Rob Pyers was a laid-off grocery bagger who learned to code on YouTube. Now the website he runs, the California Target Book, is shining a light on spending by politicians, their campaigns, and outside groups.
Rob Pyers didn’t set out to bring transparency to establishment politics. In fact, he didn’t even have any programming experience before he built the electronic systems for the California Target Book, a go-to resource for political transparency in the state. He initially came to Los Angeles with aspirations of becoming a screenwriter, but ended up stuck in his day job, bagging groceries. Then Walgreen’s laid him off, and he needed something else to do.
After joining the Target Book, Pyers taught himself how to code, mostly by watching YouTube videos. Two years later, the 41-year-old has built its systems from the ground up, and now runs the website from his cramped West Hollywood one-bedroom. He is often the first to publicize major donations and new candidates, making his Twitter feed invaluable to campaign consultants and journalists alike.
Pyers, who describes himself as “95 lbs of concentrated tech geek,” has become an expert on pulling data from hundreds of voter databases, election filings, and campaign finance disclosures. He’s done all this despite the fact that the state’s main resource for campaign information is an inaccessible hodgepodge of ZIP archives and tables that even the current Secretary of State has called a “Frankenstein monster of outdated code.”
“California’s Cal-Access website is notorious for being just sort of an ungodly, byzantine mess,” says Pyers. “If you have no idea what you’re doing, it’s almost impossible to get any useful information out of.”
The state is currently working on a multi-million dollar upgrade to the site, with an expected rollout in 2019. But while the government builds its new system, the Target Book has already proven its worth. During one 2016 Congressional race, the L.A. Times used Pyers’ data to reveal that candidate Isadore Hall may have misused hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign cash. Read the rest of this entry »
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been targeting so-called “sanctuary cities” with increased enforcement operations in an effort to pressure those jurisdictions to cooperate with federal immigration agents, a senior US immigration official with direct knowledge of ongoing ICE actions told CNN.
A sanctuary city is a broad term applied to states, cities and/or counties that have policies in place designed to limit cooperation or involvement in the enforcement of federal immigration operations. More than 100 US jurisdictions — among them New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — identify as such.
High-ranking ICE officials have discussed in internal meetings carrying out more raids on those locations, said the source.
This week, a federal judge in Texas seems to have confirmed that tactic. US Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin revealed during an immigration hearing Monday that a mid-February raid in the Austin metro area was done in retaliation for a local sheriff’s recent decision to limit her department’s cooperation with ICE.
“There’s been questions about whether Austin is being targeted. We had a briefing…. that we could expect a big operation, agents coming in from out of town. There was going to be a specific operation, and it was at least related to us in that meeting that it was a result of the sheriff’s new policy that this was going to happen,” Austin says in audio of the proceedings provided by the court.
The judge’s comments came as he questioned an ICE agent about a recent unrelated arrest.
Austin said that in a late January meeting, local ICE officials told him and another federal judge that an upcoming enforcement operation was being done in direct response to Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s adoption of a sanctuary policy in Travis County.
Earlier this year, Hernandez announced that beginning in February, her department would no longer honor ICE detainers unless the individual was arrested for murder, sexual assault or human trafficking, or a warrant had been issued. A detainer is a 48-hour hold request placed on suspected undocumented immigrants in local jails until federal agents can come in and take over the case.
A showdown in Travis County, Texas
It is a significant shift in the county’s immigration enforcement policy that has put the newly elected Democratic sheriff at odds with pro-enforcement local and state officials, including the Texas Senate, which recently passed a bill that withholds state dollars from sanctuary cities and Gov. Greg Abbott, who cut $1.5 million in funding to the county. Read the rest of this entry »
The Gunson testimony has been at the heart of attempts to resolve the case. Taken on a provisional basis when it appeared Gunson’s life might be in danger from illness, it touches on a supposedly broken promise by the late Judge Laurence Rittenband to limit Polanski’s sentence for a 1977 statutory rape conviction to time he served during a prison psychiatric evaluation. Only a month ago, Braun insisted that opening the sealed testimony was among his principal aims.
“I am only interested in obtaining the Gunson transcript and obtaining a ruling on whether a California court will respect the ruling of the Polish Court,” he wrote in a February 21 email, which referred both to the testimony and to a determination in a Polish extradition hearing that Polanski should remain free.
That Braun, at least for purposes of the Monday hearing, was pushing his Gunson demand to the side lent credence to what my colleague Dominic Patten has spotted: Rumors that Polanski’s lawyer and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, though still at loggerheads in court, have been talking. Read the rest of this entry »
California exports more than commodities such as movies, new technologies and produce. It also exports truck drivers, cooks and cashiers.
