Bloggers on NYPD's undercover surveillance operations.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
March 26 2007 5:40 PM

NYPD Undercover

Bloggers ruffle their feathers over the existence of the NYPD's "intelligence unit," wonder if multitasking is a myth, and dissect the chances of the basketball teams advancing to the Final Four.

NYPD undercover: According to a Sunday scoop in the New York Times, New York City cops went undercover across America and abroad to investigate those planning to protest at the 2004 Republican National Convention. While such investigations are legal according to a Supreme Court ruling, those under surveillance were often nonviolent political, environmental, or religious groups.

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Many bloggers cry "Big Brother." Liberal Ohioan Jolly Roger at Reconstitution compares the NYPD to the Soviet secret police. "People might have thought that the last vestiges of Stalinism existed only in Pyongyang, but they'd have been badly mistaken," he writes. Over at The Impolitic, Liberal Libby Spencer is livid: "The wide net approach taken by the NYPD betrays the bedrock principles of our democracy and smacks more of the intimidation tactics of the Gestapo than a law enforcement unit with a mission to protect and serve. Even more concerning is just how wide a net the NYPD cast. … If this isn't the definition of a police state, then please tell me how to define it."

The blogger at The Gun Toting Liberal is brimming with anger. "The NYPD had sent its agents to other cities around the United States and the world to infiltrate the legal organizations of law abiding American Citizens WAY outside of their domain in order to insure the Republican Party would have an unopposed voice during the RNC Convention? Got it. That's ILLEGAL," he fumes.

Cameron Scott at Mother Jones's MoJo Blog is aghast at the news. "This is per the paper of record; it's no conspiracy theory, though many who have been giving their version of events for more than 2 years have been dismissed as paranoid," he seethes. "Just how shriveled up and anemic is the 4th Amendment in NYC?" asks Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars.

Others see more wastefulness than intrusion, such as liberal Atrios at Eschaton. "Forget the civil liberties issues, this is such an absurd waste of resources," he grumbles. "Political speeches and videos! The horror!" University of Miami law prof Michael Froomkin scoffs at Discourse. "What NYC Cops did may well have been legal. But it was not only a distraction from real police work, but something that bespeaks a level of one-sided political paranoia that is a danger to democracy," he continues.

Others, such as conservative Chicago Ray, are at ease with the NYPD program: "This activity doesn't bother me one bit as the people they are investigating and following around are just like any other terrorists here and abroad they do the same thing with. They're all America haters, well known rabblerousers, anarchists, professional trouble making criminal citizenry with public arrest records from protests and lawless brushups previous who had to have done something wrong in the first place to be on the radar screens of the so-called establishment," he opines.

Read more about the NYPD's intelligence gathering on RNC protestors.

Be unfruitful and multitask: Recent studies show thatmultitasking in this digital age may actually make you less productive. Researchers fault the brain for its inability to truly focus on two tasks at once. According to the studies cited, while age might give young workers a productive edge over their older counterparts, that advantage is lost when the young workers multitask.

At Lifehacker, a blog brimming with tips and shortcuts for speedily navigating a wired world, Dina Trapani considers the study's findings to be self-evident: "I say it shouldn't take 6 teams of researchers to figure out that interruptions waste time and increase stress, mistakes and accidents (especially you Crackberry users in traffic). But it will take people time to figure out how to stop jumping every time their phone buzzes or a new message appears in their inbox."

"So far none of the studies have directly discussed the impact of IM's during Torts..." quips Joshua Brauer at Library Laws on the penchant for law students (and undergrads, according to Slate's Avi Zenilman) to chat online during classes. Inspired by the Times article, Dave at File it Under attempts to live blog the interruptions that he must battle when blogging. "[I]n writing this post, I have been interrupted by every sort of office interruption you can imagine. From the personal call to the professional call, from the IM to the email, and this hour almost two hour process of multi-tasking has implications outside the office," he finds.

At PsychoBlogy, psychology prof Elliott Hammer tackles one harmful side of multitasking: "Part of the problem is that we don't see the problem until it's too late.  If I'm making a phone call while I'm driving, and other people are able to avoid an accident with me, I don't realize that I've been a hazard, so I'm reinforced with the belief that I can multitask just fine.  Wait until one of those other people is on the phone and hits me, and then I'll blame his or her lack of ability!"

Read more about multitasking.

And then there were four: Florida, Georgetown, Ohio State, and UCLA advanced to the Final Four this weekend, continuing a tournament largely devoid of shocking upsets. 

Deadspin, a blog devoted to "sports news without access, favor, or discretion," celebrates the four teams left standing. "Seriously, though: Georgetown-Ohio State and Florida-UCLA? That's a rather amazing doubleheader. Even though the whole tournament has been predictable and lacked a lot of fevered lunacy … it appears to have led up to something that was all worth it. Remember how lousy all three Final Four games were last year? Shouldn't be a problem this time."

Hoya Sami Ghazi at Going Deep is thrilled by his alma mater's overtime win over Vandy: "What an incredible 48 hours to be a Hoya. After the shot of a lifetime from team bastion Jeff Green to beat Vanderbilt on Friday night, it was looking like we were going to suffer the ultimate letdown. From an incredible high to a feeling of desperation knowing we had come this close to Final Four immortality. That's how I felt with about 8 minutes left in today's game against the Tar Heels," he writes.

"Honestly, as boring as the first round was with the lack of upsets, it has made these later rounds better, because the quality of play of been high with a lot of good teams," writes Bruins fans twins15 at Complete Sports. I expect that trend to continue, because we're going to have 4 of the 6 or 7 best teams in the NCAA playing next weekend, and I'm not sure that was the case last year."

Sports by Brooks has an illustrated (tongue in cheek) guide to Atlanta, highlighting the city's dining and tourism opportunities.

Read more about the Final Four.

Sonia Smith is an associate editor at Texas Monthly.

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