Morning Links

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

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43 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  mark r | 

    The craziest thing about the Italians persecuting a bunch of scientists for failing to predict the earthquake? The scientist who did predict the earthquake was forced by police to remove his warnings from the internet, or face arrest.

    It’s all ridiculous though because seismologists can’t predict earthquakes with any kind of certainty.

  2. #2 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Charging a seismologist with manslaughter for not predicting an earthquake????

    My God.

    If the Amanda Knox trial wasn’t evidence enough hat something had gone awry in Italian jurisprudence…this ought to close the case.

    They have gone fucking insane.

    btw…I am one semester away from finishing my undergrad degree in geology, and I will pursuing my masters and doctoral work in structural geology and seismology.

  3. #3 |  Brian | 

    I’d hate to be an economist in Italy right now.

  4. #4 |  Taktix® | 

    From the Hookah article:

    “the newest front in the ever-shifting war on tobacco.”

    Wow, do we love our fucking wars or what?

  5. #5 |  Matt | 

    At least there’s a category of the population who’s taking notice of SWAT team tactics:
    “Increasingly, fake police officers are pulling off crimes together, the authorities say.
    One evening three weeks ago, three men in police uniforms knocked on the door of a home in southwest Miami-Dade County. When the home’s owner, Jose Montoya, opened the door, the men barged in and yelled, “Police, police! Get down, get down!”

  6. #6 |  Mannie | 

    I guess the Italians haven’t learned anything since the Galileo trial.

  7. #7 |  Mattocracy | 

    Public health fanatics? Richard Simmons is a health fanatic. These people are fascists.

  8. #8 |  ClubMedSux | 

    I’ve never smoked anything, so for those of you that have, I’m curious to know something… The WHO study that says a hookah session could be the equivalent of smoking >100 cigarettes claims that the volume of a puff taken by a cigarette smoker is between 40 and 75mL. It then claims the volume of a puff taken by a hookah smoker is between 150 and 1000L. I can understand how you might inhale deeper from a hookah, but thirteen times deeper? Just curious if that seems reasonable to those of you with experience in the combustible arts.

  9. #9 |  Cyto | 

    I was wondering what the reaction to the Miami shootings would be. There’s video up on youtube from a balcony overlooking the shooting in the black Mercedes. Can’t get to it from work, but it didn’t look like a reasonable response from that distant vantage point. Of course, from up there you couldn’t see anything the driver did or didn’t do.

    Down here in south Florida the reaction is mostly a contest between the “we’ve got to shut down urban weekend” crowd and the “that’s racist” crowd. Nobody seems to be eyeing the police response yet. And by nobody I’m of course just talking about the main press. It doesn’t seem to be that big of a topic around the water cooler outside of Miami Beach.

  10. #10 |  Gary | 

    “Thank God this monster is off the streets.”

    The sad irony is that 60% of the population would probably respond that way to this arrest, except they’d be completely serious. :(

  11. #11 |  bbartlog | 

    The difference in inhaled volume seems plausible to an extent – normally when you smoke you aren’t filling your lungs with gas that has passed through the cigarette or joint, you’re mixing it with other air to cool it down. If you actually tried to take a deep breath entirely through the cigarette, you would first of all burn it really quickly, and second of all get a full lungful of smoke that would be hard for any but the most hardened smokers to handle.
    But anyway, nicotine is toxic enough that if a hookah session actually were equivalent to smoking a hundred cigarettes, it would do some people right in. I expect that WHO is neglecting the extent to which compounds in the smoke dissolve in the water, or doing something else similarly stupid, in pursuit of the result they’re after.

  12. #12 |  Cyto | 

    ClubMedSux – I don’t smoke either, but on the face of it that sounds completely stupid. I would assume that anyone who smoked 100 cigarettes in an hour would be puking their guts out long before the hour was up. There are few people who take that dose of nicotine in an entire day – what is that, five packs?.

    I’m going to go ahead and do it…. I’m calling shenanigans… Shenanigans!

  13. #13 |  Michael Chaney | 

    “Confiscate” suggests a legal authority for taking his cell phone. What is described there is strong arm robbery, with the “under color of law” aggravating circumstance.

