Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gun Control and Voter ID and Constitutional Rights

Recently the issues of gun control and the requirement for Voter identification (ID) have surfaced as hot topics. Gun control has re-surfaced as an issue due the unfortunate mass murders in Aurora Colorado. Voter identification has become an issue as both the Democrats and Republican continue to claw for votes in the upcoming presidential election. The Washington Post, as a newspaper, has covered these stories and posted editorials concerning these issues. Unfortunately, the Post (along with many others) seems to have politicized and misrepresented the voter identification issue to the public.

In a July 20, 2012 editorial concerning gun control the Post correctly states that: "Yes, the Second Amendment protects a citizen’s right to own a gun, but it does not preclude reasonable regulation for public safety.". However, when it comes to government having reasonable regulations concerning voter identification, the Post, in a July 28, 2012 editorial, lamely asserts that these voter ID laws place an unfair impediment to voting; equivalent to a poll tax. This is hypocritical.  Whether it is voting or gun ownership, Government has a legitimate right to verify that those who are purchasing a gun or are voting are who they say they are.

As a good follow-up to the editorial commenter9871 (in part) wrote:
My question is, with NO voter ID requirement, how could the authorities possibly know whether the person who cast any specific vote was a qualified and legal voter? We use a secret ballot. Once the voter is admitted without any ID check, he/she proceeds to the ballot box and votes. Until/unless someone files a complaint that a specific person was not qualified, the prosecutor has nothing to investigate. But when it's a a dead-voter, or an unauthorized felon, a la the Chicago tradition, there is nobody who could possibly know that they person is not the deceased or is a felon -- unless the poll official who takes his requests just happens to know the person in question and knows their personal situation -- and is willing to report him/her.  ... Requiring ID and putting the ID info down next to the voter's registration information is the only way to know if a voter was not authorized"
An interesting response by tnvret that that raises the issue of the mental capacity of the voter:
"If patients with diagnosed severe Alzheimer's or dementia (who didn't know who they were on a good day - much less anything about a candidate) were denied the vote, then that would reek of literacy testing to Dems. Just shuffle in here; we'll help with the selections and get you to the polls. Dems just need bodies - live ones if the dead, criminal, or four legged varieties are not available."
 jkk1943 provided this response below:
"This article as well as the constant harassment by the DOJ to stop states from implementing voter photo ID laws does not pass the stink test for three reasons: 

1. The Supreme Court has upheld Indiana's photo voter ID law by a 6-3 majority. Arizona's voter photo ID law was also supported by the most liberal appeal court in the nation, the Ninth Circuit. 

2. Requiring a photo ID is not an onerous requirement. The vast majority of people have them, most that don't are quite capable of getting them. Most states passing these laws provide free photo id's, some even provide transportation to the DMV to have the photo taken. Most allow provisional balloting for those not presenting the proper ID at the polling place. 

3. Contrary to the bilge spouted by liberals voter fraud is a problem. It is so widespread that Congress defunded Acorn because of widespread voter registration fraud in the 2008 election. Voter fraud if probably underreported especially in states that require little or no id to vote. We do after all have 12-20 million illegal aliens in our country. Due diligence requires that we protect the franchise by requiring the kind of ID required to board a plane, cash a check, enter a government building or by Sudafed over the counter at your local pharmacy. 

Whats really the issue here is two fold. One Eric Holder, Obama and the liberals want to stoke a sense of grievance in the minority community to ensure they come out to vote this November. More problematic is my sense that the Democrats really do not want a clean voting system. Google voter fraud and you will find that the majority of folks charged or convicted are Democrats. The Democratic Party in FL has fought our Governors plan to purge the voting roles of legal aliens and the deceased. He took the Feds to court and won. This is a losing issue for democrats. The vast majority of Americans favor these polices and that includes independents in swing states. There only payoff is a high turnout of minorities in the fall."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Science Fiction Magazine Database Update IV

Time for an update. Another progress report on developing an Open Source free database.  Click here to see earlier posts on this topic. Really not much has changed on the surface. You can't tell by the looks. I had a brief flurry of intense creativity following my upgrade to Ubuntu 12.04. Still haven't got used to the new Unity interface. Grumble.

I have now uploaded all the magazine data to MySQL, which is on the Ubuntu computer. MySQL constitutes the "Back-End", were the data now resides. MS Access is still being used, now as the "Front-End" (user interface). This allows me to continue to keep the magazine data up-to-date.

There were a few challenges in getting MS Access and MySQL to work together. Those issues have been apparently overcome. I have also developed an extremely primitive webpage. Eventually, this would allow users to access the data through their web browser thereby eliminating MS access as the user interface. Since I know very little concerning HTML and PHP, its going to be a while.

As I have expressed in the past, this is pretty much a personal learning exercise.  This data is already freely available on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB).  Makes my project somewhat redundant. The ISFDB is a great resource.  Cover art can also be viewed here.

Below is the introductory, screen which remains essentially unchanged from prior version.

