How cops making money from going after petty offenses makes for antagonism between the Ferguson citizens and the police there, from a blog post by Walter Olson at Cato.
He quotes a Newsweek article:
"Despite Ferguson's relative poverty, fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city, a total of 2,635,400," according to the ArchCity Defenders report. And in 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court issued 24,532 arrest warrants and 12,018 cases, "or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household."
Yes, that's three arrest warrants and 1.5 cases per household. In a single year.
The town gets nearly a quarter of its municipal revenue from court fees - the figure in some neighboring towns is even higher - and according to the ArchCity Defenders report quoted in Newsweek, Ferguson's municipal court is among the very worst in the way it adds its own hassle factor to the collection of petty fines
...In recent years scholars and journalists have been developing a literature on how petty fines and low-level law enforcement can snowball into life-changing consequences for persons not by nature inclined toward criminality...
Olson ends with this:
It seems so random and meaningless that a legal offense as minor as walking on the roadway would set in motion what was to prove the fatal confrontation between officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown. But in the wider scheme of how Ferguson came to have its problem with policing, it may be neither random nor meaningless.
The Dumbest People In Schools Continue To Be The Administrators
This high school student was suspended and even arrested for using his imagination on a class assignment. Ray Rivera and Sujata Jain write at WCSC:
SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - A 16-year-old Summerville High School student says he was arrested Tuesday morning and suspended after writing about killing a dinosaur using a gun.
Alex Stone said he and his classmates were told in class to write a few sentences about themselves, and a "status" as if it was a Facebook page.
Stone said in his "status" he wrote a fictional story that involved the words "gun" and "take care of business."
"I killed my neighbor's pet dinosaur, and, then, in the next status I said I bought the gun to take care of the business," Stone said.
Stone says his statements were taken completely out of context.
"I could understand if they made him re-write it because he did have "gun" in it. But a pet dinosaur?" said Alex's mother Karen Gray."I mean first of all, we don't have dinosaurs anymore. Second of all, he's not even old enough to buy a gun."
Investigators say the teacher contacted school officials after seeing the message containing the words "gun" and "take care of business," and police were then notified on Tuesday.
Summerville police officials say Stone's bookbag and locker were searched on Tuesday, and a gun was not found.
I used to believe I could fly as a kid. How lucky for me that nobody checked my locker for a plane.
TSA Scanners: The Usual Government-Think Of "Just Throw Money At It And Hope And Pretend It Works"
The Rapiscan scanners the TSA was using were easily foiled by blogger Jonathan Corbett, and they've been refoiled by a bunch of researchers. Andy Greenberg blogs at WIRED that researches easily slipped weapons past them:
Two years ago, a blogger named Jonathan Corbett published a YouTube video that seemed to show a facepalm-worthy vulnerability in the TSA's Rapiscan full-body X-ray scanners: Because metal detected by the scanners appeared black in the images they created, he claimed that any passenger could hide a weapon on the side of his or her body to render it invisible against the scans' black background. The TSA dismissed Corbett's findings, and even called reporters to caution them not to cover his video.
Now a team of security researchers from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins plans to reveal their own results from months of testing that same model of scanner. And not only did they find that Corbett's weapon-hiding tactic worked; they also found that they could pull off a disturbing list of other possible tricks, such as using teflon tape to conceal weapons against someone's spine, installing malware on the scanner's console that spoofed scans, or simply molding plastic explosives around a person's body to make it nearly indistinguishable from flesh in the machine's images.
The Rapiscan Secure 1000 machines the researchers tested haven't actually been used in airports since last year, when they were replaced by millimeter wave scanners designed to better protect passengers' privacy. But the X-ray scanners are still installed in courthouses, jails, and other government security checkpoints around the country.
More importantly, the glaring vulnerabilities the researchers found in the security system demonstrate how poorly the machines were tested before they were deployed at a cost of more than $1 billion to more than 160 American airports, argues J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor and one of the study's authors. The findings should raise questions regarding the TSA's claims about its current security measures, too.
"These machines were tested in secret, presumably without this kind of adversarial mindset, thinking about how an attacker would adapt to the techniques being used," says Halderman, who along with the other researchers will present the research at the Usenix Security Conference Thursday. "They might stop a naive attacker. But someone who applied just a bit of cleverness to the problem would be able to bypass them. And if they had access to a machine to test their attacks, they could render their ability to detect contraband virtually useless.
And let's be real about the rest of the "security" the TSA provides: Nobody who is of the caliber where they need a job feeling up people's genitals in airports is going to find anything other than their paycheck and some genital warts.
The Real Link Shady
Emininemineminem and other Detroit-raised homies.
Saying A Big Shaming "Fuck You" To The Economy Of Free And Big Companies Trying To Hop On
There's a story in Adweek by David Griner, "Meet the Hero Designer Who Publicly Shamed Showtime for Asking Him to Work for Free -- How Dan Cassaro's tweet became a rallying cry."
