LAPD, Which Tracks Citizens Through Their Phones, Worries About You Doing the Same to Them - Hit & Run : Reason.com: "There are a million ways some violent, crazy person could track down or lure police with the intent of ambushing or killing them, including following their cars or, you know, simply calling the police and reporting a fake crime. In my neighborhood, they can apparently just walk right up to the local police station and shoot at them (as far as I can tell, they still haven’t caught that guy, assuming that shooting actually happened). Hey, would you like to listen to Los Angeles Police and Fire scanner traffic? It’s right here! This is not a request to be treated seriously, and we should all recognize it for what it is—an effort to keep citizenry from providing information to each other to help stay out of the clutches of law enforcement’s money-grubbing traffic enforcement adventures. Reminder: The LAPD uses technology to track people’s locations via their smartphones. Turnabout is fair play."
Kung Fu Monkey: LIBRARIANS #107 "Rule of Three" Answer Post: "(NOTE the third: I don't believe in the supernatural, so please rest assured I respect Wicca as much as I respect all other more traditionally accepted religious beliefs -- as one of many available cool personal operating systems one might use to comprehend a vast and nigh-infinite universe. I know that these operating systems are deeply emotionally resonant to most of you. I'm not mocking, and the show will farm from various religious traditions for story points as cultural frameworks and legendary narratives, with as much respect as we can muster. We will sometimes fail. Sorry about that.)"
The Other Side of Otters : Discovery News: "Sea otters – cute, furry, adorable, clams-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouths sea otters – have been observed forcibly copulating with, and in the process killing, juvenile harbor seals off California. Writing in a recent edition of the journal Aquatic Mammals, Heather Harris of the California Department of Fish and Game and colleagues document nineteen occurrences of this behavior in Monterey Bay between 2000 and 2002, leading to the deaths of at least 15 seals."
No, Mass Surveillance Won't Stop Terrorist Attacks - Reason.com: "...the mass surveillance programs initiated by the U.S. government after the 9/11 attacks—the legal ones and the constitutionally-dubious ones—were premised on the belief that bin Laden’s hijacker-terrorists were able to pull off the attacks because of a failure to collect enough data. Yet in their subsequent reports on the attacks, the Congressional Joint Inquiry (2002) and the 9/11 Commission found exactly the opposite. The data to detect (and thus foil) the plots was in the U.S. government’s hands prior to the attacks; the failures were ones of sharing, analysis, and dissemination. That malady perfectly describes every intelligence failure from Pearl Harbor to the present day. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (created by Congress in 2004) was supposed to be the answer to the "failure-to-connect-the-dots" problem. Ten years on, the problem remains, the IC bureaucracy is bigger than ever, and our government is continuing to rely on mass surveillance programs that have failed time and again to stop terrorists while simultaneously undermining the civil liberties and personal privacy of every American. The quest to "collect it all," to borrow a phrase from NSA Director Keith Alexander, only leads to the accumulation of masses of useless information, making it harder to find real threats and costing billions to store."
Lies, damned lies, statistics. Be careful with that viral statistic about the top 1% owning half the world’s wealth - Vox: "In recent days, there's been a startling statistic going around. The number comes from Oxfam, and warns that the combined wealth of the richest one percent will pass that of the other 99 percent next year, at least if current trends hold. The statistic has been reported in the Guardian, the New York Times, and FiveThirtyEight, among others. Even Hillary Clinton is using a version of it. But it doesn't mean quite what it looks like it means. To see the problem, here's another version of the same number: the combined wealth of my two nephews is already more than the bottom 30 percent of the world combined. And they don't have jobs, or inheritances. They just have a piggy bank and no debt. Oxfam presents the statistic, which is derived from data published in Credit Suisse's Global Wealth Databook (pdf), as a measure of wealth. But it's technically a measure of net worth: assets minus debts. As such, what it's picking up isn't just massive inequality in wealth, but also massive inequality in the ability to access credit. So for the purposes of Oxfam's calculation, a farmer in China's rural Sichuan province with no debt but also very little money is wealthier than an American who just graduated from medical school with substantial debt but also a hefty, six-figure income. By any sensible standard, the medical student is richer, but because her student debt still outweighs her financial assets, the net worth measure counts her as poorer than the Chinese peasant."
U.S. Military Honors Saudi King with Essay Contest (Seriously) - Hit & Run : Reason.com: "The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff want to make sure everybody knows just how dearly the U.S. military treasured its friend, the recently departed king of Saudi Arabia. To that end, the Department of Defense has commissioned an essay contest to honor the late monarch, whose friendship with the U.S. was exceeded only by his sponsorship of terrorism, butchery, and oppression. King Abdullah "moderate beheadings" Bin Abdul-Aziz passed away last week at age 90. Here is how the U.S. government glowingly describes his reign...
“In my job to train and advise his military forces, and in our relationship since, I found the king to be a man of remarkable character and courage,” Dempsey said. Because it takes remarkable character and courage to preside over a country that routinely beheads enemies, tortures political dissidents, and jails religious dissenters. Credit where credit is due, however: An essay contest commemorating a Middle Eastern tyrant has to be one of the more creative ways for the federal government to waste our money I've seen lately."
Why the Pentagon Is Honoring the Late Saudi King | TIME: "The last time the Defense Department achieved notoriety as a platform for views on Saudi Arabia was in 2002, between the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s when a Rand Corp. analyst told a high-level panel behind closed doors that the kingdom was “active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader.” Washington, he said, should declare the Saudis the enemy and threaten to take over the oil wells if they didn’t do more to combat Islamist terrorists (the briefing was 10 months after the 9/11 attacks, in which 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudi).
The Pentagon quickly distanced itself from Laurent Murawiec’s presentation to the Defense Policy Board. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the Saudi foreign minister to apologize.
On Monday, the top U.S. military leader, Army General Martin Dempsey, announced the Pentagon would be conducting a “research and essay competition” to honor Saudi King Abdullah, who died Jan. 23 at 90, as “a man of remarkable character and courage.” Critics pounced."
After 37 Years in Prison, Innocent North Carolina Man Freed - ABC News: "For the first time in nearly 40 years, Joseph Sledge woke up behind bars with a chance of becoming a free man. The 70-year-old man needed one more win at an innocence hearing. As three judges listened to closing statements Friday about how Sledge was wrongfully convicted in the 1976 stabbing deaths of a mother and her adult daughter, he wrote down a few words on a yellow Post-it note — "closure," ''please" and "exonerated." A few hours later, carrying his belongings in plastic bags, Sledge emerged from a North Carolina jail, saying he was looking forward to what most people consider the most mundane of activities: "Going home. Relaxing. Sleeping in a real bed. Probably get in a pool of water and swim for a little while...
In 2013, the case was referred to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only state-run investigative agency of its kind. So far, Sledge is the eighth person exonerated after an investigation by the commission, which started operating in 2007. It has reviewed about 1,500 cases. Nationwide, The Innocence Project said there have been 325 post-conviction DNA exonerations. The North Carolina commission found there was enough evidence of Sledge's innocence to refer it to a panel of three judges, who were appointed by the state Supreme Court. The judges considered the commission's investigative file, and a DNA expert highlighted lab tests in her testimony Friday. Meghan Clement of Cellmark Forensics said none of the evidence collected from the scene — hair, DNA and fingerprints — belonged to Sledge. The key jailhouse informant, Herman Baker, signed an affidavit in 2013 recanting trial testimony. Baker said he lied at the 1978 trial after being promised leniency in his own drug case and he said he'd been coached by authorities on what to say. Testimony from another jailhouse informant was inconsistent, according to the commission documents. That informant died in 1991...
The only thing that's shown me US politics isn't completely worthless is the insanity of the politics of the last two countries I've lived in. Politics in Thailand: Groundhog day | The Economist: "SINCE seizing power in a coup last May, Thailand's ruling junta has promised to promote reconciliation over revenge. That went out the window on January 23rd, when members of Thailand's rubber-stamp parliament voted to impeach Yingluck Shinawatra, the former prime minister, for alleged impropriety during her three years in office. The ruling bans Ms Shinawatra, who was Thailand's first female leader, from political office for five years. Government prosecutors are now saying they will pursue criminal charges, which could eventually lead to a jail sentence of up to a decade. It makes a faint hope—that Thailand might swiftly return to democracy—look even more fanciful."
"Everybody abstracts a different reality. When you come through a room, you abstract the reality you're prepared to abstract. You pick up the signals that interest you. Your brain records them and organizes them. We all have our own reality tunnel, and in our reality tunnel we pick out some things and ignore other things. And we got 10 billion cells in our brain receiving hundreds and hundreds of millions of signals all the time. We just pick out the ones that fit into the established grooves in our brain, the reality tunnel that's been laid down by past experience. We all have our own belief system, and the signals that fit our belief system get in. The signals that don't fit our belief system get ignored, or if they keep coming back we go to a psychiatrist to get cured and make them go away." - Maybe Logic: The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson
5 Reasons the '60s Batman TV Show Is Better Than You Think | Cracked.com: "It would've been easy to hire a Batman that was simply content with letting Cesar Romero's Joker laugh in his face while he spoke random generalizations about justice. But those generalizations become effortlessly quotable when spoken by West, with his smugly cool way of letting the mentally unstable know that they'll be spending the night in the Gotham Penitentiary, and with his whiskey-smooth voice. Unless they're pesky Aunt Harriet, the show makes a habit of letting you know that the ladies of Gotham have a Top 2 list for whom they'd like to bang, and it's: 1) Batman, and 2) Bruce Wayne, but if he's not available, then Batman. Adam West's pheromones have not yet been properly researched, but that's because no scientist can be in the same building as him without asking if he's seeing anyone."
"No matter what proof you show them, and I mean documented proof, hard-nosed proof, there are always going to be skeptics who are going to call this a fraud, a hoax, a gigantic put-on. The world is full of people with a kind of deep-seated masochistic pessimism. They have an unconscious hatred and fear of life and a deep wish for its permanent cessation." -Max Ehrlich
American student arrested for Arabic flash cards in airport after TSA freaked out settles lawsuit - Boing Boing: "“Five years ago, the Philadelphia police thought that carrying Arabic-language flashcards was enough to warrant the arrest of an innocent traveler,” writes that traveler, Nick George. With help from the American Civil Liberties Union, he reached a settlement today in a lawsuit brought against the Philadelphia police department. America is safe once again for people who like to study foreign languages and read books on foreign policy in airports. Here's the text of the settlement [PDF] which awards him $25,000 and ends the long-running legal battle. Nick was heading off to start his senior year at Pomona College in California, back in August 2009, when cops detained, aggressively interrogated, handcuffed, and locked him in a jail cell for nearly five hours at the Philadelphia International Airport. Why was he targeted? Because Nick, a dual major in physics and Middle Eastern studies, was carrying a set of English-Arabic flashcards in for his language class--and Rogue Nation, a book critical of U.S. foreign policy that was written by a former Reagan administration official. “It should go without saying that this is perfectly innocuous, First Amendment-protected activity,” says Nick. “Turns out, it doesn't.”"
King Abdullah's Moderate Beheadings - Hit & Run : Reason.com: "From The New York Times' obit for King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who just died at age 90: Still, Abdullah became, in some ways, a force of moderation. He contested Al Qaeda's militant interpretations of the faith as justifying, even compelling, terrorist acts. He ordered that textbooks be purged of their most extreme language and sent 900 imams to re-education sessions. He had hundreds of militants arrested and some beheaded. It's supposed to be "moderate" because he was doing it to "militants," I guess."
Lying and/or willful ignorance and/or utter lack of self-awareness & understanding. Or, to sum up, politics. GOP senator who boasted about her family's self-reliance received $460K in federal subsidies - Boing Boing: "Iowa Republican senator Joni Ernst gave her party's official response to the State of the Union address by boasting self-righteously about her humble origins and how her self-reliant, heartland-state family pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, but conveniently failed to mention that her family's farm was the beneficiary of nearly half a million dollars in federal subsidies. Senator Ernst's speech stressed how her family had "lived within its means" and she campaigned on a promise to "cut the pork" out of government.
The truth about her family’s farm roots and living within one’s means, however, is more complex. Relatives of Ernst (née: Culver), based in Red Oak, Iowa (population: 5,568) have received over $460,000 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. Ernst’s father, Richard Culver, was given $14,705 in conservation payments and $23,690 in commodity subsidies by the federal government–with all but twelve dollars allocated for corn support. Richard’s brother, Dallas Culver, benefited from $367,141 in federal agricultural aid, with over $250,000 geared toward corn subsidies. And the brothers’ late grandfather Harold Culver received $57,479 from Washington—again, mostly corn subsidies—between 1995 and 2001. He passed away in January 2003. The Sentinel cross-referenced the Environmental Working Group farm subsidy database with open source information to verify the Culvers’ interest in the Department of Agriculture’s crop support program. Sen. Ernst’s family’s financial interest notably came up once during her campaign. In October, Salon reported that Richard’s construction company was awarded $215,665 in contracts from the Montgomery County government in 2009 and 2010, while Ernst was the body’s auditor. The bids won by Culver included Federal Emergency Management Agency projects worth $204,794."