A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Superdickery’ tag

You Can Have Either Guns or Cannabis in Minnesota

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Minnesota’s medical cannabis laws are, to put it nicely, absurd. Instead of legalizing cannabis across the board like Colorado, the Minnesota legislative and executive branches allowed law enforcement to effectively write the initial bill. The result was a bill that allowed patients with very specific conditions to access cannabis at prices that today remain artificially inflated due to the government granted duopoly of approved growers. Now that the bill is through minor tweaks are being made. One of the tweaks is adding more approved conditions to the list. Recently post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was added to the list:

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) – The Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday announced the decision to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a new qualifying condition for the state’s medical cannabis program.

PTSD was one of 9 conditions considered for addition this year, including depression, arthritis, autism, diabetes, insomnia, schizophrenia, phantom limb syndrome and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – a genetic disorder that can affect the joints and skin.

I bring this up primarily because it’s an interesting intersection of cannabis and gun laws, especially for one beloved group of individuals that commonly suffer from PTSD and enjoy shooting sport: veterans. Unfortunately, due to the disagreement on cannabis between state and federal governments, using cannabis in a state where it’s legal means you lose your gun privileges. In fact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) recently updated Form 4473 to clarify this. In Minnesota, unlike states that have completely abolished cannabis prohibition, you have to register as a patient with the state, which means that it only takes one agency communicating with another to list you as a prohibited person in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

So now those veterans who suffer with PTSD and enjoy shooting sports have a choice to make. They can either treat their condition or they can own firearms. At least legally.

Illicit cannabis dealers are still happy to provide their product to people suffering from PTSD without requiring any registration with a government agency that might report them to the ATF. The lesson here is that if you’re suffering with any of the approved medical conditions that allow you to legally buy cannabis in Minnesota buy your cannabis illegally instead.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 2nd, 2016 at 11:00 am

Layers of Protection

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I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this but the political process is not an effective means of changing the system. Welcome to the universe, it’s a harsh place that doesn’t care about your hopes and dreams.

Politicos mistakenly believe that if they can get the right person in the right office that the system can be changed for the better (here “better” means whatever political aspirations the politico has, not what is actually better by any sane definition). But it’s a naive belief. Politicians are only one layer in a multi-layer system that has been built up over the centuries to protect and expand the State.

Take something as simple as a sheriff’s office. You might think that electing the right sheriff will get all of the bad apples in that department fired. Were the sheriff the only layer of protection that could be the case but even a county sheriff’s office has multiple layers of protection that ensure the State’s expropriators are protected against the consequences of their actions:

A northern Minnesota sheriff’s office has been ordered by a labor arbitrator to reinstate a deputy back to the force after being fired for a 2015 DUI conviction, according to public records.

Mahnomen Count Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Ohren and his union, Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc., successfully fought the firing, leaving county officials angered and forcing the sheriff to find a non-investigative role for him.

Today, despite his driving record, Ohren is transporting jail inmates around northern Minnesota in a sheriff’s vehicle, not being assigned to respond to 911 calls or crimes due to his credibility being subject to question should he ever have to testify in court.

While Ohren must blow into a breathalyzer before he can start his car going to and from work, the deputy doesn’t have to when he is driving on county time.

In this case a sheriff’s office fired a bad apple but Minnesota’s law enforcer’s union stepped in, fought the firing, and managed to get the bad apple reinstated. Here the union acted as a second layer of protection for the officer.

This complexity is rampant within the State. It ensures that no single individual within the system can make any meaningful changes. It also means that electing the right person to the right office won’t accomplish anything unless that person intends to expand the State (because then they’re working with the various layers of protection, not against them).

