Taking One for the Team

My dad was a beat cop and career FBI.


I was preached the perils and uncertainties of law enforcement my whole life. You just don’t know what you’re about to face in a car stop or home search or raid. And, so the justification follows that police should be accorded some measure of grace when they act preemptively or out of self preservation, in the chaos and melee of the arrest. I mean, I would. But, I’m also frightened of small dogs and that movie Cloverfield. I shouldn’t do any job that requires more courage than is necessary to use a public urinal or maybe ask politely for a refill at Chili’s. I’d never be a cop.

But, in the Michael Brown shooting and aftermath it has struck me that this rationalization of force seems wrong. The default is off.

In the ambiguity of a criminal altercation, especially where there is no apparent threat of deadly force, the safety and health of the suspect still remains paramount. They are a citizen. Due criminal process. The police officer’s own self defense and preservation cannot be the priority.

Officers have to be ready to have the crap beat out of them on occasion.

If you can’t resist an assailant with something less than your firearm, then either you take it like a man in the face or else change professions. You don’t get to open fire. I guess you could also baby cry, like I would. That’s another option.

There is great disagreement over the details in Ferguson. But, even assuming Brown is in the vehicle window punching officer Wilson in the face, as his defense would contend, well then maybe that’s the price we have to pay sometimes to live in free society fearless that our own paid law enforcement won’t shoot us unless absolutely necessary.

I’m not a Ferguson protestor. Don’t lump me in. There are reasonably two sides to this story almost for certain. I’m just saying government has to take the high road here.

And, for all my law enforcement buddies, I’d qualify further. These are instantaneous choices made under pressurized circumstances. But, our justice system will vindicate your sacrifice, whether it be partial or complete. And, the moral leverage in taking the a$$ whooping will do more to reinforce the rule of law than any disproportionate and questionable show of deadly force you could justify or explain after the fact.

Cops choose to do this perilous job. And, they talk a pretty tough game. I should know. They big willie me all the time. Wait. That didn’t sound right. But, either you’re big enough to take some physical punishment in the name of protecting all our citizens, even when they don’t deserve it, or maybe you’re just not that big.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by dj transform. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:



Freedom Trail Reprise

I’ll plagiarize myself from a year ago. I can’t say it any differently:

If you’ve ever been to Boston you’ve probably been forced to walk, likely by a mom or wife, some portion of the “Freedom Trail” against your will. You have to wonder why one must abandon so much self determination to walk a trail named “freedom” but, anyway. The Freedom Trail is, of course, a walking tour of Boston’s historic sites, where I’m proud to say I had a pair of Stan Smith’s re-cobbled only a few years ago. I also had a bracelet smithed out of a soup spoon.

Liberty is a type of collusion. An agreement among everyone to respect the rule of law in service of freedom. It’s completely voluntary.

Collusions, however, are easily broken. In fact, there is extraordinarily high incentive to do so. Our susceptibility to violence, therefore, is evidence of how well and complete the collusion of our liberty is working. We’re easy pickings. When an assailant from within or without violates the contract — the agreement not to fall into anarchy — they exact from us a cost. A toll for being so free, so open, so liberated. Our martyrs, whether at a marathon or in an elementary school or on a skyscraper, are a kind of penance paid to democracy and inalienable rights. Like a soldier or revolutionary, when we are murdered exercising our freedoms, even ones as routine as a road race, it is literally a kind of patriotic act. Every mundane act of our lives is a declaration that we would be free in spite of the ongoing danger to do so.

Pronation. It’s not just the roll of your foot when you run. It’s what we are when we run. Pro-Nation.

And, they’ll run again this weekend. A marathon and a freedom trail.


Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by juiceboxjackson.

Today’s blong here:



Call Me Maybe

You know the telephone game. Everyone sits in a circle. The first person whispers a secret to their neighbor, “I like to eat mushroom pizza.” And by the the time it circumnavigates the group it’s morphed into something like,

“I liked to beat up my lunchroom teacher” or

“I spiked a peach with a much hewn tweezer” or

“I might repeat a little hummed tune feature” or

“Go Osprey!” or

“Pomegranate juice” or

“Dole/Kemp ’96” or

“I run my unit how I run my unit. You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous.”

You have to have a pretty big (and disturbed) group to get to something like the last one. But, it happens.

The media is a lot like a telephone game. Especially on legal matters. There’s sort of the original source material. A Supreme Court opinion. Or a piece of legislation. Or a speech. By the time, we get it, it’s something akin to reading off the back of a Raisin Bran cereal box to learn how to open a chateau and vineyard.

