Sunday Links

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

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48 Responses to “Sunday Links”

  1. #1 |  B | 

    reason Brickbat from the future:

    “Nine-year-old computer whiz Billy Gates was awoken in the early hours of December 5th by a SWAT raid on his house. Police burst into his bedroom, ordered him to the floor, confiscated his computer, and shot his dog, Skippy. A warrant had been issued based on Billy’s participation in a Spongebob chatroom, in which his unusually adept typing had flagged him as a probable pedophile. Though he has been released from custody, he remains on the sex offender registry.”

  2. #2 |  Mike | 

    I can hear a stampede of former handwriting analysis “experts” lining up to do typing analysis.

  3. #3 |  Rob Robertson | 

    Extremely important threadjack announcement;

    Thank you for understanding.

  4. #4 |  MassHole | 

    Uh oh. I hope they don’t come out with an app that can detect one handed typing.

  5. #5 |  Bob | 

    What kind of freak types in complete sentences with capitalization and proper punctuation? Call in the SWAT team!

    Aside from that… characters typed are not transmitted in real time. They’re sent in all at once. This is crappy… I can’t even call this ‘science’. In the immortal words of Wolfgang Pauli, “it’s not even wrong”.

    And in Dallas? WTF? I think if these ‘suspected drug houses’ were actually selling lots of dope, getting a warrant would be easy. No, this is just a fishing expedition targeting blacks and hispanics. I would like to see full disclosure on this one, like what determines a “suspected drug house”, for example.

  6. #6 |  Bob | 

    Good podcast.

    That guy comes off as totally credible.

    Also… I would point out that those ‘researchers’ researching on line chat would have no way of knowing that I typed ‘credulous’. then looked it up in the dictionary before changing it to ‘credible’. Junk science all the way.

  7. #7 |  jac | 

    IRT that Dallas thing. Wouldn’t those houses be too dangerous to approach without a full SWAT team in the middle of the night? I can’t believe the are actually approaching a drug house and attempting to violate rights in broad daylight.

  8. #8 |  tariqata | 

    From the article on typing, “Researchers believe technology could be used to determine a computer typist’s age, sex and culture within 10 keystrokes by monitoring their speed and rhythm.”

    I’m not terribly aware of these things, but it seems to me that monitoring the speed and rhythm of a typist’s keystrokes would require a keystroke recorder of some kind on the computer that the person under observation is using. Does anyone know if that’s true? I’m reasonably sure that enabling that kind of monitoring would be a gross violation of privacy laws in Canada, even if it is intended to protect children from pedophiles, though I don’t know about other jurisdictions.

    It does make sense to me that when comparing an adult’s typing to a child’s, speed and rhythm could easily identify the adult (though I find it very hard to believe it could identify “culture” with much specificity, beyond maybe indicating that a person is writing in a second language). The problem is that the differences would decrease as children get older, and develop better hand-eye coordination and become more practiced at typing smoothly. A thirteen or fourteen year-old is probably a lot more likely to be chatting on MSN or whatever than an eight year-old. (I think; I don’t know too many eight year-olds, but I’m pretty sure that I would have found it boring when I was that age), so this “tool”, even if it actually can distinguish an adult from a child in some situations, would become less and less useful as kids approach the age when they’re likely to be at greater risk from online stalking.

  9. #9 |  Michael not Mann | 

    I’m wondering what legal logic was used to permit police to even be on private property without a warrant.

  10. #10 |  Paul B | 

    I’m wondering what will happen in reality when someone tells the cops to get the fuck off his property and come back when they get a warrant. What happens if residents just refuse to answer the door?

  11. #11 |  PersonFromPorlock | 

    Even assuming all the junk science to be true, a small app that put a random short delay on keystroke processing would defeat the analyser.

  12. #12 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    Ah, Dallas. They finally have a DA that is looking to exonerate innocents by DNA….just so he can free up room for drug offenders caught by those BS police tactics. status quo

  13. #13 |  Michael not Mann | 

    Nice map of America getting fat. Seem to take off as food processor increased products with HFCS in them.

  14. #14 |  Michael not Mann | 

    It’s good to see PersonFromPorlock is working on the problem.

    While I have no sympathy for pedophiles, they’re damn cleaver people.

    No implication is meant for PersonFromPorlock.

  15. #15 |  not a viking | 


    Technically a chat client like MSN/ICQ/Skype already _is_ a keystroke monitor. Ever notice how for instance Skype is indicating that the other person is typing a response? Information about your typing is already being sent. So given the fantasy the research actually works it would be trivial to add to chat clients/any software that accepts keyboard input.

    Also lets just just say this fantasy is real and even more unlikely proper keystroke monitoring becomes mandatory. Pedos can just read the peer reviewed research and type in a way that defeats the algoritm most likely or creates enough false positives (ie how to separate a smart child from a badly spelling pedo, will most likely overlap).

    But kudos to the researchers if they get funding, would be quite the scam to pull off.

  16. #16 |  not a viking | 


    Or do what a lot of people do, write in something that has a spellchecker (not all chat clients do) and when happy cut n paste it into the client.

    Only way to defend against this is to equate being a spelling nazi with being a pedo. Which might be a good thing depending your view.

  17. #17 |  Marty | 

    nice balance, Radley- posting on a bunch of people about to get their 4th amendment rights abused and and interview with Billy Murphy, a man who can show them how to at least resist.

    I’d like to see more posts on people who fight the good fight… gives me something to show my kid.

  18. #18 |  Michael not Mann | 

    @not a viking

    I often write comments in an open email because many bloggers think 6 point fonts for comments are cool. It helps prevent things like cleaver getting though when you meant clever.

  19. #19 |  Marc | 

    From the crappy science article: He [Phil Butler] said: ”As part of a sexual offences prevention order, courts currently have the power to ban a sex offender from using a computer.”


    That’s not even banned from using internet, folks. Banned from using A COMPUTER. It’s times like this why I have to ask what’s the point of even letting sex offenders out of jail? Their “freedom” is a sham anyway. Serves them right for not just committing murder like a decent human being, I guess. If all they did was kill some people, then at least at the end of their prison term they could go on living with only a modicum of surveilance. Never heard of a person who stabbed people to death being prevented after release from owning kitchen knives or using a knife at a restaurant.

  20. #20 |  Michael not Mann | 

    Took a look at the flex your rights site. I’m tempted to print the Fourth Amendment on the back of the shade. Cop comes up, pull down shade.

  21. #21 |  MacK | 

    The biggest problem is not being able to tell an adult is typing, but the assumption that because it is an adult, it must be a pedophile.

    It is not against the law to talk to children, in person, online, on the phone, it is against the law to sexually entice, or assault them.

    A typing algorithm is not needed to see that a child has been propositioned. The actual language is needed.

  22. #22 |  tariqata | 

    not a viking@15: Good point regarding keystroke monitoring on IM software.

  23. #23 |  M. Zinnen | 

    How in the name of God is this typing thing actually going to do anything other than generate untold numbers of false positives? My father has used a computer for years, but (perhaps because he didn’t need to send emails regularly until he was 50) his typing “speed” is such that every time I see him typing a message, I am tempted to rip the keyboard out of his hands and just have him dictate it to me. One of his brothers is an engineer and therefore despite his high intelligence, he can’t spell, use proper grammar, or distinguish between homonyms. Presumably if they were pedophiles, they would not be caught by this. However, all of my 10-18 year-old cousins can look forward to many, many SWAT raids, as they grew up using computers, cell phones, etc., and can therefore type with a speed that would shame a stenographer. And a quick read through the comments section on nearly any blog (present one excluded, of course) should immediately disabuse people of the notion that adults generally have a higher level of communicative skill than children.

    Still, it’s worth it if it’s going to save at least one child’s life, so I’m all for it.

