Friday, January 31, 2014

David Eckert Story: War on Drugs vs Civil Rights - Part 1

David Eckert Story: Part I

For those of you who have not heard of David Eckert's encounter with the police, here is the short of the long story: Last year Mr. Eckert was pulled over by police for failing to yield at a stop sign. Law enforcement thought that because he was acting nervously and stood strangely that he might be hiding drugs up his anal cavity, so they acquired a warrant and had doctors: check his anal cavity multiple times with their finger, give him multiple enemas causing him to defecate in front of them, gave him multiple x-rays and finally, performed a colonoscopy on him. All of this was done without his consent. No drugs were ever found. The hospital later billed him $6000 for their "services".

I was shocked by the story when I first read about it but didn't want to get too worked up until I looked into it further. Often times there is more to a story than what the initial headlines tell us so I decided to put a little effort into investigating this one. I have read a great many accounts of what happened that day and have acquired numerous sources of information. The following is my attempt to convey the story in a complete and accurate way.

Detailed Account
On January 2, 2012 around 1:00 P.M. officer Robert Chavez of the city of Deming police department pulled over David Eckert in the parking lot of a local Walmart for allegedly failing to yield at a stop sign.  It should be noted that Officer Chavez did not witness the alleged traffic violation but was acting under the direction of Sgt. Detective Bobby Orosco.

During the stop, Officer Chavez noticed that Eckert did not make eye contact and that his hand shook when he gave the officer his license, registration and proof of insurance. Finding his behavior suspicious, he asked Eckert to step out of the vehicle and conducted a Terry pat down for any weapons. None were found. While Eckert stood next to his car, Officer Chavez noted that his posture was erect and that he kept his legs together. Officer Chavez informed Eckert that a uniformed officer would soon arrive to issue him a citation for the traffic violation (which leaves the impression that Chavez was in plain clothes). A short time later Officer Villegas arrived and issued the citation.1

At this point Officer Chavez tells Mr. Eckert he is free to go. As he turns to return to his vehicle, Officer Chavez asked if he could search his vehicle. According to Chavez 1, Eckert agrees but in the federal lawsuit 2, Eckert adamantly denies this. Officer Chavez reports that he then asked to search his person for narcotics or weapons which Eckert refuses.

Officer Chavez then calls in a canine unit from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department. Officer's Green and Arredondo respond with their canine named LEO.  According to Officer Green's report, LEO "indicated and alerted to the presence of an unknown narcotic odor on the driver's seat of the vehicle."3 According to Chavez's report a Hildalgo county officer informed him that he had dealt with Eckert before and that he was known for inserting drugs into his anal cavity and had been caught in Hildalgo county with drugs in his anal cavity.1 The federal lawsuit states that it was Officer's Orosco and Arredondo that informed Chavez that Eckert was known for inserting drugs into his anal cavity. The lawsuit also states that this information was false.2

Eckert was then placed in "investigative detention" and transported to the Deming Police Department while Chavez filed the affidavit to obtain a search warrant. Eckert's vehicle was searched but no contraband was found.4

According to the lawsuit, Eckert requested the right to make a telephone call but Officer's Chavez and 
Hernandez informed him that he was not under arrest and therefore did not have a reason to call anyone.2

Officer Chavez completed the Affidavit for Search Warrant, had it approved by the Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty and signed by Judge Daniel Viramontes.1

Once the warrant was obtained, Officer Chavez transported Eckert to Deming Emergency Room to have medical staff conduct a search of his anal cavity. Dr. Ash, the attending physician, refused to carryout the search expressing that he believed it was unethical.

Officer Chavez contacted Deputy District Attorney Dougherty who advised that he could take him to a different ER facility. Officer's Chavez contacts the Gila Regional Medical Center located in neighboring Grant County. They agree to carryout the warrant. Officer's Chavez and Hernandez transport Eckert to the facility.4

Eckert was admitted to Gila Regional Medical Center around 9:04 P.M. While there, Eckert, who never gave consent and protested the entire time, was given the following procedures:

1. Eckert's abdominal area was x-rayed; no foreign objects were found.2, 5

2. Doctor Wilcox then performed an exam of Eckert's anus with his fingers; he reported that he felt something soft which could have been stool.2, 5

3. Doctor Odocha performed a second rectal exam of Eckert with his fingers which concluded around 10:30 P.M.. Doctor Odocha reported that there were no masses found apart from the soft stool.2, 5

