Currently viewing the tag: "Vice"

Rollerblade_444692_1510740Last fall, VICE published a piece by Brian Aitken, a man who had recently moved to New Jersey, where he narrowly escaped seven years in prison for possession of guns that were legal in his previous home of Colorado but banned in the Garden State. Only after an executive order from Governor Chris Christie commuted his sentence was Aitken set free—if being stuck with a lingering felony charge can be called freedom.

Disagree about gun laws all you like, but New Jersey is pretty nuts about theirs. It’s less about Second Amendment specifics, or ideologies (unless yours involves more people crammed into US prisons), and more about making criminals appear out of thin air. It doesn’t sound so terrible when you read that New Jersey doesn’t recognize Pennsylvania concealed carry permits, for example—unless you happen to have someone passing through and unaware of the nuts and bolts of interstate laws. Last October, a Philadelphia mother of two was pulled over for an unsafe lane change. Shaneen Allen, 27, told the officer that she had a handgun and bullets in her vehicle, and then showed the cop her Pennsylvania concealed carry permit. Bad idea. Now Allen, who had been robbed more than once—which was her motivation for buying the gun in the first place, along with protecting her two kids—is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and faces three years in prison.

Lately, there’s been a great deal of positive push-back against federal drug mandatory minimums, but not much resistance to firearm minimums that punish people for selling drugs and owning a gun—even if it was legal in another jurisdiction, and even if it was never displayed.Guns may be a politically loaded (pardon the God-awful pun) object, but owning one is not the same as committing violence. These kind of laws should be filed away with low-level drug prohibitions as unjust restrictions on consensual activity.

The rest here

A libertarian panel hosted by Lucy Steigerwald, where ranting is encouraged, and smashing the state is mandatory.

-Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag
-Michael Tracey: New York City-based correspondent for VICE.com, contributor to The American Conservative, Reason, The Nation, The Awl; @mtracey
-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino
-Joshua M. Patton: Writer for the internet, www.joshuampatton.com; @joshuampatton
Our cranky, liberty-loving panel discussed the possibility of NSA/spying reform, Michael Tracey’s VICE piece on heroin panic, and the drug war in general, then we had a long, long discussion on libertarianism, feminism, and the horrors of the Buzzfeedification of the media.

gccHere be the latest Bad Cop Blotter. I had a paragraph, then a smaller tangent about the civil liberties doozies that come with involuntary commitments, but VICE editor dubbed it too tangental. Which is fair enough, but is also an important reason why people might fear getting help for a loved one. Police may kill your mentally ill relative, or just take them to prison. Mental health officials may help them, and it may be a good thing, or they may be indefinitely detained and drugged for acting weird. There’s no good solution here that I can see.

After any mass killing comes the wave of stories that ask why no one saw the tragedy coming. Those who knew Elliot Rodger—who killed six people on May 23 in Santa Barbara, California—were likely aware he was disturbed. The 22-year-old had been under psychiatric care since the age of eight, according to the New York Times; Rodger suffered from anxiety, depression, and likely high-functioning autism, and he became progressively more and more isolated as he went through adolescence.

From what I’ve read, his parents tried to help him as best they could: His mother even called the cops when she found his distressing YouTube videos. On April 30, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies questioned Rodger—who managed to talk them out of searching his apartment—but they apparently never actually watched the videos before deciding he wasn’t a threat to anyone else, nor did they check the relevant databases to see if he was a gun owner. It’s easy to criticize the authorities for not divining that this reclusive loner was more violent than other reclusive loners, or to tut-tut at Rodger’s parents for not persuading the police to respond more aggressively, but doing so ignores the serious consequences of calling the cops on a mentally ill relative, and how limited law enforcement’s responses are.

The rest here

Oh hey, turns out when I am feeling unwell, we have a great episode of Politics for People Who Hate Politics that is also way too long. Nevertheless, we had a good talk, even a little debate, and it’s worth a watch. Guest star is the dreamy hunk Jayel Aheram, with whom I have joyfully adventured in LA and DC.

