Everybody knows that the dice are loaded, 9

26 09 2014

Pavlina R Tcherneva/https://twitter.com/ptcherneva

No comment necessary.





Hit me with your best shot

9 09 2014

I blame alcohol, George Clooney, and a coupla’ migraines.

For my being missing in action, that is. I could come up with more reasons, and there may actually be other reasons, but the first line is my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Onward!

1. It should come as no surprise that I am uninterested in the newest Apple product, be it a smartphone or, yeesh, a smart watch—oh, excuse me “smartwatch”.

Really. A “smartwatch”.

I have a mere smart watch. It’s a Timex. It keeps time, and looks good—looks smart—doing it.

It cost me somewhere between 30 and 40 bucks and will last for years. It costs me ten bucks every coupla’ years to replace the battery.

The Applewatch (!) costs 350 bucks and will last, well, that doesn’t matter, since it’ll be ditched for ApplewatchII in 13.45 months (I made that up), and which battery likely cannot be replaced.

If you like your gadgets to do absolutely everything and Apple gives you faraway eyes, then enjoy your smartwatch.

I’ll be in the cave with my many devices, each of which does one thing, and cursing because I can’t find the right one.

2. I was sorely tempted to join the Democratic Party just so I could vote against Andrew Cuomo in the New York state primary.

I couldn’t, in the end, force myself into the Dems: I am pragmatic enough to vote for them, but leftwing enough not actually to become one.

Anyway, Andrew Cuomo is a conniving asshole who hates New York City and he almost certainly will be my governor for the next 4 years.

Better than Scott Walker, yes, but about par with a migraine and much worse than alcohol or George Clooney.

3. Speaking of Scott Walker, I would most like to win the lottery so I could drop a barge-full of money on the Badger state advocating for his opponent, Mary Burke.

I so so so want him to lose lose lose. Not only because I think he’s making Wisconsin worse, but also because that should put a stake in his presidential aspirations.

4. It has occurred to me that I might be better off if I just do one, grand, Fisking of all of Rod Dreher’s blog posts and be done with it.

I don’t think I will—see: migraine—but it might help to stop the mutterings and splutterings after reading him.

Of course, not reading him would also help to stop those mutterings and splutterings, but let’s not get all logical here, all right?

5. And logic? Please call Andrew Sullivan. In today’s “Best of” post (to which I’m not linking, because I still haven’t ponied up the double sawbucks for unlimited access and don’t want to waste a click), he states that:

I’ve never really felt totally comfortable identifying with a whole lot of what’s called gay culture.

This, from a man who runs a “Beard of the Week” feature.

Who gushes over Pet Shop Boys.

Who complains about the artifice of Lady Gaga by comparing her, unfavorably, to Miss Authenticity herself, Madonna.

Who has repeatedly mentioned how club culture and insta-fucking helped him feel more at ease with (gay) men of all races.

But because he doesn’t want to march in “lefty lockstep orthodoxy”, somehow he’s outside of a whole lotta gay culture.

Uh huh.

(To his credit, he does note the irony of writing this after having returned from his annual summer sojourn to Provincetown.)

6. Finally, I was going to write something about Joan Rivers, but wasn’t at all sure what to say.

I was huge fan in high school (Can we talk?) but my delight in her fell off rather considerably over the years: what had seemed daring later, to me curdled into mean, and I rarely laughed at her jokes anymore.

Still, she did help to form my sensibility that comics really ought to be able to say anything, and the only thing that mattered to the craft was: was it funny?

(And, it should be said, that bit on her reality show in which she got high with a friend was fucking hilarious. It’s not as funny on second viewing, but oh did I laugh the first time I saw it. Go here, and fast forward to about 26:05.)

Anyway, I read this, which seemed about perfect.

h/t Scott Lemieux, Lawyers, Guns & Money





Everybody knows that the captain lied, 8

20 08 2014

RoboCop nailed it 27 years ago: privatizing police functions makes a rising crime rate profitable.

Sarah Stillman in the New Yorker notes that

Missouri was one of the first states to allow private probation companies, in the late nineteen-eighties, and it has since followed the national trend of allowing court fees and fines to mount rapidly. Now, across much of America, what starts as a simple speeding ticket can, if you’re too poor to pay, mushroom into an insurmountable debt, padded by probation fees and, if you don’t appear in court, by warrant fees. (Often, poverty means transience—not everyone who is sent a court summons receives it.) “Across the country, impoverished people are routinely jailed for court costs they’re unable to pay,” Alec Karakatsanis, a cofounder of Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit civil-rights organization that has begun challenging this practice in municipal courts, said. These kinds of fines snowball when defendants’ cases are turned over to for-profit probation companies for collection, since the companies charge their own “supervision” fees. What happens when people fall behind on their payments? Often, police show up at their doorsteps and take them to jail.

From there, the snowball rolls. “Going to jail has huge impacts on people at the edge of poverty,” Sara Zampieren, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me. “They lose their job, they lose custody of their kids, they get behind on their home-foreclosure payments,” the sum total of which, she said, is “devastating.” While in prison, “user fees” often accumulate, so that, even after you leave, you’re not quite free. A recent state-by-state survey conducted by NPR showed that in at least forty-three states defendants can be billed for their own public defender, a service to which they have a Constitutional right; in at least forty-one states, inmates can be charged for room and board in jail and prison.

