Sunday, January 21, 2007

Google Champions Right to Privacy

Recently, our commander in chief (ok, the Department of Justice) demanded that several internet search engines hand over user data and search information. Every single one of them had absolutely no qualms with delivering this information to the DOJ except for one. Thank you, Google, for helping protect my privacy. Google responded to the request with words like “vague” and “intended to harass” which can be effectively used to describe our government as a whole post-9/11. Little justification can be made for this kind of request.

In fact, it all stems from legislation signed by President Clinton that invoked criminal sentencing for distribution of material “harmful to minors.” The wording of the legislation leaves a lot of question as to what might be “harmful” when it comes to web content. It is intended, primarily, to stop children from encountering porn on the internet. One question that arises there is “how does porn hurt people?”, but I digress.

It is sickening that our Right to privacy has fallen by the wayside for expedience from an organization as inexpedient as the government. I mean, seriously, who here hasn't used Google to search for something? Ok, maybe you don't like Google. Have you used Yahoo? They were one of the companies that handed over the search data. Feel safer now? I didn't think so.

I wonder if the federal government could be described as “harmful to minors.” Considering the dangerous cycles that 'Welfare' creates it could be said that the government does very little to help minors. Additionally, many courts have been trying minors as adults in capital cases. Wouldn't that be “harmful?” This doesn't even attempt to account for the millions of children in government run foster care that are severely mistreated.

I think that these politicians are most certainly in no place to begin telling us what is 'harmful' when they are slaughtering children in the Middle East. Unintentional or not, they're still killing them. Every war results in collateral damage; this I know. What I don't know is if the value of a “win” is going to be worth the aforementioned damage. Can you even win a war on an idea? But back to the latest violation of our Rights.

Google has decided that our privacy is more important to them than some stupid beaurocrat saying “I'm from the government and I'm here to help.” If more of us stood up for our Rights, perhaps we wouldn't have to wait for big corporations to do it. Why can't we be the ones shouting “No! We want our Right to privacy!”?

Of course, this begs the question, where do we get the Right to privacy? Some might argue that it stems from the Fourth Amendment. Though I would agree that this action violates the Fourth Amendment, this is not where we get a right to privacy. Our Right to do anything that doesn't hurt someone, enslave someone, or steal something is expressly written in the Bill of Rights. It is the 9th Amendment. It reads:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

I would hope that most college students can understand these words, but lets define a couple of the more ancient ones.

– to interpret
disparage - to reduce in esteem or rank
enumeration - to count off or name one by one

We have a lot of Rights specifically listed in the Constitution, but those that aren't listed are just as valuable. We can bear arms, but we can also sleep on tin foil. We have a Right to wear hats and a Right to assemble peaceably. The document was specifically written to avoid the badly worded argument that there is no Right to privacy, but, in case you were confused, I've cleared it up for you.

We have a Right to be as secretive as we desire. No one should tell us otherwise. This is especially true of the hypocrites who call themselves our representatives. I'm growing tired of these idiots ignoring the Constitution until a judge tells them otherwise. Maybe it's time for a change.

War On Everything

How many wars are we fighting right now? Do you know? I don't. Let's see if I can count them all. There's the War on Poverty. That has been a great failure. There's the War on Drugs. No significant changes in drug sales or usage since its inception. It has cost quite a bit of money though. What else? There's a War on AIDS and a War on Cancer. Both of these diseases are still incurable. Contrary to popular belief, we're still at war in Kuwait. How do I know that? I recently discussed it with a soldier who had just returned from there. For all technical purposes we're just holding a presence there (a defensive presence).

There's also the big one, the War on Terror, or as it has recently been named, the “Global Struggle Against Extremism”. This one actually can be split up into a series of wars that we're actually involved in. To list those that the public knows about, the war in Afghanistan (we're just a defensive presence there as well), the war in Iraq (defensive presence), the USA PATRIOT ACT (for our safety), the TIPS program (using US Citizens to spy on US Citizens), the No-Fly List (has resulted in 4 year olds and journalists being unable to take flights), and listening to our phone conversations (who needs the Fourth Amendment?).

Additionally, the War on Drugs can easily be divided up into a series of different methods we are executing. First, domestically, we are creating drug specific units and paying police departments extra when they shut down drug rings. This creates, essentially, a war at home that goes from house to house hitting everything from Marijuana to Cocaine. Then, we're going into other countries (Columbia etc.) and dropping chemicals on their crops to kill them. We're at war with every drug dealer in existence, legal or not! These are the only ones I could find. I wonder if there are more?

In any case, when you put it all together, it is a lot of wars. How do we keep up with it all? Well, it seems like most Americans don't. At least the government keeps up on it for us. I mean, when they're risking soldier's lives for it, it's good that, at least, they know what's going on. But the question is, is that enough wars? Do you think we should jump into another one? How about North Korea? Well, if you don't think we need more wars, too bad.

