Unbelievable: ATF Using Mentally Disabled Teens to Run Drug-and-Gun Stings

Hat tip:

If you thought the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives (ATF) couldn’t stoop any lower, you’d be wrong.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports
that the agency
responsible for setting off the events that led to
and were at the center of the
Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal
are using mentally
disabled teenagers to advertise businessess that are actually
fronts for ATF sting operations.

The Journal Sentinel’s expose leads with the tale of Aaron Key,
a 19-year-old stoner whose mind is not quite all there. The ower of
a head shop in Portland, Oregon, befriended Key and his friends
online and then paid them to get neck tattoos advertising “Squid’s
Smoke Shop.”

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 collarbones.

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

Earlier this
, when the Journal Sentinel reported on an ATF sting
operation in Milwaukee involving a “low IQ” informant, authorities
wrote it off as an isolated act of rogue agents. The Journal
Sentinel documents at least half-a-dozen stings from around the
country that use the same “rogue” tactics of creating fake
storefronts and using low IQ people to set stings in cities such as
Pensacola, Florida, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Wichita,

“There is enough crime out there, why do you have to manufacture
it?” said Jeff Griffith, a lawyer for a defendant in Wichita. “You
are really creating crime, which then you are prosecuting. You
wonder where the moral high ground is in this.”

Apart from the moral issues (which are huge enough), there’s a
question of whether such operations are worth a damn in terms of
serious collars:

In Albuquerque, for example, a man who was twice indicted on
first-degree murder charges, once for killing a man in prison, was
later busted in a storefront sting for being a felon in possession
of weapon.

But in many cases examined by the Journal Sentinel, the people
charged in the stings had minor criminal histories or nonviolent
convictions such as burglary or drug possession.

In several of those cases, defendants still got stiff sentences,
but others resulted in little or no punishment. In Wichita, nearly
a third of the roughly 50 federal cases charged led to no prison
time. Defendants got probation or had their case dismissed, records
showed. One was acquitted by a jury.

Not the results federal agents typically trumpet.

In the case of Aaron Key and Marquis Glover, the judge handling
the cases was puzzled over the ATF’s decision to cajole the teens
(who were ultimately convicted of crimes that were enabled by the
government) into getting tattoos.

In federal court, a prosecutor who handled several of the ATF
cases, including Key’s, tried to explain to a judge why the agents
employed the tactic.

The agents said they thought Key and Glover were testing them to
see if they were law enforcement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott
Kerin said in
a January 2012 sentencing hearing

Key and Glover supposedly did this by suggesting they all smoke

Kerin said the agents then proposed Key and Glover get tattoos
as a way to get them off their trail.

The explanation didn’t make sense to U.S. District Judge Michael
Mosman, a former federal prosecutor.

“I guess I don’t make the connection,” Mosman said. “They’re
concerned that if, among other things, they don’t smoke marijuana
with this guy that they’ll be given up as law enforcement, so they
think a way to derail that is to suggest that he get a tattoo?”

Kerin tried again to explain.

“Mr. Key and Mr. Glover were trying to identify them as law
enforcement or possibly testing to determine if they were law

The judge cut in: “I think I understand that part. I just don’t
understand why you put someone off your trail by suggesting they
get a tattoo. How does that help?”

The judge ordered the ATF to pay for the removal of Key’s

Read the whole story
, which details both how the ATF sets up
fake businessess and the paltry results such efforts get in terms
of doing anything about fighting criminal activity. And then ask
yourself (and maybe your law enforcement and political
representatives) just how bad does the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
have to be
before it’s finally disbanded?

Hat tip:

For more Reason on ATF failings, click here.

Gallup finds a record-high percentage of Americans
percent), especially those who identify as political independents
(65 percent), think the government has too much power. Any

Back in October, Reason TV reported on how Riverside County,
California cops tricked an autistic kid into selling pot as part of
a sting operation.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/09/unbelievable-atf-using-mentally-disabled

Steve Chapman on China as Its Own Worst Enemy

China flagTo achieve any ambitious goal, you
have to want it badly enough to work and sacrifice. But there is
such a thing as trying too hard. Overzealous pursuit of your
heart’s desire can end up chasing it away. The Chinese government
may be learning that right now. China, a great civilization brought
low by foreign powers in the 19th and 20th centuries, has long
burned to acquire a global stature corresponding to its self-image.
Its transformation from an economic catastrophe to an export
machine has made it a much bigger player in world affairs. But
sometimes, writes Steve Chapman, efforts to assert itself generate
not respect and cooperation but fear and resistance.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/09/steve-chapman-on-china-as-its-own-worst

