Racial Profiling Doesn't Work: Do the Math

"But doesn't racial profiling work?" No, simply speaking, it does not. There's ample data to explain that it does not work. Sites like this one defend racial profiling with statements like this: "But the unmentionable reality behind the sob stories about the likes of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown is that the color of crime in the U.S. is disproportionately black."

That's a tricky statement. Don't fall for it. It's actually sort of true but for a reason that they don't explain. When they focus policing efforts on people of color, the police literally are ignoring the white people who could also be getting arrested, but aren't. Because the police are significantly ignoring the opportunity to arrest them in specific scenarios.

The color of people arrested for crime is disproportionately black. That is true. The color of people committing crime is not actually disproportionally black. That's what makes this statement false and misleading. 

Look at the math as it relates to drug crime. It works out like this. According to Public Health Surveys, basically 75% of illegal drug users are white. Yet lots of data shows that police target people of color way more than white people. Just one example: "Crime statistics show that in 1999 in the United States blacks were far more likely to be targeted by law enforcement for drug crimes, and received much stiffer penalties and sentences than whites." Black people are only 13% of illegal drug users, yet they comprise 74% of people sent to prison for drug possession crimes.

In short, the police are detaining, arresting and sending more black people to jail for drug crimes, when the data suggests that actually, white people are more likely to be in possession of illegal drugs.

How does this even make sense from a law enforcement perspective? It's wasted effort. Poorly focused.

"There is strong evidence that racial profiling does not work. In fact, where racial profiling has been studied in the context of law enforcement, such as in the United States, it has been found by some scholars to be neither an efficient nor effective approach to fighting crime. Studies in the United States have consistently found that while minorities (African American and Latino persons) were targeted more, the chance of finding contraband when their cars were searched was the same or less than White persons. In several studies, minorities were found to be statistically significantly less likely to have contraband found following a search. For example, a 2001 U.S. Department of Justice report on 1,272,282 citizen-police contacts in 1999 found that, although African Americans and Hispanics were much more likely than White persons to be stopped and searched, they were about half as likely to be in possession of contraband." Source.

"Those who defend the police argue that racial and ethnic disparities reflect not discrimination but higher rates of offenses among minorities. Nationwide, blacks are 13 times more likely to be sent to state prisons for drug convictions than are whites, so it would seem rational for police to assume that all other things being equal, a black driver is more likely than a white driver to be carrying drugs. But the racial profiling studies uniformly show that this widely shared assumption is false." Source.

Remember New Year's Eve at the Artists' Quarter?

If you live in the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, you might have gone to the Artists' Quarter jazz club for the New Year's Eve celebration once or twice. It was the place to be. So much fun and revelry and good times and good music and good friends. Unfortunately, the AQ closed at the end of 2013, but the friends of the AQ have grouped back together to help put on a pop-up New Year's Eve show for this NYE, December 31, 2015! For more more information, click here to visit the Artists' Quarter website. Hope to see you there!

Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do about It

My wife Kate Harding's new book, Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do about It will be released on August 25th.

In it, she goes into detail about how the media covers sexual assault cases, how often the media gets it wrong, and how often the victim is scorned, challenged or called a liar. Indeed, when supposedly smart people like George Will even write articles claiming that women "make victimhood a coveted status," we've got a problem. "Who wouldn't want to be sexually assaulted?" said nobody ever. "It's like winning the shame lottery," nobody ever bragged.

Sadly, the nature of this kind of thing is, no matter when the book is finally put to bed, five more bad things will happen the next day. That's mostly, but not entirely, Bill Cosby's fault.

You can purchase the book online from Amazon.com or Powell's.

Visit Kate Harding's website for more information on her and on the book.

Reasons to Live in Minneapolis

Here are just a few of the reasons you should live in Minneapolis.

Reason #1: The view from your balcony looks like this.


Reason #2: Cool things like Berger Fountain, this whimsical 1970s dandelion-shaped fountain.

Reason #3: Cool music festivals like Rock the Garden and the Basilica Block Party are held right outside your door, letting you see bands like Spoon, Belle and Sebastian, Courtney Barnett, Fitz and the Tantrums, Wilco and more, while barely having to cross the street to get there.

Reason #5: Just out your back door, there's tons of green space--parks, lakes, and trails, almost all suitable places for walking your best friend.

On living in Minneapolis

My wife was published in the "Your Voices" section of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune today, talking about what it is like to be a recent transplant to Minneapolis.

