Archive for the "Politics" Category

NYPD hits new stop-and-frisk record

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

nycluLast night on NY1 I heard about some new stats released by the NYPD. This morning I read the full story on NY1.  But by far the best source of information about this record number of stop-and-frisks is the NYCLU report. Here are some choice quotes:

According to an NYPD report obtained by the NYCLU and released today, police stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 171,094 times between January and March – a record for total stops. Nearly nine out of 10 of these stops resulted in no charges or citations. This record number of stops fell disproportionately on the city’s communities of color – 89,000 of those stopped were black and 56,000 were Latino, while only 16,000 were white.

To get a better sense of the magnitude of this problem, that’s about 1900 people a day that NYPD stopped, and of those about 1710 people a day were innocent and were released.  Additionally this is a 22% increase from the same time period last year.

What’s even more disturbing is that the names and addresses of everyone stopped are being recorded. I can’t really say it better than Donna Lieberman – the NYCLU’s executive director:

“Every year hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers are stopped, searched and interrogated by the police for doing nothing more than walking down the street,” Lieberman said. “We are deeply concerned about this practice and about racial profiling by the police, and we believe the department must take aggressive measures to address this problem.”

And some more from the NYCLU’s Associate Legal Director:

“The NYPD is, in effect, building a massive database of black and brown New Yorkers,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “Innocent New Yorkers who are the victims of unjustified police stops should not suffer the further harm of having their personal information kept in an NYPD database, which simply makes them a target for future investigations.”

Take a look at the actual report from the NYPD (PDF) – really a fascinating document to browse through.  It even breaks down the incidents by reason for stop, including some really choice reasons like “suspicious bulge”, “hard object” (lmao, those two I had to include just for laughs), “area has high crime incidence”, “time of day fits crime incidence”, “wearing clothes commonly used in a crime”, “inappropriate attire for season”, etc.  So if you’re a guy leaving a strip club at night, in a shady part of town, with a huge bulge of dollar bills in the pocket, and happen to be wearing a rain coat and a boa scarf you just got as a gift – you’re quite likely to be stopped. I would imagine if you’re black or hispanic and fit that set of circumstances, you might as well not even go into the street.

Granted that hypothetical joke of a scenario is just comic relief.  The situation is quite serious and its pretty obvious that racial profiling is going on.  And check this out:

In the summer of 2007, the NYCLU served the NYPD with a formal legal request to turn over the complete stop-and-frisk database under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. The Department resisted transparency and so, in November 2007, the NYCLU filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging the NYPD. In May of 2008, the NYCLU won that case and received the database in October, 2008. The NYCLU is currently analyzing that database and will publish its findings this year.

I’m not a big fan of conspiracy theories, but this kind of thing makes you think twice.  We’ll see what the NYCLU finds after they’re done with their analysis of this DB. If you live in NY, join the NYCLU, membership is only $20/year and only $5/year for students, or join the ACLU or your local *CLU. And if you’re already a member, donate, the NYCLU is a non-profit and the donations are fully tax-deductible.

Iceland’s government topples amid financial mess

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Looks like the current Global Recession has now added Iceland to its “wall of shame”.  Iceland’s government topples amid financial mess – at least that’s how the Associated Press describes it.  Public dissent has caused the government to disband itself.

Iceland has been mired in crisis since October, when the country’s banks collapsed under the weight of debts amassed during years of rapid expansion.

The value of the country’s krona currency has plummeted, hitting many Icelanders who took out special loans denoted in foreign currencies for new homes and cars during the boom years. In addition, Iceland must repay billions of dollars to Europeans who held accounts with subsidiaries of collapsed Icelandic banks.

Haarde’s government has nationalized banks and negotiated about $10 billion in bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund and individual countries.

Wow, quite a stark picture of what happens when too much debt is amassed during “expansion years”.  Sounds familiar?  Yep, lets hope it doesn’t happen here.

Carnegie Mellon effected by the recession

Monday, January 26th, 2009

lvl_carnegiemellon_logoAccording to a story by the Associated Press, Carnegie Mellon is feeling the recession. CMU’s endowment investments dropped in value about 30 percent, and preparing for the long-term effects of this drop, the University froze salaries and hiring, and put capital projects on hold.

This is definitely troubling.  I suppose we’re just starting to see the long-reaching effects of the recession, but I didn’t think it would be this devastating for educational institutions.  I’m not sure if other educational institutions are feeling this – I’m sure some without gigantic endowments will be feeling it quite a bit.  I wonder how institutions like MIT, Harvard, Columbia and NYU are faring?  There’s typically an increase in NIH funding for education and research under a Democratic presidency, but Barack Obama has some tough choices to make if he’s going to get the economy back in shape, and hopefully keeping the NIH budget won’t suffer because of that.

I suppose we’ll see.  Hopefully we won’t see any educational institutions going out of business without getting the bailout treatment the industrial and financial sectors are getting.



Friday, January 23rd, 2009
Sectera EDGE smartphone

Sectera EDGE smartphone

Apparently Barack Obama will be using a smartphone, and its being called a BarackBerry.  In reality its a Sectera Edge, an NSA-certified secure communications device for goverment use. Looks like it runs some version of Windows Mobile.  And it would be perfect for someone like me who’s clumsy with delicate technology:

“The Sectéra Edge is designed to MIL-STD-810F specifications for Drop, Shock, Vibration, Operating and Storage Temperature, Temperature Shock, Water Resistance, Dust, Humidity and Altitude.”

Now, if it was really a BlackBerry, I might actually be doing research about how to get my hands on one right now.  From past personal experience with Windows Mobile smartphones, I’m not too turned on by this particular mashup of gadgetry.  I’ll just have to be happy with my BlackBerry Bold for now.

A response to this CNN blog post struck me as hillarious:

BarackBerry, Barack the Vote, etc. Did we just elect Batman president? What’s next Barackarangs and the Barackmobile?

Indeed.  I don’t think its unnatural to get label-happy like this.  And if nothing else, the Batman comparison indicates the “coolness” currency that President Obama has.  I guess we’ll just have to see if he follows up on the things he said he wants to do and the things the electorate is expecting of him.  If he starts wearing a utility belt and/or a cape – then we’ll be in trouble. ;)