Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Is it a person or is it not?

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Court documents: Cop killed pregnant woman in her home

Investigators believe policeman Bobby Lee Cutts Jr. killed his pregnant ex-girlfriend Jessie Marie Davis at her home about eleven days ago, according to court documents released Monday.

Cutts faces two counts of murder and is expected to appear in court Monday afternoon.

Unborn Victims of Violence Act

The fundamental moral divide on the issue of abortion is whether the fetus is a part of the mother, giving the mother the exclusive right to determine its fate under the 14th Amendment, or an independent being, giving the state the power to prevent harm to it — even when authorized or committed by the mother.

Yet while it seems that even though Roe v. Wade decided the issue in favor of the fetus being a part of the mother, in that it read an unprecedented right to privacy into 14th Amendment, it seems that in criminal law the fetus is treated as a separate person, invoking a separate charge to the perpretrator equal to that associated with the mother’s death.

Is it possible to really have it both ways in a moral system based on consistent principles?

The hidden restriction on U.S. passport photos

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

If you fill out a DS-11 passport application form, you may be led to believe that using your own camera to create passport photos would be relatively easy, and would save you from paying a fee to some third party ($15 at USPS, $7.99 at Walgreens) for passport photos.

You would be correct… except that there is at least one restriction on the passport photo that is not shown on the DS-11 form’s photo outline or in the “Two Recent, Color Photographs” section of the DS-11 instructions.

This restriction is on the eye height level of the subject. If the eyes are too high or too low in the photo, it will be rejected by the passport agency.

I can’t find the specific requirement anywhere in the online documentation. The safest thing to do would be to ask the passport agency or a passport photo processor if they know the eye height requirement. Otherwise, don’t bother taking your own passport photos, because they will be rejected, and you will be faced with the choice of paying the agent an inflated price for the photos, or coming back and waiting in line again at some other time.

A solution to the abuse of obvious patents

Monday, April 30th, 2007

One aspect of patent law reform focuses on the issue that many patents are issued for techniques that are not novel or non-obvious, or for which prior art exists, or the patent is non-specific enough to be more like patenting an idea than a process. Patents are thrown out by the courts on a regular basis.

The problem is that the patent must be thrown out in court once issued, necessitating that the target of a patent lawsuit spends his own money in a gamble to try to convince the court that the patent is invalid. This is compounded by the fact that the USPTO examiner has no interest in closely examining patents to ensure that they are actually valid, because USPTO is paid the same fee whether the patent is valid or not.

So we have the current morass where a bunch of dubious patents are thrown at the USPTO, some of which “stick” and are granted, and then the grantee immediately embarks on a litigation strategy to extract as much money as possible through licensing before one day they pick the wrong fight and the patent is invalidated. Unfortunately, the companies who chose to “pay the piper” instead of fighting just threw their money down a hole.


Patent royalties should, by law, be secured in some form so that they may be returned to the licensee if the licensor’s patent is invalidated at any later point.

How it works

This could be accomplished by placing royalties in escrow and only allowing the licensor to access the interest until the end of the patent period. This would not work for companies who depend on license income to sustain their R&D budget.

Alternatively, the licensor should be allowed to purchase patent invalidation insurance from a private party who then possesses bonds covering the sum total of royalties paid out. If the patent is invalidated, the insurance company pays back the licensees and terminates the policy.

Private insurance patent examiners, unlike the USPTO, have a fiscal stake in the validity of the patent. They will exhaustively examine prior art, isolate the novel and non-obvious components of the patent, and ensure that the patent is specific enough to meet the demands of case law. The weaker the patent, the more expensive the insurance will be. The company then has to choose between paying a higher premium or cleaning up their patents.

This idea would be a win for technology firms who can be assured that if another company comes knocking for royalties on an iffy patent, that even if today they make the choice to license, the patent fees will be returned to them later if the patent turns out to be worthless. Several companies in the same industry could even pool their resources to attempt to get patents overturned that they all share a stake in. The more these companies have paid out in royalties, the more desperately they will work to build a case against the patent, and if it is overturned, everybody wins except the former holder of an abusive patent.

