Monday, September 29, 2014

Nude Selfies and Victim Blaming

I would like to generally endorse this Volokh piece, written in the context of the recent celebrity nude photo hack, on the appropriate role of advice on self-preservation, a.k.a. "victim blaming", in these and other circumstances.

I also thought the end of this comment at WP was particularly instructive:

The more I think about this recent leak, the more sickened I am. To begin with, it wasn’t just an obvious invasion of privacy, it was an ILLEGAL invasion of privacy. Whatever moral judgments I might have about what people use their phones for, the only purpose served by invading their privacy and blasting it to the entire world is shaming someone. I think we forget so easily that celebrities have all the same emotions and hang ups we do, and then laugh at their expense when they get knocked of the pedestal WE put them on.

That said, I think making him sell the L.A. Clippers was probably for the best.

Of course, virtually nobody outside the Steve-o-sphere raised the issue of the invasion of Sterling's privacy in violation of the law, whereas there are no shortage of celebrity defenders, as this response indicates:

No, the third issue of the bad conduct revealing a serious moral flaw in its victim distinguishes it. There we're not focusing on the blame the man deserved in the situation for not watching his tongue amid the possibility he might be surreptitiously recorded, we're focused on the degree to which his off-the-cuff remarks reflected a very faulty set of philosophical priors on his part.

Actually, I wouldn’t rank Sterling's "faulty philosophical priors" (as the commenter styles it) even as grave a moral violation as those of the nude-selfie-takers. To the extent that these photos were taken for the benefit of men-not-their-husbands -- Upton and Lawrence, for instance, are unmarried -- the takers were guilty of unchastity, mild though it may be. (Upton, who apparently identifies as Christian, especially ought to have behaved better.) In contrast, among Sterling's many, many crimes against reason, ethics, art and wisdom, his "racism" as indicated in the surreptitious recordings was pretty mild; contra the commenter, that it was this that generated such hysterical treatment in official discourse says more about the perversity of our times than it does about Sterling.

But yes, these are, and ought to be, separate issues from the violations of their privacy, to which they are lawfully entitled.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Φ Is Still a Bad Middle-class Parent

Via Ed Realist, some videos on proper classroom management.

Ed writes:

Could Relay’s techniques be used to educate all teachers? Oh hell no. Relay’s techniques are designed for mid-ability, low income black and Hispanic children in elementary and middle school whose parents are desperate to remove them from schools that aren’t allowed to expel troublemakers. In return for a guarantee of expelled troublemakers, the parents sign up for all sorts of commitments and expectations that parents with any other choice would laugh at. And Relay’s methods won’t work without that anvil hanging over the kids’ heads. Or, as I said in my last post, white kids don’t do KIPP.

Regular teachers often find these exemplaries…..unconvincing. My terms range from “flatly incompetent” to “pretty damn creepy”.

I must yield to the expertise of others in assessing whether and under what circumstances the classroom management techniques demonstrated are scalable. My personal experience is that, Game Theorists and Dog Whisperers to the contrary, Alpha behavior is really hard to mimic successfully. But I am apparently alone among "White People" in watching these videos and saying: "Wow! Children behaving and following instructions! With no yelling!"

These videos contrast favorably with my own daughter's tales of public school classrooms, which often sound like they operate on the ragged edge of chaos. Though, I hasten to add, it is middle-class white people chaos. By which I mean that the chaos is usually more-or-less directed at the subject matter, and doesn't involve physical assault. Ed, I think, would call them "engaged learners". That may be true, but I'm not convinced that the trade-space between engagement on the one hand, and quiet civil behavior on the other, is quite what she alleges. And if she's wrong, then I pick quiet civility, even at the expense of having my daughters required to, for instance, rise from their desks at a four-count.

In this vein, Carol Burris writes:

I do not fault the teacher in the video for her style. She is performing as taught by a system that, in my opinion, better prepares students for the dutiful obedience of the military than for the intellectual challenges they will encounter in college. In schools taught by RGSE teachers, the Common Core State Standards will be, I fear, merely heavier rocks in the pail.

