Morning Links

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
  • Another example of how when police know a suspect is actually armed and dangerous, they find other ways to apprehend them than to send in the SWAT team while the suspect is sleeping.
  • America’s is losing its faith in government. If this brings some skepticism about giving government ever-more power (though it likely won’t), it’s a good thing. But it also means government is failing at its most basic and fundamental obligations.
  • Mark Hemingway on how the fact-checking trend in journalism has evolved into a way for journalists to simply validate their own opinions.
  • The Supreme Court may be on its way to authorizing medical patents. Tim Lee explains why this is something to worry about.
  • Alabama: Where it’s illegal to brew your own beer, but it’s perfectly fine to drink while you’re serving on the jury in a death penalty case.
  • The latest in the Michael Mermel saga: An Illinois court has reversed the conviction of Juan Rivera, the subject of the New York Times piece that led to prosecutor Mermel’s resignation.
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38 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Marty | 

    I love how the family run grow operation from a garage is a ‘major grow operation’- if this were a family cabinet shop, landscape business, etc- it’s be a ‘small family business’.
    I’d be interested to know if there’s any other criminal history with these people and how long they’ve been in business and what kind of neighbors they were. I’m assuming their assets have already been forfeited to the cops…

  2. #2 |  Marty | 

    the medical patents issue looks real scary- particularly when I look at how Monsanto’s behaved with their seed patents.

  3. #3 |  phlinn | 

    In defense of factcheck and politifact, they at least provide their reasoning for their claim. I often see they evidence they provide, and conclude that they don’t actually back up the claim of falsehood or truth, but at least I have that evidence to work with. My personal favorite is their absolute trust in the CBO’s models as proof that stimulus must be working because the CBO says it is.

  4. #4 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    By “liberalism”, I’m guessing the Washington Post means “statism” rather than classical liberalism.

  5. #5 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “But it also means government is failing at its most basic and fundamental obligations.”

    To be honest, I don’t get how the Patriot Act, or endless bombs over
    the Arab countries, stealth drones, or TSA groping old women and children
    is helping me. Or anyone. Let’s get some of these paper pushers, gropers, and bomb droppers on the streets with picks and shovels to build the infrastructure, and get politicians to create incentives to manufacture stuff, like we used to, and end this fuckery…as Amy Winehouse put it.

  6. #6 |  shg | 

    In contrast to much of the good work and quality thought provided by Cato, Tim Lee is a problem. In a past column of his, I found that he was grossly disingenuous, substantially mistating the facts to support his theory.

    In this case, I note that he ignores the fact that a private company engaged in substantial research and private expense to develop a testing methodology. While I’m not sufficiently familiar with the underlying facts this time to know whether he’s accurate (as I was with his past column), it remains that private enterprise using its own funds to develop medical advances must have the ability to monetize their efforts or one of two things happens: They don’t do the research and we don’t get the medical advancement or they go bankrupt.

    Whether medical process patents, per se, should be lawful is a separate issue, and there are sound arguments on both sides. But it’s foolish to provide such a simplistic and myopic argument, when we all want to enjoy the benefits of a private enterprise’s efforts. If we prefer to have medical research performed only by academics, without private funding involved, that’s another story, but it’s a choice that should be made with accurate information, not based on a disingenuous presentation of the facts.

    Since when does Cato promote the idea that private enterprise is obliged to give its efforts away for free? Since when is it wrong to engage in private research and be denied the fruits of its efforts? It raises a very serious question about what Tim Lee is doing at Cato.

  7. #7 |  captainahags | 

    I’m sorry, but in regards to the fact checking article, I can’t take anything seriously if it mentions “the liberal media” with a straight face.

  8. #8 |  David | 

    RE: Medical Patents.

    The late, great Michael Crichton saw this and wrote,

    “Royalty costs now influence the direction of research in basic diseases, and often even the testing for diseases. Such barriers to medical testing and research are not in the public interest. Do you want to be told by your doctor, ‘Oh, nobody studies your disease any more because the owner of the gene/enzyme/correlation has made it too expensive to do research?’ [….] Basic truths of nature can’t be owned.”

