Currently viewing the tag: "law and order"

DEA_badge_CSo, the government is shut down…and by shut down, they mean to hell with national parks, WWII memorials and the veterans who want to visit them, and kids with cancer, but dammit, 87 percent of the Drug Enforcement Administration counts as essential!

Turns out there’s a name for this blatantly political effort to make government feel essential — it’s called “Washington Monument Syndrome.” Makes sense. This game is not new. And liberals are the ones who always fall for it the hardest. They tend to respond to libertarian suggestions of even light trimming with “BUT THE PARKS AND THE ROADS AND THE DEPARTMENT OF HUGS FOR POOR CHILDREN WILL GO FIRST.”  No matter how radical you are, even a full-on anarchist knows we’re not going from choking on the corpulence of this government to frolicking in the rainbow and puppydog-topia of pure voluntaryism in one day. And before we get to those cancer kids, there’s a whole lot of stuff to get rid of.

With that in mind, please enjoy my latest VICE piece and just revel in the wretchedness of my number one pick for non-essential, fired forever, burn down their building and laugh at them agency. (They’re allowed to leave the building first, however. Because I’m nicer than they are.)

If last month’s revelation that the the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been keeping a database of phone logs since 1986 wasn’t bad enough, here’s further proof of the intrusiveness of the agency’s tactics: a lawsuit being fought between the DEA, Oregon, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hinges on the fact that the drug warriors believe they should have easy access to the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database and have been acting on that belief, even though it contradicts state law. In plain English, the DEA says that if your medical records are shared with a pharmacy—something that happens routinely thanks to the PDMP—you lose the right to assume that that information is private, even if lawmakers in your state disagree with law enforcement.

The basis for the DEA’s legal argument is the third-party doctrine, the precedent the government leans on if it wants to look into your credit card charges, your utilities bills, your emails, or anything else that you have shared with someone else. The Fourth Amendment protects you against “unreasonable search and seizure,” but increasingly, in an era where the vast majority of our private communications go through a third party, law enforcement is expanding the definition of what a “reasonable” search is.

The rest over here.

 

In spring 2012, Robert and Adlynn Harte of Leawood Kansas were subjected to a SWAT-style drug raid after they bought materials for their hydroponic vegetable garden, and eight months later a police search through their trash lead to the discovery of what a field test revealed to be marijuana. Except that it wasn’t. It was probably tea. A lab test done after the raid showed that the substance was definitely not weed. Cops: fighting the drug war, unable to identity drugs.

A timeline from The Kansas City Star has more details, including the obligatory scaring children bit:

•  The Harte house was searched April 20, 2012, a date that has been known as a long-celebrated marijuana holiday. Area law enforcement officers were conducting several searches as part of a sting in a response to pot smokers’ blatant flaunting of the law.

Ten search warrants were served that day, and the Hartes’ home was one.

When the tactical-dressed deputies arrived at the home in the 10300 block of Wenonga Lane, Robert Harte was forced to lie shirtless on the foyer while a deputy with an assault rifle stood over him, according to the Harte’s lawsuit. The children, a 7-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy, reportedly came out of their bedrooms terrified, the teenager with his hands in the air.

•  But a lab test done 10 days after the raid and again four months later in August found that the leafy material was not marijuana.

“It does not look anything like marijuana leaves or stems,” a lab report said. [Incredulous emphases added

Some more takeaways:

1) Holy shit, look what good local news reporting can do! Props, 41 Action News. Compare and contrast with these lapdog reporters who think SWAT is just nifty as long as they get to tag along.

2) Props to the father for saying “some goon standing over me with an assault rifle” and for the family for suing.

3) Officials can’t even enforce their awful laws “properly.” The restriction on a pretty damn harmless substance is evil enough — this kind of incompetence takes it to a whole ‘nother level. Who do you trust, you folks who trust government and law enforcement? Which imaginary individuals are you picturing, who will take this much power — the power to kick down your door, point guns at your kids, and trash your house — and use it for good? Where’s the good in frightening a family and trashing their home? And if it had been weed, and the parents had been hauled off to jail, that would have been more harmful still.

At this point, I fee like i’m just addressing David Frum and Eric Holder when I speak to imaginary drug warriors. And, I suppose, Ann Coulter. A lot of people are wising up, but in the mean time this shit keeps happening. And even when it stops, people will still be rotting away in jail — casualties of the dark age when people thought this kind of criminal behavior was okay, as long as the perpetrators had the right uniforms and the right piece of paper.

