Doctors and the Police State

 Posted by on 20 December 2013 at 10:00 am  Alcohol/Drugs, Crime, Drug War, Government, Law
Dec 202013
 

This story — Drug Warriors Kidnap and Sexually Assault a Woman After Getting Permission From a Dog — is appalling in its own right:

In a case eerily similar to David Eckert’s humiliating ordeal at the hands of cops in Deming, New Mexico, a federal lawsuit charges U.S. Border Patrol agents with subjecting a U.S. citizen to six hours of degrading and fruitless body cavity searches based on an alleged alert by a drug-sniffing dog.

However, what’s really noteworthy, I think, is the complicity of the doctors and medical staff:

First the agents strip-searched the plaintiff, examining her anus and vagina with a flashlight. Finding nothing, they took her to the University Medical Center of El Paso, where they forced her to take a laxative and produce a bowel movement in their presence. Again they found no evidence of contraband. At this point one of their accomplices, a physician named Christopher Cabanillas, ordered an X-ray, which likewise found nothing suspicious. Then the plaintiff “endured a forced gynecological exam” and rectal probing at the hands of another doctor, Michael Parsa. Still nothing. Finally, Cabanillas ordered a CT scan of the plaintiff’s abdomen and pelvis, which found no sign of illegal drugs. “After the CT scan,” the complaint says, “a CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] agent presented Ms. Doe with a choice: she could either sign a medical consent form, despite the fact that she had not consented, in which case CBP would pay for the cost of the searches; or if she refused to sign the consent form, she would be billed for the cost of the searches.” She refused, and later the hospital sent her a bill for $5,000, apparently the going rate for sexual assault and gratuitous radiological bombardment.

As the article says, this case “illustrates the appalling complicity of doctors in waging the war on drugs, even when it involves utterly unethical participation in dehumanizing pseudomedical procedures performed on involuntary and audibly protesting ‘patients.’”

In my view, civil damages are an insufficient remedy in such cases. Assuming that the doctors and staff knew that the woman did not consent to these warrantless searches, then they are guilty of the crime of sexual assault. They should be arrested and prosecuted for that. Perhaps then doctors would think twice before passively doing whatever government agents demand.

Alas, that seems unlikely. Hopefully, some justice will be served by this civil suit.

 

Alas, yes:

 

Tonight, I’ll interview Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur about occupational licensing — how it works, what it’s supposed to do, and what it’s real-life effects are. We’ll also talk about “Certificates of Need” (CONs) regulations that allow existing businesses to squash any newcomers. I kid you not.

If you’re not familiar with CONs, check out Sandefur’s 2011 article, CON Job: State “certificate of necessity” laws protect firms, not consumers. Here are the open paragraphs:

When St. Louis businessman Michael Munie decided to expand his moving business to operate throughout the state of Missouri, he thought it would be a simple matter of paperwork. After all, he already held a federal license allowing him to move goods across state lines. But when he filed his application, he discovered that, under a 70-year-old state law, officials in Missouri’s Department of Transportation were required to notify all of the state’s existing moving companies and allow them the opportunity to object to his application. When four of them did file objections, department officials offered Munie the choice of withdrawing his application or appearing at a public hearing where he would be required to prove that there was a “public need” for his moving business. The law is not clear on how exactly he would do this — “public need” is not defined, nor are there any rules of evidence or procedure in the statute. And even if he managed to prove a “public need,” the department would take anywhere from six months to a year to make a final decision. In the face of such complications, Munie chose to withdraw his application and ask instead for limited permission to operate within a portion of St. Louis. His competitors had no objection to that, and he was given the restricted license.

Bizarre as this law might seem, it is only one of dozens of such requirements, generally called “certificate of necessity” (CON) laws, that exist across the country, governing a variety of industries, from moving companies and taxicabs to hospitals and car lots. A legacy of the early 20th century, CON laws restrict economic opportunity and raise costs for products and services that consumers need. Unlike traditional occupational licensing rules, they are not intended to protect the public by requiring business owners to demonstrate professional expertise or education. Instead, these laws are explicitly designed to restrict competition and boost the prices that established companies can charge.

Go read the whole article.

