Sunday, June 30, 2013


From "Red Alert Politics":
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor joined Republican and conservative interns and college students on the Senate side of the Capitol steps on Friday to protest the anticipated doubling of federally subsidized student loan interest rates. Rates will revert back to pre-2008 levels, jumping from 3.4 percent back to 6.8 percent, unless Congress takes action....
“A few weeks ago, the House of Representatives did the right thing — it acted,” Cantor said as he addressed the students. ”It said that students of this country have a right to a quality education and they shouldn’t be burdened by ever spiraling rates on their student loans.”
Sadly, no, as a great blogger once said. It said that if you thought Republicans would prefer for people who need to take out loans not to go to college, you'd be right. The bill the House passed last May specifically called for spiraling interest rates:
The House bill would allow student lending rates to reset each year, based on the interest rate of a 10-year Treasury note, plus 2.5 percentage points for Stafford loans. The Congressional Budget Office projected that rates on Stafford loans would rise to 5 percent in 2014 and 7.7 percent in 2023. 
Obama and the Senate have much more swallowable proposals, where at least the rate wouldn't be going up every year like one of those nightmare adustable-rate housing mortgages of way back in, um, 2007, but the House under Cantor's leadership ("leadership" would be too strong a word for Boehner's role in the shop) won't look at them. Instead, Cantor prefers to go before the cameras to pretend he actually cares. What a thug.
Blonde Eric Cantor.

Nickeling and Diming department

Have you heard of this? Hourly-paid workers are now getting their pay in the form of stored-value cards.
But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards....
These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account....Devonte Yates, 21, who earns $7.25 an hour working a drive-through station at a McDonald’s in Milwaukee, says he spends $40 to $50 a month on fees associated with his JPMorgan Chase payroll card. 
Banks are really the new Mafia, shaking down everybody that doesn't have a protector. And protecting guess who?
Taco Bell, Walgreen and Walmart are among the dozens of well-known companies that offer prepaid cards to their workers; the cards are particularly popular with retailers and restaurants... a calculator on Visa’s Web site estimates that a company with 500 workers could save $21,000 a year by switching from checks to payroll cards.
Nice little wage you're getting. Wouldn't like to see anything happen to it... Image via philosecurity (and another article about bankster shakedowns).

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Derp Farmer

Preposterously stupid Texas governor Rick Perry (via Maddowblog):
"[E]ven the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She was the daughter of a single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It's just unfortunate that she hasn't learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters."
I.e.,  I'm saddened that Wendy Davis hasn't learned from her relevant life experience what I know to be true based on no experience whatever and repeating the same sentences over and over again.
Image from The Meta Picture.

The Mongrel Horde

I'm having some trouble getting a grip on David Brooks's point today.
Over the past few decades, American society has been transformed in a fit of absence of mind.
Perhaps he means into a fit of absence of mind. No? [jump]

Tyrone Power in Sign of Zorro, 1940. Via Patchary's Blog.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cheap shots 6/28/2013: Jesus laughed

Uncredited image via Ellen Haroutunian.
Stolen from Dr. Turk:
How bad are Samuel Alito's manners?

So bad even Dana Milbank can't come up with an example of how both sides do it. That's historic.

Incidentally, Ann Althouse (via Thers) explains that Alito's not actually being rude, just Italian-American: [jump]

More on metadata

Image from Quicklabel.
Greenwald via Raw Story:
The Bush email metadata program had restrictions on the scope of the bulk email records the NSA could analyze. Those restrictions are detailed in a legal memorandum written in a 27 November 2007, by assistant attorney general Kenneth Weinstein to his new boss, attorney general Michael Mukasey, who had taken office just a few weeks earlier.
The purpose of that memorandum was to advise Mukasey of the Pentagon’s view that these restrictions were excessive, and to obtain permission for the NSA to expand its “contact chains” deeper into Americans’ email records. The agency, the memo noted, already had “in its databases a large amount of communications metadata associated with persons in the United States”.
But, Wainstein continued, “NSA’s present practice is to ‘stop’ when a chain hits a telephone number or [internet] address believed to be used by a United States person.”
Wainstein told Mukasey that giving NSA broader leeway to study Americans’ online habits would give the surveillance agency, ironically, greater visibility into the online habits of foreigners – NSA’s original mandate.
“NSA believes that it is over-identifying numbers and addresses that belong to United States persons and that modifying its practice to chain through all telephone numbers and addresses, including those reasonably believed to be used by a United States person,” Weinstein wrote, “will yield valuable foreign intelligence information primarily concerning non-United States persons outside the United States.”
"Ironically" is the wrong word there; better would be "paradoxically". I've tried to explain this before with reference to the story about Chicago police practice. The original NSA method was a "profiling" approach which tried to limit its data by marking all the "foreign" numbers first, and it dredged up too many dolphins along with its tuna, so to speak. The method they decided to replace it with was a "network" approach, throwing each dolphin back into the water as it came up on the way to the next tuna. It's paradoxical that starting with fewer limitations should get more narrowly tailored results, but it's true.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Old Cognitive Dissonance got me

I'm really happy about marriage equality, honest, and yet...

It's just the fact that it's written by somebody who 24 hours earlier stood for the destruction of the Voting Rights Act. What's up with that?

Kennedy can imagine what it's like to feel there's just one person in the world you want to marry and they have the same naughty bits as you do, but he can't imagine what it's like not to have a state-issued photo ID. I can only assume it's because the first is within the experience of wealthy people. After all, the Windsor case itself wasn't a heart-wrencher about hospital visitations—it was about the right not to pay what Republicans call a "death tax" of $363,000, a problem most of us, gay or straight, will never have to suffer through.
Swing vote.  Taylor Jones via Cagle Cartoons.
Quick round of Which Would You Rather:

Owe $363,000 in estate taxes or be deprived of the right to vote? I'd want to know if I take the first one, how much will I have left over? No, wait, I don't think that will be necessary. Though if the only reason was my sexual orientation it would be extremely unfair. But I can't believe that constitutional principle demands option 2.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I'm no lawyer but

So the prankish conservatives of the Supreme Court have left section 5 of the Voting Rights Act intact, but thrown out section 4, which specifies which states section 5 applies to--it is now unconstitutional to say that it applies to these states, although it wasn't before, because African Americans now register to vote in those states in about the same proportions as whites, as in the chart below:
Since the law has worked so well, there is clearly no need for it. Section 5 is now doomed to an eerie limbo of applying only to imaginary situations, unless our less than hyperactive Congress decides to apply it to something in reality. Maybe, as Erik Loomis suggests, anti-lynching laws are unconstitutional now too, since there hasn't been one of those in decades.

You probably just missed the part of the Constitution where it says if it's fixed, break it.
Uncredited image from Rockland Family Court.
Ed Kilgore quotes Justice Ginsburg making the same point funnier:
Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.
The great Steve Benen has it down: Roberts's opinion literally does not attempt to explain what's unconstitutional about section 4! Like he knows why but it's just so hard to express. Is that a first?

Via Dr. Turk:
Plus, of course, times haven't changed!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why do they hate democracy?

The New York Times reports from Beaumont, Texas, where they're waiting anxiously for the Supreme Court's decision on the Voting Rights Act:
Tempers have flared at school board meetings and lawsuits have been filed, as a mostly white group of critics have charged the black-majority school board with enabling corruption, wasteful spending and academic cheating. The school board’s majority denies the charges and says the whites simply cannot tolerate black control.

Determined to change the board but aware that the incumbents could not be beaten in the current districts, the critics pursued alternatives. Last December, they pushed for a new election method that was approved, along narrow racial lines, in a citywide referendum. The Justice Department, citing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, objected to the new method and it was dropped. 

Then, in April, the critics took advantage of a little-noticed state statute that rendered three of the board’s black incumbents unexpectedly disqualified from the next election, a procedural maneuver affirmed by a Texas appeals court. This, too, was blocked by the Justice Department.
I don't know how they could make it any clearer, without wearing robes and pointy hoods to the press conference, or maybe white turbans. The "mostly white critics" (some of them have strawberry birthmarks?) are demanding the right to determine the results of an election beforehand, on account of the racial propensity of the majority to vote for the wrong people.

