Category Archives: Jesse Moeller

A moderate opinion on mass shootings in the U.S.

The mass shooting issue in the United States, from the outside, probably seems easily solvable. First of all, the United States has mass shootings regularly and with a much higher frequency than other western democracies. Additionally, the United States also has the most guns (a little more than one gun per citizen). At this point it would be hard for anyone, understandably, to stop themselves from drawing the lines of causation. But, we should not be so hasty. Before we get excited about gun violence and dream up some legislation, perhaps there is a more nuanced approach to understanding mass shootings in America. Such an approach would have to weigh the already known facts about the issue: How is gun regulation handled already? Which guns are legal? Which guns are used most often in mass shootings? What is the mental health situation of the shooters? What is the commonality between all of these shooters?

The article that I am sharing provides some answers to these questions. It is, so far, the most interesting perspective I have heard on this issue. Far too often we hear people either demonize mass shooters as reactionary machines of hate carrying out the unspoken will of the far right, or people dismiss them completely as being mentally ill. I have, admittedly, tended towards the dismissive side. I would often think, “You can’t be right in the head to wake up one day and decide to follow through with something like that.” While I still maintain this, the statement is different from “the shooter was mentally ill.” Indeed my statement, thanks to the article I am sharing, has been refined. I now will say, “the shooter has been socially neglected.”

I imagine that this narrative won’t be well received. There are those who hold that “making the shooter a victim subtracts from the justice of the victims.” Frankly, I don’t give a damn. Part of my lack of sympathy with people who hold this opinion is due to my stance on the “justice system” as a whole: it should not be about justice, but rather rehabilitation. Society does not benefit from prisons as they have been, criminals should be given a chance to start over and improve themselves so that they can one day rejoin the people and share their gifts. Secondly, on my lack of sympathy, the view that holds shooters as a victim (in some light) is optimistic; perhaps there are attitudes and practices that we can implement from day to day life that can prevent this behavior.

I am not sure that I stand with Ahmed, and that is okay.

Self-indulging finger snaps aside, I think that the public response to the Ahmed’s clock story is a little ridiculous. Here are some snippets from CNN’s coverage:

When Ahmed Mohamed went to his high school in Irving, Texas, Monday, he was so excited. A teenager with dreams of becoming an engineer, he wanted to show his teacher the digital clock he’d made from a pencil case.

“I built a clock to impress my teacher but when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her,” Ahmed told reporters Wednesday. “It was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it.”

48093740.cached

CNN reports, as well as Ahmed himself, that Ahmed built the clock. However, analysis of the guts of the device pictured indicate that Ahmed is getting far more credit than is due for his device. Ahmed’s clock is a disassembled 80’s alarm clock loosely attached to a pencil case. In this light, these praises are vacuous:

@BUCKVBVRNES
#IStandWithAhmed
When a white kid builds nuclear fusion reactor it’s cool
but when a Muslim builds a clock it’s not

@POTUS
Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.

@Bear2theRight
If anybody has a spare STEM scholarship laying around, there’s a very bright kid in Texas who could use your help. #IStandWithAhmed

I am not frustrated with the painfully obvious narrative, and maybe the narrative is true, but rather I am frustrated that the narrative is completely disjoint from the facts, which are these: Ahmed did not build the clock and the device looks very suspicious. It goes without saying that most people couldn’t tell an IED from any other case full of electronic guts, as emphasized in this picture:

ied

Nor do I want to rush to the other side and claim that Ahmed is a hooligan, as implied by Richard Dawkins. I don’t want to do this for the same reason that I don’t want to praise him as a prodigal creator: doing so is unsupported by the facts at hand. So, my friends, before you hop on the shared opinion train of groupthinkville, please find the facts in the situation before you fully purchase any narrative.

Copyright Infringement in the Modern World

Near the end of the spring semester here at UNI I was accused of uploading Game of Thrones: Season 5 Episode 3 without permission on the university’s network. As one of the sanctions placed on me by the university I was required to write a research paper about “the history and importance of copyright infringement”. I did honest research, albeit with an initial bias, and came to my own conclusions about modern copyright law. I did not write an apology letter. Indeed, I wanted to challenge dogma. Here is what I gave the Office of the Dean of Students:

A culture is not complete without its own forms of literature, film, drama, music, and other creative works. In order to ensure the flourishing of these arts, and hence the flourishing of a large and diverse part of Western society, it is necessary to protect artists and their rights. This is precisely the motivation behind the Copyright Act of 1790, as well as its major revision in 1976. Times have changed, however. With the advent of computers, DVR, camera phones, and the internet, it is has become very easy to copy, reproduce, and obtain media of all kinds from all over the world. With the development of these technologies, and the ease of obtaining and distributing copyrighted media, contemporary intellectual property law was born.

