Tag: Law enforcement in the United States

Fallout From A Murder

No matter what one thinks of police and modern policing, police violence, police racism or lack therefore, the execution of two NYPD officers over the weekend was thoroughly evil. Even if these officers were abusive and racist — and there is no indication whatsoever that they were — this act should still be thoroughly condemned by everyone.

I am not an anarchist. We can see around the world how thin the veneer of civilization is and how easily it is destroyed. Law and order are a huge improvement over the lack thereof, no matter how poorly they are enforced. It’s one thing to criticize police and demand reform and changes. It’s one thing to defend yourself if, for example, cops smash down your door in the middle of the night and you have no idea what’s going on. People can and should oppose aggressive policing and the intrusion of government into their lives. But the deliberate and cold-blooded murder of two policemen is an attack on civilization, on the idea of law and order.

The primary problem we have with policing in the United States is not a bunch of evil cops running around. It is a political leadership that has given them a million laws to enforce, authorized an aggressive war on voluntary behavior, shoved assault weapons and tanks into their hands and chipped away at accountability. The system is failing the police as thoroughly as it is failing the rest of us.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of these vile murders, a narrative has emerged that conflates criticism of policing with the murders. This has been building for a long time. A couple of weeks ago, a paper ran a really stupid anti-police cartoon. This resulted in a union head issuing a scathing letter, demanding (and getting) an apology. But this wasn’t an isolated incident nor confined to idiot cartoons.

McNesby has a history of lashing out at journalists. When Philadelphia Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman broke an incredible story about a Philly PD rogue narcotics unit that was essentially robbing immigrant-owned bodegas, McNesby called a press conference in which he called drug-using police informants “one step above” reporters like Laker and Ruderman. Someone launched a Web site specifically to attack the reporters. The two women later won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting.

(Both the state and the Feds cleared the bodega cops despite video supporting the claims of multiple independent witnesses.)

Last week, police officers demanded an apology from a Cleveland Browns player for wearing a T-shirt demanding justice for John Crawford and Tamir Rice, as if being angry about the shooting of two men carrying BB guns was completely out of line. This followed demands for an apology when Rams players made the “hands up don’t shoot” gesture before a game. A police chief in California is under fire for marching with protesters in favor less police violence.

Bill de Blasio has become a lightning rod for this. Shortly before this incident, the PBA said that de Blasio was not welcome at any police funerals for “anti-police” views.

This pushback has only intensified in the aftermath of the murders. During de Blasio’s press conference, police literally turned their backs on him. Union leaders have said there is “blood on his hands” for his “anti-cop” positions, as though a career criminal and violent psychopath only needed to hear de Blasio’s speech to go on a murderous spree. Barack Obama, Eric Holder and Rahm Emmanuel have also been accused by Howard Safir, Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki of fomenting this event from their anti-cop rhetoric and “hatred” of cops.

But as Jamelle Bouie points out, none of this has been anti-cop unless you regard any criticism of police as anti-cop:

Police officers aren’t under siege from hostile elected officials. At no point, for example, has de Blasio attacked the New York City Police Department. Instead, he’s called for improved policing, including better community relations and new training for “de-escalation” techniques. “Fundamental questions are being asked, and rightfully so,” he said at the beginning of the month, after the grand jury decision in the death of Eric Garner. “The way we go about policing has to change.”

Likewise, neither President Obama nor Attorney General Eric Holder has substantively criticized police. After a Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, Obama appealed for calm and praised law enforcement for doing a “tough job.” “Understand,” he said, “our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.”

When directly asked if “African-American and Latino young people should fear the police,” Holder said no. “I don’t think that they should fear the police,” he said in an interview for New York magazine with MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid. “But I certainly think that we have to build up a better relationship between young people, people of color, and people in law enforcement.”

Note that Bouie is actually quoting those accused of anti-cop rhetoric rather than making vague quote-free allegations.

Nothing here should be a surprise. Despite what these police organizations and their allies allege, there isn’t an anti-police movement in this country, or at least, none of any significance. The people demonstrating for Eric Garner and Michael Brown aren’t against police, they are for better policing. They want departments to treat their communities with respect, and they want accountability for officers who kill their neighbors without justification. When criminals kill law-abiding citizens, they’re punished. When criminals kill cops, they’re punished. But when cops kill citizens, the system breaks down and no one is held accountable. That is what people are protesting.

Given the dangers inherent to being a police officer—and the extent to which most cops are trying to do the best they can—it’s actually understandable that cops are a little angry with official and unofficial criticism. But they should know it comes with the territory. For all the leeway they receive, the police aren’t an inviolable force; they’re part of a public trust, accountable to elected leaders and the people who choose them. And in the same way that police have a responsibility to protect and secure the law, citizens have a responsibility to hold improper conduct to account.

On the subject of de Blasio specifically, Doug Mataconis points out that it is unreasonable to expect the reflexive absolute loyalty to the police that Giuliani exhibited:

Politically, DeBlasio may or may not have bungled his relationship with the NYPD during his first year in office, but that hardly makes him responsible for murder. Additionally, the fact that the Mayor may have expressed some sympathy for the people who were protesting the Garner decision is neither outrageous nor inappropriate. For one thing, it’s worth noting that he is the Mayor of all the people in New York, not just the police officers, and that as the elected leader of the city it is his job, in part, to be responsive to the concerns of civilians who see what they think is an injustice being committed by the police department and the justice system. The argument that being willing to listen to those protesters makes any political leader responsible for the actions of a violent criminal thug who traveled some 200 miles for the express purpose of committing murder is nonsense that ought to be rejected out of hand.

