Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘Police State’

Kooky pro-government conspiracy theories

In Activism, Big Brother, Censorship, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Local Politics, Police State, Politics, Protest, Republican, Terrorism, US Government on September 30, 2008 at 2:02 pm

A Letter from the RNC 8

Dear Friends, Family, and Comrades:

We are the RNC 8: individuals targeted because of our political beliefs and work organizing for protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention, in what appears to be the first use of Minnesota’s version of the US Patriot Act. The 8 of us are currently charged with Conspiracy to Commit Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism, a 2nd degree felony that carries the possibility of several years in prison. We are writing to let you know about our situation, to ask for support, and to offer words of hope.

A little background: the RNC Welcoming Committee was a group formed in late 2006 upon hearing that the 2008 Republican National Convention would be descending on Minneapolis-St. Paul where we live, work, and build community. The Welcoming Committee’s purpose was to serve as an anarchist/anti-authoritarian organizing body, creating an informational and logistical framework for radical resistance to the RNC. We spent more than a year and a half doing outreach, facilitating meetings throughout the country, and networking folks of all political persuasions who shared a common interest in voicing dissent in the streets of St. Paul while the GOP’s machine chugged away inside the convention.

In mid-August the Welcoming Committee opened a “Convergence Center,” a space for protesters to gather, eat, share resources, and build networks of solidarity. On Friday, August 29th, 2008, as folks were finishing dinner and sitting down to a movie the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department stormed in, guns drawn, ordering everyone to the ground. This evening raid resulted in seized property (mostly literature), and after being cuffed, searched, and IDed, the 60+ individual inside were released.

The next morning, on Saturday, August 30th, the Sheriff’s department executed search warrants on three houses, seizing personal and common household items and arresting the first 5 of us- Monica Bicking, Garrett Fitzgerald, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, and Eryn Trimmer. Later that day Luce Guillen-Givins was arrested leaving a public meeting at a park. Rob Czernik and Max Specktor were arrested on Monday, September 1, bringing the number to its present 8. All were held on probable cause and released on $10,000 bail on Thursday, September 4, the last day of the RNC.

These arrests were preemptive, targeting known organizers in an attempt to derail anti-RNC protests before the convention had even begun. Conspiracy charges expand upon the traditional notion of crime. Instead of condemning action, the very concept of conspiracy criminalizes thought and camaraderie, the development of relationships, the willingness to hope that our world might change and the realization that we can be agents of that change.

Conspiracy charges serve a very particular purpose- to criminalize dissent. They create a convenient method for incapacitating activists, with the potential for diverting limited resources towards protracted legal battles and terrorizing entire communities into silence and inaction. Though not the first conspiracy case against organizers- not even the first in recent memory- our case may be precedent-setting. Minnesota’s terrorism statutes have never been enacted in this way before, and if they win their case against us, they will only be strengthened as they continue their crusade on ever more widespread fronts. We view our case as an opportunity to demonstrate community solidarity in the face of repression, to establish a precedent of successful resistance to the government’s attempts to destroy our movements.

Right now we are in the very early stages of a legal battle that will require large sums of money and enormous personal resources. We have already been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support locally and throughout the country, and are grateful for everything that people have done for us. We now have a Twin Cities-based support committee and are developing a national support network that we feel confident will help us through the coming months. For more information on the case and how to support us, or to donate, go to http://RNC8.org

We have been humbled by such an immense initial show of solidarity and are inspired to turn our attention back to the very issues that motivated us to organize against the RNC in the first place. What’s happening to us is part of a much broader and very serious problem. The fact is that we live in a police state- some people first realized this in the streets of St. Paul during the convention, but many others live with that reality their whole lives. People of color, poor and working class people, immigrants, are targeted and criminalized on a daily basis, and we understand what that context suggests about the repression the 8 of us face now. Because we are political organizers who have built solid relationships through our work, because we have various forms of privilege- some of us through our skin, some through our class, some through our education- and because we have the resources to invoke a national network of support, we are lucky, even as we are being targeted.

And so, while we ask for support in whatever form you are able to offer it, and while we need that support to stay free, we also ask that you think of our case as a late indicator of the oppressive climate in which we live. The best solidarity is to keep the struggle going, and we hope that supporting us can be a small part of broader movements for social change.

For better times and with love,

the RNC 8: Luce Guillen-Givins, Max Spector, Nathanael Secor, Eryn Timmer, Monica Bicking, Erik Oseland, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald

Technically legal signs for libraries

In Activism, Big Brother, Censorship, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law Enforcement, Police State, Protest, Terrorism on July 27, 2008 at 1:57 am

From librarian.net

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter…

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Drug War, Law Enforcement, Police Brutality, Police State, Terrorism, War on July 24, 2008 at 11:24 pm

Posted at Rad Geek

These are scenes from a SWAT team training exercise in Floyd County, Georgia, in which a squad of heavily armed paramilitaries practice storming, sweeping, and occupying a house, while dressed in military-style fatigues and heavily armed with assault rifles, body armor, gas grenades, etc. The training exercise is part of a recruitment video that the Floyd County Public Safety department is preparing, in order to show potential [job] applicants what Floyd County Public Safety is all about, apparently because Floyd County cops want to hire on even more of the kind of people who would be attracted to the prospect of doing things like this all day, and who believe that this sort of thing is what policing is all about:

And here’s the reality

Starchild instrumental in putting prostitution decriminalization on the ballot

In Activism, Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Economics, Entertainment, First Amendment, Law, Law Enforcement, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Local Politics, Nanny State, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics on July 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Press release posted on the LP Radicals yahoo group. Starchild has had various offices in the San Francisco and California LP, and is one of the spokespeople for this initiative.

The San Francisco Department of Elections announced today that the measure prohibiting city officials from spending money arresting and prosecuting people for prostitution, and mandating equal legal protection for sex workers, has qualified for the November ballot. Of 500 signatures randomly sampled and checked by department personnel, 80 percent were found to be valid. “This is a happy day for San Franciscans who want government to focus on fighting real crimes like homicides and robberies, and are tired of seeing resources wasted in a futile effort to police consensual sex between adults,” said Starchild, a sex worker activist and spokesperson for the campaign. “We’ve cleared the first hurdle.” By the Elections Department’s tally, supporters had turned in 12,745 signatures of registered San Francisco voters on July 7.

The campaign to decriminalize prostitution will hold a kickoff rally and press conference to formally announce the results on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. in front of the Polk Street entrance of City Hall, with
speakers to likely include Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who was a signer of the petition to put the measure on the ballot along with two of his board colleagues. “It is way past time that the
recommendations of the Board of Supervisors 1996 Prostitution Task Force were implemented,” said the measure’s proponent, Maxine Doogan. “Criminalizing sex workers has been putting workers at risk of violence and discrimination for far too long.”

The prostitution reform measure joins two other voter-submitted measures on the local Nov. 4 ballot, along with eight measures put on the ballot by the mayor or members of the Board of Supervisors, with many others expected to be added in the next several weeks.