If the Supreme Court is OK with this, then the theory behind it is going to make pretty interesting reading.
Disqualification as a campaign technique. Guardians Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Via Robert Cargill.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Insider Fret

From Bob the Angry Flower.
People are getting very Pastor Niemöller out here in the aether. Here's the Telegraph's tech blogger Mic Wright:
I’ll now immediately fall foul of Godwin’s Law – “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches” – but history offers too important a lesson not to make that connection. The punch-card powered computerised census of Germany enabled by IBM in 1933 and subsequent efforts thereafter made it far easier for the Nazi regime to identify Jews, Gypsies and others it deemed undesirable. [jump]

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wanker Time

This award goes out to Gary Pruitt, CEO of the Associated Press:
“What I learned from our journalists should alarm everyone in this room and I think should alarm everyone in this country. The actions of the DOJ against AP are already having an impact beyond the specifics of this particular case,” AP CEO Gary Pruitt told an audience at the National Press Club. “Some of our longtime trusted sources have become nervous and anxious about talking to us, even about stories that aren’t about national security. In some cases, government employees that we once checked in with regularly will no longer speak to us by phone, and some are reluctant to meet in person.”
After it was made public that the Justice Department took AP Washington bureau phone records as part of the Obama administration’s aggressive anti-leak operation, Pruitt said the fear among potential sources has spread to reporters from other outlets.
Oh no they didn't! You mean those guys you always quote as "a senior official who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to comment on the issue" didn't comment on the issue? Or they made you drive over to a bar in Adams-Morgan?

What is this country coming to, anyway? Whatever happened to the part of the First Amendment that guarantees the right of senior officials to dictate newspaper stories? "No law shall be made infringing the access of the press."

Does this mean you Washington guys are going to have to start reporting now, like some bozo stuck in Kabul? Or stay home and read?

Anyway it'll all be better when John McCain's president.

Or maybe not: This (via Digby via Eschaton) is pretty upsetting.
President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct....
Employees must turn themselves and others in for failing to report breaches. “Penalize clearly identifiable failures to report security infractions and violations, including any lack of self-reporting,” the strategic plan says.
Then again, it looks like McClatchy managed to worm quite a bit of information out of them! Documents and all. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Vast dark forest

Update July 16 2013:
Welcome IHateNYT fans! Make yourselves at home. There's something here about most David Brooks columns over the past year or so, so Brooks obsessives and Brooksologists might want to linger.
Jean-Baptiste Regnault, Socrate arrachant Alcibiade du sein de la Volupté, 1791. Wikimedia Commons.
David Brooks:
A half-century ago, 14 percent of college degrees were awarded to people who majored in the humanities. Today, only 7 percent of graduates in the country are humanities majors. Even over the last decade alone, the number of incoming students at Harvard who express interest in becoming humanities majors has dropped by a third.
Humanities Resource Center Online
The national figures are actually for a short half century, 1966 to 2010, and with some sketchy rounding,  from Wall Street Journal, June 6, which got them from Harvard. They originally come from the National Center for Education Statistics, see chart above; note that the decline was actually finished by 1982: you could just as well say the proportion has gone up by 20% over the last 30 years, meaning the entire argument that follows is practically irrelevant to the present moment. [jump]

Cheap shots and merry spanksters

Via Jezebel via Raw Story. At least it's not erotic or something, as you can tell by that Victoria's Other Secret locket picture:
We offer a LOVING approach to all who wish to learn and grow in a traditional Male, head of household, female submissive, Christian Domestic Discipline relationship.... 
This is not a typical "spank" site. We are NOT a dating service, a list for personal ads, bratting, erotic stories, or alternate lifestyles. We do not discuss Sadomasochism, the disciplining of children, same gender relationships, or Fem domination/male submission.
From the Christian Domestic Discipline website at Yahoo Groups.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Local note

America's Next Top Mayor--watch them disappear.
New York's United Federation of Teachers has made an endorsement in the mayoral race for the first time since 1989, of William Thompson, the personable, knowledgeable Democrat who allegedly ran for mayor in 2009. I say "allegedly" because as far as I'm concerned he didn't run; he strolled for mayor, maybe, or ambled.

