Saturday, May 05, 2007

 

Euphemism of the Day

The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado has relieved 18 freshmen cadets of their enrollment after an investigation into cheating on a military knowledge test. —UPI

Being relieved of one's enrollment is remarkably similar to being kicked out.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

 

Epiphany of the Day

I was dumbfounded. I've covered riots. I've covered chaos. I was never hit or struck or humiliated the way the LAPD violated me yesterday. —Patricia Nazario, reporter for KPCC, as quoted by Anna Gorman and Stuart Silverstein in "Police action on journalists at melee is assailed"

Members of the media elite are outraged by Tuesday's police riot in L.A., and there's no doubt that the forces suppressing dissent and the coverage of dissent are growing bolder—

Other members of the media who were injured included four employees of KVEA-TV Channel 52, a KTTV-TV Channel 11 news reporter who suffered a minor shoulder injury, a camerawoman who has a broken wrist and a reporter for KPCC-FM (89.3) who was bruised by a police baton.

In the 60s and 70s, the police at least had the good sense not to go after the press. Nowadays we see more and more instances where the police act against members of the media without any meaningful consequence.

But the press of today has shown itself to be such a friend of authority that the police may be genuinely surprised when they meet resistance. And truth be told, there probably won't be much. After all, the LA police were already nominally required to honor a 2002 settlement by which they would "recognize journalists' right to cover public protests even if there is a declaration of unlawful assembly and an order to disperse."

It's also notable that, at least in the reports I've read, media personnel have been far more concerned for their own rights than for the rights of the protestors they came to cover. It has yet to occur to most of them that their well-buttered bread may have been buttered on the wrong side.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

 

Quote of the Day

Thank you for coming to Florida to see us and I’m from Polk County which is the next county over…it’s agricultural…and because we’re between Tampa and Orlando, we get the glory of your consolidated media twofold. I can listen to a drug-addled hatemonger talk on the radio six different stations at a time during the day….Is this what we really want in this country, is this what we want for America?

With the destruction of the Fairness Doctrine, our media became somehow uncivilized.  Now we are at each other’s throats and it’s killing us.  We have serious things we have to take care...our broadcasting has to be open to all of us, it cannot be consolidated just for money, because you’ve pushed us too far, gentlemen, we’re going to take it back!

—Speaker at the hearing held by the Federal Communications Commission in Tampa, Florida on April 30, 2007 [transcribed by Louise Kienast]

Related post
Some perspective on Sinclair Broadcasting (10/15/04)

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Appalling news roundup for May 3

Police ended the May 1 immigration rally in Los Angeles with a police riot. Rubber bullets and tear gas. Members of NBC's Telemundo crew injured. TV station Fox 11 camerawoman reported struck with baton. Brad Blog has a 10-minute citizen journalist video.

Israel and the United States share so much that it shouldn't surprise us if the level of corruption in the Israeli government rivals our own. The Israeli Finance Minister has just taken a leave of absence and "five members of the Olmert Cabinet — including the prime minister — now face or have endured corruption investigations, and another three coalition legislators have come under similar scrutiny."

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Congress orders investigation of Sarasota voting machines

A task force of the Committee on House Administration voted yesterday to investigate the possibility of voting machine errors in the election in Sarasota, Florida, that resulted in a win for Republican Vern Buchanan by 369 votes.

The election used touchscreen equipment, and the cause for concern is that some 18,000 votes in the congressional race were not recorded—an "undervote." Whether this occurred because of machine error, voter error or voter intention hasn't been established. But in reality it's unthinkable that so many people troubled themselves to vote and then intentionally failed to select a candidate in the congressional election.

The Democratic candidate Christine Jennings asked to inspect the source code of the voting machines, but was refused by a state court. Her case has now moved to a Florida appellate court, where it has remained for three months. Well, you know how that goes....

Bill Adair writes

Task force members said the Florida courts were moving too slowly and that Congress had an obligation to conduct a speedy review and settle the dispute.

"There's no indication the courts are going to act - they have not acted yet, " said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a member of the panel. She noted that House members serve a two-year term but the dispute has already taken six months.

The task force asked the non-partisan Government Accountability Office to conduct the investigation and examine the possibility of software or hardware problems.

The decision to place the investigation in the hands of the GAO apparently won over the Republican member of the committee—

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the lone Republican on the panel, voted against the investigation because he said there was insufficient evidence of problems with the election. But after the meeting, he said he was satisfied that the Democrats were proceeding fairly.

"I feel pretty positive about this, " he said.

Christine Grimaldi adds that

The task force wants the investigation to be completed in 45 days.
....

Jennings' attorney, Sam Hirsch [expressed] confidence in GAO supervision.

"The fact that they're going to do a unified look at the hardware and the software and how the two interact means this is just a quantum leap forward..." Hirsch said.

