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The Police State and the Private

[ 3 ] March 30, 2009 |

A couple things pointed out by commenters in post last week give us a chilling window into a society in which, for example, two judges routinely throwing juveniles in jail for trivial offenses without counsel is no bar to promotion unless you were actually bribed to do so. First, via Weiner, this quite chilling video in which the DA (quite rightly) being sued attempts to defend using threatened prosecutions for the horrible crime of young women sending unrevealing pictures of themselves to friends to try to force said young women to attend what seems to be some sort of winger reeducation camp.

But you haven’t gotten a full picture inside the mind of the bootlicking authoritarian until you’ve read Judge Hawkins’s dissent in Redding. Some commenters asked how strip-searching a young woman for the potential crime of possessing ibuprofen could be justified by a reasonable person. Well, apparently it can’t. But some of Hawkins’s leaps of illogic include:

  • Invoking “an incident several years before in which a Safford Middle School student brought prescription pills to school and distributed them. In that incident, a student who took that drug had to be airlifted to an intensive care unit and almost died,” while omitting what kind of prescription drugs were responsible in that case. Using a catch-all category to conflate Oxycontin and double-strength Advil opens the same kind of road to mischief as conflating mustard gas and nuclear weapons under the “WMD” rubric. (In addition to the obvious problem of using a single incident from “several years before” to justify an arbitrary serach of an individual who had nothing to do with said incident.)
  • Feeble attempts to gin up a history of wrongdoing in a student with a clean disciplinary record order to…well, it really wouldn’t justify the search anyway, but: “At the August school dance, “several staff members noticed some unusually rowdy behavior from a small group of students, including Marissa . . . and Savana Redding,” and a bottle of alcohol and a pack of cigarettes were found in the girls’ bathroom. The majority points out that the staff found no specific link between Redding and the bottle…but there is undisputed testimony that the staff detected the smell of alcohol among Redding’s small group.” So, there was some pretty flimsy evidence that some members of a group Redding was involved with may have imbibed some liquor at a school dance. Well, I’m convinced!
  • Read carefully through the assertions that the fact that the first search conducted on the basis of a self-interested, uncorroborated informant turned up bupkis somehow made it all the more necessary to conduct a further search. Presumably, it would have also been reasonable to proceed to a full cavity search after the strip search turned up nothing, and then after than produced nothing maybe torturing a confession out of her would have done the trick.
  • And, finally, in a passage noted by the commenter and which Justice Alito’s clerks have probably already cut-and-pasted, this Bush-era classic: “The majority favors the term “strip search” to describe a search that took place in a closed office with only a female school nurse and female administrator present, and began with Redding removing her jacket, shoes, socks, pants and shirt, and continued with her pulling her bra and shaking it, partially exposing her breasts, and pulling her underwear away from her body and shaking it, partially exposing her pelvic area. I would reserve the term “strip search” for a search that required its subject to fully disrobe in view of officials, and I think it is useful to maintain the distinction so that we can distinguish such searches from the one in this case.” Yes, how outrageous of the majority to describe a situation in which a student was forced to disrobe by administrators [because of exceedingly flimsy evidence that she had committed a trivial offense] as a “strip search.” Hawkins must be happy to know that if he leaves the bench there’s a position waiting for him at Boalt Hall

Weekend Video Relevant to Preceding Post Blogging

[ 0 ] March 30, 2009 |

Bonus, involving the product on which I (really) learned BASIC:

The Coast Guard in North Dakota

[ 0 ] March 29, 2009 |

It’s hardly a surprise that the Coast Guard is doing excellent work in North Dakota. This post exists mainly because I had never expected to have the opportunity to write the sentence “the Coast Guard is doing excellent work in North Dakota.”

Or, at least, not for another fifty years.

The Waaaaaaamublance Collides With Logic

[ 3 ] March 29, 2009 |

I recommend all of Taibbi’s response to poor widdle rich boy Jake DeSantis (and implicit, richly deserved attack on everybody who swallowed his story uncritically). But this point is particularly important:

Also, there’s this: let’s just say, Jake, that you’re telling the truth, that you don’t know anything about this toxic portfolio. If that’s the case, then why the fuck does anyone need to retain you at an exorbitant salary to help unwind that very portfolio? If these transactions aren’t and never were your expertise, then where the hell is your value here?

When I spoke to Christine Pretto, the AIG spokeswoman, and asked about those bonuses, she said that AIG needed to retain people like you in order to take advantage of your “knowledge of these transactions.” So if you don’t have knowledge of these transactions, what are you being paid for? Your winning attitude?

Right. Basically, the “only these geniuses have the very specific knowledge necessary to unwind these trades” rationalization for the bonuses is fatally destroyed by the concurrent “don’t look at them, they didn’t do it” rationalization. DeSantis can’t have it both ways. Either the trades can be unwound by any generic “good trader,” or he bears substantial responsibility for his division losing a billion dollars a week. Either way, the idea that the taxpayers owe him a 7-figure bonus is beyond absurd.

The New Star Trek…

[ 0 ] March 29, 2009 |

I’m trying to reserve judgment, but there’s a fundamental conflict that I just can’t get around with regards to the latest Star Trek. William Shatner’s James T. Kirk is one of the most compelling fictional characters ever developed, but is largely the result of an accident; Shatner’s mediocre acting combined unexpectedly with Roddenberry’s mediocre writing to create something magical. A recreation of Kirk can go in one of two directions. On the one hand, the actor can attempt to imitate Shatner; this would seem difficult to accomplish and self-defeating if successfully executed. On the other hand, the actor can attempt to develop a new Kirk; this runs up against the problem that James T. Kirk is, sans Shatner, just not a very interesting character concept.

