April 11, 2015 archive

Life Hacks

How to Beat a Polygraph Test

By MALIA WOLLAN, The New York Times

APRIL 10, 2015

“A polygraph is nothing more than a psychological billy club used to coerce and intimidate people,” says Doug Williams, a former Oklahoma City police detective and polygraph examiner who for 36 years has trained people to pass the lie-detector test. The first step is not to be intimidated. Most tests include two types of questions: relevant ones about a specific incident (“Did you leak classified information to The New York Times?”) and broader so-called control questions (“Have you ever lied to anyone who trusted you?”). The test assumes that an innocent person telling the truth will have a stronger reaction to the control questions than to the relevant ones. Before your test, practice deciphering between the two question types. “Go to the beach” when you hear a relevant question, Williams says. Calm yourself before answering by imagining gentle waves and warm sand.

When you get a control question, which is more general, envision the scariest thing you can in order to trigger physiological distress; the polygraph’s tubes around your chest measure breathing, the arm cuff monitors heart rate and electrodes attached to you fingertips detect perspiration. What is your greatest fear? Falling? Drowning? Being buried alive? “Picture that,” Williams says.

Federal legislation prohibits most private employers from using polygraphs. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that lower courts can ban them as evidence, and the scientific community has repeatedly raised concerns about their ability to accurately detect lies. Still, the federal government and state and local law-enforcement agencies continue to administer them. Last November, the Justice Department charged Williams with witness tampering after he gave his polygraph tutorial to undercover agents posing as federal-job applicants who had engaged in illegal activities. Even with a looming court date, Williams is coaching clients and crusading against “this dangerous myth of lie detection.” The government, he says, is really after him for exposing the test’s fallibility: “I’ve made them look like fools and con men.”

Not that I would ever advocate being less than truthful in the face of a polygraph, particularly one given by men in uniforms (like a $20 lab coat).

(h/t Lambert at Naked Capitalism)

John Oliver Takes on Surveillance Reform

The battle over citizens’ right to privacy and the government’s mass collection of private data that has nothing to do with protecting the country from terrorist attacks, is coming to a head on June 1. That’s when the Patriot Act’s section 215, the provision of the act that the NSA used to authorize its bulk telephone metadata collection program, must either be renewed by congress or it expires. The problem is the lack of interest by the American public. In an extended segment of his HBO program, “This Week Tonight,” John Oliver found a subject that might pique their interest, “dick pics.” He presented his idea to Edward Snowden in a one on one exclusive interview.

So why all the trouble? In theory, Snowden’s revelations are old, they have proven to be either inaccessible or not titillating enough for the American public, and Oliver already covered the issue himself on the show in an interview with former NSA chief General Keith Alexander less than a year ago.

As it turns out, Oliver wasn’t satisfied. Using the June 1 expiration of controversial sections of the Patriot Act as a peg, Oliver decided to revive the conversation anew by highlighting one specific aspect of the surveillance issue that a majority of Americans could relate to.

And Sunday’s final product is earning Oliver plaudits across the Internet. In the interview, Oliver accomplishes several feats. He’s not only funny (Snowden apparently misses eating Hot Pockets, the sodium vehicle of the American freezer section), but also incisive and tough. [..]

But most notably of all, Oliver might finally have pinpointed a way to make the debate about surveillance accessible to a wide audience. By honing on one aspect of the government surveillance, the capacity for intelligence agencies to access “dick pics,” he captures the attention and summons the outrage of numerous passersby in a filmed segment in Times Square. Many of those interviewed can’t properly identify Edward Snowden or don’t quite recall what he had done, but all recoil at the thought of government access to intimate photography.

Thanks to John’s interview and the above viral video, which at this posting has

4,723,977 views, the movement to end mass surveillance has new life.

Privacy advocates experienced a major setback in November when a surveillance reform bill, the FREEDOM Act, died in a Senate procedural vote. But now they’re back, and with a new, simple question for Americans – Can they see your junk?

Playing off Oliver’s hilarious skit, one privacy activist built cantheyseemydick.com, which breaks down how each NSA program could be used to access private communications. Despite its flippant tone, the website offers simple explanations of complex programs that are difficult to understand.

On a more serious note, a new coalition of privacy groups led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today launched the Fight 215 campaign calling for an end to the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

EFF activist Nadia Kayyali told TechCrunch the organizations launched the campaign today because of the impending deadline, but they were very excited about the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver skit and the attention it has already brought to surveillance reform.

With this campaign, the privacy advocates have taken a direct stance, end the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records. [..]

Even with the new public attention on surveillance reform, privacy advocates face an uphill battle in Congress. Although surveillance reform is an issue that does not fall squarely on party lines, reform efforts in the Democratic-controlled Senate last year were thwarted primarily by Republican votes. Now Republicans control both chambers of Congress.

As the June 1 deadline approaches, no one in Congress has laid out a comprehensive plan to address government surveillance this year. Kayyali attributes the lack of action on the Hill to uncertainty.

“I think a lot of people, including people who want to see good legislation passed, weren’t certain where to start from,” Kayyali said. “It’s hard to say what Congress is thinking.”

As members look to form that plan, Kayyali hopes the new campaign will send them a clear message.

EEF and thirty other civil liberties organizations have launched a call in campaign, Fight 215. They will help connect you to your representatives to tell them to end mass surveillance.

Call Congress Now

Urge them to end mass surveillance under the Patriot Act.

What to say


I’m one of your constituents, and I’m calling to urge you to end the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance under the Patriot Act.