This idea is the free market at its best attempting to minimize the harms of the patent monopoly while allowing all of its fruits to continue unabated.

Gender transition announcements: Far from inexcusable, rather unavoidable

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I was surprised to find that the normally quite liberal Digg community tore apart sports commentator Mike Penner when he announced that he is a transsexual and would be henceforth living as a woman.

The complaints seem to take mostly two forms:

This announcement is a childish attention-getting ploy. If transsexuals would just shut up about themselves already, I wouldn’t find them so repulsive.

There is something to be said for tact and using appropriate forums, but how otherwise does one explain to colleagues and viewers that Mike’s position is now occupied by a woman that looks vaguely like Mike did? A fake firing/hiring orchestrated by management?

There is a good argument for a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy when it comes to one’s sexual orientation in the workplace, but not when it comes to gender transition. It’s just too earth shattering a change in terms of how others relate to the person to be possible to avoid discussion.

This announcement is not newsworthy or relevant, therefore Mike must have abused his media access to inappropriately blow his own horn.

We all learn from the challenges people face when nature marginalizes them into a minority. No one learns more than other members of that minority, especially those in more vulnerable positions, those who face a challenge that seems insurmountable.

Perhaps some of these commentators would be better served simply ignoring what they find irrelevant. The fact that they spend time posting about how boring, irrelevant, or infuriating the subject is to them suggests that their expressed ire belies a true interest of some sort, whether it be a personal axe to grind, or possibly even repression.

What this person did is the only sensible approach to his dilemma, and it’s sad to see Digg rip him apart for it.

2006 IRS telephone excise tax refund

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

The IRS announced this as a refund for taxes paid on long distance telephone service, but according to H&R Block, 60% of taxpayers don’t know about this refund; IRS estimates that 30% of those eligible for the refund are not claiming it. Even many of those who are aware of the excise refund are not aware that you can claim this refund for your cell phone’s bundled long distance service too!

Here are some useful instructions for how to claim the excise refund. It is not just a tax credit; even if you paid no taxes, then you will receive the refund. It is literally getting your own money back, for free!

Surprisingly enough, it is probably to your advantage to just take the standard refund, instead of going through all your bills and filing a Form 8913. Initially, I thought this was going to be a win for the “keep all paperwork and bills for 5 years, no matter how trivial” camp, but in the end it looks like you would have to be a special case for it to matter this time.

If you already filed your 2006 taxes, you might be thinking “drat!” at the missed opportunity. No problem; file a Form 1040X amendment, following the 1040X instructions, and using the copy of your 1040/1040A/1040EZ that you kept for your records when you filed as a quick reference. The IRS will adjust their records and send you a refund check if you are due one.

TSA is useless

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

The TSA (United States Transportation Security Administration) agent at the airport made me throw away an unopened bottle of juice that I had just bought. Amazing.

Seems to me that TSA is a real regression from private security. It has been accused of being “security theater” by notable security experts. There is good reason for this.

  • TSA baggage and body checks do not extend much beyond what was already being done at airports by private security.
  • TSA, by virtue of being a government agency, is almost assuredly more expensive and ineffective than the airlines’ private security.
  • TSA no-fly lists can be easily circumvented with a fake boarding pass and fake ID, because TSA does not refer to the airline’s passenger database, and the airlines do not check ID as the plane is boarded, at which point the real boarding pass would be substituted. In fact, a real ID is never required throughout the screening and boarding process. And an individual on the no-fly list can even fly under their real name, because the no-fly list is considered a state secret, and as such the airlines don’t have access to the list when the suspected individual books his ticket or uses his boarding pass. Airline private security, on the other hand, would be able to verify that the boarding pass is valid and matches the ID at the security checkpoint.
  • TSA has absurd regulations on what can be brought on board, including many items such as containers of liquid that cannot possibly be used to gain control of or to bring down a plane. These regulations are not subject to market forces, meaning that I cannot choose to fly at an airline where I am not assumed to be a criminal until I prove otherwise. Thus, the terrorists have won by removing my freedom of choice.

