Drug-sniffing dogs and the 4th amendment

Had my favorite lecture of the academic year today- -going over 4th amendment civil liberties issues with my Intro American government class.  They invariably have stories of how police have violated their fourth amendment rights and are surprised when I tell them that’s the case.  As I like to say, just because it’s unconstitutional doesn’t mean the police won’t do it.  Just means it won’t stand up in court.

We talked a little about police dog searches and that inspired one of the more intrepid students to do some research on his own, and he sent me this rather distressing link from Reason (I do love the libertarians when it comes to civil liberties issues).  Turns out our Supreme Court seems to think that drug-sniffing dogs can do no wrong and should basically be able to sniff anywhere with impunity.  I did not know that.  Some lowlights:

While neither the federal government nor most states impose or even suggest standards for selecting, training, or evaluating detection dogs, the highest courts of the land give them plenty of leash when it comes to privacy rights. That started in 1983, when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in U.S. v. Place that a canine sniff of luggage at an airport is so limited—in both its intrusiveness and in what it could disclose—that it doesn’t qualify as a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, which bars “unreasonable searches and seizures.” A detection dog would only alert if a piece of luggage contained contraband, O’Connor opined, and contraband wasn’t subject to privacy protections.

Since then we’ve learned that detection dogs aren’t infallible. During a 1994 search that took place at a high school in Harborcreek Township, Pennsylvania, for example, a drug dog sniffed 2,000 school lockers and indicated that 18 of them contained contraband. Only one actually did.

Imagine a world where meter maids provisioned with drug dogs routinely check your car for cocaine, where postal carriers and their drug dogs give your front porch a good going-over on occasion. This, essentially, is what Illinois v. Caballes makes possible, and as Lammers noted in his essay, “these types of canine searches are already taking place.” The venue? Schools like Temple City High.

As you gather from the Temple City High, most of the worst happens to High School kids.  That’s a different story, though, as we’ve long established the 4th amendment only minimally appeals to them.




Chart of the day

So much good stuff to blog about today, but I’m short on time.  Oh well, here’s a great chart making the rounds.  Via Ezra:

The most popular position in the GOP’s coalition isn’t that Medicare needs a complete overhaul, as Ryan thinks. It isn’t that it needs major changes, or even that it needs minor changes. It’s that we shouldn’t try and control costs at all. That’s not true for the Democrats’ coalition, where both “minor changes” and “major changes” beat “no cost control,” and it’s not true for the independent coalition, where “minor changes” at least tie cost control.

And in more bad news for the GOP, elsewhere in the poll, raising taxes on the rich turns out to be very popular, while a plurality further cuts in programs.

Will be interesting to see how much Democrats are able to beat up on the Republicans for Ryan’s plan to fully privatize medical care.  Of course, I don’t put a lot of stock in public opinion questions where the pubic is clueless and it’s safe to say that the public is pretty clueless on what these changes would be or the role of Medicare in our long-term deficit issues.


Video of the day– Pap Smears at Walgreens

This bit from Stephen Colbert is quite deservedly lighting up my facebook feed.  I love that he amuses himself so much that he can’t keep it together at the end.  Do watch, if you have not seen this yet.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Neuroscience for liberals to love

Honestly, I’m not sure I put a lot of stock in “this brain region is bigger in ____ people research” as it has yet to be made clear the causal arrow in such matters.  Still, I’d like to think there’s something to this:

Using data from MRI scans, researchers at the University College London found that self-described liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex–a gray matter of the brain associated with understanding complexity. Meanwhile, self-described conservatives are more likely to have a larger amygdala, an almond-shaped area that is associated with fear and anxiety.

“Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individual’s political orientation,” lead researcher Ryota Kanai writes of the study in the latest issue of Current Biology. “Our study now links personality traits with specific brain structure.”

That bit about fear and anxiety certainly would seem to fit with the research coming out of twin studies and the greater Right-wing Authoritarianism of conservatives.

It’s the slavery, stupid

And by stupid, I do mean the History-denying Tea-partier.  I’ve written about this before, but with yesterday’s 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the “debate” about it is back.  There’s about as much evidence that the slavery was not responsible for the Civil War as there is evidence that humans are not responsible for Global Warming.  Hmmm, notice a partisan similarity?  From CNN

In the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released Tuesday, roughly one in four Americans said they sympathize more with the Confederacy than the Union, a figure that rises to nearly four in ten among white Southerners.

When asked the reason behind the Civil War, whether it was fought over slavery or states’ rights, 52 percent of all Americas said the leaders of the Confederacy seceded to keep slavery legal in their state, but a sizeable 42 percent minority said slavery was not the main reason why those states seceded.

“The results of that question show that there are still racial, political and geographic divisions over the Civil War that still exists a century and a half later,” CNN Polling Director Holland Keating said.

When broken down by political party, most Democrats said southern states seceded over slavery, independents were split and most Republicans said slavery was not the main reason that Confederate states left the Union. [emphasis mine]

Very few people who have actually studied 19th century US History actually make the claim that the war was not about Slavery (for the record, I spent a year on it in my two best classes at Duke).  All that other stuff– state’s rights, economic systems, etc., only matters because of the slavery.  Heck, what did the states want the “right” to do?  Enslave Black people.   Alright, it’s probably not intrinsic to being Republican– a disproportionate number of them are White Southerners– but still, what is it with Republicans and reality?  Oh, that’s right– no point in trusting “experts” when you can listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.


Pink for boys

Facebook friend posted a link to this fascinating Smithsonian article about the evolution of our conceptions of fashion and gender identity in young children.  A few tidbits:

Little Franklin Delano Roosevelt sits primly on a stool, his white skirt spread smoothly over his lap, his hands clasping a hat trimmed with a marabou feather. Shoulder-length hair and patent leather party shoes complete the ensemble.

We find the look unsettling today, yet social convention of 1884, when FDR was photographed at age 2 1/2, dictated that boys wore dresses until age 6 or 7, also the time of their first haircut. Franklin’s outfit was considered gender-neutral…

For example, a Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.

Not that it wasn’t already fairly obvious with the boys, but now that we have a daughter, it really is amazing to see the degree to which society forces gender stereotypes onto children at the very earliest age.  Kim bought Sarah some teethers this week, and one was in the shape of a little pink purse.  So many people have asked me what it’s like having a daughter now.  Please!  As if there’s any difference when they are 4 months old.  My answer: pretty much the same, but more pink.  And for other parents, I sometimes add that I’ve had to learn to wipe front to back.  Anyway, I’m more one to be annoyed by society’s norms than to actually buck them, so pink for Sarah it is, but I don’t have to like it.

%d bloggers like this: