Oct 192016

We’re having some excitement here in the Rose City, as a contractor ruptured a gas line and a building about 25 blocks from me exploded.  I did not hear it, but I knew something was up, because I heard several sirens at once from different distances away.  Please join me in prayer, or however you connect to the infinite, for the injured and their loved ones.  I have a busy day.  Store to Door is delivering groceries later this afternoon, and I have to put them away.  Later Wendy will be here to shine and polish the TomCat and do some light cleaning.  Then we’ll construct a green cloud and send it north to find the Squatch.  That assumes we can hold the chili down, as Hillary will be debating, and Rump Dump will be masdebating at the same time we are eating.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:41 (average 4:45).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: The courts are not looking kindly at Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s multiple efforts to keep people—primarily Democrats—from voting. Last week, his refusal to extend the voter registration deadline in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew was denied, and voter registration continues into this week. Then on Sunday, a federal judge ruled that the state must allow absentee voters to verify their signatures and have their votes count.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling was a victory for the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee, which sued the state Oct. 3 arguing Florida canvassing boards shouldn’t immediately reject a ballot if a voter’s signature doesn’t match the one on file. The state gives voters who forget to sign their mail ballots a chance to fix the problem before Election Day—but doesn’t offer voters with mismatched signatures the same opportunity. […]

"It is illogical, irrational, and patently bizarre for the State of Florida to withhold the opportunity to cure from mismatched-signature voters while providing that same opportunity to no-signature voters," he wrote. "And in doing so, the State of Florida has categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters arguably for no reason other than they have poor handwriting or their handwriting has changed over time." […]

The Republican War against the right to vote never ends.

From The New Yorker: In an Oval Office ceremony on Wednesday morning, President Barack Obama signed an executive order requiring the loser of the 2016 Presidential election to leave the country forever.

“This will help the healing begin,” the President said.

The executive order calls for the loser of the November 8th election to depart the country on the morning of November 9th and never return.

“Whoever that turns out to be,” the President said.

But Andy, it doesn’t go far enough. Make Rump Dump Whoever leave the earth and go to the Cruz planet.

From CMD: ExxonMobil and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are running an illegal scheme to promote the oil giant’s climate denial policies and legislative agenda in violation of U.S. tax law governing charitable organizations, the Center for Media Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause charged today.

In a new filing to the IRS – adding to an active investigation prompted by a 2012 complaint that ALEC is operating as a corporate lobbying group while registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity – the watchdog organizations detail for the first time how Exxon has used ALEC as a key asset in its explicit campaign to sow uncertainty about climate science, undermine international climate treaties and block legislation to reduce emissions. While ALEC purports to spend zero dollars on lobbying, Exxon has deliberately used ALEC for the past two decades to advance its legislative goals concerning cap-and-trade policies, fracking, the Keystone Pipeline and the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.

“It has become painfully obvious over the past few years that ALEC is corporate lobby front group masquerading as a charity—at taxpayer expense,” said Arn Pearson, general counsel at CMD. “If the laws governing nonprofits are to mean anything, the IRS needs to take action to enforce them in this case.”

“For years ALEC has been a key asset in Exxon’s multi-billion dollar campaign to push a dangerous climate-denial agenda and secretly lobby politicians on anti-environmental legislation that pollutes the environment,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “It is time for the IRS to act and curb these blatant abuses.”

Today, CMD and Common Cause provided the IRS Whistleblower Office with extensive evidence obtained through open records requests, original research and public financial documents detailing intentional misuse of ALEC by the Exxon to advance legislation of direct benefit to the company. Over a 17-year period, Exxon and its foundation spent more than $1.7 million to finance lobbying activity by ALEC on legislation and public policies that benefit the corporation, while improperly and illegally claiming a tax deduction for those expenditures.

These Republicans (ALEC) need to be stripped of their 501 status, criminally prosecuted,  and put out of business permanently.



Hat-Tip to Bill Maher for the concept.


