A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Your Government Doesn’t Love You’ tag

When Being Arrested is Enough to Land You in Prison

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A man is currently sitting in prison because he was arrested. Mind you, he wasn’t found guilty of anything but being arrested violated a condition of his parole so he’s not rotting in a cage again:

In March 2016, a year after Smith’s arrest, prosecutors dismissed the other charge against Smith — the drug crime — after the man who claimed the package of pot pleaded guilty, court records show.

“Your case is dismissed,” a judge told Smith, according to the transcript. “That’s the end of that, so, for you.”

The problem: Smith’s arrest was a violation of his parole. Such violations can send him back to prison. It doesn’t matter that the charges were dropped. And the ultimate arbiter of whether Smith violated his parole isn’t the judge or prosecutor, but the Tennessee Board of Parole. And that group of seven people, all appointed by the governor, has decided to keep Smith in prison.

Just another day in the freest country on Earth.

The whole point of parole (ideally, not in practice though) is to release individuals who haven’t demonstrated themselves to be dangerous on the condition that they behave themselves. However, including the stipulation that a parolee avoid being arrested takes control away from them because, as we all know, a law enforcer can arrest you for any damned reason they please. As the old saying goes, you might avoid the charge but you won’t avoid the ride.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 22nd, 2017 at 11:00 am

NSA Told to Sod Off

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After the National Security Agency (NSA) was caught cryptographic algorithms to enhance its surveillance abilities, trust for the agency fell to an all time low. This distrust lead the International Standards Organization (ISO) to reject two encryption algorithms recently submitted by the NSA:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – An international group of cryptography experts has forced the U.S. National Security Agency to back down over two data encryption techniques it wanted set as global industry standards, reflecting deep mistrust among close U.S. allies.

In interviews and emails seen by Reuters, academic and industry experts from countries including Germany, Japan and Israel worried that the U.S. electronic spy agency was pushing the new techniques not because they were good encryption tools, but because it knew how to break them.

The NSA has now agreed to drop all but the most powerful versions of the techniques – those least likely to be vulnerable to hacks – to address the concerns.

The dispute, which has played out in a series of closed-door meetings around the world over the past three years and has not been previously reported, turns on whether the International Organization of Standards should approve two NSA data encryption techniques, known as Simon and Speck.

This is an appropriate response. The NSA has a track record of manipulating standards organizations in order to make its surveillance apparatus more effective. In security trust is everything. Since the NSA has proven itself to be untrustworthy, it only makes sense to reject any proposals from the agency.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 22nd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Collectivizing Individual Action

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The War on Some Drugs is justified by collectivizing individual action. According to its proponents, drug usage is a societal problem. They try to justify this claim by using other forms of collectivism. For example, proponents of the drug war will claim that drug usage costs “us” fantastic amounts of money in healthcare-related expenses. However, they can only make that claim because the government has collectivized a significant portion of the healthcare market. If the healthcare market were a free market, drug users would be left footing the expenses for their habit.

The drug war’s current hot topic is illegal opioid usage. In an attempt to make illegal opioid usage look like a societal problem, proponents of the drug war are now claiming that opioid usage has lowered the average life expectancy in the United States:

The problem is so bad, in fact, that the epidemic is dragging down the entire country’s life expectancy—by 2.5 months. That’s according to a new analysis by CDC researchers who published Tuesday in JAMA.

The problem with this statistic is that it’s completely meaningless.

Drug usage isn’t a communicable disease like plague or the flu. A drug user can’t transmit the effects of the drugs they’re using to you. Like them, you have to make a conscious decision to use drugs. If my neighbor down the street decides to use heroine, my life expectancy isn’t impacts in any way whatsoever. But if enough people actually realized that, the government would have a difficult time drumming up popular support for its very profitable war.

Minneapolis Police Not Using Body Cameras

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The City of Minneapolis spent millions of dollars to equip its law enforcers with body cameras. It also created a policy of when its law enforcers are supposed to turn their body cameras on. That policy lacked any real consequences for officers who didn’t follow it. In an absolutely shocking turn of events, it turns out that Minneapolis law enforcers are willing to suffer the lack of consequences for not following the city’s policy:

Minneapolis police officers frequently fail to turn on their body-worn cameras, a City Council member said Monday, a day before the release of an audit detailing their use.

