Colorado's booming legal weed economy


It's not just the $10M in taxes the state's earned in four months -- it's also the $12-40M in law enforcement savings from not busting and imprisoning pot smokers.

Read the rest

What happens when you opt your kids out of standardized tests

Lisa T. McElroy is a law professor who's spending a year at the University of Denver with her two kids, one in high school and one in middle school. She learned that she could opt her kids out of the standardized tests the school administered. So she did. What followed was a total educational freakout, as the principal, vice-principal and administration alternately cajoled and guilted her over her kids' non-participation in pedagogically suspect, meaningless, destructive high-stakes testing.

McElroy's story is a snapshot of an educational system in the process of implosion, driven by the ridiculous idea that schools are factories whose product is educated kids, and whose employees must be made "accountable" by measuring anything we can put a number on -- attendance and test-scores -- at the expense of actual educational outcomes.

Despite the fact that the best-performing educational systems in the world don't treat teachers as assembly line workers and kids as standardized injection molds to be squirted full of learning, the west continues to pursue this approach, scapegoating teachers' unions and pitting parents against them when the real enemy is the doomed idea that schools are a specialized kind of industrial plant -- and the project of selling off public schools to privatized educational corporations that collect public funds to educate kids, but only to the extent that this can be done without undermining their shareholders' interests.

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Aurora shooting suspect's psychiatrist alerted colleagues of threat, but officials never contacted police

The University of Colorado psychiatrist who treated mass shooting suspect James Holmes was so concerned by his behavior, she alerted colleagues in June that he was potentially dangerous. CNN reports that "University officials never contacted Aurora police with Fenton's concerns before the July 20 killings." She "made initial phone calls" about engaging a university threat response team in early June, according to the report, but things "never came together" because Holmes began the process of dropping out of school around this same time. Once he was no longer a student, they "had no control over him."

What can we learn from the Colorado shooting?

Bruce Schneier asks what lessons we can learn from the shooting in a Colorado movie theater, and answers the question with admirable good sense:

The rarity of events such as the Aurora massacre doesn't mean we should ignore any lessons it might teach us. Because people overreact to rare events, they're useful catalysts for social introspection and policy change. The key here is to focus not on the details of the particular event but on the broader issues common to all similar events.

Installing metal detectors at movie theaters doesn't make sense -- there's no reason to think the next crazy gunman will choose a movie theater as his venue, and how effectively would a metal detector deter a lone gunman anyway? -- but understanding the reasons why the United States has so many gun deaths compared with other countries does. The particular motivations of alleged killer James Holmes aren't relevant -- the next gunman will have different motivations -- but the general state of mental health care in the United States is.

Even with this, the most important lesson of the Aurora massacre is how rare these events actually are. Our brains are primed to believe that movie theaters are more dangerous than they used to be, but they're not. The riskiest part of the evening is still the car ride to and from the movie theater, and even that's very safe.

Drawing the wrong lessons from horrific events (via Interesting People)

Where was God?

God here. I thought I would take the time to personally explain my absence in the Aurora shootings. While I was at it, I thought I would also explain my absence during every murder, massacre and crime that has ever taken place in World history, and in every war, in every famine, drought and flood.

You see, I do not exist. I never have. Did it really make sense to you that I would create an entire Universe with billions of billions of planets and wait about 13,700,000,000 years just so I could focus on a few Jews from Palestine about 2,000 years ago while ignoring the rest of the 200,000,000 people on the planet at the time?

- Comment on a CNN Belief Blog editorial explaining "Where God was" during the recent shooting at a Dark Knight screening in Colorado.

A message for the media from an Aurora shooting survivor: "Give victims and survivors their space"

"Student, writer, and self-identifying geek" A.J. Focht, writing on a Suicide Girls blog, talks about the experience of surviving the recent mass shooting at "The Dark Knight Rises" premiere at an Aurora, CO movie theater— and, how a friend and fellow survivor was hounded by content-hungry television producers:

With only a small charge left in her phone one of the members of my group thought it best to send out a blanket distress beacon via Twitter so she could conserve her battery to call her parents and a ride home. Caitlin tweeted from her account @dingos8myTARDIS informing her family and friends of the chaos and that she was physically alright. Her tweets were some of the first online, and within the hour BBC, CNN, and others were broadcasting her messages on the news. The hundreds of media outlets that contacted her throughout the night were unexpected, but we could understand they were just trying to do their jobs. Once we had been released, Caitlin, not wanting the mass media attention, released these tweets:

dingos8myTARDIS: To the media: I was tweeting earlier because my phone was on 10%batt & I needed to let people know I was okay. I am (in) no shape for interviews.

dingos8myTARDIS: To rephrase: I have no interest in interviews at this time. I was merely sending an emergency beacon.

