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Archive for June, 2008

{To be sung to the tune of “Crying Time,” by Ray Charles…} Oh, it’s ranting time again, you’re gonna hate me… I can see that glassy, bored look in your eyes…

Today’s rant is somewhat related to my original postings here, concerning the impending shutdown of usenet access by three major ISPs, following the schoolyard bully tactics of New York Attorney General Anthony Cuomo. Those posts kind of hinted at the climate of fear that is overtaking the United States, regarding child pornography, and by extension, all child sexual abuse.

It irks the hell out of me that I feel as though I have to make a disclaimer about this, but I have to do it, lest I be accused of being a pedophile or child molester or an advocate for them. I do not in any way condone child abuse in any form. It is a horrible crime, and when it occurs, those guilty of perpetrating these crimes need to be punished severely. Child sexual abuse is particularly heinous. Those who would harm children are the lowest form of life in our species. That being said…

The fear and hysteria revolving around this subject is exploding all around us into something that, if we don’t start to exercise some caution, threatens to be the guiding force in destroying much of the civil liberty and freedom that we have enjoyed in this country for so many years.

I made a discovery today. I came across a post in usenet (remember, that’s a part of the virtual world that we need to shut down because it’s riddled with child pornography) that made me realize, after I thought about it for a time, that I was an unfit father to my children. Forget the fact that I provided for them, raised them, helped to nurse them when they were sick, carted them back and forth to school, listened to their tales of woe and their problems and tried my best to give them good advice along the way; forget the fact that they have all grown into well-adjusted, responsible young people who have left the nest and are creating lives and families of their own now. Forget everything like that.

I used to tickle them when they were little.

I’m so ashamed of myself. How could I ever have allowed myself to abuse my children like this? And I just happened to think of this: One of my children is a girl, and sometimes, when I tickled her, I {GASP!!} tickled her upper thighs!! I’m a child molester!! Quick – someone give me a gun. I have to kill myself now…

You think that I’m being ridiculous here? Read this excerpt, with the link provided for verification purposes:

———————-

James Redlin, a high school teacher from Illinois, will never know the name of the conscientious citizen who disrupted and nearly destroyed his family. All he knows is that when he came home from a brief trip on a train with his six-year-old son his wife Susan, told him that an official from the Department of Child and Family Services had paid a visit.

Using the threat of seizing the son and sending him into foster care, the DCFS official had extracted from Mrs. Redlin an agreement to sign a family “safety plan.” The plan required that James be subject to 24-hour supervision of all contact with his son. A typical household would be hard-pressed to meet that demand. The Redlins confronted the additional difficulty posed by the fact that Mrs. Redlin was confined to a wheelchair.

Mr. Redlin’s supposed “offense” was tickling his son during a train ride.

The child “protection” worker determined that the Redlin home was unsafe through the use of a 15-point checklist called the Child Endangerment Risk Assessment Protocol (CERAP). Checking a box next to any of the 15 “safety factors” is considered sufficient justification for state intervention in the home. No tangible or objective evidence is necessary in order for that threshold to be reached: The subjective and self-ratifying perceptions of a child “protector” are sufficient.

A week ago, shortly after a divided Supreme Court issued a flawed but necessary decision recognizing the indispensability of the habeas corpus guarantee, the High Court to use the familiar awe-encrusted expression we’re expected to apply to that body of unremarkable lawyers) refused to hear an appeal in the case of Dupuy v McEwen, a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of thousands of parents whose children had been kidnapped and used as blackmail leverage by child “protection” officials in Illinois.

That was not the entire article, and I urge you to read it in its entirety at this link:

http://freedominourtime.blogspot.com/2008/06/scotus-ratifies-cps-childnapping-and.html

———————-

I also urge you to read this article, at another site:

DCFS Threats to Take Children Ruled Illegal

http://www.constitutionalconcepts.org/pallmeyer.htm

———————-

Now, really, I’m only half joking when I say that I was an unfit father. By these standards, which are being used every day in this country, I was completely unfit to be a father. I changed my children’s diapers – which means, of course, that I not only saw them nude, but that I touched them while they were nude. I bathed them, which means the same thing. I even have a few pictures of them naked in the bathtub. So, my ex-wife and I are child pornographers, I suppose.

Where does this idiocy end??

