December 12, 2011

Lowe's Does Something Stupid - AGAIN.

There's a call for a boycott against Lowe's going around the inter-webs. 
As you may have heard, home improvement giant Lowe’s pulled their advertising from TLC’s All-American Muslim. That in and of itself might not be a massive sin — companies have a right to spend their advertising dollars where they like, or order for a few episodes and don’t re-up. But Lowe’s, at every step of the way, has managed to give the impression that they’re rather aggressively folding to virulent Islamophobes.
- thinkprogress.org
I won't be joining this boycott; but that's only because I'm already boycotting them.  I have been ever since they tried to build a shopping plaza in the Everglades.  Fortunately, the state got involved and stopped it, but Lowe's never did display any kind of epiphany that what they wanted to do was an egregious violation of what's best for society.

But it's not just Lowe's refusing to back programming that promotes religious tolerance and expands our understanding of our fellow Americans; it's a lot of the soul-less corporations that we mindlessly do business with every day:
... companies that initially supported the program, but later did not have any advertising aired, were Airborne Vitamin, Amway, Diamond Foods, Dyson Vacuum, Estee Lauder, HTC Phones, Home Depot, McDonald's, Petsmart, Pfizer, Sears, Sonic, T-Mobil and Wal-Mart.

The point of the TLC program isn't to proselytize for Islam; it's to give non-muslims a look into the lives and beliefs of some of our fellow Americans.  People upset about the program don't have any kind of moral high ground that should dictate anyone's behavior; they are simply bigots.  Their only goal is to suppress knowledge and enforce ignorance to give them the freedom to spin out any lie they can imagine in order to divide our country into religious factions.

So yes, boycott these business, but take it one step further; pull out whatever discount card or loyalty coupons they've given you, and mail it back to them.  And let them know why:
Dear ________,
I have decided to shop exclusively with stores that embrace the virtues bestowed upon us by our forefathers.  Since you have chosen to pull your advertising from programming designed to encourage understanding of my fellow citizens who practice a faith different from mine, your organization no longer reflects the ideals of our great nation.  I will find someone else to do business with; someone who acknowledges that the first step to becoming a truly united people is to foster an understanding of each other.
Sincerely,
A patriotic citizen.
Some of the irrational right-wingnuts are going on about how this is "nobody's concern.  They should be allowed to advertise, or not, as they choose.

And I agree; they can do business as they choose; but they'll have to do it without mine.

November 7, 2011

Deadly Candy

NPR has been running a story that reveals the stunning idiocy of the counter-culture.
...a woman in Nashville, Tenn., advertised lollipops contaminated with the
varicella virus on Facebook. The tainted pops were intended for parents
who want to expose their children to the disease.
The theory is rather than inoculate your children to prevent them from getting the disease, just give them the disease.  Since victims of chicken-pox won't get it a second time, there is some unfounded belief that surviving the disease gives you a better immunity from the disease than a vaccine that prevents you from ever having it.

Which is actually really stupid, since one of the complications of chicken pox is death.

Of course, dead people don't get chicken pox again, either.  Or anything else.

This kind of stupidity was brought on by the hoax that claimed that vaccinations caused or were implicated in causing autism.  But that was, in fact, a hoax.  Every subsequent study indicates that vaccines have no part in autism, and in fact, do what they are supposed to do - prevent the onset of deadly diseases.

The belief that you can protect your children from getting a deadly disease by actually giving them the deadly disease  is akin to believing you can protect your children from getting shot by shooting them.

If you want your kids to be healthy, get them vaccinated.  It works better than anything else.

October 28, 2011

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

These two stories showed up in my news reader, which thinks they are unrelated:



Submarines bearing drugs... divers needing rescues... can this really be a coincidence?

October 26, 2011

Dictionary Fun with the Washington Post.

The Washington Post recently wrote an inflammatory piece that claims that GOP wunderkind Marco Rubio has lied about his past.
...a review of documents — including naturalization papers and other official records — reveals that the Florida Republican’s account embellishes the facts. The documents show that Rubio’s parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than two-and-a-half years before Castro’s forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year’s Day 1959.

The supposed flight of Rubio’s parents has been at the core of the young senator’s political identity, both before and after his stunning tea-party-propelled victory in last year’s Senate election.
The gist of the article is that Rubio's parents were not exiles.  The story insinuates that since they voluntarily came to the United States before Castro took over Cuba, the Rubios can not be considered exiles.

But what, exactly, does exile mean?  Let's look it up.
EXILE
a : the state or a period of forced absence from one's country or home
b
: the state or a period of voluntary absence from one's country or home
Well, that pretty much skewers the Post's position.

By the strict definition of the word, it does not matter why they left.  Did they plan to go back?  Since they didn't apply for citizenship until the 1970's, I'd have to say that they originally planned to return to Cuba at some point - and in fact, they did so, in 1961.  Finding that Castro was no improvement over Batista, they returned to the United States for good.

And if the simple fact that apparently no one at the Post owns a dictionary weren't enough, the blog Random Pixels found plenty of news stories in a Miami newspaper that refer to Cuban exiles, starting as early as 1948.

The Miami Herald responded to the Post article with an analysis of its own, showing once again that liberal media bias is a myth.
The Post also says "the supposed flight of Rubio’s parents has been at the core of the young senator’s political identity." That's a stretch. The actual story of the "flight" is far less emphasized than the fact that Rubio's an Hispanic Republican, and the child of immigrants and exiles
Further undermining the Post's claim that Rubio has been lying about his family history, the Miami Herald talked to Rubio about his pending autobiography, and touched on this very subject!
Rubio clearly told us his parents came here before Castro took power. He struggled to recall the year (this isn't in the story, it's in my notes) and said it was in "57 or 58 or 59."

When asked pointedly: Was it before the revolution? Rubio said it was before the revolution.
But the Herald article also notes:
Rubio's inability to remember these specific dates isn't much of a surprise. Rubio is sometimes sloppy. When he was in the Florida House, he failed to disclose a loan at one point and fill out his financial disclosures properly. He rung up a host of personal and questionable expenses on a Republican Party of Florida credit card and couldn't show how they furthered party business.
This "sloppiness" is why I won't ever vote for him for any office.  I've known a lot of "sloppy" people.  It's not evidence of dishonesty, only a lack of attention to details.  And in Rubio's case, some of those details are pretty important.

But Marco Rubio is unquestionably a child of exiles.  Whether he's a good candidate for office is an exercise best left for the individual.

October 12, 2011

Language Lesson for CBS4 Miami

On their home page today, CBS4 posted a little poll.  And they included an egregious language blunder in it.
Did you catch the mistake?

"I could care less" means that you do care.  After all, if you could care less, it means you have to be caring at least a little bit.  In order to care less, you first have to care some.

The correct phrase is "I could NOT care less."  It's pretty clear that you can't care less than not caring at all.  Your caring level is at rock bottom, there's no more down to go.

Where do I stand on the NBA lockout?  Millionaires and billionaires are squabbling over crumbs while the workers who make the games happen are left without any income at all.  People are losing their homes while the jerk players and the asinine owners bicker.  Players making six figures a year and better can coast through this; the people who sell concessions, food, and beverages live paycheck to paycheck.

I care about the people the NBA is shafting, but I could not care less about the games.

October 2, 2011

Loveland High School: Unwarranted Intrusion

If you want to find an example of unwarranted government intrusion, you need look no farther than Loveland, Ohio's high school.
Dozens of teens, including many honor students, were reprimanded this week for wearing yoga pants to Loveland High School.
- WLWT news
The school's dress code, in regards to girl's clothing, simply states that "revealing clothing" is prohibited, and students are not permitted to wear clothing that is "deemed to be distracting."

The school district's dress code is worthless.  It's vague beyond any standard of reason, and only a pinhead would use this poorly constructed mess to punish students.  There's nothing defining "revealing" or "distracting."  By some standards, showing a women's face is "revealing," and wearing anything with color could be "distracting."

