February 27, 2013

This "sequester" thing is sounding better and better…

Eric Holder and Prison Guard Unions Agree: Sequestration Would Do Too Much Harm to the Prison Industrial Complex.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:49 PM


This video montage of people refusing to cooperate with DHS "requests" at non-border checkpoints has been popping up hither and yon lately:

The message is, I gather: that you're not actually obligated to obey the agents' directives and if you refuse to follow the them they have no choice but to wave you through; and that this is because they have no legal authority to detain you or force you to answer their questions, routine and silly though they may be. So the way to interpret "I need you to pull over into the secondary checkpoint area and get out of your car" is merely as an expression of a personal desire that is meant to sound like a lawful order, and an acceptable response to it is "no thanks, I'll just be on my way." And they have to let you go.

Is this true? Or is it just a case of these people in these particular instances being so difficult that that the agents wave them through to get them out of their hair? If the agents really wanted to, could they legally force these people into submission? (As in, like, "all right all right, I am an American citizen okay? Stop tasing me…") The cases depicted seem to indicate they can't, or don't, and it sure seems like they would if they could.

If it is true, the point of the checkpoint program, in essence, is expressly to attempt to trick people into "voluntarily" surrendering their rights. Actual law enforcement does that, too, of course, routinely, and with more serious potential consequences, apparently, to those who demur. Such trickery is legal, I know. But it seems crazy that we employ armed public servants and specifically empower them to try to trick us into giving up our rights. In my naive view of the way things should be, such public servants would respect, preserve, and defend the rights of the public rather than seek clever ways to violate them.

Anyway, here's hoping the "sequester" hits this asinine "are you a citizen?" interrogation program as hard as it hits puppies and rainbows and butterflies and pretty ribbons in your hair.

And I still wonder if the message of the video is actually true.

added: from what I can tell, this is the guy featured in the first few clips, and evidently this stunt doesn't always end so well:

A difference there, I guess, is that a dog allegedly alerted to something or other. And yeah, the guy is a bit of a nut, but that doesn't mean he's wrong to question the notion that everyone should be subject to random searches and interrogations for the mere act of traveling through the country.

The Fourth Amendment is so riddled with exceptions and work-arounds that it is hard to guess what it may or may not protect or prohibit. The answers can be surprising even to the cynic, as with these border control checkpoints that happen to be located a hundred miles from any border, or, say, New York City's stop-and-frisk "program." Indeed, the Fourth Amendment, in practice, seems more and more like a ceremonial atavism that doesn't appear to prohibit very much at all. I'd like it to have turned out that the theory propounded in that video (that people, despite appearances to the contrary, are in fact free to travel through this country "unmolested") was true, but it doesn't seem to be quite true enough. Still, it's nice to see some people, nuts though they may be, challenging it, though I'd never be dumb enough or bold enough to challenge it myself.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:52 PM

February 26, 2013


Two Americans, lurking at a corner, spoke to her invitingly, calling her "sister". She walked on, conscious of having let them off -- of having spared them the chill embarrassment which would have fallen upon them had they realised their ambition to talk to her and see her -- conscious, therefore, of a blackness within the blackness of this fleeting street episode of which they, in common with other soldiers who accosted her under similar conditions, remained unaware.
Patrick Hamilton, The Slaves of Solitude
Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:50 PM

February 22, 2013

Thought for the Day

Of all the various Washington mystery cults, the one at that end of Pennsylvania Avenue is the most impenetrable. This is why the argument many liberals are making -- that the drone program is acceptable both morally and as a matter of practical politics because of the faith you have in the guy who happens to be presiding over it at the moment -- is criminally naive, intellectually empty, and as false as blue money to the future.

The powers we have allowed to leach away from their constitutional points of origin into that office have created in the presidency a foul strain of outlawry that (worse) is now seen as the proper order of things. If that is the case, and I believe it is, then the very nature of the presidency of the United States at its core has become the vehicle for permanently unlawful behavior. Every four years, we elect a new criminal because that's become the precise job description.