  14. #14 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Mannie – I’m sorry, I was unaware the seismologists had called Berlusconi a simpleton in print.

    Oh, yes, Berlusconi, right. Say no more about Italy…

  15. #15 |  nicole | 

    Yeah, as a longtime cigarette and hookah smoker I call bullshit. Is one hookah session equal to one cigarette? Of course not. But 100? Anyone who smoked that much in an hour would be ill on the spot, and would certainly feel it the next day. These claims seem absurd.

    It’s like the surgeon general’s report that said you could die from a couple seconds of second-hand smoke just as easily as you could from a decades-long pack-a-day habit. When can smokers get some actual information that might help them make informed decisions about risk without assuming that any nonzero risk is too much?

  16. #16 |  JS | 

    evidence, shmevidence, as long as nobody important got hurt.

  17. #17 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Miami police confiscate, destroy cell phones of people who recorded officer-involved shootings.

    Not to be overly pessimistic, but I think the war is over. We lost. These cops are openly assaulting innocent people and destroying evidence and no one, least of all the government they work for or the voters who elect them, even gives a shit.
    To cops, offending a cop is the worse crime you can commit. They are willing to try, convict, sentence, and punish you for it on the spot. It’s only a matter of time before they will be able to instantly access a detailed profile of everyone they stop and justice for folks like us, who are actively critical of cops, will be decidedly less friendly than it is for others.

    You’ll know it when it happens because they will be shouting the same thing into your ear repeatedly: “Stop resisting!”

  18. #18 |  Brandon | 

    First they came for the hookahs, and I said nothing, because I am not a hipster…

  19. #19 |  bruce | 

    Cops stealing and destroying cell phones is infuriating. Fortunately we are not far from a time when every picture or video you take will be instantly uploaded to a server “in the cloud”.
    Then they will have to send swat teams to the server farms to destroy the evidence.

  20. #20 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “Not to be overly pessimistic, but I think the war is over. We lost. These cops are openly assaulting innocent people and destroying evidence and no one, least of all the government they work for or the voters who elect them, even gives a shit.”

    Didn’t Jefferson condone revolution every few decades, when the gov’t was no longer representative to the people in this brave new experiment of

  21. #21 |  Mike T | 

    Not to be overly pessimistic, but I think the war is over. We lost. These cops are openly assaulting innocent people and destroying evidence and no one, least of all the government they work for or the voters who elect them, even gives a shit.

    Democracy affords the people the illusion that they are in charge of the practical matters of state. Democracy, not religion, is the true opiate of the masses. When the people have a lot less say, they tend to get a lot more interested in what the government actually does than nebulous slogans.

  22. #22 |  Cyto | 

    I think Dave’s right. The people just don’t care about the camera issue at all. You’d think that the 24 hour news cycle would drive some media company somewhere to take up this cause – it has the built-in outrage of abuse of power and the little guy that news magazine shows love. But the silence is deafening.

    The fact that you have to go to the hinterlands of Fox News late-night or even Russia Today to hear this story speaks volumes. Nobody cares about it at all – it doesn’t cut team red or team blue and it doesn’t feature a semi-clothed Kardashian, so it doesn’t make the news.

    Strange side thought… was there an analog of the ‘celb-utant’ before Paris Hilton and her sister? Famous for no reason at all other than being famous… we had the Lindbergs and Princess Grace – but they were famous for doing something before being famous for fame’s sake. I never really understood Liberace, but he did actually play piano on stage.

  23. #23 |  Highway | 


    The US is nowhere close to Europe, especially Britain, for ‘celebrity for celebrity sake’. And it certainly didn’t start with Paris Hilton. Mostly, those types of folks don’t have a lasting impact, so they’re not the ones in history books, so later generations don’t know about them.

  24. #24 |  ric_in_or | 

    “Miami police confiscate, destroy cell phones of people who recorded officer-involved shootings.”

    So the situation is cloudy – but an officer was ok in destroying evidence. Wonder if they’ll get a reprimand.

    As the reverse question. What would happen if a citizen destroyed evidence. Shouldn’t the officer face the same?