Every year from 2000 through 2015, more people left California than moved in from other states. This migration was not spread evenly across all income groups, a Sacramento Bee review of U.S. Census Bureau data found. The people leaving tend to be relatively poor, and many lack college degrees. Move higher up the income spectrum, and slightly more people are coming than going.
About 2.5 million people living close to the official poverty line left California for other states from 2005 through 2015, while 1.7 million people at that income level moved in from other states – for a net loss of 800,000. During the same period, the state experienced a net gain of about 20,000 residents earning at least five times the poverty rate – or $100,000 for a family of three.
Kiril Kundurazieff, 56, is among the low-income residents who left California. He spent more than a decade working in a small bookstore, then at Target, then at a Verizon call center, in Southern California. After some medical issues that hampered his eyesight, he found himself unemployed in Santa Ana, with monthly rent of about $1,000 in 2012.
“There was really nothing left for me in California,” said Kundurazieff, who also writes a blog about his cats. “The cost of living was high. The rent was high. The job market was debatable.”
Friends in Texas suggested he relocate. He now works at a Walmart in Houston, making a little north of $10 an hour. He works 40 hours a week, riding his bike about 7 miles to work many days. He does not pay state income tax. His rent is just over $500, with utilities.
About the same time that Kundurazieff was leaving, Tamara and Kit Keane were arriving from Oklahoma. Both had been working on their doctorate degrees at Oklahoma universities, Kit in biology and Tamara in education.
The Keanes already knew California. Kit, 34, was born and raised in Sacramento. Tamara, 31, spent most of her life in Southern California. They met at UC Davis about a decade ago.
With graduate degrees, they had options. They liked the cost of living in Oklahoma and bought a two-bedroom house with a backyard for the bargain basement cost of $121,000.
But they wanted to come back to California, for its beauty and to be near family. “We knew coming here, we would have to make a lot more money to live a similar lifestyle,” Tamara Keane said.
After moving back last year, both now work for the Twin Rivers Unified School District as teachers on special assignment. They are expecting a child and recently purchased a three-bedroom house in Hollywood Park for $360,000. Tamara is still working on her Ph.D.; Kit is looking into eventually teaching at the university level. “Teacher salaries are not great,” Tamara Keane said. “But they are enough for us to want to come here.”
Well-paid new arrivals in California enjoy a life that is far out of reach of much of the state’s population. Besides Hawaii and New York, California has the highest cost of living in America. Read the rest of this entry »
…On Thursday evening’s edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, came on the show to talk about how his organization’s environmentally-focused message relates to other liberal talking points that the club has taken a stance on since Brune has been in charge.
“Well, it helps to address the number of people we have on this planet. We feel that one of the ways that we can get to a sustainable population is to empower women to make choices about their own families.”
— Michael Brune
Carlson asked Brune how the club taking positions on immigration, transgender bathrooms and abortion correlate to the organization’s mission of protecting the environment. Brune was particularly emphatic about the club’s decision to wholeheartedly support the baby-killing machine known as Planned Parenthood.
“Well, it helps to address the number of people we have on this planet,” Brune told Carlson.
Carlson’s shocked face after hearing that sentence come out of Brune’s ignorant word-hole was nothing short of priceless.
“We feel that one of the ways that we can get to a sustainable population is to empower women to make choices about their own families,” Brune continued.
“Why would the Sierra Club, if it’s concerned about population effect on the environment — and you should be, in my view — why would you be agitating for more immigration?”
— Tucker Carlson
Carlson was clearly confused about Brune’s stance, considering that just a minute before, Brune had talked about how deporting illegal aliens from the U.S. would be a human rights violation.
Carlson pointed out to Brune:
Given that, that that’s your position, which is a position, then the United States population has pretty much doubled in the last 50 years. It’s now at about 225ish million, so doubling in the last 50 years is a pretty quick rate of expansion. Most of that has come from immigration, as you know.
Then Carlson hit Brune with a question that called out the hypocrisy of the Sierra Club’s stance on the two separate topics. Read the rest of this entry »
Ernest Luning reports: A Colorado Springs Republican wants victims of what he calls “sanctuary city policies” to be able to file lawsuits and lodge criminal complaints against the “lawless politicians” who put the policies in place.
State Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, is pictured before his election on July 1, 2016, at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver. (Photo by John Tomasic/The Colorado Statesman)
State Rep. Dave Williams said Monday he plans to introduce “The Colorado Politician Accountability Act” this week, legislation aimed at holding officials criminally liable for the “carnage” committed by some immigrants.
“If being a ‘sanctuary city’ means that we value taking care of one another and welcoming refugees and immigrants, then I welcome the title.”
“As the first Latino elected to Colorado House District 15,” said Williams, who was first elected to the heavily Republican district in November, in a statement, “I think it’s important that we do all we can to uphold the rule of law and ensure all communities, regardless of race or ethnicity, are protected from dangerous policies that are forced on us by radical, out-of-touch politicians who continually sell out to an unlawful agenda that increases the number of criminals, and needless deaths among our fellow citizens.”