(via Greenwald.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:49 PM

World's Coolest Boy Totally Lucky He Didn't Wind Up Getting Shot

From Gawker.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:00 PM

February 20, 2013

The Right Heads Never Roll

Regarding those questions about what happens when a police officer is found to have lied on a police report, and what it would take for anything at all to happen, here's an (as far as I can see) rare instance of actual criminal proceedings in such a case.

For some unspecified motive, Officer Diego Palacios of the NYPD decided to claim that one John Hockenjos had tried to run him down while pulling into his own driveway, requiring the officer to jump out of the way to avoid being hit. The dangerous criminal was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, for which he could have been sentenced to seven years in prison. Unfortunately for Officer Palacios, though, there was clear surveillance video showing Mr. Hockenjos's car slowly pulling up while Palacios and several other cops stand around placidly.

The video and the case got some attention, which is presumably why Officer Palacios was actually indicted rather than quietly given paid leave, a medal, and a promotion before being unleashed once again on an unsuspecting public. It was an eight count indictment, including lying in the police report, official misconduct, and perjury. News reports said he could face four years if convicted. So, it does happen sometimes.

Here's what also happened:

Officer Diego Palacios pleaded guilty at a hearing on Thursday in Brooklyn Supreme Court in exchange for a sentence of four days and his resignation from the New York City Police Department.
The four days were for time served, which is just one day longer than the time spent in jail by his victim. And since the plea bargain downgraded the offense to a misdemeanor, he is still eligible to work as a police officer, and could well be hired in a jurisdiction near you. Something to look forward to.

That's far more penalty than they usually seem to get, even when someone is actually shot or set on fire, but it falls well short, I'd think, of the kind of disincentive that deterrence requires. And what about all the other officers who are just standing around in the video? They all lied as well. Shouldn't there be consequences for aiding and abetting such a serious crime? Otherwise, they'll just keep on doing it, won't they?

I know: I'm living in a dream world for the purposes of this post. Nobody really wants to deter anything. Hockenjos says he's concerned that the remaining officers and the department will now target him and his wife for harassment or worse, and it seems to be a pretty legitimate fear. They can do whatever they want and probably get away with it, and they haven't exactly demonstrated upstanding moral character or dedication to honor and justice in this matter so far. If I were him, I'd figure out where Officer Palacios ends up being hired, sue the bejesus out of the city, and use the money to move someplace else.

added: while I agree in principle that a misdemeanor conviction per se shouldn't necessarily be a barrier to employment as a police officer, especially since in this day and age there are laws against so many trivial and random things, it does seem as though a crime like this that goes right to heart of what a police officer is supposed not to be and do should really disqualify him from ever holding such a position of public trust again. In the same way that you wouldn't want to hire an embezzler to be your accountant or an arsonist as a house-sitter, I mean.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:32 PM

Keeping the Community Safe

Another Balko "raid of the day":

Known around the neighborhood as "Pops," 80-year-old Isaac Singletary moved into his high-crime Jacksonville, Florida neighborhood in 1987 to care for and protect his sister and mother, both of whom were sick at the time. The retired repairman was known to sit in front of his house in a lawn chair and shoo and shame the drug dealers away from his property.

But in January 2007, two undercover narcotics cops posed as drug dealers set up shop on Singletary's lawn. Singletary first came out of his house and yelled at them to leave. They didn't. He went back inside. Minutes later, he came out again and told them to leave, this time while waving a handgun. One of the cops opened fire. Wounded, Singletary tried to escape into his backyard. The cops followed chased him down and shot him again, this time in the back. Singletary died at the scene. His killers never told him they were police officers.

The police initially claimed Singletary had tried to rob them. They then claimed that Singletary fired first. Five witnesses said that wasn't true. Who fired first wasn't really relevant, except as an indication that the police weren't telling the truth about the whole mess.

Here, Jacksonville police officers had committed crimes on an elderly man's property without his permission, refused to leave when he asked them to, then--perhaps inadvertently--baited him into a violent confrontation. They then killed him for taking the bait.

