Big Brother

Big Brother is a reference to a fictional character in George Orwell’s novel “1984”. The phrase describes any overly-inquisitive or overly-controlling authority figure or attempts by government to increase surveillance.

New Police Chief Promotes Open Government

In the spirit of open government, Fullerton Police Chief Mike Sellers made a promise to publicly disclose internal department policies and procedures on the city website.

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We're always looking for new Friends

Even before Chief Sellers joined the Fullerton PD last month, there were musings of his strong stance on community-oriented policing. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? After a month on the job, it was time to put the PD to the test.

I made a quick request for the department’s taser policy in preparation for an item on the council agenda that would allocate $40,000 for new tasers. Chief Sellers’ initial reaction was the best that we could hope for… his command staff even offered to bring the policy by my house so I would have it in time for the meeting!

Unfortunately, we suspect that someone else at the department noticed my FFFF membership card because officer friendly was then told to deny my public records request. Perturbed by this sudden reversal,  I informed the chief and city council that the issue would be brought up at the city council meeting that night.

By the time I had spoken at the meeting, Chief Sellers had taken a stand and informed everyone that internal department polices would be available to the public and posted online.

The Chief knows there are loopholes in public record law that allow police departments to shut out the public, but Fullerton can rest easy knowing that FFFF and Chief Sellers have solidified their right to observe the inner workings of our government. And that’s how it should be.

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(More) Tasers About to Hit the Streets of Fullerton

Tonight, the city council will consider the acceptance of a $41,410 Justice Assistance Grant (Homeland Security stuff) to purchase 35 tasers for the police department. Do we need tasers in Fullerton? Judith Kaluzny raises some good questions in this letter to the council.

jkcl15047_150Dear City Council Members:

I see you will consider the purchase of 35 taser guns, number 8 on June 16 agenda.

Tasers have been outlawed in several states, including New York, Rhode Island, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and in a number of cities, including Chicago, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia.

The use of tasers can lead to lawsuits for cities.  There have been many lawsuits over mis- or mal- use. Do  we really want to get into this dubious technology?

Judith A. Kaluzny, Mediator and Lawyer
www.judithkaluzny.com

The new ones are even better.

Smile now, cry later

Amnesty International provides a few examples of taser abuse:

  • December 20, 2007, Daytona Beach, FL – Elizabeth Beeland was struck by a Taser after she became loud and unruly at a Best Buy store. Video
  • November 14, 2006, Los Angeles, CA – Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a student at UCLA, neglected to show his student identification card at the library. He was then asked to leave, and when he refused he was struck by a Taser multiple times. Video
  • September 17, 2007, Gainesville, FL – Andrew Meyer persistently questioned Senator John Kerry at a university forum. University of Florida police tried to escort him from the auditorium and later struck him with a Taser for resisting arrest. Video

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CITY SIGN CENSORS HIT EUCLID

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For as long as we can remember, community groups have hung banners on the fences at the corner of Euclid and Malvern. So, what’s up with the new “Do Not Post Banners on Fence” sign? Who put it there? And why?

The fence has long been used by youth sports teams, the Muckenthaler, the Farmers’ Market, local churches and cultural groups to publicize community events to passing motorists. Now they are being scolded with the “No Banners” warning.

As the fences are along a flood control channel, we suspected the County put the sign up. But according to a June 9 memo from OC Flood Control Director Nadeem Majaj, the fence is city-owned and the warning sign was installed by city staff.img00468

Why? There is no record of this ever having been before the City Council. Is this a precursor to a banner ban at other similar locations? (Yorba Linda & State College, Gilbert & Malvern, etc.)

The council should order this sign removed. The “Do Not Post Banners on Fence” will continue to taunt motorists with the heavy hand of city government, denying community groups their long-held location for needed free publicity…. Until the council takes it down. 

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This One Speaks For Itself

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Judge Jim Gray on Marijuana

Marijuana. Decriminalize, tax and regulate. Makes a lot more sense than ban, spray and incarcerate. Of course, it’s just the dark-skinned ones that we jail mostly. For middle class kids, it’s just “experimentation”!

