Later On

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Archive for December 14th, 2015

Drug czar wants more money to use in seizing assets from people

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Nick Gillespie reports in Reason magazine:

The Washington Post reports that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) wants more money “to identify assets, prosecute cases and ‘manage the massive paper flow associated with forfeiture.'”

Asset-forfeiture, in which law enforcement seizes property, cash, and goods that it says is connected to drug crimes and activity, is controversial but incredibly lucrative.

Last year, for instance, cops took more stuff from people than criminals did. And, as Steven Greenhut wrote here, many of the instances are outrageous:

One Anaheim couple almost lost a $1.5 million commercial building after an undercover cop bought $37 in marijuana from a tenant, but the feds dropped that case after bad publicity.

Created in the early days of the nation’s war on drugs, asset forfeiture was designed to grab the proceeds from drug kingpins. But most of the money now is grabbed from ordinary citizens. According to a study last year, about 80 percent of the time, seized property is taken from people who have never been charged with anything.

Now the drug czar’s office (as ONDCP is popularly known) wants to ramp up efforts even more. From the Post:

Despite calls for reform from lawmakers and advocacy groups, budget numbers recently released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy suggest forfeiture efforts will ramp up next year.drug-induced-seizureskeep-gett

Wash PostFor fiscal year 2016, the Department of Justice has requested $297.2 million in funding to support the asset forfeiture activities of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces. That’s a $14 million increase over the previous year, and a 164 percent increase in drug-related asset forfeiture spending since 2008.

By contrast, the overall federal drug control budget has increased by only about 25 percent over the same period.

Police departments not only get to keep a large amount of the value of what they seize but have come to depend on that extra revenue stream. Explains Grant Smith of the Drug Policy Alliance to the Post: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2015 at 3:11 pm

Why the telecoms ordered Marco Rubio to try to make municipal broadband illegal: A Massachusetts Town Will Offer 2 Gbps Fiber Internet for $45 a Month

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Clifton Nguyen reports at Motherboard:

Soon, a small town fiber network in Massachusetts will offer twice the speed of Google Fiber for nearly half the price. The catch is that it’s a really small town, even by Google Fiber standards.

Leverett, Massachusetts, home to some 1,876 residents as of the 2010 census, is one of 43 member towns in WiredWest, a grassroots initiative that supplies fiber networks to towns that would otherwise go ignored or underserved by traditional broadband providers. Earlier this summer, Leverett opened up LeverettNet, the town’s local fiber provider, to much fanfare.

LeverettNet currently charges $44.95 per month for a gigabit connection—but as of January 1, it will double to 2 Gbps speeds for a mere $39.95 a month, almost half the price of Google Fiber’s $70 1 Gbps connection.

Leverett’s service was made possible by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, the organization that’s extending a 1,200 mile fiber optic network into Western Massachusetts. WiredWest is filling in the last mile to consumers.

Leverett’s local paper The Recorder reports that the adoption rate for its broadband service has been massive. 81 percent of households have taken up LeverettNet, and the response from residents has been positive, with Massachusetts Broadband Institute director Eric Nakajima saying residents were happy to go from “Stone-Age dial-up speeds” to “having the fastest residential service anywhere in Massachusetts.”

But the network, like so many other potential municipal broadband providers, could have been stopped short by legislation or by lack of funding, as house Republicans have firmly signaled that they’re not in favor of small government taking things into their own hands (you can probably guess that big telecom companies have a hand in this). Thankfully, Massachusetts legislature thought digital infrastructure was every bit as important as physical infrastructure.

