A Geek With Guns

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Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

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Chelsea Manning did the American people a service by leaking a great deal of information concerning the government’s activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. For her efforts she was subjected to a military trail and tossed in a cage. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the prospects of being in a cage for the remainder of her life got to her and she attempted suicide. In response the State decided to do what the State does and indulge its sadism:

These new charges, which Army employees verbally informed Chelsea were related to the July 5th incident, include, “resisting the force cell move team;” “prohibited property;” and “conduct which threatens.” If convicted, Chelsea could face punishment including indefinite solitary confinement, reclassification into maximum security, and an additional nine years in medium custody. They may negate any chances of parole.

Instead of providing Manning the psychological help she needs, the State is planning on making her torment even worse but subjecting her to solitary confinement (which they did to her when she was being held while awaiting trail). This isn’t about justice, it’s about a sick desire for revenge. She disobeyed the State and now the State doesn’t merely want to punish her, it wasn’t to torture her for the rest of her life. It really is akin to the Room 101 scene from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 29th, 2016 at 10:30 am

The Sex Offender Registry is Bullshit

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The sex offender registry, like all government registries, is bullshit. How can I say that? Do I want neighborhoods to be ignorant of the sexual predators living within them? Do I want sexual predators to be free to roam the streets and prey on the innocent? These are the kinds of questions I’m asked when I state my opposition of the registry. Obviously I don’t want any such things. But I subscribe to Blackstone’s formulation, which states “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

When people think of the sex offender registry they think of creepy middle-aged men fondling children or raping women. The reality is far different. What’s the most common age of people charged with sex offense? It’s not 40. It’s not 50. It’s 14:

But in fact, the most common age that people are charged with a sex offense is 14. That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice. Why so young? I explain:

Because people tend to have sex with people around their own age, which means young people tend to have sex with other young people. And much under-age sex is illegal.

So we keep throwing kids on the registry and labeling them sex offenders, as if they’re incorrigible monsters. But in Britain, a study recently commissioned by Parliament has recommended a totally different course: Trying to understand, treat and refrain from labeling the kids, since children often “make mistakes as they start to understand their sexuality and experiment with it.”

If a teenager takes a picture of their junk and consensually sends it to another teenager then both are in possession of child pornography and therefore fall under the criteria of the sex offender registry. The sex offender registry is ruining the lives of people who have done nothing wrong and aren’t even old enough to buy a cigarette or even face trail as an adult. In other words, we have a lot of innocent people suffering.

Nobody should be surprised by this. This is how government registries always work. They’re sold as a mechanism to keep track of the bad people in society but they end up filled with innocent people. I’m sure many of the teenagers who are listed as sex offenders got on the list because some judge decided that teenagers having sex is immoral and that putting them on the list would make an example of them.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 28th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Implied Licenses are Bullshit

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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been thoroughly fucking over people in the United States since 1998. One of the things that the DMCA accomplished was effectively abolishing property rights on anything that includes copyrighted material. This has had wide reaching ramifications including preventing farmers from repairing their own equipment:

In fact, the craziness of this goes even further: In a 2015 letter to the United States Copyright Office, John Deere, the world’s largest tractor maker, said that the folks who buy tractors don’t own them, not in the way the general public believes “ownership” works. Instead, John Deere said that those who buy tractors are actually purchasing an “implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

[…]

But what this has meant is that tractor owners can’t repair their own tractors—and if they do, they’re in violation of the DMCA. So, if a machine stops working, its owner can’t pop the hood, run some tests, and find out what’s going on; he or she is legally required to take the tractor to a service center (one owned by the manufacturer, since that’s the only entity allowed to analyze the tractor’s issues).

I’m against the concept of copyright, in part, because it is an implied license.

That is to say it’s a contractual agreement that the purchaser didn’t agree to. If you manufacture something and want to restrict the user of that thing then you need to get them to agree to contractual terms. For example, if you want to sell a book and prevent the buyer form copying it then you need to write up a contract that states the signer agrees not to copy the book and include penalties if the contract is broken. Then you need to convince the buyer to agree to it.

