Jun 032020

Just recently I have seen some posts from right-wing nut-jobs (or racist fascists) declaring that according to their statistics, there isn’t an imbalance between deaths to whites by the police and deaths to blacks by the police. At least one of which looked at shootings by the police which is kind of missing the point; and leaving half of the killings out.

So I had a look at digging up some statistics myself which turned out to be somewhat more difficult than I imagined. It seems that recent data is difficult to find – not least because not all states report on these killings.

The figures I have are from 2003-2009 :-

|         | Deaths in Custody |
| White   | 2026 |
| Black   | 1529 |
| Hispanic|  949 |
| Other   |  150 |
| Unknown |  159 |
| Total   | 4813 |

(Source: Table 3 of https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ard0309st.pdf)

So according to these figures, more whites get killed by the police than blacks; ignoring the racial issue for the moment, why is this not a problem on its own? The UK had a high of 23 deaths in custody in 2017; multiply this by 7 to get the same number of years and you get 161 deaths in custody over the same number of years (actually an overestimate).

But the UK is so much smaller? Okay we’ll compensate for the population disparity – multiply that figure by the US population (330 million) divided by the UK population (63 million). Which comes out to multiplying out UK deaths in custody figure by about 5.2 – coming out to 843 deaths in custody compared to 4813.

So the US police kill at almost six times the rate of the British police – the US has a serious problem even before considering race.

According to Wikipedia (also the source for the population figures), 72% of the population of the USA is white and (to meet the demands of my laziness) 28% is non-white. So let us calculate what the deaths in custody figures would be if they were in proportion of the racial mix :-

| | Percentage | Proportional Deaths in Custody | Actual DiC |
| White     | 72% | 3465 | 2026 |
| Non-white | 28% | 1348 | 2787 |

Now this is a rather simplistic analysis, but shows that the USA not only has a problem with their police using excessive force against all segments of society, but has a particular problem with anyone who isn’t white.

Now this isn’t a proper analysis – just a quick back of the envelope calculation. And there are plenty of problems with this analysis; not least is the dated nature of the figures.

But it should at least be reasonably obvious that anyone claiming there isn’t a racial bias in police killings is off their rocker or has a racist axe to grind.

Jun 012020

You could think that it all started with the killing of George Floyd; you would be wrong. There has long been a problem with extra-judicial killings by the police in a number of US cities for a long time.

Not all police forces, and not all of the police. But enough to qualify this killing as one of many.

Racism in the police? In many cases I tend to argue that “something” may not be racism but more to do with letting “sociopaths” be in control of the hierarchical capitalist economic system. Not that I am necessarily right, but it can be a point worth considering.

But in this case? It’s hard to argue against it in this case.

But it isn’t just racism; some of the police initiated incidents during the protests have targeted white people as well. Leading to the suspicion that some police regard themselves in some situations as above the law and willing to go too far in controlling certain segments of the community.

The community they are supposed to serve.

Just to highlight just a few incidents :-

  1. Arresting a news team where the journalist was black.
  2. Indiscriminate use of rubber bullets which has led to a photojournalist being blinded in one eye, and another journalist receiving minor injuries.
  3. Firing a tear gas round directly at a news camera.
  4. Drive-by attack on peaceful protestors with pepper spray.

Of course it hasn’t all been bad from the police.

Pitchfork Politics

A part of the community has been targeted by the police for a long time and that part of the community (the black community) has been protesting about that for a long time. And apparently ignored all the time.

If part of a community has a grievance that cannot be settled through conventional politics, they will resort to protest politics and eventually pitchfork politics.

We have seen something along those lines with the widespread disturbances in the US over the last week. There are numerous aspects to these :-

Not all protests have resulted in arson and looting, but some have. And despite the impression that some of the media portrayed, protestors don’t all set buildings on fire (it’ll be a tiny minority) and protestors won’t be looting (again a tiny minority – very often people who didn’t take part in the protest at all). Protestors have been known to complain about looting and violence.

Violence is never good, but if you think that property damage is more important than violence against the person then you are part of the problem.

Peaceful protests get ignored. If you ignore a complaint by part of the community repeatedly and for years if not decades, then you can expect violent protests. The more you ignore and abuse a part of the community, the more you can expect some to turn to the “cleansing purity of violence”.

This is after all the recipe for a violent revolution.

There are also indications that the violence and the looting is carried out by people other than the protesters. There is a) an arrested arsonist with white-supremacist tattoos, and b) rumours that white-supremacists are speaking about “getting their loot on”.

America: You have a problem, and it has nothing to do with burning buildings and looted shops. Restoring order won’t do a damn thing. Are you going to leave this problem to your children or your grandchildren?

May 272020

For the benefit of those tuning in late, or to refresh the memories of those coming back to this years later, Dominic Cummings (Boris Johnson’s chief political advisor) has been caught breaching lockdown restrictions whilst ill with the coronavirus.

Now there are those who believe he did nothing wrong; they’re idiots but it is no longer a question of what he did or didn’t do, or whether it was against the regulations themselves, or whether it was against the spirit of the regulations. Or even if he put other people at risk.

Although it is worth pointing out that as his wife was already sick with coronavirus he was not supposed to leave the house for any reason.

No, now it is the response that is more significant.

If Dom and his buddy Boris had responded sensibly – admitted that it was wrong, and Dom had resigned – that would be fine. Or at least no worse than we expect from the Tories.

But to claim that he did nothing wrong when to most of us it has all the appearance of one rule for us and quite another for the Tory toffs, is just inflaming the situation.

Dumb move by a political advisor!

May 172020

There are two aspects to ZFS that I will be covering here – checksums and error-correcting memory. The first is a feature of ZFS itself; the second is a feature of the hardware that you are running and some claim that it is required for ZFS.


By default ZFS keeps checksums of the blocks of data that it writes to later verify that the data block hasn’t been subject to silent corruption. If it detects corruption, it can use resilience (if any) to correct the corruption or it can indicate there’s a problem.

If you have only one disk and don’t ask to keep multiple copies of each block, then checksums will do little more than protect the most important metadata and tell you when things go wrong.

All that checksum calculation does make file operations slightly slower but frankly without benchmarks you are unlikely to notice. And it gives extra protection to your data.

For those who do not believe that silent data corruption exists, take a look at the relevant Wikipedia page. Everyone who has old enough files has come across occasional weird corruption in them, and whilst there are many possible causes, silent data corruption is certainly one of them.

Personally I feel like a probably unnoticeable loss of performance is more than balanced by greater data resilience.

Error-Correcting Memory

(Henceforth “ECC”)

I’m an enthusiast for ECC memory – my main workstation has a ton of it, and I’ve insisted on ECC memory for years. I’ve seen errors being corrected (although that was back when I was running an SGI Indigo2). Reliability is everything.

However there are those who will claim you cannot run ZFS without ECC memory. Or that ZFS without ECC is more dangerous than any other file system format without ECC.

Not really.

Part of the problem is that those with the most experience of ZFS are salty old Unix veterans who would are justifiably contemptuous of server hardware that lacks ECC memory (that includes me). We would no sooner consider running a serious file server on hardware that lacks ECC memory than rely on disk ‘reliability’ and not mirror or RAID those fallible pieces of spinning rust.

ZFS will run fine without ECC memory.

But will it make it worse?

It’s exceptionally unlikely – there are arguable examples of exceptionally esoteric failure conditions that may make things worse (the “scrub of death”) but I side with those who feel that such situations are not likely to occur in the real world.

And as always, why isn’t your data backed up anyway?

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