Monday, March 12, 2012

A Return to Bloggery

After taking a few weeks off from sharing links thanks to the craziness of starting up a new cancer fundraising site, I'm back. Expect less regular posting for the time being, but I'll do my best to keep sharing...

Let's begin with some much-needed righteous indignation...

Unless you think your employer has the right to control how you spend your wages or how you control your investments your retirement account (should you actually be lucky enough to have one in this day and age), there's absolutely no reason you should believe that your employer can step into medical decisions between you and your doctor:
Women ARE taxpayers. Women ARE workers. Women EARN their health care every day of the year. If you think for a hot second that a health insurance package is a mere courtesy bestowed on you by a kindly employer, I pity you for sipping the antifreeze so willingly. Do you realize who is really benefiting from that freedom of conscience you so raucously defend? It isn’t you, that’s for sure. You have just given away your rights to decent employment, by framing health insurance as a sort of largess sprinkling down from the corporate king. How easily you sell away your own labors, your own bodies, pretending you haven’t given up your choices because you pay “out of pocket.” Thinking you’re the harder worker because you’ve agreed to accept less than what you’re due. No, I’m afraid that doesn’t make you heroic. It makes you dreadfully, painfully gullible.

Health insurance is part of earned income. When a woman takes a job, she is offered a health insurance package in addition to her paycheck as compensation for her work. Do I hear you saying that’s “entitled”? How droll. A workman is worthy of his hire, isn’t he (1 Timothy 5:18, for those who like references)? Why isn’t a working woman worthy of receiving the fruits of her labor?


Health insurance is not a courtesy. It’s wages. Furthermore, you might ask if I support universal health care. Yes, indeed, I do. But halt your crying about the horrible burden of the “taxpayers,” struggling against the weight of my supposed promiscuity (along with most of the women, married or not, in America). Because guess what. I am a taxpayer. You think your taxes are the ones supporting me, supporting the “lifestyle” you so hypocritically disdain. What, then, are my taxes supporting – yours? Shall I stop paying? If it’s you taking care of me one way or another, O mighty “taxpayers”, then perhaps I’ll withdraw my own support from the system since my dollars don’t seem to be doing much good. Good luck to you when you need ventilators, pain relief and open-heart surgery. I’ll be in jail, assuring that you can finally gripe about your taxes supporting me with some feeble shred of honesty.

The truth is, I’m willing to shoulder the burden for the young, the elderly and the disabled because I am a taxpayer who believes in the power of this nation to collectively care for itself. But apparently you aren’t, or at least you demand a paternalistic veto power over the medical decisions of those you claim to support. Again, I have news for you: whether I am receiving universal health care from the government or earning it as part of my own income package, I assure you that you needn’t trouble your heads about my moral choices. Because I don’t rely on your taxes any more than you rely on mine. I am a taxpayer, I am a woman, and I use birth control.

If you consent to let employers of any stripe deny you the insurance that you have worked for, then your blood is on your own hands. I am not so blind as to regard that “freedom” and “personal responsibility” you tout as anything more than corporate robbery. By your own standards, health care is my right. I have earned it. I have paid for it. Although I despise your selfish philosophy and condemn your willingness to see others to their deaths rather than part with a grimy dollar, I assure you that I will not accept your sneers or apologize for the things I do with what I earn. I use birth control. I pay taxes. I earn my health care and I believe in paying it forward to those who can’t yet. And, you arrogant fools, I owe you nothing. 
People who cry moral indignation about government-mandated contraception coverage appear unwilling to concede that the exercise of their deeply held convictions might infringe on the rights of millions of people who are burdened by unplanned pregnancy or want to reduce abortion or would like to see their tax dollars committed to a different purpose.

Why should an employer’s right to reject birth-control coverage trump a society’s collective imperative to reduce unintended pregnancy? Should employers be allowed to withhold a polio vaccine or cataract surgery or safe working conditions on similar “moral” grounds?