    His whole funny (but chilling) article can be read here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/19/opinion/19crichton.html

    On a largely unrelated note, I know that Radley has his plate full with running the website, the SWAT epidemic, drug war idiocy, etc., etc. But given his (your) interest in and talent for detailing hilarious law enforcement evil trends, this trend could be covered more thoroughly:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/12/newburgh-four-fbi-entrapment-terror

  9. #9 |  ClubMedSux | 

    Congrats to all the lawyers and law students at the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions who have spent years working on the Juan Rivera matter. I remember folks working on the case when I spent a summer working at the Center in 2004, and I believe they had already been working on the case for several years at that point.

  10. #10 |  Radley Balko | 

    Scott:

    Tim is really one of the more thoughtful, careful writers and thinkers I know. He’s one of the last people I’d suspect of being disingenuous with facts to support his position. Did you send him an email about the inaccuracies you found in his prior article?

    As for this article, I think the problem is with the breadth of the patent, not the patent itself. This sentence I think is key:

    It claims a physician administering thiopurine to a patient can infringe its patent merely by being aware of the scientific correlation disclosed in the patent—even if the doctor doesn’t act on the patent’s recommendations.

    This isn’t patenting a test or a course of treatment, it’s a patent on medical knowledge. And Tim’s position seems to be supported by a pretty broad range of groups (ACLU, AMA, Cato). That doesn’t mean by itself that he’s right, of course. But it does mean his position isn’t exactly out on the fringe.

  11. #11 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    David,
    Entrapment (especially regarding evil turrists) is job security for the FBI/CIA…crap…I’ve said too much.

    One thing to remember about the medical patent issue (no, not that it will stifle research or advancements…which it will): there will be people who get put behind bars for patent infringement…because they didn’t want to die or let patients die.

    There will also be a loooong line of people defending throwing people behind bars for such things.

    Let’s get some of these paper pushers, gropers, and bomb droppers on the streets with picks and shovels to build the infrastructure, and get politicians to create incentives to manufacture stuff, like we used to, and end this fuckery…as Amy Winehouse put it.

    Did you really mean: Let’s get those paper pushers, gropers, and bomb droppers off the taxpayer dime and make them compete for jobs in the private sector…and get politicians to sit on their hands for a couple years while we fix things ourselves.

    Regarding manufacturing: A decade ago when a lot of crappy manufacturing jobs went overseas because those people would do crappy work for less, I said “Don’t worry, you’ll get what you want and those crappy jobs will be coming back sooner or later.” Again, don’t worry. “Our” kids will probably have plenty of opportunity to put in 40 years turning bolts on a line…once these economic policies run their course.

    Or, we could have not had retarded economic policies and our kids could be living that knowledge industry dream.

  12. #12 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    I should note that those of you that find it peculiar for libertarians (and others on this site) to be “anti-patent”, you might find Stephan Kinsella’s “Against Intellectual Property” (search Mises.org for reviews/summary) to be worth reading. He lays bare many of the arguments for state protection of IP.

  13. #13 |  Stephen | 

    Don’t you just love how the cops inflate the value of pot? (1st link)

    50 lbs of pot worth $500,000 – $1,000,000? Yeah right.

    Most of the stuff in the picture looked like cheap stuff with a few bags of the more expensive stuff stacked prominently in front.

  14. #14 |  Irving Washington | 

    Re.: Pot bust. Interesting how drug possession gets charged against everyone conceivably connected with the stash, but only the one guy, in what is alleged to be a conspiracy, gets charged with explosives possession. They were IEDs! Aren’t those more dangerous than drugs?!

  15. #15 |  Gary | 

    The article about fact checking seems awfully misleading to me. It tars all fact checking organizations with the same brush, even though all of its examples but one pertain to the AP fact checking outlet. I agree that the examples he points to from the AP are pretty poor excuses for fact checking.

    However, I’ve found Politifact and Factcheck.org to be fairly decent. The Rand Paul example (the one example he uses from Politifact) is the stock example that conservatives have been using for months now to tar Politifact and that’s not nearly as egregious as the AP examples. Maybe Rand Paul didn’t deserve a “false” rating but in my opinion he didn’t deserve a “true”, either, since most people interpret the phrase “Person A makes X dollars” as referring to salary. Even fact checking has some ambiguity because *language* is ambiguous.

