legal thievery in blue.

This is a classic asset forfeiture abuse case:

  • Waitress, known to be in a financial bind, is tipped $12,000 via cash in take-out box given to her by a stranger.
  • Waitress takes the cash to police.
  • Cops confiscate it because their drug dog conveniently alerted to pot smell on the box, therefore the cash is seized under  asset forfeiture provisions.
  • Waitress goes public; cops offer her $1,000 “reward”. Waitress turns down the reward and sues.
  • Eventually, PD recognizes the massive PR blunder and unwelcome attention and decides to return the money to her.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the box never smelled of pot, and that if a drug dog ever came close to it, it was prompted by the handler to alert. The fact that they offered her a thousand bucks to shut her up just reinforces that opinion—“finder’s rewards” for asset forfeiture drug money are unprecedented. They saw $12,000 in a box, and decided that OF COURSE it had to be drug money, and don’t we need a new light bar for unit 244?

How’s that War on Drugs coming, America? This kind of stuff happens too often to report. It has turned otherwise law-abiding people—the ones you want on your side, Thin Blue Line—into distrustful adversaries, and cops into something regarded not unlike an occupying army by a lot of people. (What kind of lesson have you taught that waitress and her family, and what kind of attitude will they have toward the police for the rest of their lives? Do you think they’ll ever report anything to you again?)

Asset forfeiture is evil. It was intended to strip assets from drug kingpins, but like RICO, it has been expanded to fit the needs and desires of the state, and now it’s the default position of LE that if you carry more than an average amount of cash on you, it must be drug-related. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that giving the cops a financial incentive to seize property is a very bad idea.

Sadly, nothing’s going to change any time soon, because a.) the War on Drugs is great business for the State at all levels, and because b.) if you oppose that kind of nonsense, you’re clearly a pot-smoking libertarian who’s fine with people driving down the road snorting lines of coke off the dashboard.

And in the meantime, drugs are cheaper and more readily available than ever, our cops dress and arm like the 1st Marines about to invade Iran, and public trust in law enforcement is down the shitter. Getting the government to declare a war on something is a perfect recipe to have that something in abundance a few years later, and yet another edge of the Constitution lit on fire as the new Something Enforcement Agency employs 100,000 and sucks down a few billion in cash every year to keep the racket going.

But hey—legalizing pot would send the wrong message.

the ethics of going armed.

Kit is a police officer in Montana. Kit has written a blog post you should read.

http://kitlear.com/?p=420

I have a few notes of my own on the subject of self-defense and mindset, as some of you might imagine. Kit has the practical aspects covered, so I’ll try to tackle the philosophical angle, as I’m known to do on occasion.

I have sort of a split social personality. Half of my circle of friends and acquaintances are gun-toting libertarians or conservatives. The other half are writers, editors, and publishers, most of which are liberals. There’s some overlap between the two groups–a lot of my conservative friends are socially quite liberal, and a lot of my liberal-leaning friends either own guns or are interested in them. Some of them, however, don’t own guns, don’t care to own guns, and don’t think anyone else has a valid reason to own one either.  They think that carrying a firearm is a sign of uneducated, retrograde proclivity for violence, and that even the desire to own one is something that marks a person as mentally unhealthy.

In the last few years, as I have gained a few levels for the Writer class I seem to have rolled in Life:The Role-Playing Game, I’ve been around more people of the second mindset than ever before. I’ve been to conventions and workshops, and due to the strong liberal bent of the publishing world I’ve usually self-censored myself and kept my opinions on the subject under wraps until I was reasonably sure I was with a group of people who were fairly like-minded on the subject–or at least not completely appalled at the notion of armed self-defense. (In contrast, I’ve done the same social dance in reverse whenever I’ve been around the gun blogger community–I generally keep my yap shut about the fact that I’m a pro-choice atheist with very strong small-l libertarian leanings unless someone asks me directly.)

