Democracy without respect for individual rights sucks. It’s just ganging up on the weird kid, and I’m always the weird kid.
Democracy without respect for individual rights sucks. It’s just ganging up on the weird kid, and I’m always the weird kid.
With the events in Ferguson, Missouri, the public has rightly been discussing the growing militarization of the police forces in this nation. The flip side to that coin has been the increasingly reckless conduct by prosecuting attorneys, both at the state and federal level. Radley Balko, formerly of Reason and HuffPo, and now at WaPo, has done yeoman work documenting cases of prosecutorial misconduct and overreach. Just like the police, prosecutors are protected by qualified immunity and are rarely held to the same professional standards that their civilian* counterparts.
Prosecutorial misconduct is the reason I stopped supporting the death penalty. I can’t trust that the people exercising the ultimate government power are working within the law or even in the interest of justice.
That same reckless conduct led to the overturning of the convictions of police officer convicted for the killing of civilians on the Danziger Bridge during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. For those of you who don’t remember this:
The Danziger Bridge shootings were police shootings that took place on September 4, 2005, at the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana. Six days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, members of the city’s police department killed two people: 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison. Four other people were wounded. All victims were unarmed. Madison, a mentally disabled man, was shot in the back. New Orleans police fabricated a cover-up story for their crime, falsely reporting that seven police officers responded to a police dispatch reporting an officer down, and that at least four people were firing weapons at the officers upon their arrival. On August 5, 2011, a federal jury in New Orleans convicted five police officers of myriad charges related to the cover-up and deprivation of civil rights. However, the convictions were vacated on September 17, 2013 due to prosecutorial misconduct, and a new trial was ordered.
From the article:
“The case started as one featuring allegations of brazen abuse of authority, violation of the law, and corruption of the criminal justice system,” [Judge] Engelhardt wrote in his decision alluding to the Danziger prosecution. “Unfortunately, though the focus has switched from the accused to the accusors, it has continued to be about those very issues. After much reflection, the court cannot journey as far as it has in this case only to ironically accept grotesque prosecutorial misconduct in the end.”
This is unacceptable. The War on Nouns has lulled the populace into surrendering their liberty to the police and prosecutors. It’s time that those liberties were taken back and the offenders suffer the consequences.
h/t Ken Ostos, from the Book of Faces
* – Yes, I know that police and prosecutors are also civilians. It was a useful literary tool. It instantly made the dichotomy clear in your mind, didn’t it?
The mansion the vampires were using was surrounded by a ten foot brick wall. Techinically, that was a bit higher than was allowed by the city’s building codes. Building codes could be flexible if the right money was paid to the right people. It was kind of comforting to Erik to see petty corruption was universal, even in America.
“So, how are we going to get over the wall without them picking us up?” Jason asked. Veronica stepped forward. The sorceress drew an invisible circle on the ground, and then drew another on the wall. In a hushed tone, Veronica spoke in elvish. A faint green line appeared where she had drawn the circle on the wall, and then the wall within the circle vanished.
“Okay, that’s a neat trick,” Jason said, hefting his suppressed M4. “Why haven’t we used it before?”
“Because it’s a ser’al binding,” Veronica explained, “I have to commit it to memory before I can cast it. After that, I’d have to wait a few days before I can do it again.” Jason grunted agreement and strode through the hole. Kurt followed holding his Benelli shotgun. Nigel and John went next with their MP5SD submachine guns. Erik and Samantha went next. Erik had Far’ling and his custom S&W500 revolver drawn. Samantha, who was playing medic for this little raid, was carrying one of their stubby little AK-74Us. Veronica stepped through last and waved her hands. The hole in the wall vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. The team made their way to the doors they’d marked as their entry point into the mansion.
“No vampires in the room,” reported Nigel from his point near one of the large windows that looked out to the back lawn.
“Okay, time for us to work our magic,” Erik said to Veronica. Under the cover of Jason and Kurt’s guns, Veronica and Erik stepped up to the glass-plated French doors. Veronica focused her magic on the glass. It dimly glowed for a moment and then started pouring to the ground as a pile of sand. Erik was the first through the door. He threw up a shield at the hallway just in time for a vampire to slam into it. Physics being physics, Erik slid back a few feet from the impact. The vampire looked confused by the invisible barrier. Erik dropped the barrier for an instant. Just long enough for Jason to place a short burst of silver into the vampire’s chest.
The creature’s howl of pain was muffled by Erik’s telekinetic shield. So, thankfully, was the flame as the vampire exploded in a brief flash. Erik moved his shield down the hall as he stepped over the ash pile. Along the left side were doors to the servants’ quarters. Anne was supposed to be in the third one according to Veronica.
