Thursday, December 11, 2014

Standing on the shoulders of giants

In this case, those shoulders are a little smaller, but no less impressive. [Link]
Margaret Hamilton earned her BA in math from Earlham College, but obviously learned about programming on the job—there was no other way. In the photo above, she is standing in front of the printouts of the code for the Apollo guidance system, a lot of which she wrote and which she oversaw.
She was all of 31 when the Apollo 11 lunar module landed on the moon, running her code. (Apollo 11 was able to land at all only because she designed the software robustly enough to handle buffer overflows and cycle-stealing.)
She’s now a tech CEO and won the ‘86 Lovelace Award and the NASA Exceptional Space Act Award.
The engineers weren’t all boys with crewcuts, short sleeve oxford shirts, and narrow black ties. That’s just a fairy tale they told for a while.
Her Wikipedia Entry.
At NASA Hamilton was responsible for helping pioneer the Apollo on-board guidance software required to navigate to/from and land on the moon, and its multiple variations used on numerous missions (including the subsequent Skylab).[1] She worked to gain hands-on experience during a time when computer science and software engineering courses or disciplines were non-existent.
In the process, she produced innovations in the fields of system design and software development, enterprise and process modelling, preventative systems design, development paradigm, formal systems (and software) modelling languages, system-oriented objects for systems modelling and development, automated life-cycle environments, methods for maximizing software reliability and reuse, domain analysis, correctness by built-in language properties, open-architecture techniques for robust systems, full life-cycle automation, quality assurance, seamless integration (including systems to software), distributed processing systems, error detection and recovery techniques, man/machine interface systems, operating systems, end-to-end testing techniques, and life-cycle management techniques.[1]
These in turn led her to develop concepts of asynchronous software, priority scheduling, and man-in-the-loop decision capability, which became the foundation for modern, ultra-reliable software design.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

How many of these can you justify? (And still sleep at night)

At what point do we say enough? [Link]
Links for anyone interested… I have many more pages of links to these stories of cops killing innocent unarmed people, and cops never get in trouble (at worst let go from the job)….
Cops murder Kelly Thomas, a gentle homeless man with schizophrenia, because they didn't want him sitting in that area and threatened to “f--- him up” before killing him:
Cops shoot and kill a 7 year old girl who was asleep during a midnight home raid (while film crews were filming for TV):
Cop kills unarmed man holding baby:
Cop shoots and kills homeless Albuquerque man for no reason:
Cop kills innocent, unarmed father in a stairwell because he claimed the stairwell was dark:
Cop’s record cleared for accidentally shooting boy in head:
Cop shoots boy in chest when he answered the door, mistaking a Wii controller for a gun:
Cops unleash attack dog on innocent college kid already being restrained on ground by numerous officers, no punishment to officers:
Cops shoot and kill elderly man in his own garage at night while checking out the wrong address:
Cops lied to obtain a no-knock warrant and shot and killed a grandma in her own home, then planted drugs to cover up the crime:
Cops shoot and wound man getting cigarettes from his own car at his own house for no reason at all:
Cops kill man by compressing him while arresting him while he was distraught:
Police shoot diabetic man after his wife called for medical help, they claim he picked up a knife:
Cops shoot man holding a toy gun in walmart with no warning and lied in their report.
Covert officers assault girls for buying bottled water, cops thought it was alcohol:
Cops kill man with garden hose using a shotgun and no warning:
Florida man survives 13 shots by officers while sitting in his car:
Cops almost shoot and kill a hospital-worker in her own home with a warrant for an entire apartment complex and screaming at her door:
Cops raiding small friendly poker games with militarized tactics, accidentally killing people-- dying man says “Why did you shoot me, I was reading a book.”:
Cop beats handcuffed teen and is acquitted because video ‘should only be used to protect cops, not prosecute them.’
Cop purposely holds onto door handle so he would have the right to shoot and kill a Sunday school teacher who was driving away from the cops.
Cop shoots man in back several times, then stands over him and shoots again to kill him—questionable whether the man actually was armed or not—conflicting evidence given.
Cop attacks random people in crowd and punches NY judge, judge shocked that cop not charged:
Edit: Whoa never got gold before, thank you very much, unfortunate that it is for such a sad post. Also, just to clarify, I don't seek these stories out, but they began to disturb me and so I just began pasting them in a document when I read them on the news. There are many more pages of links that also involve police corruption and abuse of various sorts. I only posted some links here because these mistakes and abuses have gotten out of control and few people seem to recognize it. Thank you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Legislating through obscurity

