Thursday, November 16, 2006

UCLA student Tasered in library for failure to show ID

Remember when Taser International said that their products would save law enforcement officers from having to use guns? UCPD were caught on video camera Monday night using the weapon four times on a student who refused to show ID in the main library.

The video and other witness accounts in today's Daily Bruin contradict the police version of events that the student was physically struggling and encouraging others to join in his "resistance." One officer threatened to use the Taser on another student who asked for his badge number.

Meanwhile, Assistant Chief of Police Jeff Young defends the officers by saying that Tasers are safer than batons. This is, of course, not true. More importantly, it is pointless. Police are not supposed to use batons to beat people for non-compliance with verbal commands or to threaten those who ask for their badge numbers.

Young also says that police didn't know the suspect was not armed. Unfortunately, police never actually know a negative fact like that, even if the suspect is naked, so accepting Young's argument would give police a right to do pretty much whatever they wanted.

I hope that UCPD takes a close look at its training and use policies and disciplines the officers. A surprising number of my classmates seem willing to defend the officers today, but I guess we didn't get here by questioning authority.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The worst idea since "Guns for Africa"

UCLA's student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, ran a column this morning advocating oral sex as a good way to protect yourself against HIV transmission. This is, for lack of a better word, retarded. Let's get a petition going to kick the writer out of school and refund to taxpayers any public money that has contributed towards his education.

"UCLA to blacks: You're welcome"

Am I the only person who found this to be an unfortunate headline for Rebecca Trounson's otherwise perfectly fine article in the LA Times about the debate over affirmative action in the UC system? Did the editors just not consider that the phrase has more than one meaning?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Calling all mutants, cheerleaders

Let's imagine for a moment that you sold your old car. You take the paperwork to the DMV to transfer the title. They take care of everything, but somehow forget to record it. Later, the buyer gets the car towed and impounded. Your name is on the title, so the collections agency comes after you. What do you do?

1) Pay the bill
2) Ignore the bill and hope nothing happens
3) Consult a lawyer.

If you answered 1, 2 or 3, you are not Erik Koland. Erik, who once talked his way onto the high school newspaper staff by describing his plans to hold an ultimate frisbee game pitting the school's mutants against its cheerleaders, has taken his one-man fight against Rickenbacker Collection Service onto the Myspaces. And he wants you to be his friend, provided, that is, you also hate Rickenbacker.

He describes his mission thusly:
"Rickenbacker has two key advantages: 1) You don't know towing, lien sale or collection laws [and] 2) You don't know anyone else who's experiencing the same problem. I am here to do my best to take away those advantages--and give us (the collections victims) the upper hand."
Honestly, how can you not be friends with a guy like that?

What other bloggers did while I was drinking

Whatever your opinion of (or the gerry-mandered winner-take-all system of American politics), being the group's top election-day caller in the entire nation is deserving of some kind of a prize.

The winner is Mountain View's own Wendy Fleet, former community access director director of KMVT better known around town as the lady with the Dream Peace sign (formerly Teach Peace) and in virtual reality as PogBlog. From 6:13 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. on Election Day, she made 500 phone calls, reaching 300 voters and 200 answering machines, more phone calls than any other MoveOn volunteer. (I made five, but then again I was otherwise occupied). Wendy estimates she made more than 2,280 calls in the 10 days before the election, reaching 600 people all over the country. (I'm trying to think what I did over that time period -- I think I went swimming a few times?) Her favorite exchanges are catalogued over on PogBlog.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The first decree is to legalize marijuana

Tenacious D had it right -- the tyranny and the bullshit's gone on too long.

Congressional Democrats have rolled out half a dozen initiatives remarkable mainly for their harmlessness. Raising the minimum wage, negotiating for Medicare drugs, making college tuition deductible (an idea that apparently came to them from an episode of the West Wing) are all politically palatable proposals, but they won't do much to address many of the country's most pressing problems. Meanwhile, calls are sure to grow to make truly difficult but necessary decisions -- things like signing the Kyoto Protocol, ending farm subsidies, instituting single-payer health care, and of course finding a solution to the situation we have created in Iraq.

Somewhere in between these two approaches is what I will call the Wiener platform. It focuses on ending policies that have failed so badly hardly anyone can honestly support them. This is not an argument against doing those other things, but I think these ought to be among the first priorities of the new Congress.

1) Decriminalize marijuana.
"It is recognized widely," writes Noam Chomsky, "that [the war on drugs] fails to achieve its stated ends, and the failed methods are then pursued more vigorously while effective ways to reach the stated goals are rejected. It is therefore natural to conclude that the drug war, cast in the harshly punitive form implemented since 1980, is achieving its goals, not failing."

2) End the embargo against Cuba.
Forty-five years in, and Cuba's still socialist. There's always next year. Even the Red Sox eventually won the World Series.

3) Classify SUVs as cars.
On average, the cars on American roads today get worse gas mileage than they did 20 years ago. The reason: in the twenty years since the end of mandatory increases in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, SUVs -- which are classified as light trucks under the law and therefore subject to lower standards -- have become far more popular.

There they are: three* proposals so clearly right you'd have to be with the terrorists to oppose them. Chip in here with your own ideas.

*Several of you are probably wondering why abolition of the penny did not make this list. I am retracting my previous support of that policy until I have more time to probe the $37,700 in campaign contributions from a copper company to Jim Kolbe, the retiring Arizona Congressman who sponsored the Currency Overhaul for an Industrious Nation Act. Arizona is the U.S. largest producer of copper, the main ingredient in nickels.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Morning in America

I woke up today at 6:45 to the following message on my phone from a teacher friend who "just had to say some things." Five points to any 1992 Bullis grad who can identify the caller based on the message alone:
Today is the greatest day on earth to be listening to conservative talk radio! [Unintelligible yelling]. I'm on my way to work! I'm listening to these [expletive deleted] complain and [expletive deleted] and moan and, and yell and (garbled) "WHAT WERE THESE PEOPLE THINKING?!" God I'm so happy! [expletive deleted] the conservatives, their kicking squirming moaning [expletive deleted] and they deserve to burn in hell!

[Deep breath] All right. Bye.
For the opposite end of the spectrum, Peter Daou over at Salon has compiled some of the most hysteric posts from the conservative blogs. This doesn't quite fit the definition, but Hugh Hewitt, who also says Santorum's loss is good for conservatives because it frees him up for the Supreme Court, might take the cake for most far-fetched rationalization:
[I]f you had told me in 1986 that 20 years later there would be a Republican president facing a 20 seat Democratic majority in the House and a two seat Democratic majority in the Senate --and that the Soviet Union had collapsed-- I'd have cheered long and loud.

A love letter to the people of Stockton

24 hours ago, I was perfectly sober. Ken Blackwell, Katherine Harris and Tan Nguyen all still held elected office. Donald Rumsfeld was still employed "overseeing" the war effort. Congress was completely devoid of former NFL quarterbacks. Perhaps worst of all, Richard Pombo was chairman of the House Resources Committee.

In all of the Pacific Time Zone, only a single Congressional seat changed hands last night. But the change in Pombo's 11th Congressional District was no ordinary takeover. It turned a seat that served as the launching pad for Pombo's efforts to gut the Endangered Species Act to a seat represented by a wind energy consultant.

People of the Central Valley, I take back everything bad I ever said about you. I wish I could give all of you (or at least 88,000 of you) a hug.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Erik Koalnd's reputation

Thank God Wolf Blitzer has failed to call several of today's House races. On the other hand, hahahahaha. As for the Senate, now has the odds the Dems will take over at close to 90%, Jim Webb (Virginia) and Claire McCaskill (Missouri) have already declared victory, and Erik Koland has staked his reputation on a Democratic sweep...

Drinking with Wolf

Here we are at the close of the first polls. So far, CNN has called races for Richard Lugar and Bernie Sanders, which they could have done this morning had they wanted.

This is the first election I have not had to work in years, so I am sitting here with my computer, Frank Rich's book and -- at least right now -- an 18-pack of Bud Light. Each time the Democrats take a Republican House seat, I'll be drinking one. (Hard alcohol for Senate seats). The liquor store is around the corner in the event I need more.

As an anonymous reporter friend said yesterday, cheers to alcohol poisoning.

Monday, November 06, 2006

You don't come here for the hunting, do you?

A common complaint about newspapers is that they will print all sorts of scandalous allegations on Page 1 and hide the correction somewhere that it will never be read.

You've got to give the Mountain View Voice credit. In the finest tradition of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader Dealer, which a couple of years ago issued a front page "clarification" apologizing for its failure to cover the civil rights movement, the Voice puts its corrections right where the errors are made -- the editor's column on Page 5. Prominently featuring the correction also has the added benefit of filling column inches on those rare weeks when there are no puns to be made about squirrels or restaurant Web sites.

(By the way, the title of this post refers to an obscure joke involving a grizzly bear repeatedly violating a hunter who is trying to kill him. The rather vague implication being that a columnist who repeatedly fills his columns with corrections of errors in previous columns may actually be making those errors on purpose. Sorry nobody got it).

A post for our Virginia readers

In the last installment of Congressional previews, I turn this space over to Mountain View's own Karen Meredith, appearing in an anti-George Allen ad funded by the Campaign for America's Future.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Everybody hates Katherine Harris

This might be piling on at this point, but I couldn't take all those notes on the Bill Nelson-Katherine Harris (U.S. Sen-Fla.) debate and not publish them, could I? (This, on the other hand, is definitely piling on).

Here are some choice bits from the woman who handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush. Direct quotes provided where possible.

On Vietnam: "The way we lost Vietnam is because Congress got involved."
On Cuba: "Our embargo [against Cuba] has worked."
On North Korea: The development of a nuclear program proves that Bill Clinton is to blame for the development of the nuclear program.
On global warming: "Global warming is a fact, but the scientists disagree on whether it is systemic or manmade. ... (walking towards the camera) ... We need to develop these alternative energy sources and we have made great progress in doing so."
The very first "alternative" energy source she cited? Drilling in ANWR, which she said can replace all the oil from Saudi Arabia. At this point, Bill Nelson stopped acknowledging her and began referring to himself in the third person in order to have a reasonable opponent to debate.

Harris continues to maintain that she is confident she will win despite a 30+ percentage point deficit in most polls. Too bad she's not Secretary of State anymore. Otherwise, she might still have a chance.