January 2008

You are browsing the site archives for January 2008.

As a blogger, I get to write about whatever interests me.

One of the things that did not interest me, however, was the upcoming Democratic primary race for Cook County State’s Attorney. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know that office was up for a vote (although I probably could have figured it out…). The current state’s attorney, Dick Devine, is retiring, which leaves the race wide open.

One of the candidates for that office is 38th Ward Alderman Tom Allen. Since that’s right near where I live, the Great and Mighty Geoff at Chi-Town Daily News assigned me to interview Allen for the race.

Preparing for the interview, I read a bunch of background material about the State’s Attorney’s office, the issues in this race, and what the candidates are saying, so now I know something about it all. I’d love to blog about it too, but that might give the appearance of a conflict of interest, as far as the Daily News is concerned.

So now I’m interested, but I can’t blog about it.

I’m going to have to think more carefully about that next time I get an assignment.

Here’s my interview with Alderman Tom Allen.

Update: I might as well post the full list of Chi-Town Daily News interviews with the Democratic candidates for Cook County State’s Attorney:

  • Tom Allen (38th Ward Alderman) by Mark Draughn
  • Anita Alvarez  (Chief Deputy to the Cook County State’s Attorney) by Beatrice Figueroa
  • Tommy Brewer (Defense attorney) by Natasha Eziquiel-Shriro
  • Howard Brookins Jr. (21st Ward Alderman) by Marcie Hill
  • Robert Milan (First Assistant to the Cook County State’s Attorney) by Marcie Hill
  • Larry Suffredin (Cook County Commissioner) by Tasha Clopton-Stubbs

We didn’t bother to interview the Republican candidates—no doubt because of liberal media bias—but here’s the complete list:

  • Tony Peraica (Cook County Commissioner)

Vote smart, everybody.

Over at Drug WarRant, Pete writes about yet another way politicians and their minions use the fear card to get more money for government programs.

As part of his article, he includes a mock “FEAR” credit card. I liked the idea a lot, but I wanted to try making one that was even more obviously a credit card:


You might think the monster is so cheesy looking because I have no artistic talent, but really I did it that way as an ironic commentary on the banal fakery inherent to all fear-mongering. I swear.

Long before I got fascinated by legal blogs, I was fascinated by legal novels. Neither is a substitute for receiving actual instruction in the law, but both are cheaper. I’ve learned a few things.

Reading Scott Greenfield’s rant about informants reminded me of A Cinderella Affidavit by Michael Fredrickson. I’m not going to go into the details of the plot—they’re not that important and I can’t really remember them anyway—but the concept of a Cinderella Affidavit has stuck with me.

I don’t know if “Cinderella Affidavit” is common legal jargon or just a catch phrase Fredrickson made up for his book. In any case, here’s how it works: Say you’re a cop working narcotics, and you want to arrest a guy you’re sure is dealing drugs out of a house, but you don’t have any proof. In order to get the probable cause you need for a warrant, you’re going to have to investigate the case, gather evidence, find informants, and try to make a controlled buy. But that’s a lot of hard work, and you might not succeed.

If you aren’t too concerned about lying to a judge (also known as perjury), there’s an easier way: You make it all up. Just start writing out your affidavit and say a confidential informant told you there were drugs. (This also works if you got some information in a way you’re not supposed to, like the Herc and Carver on The Wire attributing all the information from their illegal audio bug to a phantom informant named “Fuzzy” Dunlop). The judge grants the warrant, and you bust into the drug dealer’s place of business and find what you were looking for: The drug dealer and his drugs.

Case closed, pretty much. No one will ever expect to meet the phantom informant. For one thing, most cases never make it to trial, and if there’s no need for a trial, there’s no need for his testimony. If the case does go to trial, the cops can argue that revealing his identity will ruin his value as an informant. If worst comes to worst and somebody insists, the cops can just say they can’t find their informant (which has the advantage of being true). The prosecutor doesn’t really need the informant anyway because he’s got a big pile of drugs he can show off.

On the other hand, if the cops didn’t find any drugs during the raid then the informant isn’t needed because there’s no criminal case. Either way, like Cinderella at the ball, the informant just vanishes from the scene.

Unless something goes wrong.