As they passed the first door, Erik paused and focused on holding his shield. Behind him, Kurt, Jason, Nigel, and John cleared the room. Not finding anything, Veronica tapped Erik on the shoulder. They repeated the process as they passed the second room. Erik felt everyone’s anxiety ramp up as they neared the third door. With each step, Erik knew something was wrong. He should have been sensing Anne’s psi-scent, but there was nothing coming from the room. He held up his hand. As the group stopped, Erik felt around. There wasn’t a hint of Anne’s psi-scent in the hallway.
“She’s not here,” Erik whispered into his radio, “I don’t think she’s ever been in here.”
“But I felt her sling a spell in that room,” Veronica said. “Maybe the vampires moved her.”
“I’m not picking up her ghost anywhere in here,” Erik said, “If they moved her, I should be able to pick up her ghost on the walls or floor. There’s nothing.”
“So, where is she?” Kurt asked. His voice was perfectly professional, but Erik could feel the roiling fear and rage bubbling in his tactical specialist.
“That’s a very good question, Mr. Schneider,” asked a familiar voice from the darkness. Erik triggered his chem-rig as Nao’s blue eyes became visible in the dark. Cool anti-venom pumped into his veins. Another few steps, and Erik could see Nao’s lithe beauty in the light from Far’ling. “Where could we have taken your precious Anne?” As she spoke, two pairs of red eyes blazed from the darkness.
Erik held Far’ling in front of him as he lowered the revolver to his side. The two male vampires stepped into the light. Veronica hissed as the seven-foot tall man-bat forms emerged from the darkness. Erik noticed one of the vampires wore two stainless steel hooks in place of his hands. That was probably the one Erik had fought when he tailed the pair of vampires a few nights ago.
“I know you’re planning something, Erik,” Nao said, walking right up to his shield. She gave him a sympathetic look as she leaned on the invisible wall of telekinetic force. “I need you to surrender.”
“Now, why would I do that, Nao?” he replied coldly.
“Because if you do, then I’ll take you to where Anne is,” Nao answered, “Believe, you’ll never find her before my clan mates took you down one by one.”
“From my calculations, we’ve managed to kill four of you so far without any loss on our end. Not including Stumpy, there,” Erik said, nodding at the hooked vampire. “There’s what, another nine of you? I think we could take you.”
“There’s no doubt you would probably hurt my clan even more, lover,” Nao said, with a hint of pride in her voice, “You just wouldn’t be able to in time to save your precious Anne. Unfortunately for you, time is of the essence. So, put down your weapons, and we will take you to Anne.”
“Not a fucking chance,” Erik said.
“Actually, sir, please do as the vampire says,” Nigel said, pointing his submachine gun at Erik. Veronica started to bring up her own submachine gun, but Erik put his hand on her arm. John had fallen back and had Samantha covered. Erik and Samantha locked eyes for the briefest of moments before she nodded.
“Put your weapons down,” Erik commanded, dropping his revolver to the ground. Veronica let out a string of Hindi curses as she unslung her submachine gun and let it drop to the ground. Jason and Kurt gave Nigel and John murderous looks as they followed suit.
“Remove your shield, lover,” Nao said. As Erik let the shield drop, the vampire with hands blurred among the group. Erik felt Far’ling tugged out of his grasp an instant before his hands were bound behind his back. When the vampire re-appeared, a stack of guns and knives was in front of Nao. She smiled indulgently at the vampire and said something in Serbian. The vampire bowed. Nao walked up to Erik.
“Do you know why we succeed, lover?” Nao asked, “It’s not because vampires are so powerful. It’s because we have servants everywhere.” She turned to Stumpy. “Take them down to the basement. The gazda will need to feed once the ritual is complete.”
When someone looks at me and says “I know what I saw,” I am fond of replying “No, you don’t.” You have a distorted and constructed memory of a distorted and constructed perception, both of which are subservient to whatever narrative your brain is operating under.
Dr. Steven Novella, neurosurgeon and skepticism advocate
Anne eyes cracked open as she regained consciousness. The bedroom was dimly lit, but Anne could make out the dresser to her left and the small bedside table to her right. The bed was soft and warm. Anne could smell the faint scent of lilacs. She lay in the bed for several long moments, trying to clear the foggy feeling from her mind. Still groggy, but feeling more able, Anne sat up.
Her feet landed on plush carpeting, and for a moment, Anne wondered if she was in Lady Maritza’s house. No, the last thing she remembered was Welks hitting her with that blackout drug. Anger roiled through Anne as she thought of Welks working for the vampires. She knew Welks was a lazy slob of a detective, but corruption was something new. Anne was going to either put a bullet in him or make sure he was locked up.
She felt the wild magic dancing around her an instant before the floral arrangement on the dresser erupted in flames. Anne instinctively reached for the vase, but she stopped herself. If she could start a fire with magic, she could stop it as well. Anne focused on the wild magic flowing around the room and saw the bindings on the vase. With careful thought, she altered the bindings slightly. The flames extinguished as if a switch had been thrown. Anne coughed as the smoke filled the room.
The door opened and two vampires materialized in her room. They moved so fast that they seemed to appear out of thin air. One was the vampire that had fled from the hotel room. The other was a woman. She was about Anne’s height, with a face and shape that would have made a supermodel envious. Her silver head flowed as if an unfelt wind was blowing it. She said something to the male vampire in some European language. He picked up the vase and vanished. The female vampire turned to Anne with glowing blue eyes.
“You’re the one who tortured Erik,” Anne said, recognizing the vampire from the description Samantha had given her. The vampire looked pleasantly surprised.
“Unfortunately, yes. I didn’t know how badly he’d been hurt by that woman,” the vampire said, sounding truly regretful. “Hers was the only one I could pull out of that vault of a mind that he has. Once I saw the truth…” The vampire’s voice trailed off. Anne watched the vampire’s face incredulously. She had a thing for Erik?
“You realize he wants to kill you?” Anne asked. Was she in the clutches of an insane vampire? Were any vampires sane? The vampire looked over at Anne and smiled.
“I’ve already marked him as mine,” the vampire answered, as if it was perfectly plain. “He can fight all he wants, but he’s already coming around. He didn’t even kill me tonight with that magic sword of his. Now let’s talk about how you’re going to help me.”
“Screw you,” Anne snapped. Anne felt the sudden pressure against her mind. It wasn’t like when Samantha telepathically spoke to her. This was intrusive and violent. It sent Anne to her knees.
You will help me, the vampire spoke into Anne’s mind, You and that lovely blood of yours. Anne let out a whimper and fell to the floor as the pressure on her mind increased. You will fulfill the prophecy, and I will be the new leader of this clan.
Erik was watching the target house when Veronica flinched in her seat. Erik twisted back as his sorceress’s head focused on one corner of the large mansion. From the expression on Veronica’s face, she’d felt some magic being used. That was pretty good confirmation that this was the target house. Erik let himself feel a tiny bit of relief from failing to tail Anne, but only a little bit. Erik would let himself feel more after he put Nao down.
“So, the tracker was correct?” Kurt asked. The German’s voice might have been professional, but Erik could feel Kurt’s fear and dread radiating like a space heater. Erik leaned into Kurt.
“Relax, my friend. We’ll get her out of there,” Erik said. Kurt nodded, and his feelings lessened a bit. Erik would rather deal with Kurt’s fear than Jason’s boiling anger. The American agent had been infuriated about what happened between Erik and Nao, and had not so subtly hinted that maybe Erik was compromised. If Erik was being honest, he wasn’t sure himself. That was why he was wearing the small drug harness under his battle armor.
The Imperial Army had experimented with battle drugs many times in the last century. It had to look at anything that would give its soldiers an edge against the likes of orcs and trolls. Chemical enhancement was one of many avenues. The results of the trials had been mixed. The drug cocktails needed to bring a human on par with an orc tended to have some nasty side effects. Very nasty side effects. That said, the Imperial Army had an institutional culture of never throwing away a weapon system. There might come a time when it had to be dusted off and used. Which was why Lady Maritza’s closet had a full chem rig. Erik had just switched out the normal battle drug cocktail for the venom treatment that the Americans had developed. He could feel the cool liquid being pumped into his system and hoped that it would fend off the craving. So far, so good.
“I think Anne’s in this room here,” Veronica said, highlighting the room on the floor plans. “At least, I think that’s where the magic surge came from.”
“Are you sure it’s not just the vampires?” Jason asked.
“No, it felt more like one of the spells we taught Anne,” Veronica answered. The agent nodded in understanding.
“If she’s there, we can go through these doors here into the sitting room,” Nigel said, highlighting the route. “The sitting room connects to the servants’ quarters where they’re holding Anne. We haven’t observed any vampires in this sitting room yet, and there’s no security system active. Just a quiet sneak and retrieve.” The two Foreign Security agents looked satisfied with the plan. Erik was pretty sure that the vampires would know the moment they entered the house, but he didn’t have any better plans. At least this time, they’d be bringing some surprises of their own to cover them.
“Everyone get ready. We go in ten.”
If one rejects laissez faire on account of man’s fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason reject every kind of government action.
Ludwig Von Mises
Someone gives you one of those novelty mugs with a pistol grip for a handle, and one of the first things you think is How do I hold this without breaking Rule 1?