Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category.

Why I Am Against the Death Penalty

Governments can't be trusted to administer life and death.  Simple as that.  Check out these guys.  They had much of their life taken from them -- but not all.

Private Justice and the New Vigilantism of the Left

In the 1970's, Hollywood produced a number of movies that drew from a frustration that the criminal justice system was broken.   Specifically, a surprisingly large number of people felt that due process protections of accused criminals had gone too far, and were causing police and prosecutors to lose the war on crime.  In the Dirty Harry movies, Clint Eastwood is constantly fighting against what are portrayed as soft-hearted Liberal protections of criminals.  In the Death Wish movies, Charles Bronson's character goes further, acting as a private vigilante meeting out well-deserved justice on criminals the system can't seem to catch.

There are always folks who do not understand and accept the design of our criminal justice system.  Every system that makes judgments has type I and type II errors.  In the justice system, type I errors are those that decide an innocent person is guilty and type II errors are those that decide a guilty person is not guilty.  While there are reforms that reduce both types of errors, at the margin improvements that reduce type I errors tend to increase type II errors and vice versa.

Given this tradeoff, a system designer has to choose which type of error he or she is willing to live with.  And in criminal justice the rule has always been to reduce type I errors (conviction of the innocent) even if this increases type II errors (letting the guilty go free).

And this leads to the historic friction -- people see the type II errors, the guilty going free, and want to do something about it.  But they forget, or perhaps don't care, that for each change that puts more of the guilty in jail, more innocent people will go to jail too.  Movies cheat on this, by showing you the criminal committing the crimes, so you know without a doubt they are guilty.  But in the real world, no one has this certainty.  Even with supposed witnesses.  A lot of men, most of them black, in the south have been put to death with witness testimony and then later exonerated when it was too late.

This 1970's style desire for private justice to substitute for a justice system that was seen as too soft on crime was mainly a feature of the Right.  Today, however, calls for private justice seem to most often come from the Left.

It is amazing how much women's groups and the Left today remind me of the Dirty Harry Right of the 1970's.  They fear an epidemic of crime against women, egged on by a few prominent folks who exaggerate crime statistics to instill fear for political purposes.  In this environment of fear, they see the criminal justice system as failing women, doing little to bring rapist men to justice or change their behavior  (though today the supposed reason for this injustice is Right-wing patriarchy rather than Left-wing bleeding heartism).

Observe the controversies around prosecution of campus sexual assaults and the bruhaha around the video of Ray Rice hitting a woman in an elevator.  In both cases, these crimes are typically the purview of the criminal justice system.  However, it is clear that the Left has given up on the criminal justice system with all its "protections" of the accused.  Look at the Ray Rice case -- when outrage flared for not having a strong enough punishment, it was all aimed at the NFL.  There was a New Jersey state prosecutor that had allowed Rice into a pre-trial diversion program based on his lack of a criminal record, but no one on the Left even bothered with him.  They knew the prosecutor had to follow the law.   When it comes to campus sexual assault, no one on the Left seems to be calling for more police action.  They are demanding that college administrators with no background in criminal investigation or law create shadow judiciary systems instead.

The goal is to get out of the legally constrained criminal justice system and into a more lawless private environment. This allows:

  • A complete rewrite in the rules of evidence and of guilt and innocence.  At the behest of Women's groups, the Department of Justice and the state of California have re-written criminal procedure and required preponderance of the evidence (rather than beyond a reasonable doubt) conviction standards for sexual assault on campus.   Defendants in sexual assault cases on campus are stripped of their traditional legal rights to a lawyer, to see all evidence in advance, to face their accuser, to cross-examine witnesses, etc. etc.  It is the exact same kind of rules of criminal procedure that Dirty Harry and Paul Kersey would have applauded.  Unacknowledged is the inevitable growth of Type I errors (punishing the innocent) that are sure to result.  Do the proponents not understand this tradeoff?  Or, just like the archetypal southern sheriff believed vis a vis blacks, do women's groups assume that the convicted male "must be guilty of something".
  • Much harsher punishments.   As a first offender, even without pre-trial diversion, Ray Rice was unlikely to get much more than some probation and perhaps a few months of jail time.  But the NFL, as his employer (and a monopoly to boot) has a far higher ability to punish him.  By banning Ray Rice from the league, effectively for life, they have put a harsh life sentence on the man (and ironically on the victim, his wife).  They have imposed a fine on him of tens of millions of dollars.

