Archive for July, 2012
For many of these links, H/Ts to MJR, PT, H, JS, WL, and I hope I’m not forgetting anybody else!
- First and best, this statement by MamaLiberty has been getting around — but deserves to get around more. “I Carry a Gun — Get Over It.”
- This one has also been getting around, and for the opposite reasons. At least one person in this DEA horror show seems to have gotten his just deserts.
- Appears the fedgov’s IP thuggery might soon be affecting our health.
- Silent Circle. From Phil Zimmerman & friends.
- Collect water on your own property, go to jail. Because, Comrades, all water belongs to the state!
- Judge says a family in Colorado is temporarily allowed to abide by its principles. (ADDED: Wendy McElroy’s take on this)
- Yay! Win one against iris scanners.
- Anybody here have any personal experience with NeoMailbox.com?
- Oliver wrote about and linked to this last week. But the story of delightful, anti-authoritarian “Wrong-Way” Corrigan should be worth repeating well into the next century. (One of the highlights of my mother’s life was that, as a teenager, she got to shake hands with Corrigan.) If the guy did his thing now, he’d either be shot down or end up in prison for life as a terrorist.
Yegads. After all that, I still have 12 tabs open. So untidy! But that’s enough linkage for now.
Oh wait. Not it isn’t. Here are a few more from my other browser:
- Bullied bus monitor plans to retire on the more than $700k she received in donations.
- Intelligence agencies “allow” Congress to talk about them. As long as they don’t say much. If you needed any more evidence to tell you who really runs this country, there it is.
- But it’s still not enough for the &^%$#s.
Yesterday I began a post about the novel Alif the Unseen with this quote:
“We’re living in a city run by an emir from one of the most inbred families on earth, where a few censors can throw someone in jail for writing things on the Internet and falling in love with the wrong person.” Dina reached out to be helped to her feet. “It went out of control a long time ago.”
The book is about a young hacker of East-Indian and Arab extraction doing his best to foil the security state — and paying a price for it.
At the very moment I was typing up my review, old friend JG sent a link. About a young hacker of Arab (actually Lebanese, which is pretty much a melting pot of ethnicities, though Arabic is the national language) extraction doing his best to foil the security state — and paying a price for it.
The site Nadim Kobeissi has created, Cryptocat, is very much worth a look. After investigating I may use it with friends who haven’t set up email encryption, though it’s a live chat site and live chat drives me screaming bonkers.
But speaking of the paranoid security state trying to quash freedom of speech, I had to laugh (in a bitter, nasty way) at this:
When he flies through the US, [Kobeissi has] generally had the notorious “SSSS” printed on his boarding pass, marking him for searches and interrogations — which Kobeissi says have focused on his development of the chat client. …
His SSSS’s can mean hours of waiting, and Kobeissi says he has been searched, questioned, had his bags and even his passport taken away and returned later. But he’s kept his sense of humor about the experience, even joking from the airport on his Twitter account.
WHAT AN SSSS FOR THE FIFTH TIME IN A ROW HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN I AM SO SURPRISED THIS IS SO SURPRISING twitter.com/kaepora/status…
— Nadim Kobeissi (@kaepora) June 17, 2012
The young and cheerfully sarcastic Kobeissi is somewhat baffled by the border attention. Kobeissi said that in one of his last U.S. trips through Charlotte, NC, “In total I was searched either three or four times,” — in a single visit. “Why? Do bombs materialize? I don’t understand,” he continued. If the searches, delays, and interrogations about Cryptocat are an intimidation tactic, they haven’t worked.
With a little help from my friends I’m just about done drafting the snitch book. Booklet, actually; looks like we’re succeeding in keeping it short. (It’s a miracle!)
By the end of this week or early next, it’ll be ready to run past four or five reality checkers. (Hobbit and jw, I’ll be asking you soon; after the contributions you’ve already made, I ASS-U-ME you’ll say yes.)
Right now we aren’t ready for proofreaders or copy-editors. That will come a little later. What we could really use at this stage are people with the voice of experience. We’ve got a lawyer/judge and an interrogation maven on the case already. Could definitely use others such as ex-cops, cops who are members of LEAP, victims of snitches, reformed snitches, ex-prison guards, ex-prisoners, or ex-prosecutors.
