Orwell Was An Optimist

9 11 2009

“Justice” system, my pasty, white, lumpy, asymmetrical ass!

In yet another example of how far astray from its alleged purpose our “justice” system has wandered, here are a couple of articles about some journalism students at Northwest University getting harassed by an Illinois prosecutor. Their crime? Glad you asked. It turns out that a Journalism professor at Northwest has, for the last ten years or so, tasked his advanced students with learning if anyone currently in prison might actually be innocent. Evidence uncovered by these student-journalists is turned over to the relevant attorneys, and a total of eleven innocent men have been freed as a result of their efforts. This has apparently raised the ire of the Illinois State Attorney, who seems to be trying to intimidate the students and their professor by launching an investigation into … the students’ grades.

I’m reasonably certain that somewhere in a prosecutor’s job description it is written that justice is the goal. Far too many prosecutors seem to have forgotten this, judging by the extravagant mental gymnastics several prosecutors have used recently in attempts to keep demonstrably innocent men in prison.

Despite the supposed focus on justice required by their jobs and oaths of office, far too many prosecutors across the country are more interested in their conviction ratio. The more convictions they get- especially in high-profile cases- the more pay and bennies they earn. This is doubly true for those prosecutors who are elected to their offices.

For those of you who failed to pay attention in civics class, here’s a hint: Prosecutors are public servants. We (the People) are the public. I fail to see how we are being served by political hacks more interested in promotions, re-elections, and pay raises than in justice.

Back to the case at hand. A prosecutor, when given evidence that someone has been wrongfully convicted and sent to prison, should examine the evidence, re-examine the case in light of the new evidence (if it has any value), and either get the convict a new trial or immediately get him or her released from prison. Alas, this ideal state does not exist except (possibly) on paper. In reality, prosecutors have been trained that more convictions means more money and power for the prosecutors, so penny-ante subjects like the actual innocence of their victims doesn’t come into the picture.

I don’t know about you, but I was always told that it was better that a thousand guilty men go free than one innocent man be deprived of life or liberty. Our so-called “justice” system is supposedly set up with this principle in mind. It is the price of a free society. There is no excuse for sending innocent men or women to prison. If there is a reasonable doubt, they must be found “not-guilty” (note that this is not necessarily the same as innocent). If they have already been convicted and sentenced, the presentation of new evidence which may provide “reasonable doubt” must be looked at dispassionately by judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys alike with justice in mind. If the new evidence had been presented at trial, would this convict have been found guilty? Does this evidence provide “reasonable doubt” of the convict’s guilt? These are matters of Law and Justice, and the political status and professional pride of the prosecutor should have no bearing on the decision.

I am a firm believer that some crimes merit the death penalty. That said, the death penalty must only be invoked for truly heinous crimes about which there is no doubt of guilt. Not “reasonable doubt”- no doubt whatsoever. A sentence of death should be a separate decision from that of guilt or innocence, and any doubt should immediately drop the maximum penalty to that of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Given the shenanigans prosecutors around the country have been pulling lately, a blanket suspicion of doubt has effectively been cast over all convictions. The actions of a few prosecutors are tainting the very heart of the judicial process. If prosecutors are willing to allow innocent men and women to languish in prison or even be put to death if it might further their career, then the criminal justice system in this country is broken beyond repair.

And now, we return to my catch phrase: the Four Boxes. There are four boxes which must be used- in the following order- in defense of liberty. These are Soap, Ballot, Jury, and Ammo. This subject demands that we (the People) use those first three boxes to correct these injustices, now and forever. If we fail to immediately and permanently deal with the application of injustice by our public servants with those first three boxes, then our Republic is doomed. We will be forced to open that Fourth Box, in the aftermath of which the United States of America will be no more.

So, start paying attention. Use that sloppy grey goo between your ears for a change. Take the time to learn the facts for yourself, from multiple sources whenever possible. When you find the putrid smell of injustice, root it out. We cannot afford to let it fester, for that way lies madness and destruction.

Current status: Pissed off

Current music: On My Way Home by Enya

Last Chance

4 11 2009

Argh! The stupid, it burns!

I’ve spoken at length about the Four Boxes to be used in defense of Liberty. Those are Soap, Ballot, Jury, and Ammo, and should be used in that order. The purpose of that saying is to discourage people from resorting to violence when peaceful methods are available- and more likely to produce positive results without a lot of unnecessary collateral damage to society. Implicit in that description is the idea that, at some point, the destruction of liberty becomes so onerous that nothing less than a total write-off and re-build is in order. If the justice system (Box #3) in this country stops actually providing justice, there will be little recourse but to wipe the slate clean and start over.

There is a case being heard before the Nine Worthies right now that has the potential to push the country over that particular precipice. Here is the story from NPR– just take care your blood pressure does not reach dangerous levels while reading it.

Worse than the initial criminal actions by the prosecutors and police in the original case is a single quote from the prosecutors- backed up by the Attorney General of the United States, no less: “There is no free-standing Constitutional right not to be framed

Pop quiz time: Can anyone point to any part of the US Constitution which might give lie to this assertion by trained legal professionals? Anyone? Buehler?

Let us take a look at the Fifth Amendment, shall we?