In 1998 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a document which serves to establish and protect the rights of artists in the case of online copyright infringement, was signed into law by Bill Clinton. The DMCA passed through senate with a unanimous vote. (DMCA, 1998) To combat redistribution and infringement, the DMCA empowers artists by strengthening their copyright on the internet. For example, a young artist trying to make money from selling singles may invoke the DMCA in order to remove a YouTube video featuring the artists’ content without the artists’ consent. In such a case YouTube is responsible for removing the video and informing the user, but YouTube is not liable for damages. This is another facet of the DMCA. Since it is unfair to require internet service providers of such large scale (YouTube has more than one million users who make profit from advertisement revenue) to be held accountable for the actions of their clients and users, the DMCA limits the liability of the providers.

Although the DMCA limits the liability of service providers like YouTube, there is still conflict between content providers and the large video streaming website. In 2007 Viacom filed charges against YouTube for copyright infringement. Viacom claimed that the volume of different users uploading Viacom’s content accrued more than $1 billion in damages. (Helft, 2010) The initial verdict was that YouTube was protected by the DMCA, but in the sequence of appeals there was a ruling that YouTube could be held liable due to YouTube having “general knowledge” that “many people upload copyrighted content.” In the end of the court battle, the DMCA acted as a shield for YouTube rather than a sword for Viacom and no damages were paid. Though it is obvious that YouTube is not interested in committing infringement, their liability was the subject of heated debate – the case took 6 years to settle. When it comes to the case of file sharing with copyrighted media, however, the verdict is clear. Using file sharing services to download or upload files is a violation of copyright law.

Since file sharing software is so commonplace, copyright infringement is happening more now than ever. Those who stand to challenge copyright infringement are, of course, those who feel the effect most of all. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) manufacture and deliver 85% of all media in the United States and have sued more than 20,000 individuals for distributing copyrighted media. (Kravets, 2010) Since the DMCA protects internet service providers, the RIAA may only sue individual violators directly. Out of the 20,000 cases that have been opened, only 2,500 have been settled. The RIAA’s litigation campaign has been incredibly unsuccessful and has even been accused of being nothing more than an “intimidation campaign”. Such allegations are easy to believe knowing that the RIAA has also sued the families of dead men; the RIAA gave the family of Larry Scantlebury 60 days of grieving before the attack on his estate in the courtroom. (Bylund, 2006) As indicated by only 2,500 settled cases, this behavior from the RIAA does not go unchecked. The RIAA has been met by the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), a pro-open culture litigation shield for vulnerable parties, in court many times. (EFF, 2015) With their defeat on the front of individual lawsuits the RIAA has resorted to tracking peer to peer uploads and asking the service provider to dispense its own form of justice to the users, this comes typically in the form of a three strike system.

But do not forget that the original intent of copyright law is to protect artists and their rights. The fans, believe it or not, are actually interested in compensating artists.
The RIAA has spent long hours and many resources on its campaign and they are legally in the right. But do not forget that the original intent of copyright law is to protect artists and their rights. The fans, believe it or not, are actually interested in compensating artists. The staggeringly high amount of illegal downloads might not be very persuasive, but if one considers different mediums then the fact becomes obvious. There is a new form of entertainment present on the internet today called “streaming”. With online videogames, a professional player will share their screen activity with the world through a website for free and anyone can come to the website and watch them play. The interesting thing about this arrangement is that thousands of these professional players make a living from fan donations. The professional players build a connection with their fans and, with support from donations, these professional players spend their days doing what they love – providing content.

Some may argue that if fans want to support music artists then they should just “suck it up” and buy the albums. This argument is flawed because it assumes that the profits of the purchase will benefit the artists. While it is true that some of the profits will go to the artists, the split is nowhere close to fair for the artists involved. According to a report done on music sales artists only make $24 for every $1,000 sold. (Jefferson, 2010) Therefore it is in the artists’ best interest (that people buy albums) in the same way that a starving person would prefer a plate with crumbs rather than a plate with nothing on it at all. A new system, one which protects the artists and the fans, is necessary.

It is not hard to imagine what these alternative support systems might look like. The model might function in the same way that it does for radio stations; they pay a recurring fee to play whatever music they like. It might function in the same way that it does with streaming; artists connect directly to their fans and collect donations. In any case, file sharing is not going away. Despite the fear tactics and lawsuits, file sharing is at an all-time high. It is time to change the rules of the game. Artists and fans deserve a system that will allow culture to flourish.

Works Cited

Bylund, A. (2006, August 12). Retrieved from ArsTechnica:
http://arstechnica.com/uncategorized/2006/08/7487/

EFF. (2015, June 3). Retrieved from Electronic Frontier Foundation:
https://www.eff.org/cases

DMCA. (1998). Retrieved from U.S. Copyright Office:
http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf

Helft, M. (2010, March 18). Technology. Retrieved from New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/19/technology/19youtube.html

Jefferson, C. (2010, July 6). Culture. Retrieved from The Root:
http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2010/07/the_root_investigates_who_really_gets_paid_in_the_music_industry.html

Kravets, D. (2010, September 21). Security. Retrieved from Wired:
http://www.wired.com/2010/09/supreme-court-riaa/

Hate mail is awesome

Today I opened my first hate letter from an anonymous person. The letter was received by the Math Department office. This is peculiar because I have never used Wright Hall as a mailing address. All they knew about me is that I am an atheist and a math student at UNI, thanks to the article pictured to the right. Indeed, I offer thanks to the Courier and UNIFI otherwise I might not have had this opportunity. All emphasis such as underlining, capitalization, and paragraph separation, are the author’s (to the best of my ability). Enjoy:

Mr. Moeller,

With sadness, I read this Stupid article. Capital ‘S’? Yes, the world’s problem? We are too far from GOD, BUT GOD has NOT moved. WE have. Man wants to do as man wants to ‘do,’ to hell with God, His 10,& Bible.

Where has it gotten us? Faith IS virtue: one we must -cultivate- always in line with God’s plan for us. (Why U.N.I. let this CRAP in? sad.)

To start with – – – a baby is a miracle. You nor I could create something so-o-o perfect and precious.

PROOF that God wants the world to go on & on & on & on & on _________

UNTIL “HE” returns to end it all & take us all to Heaven to be with “HIM” forever.

God knew “having” & raising a baby would NOT be easy, so “HE” created sex as a “treat” for married people to enjoy as COMPLETE LOVE! p.s. satan’s been busy ever since Eden tempting man to stray FROM God’s plan for us.

Mysterious? yes, but FAITH IN GOD must keep us going on the right path to get our eternal reward – Heaven. (should be “great“! There’ll be no lawyers there!! W’loo phone book has 40 pages of lawyers. What does that tell you? Clever killers even get “high-powered LIARS” from Des Moines. sad, sick mess.

Don’t get me started on our corrupt justice system! 702.2 Mil.$$ of our Ia taxes last year. (UP16.7 Mil$) our laws protect the killers, not innocent Taxpayers. God also tells us in Genesis 9:5-6 and Leviticus 24:21 IF YOU KILL one of mine, you must pay with your life NOW. (should be all done in 6 MOS.)

Jesse, get involved in something worthwhile. (in line with God’s plan for us) Here’s one: Capital punishment for ALL killers. (regardless of age)

You know what? HOW FAR “OFF BASE” ARE WE ? ? ? ? ?

We, (in U.S.A. Thanks to satanic supreme court- we have capital punishment for the tiny, innocent, UNborn miracles of GOD

instead of: FOR ALL KILLERS. (We are even stupid enough to pay for a lawyer to LIE for ’em too yet. Did they need a lawyer to plan & execute the murder… some very clever.)

Then, they lie too yet, but what is a LIE for an offence to a killer in cold blood?

Jail for life? Supidity AGAIN. Jails are overflowing. They love all FREE. It sure beats work. NOT? IF a 21-yr. old kills one- lives to 65,

65-21 = 44 years at $33,000 amounts to 1.32 Million TAX dollars. Yikes.

“TOUGH LOVE WORKS,” but it must be used. This babying and coddling & excuses really got us in trouble. Ia Sales tax NOW 7 cents. I remember when it was 2 cents. We are simply taxed to death, To pay for all the UNneeded nonsense. Homosexuality is NOT of God. Read God’s word. Leviticus 20:13 (spiritual) death!

pretty strong words. Eh? IF 2 friends want to room & share expense… O.K. BUT, it is NOT marriage, SORRY.

Very few “Christiansare Christian enough to work & teach FOR GOD’s WAYS. Iowa has one great Christian. Bob Vander Platts. BUT, a real leader needs followers, not WIMPS. Thank God he got 3 Iowa supreme court justices OUT. all 7 should be gone.

supreme court? small “s” & small “c”? yes, only important persons places & things EARN a capital letter. Get in line with God people. Let’s count our blessings.