Just so you understand the issue in its entirety,
here's an example of yoga pants:




Yoga is about range of motion, and these pants are stretchy, to allow freedom of movement.  But they're not really all that tight and clingy.  They're just really comfortable.

What they are not is particularly revealing;they are loose, and are always fairly flared.

Compare them to current trends in blue jeans, which are permitted:


And certainly they show a lot less than the average skirt:




Personally, I am not opposed to school uniforms; it ends all the ambiguity.  Everyone knows what's acceptable, and it ensures that no one can arbitrarily decide that a fashion they don't approve of is verboten on a moment's whim.

But there is no uniform code.  In that case, a reasonable set of guidelines should be provided. It wasn't.

It's ludicrous that students were suspended for violating a set of rules that don't actually determine anything measurable. These suspensions should be reversed, and whoever approved them should be reviewed for competence, because this action sure doesn't indicate its presence.

Whatever idiot decided that yoga pants are an issue is disrupting the process of education far more than a pair of pants ever could.

September 27, 2011

But it's Not The Breed...

South Florida Daily Blog often posts articles about Pit Bulls biting their owners, or neighbors, or other dogs, with the comment "...but it's not the breed" appended.

Of course, the intended message is that it is indeed the breed that dictates behavior.

Nature versus nurture, and SFDB says "it's nature."

But then there are stories like this one, from WTAE Pittsburgh:
CARNEGIE, Pa. -- A woman who fell down a hill and was crumpled against a sewer grate was saved by a pit bull.

Jimmie Belchick's American pit bull terrier, Cobain, helped to save the woman who fell down the hill and landed on the grate with no way to get help.
"My dog put Lassie to shame. He came and alerted me when somebody needed help and what more can you ask for out of your dog," Belichick said.
But it's not the breed.

September 26, 2011

Why Johnny Can't Add; The Failure of American Education

On a recent visit to my sister's, I witnessed as my niece engaged in a struggle familiar to me; math homework.  The difference; I struggled to juggle the numbers to come up with the correct answers.  She was struggling to learn how to come up with the wrong answer.

I kid you not.  The state of the art flavor of the day shit-for-brains educational theory is called "compatible numbers."

In proper math, you deal with the actual numbers to come to the correct answer.

In compatible math, you round up the numbers (or one of them) to one that's easier to deal with, to come up with an answer that is close to the actual number the problem should result, but isn't actually the number the problem should result in.

Is your head hurting yet?

OK, let's take 28-13.  We round up 28 to be 30, because it's easier to deal with; 30-13=17, which is close to the correct answer of 15.  Of course, even though 15 is the correct answer to the problem of 28 minus 13, it's wrong for the homework because they are looking for the wrong answer.

In essence, our schools are teaching that 28-13=17.

Just so you don't get as confused as I did, with two digit numbers, you only round up if the second digit is greater than five.  Thus 69x14 becomes 70x14.  And of course, you get completely different answers when you solve the equation.

Educators, however, have decided that "close is good enough."

Of course, this kind of sloppy thinking can actually kill people.  Can you imagine the results if an engineer using this technique to design aircraft, or bridges?  "Oh, the parts ALMOST fit, but close is good enough."  Or if a pharmacist or nurse gave you "almost" the correct dosage?

It's completely unacceptable.

Some of you might remember "new math."  New math differed from old math (or simply "math") in that the processing of the equations was broken down so that the student could work with smaller units.  Sometimes this process was outrageously complicated.  So complicated, that Tom Lehrer satirized it in song.


But the end result was still expected to be the actual, correct, answer.  A number that was close, but incorrect, was still  incorrect. 

Proponents of this educational malpractice make an extremely lame argument.  "We're teaching them how to estimate," they coo reassuringly.  "WHYYYYY?" I hiss back at them.

Yes, many adults have been doing this kind of estimation for years; many of us can look at the multiplication example I gave earlier and say "yeah, that's gonna fall somewhere between 900 and 1000."  And when we do the actual math, we nod our heads because the correct answer is close to what we projected. 

But that's not what you teach kids.  When you teach that at a primary level, sloppy thinking becomes a primary process instead of something you know you can get away with later in life.  What you learn first is what sticks; it is the foundation for everything that follows.  What you learn first usually ends up being what you learn.

Morris Kline, Professor of Mathematics, in his 1973 book Why Johnny Can't Add: the Failure of the New Math addressed this issue directly:
"abstraction is not the first stage but the last stage in a mathematical development"
- Why  Johnny Can't Add, page 98
I doubt there will be funny songs about the use of compatible numbers. Teaching kids how to arrive at the wrong answer just isn't very funny.

Cain Isn't Able

The results were sprawled across the news websites:

Herman Cain wins Florida straw poll


And like most people, my first thought was "Who?"

And after a little research, I can say with authority that Herman Cain is the other black man in the Tea Party.   Unless the Tea Party is still pissed at Allen West,  in which case Cain becomes the Tea Party's token black man.

Alright, I confess, I kid; but not by much.  There have been accusations against the fringe conservative group since its inception, and Cain recently rebuked Morgan Freeman for calling the group racist.  From his Fox News interview with Neil Cavuto:
...I doubt if Morgan Freeman, with all due respect, who is a great actor, has he ever been to a Tea Party? Most of the people that are criticizing the Tea Parties, Neil, about having a racist element, they have never been to a Tea Party.
Of course, other Tea Party defenders have come to other conclusions, such as The Economist's Lexington's Notebook column:
I SAID in a recent post that people, such as those in the NAACP, who call the tea-party movement racist did not know whereof they speak. Now, in light of the Mark Williams affair, I have to consider whether a correction is in order.

To judge by a "satirical" letter he wrote in reaction to the NAACP, Mr Williams, a tea-party activist, is indeed a racist...

...I concede that there are racists within the movement, maybe many more than I had realised.
Like Lexington, I'm willing to concede that the organization isn't intended to spread racism, and didn't set out to recruit racists.  But take a look at this slideshow of photos taken at last weeks Conservative Political Action Conference, and take your own inventory.

My second thought, when I look at the numbers, it's hard to agree that he "won" the straw poll.

Here they are:
  • Herman Cain: 37 percent
  • Rick Perry: 15 percent
  • Mitt Romney: 14 percent
  • Rick Santorum: 10.9 percent
  • Ron Paul: 10.4 percent
  • Newt Gingrich: 8.4 percent
  • Jon Huntsman: 2.3 percent
  • Michelle Bachmann: 1.5 percent
Sure, he got more votes than the top two runners-up combined, but he still took only a little more than a third of all the votes cast.  That means that about 2 out of every 3 participants voted against him.  He didn't win so much as he didn't lose as badly as everyone else.

I wouldn't call it a stunning victory. 

Everyone expected Rick Perry to win, even though he's an idiot.  Of course, George W. Bush was elected, and he was an idiot.  But last week, he had to hold his own with people who were much smarter than he was, or at least with Mitt Romney.  Perhaps, like Sarah Palin, Perry should have written his prepared off-the-cuff retorts on his arm.

Mitt Romney would probably be a good choice to lure in voters from across the aisle, which is why die-hard conservatives won't consider him.  Toss in the fact that he's a member of "a wierd cult," and we can see why Romney won't get the nomination.  Again.

The rest are the usual flotsam and jetsam of knee-jerk conservatives spouting all the usual conservative talking points; lower taxes, less regulation, and screw anyone who isn't already wealthy.

The real message from the straw poll isn't "Cain is a great candidate."  It's "can't you turd-herders come up with even ONE potential candidate who's not a complete jerk?"

September 4, 2011

Huntsman's Jobless "Jobs Plan"

CNN reports that the Wall Street Journal loves Jon Huntsman's jobs plan.
The paper described Huntsman's proposals, which he laid out Wednesday in a speech in New Hampshire,"as impressive as any to date in the GOP presidential field, and certainly better than what we've seen from the front-runners."
Wow!  That must be some great jobs plan, I thought, because so far, the one thing the Republicans have been leaving out of their jobs plans were the actual jobs themselves.  All they've offered is less tax, and less spending.