In A Cinderella Affidavit, a cop gets killed during the drug raid. This brings down a whole lot of attention on just why the cops raided the location and what the informant saw when he was there. It takes a novel for it all to play out.

Knowing what a Cinderella affidavit is turns out to be helpful in understanding a number of real-life stories. For example, when Atlanta cops killed a 92-year old grandmother during a drug raid, a lot of people wanted to know why the cops thought there would be drugs in her house. The resulting federal investigation alleged that although the informant was real, he made his statement after the cops framed him with planted drugs. The cops also allegedly lied about there being security cameras at the house to justify a no-knock warrant. If all had gone according to plan, the problems with the affidavit would probably never have come to light.

Then there’s the drug raid in Cheseapeake, Virginia on the 17th of this month, in which officer Jarrod Shivers was shot and killed, allegedly by the occupant of the house, Ryan Frederick. On their warrant application, police said they had a confidential informant who had seen a marijuana grow operation in the garage. Almost a week after the raid, police finally announced they had found some marijuana in the home, but they wouldn’t say how much. Meanwhile, Frederick says that no one was in his home around the time specified in the affidavit, but there were signs of a break-in. Did the cops raid this guy’s house on the word of a burglar? Did they mention that in the affidavit? Or was that something else that would vanish when the party was over?

I’ve been reading about botched drug raids for a while, and it seems that a non-trivial percentage of them turn out to have problems with the facts asserted by the officers applying for the warrant. Do you think that’s a characteristic of botched drug raids? Or do you think we’d find the same kinds of problems in all the successful drug raids if we ever bothered to look?

Check out this clause in the User Agreement for Business Week magazine online:

In addition, User may not:

2. use or attempt to use any “deep-link,” “scraper,” “robot,” “bot,” “spider,” “data mining,” “computer code” or any other automated device, program, tool, algorithm, process or methodology or manual process having similar processes or functionality, to access, acquire, copy, or monitor any portion of BW.com…

It’s 2008 and they don’t allow deep linking?

Aside from their lousy web etiquette (and questionable business model), I’ve always felt that legal attempts to prohibit deep linking are crazy talk.

It would be one thing if people were hacking into the site to steal data, or if people were publishing secret passwords. But Business Week isn’t using any of the web security protocols to protect their articles. Everything is wide open. How can it be wrong to publish deep links to their site when their server is programmed to honor deep links?

They claim their User Agreement is a contract that is binding on everyone who visits the site. For all I know, that may even be actual law, but it makes no sense for them to claim one thing in their User Agreement and then implement another thing in their web server. It’s like posting a “No Trespassing” sign outside your door while the people inside are yelling “Come on in!” to everyone passing by. Who are visitors supposed to believe?

(Hat tip: Don MacAskill)

Chicago just got hit with some more snow, and I realized I need new wiper blades on my car. The ones I have now are not winter blades, so ice builds up in the wiper frame and prevents it from applying even pressure, allowing ice and sleet to remain on the window.

My Camry bit the dust with serious engine problems about a month ago (my mechanic says it’s a “spun bearing,” but that sounds like something he made up), so I’m driving an old T-bird that a friend is loaning me. According to the books, it takes 22-inch wiper blades on both sides.

I haven’t been able to find the blades. I stopped at three different auto parts stores, and all of them were out of 22-inch winter wiper blades. They had other blades, but not the ones I needed.

How can that happen?

I mean, obviously, winter blades are in demand because it’s winter, and I’m guessing that 22-inches is one of the most common blade sizes, so people have been buying a lot of them, and the stores have run out.

But shouldn’t the buyers at the auto parts store have realized that 22-inch winter wiper blades would be in big demand in Chicago in January? Shouldn’t wiper blade manufacturers know the ups and downs of their business and ship a few extras to stores?

I see similar economic mysteries all the time. Why is it that the ice cream section of the 7-Eleven always has plenty of Butter Pecan but consistently runs out of Dulce de Leche soon after each new delivery? Shouldn’t some computer somewhere notice what’s going on and start ordering more Dulce del Leche and less Butter Pecan?

The theory of efficient markets doesn’t require that businesses never make mistakes, but the free market does tend to doom businesses that consistently fail to take advantages of chances to make money. So what’s going on here? Is this some weird kind of market failure? Or does it somehow make good business sense to run out of Dulce de Leche ice cream and 22-inch wiper blades?