Starchild – (415) 621-7932 / (415) 368-8657 / RealReform@…
Maxine Doogan – (415) 265-3302 / MistressMax@…

FLDS finally getting their children back today

In Big Brother, Children, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Libertarian, Media, Minorities, Nanny State, People in the news, Police State on June 2, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Two months after their children were taken by state social service agencies, the parents of the Yearning For Zion polygamist sect have been granted permission by the court to pick up their children from foster care starting at 10:00 am CDT today.  This latest development comes after the Texas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the state lacked probable cause to remove their children from their families, because they could not show that any of the children were in immediate danger.

The order does have some serious restrictions, however.  The families have been ordered to cooperate with state officials, including unannounced home visits and physical and psychiatric testing; they are also not permitted to leave the state of Texas, and the parents must take parenting classes.  The families are also not allowed to travel more than 100 miles without notifying Child Protective Services.

The return of the children is being hailed as a victory by civil libertarians, who viewed the raid as a violation of the sect’s constitutional rights.  However, many still question the restrictions placed upon the families by the court.

Yearning For Zion is a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sect.  FLDS members believe in the original teachings of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, who taught that polygamy is the way to glorification in heaven.  The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints banned polygamy over a hundred years ago.

The state of Texas had taken over 400 children into custody, following a hoax call from a woman falsely claiming to be a pregnant FLDS teenager being beaten by her much older husband.  That woman, Rozita Swinson of Colorado, has been arrested; and it has come to light that this is not the first time she has perpetrated a hoax of this type.

It is expected that the YFZ families whose children were removed, as well as the young women who were taken against their will and assumed to be underage even though they are legal adults (at least one is in her mid-twenties), will sue the state of Texas and the state’s Child Protective Services agency.  If that occurs, due to the number of people involved, the damages could be in the billions.

Previous LFV entries on this subject (listed in chronological order):

“Sickos: What’s a free market solution?” by Nigel Watt, 4/22/08

“Another viewpoint on FLDS case” by ElfNinosMom, 4/22/08

“Texas Supreme Court orders polygamist children returned to parents” by ElfNinosMom, 05/29/08

Dirty cop convicted in no-knock warrant death of 92-year-old woman

In Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Drug War, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Obituaries, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police Brutality, Police State on May 21, 2008 at 4:37 pm

After two Atlanta cops (Gregg Junnier and Jason R. Smith) pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and federal civil rights violations in the death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, a third cop (Arthur Bruce Tesler) has been found guilty by a jury of lying in the investigation into the woman’s death. Tesler did not fire any of the shots in the raid.

Tesler and his partners Junnier and Smith had gotten a no-knock warrant, claiming that there was a kilo of cocaine in the house, but they lied about whether they had confirmed the information from their informant. Consequently they busted into the elderly woman’s home in plainclothes, shot and killed her when she shot at them – undoubtedly in self-defense, believing them to be intruders – then planted drugs in her house to make it look like a “good” bust.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The jury acquitted Tesler on two charges from the illegal 2006 narcotics raid in which officers shot and killed Kathryn Johnston in her northwest Atlanta home. It found him guilty of lying in an official investigation in the cover-up of police wrongdoing that followed the shooting.

“It is not like anyone intended to hurt her, but that’s what came out of it,” Woltz said. “Right will win out.”

Tesler, 42, faces up to five years in prison when sentenced Thursday. If he had been convicted on all counts, he could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The verdict came shortly after the jury reviewed a transcript of Tesler’s defense testimony. He and his two partners were accused of lying to get the no-knock search warrant for Johnston’s home on the mistaken belief it was the house of a drug dealer.

The Johnston killing shocked metro Atlanta and enraged many in the African-American community, who complained that shoddy or heavy-handed police work in the war on drugs was a source of repeated abuses.

You can read the article in its entirety on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Police brutality in Philadelphia last night caught on tape

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Media, Minorities, People in the news, Police Brutality, Police State on May 7, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Another viewpoint on FLDS case

In Activism, Big Brother, Children, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, First Amendment, Fraud, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Nanny State, People in the news, Police State on April 22, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Polygamists outside courtThe judge hearing the case of 400+ children removed from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), Judge Barbara Walther, has ordered DNA tests of the children from the Yearning For Zion (YFZ) compound. The tests began yesterday via cheek swab, and it is taking an extraordinarily long time to do each one (about 30 minutes) due to the convoluted relationships between the adherents, which brings with it fear of contamination of the samples. Many polygamist children living in a sect of this type have no idea which woman is their biological mother, or which man is their biological father. Prosecutors have also requested psychiatric examinations of the children, while the attorneys for the children objected vehemently to both.

In polygamist relationships, the women assigned to a particular man refer to one another as “sister wives”, and they are all viewed as mothers to all of their husband’s children. There is a pecking order among the wives, though, with each subsequent wife bearing less power within the overall relationship. Furthermore, women and children can be taken from the fathers, and “reassigned” to another man. For this reason, it is not at all unusual for a child to not know the identity of their biological parents.

However, there is reason to fear that the DNA tests will be used for other purposes. For example, if it is proven that a child was born to an underage mother, or that the mother and father are closely related, criminal charges could ensue, and the state will already have proof of the illegal relationship. More chillingly, under the guise of scientific knowledge, the test results could be used for other purposes, since in established polygamist sects everyone is related by blood to everyone else, and incest is common. Frankly, I fear that these children will become guinea pigs.

The judge stated the reason for the testing is that the mothers have regularly changed their names, possibly lied about their ages, and have difficulty naming their relatives.

In the meantime, the children are being held as a group, inside a coliseum.

In an interview with CBS’s “The Early Show” one of the men from the polygamist sect, known only as “Rulan”, stated that the men would cooperate with DNA testing if it will help them get their children back. He also stated that the sect would reconsider allowing sex with girls under 18.

Many of us perhaps were not even aware of such a law. And we do reconsider, yes. We teach our children to abide the law.

Prosecutors claim that simply living in the compound exposes the girls to sexual abuse, or the imminent risk of abuse, due to the practice of forcing girls as young as 13 to marry men sometimes old enough to be their grandfathers or great-grandfathers. There is a pecking order among the men, just as there is among the women, and even elderly men can request that a young girl be “assigned” to them as an additional wife. The purpose of this, insofar as their religious belief, is so that the man can produce as many “superior souls” as possible. Once that man dies – or if he no longer wants the wife, or if a man higher in the patriarchy decides he wants that man’s wife – his wives and children are assigned to other men; the women have no say with regard to which man they are assigned as a wife.

Once the DNA sampling is completed, which is expected to take several days, the children will be placed in foster care, and the children younger than four – who up to this point have stayed with their mothers – will be taken away as well.

Psychologists, however, warn that placing the children in conventional foster homes can cause severe psychological damage due to overexposure; these children have lived in such a strict community that even being allowed to play with mainstream children could cause serious problems. State workers have said that they will try to keep siblings together, and keep the children in groups. For the sake of the children, they will also need to create an environment with little to no contact with the outside world, which means no television, computers, or other media. It is unclear how the children will be educated, given that sending them to public school could prove to cause lifelong emotional and psychological scars.

Furthermore, another barrier stands in the way, which is that FLDS children have been taught from the earliest age that even mere disobedience to one’s parents leads to eternal damnation, and that the world outside the compound is evil. Obviously, these children are suffering both emotionally and psychologically, not just from being separated from their parents and community, but because they fear damnation for merely being taken by the state into the outside world.

I know some foster families, but I cannot imagine changing their entire household to accommodate restrictions that severe. I fear most foster parents will not even try, thinking it is best for the children to be exposed to the outside world. I therefore fear for those children, because I honestly think the psychologists’ warnings are to be taken seriously. We’re living in the 21st Century, while those children for all intents and purposes have never known anything beyond the 19th Century, since most have never even been off the compound before now. Experiencing a typical home today would be something akin to a time machine for them, and could even alter the religious beliefs they have been taught. The state, however, has absolutely no right whatsoever to expose those children to anything which might alter the beliefs their parents hold as truth; and to do otherwise is a violation of the First Amendment.

This is a very serious problem in this situation, and personally, I think this is such an extreme case – since the state has essentially denied their religious rights as well as the right to be secure in their homes – that the Supreme Court needs to step in and make sure the constitutional rights of the children and their parents are protected, before irreparable damage is done. It may already be too late.

Rozita SwinsonIn the meantime, police have identified a 33-year-old Colorado Springs woman, Rozita Swinton, as a “person of interest” and the possible source of the phone calls which caused this situation. Swinton is currently in police custody, charged with false reporting to authorities in another, unrelated case. There has been no explanation regarding why she would make phone calls of that nature regarding this particular religious sect, as it appears that she has no ties to the group.

We should all watch this case very, very closely. What the state is doing in the YFZ case could happen to any of us, based upon a hoax call. Child Protective Services nationwide is renowned for removing children from homes on the flimsiest of evidence, while leaving children actually at risk (and sometimes obviously being abused) in the home with their abusers. The truth of the matter is that religions such as the Primitive Baptists are equally strict with their children, and the women are completely subservient to their husbands (in fact, Primitive Baptist women look very much like the FLDS women), both of which could also be misinterpreted as abuse by overzealous social workers. One attorney stated that none of the parents had ever even received a copy of the original petition for removal of the children, yet were expected to appear in court 14 days later in order to present their case to have their children returned; one mother said that removing the children from their home and community was the worst abuse the children had ever experienced, and she may very well be correct.

On the other hand, you have the question of indoctrination into a patriarchal society, where young girls are taught from a very early age to be completely subservient to men. They are then married off as young as 13 years old, with no choice in who they marry and possibly even without warning. Many boys are driven off the compound at a very young age, to eliminate competition for the young girls’ affection. It is a strange society by our standards, to be sure, and we as a society do have a responsibility to help those children.

The question is, how do we help them, while ensuring the protection of their constitutional rights, as well as the constitutional rights of the parents? Is government intervention the best decision? I’m not altogether sure that it is, unless abuse can be proven. However, abuse is defined based upon the norms of society – for example, spanking is legally defined as abuse in some countries, but here parents can spank their children and a spanking in and of itself is not considered abusive – and it is indisputable that such sects have their own society, quite apart from our own; what is defined as abuse in our society is obviously not viewed as abuse in theirs, and is instead the norm. We are also not on a moral high ground with regard to pregnant teenagers, since we see that all the time in our own society, and many teen mothers in our society were impregnated at an even younger age.

This is an extremely complex question, with no easy answers to be found. However, one thing is clear, and that is that the FLDS sects have the same constitutional rights as you or I, and those rights must be protected above anything else. At this point, I do not believe the state had any cause whatsoever to remove the young children, and I fear that doing so has violated their constitutional rights, as well as the constitutional rights of the parents. If the state’s concern is sexual abuse of teen girls as stated, they may have probable cause to remove the teens for their own protection, but not to remove the younger children. I have seen and heard nothing which would suggest that children under the age of ten are in imminent danger of abuse, except the state’s assertion that, according to their religion, they may be “spiritually married” at any age. I therefore suspect the state is trying to enforce its own standards and morality upon a religion which has existed and been practiced the same way for hundreds of years.

My biggest concern is that this is nothing more or less than religious persecution. Religious persecution absolutely cannot be tolerated in our country, so there needs to be oversight at the federal level, to ensure the rights of all the sect members are protected.

Government Gone Wild: Extortion Edition

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Communism, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Drug War, Fraud, Law, Law Enforcement, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Local Politics, Police State, Politics, Socialism, Taxation on April 20, 2008 at 5:16 pm

By now we are all aware that the government can seize your car, your house, your money, etc if they believe the items were purchased with the proceeds of drug transactions. However, the practice of seizing property is actually far more common than that, and far, far more sinister.

Are you aware that the government can steal your house, even if you don’t owe a dime on it, and sell it for as little as one year of back taxes? On top of that they pile on additional extortion fees, and you’ll end up either paying the taxes and fees, or being homeless. They’ll sell it for a small percentage of what the property is worth, and there are predators who actually make a living by buying houses this way, only to resell them.

Are you aware that if you are caught driving a motor vehicle with an expired registration, the government can steal it and place it in an impound, where you will be forced to also pay a high towing fee plus a shocking amount for it to just sit there (usually between $25 and $50 per day) until you pay their extortion fee? Are you aware that if you don’t pay that extortion fee (which at that point includes the fee to the towing company for towing and storage, plus the registration, plus the taxes, plus whatever ticket you got for not having an up-to-date registration) within a short period of time, sometimes as little as 30 days, they will sell your vehicle and you will no longer have any rights to it?

There are predators who actually make a living buying cars that way for resell, too, not to mention the predatory towing companies in cahoots with the government, who make all that extra money for doing nothing (in some places, the government has its own impound lot, but in most, the impound is merely the towing company’s premises).

So, what gives the government the right to take something which doesn’t belong to them, and the right to sell it and give you back nothing no matter how much it was worth, even if you owned the property free and clear?

Only the laws the government has written for its own benefit give them that right, of course. Nothing else gives them that right. There certainly is no constitutional right for the government to steal your property, nor is there a natural right for the government to do such a heinous thing. Extortion, especially on that level, is illegal for everyone except the government.

You are actually far more likely to fall prey to this government extortion scheme if you don’t owe money on your property. Of course, the government knows whether you own it free and clear or not, since they have specifically written laws stating that any lien interest must be filed with them.

Those who fall prey to these schemes are not just those who protest taxes. Instead, most victims are simply good people who fell upon hard times, and many times those hard times are directly caused by government extortion which snowballs.

Let’s say you inherited a home from your parents, and you have a car which you worked and paid for yourself. The home is bought and paid for as well, so you own both your car and your house free and clear. Then let’s say that you work too far away to get there any way except by automobile. You didn’t get your registration paperwork in the mail (not at all unusual in my experience), so you simply forgot it was due. You get stopped by the police because your registration is expired, and they ticket you and impound your vehicle.

At that point, you don’t have the money to get the vehicle out – it will cost you the towing fee, plus daily storage fees, plus personal property taxes, plus registration – and you can’t even make that kind of money because you have lost your job for missing work. You also can’t pay the fine you were levied because you didn’t have an updated registration, so your license is suspended until you pay that, plus about $50 to the DMV to reinstate your license (which in reality requires only a mouse click on a computer).