Everyday Erinyes

 Posted by at 12:10 am  Politics
Aug 132016

I have a few items today which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

First, though, before handing off to the Furies, I want to follow up on July 30's story about "National Whistleblowers Appreciation Day."  You may recall I quoted from John Kiriakou and Tom Drake, and mentioned Jeffrey Sterling not being available as he is still locked up.  I have since received an email forwarded by Roots Action from his wife, Holly.  She states that he has served a bit over one year of his three-and-a-half year sentence, and there are a few things we can do ourselves. 

The need is threefold.  First, he is not getting appropriate attention for serious cardiac medical issues.  He has a history of atrial fibrillation (in the past he has been hospitalized for it) and is now experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, and dizziness.  Holly has written to the Warden about his medical conditon, and has received no answer.  She would really appreciate if anyone who can would contact the prison warden, Deborah Denham, to advocate for medical attention for Jeffrey.  The email address is ENG slash ExecAssistant at bop dot gov (I'm spelling it the long way to avoid a link that's not to a site) and the phone number 303-763-4300.  (Personal note from me: if I can come up with any more accuracy or other alternatives I will add it/them in a comment.)

Second – I vividly remember when John Kiriakou was incarcerated how the family, his wife and three little girls, were up against the wall just to try to make the mortgage payments, and on top of that, they did not put him in the nearest prison, so that visiting was a challenge both in terms of energy and financially.  (They also threatened "diesel therapy" – a creative term for moving him between prisons without notice.)  Firedoglake was collecting for John, and, with help, they did not lose their home.  The Sterlings have a Sterling Family Fund set up for them on GoFundMe.  They want to appeal his conviction, and Holly would like to make the 800-plus mile trip to visit him once in a while, and both require money.  (There's also more background information there, should you be interested.)

Third, for those of us who are not locked up, it may be impossible to realize how much words of encouragement can mean.  Even if it's just a card.  He can receive snailmail at

FCI Englewood
Federal Correctional Institution
9595 West Quincy Avenue
Littleton, CO 80123

And, yes, there is a petition .  It also has more background.

Now, moving right along, I'll whip quickly through a few stories of jaw-dropping – something.  First, let's go to Indiana, specifically to South Bend, where, in 2012, Vivian Franklin awakened to loud pounding on her door between three and four in the morning.  Three (warrantless) police officers shining a flashlight in her eyes  barged in.  They were looking for Dan, Vivian's older son, who was not there.  This did not stop them from hauling her younger son, DeShawn, 17, out of bed and assaulting him with fists and tasers.  In the process, a taser probe got stuck in DeShawn's side; the officers were unable to remove it and had to call an ambulance and EMT's to do so.  (I am restraining my snark here.) 

Where the incident goes right through the Looking Glass is that, while DeShawn was shouting he was not Dan, and Vivian was shouting DeShawn was not Dan, and the officers were insisting Dan must be there because they had trailed him to the home – Dan showed up.  Whereupon the officers opted not to arrest him. 

So in March, 2013 the Franklins reasonably filed suit.  Named in the suit were the three officers, the city, the mayor, and the police chief.  Finally, this year, the suit was adjudicated in Fort Wayne.

The jury found that the Franklins' constitutional rights had been violated.  They awarded damages of ONE DOLLAR. Yes, you read that right.  One dollar.

Grudging, I would say.  Megaera, I woudn't stop with the officers, the city, the mayor, and the police chief.  I'd definitely follow up with that jury.  Perhaps Indiana, or at least South Bend, really did deserve Mike Pence.

Let's now go to Watauga, Texas, where an unidentified man made a threat in a phone message to a local mosque, in which he threatened to decapitate Muslims who attended it.

The caller identified as a "Christian."  Police in Watauga are investigating but aren't treating it as a direct threat at the moment.  the FBI has also been notified.

Of course, Tisiphone, you will want to find this person.  But almost more chilling was the remark that "a caller made explicitly violent threats that went well beyond the kind of verbal abuse callers normally level against the mosque." 

It should NOT be "normal" for callers to "level verbal abuse" against ANY person or group.  And it is un-American that this happens.

So you may be digging out a long, long list.

Finally for this week, this happened in Punta Gorda , FL (one of only a few states we might expect it in).  I'll just quote:

A woman, identified as Mary Knowlton, was selected to participate in a “shoot or don’t shoot” training exercise at the Punta Gorda Police Academy. She was selected at random from a group of 35 citizens who were participating in a two hour Citizens Academy—a program created to teach local civics to civilians.

Mary Knowlton, 73, was shot during a role-play scenario in which the Punta Gorda police officer was playing a “bad guy” and fired several times at the woman who was supposed to be playing the victim, according to Sue Paquin, a photographer who was covering the event for the Sun and witnessed the incident.

Knowlton was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Mrs. Knowlton was originally from Austin, Minnesota and was retired in Punta Gorda. She had been a librarian in Scott County, Minnesota.

This incident may reflect more stupidity than malice (and once again I need to restrain my snark/sarcasm).  But things like this happen all the timeAlecto, maybe you can inject some sense here.  I certainly hope so.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4004933


Everyday Erinyes

 Posted by at 9:24 am  Politics
Jul 302016

I have two items today which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I was afraid I wouldn't have a primary link for this section, because I worked from an email.  But, bless them, Roots Action has links to many months of emails on their site, so I do.  The subject line of this email was "Irony-free zone: Congress 'appreciates' whistleblowers."

It seems the U. S. Senate has approved a resolution to designate July 30, 2016, as "Whistleblower Appreciation Day."  July 30 – hey, wait!  That's today!  Well, come on, let's appreciate us some whistleblowers!

Unfortunately, Jeffrey Sterling is not available; he is still in a Federal Prison.  But Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou are out now, so let's appreciate them.  Did you know John was the only CIA agent to go to prison over the CIA's torture program?  Fact.  Because he didn't take part in it.  He blew the whistle on it.  Two years in prison.  I don't know as much about Tom's story, except that his revelations were about mass surveillance; I just know his personal finances also were wrecked through vindictive prosecutions.  Now here are some quotes from John and some from Tom:

Senator Chuck Grassley said … "These brave citizens should not be penalized, they should be praised."  Somebody should tell the Justice Department.  Legitimate whistleblowers are charged under the Espionage Act, a draconian law meant to punish traitors and spies, not truth tellers…. The goal is not just to punish. It’s to ruin, professionally, personally, and financially.  Still we went into this with our eyes open. It might sound crazy, but we would blow the whistle again. We don't need the Senate's "appreciation." What we need is for the Justice Department to respect the laws already on the books, to support whistleblowers exposing waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality.  Over to you, Tom.

Congress has yet to invite John or myself in front of Congress to testify before any committee regarding our whistleblowing on torture and mass surveillance, respectively. We both came forward at great risk and to this day are the only two people* who have paid a very high price for exposing government wrongdoing and criminal conduct regarding these two state-sponsored programs….  We upheld our oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic (including our own government), faithfully serving our country in the line of duty at the CIA and the NSA — even when our agencies didn’t and wouldn’t.

(*He must have said this before Jeffrey went to prison, because they both took part in a demonstration with Jeffrey's wife Holly to ask for Jeffrey's pardon.)

Here's a link to the group which pushes for this appreciation day – on a year-by-year basis, knowing, I am sure, what an irony it is, but hoping to eventually come to a time and place where it can mean something.  Maybe you ladies can put on your Eumenides hats and try to attain some justice for John, Tom, Jeffrey, and all the others.

But here is a situation where you can simply go after some killers.  You may (or may not) have been reading about deaths in hospitals resulting from the use of tainted medical scopes (specifically endoscopes).  Well.  Those scopes all came from a device manufacturer called Olympus Corp., based in Japan.

In 2012, two dozen infections linked to the use of these scopes were reported in hospitals in France and The Netherlands.  As early as June 2012, an investigator hired by a Netherlands hospital and Olympus concluded that the scope's design could allow blood and tissue to become trapped in it and spread bacteria across patients.  The recommendation was to conduct a world wide investigation and if a similar problem turned up to recall all the scopes.  Seven months later, when the company alerted its European customers to potential problems, they knew about at least three outbreaks, affecting an estimated 46 patients.  The third one was in Pittsburgh, PA.  But the company issued no alerts in the United States.

Since the internet never forgets, we know that this email exchange occurred:

Should [we] also be communicating to our users the information that [Olympus Europe] is communicating to their European users?” Laura Storms, vice president of regulatory and clinical affairs in Center Valley, Pa., asked in an email to Tokyo headquarters on Jan. 31, 2013.

No, that’s not necessary, said Susumu Nishina, the company’s chief manager for market quality administration in Tokyo in a Feb. 6, 2013, reply.

It is “not need[ed] to communicate to all the users actively,” Nishina wrote, because a company assessment of the risk to patients found it to be “acceptable.”  However, he added that Storms should respond to questions from a customer.

I'm not sure what "risk is acceptable" to Nishina.  Patients and familes in the US would appear not to find the risk acceptable, judging from the crop of lawsuits which have spring up.  As well as the Federal prosecutors who are investigating.  Over the three years – 2013 to 2016 – there have been outbreaks of infection in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Denver, just to name a few.  35 people have died from these infections.  Others have remained hospitlized for up to a year trying to get over them. 

The Times has a link to all the emails.  Sorry, I haven't read them all.  Just from what is in the article, it appears to me that Storms tried (maybe not for the right reasons, but she tried), but that Nishina is a murderer.  Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, you are good at sorting these things out, and I am sure you will manage.  Way back in the day, I mentioned Fudō Myōō, who is described as an ancient Japanese sword-brandishing angry wisdom king.  Perhaps he would be upset with these actions too.  There are also creatures, such as tengu (wise bird-like demons – you may have heard of them in D&D or Guild Wars, but they are originally from very, very, very old Japan), he could send as reinforcements.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross-posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4001959


Everyday Erinyes

 Posted by at 9:20 am  Politics
Jul 232016

I have three items today which seems to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

We start in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police on July 5.  "Wait a minute, Erynator," I can hear you thinking, "this is old news."  Well, yes, it is, but there keep being new twists to it.  There was the killing itself.  There was the unconscionable way police dealt with peaceful protestors, which I wrote about last week – forcing them off of private property where they were invited guests, in order to arrest them for being in the streets.  And now, there is the story of two men, one who made a video of the killing, and a second who saw a different video of the same killing, and publicized it.

The store in front of which Alton Sterling was shot and killed (for selling CD's?), the Triple S Food Mart, is owned by Ahmed Muflahi.  Born in Yemen, he is now a resident of Baton Rouge.  He knew Alton Sterling when he was alive, and considered him a good friend.  So, for him, this story began when he had to watch his friend die.  But that was just the beginning.

Naturally the Triple S had surveillance cameras with video, but in addition to that, Muflahi filmed the killing on his cell phone, creating a video which clearly shows that the officers involved in the incident were not truthy.

Muflahi has now filed a lawsuit, which may end up providing some compensation for him, but, even were such compensation to be adequate, will not, experience suggests, do anything to improve the behavior of police.  According to the lawsuit:

Immediately after the killing of Mr. Sterling officers came inside Triple S Food Mart and without a warrant confiscated the entire store security system and took Plaintiff Muflahi into custody…. [police] then illegally placed Mr. Muflahi into custody, confiscated his cell phone and illegally locked him in the back of a police vehicle and detained him there for approximately four hours…. [After a warrant was finally issued, it] only authorized a search of the video surveillance at the scene for evidence and did not authorize a search of the building or the physical removal of the equipment both of which had already transpired when the warrant was issued.” (emphasis mine)

But this apparently was not sufficient.  Instead, they apparently felt it necessary to reach out all the way to Georgia, where Chris LeDay, originally from Baton Rouge but now an aerospace ground technician at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, GA.  That's his day job.  He is also a music producer, a fact which has led to his having a lot of followers – thousands, in fact – on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  When he received the first video to be released, from contacts in his old home town, he saw an opportunity to get some justice for the sterling family, and he published the video on all three forums.