My post about the Lima, Ohio SWAT team’s shooting of of Tarika Wilson and her infant son drew an angry comment from Kevin P:

Ok, First of all i would say who the fuck are you to tell them how to handle things. When you become part of the SWAT let me see how you react. I bet you have no clue how that even works do you? Do you know how hard they train. Lets keep it this way, I live over in New Jersey, And i am only 15. We go up to camden and also pennsauken, to play at a real SWAT house. This house is used for every Kind of Law Enforcement Agency. Now remember we are just playing paintball, but being traied by an Ex-Navy Seal. But do you know how your heart beats around every corner you go. I don’t think you relize what exactly goes on do you. They are pretty much trained to not shoot untill they see movement. Now if were in the swat and you were called out to go to this house, And your the point-man In the stack(If you Even now what that means) And im coming around the corner now all of a sudden someone pops out in front of you. Ohh yea are you just going to let them walk right by??? When your in there it is a whole diffrent world. How do you know that Anothny Terry didn’t have a gun. Do you know that bullets can go through walls, well if u did. Did yo ever come to think that the kid was hit by axident. What do you think thier going to be perfect?? Well anyway i just wanted to give you a little example and next time you should think twice bud. Remember Im Only 15 To!

The paintball exercises in the SWAT house sound really cool. I never got to do stuff like that.

Now let me address a few of your points…

First of all, I’m an opinionated blogger, that’s who the fuck I am. Welcome to the blogosphere.

I’m sure you know more about SWAT tactics than I do. (Folks, that’s not snark: Wargames are a fantastic learning tool, and I think paintball is about as realistic as it gets for close combat.) However, I know a thing or two about firearms safety and the ethics of deadly force.

As a general rule, except for open warfare, you are responsible for what you shoot. Whoever shot Tarika Wilson didn’t identify his target properly, or handled his weapon poorly and had an accidental discharge, or (to adopt your scenario) shot through a wall because he wasn’t paying attention to his backstop when he pulled the trigger, or…something else bad, because it’s an undeniable fact that a member of the SWAT team shot a finger off a baby and killed its mother. That can’t be right. It was almost certainly an accident, and it may have even been an excusable accident, but you can’t deny that it was a bad outcome.

(I don’t know what kind of SWAT scenarios you run through, but don’t you lose points or something if you shoot a hostage or an innocent bystander?)

Like all men under arms, a SWAT team exists to serve a political goal: Promoting law and order. However, the shooter was white and the victim was black, which has increased racial tensions in Lima. Hundreds of people have marched through the street and outside the police station. Thankfully, the unrest hasn’t turned violent.

I think the SWAT team has been stood down while the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is investigating the incident. The Ohio Attorney General’s office is observing the situation, and a special prosecutor has been appointed. The FBI has also begun an investigation of possible civil rights violations.

The Lima SWAT team may have succeeded in their mission—the capture of Anthony Terry—but in terms of the larger goals of the Lima police department and the city government, this was a disaster.

As for the hypothesis that Anthony Terry had a gun, I think we can dismiss it. Here in Chicago the police shoot people all the time, and they usually announce within hours if the offender had a gun. Two weeks have gone by since the Lima shooting, and nobody in the police department or the city government has said anything about Terry having a gun.

I was pretty angry when I wrote that original post, so I should make it clear that my anger isn’t directed at the individual member of the Lima SWAT team who pulled the trigger. Something definitely went wrong that day in Wilson’s house, but I have no idea what, and it may not have been his fault. Unless he’s a psychopath, I’m sure he feels terrible about the shooting. His life will never be the same again.

My objection is not about SWAT tactics, it’s about the SWAT mission. The original purpose of SWAT teams was to handle violent situations that were beyond the capabilities of a few cops in patrol cars, especially barricade and hostage situations. That was a great idea, and SWAT teams have worked out well handling tough problems like that.

But police departments have increasingly begun to use SWAT-like tactics for a far less vital purpose: Gathering evidence in the war on drugs. The armed dynamic entry into a home is not intended to keep police officers safe, it’s intended to prevent the occupants from destroying evidence.

