Tuesday, August 30

First Amendment Right to Openly Record Police Officers in Public

It is of no significance that the present case, unlike Iacobucci and many of those cited above, involves a private individual, and not a reporter, gathering information about public officials. The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press.

First Amendment Right to Openly Record Police Officers in Public

Friday, June 17

Monday, June 6

Against Art in Politics, and Against Politics in Art

"If we're going to reject all the writers who have unlovely, untimely, or unworthy views that inflect their writing, what will be left?  Dale Carnegie and Shel Silverstein?  No, I think we will have to be content with learning from the unworthy.  And often the first thing we will learn is that the universe is not here to please us.  It is unfortunately chock full of people who aren't particularly nice."
Against Art in Politics, and Against Politics in Art (The Atlantic).

Thursday, May 26

Home Insecurity

You have no recourse against police invasion of your home. Our 4th Amendment rights have been gutted. Recently "three of the five (Indiana Supreme Court) justices agreed, "there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers." One law for citizens, another for agents of the state. It sounds so alarmist or radical when stated so, but it's so evident in practice that it's also banal.

Wednesday, May 11

Why We’re All Far Too Sure of Ourselves

"Being open about uncertainty is not just a case of reporting some kind of statistically-derived “margin of error”. There are many ways for a conclusion to look statistically robust but be wrong. What is needed is to be clear about the underpinning assumptions and open-minded about what would happen if the assumptions were mistaken."
A quick chat with Tim Harford, a man I am certain has some useful observations to share.

Monday, May 2

He's dead, but... we didn't really win, did we?

"Yes, bin Laden the man is dead. But he achieved all he set out to achieve, and a hell of a lot more. He forever changed who we are as a country, and for the worse. Mostly because we let him. That isn’t something a special ops team can fix."
The Agitator: He Won.

Friday, April 29

How Eyewitness And Confessions Result in Convictions of Innocent People

I think this kind of stuff is super important and way under-reported. We have a lot of popular culture that puts people in the shoes of the police and prosecutors, and I write this as a solid fan of the original Law and Order. A parallel show of innocent people who every week have to battle wrongful arrest (think of the first person brought in to the station in every L&O episode - it's almost never the killer!) could be just as good and just as "ripped from the headlines."

How eyewitness and confessions can result in convictions of innocent people.

Thursday, April 21

Secrets & Democracy

"Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business... There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information."

Saturday, April 9

The Importance of Context in Quotes That Honor The Dead

The memorial inscription, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time” is an eloquent translation of the original Latin of “The Aeneid” — “Nulla dies umquam memori vos eximet aevo.”

The impulse to turn to time-hallowed texts, like the classics or the Bible, is itself time-hallowed. In the face of powerful emotions, our own words may seem hollow and inadequate, while the confirmation that people in the past felt as we now feel holds solace. And the language of poets and great thinkers can be in itself ennobling.

But not in this case. Anyone troubling to take even a cursory glance at the quotation’s context will find the choice offers neither instruction nor solace.

Friday, April 8

Recommendations Based on Status Rather Than Substance

"A fifth theory, and one I favor, is that politics isn’t about policy. We (unconsciously) don’t care much about the consequences of such policies – we instead support policies to make ourselves look good. If our support for (policies) pushing high status actions is taken as a signal of our personal status, then we can want to support such regulation regardless of what results when such regulations are implemented."

Friday, March 4

Just A Quick Tea Party Joke

A CEO, a tea party activist and a union member are sitting around a table. There's a plate on the table with 12 cookies on it. The CEO takes 11 cookies and says to the tea party activist, "Watch that union guy. He wants part of your cookie."

(Thanks, John Brocklehurst.)

Wednesday, March 2

I Am Thomas Friedman And I Write A Column in The New York Times

After reading this gem in the New York Times, we prevailed on Thomas Friedman to provide us with a part two. And here it is.

