Thursday, August 27, 2009

Where's Leni Riefenstahl when you need her?

Through the years, plenty of governments have paid artists to sing the praises of the politically powerful and their programs. No matter how well executed, the collaborative efforts have almost universally struck observers as creepy, and have tainted participating artists as prostitutes willing to peddle their souls to government officials with checkbooks. So, as news seeps out that the National Endowment for the Arts is solicitating art supportive of the Obama administration's ambitious (and controversial) policy agenda, you have to wonder just how the participants can think this will end well.

Writing for Big Hollywood, filmmaker Patrick Courrielche tells of an NEA conference call that was intended “to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda - health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal.”

Says Courrielche (who is troubled by the scheme):

Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans. ...

We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.

Given the large role the NEA plays in funding art (It has a $155 million budget this year -- a small sum in absolute terms, but one that makes it a major player in the arts scene), a successful effort to co-opt the artists it supports into propagandizing on behalf of the Obama administration's political agenda could, conceivably, be an effective way of shifting the national poliical environment.

Then again, it might all be wasted effort. Totalitarian governments have long drafted writers, film directors, playwrights and musicians into pro-state efforts, ony to produce clunky tripe that left the audience both bored and more cynical than ever. People often know when somebody is trying to push their buttons. Ideology, ultimately, is no substitute for real art.

But, in the United States, government officeholders aren't really supposed to use official agencies and resources to solicit support for partisan policies. That's a big no-no under the law, as the NEA seems aware, according to comments Courrielche passes along from the conference call.

“This is just the beginning. This is the first telephone call of a brand new conversation. We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government. What that looks like legally?…bare with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely… “

Speak with each other safely? Ugh.

But if the NEA is treading close to the legal line (or crossing over it), any artists who heed the agency's invitation are likely gambling with something more important than the law: their credibility. Any message communicated by art can be good or bad on its own merits if it originates with the artist. But if it's done on behalf of government officials, it's not art anymore.

It's just political advertising.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not another ode to Ted Kennedy

There are enough "in memory of" pieces full of cloying prose popping up all over the Web that I don't feel obliged to post anything about my own fond* memories of Edward M. Kennedy.

Then again, I do hope that the spirit of Mary Jo Kopechne now has an opportunity to, over and over again, drown Ted Kennedy's ravaged soul in a cold, dark place, for all eternity.

*I lied. They're not fond.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

C'mon, Mexico. Don't be shy about making a (legitimate) buck on drugs

Last week, Mexico's government did something that ought to be emulated far and wide -- it stopped worrying about America's draconian preferences on drug policy and decriminalized the personal use of not just marijuana, but a wide variety of officially disfavored intoxicants. In a country ravaged by violence and corruption spawned by drug prohibition, the new policy promises less reason for conflict between people and officials, and fewer opportunities for crooked cops to extract bribes from people enjoying an after-work toke or sniff. But as much as decriminalization is a step in the right direction, it doesn't go far enough; Mexico should making drugs perfectly legal to produce and sell in any quantity.

Under the new law, Mexicans are free to privately possess and consume up to five grams of marijuana, a half gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams of methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams for LSD. That's just about a enough to get a small party started, but not enough to keep it going.

It's also not enough to defuse the violence and corruption engulfing Mexico, which revolves around the criminal syndicates that produce and ship drugs in massive quantities, primarily for the underground market in the United States. As the United States State Department warned in a Travel Alert issued on August 20 of this year:

Mexican drug cartels are engaged in violent conflict - both among themselves and with Mexican security services - for control of narcotics trafficking routes along the U.S.-Mexico border. In order to combat violence, the government of Mexico has deployed military troops in various parts of the country. U.S. citizens should cooperate fully with official checkpoints when traveling on Mexican highways.

Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades. Large firefights have taken place in towns and cities across Mexico, but occur mostly in northern Mexico, including Tijuana, Chihuahua City, Monterrey and Ciudad Juarez.

The spur for this violence isn't the desire of the average Mexican to smoke a joint on a Saturday night; it's the fortunes to be made by supplying the illicit drug market in the United States of America. While nobody knows precisely how big the drug trade is, we do know that 90% of all U.S. bills contain traces of cocaine, suggesting just how often money and the drug cross paths. No matter what the law says, somebody is going to get a piece of that action.

