Archive for April, 2010

Privacy schmivacy (part 2)

(Divided this rant into two posts because it
seemed more organized that way)

We have become a wussy, absurd society obsessed with privacy.

The Sarah Palin hacker trial is currently underway in Knoxville. From what I hear, it will remain underway for another two or three weeks. The federal government is trying to put a UT kid behind bars for roughly thirty years for deducing the answers to Sarah Palin’s email security questions and looking at her personal, pointless emails and then posting some of them on the internet.

My thirty-years estimate is based off news reports and my own cursory analysis. Supposedly, the defendant is charged with violating 18 U.S.C. 1343 (wire fraud), 18 U.S.C. 1028 (identity theft), 18 U.S.C. 1030 (generic hacking), 18 U.S.C. 2701 (generic hacking), 18 U.S.C. 1510 (obstruction of a federal investigation). Adding up the sentencing points for these crimes and classifying the defendant as a first-offender, he should get somewhere around 40 points if convicted. That means a sentence between 292 and 365 months in prison. Federal prisons don’t give parole or time off for good behavior.

According to the News Sentinel, Bristol Palin took the stand this week and complained that she got lots of phone calls after the “hacker” posted her phone number on the internet. Boo hoo.  Why don’t you go live in a freakin’ cave if you don’t want people to know your phone number. Grow up.

I am so sick of these little children ruining our society. Murder, that’s a real felony. Armed robbery is another one. Or how about just stealing a lot of money, or committing aggravated perjury (a serious felony in my opinion which is not punished adequately). But these people are more concerned about getting phone calls from “creepy” guys they don’t know, or having all their terribly “personal” information released to the world.

UPDATE — 04-28-2010 — CORRECTIONS: 

The jury began deliberating yesterday — a good bit sooner than expected, although the trial had already lasted a full week, which seems rather long to me. Apparently the defendant chose not to testify so I guess that at least shortened things a little. Todd Palin didn’t testify, either.

After the jury began deliberating, I decided to recheck my calculations above and fortunately (for the defendant) noticed an legal error. Specifically, while it is often the rule that the Sentencing Guidelines will add up the points from multiple counts, in this case the charges were all so interrelated that the Guidelines would require examining only the sentencing level of the most serious conviction. Hence, the sentencing total would likely be 23 rather than 40. (Start with a base level of 14 for “obstruction of justice,” the weightiest charge, and then add 2 for the substantial importance of the trashed computer, then add 3 because Palin was a government official, then add 4 because the “hacking” involved more than five participants led by the defendant.)

In conclusion, the student will likely receive 46-57 months in federal prison if convicted of the charges — time spent without any parole or good time off. Although this new amount is substantially less than I first calculated, 4.5 years in prison still seems rather extreme. Genuine thugs who commit armed robbery often spend less jail time. But of course, we’ve got to protect privacy

Heh, I wish society would get this gung-ho about protecting property.


Privacy schmivacy (part 1)

Let me say a few things about privacy. I am sick of people whining about privacy. Did you know that Facebook now prohibits your friends from seeing all the photos in which you are tagged? I learned that little tidbit just this past week. You can verify what I am saying by going to Privacy Settings and then clicking “Preview Your Profile.” Enter the names of different friends, and your profile will look different depending on whose name you type in. Not only will your tagged photographs differ, but even your profile wall will look different! Specifically, some of the overly paranoid girls you are facebook-friends with will not even show up on your own profile wall. You can comment on their profiles and it will show up on your screen — but not on anyone else’s! Do the Profile-Preview if you don’t believe me!

I should probably clarify that I blame Facebook itself (rather than individuals) for at least part of this problem. Many people do not even realize the situation and thus operate in ignorance. Until recently, for example, I had my relatively open settings set to where only friends and people in my networks could see certain information. Once I realized that Facebook had decided to start censoring in a completely illogical manner, I instantly changed all my settings to “Everyone” out of principle. But I still blame individuals for voicing all the whiny complaints about “Privacy” that started most of the mess to begin with.

Moronic moderation

I have heard more than one of my professors suggest an erroneous legal idea regarding the Supreme Court. Specifically, they have proposed that the most moderate Supreme Court justice to sign onto the official majority opinion is the justice whose position truly counts. Thus by their reasoning, if Anthony Kennedy writes another one of his idiotic “concurring” opinions contradicting the majority opinion, we should pay attention to his ideas just because he is the magical “swing vote.” A clue for the wise:  Concurring opinions are just moral sermons. They carry no actual, legal weight. Get over yourself, Justice Kennedy!

If a judge isn’t fully satisfied with the majority opinion that he voted for, then he can feel free to write his own moral sermon critiquing it. But he shouldn’t pretend like his own opinion matters more than everyone else’s. If he really were willing to jump ship at not getting his way, he wouldn’t have even voted for the majority opinion in the first place!

Assume the following hypothetical:

1) Justice Scalia writes the official majority opinion, taking a hard conservative line during a five-four vote, while
2) Justice O’Connor votes for Scalia’s majority opinion but also writes a more liberal concurring opinion undermining the majority opinion.
3) Justice Thomas writes his own concurring opinion taking a more conservative position than O’Connor, perhaps even more conservative than Scalia.

