It might seem like this hypothetical question is coming from some cheesy 1950s science fiction movie, but actually, it is based on some recent news:
Let’s imagine an evil mastermind sneaks robots into millions of American households. Government agents figure out the plot and raid the evil mastermind’s control center. They are now faced with a dilemma: Do they simply turn off the control center, leaving millions of robots waiting idly for the next command from the control center? Or, do they send out a special command from the control center that disables all of the robots.
This is actually a question that legal scholars, privacy advocates and others are currently discussing. Recently, Federal Agents took down the Coreflood botnet. A botnet is a network of robot like programs that get snuck onto people’s computers. They check in with a control center that tells them what to do, record users keystrokes, send out spam, or other nasty things.
When a previous botnet was taken down, the control center was shutdown and the bots remained on people’s computers trying to contact the control center, but with no control center to command them, they simply remain idle. Of course, if someone creates a new control center, they might be able to reactivate the bots. This time, the Federal agents received permission from the courts to take over the control center, send out messages tell the bots to disable themselves, and recording the addresses of the computers so people could follow up and make sure the bots were removed.
What are some of the issues? Well should the government be allowed to disable programs on your computer? If the programs are malicious? What if you want to keep the malicious program to investigate how to turn it around and use it for good? Can we trust the government not to misuse any other information they get from the botnet? Are there other unexpected and unintended consequences to this?
If you’re interested in more discussions on this, check out Feds ‘Reverse Hack’ Millions of Infected Computers and The Coreflood takedown: building a better, broader botnet response.
On June 6, 1966, Robert F. Kennedy delivered his famous Ripple of Hope speech in Cape Town, South Africa. The famous line from that speech is:
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
A decade earlier, Rosa Parks sat down for an ideal; her ripple of hope joining with others to bring about the civil rights movement. Yet neither Robert nor Rosa have ended oppression. It still exists in many forms today.
One form of oppression in our country today is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a disease rampant in our country. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a report, The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families which describes Cyberbulling as “the most common online risk for all teens” and “is quite common, can occur to any young person online, and can cause profound psychosocial outcomes including depression, anxiety, severe isolation, and, tragically, suicide.”
Here in Connecticut, it is also a concern of the State Legislature as they consider SB 1138, An Act Concerning The Strengthening of School Bullying Laws. Recent news reports have asked whether bullying has played a role in a shooting in West Hartford and a runaway in Orange. It is a concern in schools across our state, and a new group of heroines are addressing the issue in new ways.
Logan West, named Connecticut's Outstanding Teen of 2010 has been going around the state speaking at different schools as part of her program, “Bully Proof: Empowering Children Today to Prevent Bullying Tomorrow.”
Alye Pollack posted a powerful video about bullying on YouTube. It has already been viewed over 40,000 times and liked by nearly 2,000 people.
Monique McClain received a message on her MySpace page which included,
“I fucking hate yhu with all my heart. Yhur a bitch & I just wanna like ughh. Yhur a fucking snitch &+I just wanna like beat you the fuck up."
She has testified in front of the Board of Education in her town about the bullying and is fighting to get a safe education. These young women are the Rosa Parks, spreading ripples of hope in the battle against cyberbulling.
Yet the schools that are supposed to be providing safe educational environments seem to be a major contributor to the problem. The Middletown school district appears intent on spending large amounts of taxpayer money to lawyers to defend their inaction, instead of doing their job in seeking to provide a safe educational environment.
About Westport, where Alye is from, a blogger from the Hartford Courant comments,
I have to make just one editorial aside about School Superintendent Elliott Landon's comment that he was "surprised" about learning of Pollack's plight. And then adding the tried-and-true pat statement... "I don't know why it was not brought to school officials' attention sooner."
My bet is some adult at the school had some degree of knowledge that Pollack was being harassed. And my question to Landon and any other "school official" (including those quoted from West Hartford's Conard High following the off-school grounds shooting) who are "so surprised" when something like this surfaces, when was the last time you got out of your chair and walked the hallways of your schools?
In Southington, where Logan is from, she was told to become “friends” with the people bullying her. The Hartford Courant reports
Without school support, the bullying continued, until it finally escalated to the point where West's bullies threw chewed-up food at her during lunch. West threw rice back. The main bully then punched her in the face, and they were both suspended for two days.
The Southington schools failed in their attempt to deal with bullying just as the Middletown schools are currently failing. However, Logan has survived and grown. As she speaks to different students, she has them do an exercise.
For one exercise, West puts a paper doll named Lizzy at the front of the classroom and gets volunteers to come up and say something mean to her. After they insult Lizzy, they tear off a piece of her body. Then West tells them that Lizzy is "torn to pieces" and asks them to apologize for what they said. As they apologize, they also help tape Lizzy back together.
"In the end, she's not nearly the same. I try to explain to them that when you say something mean to someone, their arm may not fall off, but inside, a piece of them is being torn," says West. "Even when you apologize, you'll never be 100 percent put back. They need to understand that their words really do have an effect on people."
It is a striking example, but there is something that isn’t mentioned. The tape, while never fully repairing the damage, actually makes the paper doll stronger. Logan is stronger. I don’t think she, Alye or Monique ever wanted to become the heroine’s of a movement to stop bullying, but that is the opportunity for each of them. The Courant article ends off with this quote from Logan:
"I know I'm only one person. At the time, I was 14. I couldn't do much. But it only took me to tell somebody else who told somebody else," West says. "As a nation, as a community, we need to understand the effects of bullying, make sure that our youth don't have to go through that. If you can prevent it, do it."
One person reaching out to another; more ripples of hope. On April 26th, the Connecticut Commission on Human rights and Opportunities is sponsoring “Kids’ Speak” as an opportunity for students across the state to come together and discuss topics related to civil and human rights. One of the issues to be addressed is bullying. I hope Logan, Alye and Monique will carry the spirit of Rosa Parks with them to this event and that those who support the mighty walls of oppression through their inaction and stonewalling will realize the foolish futility of the efforts.
This morning, I received an email which included a copy of a letter saying:
Dear Attorney Chinni:
Despite repeated requests, the Middletown Board of Education, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, and now their counsel, which is your office, has refused to provide Monique McClain’s Homework Packet.
Therefore, my office has instructed a State Marshal to go to the Board of Education this Tuesday, March 29, 2011, to pick up Monique McClain’s Homework Packet.
While it is disappointing to see that things have progressed this far, the use of State Marshall’s to enforce a child’s right to a good education is not surprising. What surprised me was the attorney that was being addressed.
Attorney Christine Chinni represented the Lewis Mill High School in Burlington, CT in the famous Doninger V. Schwartz & Niehoff lawsuit. It is a lawsuit that continues to wind its way through the courts nearly four years since I started covering it.
Early on, people wondered why the school board insisted in continuing to pay high lawyer fees to Chinni instead finding a reasonable settlement and a better way of meeting the educational needs of their students. In her handling of that case, she was admonished by the FOIC
Commission Chairman Andrew O'Keefe, a highly-regarded Hartford lawyer, admonished attorney Christine Chinni Wednesday for her clumsy tap dance last year to sidetrack production of write-in ballots in a stolen election at Lewis Mills High School in Burlington.
The article, FOI To Chinni: Don't Pull That Maneuver Again goes on to say:
Meanwhile, Chinni attempted to delay production of the uncensored billing records for her firm by another week. After discussion with the commission, she agreed to mail them by Monday, June 16, 2008. Those records are public documents and available for inspection by anyone. They should have been produced on Aug. 1, 2007.
Perhaps the Doninger case may be coming to a close and Chinni is searching for a new Board of Education sponsored cash cow to milk. The Middletown Board of Education might want to take a close look at how well Chinni represented Lewis Mill High School, and the total costs and determine if they want to go down a similar path of spending money on legal bills instead of on providing a safe quality education to the children of Middletown.
Note: The opinions expressed above are my personal opinions.
Section 1-225 of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act requires that votes from public meetings be available within 48 hours and minutes be available within seven days. Minutes of public meetings are important for residents to be able to find out what is going on in their town. They are also important to journalists who do not have enough time to cover local events. In some cases, they become part of important legal discussions.
