Beyond the Cusp

December 17, 2014

Has the World Gone Crazy? Government Wants to Look and See


Thus far this week we have witnessed too many instances of violence from all across the globe with none of it making much sense. There was the taking of hostages in a small eatery in Australia with a wannabe ISIS crazy who amongst his demands insisted on talking to the Prime Minister of the country. There was a Taliban raid on a Pakistani school murdering innocent children with the count approaching one-hundred-fifty and nearly countless more reportedly in area hospitals, let’s pray it does not exceed that number. The United States did not miss out as a former Marine went on a killing spree in Philadelphia northwestern suburb in Pennsylvania murdering his ex-wife and her sister, mother, grandmother and two children of the sister as well as shooting and injuring the sister’s husband. These, as with too many murders reported unfortunately almost daily, are the actions of disturbed minds or people blinded beyond sanity by their cause will remain beyond our ability to understand. Where the twisted reasoning behind any murder may be beyond the ability of our ability to discern and understand, efforts should continue to see if any discerning and identifying character traits or other determining actions and indicators can be discovered such that in the future some of these grisly events can be prevented. We will probably never have the ability to prevent every time somebody goes beyond all societal norms and commits some act of violence tearing a hole in society as a whole.


The question we as societies will need to answer is how far are we to permit law enforcement to go both in their abilities to collect information and survey public or even private areas in order to prevent crimes and provide a higher level of safety in their efforts to circumvent crimes, especially crimes of violence. There are already increasing usages for cameras and sound detection equipment in cities throughout the world with London taking the lead as the most surveyed city with sound detectors and cameras placed throughout so that they can see virtually every area of the streets, river, shopping centers, service alleys and probably the darkest recesses and corners throughout the city. Surveillance carried out to such an extent combined with the advancing artificial intelligence advances in computer technology including facial recognition software, gait detection and profiling which will lead to computers monitoring the entirety of these cameras and potentially adding the microphones so that they can discern every spoken word and conversation using software collating the data in order to alert police to suspected criminal acts they determine are imminent. The police would be directed in the hope that their mere presence would prevent the crime and to interdict any criminal act as soon as it occurs or prevent any violent action intervening at the predicted moment such violence might occur. It would be a virtual future crime system used as deterrence and placing police exactly where they might be needed moments before any criminal act. For crimes such as theft or a holdup such a system would likely deter many criminals but then how far would such a system be empowered. Would they use such a system to determine the name of a person crossing a street in other than a designated crosswalk and send them a summons or ticket just as speed cameras and red light cameras do in many cities currently? Such a system would potentially provide a huge increase in revenue which could potentially completely finance the entire police department.


If placing cameras and listening devices all throughout our cities and towns is acceptable, then what if the government decides to go further? It would start with a program where the government would give people payment if they were permitted to add any monitoring cameras and sound devices people currently had in their homes and businesses. The program would begin innocently and be voluntary so what would be the harm, people could simply say they have no interest and such a program might make others who would be unable to afford an alarm system with cameras and twenty-four hour monitoring and such a program would be enabling more homes to be monitored and kept safe. What argument could be made that this was not a good thing and it is still voluntary, right? Then the government would eventually see this as now a right they could extend as were not most of the people who had systems voluntarily opting to join the government subsidy. Anyways, anybody now refusing the government mandated monitoring systems and the government including these systems in their extensive monitoring would be proof that you have something to hide. The thing is such a demand would not be instituted until the vast majority of the public had already agreed to this monitoring by the government and nobody had been adversely affected, so where is the harm in government placing monitoring in every home. Such monitoring would keep homes safe from burglaries while people were at work and where would be the harm? There was a time when people would only accept a ticket if it was written by an officer who had witnessed their exceeding the speed limit or running a red light. Nobody would accept a ticket from a camera radar trap and receiving one would result in their going to court and demanding to confront their accuser. Initially this defense was accepted by the courts and then the city council allowed for a regulation, or even passed a law in some instances, that made these tickets legal and no longer permitted the defense of demanding to confront your accuser and thus no judge would accept that defense. It has become common for camera evidence to be considered superior to an eye witness’s testimony. Add facial recognition and cameras can be utilized to identify people beyond any reasonable doubt in most courts. Where these automated law enforcement technologies will end is anybody’s guess. The camera and the microphones are just the tip of the coming iceberg as we can expect explosives detection systems placed in sensitive areas or places where large crowds are expected to form such as malls, ballparks, amusement parks, concerts, fairs and special events as well as whatever devices and data gathering system which have yet to be developed. Many of the larger ports and other commercial shipping and mass travel systems including trains, planes and ships have detection equipment which checks the luggage or shipping containers as well as magnetometers to check the people while visual checks are made of carryon luggage and bags. These detection devices are simply a computerized version of using a dog or other trained animal and currently almost as reliable and their evidence is acceptable in a court as sufficient evidence for permitting an officer to search and arrest any person refusing the search in order to search the person once in custody.


