At what point can a citizen defend himself against an assault by a police officer?

Or, for that matter, what about a good Samaritan coming to the aid of a victim being beaten by someone who turns out to be a police officer?

I came across the following video from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) showing what appears to be a police officer assaulting, for no obvious reason, a member of the public. And at the moment, the victim of this assault has been charged with several crimes, yet the officer has not.

The officer is white. The victim, Anthony Promvongsa, is a Loatian-American.

This, following so closely on the heels of the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez in the killing of Philando Castile and a recent visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, has got me thinking more about the relationship of the public to law enforcement. Specifically, at what point is a member of the public allowed to defend him- or herself against an assault by a police officer? Continue reading

Dear Donald, the FBI needs to enforce federal law not resurrect the spirit of J. Edgar Hoover

Dear Donald,

Two nights ago, after firing now former FBI director James Comey, you tweeted the following:

With all due respect, Donald, what the FBI needs is someone who will enforce federal law. I’m not even sure what you mean by the “spirit and prestige” as it applies to the FBI. Are you talking about the good old days, like when J. Edgar Hoover was in charge and the FBI illegally hunted down communists, both real and imagined? Or the good old days when J. Edgar Hoover was in charge and had agents infiltrate the civil rights movement? Or the good old days when the FBI infiltrated various governments within Latin America?

Law enforcement isn’t often prestigious, Donald, locally or federally. And frankly, given you embedded a slavishly loyal racist as your Attorney General, the FBI needs a director who will be independent of you. Continue reading

Unnamed sources? Journalists should teach readers why they were used

On Thursday, four journalists for CNN reported:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

CATEGORY: JournalismInformation. Indicates. Associates. Communicated. Suspected. Operatives. Possibly. Coordinate. Information. US officials.

Huh? Could this lede be any more vague? This lede is all may have — which leaves open the possibility of may not have.

The story, reported by Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Shimon Prokupecz, contains unnamed sources in 10 of the story’s 18 paragraphs. The FBI director is named, but only in reference to stories reported earlier. White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov are named, but only in chiding the findings of the story. Two paragraphs near the end of the story contain no sources and appear to be the conclusions of the reporters.

Continue reading

Nota Bene #112: GOOOLLLLLLLL

“Freedom of any kind is the worst for creativity.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #107: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” Who said it? Continue reading

The uneasy truth behind Tim Donaghy's allegations

Disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who was convicted of two charges related to betting on NBA games (some of which he worked as an official), is out of prison, pimping a new book and telling his story to 60 Minutes and ESPN. What he’s saying, and who’s backing him up, has to be giving NBA Commish David Stern a king-hell case of the nightsweats.

We’ll stipulate up front that the witness has a credibility issue. Continue reading

Evangelicals are good for us, whether we like it or not

by John Harvin

Last night we had dinner with my daughter’s future in-laws. They are devout Christians, members of an ultra-conservative evangelical mega-church.

As we sat down to eat, they asked if anyone minded if they said grace. We smiled and went along with it, but the truth is I do mind. I think coming into someone’s home and imposing your belief system is unspeakably rude and completely unacceptable. What if I belonged to the Sacred Church of Zoophilia, and I came to dinner at your house and asked, “While you dish out the salad, do you mind if I have sex with your cat?” To me, talking aloud to Jesus and forcing me to listen in on the conversation is much the same thing. And after dinner, when the inevitable sales pitch came, we turned it away as gracefully as possible.

Marrying into an evangelical family is a very depressing prospect. Continue reading

Confronting our inner vigilante (part 2)

Is taking justice into your own hands ever justified?

I Don’t Like the Looks of This

Early one recent morning, I boarded a subway on the 1 line, which runs north and south on the west side of Manhattan, at about 6 a.m. A wiry guy in his mid-twenties a couple of inches shorter than me, who was supported by a crutch, bent over a seated woman wearing ear plugs. “Can you hear me?” he asked. Continue reading

Confronting our inner vigilante

Is taking justice into your own hands ever justified? (Part 1)

If you’re not from New York, the name Bernard Goetz may not ring a bell. The expression “subway vigilante” might though.

In 1984, four young men surrounded Goetz, a geekish electronics repairman, in a New York subway car. They wielded no weapons, but one of them demanded $5.

Goetz, who had been mugged once before, interpreted the exorbitance of the figure, as well as their threatening posture, as the prelude to another mugging. Continue reading

What would we do without murder?


The fourth in our “Cult of Crime” series.
(Pix by the one-and-only Weegee.)

New York’s reputation as a tough city took a major hit in the summer of 2006 when it received the highest score of all the world’s big cities in a courtesy test. Even worse, according London’s Guardian, “New York loses mean streets image as murder rate plunges.”

In 2007, less than 500 people were killed, the fewest since 1963, the first year reliable records were kept. By contrast, 1990, the worst year, a Beirut or Grozny-like 2,245 were killed.

It’s true that murders dwindle as the cost of housing increases. The poor, more likely to murder, are driven out and murders, no longer concentrated in the city, become less noticeable as they’re dispersed over sub- and exurbia. But, as always, policies and policing are major factors too.

“Criminologists suggest that killings by strangers have become so rare that the police cannot reasonably be expected to stamp out the problem any further,” writes Andrew Clark, author of the Guardian article. Continue reading

Wiretapping and datatapping are both easy – if you’re the phone company

Tapping your phone is frighteningly easy these days. So is tapping your Internet data stream. A while back, I wrote an essay over on The Daedalnexus titled “Telephony 101 – aka wiretapping is easy if you’re the phone company.” I’ve decided to repost it here with a few updates in light of Martin’s post (and comments) today about how telecommunications companies are requesting immunity from prosecution for their parts in the illegal warrantless wiretapping program that Bush II ran.

The gist of it? If you use a phone or the Internet, you can be wiretapped and datatapped with just a few keystrokes from a technician located hundreds or thousands of miles from you, and all that protects you from that is network security and, at one point, a warrant. Continue reading

Telecoms want immunity from prosecution for illegal spying–and Bush and the Democrats may just get it for them

By Martin Bosworth

The Sept. 20 Newsweek had an illuminating look at the secret lobbying campaign being waged by the major telecom companies to retroactively block lawsuits against them for their participation in the NSA/Bush regime illegal wiretapping program:

The campaign—which involves some of Washington’s most prominent lobbying and law firms—has taken on new urgency in recent weeks because of fears that a U.S. appellate court in San Francisco is poised to rule that the lawsuits should be allowed to proceed. If that happens, the telecom companies say, they may be forced to terminate their cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community—or risk potentially crippling damage awards for allegedly turning over personal information about their customers to the government without a judicial warrant. “It’s not an exaggeration to say the U.S. intelligence community is in a near-panic about this,” said one communications industry lawyer familiar with the debate who asked not to be publicly identified because of the sensitivity surrounding the issue. Continue reading

Good cop/bad cop: the tasing of Andrew Meyer and remembering Officer Bubba

How much do you trust your local neighborhood law enforcement authorities? Hopefully a lot, and hopefully with good reason.

Today, though, events at a John Kerry speaking engagement at the University of Florida have sparked another round of debate over the conduct and capability of police officers (both those on the scene and in general) and the conversations I’ve seen and participated in today have me thinking and remembering.

First, the “what,” and I’ll try to use a measured and neutral source here. Continue reading