Despite her requesting to be left alone, she was perpetually bombarded by yet more media requests via Twitter from outlets including FOX News and The Huffington Post. As if the mass attention on Twitter was not enough, other news networks took it upon themselves to get her phone number and start calling her.

While we all sat anxiously awaiting information on the MIA member of our group, phones and email notifications continued go off till all our phones had died. Before even our families and friends had a chance to check in, the overzealous reporters were all but knocking on our doors. Right after our group finally learned our missing member didn't make it, Caitlin's phone began to ring; It was the Today Show on the other end requesting an interview about him. She told them off and asked them not to contact her again. However, her pleas didn't stop them from calling again the next morning, still trying to get an interview.

Focht is among those who wish that media would "stop showing" images of the suspected killer. There's a balance for news outlets to strike in cases like this; there's informing, and there's exploitation. For the record, we at Boing Boing have refrained from publishing the image, because there's no real need for us to.

Read the rest: "Back Row Perspective Part 1: An Aurora Theater Survivor’s Message to the Media."

There's a second piece, well worth reading, with words for the politicians who seek to capitalize on the massacre.

Forensic psychologist says mass killing is about culture, not mental illness

The story is familiar to us today: Somebody, usually a young man, walks into a public place, kills a bunch of people seemingly at random, and (usually) ends the murder spree with a suicide-by-cop.

But this story—at least, in Western culture—is startlingly new, relatively speaking. In fact, Paul Mullen, a forensic psychologist, says we can pin a date and place on the first time it happened. On September 4, 1913, in the German towns of Degerloch and Mühlhausen an der Enz, Ernst August Wagner killed his wife, his children, and at least nine strangers. He shot more than 20 people and set several fires during his killing spree. He ended up spending the rest of his life in an insane asylum.

But when we try to pin killings like these on mental illness, Mullen says, we're not quite hitting the right point. The people who go on killing sprees are mad, sure. But that's not the same thing as diagnosable, objective, physical mental illness. Only about 10% of the people ever arrested for crimes like this had actual mental illnesses. In fact, Mullen thinks these killings have more to do with culture than brain chemistry. His argument is interesting. And it might sound a little similar to the old "angry music made him do it!" trope. But what Mullen is talking about is different than that. Science journalist David Dobbs tries to explain the distinction:

I’m not saying the movies made Holmes crazy or psychopathic or some such. But the movies are a enormous, constant, heavily influential part of an American culture that fetishizes violence and glamorizes, to the point of ten-year wars, a militarized, let-it-rain approach to conflict resolution. And culture shapes the expression of mental dysfunction — just as it does other traits. This is why, say, relatively ‘simple’ schizophrenia — not the paranoid sort — takes very different forms in Western and some Eastern cultures. On an even simpler level, this is why competitive athleticism is more likely to express itself as football (the real kind) in Britain but as basketball in the U.S. Culture shapes the expression of behavioral traits.

This is an interesting argument and an interesting thing to think about.

Read the rest of David Dobbs' post about the difference between blaming movies for violence and talking about the consequences of violence in culture.

Watch the video of Paul Mullen discussing cultural violence, mental illness, and spree killings

Read a very good post at the Neuroanthropology blog that expands on Paul Mullen's ideas and provides more interesting links

Uninsured Aurora shooting victims face financial devastation

Medleycaleb

Caleb Medley, an aspiring standup comic, YouTuber, total nerd, and enthusiastic fan of Batman, was shot in the eye at the Aurora movie theater mass shooting.

He is currently in intensive care in an induced coma. He lost his right eye and suffered brain damage. His wife Katie "is about to give birth to their first child," one floor away, according to this CBS News report.

Update: Katie, 21, just gave birth to their first child. Snip from Reuters update:

Katie Medley and her husband, Caleb, both wearing Batman apparel, were at a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in the Denver suburb of Aurora when a gunman clad in tactical body armor, helmet and gas mask opened fire during a midnight showing early on Friday. Twelve people, including a 6-year-old girl, were killed and 58 wounded.