Copyright doesn’t work that way though. When you buy a book you don’t sign a contract binding you to an agreement not to copy the book. The agreement is implied, which is a fancy way of saying you were bound to it involuntarily. As the article notes, John Deere stated in a letter to the United States Copyright Office that people who had purchased its equipment were restricted by an implied license. The company is changing the rules after the fact by trying to force an agreement upon farmers through the State. In any sane sense of contract theory that is nonsense but in the statist interpretation it’s a perfectly sound method of getting buyers to agree to specific terms.

People should not be subject to involuntary agreements of any sort and nobody should be allowed to change an agreement willy nilly after the fact without the other party agreeing to those changes.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 19th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Garbage In, Garbage Out

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In computer science the term garbage in, garbage out is used frequently to note that if you have garbage data as an input you will get garbage data as an output. This is applicable in any research. A new study has been released that claims there is no racial bias in polices’ use of lethal force in the United States. Quite a few people have jumped on this because it supports their bias that there isn’t a problem with policing in this country. However, Radley Balko points out a serious flaw in the study. It uses reports written by police officers:

For the purpose of the discussion, let’s break shootings and killings by police into three categories: incidents that were illegal and unnecessary, incidents that were legal and necessary, and incidents that were legal but unnecessary. If you’re asking whether current laws and policies allow for too many police shootings, looking at how many shootings are justified under current law and policy is just question begging. It’s that last category — legal but unnecessary — that we want to explore. Unfortunately, it’s also a category that is plagued by subjectivity and the simple fact noted above: Most of the data we have comes from police reports themselves.

If we were to compile statistics on, say, medical mistakes in an effort to make policies that would improve the state of medicine, we wouldn’t get all of our data from written statements by the accused doctors or hospitals. If we wanted to compile data on conflicts of interest in politics, we wouldn’t rely on members of politicians to self-report and adjudicate when their vote may have been influenced by a campaign donation. But this is essentially what we do with shootings by police officers.

The study is simply an extension of the phrase, we investigated ourselves and found that we did nothing wrong. Studying police use of force in the United States is difficult because most of the data is created by the police themselves. There is very little third-party oversight and what little exists is usually tied to the law enforcement community in some manner.

I’m sure Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who killed Philandro Castile, wrote a report that exonerated him of wrongdoing. This isn’t just because he wants to avoid punishment but also because he probably wants to justify his actions to himself. We humans are great at twisting logic to justify our actions to ourselves. Thieves will tell themselves that since the person they were stealing from was wealthy no real harm occurred to him and therefore the theft was justified. Domestic abusers will tell themselves that they have to hit their partner in order to teach them important lessons. Police, likewise, will tell themselves that lethal force was necessary to preserve their lives. We cannot rely on the reports thieves, domestic abusers, and police write about their own actions because they are necessarily biased. So long as rely on such data as our input we’re going to get garbage as our output.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 15th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Incentives Matter

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I’ve been focusing a lot on the law enforcers as of late but I think it’s important to also take a look at the people who create the laws. Specifically, what incentives they put forward for enforcing different laws.

What does a law enforcement department receive when they solve a murder, robbery, or rape? Perhaps some respect from the community and the gratitude of the victims.

What does a law enforcement department receive when they go after a suspected drug user or seller? A percentage of the proceeds from the property taken under civil forfeiture.

What does a law enforcement department receive when they write a traffic citation? Here in Minnesota, as I’m sure is true with most other states, a percentage goes to the cities, which usually give that money back to their law enforcement department.

The law enforcers are focusing on the crimes that the politicians have incentivized them to focus on. The fact that the politicians are incentivizing crimes such as drug manufacturing, selling, and use over murder, robbery, and rape should be damning.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 12th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Another Man Shot Dead by The Police

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The polices’ war on the people continues. This time a supposedly broken taillight initiated a series of events that ended in another black man’s execution. What makes this situation stranger is that the victim, Philando Castile, supposedly held a valid carry permit and was legally armed. Supposedly Castile had his hands on the steering wheel and informed the officer that he had a valid carry permit and was armed. At that point the officer is said to have demanded his identification and permit. When Castile moved his hands to comply with the officer’s demand the officer shot him:

A St. Paul man died Wednesday night after being shot by police in Falcon Heights, the immediate aftermath of which was shown in a video recorded by the man’s girlfriend as she sat next to him and which was widely shared on Facebook.

