Conservatives don’t like big government unless…

Unless that “big government” is police officers asking you to spread your butt and cough after being stopped for a traffic violation.  Today’s 5-4 SC decision:

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs, but also public health and information about gang affiliations.

One on-line commenter replied perfectly, ” On the other hand, the Supreme Court can second-guess the democratically elected Congress, when it tries to solve the nation’s health care problems.”  So it would seem.   I enjoyed these tidbits from Breyer’s dissent:

 Citing examples from briefs submitted to the Supreme Court, Justice Breyer wrote that people have been subjected to “the humiliation of a visual strip-search” after being arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell.

A nun was strip-searched, he wrote, after an arrest for trespassing during an antiwar demonstration. So were victims of sexual assaults and women who were menstruating.

Yowza!  Though, nice rebuttal from Kennedy:

Justice Kennedy responded that “people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.” He noted that Timothy McVeigh, later put to death for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was first arrested for driving without a license plate. “One of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before hijacking Flight 93,” Justice Kennedy added.

The story of the Black man who was stopped driving his nice car and falsely arrested, held, and strip-searched that led to this case is plenty disturbing.   Read the article if you are not familiar with it.  Anyway, I find Breyer’s evidence-based argument the most compelling:

Justice Breyer wrote that there was very little empirical support for the idea that strip-searches detect contraband that would not have been found had jail officials used less intrusive means [emphasis mine], particularly if strip-searches were allowed when officials had a reasonable suspicion that they would find something.

For instance, in a study of 23,000 people admitted to a correctional facility in Orange County, N.Y., using that standard, there was at most one instance of contraband detected that would not otherwise have been found, Judge Breyer wrote.

I’ll admit not necessarily the easiest case, but I’ve got to err on the side of not strip-searching nuns arrested at anti-war demonstrations.  Call me a softie.

The Radical Ryan Budget

So, the Paul Ryan budget is a little bit old news, but I guess so long as the House actually passed it last week and Mitt Romney has endorsed it, that’s good enough reason to link to James Suriowiecki’s latest column calling it like it is.  My favorite part:

Ryan doesn’t exactly hide his hostility to government, but he’s adept at downplaying the impact that his proposed cuts would have on people’s lives. Thus the part of the plan titled “Repairing the Social Safety Net” in fact calls for huge cuts in spending on Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, and so on—all of which will unquestionably damage the social safety net and make life harder for millions of Americans. This is about as disingenuous as calling a company’s downsizing initiative “Boosting Our Labor Force.” …

Ryan’s uncharacteristic munificence toward defense requires his cuts elsewhere to be even more draconian, effectively starving most of the rest of the government to death. The C.B.O. analysis of Ryan’s plan, for instance, finds that, by 2050, all the government’s discretionary spending, including defense, would represent just 3.75 per cent of G.D.P. Given that defense spending in the postwar era has never been less than three per cent of G.D.P., and that Republicans won’t consider cutting it, the rest of the government’s discretionary spending would have to be squeezed out of that remaining 0.75 per cent. This is a derisory number—in the entire postwar era, it has never been less than eight per cent. [emphasis mine]  In practical terms it would make most of what the federal government does—from maintaining infrastructure to air-traffic control, environmental regulation, and crime fighting—unaffordable. Ryan’s path to prosperity, in other words, is a path that ends with the federal government spending its money on health care, Social Security, and the military, and little else.

Got that?  Do you appreciate just how radical this is?!  And this is the budget passed by Republicans in the US House of Representatives last week.  People who think this make sense are simply not living on planet earth.  We’re back to two classic choices: lying or stupid.  I think I’ll go with a little bit of both.

Photo of the day

Really cool set of photos on the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War.  I remember being aware of and intrigued by these events, but I really couldn’t tell you all that much about it now (I was only 10 at the time).   Wikipedia has a nice thorough entry that got me reasonably up to speed.  As for the photos, I really enjoyed the many years later photos– such as this one– the most:

A colony of Gentoo penguins rest in a minefield at Kidney Cove, at a stretch of beach across the Falklands Islands’ capital Stanley, on September 9, 2005. Most of the 150 minefields were laid around the capital Stanley when Argentine forces landed there in April of 1982. (Reuters/Enrique Marcarian)

Stand your ground– not chase and shoot

Nice analysis of Florida’s “stand your ground” and it’s application in the Trayvon Martin case by Mike Munger:

If you are carrying a gun, you have it only to use as a last resort, and you are required, both morally and as a matter of law, to forebear from doing certain things you might otherwise do. If you are carrying a gun with CC permit, you cannot:

1. Drink alcohol. At all, not any.
2. Intentionally put yourself in a situation where you need to use the gun.
3. Get into a fight.

If for some reason you do get into a fight, you have to walk away. If walking away does not work, you have to run.

Only if you have made a serious reasonable effort to escape, or are prevented by circumstances from doing so (eg, other person has a deadly weapon) can you use your weapon, or for that matter any other kind of deadly force, in response. Someone pulls a knife on you, you don’t have to run. Someone talks bad about your mama, walk away…

Now, the actual point. Re the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman thing. The question is, did Zimmerman try to walk away/run away? He did not. Mr. Zimmerman, in fact, followed Mr. Martin. That means Mr. Zimmerman cannot use his weapon. If he does, and kills Mr. Martin, then Mr. Zimmerman is guilty of manslaughter, even if the only account of events we credit is that given by Mr. Zimmerman. [emphasis mine] ZIMMERMAN FOLLOWED MARTIN. (Plus, the police definitely told him not to, just in case Zimmerman was confused). If after that Zimmerman shot Martin,even if it was self-defense in the particular circumstances of that moment, Zimmerman is guilty of manslaughter. A kills B in a fight A started. A following B is starting a fight, seeking out a fight. It’s not walking away.

Which again raises the question, how in the world has Zimmerman not yet been arrested?!

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