There are numerous types of surveillance equipment with abilities which would astound the average person readily available to police departments should they care to make the outlay funds to purchase such devices. There is equipment which can listen to a conversation simply by placing an invisible laser onto any window to the room which the conversation of interest is being held. This technology has progressed to the point that one would need to cover the window with sound dampening screens or external cover such as aluminum storm shutters. There are systems which can see through walls with amazing detail capability. There are systems being researched which will allow governments to monitor people in ways they likely never imagined. People can be tracked by tracking their cell phones. Using your cell phone a person can be located to within ten feet and their cell phone can be activated to listen to any noises or conversations within the ability of the microphone to detect. Even the cell phone camera can be activated though such is often not very revealing as if the phone is in a purse or pocket the video will not reveal much. There are ways to monitor people’s computer usage as long as their computer is linked to a network which has internet connection active or if the computer itself is connected to the internet. The invasions of our privacy which government can potentially utilize if they wish to monitor our lives covertly are astounding and place every individual potentially in a very compromised position even without their knowledge. These are simply implications of the modern world we all reside within. But then in a world where many of us post even intimate information about ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Vine and others, why would many of us complain or have any problem with the government monitoring our daily activities. Perhaps the government could start their own social media site and simply put videos of some of the craziest things they monitored and maybe also the top ten crimes of the day. The one prediction which can be made safely is that privacy is a quaint idea whose definition is growing ever smaller with every passing new technology. Perhaps any legal definition claiming that we have unalienable rights to privacy, that our homes are inviolable or that our papers, effects and private information are secure from search or seizure without a court order, summons or warrant are simply cute little ideas whose potential possibility is nil in our high-tech world where information rules and those who can best gather information rule. In simpler terms, if one wishes to have privacy they best be prepared to make a sizeable effort to assure that their desire has been attained. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Perhaps this could be adapted to modern times where we add that not only is eternal vigilance is the price of liberty but also the price for personal privacy from government. It could be argued that privacy is necessary to have liberty and to have real freedom. To be honest, it is rightly well worth the effort and allows one to sleep better each night.