Buying Prescription Glasses Online

Recently I realized that it was time to update my eyeglass prescription. It's been just about two years and I can tell that things aren't looking as sharp as they used to. And I could use some help reading very small text in some scenarios. I actually had no-line bifocals (progressives) on my last pair of glasses from See Eyewear, though the magnification wasn't enough to be very useful. I loved the style of those glasses from See Eyewear, but they cost me nearly $600! Ouch! And then add in another $400 for prescription sunglasses -- which I lose once or twice a year -- and that ends up being $1000 for glasses! That's just nuts! That costs more than a huge LCD TV!

As a result, I decided that it is time to figure out how to buy prescription glasses online. Friends keep telling me how great it works out for them. Some friends have like six pairs of $20 glasses, different glasses for different outlets or different occasions. I didn't plan on going to that extreme, but I'd like to have different pairs for different functionality. A pair of dark single-vision sunglasses I can leave in the car forever. A pair of photochromic sun-activated sunglasses that I can wear when walking outdoors (and not have to carry a second pair of regular glasses for indoor use). A regular pair of nice plastic frames with progressive no-line bifocals for work. Maybe a pair with single vision lenses, for watching TV. And an extra pair of really dark sunglasses for days I plan to spend outdoors. Etc.

One thing I learned from reading online is that your pupillary distance (PD) is a measurement you'll need to order glasses, and that it is not included in your prescription printout by default. You'll need to ask your eye doctor or glasses shop employee to measure your PD for you. Some will give you the stink eye if you ask for this, because it's a dead giveaway that you're going to order prescription glasses online. I went to CostCo to get my eyes checked and figured they wouldn't give me too much of a hard time about my plan to purchase online, instead of from them. That went mostly fine; the doctor did whine a little that I'd be on my own when it came to checking lenses for fit and finish, but the counter clerk was happy to measure my PD. So now I've got a paper prescription, and my PD value, which I've written on the prescription, and scanned and saved.

Zenni (and probably others) offer suggestions on how to measure your PD yourself, if you're willing to try. Also, Zenni will send you a little PD-measuring ruler with your glasses. Give it to a friend so they can measure their PD and get glasses from Zenni as well!

Sizing frames can be kind of tricky. Zenni explains how to measure frames, and explains how to read the sizing code likely printed on the arm of your current pair of glasses. My glasses from See Eyewear have "54X19X145" printed on one of the arms. This means 54 mm is the lens width, 19 mm is the bridge width, and 145 mm is the arm length. Zenni suggests trying to find glasses similar in widths to what you have now, if you're happy with the fit. This is a great place to start.

So far, I've investigated four different online stores, and ordered glasses from three of them. Here's a brief rundown:

Warby ParkerI ended up not buying glasses from Warby Parker. WP has a "frame studio" located in Chicago, which is a storefront where you can come in and try on all the different frames. You still order online (though I think the staff will facilitate an order for you in store, if you require assistance). We visited the storefront and tried on a bunch of frames. I was disappointed to find that nothing was quite the style/size I wanted. I was hoping for something a bit chunky and square, which they had, but not quite big enough for my face. Also, their prices are too high. $95 for frames with lenses that have a standard single vision prescription, or $295 for progressive no-line bifocals.

WP's price of $295 for progressive bifocals was a deal killer.  All of these sites charge a premium for bifocals, but Warby Parker is just charging flat out too much. They are also more limited as far as what kind of lens tint or style they'll put in a given frame. I initially had visions of getting five different pairs of the same clear Warby Parker frames, with sunglass lenses in some and not others. This wasn't even possible; they seem to have separate sunglass choices and don't seem to allow for mix and match. Their big shtick is that they donate a pair of glasses for every pair you purchase. Considering the price difference between this place and others, they probably also make a healthy profit. Warby Parker might be a sucker game for hipsters.

Zenni Optical. Zenni might be the winner so far. This seems to be the site everybody talks about. Big selection, until you narrow it down to a specific frame width, then it can get a little more sparse. I ordered these black plastic frames ($25.95) plus $27.95 for progressive no-line bifocal lenses plus shipping for a total of $58.85. Not quite the "$6 glasses" that everybody keeps talking about, but wow, I think that's still the least I've spent on a pair of frames + lenses so far. They arrived 10-14 days later (not sure; I was out of town) and I am happy with how they fit and how they look. They're currently my regular pair of glasses. The frames are light and springy, but they don't feel cheap. I'm very happy overall. If they break, I push the button and have Zenni send me another pair with the exact same prescription.