We all enjoy the multifold benefits of a plural society, but the social contract requires that we must occasionally stomach government policies that offend and outrage us. Most Americans choose to live with this trade-off because, on balance, the benefits of being part of a civil society far outweigh the costs. We are assured a level of comfort and safety, for example, that is unheard of in much of the world. We travel on relatively safe roads and airplanes; we rarely get sick from our drinking water. We can call the fire department in an emergency and hire publicly educated employees; we undergo surgery and cancer treatments developed from taxpayer-funded medical research. Our armies are voluntary. We can worship where and with whom we want. Our legal disputes are solved by the state, not an irate neighbor with a pitchfork.


The cost of living in a democracy is tolerating moral judgments we don’t always like. For those who object, there’s a clear alternative. Protesting the Mexican-American War in the 1840s, Henry David Thoreau withheld his taxes with the understanding that he would have to go to jail for his principles. In reality, he only served one night in jail, but he was willing to pay the price for his convictions. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela paid a much higher price for theirs.

Let’s see what our society would look like if we all had the luxury of imposing our unfettered will. At a minimum, the Catholic bishops and employers resisting contraceptive coverage should be willing to pay for the care of all those unwanted children. Or perhaps they’d be willing to spend some time in jail in protest. At my taxpaying expense, of course.
And who'd've thunk it? Apparently the GOP's War on Women doesn't make moderate female voters happy. Funny what happens when you decide that half the electorate is too dumb to make their own decisions, or when you've decided that women's health doesn't warrant funding.

As anyone on the intertubes this past week knows, Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army are getting a ton of attention. Of everything I've read regarding Kony, Invisible Children, and the Lord's Resistance Army, this piece by Ethan Zuckerman is probably the best take on the entire situation:
The problem with oversimplification
The campaign Invisible Children is running is so compelling because it offers an extremely simple narrative: Kony is a uniquely bad actor, a horrific human being, whose capture will end suffering for the people of Northern Uganda. If each of us does our part, influences powerful people, the world’s most powerful military force will take action and Kony will be captured.

Russell implicitly acknowledges the simplicity of the narrative with his filmmaking. Much of his short film features him explaining to his young son that Kony is a bad guy, and that dad’s job is capturing the bad guy. We are asked to join the campaign against Kony literally by being spoken to as a five year old. It’s not surprising that a five year old vision of a problem – a single bad guy, a single threat to eliminate – leads to an unworkable solution. Nor is it a surprise that this extremely simple narrative is compelling and easily disseminated.

Severine Autesserre, a scholar focused on the Democratic Republic of Congo, has recently written an important paper on the narratives and framings of the conflict in eastern DRC. (I know of this paper only through the good graces of Dr. Laura Seay, whose Texas in Africa blog is required reading for anyone who is interested in Central Africa, and who has been one of the prominent voices on Twitter calling for reconsideration of Invisible Children’s strategy.)

Autesserre’s paper argues that the wildly complicated conflict in eastern DRC has been reduced to a fairly simple narrative by journalists and NGOs: to gain control of mineral riches, rebel armies are using rape as a weapon of war, and they should be stopped by the DRC government. This narrative is so powerful because “certain stories resonate more, and thus are more effective at influencing action, when they assign the cause of the problems to ‘the deliberate actions of identifiable individuals’, when they include ‘bodily harm to vulnerable individuals, especially when there is a short and clear causal chain assigning responsibility’; when they suggest a simple solution; ad when they can latch on to pre-existing narratives.”

Sound familiar? The Kony story resonates because it’s the story of an identifible individual doing bodily harm to children. It’s a story with a simple solution, and it plays into existing narratives about the ungovernability of Africa, the power of US military and the need to bring hidden conflict to light.