“It’s beyond any reasonable thought as to why the Democrats, along with Mayor Hancock, would continue to not only act outside the law, which they swore to uphold but also enjoy immunity from their reckless decision to place Coloradans in danger because of the sanctuary city policies that they created and continue to implement.”
Oh How We Met on that Night We Danced- Rob cons his way into dancing with Laura so he could meet her and talk to her. Things don’t go exactly as planned. The Dick Van Dyke Show is an American television sitcom that initially aired on CBS from October 3, 1961, until June 1, 1966. The show was created by Carl Reiner and starred Dick Van Dyke, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore. It centered on the work and home life of television comedy writer Rob Petrie (Van Dyke). The show was produced by Reiner with Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. The music for the show’s theme song was written by Earle Hagen.
Television great Mary Tyler Moore, the beloved star of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died Wednesday in Connecticut. She was 80. The Associated Press confirmed her death.
The vivacious brunette performer transformed the image of women on television first as Van Dyke’s sexy, vulnerable wife Laura Petrie and then as single career girl Mary Richards in her own series. Her work in the two series brought Moore five Emmy Awards, in 1965, 1966, 1973, 1974 and 1976. She won another Emmy for 1993 TV special “Stolen Babies.”
Moore was also a powerhouse producer via her MTM production company with then-husband Grant Tinker, producing her own series as well as “The Bob Newhart Show” and spinoff series “Rhoda” and “Lou Grant,” among others.
Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty
She combined wholesomeness and sex appeal with cracker-jack comedic timing. In many ways Moore was a throwback to Hollywood golden era leading ladies like Myrna Loy and Jean Arthur, but with a decidedly updated twist.
Her role as Laura Petrie, the suburban wife of comedy writer Rob Petrie, also represented a step forward for the portrayal of women on television. Though they maintained separate beds, the Petries otherwise shared an active, romantic marital life. And unlike Desi Arnaz on “I Love Lucy,” Van Dyke’s character was not threatened by his wife’s talents or her intelligence.
The series made Moore a star, and she worked on films under contract at Universal. With the exception of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” in which she played third fiddle to Julie Andrews and the scene-stealing Carol Channing, the studio’s attempts to fashion her in the Doris Day mold was unsuccessful. Moore also tried her hand at the Broadway stage, co-starring with Richard Chamberlain in David Merrick’s musical version of Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Read the rest of this entry »
Majerczyk faced up to five years in prison. His lawyers argued in a sentencing memo that his participation was limited to the unauthorized access of information on his personal computer, ‘for his personal use and viewing only.’
“Majerczyk sent phishing emails to his victims, tricking them into providing their usernames and passwords to a third-party website, according to a plea agreement. He in turn used the information to access their accounts, leading to material belonging to more than 300 victims.”
CHICAGO — A Chicago man was sentenced to nine months in a plea deal Tuesday for hacking the electronic accounts of 30 celebrities and stealing their personal data, including nude photos and videos.
Edward Majerczyk, 29, was accused of orchestrating a phishing scheme from November 2013 to August 2014 that netted personal information from celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and many more in Los Angeles.
Lawrence likened the privacy invasion to a “sex crime” and said she worried about its impact on her career.
Majerczyk, the son of two Chicago police officers, did not plead guilty to distributing the images. His plea was limited to
his role in obtaining them.
“At the time of the offense, Mr. Majerczyk was suffering from depression and looked to pornography websites and Internet chat rooms in an attempt to fill some of the voids and disappointment he was feeling in his life.”
After his case was transferred from California to Chicago, he pleaded guilty in September to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.
A spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles told the Chicago Tribune that the investigation into who leaked the sensitive information was ongoing.
Majerczyk sent phishing emails to his victims, tricking them into providing their usernames and passwords to a third-party website, according to a plea agreement. He in turn used the information to access their accounts, leading to material belonging to more than 300 victims, according to the plea agreement.
Majerczyk faced up to five years in prison. His lawyers argued in a sentencing memo that his participation was limited to the unauthorized access of information on his personal computer, “for his personal use and viewing only.” Read the rest of this entry »
Debbie Reynolds has died after suffering a stroke at her son’s home in Beverly Hills.
Debbie Reynolds — who rose to stardom in “Singin’ in the Rain” and quickly became a staple among Hollywood royalty — died Wednesday as a result of a stroke, TMZ has learned … just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher passed away … this according to her son Todd.
Elvis Summers is not part of any nonprofit or government agency. He’s just a 38-year-old guy with a Mohawk and tattooed arms who started a GoFundMe campaign last spring so he could build tiny houses for homeless people to live in. He got the idea after befriending a homeless woman in his neighborhood.
