Thursday, September 29, 2016


New research involving six police departments in the U.S. and the U.K. tracking nearly 1.5 million officer-hours found a striking 93% reduction in public complaints against police officers. 

The researchers conclude that the consistent use of body-mounted cameras has a dramatic positive impact on people's behavior and on police officers' compliance with correct procedures. In effect, bodycams make cooler heads prevail.

Police officer with body-mounted camera--Credit Ryan Johnson

"Cooling down potentially volatile police-public interactions to the point where official grievances against the police virtually vanished may well lead to the conclusion that the use of body-worn cameras represents a turning point in policing," says Barak Ariel, a criminologist at Cambridge University, in the U.K., and lead author of the study, which appears in the journal Criminal Justice and Behaviour.

With the current challenge to police credibility due to a seemingly endless stream of officer-involved shootings, the resistance of some police officers to the use of bodycams, and many states restricting access to videos from police encounters, this research--one of the largest randomized and controlled experiments in the history of criminology--deserves to be taken seriously by police departments across the U.S. Video footage may show some officers acting badly, but overall it appears to protect the police and the public.

Friday, September 23, 2016


You've may have heard about dudes "rollin' coal"--modifying their diesel trucks to belch clouds of oily smoke.

Credit: Wikipedia

Sometimes they blast out the soot on the open road, but at times the blasts target bicyclists, pedestrians, and--a favorite--those environmentalist Prius drivers. 

You can see rollin' coal in action here

It's not cheap. According to Wikepedia, it can cost up to $5000 to make the changes.

What's the payoff? I'm guessing it's basically the pleasure of saying "fuck you" to the world, written in black smoke. The bigger and blacker the cloud, the stronger the statement.

Finding out about rollin' coal helped me to wrap my head around Trump's core supporters, and especially why it is that the worse Trump acts the more popular he gets. (See my post, "Most Trump Supporters Extremely Enthusiastic," Sept. 16, 2016, or at the Daily KOS).

Like the good old boys rollin' coal, Trump gives his followers a thrill and an ego boost every time he insults women, threatens to ban Muslims, deport Mexicans, stop and frisk African Americans, or floats a mind-bending new lie. The more outrageous the statement, the more exciting it is, especially when it elicits outraged howls from such despised others as liberals, progressives, and the press.

You can read a similar take on the smug satisfaction Trump and his Alt-Right supporters get from saying (and soon doing) outrageous things in a piece by Jeremy Sherman at this URL

As the pollsters and pundits have been saying for months, there are a lot of aggrieved and angry people out there. I respect their intelligence enough to find it hard to believe that many of them really think that Trump can or will live up to his grandiose promises--re-open the coal mines, bring back all those blue-collar jobs, make America great again, whatever that means, and actually make their lives better in any tangible way. With the exception, of course, of his billionaire backers, who will make billions more through deregulation of financial markets.

But the aggrieved and angry can see that Trump is making the lives of the rest of us worse every time he opens his mouth. What a rush that must be. 

Credit: Mike Licht/


10/4/18--Trump exhibited an especially ugly version of this in his mocking of sexual assault victim Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at a rally in Mississippi. As Atlantic author Adam Serwer summarized, "the cruelty is the point."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Link to Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight site

We've all heard of statistician and author Nate Silver's acumen in predicting the outcome of political races, not to mention baseball, football, Oscars, etc. 

Here's a link to the presidential page of his website, FiveThirtyEight, where you'll find great stats and probably the best available prognostics about Clinton vs. Trump, the state-by-state races, the Electoral College, etc.


As of today, 9/20/16, Silver is estimating Clinton's odds of winning at 56.2% vs 43.8% for Trump.

If you want to know what goes into his predictions, you can get all the details here.


In case you missed Stephen Colbert on The Late Show last night, he brilliantly took apart Trump's about-face on where Obama was born and his head-spinning claim that Hillary started the birther slur.


Why do antidepressants not always work?

As many people suffering from depression know all too well, even the best available antidepressant medications often don't work. A new study sheds some light on this problem.

Vincent Van Gogh/1890/Wikipedia

Silvia Poggini and her colleagues studied the effects of selective seretoninin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in mice.  Writing in the 27 July edition of Brain, Behavior and Immunity, they report that the SSRIs don't directly reduce depression, but instead seem to make the brain more responsive to the environment and more open to change.

“This work indicates that simply taking an SSRI is probably not enough. To use an analogy, the SSRIs put you in the boat, but a rough sea can determine whether you will enjoy the trip. For an SSRI to work well, you may need to be in a favorable environment, "says Poggini.

It's always a stretch to generalize from animal research to people, but this certainly suggests that people suffering from depression can't rely only on antidepressant medication, but need to work on their life circumstances as well.

Robert Reich on Trump vs. Hillary

If you're a progressive or undecided voter who finds it hard to like or trust either candidate, take a minute to read this piece by Robert Reich. 

Credit: Wikipedia

He takes on the "lesser of two evils" argument and explains very clearly why this is not the time for a protest vote or not to vote at all.

Saturday, September 17, 2016



--GEORGE ORWELL, Nineteen Eight-Four



Credit: Stephen Bettany

Doublethink at its best. The Ministry of Truth will be very busy rewriting the history of the last five years.

For a quick review of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, click here.

Friday, September 16, 2016


Polls show Clinton-Trump "enthusiasm gap."

According to the latest PDP tracking polls of likely voters, most supporters of Trump are highly enthusiastic about their candidate; far more than are excited about Hillary Clinton. 

PDP writes:

However, turnout in a close election will likely decide the winner of the race and, even though Mrs. Clinton definitely has the larger GOTV [get out the vote] operation, her supporters are markedly less enthusiastic than Trump voters. A whopping two-thirds (66%) say they are “Extremely Enthusiastic” about voting for Mr. Trump in November, while less than half (45%) say the same about voting for Mrs. Clinton. Another roughly one-fifth (22%) of Trump voters say they are “Very Enthusiastic” juxtaposed to 28% for Mrs. Clinton.

That makes 88% of Trump supporters either highly or extremely enthusiastic about him--so very likely to vote--vs. 73% for Clinton. We can expect to hear Trump bragging about that the next time he's in front of a TV camera.

But, more importantly, as PDP points out, " . . . turnout in a close election will likely decide the winner of the race . . . "

White nationalists are among Trump's enthusiastic supporters
Credit: Reuters;Chris Keane

Almost a century ago, in the aftermath of World War I, Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote in The Second Coming . . .

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Credit: Wonkette

Those of us who think that a a Trump presidency would be catastrophic in terms of human rights, the economy, the environment, jobs and climate--not to mention what having an angry, thin-skinned narcissist's finger on the nuclear trigger might mean--had best look to our own convictions and find our passion. As Hillary has pointed out, this isn't a reality show. In this election, it's our one and only reality that's at risk.

Note (January 5, 2017): It looks as though this post was right on target. Today, Nate Silver's 538 published an analysis entitled "Registered voters who stayed home probably cost Clinton the election.

It's no fun having been right in predicting a tragedy.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The "Big Splash" that formed the Moon was ten times bigger than we thought

Astronomers think that the Moon was formed when a Mars-sized planet smashed into the still-growing Earth some 4.5 billion years ago--a titanic collision often called the "Big Splash."

New high-precision comparisons of the ratio of potassium isotopes in rocks from the Earth and Moon make that collision even more catastrophic than previously thought—releasing so much energy that all of the impactor and most of Earth's mantle were splashed into orbit, forming a hot, dense rapidly-rotating disc from which the Moon quickly condensed.

Artist's conception of Moon-forming impact
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Our results provide the first hard evidence that the impact really did—largely--vaporize Earth,” says Kun Wang, a geoscientist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He and Harvard University researcher Stein Jacobsen detailed their findings in a Nature article published today.

Wang and Jacobsen developed analytic techniques that let them measure minute differences between Earth and Moon rocks for the first time. It turns out that Moon rocks have significantly more heavy isotopes of potassium than Earth rocks, which is best explained by partial condensation from a superheated disc with a high internal pressure. That, in turn, requires a collision ten times more powerful than previously estimated.

Old and new collision models: In the lower-energy collision (top), the Moon has no more heavy potassium than Earth. In the higher-energy collision (bottom), the Moon has more heavy potassium than Earth, as the new study found. Credit: Kun Wang

What was earlier hypothesized to be a Mars-sized object--named Theia after the mythological mother of Selena, the Moon--crashing into the proto-Earth might have been hurtling through space much more rapidly than thought, or it might have been much more massive, perhaps as large as Earth. “It does not have to be Mars-sized anymore,” says Wang.

Many scientists think that our unusually large Moon—one quarter of Earth's diameter—has played a vital role by stabilizing and slowing Earth's rotation, making it easier for life to develop here. If they're right, we may owe our existence to a 4-billion-year-old smashup that almost vaporized Earth.