Archive for the ‘US government’ Category

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Dear Congressman Smith

April 12, 2014

As a Missouri citizen, I was embarrassed to learn that you’re a Republican for Missouri’s 8th district. Now to be honest, I wouldn’t expect a Republican from the Boot Heel to support a repeal of marijuana prohibition. That’s no surprise.

What was a surprise was reading about your asking the current administration to override the will of those states that have repealed marijuana prohibitions.

Republicans Demand That the Feds Impose Pot Prohibition on States That Have Opted Out

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder was grilled once again about his response to marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. He correctly responded that the Justice Department has “a vast amount of discretion” in deciding how to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and argued that his decision to focus on eight “federal enforcement priorities” in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or general use is “consistent with the aims of the statute.” Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) was not buying it. “Federal law takes precedence” over state law, Smith said. “The state of Colorado is undermining…federal law, correct? Why do you fail to enforce the laws of the land?”

What will your constituents think about your wanting the US Department of Justice to crack down on those states that dare to exercise their own authority? Whatever happened to the idea of limited government, Mr. Smith? And what about the states as ‘laboratories of democracy’? Hmm?

But take those as rhetorical questions. I suspect your questioning of A.G. Holder about marijuana laws will play pretty well in most of Cape Girardeau.

So let me change my tack. Do those concepts of limited government and state sovereignty only apply to gun laws and not to drug laws?

What will you be saying if Missouri nullifies federal gun control laws and the DOJ doesn’t attempt to overrule it? Will you say that Missouri is "undermining… federal law"? Will you ask Mr. Holder why he’s failing to enforce the "laws of the land" by not enforcing federal gun laws in Missouri?

I think Ima join both NORML and the NRA, just to make a damned point.

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Tax Day Is Coming

April 12, 2014

There’s a little bit of strong language in this clip.

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If you want it done right, do it yourself

March 11, 2014

Glenn Reynolds (Mr. Instapundit) writes an interesting editorial column at USA Today. Here’s the opening:

No militia means more intrusive law enforcement

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For a while, some argued that the so-called “prefatory clause” — “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” — somehow limited the “right of the people” to something having to do with a militia. In its recent opinions of District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, the Supreme Court has made clear that the Second Amendment does recognize a right of individuals to own guns, and that that right is in no way dependent upon membership in a militia. That seems to me to be entirely correct.

But there is still that language. If a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, then where is ours? Because if a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, it follows that a state lacking such a militia is either insecure, or unfree, or possibly both.

In the time of the Framers, the militia was an armed body consisting of essentially the entire military-age male citizenry. Professional police not having been invented, the militia was the primary tool for enforcing the law in circumstances that went beyond the reach of the town constable, and it was also the primary source of defense against invasions and insurrection.

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Pegging the irony meter

March 7, 2014

Sometimes it seems there’s a little black humor in every situation, doesn’t it? (My emphasis below.) Here’s another revelation from the Snowden documents at The Intercept.

The NSA Has An Advice Columnist. Seriously.

What if the National Security Agency had its own advice columnist? What would the eavesdroppers ask about?

You don’t need to guess. An NSA official, writing under the pen name “Zelda,” has actually served at the agency as a Dear Abby for spies. Her “Ask Zelda!” columns, distributed on the agency’s intranet and accessible only to those with the proper security clearance, are among the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The columns are often amusing – topics include co-workers falling asleep on the job, sodas being stolen from shared fridges, supervisors not responding to emails, and office-mates who smell bad. But one of the most intriguing involves a letter from an NSA staffer who complains that his (or her) boss is spying on employees.

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I’m a parent who thinks marijuana should be legal

March 6, 2014

What kind of person are you, Thomas Harrigan, who expects to get away with spouting such nonsense? And why in the world are we paying for you to make such patently foolish remarks?

When you advise Congress to keep the current policy on marijuana, here’s what you’re advocating:

Here’s a suggestion, Mr. Harrigan: Talk with the families of the Mexicans who’ve been killed in drug-gang-related violence while Mexico enforces its prohibition laws – with your agency’s help.

America was once the Land of the Free, but the War on Drugs, forfeiture laws, and national security policy are turning the United States into a police state. That’s what you’re advocating, Mr. Harrigan.