[H/T: Anthony Gregory]

The undercover cop doesn’t even show his badge to rapper Xstrav, he just demands the Arizona tea, so he can make sure it’s non-alcoholic. The real reason Xstrav gets cuffed, I’d say, is he was guilty of “contempt of cop” and “failure to be sufficiently cowed.”

  • Gawker has more on the case, including links to a second video that confirms the incident is not a hoax or a weird tea promo. It seems Xstrav’s charges are Misdemeanor Second Degree Trespass and Misdemeanor Resisting Public Officer.
  • Long Mother Jones piece on the effects of deinstitutionalization. There a few nods to Szasz-style civil liberties concerns, but not many. Worth reading, though.
  • Interview with a photographer who sneaks into abandoned mental institutions. My camera finger itches.
  • The Weaver family door as historical artifact. It must be very strange indeed to be Elisheba Weaver.
  • VICE piece on the 20 years since Waco gathering at Mt. Carmel. 
  • This National Review Online piece doesn’t say much new about Alex Jones, but it is said well. Basically, the man is a wacky preacher and should probably be treated as such.
  • This 2011 Rolling Stone piece on Alex Jones is very good, and delves deeper into how the weirdness came to be.
  • When you start reading about Alex Jones, you start Googling “Alex Jones prediction 9/11” and “Pentagon surveillance video” and then it’s three hours later and you’re so tired you have a headache.
  • Talking Points Memo reports that the man who recklessly shot at the White House in 2011 so at least in part because of Obama’s stance on marijuana laws. I have no comment that won’t get me placed on a list somewhere.
  • Rand Paul toasts Henry David Thoreau , thereby making it must harder for me to stay angry at the curly-mopped Senator.
  • The age of reason lead to the Holocaust, apparently. 
  • Artist recreates tragedies and news moments with children — many of them work (Jonestown, 9/11), some of them really do not (JonBenet Ramsey is very disturbing, and doesn’t seem logical thematically anyway).
  • Day 4 of the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure in DC — that’s UFO talk, don’t ya know.
  • Old Crow Medicine Show on Conan

Sen. Rand Paul’s speech at the historically black college Howard University earlier in the week provoked liberal scorn from some, including the frustrating-cause-he-almost-knows-better MSNBC stable Chris Hayes. The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf wrote a blog post in response to Hayes and company’s easy critique of Paul as the stammering, Southern, pandering white Republican who doesn’t care about the black community and it contains some deliciously damning bits.

To much of the left, Republicans are by default Mitt Romney asking a group of black kids “who let the dogs out?” They’re racist and when they try not be, they’re an out of touch joke, not interested in changing any of society’s racist institutions. This is too-often a fair critique of the right, to be sure. But it also give the left, at least the Democrat left, an absurd amount of completely undeserved credit, and neglects to damn them for their equal sins in this arena.

Friederdorf’s subhed alone — “What’s most racially “cringe-worthy,” Rand Paul’s speech at Howard, Stop and Frisk, or indefinite detention?” — sums it all up brilliantly. Read the whole thing here, but read the takeaway below.

(Friedersdorf is rapidly joining the ranks of journalists that I am mad about not being.)

[Rand] Paul believes minorities are disproportionately affected by failing schools, draconian sentences for non-violent crimes, and drug laws. He believes reforming those policy areas is required for racial progress, and also worth doing because people of all races would benefit. More broadly, he believes that protecting civil liberties is particularly crucial to protecting minority rights. Agree or disagree with his policy stances. But don’t say, as Hayes does, that he believes achieving racial progress is just a matter of having the right conversations.

That is verifiably false.

The irony is that Hayes’ segment and most coverage of race in the establishment media treats conversation about race — it’s earnestness, tone, and sophistication — as a proxy far more important than hard fought policy changes. Awkward moments during a speech at Howard can get you labeled as hilariously backward about race in America in analysis that totally ignores your policy efforts.

