A Thing I Learned Today – I

Today I learned of the origin of ‘Federal’:

1640s, as a theological term (in reference to “covenants” between God and man), from French fédéral, an adjective formed from Latin foedus (genitive foederis) “covenant, league, treaty, alliance,” from PIE *bhoid-es-, suffixed form of root *bheidh- “to trust, confide, persuade.”

Secular meaning “pertaining to a covenant or treaty” (1650s) led to political sense of “formed by agreement among independent states” (1707), from use of the word in federal union “union based on a treaty” (popularized during formation of U.S.A. 1776-1787) and like phrases. Also from this period in U.S. history comes the sense “favoring the central government” (1788) and the especial use of the word (as opposed to confederate) to mean a state in which the federal authority is independent of the component parts within its legitimate sphere of action. Used from 1861 in reference to the Northern forces in the American Civil War.

Tariffs and Trump

Trump likes to think of himself as a free trade kinda guy.  and in some cases, think reduced regulations, he is.  But the idea that tariffs are good for the American economy is just plain bad policy.

Tariffs are nothing more than taxes on goods that consumers wanna buy.  Raise the cost of selling a widget?  Raise the price of buying a widget.

Simple.

And it’s not even about keeping core.  Consider, say, anvils.  Let’s pretend that Elbonia imposes a 10% tariff on anvils imported from the United States and Trump comes along and imposes a 25% tariff  on anvils imported from Elbonia.

Good for the US?  Winning?

No.

All it does is make anvils in America more expensive.

But does it save American anvil manufacturing?  Maybe – maybe not.

Say that at Acme Anvil, a US based company, they can make anvils at a cost of $45 per unit.  But Elbonia is able to bring them to market for $40.  People will, all else being equal, people buy the less expensive anvil moving jobs to Elbonia.

Now comes Trump and imposes that 25% tariff.  Acme now has the price advantage because the foreign made anvil goes from $40 to $50 providing Acme the opportunity to profit at $46.  Maybe Acme is happy with the $1 profit and is able to bring some jobs back from Elbonia.  But, not having to worry about competition, Acme might just price their anvils at $49, increase profits and keep the jobs nearly where they were before the tariff.

All the while the American consumer is being forced to pay an extra 5 bucks – or more.

If you are a free trade guy – you can’t be a tariff guy at the same time.

Big Data and Crime

I love numbers.  And data.  And the cool things that can be done with both.

I have been interested in crime theory, patterns and prevention for some time now.  This article is cool:

The faster data analytics extends to crime mapping, too. LAPD has been expanding “Operation LASER,” which uses near-real-time crime data to adjust police patrols on a daily or even hourly basis. By contrast, older systems, such as the vaunted “Compstat” — pioneered in New York in the 1990s — mapped crime much more slowly.

In the divisions of LAPD now using LASER, officers are given “mission sheets” with instructions to focus on very specific areas, sometimes just a few blocks big. The missions are written by their local supervisors, but with heavy input from the real-time crime mapping, as well as another analytics tool called PredPol. It uses an algorithm to predict the location of future property crimes.

I’ve always wondered, for example, does most crime occur during the day or during the night?  Are most drug mules active during the summer or winter?  Does rain slow down breaking and entering?  Do car break in follow a location heat map?

Turns out some people feel that the answers to those questions is that crime IS dependent on those things:

At the Olympic Division station, Officer Jennifer Ramirez reviews her daily mission sheet printout. She eyes the areas she’ll target, “because these are the hot spots, these are where the crimes tend to happen, this day, this time, based on the crime mapping that we do.”

Ramirez has faith in the analysis, because she’s convinced crime is cyclical.

 

But all this goodness doesn’t come controversy free:

But her mission sheet doesn’t point her just toward certain places. It’s also pointing her toward certain people. Her mission sheet comes with mug shots and names.

“These are people that we are going to be looking out for, who are our chronic offenders,” she says.