You only have to read a few of these to realize that police routinely lie outrageously in such situations, usually in a series of transparent, serially contradicting attempts at self-exoneration. Often, of course, they get away with it and no one is the wiser, which is obviously why they feel so comfortable doing it. But in cases where it is clear that that's what happened, I can't fathom why they get to remain on the job. Apart from the crime being covered up, lying on a police report itself seems like it should be grounds for summary dismissal and prosecution, but it doesn't seem to be.

Anyway, commandeering a private citizen's property for a "sting" operation without informing him seems, if not actually unconstitutional, extremely stupid. What did they think would happen? Ah yes: a brief period of paid administrative leave, soon back on the job, eventual taxpayer-funded settlement, possible ensuing Officer of the Year award, and only one innocent dead guy. They were right.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:06 PM

February 19, 2013

Unanimously Terrible

Supreme Court backs "search warrants on leashes" 9-0.

added: on that, read this.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:23 PM

Just Doing Their Job

Movie theater employees call police for help in persuading a young man with Down Syndrome to vacate his seat after the movie is over; police arrive, kill the guy.

The officers have "exercised their rights under the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights and have not made statements in the case," and are apparently still on the job responding to other emergency calls. They will almost certainly face no consequences whatsoever for this homicide, will win "officer of the year" awards, etc.

If it can happen at a theater it could just as easily happen in your home. i.e., these are the guys who could well show up if you call 911 in a medical emergency. So you have to ask yourself, do you feel lucky…

(via Balko.)

added: more here (via Althouse.) The cops were off-duty sheriff's deputies "working a security job" at the shopping center.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:36 PM

February 17, 2013

The Liberty Bell


Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:56 PM

February 16, 2013

Sorry to go all language police on you again, but: "doing diligence"?

So as I face-twitted last night, I've been hearing Al Gore's quaaluded H R Pufnstuf "sad voice" on the various media over the past week.

One phrase he always uses when discussing the kinda controversial Al Jazeera / Current TV deal is "doing diligence." He'll say "in doing diligence on what Al Jazeera really is…" or even talk about "doin' the diligence" as though he's referring to some crazy new dance step that's all the rage with the kids these days.

My first impression was that this was simply an ignoramus's attempt to use the term "due diligence" in a sentence. But my google machine tells me that this construction, unlike the internet that has catalogued it, is not a Pufnstuf invention, but rather a variety of business speak employed by at least 27,600 others at one time or another. When used in this way, the word "diligence" seems to be a synonym for "investigation" itself rather than a quality describing the manner of investigation you're talking about. You might just as well say you "did the sloppiness" or that in the process of doing extensiveness on Al Jazeera you found them to be an organization that does trustworthiness and lucrativeness along with the best of them. Hey leave me alone, Witchy-Poo, we diligenced the whole thing, repeatedly.

All because "due" sounds like "do." Well, it does in America; in Britain due is "dyoo" while do is "doo." I wonder if Britons ever do diligence in the same way that we due?

Now it's possible, I suppose, that there's another linguistic-historical explanation for this construction besides its just being wrong and dumb. I suppose I could do some thoroughness on it in the OED if the type weren't so small and if it weren't in the process of doing far-away-ness over there in the other room, and if I weren't lazinessing it up in the kitchen over here. Maybe "to do diligence" goes back to the Magna Carta or Domesday Book or what have you. On the other hand, it could just simply be doing retardation and dumbness. But that's our Pufnstuf.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:06 PM

February 15, 2013

G. K. Chesterton


Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:09 PM

February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day


(via Wes.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:32 AM

February 05, 2013

Richard the Third-ing

Seems like a good time to re-read Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time.

Because of this, I mean.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:47 PM

"Are you guys paranoid that background checks might become universal?"

Not commenting on the issue at hand (though I happen to agree with Jacob Sullum) but rather on the use of the word "paranoid" by the Huffington Post's interviewer. She seems to be using it as a synonym for "worried" or "concerned." (You can watch the whole thing here if you want.)

Is this common? If so, I'm a bit paranoid that we may soon lose our heretofore straightforward way of distinguishing the paranoid schizophrenic from the common worry-wart. Actually, I'm paranoid that civilization itself is doomed, but that's a whole nother psychosis altogether.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:22 AM