Monday, December 31, 2007

Jesse Saenz' Raton, NM post-taser death- Different Henhouse, Same Foxes

police fox in taser henhouseI get comments so infrequently here! I hate to be negative about any of them. This post is in response to a thoughtful comment to my earlier post about a flawed Wake Forest University taser injury study. The responder wrote:

“Say what you wish but I would much rather be shot with a Taser than with a 9mm. The reality is that the persons being shot have predominately caused a scenario to unfold wherein they have or are about to cause bodily or deadly harm to themselves or someone else. Again, stopping the threat is the main desire and I would preferred to be stopped by a 5 second Taser hit than a possible deadly hit from a 9mm or other weapon.”

Thanks for the comment- but this is is a false dichotomy. I'd rather be shot with a taser than with a 9mm myself, but I'd much rather not be shot at all.

Taser use often has nothing to do with threats to the victim, to bystanders, or to the officers. They're increasingly used not for defense or to avoid the use of deadly force but to terrify or simply force compliance with the officers' demands. Too many are not a low-voltage five-second jab in drive-stun mode (pressing the taser against the target) but sustained and repeated shocks administered through taser darts embedded in the victim's flesh and under full control of the attacker. Case in point...

This weekend the Las Cruces Sun-News ran an AP report describing how city police officers used two tasers to shock a Raton man 23 times. Jesse Saenz died before reaching the county detention center. A witness states that there was no struggle, and that the shocks continued over a period of five minutes. The AP report says that the exact cause of his death has not been determined. The officers using the Tasers said the devices malfunctioned, of course- they're unlikely to admit that they hosed Jesse unnecessarily for an extended period of time.

Watch the KOAT (7) Albequerque video here- the victim's sister claims that he was handcuffed at the time. Watch Captain Mike Galardi Of the Raton PD state that the taser was used to force compliance, not in response to a deadly threat. Hear police claim that they tasered the victim once, and hear a witness describe watching multiple extended taser flashes and hearing Jesse scream for five minutes.

The incident has been turned over to the New Mexico State Police for investigation. Will they investigate until the truth is revealed and then report it honestly, or will they protect their brothers in law enforcement? See my earlier post about Foxes guarding the Henhouse.

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Fort Worth TRE Says- Throw Jesus from the Bus

religious nonsense on the busCBS 11 reports that a passenger was escorted off a Ft. Worth bus because she continued reading the bible aloud after the driver asked her to stop. She claims the TRE bus line discriminated against her religion. I disagree. TRE, like many transit companies, has a policy against loud or abusive behavior. The driver asked her politely to stop breaking their rules, and she refused. It's as simple as that. If TRE was discriminating against anything, they were discriminating against Stupidity. It's not a bit different than kicking a drunken mime off the bus before he pukes on your shoes.

If this bothers you, substitute the title of another book into the news report to clarify the issue. “Christine Lutz says she was reading her Bible (Koran, Torah, Book of Mormon, copy of Dianetics, Congressional Record, Necronomicon, Phone Directory, Zend-Avesta, Upanishads, Bhagavadgita) aloud... when the bus driver asked her to stop or get off the bus.” See the difference? If the first was OK with you, and the second isn't, you'd best examine your notion that annoying public transit riders with random phrases blurted from your favorite good book is OK. If you doubt that this twit was anything more than a self-righteous fool, watch the video.

Jamming your personal favorite version of The Ultimate Truth up other peoples' noses works in Islamic countries, not here. This is especially true in politics.

Sunday, Republican Mike Huckabee effectively sunk his candidacy when he stood by a comment he made at a 1998 Southern Baptist Convention, "I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ." Christ never owned America. We've spent a great deal of thought, sweat, and blood making sure no religion ever will. The American people are unlikely to hand their country over to Christ, Allah, or Frosty the Snowman anytime soon.