Brickbat: The Ladies are Insane There

The Spanish
government has recommended increasing fines for unauthorized street
protests up to 600,000 euros. The maximum fine would apply only if
protests turn violent, but those who cover their faces or
who make
offensive remarks
 against the country could be fined up to
30,000 euros. The measure now goes to parliament.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/09/brickbat-the-ladies-are-insane-there

Replay: Fullerton Cops Go on Trial for Killing Schizophrenic Homeless Man Kelly Thomas

December 3, Reason’s Paul Detrick filed a report from Southern
California, where Fullerton cops are on trial for the killing of
Kelly Thomas, a homeless shizophrenic they apprehended at a bus

Detrick’s earlier reports on the story not only exposed police
actions that were at best misguided and at worst criminal; he also
underscored the ways in which new media brought the case to public

Here’s the original writeup
of his dispatch from the start of
the trial:

The trial of former Fullerton, California, police officers,
Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli began December 2, 2013, in the
beating death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old drifter with
schizophrenia. Thomas died after a July, 2011, altercation with six
police officers in which he was tasered, beaten with batons, and
hit repeatedly in the face with the end of a Taser. Ramos is
charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder and
Cicinelli is charged with excessive force and involuntary

Opening statements from District
Attorney Tony Rackauckas
 detailed Thomas begging the
officers to stop.

“He posed no threat at all, to the police or to anyone else,”
said Rackauckas to jurors. The District Attorney dramatically
demonstrated the events of the encounter using a wooden police

Statements from the defense maintained that Ramos
and Cicinelli committed no crimes and were dealing with an
uncontrollable and violent person. Michael Schwartz, defense
attorney for Cicinelli told jurors in his statements that Thomas’s
behavior “was consistent with someone with a methamphetamine
background” and that his death was brought on by drug-induced heart

The toxicology report
at the time of the incident found no drugs in Thomas’

The trial, taking place at the Orange County Courthouse in Santa
Ana, California, is the first time a uniformed police officer has
been charged with murder in the history of the county. The
trial may never have happened without a slowly built citizen
movement sparked by footage of the beating caught by mobile phone
and a
horrific hospital photo
 taken by Kelly Thomas’ father, Ron

“Nothing was going on, I tried contacting everybody, nobody
cared to do anything,” said
Ron Thomas to Reason TV in 2011.
 “So, I released the
picture of my son [in his hospital bed] and that got everybody’s
attention. When the cell phone video came out, I released that. The
audio had their attention again. You put together the picture with
the sound of what’s happening [and] it’s very, very

The Fullerton community reacted in outrage at the video and
photo at city council meetings and at protests outside the
Fullerton police department. Then when city surveillance footage
was released of the beating, residents pushed for a recall of city

Video produced by Paul Detrick.

For more Reason TV coverage of the Kelly Thomas story, watch

Cops vs. Cameras: The
Killing of Kelly Thomas and the Power of New Media

How a Local Blog
Broke the Kelly Thomas Story: A conversation with Friends for
Fullerton’s Future

Outraged Fullerton
citizens react to Kelly Thomas beating tape

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/replay-fullerton-cops-go-on-trial-for-ki

Are *You* Worth Double Your Salary? Nick Gillespie on Fast-Food Wage Strikes

Last Thursday, writes
Nick Gillespie, protesters in over 100 cities stood outside of
fast-food joints and called for doubling the wages of burger
flippers and fry-vat operators from $7.25 an hour (the current
federal minimum) to at least $15.

Regardless of how much solidarity or sympathy you might feel
about the people who assemble your Triple Steak Stack or
your Cheesy Gordita Crunch, this sort of demand is economic
fantasy at its most delusional and counterproductive. Doubling the
wages of low-skilled workers during a period of prolonged
joblessness is a surefire way not just to swell the ranks of the
reserve army of the unemployed but to increase automation at your
local Taco Bell.

If you’re reading this on the job, take a look around and ask
yourself if your workplace could soak up twice
its labor costs without seriously trimming the number of employees.
While you’re at it, ask yourself if you’re worth
twice your current salary.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/are-you-worth-double-your-salary-nick-gi

Philadelphia Police Reviving Practice of Transporting Suspects Recklessly in “Nickel Rides,” Lawsuits Allege

no such thing as a free rideReporting by the Philadelphia
in 2001 about so-called “nickel rides,” the practice
of Philadelphia police throwing suspects into police vans without
any seatbelts or other restraints and then driving recklessly with
the intent to cause suspects harm,
led at the time
to an internal investigation by the police
department and a promise to quit it. The term “nickel ride” comes
from a time when amusement rides cost a nickel, and the practice is
apparently as old.

The Inquirer noted that these rides led to “massive
civil settlements,” including one case in which a man who alleged
he was paralyzed during a “nickel ride” was paid out $1.2 million.
Twelve years later, the Inquirer
the practice may still be alive and well, focusing on
three recent lawsuits alleging injury from police van rides,
including one that began with an altercation between an off-duty
cop and the subsequently injured victim.
Via the Inquirer

[Officer James] O’Shea was off duty and in plainclothes
at the time. He says he was forced to subdue [James] McKenna and
arrest him after McKenna punched a bartender in a Center City

“He was highly intoxicated and highly aggressive,” O’Shea said in
an interview.

McKenna denies hitting a bartender. He said the incident began
after he saw a woman he knew at the bar and sent her and a friend a
drink. When the women refused the drinks, McKenna said he went over
to ask why.

At that point, he said, O’Shea flashed his badge and told him to
leave. As he started to walk away, McKenna said, the officer jumped
him from behind.

O’Shea summoned police and they arrived in an emergency patrol

“F- this guy up,” McKenna said O’Shea told his fellow

O’Shea denied that. “That’s completely false, 100 percent,” he

Handcuffed, McKenna was put in the back of a police wagon. He said
he wasn’t strapped in.

He said the van took off, taking turns at high speeds, then braking
suddenly, throwing him from the seat and to the floor.

McKenna was charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor. At a trial,
the bartender testified that McKenna had struck him, but McKenna
said he had not seen the bartender that night. The judge found
McKenna not guilty.

McKenna withdrew his lawsuit last year when his attorney dropped
out after McKenna’s neck surgeon said he planned to testify it was
possible for McKenna to have injured himself. McKenna tells the
Inquirer he wants to refile his lawsuit, asking “”What if
I’d broke an officer’s neck?” Read the rest of the
Inquirer article, which includes the story of one suspect
who died two weeks after allegedly being taken on a “nickel ride,”

. Philadelphia’s police commissioner, who
previously invited
the FBI to review his department’s use of
deadly force, did not offer the newspaper any comment.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/philadelphia-police-reviving-practice-of

ReasonTV Replay: Drew Carey on NAFTA

On the
20th anniversary of the North American Trade Agreement
, it’s a
great time to revisit one of ReasonTV’s earliest productions –
Mexicans and Machines: Drew Carey on NAFTA.

Here is the orginal text from the June 28, 2008 video:

Campaign season is just getting warmed up, but looking
back on the primaries we’ve already seen plenty of the usual fare:
candidates shaking hands, hanging out at diners, and scaring voters
about foreigners who are
taking your jobs.

Sometimes the threat comes from China, Japan, or
outsourcing to India. Today, it’s NAFTA, the North American Free
Trade Agreement-you know, all those Mexicans taking our

Senator Barack Obama joins the likes of CNN’s Lou Dobbs
in decrying NAFTA. So many free trade foes fret about cheap foreign
labor, yet they rarely holler about competitors who will work for
far less than any foreigner. Politicians don’t pay much attention
to it, but-from Terminator toIce
-Hollywood films have been warning us about humanity’s
inevitable war against the machines.

“Now, think about it,” says Reason.tv host Drew Carey.
“How are we supposed to compete against something that doesn’t get
paid, doesn’t get health insurance, and never goes on

Today, we don’t need human workers to book our travel,
do our banking, or file our taxes. From factory workers to symphony
conductors, countless workers are locked in battle with soulless
job stealers known as computers, websites, and

“No job is safe from the robot threat!” warns Carey. Of
course, the warning is more than a little tongue-in-cheek. There’s
no need to take a sledgehammer to a robot, because, although
technology shakes up the labor market, it ends up giving us higher
living standards as well as more and better job

Like technology, trade gives us more good stuff than
bad-yet Americans are likely to cheer technology and fear trade. No
doubt TV talkers and White House wannabes will keep stoking our
fears of foreigners until voters and viewers stop buying it-or
until robots snag their jobs, too.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/reasontv-replay-nafta

Eyewitness to Fast-Food Strikes: Another Reason to Support REASON!


Here’s yet another reason to support Reason during our annual webathon: We’re
out on the streets covering all sorts of events that matter.

Consider last Thursday, when the Service Employees International
Union (SEIU) coordinated “wage strikes” in over 100 cities and
called for a minimum wage of $15 an hour for fast-food workers.
Reason TV covered the event held in New York City and filed a
report that you didn’t see on your evening news.

Take a look by clicking above and read the original writeup of
our coverage by going below the fold.

If you appreciate this sort of thing, please consider giving us
a tax-deductible donation. Details on all that here.

Yesterday, Naomi Brockwell and I attended a demonstration
demanding that fast-food restaurants boost their minimum wage to
$15 per hour, or a little more than double the current federal
minimum wage. The strike, which was led by a group
called Fast Food
 that’s affiliated with the Service Employees International
 (SEIU), was one of more than a 100 similar
demonstrations held in cities across the country.

The New York demonstration had about 150 people, but the number
of actual fast food employees participating in the strike was
small. It was business as usual at every restaurant we dropped
by yesterday morning and, at a McDonald’s restaurant on 23rd
Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, employees behind the
counter said they had heard nothing about a strike.

We caught up with the protesters in front of a Wendy’s in
downtown Brooklyn, where the crowd consisted of union organizers,
fast-food workers, and their sympathizers. An estimated one-third
of the demonstrators were fast-food employees, meaning that less
than one-tenth of 1 percent of New York City’s 57,000 fast-food
workforce participated in the strike.A protester marching near Foley Square in Lower Manhattan. |||

The group was traveling from one fast-food restaurant to
another, before winding up at Foley Square in Manhattan around

Multiple strikers told us they had received compensation through
a union strike fund to appear, but declined to say the amount they
were paid.

Artificially doubling wages to $15 an hour would change many
things in the fast food industry, including the easy path it
provides for low-skilled employees to break into the labor market.
Substantially higher wages would mean that existing employees would
be less apt to look for other positions, and senior staffers would
be more inclined to hog shift hours. Franchisees would likely move
more aggressively to replace human service workers with automated
cash registers, which is already
 in European McDonald’s. Evidence of how
artificially boosting wages destroys opportunities for entry level
workers was best documented in a 2006 study by
economists David Neumark and William Wascher, which
was updated in

Shenita Simon, a shift supervisor at KFC, who participated in the strike. |||In interviews, several striking
workers described how it had been relatively easy for them to get a
job in fast-food service. Shenita Simon, who works as a shift
supervisor at KFC, told us that she doesn’t know where else
she would have been able to find a position, because fast food is
the only industry that “will allow you to have minimum
education.” Isaac Wallace, a Burger King employee, described
how he was able to get his job immediately after moving to New York
from Jamaica by simply walking into a Burger King in Brooklyn
and approaching the manager. 

Once the strike moved to Foley Square, organizers from Fast Food
Forward began obstructing our efforts to talk with protesters.

For more on why doubling wages for fast food workers would hurt
entry-level workers, read Nick Gillespie’s “Big
Labor’s Big Mac Attack”
 at The Daily

Produced by Jim Epstein and hosted by Naomi Brockwell.

About 2.30 minutes.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe
to Reason TV’s
YouTube Channel
to receive automatic updates when new material
goes live.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/eyewitness-to-fast-food-strikes-another

Ronald Bailey Reviews The Cure in the Code by Peter Huber

RIPFDAWe are at a turning point in
medicine, Peter Huber explains in his new book, The Cure in the
. Knowledge of the individual’s genetic makeup will soon
allow molecular medicine to reach deep inside each of us to cure
most of the maladies that afflict us—and perhaps even slow the rate
at which we age. First we will learn to understand each person’s
genome; then we will learn to craft treatments tailored to his or
her genetic constitution. But it may not be so easy—and not for
purely scientific reasons. Timid regulators at the Food and Drug
Administration stand in the way of dramatic medical progress.
Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey’s review first
appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/ronald-bailey-reviews-the-cure-in-the-co

Donate to Reason! Because it’s Sunday Morning, and Nobody Defends Culture From Culture-War Quite Like Us!

