Monthly Archives: May 2012

Jackson Co. Sheriff Candidate Dwon Littlejohn Blasts Resource-Consuming Highway Drug Interdiction, Pledges Residential Patrols Focused on Burglary Response

In a Facebook status update today, Jackson County (MO) Sheriff Candidate Dwon Littlejohn declared:

Burglary on the rise in the metro area and my opponent would rather have a drug interdiction unit on the highway looking for drugs! A burglary suspect gets away from deputies near Independence today because of slow response times by deputies not patrolling closer to residential areas. As Sheriff, deputies WILL be in neighborhoods!

By definition, law enforcement resources are finite. A choice to emphasize one area of enforcement trades off with the ability to emphasize other areas of enforcement at some margin. In Jackson County, this margin is not a favorable one as people actively committing property crimes are able to evade capture and continue their assault on peaceful society while the Sheriff’s men sit on the highway, looking for drug arrests and cash to seize under the civil asset forfeiture laws.
I commend Mr. Littlejohn’s perspicacious analysis of this situation, and commend him to your attention in the upcoming Jackson County elections. Here is his website.

Regulators Chase “Five Wives” Out of Idaho

Ben Winslow from Salt Lake City’s own Fox 13 reports on the decision by Idaho liquor regulators to bar sales of vodka from Ogden, Utah producer Ogden’s Own. In a letter to the distillery, Idaho Liquor Division Deputy Director of Procurement Howard Wasserstein notes that:

Social responsibility is very important aspect of the marketing and sales of distilled spirits in the State Idaho. The Idaho State Liquor Division is responsible for the safety and well-being of the citizens of the citizens of our State.

Products we feel are marketed toward children, or are in poor taste with respect to our citizens will not be authorized for distribution.

We feel Five Wives Vodka concept is offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried.

Ogden’s Own replies:

“We have a product that has sold nearly 1,000 cases in six months in Utah,” explained Steve Conlin, partner and vice president of marketing at Ogden’s Own Distillery. “If the reaction is because of a religious concern, we think they are extremely misguided.”

“We can only presume he means Mormons,” Conlin continued. “Though that makes little sense as they allow Polygamy Porter from Wasatch Beers of Utah to be sold. We’re a little dumbfounded by it all.”

According to the U.S. Census, 27 percent of Idaho’s population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Ogden’s Own Distillery applied for general listing and was rejected two months ago. The state’s position now blocks establishments from even receiving ‘special orders’ of the product.

 Idaho has one of the most restrictive liquor licensing laws in the nation, according to this study done by Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The study, written by Michael LaFaive and Anthony Davies, finds that:

Graphic 1 shows total alcohol-attributable deaths per 100,000 residents in 48 states during the period from 2001 through 2005, the most recent years for which data are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[†] The data include deaths of both adults and children. The states in Graphic 1 are grouped from left to right by the four degrees of liquor control: heavy-control, moderate-control, light-control and license states.

The four groups are essentially indistinguishable. If state alcohol controls worked in proportion to their scope, the bars would tend to rise like stair steps from left to right across the graphic. Instead, to take just one example, the average alcohol-attributable fatality rate is lower in the license group than in the low-control group (28.46 vs. 29.95 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively). The same holds true for the under-21 fatality rate, where the average in license states is 1.70 and the average in light-control states is 1.84.[8] Statistical tests do not indicate that a state’s alcohol control regime affects average alcohol-attributable death rates.[‡]

Note that of the 10 states with the lowest fatality rates, eight are license states. The two others are a light-control state, Iowa (eighth), and a moderate-control state, New Hampshire (10th); none of the top 10 is a high-control state.

Perhaps it is time for Idahoans to re-evaluate the goals and aims of their public policy, and to particularly consider abolishing Idaho’s restrictive alcohol-control regime with something more sensible that focuses more narrowly on the public safety issues that are really at stake.
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The Natural Law of Children

John McGinnis profiles the legal scholar Harold Berman at the Library of Law and Liberty:

No sketch of Harold Berman can be complete without a reference to an epigram in which he summarized children’s natural grasp of natural law:   A child says, ‘It’s my toy.’ That’s property law,” he said. “A child says, ‘You promised me.’ That’s contract law. A child says, ‘He hit me first.’ That’s criminal law. A child says, ‘Daddy said I could.’ That’s constitutional law.”

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(Alcohol) Prohibition Was Originally a Popular Policy

Levine & Reinarman in 1991 write:

The anti alcohol, or temperance, movement was created in the early nineteenth century by physicians, ministers, and large employers concerned about the drunkenness of workers and servants. By the mid 1830s temperance had become a mass movement of the middle Class. Temperance was not, as is sometimes thought, the campaign of rural backwaters; rather, temperance was on the cutting edge of social reform and was closely allied with the antislavery and women’s rights movements. Always very popular, temperance remained the largest enduring middle-class movement of the nineteenth century (‘Leaven 1978, 1984; Tyrell 1979; Gusfield 1986; Rumbarger 1989; Blocker 1989).

The temperance campaign was devoted to convincing people that alcoholic drink in any form was evil, dangerous, and destructive. Throughout the nineteenth century, temperance supporters insisted that alcohol slowly but inevitably destroyed the moral character and the physical and mental health of all who drank it. Temperance supporters regarded alcohol the way people today view heroin: as an inherently addicting substance. Moderate consumption of alcohol, they maintained, naturally led to compulsive use to addiction. From the beginning, temperance ideology contained a powerful strand of fantasy. It held that alcohol was the major cause of nearly all social problems: unemployment, poverty, business failure, slums, insanity, crime and violence (especially against women and children). For the very real social and economic problems of industrializing America, the temperance movement offered universal abstinence as the panacea.

