Some more thoughts on NDAA

Remember the wonderful bill that our wonderful president signed into law a few months back called the “National Defense Authorization Act”? This was the defense spending bill that included that nice part about how the president can decide unilaterally that you are a ‘terrorist’ or doing something that ‘promotes terrorism’ and then have you either killed on the spot or hauled off to prison with no legal recourse (you know.. like due process). It’s a wonderful law and one that is most likely unconstitutional but who’s going to be able to challenge it?

Anyway, I read a great editorial in a game development magazine that had some musings about the bill that I found interesting. I tried to find a digital copy with no luck so I scanned it and have it here. I urge you read it. It’s a quick read. But one of the things he talks about is how the govt. can now go after game companies for content and worse.

Also, laws like this stifle dissent and conversation. What if, as a thought exercise, or to prove a point I decided to post some ideas for terrorist plots. Would I be supporting terrorism? Would a death squad come visit me in the night? Far fetched? All it takes is the will of a president. The law is in place. The trigger just needs to be pulled. We let it happen

Just plain Duh

Ok.. so here’s the story of the day for me. A teacher uses a computer in a classroom at the school she is subbing at. She leaves for a second and when she comes back the students are crowded around it and there is a porn pop-up potpourri going on that she can’t stop (porn-loop). She knows nothing about computers and can’t get it to stop so now she is facing 40 years in prison for “risking injury to a child.”. (read about it here on ARS).

I’ve got three issues with this. First off, if it is a school computer then they are responsible for filtering out whatever they find objectionable. That is a plain and simple fact. Charging the teacher with this crime seems about the same as charging the children themselves since they could easily have surfed to the porn themselves. The school could have (just like a lot of other institutions) filtered out whatever they wanted. Second, how in the world is seeing some porn flashed on a computer monitor considered injury to a child? And why would it have such a harsh sentence?  Seriously, is seeing a naked woman that horrific that a child will be injured for life? And finally, think about how much money is being wasted on the prosecution and the trial and the defense and the expert witnesses, etc. Isn’t this money that could have been better spent in the school itself? Isn’t providing the children with poor schools (in the form of old computers, bad textbooks, computer illiterate teachers) the most awful crime of all?

Michelle’s Law – A good law that we shouldn’t need

Many people who have had college students in their family have had to deal with group medical insurance rules regarding who is a dependent and how to maintain coverage for a student while they are in school.  Basically, after the student is 19 years old the policy holder needs to periodically certify that the student is a full time student in order to maintain their dependent coverage.  Once the policy holder can no longer certify the full-time status the dependent is dropped from the plan.  The alternative then is to either elect COBRA coverage where the full regular individual premium is charged and coverage is guaranteed for only 18 months or, alternatively, go without coverage.  Don’t bother lying about student status since in the event of a catastrophic illness the carrier will make you provide documentation of full-time student status and will undoubtedly deny coverage if it can’t be proven.

Consider this scenario.  A full time student is stricken with a grave illness and is forced for medical reasons to drop out of school even temporarily in order to recover.  Surprise.  Same result.  Because the dependent is no longer a student they are dropped from the policy.  They are forced to elect and pay for COBRA coverage and their membership in the plan is guaranteed only for the COBRA period, generally 18 months.  After that a gravely ill person would find it impossible to find new coverage.

Michelle’s Law is a model law that its sponsors are trying to get enacted in the states and a Federal version has also been introduced (see Michelle’s Law ).  It would provide that in such an event as I described a medically necessary 12 month period of absence would be permitted before the student’s regular coverage would stop.  This seems to be at least a fairer outcome for the student who only wants to get well in order to continue their education.  And what good is medical insurance if you can only be assured of having it if you don’t need it?  A modern day “Catch 22” if there ever was one.

In so many areas there needs to be a social contract that recognizes that in order to be able to sell a product or service the public must be treated fairly.  Dropping sick people from medical insurance doesn’t sound fair to me.  And discriminating based on family medical history or genetic markers when it comes to medical or life insurance coverage is a short step from promoting the superior species and abandoning the misfits.  Dithering over whether wind or water flattened someone’s house might be a multi-billion dollar decision that insurance companies can decide in their own favor but why should they even have that option?  Water surge of 10 feet along with 130 mph winds is a devastation that insurance should cover.  Sick students too. 

