Morning Links

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
  • Obama may end silly color-coded terror alert system, also known as the “color coded warning to terrorists system.” Next, let’s talk about TSA’s jobs program disguised as an airport screening system.
  • Apple is very successful at giving consumers a product they enjoy, and that they feel benefits them. The company has also revolutionized the computer, portable music, cell phone industries. So let’s punish them.
  • Cato’s Will Wilkinson has a great new paper out on economic inequality.
  • I don’t find this story ethically bothersome so much as kind of sweet. I understand laws against assisted suicide, though I don’t agree with them. But prosecuting relatives for accompanying a family member traveling to another country to die where assisted suicide is legal is pretty awful.
  • Utah ski resort company to incorporate annex a bunch of homes without owners’ permission, and under Utah law can then appoint its own mayor and town council without an election.
  • Good post at TalkLeft about how younger police officers learn to lie and cover up for other officers’ mistakes.
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  • 51 Responses to “Morning Links”

    1. #1 |  seeker6079 | 

      The link to the Utah story is the same as for the British suicide story.

    2. #2 |  Tom G | 

      There are SO MANY logical faults in the anti-Apple screed you’ve linked to in that second bullet, it’s hard to choose what to answer first. But the simple fact that an iPhone or iPod are lifestyle options, not requirements, both in daily life and in business should end the whole column right there.

    3. #3 |  Mattocracy | 

      At least most of the commenters on the Apple story realize what a stupid idea it is. It’s an especially poor arguement when you consider that there are little or no barriers to compete with Apple.

    4. #4 |  scottp | 

      From the suicide article: the children said, they watched, weeping, as their parents drank “a small quantity of clear liquid” before lying down on adjacent beds, holding hands.

      I find it incredibly touching that the husband chose to die with his wife of 54 years.
      Got something in my eye.

    5. #5 |  Hamburglar007 | 

      The Apple article is disingenuous at best. Iphone isn’t the only popular cell phone, and the there are plenty of mp3 players out there that are a whole lot cheaper and suit many people just fine. Aside from that, as Tom G stated, their products are luxuries. This isn’t oil we are talking about.

    6. #6 |  Marty | 

      the suicide story was beautiful. I’ve seen a lot of people die and to be able to die with dignity and grace with a supportive family is an amazing way to end a well-lived life.

      the rookie cop story was well-done. I loved how she pointed out the justifications for some corruption because it’s for the greater good and how they see corruption that’s personally profitable as bad. a good article showing the culture these young cops are brought up in.

    7. #7 |  John | 

      I understand laws against assisted suicide, though I don’t agree with them. But prosecuting relatives for accompanying a family member traveling to another country to die where assisted suicide is legal is pretty awful.

      Think of it as a prosecutor jobs program.

    8. #8 |  David | 

      What’s more, their products aren’t mutually exclusive with anybody else’s. Back in the heady days of let’s-break-up-Microsoft, you could at least make the argument that if you wanted an operating system that let you use all the software you needed, you were at Microsoft’s mercy as far as what other, unrelated programs they forced (or wouldn’t allow) you to buy bundled with it (not saying that’s a good argument, but it’s there). If in some moment of utter insanity I did buy an iPhone, iPod or Mac, there’d still be nothing forcing me to buy or use the rest of Apple’s line.

    9. #9 |  tim | 

      Is it really in customers’ best interest for Apple to have such tight control over what iPhone and iPod users can buy? Of course not.

      So much fail here. Apple operates in them most competitive market that exists today. A single misstep by Apple or simply a competitor kicking out something better could change their market share overnight.

    10. #10 |  Adolphus | 

      Utah: I found the comments on that article intriguing. One claimed that the laws (state constitution? they were unclear) that the Powder Mountain group was using to screw these people was created to support LDS hegemony in Utah. I only know what I read here and it could all be smoke, but I’d love to hear more about that. It makes such a perfect story of one strong arm group being hoisted on their own petard. (not that this makes what they are doing right, but live by the sword, die by the sword, reap what you sow, etc etc) I think I just discovered today’s time waster of a research project.

      Apple: Remember the Newton? Yes kids, there was a time when Apple made crappy Personal Electronics no one would buy. Where was Google 10 years ago? These are always my thoughts when I read articles like this. I also agree 100% with the luxury argument. Were Apple selling oil, water, or even telecommunications infrastructure rather than a bunch of things no one really needs, I might (MIGHT) be concerned.

    11. #11 |  me | 

      I love the tough-guy tone in the apple piece, though. “Whether they like it or not” – finally, someone’s standing up to those bullies!

    12. #12 |  Zargon | 

      When a group of people get together, screw some people, and call themselves a corporation, it’s an outrage.

      When a group of people get together, screw some people, and call themselves a majority, it’s democracy.

    13. #13 |  Chance | 

      “When a group of people get together, screw some people, and call themselves a corporation, it’s an outrage.”

      When is the last time people on this site got outraged at a corporation, unless it was because the corporation supported a government program or proposal?

    14. #14 |  Dave Krueger | 

      If one wants to talk about government jobs programs, let’s not forget about the drug war, which caters specifically to reducing the unemployment rate of those handicapped by a superabundance of testosterone combined with a deficiency in cognitive abilities.

    15. #15 |  Mattocracy | 

      We spend a lot of time bitching about cops here, but the disdain really needs to directed at lawmakers. What if we sat around and bitched about our soldiers committing war crimes in Iraq and Vietnam? What do we expect from cops when they are in the ghetto, where the enemy (gangs, etc) look just like the people you are supposed to protect, the people you are supposed to protect don’t like you either, and the objective is unattainable? Is it any wonder why they see themselves as soldiers and not cops? Or that they think they need all this military equipment to operate and survive.

      Cops/soldiers are products of their environment and no amount of oversight, training, or social pressure will stop them from doing what they think is necessary to survive. You might as well try to stop the Earth from rotating.

      The only way to stop the corruption and dishonesty of law enforcement is get the law makers to end the various wars on crime they are fighting. Who knows, maybe they’ll start thinking of themselves as civilians again.

    16. #16 |  Eric H | 

      From the Utah article:

      “Frankly, my feeling is if somebody came in my house in the dark of night and tried to steal thousands of dollars from me, I would try to defend my home from such a thing, but for some reason some people think if they can get the government to do the same thing it’s OK. I think it’s an act of moral depravity.”

      QFT

    17. #17 |  Dave Krueger | 

      From the assisted suicide article:

      But since the Zurich clinic run by Dignitas was established in 1998 under Swiss laws that allow clinics to provide lethal drugs, British authorities have effectively turned a blind eye to Britons who go there to die.

      Wow, Britain turns a blind eye to people who go to Switzerland to abide by Swiss law. Doesn’t the benevolence just make your eyes well up with tears at the overwhelming compassion of such a position?

      The question that won’t leave me alone is whether people have to be assholes in order to get into government or does being in government turn them into assholes later.

    18. #18 |  Zargon | 

      #13
      When is the last time people on this site got outraged at a corporation, unless it was because the corporation supported a government program or proposal?

      I’m confused. I was taking a swipe at democracy, not corporations. I thought that was pretty clear.

    19. #19 |  Dave Krueger | 

      “Noble cause corruption”. So that’s how they justify it.

      Noble cause corruption, meet noble cause video recording.

    20. #20 |  Jack | 

      Huh, so I guess the “libertarian” position on personal property is that as long as it’s a private company restricting your use of what you own and not the government, everything’s gravy! Glad the DMCA gets your stamp of approval Radley

      Conservatives and libertarians have this bizarre impulse where you can get them to defend anything to the death by saying “X is a problem…and the government should do something about it!” You could get five thousand word features written about how we need to protect the right to punch babies if you spread the rumor Nancy Pelosi was trying to make it illegal.

    21. #21 |  Philly Girl | 

      #15 What do we expect from cops when they are in the ghetto, where the enemy (gangs, etc) look just like the people you are supposed to protect, the people you are supposed to protect don’t like you either, and the objective is unattainable?

      I don’t live in a ghetto. The crime committed in my neighborhood is almost exclusively from outsiders. The chief of police lives a short walk from me and this doesn’t even stop the majority of police in my neighborhood from being abusive to the locals…when they bother to show up.

      I expect to be treated with respect. If the police fail to show me respect, well, they get what they give.

    22. #22 |  Zargon | 

      #20
      Huh, so I guess the “libertarian” position on personal property is that as long as it’s a private company restricting your use of what you own and not the government, everything’s gravy!

      (resisting the urge to type in all caps)
      It’s bad when the government coerces you at gunpoint, and it’s bad when corporations have the government coerce you at gunpoint on their behalf, and it’s bad when majorities have the government coerce you at gunpoint on their behalf, mmmmkay?