As I watched the video, I thought about the rich discussions, open-ended speculative questions, ample think time and supportive feeling tone that I find in the classrooms of the teachers at my school. I remember the same culture in the middle school where I taught. Both are diverse schools that serve students with little as well as students
with much. Suburban parents would be horrified by the magic finger wiggling and drill techniques used in the video clip. How sad that charter school students are treated as if, were they were given one second to think, the teacher would lose control. How horrifying that student grades and punishments are put on public display. The dignity of the learner comes in second to his or her compliance.

The snobbery here on display deserves a post on its own, but I want to focus on the dismissive remark about military service. The irony is that peacetime enlisted service is quite beyond the measured intellectual ability of, by my calculation, 73% of the American black population -- and that's assuming they actually graduate from high school. And getting elementary school students to come up with opinions about stuff doesn't actually make the discussion of those opinions "rich" in Socratic sense. I appreciate that charter schools sell themselves, dishonestly perhaps, as the gateway to college for poor minorities, but it doesn't change the fact that military service is, for many of them, an optimum outcome.

But even if I concede that my decided lack of middle-class horror at Relay's classroom management techniques is not representative of my community peers . . . so what? Who cares that these schools aren't "for" the middle class if the poor minority parents whose children attend the schools are happy with them? Yes, the threat of expulsion is held over them . . . so what? Yes, the discipline and family expectations are filters exerting positive selection effects . . . so what? Don't be so quick to discard what you see working before your eyes in favor of something that doesn't actually exist.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Having Your Digital Cake, and Eating It

Via Volokh, a 9th Circuit panel decision suppressing evidence in a child porn case for violating the Posse Comitatus Act:


In late 2010, NCIS Special Agent Steve Logan began investigating the distribution of child pornography online. Several months later, from his office in Georgia, Agent Logan used a software program, RoundUp, to search for any computers located in Washington state sharing known child pornography on the Gnutella file-sharing network.

Agent Logan found a computer using the Internet Protocol (IP) address sharing several files identified by RoundUp as child pornography.  [RoundUp identified such files by comparing the “SHA-1 hash values” of files being offered for download – unique identifiers that do not change when a file name is altered – with values already known to be associated with child pornography.]   He downloaded three of the files, two images and a video, from that computer. After viewing the files, Agent Logan concluded that they were child pornography. Thereafter, Agent Logan made a request for an administrative subpoena for the name and address associated at the time of the downloads with the IP address. He submitted his request to NCIS’s representative at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which turned the request over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI sent an administrative subpoena to Comcast. Comcast responded by providing Dreyer’s name and address in Algona, Washington.

After receiving that information, Agent Logan checked a Department of Defense (DoD) database to determine if Dreyer had a military affiliation. He found that Dreyer had no current military affiliation.3 Agent Logan then wrote a report summarizing his investigation and forwarded it and the supporting material to the NCIS office in the state of Washington. That office then turned the information over to Officer James Schrimpsher of the Algona Police Department.

Many years ago, relatively early in the personal computer age, someone (maybe this guy) discussed a hypothetical legal argument against a porn prosecution for material found on a computer.  The argument was that an electronically stored digital computer file did no constitute an “image” under the relevant statutes.

Obviously, this argument eventually went nowhere as a legal matter.  But it has a odd parallel in the government’s current argument that its interception, recording, and storage of the electronic communications of American citizens doesn’t constitute “collection” for 4th Amendment purposes because those communications have not been rendered “useable” by, you know, opening them in Windows Media Player or Picture Viewer.  As a matter of logic, either possession of computer files ought not be prosecutable until the state has proven that a particular individual opened the files, or the government’s definition of “collection” is without merit.

