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Archive for May 31st, 2020

President Trump cowers in White House bunker; Joe Biden talks to protestors

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Heather Cox Richardson’s column is, as always, worth reading. I thought today, “Nero tweets while Rome burns.” From her column:

. . . Also notable is that some police officers are attacking protesters and journalists, while others are honoring their badges and listening to the protesters. In some cities, police are escalating the tensions while in others, they are kneeling in a sign of solidarity with the protesters and joining them as they march.

. . . For all the uncertainty, there was one very clear story today. Although he tweeted angrily, Trump stayed out of sight, and from the safety of the White House continued to feed the flames burning America. “The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy,” he tweeted this morning, apparently unmoved by the videos of journalists arrested and shot with rubber bullets last night. “As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS.”

He announced “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” although there is actually no organized group of radicals identified as Antifa (a term drawn from “anti-fascist”), and U.S. law does not permit the government to designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations anyway. “FAKE NEWS!” he tweeted, and “LAW & ORDER!”

Trump’s attempt to project strength took on quite a different cast when a New York Times story this evening revealed that he had spent an hour Friday night in the White House underground bunker, where Secret Service had taken him. The Associated Press reported that Trump has told advisors he is worried for his safety, and that he and his family “have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds,” according to “a Republican close to the White House.”

An A. P. story then offered a doozy of a paragraph: “As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.”

That Trump hid in the White House while he was urging others to violence captures his personality, but it undercuts his carefully crafted image as a man of courage. The leak of this story is itself astonishing: we should not know how a president is being protected, and that Trump is bullying to project an image of being a tough guy while he is actually hiding is a big story, especially since presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was out in the streets talking to protesters today. And to admit that Trump has no policy proposals and has no interest in delivering a message of unity…. Wow.

A curfew goes into effect at 11:00 tonight in Washington, D.C. For the past several days, trouble has begun as peaceful protesters go home, leaving the streets to those spoiling for a fight. As 11:00 hits, crowds around the White House are setting fires and attempting to break into the White House grounds.

Just before the curfew, the lights that usually illuminate the outside of the White House were turned off.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 10:29 pm

Bad report from Murfreesboro

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Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 6:43 pm

American policing is broken. Here’s how to fix it.

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Good column in Vox by German Lopez from three years ago:

When a Baltimore police shift commander created an arrest form for loitering on public housing, he didn’t even try to hide his racist expectations. In the template, there was no space to fill in gender or race. Instead, that information was automatically filled out: “black male.”

This attitude was not exclusive to one cop in Baltimore. A Justice Department investigation conducted in 2015 and 2016 found black people in Baltimore were much more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts even after controlling for population. One black man in his mid-50s was stopped 30 times in less than four years — nearly one stop a month — despite never receiving a citation or criminal charge.

And these were just some of the many alarming findings of racial bias in the Baltimore Police Department that were unearthed by the Justice Department’s investigation. By the end of it all, the Justice Department found Baltimore police consistently violated at least three amendments in the US Constitution — the First, Fourth, and 14th — and engaged repeatedly and persistently in a pattern of racial bias.

“Racially disparate impact is present at every stage of BPD’s enforcement actions, from the initial decision to stop individuals on Baltimore streets to searches, arrests, and uses of force,” the report concluded. “These racial disparities, along with evidence suggesting intentional discrimination, erode the community trust that is critical to effective policing.”

It would be one thing if this were just a particularly bad police department in the US. But when you zoom out to look at all the investigations the Justice Department has done over the past several years, typically after protests ignite due to a police shooting perceived as unjust, a pattern emerges: Whether it’s Baltimore; Cleveland; New Orleans; Ferguson, Missouri; or, most recently, Chicago, the Justice Department has found horrific constitutional violations in how police use force, how they target minority residents, how they stop and ticket people, and virtually every other aspect of policing. These issues come up time and time again, no matter the city that federal investigators look at.

One is left with just one possible conclusion: Policing in America is broken.

Many Americans seem well aware of this: The statistics show that many simply don’t trust the very people who are supposed to protect them. But there are essentially two worlds — black and white — for police trust.

A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found, for instance, that black people are less than half as likely to trust the police as their white counterparts. When asked whether police treat racial and ethnic groups equally, 75 percent of white people said cops do an excellent or good job in this area, while just 35 percent of black people said the same. And 75 percent of white people said police do a good or excellent job using the right amount of force for each situation, while just 33 percent of black people did.

Meanwhile, statistics show police are arguably failing to protect residents in black communities: While black people made up about 13 percent of the population in 2015, they made up more than half of reported murder victims.