As for funding, Leverett voted 90 percent in favor of a property tax increase to help offset costs, and the network is financed through a combination of state grants, taxes, subscriptions, and funding through the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2015 at 2:52 pm

The “market” does not work with prescription drugs—government action required

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Ian Reifowitz has a good post at DailyKos:

Did you know that the Senate held hearings December 9 on the outrageous, overnight price increases we’ve seen in recent months on certain pharmaceutical drugs? Yes, yes, the Senators talked a good game. They went after Martin Shkreli—pictured above, who this week was unmasked as the “mystery buyer” who plunked down $2 million to purchase the only copy that will ever be produced of the new Wu-Tang Clan album. He’s also the guy whose company bought a 60-year-old drug and jacked up the per pill price from the cost of a movie ticket to $750. The senators also criticized Valeant, a company best known for having increased the cost of two heart drugs by 212 percent and 525 percent, respectively.

Senators heard from a pediatrician, Dr. David Kimberlin of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who cares for newborns suffering fromtoxoplasmosis—an ailment that can result in loss of vision or brain damage. Prior to Mr. Shkreli’s decision to, er, adjust the price of Daraprim, it cost approximately $1,200 to treat an infant for toxoplasmosis, a treatment that lasts twelve months. What is the cost now? “No less than $69,000,” according to Dr. Kimberlin. Additionally, in more than 30 instances, physicians had serious problems even getting their hands on Daraprim as a result of the changes implemented by Mr. Shkreli’s company. “Babies’ lives literally hang in the balance here,” Kimblerlin added.

University of Utah Health Care Director Erin Fox explained the impact of the aforementioned Valeant price hikes: “If we continued to purchase the same amount of each drug, it would cost our organization just over $1.6 million more for isoproterenol and approximately $290,000 more for nitroprusside compared to what we paid the previous year.” That’s just one hospital, and only two drugs.

Democrats had more productive things to say than Republicans during the Senate hearings. Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McKaskill identified the problem as one of avarice: “If this is just greed, we have a duty to figure out how to protect patients who need these medicines.” She continued: “This is a market failure, and when there is a market failure the government has a role in addressing it.”

Republicans, on the other hand, prioritized defending drug companies. Maine Sen. Susan Collins made sure to emphasize that the problem is one of a few bad apples that shouldn’t be allowed to tarnish a whole industry. “As one industry expert I recently spoke with put it, ‘these companies are to ethical pharmaceutical companies as a loan shark is to a bank,’” she said. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis —who just this summer demonstrated that he standssquarely in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry—knows where his bread is buttered, offering, “I don’t believe we should cast all pharmaceutical companies in the same light.”

Overall, Republicans received 58 percent of the industry’s campaign contributions in the past two federal election cycles, compared to 42 percent for Democrats. Perhaps more importantly, big pharma spent seven times as much on lobbying as on direct contributions to politicians, well over $200 million annually in recent years.

As for 2016, Hillary Clinton is the largest recipient of contributions from the industry, although, as The Hill noted, Clinton recently put forth a plan to deal with increasing drug prices. Clinton’s plan would:

  • Stop direct-to-consumer drug company advertising subsidies, and reinvest funds in research
  • Require drug companies that benefit from taxpayers’ support to invest in research, not marketing or profits
  • Cap monthly and annual out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs to save patients with chronic or serious health conditions hundreds or thousands of dollars
  • Increase competition for prescription drugs, including specialty drugs, to drive down prices and give consumers more choices
  • Prohibit “pay for delay” arrangements that keep generic competition off the market
  • Allow Americans to import drugs from abroad – with careful protections for safety and quality.
  • Require drug manufacturers to provide rebates for low-income Medicare enrollees that are equivalent to rebates in the Medicaid program
  • Allow Medicare to negotiate drug and biologic prices

The Hill pointed out that Bernie Sanders has taken an even tougher line than Clinton. In October’s Democratic presidential debate, Sanders declared, “I would lump Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry at the top of my list of people who do not like me.” His plan on drug prices includes the following elements:

  • Require Medicare to use its bargaining power to negotiate with the prescription drug companies for better prices.
  • Allow individuals, pharmacists, and wholesalers to import prescription drugs from licensed Canadian pharmacies.
  • Close the Medicare Part D donut hole for brand and generic drugs by 2017, three years earlier than under current law.
  • Prohibit deals that keep generic drugs off the market, i.e., anti-competitive deals – “pay-for-delay” deals – between brand and generic drug makers.
  • Terminate exclusivity—a government-awarded monopoly period—from a drug company convicted of fraud.
  • Require drug companies to publicly report information that affects drug pricing.

