Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Straight talker?


It'd be funny if this wasn't such an incredibly important election.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Huh. Who *is* a rat?

So, as part of a class, I was directed to take a look at Who's a Rat?

Essentially, we were asked to contemplate the site and what it does, and be prepared to finish the sentence "This site makes me feel..."

Unsurprisingly, the site has been the source of controversy ever since it was unveiled. It's received numerous requests from the law enforcement community to shut down or remove information, which it has declined. It's been the subject of lawsuits, which it won.

I'm not going to lie, the site makes me profoundly uncomfortable. I don't doubt that what the site does is legal- the information contained on it is apparently information that is available to the public via public records, and it's my understanding that you're required to provide substantiation for reports about informants that you're adding to the site. So, probably legal. Fine and good.

Legal doesn't necessarily equate to ethical, though. And I've got some real reservations there. Despite the site's disclaimer that it doesn't endorse violence, it doesn't take a brain trust to figure out that violence is a reasonable expectation when you're dealing with something like this. We're talking about criminal informants and undercover agents who deal with, you know... criminals. One of the site's spokespeople said of the risk of violent retaliation against informants and undercover officers:

I think it’s pretty safe to say that informants and cops know that there is danger involved in that line of work, and it would be unfair to burden with one’s career choice. In our opinion, the only potential danger that exists due to the site, is the danger of the government losing at trial, due to defendants using the website to gather information to prove that the informants and agents that are testifying against them are not credible.

Now, the site claims that it's only for non-violent crimes. The site was created when the site's creator was charged with drug-related offenses, and was upset about the use of informants in the charges that were brought against him. So, one can assume that he's okay with outing drug informants.

Because, clearly, retaliation against drug informants isn't an obvious consequence of being outed. Unless you were Rachel Hoffman, who was murdered back in May. Or Kenneth Smith, murdered in January. Or Chad MacDonald.

Is corruption a violent offense? I wouldn't have thought so, but informants Christine and Terrence Hodson would probably disagree.

But, the site's owners wash their hands of all this. After all, they don't endorse violence, and they're not calling for retaliation against informants. They just offer things like a $500 award for posting the most interesting or best informant to the site (this was back in Jan). And call them "rats".

There seems to be a pretty clear conflict here between the right to free speech and the expectation of privacy on the part of informants. Informants rely on secrecy and privacy to ensure their safety. Many informants are just like Hoffman- young people busted for possession for their personal use who get the book thrown at them in order to increase the odds that they'll turn over their source. Faced with the prospect of the years in jail and a destroyed future, it's not surprising that people would take a deal, even if it means becoming an informant.

And if the point of the site is just to give defendants a chance to learn about the person who informed on them, to test that person's credibility (the stated purpose of the site), then why are they also outing undercover agents? I can sort of understand the idea that a criminal informant might have some credibility issues by virtue of being a criminal and an informant. Now, maybe I'm overly optimistic, but isn't the idea of an undercover police officer supposed to be that they are so credible that the police are willing to put them undercover in a criminal situation in order to capture someone? I know that the police aren't always trustworthy, but the fact that they're undercover doesn't make them less credible than any other cop is. And while being a cop is already a dangerous job in many places, outing an undercover officer most certainly raises the danger level.

So, there you go. We didn't really get a chance to talk about it in class, but I really wanted to, so those are my thoughts at the moment.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Shorter Sremchevich: "It's not discrimination or bigotry, I just don't like them because of who they are."

Out of the land down under comes this story.

In short: Emil Sremchevich, president of the Camden/Macarthur Residents' Group, opposed the Quranic Society's application to build a 1,200 student school in the Camden community, but is giving a Catholic school expansion the go-ahead without even having read their proposal.

In an interview, Sremchevich said:

Why is that racist? Why is it discriminatory? It's very simple: people like some things but don't like other things. Some of us like blondes, some of us like brunettes. Some of us like Fords, some of us like Holdens. Why is it xenophobic just because I want to make a choice? If I want to like some people and not like other people, that's the nature of the beast.

I think someone should get Mr. Sremchevich a nice dictionary. If you're making a choice not to like Muslim people, that is disriminatory.

Discriminatory: applying or favoring discrimination in treatment.
Discrimination: a: the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually b: prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment (racial discrimination)

So, yeah, Mr Sremchevich. It is discriminatory to decide that you just don't like Muslims but you're fine with Christians.

It only gets better, too. See, back when the Quranic Society made their original proposal, there were protests, and some of the people of Camden stuck pig's heads on sticks and hung the Australian flag between them, and displayed them at the proposed school site. Classy. In response to the proposal, Kate McCulloch (a Camden resident) said that Muslims wouldn't fit into the Camden community because "the ones that come here oppress our society, they take our welfare and they don't want to accept our way of life."

I can't imagine why. I mean, I know I'd feel really welcome and want to accept a people's way of life if they welcomed me by sticking pig's heads on stakes and accusing me of taking their welfare and of not fitting in.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

It's about freakin' time! Bye Bye Kilpatrick!

The soon to be former mayor of Detroit has finally admitted to lying under oath and obstructing justice. He'll resign, serve four months jail, pay up to a million in restitution, and be on probation for five years.

This has been a long time coming.