What I’m Reading, September 21, 2015

Police Officer Fired For Racial Bias After Falsely Claiming Black Man Attacked Her With Golf Club, Andy Campbell, Huffington Post, September 17, 2015

Seattle Police Officer Cynthia Whitlatch was fired Tuesday for showing racial bias and a lack of remorse when she improperly arrested a 69-year-old black man who was using a golf club as a cane.

“I was disappointed by your failure during your Loudermill hearing to take any responsibility, or show any understanding that your conduct at issue here was inappropriate,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole wrote in her decision to fire Whitlatch. “In particular, when I asked you what if anything you would do differently in retrospect, you stated that you would do nothing differently.”

‘The narrowing of opportunity in modern America’ (And the rise of the “mandarin” class), Nick Sorrentino, Against Crony Capitalism, February 15, 2015 Continue reading


Incivility Is Not a Crime


Citizens have the right to “mouth off” to police. We have the right to question how we are being treated, why we are being arrested, why we are even being approached. Far too many police deploy accusations of disturbing the peace or obstructing justice to quiet citizens who question them within legal bounds. As long as we don’t threaten or enact physical harm on police officers, we can “mouth off” all we want. We don’t have to be polite to police officers, and they clearly have very little interest in being polite to us. And for those who keep demanding that we act civilly, the point is, “incivility” is not a crime.

If it were, half of America’s police forces would be behind bars.

– Brittney Cooper, “America’s war on Black girls: Why McKinney police violence isn’t about ‘one bad apple'”, Salon, June 10, 2015 (h/t Natalie)


This Week In WTF, March 27, 2015

– Marketing, meet chemistry: If it never occurred to you to put someone with a chemistry background on your marketing team, maybe it should now. The people behind a Jägermeister-sponsored party involving a pool thought it would be a cool effect to have mist coming off the water. When I think “mist,” I think dry ice, which is basically carbon dioxide frozen solid. It requires temperatures of about −78.5 °C (−109.3 °F).

For this party, though, it was definitely go big or go home. They apparently used liquid nitrogen, which requires a brisk −195.79 °C (−320 °F)—this is why it’s the mechanism of choice in Hollywood for freezing people and smashing heads or limbs (or, if it’s a Friday the 13th movie set in outer space, a hot blonde’s face ← do not click that link.)

Now, as you probably know, swimming pool water contains chlorine, usually calcium hypochlorite or a similar compound. The chlorine compound used in swimming pools tends to react with liquid nitrogen to form nitrogen trichloride, which has the properties of tear gas and can cause neurological damage. Continue reading


The Cleveland Police Department’s Defense in the Tamir Rice Lawsuit

Last Friday, the City of Cleveland answered the wrongful death/civil rights lawsuit filed by Tamir Rice’s family, and part of its defense has caused much anger and consternation, especially to non-lawyers. I find just about everything about the Cleveland PD’s actions in this case—and those of their supporters—to be infuriating, but from my perspective as a lawyer, the defense outlined in their answer seemed like pretty standard legal language to me:

The city, in its response, wrote that Tamir’s death on Nov. 22 and all of the injuries his family claims in the suit “were directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this Defendant.” It also says that the 12-year-old’s shooting death was caused “by the failure … to exercise due care to avoid injury.”

The response does not explain these defenses in more detail, though 20 defenses are listed in all, including another one that says Tamir died because of “the conduct of individuals or entities other than Defendant.”

By Rob Sinclair (Flickr: Cleveland by night) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If you read the city’s answer, linked in the blockquote above (and also here), you’ll see that the quoted portions come from the city’s “affirmative defenses” on page 38, which read as follows: Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 5, 2015

On Nerd Entitlement, Laurie Penny, New Statesman, December 29, 2014

These are curious times. Gender and privilege and power and technology are changing and changing each other. We’ve also had a major and specific reversal of social fortunes in the past 30 years. Two generations of boys who grew up at the lower end of the violent hierarchy of toxic masculinity – the losers, the nerds, the ones who were afraid of being creeps – have reached adulthood and found the polarity reversed. Suddenly they’re the ones with the power and the social status. Science is a way that shy, nerdy men pull themselves out of the horror of their teenage years. That is true. That is so. But shy, nerdy women have to try to pull themselves out of that same horror into a world that hates, fears and resents them because they are women, and to a certain otherwise very intelligent sub-set of nerdy men, the category “woman” is defined primarily as “person who might or might not deny me sex, love and affection”.


Heterosexuality is fucked up right now because whilst we’ve taken steps towards respecting women as autonomous agents, we can’t quite let the old rules go. We have an expectation for, a craving for of a sexual freedom that our rhetoric, our rituals and our sexual socialisation have not prepared us for. And unfortunately for men, they have largely been socialised – yes, even the feminist-identified ones – to see women as less than fully human. Men, particularly nerdy men, are socialised to blame women – usually their peers and/or the women they find sexually desirable for the trauma and shame they experienced growing up. If only women had given them a chance, if only women had taken pity, if only done the one thing they had spent their own formative years been shamed and harassed and tormented into not doing. If only they had said yes, or made an approach.

This, incidentally, is why we’re not living in a sexual utopia of freedom and enthusiastic consent yet despite having had the technological capacity to create such a utopia for at least 60 years. Men are shamed for not having sex; women are shamed for having it. Men are punished and made to feel bad for their desires, made to resent and fear women for having denied them the sex they crave and the intimacy they’re not allowed to get elsewhere. Meanwhile, women are punished and made to feel bad for their perfectly normal desires and taught to resist all advances, even Eventually, a significant minority of men learn that they can ‘get’ what they want by means of violence and manipulation, and a significant minority of women give in, because violence and manipulation can be rather effective. (Note: accepting the advances of an awful man does not make these people bad women who are conspiring to ‘make life hell for shy nerds’. I’ve heard that sort of thing come out of the mouths of my feminist-identified male nerd friends far too often.)

And so we arrive at an impasse: men must demand sex and women must refuse, except not too much because then we’re evil friendzoning bitches. The impasse continues until one or both parties grows up enough or plumps up the courage to state their desires honestly and openly, without pressure or resentment, respecting the consent and agency of one another.

Why Idris Elba Can’t Play James Bond, Phil Nobile Jr., Badass Digest, December 29, 2014 Continue reading


Initial, Hastily-Scribbled Thoughts on the Darren Wilson Grand Jury

[By popular request (i.e. at least one person), here are some thoughts* I jotted down on Facebook earlier today, partly in response to articles on NPR and Vox. Edited to correct spelling/grammar/formatting only.]

In a nutshell, the prosecutor presented exculpatory evidence to the grand jury, lobbed softball questions at the prospective defendant, and did just about everything he could to soft-pedal the case—given that the grand jury is supposed to be the time when the prosecutor presents a one-sided, self-serving narrative of the case in order to secure a conviction, I’m inclined to call bullshit on the whole thing.

A few other points:

1. Double jeopardy does not attach at the grand jury stage, so there is no legal reason why another grand jury couldn’t meet and indict Wilson. He is not “exonerated,” nor is he “not guilty” in a legal sense. In just about any other criminal proceeding, the prosecutor would be explaining that to us, instead of the other way around. Continue reading


I Guess He “Fit the Description”

Police in Beverly Hills arrested Scott Weiland last month, and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has had him in jail since then—except that the person they have in custody isn’t actually Scott Weiland:

The story begins almost a month ago when the cops picked up a guy who they thought was Scott Weiland shoplifting razors from a drugstore in Beverly Hills, only to end up finding meth on his person. The guy told police that he was Scott Weiland and that seemed believable enough given Weiland’s history of chronic drug relapse and the fact that the shoplifter allegedly has a passing resemblance to the singer.

He’s been in the jail since July 26, but officials only recently figured out that the guy isn’t the former lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots. Beverly Hills PD checked the guy’s fingerprints after he’d been in custody nearly four weeks, and after the real Scott Weiland recorded a video somewhere other than L.A. County Jail to demonstrate his not-in-jail-ness. Or possibly that he has teleportation powers. Or the power to clone himself. Or……wait, is Scott Weiland a Mutant?

Anyway, the other dude is still in jail, but presumably under his correct name. And Beverly Hills police continue to have a hard time identifying people correctly.


What I’m Reading, August 19, 2014

Don’t Give Special Rights To Anybody! Oh, Except Cops. That’s Cool. Ken White, Popehat, August 14, 2014

Cops and other public servants get special treatment because the whole system connives to let them. Take prosecutorial misconduct. If you are accused of breaking the law, your name will be released. If, on appeal, the court finds that you were wrongfully convicted, your name will still be brandished. But if the prosecutor pursuing you breaks the law and violates your rights, will he or she be named? No, usually not. Even if a United States Supreme Court justice is excoriating you for using race-baiting in your closing, she usually won’t name you. Even if the Ninth Circuit — the most liberal federal court in the country — overturns your conviction because the prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence, they usually won’t name the prosecutor.

And leaks? Please. Cops and prosecutors leak information to screw defendants all the time. It helps keep access-hungry journalists reliably complaint. But leak something about an internal investigation about a shooting or allegation of police misconduct? Oh, you’d better believe the police union will sue your ass.

Cops, and prosecutors, and other public employees in the criminal justice system have power. It is the nature of power to make people believe that they are better than the rest of us, and entitled to privileges the rest of us do not enjoy.

Wingnuts’ sad dream to be cool: Why they worship Reagan and the military, Heather Digby Parsons, Salon, August 18, 2014 Continue reading


The Monopoly on Violence

I asked this question on Twitter yesterday. Still no answer, but I’ll just put it out to the whole world here. Any libertarian-minded folk want to take a crack at it?


This Is No Way to Do Law Enforcement

One cop chooses to apply the “I know you are, but what am I?” theory of criminal justice:

A New Jersey police officer is under investigation after video is posted that shows him violating the rights of someone doing nothing more than videotaping a public building and justifying it by saying that since Obama has “decimated” the Constitution, he can too.

He apparently resigned after the story broke, which seems like the least he could do.