Rube Goldberg laws doesn't cut it anymore. [Link]
the American system increasingly favors byzantine laws that do things in complicated, opaque ways rather than better, simpler, more transparent ways. We prefer 1,000 tax credits to a few direct subsidies, mandates rather than government provision, hidden costs rather than direct ones. Teles calls this "kludgeocracy," and not in an affectionate way.
A good argument can be made that Obama has gone further down this road than most, in part because he favored big technocratic bills that aimed to do a lot of everything that experts and the party base wanted done, rather than simpler and more targeted initiatives. But you need only look at the bizarre "donut hole" in Medicare Part D coverage created under President George W. Bush to dispel the notion that this is somehow unique to Obama's administration.
As I was discussing last week with one of my colleagues here at the University of Chicago's Institute for Politics, the fetish for opacity and complexity may have come back to bite Obama this election. Giant bills with a lot of moving parts were harder for critics to target with concerted attacks.  On the other hand, they were also really hard to sell on the campaign trail.  
To see what I mean, try this exercise: Name the five most important things about the stimulus. If my informal survey is any guide, then you probably stalled out after the $800 billion pricetag, and the federal highway money.  In fact, the stimulus did a lot of things, from providing funds to install electronic medical records in physician offices, to cutting payroll taxes. That was the problem: It did too many things for anyone to remember. What they remembered was the price tag, and the signs on the highway that heralded another hour stuck in traffic.
So too, with Obamacare.  They wanted a massive overhaul of the whole system, but they couldn't do that cleanly, so they jammed a bunch of complicated mechanisms into one sort-of-working bill.  You may like the goal of Obamacare, or you may not. Either way, you probably wouldn't choose this particular method of implementation, which is simultaneously less comprehensive, more expensive and more annoying than many other methods they could have chosen. Even its supporters don't really think of it as a second-best solution; more like eighth-best. This made it very difficult to communicate to people what Obamacare was going to do, and in fact many of the things they ended up communicating instead, like "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" turned out to be false. This probably didn't help Democrats in the midterm elections.
It also made the administration's job harder in the legal cases. Most notably, in the first round of lawsuits that ultimately reached the Supreme Court, the solicitor general attempted to argue that the individual mandate was like a tax, for legal purposes, but also not a tax. This got him some laughs from the bench, and some questions about why the people who wrote the law had repeatedly insisted that it wasn't a tax.  
This is a good lesson for Republicans, should they get back into the White House, and for Democrats, if they should earn another round: Keep It Simple, Stupid. The temptations of Rube Goldberg Policy should be shunned. It is bad policy, for one thing: vulnerable to breakdown, hard to fix and full of unintended consequences. But it isn't even good politics in the long run. You end up with a landmark bill that has to be pitched to voters in graphic novel format. Presumably, the next round of health-care policy making will have its own YA series, with the movies to star Jennifer Lawrence and Justin Bieber.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A losing fight

President fighting for relevance after mid term elections. [Link]
The Republican capture of the Senate culminated a season of discontent for the president — and may yet open a period of even deeper frustration. Sagging in the polls and unwelcome in most competitive races across the country, Mr. Obama bristled as the last campaign that would influence his presidency played out while he sat largely on the sidelines. He privately complained that it should not be a judgment on him. “He doesn’t feel repudiated,” the aide said Tuesday night.
Of course not. That would require a level of self awareness that it is pretty obvious he doesn't have.