Tap It: The NSA Slow Jam

 Posted by on 19 June 2013 at 2:00 pm  Government, Privacy
Jun 192013
 

Tap It: The NSA Slow Jam is just plain brilliant:

Aug 032012
 

My 20-minute lecture on “Milton Friedman and Medical Licensure” has now been posted:

I covered three main subjects:

  • Milton Friedman’s views of medical licensure
  • Licensure and competence
  • Licensing laws and ObamaCare

Towards the end, I cite Dr. Milton Wolf as one of the people promoting some good free-market reforms to move us in the right direction.

Thanks to Amanda Teresi-Muell for organizing this special Liberty On the Rocks event, as part of a commemoration of Milton Friedman’s 100th birthday! And thanks to Ari Armstrong for recording the video and for doing the video editing to intersperse the images of my slides within the footage!

(Note: I don’t agree with Friedman on several issues.  Friedman was not a fully-consistent advocate of free-market economics.  But on the topic of medical and occupational licensure, he was very good, and I wanted to highlight his excellent thinking on this particular topic.)

 

Recently, I learned that the Institute for Justice (IJ) has taken the case of paleo blogger Steve Cooksey. He’s in trouble with North Carolina regulators who wish to suppress his freedom of speech. I couldn’t be more delighted, as the case combines two of my great loves: paleo and free speech.

IJ made an awesome video summarizing the case:

For more information on the case, see this page. The press release says:

Can the government throw you in jail for offering advice on the Internet about what people should buy at the grocery store?

That is exactly the claim made by the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition. And that is why today diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey of Stanley, N.C. has teamed up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a major First Amendment lawsuit against the State Board in federal court.

In December 2011, Steve Cooksey started a Dear Abby-style advice column on his blog to answer reader questions. In January 2012, the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition informed Steve that he could not give readers personal advice on diet, whether for free or for compensation, because doing so constituted the unlicensed, and thus criminal, practice of dietetics.

The State Board also told Steve that his private emails and telephone calls with friends and readers were illegal. The Board also ordered him to shut down his life-coaching service. Violating the North Carolina licensing law can lead to fines, court orders to be silent and even jail.

“You don’t need the government’s permission to give someone ordinary advice,” said IJ Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes. “North Carolina cannot require Steve to be a state-licensed dietitian any more than it can require Dear Abbey to be a state-licensed psychologist.”

This lawsuit seeks to answer one of the most important unresolved questions in First Amendment law: When does the government’s power to license occupations trump free speech?

“Advice is protected speech,” said IJ attorney Paul Sherman. “Just because the government can license certain types of expert professional advice doesn’t mean the government can license every type of advice.”

Steve Cooksey began offering dietary advice because he is concerned about America’s diabetes epidemic. Over 25 million Americans have diabetes, including approximately 800,000 in North Carolina. The human and financial toll is staggering. Diabetes is now a leading cause of stroke, blindness, kidney failure requiring transplantation, and amputation. Because diabetes is a condition of elevated blood sugar, Steve advocates eating foods that keep blood sugar low.

After being diagnosed with Type II diabetes, Steve did research and learned that the high-carb/low-fat diet his doctors recommended to him may not be best for diabetics because carbohydrates raise blood sugar. He adopted the low-carb “Paleolithic” diet of our Stone Age ancestors: fresh veggies, meats, eggs and fish, but no sugars, processed foods or agricultural starches.

Steve lost 78 pounds, freed himself of drugs and doctors, normalized his blood sugar and feels healthier than ever. He believes a low-carb diet is the simplest, cheapest and most effective way to treat diabetes. This goes against the conventional wisdom promoted by licensed dietitians, which advocate a high-carb diet and drugs to lower blood sugar.

“Diabetics need access to information from all points of view, including those that challenge the conventional wisdom,” said IJ client Steve Cooksey. “We cannot let government licensing boards censor the Internet and chill our speech.”

For more on today’s lawsuit, visit www.ij.org/PaleoSpeech. Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice is a national public interest law firm that fights for free speech and economic liberty nationwide.

This case has huge implications for every advocate of paleo and other non-standard diets. Yet the principle is broader: every person has a right to express and advocate his own views, even when that person is not licensed by the state.

If you want to contribute to Steve’s fight against these government censors, please support the Institute for Justice by a donation!

