Thursday, February 14, 2013

Look! Up In The Air! It's A Bird... It's A Plane... Nah, It's Just Another Drone.

Taking a break from his normally useless movie and book reviews that always seem to come to the same conclusion that even though the subject covered rarely is even remotely associated with secession, that it is, in fact, all about secession, Vermont Commons journal blog publisher Rob Williams launched into a muddled piece here about drones and a whole lot more. Apparently, law and jurisdictional issues aren't Rob's strong suit - kinda like his complete inability to meet any of the Vermont secession movement goals set years ago by he and his still dead (as they use to say on SNL) compatriot, Thomas H. Naylor; secessionist supporters serving in the Vermont General Assembly to advance Articles of Secession by 2015 or the plan to have secession discussions going on at 200 Vermont Town meetings in 2012 (there wasn't even one!). The piece veers off into a number of seemingly disconnected areas that is reminiscent of a writing style often employed by Vermont secesher "Senator" Robert "Needed Killin' " Wagner. Whatever.

This time Rob or Robert's panties are in a knot over drones and aerial surveillance. "He" writes,
"Drones like the ones in these pictures have been seen flying over Vermont. A local citizens organization, The Watchers, has earned a solid reputation for gathering facts, for watching the money. The Watchers obtained the evidence that you see here. Using airborne evidence, the State Police sometimes make a follow-up visit to determine exactly what a crop is, as has happened in Addison County. As the Addison Independent has printed, the police produced no warrant. In spite of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees our rights against warrantless searches and seizures."
Of course, we aren't given a links to "The Watchers" or the Addison Independent story. A website calling itself Drone Watchers is thin on substance and if The Watchers has such a "solid reputation" for "watching," Google has little evidence other than the Drone Watcher website which, by the way, has no information about done usage in Vermont. Probably this story from the March 2008 archive at the Addy concerning a Goshen, VT resident and neighbor to Ripton, VT's repeatedly failed Vermont senatorial candidate, Robert Wagner is the one being referred to by Rob/Robert. Nor is there information about the warrant or lack thereof in the secesher piece but the facts are probably contained in this Vermont Supreme Court decision.

Typically, Rob or Robert got the facts all screwed up. The Vermont State Police produced a search warrant when they physically searched the property. It was the probable cause used to obtain the warrant that was defective. Oh, and what was also not made clear in Robert's (er, or was it Rob's piece?) is that there was no drone involved. The surveillance aircraft used was a helicopter, but, hey, what's the dif? Well, given the emphasis on drones in this piece, a lot. But since when have facts ever stood in the way of a meme that the seceshers were trying to promote?

It comes down to this: While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in Florida v. Riley that aerial surveillance must be above 400 feet, Vermont's rules require that such surveillance must occur at more than 500 feet. Beneath that, plain view doctrines do not apply and a warrant is required. That shouldn't be too hard for anyone, even a secesher, to understand but it seems that their standard of surveillance elevation is infinite. And that's legal crap.

Unsurprisingly, the legal eagles in the Vermont secesher camp seem to have missed the most important issue in the case. The VSC held that,
"¶7. Based on the evidence presented at the suppression hearing, the court found that the helicopter circled defendant’s property for approximately fifteen to thirty minutes, well below 500 feet in altitude, and at times as low as 100 feet above the ground. Although both the trooper and the pilot testified that the helicopter remained at least 500 feet off the ground at all times, the court did not find their testimony to be credible. The court further found that pilots doing MERT (Marijuana Eradication Team) flights in Vermont are told to stay at least 500 feet above the ground and that, according to a National Guard pilot who testified for the State, the reason MERT pilots are so directed is to avoid invasions of privacy."
Despite the discussion 10 years later in the Vermont legislature about marijuana legalization in this session, maintaining a pot patch was notoriously illegal in 2003. Wagner's been railing on about hemp and helicopters for years. Certainly, potential constituents of this self created public figure can fairly speculate on what he's been fussin' about.

But why isn't/aren't the Rob/Robert more concerned about the Court's finding that the state trooper and the guard airman's testimony are not "credible?" That would seem to the more significant issue here. R'n R's contention that they "can do something about"... "domestic surveillance in Vermont" is total bullshit, yet they've been completely silent on what the Court defined as unacceptable testimony from a police agency representative. I guess that's what gets missed when a would be pol is busy carrying water for a dope growing constituent.

If that doesn't convince you that these seceshers are assholes, consider their commentary offered about Rutland:
"This discovery has emerged in the wake of surveillance cameras recently deployed in Burlington, Rutland and smaller towns."
Vermont cities and towns have been increasingly under attack by vandals, drug addicts, thieves and strong arm merchants of terrors for years. There has been no offer of a solution from Vermont seceshers to this date for the crime situation for anywhere in Vermont. Rutland, in particular, has suffered incredibly yet the secesher silence on crime issues has been deafening except for when they're expressing admiration for headcase vandals like Roger Pion who have caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to public property.

Rutland has followed the prescriptions of the bipartisan Constitution Project regarding community oriented implementation of public surveillance systems. The "core principles governing the creation and design of public video surveillance systems" outlined by the Constitution Project are not the heebie jeebie legal premises of the seceshers. They recommend,
"1. Create a public video surveillance system only to further a clearly articulated law enforcement purpose. 2. Create permanent public video surveillance systems only to address serious threats to public safety that are of indefinite duration. 3. Ensure that public video surveillance systems are capable of effectively achieving their articulated purposes. 4. Compare the cost of a public video surveillance system to alternative means of addressing the stated purposes of the system. 5. Assess the impact of a public video surveillance system on constitutional rights and values. 6. Design the scope and capabilities of a public video surveillance system to minimize its negative impact on constitutional rights and values. 7. Create technological and administrative safeguards to reduce the potential for misuse and abuse of the system. 8. Ensure that the decision to create a public video surveillance system, as well as major decisions affecting its design, are made through an open and publicly accountable process."
Recently, a single group of vandals was responsible for more than $50,000 in damage in Rutland and it was as a result of evidence provided by privately maintained surveillance video that the three perpetrators were caught, and that was just a single grouping of vandalism sprees that have plagued Rutland for more than a dozen years. Murders in public spaces of Rutland that all should expect, no, demand, to be safe, have repeatedly occurred; one huffing scumbag, while driving in an neighborhood now demanding surveillance protection from public officials, crushed a teen between between her father's car and a building while her father helplessly witnessed the murder from his driver's seat, yet there has been no outcry from the Vermont secesher community about this case. Could the knowledge of surveillance equipment in that public, crime ridden area have deterred that outrage? We can never know, but seceshers don't want to find out. Their belief is that the 4th Amendment constitutes a suicide pact that reaches beyond the scope of prohibited governmental activity. Properly executed "plain view" searches in public areas where there can be no expectation of privacy have long been permitted by the courts. The secesher candidates, including two Rutland county senate candidates in 2010 and 2012 never once mentioned the crime crisis in Rutland. Instead they complained that the "Israeli Mafia" was the problem in Vermont; that a Jewish "hit list" was needed; that legislators should be subject to capital punishment for misfeasance (probably, no, especially the Jews; and that, ya know, the Jews were involved with 9/11.

The fact is that there are many benign, labor-saving uses for drones: in the arts, archeology, mining, ranching (yes, they're even used to herd livestock), crop observation (by farmers, not cops), traffic monitoring, even animal rights activists use'em (although the hunters they were trying to observe eventually shot their drone down), to name only a few of such uses. Hell, even FedEx and UPS are considering adding drones to their shipping operations. And who can forget the Occupy Wall Street drone buzzing Zuccotti Park on behalf of, yup, the Occupiers?

So thanks, Rob or "Senator" Robert or whatever nutjob may have written the most recent muddled post on Rob's blog under his name. To paraphrase what Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley said in 1968, the seceshers aren't "there (just) to create disorder; the (seceshers are here) to preserve disorder," confusion and, apparently, crime. If I were a secesher I might even call it a conspiracy but I don't think that they're smart enough to pull something that badly contrived off.

Meanwhile, in another matter related to Wagner's conflicting positions, there's been no word yet about whether Wagner will be returning the $288.30 Federal subsidy he received while flying out of the airport in Rutland, VT, which is exactly the kind of Federal subsidy that he "is strongly opposed to" and has argued harms Vermonters that I revealed he'd hypocritically availed himself of (as in sticking his snout in the federal money trough) here. Wagner must publicly give back that subsidy money or he'll be exposed for the hypocritical fraud that many of us Vermonters now know him to be.

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