Anti-prohibitionists like myself don’t claim that drugs are good for people. Nor do we say there are no problems resulting from legal drug use. But there are problems with many activities that are currently legal: eating, drinking alcohol, gambling, smoking tobacco, owning weapons – it’s a long list. We only point out that the problems caused by drug prohibition are worse than the problems caused by the prohibited drugs.

The last three presidents of the United States admit that they’ve smoked marijuana. I think my children have as much right to decide whether to smoke dope as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have.

Your testimony shows an amazing lack of sense. So I conclude that its purpose was to defend the DEA’s budget and your job in particular. Are you just another self-serving bureaucrat? Is that the deal, Mr. Harrigan?

Get a clue, brother. You could get one from your boss, you know.

DEA Official: ‘Every Single Parent’ Opposes Marijuana Legalization

WASHINGTON — A top Drug Enforcement Administration official said Tuesday that legalizing marijuana “insults our common values” and insisted that “every single parent out there” opposed legalization.

“We also know that marijuana destroys lives and families, undermines our economy, and insults our common values. There are no sound scientific, economic or social reasons to change our nation’s marijuana policies,” Thomas M. Harrigan, the agency’s deputy administrator, told the House Oversight Committee in prepared testimony on Tuesday. “We must send a clear message to the American people and ensure our public safety by not abandoning science and fact in favor of public opinion.”

Later, pressed by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Harrigan said that “every single parent out there” opposed marijuana legalization.

“Your statement that all parents are against this is ludicrous,” said Cohen. “What do you think, that people who are in favor of decriminalization or changing policy don’t procreate?”

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Your papers, please! (2)

March 2, 2014

Paul sends a link to this article that appeared in an opinion blog at The Dallas Morning News site. The events happened about a year ago but this article was posted last Friday (2/28/14).

Electra’s a small town of about 2700 people that’s west of Wichita Falls and just south of the Oklahoma border.

Roadside adventures with small-town cops in Electra, Texas
By Rodger Jones/Editorial Writer

Here’s a YouTube that the Electra, Texas, convention and visitors bureau probably would like to see disappear from the firmament.

It shows what can happen when cops with a bad attitude come up behind you at night and end up accusing you of the bad attitude.

You can end up driving off with a couple of bogus tickets. Or, if you’re like the guy who produced the video, you can stand your ground and beat them at their own game.

Ask yourself how you would handle something like this. You can imagine these two cops were the overgrown bully-boys who had their way with the underclassmen in the high school locker room. Then someone gave them badges and guns.

The most chilling words you’ll hear in this episode came from the now-former city attorney, Todd Greenwood, who conceded there are hazards of getting caught up in a small town. Especially for outsiders. “Ever hear of the movie Deliverance?” he asked the out-of-towner. Creepy.

Later, Greenwood said: “What’s written in the Constitution is one thing, and the real practice is another, and you’re not in the same kind of protection as you have in Allen and Plano and Richardson and places like that.”

I can’t believe the guy actually said this knowing he was being recorded.

There was a development in this sad affair just this week. The city council declined to renew Greenwood’s contract. I can’t imagine why.

The man who made this video isn’t identified in this Morning News post nor in the post at The Defense Rests which was the Morning News‘ source.

All things considered, I think this man was pretty lucky. I kept waiting for the officers to haul him off to jail for not respecting their authoritah.

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Privacy today

March 1, 2014

Reason.tv interiews Ladar Levison about his Lavabit service and why he shut it down.

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The Snowden revelations continue

March 1, 2014

Glenn Greenwald writes at his new site (The Intercept) about more things he’s discovered in the documents leaked by Edward Snowden. RTWT.

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”


This seems like just the place for this cartoon. (Click for a larger view at its source.)
5-stages-nsa

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The fire next door

February 23, 2014

I’ve been making my way through Ted Carpenter’s book The Fire Next Door. (If you follow that link, you’ll see that Mr. Carpenter is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.)

The premises of the book are that:

(a) the US drug prohibitions are creating chaos in Mexico,
(b) this civil chaos is likely to cross the border into the United States, and
(c) drug prohibition should be repealed to de-fund the violent Mexican drug cartels.

The leaders of the Mexican drug cartels — the "drug lords" — have become wealthy from the black market profits due to prohibition. And they very reasonably have used their wealth to corrupt the Mexican police, Mexican prosecutors, and the Mexican military (when it’s been involved in drug law enforcement). The Spanish phrase Carpenter mentions repeatedly is plata o plomo, meaning "silver or lead". The drug cartels give police and prosecutors the choice of taking a bribe or taking a bullet, in other words.