There are a lot of unsettling things about the NSA tracking our phone calls. But, somewhere in all of this we’ve forgotten something:

Phone calls aren’t very private.

Indeed, as a purely constitutional matter, they aren’t at all.

Think of constitutional protections as a floor or, rather, the minimum amount of protection the government will extend regarding any particular right. I don’t mean to say that they are minimal, simply that you get at least that much. In other words, you can imagine ways that a right, say to assemble, might be expanded — the right to assemble and then to receive free of charge ballet instruction for 6 months, let’s say.

And, indeed, in many cases, those minimum protections have been expanded by Congress and state legislatures, through statutory action, to protect people more.

Telecommunications is one such area.

The right against unlawful searches found in the Fourth Amendment has never been very effective in protecting our phone conversations.

The Constitution has been fairly consistently interpreted to not extend any expectation of privacy in information we convey to third parties. In other words, when you call someone, you have elected, maybe unwittingly, to convey not only information about the call to the phone company and other service provides, but you have literally conveyed the substance of your conversation to another person — on the other end of the line. And, no matter how dear your mom or hot and committed your boyfriend, you have no assurances that they will not disseminate details of your freshman year homesickness or desperate confession of love to the world. As a result, the United States Supreme Court has concluded that whatever subjective expectation you think you have — that the contents of the call will be kept private — is not reasonable. And, therefore, it is not a private act, subject to the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal searches. There is no search. You shared it.

Of course, Congress and the States have added some protections in this respect regarding wiretapping etc. And, certainly private companies, with good capitalistic instincts at play, have made certain contractual promises to their telecommunications or internet clients not to disseminate private information. But, remember, these are EXTRA. We don’t deservere them as a constitutional matter.

Even some of our congress persons as they debated last week the Amash amendment, which would essentially detonate the NSA call collecting program, seem to have missed the point. Some insisted on arguing the very language of the Fourth Amendment itself. But, that protection does very little on its own to protect us from our own decision to provide to the world, whether intentionally or inadvertently, all kinds of information over phones, computers, and tomato cans.

telephone can

It’s worth quoting the High Court itself:

Second, even if petitioner did harbor some subjective expectation that the phone numbers he dialed would remain private, this expectation is not “one that society is prepared to recognize as “reasonable.” This Court consistently has held that a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties. In Miller, for example, the Court held that a bank depositor has no “legitimate ‘expectation of privacy’ ” in financial information “voluntarily conveyed to . . . banks and exposed to their employees in the ordinary course of business.” The Court explained:

“The depositor takes the risk, in revealing his affairs to another, that the information will be conveyed by that person to the Government. . . . This Court has held repeatedly that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the obtaining of information revealed to a third party and conveyed by him to Government authorities, even if the information is revealed on the assumption that it will be used only for a limited purpose and the confidence placed in the third party will not be betrayed.”

Because the depositor “assumed the risk” of disclosure, the Court held that it would be unreasonable for him to expect his financial records to remain private.

Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 743-44 (1979) (citations omitted).

All of modern technology is sending your “private” detail everywhere. It’s literally in the air. If we had more sophisticated oculars we’d be able to see it. And, just because we’ve errected some statutory protections against people intercepting the information doesn’t make your belief that it’s hidden sensible.

Anyone can “collect calls.” Accept it.

Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced Haralduz7.

Today’s blong here:

Collect Calls


It Only Takes One

The President’s gun violence plan seems pretty reasonable. It doesn’t strike me as executive power too far. Without boring you the history, executive orders are constitutional, especially where they are made within the context of some explicit or implicit congressional authorization, see Dames & Moore v. Regan. Here, the President has tweaked the efficacy of certain already existing gun controls, especially as they relate to sharing applicant and background check information. While the plan makes an appeal to Congress concerning a ban on assault rifles, the orders themselves do not purport to accomplish any such thing. The plan provides for some additional gun violence research, and it appeals to more responsible gun ownership. It also appropriately emphasizes the role of mental health in this discussion focused mostly on weapons. But, precisely because this set of executive orders seems largely uncontroversial they are at the same time probably more gesture than change. And, that’s okay.

Of course, the NRA would, in a brand new ad, call the President a hypocrite because his daughters’ private school enjoys the security of armed guards.

I doubt they’ll recant even as his plan provides for:

School resource officers [who] are specially trained police officers that work in schools. When equipped with proper training and supported by evidence-based school discipline policies, they can deter crime with their presence and advance community policing objectives.

It would make too much sense for the two sides of this conversation, equally vested in growing the rate of non-deaths and un-kills, to see common ground where they are standing on it.