Yes, it is true that there have been some assholes calling for dead cops. Let’s not pretend that element isn’t out there. And people like Sharpton have been disgracefully slow to condemn such rhetoric. But this shooting does not mean the movement for better policing and more accountability is wrong. When a husband-and-wife team ambushed and murdered two cops earlier this year, it wasn’t the fault of the Tea Party. When Gabby Giffords was shot, it wasn’t the fault of Sarah Palin. When Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Building, it wasn’t the fault of Rush Limbaugh. Arguing that acts of violence committed by crazed extremists discredits an entire movement is the sort of thing I expect out of the Left Wing in this country. Read Ross Douthat’s post on how isolated violent acts have been used throughout history to discredit political opponents. Nick Gillespie:

As the New York Daily News and other outlets are reporting, the apparent shooter was not only violent and unhinged but had bragged via Instagram that he was “putting wings on pigs” and “putting pigs in a blanket.”

The distance between such rantings and, even worse, the act of shooting policemen sitting in a patrol car is so vast that they simply have no relation to legitimate and even impassioned criticism of the militarization of police and the protesting of specific acts of apparent injustice.

To suggest otherwise is not simply disgraceful and cheapening to serious public discourse. It’s all too often the first refuge of people on the right and the left who are afraid to actually engage in any sort of meaningful debate.

This was an isolated incident. Last year saw the fewest cops murdered in seven decades and rates of violence against cops we haven’t seen since the 19th century. 2013 was an unusually safe year for cops and 2014 is likely to return to the 40-50 killings we’ve been averaging over the last decade. Doubtless, this increase will be cast as a “war on cops” by the usual sources. They dragged out the “war on cops” a few years ago when the number of murders went up, then went silent when it dropped back down again. But violence against cops is still at historic lows. As I note every time there is a mass shooting, these incidents are mercifully rare. These were the first NYPD cops murdered in three years.

And it’s worth noting something else: violence by cops is also down. It’s hard to tell how far down since official national statistics are not kept. But for the NYPD specifically, cop shootings of citizens is way down. So there is progress being made. But that progress still leaves us with a thousand people dead at the hands of police every year. That compares to about four a year in Germany, about a dozen in year in Canada and zero in Great Britain. Most of those killings are justified; some are not. But we have a system that has trouble distinguishing between the two.

The reaction to the killings is not unexpected. As I noted above, there has been a sustained campaign by police unions and supporters to delegitimize any criticism of the police (while ignoring provocative speech on their own side.) But let’s not pretend that there is no middle ground between the vicious execution of two cops and concern and criticism over a system that allows for consequence-free bad behavior.

Two good men are dead at the hands of a vile killer, a man who showed no compunction about shooting his ex-girlfriend before this or committing other acts of violence. Let’s not legitimize his deranged excuses by calling it a political movement.

Baby Bou-Bou and the War on Drugs


Last week, a horrifying incident occurred in Habersham county. Cops on a drug raid tossed a flash-bang grenade into a house they were raiding when they found something blocking the door. That thing was a crib and inside the crib was 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh. He’s now in critical condition after suffering severe chest and face wounds and burns when his crib caught fire. Doctors give him only a 50 percent chance of survival. One lung has failed. By the time I post these words, he may be dead. He has three older sisters who love him to pieces and have been basically crying non-stop for the last week.

In the immediate aftermath, the cops claimed that everything they did was justified. They said there was a dangerous meth dealer in the house, that they’d seen men armed with assault rifles, that an informant had tipped them off and they’d made an undercover buy. They blamed the family for putting the toddler in harm’s way by dealing drugs.

Almost all of that is now known to have been a lie:

Police surveillance should have revealed that children had been playing in front of the the house for two months and that a van with four car-child seats was parked in the driveway that officers crept by the night of the raid, said Mawuli Mel Davis.

The warrant contended that an undercover agent had purchased methamphetamine at the house the day before and officials justified the no-knock warrant on the grounds that the drug dealer was dangerous and possessed firearms.

Raiders found no drugs, gun or cash — nor the suspected drug dealer — at the house but did find the Phonesavanh family who was visiting from Wisconsin after their house had burned.
The suspected drug dealer, 30-year-old Wanis Thonetheva, was arrested later and was in possession of about an ounce of methamphetamine, Terrell said.

Now some people will try to tell you this is an isolated unfortunate incident. I don’t think you can write off the possibly fatal charring of a toddler that way. But they are also lying. Radley Balko has a rundown of incident after incident where flash-bangs have been deployed in these kind of situations. These are instruments of war. People’s houses have been burned down, people have been killed, other children have been scorched.

Nor is this an isolated incident in Habersham County. A few years ago, the same jurisdiction (different task force) gunned down pastor Jonathan Ayers. They thought he had bought drugs and came roaring up in an SUV, brandishing guns. The officers were in plain clothes and had little badges dangling from their necks. Not realizing they were cops, he tried to drive away and was shot and killed. The investigation exonerated the cops and concluded Ayers might have been paying for sex. His wife, however, found out that the cop who killed Ayers hadn’t been trained in the use of lethal force and the task force and investigators were hip-deep in nepotism. The county settled the case for $2 million. They clearly didn’t learn anything, however.

