Even though the stats say people read this little site regularly, the fact is not many people comment. One of the few people who I’d call a “regular commenter” was Cynthia.

It is with great sadness that I must report that Cynthia passed away this morning. She leaves behind a long-term boyfriend, assorted distant relatives, a grandson, and one daughter. That would be me.

In Closing: rubble bucket challenge; an interesting and relevant graph; on inequality and impounded cars; cop cams; one less one less problem; Karl calls ‘em as he sees ‘em; shhh, ancient oligarch secret; and thanks to bankruptcy “reform,” there is no hope of this getting better until the previous item miraculously vanishes; I still wonder why insurance companies haven’t put their considerable clout behind this; and won’t somebody please think of the children (unless of course they are brown).



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Music Monday: Life Finds a Way?

The Russians think they have found life. Life, on the outside of the International Space Station. It’s from Earth, all right, they just don’t know how it got there.


In Closing: hopefully a few last words on Ferguson, the militarization of our police, the death of the right to peaceably assemble, and the press (but it won’t be the last because of race); a “difficult decision“; hey now, don’t get too skinny!; don’t think I’ve forgotten about the NSA; and children in poverty.

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Joe Average and the Economy

The bad news is that hourly wages have declined. Look at the first chart, and you’ll notice that’s even true for the top quintile! In other words, ThinkProgress is soft-selling the fact that most of us — on average — are making less per hour in favor of pointing out that those at the very bottom have it worst.

So then, how can CNN turn around and tell us that wages are up? Two things. First, they mean that median income is up, which can be explained away by more people working and people working longer hours. Second, even they admit that “the gains are not spread evenly“.

So the Very Intelligent People are wringing their hands over the fact that none of us seem to have much savings, and don’t we know we will retire one day, the fact is that for many average people, these savings tips are a cruel joke. Ha, put aside 10-13% for retirement, and reduce your debt (heh), and “Don’t make emotional purchases”? Emotional purchases like what, replacing the dead transmission in the car so you can get to work? Maybe if we just teach the middle and lower class how to manage their money better somehow they can magically make all their bills less.

When one in seven people are at the food bank, they don’t have anything to put aside at the regular bank for a rainy day; it’s already pouring.

In Closing: support staff; No Fly; bulldozer improvements; grittier than Melissa Gilbert’s portrayal; and no, this will not do what it advertises. There is no such thing as a master list of sexual predators; there is only a list of people who have convictions for certain crimes involving genitals. Ways to be put on this list include having a significant other who is underage (even if they lie about it), peeing in the wrong location, or happening to be naked in one’s own home. Schools that use this system will wonder why parents aren’t lining up and spending $20 for a background check and the honor of being allowed to chaperone a field trip or shelve library books.

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More Ferguson

The ASSociated Press has published a little article which my local news picked up. The first paragraph reads:

The fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer has opened a debate over what level of force is appropriate when law enforcement confronts a citizen perceived to be a threat.

Let’s back up just a moment. The question that should be asked in Ferguson and perhaps elsewhere is this:

What should a police officer consider a threat?

We now know that the young man was in fact running away from the officer when the confrontation began. Is someone running away a “threat”? At the very least, the officer can no longer use the “he was headed straight for me” defense without expecting laughter.

Backing up further, is a “thief” who shoved a store clerk a “threat” (even though everyone agrees that the cop didn’t know about the alleged incident)? Well, since it turned out that the theft was trumped up and the film that supposedly proves the young man was a Very Bad Man actually shows him paying, no.

Are photographers and journalists a threat? How about churches?

I leave you with three more Ferguson thoughts. First, what the press might well report if Ferguson were overseas. Second, Ferguson appears to have a rich heritage of discriminatory legal practices. Finally, the police have all kinds of new crowd control toys. One, Taser brags, can incapacitate anybody who happens to be in a target area. Forgive me for wondering how you make a crowd disperse by incapacitating them.

In Closing: I don’t know, maybe you could try doing things voters like?; on privacy and metadata.

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Music Monday: More of the Same as it Ever Was


It does look like things are getting a lot more complicated in Ferguson. And that’s before the Fed’s version of the autopsy*, and before any grand jury sees evidence. The Genie’s out of the bottle now.

In Closing: imagine that, mandatory insurance didn’t fix some of the stuff it was supposed to; fake news reinvented; feminism’s benefits for men; cyberweapons.


*I’m glad there’s going to be another one, because this last one was done by the guy that testified in the O.J. Simpson trial. Yeah, just what we need is to put a nice controversy icing on this cake of unrest.

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So yesterday — long after Anonymous* claimed to have the information — Ferguson Police finally released the name of the officer who shot an unarmed young man, setting off riots. But then they proceeded to dump poison in the well.

Jackson also gave barebones details about a strong-arm robbery at a local convenience store that took place moments before Wilson shot Brown. He did not connect Brown to the robbery during his press conference, but in police documents he released to reporters during the press conference, Brown is named as a suspect. Jackson released dispatch records and video surveillance of the robbery as well.

Ok. So suspected robbery — not even armed robbery — is grounds for immediate death penalty, no trial required? Good to know.

Except that the cop who shot him didn’t even know about the alleged robbery. Oops. Why bring that up at all, I wonder. Apparently then, there’s an immediate death penalty for walking down the street as opposed to the sidewalk. Further, cops may prevent qualified bystanders from performing CPR.


Clearly they don’t subscribe to the Obama Doctrine:  Don’t do stupid stuff.