A libertarian panel hosted by Lucy Steigerwald, where ranting is encouraged, and smashing the state is mandatory.

-Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag

-Jayel Aheram: Writer, antiwar and libertarian activist, Marine and Iraq war veteran, kick-ass photographer; @aheram 

-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino

-Michelle Montalvo: Perpetual intern, sci-fi enthusiast; @michelle7291

-Cory Massimino: Student, writer for DL Magazine, Students for Liberty Blog, Center for a Stateless Society; @CoryMassimino

Our cranky, liberty-loving panel discussed gun control, the drug war, (debated!) this VICE column about Mendocino County’s marijuana policy, sex offender registries, and spent way, way too much time talking about X-Men.

upside_down_us_flagA Blair County, Pennsylvania, resident named Joshua Brubaker got into some trouble last weekafter he hung an American flag upside down and painted “AIM” on it. Brubaker, who is part American Indian, was trying to make a statement after learning that the site of the infamous 1890 Wounded Knee massacre—and a 1973 conflict between the American Indian Movement and the FBI—was going up for sale. A graffitied flag is the kind of routine artistic protest often made by 19-year-olds who have just heard of Noam Chomsky, but it really pissed off L.J. Berg, an assistant chief with the Allegheny Township police. Berg—who says a woman who was in the military was offended by it as well—took it upon himself to take the icon down and charge Brubaker with desecration and insults to the American flag.

According to Flag Code, an upside-down flag is a distress signal, and some protesters have, like Brubaker, used it as a symbol for metaphorical or political distress. In 2012, a West Virginia McDonald’s flew an upside-down American flag at half-mast either in protest of Obama’s reelection, or, as the franchise owner later said, because a cable broke. Also that year a veteran in Spokane, Washington, had his upside-down flag stolen from his yard about two weeks after he first put it up to protest “a lot of political things.”

Malcontents from across the political spectrum turn flags upside-down, but there are plenty of people who wish all these damn hippies would get locked up or whatever—as headlines like“Desecration or Free Speech?” reflect. In fact, the right to burn or deface the stars and stripes was only officially affirmed 25 years ago, in the Supreme Court case Texas vs. Johnson. That dealt with a communist named Gregory Johnson, who in 1984 burned an American flag outside the Republican National Convention in Texas and was subsequently arrested for vandalizing a respected object. He was sentenced to a year in prison under the 1968 Federal Flag Desecration Law, but in 1989 his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, which held that burning the flag was “symbolic” and protected free speech. Part of the court’s reasoning was that since burning a flag is a proper way to “retire” it, the prosecution of Johnson was based on his political motivations, not the actual action of burning, and you can’t arrest people for their beliefs in the US.

Subsequent federal laws to protect the flag have been either overturned or gotten stuck in a legislative quagmire, usually in the House. State restrictions on burning or defacing the flag have been overturned since as unconstitutional, but not without a fight—in Missouri, a judge overturned one such law in 2012 after a man successfully sued after his arrest for burning and tearing a flag in 2009, but that fight has continued in other courts. Freedom of speech aside, many Americans still think flag burning should be illegal—a 2006 Gallup poll found that a majority of respondents favored a Constitutional amendment that would allow legislatures to ban flag burning. (Fortunately, America is not ruled by opinion polls yet.)

But hold on—doesn’t all that mean the cops were clearly in the wrong when they arrested Brubaker? Not necessarily. He’s been charged with a third-degree misdemeanor under a 2010 Pennsylvania law that prohibits various desecrations of the flag that makes exceptions for “patriotic or political demonstration.” The legal director of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Uniontold the media that Brubaker’s flag absolutely qualifies as political, and thereby protected, speech. The cops can argue that Brubaker’s actions aren’t political and attempt to make the charges stick—they’d just be very, very wrong. As Brubaker said, “If I don’t have a right to fly that flag upside down, which means a sign of distress, which this country is in so much distress right now, then what’s the point of having it?”