Well, I think people are still lining up to work for free, but I do like that he did this.
When Showtime invited Dan Cassaro to join a design "contest" he felt amounted to milking professionals for free work, he let the network--and the world--know how he felt about it.
The offer, made to a number of designers, involved promoting the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana boxing match on Sept. 13. Those who submitted designs for Showtime's use "could be eligible for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas and have your artwork displayed in the MGM Grand during fight week!," the network told Cassaro in an email.
After sending an email response slathered in sarcasm ("I know that boxing matches in Las Vegas are extremely low-budget affairs"), Cassaro then posted the exchange to Twitter.
It starts, "It is with great sadness that I must decline your enticing offer to work for you for free. I know that boxing matches in Las Vegas are extremely low-budget affairs..."
More from Griner:
In the week since, Cassaro's tweet has become a viral rallying cry for creatives who feel besieged by expectations of free work. It has more than 5,000 retweets and 5,600 favorites, and has become one of the topic's most electrifying moments since Mike Monteiro's "Fuck You Pay Me" speech in 2011.
Griner interviews Cassaro at the Adweek link about what he wrote. One bit:
Has Showtime responded directly to you?
They wrote me a short and very polite email. Honestly, it's less about Showtime and more about these hack crowdsourcing campaigns that certain agencies are selling to them. There are lots of folks doing very cool things with user-generated content, but to ask professionals to compete against each other for potential "exposure" is completely different. It's demeaning, and it lowers the value of everyone's work.
Rand Paul vs. The Cop Lovers
People see Paul as a nut but his positions are consistent -- and Sullum makes that point in an op-ed.
Jacob Sullum writes in the New York Post:
Running for the US Senate in 2010, Rand Paul became known as that crazy right-winger who expressed reservations about the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But in the past two years, the Kentucky Republican has emerged as his party's most passionate voice on criminal justice reform, explicitly decrying the system's disproportionate impact on African Americans.
You might assume that Paul, widely seen as a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, is trying to redeem himself with black voters who were alienated by his criticism of the Civil Rights Act.
Yet both positions spring from the same wariness of state power, as illustrated by the senator's recent comments on the over-the-top police response to the unrest that followed the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo.
...He is challenging members of his own party to rethink their reflexive support of law enforcement and tough-on-crime policies.
''There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response," Paul wrote in Time last week.
"There is a systemic problem with today's law enforcement," he added, and "big government has been at the heart of the problem," fostering the militarization of police equipment and tactics.
Yes, yes, and yes.
And essential points from Sullum's piece:
The point is not whether Officer Darren Wilson committed a crime when he shot Michael Brown, a question that has yet to be resolved amid conflicting accounts of the incident.
The point is that black residents of Ferguson had ample reason to suspect the shooting was not justified and to worry that the official investigation would be rigged in Wilson's favor.
Remembering Elmore "Dutch" Leonard
Because my boyfriend was Elmore Leonard's researcher of 33 years, I was privileged to get to spend some time with him. He was fun as hell, and full of mirth and curiosity, and asked the best questions of people -- the stuff you'd really want to know if you'd thought to ask it.
He died last year on today's date, and I miss him a lot, and Gregg sure does. Here's a photo Gregg took of him standing by his desk:
Gregg wrote about him:
Elmore "Dutch" Leonard October 11, 1925 - August 20, 2013
His friends called him Dutch. Perfect strangers called him Dutch. Some folks called him Elmore. I've called him Dutch and Elmore in the same sentence. Whatever you called him, there he was, the coolest guy in the room, any room.
My favorite Elmore book is Swag, a buddy book about two guys who start a career in bank robbery, coming up with the 10 Rules For Success And Happiness In Bank Robbery. They break every one.
Excerpt from a terrific blog post on Elmore by Jim Shelley:
Leonard loves to put different types together (different races, different types of criminal: different types of talker) then sit back to see what happens.
"You know from the time they look at one another that one is gonna end up shooting the other. 'Killshot' is a good example of that. A French Canadian/Ojibway Indian (The Blackbird) comes from Toronto to Detroit to shoot somebody and runs into this guy named Richie Nix, a young bank-robber who wants to rob a bank in every state in America except Alaska - 'Fuck Alaska', he says haha."
Leonard's non-judgmental attitude to such low-lifes has lead some critics to assume to feels some sort of sympathy for them, which he denies, saying that he simply grew tired of stories full of "sneering" bad guys who anyone could tell were criminals. What he doesn't do is analyse why they turned bad ("that's boring").
These days, he has a researcher who sends him newspaper stories and then "does the legwork" once an idea is underway - digging round in libraries, scouting out locations, finding information about specific jails or casinos or courtrooms.
"He gets me an aerial photo, sends me something about the weather, stuff like that. He'll find the best bails-bondsmen or homicide detective for me to talk to in the area I wanna write about. Then I go down and get to know him."
He has people, policemen, in Florida or Detroit, he can call if he wants to check something - like "what guns are popular with hitmen right now."