Whose concurrence is more important, O’Connor’s or Thomas’s?

If you thought O’Connor’s opinion was more important because she was the swing vote — THINK AGAIN. They’re both equally important. If the majority opinion had been liberalized then for all we know Thomas could have bailed just as easily as O’Connor. Just because one judge likes to act like (s)he can jump ship from consistent legal theory at any moment (and frequently does so) doesn’t give him/her any additional power. One person, one vote.

There is no magic in being a moderate. If you’re a moderate, it just means you take emotional positions and lack a consistent, logical philosophy. You shouldn’t even be a judge at all.

More mediocrity

So last week, two developments occurred. First, the University of Tennessee decided to allow its athletes to retain their human right to self-defense after receiving a stern talking-to from Rep. Stacey Campfield. Second, Barack Obama spoke about his willingness to allow domestic drilling for oil off the coast of Virginia.

Both authorities evaded the opportunity for real greatness. Although refraining from robbing students of their rights even further, UT officials nonetheless stood absolutely adamant in their prohibition of legal guns on campus. While Obama rhetorically agreed to take one useful step, his one useful step was mainly a token gesture.

Obama has taken no effort to reverse his enviro-socialist stance against drilling on land, or off Alaska, or any of the other offshore locations which he previously blocked. Republican Congressman Joe Barton also made an additional point about Obama’s proposal: “It won’t do any good if Minerals Management Service and the Environmental Protection Agency drag their feet and throw up one procedural roadblock after another.” When you control the bureaucracy, it is easy to say one thing while doing another.

In any case, Obama would merely be reversing the overly-restrictive stance that he took previously. Take away many of our liberties, and then give only a few back to us. We will cheer you! Congress already allowed the offshore drilling ban to expire in 2008. How exactly does Barack Obama even get any say in whether we can drill at this point?? Give us a real president — one who won’t invent his own laws without congressional votes.

Overall, it is difficult to coerce wisdom. After people take actions that are truly stupid, it’s frequently possible to shame them into doing something resembling wisdom. But usually their lame attempt at reformation will mean nothing in the long run. With his polls at their lowest levels with taking office, Obama needed to do something popular before moving on to his next tyrannical scheme — which is probably a global warming tax on the air we exhale. Most of the public supports off-shore drilling, but not just limited to one state! What we really need is to let some of these people hit rock bottom and then demonstrate genuine repentence.

Real hope for the future

Today is Easter. In an era of supposed hope and change, I think Easter offers real hope. Easter was the beginning of God’s re-conquest of a fallen world. As summarized by The Way the Ball Bounces, a number of specific events followed after the first Easter:
Within a few years, one of [Christ’s] chief opponents, Saul of Tarsus, would become his most earnest follower. Within a decade or two, the Lord’s brother James, who did not believe in Jesus during Jesus’ earthly life, would be the leader of the church at Jerusalem. Within four centuries, this faith would conquer the Empire which had crucified its Leader.
What turned James from a doubter to a believer in Jesus? What turned the Apostle Paul from a persecutor to a worshipper? What turned the disciples from a disheartened, cowering bunch of defeated and washed-up followers into fearless, empowered witnesses? And what made the apostles willing to a man to suffer death rather than deny Christ?
The Resurrection. Count on it.
These days, many people doubt God. These people doubt based on numerous complex reasons that I have little desire to delve into presently. But despite life’s chaos, one thing that always gives me assurance in God’s promise — and hope for the future — is the fact of Jesus’s resurrection. God proved his reliability with one excellent miracle. And I use the word “fact” when referring to the resurrection of Jesus, because, as mentioned, we have numerous credible witnesses to the resurrection. Elevent of the twelve disciples (not to mention the Apostle Paul) accepted execution rather than renounce their eyewitness testimony to the resurrection. In modern America, it’s not altogether uncommon to see innocent people falsely confess under mere psychological duress from the authorities. But by contrast, the disciples held true to their sincere testimony because they had power, and genuine certainty of the hope they had witnessed.
If I had eleven eyewitnesses with such steadfastness, I could surely win any jury trial. But despite the evidence, people still doubt the gospel — generally based on emotions, or because they entertain various evil habits they do not wish to acknowledge as wrong.
Jesus was resurrected before any of us, partly to create an example to inspire us. Only such a miracle could truly demonstrate the reliability of Jesus’s promise, that “Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25). Now we have true, reliable reason for hope. Records as early as the Epic of Gilgamesh show that humanity’s deepest longing has been for immortality. This foremost human desire manifests itself in the modern era in (cool) television shows like Highlander and (awesome) movies like Twilight. But the real secret to immortality is far simpler and easier to obtain, if we just accept it. Immortality is not a fantasy. Only believe!
Jesus was the firstfruit of the new glorious world of the future. If we just believe in him, we instantly become his siblings and assure ourselves a place in that world to come. And at that point of belief, we finally gain true insight into the reality of moral events. At that point, we finally gain the potential to bring some of the heavenly glory into our present world of chaos. Many people these days try to reason morally with the faithless. In fact, teaching morals to the faithless does work sometimes — for example, you can show people that various tyrannical schemes will ultimately detract from their own well-being. But ultimately, I think people with real hope stand a better chance of generating a better society. We should all accept the glory of eternal life, and then spread it to others.