Archive for the ‘law’ Category

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Phelps Fallout

February 10, 2009

It has been quite a while since my last toke of the weed (a couple years, actually), so my interest in this might not be what it once was, but I can’t help but scratch my head and wonder why the heck I just saw this headline: Eight arrested in Michael Phelps case

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – New details have emerged about a party where Olympic champion Michael Phelps was spotted.phelpsbong

On Feb. 2, a British tabloid published a picture of the 14-time Olympic gold medalist using a water pipe to smoke marijuana. The picture was taken at a party in Columbia back in November when Phelps was here for a visit.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has been taking a lot of heat from people in this country and all over the world.

They want to know why Sheriff Leon Lott is going after Michael Phelps.

Many are saying the sheriff should concentrate on more serious crimes, or at the very least, not focus solely on the Olympic champion when there were others at the party who were also breaking the law.

Now it appears the case has expanded beyond Phelps’ activities.

I swear, someone could break into my house tomorrow, steal all my stuff, kill my dog, and piss on the floor, and all I’d be able to do is file a report that would get placed on a shelf somewhere and eventually get ignored. But someone takes a pic of Michael Phelps taking a hit of pot, and suddenly there’s some sheriff who thinks he’s Horatio Caine and the CSI team performs 128-bit analysis of the photo, dusts for prints, checks shoe sizes and tread on the carpet, samples the wallpaper for residue, and pulls hair out of the bathtub in search of the perps responsible for this heinous crime. 

I’m sure that I’m not the only one out there wondering why this is even a big deal to begin with.  Heck, I wonder why people swoon over Michael Phelps at all.  Sure, the guy won a ton of gold medals, but he’s a swimmer.  Just think about it, no one gives two turds about swimmers otherwise.    It’s not like people are going to the sports bar on Mondays to watch Monday Night Swimming, after all.

Anyway, since the guy is freakishly good at swimming, he’s apparently perceived as some role model (for reasons that are obviously beyond me, he’s near the top with almost 2 million fans on facebook), and the fact that he has had his picture taken with a bong to his lips represents some sort of scandal.  I suppose that may mean something in the realm of endorsements and the sales of his Officially Licensed Merchandise, but for God’s sake, leave the other poor saps at the party out of the blast radius. 

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Not Just Another Blackwater Thread

December 7, 2008

Tomorrow, those Blackwater security guards are supposed to surrender to authorities in Utah:

WASHINGTON – Five Blackwater Worldwide security guards indicted in Washington for the 2007 shooting of Iraqi civilians plan to surrender to the federal authorities Monday in Utah, people close to the case said, setting up a court fight over the trial site.

The case already is shaping up to be a series of contentious legal battles before the guards can even go to trial. By surrendering in Utah, the home state of one of the guards, the men could argue the case should be heard in a far more conservative, pro-gun venue than Washington, some 2,000 miles away.

The five guards, all military veterans, were indicted on manslaughter charges Thursday for their roles in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. A sixth guard reached a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a mandatory 30-year prison sentence.

Now, I say “just another thread”, because I did have a thread about the incident after it happened last year.  mercsribbon2And in the spirit of the other post,  I’m not sure if I want this one to focus on the incident itself or the legal situation that these five guys find themselves in.  Instead, I think I’m going to use the story as an excuse to revisit the topic that kinda flew under the radar the last time, especially now that we’re a over a year post-surge in Iraq and people are now declaring our victory and everything.  So…

Just how big of an impact have the contractors like Blackwater had on what’s transpired?  Or, asked another way, how large of a component of the “surge” have they been, and how critical to the mission’s success?

It’s a topic that doesn’t get mentioned much, so I’m mentioning it.  The effort has been more privatized than any other in our history, so I think it’s worth examining.  And while the V-I Day proponents claim to honor the sacrifice of American, Iraqi, and other coalition forces, they’re ignoring the tens of thousands of hired guns who were handsomely compensated by the American taxpayer.  How come?  After all, contractors (armed and otherwise) have suffered over 1,000 dead and 10,000 wounded, a rate of approximately one for every four of the U.S. Armed Forces.

