Archives for category: Crime and Punishment

I thought that the current interesting topics are a good excuse to come off of my long hiatus. Particularly the controversy surrounding Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin. While I was irritated at his comments, they did ring a bell in the form of a concept I learned from my Psych 101 class.

During the description of the sequence events that occur leading up to and during the female orgasm, the professor described how the uterus contracts, mentioning that this was to draw the semen into the uterus and increase the likelihood of conception. A fact that floated at the surface of my mind until after the test, whereupon it sunk into a dark corner of my mind, waiting to spring forth as an interesting and inappropriate bit of trivia upon an unsuspecting public.

I did a trivial search on the subject of “female orgasm uterus contracts” and came across this article on sperm retention theory. Indeed, one of the prominent explanations for the female orgasm is that it makes it more likely to conceive a child with a preferred partner. In a species that has leanings towards rape, this would be a useful tool in the female’s arsenal. Score one for the Puritans and the inept congressman.

What can we learn from this? There are no winners here! At best, Mr. Akin mumbled a half-remembered anecdote that he never bothered to understand. Fire him. Women are not educated enough about their own bodies to even be aware of this super power they possess. Put them under Obamacare, they are clearly not competent to make their own healthcare decisions. No one in the media has thought to do a Google search to find out if there is anything behind Mr. Akin’s statements besides the typical ignorant ramblings of a politician. Hire an intern or something, jeeze.

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Here is an interesting piece of ethical gymnastics: Self-defence is justified, but self-defence with a gun is not.

I am a proponent of gun ownership, firearm safety, and the right to self-defence. If a person is willing and able, they should responsibly own a gun, know how to shoot it, and use it to defend themselves and their family in the unlikely event that the need arises. If a person is put in that position, they should use the most effective tool available.

While this is my position, I can understand if someone makes the argument that we should not defend ourselves, but hope for the police to arrive in time to defend us. This, in my opinion, is stupid beyond reason; but I will allow that a consistent person might make such an argument.

Then there is an intermediate position. Self-defence is fine, so long as you use an object not solely designed for that purpose. Steak knife: valid defensive implement. Katana: not valid. Shot-put: valid defensive implement. Shotgun: not valid. Crowbar: valid defensive implement. Morning-star: not valid.

What is needed here is simplification. Either I am justified in defending myself and my family, or I am not. If I am, then let me worry about the appropriate tool for the job. 😉

I am generally down on the idea of government control. The idea of the government stepping in to tell responsible persons what they may and may not do is distasteful. Indeed, I imagine that I come across as anti-government on occasion. There are certain distasteful things that do fall clearly in the realm of government responsibility though.

First to come to mind are the weak and helpless who are trodden on by the strong. The government is here to protect them, and set things right. By this I do not mean welfare and the like. Caring for the needy, and getting them back on their feet as far as they are able,  is the duty of the individual and charitable groups. This is an act of society. No, the government is there to administer justice when someone takes advantage of the weakened state of another.

Following from that line of thought, I come to human life. Here you shall find me horribly unsophisticated, and irritation will likely manifest in a few readers. While others come up with exotic formulae for when it is and is not acceptable to kill a human, I simplify things. Don’t kill a diploid human. No debate as to vegetative state, feeling pain, mental capacity or self-conciousness. Haploid: kill, diploid: don’t kill. The only exception is self-defence, or the defence of others. Otherwise, it is the duty of the government to protect human life.

I then come to the responsibility of the government to hold citizens accountable to not steal from, break contracts with, or otherwise harm one-another. This is fairly uncontroversial even at this late date. People only seem to get confused if the person being stolen from can be dehumanized in some way, such as being wealthier than the culprit, or an owner of stock in a corporation.

Finally, the government is to protect us from outside threats. This, for me, is a bit tricky. Do we ever act in a peremptory fashion? How many of our citizens do we put at risk if we allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon? In nature, the police state, as seen in multi-cellular organisms, is a very strong higher-order structure. It is able to easily out-compete free-living organisms. Do we disrupt developing police-states in order to safeguard our own liberty? This is perhaps the only significant place where I feel split from Ron Paul. My leanings seem too hawkish for a proper libertarian.

Most other things the government tries to do are usurpations. Yeah, I like the interstate highway system, and I almost can accept it for its significance for national defence. You might talk me into one or two more things, depending on my mood; however, quite a lot that the government does today falls instead in the purview of society.

Thought I would comment briefly on this story about – according to most accounts – some stupid neighbourhood watch guy that chased down and shot a kid.

This is a horrible tragedy, but it is being mis-portrayed as being about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Since the guy was chasing the child, he was not under the auspices of the law. If the child fought back, he was defending himself against an armed assailant.

It is up to the local government to investigate and prosecute this apparent crime. If that falls through – as it apparently has – then the state government needs to investigate and bring charges. What is actually going to happen is the federal government will follow its pattern, and attempt to use the criminal behaviour of an individual as an excuse to further infringe upon the rights of the responsible majority. The same as they have done and tried to do with Illegal Downloaders, Anonymous, and Occupy Wall Street.

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense

When we fail in our financial and social responsibility, we give power and control to someone else, whether we realize it or not. We don’t notice when we get what we want as a result of that control. While both sides are to blame, people only notice the problem in the opposing side. When that control stands in the way, then there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. We end up with things like the Patriot Act, SOPA, and secret facilities designed to read all of your email no matter who is in office.

If you watch, the government and meta-government organizations egg on groups like Anonymous, Occupy Wall Street, and the Tea Party. It is as though they are hoping for an excuse to sink their tentacles further into the last open forums of free speech, public assembly and the internet. Already OWS has elicited a legislative power grab, and I look for the Anonymous movement to draw down fire on the interwebs next.

As we struggle against this growing control, lets remember the nature of the thing that we are up against. It grows and thrives in periods of disquiet and confusion. It encourages inane and useless controversies. It feeds on apathy and irresponsibility. In that light, let us stand for our rights firmly, embodying personal responsibility and self control. Make them openly steal our freedoms, rather than passively give them up in our time of confusion and inattention.

Here is a story that evokes memories of the excellent WWII cryptography book, Between Silk and Cyanide: Sabu, the leader of LulzSec, posted to an IRC server without going through his TOR client. This was all the information the Feds needed to track him down. As part of a plea deal, he has been working with the FBI since last summer to help take down his fellow Annons. As a species of more law abiding privacy nuts, what can we learn from this and related scenarios?

  1. Don’t have a set-up where you can unintentionally circumvent your annonymizing proxy.

    If you only allow the browser you use to access your anonymous blog/email/IRC account to connect to the internet via the TOR client, it is much more difficult to give yourself away. As an aside, if you find TOR to be of use, you may also want to consider deploying a bridge.

  2. Use HTTPS.

    The EFF has an excellent firefox plug-in to help with this, called HTTPS Everywhere. If an HTTPS connection is available to a well known server – e.g. WordPress – HTTPS Everywhere will cause the browser to use it. Here is a good article on TOR and HTTPS from the EFF.

  3. Keep various parts of your on-line life separate.

    In the old days this might have been done with a separate computer for your anonymous blogging. Now you can use virtualization tools like the VMware Player or Virtual Box. Just set up separate virtual machines for blogging and regular browsing.

  4. Avoid personally identifiable information.

    As we see in the second LulzSec story, it is particularly easy to reveal details about your life that would allow an attacker to deduce your identity.

  5. Block Flash and Javascript.

    Flash cookies are bad for privacy, and it is notorious for its security vulnerabilities. If you want to watch youtube, run it in a separate virtual machine.

  6. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t sign your name to.

    It might be tempting to use your power for evil. Trolling other people’s blogs, vandalizing other people’s servers, etc. Restrain this urge. Remember the tragic story of Sabu.