“It just got to me, you know, I’m just like, you know, everybody in this neighborhood knows you, they like you,” he says. “Why does nobody give a crap that you’re sleeping in the dirt? Literally.”
So far Summer has given out 37 tiny 6- by 8-foot houses, which cost $1,200 each to build. They resemble sheds, painted in bright, solid colors, with solar panels on the roof, wheels to make them mobile and a portable camping toilet.
But recently, city sanitation workers confiscated three of the houses from a sidewalk in South Los Angeles and tagged others for removal.
“Unfortunately, these structures are a safety hazard,” says Connie Llanos, a spokeswoman for LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. “These structures, some of the materials that were found in some of them, just the thought of folks having some of these things in a space so small, so confined, without the proper insulation, it really does put their lives in danger.” Read the rest of this entry »
The news came a day after he unexpectedly canceled his Los Angeles concert just hours before it was a scheduled to begin and two days after he walked off the stage 30 minutes into a concert in Sacramento.
West’s rep pointed to the statement from Live Nation when asked for comment.
But the 39-year-old hip hop artist said plenty before that on a variety of subjects before the cancellation of his tour. Here now is Kanye West in his own words.
Surface magazine releases its interview with West conducted in between stops on the Canada leg of his Saint Pablo Tour. In the 30-minute videotaped interview, West touches on a number of subjects from how he does business to his artistic abilities to his views on the future of communication. Here are some highlights:
“I think business has to be stupider. I want to do really straightforward, stupid business — just talk to me like a 4-year-old. And I refuse to negotiate. I do not negotiate. I can collaborate. But I’m an artist, so as soon as you negotiate, you’re being compromised.” Read the rest of this entry »
Protests, hugs, and solidarity mark campus responses across the country.
“We probably are going to have to get more spaces. The one consistent thing that I see is hugs.”
Katherine Knott and Shannon Najmabadi write: As the election results rolled in Tuesday night, Rosie Nelson, a third-year doctoral student at Stanford University, was at a seminar for Leland Scholars, a program to transition freshman students into college life. Many of the students who opt into the program, she said, are low-income or minority students; many are first-generation Americans.
“That in a lot of ways will probably be my biggest memory of election night. Students coming together to support and love each other.”
By the second hour of the seminar, she said, everyone had become engrossed in the election, some monitoring The New York Times’s live results. When the needle on the site’s meter indicated a 70-percent chance of victory for Donald J. Trump, she said, the mood in the room shifted to disbelief. By 7:25 p.m., Pacific time, it became clear to many of the students that Mr. Trump was going to win.
The mood was tense; some students called their families, worried for their safety. Others stayed with one another, Ms. Nelson said, to make sure their peers were OK. “That in a lot of ways will probably be my biggest memory of election night,” she said in an interview. “Students coming together to support and love each other.”
“I don’t know if there will ever be a way to heal from this, but this is the first step. We are never going to accept it.”
These complex emotions were manifesting themselves on the campus, more broadly. Before 9 p.m., Ms. Nelson received an email inviting her to a “F*CK DONALD TRUMP” rally at 10 p.m. on the campus’s White Memorial Plaza. Throughout the night, at least seven more emails rolled in from various campus groups, offering safe spaces, spots to pray, heal, talk, or decompress. Ms. Nelson said she also saw Facebook posts espousing “how important it is to love each other.” Other social-media users posted the phone number for a suicide-prevention hotline.
“The vibe that I’ve been feeling is that there is a lot of anger, frustration, and feeling like as students we weren’t heard. There’s also a recognition that the best thing we can do for each other right now is to come together and show resilience.”
“The vibe that I’ve been feeling is that there is a lot of anger, frustration, and feeling like as students we weren’t heard,” she said, particularly for students from marginalized communities. “There’s also a recognition that the best thing we can do for each other right now is to come together and show resilience.”
Hours after Mr. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States, and the following morning, students and university staff members were still processing the results and long-term implications. For many the shocking outcome represents an affront to identity: Mr. Trump has discussed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, called immigrants criminals, and bragged about groping women.
Students, some feeling traumatized and others indignant, have mobilized in protest at campuses across the country. In response, universities are making counseling resources available and carving out spaces for dialogue as students are finding solidarity through demonstrations.
People protest on the University of Connecticut campus against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)
Regan Buchanan, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and co-president of the Campus Y, a social-justice group, organized a walkout for Wednesday afternoon. The gathering was intended to provide a space for students to talk or vent, especially for those who feel that their identities and safety are in jeopardy. Read the rest of this entry »
Curtis Hanson, the director and Oscar-winning screenwriter whose eclectic body of work included the film noir “L.A. Confidential,” the rap-music drama “8 Mile” and the offbeat comedy “Wonder Boys,” died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 71.