I will note in passing that, while the decision of the 9th Circuit appears to be sound as a matter of law, the opinions seem to misstate the technical facts of the case.  All the judges write several times that the NCIS conducted “surveillance of all computers in the entire state of Washington.”  If this were true, it would raise obvious 4th Amendment problems, but in actuality Agent Logan searched only those files being shared by a peer-to-peer file sharing program, by which its users presumably forfeit any “reasonable expectation of privacy”.  But that should cause its users enough worry, seeing as how most of those files are likely in technical violation of copyright laws, which the government has prosecuted before.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Ashes of Intelligence Oversight

People working in the American intelligence community receive annual training in what is known as Intelligence Oversight (IO), a collection of laws, executive orders, DoD regulations, NSA Directives, and Air Force Instructions that seek to ensure that intelligence gathering complies with the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their house, persons, papers from unreasonable search and seizure shall not be infringed, and no warrants shall issue except on a showing of probable cause . . .

Except . . . maybe not:

Surveillance Approval Authorities slide

While there is little transparency into the FISA Courts, they are at least courts, independent jurists charged with making sure the NSA has met the standard of probable cause before authorizing the search or interception of their communications.

. . . unless the NSA director really wants to.  Or Eric Holder tells him to.  In which case, well, no need to bother with that warrant business.  Just go ahead.  Seriously, it must be a cush gig being a FISA Court judge nowadays.  Why would anyone bother them for anything?

But this is okay, since they only do that when their chasing terrorists.  Right?

Surveillance Justification

Yes, terrorism.  And also protecting their employees.  And also any imminent “threat”.  And also . . . any other laws they need to enforce.

Well, okay, no 4th Amendment for bad guys.  Good guys, we law-abiding folks, we are still secure.  Right?

Collection Definition

Oh.  I’m not sure what “intelligible form” means in the context of electronic communications, but I’m guessing it means “looking at it”, and I’m not sure if that covers an automated scan of the communications by a computer.  Otherwise, the government can collect, process, and store our communications without restraint.

After, reading this, I’m pretty sure that the IO program would probably prevent some mid-level staffer at NSA from using spy satellites to cyber-stalk her ex.  Otherwise, I’m not seeing much in the way of oversight.  I can’t see what would prevent the Attorney General from sic’ing the IC on, say, the TEA party on a trumped up charge of violating tax-exempt status, for instance.

Constitutional Government:  it was fun while it lasted.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The IDC and Battered-Wife Syndrome

I really want to like Ted Cruz.  Of the remotely plausible nominees in 2016, he is the only one yet to emerge who might yet tempt me to vote Republican.  But this kind of thing pisses me off:

Cruz, the keynote speaker at the new "In Defense Of Christians" organization's dinner in Washington DC, had offered the crowd--a number of whom were Christians from the Middle East, including Palestinian Christians--public support for Israel. After doing so, some members of the crowd booed at Cruz, and they persisted until he left the stage, noting their hatred and saying he can't stand with them if they don't stand with Israel.

"Tonight, in Washington, should have been a night of unity as we came together for the inaugural event for a group that calls itself 'In Defense of Christians.' Instead, it unfortunately deteriorated into a shameful display of bigotry and hatred," Cruz said in a statement provided to Breitbart News. "When I spoke in strong support of Israel and the Jewish people, who are being persecuted and murdered by the same vicious terrorists who are also slaughtering Christians, many Christians in the audience applauded.  But, sadly, a vocal and angry minority of attendees at the conference tried to shout down my expression of solidarity with Israel."

Right.  Because Christians and Jews are totally in the same boat . . . except the part about having their own regionally-dominant ethno-state with a government that vigorously prosecutes their interests.  And also the part about having their co-ethnics occupy the commanding heights of every sector of the world's only superpower, from whence they provide their ethno-state with financial, military and diplomatic cover.

Middle-east Christians, in contrast, do not have their own state, and the superpower elites treat them and their co-religionists with indifferent contempt at best, active hostility at worst.  So for Ted Cruz to hijack a forum dedicated to their plight into yet another rant about "anti-Semitism" was . . . obtuse if not disingenuous.

