Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tabs About Ferguson and More

Sooooo many tabs. Not surprising, given what's been happening in recent weeks. Here's a wrap-up.

First there are several from Paul Thomas's Radical Scholarship blog:

Confessions of an Outlier in the Aftershock of Ferguson. Thomas deconstructs Malcolm Gladwell's concept of the outlier through his own experience with putting in the "10,000 hours of practice" without success in basketball, while he gained success at academic success without trying nearly so much. "As the late and complicated Kurt Vonnegut would explain, we as Americans could do with a huge dose of humility (especially from the outliers), a renewed commitment to kindness (especially to children and those who are not finding life equitable or easy), and a serious reconsideration of whether or not we wish to be a democracy (a people who embrace the ethics of community) or a consumer-based oligarchy."

Denying White Privilege Has an Evidence Problem.

Diagramming Sentences and the Art of Misguided Nostalgia. "If we seek to teach young people to write, and thus to think, in complex and original ways, we remain confronted by the need to see that writing is learned by writing.... Naming correctly the parts of the bicycle, taking apart and putting together a bicycle—these have not made me a better cyclist. For students as writers, blueprints, still, are not houses, diagramming is not composing."

And then others on topics relevant in the recent weeks of unrest in Ferguson:

What my bike has taught me about white privilege by a blogger who started using a bicycle as a main transportation method five years ago. "I can imagine that for people of color, life in a white-majority context feels a bit like being on a bicycle in midst of traffic. They have the right to be on the road, and laws on the books to make it equitable, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are on a bike in a world made for cars. Remembering this when I’m on my bike in traffic has helped me to understand what privilege talk is really about."

From vox.com, Did the St. Louis police have to shoot Kajieme Powell? On the too-often-deadly encounters between police and the mentally ill. "This man needed help. He had a knife, but he also, clearly, had an illness. After watching the video, Vox's Amanda Taub said, 'I keep thinking about the times when I have called 911 because I have encountered a mentally ill person in public who seems unsafe. I don't know how I would live with it if this had been the result.' There has to have been a way that police could have protected Kajieme Powell rather than killed him."

Also from vox.com, Matt Yglesias wonders Have the cops gotten too good at catching criminals? He's talking about nonviolent crime. It makes me think of the problem with edge cases.

The myth of the black-on-black crime epidemic from Demos. 

The fire this time by Bob Herbert, also writing for Demos.
I will never forget traveling to Avon Park, Florida, a few years ago to cover the case of an African-American girl in kindergarten who was arrested by the police, handcuffed and taken to the police station in the back seat of a patrol car because she had thrown a tantrum in the classroom. When I interviewed the police chief, I expressed amazement that this had happened to a six-year-old. His reply came in an instant: “Do you think this is the first six-year-old we’ve arrested?”

Handcuffing the child had proved difficult. “You can’t handcuff them on their wrists because their wrists are too small,” the chief explained, “so you have to handcuff them up by their biceps.”
If you need some examples of how privilege operates in protecting white people from the criminal justice system, you can't do much better than these two articles. First, there's I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System from the Atlantic. In this piece, a white former prosecutor did his damnedest to get arrested for graffiti in Brooklyn and Manhattan while wearing a business suit. He goes to absurdist lengths before anyone even pays attention to what he's doing. I laughed out loud, painfully, while reading it. He finally ends up paying more than the usual price for his "crime," but only because he embarrassed the system. Then there's Different Rules Apply by Matt Zoller Seitz, editor of Roger Ebert's website. Seitz tells the story of an earlier point in his life when he drunkenly picked a fight with a Latino guy. Guess who ends up getting blamed for it? Guess who walks away with a pat on the back from the cops?

On a somewhat different tack, Charles Marohn of Strong Towns describes what he calls the Suburban Ponzi Scheme and how Ferguson, Missouri, is a good example of it. As I pointed out earlier, Ferguson is not made for human scale. But Marohn goes beyond my simple thoughts to point out that when suburban buildings are built all at the same time, their maintenance comes due all at the same time as well, which is a financially nonviable reality that leads to situations like Ferguson's, where their budget is disproportionately derived from fining the town's mostly black residents:
Decline isn’t a result of poverty. The converse is actually true: poverty is the result of decline. Once you understand that decline is baked into the process of building auto-oriented places, the poverty aspect of it becomes fairly predictable. The streets, the sidewalks, the houses and even the appliances were all built in the same time window. They all are going to go bad at roughly the same time. Because there is a delay of decades between when things are new and when they need to be fixed, maintaining stuff is not part of the initial financial equation. Cities are unprepared to fix things -- the tax base just isn't there -- and so, to keep it all going, they try to get more easy growth while they take on lots of debt....

When places like this hit the decline phase – which they inevitably do – they become absolutely despotic. This type of development doesn’t create wealth; it destroys it. The illusion of prosperity that it had early on fades away and we are left with places that can’t be maintained and a concentration of impoverished people poorly suited to live with such isolation.
Marohn's article covers so many angles on the problem in Ferguson and other suburbs that it's making my head feel a bit explosive. He touches on the problems of franchise businesses as the only kind of opportunity available, the widths of sidewalks, and the general problem of needing a car to get anywhere. Whew. Highly recommended reading.