In New York, drug cops don’t like to use the main SWAT team for arrests because they move too slowly and carefully to preserve all the evidence, so they have their own dynamic entry teams that work faster.

If all police wanted to do was arrest someone, there are much safer ways. A friend of mine was arrested (falsely) a little while ago. Despite a witness saying he had a gun, when the police came for him, they didn’t throw stun grenades and crash through his door. A handful of ordinary cops just grabbed him when he came out of the house. That’s because you can’t flush a gun down a toilet.

The FBI Hostage Rescue Team is probably the finest SWAT team in the world. But when the FBI went to arrest the Unabomber—the most wanted man in America—a couple of federal law enforcement officers just walked up to his cabin, lured him outside with a ruse, and put the cuffs on. Because he had no way to get rid of the evidence.

But when police needed to collect drug evidence from a home filled with children, we’re supposed to believe they went in hard and fast because it’s safer that way? I call bullshit.

As for how much training SWAT teams do and the heart-pounding stress of being on a mission, that just makes my point. SWAT work is difficult and demanding and filled with risk. All the more reason to avoid SWAT raids for any purpose other than saving lives.

SWAT teams were originally formed for the purpose of bringing violent confrontations to a close, but increasingly they are used to start violent confrontations for the purpose of stopping victimles drug crimes, and the results are often tragic.

In 1982, Andrew Wilson confessed to his lawyers, Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, that he had robbed a McDonald’s on Chicago’s south side and killed security guard Lloyd Wycliffe with a shotgun. Bound by the confidentiality of attorney-client communications, the lawyers were unable to tell anyone about Wilson’s confession.

They remained silent even as another man, 54-year old Alton Logan, was arrested for the murder. He was tried, convicted, and sent to jail for life.

Although attorney-client privilege prevented the lawyers from revealing their client’s confession, they did manage to get Wilson’s permission to reveal the truth after his death.

He finally died this last November, and on January 11, Kunz and Coventry got a judges’s ruling that they could go public with his confession. After 25 years in jail, Alton Logan may be getting a new trial.

(The full story is told in a terrific piece of news writing by Tribune reporter Maurice Possley. It’s a more complicated and more interesting story than my short summary.)

I first heard about this in a post by Chicago’s own Second City Cop entitled “Kill All the Lawyers.” He has this to say:

What is truly amazing to us is it seems these two scumbag lawyers look like they want to be praised for keeping an innocent man behind bars for 26 years because they wrote a notarized affidavit in 1982 and kept it in a locked box since then.

We’ll say this – Doctor/Client privilege can be pierced in extreme circumstances. Under certain conditions, the doctor is obliged by law to report certain things. Husband/Wife privilege can be broken, most times voluntarily by one party or the other. You can’t tell us that Lawyer/Client privilege is the only thing impregnable in all circumstances? The law needs to be reformed if so.

He’s certainly got it right that this was an awful situation, but it’s hard to see a way around this without gutting attorney-client privilege. Every accused person needs counsel. As one of SCC‘s commenters points out, “I can tell you have never had a case put on you by [Internal Affairs Division].”

SCC goes on to ask,

So who does Alton Logan sue now? Kunz and Coventry? Wilson’s “estate”? Illinois?

It wasn’t Kunz and Coventry who put Alton Logan in jail for two and a half decades. It was the Chicago Police who caught the wrong man and the Cook County State’s Attorney who prosecuted him.

Wilson’s lawyers did what the ethics of their profession requires of them. The assigned role of criminal defense lawyers is to represent their client’s liberty interest at all costs. As ugly as the situation was, they were doing their job.

In yet another odd twist to this story, Andrew Wilson and his brother were arrested for murdering two police officers, and they later accused Police Commander Jon Burge of torturing them during questioning. Burge was investigated for this and other allegations of torture, and he was eventually fired.

However, too much time had passed since the alleged incidents of torture for Burge to be charged. The scandal remains controversial to this day and has arisen as an issue in the current race for Cook County State’s Attorney.

Wilson had received some accolades for his role in bringing the Burge scandal to light, but now we know that through it all he was keeping a secret that was ruining Alton Logan’s life one day at a time.

Update: I just noticed that Capital Defense Weekly has linked to this article. I guess that would be the worst case scenario. A life sentence is only second-worst case.

[No spoilers that you wouldn’t get from watching the trailers.]