Introductory Screen

Below is how a magazine would be displayed by issue.
Magazine Screen

Below is the primitive webpage. A lot of learning remains.
Primitive Webpage

Below is the author dump that you get when you click on the button "Connect to MySQL".  The good news is that my browser connects to the Ubuntu computer and can interact with it (also PHP and MYSQL)  to display the data below.
Sample Author Listin

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Looming "Fiscal Cliff" - Future Political Theater

Surprisingly, there is some room for rationality on the Washington Post's editorial board. The Post recently ran the following editorial  "Mr. Obama’s stand on taxes" recognizing that Obama's proposed tax policy would be inadequate. Bluntly, the Post writes: "We call this grossly inadequate because — as we’ve been saying since Mr. Obama irresponsibly promised during his first campaign that he would never raise taxes on the middle class — it’s impossible to tackle the federal debt by taxing only the wealthy. As the cost of retirement and health care for an aging population rises, the middle class is going to have to pay more, and federal benefits are going to have to be adjusted." The Post editorial concludes with: "The intelligent response would be to agree on long-term revenue increases and spending cuts while softening the short-term blow."

My response to that editorial was that the Post took a step in the right direction, but needed to go further. Missing from the Post editorial was the concept that he purpose of taxation is primarily to raise revenue to fund government operations. As such this country needs to define the level of services (military, entitlements, debt service, etc) that it will provide and tax accordingly.  The ultimate goal being a balanced Federal budget.

Furthermore, we need to divorce tax policy from economic policy. Neither Obama nor Romney should be promising to create jobs. They can't. This is especially true for Romney, who has asserted that he wants the government out of the private sector.

In casually watching the news, it seems that Howard Dean has been busy making appearances. Below are two video clips.

What is interesting to me, in the interview above, is that Howard Dean was quite candid in his assessment. Dean may have ended up viewing the state of the economy through rose-colored-glasses. Pat Toomey, on the other hand just tiredly regurgitated the Republican mantra of "No Tax Increase" and essentially avoided a substantive discussion. CNBC video with Howard Dean and  Pat Toomey.

This second interview above is better than the first. Doug Holz-Eakin made a much better case for the Republican side and even left room for tax increases.  I was disappointed with Larry Kudlow's concluding "No Tax Increase" remark. Basically, we are in the current financial mess due to blame Bush proposing tax cuts that backfired and also due to the lack of austerity.  CNBC Video of Howard Dean and Doug Holz-Eakin on the Larry Kudlow Show

Monday, July 2, 2012

Who's Best to Anticipate Future Problems and Solutions?

According to Mr. Andrews it is a gaggle of science fiction writers meeting as a group called SIGMA.  This theme appears in an article titled: "Sigma: Summing Up Speculation".  This article appeared in the September 2012 issue of Analog.  While I would agree with that premise, Mr. Andrews’ article is ultimately flawed. How so?

Technological progress is multidimensional. Mr. Andrews has only focused on the narrow application concerning the technology itself, not on how it would profoundly affect society. One disturbing example, the Patriot Act.  In that example, the focus is on pre-guessing a "technological" response to prevent/recover from a future terrorist act. What is missing, despite gratuitous references to Libertarians, the Arab Spring, and even the Gestapo, is that the Patriot Act (plus other legislation) is moving the US towards a police state. Out smarting the terrorists is vitally important, but a free thinking group, such as SIGMA should also be contemplating the effect of fighting terrorism or other "wars" on society itself.

Not only that, but Mr. Andrews, according to his article has consulted extensively with the Department of Homeland Security.  As such, I would have expected him to be very aware and sensitive to how security agencies need to operate in a free-society.  TechDirt writes; "We're still completely perplexed at how anyone in Congress could recognize that the NSA has refused to tell Congress how often it's violated the privacy of Americans without a warrant under the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) -- and then still vote to renew it."  Mr. Andrews appears oblivious to this issue.  Do we really need a police state?

I would have thought that a gaggle of free-thinking Science Fiction authors (some of whom are Libertarians) would have been adverse to the application of technology to deprive citizens of their civil liberties in the name of "security". Below are some topical bullet points, that I would have expected SGMA to consider and make recommendations on.
  1. The concept of "sale" is being eliminated. Many manufactures of electronics claim that they retain ownership of the devices that you "buy".
  2. Manufactures are taking "control" of your electronic equipment. They can brick it at any time they wish. They also “sell” devices that must be in contact with “home” in order to work.
  3. Manufacturers are now abusing so-called "intellectual property" by using legal sledge hammers to stifle competition and innovation.
  4. The ability to reverse engineer stuff is being eliminated
  5. The Government is forcing some third parties, such as ISPs, to spy on their users (warrantless wiretapping).
  6. Due process is being eliminated. Through the DMCA and the delayed SOPA/PIPA, take-down notices can be issued without proof. We are moving from the concept of innocent until proven guilty, to where innocence has to be proved even if the accusations are false.
  7. Formerly legal activities are now being made illegal.
I would hope that the next time SIGMA meets that it will take a more holistic and Libertarian view. Outguessing the terrorists is a laudable goal, but it must NOT come at the expense of civil liberties or the freedom to pursue advances in the arts and sciences.

PS: Another version of this post appears on the Fantasy and Science Fiction forum website.