And then there are articles on other topics not as closely aligned to the recent news, but often making up part of the underlying causes.

Despite all the problems in our world today, I take heart from the Pinkerian premise (well supported in The Better Angels of Our Nature) that – on average – people are lucky to be alive today rather than any other time in history. I still think that's true, but a recent article by Susan Perry on MinnPost gave me pause: Why this is the worst time ever to have a severe mental illness (in the U.S.). Summarizing the research of psychiatrist Allen Frances, Perry describes the failure of both pharmaceutical treatment and closing of institutions in the past 40 years. "If you had a severe mental illness requiring hospital care in 1900, you’d be better looked after than you are today. Despite a flurry of media hand-waving about new technologies in psychiatry, the average severely ill patient probably does less well now, despite the new drugs, than the average several ill patient a century ago...."

Gentrification, the Contract with the Community and 50-50-20-15 by Umar Lee. "Instead of unemployed liberal-arts grads from places like the suburbs of Kansas City getting hired at new businesses in places like Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, you will see those from the Marcy Projects getting hired." Lee's proposal is that business that gentrify a neighborhood should hire 50% from the neighborhood, 50% people of color or under the poverty line, and 20% ex-offenders and pay a $15 minimum wage.

Increased child poverty rates disproportionately impact the nation's youngest learners. Reporting from the annual Kids Count study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Where slavery thrived, inequality rules today, from the Boston Globe.
[Researchers] observed that regions where sugar could be profitably grown invariably gave rise to societies defined by extreme inequality. The reason, they speculated, had to do with the fact that large-scale sugar plantations made intensive use of slave labor, generating institutions that privileged a small elite of white planters over a majority of black slaves. These institutions, their later work suggested, could encompass everything from property rights regimes to tax structures to public schools....
...how exactly did slavery have this effect on contemporary inequality? Soares and his colleagues speculated that limited political rights for slaves and their descendants played a role, as did negligible access to credit and capital. Racial discrimination, too, would have played a part, though this would not explain why whites born in former slaveholding regions might find themselves subject to higher levels of inequality. Nunn, though, advanced an additional explanation, pointing to an idea advanced by Stanford economic historian Gavin Wright in 2006.

In lands turned over to slavery, Wright had observed, there was little incentive to provide so-called public goods—schools, libraries, and other institutions—that attract migrants. In the North, by contrast, the need to attract and retain free labor in areas resulted in a far greater investment in public goods—institutions that would, over the succeeding decades, offer far greater opportunities for social mobility and lay the foundation for sustained, superior economic growth.
Why I let my children walk to the corner store — and why other parents should, too. From the Washington Post. "Yes. There are scary people out there. It is always a risk to let your children out of your sight. But truthfully, the most dangerous thing you do every day is drive anywhere with a child. About 300 kids are hurt daily in car accidents; an average of three are killed that way every day." More from the post:
Since 1993, the number of children 14 and under who were murdered is down by 36 percent. For children 14 to 17, murders are down 60 percent. Only one-hundreth of 1 percent of missing children are abducted by strangers or even slight acquaintances, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children....

According to Justice Department statistics analyzed by the Free Range Kids organization, 3 percent of children murdered from 1976 to 2005 were killed by strangers.

Statistically, our children’s biggest enemies are the people we know.... But instead of focusing on ways to address child abuse, poverty and the mental illness that is at the root of most of the horrible things that happen to kids, we’ve chosen to criminalize parents in a massive, cultural shift that damages the normal, natural development of our children.
The problem with using personality tests for hiring from the Harvard Business Review. In short: They're ineffective at predicting job performance. The only thing worse than a personality test was... previous job experience!



Not far afield, there's this HR advice from New York magazine's the Science of Us: Kill the resume and cover letter. The article raised a question that had never occurred to me: Why do resumes include the job applicant's name and address? What use is that information to HR departments, other than to create an opportunity for discrimination based on perceived race, gender, and economic situation?

_____

Note: I have read fairly widely on the various schools of thought about whether to use accents in the word "resume" (the noun, often rendered as résumé or resumé). While it is a bit confusing to spell it identically to the verb "resume," that is true of many other homonyms. I think the practice of dropping accents from French-derived words is a good standard to stick to.

Monday, September 1, 2014

It Wasn't Reasonable to Beat Dethorne Graham

If Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is ever charged for killing Michael Brown, it's questionable whether Wilson will be found guilty of anything. It's hard for me to understand why, but it has a lot to do with a 1989 Supreme Court decision called Graham v. Connors.

This was in the days of the Rehnquist Court when SCOTUS was still somewhat moderate. Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are the only two justices still serving from that time, and they were pretty new on the court then. Other members included Sandra Day O'Connor and William Rehnquist, appointed by Ronald Reagan, but there were also Thurgood Marshall, William Brennan, Byron White, Harry Blackmun, and John Paul Stevens -- several of those names are thought of as the most civil rights- and civil liberties-oriented members to ever serve.

