Another Great Drug War Moment

From Radley Balko:

In February, I wrote the following about a drug raid in Missouri:

SWAT team breaks into home, fires seven rounds at family’s pit bull and corgi (?!) as a seven-year-old looks on.

They found a “small amount” of marijuana, enough for a misdemeanor charge. The parents were then charged with child endangerment.

So smoking pot = “child endangerment.” Storming a home with guns, then firing bullets into the family pets as a child looks on = necessary police procedures to ensure everyone’s safety.

Just so we’re clear.

Now there’s video, which you can watch below. It’s horrifying, but I’d urge you to watch it, and to send it to the drug warriors in your life. This is the blunt-end result of all the war imagery and militaristic rhetoric politicians have been spewing for the last 30 years—cops dressed like soldiers, barreling through the front door middle of the night, slaughtering the family pets, filling the house with bullets in the presence of children, then having the audacity to charge the parents with endangering their own kid…

There are 100-150 of these raids every day in America, the vast, vast majority like this one, to serve a warrant for a consensual crime.

But Jonathan Whitworth won’t be smoking that pot they found in his possession. So I guess this mission was a success.


…Deaths in the last three years of Mexico’s drug war. While U.S. prohibitions create thousands of criminals, Calderón reassures us they’re mostly killing each other. Of course plenty of cops, govt. officials, and innocent kids are in that figure, too. With the Mexican economy going South—especially tourism—parents will just have to hope their children don’t go into…the only highly profitable industry.

I see this situation as definitive proof that our current drug policies are immoral. At the very least the federal government should not strong arm other countries into fighting the supply of drugs into the U.S. We have no business imposing these harms outside our borders.

Mexicans would be wise to boot their “wage war on the cartels” politicians and try to regulate the supply chain, or return to the good old days when suppliers to the U.S. market were quietly ignored by law enforcement.

Walter McKay provides ongoing coverage on the LEAP blog.

Patent Absurdity

Don’t miss Patent Absurdity, a free half-hour documentary that “explores the case of software patents and the history of judicial activism that led to their rise, and the harm being done to software developers and the wider economy.”

When you open the page, the embedded video begins without human interaction, a violation of an Eolas patent. British Telecom tried to patent the hyperlink that took you to the page. The page probably results in transmission of a JPEG to your computer, a violation of a Forgent Networks patent. The browser you’re using is free in part because of the many patent-unencumbered open-source libraries and concepts its built upon: The concept of the “window” and the “tab”, the libraries that parse HTML, CSS, and Javascript and compress those resources over the wire; the TCP, IP, and HTTP protocols that made the internet bloom world-wide. The OS clipboard (“copy/paste”) that helped developers to build and reuse those libraries.

Had the modern interpretation of software patent law existed in the 60s, our computers, and the state of technology in general, might be very different. The clumsy technology in “Brazil” comes to mind.

With so much of the world’s economy and productivity now tied to software, the proliferation of software patents and worse—areas where those laws can apply—threatens to severely stifle innovation and funnel ever more of our resources into the pockets of law firms and of patent-trolling organizations that exist simply to extort from others.

It could always be worse

OccasionallyVery infrequently, with help from my caffeine addiction and Intense Focus On Writing Awesome Code For Employers Who May Read This, empty Coke Zero cans will slowly accumulate in my vicinity. I couldn’t say how many. In the worst of times enough to not want to know how many.

This morning I stumbled across a 1995 photo of Netscape programmer Jamie Zawinski‘s cubicle, or the “Tent of Doom“.

pic of workstation with many soda cans

The awareness of more severe dysfunction in others is a cold comfort.

AFA Leader Would Like to Fix Gays by Force of Law

I support the American Family Association’s right to pay for the Tebow ad—Americans have no right to not see promotions of ideas they might disagree with—but the AFA’s new leader, Rev. Bryan Fischer, should be watched. He has an interesting idea to fix a country that’s so broken that gays can…continue to exist: Fischer suggests we legally force all “active homosexuals” through an “effective reparative therapy program”.

Did your stomach just turn a little? Classically Liberal gives this the skewering it deserves, pointing out the necessary costs to taxpayers, to civil liberties, and the innocents caught up in the eventual SWAT raids. Don’t think for a moment there wouldn’t be raids. The war on drugs has gradually eroded away quite a bit of the privacies and 4th Amendment protections that could be expected in the earlier days of the war on gays. If you gotta catch ’em in the act, no knock warrants would be the norm. Oh, but what a new industry we could build on fixing gays—there’s a lot of em and more every year!

I eagerly await to read Fischer’s proposed law. Who would set the standards for these programs? What would suffice as proof of efficacy? Would the desire for non-traditional sex with the opposite sex be considered satisfactory or still in need of repair? What would be the penalty of “failing to stop acting gay”? Indefinite therapy? Body chemistry experimentation? Jail time? If a gay is homosexually assaulted in jail, would that get him/her more therapy, more jail-time, or both? Would we re-open the previous research done on gays in asylums and institutions? If gay sex is an offense, would we not need to label them all “sex offenders”?

The whole notion is thoroughly disgusting. Classically Liberal points out—if we’re to make our laws truly consistent with the guiding passages—surely there will be goodies for straight people, too.

The alleged Pauline verse also says that this applies to “whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” I suppose we will need courts to determine “sound doctrine” from unsound doctrine. And, I know people like you well, I grew up with you guys and went to your schools. So I know that by unsound doctrine you mean, and this is only a partial list: Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists, Scientologists, Quakers, Shakers, Unitarians, Muslims, humanists, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Taoists, Christadelphians, and hundreds of other sects, cults and churches. Even the mainstream Protestants aren’t of “sound doctrine” in the eye of fundamentalists. Once “sound doctrine” is put under federal law there is no limit to who can be incarcerated in your moral America.

And in case he missed anyone: anyone having had engaged in premarital/extramarital/oral/anal sex, of course. If we’re truly going to protect the American Family, we’re going to need to break down a lot more doors.

Tercy and the Insufferable Incline

Kathleen and I have been lucky enough to be able to carpool until now, leaving our neglected Tercel “Tercy” (see right) to the rats and other inhabitants. The Good: runs well, good mileage, heat works. Bad: cramped driver’s seat, smells kinda like feet, back doors don’t open from outside, battery leaks out in a few days if you don’t disconnected the terminals, A/C refrigerant leaks out in a few weeks, radio barely tunes in close stations and has to be cranked up to be heard, wipers are weak and finicky and occasionally creep across the window when you accidentally glance the stick, a thorough exterior filth, sometimes after it stops the electrical system refuses to operate until you dis/reconnect the battery, on occasion the headlights have been known to flicker out. That’s at least what I knew of before coming to work.

Kathleen needs the reliability of the van for her new school and I’m going to be biking to work most days, but for those rainy or, recently, 20 degree mornings (ugh) I grudgingly bought an orange UF decal for Tercy. This morning I got to the parking garage with only one stall—I rarely drive stick—and made my way up to the much dreaded Gate of Hate, in which it requires you to slide your Gator1 card.

Perhaps to offend the few still driving stick, they place these gates on a healthy grade. While rolling my window down I find it can’t be rolled down enough to get my arm out; I’ll have to open the door. I engage the parking brake and release the brake pedal—the car begins to roll backwards, of course. While keeping a foot on the brake, I open the door and manage to reach the slot.

Perhaps to offend me personally, my !@#$ Gator1 card won’t activate the gate, which repeatedly repudiates me with beeps of dissatisfaction. As I realize I’m going to have to abort mission, a car pulls up behind me. Door still opened, foot firmly on brake, torso stretched out the side, I somehow compel the woman to leave her warm luxury sedan to come slide her card. (This is how I got in yesterday after I’d just received my decal in another enraging series of events. I had assumed my card issue would be resolved by today. That I assume anything to do with Parking “Services” will Just Work Out is a sign of chronic delusions.)

The lady swipes her blessed card and retreats, giving me moments to act. As I release the brake to hit the gas, the car jets backward at a furious pace. I hammer the gas, the car peels out, and I careen around the corner at the top with my door flying half open, surely making me look a maniac. I quickly park and head down the stairs lest the lady is someone of influence within the college.

ToDo: War on Terror Accounting

With all the talk of whether or not to increase troops in Afghanistan, and the ethics of killing from your armchair, I think a group needs to sit down and study the full costs and benefits of these wars. As provoking as tragedies like 9/11 are, if we assign value to “innocent” human lives equally and start adding up the numbers and the opportunity cost of our war on terror spending, I think we would be sickened at what we find.

The War on Malaria seems more worthy of resources, or we could just keep the money for silly things like food and health coverage for the unemployed.

Reasonable People May Not Show

(Obviously started in August)

In the age of Glenn Beck, the town hall meeting paradigm is just the anonymous web forum with no moderator. The people interested in genuine discussion won’t go near it, and “socialist!” is the new “yr gay”. To this extent the tea party folks have certainly been successful at churning out viral YouTube clips, but for better or for worse, no one should get the impression that public meeting attendees are necessarily representative of a constituency.

I see a lot of conservative bloggers and commenters making the mistake of watching these clips and pronouncing that it’s evidence of a silent majority that will surely stand up and “throw the bums out” in 2010. HotAirPundit highlighted a Houston area meeting featuring an obnoxious birther and an angry crowd awaiting outside and concludes, “Something tells me he will get voted out.” Gene Green, the Democrat representative, took office with almost 75% of the vote, but I guess he could always wind up in some scandal and be replaced (probably with another Democrat).

This isn’t to say I’m necessarily behind the proposed reforms; reading McArdle hasn’t given me a lot of confidence in us being able to cut costs using similar actions at the state level, but I feel some brand of insurance reform is inevitable at this point and hope there are people behind this acting in good faith. Democrats are basically putting themselves on the chopping block with this so they may have more persuasive information than I have access to.