The only job you can get to feed yourself and your family, and be able to get there and back since you no longer have a car or a license, pays minimum wage. There is no way you will be able to afford to get your vehicle back. So you tell yourself, “that’s okay, I’ve been in hard times before. I’ll eventually I’ll get back on my feet again, and pay the fine and get another car. We’ll scrape by.” In the meantime, the government sells your car right out from under you.

A friend has an old moped they no longer use, and they let you use it so you can get back and forth to a little bit better job. There is no license plate or anything on it, so you assume you don’t have to have that. It’s slower than a bicycle, after all. You are pulled over by the cops, and hit with multiple tickets. You are ticketed for not wearing a helmet, for not having a license plate on it, for not having insurance on it, for not registering it and paying taxes on it …. the list goes on. You are fined hundreds of dollars, even though the vehicle isn’t even yours, and they impound the moped, too. To make sure it gets back the maximum return, the towing company actually sends a tow truck to transport a moped. You also go to jail for driving on a suspended license, even though no one with more than one brain cell would assume you need a drivers’ license to drive a moped, given that they are not supposed to be ridden on main roads because they are so slow.

Once you pay your bail with the little bit of money you’ve saved up to try to get back on your feet, you’re back to zero again. Chances are you’ve lost your latest job because you missed a shift and didn’t call in (since you are in jail, after all).

You get a notice for property taxes, but you can’t pay it so you figure you’ll pay them when you pay everyone else. The government can’t take your house, you think, because it’s paid for and you own it free and clear.

You get another crappy job, and start riding a bicycle to and from work. You are stopped for not having a license on your bicycle, and for not wearing a helmet. More fines ensue, and they impound your bicycle.

You start walking back and forth to work, taking the only job you can find within walking distance, and everything seems okay until a cop shows up giving you legal documents saying your home has been sold for back taxes, and you have only a short period of time (usually 30 or 60 days) to “redeem” what is yours. What’s worse, it has been sold to a stranger for only the amount of the taxes.

Where do you get the money to buy your house back from the extortion agents? At that point your credit is destroyed, so you can’t borrow it.

In many cases, you don’t get the money. The government sells your house and you end up on the streets, with no choice but to depend upon the government to feed and shelter your children, since you lost the good job when your car was impounded, lost another job when the moped was seized and sold and you were arrested, lost your bicycle because it didn’t have tags on it, and eventually ended up having to take whatever crap job you can find where you can walk to and from work. By this time you owe the government thousands in fines, you’re working and supporting a family on minimum wage, and now – as if all that isn’t bad enough – you’re homeless.

The government wants it that way. The more people depend upon it for basic necessities, the more power it has over all of us. It is nothing but communism in action: the people own nothing, because the state has the power to take anything it wants without compensation.

There are many people, every single day, who have encountered these problems, thanks to the many government extortion programs. In fact, I know people who have had these specific problems, so I know for a fact that it can happen, and that it does happen all the time. The mainstream media doesn’t cover it, because to get many stories they must have the cooperation of the politicians who enacted and support these extortion programs. However, whether we see it on the news or not, it is so common that the only thing I find surprising about it, to be quite honest, is that to my knowledge no one has yet snapped and killed someone for stealing their home. You will notice that I said “yet”. It will eventually happen, of that I have no doubt. When it does, I certainly hope libertarians will stand up loud and clear in their defense. I know I will.

As libertarians, we spend a lot of time complaining about federal income taxes. That’s all well and good, but what we should be doing as well is working to stop this kind of rampant government extortion on the state, county, and local level, which destroys the lives of hardworking American families every single day.

If they want to charge taxes, fine; if the taxes get too high, eventually no one will live there, and they will have slit their own throats. However, we should never allow the government to steal property due to nonpayment of taxes, especially when those taxes are levied simply by virtue of owning the property in question. Extortion by force is always wrong, no matter who is doing it, and it must be stopped.

TIME: Do Americans care about Big Brother?

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Law, Libertarian, Media, Police State, Politics, US Government on March 23, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Big BrotherTIME Magazine has published an article regarding the erosion of civil liberties, and the reaction of Americans to the news that the government is warehousing vast amounts of information on innocent citizens. Here is an excerpt:

A quick tally of the record of civil liberties erosion in the United States since 9/11 suggests that the majority of Americans are ready to trade diminished privacy, and protection from search and seizure, in exchange for the promise of increased protection of their physical security. Polling consistently supports that conclusion, and Congress has largely behaved accordingly, granting increased leeway to law enforcement and the intelligence community to spy and collect data on Americans. Even when the White House, the FBI or the intelligence agencies have acted outside of laws protecting those rights — such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — the public has by and large shrugged and, through their elected representatives, suggested changing the laws to accommodate activities that may be in breach of them.

Civil libertarians are in a state of despair. “People don’t realize how damaging it is to a democratic society to allow the government to warehouse information about innocent Americans,” says Mike German, national security counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.

You can read the entire TIME Magazine article here.

FBI posts fake hyperlinks to entrap would-be child porn viewers

In Big Brother, Children, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Fraud, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Police State, US Government on March 22, 2008 at 4:21 am

From The Iconoclast:

The FBI has recently adopted a novel investigative technique: posting hyperlinks that purport to be illegal videos of minors having sex, and then raiding the homes of anyone willing to click on them.

Undercover FBI agents used this hyperlink-enticement technique, which directed Internet users to a clandestine government server, to stage armed raids of homes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Nevada last year. The supposed video files actually were gibberish and contained no illegal images.

A CNET News.com review of legal documents shows that courts have approved of this technique, even though it raises questions about entrapment, the problems of identifying who’s using an open wireless connection–and whether anyone who clicks on a FBI link that contains no child pornography should be automatically subject to a dawn raid by federal police.

Roderick Vosburgh, a doctoral student at Temple University who also taught history at La Salle University, was raided at home in February 2007 after he allegedly clicked on the FBI’s hyperlink. Federal agents knocked on the door around 7 a.m., falsely claiming they wanted to talk to Vosburgh about his car. Once he opened the door, they threw him to the ground outside his house and handcuffed him.

Civil forfeiture robs elderly couple of life savings

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Communism, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crazy Claims, Drug War, Health, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, Police State, Politics, Second Amendment, US Government on March 22, 2008 at 4:05 am

MoneyIf this doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know what will.

For 40 years, Meredith and Luther Ricks did everything the right way. They worked hard, saved carefully and raised a family in their modest Lima home. They were poised to enjoy their retirement years in peace. Despite their four decades of hard work, however, an absurdly unjust law has turned their hope for the American Dream into an outrageous nightmare at the hands of the Cleveland FBI.

Both of the Ricks spent their careers at the Ohio Steel Foundry, eschewing lavish spending to save for a comfortable retirement. Not trusting banks, Meredith and Luther kept their life savings in a safe inside the house.

Last summer, two violent intruders broke into the Rickses’ house. Luther and his son fought with the burglars. After his son was stabbed, Luther broke free, got his gun and saved the family by shooting one of the intruders and scaring the other off.

When Lima police arrived, the Ricks’ nightmare should have been over – but it was just beginning.