Friday, February 18

Unlawful Search And Seizure

The SFPD and DEA found no piles of marijuana money at 243 Diamond St., one of six addresses raided simultaneously in San Francisco that morning. Instead, they found Clark Freshman, who rents the penthouse at the two-unit building. Freshman, a UC Hastings law professor and the main consultant to the television show Lie to Me, was put into handcuffs while in his bathrobe as agents searched, despite Freshman's insistence that they had the wrong place and were breaking the law.
Something that happens all the time, just maybe this time with consequences.

Wednesday, February 9

Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology

"I asked how, if these people were so reprehensible, they had all arrived at such elevated positions in the church. “They weren’t like that when they were in those positions,” Davis responded. The defectors we were discussing had not only risen to positions of responsibility within the church; they had also ascended Scientology’s ladder of spiritual accomplishment. I suggested to Davis that Scientology didn’t seem to work if people at the highest levels of spiritual attainment were actually liars, adulterers, wife beaters, and embezzlers."
The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology (The New Yorker).

Tuesday, February 8

Overcoming Bias

I enjoyed this article that seems to be all over the internet today - interesting stuff on bias and academia (good response on it here). And here's a quick article with video about bias phenomenon in action. And if you're interested in overcoming bias, there's a good blog called OvercomingBias.com.

Sunday, February 6

From Nuremberg Diary:
Göring: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars. 
Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
(Via Reddit.)

Thursday, February 3

"Everything I do is unequivocally 100% for my daughters. My main evidence is that so much of what I do with Sophia and Lulu is miserable, exhausting, and not remotely fun for me. "
Clearly that kind of justification, especially one so costly and receiving so much attention, deserves some intelligent critique.

Wednesday, February 2

"There is, for example, Nicole, a young woman Arnett interviews in his book who grew up in a housing project and began working at eight to care for her younger siblings. In a strikingly mature, actually adult way, she managed to hold down a full-time job, take care of her family, and earn a degree. Though this may strike some as a remarkable achievement, this view overlooks how much more fun she could have had if she didn’t have all those pesky responsibilities to weigh her down. “Is it only a grim pessimist like me who sees how many roadblocks there will be on the way to achieving those dreams and who wonders what kind of freewheeling emerging adulthood she is supposed to be having?” Henig laments. Given freedom from economic want, social mores that encourage early marriage, and limits to college access, every poor Vietnamese rice farmer and rural Pakistani bride could be going to yoga classes and selling her handmade textiles on Etsy. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place?"

Wednesday, January 26

Friday, January 21

"Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimeters to 1,350 cc, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion. “I’d call that major downsizing in an evolutionary eyeblink,” he says. “This happened in China, Europe, Africa—everywhere we look.” If our brain keeps dwindling at that rate over the next 20,000 years, it will start to approach the size of that found in Homo erectus, a relative that lived half a million years ago and had a brain volume of only 1,100 cc."

Friday, January 14

If you follow his site, you see Radley Balko finds stories like this all the time. Feel free to slam your head against the wall while reading.

Thursday, January 13

Only those who take leisurely what the people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people of the world take leisurely.
-- Chang Ch'ao via Lin Yutang.

Tuesday, January 4

I had a humorous, friendly exchange with a vendor at our neighborhood flea market this fall. My friend was perusing a decorative fabric which promoted "buying local" on it. During the bargaining I noticed the seller had a accent that sounded a little... international.
"So where are you from?" I asked. "England," she replied. "We can't buy from you," I said, "since you're not local!"
"I'm not for sale," she replied.
"Everyone's for sale."

Anyway, here's a brief explanation on why the economics (and the implied morality) of the buy local movement is fundamentally flawed.

Full disclosure: I sometimes enjoy locally sourced foods and goods, but recognize it's a shopping choice, not a moral one, as the authors put it. Some of the gifts I gave at Christmas were locally made, but then I took them to California so I don't know what that means as for "local-ness." One was a book buy a guy who lives in my city, but I don't know where the printing was done. And yes it's a true story above.