  24. #24 |  Judi | 

    Gov. Barbour signed HB 1456 on Friday the 26th.

  25. #25 |  Warren | 

    This just in: Dr. Stephen Hayne is opening a keystroke analysis business as an adjunct to his fauxrensic work.

    His first hire is that dickpig who used his dog to put a lot of folks in jail.

  26. #26 |  Elliot | 

    The food “experts” have not only been wrong, they’ve been willfully ignorant about the role of carbohydrates, processed foods, and sedentary lifestyles in obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes..the diseases of civilization.

  27. #27 |  Mario | 

    Regarding the cops in Dallas knocking on doors, hoping to turn “talks” into drug raids, this is a perfect case for NO TRESPASSING and NO SOLICITING signs to apply to police. If you’re not invited, stay off my property.

    How is what they’re doing NOT trespassing and NOT soliciting, is what I want to know.

  28. #28 |  Whim | 

    Unless the police actually SHOW you a warrant, you do not even need to answer their knocking at the door.

    They cannot legally knock down your door unless they have a No-Knock warrant.

  29. #29 |  wylie | 

    RE: typing analysis

    Provided its restricted to each service, i don’t see a problem. But if the gov’t wanted to mandate MS and Apple to put a keylogger into their OS’s, then….big problem. As identity theft soared soon after its introduction, “unintended consequences” would become the top search on google.

  30. #30 |  wylie | 

    also, linux market share would skyrocket.

  31. #31 |  j a higginbotham | 

    I smell a crappy link – the crappy science link just goes to the telegraph technology news and a search there for “crappy science” goes nowhere

  32. #32 |  flukebucket | 

    What you call crappy science I just call bullshit.

  33. #33 |  la Rana | 

    your insipid nutritional analysis, which – despite your “again” – has consisted of “the experts were wrong about fat, and therefore are wrong about everything, and are therefore intrinsically bad” is the sort of uninquisitive, superficial, over-generalization that you find on Glenn Beck, and almost never on this site. It would be great if you applied your analytical skills equally to nutrition, but then again, you may not like what you find.

  34. #34 |  Radley Balko | 

    “your insipid nutritional analysis…..”

    Oh lighten the hell up. It was a bullet point in a “links” post. I actually have done a lot of work on the fat/obesity issue. And the “experts” to whom our paternalistic lawmakers want to defer when making public policy have been wrong more than a few times. Remember when they told us we should all switch from animal fat to trans fats? How about when they told us 400,000 people die every year due to obesity? Or was it 100,000? Oh yes, it was closer to 15,000.

    It was the government and public health fanatics that demonized fat in the 1980s. So we all turned to carbs for flavor and satiation. Turned out, that was a huge mistake. This latest obsession with weight (as opposed to activity) is also quite literally killing people. The research is pretty clear that yo-yo dieting is far more dangerous than being overweight. And since 9 in 10 dieters fail to keep weight off, just about every diet is a yo-yo diet.

    Just because it’s an issue where we don’t happen to agree doesn’t mean my analysis is “uninquisitive, superficial,” and “over-generaliz[ed].”

    I worked on this issue for two years while I was at Cato. My point is that we need to recognize that (1) self-appointed public health experts have agendas, (2) the pressure for grants and publication selects for hysteria, (3) they’re often wrong, and so, (4) it’s foolish to make broad public policy based on their pronouncements. If you want to base your own nutritional decisions on what the latest Robert Wood Johnson-funded study says, go for it. There is value to studies figuring out what is and isn’t healthy for us. But these studies shouldn’t be an impetus for legislation.

  35. #35 |  la Rana | 

    You begin by justifying “insipid”: as you well know, the article is rehashing issues that we’ve known about, and you have reported on, for years. Yet, you find it useful to say “again,” implying that the “experts” have made some additional mistake. Thats either creating a false narrative, or crap writing. You pick.

    I like the immediate assertion of authority. Sets the tone. For what its worth, I have been reading all things Balko and criticizing your nutrition work for at least the last half-decade. I know at least as much about nutrition as you do. No need to update me.

