How to Cope With Cops

Increasing numbers of people are being stopped while driving and being arrested so Dale Carson, a criminal defense lawyer who was a cop in Miami for 8 years, wrote
Arrest-Proof Yourself to help people cope with the police state. The following are excerpts from the book.

The system needs you. It’s huge. It’s no small chore keeping the jails filled; government employees at work; and those tax dollars, fines, and court costs rolling in. The problem nowadays is that, in many cities, serious crime is way down. The cops are great at arresting the really bad guys, and state legislatures have passed stiff sentencing guidelines that put felons away for decades. What you’ll never see, however, is a headline like this: “Crime Down—Judges Laid Off, Cops Furloughed, Jails to Close.”

One of the “advancements” in law enforcement that truly disgusts me is the extension of vehicle laws to bicycles and the use of proactive policing techniques to pile felony charges onto children. Every criminal attorney in my city has cases of children arrested and jailed for such crimes as riding a bicycle at night without a light, riding without a helmet, and riding with their buddies on the handlebars. This enforcement is highly selective and never, ever occurs in wealthy neighborhoods. Poor kids, primarily poor black kids, are just Hoovered up into the system in industrial-sized quantities.

Naturally, this takes much of the fun out of riding bikes, which for most kids is their first taste of freedom from their parents and an important stage in growing up. These bicycle laws were passed by city commissions and state legislatures to protect children’s safety. Unfortunately, the welfare state has an unfortunate tendency to morph into the police state. For police, bicycle safety laws have become another means of making more arrests and racking up more points. Children need to stay free and out of jail long enough to grow up, straighten up, and become citizens. Help them out.

Schools already look like prisons, with surveillance cameras, electric locks, entry and exit recorders, armed police, and escape-proof detention rooms. Several Texas school districts now mandate that students carry a magnetic card with an embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip. These cards track students’ locations, supposedly for safety reasons. Students, who can be punished for not carrying their cards, are freaking out. There are certain mildly naughty teenaged activities (smooching, sneaking a cigarette, masturbating) that need to be done in secret. They need to happen without children being busted, tossed into juvie jail, and given a permanent arrest record in the FBI’s database. In Surveillance High, there’s no place to run, no place to hide, and no place to grow up.

Plate scanners make possible thousands of easy arrests and generate gushers of revenue from traffic tickets, court fines, jail charges, and the unending fees of the probation and parole system. (See Arrested for the detailed list). The decrease in arrests initially caused by the Supreme Court’s prohibition against traffic-stop searches has been more than offset by the increase in scanner-generated arrests. A plate scanner that costs thousands can pay for itself in a few shifts. Every arrest-hungry patrol officer, and every dollar-hungry tax collector, is lusting for one.

Police use the devices to scan for criminal offenses, arrest warrants, detainers (wanted for questioning by detectives or other agencies), BOLOs (Be On the Lookout for), stolen vehicles, traffic violations, and, increasingly, administrative offenses such as unpaid, expired, suspended, or revoked driver’s licenses, unpaid traffic and parking tickets, unpaid child support, and probation and parole violations. Cops soon may be able to scan for professional and business license problems; zoning violations; unpaid property, sales, and income taxes; even unpaid driver’s insurance and health insurance premiums. There are few legal barriers to using police as revenue agents and bureaucratic paperwork checkers. This mission creep is alarming. Citizens need more than a little wiggle room with government.

As you pass under these cameras and scanners, you can sense the binary code flashing along fiber-optic cables, beaming up to satellites and bouncing among computers and servers from sea to shining sea. The machines are whispering to each other. They’re thinking; they’re planning. It’s Skynet, coming alive. Soon there will be no place to run and no place to hide in America, the Land of the Surveilled.

Real bad guys share one characteristic: they’re hard to catch by cops driving around in cars. Here’s my beef with proactive policing as currently practiced. For every big crook caught, thousands of petty offenders get hammered for smoking weed, flipping off a police officer, and playing their stereos too high. Processing these people endlessly through the criminal justice system is abusive, not to mention expensive. Too many people’s rights get trampled.

