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Above the Law

Few things really get my blood boiling like this video from an Austin. Cops like this who think they are above the law are a menace to society and make generally law-abiding people like me extremely wary of all cops. I’m sure there are some good ones out there, but my experiences with cops have been mostly negative*, and but for the grace of God I haven’t ended up like the poor person in the video. Apparently, all the cop got was a three day suspension. How about a felony assault charge and a life ban from any position of authority ever again? Thats what he deserves.

Now, I am totally in favor of law enforcement being able to get down and dirty with real criminals, but someone taking their time to get their drivers license because the cop is being a total dick is not a criminal activity. Another thing that makes me sick is that there are people out there that think the cop was acting properly. But I guess every despot has had followers.

* negative experiences include:

Being “pulled over” (I was on foot) by a Bellevue motorcycle cop for crossing a one-lane crosswalk against the signal. Ok, I can accept that I was breaking the law, even if it is a stupid law. But then the cop goes on to lie to me — he told me that “my parents wouldn’t have to find out” since I cooperated with him. Not that I cared — I told my mom just minutes later (I was walking to her office). What makes this whole thing a negative experience is that the cop proceeded to file some paperwork and my parents got a letter from the police telling them that their son had been caught crossing against the light! The lying SOB!

Being harassed with threat of arrest by a Bellevue cop for a phantom hit-and-run. My brother’s college roommate was visiting, and he was driving near downtown Bellevue; I was a passenger. On a hill, a car pulled up extremely close behind us (we even mentioned this fact to each other before the rest of the story occurred). The roommate attempted to start up the hill, but drifted back a small amount because of the steepness of the hill. He slammed on the brake, but we weren’t sure if we had hit the back behind us. So we looked  back at the lady in the car, who, it appeared to us both, was telling us to just drive on. She seemed annoyed that we were stopped, and made no indication that we had hit her. Apparently, that all changed in the several hours after the incident. So it suddenly became a hit-and-run, and a cop showed up to harass me and the roommate. He made it clear that he could arrest us both, that we had committed a felony, and that he meant business. Only the timely arrival of my dad got the situation back under control.

Another arrest threat, and being sworn at, by another Bellevue cop, for a well-controlled skidding maneuver, which the cop decided he could chose to interpret as “reckless.” At a party at a friends house in Newport Hills, a friend of mine was having a bad time and I noticed that he needed a break from the present company, so I suggested that he and I take a ride. Since some of the party-goers had been giving him a hard time, I peeled out in front of the house on my way out. The truck was in complete control the entire time, but it made a pretty good sound. I had been careful too – no cars were coming from either direction when I performed the maneuver. So when immediately after, a car was behind me, I knew something was up. I couldn’t see that it was a cop, but I had a very strong feeling that it was, so I drove very conservatively for several blocks with the car following me. I finally pulled into a parking lot and the car followed me again, and the cop finally revealed himself by turning on the light bar and the bright interrogation light that cops use to intimidate people (and occasionally to do something useful, like look for real criminals). Apparently his plan was to see if I was going to speed or do some crazy out-of-control stuff. Obviously I didn’t oblige him, so instead the cop tried to get a rise out of me and asked repeatedly if I was a “smartass” and told me he could arrest me for reckless driving (I was thinking that it would never stand up in court, but I just smiled and said, nicely, “I don’t think that is necessary”). Having me grovel for 15 minutes was apparently enough for him, and he eventually let me go, because he figured he couldn’t really make anything stick anyway.

There was the cop in Issaquah who pulled me over for doing five over the speed limit because he “didn’t see my brake lights” after I passed  him. I guess he got a rush out of seeing the power he had over people, and failing to get it from me, decided that he would force me to give him the rush by showing me that he could write a ticket for 5 over.

There was the State Patrol officer who gave me a ticker for “speed to fast for conditions” after a tire quickly deflated on the SUV I was driving, which sent me into the ditch. The same officer also told a fellow citizen with a wench that he could not pull be out of the ditch; instead I had to pay nearly $300 to wait an hour to have a “professional”  tow truck pull me out and take me to Les Schwab where I got the tire’s large but fixable leak finished. I would have preferred to spend that hour putting on a spare on and driving back to Les Schwab myself, but apparently the state police have a contract with this particular tow truck company. Yes, my friends, police corruption is alive and well in this country.  I later fought the ticket in court and won, in part because the cop had no idea what actually happened. The only redeeming part of the tow truck ride was the driver telling us stories about how he had towed cars that went off the road in snow and ice under the contract (of which he saw all of $12, he told us). In more than a few instances, the cops who had called in the tow truck and written the drivers tickets ended up in the ditch themselves. I imagine that they didn’t write themselves tickets. Above the law once again…

A regular sight on the highway is a solo cop in the HOV lane just avoiding traffic and speeding 10-20 over as well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cop not speed on the highway in fact, and always at speeds that would get any otherwise law-abiding citizen pulled over. I wonder if cops understand how much damage they do to their profession when they pull over good people who are only following the cop’s own example.

Next time: How to get back at the cops.


In the movie V for Vendetta, the 5th of November plays a vital role:

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

But the crux of the movie is this:

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Which is an eloquent way to explain why I decided to donate $100 towards Ron Paul’s 2008 Presidential campaign today. While I am not afraid of my government in the corporeal sense (yet), I am afraid of where my government is headed. Ron Paul is only the only politician in the fray who offers any hope of changing the direction my government is headed more than a few degrees. And I do believe there are icebergs out there, waiting to sink this ship. Not today, probably not tomorrow, not perhaps for a hundred years. But we’re steaming towards them, and not many in government today care.

Open Government

Another great piece fromt he Seattle Times:

A government that’s open, accessible and responsive

By Brian Sonntag
Special to The Times

Democratic government is built on the foundation that its power and authority rest with the people. To preserve that power, citizens absolutely must have information about the actions and activities of their government — through the news media’s watchdog role and through access to public records and meetings.

It is never wrong to open government’s doors and let the people in.

In Washington state, we have strong public-access laws citizens themselves put in place in the 1970s by using their power of initiative. The preamble of one of those laws — the state Open Public Meetings Act — makes clear citizens’ intent:

“The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

All public officials, the media and individual citizens share a deep responsibility to make sure that the preamble is valued and that public-access laws remain strong.

Judge Damon Keith, of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, said: “Democracies die behind closed doors.”

Elected and appointed officials have a fundamental obligation to keep government’s doors wide open to the public. Yet, legitimate concerns about personal privacy and identity theft have created a rush by government to close information to the public. Citizens’ right to information has become a question of whether or not the public needs it.

That must never be the question.

To me, the fundamental question boils down to: Whose government is it?

It’s ours.

Most public employees are honest, hardworking and dedicated to doing the right thing. But, some agencies simply don’t want to be bothered. It is easier for them to deny a public-records request, for example, than to take the time to fulfill it.

We also see instances in which public officials deliberately shut the doors and run a government as if it were their own private club.

For all of us in government, we must never forget whom we work for.

Thomas Jefferson said: “Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”

The First Amendment recognizes the critical role the news media play in their vigilant scrutiny of government and their reporting of information citizens need to stay abreast of actions and policies that affect their daily lives.

The continued concentration of media ownership legitimately raises concerns about press bias and independence. Also, technology that enables anyone with a computer to become a mass communicator raises doubts about the truth and accuracy of some information.

Media owners must remember that the bedrock of our democracy is formed on the press’ responsibility to provide a fair, complete and accurate account of government activities. It is up to the media to cover the news and uncover issues. They must ask the hard questions and seek the truth.

To fulfill our own constitutional responsibility, the Office of State Auditor regularly audits and reports on government stewardship over public resources. And, while we do not have enforcement powers, we are able to shine the public light of day on conditions we find. We report our work broadly, and often find the media and citizens using it to further discussion on a wide range of issues.

President John Adams said: “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right and a desire to know.”

Individual citizens have a civic duty to keep informed and to actively participate in their government. Complacency and apathy are enemies of accountability.

I define accountability as government being open, accessible and responsive to people. Government must listen to citizens, and when it talks to people, it must tell them the truth.

Open, accessible government is the soul of our democracy. It breeds citizen trust and confidence in their government. But, that trust is fragile.

It is never wrong to open government’s doors and let the people in.

Brian Sonntag is the Washington state auditor.


The most important article I have read in the Seattle times this year. Copied here to to avoid losing it to the archives…

$4.5 million for a boat that nobody wanted

By David Heath and Hal Bernton
Seattle Times staff reporters
Read the rest of this entry »

Identical Quadruplets

A Canadian woman has given birth to extremely rare identical quadruplets.

The four girls were born at a US hospital because there was no space available at Canadian neonatal intensive care units.

Yay socialized medicine!

Libertarian Paternalism / Libertarian Benevolence

Via Adventures in Smarshland, a great paper titled “Libertarian Paternalism is not an Oxymoron.” Read it. Lets discuss it.

Democrat Presidential YouTube Debate Highlights

QUESTION: In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since.

In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

COOPER: I should also point out that Stephen is in the crowd tonight. Senator Obama?

“I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them (the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea)”

OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.

Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.

And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them. We’ve been talking about Iraq — one of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria because they’re going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses.

QUESTION: Hey, I’m Mike Green from Lexington, South Carolina. And I was wanting to ask all the nominees whether they would send their kids to public school or private school.

“We need a little bit of competition in our system of education”

GRAVEL: My children went to public school and private school, and I’m recommend that we need a little bit of competition in our system of education.

Right now, we have 30 percent of our children do not graduate from high school. That is abominable, and that is the problem of both parties.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Stephanie. We’re in the Bay area, in my bathroom, because this is one of the places where I use compact fluorescent light bulbs. I use these to decrease my personal energy use, and I hear politicians talking about alternative energy to delay — to decrease our energy impact as a whole.

So my question for you is, how is the United States going to decrease its energy consumption in the first place? In other words, how will your policies influence Americans, rather than just using special light bulbs, to do this?

COOPER: Senator Gravel, how do you get Americans to conserve?

“A fair tax where people are taxed on what they spend rather than what they earn… that’s the most significant thing we can do to alter climate change”

GRAVEL: Very simple, change our tax structure. Have a fair tax where people are taxed on what they spend rather than what they earn. And our tax system is totally corrupt right now.

And so if we now have a retail sales tax, you’ll take this nation of ours from a consuming nation to a savings nation.

And that’s the most significant thing we can do to alter climate change.