The “Chronic Offenders Bulletin” may be the most controversial element of LAPD’s new data analytics strategy. It’s a list of the people in a certain neighborhood who police think are most likely to commit crimes. Chronic offender status is based on a point score, which is calculated on the basis of his previous interactions with the justice system, or membership in a gang. The LAPD’s new data search tools make calculating that score much simpler.

Small print across the top of the Chronic Offenders Bulletin warns that it’s “Info only… not PC [probable cause] for arrest.” But officers are encouraged to interact with the chronic offenders to the limit allowed by the law.

“It’s just disruption of crime,” says Deputy Chief Kato. “When you see Johnny Jones walking down the street and he’s a chronic offender, you should pay attention to his activity. Now if you have a lawful reason, constitutionally, to stop him or detain him, then do that.”

I’m sure such lists are ripe for abuse.  However, I’m also sure that such individuals are already on the beat cop’s internal watch list.  In the same way that teachers know the bad apple, that kids on a soccer team know who not to pass to, in the same way that herds know who the weak member is, the criminal is well know to the community and the officers who patrol that community.

LAPD says it does not publish the Chronic Offenders Bulletin, for reasons of privacy and police operations. But Kato says if someone walked into a station and asked to find out if he’s on it, Kato would tell him.

He believes strongly that the Bulletin is a smart way to focus police attention on the small percentage of people who commit most crime. But others in the community see it as data-driven stereotyping.

“They’re just reinventing their surveillance techniques and machinery,” says Anthony Robles. He’s an organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition, an activist group run by young people who’ve been incarcerated.

Robles thinks the Chronic Offenders Bulletin is just a new version of the gang membership lists that used to drive a lot of LA policing. Those lists have been the subject of a recent lawsuit, and are falling out of favor. Critics accused the department of including the names of people with dubious ties to gangs.

Robles recalls what it was like to be on the gang list, when he was a teenager.

“Every time I drove out of that block, or drove anywhere, I’d get pulled over. A lot of times they’d search my car they wouldn’t find anything and they’d give me a moving violation.” Robles believes the increased scrutiny did little to keep him on the straight and narrow. “It led to a lot of anger — it made me want to do something bad!”

Jamie Garcia is with another activist group, the “Stop LAPD Spying Coalition.” The group sued to get more details about the new analytics tools — including the chronic offenders list. She thinks the only thing that’s new here is what she calls the scientific “veneer.”

“These programs are nothing new, in the history of policing,” Garcia says. “What they are trying to call science is pseudo-science.”

For instance, the chronic offender formula is partly based on how often you have contacts with the police — “field interviews,” she says. And those contacts are simply more likely in a place that already has more police patrols.

“The bias is still very much inherent in the data that is being used, and the same communities are being impacted,” she says.

The tools aren’t perfect, they may never be.  However, a more important question might be, “Are they better than what we have now?”

Our Immigration Policy

Re-posting this article I penned just a few short months ago – and before the recent lamenting of the plight of children who find themselves in a much better and safer place than the on they left.

Wherein the Gentle Left Agrees With Pino

In case you haven’t heard, the Red Hen in Lexington, VA denied service to a member of Trump’s staff.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Saturday that she had been asked to leave a Virginia restaurant the night before because she worked for U.S. President Donald Trump.

“Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left,” Sanders said on the official Press Secretary Twitter account.

On Saturday, the owner of the Red Hen confirmed the incident and said she stood by her decision to refuse service to Sanders, the Washington Post reported.

I 100% support this action by the owner of a private establishment.

She should be free to enter into contract, or not, with anyone she chooses.  Be they men, white, republicans or Vikings fans.  It is her business with her money and she should be able to decide who she serves.

I am encouraged by the left’s embrace of individual liberty!

An Ocean of Plastics

I’ve read that there is an island of garbage floating in the Pacific that is twice the size of France.  True?  Not sure.

Actually, hold on.

I was wrong, it’s three times the size of France:

A huge, swirling pile of trash in the Pacific Ocean is growing faster than expected and is now three times the size of France.

That’s a lot of garbage.  A. Lot. Of. Garbage.

Makes you wonder, where does this all come from?  Well, it turns out that it comes from 10 rivers:

Up to 95 per cent of plastic polluting the world’s oceans pours in from just ten rivers, according to new research.

The top 10 rivers – eight of which are in Asia – accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste.

Fascinating.

And how do we do?

The only industrialized western country on the list of top 20 plastic polluters is the United States at No. 20.

Which certainly means that we are not top 20 per capita.

Let’s Grab a Cup of Coffee

This is a post on race.  As such, it’s important that I acknowledge that as a white man, I have it easier in America than had I been born black.  That’s just a fact.

Okay, now,  Starbucks is in trouble.  On Thursday, April 12th, two men were arrested for not leaving a Starbucks store after the manager told them, that they could not stay without ordering something:

Ross [Police Commissioner] explained police received a 911 call around 4:40 p.m. on Thursday from Starbucks employees saying that “two males were trespassing” and “refused to leave.” According to Ross, the two men did not order food and had asked to use the bathroom, but Starbucks policy does “not allow non paying people from the public to come in and use the restroom.”

Ross claimed the officers asked the men to leave when they got to the scene, but refused to. The men were let go after “Starbucks was no longer interested in prosecuting.”

When I first heard about this I was surprised that a Starbucks would call the police for someone not ordering coffee in order to use the restroom.  Partly because I can often stand in a Starbucks for EVER without being served, but that’s another story.  Digging into the story a little longer I learned that the men didn’t just wanna use the bathroom, they sat at a table waiting for a friend.

Now it became a little more clear as to what happened.

Three guys planned a business meeting and two of them arrived early.  They were waiting for their friend to arrive so that they could discuss whatever was on the agenda.

No big deal.

All the time I meet friends for lunch or dinner and we arrive at different times.  If I’m first, I tell the host that I am a party of 4 lets say, and will be waiting for the remaining three.  I get sat, brought menus and I wait.  This happens all the time.

Normal everyday stuff.

Now, another thing that happens all the time, is that I or someone in the family, need to use a restroom while traveling.  An away baseball game, a trip to the beach, maybe driving to camp – whatever.  Someone needs to go potty.

When ever this eventuality happens, and I stop at a gas station, a McDonalds or where ever, I always buy something.  Always.  Maybe just a Coke or a bottle of water.  I have, on occasion, bought something I didn’t need or want at the time, because using someone else’s bathroom is free for someone else.

Back to the restaurant and lunch with buddies.  So I’m early and get sat waiting for my friends.  The waiter isn’t gonna give me jazz about not ordering lunch because my meal would arrive before everybody else’s and that’s silly.  He may ask me if I would like something to drink – maybe I want a Coke, or a beer, or maybe, if it’s during the week, I just have water.

So back to the Starbucks.  The men, having been denied the code, go sit at a table when the police were called.  Maybe.  It’s hard to understand what happened and in what order.  Did they sit down and have the cops called straight away?  Did the manager ask the men if they were going to order food or coffee?  Did they say that they were but just not right now?  Or did they say, “no”?

At the lunch table, while it’s true that I am waiting for friends and may not have ordered anything, such a scene CLEARLY has the expectation that I and 3 friends will be ordering food.  And, ordering such food without my friends is outside social expectations.  But a coffee shop is different.

See, a coffee shop IS a great place to meet and discuss business.  In fact, the last 2 times I’ve been in a Starbucks has been to conduct business – not a pleasure visit.  And in each case, I arrived before my partner in one and the client in the other.  In both cases I needed a table.  And in both cases I ordered a coffee before sitting down.

Ordering coffee while waiting for friends is not the same as ordering lunch while waiting on friends.

