Taxpayers get to pay the price for official state bigotry

Two months after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the legal debate over gay marriage by declaring that the constitutionally protected civil right to marriage must be extended to same-sex couples nationwide, attorneys general and governors who fought it are receiving unpleasant souvenirs of failure: Invoices from the attorneys who beat them.

States that defended same-sex marriage bans — most did, to some extent — are now being asked to pay the legal fees for those litigants under a 40-year-old federal law that says the court “in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party … a reasonable attorney’s fee as part of the costs.”

Or as Michigan attorney Dana Nessel put it: “It’s the price governments pay for defending bigotry.”

Defeat won’t come cheap — or, in many cases, without further legal wrangling.

Michigan is weighing its response to a $1.9 million demand from attorneys for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, plaintiffs in one of the four cases that went to the Supreme Court and was decided in June. In Kentucky, another state involved in the Supreme Court showdown, the bill for services rendered is $2.1 million. South Carolina has been ordered to pay $130,000, and Florida’s attorney general is fighting a tab of about $700,000.

Several states have struck agreements already. Pennsylvania settled for $1.5 million, Wisconsin for $1.05 million, Virginia for $580,000, Oregon for $132,000, Colorado for $90,000, Utah for $95,000 and North Dakota for $58,000. The varying prices reflect the length of the battles or their intensity.

“This is exactly what Congress created this law for,” said Stephen Rosenthal, a Miami-based attorney who fought Florida’s ban. “It’s a recognition that people need lawyers to fight the government, which has lots of lawyers, when they feel their civil rights are being violated. To encourage lawyers to take these cases, you need to provide the potential to get paid in the end.”

The attorneys general of Michigan, Florida, South Carolina and South Dakota did not respond to requests for comment.

Sometimes the creeps who fight tooth-and-nail against progress get what they deserve. Taxpayers – who elected creeps to represent them – get to foot the bill.

“MINORITY REPORT” now fact, not fiction — in New York City

world police

In Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report,” the authoritarian system in place to predict crime and catch individuals before they commit crimes is dystopian fantasy. In the mind of New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton, this story is part of today’s reality, one the NYPD is fueling through experiments with predictive policing.

Bratton participated in a panel hosted by The New York Times, which was called, “Data Mining the Modern City.” During the panel, Bratton referred to the film adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg. “The ‘Minority Report’ of 2002 is the reality of today.”

The commissioner called predictive policing the next phase of American policing, which the NYPD will be a leader in implementing through the data mining of “huge amounts of information” and the development of “algorithms that will effectively mine that data in a way that the human brain cannot.”…

As journalist Raven Rakia explained in Medium on July 22, “Using past crime data to justify occupying specific neighborhoods with police officers, the system simply tracks past arrests of minor property offenses and contributes nothing to predicting or preventing violent crimes such as murder. These surveillance tools help make broken windows policing easier to implement in poor neighborhoods, but won’t actually make the community any safer.”

First introduced by George Killing and James Q. Wilson in an essay in The Atlantic in 1982, Bratton developed broken windows policing too. It is the theory that crackdowns on petty crime will prevent increases in violent crimes in a neighborhood.

One key problem, as Rakia has described, is that it treats human beings as property…

Given the racism underlying the theory of broken windows policing, it is impossible not to fear that predictive policing is driven by a similar set of prejudice. However, Bratton is not one bit concerned about the NYPD abusing its authority in a prejudicial and intrusive manner. In fact, during the panel, he bluntly stated, “There are no secrets.”

“If two people share a piece of information, it is no longer a secret,” Bratton suggested. “And whether you want that second person to know that information or not, the likelihood is that they are going to get it.”

Such statements represent a flippant attitude toward the right to privacy and toward communities disproportionately impacted by policing…

In other words, the data used to predict crimes reflects the priorities of a police department. It also means some areas of a city become occupied territories where police conduct intense patrols while other areas are ignored by police.

How officers decide what streams of data are reliable inherently depends on the set of prejudices with which officers carry out their day-to-day policing of neighborhoods. With those prejudices, predictive policing becomes an authoritarian system for treating citizens like potential insurgents, who could threaten the stability of a military occupation.

