[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Tuesday, 2009-11-24

Corruption in Richmond City Council

Filed under: Society — bblackmoor @ 10:44

There is a grassroots organization in Virginia called the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Their raison d’etre is to make sure that law-abiding Virginians are not forced to be disarmed and defenseless by the laws of our state. They are reasonably successful at this.

Last night, a couple of dozen VCDL members, some of them residents of Richmond, attended the Richmond City Council meeting, with the intention of informing the City Council of their opposition to the Mayor’s membership in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s deceptively named anti-gun coalition, Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns (it is, in fact, “mayors against all gun owners”).

I will let Philip Van Cleave, current president of the VCDL, describe what happened:

Very interesting and long night at the Richmond City Council meeting
tonight. We had over twenty members present. The Dark Side had five.

I had signed up to speak at the meeting three weeks ago by contacting
the City Clerk, who dutifully took down my name and said I was good to
go for November 23rd. She also asked what I was going to be talking
about.

But, tonight when City Council finally got to public comment, they
called 6 names only, 3 of which were anti-gunners who praised the
Mayor for joining up with Bloomberg’s anti-gun coalition.

MY NAME WAS NEVER CALLED and they moved on to other business quickly.
[…]

(from Dirty Tricks at Richmond City Council, VA-ALERT)

Whether or not you think their cause is worthwhile, these people have a right to be heard. They followed the prescribed procedures for signing up to speak. They obeyed the rules. What did Richmond City Council do? They put five shills in the audience and called three of them to speak.

You might not think this is a big deal. You might think normal, law-abiding folks should not be permitting to own and carry firearms. You would be mistaken, but that’s not really my point with this.

Let’s say that your local school is infested with rats, cockroaches, and centipedes, but the Mayor has joined a coalition that seeks to require all schoolchildren to come to school barefoot (because kids can smuggle drugs in their shoes, or some such nonsense). Outraged, you and nineteen other like-minded people find out how to address the city council, you contact the City Clerk weeks in adavnce to sign up to speak, you show up on time, you wait your turn… and then of the six people’s names who are called, none of your group is called. Instead, half of those asked to speak spontaneously praise the Mayor’s bold membership in the anti-drug group, Mayors Against Illegal Shoes.

What the hell just happened?

Whether or not you agree with the VCDL’s particular cause, this is a blatant abuse of power by the Richmond City Council. Every citizen of Richmond and the surrounding cities should be offended by this corruption in local government.

Monday, 2009-11-23

Hexographer

Filed under: Gaming,Intellectual Property,Software — bblackmoor @ 14:45

Hexographer

I recently encountered a mapping program intended for role-playing games, called Hexographer. It is an easy to use application that makes colorful game maps. There is a “free” version (not free as in speech — free as in beer), and a pay version. The free version is pretty nifty. However, if you use Hexographer, I do not recommend that you rely on the “free” version.

The online (free) version is a Java app. Under ordinary circumstances, you can simply download a Java app like this, and run it on your own computer. Why would you want to do this? Because web sites go down. They go away. (Remember Ar-Kelaan Hexmapper? Their Hexmapper software is available elsewhere, but the Ar-Kelaan site itself is no more.) It is a fact of life. If you want to be able to open your maps a few months from now, it is important that you be able to run the app locally. Unfortunately, the author of Hexographer has written the “free” app so that it can only be run on his server.

Do not rely on the “free” version. The paid license version does not have this problem, and that’s what I would recommend. (I bought it myself.)

However, if Hexographer does not suit your needs, here are some viable alternatives, which may or may not fit your own particular situation:

P.S. The Welsh Piper has a nifty article on using hex maps to facilitate world building. Check it out.

Hexographer defective by design

Filed under: General — bblackmoor @ 14:45

This article has been retitled and moved. Please update your bookmarks and your expectations of Hexographer. Thanks.

Saturday, 2009-11-14

Why do we have juries? William Penn knew.