    23. #23 |  Marty | 

      #20 | Jack-

      what bridge did you crawl out from under?

    24. #24 |  qwints | 

      Apple shouldn’t be forced to open their platforms to other competitors, but they shouldn’t be given legal remedies to block others from using those platforms however they want. That said, there are lots of alternatives when it comes to obtaining and listening to music. So, if you don’t like the Icrap system, don’t buy in.

    25. #25 |  ClubMedSux | 

      Huh, so I guess the “libertarian” position on personal property is that as long as it’s a private company restricting your use of what you own and not the government, everything’s gravy!

      It’s called a private contract. You buy x (in this case a digital music file) under terms of use that state you can only burn it a certain amount of times and it can only be played by authorized accounts. That’s quite different than the DMCA.

      Oh, and if you don’t want strings attached to your digital files, do what I do and buy your mp3′s from Amazon. Of course, since you’re such an expert on “libertarian” positions I guess I don’t need to point out that this would be an example of a “market solution,” do I?

    26. #26 |  Snarky | 

      Huh, so I guess the “libertarian” position on personal property is that as long as it’s a private company restricting your use of what you own and not the government, everything’s gravy!

      Damn, he’s figured out the secret libertarian position on personal property. Curse you, Jack!

    27. #27 |  Jack | 

      The DMCA’s criminalization of reverse engineering or decryption is what allows Apple to lock people out of features in their own hardware. I’m not speaking with regard to DRM on music–which has its own litany of problems but is a complex enough issie to deserve separate discussion–but specifically the way Apple has gone after developers of third party software for the iPhone and “bricked” units with triggers and software updates because the owners have modified their phones.

      The writer Radley criticizes brings up a legitimate problem with the App Store, among others–why should that be the only way of putting new programs on the phone? I own it. It’s my property. If I were to “jailbreak” it and install, say, a NES emulator that doesn’t even compete with any of their offerings they consider it within their rights to intentionally disable my phone with malicious software. The fact that I use Winterboard to change the background of my springboard is a felony under federal law that apple and the rest of the electronics industry lobbied for. That’s not a problem? Some kid hyperventilates about solving the problem with more shit laws and now the “libertarian” position is defending poor defenseless hardware companies from their mean ol’ customers and big government?

      The cell phone industry in the US is a horrible example to hold up and point to the power of the free market. Due to barriers to entry, regulatory capture, the US’ lower population density and a host of other reasons our communications infrastructure is a laughingstock. It’s the bastard child of monopsony and telecom lobbyists. The solution isn’t less innovation and competition, it’s more. The government’s a lousy way to try to solve the problem, but I’d love to hear suggestions.

      Oh, and join the EFF. They have your back

    28. #28 |  Chance | 

      “I’m confused. I was taking a swipe at democracy, not corporations. I thought that was pretty clear.”

      It was clear, I was just using your comment to take a swipe at the way many here add a little caveat at the end of their comments along the lines of “oh yeah, corporations too”, but I see very little actual criticism of corporations unless, as I said, they are in cahoots with the big bad gub’mint. In fairness, there are plenty of other websites that already do that, so maybe there just isn’t any need.

      As for your swipe at democracy, eh. No use in arguing that bugaboo again.

    29. #29 |  Cynical in CA | 

      Caractacus Downes, the couple’s 41-year-old son, said … “It is a very civilized way to end your life, and I don’t understand why the legal position in this country doesn’t allow it.”

      I’ll explain it to you Caractacus. You see, the State owns you.

      Next question.

    30. #30 |  Les | 

      Jack,

      It’s cool, really. I figured out a solution to the problem of restrictions on what I could put on an iPhone. Are you ready?

      I didn’t buy one. Problem solved. And I didn’t need anyone to help me.

    31. #31 |  Ken | 

      Next, let’s talk about TSA’s jobs program disguised as an airport screening system.

      The only thing being talked about with respect to TSA in the White House is how to get them safely into SEIU.

    32. #32 |  Les | 

      Cops/soldiers are products of their environment and no amount of oversight, training, or social pressure will stop them from doing what they think is necessary to survive. You might as well try to stop the Earth from rotating.

      The only way to stop the corruption and dishonesty of law enforcement is get the law makers to end the various wars on crime they are fighting.

      No amount of oversight or training? So if we fired every cop who broke the law, and trained new cops to respect the law, and respect citizens, with consistent terminations and prosecutions for failing to do so, cops would never change? And this is the fault of lawmakers? It just makes no sense.

      Of course, cops need to stop fighting their wars and lawmakers need to end those wars, but it’s primarily the fault of cops and prosecutors that cops do what they want with no consequences. If cops knew that they would be fired and prosecuted instead of protected when they break the law, they’d change their behavior pretty fast. Like it or not, cops are human. And humans, unlike forces of nature, can be made to change their behavior.

    33. #33 |  Charles | 

      No amount of oversight or training? So if we fired every cop who broke the law, and trained new cops to respect the law, and respect citizens, with consistent terminations and prosecutions for failing to do so, cops would never change?

      Serious question: do you think it was in the capacity of American law enforcement to make Prohibition work? Did it fail because of a failure of those enforcing the law, or for some other reason?

      We can fix some of the problems by better handling of the police, I totally agree. But the underlying problems come from criminalizing something that shouldn’t be criminal, and the corruption and military mentality that creates.

    34. #34 |  Zargon | 

      #28
      I see very little actual criticism of corporations unless, as I said, they are in cahoots with the big bad gub’mint.

      Well, to my thinking, all (I can’t think of any counterexamples off the top of my head) evil things corporations are able to do, they’re able to do because the government directly or indirectly enables them to and/or shields them from the consequences.

      So it’s not very useful to talk about how evil thing X corporation Y is doing this week (with the help of government). Sure, we could rant about evil corporation Y, and we’d probably even be right, but it’s not the fundamental problem.

    35. #35 |  Hamburglar007 | 

      There are some legitimate reasons for apple to restrict the software that can be installed on the iphone (not the ipod necessarily). The biggest one is that it would open up the iphone to additional security exploits that can potentially harm the cell phone network.

    36. #36 |  J sub D | 

      Hope you’re feeling better, Radley.

      Jack – You probably shouldn’t buy an iPod.

    37. #37 |  Mattocracy | 

      Les,

      Drugs are illegal, but people still do them. People get the death penalty for murder, but murder still happens. People go to prison for securities fraud, but there will be another Bernie Madoff one day. Government oversight hasn’t stopped any of this stuff from happening. I believe that by limiting the scope of law enforcement’s mission, we limit the ability and the incentives for corruption. That seems more effective than relying on more government to monitor more government to get government to behave the way government says it should.

      Law makers seem more concerned about using law enforcement as a means to push their agendas at all cost. I think it’s fair to say that they bare a fair amount or responsibility for the environment that creates. That environment is the main cause of police corruption in my opinion.

      You’re right; cops are human at the end of the day. Humans aren’t perfect. We can influence their behavior. I just think that changing the scope of crime fighting would be more effective at behavioral change than trying to hold cops accountable through bureaucracy.

    38. #38 |  Michael Chaney | 

      I loved how she pointed out the justifications for some corruption because it’s for the greater good and how they see corruption that’s personally profitable as bad.

      I love it, too. Too bad it’s fiction, eh?

      If you think cops really care, read this:

      http://www.russiatoday.com/Top_News/2009-07-07/Cop_gets_life_for_offending_drug_dealers.html

      Note that Sease was fired in 2005, after committing years of crimes as an officer. Rather than arresting him, they simply fired him (which, as we know around here, is actually quite an accomplishment). After he was fired, he continued committing the same crimes, only acting like an officer rather than actually being one.

      It was the FBI that brought him down.

    39. #39 |  Michael Chaney | 

      As a followup to my last post, also consider the story of Stephanie Lazarus (which Radley should be following). She killed a woman in 1986, the “detectives” who investigated had to know it was her (or they were utterly incompetent) and still covered it up for her.

      The fact is that cops can now get away with anything up to and including murder. I don’t think this is new, per se, but the internet gets the information out.

      The question is, though, what are we going to do about it?

    40. #40 |  Boyd Durkin | 

      Re: Apple

      “It’s hard to say someone else couldn’t do at least as good a job as Apple in bringing iPhone and iPod touch apps to market.”

      Actually, that is easy (and correct) to say. With about a billion dollars worth of incentives to bring the suite of products to market, Apple has been the best. They’ll let anyone write on the intertubes.

      America’s war on success, wealth, and talent is really freaking pathetic.

      Re: Chance
      I get pist at a corporation (often) and they don’t get my business or I sue them (with pretty good history of winning).

      I get pist at the state (often) and I take their hog in my ass while a gun is pressed against my head.

      Very simple actually.

    41. #41 |  MattH | 

      Jack, maybe it’s just a matter of perspective. This blog focuses primarily on real abuses of power, such as government stormtroopers breaking down your door in the middle of the middle of the night and potentially murdering you or your pets because they can’t be bothered to check the address on their warrant, assuming they even have one. In comparison to that, no, it’s not really a problem that Apple makes it difficult to change the wallpaper on your iPhone (or whatever you’re trying to do).

      But I actually do care about tech stuff, and do think Apple is too restrictive, and do oppose the DMCA, but the electronics industry is too complex to know the “proper” level of integration a priori, and it’s extremely foolish to think politicians can effectively intervene in this market. So foolish, in fact, it’s a reasonable conjecture that David Coursey (the “Tech Inciter”) was deliberately trolling to drive up page views for his magazine.

    42. #42 |  Les | 

      Mattocracy,

      We probably agree more than not. But I don’t think changing the police culture requires more bureaucracy. It would require consistency and predictability. It would certainly require mass-firings.

      At the end of the day, cops are individuals. An individual who illegally victimizes another person can’t validly point at the laws he’s supposed to enforce as a reason for his or her illegal behavior. If an officer is expected by law to arrest a pot smoker, there is still no causal reason for the officer to use excessive force.

      But I agree that the more “wars” there are, the more police feel entitled to treat citizens badly. I just think holding individuals accountable is more realistic than changing the culture that moves lawmakers to create these wars.

    43. #43 |  BamBam | 

      http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/029910.html

      Cops lie on report, rookie cop eventually tells the truth, but his statements are summarily dismissed because “rookie cops see things differently than more experienced and mature cops.”

      This is the truth of the matter, from the blog: haven’t yet been assimiliated into a culture of situational dishonesty in which lying is deemed appropriate to protect one’s “Brothers in Blue.”

    44. #44 |  Fluffy | 

      Doesn’t that Utah law violate both the Constitution and Federal law?

      How is it “one man, one vote” to create a class of offices for which only one group of property holders in a new municipality gets to vote?

    45. #45 |  Chance | 

      Re: Chance
      I get pist at a corporation (often) and they don’t get my business or I sue them (with pretty good history of winning).

      I get pist at the state (often) and I take their hog in my ass while a gun is pressed against my head.

      Very simple actually.

      So you use the powers of the state to enforce your will on a private company. And then you curse the very same institution for doing the same to you? Thank god, I was worried you were an anarchist for a second.*

      (Just joking, :) )

    46. #46 |  Andre Kenji | 

      The article about Apple may be stupid, but Apple is no angel. The fact that they make unblocked Iphones unusable, for instance, it´s detestable. There are others issues as well too. It maybe not a problem for the government to solve, but I find people that criticizes Microsoft for it´s business practices while praising Apple hypocrites.

    47. #47 |  the friendly grizzly | 

      There is something I have never understood. I hear all this blather about the iPhone / iPod only working with tunes from the Apple music store. If so, can someone explain to me why I have several hundred songs on my iPhone that include LP’s, 78s, and CDs I have owned since the 80s?

    48. #48 |  billy-jay | 

      @ friendly grizzly:

      +1 for owning 78s.

    49. #49 |  Andre Kenji | 

      “I hear all this blather about the iPhone / iPod only working with tunes from the Apple music store”

      No, they only work with the Itunes *software*. You can transfer all your mp3 to there, but you´ll need to use that crappy software to do that.

      You can´t use that as a pendrive, if you want to upload music or a podcast and you are far away the computer that is synchronized to it you also can´t.

    50. #50 |  Cynical in CA | 

      “Good post at TalkLeft about how younger police officers learn to lie and cover up for other officers’ mistakes.”

      Viewing the film “Training Day” is also instructive.

    51. #51 |  perlhaqr | 

      I can’t say I’m real fond of anyone in the Powder Mountain story.

      The homeowners are angry at being forced into the municipality boundaries, and the restrictions that will cause for them (and with good cause, I think) but they’re apparently just fine with using zoning laws to keep the ski-resort property owners from doing what they want with their property, too.

      So, as far as I’m concerned, they’re all bastards. The last guy quoted is mad because he sees the ski-resort as stealing $20k from him, but those zoning laws stand to cost the ski-resort millions.

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