Postscript:  For those who are younger and may not have experienced these movies, here is the IMDB summary of Death Wish

Open-minded architect Paul Kersey returns to New York City from vacationing with his wife, feeling on top of the world. At the office, his cynical coworker gives him the welcome-back with a warning on the rising crime rate. But Paul, a bleeding-heart liberal, thinks of crime as being caused by poverty. However his coworker's ranting proves to be more than true when Paul's wife is killed and his daughter is raped in his own apartment. The police have no reliable leads and his overly sensitive son-in-law only exacerbates Paul's feeling of hopelessness. He is now facing the reality that the police can't be everywhere at once. Out of sympathy his boss gives him an assignment in sunny Arizona where Paul gets a taste of the Old West ideals. He returns to New York with a compromised view on muggers...

I guess I was premature in portraying these movies as mainly a product of the 1970s, since this movie just came out.

Inevitably necessary note on private property rights:  The NFL and private colleges have every right to hire and fire and eject students for any reasons they want as long as those rules and conditions were clear when players and students joined those organizations.  Of course, they are subject to mockery if we think the rules or their execution deserve it.  Public colleges are a different matter, and mandates by Federal and State governments even more so.  Government institutions are supposed to follow the Constitution and the law, offering equal protection and due process.

I Guess This Needs to be Said

I had thought that post-9/11 and with the very visible object lesson of TSA security theater that this would have already been understood, but I will repeat it:  There are no security steps that we are willing to tolerate as a free society that would make it impossible, or even substantially more difficult, for a motivated deranged person to shoot up an elementary school.

Promises by politicians up to and including the President to take "steps" to improve safety are illusory.  What we will get, if anything, will be incremental steps that will hassle law-abiding citizens (think: taking your shoes off at the airport and not using your iPad during takeoffs) without doing anything to deter actual criminals.  In particular, any honest and knowledgeable security person will tell you that there is no realistic way, short perhaps of turning ourselves into North Korea, of stopping a killer who is determined to die as part of his crime.

Using the the Criminal Activity that Results from Prohibition to Justify Prohibition

Apparently, Los Angeles has tough anti-ticket scalping laws.  This means that one is able to resell virtually any item one owns but no longer has a use for except tickets.  In this case, government officials yet again don't like someone who places little value on an item selling it to someone who places more value on that item (a concept that is otherwise the basis for our entire economy).  We can see the effect of such laws in London, where stadiums full of empty seats are juxtaposed against thousands who want to attend but can't get tickets, all because for some reason we have decided we don't like the secondary market for tickets.

A great example is embedded in this line in today's LA Times about crackdowns on scalping:

Jose Eskenazi, an associate athletic director at USC, said the university distributed football and basketball tickets free to several children's community groups but that scalpers obtained those tickets and sold them "at enormous profits."

I like the coy use of "obtained" in this sentence.  Absent a more direct accusation, I have to assume that this means that scalpers bought the tickets from the community groups.  Which likely means that strapped for cash to maintain their operations, these groups valued cash from the tickets more that the ability to send kids to a USC football game  (in fact, taking them to a USC football game would involve extra costs to the community group of transportation, security, and feeding the kids at inflated stadium prices).  It was probably entirely rational for the community groups to sell the tickets -- this is in fact a positive story.  Selling the tickets likely got them out of an expensive obligation they could not afford and generated resources for the agency.  Sure, USC was deprived of the PR boost, but if they really want the kids to come to the game, they can do it a different way (e.g. by organizing the entire trip).  This is not a reason for curtailing my right to sell my tickets for a profit.

Anyway, I have ranted about this before.  Sports team owners and music promoters have out-sized political influence (particularly in LA) and have enlisted governments to clamp down on the secondary markets for their products.

What I thought was new and interesting in this LA Times story was the evolving justification for banning ticket scalpers.  Those who have followed the war on drugs or prostitution will recognize the argument immediately:

Lee Zeidman, general manager of Staples Center/Nokia Theatre and L.A. Live, said in a separate declaration that scalpers "frequently adopt aggressive and oftentimes intimidating tactics.... To the extent that ticket scalpers are allowed to create an environment that makes guests of ours feel uncomfortable, harassed or threatened, that jeopardizes our ability to attract those guests to our property."

In court papers, prosecutors accuse scalpers of endangering citizens, creating traffic hazards and diverting scarce police resources.

"Defendants personally act as magnets for theft, robbery, and crimes of violence," the filing states. "Areas with high levels of illegal ticket sales have disproportionately high levels of theft, robbery, crimes of violence and narcotics sales and use."

Wow, you mean that if we criminalize a routine type of transaction, then criminals will tend to dominate those who engage in this transaction?  Who would have thought?  If this were true, we might expect activities that normally are run by normal, honest participants -- say, for example, alcohol distribution -- to be replaced with gangs and violent criminals if the activity is prohibited.

It's amazing to me that people can still use the the criminal activity that results from prohibition to justify prohibition.

