Body cameras, privacy, and white males

David Brooks had an interesting column on the downside of police wearing body cameras.  I think he does make some good points:

Cop-cams will insult families. It’s worth pointing out that less than 20 percent of police calls involve felonies, and less than 1 percent of police-citizen contacts involve police use of force. Most of the time cops are mediating disputes, helping those in distress, dealing with the mentally ill or going into some home where someone is having a meltdown. When a police officer comes into your home wearing a camera, he’s trampling on the privacy that makes a home a home. He’s recording people on what could be the worst day of their lives, and inhibiting their ability to lean on the officer for care and support.

Cop-cams insult individual dignity because the embarrassing things recorded by them will inevitably get swapped around. The videos of the naked crime victim, the berserk drunk, the screaming maniac will inevitably get posted online — as they are already. With each leak, culture gets a little coarser. The rules designed to keep the videos out of public view will inevitably be eroded and bent.

And he does admit that these cameras are, on balance, a good idea, but it is all very much cheapened for me by this paragraph which I think only a privileged white male could actually write:

Cop-cams chip away at that. The cameras will undermine communal bonds. Putting a camera on someone is a sign that you don’t trust him, or he doesn’t trust you. When a police officer is wearing a camera, the contact between an officer and a civilian is less likely to be like intimate friendship and more likely to be oppositional and transactional. Putting a camera on an officer means she is less likely to cut you some slack, less likely to not write that ticket, or to bend the regulations a little as a sign of mutual care. [emphasis mine]

I think it’s safe to say that for your typical non-white person who has an encounter with the police, they were not exactly looking at the “intimate friendship” model in the first place.  Again, to Brooks credit, he admits that cameras are good on balance, but if this is his conception of police-civilian interactions, I think he needs to spend some time in poor, minority communities.

Security theater comes to baseball

hate security theater.  The idea that some guy with a metal detector does anything to actually keep an arena safe during a sporting event is preposterous on it’s face.  During my recent trip to the ACC tournament I went through security by holding my phone and keys high up in my hands while the rest of me got wanded.  I swear, if I had one of those big phablet phones, I probably could have hidden a 6″ knife behind it in my hand.  Or heck, maybe even a small gun.  But, that aside, there’s a million ways to actually get a weapon into a sports arena if you’ve got an IQ over 100.  Thus, all this security theater is so, so stupid.  I so love this essay by actual security expert Bruce Schneier on the occasion of MLB now requiring this nonsense for all games.  There’s just so much right in here:

As a security measure, the new devices are laughable. The ballpark metal detectors are much more lax than the ones at an airport checkpoint. They aren’t very sensitive — people with phones and keys in their pockets aresailing through — and there are no X-ray machines. Bags get the same cursory search they’ve gotten for years. And fans wanting to avoid the detectors can opt for a “light pat-down search” instead.

There’s no evidence that this new measure makes anyone safer. A halfway competent ticketholder would have no trouble sneaking a gun into the stadium. For that matter, a bomb exploded at a crowded checkpoint would be no less deadly than one exploded in the stands. These measures will, at best, be effective at stopping the random baseball fan who’s carrying a gun or knife into the stadium. That may be a good idea, but unless there’s been a recent spate of fan shootings and stabbings at baseball games — and there hasn’t — this is a whole lot of time and money being spent to combat an imaginary threat…

It’s an attitude I’ve seen before: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it.” Never mind if the something makes any sense or not.

In reality, this is CYA security, and it’s pervasive in post-9/11 America. It no longer matters if a security measure makes sense, if it’s cost-effective or if it mitigates any actual threats. All that matters is that you took the threat seriously, so if something happens you won’t be blamed for inaction. It’s security, all right — security for the careers of those in charge…

I can hear the objections to this as I write. You don’t know these measures won’t be effective! What if something happens? Don’t we have to do everything possible to protect ourselves against terrorism?

That’s worst-case thinking, and it’s dangerous. It leads to bad decisions, bad design and bad security. A better approach is to realistically assess the threats, judge security measures on their effectiveness and take their costs into account. [emphases mine] And the result of that calm, rational look will be the realization that there will always be places where we pack ourselves densely together, and that we should spend less time trying to secure those places and more time finding terrorist plots before they can be carried out…

If it’s in the name of security, we’ll accept it. As long as our leaders are scared of the terrorists, they’re going to continue the security theater. And we’re similarly going to accept whatever measures are forced upon us in the name of security. We’re going to accept the National Security Agency’s surveillance of every American, airport security procedures that make no sense and metal detectors at baseball and football stadiums. We’re going to continue to waste money overreacting to irrational fears…

We no longer need the terrorists. We’re now so good at terrorizing ourselves.

Yes, yes, yes!  If only a few decision-makers had more courage and more commonsense not to subject us to this.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s Animal photos of the week:

a 400-pound mother bear runs up to its fearless baby so the pair can lovingly embrace. Other heart-warming pictures show two cute cubs wrestling, racing each other and hunting for clams. Canadian nature photographer Marc Latremouille (47) travelled to Alaska's Lake Clarke National Park to take pictures of the brown bears that make their home there.

Wildlife photographer Marc Latremouille photographed this 400-pound brown bear running up to her cub in Alaska’s Lake Clarke National ParkPicture: Marc Latremouille / Media Drum


Lots of good stuff written with Hillary making her official announcement for 2016.  Seth Masket’s post is my favorite so far as he makes a number of good and important points:

I’ve written a bit about this in recent weeks, but just to sum up what we know about campaign effects, they’re not very powerful, at least in general elections. That is, most of what candidates and campaigns can directly control—the candidate’s skills and strengths, advertising, issue stances, speeches, debate performances, campaign themes, etc.—just don’t affect voters very much, and when they do, it’s only for a very brief time. This is because a) the two major parties tend to nominate competent candidates who roughly match each other’s strengths; b) the campaigns act simultaneously, meaning that a lot of their efforts end up canceling each other’s out; c) most voters pay only fleeting attention, if any, to day-to-day political events; and d) the effects of the political fundamentals—the economy and war/peace—are enormous and tend to overwhelm other factors…

Neither Bob Dole nor Al Gore ever reached that level of support within their party even by the end of the primary season. If no other serious candidate has jumped in the Democratic race so far, it’s because these endorsements have communicated to them loud and clear that the party has already made up its mind…

And as Jonathan Bernstein reminds us, Clinton has already demonstrated considerable political skills in becoming what she is today: the de facto Democratic nominee for president in 2016, more than a year before the convention that will make it official. This is no small feat. No one who is not a sitting president or vice president has ever pulled this off in modern presidential nominations history…

She’s long had her detractors within her party, which is a big part of the reason that Obama was able to deprive her of the nomination in 2008. But she’s worked tirelessly to build on her support and mollify detractors, to woo endorsers and funders, to win over the Democratic campaign leaders who worked against her in 2008, and to convince influential insiders that the party and the country are ready for her. This requires serious skill, and she’s basically done it better than anyone else in modern history…

There’s a part of a presidential campaign where candidate skills make a big difference. At least on the Democratic side, that part has already happened, and Hillary Clinton won. [emphasis mine] What she’ll need from here on are favorable fundamentals, and there’s very little she can do to affect those.

Chait, meanwhile take a good look at what to expect for 2016 according to a number of factors, but I think this sums it up pretty well:

Unless the economy goes into a recession over the next year and a half, Hillary Clinton is probably going to win the presidential election. The United States has polarized into stable voting blocs, and the Democratic bloc is a bit larger and growing at a faster rate. [emphasis mine]

He does a great job looking at a variety of aspects of the electorate and the 2016 election, but I do think this is the most important:

1. The Emerging Democratic Majority is real. The major disagreement over whether there is an “Emerging Democratic Majority” — the thesis that argues that Democrats have built a presidential majority that could only be defeated under unfavorable conditions — centers on an interpretive disagreement over the 2014 elections. Proponents of this theory dismiss the midterm elections as a problem of districting and turnout; Democrats have trouble rousing their disproportionately young, poor supporters to the polls in a non-presidential year, and the tilted House and Senate map further compounded the GOP advantage.

Skeptics of the theory instead believe that the 2014 midterms were, as Judis put it, “not an isolated event but rather the latest manifestation of a resurgent Republican coalition.” Voters, they argue, are moving toward the Republican Party, and may continue to do so even during the next presidential election.

It has been difficult to mediate between the two theories, since the outcome at the polls supports the theory of both the proponents and the skeptics of the Emerging Democratic Majority theory equally well.

A Pew survey released this week gives us the best answer. Pew is the gold standard of political polling, using massive surveys, with high numbers of respondents and very low margins of error. Pew’s survey shows pretty clearly that there was not a major change in public opinion from the time of Obama’s reelection through the 2014 midterms:

Of course, Pew is not surveying actual voters. It’s surveying all adults. But that is the point. What changed between 2012 and 2014 was not public opinion, but who showed up to vote.

Now, of course it is far from a given that Hillary Clinton will win in 2016.  But I think it is plenty fair to say that if present trends continue– an economy that continues to grow at a reasonable pace and a non-implosion from Hillary– she’s got to be considered a very strong favorite.


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