December 5th, 2013
Sometimes the news is so insane, you can't not blog it.
An unarmed, emotionally disturbed man shot by the police as he was lurching around traffic near Times Square in September has been charged with assault, on the theory that he was responsible for bullet wounds suffered by two bystanders, according to an indictment unsealed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday.
Initially Mr. Broadnax was arrested on misdemeanor charges of menacing, drug possession and resisting arrest. But the Manhattan district attorney's office persuaded a grand jury to charge Mr. Broadnax with assault, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years. Specifically, the nine-count indictment unsealed on Wednesday said Mr. Broadnax "recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death."
"The defendant is the one that created the situation that injured innocent bystanders," said an assistant district attorney, Shannon Lucey.
The two police officers, who have not been identified, have been placed on administrative duty and their actions are still under investigation by the district attorney's office, law enforcement officials said. They also face an internal Police Department inquiry.
Administrative duty! An internal Police Department inquiry! Well, that's all right, then.
I mean, all the cops did was shoot someone. It's not like they "recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death." Definitely, who you want to prosecute is the mentally ill guy who wandered out into traffic. Perish forbid you should prosecute any police.
Really! Hooray for brave prosecutors like ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY SHANNON LUCEY who identify and target the real threat: pathetic losers who make otherwise fine and upstanding police officers lose their shit. Look what you made me do. Excellent moral discernment, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY SHANNON LUCEY.
Our descendants will marvel at what we put up with.
December 4th, 2013
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
I love this. But it's a tough read in winter. So when an answer started knocking around my head, I scribbled it down.
But once the gold is gone,
As daylight follows dawn,
The summer fades to fall,
And autumn's pleasures pall.
Then darkness comes at last,
When all that's bright is past.
But we endure the black,
Because the gold comes back.
Of course, this mostly serves to illustrate Frost's own point: we must inevitably decline from the first blush of perfection. What follows is inferior. Sequelitis comes to us all in the end. But illustration is a form of participation in its own right.
Also, open thread.
Continued from Open thread 190.
December 3rd, 2013
December 2nd, 2013
December 1st, 2013
Just so you know, ML's spam-fighting arrangements are being altered. Obviously, we hope this will result in less spam; but just at the moment, it may temporarily result in more spam, more gnomings, and/or other unwanted manifestations.
If you're being patient about it, thank you for your patience. If you aren't, we're still sorry. And if you're flagging spam and mentioning gnomings in accord with received local practice, thank you very much indeed!
Update from Abi: The new system is in. Please post comments. Post edgy, difficult ones; post three spaces in a row and be effusively grateful. Let's try this thing out.
Note that if you post spammy keywords, they'll probably get through—this uses a different system than the filters it's replacing. I reserve the right to unpublish things manually. And there may be tuning in the future.
Further update from Abi: It's all looking very good, and I'm going to bed. I'll look things over tomorrow and see what comments, if any, are in the wrong places. If you are hopelessly gnomed and unable to even cry for help in comments, please email me at my first name at this domain and I will investigate.
One Sunday evening when I was a kid, when we were visiting my paternal grandparents, it somehow came up that Grandpa Nielsen had misplaced the key to his suitcase lock, and couldn't remember the three-digit combination that would open the lock without the key. I was maybe nine or ten years old and had gotten a vague notion of how permutations worked, so I thought I'd have a go at the problem. The lock had three little wheels, each with ten positions on it numbered 0-9, so there were a thousand possible permutations. I turned the wheels to 000, the first permutation, and tried the lock. It opened.
I'd stumbled on a behavior Richard Feynman talked about in the Safecracker Meets Safecracker chapter of "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": the tendency of people to leave the combination locks in safes and filing cabinets set to the default combination they already had when they were shipped from the factory.
What makes Feynman's stories about this and other faulty security practices so attention-grabbing was that his career as a safecracker began when he was working as a nuclear physicist at Alamagordo and Oak Ridge during WWII. The safes and filing cabinets he was casually opening for fun were full of massively sensitive material about the atomic bomb project. At one point he discovered that roughly one safe in five at Alamagordo was still set to one of the two standard factory combinations, either 25-0-25 or 50-25-50.
Given how nervous many of us were during the Cold War, it's just as well that we didn't know the interesting fact recently reported in The Guardian and Gizmodo: for about twenty years, and in direct contravention of orders from presidents and defense secretaries, the U.S. military had the eight-digit nuclear launch codes for Minuteman missile silos set to 00000000. Apparently they resented the eight-digit "fire only if ordered to do so by the president" security system imposed on them in 1962, as it made firing nuclear missiles slower and more difficult. They responded by permanently assigning the system a single launch code that was the moral equivalent of using "password" or "12345678" or "qwerty" as the overall password for your online account.
But it gets worse:
[I]n case you actually did forget the code, it was handily written down on a checklist handed out to the soldiers. As Dr. Bruce G. Blair, who was once a Minuteman launch officer, stated:
Our launch checklist in fact instructed us, the firing crew, to double-check the locking panel in our underground launch bunker to ensure that no digits other than zero had been inadvertently dialed into the panel.
This ensured that there was no need to wait for Presidential confirmation....
Dr. Blair also noted in another article that virtually anyone who asked for permission to tour a launch facility was granted it, with little or no background check.
You couldn't put that in a spy novel. Or maybe you could; but it would have to be the central McGuffin, and you'd have to build in a round of thunderstruck reaction shots for every character who heard about it.
November 30th, 2013
Here's a challenge. I n rooting through several differnet wooden cases of inherited family silver for table-settings at Thanksgiviing, we came upon a number of items whose use we didn't know (and in some cases couldn't imagine). They are shown below. How many do you know? Any? (PS: "A" is not damaged or melted. The cross on "D" is a cutout.)
An NY Times article called "The Ways of L:ust" purports to relay analyses of how viewing naked or "sexualized" imgaes of people (women, almost entirely) reduces the apprehension of them as full persons, and possibly therefore lowering our apprehension of actrual persons (as opposed to images.)http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/opinion/sunday/the-ways-of-lust.html?ref=opinion
Here's one paragraph;
"This idea has some laboratory support. Studies have found that viewing people’s bodies, as opposed to their faces, makes us judge those people as less intelligent, less ambitious, less competent and less likable. One neuroimaging experiment found that, for men, viewing pictures of sexualized women induced lowered activity in brain regions associated with thinking about other people’s minds."
The second sentence is an equivocation -- people and images of people (at least I assume that the "studies" were of people viewing images not bodies). The last sentence is...precious. WHo could have guessed this result in advance?
November 29th, 2013
...though you've likey read it. Sarah Palin to Matt Lauer on what the alternative to the ACA should include:
“The plan is to allow those things that have been proposed over many years to reform a health care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there’s more competition, there’s less tort-reform threat, there’s less trajectory of the cost increases. And those plans have been proposed over and over. And what thwarts those plans? It’s the far left.”
I thought the Republicans were largely FOR tort reform. And I love the notion of less trajectory.