If Meshal’s tormentors had been foreign officials, he could have sought a remedy under the Torture Victim Protection Act. Yet the majority holds that because of unspecified national security and foreign policy concerns, a United States citizen who was arbitrarily detained, tortured, and threatened with disappearance by United States law enforcement agents in Africa must be denied any remedy whatsoever.
This is awesome. Obviously, you can trade in oil futures, but what happens if you just try to buy a barrel of oil? Tracy Alloway found out.
The point of the exercise was to take part, in some small way, in the severe contango present in the oil market in 2008. Generally speaking, oil purchased for immediate delivery is much less expensive than oil purchased to be delivered at some future date, but in 2008 the differential was huge enough that those with the capacity to move and store large amounts of crude oil could buy, hold, and profit at a meaningful scale.
It took a few years to push the idea to execution, but Alloway did eventually pull it off (though at a smaller scale). The story’s hilarious, but this may be my favorite part:
A true oil storage trade therefore required an early buyer. The usual suspects—think Glencore and Trafigura—wouldn’t dream of touching my puny amount of oil, of course. So I looked farther afield, all the way to my ex-colleagues, who I thought surely still harbored those dreams of owning Black Gold.
Izabella Kaminska, a writer for FT Alphaville and an all-round commodities expert, expressed interest in the contract, then immediately embarked on a due diligence process that would make me rue the whole endeavor.
Unsatisfied with photos of the product, she recruited the services of a professional oil consultant for comfort. The consultant asked for a full inspector’s analysis report and a proof-of-origin certificate. All I had was a FedEx invoice, though I assured them both that I wouldn’t dream of peddling anything but top-shelf sweet crude.
“That [is] all good and well until you learn it’s not Bakken but Kurdish oil, under strict embargo. Well done [for] supporting ISIS,” the consultant replied by e-mail. Adding insult, the consultant informed me that the glass bottle was worth more than the oil inside it, anyway.
When I threatened to sell the oil to a far-friendlier former FT colleague, one without expert knowledge of commodities or the benefit of a sarcastic oil professional, I was accused of taking advantage of less-informed retail investors. Expletives followed.
The TSA has new pornoscanners.
Matt Taibbi: Sandra Bland Was Murdered:
So news broke yesterday that authorities in Waller County, Texas, have “full faith” that Sandra Bland committed suicide. They said there was “no evidence of a struggle” on the body of the 28-year-old African-American woman who was ludicrously jailed last week after an alleged lane change violation.
In related news, the Texas Department of Safety ruled that Brian Encina, the officer who arrested Bland, pulled her from her car, and threatened her with a Taser, had merely violated the state’s “courtesy policy.” The state said there was “no evidence” yet of criminal behavior on Encina’s part.
So barring something unexpected, we know now how this is going to play out in the media.
Many news outlets are going to engage in an indirect version of the usual blame-the-victim game by emphasizing the autopsy finding of suicide, questioning Bland’s mental health history, and by highlighting the reports of marijuana found in her system.
Beyond that, we can expect a slew of chin-scratching “legal analyses” concluding that while there may have been some minor impropriety on officer Encina’s part, the law governing police-motorist encounters is too “complicated” to make this anything more than a tragic accident.
Media scandals are like criminal trials. They’re about assigning blame. Because Bland may have technically taken her own life, the blame is now mostly going to fall on a woman with a history of depression and drugs, instead of on a criminal justice system that morally, if not legally, surely murdered Sandra Bland.
But nobody yet has dared to say Sandra Bland would still be alive today, if only she’d used her blinker. That’s a bridge too far even for TownHall.com types.
Suddenly even hardcore law-and-order enthusiasts are realizing the criminal code is so broad and littered with so many tiny technical prohibitions that a determined enough police officer can stop and/or arrest pretty much anybody at any time.
Bland was on her way to a new job at Prairie A&M university when she was pulled over for failing to signal when changing lanes, something roughly 100 percent of American drivers do on a regular basis. Irritated at being stopped, she was curt with Encina when he wrote her up. He didn’t like her attitude and decided to flex his muscles a little, asking her to put out her cigarette.