People would point to other first-world successes in violence free society. Europe, Canada, that awesome jungle moon in Avatar.

But, America’s just different. We have a deep gun identity.

We conquered with a gun.

We were colonially liberated with a gun.

Our union endured by the gun.


Annie Oakley.

John Wayne.



Gang bangers.

Yosemite Sam.

Separating us from our guns is more than an exchange of rationale arguments no matter how rationale they may be. It will take a weening not a divesting.

In today’s blong, I would simply add song to my prior point that the collusion of a gun-free society means we will always be susceptible to the threat of just one. But, I think I would rather live with that risk in mind than a kind of Home Room Saloon.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by Dave Santos.

Today’s blong here:

High Noon


Red Ryder Air Rifle

James Holmes has appeared for his preliminary hearing yesterday and today regarding charges that stem from alleged involvement in the Colorado shooting at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises.

These kinds of gun atrocities have not, and have largely never been, committed by the typically vilified criminal element of our inner city gangs or drug communities. They are committed almost exclusively by white, middle and lower-middle class, student-aged young people, suffering some mental illness.

So putting more guns nearer to this demographic, to wit, guns in schools or carried by teachers, exacerbates, not cures, the risk. At the same time, it also makes gun regulation less effective since so many times possession, in these circumstances, is secondarily or tertiarily obtained. Because of my strong constitutional, rather than personal, view on gun possession, I have been hesitant regarding gun control. And, notwithstanding the horror, they are, as a statistical matter, improbable, and represent, all other things together, less violence than society has historically borne. But precisely for the relative violence free lives we live, these sort of concentrated incidents of massacre are all the more impossible for our increasingly non-violent expectations/psyche to handle. And, because the safety we enjoy is at least in part the product of collusion — our collective agreement to obey the rule of law — the better we “collude” the more easy and effective is any one individual’s ability to break from that agreement and open fire on a group of people unarmed and psychologically unexpectant. This is a gun access problem. We can either try to make them less scarce or go wild west. There isn’t a happy medium.

A last constitutional note. Just because I’ve read the Federalist Papers too many times, I still respect the theoretical idea, upon which our own Declaration of Independence is grounded, that a government can make itself so illegitimate as to implicate its citizenry’s right to take up arms against it. It’s happening in Syria right now. And, of course, it is impossible to exercise such a right against an illegitimate sovereign if you yourself have been, as a matter of that same sovereign’s rule, disallowed weapon possession. This is why the Second Amendment exists. But, we are at a point, notwithstanding all manner of action packed one-man-army cinema, that even heavy assault rifles in the hands of citizens will be of only a minor annoyance to a government that can turn back in on itself the most sophisticated missile based and tactically trained military in the world. I’m not sure, therefore, that the Declaration’s notion in this regard can endure as a modern day justification for private gun possession as so many would cry. If our government has the will and political capital to beat us up, there aren’t enough assault rifles in West Virginia and my home state, South Carolina, to even put an eye out.

james holmes

Today’s blong is a retread from the original.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by pumpkinFoot.

Today’s blong here:

Dark Night


Color My Map

My wife couldn’t get over John King’s hands. (King, along with Wolf Blitzer, is one of CNN’s main electoral analysts on election night.) They were frozen in a sort of claw position no matter the gesture. I told her, “Uh. Everyone knows the molded action-figure-finger is the optimal hand positioning for manipulating the Magic Board.” Sheesk. She knows nothing about politics.

On another night where only “swing states” really mattered, John King’s crippled hands and political analysts, cable-wide, were literally swinging around digital states like misshapen blue and red pucks on ice. Grided counties and precincts and swirling percentages and exit polls and actual votes. It was like a math team had exploded.

This just in: I nailed my Montana prediction. Again.

The candidates have been campaigning relentlessly in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania and Virginia and Florida and Colorado for the chance that those states would swing to their ledger. Tonight Romney was only able to pendulum Virginia and Indiana and North Carolina, however. That was never going to be enough.

[For those of you keeping score at home, I went Obama, Romney, Obama on my predictions. Best 2 out of 3. Consider it “nailed.”]

I don’t mind the political striation of our country. It’s pretty amazing really. America is not comprised of drastically red and blue states, although such creatures exist. I mean, places like Florida and Colorado are literally split down the middle 50/50. And, that’s a real impressive thing. Our political differences live on top of each other. Don’t let the map and King’s hobbled hands fool you. It’s not red in the middle and blue on the edges. It’s a puzzle of both throughout.

I’m thankful for the mad theater of our national presidential race. It’s like the Super Bowl and Family Fued all rolled up into one. It creates real democratic energy and I believe we will see that turnout was up again for a fifth straight election.

My wife also wondered out loud whether John King was married for his incessant breathless and auctioneer style talking. Surely not. And, she vowed that she would certainly call to tell me to stop if I were ever in his position. Did I mention she plainly knows very little about politics?? Incessant talking like a precious treasure.

Congratulations to President Obama. I believed he had earned a second term. And while I don’t publicly endorse, I had privately hoped. As I indicated, we would have been in capable hands either way. But, I’ve always sensed in President Obama a discretion that I could trust even over policy I could not.


Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced djclutch.

Today’s blong here:

Swing State


Don’t Drop the Soap

There is a lot of hidden tragedy. So to get too dogmatic about one seems a high horse amongst Clydesdales. One in a crowd.

But prison rape to me has long been infuriating. (Not where you thought I was headed?) It’s just totally unacceptable, with any regularity, in a civilized criminal justice system.

It’s like fighting in hockey. Punching your opponent in the face isn’t “part of the game.” It’s called battery.

Rape isn’t “part of jail.” It’s torture.

And notwithstanding some alleged and unofficial policy of the US Government for a better part of the last decade concerning enemy combatants, torture remains illegal.

And yet, in this particular form it continues as an incident of serious prison life that we seem fine to ignore.

Just this week horrific videotape surfaced concerning the unspeakable mistreatment of prisoners in a Georgia detention center. (Georgia as in the East European country, not the United State, although that tape is probably coming soon — for the Georgia Bulldog football team, certainly, if not the State. Got ’em.) It apparently includes footage of a man being sodomized with a broom. But prison rape and humiliation aren’t unique to faraway and emerging countries or some exception to the rule. It happens miles from your home. You just don’t have to give it much thought.

In some ways, the statistical occurrence of prison rape is probably inflated for its coverage in pop culture. But, it just has never struck me as something to be shrugged at over an incidence rate.

“Eh. My stogy in the bed only burned down the house once.”

And even where most prison assault is inmate on inmate, as we turn collectively from the truth about it or, worse, make it a part of our culture of irreverence in comedy or cinema, we abet.

Prisoners have recourse and access to courts. But, the constitutional burden to recover for injury suffered while you are incarcerated is fairly high. Prison officials typically cannot be liable in simple negligence. The standard applied usually requires some showing of deliberate indifference, in safety or medical attention or some other constitutionally significant interest, before liability will lie against them.

But even more than the fairly stacked deck of substantive law against them, there exist innumerable systemic obstacles to the inmate’s ability to fight for their own protection. No counsel. Uneducated in the law. Illiteracy. Limited access to legal materials. Bad handwriting. That whole toilet in the cell thing. Even their own apparent and, often, actual, untrustworthiness makes their claims hard to adjudicate fairly.

So the chances of them mounting any suit against a prison official, for deliberately ignoring their welfare in this respect, is dubious.

Although not similarly situated, it seems right that we ought to one day view this inhumane incident of prison life with the same horror that we now would the living conditions and arcane practices of orphanages and mental hospitals in the early and middle parts of the last century.

So, if you’ve been waiting for a prison rape blong, you’re welcome.

By the way, Patriots v. Ravens?? Hands down the worst officiated game ever. To the very last and deciding play.

Okay. Here we go. Prison rape time.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by Dave Santos.

Today’s song blog here:

How Come


Battle of Wits

I mostly hate the cultish “Princess Bride.” I hate it precisely for other peoples’s exaggerated praise for it. Typically juvenile of me. “Oh, it’s dialectic is so rich.” “Andre the Giant is superb!” Whatevs. Rocky IV, by contrast, slays every time. “Whatever he hits . . . he des- thtrrroys!” (That’s thick phonetical Russian, right there.)

But, in reading the United States Supreme Court’s decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, I was reminded today of one of the movie’s most famous and hysterical scenes:

Two things.

First, I have no political or personal objection to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Second, I think the individual mandate is probably constitutional as an exercise of the Commerce Clause power, according to how existing precedent would inform the scope of that power. That being said, I think existing precedent probably takes too expansive a view of the text. Unfortunately, that ship sunk decades ago.

So, as I make the following comments, I don’t mean to say that I disagree with the result of the Opinion, but only that I fell for two of the most classic blunders: (1) matching wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line and (2) provoking an Asian land-war.

Today’s case involved a challenge to the Affordable Health Care Act. There were two main objections to it. I would comment on the Supreme Court’s treatment of only one. The principal challenge to the Act concerned the constitutionality of an “individual mandate.” The individual mandate portion of the Act says that all individuals must carry health insurance or pay an annual penalty. In other words, “Aflac!”