The appropriate response to which was stone silence.  But instead some number of hot-heads decided go with epic stupidity and boo off the podium the only politician condescending to meet with them!  Goodgodalmighty, it's harder to think of a better example of an own-goal than this.  That some number of IDC attendees couldn't restrain themselves speaks to their enduring loyalties to the very people from whom they are seeking protection and their concomitant hostility towards the one government that isn't trying to kill them. 

Good move, guys.  REAL slick.  Breibart's article is going to take you a decade to live down, and all politicians will flee from your approach, because if you force them to choose between you and the people who bankroll their campaigns, it won’t be a close call.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In Loco Parentis Returns

Via Volokh, a Michael Yaki on the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights:

COMMISSIONER YAKI: [The prohibition on the execution of minors] has to do with science, and it has to do with the fact that more and more the vast majority, in fact I think overall in bodies of science is that young people, not just K through 12 but also between the ages of 16 to 20, 21 is where the brain is still in a stage of development.

It is not, and those studies by the way were utilized by the Supreme Court to rationalize why killing a minor was unconstitutional because in large part notwithstanding the fact that they did commit a crime and the court made it very clear, they weren’t going to excuse them from committing a crime.

Certain factors in how the juvenile or adolescent or young adult brain processes information is vastly different from the way that we adults do.

So when we sit back and talk about what is right or wrong in terms of First Amendment jurisprudence from a reasonable person’s standpoint, we are really not looking into the same referential viewpoint of these people, of an adolescent or young adult, including those in universities.

. . . .

And because of that, and because of the unique nature of a university campus setting, I think that there are very good and compelling reasons why broader policies and prohibitions on conduct in activities and in some instances speech are acceptable on a college campus level that might not be acceptable say in an adult work environment or in an adult situation.

And I am just trying to figure out from you how you square your reliance on this kind of personal and jurisprudent line in the atmosphere of colleges and universities as you have a population of young people, who for lack of a better word, don’t process in the same way that we do when we’re in our late 20s and 30s.

Volokh has his own criticisms, but I wan to point this out as another example of how, in the mouths of Leftists, "Freedom!" is just another bid for power. Leftists rest secure in the knowledge, however inconsistent their new-found enthusiasm for shepherding the unformed characters of college students along paths of righteousness is with, say, their advocacy of their rights to screw and vote for Democrats, these rights will remain secure. But if you want to exercise other rights, such as speech, press, and assembly, well, you'd better be communicating the Leftists' approved message. Or else!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Evolved Morality

In an excellent essay over at Unz (via Vox*), Fred Reed challenges John Derbyshire on evolution:

(2) Morality. In evolution as I understand it, there are no absolute moral values: Morals evolved as traits allowing social cooperation, conducing to the survival of the group and therefore to the production of more surviving children. The philosophical case for this absence of absolutes usually consists in pointing out that in various societies everything currently regarded as immoral has been accepted as acceptable (e.g., burning heretics to death).

I cannot refute the argument. However, I thnk it intellectually disreputable to posit premises and then not accept their consequences.

Question: Why should I not indulge my hobby of torturing to death the severely genetically retarded? This would seem beneficial. We certainly don’t want them to reproduce, they use resources better invested in healthy children, and it makes no evolutionary difference whether they die quietly or screaming.

I can speak for neither Derbyshire or atheism, but I would think the short answer would be: because if you indulged such a hobby, you would be executed. And avoiding execution is rational behavior, reproductively speaking.

But this isn't what Fred means, and in fact the problem of morality is one that Fred, as a self-described "thoroughgoing agnostic" must himself wrestle with. Fred is asking Darwinists to justify such prohibitions in terms of group survival.

A self-aware Darwinist ought to reply that humanity didn't really evolve to believe in Darwinism or apply it consistently. The moral modalities that we did evolve cause us to be sentimental about even genetically defective offspring, and that the cost of overcoming such sentimentality is too steep for Fred's hobby to justify.