I feel horrible for the people who have been put through this. The fathers or mothers, who now have to walk around, knowing that people are whispering about them, wondering, or “knowing” that they have abused their own children. Because make no mistake, once a whisper like that starts, in this society with the current climate, it will never go away. I feel horrible for the spouses of those accused, who know that nothing inappropriate happened, but have to endure the whispers of the people around them who wonder how on earth they could stay with a person who would do “that” to one of the kids.

But most of all, I feel horrible for the kids, who are caught in the middle of this. Will they forever question what that playful tickle or pat on the rump when they were ten years old *really* meant? When the shit-storm ends and the family is “reunited,” can the children ever be helped to find a way to truly feel safe and secure in their homes again? To do this not only terrorizes the adults in the situation, it also terrorizes the children. What’s worse, it’s being done in the name of “Child Protection.”

But in my mind, it’s committing a form of child abuse every bit as heinous as the person who physically rapes a child.

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So, I was watching the History Channel while taking a little break from work. I work from home, and therefore I have the freedom to watch the stupid tube when I’m not working. The show was about the history of Jerusalem. Something began to nag at me, which has nagged at me in the past, but now that I have a blog, I can spout off about these things.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Christian. I was raised a Catholic and I’m now in recovery from that experience. My spiritual/religious beliefs aren’t really important here; it’s enough to say that I’m not a Christian. So, could someone please tell me, what the hell is this “Before the Common Era” crap that I keep on hearing?

I understand the necessity of the separation of church and state. I even understand the concept of atheism, though I don’t buy into it. But, this has gone too far. I mean, the man did exist, whether you believe he was God, a prophet, or just some over-publicized carpenter from Bethlehem. But, now we can’t even say his name, without the risk of being politically incorrect? What the hell is up with that?

We can talk about Osama Bin Laden. We can talk about Saddam Hussein. We can talk about Adolph Hitler. But we can’t even mention the name of Jesus Christ? Could someone please tell me WTF is going on in this world?

We are a culture that has become obsessed with the things that we say, the labels that we apply, and the names that we mention. When I was a kid, there was a planet in our solar system called Uranus. That’s “U-ray-nis,” for those who can’t remember what we all called it at one time. Then, some nut job took offense that the fact that the name of that planet rhymed with anus, a part of the body that apparently, we aren’t allowed to mention. So, we changed the name of that planet to “Ur-uh-nus.” Say what??

Now, we have told historians that they must no longer acknowledge the existence of Jesus Christ. Was he God? The son of God? Hell, I don’t know. But, I think it’s safe for me to say that he did have a more profound impact on the people of this planet than any other human being in history. But, God forbid we should mention his name, because we might piss off some whack-job atheist who can’t stand to hear his name. “Before the Common Era,” my skinny little ass. What a load of crap this is.

We all have our own religious beliefs. Even the avowed lack of religious belief is a religious belief. The sooner we learn to live and let live, the sooner we learn to get over the fact that not everyone agrees with our point of view about religion, the better off we’re all going to be.

God, I can’t believe that I’ve been pushed into the place of defending something that would be better defended by a fundamental Christian…

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So, I was sitting and watching the stupid tube last night, and something struck me. I saw a commercial come on for the Pizza Hut P’Zone, which, if you weren’t already aware of it, is Pizza Hut’s version of the calzone. More than one full pound of cheese and toppings. Now, why on earth would this set me off on thinking about values and attitudes? Well, I’m going to tell you why.

As of the year 2,000, the average American consumed roughly 3,800 calories a day. I just came here from a site that helps to calculate how many calories I need to consume each day, it I want to gain – not lose, but gain – 13 pounds. According to that calculator, to gain weight, I need to consume approximately 2,052 calories per day. That’s a difference of 1,748 calories per day from what the average American consumes.

In all honesty, I don’t have the greatest eating habits. I pick here and there throughout the day, and I eat only one actual meal in the evening. I don’t eat breakfast, I normally don’t eat lunch. But, I don’t mound my plate with two or three pounds of food in the evening, either. We are raising a nation of obese, unhealthy people who cannot exist unless they’re stuffing food into their mouths.

This bothers me. I realize that there are people who cannot control their weight, for whom it’s more a matter of genetics than anything else. There are people who eat like sparrows, and still gain weight. These aren’t the people I’m talking about. The people I’m talking about are the people who do nothing but eat, all day, every day, and when a discussion is brought up about how there are people starving in the world, they get a blank look, and say that it’s not their problem. So, I’ll throw out my next snappy comeback, and say well, there are people who go to bed hungry right here in America, children who only get one meal a day, and that’s at school. Again, the blank look for a moment, and then, “Well, their parents should get a job then.”

