Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×
User Journal

Journal Journal: The Constitution

Grow up a bit: the world, and all things in it, are complex. The Constitution is nothing unique, in that regard: it is a complex and difficult peice of brilliant lawmaking, and it requires the perpetual efforts of scholars to understand how to apply it today.

No. The fantastically convoluted body of case law which lawyers and judges have tortured and twisted into existence from the bedrock of the Constitution does not reflect any great ambiguity in that document. It reflects the ideological agenda of those who have circumvented the Constitution over the centuries, and made their shaky interpretations stick in the highest court.

The 2nd Amendment uses the term militia in a dependent clause. The dependent clause was still a dependent clause in the 18th century. To claim that the 2nd reflects a right of the state to regulate arms, when every other Amendment in the Bill of Rights asserts an individual liberty, is to ignore not only the clear language of the Amendment, but also the many writings of the founders which clarify their intent. Only a lawyer or a judge or someone whose fear of guns has unbalanced his judgement would claim that the federal government has not breached the 2nd. That they have done so is not the fault of those who framed the Amendment. It's the fault of those who for their own purposes decided to ignore the Amendment-- and got away with it.

On a side note, consider this: if you're so happy to take the text of the Constitution/Bill of Rights perfectly literally, why aren't you happy to take all the laws of the day? Especially, the laws written/supported by those very authors of the Constitution? What about the laws against Sodomy? And the restriction against Women voters which is implied by the literal use of "All MEN are created equal"?

Because, of course, there is a fundamental difference between the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress, the states, and local governmental units. The Constitution is the touchstone by which the legality of those laws is judged. The Bill of Rights is designed to prevent a tyranny of the Majority; that is why it is so much more difficult to pass a Constitutional Amendment than a new law.

As to the matter of women voting, have you forgotten that women received the vote via a Constitutional Amendment?

And here we have a perfect example of how the Constitution has been largely ignored in the latter half of the 20th Century. When moralists attempted to impose their vision of an alcohol-free country on their fellow Americans, they understood that they must pass a Constitutional Amendment to do so, since the Constitution did not give the federal government this power. When a similar pack of moral totalitarians decided to restrict access to various drugs of which they did not approve, they did so by simply ignoring the fact that the Constitution affords the federal government no such power. That they intended duplicity is a matter of historical fact, since the first restrictions of these unpopular drugs were made in the form of prohibitive taxation schemes.

No, the Constitution is not "difficult" or "complex." It's like a great city bombed into a warren of ruins, through which only certain trained pathfinders can move. But the original map was clear, and in my opinion, restoration is more vital than endlessly burrowing through the rubble.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Freedom for Iraq

The following was posted in response to someone who saw nobility in the war on Iraq, and irony in the position of anti-war protesters.

Lest you suffer from oversensitivity and think this an ad hominem attack, let me stipulate that I know nothing about you and therefore my remarks pertain only to your argument.

First, you evaluate Saddam by his actions, and I agree with you, except for the spelling:

"Saddam Hussein on a regular basis commits acts that are considered Attrocities."

On the other hand, you evaluate anti-war protesters by, I don't know... telepathy?

"They don't give a damn about the truly poor and downtroden."

Unless you can produce a poll by a respected polling organization, in which 51% of anti-war protesters admit that they don't care about the poor and downtrodden, I'm forced to conclude that you pulled this portion of your argument out of thin air, or perhaps some darker recess.

Furthermore, you apparently can't tell the difference between Hitler and Saddam, a flaw that does not enhance your credibility as a commentator on military history.

Finally, when you say, "attacking Iraq is certainly something Americans can be proud of," you seem to be assuming that "freeing Iraq" is the actual purpose of our adventure there. It's probably a mistake to take what politicians say at face value. I wonder if you believed that "freeing Kuwait" was the purpose of the first Gulf War. Certain inconvenient details intrude on that belief, namely that Kuwait wasn't a free country before Saddam's invasion, nor was it free after the Iraqis were driven out. Kuwait still belongs to the Kuwaiti First Family, and there are no plans to hold meaningful elections.

Your position reminds me tragically of those who believed Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon regarding the purposes of the Vietnam war. I spent a year in Vietnam, and my experience leads me to believe that almost everything the politicians told Americans about that war was a lie. It was certainly a lie that we were defending freedom, because what we were in fact defending was a series of corrupt puppet governments so inept and so despised by the Vietnamese people that they threw down their arms and surrendered to the North practically the instant we left.

If we were really interested in the freedom of Iraqis, we'd have shipped 'em enough guns so they could kill Saddam, and enjoy the benefits of having freed themselves. This would have been a perfectly moral act for the United States. Too late now.

Don't get me wrong. Dubya put us into the fire, right or wrong, and there's no longer any point in protesting the war. We've screwed the pooch, and now the only thing we can do is get on with it and hope the unforeseen consequences don't nail us.

Here's hoping Saddam gets blown to bits early and we win swiftly, with as few casualties as possible.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Good House Building

Good design beats hard work (Score:2) by knobmaker (523595) on Sunday March 16, @07:14PM (#5525705) ( | Last Journal: Tuesday February 25, @11:14PM)

The main factor in the longevity of buildings is not the quality or type of construction, given reasonable competence on the part of the builders. It's whether or not the people who live in the houses are happy with their dwellings. If they are, they will maintain them lovingly and they will last. If not, they will rapidly decay. For an example of the latter, taken to an extreme, see public housing like the infamous Cabrini Green. Using exactly the same construction techniques could have yielded buildings that would have been considered wonderful places to live.

To that end, I can recommend a terrific book called A Pattern Language. In short, this book is a collection of "rules" for making communities and buildings as livable as possible. The rules are distilled from centuries of vernacular architecture-- in other words, homes built by those who would live in them, rather than by architects working to somewhat theoretical design parameters. To a large extent, these rules were developed based on the kinds of buildings that have survived many generations.

It may seem unscientific to base a home design on these simple rules, rather than by some organized system of thought (like Bauhaus, to give a really dreadful example of design detached from the requirements of real people.) But once you read some of these rules, their validity seems unimpeachable. Just as one example, see if you don't agree that this rule is a very good one: a room should have natural light coming from at least two directions. Think about the submarine rooms you've been in that have only one set of windows at one end of the room. Compare this to rooms that have windows in at least two of the walls. Which room would be more pleasant to live in?

Houses that are well-loved endure. All else decays rapidly.


Journal Journal: Where rejected stories go to die

Well, I got tired of seeing my carefully crafted story submissions disappear forever into the thankless gullet of Slashdot. So I'll keep 'em here, so I can point to them and say "Nyaah Nyaah, I posted it way back then, but no one listened to me. You fools!"

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the arrest of dozens of online drug paraphernalia manufacturers and retailers, as a result of investigations called Operation Pipedreams and Operation Headhunter. He was particularly outraged that these purveyors of pot pipes were online. In addition to shutting down the web sites of these suspects, Ashcroft has petitioned the court to order these sites redirected. If the court complies, those who attempt to visit these sites will be redirected to the Drug Enforcement Administration's site, where it will be explained to them that they cannot visit the offending site.

According to a story by Declan McCullagh, Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said redirecting Web visitors to raises novel legal issues. "It sounds like this is a concluded drug operation segueing into a new sting operation," he said. "In effect, the defunct Web sites become electronic flypaper for those looking for illegal drug paraphernalia, reporters covering the story, and people who have trouble spelling in Google."

So, do we all trust the DEA not to record the identity of those who are redirected? Will similar tactics be tried with porn sites, or dissident sites? It's a Brave New World.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Goodness of Silly Actions

So I lost my head and made a fairly off-topic post. In a discussion on the evilness of Palladium, I was detoured into ranting about my past experience with evil military ventures. I'm sorry. I was responding to a guy who found the anti-war protestors distasteful, silly, and counter-productive.

In retrospect, I guess I was too hard on the guy. He's probably just a well-intentioned young man who's never seen blood spilled for evil and/or futile reasons. I think I have, and it's had an effect on me.

Anyway, I found his post offensive. It seemed such a shallow criticism of people who, despite their atrocious fashion sense, believed in something enough to go out into the streets in the bad weather and make their feelings known. Even if I disagreed with them, I'd have found that admirable. It was as if Jesus were being criticized for having a bad haircut, so I wrote this:

The poster said: I'm not pro-war. But I'm 100% anti-peaceniks.

Then I guess it's not completely evil for me to hope that, by some strange science fiction manifestation of karma, you find yourself fleeing across the desert, dodging angry Iraqui bullets.

Here's my story. See if you can figure out why I find it annoying that people who have never sacrificed anything for their "beliefs" can judge the motivations of others in so shallow a manner.

When I was a young man, the "peaceniks" tried to talk me out of going to Vietnam. I went anyway. A year in that sunny clime convinced me that while some wars might be morally justified, that one sure as hell wasn't. With less than a year to go on my hitch, I was ordered back to SE Asia with my squadron. I refused to go. There was great puzzlement among my squadron officers, since I had been ordered to Bangkok, Thailand, which at that time was the land of milk and honeys, the favored destination for GIs leaving Vietnam for R&R. There didn't appear to be any explanation for my bizarre behavior, other than a genuine belief that dropping bombs on the Vietnamese was immoral. However, as was their duty, my officers busted me out with a bad discharge, I lost my various GI entitlements, and here I am, just a few years short of my retirement move to a cardboard box.

Now, strangely enough, I'm not bitter. I knew what I was doing and what I would lose, and I know I was lucky not to spend time in Leavenworth for my beliefs. But it does piss me off to hear shallow real-politik arguments bereft of any moral component used against people who are doing what they think is right. Hey, maybe if I hadn't refused to go hang bombs on F-111s in Bangkok, maybe we'd have "won" the war in Vietnam. You think? Naw, probably not. It was late 1972, the war was lost, and the F-111s were broke most of time they were over there. I think it's a shame that I and the other "peaceniks" didn't quit fighting a few years earlier. Might have saved a few hundred thousand lives, American and Vietnamese.

The point is that the "peaceniks" are making a moral choice. Even if you don't agree with their choice, they deserve more admiration and consideration than a gaggle of grasping pinhead politicians who are making the decision for purely utilitarian purposes.

Finally, a little quote from a speech last fall by Sen. Byrd: "Representative Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to William H. Herndon, stated: 'Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - - and you allow him to make war at pleasure.'"

Don't answer me. Answer Abraham.

I don't want to leave anyone the impression that I'm a standard Vietnam veteran, complete with Post Traumatic Syndrome and a mighty conviction that the world owes me a better deal just because I was stupid enough to go over there when the state told me to. I was in the Air Force, so my stay in Vietnam was a lot like a really bad, really long vacation, except we worked 12 hour days and the VC liked to throw a few rockets at us now and then.

But just because we weren't out there burning villages and shooting civilians, we weren't without guilt. I spent my first few months incountry at an airbase called Phan Rang, loading bombs on F-100s. I stuck many a canister of napalm under the wings, lots of bombs, lots of 20 millimeter cannon rounds in the belt boxes. Later on I fixed F-4 bomb racks in the Da Nang weapons shop. So I killed innocent people as surely as if I'd put a gun to their heads. I participated in a great evil, and so did everyone who sneered at the peaceniks who were trying to stop that war.

I have a prediction: Those who've put their faith in the dunce who presently occupies the White House will one day have reason to suspect that they have also trafficked with evil. To me, the idea of making war on a country because of what it might do is as strange an idea as, say, shooting your neighbor because you fear he's the kind of person who'd poison your dog. In both cases, we're talking insanity. No one wants to see their dog poisoned, but becoming a murderous lunatic is probably an overreaction.

I think the world is growing less tolerant of insane nations, even when they're giants. Or maybe especially when they're giants.

Anyway, I think I was too hard on the guy. He said in a later post that he tried to sign up for Gulf War I, but there was that asthma thing. I don't know exactly why he was so gung-ho to fight and die for the pocketbooks of the Kuwaiti First Family, but I think he was saying that he'd tried to put his money where his mouth was.

I don't know why he can't see that the "peaceniks" he despises are doing the very same thing. They didn't get out there and trudge through the delightful slushy winter weather because it was a party. They genuinely feel, most of them, that the U.S. is about to do a very bad thing.

Okay. Enough.

Slashdot Top Deals

It is masked but always present. I don't know who built to it. It came before the first kernel.