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Posts tagged Radley Balko

Friday Lazy Linking

  • Winter Soldier: Just Another Tuesday. From Ryan Endicott, formerly a United States government Marine stationed in Iraq.

    Via Clay Claibourne, L.A. I.M.C. (2009-05-13): Winter Soldier Southwest on YouTube #1

  • The regulatory State versus freed markets and the human future: A quote from Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, via B.K. Marcus at Mises Economics Blog:

    To expect the government to prevent such fraud from ever occurring would be like wanting it to provide cushions for all the children who might fall. To assume it to be possible to prevent successfully, by regulation, all possible malpractices of this kind, is to sacrifice to a chimerical perfection the whole progress of industry; it is to restrict the imagination of artificers to the narrow limits of the familiar; it is to forbid them all new experiments; it is to renounce even the hope of competing with the foreigners in the making of the new products which they invent daily, since, as they do not conform to our regulations, our workmen cannot imitate these articles without first having obtained permission from the government, that is to say, often after the foreign factories, having profited by the first eagerness of the consumer for this novelty, have already replaced it with something else. … Thus, with obvious injustice, commerce, and consequently the nation, are charged with a heavy burden to save a few idle people the trouble of instructing themselves or of making enquiries to avoid being cheated. To suppose all consumers to be dupes, and all merchants and manufacturers to be cheats, has the effect of authorizing them to be so, and of degrading all the working members of the community.

    –Turgot, Éloge de Gournay (1759), translated by P.D. Groenewegen




  • On dialectical jujitsu: Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-05-19): How to annoy a conservative

  • Ownership failures, not market failures Chris Dillow, Stumbling and Mumbling (2009-05-01): Markets, the poor & the left. Dillow makes two really important distinctions: one of them the familiar left-libertarian distinction between freed markets, on the one hand, and actually-existing corporate capitalism, on the other; the other a less familiar, but very important, distinction between market processes and patterns of ownership. Quote: In many ways, what look like ways in which markets fail the poor are in fact merely ways in which a lack of assets fail the poor. Exactly; and the many cases where there are not really market failures, but rather ownership failures, have everything to do with feudal, mercantile, neoliberal, and other politically-driven seizures and reallocations of poor people’s land, livelihoods, and possessions — and nothing to do with genuine market exchange.




Occupying forces, or: No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter… (#8)

In which I court public opinion

About three weeks ago, a man named Sam Hicks led a gang of heavily-armed men to Robert and Christina Korbe’s house in Indiana Township. They got there at 6:03 in the morning to make sure their target would be groggy and would be less able to think quickly about the situation he was in. They knew of Robert Korbe’s reputation as a cocaine dealer and they were there to force their way into the house, take his stash of drugs, and abduct him so that they could lock him up as long as they needed to. They knocked on the door and told him who they were, and that they were there to take him and his stash of drugs, so he should open the door to avoid a violent showdown. Instead of opening the door to this gang, he bolted and tried to hide or get rid of his stash. So Sam Hicks ordered the gang to break down the door and force entry into the house. When they began to swarm into the house, Robert Korbe’s wife, Christina Korbe — who had been upstairs with her children, and who says she didn’t hear the conversation at the door — came out with a handgun that she kept for protection. Fearing for her own and her children’s safety, she fired at the first intruder charging through the door. Then she ran to call 911 and told them she had shot an intruder.

But, since Sam Hicks’ title within the gang was Special Agent, and since that gang was the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and since the home invasion was dignified by the law as a SWAT raid, Christina Korbe was arrested and hauled away on a charge of murder.

Later, on the Internet, Paleoconservative Chris Roach groused — pointedly referring to Radley Balko’s long-standing and influential criticism of paramilitary SWAT raids and no-knock raids — that libertarians (by which he meant Balko) didn’t report on the story within 24 hours of when the story appeared in newspapers, and that since The arrest went down using the knock and announce tactics and non-SWAT gear that libertarians have long asked for, that somehow proves the folly of libertarian complaints about paramilitary SWAT raids. Radley Balko replied that the basic issue is not about the no-knocks. It’s about the home invasions, and that FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks is dead because (knocks or no knocks) the Feds still chose to stage a needless high-stakes, confrontational early-morning storm-trooper raid on a family’s home over an arrest for nonviolent offenses. Balko went so far as to suggest an alternate scenario [for arresting Korbe outside his house] where Agent Hicks unquestionably comes out unharmed.

