So my neighborhood King Soopers has been dramatically expanded – nearly doubled in size, spacious new bakery/deli/meat/produce departments, new Starbucks, the works. Apparently, to pay for all this, they’ve had to cut back on some services, like providing cashier checkout after 9:30 pm. Which I didn’t learn about until after I had loaded up a cart with close to $200 in groceries. Yay! (The lady in front of me, who also had a full cart, simply left her stuff at the customer service desk and walked out.)
So I pushed my cart into the self-checkout lanes and started scanning and bagging all of my stuff. Meanwhile, the line of customers started backing up; surprisingly, no one pointed out that I had a lot more than the limit of 15 items in my cart (a good thing; I doubt they would have liked my response). I got down to my last few items…and the entire U-Scan system crashed.
By this time there was about 20 customers in queue, and the security guard directed us to two cashier checkout lanes while they tried to reboot the self-checkout system. So I waited in line again, with nearly all of my items already bagged and the ice cream starting to melt. As soon as it was my turn, they announced that the U-Scan system was back up.
I just looked at the clerk. ”Please don’t make me go back over there.” He didn’t. They were actually quite apologetic about it by that point. But it seems the entire debacle could have been avoided if they had just opened up a cashier lane on demand, like they used to do. I’ve been at that same store at midnight before (yes, I sometimes do my grocery shopping at odd hours; sue me), and they always had a clerk available to check out big orders. Why change that policy now, especially after expanding a store in response to what I can only guess was increased customer traffic?
Even seemingly simple changes in service can result in big headaches for customers. Business owners beware!
I suppose it’s only logical – in that twisted, perverse way unique to the state – that if the president can now detain citizens indefinitely without trial for suspected terrorist activities committed on U. S. soil, the government would be able to arrest them for merely talking about suspected drug activities abroad:
The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill yesterday that would make it a federal crime for U.S. residents to discuss or plan activities on foreign soil that, if carried out in the U.S., would violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) — even if the planned activities are legal in the countries where they’re carried out.
(At this point it should shock no one that the sponsor of this bill is Lamar Smith, the Republican senator from Texas who also backed the free-speech-crushing Stop Online Piracy Act.) So that means if you casually mention to someone that you can’t wait to go to Amsterdam to try some hash – which is completely legal there – you might find yourself detained by DEA agents even before you’ve left the country. It would also conceivably apply to any publications, including blogs, which discuss future drug activity, or even advice about drugs aimed at overseas audiences (such as growing marijuana).
So now the country’s lawmakers are reduced to enacting thought-crime legislation, in the state’s futile attempts to prevent anyone from ever getting high. The only thing that surprises me is that they haven’t named it Whitney’s Law. Because nothing drums up popular support for terrible, unlibertarian laws like naming them after dead people.
- Scandinavian show-jumping rabbit mania invades the UK (HT Tyler Cowen). Here is video of the “Rabbit Grand National Final”:
- Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin is under federal investigation for allegedly receiving kickbacks for securing city contracts for vendors.
- Warren Buffett makes $154 million on his Bank of America investment thanks to a foreclosure settlement deal between the Obama administration and the five largest U. S. banks (HT Radley Balko).
- If you live in a big house, you’re an immoral asshole. Also, “Randian libertarians” apparently shouldn’t be reading Gawker.
- It appears that the police shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old man in the Bronx was the end result of a stop-and-frisk attempt, a tactic the NYPD have been using for years to trick blacks and Latinos into “publicly” displaying marijuana, which raises simple possession to a crime. Any price worth paying to prevent even one person from getting high, right?
Arizona has long been a rich source of batshit insane laws, usually good for a laugh or a moment of outrage (sometimes both) before they’re quickly struck down by a judge for their utter lack of constitutional sanction. The state’s anti-immigration bill, SB 1070, which contained provisions only a veteran of the Stasi could appreciate, is a prime example of the steaming piles of absurdity which lawmakers in Phoenix grunt out on a regular basis.
Now they’ve pretended the First Amendment has ceased to exist, and added bad words and the occasional boob shot to the list of things people just shouldn’t do if they want to remain employed by Arizona’s public education system:
In what has to be the most hilariously unconstitutional piece of legislation that I’ve seen in quite some time, senators in the Arizona state legislature have introduced a bill that would require all educational institutions in the state — including state universities — to suspend or fire professors who say or do things that aren’t allowed on network TV.
Since the FCC’s own rules on obscenity are sufficiently vague to warrant a current Supreme Court review of its authority to regulate speech on broadcast television, one has to wonder what the bill’s sponsors – unsurprisingly, all Republicans – fear teachers and professors are doing in the state’s classrooms to threaten impressionable youth. Because what sixth-grader hears on television off-color remarks that aren’t repeated on playgrounds every day? When 12-year-olds are quite adept at finding video content online, all of which is completely unregulated by the FCC, the time for worrying about what teachers might show in class is long past.
Reason‘s Jacob Sullum has more on the FCC’s incomprehensible obscenity rules.
A perfect example of the depths of collectivist stupidity to which California governments have plunged:
The Board of Supervisors this week agreed to raise fines to up to $1,000 for anyone who throws a football or a Frisbee on any beach in Los Angeles County. [...]
The updated rules now prohibit “any person to cast, toss, throw, kick or roll” any object other than a beach ball or volleyball “upon or over any beach” between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Exceptions allow for ball-throwing in predesignated areas, when a person obtains a permit, or playing water polo “in or over the Pacific Ocean”. [...]
Your kids could also end up costing you big bucks: the ordinance also prohibits digging any hole deeper than 18 inches into the sand except where permission is granted for film and TV production services only.
HT Matt Welch at Reason’s Hit & Run, who has plenty more to say about it.
…we now hear that the Pentagon is “reviewing options” as the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate:
Although the U.S. focus remains on exerting diplomatic and economic pressure on Syria, the Pentagon and the U.S. Central Command have begun a preliminary internal review of U.S. military capabilities, CNN has learned.
The options are being prepared in the event President Barack Obama were to call for them. Two senior administration officials who spoke about the review to CNN emphasized that U.S. policy for now remains the use of non-military options.
Yes, I understand that this is standard procedure at the Pentagon, and that even U. S. involvement in NATO attacks on Libya which precipitated Muammar Gaddafi’s downfall was preceded by such reviews and planning, and that this results in no military action being taken as often as not. But still: what the mainstream media report is simply an endless parade of justifications for the U. S. to remain deeply embedded in the Middle East and Central Asia for years, perhaps decades, to come. All under the banner of “nation building,” despite little evidence to prove that the nations which have been “built” are more free and stable than the ones which existed before.
But substitute “empire” for “nation,” and suddenly it makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?
Of all the policies of the Barack Obama administration – one of many which began under the Bush regime and has been continued, even expanded, by his successor – I think the use of predator drones sickens and angers me the most. Especially with the revelation that the drones also target first responders, and even people attending funerals. Imagine if a suicide bomber had attacked police and firefighters as they arrived at the World Trade Center on 9/11, or the funerals of the victims. That is essentially what the CIA’s predator drones are doing.
But what’s really infuriating, though not surprising, is how quiet liberals are about this, given how loudly they spoke out against war during the Bush years. Yet this is arguably worse in terms of its sheer violence and callousness: worse than Abu Ghraib, worse than the Haditha massacre. If any other country’s military engaged in such acts, they would be denounced by the U. S. government (and others) as war crimes, and rightly so. And as the report cited by Glenn Greenwald makes clear, government officials have been lying about the civilian casualties from the attacks. But from most Democrats, the response amounts to at best a shuffling of feet and an uncomfortable silence. In fact, most of them support the use of drones, and even keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison camp open, according to a Washington Post poll. This despite Obama’s campaign promise to close Gitmo. I guess Democrats suffer from memory loss as much as Republicans do.
How anyone can vote for a man who gives orders to commit mass murder is simply incomprehensible to me. And please spare me the counterpoint that the Republicans are just as bad. Of course they are. That just further proves the point that the major parties are virtually indistinguishable in their lust for mass murder, bigger government, and more control over people’s lives. Voting Republican or Democrat is voting for the imperial warfare/welfare state, and all of the blood and treasure it demands.
(Cross-posted from The Libertarian Standard.)
While enjoying a Mother’s Day brunch at my sister’s house, I learned that my older niece’s boyfriend has an interesting part-time job. He has a theater background, and role-plays for training seminars to help police deal with unstable individuals and hostage situations. He’s played drunks, people high on drugs, people having a psychotic episode, and people who for the moment are just very, very pissed off.
One of his recent gigs involved playing someone from the last category: a distraught father who’s holed himself up in a house with his kids and threatening to kill them. While I didn’t learn a lot of details, he apparently played his role so well that a frustrated cop ended up giving him a black eye.
I was struck by the irony of someone who volunteers to put himself in harm’s way by our Protectors and Servants (granted, he’s paid for it), when they will freely dish out the same punishment to any slob on the street unfortunate enough to find themselves in a cop’s crosshairs. It also disturbs me that whatever training the police take to deal with unstable individuals, it doesn’t seem to be working very well.
I mean, if an actor can get clocked by the police during a simulated exercise, what does that bode for genuinely troubled people when the cops have access to their Tasers and sidearms? Unfortunately to ask is to answer.
(Cross-posted from The Libertarian Standard)
The fury over Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law continues at a brisk boil, and it couldn’t come at a better time for filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. The 41-year-old Texan, himself of Mexican descent, is known for his gritty and graphically violent movies set in Mexico and featuring protagonists who seek bloody vengeance against those who have wronged them. Like his friend and collaborator Quentin Tarantino, Rodriguez is a fan of the pulpy, culturally exploitive action films of the 1970s; part of the fun of Grindhouse, the double-feature he and Tarantino directed, were the over-the-top trailers for films which didn’t exist…until now, at least.
Rodriguez has now expanded one of the trailers, for a film called Machete, into a full-length feature starring Danny Trejo, a fixture in many Rodriguez movies, including the family-friendly Spy Kids series in which Trejo also played a character named Machete. I hope parents don’t confuse that Machete with this one, however, as the new “illegal” trailer makes clear (warning: NSFW language and violence). In the new film, Machete is a former Federale and migrant laborer who drifts around Texas looking for work. He is hired by a businessman (played by Jeff Fahey) to kill a corrupt senator who’s trying to kick all of the illegal immigrants out of the state. But it’s all a setup; Machete is the patsy for a deeper conspiracy to whip up anti-immigration hysteria so that tough new laws can be passed without much protest. Machete then goes on the signature Rodriguez rampage of killing bad guys and scoring with hot women.
The real fun may be in seeing this movie played out against an all-too-real backdrop of anti-illegal immigrant hysteria. The senator in Machete, played by Robert DeNiro, uses rhetoric not much different from that heard by officials such as Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who warned of an epidemic of cop shootings by illegals after one of his deputies was wounded by suspected drug smugglers near the border. No evidence of such an epidemic exists — only one cop in Arizona has been killed by an illegal immigrant since 2008 — but the amplification effect of non-stop media coverage lends credibility to Babeu’s histrionics.
Then there’s the condemnation of forcibly removing illegals from the country, and the rallying of immigrants by Machete’s compadres to fight back, echoing the political and cultural backlash against Arizona’s new legislation. Even professional sports have gotten in on the act; the Phoenix Suns wore “Los Suns” jerseys on Wednesday to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and take a swipe at the immigration bill.
Whether Machete is just a Mexploitation flick using illegal immigration as a pretext for a gory revenge fantasy, or represents a deeper political statement by Rodriguez, won’t be known until the film is released in September. Of course it can be both; politics and pop culture often make strange, not to mention lucrative, bedfellows. Such is the wonder of American enterprise!
If you believe we all sleep a little better at night knowing our military is overseas defending our freedoms against evil terrorists, I hope this video upsets your slumber a bit:
There may be some debate over what weapons this group of people were carrying, but there is no debate over what happened after U. S. helicopters opened up on them with 30mm cannon fire. They then proceeded to shoot unarmed civilians, including children, trying to evacuate the wounded. At least 12 people were killed and the two children wounded.
Perhaps most sickening were the comments on the radio after the engagement, urging one of the wounded, Reuters driver Sameed Chmagh, to pick up a weapon (if indeed that’s what he was doing) so he could be shot again, or that it was these people’s fault for “bringing their children into battle”, never mind that they weren’t looking for battle; the Army helicopters shot them without warning as they tried to assist the wounded.
Perhaps someone can explain how we’re any more free now, because I’m having difficulty seeing it. In fact there’s no rational explanation for how these wars, or any wars, have ever helped us maintain our freedoms. We seem to be less free now than at any point in the past 200 years, and it’s not because radical Muslims hate our wealth and decadent culture. It’s because our rulers must continually find “enemies” to threaten us, from within and without, to maintain their authority.
These wars were started by the last regime, and this atrocity occurred on George W. Bush’s watch; yet Barack Obama has made no real effort to reduce American troop presence in either Iraq or Afghanistan, and in the latter case has even escalated military operations. Yet Obama campaigned on promises to get troops out of Iraq and harshly criticized Bush’s handling of both wars. The president has changed, the party has changed, but the regime has not. Nor has the rhetoric to justify the continued prosecution of overseas conquest.
Republican wars, Democrat wars — it hardly matters anymore who is to blame for them. They are now just imperial campaigns, with all the horrors and enormous cost in blood and treasure they entail. But empires inevitably fall.
[Cross-posted from The Libertarian Standard]
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