The police entered the house and discovered the family safe. Because a small amount of marijuana was inside the home – used by Luther to ease his painful arthritis, hip replacement and shingles – the officers decided to confiscate Meredith and Luther’s entire life savings, more than $400,000.

Shortly afterward, the FBI got involved – not to help the stricken family, but to claim the money for the federal government.

Such is the result of civil forfeiture laws, which represent one of the most profound assaults on our rights today.

You can read the rest of the illuminating and infuriating article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Disturbing medical marijuana case involving an AIDS patient

In Activism, Big Brother, Children, Civil Liberties, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Drug War, Health, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, Nanny State, Police State, Protest, Science on March 17, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Tom FaltynowiczTom Faltynowicz, a 43-year-old gay rancher in Meade County, South Dakota, was diagnosed with Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in 1990, and is currently facing criminal charges for possessing and growing marijuana for medicinal usage.

For those of you unaware of the specifics of that disease, a patient infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) may or may not develop AIDS. Once infected with HIV, the disease damages the CD4 cells (T-Cells), and in fact uses those cells to replicate within the body; CD4 cells can be replaced through normal process in the early stages of the disease, but eventually the counts start to fall as the cells are overcome by the virus. A CD4 count between 700 and 1000 is considered normal in a non-HIV infected person; while a CD4 count of about 500 is considered normal when the virus is present. A CD4 count below 200 is indicative of AIDS, since it is at that point that the body loses its ability to fight off opportunistic infection.

Opportunistic infection is any infection which, under normal circumstances, the body could easily fight off. However, due to the lack of CD4 immune cells, AIDS patients are at very high risk of contracting diseases which they would never contract were it not for the virus destroying their immune system. Some diseases are so common in AIDS patients, and so uncommon in non-AIDS patients, that they are considered to be AIDS-defining diseases. Examples of AIDS-defining diseases include Pneumocystis Pneumonia (a fungal infection of the lungs) and Kaposi’s Sarcoma (once believed to be a rare form of cancer, now believed to be caused by Herpes Virus HHV8); these diseases are normally not seen in patients with a normal immune system. While there is viable treatment for many opportunistic diseases, they must be treated swiftly in an AIDS patient due to the patient’s body being unable to fight infection on its own.

Another important way of measuring HIV is by measuring the viral load. The viral load is the amount of HIV in the body. So while a CD4 count measures the amount of damage HIV has done, a viral load count will measure how much of the virus is actually in the body. In this way, doctors are able to measure whether drugs are working to halt the spread of the virus.

AIDS is a pandemic first identified in 1981 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), due to Pneumocystis Pneumonia being identified in five homosexual men in Los Angeles. The disease did not take over worldwide as quickly as it is generally believed, though. AIDS has been identified in tissue samples of patients who died of unknown causes as early as 1959; one postmortem case identified the virus in a tissue sample from a 15-year-old boy who died in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1969, though it is still unknown how the boy may have contracted the virus. Some scientists suggest the virus could have first infected humans sometime during the end of the 19th Century, while other scientists suggest it first infected humans during the early 20th century, between 1915 and 1930. Regardless of whether it started during the late 19th Century or early 20th Century, it took many decades for it to even become prevalent enough to be noticed. Since the virus is slow to overtake its host, the window for inadvertent infection of others is years, rather than days or weeks as with most viruses.

It is unclear exactly how the virus started, but it seems clear that it crossed species from primates (which can carry a disease known as the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) into humans, likely when humans came into contact with the bodily fluids of monkeys, possibly during consumption, hunting or butchering the animals (monkey meat is a delicacy in some areas of the world, and is regularly eaten in some areas of Africa). The virus spread due to a number of factors, including vaccines given with unclean needles in developing countries. While AIDS is now generally viewed as a disease of gay men and intravenous drug users, the truth is far more chilling, since the virus is not contained only within a particular population. Many women and children are infected with the virus, and in some areas of the world, particularly Africa where infected patients do not have access to proper health care, the number of deaths has become catastrophic.

At this time, there is no cure for HIV, or for AIDS, nor is there a vaccine to prevent transmission. However, scientists have designed a number of drugs inhibit the virus’s replication. To understand how these drugs work, a short primer on the virus is necessary.

HIV takes over CD4 cells, changing their molecular structure by inserting its own ribonucleic acid (RNA). The virus itself, which is too small to be seen except with an electron microscope, consists of an outer envelope containing the virus and the proteins and enzymes necessary for replication; the envelope has about 72 spikes on its surface. When the virus bumps into a cell coated by the CD4 protein, the spikes stick into the cell and fuse, at which time the inner contents of the HIV envelope is released into the CD4 cell.

Once inside the cell, the HIV enzyme called reverse transciptase converts the viral RNA into DNA, which is compatible with human genetic material. This DNA is transported to the cell’s nucleus, where it is spliced into the human DNA by the HIV enzyme called integrase. Once it is spliced into the human DNA, the HIV DNA is known as provirus. The provirus may lie dormant within a cell for quite some time. However, when the cell becomes activated, it treats HIV genes in almost the same way as human genes. First it uses human enzymes to convert HIV genes into messenger RNA. The messenger RNA is transported outside the cell nucleus, and is used as a blueprint for producing new HIV proteins and enzymes, much in the same way as the human body normally produce replacement cells.

Complete copies of HIV genetic material is contained among the strands of messenger RNA produced by the cell. These copies combine with newly made HIV proteins and enzymes to form new viral particles, which are then released from the cell. The enzyme protease plays a vital role of the HIV life cycle, as it chops up long strands of protein into smaller pieces, which are then used to construct mature viral cores. At that point the newly matured HIV particles are ready to infect another cell, and begin the replication process all over again. In this way the virus quickly spreads through the human body, and causes its host to become infectious. HIV is passed to others through bodily fluids; some fluids contain more of the virus than others.

Contrary to popular belief, people do not die of HIV, or of AIDS. They die of the opportunistic infections which accompany the complete loss of their immune system. Patients therefore must take a strong cocktail of medications to stop the virus from replicating and destroying their immune system. Some common drugs prescribed for AIDS patients, to stop the virus from replicating, include reverse transcriptase inhibitors, which prevent the viral RNA from being converted into human DNA; protease inhibitors, which prevent the virus from creating new mature viral cores; and integrase inhibitors, which prevent the viral DNA from being spliced into the human DNA within the cells.

Unfortunately, with those life-saving treatments for the virus come life-threatening side effects, from lethal liver damage to an overwhelming nausea which results in starvation and dehydration; when this occurs, it only worsens those same symptoms which can be caused by the virus itself. Over the years many drugs have been discovered to combat the side effects (those same side effects are found in many other medical conditions as well), and to increase the quality of life for those who are infected with the virus; some of those drugs and treatments are pharmaceutical in nature, and some are natural.