In September, Sanders introduced legislation (co-sponsored with Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings) that “authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies to bring down costs for Medicare drug benefits. The bill also includes tougher penalties for drug companies that commit fraud and bans the practice of brand name drugmakers paying competitors to keep lower-priced generic substitutes off the market. The bill also lowers barriers to the importation of lower-cost drugs from Canada.” I encourage all of you to read Hillary’s and Bernie’s plans, as there are far more details on their respective websites than I’ve included here.

Anyone who would deny the need for serious reforms on drug pricing is either an industry shill or someone who would blindly follow “free-market” ideology right off a cliff. In order for the market to work properly, there must be a functioning relationship between price, supply, competition, and demand. In such a market, when a company tries to charge too much for the golf clubs it sells, consumers can simply buy similar products from another company that charges less. If one company makes the absolute best golf clubs and charges more for them, people can decide whether the benefit is worth the added cost, and choose accordingly. This works for most products, which is why regulating prices is not necessary most of the time.

What we are seeing with these ridiculous increases in certain pharmaceutical drugs is clear evidence that, at least in certain pockets, the market is not functioning properly. When a drug has no competition, there is no ability for the consumer to choose another product. Additionally, when one’s health is at stake, the option to not buy any of the available products does not exist. If one cannot afford any golf clubs, one can just not play frickin’ golf. The demand for a product that will save one’s life, on the other hand, is infinite. It’s important to note that even people with health insurance coverage may well be unable to get necessary drugs when companies implement these kinds of price hikes.

I’m not a drug policy expert, so I’ll leave it to those who are to come up with the specifics. The goal, however, is clear. We cannot allow a corporation to have all the leverage, while the consumer has none. That’s why government action is necessary. Only government can act on behalf of the people as a whole—can promote the common good against private actors whose interests run counter to it, and who wield such a disproportionate amount of power in a given arena that they can overcome any pushback from citizens acting on their own. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2015 at 1:02 pm

Marco Rubio does everything he can to block low-cost high-speed broadband

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The GOP acts as though it hates the public at large, though it loves big businesses and wealthy people. In The Intercept Lee Fang provides an example in Marco Rubio’s determination to kill low-cost high-speed broadband:

In a rare senatorial act, full-time Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio joined with a handful of fellow legislators on Friday in an attempt to block local municipalities from undercutting big telecom companies by providing cheap, fast internet service.

Rubio, who is raising campaign cash from the telecom industry for his presidential campaign, fired off a letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to allow states to block municipal broadband services.

The letter was the latest salvo in a long-running effort by the major telecom companies to outlaw municipal broadband programs that have taken off in cities such as Lafayette, Louisiana, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, because they pose a threat to a business model that calls for slow, expensive internet access without competition.

In Chattanooga, for instance, city officials set up a service known as “The Gig,” a municipal broadband network that provides data transfers at one gigabitper second for less than $70 a month — a rate that is 50 times faster than the average speed American customers have available through private broadband networks.

AT&T, Cox Communications, Comcast, and other broadband providers, fearing competition, have used their influence in state government to make an end-run around local municipalities. Through surrogates like the American Legislative Exchange Council, the industry gets states to pass laws that ban municipal broadband networks, despite the obvious benefits to both the municipalities and their residents.

That’s why the FCC has become involved. The agency stepped in to prevent states from crushing municipal broadband and released a rule this year that allows local cities to make the decision on their own.

As a result, telecom companies are furiously lobbying the FCC, litigating the rule in court, and leaning on GOP lawmakers to pressure the agency to back down. As the Daily Dotreported, the letter released by Rubio and other senators expresses “serious concern” about the FCC rule. “The FCC is promoting government-owned networks at the possible expense of private sector broadband providers … who have made strides to deploy networks throughout the country,” Rubio and seven other Republican senators wrote.