Caleb is currently listed in critical condition at the University of Colorado Denver Hospital. He is showing some signs of progress. Like a number of people injured in the Aurora shooting, he is uninsured. His family has been told that the cost of his medical treatment may exceed $2 million.

There's a fundraising site here, where friends and family are gathering donations to help with his health care costs. America would be an even greater country if people didn't have to do stuff like this to get life-saving medical treatment.

Marilyn Manson's 1999 essay on Columbine mass shooting weirdly relevant again today

When the Columbine shootings happened in Colorado in 1999, many pundits and politicians blamed games, goth culture, and dark pop figures like Marilyn Manson. After today's shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Manson's "Whose Fault Is It?" essay from that same year is worth a read again.

When it comes down to who's to blame for the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado, throw a rock and you'll hit someone who's guilty. We're the people who sit back and tolerate children owning guns, and we're the ones who tune in and watch the up-to-the-minute details of what they do with them. I think it's terrible when anyone dies, especially if it is someone you know and love. But what is more offensive is that when these tragedies happen, most people don't really care any more than they would about the season finale of Friends or The Real World. I was dumbfounded as I watched the media snake right in, not missing a teardrop, interviewing the parents of dead children, televising the funerals. Then came the witch hunt.

Man's greatest fear is chaos. It was unthinkable that these kids did not have a simple black-and-white reason for their actions. And so a scapegoat was needed. I remember hearing the initial reports from Littleton, that Harris and Klebold were wearing makeup and were dressed like Marilyn Manson, whom they obviously must worship, since they were dressed in black. Of course, speculation snowballed into making me the poster boy for everything that is bad in the world. These two idiots weren't wearing makeup, and they weren't dressed like me or like goths. Since Middle America has not heard of the music they did listen to (KMFDM and Rammstein, among others), the media picked something they thought was similar.

Related: "Gunman kills at least 12 in movie theater at "The Dark Knight Rises" screening in Aurora, Colorado"

(thanks, @malgrep)

Journalism cliché of the day

The Telegraph's swiftly-deleted article about the "curse" of Batman movies (still live here) is not, however, today's craziest coverage of the shootings in Colorado. That prize surely goes to Nikki Finke: "It is a very real possibility this terrifying tragedy may affect The Dark Knight Rises‘s opening box office today and this weekend." [Deadline Hollywood via Gawker.

Gunman kills at least 12 in movie theater at "The Dark Knight Rises" screening in Aurora, Colorado

A Colorado gunman walked into a 12:30 a.m. showing of the The Dark Knight Rises, tossed a gas can into the crowd, then began shooting. At least 12 are dead, according to reports, with another 50 hurt.

The police took him into custody and are searching for explosives at his apartment. Redditor iteg3r collated an exhaustive timeline based on local police scanner broadcasts, tweets, and TV bulletins as the night unfolded.

In claimed video of the aftermath (right), a bloodied patron is seen leaving the theater amid confusion and chaos.

Update (830am ET): Local Colorado news provider 9News.com has a live stream of coverage that's more informative and watchable than what the US cable news networks are doing.

At least 12 have been killed, and at least 38 are confirmed wounded, according to Colorado law enforcement. Victims include a 3-month-old baby. The shooter, according to eyewitnesses speaking to local TV news reports, ran in to the theater, lit a "gas can," shot into the ceiling, then into the crowd.

President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the First Lady have cancelled presidential campaign activities today. Obama: "This is a day of prayer and reflection for the victims."

A suspect is in custody: James Holmes, a 24yo white male who is said to have been wearing a gas mask, a bulletproof vest. According to law enforcement, at least four types of guns were used in the shooting, including an "AK-type" assault rifle, a shotgun, and two handguns. The suspect also used a canister of what is presumed to have been tear gas.

Among the dead was Jessica Ghawi (aka Redfield), a young female sports reporter who narrowly missed being killed at a shooting rampage in a Toronto shopping mall last month. She blogged about that experience here.

I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.

Her final tweet is below, sent last night just before the massacre.

Comic about upcoming referendum on muni broadband in Longmont, CO


Chris from Telecommunications as Commons Initiative sez, "There's an upcoming referendum in Longmont Colorado on providing municipal Internet service over existing fiber. We know that the incumbents (mostly Comcast) will spend a lot to derail it, so I'm hoping this comic can make the rounds and 'prime' people so the anti-government mailers and robo-calls will be less effective."

I think it's a pretty good freshman effort; I like the GYWO style!