Remember what he said before the election:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fun Quiz

A quiz on military style police tactics. [Link]
Today's Quiz:
You should find this one more difficult than the previous quiz.
Police did not carry out an aggressive, military-style raid to accomplish which of the following purposes?
    (a) To find the source of a parody Twitter feed
    (b) To check a bar for underage drinkers
    (c) To recover a large number of overdue library books
    (d) To enforce copyright law against a DJ
    (e) To check whether barbers had valid barbering licenses
    (f) To apprehend Tibetan monks who overstayed their visas
    (g) They did that in all these cases
I think it is worth considering this one for a moment, so I'm going to put the answer and further discussion after the jump below.

If you find it slightly terrifying that they did this (and by "this," I mean used a SWAT team or a gang of officers using similar tactics) for any of those purposes, congratulations, you are sane. The answer is (c): to my knowledge, a SWAT team has never been used to recover overdue library books, but I think that example is no less ridiculous than the others. And inevery one of those other cases, police aggressively stormed the premises with guns drawn, wearing body armor and even masks, though they had no reason to think there would be any danger.
The Tibetan monks were here on a peace mission, for Christ's sake.
Well, not for Christ's sake, but you know what I mean.

The importance of text

Always bet on text. [Link]
At every step of communication technology, textual encoding comes first, everything else after. Because it's vastly cheaper on a symbol-by-symbol basis. You have a working optical telegraph network running in 1790 in France. You the better part of a century of electrical telegraphy, trans-oceanic cables and everything, before anyone bothers with trying to carry voice. You have decades of teleprinter and text-only computer networking, mail and news, chat and publishing, editing and diagnostics, before bandwidth gets cheap enough for images, voice and video. You have pagers, SMS, WAP, USSD and blackberries before iPhones. You haveTeletext and BBSs, netnews and gopher before the web. And today many of the best, and certainly the most efficient parts of the web remain text-centric. I can download all of wikipedia and carry it around on the average smartphone.

Monday, October 13, 2014

But at least there's a process

The TSA is NOT listening to your complaint. [Link]
Today I begin a series of posts that will use documents obtained from the TSA following a FOIA request. I asked for, and got, complaints sent to the agency in the last year by active duty military personnel or combat-wounded military veterans. To the TSA’s credit, I filed my request in August, and – very much to my surprise – got 216 pages of documents in early October. While the agency has fiercely resisted transparency, they got this one right. And the documents I received are pretty revealing.
First thing the documents tell us: when you complain to the TSA, you aren’t complaining to the TSA. Whether you call or use their website to write to them, your complaint is processed and answered by an employee of K4 Solutions, the TSA’s call center contractor. This form does not send information directly to the TSA. If you use it, you’re writing to a corporation. To be sure, the forms often indicate that the complaints have been sent on to TSA officials at the appropriate airport, but K4 Solutions is a layer of insulation. It is not TSA headquarters, and your complaints don’t go directly to TSA headquarters. The contractor controls the messages, and decides where and if to route them.
Second, news stories about TSA outrages always contain the obligatory statement from the TSA press office, and it’s always a meaningless jumble of lines read from a script: the TSA takes passenger safety very seriously and has multiple layers of security. The responses to TSA complaints are exactly the same. The K4 employee who reads or hears your complaint has a scripted set of available responses, and cuts and pastes a set of paragraphs to answer your call or letter. The amount of thought that goes into that cutting and pasting is, let’s put this charitably, negligible.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

When pigs fly

Or Hell freezes over. [Link]
It’s always arrogance that gets the powerful, in the end. Arrogance and pride.  Because here’s the situation – and I write this with an enormous grin of schadenfreude on my face from thinking about how progressive activists will react to what I’m about to write – it’s clear by now that George W Bush knows how to beat a terrorist insurgency, and Barack Obama does not.  Barack Obama’s previous Iraq policy was a miserable failure.  Barack Obama’s foreign policy staff was incompetent. The President himself demonstrated that, when it came to terrorists and figuring out why they hate us, Obama was fundamentally intellectually incurious and far too prone to episodes ofepistemic closure.  Do I need to keep using all those progressive antiwar sneers as handy flails, or has everybody gotten the point by now?
Excellent.  So, now that we’ve established Barack Obama’s past litany of failure, the question becomes: how can the man fix his mistakes? – Because it’d be swell if that happened, of course.  Well… Barack Obama could start out by going to his predecessor – that would be George W Bush – and asking for help. This would, of course, humiliate Obama’s supporters (and Obama himself); which is unfortunate.  For them.  But that’s not really anybody else’s problem.  The bottom line is that Barack Obama should maybe not regularly chat with GWB; but Obama should certainly have Bush (and probably Bill Clinton*) over on a semi-regular basis.  These guys have been where Obama is; they know the score.
And, hey: it’s even good politics.  After all: George W Bush polls rather better than Barack Obama does right now.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Say, Why Don’t Republicans Want President Obama To Be Killed?