The lack of drugs and guns makes this more horrifying, but it’s kind of a side point. Even if the Phonesavanh family had been dealing meth — which they fucking weren’t — this raid would not have been justified. Launching a no-knock violent raid without even a basic assessment of the situation is something we wouldn’t do in Afghanistan, let alone Habersham County. Launching a no-knock violent raid of any kind in the United States against American citizens is something that should be used only in extreme situations, not routinely. That’s true even if they are dealing drugs. When you routinely launch drug raids in the middle of the night with military gear and officers trained to throw flash-bangs into homes, something like this is inevitable. We’re lucky there haven’t been more babies burned by this callous bullshit. And all for the glorious end of keeping Americans from getting high.

The War on Drugs is not a metaphor; it is literally a war on our own people. Baby Bou-Bou just became the latest horrific casualty. We’ve ended the War in Iraq. We’re ending the War in Afghanistan. When are we going to end this one? How many burned children, traumatized families and dead bodies is it going to take before we say, “enough!” I’m not even talking about decriminalizing drugs, here. You can keep drugs illegal. But isn’t it about time we stopped treating our own country like a battlefield?

Update: Let’s count the ways this could have been prevented.

  • They could have surveilled the house for more than about ten seconds.
  • They could have talked to a neighbor.
  • They could have used more than one informant.
  • They could have arrested the drug dealer in broad daylight when he came out of the house (he was kicked out of the house that day).
  • They could have noticed that the van in the driveway had kiddy seats in it instead of using it as cover.
  • Finding one door blocked, they could have entered from a different door.
  • They could have been trained to not toss a flash-bang grenade into an uncertain situation.
  • None of those steps involve legalizing drugs or letting criminals run free. They involve not immediately escalating a situation to a violent confrontation. Patterico makes this point:

    Don’t treat this like the cops intended this. They didn’t. When the story says deputies are distraught over this, I believe it. Cops don’t go into law enforcement to hurt small children.

    But look: if you use stun grenades in the service of a no-knock warrant like this, tragedies like this are going to happen. The question that police (and members of the public who pay the police) have to ask themselves is this: is it worth this kind of risk to arrest people for the crime in question? If the crime is murder, you might have one answer. If the crime is selling drugs, you might have another.

    And if the answer to that question (should we use this tactic knowing the risk?) is “no” . . . then don’t do it.

    There’s no question in my mind what the answer is.

    The Other Prohibition

    All of us are familiar with Prohibition, the attempt to ban the sale and manufacture of alcohol in this country. Very few would disagree that it was an unmitigated disaster. It created a spike in crime, empowered criminals and smugglers and did little to stop drinking (and I hope you celebrated Repeal Day last week).

    This post is not about alcohol prohibition, but I raise it to point out some of the traits it shares with two other kinds of prohibition. It was pushed by religious figures, yes, but more so by a Progressive Movement that saw banning alcohol as being for Americans’ own good. They believed that they could create something like a perfect society, where everyone behaved … at least according to how they thought everyone should behave. They unabashedly claimed the moral high ground, casting their opponents as either drunks or profiteers on human misery. And the effect varied depending on class. The Volstead Act was an inconvenience, at worst, to the rich and powerful, who could acquire illicit booze when they wanted it. Meanwhile, entire swathes of the population were condemned to violence, extortion and murder. But it was OK because they were just bootleggers, drunks, smugglers and Italians. Al Capone pointed out, quite correctly, the classist nature of Prohibition — that what was called bootlegging when he did was called hospitality when rich people did.

    There’s a second prohibition that we’ve discussed many times — the War on Drugs. I won’t rehash the many many horrors and inefficacies of this war — see the Alberto Willmore video below. But notice the traits it shares with alcohol Prohibition. It was supported by the Religious Right, yes, but also upheld by many “Progressives”. Our Vice President has long been one of the most vocal drug warriors out there and several Presidential campaigns in the 80’s and 90’s turned on who could be toughest on drugs. The Drug Warriors believe they can create a perfect drug-free society. They unabashedly claim the moral high ground, describing their opponents as either addicts or profiteers on human misery. And again, notice how the effect is varies depending on class. It’s not difficult for the elites to get drugs if they want them. If a Congressman’s son is busted with drugs, he goes into treatment. Meanwhile, the lower classes are condemned to the hell of gang wars, no-knock police raids and minimum sentencing guidelines. But it’s OK because they’re just drug dealers or drug addicts (or, it must be said, black).

    There’s a third prohibition, however. In fact, it’s actually the first prohibition, the one whose “success” inspired the ones that followed. It is so insidious that many of us don’t even realize it is a prohibition. And since my friend Maggie McNeill has asked those of us who oppose this prohibition to write about it on Friday the 13th, I’m going to talk about the prohibition on sex work. Or, to be trite: the War on Whores.

    Prostitution was not illegal for most of our history or most of human history. Because even those who regarded it as an evil saw it as a necessary one. As Maggie explains in the Cato Unbound debate between her, Ronald Weitzer and two well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) fools:

    Indeed, up until the nineteenth century almost nobody imagined that prohibition could be done, let alone that it should. It was almost universally understood that many working-class women and a not-inconsiderable number of those in higher classes would accept money for sex, at least on occasion, and it was impossible to draw a bright, clear line between behaviors that constituted “prostitution” and those (such as concubinage, mistresshood, and political marriage) which did not despite their often-mercenary basis. The manifold laws regulating sex work were not intended to preclude pragmatic motivations for sexual behavior, but rather to keep up appearances, guard the purity of bloodlines, and maintain public order. But as the Victorian Era dawned, a new idea began to take hold of European minds: if science could perfect Man’s tools and techniques, why couldn’t the same process be applied to Mankind itself? The immediate result of turning (pseudo-)scientific inquiry upon sex was that taking money for it was no longer considered merely something that “unladylike” or “sinful” women did for a living or extra income; instead, the “prostitute” was defined into existence as a specific type of woman, separate and distinct from other women. For most of the century the prevailing view was that women who took money for sex were congenitally defective, but in the 1880s the idea arose that most or even all were forced into the profession by evil men. It was about this time that “avails” laws started to appear, under the rationale of “protecting” women from exploitation by such men.

    By the beginning of the twentieth century, the “white slavery” hysteria was in full swing. Progressives were determined to “rescue” women from the clutches of the “pimps” who were abducting them by the thousands from homes, railway stations, and dance halls, and for the first time in history the act of taking money for sex was itself criminalized on a large scale. In the United States, it was illegal almost nowhere in 1909, but almost everywhere by the end of 1914.

    The more you dig into the issue the more you see the parallels to the War on Drugs and alcohol Prohibition. Again, we see the hand of religion, but also the Progressives (and I would argue that they are worse on this issue than the religious, having now donned the cloak of pseudo-feminism). They believe they can create a perfect whore-free society. They unabashedly claim the moral high ground, describing their opponents as whores or pimps. And the effect once again depends on class. It’s not difficult for someone like Eliot Spitzer — who prosecuted sex workers and their clients — to get a high-priced call girl. But some poor shmoe who just wants to get laid goes on John TV. Prostitutes can be raped with impunity, extorted by law enforcement and ultimately jailed. But it’s OK, because they’re just perverts and whores.

    And look where this hysteria has led us. Just as the War on Drugs will get a high school girl busted for giving Midol to a friend, so will the sex prohibitionists engage in absurd excesses in the War on Whores. In Madison, a man has started a business where people can pay to snuggle and cuddle with other people. I think it sounds stupid (about a decade ago, this sort of thing showed up on a Penn and Teller episode as a laugh). However, if paying $60 to hug some people is your thing, knock yourself out.

    But ultra-liberal Madison is banning it.

    Snugglers contend touching helps relieve stress. But Madison officials suspect the business is a front for prostitution and, if it’s not, fear snuggling could lead to sexual assault. Not buying the message that the business is all warm and fuzzy, police have talked openly about conducting a sting operation at the business, and city attorneys are drafting a new ordinance to regulate snuggling.

    “There’s no way that (sexual assault) will not happen,” assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy said. “No offense to men, but I don’t know any man who wants to just snuggle.”

    This is your brain on the War on Whores: a government official invoking sexual assault and the dreaded prostitution in a response to a hug house. God knows what they would have done if they’d found out about the back rubs on my freshman year college dorm.

    This is where this ahistorical hysteria on sex work has led us. This is who we are now. People think that bans on prostitution and hysteria over sex work only affects dirty whores and their filthy clients. But when you open the door to government getting involved in consensual sex between adults, the entire damned law enforcement industry will stampede through it. And next thing you know, they’re calling you a rapist for wanting to hug someone.

    No society has ever rid itself of alcohol — not even Islamic countries, where alcohol is illegal. No country has ever rid itself of drugs — not even China which once imposed the death penalty for opium use. They can reduce it, a bit. They can drive it underground. But they can not stop human beings from human beings.

    And no society has ever rid itself of sex work. In fact, many of the greatest empires embraced it. Our experiment in banning sex work has now gone on for a century. As with alcohol and rugs, its adherents continually claim we are right on the verge of victory; we only need to ruin a few more lives. It’s time that the prostitution ban, like Prohibition and the War on Drugs, find its way into the list of history’s abandoned mistakes.

    Don’t think that this is entirely about booze, drugs and hookers, either. All three of our nation’s great prohibitions have arisen from the Great Progressive Conceit: the idea that government can make people better (assuming you accept the Progressives’ definition of ‘better’). This is a conceit that plays out in a thousand ways in our politics, from the government telling you your insurance policy isn’t good enough to forbidding you from smoking in your own home to telling you not to drink so much soda.

    The Great Progressive Conceit is tempting because government can create the circumstances for people to become better. Freedom of religion and speech, capitalism, rule of law, etc. all create opportunities for human beings to improve themselves and the society around them. And we absolutely need government to stop people from harming each other. But the minute the government turns its eye toward telling you that you must do this or you must not do that for your own good …

    Just Say No.

    Book Review: Rise of the Warrior Cop

    I’m kicking off a new feature in my blogging: reviews of books or movies I think are relevant to current issues and events. I’ve made occasional oblique references to books like Three Felonies a Day or Declaration of Independents. But this will be a little more in depth. Not anticipating this will happen often.

    On this blog, I regularly link to the work done by Radley Balko so it won’t surprise anyone that I just read his new book Rise of the Warrior Cop and have a high opinion of it. But I thought it was worth a post to spell out just why I think this is an important book. It’s not for the reasons that you think.

    Balko’s blog has become one-stop-shopping on law enforcement abuses. From the misguided and tragic raid on Corey Maye to the killing of Kathryn Johnston, he’s documented hundreds of wrong-door raids, overamped raids and militaristic excesses that have trashed civil liberties and all too often left the bodies of innocent people and police on the ground.

