The militarization of police and overuse of SWAT

    
Radley Balko has been writing about the militarization of police for many years now. He has done extremely valuable work exposing the overuse and abuse of paramilitary SWAT teams, though he has often been the lone voice in the wilderness about this frightening assault on our civil liberties and abuse of government power. Balko has a book coming out this summer about the militarization of law enforcement, and if it is half as good as his editorials on this subject at Reason.com and HuffingtonPost.com it is a must read.

Following is a list of links to Balko’s “Raid Of The Day” series.

  • James Hoskins went into a coma and had to have his leg amputated after a trigger-happy SWAT officer shot him.

  • Rusty Windle was shot to death by SWAT officers after being set up by a known felon.
  • An entire family was held at gunpoint for hours in a 1985 SWAT raid – the police had the wrong house.
  • Jose Colon was a 19 year old with no criminal record who died after being shot in the head by police – who found 8 ounces of marijuana.
  • Leland Elder and his wife Mary Schultz were raided by 85 agents using military equipment when they mistook the florist’s perfectly legal plants for a marijuana growing operation. Why not execute a simple search warrant?
  • 80-year-old Isaac Singletary was shot to death when he tried to scare two men off his property because they were dealing drugs. The men were undercover police officers who shot and killed him.
  • Anthony Diotaiuto was shot ten times and killed during a SWAT raid that featured a flash-bang grenade. Conducting a SWAT raid instead of serving a search warrant was necessary because it’s obvious that only a hardened criminal would “undergo a criminal background check, allow himself to be fingerprinted, pay a fee, and enroll in a class on gun safety and firearms law” to get a concealed-carry permit.
  • Cheryl Lynn Noel was shot to death in her own bedroom by SWAT officers. She was holding a gun to defend against what she thought was a home invasion. Again, a paramilitary SWAT raid was necessary instead of a simple search warrant because… why, exactly?
  • The Los Angeles Police Department conducted an especially heavy-handed raid against an entire apartment complex in 1988. The raid included some vicious police brutality.
  • Andrew Leonard had SWAT officers break down his door with a battering ram and hold him at gunpoint in a raid that targeted the wrong house.
  • Lloyd Miner was clubbed with a flashlight by SWAT officers who also “smashed his toilet, turned over his furniture, pried the doors off of his cabinets, and destroyed some of his kitchen appliances” before taking him to jail. They had the wrong house. You might be noticing a pattern here.

Three weeks from now will be the twentieth anniversary of the massacre in Waco, Texas, when the federal government used military force – including tanks – against American citizens on American soil. But the problem of government using overwhelming military-style force against our own citizens goes far beyond the tragic events of April 19, 1993. We have been treating the War on Crime as a literal war for decades, and putting a soldier mentality into law enforcement has had frightening consequences. Reform and restraint are needed.

"Modernizing" the Roman Catholic Church

The New York Times carried another column calling for the Roman Catholic Church to allow priests to be married. The ban on marriage by priests has always been contrary to the teaching of Scripture – a human tradition that goes beyond the Word of God and has had destructive consequences. It is interesting (though not surprising) that Peter Manseau does not cite Scripture at all, since the Word of God is supposed to be the final authority for Christians.

And thus is the problem with the discussions about what the Roman Catholic Church needs to do to “modernize” and attract younger people. The RCC is being treated like a political party that is looking for ways to win elections instead of existing for the sole purpose of worshiping God, creating converts and teaching them to obey His commandments. The church – Roman Catholic or Protestant – is not and should not be a political organization. It is to be the pillar and foundation of the truth as described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3:15.

This is why calls to “modernize” by loosening standards on sexual morality and ending opposition to abortion is foolish. A church that “modernizes” on abortion and sexual morality is not a “church” at all. It is a pagan religion that is in open rebellion against Almighty God. Such a “church” is founded upon pure hatred – hatred for God and His commandments and hatred for sinners on their way to Hell. “Modernizing” by calling evil good is the ultimate act of hatred because it damns people in bondage to sin to eternal damnation in Hell fire.

So how does any church “modernize” to attract younger people and keep people from leaving? The solution is very simple – do the same thing the church has been called to do for over two thousand years now. The way the church is to remain relevant for modern times is to submit fully to Scripture, call sinners to repentance, instruct Believers in our obligations to Him and aid in our sanctification, and serve as salt and light in a fallen world.

The church is to “modernize” by trusting the Holy Spirit to convict and change the hearts of fallen men and women, and call them to the cross of Jesus Christ. Our Father in Heaven has already won the battle. We simply need to be faithful in witnessing for Him as we wait for the inevitable ultimate victory by God.

The shocking Steubenville rape case

And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth. — Job 29:17

The most shocking thing about the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio was not that two young men raped a 16 year old girl who was so drunk she blacked out. Sadly, the fact that men sexually assault and rape women and girls is not exactly new, nor is it in any way uncommon. What was shocking was that this crime was committed in public with many other teenagers watching and laughing at her, while taking pictures and video on their smartphones and posting it to social media websites in addition to sending it around.

