Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Terrorism and Moral Panic

After Paris, CIA Calls For More Surveillance:

WASHINGTON — A diabolical range of recent attacks claimed by the Islamic State — a Russian airliner blown up in Egypt, a double suicide bombing in Beirut and Friday’s ghastly assaults on Paris — has rekindled a debate over the proper limits of government surveillance in an age of terrorist mayhem.

On Monday, in unusually raw language, John Brennan, the C.I.A. director, denounced what he called “hand-wringing” over intrusive government spying and said leaks about intelligence programs had made it harder to identify the “murderous sociopaths” of the Islamic State.

Mr. Brennan appeared to be speaking mainly of the disclosures since 2013 of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of phone and Internet communications by Edward J. Snowden, which prompted sharp criticism, lawsuits and new restrictions on electronic spying in the United States and in Europe.

In the wake of the 129 deaths in Paris, Mr. Brennan and some other officials sounded eager to reopen a clamorous argument over surveillance in which critics of the spy agencies had seemed to hold an advantage in recent years.
I love how "hand wringing" is a simpleton's dismissal of something called the Constitution and its protections. Worse, there is nothing in terms of further surveillance that could have stopped these attacks, and frankly, nothing new about these attacks historically.
“As far as I know, there’s no evidence the French lacked some kind of surveillance authority that would have made a difference,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “When we’ve invested new powers in the government in response to events like the Paris attacks, they have often been abused.”

The debate over the proper limits on government dates to the origins of the United States, with periodic overreaching in the name of security being curtailed in the interest of liberty. This era of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in some ways resembles battles that American and European authorities fought in the late 1800s with anarchists who carried out a wave of assassinations and bombings, provoking a huge increase in police powers, said Audrey Kurth Cronin, a historian of terrorism at George Mason University.

Since then, there were the excesses of McCarthyism exploiting fears of Communist infiltration in the 1950s, the exposure of domestic spying and C.I.A. assassination plots in the 1970s, and the battles over torture, secret detention and drone strikes since Sept. 11, 2001.
And so all of the over-the-top rhetoric fans the flames of moral panic, and people lose sight of the fact that these attacks are not "an evil so monstrous, we've never seen the likes of it before," but in fact just another in a long line of ragtag criminal collectives who have carried out acts of terrorism around the world for more than two hundred years. 

That's not to downplay the tragedy of the Paris or the other attacks happening worldwide right now, and it's not to say we shouldn't be aggressive in stamping out terrorism. Believe me, as someone who attends live music and sporting events regularly, nothing gives me more pause than what happened in Paris.

But it is to suggest that criminal elements and terrorism in general have a shelf-life (see also: the Weathermen, the IRA  and about a million other terrorist organizations that have come and gone throughout history). And that the Daesh (ISIS) will go the way of these organizations as well with a proper, reasoned and forceful response.

But in the meantime, don't let a few facts get in the way of a good moral panic. Because if the charlatans can exploit your fear for political purposes, it will be exploited for political purposes
Republican fury over illegal immigration and border security took on a new dimension Monday as a growing number of governors, presidential candidates and members of Congress rushed to oppose or even defy President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees.

Twenty-five Republican governors vowed to block the entry of Syrian refugees into their states, arguing that the safety of Americans was at stake after the Paris attacks by terrorists including a man who entered Europe with a Syrian passport and posed as a migrant. Among the governors were those from Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas and other states that have already resettled relatively large numbers of refugees from among the 1,900 Syrians accepted by the United States in the last four years.

The governors’ legal standing was quickly challenged by immigration groups and some Democrats, and Mr. Obama said the resettlement of refugees would go forward next year. The State Department said it had not reached a conclusion about whether states could legally refuse them.
Uh, there is no "debate" over the issue. They can't legally refuse them.
Problem is, states don’t really have a choice.
According to Think Progress’ Ian Millhiser, the states are limited in their power to resist the intake of refugees, an action that’s specifically under the president’s purview.
Under the Refugee Act of 1980, “President Obama has explicit statutory authorization to accept foreign refugees into the United States.”