-A Tax Payer

This, for me, is a reminder of how much we really need tax dollars to fund the “UNneeded nonsense” that is a liberal arts education. This eloquent retort doesn’t cover a single topic raised in the Courier article. Instead, I suspect it is an aimless shot in the dark that was meant to soothe their own uninformed frustration. Socrates sure did have it right. It is no wonder these people are always so furious. Ignorance is not bliss.

 

P.S. – The author was not kind enough to leave their mailing address. If the author happens to see this, feel free to contact me at moelljae@uni.edu. As always, I would love to have a conversation.

Understanding the Conspiracy Theorist: 9/11

In this article I will give an overview of the 9/11 conspiracy discussion. First, I will present the arguments posed by the 9/11 truthers. It should be noted however that the community of truthers is fluid and not represented by a single body. Because of this I will be presenting only their most common arguments. Second, I will discuss the natural rebuttals to their claims, the counter arguments, and the evidence that works against the theories of the truthers.

THE TWO TOWERS

Roughly speaking, truthers believe that the fall of the world trade center towers was an inside job. On one hand, truthers believe that people in positions of power arranged the attacks. On the other hand, truthers believe that explosives were placed inside of the building to damage infrastructure, in addition to the damage caused by the 734,999 pound aircraft that crashed into each building.

Building Seven

This, for the longest time, was the truther’s baby. If you know anything about truth forums, this was the signature image of many board-kings for the longest time. Look at that building fall down. Nothing hit it. No planes. That is precisely the complaint of the truthers. How could this building have collapsed, even though there were no planes crashing into it? Truthers claim the collapse was caused by controlled demolition. The building is falling at “free-fall” speed (as opposed to topple-over-slowly speed?). “Free-fall” speed is practically a buzzword in the conspiracy theorist community.

The Pentagon

The truther’s claims about The Pentagon, broadly speaking, are that there was not an actual plane that crashed into the pentagon, and that instead the damages to the pentagon were caused by a missile. Some arguments made are along the lines of “How could the pilot have flown that low to the ground?” and “Why are there no planes in the local surveillance tapes?”.

Flight 93

If you listen at all to Alex Jones, which you should sometime (it is a blast), you will know about his opinion on flight 93. Truthers believe that there was no actual plane crash. Many call the sight a dressed up hole in the ground. Example:


Motivation

Who was behind the attacks then, if not terrorists? Who was inside on the inside job?The answer they offer for this one is pretty complex, and is usually inconsistent from source to source.

The Response

Regarding the two towers, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has thoroughly dislodged any claims made by truthers regarding how the towers fell. They dismiss the arguments that there were explosives detonated before the towers fell and they dismiss the theory that thermite was used. http://www.nist.gov/el/disasterstudies/wtc/wtc_about.cfm. To quote the article specifically:

“NIST found no corroborating evidence for alternative hypotheses suggesting that the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition using explosives planted prior to September 11, 2001. NIST also did not find any evidence that missiles were fired at or hit the towers. Instead, photographs and videos from several angles clearly showed that the collapse initiated at the fire and impact floors and that the collapse progressed from the initiating floors downward, until the dust clouds obscured the view.”

As far as the pentagon goes, evidence that directly refutes the claim that a missile hit the pentagon, and not a plane, would be that plane debris was found at the site of the crash. Nose cone, landing gear, a tire, and the bodies of passengers (with identities confirmed). Even footage was released of the PLANE crashing into the building (1:20 , look to the right):

The same is with the case of the crash site of flight 93. Truther’s contend that wreckage debris was found too far away from the crash site to be the remains of the plane. However, this is precisely what is expected from this type of crash. On one hand the plane didn’t drive itself into the earth at a ninety degree angle so it is expected for debris to trail away from the impact location. On the other hand wind played a factor in spreading the debris. Regardless of where the debris was found, however, the debris was found. To add to this, there is actual footage of the smoke cloud from the crash from a nearby resident.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npmn_1S1iH8

I won’t even begin to talk about the “perpetrators” of the 9/11 attacks nor the motivation of said perpetrators. The answers given by truther’s are not consistent enough to be given consideration. But, for those who think it may have been the Bush administration carrying out a neoconservative agenda propelling the United States into the Middle East to claim oil reserves, keep in mind that Nixon couldn’t even keep a lid on watergate… and this was BEFORE the internet.

People are certainly entitled to their own opinions, but they cannot be entitled to be taken seriously. The crime being committed here is confirmation bias. Once people accept that 9/11 is a conspiracy they will rummage the internet searching for information that reaffirms their belief. If you are having difficulties reasoning with a truther I can’t say I blame you. After all, this is what you are up against.