  25. #25 |  albatross | 

    Cyto #22:

    How do you know what most of the people of the US think about this, or what they would think, were they informed? I don’t think watching what the MSM reports is a very good guide to that. The near-blackholing of antiwar protests and sentiment in the runup to the invasion of Iraq, the blackholing of the pre-emptive arrests at the RNC convention in St. Paul, and the weirdly skewed coverage of Tea Party events and candidates in the last couple years all re-enforce that.

    One of the things that makes me hopeful about the future of the country is that the MSM is losing its stranglehold on information. I fully expect to see strong moves to regulate the internet in various ways as this continues, precisely because a lot of uncomfortable topics that used to just never be allowed to come up will start coming up regularly.

  26. #26 |  Hamburglar007 | 

    The patriot act infuriates me more than anything. The only thing about the act I can appreciate is the irony of the acts name, as it is the antithesis of what the founding fathers envisioned. The resemblance between The Trial amd this act (including our treatment of enemy combatants) is so staggering it is kafkaesque in its own right, except this ain’t fiction

  27. #27 |  Andrew Roth | 

    A few days ago CNN aired a segment in which Gary Tuchman’s crew were stopped by police in Joplin and the cameraman was angrily asked whether he was filming. If one cop too many gives an unlawful order to a CNN crew and Anderson Cooper decides to go on the warpath, there will be war. At that point there will have to be real reform, blatant on-air dissembling from police spokesmen, or unanswered broadsides from influential journalists hellbent on “keeping them honest.”

  28. #28 |  Elliot | 

    Mayor says Detroit police chief won’t be disciplined…

    Fear not, Obama WH to the rescue!

  29. #29 |  Elliot | 

    bruce (#19):Cops stealing and destroying cell phones is infuriating. Fortunately we are not far from a time when every picture or video you take will be instantly uploaded to a server ‘in the cloud’.
    Then they will have to send swat teams to the server farms to destroy the evidence.

    Satire is nearly dead. I recall many a sarcastic prediction of authoritarian shifts from years past which sadly have come to pass in this, the “Land of the Free”.

  30. #30 |  lunchstealer | 

    Benoit recorded that same shooting with his cell phone camera. But he says a police officer ran over and grabbed his camera phone and smashed it.

    “He didn’t say nothing. He just snatched me by my head and threw me on the ground and stepped on my back, threw it on the floor, stepped on it and was cussing me out the whole time,” said Benoit.

    Benoit says he plans to file a complaint against Miami Beach police for what he feels was excessive force.

    Umm, I hope by ‘excessive force’ he means, ‘assault, robbery, destruction of property, and destruction of evidence’.

  31. #31 |  Windy | 

    Those of you who made derogatory comments about Italy’s government or courts better watch your backs. I’m only half joking; remember, Amanda and her parents have been charged with slander(?) for saying unflattering things about the Italian police, Amanda’s prosecutor, and maybe a politician or two. They could decide to charge you with the same crime and expect the American government to send you over there to stand trial. At the very least you could never safely visit that country, again. Really the whole world has gone crazy, lately, hasn’t it! Governments in some countries charging the citizens of other countries with crimes which are not crimes in their home countries, even if those supposed crimes took place in the defendant’s home country. Scary.

  32. #32 |  Stick | 

    “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” — Tacitus

    I think he might be on to something here.

  33. #33 |  Dave Krueger | 

    albatross and Cyto,

    One way you might gauge what most of the people in the U.S. think about cops is the popularity of cop shows on TV. For every news event like this where cops assault someone and destroy evidence, there are a dozen episodes of cop dramas on TV that portray the cops, not only as having integrity, but also brains (BRAINS, for Christ’s sake!). And if that weren’t enough, a lot of Hollywood cop shows make it look like all that civil liberties stuff is nothing but a millstone around the neck of the poor cops who are just trying to save us from pure evil. When a cop on some TV drama breaks the law to get his man, he’s a friggin’ hero.

    And this propaganda is pumped into the mass public as if they had a pipeline directly into their brain.

    Of course, I might be wrong. Hollywood could be cranking out shows like this for no reason, but I’d bet they’re measuring the public pulse with great accuracy. For every person outraged by police abuse, there are fifty who practically worship cops (at the same time as they’re condemning Walmart, illegal immigrants, gay marriage, and transfats as being our biggest enemies).