One of the non-pharmaceutical drugs, which has proven very helpful in battling the anxiety, overwhelming nausea and physical wasting which comes with the virus and its treatment, is marijuana. So effective is marijuana that scientists have even made a pharmaceutical version of the drug, used in chemotherapy patients as well as AIDS patients, which contains synthetic THC (the active ingredient in marijuana). However, many patients believe that the natural THC in marijuana works better than the synthetic version in Marinol, and science supports this belief. In studies of marijuana usage for medicinal usage, it was found that other chemicals found in marijuana have additional medicinal effects which complement the effects of THC. Furthermore Marinol is extremely expensive (Tom’s Marinol costs about $2200 per month, so severe is his nausea and gastrointestinal symptoms), and thus the drug is far beyond the financial reach of most patients; and for that reason they cultivate and smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes. While the black market cost of marijuana can be high, the plant can be cultivated at home from seeds, at very little cost to the patient.

In some states, it is legal for patients with a valid medical prescription to possess certain amounts of dried and cultivated marijuana for personal medicinal use. However, even in those states, the US Government – which has declared that marijuana is an illicit and therefore illegal drug – refuses to permit patients to use the cultivated form of THC. Patients are regularly arrested for merely possessing the substance which allows them to live a more normal life, and which in cases of extreme wasting seen in AIDS, is actually life-saving. This occurs nationwide, including in the states where marijuana is legal for medicinal use.

I do not advocate the casual use of marijuana (or any other drug, prescription or otherwise) to get “high”. I do strongly advocate the right of physicians and patients to determine the best course of treatment, and I believe the government has no right to interfere in the doctor/patient relationship when the patient is not being placed in untoward danger.

Enter Tom Faltynowicz. When Tom was diagnosed with AIDS in 1990, he was given “maybe a few years” to live. Eighteen years later, he is in a fight for his life, but it’s a fight of a very different kind.

In September 2007, law enforcement officials in his native Meade County received an anonymous call, stating that Tom had between 75 and 100 marijuana plants growing behind a metal building on his property. It is believed that the anonymous call came from Tom’s daughter, who was angry with him because he had recently stated his disapproval of her relationship with a particular man.

When Meade County Investigator Michael Walker and South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation Agent John Griswold arrived at Tom’s home the next day, there were not 75 to 100 plants on the property, or even anywhere near that many; in fact, there were no plants out in the open at all. However, when asked by those officers about the accusation, Tom immediately admitted to growing marijuana to treat his medical condition. He even invited the officers into his home, so they can see where he was growing it, and he was completely cooperative at all times, even according to the police report regarding the incident. All told, the officers found five plants, and about four ounces of dried marijuana. There was never an allegation that the marijuana was being used for anything but his medical condition, and never an allegation that he was selling the marijuana. It remains undisputed that Tom was using the marijuana to treat AIDS, and the side effects of the many potent medications he takes to fight the virus.

Tom takes a total of four antiretroviral drugs to combat the HIV infection: Combivir (a combination of Retrovir and Epivir), Sustiva, and Viread. Each of these drugs, by themselves, come with potentially fatal side effects. All of these drugs can cause severe nausea, and can result in extreme anxiety as an additional side effect. In addition, Tom has been prescribed Marinol, the synthetic THC drug to combat nausea and vomiting, so there is no question that he suffers the side effects which are treated by marijuana, and there is no question that his side effects are severe based upon his dosage. However, Tom says that the marijuana is far more effective than the Marinol, since Marinol makes him so tired that he cannot function; and his physician is aware of and supports his use of marijuana to treat his symptoms.

Tom, though he has no prior criminal record with the exception of two prior misdemeanor convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana – both of which occurred after he was diagnosed with AIDS – pled guilty to felony possession of marijuana. He faces a maximum of two years in prison, and a maximum fine of $4000; he could also be given probation. His sentencing date has been set for April 21st, before the Honorable Jerome Eckrich, Circuit Judge. Tom’s Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Traub, will speak at the sentencing hearing. The State Attorney has already said that he will not object to anything Dr. Traub might say. It appears that no one is interested in punishing Tom Faltynowicz; at the same time, under the law, his possession of marijuana – regardless of the reason why he possessed it – is a felony in the state of South Dakota.

Tom, however, is an exception to the reason that law was written. It was written to stop people from abusing the drug to get high, and to stop them from selling or otherwise providing it to others for the same illicit purpose. It is extremely doubtful the legislature was aware of the medicinal effects of marijuana when that law was passed, and it’s extremely doubtful the legislature ever intended to punish patients with a deadly disease. It’s even possible that the medicinal effects of marijuana were unknown to them when that law was passed, since it is hardly a new law. Nevertheless, since the law exists, it will be enforced, even against people like Tom who are using marijuana strictly for medicinal purposes.

This raises a number of questions. Even if Tom is merely placed on probation, and even if he stopped smoking marijuana altogether, using Marinol to control his symptoms would result in violation of probation, since he would test positive for THC during required drug tests. If he fails a drug test while on probation, he will be incarcerated.

If he is incarcerated, he will not only not have access to the drug which he needs to survive without excessive suffering due to overwhelming nausea, vomiting, physical wasting, and extreme fatigue; but the South Dakota Department of Corrections will be forced to pay for the extremely expensive antiretroviral drugs which fight the virus as well as the Marinol, at a cost of thousands of dollars per month to the taxpayers, in addition to the increased cost of incarceration for a man with an infectious deadly disease. As you should understand after my explanation of how those drugs work, and how the virus works, missing even one dose of his antiretroviral drugs could be catastrophic for his health, since it would allow the virus to replicate until the drug was again built up to a therapeutic dosage. Yet in a prison environment there is no guarantee that he will receive his life-sustaining medications at all, much less receive them on the schedule those drugs demand.

Tom has said that he will not stop using marijuana, because it allows him to live a relatively normal life. Without it, his body is wracked with pain, nausea, and vomiting; he is unable to eat or drink, and thus his body becomes even more weakened, even more unable to fight the virus, and even more prone to the many opportunistic illnesses, any one of which could easily end his life. This is especially true if he is confined in a jail or prison facility, given that there are large numbers of inmates living in close approximation.

To incarcerate Tom Faltynowicz would therefore place his life at severe risk, and as such would clearly constitute cruel and unusual punishment, as prohibited by the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution. Furthermore, it would serve no purpose to incarcerate him, since his crime is merely possession of a drug which allows him to live with his disease and to continue take the cruel medications which literally keep him alive. He poses no threat to anyone and he is not selling or otherwise distributing the marijuana, nor has it even been suggested that he is selling or distributing the marijuana. Rehabilitation is also not a valid cause for his incarceration, since he merely uses the drug for medicinal purposes, and thus he is not in need of rehabilitation.

Society would not be served by incarcerating Tom Faltynowicz. The interests of justice would not be served by incarcerating Tom Faltynowicz.

As such, justice demands that the court show mercy by giving Tom Faltynowicz a suspended sentence, no probation, and whatever fine the court sees fit, as long as it is within Tom’s ability to pay said fine.  The courts should also order the return of Tom’s property; police seized property such as lights, and not just marijuana and implements for its use.  Those lights  should be returned.

Cops Gone Wild: Corrupt Sheriff threatens to arrest members of the press

In Civil Liberties, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crazy Claims, Crime, First Amendment, Fraud, Law, Law Enforcement, Local Politics, People in the news, Police State, Politics on March 16, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Sheriff Santiago Barrera of Duval County, Texas, is none too happy with the press, specifically the Alice Echo-News Journal.