The 'Hush Puppy', a gun developed for culling seals, is one current favourite.
"It has a suppresser on it," says Leonard calmly. "But also the slide on top doesn't rack back to eject when it's fired, so it's absolutely silent."
He has talked to criminals in the past for research but "not much though".
"I hear from inmates, yeah. They wanna know if I've done time, if I'm black. Or both. They wanna know how I get into the way they think. I try to explain, 'well it's called imagination. I make it up."
The Government Is "The Onion"
Government so often seems like a parody, and then you realize that, no, it's real, and yes, it's costing eleventy gazillion tax dollars for their latest stupidity.
In this case, it's regulations for onion farmers that will cost $200 million -- but have ZERO benefit.
From NCPA, "FDA Onion Regulation Has No Safety Benefits":
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed a regulation to limit the amount of E. coli in irrigation water for foods that a person might consume raw. That might sound good, writes Jared Meyer of Economics21, except that most onion farmers would be considered out of compliance with the rule, despite the fact that onions are at no risk of being contaminated by E. coli from irrigation.
Clinton Shock, a professor at Oregon State University, conducted an assessment of onions and E. coli, determining that E. coli posed no risk to onions, no matter how much E. coli bacteria was found in irrigation water.
...The FDA has also proposed forcing onion farmers to use plastic, instead of wooden, crates, despite research also indicating that wooden crates do not pose an E. coli risk. Replacing 1 million wooden crates with plastic crates, writes Meyer, would cost $200 million. Despite being three times as expensive as a wooden crate, a plastic crate holds only half the weight of a wooden crate. On top of these costs, Meyer notes that transitioning to plastic crates would require remodeling of the buildings where onions are stored, because the crates need more air circulation.
Meyer suggests an "outcome-based" oversight approach, rather than imposing regulation on the front end, by holding farmers accountable for contaminated foods that sicken consumers. Companies understand that producing contaminated food is not a desirable business model. Instead, the FDA is proposing regulations that will only raise the costs of onion production, hurting farmers and consumers.
Original source: Wash Ex's Jared Meyer, "Manhattan Moment: A new layer of regulation would boost cost of onions but not safety."
Like Ypsilanti, but a little closer to Acid/Lude, aka Alice Lloyd, which happens to be a dorm.
Where Are Your Manners?
Animal behaviorist Jennifer Verdolin just reviewed "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck" on Psychology Today. (The book is only about $10 at Amazon and B&N.)
An excerpt from Verdolin's review:
Speaking of pictures, Alkon gives us a glimpse into just how we can expose (and thus deter) the egregiously rude among us with what she calls "webslapping": posting photos or "PooTube" videos in the neighborhood of those leaving dog droppings on others' lawns.
Alkon explains that we need to see rudeness as a form of theft to be able to rise up and speak out to the rude. One example of this is what Alkon explains is the theft of our peace of mind and our attention by the "cellboors" of the world who cram their dull conversations into our brains whether we want to hear them or not.
Other issues Alkon brings up and solves are the theft of our time (and also our peace of mind) by drivers who jam up store parking lot thruways waiting for the closest possible parking spot, the theft of our sleep by apartment residents playing booming music in the wee hours, and the theft of our leg room by storage bin hogs on airplanes. In each situation, Alkon explains what our impulsive reactions to these situations are likely to be and then, turning to behavioral science research, explains what would actually be productive.
All in all, Alkon delivers a bitingly funny and easy-to-relate approach, complete with the occasional funny photo. The ultimate goal of Alkon's book is to make the world a better place for all of us. In her last chapter, titled "Trickle-Down Humanity," she notes, "All it takes to get in the habit of treating people as co-human is making it a habit--daily, or better yet, throughout the day." She explains why this has such a powerful effect on people--especially strangers--we do kind acts for: "We feel a deep need to matter."
Verdolin and I also just did a radio show together on her book and mine:
Dr. Jennifer Verdolin and Amy Alkon on manners and sexual politics in humans and animals.
About Jennifer, who -- I love this -- happens to be a "lemur personality expert":
Dr. Jennifer L. Verdolin is the woman who runs with the lemurs, and she has a few things to say about human relationships as seen through the lens of animal ones. (Sometimes, sadly, the animals seem more mature than we do.) Her new book: Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us About Human Relationships.
The Latest In "Zero Tolerance": Sent Home From High School For "Disruptive" Hair Color
I'd say what's disruptive is the fact that this 15-year-old got sent home from school over her hair color.
From the Daily Mail, Ashley Collman writes:
A 15-year-old girl was sent home on the first day of high school last week because her red hair was too 'distracting' to other students.
However, Muscle Shoals High School sophomore Hayleigh Black says she's been dying her head bright red for the past three years and no one at the school has complained before.
...Hayleigh's mother Pam Boyd said she got a call less than 30 minutes after dropping her daughter off on the first day of school - before Hayleigh even made it to homeroom.