Rubio’s presidential campaign has relied heavily on AT&T lobbyist Scott Weaver, the public policy co-chair of Wiley Rein, a law firm that also is helping to litigate against the FCC’s effort to help municipal broadband. As one of Rubio’s three lobbyist-bundlers, Weaver raised $33,324 for Rubio’s presidential campaign, according to disclosures.

Rubio’s campaign fundraising apparatus is also managed in part by Cesar Conda, a lobbyist who previously served as Rubio’s chief of staff. Registration documents show that Conda now represents AT&T.

It’s a shame how easily large corporations can purchase Senators, Representatives, state legislators, and governors.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2015 at 12:12 pm

Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago: Law enforcement division

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Margaret Talbot reports in the New Yorker:

In early November, 2014, Craig Futterman, a law professor at the University of Chicago, got a call from someone who worked in law enforcement in that city. The caller told Futterman about a squad-car dashboard-camera video from a few weeks earlier, which showed a police officer shooting to death a seventeen-year-old boy named Laquan McDonald. According to the source, the video was at striking odds with the version of the incident that the Chicago Police Department had presented. In that account, the officer, Jason Van Dyke, acted in self-defense: McDonald was out of control and menacing him with a knife, so he shot him once, in the chest. But the source, describing the video frame by frame, evoked what sounded to Futterman like “an execution.”

Fifteen years ago, Futterman founded a legal clinic at the university focussed on civil rights and police accountability. He and his frequent collaborator, Jamie Kalven, who runs a nonprofit journalism project called the Invisible Institute, interviewed witnesses, and they corroborated what the caller had said. Last December, Futterman and Kalven called on the C.P.D. to release the video. Soon afterward, Kalven, through a Freedom of Information Act request, obtained the autopsy report. It showed that McDonald, a ward of the state who had “Good Son” tattooed on one hand, had been shot sixteen times.
For months, the C.P.D. refused to release the video. There were protests. Then, last summer, Brandon Smith, a freelance journalist, sued the department to make the footage public, and a judge ruled in his favor. On November 24th, the day Officer Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder, and thirteen months after the shooting, the police department finally released the video. It shows McDonald trotting briskly away from officers as they approach, not menacing them. When Van Dyke’s first shots hit him, he spins and drops to the ground. An officer kicks a knife away. No one is seen offering first aid. Last week, the Justice Department announced that it is opening a wide-ranging investigation into the policies and practices of the Chicago police. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who resisted making the video public, and who criticized the Justice Department investigation as “misguided,” said last Wednesday that he now welcomes it, and apologized for McDonald’s death.
This is not the first time that Futterman has received an inside tip about police abuse. He believes that the whistle-blowers represent “the majority of Chicago cops,” who are doing their jobs “just as you would want them to.” Those officers “hate this stuff” as much as anyone, because “it creates hostility to the police, and steals the honor of those who are doing things right.” Yet even the best-intentioned officers have to cope with a code of silence—the mirror image of the criminals’ code against snitching.
In the McDonald case, the first officers on the scene, responding to a call about a young man acting erratically and breaking into trucks, were doing things right. McDonald apparently did have a knife, and, according to the autopsy, he had PCP in his system. Futterman said that those officers were careful. They “needed to arrest him, take him to the hospital,” and “they called for backup, for someone with a taser.” Then Van Dyke arrived and instantly fired sixteen shots. In reports to internal investigators, the other officers either corroborated his story or said that they hadn’t seen what happened. One said that she had been looking down and missed the whole thing.
The code of silence has protected some particularly reprehensible behavior in the C.P.D., much of it directed at the city’s black population. Perhaps the most egregious was that of Jon Burge, a commander who, in the nineteen-seventies and eighties, headed a group of officers that he called the Midnight Crew. To extract confessions, the crew tortured dozens of men, most of them African-American, using electric shock, suffocation, and Russian roulette. Last May, the city agreed to a reparations agreement that included $5.5 million for the victims and an obligation to teach the episode in the public-school curriculum. According to the Better Government Association, between 2010 and 2014 there were seventy fatal shootings by the Chicago police, a higher number than in any other large city. (Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Dallas had a higher number per capita.) Between 2004 and 2014, the city spent $521 million defending the department and settling lawsuits claiming excessive force.
Last March, after a seven-year legal battle, waged by Futterman, Kalven, and two Chicago law firms—Loevy & Loevy and the People’s Law Office—to obtain records of police officers who had accumulated repeated citizen complaints, an Illinois appeals-court judge ordered the records released. They show that, of nearly twenty-nine thousand allegations of misconduct filed between 2011 and 2015, only two per cent resulted in any discipline—and, of those which did, the vast majority took the form of reprimands or suspensions of less than a week. Moreover, while African-Americans filed most of the complaints, those lodged by whites were more likely to be upheld.
Emanuel’s belated apology and the Justice Department investigation represent progress, but the real hope is for an end to the code of silence. Officers who come forward have to be able to do so without fear of losing their jobs, or worse—in 2011, a cop named Jerome Finnigan pleaded guilty to plotting to kill a fellow-officer who he suspected would testify against him. Lifting that fear will require the department and the city to first accept the transparency that they have often resisted.
Thanks to the efforts of Futterman and Kalven, among others, anyone can now search an online database called the Citizens Police Data Project. It shows that, before Finnigan and Van Dyke were charged with serious crimes, there were sixty-eight complaints against Finnigan and eighteen against Van Dyke. (Neither was disciplined.) Meanwhile, the Fraternal Order of Police has sued to . . .

Continue reading.

Rahm Emanuel seems to be a terrible person.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2015 at 12:04 pm

The Corporate Takeover of the Red Cross

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The American Red Cross has lost its way. Direct your philanthropic contributions to other causes. Justin Elliott reports for ProPublica:

When Gail McGovern was picked to head the American Red Cross in 2008, the organization was reeling. Her predecessor had been fired after impregnating a subordinate. The charity was running an annual deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.

A former AT&T executive who had taught marketing at Harvard Business School, McGovern pledged to make the tough choices that would revitalize the Red Cross, which was chartered by Congress to provide aid after disasters. In a speech five years ago, she imagined a bright future, a “revolution” in which there would be “a Red Cross location in every single community.’’

It hasn’t worked out that way.

McGovern and her handpicked team of former AT&T colleagues have presided over a string of previously unreported management blunders that have eroded the charity’s ability to fulfill its core mission of aiding Americans in times of need.

Under McGovern, the Red Cross has slashed its payroll by more than a third, eliminating thousands of jobs and closing hundreds of local chapters. Many veteran volunteers, who do the vital work of responding to local fires and floods have also left, alienated by what many perceive as an increasingly rigid, centralized management structure.

Far from opening offices in every city and town, the Red Cross is stumbling in response to even smaller scale disasters.

When a wildfire swept through three Northern California counties in September, the Red Cross showed up but provided shelter to just 25 of 1,000 victims at one site. Because of the charity’s strict rules and disorganization, many evacuees slept outside for over a week, even when the weather turned bad. “These families were sleeping in the rain with their children,” said Wendy Lopez, a local volunteer.

Local officials were so angry they relieved the Red Cross of its duties.

The Red Cross had closed chapters in the area last year. “You’re seeing a huge loss of experienced staff,” said John Saguto, a 15-year Red Cross volunteer in Northern California.

Some emergency planners around the country have concluded they can no longer rely on the charity.

“I essentially wrote Red Cross out of my Local Emergency Operations Plan and advised many other Emergency Managers across the state to do the same,” wrote Tim Hofbauer, an emergency management director in Nebraska, in a 2013 email to a Red Cross executive.

This year, the Red Cross quietly made cuts in the formula it uses to determine cash benefits to victims of home fires and other disasters. A family of four whose home burned down previously could have received around $900 in immediate assistance. Now they would get a maximum of $500.

