Friday, July 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

“As for Obama’s selection of Bud Light, this has to rank as one of his worst decisions since taking office, somewhere between the stimulus package and the auto industry bailout. Regular Budweiser is bad enough. When you have a beer that already tastes like water, why would you add more water to it? And the less said about Biden and his Buckler, the better.”–Jacob Sullum

Indeed(and emphasis mine).

h/t: Chris Lawrence via Facebook.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT: Corazon Aquino, restored democracy to Philippines

Corazon C. Aquino, the unassuming housewife who toppled a dictator and restored democracy to the Philippines as its 11th president, has died. She was 76.

The elegant democracy icon, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2024, was admitted to a hospital intensive care unit in late June after she stopped eating.

Aquino served six turbulent years as president of the Philippines after helping lead hundreds of thousands in a “people power” revolution that brought down the corrupt regime of strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos in February 1986.

The entire obituary is worth a read.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAHT: FARC Seeks “National Accord” Against U.S. Bases in Colombia

Colombia’s leftist FARC rebels called for creation of a broad front to block a prospective agreement between Bogota and Washington for the stationing of U.S. military personnel at bases in the Andean nation.

“We invite you to work for a ‘Grand National Peace Accord,’ to build a political alternative that privileges peace … effects a bilateral truce and proceeds to immediately suspend the presence of U.S. troops,” the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said in an open letter to civic groups.

A couple of thoughts.

1. Given that the FARC seems unwilling to stop fighting (or, for that matter, kidnapping), it is difficult for them to make calls for policy that “privileges peace” and be taken seriously.

2. While a decade ago I would have been shocked for the Colombian government to be offering these types of basing rights to the US, under the Uribe administration public opinion about direct security cooperation with the US (e.g., on things like extradition) has taken a decidedly pro-US turn. As such, I don’t think that the FARC’s call for broad support will be heeded on this issue.

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By Steven L. Taylor

“When he’s not arresting you, Sergeant Crowley is a really likable guy.”–Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP:Alabama ban of wine with nude nymph on label is marketing boon

The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board recently told stores and restaurants to quit serving Cycles Gladiator wine because of the label. Board attorney Bob Martin said the stylized, art-nouveau rendition of a nude female with a flying bicycle violated the conservative state’s rules against displaying “a person posed in an immoral or sensuous manner.”


The wine’s label is copied from an 1895 French advertising poster for Cycles Gladiator bicycles. It shows a side view of a full-bodied nymph flying alongside a winged bicycle.

Martin said the ABC Board rejected the label last year, which meant the product wasn’t supposed to be sold in Alabama. A citizen recently sent a bottle to the board to show it was still being sold in the state, prompting the letter to restaurants and stores to stop sales, he said.

Here’s the offending graphic in question:

Multiple thoughts occur, almost simultaneously.

1. Really? This is offensive enough to ban?

2. We are spending taxpayer dollars to make sure that no one sees silhouettes of naked nymphs on wine bottles?

3. Who is the world takes the time to report this to the ABC Board?

4. I see more offensive things than that on the cover of magazines and tabloids at the check-out stand at the grocery store.

5. I hope these people never go into, you know, art museums and stuff.

6. Good job confirming stereotypes about Alabama and the South, ABC Board!

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By Steven L. Taylor

The head of the National Business Association of Colombia (ANDI) noted his opposition to a second re-election for President Álvaro Uribe in a radio interview.

Via El Espectador: A pesar de crisis diplomática, la Andi está en contra de una nueva reelección

“Hay unos líderes listos a tomar las riendas del país y en los cuales quedaría muy bien la nación”, recalcó el presidente de la Andi.


“There are several leaders ready to take the reigns of the country and with whom all would remain well with the nation.”

The piece notes specifically the Villegas was not a supporters of a second reelection.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Critics of Hugo Chávez often assume that all he does is nefarious, when often it is just boisterous. However, a current move to assert control over the Venezuelan press cannot be described as anything other than an authoritarian move.

Via the BBC: Venezuela mulls tough media law

A tough new media law, under which journalists could be imprisoned for publishing “harmful” material, has been proposed in Venezuela.

Journalists could face up to four years in prison for publishing material deemed to harm state stability.

Public prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz, who proposed the changes, said it was necessary to “regulate the freedom of expression” without “harming it”.

According to the report, the proposed law would any reports that the government deemed to be “false” could result in the arrest and imprisonment of up to four years of editors, reporters or artists if the falsity in question threatened “the peace, security and independence of the nation and the institutions of the state”.

As the AP’s headline puts it: Venezuela: ‘Freedom of expression must be limited’.

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Thursday, July 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

I was scanning El Espectador for news on the reelection referendum and I see a story on the front page about Obama’s beer summit: A punta de cerveza Obama zanja crisis racial.

So, I surfed over to El Tiempo and what do I find? Barack Obama se tomó una cerveza en la Casa Blanca con protagonistas de incidente racial.

The BBC? Obama hosts race row beer reunion

Der Speigel International? They had the following headline: “Diplomacy Over Drinks: Obama, VP, Gates and Crowley Meet at the White House” (although the link was to Jake Tapper, so I am not sure if that counts).

No mention, however, at Al Jazeera English.

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By Steven L. Taylor

The following from the LAT dovetails with my previous post and is worth a quick read (it is brief): Arrest of Gates also shines a light on ‘disorderly conduct’ laws.

The money bottom line”

“You might think that in the United States, you have a right to state an opinion, even an offensive opinion. But prosecutors like to say you don’t have a right to mouth off to the police,” said Boston defense lawyer Samuel Goldberg.

“Gates was saying, ‘You are hassling me because I’m black.’ I understand how that’s offensive to a police officer.

“It’s astounding to me to call it criminal.”

The piece also discusses the issue of drawing someone into public so that their behavior can then be said to be “disorderly” as the Moskos quote noted in the previous post.

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By Steven L. Taylor

…I will go ahead and make a specific comment about the event. I have given the situation a lot of thought, and there are two conclusions that I have reached.

The first is that it would have been better had the president not weighed in on the subject the way that he did. It strikes me an inappropriate for a president to render so specific an opinion on a local matter wherein the facts had not yet fully come to light. I think he let the fact that he is friends with Gates get the better of him. Further, it was a politically unwise thing to do, as it made the Gates incident the story for the week.

Second, regardless of anything else that happened that night (i.e., whether race was a motivating factor or whether Gates was rude), the fact that he was arrested makes no sense and smacks of police overstepping their authority out a fit of pique. Because, quite frankly, the entire incident sounds enough like the following to give one pause:(from Peter Moskos’ book, Cop in the Hood, p. 117-118 as quoted the other day by Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber):

Police may not order a person from his or her home. But an officer can request to talk to the man outside his house. At this point the officer might say, “If you don’t take a walk, I’m going to lock you up.’ The man, though within his rights to quietly reenter his house and say goodnight to the police, is more likely to obey the officer’s request or engage the police in a loud and drunken late-night debate. The man may protest loudly that the officer has no reason to lock him up. If a crowd gathers or lights in neighboring buildings turn on, he may be arrested for disorderly conduct.

As Henry notes, perhaps the similarity between the events at Gates’ home and the method described about is mere coincidence, but I have my doubts.

Along those lines I agree with Christopher Hitchens

whatever he said to the cop was in the privacy of his own home. It is monstrous in the extreme that he should in that home be handcuffed, and then taken downtown, after it had been plainly established that he was indeed the householder.

Indeed and this is what bothers me the most about the entire affair. Once it had been established that Gates was in his own house, there was no reason for the police to remain, and if Gates was being belligerent in his own home then the police should have walked away, gotten in the squad car, and left. The only reason to arrest Gates at that point was to show him what for. He was not a criminal and his “disorderly conduct” had was not a risk to the community. That the charges were dropped doesn’t erase the indignity of being arrested in the first place, or give back the time lost as a result of the incident.

As Radley Balko wrote in Reason:

By any account of what happened—Gates’, Crowleys’, or some version in between—Gates should never have been arrested. “Contempt of cop,” as it’s sometimes called, isn’t a crime. Or at least it shouldn’t be. It may be impolite, but mouthing off to police is protected speech, all the more so if your anger and insults are related to a perceived violation of your rights. The “disorderly conduct” charge for which Gates was arrested was intended to prevent riots, not to prevent cops from enduring insults.

Exactly. Balko continues:

The power to forcibly detain a citizen is an extraordinary one. It’s taken far too lightly, and is too often abused. And that abuse certainly occurs against black people, but not only against black people. American cops seem to have increasingly little tolerance for people who talk back, even merely to inquire about their rights.

This should not be so. Yes, I understand that police have difficult and dangerous jobs and that they deserve to be treated with common courtesy and sometimes more than that, but the notion that the public owes them deference to the point of quiet compliance no matter what the circumstances is misplaced (to put it mildly). Along those lines, Balko notes:

This deference to police at the expense of the policed is misplaced. Put a government worker behind a desk and give him the power to regulate, and conservatives will wax at length about public choice theory, bureaucratic pettiness, and the trappings of power. And rightly so. But put a government worker behind a badge, strap a gun to his waist, and give him the power to detain, use force, and kill, and those lessons somehow no longer apply.

I think that Maureen Dowd is correct: this incident was very much a class of egos between “the hard-working white cop vs. the globe-trotting black scholar, the town vs. the gown, the Lowell Police Academy vs. the American Academy of Arts and Letters.” However, in such a situation, the police officer should have backed down and left. Instead, he chose to, it seems to me, abuse his power because he didn’t like a mouthy citizen. While I am not suggesting that we go around mouthing off at the police, or that Gates was right to do (although I remain unclear on exactly what happened that night), I steadfastly believe that given the power entrusted to the police, that they need to remember that they are there to protect and to serve, not to prove how tough they are or insistent that citizens defer them just because they are the police.

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