A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Lies and Damn Lies

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Since Diamond Reynolds livestreamed the aftermath of Castile’s death the cop apologists have been desperately trying to spin the preceding events in a way that justified what Officer Yanez did. Now that the jury has ruled that Yanez wasn’t guilty of manslaughter based on the explanation of the statute that was provided to them, they’re celebrating. Of course, their celebration involves making a great many false claims.

One of the worst dens of cop apologists that has popped up on the Internet in recent times is Blue Lives Matters. Whenever an officer is involved in a use of force case the writers of that site are quick to character assassinate the victim, anybody connected to the victim, and anybody who disagrees with their narrative. Not surprisingly, their spin requires a great deal of speculation or outright false claims.

On Monday the site posted this article to celebrate Yanez’s court victory. It’s not only a great example of the tendency for cop apologists to revel in death but also a great example of the speculation and false claims their narratives are often based on. For starters:

“Philando Castile responded, “I don’t have to reach for it,” while reaching in the area where his gun was located.”

This statement is entirely speculative. Many cop apologists have pointed out that the dashcam footage doesn’t show what was happening inside of the car, which is correct. However, usually immediately afterwards, they then say that Castile shouldn’t have been reaching. Since the dashcam video doesn’t show the inside of the car there’s no way to know whether Castile was reaching for anything, had both of his hands placed on his steering wheel, or was playing with a Rubik’s Cube while eating ramen with chopsticks.

It was later determined that Castile was high on marijuana at the time of the stop, which impaired his ability to listen to Officer Yanez when he was instructed not to reach for his gun. Officer Yanez shot Castile after he ignored orders and reached towards his gun.

This is speculative but bordering on lying. Toxicology noted that Castile had THC in his body. However, that doesn’t mean he was impaired (“high”). THC can remain in the body for months after using cannabis so the fact that it was in his system doesn’t indicate that he had recently used the it. Furthermore, different people react differently to THC. Some people are not impaired by even high levels of THC. There is no way to know whether or not Castile was impaired from the THC in his system.

In fact, Officer Yanez asked for Philando Castile’s license and insurance near the beginning of the stop and Castile had already handed over paperwork before informing Officer Yanez about his gun.

I’m highlight this except because of what comes afterwards. From the court documents here are the contents of Castile’s wallet after he was killed. Specifically note his drivers licensed (middle card on the right side).

Philando Castile didn’t have a driver’s license to turn over to turn over because his license was suspended.

As you can see, this is entirely false. Castile clearly had a drivers license to hand Yanez and since it was in his wallet after he was killed he hadn’t handed it over yet. Officer Yanez clearly asked for Castile’s license and registration. Castile hand’t completely complied with his order before being shot. Even if Castile was reaching for his wallet, which we don’t know he was, he was doing so under orders from Yanez.

St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez had stopped Castile’s vehicle on July 6, 2016, because he believed Castile might have been involved in a convenience store robbery a few days earlier.

If you’ve watched the dashcam footage you know this is false. The footage makes it very clear that Yanez pulled Castile over for a broken taillight (the taillight was actually broken). While the article claims that pulling Castile over for a broken taillight was really just a clever ruse, there is no evidence whatsoever supporting that claim.

After making speculative and outright false statements the article moves on to character assassination.

Castile’s long previous criminal history does not show a tendency toward violence, although he had been stopped 52 times in the past few years for traffic-related issues.

Long criminal history is hyperbole at best. Castile was stopped 46 (six of the 52 noted incidents were for parking violations, not traffic violations) times but it was always for minor traffic-related incidents:

Castile had been stopped before, when officers spotted him not wearing a seat belt, or when an officer ran his plate number and found his license had been revoked for not paying an earlier fine. Numerous stops came after he didn’t use a turn signal. A few came after he was speeding. He was stopped for rolling through a right turn on a red light, having window tints that were too dark, and at least twice for not having a rear license plate light. He was rarely ticketed for the reason he was stopped. His interactions with police eventually slowed. Although he was continuing to receive licensing and insurance violations, there were only seven incidents involving police contact from 2011 to when he was killed.