May 032012
 

Fabian Bollinger, a Swiss supporter of Philosophy in Action, recently e-mailed me the following inquiry about pursuing a military career when a draft is in force:

As I’ve probably mentioned a million times before, Switzerland has compulsory military service, and I’m about to do mine (July through April). I am confident that you agree that compulsory service is a bad thing. (It’s particularly vile, in that if you can’t do military service, you have to pay compensation; this while they continually have to find new tasks for our military to do because they’ve already maxed out on the actual training they’re willing to do. In other words, there’s not even a semblance of an excuse of national security necessity, but they insist they’re entitled to your slave labor regardless.)

Now if I can withstand the first couple of weeks (and that’s a serious if), there’s the possibility of “continuing”, that is pursuing a higher rank. This seems quite attractive for a number of reasons: higher pay, more prestige, more brains required and exercised, more responsibility, etc. What attracts me particularly is that this way, instead of mindlessly accepting orders from above and be talked to, I actually get to set the tone and respectfulness of conversation myself, and I get to say so when I have a better idea, etc.

Are those valid reasons to choose this path in your opinion? (Once again, assuming I still want anything to with the military after the first couple of weeks.) Or am I sanctioning a system of slave labor by voluntarily putting myself in a position where I’m giving out orders to coerced recruits? Or am I overthinking this a little..?

I had to think on the question for a little while, as the answer didn’t seem obvious to me. Here’s what I wrote in reply a few days later:

You’re right that I think that compulsory military service is abhorrent, particularly when it’s not even required for national security. Now for the meaty question:

I don’t think that it’s morally wrong to pursue a career — or part of a career or advancement — in a military system that involves the draft. Military work is a valid type of work: it’s not like being a mob boss. The fact that people are drafted is not your moral responsibility in the slightest, so long as you oppose it. It’s something that’s forced on you and everyone else.

So I’d only say that it would be immoral (1) if you’re obliged to speak or write in favor of the draft against your will — or if you do that willingly or (2) if you relish the prospect of making the lives of draftees particularly miserable, knowing that they can’t do anything about it.

The second clearly wouldn’t be any kind of problem for you — that would be very psychologically twisted. And it doesn’t sound like the first would be issue either. So… go for it!

I hope that’s helpful!

I’d be interested in any thoughts on this matter, particularly from people with experience in the military, particularly in countries with a draft.

(FYI: Normally, I don’t answer e-mail questions of this kind… except from people who are regular contributors to Philosophy in Action. Even for regular contributors, I can’t make any guarantees, but I will do my best!)

Police Fabricating Drug Busts

 Posted by on 20 October 2011 at 1:00 pm  Crime, Drug War, Government, Law
Oct 202011
 

Did you need another reason to oppose the Drug War? Just in case, here’s reason #28173:

A former NYPD narcotics detective snared in a corruption scandal testified it was common practice to fabricate drug charges against innocent people to meet arrest quotas.

The bombshell testimony from Stephen Anderson is the first public account of the twisted culture behind the false arrests in the Brooklyn South and Queens narc squads, which led to the arrests of eight cops and a massive shakeup.

Anderson, testifying under a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, was busted for planting cocaine, a practice known as “flaking,” on four men in a Queens bar in 2008 to help out fellow cop Henry Tavarez, whose buy-and-bust activity had been low.

Go read the whole story.

Radiation Risk From TSA Scanners?

 Posted by on 15 November 2010 at 8:00 am  Government, Health, Science
Nov 152010
 

A friend recently asked my opinion about the possible health risks from the new whole body “backscatter” x-ray scanners now being used by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) at many airports.

The short answer is that the radiation risk from the TSA scanners is minimal for a member of the general flying public. (This is separate from privacy concerns — or the fact that the bad choice offered to passengers between intrusive x-rays vs. an intrusive physical exam is a problem ultimately caused by our government’s inept foreign policy.) Hence, my personal approach when I fly will be to go through the full-body scanners rather than undergo the aggressive new pat-down searches.

The news media has recently given a lot of attention to the following letter sent several months ago by scientists/physicians at UCSF (Univ. California at San Francisco) to the federal government about the radiation risks: “Letter of Concern“, 4/6/2010.

This NPR story from last spring that covers the details more fully: “Scientists Question Safety Of New Airport Scanners“, 5/17/2010. The NPR story also includes a sidebar listing the radiation dose generated by a TSA scanner, and comparing it to the dose one receives merely from being on a transcontinental flight, regular environmental exposure, getting a chest x-ray, etc.

