Saturday, October 05, 2002

The Benefits of a 7 Day Waiting Period:

Live from Montomergy County

I'll be blogging here-n-there but with an occasional chopper overhead and such, I've got to keep one eye out for the bad guys. I know its overkill, but I've got the truck blocking the back door, and the Honda the front. The shooting locations making a perfect square about my house. Tomorrow I apply for a firearms permit and then wait the 7 days.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Fun With Genealogy

For a while, the State of Texas Department of Health had put its Birth Indices for 1926-1995 and its Death Indices for 1964-1999 on the nets. Because of fears that adoptees could use the indices to find their birth parents and that identity borrowers might use the indices to find names to borrow, they recently removed them.

But not to fear. The state had sold CDs of the indices for a while and my faith in the Market was vindicated when I went to Ebay and typed in the search term "Texas Birth Indexes". Soon I had my own copies and was ready to start selling them myself.
Look North to the future. Today US financial institutions are being told to block payments to gambling and "kiddie porn" sites. Tomorrow the churches?

Note to Royal Bank: Today's gay rights precede tomorrow's Enrons--count on it

The City of Montreal decided to make a bid for the so-called "Gay Games" in 2006, an event believed to be worth some $500 million in visitor dollars. Led by Reverend David Cormier, an evangelical pastor, several Christian and pro-family groups set up a "No Committee" to oppose this move, and routinely applied to the Royal Bank to open an account. They were refused because their purpose, so they were told, was in violation of human-rights law. As one bank official put it, "They're trying to prohibit gay people from coming into Montreal."

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Gun Law Turning Law Abiding Citizens Into Felons; State Agency Failed to Inform Millions of Rights

When MassNews asked Wallace [Legislative Agent of the Gun Owners Action League] whether these people actually can be arrested even if they don't carry guns, he said, "There is no registration law in the state, but you cannot be in possession of a firearm or ammunition without a license. Even an empty shell casing in your house could get you two years in jail."

If true, that suggests a safe mechanism of attack. Hide or dump a bunch of .22 cartridges in the houses or offices or on the property of anyone you don't like in Massachusetts (perhaps anti-gun legislators) and drop a dime on them.

Note that if you are not a resident of Massachusetts and are passing through on an interstate trip the Firearm Owners Protection Act says you can carry guns and ammo so you can legally reach the targeted property and dump -- facing only an illegal dumping charge. Of course ammo is probably hazardous waste.

Seems stupid to pass a law that can be used so easily against someone else.
Professor Eugene Volokh on the ACLU and war censorship:

"CENSORSHIP IN TIMES OF CRISIS": I just got an ACLU e-newsletter titled "War on Words: Censorship in Times of Crisis". Now it says a lot about government searches, military tribunals, and various other things, but nearly nothing about actual censorship -- governmental restrictions on what people can say or write. (The only exception is a brief discussion of a Patriot Act provision that on its face seems to bar anyone, including people outside law enforcement, from revealing the existence of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretap.)

"The First Amendment violations now taking place are more subtle than in decades past and have not been widely reported in the press," the item warns. They are subtle indeed -- too subtle for me . . . .

Generally correct. The FISA wiretap gag rule is meaningless in any case given the ease of anonymous publishing in this era.

A better source than the ACLU though is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) page (Chilling Effects of Anti-Terrorism) that tracks this sort of thing.

Going down their list, we see a few items --

FBI threats to websites to pull the Pearl Beheading Video under obscenity laws (even though it wasn't obscene since there was no sex or excretion). That failed and the video was restored but it was an official attempt.

Government pulling the plug on its own websites. I don't know if that's exactly censorship because I would like them to pull all their websites (and most other activities) as well. Doesn't bother me.

US shutdown of Somalia's only ISP. Presumably not done for content but because it was financially linked to terrorist organizations. Not as much censorship as was the US bombing of Serbian TV stations during that war (which was presumably content based in part).

There are two cases which suggest federal censorship at least in part - the cases of and

Probably the most straightforward case of censorship is that of 19-year-old Sherman Austin of [connection irregular because of legal action and overload]. See a fair summary from the Carnegie Mellon student paper. Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Professor David Touretzky has a page of links on the case. is a website urging various sorts of left-wing street action and included a guide to the manufacture and use of various weapons. Austin's house was raided in January and he was arrested a few months ago and charged with violating US Code title 18, section 842(p), which prohibits the demonstration of how to make or use explosives and weapons of mass destruction with the intention that the information will be used for violent crimes. He was also charged with possession of something explosive that violated the National Firearms Act (something that was arguably a Molotov Cocktail). We know his "crimes" weren't serious because the Feds offered him one month in stir and three years probation if he'd plead to one count of violating 842. A week ago he accepted the plea bargain. The explosive device he was accused of teaching how to make was a Molotov Cocktail. The Feds were clearly trying to obtain an 842 conviction because that statute is probably constitutionally limited to actual training in the manufacture and use of illegal devices in a context that would really constitute being an accessory to the underlying crime in any case. Arms length teaching of weapons and explosives is probably legal. Of course one who pleads guilty gives up the chance to challenge the application of the law. In any case, Austin's no doubt seminal contribution to the theory and practice of street combat is still available from several sources including the government's own proposed plea agreement!

Those of us with longer memories will recall when New York Magazine or Esquire or some such glossy mag published a cover illustration of how to make a Molotov Cocktail. It was the 60s/70s. You had to be there.

Another case not mentioned by the EFF is that of the webmaster of a Black Muslim who was originally held as a material witness and has now been charged with "providing material support to terrorists". Summary of case here. Note the significant part of the indictment: "It was further a part of the conspiracy that Ujaama established one or more World Wide Web sites (through which his co-conspirator) espoused his beliefs concerning the need to conduct global violent jihad against the United States of America and other Western nations."

Now whatever the merits of these two cases as criminal prosecutions, it is likely that the government developed an interest in the defendants in whole or in part because they operated websites which suggest the possibility of selective prosecution based on protected First Amendment activities.

While Selective Prosecution is a disfavored defense (because the defendant is not denying the underlying acts charged) in First Amendment cases it can work. See US v. Watamull (9th Circuit circa 1971) in which the owner of a talk radio station (KTRG)was acquitted of the charge of failure to respond to the 1970 Census. The US attorney in Honolulu, charged the owner, station manager, show host, and a guest of horrific crime of census resistance (maximum $100 fine) after one of the station's shows featured an interview with census resisters.

Not a vast number of censorship cases. Many fewer than WWII. But some interesting situations that bear watching.