Friday, December 24, 2010

Never Thought I'd Say This . . .

. . . but for once I agree with Pat Robertson. Take it away, Pat:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Makes Ya Proud to be an Amer'cun, Don't It?

After being in mind-breaking isolation for seven straight months:
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). [...] the brig's medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.

. . . the latest rumor is that Manning is now being offered a plea bargain if he testifies that Assange "conspired" with him.

So for those keeping track, now we can let the guy who actually broke the law off easy, in favor of arresting the guy who didn't break any laws, and all we had to do was torture a US citizen who hasn't even been put on trial for anything yet.

Woo, go team.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

City of Aurora Steals $190,000 From Citizen; Refuses to Return It Even After Court Order

Jesus Martinez, 27, was carrying $190,040 when his pickup truck was stopped by an Aurora police officer about 8:30 p.m. Oct. 18 near Indian Trail and Timberlake roads.

The police officer confiscated the cash, and the city has informed Martinez and his brother, Jose, 34, that Aurora will seek to keep it through civil forfeiture, a procedure that allows police agencies to seize property where the legal standard is lower than proof needed in a criminal forfeiture.

The brothers are home remodelers. Neither has been charged with a crime in this case, and neither has a criminal record, according to Kane County court records.

"I've never seen anything like this in 30 years of practice," said Aurora attorney Patrick Kinnally, who is representing the brothers.

A month after the stop, Kinnally filed a complaint arguing that Aurora had no right to keep the money. Eleven days after that, Kinnally and lawyers representing Aurora appeared before Kane County Circuit Judge Michael Colwell.

"Their lawyers basically said the city was going to file for forfeiture," Kinnally said. "The judge asked on what basis. The lawyer said, 'We don't know,' and the judge said: 'This is America. Give it back.'"

The judge ordered the city to return the $190,040, along with a month's interest and costs. But Kinnally said that when he brought the order to Aurora, the city refused to turn over the cash

Maybe they just really needed a new rec room at police headquarters . . .

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CableGate: U.S.-Backed DynCorp Bought Drugs and Child Prostitutes For Police Recruits

(I'm going to start posting links and snippets of interesting stories arising from the leaked cables.)

Cable Link:

Related Link: Houston Press
Many of DynCorp's employees are ex-Green Berets and veterans of other elite units, and the company was commissioned by the US government to provide training for the Afghani police. According to most reports, over 95 percent of its $2 billion annual revenue comes from US taxpayers.

And in Kunduz province, according to the leaked cable, that money was flowing to drug dealers and pimps. Pimps of children, to be more precise. (The exact type of drug was never specified.)

Since this is Afghanistan, you probably already knew this wasn't a kegger. Instead, this DynCorp soiree was a bacha bazi ("boy-play") party, much like the ones uncovered earlier this year by Frontline.

For those that can't or won't click the link, bacha bazi is a pre-Islamic Afghan tradition that was banned by the Taliban. Bacha boys are eight- to 15-years-old. They put on make-up, tie bells to their feet and slip into scanty women's clothing, and then, to the whine of a harmonium and wailing vocals, they dance seductively to smoky roomfuls of leering older men.

After the show is over, their services are auctioned off to the highest bidder, who will sometimes purchase a boy outright. And by services, we mean anal sex: The State Department has called bacha bazi a "widespread, culturally accepted form of male rape." (While it may be culturally accepted, it violates both Sharia law and Afghan civil code.)

It's not everyday you wake up to find that your taxes are being used to pay for child rape in foreign countries.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

State Department Announces World Press Freedom Day!


New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.

This, right on the heel of Senator Lieberman suggesting that the New York Times be investigated for its role in CableGate. It's nice they are suddenly all about freedom of the press. Perhaps they are planning to bring it to the U.S. soon?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Business of Forging Student Assignments

Not government related, but extremely interesting nonetheless:

The Ghost Scholar

The article is about a man (and his team of 50 writers) who are paid by students to churn out college papers on every conceivable topic, from admission essays to graduate dissertations. If it doesn't turn out to be bogus, it's a great read.

Monday, November 15, 2010

State Kidnaps Child Over Bagel

Gotta love the "war on drugs".

What's the obvious thing to do when a woman gives birth and her urine tests positive for "drugs"? Well, if you're Lawrence County, PA, the first thing you do is shows up at the parents' door and takes the child by force, and only after that do you figure out whether or not any drugs were actually involved, and whether or not the child was in any danger.