But Mark K. Matthews of the Orlando Sentinel has a different take on the timing—

Today, that task force asked the Government Accountability Office to thoroughly investigate the accuracy of the voting machines in the District 13 race. The investigation will take at least 45 days, and likely longer.

But he adds one interesting thought—

If GAO does conclude the election was flawed, Congress has a wide range of options, including ordering another election.

In the electronic-voting rip-off, this is some of the best news I've heard.

Previous post
Detritus — 12/30/06

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A letter: Product placement in the NY Times?

This evening I dashed off a note to the Times' Public Editor—
On April 29 a story appeared by Jennifer Steinhauer--"For $82 a Day, Booking a Cell in a 5-Star Jail."

The 5th para described a most attractive Ms. Brockett, whose photo the reader has already seen, as follows—

Ms. Brockett, who in her oversize orange T-shirt and flip-flops looked more like a contestant on “The Real World” than an inmate, shopped around for the best accommodations, travelocity.com-style [sic].

I can see no especially compelling reason for characterizing Ms. Brockett as a character in a current TV show nor for characterizing her search as "travelocity.com-style." But what really fascinated me was the live link that was provided to travelocity.com.

I thought to myself: "Is travelocity.com really providing information on jail accommodations?" So I clicked the link, and lo and behold I was on Travelocity's home page!

I hope I'm not giving away any secrets when I tell you that in some corners of the web a link from an organization such as the NY Times could represent real money—especially if it were preceded by a phrase such as "shopped around for the best accommodations."

Is there something that the Times hasn't told us about its advertising practices?

I'm eager to hear back.
1:59 pm

I've received a note from Joe Plambeck, Office of the Public Editor: "I have sent your message to the appropriate editor."

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

 

British "referendum" on the Iraq War tomorrow

I've been letting Britain go its merrie way, but since elections are planned for tomorrow, we might as well check in.

Vote fraud

Two years ago I wrote several posts warning about the level of fraud anticipated for the May 2005 elections. Now Hélène Mulholland reports that "Postal voting fraud in council elections three years ago may have been more extensive than previously thought." Simply Appalling readers were not lulled.

Most of the problems centered about absentee ballots, known in Britain as "postal voting." But there were also instances of flat-out vote tampering à la Ohio. Since Britain is a participant in the European Union, which requires of its members a "pluralistic democracy," it received an embarrassing visit in March from an EU delegation to determine if it was to become "the first western democracy to face monitoring over vote-rigging and electoral fraud."

Britain is making some motions to clean up its act. The BBC reports that—

More than 20,000 postal voters have dropped off the register in Birmingham wards investigated over fraud.
....

In Aston and Bordesley Green wards - which were the focus of the investigation - the number of postal voters this year is down by 80%.

In four other wards, where there were allegations of fraud at the time but no formal inquiry, more than half the postal voters have disappeared from the list.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and the elections

Elections in Scotland and Wales will seat representatives in their respective assemblies. But for the English these are local elections.

Approximately 10,500 English council seats1 are up for grabs, and local issues would normally be front and center. But the English have endured 10 years of Prime Minister Tony Blair's "New Labour," which, as I pointed out long ago, came to resemble nothing so much as "Old Tory." So, in parallel with the recent American elections, this election is viewed as a referendum on Blair's government and the Iraq war.

In an effort to shore up the party's chances, Blair announced yesterday that next week he will be announcing his plan to resign. I know that's convoluted, but it's about the only hope the British have. Blair also threw his support to Scotsman Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer,2 as his successor. This supposedly will improve Labour's chances in Scotland.

A meet-up by the Brighton bandstand?

Despite Blair's best efforts, it's anticipated that Labour is going to take a massive hit. And the Conservatives (Tories) are likely to be the prime beneficiaries. It's so bad, for instance, that there is speculation that the very people who turned Brighton into a "gay-friendly London-by-sea" might be wooed into the arms of "remodeled" Conservatives.

Yes, it's true. The Conservatives are looking less conservative. They want to improve the National Health Service, not destroy it—or so they say. And 2002 saw the coming out of the first Conservative Member of Parliament. So maybe a little tryst between Conservatives and gays is in order—just to make a point about that asshole Tony Blair. But I would hope it doesn't turn into a long-term relationship.

Related posts
Absentee-ballot fraud: A lesson unlearned (4/9/05)
Massive fraud anticipated in Britain's May 5 election; Court will not act (4/21/05)
Allegations of British vote fraud begin to surface (5/7/05)

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Footnotes

1Sort of like an American election for county commissioner, but with more emphasis on the political parties. [back]

2Akin to our Secretary of the Treasury [back]

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

 

California: Where money's still worth something

California's motto "Eureka!"—the Greek for "I've found it!"—refers, as best I can tell, not to the discovery of gold in 1848 but to the delight of wealthy Americans when they find a state designed just for them. It's about as good as it gets for the well-heeled unless they move to an emirate.1

Two years ago I wrote about California's private divorces, a mahvellous system by which the wealthy hire their own judges to avoid the sweat and press of the public courts. But little did I know that you could rent your on jail cell.