Administrators allegedly sent multiple students home that day for distracting hair colors, which is violates a student handbook rule against 'distracting' or 'disruptive' hair styles.
Boyd says she knows about the rule, but didn't think her daughter was in violation since she's never been sent home for her red hair before.
'I told the principal, I said, '"You were her assistant principal last year. How come you never sent her home last year?" It's the same color as always,' Boyd told ABC.
"Disruptive" hair styles? Sure, maybe if you have live snakes wriggling around on your head.
Seems the latest in administrators proving they have power over the students.
Why Should Teachers Be Coddled When Other Workers Are Not?
It sometimes makes sense to help a worker who is failing at their job improve their technique. It sometimes does not. Wise administrators -- in education or elsewhere -- are able to see potential and encourage it.
David L. Kirp writes in The New York Times on Sunday that "Teaching is not a business," arguing for different standards for judging teachers than we do in judging workers in business. I think this is a mistake and will continue to breed the kind of unfirable crappy teachers that are currently a problem in the system.
Firing teachers, rather than giving them the coaching they need, undermines morale. In some cases it may well discourage undergraduates from pursuing careers in teaching, and with a looming teacher shortage as baby boomers retire, that's a recipe for disaster. Merit pay invites rivalries among teachers, when what's needed is collaboration.
I had Ashley Merryman on my radio show on Sunday on the science of competition. What the science shows is that competition breeds excellence -- and collaboration.
Also, charter schools have been shown to be doing very well in educating kids, contrary to what he writes in the piece -- which is why parents fight tooth and nail to get their kids into them.
At HuffPo, Peter Cunningham, who we'll forgive for being a former government guy -- Former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach, U.S. Department of Education -- fact-checks Kirp's ass, as the saying goes:
Like many of his anti-testing allies, Kirp makes the absurd claim that, "high-stakes tests are treated as the single metric of success." Wrong again. Not a single "reform" policy is based on test scores alone -- not evaluation of teachers or principals nor interventions in low-performing schools. These policies are all based on multiple measures and most reformers I know consider high school graduation and college-going rates a more important measure of success than test scores.
In yet another exaggeration, he says, "Failing schools are closed and so-called turnaround model schools, with new teachers and administrators, take their place." Actually, under the Obama administration's "turnaround" initiative (School Improvement Grant Program), only a tiny handful of the 1300 schools in the program were closed and in about 75 percent of the schools, none of the teachers were forcibly replaced. Interestingly, in the 25 percent of schools where management and some staff were replaced, achievement gains were greatest, suggesting we should be more aggressive about changing staff in underperforming schools, not less.
Here we can take our cues from New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, who, according to a profile in the New York Times, replaced 80 percent of her staff when she took over P.S. 6 in New York, achieving significant gains in student achievement.
Next up, he dismisses charters with a misleading over-simplification: "Charter students do about the same overall as their public school counterparts." Well, not exactly. Some of them do a lot better with similarly disadvantaged populations and the purpose of charters, as union leader Albert Shanker pointed out, was to drive student-focused innovations from which traditional public schools could learn.
Professor Kirp's next line of attack is especially baffling. He writes: "While these reformers talk a lot about markets and competition, the essence of a good education -- bringing together talented teachers, engaged students and a challenging curriculum -- goes undiscussed." Huh? On reform websites all across the internet, the discussion never stops.
Like Uber, but for links.
Should Parents Share Images Of Their Kids Online?
"Give Your Children a Chance at Privacy," writes Amy Webb in The New York Times. And for the record, Webb isn't some confirmed luddite. Her bio with the piece:
Amy Webb is the founder and chief executive of Webbmedia Group, a near-future strategy agency.
No, I'm not against posting photos of kids online because I think somebody will see your child's photo and kidnap him or her -- which is statistically wildly, wildly unlikely. It's about each person's right to privacy -- including those too young to consider that or make decisions about it.
By recording and publishing our children's every dental visit, afternoon recital or poopie diaper, we are removing any possibility of their future privacy.
The problem is what happens next, that moment you decide to upload those photos and videos from your cellphone to Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Once you post and tag your child, she becomes subject to an array of databases over which you have little control.
I'm a parent, and I understand the desire to share happy memories, in real time, with family and friends. I'm also a digital media futurist, which means that I know that the social networks we use aren't closed circuits, and that our digital identities are increasingly - and inextricably - linked to our faces. Facial recognition technology is now engineered into more than you may think: our search engines, our photo editing apps, even our connected TV sets. In the next five years, our faces will start to replace passwords. They'll also be used by law enforcement, government officials and companies to quickly learn who we are both online and in the real world.
This generation, the Millennials, is the must surveilled generation in our history. By recording and publishing our children's every dental visit, afternoon recital or poopie diaper, we are removing any possibility of their future privacy.
...Children whose parents willingly contributed photos and videos online will increasingly be easier to search, parse and identify.
