Posts From: March, 2006

In Defense of the Male Abortion

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

An Agitator.com favorite seems to be back in the news again.

One of the Sunday morning shows this past week had a round table on the issue, with Will Saletan from Slate, Susan Page from USA Today, Carrie Lukas from IWF, and some guy from the Weekly Standard whose name escapes me.

Lukas was the only one on the panel who mentioned anything of the double standard when it comes to abortion, though she stopped far short of endorsing the so-called “male abortion.” She was more concerned, and rightly so, with “paycheck fatherhood,” or the way courts tend to treat divorced or unmarried fathers as cash machines. The rest basically took the position of “if you don’t want to be a father, don’t have sex. Or wear a condom.”

Well, that’s fine. And at least when folks on the right say such things, there’s no double standard. But it’s odd to hear abortion-rights proponents like Saletan and Paige say things like, “when you chose to have sex, you chose to accept responsibility for the possibility of parenthood.” But that only applies to men, I guess.

Saletan, a guy whose work I’ve admired for a long time, at least recognized the absurdity of his position, and rather uncomfortably attempted to justify it by pointing out all of the other inequities between men and women and concluding that because of those, he’s okay with some unfairness when it comes to reproductive rights. To Saletan’s credit, I think I saw him at least wince a little when he said it.

If we’re going to have legalized abortion in this country, a man ought to be able to renounce his parental rights and responsibilities early on, just as a woman does when she terminates a pregnancy. I realize that such a policy would probably lead to more abortion, and as someone who is very generally anti-abortion, I’m not comfortable with that.

But there’s a glaring inequity, here. Women are basically immune to the natural consequence of sex (parenthood). Men, meanwhile, are increasingly being forced by courts to accept responsibility even for children they haven’t fathered, much less children they have. Not to mention the fact that courts aren’t half as militant about enforcing a father’s parental rights as they are about enforcing the garnishing of his wages.

But for all practical purposes, the issue’s a non-starter. The left’s never going to allow biological fathers to opt out of sending single mothers child support. And the right’s never going to allow for the male abortion.

Pat, Pat. Good Politician.

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

The rare law that strikes a blow for liberty:

Tim Gant, a guardrail inspector from Clarksburg, says his tiny West Tennessee town is a speed trap that artificially drives down speed limits so it can drive up collections from speeding tickets.

Gant has persuaded state Rep. Chris Crider, R-Milan, to introduce a bill that would require blue speed limit signs for any municipality that gets more than half its revenue from traffic tickets.

[…]

The blue speed limit signs would contrast with conventional black lettering on white signs. “They would tell the world that this is one of those speed-trap towns,” Crider said.

Splendid idea.

The March to Neoprohibition

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

More “pre-arresting” people for drunk driving:

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sent a message to bar patrons last week.

TABC agents and Irving police swept through 36 Irving bars and arrested about 30 people on charges of public intoxication. Agency representatives say the move came as a proactive measure to curtail drunken driving.

[…]

At one location, for example, agents and police arrested patrons of a hotel bar. Some of the suspects said they were registered at the hotel and had no intention of driving. Arresting authorities said the patrons were a danger to themselves and others.

TABC officials said the sweep concerned saving lives, not individual rights.

I have to suspend my outrage for a moment to note that the article bizarrely solicits comedian Steve Harvey’s take on the arrests.

I’m glad he’s on the right side and all. But Steve Harvey? “Now Bob, for more analysis on the Kelo case, we now turn to Full House star Dave Coulier who will give his take on the ruling in a funny, bunny rabbit voice.”

I Get Email

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Click “more” to read what arrived in my inbox this morning in response (I think!) to my Fox column on gambling.

It’s a treat!
(more…)

Enduring Freedom

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan:

Abdul Rahman, 41, has been charged with rejecting Islam, a crime under this country’s Islamic laws. His trial started last week and he confessed to becoming a Christian 16 years ago. If convicted, he could be executed.

But prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari said questions have been raised about his mental fitness.

“We think he could be mad. He is not a normal person. He doesn’t talk like a normal person,” he told The Associated Press.

[…]

It was not immediately clear when he would be examined or when the trial would resume. Authorities have barred attempts by the AP to see Rahman and he is not believed to have a lawyer.

Engage.

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Japan beat Cuba yesterday 10-6, to take the inaugural title of the World Baseball Classic.

If you’ll remember, the State Department damn near refused to let Cuba participate. Their reasoning, I guess, was that if we allow Cuban athletes to play a few baseball games in American ballparks, it might foil our decades-long sanctions against Castro, (and by golly, just as they were starting to work!)

There aren’t many people who loathe commies as much as I do. But sanctions are stupid. Isolating rogue regimes has never worked. And of course, sanctions hurt the very people they’re aimed at helping. Trade embargos don’t starve Castro, his guards, his henchmen, or his army. They starve Cubans. What’s worse, not only have sanctions failed to hasten Castro’s fall, you could make a pretty good case that isolating Cuba has strengthened Castro’s hand.

In any case, I was particularly intrigued by one incident during the tournament, one which shows how allowing for engagement is an immeasurably more sensible policy than isolation. It happened during the first week of the tournament:

While Cuba played the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, a spectator in the stands raised a sign saying: “Down with Fidel,” sparking an international incident that escalated Friday with the velocity of a major league fastball.

The image of the man holding the sign behind home plate was beamed live Thursday night to millions of TV viewers including those in Cuba. The top Cuban official at the game at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan rushed to confront the man.

Puerto Rican police quickly intervened and took the Cuban official Angel Iglesias, vice president of Cuba’s National Institute of Sports to a nearby police station where they lectured him about free speech.

“We explained to him that here the constitutional right to free expression exists and that it is not a crime,” police Col. Adalberto Mercado was quoted as saying in El Nuevo Dia, a San Juan daily.

So the U.S. government suspends its Cuba embargo just enough for to allow for a single baseball tournament, and the result is one Fidel Castro humiliated on television for all of Cuba to see. Not to mention a lesson lin liberty for one of his thugs.

If you ask me, in terms of inching Cuba closer to a free society, more good came from that one encounter in the stands of a baseball game than has come from four decades of forbidding Cuban and American citizens from doing business with one another.

Letter from Prison

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Gary McGath posts a pdf of the letter he received from Cory Maye.

I didn’t get to talk with Maye while I was in Mississippi — his lawyers have determined it’s probably not in his interest right now to speak with anyone. I was a little disappointed in that decision, but it’s certainly understandable.

SPLOID on SWAT

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Nick Denton’s online tabloid takes aim at SWAT overload, with copious links back to this site, including my coverage of the Rack n’ Roll Billiards raid.

Happy Fun Stuff

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Since this blog’s been a bit of a bummer lately, I thought I’d throw some more jovial stuff your way:

1) Brooke Oberwetter does some dog blogging about her new pooch. The dog’s name is perhaps the greatest name for a dog in the history of dog-naming.

2) Speaking of cute stuff, this site is ridiculous. It’s like a drunken, orgiastic, all-you-can-eat overdose of cute. It’s the kind of site that says things like, “Oh, and here’s a picture of a baby chick balancing on the nose of a St. Bernard. And here’s a picture of an infant dear cuddling with a floppy puppy in front of a fireplace.”

3) The most addictive computer game since Tetris. You’ve been warned.

4) Cool video of latte art. Be careful — potentially NSFW banner ads on the site hosting the video.

5) They always land on their feet. Proof that the vile things are the spawn of Satan.

6) Brutal honesty on the shopping channel.

Come to My Event

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Longtime readers will remember the work I’ve done on Straight, Inc., the abusive chain of drug rehab centers run in the 1980s and 1990s by GOP operatives Mel and Betty Sembler.

Well, Maia Szalavitz has written an excellent book on Straight, the Seed, and other “tough love,” boot camp-style rehab centers for kids called Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids.

I’m hosting a book forum for her at Cato on April 20. The forum will also feature comments by Evan Wright, the stellar Rolling Stone editor who recently culled his award-winning embedded reports from Iraq into a book. I haven’t yet read it, but it’s gotten terrific reviews, and HBO has apparently bought the rights, and has a mini-series in production. The production team includes folks from The Wire. I asked Wright to speak because as a teen, he went through The Seed’s rehab regiment, one of the precursor tough-love programs to Straight, Inc.

Should be a really interesting event.

The BBC on SWAT Teams

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Here’s a BBC piece on the increasing use of SWAT teams, which uses the Culosi shooting as a hook.

I’d like to throw in my two cents about the study by Prof. David Klinger which purports to show that SWAT raids result in shootings in only a very small percentage of cases. The study gets thrown out every time a SWAT raid resulting in the death of an innocent makes the news.

I’ll begin by noting that Prof. Klinger is generally a very well respected criminologist. In fact, he’s done some work on Cato, and is in principle a critic of the war on drugs.

But Klinger, a former police officer, is also a well-known proponent of the ubiquitous use of SWAT teams. The study cited in the BBC article, and that Chris Roach has cited mutliple times in response to my criticism of SWAT raids, was commissioned in part by the National Tactical Officers Association, the PR instrument of the SWAT industry.

That in itself would be fine, if the study were good scholarship. The problem is, we don’t know what kind of scholarship it is. Because nearly ten years after it was completed, Klinger’s study has yet to even be peer-reviewed, much less published. Any academic in the social sciences will tell you a study that hasn’t been peer-reviewed by other academics is worthless. Yet Klinger’s ten-year-old study on SWAT teams still gets pushed by the NTOA and SWAT fetishists any time any one dares to point out that using cops dressed as soldiers to serve warrants for misdemeanor pot possession is probably a bad idea. In other words, the study seems to be available for journalists, but not available for the vigorous peer-review process.

The truth is, we really don’ t know if police shootings are on the rise or in decline, because police departments and prosecutor’s offices refuse to keep track of their mistakes (that’s also why it’s impossible to know just how many botched drug raids actually take place — police don’t report them, and many victims of these raids fear retaliation if they turn to the media). Criminologists have lamented the recalcitrance of police departments to report excessive force, brutality complaints, and unjustified shootings for decades. There is, simply, no reliable data on this. Even Klinger’s study, as I understand it, relies on self-reporting.

But even if we were to take the study at face value, it isn’t a valid rejoinder to the case for limited use of SWAT teams, for several reasons. Those reasons:

1) Until the 1980s and Ronald Reagan’s hyper-militarized approach to the drug war, SWAT teams were only used in situations where the suspect presented an immediate threat to the public. Critics, like me, believe that these are the only situations in which the use of a SWAT team is warranted. In that sense, one would expect a somewhat high percentage of SWAT callouts to result in gunfire. If SWAT teams are only being deployed to apprehend hostage-takers, bank robbers, and terrorist incidents, for example, then we would expect some violence each time a SWAT team is called into action.

The reason the percentage of call-outs resulting in gunfire has dropped is because SWAT teams are increasingly being deployed to apprehend people who aren’t violent or dangerous. When 80 percent of your deployments are to apprehend nonviolent, recreational pot smokers, yes, you’re not going to be facing a lot of gunfire. Start deploying SWAT teams to write traffic tickets, and I’ll bet you’ll see those shooting percentages drop even further. That doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate use of force.

2) Those who cite Klinger’s study as evidence that that the massive increase in SWAT deployments is harmless wrongly assume that the only harm done by paramilitary raids is done is when shots are fired. That’s most certainly not the case. I’ve documented dozens of cases in my upcoming paper in which SWAT teams have broken down the door to the wrong home, and needlessly terrorized an innocent family — and it’s almost certain that the number of actual botched raids like these is exponentially higher than the number reported in the media.

In other words, there’s significant harm done when heavily-armed tactical units break down doors in the middle of the night, and drag innocent men, women, and children out of their beds at gunpoint, even if shots are never fired. Two of the more infamous botched SWAT raids resulting in death — Alberta Spruill in New York and Accelyne Williams in Boston — involved no gunfire at all. Both died from heart attacks after SWAT teams mistakenly raided their homes. There are also several cases of botched SWAT raids resulting in the death or injury of innocent people due to misuse or malfunction of the “flashbang” grenades police often use to distract the targets of a raid.

3) We also need to ask ourselves, quite simply, if we want to live in a society where its appropriate to serve warrants on nonviolent offenders with cops dressed in battle garb. I sure as hell don’t. Does a pot smoker really deserve to have his door beaten down while he’s sleeping? To be sworn at, forced to the ground at gunpoint, and handcuffed? Go back to that Churchill quote: “Democracy means that when there’s a knock at the door at 4 am, it’s probably the milkman.” What does it mean that we’ve reached the point where not only can we no longer be sure it’s actually the milkman, but that police don’t even bother to knock?

Factor in the fact that many of these raids are conducted on evidence as flimsy as a single tip from a single confidential informant, who may have given that tip in exchange for drugs, money, or leniency with respect to his own drug charges, and judges who’ve turned warrant applictations into a rubber-stamp process, and you’ve effectively created a police state. Cops can break down your door in the middle of the night barely any evidence at all. They can terrorize your family at gunpoint. And even when they make a mistake (and they often do), there’s rarely if any disciplinary action taken, or changes in procedure to made to make sure the same mistakes don’t happen again. The best example of that is the fact that the same mistakes do continue to happen. Over and over.

More Photos

Monday, March 20th, 2006

Unfortunately, the only photos of Cory Maye circulating about on the Internet are his prison photo, a photo of him in a jail-issued orange jumpsuit, and in handcuffs being frog-marched from the courthouse in Hattiesburg. Here’s one from his mother:

MayewKid.gif

And below, a recent picture of Ticorianna, the girl who as an infant laid on the bed as the raid transpired. She’s nearly six, now:

Ticorianna.gif

Mississippi Cowboys

Monday, March 20th, 2006

I’ve heard secondhand from people close to Cory Maye that even some police officials, particularly with the sheriff’s department, will off-the-record concede that the Pearl River Basin Narcotics Task Force is excessively aggressive, and that it wouldn’t be all that surprising to learn that, indeed, they hadn’t announced themselves before kicking down the door to Maye’s apartment. “Cowboy mentality” was the phrase used more than a couple of times.

One law enforcement officer I met in Prentiss (who asked not to be identified) was more blunt: “Nobody around here wears a halo. People think the gun and the badge mean credibility. That if an officer says drugs were there, they were really there. It don’t. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they didn’t knock before kicking down that door. I wouldn’t be surprised if those drugs they found really weren’t there, either.”

I asked around to see if I could find anyone else who’d been subjected to a raid by the Task Force. Find another couple of cases in which the Task Force raided homes without knocking, and you begin to establish a pattern, making officer testimony at Maye’s trial that they repeatedly knocked and announced themselves less credible.

It didn’t take long. On my first day in Prentiss I met Debra Brooks, a 28-year-old white woman who says that in March 2004, officers from the Task Force raided her home after a confidential informant said she and her family were running a meth lab inside.

At around midnight, police kicked down her two outside doors without first announcing themselves, then stormed her home when her boyfriend opened the inner door to see what what going on. They trained their guns on the three young children inside, still in their beds, and held Brooks in a bedroom at gunpoint while they searched the house for contraband. They found no drugs, or evidence of meth manufacture. They did find a bong, brand new and unused, and a bottle of vodka, illegal in dry Lawrence County (Lawrence is adjacent to Jefferson Davis County). Police never produced a search warrant.

Police arrested Brooks’ boyfriend at the time, Landas Pate, and her brother, James Wesmorland. Pate would be held in prison for several months before his family could post bond. Wesmorland’s family couldn’t make the $40,000 bond. So he was held in the Lawrence County jail for 280 days, until December 2004. Remarkably, on December 30 of that year, Wesmorland was released. No charges. No explanation. He had been held on suspicion of selling meth and pills within 1,500 feet of a church. Police told him they had video surveillance of these alleged sales. They never showed him any video.

A man named Jim Kinslow heads up the Task Force. When Brooks and her mother began raising hell about the raid, Kinslow attempted to direct responsibility toward the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, who then shifted the blame back on the Task Force. Eventually, an officer named Dwayne Tullis was pinned with most of the responsibility for the raid. Tullis was a Task Force Officer. According to Brooks and her mother, once Kinslow learned that one of his men was responsible for the raid, he stopped returning their calls. I have a call out to Kinslow today.

Tullis was soon fired from the Task Force, but soon after took a job with the Monticello Police Department (the county seat for Lawrence County). Soon enough, he was fired from that job, too. According to people around Monticello and Lawrence County I’ve spoken with, Tullis is now working for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, making him a state drug officer — effectively a promotion.

Brooks and her mother started inquiring around the area for lawyers to take their case. Her mother called the FBI, who weren’t much help, but told her she might have a successful lawsuit in the making (my own research suggests that such suits are only successful in cases that garner significant media coverage, and even then, only in larger metropolitan areas, where officials can be shamed into a settlement). Shortly after they began asking around, they started receiving threats. Brooks says she was told her kids would be taken away from her if she insisted on pursuing the matter. One sympathetic officer warned her mother not to leave her car unlocked, because he’d heard her agitating had some officers discussing staging a marijuana bust.

All of this is of course the account of events given by Brooks, her brother, and her mother, all of whom I’ve spoken with. I’ve yet to hear from Capt. Kinslow and I’ve yet to have any luck tracking down Officer Tullis. But the details they’ve provided to me suggests they’re believable (I’d heard about Officer Tullis’s employment history, for example, from other people I spoke with in the area).

I found Brooks almost immediately upon visiting Prentiss (where she works). Makes you wonder just how many more like her there are. I heard lots of tales of other officers in the area who, like Tullis, were fired from one police department for excessive force issues, only to be picked up by another department a short time later.

Unlike many people I spoke with in the area, Brooks didn’t mind giving me her name (her mother was more reluctant and fearful of retaliation). She’s pretty pissed off about what happened. If her version of events is accurate, or even close to accurate, she has every right to be.

As for how this case pertains to the Maye case, I think it lends some strong credibility to the theory that (1) these raids can and are initiated on the slightest of suspicions, with very little corroborating investigation (although that’s true just about everywhere), and (2) there’s good reason to suspect that entry without knocking and without announcement is common practice for drug policing in the area, making Cory Maye’s version of events the night of the raid on his house a bit more believable, and officer accounts of the raid a bit less so.

Cory Maye’s Family

Monday, March 20th, 2006

MayeFamily.gif

I met with the members of Cory’s family above a week ago Sunday. His mother is in the middle. His father, Robert Brown is the tall man in glasses to your right. Maye took his last name from a friend of his mother’s who mentored him through much of his childhood. The cute kid in the middle is his son, Cory, Jr. Another shot of Cory, Jr. below.

CoryJr.gif

Clarification

Monday, March 20th, 2006

In this post, I mentioned that Cory Maye’s family was denied access to him in jail after the raid. I didn’t specify how long they were denied access to him because I wasn’t sure. Just heard from Maye’s mother that it was two weeks. Even then, they were only permitted to see him after appealing to the mayor of Hattiesburg. It’s feels crude to do so, but it’s probably (and unfortunately) pertinent to note that the mayor of Hattiesburg is black.