If you have such experience and would be willing and able to review a document (under 50 pages) in the next few weeks, email me (snitchbook at hermit dot cotse dot net) or drop a comment & I’ll get back to you.
Alif jerked his backpack over one shoulder. “I just feel like this whole thing is getting out of control.”
“We’re living in a city run by an emir from one of the most inbred families on earth, where a few censors can throw someone in jail for writing things on the Internet and falling in love with the wrong person.” Dina reached out to be helped to her feet. “It went out of control a long time ago.”
Alif the Unseen
By G. Willow Wilson
Grove Press, 2012
Alif (not a name, but a letter of the alphabet) is a hacker in an unnamed city-state on the Persian Gulf. His mission is to provide computer security to anybody who needs it, anybody who might become a target of the security state: pornographers, dissidents, Islamists, no matter.
He’s good. But recently, the state has acquired such mysterious new powers to reach into the ‘Net that hackers call the phenomenon The Hand of God.
The upper-class young woman Alif has fallen in love with breaks off their relationship. Her father has betrothed her to another man — and adding horror to his grief, Alif realizes that her fiance is the head of state security — The Hand himself.
And Alif has something The Hand wants more than he wants the girl.
Soon Alif is on the run, unintentionally dragging his neighbor Dina with him. Their fate, the fate of the Arab world’s hacker community, the fate of The Hand, and indeed the fate of Alif’s country, all hang on a mysterious book.
The Alf Yeom, The Thousand and One Days contains the wisdom of the Djinn in the form of innocuous tales. Humans have coveted the book’s power for hundreds of years — but until now, not one has been able to unlock its secret code.
“Belief,” said the man. “It doesn’t mean the same thing it used to, not for you. You have unlearned the hidden half of the world.”
“But the world is crawling with religious fanatics. Surely belief is thriving.”
“Superstition is thriving. Pedantry is thriving. Sectarianism is thriving. … Wonder and awe have gone out of your religions. You are prepared to accept the irrational, but not the transcendent. And that, cousin, is why I can’t help you.”
Alif is a pretty good novel. It’ll keep you turning pages. It might keep you up late at night. And it’s so different than anything you’re likely to have read that you’ll probably remember it long after you’ve closed its covers.
Author G. Willow Wilson tells a fine adventure story with a strong undercurrent of freedom. She also drops us without comment or explanation into a culture that’s so foreign to most of us we might just have to accept, rather than try to understand, many of its premises.
This may also be the only novel you’ll ever read where a character dreams of a mythical stag and doe — then realizes they’re running across “a Linux platform.” (Not to worry, non-techies; the coding aspect of the book is more hinted at than shown.)
I liked Alif and Dina and virtually all the other major characters (including a thuggish but noble “genie,” a pampered princeling, and a courageous elderly cleric). I also liked that the local hacker headquarters is called — wait for it — Radio Sheikh.
There were only a couple of things I didn’t like — though it would be more accurate to say I regretted them.
First is that, while Alif could be an absolutely rip-roaring story for the Harry Potter crowd (and one that could help them develop a healthy disrespect for the state), Wilson has chosen to use some language that’s not likely to get many Parental Seals of Approval. Nothing in the plot is X-rated and only a few passages approach R, but you might not want your 12-year-old reading a few of the epithets. Really a pity because otherwise this is a primo story for teens.
Second is that the climax of the tale, though full of action, is a bit flat and disorganized. It has a first-drafty feel, as though Wilson was running out of time or energy. I wish she had taken a few more hours to make the last dozen pages as engaging as the rest.
That said, though, this is a fine, fun, engaging, and in some ways eye-opening read.
Alif the Unseen is available in a multitude of formats from Amazon.com (and thank you for using my links).
“I’m not a terrorist. All I do is protect people who want the freedom to say what they really think.”
The Hand stepped back toward the door. His eyes still shone oddly in the light, black discs that reflected only fluorescence.