When his son’s recent arrested for public intoxication and resisting arrest hit the front page, Sheriff Barrera told the reporter, “If you guys keep interfering in my business, I’m going to have you arrested”. Apparently the Sheriff has never heard of freedom of the press.

What’s strange about this is not only that his son is 42 years old, certainly old enough that he doesn’t need to hide behind his daddy. It’s also strange that the threat was taken seriously, given the First Amendment; however, Sheriff Barrera is known to be a bit on the corrupt side. According to MSNBC, “For 20 years, Sheriff Santiago Barrera Jr. had done what he pleased. He decided who sat in his jail and when they were released. Sometimes it was before a judge got involved and other times it was after.”

His corruption is actually quite obvious. When recently the Commander of the Tri-County Drug Task Force announced that he was running against the Sheriff in this year’s election, he busted his opponent back down to patrolman. That opponent won, though, so this year appears to finally be the end of the Sheriff’s reign of terror against everyone who dares cross him.

Nicole Perez, Managing Editor of the newspaper, sent the threat of illegal arrest on to the County Attorney, Ricardo Carillo, with the following statement. “I am bringing these remarks to your attention in the hope that they will remain as such, just remarks. However, considering the volatile political atmosphere in Duval County I have no doubt that Sheriff Barrera would carry out such a threat.”

Despite all the obvious signs that Barrera should have been run out of office long ago, he still received 47% of the vote in the most recent election. According to the County Attorney, Sheriff Barrera has managed to stay in office for so long because he is “a great politician and a terrible sheriff”.

“Girls Gone Wild” founder victimized by “Judge Gone Wild”

In Celebrities, Censorship, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crazy Claims, Crime, Entertainment, First Amendment, Fraud, Law, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, People in the news, Police State, Politics, Protest, Shine on you crazy diamond, Taxation on March 16, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Joe Francis / Girls Gone WildI am not a fan of “Girls Gone Wild”. In fact, I almost vomit every night when I’m trying to watch South Park and Reno 911, since that’s when most of those commercials seem to air.

The latest is “The Wildest Bar In America”, and the commercial shows young women engaged in sex acts with one another, in public. If you purchase that one with a credit card (so they can automatically send you more in the future), you get “Finally 18” for free. The voiceover for the latter video says, “These girls have been waiting for their chance to go wild!”

I’m sorry, but after seeing that commercial – which shows young women masturbating on camera – I’d guess they went wild long before their 18th birthday.

The thought which always occurs to me when I see those commercials is, I’m glad it’s not my daughter. I’m glad I don’t even have a daughter, because then I don’t have to worry about her getting sauced on Spring Break then going wild on camera. I cannot even imagine the horror of parents across this country when they realize their daughter has appeared in “Girls Gone Wild”, and especially the parents of those girls who actually appear in the commercials.

However, as much as I hate “Girls Gone Wild”, I feel that I must speak out against what happened to the man behind the videos.

Joe Francis, the founder of “Girls Gone Wild”, has been in jail for the last year, and could not even post bail to get out. It all started when some parents accused him of filming their underage daughters. Francis claimed they had identification, so he had no way of knowing they were underage and thus he had done nothing wrong. I believe him. After all, he has filmed literally thousands of young women, has made untold millions from doing so, and I find it very hard to believe that he doesn’t check identification. In fact, Francis apparently takes a lawyer with him, to make sure he doesn’t do anything to get himself into trouble. The attorney checks IDs, and has the girls agree to participate both on video and in writing. The video statement is made so that no one can claim they were too drunk or otherwise unable to give consent. Joe Francis is much smarter than people expect him to be.

At any rate, Francis refused to negotiate in a civil suit brought by the parents of those girls, and he was thrown in jail for it.

When I first heard this I thought, surely that’s not the real reason he’s in jail. After all, it was a civil suit, not criminal charges. However, sure enough, that’s exactly why he was in jail.

Then while he was in jail for not negotiating with parents trying to shake him down for a civil suit (let’s be honest, once again, in saying that the “Girls Gone Wild” had actually gone wild long before they ever met Joe Francis) the IRS came a-knockin’. It appears that they claim Joe owes millions in unpaid taxes.

I’d hate to be Joe Francis, with all those problems.

This past week, he was finally released from jail after serving 11 months with no bail on the civil contempt charge (though the tax evasion charges are still pending, and he will go to trial on those charges at a later date) and faced a judge in Florida on criminal charges of child abuse and prostitution, related to filming the underage girls (for criminal charges, all that matters is that they were factually under 18). He struck a misdemeanor no contest plea, the judge gave him time served, no probation, no fine, he’s free to go. The only condition was that “Girls Gone Wild” not film there again for three years. That shouldn’t be a problem, given that girls are going wild all over this great nation of ours.

The problem I see with this, putting aside my personal feelings about his line of business, is that the man should never have been in jail over a civil suit in the first place. Here’s the basic scenario: he got sued by angry parents whose daughters used fake IDS to claim they were of legal age, the judge told the parties to work out a settlement, he didn’t want to work out a settlement because he thought he’d done nothing wrong since he was actually the one defrauded, so the judge threw him in jail for civil contempt. Personally, I think the judge showed his personal bias in the case, by throwing a man in jail simply because he preferred for a jury decide if he had done anything wrong. I think Francis is right, and I seriously doubt a civil jury would find against him, given all the safeguards he had taken against filming underage girls.

The problem with this is that, at the time he was originally incarcerated, no jury had ever determined that he had done anything wrong, civilly or criminally, and the criminal charges against him were not even close to being capital crimes, so he was entitled to bail. Frankly, I get the impression that they just didn’t want him in their area, documenting the fact that their little girls are going wild.. Maybe one of the girls who went wild is the niece of a friend of a friend of the judge, who knows.

Overall, while I am definitely not a fan of “Girls Gone Wild”, I am a fan of the Constitution, and under the Constitution, what happened to Joe Francis should never happen to anyone.

Legislators Gone Wild: Heywood Jablome Edition

In Children, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Crazy Claims, Crime, Law, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Local Politics, Nanny State, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics, Republican, Shine on you crazy diamond on March 15, 2008 at 4:02 am

Tim CouchI’m not exactly sure why someone who sits on a state legislature (where he represents about two and a half obscure rural counties out of 120 counties in the state) thinks that he can legislate what everyone in the world does, but

Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.

The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.

Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted. If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

Representative Couch says he filed the bill in hopes of cutting down on online bullying. He says that has especially been a problem in his Eastern Kentucky district.

Ah, eastern Kentucky, home of one of this blog’s all-time favorite criminals, the Duct Tape Bandit. LOL. That probably answers my original question in this thread.

Aside from the logistics, in that it is absolutely impossible for a state legislature to legislate the behavior of everyone on the internet – no matter how hard they may try – is this a good idea?

Even though I covered the Megan Meier controversy to a great degree, I think it is a horrible idea, and I’ll tell you why.

What happened to Megan Meier was an anomaly. That poor young girl was mentally ill, as evidenced by the fact that she was prescribed not just anti-depressants, but also Geodon, an anti-psychotic. Her adult neighbor Lori Drew was well aware of this, so what she did to that child is absolutely unconscionable, whether one believes she is responsible for Megan’s death or not.