Carpenter cites one case of a hardy Mexican prosecutor who refused the bribe and has avoided the bullet (so far). But the man had to relocate his family to the US to keep them from becoming pawns in his struggle with the cartels.


It gets worse. While the Mexican government denies it, Carpenter claims that the government has lost control of parts of Mexico where the cartel leaders have become de facto regional governments. Independent news report support Carpenter’s view. Here’s an article about that which appeared in the Wall Street Journal five years ago.

This loss of civil law enforcement has led to the rise of Mexican vigilante groups who fight the drug cartels on their own because the Mexican police don’t support them. Here’s a photo essay that appeared last month at Business Insider.

Intense Photos Of Mexican Vigilantes Battling A Drug Cartel For City Control

Mexico has long suffered blistering violence and crime at the hands of its homegrown drug cartels.

Though the Mexican government has waged war on the cartels, the effort has struggled to go anywhere. More than 90,000 people have died in the ongoing conflict.

Fed up with a corrupt police force that is often in bed with the cartels and a military that has to this point been ineffective, some Mexicans have taken it upon themselves to fight the cartels and protect their families — with an incredible conflict happening this week in the city of Paracuaro. [...]

Over the last year, vigilante groups, known as fuerzas autodefensas have sprung up all over Mexico, particularly in the southwestern state of Michoacan, an area plagued by the Knights Templar cartel.

Here’s a picture I ran across recently of a Mexican vigilante (in the adelita tradition). Abuela, ¿qué tal?

Female Mexican vigilante


Yesterday the New York Times reported the arrest of El Chapo at Mazatlan. It’s a good article to get up to speed on the topic, if this is news to you.

El Chapo, Most-Wanted Drug Lord, Is Captured in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Just before 7 a.m. on Saturday, dozens of soldiers and police officers descended on a condominium tower in Mazatlán, Mexico, a beach resort known as much as a hangout for drug traffickers as for its seafood and surf.

The forces were following yet another tip about the whereabouts of one of the world’s most wanted drug kingpins, Joaquín Guzmán Loera — known as El Chapo, which means “Shorty” — who had eluded such raids for 13 years since escaping from prison, by many accounts in a laundry cart. With an army of guards and lethally enforced loyalty, he reigned over a worldwide, multibillion-dollar drug empire that supplied much of the cocaine and marijuana to the United States despite a widespread, yearslong manhunt by American and Mexican forces. [...]

Mexican marines and the police, aided by information from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, immigration and customs officials and the United States Marshals Service, took him into custody without firing a shot, according to Mexican officials. [...]

Mr. Guzmán faces a slew of drug trafficking and organized crime charges in the United States, which had offered $5 million for information leading to his arrest in the hopes of dealing a crippling blow to an organization that is the country’s top provider of illicit drugs.

Mr. Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel is considered the largest and most powerful trafficking organization in the world, with a reach as far as Europe and Asia, and has been a main combatant in a spasm of violence that has left tens of thousands dead in Mexico.

“Big strike,” said a Twitter posting by former President Felipe Calderón, who had made cracking down on drug gangs a hallmark of his tenure.

Note the involvement of the U.S. DEA and "American forces". The U.S. has agreements with Mexico to assist in the enforcement of drug prohibition laws. Also note that the DEA wants Mr. Guzmán for breaking U.S. laws.


It will be interesting to see the effects of this arrest. Mr. Carpenter documents in The Fire Next Door that the violence in Mexico usually increases when a drug lord is arrested. This happens because the leadership of a very profitable drug cartel is up for grabs and different factions will fight in the streets to claim it.

Is it not enough that drug prohibition has made war zones out of some of America’s inner cities, has created a whole gangsta sub-culture, and has given us a prison population that dwarfs that of most other countries?

Must we imperil our Central American neighbors with our prohibition policies too?

End the War on Drugs.

This seems like a good place for this video from the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Big Brother in the news

February 20, 2014

Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal by an FCC commissioner who complains about a new FCC initiative.

The FCC Wades Into the Newsroom

News organizations often disagree about what Americans need to know. MSNBC, for example, apparently believes that traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., is the crisis of our time. Fox News, on the other hand, chooses to cover the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi more heavily than other networks. The American people, for their part, disagree about what they want to watch.