The rest of this week’s bad cops over here

  • Any excuse to post this again -- any.Here is my most recent VICE Bad Cop Blotter, in which I rant about the decriminalization of childhood.
  • Here is my most recent Rare piece, which is about the death penalty. Compare and contrast with my Antiwar piece on the same topic, and please note the same breed of moronic, I didn’t read it but I am angry anyway commenters ([whisper] I miss you Hit and Run. Except Tony [tears]).
  • My latest Antiwar piece was about the fight for journalism drones, and in it I fully admit my urge to Luddite scream when I think about domestic drones. So something for the techies AND the Amish! (Okay, not really.)
  • P.S. Antiwar is doing another fund drive, so if you want to donate to a lovely site that lets me write just about whatever I like, and also has been consistently antiwar since the days of Clinton, please consider doing so. 
  • Another thing you could do — if you are anywhere near Princeton, New Jersey — is go see Bill Steigerwald (dad, occasional Stag Blog contributor) and his friend Ethan Casey, also an author and traveler, go talk about their books on Thursday at the Princeton Library. Go see them at 7 pm, May 15. 
  • (I’ll be busy seeing Willie Watson on that date, though. Because, obviously.)
  • And hey, since there’s a proper hook and everything, maybe go buy dad’s Dogging Steinbeck book, which is full of ruminations on truth, America, literature, politics, and basically everything interesting in the whole wide world.
  • Ethan Casey also has books about his travels in Pakistan, Haiti, and America.
  • I’ve recently started almost-hate-reading the blog Saving Country Music — something about its style is so self-aggrandizing, hipster-country, that it drives me nuts. Also, the dude was down on Old Crow Medicine Show’s authenticity, which is something I cannot abide if you’re going to do it half-assed like that. Nevertheless, the dude did do a fine review of the new Willie Watson album. (And yet I still argued in the comments at 2 am.)
  • Tech Dirt on the FOIA-ed emails that reveal the full scope of the pathetic, creepy person that is Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. Background on the insanity here and here.
  • Denis Lawson, AKA Wedge Antilles, the Rebel pilot who defies the red shirt curse (wrong Star, I know) will not be in the new trilogy because he’s more into being a cool, under the radar Scottish dude. Or something. I shed a conflicted tear, because I hate J.J. Abrams as a director, I hate every Star Wars after Jedi, and I am therefore not even sure I want the original trio in a new movie. But at the same time, George Lucas has been so terrible for so long that there’s almost a “fuck it, I don’t care, let’s see what these sequels are like” feeling that is appearing at last. (Or — OR — I still have a lingering belief that the addition of Harrison Ford will somehow make it all okay again.)
  • Via Jesse Walker, a beautiful demonstration of the power of correlation, not causation. 
  • The DOJ might be secretly pushing banks to shut down the accounts of porn stars and other disreputable folk. Very creepy articles that makes one want to bury gold in the backyard.
  • Jezebel commenters delight in story of homeschool girl kicked out of her prom because the dads wouldn’t stop leering at her. This is offered up as reason that “the homschooling community” is untrustworthy” and why you shouldn’t be allowed to homeschool without a teacher’s certificate. Okay then. In my day, homeschool prom was just a special place where rap songs are edited to a hilarious extent and people play Christian rock versions of “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees. In a world, awkward and terrible, but not this gross. I think there was some praying as well, but I tuned that out.
  • The confusing and racist origin of the ice cream truck song.
  • High heels are totally dumb and unfeminist (yeah, I said it, eat it third wavers). But Collectors Weekly has a fascinating look at their origins, as well as that of the corset, which is not great for you, but is not quite the iron maiden we’ve been lead to believe.
  • People are still being suspended for not saying or standing for the Pledge? Conservatives, let this shit go. Even ignoring the “under God” kerfuffle, this is a piece of socialist propaganda written by the cousin of the writer of the worst fucking Utopian novel in the universe. You know it’s creepy for children to be saying loyalty oaths in public schools, you know it’s unamerican. Let. It. Go.

