Disturbing chart of the day

From an FBI report on “active shooter events”

Figure 1. Active Shooter Events by Year.jpg

In absolute numbers, this is still really low, but nonetheless a worrisome trendline.

SOTU

As you know, SOTU’s bore me.  In fact, most all political speeches– even when I’m there.  That said, I would be remiss as a political scientist blogger not to say anything.  Okay, I won’t actually say anything.  Just that I liked Chait’s pre-speech take.  And that everbody’s been saying it will be all about what the President can accomplish without Congress.  And that lo and behold, the speech was about all that Obama was going to try and do without Congress.   And, that I love John Dickerson’s ideas for shaking things up.

Photo of the day

Hard to beat cool storm photos.  This is an awesome gallery at Wired.  Love the way this one looks like a wave.

A supercell tracks across southern Nebraska. MIKE HOLLINGSHEAD

Drug dogs

Great Radley Balko piece on the mis-use of drug-sniffing dogs.  Everybody thinks they are always right, but like any tool used by humans, they are hugely prone to human error:

Over the last 20 years or so, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the alert from a drug dog is enough to establish probable cause for a search. The problem is that while it’s true that dogs have a finely tuned sense of smell, far better than any technology we humans have been able to develop, we’ve also bred into dogs a trait that can supersede that ability—an eagerness to please us.

Without careful training, drug dogs will end up relying more on the body language of their trainers than on their olfactory prowess. That means that for many drug dogs, an “alert” is little more than a validation of the suspicions of its handler, and the very purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to protect us from invasive searches based merely on the suspicions of an agent of the government. Controlled academic studies of K9 team performances, for example, have shown that tests designed to trick a drug dog’s handlerare far more likely to make the dogs falsely alert than tests designed to trick the dogs themselves.

That’s why the field performance records of drug dogs are often no better—andsometimes worsethan a coin flip. Yet a dog’s alert during a traffic stop can result in a thorough search of your car, allowing police officers to snoop in all of your belongings. It can also give them cause to rip out upholstery and linings, damaging your car. (And in case you’re innocent, good luck getting compensated for it.) Worse, an alert, combined with a few hard-to-prove allegations from a cop about your body language or “suspicious” answers to questions, can result in the seizure and forfeiture of any cash or valuables you happen to be carrying, even if the officer doesn’t actually find a measurable quantity of drugs.

But, hey, don’t worry about it.  So what if a lot of innocent people are wrongfully searched and have their rights violated.  It’s all in the name of stopping illegal drugs.  I’m pretty sure that makes everything okay.

D vs. R on policy priorities

Well, when it comes to what Americans think is important politically, there’s Red America and Blue America.  Pretty interesting results in a recent Pew poll.  Lots of good stuff, but I like this chart that has partisan breakdowns on issue priorities:

Wide Partisan Differences over Environment, Dealing with the Poor, Global Warming and the Deficit

You could name multiple “top priorities” in the poll, so there’s plenty of important issues for each party, but several things stood out to me.  I find it depressing that so few Republicans consider protecting the environment a top priority.  I also wish there was not such a partisan disparity on improving education.  I guess this is because so many Republicans are old and don’t care about the education of young people?  It’s also interesting that Democrats are actually more concerned with crime.

I also wonder just what the 61% of Republicans think we should be doing to “strengthen our military.”  Seriously– it’s not strong enough already?!  And lastly, I suppose like any good liberal, I cannot help but roll my eyes at “dealing with moral breakdown.”

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