- Mask-clad cops in riot gear raid a free, openly advertised poker tournament in Florida.
- What your favorite sport says about your politics.
- Eric Posner, the law professor last seen arguing that the First Amendment is overrated, now argues that executive power should trump the Fourth Amendment.
- Today’s horrifying lesson in why you should avoid calling the police. Here’s some unfortunate background on this particular sheriff.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Friday, October 26, 2012
Daddy Needs a Drink.
- Esquire interviews Agitator pal, onetime guest blogger, and bartender extraordinaire Jacob Grier.
- Reason staff and contributors reveal for whom they’ll be voting.
- Headline of the day.
- Cop who used a submachine gun to kill an unarmed, fleeing man who had committed no crime . . . won’t be charged.
- But for video: Medley, Florida edition.
- Headline says there’s an 18 percent gender pay gap. But click through to the study, and you’ll find that when they adjust for occupation, it’s actually 7 percent.
- Puppycide: Cop shoots Golden Retriever puppy six times. Neighbor witness says the dog was never a threat.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
- More evidence that ban on texting while driving make the roads less safe.
- I mean, who among us hasn’t faked cancer, pretended to be a doctor online, contacted a friend online while posing as said doctor, then persuaded that friend to have sex with us as a way of treating the fake cancer?
- Another good piece on the overuse of solitary confinement.
- The chair of the DNC didn’t know Obama had a kill list. That, or she’s feigning ignorance. Which would be even worse.
- The Chattanooga Times-Free Press endorses Gary Johnson for president. I suspected one-time Agitator guest blogger Drew Johnson had something to do with this.
- Politics really seems to bring out the classiness in us.
- Obama’s drone assassination program is now dropping sharks on people from the sky. Or maybe it was just a bird.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Jacob Sullum dissects the latest mass hyperventilation over energy drinks.
Monster now sells between 500 million and 1 billion cans of its energy drink per year. (Disclosure: I’m probably responsible for 2-3 percent of the company’s sales.) Apparently, over the last six years, there have been six deaths that might have been connected to the drink. This has sent the FDA, Sen. Richard Durbin, and Bloomberg News into fits of save the children.
Note too the bullshit use of the “emergency room visits” statistic. Remember, this does not mean that the drink caused any of those emergency room visits. It means that x number of people, when asked by an emergency room doctor what they had consumed in the last 24 hours, mentioned that they had drank a Monster. For example, if you’re in the ER because you got kicked in the face while attempting to make love to an elephant, but tell the doctor that you had consumed a Monster the night before you were overwhelmed with proboscidean lust, that would be considered an energy drink-related emergency room visit. Any drug or food product that becomes popular over a short period of time will see a sharp rise in “x-related emergency room visits,” simply because a higher percentage of the population is using the product.
Put another way, if someone were to collect the data, I’ll bet there has also been a sharp increase in the number of “Monster-related visits” to Montana, the living room, and T.G.I. Fridays. (I’d also be willing to bet that there is a statistically significant correlation between energy drink consumption and trips to the gym. Which is probably a good thing, no?)
- False idols and loaded weapons.
- Members of Pussy Riot sent to hard labor camps.
- Cool British exhibit lets you walk through rain without getting wet.
- George McGovern, libertarian hero.
- At least they kept the gays out.
- An alarming crackdown on the free press in Turkey.
- Next time you’re depressed about the American criminal justice system, just think about Italy.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Because I forgot yesterday.
Here’s Nashville’s Courtney Jaye, with a beautiful cover of my favorite CCR song.
- Headline of the day.
- “ . . . a mere 19 percent of millennials think that government spending is the way to improve the economy.” There is still hope for America!
- Britain will sleep safer tonight knowing these monsters are off the streets.
- Pot raid in Detroit = triple puppycide. One dog was fenced in the backyard. According to witnesses, police chased the other two around the house until they had killed them.
- More problems with drug dogs, this time at the border.
- Admitted pot smoker named “fittest man of all time.”
- Better dead than high: Chris Christie edition.