Since the production and distribution of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and the like remain illegal in Mexico, the industry will continue to be run by people willing to violate the law. Like Al Capone and the other gangsters who supplied booze during America's misfired experiment with Prohibition, Mexico's drug suppliers are criminals who settle their disputes with violence instead of lawsuits. Decriminalization may reduce risks for the average Mexican, but it won't address the country's larger problems so long as there's money to be made to the north and servicing that market requires underground activity.

To get at the root of the problem, Mexico should just legalize the trade. Let legitimate businesses grow and package poppies and cannabis. Big companies and small operations alike, operating in a legal environment, could easily drive the criminals off. By depriving them of huge profits in the shadows, legalization would render the gangs less dangerous and powerful, just the way the repeal of Prohibition stemmed the flow of blood in the U.S.

If a Cuervo brand heroin truck side-swipes a van loaded with Corona pre-rolled joints, the matter can be settled in the courts, not the street.

And if the U.S. still doesn't want the stuff crossing the border? Well, that's the problem of the neighbor to the north, isn't it?

Full legalization might not gain Mexico any friends in D.C., but that would be offset by peace and prosperity at home.


Monday, August 24, 2009

A painful investigation

Memos penned under the late, unlamented Bush administration authorizing the use of torture against people suspected of (but not convicted of) engaging in terrorism are making the rounds -- and political waves. The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility has recommended the government revisit past decisions against prosecuting Central Intelligence Agency personnel for their conduct during the interrogation of detainees. In response, Attorney General Eric Holder approved a preliminary review in the matter to determine if federal law was violated. The review, which will be led by Assistant United States Attorney John Durham, may lead to a full review, which may lead to prosecution.

So what's all the fuss about? How did those memos trigger such turmoil? Well, you can dig through the documents yourself, which include such highlights as the following fine words sent by Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA, on May 10, 2005:

In Techniques, we concluded that the individual authorized' use of several specific interrogation techniques, subject to a variety of limitations and safeguards, would not violate the statute when employed in the interrogation of a specific member of al Qaeda, though we concluded that at least in certiain respects two of the techniques presented substantial questions under sections 2340-2340A. The techniques that we analyzed were dietary manipulation, nudity, the attention grasp, walling, the facial hold, the facial slap or insult sIap, the abdominal slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, water dousing, extended sleep deprivation, and the "waterboard."

Or, if you want the short version, you can listen to excerpts read by narrators, including Oliver Stone, in the brief video below, which was prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Black protester is a ... white racist?

I'm a cynical bastard, but even I am thrown for a loop by MSNBC's white-facing of a black protester so that he can be presented as evidence of an armed, white, racist reaction to the election of Barack Obama as president.

If you're curious, the catalyst for MSNBC's hyperventilating fears of racism is Chris, seen below. I don't think he's a good candidate for a white hood.


Universities schooled about free speech

Late August is here, which means college students across the country are contemplating a return to bars, parties and -- oh yeah -- classes. As they arrive at campus, though, many of them are actually entering an environment where free speech and diversity of opinion are less respected than they are at home. Often disguised as harassment codes, free speech restrictions are alive and well at colleges and universities, and actually still have defenders in both the legal and academic communities.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has spent the last decade at the forefront of the effort to ensure that respect for liberty is among the lessons taught on the nation's campuses. FIRE fights the good fight, but there are still plenty of schools where administrators think stifling debate -- or even suppressing opinions -- is more important than encouraging the free exchange of ideas.

Just weeks ago, the University of Louisville was ordered to reinstate a nursing student, Nina Yoder, who had written provocative posts on her Myspace page about her political and cultural views and the alleged irresponsibility of (unidentified) patients she had tended. Yoder prevailed in the free speech battle, but only after taking her case to federal court.

Yale University Press continues to raise worries about its commitment to free speech by agreeing to publish a book about the Mohammed cartoon controversy only after the author reluctantly agreed to omit the actual cartoons.