Then later, when you find out the woman simply had an "Everything" bagel from Dunkin' Donuts the day before, you say "Oops! What a silly misunderstanding!" and give the kid back all bashful like.

(Then you get sued by the ACLU, the taxpayer foots the bill for your incompetence, and you probably won't even get a reprimand! Teehee!)

TSA: Refusing to let us grope you? We'll fine you $10,000 for that!

More TSA idiocy.

1. Man researches airport online and finds that the airport does not have nude-imaging machines installed.
2. Man shows up at airport and finds they do in fact have nude-imaging machines.
3. Man refuses to go through the nude-imaging machine, and have a pat down instead, but objects to the intention of the TSA to grope his crotch.
4. Man is told he can't fly and will have to leave, which he agrees to.
5. On the way out, he's intercepted and told he'll be fined $10,000 for leaving the line like they told him to in the first place.

And for a bonus, the people who made him leave won't be subject to any punishment at all (you know, because they are in charge and all).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Totally Hilarious: Obama = Keynesian?

Hopefully not representative of the population at large, but hilarious nonetheless:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Talk About What A Great, Free Country We Live In, Or I'll Send You To Jail

Apparently the irony of the above statement would be lost on Judge Littlejohn of Mississippi, who recently sent a lawyer to jail on contempt of court charges for failing to recite the pledge of allegiance.

In a just world, he'd be kicked off the bench for such an egregious decision before you could say "failure to uphold the constitution", but given the current state of our justice system, I'll just be happy if anyone bothers to call him on it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Administration Threatens Insurers Whose Costs Contradict Administration Theory

Health and Human Services has issued a letter to the insurance industry, promising "zero tolerance" for any insurer who dares to blame the administration for rising health insurance costs. You see, the white house has models to predict what should happen, and if it doesn't turn out that way in reality, then reality is the one in the wrong:

(Courtesy of The Volokh Conspiracy)
It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases....

According to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts, any potential premium impact from the new consumer protections and increased quality provisions under the Affordable Care Act will be minimal.... Any premium increases will be moderated by out-of-pocket savings resulting from the law....

Given the importance of the new protections and the facts about their impact on costs, I ask for your help in stopping misinformation and scare tactics about the Affordable Care Act. Moreover, I want AHIP’s members to be put on notice: the Administration, in partnership with states, will not tolerate unjustified rate hikes in the name of consumer protections....

Already, my Department has provided 46 states with resources to strengthen the review and transparency of proposed premiums. Later this fall, we will issue a regulation that will require state or federal review of all potentially unreasonable rate increases filed by health insurers, with the justification for increases posted publicly for consumers and employers. We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014. Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections....

It is my hope we can work together to stop misinformation and misleading marketing from the start....

"Nice health insurance company ya got there. Shame if anything were to happen to it . . ."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Arrested for Videotaping Police: Round 2

This time, the man was in his own house while he recorded police officers who were "subduing" a college student outside who had allegedly pushed a police officer. The police arrested the camera operator for "disorderly conduct" for his "failure to disperse". No word on exactly where they wanted him to disperse to, since he was already in his house.

Just because what you are doing is perfectly legal doesn't mean they won't arrest you for something.

Spectacular Response by Gov. Chris Christie

New Jersey governor Chris Christie gives a spectacular, detailed smackdown to a disgruntled member of a teacher's union:

Perhaps not relevant to most people's lives outside New Jersey, but I do enjoy seeing a politician answer questions in such a straightforward manner.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Sobering Look at the World's Financial Future

Illegally Confiscating Property and Detaining People is Okay . . .

. . . says Philadelphia's Lt. Fran Healy, as long as "officers' safety" is involved.

Nice to see Philadelphia's police force "protecting and serving" themselves at the expense of the citizens. I'm sure the city will sleep easier knowing that their police force is spending its time and resource cracking down on such miscreants as uniformed security officers carrying perfectly legal concealed weapon permits.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Supreme Court Strikes Down Chicago Handgun Ban

CNN: High Court Strikes Down Chicago Handgun Ban

In another dramatic victory for firearm owners, the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional Chicago, Illinois', 28-year-old strict ban on handgun ownership, a potentially far-reaching case over the ability of state and local governments to enforce limits on weapons.

A 5-4 conservative majority of justices on Monday reiterated its 2-year-old conclusion that the Constitution gives individuals equal or greater power than states on the issue of possession of certain firearms for self-protection.