4. Doctor Odocha ordered that Eckert be given enemas until all results were clear. Hospital staff gave Eckert a total of three enemas. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of a nurse and Officer Chavez three times. Each time Officer Chavez inspected the stool. No narcotics were found.2, 5

5. A second x-ray was taken; no narcotics were found.2, 5

6. On or around 1:00 A.M. Eckert was prepped for surgery. Doctor Odocha then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert's anus and his large intestines were inspected.. The procedure was completed on or about 2:15 A.M; no narcotics were found.2, 5

According to David Eckert, Officer's Chavez and Hernandez harassed, mocked and berated him by making derogatory remarks about his compromised position.2

Eckert was released from the hospital about 20 minutes after the completion of the colonoscopy.
He was driven back to the Deming Police Department by Officer's Eckert and Hernandez and then to his home by Sergeant Lovelace. He arrived at his home around 5:00 A.M.5

Friday, January 10, 2014

Progressive Income Tax Rates

In the United States, as with most countries in the world, we have what is referred to as progressive income tax system. This works through the use of gradually increasing tax rates as income increases. These tax rates are referred to as marginal tax brackets which means that you are only taxed on the next dollar earned when income is high enough to move from one rate to another. As an example, below is the 2013 federal rates for a family filing married jointly.
  • 10% on taxable income from $0 to $17,850, plus
  • 15% on taxable income over $17,850 to $72,500, plus
  • 25% on taxable income over $72,500 to $146,400, plus
  • 28% on taxable income over $146,400 to $223,050, plus
  • 33% on taxable income over $223,050 to $398,350, plus
  • 35% on taxable income over $398,350 to $450,000, plus
  • 39.6% on taxable income over $450,000.
As evident during presidential elections, the progressive tax system is a hotly debated topic. There is a minority that believe we should do away with the whole thing and go to a flat tax but more often the debate centers around whether the rates should be raised (Democrats) or lowered (Republicans). But one thing which largely does not get addressed is whether the structure of the current system is adequate or fair.

As shown above, for a married couple filing jointly, the highest rate is 39.6% for all income over $450,000. But if the reason for having a progressive tax system is out of a sense of fairness, then why does the top rate stop at an income level which is relatively low?

To demonstrate, lets look at the the effective tax rate at various income levels for a family filing married filing jointly, no kids, taking the standard deduction (the effective rate is the actual average percentage of income tax paid):

$50,000        - tax $3,608          - 7.216%
$100,000      - tax $11,858        - 11.858%
$200,000      - tax $37,866        - 18.933%
$400,000      - tax $103,772      - 25.943%
$800,000      - tax $259,615      - 32.452%
$1,600,000   - tax $576,415      - 36.026%
$3,200,000   - tax $1,210,015   - 37.813%
$6,400,000   - tax $2,477,215   - 38.706%
$12,800,000 - tax $5,011,615   - 39.153%
$25,600,000 - tax $10,080,415 - 39.377%
$51,200,000 - tax $20,218,015 - 39.488%

As is evident from the above calculations, there is a great deal of progressiveness for various levels of income till you reach about a million and a half dollars of income. At that point, it becomes considerably less progressive. At around six and a half million, you are essentially at a level of income where you are being taxed at a flat rate of something close to 39%.

So if in 2013 you were lucky enough to be a highly compensated person such as Robert Downey Jr ($75 million), Tiger Woods ($78 million), or Apple CEO Timothy D. Cook ($377 million), then you really aren't part of the progressive tax system. For these individuals, an annual variance of a few million dollars will have essentially no effect on their effective tax rate as it will still be around 39%. Does that seem fair?

My point isn't that we need to stick it to the rich or even that they aren't paying their fair share. It's simply that in the United States, we talk of having a progressive federal income tax but in actuality, once you reach a high enough income level, it is essentially a flat tax. It seems to me that if we are going to have a progressive system it should apply to all levels of income.

As it stands, when politicians talk about the rich, they are talking about anyone who is in the top tax bracket. But how can we compare someone who makes $400,000 a year to someone that makes $20,000,000 a year? They are not the same. They do not have the same means. If we are going to have a progressive system shouldn't they be taxed differently?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Frozen man pareidolia pic

Last night I found my kitchen window had frosted in the shape of a person's face. I thought this was kind of funny since I had just uploaded of bunch of pareidolia pictures yesterday.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Anthony Howe: Kinetic Sculptures

I recently watched The Creators Project video on Anthony Howe. His kinetic sculptures are essentially large wind spinners which I imagine as other worldly space creatures. Really incredible work worth a few minutes of your time.