Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Civil Liberties (page 2 / 4)

Do Republicans Need a Conservative Version of the Welfare State to Win?

Do Republicans Need a Conservative Version of the Welfare State to Win? →

Shikha Dalmia, at Reason.com:

In short, the ideal conservative welfare state would be a libertarian dystopia of even bigger proportions than the liberal welfare state. There is less welfare and more state in it.

A conservative welfare state is a horrifying idea.

Read the whole thing. If big government Republicans try to push the party in this direction, I don't see any future for the party.

Feds admit FBI warrantless cellphone tracking 'very common'

Feds admit FBI warrantless cellphone tracking 'very common' →

From Shaun Waterman, at the Washington Post:

FBI investigators for at least five years have routinely used a sophisticated cellphone tracking tool that can pinpoint callers’ locations and listen to their conversations — all without getting a warrant for it, a federal court was told this week.

The use of the “Stingray,” as the tool is called, “is a very common practice” by federal investigators, Justice Department attorneys told the U.S. District Court for Arizona Thursday, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Installed in an unmarked van, Stingray mimics a cellphone tower, so it can pinpoint the precise location of any mobile device in range and intercept conversations and data, said Linda Lye, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California in a blog post about the case.

The FBI looks like a criminal organization, not a law enforcement organization. They're okay with spying on anyone and everyone for any reason at all. They don't believe that they're constrained by judges or the law.

Tar, feathers.

Indiana May Soon Mandate Police Training on Alzheimer's Disease

I've been following a story from Peru, IN. In June of last year, we learned that a local policeman had tazered a 64-year old man, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. In late August, we learned that the police departmant had fired the man involved.

Former patrolman Gregory Martin is currently appealing his firing. I'm watching that case, for any developments. Meanwhile, the Indiana legislature has gotten involved. Representative Bill Friend (R-Macy) introduced a bill "requiring all law enforcement officers in the state to receive training regarding people with Alzheimer’s disease". That bill passed the Indiana house unanimously.

I think this is probably a good idea. I know I don't know how to handle a violent Alzheimer's patient. I know that tazering someone with mental dementia is a bad idea, but I don't know what the right approach is. The "peace officers" on call should.

12 Year Old Girl Shoots Home Intruder

12 Year Old Girl Shoots Home Intruder →

Just last night, I posted that the "gun is civilization" and that "the gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger". This morning, I came across this story, from October, 2012. It perfectly illustrates the point.

A day off for fall break was anything but relaxing for a 12-year old Bryan County girl, when an intruder broke into her home on Michael Avenue.

Deputies say, the girl was home alone when a man she'd never seen before, rang the front doorbell. They say when no one answered the door, the man went around to the back of the house and kicked a door open. That's when authorities say, the girl grabbed a gun and hid in a bathroom closet.

"He had worked his way all the way through the house and into the bathroom. And from what we understand, he was turning the doorknob when she fired through the door." Says Bryan County Under sheriff, Ken Golden.

After the man was shot, The 12- year old ran out of the closet and called for help.

I hope that none of my girls are ever in that kind of situation. And I hope that if they are, that they do as well as this girl did.

This entry was tagged. Civil Liberties Guns

Why the Gun is Civilization

Why the Gun is Civilization →

It's been nearly six years since I first read this brief essay, by Marko Kloos. It had a powerful impact on me and the central point has stuck with me ever since. Carrying a gun is not an uncivilized act. It is the ultimate civilizing act.

Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that’s it.

In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force. The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gangbanger, and a single gay guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

This entry was tagged. Civil Liberties Guns

Subject or Citizen?

I was struck by this bit from Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, as soon as I read it. A bit of background. Tesh Vorpatril is visiting the planet of Barrayar and is introduced to its ruler, Emperor Gregor. They are both at Vorkosigan House, the home of Lady Ekaterin Vorkosigan.

[Emperor Gregor said] “How do you do, Lady Vorpatril, Mademoiselle Rish. Welcome to Barrayar.”

He said this in the exact same way that Lady Vorkosigan had said, Welcome to Vorkosigan House. It came to Tej that he was the one man here who was not a subject.