Cecillia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement Monday that politicians were fabricating a link between the Paris attacks and Syrian refugee resettlement in the U.S.
“Making policy based on this fear mongering is wrong for two reasons,” she said. “It is factually wrong for blaming refugees for the very terror they are fleeing, and it is legally wrong because it violates our laws and the values on which our country was founded.”
Not to mention the fact that the Syrians fleeing the region are fleeing the Daesh and its brutality. There is no evidence that the immigrant/refugee crisis is actually a "trojan horse" for terrorism or other untoward behavior. The same sort of stupid can be found, again historically (if you know anything about history), 75 years ago when Americans feared Jewish emigration to the U.S.

But again, facts don't matter when moral panic can be exploited, and literally within a 24 hour period, almost half of the state governors in this country have issued chest-thumping (and legally vacuous) statements about not accepting Syrian refugees.

Sidebar: looking over the list of governors issuing these hysterical statements, a better question might be: why would the Syrians want to relocate to any of those states anyway? If you've already been through civil war, starvation, terrorism and other hell, is Texas or Arkansas something you really want to foist on them?

Nonetheless, the cat is out of the bag, not just here in the states but around Europe as well.  It's not the terrorists who have "flung open a door and burst into a room with a dense, uncomfortable atmosphere, packed with people ready to succumb to hysteria at the slightest trigger," it's your politicians, including the clown show that is the 2016 presidential race.

And when you throw in social media, which of course makes everyone an expert on the issue, the wildfire of moral panic makes sanity and discourse virtually impossible. It's even got residents of Florence, Colorado, where we operate the most secure super-max dungeon in the world, freaking out about relocating a few (more) terrorists to the prison there.

I wish I could remember who said or where I read it, but right after the Paris attacks happened, someone posted this brilliance: "These attacks definitely confirm my political point of view, which I will now recite affirmatively, or passively/aggressively by liking, sharing or re-tweeting supporting links."

Actually here's a shorter version: "Whatever happened in Paris, it just goes to show that my self-righteous political talking point is even more right than I thought It was."

Frankly, if I'm putting my faith in anyone, it's Anonymous, who I'm rather sure has the capabilities of shutting down the Daesh post-haste.
Hackers claiming to be Anonymous, an international collective of activist hackers, threatened cyberattacks on the Islamic State group in retaliation for Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris. 
The hacktivist group delivered its message in videos posted in multiple languages on social media Saturday, which featured a person clad in a Guy Fawkes mask — the group’s signature — addressing the militant group directly.

“These attacks cannot remain unpunished,” the video states. “Expect many cyberattacks. War has been declared. Get ready.”

In the two days since its posting, the videos already have been viewed millions of times.
According to Reuters, Anonymous also claims to have identified and reported more than 39,000 suspected Twitter accounts belonging to Islamic State group members, saying they have been successful in getting more than 25,000 of them shut down. 
If they can successfully disrupt their social media presence, and more importantly hack into and shut down their financial transactions, that will strangle the movement in a matter of months.

And then we can move on to the next moral panic.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

You Are NOT Of The Body!

There is a lot to be lauded and applauded over the protests leading to the resignation of University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bown Loftin yesterday. In particular, the stance of more than 30 African-American football players, refusing to play in an upcoming game unless these gentlemen resigned, and being backed by their coaches and teammates, really put the racial intolerance prevalent on the campus in the national spotlight. It also challenged the behemoth of college football and used the power of the purse to force change.

If the fish rots from the head down, then getting rid of these two should lead to new leadership and new goals/plans to address the allegations of overt racism and discrimination.

But like all revolutions, you also get the gullible and easily misled, who generally have no clue what's going on, but who want to grab part of the national spotlight (Festival) and thus be a part of history.

And so, in what is sad footnote on an otherwise successful day, we have this:

A video that showed University of Missouri protesters restricting a student photographer’s access to a public area of campus on Monday ignited discussions about press freedom.

Tim Tai, a student photographer on freelance assignment for ESPN, was trying to take photos of a small tent city that protesters had created on a campus quad. Concerned Student 1950, an activist group that formed to push for increased awareness and action around racial issues on campus, did not want reporters near the encampment.

Protesters blocked Mr. Tai’s view and argued with him, eventually pushing him away. At one point, they chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, reporters have got to go.”

“I am documenting this for a national news organization,” Mr. Tai told the protesters, adding that “the First Amendment protects your right to be here and mine.”