She balked, and that’s when things went sideways. Encina demanded that she get out of the car, reached for his Taser, said, “I’ll light you up,” and eventually threw her in jail.
Many editorialists following this narrative case suddenly noticed, as if for the first time, how much mischief can arise from the fact that a person may be arrested at any time for “failing to obey a lawful order,” which in the heat of the moment can mean just about anything.
If a cop wants to arrest you, he can arrest you. And very, very bad things can happen to you for which no one will ever be held accountable until and unless we drastically reform the way we police our society.
Three score and ten years ago today, on July 16, 1945: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Apparently, it’s illegal to carry cash in the US, and the penalty is the loss of the cash.
There exists someone named Tokyo Sexwale who is neither an amorous, Japanese marine mammal nor a character in a Pynchon novel.
He is, of course, now leading a FIFA monitoring committee on Palestine.
Carry on. As best you can, anyway.
So Denny Hastert is in trouble. Mostly, my reaction is as you’d expect: depressed amusement at the predictability of a scolding hack getting popped for misconduct like this. But there’s more here, and you should delve into it, because what’s happening to him is really kind of alarming.
The always-on-point Ken White over at Popehat has written up an examination of the charges against Hastert and how they came to be, and if you’re not a little freaked out by the process I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Basically, the Federal prosecutors can target just about anyone and take them down because of how “creative” they can get with astonishingly broad interpretations of federal law that are generally supported by the courts. Put simply, if they decide they want you, they can get you. After all, you very probably commit Three Felonies A Day (more here); the extremely broad laws and broader interpretations give Federal prosecutors enormous power that is basically unchecked by anyone. “Trust us” is a shitty insurance policy against power of this nature.
Hastert isn’t going down for diddling little boys or for bribery. He’s not going down for fraud. He’s being charged with structuring transactions –his withdrawals were all less than $!0,000 — and for lying to the Feds about the purpose of the cash:
The indictment has mostly inspired chatter about what it doesn’t say. Hastert is charged with structuring withdrawals of less than $10,000 (so that they would not be reported to the IRS) so that he could pay off an unidentified person for Hastert’s unidentified past misconduct. What past misconduct, or threatened accusation of misconduct, could lead Hastert to pay $3.5 million? The indictment doesn’t say, but it has been drafted to imply that the allegation of past misconduct relates to Hastert’s job as a teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois. Hastert isn’t charged with doing anything to the accuser, and the accuser isn’t charged with extortion.
We imagine law enforcement operating like we see on TV: someone commits a crime, everyone knows what the crime is, law enforcement reacts by charging them with that crime. But that’s not how federal prosecution always works. Particularly with high-profile targets, federal prosecution is often an exercise in searching for a theory to prosecute someone that the feds would like to prosecute. (Emph. added)
The takeaway is simple:
From the citizen’s perspective, this situation points to one obvious conclusion: shut up. Never answer a federal agent’s questions without a thorough debriefing with a qualified lawyer first.
It may or may not be the case that Hastert did something terrible. In a free society, though, law enforcement must work within limits. If it’s the case that he molested boys, but no complaint was made at the time, and the statute of limitations has passed, it may be tempting to endorse the actions of the FBI and the federal prosecutors here, but that’s a bad path. The tactics in question are downright scary to me, even when applied to someone like Hastert.
Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies, The Associated Press has learned.
The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.
For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans’ privacy.
It gets worse:
Basic aspects of the FBI’s program are withheld from the public in censored versions of official reports from the Justice Department’s inspector general, and the FBI also has been careful not to reveal its surveillance flights in court documents. The agency will not say how many planes are currently in its fleet.
The planes are equipped with technology that can capture video of unrelated criminal activity on the ground that could be handed over to prosecutions. One of the planes, photographed in flight last week by the AP in northern Virginia, bristled with unusual antennas under its fuselage and a camera on its left side.
Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they’re not making a call or in public. Officials said that practice, which mimics cell towers and gets phones to reveal basic subscriber information, is used in only limited situations.