President Bush recently declared war on Internet annoyances. No, I'm not referring to the Bloggers that are going to jail for posting things that the Bush Administration doesn't like. Instead, they've actually signed into law legislation that makes it, essentially, illegal to flame (an Internet term for saying nasty things to other people; generally on a discussion board). However, it only makes it illegal to flame anonymously. Logical? That's never the question the government asks.

So, if my count is correct, we are currently fighting at least 13 different wars. This doesn't address the peacekeeping forces we have in Bosnia or our presence in Korea and Vietnam. We have troops in countries all over the world. Is it possible we're spreading ourselves just a little thin? OK, so the War on Poverty doesn't actually use troops. But, like every other government program, it is failing miserably. Maybe we could limit our government to 5 wars at a time? Is that a reasonable request? I'd like to see us keep it to one, or even none. Perhaps 5 is a good start though. What do you think?

Second Amendment? Not Anymore!

There are few things that upset a hard working guy like me more than politicians. Those are the idiots who get payed $150,000+ per year to not show up for votes. However, the recent Proposition H that passed in San Francisco, California certainly qualifies. California is known for strict gun legislation, but this particular law is absurd. It is known as the San Francisco Hand-gun Ban. That's right, they banned guns in San Francisco. Now, fascinatingly enough, they only banned handguns for residents. In fact, this legislation stretches to the point of forcing all those who currently own handguns to turn them in to the police.

The strange exception, however, is that this legislation does not apply to visitors. Yes, the visitors can carry guns, but the people who live in San Francisco cannot carry them. It's an absurd piece of work, but let's stick to its Unconstitutionality for the rest of this article. It is an egregious violation of both the 2nd Amendment and the Ex-Post Facto clause.
Let's run through the Second Amendment real quick. The actual wording is:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. "

The argument has been made that it is worded this way because it only applies to the militia. As such, here's a short list of Supreme Court cases that cite it as an Individual Right: United States v. Miller, Dred Scott v. Sandford, United States v. Cruikshank, Presser v. Illinois, Logan v. United States, Miller v. Texas, Robertson v. Baldwin, Maxwell v. Dow, Trono v. United States, etc. etc. etc. I can go into detail, but this article doesn't need to get that lengthy. You can take my word for it or have a read of No. 99-10331 USA v. Emerson. The fact remains that the Second Amendment is an individual Right. To further prove this, let's read and interpret the Amendment. For example, without the mention of militia, the Amendment reads:

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Clearly this stands on its own. In fact, the first portion of the sentence is reasoning. The necessity of a militia is the reason for the right to bear arms, not the benefactor. Now, let's make sure we understand those terms.

Bear - to carry openly
Arms - any weapon
Infringe - to limit

Clearly, the government should not, in any way, limit our ability to carry any weapon, openly or not. The flawed logic of San Francisco is not the beginning, but the final step. The beginning was when they took away our swords. Now they've limited it to the extent that we cannot defend ourselves at all. I thought that gun confiscation in New Orleans got enough bad publicity that thought of this type of thing would be reconsidered for some time. Sadly, however, this didn't even get much news coverage. I had to search all over the internet to find bits and pieces of this legislation. It was slipped under the radar in wake of all the terrible things that happened after Hurricane Katrina. Here's an interesting fact: In Canada in 2003, 86% of firearms used in homicides were unregistered. Canada requires gun registration. Funny how that works.
Anywho, the Second Amendment isn't the only portion of the Constitution that this law violates. The other portion is known as the Ex-Post Facto Clause:

"No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed." What is an "ex post facto law"?

ex post facto - formulated, enacted, or operating retroactively.

This legislation, by requiring people to turn in handguns they already own, retroactively bans handguns. It is upsetting that the federal government is willing to continue to ignore the Constitution for its own sake. I think it's time to stand up and protect ourselves. Otherwise, we all might be finding ourselves tackled and dragged from our homes by the police 'for our own safety'. Have a look at this video. It's frightening.

More Money, Dumber Kids

I'm going to throw a lot of numbers at you, so lets get the jargon out of the way. Student-teacher ratio is the number of students per member of the full-time teaching staff. The per-pupil spending is the amount of money spent at the school per student attending. This is the most effective way to measure funding because it accounts for how many students are paid for in each school making it unbiased across the board. Also, I'd like to note that, for estimates of student abilities, I'm going to use SAT scores. I choose these scores because they are the most effective way to measure student abilities across the nation. Some schools use different grading ruberiks and the ACT varies from state to state. SATs are the only flat score across America for an unbiased estimate of student abilities.

In any case, the question presented today is: Does increased funding, produce better students? To find this out, lets compare per-pupil spending and SAT scores among schools. First, we can look at our own state, Florida. In 2002/2003 we spent $6,439 per student and produced SAT scores (in 2003) averaging 498 Math and 498 verbal, or an overal score of 996. This seems pretty average, so lets compare it to another school. Georgia, just north of us spends $7,774 per student and produces 491 Math and 493 Verbal, or 984. It looks like we spend less per student and produce higher SAT scores.

Teachers argue that it is not based as much on funding as student-teacher ratios in schools. As such, we'll study the ratios at these schools. Georgia has a student-teacher ratio of 15.1. Does Florida have a lower student-teacher ratio? Actually, we have a higher ratio of 18.4. Are we perhaps an exception to the rule? Perhaps lower ratios are prevalent elsewhere. Alaska, with per-pupil spending of $9,870 has a student-teacher ratio of 16.7. They ultimately provided SAT scores of Math 518 and Verbal 518, or an overall average of 1036. This is higher than both Florida and Georgia. In fact, California, with one of the highest student-teacher ratios in the country of 20.5 produces similar SAT scores of 519 Math and 501 Verbal, or 1020.

We're seeing higher spending here than in our previous example and higher SAT scores. Perhaps this is where we have found an anomaly. I'm pitting the highest per-pupil spending district in the nation, the District of Columbia (Washington DC - $11,009), against one of the lowest, Tennessee ($6,118). Washington DC also has the lowest student-teacher ratio in the nation, 13.1 while Tennessee has about an average ratio of 16.2. So, the moment of truth. Drum roll please... Tennessee produces some of the highest SAT scores in the country, averaging 560 Math and 568 Verbal, or 1128. That's gonna be tough, but this is the place that represents America. Surely everything that can be done, has been to improve SAT scores. Washington DC provides SAT scores of 474 Math and 484 Verbal, or 958. That's right, DC has given some of the lowest scores in the country. Clearly, something is wrong with increasing spending to improve student performance.

Federal Wha?!?

Do any of you know what the Federal Register is? I bet if I polled the American people, no more than 20% of all Americans would have any idea what the Federal Register is. To quote, "The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) provides access to the official text of: Federal Laws, Presidential Documents, Administrative Regulations and Notices".

Professor Daniel A. Harris knows what the Federal Register does. He outlines what it does in his Business Law I class. He explains that the Federal Register is a government publication published five days per week to "notify" the people of all new and future laws, regulations, and rules. The intent of this document is to keep the people informed, and yet no one seems to know about it! It's a joke when our government is so big that it can afford to give the American people this much crap.

"How much crap?" you ask. Let me put it this way: The September 28th, 2005 Federal Register (Volume 10, No. 187) contained a 19 page table of contents. That's right, almost 20 pages of the publication consisted of a list of everything in the document! That's just one day! It's no wonder that not only do the American people not care to read this piece of junk, but most don't even know about it. Our government has gotten so massive that the majority of the people don't even make the effort to keep up anymore. In fact, this is not a surprise to our politicians. Greek philosopher Plato actually saw this coming. He wrote:

The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.

America was created on great courage stemming from the spiritual faith that brought many persecuted peoples to this continent. We immediately set up a government known for its liberty. Quickly we progressed to be one of the most powerful nations in the world. This is the stage during which we had an abundance. Then we learned that with democracy, we could vote ourselves money from the public treasury. This was our selfishness. It brought us to a contentedness with ourselves, or complacency, which led us to this point. We just don't care how big our government gets. Our apathy created a government that has gotten so monumental that we have all but given up on controlling it. It ignores the Constitution that created it, and we're letting it drag us to the end of this chain. This is the nasty truth.

In New Orleans, we can clearly see that some people have already left the apathy stage and have led themselves into dependence. The government loses control of their lives for only a short period of time, and they proceed to go around killing each other. They take the money we give them to rebuild their lives and spend it on lap dances! We are about to begin the worst stage. What is that? Bondage. Yes, the next stage is where we submit to a government of excessive control. We cannot let this occur. We must fight back! I didn't advocate revolution; Jefferson did.

"The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere." – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1846), U.S. President, Letter to Abigail Adams, 22 February 1787

I would never take the stance of advocating revolution by the sword, but I do believe it's time for a change. Don't vote for one of the two parties who's going to perpetuate this cycle. Let's escape this cycle. I have faith in the American people. I trust you will make the right decision.

Constitution Day, or ELSE

A recent law passed by the federal government requires any school receiving federal funds to hold a Constitution-related activity on Constitution Day (Sep. 17th). Since that falls on a Saturday this year, the government is being courteous enough to allow the schools to choose to have the activity either the week before or after September 17th.

This delightfully ironic law was snuck into the 658 page "Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005". It fits nicely onto page 447 covering half the width of about 1/4 of a single page. Well thought out indeed. The best part about it is that, if effective to its own end, it will only inform the people that it is unconstitutional.

Moreover, it doesn’t just pertain to public schools. Many private schools receive small portions of public funding as well. My brother’s private Catholic
school was forced to acquiesce to this legislation. The law was only put into action on May 24th of this year. The difficulty in finding that this part of the legislation even existed forced his school and many others to go with a simple ‘reading’ of the Constitution.

This ‘reading’ shows how insane the law becomes when followed. I was enjoying such descriptive terms as “in-dick-tament” (indictment) and “for-two-fur” (forfeiture) while it was quite apparent that they had not even looked at the document before getting up on stage wearing their fake wigs. It was disgusting. The government has no right to tell institutions of learning to put away whatever their curriculum is for the sake of the government's curriculum.

To quote Thomas Jefferson: "If we were directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we would soon want for bread." The same is undoubtedly going to happen here. When the government tells us what to read and learn, our nation will become stupider by the second. This should be quite apparent with failing schools across the country. It becomes tiresome when telling the truth is no longer politically correct. If I want the government to stay off my lawn and out of my kid’s head, then why can’t I do that?

The major supporting argument for this is that we’re teaching them anyway, and this is just to make sure we teach them the right things. This argument is flawed in the very sense that we shouldn’t be forcing people to go to school who don’t want to be there. We shouldn’t be teaching them to begin with. I don’t see “Congress has the power to make public schools” anywhere in the Constitution. Not only that, but Congress has made schooling mandatory. Add that to Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act” and we have some run down, overcrowded, learning impaired public schooling.

‘‘But think of the children!” I already have. There are 4-year-olds shooting and killing other children. We shouldn’t be dragging them to schools where they’re just going to learn the same gang mentality they get on the streets. Public libraries are allowed via the Constitution. Let them (and their parents) teach themselves. Forced education about the Constitution is most certainly not the answer.

The worst part is that I can’t decide whether I’m outraged or just dumbfounded. The ignorance required to enact such a law is downright comedic. A quick run through the most basic points of the Constitution informs us that Congress doesn’t have the ability to force curriculum on anyone. Amendment X is my favorite of all the amendments ignored constantly by every branch of our government. It reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” Ignoring this is so common to us now that we forget how important this document was.

This is, of course, the opposing argument. To claim that the importance of the Constitution mandates such a law to teach our children about it only one day a year is ignorant. The importance of the Constitution warrants year- round study and an understanding of economics. It is not justification to unnecessarily expand the federal government. It, in itself, is the only restraint we have on that same government. Don’t be fooled by the propaganda, this law is a bad one.

The Constitution itself is the reason we should fight this law. If you know the Constitution, you know how unjust this law is. Because of that, I sharply disagree with this lousy piece of legislation. The Constitution is a wonderful document that should be on display at every public library. But it has no place being forced into a shoddily thrown together play for a simple legal requirement to keep stealing taxpayer funds. Those who wrote it are rolling over in their graves today.

Legal Immigration for Dummies

Immigration is treated like a terrible thing these days. What's worse, the attitude taken toward illegal immigration tends to treat these people who want to come here as if they are terrible hateful individuals.

To steal a quote from the Wall Street Journal, "They have as much pride in America as you or me." Sadly, even though this is the case for most, this is not the case for all.

Therefore, illegal immigration tends to bring politicians' minds to thoughts of walls and trenches which remind me of the Berlin Wall. If only this were the worst of their thoughts.

Strangely, many politicians complain about Immigrants who work for lower wages than Americans, don't pay taxes, and take advantage of our welfare system according to many recent columns in the Orlando Sentinel. Most neglect the obvious solutions involved.

First, a quick solution to the lower wages is to eliminate the Minimum wage laws. This would put Americans on a level playing field and keep immigrants from undercutting American workers.

The taxation solution is already in Congress, but is coming under great scrutiny. The easiest way to stop immigrants who don't pay taxes on their wages would be to turn the taxes from income to sales. The "Fair Tax Act" is already in congress and being debated.

Unfortunately, people tend not to jump on board with ideas that they don't recognize. If you really want to slow the population of illegal immigrants, the first step is to write your congressmen about this bill.

The biggest problem many people see is that they are sucking down welfare dollars. I have a very simple solution here as well, but not many people like it. We could eliminate the welfare state. If there is no free money, then the immigrants have no reason to choose this country over their own.

Think about all of these solutions combined. If immigrants are on a level playing field with Americans in both wages and taxation, and they no longer have incentives to derive false identities to steal welfare dollars that wouldn't exist, why would they come here illegally?

Because this is the land of opportunity? Maybe, but there would be much less reasons to have such elaborate customs inspections and we could very easily allow people to enter this country legally since they didn't have as much welfare to sign up for.

I see no reasons why these actions shouldn't be implemented, but I'm also not a Republican or a Democrat. I suppose, since they are the ones in power, they know best. I mean, look at all the good things Bush has done.