The protesters accused him of acting unethically and disregarding their requests for privacy.

“What is so hard about respecting our wishes?” one protester asked.

“Because I have a job to do,” Mr. Tai answered. That elicited a retort: “We don’t care about your job.”
Lolz. And that's followed by about 15 minutes of "Bruh, you need to go. You need to go, Bruh, Hey bruh get out, " over and over, to the point of hilarity (thus my newly coined "Bruh Revolution"). 

While the students, who fairly or unfairly, don't understand the 1st amendment, the role of the press, or the difference between public and privates spaces, can kind of be forgiven of their ignorance (the idea that you could claim a "safe space from the media" on public property is beyond sophomoric), what is unforgivable is this professor of communication at the end of the first clip, who literally calls for "muscle" to remove the student reporters...a professor of communication who knows what journalism is and, one would expect, what the 1st amendment is.

Here are the two videos:

While her actions are both appalling and worthy of termination, so is the action of another university administrator caught on video bullying the reporters.

The one hero, who deserves major props, is the photographer Tim Tai who kept his cool and professionalism in the face of the zombie drones/adults trying to intimidate him and make him out to be the aggressor. Talk about "weaponizing the safe space."

And that was the worst part of the videos: the intolerant, Dawn of the Dead-like retort of the student and adult protesters who would rather shun, physically intimidate, and silence disagreement, than engage in it. Ironically, a form of student activism/intolerance that's just as bad as the intolerance they purport to be against.

Watching the videos, I was struck by the parallels to the Star Trek episode "Return of the Archons" where Dr. McCoy is "absorbed into the body" of Landru, a cult like figure, and Kirk and Spock have to rescue him. That's what a lot of the protesters look like in these videos...the followers of Landru (university professors and administrators) engaging in "Festival." 

And if you are suspected or accused of not being of the body, you become the target for removal, and all the rational explanation of the role of the press, the 1st amendment and so on ("Peace, brother") goes right out the window.

Clearly, we need to do a better job of teaching our students how to think critically.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Smoke Break: Boy, "Drive Darling"

Another Pandora/Slacker discovery recently that made me stop the car and miss my exit. Boy is based out of Hamburg, Germany, and consist of the duo Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass. I have the first album Mutual Friends, which "Drive Darling" is from, but a new album "We Were Here" just dropped in the states last month. Check 'em out. Great listening on a rainy, Saturday night.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Changing Face of the War on Drugs

In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs:

When the nation’s long-running war against drugs was defined by the crack epidemic and based in poor, predominantly black urban areas, the public response was defined by zero tolerance and stiff prison sentences. But today’s heroin crisis is different. While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white.

And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease.

Heroin’s spread into the suburbs and small towns grew out of an earlier wave of addiction to prescription painkillers; together the two trends are ravaging the country.

Deaths from heroin rose to 8,260 in 2013, quadrupling since 2000 and aggravating what some were already calling the worst drug overdose epidemic in United States history.

Over all, drug overdoses now cause more deaths than car crashes, with opioids like OxyContin and other pain medications killing 44 people a day.
Before continuing, I think it's worth pausing for a moment to consider how huge that number is. More drug overdoses than car crash deaths? Doesn't that raise the question: if we can improve auto safety and save lives like we did over the past 30 years, can't we figure out a way to get these people the treatment they need to lower drug overdoses as well (outside the criminal justice system)?
In one of the most striking shifts in this new era, some local police departments have stopped punishing many heroin users. In Gloucester, Mass., those who walk into the police station and ask for help, even if they are carrying drugs or needles, are no longer arrested. Instead, they are diverted to treatment, despite questions about the police departments’ unilateral authority to do so. It is an approach being replicated by three dozen other police departments around the country.
Can you imagine something like that happening in the 80's (or hell, even today) with, say, an African-American dude, walking into a police station with a crack pipe, asking for help? 