Update:  John Stossel has an article on the London ticket scalping ban

Crazy Awful Idea - Incarcerating People For Their Own Good

Via Carpe Diem

This does not include the millions in state and county jails.  All those drug offenders in jail for a victemless crime, essentially "for their own good."

"I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them. "

Summer of the Shark, Global Warming Edition

My new column is up, comparing coverage of this summer's heat wave to "Summer of the Shark"

Before I discuss the 2012 global warming version of this process, let's take a step back to 2001 and the "Summer of the Shark."  The media hysteria began in early July, when a young boy was bitten by a shark on a beach in Florida.  Subsequent attacks received breathless media coverage, up to and including near-nightly footage from TV helicopters of swimming sharks.  Until the 9/11 attacks, sharks were the third biggest story of the year as measured by the time dedicated to it on the three major broadcast networks' news shows.

Through this coverage, Americans were left with a strong impression that something unusual was happening -- that an unprecedented number of shark attacks were occurring in that year, and the media dedicated endless coverage to speculation by various "experts" as to the cause of this sharp increase in attacks.

Except there was one problem -- there was no sharp increase in attacks.  In the year 2001, five people died in 76 shark attacks.  However, just a year earlier, 12 people had died in 85 attacks.  The data showed that 2001 actually was  a down year for shark attacks.

This summer we have been absolutely bombarded with stories about the summer heat wave in the United States.  The constant drumbeat of this coverage is being jumped on by many as evidence of catastrophic man-made global warming....

What the Summer of the Shark needed, and what this summer’s US heatwave needs, is a little context.  Specifically, if we are going to talk about supposed “trends”, then we should look at the data series in question over time.  So let’s do so.

I go on to present a number of data series on temperatures, temperature maximums, droughts, and fires.   Enjoy.

Boy-Rape Epidemic, or Systematic Problem in Self-Reporting of Sexual Assault?

Interesting if slightly odd story today:

About 5 to 10 percent of U.S. high-school boys say they've been "physically forced" to have sexual intercourse against their will, according to survey results reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those surprising numbers come from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report published by the CDC on June 8, and are based on student-reported answers to 2011 national and state surveys.

Click here to see the report. The results concerning high-school students and forced sex can be seen on pages 66-68....

The survey results show girls reporting an even higher percentages of rapes -- 11.8 percent nationally.

So, what is your guess?  Is their an epidemic of boy rape (homosexual I assume but apparently the survey is not taken in a way that one can tell) or are the CDC numbers that women's groups so often like to trumpet basically garbage?

Scandal for Engaging in Legal Activity

The Secret Service prostitution scandal in Columbia is interesting.  My understanding is that prostitution is legal in the particular area where this occurred.  So in effect we have a scandal here about engaging in a legal activity.  Things that would convert this to an actual scandal in my mind:

  • The officers were on duty, or were on call in some way that there are rules about what they can be doing which they violated (in which case I would be more worried about the drinking)
  • The call girls were hired with taxpayer money  (it is only legal to give taxpayer money to corporate whores like Solyndra, not Columbian whores).  Bobby Patrino might have survived the adultery scandal if he hadn't paid her with his employer's money.

The most likely issue is one  of representation.  "You can do whatever you want on your own time, but not when you are representing us."    As in most scandals, the biggest crime will turn out to be bringing negative attention to one's employer.  With which I can sympathize.  If these bozos brought negative attention to me when they were travelling on business representing me, I'd fire them in a second.

Which gets me thinking that I could easily get sued for doing so.  I am pretty sure I don't have a rule in the employee manual that says you can be fired after getting in the papers for haggling with prostitutes.    Even though common sense says that by embarrassing the company they are putting their jobs at risk, common sense does not rule the legal world of employer law.   In my experience, the whole legal process is tilted against the employer, with the presumption being that the employer is a rapacious asshole firing people for no reason unless proven otherwise  (you are saying your employees are "at will?"  I laugh at your naivete).   The employee would just say that there was no rule against getting negative publicity for hiring prostitutes on a business trip and that their activity was entirely legal where it occurred.

Since it is entirely unlikely I will add a morality clause to our employee manual, I think I will add something about actions that bring harm or disrepute to the company.

Interesting Analysis of Trayvon Martin Probably Cause Affidavit

I have not really posted on Trayvon Martin (except to comment on NBC's corrupt editing of the 911 tape) because a) high-profile criminal cases don't really have the hold on me they seem to have for many other Americans**; b) I have nothing to add; c) I have a bias that would make my commentary suspect.

But since I am about to post on the case, and may in the future, I should explain the bias.  We have a problem from time to time with campground workers we call the "badge-heavy" syndrome.  They get obsessive about rooting our rules violations.  They stalk campers.  They follow people around.  The spy on campers, looking for violations or crimes to report.  The folks they pick out for such treatment are often chosen because they are somehow different from the employee.