While I realize there are people who have mental illnesses on the internet – and sometimes I wonder if the majority of people posting on the internet have a mental illness – the internet is not a nanny, nor should anyone expect it to be. It is also not a place for children, or the otherwise weak at heart. It is definitely rated “R”, so no one who couldn’t get into an R-rated movie shouldn’t be here in the first place, unless they have parental guidance.

Some other parts of the internet are rated NC-17, some are rated X. With some websites, you don’t even realize you are going to an X-rated site until you are already there (another problem, but responsible internet users simply don’t click on unknown links in the first place).

I can write an article as ElfNinosGreatAuntTilley, and as long as I don’t harm anyone in the process, it is not a crime for me to do that. The right to anonymity is a basic right. It is a right which I exercise everytime I log onto this blog. It is a right which I exercise in my personal life on a fairly regular basis. The fact of the matter is that no one is entitled to know my name, in real life or on the internet. I’m not doing anything wrong, and in fact I do a lot to help others in life, but I like my privacy.

Why do I think it is important for me to post under a pseudonym? There are several reasons, all of which I feel are perfectly valid.

I used to regularly bust scammers on Quatloos, cooperating with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to get these slimeballs behind bars where they belong, and in that capacity I angered some extremely dangerous people. Once I even angered a man who was a dirty ex-NYPD cop, and a former enforcer with the Colombo crime family (yes, the mafia). He had stolen millions from people in a scam wherein he pretended to be a loan company for people who can’t get conventional loans, and he would charge them a large up-front fee. He did his best to ascertain my real identity, and made multiple threats of physical violence against me, including both murder and rape.

In a situation like that, I have two choices. I can either bust the guy under a pseudonym, and be able to sleep at night, or I can do so under my real name, and end up moving every few months. I choose to stay put.

As most of you are aware, I am a professional writer, and I write about true crime as well as criminology issues. However, I didn’t sign up for the publicity which comes with that. I have a unique name, and I don’t want people coming onto this blog to ask me the same questions I’ve been asked (and answered) a million times, and harassing my friends who visit this blog; yet I have every reason to believe they will do that, because that’s what they did when I had a professional website. I just want to be me when I’m here, and I want others to feel comfortable posting here as well.

Tim Couch may not think those are valid reasons for me to not use my real name on the internet, and he’s entitled to his opinion. At the same time, I didn’t elect him, and I don’t live in Kentucky, so his opinion could not possibly be more irrelevant to me.

The fact of the matter is that there are more than enough laws already on the books to handle any situation which might arise on the internet, regardless of whether the person is using their real name or a pseudonym. There are laws against stalking, harassment, obscenity, and other problems. Sure, it might not be easy to find the perpetrator, but it’s not always easy to find perpetrators in real life either.

There are laws to cover what Lori Drew did to Megan Meier, too, if the authorities would use their heads. She could be charged under child abuse laws, stalking laws, harassment laws … the list goes on and on. I don’t know why they decided to not charge her, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t be charged if the prosecutor wanted to do so. Of course, now a federal grand jury is considering charges against her for wire fraud, since she used a false name on MySpace for the specific intention of stalking and harassing another person (though that’s a Catch-22, since Megan Meier also falsified her age with her mother’s permission, as she was otherwise too young to have a MySpace account). It’s not a problem to use a false name in and of itself. It only becomes a problem when someone uses a false name in order to commit a crime, which is something the vast majority of people on the internet will never do.

So, in a nutshell, I think Kentucky State Representative Tim Couch needs to worry about things which are actually under his control. He is not in a position to legislate the internet, since he is just a state legislator. He has, like a typical politician, grabbed onto a controversial issue to get publicity. Even if his law passes, he is only giving his constituents a false sense of security on the internet since the law would not apply to anyone outside that state; he’d do a far greater service to his constituents if he introduced a bill to fund a public information program about the internet, or requiring that children in his state be educated about the dangers of the internet. He knows or should know that he has no jurisdiction to legislate the internet. If he doesn’t know that, he isn’t smart enough to be making laws in the first place.

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Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan

Deputy arrested for dumping quadriplegic from wheelchair

In Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Crime, Health, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, People in the news, Police Brutality, Police State on March 8, 2008 at 11:17 pm

Charlette Marshall-Jones, the Hillsborough County, Florida deputy who was caught on surveillance cameras dumping a quadriplegic man out of his wheelchair after he was arrested on a traffic violation, has been arrested herself.

In case you missed it, here is the video:

Marshall-Jones has been charged with abuse of a disabled person, and faces five years in prison. In the meantime she has been suspended without pay.

I bet the gals in genpop would be happy to have not only an ex-cop, but an abusive ex-cop who likes to abuse people in wheelchairs who can’t even move, join their ranks. They might even throw her a few of those pillowcase parties I’ve heard so much about. ;-)

Now authorities need to go after the jail employees who saw it but didn’t report it, and especially the jerk cop at the end of the video who laughed about it.

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Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan 

One percent of US adult population in prison

In Courts and Justice System, Crime, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Drug War, Law, Police State, US Government on March 8, 2008 at 11:05 pm

Man going to prisonNEW YORK (AP) — For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report.The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 — one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.

You can read the rest of this article here.

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Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan 

Cops Gone Wild: Quadriplegic Edition

In Cops Gone Wild, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Health, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, People in the news, Police Brutality, Police State on February 26, 2008 at 10:55 pm

I had heard about this, but seeing really is believing.

In Tampa (Hillsborough County, Florida) a quadriplegic man named Brian Sterner was arrested for a traffic violation (I’m not sure what the violation was, since they didn’t say, but obviously the guy wasn’t a violent felon or anything like that). An incredibly stupid cop didn’t believe he really was a quadriplegic, even though it’s obvious from looking at his body, so she walked behind him and dumped him out of his wheelchair face-first, and the fall broke several of his ribs. She then proceeded to frisk him, while he was one the ground, completely unable to move. Another idiotic cop is seen laughing about it, and not one person who witnessed the assault thought it needed to be reported.

Luckily, that shocking example of police brutality was caught on surveillance cameras.

The cop who did this was fired, but that’s not enough. She should be arrested, and charged with felony assault upon a disabled person.

The cop who laughed about it should be fired, along with all the other cops and jail employees who witnessed it but did nothing to help Sterner, and did not report the incident; and they should all also be charged with being an accessory to felony assault upon a disabled person.

Hat tip to The DeeZone

Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan

WMD ignited at flea market

In Big Brother, Crazy Claims, Crime, Humor, Law, Law Enforcement, Police State, Terrorism on February 9, 2008 at 12:54 am

Plastic eggsThis, I wouldn’t have believed had I not read it in a print newspaper’s online edition. Honestly, it reads more like an April Fool’s Day joke:

An Elizabethtown man was charged Saturday with possessing a weapon of mass destruction after police said he ignited a device filled with plastic pellets inside Saturday’s Market in Londonderry Twp., hitting at least five people and causing alarm in the building.

The device looked like a plastic Easter egg

No one was taken to a hospital, Beckley said.

I bet that’s the very same weapon of mass destruction that Bush claims was in Iraq.

Read the entire article here.

Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan