Snowy Lunch Links

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
  • You know the snow is bad when the government suspends snow removal . . . because of the snow. Oh yeah, they’re predicting another 6-8 inches on Monday.
  • Cool black hole simulator.
  • Fun Esquire interview with Matt LaBash, one of the best writers in D.C.
  • City of El Paso calls for re-examination of the war on drugs.
  • Jacob Grier on the third-hand smoke scare.
  • Amazing how often government agencies accidentally erase video that may depict abuse by government officials.
  • Police in Coos Bay, Oregon conduct crosswalk sting using an “undercover” pedestrian. (Thanks to the great Dave Krueger for the link.)
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  • 46 Responses to “Snowy Lunch Links”

    1. #1 |  Aresen | 

      From the crosswalk sting story:

      About 75 percent of the drivers pulled over Tuesday, were given verbal warnings instead of tickets.

      That actually is fairly reasonable. I do a lot of walking and I’ve come damn close to buying the farm a few times due to over-aggressive drivers, so I’m not too down on this story.

    2. #2 |  hamburglar007 | 

      Ah, the catch all disorderly conduct.

    3. #3 |  Buck B. | 

      Yeah, I’m unclear why you have a problem with the crosswalk sting. They’ve done this in Chicago a few times, and as a pedestrian I’m glad to see anything that reminds people to SLOW DOWN A LITTLE FOR CHRIST’S SAKE when there’s someone in the crosswalk.

    4. #4 |  BamBam | 

      Grand “jury” doesn’t indict Portland, OR cop on charges of shooting unarmed man in back

      http://blog.oregonlive.com/nwheadlines/2010/02/todays_headlines_two_guards_st.html

    5. #5 |  BamBam | 

      #1, but did you see this quote from the article?

      “We’re also watching the pedestrians. We’ve had two instances where pedestrians have crossed in the middle of the street without a crosswalk, right in front of traffic, causing traffic to slow down. That’s actually a crime called disorderly conduct. We did contact those pedestrians and they were given verbal warnings today.”

      Not crossing the street correctly, as determined by a government agent, is being labeled DISORDERLY CONDUCT. WTF????????????

    6. #6 |  Mike H | 

      I guess “jay-walking” doesn’t have the same ring of recklessness to it.

      And as far as “pedestrians…causing traffic to slow down” goes, I don’t see how paying an undercover agent to walk back and forth across a busy street all morning is really going to solve traffic congestion problems.

    7. #7 |  sqlcowboy | 

      They’ve done the crosswalk sting thing here in Los Angeles, too.

    8. #8 |  Wavemancali | 

      My father before he passed was hit by cars 3 times while crossing the street in a crosswalk with a green light.

      All 3 times, the drivers fled the scene and were never brought to justice.

      I’m not overly opposed to crosswalk stings as a result of seeing just how poorly drivers these days respect the rights of pedestrians.

      I know for a fact in Los Angeles, they should be doing school bus stings. I have been the only driver stopped when a school bus turns on its flashers more times than I can count.

      Targeted enforcement is not a bad thing.

    9. #9 |  ARCraig | 

      re: El Paso. Hopefully marijuana prohibition will return to its birthplace to die.

    10. #10 |  Thom | 

      I don’t know…I’m completely ok with the crosswalk sting. Crosswalk laws exist with good reason (as do many traffic laws) and enforcing laws that actually protect people from bodily harm seems like a good use of the police’s time.

    11. #11 |  Aresen | 

      BamBam

      Disorderly conduct is definitely OTT, but I’ve seen lots of idiot pedestrians as well. None of them actually got hurt, but a someone who darts across a 50 mph stretch of road 30 feet in front of a van – as I saw one teenager do a while back – would get no sympathy from me if the van driver hadn’t been quicker on the brake.

      I don’t like enforcing jaywalking laws – or minor traffic laws where no one is endangered – merely because it is THE LAW. OTOH, when someone is damned stupid and puts someone in danger, I don’t think they should get off scot-free.

    12. #12 |  Stormy Dragon | 

      Why aren’t we selling some of this snow to Vancouver?

    13. #13 |  BamBam | 

      #11, I agree completely. The issue isn’t “are there drivers who are reckless towards pedestrians” or “are there pedestrians who are reckless towards drivers”. The issue is the damned cop government agents and their completely inappropriate labeling an action, and I’m certain the intent is to cause as much harm to a person’s life to beat the rap because they won’t beat the ride.

