Morning Links

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
  • Ladies and gentlemen, a pro-Gadaffi op-ed. I’m sure the Koch brothers are behind this.
  • This made me happy.
  • The federal government has 82—yes, eighty-two—separate programs to improve teacher quality.
  • New York state assemblyman wants to require licensing for bicycles, looks forward to the day when bike lanes are monitored by cameras to catch “scofflaws.” Excellent idea. We should probably issue tags to pedestrians, too.
  • Another moronic attempt to ban sharia law in . . . hey, Tennessee! Nice to see leaders from other faiths speak out in opposition, though.

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72 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  albatross | 

    Just to draw a fun parallel, has anyone noticed that the arguments against anti-sharia laws look just like the arguments against hate-crime laws? And the arguments for anti-sharia laws, similarly, look just like the arguments for hate-crime laws?

    And yet, something tells me that there is almost no overlap between the people who support anti-sharia laws and the ones who support hate-crime laws. It’s a mystery why that would be, really.

  2. #2 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Alert! Video shows that cops falsified arrest reports.

    I know, I know. It’s hard to believe, but try to set your prejudices aside just consider the possibility that the cops, those icons of justice, just maybe, might have fudged a tiny little bit.

  3. #3 |  demize! | 

    #48 you’ll find no argument from me on that. 1St, I think Sharia is a buzzword used to make the dogs salivate when the bell is rung, most of the anti crusaders couldn’t define it properly if their live depended on it, other than the examples of the most extreme Wahabist sort. 2nd since we don’t live in a Theocracy, Muslim or otherwise, I take no offence to those who choose to adhere to even the most absurd beliefs, as long as they don’t impose or impinge on my liberty. 3rd. The singling out of only one faith for legal imposition is inherently prejudicial, not that it would be less so if all faiths were legally scrutinized in this way. 4th. All Shari’s jurisprudence isn’t of the cut your hand off stone your women variety, that is a characterture.

  4. #4 |  Andrew Roth | 

    It occurs to me that there are some parallels between the Koch brothers and Russia’s post-Soviet oligarchs.

    Russia has been ruled for the past decade by a demagogic autocrat from the KGB. Even after Putin moved from the presidency to the premiership, he retained far more power than any previous Russian prime minister. I can’t figure out what his and Medvedev’s roles are in the government, except that Medvedev appears to at least defer to Putin on most matters and exercise less power than any of his predecessors. He’s not Putin’s puppet, but it’s not clear who’s really subordinate in the relationship.

    There is a liberal movement in Russia, but for most of the post-Soviet era it has been hampered by a reputation for having no bureaucratic competence and for being associated with, if not also led by, kleptocrats. This has given Putin extra latitude to selectively enforce financial laws against oligarchs who threaten his hold on power, most notably Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky was something of a crook, and he was prosecuted and convicted under duly enacted laws for being a crook, but in reality he was prosecuted for being insubordinate to Putin. His trial and sentences were thorough, purposeful miscarriages of justice.

    Incidentally, when I was studying in Russia in the summer of 2002, a guest lecturer compared Putin’s relationship with the oligarchs to Peter the Great’s relationship with St. Petersburg’s wealthiest citizens, whom he occasionally robbed by beating with his cane.

    Around the time that I was in Russia, the strongest defense of civil rights and liberties was coming from the Union of Right Forces, a classically liberal party that was a serious but very small faction in the Duma. There was no substantial civil libertarianism coming from the left; I remember hearing occasional rhetoric about open society from Communists, but nothing at all consistent, and the Communists were more often appealing to odious parts of their party’s history.

    The problem with this spectrum of platforms was that civil rights and liberties were conjoined with uncompromising free market dogmatism. This was at a time when many Russian government services had collapsed, much of the treasury and public infrastructure had been looted by the politically connected, and the old economic order upended. An awful lot of pensioners and soldiers had resorted to eating dog food. For ordinary Russians, the answer wasn’t to slash government services, it was to improve them.

    It was a lot like the apocryphal tale of Mussolini making the trains run on time. Russians were, and are, grateful to Putin for bringing stability, prosperity and more competent governance and administration to Russia after the Wild West economic free-for-all of the 1990s and Boris Yeltsin’s alcoholic fugue.

    To return to the Koch brothers, aside from their association with Scott Walker and his belligerence, they’re impeccable civil libertarians. At the same time, they’re crooks whose most famous political associate, again Governor Walker, is trying to orchestrate the no-bid sale of state infrastructure and appears to be manufacturing at least part of Wisconsin’s fiscal crisis. For one thing, the propriety of public employee unions aside, he is simply not negotiating with the unions in good faith. He is trying to destroy them by falsely declaring that they are refusing to compromise on budgetary matters.