    The AP examples are pretty bad and if the article’s intent was to slam the AP’s fact checking operation, I have no qualms. However, I think much more evidence is required in order to make the case that all of the other fact checking operations suffer the same problem.

  16. #16 |  BamBam | 

    “But it also means government is failing at its most basic and fundamental obligations.”

    It’s by design. Government is a system of masters (humans with government titles) and slaves (the rest of us). To believe otherwise is a failure to recognize the system for what it is. Those that “make the rules” have always made the rules to suit themselves and with double standards, because there is no incentive to behave otherwise unless you are a strongly principled person who will not compromise those principles.

  17. #17 |  GSL | 

    Just when you thought Los Angeles politics couldn’t get any more slimy.

  18. #18 |  Juice | 

    Even if it were some top shelf primo shit, there’s no way 50 pounds of any pot is worth $500,000. And $1 million? What are they smoking?

  19. #19 |  Davis | 

    there will be people who get put behind bars for patent infringement…because they didn’t want to die or let patients die.

    Under current U.S. law, there is no such thing as criminal patent infringement. Moreover, the damages obtainable against an individual infringer would be minimal (unless a single doctor infringed hundreds or thousands of times).

  20. #20 |  Davis | 

    Since when does Cato promote the idea that private enterprise is obliged to give its efforts away for free? Since when is it wrong to engage in private research and be denied the fruits of its efforts?

    In what way would Prometheus (and private enterprise more generally) be forced to give away its efforts for free? The company can still market and sell its diagnostic regardless of whether its patent is valid. The question here is whether Prometheus has the right to a government-enforced monopoly (and benefit from the concomitant monopolistic prices), or whether it must face competition in this particular diagnostic market.

    Even if Prometheus cannot use a patent to monopolize the market for 20 years, the company can still obtain some benefit from first-mover advantages and probably manage to obtain substantial control over the market — if only for a shorter period of time.

  21. #21 |  EH | 

    Under current U.S. law, there is no such thing as criminal patent infringement.

    If that is indeed true, it probably won’t be for long.

  22. #22 |  CyniCAl | 

    “If this brings some skepticism about giving government ever-more power (though it likely won’t), it’s a good thing.”

    Ah, perpetuation of the myth that governmental power is derived from popular consent.

    NOTHING could be further from the truth.

    The government TAKES power, it is not GIVEN power.

  23. #23 |  Chaz | 

    Greenwald covered some Politifact errors abd issues last week in response to a Ron Paul article:
    http://www.salon.com/2011/12/05/politifact_and_the_scam_of_neutral_expertise/

  24. #24 |  Rob Lyman | 

    Re: patents. I hate hate hate articles about the law. Patent law, criminal law, traffic law: you should assume anything you read about the law or a lawsuit written by a journalist is 180 degrees away from reality. If some of them are only 110 degrees away, consider yourself lucky.

    As for this case, I didn’t hear the arguments and haven’t read the briefing, so in fairness I can’t add that much. But if Prometheus is really claiming a doctor can infringe merely by being aware of correlations disclosed in their patent, they are utterly wrong and their lawyers are total idiots. The fact that SCOTUS didn’t say “You are wrong and your lawyers are total idiots” during the argument makes me think that this is not, in fact, their argument.

    I had a glance at some patents owned by Prometheus, and in form they are unremarkable. A method for treating disease comprising the steps of administering that, measuring that, adjusting future treatment based on the results. In substance, they may well be overbroad or otherwise problematic (and it does seem pretty obvious to measure metabolite-of-drug levels to see what’s going on). But this doesn’t look to me anything like a ground breaking new class of “medical patents” that haven’t existed before–which is probably why the defendants aren’t arguing that.

  25. #25 |  Radley Balko | 

    Gary:

    PolitiFact is also the outfit that claimed “the government is taking over healthcare” to be its “Lie of the Year.”

