Dick Durbin Goes Monster Hunting

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?)

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Morning Links

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Occupied Poland

Amazing color photo set from 1939-1940. More here.


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Five Star-Fridays. On a Saturday.

Because I forgot yesterday.

Here’s Nashville’s Courtney Jaye, with a beautiful cover of my favorite CCR song.


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Saturday Morning Links: Millennials, Drugs, and Defecation

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The More Things Change . . .

In this week’s issue of Huffington, they’ve published an updated version of my March article on Terrance Huff, drug dog searches, and asset forfeiture.

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.

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Another Isolated Incident

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Morning Links

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For the Record . . .

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.

Also, Ayn Rand did not consider herself part of “the right,” and “the right” did not and still doesn’t claim Ayn Rand.

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.

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New at HuffPost

I have a piece up at HuffPost looking at why criminal justice issues are rarely discussed during presidential campaigns.

(I sneaked some Robert Higgs into the article. Don’t tell!)

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Monday Links

  • “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.

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Cops Beat Homeless Man


Here’s the context:

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?

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Sunday Afternoon Links

  • 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 people performing 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.

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Everything You Need To Know About the War on Drugs

Here’s the source. (Via Mike Riggs.)

MORE: Over at Hit & Run, Riggs has a correction and explanation for the $1.5 trillion figure.

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They’re Having a Party

The Philladelphia police union is throwing a benefit party to honor the cop who was recently fired for doing this:


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