I'll let the far more eloquent Kimberle Crenshaw sum it up for me:
“This new turn to a more compassionate view of those addicted to heroin is welcome,” said KimberlĂ© Williams Crenshaw, who specializes in racial issues at Columbia and U.C.L.A. law schools. “But,” she added, “one cannot help notice that had this compassion existed for African-Americans caught up in addiction and the behaviors it produces, the devastating impact of mass incarceration upon entire communities would never have happened.”
Precisely. I am both happy and saddened, obviously, that it's taken this spike in heroin usage to get white, middle class suburban people to realize the folly and injustices of 35+ year old War on Drugs, mass incarceration, zero-tolerance and the general stupidity of "get tough" policies.

But it's cold comfort for the poor, inner-city, rural and minority communities who have born the brunt of the ravages of drug usage in this country. The same thing happening in white suburban communities with heroin today, is what wiped out many poor and minority neighborhoods 20 and 30 years ago during the crack epidemic.

The point remains, narcotics have always been a public health problem, not a criminal justice problem. Perhaps we're all finally starting to wake up to that realization.

UPDATE: And of course, the role of Big Pharma and Big Medicine in all this should not be underestimated. Virtually every heroin addict began their addiction on legal painkillers, overprescribed by drug dealers in lab coats, then transitioned to the cheaper street version of heroin.
THERE has been an alarming and steady increase in the mortality rate of middle-aged white Americans since 1999, according to a study published last week. This increase — half a percent annually — contrasts starkly with decreasing death rates in all other age and ethnic groups and with middle-aged people in other developed countries.

So what is killing middle-aged white Americans? Much of the excess death is attributable to suicide and drug and alcohol poisonings. Opioid painkillers like OxyContin prescribed by physicians contribute significantly to these drug overdoses.

Thus, it seems that an opioid overdose epidemic is at the heart of this rise in white middle-age mortality. The rate of death from prescription opioids in the United States increased more than fourfold between 1999 and 2010, dwarfing the combined mortality from heroin and cocaine. In 2013 alone, opioids were involved in 37 percent of all fatal drug overdoses.

Driving this opioid epidemic, in large part, is a disturbing change in the attitude within the medical profession about the use of these drugs to treat pain. Traditionally, opioid analgesics were largely used to treat pain stemming from terminal diseases like cancer, or for short-term uses, such as recovering from surgery.

Wiping out vast swaths of middle age Americans, and creating a new generation of heroin addicts to replace them when they're dead and gone.

So again: what's the difference between a doctor in a lab coat or scrubs, and a drug pusher on the street corner wearing a hoodie?

Answer: there is no difference.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Death Penalty and Political Capital

As the 2016 presidential race heats up, watch for the death penalty to be a non-starter issue. As with the 2008 and 2012 elections (and pretty much every election since 1988), at the presidential level, the topic is still a third-rail, "don't stir up images of Dukakis," weak on crime, kind of issue.

Clinton Comes Out Against Abolishing the Death Penalty:

Asked her position on capital punishment, Mrs. Clinton said she did not support abolishing the death penalty, but she did encourage the federal government to rethink it.

“We have a lot of evidence now that the death penalty has been too frequently applied, and too often in a discriminatory way,” she said. “So I think we have to take a hard look at it.”

Mrs. Clinton added, “I do not favor abolishing it, however, because I do think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we’ve seen in most states.”

Her statement immediately ignited an outcry from some liberals who hoped she would have taken a tougher stance against the death penalty. Mrs. Clinton’s two main Democratic rivals, Senator Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, have called to abolish the death penalty.

Mrs. Clinton expressed support for the death penalty when she ran for the Senate in 2000. Her husband, Bill, expanded the use of capital punishment as president by signing the 1994 federal crime bill, parts of which Mrs. Clinton denounced this spring in the first major policy speech of her 2016 campaign. In that speech, she called for an end to the era of mass incarceration and for improved relations between African-Americans and mostly white police forces, but she did not wade deeply into the death penalty.

Until Wednesday, the topic had not come up in the Democratic contest, but botched attempts at lethal injection in several states have put the issue back in the spotlight. Mrs. Clinton recently campaigned in Florida, Texas and Virginia, three of the top states in executions since 1976.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Real "Ferguson Effect"

Race and Discipline in Spotlight After Latest Police Video:

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Videos of a white sheriff’s deputy throwing a black high school girl to the floor of a classroom thrust this community into an unsettling national discussion Tuesday about whether black students are disproportionately punished.
The incident, which the Justice Department said Tuesday that it would investigate, follows national studies showing that black students were far more likely than whites to be disciplined in public schools, even for comparable offenses.

