Wednesday, February 28, 2007


In 1993 the NBC newsmagazine Dateline moved from being a newsmagazine to being an early reality TV show. That was when they aired an episode where they rigged an explosion on a GM pickup to "demonstrate" that a design flaw tended to cause gas tank explosions. They forgot to tell the viewers that the explosion they filmed wasn't caused by a collision, it was caused by a bomb they planted on the pickup.

More recently Dateline has teamed up with Perverted Justice for a new reality show called "To Catch a Predator". Like almost all reality shows, it really has very little to do with reality.

Perverted Justice is basically a vigilante group. Some of their tactics are less than noble.

Perverted Justice itself seems to have gotten it's start with the role playing fetish of it's owner. His history of engaging in internet chat using the role of a 13 year old simply for his own enjoyment (long before the Dateline hookup) seems a little to far over the edge of creepy to me.

On the show they give the appearance that the decoy's employed by Dateline and Perverted Justice are just passive in various chatrooms, waiting for some predator to it on them. But according to Stone Phillips of Dateline that's not actually true.In many cases, the decoy is the first to bring up the subject of sex., he says. Just who is the predator here?

At least one of the evil ones captured by Dateline is mentally retarded.

CBS news seems to think Dateline is crossing an ethical boundary

grits for breakfast

Lawsuit about the Dateline show


One comment an announcement on rgp about this post

> Wow. That's amazing and sickening at the same time. The story about the
> 19 year old and his mom was absolutely unbelievable. Why would Dateline
> associate with these clowns? Are ratings that hard to get?

It makes them judgement proof in a lawsuit, perverted justice is doing all the enticement/entrapment. ?Dateline learned their lesson about direct invovement in manipulating things when they got sued for planting the bomb in the GM pickup and then claiming the explosion was because of a gas tank design defect.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stanford Prison Experiment

Sometimes it just seems like we don't ever learn anything.

In 1971, what has become known as the Stanford Prison Experiment should have taught us that it can be very damaging to people to put them in situations where one group has ultimate power over another group.

They intended to do a two week study of prison conditions to randomly assinging student volunteers as guards and prisoners and simulating prison life in the basement of the psychology building on the Stanford campus. After 6 days the obvious psychological damage done to the students (both prisoners and guards) was so severe that they stopped the experiment after 6 days.

It's a result that is covered in most basic psychology courses, but apparantly there's some 5th grade teachers and elementary school principals out there, who missed class that day.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The level of insanity is just stunning

I just saw a promo for a new segment that an OKC TV station will show Monday.

Steps to take to ensure that when you're house shopping you don't end up with a house that has been used as a meth lab.

That's right. That's high on the list of things you should worry about when buying a new house.

When I was living in Houston a few years back the DEA had an entrapment program where they set people up to run meth labs in downtown hotel rooms. That's okay, no danger to anyone. (It was when the head of the local DEA was tranferred after his 3rd DWI arrest). But be careful with those houses in the suburbs.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, February 23, 2007

Lock 'em all up

We have more and more people in the US that loudly call for building more and more prisons to lock up people who violate the law in a way that reminds of them of some personal loss of their own. One of the biggest groups that do this is MADD, with aggressive arguments in favor of locking up more and more people for less and less of an offense.

Not only have we lowered the BAC level that triggers presumption of inability to control a vehicle from 10% BAC to 8% BAC, in some cases the 8% isn't just presumptive, it's illegal on it's own, even if you have perfectly acceptable control of the vehicle and can proof it. The US has really gone nuts about this.

So, as much as I dislike anyone being hurt, I can't help but have mixed feelings about this story

An advocate for tougher sentences for drunken drivers was struck and killed late Wednesday by a hit-and-run driver as she was walked along Interstate 70 in South Huntingdon Township.

Zona said that Tomajko was walking eastbound along the highway and then crossed into the westbound lanes by hopping over the concrete median.

"Once in the westbound lane, the victim was struck by an unknown vehicle ... then struck by several other vehicles," he said.

Maybe she was drunk.