When your body moves, your brain coordinates the images from your eyes with balance information from your inner ear to give you a consistent picture of the world. This works fine in the natural world, but our modern world presents your brain with situations it’s not ready for. On an airplane, your eyes see a perfectly still cabin, but your inner ear can feel the plane pitching and rolling in turbulent air. You experience these conflicting inputs as dizzyness.

If the inputs are severe enough and persistent enough, some low-level function in your brain reaches an unfortunate conclusion. In the natural world, the most likely cause of dizziness is poison, probably from something you ate. The obvious solution is to empty your stomach as quickly as possible. This is why you get airsick.

The same thing can happen in reverse. If you’re sitting still on a firm object—say, a seat in a movie theater—but the picture on the screen is moving and jerking around a lot, your brain might conclude that you need to vomit.

Which brings me to the New York monster movie Cloverfield. Like The Blair Witch Project, the whole movie is shot with a handheld camera. However, the characters shooting Blair Witch were supposed to have filmmaking skills. This movie appears to be shot on home video by an amateur named Hud who is documenting his friend Rob’s going-away party.

I knew that going in, but I expected that after a few shaky minutes to establish the premise, the film would start to cheat and steady the camera a bit. That never happened. After an hour and a half of what Roger Ebert is calling “Queasy-Cam,” I felt a little ill. Would it have ruined the story if Hud had been Rob’s professional videographer friend?

Obviously, I had a lot of trouble getting past the camera work. I think the filmmakers wanted to put us in the action and make it real. Instead, the shaky camera work kept breaking me out of the story. It left me detached from the characters.

As others have pointed out, the movie’s visual style intentionally evokes a lot of news footage of disasters, especially the events of 9/11. I don’t really think it’s exploitive. It’s just that we’ve all learned what a major disaster looks like, so that’s what our disaster movies have to look like.

In many ways, this movie reminded me of the problem I had with Spielberg’s remake of War of the Worlds. Both movies follow the personal struggle of a small group of characters faced with a threat far beyond their ability to handle. So we spend the whole movie watching them run away, while in the background the U.S. Army tries to do something about the problem.

I suppose this is realistic. People caught up in disasters have no sense of the big picture. For most people in the World Trade Center on 9/11, their whole day was about a loud crash followed by an hour of walking down the stairs and away from the building. Terrifying for them, but you wouldn’t want to see a movie about it.

That’s the biggest problem with Cloverfield. The main conflict is this incredible battle between the monster and military. Someone somewhere is commanding the increasingly desperate attacks against the creature while simultaneously coordinating the evacuation of the city.

Meanwhile, we’re stuck watching a very long subplot.

If you’re not a regular surfer in the libertarian blogosphere, you probably haven’t been following the big Ron Paul story, which is that around a decade ago he published a newsletter and a few issues had some stuff that seems pretty racist.

The libertarian blogs have been posting a lot about this story, and every time they do, a bunch of Paul’s supporters chime in with rather a lot of criticism, even to pieces that are mostly constructive advice. Having waded through a lot of their comments, I’ve seen a few that make me understand why Wonkette (a political blogger I’ve heard of but rarely read) calls these people Paultards.

I’d like to address a few of their arguments, starting with some of the sensible ones.

This is old news.

Paul’s supporters in libertarian circles have been hauling this out ever since Paul himself first used it in response to a few questions by Reason‘s David Weigel:

reason: Do you have any response to The New Republic’s article about your newsletters?

Ron Paul: All it is–it’s old stuff. It’s all been rehashed. It’s all political stuff.

reason: Why don’t you release all the old letters?

Paul: I don’t even have copies of them, because it’s ancient history.

reason: Do you stand by what appears in the letters? Did you write these…?

Paul: No. I’ve discussed all of that in the past. It’s just old news.

This may be old news to Paul’s supporters, but it’s not old news to a lot of other people.

The big story about Ron Paul in libertarian circles is that he’s attracted a much larger following to the movemenent than any other libertarian figure. His supporters bring this up all the time.

Guess what?  All those new followers weren’t paying attention the first time this was news, back when Paul was running for Congress in Texas.

