Wednesday, December 26, 2007

As I've always stated, Canine Officers are a joke played on the 4th Amendment

They're about as "accurate" as a coin-flip, but prosecutors have convinced judges that dogs and their handlers are so infallible that the 4th Amendment is completely satisfied without a warrant or probable cause.
Robert Guest at I Was the State posted an interview this week with an Austin-based consultant who reviews the performance of drug sniffing dogs. In his experience, most drug dogs are only accurate 52% of the time, meaning that 48% of the time dogs wrongfully give police probable cause for a search.

Why not just flip a coin to see if there's probable cause?
Read the article. Also check out the rest of the blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Agitator makes his year end predictions about what will happen to our Civil Liberties in 2008

As always, this is my favorite column of the year (and the most frustrating)
As the end of the year approaches, it's time for another column of government overreach predictions for the New Year. What outrageous, beyond-parody grabs at power and erosions of civil liberties will transpire in 2008? My predictions:
Read the rest.

Zero Tolerance

I guess I'm late on this one (hat tip: the Agitator). A girl gets arrested for bringing a steak knife to school - she was caught cutting food in the cafeteria. It was a FELONY.
An elementary student in Marion County was arrested Thursday after school officials found her cutting food during lunch with a knife that she brought from home, police said. The 10-year-old girl, a student at Sunrise Elementary School in Ocala, was charged possession of a weapon on school property, which is a felony. According to authorities, school employees spotted the girl cutting her food while she was eating lunch and took the steak knife from her.The girl told sheriff's deputies that she had brought the knife to school on more than one occasion in the past. Students told officials that the girl did not threaten anyone with the knife. The girl was arrested and transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center.
She's ten years old. Every adult involved in this case should be fired and branded with the words STUPID REACTIONARY BASTARD on their foreheads.

What bothers me about the Barry Bonds case

I'm not a big fan of the charge "lying to Federal Investigators," which more and more people get charged with. Note: this is not the charge of lying under oath or perjury. There is great risk in misremembering an event and then, with no intent to mislead, being found guilty of lying.

The thing to realize about the BALCO steroids scandal, which lurches into its most headline-grabbing phase yet today when baseball home run king Barry Bonds is arraigned on five counts of perjury and obstruction in a San Francisco courtroom, is that the federal government's underlying criminal case has been closed for more than 28 months.
Remember this is also true of the case of Scooter Libby who was convicted of this in the case involving Valerie Plame (CIA investigator who was "outed" by White House Officials). In that case it turned out that the Special Prosecutor already knew who had leaked the information about Valerie Plame and that it wasn't a crime long before he ever was "lied to" by Scooter Libby. The investigation should have stopped there, but when have we ever known a prosecutor to end an investigation without charges in a case that is even mildly high profile?

Here is another really frustrating excerpt discussing the Bond's case. Read the whole article though:

A fourth defendant, BALCO Vice President James Valente, copped to a single count of conspiracy and was sentenced to probation, meaning that in the most publicized steroids investigation in U.S. history, 40 of the original 42 charges—which were announced with great fanfare by then-top cop John Ashcroft in February 2004—were dropped faster than a Tim Wakefield knuckleball, resulting in a combined seven months of prison for the criminals. As the steroid prohibitionists at the San Francisco Chronicle wrote at the time, with palpable disappointment, the criminal case "seemed to end with a whimper."

But there's plenty of evidence that the prosecutorial "bang" in this interminable case (of five-plus years and counting) has always been more about publicly shaming elite athletes and punishing witnesses who don't cooperate with the feds than rooting out any vast criminal conspiracy.

Take sentencing, for example. Bonds' trainer Anderson did his three months behind bars, but was then twice hauled back to prison on civil contempt charges for refusing to testify in front of grand juries investigating his boss for perjury. Total time of incarceration for non-cooperation? Fourteen months. He was released the day of Bonds' indictment [PDF], leaving his defense team, led by high-profile lawyer Mark Geragos, sputtering with fury.

"It's infuriating, when you read the indictment," Geragos told the Chronicle. "Is there anything in that indictment that wasn't known a year ago? If that is the case, clearly, putting Greg in for a year was not only punitive, but was misleading the court in that [federal prosecutors] said his testimony was indispensable for the investigation. [...] The whole thing is a crock of shit. He's never said word one."
Yes, see it isn't about steroids, it's about advancing governmental power that is already running unchecked by anyone. Sell steroids get a slap on the wrist (as it should be in my opinion), but DARE to challenge the government or assert your own rights and you can be sure they will come after you with both barrels.