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Pianist Kenny White Deserves to Be More Widely Known

Mary and I saw and listened to Kenny White last week. He is a great pianist and songwriter who deserves more fame and success. Don’t miss him when he comes to your town!

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A Private Letter From a Doctor to a Pharmacist

Is a prescription a private letter that a doctor writes to a pharmacist about a third party, the patient, similar to a private letter that a man writes to his cousin where he discusses his father? The legislature of the state of Vermont, after lobbying by a doctors’ union called the Vermont Medical Society, enacted a “Prescription Confidentiality Law” prohibiting pharmacists from disclosing, without consent, the drugs individual doctors prescribe for their patients because they believe it is an unwarranted breach of trust similar to confidential business information like trade secrets.

Drug peddlers use information provided by pharmacists to precisely target doctors to sell drugs. Doctors writing few prescriptions are ignored while doctors writing many prescriptions receive lavish attention. If a drug company learns from pharmacists that a doctor prefers the drugs of his competitor, a salesman will ask him why. Some doctors refuse to talk to salesmen believe they resent them while other doctors appreciate the information the peddlers offer.

The peddlers and “data miners” that gather information from pharmacies to assist peddlers sued Vermont in the Supreme Court, winning a 6-3 vote joined by 5 Republicans and a Democrat and opposed by a dissent of 3 Democrats, nullifying the law as unconstitutional because it denies pharmacies the right to say and publish as they please. It was to the court as if Vermont prohibited the Wall Street Journal from publishing stock prices. Specifically, they stated that the “Prescription Confidentiality Law”:

imposes more than an incidental burden on protected expression. Both on its face and in its practical operation, Vermont’s law imposes a burden based on the content of speech and the identity of the speaker. While the burdened speech results from an economic motive, so too does a great deal of vital expression…. An individual’s right to speak is implicated when information he or she possesses is subjected to “restraints on the way in which the information might be used” or disseminated.

While it is easy to understand Republican frustration with Democrats using government force to censor people, they wore partisan blinders to wrongly decide this case, ignoring 350 years of precedents protecting property rights. For example, the British courts ruled in 1741 that the receiver of a letter cannot publish a private letter because it is the property of the sender. The letters were written by the famous author Alexander Pope to another famous author, Jonathan Swift, and published by a bookseller name Curl. The British legislature didn’t even enact a law protecting the author, the court ruling that the sender of the letters owned the copyright merely by producing the letters.

It may seem like an old ruling in another country is irrelevant but the court in Massachusetts relied on it as precedent in a 1912 case of the private letters of a famous woman, Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science religion and the Christian Science Monitor, to her cousin about household matters, health, and work.

The right of the author to publish or suppress publication of his correspondence is absolute in the absence of special considerations, and is independent of any desire or intent at the time of writing. It is an interest in the intangible and impalpable thought and the particular verbal garments in which it has been clothed. Although independent of the manuscript, this right involves a right to copy or secure copies. Otherwise, the author’s right of publication might be lost. The author parts with the physical and material elements which are conveyed by and in the envelope. These are given to the receiver. The paper upon which the letter is written belongs to the receiver. A duty of preservation would impose an unreasonable burden in most instances. It is obvious that no such obligation rests upon the receiver, and he may destroy or keep at pleasure. Commonly there must be inferred a right of reading or showing to a more or less limited circle of friends and relatives. But in other instances the very nature of the correspondence may be such as to set the seal of secrecy upon its contents. Letters of extreme affection and other fiduciary communications may come within this class. There may be also a confidential relation existing between the parties, out of which would arise an implied prohibition against any use of the letters, and a breach of such trust might be restrained in equity.

The case was brought by the executor of the will of Mary Baker Eddy in 1912 after she died in 1910 to prevent an auctioneer from selling copies of the letters. The court ruled in favor of the executor. Why does the property of a dead woman in 1912 get more protection than the property of alive and kicking doctors in the 21st century? Are we regressing to a socialist state where most property is disparaged?

