Taser Inquiry

Following the death of a polish immigrant in connection with taser usage, there has been a great deal of negative publicity about tasers and the use of force by the RCMP in Canada.
 
It is obvious that any extreme stress on the body will increase the chance of a heart attack and 50,000 volts of electricity is an extreme stress.   The Taser companies and police forces have been doing themselves a disservice by denying something that is a matter of common sense.   When you issue statements about there being no proof that Tasers cause or contribute to death you sound like a tobacco company.  There isn’t any need for that because the issue is cost-benefit, not the potential for death. 
 
The issue of tasering and use of force has been aggravated by the supposed suppression of evidence about the police conduct in the polish immigrant case.  They had said that they hadn’t decided that they would taser him in advance, whereas a departmental memo says that they had discussed tasering the immigrant in advance.
 
Note that, contrary to the public venom and outcry from the newspapers, the two statements are not inconsistent.   The police would have almost certainly discussed the possibility ahead of time and it would have been irresponsible not to.  They would have discussed the alternatives to handle the matter depending on what happened.   They wouldn’t have decided until they were on the scene and had done their own evaluation. 
 
The  immigrant was a heavily laborer, probably very strong in normal circumstances.   If you add to that high adrenaline and going berserk you have a recipe for several officers getting seriously hurt taking him down.   I know of a case where 8 officers had to take a man down, and even with those numbers one got a broken arm and another a broken jaw.  
 
People that aren’t familiar with use of force themselves really aren’t qualified to be assessing those situations and getting a howling mob going over the incident is irresponsible.   There are so many things that you don’t know going in, such as whether the person has been using meth or PCP, whether they have military or other combat training such as martial arts, whether they have HIV or some other disease that might be transferred in hand to hand combat.   The man in the field doesn’t have the luxury of a three month commission with complete information and hindsight. 
 
 

Gates v. Crowley

Let’s look at an alternative scenario.  Suppose that somebody called in to say that someone was breaking in and it was a real burglar and the burglar fast talks the police into believing that he lives there.   Probably then the police get accused of racism for not protecting the property of a black man. 
 
Professor Gates did pry open his door with a crowbar because it was stuck.   If somebody that didn’t know that he lived there phoned it in they were just being a good citizen. 
 
A cop showing up and requesting I.D. in that case is just doing his job.  If he sees pry bar marks on the door that legitimize the complaint he absolutely has to ask for I.D.   It doesn’t matter whether the person he finds there is black, white or green.   You can’t have a situation where if an actual burglar says that he lives there the police have to throw up their hands and walk away.
 
There are many thieves that are very convincing and that look respectable and trade on that because people just assume that they belong.   You can’t just look at somebody and tell that they aren’t a thief. 
 
When there is a simple way of settling the matter that’s what ought to happen.  Gates assumed that what- the officer would see a halo around him?  That the officer would automatically recognize him?   The substance of professor Gates’ complaint is not that he wasn’t treated the same as everybody else, but that he wasn’t treated differently.
 
Until the latest public snit I can’t recall having ever heard of Gates, let alone seen his picture, and I’m reasonably well read. 
 
Obama got sucked in a bit by Gates, probably because of his status and because police generally have a stereotype of doing high-handed, boneheaded things because so many people enter that profession because they are control freaks.     But judging a cop because he is a cop is stereotyping just as judging a black because he is black is stereotyping. 
 
In any controversy it is unwise to reach a conclusion before both sides are aired, even if one side is a Harvard professor. 

CIA promises full transparency!

Not really.
 
 
An intelligence agency that engages in deception? Shocking.   Just wait until you hear about the army killing people and you’ll really flip.
 
Of course the manner of deception and the subject matter involved may be scandalous if the actions are against the public interest. 
 
In the absence of the subject matter, one can’t help but feel that the CIA director is getting punked, that this is some exquisitely subtle form of satire. 
 
I’m sure that the democratic caucus’ verbal diarrhea in public about such matters generates nothing but confidence that the CIA can make full and frank disclosure.
 
I’m not saying that I’m a fan of the CIA, because they have done a lot of things that were wrong.   Part of that is the inherent dilemma that a modern nation needs intelligence agencies and what they do can’t be overseen without undermining the agency’s objectives.   Any  organization that gets funding without oversight is going to have elements that go rancid.   You have to draw a line trading off the objectives but the line is arbitrary.

Consistency vs. Greatness- is Federer the third best player of his generation?