No, it won't kill you to withhold photos of your children from social media. Gregg and I have been together for nearly 12 years and I have posted only a few Gregg shots over the years on this site -- not one of them of his face. Even the very occasional ones I posted of him from Paris (from the back or as a shadow from the back in a hat) were not identified as Gregg.
Idiots Are Running Schools And They're Making Pussies Out Of The Kids
Darren Smith weekend guest-posts at law prof Jonathan Turley's blog that, starting this school year, Dubuque, Iowa public school students in middle and high school will be made to wear heart rate monitors to determine their activity levels (and their grades per those activities levels) in gym class:
One has to wonder if the idle ones are not the faculty of these schools in that they do not seem to believe that watching the students' participation as it is done everywhere else is effective. Or, is it simply easier to just port the heart rate monitors directly into the grading software.
The value of these numbers is also questionable. All things being equal a comparison between a student with great athletic ability is going to have a lower heart rate than sedentary student during exercise or resting; that is in simple terms.
Michael Brown Autopsy Results
Frances Robles and Julie Bosman report for The New York Times that Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to a preliminary private autopsy performed on Sunday:
One of the bullets entered the top of Mr. Brown's skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family's request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.
Mr. Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired into his front.
The bullets did not appear to have been shot from very close range because no gunpowder was present on his body. However, that determination could change if it turns out that there is gunshot residue on Mr. Brown's clothing, to which Dr. Baden did not have access.
"People have been asking: How many times was he shot? This information could have been released on Day 1," Dr. Baden said in an interview after performing the autopsy. "They don't do that, even as feelings built up among the citizenry that there was a cover-up. We are hoping to alleviate that."
Dr. Baden said that while Mr. Brown was shot at least six times, only three bullets were recovered from his body. But he has not yet seen the X-rays showing where the bullets were found, which would clarify the autopsy results. Nor has he had access to witness and police statements.
Dr. Baden provided a diagram of the entry wounds, and noted that the six shots produced numerous wounds. Some of the bullets entered and exited several times, including one that left at least five different wounds.
"This one here looks like his head was bent downward," he said, indicating the wound at the very top of Mr. Brown's head. "It can be because he's giving up, or because he's charging forward at the officer."
He stressed that his information does not assign blame or justify the shooting.
"We need more information; for example, the police should be examining the automobile to see if there is gunshot residue in the police car," he said.
Dr. Baden, 80, is a well-known New York-based medical examiner, who is one of only about 400 board-certified forensic pathologists in the nation. He reviewed the autopsies of both President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and has performed more than 20,000 autopsies himself.
He is best known for having hosted the HBO show "Autopsy," but he rankles when he is called a "celebrity medical examiner," saying that the vast majority of what he does has nothing to do with celebrities.
Dr. Baden said that because of the tremendous attention to the case, he waived his $10,000 fee.
This Daily Mail story has an eyewitness account recorded by a bystander that they say "casts doubt on claims the teen surrendered to Officer Darren Wilson."
The points at the top of the piece:
•Unnoticed audio recorded in video filmed at scene of Saturday's tragic shooting contradicts claims made by friends of the Missouri teen
•The scratchy recording of the conversation between two men seems to suggest that Brown was inside Officer Wilson's car
•Despite being difficult to make out, the conversation suggests that Brown ran towards Wilson before he was shot
•Officer Darren Wilson, 28, was identified as the man who shot Brown on August 9
•Eight nights of rioting and looting have followed since
Police militarization roundup by Walter Olson at Overlawyered. A tweet from @JeffClement:
A few people have pointed it out, but our ROE [Rules of Engagement] regarding who we could point weapons at in Afghanistan was more restrictive than cops in MO.
Why are the cops armed like they're about to storm the beach at Normandy? The Pentagon is giving them weapons.
Banksy for the Internet set.
Advice Goddess Radio, LIVE 7-8 pm PT, 10-11 pm ET: Science Writer Ashley Merryman On Using The Science Of Winning And Losing To Be Our Best
Amy Alkon's Advice Goddess Radio: "Nerd Your Way To A Better Life!" with the best brains in science.
Competition can be seen as ugly and divisive but it's actually an essential element in driving us to do and be our best.
My guest tonight, New York Times best-selling science writer Ashley Merryman, will lay out the science of winning and losing, including how we can figure out the kind of competitor we are (to help ourselves avoid choking), the differences between how men and women compete, and ways to rejigger our thinking so we use competition in ways that serve us instead of defeating us.
Her excellent book, co-authored with Po Bronson, that we'll be discussing tonight, is Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.
Listen to the show at this link or download the podcast afterward at the link:
Don't miss last week's show with an animal behaviorist/lemur personality expert and a science-based modern manners and sexual politics expert. (What could make for a more fun and interesting hour of Advice Goddess Radio?)
Dr. Jennifer L. Verdolin is the woman who runs with the lemurs, and she has a few things to say about human relationships as seen through the lens of animal ones. (Sometimes, sadly, the animals seem more mature than we do.) Her new book: Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us About Human Relationships.