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The girlfriend said on the video that the officer “asked him for license and registration. He told him that it was in his wallet, but he had a pistol on him because he’s licensed to carry. The officer said don’t move. As he was putting his hands back up, the officer shot him in the arm four or five times.”

The video shows a uniformed police officer holding a pistol on the couple from outside the car. The officer can be heard to say, “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand out.”

The video, unfortunately, only shows the aftermath of the shooting. But based on the officer’s statements in the video it’s clear Castile didn’t pose an immediate threat as he didn’t have a weapon in hand. Was he shot because the officer gave conflicting orders or because he failed to get into a submissive position fast enough? We can’t be sure but neither act is worthy of execution.

It’s also important to note that both the woman recording the video, Diamond Reynolds, and a young girl, assumed to be Reynolds’ 7-year-old daughter, were in the car when the officer shot Castile. Even when it was clear that Castile was incapacitated the officer aimed his gun into the car again when he was yelling at the camera claiming he told Castile not to reach for his permit. The officer appears to have no concern for the safety of the bystanders, which should give everybody cause for concern.

Finally, as if the officer was purposely trying to make the situation as bad as possible, Reynolds is ordered out of the car, handcuffed, and kidnapped. Why was she kidnapped? If I were to hazard a guess it was because she was collecting evidence that could incriminate the trigger happy officer who is probably desperate to sweep this entire matter under the rug.

While there are some questions regarding the events that lead up to the shooting we do know that Castile is dead because an officer claimed to have seen a broken taillight. Let that sink in. A man was killed because a pathetic municipal revenue generator either saw or fabricated a chance to write a citation for a few bucks. There is no justification for executing a man over a few dollars. Every law is a death threat.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 8th, 2016 at 10:30 am

All Laws are Backed by the Threat of Death

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When somebody says, “There ought to be a law.” you should ask if they really want people to die for breaking that law. The fact that all laws are backed with the implicit threat of death is best illustrated by the recent rash of shootings committed by officers. Many of these shootings start because officers initiated contact over a petty offense:

There is still no comprehensive study to determine just how many cities pay their bills by indenturing the poor, but it is probably no coincidence that when you examine the recent rash of police killings, you find that the offenses they were initially stopped for were preposterously minor. Bland’s lane change signal, DuBose’s missing plate. Walter Scott had that busted taillight—which, we all later learned, is not even a crime in South Carolina. Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes. When Darren Wilson was called to look into a robbery, the reason he initially stopped Michael Brown was for walking in the street—in Ferguson, an illegal act according to Section 44-344 of the local code. Between 2011 and 2013, 95 percent of the perpetrators of this atrocity were African American, meaning that “walking while black” is not a punch line. It is a crime.

Failing to signal before a turn, having a nonfunctional taillight, and walking in the street should not be punishable by death. But when those acts are declared law they automatically elevate from minor nuisances to execution worthy acts. The Mother Jones article explains how turning police officers into revenue generators has exacerbated the problem of officer related violence. However, there is a more fundamental issue at hand. Interactions with police officers are never voluntary. One side, the officer, wields all of the power while the other side, the suspect, has no power whatsoever.

When a police officer turns on their attention whore lights you must get out of their way. If they’re turning on the lights because they’ve targeted you then you must pull over and, if you’re smart, place your hands on the top of the steering wheel. During the encounter you cannot drive away until you’re given permission to do so. You also cannot legally defend yourself in most cases if the officer escalates the situation to violence. If you fail to pull over, drive away, or defend yourself it is considered a crime and more men with guns will be sent to hunt you down. In other words, voluntarily disassociating with an officer who isn’t to your liking is a possible death sentence. Under such circumstances the officer has no motivation to treat you decently.

Like You and Me, Only Better

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Hypothetically speaking, let’s say you’re in a position where you handle classified data. Through your own actions this data is handled improperly. What do you expect will happen when the higher up find out? If you’re a contractor for an organization that is illegally spying on every American and you improperly handle the data to blow the whistle you will end up exiled in Russia. On the other hand, if you’re a presidential candidate who is married to a former president you’ll have the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) recommending charges not be pressed against you:

Good morning. I’m here to give you an update on the FBI’s investigation of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail system during her time as Secretary of State.