That issue was receiving intense scrutiny here long before the videos of Monday’s incident were released, prompting the district to form a task force last year to examine its practices.
As the studies cited mentioned (and as those of us who teach juvenile delinquency have known for years), this is not only a problem affecting African-American students disproportionately, but especially black students in the south.
In Richland Two, where 59 percent of students are black and 26 percent are white, 77 percent of those suspended at least once in 2011-12 were black, according to figures compiled by the Justice Department, though details to allow a comparison of the offenses were not readily available. And South Carolina relies much more on suspension than the nation as a whole; 24 percent of public school students in the state were suspended at least once that year, compared with 13 percent nationwide.
But the other issue here is the excessive force used by the deputy in the video on a what is, for all intents and purposes, a child.
The videos showed a sheriff’s deputy assigned to Spring Valley High School struggling with a 16-year-old girl who had refused to stand and leave her math class, after the teacher reportedly caught her using her phone. The deputy, Ben Fields, tipped the girl’s chair and desk backward, lifting her out of her seat and slamming her to the floor, and then dragged her to the front of the classroom, where he cuffed her hands behind her back.

Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County said at a news conference Tuesday that in one video, when the deputy grabbed the girl, she could be seen punching him, but he said his focus was on whether the deputy followed departmental rules. “That’s what the internal affairs investigation is doing, and the results of that will determine his further employment here,” he said.

“Even though she was wrong for disturbing the class, even though she refused to abide by the directions of the teacher, the school administrator and also the verbal commands of our deputy, I’m looking at what our deputy did,” Sheriff Lott said.
I'm not sure why all the "even though" qualifiers. None of those things would possibly justify what takes place on the video...the dude becomes absolutely unhinged, and seems to have a pattern of losing it with students in these situations.
Deputy Fields has been the subject of two federal lawsuits about his conduct in the past. A jury found in his favor in one, and the other is pending. 

In a sworn affidavit filed this year as part of a federal lawsuit against Deputy Fields, Christopher Dewitt said that as a student in 2013, he “personally witnessed Deputy Fields call two of my friends at Spring Valley High School the ‘n-word.’ ”

The suit, filed by a former Spring Valley student, Ashton Reese, charged that the deputy “unfairly and recklessly targets African-American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity.”

Witnesses to Monday’s incident said that in an Algebra 1 class, the girl, a sophomore, was on her phone, and the teacher told her to put it away. The teacher summoned an administrator, who brought in the deputy. The adults repeatedly asked the student to get up and leave the class, but she refused.

When the altercation occurred, students stood up, confused about what was happening, but the deputy told them, “Sit down, or you all will be next,” said one student, Charles Scarborough, 16. Adding to the surprise and confusion, several students said the girl was usually quiet and not a troublemaker.
The deputy also detained a second student, Niya Kenny, 18, who told a local television station that her only offense was objecting to his treatment of the other girl.

“I was crying, like literally screaming, crying like a baby,” Ms. Kenny told WLTX. “I’d never seen nothing like that in my life, a man use that much force on a little girl.”

As she protested, she said, “he said, ‘Since you’ve got so much to say, you’re coming, too.’ ”
Which raises the question: if he's been the defendant in two federal civil rights lawsuits, brought by parents of teenagers accusing him of brutality, what's he doing still working around kids in a school as a resource officer? It doesn't matter if he "won" the first suit or not; the majority of law enforcement officers in this country go their entire careers without ever being involved in one civil law suit, let alone two (and dude is only in his mid-30's). 

It also brings up a larger issue, raised by the the FBI Director himself, about whether all the scrutiny the police find themselves under now, thanks to mobile video technology, etc., is somehow leading to more violent crime.
The White House said Monday that it did not agree with the assertion last week by the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, that additional scrutiny of law enforcement in the past year may have made police officers less aggressive, leading to a rise in violent crime in some cities.

The evidence we have seen so far doesn’t support the contention that law enforcement officials are shirking their responsibilities,” the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said in response to a question about Mr. Comey at his daily briefing. “In fact, you hear law enforcement leaders across the country indicating that that’s not what’s taking place.”

