Category: ‘Current Events’

Letter To The Editor of NewsOK: Repeal Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws

August 2, 2013 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Recently, news broke out that the Caddo County DA was using a private organization to run a civil asset forfeiture ring on a 20 mile stretch of I-40. In response to this I sent in the following letter to News OK:

In response to the July 28 story, “Prosecutors return $21,227 more to Interstate 40 travelers”, This is honestly just sick. Civil Asset Forfeiture is nothing more than legalized theft by cop. We would not stand idly by if some thug was robbing us blind, but for some reason too many people just roll over and take it when the thug is wearing blues.

There are two things that we can learn from this story. The first being that civil asset forfeiture needs to go. We should not be forced to defend our property from allegations that the inanimate objects were involved in criminal activity while the owner of the property is not charged.

The Second is that we should never consent to a search of our vehicle when pulled over, nor should we voluntarily answer potentially incriminating questions, or questions that might expose us to civil asset forfeiture.  Do not tell cops you have cash.

We the people need to stand up to institutionalized thuggery. We the people need to demand the repeal of all civil asset forfeiture laws.

It was published today with these edits:

Regarding “21K seized by task force is restored” (News, July 28): Civil asset forfeiture is nothing more than legalized theft by cop. We wouldn’t stand idly by if some thug was robbing us blind, but for some reason too many people just roll over and take it when the thug is wearing police blues.

There are two things we can learn from this story: The first is that civil asset forfeiture needs to go. We shouldn’t be forced to defend our property from allegations that the inanimate objects were involved in criminal activity while the owner of the property isn’t charged. The second is that we should never consent to a search of our vehicle when pulled over, nor should we voluntarily answer potentially incriminating questions, or questions that might expose us to civil asset forfeiture. Don’t tell the cops that you have cash! We need to stand up to institutionalized thuggery. We need to demand the repeal of all civil asset forfeiture laws.

E. Zachary Knight, Newcastle

There was also another posted along side it by another concerned citizen.

In “21K seized by task force is restored” (News, July 28), District Attorney Jason Hicks said, “I believe I have done everything right.” That’s just it — he followed the examples of many task forces across our nation. These stops happen to hundreds of people every day. The forfeiture laws were intended to take away the ill-gotten gains of “drug lords,” but they have grown to include any citizen who happens to be carrying money. These crimes perpetrated by our law enforcement have been featured many times on shows like “20/20.” They know most travelers won’t make the expensive choice to come back to that state, hire a lawyer and try to get their money back. Forfeiture is a civil action. You don’t have to be guilty of anything personally. The money is the property that’s being charged with a crime — the crime of having traces of drugs on it. You can’t defend that.

I agree that Hicks has done nothing illegal under our nation’s current forfeiture laws, but in the spirit of the law he has damaged our faith in law enforcement. I hope the people of Caddo, Grady, Jefferson and Stephens counties remember that on election day.

Norma Sapp, Norman

Hopefully, this fiasco and the resulting outrage will get the Oklahoma Legislature to repeal these laws. Oklahoma is one of the worst of the worst when it comes to protection of private property from legalized theft by cop. It gets a grade of D from the Institute For Justice.

 

Fighting Food Waste By Digging Through The Trash

February 25, 2013 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Something that has been in the news lately has been the amount of food the collective population of the US wastes each year. Whether it is not eating everything you put on your plate or throwing out stuff that you never get around to eating or even the amount of food grocery stores throw out every day because no one buys it, the fact is, we waste a lot of it. However you look at it, the US is addicted not only to eating, but wasting food.

One of the biggest drivers of food waste is the “expiration date”. This date is prominently featured on just about every package of food you find on the shelf. Sadly, it is a poor conveyor of useful information. It’s name is most misleading as nothing magically happens when that date passes. Many canned, boxed or frozen foods are good for months or years after that date as long as they are preserved without damage. Sadly, this date leads a lot of people to throw out perfectly good food.

Recently, I have gained first hand knowledge of just how much food is wasted. My wife and I took up dumpster diving as not just a way to pad out our monthly budget, but also as a way to fight this collective waste. Our first experience was so-so. We picked up a few dozen perfectly good ears of corn, a dozen packages of tortillas and what turned out to be, after cleaning, a gallon size freezer bag full of blueberries. Not bad for a first time, but nothing close to being anything to write home about.

It was what we found on our second time out that really made the effort worth while. The other night, we made only one stop and we were done for the night. What we found was about $200 worth of pizzas, pizza rolls, mini pizzas, chicken strips, waffles, toaster strudels, chips and rice mix. Seriously. All this food was thrown out. None of it was anywhere near the “expiration” date, spoiled, damaged, or thawed either. For some reason, the store we pulled this from just decided to throw it away. Just look at all this stuff in the back of our van:

The Back of Our Van

This food was more than enough to fill our medium sized chest freezer. We also stocked some of our shelves with the chips and such that we found (shelves not pictured).

Our Fully Stocked Freezer

We have plans to go out again and see what else we can find. Anything we find that is more than enough for our family will be shared with others or donated. There is no reason why all this food must go to waste.

Now, some of you may consider this gross. That is understandable. Going through dumpsters can be kind of icky. However, some things you can simply take out of the package, like we did for all the pizza stuff, or you can wipe it down with bleach wipes. It doesn’t matter, because you aren’t going to eat the packaging, just what is inside. For fruits and veggies, a vinegar bath is good enough to clean and disinfect them. So, unless you eat straight from the dumpster, there is little chance of getting sick.

In the end, this experience has given my family a new appreciation of what we have in the US. We just need to stop thinking of things as “expired” or otherwise bad. We need to stop buying more than we can eat. If you are going to buy in bulk, buy stuff that in nonperishable such as canned goods. Freezer  stuff can also keep for a long time, though not as long as canned foods. That is our hope for next time. We want to find more canned food. But we aren’t going to look a gift dumpster in the mouth. This stock of freezer food will keep us happy for a while.

Exorcising The Evil Wisdom Tooth

May 2, 2012 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Today, I had one of my Wisdom Teeth extracted. This little bugger was the only one that didn’t want to grow in properly. The other three had grown nicely into place, but this guy wanted to grow back and out. Of course the other molars didn’t want to share the gum line with it so it couldn’t grow properly. So it decided it would get its revenge.

I went to get it removed today and everything started off fairly normal. I sat in the waiting room and read an Entertainment magazine interview with the cast of The Avengers. I had left my Dresden Files book at home. (I really need to write up a book report on those). So nothing super entertaining to do. Then I was called in.

I sat in the chair and they began to apply the local anesthesia. When they finished, they left me in the chair. Alone. By myself. So I got to contemplate the coming “procedure” while the anesthesia took affect. It was interesting as I noticed my tongue and gums getting number and number (that is how you spell “more numb” right?). Eventually, I got to the point where if I bit down on the left side of my tongue I could feel the pain like normal, but biting the right side of my tongue produced nothing other than a feeling of distant pressure.

Then the “Good” Dr. came back. Then the real “fun” began. I never really felt any pain during the procedure, but I did feel a whole lot of pressure. There was pressure on all areas of my mouth as the Dr. worked and worked at trying to get it out. The whole time I was sweating as he pushed and pried and pulled. The whole time I could hear scraping, and chipping and cracking sounds. It was horrible. I had never heard anything so unpleasant. I could do little but close my eyes, clench my hands together and cross and squeeze my legs.

It went on for what seemed like forever. The Dr. switched from tool to tool as he tried to get the tooth out with little to no success. Eventually, it popped. It finally came out. He then showed the thing to me and told my why it had such a hard time coming out. Its three roots were all growing in different directions and were each curled as well.

My Wisdom Tooth

Paint this guy green and call him "Baby Cthulhu"

I don’t think I have ever had such a harrowing experience in my life. I thought getting cavities filled was bad. That is a cake walk compared to this little extraction. However, I don’t think it will always be the most horrible experience I will face. I am sure something much worse will come along. But I still wouldn’t want to relive it. Once is enough.

Why I Dropped Godaddy Like A Plagued Rat

December 27, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Back in 2006, I registered my first domain, this one you are reading on. I wanted a website to show off the work I have done and promote myself to future employers. I decided on the name fairly easy based on some advice from my father-in-law. Once I had figured out what domain to register, I chose my registrar. Because of my fairly naive nature at the time, I chose Godaddy. Not because I liked its service over the competition, but because it was the only registrar I really knew of at the time.

Over the years I registered several other domains through them. I was fairly happy with the level of service Godaddy provided. Sure, the UI was clunky and convoluted, but it was usable at least. I never had a real reason to complain. That changed in the last couple of years though.

Over the last few years, I really learned just how anti-consumer Godaddy was. There were rumors that Godaddy was driving the cost of domain auctions up. They also had a propensity to block access to domains under dubious circumstances, such as RateMyCop and PhotoAttorney. Then there was the controversy of Godaddy CEO killing elephants, although the actual events didn’t bother me as much as the downplaying that followed.

But all that was just a prelude to the real problem. Even with all that controversy and all those problems, I never really had a strong resolve to transfer all my domains away. That is I didn’t have that resolve until this year. You see, this year came the horrid tripe of a bill called SOPA. Yes there is also an equally bad version in the Senate called Protect IP (PIPA). Both of these came with it strong support from one major domain registrar, Godaddy. Yes Godaddy supported SOPA/PIPA.

It was this that led me to finally make the move and transfer my domain. As of 12/27/2011, My domains are in the process of transfer. I am just waiting for Godaddy to finalize them. Now I realize that Godaddy, after seeing the outrage from domain owners, has “changed” its mind on the subject. While their lip service is nice and all, it lacks any meat that would help rectify the concerns of the greater internet community. Take the following paragraph as an example:

“Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation – but we can clearly do better,” Warren Adelman, Go Daddy’s newly appointed CEO, said. “It’s very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this. Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it.”

Just looking at that paragraph, it clearly shows that Godaddy still supports the general idea behind SOPA and is willing to try to work to make it more palatable to the internet users. However, there is no way to change SOPA that would appease those that create the useful services online. There is certainly nothing that could be done to appease me. Next we have this little gem:

“As a company that is all about innovation, with our own technology and in support of our customers, Go Daddy is rooted in the idea of First Amendment Rights and believes 100 percent that the Internet is a key engine for our new economy,” said Adelman.

You see, if Godaddy really felt this way, why would they even support SOPA in the first place. Even in its current amended form, it still harms the innovation and security of the internet. It was even worse 3 months ago when Godaddy supported it. Why would it just now suddenly see the light? Oh. That’s right, 10s of thousands of domains have been transferred over the last few days. Finally, we have this little number:

In changing its position, Go Daddy remains steadfast in its promise to support security and stability of the Internet. In an effort to eliminate any confusion about its reversal on SOPA though, Jones has removed blog postings that had outlined areas of the bill Go Daddy did support.

While i feel that any company or person can run their blog the way they want, I think deleting the entire blog posts on the topic of SOPA support was a bad move, It would have been far better if they had simply left them be with a simple redaction at the top pointing to the most recent blog posts on why they changed their minds. It would have certainly let people make a more informed decision on whether to continue to support Godaddy.

With all that said, I am still transferring my domains. Godaddy will no longer get any money from me. I recommend that all that currently do use Godaddy to transfer their domains and support a business that truly supports the internet and those that make it valuable.

If you need help in the transfer process, my friend, John Paul Sherman, pointed me to this article on the transfer process. While that article transfers domains from Godaddy to NameCheap, I transferred mine to Dreamhost, which strongly opposes SOPA, because I have my hosting there and have already registered a domain with them.

So when it comes down to it, SOPA is bad and it makes toxic any company that supports it. It doesn’t matter what happens afterward, that company cannot be trusted ever again.

This Week on Techdirt: Nov. 21 – 23

November 26, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

This week was a short week because of Thanksgiving but I did manage to get out 4 posts and a mention in the favorites post by Mike Masnick. So here they are:

Potential Patent Infringement Threatens To Doom Highly Anticipated Open Source Project

John Carmack had plans to release the source code of Doom 3  to the open source community, but it was delayed because of an old patent infringement threat. Everything worked out in the end because he was able to work around the code. The same can not be said for Linux and Android who are being threatened by Microsoft over patents it refuses to disclose.

How Do You Promote A Bad DRM Scheme? With A Bad Movie Of Course

Warner’s Ultraviolet DRM is a piece of crap and in an attempt to promote its use, Warner decided to give away free digital copies of Batman Forever with the video game Batman: Arkham City. No joke.

New Research Shows Movie And Game Piracy On The Rise, But Won’t Tell Us How It Knows

Research firm Evisional has released some piracy statistics for the UK and found that game, movie, tv and software piracy is on the rise. Music piracy is on the decline. Sadly, there is no information on how they determined this so we can’t verify the numbers.

Game Developers Sue Baidu Over Links To Infringing Content

A bunch of Chinese game developers are suing the Chinese search giant Baidu for copyright infringement. What is Baidu’s crime? Linking to games that can be downloaded. There are no files hosted with Baidu. The links just show up in search results. The game developers need to learn from the music industry which entered a licensing deal with Baidu.

So that’s it for this week. Keep an eye out for more.

Netflix Does It Again

November 25, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

You would think that after the thrashing Netflix got with the whole “Qwikster” mess they would be a little more careful going forward. Yet, they haven’t learned their lesson at all it seems.

This past Tuesday, Netflix announced a new “Just for Kids” section for the Wii version of its streaming software. This is something that I thought was pretty awesome and wanted to try out. I have 4 kids who love watching shows on the Wii and this would make it a lot easier for them. So I updated the software (which was actually easier than I thought it would be) and started it up.

This is where things went south. The first thing I noticed was that Netflix was a whole lot choppier and slow. The app took longer to load up. The Just for Kids button covers up the first item in my queue. The button itself takes forever to load. It is just slow loading all around.

Now the Just for Kids section is actually pretty cool and my wife and I spent a little while just messing around with it. So I don’t have any complaints about that specific part of it. This is just as good as I could have hoped. (more…)

The Black Death… I Mean Friday

November 19, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

boy with axe being chased by turkey.

When I think of Thanksgiving, I usually think of getting together with my family, eating tons and tons of food and sleeping it all off at the end of the day. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate family friendship and all the blessing we have been giving in this life. The whole slaughtering of innocent Native Americans and stealing their land is a also on my mind as well.

But none of this is really what businesses want us to think about. Halloween ended a short few weeks ago and Thanksgiving is a week away, but most retail stores have not let those two holidays stand in their way of reminding you that Christmas is on its way. They aren’t reminding us about the need to remember the savior and celebrate his birth. No. They want to remind us that we need to buy presents for everyone. We need to spend cash and lots of it. Not for some greater good of society but to line the pockets of investors in a down economy.

For many many years we have lived with a plague that hits us every year at Thanksgiving time. No it isn’t flu season. No it is a disease called “Black Friday”. This day, the Friday following Thanksgiving, is when most retail stores hold some of their biggest sales of the year. They pull out all the stops in the rush to sell as much junk as possible in the run up to Christmas. (more…)

This week on Techdirt: Nov. 14 – 18

November 19, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

This week is a rather short week. I didn’t have a lot of time to write new articles. So, there are only two of mine and one from the ECA. Doesn’t really change the importance of the topics discussed, so let’s jump right in.

Gamex Pulls The Welcome Mat Out From Under The Pirate Party

The Swedish Pirate Party was invited to the Swedish game show Gamex. Just a week before the show, after they have paid for  their booth and have been featured on advertising for the show, the people running the show told them they weren’t invited. Apparently someone wasn’t very happy about the Pirate Party’s presence and pressured the show to lock them out. It wasn’t a blanket ban on political speech as another political group was allowed there.

Everyone Freak Out! Gangs Have Discovered The Internet!

Yes. Gangs have discovered the internet. The National Gang Assessment Center does an annual study on gangs and what they are up to. This year got some attention in the game world because the study mentioned Second Life, a popular MMO, as a tool gangs use to communicate. I delved in a bit deeper into the whole section on technology that basically says that gangs are using the internet to communicate. You know, just like everybody else. This isn’t some new thing, it just seems the federal government is a few years behind everyone else in figuring this out.

SOPA/PROTECT IP Would Be Hideously Bad For Video Gamers

This one wasn’t written by me. This is from Jennifer Mercurio of the ECA. I had asked the ECA to write up a guest article on why SOPA would be bad for gamers and this is what they sent over. Great stuff. I am extremely glad that I had the opportunity to work with the ECA for a number of years and still keep in touch with them. It’s nice to have connections.