  34. #34 |  JOR | 

    “And if that weren’t enough, a lot of Hollywood cop shows make it look like all that civil liberties stuff is nothing but a millstone around the neck of the poor cops who are just trying to save us from pure evil.”

    There is that and it’s very important. But I wonder how much of this is a non-deliberate subversion of the traditional, popular American love of “rugged individualist” heroes who buck regulations and the system to do The Right Thing*. That’s a very sad kind of irony, I think.

    *As long as it involves violence or domination; American pop culture has never been very sympathetic to people who buck the system to do nonviolent, harmless things; even when they romanticized cowboys and smugglers and stuff it involved exaggerating how much violence they engaged or dealt with, or were somehow connected to.

  35. #35 |  A Few Random Morning Links … | The Pretense of Knowledge | 

    […] Morning Links – The Agitator […]

  36. #36 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Update to #27 on CNN:

    CNN isn’t showing any signs of coming through for us yet on its involvement in the war on cameras. I didn’t expect immediate action, but I even less expected AC360 to turn into the bizarre, surreal spectacle that it did tonight.

    The main international story that Anderson Cooper covered tonight was the torture and death of Hamza al-Khateeb, the thirteen-year-old Syrian boy whose body the authorities returned to his parents shot, covered in cigarette burns and emasculated. This poor boy seems to be turning into the Syrian Mohamed Bouazizi, and it’s no wonder why. This case is a genuine bombshell that sparked huge protests and could finally force Bashar al-Assad from office.

    So far, so good. AC360’s domestic coverage tonight, however, was a damned freak show. One of Cooper’s two main domestic stories was a blow-by-blow recap of the Casey Anthony murder trial, with a lengthy moderated debate (almost a screaming match) between Nancy Grace and Mark Geragos.

    The other main domestic story was what we might call Weinergate. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) apparently sent a picture of a wiener, presumably his own, to a young lady he befriended via Twitter, or something like that. (Mel Brooks would have a hard time making this shit up.) Either that or his account was hacked. Dana Bash, one of CNN’s political reporters, was one of the main questioners at a press conference during which an exasperated Weiner dissembled at length and offhandedly called another reporter “that jackass.” Several minutes of the press conference were aired uninterrupted, followed by a brief discussion with legal oracle Jeffrey Toobin, who could barely contain his amusement.

    Something like half of the broadcast was devoted to these stories. It was a disgrace. The Casey Anthony trial is lurid, but it doesn’t appear to involve any irregularities. It merits such heavy coverage regionally but not nationally. Weinergate is even worse. For one thing, Andrew Breitbart was involved in bringing it to light, and as Toobin pointed out in his brilliant legal insight, that raises some questions about credibility. (It’s stupefying that CNN keeps him on hand to make such banal observations.)

    More to the point, though, Weinergate is a penny ante extracurricular goof. Local coverage of the affair in New York outlets is warranted because Weiner’s constituents might not want to be represented by a dissembling, juvenile fool, but if I’m not mistaken he’s pretty low on the Congressional totem pole. A sideshow like that deserves no more attention on a national newscast than a Taiwanese parliamentary brawl.

    What I’ve described wouldn’t be very noteworthy on a trashy show, but CNN is a major news network with a large staff of specialized reporters. Hopefully tonight was just a one-off fuck-up, but the domestic desk was absolutely toothless, and that doesn’t bode well.

  37. #37 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Re: #33:

    It isn’t just producers catering to the depraved tastes of their audiences. It’s a positive feedback loop in which audiences unthinkingly absorb whatever the hell their favorite crime shows portray. In fact, it’s worse than that: many viewers are too delusional to know the difference between nonfiction and undisguised fiction.

    Case in point: I once came across an online recruiting bulletin from the Phoenix Police Department advising applicants that contrary to popular belief the department did not have a unit by the acronym of CSI. The stated goal of this bulletin was to reduce the number of inquiries that recruiters had to field about the Phoenix CSI application process, since there wasn’t one.

