Patterico's Pontifications

8/27/2009

Another Isolated Incident

Filed under: Bogus Statistics,Crime,General — Patterico @ 8:24 pm

Indianapolis, Indiana:

An Indianapolis man was injured early Thursday morning when he was struck by lightning outside his home.

The incident happened at about midnight in the 400 block of South Butler Avenue.

UPDATE: This is part of my new series: “Another Isolated Incident.” Hey, if it works for other bloggers . . .

UPDATE x2 8-28-09 6:30 a.m.: For the record, since I see my point is already being misread and distorted by certain opponents of no-knock raids: the point here is not to make light of, or trivialize, the damage caused by search warrants executed on the wrong house. The only point I am making is that you can take any comparatively rare event and make it seem commonplace, simply by pointing out each instance of its occurrence. The fact that one can take rare events and make them seem commonplace by using this technique does not mean they are commonplace in a statistically meaningful sense.

I have chosen people getting struck by lightning for my examples, simply because that is the quintessential example of an event that people see as “rare.”

That does not mean that I am “comparing” or “drawing an analogy between” a random natural event and a phenomenon created by humans. It does not mean that I am arguing that such raids are not a problem, or that we don’t need to do anything to minimize them. Once again, the only point I am making is that you can take any comparatively rare event and make it seem commonplace, simply by pointing out each instance of its occurrence.

UPDATE x2 8-30-09: This comment further explains my position:

I’m putting the matter in perspective. You can be as disturbed as you like about even a single wrong-house raid; you can oppose drug raids or the drug war generally; go nuts! I’m not stopping you. Nor am I arguing that we shouldn’t take measures to stop such raids.

Am I making any argument regarding how many resources or how much effort we should put into stopping them? No, but I do expect that the point I am making should be taken into account as policymakers consider the matter. Fundamentally, I think that reporting every instance of these thing occurring is rhetorically effective, and if you oppose these raids, I can see why you’d report ‘em all. But I also think that, to the extent that running these incidents constantly under the title “Another Isolated Incident” suggests that the percentage of wrong-door raids is statistically significant, that suggestion is fallacious. The percentage may indeed be statistically significant, but if it is, that fact is not proved by evidence like “Look! It happened again!”

So my only “agenda” is to put the matter in perspective. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously.

What do you want to bet that my position will be portrayed otherwise — even though I link this post in every single post in the series?

102 Responses to “Another Isolated Incident”

  1. Uh, so don’t stand outside in a thunderstorm.

    Do I win a prize?

    Ag80 (248b73)

  2. just like o’s doj, eh?

    Jim (582155)

  3. Will he now have superpowers?

    nk (b17d90)

  4. Is that timmah ?

    JD (5adcdb)

  5. Gorebal warmening.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  6. Clever. Of course, one could have called this part of “an ongoing series” and been just as clever.

    roy (d6fc79)

  7. OT- Anyone in the southbay hear about a fire at Terranea?

    LASue (5624e4)

  8. I was gonna say these incidents all happened outside, which was a scary coincidence and perhaps a message about venturing outdoors, especially to our more urban cloistered metrosexual liberal friends – bad things can happen.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  9. LASue,

    Just found out about it and posted. I can see it from my back yard. It looks close.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  10. Jeez, this place will be like a roach motel again with Balkobots, especially if Patterico writes a post about it.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  11. It’s a big country. Lots of things happen. You are inflating this out of its context as what would reasonably be called “a rarely occurring incident” by tallying each and every rare occurrence of the incident.

    j curtis (baef6f)

  12. You do realize his “Another Isolated Incident” series is about botched no-knock search warrants? It is likey his title is a spoof on the excuse we hear from police authorities and politicians when they occur, “it was an isolated incident”

    I am not sure of the “agitator’s” politics, but I agree no-knocks are really bad policy and are way over-used with sometimes very tragic consequences. I would rather they not be done at all; we have had a couple of innocent people killed in our city from these no-knocks. A policy as bad as Obamacare, with likely similar botched results that will be described as “isolated incidents”.

    Ray (3c46ca)

  13. Ray (9:25 pm): Are no-knocks overused? I have no idea, but I would be willing to entertain the argument and listen to the evidence. Should they “not be done at all”? No way. I could never support putting police at such a dangerous disadvantage when confronting potentially armed criminals.

    JVW (d1215a)

  14. “It’s a big country. Lots of things happen. You are inflating this out of its context as what would reasonably be called “a rarely occurring incident” by tallying each and every rare occurrence of the incident.”

    Ya think?

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  15. Not as intense, but still related…..Bucs/Miami pre-season game in Tampa was delayed 45 minutes tonight 5 minutes into the 2nd 1/4 as officials were concerned in a downpour that lightning was striking in the area.

    1st time I remember a game stopped for weather…

    Duke DeLand (16bc3f)

  16. Here is a list of around 50 examples over the last few years: http://stopthedrugwar.org/policeraids/botched_swat_raid_compilation

    A white paper from 2006 with many more examples.
    http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/balko_whitepaper_2006.pdf

    So, there are dozens and dozens of these botched and outright false raids where people get shot, pets killed, houses heavily damaged, children injured, etc… And if they happen to wake you up and you look like you’re reaching for protection they will shoot you dead. If you fire back in defense not knowing who the hell is in your house, you will be charged and sent to jail.