All well and good, I guess. But here’s my take. FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks was a professional thug whose salary was paid by an extortion racket. He made his living invading people’s homes, rousting out harmless men and women and turning them over to a hellhole prison system that locks them in cages for years at a time even if they’ve never done anything to threaten or violate the person or property of another living soul. The morning FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks was shot, he was in the process of violently storming his way into a the Korbes’ family home, in order to take Robert Korbe’s private property by force and to abduct Robert Korbe himself, so as to lock him away in a cage for years, even though Robert Korbe was doing nothing that violated, or threatened, the person or property of even a single living soul. If anyone without a badge went around doing that sort of thing to peaceful people, we’d call him a dangerous gangster, and if he got himself shot doing it, nobody much would wring their hands about it. But taking a gangster and giving him a badge and calling what he does The Law doesn’t make him any less of a gangster or what he does any less violent and dangerous. The men and women who march under the banners of the State remain men and women, just like you and me; they are no more exempt from everyday morality than you or I are, and they have no more special right than you or I do to go around threatening, hurting, seizing, or killing innocent people — and by innocent I mean innocent of violating any individual person’s rights. Seeing as Sam Hicks was a professional thug who was shot in the course of violently enforcing a tyrannical law on an innocent man — and endangering that man’s whole family in the process — I’m glad he got himself shot while he was doing it. That was a righteous kill. If only more of his fellow gangsters had reason to fear that they might get shot whenever they attempted these storm-trooper raids on innocent families to enforce unjust laws. And I don’t even care whether FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks could have saved his own skin by enforcing that tyrannical law through other, less confrontational means.

Chris Roach’s original post complains that Even now, libertarians pretend that drug dealers’ sordid lives are equal in social value as those of FBI agents, blaming the FBI agents for their raid tactics rather than looking at the long string of criminal, illegal choices that led to the suspect’s position on the wrong end of a raid in the first place. If he means to make a statement about all libertarians, he’s wrong about that. I certainly don’t think hat the lives are of equal value. I would never presume to speak for all libertarians, and certainly not for Radley Balko. (Who I suspect disagrees entirely with me, and who would never think of saying any of the things I’ve said here.) But, speaking only for myself, as a libertarian, I think that drug dealers’ lives are worth far more than the lives of FBI agents, because at least some drug dealers make their living nonviolently, by peddling a valued product to willing customers. Whereas FBI agents, and especially FBI agents on drug task forces, make their livings by imprisoning people who have done nothing to deserve it, in the name of protecting people who never asked for it and often don’t want that kind of protection, and taking home a salary that was extracted from their protected victims at the point of a gun.

Chris Roach rejoins that It seems elementary, but highly controversial among libertarians, that so long as a law exists, it should be enforced. I don’t doubt that this seems elementary to Chris Roach; it seemed elementary to lots of people at the time that as long as the Jim Crow laws were on the books, the police ought to have enforced them, and it seemed elementary to a lot of people at the time that as long as the Fugitive Slave law existed, the slave-catchers and the federal courts should have enforced those, and it seemed elementary at the time that as long as the Nuremberg laws existed, the Gestapo should have enforced those, too. But in fact if there are any moral restraints at all, even in principle, on what governments can do to people, then there must be some moral restraints on what laws government law enforcers can rightfully enforce, and there must be at least some laws which are so unjust that no-one can be bound in conscience to enforce them — indeed, there must be at least some laws which are so unjust that everyone is bound in conscience not to enforce them, no matter who may order them to do so.

Of course, Chris Roach is free to argue that (of course, of course) he didn’t mean those kind of laws when he said that; he just meant the normal kind. And thus that there’s some important difference between Jim Crow or the Fugitive Slave Act or the Nuremberg laws, on the one hand, and U.S. federal drug prohibition, on the other. That difference may be that, in his view, drug prohibition doesn’t really violate innocent people’s rights, and that he believes in locking people in prison for years, merely for doing things he considers anti-social, whether or not they pose any threat whatsoever to anyone else’s person or property. If so, fine, let him argue that; but then his real disagreement with libertarians is over the justice of drug prohibition, and it’s disingenuous to pretend that it’s really about how we gotta enforce the laws we got. Or the difference may be that, in his view, drug prohibition does violate innocent people’s rights, but somehow doesn’t violate them badly enough that people have a moral duty not to enforce it. But then it’s up to him to explain what his standards are for making the distinction. How many years of your life would you agree to have stolen from you in a hellhole federal prison for something that really shouldn’t be a crime at all? Just how much injustice is it O.K. for someone to violently inflict so long as they’re Just Following Orders? In either case, Roach owes us an explanation and an argument that he certainly hasn’t yet given.