Okay, so, that’s a long way of saying that you have to order something at Starbucks to use the bathrooms or sit at a table.  And maybe the guys didn’t know this or didn’t want to have coffee or a muffin; maybe they just wanted to meet their buddy, chat and go on about their day.  But the manager, I think, asked them if they were going to order and when told they weren’t, asked them to leave.  And then when they didn’t, she called the police.  Who, from accounts, asked the men to leave.  And again, when they wouldn’t, arrested the guys for trespassing.

The question is, “Is this reasonable policy for a coffee shop or did the manager tell these guys to leave because they were black?”

Well, as it turns out, people using coffee shops as remote offices, study halls or general work spaces has been upsetting owners for years:

You can get an espresso at Bread Furst, or a baguette, or a perfect piece of pie. But if you want to get some work done, be prepared: Owner Mark Furstenberg just might ask you to move along.

Note, this is explicit policy.  This guy is straight to the point.

The James Beard Award-nominated baker sees his Van Ness cafe as a neighborhood gathering place — not a second office for ever more prevalent teleworkers. So during peak hours, when he spots laptop lurkers nursing now-cold cups of coffee and occupying precious table space, he asks them to leave. Politely, of course.

And this is his policy when he sees customers nursing cold cups of coffee that they purchased, say nothing of customers occupying table space without having purchased.

And how does Furstenberg handle the situation?

A typical exchange, as he describes it:

Furstenberg: “I’m sorry, this is not your workspace.”

Customer: “What do you mean? I just bought a cup of coffee.”

Furstenberg: “I know, and I’m glad you bought a cup of coffee, and I hope you like the coffee, but other people are waiting for tables.”

Customer: “It’s a public place, isn’t it?”

Furstenberg: “Well, no, actually, it’s not that kind of public place. It’s a place where people come to eat and talk, but it’s not your workspace.”

Customer: “You’re going to decide how I use the space?”

Furstenberg: “Well, yes, actually, I am.”

He asks them to leave.

Furstenberg doesn’t mind if people work in his shop when it isn’t busy, or if they conduct face-to-face business meetings there. It’s the ones he and other cafe owners call “campers” that get to him — you know, the types who buy one cup of coffee, plug in their laptop and earphones and proceed to act as if they own the place, hogging the tables for hours on end.

Now, to be absolutely fair – the guys in Starbucks hadn’t been camping for ‘hours on end’.  I’m sure it was less than 20 minutes, maybe less than 10.  I saw an article that described the time as being 2 minutes.  I maintain that the point remains; this is not a public space like a library is or a park is.  This is a private business.

Is this rare?  I don’t think so.  It’s common enough to be studied:

A common complaint from business owners is that campers act as if they own the place. According to University of North Carolina at Greensboro marketing professor Merlyn Griffiths, they think they do.

The feeling is that “as long as I have something that indicates that I’ve participated in an exchange” — a cup of coffee, or a muffin — “I have a right, quote unquote, to be here,” says Griffiths, who has studied customer territorial behaviors in coffee shops. It creates a sense of “temporary psychological ownership.”

My main point is that I think coffee shops are feeling frustrated at folks who use their space.  It’s a thing; not made up or fabricated by some racist barista.  But a more subtle point is that in all the cases I’ve brought up, the customer was actually a CUSTOMER!  They actually bought something.

In Philly – those two guys never did.

Now, do I think that a Starbucks manager would call the cops on me and that I would get arrested.  Nope, I don’t.  Maybe she called the cops and got on those guys ’cause they were black.  Maybe.  But I also know this – I would never have asked to use the bathroom without purchasing something, never mind sitting at a table.  And if, IF, I did and the manager approached me regarding such behavior, I would ABSOLUTELY have bought a coffee.  But even if I didn’t do that, there is no way, no set of circumstances, that I would have said no to a cop who asked me to leave the shop.