    My criticism remains. “They told us” is completely worthless as critical analysis. There never was, nor ever will be, a “they.” Christ almighty, you sound like Stephen Hayne protesting in front of some judicial reckoning that its all a conspiracy and “they” are out to get him. There were some scientific studies on the human diet. Some scientists perceived it certain ways, some others. For a variety of reasons, legislatures latched on to a certain perception. Many more scientific studies have been done on the human diet in the interim, and the recommendations adopted by legislatures were wrong in many instances. Thats it.

    I agree with you on much of the science aspect, but you lay blame in completely the wrong place, and are only able to do so through uninquisitive, superficial, overgeneralizations like “they” and the “experts.” How is it that someone who spends a fair amount of time thinking and writing about rent-seeking and other corporate-statist libertarian critiques not notice that the shift in nutrition advice corresponded with the exponential growth of America’s single largest agricultural commodity? Sure, conagra may give a cool mil to each party each election cycle, but its just the damn experts holding their press conferences, dominating the media, and generally browbeating the public that forces the Ag committees and USDA to reluctantly adopt nutritional guidelines that roughly hew to the proportional district by district influence of those foods (thats overstating it a bit, barely). I fondly remember passing that aisle of snackwells in 1985, and hearing all the conversations about that latest longitudinal study from San Diego State. And poor people have always based their food choices on what the government says. I don’t know anyone here in SE DC that leaves home without their food pyramid. Give. Me. A. Break.

    I don’t think the government should be giving food advice either, but you can’t fix the problem until you identify it. To pick up where I left off on the last post, you seem to apply your substantial analytical skills almost everywhere but on this issue.

  36. #36 |  Jim Collins | 

    “Uh oh. I hope they don’t come out with an app that can detect one handed typing.”

    Me too! I do CAD for a living. One hand on the keyboard and one on the trackball.

    There’s money to be made and power over others to be had concerning obesity. It will never go away. When I was in the Navy they decided that they needed to get rid of so many people, so they lowered their body fat standard, gave people 90 days to comply and those who couldn’t they discharged. If your agency needs more funding, just change your standard and issue a press release on the “new crisis”.

  37. #37 |  Radley Balko | 

    I’ve criticized ag subsidies plenty, and when I was Cato I wrote quite a bit about the bogus science behind the food pyramid. And more to the point, I’ve criticized the pharmaceutical industry, which played a huge role in drumming up the obesity hysteria. But it isn’t Big Pharma that gets quoted in these news stories. It’s the public health hacks they’re paying off who lend authority to the issue.

  38. #38 |  la Rana | 

    almost there but for the concept of agency and a realistic understanding of how people get their information.

  39. #39 |  Elliot | 

    Hey la Rana, the enemy is sugar and Balko is right about the prevailing health advice being quite wrong. The “smart”, “healthy” choices are touted as “low-fat” and “whole-grains” and the stupid scientists keep ignoring sugar whenever they do yet another study linking fat to this or that problem.

    Americans spend billions on dieting. They buy tons of “smart” and “healthy” food according to the Standard American Diet (SAD) that doctors, government officials, and advertising tell them will help them. But they are fatter than ever, more plagued by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes–only because medicine has advanced to prolong their lives do the statistics not reflect the massive changes in the past several decades.

    Corn, wheat, and other grains have a high glycemic index, particularly the more they are processed (which is about the only true thing the CNN article I cite gets near). The damage to your body is akin to swallowing lots of sugar at one time.

    Again, go read Mark Sisson about sugar.

  40. #40 |  la Rana | 

    in this fight, the enemy is anyone claiming to know the enemy. In your instance, the problem is that “sugar” includes the basic building block to which we reduce everything that we eat. So, uh, no. In Radley’s case, he selectively rails against a group that he never quite identifies because if he did then the complete impotence of his implied chain of causation would become obvious. Implicit in the idea of a free market is that it is self-correcting, as in there is something correct, as in profit making entities are not necessarily good. But Radley can’t admit that, for whatever reason, so its mysterious experts and their nefarious conflicting studies that get the blame (who he ironically admits are being used) instead of the multimillion dollar marketing campaigns. Radley, 99.9% of Americans don’t even know who C. Everett Koop is!

