A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Wall of Fame Assholes’ Category

There’s No Kill Like Overkill

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Proportionality is a concept that many law enforcers appear to have trouble understanding. For example, killing a man for selling untaxed cigarettes isn’t a proportional punishment for the crime. Likewise, blowing up a man’s house to catch a shoplifter is not a proportional response to the crime:

In June of 2015, Reason reports, a man named Robert Jonathan Seacat shoplifted from a Denver area Walmart. He stole a shirt and two belts and then fled, first by car and then on foot, before breaking into a nearby home to hide inside.

Seacat was known to have one gun on him, and officers claimed he shot at them, but after the fact, investigators didn’t find evidence he’d fired that weapon or the two other guns that were already in the house. That’s perhaps because, as would later be discovered when police eventually took Seacat into custody, he was by that time probably feeling awful, as he had allegedly swallowed a container of methamphetamine that began to leak into his body.

The house had a security system that alerted the police of the break-in, and the cops arrived armed to the teeth. As court documents show, “50 SWAT officers” assaulted the house using “40 mm rounds, tear gas, flashbang grenades, two armored Bearcats [a type of armored vehicle] and breaching rams,” plus “68 cold chemical munitions and four hot gas munitions.”

And they used all of it to totally destroy this home. Their harebrained plan was to blow up every room, one by one, to herd Seacat into a corner of the house so police could be certain of his location. This process was ineffective as well as counterproductive: It created so much rubble that a police robot was not able to deliver a phone to Seacat for negotiations.

What’s the value of a shirt and two belts from Walmart? It’s probably somewhere between $30 and $50. What’s the value of a house, fuel for a Bearcat, 40mm teargas rounds, flashbang grenades, breaching rams, chemical munitions, hot gas munitions, a remotely controlled robot, and 50 officers’ time? A hell of a lot more than $50.

Shoplifting doesn’t requires a militarized squad of law enforcers to deal with. It requires compensation. Walmart probably has insurance against shoplifting so it was likely covered. In that case the insurance company had a right to seek compensation from the thief, which it could have easily done in small claims court. If the thief refused to appear in court, the judge could have simply ruled in favor of the insurance company or, at most, sent a single officer to kidnap the thief and bring him to court. Such a response would have been proportional to the crime.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 22nd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Tightening the Chains

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The turkey won’t be the only thing to get a hand up its ass this Thanksgiving:

New TSA screening guidelines will likely make Thanksgiving travel a disaster for legions of Americans — and the worst is yet to come.

Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, TSA announced more “comprehensive” pat-down procedures which the Denver airport suggested might involve “more intimate contact than before.” TSA preemptively notified local police to expect potential complaints, and plenty of travelers are howling:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) still hasn’t thwarted a single terrorist plot. After 16 years one might expect an agency to show proof of having accomplished something. Instead the agency has pulled the same stunt as every other government agency and claimed that its failures are due to lack of funding. And like every other government agency, the TSA has shown no evidence of improvement when its funding has been increased.

Creating the Super Bowl Experience

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The toll of the Super Bowl continues to rise. Between the “security” turning the entire city into a prison, shutdown streets, and light rail use reserved exclusively for Super Bowl attendees, things have already become quite miserable for the denizens of Minneapolis. But the Super Bowl experience wouldn’t be complete if some wealthy attendees had their vision offended by a poor person so the homeless shelter near the stadium is being evacuated for the duration of the game:

Dozens of people who use a homeless shelter near U.S. Bank Stadium will be moved to a new, temporary facility during Super Bowl week because of security concerns.

In a deal struck with churches and social service agencies, up to 60 people who normally would spend the night at First Covenant Church in downtown Minneapolis will be relocated six blocks away to a makeshift shelter at St. Olaf Catholic Church. The transition will occur the Thursday before the 2018 game and last through Super Bowl Sunday.

It is, of course, being done in the name of security. However, the 60 people occupying that shelter are no more a security risk than the hundreds living in the condominiums near the stadium so it’s pretty obvious this decision has nothing to do with actual security. But most “security” decisions being made have nothing to do with security and everything to do with security theater being a convenient excuse to ensure the Super Bowl attendees don’t have to deal with the riffraff or Minneapolis.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 17th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Be Careful with Those Freedom of Information Act Requests

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Be careful when you file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, it might put you in the sights of the National Security Agency (NSA):

Declassified documents in the Central Intelligence Agency’s archives show that while the CIA was looking to include the Freedom Of Information Act in its war on leaks, the National Security Agency was seriously considering using the Espionage Act to target target Puzzle Palace author James Bamford for using FOIA.

While Bamford has briefly discussed this on a handful of occasions, the declassified memos and briefings from NSA confirm that this was more than just an intimidation tactic or a passing thought – the NSA had truly wanted to jail a journalist for his use of public records. When the Agency determined that this was unlikely to happen, they moved on to exploring other legal avenues which could be used to punish Bamford for his FOIA work.