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

That seems to pretty definitively send the prosecutors’ argument into the shitcan where it belongs. The two men in question did not receive due process. They were maliciously framed by the police and prosecutor. Due process of law wasn’t even allowed in the courtroom.

The main issue seems to be Prosecutorial Immunity. Long-standing legal precedent holds that prosecutors cannot be held civilly liable when a case goes south on them. This is largely in place to protect prosecutors from civil penalty if they inadvertently convict the innocent. The prosecutors (who still claim that Terry Harrison and Curtis McGhee committed the crime in the face of really impressive evidence to the contrary) are trying to convince the Supreme Court that the Public Interest would be harmed by allowing any variation from the doctrine of Prosecutorial Immunity.

That’s as may be, and I could not care less. Two completely innocent men were framed by a Prosecutor and the police, and spent twenty-five years in prison as a result. I submit that the Public Interest is harmed far more by allowing prosecutors to withhold evidence and suborn perjury. The evidence for this assertion is simple and clear: If prosecutors can commit felonies with impunity against the very public they allegedly serve, our justice system (and the Republic on which it is based) is no more. The Supreme Court is the last resort for those who have worked their way through the first three Boxes. If the final appeal from the Third Box rules against the innocent victims, what choice do we (the People) have left?

The Supremes will probably issue a ruling on this early next year. I hope that they will rule in the interests of Justice over the interests of the rules and procedures. Reading past rulings lends a certain degree of hope that they will, but another chilling quote from a sitting Justice makes me fear the worst (“Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached.” – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia). If the Court rules in favor of the prosecutors, that’s it- game over. Such a ruling would mean that we are no longer free citizens, but serfs. Slaves to the Government, to be imprisoned at the whim of Government functionaries. If the Government fails to “establish Justice”, and “secure the blessings of Liberty”, it will be time to vote from the rooftops.

And that would be the end of the United States of America.

Current status: Disturbed

Current music: Play the Game by Queen

Ass in nine

4 05 2009

PLEASE make the stupid stop!


The latest iteration of Willful Public Stupidity comes to us courtesy of Pennsyltucky. A 59-year-old woman took some film to the local Wallyworld for developing. Among the photos on the roll of film were a couple of cute shots of her three-year-old granddaughter in the bath. The Wal-Mart employee seeing the pics immediately called the cops. The police promptly arrested the child’s grandmother. The District Attorney instantly fired up his high horse and charged grandma with producing child pornography. Rather than conducting a modest investigation and letting the latter drop, the DA kept pushing this issue for fifteen fucking months before a special prosecutor dismissed the case.

Here’s the article in its entirety, courtesy of Reason Magazine.

Leaving aside for the moment the draconian abuse of power exhibited by the prosecutors in this case, can anybody read the DA’s explanation for his zealous persecution of this woman without getting creeped out? Methinks he doth protest too much- or at least is guilty of projection.

The special prosecutor made mention of the “reasonable man” test in his explanation. If there are any reasonable men anywhere in this story, I have yet to read about them. The two prosecuting attorneys (during the 15-month witch hunt, the original prosecutor went into private practice, leaving the Inquisition to be carried on by his successor) viciously destroyed a completely innocent person in the name of political grandstanding. In this case, in order to appear “tough on child porn”.

How, a “reasonable man” might inquire, do prosecutors around this country get the idea that appearing “tough on child porn” is a pathway to political success? Who could have convinced politically-ambitious attorneys in Public Service to adopt zero tolerance (which generally equates perfectly with zero intelligence) policies in the name of “the children”?

Look in the fucking mirror.

We, the People, have willfully and stupidly bought into the whole, “It’s for the chi-i-i-i-i-i-ldren” stupidity. It’s come to the point where we are deliberately destroying our own civil rights in the futile attempt to remove any shred of risk from the paths of the precious little snowflakes.

When I was a wee lad, I was constantly getting banged up by being a rambunctious little kid. My knees and elbows were constantly adorned with bandages or scabs. In every single picture of me as a kid, I have a black eye. Not from abuse, mind you. This was all from being a hellion in the days before kindergarten and pre-school. This used to be considered normal behavior for kids. Today, I’m reasonably certain my parents would get arrested based solely on those photos. Can’t have any possibility of child abuse, you know. This is for your own good. Papers, bitte.

The scariest part of the ordeal suffered by the grandmother in the story is the automatic presumption of guilt based upon the flimsiest of suspicions. All for the children, of course. Merely being accused of child abuse/child neglect/child pornography is enough to destroy one’s life. Actual guilt or innocence means nothing. If eventually exonerated, the victim of such an accusation might eventually get a retraction buried on page 13 of the local paper. Forget about the overzealous prosecutors or police ever admitting a mistake.

How many other victims of false accusations are we, the People, willing to permit? Why are we allowing these insane with hunts to baselessly destroy the lives of completely innocent people with no legal recourse?

Because we have to protect the children?

Let’s take a look at the price for this shortsighted devotion to protecting the children at all costs. How many male elementary school teachers are there in this country? The demographics for that sub-group of teachers is skewed sharply toward females. 98% of all pre-school and kindergarten teachers are women. Male teachers only make up 29% of all teachers, regardless of grade level. By contrast, secondary and post-secondary teaching has a more normal ratio of male to female instructors (roughly 50-50).