Lost in the kaffufle around Federer getting his 15th title is his negative record against both Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.  The following page is instructive: http://msn.foxsports.com/tennis/story/9776126/Roddick-a-real-Grand-Slam-threat-once-again
 
Subtract Federer’s victories over Roddick from the totals on that page and his combined record against the other top players is not very good. 
 
He is a remarkably efficient machine, always reaching the semifinals of grand slam tournaments and knocking off lesser players without seeming to ever have an off day.  But when it comes to bringing down the top competition, he’s missing that extra gear.  He brings his A game every day to every match, but he doesn’t have an A+ game.
 
Federer was a beneficiary of Pete Sampras retiring early and at the top of his game. 
 
He also benefited from a bit of a lull between the stars of the 1990s and the stars of the mid to late 2000 decade.  Can anybody (other than a tennis nut) recall anybody between the period of Sampras’ prime and the time when Nadal got going, other than Federer and Roddick?  A few had flashes of brilliance but they are so noteworthy that none of their names come to mind. 
 
There is the problem that we can’t meaningfully compare players of different eras.  It may be that the top ten players now would be better than every one of the top ten players in 1985.  It could be that all of the top ten players in 1985 would whoop all of the top ten players of today.  Nobody can answer that question, although Spike TV would probably like to try.
 
The issue of who is the greatest ever might be more answerable in golf, where players play the course rather than each other per se.   Compare the stats of Nicolas and Woods on the same courses, if they haven’t been altered, at the same point in their lives, and you might be able to get some sort of a meaningful comparison.
 
Who is the greatest hockey player?  Most people would say Wayne Gretzky.   How many Cups did Gretzky win without Mark Messier?  How many Cups did Mark Messier win without Wayne Gretzky?  Better yet, if you look at the plus/minus career rating divided by games played, you see most of the very best players around 0.3, Gretzky around 0.5 and- for the years where stats are available- Bobby Orr at about 1.0 starring a long way down at everybody else.  And how do you decide if a skater is better than a goalie? How do you filter out the effect of playing alongside superior players?
 
The recent debate about who was the best goalie ever was a Federer style annoyance.  Who was the best goalie ever?  Martin Brodeur or Patrick Roy?
 
It strikes me as particularly comparable because both Brodeur and Roy have that Federer gift, consistency.  Both also had very good teams in front of them and that never hurts.
 
Who is the best goalie ever?  Again, you can’t really compare past eras, but the best of the modern era is Dominic Hasek, no question.  During the period for which he was most famous, he carried the Buffalo Sabres team.   What he did there was more impressive than the President’s Trophy and Stanley Cup with the Red Wings where he was surrounded by future hall of famers and the best team in the league. 
 
Hasek proved himself because he could grit it out with an average team and still perform ridiculously well.  During his prime there was no comparison with either Brodeur or Roy.  He won 6 Vezina Trophies in the period 1993-2001, in direct competition with the other two in their prime.  That’s all you should need to say. 
 
Which gets to my next point, the importance of gritting it out in determining greatness.
 
In tennis as in NCAA basketball, the draws seem to heavily favor the people that were already the favorites. 
 
Look at Wimbleton’s draws:
 
Round 1, Federer vs. unranked nobody.
Round 2, Federer vs. unranked nobody.
Round 3, Federer vs. 27th seed.
Round 4, Federer vs. 13th seed.
Round 5, Federer vs. 22nd seed.
Round 6, Federer vs. 24th seed.
Round 7, Federer vs. 6th seed.
 
Federer becomes the greatest ever, defeating only one top ten seed, only two of the top 20, and nobody else in the top 5?
 
Other people did the heavy lifting for him.
 
Compare that to Mr. Soderling’s path to greatness in the French open, in reverse order:
 
Finals: vs. Federer, 2nd seed (loss)
Round 6: vs. 12th seed
Round 5: vs. 10th seed
Round 4: vs. 1st seed
Round 3: vs. 14th seed
 
When you pair the lowest seeds against the highest seeds and work your way towards the middle, the seeding system becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The lower seeds get hopelessly overmatched early while the higher seeds get the equivalent of a "bye" and stay rested, as long as they don’t get too cocky, and the guys in the middle get worn out with early fights.
 
If somebody like Soderling strings together a series of upsets, he will run in to a better rested Federer or Nadal at the end when it would have been a tough fight to begin with. 
 