“What naive garbage. People don’t want freedom any more — even those to whom freedom is a kind of religion are afraid of it, like trembling acolytes who make sacrifices to some pagan god. People want their governments to keep secrets from them. They want the hand of the law to be brutal. They are so terrified by their own power that they will vote to have it taken our of their hands. Look at America. Look at the sharia states. Freedom is a dead philosophy, Alif. The world is returning to its natural state, to the rule of the weak by the strong. Young as you are, it’s you who are out of touch, not me.”
The responses to yesterday’s post on Terry and the checkpoint goons — about evenly divided between “Good man, Terry!” and “He really didn’t win” (Or “Good man, Terry! But he really didn’t win”) got me thinking once again about the different styles among Freedom Outlaws.
I suspect that this blog tends to attract a big share of Ghosts — people who’d rather quietly — but determinedly — go around Authoritah than confront it. But clearly there are plenty of Agitators hereabouts, also. I’m curious.
Which type of Freedom Outlaw best fits you? Ghost? Agitator? Mole? Or Cockapoo? And what actions (not just attitudes) on your part make that true?
Caveats: Of course many of us fit into several categories and plenty of us reject labels entirely. No problem. In that case either choose multi categories or tell me and my labeling to go to hell. But still … what specific actions or types of actions best express your freedomista nature?
Or to put it more simply, what do you do to create freedom?
Three thousand four hundred and fifty-one days after being dragged out of his vehicle & arrested at an illegal roadblock conducted by Tohono O’odham tribal police (with the assistance of U.S. Customs agents and the U.S. Border Patrol), Terry Bressi settled his lawsuit. He received a $210,000 check.
From the moment he filed his suit, he fought for exactly 3,087 days — all the while driving in the same area and becoming a target of enforcer rage. It wasn’t a complete victory. No individual officer paid a penalty. No principle of law was changed. Nevertheless, he won.
In doing so, he also posted a treasure-trove of documents to help others who might want to push the right-to-travel fight even farther.
As a born Ghost, somebody who just wants to go around “the system” rather than contend with it, I can’t even imagine fighting such a fight. But then, that’s what Agitators are for, and if there’s ever an Agitator Hall of Fame, surely Terry Bressi has earned his place in it.
He was kind enough to answer a few questions about what motivated him. Q&A follows. (He also gave some more practical information about his setup for recording police stops; that will be in another blog post.)
Q. Did you realize right after the initial incident that you were going to fight back, or did it take you some time to work up to it?
A. I knew immediately that not only would I do what was necessary to vigorously defend myself against the charges but that I would use an acquittal as a spring board into a civil rights lawsuit. To that end, I wrote up a rough draft of my initial report within a few days of the incident while everything was still fresh in my mind. I also immediately began looking for a good attorney to represent me regarding the charges along with providing council on how best to prepare for a lawsuit upon successfully defending against the charges.
Q. Did you consider other options besides pursuing the issue in the courts?
A. I decided early on that not only would I pursue the issue in a court of law but also the court of public opinion. To that end, I used the incident in particular and the issue in general as a motivator to create a website, CheckpointUSA.org and blog, Roadblock Revelations. These online resources could then be used as a discussion platform for issues related to the right to travel and the abuses that always seem to manifest themselves after men and women with guns and shiny badges are empowered to seize people absent suspicion and investigate/interrogate them regarding unknown crimes.
I also wanted to use my website as a comprehensive legal document repository for my interaction with the ‘justice’ system. One of my frustrations over the years while reading about other people’s cases and researching associated legal issues has been the lack of documentation regarding specific cases or documentation that only told part of the story.
In all legal proceedings, there are three sides to every story; the plaintiff’s, the defendant’s and the court’s. Usually what we hear in the media or see online is the court’s side via a court order. A court order in turn is little more than the position the presiding judge takes after filtering the evidence, facts and pleadings made by the other two sides through the judge’s particular bias filter. As such, when a person only has a court ruling to review, and not the complete court record, it’s difficult to determine the merit of one’s own legal position on a related legal issue. It also makes it difficult to strategically plan a legal action if one doesn’t know how an issue has been argued before, how the other side responded, what conclusion the court came to and how far any particular disagreement was appealed, if at all.