Virginia Postrel posts an excerpt from a message she received:

My wife and I were big Ron Paul supporters (until yesterday, in fact). We’re also 29 and 30 years old, which means we weren’t paying attention to Ron Paul in the 90’s. We donated money to the campaign, and I suppose we failed to do the due diligence on Paul, as we didn’t dig through archives of his old newsletters. We feel terrifically betrayed, not only by Ron Paul, but by older libertarians like yourself for not publicly warning us about him.

This was not old news to those people.

Paul didn’t even write those articles.

Yeah, we got that. As nearly every libertarian writer on the subject has acknowledged, nobody has ever heard Paul say anything like what’s in those letters. Everyone involved says that a lot of those articles were written by other people. We’re all willing to believe that someone else wrote a lot of that stuff.

We’re even somewhat willing to believe that Paul didn’t read the newsletters before they went out. It was a fundraising operation, and he probably had other things to do besides read the newsletter. But you’ve got to admit it was pretty careless to allow stuff line that to be sent out in his name.

Paul has already taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under his name.

Yes, he has. But some of us don’t just want him to take responsibility, we want an explanation of how this happened.

Paul says he didn’t know what was in the newsletters. Maybe the people writing the newsletters were using them to advance their own agenda, but surely at some point one of Paul’s friends or staffers came up to him and said, “Ron, you need to see what’s in the newsletter. I think we have a problem…”

However, if that happened, Paul seemingly never did anything about it. He claims he doesn’t even know who the writers were.

“It’s obvious that you’re out to get Ron Paul. Why don’t you do equal reporting on the TRUCKLOADS of skeletons and evil things that the other candidates and media don’t discuss?” (source)

If a woman is dating a man who never takes her anyplace nice, why does she complain only about him to her girlfriends when there are billions of other men who aren’t taking her anyplace at all?

Paul’s the one who’s asking us to dance.

You’re going after Paul about the newsletters just like you did about the Don Black donation.

That wasn’t a libertarian issue at all. Paul didn’t take Don Black’s money. Don Black sent some money to the Paul campaign, at which point it stopped being Don Black’s money and became Paul’s money. Paul could do whatever he wanted with his money. Most libertarians got that.

“Kirchick is a Yalie bonesman — that should explain all to discredit the story!” (source)

I suppose whatever that means could be a reaon for Kirchick to lie. But since the Ron Paul campaign has acknowledged the newsletters were sent out, what exactly would he be lying about?

Kirchick saved all this until right before the New Hampshire primary. Kirchick is just out to get Ron Paul.

Of course he is. We’d never hear anything bad about politicians if it weren’t for their enemies. Do you think the Clinton whitehouse would ever have said anything about Monica Lewinsky if someone else hadn’t brought it up first?

“The Lavander Mafia along with the Israel firsters are trying to destroy Ron Paul.” (source) “The ‘libertarians’ at tReason have shown their true colors. Anything to service your neocon masters, eh?” (source) “Here is an anatomy of the spread of the smear campaign against Ron Paul just prior to and on the crucial “king-making” New Hampshire primary day…” (source)

So it’s all a conspiracy? The gays, the Jews, the neocons, the Beltway libertarians…all out to get Ron Paul?

I have several responses here:

  1. That’s exactly the sort of crazy talk that got us here in the first place.
  2. Even if there were a conspiracy against Paul, that doesn’t actually make him a better candidate.
  3. It still doesn’t explain the newsletters.
  4. The writers at Reason are hardly out to get Ron Paul. They’ve been glossing over his anti-libertarian positions on some issues for months, and now that the newsletters are big news, they’re not exactly beating on Ron Paul so much as begging him to explain.

“We will remember your actions in this campaign, and we will never support Reason or CATO again if you continue down this path.” (source

I guess when you can’t make arguments, you give ultimatums.

You’re just beating a dead horse.

Oh, but that comment never gets old…

Paul has said he didn’t write the newsletters and that he takes moral responsibility. What more do you want?

An actual explanation of what happened.

Saying it’s old news, shooting the messenger, and crying “Conspiracy!” are not explanations. They’re attempts to avoid an explanation.