But everyone should agree on this: The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.

Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission, where I am a commissioner, does not agree. Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.

The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about “the process by which stories are selected” and how often stations cover “critical information needs,” along with “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”

H.T. Paul


Update

FCC throws out plan to question reporters about news coverage

The Federal Communications Commission has backtracked on a plan to ask journalists about news coverage decisions after protest from one of the commission’s members.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, part of the commission’s Republican minority, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on February 10 criticizing an FCC study on the news media. [...]

Yesterday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told staff to remove the offending questions, a commission statement today said.

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En la república bananera del norte (2)

February 12, 2014

Here’s an interesting report from Fox News (via Coyote blog).

FIRMS MUST SWEAR OBAMACARE NOT A FACTOR IN FIRINGS

Is the latest delay of ObamaCare regulations politically motivated? Consider what administration officials announcing the new exemption for medium-sized employers had to say about firms that might fire workers to get under the threshold and avoid hugely expensive new requirements of the law. Obama officials made clear in a press briefing that firms would not be allowed to lay off workers to get into the preferred class of those businesses with 50 to 99 employees. How will the feds know what employers were thinking when hiring and firing? Simple. Firms will be required to certify to the IRS – under penalty of perjury – that ObamaCare was not a motivating factor in their staffing decisions. To avoid ObamaCare costs you must swear that you are not trying to avoid ObamaCare costs. You can duck the law, but only if you promise not to say so.

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Snowden’s revelations

February 11, 2014

Here’s an interesting compilation at Lawfare. The catalog is pretty lengthy and may surprise you.

Catalog of the Snowden Revelations

This page catalogs various revelations by Edward Snowden, regarding the United States’ surveillance activities.

Each disclosure is assigned to one of the following categories: tools and methods, overseas USG locations from which operations are undertaken, foreign officials and systems that NSA has targeted, encryption that NSA has broken, ISPs or platforms that NSA has penetrated or attempted to penetrate, and identities of cooperating companies and governments.  Each entry includes the date the information was first published.

The page will be updated from time to time and is intended as a resource regarding Snowden and the debate over U.S. surveillance.  Comments and suggestions thus are welcomed, and should be sent to staff.lawfare@gmail.com.

In addition to this page, Lawfare has cataloged and summarized the FISA documents the government has declassified in response to the Snowden controversy in the Wiki Document Library.

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Things That Make You Go Hmmm… (2)

February 9, 2014

From Business Insider’s "Chart of the Day" post on February 6.

business-insider-disability-welfare-food-stamps

The Stunning Rise Of Disability, Food Stamp And Welfare Benefits

In the wake of the financial crisis and great recession, the U.S. unemployment rate has tumbled precipitously from 10.0% to 6.7% in just four years.

“Only three other times in the past six decades has the unemployment rate fallen this far this fast: in the early 1950s, when growth averaged 6.7% per annum; in the late 1970s when GDP growth averaged 4.8%, and in the mid-1980s when growth averaged 5.2%,” said Gluskin Sheff’s David Rosenberg to the U.S. Senate Budget Committee.

“Today we accomplished this feat with only 2.4% growth which is disturbing because it means that it is not taking much in the way of incremental economic activity to drain valuable resources out of the labor market.”

Much of the decline in the unemployment rate has been due to the drop in the labor force participation rate (LFPR). And the drop in the LFPR has been due to a combination of aging demographics and an expanding group of discouraged workers walking away from the job market.

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Legislating morality

February 8, 2014

Here’s an interesting article at Slate about the Noble Experiment as its supporters called it.

The Chemist’s War

It was Christmas Eve 1926, the streets aglitter with snow and lights, when the man afraid of Santa Claus stumbled into the emergency room at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital. He was flushed, gasping with fear: Santa Claus, he kept telling the nurses, was just behind him, wielding a baseball bat.

Before hospital staff realized how sick he was—the alcohol-induced hallucination was just a symptom—the man died. So did another holiday partygoer. And another. As dusk fell on Christmas, the hospital staff tallied up more than 60 people made desperately ill by alcohol and eight dead from it. Within the next two days, yet another 23 people died in the city from celebrating the season.

Doctors were accustomed to alcohol poisoning by then, the routine of life in the Prohibition era. The bootlegged whiskies and so-called gins often made people sick. The liquor produced in hidden stills frequently came tainted with metals and other impurities. But this outbreak was bizarrely different. The deaths, as investigators would shortly realize, came courtesy of the U.S. government.