There is one silver lining to this dark cloud, however. Normal Americans are finally talking about issues like the militarization of our police (here is the must read book), freedom to protest even if you aren’t white (non-white protesters seem to consistently be called “looters” regardless of what they’re doing), and manipulation of the supposedly free press. Sure, “be careful what you tweet.”

* I wonder what Anonymous threatened to do if the name wasn’t officially released.

No in closing today. Too disgusted.

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A year later, new stuff continues to trickle out

So here we are.

Edward Snowden has been in Russia long enough that his visa has been extended. You can actually buy t-shirts with his face on them. There are people who consider him a traitor and people who consider him a hero. He’s got a huge spread in the current issue of Wired. The list of things we know about the NSA and America’s electronic spy infrastructure thanks to Mr. Snowden just keeps getting longer! Just this week we learned that the NSA has cyberwarfare capabilities and is responsible for a country-wide internet blackout in Syria.

Yet, to paraphrase Yoda, There Is Another. Maybe more than just one other.

And since The Powers That Be can’t seem to stop the obvious violations of what most of us understand to be our rights under the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments, no wonder Millennials are not enthusiastic about politics.

How deep does the NSA Rabbit Hole go?

In Closing: Challenging civil forfeiture; yoga can be manly; cartel profits are going to pot; the economy; banks; I hate that he’s right; politics and you; the real consensus turns out to be further along the curve; math is a harsh reality; damned if you work, damned if you don’t; and the cat that rides the bus.

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Music Monday: Same As It Ever Was


Once upon a time there was a math teacher in Japan named Toru Kumon. Back in 1954, his son did badly on a math test in grade school. A conversation with Mrs. Kumon ensued that boiled down to “Well, what are you going to do about this?” So he opened up the son’s textbook. Dismayed by what he found, he decided that the best solution was a step by step approach that should fill in missing skills, solidify the basics, and eventually prepare his son (and other students) for the sort of math he was teaching in high school. He emphasized speed and accuracy. It worked so well that parents are willing to pay for his method to this very day.

A decade later, an American teacher named Seigfried Englemann — Zig for short — landed a position working with Head Start. He found that the best solution for teaching kids basic academic skills was a step by step approach that makes sure there are no missing skills, the basics are solid, grouping by ability, and speed. He was convinced that a failing classroom was caused by bad curriculum (or bad implementation of curriculum), not bad kids. Here’s video of kindergarteners doing math (and basic algebra!). Notice that the children are minorities, the caption says they are “at risk” students as well. Notice too that this video was filmed just a year after Lehrer sang “New Math.”

It seems like every decade some group of educators decide there’s a better way to teach math (and reading) and some other educator re-discovers that you can’t teach complicated things unless students understand the simpler things underneath them. The latest reform math movement has resulted in hilarious problems being posted online and lampooned on television. And that brings me to the latest salvo in the math education pissing contest, nicely summarized by Joanne Jacobs: one educator says reform math doesn’t work here in the states because teachers are poorly trained, and the proof is that Japanese kids are doing fine; some other educator points out that Japanese kids are learning actual math skills in classes outside of school (including using the methods of Kumon-Sensei).

A common criticism of the Old Ways That Worked is that “drill and kill bores kids.” Do the kids in Zig’s video look bored? No, I didn’t think so either. Maybe they mean “drill and kill bores teachers.”

In Closing: Another place where they’re changing the rules just about the time you think you understand them; mission creep; unintended consequences; on mostly not getting by in America these days; Amen; on American politics; the Middle East; Reality; on privacy, the Internet, and the hilarious new thing the NSA wants; and Cat Tricks.

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More for the College Bound Crowd

This time of year, I usually link back to my 2007 post on campus drinking. And hey, it’s still unfortunately relevant.

Today I’d like to remind you that  hand in hand with college drinking is the problem of sexual assault on campus. No victim blaming is intended here, but if you are headed off to college — especially if you are female — here are some things you need to remember:

  • Sexual assault is a crime and should be reported to police, not campus officials. It should be prosecuted in a real court and not a campus disciplinary panel designed to deal with such infringements as scholastic dishonesty.
  • Your campus may have a vested interest in making sure few serious crimes — including sexual assault — are reported. After all, they want to look parents of prospective students in the eye and talk about their low crime rate.
  • Victims of a crime have the right to have their complaint taken seriously, even if the alleged perpetrator is a campus hero.
  • More protections might be coming, but they of course must be balanced against the rights of the accused (who are still “innocent until proven guilty”, and yes some are unjustly accused — another argument for involving the real police and real courts early).
  • Just like with most crimes, it is always a good idea to be a little proactive about not becoming a victim. Use common sense. Use the “buddy system” when you go out and keep an eye out for one another. Watch your consumption of booze and other intoxicants. Be aware that not-nice people exist. These tips are useful for preventing theft and the more mundane sort of assault too.

Look, I sincerely hope you never ever have to call the cops to report a crime on campus. Likewise, I hope you won’t hesitate if the need arises.

In Closing: More on privacy, watchlists, andreform“, with a bonus blast from the past; dude, highway deaths are so down in Colorado; in the Navy; co-signing is a bad idea; mountain lions don’t like opera; airport playground.

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Music Monday: Excuse me, do those immigrants have visas?

It’s not new, but I can’t listed to the song now without seeing this….

And here’s a bonus cat for you, only 35 seconds long:


In Closing: Looks like this judge found a way to ‘splain it; high speed rail coming to Texas; on poverty, wages, debt, and getting by; LEGO scientists; on Congress; a few more items on Israel and Palestine; pollution has reached Antarctica.

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