Filed under: Society — bblackmoor @ 14:40

According to the Fully Informed Jury Association, it is important for jury members to be educated on the fact that they are judges of both the evidence and the law. Some people might wonder how that can possibly be a good idea. If it’s a law, it must just, right? If someone breaks a law, they must be punished, right?

How about when a former soldier finds a discarded shotgun in his yard and takes it to the police, and is sent to prison for at least five years for his trouble?

Paul Clarke, 27, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday – after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year.

The jury took 20 minutes to make its conviction, and Mr Clarke now faces a minimum of five year’s imprisonment for handing in the weapon.

In a statement read out in court, Mr Clarke said: “I didn’t think for one moment I would be arrested.

“I thought it was my duty to hand it in and get it off the streets.”

The court heard how Mr Clarke was on the balcony of his home in Nailsworth Crescent, Merstham, when he spotted a black bin liner at the bottom of his garden.

In his statement, he said: “I took it indoors and inside found a shorn-off shotgun and two cartridges.

“I didn’t know what to do, so the next morning I rang the Chief Superintendent, Adrian Harper, and asked if I could pop in and see him.

“At the police station, I took the gun out of the bag and placed it on the table so it was pointing towards the wall.”

Mr. Clarke was then arrested immediately for possession of a firearm at Reigate police station, and taken to the cells.

(from Ex-soldier faces jail for handing in gun, This Is Surrey Today)

You read that right. He found a shotgun. He took it to the police. They arrested him for having possession of a shotgun. This is what passes for justice in the UK: a country where violent crime is rampant, while honest people are denied the right to protect themselves.

But whether or not you self-defense is a basic human right, or whether you think armed civilians are an effective deterrent to crime, Mr. Clarke did nothing wrong. The jury should have refused to convict him. That they found him guilty of violating the law despite the obvious injustice is proof that jurors do need to be educated on their rights. All it would have taken to send Mr. Clark home is one juror who knew her rights, and had the courage to exercise them.

I guess they don’t teach schoolkids about William Penn in the UK anymore.

Friday, 2009-11-13

Judge rules collecting DNA from federal suspects unconstitutional

Filed under: Privacy — bblackmoor @ 12:59

I learned about this from Bayou Renaissance Man:

A federal judge in Pittsburgh says that collecting DNA from a person simply arrested for a crime and not yet convicted is unconstitutional.

In a 20-page opinion issued on Friday, U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone wrote that the idea of comparing DNA collection to fingerprinting — as government attorneys have done — is “pure folly.”

“Such oversimplification ignores the complex, comprehensive, inherently private information contained in a DNA sample,” the judge wrote.

The biological material can reveal predisposition to thousands of genetic conditions, he went on, as well as identify genetic markers for traits like aggression, sexual orientation and criminal tendencies.

The Department of Justice issued a rule that took effect in January requiring that all federal arrestees have their DNA collected and cataloged.

That rule was challenged here in July, when Ruben Mitchell, who faces drug charges, asked the court to block collection.

While a variety of courts have upheld the collection of DNA post-conviction, it is a new issue for arrestees.

There has been one other decision on the issue — in the Eastern District of California, where a judge ruled that the collection is not an infringement of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

But in his opinion, Judge Cercone fully disagreed with that court, saying that neither the judge nor the government, “addresses the moral polestar of our criminal justice system — the presumption of innocence.”

If law enforcement officers believe the collection of DNA can help solve a past or ongoing crime, nothing stops them from seeking a search warrant and obtaining the material, the judge said.

Attorneys for the U.S. attorney’s office argued that Mr. Mitchell already has a diminished expectation of privacy — his cell is searched and his phone calls are recorded — because he is being held in jail pending trial.

But Judge Cercone did not agree that that allows for DNA collection.

“Though pretrial detainees have a diminished expectation of privacy as it relates to legitimate penological interests, the Fourth Amendment does not stop at the jailhouse door,” he wrote.

As for the government’s argument that DNA collection is another tool for identification, the judge said it is more than that.

“[It] represents a quantum leap that is entirely unnecessary for identification purposes,” he wrote. “The only reasonable use of DNA is investigative, it is not an identification science it is an information science. The identification issue in this instance is a red herring, as there is no compelling reason to require a DNA sample in order to ‘identify’ an arrestee.”

(from Judge rules collecting DNA from federal suspects unconstitutional, Post-Gazette)

Well, duh. Looks to me that someone in the Department of Justice has bought into the “if the government does it, it’s not illegal” fallacy. I hope that the Supreme Court rules on this one sooner, rather than later. It’s a pity that people in positions of power can openly violate the Constitution like this without any repercussions at all.

Thursday, 2009-10-29

Post Halloween party beverage inventory

Filed under: Fine Living — bblackmoor @ 16:25

pumpkin cupOur Halloween party was Saturday. This is the inventory of the remaining beer and beer-like substances, sorted from most-consumed to least consumed, by percentage. The first number is how many remain; the second number is how many the party started with.

Legend Brown Ale, 3/6
Redridge wheat-free beer, 3/6
Sarnac Pumpkin Ale, 3/6
Sam Adams Winter Classics variety pack, 7/12
Killian’s Red, 8/12
Michelob Amber Bock, 9/12
Yuengling Lager, 9/12
Bud Light, 10/12
Warsteiner, 5/6
Budweiser & Clamato, 1/1
Bud light & Clamato, 1/1
And of beer people brought to the party…
Pabst Blue Ribbon, 0/12
Guiness Genuine Draft, 6/12

Pirates kidnap British tourists

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Travel — bblackmoor @ 16:05

A gang of Somali pirates has kidnapped a British couple, who were sailing to Tanzania.

The Chandlers set off from the Seychelles for Tanzania on October 21 on their 38-foot-yacht, the Lynn Rival, according to their blog. A distress beacon was activated October 23, according to naval officials.

(from Briton says pirates holding him, wife, CNN)

Yet again, I wonder how — or if — the news media will compare/contrast these real pirates with the so-called “pirates” who buy the latest Miley Cyrus album and share it with their friends.

A reminder:

Sharing is not piracy
Copying is not piracy

Wednesday, 2009-10-28

Iron curtains, old and new

Filed under: History,Society — bblackmoor @ 13:49

I was reading this article about the Hungarian Prime Minister who was ultimately instrumental in the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I was struck by the contrast between the fall of the Iron Curtain, and what has been happening to the USA for the past ten years (and a new President has made absolutely no difference in this trend).

It makes me sad.

Tuesday, 2009-10-27

The purpose of a job interview

Filed under: Society — bblackmoor @ 22:10

I have read numerous articles offering advice to job seekers. These would-be experts offer suggestions on what to say, and what not to say. All too often, the overall tone is one of subservience, as if the applicant is a kneeling peasant, begging for a crust of bread from the potential employer.

This is despicable. This attitude is part of what is wrong with business in the USA today. It is why job applicants submit to the humiliation of pre-employment drug testing and why they sign one-sided “non compete” agreements, and why so many companies get away with treating their employees like dirt.

Employment is an equal exchange: expertise for money. The employee is not the servant of the employer, nor is the employer the master of the employee — they are peers. An interview is not just an opportunity for the hiring manager to evaluate the applicant: it is also an opportunity for the applicant to evaluate the company doing the hiring.

Never forget that you were invited to the interview because you have something that the employer lacks, and they want to pay you for it. Your goal at an interview is never to simply “get the job”. Your goal is to see if this position at this company is a good match to you, your goals, and your skills.

Give your employer the same respect you expect from them; you are a professional, and a skilled worker is worthy of her hire. But do not for a moment think of yourself as somehow inferior to those who pay you for your expertise. It is an exchange between equals.

Fully Informed Jury Association

Filed under: Society — bblackmoor @ 12:51

Called for jury duty? Know your rights.

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