In a speech at the University of Chicago on Friday, the F.B.I. director said there might be many factors — like cheaper drugs and easier access to guns — that had spawned an increase in crime. But none of them were as convincing to him as the notion that officers were afraid to get out of their patrol cars and deal directly with people on the street because the officers were afraid their interactions would be caught on video.
It's shocking and surprising to hear this from Comey. Even though he's acknowledged there is zero data to confirm the so-called "Ferguson Effect," as it's being dubbed, and even though his own publication suggests crime increases have only been sporadic and random, by nonetheless asserting that it "might" be true, you create the impression that somehow Black Lives Matter is actually increasing crime.
Many have called it “the Ferguson effect,” referring to the protests that erupted in the summer of 2014 after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo. But this explanation for a crime increase has been criticized because it can be seen as suggesting that those who protest police tactics are in part to blame for violent crime. It can also be interpreted as an accusation that police officers are not doing their jobs while crime rises.

Mr. Comey’s remarks angered Justice Department and White House officials, because they saw them as undermining the administration’s criminal justice policies. Holding the police accountable for civil rights violations has been a top priority for the Obama administration in recent years, and several officials privately fumed at the suggestion that criticizing the police had led to violent crime.
It's beyond ludicrous. It's like saying if you criticize firefighters, the fires win, and more fires will inevitably be ignited. 

Worse, and just a sidebar to this story, was his incredibly naive assertion that there is no such thing as mass incarceration in the U.S.
In Mr. Comey’s speech, he also appeared out of step with the administration over whether the imprisonment of thousands of criminals in the 1980s and 1990s — when there were high rates of crime in many cities — could be called “mass incarceration.”

Mr. Comey said these prosecutions “didn’t happen ‘en masse.’ ”

“Each drug dealer, each mugger, each killer, and each felon with a gun had his own lawyer, his own case, his own time before judge and jury, his own sentencing, and, in many cases, an appeal or other post-sentencing review,” Mr. Comey said. “There were thousands and thousands of those individual cases, but to speak of ‘mass incarceration’ I believe is confusing, and it distorts an important reality.”
He's not only out of step with the administration, he's out of step with reality. The claim that each criminal "had his own lawyer, own case, own time before a judge and jury" is patently false. Over 90% of criminal convictions are obtained through plea bargaining, often without adequate representation, where defendants are railroaded into unreasonably long sentences, sometimes without a court appearance (on video from the local jail).

And when you double the prison population in one decade (the 80's) and then you double it AGAIN in the next decade (the 90's), well, if that's not the definition of "mass" incarceration, I'm not sure what the hell is.

Anyway, if anything disproves Comey's thesis about video technology making the police "afraid to do their job," it's this latest one from Columbia, SC. Frankly, the director, and every law enforcement administration official down to the local level, should be talking about de-escalation training, demilitarizing policing, getting rid of archaic zero-tolerance policies and procedures in our schools from the 80's and 90's, and getting smart on crime.

It's kind of ironic: for years the government has always justified spying on the people (via digital technologies, red light and highway cameras, GPS tracking, etc.) with the justification: "if you're not hiding anything, what do you care if we watch/listen?" Same could be said re this entire "Ferguson Effect."

I think that's important to remember too: there are probably thousands of interactions being recorded every day of the police with people, and most you'll never see or hear about because the police did their job correctly. 

But like it or not, hand held recording devices are not going away, and the ones who aren't doing their job properly, like this deputy, are going to continue to surface over and over until something proactive is done about it (or by attrition, they are eventually just weeded out).

We're not increasing crime with these videos. What the real "Ferguson Effect" is doing is restoring sanity back to a profession that has been sullied and de-professionalized by the 35 year War on Drugs/Crime/Terror/Immigration myopia.

UPDATE: More on the failed "zero-tolerance" stupidity from the 1990's:
Since the early 1990s, thousands of school systems around the country have put officers in schools, most often armed and in uniform, while many schools have adopted “zero tolerance” policies for misconduct. That has produced sharp increases in arrests, especially for minor offenses, giving criminal records to students who in the past might have faced nothing more serious than after-school detention.

In Texas, officers often issue tickets for misbehavior that is not criminal — to offenders as young as 4, according to Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit group — and students who fail to appear in juvenile court or pay fines later find that there are warrants for their arrest.