  41. #41 |  Elliot | 

    la Rana (#40): “in this fight, the enemy is anyone claiming to know the enemy.”

    Don’t get self-contradictory with such anti-rational slogans. Are you certain that being certain is bad? Duh.

    la Rana (#40): “In your instance, the problem is that “sugar” includes the basic building block to which we reduce everything that we eat.”

    Go back to high school to take biology. Protein and fat do not reduce to sugar. Both are necessary and sufficient to provide nutrition to keep you going. Sugar is not necessary, though it does have some metabolic advantages. (No, eating high-carb energy bars or drinking Gatorade whenever you exercise is really, really stupid, particularly if you’re trying to exercise to lose weight. Go into ketosis by cutting out carbs for a few meals, fast for a day, then do short, intense workouts to burn maximum fat. Twice a week. It’s a very healthy way to melt off the body fat and increase muscle mass–muscles being much more efficient at burning off calories anyway.)

    The secret is not gorging on sugar, i.e., putting loads of it in your bloodstream, triggering insulin overproduction, which causes insulin shock, which leads to insulin resistance, which leads to damage at the cellular level. Go read this. Refer back to Radley’s cite and pay close attention to the glycemic index. The insulin reaction problem occurs when the sugar (carbs) you consume quickly enter your bloodstream all at once, due to the processing and refining.

    Sugars naturally occur in plants, including fruits and vegetables. Eating them as is (or cooked in a sensible way), without sauces or sweeteners gives your body sugar more gradually, avoiding the whole insulin shock problem. When I say sugar is the enemy, I don’t mean the sugars you get from a diet which includes whole food fruits and vegetables.

    Most “experts” (like the morons who made the “food pyramid”) will suggest your calories should be 60% carbs (with lots of “heart-healthy whole grains), but a diet with 20% calories from carbs, with lots of fat and enough protein is optimal for an active person. 60% fat and 20% protein works great for primal/paleo/evolutionary dieters. (If you’re inactive, get active. Otherwise, keep carbs at 20% and moderate the energy dense fat, since you won’t be expending the energy. In other words, don’t eat so damned much!)

    la Rana (#40): “So, uh, no. In Radley’s case, he selectively rails against a group that he never quite identifies because if he did then the complete impotence of his implied chain of causation would become obvious.”

    I don’t have any problem figuring out what Radley meant. Like I said, the diet industry, government “experts” (who make stupid things like food pyramids, salt prohibitions, recommend low-fat instead of low-sugar, replace colas with “energy drinks” loaded with sugar in school vending machines), doctors who spend about 2 hours in med school learning to parrot the SAD guidelines, and advertisers who promote “smart” and “healthy” foods which are often filled with unhealthy crap, far worse for you than a big, fat steak.

    la Rana (#40): “Implicit in the idea of a free market is that it is self-correcting, as in there is something correct…”

    Sigh. Free markets are about individuals. Judging billions and trillions of mutual, consensual exchanges between individuals as “correct” makes as much sense as dividing by zero. Correct for whom?

    If you want to take the discussion to collectivist evaluations, I have no interest.

  42. #42 |  la Rana | 

    Dude. Our bodies reduce everything to glucose for energy. Glucose, sometimes called dextrose, is a monosacchride, a “sugar.” Fruits and vegetables contain glucose, fructose – a monosacchride, and sucrose – a bisacchride combo of fructose and glucose. They are all processed differently and cause different insulin reactions.