Whereas Mayor Bloomberg, who has presided over Stop and Frisk and spying on innocent Muslim Americans, would never be labeled “worse than Braid Paisley on civil rights.” And Barack Obama, who gave a superb speech about race in America, is judged, by virtue of his rhetorical sophistication, to be the epitome of enlightenment on the subject. Hayes is truly a vital voice, in part because (unlike many others on MSNBC) he consistently and admirably criticizes the Obama Administration for its transgressions against civil liberties. Insofar as there’s any chance of stopping indefensible drone strikes or inane drug policies, it’s because of people like Hayes, and I really can’t overstate how much I appreciate that about his work. Yet he would not do a mocking, glib segment that portrayed Obama’s outreach to blacks and Muslims as laughable and “cringe-inducing,” no matter how badly Obama’s policies transgressed against justice. That’s because in America we cringe at awkward moments more than indefinite detention. Paul’s rhetoric on race is thought to be more “unsophisticated” than Stop and Frisk.

Even people who criticize establishment abominations can’t quite bring themselves to mock and ridicule them.

Ridicule is for folks outside the tribe.

The rest of the Paul-mocking media wouldn’t criticize a Bloomberg or Obama on civil rights or racial policy at all, not because Bloomberg and Obama have more enlightened racial policies — they’re presiding over the ugliest of what we’ve got at the local and national levels — but because Bloomberg and Obama know how to talk about race in the way it is done at liberal arts colleges. They’d be far better than Paul at being sensitivity trainers or diversity outreach coordinators.

  • Barack Obama sadObama administration no longer even pretending to be opposed to indefinite detainment, or Gitmo in general. 
  • The New York Times’ John Tierney on why the crime rate in New York City has declined so much — soft on police, but a very good and useful read. I intend to study this further — perhaps while wearing my minarchist hat. I guess I would rather have more police and fewer prisons as well, but I doubt it’s that simple…
  • Two phenomenal ’60s collections of Life photos: a piece of 1969’s drug war, and  a look at Appalachia in 1964.
  • SWAT team silliness and video game hysteria and Sweden!
  • Wonkette is at least as tedious as Gawker whenever the word “libertarian” comes up.
  • Everyone panic!
  • North Korea continues to make everyone want to throw up — even if every single story that appears isn’t true.
  • Colorado prison population declines.  Yay. [Via: John Payne]
  • School choice week, bitches. I say bitches, because this link goes to The Hill.
  • I am a feminist asshole about high heels, I freely admit it. But have you seen The Towering Inferno or other disaster movies? Even with Steve McQueen and Paul Newman saving the day, those are not shoes to flee in. And also, people who lazily lean on the nature of nature vs. nature, remember when men wore high heels?
  • Girls apparently continues the glorious tradition of mocking magazine maestra Jane Pratt. 1) Daria will forever do it — and everything — better because 2) Girls is just pretty okay. But my God, the few times I have visited xojane.com — yeah it deserves to be satirized.

For reasons I never quite figured out, I ended up on the Morality in Media email list. Today they sent me a smug, seemingly self-written and self-quoted press release by Dawn Hawkins, their head busy-body. The good news, since potential anti-smut crusader Mitt Romney lost the presidency and all? Well, a 61-year-old pornographer named Ira Isaacs was just sentenced to 48 months in prison, plus three years of “supervised release” and a $10,000 fine. Why? Well, prosecutors know obscenity when they see it. And they must know art when they see it, too. In spite of Isaacs’ pleas that he was making “shock art,” in this third attempt since 2008 to pin charges on him, they finally stuck Isaacs with five federal charges in April.

According to xbiz.com :

In motions prior to sentencing, U.S. prosecutors had attempted to sway the court to enhance Isaacs’ sentencing two levels to seven years and three months by using the theory that “vulnerable victims” were exploited in the commission of federal offenses.

But prosecutors backed off on that plan after [prosecutor Damon] King said in his “tentative view” that the vulnerable victim sentencing adjustment does not apply in the case.

King said that if scat actors consented to performing in the films, then as consenting adults who helped produce obscene materials, they are better characterized as co-participants in the offenses than as victims. The performers at center of the scrapped testimony include Veronica Jett and another former adult performer named April.

The pair of actresses told federal prosecutors that they never would have taken part in several scat films if they had not been high after allegedly being fed drugs by Isaacs at the time of the shoots. Jett attended Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.[…]

The LAPD officer ordered and received through the U.S. mail four videos — “Euro Scat Girls,” “‘My Pony Lover,” “Violet: Dog and Pig Fuckers” and “Hot Girl With Dogs” — that weren’t part of the Isaacs obscenity trial.