Los Angeles police were called to a home in the Hollywood Hills just before 5 p.m. on reports of a medical emergency, LAPD Officer Tony Im said.
“You never got the feeling you were watching a retread. He was able to transform all that into something very much his own.”
— Peter Rainer, film critic for the Christian Science Monitor
Hanson was pronounced dead at the scene, and police say he died of natural causes. His family was notified of his death, police said.
“Self-examination, to begin with. You know, who am I, how did I get here and how do I become a better version of myself. Self-destructiveness, because that is the beginning or negation of self-examination.… What I like doing is considering how a very binary, black-and-white vision of the world is overly simplistic. Contradictions are often no such thing.”
— Curtis Hansen
Director Michael Apted reportedly completed the final 15 days of principal photography on the film, which was released in October 2012.
“L.A. Confidential” was the film that thrust Hanson into the forefront of American filmmakers in 1997. His critically acclaimed adaptation of James Ellroy’s intricately plotted novel about police corruption in 1950s Los Angeles earned him and co-writer Brian Helgeland an Oscar for adapted screenplay. Kim Basinger also won the supporting actress Oscar.
In all, the film received seven other Oscar nominations, including best picture and director for Hanson.
“L.A. Confidential,” Hanson told The Times in 1997, was his most personal movie because Ellroy is “telling a story set in the same city that I grew up in and dovetails with certain ambitions that I’ve had in terms of telling an L.A. story.”
For Hanson, “L.A. Confidential” was a high-profile milestone in what he called “a long, long, uphill struggle” as a filmmaker.
“I spent so long trying to get to a place where I could just be able to direct a movie, and then struggled so long to be able to direct movies that I felt had some potential,” he told Canada’s Globe and Mail in 2000.
“By the time ‘L.A. Confidential’ came around I was, naturally, extraordinarily gratified by the acceptance the picture received,” he said. “But to me, there was no mystery about what the picture was. It was a labor of love that, for the first time, I was able to do.”
A one-time film journalist, Hanson began his Hollywood career as a screenwriter on a 1970 low-budget horror movie and made his debut as a director on “Sweet Kill,” a 1972 thriller that he wrote starring Tab Hunter as a psychopathic killer. Read the rest of this entry »
Amid a housing crisis, the Lower Manhattan businesses serve as an unlikely safety net, where people pay as little as $7 a night for a roof over their heads.
“It’s like a prison. You have to be high to sleep.”
— Harry Jumonji
At the beginning of the millennium, the internet cafe was a beacon of the future. But now, amid a lack of affordable housing and a surge in homelessness in New York City, these vestiges of the dot-com boom have become an unlikely safety net, where people pay as little as $7 a night for a roof over their heads. On any given evening in the few remaining 24-hour cybercafes in Manhattan’s Chinatown, chairs are filled with the exhausted bodies of those who have lived there for weeks or months — or by some accounts, even years.
A man tried to get some rest at Freedom Zone Internet Cafe while others surfed the web and played games through the night. Niko Koppel
“It’s like prison,” said Harry Jumonji, describing the tense environment of Freedom Zone on Eldridge Street, where he had been staying with his girlfriend for months. “You got to be high to sleep.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Thursday morning, residents of West Hollywood, California, awoke to find their neighborhood had been plastered with rainbow-colored Gadsden flag posters that were emblazoned with #ShootBack.
The posters, 30 of them in all, were spotted near West Hollywood City Hall, the Pacific Design Center, and The Abbey, a well-known gay lounge. One also appeared in front of the home of artist Chad Michael Morrisette, who had covered the roof of his house with 50 mannequins after the terrorist attack in Orlando on Sunday.
The #ShootBack hashtag on the gay rainbow flag with the pro-gun Gadsden symbol was clearly a provocative response to Sunday’s attack on the gay nightclub in Orlando where 49 people were killed. There has been much speculation about who was responsible for the street art, but no one has come forward to claim responsibility … until now. Read the rest of this entry »
The Friends of Abe has acted as a clandestine club for Hollywood conservatives for more than a decade, hosting secret events where they could vent rightwing views and hear speeches from visiting Tea Party luminaries.
But on Thursday the organisation – which counts Jon Voight, Jerry Bruckheimer and Kelsey Grammer among its 1,500 members – made an abrupt announcement: it was dissolving.
“Effective immediately, we are going to begin to wind down the 501 c3 organization, bring the Sustaining Membership dues to an end, and do away with the costly infrastructure and the abespal.com website,” the executive director, Jeremy Boreing, told members in an email, a copy of which the Guardian has seen.
“Today, because we have been successful in creating a community that extends far beyond our events, people just don’t feel as much of a need to show up for every speaker or bar night, and fewer people pay the dues that help us maintain that large infrastructure.”