    But the book is very different from his blog. While the blog tends to focus on specific incidents of abuse, the book takes a step back to break down how we’ve gotten here: how all of our civil liberties have slowly been chipped away by the legislatures and the courts through hysteria over crime, drugs and terrorism. It chronicles how our approach to law enforcement has changed from colonial times (when we didn’t have professional law forces) to today, with a heavy focus on the last forty years.

    The thing about wrong door raids or the shooting of innocent people by police is that focusing on particular horrifying incidents gives one the impression that are isolated or very rare events. Balko shows that they are not that rare. Ray Kelly admitted that at least 10% of the hundreds of raids launched in NYC every month hit innocent people. Others estimate the problem is much larger. Hard numbers are difficult to get because there is very little documentation of what goes on in police raids and legislators and law enforcement have resisted efforts to document it.

    But wrong door raids are only the tip of a much larger and much scarier iceberg. The militarization of law enforcement is deeply problematic even when it doesn’t result in harm to innocent people. Over 50,000 armed raids are launched every year in this country and something like 90+% of armed raids are for consensual non-violent crimes (drugs, principally). The problem isn’t just innocent people getting hurt: it’s about the guilty people too. How did it become reasonable to routinely send armed tactical squads for drug busts? If someone has some pot, why should cops bang on the door at 4 am, wait 15 seconds, crash it down, throw everyone to the floor and point guns at their head while screaming profanities? Before you answer, remember that guns of any kind are only recovered in a tiny fraction of these raids. Before you answer, remember that armed resistance to cops has been rare even when crime reached its awful peak in the early 90’s (assaults on police are at an all-time low). Before you answer, remember that these tactics, with court approval, have been used to bust up small-time gambling “rings”, people selling raw milk, guitar manufacturers using illegal wood and even barbers practicing without a license. Raids have been launched against legal pot shops in California. These are licensed pot dealers — business people — who are treated like murderous meth kingpins. Raids have been launched against practicing physicians that the Feds decide are prescribing too much pain medicine. In many cases, they admit that the tactics are used not because of any danger but to “send a message”.

    A man’s home is his castle, even if he is breaking the law. The Constitution applies to all of use, lawmakers and lawbreakers. Our Founding Fathers rebelled for far less than this. They thought daytime searches were out of line.

    These tactics have only ramped up and expanded as the crime rate has fallen. Supporters like to say that the militarization of police is the reason crime has fallen. But they have a problem: cities that have eschewed such tactics, like San Diego, have seen sharper drops in crime and crime started dropping there before crime began to drop everywhere else. No matter what you might think of these tactics, there’s little evidence that they are actually working to reduce crime.

    Rise of the Warrior Cop is definitively not anti-cop. I would say that at least 60% and probably more of the interviewees are in law enforcement. Some of the most telling passages in the book are from the 1970’s when police officers resisted the militarization of policing precisely because they feared what eventually happened: the creation of groups of armed officers with little connection to the community busting down doors in the process of ordinary law enforcement; communities that see cops as dangerous rather than helpful; the majority of good decent community-oriented cops being eclipsed by gung-ho warriors.

    The problem is not that cops are bad; the problem is that cops are human. And because of panic-mongering over the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, we have given these humans military weapons, enormous discretionary power and little accountability. Cops in the book talk about the adrenaline rush that comes with a no-knock raid, the sense of power that guns, body armor and tanks give them. It’s a testament to the basic goodness of most of our cops that there aren’t more abuses.

    Balko is clear in his closing argument: we do not live in a police state. Only a small minority of Americans are being impacted by this. But I would say that the mechanism of a police state has been slowly worked into our society thanks to the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. Think about 2016. In 2016 we will get a new President. Here are just some of the powers that this new President will have:

  • The power to surveil any overseas communication of any type through a secret court and the infrastructure to surveil any electronic communications, period.
  • The power to collect meta-data on all Americans, which includes their location, who they call and where they go.
  • A surveillance state that is governed by secret laws that no citizen can see.
  • The power to kill American citizens overseas based on secret internal evaluations.
  • The power to indefinitely detain terror suspects, including American citizens.
  • A post office that routinely photographs our mail.
  • Armed paramilitary SWAT teams in almost every city with a population of more than 25,000. Some cities of just a few thousand have them. Many now have armored vehicles and military grade weapons. Some even have massive .50 machine guns. That’s in addition to 73 different federal agencies that have tactical squads and employ tens of thousands of armed agents who are authorized for raids.
  • A judiciary that thinks the exclusionary rules is old-fashioned, that warrants should almost always be granted and that police always act “in good faith”. A judiciary that thinks, if you’re arrested for so much as a bogus parking ticket, the police should be to take your DNA and see what else you might have been up to. A judiciary that thinks the smell of pot justifies a warrantless search and that your silence can incriminate you.
  • Maybe you think some of those policies above are reasonable. The problem is that this is not multiple choice. The President and the state now have all of those powers and privileges. And that list will only grow if left unchecked. One of the things we’ve seen is that the powers bequeathed by one President to the next only get extended further. As Alex has said many times, Obama has engaged in War on Terror policies far in excess of what Bush did. What might the next President do? Are you willing to trust anyone with that kind of power?

    This isn’t about party. Republicans have played their role in chipping away at our civil liberties (Nixon especially). But one of the biggest enablers of law enforcement militarization has been Joe Biden, a liberal Democrat. When Obama took office, he massively increased the amount of money going into grants and giveaways to provide military-grade equipment to cops in even the tiniest safest cities. Under Obama, raids on legal pot growers have increased. Surveillance has increased. Civil liberties have decreased. And the only problems the Democrats have had with even the most invasive anti-crime legislation is it not going far enough. This is a bipartisan problem.

