Gun Control…Really?

That does it – this blog is officially revived, and it only took twenty dead kindergarteners. That’s right, the topic of this article is Newton, Connecticut, or more specifically the politization of it. The victims’ bodies weren’t even cold before people started screaming about gun control. While I have a strong opinion on the gun debate, I have no intention of sharing it in this article because politics do not belong in the same conversation as a masacre. Besides, knee-jerk reactions to tragedy is how we end up with legislative gems like the PATRIOT Act.

I am far more interested in finding out what happens to the families in the community now. When something traumatic occurs, it is difficult to cope and return to normal life. Many people never do return to normal, or they have to redefine what normal is. But that’s for individuals. Twenty eight lives were violently ended on Friday, and the odds are good in a small town that small, everyone who lives in Newton knew at least one of the victims. Those people probably were known in the next town over as well.

So it is the scale of this event that worries me the most. By my count, tens of thousands of people have been traumatized by a single man’s actions, and the first impulse of [some] on-lookers is to start a fresh round political football ala gun control? Unacceptable. Those ‘people’ (I hesitate to use the word) fail as human beings. A human being’s first reaction is/was “what can I do to help the survivors and the community?”

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Been a long time

Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately. Been busy with real life and work. I know, they’re such common excuses. Anyway, this is just a quick update to give a couple people credit for being extremely tolerant and promoting peace.

RfrancisR is a regular contributor to dailykos.com who identifies himself as a Christian, but often speaks out in favor of marriage equality. His most recent article condemns a grassroots movement to create a national Registry of Atheists, so that Christians can choose to boycott atheist businesses and try to convert them to Christianity. The movement goes on to compare atheists to sex offenders and ex-convicts, suspected terrorists, and members of hate groups. Kudos to you, RfrancisR, for speaking out against intolerance!

Gideon works for a public defender in Connecticut, but is very cryptic about any personal details beyond that. FYI about government employees: they have to be especially careful about the trail they leave on the internet. I know quite a few people here in Tennessee who work for the state, and some of them go to extreme lengths to avoid being identified online, for fear of losing their job. Anyway, this article defends peoples’ rights to carry guns, despite the author’s own misgivings about the need for guns. Thank you, Mr. or Mrs. Gideon!

If more people followed Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s lead ["I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.", often mis-attributed to Voltaire], I think we would all be a lot better off!

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My America

“This land is your land, this land is my land” say the lyrics to Woody Guthrie’s popular patriotic song. I would love to believe that, but in my America, politicians serve the good of the people, not their own interests. In my America, people are interested in solving problems than placing blame, and opposing opinions are welcome for civilized debate. Schools do not rank among the lowest educational standards in the industrialized world, because education is a priority.

In my America, copyright laws protect the property in question, not just businesses and lawyers. In my America, the media reports actual news, instead of ruining lives for a story. I’m talking about Anthony Weiner, Sarah Palin’s children present on her “One Nation Bus Tour”, Will and Kate and countless others.

Tolerance and acceptance are practiced above all else in my America; there is plenty of room for God, Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, and the Goddess, before we are black or white, gay or straight, Irish or Mexican, male or female, democrat or republican, we are Americans. We would be kind to each other because being American trumps all. We all live in this land together, flying that flag with 50 stars and 13 stripes, bound together by history and the greatest document ever written, the US Constitution.

So, what does your America look like? Happy birthday, and have a safe holiday weekend, and never forget who we are and what we stand for!

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Sci-fi becomes reality. Again.

The news lately been littered with stories of ‘hacktivists’ dispensing their own brand of vigilante justice upon the internet. Science fiction writers have been warning us of cyber terrorism for decades. Make no mistake, LulzSec and and Anonymous are terrorist organizations. If you’re not afraid, you should be.

It’s true that hacking has never directly caused a death. But consider this: LulzSec was able to post a legitimate looking article on NPR’s website that claimed Tupac Shakur was still alive and well in New Zealand. While this particular incident was harmless mischief, it very well could have been a trial run for a much larger assault on legitimate media outlets. Serial killers murder animals before they move on to humans.

Hacking into servers and stealing personal information is usually far too easy of a trick. Professional identity theft is committed in this manner, and it’s usually used as a way to fund email scams, purchase new computer equipment etc. But what happens when the hackers escalate? It’s already become more than just high-tech larceny, but I’m talking about how easy it would be for them begin funding more traditional terrorist networks. It’s also not much of a stretch of the imagination to think they could begin lobbying or bribing (or blackmailing) lawmakers with stolen money.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many of these hackers have political motives, as evidenced by Anonymous threats to NATO over the capture of one of their members. How did the media react? With amusement. Hackers essentially issued an ultimatum to the second largest military organization in the world, and it’s largely being shrugged off. Just today, LulzSec today released personal information of law enforcement officials personal information in response to the controversial SB1070 immigration law. These are serious threats to people’s safety and security, and the implications of the damage is being grossly underestimated.