Here’s the problem – these simple narratives can cause damage. By simplifying the DRC situation to a conflict about minerals, the numerous other causes – ethnic tensions, land disputes, the role of foreign militaries – are all minimized. The proposed solutions – a ban on the use of “conflict minerals” in mobile phones – sounds good on paper. In practice, it’s meant that mining of coltan is no longer possible for artisanal miners, who’ve lost their main source of financial support – instead, mining is now dominated by armed groups, who have the networks and resources to smuggle the minerals out of the country and conceal their origins. Similarly, the focus on rape as a weapon of war, Autesserre argues, has caused some armed groups to engage in mass rape as a technique to gain attention and a seat at the negotiating table. Finally, the focus on the Congolese state as a solution misses the point that the state has systematically abused power and that the country’s rulers have used power to rob their citizenry. A simple, easily disseminated narrative, Autesserre argues, has troublesome unintended consequences.

What are the unintended consequences of the Invisible Children narrative? The main one is increased support for Yoweri Museveni, the dictatorial and kleptocratic leader of Uganda. Museveni is now on his fourth presidential term, the result of an election seen as rigged by EU observers. Museveni has asserted such tight control over dissenting political opinions that his opponents have been forced to protest his rule through a subtle and indirect means – walking to work to protest the dismal state of Uganda’s economy. Those protests have been violently suppressed.

The US government needs to pressure Museveni on multiple fronts. The Ugandan parliament, with support from Museveni’s wife, has been pushing a bill to punish homosexuality with the death penalty. The Obama administration finds itself pressuring Museveni to support gay and lesbian rights and to stop cracking down on the opposition quite so brutally, while asking for cooperation in Somalia and against the LRA. An unintended consequence of Invisible Children’s campaign may be pushing the US closer to a leader we should be criticizing and shunning.

Can we advocate without oversimplifying?
I am now almost three thousand words into this blogpost, and I am aware that I am oversimplifying the situation in northern Uganda… and also aware that I haven’t simplified it enough. It makes perfect sense that a campaign to create widespread awareness of conflict in northern Uganda would want to simply this picture down to a narrative of good versus evil, and a call towards action. While I resent the emotionally manipulative video Invisible Children have produced, I admire the craft of it. They begin with a vision of a changing global world, where social media empowers individuals as never before. They craft a narrative around a passionate, driven advocate – Jason Russell – and show us the reasons for his advocacy – his friendship with a Ugandan victim of Kony. The video has a profound “story of self” that makes it possible for individuals to connect with and relate to. And Invisible Children constructs a narrative where we can help, and where we’re shirking our responsibility as fellow human beings if we don’t help.

The problem, of course, is that this narrative is too simple. The theory of change it advocates is unlikely to work, and it’s unclear if the goal of eliminating Kony should still be a top priority in stabilizing and rebuilding northern Uganda. By offering support to Museveni, the campaign may end up strengthening a leader with a terrible track record.

A more complex narrative of northern Uganda would look at the odd, codependent relationship between Museveni and Kony, Uganda’s systematic failure to protect the Acholi people of northern Uganda. It would look at the numerous community efforts, often led by women, to mediate conflicts and increase stability. It would focus on the efforts to rebuild the economy of northern Uganda, and would recognize the economic consequences of portraying northern Uganda as a war zone. It would feature projects like Women of Kireka, working to build economic independence for women displaced from their homes in Northern Uganda.

Such a narrative would be lots harder to share, much harder to get to “go viral”.

I’m starting to wonder if this is a fundamental limit to attention-based advocacy. If we need simple narratives so people can amplify and spread them, are we forced to engage only with the simplest of problems? Or to propose only the simplest of solutions?

As someone who believes that the ability to create and share media is an important form of power, the Invisible Children story presents a difficult paradox. If we want people to pay attention to the issues we care about, do we need to oversimplify them? And if we do, do our simplistic framings do more unintentional harm than intentional good? Or is the wave of pushback against this campaign from Invisible Children evidence that we’re learning to read and write complex narratives online, and that a college student with doubts about a campaign’s value and validity can find an audience? Will Invisible Children’s campaign continue unchanged, or will it engage with critics and design a more complex and nuanced response.