    Plus there are thousands of cases where criminals act like they are conducting a no knock police raid but then rob, rape and kill the victims. People don’t fight back not knowing if it is the police or not. Very, very, very bad policy with frequent violent outcomes, innocent victims, and it does need to be stopped.

    Ray (3c46ca)

  17. oops, some of those 50 something cases are only police brutality and not no-knock, my bad. I am looking for the other links I have archived and will post.

    Ray (3c46ca)

  18. Here’s the link I was looking for on botched raids/no knocks. It has an interactive map where you can see query from all cases, to specific types of cases by year and state, or for just everything. It then lists below the map the details for each case from the query. Great little tool, but many very sad stories.

    http://www.cato.org/raidmap/

    Ray (3c46ca)

  19. Ray – A hint – The guy who writes the Agitator blog is the same guy who came up with the map idea for Cato.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  20. As of today, 27 killed, 226 injured.

    I don’t mean to minimize this — although if Balko gets wind of this, that will inevitably be his characterization; you read it here first! — but rather to put it in its proper context.

    As jcurtis said above:

    “It’s a big country. Lots of things happen. You are inflating this out of its context as what would reasonably be called ‘a rarely occurring incident’ by tallying each and every rare occurrence of the incident.”

    Indeed.

    I plan to continue. I’ll be documenting lightning strikes for a while yet.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  21. I lost $800 or more in electronics (grage door opener, 2 TV’s and washing machine motor drive) to a Cold Bolt lightening strike. State Farm would pay if it was over $1000 (deductible). However no other neighbors lost any appliances that I know of. An isolated incident? Im glad there was no fire, fallen trees or death.
    As to the no-knock provision? It certainly is useful for TV cops. You guys are the real thing though as lawyers go, glad you are on the case!

    TR Sterling (09dd37)

  22. Didn’t realize they where the same person, but it doesn’t change my view.

    The use of avoidable government violence against innocent citizens versus the sometimes unavoidable random violence in nature does not seem comparable in regard to making the point about ‘rarely occurring’.

    I would consider ‘a rarely occurring incident’ to be relative to expectations. In this country, the rare occurrence of police no knock raiding the wrong home and killing or injuring them and destroying the home should be once a year, if ever, not dozens.

    The tremendous and hugely disproportional magnitude of the injury from such an error of those entrusted with power demands and should require zero defects. There are plenty of other fields/environments where a single defect can kill, and they have extensive multiple redundant safety precautions in place to prevent them from occurring. Those police agencies who have demonstrated they can not achieve zero defects should have that power removed until they can guarantee the required results. If they fail, leadership needs to be terminated and replaced, just like it is in other fields where defects injure and kill innocents. Anything less is not acceptable in this country.

    Ray (3c46ca)

  23. I agree with Ray on the issue of No-knock warrants.

    Dave Surls (c78e50)

  24. Assertion that listed incident never happened. Further assertion that if injury occurred, it was justified based on individual’s behaviour.

    (I like this game. It’s very efw.)

    quiescere (bf1f46)

  25. It is possible for something to occur only rarely, and still occur too many times. This is why we are taught to take precautions during thunderstorms — we know it’s not LIKELY we’ll be struck by lightning, but we also know we don’t want to be the next person who gets zapped.

    Alas, when it comes to no-knock raids gone wrong, the precautions are out of the hands of its victims. It is the police who must make the changes necessary to reduce the number of people hurt or killed in such raids. And, alas, so far, I don’t see where there’s a great deal of introspection that might lead to such changes. Quite the opposite: When a flawed no-knock raid occurs, the immediate reaction is to obfuscate, to blame the victim, to say that it couldn’t be helped, it was just one of those things.

    Your analogy between failed no-knocks and lightning strikes holds water insofar as both occur only rarely. But the comparison doesn’t hold up for one inch past that. Lightning strikes are out of human control. No-knock raids are very much WITHIN our control… if we care to control them.

    You say you don’t want to minimize the damage caused to innocents caught up in failed no-knock raids. You’ve got a funny way of demonstrating that.

    Eric Berlin (51df0e)

  26. “Your analogy between failed no-knocks and lightning strikes holds water insofar as both occur only rarely. But the comparison doesn’t hold up for one inch past that.”

    Eric – I didn’t see any analogy presented beyond that, did you?

    daleyrocks (718861)

  27. @Daleyrocks: Well, yeah. If Patterico is posting these lightning stories as a direct response to Balko’s ongoing series of “isolated incidents,” he is saying that lightning strikes and failed no-knock raids are equivalent to each other — two examples of the nasty way fate sometimes crashes down on the heads of people who don’t deserve it.

    But, again, while we can’t do anything about lightning except not go outside during an electrical storm, we CAN do something about failed no-knock raids.

    Reasonable people can disagree, I suppose, about the size and urgency of the problem — but I don’t see how anyone can disagree that flawed no-knock raids are a problem. Comparing innocent people who are wounded or killed by police during raids to others who are merely victims of fate is dismissive of that problem.

    Eric Berlin (51df0e)

  28. I do not care for the Balkobots. Not in the least.

    JD (07b76c)

  29. I, for one, welcome our new lightning wielding alien overlords.

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  30. I sense a pattern here. Ha anyone checked the birth certificates of these people who were targeted by supposedly “random” lightening? Huh? HUH?!

    See, I’m willing to ask the tough questions. Are you?

