Morning Links

Friday, November 21st, 2008
  • Scientists discover grape-sized single-celled organism.
  • This is pretty cute.
  • Here’s a local news report on Mike Bowers, one of the good guys in forensic science who’s trying rid the courts of the frauds. Bowers has in the past helped debunk the “expertise” of Mississippi’s Dr. Michael West.
  • TSA’s fancy new “behavior detection” technology has a 99 percent error rate. Color me surprised! (But not nervous!)
  • In observance of World Toilet Day, experts are calling for an end to . . . wait, there’s a “World Toilet Day?”
  • Ilya Somin says libertarians should quit party politics. I’m inclined to agree. It’s nice to have an (unviable) option on election day, but I think libertarians would do better to form issue-specific alliances, and form PACs to support candidates on those issues. I still think there’s a not-unreasonable chance that we could get a libertarian president in my lifetime, but it won’t be through the Libertarian Party, nor will it come from either of the two major parties. If it happens, it’ll be an independent, probably self-funded candidate–probably someone from the business world–who swoops in Ross Perot-style to exploit voter disaffection with the existing candidates.
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  • 16 Responses to “Morning Links”

    1. #1 |  Ogami Itto | 

      “Here’s a local news report on Mike Bowers, one of the good guys in forensic science who’s trying rid the courts of the frauds. Bowers has in the past helped debunk the “expertise” of Mississippi’s Dr. Michael West.”

      I wonder if he’s related to Doctor Herbert West. ;-)

    2. #2 |  pegr | 

      I am not a member of the Libertarian party, though a strong supporter of libertarian philosophies. I have long felt that a true libertarian would never be a member of any political party…

      Reminds me of a favorite Mark Twain quote:

      “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

    3. #3 |  Ganja Blue | 

      Today is World Toilet Day. Yesterday Google observed Transgendered Rememberance Day which I might have snickered at before the murder of transgendered sex worker Duanna Johnson earlier this month. Duanna was the man, living as a woman, who filed a 1.3 million dollar lawsuit against the Memphis Police Department and the officer who beat her with his handcuffs while she was in custody this past summer. The beating was so horrific the police officer was actually fired and they’re really going to prosecute the guy. Miracles do happen.

    4. #4 |  Andrew | 

      I’d say that BoingBoing article is wrong — BDO surveillance has a 100% error rate. The arrests that have come from it have been for stuff like citizenship/visa violations, drugs, and outstanding warrants, rather than for threats to aviation security, which is what the program is ostensibly designed for. The BDO program is more or less an end-around the 4th Amendment by the Dept. of Fatherland Homeland Security because they’ve decided the Constitution doesn’t apply in an airport.

      I’d wager to guess you’d have that same 99% (100%?) error rate if you picked a similar number of people from an airport out at random.

    5. #5 |  solarjetman | 

      Having attended an LP convention and a pen-and-paper role playing convention, I would say the primary difference between the two is that the D&D players realize that nothing is actually happening.

      To call the LP worthless is too kind. At best, it wastes effort and resources nominating embarassingly hopeless candidates. At worst, if the LP were to somehow multiply its vote totals, it would end up creating a Nader effect and swinging the election towards the least-libertarian major party candidate. It is destructive to the interests of libertarians.

    6. #6 |  Brandon Bowers | 

      You’re probably right about a libertarian candidate having to be self-funded and independent to have a chance. Trying to get a group of Libertarians to agree on a candidate, platform and strategy would be like herding cats.

    7. #7 |  aland | 

      I’m sorry to say but when you look at the math of preventing rare events, as in terrorism, the false alarms will always be about 99% – even in a good program. There just aren’t a lot of terrorists.

      The math behind all this comes from Signal Detection Theory which you can find lots of places on the web:
      http://psych.hanover.edu/JavaTest/STD/STDbasic.html

      THe best idea would be to have a low criterion so less people are inconvenienced and this behavioral detection system may be total bunk, but a 99% error rate by itself doesn’t tell you a lot.

    8. #8 |  RWW | 

      Ilya Somin says libertarians should quit party politics.

      Take out the “party” and I’m with you.

    9. #9 |  OldGreyOne | 

      So we have a Libertarian president. He would be hamstrung by a CONgress willing to do anything to discredit him.

      I get to try out the TSA process in February when my son and I go to the Junior Olympics in Albuquerque. I have not flown in 15 years. I wonder what list I am on?

    10. #10 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

      “If done correctly, bite mark analysis and dental identification is close in accuracy to DNA analysis, but still a subjective science,”

      This statement shows Mr. Bowers integrity’ as a forensic practitioner. He realizes that he must let the scientific method, not the whims of detectives, prosecutors, or the defense, be his guide. He understands that his specialty is both a science and an art. Forensic investigations should serve the interest of justice and should be a service to victims and their families. The focus of these investigators should be more on what happened than on who was involved, generally speaking. Great work Mike!

    11. #11 |  Bronwyn | 

      momlogic: My new (second) favorite website!

      Thank you, I needed that. Badly.

    12. #12 |  Bronwyn | 

      Ahhh hahahahahaaa!

      *sobs*

      So true:
      http://photos.momlogic.com/galleries/9_reasons_being_a_wahm_is_impossible

    13. #13 |  TSA Guy | 

      And yet Bruce Schneier, who just a few days ago was suggested on this blog as the new head of TSA, is a self described fan of behavior profiling.

    14. #14 |  Cynical In CA | 

      “I still think there’s a not-unreasonable chance that we could get a libertarian president in my lifetime…”

      I smell a bet! Opening odds?

      Oh, and this mythical “libertarian” president must be judged on his/her record in office at the end of the term. You know how many campaign promises are fulfilled.

      For my part, I put the opening odds at infinity plus one to one, not in the least part because a “libertarian” president is an oxymoron.

    15. #15 |  Balko agrees that libertarians should quit party politics — FR33 AGENTS | 

      [...] Radley Balko agrees with Ilya Somin and writes: It’s nice to have an (unviable) option on election day, but I think libertarians would do better to form issue-specific alliances, and form PACs to support candidates on those issues. I still think there’s a not-unreasonable chance that we could get a libertarian president in my lifetime, but it won’t be through the Libertarian Party, nor will it come from either of the two major parties. If it happens, it’ll be an independent, probably self-funded candidate–probably someone from the business world–who swoops in Ross Perot-style to exploit voter disaffection with the existing candidates. [...]

    16. #16 |  Greg C. | 

      There is an extra word or a word that needs replacing. “Libertarians should quit politics” or “Libertarians should quit electoral politics”. The “party” part is unnecessary.

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