It seems North Korea might now have nuclear weapons small enough to put on rockets:

A report in The Washington Post on Tuesday went further. The newspaper said U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that a decade after North Korea’s first nuclear test explosion, Pyongyang has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, including by intercontinental missiles — the type capable of reaching the continental U.S.

Luckily we have a calm and rational person for our President:

‘‘North Korea had best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,’’ Trump said during a briefing on opioid addiction at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

We are so fucked.


On Thursday night in Brooklyn a person was shot for no reason by the police:

Two police officers prepared to enter the pitch-black eighth-floor stairwell of a building in a Brooklyn housing project, one of them with his sidearm drawn. At the same time, a man and his girlfriend, frustrated by a long wait for an elevator, entered the seventh-floor stairwell, 14 steps below. In the darkness, a shot rang out from the officer’s gun, and the 28-year-old man below was struck in the chest and, soon after, fell dead.

The shooting, at 11:15 p.m. on Thursday, invited immediate comparison to the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in Ferguson, Mo. But 12 hours later, just after noon on Friday, the New York police commissioner, William J. Bratton, announced that the shooting was accidental and that the victim, Akai Gurley, had done nothing to provoke a confrontation with the officers.

Yesterday in Cleveland a 12 year old was shot by police because he was in possession of a pellet gun:

The shooting came after a man at the park adjacent to the rec center called police when he saw “a guy with a gun pointing it at people.

The caller twice said the gun was “probably fake” and told dispatchers the person pulling the gun from his waistband was “probably a juvenile,” according to audio released by police officials late Saturday.

The rookie officer saw the boy at a park bench pick up what looked like a gun and placed it in his waistband, Follmer said.

The officer ordered the boy to put his hands in the air. Instead, police said, the boy reached for his gun. Deputy Chief Edward Tomba said the boy made no verbal threats to the officer and there was no physical confrontation.

For comparison, here’s some information from a survey of Police Officers in England and Wales:

An overwhelming majority of 82 per cent stated that they do not want all officers to be routinely armed on duty. This is particularly significant given that there has been almost no change in police officers’ opinions since we conducted the previous surveys in 2003 and 1995, and this despite the massive rise in gun related crime.

They do want more officers specially trained to use guns, but then there’s this:

When asked if a decision was made to train and arm all police officers while on duty, 70 per cent of officers would be prepared to do so. However, out of the 6,516 (13.8 per cent) respondents who stated that they would never carry a firearm on duty, a staggering 56 per cent claimed they would resign from the force rather than accept an order to carry a firearm.

Oh and for fun, if you search for Cleveland toy gun you get ads for places like this.

Happy Fourth of July

It’s a wet July 4 here in Massachusetts, so let’s look at a galaxy (Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Caltech/P.Ogle et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA):


US and charter schools

There are a couple of articles out on the education front. First, there’s another indication that public schools might be as good as private or charter schools. The piece starts with a  bit of a joke:

In a new book, “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools,” they outline their findings and walk through the implications. The result may lead education reform advocates to rethink their policies—and parents to question one of their most important decisions.

Ha ha, see the joke is that education ‘reformers’ actually care about evidence (look here for one of many examples). Anyway, here’s their main conclusion:

We know that private school students tend to score higher than students in public schools. But we also know that these are different populations, and they have different selection criteria. So we looked at the demographics of the different students in these nationally representative data sets, and we found those demographics more than explain the student achievement patterns….We focused specifically on mathematics, because math achievement is a better reflection of the school effects rather than the other subjects, like reading, which are often reflective of what the students are learning at home….Once we actually delved into those achievement statistics, public schools turned out to be more effective. Public school students are outscoring their demographic counterparts in private schools…at a level that is comparable to a few weeks to several months.

and charter schools are doing a bit worse. Why?

Most people would say [charter schools are better] because they are not bound by all the rules and regulations that public schools are run by. But our research shows that autonomy can be a problem for independent schools, including charter schools. You would think that having that autonomy would be an opportunity to experiment with new and more effective pedagogical or curriculum approaches, for example, and I’m sure that happens in some cases. But what we found was many of these types of schools are actually using their autonomy to embrace outmoded or outdated curricular or instructional functions. What we think is happening is that…when they are faced with competitive pressures, they have to compete with other schools for students, so they often adopt a culture that parents feel is tried and true, and what they experienced when they were at school.

LUBIENSKI: A lot of public schools have embraced more state-of-the art approaches that have been really influenced and shaped by experts in the field; for example, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has recommended certain curricular approaches that reflect what we know about how students learn. It’s really apparent when you look at the teaching and the curriculum in the different types of classrooms. The other thing is that public schools have to work under some [legal] requirements, and one of those is they have to hire certified teachers. Teacher certification does make a difference. It’s a good predictor of student achievement.

LUBIENSKI: What we’re seeing is as competition increases in these areas, schools often take on strategies that might not always mean the best outcomes for students. A lot of them are taking resources out of the classroom and putting them more into things like marketing….Actually, schools are making some choices that are quite questionable.

Via M. Night Shyamalan (!) we hear the idea that US schools are doing ok for whites, but are pretty bad for minorities. Kevin Drum has a nice takeaway statement:

If you compare America’s white kids to those of most other countries—aggregating all the evidence, not just one or two data points—they do pretty well. Not spectacularly well, but pretty well. I think a fair observer would conclude that these kids were getting a pretty good education. Probably as good or better than most other countries in the world.

And that claim, even though it’s more modest, is important. It means that American education isn’t, either philosophically or foundationally, a disaster area. Nor is it in decline. For most American children, it works fine and it doesn’t need radical changes. Rather, there’s a small subset of American children who have been badly treated for centuries and continue to suffer from this. We do a lousy job of educating them, but it’s not because we don’t know how to educate. We’ve just never been willing to expend the (very substantial) effort it would take to help them catch up.


Well then, this isn’t good:

Russia has deployed two powerful warships to the Mediterranean Sea to augment its normal naval presence amid rising expectations of Western airstrikes on its ally, Syria.

Comments from Russian officials are mixed on why they ships were sent, but having more warships near a war zone is never a good thing.

The Black Power Mixtape

Over the weekend I watched the Black Power Mixtape. I found it interesting for a couple reasons:

  • we don’t hear about most of the people in the movie even though many of them play important parts in our history–Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, Shirley Chisholm, …–and here we actually see interviews with them. We also see extended pieces about the Black Panthers, much of it from their perspective.
  • the reports and interviews are from an outside perspective and so we see the US from a different perspective. The clips were from news reports by Swedish reporters and, during this period, the US and Sweden did not have very good relations (the US recalled its ambassador in 1968 and left the position vacant until 1970, then froze relations in 1972–both times because of comments by the Swedish Prime Minister). And you can tell, the reports make it seem like parts of the US were similar to a third world country with a terrible system of justice. It was certainly true that many or most blacks did live in third world conditions and didn’t receive fairness in the justice system, but you wouldn’t have seen this shown quite so starkly on US TV.

In some ways, I liked the extras more than the actual movie. In the extras there are extended pieces on Carmichael, Davis, Chisholm, and Louis Farrakhan and all of them are fascinating. You should watch it.

Law of the Sea Treaty

A President is trying to pass the Law of the Sea Treaty again (Bill Clinton and George W Bush both failed):

In a joint appearance before Congress, Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, made the case for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which has been in force since 1994.

Republican opposition has stalled the pact for years and was on bold display at the hearing. The United States is the only major nation that has refused to sign the treaty, which has been endorsed by 161 countries and the European Union.

“We need to get off the sidelines and start taking advantage of the great deal that the convention offers the United States and our business community,’’ Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In an impassioned plea, she dismissed opposition to the pact as based on “ideology and mythology’’ and pointed out that the treaty has the backing of Republican and Democratic presidents, including President George W. Bush; businesses, the energy and shipping industry, and environmental groups.

Hmm, so who opposes it:

The treaty has languished for years because of opposition from those who argue it would undermine US sovereignty, and in recent months challenges from Tea Party Republicans.

Conservative Republicans expressed the strongest opposition, arguing the pact would force the United States to redistribute wealth through royalties from offshore drilling and impose regulations on greenhouse gases.

“This treaty would subordinate American sovereignty to the United Nations, impose an international tax on US energy production that would raise costs for American families, and act as a backdoor Kyoto Protocol that could allow foreign nations to regulate US energy emissions,’’ Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, said in a statement.

An international tax on business, then businesses must be against it. Right?. Well, no:

At that point, Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate panel, jumped in to say that U.S. business supports ratification because it cannot establish claims to seabed mines beyond the 200-mile territorial limit if the U.S. isn’t part of the convention. No bilateral treaty can cover these areas of the seabed, Kerry said.

“You’re here protecting companies from paying a royalty that they want to pay,” Kerry told Inhofe. “They’d rather have 93 percent of something” than get nothing.

Hillary Clinton has heard these type of conspiracy theories for ages and even she has trouble believing they exist:

The top American diplomat said some of the arguments against the treaty “cannot even be taken with a straight face.” These, she said, include claims that the U.S. would have to pay a “UN tax,” that it would give the UN power over the U.S. Navy and that it would erode U.S. sovereignty.

“Honestly, I don’t know where these people make these things up,” Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. She chided critics who object to the U.S. joining any UN treaty saying, “Of course, that means the black helicopters are on their way,” a reference to conspiracy theories about a world government.

Some Republicans are, of course, proud of their theories:

“I hope you weren’t scoffing at us,” Idaho Senator Jim Risch told Clinton.“There’s some good stuff in here, but if we give up one scintilla of sovereignty that this country has fought for, bled for, have given up our treasure and the best that America has, I can’t vote for it,” Risch said.

I imagine he would also have been against the forming of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions. I’m surpised this hasn’t been linked to Agenda 21 by any prominent Republicans yet. After all, it’s a pretty widespread belief among some.

Charles Pierce comments here.

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