Yet they came to a unanimous decision in Graham. I admit I don't really understand the finding and the legal questions they seem to be answering. I wish someone with a law background would explain it to me.

It seems to be about whether the 4th Amendment should be applied in the circumstances of an arrest, rather than the 14th. And that the decision is actually more in favor of citizens, because the 4th Amendment standard is based on a reasonableness of the cop's actions, while the 14th would require a more stringent standard where you'd have to prove the cops use of force was malicious.

Unspoken in the legal write-ups is the fact that the case took place in Charlotte, N.C., and that Dethorne Graham is black. No one mentions whether the cops were white or not.

But check out this description of the case and think about how low the meaning of "reasonable" can get (quoting the Wikipedia):
Petitioner Graham, a diabetic, asked his friend, Berry, to drive him to a convenience store to purchase orange juice to counteract the onset of an insulin reaction. Upon entering the store and seeing the number of people ahead of him, Graham hurried out and asked Berry to drive him to a friend's house instead.

Respondent Connor, a city police officer, became suspicious after seeing Graham hastily enter and leave the store, followed Berry's car, and made an investigative stop, ordering the pair to wait while he found out what had happened in the store. Respondent backup police officers arrived on the scene, handcuffed Graham, and ignored or rebuffed attempts to explain and treat Graham's condition.
During the encounter, Graham sustained multiple injuries. He was released when Connor learned that nothing had happened in the store. Graham filed suit in the District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against respondents, alleging that they had used excessive force in making the stop, in violation of "rights secured to him under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983."

The District Court granted respondents' motion for a directed verdict at the close of Graham's evidence, applying a four-factor test for determining when excessive use of force [was used and] whether the force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain and restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm....

Held: All claims that law enforcement officials have used excessive force—deadly or not—in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other "seizure" of a free citizen are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's "objective reasonableness" standard, rather than under a substantive due process standard.

(a) The notion that all excessive force claims ... are governed by a single generic standard is rejected. Instead, courts must identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed by the challenged application of force, and then judge the claim by reference to the specific constitutional standard which governs that right.

(b) Claims that law enforcement officials have used excessive force in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other "seizure" of a free citizen are most properly characterized as invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right "to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable seizures," and must be judged by reference to the Fourth Amendment's "reasonableness" standard.

(c) The Fourth Amendment "reasonableness" inquiry is whether the officers' actions are "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.
That's what I mean about not understanding all of this, yet getting the fact that the court was sticking to the most citizen-friendly standard available (reasonableness). SCOTUS turned Graham's case back to the appellate court, where he lost again, based on the reasonableness standard.

Here's how all of that gets operationalized by the police, as described on the site East West K9 (for police who work with police dogs):
The Supreme Court ruled in Graham that excessive force must be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's objective reasonableness test. The application of this test requires an analysis of the totality of the circumstances, including these factors to determine if the seizure is reasonable:
  1. The severity of the crime at issue;
  2. Whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of law enforcement officers or others;
  3. And whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight
The reasonableness of an officer’s use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.
So in the case of Mike Brown, the severity of the crime was jaywalking. But Wilson will say that Brown "went for his gun."

Brown was running away from Wilson but had turned back toward him. The distance between them is something that has not yet been established, but it's clear that Brown was unarmed.

The third point, it seems to me, makes it clear that shooting someone who is unarmed and not in proximity of your gun is unreasonable. If an unarmed person is "attempting to evade arrest by flight," that may be reasonable cause for hitting him with a taser or club, or tackling him to the ground, but shooting with deadly force cannot be reasonable by any standard, in my opinion.

But it also wasn't reasonable to find Dethorne Graham was treated within the bounds of proper procedure, in my opinion. Here's a guy who's having a serious medical problem that's disregarded by the cops, and who instead place him in handcuffs.

According to an excerpt on Lexis Nexis:
While [Officer] Connor radioed for backup, Graham, his condition worsening, got out of the car and ran around it twice. Graham then stopped, sat down on the curb, and passed out. He awoke to find himself handcuffed and lying face down on the ground.

In the meantime, four other Charlotte police officers arrived at the scene. One officer remarked, "I've seen a lot of people with sugar diabetes that never acted like this. Ain't nothing wrong with the motherfucker but drunk. Lock the son-of-a-bitch up."
 When Graham woke up, according to the Washington Post,
Backup officers [had] arrived, told Graham to shut up and rammed his head into a patrol car while throwing him in the back of it.

Graham sustained minor injuries and argued that the officer’s use of force was excessive.
More detail is provided in this write up from the sociology department at the University of Minnesota:
[After Graham passed out] several officers then lifted Graham up from behind, carried him over to Berry’s car, and placed him face down on its hood. Regaining consciousness, Graham asked the officers to check in his wallet for a diabetic decal that he carried. In response, one of the officers told him to “shut up” and shoved his face down against the hood of the car. Four officers grabbed Graham and threw him headfirst into the police car. A friend of Graham’s brought some orange juice to the car, but the officers refused to let him have it. Finally, Officer Connor received a report that Graham had done nothing wrong at the convenience store, and the officers drove him home and released him.
I wonder what would have happened if a 60-year-old white woman had been the one who behaved as Graham did -- going into and out of a convenience store quickly. She wouldn't have been stopped in the first place, of course, but let's say she was. When she passed out on the curb, they would have called an ambulance, right? Not beaten her head against the car door. Not assumed she was drunk when there was no smell of alcohol.