Sadly, Mr. Huntsman's "jobs" plan also fails to include a single job.

Huntsman's plan:

1. Tax Reform
  • less taxes for citizens
  • less taxes for rich citizens
  • less taxes for corporations
  • and less taxes. 
2. Regulatory Reform
  • Get rid of regulations (and the Healthcare act, too)
  • Gut the EPA (which is already underfunded)
  • Kill the NLRB
  • Gut the FDA
  • Give Patents away like lollipops
  • Privatize Fannie MAE and Freddie MAC
3. Energy Independence
  • Smack OPEC upside the head and drill, baby, drill!
  • Create a market for alternative fuels.

4. Free Trade
  • Let's repeat the success of NAFTA (which cost the US 879,280 jobs) with South Korea, Columbia and Panama, and what the heck, throw in Japan, India and Taiwan.

Why Huntsman's Jobs Plan Fails as a Jobs Plan

In short, it doesn't create any jobs.

Lowering Taxes Doesn't Create Jobs.
Well, the first section, lowering/reducing/simplyfying taxes.  Hey, wouldn't it be great if it was easier to prepare our taxes?  I wouldn't need an accountant to figure it out for me - which, of course, means that a lot of tax preparers are going to be totally boned, and likely will go out of business.  Which I, for one, am not factoring in to this, because this thing stinks enough without pointing out how many people this plan puts out of work.

The fact of the matter is that lowering taxes doesn't create jobs.  It's a pretty idea.  And that's all it is. 

Most businesses are, well, in business.  And when you find you're making more money without having to do anything, you don't suddenly decide to hire a bunch of people, you pay it out in dividends. Free profit, baby!

Current Regulations Aren't Killing Jobs
Huntsman specifically cites EPA pollution regulations in his plan:
While the nation struggles to recover from economic turmoil, EPA has imposed vast new rules on the nation's energy producers, crippling one of the most critically important components of economic recovery: energy
supply.
The problem is that this isn't actually happening.  The Washington Post rebuts:
An Aug. 8 review by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) refuted much of the criticism of the EPA’s regulatory push. Fears of disruption to the power sector are overblown, the CRS said: Newer coal power plants already have pollution controls, and many older ones are set to shut down anyway, in part because burning cleaner natural gas is now so cheap.
Furthermore:
....studies that many critics continue to rely on in their forecasts of expensive regulatory disaster assume stringent provisions that the Obama administration never proposed. A note from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, cited by many critics, admits that its analysis is “inadequate to use as a basis for decision-making, given that it used information and assumptions that have changed.”
In other words, at some point, the GOP assumed that President Obama would push for more regulation, and he didn't.  But they're still using the same false assumptions even though the facts contradict them. 

Economist Jared Bernstein weighs in:
Second, and this creates an upward bias to both X and e, you can’t only count the costs of regulations, you have to consider the benefits as well.  Again, from the WaPo editorial:
 “Reasonable people can disagree on how much economic cost is worth bearing for how much environmental benefit. But the Republican critique seems to deny that such a trade-off even exists.”
Suppose an allegedly “job-killing” regulation led to the improvement in public health, thus decreasing health costs or lost work days.  To ignore these factors is to inflate both X and e.
But that's just what analysis shows us; what do business owners say about regulations harming their business?  Well, funny you should ask; McClatchy Newspapers went out and asked them.
"Government regulations are not 'choking' our business, the hospitality business," Bernard Wolfson, the president of Hospitality Operations in Miami, told The Miami Herald. "In order to do business in today's environment, government regulations are necessary and we must deal with them. The health and safety of our guests depend on regulations. It is the government regulations that help keep things in order."
The answer from Rick Douglas — the owner of Minit Maids, a cleaning service with 17 employees in Charlotte, N.C. — was more blunt.

"I think the rich have to be taxed, sorry," Douglas said. He added that he isn't facing a sea of new regulations but that he does struggle with an old issue, workers' compensation claims.
Then there's Rip Daniels. He owns four businesses in Gulfport, Miss.: real estate ventures, a radio station and a boutique hotel/bistro. He said his problem wasn't regulation.

"Absolutely, positively not. What is choking my business is insurance. What's choking all business is insurance. You cannot go into business, any business — small business or large business — unless you can afford insurance," he told Biloxi's Sun Herald.
The article does mention that the US Chamber of Commerce points to the elements mentioned in Huntsman's plan, but noted that those complaints seem to come from the largest corporations, and not from the far more numerous locally owned business that offer the bulk of our nation's employment.

Energy Independence... Fine.  Where are the jobs?
Part 1: drill, baby, DRILL!

Part 2. "eliminate the subsidies and regulations that support foreign oil and inhibit domestic alternatives such as compressed natural gas (CNG), electricity, biofuels, and coal-to-liquids, which are not price-controlled by OPEC."

It should be noted that the inhibition is basically that alternative fuels cost more than foreign fuel.  So this plan is really "let's drive up the price of gasoline and oil for the consumer."    Just  want to make sure we understand the plan; he was kind of vague about it.

This plan is impractical if we're not also investing in mass transit so that we're sharing the cost of $10 a gallon gasoline amongst a large number of commuters.  The best way to shake off dependence on foreign oil is to reduce our consumption by driving a lot less, and making better use of the fuel we do use. 

But this is a jobs plan.  Will this create jobs? I don't see it.  Remember, he's already reduced revenue with the tax reform, which means much steeper cuts than we've seen to date.  Traditionally, alternative fuel research has been subsidized by the government because the return on the investment has been too steep.

Of course, alternative fuels will become economically viable when gasoline costs soar; but I suspect that the sudden rise in costs will put a lot of people out of work. For example, if people stop driving cars in favor of mass transit, that's hit on the auto industry.  Arguably, that could be partially offset by people seeking to replace their current cars with far more efficient vehicles, and building more mass transit systems.  But I think at some point, people are going to start opting out of owning their own car, which means less manufacturing and less maintenance jobs.

Expanding Free Trade.
Remember NAFTA?  As mentioned above, it cost 879,280 US jobs. 78% of the net job losses under NAFTA were relatively high paying manufacturing jobs.   Sure, we eventually regained most of the lost jobs - 809,988.  But the wages dropped 13-16%.

Worse, the idea was to make U.S. products more attractive to Mexican consumers, which would increase our exports there.  But 61% of exports to Mexico are actually components for goods that are assembled in Mexico to be sold in the U.S.

Let's look at the list of Huntsman's proposed partners in trade: South Korea, Columbia, Panama, Japan, India and Taiwan.  Without a Free Trade agreement, we've already lost a lot of jobs to South Korean, India, and Taiwan.  What would be the effects of removing restrictions?  After all, workers in most of those countries make a small fraction of U.S. workers; won't this only encourage companies to move more manufacturing jobs overseas?  Sure, new jobs will eventually replace what's lost, but again, it's likely that we'll see markedly reduced wages.  No net gain, just less money for the same jobs.

Jobless Job Plan
Considering all the factors, this jobs plan doesn't really do much to create new jobs - and remember, we haven't accounted for the jobs lost as Huntsman hacks away at the size of the government.  He's talking about eliminating tens of thousands of government jobs, if not hundreds of thousands.  That will contribute to unemployment even as the few jobs this plan will create eventually appear.

August 31, 2011

This Just In - Fidel Castro Is Still Not Dead

The Miami Herald reports that the latest rumors about Fidel Castro are actually part of an attempt to infect computers.
According to Naked Security, the original message emerged early August as an email message with the subject “Fidel Castro is dead,” followed by a picture of him in a casket. Naked Security determined that the message about Castro was fake and linked it to programs designed to disrupt computer systems.
And while some folks can be lauded for trying to get an insider's view, Cuba's most famous blogger had this to say:
“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Everybody is asking me if it’s true that Fidel Castro is very sick,” was part of the message (Yoani) S├ínchez wrote on her Twitter account around 3 p.m. Tuesday. “I DON’T KNOW, and if it were true, we Cubans would be the last ones to find out.”
So don't open any attachments to a "Fidel Is Dead" message, and don't forward it, because he's still not dead.  Although I suspect he'd be pleased at the attempt to disrupt our Imperialistic social networking capabilities.

August 25, 2011

More Mismanagement by Rick "pink slip" Scott

The Palm Beach Post reports the man in charge of Florida's prison system, Edwin G. Buss, has resigned after six months on the job.  Which is not surprising, seeing as how Governor Rick Scott has been undermining his authority all along.
"Regarding Buss, Governor Scott said differences in philosophy and management styles arose which made the separation in the best interests of the state," Scott's office said in a statement.
The thing to keep in mind here is that Buss has a background in running prison systems while the governor has a background in bilking MediCare.  Of course there are differences in philosophy; Mr. Buss has been praised as being one of the nation's top prison administrators, while Mr. Scott managed to avoid prosecution for one of the largest acts of fraud in US history.

It was a crowning achievement for Scott's administration to lure him away from his post in Indiana, where he had a reputation for effective reform and cutting costs.

Who would you rather have running our prisons - a man lauded as being top in the field, or someone who'd be serving time if not for the work of his shysters?
In the past 10 days, Scott's administration twice publicly accused Buss of initiating contracts and requests for proposals without getting prior approval from Scott's office.
Which in reality world, we'd call "doing his job."  He was hired for his expertise; expertise not found in the governor's office.  The question this raises is "why is the governor interfering with the daily operations of the prison system?"

The governor has no background in prisons.  He's never run one, never dealt with one, never served time in one (unfortunately).  His background, theoretically, is medical law. And of course, we know of at least one job he completely fucked up.  He narrowly avoided criminal charges, but was involved in the lawsuit that followed.  Since he barely understood the field in which he was presumably an expert, you'd think he'd stay out of a field in which he was completely ignorant.

And yet Mr. Scott had no problem voiding contracts that Mr. Buss had signed in good faith. 

During the lawsuit that followed Scott's gross mis-management of HCA, which wound up paying a whopping $1.2 billion dollar fine for acts fraud committed while Scott ran the company, Scott denied knowing even the most basic terms relevant to running a hospital.
"Occupancy? No.  No, I don't know what that means."   - Rick Scott, under oath, March 17, 1995
Now, if you've ever worked in a hospital, you'd know that "occupancy" is the term used most often in business discussions about a hospital; it's the number of people in your hospital's beds.  Occupancy to a hospital is like ticket sales to a movie; it's the life's blood of the industry.  You can't get through the day without being aware of your hospital's average occupancy.

Unless, apparently, you're Rick Scott.


So, Rick Scott didn't even know the most basic terms of an industry he was actively working in, and now he's all pissy because an expert in a completely different field didn't consult him about operations in a field in which he admittedly has no background? 

A good governor attracts the best talent, and then stays out of their way.  Yes, he should be informed, but only informed, not mired in every single decision best made by experts.

One thing is clear; the wrong person resigned.

August 8, 2011

Hemorhoids Get a Bum Rap

Last month, you may recall that The Orlando Sentinel declared that only hemorrhoids are more unpopular than Florida Governor Rick Scott:
The first-time governor — less than a year into his term, typically a honeymoon period for newly electeds — now has an approval rating of 27 percent.

That makes him one of the least popular politicians in the United States and only slightly more popular than a hemorrhoid.
I though that this might be a bit of hyperbole.  So I polled my readers to see if there was any truth to this at all.  After all, I'm always going on about how important it is to be honest, to report the facts, and to avoid pointless rhetoric.  Time to practice what I preach.

And of course, there isn't any truth to it at all.


As you can see here, hemorrhoids are actually more than twice as popular as Governor Rick Scott, or Libya's ruthless dictator, Mohamar Ghadafi.


People would rather have hemorrhoids than Carrot Top, but Carrot Top is preferred over the company of either Ghadafi or Scott. 

This makes perfect sense: in choosing between painful rectal itching and the comedy stylings of Carrot Top, one must factor in the fact that there's a cream for hemorrhoids. 

In fact, it turns out that only Rev. Fred Phelps, bigot-in-chief of the hate group Westboro Baptist Church is less popular than Florida Governor Rick Scott.




So I'm afraid we have to label Scott Maxwell's claim that "Rick Scott is only slightly more popular than hemorrhoids" as false.

Land Shark Sighting

I am not making this up:
Shark Found in Woods of Milton NH



July 26, 2011

Debt Crisis: It's Your Fault

So I couldn't help notice the results of a recent CNN poll:


Now, it's great that so many people took 5 seconds to click on the poll.  But if you're part of the 57% who isn't contacting your congresscritter and chewing them out, then you're part of the problem.  And if your congresscritter is already voting per your wishes, then contact his or her opponent and let them have it.

Our democracy only works if we're all participating. And if you're bitching about the results while not voting or contacting your elected representatives, you have only yourself to blame for our current woes.

July 15, 2011

Let's Settle This Fairly

There's a lot of talk going around about how unpopular Rick Scott, the governor of  Florida, has become since taking office.  His current approval rating is a record low 27%, which supposedly led The Orlando Sentinel to declare that only hemorrhoids where more unpopular.

I have to admit, this delights me no end.

So I thought I'd put it to the test and find out how unpopular he really is:

I figure there's nothing like a good poll to sort this out once and for all.  Remember, vote early - and often!

(poll closed)

Maybe after this, I'll see what we think of Frank Paruas, who is responsible for electing Rick Scott in the first place.

July 5, 2011

Casey Anthony: A Case Study in Failed Prosecution

This is the first of a pair of stories analyzing the Casey Anthony case from a layman's point of view.  Later this week, I'll address the defense.

I haven't talked much about the Casey Anthony case.  Frankly, I was disappointed at all the stories going around long before the case came to court.  It was obvious that the State Attorney had decided to start Anthony's trial in the media. And to me, that was a clear indication that they had no case.  After all, why release so much data that could taint the jury pool?  The answer; to pre-dispose the jury pool.  And once again, my earliest impressions were spot-on.

I did an earlier story about a defense offered  by Ms. Anthony's lawyers. 

But I digress.

Now that the Casey Anthony trial is over, and she's been found 'Not Guilty,' a lot of people are outraged, claiming that this is proof that the justice system is broken.

But no, the justice system is intact; this isn't a case of the system being broken, it's a case of a state attorney's office being broken.  Or at least, it shows a level of arrogance and incompetence that is unnacceptable.  But the justice system itself is intact.

Casey Anthony very likely killed her daughter.  Given the facts we have - which are too few - it's hard to place them in a meaningful context without assuming that Casey Anthony killed her daughter.

But the facts do not actually prove that; they only indicate it.  Our justice system demands that a prosecutor must prove his or her case beyond a reasonable doubt.  That means that if the conclusions drawn by the prosecutor or the evidence he presents can reasonably be explained away, the jury must find the defendant "not guilty."

And while I personally believe that Casey killed her daughter so she could party like a kid in her twenties, the fact is that the prosecutor did not and could not prove that.  It's a damned shame for Caylee and her grandparents, but it means that you and I are less likely to be convicted of a crime we did not commit.

Assistant State Attorney Jeff Ashton was apparently hoping that the jurors would be convinced by the narrative he could create with the available facts.  Instead, the jurors noticed that while he could demonstrate that the narrative was logical, and that out of all the available suspects, and that she fit that narrative best, Ashton couldn't actually prove that anyone killed little Caylee Anthony. 

Ashton can prove she's dead, and that someone dumped her body in the woods.  And that's about all he can prove.

We don't know what she actually died of. As far as I can tell from what's been released to date, the only causes of death not on the table are incineration or being run over by a steamroller.

I sense that you may not believe that the case against Casey was as weak as it was.  Let's take a look at it...

Cause of Death
The biggest hole in the prosecutor's case is the fact that we don't knowhow Caylee actually died.  You might assume that because the medical examiner declared the cause of death to be murder, there must be clear evidence to back this assertion.


But there isn't. 
...Orange County Medical Examiner Jan Garavaglia, told the jury that based on an examination of Caylee’s skeletal remains and all other available evidence that she had concluded that the case was a homicide – an intentional killing. But she added that she, as medical examiner, was unable to uncover enough evidence to identify the means used to kill Caylee. - CS Monitor
In short, Dr. Garavaglia assumed it was murder because Caylee's body had been stuffed in a garbage bag and dumped in the woods.  Which, I agree, is not an unreasonable assumption.  But it's still an assumption.  A
guess. 


Conclusion: Our legal system requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and failed to prove how the victim died.

The Duct Tape as Murder Weapon
Caylee's remains had several pieces of duct tape where her face had been; it's consistent with tape across her mouth, and across her nose.  Tape in this location, had it been placed pre-mortem, would have sealed Caylee's airway.

Except that this isn't quite accurate.  There was tape with the body. It had some of the corpse's hair on it, and it was the right size to have been over the face.  The prosecution showed an adorable video of what the tape might have looked like on Caylee's face.  It did not provide a photograph or any other evidence showing that the the tape was ever actually on her face.

It was not possible to determine that the tape had been placed while she was still alive, and it was not even possible to prove that it was actually sealing her airway. 

One witness, forensic pathologist Dr. Wagner Spitz, testified that since DNA was not found on the tape, it must have been applied after she was dead - long after, in fact:
“They took a piece of duct tape in a roll – it comes in a roll – and tore off a number of sections, maybe this long, and stuck them on the skull,” Spitz said. He said it may have been done to hold the lower jaw in place and to keep the skull intact. - CS Monitor
Of course, this would indicate that the body had first rotted away, and then been placed in the bag and dumped, and no evidence was offered that indicated that this was the case.  But no evidence was offered that this was not the case, either.  Another question that remains unanswered.

Conclusion: while the tape could have been on her face, it was not conclusively on her face, and while it might have sealed her mouth and nose, it cannot be proven that it actually did so.

The Smell in the Trunk
Much has been made about the report that the trunk of Casey Anthony's car, after being recovered from an impound lot, smelled like "a dead body."  This lead to a detailed examination of the trunk, including samples of air that held chemical traces of odor.  But while the state of the art revealed the chemical markers that indicate a "decompositional event" could have had taken place in the trunk, the science  lacked the ability to determine that it was a human being that had decomposed.

Conclusion: while the smell of decay was distinctive, we can't prove that the smell came from any specific meat, let alone a human being.

Hair from a Dead Person
Much has been made about the discovery of Caylee's hair in the car.  As it turns out, they can't actually prove the hair was Caylee's.   But this single sample of hair, found in the trunk, displayed "hair banding."  This is a phenomena where the roots of hair form a dark band after death.  The argument is that this proves that a dead body was in the trunk.

Conclusion: since it can't be proven that the hair is actually Caylee's, the entire argument is moot.  It also ignores the fact that while the study showed that hair banding can occur after death, it did not state nor did it demonstrate that hair banding ONLY occurs after death.

Chloroform
Much has been made about the fact that someone at the Anthony household looked up "chloroform" on the internet, and that traces of chloroform were found in the trunk of Casey Anthony's car.
An expert in the field of human decomposition said the amount of chloroform found in the trunk of Casey's car was 10,000 times more than he would expect to see. - ABC News
First, let's note that this indicates that he would expect to see some amount of chloroform, just not as much as he believes was found.
The same testing done on a "control sample" of carpet from a similar make and model vehicle also showed chloroform, but the level was much lower, he testified. - WESH
The expert, Dr. Arpad Vass, scraped samples of acetic acid from the wheel wells of her car.  It is not only a by-product of chloroform, it's also a by-product of decomposition. 

Chloroform is made by mixing acetone, (a reduction of acetic acid), with bleach; both are common dark room chemicals, and Casey was a photographer. But did she every use a darkroom in the age of digital photography?  Highly doubtful.

But that's not the only way chloroform can appear:
Triclosan, widely used as an antibacterial ingredient in household hand sterilization products, breaks down rapidly when exposed to chlorinated water and produces toxic chemicals including chloroform... - NaturalNews.com
Conclusion; chloroform is a chemical one might expect to in the trunk of a car like Casey's, and its presences in high amounts may be explained by the presence of common household chemicals.

Casey's Constant Lying
The most compelling evidence against Casey Anthony is her own behavior during the period when Caylee first drops out of sight.  In the first month of Caylee's disappearance, Casey tells everyone - friends and family alike - that Caylee isn't missing.  She claimed that her daughter was with a nanny.  A nanny who took her daughter off to Disney World.  For days.

It's an absurd story from the start: Casey didn't have a full-time job.  Having failed to graduate high school, it's not surprising she didn't have a good job. 

When the police finally become involved, Anthony claims that she had lost the phone number for the nanny, and that the nanny had moved.  She identified the apartment she claimed the nanny had lived in; not only had the unit been empty for months, it was in a 55 or older community, and Anthony described her nanny as being in her thirties.
She even had a name for the nanny; and the only person who had that name didn't know Casey Anthony - and had alibis.

Casey then claimed that someone she worked with at Universal Studios had introduced her to the nanny.  So the police went to Universal with Anthony, who led them around the park for awhile before admitting that she did not work there.

Since we now know that Caylee Anthony was already dead at this point, the lies are particularly damning. 

Soon, new stories start coming from Casey Anthony; her defense lawyers claim that she was frantically searching for her daughter.  But these claims evaporate under photographs of Anthony partying at clubs every evening, and statements from friends that she never seemed outwardly concerned about her daughter, and that she dismissed inquiries with the lies about the nanny.

Conclusion: while a stunning indictment of Casey Anthony's lack of concern for her daughter, the absurd fairy tales she spun still do not constitute proof that she killed anyone.

Our justice system is designed to prevent innocent people from being sent to jail unjustly by allowing the defendant to have a counselor who makes sure that the state has met the burden of proof.  And in this case, it is apparent that the state really did fail to meet this standard.

June 26, 2011

Deja Vu - The Label is BIGGER

The first time I saw the news, I laughed out load.  I had to laugh, because while some misguided idjits think that they are making the world a better place, all they are really doing is fulfilling the words of comedian Denis Leary.
There's a guy... He wants to make the warnings on the packs bigger. Yeah! He wants the whole front of the pack to be the warning.
And here we are, the FDA has ruled that the warning must be bigger.
He sums up the issue in his show NO CURE FOR CANCER:



Yes, Congress has caved into the madness, mandating the most intrusive and potentially ineffective labeling law in world history. And frankly, it's highly likely to be overturned if it gets to court; after all, alcohol is similarly devastating, and no one has proposed slapping a diseased liver on cans of Budweiser.

And get this - scientific studies bear out Leary's claims that the labels won't stop people from smoking!  The Discover Magazine blog 80 Beats  discusses the matter.
In a 2006 study, smokers looked at cigarette warning labels from various countries as they lay in an MRI scanner, which measures blood flow in the brain. Brain regions associated with fear and alarm stayed relatively quiet. But the  nucleus accumbens—an area associated with cravings, and a key player in the body’s reward system—showed lots of activation. These warning labels weren’t scaring smokers, the results suggest; the images were, strangely enough, making them crave a cigarette.
Behavioral psychologist Carol Tavris summed up the field this way, to Sara Reardon at ScienceInsider: “Social psychologists have decades of research showing that fear communications generally backfire, that people tune them out, and therefore that these tactics are generally not effective.”
Anyone born in the last fifty years is fully aware of the effects of cigarette smoking.  We get it.  We've seen the movies, we've followed the lawsuits, we've seen John Wayne lurching around with half his breathing capacity, we've seen Larry King on his fourth heart transplant.  "Cigarettes, whisky and while women will drive you insane." Smoking baaad.  We get it.

But the bottom line is this.
It doesn't matter how big the warnings on the cigarettes are; you could
have a black pack, with a skull and crossbones on the front, called
TUMORS, and smokers would be around the block going, "I can't wait to
get my hands on these fucking things! I bet ya get a tumor as soon as
you light up!" 

- Denis Leary, NO CURE FOR CANCER.
So now the question is, if this is who we are, when do we start slapping pictures of morbidly obese people on McDonald's Happy Meals?  How about sticking a photo of a mangled corpse on the side of our cars?

If the Congress honestly believes that these labels are a responsible and necessary approach to keeping Americans safe and healthy, then they are negligent in their duty if they don't mandate similar labels for other potentially dangerous products.

And if they feel that that is going too far, why the exception for tobacco?

June 19, 2011

WSVN Can't Get Facts Straight.

WSVN-7 News covered the little protest we had the other day.  And while it's great that they came out, it would have been more impressive if they got the story right.

The gist of their story - and their error - is in the second paragraph of the article:
Nearly two dozen print and professional photographers are angry. Friday afternoon, they decided to protest a Fort Lauderdale city ordinance that bans all photography within several hundred yards of the filming of the Hollywood movie "Rock of Ages."
The problem with this?  There is no ordinance banning all photography, around the site, or anywhere else. 

DSC_3595
Channel 7 is good at showing up and getting footage.  Getting the facts straight, not so much.

What we were protesting is best summed up by Carlos Miller, who broke the story on Pixiq:
Acting as hired guns for the Rock of Ages film set, Fort Lauderdale police officers have been harassing, intimidating and threatening photojournalists trying to photograph actors in public.

The cops even went as far as to erect a sign stating that “photography of this area is prohibited” and that violators will be arrested.
Here's the thing; photography is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.  The public has a right to take pictures in public spaces, and can take pictures of anything they can see from a public space.  There is no ordinance against photography because such an ordinance would violate the Constitution.

Even the Sun-Sentinel managed to get the facts right:
Earlier this week, the North Carolina-based photographers' group (National Press Photographers Association) sent a complaint letter to Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Franklin Adderley questioning the constitutionality of the trespassing signs.
The signs cite a city ordinance that does not, in fact, address trespassing or photography...
But the team at Channel 7 just can't wrap their heads around it:
The Society of Professional Journalists filed a lawsuit against ordinance (sic), saying the city law is unconstitutional.
I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that WSVN can't get the facts straight: after all, it is a Fox News station.

June 18, 2011

Whoops.

The Miami Herald reports that a man who could not get a job as a flight attendant using his own identity managed to get the job using a stolen identity that should have also been disqualified.

Jophan Porter is an immigrant from Guyana. The article doesn't mention what his immigration status actually is (or was when he applied for the job), but presumably it disqualified him from working on airplanes in our post 9-11 mindset.

So he stole the identity of one Anthony Frair.  But Frair had an arrest record!
Frair was arrested four times in Largo, in Pinellas County, between January and October 2008 on charges of criminal mischief, domestic battery, witness tampering and battery with a deadly weapon. - The Miami Herald
This should have disqualified him - or anyone from using his identity - from getting a job at an airline. It's a clear security risk, and should have raised all kinds of red flags.  It's like a jewel thief deciding to hide his identity by pretending to be a mugger.

Instead, Porter, as Frair, has been working as a flight attendant.

Friar doesn't know Porter, and doesn't know how Porter ended up with his identity.  The theft came to light when Frair, now living in New York, applied for food stamps.  He must have been surprised when he was rejected for being gainfully employed at a job he couldn't possibly hold.

Porter's being detained by immigration, and has been charged with possessing false government IDs, forgery, and possessing stolen driver's licenses.

No one has explained how he passed the background checks that should have uncovered Frair's record, if not Porter's actual identity.  But their can be no doubt that someone really screwed the pooch on this one.

And the question on everybody's mind - will the story translate as a musical?

June 17, 2011

The Public Wins One

DSC_3035Last week, there were signs posted all around the historic Himmarshee Village in Fort Lauderdale, stating that "photography of this area is prohibited", that the ban is "strictly enforced by FLPD",  and "violators subjet (sic) to arrest".  The signs even cited a city ordinance.

The law cited, City Ordinance 16-1, reads:
Sec. 16-1. - State Offenses and county ordinances adopted
(a) State Felony.  It shall be unlawful for any person to commit, within the corporate limits of the city, any act which is or shall be recognized by the laws of the state as a felony, felony of the first degree, felony of the second degree, or felony of the third degree.
(b) State misdemeanor.  It shall be unlawful for any person to commit, within the corporate limits of the city, any act which is or shall be recognized by the laws of the state of the as a misdemeanor.
(c) County Ordinance. It shall be unlawful for any person to commit, within the corporate limits of the city, any act which is or shall be recognized as a violation of any county ordinance which is effective within the city.
(d) Penalties.  Any person convicted of violating this section, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld shall be punished in accordance with the penalty clause of the state statute that the person, corporation or entity was convicted of violating.
Basically, all that 16-1 says is "if it's against the law in the State and the County, it's illegal here, too."

Photography is not illegal in the State of Florida, or in Broward County.  It can't be. As we noted above, it's protected under the First Amendment.

At least one lawsuit was filed, and Carlos Miller arranged for a group of photographers to make an appearance in Himmarshee Village.


Carlos Miller being interviewed by Channel 7.

But by the time we arrived on the scene, all the offensive signs had been removed.

This photo shows the same corner as the first photo in this article, a few days later.

Another difference in the last few days; uniformed cars have been replaced with un-marked cars.  But there were still armed, off-duty police officers working security.

One of them tried pretty hard not to start citing the photographers, but her job was made difficult by the odd decision not to have any clear demarcation between public areas and the area being blocked off for the production.  She couldn't resist going to the manager of  Bourbon on 2nd Street to try and incite some trespassing charges; she stepped inside the restaurant, and within a minute or two, he stuck his head out to see if we were blocking the door.

Which we weren't.

DSC_3644
Off-duty police officer pointing out the line she wants us standing behind. 
She never did produce any supporting documentation for that line.


And what did they not want us to see?

DSC_3612

I don't know either.  The Glades never riled up such a fuss; I hope whoever thought the signs were a good approach gets the pink slip they richly deserve.  Oh, not for the feeble attempt to violate our rights; for exposing the production to needless negative publicity. This should never have been an issue.

I would hope that this doesn't affect future productions from filming in South Florida.  A lot of productions film without incident, and without riling up the locals.

We promise we won't interrupt your shoot if you don't violate our right to have one, too.

June 6, 2011

Chief Adderly: Movie Crews Are Not Above The Law

This is in reference to this Pixiq story, and the images found there.

I know these Hollywood types are very impressive, but just because they insist that you do certain things, it does not mean that you can or should do them.  It's just a goddamn movie.  Filming a movie does not grant them any special rights or privileges.  They have to abide by the law; the law does not abide by the film crew.

I know that they are pressuring you to stop people from taking pictures of the film in progress.  I've worked in the entertainment business for 25 years, and I know that I frequently request that people stop taking photographs.  I've even kicked people out of my theater for taking photographs.

The thing is, my theater is private property.  I sell admittance to it at my discretion, and I have the right to revoke their right to be there.  Tickets are sold with conditions.

Note that even if I catch them taking photographs,  I can't take their cameras or their film, or their memory cards; it is illegal to seize private property without a court order (in the form of a subpoena or warrant).  I can only kick them out.

But you do not have that legal recourse on public property.  The public pays for it, they have the right to be there.  Furthermore, they have the right to take pictures or movies of anything they see from that public property, even the filming of a movie.   Court rulings are very clear on this; it is not and can not be against the law to take pictures or movies of anything you can see from a public right-of-way.  They have ruled that photography is a form of communication, and thus is protected speech under Amendment 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

No state or municipal law may override the Constitution, and no law may infringe the rights guaranteed therein.  Even if it pisses of some piss-ant film crew. 

Now, I don't know which shit-for-brains ass-kisser motivated officer did it, but all those signs being put up stating that "photography of this area is prohibited" are not only insulting, they are also without any legal support whatsoever.  I understand that a lot of these officers are off-duty.  But they are exposing the city to legal action, and that should not be tolerated. Anyone you cite for taking photos, or worse yet, actually arrest, has the basis for a lawsuit that they will win.  Every time this kind of thing has come up before the courts, the court has ruled that photography is protected speech.  Every. Single. Time.

Now you're going to tell me that even though the streets are closed for the filming, you're trying to maintain access to businesses there.  And that's laudable.  But you cannot have it both ways; if you're letting the public on the sidewalk, then all their rights come with them.  So if you want to keep the cameras out, keep the public out.  The film company is responsible to recompense the businesses for their loss - it's actually included in the language of the permit.  And the film company needs to make its choice; either shut everything down completely and foot that bill, or let the public in and live with the cameras.  It's their choice; pay up, or put up with it.  But violating the civil rights of citizens isn't on their list of options.  And it's not on yours, either.

So to sum this up for you: if it's a public space, and the public is allowed to be there, so are cameras, and the public can use those cameras to take pictures of anything they see and there is nothing the Fort Lauderdale PD can do about it without violating the law.

June 3, 2011

Memorial Day Shooting

Lots of hot hair is pumping over the police shooting of Raymond Herrisse on Monday.  Were the police justified? I don't know.  If they find residue on his hands, placing the gun found in his car in his hands, then very likely, yes.  If ballistics from that gun show that it was used in an armed robbery back in November, then it's pretty clear the police did the right thing.

No, the shooting of an (alleged) armed criminal doesn't bother me.  It's the people shooting video who claim they were assaulted, or had their cameras seized, that worry me.

The Miami Herald spoke with a couple who recounted their experience.
A West Palm Beach couple who filmed Monday morning’s deadly officer-involved shooting on South Beach has accused officers of intimidation, destroying evidence and twisting the facts in the chaos surrounding the Memorial Day shootings – a charge that police officials say they know nothing about.
Sadly, it's a familiar story in South Florida; cops are filmed arresting a suspect, and then round up the footage.  Usually, the arrest involves complaints of excessive force, and often the video proves just that.

In theory, if the officers were following proper procedure, the videos would of course prove that beyond reasonable doubt.  So when officers start grabbing cameras, we, the people, must be suspicious of this behavior.

Narces Benoit and Ericka Davis say that Miami Police got very scary:
The video shows Benoit get into the car, where his girlfriend, Ericka Davis, sat in the driver’s seat. He raises his camera and an officer is seen appearing on the driver’s side with his gun drawn, pointed at them.
“They put guns to our heads and threw us on the ground,” Davis said.
Benoit said a Miami Beach officer grabbed his cell phone, said “You want to be [expletive] Paparazzi?” and stomped on his phone before placing him in handcuffs and shoving the crunched phone in Benoit’s back pocket.
Benoit was later uncuffed, and slipped the memory card out of his wrecked phone.
Officers again took his phone, demanding his video. He said they took him to a nearby mobile command center, snapped a picture of him, then took him to police headquarters and conducted a recorded interview while he kept the SIM card in his mouth. He insisted his phone was broken.

He was given a copy of a police property record receipt dated May 30.
Not surprisingly, the police deny it.  Specifially, Police Chief Carlos Noriega denied it.
“I was there during the second shooting and it was quite a chaotic scene,” he said. “We were trying to figure out who was who and it was a difficult process. Not once did I see cameras being taken or smashed.”
He goes on to say that if a complaint had been filed, Internal Affairs would be investigating.

IA is a division of the Police Department whose members just destroyed Benoit's phone, and held him and Davis at gunpoint, remember.  Yeah, I'm sure they were anxious to run down to the Police Department after that experience.

When cops lash out at witnesses, confidence in the integrity of the police force is greatly diminished.  Benoit and Davis had committed no crime, but still ended up being handcuffed at gunpoint, according to their testimony.  Not filing a complaint with that police department is wholly understandable.

Noriega did make the observation that the video could help the investigation of the shooting, and he's right.  But the law does not allow police to seize the private property of witnesses.  They have to get a court order to do that.

Some people complain about the backlash of outrage whenever cops start seizing cameras.  They say things like "well, the videos never show what happened before" or "they edit them to make the police look bad."  And sometimes that is true.  But maybe, if cops would follow the law instead of assaulting and harassing those with cameras, perhpas fewer people would be trying to slant the footage.  And if the law was followed, court orders would bring out the full, unedited, video in each case, showing the real story, whatever it happens to be.

Of course, one would have to be confident that one had properly followed procedure before taking the legal and legally binding steps to secure the footage.  After all, once it's been gathered by a court order, it becomes part of the public record.  Video you grab in the heat of the moment can conveniently disappear if it shows you violating procedure.

And that's why the tendency of the police to lash out at photographers and videographers is so damning in the public eye.

I'm back.

Yeah, I feel a little foolish.  I guess I just needed an outlet for "the softer side."  But suddenly I feel the need to point out the follies we're surrounded with.

Crime and...Punishment?

You run two men down in the street, leave them to die in a pool of blood, get friend to lie about where you were, hide the car, and deny everything.  Oh, and your license was already suspended for reckless driving.

And your punishment?  You get sent home.  To your house.  For two years.

You know he's laughing all the way to his room.  Hell, he's probably already ordered a keg for the party.

Ryan LeVin ran down Craig Elford and Kenneth Watkinson on February 13, 2009.  They didn't get to go home to their wives and children.

LeVin had been racing his Porsche along State Road A1A. He'd lost his license for doing this, but he was at it again.  And this time, he killed someone.

Judge Barbara McCarthy imposed an incredibly inadequate sentence; two years of house arrest, followed by ten years of probation, and his driving privilege is permanently revoked.

His driving privilege was already revoked when he killed the two men.  This demonstrates that LeVin has no respect for the law or court rulings.  If ever there was a man who need to spend time in a prison cell to re-assess his choices, it's Ryan LeVin.  Instead, he'll have whatever pathetic friends he has over to watch The Fast and the Furious in hi-def, and send out for pizza.

But LeVin gets to go home, and hopefully won't find a way to slip out of the house to party, get in another race and run some more people down.  After all, he didn't give up driving the first time the court made a ruling.  Why should we expect that he'll behave differently now?

Meanwhile, the families of his victims have learned the bitter lesson that there is no justice in Barbara McCarthy's court.

May 30, 2011

Not the last post, but....

Things have been slowing down; I'm sure you've noticed.  It's not that I'm not interested in keeping up the blog; but it's been getting hard to get up interest in THIS blog, if you follow me.

Part of the problem is that this blog never really had a clear purpose.  The earlier posts show that; it bounced from being a "how-to" to a photo journal, and ended up being mostly a place to vent my spleen.

So then I started spinning off other blogs.  So each had a purpose, but each was soooo specific, that sometimes I don't know where a thing should be posted.

So I'm starting fresh.  This blog will stay up, and I'm sure that occasionally I'll post something that fits MAN or MANIAC.  And I'm sure that I'll occasionally update Camera Ephemera.  The Theatre Scene is chugging along, so don't fret on that.

But for now, I'm going 'Round the Bend.  I hope you'll join (the kinder, gentler) me.

May 20, 2011

Hit it!

Tea Party Threatens Teen Over Debate

The Daily Koz reports that Amy Myers, a high school student from Cherry Hill, NJ, has recieved numerous threats for challenging tea party darling Michelle Bachmann to a debate.
"I got a call from the principal that the main office received threatening mail," said the computer programmer and single father. - Courier-Post, May 20, 2011
I guess the Tea Party - or at least some of the extreme right-wing whackos who support it - understand that Michelle "Constitution, shmonstitution" Bachmann lacks the intellectual capacity to stand up next to a high school student without looking as batshit crazy as she in fact is.

