Thursday, January 31, 2008

The FBI: A formerly proud organization

Rolling Stone has a lengthy article detailing how the Bush administration has transformed the FBI from a super-competent law enforcement organization into a well-financed entrapment machine for turning roofers and pizza delivery guys into Scary Terrorists.

A sampling:
While real threats undoubtedly exist, what the Bush administration promotes as a nationwide pattern of terrorist activities is largely the result of its own policies in the age of lawfare. Last May, the FBI arrested the "Fort Dix Six," charging the men with conspiring to attack the New Jersey military base. The supposed terror cell was discovered when a clerk at Circuit City was asked to transfer to DVD a video of the men allegedly training for jihad in the Pocono Mountains and shouting, "Allahu Akbar!" [God is great!] As in other cases, the FBI itself proved to be the mastermind behind the plot. The men —who included three roofers, a taxi driver and a former delivery boy for Super Mario's Pizza — had little money and no connections to real extremists. All were in their twenties and spent their weekends playing paintball. Under the guidance of two informants for the JTTF, the men planned an assault on Fort Dix using rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s —none of which actually existed.
A JTTF is a "Joint Terrorism Task Force". There are hundreds of them, all over the country. They recruit local police officers to take part in their operations (thus the "Joint"). They are the recipients of many hundreds of millions of our tax dollars.

People often ask me: HipHopLawyer, do you deny that there are radicals who are plotting the gruesome death of you and your loved ones? Don't you remember 9/11?

My responses is that I do, in fact, remember 9/11. And I don't deny that there are many many people on this earth who fervently desire the wholesale destruction of this country. Putting aside the question of why these people hate America, it would be silly to deny it.

But the proposition that: (1) lots of people hate America and wish for our destruction, (2) ergo we will be destroyed unless we do x, y, and z is incoherent.

America-haters can be grouped as follows:

1. Those who hate America and want to cause the death of Americans (large group);

2. Those who hate America and want to cause the death of Americans and are highly motivated to achieve this objective (smaller group);

3. Those who hate America and want to cause the death of Americans, are highly motivated to achieve this objective, and have the means to do so (very small group).

Note that "means" as used here denotes intelligence, resources, operational capability, and physical access.

That third group is dangerous. The other two? Not so much.

And it appears that instead of focusing on identifying and thwarting those in the third group, the JTTFs are identifying those in the first group, goading them into becoming members of the second group, and supplying one or more of the necessary "means" elements in the attempt to place them into the third group. They then arrest these people and go on teevee and with much fanfare explain how they have just miraculously saved the lives of untold numbers of Americans from certain, horrific death.

Not only is this dishonest, but it does not appear to me to be an effective use of resources, given that people in the third group do actually exist. How might one use these resources more effectively to attack the actual threat? Sadly, this is beyond my expertise. But I presume that once you sort through all of the recently recruited Pat Robertson University College Republican types, there are still a heckuva a lot of smart people in the FBI. Maybe we could task them with answering this question.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

ONDCP's moral bankruptcy

NPR reports on a drug called naloxone (marketed under the brand name Narcan). This drug is proven to be highly effective at reversing opioid overdoses such as those from heroin and morphine. It is administered as a nasal spray. If a person is ODing from heroin, using this nasal spray will revive the person and save his or her life. It costs $9.50 per dose.

According to NPR "public health workers from New York to Los Angeles, North Carolina to New Mexico, are preventing thousands of deaths" through distribution of naloxone to drug users.

Some might hear this news and react positively. They might say, wow, look at the good that can come from medical science and well-executed public health programs. The folks at the Office of National Drug Control Policy would not be among them.

The ONDCP, through its deputy director "Dr." Bertha Madras, tells NPR that it is against distribution of naloxone. Apparently ONDCP has concluded that naloxone makes heroin less lethal, and therefore, uh, this is bad. I'd like to provide more detail, but that appears to be the sum total of their thinking on this issue.

Of course, we can look forward to hearing more from them in the future as they ramp up the fight against naloxone. The FDA and the DEA can be expected to promulgate a bunch of regulations, policy statements, and other forms of weaponized propaganda (probably accompanied by more than a few enforcement actions involving military style SWAT raids where commandos, clad in black body armor, point automatic weapons at terrified social workers and order them to lie flat on the ground or be shot). What you will hear will be a lot of statements containing very little other than transparent, fact-free bullshit, which will, when boiled down to its essence, equate to "Drugs're bad, mmkay?"

Because, you see, the ONDCP doesn't want to save heroin users. Anyone who uses heroin becomes a non-person in their eyes. They want to see that non-person incarcerated or dead. Or, at the very least, they want to have him or her under their control via probation or parole officers, living in a half-way house, under orders to comply with multi-page lists of dos-and-don'ts, with failure to comply resulting in -- yes -- incarceration or death.