And your usual host -- that's me, Amy Alkon -- happens to be the science-based modern manners and sexual politics expert. My new book is "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck."
On this show, as Jennifer and I interview each other about each of our books, we'll lay out the nitty gritty of human behavior in love, sex, dating, friendships, explaining how you can avoid letting the rude and sociopathic get one over on you. We'll also give you valuable advice on how you can be your most successful self in human interactions -- and any you happen to have with lemurs, spiders, and bears...oh my.
Listen at this link or download the podcast:
Join me and my fascinating guests every Sunday, 7-8 p.m. Pacific Time, 10-11 p.m. Eastern Time, at blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon or subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.
My show's sponsor is now Audible.com. Get a free audiobook download and support this show financially at no cost to you by signing up for a free 30-day trial at audibletrial.com/amya (It's $14.95 after 30 days, but you can cancel before then and have it cost you nothing.)
Please consider ordering my new book, the science-based and funny "Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck," (only $9.48 at Amazon!). Orders of the book (new, not used!) help support my writing and this radio show!
To camouflage oneself in the jungles of suburban America, one should be clothed in Dunkin' Donuts and Taco Bell packaging. A soldier wears green camouflage in Vietnam to blend in. A policeman wears green camouflage in Ferguson to stand out - to let you guys know: We're here, we're severe, get used to it.
No Child Left Unstarved
The government likes to ignore science and go with hearsay on diet, like what Michelle Obama thinks children should eat. Mrs. Obama is qualified to opine on this subject because, um, because she lives in a big house on Pennsylvania Avenue and gets to hang out with movie stars and heads of state.
Check out (on the menu link below) the low-fat milk they are serving growing kids. When I had dietary researcher Dr. Jeff Volek on my radio show, I asked him whether it's pretty much child neglect to feed kids skim or low-fat milk and he said it was.
He emphasizes that it's essential to not eat starchy carbs (which cause the insulin secretion that puts on fat -- and appear to cause myriad other health problems), and to eat not only protein but large quantities of non-carb fats to balance them out.
Kristin Martin posts at WBKO about what they're eating at school these days. Someone posted a picture of one of the lunches:
WARREN COUNTY, Ky. (WBKO) -- More than 700 students eat lunch at Warren East High School each day.
Someone posted a picture of Tuesday's lunch, and it spread on social media, causing concern among parents over the food's quality.
"They said someone's mom posted it and said, 'This is what they're feeding my 6'3" boy,'" explained Khalil Brit, a junior at the high school.
Several parents even contacted WBKO -- saying students leave hungry.
"In today's social media age nothing ceases to amaze me," said Rob Clayton, the superintendent of Warren County Public Schools.
The next day (Wednesday) students said the picture on Facebook is not accurate.
..."They'll let you get as much vegetables as you want," Brit said.
Clayton said Warren County schools abide by federal regulations.
"So what our food service folks do is look at those guidelines and then look at the best way to provide a healthy and tasty meal as well," Clayton said.
He said students choose what goes on their plates, and picky eaters may turn down some menu items -- possibly explaining the photo posted online.
Oh, goody, boiled vegetables. No more, please!
Not surprisingly, in the video, the superintendent reported that nobody did anything but kiss his ass when he asked them about how they liked the food. (That's not exactly how he put it, of course.)
Lunch menus are here.
We've come to appreciate how beneficial our microbes are -- breaking down our food, fighting off infections and nurturing our immune system. It's a lovely, invisible garden we should be tending for our own well-being.
But in the journal Bioessays, a team of scientists has raised a creepier possibility. Perhaps our menagerie of germs is also influencing our behavior in order to advance its own evolutionary success -- giving us cravings for certain foods, for example.
Maybe the microbiome is our puppet master.
"One of the ways we started thinking about this was in a crime-novel perspective," said Carlo C. Maley, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and a co-author of the new paper. "What are the means, motives and opportunity for the microbes to manipulate us? They have all three."
...How parasites control their hosts remains mysterious. But it looks as if they release molecules that directly or indirectly can influence their brains.
...Different species of microbes thrive on different kinds of food. If they can prompt us to eat more of the food they depend on, they can multiply.
Microbial manipulations might fill in some of the puzzling holes in our understandings about food cravings, Dr. Maley said.
...Take chocolate: Many people crave it fiercely, but it isn't an essential nutrient. And chocolate doesn't drive people to increase their dose to get the same high. "You don't need more chocolate at every sitting to enjoy it," Dr. Maley said.
Perhaps, he suggests, the certain kinds of bacteria that thrive on chocolate are coaxing us to feed them.