But, before the Supreme Court could decide whether that mandate was constitutional, it had to determine if it could even hear the case.

The Anti-Injunction Act prohibits a court from considering a challenge to a tax before that tax has actually been collected. In other words, you have to have already paid the tax before bringing a lawsuit. You can’t preemptively challenge or “enjoin” a tax you don’t like.

If the “penalty” under the Healthcare Act, for violation of the mandate, is, in fact, a “tax,” then the US Supreme Court could not entertain the case. If it was not a tax, then the Court could.

Guess what the plurality opinion concluded?

The penalty is not a tax.

Having so concluded, the Court was free to consider whether the individual mandate was, in fact, otherwise a constitutional exercise of Congressional power.

There were two possible bases for finding the mandate constitutional.

1. Congress properly included the mandate as an exercise of its Commerce Clause power;


2. Congress properly included the mandate as an exercise of its Taxing power.

(I could explain these constitutional clauses to you but I could also Ped-Egg your back with a cheese grater. Suffice it to say, Congress has to be specifically authorized by a provision of the Constitution before it can do stuff. These are the two most commonly employed authorizations of power.)

There are 9 Justices on the Supreme Court. You need 5 to agree on the outcome of any issue. None have to agree as to the reasoning.

4 concluded that the mandate was unconstitutional under either power.
4 concluded that the mandate was constitutional pursuant to the Commerce Clause power.
1 concluded that the mandate was constitutional pursuant to the Taxing power.

[Punches TI-81. Graph mode.]

That makes 5 Justices concluding that the mandate was constitutional under some power. In other words, it stays.

Wait just a second. How can a mandate penalty that’s not a tax be constitutional pursuant to the Taxing power? Nice try, Chief Justice Johnny R. Obviously, “A clever man would put the poison in his own goblet because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he’s been given.”

I’m of course not a great fool, so clearly you did not say that, for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act, the mandate is not a tax but, for purposes of the constitutional analysis, it is? [Nervous laughing.]

And, you must have known me not to be a great fool — you would have counted on it — so clearly I cannot choose the wine in front of me or the not-tax in front of you or the tax not in front of either of us!? [Anxiously perspiring.] Wait, what are we talking about it??

To quote the Opinion of the Court, “Hey, look over there!”

Chief Justice Roberts then concluded by saying, “I switched glasses while your back was turned!! Hahahahahahahaha!”

Let me summarize:

To allow itself the opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of the mandate, the Court concluded that the penalty was not a tax. Then, to uphold the constitutionality of the mandate, the deciding jurist, Chief Justice Roberts, then concluded that it was — a tax.

Truly, a dizzying intellect.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by DJ Transform.

Today’s song blog here:

Shell Game


For and Against Part Deux

North Carolina voted today to approve a constitutional amendment that would essentially prohibit same-sex unions of whatever name or design. The amendment reads: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” The language will effectively bar the state from giving legal recognition to civil unions between same-sex couples and likely has some far-reaching and even unintended consequences for families and children right now.

I don’t think I can say it any more diplomatically than I did when NY passed its same-sex legislation last June. So, I’ll self-plagerize and recycle the blong from that entry.

My audience is compromised of people who have deeply held convictions about this issue on both sides. And, many probably think they know my view. For personal and professional reasons, I am largely private about it.

Suffice it to say, I am for personal responsibility before God.

I am for self-determination in life and love.

And, I am for liberty in a pluralistic democracy.

Where these are found, I’m for it.

I am against bad and abusive relation.

I am against neglectful parents.

I am against failing our commitments.

Where these are found, I’m discouraged.

Many people believe that legal constraints, like the NC amendment, will preserve the sanctity of our traditional and heterosexual marriage. But, they are confused. Our modern marriage is already sick and soulless.

Let us all be for vibrant, committed, and God-fearing marriage.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by Gudo.

Today’s song blog here:

A Little Less Somehow


The Stream

Sorry that things have been a little slow. Preparations for TEDxGreenville, in addition to the normal ramping of spring activities, have left me pretty thin. I’m hoping a couple more posts before this Friday’s presentation.

Until then, an oldie from the archives, below, in light of the Supreme Court’s consideration of the health care bill and mandate. Please, please do not read CNN or MSNBC or Fox for your information on it. There are too many expert and original source sites. I recommend this one.

Following CNN for legal analysis is like buying your milk at Bo-Nats. I mean, they’ve got it, but you’re probably getting dysentery.

Performed by ipoetlaureate.  Music produced by Juicebox Jackson.

The Way We Should Die