Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The US continues it's march towards a police state

The love affair between the police, the tools of repression and many citizens in this country continues apace. For years I have listened to conservatives talk about how we have too many rights in this country (except for the right to bear arms, of course), and this cry got even louder after 9/11. To be fair, there has emerged a vocal minority of conservatives that have begun to share common cause with groups like the ACLU and resist the further erosion of rights in this country, but they are a very small minority in the party (note how the Republicans in Congress will probably overwhelmingly make the Patriot Act permanent, despite misgivings from many Democrats and a few Republicans).

The latest example of the over use of the police and paramilitary to repress took place in Utah, where the police brought in over 100 police officers, including the SWAT team, to take down a rave for a lack of a permit (of course, they had a permit, but the police reasoned that plenty of crimes were taking place on that private property, so the love of private property had to give way to ruthless law and order).

There is even apparently a video of this event as well, where the police use police dogs, tear gas, and profanities (what happened to Mormons not swearing?) while breaking up the event and cracking a few heads (alright, I don't know that any heads were actually cracked, but you know what I mean). The police chief, despite the video proof, went on TV to say he saw the video, approved of the actions, and that there was no force used and no profanity, but that what happened needed to happen to these people.

There was apparently some kind of a whiff (pardon the pun) of political repression going on here, there was talk that this was a big anti-Bush rave in advance of his most recent speech there. Here is a quote that I got from Objective Justice (I will freely concede that this appears to be 3rd generation information, I've tried to get more information on the subject unsucessfully up to now, but certainly this fits in with the MO of the Bush administration in trying to dampen down dissent, such as the fake Secret Service person expelling people from a public Social Security event wiht Bush in Colorado because they had anti-Bush bumper stickers on their car, and later tried to justify it. That is only one of numerous attempts to stifle dissent that the Bush administration or their lackeys have engaged in). Here's the quote:

A source inside the Utah government reports that this action was undertaken out of fear that the Rave would be used to rally support for the protest against Bush's upcoming Utah visit.

I have to say, I can't imagine the police ever going in to an event that's mostly Republican or conservative with such force. This is much more force than was used to remove Israeli settlers (although they are conservatives too, so that's no surprise - police are the same the world over, apparently). I know, I know, Republican-oriented events probably don't have much drug use at them - at least openly, so there wouldn't be the call to crash it like this. But really, a bunch of 15 to 25 year olds smoking pot and doing exstacy, do you really need 100 SWAT team members?

Of course, the law and order conservative types in Utah probably applaud this action. But, according to the accounts of the partygoers, exactly how are you protecting children (from drug use, of course) by coming in there with attack dogs, AK-47s and M-16s, tear gas, and beating people? And why did they need to confiscate so many cameras, or at least force people to turn them off? Whenever you see that stuff, it begins to look like the Condaleeza Rice visit to the Sudan, where reporters were jostled and roughed up (in her presence) after asking difficult questions of the Sudanese president.

This goes back to my previous posts about zero tolerance and things of the like. This take no prisoners, brook no dissent, allow no discussion attitude of police and other authoritarian leaders is truly disturbing. It's so ironic that as we try to make the rest of the world more free, we aren't only reaching out to them trying to pull them closer to us, we're also moving a little closer to them in our attempt to help narrow the divide. If this is narrowing the divide, I'd like to keep the gulf much wider.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Off on a technicality

Doesn't it seem that the only people who ever get off on technicalities, and aren't the slightest bit ashamed of it, are conservative Republicans? Think about it, they spend their time railing against the 4th amendment (the Republicans in Congress in 1996 once voted down the language of the 4th amendment in a crime bill, arguing that it was anti-law enforcement). They talk about this being a criminal bill of rights, how the Courts have created a right to privacy that doesn't exist, that it only allows criminals to get off on a technicality, all of these other idiotic anti-constitutional things.

Until it applies to them.

I really should start a website dedicated - much like the chickenhawk database of pro-war Republicans who managed to somehow miss serving in the Vietnam War - to crusading Republicans who talk tough on crime and against the Court's protecting people's rights to privacy, while at the same time shamelessly invoking as many of those rights as possible to ensure that their own crimes go unpunished. All so that they can go and rail some more about the system and how it favors criminals who get off on technicalities (like them, but we don't need to mention that now, do we?).

Of the most well-known that roll of my tongue without thinking long and hard, I come up with the classics, like Oliver North and Admiral Poindexter (cases reversed by the same judges who appointed Kenneth Starr as "independent" counsel due to potential tainting of their immunized testimony before Congress), Kay Bailey Hutchison (she had her illegal fundraising case dismissed when the Judge decided to rule on her suppression motion one item at a time, and the prosecution decided not to proceed that way), but none can compete for hubris with Rush Limbaugh.

The latest has Rush making new efforts to derail the prosecution into his doctor shopping case (do you think he'll get 25 years like that other guy in Florida did?). Read the article to find out all of the machinations Rush is using to avoid responsibility for his illegal acts, something he regularly accuses liberals of doing while bashing them on his show.

Do you think he'll ever concede the cognitive dissonance? Don't bet on it. He'll still keep bashing his liberals, and his audience, who still believes that Saddam was responsible for 9/11 and had WMD, will continue to believe Rush is a martyr being unfairly targeted, and that there are too many laws too lenient on criminals (not Rush, though).


