How the coronavirus response reveals the arbitrary bullshit of so many US policies

Over at Slate, Dan Kois offers an incisive look at the status quo frustrations that have long affected daily American life — and how they're now disappearing, because we're in a crisis. To some people, this will of course conform to their aspirational perspective of the country: that the American system has always been great and good, and the fact that people (and corporations) do good deeds in times of crisis is proof that free market capitalism is perfect and thus good.

But what if we always offered paid sick leave to hourly employees? What if the Internet wasn't throttled by providers eager to make another quick buck? What if we never had to deal with the arbitrary airline limits on liquids, just to reinforce the TSA security theatre performance?

What if kindness and empathy were the rule, and not the exception?

Up until now activists and customers have been meant to believe that the powers that be could never change these policies—it would be too expensive, or too unwieldy, or would simply upset the way things are done. But now, faced suddenly with an environment in which we’re all supposed to at least appear to be focused on the common good, the rule-makers have decided it’s OK to suspend them. It’s a crisis, after all. Everyone’s got to do their part.

[…]

But it’s also worth asking if we are willing to allow governments and corporations to return to business as usual. When everything’s back to normal, will we accept cities cutting off their poorest residents’ water, or evicting the sick, or throwing someone in jail because they can’t afford to pay a fine?

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Beard club members taking a selfie were mistaken for terrorists by Swedish police

Swedish police swarmed on this gentlemanly beard club who were taking a group photo, because the cops received a call from a worried onlooker who believed the group was a a terrorist meet-up. It was not ISIS, ISIL, Al Qaeda, or anything like that. Just a meeting of a beard enthusiast club. Wonder if the ending would have been as mellow if they hadn't all been white guys. Read the rest

TSA says it will sue woman who tried to bring apple butter on plane

In 2003, the TSA fined Mary Hostein of Michigan for trying to take a a jar of apple butter through airport security.

When an agent told Hostein that the spread was a liquid, and therefore subject to the TSA's 3-ounce limit, she went to another line to see if the TSA agent stationed there was just as stupid as the first. He was, and Hostein was issued a $2,000 fine. She doesn't think she should pay it. The TSA says they are going to sue her.

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"Zero Dark Thirty" not good enough to justify torture fantasies

"Zero Dark Thirty," director Kathryn Bigelow's truthy-but-not-a-documentary-but-maybe-it-is-kinda thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, opened in New York and Los Angeles this week. I watched a screener last night. I thought it kind of sucked. There's a lot of buzz about what a great work of art ZDT is. I don't get it. In reviews of ZDT, fawning critics reflexively note that she directed Oscar-winning "Hurt Locker." Guys, she directed Point Break, too.

English cops arrest man for planning water-fight via Blackberry Messenger

Police in Essex, England have charged a 20-year-old man with "encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offence" (under the 2007 Serious Crime Act) because he used Blackberry Messenger to encourage people to attend a public water fight. It's not clear whether the police were working from an informant or whether they have developed the capability to wiretap Blackberry's notionally encrypted messaging network (I'm not clear whether Blackberry has the capacity to decrypt and read messages, or whether the encryption is end-to-end.)

In 2008 there was a spate of mass water fights in British towns and cities that were organised through social networks. Most remained peaceful.This month a water fight attended by thousands of young Iranians attracted the attention of Tehran's morality police and led to a series of arrests.

Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed a national censorship regime to block or filter the Internet to prevent social unrest (this despite the failure of the Chinese government to effectively manage the trick with vastly more resources and expertise and vastly fewer legal constraints). One week before this proposal, Cameron's government rejected the Digital Economy Act's provisions for censoring the Internet to prevent copyright infringement, having concluded that such censorship regimes were easy to evade and would not be effective.

Essex police charge man over water fight planned on BlackBerry Messenger

(Thanks, Richard!)

(Image: COOT FIGHT!!!, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from squeakywheel's photostream) Read the rest