Projection. They thought that way about Bush, and can't comprehend why Republicans don't reciprocate. [Link]
WELL, AFTER ALL THOSE YEARS OF BUSH ASSASSINATION-FANTASIES BY THE LEFT, YOU CAN SEE WHY THEY’D BE PUZZLED: New York Times: Say, Why Don’t Republicans Want President Obama To Be Killed? “Of course we want the president to be safe. Those who are surprised by this perhaps need to spend some more time with their ideological opponents, or — and this will be harder, I grant — spend a little more time examining what it is about their ideology that led them to conflate political opposition and violence in the first instance.”
Death of a President

Windows 10

Windows 9 disappeared after being operational for only 24 hours.

Which is the real story and which is the satire piece?

Microsoft skips 'too good' Windows 9, jumps to Windows 10
Details about Windows 9 are sketchy, but according to internal Microsoft communications obtained by InfoWorld, the OS was fast, intuitive, bug-free, and equally adept with both the Windows Desktop and Metro-style interfaces. "And who would've thought to put the Start button there?!? Genius!" marveled one engineer, though it's unclear where "there" is exactly.
Another engineer likened the OS to the Nintendo Entertainment System's Power Glove accessory, saying, "It's that good a melding of man and machine."
One email chain riffed extensively on how Windows 9 is like the sitcom "Seinfeld" in that it's "about nothing," but also because "there was that one episode where Kramer got the deli meat slicer, and he said he had cut slices of meat so thin, he couldn't even see them. Well, Windows 9 is so transparent, you won't even know it's there. Hell, I'm not even sure I used it!"
"Hey guys, if all this is true, then we can't release this [OS] to the public," one HR manager who had been CC'd on the emails declared. "We have to keep this internal and advertise it as a perk. You know: 'Come work for Microsoft, and you get to use Windows 9!'"
Surprise! Microsoft jumps to Windows 10
Microsoft just said no to 9. The follow-on to the current Windows 8 operating system will be known as Windows 10.
Originally codenamed Windows Threshold, the new operating system essentially does away with the dependency on the tiled "Metro" user interface that Microsoft had attempted to implement across its entire device line, from desktop PCs to Surface tablets and Windows Phone devices. In its place is a combination of the so-called live tiles, present in areas like the new Start Menu, and a more classic Windows experience that aims to please both touch and keyboard-and-mouse users.
Windows 10 is such a substantial leap, according to Microsoft's executive VP of operating systems, Terry Myerson, that the company decided it would be best to skip over Windows 9, the widely expected name for the next version.
"Windows 10 will run on the broadest amount of devices. A tailored experience for each device," Myerson said at a press event here Tuesday. "There will be one way to write a universal application, one store, one way for apps to be discovered purchased and updated across all of these devices."