And last month, a federal judge struck down the Los Angeles Community College District's sexual harassment code as an affront to constitutionally protected free speech rights, which public universties are legally bound to respect.

FIRE maintains a rogues gallery of "worst of the worst" public and private universities that are especially egregious in maintaining policies that suppress speech and the free exchange of ideas. Private universities, while not bound by the First Amendment, can sometimes be challenged on contractual grounds if they promise but fail to protect an open environment for expression. They can also just be publicly shamed for their authoritarian policies. The Red Alert List currently features:

Michigan State University -- "Michigan State University (MSU) has been named to FIRE's Red Alert list after finding student government leader Kara Spencer guilty of 'spamming' and misuse of university resources for criticizing the administration's plan to change the school calendar."

Colorado College -- Colorado College landed on the list because the school "refused to remove the guilty finding from the records of two students who posted a parody flyer on campus and reaffirm its published commitments to free speech."

Brandeis University -- Brandeis earned its place on the list after it "declared Professor Hindley, a nearly 50-year veteran of teaching, guilty of racial harassment and placed a monitor in his classes after he criticized the use of the word 'wetbacks' in his Latin American Politics course."

Tufts University -- "Tufts University earned its Red Alert status by finding in May that The Primary Source (TPS), a conservative student newspaper, violated the school’s harassment policy by publishing two satirical articles during the past academic year."

Johns Hopkins University -- "Johns Hopkins University earned its Red Alert designation by suspending eighteen-year-old junior Justin Park for posting an “offensive” Halloween party invitation on the popular social networking site"

In addition to the institutions listed above, Boston College was recently given a "red light" rating for failing to live up to its promises of an open environment for expression. And Northern Illinois University currently features as FIRE's "speech code of the month" over broad rules banning "Intentional and wrongful use of words, gestures and actions to annoy, alarm, abuse, embarrass, coerce, intimidate or threaten another person."

While college speech restrictions seem to fail in court time and again, and draw nearly universal condemnation, they do have their defenders. In April, the Harvard Law Review published an article criticizing the pro-free-speech decision in DeJohn v. Temple University (PDF). The piece complained that the decision "deprives institutions of meaningful guidance as to how to combat harassment while respecting freedom of speech."

That's how speech restrictions are usually defended; it's a balancing act between free speech rights and whatever values happen to occupy the would-be censors' attention. Somehow, speech always seems to get short shrift when the censors start weighing their priorities.

Fortunately, though, they don't usually get their way in court or when it comes to public opinion. As the First Amendment Center points out:

The speech codes that have been challenged in court have not fared well. Courts have struck these policies down as being either overbroad or vague. A statute is overbroad if it prohibits a substantial amount of protected speech in its attempts to restrict unprotected speech. A statute or regulation is vague if it does not adequately inform a person what expressive conduct is prohibited and what expressive conduct is allowed, leaving a person to guess at its application.

But the speech codes are still out there, tripping up students and faculty alike until somebody expends the time and energy to knock them down.

So if you're a college student returning to school in a couple of weeks, get ready for some good times. But keep FIRE's number on speed dial.

Below, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff discusses campus speech codes..


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Newsflash: Authorities don't arrest a protester

CNN's Rick Sanchez may have got his knickers in a bunch over armed (but peaceful) protesters outside a venue where President Barack Obama was giving a speech to veterans, but Secret Service and local law enforcement acted with appropriate restraint, leaving the demonstrators alone to make their point. Their respect for the protesters' rights to free speech and to bear arms deserve notice -- as does the hysterical wailing from some quarters about armed dissidents being allowed too near the king president.

Over at Crooks and Liars, Heather complains, "I think it is completely irresponsible and if the gun laws in Arizona allow this, there's something wrong with their laws."

And at Democratic Underground, Joanne98 moans, "If police--and the Secret Service--allow guns at political events, then members of the public have to fear for their safety and their very lives."

And, as mentioned above, CNN's Rick Sanchez reported the protest as if riots had broken out in the streets and the Secret Service had fled the scene.

Instead, though, federal and loacal law-enforcement officials did what they do all too rarely: they respected the rights of peaceful individuals to state their case, even if that case included legally carrying arms. After all, Arizona is an open carry state -- you need a permit to carry a firearm concealed, but not to have it in plain sight.

