Prisoners as a Commodity

This is the state of our justice system (boldface mine):

HERKIMER, N.Y. — Herkimer County’s new sheriff hit the ground running. In addition to becoming the county’s top cop, Sheriff Scott Scherer must oversee the completion of the new jail-which is about 60% complete- and, figure out how to deal with the effects of bail reform. The new laws, which took effect Jan.1, are gutting jail populations statewide. If Herkimer County officials knew, in the earliest planning stages of the new jail, what they know now, they’d have done things differently.

“In retrospect, absolutely. I don’t think we would have built. I think we would have refurbished what we have currently and saved the taxpayers a whole lot of money,” says County Administrator Jim Wallace.

Wallace and the new sheriff say that the fact that they’ll be able to bring back inmates the county used to board out, will save the county money.

“Normally, Herkimer County boards out 20-30 inmates a day and now for the first time in maybe 25 years, by Friday, we’ll have every inmate back in our jail, which is good, because we won’t be paying the boarding out fees and our transport costs will go down,” says Sheriff Scherer.

As for filling the new jail, there are options. But they’re options nearly every other county in the state will likely pursue.

We can look to federal, but believe me, everybody else is gonna be looking to federal prisoners, too,” says Sheriff Scherer. “Federally, everybody’s gonna be fighting for that same inmate and it’s probably gonna drive the price down.”

“Gonna drive the price down.” D.C. sometimes doesn’t get policy right, but getting rid off cash bail (a judge determines if the accused can be set free) is one of the better things the city has done. People–and their freedom–aren’t commodities.

Posted in The Rule of Law | Leave a comment

Links 1/14/20

Links for you. Science:

No, I don’t think that this study offers good evidence that installing air filters in classrooms has surprisingly large educational benefits.
Some of Australia’s Smallest Species Could Be Lost to Wildfires
State moves to prevent surge in HIV infections among homeless drug users
After a Measles Scare, Seattle Cracks Down on Vaccine Compliance
Funding Priorities by Institute or Center (interactive that tells you what frequence of grants at the Nth percentile are funded).


Afternoon of the Pawnbrokers (excellent)
Another Insane Trump Rant, But This One Had a Revealing Moment
The Most Popular Crook in America: The ominous approval ratings of Larry Hogan, the corrupt Republican governor of Maryland
Wedge Antilles Is the Unsung, Unkillable Hero of the Star Wars Saga
The Dismal Forecasts of the Dismal Scientists
For people who scorn the use of italics for emphasis in writing.
Tom Steyer’s Long Journey
The productivity of bullshit jobs
Joe Biden’s Role in Creating the Student Debt Crisis Stretches Back to the 1970s
Ex-Castro Staffer And Top Iowa Democrat Endorses Bernie Sanders (“Eadon, a 36-year-old veteran of Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, does not fit the typical profile of a Sanders endorser. But a multiyear bout with trigeminal neuralgia, a rare nerve disease that causes acute facial pain, has ruined his finances and reshaped his politics.”)
Gen-X Women Are Caught in a Generational Tug-of-War
Shadow group provides Sanders super PAC support he scorns (Our Revolution has been nothing but trouble. He should shut it down)
Voters Oppose Automatically Enrolling The Uninsured In A Government Option
These Patients Are Hard to Treat: A study examined a popular approach that coordinated care for the most expensive patients, and found that the project did not reduce hospital admissions.
Nearly a quarter of Americans have never experienced the U.S. in a time of peace
Donald Trump Jr., Iran, and the Right-Wing Obsession with the Crusades
The 2020 Election in Three Graphs
On the Waterfronts
The Singing Man of Mount Pleasant (Adams Morgan and elsewhere) “His name is Margarito.”
Why Are There So Few Black Coaches in the NFL? It’s the Racism, Stupid.