Race (and gender and size of the suspect) all play into what the police and courts call "the totality of the circumstances." Which gives the police license to do just about anything they feel like in the heat of the moment.

______

Note: It was tough finding proof that Dethorne Graham, who died in the year 2000, was black. I finally turned up this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (of all media outlets, ironically), reprinted in the Elyria Chronicle Telegram (Ohio). In addition to affirming that Graham was, indeed, black, the editorial says:
Graham, who is black, says police handcuffed and beat him, then dumped him in his yard. He was never charged with any crime but he did suffer a broken foot, cuts and bruises on his wrists and face, and a shoulder injury and possible hearing damage.

In his suit, Graham claimed the police used excessive force and violated his Fourth Amendment rights. But a judge ruled he could recover damages only if police had acted "maliciously and sadistically."….

Most other appeals courts already would require Graham to prove only that unreasonable force was used, not that police were malicious or sadistic. The lesser standard is objective and easier to prove than probing someone's motives to find malice and sadism. Clearly, the injuries inflicted on Graham when he had committed no crime were excessive. He should have to prove no more than that.
"Clearly, the injuries inflicted on Graham when he had committed no crime were excessive."

That's the standard we need to remember. And yet Dethorne Graham never got justice from our court system. I hope Mike Brown and his family are treated better.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ideologies of American Religious Groups

Here's a fascinating XY quadrant graph from the Pew Trust's Religious Landscape survey, written up by the Religious News Service:

(Click the image to see it larger, or view it on the Religious News Service site.)

The circles are scaled to reflect the number of members of any particular group, so for instance, Catholics are the largest group (the black circle in the center). "Nothing in particular" is the second largest group.

The colors are used to categorize somewhat similar groups:

  • Red: Mainline Protestant
  • Yellow: No religion
  • Dark blue: Evangelical Protestant
  • Light blue: Other Christian
  • Green: Historically black Protestant
  • Magenta: Other (non-Christian) religion
The axes are:
  • From left to right, the groups' view on whether we should have a larger government and more services vs. smaller government and fewer services
  • From top to bottom, the groups' view on whether government should be involved in protecting morality
The quadrants are, therefore:
  • Big government in both services and morality enforcement (top left)
  • Big government in services but not morality (bottom left)
  • Big government in morality enforcement but few services (top right)
  • Small government in both morality enforcement and services (bottom right)
Some of the placements are not surprises:
  • Evangelicals are mostly in the top right quadrant, wanting to tell people what to do but not spend any money on it
  • Nonreligious groups are clustered at the "don't tell us what to do" end, but vary a bit on how much to spend on services
  • Historically black churches are grouped at the top left (these church members make up a good portion of the Faith and Family Left that Pew has identified in earlier studies)
  • Buddhists, Unitarians, and nonconservative/Orthodox Jews are in the bottom left quadrant
Findings that did surprise me to some extent:
  • Muslims are in the upper left corner with the black Christian churches. I'm not surprised about the morality part of that finding, but would not have been able to predict the services attitude. Hindus are located not far from them in the same quadrant.
  • I would have put the mainline Protestant churches less far to the right on the services continuum. Maybe it's because I mostly know progressive Christians, but my experience is that the UCC and Episcopalians particularly are pretty progressive. I don't know who the American Baptists are, but they don't fit in with the other mainline Protestants very well.
  • The Quakers (Friends) are approaching the "no morality enforcement" end, which didn't surprise me, but I wasn't sure where they would end up on the services question. But it's not a shock that they ended up at the center line for that one, I suppose.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 2014: a Hard Month of Tweets

Wow, looking at my July Twitter post, it seems so long ago. Is it still August today? I guess so. What a long month of heavy topics.

First a few about Ebola:

Scientists: Don't freak out about Ebola.
Everyone: *Panic!*
Scientists: Freak out about climate change.
Everyone: LOL! Pass me some coal.
By Maram Kaff

Ebola has killed fewer than 5,000 people...ever. Measles (which some folks refuse to vaccinate kids for) killed 122,000 in 2012 alone.
By Matt Shipman

If you're worried about Ebola, which 100‰ of scientists say don't, but not climate change, which 97% say do, reflect on your choices.
By pourmecoffee
And then a torrent related to the killing of Mike Brown, protests in Ferguson, and militarized policing. First, on the killing of an unarmed black young man:
The media has distorted the story to be blurry, but reality was simple: an unarmed teen was shot 6 times by an angry cop for talking back.
By Marco Arment

Hands up, don't shoot:


By Chicago Ced.