Private letters are not the only property that enjoyed government protection for hundreds of years. For example, Dorothy McCreery, hired a photographer to take her picture and successfully petitioned a Colorado court in 1936 to restrain a grocery store chain from using the picture against her wishes and without her consent as advertising in their stores. She claimed that the effect was to:

injure plaintiff’s feelings and embarrass and distress said plaintiff and did hold plaintiff up to the ridicule and scorn of her friends and acquaintances, all of which has caused plaintiff great humiliation, distress, mental anguish and damage and has caused plaintiff to be highly nervous and distressed, thereby seriously and irreparably injuring plaintiff’s health and well-being and has prevented plaintiff from attending to her regular duties and carrying on her usual work.

Can a doctor carry on his usual work, including writing drug prescriptions, when he knows that drug companies are spying on him and the legislature can’t protect him because the Supreme Court says that pharmacies can publish anything they please? Can you blame doctors who refuse to associate with drug sellers who know his intimate secrets?

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A Visit to the National Western Stock Show

Mary, Susan and I went to the National Western Stock Show last weekend.

Stock Show Poster

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Did Steve Jobs Reincarnate to Make America Great Again?

According to the New York Times, the first thing Donald Trump did after becoming President was to gather legislators to inform them that millions of illegal immigrants voted against him in the election. Fellow narcissist Steve Jobs said this kind of nonsense so often that it became known as his Reality Distortion Field:

A term coined by Bud Tribble at Apple Computer in 1981, to describe company co-founder Steve Jobs’s charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Macintosh project. Tribble said that the term came from Star Trek. In the Menagerie episode, it was used to describe how the aliens created their own new world through mental force.

The RDF was said by Andy Hertzfeld to be Steve Jobs’s ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. Jobs could also use the RDF to appropriate other’s ideas as his own, sometimes proposing an idea to its originator after dismissing it the week before.

The term is also used by Apple’s competitors when they criticize Apple. On Research In Motion’s official BlackBerry blog, Jim Balsillie introduced a blog post by saying “For those of us who live outside of Apple’s distortion field”.

Jobs’s reality distortion field was parodied in Dilbert: Dilbert built a functioning reality distortion field emitter, which is used during Dogbert’s keynote speech, while previous strips parodied iPhone flaws. In chapter three of the 2011 biography of Steve Jobs, titled Steve Jobs, biographer Walter Isaacson states that around 1972, while Jobs was attending Reed College, Robert Friedland “…taught Steve the reality distortion field…”

The term has extended in industry to other managers and leaders who try to convince their employees to become passionately committed to projects without regard to the overall product or to competitive forces in the market. It also has been used with regard to hype for products that are not necessarily connected with any one person. Bill Clinton’s charisma has been called a reality distortion field. The chess champion Bobby Fischer was said to have a “Fischer aura” surrounding him that disoriented Boris Spassky and other opponents. The term has associated with Donald Trump’s approach to running his 2016 campaign for United States President.

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Why is Regulating What People Say Wrong?

One of my favorite musicians, Loudon Wainwright, sings about our future under President Trump.

Wainwright worries that Trump is fond of locking up demonstrators even though Trump agreed under oath when assuming the Presidency to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution including the part that says that “Congress shall make no law” regulating what people say. Trump gave a long inauguration speech where he neglected to mention the Constitution and he rarely, if ever, mentioned it when he ran for President. One thing he should’ve mentioned is that President Obama has been sending government agents to meetings to intimidate people who give speeches to doctors. “Congress shall make no law” allows no exceptions because it is intended to protect despised minorities such as Ku Klux Klan members, corporate executives, and people who speak to doctors.

Why shouldn’t the government prevent the Ku Klux Klan from spreading hate? The reason is that the best response to bigots is to say things reflecting tolerance. The Klan can even join an Adopt-A-Highway litter removal program run by a state government, advertising themselves on a sign seen by thousands of passing motorists.

Why shouldn’t the government prevent corporate executives from telling their friends and relatives of important company news before the public? The reason is that the corporation owners can insert a provision in the employment contracts of the company managers prohibiting them from giving insider information to their friends, preventing them to make a killing in the stock market at the expense of other shareholders. If you buy stock in a corporation where the previous owners have omitted such a provision, you’ve agreed that you’re not annoyed if the executives treat you poorly relative to their friends.