According to Jennifer Steinhauer,

For offenders whose crimes are usually relatively minor (carjackers should not bother) and whose bank accounts remain lofty, a dozen or so city jails across the state offer pay-to-stay upgrades. Theirs are a clean, quiet, if not exactly recherché alternative to the standard county jails.... [Link added]

Many of the self-pay jails operate like secret velvet-roped nightclubs of the corrections world. You have to be in the know to even apply for entry, and even if the court approves your sentence there, jail administrators can operate like bouncers, rejecting anyone they wish.
....

For roughly $75 to $127 a day, these convicts — who are known in the self-pay parlance as “clients” — get a small cell behind a regular door, distance of some amplitude from violent offenders and, in some cases, the right to bring an iPod or computer on which to compose a novel, or perhaps a song.

Many of the overnighters are granted work furlough, enabling them to do most of their time on the job, returning to the jail simply to go to bed (often following a strip search, which granted is not so five-star).

The clients usually share a cell, but otherwise mix little with the ordinary nonpaying inmates, who tend to be people arrested and awaiting arraignment, or federal prisoners on trial or awaiting deportation and simply passing through.
....

While jails in other states may offer pay-to-stay programs, numerous jail experts said they did not know of any.

Why not let the well-to-do enjoy their wealth?

So what could be wrong with this system? The "clients" are saving the state money, right? Well, maybe not.

As Ken Kerle, managing editor of the publication American Jail Association, is quoted as saying—

I have never run into this. But the rest of the country doesn’t have Hollywood either. Most of the people who go to jail are economically disadvantaged, often mentally ill, with alcohol and drug problems and are functionally illiterate. They don’t have $80 a day for jail.

And reporter Steinhauer adds—

The California prison system, severely overcrowded, teeming with violence and infectious diseases and so dysfunctional that much of it is under court supervision, is one that anyone with the slightest means would most likely pay to avoid.

“The benefits are that you are isolated and you don’t have to expose yourself to the traditional county system,” said Christine Parker, a spokeswoman for CSI, a national provider of jails that runs three in Orange County with pay-to-stay programs. “You can avoid gang issues. You are restricted in terms of the number of people you are encountering and they are a similar persuasion such as you.”

Why, it's a goddam gated community! And the consequence is that the sort of people most able to compel change in such an unjust system are instead kept ignorant of it and remain untouched by it.

In fact, the separation of classes serves the architects and enforcers of this travesty of justice as much as it does the well-heeled miscreants. It helps avoid the lawsuits and media coverage that might follow if the "right" person were treated wrongly.

So these little outposts in the class war help in their own small way to perpetuate an enormously expensive, dysfunctional and cruel edifice that is little more than a human removal service and a welfare program for the "corrections" establishment.

Related posts
Hire your own judge; you'll help the system and save in the long run (6/15/05)
French prisons follow the American model—downhill (7/22/05)

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Footnote

1California is not perfect, as Michael Jackson has learned. His decision to move to Dubai was a wise one. Like California, Dubai has a large immigrant population to serve the whims of the moneyed classes, and the nice part is that the police don't even pretend to do anything other than keep the immigrants in line, as this little episode with Michael in the ladies room illustrates. [back]

 

Why does it seem like every day is May Day?

Well, today actually is May Day, and there are marches all over the land. The National May 1st Movement for Worker and Immigrant Rights has the meeting time and place for each city where a march is planned. The largest turnouts are expected in New York and Los Angeles.

There's an impressive list of cities:

The Troops Out Now Coalition exhorts those involved in the antiwar effort to lend their support to the May Day immigrant worker marches. It's a good idea. If you live in one of these cities, please join the march. And if you don't, use your imagination...

Related post
Red Scare II: Mayday! Mayday! It was May Day all over again (6/3/06)

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

 

Poem of the Day

THE CHINESE

having neither heaven nor hell
to live up to
did not dramatize themselves
did not paint large heroic nudes

this lack of operatics
this taste for unpresume
may have inclined them to their modesties
of subtle silence and short verse
also the pure please
of one sprig of peach
all day in a bare room

in their landscapes the last thing the eye
will find among the there-firsts
of water rock and sky
is the one brush stroke man
the courteously diffident
tactfully uninsistent
tiny I

this is well-balanced composition
this is stepping sensitively as deer do
this is as a god would see it
and true

—R.E. Sebenthall,
   Acquainted with a chance of bobcats

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