White privilege is being able to shoot a man 10 times in the back or run him down with your car and get a paid month off as punishment.
By Chris Espinosa

You know who else is “no angel”? ALL OF US. EVERYONE. THIS IS, BY DEFINITION, THE EXISTENTIAL NATURE OF CORPOREAL EXISTENCE.
By John Moltz

"No angel" — a term used exclusively to refer to rape victims and people of color killed by the police
By mollycrabapple

You don't think you have privilege? Did your parents tell you as a kid if you needed help look for a cop? Ok then.
By jamiekilstein

“Do what the officer tells you to and it will end safely for both of you.” How many deaths does it take for this lie to stop?
By Erin Kissane

"The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. The Nation. July 11, 1966.
By Paul Thomas

Lifehack: Be white.
By Janine Brito
On the militarization of the police and infringement of citizens' right to assemble:
Everyone who was livid when a bigot got suspended from a duck show, this is what it actually looks like when the 1st amendment is violated.
By Justin Megahan

That moment when "the right to peacefully assemble" meets "failure to disperse":


By Antonio French

A cop in SWAT gear braying YOUR RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE IS NOT BEING VIOLATED from atop a tank is ludicrous in a way Terry Gilliam couldn't touch.
By BBolander

The Ferguson police have this gear because we were afraid of "domestic terror." Well, it's here. Wearing the outfit we bought it.
By Ben Moser

Why do Ferguson police look like US troops in Iraq? Handy graphic from the New York Times tells the story best:


By Lydia Polgreen

Ferguson is what happens when you let fear get the best of you. Afraid of the "bad guys" so we militarize police, now we see the impacts.
By TS

Welcome to America. Your local police have tanks, full body armor and can order the media to "leave." Not alarming at all.
By Steve Huff

Did law enforcement in Ferguson receive its escalation training from Internet comments section trolls?
By hodgman
How long was this planned for that they had a nice ready made sign? RT @eldifusor: This says it all:


By Ivan Calderon

The technical term for a country in which citizens are not allowed to question police would be "police state."
By Tom Tomorrow
On looting in Ferguson:
"Will Black America speak out against the looting?" — Umm, will white America speak out against their systematic oppression?
By Tristan Sloughter

"Why do black people always protest by destroying goods?" — White people who literally named a political party after throwing tea in the ocean.
By Ben Collins

When Black people are accused of being #SuspectedLooters, you should point out that BLACK PEOPLE ARE IN AMERICA BECAUSE THEY WERE LOOTED.
By Hari Kondabolu

#SuspectedLuter:


By darth smallberries
In the midst of all the coverage and Twitter outrage, Ta-Nehisi Coates tweeted a series of thoughts about how sad it is that black boys get only tough love, given the world they grow up in. Here are just a couple from that series and one response:
Lotta "tough love" for young black boys — like the streets ain't tough enough. Rarely acknowledge the tenderness in these kids.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Good reasons for this of course, but it shows how even the tools of resistance can hurt. Even our armor serves to dehumanize us.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Growing up as a black male means a lot of voices lecturing you from their perspective with little concern for yours.
By Chris Mergerson
During the many Ferguson-related tweets, I noticed someone named Alan Mills being retweeted by others I follow. He's a lawyer at Chicago's Uptown People's Law Center, representing abused prisoners, tenants, and the disabled. He recently tweeted about losing a case where he represents an 83-year-old prisoner who is applying for parole:
Is there a reason to keep an 83 year old model prisoner w/failing health locked up? His crime was horrible, but does that matter?
By Alan Mills

I think that is the fundamental question we need to answer in this country if we are ever going to reform our criminal justice system.
By Alan Mills

But if it is about protecting society, and reinforcing morals, then there is no justification for the extremely long sentences we hand out.
By Alan Mills

If it is all about vengeance, then why should we ever let anyone out?
By Alan Mills
And now for the usual array of silliness and seriousness on other topics.
norver frogget:


By K. Thor Jensen

My dream app is Introvert Helper: show me who at this party I share uncommon experiences with & I should talk to, with name/picture.
By Matt Haughey

Non-driverless cars kill 1,240,000 humans per year.
By Erik Brynjolfsson

It's time for the high-pressure hand-drier experiment in bathrooms to end. Especially the Dyson Airblade, which is crap.
By Kevin Watterson

Oh weird! Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. LeGuin were in the same high school at the same time. They didn't know each other.
By Tiffany Reisz

More whites think they've touched a ghost than believe there's a lot of discrimination against black people. Really:


By DanteAtkins

I'm a little unclear on how you have to be 16 to drive, 18 to vote, 21 to buy alcohol, but can legally handle an Uzi at the age of 9.
By Neera Tanden

White guy in public with a real gun? Open-carry patriot. Black guy in public with a toy gun? A dead man.
By Jamelle Bouie (referring to the case of John Crawford, shot in an Ohio Walmart)


The Internet is not making humanity worse. It's exposing how very ugly it has been all along.
By Benjamin Thompson

"Avoid stress" is the most useless advice. Typical of American society to ask you to bear responsibility for what the world does to you.
By a.a. siddiqi