The Drug War is a mechanism for control. It is the machinery of tyranny, whose purposes are two: (1) enrich those who participate in it and share a certain orthodoxy of thought, and (2) oppress, enslave, or kill those who do not. Persons falling into the former category include law enforcement personnel, those who build and run prisons, manufacturers of all manner of armor, armaments, and high-tech enforcement gadgetry, unscrupulous lawyers and judges, "scientists" like Ms. Madras, and, of course, politicians. Some of these people are not getting "rich" off of their participation (e.g., front-line enforcers like beat cops, DEA agents, probation officers, etc), but they are nevertheless the beneficiaries of employment opportunities which would not exist absent the Drug War (you can imagine what types of jobs these people might otherwise be able to get).

The latter group? Made up almost entirely of very poor and/or brown people.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Luxury dorms

Princeton has just finished building a "residence facility" which cost $388,571 per room. I don't care what Princeton chooses to spend its money on, but I do think they need to come up with a more appropriate name. Dormitory doesn't seem to cover it. Maybe "Education Palace", or "Sumptuous Learning Resort".

I'm picturing the set-up like they had in Back to School (only without Oingo Boingo).

Help! My virgin eyes, they're melting!

Apparently FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate is no better (and possibly worse) than disgraced ex-FCC Chairman, and all-around fucktard, Michael Powell.

Tate -- a 60ish year old virgin (and mother of 3) -- has levied a fine of $1.43M against ABC television for airing an image of a female buttocks 5 years ago during an episode of NYPD Blue. According to Tate, a buttocks is both a "sexual organ" and an "excretory organ".

How to begin? I think most anatomy experts (or, you know, people, in general) would object to any assertion that the buttocks have an "excretory" function. Isn't a buttock a big muscle (usually lined with fatty tissues) covered by skin, having the primary "function" of directing leg movement? (And is it really even an "organ"?) On the other hand, the anus is a body part (again, not sure if you'd call it an "organ", but I guess maybe it is) with an "excretory function". But they didn't show an anus, now did they?

So, really, I think most normal people, using the English language in a normal way, would agree that the buttocks is (are?) not "excretory" in nature. But is a buttocks sexual? Well, I have a pretty vivid imagination when it comes to sex (as does, apparently Ms Tate, which you soooo wouldn't guess by looking at her shrewish bio picture), so I can understand how a buttocks could be used during sex. Much the same way the thighs or someone's hand might be used. But is its "function" sexual? I think not. And again, an anus might be said to have a more direct connection to sex (but only for perverts, of course), but NYPD Blue did not, thankfully, portray an image of an anus.

What we have here is a repressed old hag foisting her ridiculous twisted repressed personal views onto a teevee viewing public numbering in the hundreds of millions. Does she get lots of high-fives when she attends her repressive hick town Baptist church, there in Tennessee? You know, something like: "Good going Deb, way to keep those sexually excreting buttock flanks off of my teevee! While you're at it, maybe you can get CSI to stop showing pictures of murdered corpses too. They make me so damn horny!"

Monday, January 21, 2008


Josh Marshall says he actually (albeit briefly) felt sorry for Rudy "Benito" Giuliani as he (Josh) contemplated Rudy's spectacular decline over the last few months. (Thus far, Rudy has been outpolled by Ron Paul in 5 out of the 6 GOP nominating contests.)

Feel sorry for Rudy? Me, not so much. The only scenario under which I might remotely feel the slightest, most fleeting sense of sympathy for Rudy would be if he were subjected to something along the lines of The Death of Chef:
However, the bridge Chef is crossing then collapses after being struck by lightning. Chef catches on fire. Being hit by multiple rocks and so unable to hang onto the bridge, Chef falls down, bouncing off several rocks before being impaled on a jagged tree stump. He is then attacked by a mountain lion and later a grizzly bear. One man from the Super Adventure Club, aiming for the mountain lion, shoots Chef three times before the animals dismember him. The skin on his face is ripped off and he gets ripped in half at the waist, leaving his organs hanging out. Stan and Kyle then say their catchphrase: "Oh my God! They killed Chef!" "You bastards!". Cartman suggests that Chef may not be dead because "They say the last thing you do before you die is crap your--" At that instant, Chef's body empties his bowels...

Silence as Betrayal

I've not found time to write any MLK stuff of my own today, but here is a good post from Matt Yglesias about how difficult it was for King to speak out against the Vietnam war, given that LBJ had gone way out on a limb to support King and the civil rights movement, and, so, couldn't King just sort of keep quiet about that Vietnam thing for a while...?