The lone benefit to the TSA system is that security constraints at airports are now uniform, meaning that another airport can now trust that passengers who are arriving by plane at that location have been subject to the same security screening that is performed on passengers who are entering the terminal by foot.

But is that benefit worth the inefficiency and hassle that will in the end just leave the airlines with more empty seats?

In what way does the TSA dog and pony show make more sense than requiring passenger screening by private security, armed pilots, a cockpit barrier that cannot be penetrated while in the air, and/or a flight crew trained in riot control?

Speaking of useless security measures, you may notice that the instructions that come with the form for obtaining a passport (DS-11) mention the new electronic passports. They make some funny statements:

“Use of the electronic format will provide the traveler the additional security protections inherent in chip technology“.

“The electronic chip must be read using specially formatted readers, and is not susceptible to unauthorized reading.”

What wishful thinking. You have to wonder if some of these people know anything about the technology basket they are putting all their eggs into.

How to deal with a traffic stop without being arrested, or at least not convicted

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

This is not professional legal advice. The best policy is to never carry any sort of contraband in your car. However, sometimes you just can’t remember, or can’t be sure what your passengers are carrying.


You are trying to avoid two things: reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Reasonable suspicion is what allows the officer to detain or arrest you while a K-9 unit is summoned. Finding any contraband in your car or on your person then allows the officer to charge you. Probable cause is what allows the Prosecutor to use the evidence against you in court. The laws on what constitutes reasonable suspicion and probable cause vary state to state, but following this script is the best way to avoid the possibility of the officer establishing either, both in his own eyes and in the eyes of the court. If the officer does not establish what he believes to be reasonable suspicion, then you cannot be either arrested or charged. If the officer does not establish what the court would believe is reasonable suspicion, consent, or probable cause, then even if you are charged, the Prosecutor has a very weak case and your lawyer has a lot of leverage.

A note on dog sniffs

Once reasonable suspicion is established, it is a small step to then attain probable cause because of the notorious lack of credibility assessment assigned to any particular K-9 unit. The handler can say the dog ‘alerted’ even when the dog is completely disinterested in your car because he can simply cite the special relationship between the dog and handler that allows one to know the other better than anyone else possibly could. The handler can also train the dog to respond to motions that you wouldn’t notice, but that cause the dog to put on a show that appears to be an alert.

Dogs are supposed to be certified to detect various forms of contraband, but those certifications are not objectively tested on a regular basis. A fair system would require the dogs to submit to periodic double blind testing (just like citizens get to pee in a cup on a regular basis) in order for any alerts to be justified as probable cause. Otherwise, the odds could be 50/50 or worse that an “alert” is authentic, which is an unjust situation.

All in all, dog sniffs are rigged in favor of the cops, and everyone in the business seems to like it that way. So the best way to avoid establishing probable cause, which you can consider to be automatic as soon as the K-9 shows up since you would be VERY lucky to get away clean at that point, is to avoid establishing the reasonable suspicion that would cause you to have to submit to a dog sniff.


Avoiding reasonable suspicion means you avoid being searched, which could lead to an arrest, which could lead to jail, your car and/or wallet being impounded or seized, a charge being filed against you, and potentially a conviction. A conviction, along with your punishment, means you are from then on considered a second class citizen in terms of getting a job, parenting your kids, driver’s license, voting, carrying firearms, getting insurance, getting student loans, traveling outside the country, and any number of other privileges that politicians have seen fit to strip from citizens in the name of the drug war. Avoiding reasonable suspicion will prevent this chain of events from ever being set into motion!

So our goal is really twofold: first and foremost, avoid reasonable suspicion by using psychology against the officer in a casual and friendly manner. Failing that, adopt a damage control strategy against probable cause, by knowing and non-confrontationally exercising your rights.