I hope the electorate is bored and disgusted with religious posturing by now, whether it's Dubya's convenient christianity, Hillary's chameleon christianity, Huckabee's Southern Baptist throwback version, or Obama's crypto islamo/jesus blend. None of them believe a word of it, except as it suits their needs. All they're managing to do is confirm the prejudices of my favorite religionists, the atheists. They can point to this rampant religious vote-whoring and argue that the candidates' continued existence proves there is no god, for no self-respecting deity would fail to smite the clowns taking His Name so egregiously in vain. Smite them, or at the very least, offer them the choice of shutting up or getting off the bus.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Huckabee stands firm; Giuliani agrees, more or less

Huckabee Stands FirmThe AP (myway) reports that Mike Huckabee, in a display of constancy, courage, and leadership uncommon in this or any other presidential campaign, refuses to back down from his 1992 stance on AIDS. "I still believe this today," he said in a broadcast interview, that "we were acting more out of political correctness" in responding to the AIDS crisis. "I don't run from it, I don't recant it," he said of his position in 1992. Huckabee stated his positions then in an AP questionnaire in which he also called homosexuality "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle," and this is one part of his remarks that's really stirring the pot now.

Giuliani, who appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, said in response to a question that he did not believe homosexuality was aberrant. "The way somebody leads their life isn't sinful. It's the acts," said Giuliani, who supports gay rights and lived with an openly gay couple after separating from his second wife while mayor. "It's the various acts that people perform that are sinful, not the orientation that they have." That's a bit of careful hair-splitting. To Be or to Do? Are you homosexual, or do you “do homosexuality”?

The secular among us would stop short of the candidates' “sinful” label. Few would argue against describing homosexuality as abnormal in the statistical sense. Let's adopt Giuliani's spin and restrict this discussion to acts rather than orientation. Promiscuity, debatably more common in though not exclusive to certain homosexual lifestyles, is demonstrably more effective at spreading STDs than monogamy. If the acts involved in the expression of homosexual orientation involve using body parts for other than their intended purposes or (to avoid the pitfall of divining intent from configuration) for purposes other than those to which they are biologically and medically suited, they are contraindicated for health reasons.

Sinful? Immoral? Your call. Statistically aberrant, medically problematical, epidemiologically inadvisable? Indisputably so. Read the Whole Post (opens in a new tab or window)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Hucka boo boo: Candidate Makes Sense, probably Ruins Chances

Mike HuckabeeRepublican Mike Huckabee made a great showing in the Iowa polls. Immediately afterwards, in a howling coincidence, the AP reported his responses to questions about homosexuality and AIDS on their 1992 questionnaire. Mike Allen of POLITICO feels that this may harm his chances of a nomination. He says:

“The revelations could dampen the enthusiasm for the candidacy of Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, because the language clashes with his image as a compassionate, sunny leader... It also could cause Republican voters to reevaluate whether he would be effective at winning swing voters in a general election that looks trying for the GOP.”

He has a point. Huckabee is guilty of making sense in a race stuffed with choices like Billary (Socialist Ventriloquist and her dummy) Clinton and the O' Show team of Oprah and Obama, who either avoid the hard questions altogether or say what they think will buy your vote.

Huckabee also responded that AIDS research was receiving an unfair amount of federal money. Instead, he said celebrities should pay for the research themselves. “In light of the extraordinary funds already being given for AIDS research, it does not seem that additional federal spending can be justified... An alternative would be to request that multimillionaire celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna and others who are pushing for more AIDS funding be encouraged to give out of their own personal treasuries increased amounts for AIDS research."

Put their money where their mouth is, in other words. AIDS is not a plague in the sense of anthrax, or flu, or bubonic plague, ebola or dengue fever. You don't catch it from the air, or the water, bad cold cuts, or a flea, or a sneeze. You catch it by doing something you have no business doing, or, in the sad cases of innocents, through intimate contact with someone who has. If fully-informed, potential AIDS patients won't stop putting themselves at risk through actions totally within their control, should we pay for their treatment when they don't beat the odds? According to AVERT, for data at the end of 2005:

88% of cases among men are due to avoidable behavior; sex with men, intravenous drug use, or a combination of the two. Don't want AIDS, guys? Stop doing those things.

33% of cases among women are due to avoidable behavior; intravenous drug use. 65% are exposed through heterosexual contact, and that means with men who have sex with men or are intravenous drug users. Ladies, don't want AIDS? Put down the needle.

Huckabee also spoke in favor of quarantine. "If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague.... It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents."

