Archive for June 2013

The Council Has Spoken: June 28, 2013

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Shame on the UK

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have been banned from entering the UK. A government spokesman justified the ban saying, ”We condemn all those whose behaviours and views run counter to our shared values and will not stand for extremism in any form.”

I suppose he doesn’t mean this extremism which exists in the heart of the UK and is protected speech.

Allah Akbar!

Domestic Drones: A Hornet’s Nest of Legal Issues

One of my friends asked me the following question: “Can I shoot down a drone flying over my property?”

This is a very good question and one that will become pertinent as we begin to live with domestic drones. American property rights are unique. Here in the United States property owners own the land within their boundaries and everything below ground all the way to the center of the earth. This differs from European laws whereby property owners are limited to the surface only. Everything below that limit is owned by the government. This matters in the United States because thousands of Americans are getting rich today off royalties from the drilling for natural gas and oil below the surface of their properties. There is therefore a financial incentive for homeowners to exploit these resources for their own benefit. Not so in Europe where property owners do not receive royalties from the exploitation of resources below their properties, but who are left with the cleanup and damage caused by the exploitation on the surface. This may explain some of the reason for the tremendous rise of oil and natural gas production in the United States in contrast to Europe which enjoys similar deep gas deposits but has been slow to exploit these resources.

But when it comes to the air, American law is more in sync with European law. Americans own only as much air above their land as they can “personally use,” and these rights have been circumscribed to a great degree by those owning properties near airports or below air traffic lanes. In general the Americans can expect to own a varying portion of the air above their property up to 500ft, where the air becomes regulated as airspace by the FAA. This portion may vary from a few yards above the trees to 500ft depending on the circumstances and the opinions of courts.

As with any new  technology the Law lags technological development. Currently the legal focus is on the use of drones by law enforcement agencies, so the laws are more advanced codifying their use. The ACLU provides a state-by-state list of current legislation when it comes to law enforcement drones. We are likely to see court challenges to existing law over government use of drones in the apprehension of criminals, and my belief is that these laws will catch up to the technology fairly quickly. But the laws listed by the ACLU do not address drone usage by private citizens or corporations.

Years ago my next door neighbor’s middle-aged son used to sit outside in a chair and ogle my wife while she worked in the garden and played with our son. Complaints to the neighbor and the son went ignored, and it was one of the reasons we built a 6ft privacy fence around our property. Today my neighbor’s son could spend a few hundred bucks and buy a drone with a live video feed. He could then ogle my wife from above his father’s property, and there would be little I could do about it.

I wouldn’t be able to shoot it down with a firearm because at the time I lived on a quarter acre in the Delaware suburbs, and would have been arrested for discharging a firearm unlawfully. If it hovered over my property I could take it down using a high powered laser, or an air rifle but only if the drone fell into that zone of “personal use.” We lived under a flight path to Philadelphia International Airport, so the FAA would have regulated anything above a couple hundred feet so if he flew the drone too high I could have called the FAA about him. But if he hovered the drone on his father’s property a few feet higher than my privacy fence, I don’t think there would have been anything I legally could have done (aside from getting him arrested for something else. It turns out after the neighbor moved his son had been growing pot in a closet.)  If I had used a laser to damage the drone’s electronics while over the neighbor’s property I could be liable for damage to the drone.

Today I live in a rural area where my nearest neighbor is a quarter mile away and values his privacy as much as I value mine. Since I shoot skeet and target shoot on my property I would have significant leeway for taking down a non-law enforcement drone a hundred feet or so above my property, but anything above that would be problematic. Much would depend on the nature of the drone. For example the power company has easement rights to my property, so I would not be able to take down one of their drones (nor would I want to: the power company is my best friend out here in the sticks, with the cable and satellite companies close runner ups.) If I found an unidentified drone hovering less than a hundred feet above my chickens, I might consider shooting it down with a shotgun (never a long rifle or handgun. Shotgun pellets lose their velocity and become harmless in a few hundred yards; a rifle or pistol round can be lethal due to its ballistic spin for a mile or more. Gun owners should NEVER SHOOT A RIFLE OR HANDGUN INTO THE AIR. EVER.) Alternatively I might fire up my own RC airplane which is must faster and larger than most domestic drones and ram it into the drone. This would allow me the pleasure of examining it without much damage.

