Wonder How Atrios Will Justify This One

In Nashville, cops are targeting homosexuals in sting operations…not for being gay, but by trying to elicit drug sales out of them. They also get a little fun smearing, I mean, uh, “arresting” a “resisting” queer, after posing as an online date and asking him to bring some amyl nitrate:

In fact, the police later admitted that Sergeant Steve Brady, a 17-year veteran of the force, fired his Taser gun, delivering 50,000 electric volts into Steve’s back. Meanwhile, he was being kicked. Remarkably, Steve tried to get to his feet. In his mind, he was fighting for his life. Then Brady shot him a second time with the Taser. The officers ordered him to put his hands behind his back, but he couldn’t. His body was flopping like a fish out of water; every muscle was convulsing, it seemed to him at the time. The officers ridiculed him. “Does that tickle?” one of the officers asked, as the others laughed uproariously.

He was subsequently shot a third time–a guy who is six feet tall but slightly built. The catch?

In the meantime, nobody seems to know whether Steve even did anything illegal, other than resisting arrest. Here’s how the charges have evolved over the last few weeks: initially, police claimed that Steve’s bottle of liquid substance was not “amyl nitrate,” even though that’s what he told the informant he would bring over. So they charged him with intent to sell, deliver or distribute a counterfeit controlled substance. Oddly, both the defendant and the attorney claim that the bottle of substance he stuffed into his pocket was, in fact, amyl nitrate. The real deal.

So pretty much they’re abusing drug stings to harass homosexuals. But I guess Atrios would say it’s better they allow this than run the risk of not being able to entrap an Enron executive on an unrelated and bogus charge.

Link via Sploid.

Late to the Trend Again

I discovered the joys of single malt scotch a couple of years ago, when my parents brought back a very fine (if young) vintage from Scotland. This after my mother had famously derided scotch as “tasting like cough syrup.” I’ve had fun in the World of Whisky store in the international concourse in Heathrow, thanks to a wealthy client of ours who flew us to Qatar a couple of times.

But now it seems that everybody else has gotten into the act, and there’s a shortage of single malt. I have had the Glenlivet 22 year, and it’s quite better than Johnny Walker Blue Label. Well, the market is responding as markets do to shortages, by sending the price up. This is signalling the distilleries that they need to be laying down more single malts to come to maturity (much of the oak for the barrels, by the way, comes from the US–are we going to limit that so British oak-growers aren’t outsourced?). However, maturity takes some time, so there will be a slight, twenty-year lag while inventories age appropriately. This is called inelastic supply, so we’ll probably be seeing high scotch prices for a while, or someone will figure out how to improve the flavor of younger vintages.

A Klansman Klaps for Kelo

“You know,” says kouncilman Klukker, “it sure had been hard fighting the NAACP trying to prove that a neighborhood with those people is blighted, no matter how high the median income or how little crack we were able to plant.” He stopped to light his fresh cigar with a lit copy of the Constitution. “It sure will be easier if I just say that the country club expansion with attached Wal-Mart will bring jobs and public use and leave the whole blight question out of it. Ain’t that right, boy?”

“Yassir, Mr. Klukker,” said Justice Stevens, from between the kouncilman’s legs. “I’m here to serve up good old-fashioned liberal values, just like Wilson. And I couldn’t be seen to be agreeing with libertarians.”

“Braak!” opined Atrios, from his cage. “Think if the Court had limited eminent domain instead! Then how would President Kucinich make everything perfect in America again, if he couldn’t force his political enemies out of their homes for any reason whatsoever? I just know he’ll be elected, if we can just abandon enough of our principles, except for the vote-losing ones!”

Kouncilman Klukker casually strangled the bird. “You’re right Atrios, but too noisy. Why can’t you be more like Marshall or Kos, making their noise outside, barking back and forth at Rove, who keeps pretending to throw sticks for them and calls them enemy coddlers? They sure are funny–they never learn that he’ll never give them a stick and just enjoys watching them froth at the mouths while he keeps stealing food from their dishes.”

“Gaak,” weakly muttered Atrios, “help me Yglesias!”

But Yglesias was carefully watching the Manichean nature of the moon, seeing what differences he could see between the light and dark sides.

“Braak,” offered Atrios apologetically, “you’re right; I should focus on the sideshow. Hey, isn’t it funny in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when they start tearing down Arthur’s house to build a bypass? I didn’t realize at the time I was laughing at Arthur instead of at the ludicrousness of his situation. Now the joke is even more funny! Thanks, Justice Stevens, it’s only through you that we protect poor people and get what’s funny about jokes about them.”

Stevens looked up and wiped a smudge off his nose. “Well, I figure that money given to Kouncilman Klukker will eventually do some good for some poor people, and if a few more poor people have to be thrown out of the homes they were born in 87 years ago, well, hell, I’m sure he has everybody’s best interests at heart. Since McCain-Feingold was passed, the money has gone right out of politics–hasn’t it? Besides, I can just claim it’s ‘federalist’ and that’ll cause Southerners to go along with it.” He looked up. “Say, Mr. Klukker, once I finish cleaning here, could you maybe change your mind about tearing down my mansion to build a McDonald’s and giving me thirty-five dollars for it? That was kind of my retirement nest-egg.”

“Shut up and put your tongue back there, bitch,” Klukker said with a tender smile. “Yeeeahp,” he sighed, farting comfortably. “With Republicans gaining at every level, I’m sure the politically-connected who will most influence the eminent domain process will be the poor, the unpopular, and the disenfranchised. Way to stick up for them, Stevens! I think I’ll have you use that federalist distinction to reinstate government-mandated separate lunch-counters next, just to see Atrios here spin himself into a pretzel trying to justify it as a good power that Hillary Clinton can use to ban smoking. Now make a little room for Justice Kennedy, because I like to have both ends taken care of while I’m opining on how much I care for stomping on the ´┐Żntermenschen, I mean, uh, helping out the less fortunate with an economic development scheme that coincidentally makes them go be poor and smelly and bl- I mean, uh, economically suboptimal somewhere else. Thanks for the assist in that, boys.”

Kouncilman Klukker settled back. “Now, lick harder, bitches!”

Just to Make Sure I Know They’re Still Anti-Freedom…

The Republicans are making sure I know that conservatives can be every bit as repugnant to those who care about liberty by trying to pass an anti-flag-burning amendment. So here’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to buy two flags. If a Constitutional amendment on something so meaningless, let alone anti-First-Amendment, as enabling prohibitions against flag-burning is ratified, I will burn the first flag on a public sidewalk. If the enabling legislation to make it a crime is passed, I will burn the second flag, again on a public sidewalk.

Now, you have to remember that the government can stop you any time it wants. Laws do not exist for you to follow, but rather to make sure there’s some obscure law they can accuse you of breaking when they decide they want to alter your behavior in some manner. So there are already some current laws against unlicensed fires or something or an EPA regulation against garbage disposal (because at that point the American flag may as well stand for garbage, because it sure won’t stand for freedom) that they will charge me with in the first instance.

So if you are against burning flags and want a law against it, the way to get me not to burn them is not to pass any stupid amendments or laws. Tough, I know. You’re just yearning to be stupid.

If you’re against burning flags but you think a law is silly, then you should follow my example. Of course if you’re for burning flags, then you probably are doing so already and nothing I say one way or another will affect what you do.

So I suggest the day after a constitutional amendment is officially ratified as the day to burn the first flag. Criminals, please note that the police will not be caring about murder or property theft that day, because that’s nothing when compared to burning a piece of cloth with one certain design as opposed to another.

“Liberals” Robbing from the Poor and Giving to the Rich

Fresh off defending their ability to regulate commerce over the dead bodies of cancer patients, the so-called liberals of the Supreme Court are now defending the right of the government to steal homes from working stiffs and giving them to the super-rich. Prediction: this will merit at most an approving eyebrow-raise from TPM or Yglesias or Kos.

Yay. Now democracy is saved from people trying to live in the house their grandfather built. And with housing prices as they are, well, I’m sure they’ll be able to afford something equivalent at the compensation the government is willing to give. Not in a First World country, mind you, but there will be something.

If they don’t like it, let them eat cake! I heard a new recipe on NPR. By the way, collect that pauper’s taxes as you kick him out of the house so we can get a new transmitter built for WETA. The limo doesn’t get good reception in the mansion’s fourth garage.

Disgusting.

Good Things Coming From Bad Causes Does Not Justify the Bad Cause

I have heard many conservatives use the following as a justification for the Iraq war: the elections in Lebanon, the abandonment by Libya of its chemical weapons program, and even the lessening of restrictions in Egypt. I have also heard many liberals go to great lengths to either a) deny those things were good or b) deny they came in any way whatsoever from the US invasion of Iraq. These arguments don’t sway the unconvinced, because they sound like sour grapes and some of the justifications, particularly of the first argument (by groups like ANSWER) sound far-fetched themselves. So if you actually want to convince anybody, rather than beating your chest to feel better about your own morality, there are better alternatives to reply to this argument.

Certainly there is no airtight case that any good things in the Middle East must come directly from the invasion of Iraq. That’s a classic post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. That being said, there are commentators within the region who have suggested that the example of the election in Iraq has done much to cause populations over there to wonder why their own, presumably unconquered, governments can’t do the same. There’s no denying that reports of it were filling Al Jazeera regularly and were at least in the back of the minds of people operating afterwards. Also, there have been suggestions leaked that Qaddafi was indeed influenced by the Iraq invasion that oh shit, they really mean it this time and it had a Voltarian effect on him.

So while it is hardly a proven case that any of these at least potentially good things came of the Iraq invasion, nearly is it impossible to think that it had an effect pour encourager les autres. So does that mean that, therefore, the invasion was a good thing?

Absolutely not, and liberals and other war opponents who feel the need to engage those points are essentially giving conservatives a free pass by legitimizing their underlying argument while disputing the facts. In essence, they’re saying “Hey, we know that if these things were good and were caused by the invasion, it would be justified, so we’re going to fight like hell to make sure they aren’t considered either good or a result thereof.”

Bullshit. To violate Godwin’s law (which I think is stupid because who else is universally considered evil, at least in public?), I’d like to draw an analogy. The Nazis did some horrific experiments on death camp prisoners, such as Jews and Gypsies. Yet medical doctors have used the data they collected in those experiments because they had data that can’t be obtained by ethical people. Some of that data, such as the curves of body temperatures, have saved many lives since then. So, arguably, some good has come from those experiments. Does that in any way justify the experiments?

Of course not. I doubt any conservatives or liberals would make that argument. So why fear positive effects, regardless of their veracity, claimed as a result of the Iraq war? The answer to those is basically the analogy: “So, you’re saying that Nazi experiments were a good thing because we know more about how people respond to extreme cold?” Or, if you still believe that you can’t ever use the Nazis to take an argument to its unintended but logical conclusion, then just use the Tuskeegee Experiments: “So, do you think it was right of the US to inject black people with Syphilis just to get data on how it affects the human body? I’m sure the data was useful in diagnosing syphilis, but that doesn’t make it right to hurt people just to see how they react.”

Then you can go back to the main arguments against the war that they do less well defending.

If Global Free Trade Is a Race to the Bottom…

If global free trade is a race to the bottom, as many who view income disparities as the root of all evil claim, then shouldn’t we applaud the implied social justice of the resultant world where we’re all dirt poor? At least we’ll all be equal, because even rich mens’ salaries will eventually be pulled down to less than a dollar a day, right?

If you aren’t in favor of global free trade, you have to explain why not everyone, if it is left unfettered to the end of time, will become poor, especially when the global economy grinds to a halt. Or you’ll have to explain how equality of incomes isn’t a requirement for social justice.

I suspect a world of truly free global trade (no subsidies, no tariffs, no barriers) would raise the floor of poverty to above the current UN definition in real terms. I also suspect some people who are currently winners would temporarily lose income in real terms. I am positive that income inequality will increase, because I don’t believe free trade is a universal race to the bottom.

Why?

Because the lower cost of living in Columbia, SC didn’t abate the rise in salaries in DC during the last economic boom. Had it been a true race to the bottom, and labor wages been the sole determinant of income, DC would have quickly adjusted until they dropped to Columbia, SC levels.

Guess what, we’ve been through a recession, a terrorist attack, and two wars, and it still pays better to live in DC than Columbia, SC. Yet there is a freer market, including more mobile labor, between the two areas than there is between the US and Mexico as a result of NAFTA. If the “race to the bottom” types are right, I should be working for Columbia, SC wages. And before you say “oh, but the political system is the same,” I would note that in general, regulations are less strict in South Carolina than they are in the District, including a lower minimum wage. So an “off the books” South Carolinian could send money home to his family just as well as a Peruvian. Have you checked the residency status of your accountant lately? Does she speak with a funny accent?

I await the calls to ban South Carolinians from travel to the District, lest they take ahr jarhbs! Or will we not hear them because South Carolinians are, in the majority, white?

John “Hannibal” Stokes on MacTel, Me on the Sun-set Option

The transition debate continues, and John “Hannibal” Stokes, every bit the CPU gearhead that John Siracusa isn’t, puts in his take. He talks AMD vs. Intel, the mystique of PowerPC, and lays out the reasons for the shift away from said mystique.

Good reading for those who look at any Apple move with an eye toward justifying their continued reliance on a platform optimized for zombie DDOS attacks. ­čśë

In an aside, I read an article that claimed Apple really should have gone with…Freescale? AMD? Stuck with IBM? No…Sun.

This apparently was by somebody who hasn’t seen Sun’s inability to compete with Linux + AMD/Intel on a hardware level, and whose argument was that PowerMacs competed with IBM’s server line, whereas PowerMacs wouldn’t compete with Sun’s…workstation line? Right. And Apple’s been running ads in Scientific American because they want to be the computer for the scientists’ kids and mothers.

Wow, it’s been almost exactly 10 years since I last saw the “Apple should buy/be bought by Sun” fusillades. I know! Maybe they should have gone with SGI!

Apple, Intel. Intel, Apple. Consumer, Confusion. Confusion, Consumer.

John Siracusa covers any points I’d thought of related to the logic and emotion of Apple switching to Intel and goes, as usual, quite a bit further.

The only question he doesn’t ask that others are wisely asking is, what will current customers do?

My recommendation will still be for things like the iMac G5, which is a hell of a computer for a hell of a price and it doesn’t require a more-secure OS in front of it (a firewall) to make up for its shortcomings. But that’s going to be a harder sell than it was yesterday. I really wish Apple were shipping their developer system today for the general public so anybody who was really worried about their computer being “obsolete” (never mind that I have a 9-year-old Power Computing Mac clone in operating condition beside me that can browse the Web, do email, and process words, even running Mozilla) could find something to buy.

To answer my own question, my guess is that with emulation being a slowdown-producing hack, most applications would feel sufficiently slow that it would turn off “switchers”. Fortunately the OS itself, unlike the PowerPC days, is running completely natively on Intel. Presumably Safari and Mail will be native from the get-go, and Apple-supplied products like iWork could be updated within days. But Firefox, already an unoptimized application on the Mac, would be slower still, and MS Office, a better but still crufty application on any platform, would also be slow enough for people to balk. I’d love to test it, but not enough to re-join the Apple Select Developer program for $500 and shell out another $999 for the development version. And it’s moot–Intel-based Macs won’t be available for a year, barring some really spectacular things.

It’s sad that a platform that recently produced one of the lowest-cost, highest performance supercomputers in history is having to become merely “as good as” the competition in terms of hardware, but again, most people recently have been asking me about the Mac because they’re sick of Windows problems, not because they feel there’s a speed deficit. The good news is that they don’t feel a speed deficit in the current lineup of Macs, either, and that will continue to be true.

So if you are in the market, go ahead and buy a Mac if it meets your needs now. If it doesn’t, wait until it does, and don’t worry about the processor underneath. But I realize that such a rational calculus is not necessarily made in the market, and I expect there will be a year of depressed Mac sales, and a few depressed long-time Mac aficionados.

It’s a Sad, Sad Day

…when the most liberal member of the Supreme Court upholds racism and classism to side with John Ashcroft.

We’re gonna beat up on cancer patients to make sure that black people remember their place in our society–behind bars. And there’s no national-level liberal I can think of who’s against it, with the exception of Eric Schlosser.

If you actually care about the inner city and want to stop imprisoning an entire generation of minorities, there is something you can do.

Write your congresscritter and senator in support of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher and the Truth in Trials Act bills.

For the record, in case you need the qualification, I don’t do illegal drugs nor do I advocate that you should start. I also don’t advocate that you should become an alcoholic or get addicted to tobacco. But I don’t want to put you in jail for any of those activities if done in your own home or apartment and you don’t try to drive or perform surgery while doing so.

Radley Balko sums up why I’m even bothering:

I’m pretty cynical about grassroots efforts to effect change. But what the hell? We don’t really have any other choice at this point. And if blogs can motivate the move to get Trent Lott to resign, CBS News staffers fired, and a CNN producer canned, why couldn’t we devote as much keyboard-pounding, verbiage, and drumbeat-generating toward getting Congress to put an end to federal agents pointing assault weapons at cancer patients?