Making sense in America. Yep, he's done.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Sluts in Denial- not a taser post

researching sluttinessThe New Zealand Herald carried the story “Women 'want No-Strings Sex' ” on 8 December. Maybe they carried it to boost flagging circulation. It reads like nothing so much as frustrated academics examining their own navels under tight deadlines, like a schoolboy who waited to write a book report until the night before it's due. One's a Kiwi, and one's Canadian, so there are some language problems- they speak a dialect of English known as Brit-Colonial Academic Estrogenese. I've translated these excerpts for my readers. No thanks are necessary.

Two young women researchers are calling for a new form of sexual ethics that would allow women to have casual sex without feeling that they're "sluts". They want to be sluts without feeling like they are sluts. This is a particularly pathetic version of the “perception is reality” argument as applied to self-deception.

Canadian sociologist Melanie Beres, a post-doctoral researcher at Auckland University, and Auckland doctoral student Pantea Farvid (we call this “devaluing the PhD”) told a sociology conference yesterday that rape prevention efforts should stop just giving women tips to avoid harm and promote an ethic of "self-care and care for the other". We call this kind of nonsense “Doctoral Feces”.

Dr. Beres interviewed young Canadians aged 19 to 25 about their casual sex experiences, while Ms Farvid interviewed New Zealanders in the same age bracket. Nice sample, representative of nothing. The New Zealand women were more likely to have actively initiated casual sex (here we call these “self-actualized sluts”) whereas the Canadians were more likely to say it "just happened" (we call these “sluts in denial”). Drink was used by some as an excuse for their choices. Really?

Studies have shown New Zealanders start sex younger than in many countries and have high rates of teen pregnancies and STDs (These are what we call “diseased sluts”). By the age of 25, 13 per cent of women have had more than 10 sexual partners (These are what we call “high mileage sluts” or “retreads”).

Dr. Beres said some women deliberately challenged society's "double standard" that said casual sex was okay for men. It's not OK for guys either. This is a blatant attempt to ennoble sluttish behavior. It's a logical fallacy, known formally as The Noble Slut. One woman in her study took the initiative in sexual encounters (we call this “loose”) and another had decided that a serious relationship would hinder her career, so she sought casual sex to meet her physical needs. We call this “assisted wanking”.

Ms. Farvid said a more open approach to sex would move away from the legal idea that the only issue in sexual morality was consent. Shevek says that a more moral approach to life would move away from the idea that the only issue in sexual morality is libido.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wake Forests' highly suspect taser injury study; Foxes Guarding the Henhouse.

taser in the henhouseThe Winston-Salem Journal reported on 10/8 of this year that a study led by researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine suggests that Tasers are safe. The study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, is said to be the first large, independent study to measure the risk of Taser injuries in real-world situations. Doctors at six jurisdictions across the country reviewed medical and police reports of everyone police used a Taser on, noting injuries ranging from mild (cuts and bruises) to serious, such as bruising to the brain caused by a fall after a man was shocked. These were, of course, police reports and initial contact medical reports without follow-up patient examinations. This is not science. This is propaganda. This is sales.

Study director Dr. William Bozeman, associate professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, commented that despite the conclusions of the study “You cannot treat it as a magical thing that can’t hurt. You have to understand that it is a weapon. It’s very important to recognize that these devices are not 100 percent safe.” This disclaimer aside, Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser International, said he was “thrilled” with the results. Of course he was.

Raj Jayadev of Indybay offered a less enthusiastic view on 10/18, pointing out that examination of the study leaves more questions than answers. Nationally recognized Taser expert Aram James of the Coalition for Justice and Accountability (CJA) says, “The study concludes, without supporting data, that Tasers reduce injuries to both police and the individuals tasered. But the authors offer no systematic data to support this conclusion.” The abstract reported 23% of 597 subjects received some sort of injury. “...hardly support for the proposition that Tasers are safe -- and when coupled with 293 taser related deaths, a statistic conveniently ignored by the authors, the conclusion that Tasers are safe is not only not true but in fact a lie of deadly proportions.”

Richard Konda, Executive Director of the Asian Law Alliance and CJA co-founder, says the study ignores the reality that some populations are at higher risk when Tased. “The study fails to mention the effect of Tasers on vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, the elderly, the mentally ill, and those under the influence of drugs, who are far more likely to suffer serious injuries and even death as a result of being Tasered... medical remedies to prevent death are being developed because Tasers kill. In Miami emergency medical technicians are spraying a sedative in the noses of Tasers victims or inject them with iced saline solutions. These protocols lead us to only one conclusion – that Tasers are deadly weapons and must be banned.”

