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!





Everybody knows that the Plague is coming, 4

6 08 2014

File under: why would anyone be surprised?

First up: Professor John Ashton, the president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, who writes:

“In both cases [Aids and Ebola], it seems that the involvement of powerless minority groups has contributed to a tardiness of response and a failure to mobilise an adequately resourced international medical response.”

and World Health Organization director general Dr Margaret Chan:

“We must respond to this emergency as if it was in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster. We must also tackle the scandal of the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research [on] treatments and vaccines, something they refuse to do because the numbers involved are, in their terms, so small and don’t justify the investment. This is the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of a moral and social framework.”

Second, Allan Sloan, who is surprised enough to be outraged that American companies would park their “incorporation” overseas so as to avoid taxes:

Inverters don’t hesitate to take advantage of the great things that make America America: our deep financial markets, our democracy and rule of law, our military might, our intellectual and physical infrastructure, our national research programs, all the terrific places our country offers for employees and their families to live. But inverters do hesitate — totally — when it’s time to ante up their fair share of financial support of our system.

Profit-seeking companies seeking to maximize their profits?! Who ever heard of such a thing?

And those who don’t invert?

Wall Street is delivering a thumbs down to Walgreens’ announcement of a $15.3 billion plan to complete its acquisition of Europe-based Alliance Boots and decision not to pursue potential major tax savings by shifting its headquarters overseas.

Bad capitalists!

Since all is not gloomy, allow for a bit of intellectual-property absurdity:

Wikimedia, the US-based organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to remove one of his images which is used online without his permission, claiming that because a monkey pressed the shutter button it should own the copyright.

Cheeky monkey*!

David Slater/Caters—and monkey!

*Actually, a crested black macaque

~~~

h/t to a coupla’ folks at The Stranger: Charles Mudede, and Ansel Herz  (twice!)





Hold on loosely

9 12 2013

I’d have a lot more respect for this petition if the signers weren’t themselves sucking so hard on the juicy fruits of information on the internet that their cheeks are caved in.

Oh, and the fact they waited until this all became public knowledge—that is, when their customers found out—makes me think this is less a righteous stand for an open and free society than profit-saving CYA.

Still, message/messenger and all that: they ain’t wrong.

~~~

And I think Brendan Kiley (riffing off David Schmader) pretty much nails it: It is funny—the people who hold the power in any given situation tend to be the ones who behave the most fearfully.

See: Wall Street & its critics; Christians in the US & non-Christians (swap out Islam/Judaism/Hinduism as befits the particular society); MRAs and feminists; ad infinitum.

My only amendment to his statement would be that the people who believe only they should hold the power in any given situation. . . : in a decent political situation, it would be understood that one’s hold on power is of necessity temporary, and thus must be held lightly and confidently, not fearfully.

~~~

Ever since Bones killed off Pelant and Booth & Brennan got married, every fucking episode includes some sort of paean to their love/relationship/perfection for each other.

Tskghk.

Bones has become McMillan & Wife.