That was the message of retired Judge Jim Gray at last night’s packed meeting of the Neighbors United for Fullerton at the main library. Gray told the supportive NUFFsters that imprisoning marijuana offenders costs California taxpayers $1 billion yearly and taxing it would add $4 billion to state coffers. That’s a net of $5 billion!

Who are the big winners in the drug war? Prison guards, prison builders, drug lords, dumb politicians and Big Pharma. (Tough to profit from a plant that grows in the wilds!)

Elected officials attending–and positively responding–were Supervisor Chris Norby and Anaheim UHSD Board Member Katherine Smith.

Gray talked about all the costs of the entire drug war, but concentrated on cannabis as the one most likely to see real reform. AB 390 by Assemblyman Tom Amiano (D-San Francisco) would legalize and tax marijuana in California, to take effect only after federal law was changed to respect state autonomy on the issue.

How ’bout it Barack? Would society really have been better off had you been jailed back during your experimental youth?

There are just enough pro-freedom Dems and Reps to form a coaltion. Reefer Madness might soon be replaced by Reefer sanity!

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Departing Police Chief Brings Home The Bacon

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Porktacular reading material

Just in time for his retirement, our beloved police chief Pat McKinley brought home a $100,000 federal earmark for his new body armor which he designed in a partnership with seasoned police contractor Safariland, a subsidiary of Europe’s largest military contractor. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez congratulated herself for rooting up the money for the high-priced vests as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act.

What could be wrong with this earmark? It’s nothing but free money for the City of Fullerton – an unconditional gift from the federal government, right?

But the earmark qualifies as official government pork according to government watchdogs.

Citizens Against Government Waste have identified 10,160 projects at a cost of $19.6 billion in the 12 Appropriations Acts for fiscal 2009 that symbolize the most egregious and blatant examples of pork.  All of the items in the Congressional Pig Book Summary meet at least one of these criteria, but most satisfy at least two:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
  • Not specifically authorized;
  • Not competitively awarded;
  • Not requested by the President;
  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
  • Serves only a local or special interest.
Officer Rubio shows off his new vest while demonstrating a choke hold for our unsuspecting photographer.

Officer Rubio shows off his new vest while demonstrating a choke hold for our unsuspecting photographer.

There are two sides to every slab of government pork: on one hand, earmarks return a portion of Fullerton citizens’ federal tax dollars back to the city itself. If Fullerton doesn’t grab it’s share of the pie, the money will merely be assigned to some other bloated project in some other needy town far, far away.

On the flip side, earmarks represent the very worst in fiscal responsibility and big government. Appropriations Committee members arbitrarily pick winners and losers by earmarking funds for specific recipients.  Lobbyists and their congressmen bypass authorizing committees directly for pet projects, creating a giant fiscal free-for-all that undermines the Constitution and makes states and localities increasingly beholden to the federal government. Finally, the federal deficit grows unchecked and our taxes increase via the debasement of our currency.

Pork projects have haunted this nation since our early years, but they have always been reviled by fiscally responsible citizens. Thomas Jefferson considered earmarks “a source of boundless patronage to the executive, jobbing to members of Congress & their friends, and a bottomless abyss of public money”. If Jefferson knew about the exponential increase in federal earmarks over the last decade, he would likely rise from his grave to scribe a brand new Declaration of Independence.

In the end, the chiefs’ friends at Safariland are $100,000 richer, our police have new vests that cost twice as much as the old, and most importantly, the fruits of our labor have been lost in a sea of unaccountability.

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Fast Talking Techno-Pitch Man Tries to Sell Council Sack of Magic Cyber-Beans

Council member Mr. Dick Jones was caught drooling yesterday at the idea of using taxpayer funds to create a massive fiber optic nightmare to compete against local businesses and bring high-speed Internet connections to our supposedly media-starved school children. A presentation was made to the council by smooth-talking Paul Stover of the Technology Working Group to deploy a 37-mile fiber-optic loop buried shallowly underneath major Fullerton traffic arteries. Mr. Jones seized upon the idea of becoming his own telecom corporation, using taxpayer resources to launch Fullerton into the high-risk world of the telecommunications business. Despite his lack of experience in the telecom industry and without surrendering a moment to ponder the idea, Mr. Jones eagerly pronounced “I’m ready to sign up!”