"It cannot be doubted that the right to bear arms was regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as states legislated in an evenhanded manner," wrote Justice Samuel Alito.

While encouraging, it isn't a complete victory. The standard used to reach this decision was not taken from the Privileges and Immunities clause of the constitution, which would have made state governments as beholden to the second amendment as the federal government, but from the Due Process clause, which simply means that the states cannot presumptively declare that a person cannot own a handgun, with no due process given.

The difference between the two standards is apparent if we use an analogy and change the amendment in question from the second to the first. Imagine Chicago had a law saying that you couldn't criticize any elected city official at any time. Also imagine, that when you went to the supreme court and challenged this law under the first amendment, they said "The first amendment really only applies to the federal government, and not to state and local government. However, we will limit them and say they can only restrict the speech of people through due process instead."

Sure, it's nice that they slapped down an obviously unconstitutional law, but at the same time they left the path wide open for other "lesser" restrictions of free speech. Instead of the "no one can ever criticize an elected city official" law, you get laws like "No convicted felon can ever criticize an elected city official" or "No one is permitted to criticize a city official in public" or "No one is permitted to use the following words when discussing a city official" and so on.

Better? yes. Fixed? Not by a long shot.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More "Heroic" Police Videos

Police gun down a chained, subdued dog, then cite and fine the owner for failure to muzzle the "vicious animal" that "attacked" them:

Police tell grandma to put her dog in the bathroom while they search her house, then open the bathroom door and gun the dog down anyway:

Quiz time: Which of the following are vicious attack dogs, requiring police officers, when confronting the dog, to use immediate deadly force?




D. All of the above.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Tax On Being Financially Responsible

We live in a world of taxes. Everything you or I buy is subject to taxation, either specifically (as in gas and cigarette taxes) or in general (sales tax). We are taxed on our salaries (payroll tax), on our investments (capital gains tax), and even on death (the estate tax). Each of these taxes hits different segments of the population more-so than others, depending on things such as income, net worth, and even personal habits.

But there is another tax, relatively unknown but extremely insidious, that targets only the financially responsible. Before we get into the specifics of that tax, however, I should define exactly what I mean by financially responsibility, since the tax affects each category differently. In my opinion, there are three types of people when it comes to finances:

The first type of people are what I will call the "financially irresponsible". These are the people that spend more than they make, have a chronic lack of cash in the bank, and rack up a large amount of unsecured debt.

The second type of people are what I will call "financially on-the-fence". These are the people that spend exactly as much as they earn. No more, no less. When the first unexpected bill arrives (e.g. car repair, medical deductible, etc.), they will often fall, if only temporarily, into the first category,.

The third type of people, as you might have guessed, are the "financially responsible". They not only refrain from going into debt, but also consistently put money away into a "rainy day" fund, either for emergency situations or retirement.

The financially responsible are the bedrock of banking industry, being the least likely to default on any loans they do take on (e.g. mortgages), so it may surprise you to learn that this mysterious tax not only targets the financially responsible, but actually works to the advantage of the financially irresponsible! What is this tax, you ask?

I'll call it the "Fed Tax".

Monday, June 14, 2010

SWAT Raids Revisited

The second "Related Reading" link on a previous post (SWAT Teams: Non-Proportional Response) about the increasing militarization of our nation's SWAT teams contained a situation where a SWAT team on a "drug raid" showed up in force at a family's house in the dark, went in guns first, shot the family's two dogs (one of which was caged, and the other was a Corgi) in front of the couple's children, found only a small amount of marijuana, and still had the gall to charge the parents with child endangerment when all was said and done.

A video of the raid is now available on YouTube:

I have to say that if I had the choice between having either the potheads or the SWAT team members as my next door neighbors, I'd take the potheads. They're much less likely to break into my house in the middle of the night to discharge automatic weapons into my harmless family pets in full view of my children. What heroes.

(And then there's Detroit, where a SWAT team set a 7-year old on fire with a flashbang grenade, then fatally shot her in front of her grandmother. A video crew was with the police there too, but given how protective law enforcement is of video evidence showing off their colossal screwups, I have my doubts as to whether or not it will ever see the light of day.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Senate Primary Hilarity

He's unemployed, he lives with his parents, he's under investigation for federal pornography charges, and he just won the Democratic primary for the South Carolina Senate seat with 59% of the vote. He's Alvin Greene.

He has no website, he held no campaign events, and despite being unemployed mysteriously ponied up the $10k required for a filing fee to run. His interviews with the press after this startling upset have been terrificly bad.

James Clyburn (D-SC) for the House has gone as far as to call him a Republican plant (South Carolina has open primaries), and has demanded an investigation by the U.S. attorney and the FEC.

God bless America . . .

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Land of the Mostly Free

Some interesting charts from the Center for Economic and Policy Research on the incarceration rate in the US compared to other countries:

And lest you think that perhaps we imprison so many people out of necessity, the following chart should shock you:

Sure, we're killing and stealing less, but little things like that won't stop the government from finding reasons to lock people up.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

On-Duty Officers Have Expectation of Privacy When They Pull You Over . . .

. . . but you don't. At least, that's the theory being proposed by Maryland officials. And that expectation of privacy is the difference between a legal videotape that embarrasses the police and a 5-year felony charge for illegal surveillance.

While Anthony Graber was videotaping (via helmet cam) his reckless motorcycle stunt driving, a man exits a vehicle, pulls out a gun, and rushes at him. As it turns out, that man was a plain-clothes police officer, though it takes him a while to identify himself.

If you think it seems like a bit of an overreaction to pull a gun during a traffic stop, so did Anthony. He posted his helmet-cam video to YouTube. In a normal world, perhaps the police would have used this as a teaching moment to instruct their officers in how not to make a traffic stop. In bizarro-world Maryland, however what the police do is raid your house at 6:45 in the morning, turn it upside down, and arrest you for felony eavesdropping.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Supreme Court Says Government Can Hold Prisoners Indefinitely After Sentence is Completed

NY Times Link

Of course, right now it only applies to "sexually dangerous" people, because presumably that's the hardest group of offenses for people to argue against (won't somebody think of the children??), but I think we can all see that if it can arbitrarily apply to one kind of crime, it can and will eventually be extended to others.

Also note that the case in question involved a man convicted not for sexually abusing anyone, but for receiving child pornography. Surely, if there's one crime that justifies giving the federal government the power to detain citizens indefinitely even after they have served their time, a person watching illegal videos is it.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Economist Rap

Well done, sirs. Well done.

The quotes by Keynes and Hayek at the end are truly excellent:

"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." - John Maynard Keynes
"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." - F.A. Hayek

Thursday, April 29, 2010

GM Declares Success, Pays Back Government Loan With Government Money

I have seen some gloating in the previous week by people who believe GM's "early" loan payback is proof that government bailouts work, and that concerns from enraged citizens who are being taxed to bankroll GM's ineptitude are unfounded. It's time to set the record straight on this point.

As noted in the article, the government bailed out GM to the tune of $49.5 billion. However, of that amount, only $6.7 billion was a pure loan (the rest was the government buying equity stake in the company). When GM says it paid back its loan, it is only talking about the $6.7 billion, not the full amount.

"But wait!" I hear you say, "GM is still posting losses! How did they get the cash to pay back even the $6.7 billion loan?" That's a good question, and it has an easy answer: They took the cash from their government-created escrow account. In other words, they used government money to pay back their government loan. Hardly a ringing success story, though you won't see it mentioned in all the TV spots and political campaigning.

(Furthermore, if Shikha Dalmia's predictions are correct, they may have only done this to be in a better position to secure even more government money.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Legalized Theft: And You Thought Taxes Were Bad

What rights do you have to your property, and what do the police need to legally take that property from you? Do you think you have the right to be convicted of a crime first? Do you think that you should at least be charged with a crime first?

The answer to those questions may surprise you. In fact, the police need neither a conviction nor even a criminal charge to seize your property. The name of the game is "civil asset forfeiture", and police across the nation are waking up to the fact that it's a lucrative business. It starts out simply enough: Laws are passed that allow police to confiscate property they suspect was acquired as the gains of unlawful activity. For example, if you deal drugs and pay for a sweet new ride with the proceeds from your drug selling, the police can confiscate the car. Most people never see the twisted side of these laws, a side that enables police officers to take the property of law-abiding citizens without anything approaching the kind of evidence that would be permissible in a criminal court case.