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.

Daniel Okrent’s book Last Call is an interesting history of Prohibition (though I found it a little verbose).

It’s amazing what people will do when they start doubling down on a bad bet. You have to wonder, don’t you, why anyone felt they should conduct such an experiment – much less try to conduct it using these means. What had become of their sense of humanity? Evidently they felt that the Power of the Majority was a license to kill.

To quote Mencken: "I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave."

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Libertarian Jesus

February 3, 2014

I found this at Dan Mitchell’s International Liberty blog.

libertarian-jesus

You can take it humorously, as Dan Mitchell does, or you can take as Penn Jillete would:

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

Or maybe you can take it both ways.

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Policing for profit (2)

February 3, 2014

Another good clip from the Institute for Justice.

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What you always suspected about the TSA

February 2, 2014

Jason Harrington wrote a long article at Politico about his time as a TSA agent. Here’s a snippet from near the start. RTWT.

Dear America, I Saw You Naked
And yes, we were laughing. Confessions of an ex-TSA agent.

[...]
My pained relationship with government security had started three years earlier. I had just returned to Chicago to finish my bachelor’s degree after a two-year stint in Florida. I needed a job to help pay my way through school, and the TSA’s call-back was the first one I received. It was just a temporary thing, I told myself—side income for a year or two as I worked toward a degree in creative writing. It wasn’t like a recession would come along and lock me into the job or anything. [...]

I hated it from the beginning. It was a job that had me patting down the crotches of children, the elderly and even infants as part of the post-9/11 airport security show. I confiscated jars of homemade apple butter on the pretense that they could pose threats to national security. I was even required to confiscate nail clippers from airline pilots—the implied logic being that pilots could use the nail clippers to hijack the very planes they were flying.

Once, in 2008, I had to confiscate a bottle of alcohol from a group of Marines coming home from Afghanistan. It was celebration champagne intended for one of the men in the group—a young, decorated soldier. He was in a wheelchair, both legs lost to an I.E.D., and it fell to me to tell this kid who would never walk again that his homecoming champagne had to be taken away in the name of national security.

There I was, an aspiring satire writer, earnestly acting on orders straight out of Catch-22.

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The Kronies

January 24, 2014

I don’t know who’s behind but it’s very well done.

Via Carpe Diem

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Policing the police

December 30, 2013

I’ve heard several people suggest this idea but I hadn’t heard that it had been put into practice. This article appeared in The New York Times in late August. (My emphasis.)

RTWT. And advocate this for your local police forces.

In California, a Champion for Police Cameras

RIALTO, Calif. — “Get on the ground,” Sgt. Chris Hice instructed. The teenage suspects sat on the curb while Sergeant Hice handcuffed them.

“Cross your legs; don’t get up; put your legs back,” he said, before pointing to the tiny camera affixed to his Oakley sunglasses. “You’re being videotaped.”

It is a warning that is transforming many encounters between residents and police in this sunbaked Southern California city: “You’re being videotaped.”

Rialto has become the poster city for this high-tech measure intended to police the police since a federal judge last week applauded its officer camera program in the ruling that declared New York’s stop-and-frisk program unconstitutional. Rialto is one of the few places where the impact of the cameras has been studied systematically.

In the first year after the cameras were introduced here in February 2012, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent compared with the previous 12 months. Use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent over the same period. [...]

William A. Farrar, the Rialto police chief, believes the cameras may offer more benefits than merely reduced complaints against his force: the department is now trying to determine whether having video evidence in court has also led to more convictions.

But even without additional data, Chief Farrar has invested in cameras for the whole force.

“When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better,” Chief Farrar said. “And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.” [...]

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Incentives

November 16, 2013

I don’t listen to talk radio and I don’t live in Texas, so I don’t know whether this call really happened. But I take the recording at face value because it’s so easily believable. When you subsidize something, you get more of it.

The part of the call that was most ludicrous was the caller ranting about illegal aliens being free riders on the American system. That really pegged the old Irony Meter; has she heard of "the pot calling the kettle black"?

Plus she implied that migrants are as shiftless as she is. As I said, I don’t live in Texas. But in these parts migrant workers are some of the hardest-working people I see.

Via David Thompson

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