The announcement caught members by surprise and fueled speculation that infighting over Donald Trump’s candidacy, among other factors, had drained commitment. Others said the group had been losing steam for years.
Boreing, a director and producer, put a positive gloss on the announcement, saying the initial hunger for fellowship had prompted the group to build an expensive website, rent offices and hire staff, including lawyers and accountants.
“It’s time to change how we do it. As our group has grown in size and success, many of the structures that helped us grow have become less useful … It means an end to the standing organization, but not an end to the mission or the fellowship.”
Boreing vowed to maintain the mailing list and stage events, but without the infrastructure, staff or budget requirements.
“We will still get together for drinks and speakers, but we may reassess how we approach those events logistically. In short, FOA will return to its roots. It will be a passion project, like it was in the beginning … We’ll still be a private organization that protects the names of our members at all costs.”
Boreing did not immediately respond to interview requests.
Members expressed surprise and dismay at the weakening, and perhaps loss, of a refuge from what they see as Hollywood’s bullying liberal ethos.
It was the one place where many of its members – actors, producers, writers and technicians – felt safe from liberal sneers and potential retribution. Read the rest of this entry »
However, Van Houten is not free yet — Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014 vetoed the parole board recommendation that Manson “Family” member Bruce Davis be paroled for his role in another murder that was not part of the sensational 1971 trial that gripped America.
Leslie Van Houten listens during her parole hearing in Corona, California, June 28, 2002. A California state parole board said Van Houten, 52, who has spent 30 years in prison for one of the most shocking killing sprees in U.S. history, should not be paroled because of the “calculated pre-planned manner” of her crime
Van Houten was convicted of two of the Tate-LaBianca murders, that of wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary.
Van Houten acknowledged holding down Mrs. LaBianca with a pillow and an electrical cord while other “Family” members stabbed her. At her trial, where Van Houten was originally sentenced to death, she happily described stabbing Mrs. LaBianca herself post-mortem.
“I don’t let myself off the hook. I don’t find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself,” she told the parole board panel now.
Van Houten was not at the previous night’s attack, at which actress Sharon Tate and her houseguests were killed in a grisly manner that Manson hoped would incite revolution against the “pigs” based on his interpretation of the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.” Read the rest of this entry »
Brian Doherty writes: “There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America,” President Barack Obama proclaimed after the October mass shooting that killed 10 at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. “So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work—or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns—is not borne out by the evidence.”
In this single brief statement, Obama tidily listed the major questions bedeviling social science research about guns—while also embodying the biggest problem with the way we process and apply that research. The president’s ironclad confidence in the conclusiveness of the science, and therefore the desirability of “common-sense gun safety laws,” is echoed widely with every new mass shooting, from academia to the popular press to that guy you knew from high school on Facebook.
In April 2015, the Harvard gun-violence researcher David Hemenway took to the pages of the Los Angeles Timesto declare in a headline: “There’s scientific consensus on guns—and the NRA won’t like it.” Hemenway insisted that researchers have definitively established “that a gun in the home makes it a more dangerous place to be…that guns are not used in self-defense far more often than they are used in crime…and that the change to more permissive gun carrying laws has not reduced crime rates.” He concludes: “There is consensus that strong gun laws reduce homicide.”
But the science is a lot less certain than that. What we really know about the costs and benefits of private gun ownership and the efficacy of gun laws is far more fragile than what Hemenway and the president would have us believe.
More guns do not necessarily mean more homicides. More gun laws do not necessarily mean less gun crime. Finding good science is hard enough; finding good social science on a topic so fraught with politics is nigh impossible. The facts then become even more muddled as the conclusions of those less-than-ironclad academic studies cycle through the press and social media in a massive game of telephone. Despite the confident assertions of the gun controllers and decades of research, we still know astonishingly little about how guns actually function in society and almost nothing at all about whether gun control policies actually work as promised.
Do More Guns Mean More Homicides?
“More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote on August 26, 2015, just after the grisly on-air murder of two television journalists in Virginia. It’s a startling fact, and true.
But do the number of guns in circulation correlate with the number of gun deaths? Start by looking at the category of gun death that propels all gun policy discussion: homicides. (Gun suicides, discussed further below, are a separate matter whose frequent conflation with gun crime introduces much confusion into the debate.)
In 1994 Americans owned around 192 million guns, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice. Today, that figure is somewhere between 245 and 328 million, though as Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss in their thorough 2014 book The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press) wisely concluded, “the bottom line is that no one knows how many firearms are in private hands in the United States.” Still, we have reason to believe gun prevalence likely surpassed the one-gun-per-adult mark early in President Barack Obama’s first term, according to a 2012 Congressional Research Service report that relied on sales and import data.
Yet during that same period, per-capita gun murders have been cut almost in half.
