The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Watched Waco: The rules of engagement

| October 28, 2006

Link

I highly recommend that folks watch this movie.

The most telling part of this documentary was much much of it is merely footage from the depositions in front of a congressional committee. If this is what was said publicly, then who knows what was covered up (and there were a great many things for which the committee asked and were never produced because they were “lost”).

The other thing which this documentary makes one realized is just how much of an enemy of freedom Sen Chuck Schumer is. He strongly supports the inviolate authority of the federal government, and balks at the idea that, under American case law, citizens have the right to shoot at law enforcement officers engaged in unlawful activites, such as the use of excessive force. The example given is that if the officers are serving a warrant and come in shooting, you have the right to shoot back.

Now, one can argue that this is just a bit of creative editing trying to make a point, and perhaps that is the case. However, I am fairly convinced that the sequence of events was as follows:

(1) The ATF stages what was supposed to be a simple “serve a warrant” arrest raid a week before their budget review comes up. (2) It all goes horribly wrong when they take fire from a group of armed citizens. (3) The ATF retreats only when they have expended almost all of their ammunition. (4) The armed citizens let them leave (5) The FBI comes in to try and clean up the mess. (6) The FBI negotiates to try and end the standoff. (7) It takes too long, and everyone is getting angry, so the FBI decides to end it. They light the compound on fire, and shoot people as they try and escape.

Now, don't get me wrong – I don't think that the whole FBI and ATF, or even everyone there onsite, actually even knew what was going on. That's what's so great about beaurocracy – it allows some folks there to be told one thing and be hanging out in front for the cameras, and then another select group around the back doing the dirty work.

Another interesting quote is from law enforcement agent, where he says (and I paraphrase here):

“The days of showing up in a 3 piece suit and serving a warrant are over, and it's people like me, (some other guy) and (some third guy) who stand between folks like you (meaning the members of the panel) and the David Koresh's of the world… it's law enforcement.”

Sorry buddy, but the David Koresh's of the world don't scare me. Jackbooted government thugs however, do.

A final interesting point is that Koresh worked with a gun dealer and worked a lot of gun shows, making money. His “arsenal” of weapons could also be known as “inventory” and (while not stated in the documentary), the fact that they estimate that he had something like 50,000 once fired pieces of brass in the basement make perfect sense – that stuff is like GOLD. Hell, I have a few thousand pieces of .45 ACP brass. Additionally, none of this is illegal.

I repeat my position that the ATF should be immediately dissolved, on the grounds that it is not necessary. The items which it regulates either do not need to be regulated (firearms, explosives) or do not need to be regulated any more than other food products need to be regulated (after all, the USDA doesn't need police powers; why do we need that when dealing with alcohol and tobacco?).

I don't think that the FBI necessarily needs to be disbanded, but should definitely be reexamined.

Subject for discussion

| October 22, 2006

(I posted this in a week or so ago, and it occurs to me that folks here might be interested. Original link is here, if folks want to read the comments.)

So, I'm finally watching a History Channel documentary on Waco which I TiVo-ed, and the following thought occurred to me:

“Despite whatever crimes may have been perpetrated by Koresh, the one for which the government attempted to arrest him (illegal conversion and possession of automatic weapons) should not have been illegal in the first place, and therefore represents an abuse of government power.”

The reports I've read about his sexualizing of children are the only thing which gives me pause about defending him and his actions. Aside from that, it just looks to me like this was a group of people who wanted to be left alone and had weapons with which to defend themselves – seems pretty American to me.

It also occurs to me that the fact that his views ran counter to mainstream America merely made the government's actions more palatable to the general public.

And make no mistake – I remember nothing about an attempt to serve a warrant by knocking on the front door and announcing who you are – this was a commando-style raid. I guess you're just supposed to assume that anyone in a blue jumpsuit breaking in your window is a government agent on a proper mission?

I guess the other problem is that I'm conflicted about the footage. On the one hand, the folks from the ATF are just that – folks trying to do their job, and it breaks my heart to see them wounded and insured. On the other hand, seeing them attacking a compound of folks to get one who isn't being charged with anything which I consider to be wrong really bothers me.

Discussion, debate and opinions are welcome.

Updates – Amex actually doesn't suck as much as I thought

| October 22, 2006

So, I sent them a check, and it posted to my account, and then I get this month's bill – they assessed me a $1.41 finance charge, even though I paid the balance in full by the due date.

I called up during the workday (and this is the key – you need to call during the day. The nighttime folks don't seem to be of the same caliber as the daytime folks.

I asked the gentleman if he could fix it so that I could pay online. He said that he would have to check and make sure that they could bill my bank account, which takes a billing cycle, which directly contradicts what the previous rep told me. He also (without asking) canceled the $1.41 charge, because it's kind of silly to pay such a small charge with an envelope and check. Additionally, once he reviewed the notes and I explained the situation, he apologized and said that it should never have gotten so out of hand. He cleared all the bad flags on my account, restored my interest rate back to the base rate (apparently, it had gone up as a result of the bounced payment; despite the fact that I paid the $30 late fee), and he said that the account should now be back to the way that it was before all this silliness.

I told him that I really appreciated it, and he has convinced me to keep the card. (I hadn't told him that I was going to cancel the card, merely that I wanted to speak with someone who could set it up so that I could pay online again).

Now all that remains is to check my credit report in a month or two and make sure that none of this silliness has created a problem.

Website update

| October 8, 2006

Updated and reorganized my website and added a new page on coffee.

Why American Express sucks

| October 2, 2006

  1. I bought something on my Amex card.
  2. I went to pay for it. Since I hadn’t used it in a year, my bank account had the old information from my previous account. I didn’t notice until after I paid it.
  3. I called their customer service line. I explained what happened, and they said that they were sorry, but they couldn’t retract a payment once it was placed. Okay, fine. Can I make another payment? Nope. You can only make a payment after 24 hours.
  4. The next morning, I got up and left on my honeymoon. The due date was while I was in Alaska
  5. When I got back, there was a message on my phone, because the payment failed. I called, and explained the situation. The gentleman told me that since it was late, I couldn’t pay online or over the phone. So, I sent them a check. Once it was paid up, I would be able to pay online again. He also apologized, saying that the other rep should have told me that they could have scheduled a payment to take place 24 hours after the first. Nice of that rep to mention it, you know?
  6. I check my statement a week or so later, and the check posted. Great. No there’s no money on the account, and everything is square.
  7. This month, I charged a little bit to it as well. So, I go to pay it.
  8. I can’t pay it. They won’t let me. They say to call the number on the card.
  9. I do, and that man tells me that the reason I can’t pay online is because those priviledges have been revoked because of the previous late payment. I told tem what the previous rep had told me, and this man said that the other rep was in error – the only way I can get those priviledges reinstated is to have my bank write a letter to Amex saying that it’s okay to bill the account.
  10. I tell him that’s not going to happen and he should just give me the address again so I can send another check

So, evaluation of the situation and more facts:

  • Yes, I was in error. I did not update my bank account. I acknowledge this.
  • Yes, I should have escalated the call to higher level of support (I may call back tomorrow when I'm in a more rational mood and do the same).
  • Discover Card allows you to cancel a pending payment, in case you make a mistake like this.
  • Their CS reps can't seem to agree on anything. Talk to a different one, you get a different story.

Conclusions:

  • I am paying off the balance, spending the rewards points, and not charging anything else on the card.
  • I was going to cancel it, but Liz heard that canceling credit cards can negatively affect your credit report when trying to get a mortage. Can anyone speak to this?