Okay, maybe that’s true, maybe not. I don’t know. But it galls me. Over the last eight years, this country has become probably the most hated nation on earth, and we as American citizens are hated and vilified. Why? Well, I would say that a good part of the reason, aside from our “shrubbery,” is the fact that we have become a nation of people who have a seemingly endless sense of entitlement, and a horribly over-inflated estimate of our individual importance. We’ve all heard stories of Americans traveling in other countries, and just impressing the hell out of the people there with our rudeness, our vanity, our self-importance, and yes, our gluttonous eating habits.

We don’t need to eat the way that we do. Americans eat too much food, period. I eat a miniscule amount of food compared to others I know, and I’m perfectly healthy and happy. I can’t remember the last time I was actually sick. It starts when we’re kids. Go visit your local school, and see just how many overweight kids there are. We stuff them with junk food and sugar, potato chips and soda. And we wonder why we have such a high incidence of ADD, ADHD, obesity, and on and on and on. It’s become obscene, especially when I see children around the world, in poor nations, surviving on a cup of rice and a cup of milk – every day. That’s all that some of these kids get to eat in a day.

Yes, yes, I know, there are some countries that are reluctant to accept any aid from the U.S. But have you ever stopped to wonder why that might be? The decorative “shrubbery” in Washington doesn’t do anything without strings attached to it. Could it possibly be that these governments do not want to be under any kind of obligation to the United States, whether that obligation is real or just perceived? Honestly, if I were in their shoes, I’d think twice, too.

This isn’t so much about food, but you get the idea. The United States is made up of less than five percent of the world’s population. Five percent. Yet, we consume nearly thirty-three percent of the world’s electricity, and forty-three percent of its gasoline. I honestly can’t find a statistic on the American percentage of total world food consumption – if anyone can, I’d appreciate a link. But you get the point, I think.

So, the next time you see a commercial on the stupid tube for something like the P’Zone, followed immediately by a commercial for some medication that reduces cholesterol, or reduces plaque buildup in your arteries, ask yourself this question:

“Do I really need this bag of chips I’m sitting here shoving down my throat?”

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Continuing my rant about New York AG Cuomo’s strong-arm tactics concerning usenet, let’s talk about civil liberties in general here for a few moments. Whether you want to believe this or not, the rights and freedoms of the average American citizen are being eroded bit by tiny bit every single day.

One thing that’s very, very close to my heart in terms of discussions dealing with this topic is the U.S.A. Patriot Act. A lot of what I’m going to say may be familiar, and you may have a reaction something like, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all this before.” I would submit that you have *not* heard it. The words may have entered your ears, but they very likely didn’t enter your mind.

The U.S.A. Patriot Act. I’m going to give you some quotes from the ACLU web site about this ridiculously repressive piece of legislation:

“Just six weeks after the September 11 attacks, a panicked Congress passed the USA Patriot Act, an overnight revision of the nation’s surveillance laws that vastly expanded the government’s authority to spy on its own citizens, while simultaneously reducing checks and balances on those powers like judicial oversight, public accountability, and the ability to challenge government searches in court.

“The PATRIOT Act has directly infringed on many of the rights and freedoms granted by the Bill of Rights.”

The First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

“The First Amendment guarantees us…
– freedom of religion
– freedom of speech
– freedom of assembly
– freedom of association
– freedom of the press”

The U.S.A. Patriot Act, “Violates the First Amendment by effectively authorizing the FBI to launch investigations of American citizens in part for exercising their freedom of speech.

“Violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech by prohibiting the recipients of search orders from telling others about those orders, even where there is no real need for secrecy.”

“Creates a very serious risk that truly innocent individuals could be deported for association with authorizing the FBI to launch investigations of American citizens in part for exercising their freedom of speech.”

The Fourth Amendment

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

“The Fourth Amendment guarantees us freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

“It ensures that government agents cannot search your house, office or other personal effects without probable cause that you have committed a crime (as verified by the issue of a warrant).”

The U.S.A. Patriot Act, “Violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing foreign intelligence searches for criminal purposes without probable cause of crime.

“Violates the Fourth Amendment by failing to provide timely notice to persons whose home has been searched. Notice is also a key element of due process, which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

“Violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing the government to seize records in intelligence and terrorism investigations without probable cause of crime.”

The Fifth Amendment

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

“The Fifth Amendment guarantees that no person can be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

The U.S.A. Patriot Act “Allows indefinite incarceration of persons without judicial review thereby denying due process and equal protection of law.

“Creates a very serious risk that individuals could be deported for association with political groups that the government later chooses to regard as terrorist organizations. ”

All of the above quoted from the American Civil Liberties Union web site, which can be found here:

http://action.aclu.org/reformthepatriotact/facts.html

by clicking the link labeled “Flash Movie.”

So then, now that I have probably bored everyone to tears with this, what exactly is my point with this?

A number of years ago, the United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling concerning search warrants. Prior to this ruling, law enforcement agencies were required to show that they had probable cause to enter a home or business to search the premises, whether they were looking for drugs, illegal weapons, explosives, whatever. This Supreme Court ruling gave police the power to search without a warrant, obtaining it after the fact, solely on the word of law enforcement that they had reason to believe in good faith that they would find evidence there that would have justified a judge granting them a search warrant.

This ruling was part of the much vaunted “War On Drugs.” Now, no one will deny that there is a serious drug problem in this country. However, this ruling was unprecedented, and it gave the police powers far greater than they should ever have been given. Then came the next step.

Shortly after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, when the American people in general swayed under pressure from the federal government, and acquiesced to a piece of legislation that stripped away a large number of rights that we have come to take for granted, there began a chilling trend in this country. Now, in the name of the “War On Terror,” the American people began to allow – even encourage – the government to strip away civil liberties and rights. If you live in a town or city of any significant size whatsoever, the chances are very good that you cannot leave your home without being under surveillance. Constant surveillance. There is no longer any right to privacy in this country. None. But, because it’s being done in the name of fighting terrorism, it’s okay. I’ll give up my freedom, just keep me safe from those terrorists. There’s an inherent danger in this attitude.

Case in point: The original thrust of this blog post.

Bear with me through this, it’s a bit convoluted. Usenet consists of at least 100,000 newsgroups, or discussion boards. According to Wikipedia, the alt.* hierarchy of usenet accounts for 99% of all posts. The alt.* hierarchy is a section of usenet that is extremely diverse. Now, since, as I understand it, there were 88 newsgroups that were found to have content involving child pornography, I find it disturbing that AG Cuomo wants to see the entire usenet system shut down. Even if all of these groups fell under the alt.* hierarchy, they still represent only the tiniest of fractions of the entire usenet structure. In fact, I would make a counter statement to Mr. Cuomo. Given the tiny amount of child pornography found in usenet, relative to the size of usenet, I would state that usenet seems to be doing a fairly effective job of policing itself. Better, in fact, than any law enforcement agency can claim.

But, with the threat of Mr. Cuomo basically stepping up to a microphone and saying, “This ISP has refused to help us clamp down on the trafficking of child pornography. In fact, they are refusing to do anything about it at all. This is tantamount to them aiding child pornographers,” three major ISPs have decided to severely limit, or even shut down, access to usenet.

And it’s all to save the children. I agree with saving the children, but let’s go after the actual criminals, not the 99% -plus legitimate, innocent usenet users. We – the people who frequent usenet – seem to have done a fair job of keeping it under control. It will never be stamped out completely – not in usenet, not on the World Wide Web, not in the sleazy back rooms of the local dirty book store, and not in those secret little pictures and videos that men and women make of themselves having sex with children, kept in the back of the closet somewhere.

But overall, usenet has done a comparatively good job of keeping it on the run. We don’t like it there, we don’t want it there. We’re also realistic enough to know that while we can maintain some control over it, that’s about the best we can hope for.

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Well, as an introduction, I’m going to talk about child pornography, and specifically, about censorship.  Before you go getting all up in arms here, this is not a cry for the so-called “freedom of speech” to produce and distribute such crap.  Let’s make this clear from the get go:  I do not, and would not ever, advocate or tolerate child pornography. But there is a movement afoot, born out of the efforts to eliminate this trash, that disturbs me very deeply.