    I understand the glycemic index theory quite well, thanks. Notice that it incorporates portion size. And notice that the article recommends calling it the fructose index. So, if anything, its either people gorging themselves, or the massive increase in glucose consumption in the last 30 years. Read the history of those two things and you relize that Radley’s experts-in-the-shadows theory of causation is laughable apologist tripe. And when you start babbling about how “sugar” is the answer to everything, since there are several different types, we process them differently, and everything we eat ultimately reduces to a sugar, you sound like an idiot.

    The guy you link to is a kook and your un-selfaware, incompetent, project is to replace one set of experts with another. I’m afraid you’ll have to sell your snake oil to someone who doesn’t realize that all of your “knowledge” derives from a motivational speaker.

  43. #43 |  la Rana | 

    correct the “glocose” in the fourth line of the second graph to “fructose”

  44. #44 |  Elliot | 

    la Rana “Our bodies reduce everything to glucose for energy.”

    Lipids are converted to fatty acids and glycerol, not glucose. During ketosis, the liver can make its own glucose (which isn’t a product of digestion). It’s ATP that fuels the cells and most types of human cells don’t require glucose.

    Protein is used directly as a building block for muscle and other cells.

    la Rana “The guy you link to is a kook…”

    Which one? Both Mark Sisson and Richard Nikoley are honest and thorough. They back up their positions with substantive research. And, they both mock the “mainstream” researchers who incessantly leave out carbs as a variable in experiments.

    Balko is right on. You’re wrong. And, none of the people I cite are kooks by any stretch of the imagination. (Go look at all the result pictures and compare them to the laughable failures of other “mainstream” diets.)

  45. #45 |  Elliot | 

    la Rana : “So, if anything, its either people gorging themselves, or the massive increase in glucose consumption in the last 30 years.”

    You ignore the processing of food and the additives. Fruit, vegetables, and nuts in their unadulterated forms have a lower glycemic index than the processed, packaged stuff which may contain the same original materials, as things are boiled down, separated, chemically adulterated, preserved, colorized, etc..

    The same goes for grains. If you must eat them, eat them as close to their original form as possible. Whole grain has a lower glycemic index than white. Corn on the cob has a lower glycemic index than HFCS.

    With the advent of refrigeration, microwaves, industrial farming, industrial food preparation, etc. over the past century, people have not only been eating more calories, but what most people eat has less whole food than otherwise. Instead of going to the grocery store and getting whole food with which to prepare meals (from scratch), modern people buy packages with dozens of laboratory chemicals and industrially mutilated plant byproducts.

    Go grab a Yoplait yogurt in the grocery store and look at the contents. You might as well eat a dessert pudding. I get the plain yogurt, where the ingredients are: Milk. Not low-fat or no-fat crap. Just: Milk. (Yeah, I know that dairy isn’t strictly paleo.) I buy frozen vegetables which aren’t covered in sauce, because the ingredients are a long list of crap. I look for the ingredients to be: Broccoli. Full stop.

    Yes, total calories obviously affect blood sugar. But the source of the calories is extremely important, too.

  46. #46 |  la Rana | 

    Ironically I agree with almost everything you wrote. If you had read what I wrote, instead of instinctively thinking Balko must be right, you’d notice that our disagreement was over the causes of the belief that fat was bad for you and the obesity epidemic generally (not whether the advice that fat was bad for you was wrong – it clearly was), and you might even notice that your rambling discourse on the glycemic index theory (which I understand, really, you can stop now) actually supports my side of the argument (processed foods, HFCS, etc.).

    So while you think you are refuting the challenge I raised to Balko, you are, in fact, supporting it. Oye.

  47. #47 |  Elliot | 

    Call me obtuse, but I’m still not seeing your point.

    Here is one example of what people who want to lose weight face when they turn to maimstream media. And, whom does CNN cite as the definitive source? (See also: diet advice. *scoff*)

  48. #48 |  Dieticians Wrong About Fat, Ignore Processed Carbohydrates « my weekly crime | 

    […] who has been reading about honest nutritional science will not lift an eyebrow when Radley Balko says, “What do you know, the experts may have been wrong again…” to blame […]