* It is most unfortunate that Vox Day is now required to share half his name with Ezra Klein's lame-assed website.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Trannies Ruin Everything

This summer, for the first time, the changing room door at the base pool greeted me with the following sign:


So, apparently we’re supposed to wear clothes in the shower now.  Who does that?

Welcome to Tranny World!  Now that transsexuals are a protected class for federal employment, this the government’s way of addressing the expected situation when a man – you know, the kind with a penis – insists on using the women’s shower room because Diversity! and Tolerance!:  make everybody keep their clothes on.

As it happened, I ignored the sign, so far without repercussions.  I assume it will only be enforced when someone complains, like the restrictions on opposite-sex children in the changing rooms.

Parenthetically, I discovered that the women in my family don’t like gang showers.

But you get to shower with girls, I protested.  How cool is that!

Not very cool, it turned out.

I’ve never taken a poll of women’s locker rooms, but most of the men’s locker rooms at the gyms I’ve used have had gang showers.  These have been at high school, university, military bases, or municipal owned gyms.  Very few have been private chains, although I did happen to use an LA Fitness last year that had stalls.  My present base has two outdoor pools, one with gang showers, one with stalls, which is exceptional.  Most of the gyms have stalls available but my impression has been that these have been for intended for handicapped people.

I’ve been using gang showers since 9th grade in high school when the PE teacher told us we had to start taking showers.  Yes, it was weird, at first, but the awkwardness of adolescence was still fresh.  I assumed that self-consciousness around members of the same sex was something that everyone outgrew, but I don’t actually know (since it’s not something we talk about).  Do women tend to remain self-conscious around strangers?

Monday, September 01, 2014

Adventures in Charity

On Thursday, I received the following email from SumOfUs:

[Trigger warning: racist language]

GoFundMe, the world’s #1 personal fundraising site, is raising money for the cop who brutally shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. And worse, the fundraiser is celebrating the teenager's brutal death -- and GoFundMe is profiting from it. That's why we're partnering with ColorofChange on their campaign to stop this disgusting fundraiser immediately.

It’s like shooting ducks in a barrel:  the fundraiser isn’t celebrating anything, it’s raising money for the defense of Darren Wilson.  And GoFundMe is an open forum, allowing any fundraisers, including one for a Michael Brown memorial, on a non-discrimination basis.

Tell GoFundMe to delete its shameful fundraising page immediately and return the profits it made off Mike Brown's death.

The fundraiser for Darren Wilson, the officer responsible for killing Michael Brown, has already raised over $400,000 for his potential legal fees, relocation costs and living expenses. And now, donors are getting tax deductions for their donations, because a non-profit has stepped up to collect the donations.

I went to the GoFundMe homepage, where the Michael Brown Memorial is, as of this writing, prominently featured.


I did a search on Darren Wilson:


He’s not on the first page of results, though we have lots of other variations on “Darren”.

Let’s try adding the charitable organization doing the fundraising, Shield of Hope:


Wow, that’s discouraging.  Maybe searching on Ferguson, MO would find it.


Apparently, GoFundMe hosts a LOT of fundraisers in support of the anti-white protestors.  But does the Darren Wilson fundraiser really exist?  Let’s try Google:


Weirdly, the first Google link, and the only link to GoFundMe, is to the old, non-tax-deductible page.  The new page is here.  The old page linked to the new page on Thursday, but now doesn’t.  For this, I have no explanation.  I have added the new page link to the sidebar to replace the Zimmerman Legal Defense Fund link.

Continuing with the SoU email:

The comments on the fundraising page are ultimate proof of why we have to stop this hateful effort now:

“I thank all Police…protecting normal Americans from aggressive and entitled primitive savages."

“Let this ‘GoFundMe' serve as an example to all cops in America: The general public will support you, especially if you pull the trigger on violent criminal thugs.”

I assume that this is as racist as the comments ever got, else they would have used the more racist language.  But the comments seem to describe Michael Brown perfectly.