Friday, October 19, 2012
If you aren’t familiar, Huffington is the tablet magazine spinoff of Huffington Post, focusing on long-form journalism. If you have a tablet computer, I’d encourage you to check it out. One of the main complaints I hear about the Huffington Post site is its clutter and busyness. The magazine is very clean. No ads, no extras.
Anyway, while researching my book I recently came across the passage below from The New York Times Magazine. It has almost on-the-nose relevance to the issues at play in Huff’s case.
See if you can guess when it was published. Answer in the comments.
. . . a number of judges [have begun] questioning police testimony that relie[s] on such legal passwords as “in plain sight” and “furtive gesture.”
“The difficulty arises,” New York Criminal Court Judge Irving Younger wrote last year, “when one stands back from the particular case and looks at a series of cases. It then becomes apparent that policemen are committing perjury at least in some of them, and perhaps in nearly all of them . . . Spend a few hours in the New York City Criminal Court nowadays, and you will hear case after case in which a policeman testifies that the defendant dropped the narcotics on the ground, whereupon the policeman arrested him. Usually the very language of the testimony is identical from one case to another. This is known among defense lawyers and prosecutors as “dropsey” testimony. The judge has no reason to disbelieve it in any particular case, and of course the judge must decide each case on its own evidence, without regard to the testimony in other cases. Surely, though, not in every case was the defendant unlucky enough to drop his narcotics at the feed of the policeman. It follows that in in at least some of these cases the police are lying.”
In California, where many drug arrests are made during highway patrols, Judge Stanley Mosk of the State Supreme Court recently questioned the police reliance on furtive gestures in justifying arrests.
“The furtive gesture,” Mosk wrote, “has on occasion been little short of subterfuge in order to conduct a search on the basis of mere suspicion or intuition.” In so doing, he said, policy imply guilty significance to gestures that are no more illegal than reaching for one’s driver’s license or turning off a car radio.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
- Tim Carney takes on the myth, reported again recently in Politico, that Obama has barred lobbyists from his administration. It’s a thorough, unrelenting thumping of lazy journalism. And quite a beautiful thing to behold.
- Attempted puppycide: Cop responds to the wrong house, shoots dog.
- Yes, this is very clever.
- Gene Healy on how the cult of Obama has just become kinda’ sad.
- Woman leader of influential political organization doesn’t think women are capable of leading influential political organizations.
- Don’t ever change, America.
- War-weary military dog may suffer from PTSD.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Over at The Nation, there’s a video interview with Patricia Williams titled Paul Ryan’s Libertarian America, in which the columnist explains how “Mitt Romney’s choice of running mate, the Ayn Rand-inspired Paul Ryan, reveals the GOP candidate’s ‘slow march to the right.’”
A few minor points: Paul Ryan is not a Randian, nor would Ayn Rand have approved of Paul Ryan. Ayn Rand was not a libertarian, and libertarianism is quite different from Randianism. Most importantly, Paul Ryan is not a libertarian.
Finally, I would argue that libertarians aren’t really part of the right (and I can say for certain that this libertarian isn’t), though some on the right seem to disagree.
Otherwise, the description is perfectly accurate.
Monday, October 15, 2012
- “A Year of Blasphemy.” Typically great stuff from Ken at Popehat. Also, “monkey crotch.”
- You know what isn’t typically great? Investigative political reporting. Here’s an exception from Buzzfeed. Fascinating look into the origins of a pervasive myth about George Romney.
- “For years before his 1991 retirement, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall slipped away from deliberations each day to watch Days of Our Lives.”
- John McCain thinks the day the Supreme Court decided that incorporated groups of people who criticize politicians are protected by the First Amendment was worse than the day the Supreme Court declared that black people are non-citizens.
- Headline of the day.
- 22-year-old with severe food allergies arrested on a misdemeanor pot charge. The next day, he’s found dead in his jail cell.
On Monday evening, October 8, 2012, police were called about a man who was sleeping in the lounge of the Aliyah Center on East New York Ave. The caller may have mistakenly believed that the homeless man, Ehud H. Halevi, was loitering on the center’s property without permission.
Aliyah is a synagogue and outreach center for troubled youth in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Two officers from the 71st precinct, one male and one female, arrived and woke the man. Confused as to why he was being accosted by police, the man refused the officers’ attempts to escort him outside, insisting that he had permission to be there and asking that they allow him to prove it.