One could argue that the relevant number is not the number of guns, but the number of people with access to guns. That figure is also ambiguous. A Gallup poll in 2014 found 42 percent of households claiming to own a gun, which Gallup reports is “similar to the average reported to Gallup over the past decade.” But those looking for a smaller number, to downplay the significance of guns in American life, can rely on the door-to-door General Social Survey, which reported in 2014 that only 31 percent of households have guns, down 11 percentage points from 1993’s 42 percent. There is no singular theory to explain that discrepancy or to be sure which one is closer to correct—though some doubt, especially as gun ownership continues to be so politically contentious, that people always reliably report the weapons they own to a stranger literally at their door.
This simple point—that America is awash with more guns than ever before, yet we are killing each other with guns at a far lower rate than when we had far fewer guns—undermines the narrative that there is a straightforward, causal relationship between increased gun prevalence and gun homicide. Even if you fall back on the conclusion that it’s just a small number of owners stockpiling more and more guns, it’s hard to escape noticing that even these hoarders seem to be harming fewer and fewer people with their weapons, casting doubt on the proposition that gun ownership is a political crisis demanding action.
In the face of these trend lines—way more guns, way fewer gun murders—how can politicians such as Obama and Hillary Clinton so successfully capitalize on the panic that follows each high profile shooting? Partly because Americans haven’t caught on to the crime drop. A 2013 Pew Research Poll found 56 percent of respondents thought that gun crime had gone up over the past 20 years, and only 12 percent were aware it had declined.
Do Gun Laws Stop Gun Crimes?
The same week Kristof’s column came out, National Journal attracted major media attention with a showy piece of research and analysis headlined “The States With The Most Gun Laws See The Fewest Gun-Related Deaths.” The subhead lamented: “But there’s still little appetite to talk about more restrictions.”
Critics quickly noted that the Journal‘s Libby Isenstein had included suicides among “gun-related deaths” and suicide-irrelevant policies such as stand-your-ground laws among its tally of “gun laws.” That meant that high-suicide, low-homicide states such as Wyoming, Alaska, and Idaho were taken to task for their liberal carry-permit policies. Worse, several of the states with what the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence considers terribly lax gun laws were dropped from Isenstein’s data set because their murder rates were too low!
Another of National Journal‘s mistakes is a common one in gun science: The paper didn’t look at gun statistics in the context of overall violent crime, a much more relevant measure to the policy debate. After all, if less gun crime doesn’t mean less crime overall—if criminals simply substitute other weapons or means when guns are less available—the benefit of the relevant gun laws is thrown into doubt. When Thomas Firey of the Cato Institute ran regressions of Isenstein’s study with slightly different specifications and considering all violent crime, each of her effects either disappeared or reversed.
Gastronomically correct students at an ultra-liberal Ohio college are in an uproar because the cafeteria food isn’t ethnically accurate enough.
Students at Oberlin College are so angered by the “insensitive” and “culturally appropriative” offerings at their Dascomb Dining Hall that they are filling screeds of protest in the school newspaper and even demanded a meeting with Campus Dining Service officials and the college president.
“When you’re cooking a country’s dish for other people, including ones who have never tried the original dish before, you’re also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture.”
At issue are foods such as General Tso’s chicken being served with steamed chicken instead of fried — which is not authentically Chinese, and simply “weird,” one student bellyached.
FBI Director James Comey appeared to refute a report that said that Tashfeen Malik had pledged her support for Islamic jihad on Facebook messages and saying she hoped to join the fight one day.
At a press conference in New York on Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey said that no evidence had been found to indicate that the couple who massacred 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on December 2 were members of a terrorist cell or had any contact with overseas militant groups. Most notably, he said that Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his 29-year-old wife, Tashfeen Malik, had expressed support for “jihad and martyrdom” in private communications but never did so on social media.
“We have found no evidence of a posting on social media by either of them at that period of time or thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom. I’ve seen some reporting on that. That’s a garble. Alright?”
The statement appeared to contradict a report that appeared in the Los Angeles Times citing two unnamed federal law enforcement officials who said that Malik “sent at least two private messages on Facebook to a small group of Pakistani friends in 2012 and 2014, pledging her support for Islamic jihad and saying she hoped to join the fight one day.” The messages were reportedly written in Urudu, a common language in Pakistan. One of the officials was quoted as saying the messages were “her private communications.”
“The investigation continues, but we have not found that kind of thing. These communications are private, direct messages, not social media messages.”
— FBI Director James Comey
“We have found no evidence of a posting on social media by either of them at that period of time or thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom,” Comey said. “I’ve seen some reporting on that. That’s a garble. Alright? The investigation continues, but we have not found that kind of thing. These communications are private, direct messages, not social media messages.”