The abstract of the paper, published in BioEssays:
Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms
Microbes in the gastrointestinal tract are under selective pressure to manipulate host eating behavior to increase their fitness, sometimes at the expense of host fitness. Microbes may do this through two potential strategies: (i) generating cravings for foods that they specialize on or foods that suppress their competitors, or (ii) inducing dysphoria until we eat foods that enhance their fitness. We review several potential mechanisms for microbial control over eating behavior including microbial influence on reward and satiety pathways, production of toxins that alter mood, changes to receptors including taste receptors, and hijacking of the vagus nerve, the neural axis between the gut and the brain. We also review the evidence for alternative explanations for cravings and unhealthy eating behavior. Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, fecal transplants, and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating.
Authors: Joe Alcock, Carlo C. Maley, and C. Athena Aktipis.
A treadmill for links.
Militarize Police And They'll Act Like There's A War On -- In Your Living Room
Absolutely disgusting use of force by cops in Evansville, Indiana, blogged by Radley Balko at the WaPo:
The video ... is footage from a June 2012 SWAT raid in Evansville, Ind., on 68-year-old Louise Milan and her daughter. The raid came after someone had threatened local police officials on an Internet message board. I'd submit that people post threats on the Internet all the time. Certainly they should be investigated. But it's far from clear to me that it merits a SWAT response.
But it's actually worse than that. As it turns out, neither Milan nor her daughter made the threats. They were made by a neighbor who had accessed their open wireless connection. This isn't the first time police have rushed to raid the wrong home under such circumstances. It seems like the sort of thing that, again, might be prevented with a little investigation before you go shattering glass doors and scaring the hell out of 68-year-old women.
Listen to the cops' joking at the end after destroying a woman's home -- because some dimwit didn't have the imagination to guess that anybody can use anybody's unprotected Wifi signal.
I would have been utterly terrified if, all of a sudden, my door was shattered and armed men burst in yelling.
They're lucky the older woman didn't have a heart attack and that something terrible didn't happen to either one of them.
Stop Dressing Police Like Storm Troopers And TSA Workers Like Cops
Charlie Leocha writes about this at Consumer Traveler:
I had an opportunity to testify before the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in November 2012 about TSA and its effect on the traveling public. Back then, I suggested, to chuckles from committee members and the hearing audience, that TSA security inspectors be dressed in pastel colored polo shirts, rather than in the storm trooper outfits in which they parade through airports today.
TU_Ad_350-350After all, TSA inspectors are not law enforcement agents. They are simply baggage inspectors. TSA does not have the ability to arrest anyone. They cannot take anyone into custody. They don't carry weapons.
Real police are stationed nearby to take care of law enforcement issues when they arise.
He quotes "Stop Arming the Police Like a Military," by Dr. Tom Nolan, an associate professor and the chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh:
Have no doubt, police in the United States are militarizing, and in many communities, particularly those of color, the message is being received loud and clear: "You are the enemy." Police officers are increasingly arming themselves with military-grade equipment such as assault rifles, flashbang grenades, and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicles and dressing up in commando gear before using battering rams to burst into the homes of people who have not been charged with a crime. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that the Pentagon has played a huge role in this militarization by transferring its weapons of war to civilian police departments through its so-called 1033 program.
Many communities now look upon police as an occupying army, their streets more reminiscent of Baghdad or Kabul than a city in America. This besieged mentality created by the militarization of police has driven a pernicious wedge into the significant gains made under community- and problem-oriented policing initiatives dating from the late 1980s.
Leocha winds up with this:
Whether it is the police force dressed like storm troopers in Ferguson or your community; or, TSA security assistants masquerading as law enforcement officers in military uniforms; this militarization is not healthy for a democratic society.
Idiot Bureaucrats Seek Idiot Voters
KABC producer Luis Segura is exactly, precisely right:
If you need a cash #prize to #vote then you shouldn't be at the #polls. Stay home, no one cares what you think. #wtf
He was tweeting about this moronic and destructive idea posted in a story at CBS Los Angeles:
"LA Panel Recommends Chance At Cash Prize To Boost Voter Turnout"
CHEVIOT HILLS (CBSLA.com) -- Los Angeles city officials Thursday are considering the idea of a big cash lottery prize as a way to boost voter turnout.
In an effort to get more people to vote, the city ethics commission is recommending that the City Council consider offering a cash lottery prize to voters.
KCAL9's Dave Bryan spoke with a member of the city ethics commission about the panel's recommendation.
"Anyone who votes is eligible to win a certain percentage of money," said Jessica Levinson, ethics commissioner. "I mean, maybe its $25,000; its up to $100,000."
Aaaaand after noticing, later in the story, mention that CIty Council President Herb Wesson is waiting to see which way the wind is blowing on this, I'm back to my recommendation that we ditch the current City Council and elect the roving bear in the San Fernando Valley that scared the texter.
The late Cathy Seipp writes at Volokh in 2004:
Should the lazy idiot constituency be encouraged to influence society even more than it already does?
...In the eternal words of Marge on "The Simpsons," "One person can make a difference, but most of the time they probably shouldn't."
Flying With Children...