Not only that, but on a Federal level, they overcharge you. That is, they charge you with something that could potentially get you 30 years in prison, then offer you a plea deal for three years (or so). Even if you were innocent, would you risk a 30 year prison sentence? There needs to be a citizen board that oversees prosecutors in order to make certain they charge people fairly. Don't believe it happens, look at what Jamaal Lewis was charged with or Marion Jones.
The government's priorities were on stark display in October when lead Internal Revenue Service BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky—a man who, according to a damning May 2004 Playboy magazine profile, had lobbied various federal agencies for years to launch a steroids sting, "always with Bonds as the lure"—squeezed a plea deal out of track and field superstar Marion Jones. "To extract her confession," the New York Times wrote in a mostly flattering profile of Novitzky last month, "he used the leverage of a more serious charge from an unrelated check-fraud scheme." Getting Jones to weepily admit in public that she'd been lying all along about steroids, it seems, was more important than ferreting out her role in "a scheme to defraud numerous banks out of millions of dollars by laundering stolen, altered and counterfeit checks.
As for what will happen in the Bons Case, as the author of the article, Matt Welch, puts it: It may not be justice, but from the federal government's point of view it will be Mission Accomplished.

Read this Account

Why is it that we are expected to utterly gut our instinct for self protection when the cops, for any reason they happen to manufacture on the spot, say we must? It doesn't matter if we are guilty or innocent, whether the cop is wonderful and wholly corrupt, or whether the crime was tiny or big: we must immediately turn into human rag dolls and obey our masters. And if we do not, and instead we walk away or run, we can be tasered and shot unto death. (The highly disturbing video of the Utah cop tasering the fellow who didn't want to sign a ticket provides fundamental insight here)

. . . But now I understand something more fully that I once only understood abstractly. I see how utterly ridiculous it is to think that the state can be the right means to help those who are poor or living at the margins of society. The state is their enemy, as it is for everyone else.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cool Simpsons Pic

A Complete List of World Wonders

A page of quotes from Einstein

  • "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."
  • "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
  • "Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love."
  • "I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details."
  • "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax."
  • "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
  • "The only real valuable thing is intuition."
  • "A person starts to live when he can live outside himself."
  • "I am convinced that He (God) does not play dice."
More at the site.

This May be lame . . .

and I usually hate this kind of stuff, but I suppose this could be helpful.

It's a list of ailments and the corresponding natural foods that help relieve symptoms or make the condition disappear.

For example if you have heartburn, try:

Fennel (7)
Dandelion root (7)
Lavender (7)
Dandelion (7)
Licorice root (1,7)

Whatever, it may be helpful.

A list of the 20 Ugliest Celebrities

I don't know how they failed to include Renee Zellweger (who is truly hideous).

Who didn't make this list that should have?

National Coalition against Censorship

I think we can all agree that censorship is bad ummkay!.

Here is a blurb from the site:

Free Speech Groups Condemn Proposed Rating System for Books

NCAC and five other groups supporting intellectual freedom protest a recent proposal to institute a rating system for books in Kanawha County, WV. The policy was suggested following the removal of two novels by Pat Conroy from Advanced Placement (AP) English classes at Nitro High School.

So, check it out if you feel like it.

Cool Site that shows . . .

Pictures from any part of the world (you click on the map and get pictures of that region). It's a great way to waste some time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The 33 best beer pong tables ever

All of these are really cool. I argue significantly with the rankings, but all are pretty cool.

Find Cool Sounds on the interweb

Impress your office mates, like I have.

They have an extensive listing of various sounds. Someone should sample some.

Men should marry women who are 15 years younger

It's not me, it's science. SCIENCE!

"We studied how parental age difference at marriage affected [families'] reproductive success among Sami people who married only once in their lifetime[s]," says ecologist Samuli Helle of the University of Turku in Finland. "We found that marrying women 14.6 years younger maximized men's lifetime reproductive success—in other words, the number of offspring surviving to age 18."

The researchers did this by examining church records of 700 marriages from the Utsjoki, Inari and Enontekiö populations from the 17th through 19th centuries (in order to eliminate the effects of modern medicine on child survival).

Computer Made from Legos

I never got past the star wars stage, but this guy takes lego art to the extreme, and it's functional.

The pictures at the linked page are really cool.

Free Carbon Offsets

I know that we're all environmentally motivated here in the 'ville, and we recommend you do the same. Get your free carbon offsets with certificate here.

Link via Instapundit

This is my type of pad

Certainly would be awesome for tailgating.