Officials are not always this restrained. Last week, a man was arrested in Hagerstown, Maryland, and turned over to the Secret Service after brandishing a sign saying "Death to Obama." The president was nowhere near the scene. In 2004, Secret Service agents questioned a high school student about his anti-war drawings -- one of which depicted the head of then-President George W. Bush on a stick. Under the former president, it became increasingly common for law-enforcement to herd political protesters into "free speech zones," and to arrest anybody who strayed from behind the fence and bothered elected officials with actual dissent.

From a relatively minor office that was originally intended to defer to Congress, the presidency has become a quasi-monarchical position expected to evoke instant reverence among the masses. Voicing disagreement within earshot of the president is now treated almost as an act of blasphemy. As a result, writes Gene Healy, author of the Cult of the Presidency:

Whatever social power celebrities have over those that surround them—and it’s considerable—the environment in which the president exists is even more unnatural. Rock stars and movie idols can order their functionaries around and buy their own planes, but they can’t send the Seventh Fleet through the Taiwan Strait or bomb Syria. And the stakes are much smaller where Russell Crowe, Lindsay Lohan, or Tom Cruise is concerned. If fame and wealth go to a celebrity’s head, he ends up jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, no harm done to the wider world. If the president loses his grip on things, there’s rather more at stake…

So it's encouraging that officials are not only backing off the authoritarian "free speech zones" that prevailed so recently, but are even recognizing protesters' right to go armed.

And if a few officials and their lackeys feel unease at the sight of guns in the hands of the great unwashed, well, as the tag line for the movie V for Vendetta put it, "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people."


Monday, August 17, 2009

Government is your friend (just keep saying that)

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which federal officials denied proven treatment for syphilis to African-American men just to see how the disease progressed, came to a belated end in 1972, so Ezra Klein, the high-school intern ... err ... young columnist at The Washington Post can perhaps be forgiven for failing to recognize the officially sanctioned 40-year abomination as evidence that we do indeed have a "government capable of madness." But government officials have engaged in other horrors in recent memory, so his astonishment that many Americans distrust the state can only be taken as appalling naivete -- or incredible idiocy.

On August 11, Klein wrote:

What we're seeing here is not merely distrust in the House health-care reform bill. It's distrust in the political system. A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the "institutional checks" that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable. If it was not unthinkable, then no number of institutional checks could repair that relationship. Similarly, the relationship between the protesters and the government is not healthy. The protesters believe the government capable of madness. There is no evidence for that claim, which means that there is no answer for it, either. That claim is not about what is in this bill, or what government has done in Medicare and Medicaid and the VA. It is about what a certain slice of Americans think their government -- and by extension, their fellow citizens -- capable of.

Leave aside, for the moment, the wisdom of the various health care proposals rattling around the chambers of Congress at the moment. Can anybody with even a passing knowledge of the past century's history say with a straight face that governments -- very much including the one under which we live -- are not capable of madness?

R.J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Hawaii, has made a rather depressing name for himself by calculating the number of people murdered by governments during the course of the twentieth century. His latest estimate, revised upwards, stands at 262,000,000.

Yes, that mountain of bodies can mostly be blamed on the world's totalitarian governments, with bloody additions tossed in by merely authoritarian political systems. But democracies are capable of madness, too. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently digging through memos written by the late, unlamented Bush administration, which authorized the use of torture against detainees. The Obama administration is still resisting efforts to shine some light on just who is being held under brutal conditions at Bagram, in Afghanistan.

And then there's Tuskegee, which continued for decades under presidents and congresses from both major political parties.

Ezra Klein may ridicule public doubts about the wisdom of allowing the government further control over health care as the equivalent of demanding "what will prevent you from beating your wife?" of elected officials. But the truth of the matter is that government has been an abusive and untrustworthy partner for as long as it has existed. That doesn't mean that everything politicians touch ends in horror and bloodshed, but it's hardly an exercise in paranoia to voice the "distrust in the political system" that Klein finds so worrisome.

