Thursday, January 29, 2009

A woman's right to choose...

The following article was brought to my attention by a friend. I almost didn't read it based on the title of it. But because I knew this friend I figured there must be something to it.

Flashpoint! A Woman’s Right To Choose
by Gary Graham

"No. I’m going to say it. I’m going to say what millions know in the front of their brains, and many, many more millions know in the depths of their hearts…but won’t allow themselves to think it, much less feel it. And believe me, I know I’ll be hated for saying it, I’ll be hated by people who don’t know me, have never worked with me, have never golfed with me, had a drink with me, shot the shit with me. They’ve never met me, don’t want to meet me…but they will hate me. I’m going to say it anyway: Abortion is murder."

He added:

"I was beholding an utter miracle. The miracle of life. And I also realized that from the very first merger of cell into cell, and the first divisions…that the whole miracle of life was from that point on struggling against all odds to become a fully-realised human being." Keep reading, you won't regret it...

Nothing out there that I have found says it better than Gary Graham does on this issue.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Legislation for Dummies: The Great TV Bailout

No, it's not the title of a new book that's out on how dummies can produce legislation. We have plenty of examples of that already. I'm talking about how our government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to guarantee our ability to watch TV. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall that being one of our constitutional rights.

In short, the government is selling off the radio frequencies used by analog TV signals, and all the TV stations will move their over-the-air broadcasts to digital, using a different frequency. Those stations are already broadcasting digitally now, so they're using both the old and new in parallel until they pull the plug on the analog broadcasts.

That means old analog TVs will go dark eventually. It was scheduled to happen on February 17th, but is being delayed to June 12th by Congress because of the millions of Americans who are too lazy to plod from the TV to the computer and fill out a web form for a $40 discount coupon for their own converter. (Be prepared to wait if you fill out the form, since they ran out of money and have 2.5 million procrastinators in line in front of you.)

Now let's look at the best and worst that could happen, irrespective of when the cutoff happens.

Worst: The people with old TVs who have no converter box will have their TVs go dark. Assuming the worst, they don't have the $40-50 to get a converter and didn't bother to order the discount coupon that would almost entirely pay for one. Bummer. Maybe they'll have to read a book or newspaper, or listen to the radio. I generally have greater disasters than that in my home on a weekly basis.

Low mid-range: TV goes dark, and Joe Sixpack hears at the water cooler that he needs a converter, and goes out to buy one during lunch. He never heard of the coupon program that was covered extensively by TV, radio, and newspaper for months. To pay for it, he has to give up two or three dinner dates with his sweetie, but it's worth it to make the TV start working again.

High mid-range: Joe Sixpack buys a new digital TV. Yeah, it costs him more money, but he was looking for an excuse to get a 50 inch plasma.

Best: Everyone who planned ahead is rewarded for their efforts. TV doesn't skip a beat, either because they have cable or satellite, already had a new TV with a digital receiver, or they had the government buy them a converter box via the tax-funded coupons. No interruption in turning our brains to goo on a nightly basis, courtesy of the Great TV Bailout.

This actually has much greater reach and impact than the silly TV signal issue. Let's stop removing consequences from the triad of poor choices, procrastination and ignorance. Technology advances, and we deal with it. I have video cards in a spares box that won't fit in my computer. Should I demand that the government fund an exchange program so I can upgrade my AGP to PCIe? Or an exchange program to tun in IDE disk drives in for new SATAs?

The proper way to handle it is to let people change over time and to learn from both their mistakes and the advance of society. Stop teaching people that the government will always step in and save us from ourselves. I don't want the government to waste all those tax dollars on coddling. Let's learn our lessons and get on with it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fourth Amendment Damaged?

It is not often that I find myself agreeing with Ruth Bader Ginsberg, but I have to think that this is a case worthy of further discussion. An article from USA Today highlights a recent decision of the Supreme Court that allows evidence against a person, obtained via an unlawful arrest, to be used against that person.

The case in point centers around a person that is, arguably, an idiot that probably did deserve what he got:

A warrant clerk in Coffee County, Ala., mistakenly told a police investigator that a warrant from a nearby county was out for Bennie Dean Herring, who had driven to the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department to get something from his impounded truck. The Dale County computer error was quickly discovered. But by the time the warrant clerk alerted the police investigator, Herring had been arrested and found with an illegal pistol and with methamphetamine in his pocket.

Bennie’s attorney naturally argued that because the arrest had arisen from bad information, and the arrest was therefore illegal, that evidence seized could not be used against him in a court. The lower courts upheld the decision to use the evidence and the Supreme Court verified that decision in a split of five to four.

I have to say that this decision bothers me, and I find myself in the rather odd position of agreeing with the more left-oriented members of the Supreme Court. Ginsberg points out errors in government computers are not at all rare, and, just because the police did not set out to intentionally infringe on his constitutional rights, that did not give them the power to do so. In other words, for the long arm of the Law, it can be negligent and there are no consequences.

Again, to be fair, it is harder to think ill of the Coffee County, AL police, because, seriously, what kind of idiot brings a gun and a pocketful of meth to the police station? Further, he was there to get items from an already impounded truck, so methinks that the police had a right to be suspicious in the first place. But rule of law is not designed to protect only upstanding citizens with more than one operating brain cell; it is designed to protect us all. If Law Enforcement in general has no incentive to keep its data clean and thus protect us from undue harassment, then you can bet that it will not.

