24 Jun

Another kid lies dying at the hands of SWAT teams looking for drugs via no-knock warrant

This is heart breaking, and a huge problem. There was a no-knock raid down in Lima where SWAT walked over toys and ended up killing a kid.

It’s far too common.

If a kid dies every single person on that SWAT team should have to go to the funeral and apologize, and help, and be court-ordered to do public service.

Because this is bullshit.

“After the SWAT team broke down the door, they threw a flashbang grenade inside. It landed in my son’s crib.

Flashbang grenades were created for soldiers to use during battle. When they explode, the noise is so loud and the flash is so bright that anyone close by is temporarily blinded and deafened. It’s been three weeks since the flashbang exploded next to my sleeping baby, and he’s still covered in burns.

There’s still a hole in his chest that exposes his ribs. At least that’s what I’ve been told; I’m afraid to look.

My husband’s nephew, the one they were looking for, wasn’t there. He doesn’t even live in that house. After breaking down the door, throwing my husband to the ground, and screaming at my children, the officers – armed with M16s – filed through the house like they were playing war. They searched for drugs and never found any.

I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him. He screamed at me to sit down and shut up and blocked my view, so I couldn’t see my son. I could see a singed crib. And I could see a pool of blood. The officers yelled at me to calm down and told me my son was fine, that he’d just lost a tooth. It was only hours later when they finally let us drive to the hospital that we found out Bou Bou was in the intensive burn unit and that he’d been placed into a medically induced coma.”

(Via A SWAT team blew a hole in my 2-year-old son – Salon.com.)

14 Jun

Bulletproof blankets points the saddest picture about America

This is the saddest news story about America:

The alarming rate of school shootings across the country appears to have added an unsettling new item to parents’ list of “back to school” items: bulletproof armor for their children. Among such items, the Bodyguard Blanket, a portable, bulletproof covering for children, has seen its sales exceed its manufacturer’s expectations in less than two weeks on the market.

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This is surrender.

It puts the onus of survival on kids.

Kids, man.

Not adults fixing the root of a larger issue. Kids are expected to just deal with shooters, not in the way it works for sure in other countries which don’t have the death by random shooters stats we do, but by crouching on the floor with a blanket.

Meanwhile, a graph of school shootings:

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These shootings are increasingly more tied to rural and suburban schools, where the focus and obsession is with school.

I guess this hits close to home for me, my kids are going to kindergarten next year. I live in exactly the sort of community that harbors and creates people who think, collect, and act like this.

Time to work harder, save money.

07 Apr

Metro areas reponsible for most of America’s population growth now

The US is an urban nation (as far as how people actually choose to live), even though its mythologies and politics often don’t reflect that as much as they need to.

Neat map:

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“Nearly one in seven Americans lives in the metropolitan areas of the country’s three largest cities: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.”

(Via Metropolitan areas are now fueling virtually all of America’s population growth.)

06 Sep

How Tipping Actually Works

Read the below (snagged via Madeline Ashby on twitter), then re-read my notes about the Tipless Restaurant. I got a lot of angry ‘tipping creates a direct incentive for better service nyar nyar’ emails/twitters when I last posted about this.

This shit still don’t make sense, man:

“Many restaurants allot payout via a points system, in which tips are pooled, then distributed at the end of the night. Think that the extra amount you’re penciling in goes into the pocket of helpful waitress Lauren or bartender Steve? Well, not quite.

*And here, we are talking about New York City; practices vary across this nation of ours.

Here’s An Example

Head down the math road with me for just a mo’.

Let’s take a medium-sized Manhattan establishment, a restaurant with a decent-sized bar. Say there are 2 bartenders, 6 servers, 2 bussers and 2 runners. And let’s say, in this establishment, that the servers and bartenders get 10 points and everyone else gets 5. (There should probably be more staff and the runners might make more than the bussers, but I needed an example with nice round numbers, ‘kay?)

That’s 8 ten-pointers (2 bartenders, 6 servers) and 4 five-pointers (2 bussers, 2 runners), making for 100 points in total (8×10 + 4×5). Let’s say the restaurant took in $3,000 in tips last night. Under this system, each ‘point’ is worth $30 ($3000 total intake/100 total points). Thus, the bartenders and servers get $300 each. The other folks, $150. Not too bad.

Now let’s say your server was terrible. Totally distant and indifferent, mixed up orders, left you alone for long periods of time, spilled something on your date and didn’t apologize, screwed up the check. First of all: you might want to mention something to the manager, rather than just take it out in a tip. But it’s an understandable impulse to tip less. Let’s say your dinner was $100. You’d usually tip $20; tonight, you tip $5. That’ll show him!”

(Via Ask the Critic: Here’s How Tipping Actually Works | Serious Eats : New York.)

09 Jun

Is the US a place you must now flee?

I find this to be quite troubling:

“Americans are familiar with stories of dissidents fleeing repressive regimes such as those in China or Iran and seeking asylum in the United States. Snowden is in the opposite position. He’s an American leaving the land of his birth because he fears persecution.

Four decades ago, Daniel Ellsberg surrendered to federal authorities to face charges of violating the Espionage Act. During his trial, he was allowed to go free on bail, giving him a chance to explain his actions to the media. His case was eventually thrown out after it was revealed that the government had wiretapped him illegally.

Bradley Manning, a soldier who released classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, has had a very different experience. Manning was held for three years without trial, including 11 months when he was held in de facto solitary confinement. During some of this period, he was forced to sleep naked at night, allegedly as a way to prevent him from committing suicide. The United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture has condemned this as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 16 of the convention against torture.’”

(Via Has the United States become the type of nation from which you have to seek asylum?.)

There used to be a tongue in cheek statement made by some people who would critique US policy and be told by people to leave the country. They’d say “Yeah, but I’d rather suffer American domestic policy than American foreign policy.”

In some cases, the two are now lining up…

12 Apr

David Farland’s lack of insurance due to refusal of insurers to let him sign up for a plan

By 2050 40% or so of the US workforce is expected to be flexible or freelance. Despite the legions of vitriol against health care reform of any kind, right now things like this happen, when freelancers with preexisting conditions can be denied healthcare by companies and thus put their families at risk:

“Through no fault of his own, Farland cannot obtain medical coverage due to pre-existing health conditions. His wife did have a job that allowed them to carry group health insurance, but got laid off during the worst of the recession. When asked how authors survive these kinds of disasters, Farland answered, ‘It’s only through people working together. People are amazingly kind in times like this.'”

(Via Army of Friends Rally Around Best-Selling Author David Farland.)

The current system is due to change next year, due to the reforms that are coming down the pipe. Alas, this happened a year too early for Farland’s family.

This wasn’t a case of someone just not getting health insurance and gambling his family’s life, according to the story above, but a horrible and unique creation of the existing system that conservatives are fighting hard to keep in place, one that forces us to depend on employers and fear being laid off lest things just like this happen.

Consider helping however you can.

By the way, this could have been me. My genetic heart defect means American companies can, until 2014, refuse to even take my offered money if I wanted to get healthcare. Current we’re insured via my wife, but even if I made enough for her to leave her job, I couldn’t get covered due to the same issue.

Outraged?

You should be.

25 Mar

NPR on the movement of people from welfare to disability in America

This NPR story about how unintentional affects of trying to get people off welfare (change welfare as we know it, pressure being intense from Reaganite America being terrified of possible moochers) and individual states saving money by not having people on welfare, has let to an industry of people who help people get on disability instead. The problem? Once you’re in disability, the incentive is for you to stay there (thus actually increasing and cementing what the people who are terrified of welfare fear). The backlash to this will be strong in all quarters, and people who actually need disability will get caught up on it, but it’s important to pore over the lessons learned and read this whole article, regardless of your political persuasion:

“A person on welfare costs a state money. That same resident on disability doesn’t cost the state a cent, because the federal government covers the entire bill for people on disability. So states can save money by shifting people from welfare to disability. And the Public Consulting Group is glad to help.

PCG is a private company that states pay to comb their welfare rolls and move as many people as possible onto disability. ‘What we’re offering is to work to identify those folks who have the highest likelihood of meeting disability criteria,’ Pat Coakley, who runs PCG’s Social Security Advocacy Management team, told me.

The company has an office in eastern Washington state that’s basically a call center, full of headsetted women in cubicles who make calls all day long to potentially disabled Americans, trying to help them discover and document their disabilities:”

There’s a reason PCG goes to all this trouble. The company gets paid by the state every time it moves someone off of welfare and onto disability. In recent contract negotiations with Missouri, PCG asked for $2,300 per person. For Missouri, that’s a deal — every time someone goes on disability, it means Missouri no longer has to send them cash payments every month. For the nation as a whole, it means one more person added to the disability rolls.

(Via Unfit for Work: The startling rise of disability in America | Planet Money.)