That’s a story worth watching.
A couple other excellent round-ups of the pushback to the campaign: one from Boing Boing that compiles some much-needed African perspectives, and a plethora of short opinion pieces at the NYTimes' Opinionator. These words from Kate Cousins and Amanda Taub — a pair of human rights lawyers and bloggers at Wronging Rights — echoing some of what Zuckerman says above strike me as particularly thoughtful:
[T]he wild success of social media campaigns goes hand-in-hand with over-simplification of their narratives. The rapid spread of the "Kony 2012" call to arms over Facebook and Twitter owes everything to a simple, focused message with strong emotional content. But the policies that Invisible Children supports — military intervention and trials before the International Criminal Court — are not simple. Past military operations against the Lord's Resistance Army have left hundreds murdered and tens of thousands displaced, and there is evidence that the I.C.C. warrants have actually prolonged the conflict. These consequences go unmentioned in the "Kony 2012" video. Is it “good” to promise results, while hiding the potential price to be paid?

A focus on awareness also requires putting “relatable” figures center-stage. That means “whites in shining armor,” while portraying the communities affected by atrocities as helpless victims, waiting passively for American assistance. That may be good for page views, but it is bad for policy. Those communities will bear the consequences — good or bad — of interventions to end atrocities. Shouldn’t awareness be about listening to them, not drowning out their voices?
Their joint piece at The Atlantic is also worth checking out. This piece from Counterpunch on the soft imperialism of the “Rescue Industry,” while written prior to the Invisible Children story is worth a read, as well.

Aaron Bady points to a number of good pieces that what he labels as the “genre of ‘Raising Awareness about Someone Else’s Suffering’” in a larger context. Plenty of good links there. Meanwhile, what do the political scientists have to say? In addition to his academic work mentioned that Monkey Cage link, Blattman appears in the CBS vid mentioned here, as well as chiming in with his own post at his blog.

And finally, these two posts at The Disorder of Things are must-reads on the Kony issue, as well — lots of insightful arguments highlighted in those two pieces.

We're all guilty when it comes to the modern-day slavery that builds our fancy electronic products: those who demand shiny new devices without agitating for fair labor and environmental standards, the Chinese government officials who care for nothing more than economic development no matter what the costs, and, of course, the officials at Apple and the rest of the manufacturers who want to cut costs in any way possible:
China’s growth model over the last 30 years is based on “heavily intervening” in the process of economic development while retreating from “the social and civic sphere by providing social and labor protections,” according to scholars Ngai Pun and Jenny Chan. Foxconn is taking advantage of the latest phase, known as the “Go West” strategy, which is enabled by the government’s “massive investment in interior infrastructure including airports, highways, power grids and high-speed rail.”

Outright plunder is sometimes the tactic, and government officials are notorious for grabbing collectively held lands in China to benefit themselves and well-connected corporations. Debby Chan claims some of Foxconn’s new facilities have been a result of such land confiscations. (As elsewhere, privatizing the commons in China also serves the goal of turning rural peasants into industrial laborers.)

A SACOM video features Foxconn boasting that the building of its Chengdu Technology Park in Sichuan Province “had strong government support at the state, provincial, city and local levels.” For the facility, which will be able to spit out 40 million iPads annually on 50 production lines, the local government “increased cargo flights to Hong Kong and set aside the biggest block of land in its tariff-free zone for the company to help cut costs.” SACOM’s video also showed packed public buses being used as Foxconn’s transport fleet, and workers’ housing that was supposed to be “resettlement housing for rural farmers.”

In Foxconn’s Zhengzhou complex that manufactures iPhones, the government “fast-tracked approval for the factory in 16 days, including clearances for fiscal subsidies and preferential corporate income tax rates.” The government provided the land to Foxconn as well as renting it a renovated factory and rooms for 100,000 workers. The city is also talking of spending more than $4 billion to expand the airport so it can accommodate more cargo flights.