Over the past two years, ProPublica and NPR have examined the charity’s flawed responses to major disasters, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. A broader look at McGovern’s seven years as chief executive shows her team has repeatedly fallen short of its own goals to secure the organization’s financial future and improve its delivery of disaster services.

McGovern declared in August 2013 — her fifth anniversary on the job — that she had executed a “turnaround” that made the Red Cross a “financially stable’’ organization with balanced budgets in three of the previous four years.

Behind the scenes, however, losses were mounting. The organization ran a $70 million deficit that same fiscal year and has been in the red ever since. Internal projections say the charity will not break even before 2017. . .

Continue reading.

It’s over for the Red Cross. But read the entire article: there’s a lot more, and it’s a fascinating if somewhat depressing history of how an organization can be destroyed from within. Later in the article, for example:

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Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2015 at 11:48 am

Posted in Business, Philanthropy

In Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Surveillance State, Controlling the Data Is Key

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Bernard Harcourt reports in The Intercept:

Power circulates differently in the digital age. It’s all about controlling the digital traces — collecting, mining, sharing, exposing, delaying, or erasing the data. Inevitably, some handling will occur in ordinary politics. But when the data are manipulated in order to obstruct criminal justice or steal an election, then it’s no longer ordinary politics; it becomes a cover-up.

With each new day, there is growing evidence of a cover-up in Chicago.

First, late on Friday night, December 4, 2015, Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, released hundreds of pages of police reports from the October 2014 Laquan McDonald murder — including false statements by police officers who were at the scene of the crime. The data dump came at such a late hour that the Chicago Tribune was not able to report on the massive discrepancies between those statements and the dashcam video of McDonald’s death until an article posted early Saturday morning, at 1:25 a.m., while most of the city was asleep.

Then, in a Saturday op-ed simultaneously placed in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel offered a different story than he had previously about why he did not view the dashcam video in the months before its November 2015 release. In an earlier interview with Politico, Emanuel said that he didn’t watch the dashcam footage because if he had seen it, reporters and the public would be asking why they didn’t get to see it too. But in his op-ed, Emanuel wrote that he didn’t watch it “because my own emotions should not interfere with criminal investigations.”

The discrepancy is striking in itself. It also goes against everything Emanuel had previously said about the fact that he does not interfere with or control the timing of criminal investigations. Is the mayor now suggesting that he could have pushed the state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, to charge Officer Jason Van Dyke in November 2014, in the middle of his heated reelection campaign?

The timing of the op-eds also raises suspicion. They went online earlier Friday afternoon and were in print Saturday morning, just in time to wash out the late Friday data dump. Once again, it seems, the city’s leader was gaming the data flow.

The fact is, the digital traces were everywhere in the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by Officer Van Dyke. The scene was extensively recorded from multiple angles. At least five dashcam videos — maybe eight — filmed the shooting. Private security cameras were running as well, with at least 12 camera angles from inside and outside the Southwest Side Burger King next door.

Everything was digitally captured. But then, the data were suppressed for 13 months, and would likely have been suppressed indefinitely if a state court had not compelled their release under the state’s open records act.

You might think this is paradoxical. After all, Mayor Emanuel has been a champion of total awareness and has helped turn Chicago into the most surveilled metropolis in the United States. Back in 2013, he boasted that Chicago had thousands of public and private surveillance cameras in place to protect city residents: “I will say, as I always have, because we have continued to put cameras throughout the city for security … purposes, they serve an important function for the city in providing the type of safety on a day-to-day basis — not just for big events like a marathon, but day-to-day purposes.”

In February 2011, the ACLU estimated that Chicago had around 10,000 surveillance cameras. In November 2011, Emanuel supported the installation of 1,700 additional Chicago Transit Authority security cameras. He also introduced an ordinance, during the Occupy movement in advance of the G8 and NATO summits, that included installing more surveillance cameras. As of April 2015, Chicago had “an integrated system of 22,000 cameras citywide,” which transmit their footage to the Chicago Crime Prevention Center. As the New York Times noted, “One legacy of Rahm Emanuel is digitally clear. Security cameras will follow us like a bad credit rating.”

