Kids These Days

Here’s the latest scandal that has the right wing livid:

UC Irvine’s student council has voted to ban the U.S. flag, and any other nation’s flag, from the the council’s lobby so the area is “as inclusive as possible.”

The ban, narrowly approved Thursday with that language, quickly drew criticism from some students.

The executive cabinet of UCI’s Associated Students on Saturday will consider vetoing the flag prohibition, which prompted the American’s flag’s removal from a lobby wall.

“It’s an iconic and symbolic representation of our values in the U.S.,” said Reza Zomorrodian, the Associated Students’ president who sits on the executive cabinet and opposes the ban.

The student council approved the resolution with a 6-4 vote and two abstentions. Matthew Guevara, the representative who authored the resolution, did not return email messages Friday.

The resolution lists 25 reasons for the ban, mostly relating to how the flag can be interpreted and viewed negatively or positively depending on one’s experiences. The resolution states that the American flag has been flown in times of “colonialism and imperialism” and could symbolize American “exceptionalism and superiority.”

Under the resolution, no flags of any nation can be hung in the office.

Joshua Nguyen, vice president for student services who attended the meeting, said the debate was over freedom of speech vs. inclusivity. Nguyen, as an executive board member, said he intends to vote in favor of the veto.

“The only reason you can take down this flag is because of the liberties given to you by this flag,” said Nguyen, who is keeping the flag in his office for now.

Personally, I think it is a stupid idea to remove the flag, and I would never do so. Then again, I wouldn’t fly a flag indoors unless it was properly displayed. But that isn’t the point and isn’t what the shame of this whole situation is. Not to mention, you don’t have to look much farther than the Edmund Pettus Bridge today to recognize that for a lot of people the American experience hasn’t been what I or other people of privilege and a certain hue have been fortunate enough to have.

The shame of this situation is that these are just idiot kids- yes they are college aged, but they are still just idiot kids, and idiot kids should be allowed to do stupid things as part of the university experience. Misguided activism is alright by me, because hopefully there are adults in the form of faculty around to handle issues and provide guidance.

But that isn’t going to happen here. Right now, I am sure these kids are going to get crucified in the media, their personal info splashed everywhere, and some ignoramuses right now are sending death threats and what not. That’s the real shame. It’s also why I cringe every time someone wants to use what someone wrote in a college newspaper op-ed or their sophomore thesis as ammunition against them in a political campaign. There shouldn’t be a punishment for being an occasional idiot in college. That’s why you are there, after all. To become less of an idiot.

Good news everybody

Cheaper, better, faster — not bad at all.

Our Failed Police Establishment

Here are two pictures. One from today at the funeral of Officer Liu where Patrick Lynch’s goon squad ignored the Police Commissioner and turned their backs on the mayor, one from NYE in Pittsburgh where the police chief took a picture with citizens vowing to work to end racism within the Police ranks:

NYPD Officers Shot


Now. Take a wild guess who is apologizing. Congratulations, you win the internet:

In an email to the entire city police bureau, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is responding to criticism of his appearance in a photo on Twitter in which he holds a sign challenging racism. The sign read, “I resolve to challenge racism @ work. #EndWhiteSilence.” The chief’s message to the rank and file came after a critical email from the president of the union representing city police.

“It appears my having been photographed with a sign supporting racial justice at work and (opposing) ‘white silence’ has offended some. If any of my PBP (Pittsburgh Bureau of Police) family was offended, I apologize. You are very important to me and I would never hurt you purposefully,” McLay wrote.

The chief explains in the email that during a stop in a coffee shop at the city’s “First Night” New Year’s Eve celebration, he ran into a group asking people of all races to join in a discussion about racial inequality and injustice.

“We spoke for a few minutes about how implicit or unconscious bias results in misunderstanding on all sides, and how the need is for dialogue to clear up misunderstanding. They asked for me to take a picture holding a sign,” McLay wrote.

“The sign indicated my willingness to challenge racial problems in the workplace. I am so committed. If there are problems in the PBP related to racial injustice, I will take action to fix them,” the chief wrote.

“I saw no indictment of police or anyone else in this sign, but I do apologize to any of you who felt I was not supporting you; that was not my intent,” McLay said in the email.

McLay’s message followed an email sent to him earlier Friday by Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police President Howard McQuillan.

“…The recent Twitter photo has restarted the rebuilding of a wall between the Chief’s Office and the rank and file, that we have been working tirelessly to tear down for some time now. We need to repair the department’s morale, then work our way outward to the community,” the union president wrote.

“…Our current Chief of Police (is) insinuating that we are now racist, merely by the color of our skin and the nature of our profession. I say enough is enough!” McQuillan wrote.

I’m now of the opinion that America’s police force is mainly composed of the whiniest, wimpiest gits on the planet. And stupid as hell, to boot.

Taking the Money and Running

Not surprising:

The white police officer a grand jury declined to indict last week in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager has resigned from this city’s Police Department, his lawyer said on Saturday night.

The officer, Darren Wilson, who had worked in the department since 2011, submitted a resignation letter, said Neil J. Bruntrager, the lawyer. In the letter, first published in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mr. Wilson said: “It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community are of paramount importance to me. It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal.”