If you can avoid reasonable suspicion, you’ll be on your way. If you cannot avoid reasonable suspicion, but still avoid probable cause, you may be arrested, spend the night in jail instead of at your destination, have to pay to have your car impounded, and have to pay a lawyer to either convince the Prosecutor to amend the charge or file a motion to dismiss with the court — but at least you will not have a drug conviction on your record, and thus you won’t be a second class citizen. The difference between the Prosecutor willingly amending the charge and having your lawyer file a motion to dismiss is about quadruple the lawyer fees and a hit or miss outcome, depending on local precedent and whether the judge is having a bad hair day — and you are in control of this difference because it is YOU that decides how weak to make the Prosecutor’s case against yourself!

Follow the rules of engagement! Remember, when you live on the fringe, the system is rigged against you.

The rules of engagement

Your general goal is to put on your best “busy upstanding citizen” theater at the traffic stop.

If you have any contraband, make sure it is not in plain sight (the plain view rule bypasses the requirement for consent), or better, that it is in a closed/zippered backpack or purse that you do not also keep your driver’s license or proof of insurance in, or best of all locked away in a briefcase or similar item that you can carry with you in case your car is impounded. A locked carryable case is the best idea, because then an officer cannot use an odor as probable cause — he cannot search inside the trunk or any other locked receptacle based solely on his sense of smell. Don’t attempt to hide stuff in the engine bay or anywhere outside of the passenger compartment since the officer can inspect it without your consent, and it will be found anyway if the car is impounded. Don’t have any contraband, or anything related to contraband, on your person, because if the officer thinks he has established reasonable suspicion, you will then have to step out of the car and be searched. If anything is found, it then becomes more difficult to convince the court that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion. If nothing is found, this works in your favor because it looks like hassling.

Have a reasonable destination in mind (a business that you know is open, and better yet one that would be expected to have an appointment), a purpose for being there that does not contradict your appearance, and always look at your clock as soon as you are pulled over so that you know approximately how long it would take to get there! As soon as you see the flashing lights, you are to use these bullet points to begin calmly and rationally constructing the excuse you will give the officer. Don’t be nervous and fumble with things or act hurried. If you have to express some sort of emotion, express a slight level of annoyance — be thinking something like “it figures that this would happen on such a busy day”. Have your driver’s license and insurance ready to hand the officer so that you aren’t opening a glove box or purse for access (and the officer’s eyes). Don’t open the window more than is necessary to communicate with the officer. Unfortunately, probable cause can be established by the officer claiming that he smelled an odor of contraband in some jurisidictions, even though human noses have been shown in studies to be utterly unreliable as a contraband detector. (Oddly enough, it seems to help keep the officer from “smelling something funny” if you are not wearing dreadlocks, beads and patchouli oil and if you are clean shaven and well dressed. In other words, another good move would be to save your costume for your destination and dress like you would for your claimed destination.)

The Reasonable Suspicion phase

From the moment the officer pulls you over, unless he is a K-9 unit (which the officer may lie and claim that he is if it is dark outside, hoping you won’t notice – don’t believe the officer unless you can see the dog), you are now in the “reasonable suspicion” phase. At this point, the officer is hoping that a) contraband will be in plain sight, handing him probable cause without having to do any work, b) you don’t know your rights or can be coerced into consenting to a search, still making it really easy on him, or c) you say something contradictory or suspicious that allows him to establish “reasonable suspicion” so that you can be detained while the K-9 unit can be called. The officer is not allowed to detain you to wait for a K-9 unit unless reasonable suspicion is established, and if he does anyway, this will work to your benefit later.