The likelihood of such an interest in my bantam hens here in the Blue Ridge Mountains is quite minuscule. Where private party domestic drones will likely be used is in California, by paparazzi desperate to cover a movie star’s wedding or to get candid saleable shots. Photographers already hire helicopters to spy on celebrities, so drones will make such intrusions cheaper and more common. I fully expect California to lead the way when it comes to laws limiting the use of these private party drones.

In the meantime talk of shooting down drones over one’s property sounds appealing, but for the most part its a solution searching for a problem. And even if you wake up one morning and find a drone hovering outside your window instead of grabbing a gun it might be more advisable to grab your cellphone and call a lawyer.



Why a Supporter of Gay Marriage Isn’t Happy with the Supreme Court Decision on Gay Marriage

I should be pleased with today’s Supreme Court rulings supporting Gay Marriage since I support gay marriage. So why am I not happy with today’s rulings?

Part of it is the fact that today’s rulings do not end the government’s involvement in marriage. I believe that marriage is a purely religious institution and a secular government has no role in it. The traditional role of government in marriage is due to two reasons. First it provides a legal basis for the treatment of property particularly in regards to inheritance. This has been stretched to include the division of property in the case of divorce, but it should be remembered that until relatively recently divorce was uncommon and in many cases all but illegal. Secondly government involvement in marriage is to insure the nurturing and growth of future citizens – children. In the past marriage provided the economic means necessary to keep children out of poverty, and even today poor children are more likely to live in single parent homes than in homes with two married people. One of the best arguments I have heard against poverty is “If you don’t want to be poor, stay married.” It is a truism I have seen firsthand, and one that I take to heart whenever the Road of Marriage becomes bumpy.

But this traditional involvement for the “sake of the children” has been corrupted by Leftists who have seen the success of other institutions like the Catholic Church in successfully inculcating its values in the young under its tutelage. All Communist  and Socialist political parties have “youth wings” whereby the State or (or state-wannabees if the socialists have yet to take power) indoctrinate children in party ideology. In the United States and Europe Leftists have been successful at turning public education into youth indoctrination camps which is why children fear global warming more than car crashes even though they are more likely to die or suffer serious injury in a car wreck than the consequences of rising global temperatures. Libertarians have traditionally opposed state sponsored education, and this indoctrination is one reason why, so that chops at that leg of support for government involvement in marriage.

As for property there is nothing in existing law that couldn’t handle that separately from marriage. All that is required is that one must be of legal age to participate in a contract. If a New Zealander decides to marry his ewe, he must find a church willing to accept such an arrangement, but he won’t be able to leave his house to Bessie and the minute he touches her he will be subject to animal cruelty laws and existing laws against bestiality. But if a man decides to set up a household with his two wives from a Muslim marriage, so be it. He can enter into a property contract that specifies who gets what when the household is dissolved according to civil (not religious) law. As for spousal rights granted by marriage, we already have Power of Attorney, a contract that specifies who is responsible for someone in the event they are disabled or unconscious. If a lesbian wants her lover to decide whether to pull the plug on her in an ICU, then so be it, as long as there exists a power of attorney. The State has a traditional function as the enforcer of binding legal contracts that is separate from marriage, so removing itself from the “marriage business” will not impact that function.

So without these two supporting pillars the State has no reason to be involved in marriage. Expanding the definition of marriage to include gay people isn’t going to change that . Perhaps in the long run it will accelerate the disentangling of the State from the religious basis of marriage, but in the long run we are dead to quote Keynes.

