Monthly Archives: February 2006

Florida Cops Intimidate Would-be Complainants

Via Boing-boing, a link to this absolutely amazing piece of investigative reporting: Police Station Intimidation-Parts 1 and 2 in which “CBS4 News found that, in police departments across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, large and small, it was virtually impossible to walk in the door, and walk out with a complaint form.”

Given I am currently doing work on ID cards, I was particularly struck by this transcript of the reaction of the Sea Ranch Lakes PD in Broward County, not all that far north of here:

cop; We don’t give you — we don’t give you a form. Where do you live?
tester: I don’t want to say.
officer: You don’t want to say?
tester: Where are you going?
officer: You want to play hardball? We’ll play hardball. I want ID.
tester: For what?
officer: I’m asking you for ID right now, that’s why. Here, hand it to me. Hand it to me.
tester: Are you kidding me? Here.
officer: I said, hand me your ID. What are you doing here? This is –
tester: I came to ask you how to file a complaint.
officer: This is very suspicious.
tester: Asking how to file a complaint is suspicious?
officer: Why don’t you shut up?
officer: I say this is very suspicious, that you pull in here at this time of night –
tester: Eight o’clock?
officer: You’re constantly butting in.
tester: I’m constantly butting in?
Mike: Sir, I would like to leave.
officer: I would love it, but he’s got your driver’s license, so you’re just going to have to stay.
Mike: Sir, are you detaining us?
officer: Okay, could I give you a ticket right now for improper backing.
Mike: You can do whatever you want, I suppose.
officer: Okay, that means yes, I guess you’re saying, right? ANd for backing up, correct, yes?
Mike: I was backing up, sir, because I was leaving.
officer: But because I’m a nice guy, okay, I’m going to give you a warning. Is that fair?
Mike: Yes, sir.
officer: Okay.

The TV station that broke the story reports that “Remarkably, of 38 different police stations tested around South Florida, all but three had no police complaint forms” yet it nonetheless felt obligated to introduce its report by saying that “Most police officers are a credit to the badge, serving the community and the people who pay their salary, getting criminals off the street, making the community safer for everyone.” Guess none of those guys happen to work the front desk, eh?

And much of the report is also devoted to quoting Miami police chief John Timoney saying that stuff like this can’t and shouldn’t happen, if it did it would surely have consequences. Not one suggestion that maybe Timoney himself might be a poster child for intimidatory policing.) To be fair, though, Timoney’s department, the City of Miami was one of the few south Florida jurisdictions that actually had complaint form on hand, and trilingual ones at that. Could be due to the high demand?

Posted in Florida, ID Cards | Leave a comment

I Love Stories Like This

Via Wampum, whom I have inexplicably failed to blogroll until now, comes Hotter Than A Pistol, the sort of story that could make a grown man get a bit misty-eyed.

It’s so nice to read about ordinary goodness.

Posted in Etc | 1 Comment

US Iraq Policy: Total Failure

The administration is fond of throwing statistics about how there are 100 or so Iraqi brigades in the new refored Iraqi army. Subtext: the US can pull out soon, leave things to the Iraqis. Progress.

In fact, however, not at all:

The only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded to a level requiring them to fight with American troops backing them up, the Pentagon said Friday.

It reminds me of a Vietnam war cartoon which unfortunately I’ve been unable to find online: as I recall it, Herblock’s everyman is pointing to traintracks that lead to a dark tunnel into the mountain and saying, “No there isn’t: There’s a tunnel at the end of the tunnel”. (I couldn’t find that one, but I did find this classic Herblock cartoon, which is similar.)

Posted in Iraq | Leave a comment

My Legislature at Work

The state of Florida faces a number of serious problems. For example, the state child welfare system is something worse than a total disaster. Not only does it lose track of kids who then vanish, leave kids in dangerous homes, and cut off health care for poor kids with no alternatives but the state also runs a series of ‘boot camps’ for ‘young offenders’ in which state employees are encouraged to beat up children. We don’t know how many they have killed in the process, but we do know that the latest fatality happened to be captured on a video that sounds totally repulsive. Personally, I don’t have the stomach to watch it. (The autopsy, by the way, appears to have been phonied up by a local ME with an expired medical license who also has a record of botching autopsies. He said the death, shortly after the beating, was due to ‘natural causes’. Did I mention the victim was black?)