Before we get to the sales pitch here on Day Five of Reason’s
annual webathon—in
which we ask our readers to contribute dollars
or Bitcoins
to the 501(c)3 nonprofit that makes all our libertarian journalism
and commentary possible—a little palate cleanser: 


That clip was embedded in an obituary here six weeks back,
titled “How
Lou Reed Inspired Anti-Communist Revolutionaries and the Rest of
.” It was the latest installment in the ongoing Reason genre
of coverage of defending popular or “low” culture against political
attacks from the left and right, and celebrating how the stuff can
liberate the world in ways wholly unintended its creators.

Here’s a great Reason.tv compendium of ridiculous congressional
attacks on culture, as put together by Anthony Fisher:


Here’s another classic, “Bollywood vs. Bin Laden: Why radical
Islam fears pop culture,” as anchored by Shikha Dalmia:


Partisan/ideological bores tend to treat music, film, art, and
other expressions of culture either instrumentally—judging
a work by how well it satisfies a particular political mission—or
reactionarily, by trying to play defense against a
perceived assault on decent human values. Nick Gillespie correctly
identified the mistaken frameworks, while championing individual
autonomy, all the way back in February

The audience has a mind of its own. Individuals sitting
in a theater, or watching television, or listening to a CD don’t
always see and hear things the way they’re “supposed” to. […]

That would be news to most participants in the public debate
over depictions of sex and violence in movies, TV, and music.
Liberals and conservatives are as tight as Beavis and Butt-head in
agreeing that consumers of popular culture–the very people who make
it popular–are little more than tools of the trade. Joe Sixpack and
Sally Baglunch–you and I–aren’t characters in this script. Just
like TV sets or radios, we are dumb receivers that simply transmit
whatever is broadcast to us. We do not look at movie screens;
we are movie screens, and Hollywood merely
projects morality–good, bad, or indifferent–onto us.

True story: In France, this commercial would be censored. |||“We have reached the point
where our popular culture threatens to undermine our character as a
nation,” Bob Dole thundered last summer in denouncing “nightmares
of depravity” and calling for movies that promote “family values.”
“Bob Dole is a dope,” responded actor-director Rob Reiner, a
self-described liberal activist. Fair enough, but it apparently
takes one to know one: “Hollywood should not be making exploitive
violent and exploitive sex films. I think we have a responsibility
[to viewers] not to poison their souls,” continued Reiner, who rose
to prominence playing the role of Meathead on All in the
. […]

Of course, it is hardly surprising that denizens of Washington
and Tinseltown frame the debate so that all interpretive power
resides with would-be government regulators and entertainment
industry types. Clearly, it makes sense for them to conceptualize
popular culture as a top-down affair, one best dealt with by
broadcasters and bureaucrats. This consensus, however, has
implications far beyond the well-worn notion that entertainment
should be properly didactic.

Because it assumes that the viewer, the listener, or the
audience member is a passive receiver of popular culture, this
consensus must inevitably result in calls for regulation by the
government (such as the V-chip, which is part of both the House and
Senate telecommunications bills) or paternalism by producers (“More
and more we’re tending toward all-audience films …that have civic
values in them,” Motion Picture Association of America head Jack
Valenti told the Los Angeles Times). The viewer
simply can’t be trusted to handle difficult, sensitive, ironic
material–or to bring his own interpretation to bear on what he

The Plastic People of the Universe play at Vaclav Havel's wake. ||| Matt WelchAs we never tire in pointing
out, audiences can frequently surprise you with how they use pop
culture to leverage their own freedom. Whether it’s dirty Czech
rock musicians using the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa to take
decisive stand against totalitarians
, anti-Taliban Afghan men

going nuts over Leo DiCaprio
, or rap/metal enthusiasts
fueling the Arab Spring
, American culture bemoaned by political
critics at home can have galvanizing effects abroad.

Once you grant consumers the decency of their own free will in
interpreting cultural works, a whole host of interesting
philosophical and political implications tumble forth. I know not a
small number of people whose introduction to libertarianism came
through this cultural-interpretive portal. It’s one that Reason
works tirelessly at keeping open.

Won’t you please donate to Reason
today? We’re just over $115,000 of the way to our
$150,000 goal
, with donations from
more than 375 readers. Help get us over the top, and thumb our
noses at the cultural
always conspiring to keep us less free. Donate to Reason right
the hell now

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/08/donate-to-reason-because-its-sunday-morn