Why do you suppose that is? Why are males so scarce in the teaching profession in general and elementary school teaching in particular? Many teachers with whom I have corresponded say they are unable to get a teaching job at the K-6 grades. Others say they don’t even try, out of concern for false accusations of impropriety. How many of you folks with children look with guarded eyes at male teachers? This stupid double standard has the effect of cutting the pool of qualified teachers by approximately one third. How’s that for a societal price tag?

How much time and money is wasted prosecuting parents and grandparents for the heinous crime of taking pictures of their kids? I’m pretty sure the police have better things to do than respond to calls about a lone male escorting a child to the bathroom. Let us not forget the recent flap in the UK over families taking pictures of their own kids playing in the park. What is the cost to society of this level of senseless paranoia?

Here is the fucking cost, people. If I see a kid who is crying or hurt or seems to be lost, I will not go anywhere near the child out of sheer self-preservation. The personal and professional hazards are too great to be worth the risk of making any attempt to help a child. Society has deemed that this is the cost for protecting the children. I don’t like it, but this is the situation you people have created in your insane quest to bubble-wrap the dear children.

If this behavior bothers you, you have only yourselves to blame. I don’t have kids- by choice. If you want to spam the planet with rough copies of yourself, that’s your business. I refuse to have anything to do with the resulting progeny for fear of losing my liberty and livelihood. Don’t like my attitude? Tough shit. It’s going to take generations to rid our society of this paranoia. You caused this mess. You clean it up.

Current status: Pissed off

Current music: Hey, Johnnie Cope- Are Ye Walkin’ Yet? by Alistair MacDonald

“24” is just TV

24 04 2009

Not particularly high-quality TV, either (IMO).

I’m assuming that everyone has now seen or heard about the White House releasing declassified CIA reports regarding so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”.  You may also heard the President say that he wasn’t interested in prosecuting those responsible for conducting this torture, on the grounds that those men and women were “just following orders”.

Let us not mince words, people. Everyone involved in this, from the lowest pay-grade grunt performing waterboarding to the former President, needs to be brought before a court of law to answer for this series of crimes. “I was just following orders” is not now and must never be an acceptable defense for committing atrocities. When I wore my country’s uniform, we were told from day one that we are not required to obey illegal orders. Furthermore, we were always told that we had a duty to refuse to obey any order in violation of US law or the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.  There is no fucking excuse for this sort of behavior.Torturing prisoners is always wrong. Period. Full stop.

Many people- especially those associated with the previous administration’s decisions regarding torture- have been claiming that violating US and international law was worthwhile because we learned about upcoming terrorist actions and thereby saved the lives of Americans and our allies. I’ve heard several people ask, “What would you do if the option was torture a terorist or allow one of your loved ones to be killed?” The implication being that torture is somehow a lesser evil- the ends justify the means.

I’m not buying it. My answer to the hypothetical question is, I would do whatever it took to extract the information which would save my loved one’s life, and then I would expect- I would demand– to be arrested and tried for my crime. If the men and women who willingly reduced themselves to the same level of barbarism as our enemies are so sure their actions were noble and patriotic, they should willingly submit themselves to judicial review for their crimes. Anything less is tacit admission of guilt.

If we resort to using our enemies’ methods, how are we any different from them? If we lower ourselves to their level, we run the risk of becoming what we- as a nation- despise: a brutal, swaggering bully, convinced that might makes right.

You become what you fight against very easily. Doing the right thing is hard.

President Obama, I call on you to convene a military tribunal to judge those responsible for these outrages against justice and the American character. If the military tribunal finds sufficient evidence that crimes were committed, everyone involved in these abuses should be turned over to the Hague under charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

We are supposed to be the Good Guys. Shouldn’t we start acting like it?

Current status: sick

Current music: Song for America by Kansas

Poor Impulse Control

10 04 2009

Last week, a couple of monumental ass-hats decided to drive around the neighborhood and shoot dogs. Not stray dogs, mind you. That would have been bad enough. These scumbags went around killing dogs in other peoples’ yards.

Here are the douchebags in question:



Obviously men of sterling personal qualities.

They had killed a total of five dogs by the time they pulled up to Marcus Luttrell’s house in Hunstville, Texas. They saw a yellow lab in the yard, so they got out of the car and called the dog, who ran over to the fence to greet them. Then they shot her to death. For kicks.

All of the above makes these jackasses the scum of the Earth. What really puts them over the top in the Universal Douchebag rankings is their last victim. Marcus Luttrell is not an ordinary man. He is a decorated war hero. A Navy SEAL who survived a vicious firefight with the Taliban and saw his entire team get killed. He was severely wounded himself, and was awarded the Navy Cross for valor above and beyond the call of duty. Since returning from the war, he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), an occasionally debilitating psychological injury made worse by survivor’s guilt. To help him deal with this problem, Marcus Luttrell was given a dog. This “therapy dog” was one of the few bright spots remaining in this hero’s life. He named her DASY- an acronym of the names of the men on his team (Danny, Axe, Southern Boy [Marcus] and Yankee).


