Posts by matthaiduk

Screenshot from 2014-01-20 10:01:30

Richard Sherman might not be a class act, but he’s going to the Superbowl.  As I’m sure you’ve seen on Twitter, or Facebook or even (gasp!) live TV, he had a moment after last nights NFC conference football game to reflect on his performance.  In an increasingly rare sports moment, he spoke from the heart rather than rattle off a string of sports clichés and PR sounding babble.  It went down like this:

To recap, a man trained to act like a human missile made the biggest play of his life in the biggest game of his life and moved his team on to the biggest stage in sports… all against his team’s arch nemesis.  And everybody on the internet is all, “Like, OMG! Can you believe the football man talked like that?”

I’m not saying he should have come across the way he did. I’m just saying that I’m not surprised.

Bragging, in general, isn’t a good idea.

People don’t seem to care when it’s not athletes, though.  Twitter doesn’t go nuts when it’s police, prosecutors, or your county board.

Nobody likes patting itself on the back in public more than the government.  I don’t get it.  I’m clearly in the minority, though. If it annoyed “the masses” as much as it annoyed me, it would stop happening, right?

The fact is that the only difference between what Richard Sherman did and what your local police do is that his message wasn’t filtered through a trained public relations department.  Your local police department, no matter how small, has a public relations contact person.  If it’s a bigger department it’s likely got an entire division devoted to public relations.

For a lot of those departments, public relations (or, as I call it , the bragging department) is working around the clock to let you know how great their wing of government is.  They’re pushing out weekly lists of who was arrested.  They’re also letting you know how awesome they are on twitter and facebook:

Worst of all, they are constantly churning out packaged press releases.  It’s like they think we didn’t know they’d be working if they didn’t constantly tell us that they’re working.

press The Richard Sherman thing is worse, though, right? I mean he called out Michael Crabtree and went psycho on live TV. These media releases are tasteful, tactful, and more well done.  So, it’s different.

Wrong.  While Richard Sherman’s delivery might be worse, he wasn’t using my tax money to tell me he was doing his job.  He’s also headed to the Superbowl.

How many of the media releases and police reports you read about are merely talking about arrests?  Most of them. Nearly every single one of them when it comes to the police.  The Superbowl of police work isn’t an arrest. It’s an arrest that sticks.

So, bragging about arrests is wasteful unless all those arrests lead to convictions.  Of course, they don’t.  When they don’t, the police aren’t exactly issuing press releases and bragging on twitter.

Your neighbor who just had is name blasted all over the press because your police department arrested him… how good was the police work on his case?  You’ll never know- unless, perhaps, if he’s convicted.  If Sherman loses the Superbowl the entire world will know he’s a blowhard. When your neighbor is found not guilty, the police and prosecutors won’t use your tax dollars to say a damn thing.

Where’s the twitter outrage for that?

Just wait.

This stuff is getting to the point where I can’t even joke about it any more. Not that I ever really joked about it. I did write about it while quoting RUN-DMC, though.  I can’t even do that any more.

Some small-town cop killed another mentally ill man.  If you believe the media reports, it does not seem the officer who escalated the situation was very:

(CNN) — Seventy seconds: That’s how long a North Carolina family says it took for things to go horribly wrong as they sought police help dealing with their mentally ill son.
Keith Vidal, 18, died Sunday. According to CNN affiliate WECT, he was just shot 1 minute and 10 seconds after a third law enforcement officer showed up at his Brunswick County home.
The three officers all were from different jurisdictions, and family members say that the third officer — who came from a nearby city — turned what had been an improving situation into an unnecessarily aggressive encounter that ended in their son’s death.”

In casual conversation I’ve gone so far as to say that it’s like there’s a war against the mentally ill going on.  I won’t say that here. What I will say, though, is that we really need to start taking a long-and-hard look at how we train the police in light of the “every day” situations officers find themselves in.

Every police officer I’ve ever cross examined on the witness stand has told me about their training at the Police Training Institute in college, or at seminars since becoming a police officer. You’d be surprised at the stuff your taxes pay to teach them.  For example, writing police reports… they’re trained on that.  They also get trained on how to testify in court.

You’d think that training for those two things is quick and exactly the same, right: Just tell the truth… as best you can, in the best words you can.  Shows what you know.

The DUI training is even more extensive.  Many officers will tell you how they learned of DUI detection when they first became an officer and have done numerous “refresher” courses since.

I’m still waiting for one of them to talk about how they did a 40 hour training on policing and the mentally ill.  Or numerous training days since.

Here’s the thing, though: I can’t blame them for that.  Police training courses and technique is largely funded by taxpayers.  What you’re seeing out there is a product of what you’ve allowed your tax money to train them to do- which is to show up, take control of a situation, and use physical force to attempt to control situations beyond their control.  When that’s the main thread of training, the result isn’t surprising:

The incident happened Sunday afternoon when the mother and stepfather of the Boiling Spring Lakes man called police. According to stepbrother Mark Ryan Wilsey, Vidal had schizophrenia and “was having an episode,” and his parents wanted police to subdue him so he could get help.
* * *
Two officers arrived and began talking with Vidal, according to CNN affiliate WWAY. The situation was relatively calm until a third officer — a detective from the nearby city of Southport — arrived, the family said.
“Everything was going good,” Mark Wilsey said, according to WWAY. “Then this fat cop from Southport walks in the room, walks around the corner, says, ‘We don’t have time for this. Tase that kid now. Let’s get him out of here.’ “

 When will it end?  It will end with the tax paying public has had enough.  Sadly, we’re not there yet.

Harriet took us here.

Guys, Harriet has died.  This is very sad news.  She didn’t go out doing what she loved. She didn’t go down fighting.  She quietly rolled away in the dark of night, never to be seen again.

I loved that Ford E250 cargo van.  Yes, she was white.  Yes, she had a sliding door.  Yes, she was what people around the neighborhood horrificly referred to as a “molester van” or a “creeper van.”

Harriet in Wisconsin

Harriet in Wisconsin

I still loved that van.

It was a sadly short relationship for Harriet and I- we only came together in June.  Even so, we had some great times together.  In July we spent a week hauling The Boss, and Bacon the Vizla around Lake Michgan (seen above).  Harriet helped me moved bikes and canoes and all sorts of fun stuff.

Harriet hauling toys.

Harriet hauling toys.

I’ll never forget that van.

Sadly, though, we grew apart.  By late September I had the opportunity to make an even better buy on a truck that probably would run for more than another six months without leaking oil (and all sorts of other fluids) everywhere we went.  So, Harriet was parked.

I had intended to either sell Harriet for cheap to some young person who, hopefully, was getting into the trades or was starting some sort of business who could use cheap wheels.  If I couldn’t do that, I was going to donate her to charity.  I tried to list her before Christmas, but couldn’t find her title.

On the 26th, while sifting through my things getting ready to take a little trip, I happened upon the title.  As soon as we came back, I listed her.  Sadly, it was over between us.

Then it got weird.  Before I received much action on the ad, the cold and snow came.  Lots of cold. And lots of snow.  With a dead battery, I couldn’t fire her up to move her to safety before the plows rendered her immobile.

“No problem,” I figured, “snow melts… I’ll sell her when I can move her.”

Snowed in!

Snowed in!

Shortly after stepping out one night, I got a frantic text from The Boss- the cops had come to the house complaining about Harriet.  The Boss told me that she thought it was a cop and she thought he was talking about the van but she couldn’t be positive because, well, she didn’t open the door far enough to look out (or, even better, for him to look in… THAT’S MY GIRL!).

What, exactly?

What, exactly?

When I got back, I saw this little notice.  Even though the officer marked the completely wrong time on there (he was there in the pm) and even though he didn’t let me know if it was days or hours,  and even though the van was absolutely not abandoned, I think I understood what he wanted.  He wanted Harriet gone. Quickly.

So, I obliged.  I called the closest towing company I could find, offered to sign the truck over to them if they could get there within the hour.  Then I hung up and wept- even though it was over between Harriet and I, it wasn’t supposed to end like this.

An hour later, Harriet was gone.

I’m not intending to relay this touching, heart wrenching, somber tale to ruin your day or make you sad.  I’m sorry if you’re as broken up reading this as I am writing it.  I know how bad it hurts.

I’m also not intending to have this come off as some sort of complaint about the police or how silly the laws are when there’s snow.

I am intending to highlight, however, that there’s one law none of us control and all of us are subject to: the law of unintended consequences.

I’m sure that when the founding fathers of this little village so bravely signed their names to the aggressive parking ordinance which caused the departure of Harriet, they figured they would just be keeping the roads clear and safe for the children.  I doubt they had any idea that a car would never get donated to a charity devoted to, say, fighting juvenile diabetes or breast cancer.  I’m sure they had no idea that they might be hampering the ability of a young man to get his new business off the ground with a cheap van.

And so it is with every law passed.

Laws passed to keep drug dealers away from schools actually increase crime near those same schools.  Being tough on DUI gives drunk people more incentive to speed home than to pull over and sleep it off in a parking lot.  All the traffic laws that have been increased to misdemeanors for illegal immigrants have cost millions in taxpayer dollars by giving those illegal immigrants the right to free (to them, not the taxpayer) attorneys.  There is no end to it, no matter what the law seeks to punish.

And so, Harriet is gone. Not to a charity. Not to a startup business.  To capitalist vultures who roam the streets at night looking to prey on scofflaws like myself.  Nobody is immune from the law of unintended consequences. Not even Harriet.

Godspeed, Harriet.

Harriet took me to this sunset over Lake Michigan

Harriet took me to this sunset over Lake Michigan

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Back in October I was rather incensed at the idea that police would befriend and use a friendless, autistic kid to buy pot.  Of course, the autistic kid was arrested at his school in dramatic fashion.  He had to be arrested- you’re not allowed to let undercover cops talk you into buying pot… even if you are developmentally disadvantaged (and if you’re doing it because you think you’ve finally made a friend).

Naturally, I was ecstatic to read that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is doing something similar.  In a story published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week, we learned the story of Aaron Key:

Aaron Key wasn’t sure he wanted a tattoo on his neck. Especially one of a giant squid smoking a joint.
But the guys running Squid’s Smoke Shop in Portland, Ore., convinced him: It would be a perfect way to promote their store.
They would even pay him and a friend $150 a piece if they agreed to turn their bodies into walking billboards.
Key, who is mentally disabled, was swayed.
He and his friend, Marquis Glover, liked Squid’s. It was their hangout. The 19-year-olds spent many afternoons there playing Xbox and chatting with the owner, “Squid,” and the store clerks.
So they took the money and got the ink etched on their necks, tentacles creeping down to their collar bones.
It would be months before the young men learned the whole thing was a setup. The guys running Squid’s were actually undercover ATF agents conducting a sting to get guns away from criminals and drugs off the street.
The tattoos had been sponsored by the U.S. government; advertisements for a fake storefront.
The teens found out as they were arrested and booked into jail.
(Read more from Journal Sentinel:
Follow us: @JournalSentinel on Twitter)

The ATF’s use of the mentally disadvantaged in its operations is especially troublesome.  Not just because the meek are the ones we should be looking out for. Mostly because the ATF very well may have been screwing up similar operations around the country.

Back in January the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms completely mishandled an attempt to clean up the streets of Milwaukee.  Our friends at the ATF set up a clothing/shoe/jewelry/smoke shop staffed with ATF agents in a attempt to infiltrate the city’s criminal underside.  The plan was to buy drugs and guns from felons to get all the guns and drugs that felons are selling to others off the street.  It was a great plan. It couldn’t possibly go wrong.

Until it did.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke the story of just what a failure it was.  It all started to unravel when some of the felons- presumably the types of guys the ATF was trying to bust- broke into the store and stole all of the ATF’s merchandise.  From there, it just got worse:

[I]t resulted in a string of mistakes and failures, including an ATF military-style machine gun landing on the streets of Milwaukee and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from its store…
When the 10-month operation was shut down after the burglary, agents and Milwaukee police officers who participated in the sting cleared out the store but left behind a sensitive document that listed names, vehicles and phone numbers of undercover agents.
And the agency remains locked in a battle with the building’s owner, who says he is owed about $15,000 because of utility bills, holes in the walls, broken doors and damage from an overflowing toilet.

It’s not like it was a total failure, though. They did get some guns off the street.  That is, if you count the “street” as the display cases at Gander Mountain:

Other cases reveal that the agency’s operation was paying such high prices that some defendants bought guns from stores such as Gander Mountain and sold them to the agents for a quick profit

But, hey, it’s not like they didn’t arrest people:

The sting resulted in charges being filed against about 30 people, most for low-level drug sales and gun possession counts. But agents had the wrong person in at least three cases. In one, they charged a man who was in prison – as a result of an earlier ATF case – at the time agents said he was selling drugs to them.

A funny thing happened after the Journal Sentinel broke this story.  It kept looking into ATF operations.  That is how we’ve learned of the agency’s use of Mr. Key for its benefit.  That’s only the start, too:

■ Agents in several cities opened undercover gun and drug buying operations in safe zones near churches and schools, allowed juveniles to come in and play video games and teens to smoke marijuana, and provided alcohol to underage youths. In Portland, attorneys for three teens who were charged said a female agent dressed provocatively, flirted with the boys and encouraged them to bring drugs and weapons to the store to sell.
As they did in Milwaukee, agents in other cities offered sky-high prices for guns, leading suspects to buy firearms at stores and turn around and sell them to undercover agents for a quick profit. In other stings, agents ran fake pawnshops and readily bought stolen items, such as electronics and bikes — no questions asked — spurring burglaries and theft. In Atlanta, agents bought guns that had been stolen just hours earlier, several ripped off from police cars.
■ Agents damaged buildings they rented for their operations, tearing out walls and rewiring electricity — then stuck landlords with the repair bills. A property owner in Portland said agents removed a parking lot spotlight,damaging her new $30,000 roof and causing leaks, before they shut down the operation and disappeared without a way for her to contact them.
■ Agents pressed suspects for specific firearms that could fetch tougher penalties in court. They allowed felons to walk out of the stores armed with guns. In Wichita, agents suggested a felon take a shotgun, saw it off and bring it back — and provided instructions on how to do it. The sawed-off gun allowed them to charge the man with a more serious crime.
■ In Pensacola, the ATF hired a felon to run its pawnshop. The move widened the pool of potential targets, boosting arrest numbers.Even those trying to sell guns legally could be charged if they knowingly sold to a felon. The ATF’s pawnshop partner was later convicted of pointing a loaded gun at someone outside a bar. Instead of a stiff sentence typically handed down to repeat offenders in federal court, he got six months in jail — and a pat on the back from the prosecutor.

I can’t help but wonder how this sort of stuff keeps happening.  It would seem that taxpayer money might be better spent on… just about anything.  Either the general public doesn’t know or doesn’t care.  I’m guessing it’s the latter.


There is nowhere terrorists can’t hide these days.  From right out in the open in Pakistan, to a college dorm in Boston.  It’s crazy.  Thankfully, the NSA knows this.  So, the NSA is looking everywhere. EVERYWHERE.  No stone shall go un-turned in the name of keeping you safe.

Even if it’s in the Kindom of Hyrule, apparently:

The NSA is spying on people playing World of Warcraft. Don’t you feel safer?  If only they’d have been spying on people playing video games prior to 9/11/01, I’m sure they could have prevented that tragedy.  I hear that terrorists love a good game of Donkey Kong.

Does the NSA really have so much time and money that World of Warcraft makes the list of worthwhile things to spy on?  Apparently they do.

You NSA guys want to play me in NHL 2013? I’m not very good, but apparently you know that already.