Thomas Abt, a criminologist at Harvard University, put it in stark terms: “In addition to all of these burdens that we’re placing on African-American communities in terms of aggressive policing, we’re fundamentally failing them at keeping them safe.”

So I set out to find out how, exactly, policing in America can be fixed. I spoke to nine veteran policing and criminal justice experts across the country, with a focus on the big question: How should police and lawmakers address complaints of racial bias while making sure communities are effectively policed for crime?

Based on what I heard from experts, I nailed down eight big policy ideas. These ideas could be done even under a Trump administration that fashions itself as “tough on crime”almost all policing is done at the local and state, not federal, level — out of the nearly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in America, only a dozen or so are federal. And the ideas are not in any specific order, but experts consistently said that nothing else will work if the first step on this list isn’t fully embraced by law enforcement across the US.

1) Police need to apologize for centuries of abuse

Time and time again, I heard the same thing from several experts: Until police own up to how minority communities view them, they won’t be able to effectively police their communities.

Some police officers might feel many of the criticisms are unfair. Some might hear about the history of police being used on slave patrols, and feel that they are wrongly blamed for things they weren’t even alive for. Some might feel that they are good cops, and it’s only a few officers who are bad.

But that doesn’t matter. The reality is minority communities distrust police. That sentiment is based on a long history of flat-out racist policing in America, even if it doesn’t apply to every single officer or department today. Until police acknowledge that, they will be perceived by many people as trying to cover up a long history of oppression.

David Kennedy, a criminologist at John Jay College, argued that there will always be distrust between police and black communities until cops own up to historical abuses, mimicking what a police chief might say to a community: “We recognize these facts — whether we were there or not, whether we were around during slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, attacks on the civil rights movement, or whether it’s more recent things that we have done that you have found disrespectful and untoward, like zero-tolerance policing and high levels of stop and frisk.”

So how can police repair this? For one, experts said police need to undertake a big effort — through community meetings, going door to door, their daily patrols, and TV appearances — to get their communities aligned with how policing should be done.

“In order to overcome lack of trust and confidence, the police have to make contact — door-to-door, face-to-face contact — with members of their community,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. “The police will be rebuffed on occasion, but that’s the only way I see to, in the long run, rebuild trust or, really, build it for the first time in the police in members of these communities.”

Walter Katz, a California attorney who specializes in oversight of law enforcement agencies, likened the potential process to South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Throughout those hearings, investigators spoke candidly with the victims and enforcers of apartheid about what happened. Much of the hearings were televised. In doing this, people not only got to air their grievances and see their concerns heard, but plans were also set in place — including reparations — to help undo the damage that had been done.

Above all, the point is to let communities know that police hear them, are taking what they say seriously, and are planning further steps to address their complaints.

2) Cops should be trained to address their racial biases

Out of all the complaints leveled against the police, the biggest one in recent years — echoed by the Black Lives Matter movement — is that police are racially biased.

Sometimes the cause is explicit racism — such as in North Miami Beach, Florida, where police officers used mug shots of black people as target practice. But other times, such biases may occur at the implicit level, where people’s subconscious biases guide their choices even when they’re not fully aware of it.

Josh Correll, a University of Colorado Boulder psychology professor, tested police for racial biases through a shooting simulation. His initial findings showed officers generally did a good job of avoiding shooting unarmed targets of all races. But when shooting was warranted, officers pulled the trigger more quickly against black suspects than white ones. This suggests that officers exhibit some racial bias in shooting.

In the real world, this could lead police to shoot black people at disproportionate rates. Real policing situations, after all, are often much more complicated: Factors — such as a real threat to the officer’s life and the chance that a bullet will miss and accidentally hit a passerby — can make the situation much more confusing to officers.

“In the very situation in which [officers] most need their training,” Correll previously told me, “we have some reason to believe that their training will be most likely to fail them.”

That’s one of the reasons there are racial disparities in police use of force: An analysis of the available FBI data from 2012 by Vox’s Dara Lind found black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 6:41 pm

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Mantic59 of Sharpologist has launched a new site to serve as a communications vehicle from shaving vendors to potential customers: new products, special offers, discounts, and the like. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 10:07 am

Posted in Business, Shaving, Software

Heather Cox Richardson on May 30

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Dr. Richardson writes:

It is too early to know what is actually happening inside the protests and riots happening in cities across the country, especially Minneapolis, after the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin there on Monday. That is, we know there are protests and looting and violence, but who is doing what remains unclear, and will stay unclear for a while. There are plenty of videos and tweets, but they can only give us windows into events, not a full picture.

That being said, there do seem to be some patterns emerging.