Outing yourself as a gun owner (and worse, a gun toter) to a liberal friend can be very much like coming out of the closet or identifying yourself as an atheist to a strongly religious conservative friend. I can’t believe it! And he seems like such a nice guy! What the hell is wrong with him? Well, I always sort of knew there was something just a little off about him. When I was hanging out with one of my Viable Paradise pals at the end of VP XII, she was visibly shocked when we were talking about the subject, she asked me if I usually carried a gun, and I answered in the affirmative. To be fair, she’s from Canada, where carry permits are about as rare as televangelists on food stamps, so it wasn’t too surprised at her shock of having to mentally sort me into the “violent redneck yahoo” drawer she had reserved in her brain for people who carry firearms. I’ve learned to tread softly on the issue because publishing is really not a very big playground, you see the same faces at cons and workshops all the time, and you really don’t want to push strong opinions on something that can have a negative effect on your career prospects in the future.

Those who know me can tell you that I am not a violent person. I abhor conflict and will go out of my way to avoid it. I was abused by a parent when I was a kid, and frequently bullied in high school, so I have a special dislike for abusers and bullies. Even so, I believe that most of the people I meet are decent and good. I live in a small town, I don’t hang out with people who do stupid shit, and if I keep living the way I do, there’s a 99.99% chance that I’ll never have need for a firearm for self-defense.

That said, while I believe that most people are decent and good, I know–without the shadow of a doubt–that some people aren’t. And here’s the thing about those that aren’t: they are not good to a degree that most of my liberal friends who dislike guns and write off armed people as paranoid hicks can’t comprehend. We’re not talking about “swiping the cash box from girl scouts” bad. Some people have decided to abandon the social contract so entirely that you are not a real person to them. You’re just the thing they need to get rid of to get at the wallet and the car keys in your pocket, like a wrapper around a candy bar that needs to be ripped off and discarded before you can get to the nougat. (My former mother-in-law was one of those people who were aghast at the notion of someone arming themselves for self-defense. When I asked her what her plan was if she ever get mugged, she said, “Reason with them. Everyone wants to be respected.”) Well, some people don’t care about reasoning with you because you’re not a person to them. They don’t give a shit about being respected, at least not in the way you understand the word. You’re a food animal. All they care about is the thing they want from you–your wallet, your car, your body, whatever–and they want it now and with the least amount of fuss. And if they feel that the transaction is taking too long, puts them at risk in any way, they have no compunction about hurting you badly or killing you on the spot. This is not paranoid hyperbole, or some sort of effort to dehumanize muggers and rapists. It’s observed reality, and if you doubt that, all you have to do is to open the “Crime” section of any newspaper. (Better yet, talk to a beat cop.)

Now, some of my liberal friends and acquaintances will take the stance that going armed will not be of use most of the time against people with that kind of mindset. You won’t get to it in time, they’ll take it away from you, you’ll miss them and hit an innocent bystander, the gun in the home is more likely to hurt a family member by accident…the list of counterpoints is long, and I can recite it by rote. We can argue any or all of the points above for hours, but there’s one thing that, on a philosophical level, you will never be able to make me concede:

That intentionally making yourself weaker in the face of danger and aggression is somehow more civilized, moral, intelligent, or enlightened. 

You’re not the better human by not fighting back. You’re not the better human for choosing to have no claws or teeth. You’re not the better human for delegating responsibility your personal safety to some underpaid guy or girl with a tin badge. And you damn sure don’t get to claim a halo for your attitude.

Look, threatening to end someone else’s life for the contents of their wallet or access to their body is the worst kind of social contract violation. Responding to that kind of violation with passivity and compliance only enables and propagates the act. If enough people meekly hand over their possessions, the violator not only has no reason to stop doing what he’s doing, he has a strong incentive to keep doing it. If you could have stopped him but didn’t, then you’re at least partially responsible when he finishes with you and then goes down the street to do the same thing to someone who would have stopped him but couldn’t.