“These are not your grandparents’ surveillance aircraft,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. Stanley said the flights are significant “if the federal government is maintaining a fleet of aircraft whose purpose is to circle over American cities, especially with the technology we know can be attached to those aircraft.”
The TSA missed 95% of weapons and explosives in an undercover test.
These people are fucking criminals, and should be fired, shunned, and jailed.
They are actively seeking out sleeper car passengers on Amtrak to harass, illegally search, and steal from. This is a regular practice.
The agents found nothing in Rivers’s belongings that indicated that he was involved with the drug trade: no drugs, no guns. They didn’t arrest him or charge him with a crime. But they took his cash anyway, every last cent, under the authority of the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture program.
There is no presumption of innocence under civil asset forfeiture laws. Rather, law enforcement officers only need to have a suspicion — in practice, often a vague one – that a person is involved with illegal activity in order to seize their property. On the highway, for instance, police may cite things like tinted windows, air fresheners or trash in the car, according to a Washington Post investigation last year.
Once property has been seized, the burden of proof falls on the defendant to get it back — even if the cops ultimately never charge them with a crime. “We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty,” an Albuquerque DEA agent told the Journal. “It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.”
This means that the DEA can basically steal any cash they ever find, and the onus is on their victims to prove the money was legitimately theirs. Because the DEA overwhelmingly target young, poorer people, they rarely have the means to contest the seizures.
Frankly, I’d like to see a RICO action against the DEA generally. Maybe not everyone there is actively involved in these sorts of thefts, but by working they they enable what has become a fundamentally criminal enterprise — and by getting paid, they receive benefits at least in part because of these crimes.
Idris Elba has broken a land speed record in a Bentley.
I’m having a hard time unpacking the sheer weapons-grade awesome here.
h/t: My Attorney
Indiana has, of course, hired a PR firm to try to repair the damage they did to their state’s image with their bigotry bill.
How about, you know, something substantive and real instead?
Schneier points out that Cisco has started offering to ship equipment to fake addresses to foil NSA’s blatantly illegal “intercept and install a back door” programs.
A Catholic church in San Francisco has installed sprinklers to keep the homeless away.
In the event you’re not a recovering Baptist, the citation above is Jesus saying (KJV) “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
A wealthy, gay, alumni couple had planned to leave their $15MM estate to the University of Alabama, but have changed their minds due to the absurd levels of anti-gay bigotry on display in Alabama lately.
Good for them.
They’ve been working for YEARS to break into Apple’s devices, going so far as to try to infect the tool chain (i.e., the software development tools).
As Marco Arment points out:
What would you call a targeted attack on one of America’s most successful and beloved companies in history in order to break security protections, spy on millions of citizens, intercept their communications, and steal their data?
Unpatriotic? Absolutely. Terrorism? Maybe. But those don’t quite capture what this really is: war.
The United States intelligence agencies are at war against all U.S. citizens.
The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the agency’s latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS. As my colleague Murtaza Hussain ably documents, “it appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.” One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. Noting the bizarre and unhinged ranting of one of the suspects, Hussain noted on Twitter that this case “sounds like another victory for the FBI over the mentally ill.”
While Lenovo has made some noises about understanding what a giant shitstorm they’re in, their erstwhile partner Superfish has doubled down on the bullshit and continues to insist they did nothing wrong DESPITE universal condemnation from security experts.
I repeat: every single person involved in the decision to inject fraudulent certificates as part of their install should be blackballed from any industry that even touches computers forever.
That’s blunt, but it’s really about the size of it. Lenovo included a particularly shitty form of ad-ware called Superfish on some of their laptops that watches what you do online and serves ads targeted based on that data. The trouble with that approach — and I mean that from the perspective of the ad people, not you — is that secure browsing sessions can’t be watched, and for privacy reasons MANY sites are going to https-only. (This is a good thing, unless you’re a creepy ad person.)
Well, Superfish decided to “solve” this “problem” by fundamentally breaking certificate security. The mechanism here is fairly technical, but I break it down for you in lay terms, I think.
When you use a secure web site (i.e., https and not http), you’re using a technology called “SSL”.
SSL relies on special bits of data called “certificates”.
SSL certificates do two things: They encrypt your traffic between your browser and, say, Chase.com; and they verify to you that the site you think is Chase.com really is Chase.com. This second part sounds insignificant, but it’s a HUGE deal because, for technical reasons, it’s terribly feasible to masquerade as a site on the Internet. Or, potentially worse, pretend to be the real site while watching the traffic for interesting bits (e.g., credit card numbers and passwords) while still sending the traffic on to the “real” destination. This approach is called a “man-in-the-middle” attack. (More about this from Ars Technica, if you’re interested.)
Certificates are issued by generally-trusted security authorities, though there can be a chain of trust, from A to B to C.
What Superfish did was insert its own certificate as a trusted authority on affected laptops. This is absolutely worse than the Sony rootkit fiasco of a few years ago. It’s mind-bogglingly stupid and awful, and the situation is made worse by both Lenovo’s and Superfish’s utter refusal to recognize how badly they’ve fucked up. Lenovo’s initial response even included a line about how their analysis showed no security vulnerability, which was manifestly untrue and they knew it. It’s since been edited.
Superfish, on the other hand, still says they create no vulnerability. Honest to God, every single person involved with the decision to do this deserves to be drummed out of the software and IT industries at a bare minimum. Absolutely blackball these fuckers.
If you’ve got a Lenovo, you should absolutely remove the Superfish software AND the certificate. Just zapping the software won’t do it alone; you have to kill the cert, too.
If you do not do this and you are affected, it’s the same as not using encryption at all, so every banking session, every shopping session, and everything else you do on your computer is effectively public. I am not exaggerating.
If all this seems technical, you’re in luck: Lifehacker has an “am I infected?” test link up.
Samsung “smart” TVs spy on their owners; owners have been warned not to discuss sensitive information in front of their TVs.
You probably heard that Saudi Arabia’s monarch, King Abdullah, died yesterday at 90.
What you may not have picked up is how deeply strange the Kingdom’s succession system is, Josh Marshall at TPM breaks it down for you. Abdullah took over from his half brother Fahd, who took over from his half brother Khalid, who took over from his half brother Faisal, who took over from his half brother Saud, who took over when the original King Ibn Saud died in 1953 at the age of 76. Yes, this means the Saudi king’s dad was born a decade after the American Civil War.
“Good god, how many sons did this dude have?” you may ask. I know I did. Turns out? Answer is 45 via 20+ wives, of which 36 lived to adulthood. Interestingly, only one wife (Hassa bint Ahmed Al Sudairi) mothered two kings: Khalid (b. 1913, reigned ’75 to ’82) and the new king Salman (b. 1935). She had five other sons besides, plus four daughters. The Wikipedia article is worth a click.
Salman is no spring chicken at 79. After him comes the last surviving son of Ibn Saud, Muqrin, who’s a decade younger. The apparent plan at that point — which could come sooner rather than later, as Abdullah’s 90 years is as much an outlier there as anywhere — they’ll move on to grandsons.
Say what you will about pure father-to-son succession planning, but at least the path is clear, which presumably preserves some perceived legitimacy in the ruled population. The ever-increasing tribe of Saud doesn’t enjoy that clear-cut path, and the worry is that once they’re out of sons of Saud, they — and the region — may be in for a bumpy ride. Recall it’s been Fahd and Abdullah that have kept Saudi Arabia together and pushed, however incrementally, for greater western engagement and tiny bits of progress for women. The royal family is the enemy of the rabid fundamentalist brands of Islam apparently on sale throughout the region, but they rule a population shot through with those same strains. It’s a delicate balance. The possible absence of even a flawed but legitimate monarch there is probably bad news for moderates in the region and globally, and good news for fundies.
This is pretty amazing, but there’s an absolute OH SNAP moment here that makes it even more delicious:
More than halfway through the morning’s arguments, an exasperated Justin Matheny, the assistant attorney general in Mississippi charged with defending the state’s ban, tried to change his tune during his rebuttal arguments.
When it became clear that the three-judge panel was leaning against upholding the bans, Matheny acknowledged that the “trajectory” for marriage rights for same-sex couples is “undeniable” — but added his new argument: “it’s not there yet.”
Judge Patrick Higginbotham, born in Alabama almost eight decades ago and appointed to the appeals court by President Reagan more than three decades ago, spoke up. And though the older judge was hard to hear at times, he spoke loudly and clearly when he responded to Matheny: “Those words, ‘Will Mississippi change its mind?’ have resonated in these halls before.”
Their very public tantrums are not having the desired effect. Two NYTimes editorials pull ZERO punches:
When [de Blasio] spoke at a police graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden on Monday, some in the crowd booed and heckled him. This followed the mass back-turning by scores of officers when the mayor spoke on Saturday at the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos; the virtual back-turning the day before by an airplane-towed banner (“Our backs have turned to you”), and the original spiteful gesture by officers on the night Mr. de Blasio visited the hospital where Officer Ramos and his partner, Wenjian Liu, lay dead.
Mr. de Blasio isn’t going to say it, but somebody has to: With these acts of passive-aggressive contempt and self-pity, many New York police officers, led by their union, are squandering the department’s credibility, defacing its reputation, shredding its hard-earned respect. They have taken the most grave and solemn of civic moments — a funeral of a fallen colleague — and hijacked it for their own petty look-at-us gesture.
Many members of the New York Police Department are furious at Mayor Bill de Blasio and, by extension, the city that elected him. They have expressed this anger with a solidarity tantrum, repeatedly turning their backs to show their collective contempt. But now they seem to have taken their bitterness to a new and dangerous level — by walking off the job.
The New York Post on Tuesday reported, and city officials confirmed, that officers are essentially abandoning enforcement of low-level offenses. According to data The Post cited for the week starting Dec. 22 — two days after two officers were shot and killed on a Brooklyn street — traffic citations had fallen by 94 percent over the same period last year, summonses for offenses like public drinking and urination were down 94 percent, parking violations were down 92 percent, and drug arrests by the Organized Crime Control Bureau were down 84 percent.
The data cover only a week, and the reasons for the plunge are not entirely clear. But it is so steep and sudden as to suggest a dangerous, deplorable escalation of the police confrontation with the de Blasio administration. Even considering the heightened tensions surrounding the officers’ deaths and pending labor negotiations — the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has no contract, and its leader, Patrick Lynch, has been the most strident in attacking Mr. de Blasio, calling him a bloody accomplice to the officers’ murder — this action is repugnant and inexcusable. It amounts to a public act of extortion by the police.
And why are they doing this?
Let’s review the actions that Mr. de Blasio’s harshest critics say have driven the police to such extremes.
He campaigned on ending the unconstitutional use of “stop-and-frisk” tactics, which victimized hundreds of thousands of innocent young black and Latino men.
He called for creating an inspector general for the department and ending racial profiling.
After Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, was killed by a swarm of cops on Staten Island, he convened a meeting with the police commissioner, William Bratton, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, giving Mr. Sharpton greater prominence than police defenders thought he should have had because Mr. Sharpton is a firebrand with an unsavory past.
He said after the Garner killing that he had told his biracial son, Dante, to “take special care” in encounters with the police.
He generally condoned the peaceful protests for police reform — while condemning those who incited or committed violence — and cited a tagline of the movement: “Black lives matter.”
The Times ends with some clear advice for Big Apple cops:
[W]hat New Yorkers expect of the Police Department is simple:
Don’t violate the Constitution.
Don’t kill unarmed people.
To that we can add:
- Do your jobs. The police are sworn public servants, and refusing to work violates their oath to serve and protect.
I mean, seriously. The mayor opines that it troubles him that he had to explain to his biracial, presents-as-black son how to survive police encounters, and they go completely nuts. Their union is led by some sort of complete goon. And now they’re assaulting people dancing in the street.
NASA just emailed a wrench to space.
Really, Judge Miller? Christ:
I hope this guys sues the everliving SHIT out of the city, the department, and the DA. It’s cold comfort, since even an enormous settlement won’t affect the cops, the prosecutor, or the judge in the slightest — as all three live in a world free of accountability — but it’s all we can hope for.
This is a good place to start, if you’re curious.
Go read this:
Grand juries were designed to be a check on prosecutors and law enforcement. Instead, they’ve become a corrupt shield to protect those with power and another sword to strike down those without. And it’s now all too obviously past time the system was overhauled to fix that.
Before Wednesday’s shameful decision by a New York grand jury to refuse to indict the police officer who choked to death an unarmed and unresisting Eric Garner, one statistic made clear just how much our justice system has failed:
If you are an ordinary citizen being investigated for a crime by an American grand jury, there is a 99.993% chance you’ll be indicted. Yet if you’re a police officer, that chance falls to effectively nil.
The short answer is because the prosecutors are in bed with, and are part of the same problem as, the cops. It’s not in their interest to prosecute police, so they don’t do it unless there’s absolutely no alternative. This has to change.
More on the subject over at The Nation, which includes this horrifying gem:
First, the big picture. Last year, the FBI tallied 461 “justifiable homicides” committed by law enforcement—justifiable because the Bureau assumes so, and the nation’s courts have not found otherwise. This is the highest number in two decades, even as the nation’s overall homicide rate continues to drop.
Oh, and then there’s this:
Are there any effective civilian oversight systems at any major police department in the US? Nobody I interviewed for this article could name one.
Read this and tell me if you don’t come away with the same conclusion.
Yesterday, some St. Louis Rams players entered the field pre-game making the “hands-up, don’t-shoot” gesture in solidarity with the protesters.
In a shocking display of maturity and level-headedness, a St. Louis-area police organization has gone completely apoplectic over the protest, and is insisting that the players be punished.
SLPA Executive Director Jeff Roorda, a controversial figure in the Ferguson drama, said “it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again” and called on the team and league to discipline the players.
To call Roorda’s characterization misleading is to understate things by a couple orders of magnitude.
Oh, and it’s worth pointing out that this Roorda asshole is in fact a disgraced former officer, and spends his time today working against accountability measures like bodycams.
UPDATE: The NFL will be taking no action against the players. Suck it, St Louis cops!
At the holidays, it’s nice to see businesses stepping up for the less fortunate — say, having a canned food drive, for example.
What’s less nice is when it turns out that the business in question is organizing a food drive for their own employees because they pay them so little that it’s necessary.
From the Economist:
WHEN the state accuses you of a crime and seizes your assets before trial, thus preventing you from hiring the counsel of your choice, what recourse do you have? That question is at the heart of Kaley v United States, a case the United States Supreme Court issued its decision on this week. The answer, worryingly, seems to be: None.
A number of right-wing-run states are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses even in the wake of this week’s ruling, insisting that they won’t until forced.
Just go watch this right now (make time; it’s 16 minutes).
At this point, can basically just snatch anything they want from anyone they want — cash, cars, houses — and it’s on you to prove your property is NOT “guilty.”
Eric Holder is upset that Apple and Google have gone to encryption-by-default, and would prefer they provide law enforcement back doors that I’m SURE would NEVER be compromised. He’s even relying on the “won’t someone think of the children” line, which is more or less a tell that a cop is overreaching.
Fuck. That. If people trusted the government not to snoop inappropriately, encryption like this wouldn’t be nearly as much of a hot-button topic. It’s the Feds’ own heavy-handed, extralegal, unconscionable tactics that have led companies like Apple and Google to employ encryption that they can’t circumvent.
Reap what you sow, jackass.
Florida cop tases a 62-year-old woman for no apparent reason. Well, there is a reason: she was questioning his actions, which were already looking pretty shady, and we all know bullies can’t tolerate that.
The police department promises “an internal investigation.”