This is the primary reason why I decided early on that, in the absence of an explicit court order to the contrary I would post all the legal documentation associated with the case online, a stance that caused problems on several occasions over the nine year history of the case. As such, the 240+ legal documents I have posted provides a treasure trove of information for others who want to push this issue further. Folks can see exactly how the issues were argued, what evidence was brought to bear, how the other side responded and how the court treated each argument. Such information is invaluable for anyone who wants to challenge suspicionless roadblock operations in future legal actions because it allows others to capitalize not only on our legal successes but also our legal mistakes.
Q. Were you motivated more by a desire to right the wrong done to you? Or more by sheer principle? Or was it a mix?
A. For me, the individual wrong was merely the offshoot of the violation of the principle. If I wasn’t concerned about the principle, if I didn’t have the principle to help guide my response to begin with, I wouldn’t have been motivated to question the officers who stopped me and would have shown a government issued ID after the first ‘request’ to do so.
The principle enshrined within the Right to Travel is fundamental. Without it, most of the other rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights have little to no meaning. What good is the right to speech, press, assembly or petition if you can’t travel somewhere to speak to a group of like-minded individuals, distribute media, assemble regarding an issue of common concern or stand in front of the government official(s) you’re trying to petition? What good is a right to keep and bear arms if the only place you can keep or bear them is within the boundaries of your home? How will you exercise your right to face your accuser if you aren’t allowed to travel to or enter the court house where you’re being accused? How will you pursue your life, liberty or happiness if the substance of your life, liberty or happiness lies outside the boundaries of your property line?
The principle, Right to Travel, was interfered with the moment I was seized by armed government agents along a public highway no where near an international border while admitting they had no reason to believe I had done anything wrong in order to investigate me for crimes they had no reason to suspect me of violating. Everything that transpired from that point on was merely the result of my response to that violation of an individual’s right to travel unmolested along roads paid for by a public whose name ‘the government’ purports to exist for and operate in the service of.
Q. During the nine years you pursued this, what kept you going? Surely you must have just wanted to quit sometimes.
A. In a nutshell, I can be quite persistent when I know I’m right.
There’s a host of reasons why I pushed the case as far as I did. Some practical, some not so practical. A few of those reasons appear below. I’ll also point out that my ability to keep going over the years on this issue was due in no small part to the support of friends, family and people I had never even met before the case was filed.
On the practical side of things, every time I had to drive to work along that deserted stretch of Southwestern desert highway where the number of enforcement vehicles on the road at any given time outnumbered most other traffic was a constant reminder that it’s generally not a good idea to start a fight you can’t finish – especially when the King’s men are involved.
By standing up for my rights during the initial roadblock incident in 2002, I quickly went from being a random driver in the area to a target. This became even more the case after the Border Patrol established a strong presence along SR86 with its ‘High Intensity Enforcement Zone’ in 2003 and eventually a so-called ‘tactical’ roadblock in 2008 that’s still there to this day (see my YouTube videos).
A target that can’t demonstrate an ability to not only defend itself against unwanted aggression but also inflict some damage of its own from time to time quickly becomes a casualty in one form or another. As such, successfully defending oneself against trumped up charges and following up with a largely successful, albeit lengthy, civil rights lawsuit was just as much a matter of survival as anything else.
On the not-so-practical side of things, a lot changed for me personally over the nine years I was involved in the lawsuit. I went from being primarily responsible for my own well-being at the time of the incident to being responsible for several others as the size of my immediate family grew over the years, a responsibility I took on willingly. Not wanting my children to grow up in a society where they can be arbitrarily seized, detained, questioned, investigated, searched & assaulted by random government agents merely for traveling down a public road, was a great motivator for me to do what I can about it now. For purposes of this case, that involved seeing the case through by seeking the best outcome I could get given what I had to work with.
Q. Now that it’s over and you’ve had some time to reflect, what are your thoughts & feelings about the outcome?
A. In many ways, the legal outcome was not what I wanted but it was more than I expected. After all, any legal action involving the King’s men that you can walk away from is a good one. Additionally, nine years of legal wrangling in justice court, federal district court and the 9th circuit has provided a treasure trove of experience and information that others can use without having to recreate the wheel regarding similar legal challenges.