Why shouldn’t the government prevent drug company representatives from saying things to doctors that might persuade them to unwisely buy drugs? The reason is that doctors rely on patients believing that they understand the human body and will not be deceived by drug companies. Doctors who fail will lose patients and be run out of the business if it happens repeatedly. Incompetence doesn’t survive for long in a free market.

Humans are chimps that walk upright and sing and speak like dolphins and orcas. The less we say, the less we prosper. The United States will stagnate under Trump as it did under Obama because the citizens don’t value their rights and it would’ve made no difference if Hillary Clinton had been elected. Freedom is too frightening for them to try.

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How Did Bobby Kennedy Become Interested in Vaccines and Autism?

I asked Google but it only understands keywords. I ask because they’re working on artificial neural networks with products like TensorFlow but are from being able to answer simple questions.

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Does the 49ers Quarterback Know More Than Clinton and Trump Supporters?

Reason magazine discussed an athlete’s view of the election.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who gained prominence in the pre-season after refusing to stand for the national anthem as part of a protest against police abuse and conditions for African-Americans in the country, says he didn’t vote in the presidential election.

In one of his earliest public statements, Kaepernick talked about how the election plays into his view of the problems for marginalized people in America. He called Trump an “openly racist” candidate but was more specific in his criticism of Hillary Clinton.

“I mean, we have a presidential candidate who deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate,” Kaepernick noted. “That doesn’t make sense to me. Cuz if that was any other person you’d be in prison, so what is this country really standing for?”

… Kaepernick defended his decision to vote from a sports media that largely believed was a hypocritical decision that hurt his credibility. “You know, I think it would be hypocritical of me to vote,” Kaepernick said. “I said from the beginning I was against oppression, I was against the system of oppression. I’m not going to show support for that system. And to me, the oppressor isn’t going to allow you to vote your way out of your oppression.”

It doesn’t matter much to me which lying oppressive Manhattan island thief is President. I suppose you could argue that Trump is better because he is not a criminal but it’s still an absurd choice. I wish more people would boycott the election like Colin Kaepernick. If you voted, you have no right to complain that Trump will be the new President.

If you live in California and prefer Clinton to Trump, like the majority, you can blame Obama and the Democrats in the central government for failing to advance the secession of California from the union. There is no good reason why California should be ruled by Republicans 3000 miles away. The only effective way to vote is with your feet. Democrats should relocate to California while Republicans should live in Republican states.

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College is a Poor Investment

If you’re considering sending your son or daughter to a college, it’s worthwhile to read, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, by Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. I’ve included excerpts below describing campus tyranny and why you’re wasting your money.

The dramatic expansion of the administrative class on campus may be the most important factor in the growth of campus intrusions into free speech and thought. While FIRE has long been concerned about the harmful results of swelling campus bureaucracy, Professor Benjamin Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins University made the case in detail in his stinging 2011 book, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters. Ginsberg exposed the dizzying growth of the administrative class at universities, the usurpation of powers that once belonged strictly to the faculty, the surprising lack of qualifications of many administrators, the unseemly rise in the salaries of administrators (especially university presidents), and how a burgeoning bureaucracy jacks up costs while diluting educational quality. This ever-expanding bureaucracy creates and enforces an environment of censorship on campus….

Students are not paying for an exponential increase in the quality of their education, but rather for a massive increase in campus bureaucracy. This includes an expansion in the number of residence life officials (who are in charge of dormitories), student judicial affairs personnel (who administer campus discipline), and university attorneys. The administrative class is largely responsible for the hyperregulation of students’ lives, the lowering of due process standards for students accused of offenses, the extension of administrative jurisdiction far off campus, the proliferation of speech codes, and outright attempts to impose ideological conformity (like the ones you will see in Chapter 5). Parents and students are paying tens—even hundreds—of thousands of dollars for the privilege of being censored!

