When Do We Stop Calling This An ‘Accident’?

“Well, that right there seems to be the problem”
(from here)

Fortunately, no one was killed:

An 18-year-old pedestrian was struck after a car crashed into a bus stop in Kensington, Md. Saturday, the Montgomery County Fire Department said.

The accident occurred at a bus stop located at Connecticut Avenue and Knowles Avenue. Fire officials say the car hit two pedestrians waiting for a bus and overturned, trapping the driver of the vehicle.

Two people were injured in the accident and were taken to the hospital. The pedestrian has serious but non-life threatening injuries, according to Paul Starks with Montgomery County Police. She has a fractured leg, authorities said….

No drugs or alcohol were factors in the accident. Police believe the man may have had a medical incident.

The driver has not been charged, however was given traffic tickets.

Another report claims the driver appeared to be intoxicated (the fire and police departments offered potentially conflicting explanations).

Either way, this isn’t an accident. Someone’s leg was broken, which is hardly a spilled cup of coffee. It’s all the more galling that people waiting for the bus were hit. If it turns out it was truly a medical incident, there still need to be some repercussions–more than just a few tickets.

Posted in Transportation | 5 Comments

Ferguson and the Pathway to Anti-Integration

While there has been a lot of commentary about the Justice Department report on the thugs who run Ferguson (run is the appropriate verb, as the officers were following orders–the elected officials are just as bad), two parts of the report leapt out at me. First, this Kafkaesque arrest (boldface mine):

Even relatively routine misconduct by Ferguson police officers can have significant consequences for the people whose rights are violated. For example, in the summer of 2012, a 32-year-old African-American man sat in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a Ferguson public park. An officer pulled up behind the man’s car, blocking him in, and demanded the man’s Social Security number and identification. Without any cause, the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, referring to the presence of children in the park, and ordered the man out of his car for a pat-down, although the officer had no reason to believe the man was armed. The officer also asked to search the man’s car. The man objected, citing his constitutional rights. In response, the officer arrested the man, reportedly at gunpoint, charging him with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. One charge, Making a False Declaration, was for initially providing the short form of his first name (e.g., “Mike” instead of “Michael”), and an address which, although legitimate, was different from the one on his driver’s license. Another charge was for not wearing a seat belt, even though he was seated in a parked car. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in his possession. The man told us that, because of these charges, he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government that he had held for years.

But why stop with adults? Welcome to school, kids (boldface mine):

In February 2014, officers responded to a group of African-American teenage girls “play fighting” (in the words of the officer) in an intersection after school. When one of the schoolgirls gave the middle finger to a white witness who had called the police, an officer ordered her over to him. One of the girl’s friends accompanied her. Though the friend had the right to be present and observe the situation—indeed, the offense reports include no facts suggesting a safety concern posed by her presence—the officers ordered her to leave and then attempted to arrest her when she refused. Officers used force to arrest the friend as she pulled away. When the first girl grabbed an officer’s shoulder, they used force to arrest her, as well.

Officers charged the two teenagers with a variety of offenses, including: Disorderly Conduct for giving the middle finger and using obscenities; Manner of Walking for being in the street; Failure to Comply for staying to observe; Interference with Officer; Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer; and Endangering the Welfare of a Child (themselves and their schoolmates) by resisting arrest and being involved in disorderly conduct. This incident underscores how officers’ unlawful response to activity protected by the First Amendment can quickly escalate to physical resistance, resulting in additional force, additional charges, and increasing the risk of injury to officers and members of the public alike….

FPD officers respond to misbehavior common among students with arrest and force, rather than reserving arrest for cases involving safety threats. As one SRO told us, the arrests he made during the 2013-14 school year overwhelmingly involved minor offenses—Disorderly Conduct, Peace Disturbance, and Failure to Comply with instructions. In one case, an SRO decided to arrest a 14-year-old African-American student at the Ferguson Middle School for Failure to Comply when the student refused to leave the classroom after getting into a trivial argument with another student. The situation escalated, resulting in the student being drive-stunned with an ECW in the classroom and the school seeking a 180-day suspension for the student. SROs’ propensity for arresting students demonstrates a lack of understanding of the negative consequences associated with such arrests. In fact, SROs told us that they viewed increased arrests in the schools as a positive result of their work. This perspective suggests a failure of training (including training in mental health, counseling, and the development of the teenage brain); a lack of priority given to de-escalation and conflict resolution; and insufficient appreciation for the negative educational and long-term outcomes that can result from treating disciplinary concerns as crimes and using force on students.