I'm going to open a boutique called Noun.
By Chris Steller

When I ask for a water [in a restaurant] I guess I have to start saying "no straw." #somuchwaste
By Jason

Employees must applaud the planets:


By Tyler Schmall

"No matter how many 4th graders pass the test it won't raise the minimum wage." — Richard Rothstein, research associate, Economic Policy Institute
By Susan Ohanian

I've deleted enough tweets to know that I should never get a tattoo.
By Abby Heugel

If you regularly criticize the poor and stand up for the rich, don't bother claiming to be a follower of Jesus. He did the opposite.
By almightygod

I like train stations, I really do. Everyone's on an equal footing, a bit disoriented and with somewhere they'd rather be.
By Lauren G

Here's a picture of a baby wombat:


By Ali Arikan

"In fact, fully three-quarters (75%) of whites have entirely white social networks without any minority presence." (Quoting The Atlantic.)
By Anil Dash

"Skills" is the new content. It's no longer cool to dispense content, but we must still feel valuable, so let's dispense "skills."
By Sisyphys38

Overheard: "Cute store." "Yeah ... Comic Sans though."


By Chris Steller

"Poverty does not produce unhappiness, it produces degradation, that is why it is dangerous to society." — George Bernard Shaw
By #OCCUPYWALLSTREET

My idea for a sustainable, practical funding model for an ad-free web: a $500 fine for misuse of an apostrophe.
By Pinboard

Fox and Friends is trashing Obama for being on vacation. All three are guest hosts because the main ones are on vacation.
By Evan McMurry

This is a city [Houston]. This is what happens when your city is overdependent on cars. All parking, no city:


By jennifer keesmaat

Burning Man is next week, and if the U.S. really insists the War on Drugs isn't an institutional race war, it will end in thousands of arrests.
By Timothy Faust

As a person who never gets past the opening clause of a sentence in which I identify the kind of person that I am,
By Chris Steller

Estimating web design projects in a nutshell:


By Chris ODonnell

When someone starts their "I came from nothing" story 2+ generations ago, it always turns out they came from money.
By Matt Bruenig

I nominate you for the "give quietly to charity every month via direct debit from your bank account" challenge.
By Chris Greene

States are not just the Lavatories of Democracy, but also the Restrooms of the Republic and the Toilets of Traditional Values.
By Jeet Heer

The tech world would be such a better place if American venture capitalists had had access to decent sci fi when they were 12.
By Pinboard

What do you get when you cross a spineless politician, a hanging judge, and a community organizer?


By Chris Steller

If the same percentage of people who wrote about being a mom wrote about racism, sexism, and power, we'd have a much better world.
By Molly Priesmeyer

Standardized testing never closed any gaps except the one between private interests and public monies.
By John Kuhn

Reasons why patients were admitted to a U.S. lunatic asylum in 1800s. Includes "menstrual deranged," "novel reading":


By Benjamin Law
Surprise, 99% of America! You're just as working-class as the people you think you're stopping from stealing your imaginary future fortunes!
By Aaminah Khan

"Justice requires those who suffer the least to do the most": 


By Bill Boyle

A good thing about being published is you have something to look at when you're pretty sure it's impossible to ever finish anything.
By Rainbow Rowell

That male adolescence lingers into 20s, 30s and 40s is never more vivid than behavior on Twitter. As a male, I must admit it is sad.
By Paul Thomas


These two tweets from Senator Dick Durbin are priceless:


By Jimmy Princeton

Journalists don't need editors? That's true only if their chosen form is the long rant.
By Mark Harris

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." — Plato
By Philosophy Tweets

I charted law enforcement fatality data since 1791. Police haven't been this safe since 1875:


By Chuck DeVore

Just realized how incredibly morbid the game "Hangman" is.
By Josh Barro
Cheap oil has peaked. Now for the rise of cheap labor.
By Free Public Transit

"The idea that intelligence is linked to English pronunciation is a legacy from colonial thinking." — Delalorm Semabia
By Selin Makaveli

Public relations people earn 54% more than journalists and outnumber them nearly 5 to 1.
By Conrad Hackett

What the hell was the question?


By Mark Holland

We tell young teens not to get a tattoo because their interests will change and they will regret it. But we expect young kids to pick a career?
By Sisyphys38

I love the change in music when an attack-ad switches over to praise for the candidate who paid for it.
By Chris Steller

Reporter: "They think your haircuts are un-American."
John: "Well, it was very observant of them because we aren't American, actually."
By The Beatles Lyrics

Everybody who ever designed fabric seat covers for public transport was out of their gourd:


By Jez Burrows

You can learn a lot about someone by how much fish they eat. For example, if they eat 90 pounds per day they're a North American Grizzly.
By Gavin Speiller

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away soundeth suspiciously like shit just happening.
By adrian briggs

Why do people treat programs that will only give great opportunities to already-privileged students as cure-alls?
By Nikhil Goyal

"Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book." – Marcus Tullius Cicero
By Alain de Botton

Get over it, she's NEVER coming back, you wouldn't move out to sea, your choice. It's over. Move on:


By sasha

"Diversity in fantasy is hard because white writers write from personal experience." Yes. Their extensive experience with dragons and elves.
By Saladin Ahmed

Funny how people think there is a correct way to live a day. Usually based on how they were raised... Same as running a classroom.
By Sisyphys38

ALWAYS keep this is in mind. The “good old days” were only good for those inside the club. Applies to a whole lot of things.
By Benjamin Thompson

Easier to say "shortage of skilled workers” than “We aren’t paying our workers enough.”
By Motoko Rich

I’m not usually fussy about this sort of thing but if you call me a “consumer” of books I’m going to assume the worst of your argument.
By Erin Kissane

30 years of cell phones:


By Historical Pictures

Next time someone prattles on to you about what's "natural," remember, there's nothing more natural than dysentery.
By Josh Barro

Kids at less prestigious colleges are "apt to be more interesting, curious, open, and far less entitled and competitive." (Quoting the New Republic.)
By Alfie Kohn

A brave World Bank study shows that 87% of World Bank reports are never cited & 31% are not even downloaded once.
By Hans Rosling

I find it amusing that schools try to tackle "peer pressure" while coercing kids to do what they say for a formative decade of their lives.
By Louis Anslow

Harassing women online to prove that we don't get harassed on the street is a dumb tactic.
By Nathalie Baptiste

Man, I do love to see people with the luxury of time and resources telling people without those things to calm down and not be so emotional.
By KillerMartinis

Tiny frogs snoozing in my day lilies. I feel like the Ann Geddes of amphibians!


By Julie Blaha

Low-wage Walmart workers could get over $5/hour more from what the company spent on buying its own stock in 2012.
By Demos_Org

Just-in-time scheduling for workers is a classic failure of markets to provide stability and material security.
By Matt Bruenig

Pete Saunders argues that when neighborhoods become black they are erased from white people's mental map of the city.
By Aaron M. Renn

Protip for writers: any time you see the word "interesting," delete it.
By William Lindeke

As others have said, I'm glad to be surprised by some measure of justice, and hate that I have to be surprised by some measure of justice.
By jay smooth

What if they made a service like Uber or Lyft but it was a really big car with lots of seats that just drove around on a set route/schedule.
By Left and Right

Sometimes I think I should repost daily: The U.S. murder rate has never been lower. Teen pregnancy has never been lower. Don't buy the lies.
By Anil Dash

All of my tabs just closed and at first I wanted to cry and now all i can think is "I'M FREE."
By jamiekilstein

So simple your mother could use it:


By Karen McGrane

The thing I'm most excited for this school year is to see what new words or phrases we use to describe something old.
By Sisyphys38

It's fine for journos to be moralists. Orwell was. But it helps if your morality is more sophisticated than a 2nd grader's.
By corey robin

Uber and Airbnb, sold as ways to be entrepreneurs. Really, we drive gypsy cabs, take boarders. It just feels futuristic.
By Quentin Hardy

How long can you have a headache before it becomes a legal person?
By Erin Kissane

If Jesus came back he would harass women on twitter for their sexual choices. I'm sure of it.
By jamiekilstein

Free money is good for the character of rich people's kids but bad for people that are hungry or homeless. Makes sense.
By David Kaib

Elsevier profit 36% and Wiley 42%. How? By paying authors nothing and charging taxpayers to read work they funded:


By Alex Holcombe

Big Data is good and all. But I'd rather look for some Big Wisdom.
By Jonathan Foley

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bad Cops in Saint Paul

In case you haven't heard, a clear case of police brutality and general stupidity took place in Saint Paul back in January. It just became known because the victim, Chris Lollie, only got his phone back from police a month ago, and finally posted the video he took to YouTube a few days ago. Given the story in the Atlantic, linked above, it may be going national.

Lollie was sitting in one of these chairs at 9:45 a.m. on a weekday, waiting to pick his kids up from a child care center down the hall. This is one of our famous skyways -- second floor passageways that connect buildings in the downtown areas of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.


Photo by Twitter user Alex Cecchini

Skyways are quasi-public spaces -- I'm not sure who owns them, but they are patrolled by city police, so that tells us something.

Apparently, a security guard from the adjacent bank told Lollie -- a black guy in his late-20s with short dreadlocks -- that he was in an employee-only space and asked him to leave. Lollie ignored him. Or maybe he said hell no... that part is not on tape, and it doesn't matter, since there are no signs saying it's a restricted area and everything about its design and comfy chairs indicates it is meant for the public.

So the guard calls police and Lollie begins to record the encounter on video. It's a disturbing video, but not in a "someone gets killed" way -- just in a "it's hard to watch someone being treated in such a dehumanizing manner" kind of way.


It took Saint Paul police almost six months to drop the absurd charges they filed against Lollie, and they're still insisting they behaved in an acceptable manner. Quoting the Atlantic article,

"At one point, the officers believed he might either run or fight with them. It was then that officers took steps to take him into custody," a spokesperson said. "He pulled away and resisted officers' lawful orders. They then used the force necessary to safely take him into custody." Said the designated public employee union representative: "These three cops in the skyway, you couldn't get nicer individuals. This guy was acting like a jerk." 
Yeah, I'd want to run away from you, too, and I would have the right to do that since there was no indication a crime had been committed. "He pulled away" and "he resisted...lawful orders" -- that's utter crap.

