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It's Just a Dog … but … . PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Jean Regenwether   
Thursday, 15 October 2015 06:00

Callie, friend to Jean RegenwetherHow many times have you heard the phrase “It’s just a dog”? But time is certainly changing our opinions and treatment toward – and our lives with – our furry companions. “A dog is a family member” is a good way to describe the evolution taking place.

Focusing on “It’s just a dog” suggests that dogs are creatures with no ability to think; they just follow humans around for food and shelter. Consequently, dogs must have no feelings. No joy, no anger, no love, no loss.

We are lucky to live in a time in which such viewpoints are changing, and huge kudos must be given to early dog trainers and animal behaviorists for realizing that the “dogs have no feelings” argument is clearly wrong.

 
Shutdown Theater, 2015 Edition PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Thomas L. Knapp   
Monday, 05 October 2015 09:25

Last week we saw what’s become a regular headline: “Republicans Threaten Government Shutdown.” This year’s excuse was a feud over whether to continue writing an annual $500-million corporate-welfare check to Planned Parenthood.

With bated breath, the mainstream media informed us that the usual suspects on Capitol Hill were “working feverishly” to avoid the “shutdown.” If they hadn’t worked out a deal, the media would have squeezed a few more days or weeks of purple prose out of this fake calamity.

Yes, fake.

There was not going to be any “government shutdown.” There’s never been one, nor is one likely in the future. Or at least not until the U.S. government as we know it “shuts down” for good. (Yes, that will happen someday; nothing lasts forever.)

Nor are these fake “shutdowns” anything close to calamities. At worst they’re mild inconveniences, and then only because Americans have acquiesced in government doing far too many things for far too long.

 
How the Government Makes Data Hacks a Thousand Times Worse PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by David M. Brown   
Friday, 02 October 2015 11:55

In May 2015, the federal government suffered a massive data breach, a hack that exposed the names and Social Security numbers of more than 21-million people.

In a press release, the Office of Personal Management (OPM) reported that as a result of its “aggressive effort to upgrade the agency’s cybersecurity posture,” the agency discovered the massive theft of background records, reportedly originating in China, including “identification details such as Social Security numbers; residency and educational history; employment history; information about immediate family and other personal and business acquaintances; health, criminal, and financial history; and other details. Some records also include findings from interviews conducted by background investigators and fingerprints. User names and passwords that background-investigation applicants used to fill out their background-investigation forms were also stolen.”

This was a new breach – not the same looting of 4.2-million records that the agency discovered in April of this year.

The news didn’t stop OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, appointed to the post in 2013, from congratulating herself for the agency’s great strides in security. It was her “comprehensive IT strategic plan” that led to the knowledge that these incidents had happened.

But Archuleta lasted about one day after praising herself for noticing the theft, and the latest news is that the fingerprints of 5.6-million people were also grabbed in the mega-hacking of OPM’s “cybersecurity posture.”

OPM assures us that “federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited.” As of right now ... this second ... as we hit the press ... you probably have nothing to worry about if your fingerprints got stolen from OPM’s data banks. Hurrah.

Even Archuleta would probably concede that discovering a robbery is not quite as good as preventing it. But let’s go so far as to say that the nature of bureaucracy itself is more to blame than Archuleta is for having failed to fix how her agency functions.

Of course, governments are not the only organizations vulnerable to being cyber-attacked because of lax security. Other victims in recent years have included Target, Chase, and Sony.

But it’s the decades-old privacy-invading policies of the federal government that have routinely converted all such breaches of personal data into potentially limitless disasters for the victims.

 
Election 2016 Reminder: Who Needs Whom? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Thomas L. Knapp   
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 19:29

Memory has a way of playing tricks on the mind, but my recollection is that each of the seven presidential elections since I reached adulthood (I turned 18 the week after Ronald Reagan was re-elected in 1984) has been advertised – by the parties, by the candidates, by the media – as “the most important election of our lifetimes.”

Here comes the eighth. Same shtick, even if the Jerry Springer atmospherics have been turned up a little. The world will end if Candidate X is elected. Americans will starve in the streets if Candidate Y isn’t elected. You know what I’m talking about.

Of course, each presidential election is incredibly important to the parties, the candidates, and the media. Elections are their bread and butter. But are they really that consequential to the rest of us? On close examination, the only plausible answer is “no.”

 
How Dangerous Is It to Be a Cop? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Daniel Bier   
Wednesday, 16 September 2015 08:14

It’s “war on copsseason again, in which politicians and pundits toss around the political football of officer safety. So now is an opportune time to look at the dangers of police work.

First, the big headline numbers: fatalities and homicides.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) keeps track of all the officers who have died on the job, from any cause, going back to the 19th Century.

Looking at officer fatalities per million residents since 1900, the broad sweep of history shows that police work has been getting a lot safer since Prohibition ended (with a temporary reversal during the 1960s and 1970s).

But, of course, not all fatalities are homicides. In fact, in recent years, only about a third of work-related police deaths have been from murder.

NLEOMF doesn’t separately track homicides, but the FBI has its own database for felony killings of police in the past few decades. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has also conducted a national police census every four years since 1992, giving us some reliable estimates for the total number of sworn officers up through 2008.

And no matter how you slice it, police work has been getting a lot safer. Fatalities and murders of police have been falling for decades – per resident, per officer, and even in absolute terms.

 
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