    BJTexs (a2cb5a)

  31. he is saying that lightning strikes and failed no-knock raids are equivalent to each other

    No he is not. But that is what I expect Balko to say, because it is wrong.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  32. Here is my update:

    UPDATE x2: For the record, since I see my point is already being misread and distorted by certain opponents of no-knock raids: the point here is not to make light of, or trivialize, the damage caused by search warrants executed on the wrong house. The only point I am making is that you can take any comparatively rare event and make it seem commonplace, simply by pointing out each instance of its occurrence. The fact that one can take rare events and make them seem commonplace by using this technique does not mean they are commonplace in a statistically meaningful sense.

    I have chosen people getting struck by lightning for my examples, simply because that is the quintessential example of an event that people see as “rare.”

    That does not mean that I am “comparing” or “drawing an analogy between” a random natural event and a phenomenon created by humans. It does not mean that I am arguing that such raids are not a problem, or that we don’t need to do anything to minimize them. Once again, the only point I am making is that you can take any comparatively rare event and make it seem commonplace, simply by pointing out each instance of its occurrence.

    I remembered that, when dealing with the radical libertarian crowd, you have to actively search out ways that your point might be distorted, and pre-explain that you did not mean that. Because distort they will.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  33. Okay. I shall happily concede that the comparison between lightning strikes and no-knock raids is more satric than sincere.

    My larger point stands. At the barest minimum — seeing now that you have categorized your series as “Bogus Statistics” — it seems pretty clear that you are saying, re flawed no-knocks, “Nothing to see here, folks! Just because certain people insist on harping on the issue doesn’t mean it’s really a problem!”

    Eric Berlin (51df0e)

  34. (FYI, my response #33 overlapped with your update #32.)

    Eric Berlin (51df0e)

  35. At least 250 children drown in pools in the United States every year. 3 were killed by playing lawn darts. So we banned lawn darts.

    People aren’t rational about statistics.

    carlitos (365283)

  36. Okay. I shall happily concede that the comparison between lightning strikes and no-knock raids is more satric than sincere.

    My larger point stands. At the barest minimum — seeing now that you have categorized your series as “Bogus Statistics” — it seems pretty clear that you are saying, re flawed no-knocks, “Nothing to see here, folks! Just because certain people insist on harping on the issue doesn’t mean it’s really a problem!”

    Shorter Eric Berlin: “I’m not going to pay attention to a thing Patterico said. Instead, I will assign my own meaning to what he said. I like my meaning better, because it makes Patterico look less reasonable.”

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  37. There is a reason I put one of the sentences in bold type, and repeated it twice, word for word.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  38. (FYI, my response #33 overlapped with your update #32.)

    And my #36 with your #33.

    Now that you have seen my #32, does your larger point still stand? In other words, are we communicating, or just scoring points off of one another? In other words, does my #32 change your mind?

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  39. […] UPDATE: This post is part of an ongoing series. Explanation here. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Another Isolated Incident (e4ab32)

  40. the only point I am making is that you can take any comparatively rare event and make it seem commonplace, simply by pointing out each instance of its occurrence.

    Intentional or not, you are also belittling those who hyperventilate and wet their pants over what are rare events.

    steve sturm (369bc6)

  41. What percentage of no-knock searches result in good arrests and no injuries/deaths?

    kaf (16e0b5)

  42. Well, like I said, I was still writing my last response when you posted yours, but whatever.

    But seriously, folks. Is Patterico just noting the tendency of people to make rare events seem commonplace via the simple action of talking about them? Is it simply a context-free observation? Of course it is not. It’s a direct response to Balko’s insistence on focusing on no-knock raids. (Can we agree on even THAT much?)

    Why the need to point out how rare flawed no-knocks are? Is it a huge leap to believe it is the first step towards minimizing the problem, or even dismissing the problem entirely?

    (I like how I’m a radical libertarian. In truth, I read and enjoy both your blog and Balko’s, and think you’ve landed quite a few fine blows on him, including the recent spat where he skipped over an important sentence you had written — his defense of that was disheartening and, well, lame. In this case, however, your swing has not connected.)

    Eric Berlin (51df0e)

  43. (And my 42 overlapped with your 38! Everybody take five!)

    Eric Berlin (51df0e)

  44. I get your point. I guess I don’t get why you are making it. Is it wrong to take a comparatively rare event with massive negative consequences and make it seem commonplace by pointing out each instance of its occurrence (to personalize it) in an attempt to change policy so people are not killed, injured, etc…? Does something being comparatively rare mean we should not take immediate action to correct it so it never occurs?

    I’ve never been labeled a radical, but I do have a combination of libertarian and conservative beliefs. If believing we should address and correct a comparatively rare death, injury and damage due to errors that are easily within our power to correct makes me a radical, I guess things really are changing. I didn’t even remember the guy’s name, so using a term like “Balkobots” is not useful, not in the least.

    Ray (3c46ca)

  45. But seriously, folks. Is Patterico just noting the tendency of people to make rare events seem commonplace via the simple action of talking about them? Is it simply a context-free observation? Of course it is not. It’s a direct response to Balko’s insistence on focusing on no-knock raids. (Can we agree on even THAT much?)

    It’s a direct response to his insistence on doing a series of posts called “Another Isolated Incident” which is designed to show that these issues aren’t rare. My point is that writing about every one makes rare events seem as if they are not.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  46. Eric – Patterico laid out, in no uncertain terms, his meaning and intent. I do not understand why you wish to go further and add additional meaning beyond the stated intent. Should you wish to do so, do not be surprised when people dismiss that out-of-hand.