In Chongqing “employment promotion officials granted Foxconn a discounted corporate income tax rate of 15 percent” and lengthened an airport runway by 400 meters “to meet increasing transportation and logistical needs.” For Taiwan’s computer industry, Chongqing offers “direct charter flights, entry permits for Taiwanese citizens upon arrival, cross-border Chinese Yuan’s trade settlement services, 10-year subsidies on income taxes, export tax rebates and export custom declaration services.”

The New York Times feature on China’s role in Apple’s empire touched upon this, explaining how government subsidies enabled a glass-cutting factory to have engineers, workers, glass samples and a whole manufacturing wing on standby to service Apple’s possible needs.

As much as Foxconn and Apple laud their audits, their devotion to the law and their ethics (Steve Jobs emailed an Apple user critical of the suicides, “We do more than any other company on the planet”), the companies ascended to the top on a heap of bodies. They are hardly unique, and that’s the problem.

As far as labor practices goes, Foxconn is no different than its rivals, and it’s impossible to escape. It assembles electronics for everyone including the iPad’s rival, the Kindle, and the Acer computer I’m writing this on. All that matters is that Wall Street is happy because Apple has more cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury.

Apple and consumers alike could easily pay more as labor accounts for only 7 percent of costs. Tripling wages and benefits might add $100 to an iPad. But that would set a bad example. Apple’s profits might decline a notch and Wall Street would dump its stock. Consumers would still have their toys but might buy fewer smart phones, tablets, iPods, Xboxes, laptops, desktops and other digital sundries.

Giving Foxconn workers a job with a living wage instead of one that cripples them by their mid-20s would pressure other Chinese companies to do the same. And then more demands would be made: Why can’t the factories stop poisoning waters, lands and workers, fouling the air and frying the planet?

It’s not that we can’t have advanced technology, a healthy society and a green economy. We just can’t have it with the Foxconns and Apples of the world, where dictatorial billionaires make closed-door calculations based on market share, revenue and profit at the expense of everyone, and everything else.

So don’t expect anything to change in Apple and Foxconn’s hell factories, unless workers in China (and wherever else Foxconn goes next) rise up and make it change. In the meantime, enjoy your iWorld.
Yves Smith points to this graphic, which shows just how little it would impact Apple's profits to double the wages of its Foxconn workers:

 Still craving a new iPad? You're likely adding to the e-waste problem — but you don't have to:
[T]hrough the introduction of the incredibly popular iPhone and the iPad, Apple has single-handedly expanded the consumer electronics market. As recently as five years ago, smartphones were for a relatively small Blackberry and Palm Pilot business contingent, while the rest of us took the handsets offered by the telecoms and used them for years. (Or until we lost them.) Then the iPhone rolls around in 2007 and changes everything. The smartphone goes mainstream, with other electronics companies quickly following—see the proliferation of Android phones. The period between upgrades gets shorter and shorter, churning out new devices that replace old ones well before their natural lifespan is up. Suddenly that two-year-long mobile contract doesn’t seem long enough, and the number of old phones in your desk drawer keep adding up.

And then there’s the iPad, which essentially invented a new consumer electronics category: the tablet. Some of the initial confusion about the iPad centered on whether it was meant to replace the laptop or the desktop computer, but it became clear that wasn’t really the case. (Even if some commentators see the new iPad as gunning for the PC market.) The iPad was meant to be an additional device, fitting into the Apple ecosystem along with your iPhone and your MacBook Air. And like the iPhone, it was meant to be upgraded relatively frequently—Apple has released new iPads like clockwork every March. Just like that, a new e-waste stream was born.

It’s clear that Apple devices—and most consumer electronics products these days—are not meant to be used for a long period of time. The fact that the iPhone battery is not replaceable is proof enough of that. Though there’s a healthy secondary market for the devices, how long will it be before they too become once-expensive bricks? After all, the old computers being dismantled by hand in the Agbloboshie were once top of the line as well. The more electronics we consume, the more products that will end up in landfill some day.