Every Barrayaran is a subject of Emperor Gregor, pledged to obey him. With their lives, if necessary. Emperor Gregor was the only Barrayaran "who was not a subject". When I read that, it spent me down a trail of thought. What does it mean to not be a subject? What does it mean to be a citizen, instead?

An emperor is sovereign over many people. Gregor has the power of life and death over his subjects. He can order summary executions at will. A subject holds his own life only at the sufferance of his liege lord.

Gregor is responsible for his subjects. He must protect them, provide for them, care for them. Subjects are dependent on their rulers.

An emperor can seize whatever he wants: property, possessions, or people. Subjects have no legal recourse against this seizure. Subjects enjoy prosperity only at the whim of their sovereigns.

A citizen is sovereign over himself. He holds his life in his own hands. No one has the authority to order his execution. Citizens are independent. A citizen is responsible for himself. He must provide for himself, care for himself, and look out for his own interests. A citizen is entitled to keep what is his. His property is his own and cannot be taken. His possessions are his own and cannot be taken. His family is his own and cannot be taken.

Citizens are not, however, forced to stand alone, live alone, and die alone. A citizen can freely surrender a portion of his sovereignty to another. He can allow another to act as his agent, in all matters. He can allow another to provide for him, defend him, guard his interests, and more. But he retains sovereignty in all things. He can, at any time, fire his agent and either resume excercising sovereignty himself or choose a new agent to act on his behalf.

This is what it means to be an American. We are a nation of 300 million sovereigns. We have delegated a portion of authority to our elected representatives. We allow them to negotiate treaties in our names, to make and conclude war, to levy taxes and spend from the public fisc. But the President is not our ruler. Neither is Congress or the courts. They are merely our delegated agents. We are the rulers.

That is the difference between subjects and citizens. Subjects are ruled by someone else. Citizens rule themselves. Are you a subject? Or a citizen?

Is Obama's relentless use of the espionage act keeping whistle blowers silent?

Is Obama's relentless use of the espionage act keeping whistle blowers silent? →

Bloomberg News reported on October 17 that Attorney General Eric Holder “prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.” :

The Justice Department said that there are established avenues for government employees to follow if they want to report misdeeds. The agency “does not target whistle-blowers in leak cases or any other cases,” Dean Boyd, a department spokesman, said.“An individual in authorized possession of classified information has no authority or right to unilaterally determine that it should be made public or otherwise disclose it,” he said.

However, when leaks to the press benefit the administration, prosecutions from the Jusitce Department are absent. For example, AG Holder was not prosecuting anyone over who leaked information about the killing of Oasma bin Laden. The Justice Department has yet to charge anyone over leaking information regarding the U.S. involvement in cyberattacks on Iran as well as an al Qaida plan to blow up a U.S. bound airplane. In fact, the Justice Department ended up appointing one of two attorneys to the cyberattacks investigation who was an Obama donor.

“There’s a problem with prosecutions that don’t distinguish between bad people -- people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money -- and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions,” said Abbe Lowell, attorney for Stephen J. Kim, an intelligence analyst charged under the Act, to Bloomberg News.

... On October 10, nearly one month after the deadly Benghazi attack that took the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, President Obama issued a policy directive on whistle blower protections.

The directive expanded the protections of the House’s Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which was designed to protect federal employees if they reported waste, fraud, or abuse through government officials-- to executive branch agencies. National security and intelligence staffers would be included in the legislation through the directive. It. passed the lower chamber in September. The bill has yet to be passed by the Senate.

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center of Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, told Bloomberg News that the Obama policy directive does not go far enough, because it “doesn’t include media representatives within the universe of people to whom the whistle-blower can make the disclosure.” Basically, the administration can still continue to prosecute intelligence staffers who disclose information to the media.

Why Firing a Bad Cop Is Damn Near Impossible

Why Firing a Bad Cop Is Damn Near Impossible →

Hey, look! It's yet another area where public sector unions are making the world a worse place. I'm 100% in favor of getting rid of police unions.

All of these Rhode Island cops, and many more like them across the county, were able to keep their jobs and benefits—sometimes only temporarily, but always longer than they should have—thanks to model legislation written and lobbied for by well-funded police unions. That piece of legislation is called the "law enforcement bill of rights," and its sole purpose is to shield cops from the laws they're paid to enforce.

The inspiration for this legislation and its similarly named cousins across the country is the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights, introduced in 1971 by New York Rep. Mario Biaggi (D), at the behest of the Police Benevolent Association. Having once been the most decorated police officer in the country, Biaggi didn't need much convincing to put forward the union-friendly bill.

Biaggi pushed for the POBOR until March 1987, when he received two indictments back-to-back. The first was for accepting a paid vacation from Brooklyn Democratic Leader Meade H. Esposito in exchange for using federal funds to bail out a company in Esposito's neighborhood. A second indictment handed down three months later charged Biaggi with extorting $3.6 million in cash and stock options from a small Bronx machine shop called Wedtech. Both charges resulted in convictions and Biaggi's resignation from Congress.

While Biaggi's bill never made it through Congress, police unions didn't wait for city managers or police department higher-ups to write their own. Benevolent associations in Maryland successfully pushed for the passage of a police bill of rights in 1972; Florida, Rhode Island, Virginia, New Mexico, and California followed suit before the 70s were over. The 1980s, 90s, and 2000s saw still more states adopt police bill of rights at the behest of police unions.

Paleo Diet Lawsuit Dismissed By Court in Blow to Free Expression

Paleo Diet Lawsuit Dismissed By Court in Blow to Free Expression →

Does your free speech extend to sharing your opinion or can state licensing boards tell you to shut up? A federal court decided not to even think about it.

A state licensing board in North Carolina tried to suppress a blogger who talked up and advised people on the health benefits of the "paleo" diet (that is, eating as we think cavement ate, no grains or processed foods), telling him directly what he could or could not say about his belief that the high-meat, low-carb diet helped him with his diabetes. The case was dismissed by a federal court late last week.

Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists

Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists →

Oh, goody. The U.S. is moving towards a never-ending kill list, for drone strikes. We're institutionalizing the process, so that we can keep adding names to lists, keep killing the people behind the names, and then repeat—forever. Bureaucracies are self-perpetuating. What happens when we run out of genuine terrorists, to hunt and kill? Who will we add to the lists next?

The number of targets on the lists isn’t fixed, officials said, but fluctuates based on adjustments to criteria. Officials defended the arrangement even while acknowledging an erosion in the caliber of operatives placed in the drones’ cross hairs.

“Is the person currently Number 4 as good as the Number 4 seven years ago? Probably not,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official involved in the process until earlier this year. “But it doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous.”

In focusing on bureaucratic refinements, the administration has largely avoided confronting more fundamental questions about the lists. Internal doubts about the effectiveness of the drone campaign are almost nonexistent. So are apparent alternatives.

The Obama administration doesn't even want to consider the possibility of ending the kill lists and the drone strikes. I have little faith that a Romney administration would be better.

Obama administration officials at times have sought to trigger debate over how long the nation might employ the kill lists. But officials said the discussions became dead ends.

In one instance, Mullen, the former Joint Chiefs chairman, returned from Pakistan and recounted a heated confrontation with his counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Mullen told White House and counterterrorism officials that the Pakistani military chief had demanded an answer to a seemingly reasonable question: After hundreds of drone strikes, how could the United States possibly still be working its way through a “top 20” list?

The issue resurfaced after the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. Seeking to repair a rift with Pakistan, Panetta, the CIA director, told Kayani and others that the United States had only a handful of targets left and would be able to wind down the drone campaign.

A senior aide to Panetta disputed this account, and said Panetta mentioned the shrinking target list during his trip to Islamabad but didn’t raise the prospect that drone strikes would end. Two former U.S. officials said the White House told Panetta to avoid even hinting at commitments the United States was not prepared to keep.

“We didn’t want to get into the business of limitless lists,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who spent years overseeing the lists. “There is this apparatus created to deal with counterterrorism. It’s still useful. The question is: When will it stop being useful? I don’t know.”

Mom sues police over arrest

Mom sues police over arrest →

As if raising kids wasn't hard enough.

A stay-at-home mom from La Porte has filed a lawsuit against the city's police department, an unknown officer and one of her neighbors.

Tammy Cooper said she was wrongly accused of endangering her children and was even forced to spend the night in jail, all because she let her kids play outside.

She said her children, ages 9 and 6, were riding their motorized scooters in the cul-de-sac where they live while she watched from a lawn chair in her front yard just a few feet away.

"I was out there the entire time," Cooper said. "I never left that lawn chair the entire time."

Cooper said a little while later, a La Porte police car pulled up in front of her home.

"I went out there to see what he was here for and he said, 'Ma'am, we're here for you.' I said, 'Oh really? Why?' He proceeded to tell me he had received a call from one of my neighbors that my kids were riding their scooters unsupervised.

Cooper said she was handcuffed, put in the back of a police car and forced to spend the night in jail.

Justice Moves Forward in Peru, IN

Two months ago, I wrote about a police officer who tazed a man with Alzheimer’s. This weekend, I followed-up on the story, to see what’s happened since then. I’m happy to report that the Peru, IN police chief recommended firing Officer Gregory Martin. The Peru Board of Works held a hearing from from July 30-August 10, to review the recommendation. They ultimately upheld the decision and voted to fire Officer Gregory Martin.

I’m happy about this decision but it’s not over yet. Officer Martin is planning to appeal the decision, in a Miami County court.

Measures to Capture Illegal Aliens Snare Citizens

Measures to Capture Illegal Aliens Snare Citizens →

This is absolutely wrong and is a very good example of why the current hysteria over illegal immigration is a bad thing. We are a nation of immigrants. We shouldn't be so paranoid about immigrants that we're willing to treat citizens like crooks.

In a spate of recent cases across the country, American citizens have been confined in local jails after federal immigration agents, acting on flawed information from Department of Homeland Security databases, instructed the police to hold them for investigation and possible deportation.

Americans said their vehement protests that they were citizens went unheard by local police and jailers for days, with no communication with federal immigration agents to clarify the situation.

At what point does the need for security eclipse human dignity and compassion?

At what point does the need for security eclipse human dignity and compassion? →

Yesterday I went through the imaging scanner at JFK Terminal 4 for my Virgin America flight to San Francisco.  Evidently they found something, because after the scan, I was asked to step aside to have my breast area examined.  I explained to the agent that I was a breast cancer patient and had a bilateral mastectomy in April and had tissue expanders put in to make way for reconstruction at a later date.

I told her that I was not comfortable with having my breasts touched and that I had a card in my wallet that explains the type of expanders, serial numbers and my doctor’s information pictured and asked to retrieve it. This request was denied.  Instead, she called over a female supervisor who told me the exam had to take place.  I was again told that I could not retrieve the card and needed to submit to a physical exam in order to be cleared.  She then said, “And if we don’t clear you, you don’t fly” loud enough for other passengers to hear.  And they did.  And they stared at the bald woman being yelled at by a TSA Supervisor.

There are reasons that I don't fly, unless I absolutely have to.

Another Poppy Seed-Based Child Abduction

Another Poppy Seed-Based Child Abduction

For the second time in a year, Lawrence County Children and Youth Services has been accused in a federal lawsuit of removing a child from a mother’s custody after a positive test for opiates allegedly triggered by poppy seeds.

Eileen Ann Bower, a Lawrence County resident whose residence and age were not provided, gave birth to a son, Brandon, on July 13, 2009, according to a complaint filed late Friday. She was stunned, it said, when a blood test at Jameson Hospital came back positive for opiates.

Brandon was taken into foster care three days after his birth, it said, and only returned on Sept. 29. In the interim, Ms. Bower came to the conclusion that the test must have come back positive due to her ingestion, at her last meal before childbirth, of Salad Supreme dressing with poppy seeds . . .

As a repeatedly new parent, I have a hard time imagining a worse thing. This mother has had her right to due process of law violated rather blatantly. There was no evidence that chain of custody was preserved with her blood sample: do we know that the blood that was tested was actually hers? There was no evidence that the sample was collected appropriately: was it tainted somehow during the drawing process? There was no evidence presented that the traces in the blood were actually from opiates: could the traces have actually been from poppy seeds?

None of this evidence was presented, this mother was not convicted after receiving due process of law, and she wasn’t legally sentenced to losing custody of her child. No, the county agency took one look at one lab test and immediately assumed that they knew what was going on.

That’s wrong and it needs to stop. This is the second time that Pennsylvania county has done this. As Glenn Reynolds is apt to say: “Tar. Feathers.” That’s what will make this kind of abuse of power stop.

(Thanks to Radley Balko for the link.)

Wisconsin Takes a Step Backwards in Police Accountability

I was disappointed to see that state Representative Robin Vos is undoing one of the good reforms that Governor Doyle put into place.

In the bad old days, Milwaukee police officers had cut a sweet deal that allowed them to keep collecting paychecks and benefits when they were fired by the police chief until a final ruling on the dismissal was made by the Milwaukee Police and Fire Commission.

That meant, of course, that it was in the best interest of a fired officer - even a guilty one - to challenge and delay a dismissal as long as possible. Keep those paychecks rolling in, pardner.

And it was like that for a quarter of a century, under a law that treated Milwaukee cops differently from those in the rest of the state. When they were fired, Milwaukee police officers appealed - 96 percent of the time. And they collected salaries and benefits during that appeal time - appeal time that was dragged out. For the 26 years that the law was in effect, the appeal time for police officers in Milwaukee was double that of fired firefighter dismissals.

Back in October 2004 that cushy deal blew up, after off-duty Milwaukee police officers viciously beat Frank Jude Jr. at a house party, and three fired officers collected more than $500,000 in pay while awaiting trial. The Legislature cut off the continued pay for police accused of felonies and Class A and B misdemeanors, and in 2009 extended the cutoff of salaries and benefits for all fired officers.

That did not mean that officers who were mistakenly fired were without recourse: if they appealed their dismissals and won they were entitled to back pay - in a lump sum. That has been the standard for the past three years. It is a fair standard.

So why, early in the morning last week, did Vos and the Joint Finance Committee move to reinstate the 2008 law that would keep officers fired for things other than felonies or Class A and B misdemeanors on the payroll during the appeals process? In 2006, we noted that over the years the City of Milwaukee had paid out more than $2.5 million to officers who were ultimately fired.

Bad move, Representative Vos. It's wasteful and it assumes the wrong that: that police are blameless, that complaints are generally baseless, and that police need to be protected against the general public. Those assumptions aren't always right and acting as those they were is a good route to making sure that the police and the public view each other with hostility and distrust.

Unions: A Right to a Union?

Do workers have a right to unionize? If a legislature changes the law to remove collective bargaining, does that deprive workers of their rights?

It depends. It depends on which rights you're talking about and on which rights the law covers.

There are two kinds of rights. The first kind is negative rights. Negative rights either permit you to be inactive or require someone else to be inactive towards you. For example, free speech is a negative right. It allows you to speak, or not, as you choose. It requires the government to be inactive whether or not you speak: the government may not force you to speak and the government may not prevent you from speaking. The right to a free press is another negative right. The government may neither force something to be printed in the press nor may it prohibit the press from printing something.

The second kind of rights is positive rights. Positive rights either require you to be active or require someone else to be active towards you. For example, universal education is a positive right. The government requires you to attend a school of some sort and the government requires someone to provide a school for you. Generally, the government directly provides schooling by forcibly requiring citizens to pay taxes and then using those tax dollars to pay for a school. The "right to health care" is another example of a positive right. If you are unable to purchase your own health care services, the government requires someone else to purchase them for you.

The positive right is distinguished from the negative right in that it requires you -- or someone else -- to be active. It places a burden on you or on someone else. Very broadly speaking, negative rights force others to stay out of your way, as you live your life and make decisions. Positive rights force others to provide for you (as needed), as you live your life and make decisions.