About half of Castile’s charges were ultimately dismissed after he paid fines, made plea bargains, took driving courses, and in one case paid $275 to not have two violations show up on his record. (Previous media reports said he had been stopped 52 times; however six of those incidents were for parking violations.) He represented himself in most of the cases. At least three times the court granted him a public defender, which is provided to defendants who cannot afford a private attorney.

Hardly a long previous criminal history. After attempting to assassinate Castile’s character the article moves on to assassinating his girlfriend’s character.

After the Philando Castile shooting, Diamond Reynolds lied after Castile was shot and said that he didn’t have any criminal history. Reynolds also lied by claiming that she was Castile’s fiance, when she wasn’t. She claimed that she was held overnight by the police, when she was only interviewed for two hours before an officer bought her groceries and took her home. And Reynolds claimed that police didn’t provide first aid to Castile, when they did.

We now know that Reynolds’s account of the shooting did not reflect what happened.

Diamond Reynolds was later arrested in an unrelated case for being involved in an attack, using a hammer to attack other women.

This is a great example of the tactic I mention early on in this post. The writer wasn’t only content with assassinating Castile’s character but he felt the need to assassinate the characters of those connected to him. What Reynolds did or did not say after Yanez killed Castile has no relevancy on whether or not Yanez’s actions were justified or not. Likewise, her previous arrest is entirely irrelevant to the case. The only reason to bring it up is to establish guilt by association.

I hope this analysis was educational and illustrated some of the common tactics used by cop apologists when an officer is involved in a seemingly unjustified use of force.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 22nd, 2017 at 11:00 am

Police Training

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Being a police officer is a pretty safe career choice. However, many police officers seem to think that everybody is out to get them. Why might that be? Perhaps it has something to do with the training they receive:

[Grossman] views the world as almost unrecognizably dangerous: a place where gang members seek to set records for killing cops, where a kid “in every school” is thinking about racking up “a body count.” His latest book, Assassination Generation, insists that violent video games are turning the nation’s youth into mass murderers. The recent wave of “massacres” is just the beginning. (“Please stop calling them mass shootings!”) He smacks the easels: “These [thump] crimes [thump] are [thump] everywhere!” He foresees attacks on school buses and day care centers. “Kindergartners run about point-five miles an hour and get a burst of about 20 yards and then they’re done.” It won’t just happen with guns, but with hammers, axes, hatchets, knives, and swords. His voice jumps an octave: “Hacking and stabbing little kids! You don’t think they’ll attack day cares? It’s already happening in China. When you hear about a day care massacre,” he shouts, “tell them Grossman said it was coming!”

That’s not the end of it. “More people are signing up with ISIS than we can count,” Grossman says. He predicts a terrorist organization will soon detonate a nuclear bomb off the West Coast. “We have never been more likely to be nuked, and we have never been less prepared!” Terrorists will send “suicide bio-bombers” across the border to spread deadly diseases. “The day will come,” Grossman insists. “Folks, it is very, very bad out there!”

This is the guy who has trained more U.S. police officers than anyone else. The guy who, more than anyone else, has instructed cops on what mind-set they should bring to their jobs.

David Grossman, for those who don’t recognize his name, is the dumbass that brought us the idiotic wolves, sheep, and sheep dogs parable. In his world view there are three categories of people. The first is the sheep, which is composed of everybody who doesn’t agree with his paranoid worldview. The second is the wolves, which include everybody from ISIS to kids in schools who are obsessed with racking up a body count. The third is the sheep dogs, which is composed of everybody who shares his paranoid worldview.

When you realize he’s paranoid and the man who has taught more police officers than anybody else you start to understand how police transformed from peacekeepers to professional soldiers waging a war. How can you have a peacekeeping force, which is what the police are always sold as, when its standard training involves telling members that everybody they look at in the world is planning to murder them?