Thus, I remain unconvinced.

Spy Games

[ 0 ] March 29, 2009 |

This (the claim that the CIA’s top spy in Russia in the 1980s was a double) is interesting, but I guess I don’t understand why, if Tolkachev were really working for the KGB, he was executed by the Soviets in 1986.

Just to be Clear…

[ 0 ] March 29, 2009 |

When I say that Jamie Kirchik is too stupid to breathe, it shouldn’t be read as a suggestion that he be smothered; rather, it should be understood as an expression of sheer wonderment that someone so stupid could remember to breathe on a minute-to-minute basis.

…I should also note that, while I’ve never been a member of JournoList, I’m genuinely befuddled as to the point of the handwringing. Even Mark Hemingway seems to consider the issue altogether boring. Mickey Kaus, on the other hand, believes that he’s found a *SCOOP* by uncovering a fairly pedestrian e-mail exchange from the list. The exchange results in the unsurprising conclusions that Marty Peretz is a bit racist, Michael Savage is a lot crazy, and writers for TNR are a bit defensive about criticism. Such exchanges are precisely why, when I was invited some time ago, I decided not to participate; it’s hardly a scoop that Marty doesn’t care for the brown people or that Michael Savage is batshit insane, and I don’t need the clutter in my inbox. Similarly, there’s no need for a conspiracy to determine that Mickey Kaus is bereft of the ability to say anything even mildy interesting; it’s rather self-evident. This lack of talent, I suspect, is the proximate cause of Mickey’s exclusion from list…

"Mad" Matt Duss Makes the Big Time

[ 0 ] March 28, 2009 |

Itinerant musician and former LGM guest blogger Matt Duss was on Rachel Maddow last night:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Gillispie Out

[ 0 ] March 27, 2009 |

The University of Kentucky does not tolerate failure. At least where basketball is concerned.

Enjoy your $6 million, Billy.

Can We Have the Banality Without the Moralizing?

[ 0 ] March 27, 2009 |

Amanda discusses Saletan’s latest. The column gives us the two sides of Saletan. First, we get the pro-choicer originating bog-standard ideas:

This may sound strange, but I don’t consider myself a real abortion foe. I have friends and sparring partners who think abortions should be illegal or at least heavily restricted. To me, that’s the chief dividing line in the debate. I don’t feel comfortable crossing that line. I don’t think a regime of abortion restrictions enacted in the name of life would make this world a better place. I think it would cause a mess—hypocrisy, deceit, interrogations, amateur home surgery, moral crudity backed by the force of law—as ugly as any war fought in the name of peace.


When I say abortion is bad, I’m not saying it’s necessarily worse than bringing a child into the world in lousy circumstances. I’m saying it’s worse than avoiding unintended pregnancy in the first place. That’s why I keep pushing contraception.

This is, as far is at goes, unobjectionable, and it’s nice to have him state it so forcefully. But the problem is that Saletan generally frames legal-abortion-while-pushing-contraception is some sort of centrist alternative to the pro-choice position, while it is the pro-choice position. Even those of use who don’t think abortion is immoral think that minimizing unwanted pregnancies is a good thing. It’s opponents of abortion, not its supporters, who have undermined efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

But, of course, he doesn’t end there — we also get Saletan the moralist:

If you cause an unintended pregnancy and an abortion because you didn’t want to wear a condom, you should be ashamed.

If Saletan thinks that abortion is immoral, that’s his privilege, although these broad-based claims are hard to square with complexities he identifies earlier. And at least the outrage here isn’t just directed against the woman who chooses to have the abortion. But one big problem here is that Saletan hasn’t just expressed his moral position on abortion — the pro-choice movement must encompass people who have moral issues with abortion but think it shouldn’t be criminalized — but has argued that shaming people who get abortions is a good pro-choice tactic, which makes no sense at all.

But, at least this time he spent more time discussing why criminalization wouldn’t work than in asserting that abortion is immoral — one small step for Saletan.

Nobody Saw That Coming

[ 0 ] March 27, 2009 |

Indeed, the Republicans probably had no idea about the derision their non-budget would receive, given the decades of precedent that any reactionary white guy in a suit could say anything and be taken seriously by the media. The problem in this case may have been taking the logic one extreme too far — at least Bush’s fiscal contradictions and ridiculous gimmicks were dressed up like an actual budget, while Pence went the next step and just abandoned the formal structure of a budget altogether…

Prosecutors Abusing Power

[ 0 ] March 27, 2009 |

To follow up on Duncan and Roy, one will hope that child pornography laws will be changed to exempt non-commercial self-photos of adolescents sent to other adolescents. Changing them is difficult, however — it probably won’t be a high priority, and will present both the fake “won’t someone think of the children” political problems and real problems ensuring that modifications don’t create loopholes for actual child pornographers. While laws don’t explicitly exempt such cases, however, any prosecutor who tries to put an adolescent in jail for taking a picture of him or herself and sending it to a friend should be relieved of their duties at the earliest possible time. Reading the “logic” of these brownshirts is remarkable — people suffering from intense humiliation that harmed nobody else apparently just won’t “learn their lesson” without being arrested and threatened with jail time. Maybe enough of these cases actually will spur legal changes.

This might be a good way of spurring legal reform, in addition to being justified in itself.