Twenty-four hour later, he was arrested as he arrived at his day job.  He was just able to post on Facebook, “I just made it to my job on base and I'm being detained. They said I fit the description of someone and won't tell me anything else. If anything happens I did not resist! Please be aware!”  Arrested by MPs, he was handcuffed, shackled, and jailed – he was originally told on assault charges, but later advised it was for unpaid parking tickets.  Before being released the next day, he had to pay $1,231.  As of July 15, he was still not allowed back on base, so he was (and may still be) losing wages.

The extended story from this killing seems like it will never end.  Alecto – please go after the guilty, and then put on your Eumenides hat to justify the innocent heroes.

Now on to Oklahoma City, where a young man got to celebrate his fifth birthday by watching police kill his dog.

Dog0723Even a local Fox TV channel could not stomach this.

The officer who shot the dog [whom the Wynnewood Police Department will not identify] had come to the Malone home to serve a warrant to a person who lived there 10 years ago. The warrant, he said, gave him the right to enter private property and take whatever action he deemed appropriate under the circumstances. The Malone family says they never saw any warrant.

Chief Moore said that the police department was aware that the Malone family had been in the house for a year and that the officer had been advised that the address was a rental property through which people had “moved in and out” over the years.

“I respect what the police do, but this was senseless, but he didn’t show any remorse and didn’t even act like he was sorry or anything,” Vickie Malone said to Fox 25.

Eli Malone told reporters that he misses his dog. The 5-year-old said that he wishes someone from the Wynnewood Police would at least apologize for killing his friend.

The family have marked Opie’s grave with a small wooden cross

Eli understands that Opie is gone forever.  But Megaera – perhaps you could get them to stop being so grudging as to deny even an apology.

Finally, we come to Houston, TX, where the story is so horrendous I don't know how to speak about it, so I will simply quote Leslie Salzillo's (from the Daily Kos) first paragraph, and recommend you click through for more details and for analysis, both that provided by Leslie and that in the comments:

A Houston woman in her 20’s who is called “Jenny” was raped and choked by a convicted serial rapist Keith Hendricks. While testifying against him in court, she had a breakdown, became incoherent, and ran out of the courtroom saying she’d never return. The prosecutor in the case had her arrested and put in jail for threatening not to show up to testify. Her mother and her attorney thought “Jenny,” who suffers from bipolar disorder, was put into a psychiatric hospital, when if fact, she was only hospitalized for a few days then then transferred to the Harris County Jail and put into the general population. The jail staff received erroneous reports that said Jenny was the sexual abuser rather than the abused victim. While incarcerated she was beaten.

Tisiphone – there just was no need for this – it was pure vengeful destruction.  Please school the DA.  (If you feel that waiting until November would help her opponent win the election, please feel free to wait.)

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross-posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4000478


Everyday Erinyes

 Posted by at 12:05 am  Politics
Jul 022016

I have a situation today which seems to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I'm sure that no one is unaware that a little over a week ago (on June 23, to be precise) the Supreme Court, being deadlocked on the case of United States v Texas, allowed a ruling of a lower court to stand, in effect overturning executive orders of President Obama to expand DACA and DAPA.  That alphabet soup stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (and Lawful Permanent Residents).  Both of those programs, and all of President Obama's executive actions to expand tham, have been aimed at keeping families together.  It's hardly worth even mentioning that the objections to these measures have come from the party of so-called "family values."  That is now a given.

The case did not involve, so the split decision doesn't affect, the original DACA of 2012.  Anyone eligible for that should continue to apply, including for renewal.  But expanded DACA, and all of DAPA, is gone for now.

Let me put a face on this.  Josefina Mora is an American citizen, old enough to vote for the first time.  Here mother, Maru Mora Villalpando, is not.  She is just a parent of an American citizen.  Democracy Now spoke with both:

VILLALPANDO: Thank you. Well, it keeps me the same as I’ve been in these past 20 years: trying to avoid police, ensuring that my daughter knows everywhere I go, creating a network that will support me in case I get detained and placed in deportation proceedings….

MORA: I’m 18. I just turned 18, so I’ll be 19 this year. I participated in that rally [a Trump rally in Washington State at which she was arrested] because I wanted my community to know that we will not allow bigotry to be in our community, because more—it’s bigger than the Trump campaign, really. It’s just representing a country that’s founded on hate, on racism, on the taking of native peoples’ land.

If none of this, nor any similar stories, moves you in the slightest; if you think anyone who "breaks a law" – any law – needs to be locked up and the key thrown away, please just take a second to consider how many and who would be locked up, or have been locked up, if that were put into practice.  Jesus.  All of the barons who got King John to sign the Magna Carta.  Ummm – all of our founding fathers.  Thoreau.  Gandhi.  Most if not all of the civil rights activists in the sixties and seventies.  And, of course great numbers of people who have escaped being locked up because of their wealth and prestige.  George W. Bush.  Dick Cheney  Donald Rumsfeld.  All those Nixon aides who invented the War on Drugs as a ploy to lock up decent people.  And, of course, Donald J. Trump.  Is that going to happen?  Should we not be consistent?

But beyond fairness, there is an additional factor that I suspect few are aware of.  All those immigration prisons?  The ones not under the supervision of DOJ or the Bureau of Prisons, but of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)?  The agency subject to a 2009 congressional mandate to keep no fewer than 34,000 people locked up at all times?  Oh, you didn't know that?  Well, a new report is out prepared jointly by the Detention Watch Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights on this.  It expands on their 2015 report with additional information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

After noting that the "detention bed quota," as it is known, is "unethical and financially wasteful, costing American taxpayers over $2 billion a year and separating hundreds of thousands of families," it goes on to state (emphasis mine):

In addition to the national quota, the immense size of the U.S.’s immigration detention system isbolstered by a series of local-level quotas, written into detention facility contracts as “guaranteed minimums.” Guaranteed minimums, which appear mostly in ICE contracts with private contractors (though some exist with local governments), guarantee that ICE will pay for a minimum number of people to be detained at any given time. Because the government seeks to avoid paying for detention space that isn’t being used, guaranteed minimums are essentially local “lockup” quotas that influence ICE’s decision-making about immigration enforcement, whether or not people will be released, where people will be detained, and ultimately, who will profit or benefit from their detention.

Yes, you read that right.  "Private contractors."  Privately owned for-profit prisons.  Mostly the two biggest, CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and The Geo Group.

Obviously there is a lot wrong with this.  There is far more detail in the report than I will even try to explicate here.  Yet, as Sarah Lazare says in her article in AlterNEt, "one thing is clear: profits are soaring for GEO Group and CCA, the two largest private prison companies in the United States. Both boasted to their shareholders recently that revenues are spiking, thanks in part to the windfall from locking up families."

Karnes County Residential Center, in Karnes, TX, is owned by the GEO Group, and is cited as among the worst.  "Karnes, in particular, has been the site of repeated hunger strikes over inhumane conditions, including nearly free labor, lack of legal representation and contaminated drinking water. In 2014, some women detained at the prison alleged that guards sexually assaulted them."  You can Google "Karnes County Residential Center" and you will get quite an eyeful, just on the search results page.

Dear Erinyes, I hardly even know where to start.  Congress is reponsible for the quota system, and, though the current Congress is not the same Congress that did it, and hopefully the next one will be even more different, it is up to Congress to change it – no one else can.  It was a particularly grudging measure, right, Megaera?  And then there's the GEO group, profiting from the suffering of others, taking grudging all the way the vengeful destruction, Tisiphone, I would say (not to let any other actors off the hook, however.)  And Alecto, this just has to cease.  Onward.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross-posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/3996231


Everyday Erinyes

 Posted by at 6:29 am  Politics
Jun 182016

I have just one "subject" today which seems to me to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I say it's a "subject" because it isn't a single incident, which is what I usually try to find, nor even a group of incidents tied by a common thread, but all having names attached, as I used last week.  It's a systemic issue which affects people in every one of the United States' fifty.  It's nothing we haven't seen before in individual cases, but we may not have looksd at how thoroughly our justice system is permeated with it.  And just this month a new book has been published about it.