That was among findings of a two-month examination of the department’s body camera program, said Council Member Linea Palmisano, who reviewed the report over the weekend. It shows that most of the problems stem from a lack of accountability for officers who don’t activate their cameras when responding to calls or turn them off without explanation, she said.

“There’s some people who never have it on,” said Palmisano. “This is a very expensive program, and there isn’t oversight of this, and there isn’t governance.”

This is what happens when you put the foxes in charge of holding themselves accountable to the chickens. Body cameras have the potential to catch police officers behaving badly but that potential will remains unrealized so long as the officers wearing them get to decide when to turn them on. I feel pretty safe in saying that policy changes won’t make any difference. There is too much precedence for law enforcers disobeying policies and getting away with it.

Until the decision of when to turn on body cameras and control over any recorded video is taken away from law enforcers, those cameras will only serve to collect evidence against individuals who law enforcers want to see prosecuted.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 21st, 2017 at 10:30 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

Let Them Eat Rabbit

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Socialism has brought equality to Venezuelans! Everybody is equally hungry (except for members of the Party but they’re more important than the lowly proles) and it’s not sitting well. Probably hoping to keep his head firmly attached to his neck, President Maduro has offered a plan to deal with the country’s hunger. His plan? Let them eat rabbit:

That was basically the message from President Nicolas Maduro to Venezuelans starving and struggling through severe food shortages brought on by a spiraling economic crisis.

Maduro unveiled “Plan Rabbit” on Wednesday with his agriculture minister, Freddy Bernal, at a meeting that was broadcast on Periscope. (In the video, the announcement comes after the two-hour mark).

Unfortunately for the people of Venezuela, rabbit meat alone doesn’t fend off starvation:

Protein poisoning was first noted as a consequence of eating rabbit meat exclusively, hence the term, “rabbit starvation”. Rabbit meat is very lean; commercial rabbit meat has 50–100 g dissectable fat per 2 kg (live weight). Based on a carcass yield of 60%, rabbit meat is around 8.3% fat while beef and pork are 32% fat and lamb 28%.

Unless Venezuelans can find a source of fat to go with their rabbit meat, they’ll be in the same position they currently are.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 15th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Digital Serfdom

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Do you own your phone? How about your thermostat or even your car? I would guess that most people would reflexively respond that they do own those things. However, due to intellectual property laws, you don’t:

One key reason we don’t control our devices is that the companies that make them seem to think – and definitely act like – they still own them, even after we’ve bought them. A person may purchase a nice-looking box full of electronics that can function as a smartphone, the corporate argument goes, but they buy a license only to use the software inside. The companies say they still own the software, and because they own it, they can control it. It’s as if a car dealer sold a car, but claimed ownership of the motor.

This sort of arrangement is destroying the concept of basic property ownership.

I’ve hit on this topic numerous times but it bears repeating. Copyright laws don’t apply to purely mechanical goods so when you buy an older car or a mechanical watch you actually own it. Copyright laws do apply to software so when you buy anything that runs software you are licensing it. The difference between ownership and licensing is significant.

If you own something, you have the right to do whatever you want with it. If a product that you own breaks, you can hire anybody you want to repair it. If you are unhappy with the performance of a product that you own, you can modify it to your heart’s content. If you license something, you have a limited set of privileges. If your licensed product breaks, you might be restricted on where you can take it for repairs. If your are unhappy with the performance of your licensed product, you might be restricted on what kind of modifications, if any, you are allowed to make.

As software becomes more pervasive, ownership will become more endangered. It doesn’t have to be this way though. If copyrights didn’t apply to software, manufacturers wouldn’t have a legal foundation to restrict buyers. If manufacturers used free (as in freedom) software, buyers would be able to own their products. Unfortunately, I don’t think manufacturers will make any major move to utilize free software since most of them probably enjoy the fact that the State is subsidizing them by enforcing their ability to license instead of sell their products to buyers. Until that changes, digital serfdom will remain the norm and buyers won’t be able to claim that they own the products that they spend money on.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 13th, 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