I had wanted to get a second pair with photochromic tint (meaning that they turn dark when you go out in the sun), but I realize that the first frames aren't really big enough to make good sunglasses. I've ordered a different frame with photochromic tint, and I'm waiting for that to arrive. With the tint, the frames + single vision prescription lenses, and oil/fingerprint resistance coating, the second pair comes out to be $54.85 shipped. I'll update this post with more info after this pair arrives.

Coastal.com. Coastal comes in second, but I'm still happy. 
I decided to order a pair of prescription sunglasses from Coastal.com, to compare them to Zenni. I liked their frame selection, but their prices end up being a little bit higher. For $108 shipped, I got these frames, with a single vision prescription lens in solid grey. These are solid sunglasses. I'm happy with the fit and finish. Right now they're my main sunglasses, and I'm likely to keep them in the car when all is said and done. I'm not likely to order again from Coastal, unless I have some problem with Zenni. So far, the prices at Zenni seem better.

Eyebuy Direct. Too soon to tell, but very low starter prices. I just ordered these frames and lenses so I can't speak to how good they are (or aren't). But I got a pair of frames with single vision prescription lenses for $11.95 shipped. ($6 frames + $5.95 shipping.) They seem to do a lot of coupon codes. BOGO (buy one get one free), free tinting, etc. Stay tuned, I'll update this post with more info after this pair arrives. They start out cheap, but if you add on tinting, no-line bifocals, thinner lenses, it can start to add up. I think the "perfect with everything" pair I spec'd out came to around $76. I'll come back and pay that for a follow-up pair if this first pair comes out okay.

All-in-all, I've spent a grand total of $233.65 on four pairs of glasses, an average of about $58 each. That's still just under half what I paid for a single pair of eyeglasses previously. Even if one or more of these end up not working out, I'm still money ahead.

And finally, if you're looking to convert a bifocal prescription to a single vision prescription, note that you simply drop the "ADD" section of your prescription. The "ADD" section is a magnification setting that applies to the bottom half of your glasses. It puts the "bi" in bifocal.

MNJazz is back! Sort of.

If you've known me for a long time, you might know that I used to host and manage the website for the Artists' Quarter jazz club. It used to live at www.mnjazz.com as the domain name artistsquarter.com was taken. Later, we were able to purchase the artistsquarter.com domain and move the club's website there. Now that years have gone by, and the AQ is no more, I've repurposed www.mnjazz.com to host a tiny little list of recurring jazz events that interest me. I'll be adding to it over time, hoping that it becomes a useful resource for others.

Indiana's RFRA: Isn't it the same as the Federal RFRA?

One of the rebuttals to objection over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act is to say that this law is just like the Federal RFRA and similar to laws in other states. (The Indy Star even reported it as such.) The thing is, though, it's not the same-- but don't take my word for it. Let's ask thirty legal scholars what they think.

The state RFRA bills do not, in fact, mirror the language of the federal RFRA.


The definition of "person" under the proposed RFRA differs substantially from that contained in the federal RFRA, affording standing to assert religious liberty rights to a much broader class of entities than that currently recognized by federal law.


This parallel between support for the federal RFRA and the proposed state RFRA is misplaced. In fact, many members of the bipartisan coalition that supported the passage of the federal RFRA in 1993 now hold the view that the law has been interpreted and applied in ways they did not expect at the time they lent their endorsement to the law. As a result, the legislators who voted on RFRA have distanced themselves from their initial backing of the legislation.


It is our expert opinion that the proposals, if adopted, would amount to an over-correction in protecting important religious liberty rights, thereby destroying a well-established harmony struck in Indiana law between these important rights and other rights secured under the Indiana Constitution and statutes.

Minneapolis Roundup

Looking for something to do in Minneapolis? Here's a quick bullet list of a few fun places to check out.

Need good restaurant recommendations? Here's a few. Or if you're more into the fast food/fast casual (read: cheaper) kind of thing, here's a list of five less upscale places to consider.

Back in 2013, some random hack tried to expense a quick trip to the Twin Cities by pounding out an awful travelogue of his weekend's mis-adventure in the area. Here find my suggested alternative itinerary for how to spend a weekend in the Twin Cities.