When he heard the gunshots at around 2AM, Marcus Luttrell armed himself, then checked to make sure his mother was okay. Then he went outside to investigate. He saw our two shining examples of humanity getting into their car just before he stumbled across Dasy’s body.

He ran into the house, grabbed his cell phone and car keys, then took off in pursuit of the shooters. He called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher what had happened, then kept up a running conversation with the dispatcher as he pursued Dasy’s killers through three counties at speeds sometimes exceeding 100 MPH. Listen to the 9-1-1 audio and marvel at Marcus Luttrell’s controlled voice as he kept the police informed about the killers’ flight. At one point, he calmly tells the dispatcher to get the police there in a hurry, because if he caught them, he’d kill them both.

Eventually, the police pulled the car over. Our two wonderful specimens of humanity spent the time during their arrest taunting Marcus Luttrell. Under similar circumstances, I doubt I would have had the self-control to stand there and let these vermin make jokes. It speaks volumes about Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell that he did not give in to his justifiable anger. Finding Dasy’s body must have felt like watching his team die all over again, but he kept his head and let the police handle it. He is a far, far better man than I for this fact alone. His heroism in combat puts him so far above Dasy’s killers that he might as well be another species. He is a credit to his uniform, his team-mates, and his country.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Petty Officer Luttrell has withdrawn from society. He has gone out to camp in an undisclosed location, far from what passes for humanity and civilization. He is one of our best and brightest, and has sacrificed more than most of us can even imagine, and his reward was to have the one good thing left in his life slaughtered by a couple of fuckwits for no reason.

Some of Marcus Luttrell’s friends and family are taking donations to get him another therapy dog, if he wants one. If he can’t bear the thought of replacing Dasy, the money they raise will go toward buying therapy dogs for other returning warriors. You can donate here.

In the meantime, let us do what we can to get some justice for Dasy and Petty Officer Luttrell. Let us make sure that Dasy’s killers do not get a slap on the wrist for their actions. Don’t let the story die. Killing Dasy was bad enough (I like most dogs more than I like most people), but the injury they have caused to an honest-to-god hero deserves severe repercussions. Worse still, if these wastes of sperm are released without significant punishment, I fear that some of Marcus Luttrell’s friends, relatives, or neighbors might end up in prison for some understandable but illegal actions.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: High Water by Rush

Liberty Wept

6 04 2009


I’ve written at length about how our country seems to be turning into a police state. Police departments around the country are apparently regarding the citizens by whom they are employed as the enemy. In the name of the “War on Terror” or the “War on Drugs”, more and more of our precious liberties are getting filched away- nibbled to death by ducks. Merely understanding and standing up for one’s Constitutional rights is increasingly viewed with suspicion by almost every police department- or at least the ones which make the news. The most innocuous of behaviors is increasingly falling afoul of some Government regulation or another, which are frequently misapplied by law-enforcement personnel to the detriment of individual liberty in this country.

For example, a photographer standing on a public sidewalk in Phoenix, Arizona, was told by a police officer that he wasnot permitted to take a picture of one the Federal building. When the photographer asked what legal authority forbade taking pictures of a public building from a public sidewalk, he was brusquely told to “Google it”. There have been numerous reports of citizens getting harassed and even arrested for the “crime” of taking pictures or video of police in the performance of their duties on public thoroughfares. A group of police in Philadelphia have taken to raiding local grocery and convenience stores for the crime of selling small ziploc bags. Worse still, these Phillie cops go out of their way to disable all security cameras in the establishments they raid.

In the course of my job, I am frequently required to undergo periodic security training. The last annual training refresher I took instructed me to beware of suspicious activities such as owning firearms and practicing marksmanship. After hearing this little security tip, I immediately went to the Security manager for my building and reported myself for meeting several of the criteria which my training indicated were possible terrorist behaviors. He was less than amused, the more so since he would have to report himself under those same guidelines.

In yet another case, a self-described libertarian was at an airport to catch a flight when the Transportation Security Authority agents became suspicious of the cash he was carrying. When they asked him how much he was carrying, why he was carrying it, and what he did for a living, he replied by asking if he was legally required to answer those questions. This was deemed suspicious behavior, and the police and FBI were called. The FBI disgustedly told the TSA to let the man board his plane. In defense of the TSA, my few experiences with them have been uniformly professional and courteous.

When police perform traffic stops, they often ask if they can search the vehicle. If they are not granted permission to search, their frequent reply is the statement, “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you shouldn’t object to a search.” I have no problem with the police saying this in an attempt to induce cooperation, but I do have a serious problem when refusing to permit a warrantless search becomes probable cause for issuance of a search warrant.

Since when did refusal to permit a search become probable cause? I’m pretty sure the 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution are reasonably clear on this subject, but I’ll let you be the judge:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The supreme law of the land is the Constitution of the United States. Why, then, are we (the People) permitting our public servants to trample the liberties enshrined and guaranteed therein?

We (the People) have been sold a bill of goods by our elected officials. We are being told that these infringements upon our liberties are necessary to keep us safe from drugs, child molesters, terrorists, commies, albigensians, heretics, martians, or fill-in-your-boogieman-of-choice. And we (the People) have swallowed this line of bullshit with nary a twinge of remorse.