Explaining that someone else wrote the newsletters is only part of the explanation. Here are a few questions for Dr. Paul that might fill in some details:

  • When did you first find out what was in the news letters? Who pointed it out to you? What was your first reaction?
  • Who wrote the letters? If you don’t know, why not? Didn’t you think it was important at the time to find out who the author was? If not, why not?
  • If you don’t know who the author was, then who had final editorial control of the newsletters? Not you, but the person who actually made the decision to let this stuff run?
  • Did you confront the author/editor about this? What did they say?
  • Why did you let this go on so long? Did you not notice? Did you not think it was important?
  • Was it a matter of free speech? Were you reluctant to censor the writers? Was that a mistake?
  • Was the appeal to racists a big-tent strategy? Were you pandering to the racists just to get their money? Weren’t you concerned how that would make you look?

One more thing:

Ron Paul is a fearless advocate of libertarianism. He wants to end the war on drugs, bring the troops back home, shut down the Federal Reserve bank, abolish income taxes, and eliminate half the cabinet. He says more crazy things in a 10-minute interview than most candidates say all year.

Ron Paul is not afraid to say what he believes, and he clearly believes that the American people will agree with him once they understand what he’s saying.

So why doesn’t he trust us with the explanation for the newsletters?

[Note: I think this story has played itself out, at least for the moment, and now that I’ve got this out of my system, I’m tired of writing about it.]

Some former DEA agents are annoyed by the movie American Gangster:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Three former Drug Enforcement Administration agents filed a $55 million defamation lawsuit against the movie studio that made “American Gangster” on Wednesday, claiming it tarnished hundreds of reputations.

The movie hurt the agents’ reputations by falsely claiming in text at the end that a collaboration between Lucas and Roberts “led to the convictions of three-quarters of New York City’s Drug Enforcement Agency” agents between 1973 and 1985, according to the suit, which seeks class action status.

The lawsuit said the public believed the film’s text referred to federal DEA agents, not police officers, and regardless, no New York police officers were convicted as a result of Lucas’ cooperation.

The DEA agents’ demands are about what you’d expect from drug warriors who confiscate people’s cars when they find drug residue in the ash tray:

The suit seeks to stop the film’s distribution or change the text at the end of the film and turn over all of its profits to a fund for federal DEA agents.

Once a legal gangster, always a legal gangster.

Random shots around the web:

  • Here’s one argument against evolution:

    One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn’t possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.

    Uh, we call that energy source the Sun.

  • I’ve always gone for jury duty when called, but if some judge ever grabs me off the street for a jury panel, I’m going to acquit. There’s no way this sort of thing happens without some prosecutor who’s all hot for a trial, and I’m not going to give him what he wants. (Found this with Google? If you’re the prosecutor, I guess now you have cause to strike me. If you’re defense counsel…lucky you, huh?)
  • I’m a casual dresser, one might even say a bit sloppy. Never been fashionable, never will be. And if the fashionable people are dressing like this, my wife should be very grateful for my lack of fashionability. (Dear God, what were they thinking?)

(Hat tip: Classical Values, Agitator.)

Bill Beckman at Illinois Review is concerned about human embryos destroyed during in-vitro fertilization:

A January 2nd LifeSiteNews article covers findings following a UK Parliamentary question on IVF. Data from a government organization showed that over one million human embryonic children were killed in the UK in the past 14 years as ‘waste’ embryos from IVF processes.

The acquired data showed that 2,137,924 embryonic humans were created using IVF between 1991 and 2005, but about 1.2m were never used. Scientists killed the embryos who were not deemed strong enough for implantation, and froze those not considered ‘waste’ embryos. Those that survived the freezing process will die in ten years if not implanted.

‘Surplus’ embryos were created because women responded differently to fertility drugs, doctors told the Times Online. As many as 40 IVF-fertilized eggs can be used in some treatments. The embryos are then assessed for viability, with only about 20% usually considered strong enough to implant successfully in a woman.

Wait a minute! These numbers do not compute. If only 20% are deemed viable, then 80% are killed before ever reaching the point where the phrase “excess embryo” might get used. Does this mean in reality that the death toll was over 8 million non-viable embryos, killed to create over 2 million viable ones, of which 1.2 million were not used because deemed excess?

I’m having a little trouble researching the details, but I think human embryos produced by IVF are assessed for viability when they’ve divided into a total of 8 undifferentiated cells, and they are implanted by the time they reach 100 cells. You probably scrape off several times that many cells each time you scratch your nose.

