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Brent Kensey
A programmer turned Labor Board investigator with a love of potted plants, aquariums, smart phones and Chinese food.
A programmer turned Labor Board investigator with a love of potted plants, aquariums, smart phones and Chinese food.

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I did not know this.

Strangulation turned out to be a critical marker. Not only did it dramatically increase the chances of domestic-violence homicide, but only fifteen per cent of the victims in the study turned out to have injuries visible enough to photograph for police reports. As a result, the officers often downplayed the incidents, listing injuries like “redness, cuts, scratches, or abrasions to the neck.” And emergency rooms tended to discharge victims without CT scans and MRIs. What Strack and the domestic-violence community understand today is that most strangulation injuries are internal, and that the very act of strangulation turns out to be the penultimate abuse by a perpetrator before a homicide. “Statistically, we know now that once the hands are on the neck the very next step is homicide,” Sylvia Vella, a clinician and a detective in the domestic-violence unit at the San Diego Police Department, says. “They don’t go backwards.”

In many of those three hundred strangulation cases, Strack also saw that the victims had urinated or defecated—an act she chalked up to their fear. She spoke to an emergency-room physician named George McClane who offered her a very different view. Urination and defecation are physical functions, like sweating and digestion, that happen below our consciousness, and are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Sacral nerves in the brain stem—the final part of the brain to expire—control the sphincter muscles. So urination and defecation weren’t a sign of fear, McClane showed Strack, but rather evidence that every one of those victims had been mere moments away from death. And each one of those cases had been prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

This is changing. Slowly.

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Myths, fallacies and missing media messages about America's black communities.

Someone recently said this to me in a social post:
“I just can't understand how anybody can rally forces like this but still condone the violence and criminal element ...especially the killing your own race while saying black lives matter.... surely there has to be an issue with the value of life and respecting each other.... I just just wish they had a movement to stop that kind of stuff...”

I’ve seen this sentiment numerous times online:
“Black on black crime… If black lives don’t matter to black people, then why should they matter to anyone else?”

So, let’s take a second to get some education on these very valid thoughts/comments/questions.

1. Why don’t black people protest crime against their own in their communities?

They do. It just isn’t shown in the media because it isn’t “watchable.” There’s no drama, per se. You can read about some of those rallies and some well worded essayists thoughts, here:  and here: and here: 

A simple google search will net you quite a few stories along the lines of the three I’ve posted above.

Bonus: “Those black kids do so much bad because black fathers aren’t engaged in their childrens’ lives.” While there may be an issue with quantity, there’s no issue with engagement or quality. The CDC debunked that a while back:

2. Until black people fix their problems no one will care. The black community is its own problem. Or, black people are their own problem.

Black communities have worked their own problems but America has, time and again, destroyed any progress the “black community” has made. I know, I know, that sounds like the basis for some serious lack of personal responsibility and I still hold every individual accountable for their own well being but as an ethnic minority in this country, what you are seeing today has a root cause(s). The psychological slavery and oppression is very real. And the systemic oppression continues to this day. 

Here’s an archetypal example of a thriving black community that was wiped out by their fellow Americans. Many who’d just returned from fighting in WWII (you know, the ‘greatest generation’) and used the military training and weapons they’d brought home with them  to murder hundreds, maybe thousands of well off blacks:,_Tulsa#The_Black_Wall_Street

Here are some examples of systemic oppression which have helped crush and control black communities. Some still in practice to this day: 
Black Students In The U.S. Get Criminalized While White Students Get Treatment

Redlining, real wealth and  “extracting wealth from the nascent black middle class and moving it to white hands. An excellent post written by +Yonatan Zunger  This isn’t rhetoric, but fact/data driven analysis with research provided by Pew:

Some contributing factors to the disproportionate punitive actions often taken toward young black males. This one is from the American Psychological Association:

Another look at some of the root causes of the disparities in the communities. These are more historical:

Now, I could’ve laid this all out for you myself but I don’t want you to take my word for it. I’ve pointed you to links from some very credible NGO resources and trusted research entities because I want this info to be digested with as little perceived bias as possible. I know that removing all bias is impossible but at some point, when there’s a mountain of evidence for a thing, it speaks for itself.