It has become easier to just go along with whatever new byzantine abuse of Government power comes down the pike than to stand up for our inherent liberties. The Rights guaranteed (not granted) by the Constitution are worthless if we (the People) do not stand up and demand that those rights be acknowledged. All rights come with concurrent responsibilities, foremost among them the responsibility to ensure the continuation of those rights.

Please note that I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Anything you may have seen on TV may bear little or no relationship to the real world of police and courts. If you want legal advice, hire an attorney. Since I am neither licensed nor qualified to give legal opinions, the following is not intended to be legal advice. This is only my personal opinion and stated intent for my own actions when detained or arrested. Your mileage may vary. Follow this course of action at your own risk.

If the police want to search your house, car, office, or person, demand that they first get a warrant. When detained or delayed by the police for any reason, be courteous- but refuse to speak without an attorney. Ask if you are under arrest. If you are not under arrest, ask if you are free to go. If you are not free to go, demand to speak with an attorney. Do not raise your voice, swear, or argue. Simply refuse to speak without an attorney present.

Be warned, following this course of action will very likely result in increased police attention and possible arrest. The police will be extremely annoyed with you, and will use a wide variety of tricks to try and get you to talk to them. Even if you answer some of their questions, you are under no obligation to continue to do so. Here is the Wikipedia entry on the subject:

In the US, the Miranda warning is a warning given by police to criminal suspects in police custody, or in a custodial situation, before they are asked guilt-seeking questions relating to the commission of a crime. A custodial situation is one in which the suspect’s freedom of movement is restrained although he or she is not under arrest. An incriminating statement by a suspect will not constitute admissible evidence unless the suspect was advised of his or her “Miranda rights” and made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of those rights (the term “Miranda rights” is somewhat misleading, as the mandated Miranda warning simply clarifies preexisting Constitutional rights). However, a 2004 Supreme Court Ruling upheld state “Stop and Identify” laws, allowing police to require biographical information such as name, date of birth, and address, without arresting suspects or providing them Miranda warnings.

The Miranda warnings were mandated by the 1966 US Supreme Court decision in the case of Miranda v. Arizona as a means of protecting a criminal suspect’s 5th Amendment right to avoid coercive self-incrimination.

The wording of the so-called Miranda Warning varies from state to state, but the general meaning is fairly unambiguous. The police can stop you and demand that you identify yourself without necessarily placing you in a “custodial situation”. This does not necessarily mean that you have to provide some identification, only that you must give the police your name, date of birth, and address when requested. You are not legally required to answer any other questions, and you are within your rights to refuse to answer any further questions.

Given the increasingly hostile attitude of far too many police toward the citizens they allegedly serve, and the deliberate and methodical diminution of our precious liberties by both police and our elected officials, it is my opinion that everyone should do their utmost to protect the tattered remnants of our Constitutional rights while we still can. Furthermore, I call upon everyone to contact their elected representatives in both state and federal governments and remind them that they are public servants and we (the People) are the public. If those public servants wish to retain their cushy jobs and exorbitant paychecks, they had better start paying attention to the proper historical relationship between the US government and the citizens it is supposed to serve.

Here is a quote from Benjamin Franklin that needs to be more often on the public lips:

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

There are Four Boxes to be used in defense of liberty, in the following order: Soap, Ballot, Jury, and Ammo. On this page, I am calling for all Americans to use the first three. The precipice of tyranny is creeping up on us with cat-like tread. If we do not act now, we may soon be forced to resort to that fourth box. Like Pandora’s box, opening the Fourth Box will unleash horrors and chaos upon the world. Let us all work together to forestall its use. Write your representatives and senators. Stand up for your rights. Our liberties are under attack from within. Failure to use those first three boxes now leads inexorably to the opening of that Fourth Box, and nobody sane wants that.

Current status: Concerned

Current music: Man in the Box by Alice in Chains

Successful Evil

22 02 2009

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing to oppose it.

Roughly paraphrased from an unknown source. What brought that particular quote to mind is the actions of an insurance company in the matter of a McDonald’s employee claim for Workman’s Compensation.

It turns out that this young man working at a McD’s in Arkansas saw a customer beating the crap out of a female customer inside the restaurant. Being what his manager described as a good man, he immediately intervened on behalf of the female victim and muscled the attacker outside … where he ended up getting shot three times.

Several surgeries and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses later, his application for Workman’s Compensation was denied by the company managing the McDonald’s insurance plan. Here’s the story.

By any rational standard, the young man in question exhibited courage and good character. His manager went out of his way to praise Nigel for his work habits and general attitude, suggesting that Nigel Haskitt is the sort of man you would want to work for you or to watch your six in a firefight. He saw something wrong and knew he had the power to stop it, and did so without any thought for himself. He got shot helping out a total stranger, because it was the right thing to do.

And yet, the attorneys and insurance companies in this country indulge in histrionic shudders of revulsion at the mere idea of this sort of action. Ordinarily, this would be just one more reason to justifiably refer to those creatures as vampires, leeches, and similar vermin. Sadly, the attorneys and insurance companies are gradually destroying the American will to do the right thing.

Their method for this conversion is slow and subtle, but nonethless certain. Every business must carry liability insurance or be rent asunder at the hands of lawyers for a host of plaintiffs with real or imagined grievances against the business. Insurance companies are in the business of making money for their shareholders, so they are understandably reluctant to part with any money for such ephemera as justifiable claims. Those insurers will therefore force their clients to adopt rules and business practices which should reduce the number of claims, or suffer from increasingly high insurance premiums. Attorneys then heavily punish (through scads of lawsuits for real or imagined grievances) those businesses which fail to adhere to the insurance companies’ will.

The end result is generations of Americans who are more and more inclined to worry about potential lawsuits when faced with danger. In lieu of dealing with the immediate threat, Americans are more and more inclined to gauge the possible legal penalties to be as great (or greater) a threat than the immediate hazard.

Don’t get involved. None of my business. It’s not my problem. This is the language of serfs.

Guess what? If you see it happen, you are involved. If it happens in your neighborhood, city, state, or country, it is your fucking business, and it is your problem. If you let this sort of rot fester and grow through inattention or indifference, you will inevitably become a victim of the behavior you fail to act against.

Failure to act is itself an action. Actions have consequences. The consequence of allowing social predators to act freely in our society is the destruction of that society. Just take a look at what happened to Nigel Haskitt. He stood up for what was right and helped a total stranger. At some point in time, you will be that total stranger who needs help. If the insurance companies and lawyers have their way, you will be looking for your own Nigel Haskitt, but he will be worrying about possible lawsuits. No one will stand up and do the right thing, because the cost is growing prohibitively high.

That sound you hear? It’s our civilization circling the drain. You have three choices on what to do about it. You can do nothing at all, you can try to save our society, or you can help push it into the toilet. Unfortunately, choosing to do nothing is exactly the same as actively working to destroy our civilization (such as it is).

Current status: Vexed

Current music: Bard Dance by Enya

That’s some fine police work there, Lou

17 08 2008

I always wanted to be a police officer. I planned on it during high school, and even worked out a career path that started with a tour in the Army as an MP and ended with me working in Law Enforcement until retirement. Funny how things never work out the way you plan ’em.

The way it worked out, I ended up joining the Navy ten years after high school. In the interim, I took some college courses for a career in Law Enforcement. Once I turned 21, I started applying to various police agencies. After not making the cut for several years, I was finally getting close. A small town PD was hiring one officer, and I was one of three final candidates. All three of us were given a standard psychological evaluation and were interviewed by the psychologist. I was turned down because I had scored two points too high on the aggression scale. Historically, hiring candidates with high aggression scores led to lots of unnecessary lawsuits. So I was out of the Law Enforcement business.

With the hindsight born of two decades of experience, I think they made the right choice. I’ve learned a lot about myself since then, and the young man I was would probably have been a magnet for citizen complaints. That said, the young man I was twenty years ago would probably be guaranteed a slot in most police departments today.

Thanks to the War of Terror™, police departments all over the country are getting the money for loads of military-grade equipment and intensive training in military-style tactics. There are several problems with this, the largest being that police do not do the same job as the military. Police are supposed to enforce the law. Period. Full stop. The military is supposed to support the Government’s decision by force. One of the laws the police are supposed to enforce is the Posse Commitatus Act, which forbids the use of military personnel for law enforcement work in the United States. Since the military cannot legally be used inside the country for police work, the police are being converted into paramilitary organizations.

This can- and has- led to multiple abuses. Police departments around the country routinely use their new training and equipment to conduct violent invasions of private property in the name of the War on Drugs®. I’m all for using military tactics and weapons in extreme cases, when the situation is a matter of  life-or-death. Even under those circumstances, I would prefer that a judge issue a warrant specifically authorizing extreme measures (with common-sense exceptions for life-or-death exigent circumstances). I would also prefer that every use of these paramilitary units be subject to citizen review. If we’re going to allow paramilitary police units to operate in our cities, they should be held to strict standards of behavior. This would help reduce the number of cluster-fucks.

Case in point: Last night, the Buffalo Police conducted a no-knock warrant on an apartment. They smashed through the door, applied the buttstock of a shotgun to the head of an epileptic resident of that apartment, and only then realized that they’d raided the wrong apartment. Whoopsie!

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. According to a Cato Institute website, this happens far too often. So far in 2008, there have been five such botched raids, the only one of which made the news involved a supremely stupid incident where a county police agency conducted a no-knock raid on a house in someone else’s jurisdiction. They burst into the house, shot the homeowner’s two dogs, and interrogated the homeowner and his elderly mother for a couple of hours next to the corpses of their family pets. At some point in the proceedings, they finally figured out that their “suspect” was the mayor of the town. In addition to raiding the mayor’s house, the Prince George County PD had also neglected to inform the Berwyn Heights PD that they were conducting operations in their jurisdiction. The worst bit of all, the PG Police refuse to admit they’d done anything wrong. Forget about an apology.

This is far from the worst possible scenario. Since 1985, 42 completely innocent people have been killed by the police during these raids, and 24 police officers have been injured or killed. I live in a moderately bad neighborhood (because housing prices prevent me from buying a house), and I own firearms. If the local police (who do not have a reputation for impressive intellects or even professionalism) were to raid my apartment by mistake, I would very likely end up shooting them (and probably getting killed as a result). There are a couple of people currently serving long prison terms under exactly those circumstances.

Back to last night’s incident. A Buffalo PD spokesman had this to say:

We wouldn’t be comfortable discussing the internal investigation. We can say comfortably that over 1,100 search warrants were executed last year and 580 to date this year and that, with such a high volume and such a fast-paced environment, it is understandable that mistakes could happen.”

I don’t know about you, but I do not consider this an appropriate response to such a colossal fuck-up. This sort of mistake is not understandable- it is inexcusable.

Here’s an appropriate quote from one of the founders of our country:

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. -Benjamin Franklin

We, the People, are perilously close to the precipice Ben Franklin was warning us about. As a society, we need to use the Four Boxes to keep the Government our servant and not our master. Use the Soap Box (as I am doing now) to warn your fellow citizens of the danger and mobilize them to change the way the Government operates. Use the Ballot Box to enact legislation and elect representatives to sharply restrict these dangerous practices. Use the Jury Box to sue police agencies who permit their zeal for arrests to violate the rights of the citizens. Use the Jury Box to acquit fellow citizens who are driven to use the Ammo Box to defend themselves from Government invasions of their homes and property.

For those who think that nothing like that could happen in this country in the modern era, I invite you to read up on the Battle of Athens. It can happen here. It has happened here. We, the People, are being victimized and killed by the very Government we pay to serve us. They are Public Servants. We, the People, are the Public. Make your voices heard! Vote the bastards out! Sue police departments who violate the compact between Public and Public Servant. When necessary, defend your life against the well-meaning incompetents who are threatening your life and killing your fellow citizens.

Current status: Irked

Current music: Mystic’s Dream by Loreena McKennitt

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (part II)

31 03 2008

It must be Kids’ Week, or something.

According to this ABC News article, a 13-year old girl was strip-searched by school administrators because they thought she was carrying ibuprofen.

I will repeat that for those of you on drugs: a 13-year-old girl was strip-searched by school adminsitrators who thought she was carrying ibuprofen.

It seems one of the victim’s classmates had been telling the principal that she’d been giving other kids the drug, and even produced a single pill as proof. The vigilant school administrators deemed that to be sufficient probable cause to yank the victim out of class and search her backpack and locker. Oddly, no drugs were found. Not satisfied by this lack of evidence, the school administrators took the girl to the School Nurse’s office and forced her to take off her clothes. These school administrators then pulled the victim’s bra away to expose her breasts, and pulled her panties away to look at her crotch. By the way, no drugs of any kind were found.

In a rational Universe, the people responsible for this would have been tarred and feathered, beaten severely, and run out of town. In any normal section of reality, the people who committed these acts would be arrested and jailed for sexual assault. Unfortunately for rationality, the people who committed these crimes were school administrators, and are therefore above the Law.

The victim’s mother sued the school when she found out about the incident. The local court found in favor of the school. So did the Appellate court. The case is supposed to be heard by the Federal Appeals Court soon.

Here is my question: How could any judge decide that this was within the rights of any government official? I’m reasonably certain that this sort of thing is specifically prohibited by the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. If there was ever a textbook definition for “unreasonable search and seizure” this would be it.

Aside from the Judge and School Administrators (the obvious idiots in this case), who is to blame for this Byzantine abuse of authority?

Look in the fucking mirror.

You (the People) have permitted yourselves to be frightened into allowing the Government to filch away our rights. All that is required to get the American People to roll over and lick their oppressors’ boots is to whisper the words, “war on drugs” or “war on terror“.

Those magic phrases have been- and are being- used to magically make our individual liberties disappear. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are being annihilated in tiny increments.

And we (the People) are letting it happen.

Let us go back to basics. School administrators are government employees. The government is supposed to work for the people. Therefore, we (the People) are complicit in the sexual assault of a 13-year old girl.

We (the People) have given these government employees the authority to sexually assault our children, and furthermore made it possible for them to escape any consequences of their stupidity.

We do not have to put up with this. For the love of Reason, register to vote. Vote in your local elections. Run for School Board. Get rid of these authoritarian lampreys we have allowed to infest our school systems.

Can’t get elected to the School board? Start a petition to recall any member of the School Board who approves of these draconian tactics. Put measures on the ballot to repeal these idiotic “zero tolerance” policies. Petition your local and State officials to make this sort of un-Constitutional activity against the law.

The next step is to sue the bastards when they pull this crap. If it wasn’t your child who got victimized by the school administration, offer financial support for the parents of the assaulted child in their legal fight.

There is no excuse for strip-searching a 13-year old girl in a hunt for ibuprofen– or any other drug, for that matter. In my opinion, there is no excuse for strip-searching any student without a warrant. Ever. If the school administration thinks there a student might be carrying drugs (or any other contraband), they can call the parents and the police- in that order. If the cops and the parents don’t agree, then the school administration can piss up a rope- individually and collectively.

How long are we (the People) going to allow the Government to erode away our rights? What will it take before the People start standing up for their rights?

We’d better do something about it, and soon.

Remember the Four Boxes.