In the corporate world, responsible executives must keep a tight reign on their computer geeks, who are easily coaxed by fast-talking technology salesmen into spending other people’s money to buy themselves fancy new toys. Mr. Jones and the rest of the council should always be wary when IT salesmen throw around meaningless buzzwords like “Futureproof” and “knowledge workers” in an attempt to justify fabulous new financial ventures deep into the territory of private enterprise.

Council member Shawn Nelson got started with some important questions, but the council needs to go much deeper. These are the questions you should be asking TWG and ISMS (the consulting company who conveniently recommended themselves to manage the proposed system). Vague, assumptive or misdirecting answers should not be accepted.

1. Should we make a long-term investment into a rapidly-depreciating commodity? The cost of bandwidth has been falling by orders of magnitude for the last 15 years and is expected to fall even faster as ISPs trip over each other to deliver high-definition video to every home in America over the next few years. Is that the low-margin business that the City of Fullerton should enter? Or perhaps we should position ourselves to benefit from the fruits of this new competitive marketplace by leaving ourselves open to the most efficient solution utilizing commercial economies of scale that a city can never achieve by itself.

2. Do our children really need gigabit Internet connections at school? Some of our teachers seem to be very interested in bringing more bandwidth into our schools to fill our children’s mind with the best videos that the Internet has to offer. For as far back as I can remember, projectors, VHS and DVDs were used by lazy schoolteachers as babysitters in the classroom when they don’t feel like actually teaching. Will Internet video be any different? Why are these teachers so quick to outsource themselves to a video professor?

3. Why does the network have to be physically owned by the city? ISMS disingenuously implies that their giant list of potential uses for this fiber network can only be achieved if Fullerton owns the physical medium. That is completely false – any and all of these technologies could be run over network access provided by the marketplace on an as-needed basis.

4. Will Fullerton really be able to re-sell portions of the network to businesses? Mr. Jones clearly became enamored with the idea, but the TWG spokesman downplayed it and suggested that it was merely a possibility. Almost all businesses have connectivity needs that go beyond the borders of a single city and would be wary in signing up for government-run service in a competitive marketplace.

5. What are the risks of microtrenching the new cable? Microtrenching is a newer cable distribution method which only buries the cable about a foot under the surface of our roads instead of digging large trenches. Are there any long-term reliability studies of this new technique? If we lay 37 miles of cable over the top of our existing utilities, what are the increased costs when we have to do maintenance to our gas lines, sewer lines, water mains and street surfaces?

Mr. Jones may be easily bedazzled by big words, flashing lights and his own jokes, but the rest of the council should be wise enough to ask the right questions before taxpayers are sold on this so-called Fiber Field of Dreams.

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SWAT Raid On Fullerton Students and Taxpayers

As the Fullerton Joint Union High School District struggles with drastic budget cuts that threaten to strip public education back to the three R’s, Fullerton SWAT and the Sunny Hills High School administrators decided that their students should spend the day playing “PARAMILITARY POLICE RAID” at the expense of Fullerton taxpayers.

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The Orange County Register reports the students were given a 14 day window in which to expect 3 SWAT trucks and an unknown number of armored pseudo-soldiers to storm the campus in an attempt to replicate the fear and panic of an active shooter situation.Despite the unfortunate news of a real attack in another part of the country, the Fullerton SWAT team was unable to inspire the high school students into true hysteria. The event did give Officer Mike a chance to remind the students of the days’ lesson: if this was a real hostage situation, they should be curled up in the fetal position begging for their lives.