The Supreme Court rulings also serve as a distraction from the scandals that are threatening the very foundations of our government, providing the Obama Administration breathing space with which it can build barriers to protect itself from further scrutiny. The domestic spy scandal, the IRS scandal, Benghazi – all become  yesterday’s news as the President and his minions bask in the media limelight of the ruling, portraying themselves as great protectors of gay rights (in the US only; the administration is silent over the oppression of homosexuality elsewhere) while continuing to undermine rights such as the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, religion and the implied privacy right granted by the 4th Amendment.

For some reason, likely a shared ideological worldview, the American press simply refuses to hold this administration accountable for anything. Under this administration Iraq has unraveled, the economy limps along in a zombie-like state neither dead and showing few signs of life, Afghanistan has been lost and it’s only a matter of time before the Taliban return to power and pull girls out of school. The intervention in Libya where America “lead from behind” has turned North Africa into a well-armed nest of insurgents. Dithering over Syria and a nuclear armed Iran has encouraged America’s enemies and demoralized our allies. Obama’s constant stream of nagging, threats and harping in speeches have proven American threats to be worthless to its adversaries. Threats are no longer backed with force and therefore are ignored. The only enemy the Obama administration seems willing to engage are the Republicans and journalists who defy to propagandize the Administration’s narratives, forcing Victor Davis Hanson to opine “if only our foreign enemies were Republicans.” Republican leaders are corrupted, spurned or out-maneuvered as they have been on “immigration reform” and journalists like Michael Hastings and Andrew Breitbart are found dead under suspicious circumstances. If only the same happened to the likes of Bashar al Assad,  Hassan Nasrallah, or the Ayatollah Khamenei. Instead this administration entertains one of their representatives in the White House.

Thank heaven for the British press which, while even more Socialist than most Democrats, is willing to “speak Truth to Power” to use one of those Bush-era slogans one no longer hears these days. After all it was the Guardian, an outfit that makes Pravda look as right wing as the Wall Street Journal, that broke the Snowden  Affair. It is also the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail that continue to report on the scandals deviling the administration, making the UK a window for opponents of this administration by exposing the group-think politically correct atmosphere that has corrupted American journalism.

So hoorah gays can now get legally married! Meanwhile this country continues its slow descent into totalitarianism, it’s Fourth Estate castrated and sedated, and people who challenge it either are audited by the IRS or end up dead. Congratulations,  but forgive me if as a wedding present I send the Bill of Rights – even though by the time it arrives it will have been shredded.

Council Nominations: June 25, 2013

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

Was Michael Hastings’ Car Hacked?

I’m not a conspiracist. For instance I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone killed President John F. Kennedy, and that two planes piloted by al Qaeda terrorists took down the World Trade Center, no additional explosives required. If the Jews control the world then I’m converting; I’m a bigger Zionist than most Jews anyway. 12 years ago I set up this journal to fight conspiracy theories, naming it after Occam’s Razor which is to conspiracy theories what Raid is to cockroaches: it causes them to flip onto their backs, wave their legs and die.

But the death of reporter Michael Hastings is severely testing my beliefs.

Cars today are controlled by computers. You can access your car’s ECM, electronic control module – it’s computer, through your cars OBD2 port under the dash. I have a $20 Bluetooth module that plugs into the OBD2 port and connects to a program on my smartphone. It allows me to monitor engine performance and read check engine lights. This module has very limited abilities, but is it so difficult to imagine a government agent having one with more extensive capabilities?

An eyewitness saw Hastings’ car fly by him through a red light. Hastings’s Mercedes C250 was brand new and like all new cars has a computer that controls all aspects of the car’s engine performance. Is it possible it was hacked to accelerate after reaching a critical speed, say 35 mph? One of my car’s has a push button start/stop switch, as many of the latest models do. You don’t have to put a metal key into the steering column and turn it to start the engine. The Mercedes C250 can be purchased with an optional “Keyless Go” system – a fancy way of saying a start/stop switch. Did Hastings’ car have that option and did the hack include its disabling? Placed in such a situation, his car traveling at high speed perhaps with brakes and transmission also compromised, how likely is it that Michael Hastings would survive such a crash?

Here’s an example of car hacking so the above scenario is possible. As of today we have no evidence that Hastings was murdered by a hacked car, but we also don’t have much evidence supporting an accidental death beyond “his car was driving fast. He was in the car. The car wrecked and he’s dead.” Occam’s Razor comes into play only when competing theories have evidence backing them up; right now we don’t have much evidence at all and much of what there was has been burned up.

Today we have no evidence that his car was compromised and if it was that it was done by agents acting on orders of the federal government. But we are living in a new era, one where the government’s actions have caused even reasonable people to begin to consider ideas and theories that were once the purview of crackpots and paranoids. For years crackpots on the Left and Right have proposed theories of government surveillance, government coverups for failed adventures overseas and the targeting of conservatives for their beliefs, and now we are seeing these crackpots were right. I have a whole page of this blog dedicated to such government actions, and that doesn’t even include the Fast & Furious scandal whereby the feds armed the Mexican drug cartels for no explicit reason – other than to undermine the 2nd Amendment here at home. Think that conspiracy is a fantasy? Ask Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s family.

I find it  ironic that 12 years after its founding, this journal finds itself espousing theories it was founded to fight. But to deny the possibilities of such conspiracies at a time when the government is blatantly conspiring against its citizens seems rather naive on my part. So while I continue to believe that Oswald acted alone at this point in time count me as one who believes that Michael Hastings’s death was not an accident and that the Federal Government is at war against anyone with the serious potential to threaten it.

UPDATE: Evidently I’m not the only one who believes Hastings’ car was hacked. The HuffPo ran an article with the exact same title as my piece. I’ll pretend that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Now there’s another theory to contribute to the paranoia: According to a prominent security analyst, technology exists that could’ve allowed someone to hack his car. Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke told The Huffington Post that what is known about the single-vehicle crash is “consistent with a car cyber attack.”

Clarke said, “There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers”—including the United States—know how to remotely seize control of a car.

“What has been revealed as a result of some research at universities is that it’s relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn’t want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn’t want the brakes on, to launch an air bag,” Clarke told The Huffington Post. “You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it’s not that hard.”

“So if there were a cyber attack on the car—and I’m not saying there was,” Clarke added, “I think whoever did it would probably get away with it.”

The Council Has Spoken: June 21, 2013

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Watcher’s Nominations: June 18, 2013

Council Submissions


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Why Liberals Should Oppose The Surveillance State (But Won’t)

In a little bit less than 3 1/2 years it is very likely the surveillance state built by the Republicans and expanded by the Democrats will return once again into conservative hands. The IRS can then be used to harass progressive organizations and anyone who supports them just like it has Tea Party organizations and even Pro-Israel organizations, whom it has referred to the anti-terror section. The NSA can break into the computers of progressive reporters seeking out stories attacking the conservative administration just as it has done with a conservative reporter at CBS News. They will also be investigated as co-conspirators as Fox News James Rosen has been. Meanwhile everyone will be treated as a potential terrorist, unless you happen to attend a mosque in which case the government will avert its eyes towards a Tea Party supporter, thereby missing the Boston Marathon Bombing suspects.

So if you aren’t bothered by the current scandals rocking the administration, just remember that Life is like a wheel; it all comes round and when it does you just might be crushed beneath it.

Update: In the comments AceThePug isn’t as sanguine about the future as I am:

It won’t entirely work that way, even if a Republican takes the White House in 2016 (from your mouth to God’s ears on that, by the way).

Obama is getting away with this, while still declaring the War on Terror (without actually CALLING it that) over and stating that there are no terrorist cells in the Western Hemisphere, because a vast majority of people in government share his Leftist views.

I envision a lot of the IRS, EPA and DOJ harrassment as a “will no one rid me of this troublesome priest” moment. Obama didn’t explicitly send a memo or give a direct order. He simply continued the same rhetoric about how his political opponents are evil, and people took the ball and ran with it.

I’m sure those hundred-fifty plus meetings at the White House talked about the idea, but if most of the people involved didn’t share Obama’s opinion of Conservatives, Fox, and the Tea Party as non- or sub-humans, it wouldn’t have gone as far as it did.

Nixon was impeached for even THINKING of using the IRS as Obama has actually used it. The IRS didn’t do what Nixon wanted, and I would bet that, unless there is a massive house-cleaning (or outright dissolution), the agency will remain largely Leftist.

The NSA might do the same things under a Republican, but even if they do, the Press will suddenly have a “change of heart,” and start opposing the Administration and zealously start “reporting” again—something they have magically not done in order to get Obama elected and re-elected.

I agree with your overall point, that it will be awfully hard for Dems to complain legitimately when and if their ox gets gored—but let’s be honest. Given all the wailing, caterwauling, and screaming they did over Bush’s actions, and the overall silence from the vast, VAST majority of them now that Obama is doing all that and more; well, calling them shameless hypocrites would be an insult to hypocrites :)

But unless there is a huge philosophical change in the nation, a Republican President will NEVER get the grotesquely favorable, outright propoganda-ish coverage from the Media that Obama has had (and continues to have, despite the AP scandal).

I think, though, what is most damning, and what would be pointed out if we had an honest Press, is the mosques being exempt from the intelligence-gathering. The Boston Marathon bombings should NEVER have happened (hell, even the Russians sent information that they should be watched—why weren’t they?), and the fact that they did with all this surveillance in place, is a pretty strong indicator that these programs under Obama are not about keeping the public safe, but about keeping the public under scrutiny.

The Council Has Spoken: June 14, 2013

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Watchers Council Nominations: June 11, 2013

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

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The Council Has Spoken: June 7, 2013

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

The Power of Islamic Propaganda

Two good articles for future reference on Islam and the West’s blindness to it:

StrategyPage: Believing the Islamic Lie

Christians in countries with Moslem majorities, or large minorities, are having a difficult time getting the rest of the world to recognize that most (as in about 80 percent) of the religious violence in the world is carried out against Christians and most of the violence is committed by Moslems. This is because the Islamic world, while unable to do much in terms of economic, scientific, or cultural progress, or even govern themselves effectively, have proven quite adept at convincing leaders and media organizations in the West that Islam is not the aggressor and is actually the victim. For those who have spent any time living among Moslems, this all seems absurd. But this delusion is real.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The Problem of Muslim Leadership
Some refuse even to admit that this is the question on everyone’s mind. Amazingly, given the litany of Islamist attacks—from the 9/11 nightmare in America and the London bombings of July 7, 2005, to the slayings at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009, at the Boston Marathon last month and now Woolwich—some continue to deny any link between Islam and terrorism. This week, BBC political editor Nick Robinson had to apologize for saying on the air, as the news in Woolwich broke, that the men who murdered Lee Rigby were “of Muslim appearance.” Memo to the BBC: The killers were shouting “Allahu akbar” as they struck. Yet when complaints rained down on the BBC about Mr. Robinson’s word choice, he felt obliged to atone. One can only wonder at people who can be so exquisitely sensitive in protecting Islam’s reputation yet so utterly desensitized to a hideous murder explicitly committed in the name of Islam.