NSA surveillance illegally invades my privacy, along with millions of other innocent people, without making me safer.

Ending phone record surveillance is the first step to reining in surveillance abuses by the NSA. The time to put pressure on congress is now.


The Breakfast Club (To the Right of Spring)

No, not that Right, your other Rite.

Ah, screw it.  Just make three lefts and while you wait for oncoming traffic I’ll passive aggressively stew here with my shotgun and whistle tunelessly.

Do I stress you out?

Oh, you don’t even know.

Le Sacre du printemps

Allow me to review the 3 Rules of Opera-

The 3 rules of Opera.

  1. It must be long, boring, and in an incomprehesible foreign language (even if that language is English).
  2. The characters, especially the main ones, must be thoroughly unsympathetic and their activities horrid and callous.
  3. Everyone must die, hopefully in an ironic and gruesome way.

Ballet is the same, but with more men in tights and without the superfluous singing.

I’m not afraid if the Terpsichorean Muse though I do like a nice bit of cheese-

I was a DJ after all and I know what (shudder) drags them out on the dance floor and it ain’t this-

You see, people only dance to the thoroughly familiar and cliched.

Those are ones I actually like.

Anyway the story of the Ballet goes something like this, the celebration of spring begins in the hills and a Crone enters to foretell the future which isn’t really even as interesting as a cold reading because this is a simpler, more primitive time and every Groundhog Day is pretty much exactly the same.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?

That about sums it up for me.

Except that today is different.  Today we go and kidnap us some virgins.  I dunno, I kind of agree with that part about the railroad tracks.

And then we celebrate Festivus with the airing of grievances until the Sage comes and tells us to stop it and get on to the orgy.

End of Act I.  Time to hit the lobby and get blasted because things are only going to get worse.

Act II

Evidently the ballerinas were out in the lobby too as they straggle on stage and wander around in circles for no particular reason.  It’s just like a Sigma Alpha Epsilon party at UVA only with more roofies.  One particularly befuddled co-ed is selected for sacrifice, sent off to perform goodness knows what kind of unspeakable acts with a bunch of dirty old men and then dances herself to death much to the amusement of the other performers and outrage of the audience.


Yeah, dance your way out of that Stravinsky.

As you might imagine this tale of pedophilic murder created quite a stir, even in Paris a city not noted for Puritanism.  At the debut there was a riot between the wealthy patrons of art and the bohemian hip crowd that liked it for it’s novelty.  From all accounts Nijinsky’s choreography sucked, but I think the whole concept was a bad idea from the git.

Despite my opinion it’s one of the most frequently recorded and performed ballets.

Oh wait, that’s Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.  This is Le Sacre.

Don’t agree with my assessment?  Well, that’s the Politics of Dancing-

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History April 11

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 11 is the 101st day of the year (102nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 264 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1814, the Treaty of Fontainebleau ends the War of the Sixth Coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte, and forces him to abdicate unconditionally for the first time.

War of the Sixth Coalition

There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812-13 while both the Russians and the French rebuilt their forces; Napoleon was then able to field 350,000 troops. Heartened by France’s loss in Russia, Prussia joined with Austria, Sweden, Russia, Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal in a new coalition. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Coalition culminating in the Battle of Dresden in August 1813. Despite these successes, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon, and the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size and lost at the Battle of Leipzig. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost more than 90,000 casualties in total.

Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and 40,000 stragglers, against more than three times as many Allied troops. The French were surrounded: British armies pressed from the south, and other Coalition forces positioned to attack from the German states. Napoleon won a series of victories in the Six Days Campaign, though these were not significant enough to turn the tide; Paris was captured by the Coalition in March 1814.

When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On 4 April, led by Ney, they confronted Napoleon. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. Napoleon had no choice but to abdicate. He did so in favour of his son; however, the Allies refused to accept this, and Napoleon was forced to abdicate unconditionally on 11 April.

   The Allied Powers having declared that Emperor Napoleon was the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace in Europe, Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces, for himself and his heirs, the thrones of France and Italy, and that there is no personal sacrifice, even that of his life, which he is not ready to do in the interests of France.

   Done in the palace of Fontainebleau, 11 April 1814.

   -Act of abdication of Napoleon

In the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the victors exiled him to Elba, an island of 12,000 inhabitants in the Mediterranean, 20 km off the Tuscan coast. They gave him sovereignty over the island and allowed him to retain his title of emperor. Napoleon attempted suicide with a pill he had carried since a near-capture by Russians on the retreat from Moscow. Its potency had weakened with age, and he survived to be exiled while his wife and son took refuge in Austria. In the first few months on Elba he created a small navy and army, developed the iron mines, and issued decrees on modern agricultural methods.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

It’s Easy Being (Collard) Green

Collard Greens Tagine With Flageolets photo 01MARTHA-tmagArticle.jpg

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

While the brightest spring vegetables are not yet on offer, Martha notes that dark green collards, light green fennel, pale green dried flageolet beans and bright jalapeƱo are all available at the market. She offers a new collard greens stew, and we’ve dug up more of our favorite recipes for collard greens.

~ Tara Parker Pope ~

Collard Greens Tagine With Flageolets

Stuffed Collard Greens

Collard Greens With Farro

Farro with anything is comfort food, and the combination of farro and collard greens is particularly hearty and nutritious.

Breakfast Tacos With Eggs, Onions and Collard Greens

These comforting, easy tacos don’t have to be relegated to the breakfast table.