    14. #14 |  MDGuy | 

      I wonder what the repurcussions will be for El Paso. Last year El Paso tried to have a debate on the War on Drugs – not a condemnation of it, just a debate. When Congress caught wind of it, El Paso was threatened with being excluded from stimulus spending.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/14/drug-legalization-debate_n_157798.html

    15. #15 |  Aresen | 

      On the “Third Hand Smoke” item:

      Was any “contamination” detected in children? If so, how many parts per trillion?

      Also, I suspect that there is a level of nicotine/tar “contamination” that is a product of the natural environment, so I am wondering what controls were applied.

    16. #16 |  Tim C | 

      I agree with those that assert crosswalk stings are beneficial. Here in CA, there are crosswalks with signs that state that it is state law to stop for peds in crosswalks, and I have in fact observed complete, flagrant disregard of such signs.

      However, a sting also creates a situation where there wasn’t one. So, what happens when something arises from that? For instance, a scooter got rear-ended during one such sting (being run on Lincoln along GG park in SF). I.e, scooter stopped, car didn’t = cute. I don’t know the outcome of that, but what do think the odds are that the driver got “attempted manslaughter” charge?

    17. #17 |  Salvo | 

      Glad to see that the charges were thrown out against the woman in the TSA case. The agency I oversee often tries to claim that they lost a piece of evidence, either through carelessness or a belief that will somehow help their case. Whatever, I’ll say. That’s fine. I’ll just assume that whatever was in that lost piece of evidence proved the claimant’s case.

      What would be even better is if that lost piece of evidence is used against them in her lawsuit.

    18. #18 |  Aresen | 

      | Tim C | February 10th, 2010 at 3:26 pm
      ..
      I don’t know the outcome of that, but what do think the odds are that the driver got “attempted manslaughter” charge?

      If the scooter driver was a cop, the charge is “First Degree Homicide”
      If the driver of the other vehicle was a cop: ‘professional courtesy’.

      Otherwise, it would depend on whether the police on the scene felt that one or the other driver “respected his authority.”

    19. #19 |  adolphus | 

      I have to join the chorus of people who aren’t that bothered by the cross walk sting. In fact I found myself cheering a little. I’m tired of dodging cars and trucks who won’t respect the cross walk or, worse, the Stop Sign or, even worse, the stop light and walk signal duet.

      I am not that bothered by the jay walking stops either, although calling it disorderly conduct seems stupid.

      Now if we can just get cops to enforce the law on cyclists who refuse to stop at signals and lights or for stopped buses.

      Quite frankly if they aren’t going to do something to enforce these laws they should repeal them all and declare it every person from themselves on the streets and be done with it.

    20. #20 |  Jared | 

      I think Boston has been doing “crosswalk stings” for a while now. I know they used to set them up on Tremont Street in the South End. Same idea, use an undercover “pedestrian.”

    21. #21 |  Stephen | 

      It’s only a matter of time before 4th and 5th hand smoke becomes an issue. If you see somebody that touched somebody else that smelled yet another that was exposed to second hand smoke then you are in trouble. Soon there will be a law to take care of this serious problem. Please have patience. :)

    22. #22 |  Let's Be Free | 

      On the government shutting down for snow issue here in the DC Metro area, I wonder how long it will take people who live in small towns, folks who cling to guns or religion, and guys or gals who drive black trucks to realize that their taxes are funding the salaries of 320,000 bureaucrats who aren’t working for a week and that absolutely no ill effect to the country is coming of it?

      Do you think the government truly is operated for the people’s benefit?

    23. #23 |  dave smith | 

      I nearly expected the “black hole” link to transport me to the US Tres.

    24. #24 |  Michael Chaney | 

      There’s nothing inappropriate about a cross-walk sting. There is a problem with claiming a jaywalker is guilty of “disorderly conduct”, but that’s a separate issue.

    25. #25 |  SJE | 

      I’m all for the crosswalk sting. I thought that a fundamental core of libertarian thinking is that the government should only do a few things, but these include protection of property and personal liberties. A person at a crosswalk is easily injured by a car, and can only rely on the government (or, a handgun) for protection against a tresspass against his body.

      Another factor to consider is that Coos Bay is a tourist town, and benefits most by having a good quality of life, and having tourists walking around and shopping. People in their cars are not helping the economy nearly as much.

      Baltimore did a sting about 10 years ago in the Inner Harbor, and was very effective in raising awareness of the rights of pedestrians. There, too, pedestrians are the life blood of the economy.

    26. #26 |  Bill | 

      I love this snow, it shows how ineffective government is.
      As for ‘third hand smoke’ it is just an attempt to outlaw smoking. That would be great, let’s outlaw tobacco companies and have tobacco distribution in the hands of violent gangsters who won’t card kids. And let’s give people criminal records for tobacco possession. As for the toxins, unless you are going to live in a fucking bubble, you are going to be exposed to toxins. Get the fuck over it. The bus driving down the street is causing you more so-called harm.

