Regarding the Harding Street drug raid violence and related matters

During the evening of Monday, 2019 January 28, the execution of a drug-related search warrant by Houston Police Department officers ended with five officers going to the hospital, four for gunfire-related injuries and a fifth with a knee injury ( report). In the aftermath of this, the president of the Houston Police Officers Union, Joe Gamaldi, minced no words in calling those who fired back upon the HPD officers “dirtbags” in addition to stating the following (quote from a later story):

If you’re the ones that are out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy, just know we’ve all got your number now, we’re going to be keeping track of all of y’all, and we’re going to make sure that we hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers. We’ve had enough, folks. We’re out there doing our jobs every day, putting our lives on the line for our families.

I feel the need to address these latter comments as a long-time outspoken critic of some activities of law enforcement and the legal system.

First, I have never advocated violence against law enforcement officers or others who work in the legal system (such as attorneys, judges, etc). I condemn the violence that occurred this Monday with the same vigor that I condemned the murder of Deputy Darren Goforth in 2015. The actions of the suspects are an outrageous affront to decent society and it is my hope that the officers injured in the shootout make the best and speediest recovery possible given current medical technology.

I get that as the president of a police officers union in a large city, a lot of the job is PR and, by extension, playing up the cops as the good guys. I wish I could say for sure exactly what was intended by the words “stir the pot” in this context. I would like to think that First Amendment-protected nonviolent free speech, in the form of criticism of law enforcement officers who betray the trust of those they are supposed to be serving and protecting, is not being targeted as “stir[ring] the pot”.

It is unavoidable that sooner or later, some cops will prove it was a mistake to trust them with the power of the badge. There are bad apples in every field: medicine (doctors, nurses, EMTs), fast food/restaurants, messengers/couriers, information technology (including internet help desks and sysadmins), marketing and PR, entertainment (including youth-focused classes of entertainment such as face painting and balloon twisting), just to name a few. It stands to reason that some who enter law enforcement and the practice of the people’s/state’s side of criminal law will wind up showing their lack of fitness to serve their respective professions.

The difference is that a bad cop or a bad DA can really screw up a life or even multiple lives with a mistake, more so than most other professions. When they do, we, the people, have the right to be heard and speak out about it. We, the people, have just as much of a right to hold law enforcement and DAs accountable as we do to hold anyone else accountable. Sometimes the last-ditch appeal to the press is the only thing that really works.

I get that law enforcement is a risky business. But don’t forget the US Constitution is part of those laws as well.

The reaction to the results of the 2016 election: protests and more

The Daily Kos reports on protests in response to the election results. Admittedly, protests of some sort are something we don’t see that often in the US.

Given how divisive this election was, we were virtually guaranteed a reaction of this sort regardless of the eventual winner. If there was an ever an election where I felt like I was choosing “the lesser of two evils” this was it. I voted for Hillary Clinton, but it was a more of a vote against Donald Trump. I toyed with the idea of voting third-party but that went out the window the moment some polls indicated Texas was a toss-up state (our 38 electoral votes wound up going to Trump, alas).

So, personally, it’s hard to blame all these people who (presumably) voted for Hillary Clinton (or someone else) who are out there protesting. The preliminary popular vote totals indicate that Hillary actually won the popular vote–meaningless in the grand scheme of things because it’s the Electoral College vote that really matters, but symbolic in that there were more actual people who wanted Hillary to be our next president. Given a lot of the things that Donald Trump said during the campaign, and some things that came to light including blatant misogyny in the form of the “grab ‘em by the (vaginal area)” recording with Billy Bush (which eventually cost the latter his most recent job as host of Today despite the fact the recording was from over a decade ago), the protests aren’t much of a surprise to me.

The First Amendment is a powerful thing. It protects many vital freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. These include the right to protest peacefully, and it is this last point that protesters must remember. Once violence is added to the mix, it’s not really a protest anymore, but a riot. I get that people are pissed off. Heck, I’m still pretty pissed off, and the election was three days ago.

That said, violence won’t solve anything. The problem is definitely not that too few people think that everyone who voted for Clinton (or Johnson, Stein, McMullin, etc), and who is upset enough to protest, has the intelligence and temper of an uncaged wild animal. In addition, there’s just no need for violence to establish that you are unhappy with the election of Donald Trump and all that he stands for. Violence also gives law enforcement a quite legitimate reason to arrest someone.

The “Duck Dynasty” flap: a view from a non-fan of the show

Originally I was going to just let this one fly by like a black brant headed to Mexico. But I think there have been enough people vocally claiming a First Amendment violation that it’s time to weigh in.

First, in case you’ve missed this or live outside the US (many of these links will contain offensive material):

Executive summary: Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty gives an interview to GQ Magazine (owned by Conde Nast Publications, not Hearst as originally stated by one source). A+E Networks (owners of the cable channel A&E, a joint venture of Hearst Corporation and Disney-ABC Television Group, and no I have no idea why the corporate name has a plus sign instead of an ampersand) gets wind of it, the executives go nuts and place Phil Robertson on “indefinite hiatus” from the show. Right-wing fans of the show claim infringements of First Amendment free speech rights, Cracker Barrel pulls Duck Dynasty merchandise only to put it right back on the shelves after the show’s fans threaten a boycott. Finally, A+E Networks reverses the original decision, and since the show wasn’t even producing new episodes anyway, the “indefinite hiatus” amounts to no hiatus at all.