Thompson was one of the worst campaigners ever. Bloomberg's deep nastiness was beginning to show, and his bid for a third term was barely legal, and Democrats should have come much closer to winning than they did. I really have a hard time understanding the UFT's move. The Democratic field is extremely crowded, with a presumptive front-runner in King Michael's loyally postpartisan chancellor (Christine Quinn), a celebrity dick joke (Anthony Weiner), and at least three genuine progressives, two of whom (John Liu and Bill DeBlasio) are strong campaigners. It's really time to start uniting around one of these two.

In 2009 the UFT refused to endorse Thompson:
"It's a different time, and this union now is in a different place," Mulgrew said.
Yeah, last time Thompson seemed to have a chance of winning.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Beyond the horse race

Vixen Strangely, on Maureen Dowd and her little fantasy about "Bill" and "Barry" and the "woodshed", where she
appears to be in agreement that it is better to "be caught trying" in the words of former President Clinton, in a kind of disregard of what, exactly, one is caught trying to do.....It's reasonable enough for President Clinton to state his opinion based on his own experience of humanitarian crises (Bosnia, Rwanda) in which intervention could achieve the goal of stopping a massacre (albeit it is generally the concession of former presidents to withhold a bit more regarding the impressions of what a current president should do), and in the case of Dowd, I am not surprised to see her boil down a complicated issue to a matter of "Quien es mas macho?"--that being her schtick. But the implication that doing something is better than nothing is a curious bit of question-begging, given our recent history.
I think that to those people, to the Washington press corps, the ones who don't know enough about anything to work a real beat, the "something" really is more important than the "what"—it's an effect of that frantic fear of partisanship, of appearing to believe that one "what" might be better than another.

We like to talk about how they're covering a horse race during the campaign, but during the actual governing it's more like ice dancing, I think: what's expected of the contestant is the execution of a certain set of maneuvers—a big bill, a big scandal, a big veto, a leap over Congress—but the setting, costume, music, and order of operations are up to you, and it's not important whether it's Tchaikovsky or the Tijuana Brass. Points are for being ardent, audacious, and pretty; achieve them, and the presidential historians will admire you on TV throughout your retirement, fail and—well, who wants to look back when we could be looking forward? Axel jump! Camel spin! Press lift!
Press lift: Sinead Kerr as Senator McCain and  John Kerr as Ted Barrett.  Junko Kimura/Getty Images.

Humble thoughts on neuroscience

Shorter David Brooks, "Beyond the Brain", New York Times, June 18, 2013:
Neuroscientists are scary smart!
Then again, they reject mind-body dualism.
So they can't be as smart as me!
Plato's Cave, Flemish School, 16th century, Musée de la Chartreuse, Douai, France (Photo: public domain). Via Electrum Magazine.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Bloomsday

Can't recall if Bloomsday (the anniversary of the fictional day in 1904 on which stately, plump Buck Mulligan and yes I will yes and all the joys in between should have taken place) and Father's Day have coincided to my knowledge before, but there is something in it for me, for my dad, who died in 1996, was both a Bloom and a father, like me (by name rather than nym), and more than a bit of a Joycean, though he liked Dubliners best and really hated Finnegans Wake, whereas I am a Ulysses man first and may well even try to read the Wake some day, if I live long enough.

Here's a little music for the old man:

Defense of the 1%

Image of a conservative economist, from The Century Foundation.

Greg Mankiw, President W's chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, tackles some philosophical issues in defense of the 1% (Via Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber). It's one of the most transparently stupid things I've read lately, and that's saying a lot.

Simple falsehood
the intergenerational transmission of income has many causes beyond unequal opportunity. In particular, parents and children share genes, a fact that would lead to intergenerational persistence in income even in a world of [jump]


Image from Man o' Law
Obama on rape:
Navy Judge Cmdr. Marcus Fulton ruled that President Barack Obama's comments on military sexual assault could affect the sentencing in two cases, according to Stars and Stripes.
During pretrial hearings in the cases, Fulton said “unlawful command influence” derived from Obama's remarks could influence a potential sentencing in the two cases, according to according to court documents obtained by Stars and Stripes. The judge's ruling could have an impact on other sexual assault cases in the military. (via HuffPost)
Let's see, firebaggers, I guess that means Obama's really in favor of more military rape. Like I know he said he was against it, but that would be just to mollify his base. Plus it gave this judge what he needed to let his defendants off. Besides, has Obama actually put an end to rape yet? I think not!


Hong Kong. Photo by Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty, via The Guardian.
Odd little detail, on the demonstrations yesterday in Hong Kong in support of Edward Snowden and his stand in favor of Hong Kong's famous tradition of unsurveilled* free speech: It should be obvious to anybody with any experience of the situation that the Beijing government is quietly backing the demonstrations—some protests in Hong Kong are in brave and magnificent opposition, but this is not one of them—and yet from the US press coverage it's just about impossible to tell; looking at the Times, CNN, and Reuters (via Raw Story), only the last even hints at it: [jump]

Saturday, June 15, 2013

We send letters

Image from The Last of the Millenniums.
Conservatives are getting so maniacal that they can't even read through their tears of rage, as in the case of Mona Charen at the National Review's little shop around the Corner, who reproduces a sad story about guns and mental illness from the Wall Street Journal letters page, under the apparent impression that it supports the NRA line:
I’m the mother of an adult son who suffered from severe and persistent bipolar disorder. His downward course was aided by this country’s broken mental-health system, a system that prevents families from getting loved ones timely, humane treatment. He took his life six years ago.
Judges at commitment hearings would take the easy way out and release him time and time again, ruling he was not an imminent danger to himself or others, many times against the recommendation of the treating psychiatrist. On release, he would eventually resurface in another city, another state, at which time he would again be arrested and the commitment process would start all over again. Most states have such strict commitment laws that it is almost impossible to get people committed for treatment until they are in deep crisis.
Allowing my son to roam the country in his untreated psychotic, bipolar world under the pretense of protecting his civil right to refuse treatment is absurd. He had a civil right to receive treatment even though his illness precluded his ability to recognize he was ill. And the general public also has a right to be protected from the consequences of nontreatment of potentially dangerous mentally ill individuals.
When my son told me of his plan to exercise his constitutional right to bear arms to protect himself from federal agents he felt certain were trying to assassinate him, I feared he might actually purchase a gun and shoot innocent victims he mistook for federal agents. I inquired how to register his name with the appropriate authorities to prevent this from happening; I wanted to at least confirm that his name was in the FBI database that licensed firearms dealers use to run background checks on prospective buyers. Due to the privacy laws, I was unable to even confirm my son’s name was in the database.
Unable to get him treated, unable to prevent him from purchasing a gun, my hands were tied. If we want to prevent the next Newtown, we must reform our mental-health laws. Mental illness is treatable. It doesn’t have to be terminal.
Dottie Pacharis
West River, Md.
I submitted a comment:
I strongly agree with Dottie Pacharis that we have a civil right to medical treatment, including for mental illness, and that absurd "privacy protections" based on a false interpretation of the Second Amendment should not have made it impossible for her to stop her son from buying a gun. A little surprised to see these liberal views advovated here, though--are you folks going wobbly?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Cheap shots: Glitter edition

Liberal names start and finish with schwa, like "Amanda". From SodaHead.
The Washington Times ventures into the realm of linguistics:
A research paper by a team of University of Chicago political scientists found that liberals and conservatives, in addition to all of their other differences, have distinct tendencies when it comes to choosing names for their newborns. 
Names with the soft consonant “l” or that end in a long “a” — for example, President Obama’s daughter Malia — are more likely to be found in Democratic neighborhoods, while names with hard vowel sounds such as K, G or B — think former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s sons Track and Trig — are more popular in Republican communities.
In fact the paper—"Liberellas versus Konservatives: Social Status, Ideology, and Birth
Names in the United States", by J. Eric Oliver, Thomas Wood, and Alexandra Bass—does not anywhere allege that /k/, /g/, and /b/ are vowels. Nor does it argue that conservatives give all their children boys' names (like Romney) and liberals give all their children girls' names (like Obama). For instance, Palin is a conservative but has given girls' names to some of her kids, though only the female ones. [jump]

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The moral arc of the universe bends it like Beckham

I was very much struck by this, earlier in the week, from Booman, with reference to the administration's dropping its insistence on age restrictions for Plan B contraception:
People make fun of the theory that President Obama engages in 11-dimensional chess. It's hard to adequately explain what the term means because it probably means different things to different people. However, it basically means that sometimes the president uses deception. He may pretend to support something that he actually opposes, or to oppose something that he actually supports.
Thus, when Obama and Sebelius came out to contravene the FDA's ruling against the age restrictions, this was not because he in fact favored them, but because it was an opportunity for hippy punching, or pretend hippy punching, which would endear him to the Village by getting us all riled up, but would not in reality affect the outcome of the case in the direction that the hippies, and implicitly Obama too, wanted in the first place. [jump]
Takoma Soccer, Maryland.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ACLU Socialist

Figurines from the Cuckoo Palace
I'm wondering to what extent you and I look like the equally irrational mirror image of the authoritarian conservative, always yelping about freedom except when it's freedom for people that don't have stock portfolios, or penises, or what have you, and then crying to the hated government to come and beat up all their enemies.

I call myself a rebel and a cynic, I cheerfully regard our elected leaders as nincompoops and narcissists, I'd no more willingly let an FBI agent into the house than a rhinoceros with muddy sneakers on, and yet I favor all these programs where the government comes and takes care of everybody, gives us our old age pensions and pays our medical expenses, sponsors our educations, builds cheap housing, runs savings banks in post offices, owns the best TV stations (totally without interfering with content!), and sends everybody that can't find a job into the forest to build swimming pools and write poetry. I think I can trust the people that brought me the Iraq war to give me socialism! Am I out of my mind?

Well, I'll tell ya. I can remember Nixon and narcs and Cointelpro. I can also remember the unemployment office where I repaired many years ago after an attempt to unionize the restaurant I'd been working in for four years blew up in everybody's face: a fair-faced female bureaucrat looked at me seriously and said, "You know, this is not charity. You deserve this."

She was right, I did.

And Germany, which has accomplished all the stuff mentioned above (they ended up privatizing the post office banks, though), was building up not from Nixon but from total Götterdämmerung. So I'm still a socialist. Don't like spies, though.

Not just bloviating. But mostly.

Shorter Thomas L. Friedman, "Blowing a Whistle", New York Times, June 11, 2013:
If you don't give up your freedoms right this minute,
then you will when the terrorists come back;
the nababs and the pandits will cry,"Give up your freedoms!"
and you will, because otherwise the terrorists might come back,
and that will be the end of America.
So you'd better do it now.
Image by FVX.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Big Data in Chicago

This is kind of interesting in its own right, and maybe clarifying in some other domains, on the precipitous decline in murder rates in Chicago over the past year, and what the cops hope is causing it:
In recent months, as many as 400 officers a day, working overtime, have been dispatched to just 20 small zones deemed the city’s most dangerous. The police say they are tamping down retaliatory shootings between gang factions by using a comprehensive analysis of the city’s tens of thousands of suspected gang members, the turf they claim and their rivalries. The police also are focusing on more than 400 people they have identified as having associations that make them the most likely to be involved in a murder, as a victim or an offender.
This is describing a Big Data approach to policing—the use of social network analysis to decide where to focus police attention—and it strikes me that it's in a way the opposite of the sort of Big Brother policing we are all worrying about in connection with the National Security Agency and total information awareness and so forth. [jump]
Copies of Indira Freitas Johnson's Peace piece in Chicago for the citywide Ten Million Ripples project. Loyola Dunes Restoration.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Weekend Attrition

NPR ran a story about the implementation of Obamacare in the restaurant industry that seemed just the tiniest bit biased, in that the only source they seemed to have spoken to was a representative of management, the CFO of Clyde's Restaurant Group in the D.C. area, who took a distinctly gloomy view of the whole matter, suggesting darkly that they might have to take the extra cost out of the customers' salmon entrée, ounce by ounce. Or use paper napkins. Or (very darkly) alter the staffing in some obscure way that I think meant putting on more part-time people.
"For one to two years it's been the number one issue on our radar," he says. "We're not trying to run away from it, but it's a frightening proposition."
I couldn't help wondering, in the first place, what about all those 26-and-under college students working the dining rooms? Three quarters of the staff are under 26; aren't at least many of them covered under parents' policies?
From a Johnny Rockets. Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register.
And then: what about profits? Is this a corporation or a state government, for goodness' sake? Doesn't it make any money?

Friday, June 7, 2013

I polished up the handle so carefullee...


Incidentally, does anybody want to know why it is that the NSA can be collecting metadata on everybody's phone calls for the last seven years but when the Department of Justice wants the same information on 20 AP reporters over a two-month period they have to go to the AP with a warrant and ask for it?
H.M.S. Pinafore. Image from Leo Weekly, Louisville.
I imagine it's because they have a much better chance of getting what they want in a format they can use. Maybe the DOJ isn't even allowed to talk to NSA, but at least they probably just don't know how to, like FBI and CIA. And would rather not try, because they hate each other. Also, the NSA's information will turn out to be fantastically flawed.

Listen, every time you open up the GoogleBooks database you find an idiotic metadata mistake: like listing vol. 1567 of the US Congressional Edition, 1870, as being published in the year 1567, and the 1968 Handbook of Labor Statistics in 1600 (it's actually Bulletin no. 1600), so that if you do an n-gram search for the frequency of the word "expenditure" it shows these astonishing little leaps in the late 16th century, based entirely on bad coding. That's not the NSA, that's Google. Do you seriously think 10,000 government servants working in conditions of absolute secrecy can't do a worse job than Google, in all its glory?

Because if you give a government agency a worthwhile task to do in the open, they can do great things—really!—but if it is stupid, wasteful, and done in secret, they're going to make it worse. This is an ineluctable rule of fat government, and it's why the war departments are always the worst-run institutions in a given country, because they are where the mission managers congregate to suck up after one another and plan their promotions, from polishing up that handle (on the Big Front Door) to "writing" a revised manual of counterinsurgency strategy.

Putting it coarsely: If our national security establishment ever manages to build itself a dick of what it regards as the requisite size, will it be able to avoid stepping on it? I think not.
Image via HLN TV.
Update September 29:

The NSA is indeed not allowed to share data with FBI, CIA, or the National Counterterrorism Center. The proof is that they did it, apparently by mistake, allowing 250 analysts access to it between 2006 and 2009 when "the problem had been fixed". From a story of September 11 (!) at International Business Times.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


A few weeks ago I had another surgical intervention—just a fishing expedition among the detritus of what was once my glottis to see if any of those little things were malignant little things, which I'm glad to say they weren't. But an outcome seemed to be that I was a lot more tired than usual, or than easily explained by the usual combination of spleen, envy, and testosterone loss anxiety. Also couldn't exert myself without running out of breath owing to swelling around the airhole, and was losing ridiculous amounts of weight owing to eating taking a tremendous amount of time when you can't breathe. To make a long story shorter, yesterday we bit the bullet and punched the stoma hole back in my throat and put me on steroids, and I'm going to try gaining 15 pounds in the next two weeks (I guess that's why those scampi spoke to me so strongly yesterday, as the oxygen began to flow once more—I was hungry!).
Fruity dessert tacos, with a little jalapeño, from Taste of Home. Dollop of yogurt on mine, please.

Anyway that's also part of why I haven't been posting much lately. The Scandals had something to do with it too, but mainly because I couldn't think hard enough about them without falling to sleep. Anyway, hi everybody! Don't all get up or anything.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Only a prawn in her game

Scampi at Carbone, Thompson at Bleecker, New York Times photo.
The reviewer thought these beauties were a take on "shrimp scampi" using langoustines instead of the shrimp, but that is not quite right: what scampi originally means, in Italian, is langoustine, or Norway lobster. The Italian-American "shrimp scampi" is a recipe for shrimp, or gamberi, with a concentration of white wine, garlic, and butter pulling a certain lobstery sweetness out of it, a nostalgia dish for an America where real scampi could not—still can't easily—be found. The menu name expresses this nicely: "scampi alla scampi", i.e., scampi in scampi-style.