Unless it can be given, I see no reason to conclude anything other than that Christina Korbe is innocent of wrongdoing. Whether or not she knew ahead of time that she was shooting at an FBI agent serving an arrest warrant. FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks had no moral right to be there at all or to arrest Robert Korbe for anything, and he fully deserved to be treated like any other gangster breaking into your family’s home, for the purposes of armed robbery and abduction, would deserve to be treated. So, I repeat: I’m glad he got himself shot doing it. I don’t take any pleasure from Hicks’s suffering, and especially not from his family’s loss; it’s sad when anyone dies. But I do think that gangsters should have to fear the consequences of their reckless violence, and right now I’m a lot more concerned about the fate of the Christina Korbe, the innocent woman who now has to fear that she will end up locked in a cage for the rest of her life, for having dared to carry out an admirable and courageous act of self-defense against a gang of armed thugs invading her home and threatening to use extreme violence in the attempt to enforce a tyrannical law.


I am sure that Chris Roach will take this as proof beyond anything he could hope for that The moral compass of libertarians is more than a little off course, and that is why they remain a fringe movement in America’s public life. The first claim is nonsense — it is libertarians who insist that men and women claiming to act with the authority of the State should be held to the same moral standards that everyone else is, and statists who insist that they be given free passes for violence against innocent people.

But I’m sure the second claim is probably true. Government depends on popular enthusiasm, or at least popular tolerance, for whatever violence it may inflict against the people it has marginalized as criminals. Armed professionals who represent the State are widely celebrated as heroes for their violent efforts to uphold the status quo, and questioning their right to inflict that violence, or holding them accountable for the injustices they participate in, is, as a general thing, no way to make yourself popular. There are some things you just can’t say in circles that accept mainstream views of the limits of acceptable dissent. Certainly that sort of thing does not square with the agendas of any of the political parties, or with the etiquette of polite society in the talking-heads political media. So there are lots of people who just cannot say this sort of thing, and lots of people who think that, if a certain handful of media figures can’t say something, that makes it obviously wrong. But that does not make it wrong, and I’ll speak up for it even if nobody else well. FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks was the criminal, not the Korbes. Christina Korbe didn’t do a damn thing wrong and she ought to be a free woman.

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No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter… (#6)

Quick quiz. Try to identify where this photograph was taken, and what military force the people pictured in it are members of.

Here is a photograph of several men in dark uniforms with helmets and body armor, in combat posture, with assault rifles pointed directly at the camera. They are posed in front of a large tank. One man is standing in front of the tank, smiling, in a normal suit and tie.

The photograph was taken in Richland County, South Carolina. The people in the photograph are Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and his Special Response Team. They are posed in front of their recently acquired Army-surplus Armored Personnel Carrier, which has a top speed of 30 miles per hour and a turret-mounted .50-caliber belt-fed machine gun. They call it the Peacemaker, apparently because this is exactly the sort of military hardware Jesus would use to terrorize or kill suspected meth addicts.

Sheriff Leon Lott told the Columbia State newspaper that he hoped the vehicle, named The Peacemaker, would let the bad guys know that his officers are serious.

We don’t look at this as a killing machine, Lott told the paper. It’s going to keep the peace. We hope the fact that we have this is going to save lives. When something like this rolls up, it’s time to give up.

— Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2008-03-06): S.C. Sheriff’s Department Armored Vehicle with Belt-Fed Machine Gun

Take another look at that photograph, and let me know whether that’s what peace looks like to you. Please keep in mind, if you happen to be in Richland County, South Carolina, that, in the view of the Sheriff’s Department, keeping the peace means putting so much firepower in the hands of government police that their capacity for violence terrorizes the rest of the populace out of any thought of defying or resisting their orders.

The Richland County Sheriff’s department got their new armored personnel carrier through a federal government program which provides military surplus weapons to local law enforcement agencies.

As Radley Balko said back in May, in response to another story:

I’m afraid this intermingling of domestic police and military is well beyond the point of no return.

Do you feel safer now?

(Via John Markley 2008-09-04, Radley Balko 2008-09-01, and Pete Guthier 2008-09-01.)

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No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter… (#5)

… But it must just be the summer heat, right?