But in our digital age, seeing, monitoring, and recording the digital footprints is quite different from sharing, releasing, revealing, or publicizing the data. We are all exposed today, most of us out of our own desires and passions. The political struggle, though, is over who controls those digital traces. It’s not a question of privacy anymore, since we so often crave publicity; it is a question of controlling the data flows.

This may explain why the city’s leaders apparently did everything in their power to suppress the existing digital traces of the Laquan McDonald murder. They want total awareness and constant surveillance, but not truly for “safety on a day-to-day basis” — they were not concerned that a first-degree murder suspect was free for 13 months — rather for tightening the grip on political power.

Continuing, on Monday, December 7, 2015, the wheels of justice all of a sudden began to turn in a separate, 14-month-old police killing — revealing just how fast the state’s prosecutor can move a case when no one obstructs Illinois’ open records act.

Seeing the writing on the wall following Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama’s order to turn over the dashcam evidence in the McDonald case, Mayor Emanuel reversed course and decided to release the dashcam video of police officer George Hernandez firing five shots and fatally wounding Ronald Johnson, also in October 2014. With lightening speed, State’s Attorney Alvarez declined to prosecute Officer Hernandez; moments later, the city released the full video to the public.

It all happened in a matter of hours, dizzyingly fast once again, the minute the digital traces were going to be exposed — demonstrating that it certainly does not take over a year to decide these cases.

Then, on Wednesday, December 9, 2015, we learn that Emanuel and the city’s top lawyer, Steven Patton, buried a 73-page internal report calling for major reforms of the police department by timing its release just before Christmas 2014 — and then never followed up on the report. It now seems that City Hall in effect obstructed former police superintendent Garry McCarthy’s efforts at police reform. The timing of the data dump is again telling — as is the fact that Mayor Emanuel is now calling for the same kind of task force review that was already conducted a year ago.

Who controls the digital traces and their dissemination or erasure — that’s what this is all about. A recent poll showed that . . .

Continue reading.

Rahm Emanuel should resign. He likes power, lacks integrity, and refuses to face, much less deal with, serious problems in Chicago’s city government.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2015 at 11:38 am

The puzzle of Otoko Organics lather—and a great shave with the ATT S1

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SOTD 14 Dec 2015

I have had a couple of communications—via email and via the Facebook page for the Guide—from men who have had difficulty in getting a lather from Otoko Organics. I was totally blindsided on this: the soap has always lathered incredibly easily for me. So this morning I brought it out to observe what I did that brought forth instant and abundant lather.

So far as I can tell, I did nothing special: I wet the knot of the Fine Accoutrements Classic brush, gave it a shake or two, and then brushed the soap lightly and briskly with the damp brush. The brush was loaded well within 10 seconds, with lather already forming, and then when I brushed my wet beard, the lather multiplied. I had loads of lather for three passes and rinsed probably three more passes’ worth of lather from the brush at the end.

I am totally puzzled. The only think I can suggest is experimenting: vary the brush wetness (just damp is good), the brush pressure (light seems to work well), and the brush speed (brisk is best). And let me know how it goes.

With the wonderful lather I get, the shave was a breeze: three passes to a trouble-free BBS result using the Above the Tie S1 on a UFO handle. (If you’ve not read the article about Above the Tie in Craftsmanship magazine, I highly recommend it.)

I really am puzzled about what the problem could be with lathering Otoko Organics. If anyone has any insights, I’m all ears.

UPDATE: I don’t know whether it’s relevant but I heard from one person who’s had some problems, and he lathers in a bowl rather than on his beard. Could that be the difference? (Information sought…)

UPDATE 2: I’ve heard from the maker: no reformulations at all. The mystery continues.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2015 at 8:32 am

Posted in Shaving

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