No, carrying a gun is not a guarantee that you’ll be free from harm. But I carry one because it gives me options that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I can use it or leave it in its holster, but the choice is mine. We all take a path every day that’s occasionally frequented by mountain lions, and I choose to walk that path with my own set of teeth and claws just in case. There’s nothing noble or moral about walking that path unarmed and making yourself easier prey. You may respect the mountain lion’s right to live more than you do your own, but he will have forgotten you as soon as you’ve passed through his digestive tract. I’ll still have friendly words for anyone I meet along the road, and I’ll be a happy man if I take all my walks on that path without ever having to use my gun, but I won’t be an easy meal, and I don’t think it’s morally superior to intentionally make yourself one. And I’m amused by people telling me that I am paranoid, because don’t you know how rare mountain lion attacks really are? It’s all just statistics and stuff that happens to other people…until you’re the one that ends up on the menu by chance.

If you don’t like guns, and you don’t want to carry one, that is your choice, and I respect it. If you don’t like the fact that I carry one, it’s your prerogative to judge me according to your system of ethics. But if your dislike extends to supporting laws that would make it illegal for me to carry that gun, understand this: if I mean you harm, trying to disarm me is pointless…and if I don’t mean you harm, disarming me won’t make you any safer.

spirit of america, indeed.*

This article is about the brother of a friend of ours. He went to take the T in Boston, the MBTA cops wanted to search his bag, and he refused the search. They arrested him, and a sympathetic judge dismissed the charges.

The really depressing part of that article is the comments section, which right now leans 90% toward chastising the man for not bending over and taking it like a patriot. “My safety is worth more than your inconvenience!” “Like it or not, we’re at war, and that’s the way things are now!” “If you don’t like it, walk!” “If you don’t like it, leave the country!”

You know liberty is a long way down the shitter when the subjects not just tolerate having to answer to people in uniforms just to get to work, but actively demand that kind of treatment—and heap scorn on those who don’t.

*”Spirit of America” is the license plate motto of Massachusetts. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t refer to clicking your heels and kow-towing to anyone with a badge and a uniform who demands to seepapers, please.’

dear diary: today we killed a mailbox and had some chili.

We had friends over on Saturday. There was some truly excellent chili, some 15-year-old single malt Scotch, and some ballistic recreation with various devices.

One of those devices was my friend’s Desert Eagle in .50AE. We shot up a sheet metal mailbox, and I’m here to tell you that if you ever get charged by a roving pack of feral mailboxes, the .50 Desert Eagle will do the job just fine. The gun is completely impractical for defense, too expensive to plink with on a regular basis, and good for nothing but handgun hunting and Having A Blast At The Range. (Of course, “because I want one” is a totally legitimate reason for buying one, and all the justification a free adult needs for the purchase of anything.)

At one point, I decided to try it one-handed:

Disclaimer: The Scotch was consumed after the handling of firearms, hearing and eye protection was used at all times, the backstop was completely safe, and the mailbox had it coming. (Unless you’re mikeb3000000n+1, in which case the targets were defenseless minority baby seals held up by frightened first-graders, hearing protection is for Commies and queers, we were completely drunk and wearing Nazi uniforms, and the backstop was a kindergarten playground at recess time.)

Oh yeah, we also had a bonfire with a ten-foot brush pile I had in the backyard waiting for the first snow to cover the ground. Propane torches are big, dirty fun for getting a very hot fire going very quickly.

Propane torches, good food, great company, fine Scotch, and powerful firearms. What better way to spend an afternoon?

killing over stuff.

My friend Jay has a post up on “killing over stuff”, and he asks the question “At which point is it worth killing someone (over property)?”

He says that he routinely carries only $20-30 in cash on his person, and that this is definitely not worth killing a mugger over. He would still defend himself, but his (correct) reasoning is that he can’t divine the mugger’s intentions, and doesn’t want to hand over his wallet and end up dead anyway like the victim in this story. On the subject of “mere” property, however, he says that thirty bucks of your money aren’t worth a life.

I disagree.

Leaving aside the notion of relying on the goodwill of the mugger and his willingness to abide by the unspoken rules of his “your money or your life” blackmail, here’s why thirty bucks in your wallet are good and damn well worth a life.