The study was essentially a law enforcement report, and James points to several red flags. “First, it was conducted at six law enforcement agencies across the country, interestingly enough not disclosed. Why the secrecy? Secondly, underlying police reports and any accompanying medical records were reviewed by ‘tactical physicians' closely connected to a law enforcement agenda. Finally, not mentioned anywhere in the press release is the companion piece put out by the Wake Forest Physicians Group. In a study dated September 4, 2007, the same doctors credited with the above study reported on a police officer who, after volunteering to receive a 5 second Taser exposure under very controlled circumstances... suffered a very serious and apparently permanently debilitating thoracic compression fracture. Why was this piece buried? So much for Tasers being a low risk of injury weapon. If they're unsafe for the cops they're unsafe for us.”

Academics don't work for free. To evaluate any university study, follow the money. The funding agency, the National Institute of Justice, is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. Their website lists grant awards, though the most recent data available is for 2006. These are a few of them:

Wake Forest University Health Sciences received a grant of more than $149,000 in the category of Less-Lethal Incapacitation to study injuries produced by Law Enforcement's use of less-lethal weapons.

The Police Executive Research Forum received more than $400,000 to evaluate the effects of less-lethal technologies on police use-of-force outcomes. PERF is a national membership organization of police executives from the largest city, county and state law enforcement agencies.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police was awarded more than $250,000 for a study of Electronic Control Weapons and Deaths in Custody.

Blackhawk Industries Products Group, a large manufacturer of tactical law enforcement gear, received $174,000.

Politics and grant monies make strange bedfellows. Given the company of the members of this list, is there any reason whatever to suspect that the Wake Forest study is independent of the influence of police agencies and weapons manufacturers? This looks to me less like rigorous peer-reviewed research than whoring science out to support foregone conclusions in the service of sales, marketing, and the casual use of excessive force.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Idiot cops taser deaf man

ASL don't tase me broEyewitness News 12 in Wichita, Kansas reports that multiple police officers responding to an anonymous call about a shooting broke into the wrong house and tasered a naked deaf man. Donnell Williams had just gotten out of the bath tub, wearing only a towel around his waist, when he turned the corner to see guns pointing right at him.

"I ain't never been so scared," says Williams. Without his hearing aid he is basically deaf. "I kept going to my ear yelling that I was scared. I can't hear! I can't hear!" The cops, apparently deaf, blind, and stupid themselves, feared for their own safety because it appeared Williams was refusing to obey their commands to show his hands. I suppose he was holding up the towel with one hand and pointing at his ear with the other. So they tasered him.

The case is being reviewed by the Wichita Police Department. This is a lot like relying on the fox to review security measures at the henhouse. Nothing to see here, folks... move along, move along. Deputy Chief Robert Lee said, "The first few minutes getting control of the scene are very, very important. Do I wish there would have been some way they were notified in advance this gentleman was hearing impaired? I certainly do. No one is happy with the way it worked out." I imagine the tas-ee is just a little more distraught than the tas-ers. Officers repeatedly apologized, no doubt hoping to ignore a huge lawsuit.

Eyewitness News, shilling for the cops, actually published this sentence: “Police wish it never happened, but with the information they had at the time, their choices were limited.” Limited to shooting first and asking questions later?

The whole incident is one long string of mistakes for which no one will be held accountable. Eyewitness news will drop the story and never follow it up. Dispatch reported the wrong address for an untraceable shooting call. Inept cops failed to correctly evaluate the threat level of a dripping wet, naked, empty-handed man fresh out of the bathtub and decided their best option was to tase him. The excuse machine kicked into high gear and spewed twisted logic to justify the screwup; for example, I'm very sure the department has no written policy that explicitly forbids tasering naked unarmed deaf people, so the cops violated no procedures.

If this is handled like most unwarranted tasering incidents, the shooters are probably still working or on administrative leave with pay, waiting to be returned to active duty once the news storm blows over. With fresh cartridges in their tasers.

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