King said that because of Isaacs’ post-conviction behavior, he said it was pertinent to sentencing. Diamond, however, asked the court to grant Isaacs full probation.

“I have viewed the videos for this sentencing hearing, and I find them just as obscene as those used in Mr. Isaacs’ conviction,” King said. “He has not accepted his responsibility to the community.”

King further said that he didn’t buy Isaacs’ contention that his operation was based on the vision of art.

“I have totally rejected during the course of the trial that he’s a shock artist,” King said. “He has cloaked himself as a First Amendment defendant. But the fact is that he did it for money. He’s not a defender of the First Amendment. He cheapens the First Amendment.”

Isaacs may be an unrepentant sleaze — he may be less of a charmingly unrepentant sleaze-peddler than good old John Stagliano, who escaped the DOJ’s reach in 2010 — but it’s deeply disturbing that obscenity exist as a category of speech. It’s also troubling and telling that the Department of Justice has continued these pursuits even post-John “cover the boobs of Justice” Ashcroft. Attorney General Eric Holder is not just a lying weasel about guns, drones,  and drugs, he also lets his goons follow their awfully conservative-sounding agenda of hunting down and punishing peddlers of consensual smut.

[Edit: my friend Julia points out that Holder DID at least disband the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force and has been criticized by social cons for not doing “enough” about porn. So he’s not quite as heinous as Ashcroft in this particular area.] 

It’s also really awesome that the LAPD seemingly has nothing better to do with their time than order gross videos from a willing seller, then attempt to bring him to “justice.”

Please note the vague detail that these women claim they wouldn’t have done these films if they hadn’t been “fed drugs.” Might Isaacs be a creep, someone who pressures desperate women? Sure.  Should we shun him at the next libertarian cocktail party? Perhaps.  Are we saying the women didn’t  voluntarily take these non-specific drugs, then voluntarily engage in bestiality?  It’s insanely condescending towards adult females to act like they need to be protected from what is (somewhat arguably) a very bad career and life decision.

And as to the familiar libertarian thought exercise, should bestiality be illegal, well —  there are, logically, ways of engaging in it that are cruel to animals, and ways that are…not so cruel. If women and dogs are the participants, it’s probably moreso the latter. Gross, but so is prison rape. So is prison, period.

The Porn Harms press release notes ends, deeply  satisfied:

“Morality in Media will not rest until the federal laws designed to protect women and children from the porn criminals are fully enforced.”

They may not need the help of a nervous Mormon. Obama’s people are doing just fine.

Isaacs’ attorney says they plan to take their appeal all the way to the 9th Circuit, if possible. Reason’s Jacob Sullum has covered the Ira Isaacs case. Sullum also noted that Isaacs initially faced 25 years in prison. If that’s not obscenity, there’s definitely no such thing.

2012 saw two states legalize (and regulate) recreational marijuana.These victories — this amazing feeling that something is really shifting on the drug war, albeit far too slowly — are heady for the anti-drug war advocate. But they should not make anyone soft on the other horrors of the drug war. Especially those that stem from crackdowns on stronger, more dangerous and controversial drugs, in particular prescription drugs — especially painkillers.

Advocates for Amendment 64 in Colorado did heroic work all last year and they took an unprecedented step towards ending the drug war. I don’t mean to bash anyone who has done better work than most pure libertarians up in their think tank towers have in 70 years, but I confess to cringing a little at the Marijuana Majority‘s  “regulation works” signs [Edit: Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell says he was “proud to hold” those signs, but the Amendment 64 campaign people were the ones who made them.] Good for the getting the moderates on your side, but — does it work? What about painkillers?

Reason‘s Jacob Sullum has done a great job shedding light on those who get caught in the machinery of restrictions on painkillers. So has Huffington Post’s Radley Balko, who noted that fear of prescription drug abuse is not dissimilar to any other drug moral panic. From crack babies to bath salts, the thing about drug panics is that they tend to be overblown and they tend to ignore either the people in jail or the people who actually need the drug.

In fall of 2011, the LA Times breathlessly reported that drug overdoses killed more people than car wrecks (37,485 vs. 36,284) in 2009. Indeed, mixing of depressants is dangerous. Informing people of this is important. (Also, yay, fewer car wrecks!) But the answer to that danger, in state fashion, is to punish people in pain and frighten doctors into violating their oaths to help. Freaking out and demanding that people just do something, dammit, doesn’t hurt. (Nor does reporting that completely ignores the issue of people in pain who are not getting the help they need. As Sullum wrote in 2011:

There is an unavoidable tradeoff here between relieving the suffering of innocents and saving people from their own stupidity, and the morally correct choice should be obvious.

