Police recruit citizens in War on Pedophilia

The Macomb County Sheriff’s Department has a new program to enlist citizens to chat up pedophiles online. The goal is to expand the department’s capacity to find people who are interested in statutory rape. I suspect this is an attempt to recreate the ratings Fox 2 News got when they staged a similar stunt a month or two ago, although I didn’t hear of their sting resulting in any prosecutions. While the Sheriff’s Department’s goal is admirable, I have to question their methods.

Entrapment was the first thing that I thought of, but my law degree from Law & Order taught me that an entrapment defense is actually pretty hard to prove. You have to prove that you wouldn’t normally have been open to the crime in question and that it was only the specific methods that enticed you into a life of crime. I’m not the only one with reservations.

“I think it’s shocking,” said Detroit defense lawyer Elizabeth Jacobs. She opposes law enforcement agents posing online as children because she said it tricks law-abiding citizens into committing crimes.

She said adding average Joes and Janes to the mix is even worse. “It sounds like Soviet Russia where everybody spies on everybody else,” Jacobs said.

Mark Bowser, an Ingham County Sheriff’s Department detective and president of the Michigan chapter of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association, said the program should be used carefully.

“There’s too much that can go wrong, even as a police officer,” he said.

Personally, I’m not entirely comfortable with a couple parts of this. First, let’s look at what’s going on. Two adults are exchanging text messages. The context is that one adult believes that the other adult is a horny minor, and when they show their intent by taking the action of trying to meet the fictional minor. If they attempt to crack down on this at any point before then I have a big issue with it, but what’s being done now seems fine.

Second, since they haven’t actually done anything to hurt anyone; I would hope that these criminals get plenty of rehabilitative therapy with their punishment. If the person is linked to a crime where real sex was involved the punishment should be much stricter. I also have to wonder if they should be labeled as sex offenders, because technically they’re potential sex offenders.

The Sheriff’s Department has no shortage of help for this endeavor. This isn’t too surprising for anyone who’s read Baiting.org. They’re doing background checks on over 100 applicants, hopefully better background checks than the Catholic church has been doing. I doubt they’ll need that many people, considering they only had 20 arrests last year. I have to wonder though, if these background checks would find problems with the people they catch…

Touring the Medical Examiner’s

My girlfriend Jenny did a write up of her tour of the Wayne County Medical Examiner. It’s fascinating stuff, and worth checking out.

It was filled with suicide notes, belts, and ropes used in suicides. One note said, “IF I CAN’T BE AN ARTIST, I CAN’T BE ANYTHING”. There was one picture that really stuck out. It looked like a little girl looking over something. When I asked the Inspector about it, he said some little old lady was trying to hop the fence, but ended up falling and hanging herself in the grid of the fence.

The other kind of car pr0n

A council member in Flint is trying to ban people from watching porn in their vehicles, according to this Flint Journal article.

Councilwoman Carolyn R. Sims said she has gotten complaints about people watching pornographic videos inside cars – including one case in which the movie lovers left the back hatch of their sport utility vehicle open.

I have to question the use of the term “movie lovers” — after all aren’t the real movie lovers the ones being watched?

State police said they haven’t received any complaints. Burton Police Chief Bruce Whitman, however, said he’s not sure if there are laws on the books to cover the situation.

I’ve heard an anecdotal story about someone in Detroit with porn playing on 4 in-car monitors while in gridlock and the police got him. That isn’t to say that there’s a law on the books, but rather that existing laws can probably take care of the problem. For example, the article concludes saying Michigan is among 37 states that have laws against driving and watching TV at the same time. The last thing we need are more laws on the books.

Linkdump: 2004-02-12

Yaaar! The music pirates’ manifesto.

I wanted to spend some more time on “Yaaar! The music pirates’ manifesto, which I posted in my last linkdump. This article is an impressively crafted summary of what is going on with copyrights now.
It covers the state of DRM and how it turns computers against their owners. It talks about Freenet and how making copyright enforcement easy makes censorship just as easy. (An aside, I keep meaning to include links to interesting things on Freenet here but I need to get a more stable node going.)
My only point of contention is with their technical argument that iTunes are permanently linked to computers. In actuality they are linked to accounts and the accounts can authorize up to 3 computers and deauthorize old computers at any time. Still, If I were going to use one article to sum up my problems with the current IP laws, it would most likely be this one. (via magnetbox)

The Creativity Machine

There’s an amazing article about a neural network on STLtoday.com. By introducing noise into neural networks, Imagination Engines, Inc has been able to get their neural networks to invent new things. For example, the networks (called the Creativity Machine) have designed substances harder than diamonds and the Oral-B CrossAction toothbrush. From the article:

“His first patent was for a Device for the Autonomous Generation of Useful Information,” the official name of the Creativity Machine, Miller said. “His second patent was for the Self-Training Neural Network Object. Patent Number Two was invented by Patent Number One. Think about that. Patent Number Two was invented by Patent Number One!”

This is pretty cool stuff, I can’t wait to see what problems this tackles next.

Milan High School 0wned by the copyright cops

According to an LJ user a teacher at Milan High School was forced to resign for downloading software (also here), presumably for educational purposes. I couldn’t find anything on Google News about this but it may have happened during the current news cycle. Although I have no way of knowing that they were involved it sounds like the BSA, up to their usual antics.
Meanwhile schools creating their own problems by requiring students to learn MS applications. Granted MS Office currently dominates the business landscape, but that domination is through users who learned on WordStar or WordPerfect. By using free software schools wouldn’t have to worry about piracy copyright infringement and they would teach kids how to be adaptable.
[Update 2: I just spoke to Superintendent Dennis McComb at the school and he said that they had not been visited by anyone from the FBI and that no computers had been seized. Sounds like I just got played by a high school prank.]
[Update: Reading the text again, it looks like the teacher may have inadvertently been sharing software. The description in question reads “they had downloaded bearshare, and over the network, many other people have downloaded over 6000$ worth of software.” I know that the industry likes to frame the argument in terms of theft (and murder/rape) but when you give something away are you the thief or the victim? Does the same apply if you accidentally leave a software CD where it can be stolen?]

Barcode reader for craphounds

Bri pointed me to the IntelliScanner Collector, a combination barcode scanner/personal library manager. You just scan in the stuff you own and it pulls images and information down from the Intarweb. It seems perfect for people like me who force people to borrow their books and movies. Supposedly it can also create web pages for you to show off your collection, but I couldn’t find an example to link to. Also, it’s $200 which is understandable (they provide a scanner) but still a hard pill to swallow. It doesn’t do video games, either, which I lend out all the time.
One thing that I would really like to see from software like this is Distributed Library integration, so that you could make your collection lendable to anyone with enough whuffie. Still, the package looks pretty strong and if I could get a cheaper version that worked with my CueCat I would be all over it.