Look, e-waste isn’t going to stop Apple, and as the owner of an iPhone 4S, I have no interest in seeing that happen. This is just a reminder that our acceleration addiction to consumer electronics does have a cost—albeit one we can mitigate with the right steps. The recycling programs offered by companies like Apple are a good first step, but a better one would be free pickup for devices—a service offered by a growing number of businesses. If you’d rather sell your old devices on the secondary market—and that’s as good as recycling—there’s no shortage of ways to do so. (You can even donate them if you’re feeling particularly guilty.) Just don’t toss it in the trash, as 130 million phones are tossed each year. While many activists have called for a tougher ban of e-waste export to poor countries, a better idea would be to provide equipment and facilities in places like Accra that allow the poor to recycle electronics—which can be a valuable industry—without harming their health or the environment. “This can be a valuable economic opportunity for people,” says Meredith Block, the executive director of the Blacksmith Institute. “What we need to do is mitigate those dangers.”

E-waste isn’t going away—not with iPads coming out every calendar year and Steve Jobs’s successors dreaming up new devices we don’t yet know we want. But Block is right—we can mitigate the worst of it, if we care.
Meanwhile, working in a factory here in the States can look pretty shitty, too.

More revelations about the NYPD's ignorant, racist profiling bullshit:
The New York Police Department collected information on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans specifically because they were Muslims, according to newly obtained secret documents. They show in the clearest terms yet that police were monitoring people based on religion, despite claims from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the contrary.

The NYPD has faced intense criticism from Muslims, lawmakers - and even the FBI - for widespread spying operations that put entire neighborhoods under surveillance. Police put the names of innocent people in secret files and monitored the mosques, student groups and businesses that make up the Muslim landscape of the northeastern U.S.

Bloomberg has defended his department's efforts, saying they have kept the city safe, were completely legal and were not based on religion.

"We don't stop to think about the religion," Bloomberg said at a news conference in August after The Associated Press began revealing the spying. "We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there."

In late 2007, however, plainclothes officers in the department's secretive Demographics Unit were assigned to investigate the region's Syrian population. Police photographed businesses and eavesdropped at lunch counters and inside grocery stores and pastry shops. The resulting document listed no threat. And though most people of Syrian heritage living in the area were Jewish, Jews were excluded from the monitoring.

"This report will focus on the smaller Muslim community," the report said.
Bloomberg responds with a complete lack of concern and spreads the bullshit thick:
Muslims in the city want this surveillance, he added.

"The Muslim groups that I have talked to in the last few weeks -- to say 'all' I think is very close to being accurate -- they keep saying, 'Look, we don't want to be out there, you know, getting involved in this. We should just keep our heads down. But we do not need another terrorist attack.'...They have as big a vested interest in staying safe. They're Americans. They're citizens. They have kids. They have the same aspirations that you and I do. They contribute to our society, and they want to be safe."
Michael Ward, the agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Newark bureau, said this week that such broad-net surveillance had undermined the relationship with Muslims that officials had worked diligently to develop since Sept. 11, 2001, making it more difficult to protect the public.

The series of articles by The Associated Press
that disclosed the surveillance said New York police officers fanned out across Newark in 2007, photographing Muslim businesses and gathering data on mosque worshippers. Some are now wary of praying in public, joining faith-based groups or patronizing some restaurants and shops.

“There’s no correlation between the location of houses of worship and minority-owned businesses and counterterrorism” work, Mr. Ward said. By generating distrust, he said, the operation created “more risk.”
What exactly were some of these suspicious sites that warranted concern outside of NYC? Oh, you know, hair salons and restaurants where known Muslims were patrons. Oooh, scary!

And more very disturbing NYPD bullshit — the cops are fudging reports and punishing those who speak out:
For more than two years, Adrian Schoolcraft secretly recorded every roll call at the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn and captured his superiors urging police officers to do two things in order to manipulate the "stats" that the department is under pressure to produce: Officers were told to arrest people who were doing little more than standing on the street, but they were also encouraged to disregard actual victims of serious crimes who wanted to file reports.