    27. #27 |  Cynical in CA | 

      “Police in Coos Bay, Oregon conduct crosswalk sting using an “undercover” pedestrian. (Thanks to the great Dave Krueger for the link.)”

      This is not uncommon. SoCal cities do the same thing. Pedestrian courtesy is huge in SoCal, as any resident would attest. It’s actually so universally observed by drivers that I’m surprise the popos still do it here. Most chaotic city I ever saw regarding peds vs. cars is Boston. Pure anarchy. Well, it’s Boston — what did you expect.

    28. #28 |  KitterCat | 

      I use to actually live in CoosBay, way back in 01. The town could be categorized as being the definition of Mayberry. Very small, very laid back, very little actual crime. One of the big niceties that I remember is that drivers actually stopped for pedestrians and would even waive to people crossing. Crosswalks btw were everywhere. Being as its such a small town I can see the officers targeting the few crimes they do have, which I don’t have a problem with. Given what’s in the article about them letting most people leave with a warning and even writing up pedestrians up as well one cant say their even favoring one side or the other.

    29. #29 |  scott | 

      Not only am I not opposed to the cross-walk sting (and I’d be equally supportive of a “Driving Too Slow In The Left-Hand Lane” sting, too) but I find it remarkable that the cops apparently behaved so admirably. While my parochialism means I suspect the few tickets they issued were done when drivers got lippy, the fact that they handed out pamphlets and verbal warnings instead of using the stops as a pretense for additional “training” with the K-9s and Tasers almost makes me want to applaud them.

      But then I remember all the shitty things cops do that Radley reports here and I realize that the profession has a long way to go before I’ll give them any sincere kudos.

    30. #30 |  Matt | 

      I miss the hierarchy of traffic that was present when I lived in Europe. Cars would go out of their way to stop if you want to cross the street. Even bicyclists would. I had some close calls when I came back to the states, forgot that people don’t stop here!

    31. #31 |  MikeZ | 

      They actually had crosswalk stings in the town I used to work (Westboro MA). In theory I think these are a good idea althrough I think it could VERY easily be abused.

      As a driver what are you supposed todo if somebody is standing on the sidewalk next to a crosswalk? When exactly should the undercover officer put his foot into the road? In the stings I witnessed the undercover officer was waiting on the sidewalk until a car started coming. This particular crosswalk did NOT have a crossing light and was not at an intersection. So the only way you know you need to stop is if a pedestrian has his foot in the road or perhaps if you see him walking towards the crosswalk. Depending on the timing of things it would be very tough to distinguish entrapment from a valid stop.

      Now an undercover cop sitting on a bench watching a busy crosswalk seems like a good idea. A cop putting his toe on the road the moment a car comes by is clearly not.

    32. #32 |  MikeZ | 

      That said this particular article seems like it was probably a valid operation. The sting by my office seemed very strange/shady.

    33. #33 |  Marty | 

      they need to ban the old ‘death race’ videos, because they glorify running over pedestrians…

    34. #34 |  Dave Krueger | 

      I’m not a big fan of stings for big crimes, much less traffic offenses. They’re popular because they are an easy and cost effective way to generate arrest statistics (or tickets in this case). They have almost become the sole enforcement strategy for almost all consensual “crimes”. But, they also create a crime that might not have happened if they hadn’t induced it to happen.

      Once a technique becomes accepted, cops will usually abuse it. Stings are just one form of the deceit and trickery they use to entice someone into doing something that is ultimately going to hurt them. That’s not serving and protecting.

    35. #35 |  Tim | 

      This third-hand smoke thing is super-ridiculous. The “problem” is tobacco-specific nitrosamines, not nicotine. Nicotine is not a nitrosamine, so this should have absolutely nothing to do with e-cigs which deliver pure nicotine and have no tobacco or even any smoke.

      Also, charring a steak vaporizes its own nitrosamines. Rationally speaking, policy involving tobacco-poisoned walls, shouldn’t even be considered until we’ve banned the cooking of meat. That’d be interesting to see…

    36. #36 |  Frank | 

      You missed the other TSA story:

      The college student that was jacked up by TSA FBI and the Philadelphia police for Arabic flash cards is suing all of them.

      http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20100210_Daniel_Rubin__TSA_suspicious_of_an_interest_in_the_world.html

      Hopefully some cop families will be kicked to the curb naked in a blinding snowstorm after the award foreclosures.

    37. #37 |  Tim C | 

      #31 “Depending on the timing of things it would be very tough to distinguish entrapment from a valid stop. ”

      Yep, I checked CA law on crosswalks. To their credit, the law states that pedestrians can’t be unreasonable (e.g, jump right out in front of car where it’s too late for car to avoid them). But, as usual, there’s tremendous leeway for the cop…for instance, I thought the law was dumb enough to require you to wait for ped even if they’re on the opposite side of the street, but actually it specifically says you simply have to wait till it’s obvious that the ped is out of danger. I can see how easy this would be to fight if you had to take it to court, since usually cop’s version of what’s dangerous is pretty far off from mine (and yes, I’m very respectful of right of way, particular that of peds).

    38. #38 |  Windypundit | 

      Cops around here hate the crosswalk stings. The bait cop has to walk out into the street when traffic is coming. If he stops just a few feet from the curb and watches cars approach, he looks just like any sensible pedestrian who is waiting for traffic to pass. Even very safe drivers will take that as permission to drive right by. They don’t deserve tickets.

      Or, the cop could walk out into the street in front of an oncoming car and hope he doesn’t stop…but doesn’t hit the cop either. Do that every day for a year and you’ll have another police funeral to attend.

    39. #39 |  Dan | 

      Radley, I don’t see contact information, so hopefully you can notice this, or someone else here who knows how to contact him can get it.

      There seems to be another case of prosecutorial misconduct in Texas, or maybe sheriff abuse. The Winkler County nurses are facing 10 years in jail for reporting a doctor to the medical board, as they are supposed to do.

      IANAL but it seems like pretty blatant abuse. Maybe you can lend your eye.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/07/us/07nurses.html

      http://www.texasnurses.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=509

      http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/02/report_a_bad_doctor_to_the_authorities_g.php

    40. #40 |  Dave Krueger | 

      The cops don’t actually have to be anywhere near the crosswalk. They just pull the guy over and say, “Hey buddy, you almost hit that guy in the crosswalk!”

      Then when the guy stupidly points out there wasn’t anyone in the crosswalk, the cop says, “Hey! Are you resisting arrest? How would you like to meet Mr Taser?” By that time all the other cops have joined in because they smelled the potential for an opportunity to pummel some little person into jello.

    41. #41 |  RM | 

      Is it just me or was your website down (as in domain name expired)?

    42. #42 |  Dave Krueger | 

      #40 RM

      Is it just me or was your website down (as in domain name expired)?

      I was getting that from work almost all day yesterday, but when I got home, the site came up fine. Nice to know it wasn’t just me.

    43. #43 |  Andrew Williams | 

      Matt LaBash? Really? The same Matt LaBash (what an apropos handle) who thought Gitmo was just keen and regularly made fun of marijuana legalization protestors while giving the back of his hand to our legitimate grievances?

      AFAIC, you can stick him in a cyclotron and set it on “deep fry.”

    44. #44 |  Michael Chaney | 

      The cops don’t actually have to be anywhere near the crosswalk. They just pull the guy over and say, “Hey buddy, you almost hit that guy in the crosswalk!”

      Then when the guy stupidly points out there wasn’t anyone in the crosswalk, the cop says, “Hey! Are you resisting arrest? How would you like to meet Mr Taser?” By that time all the other cops have joined in because they smelled the potential for an opportunity to pummel some little person into jello.

      Normally, Dave, I’m with you. But in this case, you might want to read the article. First there was a guy at the crosswalk. Second, they gave 75% of those pulled over a warning, meaning they weren’t doing this for revenue enhancement. Third, nobody got beat up that we know of.

      We read a lot of bad cop stories here, this isn’t one of them. I refuse to slander these officers given what we know about them.

    45. #45 |  fwb | 

      A&E produced a drug law video a number of years ago. In it, they showed that the antimarijuana laws were forced on the states by the fed in order to allow for the deportation of Mexicans along the border during the great depression. These mexicans used pot as a poor man’s tobacco and the feds wanted an out to reduce competition for jobs.

      And the laws still do not comport with our Constitution. If the 18th was necessary, where are the other amendments?

    46. #46 |  Guido | 

      @ #27 | Cynical in CA

      I’m in LA and motorists here are hostile toward pedestrians. There are a few intersections I use nearly everyday where I see people make a right turns into the crosswalk(with the walk signal lit) fully knowing pedestrians are stepping into the street. A few days ago a saw a woman with a toddler and a young child crossing an intersection. I saw not 1 but 3 cars nearly hit them while making a left turn. These fools couldn’t bother to wait those extra 6 seconds till they made it to the curb. One of the cars had to swerve into the opposing lane to avoid them. He saw them but wouldn’t wait. I shudder to think what would have happened if the little child let go of mom’s hand.

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