You need to remember that proving that a detention was unreasonable means that the officer’s timeline in the arrest report, if you are arrested, must be correct and show that you were in fact detained for far longer than it should take to write a ticket for whatever he pulled you over for. The best way to ensure that the officer writes an arrest report favorable to you is to be polite and cooperative at all times, except when forced to assert your rights, and to not give him a reason to want to turn the screws on you. The officer will usually not allow you to use a camera to take pictures of the clock (I’m unsure of the legal basis for this), and even if you bring a friend, their testimony is irrelevant unless the case goes to trial, and even then the officer’s word is considered to be ultimately credible. He is in control of the timeline… another reason not to let things progress beyond reasonable suspicion. To a certain extent, the officer is in control of recording whether you consented to the search or not, but officers can be far less liberal with those facts than they can be with the timeline — there is a high probability that his lie will eventually be exposed and cost him his job if he pushes it.

Never Consent To Searches, But Don’t Resist

Don’t EVER consent to a search. This is truly an “idiot test”. You can assume that consenting to a search is equivalent to consenting to a drug conviction. The officer will usually offer you a warning for whatever he pulled you over for (example: a fix-it warning for a tail light, or a warning for speeding or rolling through a stop sign, which you may or may not have even done) in exchange for a search of your car. Simply say, “I’ll take the ticket so I can be on my way.” If the officer continues the dialogue by asking you what you have to hide, simply say, “I don’t have time, I am in a hurry so I can be at REASONABLE DESTINATION by REASONABLE TIME for BELIEVABLE REASON.” If the officer insists that the search won’t take long or that he just wants to check out a few things, say “That’s what they said the last time and they tore my car apart and damaged my possessions.” If the officer continues to pressure you, inform him at last that you are exercising a constitutional right and finally that “I don’t consent to searches”. Never appear agitated (it helps keep you calm that if you follow these rules, you will not be convicted) and never respond to verbal abuse offered by the officer, because agitation can allow the officer to establish reasonable suspicion.

The officer may ask you to step out of the car and search you. While this is not a permissible search in terms of obtaining evidence, DO NOT RESIST! If he is still in his reasonable suspicion phase, resistance will establish it and cause you to be arrested and the K-9 unit called or your car impounded for search. If you don’t resist but simply say “I don’t consent”, then if he finds anything on your person, it can’t be used as evidence. If you have screwed up and for some reason you cannot get out of the car without revealing the contraband, respond with “I’m really in a hurry, can I please be on my way?” Responding in this way does not earn you any brownie points in terms of ending the engagement, but what it tells the officer is that he will need reasonable suspicion before he can search your person.

The officer should go back to his car, run your plates, and write you a ticket at this time. If all went well, you should be on your way.

If the officer is taking an abnormally long time to write the ticket, he may be waiting for a K-9 unit to arrive. Every few minutes, ask him through your window if you are free to leave and remind him that you are in a hurry for the important engagement that you constructed above. If you are female, mentioning that you need to use the bathroom or are having your period may help. If you have been polite, respectful and calm up until this point, it is more likely that the officer may be persuaded to let you be on your way. Once you have the citation(s) in hand, you are legally free to leave even if the officer instructs you to wait. Politely tell the officer to have a nice day and drive away slowly; continuing to wait at this point for any reason can only hurt you later.

The Officer Is Never Your Friend

Remember that the officer’s job is to make an arrest and to assist in your conviction. It is NOT to be your advocate by “putting in a good word for you”, or to “help you if you help him” or “going easy on you”. Even given the knowledge that the officer is your adversary, always be polite, address him as “Officer” or “Sir”, and ensure that your only resistance to his statements or actions is in the form of calmly stated words. It helps prevent you from being detained, and helps prevent a trial or conviction in the case that you are detained and searched.

The Probable Cause Phase

Well, there’s not much to say from this point. Assume always that if the K-9 is called, the contraband will be found. If the contraband is found, you will be arrested and charged and will need to hire a lawyer. So focus on not giving the officer a reason to call the K-9. And for heaven’s sake, never surrender your constitutional right not to be searched, even if your day is going badly to that point.

Friends in your car

Tell them to shut their fat mouths and let you handle everything. If they won’t cooperate with this request, you shouldn’t be giving them a ride. Friends with big mouths, as in the “Busted” video given out by Flex Your Rights, are not friends at all when it comes to a traffic stop.

Protect your SSN, protect your identity

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Since the Social Security system was established, the SSN (Social Security Number, or just “social” to many clerks and telephone operators) has slowly crept its way into becoming the de facto national ID number in the US. For better or for worse, this means that when the Social Security system is abolished due to insolvency, the SSN system will then be coded into law as the national ID number system.

Since the SSN is unique, it is used as a database key whenever information about an individual needs to be aggregated. Since the SSN is obscure, supposedly known only to the individual, the government, and businesses the individual has done business with, it is also used as a password or as a secondary form of identification.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, businesses are the weak link in this system. State and local governments who have a SSN on file will routinely hand it out to anyone who appears to be a reputable business. Businesses will sell your personal information, including SSN, to anyone who is willing to pay enough, even if you have signed a contract to the contrary. You can sue, but then what? How can you prove damages? How do you prevent further downstream dissemination? Once your SSN is copied beyond your sphere of trust, you can very well assume that it is in the wrong hands, and obtaining a new SSN involves convincing the SSA that you have suffered enough stalking and/or identity theft to justify a new SSN, convincing the three credit bureaus to give you a clean slate, and convincing those that the thief has defrauded that you are in fact not the thief. The SSN and your usual personal information (name, address, phone number) is all that is necessary for an unscrupulous individual to order a credit report from the credit bureaus, and using the information there as a kit he can impersonate and defraud you.

When you are dealing with a government that is not the federal government (the federal government is required by law to obtain your SSN for any transaction), or any business or individual, and they ask for your SSN, you should counter by asking them why they need to know your SSN. This is not suspicious behavior, but it is annoying to many clerks. Ignore their annoyance; you have a right to know why they need your SSN. For example, it is likely that the request is legitimate if the request is pursuant to some federal regulation or subsidy such as federal housing, because the federal government uses your SSN as its internal ID number. If they continue to balk, tell them that your identity has been stolen in the past and you would like to know if there is any way you can avoid giving them your SSN.

Unfortunately, thanks to the PATRIOT Act’s assaults on liberty and privacy, opening a bank account requires you to disclose your SSN along with your date of birth and address of residence, even though non-US citizens can use a passport to establish their identity.

Your state driver’s license bureau may want to put your SSN on your driver’s license. Find out if the SSN is required by law, and if not, don’t give it to them; ask them to generate a driver’s license ID number for you. Sometimes you are in a catch-22 situation here; you are moving to another state, and some utility or rental company in the destination state gives you a choice between SSN or state driver’s license; unfortunately, there is no way for you to obtain a driver’s license in that state until you can supply proof of residence at the supplied address in that state. Ask if they will accept a passport instead.

Your SSN is the key to the credit bureau databases, so it will be required whenever someone needs to do a credit or background check on your behalf.

Your SSN is also used as a key for insurers to perform legal and prior insurer background checks on you.

Using a state driver’s license number or a passport number is advantageous because both of those documents contain other information that cannot be as easily replicated.

When NOT to give out your SSN simply because it is requested:

  • When establishing a new periodically billed account with a business. They will claim that they need to run a credit check. Instead, offer to pay a deposit.
  • When the business needs to be assured that you are who you say you are. Offer to use a state driver’s license instead, or to fax several forms of photo ID including a passport.
  • When the business needs a unique identification number (i.e. for their database). Offer to use a state driver’s license or passport number instead.

If the business insists on obtaining your SSN without a federal regulatory excuse, it is your choice to do business with them or to take your business elsewhere. Unfortunately, certain monopolies such as utilities and cable/telephone companies do not respond to market pressure. And if you are applying for credit, you have to remember that the onus is on you to provide the creditor with a reason why they should lend to you. Remember that it reasonable to ask whether your personal information will ever be transferred to a third party. You can’t record this conversation legally unless the company agrees (which they won’t), so the best thing you can do is get a written assurance that your personal information, including your SSN, will be kept confidential. The company will still share it without your permission when it finds a business case to do so, leading to your SSN being disseminated, but at least this way you can pursue action against the company in small claims, and encourage others to do the same — since it is likely that if your information was shared, then others’ information has also been.