Let’s start with the original GQ interview and A+E Networks’ reaction. First, I consider Mr. Robertson’s remarks to be in egregiously poor taste. I don’t know why anyone who is on television as part of a nationally cablecast program would think it was a good idea to say these kinds of things in a magazine interview. I am forced to conclude that Mr. Robertson simply doesn’t give a shit.

So it’s not surprising that the brass at A+E Networks did what they did. And they had the right to decide who and what they wanted to air on their television network. The same way I can decide exactly what to post on my blog, and what comments make it. I’ve been pretty liberal, but I have edited comments for publication in the past.

What does surprise me is that the same largely conservative fan base is willing to attack A+E Networks for infringing on freedom of speech, as if it’s Mr. Robertson’s right to be on television. It’s not his show nor his network. It was a given that some other network somewhere would pick up either Duck Dynasty itself or start a new show starring the Robertson family and the duck call business. (Probably one of the Fox-owned networks, given the slant of Fox Noise Ch– I mean Fox News Channel.)

The latest articles I’ve read imply that A+E Networks has painted themselves into a corner, and they can’t win no matter what. Not to mention, at least one former production assistant claims the show is fake ( Which is perhaps the biggest fraud of them all, if he’s right.

A show billed as a reality show should actually reflect reality. Deadliest Catch, for example, does its best to reflect the reality of crab fishing in the Bering Sea. Minimal editing is done except to remove profanity and for legal reasons (blurring/beeping out the identifying information of boats and people who have not signed agreements to be on the show). Nothing is scripted. Cops is perhaps the gold standard in reality television; if not the first, it’s certainly the longest running series in the genre and perhaps the show that helped define it. I’m not saying “gold standard” because I like the show, but because it’s the best example of how a reality show should be made.

Reality (unscripted) television is fine. I have no problem with reality television itself. Reality game shows are fine (Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, etc). Scripted television is fine and has its place. But it’s just not right to call something a reality show when it’s really scripted. If this is what A+E Networks is doing, this is a much bigger problem, to me, than any mishandling of Mr. Robertson and his interview with GQ. I would hate to see something happen to reality television along the lines of the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. But if it takes a Congressional investigation to clean things up, then let’s have one and start the cleanup now.

Remain an atheist, go to jail?

I know the proverbial ink has been dry on this one for some time, but I don’t see the issue becoming any less relevant anytime soon. reported a troubling story regarding a parolee and a 12-step program which requires the acknowledgement of a supreme being.

Barry Hazle was released from prison into the 12-step program after pleading no contest to a methamphetamine possession charge. Everyone involved with the case knew Barry was an atheist, they knew these 12-step programs are centered around the acceptance of a supreme being, and thus his later “congenial” refusal to acknowledge a higher power was not a surprise. The surprise only came when Barry sued for false imprisonment after revocation of his parole–suing not only his parole officer, but several state (California) corrections officials, and Westcare Corporation (which I will assume was actually administering the residential treatment program).

Here’s where it gets hairy. The judge found the defendants liable in the first trial, but the first jury awarded him zero damages, which in itself is frightening. It essentially says that the time and freedom of the accused are worthless. (And possibly that Norm Crosby was onto something when he said “When you go into court, you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.” I believe in the power of juries and I take jury duty seriously, but I admit that every once in a while juries do things that make this quote into a piece of profound wisdom.) Not surprisingly, Barry appealed this verdict and got a new trial after the appeals court ruled he was entitled to damages.

It’s troubling to me that the state would attempt to indirectly force someone to adopt religion. There are websites about how to go through 12-step programs from an atheist perspective ( was one of the more prominent ones when I searched, but by no means the only one), though I doubt Barry had access to anything on the Internet in his situation.

This can also be shown as yet another failure of drug prohibition laws, which I have spoken against time and time again on this blog. More troubling than the law itself in this case, however, is its abuse to attempt to force religion onto a known atheist in a very vulnerable circumstance.

Mayhem at the Jefferson Memorial

There are some law enforcement agencies I just don’t expect to be seen in a bad PR light, that I honestly would trust to do a decent job. And the US Park Police was on that list. I emphasize was, because I watched this YouTube video:

A report at has a bit more information on exactly what’s going on here, and some of the background information. Some of the other stories about this mention an Adam Kokesh as one of the protesters. Most disturbing are these two facts, quoted from the WTOP story, taken together:

The officers remain on regular duty during the investigation, said Schlosser.


The videos [of the incident] show protesters being forcefully restrained, and in at least one case driven to the ground.

But there’s more to it than the usual First Amendment and police brutality issues: starting at 2:16 in the video one of the officers confronts the camera man taking this video and tells him “you’re not allowed to video record in here” and “if you continue to record you will be arrested.” It’s suspicious that it would suddenly become not allowed to record video in the face of a police brutality incident. The cops had to walk past several people taking video to make these arrests; it was not like some of the video cameras were exactly small (one was huge, of the size I’d expect an ENG camera rig to be). And obviously, someone holding a flip phone with the back of the phone aimed at the action is not looking for how many bars of signal they get inside the memorial.

Why are these officers still on their regular beat after this, when it’s documented on video that they exhibited needless brutality?

It’s time for the US Park Police to clean up their act. And I don’t mean litter patrol.

Additionally, I find it ironic I’m writing this on Memorial Day. I am grateful for the job our soldiers do, and I hope their efforts in defending our country and our freedoms was not in vain.

[Edit 2023-08-13: Modernize YouTube link]