Or maybe we need longer prison sentences for jaywalkers.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sometimes things at least seem to change

In the early 80's Bank of America was in the process of moving from the largest bank in the US to the second largest. It was primarily a result of a bunch of bad agrucultural loans they'd made. But, the bank was pretty much a mess. For decades they'd had a "promote from within" policy that meant they didn't hire middle manager types from outside the bank, creating kind of an inbreed way of thinking that didn't help them much when things went sour.

They made an abrupt change in course, purposely sending head hunters out into the hinterlands to hire experienced bankers from other money center banks. I was one of them. It didn't work out real well for them. A lot of us got fed up with them and quit withing the first year or two. I don't know the exact number, but of the 5 outside hires I knew personally, 2 of them quit within 6 months and 2 quit within 2 years. That includes me.

I was in the Bond department, doing Systems Planning. A friend of mine was in Retail Systems and he told me a story that was just stunning.

Back then ATM's were still kind of new, and Bank of America didn't have ATM's online 24 hours a day. They brought them all offline from midnight to 6 am to do batch updates. Banks don't rely on once a day batch processing any more but back then they did, so it really wasn't yet possible to keep an individual ATM up and going 24 hours without some kind of down time for batch updating, but you didn't need 6 hours, and you didn't need them all offline at the same time.

My friend put together a proposal to change the way they updated from ATM's so that they could keep them all online 24 hours minus about 10 minutes every day, and not the same 10 minutes for every machine. It required some fairly deep changes in the way they did daily balance processing and required approval of the EVP who ran Retail Banking (Retail Banking is banking services for consumers). My friend made the presentation. The head of Retail Banking asked one question.

"Why would we want anyone who's on the street needing money at midnight as a customer"?

Those guys were really in touch.

Now they seemed to have flipped their way of thinking 180 degrees. They want to provide credit cards to residents with no social security cards or credit history.

More on Bank of America later.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Is it possible to ever have a competent president?

Right now reading the press about the run for the 2008 Presidency, all we're talking about is the money. Who's the best fund-raiser? That's how Clinton won the presidency. That's how Bush won. It looks like that's how the next President will win.

I don't know who's going to get the nomination from either party. But the best bet is that it's going to be the best fund-raiser, not the best qualified to serve.

You have to be a good fund-raiser to get a nomination. You have to be a good campaigner to get elected. Whether you actually have the qualifications to do the job once elected is just ignored. The best fund-raiser is the one who's best at making individual money people feel special when you're one on one with them. The best campaigner is the one who can talk to groups in a language that makes them feel like you care about their problems. That's it. Then we're done.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Motivating kids to learn

Kids don't always react the same to as each other to various attempts to motivate them. Paul Phillips says
I was too often told I was smart, and I never gained a taste for applying effort outside my areas of natural ability. I was always way too interested in getting the perfect grade as opposed to learning anything.

My reaction to being told I was smart as a kid was almost the opposite. I rejected grades, and just focused my education on topics I picked, not topics picked by my teachers. My target grade was a B or C, I'd pretty much stop and do something else once I knew I'd done enough to ensure a passing grade. In a 10th grade science final exam, where I was going to be allowed to leave when I finished the exam, I knew I needed a 56 on the final to make a C in the class. It was multiple choice, 100 questions. I left 44 answers blank and turned it in. It was just my way of showing disdain for adult approval.

To me, as a child, the educational system was just a rigid system that had been designed for the benefit of someone else, certainly not based on any interest in my education. When I was in the 6th grade we took some kind of standardized test at the beginning of the year. The two highest scores at each elementary school in Austin, Texas where then invited to a special summer program for smart kids on the University of Texas campus.

I didn't make great grades, but I read things that interested me, newspapers, adult novels, etc. I always scored well on standardized tests, and scored highest in the 6 grade class of my elementary school. So, even though I made B's and C's instead of A's I got an invitation to that summer program. The school principal tried to talk me into refusing the invitation so she could send a more deserving student (the 3rd place student who made all A's.). She actually used that term -- "more deserving".

That just steeled me. Do something to make the school principal look good? I don't think so. I insisted on going to that program.

The the true stupidity of formal education systems hit me right in the face. They had two tracks -- literature/history and math/science. You had to pick one. I wanted math/history. No, can't do that.

It was a morning program, 8:30 to 12:00. Math (or literature) was from 8:30 to 10, followed by a 30 minute break. Then in an entirely different building, different teacher, science (or history) from 10:30 to 12.

Math and History were taught in large lecture halls with plenty of seating.

There was no reason whatsoever, none, to not allow me to take math and history. They just didn't think it was appropriate to mix humanities and science. Had to pick one.

Screw them. After the first day me and a new friend who had the same interests as me went to math then cut science, going to the museum that first day. On later days we just hung around the beatniks on the UT drag (this was about 1961 or so), or sometimes went to the history lecture. They didn't call roll. We found we could just do what we wanted. That was a cool summer. The math lectures were on number theory and very interesting, the history was American History, post 1860 and was sometimes interesting.

But I discovered cutting classes was easy. By the ninth grade I was cutting so many boring classes I got expelled.

I went back, graduated from high school, and college, and grad school, even taught college blah, blah, blah

But that summer was probably the most interesting and informative educational experience I've ever had. That's when I learned that you don't have to listen to any of them.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rocks and guns

Some nutcase outside a truck stop picks up a rock and gets shot by a Border Patrol Agent. Why?

Border Patrol spokesman Jesus Rodriguez said agents have the right to defend themselves.

“He had already picked up a rock and was preparing to throw it,” Rodriguez said. “As you know, a rock can be just as deadly as any other kind of weapon.

These renegade nuts with the Border Patrol will get away with this, but this explanation is wrong on so many levels it's just obvious as it can be that the public safety is not served by these clowns running around with a gun and badge.

First of all, we don't know and he doesn't know whether anybody intended to throw a rock. A rock had not been thrown. He does know that. He may have believed a rock was going to be thrown. But, then say that.

Secondly, and this is the part that makes it clear you can't interpret anything these guys say at face value. A rock can be just as deadly as any other kind of weapon?

No. I don't think so.

It's certainly possible to kill someone with a rock. But it's very, very unlikely. There is no rational expectation that someone will be killed by a thrown rock. None at all. There is a remote possibility, but that's not rationally considered deadly.

Throwing a rock at someone is not a deadly act in the same sense as shooting a gun at them. Not even close. People who behave this way and think this was simply should not be allowed to run around with guns, much less with both gun and badge.

Here's a funny part of the story.

The agents had called for a deputy for help, and he was at the truck stop when the shooting happened. But Estrada said he was going back to his car to retrieve a flashlight when the shots were fired and did not witness the incident.

The deputy wasn't going for a shotgun. He thought he needed a little light on the situation.

I think we all need more light on how some of these cops behave when faced with just minor stress.

I corrected some misspellings.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Abuse of Celebrity Status

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Our New Tradition about Torture

The Balkinization blog has a timely essay about America's tradition of treating prisoners humanely. In particular the treatment of prisoner's of war. During the Revolutionary war the British treated American POWs terribly, a very, very high proportion of of them died from torture and starvation in British camps. In some cases the British just put American prisoners on ships and openly starved them in New York harbor.

We sure have changed.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cut of Funding

Tony Snow is running his mouth at press conferences that the American people won't support the Congress if they try to cut off funding for the troops.

Well, of course the public doesn't want to leave the troops stranded in Iraq with no funding. That's what the phrase "cuf off funding for the troops" means to most people.

Nobody in Congress suggests we do that.

What Congress is suggesting is to cut of funding for the president to force him to bring troops home. If the troops are left in Iraq with no money after congress cuts off funds it will be because our insane president decided to abandon the troops to his political fantasy, not because Congress manadated that.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Internet Filters

I got an email from a reader this morning I thought was funny.

Ok. So the web filter my company uses allows me to
commment on Poker Road Trips.

However I am not allowed to commment on your last
American Tradition post because it is about "sex"

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

who is a journalist?

Texas might be giving special privileges to journalists. But the state gets to decide who is or isn't a journalist. That's not a good idea. The state shouldn't get to decide that.

A few years ago I took souvenir photo's for tourists in 6th street bars and along 6th street in Austin. Sometimes the cops would try to enforce a sidewalk vendor law that they claimed meant you had to have a license to take photo's on the street. But the city only gave a vendor license for a fixed location on a corner, I walked the sidewalks from bar to bar.

But if I'd had an assignment from the local newspaper to take freelance photo's along 6th street I would not have needed city permission. What's the difference? In one case I'm hired by a person to take pictures, in the other case I'm hired by a person who worked for the Statesman to take pictures.

The only difference is that the city approved of one employer but not of the other.

It seemed to me this was an obvious 1st amendment violation. The City Attorney wouldn't return phone calls about it. The ACLU said that think about defending me if I got arrested.

If the government gives special privileges to approved newspapers then it gives them pause before they criticize the hand that feeds them. The government should not be allowed to determine who is or isn't a journalist.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Updates on the substitute teachers computer porn

At Bruno and the professor a school IT director points out that his policy of even blocking Google at his school makes more and more sense to him.

Feb 13th AP story on CNN. Hat tip to Cohesive Creations

The Supreme Irony of Life has some comments and links to a local (Conn) newspaper editorial.

Just a Girl in Short Shorts Talking About Whatever used to be a lawyer who now teaches 2nd grade and has some thoughts on the subject.

Psychoguitarist has an up to date summary which includes the news that the defense attorney claims to be computer illiterate. I'm not clear on who a computer illiterate attorney who agrees to take this case can in any way be considered competent.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Catholic Bigotry

This blog list various people who've recently been accused of bigotry against catholics and/or the catholic church.

There are actually people in the United States who are apolgists and supporters of the Catholic Church and labels anyone who isn't very impressed by the perfomance of the Catholic Church as bad people. Where do these people come from? Do they realize what the Catholic Church has done the last few years and the evil that they stand for?

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, February 12, 2007

Police and suicide

There's TV coverage on local TV about some guy in OKC who's sitting in a pickup thinking about shooting himself.

I don't know what prompted this guys despair.

But, now he's surrounded with dozens of armed cops. I'm sure that's gonna make him feel better.

Suicide is about people who feel extreme helplessness and loneliness. How is that helped by dozens of unneeded cops? These guys are not helping. A couple of empty cars to block his moving the pickup and a couple of cops across the street to talk to him, and that's it. Anything more than that just isolates the guy and makes him even more helpless. They aren't helping him, they are just making it more likely he's going to kill himself.

UPDATE. Current video shows that most of the police have been pulled back, at least out of sight. It appears that at least someone invovled in running the OKC police has the brains of a grasshopper.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Drug war insanity

Do you think it's legal to lock an empty box in your trunk? Maybe. But it seems they don't think it should be legal in North Carolina.

Just when you think the drug war has gotten pretty much as insane as it can, it gets even nuttier.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Is the United States Army a UN occupation force?

Maybe I'm wrong, but I sure didn't think so. If I'm wrong could somebody let me know?

Some nutcase Army "Expert" in Iraq seems to think so, but not strongly enough to stand up and say so in public.

The presentation was the result of weeks of preparation and revisions as U.S. officials put together a package of material to support the Bush administration's claims of Iranian intercession on behalf of militant Iraqis fighting American forces.

Senior U.S. military officials in Baghdad said the display was prompted by the military's concern for "force protection," which, they said, was guaranteed under the United Nations resolution that authorizes American soldiers to be in Iraq.

The sonsofbitches are just flat out lying again. The above is simply not true. I don't know why the AP writes these kinds of stories. They know it's just another big lie, why even give pretense to the possibility that the Army is telling them the truth?

This is just unacceptble behavior, and just like they did 4 years ago the US press establishment is just rolling over and going along with the crap they know full well is a lie.

When the Army will lie to us about UN support of our invasion of Iraq you can be damn sure they're lieing to us about everything else.

This is so frustrating. I wonder what the point of being an American is when your government has no respect for you and no respect for the truth and the Army is just run by a bunch of career cowards who are scared the truth might cost them a promotion.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man

I think they did.
Cantu's long-silent co-defendant, David Garza, just 15 when the two boys allegedly committed a murder-robbery together, has signed a sworn affidavit saying he allowed his friend to be falsely accused, though Cantu wasn't with him the night of the killing.

And the lone eyewitness, the man who survived the shooting, has recanted. He told the Chronicle he's sure that the person who shot him was not Cantu, but he felt pressured by police to identify the boy as the killer. Juan Moreno, an illegal immigrant at the time of the shooting, said his damning in-court identification was based on his fear of authorities and police interest in Cantu.

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