When people hear the phrase “A system of checks and balances.” they believe that those checks and balances are meant to limit the power any politician has. In reality those checks and balances are against any forces that would threaten the State’s power.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 30th, 2016 at 11:00 am

The Totality of the Situation

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The line separating lethal and nonlethal force seems clear enough. Something that has a high probability of killing somebody, such as a gun or knife, is lethal whereas something that has a low probability of killing somebody, such as a punch to the gut or pepper spray, is nonlethal. But all too often people don’t consider the totality of the situation (a favorite phrase of cop apologists trying to excuse what appears to be obviously egregious behavior by an officer). Consider this story about the pipeline protests in North Dakota:

Tear gas was used to disperse a crowd of 400 protesters at the Dakota Access Pipeline late Sunday after clashes that authorities described as a “riot” prompted by “very aggressive” activists.

A law enforcement officer was hit on the head by a thrown rock during the confrontation, Morton County Sheriff’s Office said in an update at 1 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET).

Videos posted to Facebook by activists showed authorities spray a continuous stream of water over demonstrators in below-freezing temperatures but sheriff’s spokesman Rob Keller told NBC News that no water cannon were deployed. He said the water was being sprayed from a fire truck to control blazes as they were being set by activists.

[…]

“Officers on the scene are describing protesters’ actions as very aggressive,” the release noted. “In order to keep protesters from crossing the bridge, law enforcement have utilized less-than-lethal means, including launching CS gas.”

In spite of what the police claimed, the videos and images from the protest make it clear that they were deliberately spraying the protesters with water cannons, not putting out fires. Even considering that normally water cannons are considered nonlethal because spraying somebody with a water cannon isn’t likely to kill them. However, at the time of this police action temperatures in the area were below freezing and anybody who lives up here in the northern states knows that hypothermia can become lethal quickly.

If we’re supposed to consider the “totality of the situation” when police officers do something seemingly terrible then police officers should be held to the same standard. Driving out firetrucks with the intention of spraying down protesters in below freezing weather is lethal force. The officers might as well have opened fire with rifles. They certainly don’t have grounds to claim they were utilizing less-than-lethal means.

The Surveillance State Hidden in Plain Sight

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Everybody should have been suspicious of the giant unadorned building in New York City that looks like something ripped right out of the 1984 movie. As it turns out the building’s appearance betrays its purpose as it is part of the Orwellian surveillance state:

THEY CALLED IT Project X. It was an unusually audacious, highly sensitive assignment: to build a massive skyscraper, capable of withstanding an atomic blast, in the middle of New York City. It would have no windows, 29 floors with three basement levels, and enough food to last 1,500 people two weeks in the event of a catastrophe.

But the building’s primary purpose would not be to protect humans from toxic radiation amid nuclear war. Rather, the fortified skyscraper would safeguard powerful computers, cables, and switchboards. It would house one of the most important telecommunications hubs in the United States — the world’s largest center for processing long-distance phone calls, operated by the New York Telephone Company, a subsidiary of AT&T.

[…]

Documents obtained by The Intercept from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden do not explicitly name 33 Thomas Street as a surveillance facility. However — taken together with architectural plans, public records, and interviews with former AT&T employees conducted for this article — they provide compelling evidence that 33 Thomas Street has served as an NSA surveillance site, code-named TITANPOINTE.

Inside 33 Thomas Street there is a major international “gateway switch,” according to a former AT&T engineer, which routes phone calls between the United States and countries across the world. A series of top-secret NSA memos suggest that the agency has tapped into these calls from a secure facility within the AT&T building. The Manhattan skyscraper appears to be a core location used for a controversial NSA surveillance program that has targeted the communications of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and at least 38 countries, including close U.S. allies such as Germany, Japan, and France.

TITANPOINTE? Again, we have a National Security Agency (NSA) codename that sounds really stupid. Considering how obvious they were trying to be with the building design and such were I the NSA I’d have just called the project BIGBROTHER.

TITANPOINTE appears to be another example of the public-private surveillance partnership I periodically bring up. While all of the cellular providers are in bed with the State to some extent, AT&T appears to have a very special relationship with the NSA. From Room 641A to 33 Thomas Street we have seen AT&T grant the NSA complete access to its services. This means that any surveillance performed by AT&T, which is often considering “safe” surveillance by many libertarians because it’s done by a private entity, becomes NSA surveillance without so much as a court order. Since your phone calls and text messages are available to AT&T they’re also available to the NSA.

Fortunately, you can take some measures to reduce the information available to AT&T and the NSA. While standard phone calls and text messages are insecure, there are several secure communication tools available to you. Apple’s iMessage is end-to-end encrypted (but if you backup to iCloud your messages are backed up in plaintext and therefore available to Apple) as are WhatsApp and Signal. I generally recommend Signal for secure messaging because it’s easy to use, the developers are focused on providing a secure service, and it has a desktop application so you can use it from your computer. None of these applications are magic bullets that will fix all of your privacy woes but they will reduce the amount of information AT&T and the NSA can harvest from their position in the communication routing system.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 22nd, 2016 at 10:30 am

You’re the Product, Not the Customer

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If you’re using an online service for free then you’re the product. I can’t drive this fact home enough. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter make their money by selling the information you post. And, unfortunately, they’ll sell to anybody, even violent gangs:

The FBI is using a Twitter tool called Dataminr to track criminals and terrorist groups, according to documents spotted by The Verge. In a contract document, the agency says Dataminr’s Advanced Alerting Tool allows it “to search the complete Twitter firehose, in near real-time, using customizable filters.” However, the practice seems to violate Twitter’s developer agreement, which prohibits the use of its data feed for surveillance or spying purposes.

This isn’t the first time that a company buying access to various social media feeds has been caught selling that information to law enforcers. Earlier this year Geofeedia was caught doing the same thing. Stories like this show that there’s no real divider between private and government surveillance. You should be guarding yourself against private surveillance as readily as you guard against government surveillance because the former becomes the latter with either a court order or a bit of money exchanging hands.

Will Dataminr have its access revoked like Geofeedia did? Let’s hope so. But simply cutting off Dataminr won’t fix the problem since I guarantee there are a bunch of other companies providing the same service. The only way to fix this problem is to stop using social media sites for activities you want to keep hidden from law enforcers. Don’t plan your protests on Facebook, don’t try to coordinate protest activity using Twitter, and don’t post pictures of your protest planning sessions on Instagram. Doing any of those things is a surefire way for law enforcers to catch wind of what you’re planning before you can execute your plan.

Without Government Who Would Kill the Dogs

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Police perpetrated puppycide (PPP) is a significant problem in the United States. The problem is so widespread that the term puppycide was coined to describe it:

Stories like Smith’s happen all the time. They’re so common that they’ve become known by the grim moniker puppycide. There’s a whole category on Reason’s website for such events, a 16,000-person-strong Facebook group that tracks local media reports of them, and even a database that attempts to collect information on dog shootings nationwide. But no one knows how many dogs are in fact killed by police every year.

A Justice Department official speculated in a 2012 interview with Police magazine that the number could be as high as 10,000 a year, calling it “an epidemic.”

Why are so many dogs being killed by police? Many of these incidents involve dogs that were leashed or kenneled, which leads one to think that many law enforcers simply enjoy killing dogs. The usual schtick we’re fed when these PPPs occur is the time honored “officer safety.” Officer safety are two magical words that when combined are supposed to absolve an officer of any excessive use of force.

At some point people need to ask why the magical words “officer safety” needs to be thrown around so often, especially when we consider the fact that being a police officer isn’t all that dangerous.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Propagandizing Against Secure Communications

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It’s no secret that the State is at odds with effective cryptography. The State prefers to keep tabs on all of its subjects and that’s harder to do when they can talk confidentially amongst themselves. What makes matters worse is that the subjects like their confidentiality and seek out tools that provide that to them. So the State has to first convince its subjects that confidentiality is bad, which means it needs to put out propaganda. Fortunately, many journalists are more than happy to produce propaganda for the State:

The RCMP gave the CBC’s David Seglins and the Toronto Star’s Robert Cribb security clearance to review the details of 10 “high priority” investigations—some of which are ongoing—that show how the police is running into investigative roadblocks on everything from locked devices to encrypted chat rooms to long waits for information. The Toronto Star’s headline describes the documents as “top-secret RCMP files.”

The information sharing was stage-managed, however. Instead of handing over case files directly to the journalists, the federal police provided vetted “detailed written case summaries,” according to a statement from Seglins and Cribb. These summaries “[formed] the basis of our reporting,” they said. The journalists were given additional information on background, and allowed to ask questions, according to the statement, but “many details were withheld.”

The stories extensively quote RCMP officials, but also include comment from privacy experts who are critical of the police agency’s approach.

“On the one hand, the [RCMP] do have a serious problem,” said Jeffrey Dvorkin, former vice president of news for NPR and director of the University of Toronto Scarborough’s journalism program. “But to give information in this way to two respected media organizations does two things: it uses the media to create moral panic, and it makes the media look like police agents.”

The line between journalism and propaganda is almost nonexistent anymore. This story is an example of a more subtle form of journalist created propaganda. It’s not so much a case of a journalist writing outright propaganda as it is a journalist not questioning the information being provided by the police.

Journalists, like product reviewers, don’t like to rock the boat because it might jeopardize their access. The police, like product manufacturers, are more than happy to provide product (which is information in the case of police) to writers who show them in a good light. They are much less apt to provide product to somebody who criticizes them (which is why critics have to rely on the Freedom of Information Act). If a journalist wants to keep getting the inside scoop from the police they need to show the police in a good light, which means that they must not question the information they’re being fed too much.

Be wary of what you read in news sources. The information being printed is not always as it appears, especially when the writer wants to maintain their contacts within the State to get the inside scoop.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Without Government Who Would Distribute Child Pornography

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I’m sure a few eyebrows were raised when the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) took over, upgraded, operated a major child pornography distribution site. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. The FBI wasn’t running just one child pornography site, it was running 23:

The FBI has a controversial new method of fighting child pornography: distributing child pornography. As part of “Operation Pacifier,” the federal law-enforcement agency ran a dark-web child porn clearinghouse called The Playpen for two weeks, delivering malware to any site visitors, in a scheme that was revealed last summer. But it turns out that site may not have been the only dark-web site that the FBI maintained. According to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the agency was actually authorized to takeover 23 child-pornography websites in addition to The Playpen.

According to a recently unsealed FBI affidavit, the 23 Tor-hidden sites were run on one computer server and the FBI requested authority to seize this server and deploy its “network investigative technique” on these sites.

Generally people view distributing child pornography as an especially heinous crime and are very supportive of laws that prohibit it. But like so many other laws, having a badge seems to make it acceptable for a government agent to ignore the prohibition against distributing child pornography. As what point do people decide that this apparent exception to the law is acceptable? And can you really claim to be fighting crime when you’re perpetrating it?

One may also wonder where the FBI finds people that are willing to operate 23 child pornography sites. Anybody operating these sites knows that they are directly involved in both providing a venue for child pornography producers and distributing their content. I can’t think of anybody I know who would be willing to involve themselves in such a thing and I’m guessing many of you can’t either.

The United States has reached the point where the government can no longer pretend that there’s a difference between its law enforcers and the criminals it has tasked them with hunting.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 15th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Voting Won’t Fix This

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Zero tolerance policies are one of those topics no candidates want to touch. Another policy no candidates want to touch are permits. Permits, like the income tax, started off as a requirement that only effected a handful of people but quickly ballooned into effecting everybody. At first major projects required permits. If you wanted to build a building, for example, you needed to acquire a permit from the city. Today almost everything requires a permit. And if you don’t obtain a government mandated permit you can end up facing time in a cage:

Reulas, who hails from Stockton, California, is part of an informal potluck group on Facebook, where people who like to cook can trade recipes, cooking tips, and occasionally dishes. It’s not uncommon for a someone to offer a small amount of money for an equally small amount of food, says Reulas.

According to Fox 40, someone in the Facebook group offered to buy a plate of Ruelas’s signature ceviche, a Mexican seafood fish. That person was an undercover cop carrying out a sting: twelve potluck participants were arrested for selling food without a permit.

Reulas refused to plead guilty and accept a lesser sentence—probation—so her case is headed to trial.

Good on Reulas for refusing the plea deal. If more people opted to fight their cases the court system would quickly be overflowing with cases and a denial of service attack against the courts would effectively be underway. But the fact remains that by refusing to take the plea deal she faces the risk of being found guilty and thrown into a cage for the crime of selling food.

When you go to cast you vote today remember that these seemingly minor issues aren’t being addressed by candidates even though they are negatively impacting the lives of people across the country. Sure, one or two city council members might pay a bit of lip service to reducing the number of permits required within their city but by and large no candidates are even whispering about the burden of needing permits for even the most minor activities. And there’s no motivation for them to do so because the State rakes in a ton of cash off of permits.

No matter how hard you vote today nothing will change. A few figureheads will be swapped around but the machinations of leviathan won’t be altered.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 8th, 2016 at 11:00 am

When Officers Really Screw Up They Receive Unpaid Leave

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Earlier this week it was announced that an officer who was fired for getting drunk and beating his K-9 partner was given his job back. In other words, the officer, Brett Arthur Berry, was given an unpaid vacation instead of the standard paid vacation. But some people are probably willing to give his some leeway because he beat a dog, not a person. Here in Minnesota beating a person also results in nothing more than an unpaid vacation:

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO has obtained video that led, in part, to a police officer’s firing. That officer now has his job back, as an arbitrator ruled he should be reinstated last week. Minneapolis police officer Blayne Lehner is currently on paid administrative leave.

The video shows Lehner pushing a woman. Seconds later he swatted a cellphone out of her hand and pushed her to the ground after she tried to grab him.

Instead of receiving an unpaid vacation he is now receiving a paid vacation. Some might wonder, especially after watching the video of him attacking the woman, what justification allowed him to return to the force. Not surprisingly, the justification was “officer safety”:

“She’s talking on the phone right now and he wants her attention. When he knocks it out of her hand, her left hand is coming up towards him. He’s looking at that as a possible threat,” Dutton said.

See? She threatened him! When he initiated force by knocking her cell phone out of her hand she moved her left hand! His only option to avoid possibly being slapped was to throw her to the ground! She’s lucky he didn’t shoot her because his life was totally on the line and therefore deadly force was obviously justified!

When apologists talk about the supposedly brave men and women in blue I can’t help but scoff. It seems like police officers see a threat hiding in every shadow, lurking under every bed, and hiding in every closet. Does a person walking down the street in the dead of winter have their hands in their pockets? Threat! Is a kenneled dog barking at the officers who just kicked down the door in the middle of the night? Threat! Did a woman move her hand after an officer initiated aggression? Threat!

Law enforcement has become a self-feeding delusion. New officers are taught that they have signed up for an extremely dangerous job where everybody is trying to kill them. This deludes them into seeing every single encounter with a member of the public is potentially life threatening. Their delusion is held up whenever one of their encounters doesn’t involve a completely submissive citizen. When they tell their fellows about their encounter their delusion is further affirmed by being reminded about how dangerous the job is. Then they move on to teach other new officers about how dangerous being a cop is.

But reality is far different. Law enforcement isn’t that dangerous of a profession, at least not for the law enforcers. Law enforcement has become a dangerous profession for the people. Because of the self-feeding delusion law enforcers have they respond far more aggressively than they ought to. This is why a seemingly routine traffic stop can into a motorist being murdered by a police officer. The fact that few officers are punished for using excessive force just further feeds the cycle by teaching officers that their misdeeds will be forgiven in almost any case.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 4th, 2016 at 11:00 am