So what is being done to stop these cyber terrorists? Not much. Historically, people convicted of computer crimes are out of jail within a few years. I was unable to find a specific case where a hacker served more than five years. In fact, in most of the cases I found, the guilty had used their convictions to jump start careers in security or education, or at the very least they were elevated to celebrity status. With poorly defined laws, completely undefined jurisdiction, and “slap on the wrist” type penalties, it’s easy to see why computer crime is on the rise.

Example? The three hackers from Anonymous who were arrested in Spain for breaching Sony’s Playstation Network. Sony claims that particular attack has cost them $171 million dollars. When the three were arrested, a server was seized with evidence of attacks on bank accounts and government websites. They have since been released in what appears to be Spain’s version of bail, but without charges being filed yet. But the questions remain: Who gets to prosecute them? Japan? Spain? Does Sony get to sue them? Would Japan even bother to extradite them?

A general failing by governments world wide to prosecute, arrest, or even consider cyber terrorism a threat is how the terrorists have won today. This is a much bigger problem than world leaders seem to think, and the attacks are becoming both more frequent and more bold. It’s only a matter of time before misinformation and data theft are used to instigate a war between two countries.

 

fact checks: http://www.1up.com/news/suspected-psn-hackers-arrested-spain

http://blogs.wsj.com/tech-europe/2011/06/10/hacker-group-anonymous-threatens-nato/

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2011-06-24-arizona-state-police-hacked_n.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/30/pbs-hacked-tupac-alive_n_868673.html (the actual article on NPR’s website has been taken down, and I was unable to locate a cached version anywhere)

 

 

 

 

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A Banner Day for HTTHW

So, this isn’t really a HTTHW article as much as it is a pat on the back for my new banner and a couple other miscellaneous changes around the blog.

So, to answer all your questions before you can ask them, the background is colored to mimic the now defunct color-coded terrorism alert system, green for low and red for high. The words in gray behind the pictures are copied verbatim from U.S. Codes Title 18 Chapter 113B, Section 2331, Article 1. In other words, how the US government defines terrorism.

The pictures are all photos of famous terrorists throughout history. Starting on the left, is Eric Robert Rudolph, AKA the Olympic Park Bomber. Peeking out from the bottom left corner is the iconic Unibomber, Theodore Kaczynski. As a short aside, his possessions were recently auctioned to raise money (totaling around a quarter million!) for the families of his victims. Rabbi Meir Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League, and was assassinated in 1990. Though his organization had been known to incite violence in the past, it wasn’t until 1991 that the FBI declared the JDL a terrorist organization.

By now you’re probably wondering why George Washington is mixed in with all these terrorists. Well, as the saying goes, history is written by the victors. Had the Sons of Liberty failed to win the Revolutionary War, history would have remembered them as terrorists. The British troops certainly must have thought so with all the harassment, murder, riot-inciting and fear mongering that the SoL was responsible for. It’s not uncommon for the words ‘terrorist’ and ‘patriot’ to describe the same person. Just ask Nelson Mandela…

Moving along we have Timothy McVeigh, the infamous Oklahoma City Bomber who was executed in 2001, and Osama Bin Laden waving hello from the top. Fusako Shigenobu founded and led the Japanese Red Army, a socialist group responsible for a number of high profile terrorist acts in Japan in the 1970s. Above her is Ronnie Lee, founder of the Animal Liberation Front.

Last but not least…actually, Guy Fawkes is definitely more famous for failing to be a terrorist than for actually being a terrorist. But in the end, terrorism is about ideals and using violence and threats to realize those ideals. He may have failed miserably to blow up the Parliament House, but his actions helped fuel a wave of religious violence, which paved the way for a more religious tolerant modern day England. Yes I know, but it was FAR worse in the 1600s than it is today.

So anyway, thanks for reading. Let me know what you think of the new banner and I’ll have a new article for you soon!

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Don’t say the “g-word”. No, not God…the OTHER “g-word”!

This month, Tennessee dealt a double blow to LGBT Americans by passing a law that blatantly allows discrimination, and advancing another hate inspired bill to the House of Representatives. As we all know, any law that discriminates against other Americans is playing right into the terrorist agenda- they seek to divide us so we crumble apart from the inside.

The “Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act” hasn’t really earned a clever nickname in the press, so let’s give it one- the “Bigot Boss Act”? Anyway, the law removes the power of counties or cities from enacting civil rights laws, and was authored specifically to overturn an ordinance in Nashville that prohibited discrimination in the workplace of state employed LGBT people. In other words, the state doesn’t want LGBTs in its employ, even if Nashville is fine with it.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s another bill in the works to help the terrorists out even more! That’s right, the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed in the state senate earlier this week, and offers two weaknesses for the terrorists to exploit! The first and most obvious one is the same as above. The other is much more subtle.

“Don’t Say Gay” essentially would ban elementary and middle school kids, as well as their teachers from saying the word gay, or even mentioning anything to do with homosexuality. It’s being promoted as a way to keep sex education class on the topic of reproduction, but therein lies the problem: it’s a way to teach ignorance. And an ignorant populace is much easier to control or destroy.

It’s well documented that children become sexually active well before high school. Don’t believe me? A quick google search will return a plethora of studies, all of which indicate an alarmingly large percentage children have had intercourse by age 12. And with the constant media attention on gay rights in combination with their own biology, they’re going to have questions about same sex and transgender issues.

So, if kids aren’t getting answers about homosexuality from their teachers, where are they going to get them from? More specifically, where would you rather they get them from? Parents? Friends? Internet? By restricting a child’s ability to seek answers, you’re encouraging them to find their own, and find them they will. Oh, and by the way, teaching ignorance in this manner is how falsehoods like “you can’t get pregnant your first time” or “only gay people can get HIV” are spread.

So keep up the good work, Tennessee. When the terrorists finally do take over, they may honor you for creating these weaknesses! You know, after they kill us all.

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So, how bout dem terrorists?

I would like to mention that screening those who were at Ground Zero during the September 11 attacks as terrorists a stupid and cruel witch hunt. They are now subjected to a background check in order to continue receiving free care for 9/11 related health problems. This may have made sense two or three years after the fact. Ten years later is not only a waste of time and effort, it is a slap in the face to surviving heroes and witnesses.

I have been a lazy writer lately, and so this article isn’t about the above. It’s about Osama Bin Laden’s death. Let me state before I get started that this is a huge victory for the United States. Scratch that it’s a huge victory for the entire world. But I have a few issues that no one else seems to be concerned about.

First of all, terrorism is all about symbolism and idealism. History has shown us over and over again that you cannot kill an ideal with violence. Doing so only deepens beliefs, and also generates sympathy for the opposing cause. Al Qaeda members swear loyalty not to al Qaeda, not to Allah, but to Bin Laden himself. Therefore, symbolically, killing OBL is a major blow to al Qaeda’s morale. One of the few things we’ve done right on this front. Better late than never, I guess.

However, the al Qaeda network still exists. Motivated by revenge, they will likely move the time table up on currently planned attacks. The Department of Homeland Security is already anticipating this. A larger problem than the attacks themselves is that the US may not even bear the worst of the retaliation, which will generate a lot of anger against the US. Also, there’s no telling how many al Qaeda sympathizers have not gotten involved. Now that Bin Laden has become a martyr for his own cause, we should expect a huge influx of new recruits to his cause.

This all overlaps into my second point, which is that violence begets violence. OBL had a massive personal fortune, which he used to fund terror around the globe. How many of his (at least) seventeen children will use their inheritance to do the same? How long before one of them takes over the al Qaeda network and we’re in the same boat we were in yesterday, except that now it’s personal on top of ideological? How much future bloodshed could have been avoided if Osama had been captured alive and given a trial, even if it was a farce of a trial like Saddam Hussein’s?

Lastly, why did the president have to issue a speech laced with so much Christian propaganda? I understand and accept the fact that he is a Christian, that’s not the point. Why antagonize the al Qaeda, who have declared Jihad on anything that is not radical Islam, especially Christianity and Judaism? It’s almost like he was daring them to retaliate. The entire war on terror has been a symbolic failure, and President Obama’s remarks are just another spectacular example.

To summarize: I hate that we had to use violence to achieve this victory, but it was needed (both the victory and the symbolism behind it). I’m certain that al Qaeda will retaliate, but after the initial revenge, they will be disorganized and hopefully be taken apart by the US and its allies before they can recover and regroup. And, if we’re lucky, and wise enough to learn from our actions, we will be one step closer to world peace.

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