Legally, we made a few tactical mistakes along the way. Mistakes that shouldn’t have made a difference in the outcome but did. We also did a lot of things right but learned the hard way that when it’s your word and the word of other witnesses against the word of the King’s men, the King’s men almost always get the benefit of the doubt in the King’s court. That’s why audio and video of every interaction with a government agent who is forcing himself on you is so important.
My purpose in filing the lawsuit was to establish legal precedent regarding what actions enforcement agents can/can’t take while seizing people absent suspicion at police checkpoints. I also wanted reasonable compensation for the thousands of dollars the incident initially cost me in legal defense fees and other costs. What I got nine years later was a purely monetary settlement after the courts whittled the lawsuit away to a few basic, out of context, facts that would be difficult to present in any meaningful way to a jury.
By whittling away at the substance of the lawsuit before a jury ever got close to hearing it, the court was also pushing us towards settlement due to several factors that I didn’t fully understand until I was standing right in the middle of them. Specifically, judicial precedent over the past decade has had the effect, intended or not, of undermining the right to sue for constitutional torts under 42 USC 1983. Specifically, courts are increasingly instructing jurers to only assign nominal damages of $1.00 to plaintiffs who prevail in a 42 USC 1983 action for constitutional violations that don’t involve substantial physical or financial harm.
The justice system’s rationale is that from it’s perspective there is no monetary value in a constitutional right in and of itself so significant monetary damages for a constitutional violation shouldn’t be awarded to someone who can’t prove any other substantial harm associated with the violation. To add further insult to injury, court’s are increasingly limiting or denying attorney’s fees to civil rights attorneys who prevail on 42 USC 1983 claims but only win nominal damages for their clients.
This of course creates the perverse incentive that individuals who want to realize change to unconstitutional government policies, procedures and practices through non-violent legal action must stand their ground to such a degree during an incident that they place themselves in significant jeapardy of physical or financial harm before it’s realistically feasible to bring suit under 42 USC 1983.
What civil rights attorney, after all, is going to take a case pro-bono knowing that the chances of recouping his or her costs after a lengthy legal battle will be slim to none – even if the case is successful?
What individual, who isn’t independently wealthy, is going to pay an attorney to bring a 42 USC 1983 claim forward knowing there’s a significant chance that even if they do win, the court will only award nominal damages?
What government agency is going to be persuaded to change its ways when the only liability it faces for the wholesale disregard of individual rights is $1.00 in nominal damages?
While this wasn’t exactly the situation we were facing here, we weren’t very far removed from it either – especially after the most recent judge in the case denied several of our claims while leaving the core constitutional claims intact. We could have appealed the denial but we wouldn’t have been able to do so until after the trial. Additionally, another appeal would have added several more years to the case and all the costs and aggravation that goes along with it.
As such, I had a front row seat to just how badly the judicial system wants settlement over trial and just how little respect the system as a whole has for the fundamental individual rights it was allegedly created to protect.
Do I think the nine year effort was worthwhile? Most definitely but probably not for all the same reasons many other people would.
Down the street in a dilapidated little house lives a somber, bedraggled boy. Call him Davy. He recently told me he’s 12 years old; I had figured nine or 10.
The house, whose windows are covered with plastic and duct tape and are never opened, holds Davy, Davy’s fat, unprepossessing siblings, and Davy’s harried and vaguely slutty mother. No father of course.
Davy has an air of refinement that doesn’t fit. My gut tells me that within a year or two he might be struggling with his sexual identity. But for now one of his biggest problems is that he loves dogs and wants to help them.
He can’t have a dog. Maybe because they’re renters. Maybe because they don’t have a fenced yard. But there’s something more going on between him and his mother; she’s hostile to dogs (or hostile to Davy) to the point where, when he found a lost, elderly, sickly, unneutered, dirty chihuahua mix at twilight about a year ago she ordered him to put it back out on the street immediately.