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This unfortunate event came at a time when all school expenses and activities are under strict scrutiny due to $6.9 million in projected budget cutbacks. Somehow this waste-of-a-day just slipped past those watchful eyes at the district and the taxpayers are left pondering which public learning institution will be featured as the next simulated warzone.

http://images.ocregister.com/newsimages/2009/03/11/b78481758z120090311133426000gdcgua1k1_lg.jpg

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An Update: End Reefer Madness by Legalizing Pot

Marijuana is not a dangerous drug [”Proposed pot law ignites debate,” Opinion, Feb. 23]. Alco­hol causes thousands of deaths each year from overdose (alcohol poisoning), while no one in recorded history has ever died from marijuana overdose. It’s physically impossible to smoke or ingest enough marijuana to come anywhere close to a harmful overdose. We have our legal drugs backward. Numerous scientific studies in Canada and Europe have proven that pot is safer than most FDA-approved prescription drugs. Habitual pot smoking doesn’t even signif­icantly increase the risk of cancer. The worst side effect from chronic pot use is chronic lazi­ness. And the studies that claim pot is a “gateway drug” are inherently flawed because the omit alcohol, tobacco and pre­scription drug abuse.

The argument that legalization will lead to an increase in traffic accidents is also flawed. Of the millions of pot smokers who are currently breaking the law, studies and statistics show that only a small percentage are stupid enough to drive while stoned.

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Those like myself who would be inclined to smoke pot once it’s legal, but who currently refrain, are already respectful of the law, and, therefore, would not be likely to drive stoned once it’s legal.

Marijuana was made illegal for two purely political reasons. The first was a back-door agreement that ended alcohol prohibition. The prohibitionists wanted something in return for alcohol’s  return to the market; marijuana was the trade off. Second, Wil­liam Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, wanted to eliminate the hemp-based paper competition for his paper mills.

I hope all intelligent citizens in favor of freedom and fiscal common sense will contact their lawmakers in Sacramento and demand support for AB 390. It’s high time we stop the reefer madness.

David Santucci

OC Register, February 27, 2009

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The All-Seeing Eyes of Fullerton

Over the past several years you may have noticed the increasingly prolific nature of government-sponsored surveillance cameras throughout the public areas in Fullerton. One Fullerton resident counted over 122 police and traffic cameras spread throughout the city.

These unblinking eyes are given the authority to record us as we lawfully participate in the everyday life of Fullerton citizens. Some of them issue $400 citations when we break the law. Others merely record our presence and store it on disk at the police station, to be reviewed later if we are accused of a crime. Sometimes the cameras are viewed in real time by Fullerton’s finest — other times they are viewed by private citizens working for a smooth-talking surveillance system vendor.

Most of us do appreciate the hard work that Fullerton Police do to find and detain those who cause us harm. However, we must remember that all government power is ultimately derived from the threat of force — necessitating our extreme caution in creation of new powers and rules. As free citizens, it is our responsibility to maintain strong oversight over those who we allow to govern us. We must keep a wary eye on technologies that enable the quiet expansion of power over us, and we should thoughtfully devise rules and policies regarding their use to protect us from individual or systemic abuses of such power.

Some may sneer at our natural tendency to question the continued spawning of such devices. After all – what do we have to hide? Don’t we trust our law enforcement agencies? We all know individual Fullerton officers who we personally trust. Shouldn’t we trust all of them?

Isn’t this just paranoia?

http://media.newtimes.com/2553956.41.jpgNO. The recent case of Orange County Sheriffs Department’s abusive surveillance of the OC Board of Supervisors is strong justification for our concern. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens stands accused of allowing her deputies to use surveillance cameras to zoom in on the notes, emails and text messages of political opponents and then unlawfully denying public records requests to release the tapes to the public.

Sheriff Hutchens has given us a perfect example of what can happen when we are too cavalier about allowing new technology to expand the presence of law enforcement into our lives. The Board has since voted to remove the Sheriffs’ contract to provide security over the boardroom, but as citizens, it’s not always that easy to protect ourselves once we have allowed an agency to go too far.

I urge the City of Fullerton and the Fullerton Police Department to carefully consider the ramifications of the continued proliferation of surveillance cameras throughout Fullerton. As free and law-abiding people, we do not need or deserve to be monitored whenever we leave our homes.

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