That money in your wallet represents time–namely the time it took you to acquire that money. I don’t know Jay’s houry salary, but it’s probably fair to say that he works the better part of an hour for thirty bucks net. That’s an hour of his life the mugger is now commandeering. It’s like someone pulling up next to you, forcing you into a van, and making you lick stamps for his home business at gunpoint for an hour. Add to that the time it will take Jay to replace his credit cards, driver’s license–and anyone with MA DMV experience knows that there’s a morning pissed away–and you’re looking at a day or so of Jay’s time. That mugger stealing $30 from jay has effectively enslaved him for an entire day of his life.

Well, if that’s not worth using force in self-defense, what is? Where do you draw the line? If someone tries to make me their slave at gunpoint for a day, do I have the right to resist with lethal force? How about a week? A month? A year? Where does the moral threshold lie, and how do you determine that?

In my view, that moral threshold is crossed the second someone steps in front of you with a gun to make you do his bidding under threat of force. It doesn’t matter if the mugger wants to commandeer your life for an hour or a decade–your life is your own, and you have the absolute right to defend every bit of it against unlawful theft. If I’m morally justified to shoot someone over a million dollars of my property, I am justified to shoot them over ten dollars. If I am not justified to shoot them over ten bucks, I’m not justified to shoot them over a million. That’s the only consistent and non-arbitrary application of that moral principle.  Any other interpretation puts a dollar value on your existence, and your right to live your life as your own master.

the latest TSA stumblefuckery.

Now we’re frisking the adult diapers of 95-year-old women in the name of safety.

Feel safer yet, America?

Tam says it best (as always):

Seriously, have we reached a point where we, as a nation, are so pants-pissingly scared of a bunch of self-immolating neolithic goatherds that we are willing to inflict any indignity on any citizen at any time rather than expose ourselves to the slightest bit of risk?

Some people say that this is the new Normal. It isn’t. This is the new baseline. With the TSA expanding this sort of nonsense from airports to train stations and even highway traffic, expect this kind of thing to become so common as to be unremarkable. If this kind of thing doesn’t result in a public outcry, a Congressional investigation, a few firings and high-level resignations, some tarring & feathering, or just a good old-fashioned ass-kicking, those people know that there’s nothing the American public won’t tolerate to be kept safe from the Boogeyman of the Decade.

And remember: these people are virtually unfireable, and impossible to sue. The old lady who got her Depends tossed by some blue-gloved airport crossing guard with a badge can sue the TSA at best…and if she wins the lawsuit, we all get to pony up the settlement.

This kind of nonsense is unworthy of a free society. But then again we’re not free anymore. Not only are we letting them wrap the chain around us tighter every year, we help them forge the links, and complain when they make the chain too loose. Children afraid of the dark, no more, asking for Daddy Government to get rid of the monsters under the bed.

For shame.

new york state gets it right for a change.

New York joins NH and all its neighbors in recognizing marriage equality. Good for them, I say, and congratulations.

I won’t pontificate at length on this particular subject, since most people who read this blog on a regular basis already know my opinion on gay marriage rights, and those who don’t already have their own opinions from which they’re not likely to deviate just because of some blog rant. I will, however, make a list of things of which I am absolutely sure when it comes to gay marriage.

I am absolutely sure that:

  • The gay marriage culture war is over, and the equal rights supporters have won. The dominoes have started falling. The people who oppose gay marriage rights are fighting a rear-guard action that is already pointless. In another 50 years, it will be as uncontroversial for two gay people to get married anywhere in the United States as it is today for two people of different races.
  • In 50 years, when gay marriage is a social non-issue, people will regard gay marriage opponents in the same light as we today regard people who support miscegenation laws.
  • In 50 years, the children and grandchildren of the people who oppose gay marriage today will claim that their parents and grandparents never really opposed gay marriage.
  • If you oppose gay marriage today, you may have arguments that are perfectly consistent to you, with a firm basis in religious conviction, but you are on the wrong side of Constitutional principles, morality, and history.
  • Any religious arguments against gay marriage are not only hypocritical and self-serving (by using the Old Testament selectively to support prejudice), but also entirely pointless in this context (because our Constitution does not say anything about Biblical law having any weight in passing laws or running the country.) It doesn’t matter whether you think homosexuality is a sin, because nowhere in the Constitution does it say that any religion’s definition of sin has to have any sway in how we run our country.
  • The folks who now struggle to fight the principle of equal treatment before the law brought this mess upon themselves because they’re the ones who brought government into the marriage business to begin with (ironically, to keep other undesirable marriages from happening.)
  • You can’t be Constitutionally literate and support a system under which a legal non-qualification related benefit or status is not available to any citizen who demands it. If you do, you don’t know the Constitution as well as you think you do, and any argument you make can be used against you when it comes to the liberties you do support.
  • My marriage isn’t threatened in the least by all the gay folks who have gotten married legally in my home state in the last year or so. If you think gay marriage threatens your hetero marriage, your marriage has bigger issues.
  • This country can’t possibly be harmed–legally, morally, or in any other way–by two people loving each other enough to desire a legal status committing them to each other. If the government takes it upon itself to issue licenses to get married and gain the legal benefits of that status, it had better issue those licenses to any consenting adult couple that wants one.
  • Gay marriage opponents don’t want to leave the issue with the churches and out of the hands of government because of the dreadful possibility that some churches wouldn’t refuse to marry a gay couple. Consider that the gay marriage opponents want to give churches the right to not marry gays, but will oppose by federal or state mandate the right of churches to decide to marry gays.

I’m for universal marriage rights for the same reason I’m in favor of universal concealed carry rights–because the government ought not be in the business of issuing licenses to exercise human rights, and because the government can’t be trusted to issue such licenses impartially and without bias. Free people shouldn’t need to ask permission to speak their minds, exercise their religion of choice (or not), own or carry a gun for self-defense, or get married to the consenting adult partner of their choice. Simply put, the straight people never had the right to use the government’s guns to claim a special legal status for themselves, just like white people had no right to legally deny the right to self-defense to people of a darker hue.

I applaud the NY legislature’s decision, and I consider it a good step toward that day when a gay couple can walk to the voting booth or into the church of their choice in the middle of Manhattan to get married while packing openly carried pistols, with nobody on the street giving them so much as a second glance.

guns in bars, or ZOMG weesa gonna die!

If there’s one thing I can’t stand in a debate, it’s the tendency to toss out an emotional argument for one side of an issue, and then flat-out refusing to acknowledge that the other side may have a valid point or two as well.

Ohio has passed a reform of its concealed carry laws that allows permit holders to carry their legal guns into establishments that have Class D liquor licenses. Predictably, the people opposing that legislation are calling it the “Guns in Bars” law, to invoke mental images of drunken yahoos having a shoot-out over a ball game score or a sideways glance in a sports bar.

The main reason why gun rights organizations push for such laws has nothing to do with bars. (In fact, even with the new Ohio law, it will remain a felony to drink alcohol at those establishments while armed.) Those laws just make it legal for a permit holder to stay armed while eating at a restaurant (most of which have on-premises hooch licenses), or merely walking into an establishment that has a liquor license. That includes bars, technically speaking, but the intent and scope of the law precludes people getting legally tanked at Big Ed’s Sports Bar while strapped. Those laws just mean that Joe Permit doesn’t have to disarm and leave his gun in the car while eating at Chili’s. It keeps everyone safer because it eliminates gun handling in the parking lot, it doesn’t require a firearm to be left unattended in a semi-public space, and it doesn’t give criminals an obvious target for theft or robbery. (As for the “this will cost a life” argument–I know of at least one well-documented case where a permit holder died because he complied with the law and disarmed, only to be mugged and killed in the parking lot on the way back to his car. That argument cuts both ways.) I repeat: it remains a felony in Ohio to drink in those establishments while toting a gun, and will result in loss of carry rights and imprisonment. Also, the law has a provision for any business to opt out by posting a “No Guns” sign at the door.

Now, the argument that such laws will cost lives and increase deadly confrontations at bars is not supported by the evidence. Many states with legal concealed carry have laws that allow the carrying of guns in places that serve liquor. Some of them, like my own home state of New Hampshire, don’t even specify that CCW holders can’t drink while armed. And yet we make it through life without drunks gunning each other down in the bars and taverns of the Granite State over hockey or baseball scores every weekend. I can go down to the bar in town and legally have five beers and a martini while packing a gun. (Why don’t I do that? Because I have the sense to not intentionally make myself impaired while carrying a firearm–and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have the sense to check or care about the law before I head down to the old watering hole.) Ohio’s law is way more restrictive, so why would you assume that this will be a problem, unless you think Ohioans as a whole are much less responsible and more violence-prone than New Hampshireites?