It remains unclear whether Malik had declared loyalty to the Islamic State on Facebook on the morning that she and Farook killed 14 people who were attending an employee holiday party at a state-run facility for individuals with developmental disabilities.
A report first appeared on CNN and later circulated elsewhere citing unnamed US officials who said that Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State using a Facebook account that was registered under a different name. The sources did not say how they knew for certain that Malik made the post. Read the rest of this entry »
Within minutes of the news of the bomb scare in LA, ISIS supporters created a web forum titled ‘Panic in the American Los Angeles.’
James King and Gilad Shiloach report: ISIS supporters took to social media to gloat about the disruption caused by “credible” bomb threats made against the Los Angeles school system on Tuesday. The threats closed more than 900 schools across the city, abruptly sending hundreds of thousands of students home and throwing the city into disarray.
“Allah Akbar, closure of all the school in Los Angeles because of threats. 640,000 returned to their homes, Oh God, increase their panic!!”
Within minutes of news of the closure, ISIS loyalists created a thread on an online forum with the title “Panic in the American Los Angeles,” Vocativ’s deep web analysis found. Islamic State adherents are using the thread to gloat about the panicked response—though none so far have taken credit for the attack.
“Thanks God, they are panicked of everything. The soldiers of the Caliphate will look after you until the world will be under the rule of Allah,” wrote one supporter. Another responded with, “Oh God, never make them safe. Put panic in their hearts.”
Another ISIS supporter took to Twitter to comment on the school closings in Los Angeles. “The city of Los Angeles is closing schools and vital areas because of the security threat. Oh God, destroy the worshipers of the cross,” the tweet, written by someone who identifies himself as Ali al-Baghdadi, reads. On another ISIS-friendly Twitter feed that is regarded as an unofficial arm of the ISIS propaganda machine, an ISIS supporter celebrated the fact that nearly 650,000 kids were sent home from school. Read the rest of this entry »
The faculty council at Occidental College is considering instituting a system for students to report microaggressions perpetrated against them by faculty members or other students.
Reason TV visited Occidental’s campus to find out what exactly constitutes a microaggression. One Columbia psychology professor defined the term this way: Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.
After exploring the limitations of a microaggression reporting system, we discussed broader free speech issues with the students in the wake of a month of campus protests that resulted in the resignations of several faculty members and a university president.
Most of the students defended free speech in principle, if not always in practice. This is consistent with a recent Pew Research Center survey, which found that although 95 percent of Americans agree that people should be allowed to publicly criticize government policies, support erodes when the question turns to offensive speech. While a majority of millennials still believe that the government should protect speech offensive to minorities, a whopping 40 percent believe the government should restric such speech. Read the rest of this entry »
This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Larry Greenemeier. Got a minute? Virtual reality started off as a way for scientists to visualize their research. Ken Perlin, a computer science professor and pioneer in the field of virtual reality, explains:
[Ken Perlin:] The first people who seriously developed virtual reality were Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull back in 1968. They built a very large device, which they nicknamed the “Sword of Damocles” because it was a very large contraption that hung over your head and carried the headset with it as it moved around on a giant boom arm.”
New gadgets expected to launch in 2016 will be a bit more sophisticated.
[Perlin:] “The major commercial releases of virtual reality that will appear in the first half of 2016 track your head, and they track your two hands.
[Perlin:] “In order to have a full social experience with other people of being in a world together, you also need to know where your feet are. Once you know your head and your hands and your feet, then you can build a computer graphic representation of everybody.”
This version promises to address a major problem the technology faced in the past.
[Perlin:] “Motion sickness was a problem when the delay between my head movement and the graphics that I saw exceeded a certain threshold, generally about a 10th of a second. Modern technologies that make use of these inertial trackers in the headsets have pretty much gotten rid of that.”
Virtual reality will first invade our homes offices and classroomsthrough games and educational tools. But Perlin thinks the technology will become much more than that over time. Read the rest of this entry »
Chris Cox writes: Just when we think that politics can’t sink any lower, President Obama once again proves us wrong by politicizing the tragedy in San Bernardino before the facts were even known. What we do know is that the American people are heartbroken by these horrific crimes — and despite what the president would have us believe — America’s law-abiding gun owners are heartbroken by these horrific crimes as well. At the same time, we are sick and tired of this president suggesting the men and women of the National Rifle Association are somehow to blame.
The National Rifle Association is not to blame. Neither is our Second Amendmentfreedom. An act of evil unfolded in California. President Obama used it not as a moment to inform or calm the American people; rather, he exploited it to push his gun control agenda.
Policy discussions should be intellectually honest and based on facts, not politics. And the fact remains that California has already adoptedPresident Obama’s gun control wish list: “universal” background checks, registration, waiting periods, gun bans, magazine bans and an expansion of prohibited gun categories. But those laws did nothing to prevent this horrific crime from taking place. Nothing.