    JD (109a3f)

  47. And very glad to see your home is safe from that comparatively rare event of having one’s house burn down due to wild fires. Considering how comparatively rare it is to have one’s home burn down with its tragic consequences, we certainly dedicate a lot of resources, spend a lot of money and have extensive regulations. I expect the same when it comes to police raiding homes.

    Ray (3c46ca)

  48. The trouble with Balko is he tries too hard to fit the facts into his ideology (which, of course, is also mine). That’s deadly to good journalism. Reporters should be skeptical of all ideologies, including their own. They shouldn’t have a lower standard for facts that fit their ideology than facts that challenge their ideology.

    Some Libertarians avoid this common pitfall, such as Matt Welch and Virginia Postrel. (Of course, most of the leftist MSM flubs this test, most resoundingly on ObamaCare).

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  49. JD writes:

    I do not understand why you wish to go further and add additional meaning beyond the stated intent.

    Of course you do. It’s the foundation of building strawmen. And narratives.

    Karl (ade276)

  50. Karl – You know that, and I know that. But, nevertheless, such brazen asshaterry never ceases to amaze.

    JD (f3535f)

  51. Ray,

    Your comment drives home in a personal way why I never should have made that argument that I didn’t make and said I wasn’t making.

    Patterico (643fc5)

  52. Patterico,

    If that’s your “only” point, why make it with repeated references to Balko’s work? Either those references add nothing to your posts, or they add something more than you claim your point to be. You should at least realize you’re baiting Balko into another spat, and if you’re doing that without making some useful point about his work, it’s childish.

    A few years ago, it was trendy for leftists news media to report about mothers worried about their children being drafted to fight in Iraq. The press was promoting an anti-war or anti-Bush agenda, but they claimed their only point was that the mothers were worried about a draft. So they avoided having to defend their real agenda, and people who noticed and complained were painted as distorting the press’s arguments.

    roy (d6fc79)

  53. the point here is not to make light of, or trivialize, the damage caused by search warrants executed on the wrong house.

    Even though that’s exactly what it looks like?
    To be completely technical, what it looks like is that you’re defending that they are “isolated incidents”, missing the very point Balko is making. (Or you would simply, rather than ridicule, provide the statistics that would disprove him.)

    That is, everytime they come to light, they are described as “Isolated Incidents”, but without the factual proof that they are, in fact, isolated. Just the unsupported assertation that they are. Unsupported assertations just weren’t enough for John Kerry’s CIA hat, and they’re definately not enough for something so serious.
    People struck by lightning is news, and reported. Police departments discourage the reporting of the errors, and many are not unless something else extraordinary occurs.

    I see my point is already being misread and distorted

    Or they disagree with your premise, as you disagree with theirs. It is hypocritical to say they have to see it your way, but you refuse to look at it from their side.

    by certain opponents of no-knock raids:

    I, for one, am not against, “no-knock raids”, so that makes me not an opponent, correct?
    I am, however, against the concept that a no-knock warrant can be obtained with little to no reason (or at least the reason doesn’t have to be proven to be at least arguably valid), and in cases of error, that those responsible are not held to a reasonable account. You and I also likely differ on what we consider “reasonable”.

    Right now, as I see it, unless something goes very badly wrong, as in the Calvo or Kathryn Johnston cases, and it comes under further scrutiny, there is no realistic downside for sloppy police work, mistaken raids, and even casualties to the non-LEOs.

    But in those cases, where the workings are thrown open to scrutiny, there have been exposed huge systemic failures, abuses, and coverups. I, personally, believe this is the obvious result of the lack of transparency, and I strongly suspect that it’s the same case throughout the country, that the number of departments that could be exposed to that scrutiny and come through unscathed are few and far between. Even if I am wrong as to the percentages – I believe it is an undeniable fact that when a no-knock raid has gone badly wrong and the courts and public start examining that particular system, it is described as “isolated”, and that is used to prevent similar inspections of the system and it’s use(s). In my mind, that can be for only one reason. It’s not so isolated.

    I very much would like to see real, valid statistics for raids, no-knocks and others, as well as real, valid statistics for what is “lost” by having “traditional” “knock” warrants. You are in a position to give us those statistics, if they’re available. Are they? Balko’s contention is that they’re not, and I’ve seen nothing to refute him on that point. Given that Balko can be sloppy, I’ll concede that he might be wrong there, but so far, I’ve not seen anybody disprove him by displaying publicly available statistics on police operations.

    Based on some glaring cases that made it to the public eye, among them Johnson and Calvo, and the original public responses (and the continued one in the Calvo case), as well as the self-contradictory rationales provided (the raid must be instant before they can react and come to their senses; any attempts to defend themselves are conscious and obviously they know it’s the police coming in), I conclude that Balko has a point here.

    And I think it’s a serious one that’s worth addressing, and this “series” by you is ridiculing his (and my) concern, and yes, defending no-knock and no-accountability raids.
    In my opinion, this is an unseemly attack for you. It detracts markedly from your criticism of Balko’s research and reporting, and seems to be an ad hom attack that anything you see Balko say that dares to question The State! must be attacked. I don’t think that’s what you’re meaning to convey, but it’s what I’m reading here, and your disclaimer that it’s not what you intend isn’t really an answer. If that’s the way most people are reading it, it’s (likely) a failure in your presentation.

    By this petty attack, you hurt your own credibility. Though perhaps it will help with the actual facts and statistics – as far as I know they are not, except in Prince George County, MD, and as a result of the Calvo raid, (and the Balko reporting!) being compiled and available publicly.

    Unix-Jedi (651a1b)

  54. Patterico – I do not give a flying f*ck what you meant, what you said you meant, and what your stated intentions are. I am going to ascribe motive and intention to you and argue against that construct.

    JD (4cd453)

  55. Patterico, I do want to clarify I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious or radical. Going back and reading some of my comments I see that isn’t always clear, and I apologize for that. I really enjoy and respect your site and postings and agree with almost all of them.

    That is why I got confused about this series of posts and really did want to understand the point and the purpose, as it seemed I strongly did not agree with it. I probably still don’t, but I respect this is your site and there will be posts I won’t always agree with and that is just the way it is. I will try to be more careful in future comments so as not to appear obnoxious or radical (at least toward those not on the left).

    ray (3c46ca)

  56. your disclaimer that it’s not what you intend isn’t really an answer. If that’s the way most people are reading it, it’s (likely) a failure in your presentation.

    Or, it could be a failure in reading comprehension. When someone tells you explicitly what they mean, and you make a conscious decision to ascribe a meaning other than the stated intent, that disconnect rests with you, not the author.

    JD (3ab713)

  57. You are all a bunch of boot-licking authoritarians. And, racists.

    And, Kyoto.

    JD (3b62be)

  58. JD, some of your posts on this thread are very similar to what one can see over at LGF by the favored children of Charles. It didn’t help over there and does not here.

    ray (3c46ca)

  59. I should probably supplementary add this on reflection:

    Even if these are “Isolated Incidents”, this does not, in my estimation, justify what I see as a flagrant lack of accountability and responsibility.

    Even if people hit by lightning is more common, it’s still less justifiable than a system where multiple people are supposed to weigh judgment, common sense and discretion and civil rights and the role of government, per their oath, yet not only does it fail, but nothing is changed about the system.

    Lightning, snake bike, shark attack – these are issues where human brains weren’t involved. Issues where human intellect is involved, and where self-interest and corruption is not only possible, but historically well-known, and given the concept of government in service to the people make it a completely dissimilar comparison.
    A better comparison would be to other, conscious decisions people are held to account for, say be it children around buckets or bathtubs – those are obviously “isolated incidents”, yet we expect a certain base level of care and concern from the parents, and we prosecute those who fail.

    Unix-Jedi (651a1b)

  60. Ray – Apparently I forgot to turn off the mockery and satire tags.

    JD (e6edba)

  61. JD:

    Or, it could be a failure in reading comprehension. When someone tells you explicitly what they mean, and you make a conscious decision to ascribe a meaning other than the stated intent, that disconnect rests with you, not the author.

    A possibility that I think I addressed, but in case I did not, yes, that’s possible.

    that disconnect rests with you, not the author.

    Not always. For example: Pick whatever politician who you disagree with. When he/she says something that you’re sure isn’t what they’re actually meaning, is it your comprehension or their message that’s wrong? Even if on both sides there is honesty – you can still have someone say something that isn’t what they really mean.

    And you also can insist that what you say isn’t what you mean.

    For another example: Go into work and say “I certainly don’t mean to be sexually harassing, but, those are some nice, firm breasts you have!” to a female co-worker. Your disclaimer isn’t going to cut much mustard as they’re escorting you out of the building.
    There is a gray area as to intent and reception, but merely disclaiming it does not trump that.

    Unix-Jedi (651a1b)

  62. He didn’t merely disclaim it, he told you specifically what he intended. Feel free to explain how he was not being honest in his stated intent. This is playing out pretty much as almost everyone would have anticipated. Much like the Gates threads … Argue with an actual position, rather than one you believe someone has made, or the one you wish they had taken. But the idea that you get to ascribe a position to someone that they have stated in no uncertain terms is not their position is dishonest.

    JD (9f4ff6)

  63. JD – indeed, it would appear there is no off switch, and no switch for anything else.

    ray (3c46ca)

  64. JD:

    But the idea that you get to ascribe a position to someone that they have stated in no uncertain terms is not their position is dishonest.

    This is, in fact, false.
    I’ll leave it to you to figure out why.

    Unix-Jedi (651a1b)

  65. Then I suggest, Unix, that you show how your interpretation is a more honest reflection of Patterico’s intent than his stated intent is.

    Off to buy a new car … see y’all later, you bootlickin’ authoritarians who advocate for no-knock warrants based on flawed information, and endorse the resultant hardships on innocents.

    JD (240403)

  66. “What are you doing in my yard?”
    “What are you doing in your yard?”

    Rich Fader (295108)

  67. JD:
    you show how your interpretation … Off to buy a new car …
    In the sysadmin field, we call this “Imminent Self-LARTing.

    Unix-Jedi (651a1b)

  68. You are the one that claims to know better Patterico’s stated intention than Patterico himself. Why that would inflict any type of burden on me boggles the mind. Since you know better, it should be quite easy for you to lay out why your view of Patterico’s words is more accurate than his stated intent. Chop chop.

    JD (5375e6)

  69. Human-damaging lightning strike : human-damaging no-knock raid :: act of god : act of man.

    Both are “rare” — and much more frequent than one expects.

    The first is an unintended consequence of human actions or lack thereof, and the humans damaged are those who didn’t do “anti-lighting” correctly. In the second case, however, the damage is under human control; it’s unintended (we hope!) consequences of poor preparation for a human actions on other humans, and the victim is not the person who did the poor preparation. I know of no acts to take or not take to do anti-“mistaken-noknock-police-raid”.

    So I think the inference or implication — whichever you were trying to make — fails.

    htom (412a17)

  70. You are the one that claims to know better Patterico’s stated intention than Patterico himself.

    Didn’t say that, and I’ve dealt with that above.

    You’re the one now ascribing to me intents that I’ve disclaimed. Somehow I doubt you’ll comprehend that, either.

    Have fun buying the car. For reference, however, keep track of the salesman’s stated intent and words, and see if at any point you start to – before you catch yourself – disagree with them.

    Unix-Jedi (651a1b)

  71. Patterico,

    I initially wondered why you were ‘defending’ botched no knock raids by satirizing the criticism of them. It seemed out of character for you. I’m glad that’s not what you’re doing. But I don’t think my initial assumption about your intent makes me a rabid libertarian and balkobot/balkoid or an idiot. It was a logical conclusion based on available information. It did involve some assumptions. But assuming that you were attacking a process because you disagreed with the conclusion isn’t unreasonable.

    But I believe you when you say that’s not what you’re doing. This is not the first time you’ve made a criticism of news reporting and claimed the criticism has nothing to do with the point of the article and only intended to note a flaw in the way in which the article was done. You’ve made this sort of ‘process’ criticism before about journalists and I know that journalistic methods are a subject of interest to you. But given that you are a law and order conservative and that you are often critical of Balko and the points he makes this is an odd choice to illustrate a point about human ability to understand statistics if you don’t’ want anyone to draw conclusions about why you’re going to the effort.

    time123 (03e182)

  72. I hate Supercache

    JD (24e83b)

  73. This is not the first time you’ve made a criticism of news reporting

    Balko does ‘news reporting’? News to me.

    I initially wondered why you were ‘defending’ botched no knock raids by satirizing the criticism of them.

    One doesn’t have to defend botched no knock raids to satirize Balko’s criticism of no-knock raids. And let’s make no mistake, Balko isn’t just upset with the botched raids, he doesn’t like any of them and he uses the relative few botched raids to argue there should be no no-knock raids at all.

    steve sturm (3811cf)

  74. Since when is hundreds a “relative few”? Not to mention the thousands of criminal copy cats used in home invasions to subdue people before they can defend themselves? You are no longer arguing Patterico’s point when you criticize Balko’s cause.

    ray (3c46ca)

  75. Sure takes a long time to figure out the topic here. After all these comments, it’s sounding like it’s not about lightning at all – and evidently it’s not about no-knock police raids either. Apparently it’s about somebody with the unlikely name of Balko and the way he fashions an argument.

    I never heard of the guy except when people here were cursing him. I was kind of thinking he was just a curse word. It does make me kind of curious though – after all the back and forth – what Patterico’s thoughts would be in regard to the alleged problem of alleged no-knock raids.

    Maybe that would clear things up a bit.

    Gesundheit (47b0b8)

  76. Meanwhile a very sick elderly lady, pulling an oxygen tank with her wheelchair, has had to wait TWO HOURS outside my office waiting for the city health care bus to pick her up after her husband’s funeral. Good thing we aren’t in Canada. She might have had to wait here a month.

    Gesundheit (47b0b8)

  77. And, no, I couldn’t take her home. She requires special transport, which in this case means depending on the government. That’s exactly where I don’t ever want to be… depending on the government.

    Gesundheit (47b0b8)

  78. “But given that you are a law and order conservative and that you are often critical of Balko and the points he makes this is an odd choice to illustrate a point about human ability to understand statistics if you dont want anyone to draw conclusions about why youre going to the effort.”

    I’m putting the matter in perspective. You can be as disturbed as you like about even a single wrong-house raid; you can oppose drug raids or the drug war generally; go nuts! I’m not stopping you. Nor am I arguing that we shouldn’t take measures to stop such raids.

    Am I making any argument regarding how many resources or how much effort we should put into stopping them? No, but I do expect that the point I am making should be taken into account as policymakers consider the matter. Fundamentally, I think that reporting every instance of these thing occurring is rhetorically effective, and if you oppose these raids, I can see why you’d report ’em all. But I also think that, to the extent that running these incidents constantly under the title “Another Isolated Incident” suggests that the percentage of wrong-door raids is statistically significant, that suggestion is fallacious. The percentage may indeed be statsistically significant, but if it is, that fact is not proved by evidence like “Look! It happened again!”

    So my only “agenda” is to put the matter in perspective. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously.

    Patterico (1f6f8c)

  79. So there are only a few no-knox that go bad?

    How do the cops and prosecutors react after the things go bad. Let’s say if one of their own is killed executing a no-knock on man sleeping in his own house when a bunch of thugs in black storm his house with guns? … stick his butt on death row or lick their wounds and apologize?

    Do the cops cover up when the thugs in black mow down some terrified old lady? nah?

    Lightening, at least, admits it when it hits.

    quasimodo (4af144)

  80. Since when is hundreds a “relative few”?

    It can be if it’s out of, say, trillions. (It’s not, but I’m using an extreme example.) For instance, if hundreds of stars in the universe share a particular characteristic, is that a relative few?

    If I listed every single swine flu death on this blog, separately, under the title “No big deal, HUH?” would that alone mean swine flu is a huge epidemic that should send us all into a panic? If someone suggested that my swine flu series implied a level of statistical significance that it didn’t prove, would that observation mean I’m pro-swine flu? That I don’t care about people dying? Etc.?

    No. No it would not.

    Patterico (acd960)

  81. “How do the cops and prosecutors react after the things go bad. Let’s say if one of their own is killed executing a no-knock on man sleeping in his own house when a bunch of thugs in black storm his house with guns? … stick his butt on death row or lick their wounds and apologize?”

    If you get struck by lightning you will become a big advocate for lightning safety. And hey, I’m FOR lightning safety.

    I’m also for keeping the danger in perspective.

    Patterico (69c15f)

  82. The comment before the last one was unclear. Would that mean *the person making the observation* was pro-swine flu? (Not that *I* am pro-swine flu.)

    Patterico (7e7266)

  83. OK – so it’s an anti-alarmism post. I can see that. No problem.

    I can’t make up my mind though about whether this is an alarming problem or not. For police to break into an innocent person’s house and shoot them – by accident – that seems pretty bad. In fact, I’d say just a few would be enough to make me somewhat concerned about where things are going.

    Then, combine that with liberarian concerns about the whole War On Drugs thing – and with Ruby Ridge sorts of concerns about FBI and the BATF. Add in regular conservatives diatribes against the Homeland Security investigations of conservatives as possible terrorists, and so on. And I can imagine that a lot of people besides this Bulko person might be writing black helicopter stories.

    Hey, I’m just sayin’. Seems like Glenn Beck did the same thing recently, talking about O’s private army? It doesn’t matter how small or rare the incident is, if you believe it fits into the grand narrative.

    But there’s always the kicker. Is the grand narrative true or not? Government increasingly trampling on individual rights and freedoms? Or government (and law enforcement) still pretty much in control and doing it’s proper job?

    I’m just trying to shape the question, so that it gets off being stuck in the impossible place of trying to say how many no-knocks is too many.

    Gesundheit (47b0b8)

  84. Honest to God, these Libertarians have to got to be the most obtuse collection of people I have ever witnessed.

    First with the Gates case and now with the “isolated incident” motif, their inability to grasp the rather obvious points that Patterico has attempted to make is absolutely stunning.

    Adding to the amusement/frustration level is the Libertarians’ apparent belief that they are the smartest people in the room.

    Seriously, if the powers-that-be ever decide to resurrect that old “this is your brain on drugs” commercial, they should use a Libertarian instead of a fried egg.

    Bubba Maximus (456175)

  85. “OK – so it’s an anti-alarmism post. I can see that. No problem.”

    No, that’s too simplistic. It’s not a “don’t be alarmed by wrong-house raids” post but rather a “don’t conclude, based on Radley Balko reporting every wrong-house raid he hears about, that on that evidence alone the number must be statistically significant, and become alarmed on that basis alone.”

    If you want to be alarmed by even one such raid, or by even one person being struck by lightning, be my guest. Wrong house raids suck. Lightning strikes suck. Pool drownings suck. I’m not in favor of any of it.

    Patterico (2c62fe)

  86. When I was a nurse at a children’s hospital I decided not to have children as all the children I saw were very sick. In fact 100% of the children at the hospital were very sick, but this only represented a small fraction of ALL children.

    Haile Tsada (b8f0e2)

  87. “A few years ago, it was trendy for leftists news media to report about mothers worried about their children being drafted to fight in Iraq. The press was promoting an anti-war or anti-Bush agenda, but they claimed their only point was that the mothers were worried about a draft.”

    Did they have a valid argument that they were correcting a possible misimpression out there?

    Patterico (2c62fe)

  88. Not saying you do not care, was just pointing out to steve it’s more than a few, and when he started to attack blako’s cause he was no longer arguing your point.

    A few stars, hundreds of stars, hundreds of thousands of stars, billions of stars, all unique order of magnitude increases.

    Ray (3c46ca)

  89. “Adding to the amusement/frustration level is the Libertarians’ apparent belief that they are the smartest people in the room.”

    Bubba – Well said. Simple concepts are beyond them. Pretzel logic is the only cure.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  90. And straw men, fields of burning straw men.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  91. Thing is, it’s an article of faith in Balko’s circle that botched no-knocks and SWAT operations are routine and constant. Many if not most of Balko’s readers are in favor of scrapping no-knocks and SWAT teams entirely, and the perceived frequency of botched no-knocks lends a sense of urgency to their belief. They establish this frequency by saying constantly, “Another one! How can anyone say they’re rare or unusual, and not indicative of massive wrongdoing?!?”, etc.

    Now, Balko has in the past noted that it’s difficult to establish exactly how common the screw-ups are in relation to successful operations, because there is limited data available. But that typically doesn’t stop him or his readers from making conclusions about how common they are, and thus the scale of the problem, anyway.

    Mars vs Hollywood (a49876)

  92. 91. Fine, screw balko’s rantings, botched raids are not “common”. But I still argue whether it is only a few, hundreds, or thousands, they should never happen. The definition of “common” is irrelevant to the expectation it should be zero.

    I truly do not understand why the expectations of normal people should be to accept that on rare occurrences, the police may raid the wrong home and kill and/or injure innocents. It is not acceptable to be anything over zero. I don’t even see how this is a radical libertarian view, it would seem to be a logical view with which people from any political persuasion would agree.

    ray (3c46ca)

  93. Once you, or a near friend, has been the victim of such a raid — even if there were no bodies or arrests as a result — you become hypersensitive to such. Perhaps especially if there was no one really damaged — you know how close the big disaster was, and you want desperately to avoid it.

    If lightning hits a tree next to a neighbor’s house, you think a great deal about lightning rods for a while. When it hits the tree next to your house, you think longer. When it’s your garage on fire, you install lightning rods and urge that others do, too. Advocating the end of lightning strikes … not practical.

    I’m not opposed to all no-knock and SWAT raids; just the ones where officer safety is rationalization for them. Shooting hostage holders? Probably OK. No-knock on an active meth cookery? Probably OK. Surprize assault on grandma who may have a grandchild with a couple of grams of pot? No.

    If you want to be “safe”, you shouldn’t be a LEO or a fireman or … or a Marine.

    htom (412a17)

  94. 91. Fine, screw balko’s rantings, botched raids are not “common”. But I still argue whether it is only a few, hundreds, or thousands, they should never happen.

    And you’ll find that Patterico probably agrees with you on both of those statements. But the frequency of mistakes does factor in to whether procedural tweaks, or full-scale rethinking, are necessary to address the problem.

    I’m not opposed to all no-knock and SWAT raids; just the ones where officer safety is rationalization for them…If you want to be “safe”, you shouldn’t be a LEO or a fireman or … or a Marine.

    Be sure to put that in the recruitment brochures. :-)

    Seriously, though, why shouldn’t officer safety be at least a factor when deciding on a no-knock? People seem to think that simply invoking “officer safety” is a magic passphrase that will get you a no-knock warrant automatically. If that were the case, EVERY warrant would be no-knock because EVERY warrant service poses some risk to officer’s safety (yes, even grandma with her pot. You don’t always know who else is in the house).

    Do you think these guys should have knocked and announced?

    Mars vs Hollywood (a49876)

  95. Do you think these guys should have knocked and announced?

    This example had nothing to do with no knock raiding. They confronted the suspect out in the open, a very good move, but were not prepared for him to be armed, very poor judgment.

    The suspects then barricaded themselves in an apartment. The police then assaulted the apartment where an officer was killed and several injured. It does not explain why the decision was made for a frontal assault on an apartment with heavily armed violent men whom had just shot at them. It appears to be a very poor decision given the circumstances.

    This example demonstrates rather weak leadership and execution, which is exactly why they should not be entrusted in conducting no knock raids. They need a lot more training and better leadership first.

    Ray (3c46ca)

  96. Thanks, Patterico, for fighting the good fight on this and other issues like it….

    While I am not personally a big fan of “no-knock” warrants, I am not opposed either. I’m more than willing to trust the JUDGE who approves it that HE/SHE is satisfied that the warrant is needed for that purpose.

    Are THEY always right? No, neither am I…..

    reff (502473)

  97. Patterico,your comment at 78 does an excellent job of explaining your position. I think linking that, or something like it, would probably persuade anyone open to persuasion. People who dislike you for partisan/personal reasons are likely as willing to believe your motives as you are Pelosi. Anyway, Thanks for putting it up.

    I’ve thought about this a bit, where we’re at now is
    ‘They’ say wrong door/no knock raids are so rare as to be insignificant as a consideration in law enforcement procedure. (Often a self serving argument.)
    Balko’s response is to publicize every one he comes across to raise the awareness.
    You point out that this creates an incorrect perception about the risk/likelihood in the other direction. (air travel is another good example of the phenomenon you’re writing about.)

    I think this brings us to the point where some actual data about how effective/necessary the tactic for law enforcement to make a decision.

    time123 (238129)

  98. #95:

    I brought the story up to address htom’s argument that officer safety should not be a consideration in deciding on knock-and-announce or no-knock. The officers in Jersey City were dealing with a violent armed criminal who was waiting for them. While this incident wasn’t a warrant service, this type of situation is certainly not unheard of when planning a warrant service.

    Knocking and announcing in such circumstances can put police at sufficient added risk that I think a no-knock warrant would be justified, by the need for officer safety.

    Mars vs Hollywood (a49876)

  99. An Englishman, a Frenchman and a Russian once shared their opinions on what was happiness.

    ‘I test happiness,’ said the Englishman, ‘when in the winter, after good hunting I come back home and with a glass of good brandy, I settle down in an armchair opposite a roaring fire.’

    ‘For me happiness,’ said the Frenchman, ‘is when I’m in a good restaurant eating good food and drinking good wine in the company of a fine woman, and then – a night of passion.’

    ‘How you understand happiness!’ exclaims the Russian. ‘For me happiness is when, after a wearisome workday, I come into my room in my communal home, where I live together with my wife, my two children and the mother-in-law, and during the night there is a loud knock at the door, and I open it, and on the threshold are two threatening looking creatures standing there and ask me “Are you citizen Paramonov?” and I answer them: “He’s not here, Paramonov lives a floor above!” Now there is true happiness!’

    nk (b17d90)

  100. Another another isolated incident here.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  101. I have chosen people getting struck by lightning for my examples, simply because that is the quintessential example of an event that people see as “rare.”

    It isn’t rare, just unlikely that any one individual will be struck at any given moment. But this illustrates how “Amber alerts” have given the impression that child abductions are more frequent than they really are. Because now you hear about every single one.

    I heard (but don’t know if this is true) that child abductions were statistically more frequent in the 1960’s than they are now but parents let their kids range freely outside. Now they are less frequent but people are scared to death of them.

    crosspatch (6adcc9)

  102. […] This post is part of an ongoing series. Explanation here. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Another Isolated Incident (e4ab32)


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