Saturday, December 13, 2014

Shiftless Thievery

Via:

1960 Ford manual transmission 04-15-13Police say two carjackers almost got away with a vehicle near Ocala’s downtown skating rink Wednesday night — but they didn’t know how to drive a stick shift.

Ocala Police Department officers spoke with the owner of a 2014 Toyota Corolla near the city’s ice skating rink. The man told them he was sitting in his car talking on his cellphone when a man with a gun tapped on the driver’s side window. Another man stood by the passenger’s side window.

The gunman demanded he get out of the car and hand over his money. The victim said he told the man he didn’t have any cash. The robber ordered him to give him his wallet, which he did. The robber then demanded his keys, a report states.

The victim handed over the keys and quickly walked away from the car and headed west toward Southeast First Avenue. He said he saw the robbers trying to drive away, but they had trouble making the car move.

The victim, meanwhile, stopped another motorist and asked the person to call police. Before officers arrived, the robbers ran from the car, which still had the keys in the ignition.

Kids these days.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday Reading

The Moment — Dani McClain at The Nation notes that we are seeing the dawn of a new civil rights movement.

Back in August, some observers drew comparisons between the shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, and the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. If parallels to civil rights movement history are helpful now, then let yesterday’s announcement that a Staten Island grand jury won’t indict the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death be a sign that we’re somewhere closer to 1963—when a series of devastating setbacks and subsequent widespread outrage transformed the civil rights struggle—than we are to Till’s lynching, that earlier consciousness-raising moment. There was a perfect storm this week: the continuing fallout of the failed indictment of Wilson; the news of the outcome in the Garner case; a Cleveland newspaper’s efforts to discredit and sling mud on the parents of a 12-year-old boy killed by police. This moment has the potential to catapult change, just as a series of events that transpired eight years after Till was killed did.

The murder of 14-year-old Till and the 1963 murder of four black girls at Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church both became national stories that hit Americans square in the chest, reminding them of the Jim Crow system of justice in which black people had no rights that whites were bound to respect. With the killings of Garner, Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice and others, we are all reminded that black life is still too often devalued, and that police officers are often not subject to the rule of law. That reminder has packed a similar emotional wallop. It is all coming so quickly: these announcements that a trial isn’t even needed to determine the police officer’s guilt or innocence. These exonerations through other means. People are taking to the streets nationwide to protest: just last night saw an outpouring of response in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and beyond.

[…]

Granted, those dead at the hands of police today are not civil rights leaders, or children killed in their place of worship. For some observers, these more recent victims are unsympathetic: they were involved in roughing up a bodega owner or selling untaxed cigarettes. But for others, we find ourselves at a similar moment fifty years after that critical turning point in civil rights movement history—with “Again?” on our lips and a familiar feeling of dread in response to the violence we witness on the video of the killing of Eric Garner, the incredible amount of force used on a man who announced over and over again, “I can’t breathe.”

What would it take to scrap and rebuild a system that makes it nearly impossible to indict an officer when he or she kills a civilian? What is the landmark legislation that all this fury in the streets can demand and drive? Some of the organizers and strategists who are responsible for the displays of coordinated, righteous protest are putting their minds on these questions. The sense of being up against an unchangeable justice system designed to brutalize black life at the slightest perception of provocation can make one feel that the United States has proven itself to be a failed political experiment, one in which some people’s rights will never be secured. But if the history of this country’s most revered revolutionary period is any guide—and if a policy program is developed to channel all this growing energy—then we’re just getting started.

No Less Convinced — Charlie Pierce on the unraveling at Rolling Stone.

I don’t know what to make of the suddenly unravelling Rolling Stone account of a shocking alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. Right now, it appears that the magazine is back-pedaling on both feet, while trying to pin everything on the woman who was the victim of the alleged crime, and they appear to be doing it under pressure from, among other quarters, The Washington Post. For myself,  I would like to the Post to clarify further this curious admission from the fraternity’s official statement.

Our initial doubts as to the accuracy of the article have only been strengthened as alumni and undergraduate members have delved deeper,” according to the statement.

What “alumni” would those be? Frat-brother lawyers working pro bono? Law enforcement officials in their Wahoo footie pajamas, moonlighting as ratfckers for the old brotherhood? And what undergraduates have “delved deeper,” and what did that involve and where were they delving precisely?

There is a part of me that always thought the story – and the ground rules under which it was pursued – seemed a little hinky. However, at the same time, I’m no less convinced than I was before that something very bad happened to this woman at UVa. If both of those things are true, then a terrible disservice has been done to a lot of different people, including the victim, and I’m not at the point yet that I’m going to take the word of a fratenity’s lawyers that nothing untoward happened at all. I am, however, convinced that we are dealing here with a horrifying breakdown in communications – between source and reporter, reporter and editor, editor and publisher, and magazine and readers – that may well have consequences far beyond this one case. I know a brave someone who’s been working hard on the issue of sexual assaults on campus. This is not a job for the timid and, no matter how the RS affair plays out, it isn’t going to be made any easier, because the howler monkeys already have come out to play. I know we say this a lot but, dammit, absolutely nothing good will come of this.

World Wide Web Not So Much — Vauhini Vara in The New Yorker on how the internet is limited around the world.

In September of last year, Chinese authorities announced an unorthodox standard to help them decide whether to punish people for posting online comments that are false, defamatory, or otherwise harmful: Was a message popular enough to attract five hundred reposts or five thousand views? It was a striking example of how sophisticated the Chinese government has become, in recent years, in restricting Internet communication—going well beyond crude measures like restricting access to particular Web sites or censoring online comments that use certain keywords. Madeline Earp, a research analyst at Freedom House, the Washington-based nongovernmental organization, suggested a phrase to describe the approach: “strategic, timely censorship.” She told me, “It’s about allowing a surprising amount of open discussion, as long as you’re not the kind of person who can really use that discussion to organize people.”

On Thursday, Freedom House published its fifth annual report on Internet freedom around the world. As in years past, China is again near the bottom of the rankings, which include sixty-five countries. Only Syria and Iran got worse scores, while Iceland and Estonia fared the best. (The report was funded partly by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United States Department of State, Google, and Yahoo, but Freedom House described the report as its “sole responsibility” and said that it doesn’t necessarily represent its funders’ views.)

China’s place in the rankings won’t come as a surprise to many people. The notable part is that the report suggests that, when it comes to Internet freedom, the rest of the world is gradually becoming more like China and less like Iceland. The researchers found that Internet freedom declined in thirty-six of the sixty-five countries they studied, continuing a trajectory they have noticed since they began publishing the reports in 2010.

Earp, who wrote the China section, said that authoritarian regimes might even be explicitly looking at China as a model in policing Internet communication. (Last year, she co-authored a report on the topic for the Committee to Protect Journalists.) China isn’t alone in its influence, of course. The report’s authors even said that some countries are using the U.S. National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance, which came to light following disclosures by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, “as an excuse to augment their own monitoring capabilities.” Often, the surveillance comes with little or no oversight, they said, and is directed at human-rights activists and political opponents.

China, the U.S., and their copycats aren’t the only offenders, of course. In fact, interestingly, the United States was the sixth-best country for Internet freedom, after Germany—though this may say as much about the poor state of Web freedom in other places as it does about protections for U.S. Internet users. Among the other countries, this was a particularly bad year for Russia and Turkey, which registered the sharpest declines in Internet freedom from the previous year. In Turkey, over the past several years, the government has increased censorship, targeted online journalists and social-media users for assault and prosecution, allowed state agencies to block content, and charged more people for expressing themselves online, the report noted—not to mention temporarily shutting down access to YouTube and Twitter. As Jenna Krajeski wrote in a post about Turkey’s Twitter ban, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed in March, “We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. They will see the power of the Turkish Republic.” A month later, Russian President Vladimir Putin, not to be outdone by Erdoğan, famously called the Internet a “C.I.A. project,” as Masha Lipman wrote in a post about Russia’s recent Internet controls. Since Putin took office again in 2012, the report found, the government has enacted laws to block online content, prosecuted people for their Internet activity, and surveilled information and communication technologies. Among changes in other countries, the report said that the governments of Uzbekistan and Nigeria had passed laws requiring cybercafés to keep logs of their customers, and that the Vietnamese government began requiring international Internet companies to keep at least one server in Vietnam.

Doonesbury — Raiders of the lost arc…

Monday, December 1, 2014

Silent Killers

Via the Guardian:

Republican lawmakers in Ohio are rushing through the most extreme secrecy bill yet attempted by a death penalty state, which would withhold information on every aspect of the execution process from the public, media and even the courts.

Legislators are trying to force through the bill, HB 663, in time for the state’s next scheduled execution, on 11 February. Were the bill on the books by then, nothing about the planned judicial killing of convicted child murderer Ronald Phillips – from the source of the drugs used to kill him and the distribution companies that transport the chemicals, to the identities of the medical experts involved in the death chamber – would be open to public scrutiny of any sort.

Unlike other death penalty states that have shrouded procedures in secrecy, the Ohio bill seeks to bar even the courts from access to essential information. Attorneys representing death-row inmates, for instance, would no longer be able to request disclosure under court protection of the identity and qualifications of medical experts who advised the state on their techniques.

“This bill is trying to do an end run around the courts. When things aren’t going well, the state is making its actions secret because they don’t want people to see them screwing up,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Ohio.

The way they’re going about this, you would think that they’re somehow ashamed of what they’re doing; as if they know that killing someone is wrong even if the convict is the worst criminal in their jails.

If they were so sure that what they were doing was right, they’d open the records, let everyone know exactly how they’re doing it, and perhaps even put it on TV.  That would reveal capital punishment in its truest sense: state-sanctioned revenge, and it might be a deterrent, not just some way of getting rid of the excess prison population.

HT to FC.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

Short Takes

The leader of Hong Kong refused to resign in the face of the Umbrella movement.

ISIS is pressing their attack on border towns in Syria and Iraq.

None of the 100 people who came in contact with the Ebola patient in Texas are showing symptoms.

Oil prices are dropping; crude is under $90 a barrel.

JP Morgan hacked; over 76 million households affected.

The Tigers got walloped 12-3 by the Orioles in Game 1 of the ALDS.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Short Takes

Secret Service chief Julia Pierson resigns over security lapses.

Beijing warns Hong Kong of “chaos” from protests.

Questions arise over initial response to Ebola patient in Texas.

Guilty verdict in trial of Florida man in shooting of an unarmed man over loud music.

New Moon — Image forces change in theory of the moon’s formation.

The Tigers take on Baltimore in the opening game of the ALDS tonight.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Soft On Crime

Conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza gets a slap on the wrist and avoids the joint.

Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza avoided prison on Tuesday when a U.S. judge sentenced him to serve eight months in a community confinement center after he pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law.

D’Souza, 53, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan to live in a center, which would allow him to leave during non-residential hours for employment, for the first eight months of a five-year probationary period.

Berman also ordered D’Souza to perform one day of community service a week during probation, undergo weekly therapy and pay a $30,000 fine.

D’Souza, a frequent critic of U.S. President Barack Obama, admitted in May to illegally reimbursing two “straw donors” who donated $10,000 each to the unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York of Wendy Long, a Republican he had known since attending Dartmouth College in the early 1980s.

“It was a crazy idea, it was a bad idea,” D’Souza told Berman before being sentenced. “I regret breaking the law.”

His minions were all crying that he was being singled out by the evil Kenyan secret Muslim gay socialist dictator for daring to challenge his powers.  Actually, if Barack Obama had that much power, Mr. D’Souza would have disappeared without a trace long ago.  Now he can write a book about how hard life is in stir.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Short Takes

Ukraine: Two military jets were shot down in the same vicinity as the Malaysian airline.

Israel faces economic and political challenges; the FAA lifts the ban on flights to Tel Aviv.

Robert McDonald appears to have a lock on being confirmed as the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

It took almost two hours for Arizona to execute a condemned man.

Tropical Update:  TD Two has fizzled out.

The Tigers beat the Diamondbacks 11-5.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014

Vandalism

I stopped in at the store on the way home last night.  I was in for about ten minutes and when I came out, someone had knocked off the passenger-side rearview mirror on the Mustang.  The whole thing.  It was dangling by the cord that runs the adjustment motor.

I was parked well within the lines and when I went into the store, there were no cars on either side of me.

Of course no one saw a thing.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014