Again, my intention with all of this is to educate and answer the question I’m seeing so often in social media concerning a perception that black communities don’t rally around the violence that comes from within the community and that, somehow, the people in that community are their own worst problem. No group of people intentionally WANTS to live in poverty or live in a perpetual state of poverty from generation to generation. Of course there are factors, both endogenous and exogenous, which contribute to the various maladies which allow these conditions to exist but to say “shame on them, they could just rise up and walk out of this problem,” belies a gross lack of understanding of the past and present forces acting on the black community.

If you have any questions about what I’ve posted and you think you’ll get brow beaten for expressing an unpopular opinion, feel free to hit me up privately. I will anonymously post your question in the comments and answer it there.

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Why We Positively, Absolutely, Can't Trust the Government with Encryption

By now you're hopefully aware that the U.S. federal government is engaged in a major effort to pressure technology firms like Google and Apple to provide "backdoors" into encryption systems (particularly for mobile devices) that are increasingly designed so that the firms themselves cannot even decrypt the data without cooperation from the devices' owners. Simultaneously, there are efforts to pressure Congress into mandating such backdoors if the firms refuse to voluntarily cooperate.

Despite the fact that essentially every reputable security, encryption, and privacy expert agrees that it is technically impossible to design such a backdoor that would not massively increase the potential for black-hat hacking -- and so dramatically decrease the security of these systems -- law enforcement continues to imply that if you don't see things their way -- well, perhaps you're not a loyal American.

This was very nearly stated explicitly by the FBI and CIA directors at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington yesterday, where the men bemoaned negative public opinion, "deep cynicism," and "venom" directed at the backdoor access plans -- with CIA Director John Brennan suggesting that persons promulgating these views "may be fueled by our adversaries."

Mr. Brennan's remark is reminiscent of President Richard Nixon's paranoid delusions that antiwar Vietnam protesters were all the puppets of ghostly Communist agents.

Well, Mr. Brennan, let me help set you straight regarding your comment, which I believe many of us in the technology community find to be extremely misguided and offensive.

We don't have any foreign masters. We simply don't trust you.

And it's not just you. Almost everywhere we look at the intersection of technology and any agencies involved even peripherally in law enforcement activities, there's a long list of lies, errors, mismanagement, screw-ups, and abuses galore.

It's an ironic situation to be sure, given that the technology displaying these very words at this very moment can trace their ancestry to a Department of Defense computer networking project.

But the sad truth is that at every level of government, no matter whether Democrats or Republicans are in power, it's generally the same story.

It starts at the local level, with municipalities lying to citizens about red light cameras, license plate readers, and police surveillance systems.

At the state level it moves up to abuse and foul-ups of DMV databases and more.

And at the federal level the list is almost too long to even begin. 

The recently revealed Office of Personnel Management hack exposed the personal data -- including sensitive security clearance applications and related forms -- of perhaps four million people or more. A 29-year-old contractor waltzes out of NSA with a thumb drive filled with reams of the agency's most sensitive documents.

No -- Mr. CIA Director and Mr. FBI Director -- you're not going to sell us your foreign influence bogeymen this time.

We simply believe that we cannot trust government agencies to have the honesty and competency to be entrusted with keys to our own encryption -- the security of which is rapidly becoming a fundamental requirement of our day-to-day lives.

Frankly, even if there were a magic wand that could create that impossible backdoor system in a seemingly secure and safe manner -- we still wouldn't and couldn't entrust you not to find avenues to abuse it.

This is overall a very unfortunate state of affairs, because yes, we know that encryption may be leveraged for evil in very serious ways.

But you still can't get blood out of a stone.

The technical reality is that the kinds of encryption backdoors you want cannot be made secure and would themselves represent horrific security risks.

Perhaps someday you'll find ways to earn back our trust. But all the trust in the world won't change the technical realities that make encryption backdoors a non-starter. 

And the sooner you understand these truths, the better it will be for us all.

-- Lauren --
I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so. All opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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This article interests me most for what it misses. 

The body of this article -- which is well-written and worth reading, if you care about the subject -- is about how it's suddenly become evident that Trump's loudly touted and not particularly covert brand of racism, isolationism, and xenophobia isn't just harmless and funny, after two of his followers beat a homeless man into the hospital for being Latino and then praised Trump's speeches while they were being arrested. 

But the interesting thing they miss is hidden in plain sight, right in the headline. For Trump to have stopped being funny, he had to have been funny in the first place. And that joke only ever worked for people with a certain kind of privilege.

Donald Trump has never been subtle about his views. While his hair and his general egomania may be clownish, he was always showing these things off while preaching about how we need to crack down on Latinos, Blacks, immigrants, the Chinese, whoever he's on about on any particular day. He was doing this while calling for mass deportations of tens of millions of people, closing borders, engaging in ludicrously heavy-handed "negotiations" with other countries, and so on. And this has been working: Trump's popularity is because there are people who wonder, "well, why not?" and there is someone out there advocating solutions which sound (a) simple, (b) brutal, and (c) based on beating up people whom they don't see as part of their own society, from whom they can simply "take back" their power. (Although, as these other groups never actually had any such power, what's really meant here is "take")

It is only possible to see that as a joke if you have never had a reason to fear ethnic violence. But the US has just as long and bloody a history of ethnic violence as it has a history. Nothing Trump is suggesting is new; you could have heard it 150 years ago from the Know-Nothing Party, or 100 years ago from the more political branches of the Klan, or 50 years ago from the John Birch Society, each with their own variants.

Nor is it a coincidence that Trump is having these successes in the midst of Black Lives Matter, or in the aftermath of GamerGate; there are powerful movements afoot in our society where groups that were previously excluded are demanding their fair share of the floor, and powerful counter-movements of people who suddenly feel that the one thing they had of their own -- complete dominance of some spaces -- is suddenly being taken away. Trump is a natural mouthpiece for these groups, and he's quite good at it.

(There's some question about whether Trump came out openly in support of GamerGate a few weeks ago, or whether this was just a rogue autoresponder that he let stand, but I would by no means be surprised if he were to say something about it at some point; the complaints of GamerGate align surprisingly well with his rhetoric)

And anyone who watches these issues knows that there is profound violence immediately on deck in all of them. GamerGate was awash in death threats, and a few actual attempts. Black Lives Matter was born in the wake of shootings, and the rate of violence by whites (and especially police) against black youth in this country has hardly decreased. 

You can see another version of this in the part of the Republican press which is highly anti-Trump, not least because Trump is completely disconnected from the party's main political organs. Consider this article by Ben Domenech from The Federalist, which is quite far to the right but unconnected with Trump: The essential meat of the article is that the party has underestimated Trump's appeal, and in order to curb his lunatic candidacy, the Republican Party should find a better way to express his ideas and so pull his followers back into the mainstream.

And what are these ideas? "White identity politics." Note that the article does not fear that these become part of the Republican platform; it fears that they will become such a large part that they overwhelm the rest of the platform, and so these need to be addressed in a careful way. But there's nothing wrong with pulling them in, Domenech says: "'Identity politics for white people' is not the same thing as 'racism,' nor are the people who advocate for it necessarily racist."

Pro tip: "identity politics based on racial categories" is actually the dictionary definition of racism, and "identity politics for white people" is the prototype example of the category. Domenech's article isn't about rejecting Trump's racism: it's about finding more socially acceptable ways to express it, so that it can be folded into the party mainstream without taking it over.

For those wondering about Trump from the outside, I can give a simple explanation of his politics: Trump is a classical European far-right party leader. This is why he seems a bit exotic by recent American standards: especially since the 1980's, the American far right has been dominated by the "theological" far right, a very distinctly American political movement which focuses on making the country explicitly into a Fundamentalist Christian country. Trump, although he speaks to a similar (and overlapping) group of people, isn't talking about religion at all; instead, you'll find his politics very similar to that of European far-right politicians, of the sort who like to put "National" in their party names.

On the European spectrum, Trump falls somewhat to the right of Jean-Marie le Pen, perhaps a shade left of the Golden Dawn, and somewhat more populist than Jobbik. If we were running in a parliamentary, rather than presidential, system, he would currently be at the head of a far-right party that was polling in the high teens, and press coverage would be worried about how many seats he would get and whether he would be able to force a coalition to join him. In the US system, he's instead at the head of a far-right wing of a party, and the question is whether he will be able to force the party to adopt his policies wholesale to avoid electoral defeat next year.

So that's the secret thing which this headline hides: Trump was only ever funny if you had never had a reason to be aware of, or to fear, ethnic or sexual violence tacitly supported by the state. 

If you've ever had to be aware of that before, Trump was never a joke.

h/t to +Lauren Weinstein for pointing out the Federalist article.

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+Colleen Whitney​​ I think this deserves an experiment.
+Kayla Sewell does this mean I can set the temp down to 71 during the day and 66 at night

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I was reading a book which included the phrase "in these days of political correctness..." talking about no longer making jokes that denigrated people for their culture or for the color of their skin.

And I thought, "That's not actually anything to do with political correctness.  That's just treating other people with respect."

I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase "politically correct" wherever we could with "treating other people with respect" and it made me smile.

You should try it.  It's peculiarly enlightening.

I know what you're thinking now.  You're thinking "Oh my god, that's treating other people with respect gone mad!"

-- Neil Gaiman​

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h/t +John Bowdre 
Very useful information from a few Google Researchers including one on my team. Definitely take a look at which side you fall on. There are a lot of good password managers out there, including Google Chrome's own password manager and the Mac OS X keychain. Personally, I use +LastPass to keep my passwords in sync across all platforms and browsers. Use what feels right for you, but for your own sake, please use something. Sticky notes on your monitor are not a good strategy.

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My feelings about the death penalty are fairly complex: I don't have a simple argument that fits neatly into most political narratives. And I suspect that my readers have a fairly wide range of views as well. But I also suspect that there is one thing most of us can agree on: this man is rather frightening, and does not behave in a way that makes me think he is stable enough to be trusted with important responsibilities.

One thing which this highlights is a key article which influenced the recent Supreme Court case on the death penalty, Glossip v. Gross, about the geography of the death penalty:

What's stunning is the geographic variation with which it's applied. Rather than measuring at the state level, as most previous studies did, Smith examined the death penalty at the county level, and found that the variation is far greater than previously expected. It turns out that only 121 counties (out of a total of 3,143 in the US) account for 76% of all death sentences; twenty-nine of those counties alone accounted for 44%. 

In the news article below, Smith commented that his study did not actually drill down far enough: in Caddo Parish, for example – one of those most active counties – the death sentences overwhelmingly came from cases prosecuted by one man, in this case, Dale Cox. And these dynamics do indeed seem to be tied to the person rather than the place: for example, when Lynne Abraham left her post as Philadelphia's DA, the rate of death sentences dropped by a factor of three.

The serious consequence of this is that not only is the death penalty being applied nonuniformly by race and class, and by geography, but it appears to be applied in a fashion determined overwhelmingly by the individual personalities of a handful of prosecutors across the country, who are responsible for the large majority of all death sentences. These prosecutors are not systematically in high-crime areas; other prosecutors in adjacent counties, or counties with comparable statistics, show radically incomparable numbers.

This is, in brief, fucked up. If a main function of the law is to render interactions between people more predictable, with known consequences for known actions, then to have this level of variation from county to county, or from prosecutor to prosecutor, destroys that predictability entirely. 

And quite besides that, it would seem that some of the prosecutors in question are of questionable stability. A man who describes his job goal as to "kill more people" (his words, and he has stood by them), who threatens defense counsel when they file opposing motions, and who will gladly give lectures about how (despite sharply declining murder rates) "we've become a jungle" and more killing is needed, does not strike me as the sort of person who necessarily should be in the streets unsupervised, much less acting with the power of life and death over others.

One thing which I feel very strongly about with regards to any form of justice, but especially with the death penalty: If you're going to do it, you have to do it right. This is not, by any standard, doing it right.
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