Quiet car trips home

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The following is a crosspost from

On the Sunday Arielle and I got back from Texas we stayed over at her sister and brother-in-law’s house in Charlotte, grilled out, had beers and played with their pair of boys, who are four and two. They’ve got a great guest set-up, do my Charlotte in-laws, with a big private room downstairs. When we sleep over, we invariably awaken to the commotion upstairs: a Battle of Britain-level bombardment enacted by stampeding toddler feet.

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Tom Cruise in a jetpack

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(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

IMDB describes Minority Report thusly:

In the year 2054 A.D. crime is virtually eliminated from Washington D.C. thanks to an elite law enforcing squad “Precrime”. They use three gifted humans (called “Pre-Cogs”) with special powers to see into the future and predict crimes beforehand.

Meanwhile, here in the past an elite research team at N.C. State University is at work on a top secret project, Future States Processing (announced a year ago yesterday):

RALEIGH — As the field of “big data” continues to grow in importance, N.C. State University has landed a big coup – a major lab for the study of data analysis, funded by the National Security Agency.

This is from the project’s Executive Summary [emphasis mine]:

Broadly, Future States Processing (FSP) is “a mechanism that conceives of the state of an entity (e.g., person, place, or thing) at some point in the future based on a current collection of information.” One challenge is to decompose the broad aim of FSP into a set of key research areas. The group has identified five areas: narrative processing (addressed in another research theme), which allows the identification of emerging topics and narratives from structured and unstructured data; state description, which includes entity, feature, and attribute identification; state modeling, which identifies relationships and dependencies and creates a formal representation; process and prediction models, which infers subsequent states given the current description and a context; and uncertainty quantification, which addresses the precision with which the predictions can be made. Predictions must be made within a context, and an unaddressed issue is context generation. As the group identifies example problems, the preference is to focus on people as entities and to predict behavior or motivation.

Some people are paid to lose sleep over those unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know. For that, there’s “big data.” And now that No Such Agency has a place to store it(Bluffdale, UT), N.C. State just needs to develop the right set of algorithms to predict people’s future behaviors.

But there’s still the unaddressed problem of “context generation.”

Describe your most paranoid fantasy and — with the right data “corpus” — No Such Agency will tell you who’s most likely working on turning that threat into a reality.

So you can arrest or kill them.

What could go worng?

What could go worng?

Categories : National, North Carolina
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(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

For a good bit of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I commuted home on Fridays on I-26 in South Carolina and North Carolina. I could kind of gauge the wars’ progress by how many low-boys carrying Humvees, up-armored Humvees, and MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored troop carriers) passed me on my commute as they headed from their Midwest factories to Joint Base Charleston to be airlifted to the war zones.

Plenty never made it home, I’m sure. But after this week’s events in Ferguson MO, I have to wonder where the rest wound up. Chase Madar explains how one MRAP ended up at Ohio State University in case a frat party got out of hand.

That MRAP came, like so much other equipment police departments are stocking up on — from tactical military vests, assault rifles, and grenade launchers to actual tanks and helicopters – as a freebie via a Pentagon-organized surplus military equipment program.  As it happens, police departments across the country are getting MRAPs like OSU’s, including the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota.  It’s received one of 18 such decommissioned military vehicles already being distributed around that state.  So has Warren County which, like a number of counties in New York state, some quite rural, is now deploying Afghan War-grade vehicles.  (Nationwide, rural counties have received a disproportionate percentage of the billions of dollars worth of surplus military equipment that has gone to the police in these years.)

So lots of that deficit-funded hardware deployed to fight ‘em over there so we wouldn’t have to fight ‘em over here has come home to fight — for lack of terrorists in places like Ferguson, MO — whatever “threats” are lying around. Congressman Hank Johnson, D-Ga has proposed legislation to restrict the militarization of neighborhood policing.

It was just typical “cop equipment hanging around the police officer station” that rural Massachusetts police couldn’t wait to use up against the notorious litterer, Arlo Guthrie. Now it’s state-of-the-art war-fighting machinery. If that’s meant to make Americans feel safer, it ain’t working.

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Friday Open Thread

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Dana Milbank: Republicans embrace their phoniness

As Shane Goldmacher reported, “The National Republican Congressional Committee, which came under fire earlier this year for a deceptive series of fake Democratic candidate websites that it later changed after public outcry, has launched a new set of deceptive websites, this time designed to look like local news sources.”

These two dozen sites, with names such as “North County Update” and “Central Valley Update” look like political fact-checking sites; the NRCC’s spokeswoman, Andrea Bozek, called it “a new and effective way to disseminate information.”

Ya mean like The Raleigh Digest?

What else this week in fake news?

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Drones Over Your Homes

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So in North Carolina’s capitol, one of Charlie Pierce’s Laboratories Of Democracy, Gov. Pat McCrory is rushing to fix items in the budget he signed just days ago. Like a “provision that would stop automatically paying for enrollment growth at public schools.” 

It’s just another of those items slipped anonymously into a must-pass budget bill. Among the hidden pearls is this ALEC-inspired gem found by Asheville-based activist Barry Summers. He wrote about it this week in the Asheville Citizen-Times: 

H1099 was never heard by any Senate committee, but it has become State law nonetheless. It allows warrantless drone surveillance at all public events (including those on private property) or any place which is in “plain view” of a law enforcement officer. It has other loopholes and deficiencies which taken altogether, make a mockery of the “right-to-privacy” anywhere but inside your home with the shades drawn tight.

More at Hullabaloo.


Robin Williams, R.I.P.

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It may be generational, but Robin Williams’ death seems to have hit a lot of people especially hard. He was a daring performer who seemed to relish taking chances both on screen and on stage.

I never met the man, but several of my Netroots Nation friends did.

Joel Silberman: Two Very Different Encounters With Robin Williams


Lizz Winstead: My First Big Break in Show Biz (My Robin Williams Story)

And Laffy, from Political Circus:

My old improv buddy has died. RIP Robin Williams.

I always thought his Popeye was underrated.

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County parking deck on Saturday charging Special Event Rate of $5

A word or two about fairness and common sense. Maybe more than two.

There’s been a stink this week about an Asheville city councilman using his parking pass to unjam a traffic jam in a county parking deck caused, he said, by a malfunctioning exit gate.

WLOS-TV asked drivers what they thought about the councilman waving through others without paying. One said, “Wow, that doesn’t seem fair.”

We have some strange ideas about what’s fair. (View image before continuing.)

Suppose she parked in the lot on Friday and paid the $8 day rate then parked in the lot on Saturday and paid the $5 flat rate. Was her Friday self treated unfairly because she paid more than her Saturday self? Or did her Saturday self cheat her Friday self by paying less? If her Friday self parked for an hour and paid $1 and her Saturday self parked for an hour and paid $5, who was treated unfairly? And when the county opens decks and allows anyone to park for free?

Don’t even go there.

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Sunday Morning Music

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Friday Open Thread

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Would Joe Biden be a more interesting VP if he shot someone in the face?

Add your random musings here.

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I got into a bit of an internet tussle after referring to Dr. Barber’s sermon in Asheville and mentioning that altar call aspect of his speech. Someone corrected me, saying that it was not in fact either a sermon or an altar call.

But I am not convinced of that, and despite the obvious good things that the Moral Monday movement has accomplished in terms of publicity and enthusiasm, I feel like it plays into an aspect of politics that is a long term loser for the Democratic side.

It’s not that I don’t like his kind of theater. I appreciate Reverend Barber, and also admire the folks who support him. He’s doing a good thing. To a point.

My issue is that this kind of appeal to emotion, phrasing political arguments in terms of subjective behavioral observations leaves too much room for the other side to dismiss the argument, because it is always easy to discredit the other side’s opinion.
Unless it can be also made into an intellectual argument, steering away from emotional appeals, it is just another form of church, where we all congregate and congratulate ourselves for being better than they are. That’s never going to work, and in fact is probably one of the largest things wrong with the world right now.

Rather than insinuating that our side is morally superior to the other side, as objectively real as that may be, the way to make real progress is to demonstrate that the policies of the other side simply do not work and consistently create results that are objectively, demonstrably and measurably bad for far more people than those who might benefit. Facts. Just plain facts. A torrent of facts.

I want to see people chaining themselves to the Governor’s desk, not because he’s morally repugnant, but because his policies are mathematically repugnant.

Lots of people out there are voting against their own interests on a consistent basis because they can’t bring themselves to identify emotionally with liberalism. They can’t get past social issues, issues that are always about emotional appeals to moral superiority. It plays right into the gridlock.

Our group catharsis and the momentary high we get from it are not worth the resulting alienation of other groups who look at the display and instantly begin fighting against it. We need to take that away from the other side because it is one of the only things left that works for them.

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