A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

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Californians were scheduled to vote on a measure to divide the state into three separate states but they won’t have that opportunity because a men in muumuus said so:

The California Supreme Court shot down the controversial initiative from appearing on the November ballot in a unanimous decision, writing that “significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity.”

Proposition 9 would’ve asked voters whether California should separate into three states: California, Northern California and Southern California. It would’ve been subject to approval by US Congress. The initiative had gained enough signatures in June to qualify for the ballot on November 6.

“We conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election,” the justices wrote.

Proponents of Democracy believe that it gives the people an opportunity to voice their opinion to their government. That’s true only if their opinion isn’t radical. Democratic systems have a lot of safeguards in place to protect the status quo. If, for example, you are able to get enough signatures to get a radical measure placed on a statewide ballot, the safeguard of the courts kicks in to toss that measure out.

Whenever I say that real change cannot be realized through political means, somebody lists off all of the changes that have occurred through political means. What all of those changes end up having in common is that they’re minor, not radical. You cannot, for example, vote to abolish a political office, you can only vote on who occupies that office. So you may managed to get a slightly less terrible candidate to occupy an office but that isn’t real change, that’s a minor change. If you did try to get a measure on a ballot to abolish a political office, one of the state’s safeguards would kick in to prevent you from realizing your goal. That is democracy in a nutshell, the plebes can do no more than vote on some minor details.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 20th, 2018 at 10:30 am

What What, In the Butt

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Law enforcers offer a lot of free services. If you see a black family grilling in a park, you can call a law enforcer and they’ll come and hassle them for you. If a member of your family is threatening to commit suicide, you can call a law enforcer and they’ll come and kill your family member before they have a chance to kill themselves. If you can’t afford a visit to the doctor’s office, you can call a law enforcer and they’ll come and give you a free prostate exam:

WASHINGTON (WJLA) — The cell phone video shows a ‘Stop and Frisk’ encounter last September between an MPD officer and M.B. Cottingham, a D.C. resident.

“Come on man! Stop fingering me, bruh!” the 39-year-old cries out.

“Stop moving,” replies Officer Sean Lojacono.

Now, 10 months after that pat-down, the ACLU of DC has filed a federal lawsuit against Lojacono, calling it an illegal and invasive body search.

“The officer, instead of frisking him for weapons, just jams his finger and his hand between Mr. Cottingham’s legs,” said ACLU attorney Scott Michelman.

Not surprisingly, there were several officers involved:

The suit says several officers, including Lojacono, “got out of their cars and asked the men if they had any guns. They responded they did not.”

It’s not just that there are bad apples but that there are also a lot of indifferent apples willing to standby and let the bad apples do whatever they want.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 20th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Whoopsie

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There are some jobs that are so critical that many people believe they must be performed by government agents. One of those jobs is protecting radioactive material. But what happens when you give an important job to an organization that historically sucks at everything? Exactly what you expect:

Two workers from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory lost an undisclosed amount of plutonium and cesium from a rental car parked overnight in a San Antonio, Texas, hotel parking lot in a neighborhood known for car break-ins and other crimes, according to an article published Monday by the Center for Public Integrity.

The loss of the highly radioactive material occurred in March 2017 and was discovered when the two workers awoke the next morning to find the window of their Ford Expedition had been smashed. Missing were radiation detectors and small samples of plutonium and cesium used to calibrate them.

The best part? This isn’t the first time government agents have lost plutonium:

The missing plutonium and cesium join the ever-growing amount of MUF—short for material unaccounted for—that has resulted from thefts or losses over the years. In 2009, the Energy Department’s inspector general took account of radioactive materials the military loaned to US academic researchers, government agencies, or commercial firms. The conclusion: despite being listed until 2004 as securely stored, one pound of plutonium and 45 pounds of highly enriched uranium were missing.

Who needs a uranium enrichment program when you can just take what the United States has already produced?

This news shouldn’t surprise anybody. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has a history of losing guns, the Pentagon has a history of losing money, and the Department of Health and Human Service has a history of losing children. The federal government flat out sucks at keeping track of anything left in its care.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 18th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Grandstanding Is Easier When You’re Shielded from Consequences

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Advocates for gun control are in a virtuousness competition. This competition has lead to some rather hilarious moments. For example, the Eden Prairie City Council here in Minnesota attempted to demonstration its virtuousness by proposing a resolution that would ask firearm sellers in the city to not sell ascetically offensive firearms. The entire debate was meaningless because of state preemption, which prevents municipalities from passing their own gun control laws, but it allowed the city council to broadcast to the world how virtuous they are.