His pleas fell on deaf ears, and they proceeded to place him under arrest.
When he resisted arrest, the male officer flew into a rage and began to beat the defenseless man. As can be seen in the video below, the officer assumed a boxing stance and then lurched towards his victim, pummeling him from all sides.
Over the next couple of minutes the man is also pepper-sprayed and beaten with a truncheon by the female officer, all while posing no threat to the officers’ well-being whatsoever.
After a good two minutes of sadistic thrashing, the officers are joined by a squadron of their peers, and successfully put him in handcuffs and under arrest.
A source confirmed with CrownHeights.info that the man had full permission to be there, and had been living there for a month without any trouble. It is unknown who called the police or why.
And it wouldn’t be a police beating without the obligatory charge against the victim for assaulting the police officer’s fist with his face.
The guy clearly wasn’t cooperating. But he wasn’t breaking any laws. Even if you don’t think the beating itself is excessive (I do), why not contact someone at the center to see if his story checks out before you move in with the cuffs? Why move immediately to confrontation, and then to escalation?
Sunday, October 14, 2012
- It appears that a Utah state trooper has been falsifying arrest records for DUI cases. Bonus: Higher-ups probably knew, covered it up. Double bonus: In 2007 she was named “Trooper of the Year.
- Attempted puppycide.
- Mark Bittman wants food labels to include what mood the workers were in when it was picked and manufactured. Okay, not quite. But awfully close.
- Headline of the day. For your amusement, please note the improbable name of one of the two researchers.
- I’m pretty sure that if anyone who didn’t happen to be a cop responded to a colleague’s teasing by taking out a gun and shooting toward colleague’s feet, they’d be charged with some sort of crime.
- Milwaukee cop charged with
sodomizing peopleperforming several illegal body cavity searches is let out on $0 bail. Chief Ed Flynn referred to the officer’s actions as “noble cause misconduct.” You remember Ed Flynn. He’s the one who instructed his “troops” to tackle, detain anyone carrying a gun in the city, even though it’s allowed under state law.
- Houston Police Department admits to pre-writing traffic violations.
Friday, October 12, 2012
The Philladelphia police union is throwing a benefit party to honor the cop who was recently fired for doing this:
Montana SWAT team drops a flash grenade through a window into a bedroom where two children are sleeping. No arrests. No alleged meth lab.
A 12-year-old girl suffered burns to one side of her body when a flash grenade went off next to her as a police SWAT team raided a West End home Tuesday morning.
“She has first- and second-degree burns down the left side of her body and on her arms,” said the girl’s mother, Jackie Fasching. “She’s got severe pain. Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes.”
Medical staff at the scene tended to the girl afterward and then her mother drove her to the hospital, where she was treated and released later that day.
A photo of the girl provided by Fasching to The Gazette shows red and black burns on her side.
Police Chief Rich St. John said the 6 a.m. raid at 2128 Custer Ave., was to execute a search warrant as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation by the City-County Special Investigations Unit . . .
“It was totally unforeseen, totally unplanned and extremely regrettable,” St. John said. “We certainly did not want a juvenile, or anyone else for that matter, to get injured.”
Well, I’ll give him unplanned. Though I don’t think he meant it in the way I mean it. Sorry, but when you’re blindly shoving a flash grenade attached to a boomstick through a window, and you clearly have no idea who or what is in that room where you’re detonating, the possibility that an innocence person might get burned is not “totally unforeseen.” It’s only unforeseen when you’re so caught up in your drug war that you can’t be bothered to take the time to consider the possible collateral damage your actions may cause.
On Thursday, Fasching took her daughter back to the hospital to have her wounds treated.
She questioned why police would take such actions with children in the home and why it needed a SWAT team.
“A simple knock on the door and I would’ve let them in,” she said. “They said their intel told them there was a meth lab at our house. If they would’ve checked, they would’ve known there’s not.”
She and her two daughters and her husband were home at the time of the raid. She said her husband, who suffers from congenital heart disease and liver failure, told officers he would open the front door as the raid began and was opening it as they knocked it down.