    A lot of people talk about the Second Amendment and its critical role in protecting us from tyranny. I agree on the importance of the Second Amendment. But where are these people when the actual pieces are put in place that could, under the right man, enable tyranny? Where are they as the Third, Fourth and Fifth Amendments are effectively gutted? Even the First Amendment is in danger. It is now routine for teams of cops to show up to protests in full riot gear and arrest peaceful protesters who won’t disperse. Medical marijuana activists have been specifically targeted for raids.

    If you really care about liberty, you should not respond to violent raids on non-violent drug dealers with “that’s what they get for dealing drugs.” If you really care about liberty, you shouldn’t dismiss concerns over Waco and Ruby Ridge because those people were crazy. If you really care about liberty, you shouldn’t think that it’s reasonable for cops to respond to peaceful protests with tear gas guns (response to violent protests is different). If you really care about liberty, you shouldn’t dismiss IRS profiling because it only hurt a bunch of Tea Partiers. If you really care about liberty, you shouldn’t cheer the DHS when they call for extra scrutiny of Right Wing groups even as all political terrorism is in decline.

    We see blazing hypocrisy on this issue all the time. Conservatives who rightfully screamed bloody murder over the Elian Gonzalez raid were almost gleeful when cops beat and pepper-sprayed Occupy protesters. Liberals who howled when Occupy protesters were beaten broke out the pompoms when it was the ATF (Rachel Maddow specifically said the nature of the opposition justified the tactics). Liberals who objected to profiling of Muslims thought it was just fine when the DHS did it with Right Wing groups.

    It is precisely that kind of partisanship and division which has enabled this. People looking the other way as the War on Drugs raged out of control because it was only hurting dirty hippies and poor black people. People looking the other way at ATF raids because it was only hurting gun nuts. People biting their tongues on War on Terror excesses because they’re not Muslim. People dismissing IRS abuses because the Tea Party deserved it.

    We have to get this through our heads: civil liberties belong to all of us. If anyone’s civil liberties are under attack, then all of our civil liberties are under attack.

    Balko seems a bit optimistic that we will reach a tipping point on this. I’m not so sure. I thought the Columbia raid, in which video captured the killing of two dogs and the terrorizing of a child over a minor drug bust, would have changed things, but it didn’t. I fear that, if things don’t change soon, it will take something truly horrible to wake the American people up.

    50,000 raids a year may not sounds like a lot in a country of 300 million. The vast majority of Americans will never have to worry about this. But the potential danger lurks out there. Anyone in this country — anyone who isn’t a Congressman at least — is a vague pile of evidence away from having their door knocked down, their house searched and any complaint being dismissed depending on which group our government decides is dangerous. This week, it’s legal pot dealers in California. Next week, its gun owners. After that, it’s IMF protesters. After that, it’s Right Wing “hate” groups.

    Is that they kind of country we want to live in? That’s the question the book asks.

    I’ve only talked about a tiny fraction of what’s in Rise of the Warrior Cop. It’s a quick read but packed with facts that are alternatively enraging, alarming and, on occasion, darkly hilarious. But if you care about this issue — either because you agree with me that this is alarming or because you think I’m a hysterical nut — you should take a look.

    More IRS shenannigans; LSM mute, crooks not fazed.

    I am sad to say that the revelation that the IRS illegally looked at tax information for political enemies of this administration doesn’t even faze me anymore. It’s not new news. It was actually blatantly obvious during the campaign based on numerous claims made by Team Obama and other Team Blue hit men. This is the Chicago way. These are criminals running the country right now, and they will do anything to keep their power. I am also not surprised at the revelation that after the feds admitted to this criminal activity Holders DOJ decided to drop the matter.

    The Treasury Department has admitted for the first time that confidential tax records of several political candidates and campaign donors were improperly scrutinized by government officials, but the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any of the cases.

    Its investigators also are probing two allegations that the Internal Revenue Service “targeted for audit candidates for public office,” the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, has privately told Sen. Chuck Grassley.

    In a written response to a request by Mr. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Mr. George said a review turned up four cases since 2006 in which unidentified government officials took part in “unauthorized access or disclosure of tax records of political donors or candidates,” including one case he described as “willful.” In four additional cases, Mr. George said, allegations of improper access of IRS records were not substantiated by the evidence.

    Mr. Grassley has asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to explain why the Justice Department chose not to prosecute any of the cases. The Iowa Republican told The Washington Times that the IRS “is required to act with neutrality and professionalism, not political bias.”

    The investigation did not name the government officials who obtained the IRS records improperly, nor did it reveal the identities or political parties of the people whose tax records were compromised. By law, taxpayer records at the IRS are supposed to be confidential.

    The disclosures deal another blow to the IRS and the Obama administration, which are still grappling with revelations that IRS agents inappropriately targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for extraordinarily burdensome scrutiny during President Obama’s first term. Amid that furor over the abuse of the agency’s powers, the IRS has denied that the tax records of political candidates or donors were improperly accessed.

    There were a lot more than 4 cases they found proof of abuse in, and the other 4 mentioned, for which they somehow were not able to obtain details. These are the ones the crooks couldn’t hide. Team Obama seemed to know everything about their opponents in the last election, and they even targeted said opponents donors. Holder sees nothing wrong with this behavior because his side was doing it all. Bet you if the other side had even tried it, we would be looking at another Watergate scandal for the republican caught committing this crime.