America’s militarized police forces now have some highly visible tools at their disposal, some of which have been in the spotlight this week: machine guns, night-vision equipment, military-style vehicles, and a seemingly endless amount of ammo. But the economic arm of police militarization is often far less visible, and offender-funded justice is part of this sub-arsenal.

Then again, if citizens are unwilling to pay for a truly public force, the police may be de facto privatized, relying on whatever funds they can rustle up through fines and fees. Sara Kliff at Vox notes that

In Ferguson, court fees and fines are the second largest source of funds for the city; $2.6 million was collected in 2013 alone. That’s become a key source of tension. There is a perception in the area, [advocate Thomas] Harvey says, that the black population is targeted to pay those fines. Eighty-six percent of the traffic stops, for example, happen to black residents — even though the city is 67 percent black.

Harvey, director of ArchCity, reported that “I can’t tell you what’s going on in the mind of a police officer but, in the mind of my clients, they’re being pulled over because they’re black. . . . They’re being pulled over so the city can generate revenue.”

In a brief Q&A with Kliff  Harvey said

The most charitable reading is that the courts don’t know the impact they’re having on peoples’ lives. For people like me this system works. If I got a traffic ticket I would pay $100 to a lawyer to represent me. I would get my speeding ticket turned into an excessive vehicle noise charge, pay a fine, the lawyer would get paid and the municipality too. It’s the easiest transaction. But if you’re poor, that system hurts you in ways they don’t seem to have considered.

And if you look at Ferguson and Florissant, between those two municipalities they expect to net $4 million from these fines annually. That’s no small amount for towns of 25,000 and 50,000. It’s become a line in the budget and they’re relying on it. That’s the real crux of things. The courts are supposed to be the place where you administer justice, not rely on for revenue. That sense has been lost at some level in the community. [emph added]

And the peoples’ representatives don’t help when they praise prisons as job creators.

Yes, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin tweeted that a prison “would be an important piece in the economic future of northern IL”.

I should note that the second tweet, about a 500% increase in fed prison pop is juxtaposed as if it were a kind a praise, but in digging back thru the Senator’s Twitter feed to March 31, the multiple tweets on the topic make it clear that he considers this a problem and touts the Smarter Sentencing Act as a solution.

Well, great, Senator. But who’s going to fill that northern Illinois prison if that act passes?

It should be a shanda on our people—on Americans—every time we build a prison, a failure of our politics to create a society in which people may live as human beings.

Yes, we need the police and we need prisons because there are those among us who seek to dominate and harm us. But what we have already should be enough, should be more than enough.

~~~

h/t Dish staff, Daily Dish; James Fallows; Billy Townsend





Everybody knows the fight was fixed, 7

19 08 2014

Pay-to-play, celebrity version!

It’s only fair, of course: the NFL is a non-profit organization.

And, this being America, nothing like police abuse to juice the market.

Finally, why so much talk about inequality? Why, commoners today live better than kings yesterday!

(Shhhh, just don’t talk about how kings live today.)

~~~

h/ts: Erik Loomis, Lawyers, Guns & Money—3 times!





This is not America/Ain’t that America

13 08 2014

Or should it be the Nick Cave song: “One more man gone” ?

The police kill an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, then try to lock down the town.

Ryan J. Reilly, HuffPo

Reilly and another reporter, Wesley Moore (of the Washington Post), were arrested for not vacating a McDonalds; they were later released.

So many others have so much more, and better, to say. I’ll note simply the insanity of militarizing the police in order to protect the police.

As if, in a polity, the police aren’t there to protect the citizens. As if we were a police state, where the point of the police is to protect the police. As if. . . .

In any case, #Ferguson gives the latest; Greg Howard goes long.

Whitney Curtis/NY Times

This is us.





An army of me

12 08 2014

I’d really like to see a woman president, I would.

And I have a certain admiration for Hillary Clinton, I do.

But if asked if I would support her over other, to-be-determined, Democratic candidates, I would not.

The thinking behind this interview is a big reason why.





Free free, set them free

12 08 2014

People break.

We break because of who we are and what we are and the things we do and the things done to us, intentionally, unintentionally, and no matter how hard we do and don’t try to break.

I’ve gone over this before, so I won’t belabor the point: any politics worth its salt has to take account of how humans are, and how humans are is fragile.

We’re not just that, of course—we’re also jerks! and brave and beautiful and inconstant and mean and weird weird weird—but our fragility is a basic part of our condition as humans, and no amount of bluffing or, so far, technology, can undo the fact that we are and will be undone.

So even if a libertarian moment has arrived (I have my doubts), I gotta wonder where it’s gonna go from here—“acerbic sideline critics”, after all, don’t usually perform center stage.

More to the point, libertarianism seeks a clean line through politics, government and society; however admirable such cleanness may be, that line can only, like us, break down when dealing with the inevitable messes of human life.








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