain. I ran across an article today that kinda illustrated how important it is that the laws be objective, not morally motivated, and constantly revised to stay current with the changing times:

Dying in parliament is an offence and is also by far the most absurd law in Britain, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 people by a television channel showing a legal drama series.

And though the lords were clad in their red and white ermine cloaks and ambassadors from around the world wore colourful national costumes, at least nobody turned up in a suit of armour. Illegal. – [Yahoo/AFP]

Obviously many of these laws probably had some practical logic to them when they were made, and merely suffered from being too broad or too specific in scope. However the same is true of many of the laws on the books today. They are based on historical or social standards that are either obsolete or irrelevant today.

On the other side of the coin, there are laws placed on the books, that are simply poorly thought out. Most often emotional the result of knee-jerk reactions by over zealous lawmakers. For instance banning baggy pants? No tag in school? No hugs?!? Seriously, how is banning baggy pants supposed to reduce the crime rate of a city? (see <Dumb Laws.com> for a big list of really wacky laws… Fair warning, you may laugh yourself into oblivion :) )

But on a more serious note, the law has become a means for activists to push their own agendas, as opposed to protecting the society at large, and no, the two are not the same thing. An equitable legal system does not discriminate against anyone on the bases of race, color, creed, beliefs, etc, so it is absolutely ludicrous that any one should have to face prosecution simply because of their choice of clothes. What we are seeing is an abuse of the legal system. And it really needs to stop.

Die and you’re under arrest! Britain’s most stupid laws – [Yahoo/AFP]

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…

The “Pirates” take a stand…

An interesting movement seems to have spawned the desert of Utah. The US arm of a group calling themselves the “Pirate Party”, has proclaimed their intent to become a legitimate political party:

Yesterday, the Pirate Party of the United States announced its intention to register as a political body in Utah, its first move into American state politics. The fledgling Utah operation is now accepting “statements of support,” needing 200 voter signatures for official registration.

“Our basic mission is to restore a lot of the civil liberties that have been eroded in the name of profit, including privacy, free speech, and due process,” Ray Jenson, the interim administrator for what may become the Pirate Party of Utah, told El Reg.

He has his sights set on the DMCA, the U.S. law that protects online intellectual property, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the trade group that quite likes the DMCA. “Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, there have been numerous erosions of liberties since it went into effect almost a decade ago,” Jenson said. “Number one on the list is the RIAA’s litigation” against P2P services and the people who use them. – [The Register]

Given the amount of abuse the entertainment industry has been dishing out lately, it is almost no surprise that this group exists, though I will admit I had never heard of them until today. However, I honestly believe that the entertainment industry, in particular the MPAA and the RIAA have been abusing the law.

I do agree that the RIAA and MPAA have the right to take actions to protect their investments. However I also believe that they have been using this as an excuse to violate the rights of others. They have embarked on what is little more than an extortion campaign, or litigation terrorism, in the name of curtailing piracy.

While I agree that piracy is a problem, it seems like nobody has been looking out for the innocent victims that have been needlessly terrorized by the MPAA/RIAA. While groups like the ACLU have been vocal about the issues, it appears that their efforts have done little to helped those who have been the unjust focus of the entertainment industries legal might. It’s about time there was an organization dedicate to this cause. I will be watching these “Pirates” closely…

Pirate Party invades Utah – [The Register]

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]