Beyond the Cusp


September 21, 2013

Why More Gun Laws Will Not Work

With two shootings on military installations in the news recently, the Major Nidal Malik Hasan trial and the Aaron Alexis shooting at the Navy Yard, some of the glaring deficiencies and misinformation which exist throughout the liberal mainstream media were exposed for all to witness. The worst of the offenders were at CNN where during the Piers Morgan coverage it was reported that the shooter had used an AR-15 shotgun, a firearm that does not exist. The mix-up probably resulted from the erroneous reporting that the shooter Aaron Alexis had used an AR-15 and the fact that he originally began his shooting spree utilizing a shotgun and the liberal mainstream media preoccupation with demonizing the AR-15 as the most evil and dangerous firearm ever produced. In a warped way, the erroneous reporting that an AR-15 was used when none was found at the scene simply served to display for all to see how the news sources have an agenda which they will go to any lengths to make every shooting a case of demonic possession where the presence of a firearm, especially the most demonic AR-15, drove a poor unfortunate over the edge pushing them into a murderous rage. What these two particular shootings have proven is how poorly the authorities, even the military who should be more proficient and knowledgeable, can miss even cases where the perpetrator ends up being somebody who should have set off alarms, warning that they should not be permitted anywhere near a firearm. Major Nidal Malik Hasan had given repeated instances of having taken an interest in Jihad and the Navy Yard Shooter Aaron Alexis had numerous arrests and was disciplined numerous times while in the Naval Reserves. In both cases the authorities who should have easily caught at least some of the warning signs as there were more than enough to tip people off, but in both cases the authorities did not report or even make any records of obvious transgressions which would have prevented either perpetrator to have ever gotten to the point where they performed their murderous rampages. What these two particular shootings proved, as have many shootings over the years, is that had authorities actually done their jobs and made the proper reports when the signs of behavior problems were exhibited, then neither of these two murderous rampages would have gotten to the point where they endangered innocent people.


The politicians were quick, especially Ms. Pelosi, to start the call which rings out after every catastrophe for more laws against firearm ownership. The reality in both of these shootings on military installations is that if law enforcement and other public officials had performed their obligations to the public, otherwise known as their jobs, and completed and filed the appropriate paperwork instead of simply deciding that it was not that important and why ruin somebody’s life by making a permanent record, they ended up ruining many people’s lives that were taken or forever traumatically altered as a result of shootings committed by individuals who should never have been allowed to own firearms and had given overt signs that they were headed over the edge into violent rage shooting many innocents. The old adage that if only the authorities enforced the laws then there would be far less firearms violence as there are more than sufficient laws on the books to prevent the majority of shootings is quite true as these shootings prove. The other story line here is that if only we trusted our military personnel when on military grounds to carry their service weapon then such shootings would be ended before the numbers of people murdered mounted to such numbers as in these two cases. If we cannot trust out military personnel to have their service weapon with them while on duty and on military grounds, then who can we trust? A perfect example of allowing military personnel to carry their weapons at least on base being a preventive measure is proven in Israel where the majority of military personnel takes their service weapons with them everywhere, on base and into the public areas and this has proved to be a great deterrent to crime. The real crime of these two particular shootings was that they should have been easily preventable if only laws had been enforced, paperwork completed and filed with the appropriate departments and had the people assigned with doing the appropriate checks had actually taken their obligations to the public by performing their job requirements competently and completely.


There is one more item which people are not being informed of and it is simply because it does not serve the story line the press wishes to paint. Where you will likely hear that the number of firearm related deaths are approaching or even surpassing automobile related deaths, you probably missed the report that shows that firearm deaths have been falling on average for the past twenty years. Reporting that truth would not be as forceful to make you fearful of firearms as reporting that traffic deaths and firearm deaths are approaching parity, but the truth is that these statistics are good news for both statistics as vehicular fatalities have also been coming down as well. But as we know, in the news business if it bleeds it leads thus less fatalities is not news so they have to look for anything which they can imply that firearm fatalities are horrendous and a plague beyond your wildest fears. What is the most tragic side of firearm fatalities is where some of the worst statistics in firearm violence and fatalities are also the cities where they have the most stringent laws against firearm ownership and the average citizen can forget about procuring a concealed carry license despite the fact that these cities are the places where such a right is most needed. The shootings which have made the news recently out of Chicago have been newsworthy largely because they are taking place in President Obama’s home town and that supposedly makes these shootings more important than those in your or my town. Still, the deaths in Chicago are shocking and can be used to claim that as Chicago is our President’s hometown we should be ashamed that the gun violence is so rampant. The problem is that the violence in Chicago is actually predictable as it is in Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, and way too many of our large cities which sit in blue states where gun ownership is treated as if it were a criminal offense which results in criminals being the ones with the guns. What the media will not tell you is that in the 1950s often children would bring their 22 rifle to school and place them in the coat room and take them when school let out and go hunt varmints such as squirrel, raccoon, rabbit or such for sport or even for dinner for some families. Of course such would be impossible today yet I would bet there are some who wish that schools still used flashcards to teach math tables and things were more like they were back in the day when spelling counted and you were required to get the correct answer to math problems.