This seems to have crossed the line from pro-life into some weird form of cell worship.

Random shots around the web:

(Hat tips: Balko, Mike,

Ron Paul was on CNN, talking to Wolf Blitzer about the racist material in his newsletters. He repudiates the content of the offending pieces, but he still says he has no idea who wrote them. I have a lot of trouble with that statement.

Paul must have known there was racist material in the newsletter, but he appears not to have done anything about it. In fact, he claims not to even know which of his staff wrote those parts.

Does that seem reasonable to you? If you were a politician—or anybody with a newsletter, really—and someone showed you that the newsletter had racist statements going out in your name, wouldn’t you have wanted to find out who was doing it?

Either Paul does know who wrote those articles and he’s lying when he says he doesn’t, or else Paul read those newsletters and didn’t see anything that alarmed him. Neither of those is a very reassuring answer.

You can watch the whole Paul interview here. Be warned, it’s about 8 minutes long, and parts of it are painful to watch. Paul is not a slick public speaker. Blitzer actually takes pity on him and tries to coach him through the interview. It’s a little like going to dinner with your great uncle Herb who calls all black males “colored boys,” and you know he probably doesn’t mean anything by it, but you really hope nobody you know is sitting in the next booth.

Except that Paul isn’t family, so I can kick him to the curb any time I want, and maybe it’s time I do. That’s too bad, because it’s been nice seeing libertarian ideas getting airtime, so I’ve kind of been rooting for Paul even though I disagree with him on a number of his pet issues.

Blogger Kip Esquire has been all over Paul for months about his opposition to gay marriage. I probably should have been paying more attention. It’s not a libertarian position to say the government should only give special legal status to pairs of people if they are of an acceptable gender combination.

Paul’s also not much of a libertarian when it comes to immigration, with all his talk about enforcing immigration laws, ending the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to all persons born in the United States, and “securing our borders,” whatever that means.

Ron Paul is also an advocate for putting our currency back on the gold standard and abolishing the Federal Reserve Bank. Both those ideas seem a little crazy to me, but I have to admit I don’t understand the issues well enough to be sure.

More recently, I’ve heard that Paul wants the United States to remove our military forces from all foreign countries. The argument is that having forces in other countries is costly and risks involving us in battles that are not our own. But withdrawing certain of our forces could allow other free nations to fall, which is clearly a bad thing for freedom. Also, it’s a lot better to fight an enemy on foreign soil than on our own.

Some of Paul’s supporters have defended the racist material in the newsletters—or at least Paul’s response to it—by saying that even if Paul has racists thoughts, he would never use the government to do racists acts, because that goes against libertarian principles.

I think they are confusing policy and personal values. For example, I think the principle of free speech means that Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps should be not be prevented by force of government from saying the hateful things he says. But I would not want to elect him to office, or invite him into my home, or be photographed standing anywhere near him in case people get the wrong idea. Paul’s not anywhere near that bad, but these newsletters still worry me.

Another response from Paul’s supporters is that no candidate is perfect, and Ron Paul is the best there is. Sadly, this could be true.

Think about this for a minute: In the CNN interview above, Ron Paul says that if he wins the election he’ll pardon everyone who’s in federal prison for a non-violent drug offense. So by not supporting Paul, am I really saying that my distaste for a few racist newsletters is more important than freeing 80,000 people from bondage?

It’s a haunting thought. Or it would be, except for one thing: Ron Paul is not going to be our next president. The Ron Paul presidency isn’t going to serve the libertarian cause because there isn’t going to be a Ron Paul presidency. It’s just not going to happen, and it never was.

On the other hand, the Ron Paul candidacy has been serving the libertarian cause fairly well. Paul and his supporters have put a lot of great libertarian ideas out in front of the public, and that’s a good thing. Among other accomplishments, Paul has gone a long way toward making drug war opposition an acceptable policy. That’s a tremendous contribution to freedom.

Ron Paul’s run for president has been a great publicity stunt for the libertarian movement, but if the newsletters start to make libertarianism look bad, it’s going to undo some of our gains. In that case, it would be better if the public stopped hearing so much about Ron Paul.

We’ll see what happens, but maybe it’s time to bring the Ron Paul revolution to a quiet end.