In Maryland, a state police Red Squad spent a year and change infiltrating anti-death penalty and anti-war groups, and put the names of nonviolent activists onto terrorist and drug-trafficking watch lists:

The ACLU released 43 pages of [Maryland] state police summaries and computer logs Thursday – some with agents’ names and paragraphs blacked out — that it obtained from the state attorney general’s office through a lawsuit based on Maryland’s Public Information Act.

The files depict a pattern of spying and surveillance over a 14-month period in 2005 and 2006. During that time, agents infiltrated the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a peace group; the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty; and the Committee to Save Vernon Evans, a death row inmate.

Police entered the names of activists in a law enforcement database of people suspected of being terrorists or drug traffickers, the documents show. Police officials said they did not infringe on the protesters’ freedom; the ACLU said that nothing in the documents indicated criminal activity or intent.

Many of the spies’ reports seem innocuous. In one, an agent who attended a gathering of the Evans group noted that activists discussed the stance that a candidate for Baltimore County state’s attorney might take on the death penalty.

Yesterday, [former Maryland Governor Bob] Ehrlich said on WJZ-TV that he was sympathetic to the principle that police should not spy on groups when there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

But he added, We pay state police to make decisions, and obviously they bring discretion with them to their jobs every day, so their job on a daily basis obviously is to weigh the relative value of intelligence they’ve received and to make decisions accordingly.

— Jonathan Bor and Gus G. Sentementes, Baltimore Sun (2008-07-19): State police spying decried

For example, one of the decisions that cops accordingly make is to harass, assault, restrain, and imprison innocent people who try to photograph them and document how the cops are treating the people they interact with. (Apparently this intelligence thing isn’t a two-way street.) They are, of course, happy to invent completely fictional crimes based on nonexistent laws in order to do so. Thus, in Johnson County, Tennessee:

Nearly everyone carries a cell phone and it’s hard to find one without that camera feature. It’s convenient when you want to take that impromptu photo, but a Tri-Cities area man ended up behind bars after snapping a shot of a Johnson County sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop.

The cell phone photographer says the arrest was intimidation, but the deputy says he feared for his life.

… A Johnson County sheriff’s deputy arrested Scott Conover for unlawful photography.

He says you took a picture of me. It’s illegal to take a picture of a law enforcement officer, said Conover.

… The deputy also asked Conover to delete the picture three times.

He said if you don’t give it to me, you’re going to jail, said Conover.

Under the advice of the Johnson County attorney, the sheriff would not comment and the arresting deputy said he didn’t want to incriminate himself by talking to us.

— Darius Radzius, WJHL (2008-07-11): Man Arrested For Unlawful Photography

Carlos Miller elaborates on the same case:

Gangsters in Blue Ben May and Starling McCloud

Update: I talked to Scott Conover Wednesday morning and he said they delayed his court appearance to Sept. 3rd, which sounds familiar because they kept doing the same thing in my case. (I was arrested last year for photographing cops against their wishes). In my case, I took it as a sign that they were hoping the delay would cause the media interest to die down.

After arresting Scott Conover for unlawful photography in Mountain City, Tennessee last June, Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Starling McCloud threatened to arrest Conover’s 12-year-old daughter with the same charge after she snapped two photos of her father getting handcuffed.

As it turns out, she is a better photographer than her father because she actually managed to photograph the camera shy deputy.

… It won’t be the first time [Scott Conover has] faced off against the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in court.

A couple of years ago, we had problems with the sheriff, so we sued them and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, he said.

But the problems started even before that, after he witnessed deputies beating a man in front of the restaurant/bar he owns.

They beat the shit out of him, he said. The guy’s lawyer came back and took witness statements. When the statements made it back to the sheriff’s department, they came by and asked me why I was getting involved.

Not long after that, deputies started staking out his business, Jammers Rocking Road House, which he said is modeled after the Tiki Bar in Key Largo.

They were wolf-packing my customers, he said. They would lie and wait for them to leave and then pull them over to see if they had been drinking.

Conover struck back by suing them.

… On the night of his arrest, Conover and his family had left the Last Chance Saloon after picking up the nightly earnings and were on their way back to Jammers. His wife was sitting in the passenger’s seat. His son and daughter were in the back seat.

Up ahead were a group of customers who had just left the bar. A Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy, who was parked along side of the road, pulled over the car with the customers.

The lady who was driving doesn’t drink, he said. Her husband, who does drink, was sitting in the passenger’s seat.

Conover pulled up to the scene and stopped his Hummer in front of the traffic stop. He asked his son for his IPhone, then rolled the window down and said:

Hey fellas, I’m just getting your picture.