As I wrote in a previous post about multiculturalism, the blindness isn’t based on tolerance, it’s based in the very western superiority that multiculturalism is supposed to denigrate and deny. But I think the overall success of such propaganda victories for Islam is limited. Americans and the west in general have become used to violence from Muslims, and the constant but low-level war waged by its adherents has caused an “acceptable level of violence,” a term coined by the British during the “Troubles” in Ireland in the late 20th century. Some individual acts will shock us briefly in the news, as the murder in the English town of Woolwich has done in the UK, but within a few weeks everything goes back to normal. Even the Boston Bombings have done little to change the dynamic between Islam and American free society. It’s only when spectacular attacks like 911 are done that the game changes for awhile as it did in the years following the attack. But now, 12 years on, we’re back to a pre-911 attitude within the American government that has backed off the fight against Islamic terror and begun resorting to the half-measures of the Clinton era that emboldened Osama Bin Laden. But another attack of 911 or greater magnitude would force the same policy reversals of the Bush administration, and the political correctness which currently protects Islam would be at least temporary forgotten as the term Global War on Terrorism was dusted off.

911 was the best attack by Islam against the West since Suleiman’s Siege of Vienna, but it too failed in its goals of uniting Muslims in a global war to eradicate non-Muslims and create a global caliphate. Over the past 12 years Muslims have killed more Muslims than Jews, Hindu, Buddhists and Christians combined, and the divide between Shi’a and Sunni Islam is now wider than ever, partly because it’s much easier to attack a Muslim than it is a Christian given the depopulation of Christians and Jews from the Middle East. Divisions between the two main sects are difficult for non-Muslims to appreciate as Christianity has nothing to relate it to. The Protestant/Catholic split seems tempting, but it’s a very poor analogy. A better one would be if one of Christ’s apostles founded a separate version of Christianity at the same time Peter was building the Church after the death of Christ, and the two sects went their separate ways from there. The two would be separate for so long with such different beliefs and traditions that they may as well be completely different faiths. That gives you some idea of what the schism is between Sunni and Shi’a, and no Bin Laden or heir of his will be able to unite the Islamic world against the West without healing that split. As I see it there are only two likely outcomes: no unity or the systematic extermination of Shiites by Sunni, which Iran will never allow (unless it gets its nuclear weapon and is on the receiving end of one from Saudi Arabia or Turkey).

How to turn propaganda victories into real (military and socioeconomic) ones? This must be particularly frustrating to Islamists who see the global caliphate within their grasp, but like a desert mirage the closer to it they get the further away it becomes. So the best they can do is take comfort in the media victories and pray that someday Islam spawns a transformational figure that can unite Islam’s internal differences and leverage the media victories into something consequential. It will be a long wait.

“Multiculturalism turns out to be a disguised form of white supremacy.”

James Taranto writing in the online Wall Street Journal:

A more abstract form of this parochialism is the multiculturalists’ frequent insistence that “only white people can be racist.” In this view, racism is perhaps the greatest moral failing of which human beings are capable—but nonwhites are absolved of moral responsibility for their racial prejudices.

But moral responsibility is the essence of humanity. It is what sets Homo sapiens apart from other animals. Assigning moral responsibility to whites while denying it to nonwhites is therefore a way of dehumanizing the latter. Multiculturalism turns out to be a disguised form of white supremacy.

I’ve personally found multiculturalists to be incredibly intolerant while rural Southerners, pilloried by the media and intellectual elite, as much more laid back and accepting of all kinds of differences. I think it’s because the poorer rural people are forced by necessity to get along with those of different ethnic, religious and ideological backgrounds because they can’t afford to live in like-minded, monocultural enclaves like Cambridge MA where NPR reigns (Speaking of which: I would bet that NPR employs more minorities than actually listen to it. Ever catch the names during a public radio pledge drive? Not a Jackson, Patel or Dominguez among those donating cash for coffee mugs and tote bags.)

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson who said ““The wise man shows his wisdom in separation, in gradation, and his scale of creatures and of merits is as wide as nature. The foolish have no range in their scale, but suppose every man is as every other man,” except in this case, the multiculturalist prides him/herself as being more equal than others.

Watcher’s Council Nominations: June 4, 2013

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

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