The passage of FOIA made it appear as though the federal government wanted to make itself accountable to the people. However, as with all government promises, what appeared to be the case and what actually ended up being the case were two different things. While FOIA appeared to give lowly plebs a mechanism to request information from the federal government, the most common results of filing a FOIA request seemed to be either a denial of the request or a heavily redacted version of the request. In the case of Bamford the result was first an attempt to imprison him and then an attempt to intimidate him.

We’re fortunate that the federal government still feels the need to appear at least somewhat legitimate. If it didn’t, I guarantee Bamford would have ended up charged under the Espionage Act. But anybody who is paying attention to the news realizes that the federal government is less and less concerned about appearing legitimate. I won’t be surprised if some poor soul who files a FOIA request ends up being charged and found guilty under the Espionage Act.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 27th, 2017 at 11:00 am

We Have Spain’s Answer

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Last week Catalonia declared independence. I noted that what happens next will depend on Spain’s response. If Spain decided to ignore Catalonia, the country would realize its independence. If Spain decided to put the boot down on the Catalans’ throats, civil war could erupt. Now we know which direction Spain wants to go:

A Spanish judge has jailed two key members of the Catalan independence movement.

Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, who lead prominent separatist groups, are being held without bail while they are under investigation for sedition.

I’m sure this is going to go over well with the Catalans. But I also suspect that Spain is eager to egg the Catalans into a violent response so it has an excuse to send its shock troops in to cleanse the region of any and all dissidents (and non-dissidents that happen to look at the shock troops in the wrong manner).

Once again we see the futility of democracy. If a group of people decide to vote for an option that isn’t approved by their rulers, their “voice” (which is what I’m told votes are) is stifled and, if necessary, the people who voted the wrong way are violently dealt with. There are few cases that I can think of where secession has been accomplished through a ballot box.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Updating the Propaganda

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The current administration, just like the previous administration, doesn’t like the fact that the plebs have the ability to keep secrets from it. When the previous administration pushed prohibit effective cryptography, it was met with a great deal of resistance. Hoping to avoid the same failure, the current administration is updating its propaganda. It’s not seeking to prohibit effective cryptography, it’s seeking to promote responsible cryptography:

A high-ranking Department of Justice official took aim at encryption of consumer products today, saying that encryption creates “law-free zones” and should be scaled back by Apple and other tech companies. Instead of encryption that can’t be broken, tech companies should implement “responsible encryption” that allows law enforcement to access data, he said.

“Warrant-proof encryption defeats the constitutional balance by elevating privacy above public safety,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a speech at the US Naval Academy today (transcript). “Encrypted communications that cannot be intercepted and locked devices that cannot be opened are law-free zones that permit criminals and terrorists to operate without detection by police and without accountability by judges and juries.”

Encrypted communications that cannot be intercepted and locked devices that cannot be opened are law-free zones? He just made effective cryptography sound even more awesome!

Once again this administration is telling the plebs that they have no right to privacy, which tends to go over about as well as a lead balloon with the plebs. Moreover, this recommendation is one way. Notice how under these proposals the plebs aren’t allowed to have any privacy from the government but the government gets to maintain its privacy from the plebs by having legal access to effective cryptography? If the United States government is supposed to be accountable to the people, then by the government’s logic the people should have a means of breaking the government’s encryption as well.

There are two facts about the United States of America. Anybody can sue anybody else for any reason and high ranking officials can make any demands they want. Just as many lawsuits get tossed out due to lack of merit, many demands from high ranking officials are technically impossible. “Responsible encryption,” to use the euphemism, is not technically possible. Encryption is either effective or ineffective. If there is an intentional weakness added to an encryption algorithm then it will be exploited by unintended actors, not just intended actors.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Deploying the Slave Catchers

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A higher up in the Spanish government heard the disconcerting (to him) sound of shackles breaking. Worried that some of his slaves were making a break for it, he deployed his slave catchers to restore order:

Spanish national police have stormed ministries and buildings belonging to Catalonia’s regional government to put a stop to the region’s independence referendum.

The Guardia Civil, which acts with the authority of Madrid’s interior ministry, is searching for evidence regarding the planned 1 October referendum on Catalan independence, which Spain’s Constitutional Court has declared illegal.

In the early hours of the morning armed officers arrived at various Catalan ministries, including the economy department, foreign affairs department, and social affairs department, Spanish media reports.

At least twelve Catalan officials are said to have been arrested, including the chief aide to Catalonia’s deputy prime minister, Josep Maria Jové. The arrests come as the mayors of Catalan towns who back the referendum were yesterday questioned by state prosecutors.

For those of you who haven’t been following the situation in Catalonia, the region has been wanting to declare itself independent on Spain for quite some time. This makes sense since Catalonia is the largest part of Spain’s economy and if you’ve looked at the economic situation in Spain, you know that the government there is desperate for successful people to exploit.