After a tremendous amount of work over the last year, the FBI is completing its investigation and referring the case to the Department of Justice for a prosecutive decision. What I would like to do today is tell you three things: what we did; what we found; and what we are recommending to the Department of Justice.

[…]

As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.

It’s good to be better than everybody else. What makes this decision interesting isn’t the decision itself; because let’s face it, we all expected this outcome; it’s the brief moment of honesty displayed by FBI Directory Comey:

To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.

He flat out admitted that they were giving Clinton extra special treatment. In cases such as Edward Snowden’s the FBI would likely recommend summary execution but in cases involving people whose last name is Clinton it is recommended that no consequences befall the law breaker.

It used to be that the State would at least hold a meaningless public display of reprimand when one of its own did something like this. But more and more the State is moving away from the facade of everybody being equal under the law and outright admitting that some animals are more equal than others. Part of me appreciates this honesty but another part of me knows where this kind of behavior leads and it’s a damn dark place.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 7th, 2016 at 10:30 am

How Do You Get on The Terrorist Watch Lists? Be in the Wrong Place When an Officer Needs to Fill a Quota.

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With all the talk about prevent terrorists from buying guns I think it’s time we sat down and asked what a terrorist, in this context, means. When people say they want to prevent terrorists from buying guns what they really mean is that they want to prevent people on the terrorist watch lists from buying guns. But being on the terrorist watch lists doesn’t mean you’re a terrorist. In fact, over 40 percent of the names on the lists aren’t affiliate with any known terrorist organization.

So what lands somebody on the lists if they’re not affiliated with any known terrorist organization? One way is to be in the wrong place when an officer needs to fill a quota:

You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they’re reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.

The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they’re required to submit at least one report a month. If they don’t, there’s no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.

This is the problem with secret lists that have secret criteria. Anything can potentially land you on the lists. Since they’re secret you don’t even know you’re on one. Furthermore, if you do find out you’re on one there’s no way of getting off of it.

This is the problem with using lists that involve no due process to punish people. Under the laws the gun control advocates are fighting for you could lose your right to purchase a gun just because you were sitting near an air marshal when they needed to fulfill a monthly quota.

The State’s War Against the Homeless Continues

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Who can those with nothing turn to for help? Many people will say the government and they would be wrong. The State hates the homeless because they have nothing to steal. Therefore it wants them to go away. While outright murdering homeless individuals would be frowned upon, making the lives of homeless individuals so miserable that they migrate elsewhere and become somebody else’s problem is perfectly acceptable to the general public.

San Diego, hoping to make the lives of homeless individuals within its borders more miserable, has installed large rocks under many roadways to prevent homeless individuals from sleeping there:

In late April, after jagged rocks were installed along a freeway underpass to drive out homeless encampments, a city spokesman told reporters the project was at the request of residents of Sherman Heights, a working-class neighborhood just east of the 5 Freeway, who felt unsafe walking down Imperial Avenue.

Turns out, it had more to do with San Diego’s upcoming time in the spotlight as the host of baseball’s All Star Game at Petco Park on July 12.

Sherman Heights is never mentioned in more than 700 pages of email documents about the rocks, obtained under the California Public Records Act

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Casey included the rocks in a checklist of work to be done before the All-Star Game. Emails also show that initial plans called for rocks along the base of a wall at Tailgate Park, between 12th and 14th streets and outside the New Central Library — which overlooks the ballpark — to keep away homeless people.

[…]

In a later email, Casey emphasized that the rocks needed to be of different heights so that no one could put down a plank of wood to try to sleep.

Those homeless people are such an eyesore and they’ll make the city look bad come baseball season so we need to make their lives miserable in the hopes that they’ll go somewhere else. How the State treats the homeless may be the single most illustrative example of how the State “fixes” problems. It never actually works to address the problems it’s “fixing”, it just sweeps them under the rug and tells people everything has been taken care of.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 21st, 2016 at 10:00 am