When the grenade went off in the room, it left a large bowl-shaped dent in the wall and “blew the nails out of the drywall,” Fasching said.
St. John said investigators did plenty of homework on the residence before deciding to launch the raid but didn’t know children were inside.
“The information that we had did not have any juveniles in the house and did not have any juveniles in the room,” he said. “We generally do not introduce these disorienting devices when they’re present.”
I’ve probably read about more than a thousand of these raids by now. The cognitive dissonance still astounds me. No, Chief St. John, if you did not know there were two children in the home, if you did not know that you were dropping a flash grenade into a child’s bedroom, you pretty clearly did not do “plenty” of goddamned “homework.”
Investigators consider dozens of items such as residents’ past criminal convictions, other criminal history, mental illness and previous interactions with law enforcement.
Each item is assigned a point value and if the total exceeds a certain threshold, SWAT is requested. Then a commander approves or rejects the request.
In Tuesday’s raid, the points exceeded the threshold and investigators called in SWAT.
“Every bit of information and intelligence that we have comes together and we determine what kind of risk is there,” St. John said. “The warrant was based on some hard evidence and everything we knew at the time.”
Sounds awfully professional, doesn’t it? Except that they were looking for a meth lab, and pretty clearly didn’t find it. I mean, unless the Faschings recently had their house fumigated by Vamonos Pest Control, a meth lab isn’t something you can easily pick up and move.
“If we’re wrong or made a mistake, then we’re going to take care of it,” he said. “But if it determines we’re not, then we’ll go with that. When we do this, we want to ensure the safety of not only the officers, but the residents inside.”
The last four words are self-evidently complete and utter crap. And sure. Let’s go ahead and entrust the same department that just carried out this debacle after doing “plenty of homework” to investigate itself to determine if it did anything wrong. That sounds like a perfectly fair, impartial way to treat the Faschings.
- The Salt Lake Deseret News runs an editorial on SWAT raids.
- When occupational licensing bullshit meets anti-immigration horseshit.
- Man raided, dog shot, “small amount of narcotics” found. No big deal.
- Strong lager is the new heroin. Worse yet, someone is making a profit!
- The self-perpetuating police state: Asset forfeiture funds used to purchase surveillance cameras.
- NYC police team takes a detour on the way to a drug raid, pulls over an unarmed man, kills him.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Paul Brown was working on his computer in his north suburban home when police smashed in the front door, pointed guns at and handcuffed him and other family members, and ransacked the house in a search for drugs.
The authorities had burst in immediately after a postal worker delivered a package to the home that they said contained marijuana. But a search of the house found no further contraband, and officers left without making an arrest.
Brown, outraged, said he was sure the cops had the wrong house. Police maintained they had the right place, but the target of their investigation wasn’t there at the time.
Brown, a 58-year-old who works in building design, said he supports law enforcement in general. But he said innocent bystanders shouldn’t be subject to such dangerous and damaging searches without any compensation.
“I was scared to death,” he said. “I really felt like a hostage. These guys are supposed to be on my side.”
The package delivered to the home in a middle-class neighborhood on Adelphi Avenue was addressed to someone named Oscar, who Brown said has never lived there and is unknown to him.
Brown would have liked police to pay for the $3,000 leaded-and-stained-glass door, lock and frame they broke, to clean up the mess they made, and to apologize. Police say that won’t happen.
Well of course that isn’t going to happen. Because the police aren’t on your side, Mr. Brown. They’re fighting a war. And you got in the way.
Sullivan did not release the complaint that states the evidence upon which the warrant was based, citing the ongoing investigation. But, he said, “we had a valid warrant, and it was a good search.”
After another member of the household accepted the package outside as he arrived home, officers knocked on the door and announced themselves, and waited an unspecified “reasonable” amount of time, as required by law before breaching the door, Sullivan said.
Brown disputed that, saying his 77-year-old mother-in-law was about 15 feet from the door but did not hear anything, and his two small dogs, who always bark when someone knocks, were silent.
Brown said the people who conducted the raid were dressed in SWAT-style clothing with black sweaters that said “police,” though at first he didn’t even realize who they were. He said they handcuffed and questioned him, along with his son-in-law, who had accepted the package but never opened it, and his son-in-law’s brother, who live in the house along with Brown’s daughter, wife and mother-in-law.