Arresting bystanders made it look like the department was efficient, while artificially reducing the amount of serious crime made the commander look good.

In October 2009, Schoolcraft met with NYPD investigators for three hours and detailed more than a dozen cases of crime reports being manipulated in the district. Three weeks after that meeting—which was supposed to have been kept secret from Schoolcraft's superiors—his precinct commander and a deputy chief ordered Schoolcraft to be dragged from his apartment and forced into the Jamaica Hospital psychiatric ward for six days.

In the wake of our series, NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly ordered an investigation into Schoolcraft's claims. By June 2010, that investigation produced a report that the department has tried to keep secret for nearly two years.

The Voice has obtained that 95-page report, and it shows that the NYPD confirmed Schoolcraft's allegations. In other words, at the same time that police officials were attacking Schoolcraft's credibility, refusing to pay him, and serving him with administrative charges, the NYPD was sitting on a document that thoroughly vindicated his claims.

Investigators went beyond Schoolcraft's specific claims and found many other instances in the 81st Precinct where crime reports were missing, had been misclassified, altered, rejected, or not even entered into the computer system that tracks crime reports.

These weren't minor incidents. The victims included a Chinese-food delivery man robbed and beaten bloody, a man robbed at gunpoint, a cab driver robbed at gunpoint, a woman assaulted and beaten black and blue, a woman beaten by her spouse, and a woman burgled by men who forced their way into her apartment.

"When viewed in their totality, a disturbing pattern is prevalent and gives credence to the allegation that crimes are being improperly reported in order to avoid index-crime classifications," investigators concluded. "This trend is indicative of a concerted effort to deliberately underreport crime in the 81st Precinct."

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The investigation found that crime complaints were changed to reflect misdemeanor rather than felony crimes, which prevented those incidents from being counted in the all-important crime statistics. In addition, the investigation concluded that "an unwillingness to prepare reports for index crimes exists or existed in the command."

Moreover, a significant number of serious index crimes were not entered into the computer tracking system known as OmniForm. "This was more than administrative error," the probe concluded.

There was an "atmosphere in the command where index crimes were scrutinized to the point where it became easier to either not take the report at all or to take a report for a lesser, non-index crime," investigators concluded.
And what does the NYPD have to say? Or Bloomberg, for that matter, about what he sees as his own personal army? Nothing. Their lipped are sealed.

This American Life actually covered the story of Schoolcraft and the tapes a while back in a must-listen story:

Ol' Frothy Mix Santorum is a fool, but it is definitely worth considering elitism in higher ed:
Consider the fact that SAT scores (a big factor in college admissions) correlate closely with family wealth. The total average SAT score of students from families earning more than $100,000 per year is more than 100 points higher than for students in the income range of $50,000 to $60,000. Or consider that a mere 3 percent of students in the top 150 colleges, as defined by The Chronicle of Higher Education, come from families in the bottom income quartile of American society. Only a very dogmatic Social Darwinist would conclude from these facts that intelligence closely tracks how much money one’s parents make. A better explanation is that students from affluent families have many advantages — test-prep tutors, high schools with good college counseling, parents with college savvy and so on.

Yet once the beneficiaries arrive at college, what do they learn about themselves? It’s a good bet that the dean or president will greet them with congratulations for being the best and brightest ever to walk through the gates. A few years ago, the critic and essayist William Deresiewicz, who went to Columbia and taught at Yale, wrote that his Ivy education taught him to believe that those who didn’t attend “an Ivy League or equivalent school” were “beneath” him. The writer Walter Kirn recalled that at Princeton he learned to “rise to almost every challenge ... except, perhaps, the challenge of real self-knowledge.” In my experience, a great many students at top colleges are wonderful young people whose idealism matches their intelligence. Yet the charge that elite college culture encourages smugness and self-satisfaction contains, like Mr. Santorum’s outburst, a germ of truth.


Benjamin Franklin, who founded the University of Pennsylvania, once defined true education as “an Inclination join’d with an Ability to serve Mankind, one’s Country, Friends, and Family; which Ability ... should indeed be the great Aim and End of all Learning.” We would be well served to keep this public-spirited conception of learning squarely in mind.

Perhaps if our leading colleges encouraged more humility and less hubris, college-bashing would go out of style and we could get on with the urgent business of providing the best education for as many Americans as possible.

A great profile of Jonny Greenwood in the NYT Sunday Magazine:
I asked Greenwood if he sees this as something he’ll be doing in his 70s, like Reich or Penderecki, instead of standing onstage with some geriatric touring-roadshow incarnation of Radiohead, and he said, “Oh,” almost disappointedly, as if the idea of classical composition as an appropriate post-rock afterlife had never occurred to him.

“To put it the other way around,” he said after a second, “I worry about being a fogy and just writing for orchestras. Like, really, I should be doing more electronic stuff, I feel. Laptops as part of the orchestra, and installation sound, and speakers.”

“It’s interesting that you feel that way,” I said to him. “Why the word ‘should’?”

“Because I strongly believe that you should use whatever technology you want, right up to the present day,” he said. “Though when it comes to orchestral music, whenever I see a concert with orchestra and strings, and I arrive and there are speakers up, my heart always sinks a little bit, and I think, It’s going to be down to some sound guy’s ideas. Contact microphones on the violins. I’m a purist, I suppose — I just want to get close to the instruments and not have anything in the way.

“When I saw the Penderecki concert in London, in ’92 or ’93,” he continued, “I thought there were speakers in the room. It was just strings. But I could hear these kind of buzzings and rumblings, and I was like, ‘Where is this all coming from?’ And that was just better, to my ears. Odder, stranger, more magical.”
Listen to the new album on Nonesuch here.

Life is so hard when you don't get the bonus you don't deserve. Here's how to cope:

Cecile Richards is a hero.

Don't believe the hype: the war on birth control is most definitely a part of the GOP's war on women.

Cultural cues and the fighting back against the “gender trap.”

Revitalizing a small town in Mississippi.

How about that economic recovery? It sure is going well for the 1%.

James Inhofe seems desperate to prove to everyone that he's probably the dumbest man in all of Congress.

Paint it white: white roofs in NYC save money.

The constraints of biofuel in the United States.

Yummy! Pink slime.

Maps! And Food!

Crooked Timber is holding an online symposium on David Graeber's Debt. And a couple of late contributions.

Nuclear Iran: how much should we worry?

What about infanticide? And what does Peter Singer have to say in response?

Wasn't this administration supposed to respect the Constitution and embrace open government and transparency? Not so much, especially when it comes to assassinating American citizens without judicial review. “Most open and transparent in history,” my ass. Per usual, David Cole and Glenn Greenwald have prescient commentaries on our secretive, illegal adventures in killing.

Did you watch The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, this year's Oscar winner for Best Animated Short Film — a beautiful paean to the power of books? If not, watch it now:

Instruments from inside: this is awesome.

Quite possibly my favorite album of the year so far: Islands’ A Sleep & A Forgetting. They perform live at the studios of The Current here, featuring video of a great rendition of the quite excellent track “Hallways”:
(The delightfully creepy music video for “Hallways” here.)

Oh yes: The Boss + E Street Band + Tom Morello + The Roots performing classic early Springsteen material = so goddamned amazing:

The best Tiny Desk Concert you will ever see:

A couple lovely tracks from two of my favorite bands:

Who's joining me for the Spiritualized concert at the lovely Crescent Ballroom in May?

And lastly, everyone's favorite feature: Heather's Happy Link of the Day, in which she is inspired by Herman Cain and takes food travels to Uzbekibekibekistan.

BONUS!: A second Happy Link! for International Women's Day.

And now time for some shameless self-promotion: the music blog is being updated again.

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