If people really want to reform policing in the United States, a goal that I don’t think is possible at this point, they need to advocate for giving police realistic training.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 22nd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Reefer Madness

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Anybody who has watched Reefer Madness knows that marijuana can send people into psychotic rages. Take Officer Yanez, for example. One sniff of the devil’s weed made him go from a calm cop who was issuing a citation for a broken taillight to a hardened killer:

The officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year told investigators that the smell of “burnt marijuana” in Castile’s car made him believe his life was in danger.

Of course cannabis doesn’t send people into psychotic rages. It actually has quite the opposite effect. If Castile was being influenced by cannabis he was probably more compliant and relaxed than normal. Likewise, had Yanez toked up before hitting the road it’s possible that Castile would still be alive today.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 22nd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Dashcam Footage from Yanez Case Released

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Now that the jury has acquitted Officer Yanez of wrongdoing the dashcam footage from his cruiser has been publicly released:

The video is pretty damning. Officer Yanez pulled Castle over for a broken taillight. After handing the officer his papers Castile calmly informed Yanez that he was currently carrying a firearm. At first Yanez appears to be calm and tells Castlie not to reach for it. Almost immediately afterwards Yanez is drawing his firearm and screaming at Castile not to reach for it while he and his girlfriend scream that he’s not reaching for it. Then Yanez shoots Castile without any apparent regard for the child and girlfriend who were also in the car.

After that Yanez just stands there aiming his gun at the surviving occupants of the vehicle while screaming a few profanities. After a few minutes pass another squad car arrives. Unlike Yanez, those officers were decent enough to attempt to provide medical aid to Castile. Meanwhile Yanez was panicking or continuing to panic. He wasn’t even able to get his gun back into his holster.

The absolute best case scenario here is that Yanez panicked and gunned Castile down without cause. It really makes me wonder if the nine pages of instructions the jury received concluded with, “As you can see the law is written in such a way that an office who panics is not legally responsible for their actions and that’s why you must acquit Officer Yanez.”

Your Vote Really Doesn’t Matter

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I often pointed out that statistically your vote doesn’t matter. Moreover, your vote literally doesn’t matter:

Watching the ongoing clown show in Washington, Americans can be forgiven for asking themselves, “Why did we give this bunch of clowns so very much power over our nation and our lives?”

Well, don’t feel so bad, voters. Because you didn’t actually give them that much power. They just took it. That’s the thesis of Columbia Law Professor Philip Hamburger’s new book, The Administrative Threat, a short, punchy followup to his magisterial Is Administrative Law Unlawful? Both deal with the extraordinary — and illegitimate — power that administrative agencies have assumed in American life.

[…]

But today, the laws that actually affect people and businesses are seldom written by Congress; instead they are created by administrative agencies through a process of “informal rulemaking,” a process whose chief virtue is that it’s easy for the rulers to engage in, and hard for the ruled to observe or influence. Non-judicial administrative courts decide cases, and impose penalties, without a jury or an actual judge. And the protections in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (like the requirement for a judge-issued search warrant before a search) are often inapplicable.

If you received a public school education, your civics teacher probably taught you that laws are written by Congress and signed or vetoed by the president. That’s a gross simplification of the actual process. While laws must be written by Congress and signed by the president, rules can be made by any government agency. Those agencies aren’t headed by elected officials yet they have the power to create rules that directly impact your life.

