January 2012

You are browsing the site archives for January 2012.

I’ve been meaning to write something about the recent criticism of Apple’s use of the Foxxconn factory in China, but now I don’t have to, because my co-blogger Rogier has just posted a great piece about it over at Nobody’s Business. So go check out The iPhone owner’s guide to liberal hypocrisy.

I guarantee that it is far more interesting than my obligatory post on the State of the Union below. Also, way shorter.

I’m always late to this party — it’s become a Twitter thing — but as has been my occasional custom, here are a few thoughts about the President’s State of the Union address. Obama should, of course, be judged more by his actions than by what he says, but as with anyone in authority, understanding his thoughts and ideas is helpful.

Arguably, the State of the Union speech is just a big show, and that Obama’s less well-planned statements are more revealing, but I think the speech is worth looking at for two reasons. First, this is Obama at his most considered and prepared, with his whole team participating, so you’re seeing his governing philosophy presented at its best. Second, precisely because it’s been so carefully prepared, this is one speech he can’t back away from.

This is the entire text, taken from the official White House transcript, although I have reformatted it slightly and removed all the notations of when the audience applauded, because that’s the silliest possible way to evaluate this speech.

It begins the customary way.

THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:


In 2009, when a Fairfax, Virginia police officer shot and killed an unarmed man, the police department refused to identify the officer who pulled the trigger. When reporter Michael Pope asked a few questions, Fairfax County Police Public Information Officer Mary Ann Jennings became obstinate:

When asked why her department won’t even release the name of the officer who shot Masters, Jennings got more obtuse. “What does the name of an officer give the public in terms of information and disclosure?” Jennings asked in reply, presumably rhetorically. “I’d be curious to know why they want the name of an officer.”

Contrast Officer Jennings’ response with the more recent shooting of Tri Truong Le by a San Jose SWAT team, as reported in the Mercury News the day after it happened:

The terrifying abduction of an 11-year-old girl began with a kidnapper’s gunshots in the early-morning hours Friday as she was grabbed from her San Jose home. It ended almost five miles away and 12 hours later with a single shot, when a SWAT officer killed 42-year-old Tri Truong Le, the alleged kidnapper, during a gunbattle in a narrow staircase.

The girl, who was in the kidnapper’s arms when the gunbattle started, was miraculously almost unharmed and recovering from the trauma at a hospital, police said.

The officer who fired the fatal head shot was identified by police Friday night as Mauricio Jimenez.

This is what it looks like like when the police have nothing to hide. A violent criminal kidnapped a little girl, and a daring and skilled police officer killed him to rescue her. It was a good day for the San Jose police, and officer Jimenez did something that his department is rightly proud of. This is what it looks like when the police are not afraid of the truth.

Martin Luther King’s holiday seems to be as good a day as any to talk about how we should respond to police barbarism.

It’s no secret that a lot of people with libertarian leanings aren’t happy with the way the United States seems to be turning into a police state. As a reminder of the degree to which our cops have become militarized, check out the Cop or Soldier quiz at Radley Balko’s place. I did pretty good, so see if you can beat me:

Cop or Soldier?


Some folks in the blogosphere have been saying that the emerging police state won’t be stopped until the cops start getting hurt. Some have even suggested that it may be time for a violent uprising. I can understand where they’re coming from — it looks pretty bad to me too — but then I know that some people in every generation have been certain that America was about to plunge into tyranny, and they’ve always been wrong. I think it’s safe to assume that with a longer perspective, we’d see that our current time isn’t so bad either.

(Then again, American freedom is going to end eventually. Nothing lasts forever. I sure hope that future generations will not look back on mine and ask, “Why didn’t they shoot them while they still had the chance?”)

Recently, some people on Twitter have been lauding this video, posted under the title “Police Brutality – Handled the Way It Should Be”:

In the video, you can see some idiot run onto the field, and then then a bunch of uniformed security guards or cops tackle him and pin him down. So far, so good. But then the cop/guard on the right apparently starts to jab him with a nightstick. At which point people in the stadium rush the field to attack the cops.

I can’t fault the sentiment. Although violence as a response to violence often isn’t the wisest approach, there’s certainly nothing morally wrong with using violence to stop violence. Resisting arrest is wrong. Defending yourself or others against police brutality is not.


Watch the video carefully. The cop/guard on the right jabs the guy on the ground a few times. The other cop/guard yells at him. Then the mob attacks, and it looks like the yelling cop takes a beating. As for the cop who was jabbing the guy on the ground…he abandoned his buddies to the crowd and got away without a scratch.

This, in a nutshell, is one of the problems with trying to defeat the police state by violence. It never seems to work out the way it’s supposed to. It’s too easy to hurt the innocent, and too hard to make sure only the guilty are punished. And the kinds of people who attack or kill cops are not the kinds of people you want on your side. Back around the Days of Rage, the Weathermen killed a cop, but they didn’t target a particularly bad one, just whoever was standing there when the bomb went off. The Symbionese Liberation Army claimed to be leaders of a black revolution, but they ended up killing a black school superintendent and a mother of four.

Fantasies of vengeance are commonplace and often make for entertaining fiction, but in real life, violent reprisals are rarely instigated by people who value freedom and respect human life. In the movies, we get a mysterious stranger in a Guy Fawkes mask who speaks eloquently of liberty, outwits the authorities, and strikes at the heart of a brutal state by blowing up empty buildings. In real life, we get Timothy McVeigh using a bomb in a truck to kill children.

It has been pointed out that my blogroll is deficient, so it’s time for a few additions, corrections, and deletions.

First of all, one of my regular daily stops is the Honest Courtesan, written by retired call girl (and Nobody’s Business guest blogger) Maggie McNeill. She’s a good writer with mad research skills, and her blog takes a frankly libertarian approach in advocating for the rights of prostitutes and other sex workers. Also, now that she has declared me a Friend of Whores in her blogroll, I feel guilty about not having added her to the blogroll already.

(Marital tip: I told my wife about this right away. Being declared a “Friend of Whores” is really the sort of thing you want to get out in front of.)

I could have sworn I’d already added Eric Mayer at Unwashed Advocate (formerly Military Underdog), but he wasn’t on the list. He is now.

I often thing Jack Marshall is very, very wrong, but his Ethics Alarms blog is usually thought-provoking and has been a continuing source of Things to Blog About.

I’m an on-again/off-again player of EVE Online, and one of the best blogs covering spaceship-to-spaceship combat is The Altruist, by Azual Skoll from Agony Unleashed.

Lindsey Beyerstein has stopped blogging at Focal Point (which I have removed) and is now blogging at Duly Noted.

What little I know about cryptography, I learned from Bruce Schneier’s books, and I’m a regular reader of his blog Schneier on Security, which is about more than just computers.

WolframAlpha gets added to the resource page.

Marginal Revolution was listed in two places, but is now listed in one less place.

Pete Guither’s Drug WarRant has moved, as have Norm Pattis, the Underdog Blog, and Seeking Justice.

Kip Esquire isn’t blogging at A Stitch in Haste anymore, The D’Alliance is closed, and Jamie Spencer has stopped blogging at Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer. Woman of the Law is long gone. As is The Matlock Blog.

Blonde Justice hasn’t blogged in about half a year, but she gets a pass.

BlogNetNews.com has been replaced by a squatter page. 

Over on the Twitter, retired call-girl Maggie McNeill is urging some of us bloggers to join her campaign to make every Friday the Thirteenth a day to speak up for the rights sex workers. She think’s it’s especially important to get support from outside the sex work community:

A number of advocates are working to respond to the lies, propaganda and misinformation wherever we find them, but we can only do so much and we’re often outnumbered by the brainwashed zombie slaves of the “trafficking” witch-hunters.  Also, we’re often accused of distorting facts to make ourselves look good, and no matter how assiduously we work to present a balanced view this is a natural and credible accusation against anyone who advocates for some issue which directly concerns her. That’s why allies are so important; it’s much harder for the prohibitionists to shout down people who don’t have a dog in the fight, but merely support prostitutes’ rights on moral grounds.

That makes sense, and although I don’t have much time today, I have posted on the subject before, including a two-part series about how a deceptive Illinois law to protect prostitutes from exploitation will actually make things worse for them and how to really protect prostitutes. I also wrote a series about how the supposedly feminist idea of prosecuting the customers discriminates against men, confuses prostitution with slavery, and shows contempt for women’s choices.

The problem is that I’m a middle-aged male, so when I stand up for the right of attractive young women to perform sex acts for money, oppponents can dismiss my arguments as self-serving. I think it’s much more effective when sex workers speak up for themselves. To that end, I strongly recommend Maggie’s blog The Honest Courtesan. It’s straightforward and well-written, full of carefully researched arguments and (if you’re into that sort of thing) salacious details.

(Maggie McNeill is also an occasional contributor to Nobody’s Business.)



Over at Ethics Alarms, Jack Marshall writes:

Most of all, I do not understand the persistence of the myth that a college education can, does, or should qualify a graduate for good job, when it appears that a large percentage of students, if not a majority, leave the campus unable to write, think, or name the men on Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore? That’s old media…

Seriously, though, in the context of qualifying for a job, what does knowing the faces on Mount Rushmore have to do with anything? Still, Marshall’s got a point about the mixed-up priorities of some universities. Read the whole thing.

One of the themes I keep hitting over and over here at Windypundit is that SWAT raids for drug crimes are a bad idea. Of course, I think the whole War on Drugs is a bad idea, but fighting that war through an endless series of armed home invasions is a plan that will only lead to carnage and tears.

It’s simple statistics. The more times you send armed teams to break into people’s homes, the more times people will get killed. It’s the inevitable consequence of such a policy. No amount of propaganda and posturing can beat the math. So sometimes the victim is a 92-year-old grandmother, sometimes it’s a mother with her baby in her arms, and sometimes it’s a United States Marine.

But last Wednesday, on January 4th, police in Ogden, Utah raided the house of Matthew Stewart, and something unusual happened: The cops lost the gunfight. Stewart is a military veteran, and unlike the aformentioned Marine, when the SWAT team came through his door, he apparently didn’t hold fire. Officer Jared Francom was killed, and five other cops were wounded. Stewart is still alive.

When cops win the gunfight and kill an alleged offender during a drug raid, there’s usually a complete news blackout while they “investigate.” Months may pass before they even release the name of the cop who pulled the trigger, if they ever do. In this case, however, the roles are reversed, and it’s a cop who’s dead, not a lowly civilian, so the law enforcement establishment has gone into high gear. Weber County Attorney Dee W. Smith has already announced that he will seek to have him executed.

I guess the investigation proceeds a bit faster when the deceased is someone the cops care about, and the shooter isn’t a cop.

(By the way, if you’ve been following the excesses of the War on Drugs, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the police officers conducting this raid were part of a multi-jurisdictional task force. In this case, calling it a “task” force must not have sounded macho enough to the commander, so it’s something called the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force.)

Other than the reversal of victim and shooter, however, the shooting of officer Francom was a pretty typical drug raid death. By which I mean it was completely unnecessary. From media reports, the raid appears to have been executed to serve a search warrant for a marijuana grow operation. Not only is that an inherently non-violent activity, it’s not even the sort of thing where a criminal could dispose of the evidence if the cops moved too slowly. There was no point in turning this into a violent incident.

DEA Agent Charge Frank Smith doesn’t see it that way:

“It’s not a legalization issue, it’s not an immigration issue, it’s a public safety issue. If someone is willing to shoot it out with police, who is self-medicating on marijuana, what’s to say he’s not willing to walk out his house and start shooting his neighbors?” Smith says.

Well, there’s the fact that he didn’t walk out of his house and start shooting his neighbors. From all the reports I’ve read, he didn’t start shooting until armed cops invaded his home.

Agent Smith is doing a little something called “moving the goalposts.” This was originally an attempt to serve a search warrant. It should have been one swift assault with, at worst, a dead dog or two. Instead, it turned into a clusterfuck, and the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Stike Force has gotten a cop killed. So now Agent Smith is trying to reframe this as if taking out a violent threat to the community was what they planned all along.

Smith says the shooting case will be reviewed and he hopes lessons will be learned to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.

I doubt it. Police departments have been doing raids like this for decades, and they keep getting people killed.

To head off a few objections, note that I’m not saying Stewart was a good guy. For all I know, he’s an evil fuck who’s been waiting for a chance to kill a cop. Maybe he saw the raid team coming and decided to try to kill them. That still wouldn’t change the fact that it was a bad idea to send cops charging into his home.

With one officer dead, four others wounded, and a suspect who is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison, this raid has caused an awful lot of misery. And if this is a typical year, there will be another 40,000 raids in the War on Drugs.

So expect more dead bodies.

The title is not about Mitt Romney winning the Iowa caucus, it’s about Rick Santorum coming in second. I explain my reaction over at Nobody’s Business in this post. If nothing else, watch the three minute video in which Santorum explains why freedom is bad and ask yourself if this is the guy you want to have the power to detain Americans without a trial.

It’s not too early to start drinking, is it?

This is kind of awesome: New Year’s Eve party at Mala Restaurant in Wailea, where the audience got to hear “Come Together” as performed by Steven Tyler, Alice Cooper, and…you won’t see this coming…Weird Al:

Note that Weird Al is the only one who knows all the words.

There are worse ways to start the new year.