It seems obvious by now that the best way to protect your SSN and still be able to do business in the US is to avoid requiring credit whenever possible.

Unfortunately, using a debit card without being physically present (such as online) is a bad idea. Debit card fraud cannot be reversed. But if you want to obtain a credit card to use for online purchases only, even a “secured” credit card where you pay a deposit up front is still considered credit and will require a credit check. There does not seem to be any way to safely purchase goods online without divulging your SSN to somebody along the line.

  • Maintain a positive cash flow from employment and investment so that a credit check is never required.
  • Use a debit or ATM card instead of credit cards.
  • Write “Check ID” on the back of the debit card. If your bank allows you to, disable using the debit card as an ATM card or getting cash back.
  • Carry the ATM card with you when you need access to more cash than you can safely carry with you. Carry the debit card only when traveling out of your bank’s ATM service area.
  • Even if you don’t drive, obtain a state driver’s license that does not use your SSN as the driver’s license number. To obtain this, you will need an existing passport or birth certificate as well as some proof of residence at the given address, the level of which varies state by state.
  • Use your birth certificate — which should always be stored in a location where the only avenues of access besides through yourself would lead to its destruction — and state driver’s license to obtain a federal passport, the strongest form of photo identification.

When your business is rejected because you refuse to disclose your SSN (whether on grounds of identity protection, philosophical or practical objections to a citizen ID number), you should write a letter to the company letting them know that their policies gave you a choice between putting your identity, finances, and credit at risk by doing business with them, or to do business with a competitor who is respectful of your privacy instead, and that you chose the latter.

the pulpit

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Society is not defined by what is right and wrong, and legislators would be best off leaving that question to the pulpit. When people form a society, they share a set of values which are used to define the rights which that society will protect for its citizens. The legislative concept of right and wrong should have its basis in these rights, not in the subjective morality of individual desires. “What rights are we protecting through this legislation?” “What rights would this legislation potentially impinge upon?” are the questions legislators should be asking, not “How will this promote my agenda” or “What would Jesus do?”

Theory of ethical legislation in the US

Monday, March 28th, 2005

Life, liberty, and property are the only concerns of the law.
Legislation should prioritize life, liberty, and property in that order.
Legislators should omit individual agendas.

An act which is heinous; causes measurable harm to another's life or liberty. Always results in a prison sentence. No disenfranchisement – a check against overzealous legislators. Causes loss of “responsibility required” civil liberties, unless the law is later overturned. Prosecutors cannot plea bargain into a felony charge from a non felony charge.

– Acts which would have been felonies in a causal chain of events, if a third party had not intervened.
– Acts which constrain another's life or liberty without measurable damage.
– Acts which involve theft or destruction of another's property.

Misdemeanors can be assigned community service, fines, or restricted jail periods.

All other acts which some party claims victimization in are tried in civil court. This prevents encoding subjective morals into criminal law, because ultimately the law must have a basis in protecting at least one of life, liberty, or property to avoid being thrown out. Civil court thrives on case law, and case law which becomes archaic can be overturned by new rulings.

An exception to criminal law is the reflexive case. In other words, it is impossible for an individual to victimize himself by definition. Therefore, suicide and many other current “immoral” acts cannot be illegal. In the case of suicide, the body is left to the victim's estate.

Acts that do some nebulously defined harm, such as things that harm “society”, where a victim cannot be identified, are strictly for civil courts.

“Responsibility required” civil liberties: Liberties which a citizen of a free society enjoys, but which have potential for harm to others in certain circumstances. Handgun carry; recreational drugs; prostitution, etc. Providers of such are regulated by the state to ensure that ex-felons do not have access to these. Existence of regulated providers should keep black markets out of business.