Unfortunately, Spain is doing everything in its power to ensure that the only way Catalonia will gain its independence is through civil war. The question will be whether the Catalonians want to pay that high of a price to break away from the boat anchor that is currently dragging them down.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 21st, 2017 at 10:00 am

Discarding the Veil of Legitimacy

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Since their inception, government law enforcers here in the United States have pretended to be servants of the people. That facade is finally being discarded as more law enforcers begin to show their true colors. For example, in the past law enforcers might respond to questions about arresting protesters by citing their duty to protect the community. Now, at least in St. Louis, their responses are almost indistinguishable from statements one might expect from nongovernmental criminal gangs:

Gov. Eric Greitens is eager to show he’s not like a former governor whom he accused of tolerating looting and arson in Ferguson. So much so that his Facebook post Sunday about vandalism in the Delmar Loop dropped any claim to formality.

“Our officers caught ’em, cuffed ’em, and threw ’em in jail,” it said. “They’re gonna wake up and face felony charges.”

On Sunday night, as police officers marched downtown, a Post-Dispatch photographer heard them chant a refrain most often heard at Ferguson protests: “Whose streets? Our streets.”

Later, after St. Louis police made more than 100 arrests downtown on Sunday night, Acting Chief Lawrence O’Toole’s words seemed meme-ready: “Police owned tonight.”

“Whose streets? Our streets.” In other words, the streets are our turf. “Police owned tonight.” Put another way, law enforcers won the fight against a rival gang.

The lack of professionalism is refreshing because it reveals law enforcers’ true colors. However, it’s also disconcerting because the thin veil of legitimacy is probably the only thing that has restrained the behavior of law enforcers in any way. If they’re no longer concerned about appearing legitimate, they may begin acting even more viciously.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Making Open Access Less Open

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Most states have a version of the federal government’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which nominally allows mere peasants like myself to request records from the mighty government. While both the federal law and the various state versions do technically exist, they’ve become more and more useless as various barriers to entry have been raised between requesters and the documents they desire. Now various government bodies are throwing up yet another barrier, court cases:

Government bodies are increasingly turning the tables on citizens who seek public records that might be embarrassing or legally sensitive. Instead of granting or denying their requests, a growing number of school districts, municipalities and state agencies have filed lawsuits against people making the requests — taxpayers, government watchdogs and journalists who must then pursue the records in court at their own expense.

The lawsuits generally ask judges to rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged. They name the requesters as defendants but do not seek damage awards. Still, the recent trend has alarmed freedom-of-information advocates, who say it’s becoming a new way for governments to hide information, delay disclosure and intimidate critics.

Even though the government bodies in question aren’t seeking damages, anybody who has been involved in a court case knows that they’re expensive regardless. At the very least you’re required to take time off of work so you can attend court. Much of the time lawyers are involved and they rack up a significant bill rapidly. You also have the other ancillary expenses like fuel to drive to the courthouse, parking fees, etc.

The law might say that government agencies are required to divulge specific records upon request but it doesn’t say that those agencies have to do it in the way more convenience for requesters, which was almost certainly by design. So while the laws may technically exist they are becoming more useless by the day in practice.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Emperor Has No Cloths But Don’t Tell Him That

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How petty are those who claim authority over us? So petty that they can’t handle us snickering at them:

This is no joke, because liberal activist Desiree Fairooz is now being put on trial a second time by the Justice Department — Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department — because she laughed at Sessions during his confirmation hearing. Specifically, she laughed at a line about Sessions “treating all Americans equally under the law” (which is, objectively, kind of funny).

Police asked her to leave the hearing because of her laugh. She protested and was charged. In May, a jury of her peers found her guilty of disorderly conduct and another offense (“first-degree chuckling with intent to titter” was Stephen Colbert’s sentence at the time). The judge threw out the verdict, objecting to prosecutors’ closing argument claiming that laughter alone was enough to convict her.

But at a hearing Friday, the Justice Department said it would continue to prosecute her. A new trial is scheduled for November. Maybe Sessions, repeatedly and publicly criticized by Trump, thinks Justice’s anti-laughing crackdown will protect whatever dignity he has left.

Considering what I’ve seen from Sessions, I’m not at all surprised that the Department of Justice (DoJ) is pursuing such a petty thing under his watch. The man is such a piece of shit that I have no doubts that he’d order Fairooz executed if he had the authority to do so.

In the end, unless the next judge is pretty horrible (which is likely), these charges will likely be thrown out. However, Fairooz might be able to beat the charges but she wasn’t able to beat the ride. The hours of her life wasted fighting these bullshit charges are gone forever. It’s also possible that she’ll be out the expenses for her legal defense because it’s not guaranteed that a judge will order the DoJ to cover her legal expenses if it loses. She might be able to recover those expenses through civil court but then the hours of her life wasted on that will also be gone forever. Meanwhile, nobody in the DoJ will likely receive any punishment whatsoever for pursuing these charges.

The design of the system is as such that no matter how innocent you are or how erroneous the charges brought against you are, you will still be punished.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 6th, 2017 at 10:30 am