An interesting take on something I had never thought about in quite those terms.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Economics 101

Here's my favorite anarchist's take on GW, the Saudis, and global oil prices. Quick read, agrees with my previous statements on the subject, and with a bonus Big Lebowski reference thrown in. Is this really that hard to understand?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Creepy Environmentalism, Part II

Ok, well, looks like I was ahead of the curve on this one. Via Radley Balko, it appears that the State of California won't wait for the Department of Energy to implement its "smart appliances" program based on "consumer choice," but instead is dropping all pretense and just outright saying that it is going to go ahead and take control of your home's thermostat.

Has it really come to this?

Maybe it is only wishful thinking, but I predict a severe backlash. While curtailment of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, habeus corpus, warrant requirements for search and seizure, and all of that kind of stuff (you know, basic liberties guaranteed by the Constitution) is only an abstraction for most people (those who are stupid or mentally lazy), therefore generating little in the way of hue and cry, when you start dicking with people's air conditioning, buddy, you best be prepared to deal with some angry motherfucking citizens.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Here's a good time waste

But the peeps at Harvard probably wouldn't appreciate it being called that.

The site is a series of tests designed to gauge your "implicit associations". Which I think is a Harvard-ish way of saying "prejudice". And beware: "If you are unprepared to encounter interpretations that you might find objectionable, please do not proceed further." Translating from the Ivy-speak, this means: "if you freak out when we call you a bigot, don't say we didn't warn you!"

Mostly kidding, really. I took the "Weapons" test. This test flashes pictures of white males and black males, interspersed with pictures of weapons and innocuous objects. You have to very quickly click one of two options each time they flash on the screen. Purportedly, this measures how closely you associate weapons with black people and harmless objects with white people (or, of course, vice versa).

My result was a "slight" association of weapons with black people. Which would probably give me an opportunity for introspection if the weapons pictured were the kind popularly associated with black people. But they were things like civil war cannons, scimitars, hand grenades, maces, crossbows and the like. The kind of weapons you really wouldn't associate with any particular ethnic group. Also, I'm not sure this says much about my feelings toward black people, since, you know, I actually like weapons. So maybe I'm "slightly" more affinitized toward black people than white people?

But anyway. It was kind of interesting. There are lots of other tests, measuring all manner of doubleplus-ungood-think.

Creepy Environmentalism

As most of you know, I am a big believer in environmentalism. I'm just about as "green" as they come. In fact, my position on the environment has always been that I will wholeheartedly support and participate in any environmental initiative of any kind or nature, just so long as my support or participation in any such initiative does not involve any significant expense or inconvenience to me personally.

What's that you say? That position doesn't make me an environmentalist? In fact, it pretty much makes me an anti-environmentalist? Huh. Well, I can't say I haven't heard that sentiment before. In fact, one of my readers in particular is probably screaming epithets at her computer screen as she reads this. ("slug-killer!" being prominent among them, for reasons I won't go into right now.)

But the thing is, I do understand that a healthy respect for the environment is important to us as humans. Basically it is the concept of "don't shit where you live" extrapolated to a global scale. I get this, and I appreciate its importance. I also understand that we as a civilization have an obligation to future generations; that is, it would be morally and/or ethically wrong to bequeath a barren garbage dump of a planet to our descendants.

But the further thing is, I have come to believe in the power of "the market" in righting most if not all of the wrongs related to protection of the environment. For example, a paper manufacturer will, based on simple economics, understand that it ought to plant trees to replace the ones it cuts. And an oil company understands that public outrage, and its accompanying economic consequences, will prevent it from dumping its sludge into wetlands. Moreover, as a given commodity (for example, water) becomes more scarce, it also becomes more expensive -- which, clearly, will encourage conservation.

Now, that is not to say that these types of factors will always, in every case, prevent malfeasance. But over time, in the long haul, I think the actual, day-to-day consequences of flouting moral and ethical norms are enough to cause companies and individuals to conform to such norms without the need for overly zealous governmental regulation.

Some of you, I'm sure, will disagree with this. Hopefully based on logic and reason, rather than emotion only.

However, I hope I will get some agreement that this type of idea is at least somewhat creepy and should be the subject of some serious discussion prior to implementation. The friendly folks at the Department of Energy have been experimenting with "smart" appliances for our homes. These appliances have "sensors" which detect "stresses on the power grid" (i.e., times of peak usage across the whole grid). When these "stresses" reach a certain level, they then cause the appliances in your home to "curtail power use" until the peak has passed.