Now the St. Louis Park City Council, also here in Minnesota, is considering stepping up the game by outright violating state preemption:

Some St. Louis Park City Council members have set their sights on a state law that limits cities from creating gun restrictions.

After discussing gun laws with students from St. Louis Park High School at a May 21 study session, Mayor Jake Spano said, “We’re openly discussing flouting state law and getting sued. I’m not interested in picking fights for no reason, but at the same time this has got to stop.”

They realize that doing so would get them sued so why would they even consider such action? Because if they go through with their plan and they are inevitably sued, they don’t have to suffer the consequences. The St. Louis Park City Council members won’t have to payout if they lose such a lawsuit, the tax payers in St. Louis Park will.

Grandstanding is easier when you’re shielded from consequences. When city council members do something that gets the city sued, they get to sit back and relax while the city pays for lawyers and, if the city loses the court case, pays out the fine. The icing on the cake is that while the city is paying out for the members’ grandstanding, it is also still paying their salaries.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 17th, 2018 at 11:00 am

How Tariffs Work

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People who subscribe to mercantilism tend to favor internal trading over external trading. If external trading is to occur, they prefer that their nation only export goods while the other nations of the world only import goods. But that ideal is difficult to realize because people in one nation are often interested in the goods and services provided by people of other nations and that interest leads to mutual trade. How can a mercantilist thwart this mutual trade? By imposing artificial barriers on international economic activity. While there are many such barriers that can be raised, the most popular barrier today is the tariff. The Mercantilists imagine that implementing tariffs means that its people will develop a preference for domestic products over foreign products while foreigners will still prefer importing the goods of their nation. Nobody likes an unfair deal so in actuality all that happens is that the nation implementing the tariffs is bypassed:

The European Union and Japan have signed one of the world’s biggest free trade deals, covering nearly a third of the world’s GDP and 600 million people.

One of the biggest EU exports to Japan is dairy goods, while cars are one of Japan’s biggest exports.

The move contrasts sharply with actions by the US Trump administration, which has introduced steep import tariffs.

If the United States won’t play fair, then it won’t get to play at all.

The current administration is playing a stupid game. It’s trying to develop domestic economic activity by artificially raising the price of imported goods even though the United States doesn’t have the experience or capacity to manufacture many imported goods on a scale that can satisfy demands. The result of this game is that consumers in the United States will be forced to pay more for their goods while the rest of the world bypasses the United States.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 17th, 2018 at 10:00 am

It’s Good to Be the King

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It’s good to be the king. When you’re the king, you don’t have to put up with insults from your subjects:

When body-camera footage of an aggressive or abusive police officer goes viral, the response from law enforcement groups is often to caution that we shouldn’t judge the entire system based on actions of a few bad apples. That’s fair enough. But what does it say about the system when the cops gets away with their bad behavior? What if, despite video footage clearly showing that the cops are in the wrong, sheriffs and police chiefs cover for them, anyway? What if local prosecutors do, too? What if even mayors and city attorneys get into the act?

Adam Finley had such an interaction with a bad cop. He was roughed up, sworn at and handcuffed. When he tried to file a complaint, he was hit with criminal charges. The local police chief turned Finley’s wife against him, which (according to both Finley and her) eventually ended their marriage. The fact that video of the incident should have vindicated him didn’t seem to matter.

This is a really good story to read because it illustrates a lot of facts about modern law enforcement, the power of authority, and local government. Even though body camera footage clearly showed the officer was abusing his authority, Finley had his life ruined because the people tasked with overseeing the law enforcer covered for him. This shouldn’t be surprisingly since all of the people tasked with overseeing the law enforcer work for the same government as the law enforcer. But many people still make the mistake of believing that government oversight of law enforcement is an effective check against abuse when, in fact, government oversight of law enforcement is merely the government overseeing itself. Whenever you give an entity the power to oversee itself, it has a strong tendency to find that it did nothing wrong.

Mr. Musk’s Greater South Africa

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Elon Musk has two transportation programs, as space program, and now he’s working on a utilities program. At this point he has enough traditionally government programs to basically be a government:

For around four years now, the water supply to the city of Flint, Michigan, has been contaminated with lead. Now, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has promised to help. Replying to a request on Twitter, Musk pledged to fund remediation work to houses with contaminated water supplies.