Now, I'm not here to sell books (or anything else), and I haven't bought this one, so I'll be leaning heavily on the interview in Take Part which led me to the subject, and on a white paper the author, Dr. Alexes Harris, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington, posted while the book was still in progress.

When we think about a person "paying" for his crimes, we generally think about someone spending time in prison, or occasionally and if the sentence is short enough, in jail.  Unless it's, say a speeding ticket, and then one simply pays the fine and it's over.  We don't think that "anyone convicted of any type of criminal offense is subject to fiscal penalties or monetary sanctions."  Nor that "[T]he base fine of, say, a speeding ticket or even a major criminal conviction is just a small portion of the total cost. There are fines, fees, interest, surcharges, per payment and collection charges, and restitution."   Least of all does it occur to us that "Until these debts are paid in full, individuals who have otherwise 'done their time' remain under judicial supervision and are subject to court summons, warrants, and even jail stays."

Naturally, no one wants debt haning over their heads.  So those who can manage to do so, pay the fines up front.  For those who cannot, all the additional charges, particularlt those which accrue over time, combine to make legal debt a life sentence.  One which disproportionately affects the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, and those suffering mental or physical illness.

Every state has provision in law for fines to be imposed upon conviction in addition to incarceration.  Also, individual counties, judicial district, parishes, whatever, can impose their own fines and fees, by county code, or informally, at the discretion of local clerks' offices.  Some of these appear to me to be in violation of the Constitution.  For example, in Louisiana, indigent defendants are assessed an up front fee for their public defender.  In North Carolina, every felony defendant, regardless of whether or not convicted, is assessed a "cost of justice"  fee.  Wasn't there something in the Fourth Amendment about unreasonable search and seizure?

Legally speaking, monetary sanctions like fines and fees are part of a court sentence.  Until these are paid in full, the individual's life belings to the court.  Even if all else is completed, imagine trying to get a job, rent a place to live, or, God forbid, get a loan with legal debt hanging over your credit record.  Legal debt effectively derails prospects for success after conviction.

So why do states (and counties) keep piling these on?  Are they actually getting any money from those who are desperately poor?  Well, if they can get enough very small payments, they can at least believe they are.  In 2012, for insance, Washington State generated $29 million from half a million people.  Dr. Harris added, "The court clerks I talked to all said they needed this source of income but couldn’t tell me where it was going. I have a new project where I’m trying to figure out where all of this money goes—how much is generated and recovered and what percentage goes where."

And the debt keeps increasing:  (emphasis mine)

Ironically, as a result of mass conviction and incarceration, jurisdictions cannot afford criminal justice costs. They are attempting to literally transfer these expenses to defendants. Since the vast majority of people who receive felony convictions in the U.S. have minimal employment and income prospects post-conviction, monetary sanctions deepen existing inequalities. Poor people carry the onerous weight of a criminal record in very different ways and for longer periods of time than those with financial resources and good connections (that is, people from whom they can borrow money). In effect, because they can’t pay their debts, the poor become perpetual subjects of the criminal justice system.

I think perhaps we will need a multi-pronged strategy to deal with this situation.  Tisiphone, because it's difficult for mortals to find out the facts – court systems are not autmated, and, in the rare cases in which they are, they are not consistent – "[W]e cannot know how many are jailed or how much is spent on monitoring, arresting, and incarcerating people for non-payment. Researchers truly cannot calculate the total criminal justice resources consumed in managing legal debtors, collecting outstanding debt, and sanctioning those who have not made payments."  I am asking you to find out how much of this mess, if any, is productive – and how much is just vengeful destruction.  Megaera, you need to attack the grudging attitudes of those who would make all criminal justice into "pay to play," further disadvantaging the poor.  And, Alecto, you need to pester legislators, bureaucrats, and activists without ceasing, because this travesty will never end until we end it, and we apparently need our feet held to the fire and our noses to the grindstone (now, there's an image).

Not that there aren't plenty of other things wrong with criminal justice in the United States.  But this would be a start.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/3993483