more good times with the TSA

Former TSA screener Jason Edward Harrington, author of the “Dear America, I Saw You Naked” piece, shares more good time recollections of his experiences with everyone's favorite federal agency.

The Parable of the Mashed Potato Police (POLITICO Magazine)

Another one: It’s 2010, and a passenger is trying to bring her live goldfish through security. One of my co-workers informs her that the fish can go through but the water cannot. The woman is on the verge of tears when a supervisor steps in to save the fish’s life.

school voucher programs have us paying to teach creationism

"“I don’t think the function of public education is to prepare students for the turn of the 19th century,” said Eric Meikle, project director at the National Center for Science Education." Pretty much says it all.

Special report: Taxpayers fund creationism in the classroom (POLITICO)

Taxpayers in 14 states will bankroll nearly $1 billion this year in tuition for private schools, including hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs, and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies.

Now a major push to expand these voucher programs is under way from Alaska to New York, a development that seems certain to sharply increase the investment.

Buffett’s billion-dollar bet proves the system's broken

The very fact that a single human being can control $1,000,000 -- the net worth of a thousand mere millionaires -- is conclusive proof of the brokenness of the system. This stunt just adds insult to injury

Warren Buffett’s Epic NCAA Humblebrag

Poverty is rampant. Wages are stagnating. Three quarters of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck. The unemployment rate remains persistently high and inequality has hit Gilded Age levels. Much of this has been exacerbated by a housing crisis and mortgage fraud. Yet, in the face of such emergencies, one of the world’s richest men joined a mortgage lender that sold shady loans to brag about their collective wealth. That’s the obvious takeaway as Buffett runs to fawning news outlets to proudly proclaim that it wouldn’t faze him in the least to write a billion-dollar check.

adults are nuts

Two stories from the "adults are nuts and should not be permitted to raise kids" file. First up, blaming the victim of bullying:

School Bully Concerns - WLOS News13 - News - Top Stories (WLOS News13)

A mother and her 9-year-old son say school officials won't let him bring a My Little Pony bag to school.

...

Noreen Bruce, Grayson's mom, "it's promoting friendship, there's no bad words, there's no violence, it's hard to find that, even in cartoons now."

But Noreen says Thursday the school asked him to leave the bag at home because it had become a distraction and was a "trigger for bullying."

You know what's a trigger for bullying? Adults who let bullies get away with it.

Second, "Oh my God! He's got a spoon!"

On knife-crime island, teens are not allowed to buy spoons (Boing Boing)

The UK tabloid press spent a decade drumming up hysteria about teenage knife-crime, and MPs responded on cue, passing a series of meaningless, overbearing feel-good measures that require shops to refuse to sell anything knife-like to teenagers -- meaning that seventeen-year-old art students can't buy xacto blades, and 16-year-old carpenter's apprentices can't buy utility knives.

This silliness has burrowed deep into the automated systems and psyches of English society. A 16 year old boy who tried to buy a pack of teaspoons at a Tesco automated checkout was flagged for an "age check," and when an employee came to check it out, she or he explained to the teen that he was not allowed to buy any cutlery at all.

commuters make rain more likely on weekends?

Yet another way our actions affect the environment.

There is a scientific reason why it always rains on weekends (io9)

If you are in the northeastern United States, and yet another weekend has been ruined by rain, feel free to lean your head out a window and scream at a motorist. They are, for the most part, to blame. In 1998, a group of scientists at Arizona State University analyzed data going back to the 1940s, and found that a disproportionate amount of rain was hitting on weekend days. Since the seven day week isn't natural, they went looking for some unnatural causes of the wet weekends.

...

These aerosols act as little seeds to which water droplets can cling. As the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere grows over the week, more liquid water condenses around these little particles. When enough water groups together, it starts to rain. As we drive, or otherwise churn out gas, dust, and liquid, we are seeding the clouds.

But it's not as simple as just cloud seeding. Later studies, which focused on the southern part of the eastern seaboard have found that, when it comes to massive thunderstorms and tornadoes, people need to brace themselves midweek during the summer.

"pre-crime" pseudoscience in Chicago

Yet another reason why using the tools of public health -- rather then actual criminology -- to investigate crime is a bad idea.

Chicago PD's Big Data: using pseudoscience to justify racial profiling (Boing Boing)

The Chicago Police Department has ramped up the use of its "predictive analysis" system to identify people it believes are likely to commit crimes. These people, who are placed on a "heat list," are visited by police officers who tell them that they are considered pre-criminals by CPD, and are warned that if they do commit any crimes, they are likely to be caught.

The CPD defends the practice, and its technical champion, Miles Wernick from the Illinois Institute of Technology, characterizes it as a neutral, data-driven system for preventing crime... He compares it with epidemiological approaches, stating that people whose social networks have violence within them are also likely to commit violence.

the spectre of the gun

In American culture, guns have long since ceased to be actual objects. They are instead sub-cultural touchstones, objects of fear and loathing by one side, of veneration on the other. Today's news offers the perfect juxtaposition of stories to illustrate.

In Columbus, Ohio, a boy was suspended for pointing his fingers pistol-style at another student:

Boy points finger like gun, gets suspended (The Columbus Dispatch)

A Columbus principal suspended a student for three days last week after the child pointed a "lookalike firearm” at another student in class and pretended to shoot.

The boy’s age? 10. The “level 2 lookalike firearm” cited in his suspension letter? His finger.

Meanwhile, at the National Harbor just outside of DC, Republican Senator and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came onto the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference with a rifle raised over his head:

Mitch McConnell Brandishes Gun at CPAC (ABC News)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came onto the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference today brandishing [...] a long gun.

McConnell held the rifle over his head and the CPAC crowd loved it.

Moments later, McConnell handed the gift, a lifetime achievement award from the National Rifle Association, to his retiring colleague, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, who is leaving his term early for health reasons.

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London Jewish school blocks evolution questions from test

Religiously-based hostility to science: it's not just for American Christians.

Exam board contacts Jewish school over censored GCSEs (the Guardian)

A state-funded orthodox Jewish girls' school in north London has been criticised after it was discovered that dozens of pupils had their GCSE exams censored, with questions about evolution deliberately blacked out of science papers.

...

Yesodey Hatorah is a voluntary-aided all-girls school, meaning it is fully funded by the government but retains full power over its own admissions procedure. According to the school's prospectus it gives priority to admitting "Charedi Jewish girls who meet the Charedi criteria as prescribed by the rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations."

Charedi Jews are often described as strictly Orthodox Jews, with Stamford Hill home to Europe's largest community of Orthodox Judaism.

being caged by Obama's cannabis crackdown

Obama's cowardice on cannabis is having real effects on people's lives.

'I'm Going To Prison For Working At A Pot Shop That Was Legal In My State' (The Huffington Post)

We hired lawyers from day one. We were entirely compliant with state law. It was shortly after the federal government said it would not intervene if people followed state law. We wanted to abide by the rules. None of us had criminal backgrounds. We’re all regular guys. The only reason we got into this was because the federal government said they wouldn’t intervene.

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I didn’t find out until shortly before the actual sentencing that I would have to go to jail. The prosecutor recommended 24 to 30 months, and I was sentenced to two years in December. I guess I got the lower end of the sentence.

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It boils down to the feds wanting to make an example out of us. There’s no rhyme or reason, no formulas, like the feds saying you have too many patients or you have too many profit dollars. And actually, we really weren’t making that much money because we were just reinvesting into the company. And I didn’t see any of that anyways. I just had a modest salary. President Obama saying that marijuana is like a vice similar to alcohol, maybe there’s a bigger strategy there and he’s trying to ramp up for a bigger policy change. But the snapshot of right now -- it couldn’t be a more insulting slap in the face.

Maine GOP Rep. "apologizes" for justifying rape by comparison w/ abortion

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner in this week's douchebag politician competition.

Republican lawmaker very sorry he said men should be able to rape women if abortion is legal

In the early 1990s, Lockman was active on the issue of abortion. He became a director of the Pro Life Education Association and in 1990 was quoted as saying “If a woman has (the right to abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”

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Having been exposed as a prolific and outspoken bigot, Lockman promptly issued a statement arguing that the decades he spent publicly expressing his political views and opinions have, apparently, nothing at all to do with how he legislates today.

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