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kidnapped by the police



How the cops make the scourge of helicopter parenting even worse
by Ryan Cooper, The Week
April 16, 2015

In fourth grade, when I was 9 years old, I ran away from school. The previous day, I had been sent home with a note to my parents about how I had done something wrong, but instead of facing up to it, I tore up the note. Now a committed outlaw, I figured my only remaining option was a life on the lam, and so did the grade school equivalent of skipping bail. Having nowhere else to go, I made for my house, where I vaguely thought I could grab some supplies before my parents got back from work.

The school was about nine miles from my house by the state highway, and at the bottom of a sizable river canyon. Avoiding the highway bridge across the river—a route that was both dangerous and a dead giveaway—I scrambled up the side of the (quite steep) canyon, and made my way home through the forest alongside the highway.

But about two-thirds of the way there, I ran out of forest, and instead of cutting across the pastures towards my house, I walked for a short stretch by the side of the highway, in plain view. That’s when the cop driving past spotted me.

I was reminded of that episode when I read the now infamous story of the “free range” children from Maryland, aged 8 and 10, kidnapped by the police because they were out playing by themselves three blocks from their house in broad daylight. It’s a grim story—and indicative of a decay of trust in our society.

Here’s what happened to them. A man out walking his dog apparently called 911, fearing for the children’s safety. As a consequence, the children were forcibly detained for six hours. Their parents endured hours of panic when their kids did not return home on time — and they’re now under investigation for child neglect. (People have mottos for this kind of thing.)

This speaks to the galloping paranoia about strangers that has saturated the American parenting scene over the last generation. I’m still pretty young, and the way kids are raised around my D.C. neighborhood today, with an adult close at hand at all times, is completely alien to my experience.

Many have argued that this is the result of risk perception bias created by a scaremongering media constantly repeating stories of “stranger danger.” However it was created, as Freddie deBoer argues in a beautiful piece, such an attitude is wrong both coming and going. Children are immensely safer than they were 20 years ago, when I legged it from elementary school. On top of that, no amount of helicopter parenting can protect children from every kind of risk. Even the most graspingly neurotic parents cannot defend their children against the shattering tragedies that are part of being alive, because nobody can.

Risk perception bias is certainly a real phenomenon, but it seems like a general breakdown of trust among all parties is also at work here. Parents don’t trust their children to walk around the block without shattering their skulls. Regular people seem to think that 99 percent of humans are secretly cannibal murderers. And the police assume that all parents who don’t operate a Total Child Awareness program are child abusers.

Why? As my colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty observes, social mobility and the attendant residential churn are corroding neighborly trust. Other research shows this lack of trust to be strongly correlated with high income inequality.

It’s all the weirder because the actual bedrock of trust would seem to be fairly strong. Crime is back to the levels of the halcyon 1950s, and still falling. Plenty of regular, law-abiding people walk the streets of suburban Maryland. But it never seems to have occurred to the dog walker that if he’s concerned for those kids’ well-being, he could simply keep an eye on them himself while he’s in the vicinity, and assume that others will too, when he’s not.

But the worst actors in this story are the police, which brings me back to my outlaw days. Luckily for me, the cop who spotted me back in 1995 used some dang common sense. After I told him some preposterous lie about what I was doing, he gently coaxed me into accepting a ride. Figuring the jig was up, I told him where my mom worked. He drove me there, spoke to her for a few minutes, and deduced the obvious truth—that I was just being a dumb kid. And that was it (save for me getting in a lot of extremely justified trouble).

Now, I’m sure that still happens today, and being a middle-class white kid in a rural community probably didn’t hurt. But it is baffling that this can’t be the first step in each and every police action involving kids out by themselves. If the social contract is so frayed that any ignorant passerby thinks involving the violent arm of the state is really the best option to keep children safe, at least the cops can talk to the parents before they go about locking their kids up for six hours. It would save them a lot of hassle—and lawsuits to boot.


Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.


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no recourse

This is about the same judge, Thomas Piccione, who figures so large in the story of C.

The Lawrence County PA judiciary is a nest of vipers every bit as corrupt as the “Kids for Cash” judges.

How long will it be allowed to continue?




Federal court: no liability for PA judge who made up criminal charge

Lawrence County judge used an irrelevant law to enforce collection of fees for an attorney who is now a partnered with his former partner

A federal court recently told a Lawrence County woman she’s simply out of luck and can’t sue local officials, including a Common Pleas judge who apparently made up a criminal charge that was used to place her on electronic monitoring.

A judge has absolute civil immunity, even if the action “was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority,” the three-judge panel ruled in its six-page opinion. Thomas Piccione had ordered Lynn Van Tassel to report to jail after she didn’t pay her ex-husband’s attorney’s fees as ordered—even though she was appealing that order. He sentenced her to 90 days in jail and had her arrested on a bench warrant.

He then put a criminal charge in the system to place her on electronic monitoring. Van Tassel had never been charged with anything, much less had a trial or been convicted. And the law the judge used clearly describes what it’s for, and there’s certainly no mention of using it to collect attorney fees.

Van Tassel was almost fired for being absent without leave from work because she was in jail and the criminal charge she could provide no paperwork for, because that process hadn’t occurred in any real-world way.

But there’s no remedy for Van Tassel.

Like a bad April Fool’s Day joke, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit officially agreed April 1 with the district court’s tossing of the case.

Van Tassel had sued the judge, the chief probation officer, the jail warden, a state trooper and the district attorney for violating a variety of her constitutional rights.

Instead of filing something in her existing case file, the court used a miscellaneous docket, listing a charge that looks like it could be relevant. It’s described as “contempt for violation of order or agreement.” That law deals with “indirect criminal contempt,” and under that section a judge certainly can fine and jail someone.

But there’s a problem—or looks like there should be. That law is in a chapter titled “Protection from Abuse,” and the law Van Tassel is made to look like she violated distinctly talks about protection from abuse orders.

There is no PFA in Van Tassel’s case, however, that she could have violated. While that law does discuss fines, they are to go to specific agencies—there’s nothing about “fines” to pay someone else’s attorney’s fees. Additionally, James Manolis is a partner with Piccione’s former partner. It was Manolis’ fees that Van Tassel didn’t promptly pay, resulting in jail time.

Van Tassel was jailed for six days before there was any hearing, though state law seems to require one within three.

Van Tassel was on electronic monitoring for a little over a month, paying $750 for that, and Manolis told on Friday the attorney’s fees totaled more than $10,000 after Van Tassel’s appeals.

The federal court was not concerned the court seems to have made up its own procedure to use electronic monitoring in civil cases, here to essentially play collection agency for an attorney.

When Watchdog asked Piccione for comment, his secretary returned the call, saying only “he is not able to comment on cases.”

There are other remedies for alleged judicial misconduct—in theory. Van Tassel could file a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania or try to have Piccone prosecuted for any false swearing involved with filing that charge.

She tried both and got nowhere. The Judicial Conduct Board denied her complaint, and she said the attorney general’s office, weirdly, referred her to the consumer complaint department.

Longtime Pennsylvania lawyer Charles Steele confirmed to Watchdog, “Suing a judge is almost impossible.”

It’s a matter of public policy. Otherwise, “you open the floodgates for every frustrated party,” he said, “though that doesn’t mean that judges don’t abuse their positions.”

One of the landmark cases on judicial immunity is Stump v. Sparkman, in 1978. The US Supreme Court said even that judge couldn’t be sued—even though he approved a mother’s petition for authority to sterilize her “somewhat retarded” 15-year-old daughter who was perhaps having sex with boys older than her or young men, “in order ‘to prevent unfortunate circumstances.’”

The judge approved the petition the same day, without filing with the clerk and without any sort of hearing. The daughter was told she was having her appendix removed and didn’t find out about the forced sterilization until she was married and couldn’t conceive.

Nonetheless, no liability.


Rachel Martin is an investigative reporter for based in Pittsburgh.


Hear about this case in Lynn Van Tassel’s own words.



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150th anniversary

Today is the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809–April 15, 1865). He was shot by John Wilkes Booth the night before; by 7:00 am the next day he was dead.

You would think that after all this time, we would have gotten over it as a nation. But I would submit to you that we have only gotten used to the unfortunate events in our history that have followed Lincoln’s murder.

I think America would have become a more thoughtful and compassionate nation—more understanding and tolerant of the ambiguities, uncertainties, and disappointments of the world—had he lived.

Sociologist Barry Schwartz argues that in the 1930s and 1940s, the memory of Abraham Lincoln was practically sacred and provided the nation with “a moral symbol inspiring and guiding American life.” During the Great Depression, he argues, Lincoln served “as a means for seeing the world’s disappointments, for making its sufferings not so much explicable as meaningful.”




“Now he belongs to the ages.”

— Edwin M. Stanton




In his own words:

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.
“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”
. hearse columbus.


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This is the first day of the fortnight (April 14-28) governed by the rune Mannaz, alternatively known as Man. This is appropriate because the rune’s literal meaning is man (as in human being).

Mannaz represents the basic reality of our human nature, that quality which is present in every human person, whether male or female. It is, in fact, androgynous; the polarity of the rune is both male and female. Mannaz represents the shared human experience of every person who is conscious of his or her being.

The Greek philosopher Protagoras (490-420 BC) is famously known to have said, “Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not.” Like many fragments of knowledge from the past, this phrase has been passed down to us without context and its meaning is open to interpretation.

pic012I think of the meaning of this phrase on a couple of levels. First, our ability to perceive and know things is limited by our sensory organs and what they, as instruments, are able to pick up. There are sounds and smells we cannot perceive, but that dogs are able to. There are colors we cannot perceive, but that insects can. The wisdom of Mannaz leads to the realization that there are things which exist which we cannot perceive with our senses alone.

Yet our senses and experience are all we have to work with. It is the wise human being who uses his/her experiences to greatest effect, yet remembers that this is not all that is.

As work by Harvard scholar and researcher Howard Gardner suggests, several types of human intelligences are valued by cultures all over the world. According to Gardener, these intelligences fall into seven or eight natural categories, half of which are cognitive, and half of which are more physical. For example, “bodily-kinesthetic intelligence” entails the potential of using one’s whole body or parts of the body as an athlete does to solve problems. It is the ability to use mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements.

“Intrapersonal intelligence” is the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations, to have an effective working model of ourselves, and and by extension, to others and use it as a key to solving problems. One’s own internal self-knowledge is an effective key to understanding external things.

“Logical-mathematical intelligence” is the capacity to analyze problems as a scientist might, to carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues empirically. In Gardner’s words, it entails the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively, and think logically.

In every mode of intelligence, effectiveness is determined by our ability to use our bodies and brains as instruments for performance—so this is the second level on which I think about the meaning of the Mannaz rune.

Gardener says the discrete intelligences he has identified are rarely used alone, but in combinations particular to the individual. Mannaz is the rune stave of the “perfected man,” the complete human being.

In his or her own small way, the human being is seen as a measure and reflection of society, the world, and the cosmos. The rune expresses the full range of human experience, without which the total potential of our lives is not realizable.

Yet the Mannaz rune is also the symbol of man’s mortality. The Old English Rune Poem states: In happiness a man is beloved of his relatives, yet each must depart from the other, because the gods will commit their flesh to the earth.

This sober note about the inevitability of death is maintained through all of the major rune poems. The Teutons certainly saw enough of their kin die to have no illusions about physical immortality. However, author Nigel Pennick says that this pessimistic tone in the rune poems may be due to the influence of Christianity, and should not be projected back onto the pagan roots of the runes.

Mannaz is the rune of the clever man and the wise woman. Magically, Mannaz is used to evoke the powers of human intellect, cunning, and daring as means to an end.




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magazineWhat kind of guy is Sheriff Chris Nocco that he would take such an extreme stand as filing a felony against a 14-year-old despite possible lifelong repercussions for the child?
This is so Florida, yet Nocco appears to have gotten his professional start as a school cop (where else?) in Pennsylvania with the Philadelphia Public School Police, where charging kids with felonies (and trying them as adults) is de regueur.
He also served as staff director to Representative Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the Policy and Procedures Office (responsible for domestic security, transportation issues, criminal justice, economic development), and as deputy chief of staff when Rubio was speaker of the house. From his appearance as a cover-boy on this magazine, he also appears to be a Bible-thumper.
Given his background, it wouldn’t be surprising if Nocco has higher political ambitions. He has been the sheriff of Pasco County, north of Tampa, since 2011.


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a quiz

What do all these people have in common?




















Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn.




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liar 3.




Lawrence County Custody 2


”Good Ol’ Boys” have put C in Legal and Mental Limbo in Lawrence County PA


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