In fact, our political system was built on an (imperfect) system of checks and balances meant to minimize the toll it takes on life, liberty and property since the founders didn't trust what they were creating. So when Klein objects that "A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the 'institutional checks' that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other," we have to wonder just how long he's been skipping Social Studies class to pen his oh-so-earnest columns.

In the end, maybe the Obama administration's proposals for a greater government role in health care will prove to be a good idea. I doubt it, but I've been wrong before. But in the course of the debate over those proposals, questions about the trustworthiness of the government -- and its potential for madness -- should take center stage.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Not dead yet ...

... I just feel that way. That's why I haven't posted much in a while.

I had family in town and then I was traveling for a job interview. I'll return to something resembling my regular schedule after I get a little more sleep.

Monday, August 10, 2009

When you insert politics into medical decisions, you get ...

The clever video below from the Independence Institute takes a look at just how politics has affected Oregon's decisions regarding the conditions Medicaid will -- and won't -- cover.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Government may be getting just a little more unpopular

Even though I found arguments that former President George W. Bush "stole" the 2000 election to be unconvincing, I was gladdened to hear people who usually hold coercive power in excessively high regard use the word "illegitimate" when referring to the head of state. I'm equally encouraged to see reports that tax revenues are drying up and that members of Congress are being greeted at home by angry protesters. Anything that erodes the cult of government is a good thing.

And tax revenues do, indeed, appear to be drying up. According to the Associated Press, the federal government is seeing its biggest decline in revenue since 1932. Overall receipts are expected to drop 18% this year -- a number that squares with Congressional Budget Office projections.

Other figures in an Associated Press analysis underscore the recession's impact: Individual income tax receipts are down 22 percent from a year ago. Corporate income taxes are down 57 percent. Social Security tax receipts could drop for only the second time since 1940, and Medicare taxes are on pace to drop for only the third time ever.

Internal Revenue Service figures (XLS) reveal that tax receipts have declined during past recessions, but to a relatively minor degree. This year's cash crunch is historically impressive..

But reviewing those IRS figures reveals more interesting information -- in particular, how much less the federal government used to cost us all within living memory. Using current dollars -- that is, figures adjusted to represent 2009 purchasing power so that we're comparing apples and apples -- it's easy to see that the assemblage of czars and apparatchiks in D.C. has become a much more expensive indulgence than in the past. In 1960, gross federal tax revenues were about $91.8 billion; in 2008, gross federal tax revenues stood at $2.7 trillion.

Gross Federal
Tax Revenues, 1960-2008
figures in current dollars

And yet the federal government has been so effective at finding ways to spend that extra cash that it's poised to rack up a $1.8 trillion deficit this year alone, with a total deficit of $9.1 trillion forecast for 2010-2019 (according to the Congressional Budget Office). It seems that, no matter how much the government collects, there's never enough to pay for all of the things that politicians want to do for, with or to their constituents.

You can insert the government ever-more deeply into people's lives when you keep expanding your resources by such an enormous measure, with everything that implies for the size and power of the state relative to the autonomy of the individual. Wiretaps, marijuana and immigration raids, "smart" ID cards and extensive databases don't come cheaply -- but there's been more than enough cash to pay the bills for many decades.

Of course, lots of people like the loss of liberty that comes with a government that has a seemingly endless stream of funding -- and still spends more than it takes in. But not everybody hankers after the suffocating embrace of the all-powerful state. That's why so many members of Congress are going home this month, only to run headlong into vigorous protests against proposals to expand the federal government's already enormous role in the regulation and provision of health care.

Yes, Rep. Llloyd Doggett insists that the crowd that shouted him down was a nasty "mob" dispatched by libertarians and Republicans. Well, isn't public opposition always a "mob" in the eyes of comfortable officials?

And political organizations wish they had the ability to make enthusiastic protesters show up at a whim; In reality, the best they can do is to help coordinate passion that already exists at the grassroots. Those protesters may have received a little literature and a few emails from some groups' twenty-something outreach types, but they showed up because they're ticked off.

It's too much to hope that we're seeing the end of the metastasizing state -- expansive government still has too many supporters and resources to dry up and blow away.

