Barely Legally

confessions of a moot court bailiff

Shock and Aw Come On

The prosecutor in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed teen was shot to death, appears to be declining to recommend any charges to the grand jury investigation. The St. Louis County prosecutor’s name is Robert McCulloch, and his family has a rich tradition of government service. His father was a police officer (killed in a shootout on duty), and he has several family members who are police officers.

This by itself doesn’t imply that McCulloch isn’t doing his job. In fact, prosecutors aren’t required to come up with charges for a grand jury. But, uh, there’s kind of a pattern here.

The Washington Post notes:

During [McCulloch’s] tenure, there have been at least a dozen fatal shootings by police in his jurisdiction (the roughly 90 municipalities in the county other than St. Louis itself), and probably many more than that, but McCulloch’s office has not prosecuted a single police shooting in all those years. At least four times he presented evidence to a grand jury but — wouldn’t you know it? — didn’t get an indictment.

The most disturbing part of that sentence isn’t the fact that there have been no prosecutions for instances where police killed someone. The fact is that police have a different legal standard to meet when proving justifiable homicide than you or I do.

The crazy part is that the Post has to guess at how many fatal police shootings there have been. The most comprehensive database for police shootings in America is run by a sarcastic sports web site instead of the Department of Justice or the FBI or something that makes sense. One of the stories on Deadspin’s homepage is “Carlos Martinez’s Twitter Favorites: A Big Ol’ Wall Of Porn.” This is the best resource we have. (For police shootings, not Twitter porn.)

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Carrier, No!

Kyle Mizokami, a freelance writer on defense and military issues, has some words of wisdom for us all. Whatever You Do, Don’t Buy Your Aircraft Carrier From Russia. This is not a metaphor. You literally shouldn’t try to buy multi-billion dollar military hardware from Russia.

Essentially, India retired its one and only aircraft carrier in 2007. They needed to replace it, but couldn’t quite afford a brand new top of the line carrier. So India decided to buy one from Russia, at a price of $974 million, which Mizokami notes was “almost too good to be true.” That’s foreshadowing:

In 2007, just a year before delivery, it became clear that Russia’s Sevmash shipyard couldn’t meet the ambitious deadline. Even worse, the yard demanded more than twice as much money—$2.9 billion in total—to complete the job.

That’s pretty awful. I mean, how did th-

The cost of sea trials alone, originally $27 million, ballooned to a fantastic $550 million.

Are you kidding? What, is the shipyard building its own private lake to test this in? How are th-

A year later, with the project still in disarray, Sevmash estimated the carrier to be only 49-percent complete. Even more galling, one Sevmash executive suggested that India should pay an additional $2 billion, citing a “market price” of a brand-new carrier at “between $3 billion and $4 billion.”

You know what India needs to keep from getting strong-armed like this, and command respect on the global stage? An aircraft carrier.

Life Does Not Imitate

It seems appropriate that on a day devoted to saving the internet, we take some time to appreciate one of the best things to come from an internet relatively free of slow lanes. Netflix isn’t much of a plucky startup underdog anymore, but compared to the internet service providers which extort it, it’s still one of the little guys. Netflix is great for binge-watching TV shows you didn’t watch live, it’s arguably even better for binge-watching TV shows they created.

My favorite is Orange is the New Black, which has somehow only won three Emmy awards. And while this summer has been mighty depressing for about a million reasons, your viewing of Orange is the New Black isn’t complete without the Washington City Paper’s commentary track.

It’s not a behind the scenes oral history of the show or the book or the casting or the writing of the theme song. It’s a reporter watching Orange with a woman who spent some time in a state prison about a decade ago. Her lengthy (and expletive-laden) critiques of the show’s depiction of prison had me in stitches.

I was in prison for four years, and I can’t ever remember one group of people really cheering somebody on. It was always really adversarial, even among crews of people. And, like, the worst thing you could possibly do was to be good at something in front of everybody. That was the same thing as saying that you were better than everybody else, and nobody tolerated that shit for very long.

Whether it was real or imagined, you couldn’t make people think you were above them. So you just sort of stayed shitty at everything. Like, nobody was painting, or writing, or drawing, or anything creative. I mean, people would sing, but everybody sucked at that, so that was ok.

That part actually sounds like how I remember high school. There are six parts to this series, and you can catch Part 1 here.

Summer Re-runs

What, already? Didn’t we just see this episode? College guy writes some very ignorant rape apology piece in his school newspaper:

Only 6.6 percent of women who smoke will develop lung cancer. A woman who smokes is more than three times as likely to be sexually assaulted than she is to develop lung cancer. We turn our noses up at smokers and just made our campus tobacco-free. Yet, nothing is done about sexual assault, short of blaming the “attacker,” a guy who was likely as drunk as his “victim.” We do everything we can to mitigate the small risk of lung cancer, but nothing at all to mitigate the much greater risk of sexual assault.

We all make mistakes, and we all want to be understood, consoled and forgiven, but there’s a double standard here, and it needs to be addressed.

If drunk women who have sex are able to claim “rape,” why aren’t drunk men alleviated of responsibility for the poor decisions they make?

Yeah, why do women get to be sexually assaulted when they get drunk, and why do men get to be responsible for sexually assaulting women when they get drunk? What’s up with that? Well, that’s a fantastically stupid question I’m happy to overexplain, Robert Monteleone of the University of Arizona! (Seen here telling people to stop “trying” to be offended.)

Well, let’s start small.

Corporate Officers

People create corporations to encourage investment by shielding their personal assets from the business venture. Ordinarily, when you go into business (with a couple of partners, for example), if your business racks up $300,000 in debt, the business is liable for the $300,000, but so is each partner. With a corporation, debtors can only collect the assets of the corporation; so if you, Mister Partner, only invested $100,000, that’s all your debtors get from you. Limiting your risk like makes you more likely to invest; at least, that’s the idea.

Here’s a fun fact: government agencies create corporations, too. As they’re not investing or trading any stock, you have to wonder what exactly the purpose is. Sometimes, they’re created because a state constitution regulates borrowing by agencies. But corporations aren’t agencies – they’re people! – so the government, though agencies, can just keep borrowing money. That’s lousy, but that’s not what this post is about.

Via the Washington Post, the American Civil Liberties Union’s new report on police SWAT teams is a little eyebrow-raising. What they’ve found is almost as interesting as what they can’t find. Take Massachusetts:

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