 

Wahoo and Ragnar

The Fighting Sioux was a distinguished and honorable legacy.  The University of North Dakota carried that name as a badge of honor – it was a source of immense pride to have worn the colors of the Sioux.

That’s gone now; replaced by the logo of a bird; a hawk.  By itself it’s fine.  We have the Eagles, damn them!, and the Falcons, the Seahawk and even the Hawks.  But North Dakota will always be the Fighting Sioux to me.  I never went to Mariucci to watch the Hawks.

Dumb.

We’re told that we can’t have the Sioux – not because we felt that we were being ignored or insulted.  Not because that we as white people didn’t feel included by our team being named after Sioux warriors.  No.  We were told that we couldn’t be Sioux because it was insulting to the Sioux.

What?

Anyway, I can’t win ’em all.  Snowflakes by the hundreds are happily graduating UND as Hawks.

But.

But then this morning:

Fallout continues from a decision made by the Johnston County School Board to approve a controversial mascot for Selma Middle School which will become a ReStart school in 2018-19.

The current mascot is the “Vikings” – the only mascot the school has ever known – and many teachers, current and former students and community members did not want the mascot name or logo to change.

Which got me to this:

Victor E. Viking is the face of Western, but some students and a professor are looking to change that.

The idea of changing the mascot was brought up at an Associated Students Board meeting earlier this month. Abby Ramos, the AS Vice President for Diversity, said that this conversation started in the summer to discuss changing the mascot to be a more inclusive figure.

Ramos and AS President Belina Seare received a letter from communications studies professor Michael Karlberg regarding the mascot.

“I think this mascot also reflects a sort of hyper masculine, hyper violent sort of image which is doubly problematic. I think we really ought to reconsider,” Karlberg said.

The Viking mascot has been in effect since 1923, University Communications Director Paul Cocke wrote in an email.

The letter was also sent to President Bruce Shepard, but neither responded to the email, Karlberg said.

“I was trying to invite a conversation about whether or not the mascot supports our commitment to diversity, our commitment to create a more safe and attractive and inclusive environment on campus,” Karlberg said.

Ramos had a personal interest in the matter, and decided to reach out to Karlberg when she assumed her position as vice president of diversity,

“[The mascot] doesn’t portray students of color on this campus and it can be very exclusive to students who are potentially looking at coming to Western,” Ramos said.

Blink.

Blink.

Are you shitting me?

We can’t be the Sioux because we are disrespecting the Sioux and we can’t be the Vikings because we are disrespecting the Sioux?

The people are LOOKING to be offended.  They are LOOKING for opportunities to divide.  They are ACTIVELY seeking out the opportunity to divide.

When you find these people in your life, don’t walk – run away!

Facebook

So, it turns out that if you post on Facebook your data isn’t gonna stay private.  You posts, your pictures and your preferences are mined.

And sold.

And used.

I know this.  My kids know this.  Everyone I know knows this.

So how is it possible that the news the Trump campaign used Facebook data is shocking?  Literally, I am shocked that people are shocked?

That aside, the same people who ARE shocked had no issue with Team Obama doing the Exact. Same. Thing.  in 2012.

Seriously.

Thoughts and Prayers – Parkland to Vegas

From Los Vegas to Parkland – so much tragedy.  So much grief; sadness.

I get it.  The images are burned-in painful.  The thought of my kid in that school, of your kid in that school.  At that concert.

I get it.

The horror is almost literally overwhelming.  If I let myself, while lying at bed at night, I can get that feeling in my stomach – like when you dream you are falling?

I get it.

But I ask you, right now, in the comments section, without looking at Google – type the names of 3 of the victims.

Or even just 1.

From either tragedy.

I’m guessing you can’t.  So, if you are protesting, or are mad and posting, or are demanding action be done – why didn’t you do that February 13?

I think your mobilization has more to do with the hollywood marketed outrage and less about how you really feel about people dying by guns.

Put another way, why are you not mourning Larenzo Smith?