For months, some here had called for Mr. Wilson, 28, to step down or be fired following the killing of Michael Brown and the unrest that followed, in August and then again last Monday, after the grand jury decision was announced.

Killing a black teen, it turns out, is very financially lucrative. He made mid to high six figures for his ABC interview, so we’ll say a half million. He’s received about a half million in donations, and I am sure he will get more. The next logical step is a spot on Faux news and a book deal with Regnery that will probably garner a several million dollar signing bonus. The praise and accolades from scared white shut-ins across the country are free.

The only thing holding him back from really doing the wingnut grifting circuit is that he has to watch what he says until the civil suits and the civil rights suit are over, but I’m betting he can make it a year or two on the million he already has.

No need for pre-clearance at all

Why that is whacky talk, we’ve evolved past blatant racism to the point where the conservatives and reactionaries have to at least come up with something that fails the giggle test in their efforts to disenfranchise the “wrong” types of voters.

Al Jazeera America looks into the cross-state database being used by quite a few Republican led states to detect “voter” fraud, and as a data professional, much less a liberal, I want to cry:

The Crosscheck list of suspected double voters has been compiled by matching names from roughly 110 million voter records from participating states. Interstate Crosscheck is the pet project of Kansas’ controversial Republican secretary of state, Kris Kobach, known for his crusade against voter fraud.

The three states’ lists are heavily weighted with names such as Jackson, Garcia, Patel and Kim — ones common among minorities, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Indeed, fully 1 in 7 African-Americans in those 27 states, plus the state of Washington (which enrolled in Crosscheck but has decided not to utilize the results), are listed as under suspicion of having voted twice. This also applies to 1 in 8 Asian-Americans and 1 in 8 Hispanic voters. White voters too — 1 in 11…

The sample matches he showed his audience included the following criteria: first, last and middle name or initial; date of birth; suffixes; and Social Security number, or at least its last four digits…

In practice, all it takes to become a suspect is sharing a first and last name with a voter in another state. Typical “matches” identifying those who may have voted in both Georgia and Virginia include…. [emphasis mine at points of WTFedness]

I’ve spent a good chunk of my career making sure different data systems can talk to each other correctly.  One of the first things that I learned as a young minion to an old data scrubber was that names suck donkey dick as matching criteria.  There are numerous issues with names.  The easiest one is that a name is not a unique identifier.  If you google Richard Mayhew, there is me, a professor of literature and an English football player on the first page of results.  We are seperate people as you can easily verify by my spelling adventures and the fact that I am a referee and not a player.  As AJA points out, Democratic leaning ethnic groups tend to have a higher concentration of people with common names.

More importantly names change.  My wife Jane Mary Mayhew nee Doe can be found in a variety of databases under Jane Mary Mayhew, Jane M. Mayhew, Jane Doe, Jane Mary Doe, Jane M. Doe-Mayhew, J. Doe Mayhew.  Her sister Joan Maria can be found in several database as J. M. Doe.  My cousin Judy is in several databsae as J. Mayhew.  You try and figure out whether J. Mayhew is a unique individual in multiple location of unique individuals in multiple, unique locations?  You can’t with names.

Secondly, the next point of failure is that people move. Democrats and Democratic leaning voters tend to be more transient within a metro area as they are more likely to be either young or renters rather than middle age or old homeowners. So actual matches of someone voting in Precinct 1 in 2009 and Precinct 77 in 2011 is explained by natural movement. It is not a crime to move and vote at a new home.

It could be done with a reasonable degree of confidence (reasonable for say marketing purposes) on a match of first name, middle indicator, last name, gender (although that is fuzzy) date of birth, SSN or credit card numbers, but even that methodology will spit out some percentage of screwed up results that need expensive manual intervention to clean the list.  The screw ups will happen because the source data list is seldom pristine.  People will enter Richard Mayhew once and then Dick Mayhew another time or they could transcribe a number on their SSN, or Joe Smith, Joe Smith Jr, and Joe Smith III all live at the same house and you’re not sure which one owns which birthday or SSN.  Informed guesses can be made, but they are precisely that, guesses.  Cleaning up the residuals seldom is cost effective for basic marketing as it could easily be a $10 to $20 per name to validate cost for a $1 piece of mail.  However, for voting purposes, cleaning up the list should be worth $10 per residual individual.

If we wanted to have a solid national voter verification project, then that would mean federalizing elections where all citizens receive a biometric secured national identification card free of charge, and swiping that card at a precinct would bring up a custom ballot for the races that an individual is eligible to vote in.  And once a person swipes the card at a single location and submits a ballot, they would be locked out from voting for the rest of the relevant electoral cycle.  It would eliminate the right church, wrong pew problem, it would eliminate the three voting machines at a precinct with 1,500 urban voters compared to the 9 machines at the suburban precinct with 500 registered voters problem, it would eliminate any illusion of legitimate concerns about voter impersonation fraud, and it would eliminate fears of double voting.  It would actually solve a problem. It would be costly, but it would work.

But since voter identification and caging is not about actually solving a problem, we can’t have that… it is just proof that there is absolutley no fucking need whatsoever for preclearance or aggressive federal supervision of elections as only the Elected should elect the elected.