Apologize now and pay the man some money. You are wrong. I am ashamed that you police my city.

___

Update: Back in 2009, the First National Bank building (owner of the seating area in question) posted this Facebook status, which clearly welcomes the public to have a seat in those cushy chairs. The comments in response are all about the Chris Lollie incident. Most are supportive of Lollie, and one person tells a story from his own life where he was assumed to be a criminal as he returned to his own home. There are also a couple of overt racists in the thread, though they are smacked down by other commenters.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Minnesota State Fair 2014

It's late August in Minnesota, and that means it's time for the State Fair. Some food, some art, some crops, and a bit of random fairness.

First the food. The best thing I had was the blue cheese corn fritters with chimichurri sauce. Accompanied by a blue basil lemonade:


Just a little sweet and pretty spicy (from the sauce), with a crunchy outside. Mmmmm. They can be found at the new Blue Barn restaurant in the West End Marketplace, which has replaced Heritage Square.


The Blue Barn is the best-looking new building, too, though the new Fair history museum was also very nice.

When I get to the top of the slide, then I turn and I go for a ride:


This year we made our way to the south-end streets for the first time in a few years. We were rewarded by getting the chance to see one of the butter sculptures in process:


The two women (princess subject at left and butter sculptor at right) are inside a rotating glass case that's kept at refrigerator-temperatures.

We also stopped at the Miracle of Birth barn. I think it may be the first time I've been there since they rebuilt it into the huge palace it has become. The last time I visited its predecessor, it was basically a petting zoo for children.


Now it's a small arena for watching cows and pigs give birth. This calf, two days old, was born at the Fair. We saw another calf being born. They come out front-feet-first, then head, followed by the rest of the body and back legs.

It made me think about how novel it was for me, even though I grew up near farms, and how normal it is for all of the young 4Hers working in the building. Different worlds.

One of my favorite parts of the Fair is the Eco Experience building. The state's Pollution Control Agency does a tremendous job of visualizing data for the public. Two standouts from this year:


30 seconds-worth of paper that goes into landfills (instead of recycling) in the state every day.


The amount of clean water used in Minnesota by a family of four -- 320 gallons.

For the past few years, we've been perusing the student art in the Education building, critiquing which kindergarten art could possibly be the work of a child (with no help of a parent) and things like that. This year, I found myself enamored of the group projects, especially this colorful town made by a third-grade class at Hilltop Elementary School:


Close-ups of a couple show a rainbow roof:


And a multi-level house with stairs up the side and an open-air attic:


I also loved this set of mugs by North Saint Paul senior Julia Tanzer:


Then it was on to the crop art. The Doctor Who Tardis in dyed seeds was probably the best for detail:


It looked like cross-stitching. And check out the frame, which is also made from seeds.


Perennial winner Laura Melnick teamed up with Steve Sack (I assume the same Steve Sack who's the editorial cartoonist for the Star Tribune) to create this incredibly detailed Carmen Mooranda cow.


I'm always a sucker for a Scream homage, and I particularly liked the use of orange in this one, along with the use of the Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls, and downtown Minneapolis in the background.


My favorite 3D entry by Maria Holmen.


Jill Moe made a nice parcheesi board from undyed seeds.


Among the youth entries, this tiger by Enrique Anthony had the most graphic punch and personality.

Education "reform" got some attention in the crop art and nearby scarecrow displays:


Maria Asp visualized the nature of testing compared to learning.


Leif Jurgensen created a nightmarish scarecrow holding a Scantron sheet and wearing a name tag that reads:

1. Standardized tests…

A. DAMAGE students
B. PUNISH teachers
C. DESTROY schools
D. PROFIT corporations
E. All of the above

CROWS aren't the only ones who should be SCARED.

Maria Asp (who also created the crop art above) made a student into a scarecrow.

Then it was on to the regular art show. I felt a bit overwhelmed by this point, and while I appreciated  many of the paintings, none of them spoke to me enough to be recorded for my personal posterity. Instead, I wanted to remember these:


"Prairie Skyscraper" photo by George Heinrich.


This hat, "She Was Restless for Adventure," was created by Jean Hawton, who is one of the show's jurors. Looking at it here in my bad photos doesn't come close to doing it justice because much of its beauty is in the details. Be sure to notice the snake encircling the brim...


...and the leaves embroidered on the other side.


"Formidable Toad" by Glenn McKillips is carved in Bedford limestone.


I love hooked rugs, and the one titled "The Man Who Sleeps Inside My Father" by Mary Logue was a beautiful example that inspires me to think about taking up the art.


I'm not sure why, but this glass skateboard deck really appeals to me. It's by Fredric Vilina.

And one final picture -- the best T-shirt I saw of the day:




My past Fair posts: