Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Tuesday 22 November 2011

A cop in Tuscaloosa, Ala., arrested a suspicious foreigner under the state's xenophobia laws, with predictable results:

A German manager with Mercedes-Benz is free after being arrested for not having a driver's license with him under Alabama's new law targeting illegal immigrants, authorities said Friday, in an otherwise routine case that drew the attention of Gov. Robert Bentley.

Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson told The Associated Press an officer stopped a rental vehicle for not having a tag Wednesday night and asked the driver for his license. The man only had a German identification card, so he was arrested and taken to police headquarters, Anderson said.

Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Felyicia Jerald said the man is from Germany and was visiting Alabama on business. The company's first U.S. assembly plant is located just east of Tuscaloosa.

As someone in my industry might say to a customer who has inadvertently deleted all of his mother's photos because of a major usability flaw in the software, "the application is working as designed." Harassing all foreigners, even the ones who bring you millions of dollars in revenue, is a feature of Alabama's law, not a defect. Alabama wants to ensure that any foreigners in the state have a legal right to be there. They have made tremendous progress towards this goal since the law took effect for the simple reason that most foreigners, legal or not, now avoid Alabama.

Because when your economy is in the toilet, the best thing you can do is make people want to spend money somewhere else. Go Bama. Roll Tide.

Tuesday 22 November 2011 10:42:29 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#

A week ago Sunday I mentioned that I'd forked this blog engine so I could add features. I've added the first one, and everything seems to be working just fine.

The Daily Parker has used GeoRSS for a long time. All of the entries since March 2010 are geo-coded, which you would only know by looking at the RSS feed. Well, now you can see the geographic information on the blog entries themselves.

See the little globe icon next to the time and date at the bottom of the entry? Go ahead, click on it.

For more fun, check out some other entries, too.

Monday 21 November 2011 21:06:03 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Blogs#
Monday 21 November 2011

After Saturday's PR disaster at UC Davis, the university suspended its police chief and two officers:

UC Davis said early Monday in a news release that it was necessary to place police Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave to restore trust and calm tensions. The school refused to identify the two officers who were place on administrative leave but one was a veteran of many years on the force and the other "fairly new" to the department, Spicuzza earlier told The Associated Press. She would not elaborate further because of the pending probe.

It still baffles me how a cop could so brazenly assault a bunch of kids lie that when he was surrounded by cameras. Forget how wrong his actions were absent the media; I get that some cops have authority problems. But how stupid could this guy be?

On the same thread, notice the university suspended the cops "to restore trust and calm tensions," not because they allege the police used inappropriate force.

Monday 21 November 2011 10:18:55 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
Sunday 20 November 2011

Via Sullivan, the L.A. Times reports that atheists are moving toward official recognition in the U.S. military:

Religion — specifically Christianity — is embedded in military culture. The Chaplain Corps traces its origins to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Until the 1970s, the service academies required cadets to attend chapel services. Nightly prayers still are broadcast throughout Navy ships at sea. ... [N]onbelievers describe themselves as a minority that is often isolated and sometimes closeted.

In practical terms, [Army Capt. Ryan] Jean says, lay-leader status would make it easier for atheists at Ft. Meade to get access to facilities and services on the base. But he says recognition would carry a larger message.

Since a majority of Americans practice religion, it follows that a majority of the military do as well. But the proportion of people who don't, and of military personnel who don't, may be larger than the proportion of people who practice any single religion. They deserve the same mental-health services that military chaplains provide to religionists.

Let's not forget: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. I daresay if Congress can't, neither can the armed services.

Sunday 20 November 2011 17:36:00 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US | Religion#

The Atlantic has a few good Friday's police overreaction at UC Davis.

First, the university has launched an inquiry into the incident. I sincerely hope the guy wielding the pepper spray, John Pike, loses his job, as does the guy who ordered him to use it.

Alexis Madrigal feels bad for him: "[W]hile it's [Pike's] finger pulling the trigger, the police system is what put him in the position to be standing in front of those students. I am sure that he is a man like me, and he didn't become a cop to shoot history majors with pepper spray. But the current policing paradigm requires that students get shot in the eyes with a chemical weapon if they resist, however peaceably."

James Fallows raises a good question: "[W]when did we accept the idea that local police forces would always dress up in riot gear that used to be associated with storm troopers and dystopian sci-fi movies?"

Reacting to police claims the protesters were a threat, Ta Nahesi Coates writes: "Those of who've followed police brutality cases over the years will see the pattern at work. When accused of police brutality cops often claim to be endangered, regardless of the facts of the situation. An abusive [cop] could be driving a tank and facing off with a baby stroller, and yet somehow he/she would be the one outgunned."

Finally, Garance Franke-Ruta has a round-up of police violence against the Occupy movements.

Quis custodiet custodiens? Fortunately, in 2011, everyone with a cell phone. Let's start taking the video evidence to court.