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

PD Dude Guest Blogging

A big thank you to Sean Sirrine, over at Objective Justice, who has kindly invited me to guest blog on his site. To start with, I have cross posted my previous post on his blog. However, his blog is certainly worth checking out, especially the post in which he offers up a review of the legal blogosphere, including some insightful (even if I may not totally agree with them) comments about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Go check his site out.

Tune in and drop out?

Sometimes I feel like it is time for normal people in the US to just drop out of the general society. This week has brought 3 stories that make me wonder if now is perhaps the time to do just that, and whether our country is really starting to be taken over by the loonies. 2 are criminal law stories, the other is an educational/political story.

In the last couple of generations, the only people who have dropped out of society in large numbers have been hippies and Christian fundamentalists (alright, I'm sure that there are other groups that have as well, these come to mind as the 2 largest and most well-known groups). Christian fundamentalists have jumped back into society in very strong numbers, and now I'm wondering if it's not time for those of us who are not Christian fundamentalist to drop out.


In Utah, an 8 year old boy was arrested after telling his mother that his 14 year old female babysitter (for once, a female pedophile - you don't see that happen much!) dared him to touch her breast. When the mother told the police, the DA FILED CHARGES AGAINST HIM!!!! That's right, they filed charges against him for lewd conduct!!! What kind of a nutty society does that? The police said that he was a "willing participant!"

What does this mean? Well,if he's a willing participant, then how can it be lewd conduct, unless he's somehow a victim of it? If he's not a victim, what is exactly is lewd about it? What kind of fundamentalist idiots (I'm just guessing because it involves sex and Utah) would consider charging an 8 year old on these facts? Does this mean that in every child molestation where the victim doesn't resist, the victim is actually a co-participant, and therefore a defendant?

What kind of a society will this make? Will this make us better, or worse? For me, it says that perhaps it's time to retreat behind my liberal walls away from conservative society that condones such idiocy. You don't go to the "authorities" to resolve disputes anymore, since the authorities will mess them up worse than they were before you went to them. The authorities are the problem. What parent will every bring their kids to the police complaining about something happening to them if they think their kid may be arrested.

Of course, I wrote last week about the case of the teenager charged with murder and serving in CYA until he's 25 (incidentally, his mother finally spoke publicly about why the judge and DA screwed up so badly on this one, read it here), and here's another one.

An 11 year old girl was arrested, jailed for 5 days, and charged with felony assault (facing 5 years in the California Youth Authority) for throwing a rock at a boy. Apparently, while in her yard with her younger siblings, a few boys came by and threw water balloons and rocks at her, striking her in the face a couple of times. She threw a rock back, hit him in the face, cutting him (not terribly, mind you, he'll be just fine, and probably will think twice before picking on some girl again). The police came, spoke with him and his friends, and arrested the girl and hauled her away. This happened in Fresno, in rural central California. The girl is from a poor hispanic family, and the family charges that she is being treated this way in part because poor hispanics are far easier to mistreat than rich white people (no debate from me there, I saw far worse growing up, and no one arrested, but maybe that's due more to changing times, but I still think Beverly Hills youth get a greater pass).

Again, this makes me want to scream. Of course, the mayor of Fresno applauds this, it's just so easy to want to get tough with them violent out of control teens and poor folk swamping our country, but please! What is going on here. What is happening to our society when no one says enough, and the mayor applauds the police for doing this. How about saying to the parents of both kids - "hey, control your kids." But, it is so seductive to moralize, to talk about evil, to gleefully punish and lock up, to sermonize that evil must be met by harsh measures, with no sympathy for those who would fall off the path of the righteous.

This last part is not law related, so if you get tired of me talking about non-law related things, skip it, but.....

The final straw that makes me think it's just time to retreat into my own little world of normal people who believe in simple things like, say, science, is our own president's little comment that he thinks that evolution and intelligent design deserve equal play in the schools, that we should teach both, show both sides of the issue. This is so crazy on so many levels, that it would require a book to say them all, but I'll try just a few.

First of all, intelligent design isn't a theory, it's about poking holes in another theory - evolution. Now, poking holes in theories is something that I'm rather fond of, it's sort of my profession, but I don't substitute my profession for actually proving something. I'm just trying to create a reasonable doubt about that theory, not trying to substitute it for what may be the truth, or may not be quite believable as the truth. All intelligent design people try to do is create doubt about evolution - fine enough - but just so that they can substitute their completely non-scientific theory - that it's all bible based - in it's place. That's not teaching science.

Bush also says that people should hear both sides, and I certainly don't disagree with that - but NOT IN A SCIENCE CLASS!!! Debate the issue in civics classes, raise the issue that there are missing pieces of the evolution theory in the science class, but what are you saying? Well, we can't prove beyond all doubt that this is the way that things happened, so we're going to teach you about Genesis right now in your biology class for the next 6 weeks. ARRRRHHHHHHHHH!!!!! What kind of a nutty country do I live in?

Bush says local schools should be able to teach whatever they want. Well, didn't he push No Child Left Behind so that there would be national standards? Let's face it, no evolution, no biology, no organic chemistry, pretty much none of the advances that we've had for the last, oh, century or so. Is that progress? Is that going to help us compete with the Chinese and the Indians in getting good jobs?

So, at times like this, I really feel it is time to get together with normal people the country over, and form our own school districts, our own police forces, our own institutions, so that we can push all this wackiness out of our lives. It really does drive me crazy.