This is just awful for customer service.   It drives me crazy.  It is the absolute first thing we discuss at every training session.  Employees who demonstrate that they have this mentality are generally shown the door as fast as possible.  Government-run recreation facilities actually have this problem much worse, because 1) they give all their park staff a law enforcement title, a badge, and a gun, which tends to just encourage this kind of over-zealous harassment and 2) it is almost impossible for them to fire someone for this type of thing (because in the government employee heirarchy of values, enforcement of and consistency with rules is far more important than customer service or visitor satisfaction).

So this is a hot button issue for me.  And my first thought in this case was that Zimmerman's actions seemed just like those of my badge-heavy employees that I frequently have to fire.  So I am not very predisposed to by sympathetic to him, so thus my bias.

Anyway, keeping with my habit in this case of commenting more on issues at the periphery rather than of the case itself, this post from Ken at Popehat (I believe a former US attorney and current defense lawyer) is quite interesting.  Here is the bottom line:

I'm in a rush, but I can't avoid commenting on the affidavit of probable cause submitted in the matter of George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin.

It's a piece of crap....

This is not the worst affidavit I've ever seen — but it's damn close, and the decision to proceed based on it in such a high-profile case is stunning. Cynics may say that I've been spoiled by federal practice, where affidavits are on average considerably more careful and well-drafted, particularly in some districts. But if it takes a high-profile case to highlight shoddy practices in everyday cases, so be it. An affidavit like this makes a mockery of the probable cause process. There's no way that a judge reading this affidavit can make an intelligent or informed decision about the sufficiency of the evidence — even for the low hurdle of probable cause.

** footnote:  I lived in Boulder through the whole Jon Benet Ramsey case.  I believe this was like aversion therapy, the equivalent of your dad forcing you to sit in a closet and smoke three cigars to put you off smoking, which has turned me off high profile criminal cases forever.

Attorney Fail

I'm not really going to comment on the Jerry Sandusky pedophile cases.  The evidence looks pretty damning at this point but I'll let it play out in the courts.

But guilty or innocent, how could his attorney possibly have let him do a TV interview with Bob Costas the other day?  The interview has spurred new victims to come forward.

But beyond that, given that he insisted on going on TV (I suppose clients can ignore good advice), how could his attorney have allowed him to be so unprepared?  I did not watch the interview (I am not big on these select legal cases we like to try in the press), but I heard excerpts on ESPN.  The guy was not prepared to answer the simple and obvious question "are you a pedophile."  He hemmed and hawed and babbled and kindof said yes and no.  It was the worst, dumbest interview by an alleged criminal I have ever seen, and if you ever wonder why folks facing criminal or civil charges never jump into the media fray to defend themselves, go watch this interview.

Anatomy of a Scam

Ken at Popehat has a great series on spotting and reporting scams.  I have tried to make a habit of reporting on this blog about scams I have encountered, and some of my most Googled posts are where I posted scans of scam letters I have received.  I hope other bloggers will do the same.  I have benefited any number of times from Googling a suspicious letter or company and finding bloggers who have already posted warnings or information.

Playing the Cowbell in Prison

Will Blue Oyster Cult (gratuitous umlauts omitted) have to go on the lam now that the First Amendment does not extend to telling someone to commit suicide?

Update:  Don't be afraid, BOC.  I read it closer, and they are probably OK.  Only convincing a specific person to commit suicide is unprotected.  General advocacy appears OK.

More Victims of the 80's Child Abuse Panic

Younger readers will be forgiven for not fully understanding just how credulous the American public became during the late 80's and early 90's as the media, prosecutors, and various advocacy groups worked hard to convince us every school was a sort of Road-Warrior-like playground for child predators.  Adult after adult were convicted based on bizarre stories about ritual murder, sexually depraved clowns, and all kinds of other dark erotic nightmares.  In most cases there was little or no physical evidence -- only stories from children, usually coerced after numerous denials by "specialists."  These specialists claimed to be able to bring back repressed memories, but critics soon suspected they were implanting fantasies.

Scores of innocent people went to jail -- many still languish there, including targets of Janet Reno, who rode her fame from these high-profile false prosecutions all the way to the White House, and Martha Coakley, just missed parleying her bizarre prosecutions into a Senate seat  (Unbelievably, the Innocence Project, which does so much good work and should be working on some of Reno's victims, actually invited her on to their board).

Radley Balko has yet another example I was not familiar with.   The only thing worse than these prosecutions is just how viciously current occupants of the DA office fight to prevent them from being questioned or overturned.