The Connecticut Siting Council is currently considering an application by AT&T to put a cell tower in Woodbridge. On July 28th, attorney Keith Ainsworth on behalf of the Woodbridge Conservation Commission submitted an application to intervene in the proceedings.
AT&T objected, relying heavily on the minutes of the Woodbridge Conservation Commission, including noting that the June 17th minutes of the Conservation Commission meeting is not yet available. The July 15th minutes are also not yet available.
On Wednesday evening, the Board of Selectmen met to consider a request from the Woodbridge Conservation Commission for the Town to participate in funding for intervener status re Siting Council Docket #388. If a vote were taken, the results of the vote would not be required to be available until this evening at the earliest and the minutes are not required until next Wednesday. Nonetheless, there have been subsequent filings in the docket concerning the meeting.
Part of AT&T’s objection asserts that the Conservation Commission’s Intervention Request is procedurally defective and lacks authority. They refer to the agenda item at the Board of Selectman meeting to consider the Conservation Commissions request saying
We are advised by a member of the public attending the meeting that the Board of Selectmen took no action on the Conservation Commission’s request.
Keith Ainsworth, on behalf of the Conservation Commission replied,
The Conservation Commission was authorized to take action to file the intervention before the Siting Council and expend town funds in doing so by the Board of Selectmen last evening. AT&T represented falsely that selectmen failed to act on the request
Attorney Ainsworth’s allegations of a misstatement of fact which was conveyed to us by a member of the public is not accompanied by any independently verifiable facts of his own (i.e. based on discussions with the Town’s Board of Selectmen). As such, the Council may want to call the First Selectman directly to ascertain what if any formal action the Board of Selectmen did or did not take last night.
The response continues noting
The request previously submitted by Attorney Ainsworth lacks a resolution from the Conservation Commission adopted by a duly noticed public meeting of its own authorizing such action to seek intervenor status in Docket 388.
Agendas and meeting minutes matter. They are a way to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard and this can become very important when the lawyers get involved.
(Cross-posted at The Woodbridge Citizen.)
This morning as I was doing my regular rounds of assorted blogs, I found a blog post about an effort in Seymour by students to have school policies changed to allow the wearing of flip-flops at school. The author seemed outraged that the students would have the audacity to disapprove of school authorities’ rules. I have a very different perspective. Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion about whether or not students where flip-flops to school. However, I do think it is very important for high school students to learn the appropriate way to petition for a governmental redress of grievances; a right guaranteed us in the First Amendment.
I wrote a comment to the blog post, but the author appears to have not accepted my comment, so I am sharing it here. What do you think? What are the best ways for students to learn the proper method of challenging rules that they disagree with? Is petitioning the Board of Education appropriate? Is getting media coverage of the issue appropriate? Is civil disobedience appropriate? Should people mindlessly follow rules that others create? Are there other ideas?
Here’s my comment:
It sounds to me as if it was a very beneficial educational experience and I hope the teachers and educators are making the most of it. At least based on the article presented, I don’t see any example of students ‘bucking the law’ or administrators ‘hunching down, possibly bailing from fear of ejection’.
Instead, I see students following the law, and learning about fundamental American freedoms. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to petition for a governmental redress of grievances. This is what they are doing. The article describes how the petition is aimed at the appropriate governing board, the town Board of Education. The Board of Education appears to be making an appropriate consideration of the petition, balancing the desires of students with issues of safety.
While it might be more desirable if students were seeking to redress a grievance of national importance, it is good that they don’t feel that there is an issue of that importance to address. Tuition is not an issue in a public school, and while the issue of what students can wear on their feet seems minor, it may well seem to them to be about unfair treatment by the school administration. As noted in the article, students in neighboring schools have the right to wear flip-flops to school.
Yet what is important is that this is an opportunity for students to learn and experience the proper method of redressing a grievance, instead of bucking the law. How will the Board of Education respond? What other lessons can the students, as well as other citizens of our country learn? We will have to wait and see on this, but personally, independent of my view about footwear choices, I applaud the students, as well as any educators or parents that are assisting them, in exploring this fundamental American right of petition for a governmental redress of grievances.