Let’s have a little history lesson first, for those who are not aware of some of the more arcane corners of the internet…

Many people may not know about something called “usenet.”  And that’s unfortunate, really, since the world wide web was born from usenet.  It is one of the first bulletin board systems that gained wide-spread acceptance and use, enabling people from all over the world to communicate with one another via computer.  This is a short excerpt from Wikipedia, on the history of usenet:

“Usenet is one of the oldest computer network communications systems still in widespread use. It was established in 1980, following experiments from the previous year, over a decade before the World Wide Web was introduced and the general public got access to the Internet. It was originally conceived as a “poor man’s ARPANET,” employing UUCP to offer mail and file transfers, as well as announcements through the newly developed news software. This system, developed at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, was called USENET to emphasize its creators’ hope that the USENIX organization would take an active role in its operation (Daniel et al, 1980). ”

I happen to be a heavy user of this thing called usenet.  It’s archaic, but I like it.  I have a lot of friends there from all over the world – including a couple of average, everyday folks in Communist China.  They don’t say how they manage to post to the outside world, and I don’t ask.  The point is that usenet provides a forum for hundreds of thousands of people to express their ideas and opinions; a place to discuss a myriad of topics and issues; a place to find the freedom to truly express one’s self.

Now, the Attorney General of the state of New York, Anthony Cuomo, wants to end that, and he is using strong-arm tactics to do so.  In a move that smacks of extortion, he has forced three major Internet Service Providers to either drop all usenet content from their servers, or to heavily filter the content.  Today, the target is child pornography.  Tomorrow, who knows?  It could be groups that do not like a certain politician, or a certain political party.  Or a group that does not believe in creationism.

This past Tuesday, Cuomo announced that Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Sprint would “shut down major sources of online child pornography.”  But, what he neglected to say is that his so-called “agreement” with these providers will severely restrict access too all of the approximately 100,000 usenet newsgroups.  Out of these groups, only a handful – 88, to be as precise as is possible – have been found to contain child pornography.  That particular number comes from Cuomo’s office, where staffers said that they had reviewed “millions of pictures over several months,” and found only “88 different newsgroups” containing child pornography.

That amounts to an odd claim:  Stopping the spread of child porn on a total of 88 newsgroups means strong-arming broadband providers into pulling the plug on thousands of innocuous ones. Usenet’s vast set of hierarchically arranged discussion areas include ones that go by names like sci.math, rec.motorcycles, and comp.os.linux.admin.

Now, only Time Warner Cable will cease to offer Usenet.  Sprint has decided to kill off the alt.* hierarchy, Usenet’s largest.  A Verizon spokesman said he didn’t know details, saying “newsgroups that deal with scientific endeavors” will stick around but admitted that all of the alt.* hierarchy could be toast.  Yet Usenet’s sprawling alt.* hierarchy contains tens of thousands of discussion groups–one count says there are 18,408 of them–including alt.adoption, alt.atheism, alt.gothic, and diabetes.  Eliminating all of those means eliminating perfectly legitimate conversations.  It also means censorship and the thought police.  And while that thought policing may perhaps be the result of trying to protect children, I would counter with this:  We allow neo-Nazis to flourish here.  We allow white supremecists to flourish here.  The populace in general keeps them curbed, because we as a society despise them.  And we can do the same with child pornographers.  But to wipe out the means of expression of people who take part in over 100,000 discussion groups, simply to eliminate access to 88 groups that, make no mistake, people will find a way to access, is ridiculous.

Usenet is not a “web site” in the conventional sense.  However, it is to be hoped that what happened in Pennsylvania regarding web sites will be repeated with Cuomo’s strong-arming of these ISPs.  Quoting:

“In the United States, the idea of blocking Web sites is not new. The
state of Pennsylvania came up with that idea five years ago, and
Internet providers took issue with it through a lawsuit filed by the
American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and
Technology.

The Pennsylvania statute said “an Internet service provider shall
remove or disable access to child pornography…accessible through its
service” within five business days after the attorney general notified
them of its existence.

A federal judge in Philadelphia overturned that law on First Amendment
grounds, ruling that it constituted a “prior restraint on protected
expression” and that its “extraterritorial effect violates the dormant
Commerce Clause” of the U.S. Constitution.

New York’s attorney general surely knows about that precedent. That is
probably why he settled for strong-arming broadband providers into
curbing Usenet–perhaps with the threat of a press conference that
would all but accuse the providers of trafficking in child
porn–instead of the far more difficult process of defending a law
requiring them to curb Usenet.”

To be continued…

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usenet

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-9964895-38.html?tag=nefd.lede

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