When cops and robbers are one and the same

I have taken the stance, on many occasions, that those in charge of enforcing the law, should not be above the law. When law enforcement reduces itself to the level of the thugs it’s supposed to be ridding us of, we all lose. And such is the case here.

The BBC reports on the takedown of a credit card fraud suspect where the suspect was actually mugged by the police, with the target of the mugging being a mobile phone that they feared would be inaccessible if they arrested him normally.

This is despicable. The ends do not justify the means. I believe law enforcement is supposed to set an example, and truly be “the finest” of the jurisdiction they serve. What they did in this case clearly isn’t. Imagine the civil suits that would result if they get the wrong target.

In fact, this tactic was so despicable I’m not even sure it would be appropriate to solve a murder case. I would be more apt to blame laziness on the part of the cops assigned to this case, as I’m sure they had other ways to get evidence than to violently steal it, and basically break the very laws they were assigned to enforce (at least the spirit of them, if not in letter). Even if they didn’t, I would think it better to abandon the case and not risk the terrible PR.

I don’t condone crime, but the only thing worse than crime by those dressed in black and wearing masks, is crime by those dressed in blue and carrying badges.

An “out of this world” response to censorship

First, a quick sidenote: I’m glad to see this year finally come to a close, for various reasons. However, I’d still like to end it on a high note at least as this blog is concerned.

And so with that I bring forth this BBC News article, regarding an ambitious anti-censorship plan that’s truly out of this world: the use of satellite communications to circumvent the primarily land- and sea-based Internet we’ve come to know.

It is unfortunate on one hand that this is necessary. But it goes to illustrate the nearly boundless ingenuity of the hacker culture. We’ve seen anonymous remailers (the original cypherpunk Type I, then the Mixmaster or Type II), Freenet, Tor, GNUNet, and myriad other end-runs around overzealous censors, whether they be government-based or corporate-based. This is a logical next step, though satellites are not without their limits: a geostationary satellite introduces a huge latency, while lower orbits result in communication links only available in short bursts. With enough funding, though, I think this strategy has potential to be a winner.

And with that, my posts for 2011 are done. See you on the flip side.

Artist’s fake bombs made from carrots cause uproar

You really can’t make this stuff up.

The BBC reported on an art project in Sweden that turned into a bomb scare. Or maybe, that was the idea from the beginning. You be the judge. (There is also a Radio Sweden article about the event for those that desire a perspective closer to the events.)

[Artist Conny Blom] taped bunches of carrots together with black tape and attached blue and red wires and a clock to them.

Police received worried calls from members of the public who thought they were real bombs. Mr Blom was forced to remove his art – and may face charges.

The article goes on to say that Mr. Blom describes the event as a “harmless stunt.” The police agencies involved may describe the event a bit differently; Blom may face charges.

The article I found lacked a picture of the actual carrot bombs themselves, opting instead for just a generic picture of a bunch of carrots. UPDATE: Nina from Sweden commented with a link to pictures on the artist’s site.

As much as I despise the use of intent to distinguish between criminal and non-criminal conduct, that may be the only thing that makes sense here.

If Blom was making genuine hoax bombs (which are illegal here in Texas, USA) and disguising the carrots to appear more like real dynamite sticks, then I can see pursuing criminal charges. But, if it’s obvious enough they are just a bunch of carrots made into “a caricature of a bomb” I don’t see why there is so much fuss. Given that Blom was working at the request of a local art gallery, I doubt there was much intent to have the bombs look convincing to all but the dumbest and most gullible passers-by. Of course, the quote from P.T. Barnum may be proven right yet again: “You’ll never go broke overestimating the stupidity of the general public.”

This event does speak volumes for how hyper-sensitive we have become to terrorism, across the entire planet. Prior to 2001, this may well have gone over as “oh, look, someone made a fake bomb out of a bunch of carrots, some wires, and a cheap alarm clock, how cute.”

One last semi-topical aside: I am reminded of a TV news report I saw once on a local station when I was a kid. A bum snuck onto a bus, whereupon the passengers in the back shouted “there’s a bum on the bus.” By the time the driver heard it, it had changed into “there’s a bomb on the bus.” When the report aired, this was kind of funny. I have a feeling it would not be nearly as funny today.