But we are seeing further erosion of the credibility and legitimacy of coercive institutions and officials who are discovering new resistance to their efforts to run the world.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Immigration raids and the Fourth Amendment don't mix so well

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made headlines last summer when one of their teams raided, without a warrant, a home in Yuma, Arizona, unconnected to illegal immigrants and owned by an agent with a sister agency. Now, a report penned by experts in law and law enforcement says that ICE regularly ignores constitutional guarantees when conducting its raids.

The raid on the Slaughter home may have raised eyebrows across the country, but such conduct has become all too common in parts of the United States. In the Southwest, drivers have become accustomed to roadblocks along the highways manned by Border Patrol. Even some police officers, such as those in Arizona represented by the Mesa Police Association, have grown weary of the endless targeting of illegal immigrants, and have pushed back against proposals to turn every encounter between cop and pedestrian into an immigration status check.

In fact, Mesa's Chief of Police George Gascon is one of the authors of Constitution on Ice: A Report on Immigration Home Raid Operations, a report from the Benjamin Cardozo Law School's Immigration Justice Clinic. According to that report:

Through two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, the authors of this report obtained significant samples of ICE arrest records from home raid operations in New York and New Jersey. Analysis of these records, together with other publicly available documents, reveals an established pattern of misconduct by ICE agents in the New York and New Jersey Field Offices. Further, the evidence suggests that such pattern may be a widespread national phenomenon reaching beyond these local offices. The pattern of misconduct involves:

• ICE agents illegally entering homes without legal authority – for example, physically pushing or breaking their way into private residences.

• ICE agents illegally seizing non-target individuals during home raid operations – for example, seizing innocent people in their bedrooms without any basis.

• ICE agents illegally searching homes without legal authority – for example, breaking down locked doors inside homes.

• ICE agents illegally seizing individuals based solely on racial or ethnic appearance or on limited English proficiency.

That sounds an awful lot like what the Slaughters went through. According to Jimmy Slaughter's affidavit, attached to his complaint against the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Supervisor Neil Baker and the seven agents who raided his home:

On July 24th 2008 at approximately 1730 hrs I was at home with my wife when the doorbell rang," Slaughter wrote in an affidavit included in the eight-page lawsuit. "I opened the door and noticed approximately 7 uniformed Ice agents with vests and guns standing at my door. I could only see 3 unmarked cars in front of my home.

I said what's up fellas? Not having a clue as to what was happening. The lead agent stated that, 'We have received information that Guadalupe Uolla is residing at the residence.' I opened the screen door to look at the paperwork and five agents entered my house.

My wife asked me what was happening, thinking this was a joke. The agents then told my wife to stand in the center of our living room; we were in the middle of folding laundry during my day off. Not once did anyone say they had a warrant.

Note that Slaughter was able to end the raid by demonstrating his own Border Patrol credentials. His status also allowed him access to Baker, who supervised the raiders and who he chewed out over the phone. But even with his privileged status and access, Slaughter still ended up seeking redress through the courts.

Most encounters with ICE don't end so "well." Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that immigration agents have sometimes illegally seized and deported citizens during the course of their raids.

ICE teams have apparently made a habit of visiting homes under the authority only of administrative warrants issued by their own agency. These administrative documents don't meet the standards set by the Fourth Amendment's guarantee that "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The Cardozo report details:

According to ICE’s own Detention and Deportation Officer’s Field Manual, "Warrants of Deportation and Removal are administrative rather than criminal, and do not grant the authority to breach doors. Thus informed consent must be obtained from the occupant of the residence prior to entering.”

As the well-documented Slaughter raid illustrates, that's a provision they regularly ignore.

How often do ICE agents barge into homes without legal authority? That seems to vary from place to place. The Cardozo report looked closely at raids in New York and New Jersey, and found that informed consent was not first obtained 24% of the time in the Garden State -- and a whopping 86% of the time on Long Island. The situation has been bad enough that in New York, Nassau County police pulled out of one 2007 operation with ICE because of “serious allegations of misconduct and malfeasance.”

The Fourth Amendment was added to the Constitution over 200 years ago by people who had suffered, in their lifetime, government agents who forced their way into private homes and businesses at will. It seems that whatever protection that amendment may once have provided is pretty well gone.

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