    Whether or not you agree with it the statement, it’s pretty subjective. It’s bad enough to claim a subjective statement is factually false. But to also claim that it was the biggest lie of the year is stretching the notion of “fact checking” to some pretty ridiculous extremes.

  26. #26 |  Nick | 

    If everyone could get between $10,000 and $20,000 per pound of marijuana, everyone would be growing it.

  27. #27 |  Windy | 

    #7 | captainahags “I’m sorry, but in regards to the fact checking article, I can’t take anything seriously if it mentions ‘the liberal media’ with a straight face.”

    Not even when it comes from a “liberal” newspaper like the Washington Post?

  28. #28 |  Gary | 

    Radley,

    The Lie of the Year is voted on by readers, so I don’t think that’s particularly relevant, particularly compared to the actually fact checks themselves.

    Their lie of the year actually references five different fact checks that Politifact did throughout the course of the year, all containing one form or another of the implication that the Democratic/Obama health care plan is “A government takeover of health care”. They are all linked from here:

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2010/dec/16/lie-year-government-takeover-health-care/

    As an example, one politician claimed that his vote against the bill was a vote against the government takeover of health care.

    Regardless of whether you like the bill or not, to call that true you have to completely do away with the distinction between regulation and ownership. The health care plan is a system of regulation for private health insurance companies.

    Do you have any really liberal friends? Ask them why they hate Obamacare – it’s because it *doesn’t* implement government provided healthcare.

    Again, this isn’t a statement about whether the health care bill is “a good thing” but instead a matter of whether it’s a “government takeover” of health care. It pretty clearly isn’t, using any reasonable definition of “takeover” and especially when compared with dozens of other countries that have more government ownership.

  29. #29 |  HV | 

    One more link – “A federal traffic safety agency is recommending that states prohibit all drivers from using cellphones, for talking or texting.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/technology/federal-panel-urges-cellphone-ban-for-drivers.html?src=tp

  30. #30 |  Davis | 

    But if Prometheus is really claiming a doctor can infringe merely by being aware of correlations disclosed in their patent, they are utterly wrong and their lawyers are total idiots.

    This does not appear to be Prometheus’s argument, as that is not the conduct that is actually at issue here. But from the patent itself it’s pretty clear that if a doctor is aware of the correlations in the patent and acts upon that knowledge by adjusting a drug dosage, that doctor is infringing upon both patents raised in this case.

    But this doesn’t look to me anything like a ground breaking new class of “medical patents” that haven’t existed before . . . .

    That depends on your perspective. Among patent geeks, patents on medical diagnostics are a hotly contested issue. This case pushes right up to the edge of that debate, since neither the drug nor the general method of treatment is new; the only element that Prometheus has introduced is the step of determining what range of metabolite levels leads to better treatment outcomes. In essence, their only “invention” is the correlation itself — which raises precisely the § 101 question this case is addressing (is this just a patent on scientific knowledge?).

  31. #31 |  Davis | 

    Ask them why they hate Obamacare – it’s because it *doesn’t* implement government provided healthcare.

    As something of a liberal myself, I should note that most liberals who take the position you’re proffering generally do not want government-provided healthcare. Rather, they want a single-payer system, where the government is basically one giant health insurance company. It may seem like a thin distinction if you are disposed to be against any government involvement in this arena, but I would consider this a significant distinction. Government-run healthcare would entail all doctors effectively becoming federal employees, whereas a single-payer system would effectively just expand the reach of Medicare (doctors and hospitals would still run private businesses, and individuals could still obtain supplemental insurance). Without getting into the merits of this distinction, it’s worth at least recognizing that it is a distinction.

  32. #32 |  Gary | 

    @31 Davis:

    Yes, good point. I do know exactly what you’re talking about and I did gloss over it a bit too quickly. I only wanted to make a more general point that, on a scale of “more government involvement” to “less government involvement”, liberals have severely criticized Obamacare as having *too little* government involvement. But yes, I agree, most of the liberal folks I know are pushing for a single-payer Canadian-style system and not a government-run British-style system. Going back to my scale, the Canadian system would involve more government involvement than Obamacare but less than the British system.