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How to Defeat the Axis of Authoritarianism

A couple of years ago, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders gave a foreign policy speech in which he decried what he called “the international authoritarian axis.” It’s good rhetoric, but the question is what would that foreign policy look like? I think one component of such a policy would have to be going after tax fraud and money laundering. Most authoritarian regimes (as well as our homegrown authoritarians here in the Ol’ U.S. of A) need some kind of way to move money around illegally, both to enjoy the fruits of their spoils and to further their authoritarian methods. Here’s one such example–Cambridge Analytica (boldface mine):

An explosive leak of tens of thousands of documents from the defunct data firm Cambridge Analytica is set to expose the inner workings of the company that collapsed after the Observer revealed it had misappropriated 87 million Facebook profiles.

More than 100,000 documents relating to work in 68 countries that will lay bare the global infrastructure of an operation used to manipulate voters on “an industrial scale” are set to be released over the next months…

Kaiser said the Facebook data scandal was part of a much bigger global operation that worked with governments, intelligence agencies, commercial companies and political campaigns to manipulate and influence people, and that raised huge national security implications.

The unpublished documents contain material that suggests the firm was working for a political party in Ukraine in 2017 even while under investigation as part of Mueller’s inquiry and emails that Kaiser says describe how the firm helped develop a “sophisticated infrastructure of shell companies that were designed to funnel dark money into politics”.

“There are emails between these major Trump donors discussing ways of obscuring the source of their donations through a series of different financial vehicles. These documents expose the entire dark money machinery behind US politics.” The same machinery, she says, was deployed in other countries that Cambridge Analytica worked in, including, she claims, Britain.

If Sanders, or for that matter Warren, are serious about attacking the role of money in politics here and abroad, they will have to go after the various money laundering schemes and other financial dodges designed to move money around. Cut off the money, and many of these authoritarian groups wither. Who knows? We might live long enough for U.S. troops to invade tax havens to seize various filings (and, I for one, look forward to bringing democracy to Delaware and North Dakota).

Posted in Bidness, Taxes, The Rule of Law | 1 Comment

Links 1/13/20

Links for you. Science:

Increased antibiotic susceptibility in Neisseria gonorrhoeae through adaptation to the cervical environment
Storm of Tumbleweeds Buries Cars, Terrifies Drivers and Astounds Police
Wear and Tear of Tyres: A Stealthy Source of Microplastics in the Environment
New Satellites Are Changing Climate Science
Sidney Holt: Fisheries scientist who fought for nearly 60 years to save great whales from extinction


DC’s first Go-Go museum is months away from being complete thanks to help from this new grant
U.S. inquiry into FBI, Clinton spurred by Republicans ends without results: Washington Post
Facebook Is Forcing Its Moderators to Log Every Second of Their Days — Even in the Bathroom
D.C. Recovered 115 Ghost Guns in 2019, Up From 25 the Year Before
Debt Has Not Been Caused by Low Interest Rates, but Higher Rates Would Topple the Whole World Economy
What if Democrats Tried Real Outreach?
Having antiwar déjà vu? That’s understandable, but it’s not 2003 anymore
Not Just Settlers: The Identity Crisis Threatening Israel’s Religious Zionists
The Future of America’s Contest with China
Republicans preach fiscal conservatism, yet they always find money for war
The Military Views Poor Kids as Fodder for Its Forever Wars
Don Winslow and Stephen King offer $200K if White House holds a press briefing
You Are Jonathan Chait’s Enemy
Purity test
Maryland Governor Accused of Rerouting State Funds to Benefit His Business
How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate
A tech billionaire has fought for a decade to block access to a public beach. Now California is suing.
The Progressive’s Guide to Corporate-Democrat Speak
The Cybersecurity 202: Voting machines touted as secure option are actually vulnerable to hacking
President Mitch McConnell: He’s in charge of everything but shooting at Iran.
The Boeing 737 Max Is a Case Study for Everything Wrong With American Corporate Governance

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How to Rectify the Political Press Corps’ Radical Centrism

When it comes to Compulsive Centrist Disorder, one of the hallmarks is that its adherents are unable to recognize how radical their beliefs are. While they style themselves as equidistant between the left and the right, radical centrists actually hold some very dogmatic and zealous beliefs, most notably when it comes to their balanced budget obsession (boldface mine):

The skeptical questions for the more progressive candidates, Sanders and Warren, often challenge the substance of their ideas: Are you too radical? Are you being realistic? And, by golly, how would you pay for it all?