But as common as the officers and their arrests have become, there are no generally accepted standards for how they should be trained, used, armed or organized. No one even knows for certain how many there are — most experts estimate between 10,000 and 15,000 nationwide.

Experts on school safety say the line between security, the officers’ prime responsibility, and discipline, which administrators and teachers traditionally manage, has been blurred.
In other areas of delinquency research we call this "the criminalization of childhood." Things that were once treated and dealt with by school administrators and the offending kid's parents, are now dealt with by the police. Fighting in school, instead of a trip to the principal's office and a call to your parents, now results in an arrest, a trip "downtown," and a criminal record.

And even though the deputy in the S.C. case was fired, the Sheriff seemed to agree with the above: maybe he shouldn't have been called into the classroom to begin with.
Too often, school officers are “using law enforcement responses to work with kids, and that doesn’t look so pretty,” said Lisa H. Thurau, founder and executive director of Strategies for Youth, an organization in Cambridge, Mass., that trains school officers around the country. Calling in the police undermines educators’ authority, she said, and officers “should not be dealing with cellphone issues.”
Sheriff Lott seemed to agree.

School officials “have to understand when they call us, we’re going to take a law enforcement action,” he said at a news conference.

“Should he ever have been called in?” the sheriff asked. “That’s something we’re going to talk to the school district about. Maybe that’s something that should have been handled by that teacher and that school administrator without ever calling the deputy.”
In other words, the teacher and administrator in this case are just as guilty as the deputy. Do your job correctly, and there is no need for school resource officers to be brought in to what is otherwise a disciplinary matter.

And let's get this small army of 15,000 resource officers out of our schools and back on the streets fighting real crime.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Standardized Testing Gone Wild: Hangover Edition

Obama Administration Calls For Limits On Testing In Schools:

Faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools, the Obama administration declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.

Specifically, the administration called for a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to “reduce over-testing” as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.
My first reaction to the headline was "Lolz" followed by, wtf took you so long? Two percent would be a MAJOR reduction in testing (my kids take so many tests, benchmarks, scantrons and other b.s., there is little to no time left for instruction). 

And it shouldn't be just limits on testing, but on prepping for the tests (i.e. teaching to the test). My kids spend virtually all of their time in class and on homework getting ready for the "next measurement of progress." Which, of course, isn't progress...it's regress.

Predictably, the "get tough with tests" Eraserheads are pushing back.
Some who agreed that testing has run rampant also urged the administration not to throw out the No. 2 pencils with the bath water, saying tests can be a powerful tool for schools to identify weaknesses and direct resources. They worried that the cap on time spent testing — which the administration said it would ask Congress to enshrine in legislation — would only tangle schools in more federal regulations and questions of what, exactly, counts as a test.

“What happens if somebody puts a cap on testing, and to meet the cap ends up eliminating tests that could actually be helpful, or leaves the redundancy in the test and gets rid of a test that teachers can use to inform their instruction?” asked Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization that represents about 70 large urban school districts.

Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and one of the most vocal proponents for higher standards and tougher tests, said, “There’s plenty of agreement that there’s too much testing going on.” But, he added, “we have to be careful, as with anything federal, that it doesn’t lead to unintended consequences.”
Yeah, like fewer tests. Other than that, there are no unintended consequences for getting rid of our rat-psychology obsession with standardized testing (save this one little fact: billions of dollars would be lost to private testing companies).

But the most galling part of this announcement is the way the Obama administration is saying we're all responsible for this mess.
“I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, who has announced that he will leave office in December. “But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.”

“It’s important that we’re all honest with ourselves,” he continued. “At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation. We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it.”
Uh, no. "We all" have not supported these policies. Just on this blog alone I can assure you I've been ranting against NCLB and the sociopathic emphasis on standardized testing since we went live in 2007. And prior to that, in the classroom, since NCLB was passed in 2001 (even before that, when Georgia was "pioneering" this nonsense in the late 90's).

Standardized tests measure nothing more than your test taking ability. Period. The research has been in on that for over decade. And while it's nice to have Arne's support of rolling back some of the testing, until the social control elements are removed from the public classrooms, nothing is going to change. 

Expect the push back from the standardized test industrial complex to be fierce.