….As Alan Charles Kors has pointed out, one of the great ironies of contemporary censorship on campus is that it constitutes a “great generational swindle”: the same baby boomers who fought so hard for free speech on campus under the banner of “Question Authority” turned around and imposed speech codes and free speech zones when it was their turn to be in charge of the academy. This change can be seen in the excesses of campus police, some of which have been caught on video and circulated around the planet. Whether it’s the infamous “Don’t tase me, bro!” incident at the University of Florida in 2007 or the more recent video of campus security officers at UC Davis casually spraying a dozen or more peacefully protesting students in the face with an industrial-sized can of pepper spray, the public is becoming aware that universities are getting increasingly aggressive with students who get out of line….

Universities are afraid of being sued even for frivolous claims of harassment and discrimination by students or employees. Currently, the logic seems to be that a free speech lawsuit is comparatively rare and will not cost much in court, while lawsuits for harassment and discrimination are far more common and costly. Therefore, university attorneys conclude that it is best to have broad speech-restrictive policies that you can point to during litigation to show you were proactive against “offensive speech,” and that protecting speech must be secondary. Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus examined universities’ fear of liability and the link between legal fees and out-of-control tuition in their book Higher Education? (2010). They concluded that “[a] big slice of the tuition pie ends up with lawyers and their clients. After hospitals, colleges may be our society’s most sued institutions.” While some legal threats to universities are valid (say, a lawsuit for the denial of free speech), many others contribute to an overly cautious, overly regulated atmosphere that’s hostile to free speech….

Freshmen arriving at Harvard in the fall of 2011 made history: For the first time in Harvard’s multicentury existence, students were asked to sign a pledge to specific ideological values. They were asked to pledge “to sustain a community characterized by inclusiveness and civility” and to affirm that “the exercise of kindness holds a place on a par with intellectual attainment.” Who could possibly object to such a warm and fuzzy pledge? Well, for starters, Harvard’s former dean Harry Lewis.

In an eloquent blog post on August 30, 2011, Lewis explained why pressuring students to sign loyalty oaths to seemingly unobjectionable values goes completely against what Harvard has always represented. He argued that “Harvard should not condone the sacrifice of rights to speech and thought simply because they can be inconvenient in a residential college.” He also debunked the claim that the pledge was voluntary in any meaningful sense: freshmen were approached by resident advisors with disciplinary powers when they first arrived on campus and were “encouraged” to sign the pledge, and if they did so, their names were added to a list of signatories that was posted on dormitory entryways. Students not signing the agreement were therefore subject to “public shaming.” Lewis went on to add, “Few students, in their first week at Harvard, would have the courage to refuse this invitation. I am not sure I would advise any student to do so.” Still, students and some commentators didn’t see what the fuss was all about, or what made the pledge so objectionable.

The title of my September 7, 2011 Huffington Post article about the pledge effectively sums up the heart of my objection: “Does Harvard Want Bold Thinkers or Good Little Boys and Girls?” To me, nothing better exemplifies the problem of cultivating in students a mindless certainty about serious issues than such an oath. The comparative merits of civility, kindness, industry, etc. versus intellectual attainment is a great topic for debate, but here Harvard basically said, “Oh screw it, it’s much too hard to actually discuss the relative merits of all these competing values. Just sign this damn pledge.” This is intellectual laziness, and it teaches terrible lessons about the way an intellectual community is supposed to work, as it places conformity above deep and meaningful questioning. It’s as if Harvard suddenly came to believe, after hundreds of years of existence, that it could take a shortcut to solving profound questions of ethics and moral philosophy. Trying to sidestep the ethical questions and simply inject a set of qualities through a piece of paper is a glowing path to groupthink. As John Stuart Mill well knew, those in power often invoke civility to punish speech they dislike, but overlook the equally acid-tongued statements that are in agreement with their own assumptions.

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Summer 2016 Videos and Pictures

The videos below are of Mary performing “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” at Twigs Restaurant in Rochester, MN; several scenes from Steamboat Springs; and the gymnastics of the herd of deer in our backyard, including one buck who always looks both ways before crossing the street.

Mary riding her bike in Laramie, Wyoming.

Mary riding her bike in Laramie, Wyoming.

Mark climbing a wall at Breckenridge.

Mark climbing a wall at Breckenridge.

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