Notice how rarely the victims of these raids actually hear the knock-and-announce the police claim to have given? Going back to English common law, the entire point of the knock-and-announce requirement was to preserve the sanctity of the home—to give the occupants an opportunity to avoid the violence of a forced entry. Over the last 25 years or so, its purpose has changed to protect the police. Today, they announce themselves only so you won’t attempt to shoot them when they break down your door seconds later. The Supreme Court has ruled that as few as eight seconds between knocking and entering is sufficient. That’s hardly enough time for someone who is, say, sleeping to wake up and answer the door. And even if you could, the courts have also ruled that police can break down your door without waiting if they hear movement or see a light go on inside the house. The fear is that these could be indications that someone inside is arming themselves. Because the safety of police is more important than the safety of the rest of us, the fact that movement or light in the house could mean someone is merely trying to answer the door doesn’t really matter.
All of which means the centuries-old principle that the knock-and-announce requirement is necessary to preserve the home as a man’s castle and place of sanctuary . . . is as dead as Kathryn Johnston.
Sullivan said police have to enter such raids in a rush with overwhelming force, to prevent people from flushing or destroying evidence, and to prevent anyone from attacking police. Though Lake County MEG personnel have never been shot during such a raid, officers elsewhere have, and MEG officers have found guns next to dangerous criminals in the past, Sullivan said, making it a potentially dangerous mission.
Got that? Preserving a quantity of illicit drugs small enough to be quickly flushed down the toilet so the person in possession can later be prosecuted is a higher priority than not subjecting innocent people to having their doors torn down, physical abuse, and the terror of having guns pointed at their heads. Oh, and officer safety. Officer safety takes priority over everything else. Everything. Better a 77-year-old woman get rush, knock to the floor, and handcuffed than a single cop wearing Kevlar, holding an assault weapon, and carrying a ballistics shield be “attacked.”
He acknowledged that Brown might not be aware of any illegal activity by anyone in the house but said, “some people have secrets.” He added that police still expected to close the case with an arrest. As of Friday, Sullivan said there were no new developments in the case to report, and court records in Lake County showed no criminal charges filed in the case against members of Brown’s household.
Again, it’s about the priorities on display, here. Because one guy who may or may not be a relative of acquaintance of these people may have committed a marijuana offense, Sullivan sees nothing wrong to subjecting the entire family to the terror, violence, and danger of a tactical police raid.
“I understand when you walk away (without an arrest), that brings up a lot of questions,” Sullivan said. “But there’s a series of checks and balances … to make sure we’re doing everything right. We are concerned about the public as much as they are about themselves.”
So how did those checks and balances work out for Brown, his wife, his brother-in-law, and his mother-in-law? Let’s be clear, here. The “checks and balances” Sullivan is referring to here could better be called “formalities.” And when you tear down a man’s door, scare the hell out of him and his family, acknowledge they all may well be innocent, then refuse to repair the damage you’ve caused or apologize for what you subjected them to, “We are concerned about the public as much as they are about themselves” is so transparently false, I can’t help but wonder if Sullivan was smirking when he said it.
- Politicians lie. And America likes it that way.
- Headline of the day. (Also a good read.)
- Study: Chocolate consumption correlates with Nobel winners.
- Pitched down baby cry. It’s the creepiest thing you’ll hear today.
- Court tosses lawsuit by the North Carolina paleo diet blogger.
- Criminal defense bloggers trounce progressives for their reaction to the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Fourtin: Popehat, Scott Greenfield, Gideon. It’s another piece of evidence in support of my thesis that progressives tend to value equality more than principles like due process, presumption of innocence, and individual rights.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
This video includes a surreptitious recording of a stop and frisk in New York. It also includes interviews with NYPD cops who say that what you’re hearing isn’t atypical.
The phrase “police state” is overused. But if you can’t merely walk on the sidewalk in your own neighborhood without enduring this kind of harassment on a regular basis, I don’t know of any term that’s more appropriate.
More information on the video here.
Monday, October 8, 2012
This is my favorite one of these yet.