Then he snapped the photo. Deputy McCloud — who has been on the force only 18 months — told him that photographing him was illegal.

I asked, what planet are you from?, Conover said.

McCloud started threatening to arrest him if he did not delete the photo, which as it turned out, did not even capture the deputy.

Conover’s wife even asked her husband to just hand the deputy the IPhone, but he refused. The deputy kept threatening him with arrest if he didn’t delete the photo.

The deputy then ordered Conover out of his car.

I threw the phone back to my daughter and told her to keep taking photos.

By then, two Mountain City police officers had pulled up to the scene, including Kenneth Lane and Ben May, who is in the dark uniform in the above photos. McCloud placed two sets of handcuffs on Conover, who is six-feet tall and weighs 270 pounds, and apparently looked as if he could break out of a single pair of handcuffs.

Conover’s daughter snapped two photos before McCloud threatened her with arrest.

He started trying to get in my Hummer and get to the back seat where my kids were. I told him, You better not go back there or else we’re going to have some real problems, he said.

McCloud decided against arresting the daughter.

At the jail, Conover asked McCloud if had ever heard of the First Amendment.

He then turned to me and said, I’m charging you with disorderly conduct.

Thirty minutes later, after McCloud had left the jail — and had time to think of what other charges he could come up with — he called the jailer and added another charge against Conover; pointing a laser at an officer.

— Carlos Miller, Photography is Not a Crime (2008-08-05): Deputy threatened to arrest 12-year-old daughter for unlawful photography

Meanwhile, in Ohio, posturing macho paramilitary cops gunned down an unarmed woman holding nothing other than her baby boy. They fired high-powered rifles, blindly into a room they couldn’t see, because they saw a shadow on the wall during their cock-swinging commando SWAT raid. Please remember that cops are hired and trained to keep you and me safe, so obviously no matter how many unarmed women these heavily armed, trained professionals mow down in a wild attempt to save their own skins, the warrior mindset means never having to say you’re sorry.

A Lima, Ohio jury has acquitted police officer Joseph Chavalia of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Tarika Wilson. Chavalia shot and killed Wilson and wounded her infant son during a drug raid last January. Wilson was unarmed.

During the raid, one of Chavalia’s fellow officers shot and killed the two dogs owned by Wilson’s boyfriend and the target of the raid, Anthony Terry. Chavalia testified that he mistook his fellow officer’s shots at the dogs for hostile gunfire coming from the bedroom where Wilson was standing with her child. Chavalia then fired blindly into the bedroom.

The jury concluded that Chavalia reasonably feared for his life when he heard the gunshots. I guess they were then willing to overlook Chavalia’s mistaking an unarmed woman holding a baby for an armed drug dealer, and the fact that he fired blindly into a room without first identifying what he was shooting at. It’s too bad that that same sort of deference isn’t given to the people on the receiving end of these raids when they too understandably confuse the police officers who wake them from sleep and invade their homes for criminal intruders.

— Radley Balko, Hit and Run (2008-08-05): Lima, Ohio SWAT Officer Acquitted in the Killing of Tarika Wilson

Over in Chicago, the arbitrary governor over the state of Illinois has declared that what Chicago needs is yet another elite tactical team to patrol inner city neighborhoods, complete with state troopers and military helicopters.

Calling violence in Chicago out of control, Gov. Blagojevich on Wednesday offered to lend state troopers and National Guard helicopters to the city to augment the Chicago Police.

The governor is considering forming an elite tactical team to help the Chicago Police fight gang problems, a source said, adding that the unit could later be sent across the state to deal with gang problems at any city’s request.

— Chicago Sun-Times (2008-07-17): Gov. says Chicago out of control

Meanwhile, the Fighting Uruk-Hai of Arizona proposes that we ought to combat inner city crime using the strategic hamlet surge tactics that have made for such a brilliant success in the occupation of Iraq.

We might look at what Rudy Giuliani did in New York City, when he became mayor of that city. … And some of those tactics, very frankly — you mention the war in Iraq — are like that we use in the military. You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control. And you provide them with a stable environment and then they cooperate with law enforcement, etc, etc.

Do you feel safer now?

(Stories via Darian Worden (2008-07-18): Martial Law 2008, Manuel Lora @ LewRockwell.com Blog (2008-08-02): The Fascist McCain On Solving Neighborhood Crimes, Ali @ ThinkProgress (2008-08-01): McCain suggests military-style invasion modeled on the surge to control inner city crime, etc.)

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