This neighborhood is surrounded by woods and heaven knows what would have happened to that ancient mutt if Davy had obeyed. Nice dinner for some coyote. Instead, he snuck over to my house with it (he knows I rescue dogs).
I kept the dog overnight, then took it to the vet where it automatically went on a three-day police hold. Nobody claimed it so it was adopted out. The sorry pooch found a great home despite being really old and needing a lot of vet care.
Yesterday Davy and his buddy Bernardo showed up with another foundling. Another chihuahua. Younger this time, but as usual no collar, no tags, not neutered. And they’d found it running up and down the highway where it was in danger of getting killed. They checked a house or three nearby but couldn’t find its owner. Again they headed to my place (and again, I later learned, it was against Mom’s orders).
If somebody brought me or I found a dog with a collar and ID, I’d look for its owner. If I couldn’t find them right away I’d keep the dog here for a while. That would be technically illegal — but obviously the decent thing to do. If I found a dog that was neutered and looked well kept despite having no collar or ID, I’d put up posters.
But an uncollared, unneutered dog running on the highway is nearly always an unwanted dog. In those cases I do the “legally correct” thing and take the dogs to the vet ASAP, even though I know it puts them into police custody. Rarely does anybody turn up to claim these guys.
And you know what? I don’t even care if the dog belongs to somebody in that case. Because much as I don’t like cops, I like irresponsible dog owners even less. Unneutered, collarless, running loose — that tells me its humans don’t love that dog. If they have to make a trip to the vet and pay an impound fee and some penalties, maybe they’ll look after it better in the future, for their own sake, if not for Fido’s.
Anyhow, I went to the vet about an hour and a half later with the dog that Davy and Bernardo dubbed “Littlefoot.” In the early evening Bernardo is out playing soccer with other neighborhood kids and he learns who Littlefoot — whose real name is Dragon — belongs to.
Can I go get the dog back for them? he asks.
I explain to Bernardo that only the owners can claim the dog now and they’ll have to pay to do it.
Half an hour later a whole pack of little Mexican kids and one older boy are at my door. I explain it all to them again. Whichever of your relatives the dog belongs to will have to go down, claim him, and pay fees.
Fifteen minutes later, Davy is at my door, wracked with sobs. His mother, he says, is demanding that he go down to the vet and get the dog and nothing he says will make her change her mind.
So, reassuring him all the way, I head for Davy’s house to explain the situation to his mother. This is awkward. I think Davy did absolutely the right thing, but how do I say that without subverting her authority? I go through the legalities. I explain what I did. I explain that nobody but the owners can claim the dog within the next three days, and that if they had just put ID on the little beast none of this would have happened. By this time, all the Mexican kids are surrounding us again. Must be hellishly humiliating for Davy, an older boy, to be bawling his lungs out in front of them. I’m feeling very responsible for all this.
Mom claims that Davy knew who the dog belonged to before he showed up at my place. Between sobs, he denies it. I believe him. Evidence says Mom is lying, though I don’t know why she would.
Anyhow, no matter who the dog belonged to, her son may very well have saved its life and the owners ought to be grateful. Whatever anybody thinks of what I did, the kid did the right thing.
So far — somewhat to my surprise — nobody has demanded that I go fetch the dog and pay its bills.
Some people reading this are going to tell me I stuck my nose into something that wasn’t my business or that I should have kept the dog around longer. It’s true that if I’d have hung onto the dog, Davy almost certainly wouldn’t have been put through that misery. Which does bother me. I’ll apologize to him for helping get him in trouble.
Yet at the same time, I wouldn’t do anything different; I can’t see myself making a big effort to return a dog to people who are likely to get it killed through their neglect. I can’t see myself keeping their pup for them until they care enough to notice it’s gone and look for it.
In any case, Davy’s a sweet, sad, well-intentioned kid who’s being punished for doing something right. I want to take him aside and tell him that what he did was good and that sometimes you do get smacked down for that, which shouldn’t stop you from doing what you believe in.
But I don’t want to put myself between him and his mother, which would be very much not-right. I really don’t know what goes on in that house. I just know that my heart breaks for that kid and I bear a lot of responsibility for what just happened to him.