I am particularly sensitive to this subject because I sat on just such a jury in Dallas around 1992.    In this case the defendant was the alleged victim's dad.  The initial accuser was the baby sitter, and red lights started going off for me when she sat in the witness box saying that she turned the dad into police after seeing another babysitter made a hero on the Oprah show.  The babysitter in my case clearly had fantasies of being on Oprah.  Fortunately, defense attorneys by 1992 had figured out the prosecution game and presented a lot of evidence against, and had a lot of sharp cross-examination of, the "expert" who had supposedly teased out the alleged victim's suppressed memories.

We voted to acquit in about an hour, and it only took that long because there were two morons who misunderstood pretty much the whole foundation of our criminal justice system -- they kept saying the guy was probably innocent but they just didn't want to take the risk of letting a child molester go.  Made me pretty freaking scared to every put my fate in the hands of a jury  (ironically the jury in the famous McMartin pre-school case was hung 10-2 in favor of acquittal, with two holdouts).

Anyway, one oddity we did not understand as a jury was that we never heard from the victim.  I supposed it was some kind of age thing, that she was too young to testify.  As it turns out, we learned afterwards that she did not testify for the prosecution because she spent most of her time telling anyone who would listen that her dad was innocent and the whole thing was made up by the sitter.   Obviously the prosecution wasn't going to call her, and her dad would not allow his attorneys to call her as a witness, despite her supportive testimony, because he did not want to subject his daughter to hostile cross-examination.  This is the guy the state wanted to prosecute -- he risked jail to spare his daughter stress, when in turn the state was more than happy to put that little girl through whatever it took to grind out a false prosecution.

update: This is a tragic and amazing recantation by a child forced to lie by prosecutors in one of these cases.  Very brief excerpt of a long article:

I remember feeling like they didn't pick just anybody--they picked me because I had a good memory of what they wanted, and they could rely on me to do a good job. I don't think they thought I was telling the truth, just that I was telling the same stories consistently, doing what needed to be done to get these teachers judged guilty. I felt special. Important....

I remember going in our van with all my brothers and sisters and driving to airports and houses and being asked if we had been [abused in] these places. I remember telling people [that the McMartin teachers] took us to Harry's Meat Market, and describing what I thought the market was like. I had never been in there before, and I was fairly certain I was going to get in trouble for what I was saying because it probably was not accurate. I imagined someone would say, "They don't have that kind of freezer there." And they did say that. But then someone said, "Well, they could have changed it." It was like anything and everything I said would be believed.

The lawyers had all my stories written down and knew exactly what I had said before. So I knew I would have to say those exact things again and not have anything be different, otherwise they would know I was lying. I put a lot of pressure on myself. At night in bed, I would think hard about things I had said in the past and try to repeat only the things I knew I'd said before.

Fact vs. Myth

I have this same problem all the time now in Arizona:

To understand how badly we're doing the most basic work of journalism in covering the law enforcement beat, try sitting in a barbershop. When I was getting my last haircut, the noon news on the television"”positioned to be impossible to avoid watching"”began with a grisly murder. The well-educated man in the chair next to me started ranting about how crime is out of control.

But it isn't. I told Frank, a regular, that crime isn't running wild and chance of being burglarized today is less than one quarter what it was in 1980.

The shop turned so quiet you could have heard a hair fall to the floor had the scissors not stopped. The barbers and clients listened intently as I next told them about how the number of murders in America peaked back in the early 1990's at a bit south of 25,000 and fell to fewer than 16,000 in 2009. When we take population growth into account, this means your chance of being murdered has almost been cut in half.

Its almost impossible to convince folks that AZ is not in the middle of some sort of Road Warrior-style immigrant-led wave of violence.  In fact, our crime levels in AZ have steadily dropped for over a decade, in part because illegal immigrants trying to hang on to a job are the last ones to try to stir up trouble with the law (charts here, with update here)

In Phoenix, police spokesman Trent Crump said, "Despite all the hype, in every single reportable crime category, we're significantly down." Mr. Crump said Phoenix's most recent data for 2010 indicated still lower crime. For the first quarter of 2010, violent crime was down 17% overall in the city, while homicides were down 38% and robberies 27%, compared with the same period in 2009.

Arizona's major cities all registered declines. A perceived rise in crime is one reason often cited by proponents of a new law intended to crack down on illegal immigration. The number of kidnappings reported in Phoenix, which hit 368 in 2008, was also down, though police officials didn't have exact figures. [see charts above, these are continuation of decade-long trends]

But over Thanksgiving my niece visited from the Boston area for a national field hockey tournament and her teachers and coaches had carefully counselled them that they were  walking into a virtual anarchy, and kidnapping or murder would await any teen who wandered away from the group.