Sometimes social conscience and basic fairness need to trump the almighty dollar for the whole system to work.

Real-ID

While we’re on the subject of security, give this article (Real-ID: Costs and Benefits) a read. It’s about the national ID plan that was snuck into a support the troops bill and is going to cost us $11 Billion and practically do nothing for us except make us feel more secure while we’ll actually be less secure.. It’s kind of sad actually but in my world, perfectly predictable.

The War On Drugs – Turning?

Seems that now it’s becoming public that not all LEOs think that the “War on Drugs” is working.. In this foxnews.com piece “Former Narcs Say Drug War is Futile” you can see some evidence of what I, and a lot of others have been saying for a long time.. the war is not being won and will never be won:

These aren’t stoners. They’re former public servants, and many risked their lives for a cause they now say is mistaken.

That’s powerful stuff. When a guy tells you he regrets what he’s done for most of his career — and what he could well have died for — his words take on a unique credibility and urgency.

One common characteristic you’ll find in many members of LEAP is guilt. Most of these former officers lug around a weighty burden. Many concede they realized early in their careers that the drug war was a failure, and would always be a failure. They regret now that they didn’t speak up sooner.

The war on Meth

I’ve never done meth and I don’t intend to ever try but you know that making it a crime to buy sinus medicine is not the way to fight the war on drugs. Well.. it’s not a crime, but it’s close to it. Apparently you need to show ID to get a pack of pills and you can only buy one pack a month. Sure you would need 750 tablets to actually make one dose of meth but who cares? Lets just piss off and inconvenience the millions of people who need these pills and like to stock up on them for the season.

I know what’s coming.. soon you will head to your doctors to get prescriptions for these pills and then you will have to pay even more for them and of course theres the added fees to see your doctors, etc. Nothing better than inflating the cost of healthcare in America…

Speaking of the War On Drugs

The Seattle times had this to say in an article named “The Other War We Can’t Win” :

We’d be incredibly better off if we had treated drugs as a public-health issue instead of a criminal issue — as the celebrated Nobel Prize-winning economist, Milton Friedman, in fact advised us. Friedman, who died last month at 94, witnessed America’s misadventure into alcohol prohibition in his youth. “We had this spectacle of Al Capone, of the hijackings, the gang wars,” wrote Friedman. He decried turning users into criminals: “Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse — for both the addict and the rest of us.”

In jail for legal pain meds

I saw this story on 60 minutes a while ago and just found it posted here. I’m sure this isn’t the only case of this, but a man in Florida who is clearly in a huge amount of pain was put in jail for 25 years for having too much of his pain meds on hand. There are 2 interesing points here. First is that now that he is in prison he is getting a morphene drip (which is stronger than the meds he had before) and second (as someone else on the web pointed out) Rush Limbaugh (who is an abuser of these same meds and was caught in Florida with a bottle of them not in his own name!) got off with barely a hand slap.

She’s a Victim and a Criminal

Yea.. See, this is wrong on so many levels. First of all age of consent laws are simply arbitrary and therefore kind of pointless and unfair. Second, I don’t have the stats in front of me but the percentage of victims of sex abuse that are not attacked by a family member is extremely low. Third, making a felonious sex offense for consensual sex is even more stupid. Isn’t law there to protect us against non-consensual harms? And Fourth, laws like this are tying up our legal system across the country. It’s time to repeal most of these laws or at the least, revisit them and make them more focused.

Sueing robo-dialers

Near election time I bet you get some recorded phone calls like “Hi, this is Ed Rendell and I want to urge you to go out and vote…”. While I generally applaud get out the vote efforts, I don’t like unsolicited phone calls. Apparently you can sue these people (even if they are non-profits). The way to do it can be found in this awesome slashdot post. Not only does the autor detail how to go about suing, he teaches you how to serve papers and what to expect in court. It’s a great read no matter what.