Friday, September 26, 2014

FBI Director upset they can't break into your phone as easily

Perhaps if you (the government), hadn't spent all your credibility to snoop on people who are not suspected of a crime. Also, trying to play the terror card and the child card doesn't fool anyone anymore. [Link]
Apple said last week that it would no longer be technically feasible to unlock encrypted iPhones and iPads for law enforcement because the devices would no longer allow user passcodes to be bypassed. The move comes as tech companies struggle to manage public concerns in the aftermath of last year's leak of classified National Security Agency documents about government access to private user data.
On a privacy site for its new mobile operating system, iOS 8, Apple outlined new features and tips for users on how to manage their privacy. It also included an explanation of how Apple will respond to government information requests in the future.
"Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data," the company said. "So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."
Comey said that while he understood the need for privacy, government access to mobile devices may be needed in extreme circumstances, such as in the event of a terror attack.
"I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone's closet or their smart phone," he said. "The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened -- even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order -- to me does not make any sense."
Comey said FBI officials have had conversations with both Apple and Google about the marketing of their devices.
"Google is marketing their Android the same way: Buy our phone and law-enforcement, even with legal process, can never get access to it," he said.
"There will come a day -- well it comes every day in this business -- when it will matter a great, great deal to the lives of people of all kinds that we be able to with judicial authorization gain access to a kidnapper's or a terrorist or a criminal's device. I just want to make sure we have a good conversation in this country before that day comes. I'd hate to have people look at me and say, 'Well how come you can't save this kid,' 'how come you can't do this thing.'"
The director further expressed concern that public outcry over privacy in the wake of the NSA scandal may lead to unforeseen consequences.
"I get that the post-Snowden world has started an understandable pendulum swing," he said. "What I'm worried about is, this is an indication to us as a country and as a people that, boy, maybe that pendulum swung too far."
No, no it hasn't.
They really do not like this. Chicago Chief of Detectives claims the iPhone will now be the choice for pedophiles. [Link]

Now, the chief of detectives for Chicago's police department has issued an alarming statement on the effects of Apple's heightened encryption.
Speaking to the Washington Post, John J. Escalante said, "Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile. The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Jail video conferencing

Let's squeeze the poor families of those incarcerated for every last penny. [Link]
Dallas County, TX, considers banning live visits for jail inmates and switching to for-pay videoconferencing service. However, other communities have already installed the system by jail-telecom-for-profit experts, Securus.

In fact, Dallas County, TX, appears to have originally accepted the company's bid. However, as of this week,inmate advocates have managed to have the original contract nulled and the bid for services re-opened.

Nonetheless, among other places (including Michigan, where Ingham County jail administer Sam Davis proudly gushes over their jail's new visitation-for-pay system, ""Imagine, a first born is brought home and mom gets to turn on the webcam. Dad gets to see their newborn")Securus is already installed in Florida. (Good news, library fans! If you don't have a computer, Securus has arranged that you can use your commmunity library's computers.)

Besides striving to punish families of people who are incarcerated (most of whom have not yet been tried), apparently Securus also dabbles in patent trolling and disconnecting calls coming from competing (less-expensive) VOIP-based services.

Besides pay-for-pay videoconferencing with friends and family, Louisiana (via TX-based US Telehealth) now provides "telemedicine" to inmates.

Of course, another advantage—as infamous AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who began having such equipment procured and installed last year) points out—all calls and informations such as IP addresses are tracked and recorded allowing investigators to "mine intelligence data like never before."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it

Well this is going to go just great. [Link]

Attention, whoever in the White House monitors this site. Google ‘Lyndon Johnson micromanagement Vietnam.’

Google that RIGHT NOW.
“The U.S. military campaign against Islamic militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Obama to exert a high degree of personal control over the campaign, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential sign-off for any strike in Syrian territory,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
To expand on something I said on Twitter earlier today: considering just how much the Left loves to describe every military action in terms of Vietnam, you would think that more of them would actually have a basic familiarity with the war, its origins, and how we fought it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