  33. #33 |  supercat | 

    #31 | Davis | “Without getting into the merits of this distinction, it’s worth at least recognizing that it is a distinction.”

    It isn’t much of one. An allocation of scarce resources based upon people’s willingness to pay for them may sometimes cause those resources to be allocated to people who, by some measure, need them less than some other people who are forced to do without them, but such an allocation in practice probably does a better job of matching resources to needs than would most efforts at allocating directly based upon “need”. Further, people who hog scarce resources they don’t really need are effectively punished because they have to pay a high price for them, while those who can do without resources benefit from not having to pay such a price.

    Allocating scarce resources to people who aren’t willing to pay for them means that such resources will be less available to people who would be willing to pay for them. If the allocation doesn’t require a showing of need, many people who don’t really need the resources will end up getting them while many people who do need them will be forced to go without. Adding a requirement to show need, however, doesn’t really help: if people learn that the way to get health care is to “need” it, people will have no incentive to reduce their level of “need”. Demand will not balance supply unless either (1) people are forced to pay for the care they receive, or (2) the government steps in and tells people what they “need”. Single-payer may sound nice in theory for those who don’t understand economics, but for those who do understand economics, it’s quite clear that it simply won’t work.

  34. #34 |  André Kenji | 

    “Whether or not you agree with it the statement, it’s pretty subjective. ”

    Frankly, Radley, it´s not.

  35. #35 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Hopefully everyone understands that if the state fines you and you don’t pay, you go to jail. Every law (including patents) can put you in jail one way or another.

  36. #36 |  Rob Lyman | 

    Boyd,

    There are no fines in patent law, only civil judgments, enforceable by asset seizure and escapable in bankruptcy. To go to jail in a patent infringement case, you’d have to do something else criminal, like shoot at the sheriff who is taking your stuff.

  37. #37 |  JOR | 

    “America’s is losing its faith in government. If this brings some skepticism about giving government ever-more power (though it likely won’t), it’s a good thing. But it also means government is failing at its most basic and fundamental obligations.”

    Not to be a nit-picking crank or anything, but it means that Americans think government is failing at (what they believe to be) its most basic and fundamental obligations. Leaving aside problematic facts about what a lot of people take to be government’s basic and fundamental obligations, and leaving aside the question of whether it has any obligations at all (in a strictly legal sense), then one of two things are true. Either A) Americans are correct in their growing belief that the government is failing, in which case their loss of faith is good (for the same reason that a person’s loss of trust in a cheating spouse after learning the truth about their loyalty is a good thing, even if it’s a response to a bad thing) or B) they are wrong in that belief, in which case their loss of faith is not a good thing (because the beliefs motivating their loss of faith happen to be false). But I can’t think of a case in which it is true that the government is both failing in its (presumedly desirable, for the sake of argument) function and that a loss of faith in it for that reason is not good.

    Now that we’re done with that, we can stop setting aside problematic facts about what people take the government’s basic obligations to be; a lot of conservatives (and liberals, for that matter) lose faith in government because it isn’t throwing enough drug users in prison or murdering quite enough Ay-rabs for their taste (failures which they will often – with some accuracy – attribute to government being “too big”). And we can also stop setting aside the question of whether the government has any obligations at all (in a purely legal sense), to which the answer is: no; legal obligations are in fact no more and no less than whatever desires are successfully enforced by unchecked coercion.

    As it was in the beginning, it will be until the end. Americans will lose their faith in government, only to demand more of it. In the long run they may not really get more of it, functionally, but it’s what they’ll try to get.

  38. #38 |  SJE | 

    I’m going to have to strongly disagree with Tim Lee’s perspective on the medical patents. Advances in medical science take a lot skill and money, R&D happens more when we provide a financial incentive to compensate for that expenditure, and the Constitution specifically provides for patents to compensate for the investment.

    A lot of people who complain about IP in certain areas are making the same arguments we heard from socialist in regard land or other private property, and many of the socialist “solutions” will have have the same unintended consquences we saw in old fashioned socialism.

    So, while I accept that there are “abuses” in the patent system (i) many of the “solutions” are actually worse and (ii) many of the abuses can be solved other ways that are less draconian.

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