Ginsburg was right:
One such matter is Perez v. Paragon Contractors, a case that arose out of a Department of Labor investigation into the use of child labor by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (The F.L.D.S. church is an exiled offshoot of the Mormon Church.) In the case, Vernon Steed, a leader of the F.L.D.S. church, refused to answer questions by federal investigators, asserting that he made a religious vow not to discuss church matters. Applying Hobby Lobby, David Sam, a district-court judge in Utah, agreed with Steed, holding that his testimony would amount to a “substantial burden” on his religious beliefs—a standard used in Hobby Lobby—and excused him from testifying. The judge, also echoing Hobby Lobby, said that he needed only to determine that Steed’s views were “sincere” in order to uphold his claim. Judge Sam further noted that the government had failed to prove that demanding Steed’s testimony was not, in the words of the R.F.R.A., “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” That burden seems increasingly difficult for the government to meet.
Yeah, you read that right. A witness was excused from testifying about the possibly illegal practices of his church because it was against his religious beliefs to discuss internal church matters with outsiders.
Say you’re asleep in your house. Say you’re awoken by some goon breaking into your home through a window, so you reach for your pistol to defend your home, property, and family. It is, after all, Texas; if a kid in a hoodie is threatening enough in Florida, then surely someone breaking into your house is threatening.
Gotcha! It was actually a no-knock marijuana raid (that found no drugs, and certainly found nothing to suggest the resident was a kingpin), and you just killed a cop! (A cop who has, posthumously, been awarded a Star of Texas by the governor.)
Oh, you’re also black, so it should come as no surprise that the prosecutor wants to kill you for having the unmitigated gall to defend your home against unknown intruders.
N.B. that nothing found in the raid was actionable at all. They’re trying to execute this guy for shooting at intruders. Which, of course, sounds a lot like another case I remember.
Oh, and further note that the Killeen cops were executing a no-knock, surprise warrant — basically, the most violent sort of raid — in pursuit of a drug now legal for personal use in two states. Whether or not this kind of violent, retrograde enforcement of pot prohibition is a good idea or good use of resources is left as an exercise to the reader.
An Ohio grand jury has refused to indict the (white) cops who gunned down an unarmed, unthreatening shopper in a Wal-Mart for committed the crime of “holding a toy gun while black.”
There is video evidence that he was doing absolutely nothing that could be construed as a threat. This was straight up murder, and it should surprise absolutely none of you that the cops will get off scott free.
Be aware of what events like this, with no actual consequences for the muderers, mean to a significant portion of the country. Recognize that displays like this and actions like this in the wake of such crimes make it very, very clear that a huge chunk of law enforcement think they’re doing absolutely nothing wrong.
This must change. The longer we allow this to go on, the more we fundamentally damage our society. Hold violent cops accountable, personally and criminally. Limit the powers of police to use force for no good reason. Create real consequences for overreach. End asset forfeiture. And stop recruiting ignorant bullies into LEOs.
The St. Louis Police Academy, in evaluating the situation in Ferguson, has realized that cops are missing an important part of training, but in what can only be described as one of the best examples EVER of “learning the wrong lesson,” their response is to add a class on managing the media after they shoot people.
And they absolutely do not care if you’re guilty or not. In fact, they’ll work miracles to incarcerate you or kill you. And there will be, of course, no consequences for railroading anybody.
- Consider the example of a man picked up for a minor drug possession charge who somehow managed to commit suicide with a gun undiscovered by two searches, and while his hands were cuffed behind is back!
- Or about about the sad tale of Tyree Threatt, who is facing charges for a mugging committed in June 27. However, the state admits that on the day in question, he was in jail. Never mind the alibi; make bail or sit in jail some more, because the prosecutors would rather “work it out at trial.”
They are absolutely right. Asset forfeiture is a major revenue source for LEOs nationwide, so there is little reason to expect a cop to do anything other than seize whatever they can get away with. They have the power to do so, even if no crime has been committed and no arrest made.
This is, of course, bullshit.
The increasing militarization of American police forces is a dangerous trend that will have real consequences for our democracy if we do not curtail it.