Why did no one intervene and say “no” to this act? Did none of the young men at the party think of their sisters in that position? Did none of the young women at the party not think of themselves in that position? It would have been incredibly shameful for the young men at the party to be silent (or encourage it) while a young woman stands “no” to this abomination, but one would think that someone would have felt a pang of conscience.

The fact that the two rapists got off so easy is infuriating.They got at least a year in juvenile hall, but they should have been charged as adults. I have been 16 years old, and I knew that sexually assaulting and publicly humiliating a teenage girl was an evil thing to do. Charging them as juveniles instead of as adults only enhances the perception that these young men got off easy because they are football players. And while those who stand and watched may be charged, how much will they actually be punished? When you hand out such a light punishment for the actual rapists, how can you justify harsher punishments for the spectators?

I am not sure that parents or school officials should be charged in relation to the rape, unless it can be shown that they attempted to cover it up after the fact. But one has to ask – where were the parents that night? Even if no crime had been committed, you have a large number of teenagers getting wasted drunk at several parties around town. You cannot expect me to believe the parents did not know what was going on. Their refusal to control their offspring – something that almost certainly dates back to when they were toddlers – is disgusting and shows how much they truly hate their children.

There is a lot wrong with this case: The spectators who laughed and took pictures during a violent crime, the worship of football that led these young men to believe they could get away with a felony, and the complete and total breakdown of parental discipline that allowed the environment for this assault to take place. Parents who refuse to say “no” to their children do not shelter those children from the consequences of their action. Instead, they only ensure that the lack of loving corrective discipline will eventually be replaced with much stronger sanctions from the civil magistrate. This is a lesson for all parents – train your children to be respectable and responsible.

Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen and it can’t get up!

Olympus Has Fallen sets up a great mystery and political thriller, hinting at a wide-ranging political conspiracy and a fifth column within the U.S. government, only to become a silly action movie at the end. It is almost like they pasted the end of a completely different movie onto the beginning of a much better movie.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

We start off with a vacation at Camp David that ends in a tragedy that really does not contribute to the overall plot. The consequences of the tragedy for main protagonist Mike Banning contributed virtually nothing and it could have been left out completely, but the scene does do a good job of establishing the emotional bond between Banning and the President’s son, Connor. But even that was not necessary – Banning would set out to rescue Connor regardless.

Where the action really starts – and where the movie could have started – is with the terrorist / fifth column attack on the White House. The terrorists are flying an Air Force bomber, which shoots down two fighter jets and then randomly butchers people in the streets of Washington DC. How exactly did they get this? How did they get access to a top secret anti-aircraft weapon that they use to repel an attempt to re-take the White House later? Did they infiltrate the Air Force? Is there a fifth column that is looking to stage a coup?

What is interesting is that House Speaker Trumbull suggests threatening North Korea with a military strike, and when asked what happens if they call our bluff he says “Who’s bluffing?” President Asher rejects this course of action as he wants to avoid an unnecessary war. Between the terrorists holding two major pieces of equipment and the fact that they have sensitive and highly classified knowledge of U.S. national defense, are there forces within the U.S. government looking to force a war with North Korea?

None of this is followed up on at all. The obvious questions about how the terrorists acquired U.S. military equipment and highly classified information are never answered. All of the setup for this is wasted as the movie becomes a Die Hard clone, with Banning serving as a one-man army taking down the terrorists – who go from an unstoppable force that easily massacres security forces to cannon fodder unable to do anything against Banning.

This could have been so much better.

Final Grade: C.

Campaign finance reform, revisited

A letter to the editor last weekend in response to my letter about campaign finance reform from a few days earlier argues that we “have never embraced an absolutist interpretation” of the First Amendment.

This is true. There are limits to First Amendment freedoms – freedom of religion does not include human sacrifice and the freedom to petition government for redress of grievances (lobbying, in other words) does not include screaming into an elected official’s bedroom window through a bullhorn at 3:00 am. But we would be better off if we took a much more uncompromising position on limiting government’s ability to censor free speech.

The author argues that we have a legitimate interest in ensuring our elected officials are not beholden to the people who finance their campaign. We can accomplish that through full disclosure. There was a lot of legitimate concern over “dark money” in the 2012 election cycle, because of weak reporting requirements. This led many to worry that we do not know who is funding the advertisements to support or oppose candidates, and the loyalty that inspires for the candidates who win the elections with support of contributions and independent spending.

My solution to this is to abolish all contribution and spending limits (both hard and soft money) and report every contribution and expense over $200. This would apply to the 527 groups, political action committees, political parties and campaign contributions – even independent expenditures by private individuals. The public has an interest in full disclosure of all campaign contributions and spending. Sunshine is the most effective way to fight corruption.

Some people may object to full disclosure because it exposes donors to harassment for political activity. While this is a legitimate concern and while it is true that campaigns are private rather than public entities, the public’s interest in knowing who funds campaigns and the public’s interest in fighting corruption overrides these concerns. And, yes, the $200 line for reporting contributions and expenditures is arbitrary, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Without an arbitrary line you are forcing campaigns to report every little thing down to the $5 coffee from Starbucks.

The primary problem with campaign finance reform is far more sinister. While some people have legitimate concerns over the influence of money in politics, cynical politicians push “reform” as a way to silence opposition and protect their positions. After all, incumbents have a built-in advantage that challengers do not have – including access to the news media and government resources to promote their offices but that also expand their name ID. This is why many campaign “reform” measures (especially McCain-Feingold) could easily be called the Incumbent Protection Act. We must vigorously oppose the efforts of politicians to hold onto power by silencing political opposition.

Testicular cancer’s warning signs

I was diagnosed with testicular cancer 16 years ago today. Following is a guest column I had published several years ago about the warning signs of TC.

Published in the Bloomington Herald-Times on March 18, 2007

It was the week before spring break 1997, 10 years ago. Like thousands of other college students, I was looking forward to relaxing for a week before getting back and finishing up the semester. I would not come back to finish the semester, however.

Over the previous couple weeks, I had noticed something was wrong. One of my testicles was swollen and significantly larger than the other one. A few years earlier, my brother-in-law’s younger brother had died of testicular cancer, so all the men in the family were educated about the warning signs of the disease. I knew that I would need to take a trip to my doctor when I got back. The signs were clear enough that I knew I had cancer, so I was more than a little stressed on the final day of classes before vacation. By Friday of spring break, I was in Parkview Hospital having an inguinal orchiectomy.

Thankfully, the surgeon got all of the cancer when he removed the diseased organ. Ten years later, I am still cancer-free. When caught early, as mine was, testicular cancer has a survival rate of over 95 percent, according to http://www.nih.gov. Even if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, the survival rate is over 90 percent, according to http://www.cancer.org. As with any cancer, the chances of survival go down significantly if the cancer is allowed to spread.

The good news is that testicular cancer, unlike some other cancers, shows warning signs that can be noticed by laymen. According to health.rutgers.edu, these warning signs include:

  • A lump in the testicle


  • Change in the consistency of the testicle


  • Enlargement of the testicle


  • Heavy feeling in the testes


  • Pain in the testicles (not always associated with cancer)


  • Swelling or tenderness of the breast


  • Swelling, hardening, or painful inguinal lymph nodes.

The two general types of testicular cancer are seminoma and non-seminoma. Seminoma cancers are vulnerable to radiation (basically a very high dose of X-rays), so they are easier to treat. Radiation is not effective against non-seminoma cancers, so a second surgery may be needed to check the abdominal lymph nodes. Chemotherapy is quite effective against non-seminoma testicular cancer. One sign of non-seminoma cancer is an unusually high level of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in the blood. AFP is a hormone normally associated with pregnancy.

The number of new testicular cancer cases is fairly small: medicinenet.com states that there are between 7,000 to 8,000 new cases annually. If Monroe County follows the national trend, there would be between 1.4 and 1.6 cases of testicular cancer annually, assuming that half of the approximately 120,000 people in Monroe are male. It is possible, therefore, that someone reading this column could contract testicular cancer this year.

TC is the most common form of cancer for men between the ages of 15 and 35 years old, however, and can strike any man at any age. It is essential, therefore, for men to perform a monthly Testicular Self Examination (TSE), just as women are advised to perform a monthly Breast Self Examination. Ask your general practitioner for information on how to perform this exam.

Testicular cancer can be a difficult subject to discuss, but being diagnosed with TC is far from the worst thing that could happen to someone, especially with today’s advanced medical technology. In addition, losing a testicle will generally not impair sexual function or the ability to have children. Men, if you notice the warning signs of TC, do not delay making an appointment with your doctor. You will be glad you did.

Shut up about the mythical "War on Christmas" already!

Don’t we have enough conflict in our society without looking for things to fight about where no fight actually exists?

Sarah Palin is writing a book about the mythical “War on Christmas.”

I absolutely hate this “war on Christmas” nonsense that we hear about every year in November and December. Yes, there are a tiny number of people who object to things like people who say “Merry Christmas” – whiny crybabies who need to grow up. Why is it offensive when someone sends a seasonal wish of goodwill to you, whether you personally believe in the holiday or not? Get over yourself and move on.

I am just as irritated with the childish and petulant Christmas “warriors” who loudly announce they will say “Merry Christmas” to the crybabies who object to it. In this case, what should be a heartfelt expression of goodwill is basically a double middle finger in the face. Yes, the militant atheists are being childish, but that is no excuse to join them and to degrade what should be a heartfelt expression of goodwill in the process. Be the bigger person.

I love the Christmas season, but when Christmas is over I am glad that I do not have to see “news” stories or opinion pieces about this foolishness for the next 10 months. Now, thanks to Sarah Palin we do not have to wait until November to start our annual childish nonsense, because we can start the fight in March! Thanks, Sarah. Now please shut your mouth turn off your word processing program until you have something productive to say or write.

Folks, this is ridiculous. Over 3,200 unborn babies are murdered by our abortion industry every single day – one murder every 30 seconds. Instead of working on issues that actually matter, some Christians are fighting over a “War on Christmas” that is 99% fantasy and 1% the ranting of deranged militant atheists who no one takes seriously. Can we please lay this foolishness to rest once and for all?