It’s a patently condescending and classist argument because it assumes that other people can’t act in a smart way (especially those low-brow, Budweiser-swilling, conservative gun-toting rednecks), and that the only people who want to legally carry guns are invariably uneducated, violent morons who just don’t have the good judgment to not drink and tote in public, and to not shoot their seat neighbor when they’re pissed off. (As if anyone prone to that kind of behavior is going to give two shits about the legality of the pistol in his waistband any more than he does about the fact that shooting people dead is illegal outside of legitimate self-defense.) 

I just don’t get how you can call yourself an educated, open-minded person when you’re perfectly willing to boil down an argument to the least honest, most emotional, most willfully misleading implication of the law while completely ignoring the other side of the debate…just because you disagree with the law in question.

if i have to get mugshotted to get into a titty bar, the terrorists have won.

San Francisco is considering making all public venues photograph and ID their guests.

Off the top of my head, I can think up about a million different ways this would greatly benefit stalkers, criminals, and law enforcement, and precisely zero ways this would contribute to public safety.

Looks like it’s not just the social conservatives who get all excited about surveillance and police state methods. Not that I’m a fan of Team Red, but some of my liberal friends should remember this one for the next time someone on the left side of the aisle works themselves into a froth about the excesses of the DHS bestowed on us by George II.

Surely, that would have absolutely no effect on the kinds of events where people would rather not make their identities known…like, say, political rallies for radical causes, or sexually-flavored entertainment venues. Because if you want to stay anonymous, you clearly have something to hide.

And I just know that if that proposal had originated with a Republican governor–or worse, a Republican POTUS as part of some Patriot Act overhaul–the folks in SF would be among the first to make signs and clog the streets of Berkeley in protest. Remember, kids–it’s only fascism when the other team proposes it!

At the current rate, I predict that we’ll see those nifty back-scatter Porn-O-Tron scanners on the street within ten years, and mounted on all police cruisers as soon as the technology fits onto a dashboard. And the first ones fielded will be in urban areas that vote blue. You know, to catch bad people with guns, and terrorists. Who could be against that?

The politicians of both major parties have a weird sort of amnesia. They forget that the nifty tools they put in the law enforcement tool shed when their team is in charge stay in the tool shed when the folks from the other team take over the front office.

shit! it’s will sasso in a tank!

(Alternate post title: “Rainbow Six: Chicken Commando“)

To protect us from the evil scourge of cockfighting, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Steven Seagal staged a raid on a suspect…with dozens of SWAT ninjas in full kit, and an armored personnel carrier.

This is the kind of thing that makes law enforcement look like heavy-handed, jackbooted goonery.  No doubt they had camera crews with them, and that Sheriff Joe in fact decided to take all the sexy hardware along for the bust precisely because it’s photogenic.  But is this still “peace officer” work?

When you serve warrants and stage raids dressed and acting like you’re in urban combat in Fallujah, you look like an occupying army instead of community law enforcement officers, and then you can’t be surprised if people treat you like one.  Us vs. Them mindset, special rights and weapons for the King’s Men, overwhelming force by default in the name of “officer safety”, and the broadest leniency and benefit of the doubt when it comes to the use of force…I don’t see that kind of route to be a healthy one for public safety.

Is the job of the police officer a dangerous one? No doubt.  Are most police officers like Sheriff Joe and his tank-riding cockfight-busting ninjas?  Hell no.  But am I the only one who finds serving a cock-fighting warrant with a fucking tank and a platoon of SWAT just a tad excessive?  What kind of attitude does that kind of swagger generate toward the police?

Tens of thousands in taxpayer money spent on some flash bang theater. Thousands of dollars in property damage.  One unarmed suspect arrested. 115 chickens euthanized on the spot. Well done, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.  Well done, indeed.