    And Team Obama is currently coated with Teflon. No act, no matter how criminal and vile, seems to bother the media or the sheep that bow to Black Jesus. They can’t be bothered. Instead their focus is on the fact that despite the prosecution having no case, 6 women, none of them black, let a racist white Hispanic go free or what Kim Kardasian is doing these days. What a shameful time we live in.

    If you still doubt that the Zimmerman trial is not politically motivated

    Check out what happened to yet another whistleblower that showed that the Florida States Attorney’s office was doing shady shit. From the article:

    State Attorney Angela Corey fired her office’s information technology director Friday after he testified last month about being concerned prosecutors did not turn over information to George Zimmerman’s defense team in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

    On the same day attorneys finished their closing arguments in that nationally watched trial, a state attorney investigator went to Ben Kruidbos’ home about 7:30 a.m. to hand-deliver a letter stating Kruidbos “can never again be trusted to step foot in this office.”

    The letter contended Kruibos did a poor job overseeing the information technology department, violated public records law for retaining documents, and noted he was questioned in March when the office was trying to determine who had leaked personnel information obtained through a computer breach.

    He was fired for daring to go against the politically motivated scumbags that helped generate the “Trayvon Martin was killed by a honkey so you better get out and vote for Obama to keep the racists out of power” meme right before the 2012 election> All I ask is can you imagine the furor and outcry had this horrible chain of abuses of power, criminal behavior, and injustices, let alone a single incident like this one, happened when the guy in the WH had an (R) next to his name?

    We live in a country where the credentialed elite, but especially the leftists ones, think they are not just above the law, but they have no compunction sacrificing anyone of us or violating any and all laws for their agenda. But they are doing it for a greater good, or so they say, so all is well. And the media and the people that like that the abuses of power affect their political enemies so they turn a blind eye to this malfeasance, can’t be bothered. When payback comes these fucks will all scream like stuck pigs. Zimmerman’s sacrifice on the altar of the progressive agenda demands it.

    A get out of jail free card

    If you are connected and make the right kind of donations. I am not surprised. Corzine will walk for the same reason. These are people that funneled a lot of that money they had to the right democrats, including Black Jesus, so the DOJ is going to not bother with them.

    We no longer are a nation of laws I tell you. There is one set of laws so these very people giving their friends a pass can hold our feet to the fire, and another, which involves picking & choosing which one of the laws that apply to the rest of us can be applied to them, for them. I understand money buys you privilege, but donating money to the right politicians, whom always seem to belong to the one party that decries political favoritism by the opposition the loudest and most, shouldn’t buy you that much privilege.

    The left has become the movement of the ultra rich and pretends to do it in the name of the poor and downtrodden. What a giant joke.

    The Keystone Cops of Cannabis

    Pivoting from Alex’s post on the need for new legal frameworks in the post-legalization era, I wanted to talk about the Obama Administration floating some trial balloons on how they are going to respond to Washington and Colorado legalizing pot.

    It’s not promising.

    One option is for federal prosecutors to bring some cases against low-level marijuana users of the sort they until now have rarely bothered with, waiting for a defendant to make a motion to dismiss the case because the drug is now legal in that state. The department could then obtain a court ruling that federal law trumps the state one.

    A more aggressive option is for the Justice Department to file lawsuits against the states to prevent them from setting up systems to regulate and tax marijuana, as the initiatives contemplated. If a court agrees that such regulations are pre-empted by federal ones, it will open the door to a broader ruling about whether the regulatory provisions can be “severed” from those eliminating state prohibitions — or whether the entire initiatives must be struck down.

    Another potential avenue would be to cut off federal grants to the states unless their legislatures restored antimarijuana laws, said Gregory Katsas, who led the civil division of the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration.

    Busting low level users? Suing the states? Once again, we see the legacy of Raich: a federal government empowered to use any and and all means to override state law.

    There were a lot of people who speculated that re-election would empower Obama to “pivot” on the drug issue. I was skeptical, to say the least, because cracking down on medical marijuana wasn’t exactly a political winner for him in the first place. No one outside of a few libertarians decided their vote on Obama’s marijuana policy. Ardent drug warriors weren’t voting for Obama anyway and his supporters ignored his crackdowns. But the new rhetoric emerging from the Hypocrite Smoker in Chief shows that the Obama defenders were definitely smoking something if they thought things would change.

    Notice what words and phrases do not appear in the New York Times article: pivot, possibly ending the war on drugs, whether our drug laws are doing more harm than good, the drug war a failure, crime and misery [the drug war] creates.

    You’d think that if Obama were going to “pivot,” simply leaving alone two states that overwhelmingly legalized pot and gave him their electoral votes would be the best place to start.

    Marijuana actually outpolled Obama in Colorado, Washington and Arkansas.

    The Administration’s response is so disheartening that it has even caused Andrew Sullivan to deviate from his usual “we just have to trust that Obama has a long-term plan in mind” programming:

    Well, since they’re asking: if they decide to treat the law-abiding citizens of Colorado and Washington as dangerous felons; if they decide to allocate their precious law enforcement powers to persecuting and arresting people for following a state law that they have themselves just passed by clear majorities; if they decide that opposing a near majority of Americans in continuing to prosecute the drug war on marijuana, even when the core of their own supporters want an end to Prohibition, and even when that Prohibition makes no sense … then we will give them hell.