Current status: Furious

Current music: Veterans of the Psychic Wars by Blue Oyster Cult


19 03 2008

For those of you who may not live in the US, the Nine Worthies heard arguments on the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution yesterday. Here is the Amendment in its entirety:

“A well-regulated Militia being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the People to own and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

There are some minor disputes about random capitalization of certain words and the appearance of an additional comma after the word “Militia” in various copies of the original Bill of Rights, but the actual text is simple and direct.

Sadly, Americans can’t seem to handle simple and direct. A great many heated words have been exchanged over the 2nd Amendment. Politicians have used the various disputes over this or that interpretation of the Amendment to curry favor with one or another faction of the electorate.

A great many people- for whatever reason- take the position that the first part of the Amendment (the bit about a “well-regulated Militia”) is the predominant clause in the sentence. For those people, I have a question: Why do you believe this? Is there any historical evidence which shows that your interpretation of the Amendment is most in line with the intent of the authors? I have asked variations of this question many times, and no one has ever provided a response. I don’t mean that no one has provided a satisfactory response. I mean that no one has ever responded.

For other people, the second part of the Amendment (the bit about “the right of the People to own and bear arms”) is the dominant clause. When I have asked those people the same question, I have received many responses, most of which identify as source material public statements, letters, and journals from the authors and their contemporaries. These arguments have a great deal of weight in my opinion, but that may be from a lack of counter-argument.

Back to the Supremes. I listened to the proceedings on CSPAN last night, and I was impressed with the clarity of vision and opinion on both sides of the argument. This is to be expected, because morons are rarely permitted to perform before the Nine Worthies. What really blew my tiny little mind were the cogent questions asked by the Justices themselves.

In place of the senile old nannies-in-drag I had subconsciously expected, all of the Justices were well-versed in the briefs filed for and against the defendant. They were also very familiar with the history behind the cases cited in those briefs. I learned more abou the history behind the arguments while listening to the Justices quiz the attorneys than in years of High School, College, and personal research. I actually found myself feeling less pessimistic about the future of the country after listening to the Justices.

For those unfamiliar with the issues, the case in question was a lawsuit against the city of Washington DC seeking to overturn the blanket proscription against handguns. The plaintiff- a security guard named Dick Heller- wanted a handgun for self-defense at his residence. The City told him it was against the law, so he filed a lawsuit citing the 2nd Amendment. The DC Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, so the City appealed to the SCOTUS.

People on both sides of this issue have been wanting and fearing a case like this for a long time. At the extreme ends of both groups are those who want a ruling granting sweeping authority to get rid of all firearms (and knives, bb guns, slingshots, and anything else more dangerous than a crayon) and those who want no restrictions on any citizen’s right to own and bear nuclear weapons.

You just wish I was joking.

Afterwards, the interested parties ran the gauntlet of the media Hell-Hounds outside the Court. I claim no ability to guess how the Justices will rule (in June or July), but the body language of the people around attorneys was telling. The attorney for the City was smiling and waving to the reporters, but everyone around him was frowning and seemed to be slumping. By contrast, the attorney for Mr. Heller had a friendly smile and spoke lightly, but he (and everyone on his team) seemed to be fighting hard to hold back broad grins of satisfaction.

Note that I did not mention the substance of their statements to the Press. With only a minor variation or two, the statements by both attorneys were identical. Practically word-for-word. One of the reporters even called them on it.

The only person whose statement I actually paid attention to was Heller. One of the reporters asked him why he had pushed this fight for so long. For a moment, he seemed honestly baffled on the best way to answer that. To me, his expression was that of a man trying hard to explain a concept so basic that words do not properly express it. He finally misquoted Robert Heinlein and then said that his job required him to carry a handgun to protect important officials, but he wasn’t permitted the same privilege for his own defense.

Unlike many people on both sides of the argument, I do not demonize those with whom I disagree. I thought that the City made a good case for their side- despite my disagreement with their interpretation of the Amendment and the relevant case law. In contrast, I profoundly disagreed with the Mayor and Polic Chief, both of whom cited incomplete statistics to justify their side. I understand their position, but I do not like it or approve of their tactics.

Far too many people on the anti-gun side have stated- in so many words- that they are afraid of what might happen if their fellow citizens had guns. Guess what? There are more than 80 million legal gun owners in the US, with an estimated total of 270 million guns. You read that right- there are nearly as many guns in this country as citizens. If you are one of those people terrified that your neighbor might have a gun, your worst fears are realized. A lot of your neighbors (roughly one in four, statistically) do have guns.

One person commented that most people would never need to fire a gun. The quick retort from another particpant in the discussion was that most people would never need to have gay sex either, but they should have a right to do so.

I wish I was the person who’d said that. I don’t even know the guy’s name. One of the funniest and most cogent arguments I’ve ever heard, and it happened in passing. By the time I stopped laughting, both parties were gone.

On that note, I’d like to leave you with a quote on the subject of Gun Control:

Gun Control: The idea that a woman found dead in an alley, raped and strangled with her own pantyhose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound.”

By the way, here is a very good article on this subject from Reason magazine.

Current status: Surprisingly positive

Current music: Velvet Green by Jethro Tull