From roughly the 1850s on, many temperance supporters endorsed the idea of prohibition. after the Civil War the Prohibition Party, modeled on the Republican Party, championed the cause. Nineteenth-century prohibitionists believed that only when sufficient numbers of party members held office would prohibition be practical because only then would it be fully enforced. ‘

In the twentieth century a new prohibitionist organization – the Anti-Saloon League – came to dominate the movement (Odegard 1928: Timberlake 1963; Sinclair 1965; Gusfield 1968; Kerr 1985; Rumbarger 1989). The League patterned itself on the modern corporation, hiring lawyers to write model laws and organizers to raise funds and collect political debts.

The League put its considerable resources behind candidates of any party who would vote as it directed on the single issue of liquor. By expanding the numbers of elected officials beholden to it, and by writing laws for those legislators to enact, the League pushed through many local prohibition laws and some state measures. In 1913 the League finally declared itself in favor of Constitutional prohibition. Increasing numbers of large corporations joined the many Protestant churches that had long supported the League. Then, during the patriotic fervor of World War 1, prohibitionists mobilized the final support for a constitutional amendment. Among other arguments, prohibitionists claimed that in the United States the heavily German beer industry was sapping American will to fight.

By December 1917, both houses of Congress had voted the required two-thirds majority to send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment prohibiting the manufacture, sale, transportation, import, or export of intoxicating liquor. In November 1918 Congress passed the War Prohibition Act, which banned the manufacture and sale of all beverages including beer and wine that contained mote than 2.75 percent alcohol. On January 16th, 1919, Nebraska b›came the thirty-sixth state to ratify the Eighteenth Amendment, which was to go into effect in one year. In October 1919 Congress overrode President Wilson’s veto to pass a strict enforcement act of prohibition known by the name of its sponsor, Andrew Volstead of Minnesota, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. The Volstead Act defined as “intoxicating liquor” any beverage containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol.

At midnight on January 16, 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment took effect. The famous minister Billy Sunday celebrated by preaching a sermon to 10,000 people in which he repeated the fantasy at the heart of the temperance and prohibition crusades:

The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile, and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent. (quoted in Kobler 1973, 12)

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The Economics of the Innocence Project

As you may know, the Innocence Project is a “nationally recognized litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice”. Geoff Gerling, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, relates that the process of exoneration is an expensive one:

  • In cases where there is no DNA evidence, and legal services are obtained pro bono, the cost of navigating the legal system to obtain an exoneration can be as high as $750,000. Without pro bono legal services, you’re looking at at least a million, and probably more.
  • When DNA is available for analysis, add $10,000 to $100,000.
  • It takes ordinarily 7 to 10 years to obtain an exoneration for a false conviction.

On Monday, we got an idea of the number of false convictions that have been overturned in the US over the last 23 years:

More than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in the United States in the past 23 years, according to a new archive compiled at two universities.

There is no official record-keeping system for exonerations of convicted criminals in the country, so academics set one up. The new national registry, or database, painstakingly assembled by the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, is the most complete list of exonerations ever compiled.

The database compiled and analyzed by the researchers contains information on 873 exonerations for which they have the most detailed evidence. The researchers are aware of nearly 1,200 other exonerations, for which they have less data.

They found that those 873 exonerated defendants spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years in prison, an average of more than 11 years each. Nine out of 10 of them are men and half are African-American.


All hail Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)

Calvina Fay, the unofficial “Queen of the Drug War”, has an article titled “America Needs Leaders, Not Labels” in the Spring 2011 edition of “The Coalition” (the official publication of the National Narcotics Officers Association). In it, she says this about the major drug policy reform groups (page 18):

Everyone who works on drug related issues knows the names of the major organizations fighting to legalize and normalize drug use: Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Open Society Institute (OSI) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Their money and their vast numbers of supporters enable their voices to be heard above all others.

Another legalization group gaining momentum is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). According to their mission statement, LEAP is made up of current and former members of law enforcement who believe current drug polices fail to address the problems of crime, drug abuse, and addiction. However, membership is not actually limited to those currently or formerly associated with law enforcement so even criminals can become one of their members. By continuing to fight a war on drugs, according to LEAP, the government has only increased the societal problems associated with drug use. Their idea of effective drug policy is to legalize and regulate illicit drugs.

Grassroots community efforts to battle legalization initiatives and legislation depend upon and turn to law enforcement for support in keeping illegal drugs off the street and out of the hands of our youth. With this in mind, one can only imagine the mixed message the community receives from a group like LEAP that claims to represent the mindset of law enforcement.

LEAP does not release information on its members, so it is impossible to determine how many current or past members of law enforcement their alleged 15,000 membership actually represents. what is clear is that they exploit the integrity, commitment of service, and community protection that law enforcement represents while pushing their agenda to “end prohibition” and “legalize all drugs so we can control and regulate them”.

It is imperative that we remain united to counter any and all pro-drug messages coming from groups like LEAP. Law enforcement has always been the natural ally in fighting drug use and abuse, and more importantly, law enforcement provides valuable insight into what is really happening on the streets of America’s communities. Law enforcement bears witness on a daily basis to the dangers illegal drugs impose on our nation’s youth, and law enforcement’s experiences and voices must be heard in this battle.

All things considered, high praise for LEAP! And I am struck by the fact that Fay is willing to characterize drug policy reform groups and their constituencies as the enemy, in a war that is frighteningly real. I encourage you to support all the groups listed above, and you should really consider donating to LEAP.

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Krugman on the demand for serendipity

The problem with digital books is that you can always find what you are looking for but you need to go to a bookstore to find what you weren’t looking for.

From the Boston Globe.