It isn’t.)

The Obama administration suggested that every state have computerized prescription drug monitoring programs. Currently 42 do. This sort of legislating is par for the course for Office of Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske’s faux-benevolent “third way” when it comes to drug policy. That is, we keep the drug war right on going, but don’t use such unseemly (accurate) terms as “war.”

As Reason‘s Mike Riggs has previously reported, Kerlikowske’s “nicer” policies still mean a life can be wrecked by possession of a single unprescribed painkiller, even when that individual escapes jail.

These monitoring programs don’t even appear to do much good in reducing overdoses, either. Though “a 2010 survey found that 73 percent of Kentucky law enforcement officers who used the prescription database called the tool ‘excellent’ for obtaining evidence.”

Pain is not quantifiable, and people build up a tolerance to opiates. So the very legitimate fear of Drug Enforcement Administration eyes on these databases makes doctors more afraid to give pain-relief seekers all that they want. This isn’t fair to doctors, since it forces them to choose between their livelihoods and their oaths to help people.  And it sure as hell isn’t fair to people who are suffering. (Today Riggs blogged this story, the headline: “Moments After Utah Man’s Wife Dies of Cancer, Cops Show Up to Confiscate Her Pain Pills“. It’s as bad as it sounds.)

The paraplegic Richard Paey is well-known case of near-life-ruin thanks to these restrictions. Paey, thankfully spent three years in prison for his “crime” of acquiring enough painkillers, instead of his original sentence of 25 years. But it doesn’t take a lot of pills, sometimes it takes two. @lakeline pointed me towards a story from last week the the death of the pregnant Jamie Lynn Russell. She died in jail after initially seeking help at a hospital due to severe abdominal pain:

Hospital staff reported Jamie wouldn’t cooperate, in too much pain to even lie down, so employees asked a Pauls Valley police officer to assist.

Unfortunately, when police found two prescription pills that didn’t belong to Jamie, police took her to jail for drug possession.

That’s where Jamie sat for less than two hours before being found unresponsive.

Oklahoma City KFOR reports that it was the hospital who released Russell and said she was medically fit to go to jail. Initial reports have already found that the jail staff were not negligent. The hospital staff have more blood on their hands, perhaps, since their purpose is to heal, not to follow every law.

Opiates are more dangerous than marijuana simply because you can overdose on them and die. When you mix them with alcohol you are risking a lot more than the spins. So when arguing for reduced restrictions on opiates, you don’t have the luxury of pointing to marijuana’s zero death toll. But this fight is just as essential as continued fighting for marijuana legalization, even apart from a moral objection to government deciding what substances an adult may ingest.

Fundamentally, when you give the government the power to control drug distribution  even in the kinder-sounding prescription-only way, you will always have stories like the ones above. And many, many more. Prohibition causes pain and suffering — it crushes freedom and it kills — but sometimes so does regulation.

  • The U.S. has already killed 35 people in drone strikes this year.
  • New York City’s vile “Stop and Frisk” policy takes a Constitutional hit. 
  • Dad raised me on “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” (Lew Rockwell weeps) but Glenn Beck relaunching The Blaze as some global libertarian news network? I want this to be good, but I have some huge doubts.
  • By comparing libertarian men to toddlers, David Frum insulted some of the best men I know, as well as a hell of a lot of generally cool dudes. Megan McArdle, being married to a sweet libertarian guy, has some words to say about that.
  • Because. David. Frum. Is. Wrong. About. Everything.
  • Yep. “It may be that some women don’t stamp themselves libertarian because they worry it’ll make them a social outcast or they don’t want to enter a political leaning that can resemble a frat house. But for many of us, the problems are philosophical to begin with. We just don’t agree.”
  • Re totalitarianism and guns: I feel like the truth lies somewhere between Drudge and Moynihan.
  • The age of consent is certainly debatable, but Rush Limbaugh is being his usual asshole self by comparing normalization of gay marriage to the current, supposed normalization of pedophilia. 
  • Alex Jones is bad for libertarianism and I still like him. 
  • Yo hablo espanol un poco…