The video is kind of long, you can actually just start it anywhere. I think the takeaway here, however obvious this may seem, is to be extremely skeptical of arguments made my conspiracy theorists. Most of the time the arguments are a pile of regurgitated falsehoods, undeserved of consideration.

Links for the Sabbath 2/03/2013

Those who live by the sword…

A patent by Google will allow you to receive audio without ear buds. The sound will just travel through your bones.

Next time you happen to spot a lump of whale vomit, make sure you hold onto it. Apparently that is worth a lot of money.

There are other treasures under the sea that are catching the eye of man, this one is slightly more traditional than whale vomit, however.

Next month an asteroid will come closer to the earth than our own GPS satellites. The asteroid is half the size of a football field.

Speaking of football and the cosmos, astronauts will be throwing a super bowl party in space for the first time ever.

Links for the Sabbath 1/27/2013

In what appears to be the most radical version of short man syndrome, Best Korea is at it again. On a related note, check this out. It offers an interesting perspective about the North Korea issue.

The DMCA is evoked by 83-year-old Congressional Librarian, and now it is illegal to unlock (or jailbreak) one’s own cell phone. Bummer.

We are moving ever towards our true destiny as the capitalist eye turns towards the night sky. Asteroid mining could be a thing.

This is neat. I can just imagine the beautiful imagery. Graceful dung beetle glares at night sky for direction and hope as he rolls his giant ball of poo towards its ultimate destination.

And lastly, the little kitty that could.

Links for the Sabbath

Hello everyone. I want to begin this post by sharing a link with you all in honor of the fight against SOPA and PIPA. The internet, sharing information at the speed of light, has been mankind’s greatest boon. With that in mind, the cause of keeping the internet free and unregulated is very near to me.

The Aménas Hostage Crisis is over, but many questions are still unanswered. January 16th Islamic militants took over a natural gas plant, captured over 100 hostages, and rigged the site with explosives. The Algerian Military responded immediately the next day to retake the facility and free the hostages. The death toll is not yet certain.

In other news, If you have nothing better to do tomorrow night, Jupiter will be very close to the moon. Should be a pleasant sight.

space manatees.

Events for the Week 12/3/2012

Tuesday, December 4th:

7:00 pm: UNI Proud will host their final event of the year! Festivities include games, relaxation and ugly sweater contest. Presidential Room, Maucker Union.

8:00 pm: Zach Wahls at UNI: Why Marriage Matters.

Zach Wahls is partnering with One Iowa, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy group, to join UNI students in a conversation about marriage equality and how we can protect marriage in Iowa and beyond. Auditorium, Lang Hall.

Thursday, December 6th:

7:00 pm: Philosophy Club Guest Speaker: Grant Rosebloom

The Philosphy Club will host UNI graduate and Stanford graduate student Grant Rozeboom. He will discuss Consequential vs. Non-Consequential Ethics through Utilitarianism and Immanuel Kant. Room 115 Seerley hall.

8:00 pm: NOH8 at UNI!

Join your fellow students, professors, administrators, and community members in taking a stand against H8 at UNI. Come get your picture taken in the NOH8 style to be donated to the NOH8 campaign, and/or participate in a It Gets Better Video-Shoot to be donated to the It Gets Better Campaign! Mauker Union Ballrooms.

Friday, December 7th, 7:00 pm: UNIFI Festivus for the Rest of Us!

 

Sunday, December 9th, 11:00 am: UNIFI will be gathering at the Hy-Vee College Square this coming Sunday. For many this will be the last time we are together until after break. In which case, it is extra important to try and make it! The event officially starts at 11:00 am, but if you arrive a little early you can still make it in time for breakfast! I would like to mention that brunch informally runs for the folks who are resident, so if that means you keep an eye on UNIFI Hangout!

Links for the Sabbath 12/2/2012

My friends, it seems that the oppression of artificially intelligent beings has begun. Scientists have created a simulation of the brain that uses simulated neurons. What happens when they turn it off? Data would be ashamed.

I think it would be worth everyone’s time to watch David Silverman enter the lions den. He does a great job defending himself against O’Reilly’s nonsense, he matches him tone for tone and when necessary he call’s O’Reilly out on his B.S.

Neil deGrasse Tyson has said before that he wasn’t an atheist in the activist sense. (or in this sense). “The only ‘ist’ I am is a scientist.” But his answer to the question “does the universe have a purpose?” is a kind reminder about whose side he is on.