Beyond the Cusp


March 20, 2013

Backdoor Gun Control; Not so Fast

The United Nations member States are once again working to implement an all-inclusive weapons treaty with dual intents. The publicized intent is to control the trading of weapons between weapons manufacturers and countries such that all weapons transactions will be covered thus preventing any sales to terror or other non-state actors. This treaty will presumably prevent terrorist and criminal entities from acquiring armaments from handguns to advanced weapons systems such as rockets and mortars. The secondary and less mentioned impetus is to control all private ownership of weapons by individuals. This time the treaty will not be aiming to necessarily disarm all non-state individuals but will instead be satisfied in simply having complete lists of every weapon privately owned. Of course these lists are guaranteed not to be a first step towards eventual weapons confiscation and everyone can believe that the world’s governments would never go back on this promise. But why should this be of any concern to the American people as they have the Second Amendment which guarantees them the right to keep and bear arms. But is the Second Amendment really sacrosanct or can it be abridged through international agreements?

John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under President Dwight Eisenhower, asserted that treaties are a form of law which overrides the Constitution. The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution is in Article VI and states, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” This clause was primarily intended to forbid the individual States from being allowed to enter into treaties independently and also to guarantee that all the individual States would be bound by and treaty entered and legally ratified by the Federal Government. There have been numerous people who have maintained that a treaty entered into by the United States through ratification by the Senate and signed by the President would then supercede the United States Constitution. This statement can be made true if one replaces one little word; remove ‘United’ from before the word ‘States’ and instead replace it with the word ‘individual’ and then it would be correct. Treaties do override the individual State’s Constitutions, not the United States Constitution. This also applied to individual State laws, regulations, statutes or other legally binding resolutions.

The reasoning behind the contention that international and other treaties entered into by the United States would supercede the Constitution ignores the semicolon replacing it with a comma. The treaties that are enacted must be tempered by the Constitution and can be rendered mute if found to be unconstitutional. The phrasing which states that treaties are to be made “under the authority of the United States” places the limitations within the constitution in effect for treaties just as it is for laws passed by the States or Congress. So, the Administration is limited in its power to enter into and negotiate treaties even with the ratification of the Senate by the same restrictions that the Congress and President are under when enacting Federal Law. So, let the world negotiate a presumable universal arms treaty which will eventually be used to implement the universal disarmament of individuals because even should the Senate ratify such a treaty and the President sign same, the Supreme Court, in theory, should render the enforcement of such a treaty unconstitutional and hopefully support the individual rights of the American peoples.

So sorry to those in the Administration and to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who have been rumored to be hoping they could use such a treaty to negate the Second Amendment and were working for Senate ratification. The Founding Fathers were smart enough to preclude the meddling of the outside world with the unique rights granted by the revolutionary Constitution they crafted. The world around them was full of Emperors, Kings, Caliphs and other absolute rulers whose slightest whim was law. With a world where any treaty the nascent United States would enter would be with countries with such autocratic rulers that they realized that the rights provided by the United States Constitution would not be respected or even understood outside the nation they were founding. With such a world surrounding the Founding Fathers it is only logical that they would protect the delicate balance which gave the individual supreme rights even over and above the government which was crafted to serve the people and be endowed with limited powers, a strange and unique concept in their time. The American people will owe those men a debt of gratitude as long as there continues to be those who guard and keep those precious rights safe and protected. That is the task that the Founding Fathers demanded of those generations which followed and upon whom they had doubts and hopes, much as many patriots today harbor.

Beyond the Cusp

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