Sunday 20 November 2011 10:56:11 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
Saturday 19 November 2011

Video from yesterday in Syria California:

Fallows says:

Let's stipulate that there are legitimate questions of how to balance the rights of peaceful protest against other people's rights to go about their normal lives, and the rights of institutions to have some control over their property and public spaces. Without knowing the whole background, I'll even assume for purposes of argument that the UC Davis authorities had legitimate reason to clear protestors from an area of campus -- and that if protestors wanted to stage a civil-disobedience resistance to that effort, they should have been prepared for the consequence of civil disobedience, which is arrest.

I can't see any legitimate basis for police action like what is shown here. Watch that first minute and think how we'd react if we saw it coming from some riot-control unit in China, or in Syria. The calm of the officer who walks up and in a leisurely way pepper-sprays unarmed and passive people right in the face? We'd think: this is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population.

It makes me proud to be an American.

Saturday 19 November 2011 13:29:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
Friday 18 November 2011

One could say he is displeased:

Now, Farage is the leader of the UK Independence Party, whose Euroscepticism derives from a xenophobic, right-wing domestic agenda that yearns for the days before those damn Normans came across and wrecked everything. Farage is, in an imperfect analogy, like the UK's Ron Paul. So don't confuse me posting this video with general endorsement; but I do worry that the premiers of Greece and Italy, from where we get democracy and the republican form of government respectively, have been sacked by unelected bankers and replaced with unelected bankers.

Krugman has made his objections to ECB policy known. When Farage and Krugman agree on something, I think it deserves a close look.

I don't think we have to worry about Panzer divisions crossing the Rhône in 2012, however.

Friday 18 November 2011 12:28:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | World#
Thursday 17 November 2011

The Atlantic's James Fallows is justly exercised about the Orwellian "Stop Online Piracy Act" making its way through Congress:

The Vimeo clip below does a very clear and concise job of explaining the commercial, technical, and political issues at stake. Short description of the problem: in the name of blocking copyright-infringing piracy sites mainly outside the United States, the bill would make U.S.-based Internet companies legally liable for links to or publication of any pirated material. This would be technically cumbersome, economically and commercially dampening, and potentially politically repressive. The video tells you more.

Every developed society has had to work out the right balance of how far it will go to ensure that inventors and creators will get a reasonable return for their discoveries. If it does too little -- as in modern China, where you can buy a DVD of any movie for $1.50 from a street vendor -- it throttles the growth of creative industries. (China both over-controls political expression and under-controls commercial copying.) If it does too much -- encouraging "patent troll" lawsuits, arresting people for file-sharing music or video streams -- it can throttle growth and creativity in other ways. There is no perfect answer, but this bill would tip the balance way too far in one direction, to defend incumbents in the entertainment industry.

Write your representative. And then write a few other reps.

Thursday 17 November 2011 10:08:35 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US | Business#

Sam Harris has a good explanation of rules to live by if attacked:

The primary goal of self-defense is to avoid becoming the victim of violence. The best way to do this is to not be where violence is likely to occur. Of course, that’s not always possible—but without question, it is your first and best line of defense. If you visit dangerous neighborhoods at night, or hike alone and unarmed on trails near a big city, or frequent places where drunken young men gather, you are running some obvious risks.

Whatever your training, you should view any invitation to violence as an opportunity to die—or to be sent to prison for killing another human being. Violence must truly be the last resort. Thus, if someone sticks a gun in your face and demands your wallet, you should hand it over without hesitation—and run.

This is the core principle of self-defense: Do whatever you can to avoid a physical confrontation, but the moment avoidance fails, attack explosively for the purposes of escape—not to mete out justice, or to teach a bully a lesson, or to apprehend a criminal. Your goal is to get away with minimum trauma (to you), while harming your attacker in any way that seems necessary to ensure your escape.

I've started Krav Maga training mainly to get in shape—but also because Krav Maga teaches the same principles.

Thursday 17 November 2011 07:26:25 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 16 November 2011

This month's Atlantic includes a dispatch about an economic solution to poaching:

Harvesting big males might be sustainable, says Craig Packer, who studies lion ecology in Tanzania, but only at a rate that would yield far less in trophy fees—one lion per 1,000 square kilometers in rich habitat. Hunters in Tanzania take up to 10 times that number, shooting their way down the age cohorts.... A male lion needs six years to establish himself in a pride and rear a new generation.

Tourists would no doubt be horrified by the notion that trophy fees from hunters are one reason lions, leopards, and other predators are still out there for them to admire. But they themselves are guilty of indulging in a double standard. They object strenuously to any hint of hunting—and then, said one baffled tourism executive, “they tuck into a gemsbok steak that evening, without a pause.” One alternative that WWF hopes to test is getting tourists to behave like hunters and pay a sort of trophy-photography fee—say, an extra $10 for each sighting—to go into a special fund for lion conservation.

I would prefer, of course, that people shoot lions with Canons rather than guns.

Tuesday 15 November 2011 20:16:54 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | World#
Monday 14 November 2011

Last one from Saturday's photo shoot with historian Mimi Cowan:

ISO-3200, f/5.6 at 1/250, 250mm, here.

Monday 14 November 2011 13:34:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Photography#

New time-lapse video from the International Space Station:

Monday 14 November 2011 08:19:13 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Cool links#
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David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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