...And without multiple passengers wishing for an alien craft to pass by the plane and obliterate your family with a ray gun:
Another fine quote from my new science-based and funny modern manners book, "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck," which I hope you'll buy. Here are links to discounted (under $10) copies Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
There are whole chapters of answers to problems like these, who gets the arm rest, etc., in the book.
Things Are Scary In The Courts, Too
A Baltimore man was charged with a robbery (after his photo was picked out of an array of photos by the victim).
(Researchers Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons point out in The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us how unreliable such eyewitness accounts can be.)
The wee snag in this charge against the man is that he was in jail on another robbery charge when the crime took place.
Could there be a better alibi?
Well, no. Not to the salivating prosecutor and lax judge. (As for the judge...apathy? Comatose?)
The prosecutor refused to drop the charge and insisted on trying the man and the judge, disgustingly, went along with this -- agreeing that a trial was needed.
Law prof Jonathan Turley notes:
The real story is the initial position of the prosecutors and the ruling of the court. Exactly what is the trial supposed to show. Could a jury decide that Threatt could have been both in custody and miles away at the same time?
There is no mention of any investigation, let alone discipline, for the detective or the prosecutor for such negligence. There is also no mention of the name of the judge who agreed that a trial is warranted when the accused was locked away at the time of the crime.
Those of you who believe that the police are there to solve crimes and judges are there to find justly (or even plausibly), well, please check your naivete at the courthouse door. You'll get it back upon leaving.
More from the Baltimore Sun article by Ian Duncan.
Post-Ferguson Police Response To Protests?
Radley Balko asks, "After Ferguson, how should police respond to protests?" in the WaPo, first nutshelling what went on there:
An unarmed black man was killed by a (reportedly) white police officer who had stopped him as he was walking home. The police have since refused to release the officer's name. They've said they have no intention of releasing the autopsy performed on Michael Brown. Police Chief Thomas Jackson refused to even say how many shots were fired at Brown. (He claimed he didn't know, though that would be pretty easy to figure out.) Though the police department has body cameras, it hasn't required its officers to actually wear them. All of this only adds to perception of a Ferguson Police Department that is detached, unaccountable, opaque, and unconcerned with how it is perceived by the community it serves. (Gassing, arresting, and threatening journalists doesn't help with the perception that they feel they're above transparency.) The police then showed up at a peaceful protest with military vehicles and weapons. If a town's citizens are reminded over and over again that the law has no respect for them, we shouldn't be surprised if they begin to lose respect for the law. This isn't an excuse for the looting and rioting. But it does contextualize what we've seen.
This raises a question I've seen on Twitter and Facebook from a number of people -- how should police respond to protest? And how should they respond when protests turn violent?
One of the pioneers of community policing -- a form of policing that stresses interaction over reaction, deescalation over brute force, and that police should have a stake in the communities they serve --is Jerry Wilson, who was appointed police chief for Washington, D.C. in 1969. Wilson was of course appointed during a very turbulent time in America, and he took office just after the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. had ripped the city apart. But Wilson went to great pains to recruit police officers from the city's residents, and to try to make the police force more reflective of the city. He also took a much different approach to protest. I interviewed Wilson for my recent book on police militarization. Here's a passage from the section about Wilson's approach to protest:Wilson believed that an intimidating police presence didn't prevent confrontation, it invited it. That didn't mean he didn't prepare, but he put his riot control teams in buses, then parked the buses close by, but out of sight of protesters. Appearances were important. In general, instead of the usual brute force and reactionary policing that tended to pit cops against citizens--both criminal and otherwise--Wilson believed that cops were more effective when they were welcomed and respected in the neighborhoods they patrolled. "The use of violence," he told Time in 1970, "is not the job of police officers."
It's worth noting that during Wilson's tenure, not only did Washington, D.C. not see the level of rioting and protest violence we saw in other parts of the country, crime actually fell in the city, even as it soared across the rest of the country.
Balko notes something important at the end, about Wilson and other of his ilk that he uses as examples in his piece:
Note the contrast between that and the approaches recommended by Geron, Burbank, Couper, Stamper, and Wilson. They all pit police officers not as enforcers, but as servants. Their primary function isn't to impose order, but to preserve and protect the rights of citizens. In a strictly academic sense, preserving order and protecting rights are the same thing. Operationally, they're radically different approaches to policing.
Oh, and about the "militarization" of police, via BoingBoing, via Storify, the military consensus via some tweets: "if this is militarization, it's the shittiest, least-trained, least professional military in the world, using weapons far beyond what they need, or what the military would use when doing crowd control."
More on that from Walter Olson at Cato who says the response in Ferguson "will be cited for years to come as a what-not-to-do manual for police forces":
Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? (" 'This my property!' he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.") Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that "We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone"?
...The dominant visual aspect of the story, however, has been the sight of overpowering police forces confronting unarmed protesters who are seen waving signs or just their hands.
One answer? Follow the money. Olson writes: "Federal grants drive police militarization."
If you have equipment, you're likely to use it -- whether or not that actually makes sense.