    Will we? Will we really, now? Obama has spent four years cracking down on legal medical marijuana in a way that George W. Bush never did and almost the entirety of the liberal media and the so-called “Obamacons” acted like toilets with the lids up while he did it. Have you seen a massive outrage from left wing blogs over the NYT article I quote above? Have you seen any of them even acknowledge it? Rachel Maddow did a whole show on how marijuana policy is changing. I scanned through it to see if she gave Obama hell for his policies. If she did, I missed it.

    For four years, liberals have steadfastly ignored Obama’s repulsive marijuana policies. They did this, they said, because it was so important for Obama to win re-election and he needed liberal support on more important issues. But there are always more elections and the issues are just as important now as they were three months ago. Are the liberals really going to turn on Obama during a fiscal cliff showdown because of pot? Are they really going to let the GOP win 2014 and 2016 because of medical cannabis? I don’t think so.

    The fact is that if Obama is going to be pushed on his marijuana policy, that push is going to have to come form the Right; from politicians who actually believe in state’s rights or have libertarian social views. The only other alternatives are the Supreme Court reversing Raich or a bunch of states uniting to openly and aggressively defy federal drug laws (e.g., by forbidding any state cooperation with drug raids or prosecuting federal agents for violating state law).

    But the idea that Obama is going to reverse course on this is ridiculous. And the idea that his supporters will turn on him is even more so. There are too many people who have a vested interest in the Drug War. And the next time Obama defies special interests — on healthcare, banking, defense or law enforcement — will also be the first.

    Bloomberg Call for Chaos

    Uber Nanny Stater Michael Bloomberg was the first to politicize the tragedy in Aurora. It makes sense that Bloomberg would be in favor of gun control: petty men who want to control every aspect of their citizens’ lives hate the idea of an armed citizenry. But now he’s taken it a step further into douchebaggery:

    Mayor Bloomberg opened a new front in the war over firearms when he went on TV to call on cops nationwide to walk off the job until politicians tighten gun-control laws.

    “I don’t understand why the police officers across this country don’t stand up collectively and say, ‘We’re going to go on strike. We’re not going to protect you. Unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what’s required to keep us safe,’” Bloomberg said on CNN Monday night.

    It appears that even Bloomberg and his power-worshipping sycophants have realized how stupid this sounded. They’re now saying he was just “making a point”. Making a point? By calling on cops to do something that would endanger the public and is, in many places, illegal?

    But that “defense” is revealing about the real intention behind the rhetoric. Having failed to get the public panicky about guns with their standard “you could get shot at any moment” rhetoric, the anti-gun crowd are falling back on the “War on Cops” rhetoric that politicians generally and Bloomberg specifically have used to defend … everything. Most recently, this was used to defend NYC’s ridiculous and unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy that has resulted in more black men being frisked than there are black men and an insane number of marijuana busts.

    Mike Riggs, Ken White and Radley Balko take the “War on Cops” talking point apart. Money quote:

    In 2008, ten times more civilians regular people were killed by cops than cops were killed by perps.

    In 2011, 72 cops were shot and killed in the entire U.S.; in L.A. County alone, cops shot and killed 54 suspects the same year–22 percent of those people were unarmed.

    As Scott Reeder reported at Reason this morning, “Farmers, ranchers, commercial fishermen, loggers, garbage collectors, truck drivers, construction workers, pilots, steel workers, roofers, and others are far more likely to face death on the jobs than police or firefighters, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

    And as Choire Sicha wrote earlier this year, “2008 was the ten-year low for police officers being killed, and 2012 is, so far, year-to-date, down 49% from last year.”

    But as much as I like the work of Mike, Ken and Radley and would like to have their babies, I think they are missing the key point here: Bloomberg isn’t really running on the War on Cops theme. He’s using it as a shield for his own Nanny State ambitions. Bloomberg is in favor of strict gun control. But he can’t just say, “I don’t like the idea of you idiot plebs having guns”. So he has to hide behind the cops.

    And I don’t think his strike rhetoric was rhetorical. In the aftermath of Aurora, the anti-gun crowd are wondering just why events like this don’t start a “conversation” about gun control (“conversation” being Liberalspeak for “everyone agreeing with us”). I’m actually encouraged that the American people are not panicking about an isolated incidence of horrific violence (gun crime and murders are down — way down off their peak). It shows a lot more maturity than I’ve come to expect.

    But the failure to panic isn’t sitting well with people like Bloomberg who are always hoping a tragedy will propel their ideas into law and themselves into power. Perhaps, they hope, a larger convulsion — such as cops going on strike — would galvanize the public to support their agenda.

    Politicians — especially power-hungry politician like Bloomberg — rely on fear and hysteria to maintain and expand their power. But after a decade of being constantly terrorized about everything from terrorists to playgrounds, I think the American people are getting terrified out. Maybe … unlikely, I admit, but just maybe … the public is developing some much-needed cynicism about politicians and a desperately-needed resistance to their constant attempts to frighten us into surrendering more of our freedom.

    The idea; the faintest possibility of an American public slightly less terrified by political hobgoblins scares people like Bloomberg. And so … he calls on the police to create a real danger to the American public.

    Your Christ Christie Common Sense Porn of the Day

    After a rough week with the Presidential candidates … man, I could use me some Chris Christie “common sense porn”.

    I don’t see 100% eye-to-eye with the Governor on drugs, since he opposes medical marijuana and decriminalization. But the idea of treatment over prison for non-violent drug offenders is so sensible, so humane, so … conservative that I was honestly moved by his words.

    2016, Chris. We’re waiting for you.