You'd have to read the article in depth to appreciate this, but I couldn't help but get the idea that it was soft-pedaling what was really going on here. It starts out by touting the study and all of the potential savings of money and energy that could accrue. Only in passing, and in a very obtuse way, does it let on that this program will, when implemented, involve your appliances being shut off -- possibly without your consent or participation. One must read between the lines to understand that soon all appliances will have these censors, and that while "consumer choice" is given lip service here, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario where your thermostat is automatically (or remotely) kicked up to 85 degrees during the heat of the summer, or your computer is shut off, or your vacuum cleaner starts sucking less hard, or the beer in your refrigerator is warmed to 65 degrees, or your hot water is cooled to 95 degrees, etc., all without any affirmative action on your part.

This smacks of potential for energy rationing (without, of course, having to call it that). It also brings to mind a somewhat Orwellian feeling of giving over control of the things in your home to some unseen, unaccountable authority. And so far, despite the admirable sales pitch on the part of Reuters, I don't like it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I Am Legend

<* contains some mild spoilers *>

Just saw this movie. I wasn't too impressed by the second half of the story (really, the whole second half of the movie), or the action, or some other aspects.

But, the scenes of deserted Manhattan were so impressive that it makes the whole thing worthwhile. The way it depicts Will Smith having been there, (almost) completely alone, for three years, is really thought-provoking.

The place he picks to live is just off Washington Square, which is an interesting choice. The movie makes it clear that Smith has been systematically looting surrounding apartments and businesses in search of useful items. Though the film neatly doesn't call attention to it, Smith has a number of priceless works of art hanging throughout his apartment, presumably looted from the Met. I spotted a couple of Van Goghs and a Rembrandt. Also, one of his pastimes apparently is hitting buckets of golf balls off the wing of a jet parked on the deck of an aircraft carrier moored in the harbor. Stuff like this is pretty cool. Now, if I can only figure out a way to facilitate the death of the other 6 billion and some odd people on the planet...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

common thugs

When I see things like this, it literally makes me sick to my stomach.

The "War on Drugs" is a violent, deadly scam.

Anyone who has not yet realized this fact is ignorant. Anyone who realizes this fact but continues to support these failed policies is a sick and twisted person.

Incidentally: back in law school, I wrote two law review articles on asset forfeiture. The better one was published (and even actually cited in a few places (example) but sadly not available online), and the one I wrote which specifically related to the drug war was not -- and to be honest, I didn't put a terrible amount of effort into it, so on its merits it probably did not deserve to be published.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I want this.

It is a little keyboard/mouse device -- about the same size as a game controller -- that works through Bluetooth. They are marketing it for use with a PC connected to a television. I'm sure this would be a good use for it (and if I can ever get my laptop to output to my tv correctly, that's what I'll use it for), but I think it would work really well on any laptop or PC, for those times when you don't want to sit there hunched over a standard keyboard and mouse setup.

Since I've had my smartphone, I've gotten pretty good at typing with the thumbs on the tiny little QWERTY keyboard. Obviously not as fast as a full-size keyboard, but sometimes the optimum wpm isn't what you're after.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

When the chips are down...

Hillary Clinton shows what she stands for.

Hillary loses to Obama in Iowa by a wide margin. Hillary trails Obama widely in NH polling. Her answer is to make a point of demonstrating how "liberal" Obama is. And the illustrative issues she picks for this purpose are Obama's ties to "left-wing intellectuals", "his liberal voting record on criminal defendants' rights", and his opposition to mandatory minimum prison sentences.

In short, Hillary Clinton stands for a continuation of the Bush-Clinton-Bush system of mandatory minimums, "harsh" sentences for drug possession, and our nation's world-leading incarceration rate. Not to mention the enrichment of corporations (and their shareholders) who build, run, staff, and supply the ever increasing number of prisons in this country.

Among people who commit a certain offense, those who are poor, brown, and/or addicted to drugs are most likely to be arrested, more likely to be prosecuted, more likely to be prosecuted on more (and more serious) charges, and less likely to be able to mount an effective defense against such charges. This country leads the world in incarcerating people. It is no surprise that we incarcerate a much higher percentage of disadvantaged people for the same crimes. It also is not a coincidence. Anyone supporting this systematic incarceration of our fellow citizens is, quite simply, a bad and wrong person.

Putting people into prison for drug possession is wrong. Taking away a judge's discretion to shorten a long prison sentence based on extenuating factors is bad. Supporting either of these things is wrong, bad, and unconscionable.

Hillary Clinton's panicked new approach to this campaign will fail. She will fail. And HipHopLawyer will be happy about that.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My new favorite blog:

The Agitator.

UPDATE: I wondered if Robert Guest had heard of this guy, and now I see that he is linked off of I Was the State.