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.

Not giving a flu-ck

If we were not engaged in a systemic freak out about a disease that has not killed anyone infected on US soil yet, we would be aggressively vaccinating for the flu right now.  The flu is a disease that kills thousands in a good year, and tens of thousands in an average year.  Its early symptoms look a lot like Ebola (high fever, coughing, feeling like shit) so people going to the ER or their doctor’s office for a flu visit will be getting screened for Ebola, and there will be some small percentage who falsely fail the Ebola screening and thus have their lives upended.  Minimizing the spread of the flu would make Ebola precautions more effective plus get far fewer people sick from a deadly disease.

Yet, we’re doing almost nothing different about this.  The CDC is tracking the rates of vaccination in 2013 and 2014.  2014 vaccination rates are up slightly.

Flu shots

Even in a non-Ebola world, health insurers want to pay for the flu vaccine.  Mayhew Insurance knocks $200 off individual deductibles for flu shots because it saves a lot of money by avoiding hospitalizations (let’s ignore the avoided feeling like shit days and unplanned time off from a cost accounting view to keep things simple.)  It is a massive net win for society to minimize flu in good years.  In years where there is another infectious disease whose early symptoms mimic a nasty flu, it is even more of a no brainer if our society actually wanted to solve the problem.

Instead, we get a freak-out and mass hysteria.

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: In Praise of Incivility

paul krugman is tired

(D.B. Echo at Another Monkey)


My hero, Professor Krugman, on “Wild Words, Brain Worms, and Civility“:

…[P]icturesque language, used right, serves an important purpose. “Words ought to be a little wild,” wrote John Maynard Keynes, “for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking.” You could say, “I’m dubious about the case for expansionary austerity, which rests on questionable empirical evidence and zzzzzzzz…”; or you could accuse austerians of believing in the Confidence Fairy. Which do you think is more effective at challenging a really bad economic doctrine?

Beyond that, civility is a gesture of respect — and sure enough, the loudest demands for civility come from those who have done nothing to earn that respect…

…[T]he worst [kind of bad faith], as far as I’m concerned, involves refusing to take responsibility for your actual statements. “The failure of high inflation to materialize doesn’t mean that I was wrong, because I only said that there was a risk of inflation”. “When I said that Obamacare spending adds a trillion dollars to the deficit, I wasn’t misleading readers, because I didn’t actually deny that the ACA as a whole reduces the deficit.” And of course, people who engage in that kind of bad faith screech loudly about civility when they’re caught at it.

When there’s an honest, good-faith economic debate — say, the ongoing controversy about the effects of quantitative easing — by all means let’s be civil. But in my experience demands for civility almost always come from people who have forfeited the right to the respect they demand.

More, of course, at the link. Once we’ve all shared a metaphorical cigarette, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Today in Police State Insanity

How many large policemen does it take to subdue a 4’10” 75 lb sophomore in High School?

If you answered less than three, you just don’t understand appropriate force:

Perez, with her mom and her brother by her side, described the chain of events that led to the officers wrestling her to the floor.

She says her reading teacher caught her using her cell phone in class, which is against school rules, and told her to go to the hallway. That’s where Perez says she was confronted by an assistant principal who demanded she relinquish the phone. Students caught using phones in class are required to turn them over to school administrators and then retrieve them at the end of the school day, for a fee.

“I just didn’t want to give up my phone,” said Perez who said she was talking to her mom who suffers from medical conditions. Perez said she was trying to make sure her mom was OK.

“She asked me for the phone and I didn’t want to give it to her, because I was scared. I ended up walking down the stairs trying to get away from the AP (assistant principal) and then she had already called the cops.”

The HISD resource officers also demanded she hang up the phone and hand it to them. Perez admitted she refused again.

‘He grabbed my hand, one of them was right here, one grabbed my hand, I didn’t want to let go of my phone because I was on the phone with mom,” she said.

Perez was detained. Her mom says she was turned away when she rushed to the school to make sure her daughter was OK. And as of Wednesday morning Perez said school officials had not returned her cell phone, in lieu of a $15 fee she would need to pay.

On the upside, they didn’t tase her to death