Snowcrash’s future is actually one of the more pleasant ones and I don’t think that I’d mind being a citizen of Mr. Musk’s Greater South Africa. At least it’ll have a space presence, high-speed underground transportation, and clean drinking water.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 13th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Federal Court Tells Slaves to Shut Up

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What recourse do you have when you’re assaulted by a Transportation Security Agency (TSA) goon? A federal appeals court has decided that you have no recourse:

In a 2-1 vote, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners were not “investigative or law enforcement officers,” and were therefore shielded from liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

Badges, even when they’re not on the shirt of a law enforcer, are magical things. So long as your uniform has one, you enjoy significant privileges that allow you to get away with actions that would be considered criminal if performed by somebody without a badge.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 12th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Heads Up Fellow Minnesotans

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If you live in Minnesota, you’ll want to keep an even more careful eye out for road pirates because they’re having an annual fundraiser:

A statewide extra enforcement campaign cracking down on speeding and aggressive driving begins today and runs through July 22, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

More than 300 agencies are involved in the campaign, and while cost of tickets may vary across counties, drivers should expect fees around $110 for traveling 10 mph over the speed limit.

What can you do protect yourself? My favorite tool for defending myself against road pirates is Waze. There are many helpful Waze users (including me) who report any law enforcers that they see on the road. If you live in a major metropolitan area, Waze is usually pretty good about alerting you to lurking road pirates. However, since it relies on crowdsourced information, it tends to be less effective in rural areas. With that said, if you live in a rural area, you could always start an awareness campaign to get more people using it.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 12th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Body Cameras Are for the Benefit of Prosecutors, Not You

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For decades there has been an continuously increasing number of reports of law enforcers abusing their power. Unfortunately, many of these reports boiled down to he said, she said because of the lack of evidence. Moreover, when he said, she said reports involving law enforcers crop up, the courts that are tasked with overseeing them (but also happen to work for the same employer), tend to side with them. This tendency spurred a call by many for police body cameras. While there was some push back from the law enforcement community regarding body cameras, most departments seemed to roll over with comparatively little resistance, which should have been a red flag that they knew something that we didn’t.

Now that body cameras have been widely deployed for some time, we finally have enough evidence to establish a theory about why so many law enforcement departments rolled over so easily. They recognized that body cameras were valuable assets when prosecutors needed evidence and malfunctioning junk when law enforcers might be shown in a bad light:

Techdirt has the goods on a pretty crazy story out of Albuquerque. Five police officers were at the scene of a fatal shooting. All five were wearing body cameras. And miraculously, none of the five captured usable footage from the shooting on their body cameras.

A sergeant on the scene claimed to have turned his camera on, but the camera didn’t record. He’d later say his camera had never malfunctioned like that before. Ditto for another officer whose camera weirdly captured footage so pixelated that it was unusable — again, no one had ever seen that problem before. A third officer says his camera malfunctioned just before the shooting. Mysteriously, the camera has not had a problem since. A fourth said his camera mistakenly became unplugged. Analysis showed it had been turned on eight minutes before the shooting, then turned off just moments before the fatal encounter. A fifth officer’s camera captured 10 seconds of vague footage. It should have captured at least 30, given the camera’s buffer function. He had failed to turn it on.

Regular readers of The Watch may recall that this isn’t even the first time five police cameras all conveniently malfunctioned at a critical time.

Five officers experiencing body camera malfunctions during an incident involving a fatal shooting is pretty much unbelievable in of itself but if you read the rest of the story, you’ll learn that this sort of thing has happened on numerous occasions. Strangely enough I haven’t seen any reports where multiple body cameras have malfunctioned during incidents that reflect well on the officers involved. If the reports of malfunctioning body cameras are to be believed, then the malfunction must be caused by law enforcers performing questionable actions.

Realistically body cameras were never meant to be tools to hold law enforcers accountable. They were sold as such so community members would support their adoption but they were really meant to collect additional evidence to assist prosecutors. And this scam works because the body tasked with holding law enforcers accountable just happens to be the same body for which the law enforcers generate revenue. Did you really think that government bodies were interested in potentially hurting their revenue by pissing off their revenue generators?

Written by Christopher Burg

July 11th, 2018 at 11:00 am