    CBS didn’t mislead these idiots. It has never described the CSI franchises as anything other than dramas, and none of the franchises is set anywhere in Arizona.

    Garbage in drama is fine if the audience can tell fact from fiction and cares to do so. For example, I can recite litanies of accuracies and inaccuracies in various police dramas because I’ve read extensively about the actual agencies that are portrayed. The problem is that a fairly large part of the television audience is as functionally psychotic as people who call the Scotland Yard switchboard and ask for Det. Sherlock Holmes. As a society we seem to be forgetting how to put fiction into any sort of context, e.g., that it’s called fiction for a reason, and that’s a big problem.

    For that matter, those who can’t tell a drama from a documentary can’t be expected to notice misconduct on police ride-along shows, either.

    Maybe there are educational and media solutions to this pickle. I’d certainly like to think that there are.

  38. #38 |  albatross | 

    Dave #33:

    I agree that those shows are a bad thing, and the broader pattern of “become a superhero by discarding laws and morals and doing whatever it takes to win” is pure poison. But how can we see how much penetration that propaganda has had, vs how much word of police abuses has gotten around and made an impression?

    I’m sure there’s polling data out there on this stuff, and I suspect it will be pretty depressing. But you absolutely cannot count on the MSM to provide you a true picture of public sentiment. They will (demonstrably) refuse to cover stuff that doesn’t fit with their narratives, or that threatens their relationship with their sources and advertisers. The picture of the world we get from the MSM is horribly distorted. So simply not seeing much outrage about SWAT raid abuses reported on Fox or CNN or MSNBC doesn’t tell you much about whether that outrage is out there–it might be, and those news sources might find themselves deciding not to report on it.

  39. #39 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I with you on that albatross. We don’t have a very clear picture of what people actually think and I’m admittedly pessimistic.

    But, I think our own perception of public attitudes is skewed by the fact that we hang around a lot of people who think like we do and who are as outraged as we are by law enforcement abuses. Because of that we tend to think the public is really more in tune with our perspective than they really are.

    Although it runs counter to our “it can’t happen here” mentality, I think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. And, because of sheer inertia, they might not get better at all in our lifetimes.

  40. #40 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Here are some kind of scary numbers from last summer:

    The detailed data are on page two.

    The police somehow had almost twice the level of public trust as the “criminal justice system” (sic.; the terminology was sloppy). This could have some very bad implications if the grievances about the criminal justice system were that it was too lenient.

    My acquaintances on the West Coast seem to have a lot less trust in the police than my East Coast acquaintances. Part of it is probably selection bias, but I don’t think that’s the only explanation. When I used to mention police misconduct to buddies in Philadelphia, they would often look at me like I had two heads or give me cues to shut up. In Humboldt, I’m more often told other bad (and occasionally good) stories about the police in response. For example, one of my friends swears that the Arcata Police are a bunch of assholes and thugs (my personal impression of them is a lot more positive) but that the cops she encountered in Sacramento were wonderful.

  41. #41 |  Justthisguy | 

    I live in a fairly fancy-shmancy town on the west coast of Southern Florida. I have never heard anything good from anybody about their encounters with the local po-po, be they deppities or municipal pigs, or be the complainers rich or poor. I recall a conversation with a woman in the public library about her getting accosted for no discernible reason by a municipal cop as she was driving up to the radio-controlled gate into her property in one of the stinking-rich districts. He was quite rude to her.

    It’s us versus them, guys and gals. It’s not rich versus poor, it’s decent humans versus bullies.

  42. #42 |  Justthisguy | 

    P.s. I blame the Romans. They don’t seem to understand that the Right Reverend MISTER Ratzinger hath no authority in this realm of America, to misquote the Book of Common Prayer.

    Papists really do tend to suck up to authority, as do Germans.

    Some have written that one of the worst things to happen to the USA was all of those German refugees from the failed 1848 uprisings arriving here. I swear, I think all germans are genetic socialists. They had a lot to do with the founding of the Republican Party, the original centralizing, nationalizing party, and a lot of them fought on the side of Abraham Lenin during The War.

  43. #43 |  albatross | 


    Yeah, what have the Romans ever done for us, anyway?