For those of you wondering what the hell “being drive-stunned with an ECW” is, that’s where Officer Friendly holds a Taser against someone without firing the projectiles so as to cause “pain compliance”–which violates U.S. guidelines.

What links these episodes is that this is how we turn ordinary people into criminals. Even if these encounters don’t directly lead to incarceration, losing a job, or ‘gaining’ a criminal record makes it that much harder to integrate into society, let alone if the victim happens to have another encounter with the criminal justice system. In the first case, the police turned a solid citizen into an unemployed person with an arrest record. With the kids, if they ever do something stupid–as children are wont to do–they now have a history of being ‘troublemakers’, which could figure into how they are treated by a prosecutor or judge.

As is the case with marijuana arrests, we are creating a group of ‘pre-criminals’ who will have more difficulty remaining in (or joining) mainstream society, while at the same time, who are also more likely to be treated more harshly by the judicial system.

Not sure how that ends well.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Racism, The Rule of Law | Leave a comment

Links 3/5/15

Links for you. Science:

First detailed microscopy evidence of bacteria at the lower size limit of life
What’s Been Cooking for Ion At AGBT15
Mandatory Ebola Quarantines Were Counterproductive, Not To Mention Immoral
Why racism is not backed by science
When Whole Genome Sequencing Doesn’t Give Us the Whole Genome


Shoveling a Path Out of Prison: If states want to dig themselves out from the difficulties of mass incarceration, they can begin by creating employment programs for newly released inmates.
Jim Crow and school vouchers
People Don’t Believe That These Teenagers Are Twins (genes segregate in weird ways sometimes; what is really striking isn’t the difference in skin color but in facial structure)
Rahm Emanuel’s moment of reckoning: How he ended up in a fight for his political life
Standard Responses to Online Stupidity
Why Do Poor Women Have More Abortions?
The fringe economic theory that might get traction in the 2016 campaign (I don’t know why this is a ‘fringe’ theory, but still good)
Where has all the money gone? The decline in faculty salaries at American colleges and universities over the past 40 years
“Dozens of threats to execute grade-school kids”: Madness of a 9/11 truther. How a father with a Twitter account stopped a homegrown terrorist in his tracks
Schools face new challenges as poverty grows in inner suburbs
All Snowflakes Look the Same: After I moved to Wisconsin to pursue an education, other people’s racial perceptions began to pursue me.
Hillary Email ‘Scandal’? Not So Fast
The Semi-Retirement Myth: Don’t buy the tales of meaningful work into your 70s. Your retirement is inevitable—and bleaker than the last generation’s.
Are the tribal really all 100% impervious to evidence, logic, science?
Turning Conflict Into Trust Improves Schools And Student Learning
Ex-US Senator Calls Out Missouri GOP Leader During Funeral: ‘Words Can Kill’ (note that only one party uses anti-Semitic whisper campaigns)
D.C. Voucher Program at Center of Fiscal Fight (Again)

Posted in Lotsa Links | Leave a comment

Something You Probably Didn’t Know About Scott Walker

This man is considered presidential material:

Walker idolizes Reagan. Every year, on their wedding anniversary, Walker and his wife celebrate Reagan’s birthday by serving (according to Walker’s memoirs) “macaroni and cheese casserole, and red, white, and blue Jelly Belly jelly beans.”

I could see doing this on Reagan’s birthday, even though that would still be pretty weird. But on your own wedding anniversary?


Posted in Conservatives | 3 Comments

The Slow Squeezing of the Security State: The Library of Congress Edition

A few years ago, I had occasion to visit the Harvard Medical School Library–the building with all of the cool stuff. Getting in wasn’t a problem, but leaving involved a lot of security–they didn’t want a lot of people wandering off with some of the aforementioned cool stuff. We both joked that this was the first time in a long while that we had been treated as potential thieves, as opposed to potential terrorists.

Let us pine for the halcyon days of yore.

Which brings us to this depressing story about the increased security at the Library of Congress. That our internal security apparatus has turned the Library of Congress–the People’s Library in every sense of the word–into a nearly impenetrable fortress would be bad enough, but you might be able to guess what one of the outcomes of this hypervigilance is (boldface mine):

The Library of Congress is America’s national library. It also may be the only library in the United States where getting into one of its Capitol Hill buildings is a lot like trying to board an airplane. Security has shifted so much to anti-terrorism that it’s no longer doing its intended job, to protect the library collection from theft….

According to a report from 1998, entering the Library then was “no different than most other security stations on Capitol Hill: Hand the guard your bag and walk through the metal detectors.” That process typically took seconds.

Leaving the library, however, was an ordeal. It used to involve a Library of Congress Police officer removing everything from briefcases and backpacks and thumbing through books and papers to ensure that nothing was leaving that shouldn’t.

Now, to enter, visitors have to remove electronics and other items, then go through an x-ray conveyor. To leave, officers peek into partially opened bags and do not typically bother to inspect books or folders. The process to enter takes a long time, but exiting usually takes less than ten seconds

Library security was tight long before terrorism reconfigured federal architecture, but it was tight in different ways. Now, with such a strong spotlight on keeping terrorism out, security seems to be letting its original mission slip.

This is what happens when we let the professional security paranoiacs run things. It’s their job (and an opportunity to expand future contracts) to treat every target, no matter how absurd, as something to be defended from a suicide bombing or all-out military assault. Tragically, we’ve never really discussed or agreed to this new normal, it’s just slowly enveloped us.

Though an upside is that I know where to get some really cool books…

Posted in Civil Liberties, Libraries | Leave a comment

Links 3/4/15

Links for you. Science:

New Mexico museum scuttles Darwin events after creationists demand ‘intelligent design’ coverage (is it me, or do engineers seem disproportionately involved in this kind of stupidity?)
Scientists reveal the real reason you have eyelashes
A Clownish Way to Make Outdoor Cats Less Deadly
In 2013, measles killed more kids than car accidents or AIDS
No one could see the color blue until modern times (interesting, but the idea that blue is a rare color in nature is bizarre)


Ending the Creditor’s Paradise (excellent)
Waiting for a Super Man: Who will be the next superintendent of the Boston Public Schools (and who really gets to decide???)–very good analysis
White Nationalists, Sarah Palin, and the Slow Death of the Right-Wing Fringe
Americans are making a big mistake about health care
“Stranger Danger” to children vastly overstated: Oft-cited stats about child abduction puts kidnappers behind every bush. But the numbers are old and frequently mangled, distorting our understanding of genuine risks to children.
Nice try Republicans, but marriage isn’t the solution to poverty
A City Braces for Its Ballpark to Go the Way of Its Mills: Through Years of Change, Pawtucket, R.I., Always Had McCoy Stadium
QOTD[ecades]: John Kerry
Relatively cheap free publicity (Note to The Economist: your class bias is showing!)
Smothered by a Boom in Banking
What you think about millennials is wrong
The Broader Net Neutrality Narrative
All-American terrorists
After Boris Nemtsov’s Assassination, ‘There Are No Longer Any Limits’

Posted in Lotsa Links | 4 Comments

The Soon Scandal Is Very Spiro Agnew

And for those of you who don’t know who Spiro Agnew was, this is what I’m referring to. Recently, I asked this about the scandal enveloping climate change denier Dr. Willie Soon and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophyics:

what the hell was the Smithsonian thinking? Again, this isn’t very much money per year–tarnishing your reputation for this little money just isn’t worth it. I wonder if his denialist ties helped him in that the Smithsonian was afraid to let him go as it would be seen by the right as politically motivated. At best, the Smithsonian got greedy–and in a Spiro Agnew sort of way. At worst, this is a real failure of scientific oversight.

It really was chump change (boldface mine):

The records showed that Mr. Soon and the Smithsonian had received money from groups that included the energy conglomerate Southern Company, the Charles G. Koch Foundation, and Donors Trust, a fund for anonymous contributions identified by a 2013 Drexel University study as the largest single provider of money to political efforts to fight climate-change policy.

Mr. Alcock confirmed through a spokeswoman that the donors disclosed by Greenpeace had provided Mr. Soon and the Smithsonian with a total of $1.2-million over a period of 10 years. He also confirmed that, under standard observatory procedures, less than half of that amount was passed through to Mr. Soon as salary. Most was kept by the Smithsonian to cover facility operating costs.

Most Smithsonian researchers receive their compensation through such “soft money” payments rather than a salary from the institution, Mr. Kress said. But unlike Mr. Soon, most of those at the observatory draw funding heavily from government sources, such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation, which in turn rely on peer-reviewed award processes.

In a typical year, the Smithsonian observatory receives about $95-million in grant support, said Mr. Alcock’s spokeswoman, Christine Pulliam. “Only a small fraction of 1 percent of that figure comes from corporate sources,” she said.

So, over a decade, Soon brought in $1.2 million, which is about one-tenth of a percent of HSCA’s total funding. And the Smithsonian risked its reputation over that. Insane.

Posted in Bidness, Funding, Global Warming, Museums etc. | 1 Comment