Once you get to the top, unless you fall apart the deck seems to be stacked a bit in your favor.   Maybe it’s always been that way.  In any event, if you can coast through a tournament taking on low seeds and non-seeds it pads the stats of consistent players with low risk matches. 
 
Stats can measure some kinds of quality and durability but we are replacing greatness with statistics and that creates a skewed world view. 
 
Nadal has greatness.  He’s won something like 13 of 20 matches against Federer.   He plays a hard style that might blow out his knees early (like Bobby Orr?).
 
 
 
 
 

Scott Peterson case

There are so many troubling things about that case.  The only connection between the suspect and the murders is that the bodies showed up in a bay where he claims to have been fishing on the day in question, which somehow showed up over four months after the disappearance rather than, e.g., drifting to sea, and after the bay was thoroughly checked. 
 
The prosecution’s theory of the case is wildly implausible and doesn’t match Peterson’s personality profile.  He’s the family man-player type, who always wants somebody on the side but doesn’t want to get serious about it.  If he did it, the likely motive would be because she threatened to leave because of all the affairs.   When on his own evidence he went fishing on Christmas Eve rather than being with her, the relationship isn’t looking that healthy.   Many aren’t, and we shouldn’t automatically convict the spouse of a murdered person unless they can prove that their relationship was perfect.   The chance of a miscarriage of justice would be unacceptably high. 
 
In the recordings taped by one of his girlfriends, Amber Frey, he is clearly blowing her off while pretending to be interested.   The idea that he got rid of his wife to be with her is preposterous and I believe that the prosecution’s proposed motive is false. 
 
I’m inclined to accept the position of the Peterson supporters that Amber Frey, who has perhaps delicately described as a "masseuse", is a woman scorned.
 
Which should have made her the primary suspect from the outset.  Amber Frey wanted him.  She admitted in 2005 that she still thought about him and wondered if he still thought about her.  After a murder conviction???  That woman is obsessed.
 
The one obstacle to their relationship is removed, she thinks, but he still isn’t that in to her…and then the bodies miraculously pop up in an area that presumably had been very thoroughly checked by police months earlier.
 
Photos of Amber Frey make my hair stand on end.  She already looked like a psychopath when she was around six.   If the cops didn’t immediately pick up what was wrong with her it was because they wanted Peterson too badly. 
 
Is Amber Frey’s motive in cooperating with police revenge, or is it that she realizes that she went too far and she figured that the best defence was a good offence?  If Peterson connected the dots, he might finger her first.   She had to assume that the police knew about the affair or would eventually. 
 
It wouldn’t be the first time that the star witness ought to have been the star suspect.   Amber Frey had the strongest known motive.  Scott Peterson may have had a motive, or maybe he didn’t- that’s all speculation. 
 
Initially Peterson wasn’t a suspect because Laci’s friends and family had faith in his innocence.  That tells me a hell of a lot.  If a woman is thinking about packing, she’s always going to tell her girlfriends.  If the guy is an abuser, either she’s going to tell her girlfriends or they’ll pick up on it.  There is no indication whatsoever that there is any merit to the prosecution’s version that Peterson is a violent type sociopath.
 
Something that Peterson did have a motive for was to keep the affair out of the press and outside police attention as it would suggest a possible motive for him,
which would explain trying to keep Frey happy by calling her all the time while keeping her at arms length.   She could have never replaced Laci because he could never introduce her into his life. 
 
If Frey did it, my profile of her would be that she would be at high risk of doing it again under similar stresses.
 
Then there is the Evelyn Hernandez case where a woman was killed with a similar MO.  There may be another parallel in that the woman’s wallet was found near the place of employment of her boyfriend, which could be an attempt to cast suspicion on him. 
 
Of course an MO can be copied, particularly where the details are publicly known, and which can be an attempt to divert attention to suspicion of a serial killer.
 
And then there are other avenues to look at, including that Scott Peterson had an awful lot of resources for somebody that had been waiting tables a few years earlier, hiring a celebrity attorney the likes of Mark Geragos.   Of course his father has a trucking business so it may be that he was supported, but then look at his inventory at the time that he was arrested, carrying a lot of cash and 4 cellphones.   If he were doing something illicit on the side, that could lead to certain gaps in his various stories that he would not be comfortable elaborating on with police.  They could have sensed something off- but that can mean that he is guilty of something else.   It could also suggest unknown parties with motives. 
 
Any way you slice it though, he’s received a death sentence for adultery.   Whether he did it or not, who’s to say- although my gut goes with Amber Frey-  but convictions should be supported by evidence.