Many of these cases require nothing but a showing of "probable cause", the police are allowed to use hearsay as evidence, and the accused has no recourse but to attempt to prove his innocence (and here you thought that you were innocent until proven guilty). Even if you win, the state is likely to keep a portion of the forfeited property as a fee or demand a fee to return your property to you, not to mention that you will be out quite a bit of cash for court costs that the state has no obligation to repay. Add to this the fact that the police are usually the recipients of these forfeited assets, and you have a situation in which the police have a perverse incentive not to confiscate just the proceeds of illegal activity, but instead everything they can get their hands on.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Coming California Meltdown

Oh, California, how I love thee. Every time I think about the incompetence of all the innumerable and unaccountable layers of government above me, I can at least take solace in one simple fact: It could be worse. I could live in California.

If anyone has been paying attention lately, California is in big trouble. They are basically bankrupt, but without the legal means to declare bankruptcy. One of the glaring missteps in California's long list of financial mismanagements has been its capitulation to the outrageous demands of the public employee unions, which are now crippling the state.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Crippled Boy Told to Remove Leg Braces At Airport Metal Detector

I think the story speaks for itself:

The boy is developmentally delayed, one of the effects of being born 16 weeks prematurely. His ankles are malformed and his legs have low muscle tone. In March he was just starting to walk.

Mid-morning on March 19, his parents wheeled his stroller to the TSA security point, a couple of hours before their Southwest Airlines flight was to depart.

The boy's father broke down the stroller and put it on the conveyor belt as Leona Thomas walked Ryan through the metal detector.

The alarm went off.

The screener told them to take off the boy's braces.

The Thomases were dumbfounded. "I told them he can't walk without them on his own," Bob Thomas said.

"He said, 'He'll need to take them off.' "

Ryan's mother offered to walk him through the detector after they removed the braces, which are custom-made of metal and hardened plastic.

No, the screener replied. The boy had to walk on his own.

That's the TSA for you: Protecting us from the 4 year-old crippled terrorist children of active police officers everywhere.

By then, Bob Thomas was furious. He demanded to see a supervisor. The supervisor asked what was wrong.

"I told him, 'This is overkill. He's 4 years old. I don't think he's a terrorist.' "

The supervisor replied, "You know why we're doing this," Thomas said.

Feel safe yet?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Federal Court Says Tasering of Pregnant Woman Was Justified

The story goes like this: A woman is pulled over for doing 32 MPH in a school zone. She contends that it was the car in front of her that was speeding, and therefore she refuses to sign the ticket (being under the incorrect impression that it would be tantamount to admitting guilt).

Now, as the police officer on the scene, you have two options. You can (A) give her the ticket anyway and send her on her way (it is not required that the driver sign the ticket) or (B) attempt to arrest her and tase her when she refuses to get out of the car. The police opted for second strategy, naturally, and now the court has sided with the officers, saying that the tasing was justified as a response to her resisting arrest. The problem is, as the dissenting judge notes, that failure to sign a traffic ticket is not an offense you can be arrested for, and you can't be charged with resisting arrest if the arrest itself is unlawful.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Health Care "Reform" Passes: Will it Reform Anything?

If the major goals of this bill were to allow coverage for all citizens, and simultaneously reduce the price of that coverage, my prediction is that this bill will fail spectacularly on both counts, and indeed could make things considerably worse than they are now. There are two key parts of the bill that turn the current system on its head:

The first part requires insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions. This means, for example, that someone who has smoked two packs a day for thirty years cannot be denied health insurance for his newly discovered lung cancer, even if he has never paid a dime into the insurance system previously. This is obviously very bad for insurance companies, since the incentive to buy insurance before a major health crisis hits is effectively removed. With everybody signing up to take money out of the system, but no one signing up to put money in, insurance companies would be unable to operate.

To attempt to fix this problem, the bill introduces a new "individual mandate" that requires all citizens to buy health insurance or face a fine (to be filed with your tax return each year). This fine starts at 1% of your income, or $90, whichever is higher. By 2016, the fine will be 2.5% of your income, or $695, whichever is higher. The goal, of course, is to force healthy people into paying into the system so their insurance premiums can subsidize the sick people taking money out of the system.

There is a huge practical problem with this plan (not including any philosophical, moral, or constitutional objections, which abound as well).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Corporatist Threats: Real and Imagined

The threat of corporatism (defined here as a state of politics where corporations are pulling the strings of government) is a ongoing threat to most people, including free-market adherents such as myself. But many times, it seems that some fiercely discussed threats are simply imagined, while real threats slip beneath the radar. In this post, I'd like to highlight what I feel is an example of each category, the recent Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, and New York's eminent domain landgrab.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Minority Report: Not a Documentary

Someone should tell the Medford police department before they take anyone else into custody for pre-crime.

Story here.

To sum up an already short story, an ODOT worker was placed on administrative leave for being "disgruntled".  While on leave he purchased several guns, which raised a red flag with the police.  The next logical step?  Obviously, send a SWAT team to surround his house, evacuate the neighborhood, "negotiate" with him to get him outside, take him into custody for a mental evaluation, and confiscate his guns for "safekeeping".  The charges?  Well, there aren't any.  (Did you think the police needed something like charges to storm your house with a SWAT team, confiscate your property and take you away? What an archaic notion . . . )

It will be interesting to see if he ever gets his guns back, or if the police keep them "safe" for him on a more permanent basis.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Things Nancy Pelosi Has Taught Me About Government

1. Politicians need the "courage" to pass laws over the objections of the American people they claim to serve. (Link)
2. Politicians need to pass laws first so we can examine them later to make sure they make sense. (Link)
3. Bipartisan support doesn't mean getting votes from the other party. (Link)

Oddly enough, I don't remember any of those lessons from my federal government class.  Maybe I was sick that day . . .

Thursday, March 4, 2010

SWAT Teams: Non-Proportional Response

This one requires some back story (story here, and it's a disturbing read, though I suggest you do so).  The short version is below:

In 2008, a drug dog at the post office sniffed out some marijuana in a box addressed to the residence of one Cheye Calvo.  The police delivered the box to the doorstep, then waited until Cheye, coming back from walking his two dogs, found the package and brought it into the house.  A SWAT team followed after him, kicking in his front door, shooting his two black labs dead (one as it ran away), and leaving him and his wife handcuffed on the floor for hours while they trashed his house looking for illegal substances.  After destroying his home and killing his pets, the police left with one piece of evidence:  the very box of marijuana they had placed on his doorstep in the first place.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

9th Circuit Court: 4th Amendment is Just A Suggestion

The 9th circuit court (not especially known for exercising good judgement in the past) has recently decided that the police can conduct a search of a person's home without any justification at all. The majority decision can be found here.  An excerpt:
"The officers continued to tell Lemus to come out, but Lemus instead started to walk into the apartment. The officers were there in an instant, taking hold of Lemus and handcuffing him before he could fully enter the doorway and retreat into his living room.

Detective Longoria thought he’d better check to make sure no one was hiding out in the apartment. He sent Gerardo and Orozco in. They scanned the living room, and didn’t see anyone. Just a couch and a TV. Checked the bedroom and bathroom too. Negative. Lemus was alone.

Diaz, in the living room, got Detective Longoria’s attention. Wasn’t there something sticking out from the couch? Detective Longoria thought it looked like the butt of a weapon. Since Lemus was a felon, having a gun would be a crime. Detective Longoria lifted the couch cushion to make sure, and confirmed that it was a semi-automatic handgun. It was later determined to be a Sturm and Ruger, 9 millimeter.

Detective Longoria let the cushion fall. He thought he should get a search warrant before touching the gun—he didn’t want to lose the chance to seize it. He left the officers at the scene to keep things secure, and headed back to the station. The warrant was issued, and the Ruger was seized."

So the police, by their own account, arrested this man outside his house, searched his house without a warrant, probable cause, or exigent circumstances, found incriminating evidence against him, and only then pursued a warrant so they could come back and claim what they had found.  As the dissenting judge in the case notes (dissenting opinion here), this is in clear contradiction to the purpose of the 4th amendment. 

The Beginning

This is my first attempt at something of this nature.  Mostly, I just want a place to collect and record my thoughts on current political events, and given how fast-paced news comes and goes in this area, a blog seemed to be the most practical method.

If you're wondering about the name, it comes from a recent conversation I had (on a topic that I will no doubt repost here shortly).  One respondent explained that he didn't find anything wrong with situations in which law enforcement officers perform illegal searches of a person's home, so long as they eventually get the criminals they were after.  Another poster fired back with the gem "So you want to play Calvinball?  In the courtroom?" (In case you are not familiar with the brilliant work of the Bill Watterson, I direct your attention here.)

I found this analogy so perfect that I decided to appropriate it for my own use.  In a time when all three branches of our government seem intent on sacrificing boundary for expediency, we are all truly at the mercy of courtroom Calvinball.