Worst Anti-Death Penalty Argument Ever

Long time readers will know that after years of being a death penalty hawk in my younger years, have turned against the death penalty because I do not think that our government run legal system is capable of handing out death sentences fairly.  In particular, we see too many case overturned 20-30 years after the fact by DNA and other evidence, as well as changing social pressures (e.g. increased sympathy for blacks in the deep south) that I don't like the death penalty because it cuts off the ability to appeal.  Sure, folks on death row get a zillion appeals, but after 6-8 years these run out and the person is killed.  How is that going to help the black man convicted in 1962, when changing societal dynamics might only offer him a fair hearing in 1985, or DNA evidence in 1995, or help from the Innocence Project in 2005?

Never-the-less, I have to say this may be the worst appeal I have ever seen against the death penalty, with one man trying to hold up the process because the lethal drugs were obtained from a non-US supplier.  LOL, I don't think he is really worried about the drugs somehow being ineffective.  I sympathize with him, I would be doing everything I could too, particularly in a state like Arizona where law-of-the-west politicians compete to see who can send prisoners to the grave fastest.

Bill James on ... uh, about Everthing

Awesome article by Baseball guru Bill James about rule-breaking and the core of what makes America dynamic.

Jan Brewer Jumps the Shark, Slides into Outright Prejudice

On this blog, over the last couple of months, I have presented a pretty clear set of facts showing that, with the possible exception of some rural border regions beset by drug gangs, the vast majority of Arizona has experienced rapidly falling crime rates, in fact crime rates falling much faster than in the rest of the country.  The crime rates of even our key border towns has remained flat.

What to make, then, of these statements by our governor.

Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday reiterated her assertion that the majority of illegal immigrants are coming to the United States for reasons other than work, saying most are committing crimes and being used as drug mules by the cartels.

Brewer's remarks are an expansion of comments she made last week during a televised debate between the four Republican gubernatorial candidates....

In the debate, Jette [a candidate running against Brewer] said that most people who cross illegally into Arizona are "just trying to feed their families." Brewer disputed that, saying, "They're coming here, and they're bringing drugs.

And they're doing drop houses, and they're extorting people and they're terrorizing the families." The governor, who has become a national media figure since signing Senate Bill 1070 into law on April 23, went further on Friday, saying that the "majority of the illegal trespassers that are coming (into) the state of Arizona are under the direction and control of organized drug cartels."

When pressed, Brewer said that even those who do come to the United States looking for work are often ensnared by the cartels.

"They are accosted, and they become subjects of the drug cartels."

Estimates are that there are 8-12 million illegal immigrants in the US (Brewer's hispano-phobic allies would put the number much higher).  They are mostly all drug dealers and criminals?  Really?

I try really hard not to try to guess at what motivates folks I disagree with by assuming they are driven by something dark and evil, but how else in this case can one describe opinions like this so contrary to facts as anything other than prejudice against a particular ethnic group?

Just look at the actions of our governor and folks like Joe Arpaio.  If it really were the case that illegal immigrants are all criminals uninterested in legal work, then why is so much recent legislation aimed at business owners that hire illegal immigrants?  Or at day labor centers?  Why are all of Sheriff Joe's immigration sweeps raiding lawful businesses rather than, say, crack houses?  After all, if illegal immigrants are all just drug dealers not looking for real work, why spend so much time looking for them, uh, doing real work?

Postscript: If Brewer is in fact correct, then there is a dead easy solution for the illegal immigration problem -- legalize drugs.  She and I both agree that the worst criminal elements of illegal immigrants would be much less of a problem without the illegal drug trade.  The only difference is that I think that segment makes up less than 1% of the population of illegal immigrants, and she thinks its everyone.

Further, to the extent that some illegal immigrants just trying to support their families are "ensnared" by drug cartels (whatever that means) it is because of their immigration status.  Make them legal residents of the country, and no one has any particular leverage over them.

Note to Commenters: Many, many of you have disagreed with me vociferously on immigration.  Please, I would love to see reasoned comments defending Brewer, particularly with data.  In particular, please use the laws of supply and demand to explain how the majority of 8-12 million people are able to earn a living in the illegal drug trade in the southwest.  To help you out, there are about 6.6 million people in Arizona.  Based on national rates of 8% of over age 12 being users, about 500,000 of those are illegal drug users.  One estimate is that there are 500,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona.

Update: Are she and I living in the same state?

Arizona GOP Gov. Jan Brewer claimed recently that law enforcement has been finding beheaded bodies in the desert "” but local agencies say they've never encountered such a case.

"Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded," Brewer said Sunday, suggesting that the beheadings were part of increased violence along the border.

But medical examiners from six of Arizona's counties "” four of which border Mexico "” tell the Arizona Guardian that they've never encountered an immigration-related crime in which the victim's head was cut off.

US Incarceration Rates

Combine an incentive for politicians of both parties to demagogue for "tough on crime" legislation with an over-broad approach to legislating anything seen as bad behavior by the majority as a crime, and you get the highest incarceration rates in the world.  Scary charts, with incarceration rates growing entirely out of proportion to crime and population.

Katie Bar the Door

I have a new theory -- that the most dangerous circumstances for individual liberty in this country are when Conservatives and Liberals agree.  When there is some issue where the authoritarianism of the right coincides with the authoritarianism of the left, then watch out.  The example I offer today is child molestation prosecutions, where the law and order Right meets the smug for-the-children moralizing of the Left.  Where Janet Reno meets Joe Arpaio.

Congrats to Tonya Craft for her acquittal, and here's hoping (though there is not much chance) that the prosecutors and particularly that jackass of a judge suffer some sort of negative consequences from their outlandish abuse of due process.  My jury experience on a similar case here.

UpdateAnd speaking of Sheriff Joe...

Headline of the Day

From Valley Fever

Escort Beats Valet Bloody With High-Heeled Shoe at Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Cops Say

By the way, "Valley Ho" is actually the real name of the hotel, which is a contemporary, moderately upscale renovation of a old Scottsdale hotel.

Chicken Little: The Supposed Arizona Immigrant-Led Crime Wave

Conservatives often attack global warming alarmists for using individual outlier events at the tails of the normal distribution (e.g. Katrina) to fan panic about climate change.  So it is interesting to see them doing the same thing themselves on immigrants and crime in Arizona.  [sorry, forgot the link to Expresso Pundit]

Of course, the whole story fell apart when Wagner had to introduce this fact.

While smugglers have become more aggressive in their encounters with authorities, as evidenced by the shooting of a Pinal County deputy on Friday, allegedly by illegal-immigrant drug runners, they do not routinely target residents of border towns.

Sure, that's the ticket, violence hasn't increased in actual border towns...of course, roving drug smugglers just used an AK 47 to gun down a deputy in PINAL County a hundred miles north of the border.  But other than that...and the rancher they killed last month...the border towns themselves are pretty calm.

Excuse me, but has anyone on any side of the immigration debate ever claimed that immigrants have never committed a crime?  Forget for a minute that the guilty parties in these two cases are mere supposition without any charges filed yet -- particularly the case of the rancher last month.  In 2008 there were about 407 killings in the state.  So, like, one a month were maybe by immigrant gangs and this is a crisis?

From the link above, I looked up AZ and US crime states in 2000, 2005, and 2008.  I was too lazy to do every year and 2009 state stats don't appear to be online yet.  Here is the crisis in Arizona in violent crime rates:

Oh Noz, we seem not only to have drastically reduced our violent crime rate right in the teeth of this immigrant "invasion" but we also have reduced it below the US average.  This actually understates the achievement, since Arizona is more highly urbanized than the average state  (yeah, I know this is counter-intuitive, but it was true even 20 years ago and is more true today).  Urban areas have higher crime rates than rural areas, particularly in property crime as below:

So our property crime rate is high, but not totally out of line from other highly urban areas.  But the real key here is that during this supposed immigrant invasion, again Arizona has improved faster than the national average.  This is seen more clearly when we index both lines to 2000.

One may wonder why climate change alarmists only wave around anecdotes rather than averages.  If we really are seeing more drought or floods, show us the averages.  The problem is that their story can't be seen in the averages, so they are forced to rely on anecdotes to inflame the population.   The same appears to be true of our Arizona immigration panic.

Update: Some doubts emerge about Pinal County deputy shooting update: or perhaps not

Paging Janet Reno

The Tonya Craft trial seems to be a throwback to the bad old days of sexual molestation panic.  All the old Janet Reno "Miami method" techniques have been revived, including weeks of intensive interviews of small children where prosecutors would not relent until children started giving them the stories they wanted.  This case gets bonus points because it was brought originally by someone with an ax to grind

according to testimony on Monday from Craft's ex-husband, the allegation that Craft abused her own daughter first came from his new wife, who herself had been reported to child services by Craft for regularly showering with the girl (which she admitted doing). During a videotaped interview, the girl said, "My mom [the stepmother, apparently] told me which is which and where they touched me."

I sat on a jury of a similar trial in the early 90's.  It became clear that the little girl who was supposedly the victim was hounded for months into finally accusing daddy of something, only to recant by the time it got to trial.  The whole case was started by a baby-sitter who had just watched Oprah and saw another baby-sitter lauded as a national hero for supposedly sniffing out a molestation and this baby-sitter very clearly had aspirations of riding the case to an Oprah invitation as well.  We acquitted the poor guy in about 35 minutes, which is how long it took us to convince to idiots who kept saying "it might have happened" exactly what "reasonable doubt" means.

Loser of the Week

Via Carlos Miller:

The suburban Chicago cop who was caught on video beating a 15-year-old student for refusing to tuck his shirt last May is being accused of raping a woman while holding a pillow over her face.He also killed his ex-wife's new husband last year by shooting him 24 times in front of their children while he was a cop for another suburban police department.

What does it take to actually bring a police officer to justice?  He shoots his ex-wife's new husband 24 times and no one presses charges just because he is a police officer?  I can't find any details on the weapon he was using but I can't believe that any weapon he was issued by his force had a magazine with a 24 shot capacity.   So the guy probably stopped and reloaded and then pumped some more bullets in the guy's corpse.

Doubling Down .. For What?

OK, I am finally going to break under the pressure.  I have resisted posting on Roman Polanski's extradition.  Like many, I shook my head in amazement at all the Hollywood apologia for a man who drugged, raped and sodomized a 13-year old girl.  But I expected it to mostly blow over.  I figured a few Hollywood stars would make a pro forma statement to cement their sophistication credentials, then move on, in the same way they buy a Prius to establish their environmental bona fides and then hop on their G5 to fly to Gstaad.

But I am just amazed at how many folks seem willing to double down on their defense of Polanski, as illustrated by Anne Applebaum's refusal to concede the facts.  Is this really the the right spot to choose to draw the line in the sand and battle bourgeois moralizing or religious fundamentalism?   Heck, I probably support the legalization of more personal behaviors and practices than most liberals, and even I see Polanski's behavior as on the very wrong side of a pretty bright moral line.

This is like watching Lee stubbornly keep trying to attack Union positions on the third day at Gettysburg or Burnside throwing his men against the near impregnable Southern position at Fredericksburg.  You just want to go to them and say "guys, this is terrible ground to fight a battle.  Retire from here and go find a better spot."

Update: Freaking incredible, via Patrick at Popehat, is this:

Some of the [television and film] industry's most prominent women said they believe Polanski, who faces a sentence as low as probation and as high as 16 months in prison for pleading guilty to having sex with a minor, should be freed. "My personal thoughts are let the guy go," said Peg Yorkin, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation [owner of Ms. Magazine]. "It's bad a person was raped. But that was so many years ago. The guy has been through so much in his life. It's crazy to arrest him now. Let it go. The government could spend its money on other things."

Patrick points out that Ms. Yorkin did not always have so casual and comfortable attitude about rape.

Update #2: By the way, the similarities between this episode and one written by Mario Puzo in the Godfather 10 years earlier are striking to me.  Obviously Polanski wasn't the model for the producer Woltz, but someone real probably was.

News Flash: People Being Tortured Sometimes Confess to Anything to Stop the Torture

It is pretty amazing to me that 500 years after the Spanish Inquisition it is somehow a revelation that people who are being tortured will say about anything to make the torture (or the threats thereof) stop:

On Friday the government declassified an opinion in which U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the release of a Kuwaiti held at Guantanamo since 2002, saying he was imprisoned based on coerced confessions that even his interrogators did not believe. Fouad Al Rabiah, a 50-year-old aviation engineer and father of four, was captured as he tried to leave Afghanistan in December 2001. He said he came to Afghanistan that October to help refugees, an explanation the judge found credible....

Later four Guantanamo inmates made several implausible accusations against Al Rabiah"”claiming, among other things, that the engineer, who had worked at Kuwait Airlines for 20 years, suddenly became a leader of the fight against U.S. forces in Tora Bora. Kollar-Kotelly noted that the charges were either inconsistent or demonstrably false. The Pentagon eventually stopped relying on these wild claims to justify Al Rabiah's detention, but by then interrogators had used the charges, along with sleep deprivation and threats of rendition to countries where he would be tortured or killed, to extract confessions from him. In the end, the interrogators concluded that Al Rabiah was making up a story to please them. "Incredibly," Kollar-Kotelly wrote, "these are the confessions that the government has asked the Court to accept as truthful in this case."

I have argued for years that indefinite detention of anyone, citizen or not, is an affront to the principles on which this country was founded.  Just to make my position entirely clear, I am willing to risk letting 40 dangerous people go free (assuming we can't actually prosecute them) to avoid having one person detained wrongly.  If you think this is naive or wrong, then you need to ask yourself what you think about our entire legal system, which is predicated on a similar presumption, that we would prefer some guilty or dangerous people go free rather than tilt the system such that innocent people rot in jail.

Other posts from this topic here and here