Done, here’s the video of the day:

Can’t stop listening to this song. Can’t.

Oh, and bonus new Old Crow Medicine Show (sorry, Willie) song! Like “Wagon Wheel” it is actually a finished version of an old Bob Dylan sketch.

I look forward to Darius Rucker’s cover come 2023.

policeCheck out the most recent Bad Cop Blotter:

On Friday, the district attorney’s office in Humboldt County, Nevada, agreed to return the $50,000 that had been seized from Tan Nguyen during a traffic stop on September 23, 2013. Nguyen had never been charged with a crime, much less convicted of anything—Humboldt County sheriff’s deputy Lee Dove pulled him over for allegedly going three miles over the speed limit, then searched his car without permission (though the cops claim consent was given) and found what Nguyen said was gambling winnings. The 37-year-old California resident’s luck clearly ran out when he was stopped by Dove, however, and according to his lawsuit, Nguyen was given a choice—give up his money or try to get home without his vehicle.

This wasn’t an isolated incident or a mistake on behalf of the cops. In a photo that the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department put on Facebook (and has since deleted), Dove posed proudly with a police dog and the $50,000 he had seized. The officer, who is also accused of taking $13,800 and a handgun from another driver in a similarly flimsy traffic-stop scenario, is presumably feeling less puffed-up now. On Friday, the local district attorney’s office promised that that driver, Nguyen, and another person who had $2,400 taken, would get their cash back, and that forfeiture policy would be reevaluated.

Is it good that the DA is checking on these stories? Sure. Are these Nevada horror stories particularly surprising? Not if you know the bizarre state of asset-forfeiture laws.

The rest here

From the latest Bad Cop Blotter:

21-jump-street-posterOn December 11, 2012, 17-year-old Jesse Snodgrass and a few of his fellow students were sitting in their classes in Chaparral High School in Riverside County, California, when they were arrested by armed cops. That raid, dubbed “Operation Glasshouse,” also extended to other schools in the district. At the end of that day, police had arrested 22 students and seized undisclosed amounts of weed, cocaine, pills, heroin, and LSD. The police considered it a great success. Snodgrass’s parents were horrified.

The March 14 issue of Rolling Stone has a detailed, disturbing account of how Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Zipperstein went undercover at Chaparral and subsequently pretended to befriend Snodgrass (who suffers from autism, bipolar disorder, Tourette’s, and anxiety) and insisted he sell him $20 of weed on two occasions. It only took the 22-year-old cop 60 text messages and weeks of pestering to bend the vulnerable and largely friendless teenager to his will, but when Zipperstein failed to convince Snodgrass to sell him some of his anti-anxiety medication, the deputy stopped pretending to be his friend.

Snodgrass’s parents weren’t informed of his December 11 arrest until the school mentioned he wasn’t there. He spent three days in juvenile lockup, where it had to be explained to him what was going on. Once a judge realized Snodgrass’s health issues, the teen got off with 20 hours of community service and a commitment to stay out of further trouble for six months. But he became withdrawn, blank, and depressed after his arrest and confinement, and Chaparral expelled him. The Temecula Valley Unified School District spent six days at an appeal hearing in February 2013 trying to make sure Jesse stayed gone. An actual human with the actual title of director of Child Welfare and Attendance, Michael Hubbard (one of the few people in the school administration who had known about Operation Glasshouse before the arrests) testified that Jesse knew right from wrong. Hubbard added that he didn’t think the stings were “coercion or entrapment for any of the kids.” That is, an undercover cop begging an autistic teen (who hadn’t ever sold weed before) for drugs was acceptable activity in a high school.

You can read the rest here