So that’s it for this week. I have a few new articles lined up for next week so keep an eye out.

Open Letter On E-PARASITE/PROTECT IP

October 27, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Dear ‘Representative’,

I know you really don’t care about looking after the interests of the people of this nation. You continue to pass regulations that kill jobs, destroy our Constitutional rights and slaughter our economy. I have already expressed my frustration to you by sending a letter explaining why I will not vote for you and will actively campaign for those who truly wish to uphold their oath of office to uphold the Constitution and defend our rights. You do not deserve another term in office and will not get one.

The actions of you and many of your colleagues in office have shown further proof that you are corrupt and beyond repair. Recently, you voted to extend the PATRIOT Act to continue the erosion of our Constitutional rights. Most recently, you have shown a disregard for the public by ignoring the protests throughout the nation and failing to put a stop to the abuses by the state and local governments who continue to target citizens of this nation for exercising their Constitutional right to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a redress of their grievances.

But most recently, your colleagues in Congress have put together a bill proposal that seeks to implement one of the most Fascist laws to date. This bill is known as PROTECT IP and/or PIPA in the Senate and is now known as E-PARASITE and/or SOPA in the House. This bill seeks to implement a China/Iran/Syrria style internet firewall around the US. Not under some grand scheme to protect our national ideals or interests, but to prop up the failing business models of legacy copyright middlemen and protect them from international competition. Do you really want the US to be compared to those nations or do you want the US to be the standard bearer of freedom that we once were?

For as long as copyright has existed, those who build their business around the monopoly control of the same have railed against new advances in technology that threaten that same control. The earliest known examples are the scribes who made a living off hand writing copies of documents and books when Gutenberg introduces the printing press. Other examples include the gramophone, the player piano, the radio, film, television, the VCR and now the internet. PROTECT IP/E-PARASITE is nothing more than the death throws of a legacy industry whose business is built around 100% of the production and distribution chain of entertainment, has been threatened by advances in internet technology. Entertainment itself is not threatened. There is more movies, music, games and books being produced today than ever before. But if you only listen to legacy gatekeepers you would not believe such.

The internet has led a revolution of content production that we never would have dreamed of 30 years ago. More people can produce today and get instant access to an audience because of the way the internet currently functions. This is what has the legacy industry scrambling to pass E-PARASITE/PROTECT IP. This ability for music/movie/game/book creators to self publish through a myriad of internet services both US based and internationally based is costing the legacy gatekeepers money. Regardless of their rhetoric, they are not seeking to do anything that benefits the creators of entertainment, they are seeking to prop up their gatekeeper status for a few more years.

If this bill passes, we will see a destruction of the growth in entertainment as the tools and services that self published entertainers rely on are blocked for US consumers. Those who want to connect directly with fans without having to rely on legacy gatekeepers will be shut off from many of the most popular means of distribution all because you as our ‘Representative’ want to continue the failed policies of crony capitalism rather than let the free markets work as intended. The Free Market has already all but disappeared in the physical realm and now you are seeking to do the same in the digital realm.

If you value your position in Congress in any way, you will vote down this latest attempt to trample to rights of US citizens and cull yourself of all traces of crony capitalism. You are beyond redemption in my eyes at this time, but every effort you take to make the job of cleaning up your mess from the true patriot who is elected in your place will be greatly appreciated.

Once again enjoy the time you have left in office.

Zachary Knight

Sent to Senators Tom Coburn, James Inhofe and Representative Tom Cole

For more information on just how bad PROTECT IP/E-PARASITE is check out these articles on the topic at Techdirt.

Printing Error Shows Flaw In “Lock-It-Up” Video Game Business Model

September 8, 2011 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

This post was originally published on Techdirt.

It should come as no surprise to Techdirt readers that many people within the games industry hate used game sales. One of the methods these companies are implementing to fight these sales is to force buyers of used games to pay extra to gain access to the multiplayer portion. This works by inserting a one time use code in the new copies of games. Once the multiplayer code has been used, only the owner of the console used to activate it can access the multiplayer parts of the game. If that player decides to later sell or give away the game, the new owner would have to buy a new multiplayer code from the publisher, generally $10. So far EA, THQ, Ubisoft and Activision have dabbled in this system for various games. (more…)