Recently, the Dallas Police Dept. came under serious scrutiny because they had gone so far as to purposely plant evidence on people, and they arrested, prosecuted and jailed these poor unfortunates. The victims of that abuse have been finally exonerated, but what is to stop a law agency from planting bad information on citizens in their computers since they can use that for searches that they could not otherwise do? Should the police then find anything on one’s person or property that could cause charges to be brought, then it would be up to the defendant to prove that the police were deliberately trying to deprive them of their rights. How would a defendant go about that process? In the case of the Dallas PD, once the evidence was shown to be powdered drywall and not cocaine, the results were obvious. How do you do that for bad data?

I make a living working in databases, and have for better than 20 years now, and I can tell you that that scares me. Even the best data bases have errors, and that is why audits are so necessary. In my case, having bad data affects the bottom line, and so we have a powerful incentive to clean our data. Not only that, we are responsible for our data and “negligence” is not an excuse that would work at all. In fact, it would likely get us into trouble and fired. Not so for law enforcement, now that the SCOTUS has delivered its wisdom to the masses.

I open this item up for discussion as a way to see where my reasoning could be so far off from the likes of Antonin Scalia.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Those Darn Jews

Gaza has been a real sore place lately, and there are some good reasons for that. Mostly because there have been a lot of casualties. A lot of those are, in fact, civilians. Now there are those, such as our friends at Human Rights Watch, that are demanding a UN investigation into the wrongs that have occurred there in the “Occupied Territory of Gaza.”

I am not one to belittle human travesties. There have been many in the Middle East, and most especially in the Palestinian occupied lands. Shall we endeavor to investigate some of the claims made there?

Let’s see. First I think it is important to remind everyone that the Palestinians voted their political power of representation to an organization called HAMAS, a name of a predominately Sunni movement that basically means “Islamic Resistance Movement.” What, exactly, are they resisting? What is their chief ‘modus operandi’? Why, nothing other than the complete and total annihilation of Israel. They resist the idea of a Jewish state, pure and simple. When they attained political power several years ago, the main result was what? Let me guess:

1. A better economy with a focus on the living standards of its citizens?
2. A focus on trade and a normalization of relations with Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and others?
3. Building hospitals and roads and homeless centers and other socially needful endeavors?

No, the result was none of these things. Rather, the time and attention of the governing powers in Gaza have been given to the pouring of Iranian-made missiles into Israel to the count of thousands. Never mind the continual push of what we now consider more acceptable forms of terrorism, such as suicide-bombings of children in school-buses, killing people that are shopping and beheading captives on film.

Never mind all of that. The really shocking and horrible thing that has recently happened is that Israel decided that they have had enough of the missiles. Now, to get at these munitions and the people responsible for firing these deadly weapons, the Nation of Israel found itself in a rather uncomfortable position. Much like American military personnel in Iraq, these unfortunates had to decide if the collateral casualties of the civilians killed were less important than getting to the weapons and leaders that Hamas was hiding behind them.

They made the only rational decision that could be left. They have to get the munitions that are killing their own citizens and the leaders that fired them regardless of the fact that Hamas was hiding those things behind innocents. Even at that, Israelis tried very hard not to target those places, and they dropped leaflets warning of attacks. They announced on the radios that these attacks were going to occur. When those that were warned refused to leave, the inevitable occurred. When the gutless pigs of Hamas fired mortars from a school and the Israelis returned fire, the “Religion of Peace” adherents have decided to blame the Israelis for the deaths of those beautiful children that were held hostage by their own people.

There is no fire in hell hotter than that reserved for those that would regularly sacrifice their own children.

There is likewise little sympathy for a people that will not defend their children.

These are simply the cold hard facts of a democracy’s self-preservation versus the cold hard facts of a fanatical theocracy opposed to that democracy. Like them or not, you have to choose that which you prefer. To deal with a terrorist that has no interest in your personal survival, there can be only one answer.

Kill them.

Kill them where you find them and kill them without remorse. Grieve for all of their victims, but do not hesitate to eliminate those vermin at every single opportunity.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Citizenship in Action

I received an email yesterday, written by a woman who lives in our town. Her 19 year old son was killed in a car accident a few months back, and it has been terribly hard on the family. He was a great kid. A great example, well liked by everyone, religious, everything you could imagine.

So what was her email about? Complaining of the unfairness of the universe? Feeling she deserved something in return? Nope. She wrote to ask her friends to help someone else. To help another human being in need. You see, there's a small shop nearby that's going out of business. He's got quite a bit of inventory, and less than a week to sell it before he closes up.

She had ventured out (which is difficult in itself still) to buy some gifts, and discovered that the owner had his own share of sadness with having to close down. By herself, there wasn't much she could do. But she was writing to ask those she knew to stop by, and spend a few dollars each to help the business owner to make the closing less painful.

What would our country be like if more people took it upon themselves to help others, rather than insisting that the government make up for our misfortunes? One person can't always do a lot. But one community can ease burdens, lend a hand, and make a difference when we know and care about each other. What could one country could do with the proper focus on a common goal?