So what’s the Florida legislature worrying about? Why, the state pie of course! Should it be pecan or key lime? The battle lines are drawn!

Posted in Florida | 2 Comments

The Legal Equivalent of a ‘Hail Mary’ Pass

I haven’t the energy to go into any detail this evening, but I thought I would just mention that at least based on the news reports, the latest argument to emerge from Scooter Libby’s lawyers, Libby’s Lawyers Say Prosecutor Acted Unconstitutionally, smacks of desperation.

I’d have to read the actual brief to be sure, but the general legal area in which arguments of this sort fall is territory I teach and write in. The Supreme Court held in 1988, in Morrison v. Olson, that a special prosecutor with far more independence than Fitzgerald — one appointed under the old special prosecutor law which has since lapsed — was not an unconstitutional actor. That 7-1 decision has been criticized in hindsight, and only two Justices who participated remain on the Court, including Scalia who wrote a fiery dissent, which may be what prompted this challenge. The trouble is that — unless of course there’s a surprise in the brief — in order for this argument to work you’d not only have to get the Supreme Court to overturn the Morrison decision, which is conceivable if unlikely, but then also get that revised logic to apply to a set of facts that amount to a much, much weaker case for a separation of powers violation — which I think is just not gonna happen.

Update: Fuller Washington Post story.

Posted in Law: Constitutional Law | 4 Comments

Teh Lame

And there I was thinking “teh” is just a simple typo. That is, I have now learned, thanks to this Wikipedia article, teh lame.

Posted in Internet | 3 Comments

Free Software, the Public Domain, and the People Who Don’t Get It

This article on free software by a Mozilla Foundation staffer (or is he a bannana seller?) is really really funny. Or tragic. Or both.

A little while ago, I received an e-mail from a lady in the Trading Standards department of a large northern town. They had encountered businesses which were selling copies of Firefox, and wanted to confirm that this was in violation of our licence agreements before taking action against them.

I wrote back, politely explaining the principles of copyleft — that the software was free, both as in speech and as in price, and that people copying and redistributing it was a feature, not a bug. I said that selling verbatim copies of Firefox on physical media was absolutely fine with us, and we would like her to return any confiscated CDs and allow us to continue with our plan for world domination (or words to that effect).

Unfortunately, this was not well received. Her reply was incredulous:

“I can’t believe that your company would allow people to make money from something that you allow people to have free access to. Is this really the case?” she asked.

“If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation, as it is difficult for us to give general advice to businesses over what is/is not permitted.”

On a more serious note, the same cast of mind is visible at WIPO, where it can do far more damage. As EFF notes,

Intellectual property rights are supposed to promote the same goals [“a rich and accessible public domain” -mf], but you’d never know it from the comments of some participants who seemed to fundamentally misunderstand the essential relationship between IP and the public domain. Apparently under the mistaken impression that the public domain is the opposite of intellectual property, these participants claimed that the proposal was outside WIPO’s mandate.

EFF’s (and Jamie Love & Jamie Boyle’s) work is transforming WIPO one post at a time:

The public interest groups continue to subversively write down what’s going on and publish it, something that WIPO’s Secretariat once described as “abusing WIPO’s hospitality” — normally, the Secretariat would release a report six months after the fact, once everyone quoted in it had the chance to revise the report of what they’d said. EFF and others publish their account of the WIPO deliberations daily — twice a day, when it’s going hot and heavy — and it gets slashdotted, read by delegates’ bosses in their capitols, and distributed. It has a genuinely disruptive effect on the orderly dividing-and-conquering of the world that’s underway there.

Posted in Law: Copyright and DMCA, UK | Leave a comment