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Obligatory Black Friday Stampede Death Post

December 2, 2008

I know I’m more than a few days late on this.  I apologize, but I’ve been a little busy with other stuff.  But hey, better late than never:

Having worked in retail for over a decade, and witnessing my share of craziness on Black Friday (years ago, I remember telling myself that I had lost hope in humanity the day I saw one sweet old lady shove another over a free clock radio), I figured that I better comment on this.  

I was getting my daily dose of talk radio the day after it happened, and as usual, there were quite a few opinions about who was to blame and questions about what would drive such madness, but there was something that I didn’t hear anyone point out.  That is, the notion that this wasn’t “stuff” that people were jockeying for.  This was money

Here’s the thing.  Assume for a second that you’re predisposed to buy a 50″ plasma TV.  You’re going to buy one.   Assume again that the regular cost is $1600.  So, if a local retailer is advertising that they can get this same TV for $800 if you’re one of the first people through the doors at 5 AM, you’re not racing for the TV.  You’re racing for the other $800. 

So, for the sake of making a point, imagine that your local bank put out an advertisement that said that they’re giving away stacks of cash, and you’ll get it if you’re one of the first people through the door.  Does anyone have any illusions about what kind of mob scene they’d have on their hands?  I don’t think so.  I would think that any rational person might even suggest that the bank make sure that they have police donning riot gear on hand.  Now, if the bank had no preparation, and in the chaos someone got trampled to death.  Does one blame the mob, or the stupid people at the bank? 

At what point does a “door buster” sale become as dangerous as yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theater? 

Now, I know that the “stacks of cash” may be an exaggeration of an example, and I’m sure that there are a certain number of shoppers out there that are more motivated by some bragging rights than pure greed, but the point is that there are certain precautions that these retailers need to take in the way of crowd control if they’re going to do this sort of thing.  There’s certainly no excuse for being taken by surprise, since I  watched it get a little worse year after year (at least from where I was sitting).

I know what you’re thinking.  Like “OK genius, what would YOU do to control the mob?”  And I’d naturally segue into what we did at our store, which actually worked quite well.  You see, instead of handling the customers in a chaotic reaction to a metaphorical dam-breaking (like obviously happened at this WalMart), we’d catch the customers as they came in the parking lot.  We’d have greeters out there early, meeting people as they came in.  We’d talk to them, ask what items they intended on purchasing, and gave them a voucher for those items.  And since we only had as many vouchers for each item as we had items, there was no risk of people fighting over them.  No voucher, no item.  Customers could take off, have breakfast, and come back and pick up their thing.  Does it ruin the “thrill” of chaotic holiday shopping?  Probably.  But, heck, no one died at least.

Anyway, one really has to wonder what the hell these employees at the WalMart must have been thinking to themselves as they saw the mob of a couple thousand people gather outside.  I’m guessing that, at some point, the management realized that they had gotten a little over their heads. But what did they do?  Because they obviously didn’t adequately prepare for what came barging down their doors, I’m inclined to blame WalMart for the tragedy (unlike the hosts of my local FM talk show).

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Attention Thrill-Seekers!

September 25, 2008

I’m going to give a plug to a magnificent locale that happens to be just a few hundred yards from where I went to high school:  Blondie’s Sports Bar & Grill

Naturally, one might ask why in the heck I’d suggest an innocently named sports bar as a destination for the steel-nerved.  I mean, it looks like a pretty harmless place, right?  It’s got a nice-looking patio, cash bingo, and even karaoke on Saturdays.  Well, don’t be fooled, daredevils.  You’d better keep your head on a swivel and your running shoes tied tight if you plan on stepping foot in this joint (It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to review Minnesota’s conceal and carry law, either).

For example, just the other day, some poor kid was gunned down in cold blood right there on that patio, and two more of his pals wound up in the hospital:

Family members say Jones was just dropping off a set of keys to his cousin at Blondie’s Sports Bar and Grill at 7495 Brooklyn Boulevard when shots rang out just after midnight Wednesday.
Jones was dead at the scene. The two others were taken to North Memorial with non-life-threatening injuries. One of the injured had a bullet wound, the other was a victim of a related assault.

But I know what you’re thinking.  Surely this was just a one-time fluke incident borne out of too many drinks and machismo.  

On the other hand, ask the guy who went there last year and had his nutsack ripped open by Thor, the establishment’s not-so-friendly barkeep:

Thor Gunderson

“It is not like he was drunk and disorderly. There was a dispute over the time it was going to take for his food. But he decided he didn’t want to pay for it and for that he ends up with these types of serious injuries,” said acting Brooklyn Park Police Chief Greg Roehl.

Investigators say the owner, Thor Gunderson, even tried to stop the man from calling 911 for help. When police got to the bar, they say they found the customer bleeding and on the ground, restrained by Gunderson and a bouncer.

“At the hospital they determined he had an injury which was to his scrotum and that one of his testicles was actually torn loose,” said Roehl.

Yea, um, can you say…check please?

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that there’s no shortage of “activity” at Blondie’s.  In fact, when you look at the history of the place over the last few years, one has to wonder why any reasonable person would ever go there:

City records show Blondie’s, at 7495 Brooklyn Blvd., had 221 calls for service in 2006, 215 in 2007 and 156 so far this year.

That’s nearly 600 visits from the police in under 3 years.  Or if you do the math, you’ve got better than a 50/50 chance that the cops will show up for some reason on any given night.   Here’s the breakdown (pdf) for 242 calls in 2007 (not sure of the reason for the discrepancy).  And keep in mind, Brooklyn Park is a suburb.


Casual dining with a sports flair…
…If you dare.

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Did Palin’s Email Hacker Break The Law?

September 18, 2008

I was hoping to see a WPPBA thread on this subject, so I thought I’d just throw it out there for the Alliance…

With all the buzz over this, I’ve seen plenty of claims on blogs out there that what was done here constitutes a federal crime.  What I haven’t seen, however, is exactly which law was broken.  I’ll admit that I’m no lawyer, and I’m still trying to figure this out, so I’m hoping that someone can help me in the comments section here. 

For the time being, I’ll start with what I know.  Via the much linked-to Malkin page, the pertinent part of the hacker’s “confession”:

In the past couple days news had come to light about palin using a yahoo mail account, it was in news stories and such, a thread was started full of newfags trying to do something that would not get this off the ground, for the next 2 hours the acct was locked from password recovery presumably from all this bullshit spamming.

after the password recovery was reenabled, it took seriously 45 mins on wikipedia and google to find the info, Birthday? 15 seconds on wikipedia, zip code? well she had always been from wasilla, and it only has 2 zip codes (thanks online postal service!)

the second was somewhat harder, the question was “where did you meet your spouse?” did some research, and apparently she had eloped with mister palin after college, if youll look on some of the screenshits that I took and other fellow anon have so graciously put on photobucket you will see the google search for “palin eloped” or some such in one of the tabs.

I found out later though more research that they met at high school, so I did variations of that, high, high school, eventually hit on “Wasilla high” I promptly changed the password to popcorn and took a cold shower…

So, the hacker was basically able to exploit Yahoo!’s password recovery system, reset it, and gain access to the account (quite easily, it would seem).  In other words, this person used the tools that Yahoo! itself provides visitors to its site, as opposed to something akin to a script kiddie “hack”.  (Nevermind what this says about Palin and/or Yahoo!’s ability to protect a password, I’m still trying to make sense of what law was broken. )

Remember that Yahoo! is basically a free email service, so to me, it would be unclear if anything that transpires on their servers is “owned” by Palin or anyone else who uses it.  I would think that you’d be at the mercy of Yahoo! and whatever their terms of service are.  So, speaking of that (emphasis mine):

5. MEMBER ACCOUNT, PASSWORD AND SECURITY

You will receive a password and account designation upon completing the Service’s registration process. You are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of the password and account and are fully responsible for all activities that occur under your password or account. You agree to (a) immediately notify Yahoo! of any unauthorized use of your password or account or any other breach of security, and (b) ensure that you exit from your account at the end of each session. Yahoo! cannot and will not be liable for any loss or damage arising from your failure to comply with this Section 5.

I don’t know about you, but what I’m reading there is that the responsibility for Sarah Palin’s password winding up on some 4chan message board falls on….Sarah Palin.  In fact, as you read the terms of service, one gets the impression that any given user can expect very little guarantee of, well, anything.  Heck, they can just shut your account down if they feel like it (see section 15).

So, I open up the thread to enlighten myself.  Was the offence related to posting the new password online?  Just accessing the account? 

Have at me, and I’ll update when I see the light.

 

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Update: I was wrong about the WPPBA not having a thread up. DandelionSalad has one (that’s getting a lot of hits, actually), with more background on what happened.

Update:  Another WPPBA member posts, this one hoping the culprit goes to jail.  Still waiting for the charge…

Update:  Another reason I ask, is because there are “lock door/throw away key” comments being posted on other blogs, or discussions about whether Palin should show mercy and drop the charges.  But no one seems to be stopping to ask if there is a there there to begin with. (of course, going public with showing mercy in light of having nothing to charge the kid (?) with might just be a great political cover for the aforementioned section 5 oopsy).

Update:  I thought I’d add that Gawker (the site that posted screenshots of the emails in question), feels good about their legal situation. Here is the rundown on their coverage.

Update:  Thanks to commenter Mike who finds a post over at the Volokh Conspiracy, and OrinKerr states:

UPDATE: The FBI and Secret Service are conducting a joint investigation. The easiest crime to prove here is 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2)(C), accessing a protected computer without authorization to obtain information, with the possibility of felony liability under 18 U.S.C. 1030(c)(2)(B)(ii)-(iii) and also the possibility of felony liability under 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(4). As with most computer crime cases, the real trick will be finding the bad guy rather than finding a charge.

For the record: § 1030. Fraud and related activity in connection with computers

I dunno.  I think the “trick” would be equating what happened and “accessing a computer without authorization”.   Again, what this person essentially did was gain access to web pages (as opposed to a computer) using the tools that Yahoo! provides.  No trojan horses, no spyware, no keystroke logger.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I’m not seeing anything sticking at this point.  But again, I’m not a lawyer and am unaware of precedents here.

Update: The most comprehensive breakdown I’ve seen thus far of the legalities involved at Threat Level: Little or No Jail Time Likely for Palin Hacker 

The law really does appear to be ambiguous on this one.  But to prove how little I know, I had no idea that there was such a thing as the Stored Communications Act.

Update:  There’s been an indictment, and they’re charging him in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 2701 and 1030(a)(2) (as Volokh predicted).

Update:  There’s and excellent discussion going on over at Volokh, and the title says it all:  Is the Palin E-Mail Hack Indictment Legally Flawed?

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Please…No More OJ

September 19, 2007

I just turned on Fox and CNN* to discover the press conference with Simpson’s attorney taking place (LIVE!).  Other than the fact that I was a little curious who the toothless moron with the “OJ 07” shirt standing next to him was, I’m dismayed that this is getting so much attention.  Not surprised, just dismayed.  I’m afraid that this will be our national distraction for the next year or so.

And as further evidence of our screwed up priorities, check out this headline:  Most Voters Say Election 2008 is Annoying and a Waste of Time

Oh well…

*So far it looks like Fox is a little more obsessed with this than CNN, for what it’s worth.

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Mystery Solved: Stolen Buddha Statue

September 2, 2007

It isn’t often that I include local news here on the blog, but I was a little intrigued by this story:
Elk River woman arrested in theft of Thai Buddha statue

The high demand and soaring prices for scrap metal appeared to be the reason a 7-foot statue of Buddha, covered in copper-laden bronze, was stolen from an outdoor temple shrine at the Thai Buddhist Center of Minnesota, police said.

Police Chief Jeff Beahen said a 45-year-old Elk River woman was arrested Friday night, and a male family member was being looked at as another suspect in the theft.

The statue, valued at $10,000, was stolen Wednesday night, and a detective issued a statewide alert to police and scrap dealers Thursday with a photo of the stolen statue.

Early Friday afternoon, a recycling company in Monticello called the detective, saying they had taken in two pieces of scrap they believed to be from the statue.

I had no idea that there is a black market for scrap metal.  I’m also wondering exactly how someone would steal it.  I mean, the thing must have weighed hundreds of pounds.