They Say It Ends Tomorrow

Reflecting on the end of the world, this song kept running through my head....

April 11, 2011

The Transparent Governor

As you may know, Our Despicable Governor is pushing for drug testing of welfare applicants, and for Medicaid patients to be sent to private facilities.

Facilities like those run by Solantic, a company Scott co-founded in 2001.

Of course, this is obviously a clear violation of ethics.  So Scott got rid of his shares of Solantic.  Well, kind of.
“As you know, I’ve been transparent. I was transparent in my race. I’ve put those assets in my wife’s name,” Scott said. “Everybody knows it. I’ve been very clear. I’ve said that the state will not have a contract with that company. I’ve told everybody, ‘Hold me accountable.’ ”  - Palm Beach Post, April 11 2011
That's right.  He gave them to his wife.  The woman he is married to.  His partner.  Whom he will have and hold, through richer and poorer.  But mostly richer.

Yes, in fact, he didn't really get rid of his shares at all.  They're still in the family, and he still benefits from any business he sends to them as a result of the policies he's putting in place.

Yes, Mr. Scott is transparent - we can see right through his lies.

But Mr. Scott has surrounded him with transparent cronies, who are just as dishonest as he is.  Like his spokesman, Brian Burgess.  Burgess claims that privately held stocks are hard to get rid of.
“I get that people think there’s a conflict, but I don’t get what people think should be done about it,” Burgess said. “If he can’t divest instantly, what should he do?” - Palm Beach Post, April 11, 2011
Well, how about resigning as governor?  That would work for me.  But since he probably won't do that, he should simply stop working on any policy or legislation that would drive business to his own wife's company.  That's what he should do, Brian. 

But we can see right through Scott's insistence that it's not a problem - no thanks to Scott.
Despite Scott’s reiteration that he’s been transparent about transferring the Solantic shares to his wife, it was The Post that first reported the transfer March 13 after interviews with company officials. Six requests to the governor’s office on the topic had been ignored.- Palm Beach Post, April 11, 2011
Yes, we can see right through your transparent schemes and conspiracies, Mr. Scott.  We see straight through to your larcenous little lump of a heart.  We see you lining your pockets, even if you've given them to your wife to wear

January 28, 2011

Cassandra Complex: Challenger

There's really not much point to this post.  This is just my recollection of the Challenger explosion.  It's not a pleasant recollection, and in the scheme of things, it's completely unimportant.

But this is my memory of the day, as I lived it.

I was living in Lake Worth, Florida.  I remember the TV was on, the shuttle launch was delayed again, because of the cold.  I remember I was running around getting ready for work, when they interviewed some of Christa McAuliffe's students about the upcoming launch.  The students were all disappointed that it hadn't launched yet.

I remember my snarky comment to the tube:  "You'll like it less when the damned thing explodes because they lifted off in the cold, dumb-ass."

It was two hours before the explosion.

There was about five minutes where I swear I was having a vision of the shuttle exploding.  "SHIT!  I have to call them!"  But as I realized that 1. I had no idea who to talk to about stopping the launch, and 2. who the hell would believe me and 3. I was being ridiculous, there was no way I could possible know the shuttle was going to explode.

Besides, I was going to be late for work; the experts surely wouldn't launch it if it wasn't safe; they'd already held the launch.  Of course they'd wait until it was safe.   Like anyone would listen to an assistant manager at Rent-America "rent to own" about visions of disaster.

When I got to work, all the TVs were tuned into the launch that still hadn't happened.  Still too cold.  It was my turn to run to the bank to do the deposit.  I drove down US1 to Barnett Bank (which would be my own bank until they held a cash deposit back for five days), and took care of business.  It was a gorgeous day; crystal blue sky, with not a cloud in it.  I'd only been living in Florida four months, so what's cold to me now was simply invigorating.

Finishing at the bank, I turned north onto US1, and saw a strange cloud on the horizon.  Just another sudden Florida thunderhead, I thought.  Kinda freaky, the way it's forked.

As I walked back into the store, my manager looked at me from the desk in the back.  His eyes were really, really wide.

"Did you see it?" he asked.

"See what?"

"The shuttle just blew up!"

I could not believe it.  Then the image replayed on all 58 color televisions in the store.

I remember walking up to one of the consoles, to see it larger.  At one point, I pointed to a corner of the expanding cloud and said "That's the cabin, right there.  I think they were alive, then."  The news said otherwise, but months later they found evidence that the crew had indeed survived the initial blast.

There was no way I could have known it would actually explode, but I did.

There was no way I could have known the cabin remained partially intact, but I did.

And despite the reassuring words of NASA officials, I'm certain that most of the crew didn't die until the cabin hit the ocean.  That's not at all reassuring or comforting.

Don't forget, I didn't believe me, either.

January 25, 2011

As Quoted by The POTUSA?

For years, I've been saying that newspapers firing reporters to save money is like cutting the engines off of an airplane to save weight.  Reporters are what drive newspapers. It's an example of taking desperate measures to solve a problem, but the solution only makes the problem much worse.

So imagine my shock when President Obama said the following in his State of the Union address:
Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you'll feel the impact.
Did we just come to the same analogy, or has some of my commentary found its way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?  What do you think?

January 17, 2011

Mayor Redd Seals Camden's Doom

In 1968, my grandfather was mugged in broad daylight on the corner of Third and Stephens Streets in Camden, NJ.  His skull was fractured, and his neck was broken. He lingered, bedridden and unable to talk, until he succumbed to his injuries two years later.

I'd say it was a horrible way to die, and it was.  But worse, it was a horrible way to live; fully aware, and unable to communicate with anyone,  being fed through your nose, and suffering bed sores that went to the bone.

No one was ever arrested for this crime. Indeed, the police never had any suspects.  It's pretty certain they did nothing in terms of investigation; they reported that they had no idea where his car was; my father went to the spot where they picked him up, and it was parked 10 feet away.  With a parking ticket on it.

Things have not improved in Camden since then.  Crime rates have skyrocketed, earning Camden the title Most Dangerous City in the United States in 2004. It has consistently been in the top ten highest crime cities since 1998.  Currently, it's number two behind St. Louis.  In short, Camden has become hellish slum.

So, in a time of crisis, the very last thing you'd cut in a city with the highest crime rates in the country would be the police force.  Unless you're Camden Mayor Dana Redd, who is reducing the police force by 44%.

From CNN Money:
The mayor's office says that the cuts will not affect public safety.

"We're still going to protect our residents," said Robert Corrales, spokesman for Mayor Dana Redd. Public safety "will remain our top concern. We'll shift our resources to be more efficient with what we have."
Which only proves that Corrales is either an idiot, or a liar.  The city can't protect its citizens now.  It certainly can't do it with any less, let alone half.

Since the city is also laying off a huge chunk of its fire department, it's obvious that the mayor and the city commission doesn't give a rat's ass about the safety of its citizens. They might just as well fire everyone and set off firebombs and burn everything to the ground; the end result will be about the same.

From CNN Money:
One local business owner, David Brown, said he was anxious to see how the cuts unfold Tuesday.

"I don't understand how you can do more with less," he said. "I don't want to be a pessimist, but I can't be optimistic."
Yep, David.  You're fucked.  The Mayor and the Council have decided that it's time to put a lock on the title "MOST Dangerous City" once and for all.

The Philadelphia Inquirer
sums it up eloquently:
For longtime residents, who have watched the city change over the last half-century from a bustling manufacturing center to one of the nation's most- dangerous cities, the pending loss of almost half the city's police force felt like the beginning of the end.
Thanks to Mayor Redd and the city commission, it is exactly that.  Perhaps Camden residents can find nice safe homes in Detroit or St. Louis.  It's damned certain that businesses won't consider Camden - unless it's to dump toxic waste.