The protests began as Black Americans and allies protested Floyd’s murder, coming, as it did, after a number of similar murders—such as Breonna Taylor’s, shot in her own home during a botched police raid—that illuminated police brutality against Black Americans. Quickly, though, the protests appeared to turn into something else, as more people—possibly (and I would guess probably) from outside the cities—rushed in to create chaos.

It is not clear who these people are. This morning, Trump tweeted that the protesters at the White House were “professionally organized,” and midday, Attorney General Barr gave a hasty press conference in which he claimed that “outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda.” He said, “in many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized and driven by anarchic and left extremist groups, far-left extremist groups, using antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from outside the state to promote the violence.”

There is currently no evidence that what Barr said is true.

He went on to say “It is a federal crime to cross state lines or to use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting, and we will enforce those laws.” After Barr spoke, Trump tweeted: “80% of the RIOTERS in Minneapolis last night were from OUT OF STATE. They are harming businesses (especially African American small businesses), homes, and the community of good, hardworking Minneapolis residents who want peace, equality, and to provide for their families.” He added: “It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left. Don’t lay the blame on others!”

About the same time Barr was speaking, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter told reporters that “Every single person we arrested last night, I’m told, was from out of state,” and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz estimated that 80% of those destroying property were from out of state. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey added: “We are now confronting white supremacists, members of organized crime, out-of-state instigators, and possibly even foreign actors to destroy and destabilize our city and our region.” The Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said they had begun tracing those they arrested to see if they were part of larger networks.

A preliminary study today by local network KARE found that, in fact, 86% of those arrested were from Minnesota. Of the others, at least one was associated with a white supremacist group.

While we cannot know yet what’s going on now, it is of note that the president has encouraged violence lately in his tweets, retweeting a video in which a supporter says “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” and a famous line from segregationist politician George Wallace “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

In some places, police are deescalating protests and things are calming. In others, they seem to be deliberately escalating riots and violence.

In the places the police are escalating the riots, they seem to be targeting journalists and photographers, as well as people of color—there are harrowing videos of young men dragged from cars or from the street and mobbed by officers. Multiple stories tonight tell of journalists arrested or shot with rubber bullets, even after identifying themselves as press. One has lost an eye.

This recalls the president’s constant attacks on the press. He has tweeted the phrases “Fake News” and “Enemy of the People” 796 times, and suggested in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he, Trump, should “Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia [where Putin has journalists killed], but we do.”

If we cannot yet fully know the dynamics of the protests, there are a few things we do know.

First, the protests have wiped from public discussion all the major stories that were distressing Trump: the deadly toll of the coronavirus and his administration’s abysmal response to the pandemic, the skyrocketing unemployment as the economy falters, and Friday’s revelations about his 2016 campaign team’s collaboration with Russian spies.

Second, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 10:04 am

The Cooper Review is insightful as well as funny

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Take this post, for example: 9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women. And browse around the site.


Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 7:34 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Humor

More about Duolingo, learning, and Esperanto

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I’m going steadily ahead with the Duolingo Esperanto course and I’m amazed by how much I know after (as you see) just six weeks. It seems true that in two months study of Esperanto one can achieve liftoff, as it were. Great quarantine activity, and I thought this post in the discussion section was interesting.

The more I use it, the more I discover (or figure out) about its methods. One basic thing is that you are not simply told you gave an incorrect response (should that ever happen), you are also told the correct response and then the question is repeated later in the lessons so you can give the correct response (and, if necessary, repeated again and again, until you give the correct response).

This strikes me as a basic pedagogical tactic that:

  1. provides a sense of reward (dopamine hit) when you do finally get it right (and hear the “right answer” chime instead of the “wrong answer” buzzer), and
  2. is the approach used in any performance education: the musician must willy-nilly replay the passage until it is played correctly, the actor must rehearse the lines until they are delivered correctly, the tennis player must practice the stroke until it is made correctly, the dancer must practice the step until movement and gesture are perfect — in performance, simply marking something as wrong is insufficient (and largely irrelevant), since the action must be repeated until it is not only right but almost habitual (and language speaking, listening, reading, writing are performance), and
  3. matches exactly the approach used in AI to train a neural network, and of course in learning how to do something one is exactly training the original neural network, the brain.

Duolingo uses other mechanisms to promote learning, such as encouraging daily practice by giving a prominent “streak” award for an unbroken series of daily lessons. Some Duolingo students have streaks of 5 years or more.

I wish I had dived into this earlier. There are several languages of which I would like to have a smattering. Well, it’s never too late.

Consider trying one for your quarantine activity.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 7:16 am

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