We Don’t Have A Strategy Yet

Too busy working on his golf game. [Link]
Board members and investors will want to know what you are doing to try and get the waters calm.  If you don’t take definitive action, the startup will die or the CEO gets fired.
Same goes for the President of the United States. When the world is crashing around you, that’s not an answer.   The time to answer the question with, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” was a year ago.
  • What is the US strategy for Russia?  They are invading Ukraine and putting pressure on Poland, and Germany.
  • What is the US strategy for Syria?  A civil war has raged for over a year.
  • What is the US strategy for Israel?  Hamas has built tunnels and is launching rockets daily.
  • What is the US strategy for ISIS?  A new terror organization that is well funded and organized is beheading all kinds of people in a Game of Thrones march through the desert to set up a radical muslim caliphate.  By the way, 16% of France agrees with ISIS.
  • What is the US strategy for North Korea?  Always a tense pressure point on the 43rd parallel.
  • What is the US strategy for China?  Last week, a Chinese fighter jet in a show of strength Top Gun barrel rolled a US patrol plane.  They aren’t flexing their muscles for show.  China has some serious underlying economic hurt.
  • There is a massive banking crisis brewing in Europe, what’s the US strategy?
Supposedly, with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, we had an A team working on these problems.  She has pretty much screwed the pooch and I would hate to see how badly she could do as President.  At the same time, where has Obama been?  It’s not just that he is golfing, but goes deeper than that.  It’s not political party differences either, because in a time of crisis, elections shouldn’t matter.  CEO’s and Presidents make decisions for the good of the country; not minutiae or teacher’s pets.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Russia not even trying to hide invasion of Ukraine.

I'm sure it is just a misunderstanding. [Link]
The Associated Press (AP) suggests that "the bold offensive along a new southeastern front" indicates that "separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea, which also would give them control over the entire Azov Sea." Logistically, it would be near impossible for fighters in the separatist-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk to have reached this front on their own, the mayor of the newly-embattled city of Novoazovsk told AP. The fighters would have to cross a large amount of Ukrainian-controlled territory, whereas Russia could easily send troops from just across the border.
Although Russian regular soldiers were captured in Ukraine on Monday and admitted that they are, in fact, Russian soldiers, the Kremlin continues to deny any involvement, and claims it can't really help the situation. Says President Vladimir Putin:
We, Russia, cannot talk about any cease-fire conditions whatsoever, or possible agreements between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk. We can only facilitate the creation of an environment of trust in the course of this possible and much needed, in my opinion, negotiation process.
Putin does admit that sometimes soldiers accidentally cross the border.
I'm the response from President Obama will be decisive and strong.

No, really.

Yeah, I don't believe it either.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Well that makes Rick Perry look better

He was going to replace drunken Democrat DA with sober Democrat. [Link]
This should shock nobody.
Gov. Rick Perry personally called a well-known Austin Democrat to discuss her interest in replacing Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg days before the public learned Perry was threatening to withhold state funding from Lehmberg’s office unless she resigned.
Austin defense attorney Mindy Montford, who previously ran as a Democratic candidate for state district judge and district attorney in Travis County, confirmed her conversation with Perry — which took place in early June 2013, to the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV on Sunday.
It should, however, embarrass the excrement of every progressive hyper-partisan who has been using this non-scandal as bitter masturbation fodder.  You see, in the realworld smart politicians know that if you’re trying to remove somebody for, say, being a drunken belligerent trying to use her authority to get out of trouble, and it’s somebody who is not in your party, then you can avoid a lot of agitation by simply replacing said drunken would-be bully with somebody else from the same party.  This is such an obvious point – and something that both Democrats and Republicans do all the time – that you almost have to wonder why the Activist Left apparently didn’t even think that Rick Perry would act accordingly.

Police often provoke protest violence

This is my surprised face. [Link]
The violence that turns a small-town protest into a fiery national spectacle like the one that has played out this month in Missouri is often unwittingly provoked by police, according to researchers at UC Berkeley.
The research team, which studied clashes between police and activists during the Occupy movement three years ago, found that protests tend to turn violent when officers use aggressive tactics, such as approaching demonstrators in riot gear or lining up in military-like formations.
Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., are a good example, the study's lead researcher said. For nearly two weeks, activists angered by a white police officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager have ratcheted up their protests when confronted by heavily armed police forces.
"Everything starts to turn bad when you see a police officer come out of an SUV and he's carrying an AR-15," said Nick Adams, a sociologist and fellow at UC Berkeley'sInstitute for Data Science who leads the Deciding Force Project. "It just upsets the crowd."
Adams said many law enforcement agencies aren't aware that they set the tone of a protest and end up inflaming it.

192 cities studied

His team reached its conclusions by analyzing Occupy protests in 192 U.S. cities in 2011. The researchers sifted through thousands of news reports about the protests, which were sparked by concerns over economic inequality, and isolated patterns of violence and their apparent causes.
Some of the most contentious Occupy protests happened in Oakland, where the fallout is still being scrutinized.
In one October 2011 protest over the clearing of an Occupy encampment outside Oakland City Hall, officers fired tear gas and projectiles into crowds, injuring several activists. One of them, Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, was critically hurt and settled a lawsuit against the city in March for $4.5 million.
Oakland police later tried to address concerns about heavy-handed tactics, seeking to head off unruly protests with early crowd-control measures such as issuing tickets for jaywalking.
But finding the appropriate balance between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough hasn't been easy.


I do not think that means what you think it means. [Link]
At last, we know the reason why comedy writers don’t make fun of President Obama much.
It turns out the man is completely unmockable.
We learn this from Jim Downey, the longtime “Saturday Night Live” specialist in political japery. “If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, ‘Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10,’” the writer says in the expanded new edition of the “SNL” oral history book, “Live from New York.”
“It’s like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled,” Downey says. “There’s not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature. [Al] Gore had these ‘handles,’ so did Bush, and Sarah Palin, and even Hillary had them. But with Obama, it was the phenomenon — less about him and more about the effect he had on other people and the way he changed their behavior. So that’s the way I wrote him.”
Oh really?
The charter Choom Ganger, confessed eater of dog and snorter of coke. The doofus who thinks the language spoken by Austrians is “Austrian,” that you pronounce the p in “corpsman” and that ATMs are the reason why job growth is sluggish. The egomaniac who gave the queen of England an iPod loaded with his own speeches and said he was better at everything than the people who work for him. The empty suit with so little real-world knowledge that he referred to his brief stint working for an ordinary profit-seeking company as time “behind enemy lines.” The phony who tells everyone he’s from Chicago, though he didn’t live there until his 20s, and lets you know that he’s talking to people he believes to be stupid by droppin’ his g’s. The world-saving Kal-El from a distant solar system who told us he’d heal the planet and cause the oceans to stop rising. The guy who shared a middle name with one of the most hated dictators on earth.
Nope, nothing there to mock. No way to get a grip on this polished, oiled obsidian.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


This will all be over quicker if you just submit. [Link]

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Police Militarization over a less violent public

Violence has been going down, so why do we need militarized police? [Link]
Over the past generation or so, we’ve militarized our police to protect a public that has broadly become less and less violent.
It all starts back in 1990, a time when the country found itself with less demand for military equipment abroad and new use for it back home. Within our shores, the drug wars were escalating; gang violence was surging; and sociologists were warning of sociopathic child “superpredators.” At the same time, the military was starting to shrink as the Cold War ended. Put two and two together and you get the 1033 program, which transferred assets from the military to the police. (Here’s a capsule history.) 
A bigger flush of money and equipment followed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Times reports, when the federal government equipped local police outfits to be the front line of the Global War on Terror:
Department of Homeland Security grant money paid for the $360,000 Bearcat armored truck on patrol in Ferguson, said Nick Gragnani, executive director of St. Louis Area Regional Response System, which administers such grants for the St. Louis area. 
Since 2003, the group has spent $9.4 million on equipment for the police in St. Louis County. That includes $3.6 million for two helicopters, plus the Bearcat, other vehicles and night vision equipment. Most of the body armor worn by officers responding to the Ferguson protests was paid for with federal money, Mr. Gragnani said.
“The focus is terrorism, but it’s allowed to do a crossover for other types of responses,” he said. “It’s for any type of civil unrest. We went by the grant guidance. There was no restriction put on that by the federal government.”
But here’s the thing. Since 1990, according to Department of Justice statistics, the United States has become a vastly safer place, at least in terms of violent crime. (Drug crime follows somewhat different trends, though drug use has been dropping over the same time period.) The number of murders dropped to 14,827 in 2012 from 23,438 in 1990. The number of rapes has plummeted to 84,376 from 102,555. The number of robberies, motor-vehicle thefts, assaults — all have seen similarly large declines. And the number of incidents has dropped even though the country has grown.