Yeah, do we get tasers and tear gas?

Via Boing Boing here’s a video of police officers dealing with a naked man at the Coachella music festival. (Link only because the video contains nudity.) The man seems under the influence of something. There is also a large crowd surrounding them defending the naked man. The situation could descend into chaos. These are important caveats suggesting a quick, definitive resolution will be best. They begin with the most reasonable, least problematic solution by giving the man clothing. Only when it’s clear he will not cooperate, they escalate. They’re doing their job.

Once it becomes clear that some level of exertion will be necessary, however, the video shows that the cops opt instead for the Taser. The video demonstrates they chose the lazy route, and they use it – and other harsh techniques – before fully attempting to subdue the individual. At approximately the 2:30 mark, the police wrestle the man to the ground. He continues resisting. Some level of force is necessary and what they’re doing isn’t enough. Their actions become unacceptable at this point. Two officers struggle with him while another officer stands around holding the garment the man refused to wear. There is no obvious reason this officer should stand idly by. It’s clear the man will not voluntarily cover himself, and he’s involved in an active struggle. One of the two officers struggling with the man gets up and prepares his Taser. The previously idle officer now joins the struggle by pouncing on the man, driving his knee into him. Then, the previous officer tasers the man multiple times. They subdue and cover him.

I’m willing to assume they avoided wrestling with him as long as they did because the man was naked and not because they had an urge to ultimately rough him up. Neither is flattering to the police because dealing with this is their job, even if he’s naked. But it’s understandable. Yet, to avoid the physical effort required by their job once they’d committed to arresting the man, they used unnecessary force (repeatedly). And, although they did not trigger crowd involvement beyond words, they pushed the situation closer to what they tried to avoid in the beginning than they should have. This is an example where police used the Taser as an alternative to effort rather than as an alternative to deadly force. They wouldn’t shoot the man for not cooperating. They shouldn’t have tasered him.

Do Children Have Any Rights?

Any point in the long line of events leading to the Supreme Court hearing a case on the strip search of students by school officials demonstrates that we’ve collectively lost our minds. It’s easy enough to shout “Will no one think of the children,” and I will. Will no one think of the children? Not as an emotional plea, although that is valid. This is a demand for recognition that children are individuals, as well, with the same complement of rights protected by the Constitution. We can debate the degree to which they are fully vested versus held in “trust” (e.g. free speech), and that’s a useful debate. This is not that.

None of the lawyers had a particularly easy time of it. Matthew W. Wright, representing the school district, said that intimate searches should be allowed even for the most common over-the-counter drugs.

“At some point it gets silly,” Justice David H. Souter said. “Having an aspirin tablet does not present a health and safety risk.”

Mr. Wright did draw the line at searches of students’ body cavities, but only on the practical ground that school officials are not trained to conduct such searches. Mr. Wright said there was no legal obstacle to such a search.

Mr. Wright, and the government, may have a legal point on this topic using strict semantics. But the moral question is clear. These children own their bodies. They are due the same respect and dignity we offer to adults. (We violate the rights of adults. The point is that we violate the rights of children more.) Anyone who would propose that school officials could legitimately perform a body cavity search on a student if properly trained has lost his way.

I know enough to understand that the questions asked by Justices are not necessarily indicative of the eventual outcome. With that caveat:

Without intimating a view on the ickiness of what Mr. Wolf had described, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. suggested that the law might treat different undergarments differently. “The issue here covers the brassiere as well,” he said, “which doesn’t seem as outlandish as the underpants.”

Not as outlandish, perhaps, but according to whom? The student, or does her (or his) opinion not matter? I know, DRUGS!@#$!@!!!. But, is there any room for the consideration that the person searched might find exploring her brassiere outlandish? If we extend this to even younger students, as a ruling in the school’s favor surely would over a short period of time, would a female student who develops breasts earlier than her classmates be self-conscious of this fact? Could it be mortifying to have her brassiere searched? Is there a “breast-no breasts” exception to the Fourth Amendment, or just a general view that children have no rights?

“My thought process,” Justice Souter said, “is I would rather have the kid embarrassed by a strip search, if we can’t find anything short of that, than to have some other kids dead because the stuff is distributed at lunchtime and things go awry.”

Notice that Justice Souter states what he would rather have when comparing the strip search of a minor and an event that has no verifiable examples. This is the same idiocy that states that pre-emptive, legalized torture is acceptable because there might be a ticking time bomb. What is done is subservient to why the actor does it because DRUGS!@#$!@!!!.

Radley Balko sums it up best:

It’s a little troubling to see how comfortable these old men (Ginsburg isn’t quoted in the article) seem to be with allowing school administrators access to the genitalia of school children based on nothing more than a hunch that they might be “crotching” some ibuprofen.

At this point, the drug war really can’t be parodied, can it?

This is madness.

John Cole offers a good summary of this case, titled “I’m Not a Lawyer or a Constitutional Scholar”:

And as such, will probably not understand the legal intricacies of this case that was debated in the Supreme Court yesterday. However, I can state that as someone with an IQ over room temperature, the fact that we are debating whether it is appropriate for school authorities to strip search kids is a sure sign that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with this country and our sense of perspective, and I blame the war on drugs.

That’s succinct to the point of perfection.


I got the Balloon Juice link from Doug Mataconis at Below The Beltway. I no longer read Balloon Juice, even though Mr. Cole provides excellent commentary like the quote above. His update to the post reminds me why I no longer read. After an excerpt from a linked summary he introduces with “Government by old men afraid of advil is disgusting”, Mr. Cole writes:

Where is the outrage? Oh, yeah. They are too busy protesting the fact that Bill Gate’s taxes are going to go up 3%! Tyranny!

Link to examples, if they exist. I’m sure they do. But it is shrill and unfair to mock – out-of-context – someone’s opposition to another issue and imply that agitating for one issue makes having a coherent position on another topic is impossible. This is common, as I’ve experienced, but it’s a pathetic tactic in any context. If someone has made up his mind on a topic, that’s okay. I have, for example. But that person should be prepared to defend himself if he brings up the topic. If not, don’t bring up the topic. Doing so is the sign of an incurious, closed mind.

Ron Paul is still not a libertarian.

Timothy Sandefur explains how, based on Ron Paul’s recent statements on Texas Governor Rick Perry’s thinly-veiled call for secession.

Excuse me, Congressman, but the United States did not “secede” from Britain. The nation had a revolution. The difference between secession and revolution is, of course, one which paleoconservatives like Paul insist on ignoring, but it is a crucial one. Secession is the notion that a state may unilaterally leave the American union, consistent with the Constitution of the United States. Obviously since the revolution occurred in 1776, eleven years before the Constitution, it can’t be called “secession.” And perhaps that’s why the word was not used by the founding fathers when they engaged in the revolution or even afterwards.

The rest of Mr. Sandefur’s entry is worth your time.

Circling All Multiple-Choice Answers

I do not discount the possibility that a beauty pageant contestant can be informed on any given topic. I discount the possibility that a beauty pageant is a forum capable of generating an interesting discussion of any particular topic. What Miss California has to say about same-sex marriage is rather irrelevant to the debate.

That said, I find the outcry amusing. From FOX News:

Miss California Carrie Prejean, blasted by a Miss USA contest judge because she opposes gay marriage, may have grounds for a discrimination lawsuit herself — against the Miss USA pageant, a legal analyst says.

“If she really feels some tremendous stress as a result of losing — and I’m certain she’s probably devastated from what happened to her — she can articulate a viable claim for monetary compensation for psychic injury,” said FOX News legal analyst Mercedes Colwin.

I’m not an attorney, but I’m certain this is preposterous reasoning. Rule number one: Never take legal advice from a cable television news program. Even if I didn’t understand this rule, reading the article tells me enough. Nowhere does the (unnamed) reporter quote Miss Prejean’s response to Perez Hilton’s question. If you haven’t heard it, she said:

PEREZ: Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?

CARRIE: I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman.

Perez Hilton gave her a zero for her answer. If I thought a judge’s vote on an answer to a question in the Miss USA pageant could justify a lawsuit, this still isn’t that. She didn’t answer the question because she said it’s great that we can choose to marry a partner of either gender but we shouldn’t be able to choose any marriage other than one man and one woman. The possibly-accidental inclusion of great generated her predicament, not her dismissal of a civil right because she was raised to believe her opinion is as valid as logic.

Link via Timothy Lee’s Twitter feed.


Now for a snarky answer: She can’t articulate a viable claim because she couldn’t articulate a viable answer.

“With your head on my shoulders we could wreck civilization!”

I haven’t followed the story surrounding The Pirate Bay closely, but I know enough to find no outrage at the recent conviction of the four founders. I don’t share what seems to be the typical libertarian revulsion at copyright laws. Although I agree they’re flawed as they’re written, there are legal ways for content producers to contract with customers that ignore the process. The system is broken but the free market created a work-around. So, I’m not ready to hoist a Live Free or Die banner on this issue.

That’s my short version. I like this longer, more detailed version from Eugenia’s Rants and Thoughts.

In my opinion, they are indeed guilty — they have been total assholes to lawyers who have sent them takedown notices over time. These dumbasses think that they are some kind of revolutionist heroes. Yes, a revolution is needed for copyright laws and the entertainment industry today, but these guys haven’t realized that in this day and age there is only one way to start a revolution: work through the existing system’s limitations and lobby extensively for new laws. Anything [sic] other approach will be shot down by the system and the corporations. This is not 1789 France. You can’t win with riffles, and picketing or rage anymore. You simply can’t ignore the laws. We live in a bureaucratic, corporation-led world, and so you will have to work through these constrains to change the world (e.g. via Creative Commons which is a clever approach that doesn’t cancel the current laws, so it can’t piss off the establishment to come after you). This Gandhi approach works: if you don’t buy the RIAA/MPAA-bound products, these empires will eventually fall, but it’s the only way to do it.

I’d change “corporation-led world” to a more general reference about special interests, but that’s mostly semantics based on politics. The basic idea is correct. If you don’t like the rules, refuse to participate or change them. Violating them instead is not a valid option.

Title reference here.

“Buck Up, Little Camper”

Last week when the government finally released the torture memos, Ta-Nehisi Coates discussed this:

Mr. Obama condemned what he called a “dark and painful chapter in our history” and said that the interrogation techniques would never be used again. But he also repeated his opposition to a lengthy inquiry into the program, saying that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

Obama’s stance is the standard cowardice of politics. Holding criminals accountable for their behavior is an ongoing campaign tactic, applied only to those who are not one’s peers. But it is nonsense if we are to avoid a repeat of this in the future.

Mr. Coates stated why:

I think this is wrong. More than that I think it’s dismissive, silly and bordering on insult to any literate human being. In point of fact “spending our time and energy laying blame for the past” is exactly what the justice system does. By Obama’s logic murderers would go free in the streets. The real question is not whether you’re going to lay blame for the past, but who your [sic] going to lay it on, and for which past. What Obama is really saying in this statement is he won’t hold this particular group accountable, for this particular past.

This is a dangerous course because it doesn’t simply not “lay blame for the past,” it shrugs off arguably the solemn responsibility of safeguarding the future. The price of doing nothing, of not enforcing laws, is the implicit statement that it really is OK to torture, that the most you’ll face is a wag of the finger. The concern isn’t mere vengeance.

This is exactly right. It is obvious that the United States tortured prisoners during the Bush administration. Yes it will be uncomfortable to prosecute high-ranking officials, including a former president. But justice is important if we are to walk back from the insanity of the Bush years. The difficulty in effort and emotion is not a sufficient reason to avoid the necessary task.

Mr. Coates contemplates this difficulty:

All of that said, what really disturbs me about all of this, is that most Americans still don’t think torture is a big deal. I think in the case of Bush, particularly after 2004, we–the American people–got the government we deserved. I think Bush said a lot about who we were post-9/11. I’d like to see some exploration into how to make this torture argument directly to the people. Maybe we can’t. Maybe people really don’t care that much. But if we’re wondering why Obama isn’t willing to press forward, I think it’s fair to also wonder why the people aren’t pressing him to press forward.

I’m not wondering why Obama isn’t willing to press forward. However, the readiness of so many to look away or actively encourage this behavior is disgusting. I suspect I won’t like the answer if we press forward with prosecution. But I’d rather know that people think this than pretend they don’t.


The title of this post is a reference from here about this:

“Don’t be discouraged by what’s happened in the last few weeks,” he told [CIA] employees. “Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that’s why you should be proud to be members of the C.I.A.”

This way is not moving forward. It is moving sideways until the next time this happens.

Americans Legislate the Same Dichotomy

Update: I reread this post after a Nathan from To the People commented. I achieved a full-on SnarkFail. To be clear, I agree with Nathan in every point he makes. I clarify how in my response in the comments. I need to remember that sometimes saying “Jackie Chan is a moron” would be more effective than a more subtle approach. So, to clarify: Jackie Chan is a moron.

Nathan at To the People mocks Jackie Chan for comments he recently made (Story here):

“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not,” Chan said. “I’m really confused now. If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.”

Chan added: “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

The Communist Party leaders who control the Chinese who “need” to be controlled are not controlled. Are they just doing what they want?


Nathan states this in response to the real-world outcome exhibited in another of Mr. Chan’s comments, that Mr. Chan would buy a Japanese TV if he needed one because a Chinese TV might explode:

Hmm… “If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want,” huh? Like build a TV that won’t explode, for example? Heaven forbid.

That reminds me of this video:

I’m sure the Chinese who drive that car would be happier with something to control their engines rather than having it barrel into their torsos. Alas, no such “luck” with political controllers.

Every Policy Affects Real People

This excerpt is important, but read the entire post at The Crossed Pond:

… I was the face of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for many a sailor, and I kicked out my first queer in 1990. Nothing earth shattering, no complex investigation or lawyerly maneuvering, just a young guy quietly living with a lover, even known about by many of the crew, until the wrong dude found out and reported it. A few questions asked, an admission made, and he was gone.

The next one was more disturbing. He was a hard working deck hand, a book worm, a loner, and a fundamentalist Christian. He made the mistake of leaving a moderately erotic drawing of a partially nude male on his rack in his assigned group berthing compartment. Someone took it, reported it, officers questioned him, and then we kicked him out. But along the way, I learned about self loathing. This young man believed he was demon-haunted and devil-tempted. He could resist these urges so long as we stayed in our home port, where he could attend nightly services at his small church, and pray for strength with the handful of other worshippers. But when we left home port, spending weeks at sea where he had no access to his support group, he grew weak, and would seek anonymous sex in the usual hang outs at the first port call. He hated himself. He comes to mind often; I wonder if he ever came to terms with his sexuality, if he still exists in his self imposed purgatory, or if he killed himself. My questions and doubts grew.

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was wrong in 1993. It is wrong today. It should be repealed immediately. Every competent individual willing to serve should be able to serve openly, with his or her character measured only by conduct applicable to job performance. The politician’s who have enabled this policy – and continue to enable it – should be reminded that they are on the wrong side of decency and history with their cowardly, unconscionable refusal to correct this mistake.

Link via Positive Liberty.

I should have thought of this long ago.

One of the common defenses of infant male circumcision is that it’s the parents’ decision and that they make many decisions that may or may not be the best decision. The argument is that the State is no more qualified to make those decisions than the child’s parents. I disagree with this, as I’ve explained before. (One example here.) And it’s obviously ridiculous because we’ve already legislated against parental decision-making for the genitals of their daughters, prohibiting the same excuses we permit for the genitals of sons. There is no valid line of thought that supports that legal distinction.

I’d already reached that conclusion, of course. But I consistently missed a fallacious approach to the argument. If parents have “rights”, a proxy power granted only to the genitals of their sons can’t be legitimately referred to as a right unless we concede that the state is infringing upon their right to cut their daughters. This should be obvious, and it always has been to me. However, the argument based on rights generally leads to a statement that among the many decisions parents make for their children include such decisions as where to educate them, whether or not their friends are acceptable, and what to feed them. Those are all valid parental decisions.

Those are an unintentional distraction from the real question. The (male) circumcision decision for parents of a healthy (male) child is whether to allow their (male) child to keep his normal anatomy or not. The analogous decision is not whether to send their (male) child to school X or school Y. The analogous decision is whether to send their (male) child to school or not. The analogous decision is whether to allow their (male) child to have friends or not. The analogous decision is whether to feed their (male) child or not.

In every one of those examples, we immediately recognize the legitimacy of state intervention to prohibit objectively reckless decisions. (The anarchists don’t, but that’s a different blog entry.) The decision to circumcise a healthy male child is no different when properly analyzed.

Even when the claim is medical benefits, those benefits are merely potential benefits for risks that are universally low to begin with for normal males. The remaining non-medical reasons people offer simply cannot withstand any rational consideration of the truth that prophylactic circumcision is an invasive surgical procedure forced upon a healthy individual, with all the inherent risk of complications and without any direct medical need. Again, we fully understand this basic truth for the normal, healthy genitals of female minors. The notion that parents possess a right to proxy consent distinguished only by the gender of the child is indefensible.