How does this apply to labor and labor law? Well, unions can either benefit from negative rights or positive rights. Under negative rights, individual workers are free to negotiate directly with employers for their pay and benefits. They are also free to associate with other individual workers and form a bargaining group. They are then free to attempt to negotiate as a group, for pay and benefits. They can invite others to join the group at any time and workers are free to leave the group at any time. The guiding rights principle is inaction: no worker can force another to join nor prohibit another from leaving.

Likewise, employers are free to negotiate with the group or to choose to negotiate with workers individually. Once again, the principle is inaction. No employee can force the employer to negotiate with the larger group. Likewise, no single employee can force the employer to stop negotiating with the larger group.

The negative right to labor allows both the worker and the employer to negotiate individually or through a group, whatever they both prefer. It prevents either side from coercing the other side.

Under positive rights, individual workers are not free to negotiate directly with employers for their pay and benefits. They must only negotiate as part of a larger group. All new workers must accept what the group has negotiated and must only negotiate through the group. No worker may negotiate individually as long as he stays in that job.

Likewise, employers are not free to bargain with individual workers. They must negotiate (active principle) with the group. They may not negotiate with any other group of employees -- only with the original group. If the group of workers stops working (goes on strike), the employer may not seek out other groups of employees, to see if they would be willing to work for the original conditions, pay, and benefits. This gives the group a monopoly control over the employer's supply of labor.

The positive right to labor forces both the worker and the employer to negotiate only through a group. It actively forces both sides into a specific association.

In Wisconsin, public employee unions are an example of labor law under positive rights. Employers are required to negotiate with the appropriate union and forbidden to negotiate individual contracts with workers. Employees are not required to join the union but they are required to pay all union dues that union members have to pay and are required to abide by the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Take, as an example, an individual with a PhD in history who would like to work as a high school teacher in Madison's public schools. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers Inc, the school district must pay that teacher a minimum annual salary of $41,036. (I think. The exact details of the salary portions of that agreement are not entirely clear to me.)

For most employees, this is probably a good thing. Most employees are eager to get the maximum possible salary. Most employees probably feel that even this salary is too low and that they deserve more. But that's most employees in most scenarios.

Consider an alternate scenario. What if the district can't afford another teacher at that level? The teacher may wish to work for less, in the interests of having a job. (Or, he may have other income to live on and may wish to take the job for less in the interests of melding the bright, young minds of tomorrow.) But he's not free to work for a different salary and the school district isn't free to pay him a different salary if he requests it.

Consider another alternate scenario. Consider a worker who does not agree with the political stance of her union, preferring different political goals and outcomes. Under current law, she is forced to contribute union dues to that organization anyway. (For a Wisconsin teacher, this can be $700-1000 a year.) Each year, she is forced to watch as the union gives that money to politicians that she disagrees with and uses that money to oppose politicians that she does agree with. Her co-workers' positive rights to her union dues limit her negative rights to support candidates that she agrees with.

The positive rights to a union limit an employee's negative rights to decide what terms to work under and what to support. I value negative rights far more highly than I value positive rights. For that reason, I believe unions do not increase the rights of the workers, they decrease them. I favor modifying labor law to restore workers' negative rights.

Videotape the Police Whenever You Can

Can you trust the police? What about the courts? The answer may depend on whether or not they think anyone is watching.

Last March, after the University of Maryland men's basketball team beat Duke, students spilled out into College Park to celebrate. That brought out the riot police. In footage captured by several students with their iPhones, Maryland student Jack McKenna dances down the street with dozens of other students, then stops when he sees two cops on horseback. Unprovoked by McKenna, three riot cops then enter the picture, throw McKenna up against a wall, and begin beating him with their batons. According to attorney Christopher Griffiths—who is representing McKenna and another student, Benjamin Donat—both suffered concussions, contusions, and cuts from the beatings.

McKenna was charged with disorderly conduct, a charge that as of last week was still pending but now seems certain to be dropped. Prince George's County has since suspended four police officers, the three captured on tape beating McKenna and the sergeant who supervised them. But were it not for those iPhone videos, it would have been McKenna's word (and possibly those of whatever celebrating student witnesses he could round up) against the word of three of Maryland's finest. Or at least three. It seems likely that a number of other cops would have come forward to lie on behalf of those who beat McKenna.

If that sounds harsh, consider this: After the iPhone video of McKenna's beating emerged, investigators subpoenaed 60 hours of surveillance video from the College Park campus police. The only video police couldn't manage to locate was the one from the camera aimed squarely at the area where McKenna was beaten. Funny how that works. Campus police claimed that a "technical error" with that particular camera caused it to record over the footage of the beating. As public pressure mounted, police later found what they claimed was a recording of the lost video. But two minutes of that video were missing. Coincidentally, those two minutes happened to depict key portions of McKenna's beating. The kicker? The head of the campus video surveillance system, Lt. Joanne Ardovini, is married to one of the cops named in McKenna's complaint. (Washington D.C.'s ABC News affiliate, WJLA, a station with a history of deferring to police spokesmen without bothering to verify the accuracy of their statements, quaintly referred to this as "a bizarre coincidence.")

In another instance, Maryland police raided an individual's home for video tapes after he committed the non-crime of video taping a police officer, on a public highway. The judge who authorized the illegal raid?

According to Graber, the name of the judge who signed off on the raid of his parents' home doesn't appear on the warrant. As Graber told Miller, "They told me they don’t want you to know who the judge is because of privacy." If true, that statement is so absurd it's mind numbing. A judge issued an illegal warrant for police to invade the private residence and rummage through the private belongings of a man who broke no laws, and we aren't permitted to know the judge's name in order to protect the judge's privacy?

Here's the bottom line: government officials, acting in their official capacity, have no right to privacy. You work for us. You have no more privacy rights, in the performance of your job, than any private sector employee in the performance of his job. And you're not above the law either. Wearing a uniform isn't an authorization to go out and beat people -- or otherwise break the law -- with impunity. Period. And, no, having a stressful job isn't a good justification for mistreating American citizens.

Mississippi Hates People with Allergies or Colds

Mississippi governor Haley Barbour signed a bill last month requiring all patients to get a prescription before buying any medicine containing pseudoephedrine.

This is insane. This is seriously insane. This law -- and Federal laws requiring Sudafed to be kept behind the pharmacist's counter -- have done nothing to curtail access to meth. These laws have accomplished one thing and one thing only: meth production has been shifted from small labs to super high tech Mexican labs. Meth is still plentiful in the United States. But it's now fueling the growth of Mexican drug gangs and Mexican smugglers. If anything, the status quo ante was better in that it wasn't creating sophisticated cross-border smuggling operations.

Now, every Mississippi resident suffering from allergies, sinuses, or colds will have to go to a doctor before they're able to get any effective relief. Doctors' offices and emergency rooms will become more crowded and the entire state population will be vastly inconvenienced. All for a law that will have no practical effect whatsoever.

For the record, Governor Barbour will not be getting my vote, should he decide to run in the Republican presidential primaries.

More mercenaries die, but some get revenge

WA Officers Shot

Maurice Clemmons

It is of course entirely possible that, as FOXNews.com quotes the Pierce County sheriff's department, "Maurice Clemmons [who is said to have killed four policemen] was shot to death after a 'very alert patrol officer' investigating reports of a stolen car recognized him."

But I think it should be noted that it is certainly also possible, considering it's a fairly open secret that the Thin Blue Line easily transforms into a Thin Blue Garrot when its own go down, that Mr. Clemmons was simply executed. Not that I'm necessarily wringing my hands about that, mind you, but why do we simply take the word of notoriously biased investigation boards?

Incidentally, FOX's story includes a great quote that I think illustrates one of our society's many faulty paradigms. When asked what motive Clemmons had, the spokesperson replied: "There is no answer, other than that he was angry about being incarcerated... There's never going to be an answer that makes any sense."

Right. 'Cause everyone knows, when someone locks you up in a cage for a major part of your limited time here on Earth, ya just gotta laugh it off.