Gun owners are intimately aware of this since the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has the power to make rules based on its interpretation of the law. What is an Any Other Weapon (AOW)? According to the ATF you can turn your regular pistol into an AOW by attaching a vertical foregrip to its front rail. Likewise, according to the ATF an arm brace on an AR-15 pistol isn’t a short-barreled rifle… unless you hold it incorrectly. While the National Firearms Act (NFA) created these categories of weapons the ATF was given the power to decide exactly what those categories entail.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 21st, 2017 at 10:30 am

Without Government Who Would Tear Up All of the Roads

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Statists claim that roads are a technology so complex that only a government can build and maintain them. However, if you live in the Twin Cities you know that the government is far more interested in tearing up roads than letting you actually used them. Most of the major arteries in the Twin Cities are currently under some amount of construction. There is an entire bridge missing from 169, 394 is under construction, 35W will be under construction later this year, 94 is under construction, and soon the Lowry tunnel will be torn up:

The Lowry Hill Tunnel is congestion central in the Twin Cities on most days. A tie-up in the tube can bring traffic to a crawl and have far-reaching effects, choking things on Interstate 35W and Interstate 394, routes that feed lots of vehicles into the tunnel on the west end of downtown Minneapolis.

Now construction there is slated to begin and it won’t be pretty, with the potential to cripple traffic at all hours of the day for the next three months. Motorists will share one side of the Lowry Hill Tunnel with only two lanes 10 feet wide in each direction and a lower speed limit. Drivers on I-394 and I-35W will feel the pinch, too, as ramps to and from those arteries will shut down at times.

And here’s the real kick in the teeth:

“This is a significant project and will be a challenge for drivers,” said Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman David Aeikens. His warning also comes with a plea: “Give yourself plenty of time, plan alternate routes and don’t drive through neighborhoods.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation motorists need to plan alternate routes but they should not use the only alternate routes that are still available, roads going through neighborhoods.

Only government could be incompetent enough to tear up all of the major traffic arteries at the same time. Were the roads privatized the owners would have a financial interest in keeping traffic flowing so they would likely perform maintenance in a staged fashion to minimize the disruption to their customers. But government doesn’t suffer when it inconveniences its subjects. They have to pay their taxes for the roads whether they can drive on them or not.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 21st, 2017 at 10:00 am

Legalizing More Thievery

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Civil asset forfeiture is simply a euphemism for theft. Unlike most other forms of government theft, civil asset forfeiture doesn’t even have the thin veil of criminal or civil charges either being proven in court or confessed to by the accused to justify it. Instead civil asset forfeiture relies on the concept of guilty until proven innocent. If a man with a badge believes that your assets are in any way tied to a drug crime they can legally steal them and the only way you can get them back back is by proving they aren’t, which is an impossible task.

While there has been a lot of pushback in recent years to civil asset forfeiture by a handful of individual states, the United States Senate is working hard to expand it:

A new bill seeks to track your money and assets incessantly, will enjoin any business with government ties to act as a de facto arm of DHS, and would steal all of your assets — including Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies — should you fail to report funds when traveling with over $10,000.

Under the guise of combating money laundering, Senate Bill 1241, “Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2017,” ramps up regulation of digital currency and imposes other autocratic financial controls in an attempt to ensure none of your assets can escape one of the State’s most nefarious, despised powers: civil asset forfeiture.

The best thing about a law like this is that most people won’t know about it and therefore will fail to comply with it out of sheer ignorance. Since ignorance of the laws isn’t an excuse a law like this creates a huge number of new criminals for the State to prey on.

There are a lot of banking laws that people violate every day because they are simply unaware of them and the government loves to go after them. The Internal Revenue Service was going after people who turned their legitimate deposits over $10,000 into multiple smaller deposits to avoid filling out reporting paperwork. Legally this is known as structuring and the law that prohibits it was passed under the guise of catching tax evaders but most people are entirely ignorant of it so they violate it accidentally. Senate Bill 1241 aims to create a similar law that will likely be violated by innocent people who are simply unaware of the law, which will give the State an excuse to seize their assets. Best of all, if it happens under civil asset forfeiture, the government doesn’t even have to prove guilt.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 20th, 2017 at 11:00 am

A Rare Legal Victory

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Once in a while the State sees fit to throw us serfs a bone. Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that rejecting disparaging trademarks is a violation of the First Amendment:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law that prohibits the government from registering trademarks that “disparage” others violates the First Amendment, a decision that could impact the Washington Redskins’ efforts to hang on to its controversial name.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. delivered the opinion for a largely united court. He said the law could not be saved just because it evenhandedly prohibits disparagement of all groups.

“That is viewpoint discrimination in the sense relevant here: Giving offense is a viewpoint,” Alito wrote.

He added that the disparagement clause in the law “offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

The First Amendment is supposed to protect all forms of speech against government censorship. Since the government maintains a monopoly on trademarks it’s refusal to issue trademarks that it has deemed disparaging is a form a censorship.

Free speech is a hot topic at the moment. A lot of people, especially on college campuses, are hellbent on censoring the speech of individuals they disagree with. While there is no problem with private individuals and organizations censoring whatever speech they feel like (something a lot of free speech advocates forget) there is a huge problem when the government gets involved in deciding what forms of speech are acceptable and what forms are not. One of the biggest problems is how the definitions of acceptable and unacceptable change when the party in power changes. Allowing government to censor speech might sound reasonable at first because they’re censoring the speech you disagree with but when the other party comes into power your speech might suddenly be censored as well. The tendency of government to perform legal creep should be enough for everybody to oppose it when it tries to restrict the privileges we often mistakenly refer to as rights.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 20th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Undead Bureaucracy

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Remember Y2K? Most of us have probably forgotten about that apocalypse that never happened. But the government didn’t. In fact government offices were still reporting on their Y2K readiness status because that’s what the law commanded them to do:

Seventeen years after the Year 2000 bug came and went, the federal government will finally stop preparing for it.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would eliminate dozens of paperwork requirements for federal agencies, including an obscure rule that requires them to continue providing updates on their preparedness for a bug that afflicted some computers at the turn of the century. As another example, the Pentagon will be freed from a requirement that it file a report every time a small business vendor is paid, a task that consumed some 1,200 man-hours every year.

Bureaucracy is a lot like a zombie. Once it has been summoned it will shamble around trying to eat people forever. The only way to stop it is to take purposeful action to kill it.

Government offices should have stopped having to report on their Y2K readiness as soon as the year switched from 1999 to 2000. But the law requiring the offices to report on their readiness didn’t have a builtin expiration date and nobody in the Legislature took action to pass another law canceling those requirements so everybody kept going through the motions even though doing so was completely pointless.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The System Worked as Intended

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The Iron Maiden concert wasn’t the only big thing to happen on Friday. The jury for the Jeronimo Yanez case finished their deliberations and, as expected, determined that the officer was innocent. What was also unsurprisingly is that protesters responded by shutting down I-94.

A lot of people have been arguing that the system has failed but I would argue that the system is working as intended. Some people raised questions about the charges being brought against Yanez, mostly noting that other charges could have been brought against him that would have been easier to prove. I’m not familiar enough with the subject of charges to know if there’s any validity to that claim but brining difficult to prove charges against agents of the State isn’t unprecedented. However, we do know that the judge seemed to be extending a little professional courtesy to Yanez by denying the jury’s request to review some of the evidence. Since I wasn’t on the jury I don’t know whether that denial had any bearing on the ruling or not but it’s a fact that will likely haunt this trial for a while.

We know from previous trials that the courts purposely feed jurors erroneous information that benefits the State. For example, jurors are usually instructed that they must rule on the letter of the law, which goes against a jury’s right of nullification. As the Yanez trial demonstrated, judges also hold a great deal of sway over what jurors are allowed to see and not allowed to see. If the jury requests to review evidence, a judge can deny their request.

Jury trials are often thought of as a check on government power but the “justice” system here in the United States is designed in such a way that the State almost always wins. But the State holds a monopoly on writing, interpreting, and deciding the legality of laws. It makes the rules so it should come as no surprise that the rules favor it just as the rules of a Casino favor the house. When the State wins in its courts, even when the case against it is damning, people should realize that the system isn’t broken. In fact it’s working exactly as intended.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am