    All this is happening during what is arguably the greatest economic dislocation since the Great Depression. In times like these, people are naturally wary of rallying around anyone who so much as appears to be orchestrating kleptocratic shenanigans. The Koch brothers might establish some credibility by focusing exclusively on civil liberties and victimless crimes, provided that they don’t invest in brothels or anything related to drugs. Until the mess in Wisconsin is cleanly and equitably resolved, however, they will have precious little popular credibility on much of anything—rather like the oligarchs.

  5. #5 |  scott in phx | 

    Wow Radley, a personal rebuke, should I feel honored or dissapointed. I guess I’ll opt for the latter as it appears you also declined to actually read my comments.

    To REPEAT, I did not opine on whether or not the proposed TN law was “moronic” or not. Nor did express any support whatsoever for it.

    But it appears that the 2 approved responses to a post like yours above are –

    A, yes it is moronic, or

    B, yes it is moronic.

    That doesn’t make for interesting comments, or much less suggest a reason to even have comments.

    And, even an oblique reference to the much larger issue involved earns the PC wrath of most other commentators and perhaps even the esteemed host of the site.

    Oh well, I’ve seen that before, here, and elsewhere.

    One further comment on the article referenced above. It includes an outright falsehood claimed by one of the members of the “Religion of Peace”, that “Sharia demands, that I follow, and obey, the law of the land and the country in which I live.” Islamic jurisprudence and Sharia “demand” exactly the opposite, that Islam and Sharia are superior to and should and shall supplant any non-Islamic system. It is permitted of course for Muslims to live “like a state within a state” while they work to supplant the ideals of their host state with the “higher” ideals of Islam, but that is not what this faithfull follower of the ROP wants you to believe. You can get that straight from the horses mouth if you actually listen to what Islamic leaders say when the audience is not gullible members of the press.

    oh, and Albatross, I didn’t say Muslims were stoning to death anyone in America. You evidently can’t read either. They are however cutting off young girls clitorises, yes, even in America. The American medical community flirted with the ideal of condoning the practice as long as it was done properly and with anasthesia (read about how it is actually accomplished if you want to made sick to your stomach). And the “honor” killings are well documented.

    So congratulate yourselves on your superiority to the rubes in TN and their “moronic” proposals. I’m sure that will make the female victims of Sharia in the US feel much better.

  6. #6 |  Rob in CT | 

    “To REPEAT, I did not opine on whether or not the proposed TN law was “moronic” or not. Nor did express any support whatsoever for it.”

    Of course not, because it’s clearly a ridiculous law and you can’t actually defend it. Instead, you move the goalposts and try to make this a conversation about female circumcision (painting anyone who thinks the proposed TN law is “moronic” as somehow guilty of indifference to the suffering of young girls whose clitorises have been cut off). Bravo. I’ll give you a 6 out of 10 on the troll scale.

  7. #7 |  Joe | 

    Radley, you will love this one:

    “Funny thing about cops, they hold grudges,” Piotroski wrote on LaRose’s page.

  8. #8 |  claude | 

    “The Koch brothers might establish some credibility by focusing exclusively on civil liberties and victimless crimes, provided that they don’t invest in brothels or anything related to drugs. Until the mess in Wisconsin is cleanly and equitably resolved, however, they will have precious little popular credibility on much of anything—rather like the oligarchs.”

    Its a bit too late for them. Currently they are paying for Scottys little 3-day bus trip around the state. At least it gets good gas mileage. Shorter buses usually do.

  9. #9 |  Alex | 

    #55: You said originally “Heaven forbid that anyone would be so moronic as to even think about prohibiting such enlightened behavior.”

    Sarcasm doesn’t exempt this from being an opinion about whether the law (and the people who support it) is moronic. I appreciate that you’re the minority in this forum, but own up.

    I think the problem here is the word “Sharia.” It means different things to different people. In your recent comment you corrected someone’s understanding of what Sharia is; in fact, both of you are right.

    How do we deal with this? By not trying to prohibit such a nebulous concept. Instead, we make certain acts illegal. If we make stoning a woman illegal, then people go to jail for it. If we make “Sharia” illegal, then eventually people also go to jail for innocuous speech, or for donating money to innocent charities. That’s moronic.

    #46 mentions that the law conjoins “Sharia” with “terrorism.” Oh, good, as long as there’s another (even more) nebulous concept involved, there certainly won’t be any abuse!

    (See also #51 on hate-crime. Indeed I find it consistent to oppose both anti-Sharia and hate-crime laws. Same reasoning applies. However at least in hate-crime cases there needs to be an actual crime, I think.)

  10. #10 |  scott in phx | 

    Thats funny, Dr T doesn’t think the bill was moronic (just not needed).

    Note that his is an unqualified opinion. Yet he seems to be pretty much ignored here.

    But my comment was quickly challenged based on mis-interpretations and fanciful characterizations of what I said.

    I’ve seen REAL trolls here ignored for real transgressions.

    Move the goalposts? Hardly, again I’ve seen discussions of his blog posts that go far afield and yet no one bats an eye and it was others responses to my comments that opened the game. But they are not trolls huh.

    Additionally, the article referenced was full of targets for comments about the wider issue.

    But evidently, when it comes to Islam, even the free-thinking environment of a “libertarian” blog readership wants to squelch any umpleasant references to the ROP.

    Pretty pathetic.

  11. #11 |  Elliot | 

    demize (#53):I think Sharia is a buzzword used to make the dogs salivate when the bell is rung…

    Except there are places in the world where women’s rights are suppressed, homosexuals and apostates are murdered, and other cruelties are carried out. The justification for this is a fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia law. It’s not something made up by jingoistic propagandists.

    When the self-described spokespersons for “moderate Islam” are interviewed, Sharia is described differently, just as “jihad” becomes “struggle”, not “holy war”. Sure, many Muslims are embarrassed by the worst and don’t want to be associated with their barbarism. But in other cases, it’s a matter of being two-faced, as when the imams speak of peace and tolerance in English, but then speak approvingly of violence and religious hatred when talking in Arabic or some other language, when they don’t think Westerners can understand them.

    How much trickery goes on and how much is just honest differences? I have no idea and I doubt anyone in this comment section does either. Sure the proposed law in TN is bad. But people who are concerned about the violations of rights of women, homosexuals, apostates, etc. can’t just dismiss out of hand the real life impact of Sharia law around the world on those rights.

    This bill and the one in OK are in no small part a response to British politicians giving in to ridiculous demands of Muslims in the UK, as well as the bonehead judge in New Jersey who refused to grant a restraining order against a man who sexually assaulted his wife, on the grounds that Muslim law doesn’t allow a wife to refuse sex from her husband. It was, thankfully, overturned. Yes, they are overreactions and, at least in the case of the TN law, stupidly constructed (I don’t recall the details of the OK one). But they don’t come out of nowhere.

  12. #12 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Re: #57:

    A police union represented by a guy named Sarge. Classic!

    The union’s attorney got called out for openly trying to intimidate a state senator over his Facebook page, then backtracked by arguing that the FOP’s critics are akin to racists. Score two for the Ohio GOP.

    If Mr. Piotroski doesn’t like having his clients called “union thugs,” I imagine he won’t like it when I call him a weaselly, lying shyster. Which I’m glad to do, because any attorney who declares that “thug” and “nigger” are equivalent terms is one. The latter is an ad hominem epithet based solely on race; the former is a descriptor based on specific behaviors in which one purposely engages. There’s no way in hell to pass a Bar Exam with the pathetic reasoning that Mr. Piotroski claimed to be using. What a sleazeball.

  13. #13 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Or the LSAT. I’ve taken the LSAT, and I’d say Mr. Piotroski’s reasoning is worth about a fifteen point score reduction. He didn’t even lie artfully.

    I wouldn’t want to be in a union whose counsel was such an incompetent provocateur.

  14. #14 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Re: #58:

    I like the short bus imagery. Get our friend from the Ohio FOP on board the same bus and it’ll be ready to go–preferably far, far away for a long time. People like that deserve each other a lot more than the rest of us deserve them.

    I still think the Koch brothers can restore their reputation if they make a sincere effort. People can and do fully reform after much worse transgressions. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the Kochs will. My sense is that greed has consistently gotten in their way, and it’s hard to rise above a lifetime of ingrained greed.

  15. #15 |  perlhaqr | 

    Maybe the Tennessee lawmakers are on to something.

  16. #16 |  demize! | 

    I am the victim of an involuntary genital mutalation. I was circumcised when I was born. Now alert the media, and let’s pass laws. See where I’m going with this?

  17. #17 |  Elliot | 

    (1) Removing a foreskin is not the same as removing a clitoris.
    (2) Who is advocating passing laws?

    I said the oppressive religious practices should be exposed, not prosecuted.

  18. #18 |  albatross | 


    When you support evil and stupid policies, lots of people will often disagree with you, and point out why in some detail. When you argue dishonestly, lots of people will call you on it. This isn’t some kind of persecution, it’s just what happens when you say dumb things in public. The solution is to try to say smarter things.

    You can disagree with the prevailing beliefs, here and other places, without being banned, and you can even hold your own against a crowd who disagrees. But you have to actually make strong arguments, not dishonest ones. Cheap rhetorical tricks (moving the goalposts, claiming the crown of martyrdom when you’re disagreed with, strawmanning opposing viewpoints) aren’t going to convince anyone worth convincing that your views are right. Those techniques convince people who don’t think too hard, and who already started out wanting to agree with you. They never convince your opponents–most people don’t notice bullshit arguments on their own side, but everyone notices bullshit arguments used against them. And many people on your side will recognize bullshit arguments, and don’t want to be associated with them.

    Instead, try this: Think seriously about the strongest arguments the other side has. Not the stupid ones, the real ones. Write them down for yourself. Make sure you understand them better than your opponents. When someone disagrees with you along those lines, respond to the strongest version of the argument they’re making, not the weakest, not some intentional misunderstanding that makes (for example) opposition to the war on drugs equal wanting to give crack to kindergarteners.

    Or this: Ask yourself what the difference is between your view and the opposing view, in terms of predictions about the rest of the world. And then look to see whose predictions are borne out. Bring up the evidence you see, both for and against, in your discussions. If you’re supporting gun control laws, it’s reasonable to point out that Canada and Germany are pretty free and decent countries despite gun control, but also acknowledge that Switzerland is a pretty decent place, and that states with a lot of gun ownership don’t usually have especially high murder rates.

    All this assumes you want to actually discuss the world. Doing this is, however, corrosive to your belief system. If you understand the best arguments on the other side of some issue, you’ll often come to see that the argument for your own position is not so strong, or that it ultimately comes down to an emotional preference one way or another, or a conjecture about how the world works that’s not really possible to test right now. These techniques aren’t so useful if you’re just shilling for some set of beliefs you’ve been given by your political party or your parents or your employer or your favorite radio talk show host.

  19. #19 |  demize! | 

    Damn man that was the most polite smackdown ive ever read. Kudos!

  20. #20 |  Elliot | 

    albatross (#68):When you support evil and stupid policies, lots of people will often disagree with you, and point out why in some detail. When you argue dishonestly, lots of people will call you on it.

    Wait a minute, could you please specify the “evil and stupid policies” that Scott allegedly supported? I reread his comments and all I see him doing is condemning evil and stupid policies in which women are mutilated or their rights suppressed, or in which other outrageous things are done in the name of religion. You could argue that is not relevant to the TN law, but as Scott pointed out repeatedly (and was apparently ignored by most attacking him), he wasn’t defending that law. He was commenting on the general subject of Sharia law.

    And, could you specify where you thought he was being dishonest?

    Your “advice” is condescending and, from what I can discern in a quick pass, quite off topic. You suggest Scott is attacking a strawman, but the vast majority of your rant is against a strawman.

  21. #21 |  Elliot | 

    SJE (#43):If a US citizen wants to break the law, appealing to a religious law will not help him or her.

    It almost helped a Muslim man in New Jersey, who convinced a judge that Islamic law forbid his wife from refusing sex as a defense against a charge of raping her. Thankfully, that horrible decision was overturned.

    Don’t be too quick to dismiss such eventualities. In Canada and Europe, where the Muslim minorities make up a much larger percentage in certain countries, cowardly courts and governments have been occasionally disgustingly accommodating to unreasonable demands from Muslims (the ban on cartoon pigs or the case of Ezra Levant are some of the more obvious, and sillier, examples).

    Yes, there are Americans who overreact, who are ignorant and bigoted. But it is a strawman to assume that anyone who expresses concerns about the potential for unreasonable demands to eventually gain a foothold in the US are one of those ignorant bigots. Considering all of the ridiculous laws and abuse of power by law enforcement documented on this weblog, I think anyone who disregards the possibility of new stupidity on the part of courts or legislatures is sticking his head in the sand.

  22. #22 |  Elliot | 

    albatross (#68):If you’re supporting gun control laws, it’s reasonable to point out that Canada and Germany are pretty free and decent countries despite gun control, but also acknowledge that Switzerland is a pretty decent place, and that states with a lot of gun ownership don’t usually have especially high murder rates.

    That has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but it is definitely a poor argument. All human beings have a right to use effective tools in self defense, regardless of crime rates, fancy pieces of paper, or putting your finger in the air to gauge the wind, i.e., your useless metric of “pretty free and decent”. Freedom is measured by the individual, not by wide sweeping general assessments. Just as most of us are not victims of abuse by law enforcement, we cannot ignore the occasional cases where individuals are victims of abuse or immoral laws. Even though the average person may be relatively free in this country, the true measure ought to be the particular individual who hasn’t done harm to others but who is being ground up in the machinery of government. That could be a person killed in a wrong door SWAT raid, a person framed by jailhouse informants, someone like Brian Aitken who was trying to follow the law but was screwed over anyway, people screwed over by eminent domain, the small business owner who is drummed out of business by taxes or licensing/certification drawn up by larger established companies in the same market (i.e., rent seekers).

    So, I don’t care that people in other countries are “pretty free” or that their crime rates are low. I only care about the individual who chooses to own the most effective means of self defense, who knows better than any politician or bureaubot if she will be better off with a gun than without. And, it’s not just safety. She may just enjoy target shooting or collecting guns. If it makes her happy and she’s not harming anyone else, it’s nobody’s business but her own.