Basically, just getting on a transcontinental flight exposes one to roughly 1,000 times more radiation than undergoing a TSA body scan. (This is because there is less atmospheric protection from natural solar/cosmic radiation at high altitude.)

The FDA has posted its own response to the UCSF letter: “Response to University of California – San Francisco Regarding Their Letter of Concern“, 10/12/2010.

First let me note that I am philosophically opposed to the FDA and other such regulatory bodies, on the grounds that they do not serve proper functions of government. But to the best of my knowledge, the FDA’s scientific arguments in that specific response are essentially correct. And the FDA letter also addresses some of the technical issues raised by the UCSF scientists, such as the question of the TSA radiation being deposited mostly in the skin (vs. in the whole body).

Female passengers who are (or may be) pregnant while undergoing a TSA scan may also wonder about radiation effects on a developing fetus.

This web page from Duke University covers this topic nicely: “Fetal Radiation Dose Estimates.” As a point of clarification, the Duke website uses the older units (rems and millirems) for radiation dose rather than the newer units (Sieverts, milliSv, etc.). The conversion factor is:

1 Sievert = 100 rem or
1 milliSievert = 100 millirem

As the Duke website notes, if the fetus exposure to less than 1,000 millirem (10 milliSieverts), then there’s no known risk to the fetus.

If the fetus exposure is between 1,000 and 10,000 millirem (10-100 milliSieverts), then then the fetus is probably still ok. But, this is the range where bad effects to a fetus start to be observable in some studies, using the most conservative (cautious) statistical criteria.

So if a pregnant passenger wishes to take the most cautious approach and keep her fetal exposure below the 1,000 millirem (10 milliSievert) range, she could still undergo thousands of TSA scans per year. Again, the radiation exposure caused merely by flying would far exceed that caused by the scanner. Furthermore, most of the TSA scanner radiation would be stopped at the skin before it could even reach the fetus, as opposed to the various forms of natural gamma and solar radiation received during the flight which would penetrate deeper into the body.

A pregnant woman might naturally wonder how much radiation she’d be exposed to from the air travel itself?

According to this aviation news website, if she logged 1,000 hours in the air, then she’d be at the 5-10 milliSievert range (depending on the exact altitude/route), which is the level where one might begin to be concerned: “Radiation Exposure Aloft — Are You Being Nuked?.”

So if she took 10 flights during her pregnancy totaling, say, 40 hours of air time, then that should be no problem. But she were an airline pilot or a frequent business traveler logging 1,000 hours of air time per year, then it might become a genuine issue, using the most conservative estimates for fetal exposure.

This discussion makes two important assumptions, including:

1) The TSA scanners are actually functioning properly and operating within the limits claimed by the government. Of course, if a particular machine malfunctions in a way that it produces too much radiation, then all bets are off.

2) The passenger doesn’t have any special medical conditions that make him or her more sensitive to radiation than the general public.

Finally, this discussion applies only to the “backscatter” type of TSA scanner, which uses ionizing x-ray radiation. The other type of whole body TSA scanner uses “millimeter wave” technology, which does not involve ionizing x-ray radiation and does not have the same type of carcinogenic effect. Otherwise, I don’t have any specialized knowledge about that particular technology and thus can’t comment about any other health effects.

Conclusion: From a radiation safety perspective, it’s generally safe to go through the TSA “backscatter” x-ray scanner.

Nov 032010
 

Today’s PajamasMedia has just published my post-Election Day OpEd, “GOP: Dance With The One Who Brung You“.

My theme is that I voted for the Republicans because I want them to pursue an agenda of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and defending individual rights — not the “social conservative” agenda.

Here is the opening:

Republicans are rightfully celebrating their recent successes in the midterm elections, recapturing the House and making major gains in the Senate. But before House GOP leader John Boehner starts measuring the curtains for the speaker’s office, he and his fellow Republicans would do well to remember the old proverb popularized by legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal: “Dance with the one who brung you.”

In this case, that means: Don’t forget who put you in office and why — namely, the independent-minded Tea Party voters.

Hence, the Republicans should take to heart three key lessons…

Those lessons include:

1) Americans don’t want “ObamaLite”
2) Don’t mistake this as a mandate to pursue a divisive “social conservative” agenda.
3) Respect the Constitution and the principle of individual rights

(Read the full text of “GOP: Dance With The One Who Brung You“.)

As always, please feel free to leave comments and/or circulate via Facebook/Twitter/e-mail!

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