I recently took a detailed look through the coverage of the wealth tax, favored by both Sanders and Warren, and centrist bias seeps through much of it. The coverage has slanted negative, filled with the worries that centrists have — that the tax wouldn’t work in practice or would slow economic growth.

Experts who favor a wealth tax, like Gene Sperling, Felicia Wong and Heather Boushey, or whose academic research suggests it would work, like Lily Batchelder and David Kamin, have received less attention than experts who don’t like the idea. For that matter, the complaints of obscure billionaires have gotten more attention than the arguments of sympathetic experts. “Billionaire whining about a wealth tax,” as Ilyana Kuziemko, a Princeton economist who’s sympathetic to a wealth tax, told me, mostly isn’t newsworthy….

Not every policy question posed to Democrats needs to have a conservative assumption, and not every question posed to Republicans needs to have a liberal one. If Warren and Sanders are going to be asked whether their solutions go too far, Joe Biden should be asked whether his solutions are too timid: Mr. Vice President, many economists believe that inequality is bad for an economy, so are you doing enough to attack inequality?

Once you start thinking about centrist bias, you recognize a lot of it. It helps explain why the 2016 presidential debates focused more on the budget deficit, a topic of centrist zealotry, than climate change, almost certainly a bigger threat. (Well-funded deficit advocacy plays a role too.) Centrist bias also helps explain the credulousness of early coverage during the Iraq and Vietnam wars. Both Democrats and Republicans, after all, largely supported each war.

The world is more surprising and complicated than centrist bias imagines it to be. Sometimes, people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are right. Even when they’re not, they deserve the same skepticism that other politicians do — no less, no more.

Once we recognize centrism as a distinct ideology, and not a midpoint, we can begin to knock down its foolish assumptions.

Posted in Compulsive Centrist Disorder | Leave a comment

Links 1/12/20

Links for you. Science:

Russian journals retract more than 800 papers after ‘bombshell’ investigation
Fukushima’s Exclusion Zone Is Being Overtaken by Wild Animals
What fossils will modern-day civilization leave behind?
At 2020 deadline, progress in Patrick Soon-Shiong’s ‘cancer moonshot’ is hard to find
Chimpanzees learn to crack nuts faster than humans (“My point is that watching how fast individuals in real societies attain maximal performance is a very bad measure of how fast they might be able to learn.”)


Money for war, but not for the poor
ICE Detention Center Captain Was on a Neo-Nazi Website and Wanted to Start a White Nationalist Group
Florida Republicans’ Voter Suppression Scheme May Backfire
Trina Robinson, former South Bend NAACP officer and president, tells reporters that on race and police violence PeteButtigieg’s candidacy is “a ticking-time bomb.”
9 Iran pundits with undisclosed ties to the defense industry
The Misleading Rhetoric of School “Choice” Advocates: Wealth and “Choice”
Joe Biden’s free ride is over
U.S. Border Agency Says It’s Not Singling Out Iranians. This Family Waited 11 Hours and Was Asked About Iranian Heritage.
Does Building Transit Reduce Traffic Congestion?
Will This Billionaire-Funded Think Tank Get Its War With Iran?
Have Americans Usually Supported Their Wars?
‘Make No Mistake: Harvard Has the Money to Pay Us Livable Wages’
Bloomberg: I Won’t Release Women From Their Confidentiality Agreements Against My Company
Does D.C.’s school choice system hurt neighborhood schools?
The Evangelicals Who Pray for War With Iran
Iran Is Not a Threat to Our Security. Trump’s Saber-Rattling Is.
Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell
Getting rid of the homeless won’t make homelessness go away
Trump’s unhinged rally rant underscores case for reining him in
The Postal Service is America’s most popular government agency. Why does Trump hate it?
Let’s Hear More About This

Posted in Lotsa Links | Leave a comment

Sherrill at the Renwick

The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian had a fun exhibit of sculpture by Michael Sherrill. Enjoy!

Resnick Jan 2020

Resnick Jan 2020

Resnick Jan 2020

Continue reading

Posted in DC, Museums etc., Plants | Leave a comment