And this is how our imperial government treats the rest of the world. Just as the Brits did in their day as “cops of the world” – treating Gandhi as a gang leader who needed to be suppressed for “the good of the whole world”.

The stellar example for me is the obedient agitprop we are fed every day about Cyber Espionage. Usually China, but, often Russia, any former Eastern European nation with a tech industry – all the way down to script kiddies in mom’s basement in California – are rolled out into cookie cutter news releases as the greatest danger to commerce and privacy. All while we live in the belly of the beast which has dedicated more funds and troops to cyber-spying than any other in the history of the world.

It was Ronald Reagan who dedicated the leadership of spying on the citizens of the world to the NSA. Every president since has increased budgets, expanded the mandate to include every citizen of every nation. Just like Bill Bratton, our loss of freedom and privacy is justified by “protecting our privacy and freedom”.

Hypocrites and liars all.

Thanks, Om

Egg prices have doubled in the last year. Here’s why

Click to enlargeEgg farmer looking for a subsidy – See any chickens?

If you look at a graph of the price of eggs, it usually resembles the flight path of a chicken: It bounces up a little bit, then flutters back to earth. But in the last few months egg prices have been soaring like — well, if not like eagles, at least like a flock of enthusiastic pigeons. The price is twice what it was this time last year.

What’s going on here? This year, avian flu hit a lot of egg farmers, wiping out their hens. Now this loss of birds is translating to a scarcity of eggs. Interestingly, the price of specialty eggs — like organic, and vegetarian-fed — hasn’t increased in the same way, which means they are pretty competitive.

That doesn’t mean that organic chicken operations are immune to avian flu. Donald Carr looked into this and found that small egg operations are probably just as prone to disease as big ones.

Congress is currently considering a bailout to help chicken farmers, which might help bring down the cost of eggs. From the perspective of someone living in poverty, cheaper eggs are important: Eggs have long been a healthy and inexpensive mainstay. They are easy to cook, too.

Our family eats eggs from cage-free chickens. If you’ve ever seen photos or visited a so-called battery chicken farm you’d probably make the same decision. The eggs we also eat are brown not white. While color variations to some extent are genetic, the popularity of white eggs comes from the same Anglo-Saxon fixation on white means clean, white means pure. Now, centuries out-of-date.

Growing up in New England, folks generally have more sense than to believe that myth – which is why most folks eat eggs with brown shells from chickens that didn’t have extra minerals added to their diet to produce white shells. Not any different from ignoring bleached, all-purpose flour. Yankees buy King Arthur unbleached flour instead of the stuff that keeps the stock market happy.

The eggs my wife and I eat have increased in price 10% year-over-year.

500 million taxpayer dollar$ training Syrians to fight ISIS ain’t exactly a success

Is this part of their training?

Only four or five Syrian individuals trained by the United States military to confront the Islamic State remain in the fight, the head of the United States Central Command told a Senate panel on Wednesday, a bleak acknowledgment that the Defense Department’s $500 million program to raise an army of Syrian fighters has gone nowhere.

Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the top American commander in the Middle East, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States would not reach its goal of training 5,000 Syrian fighters anytime soon.

His comments came during a testy hearing in which a succession of senators from both parties criticized the American-led effort in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State, the Sunni militancy also known as ISIS or ISIL…

In May, the Defense Department began its training program for up to 5,400 fighters a year, in what White House officials described as a necessary component of President Obama’s strategy to use local troops on the ground against the Islamic State, combined with American air power.

…General Austin told the Senate committee that many fighters in the first class of 54 graduates of the training program for Syrians were attacked in July by an offshoot of Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front, and either fled or were killed…

He acknowledged that the program was behind schedule, and said that the military was reviewing it. Asked how many fighters were still in Syria, General Austin said that “it’s a small number.” He added, “We’re talking four or five.”…

“So we’re counting on our fingers and toes at this point when we had envisioned 5,400 by the end of the year,” Senator Claire McCaskill said.

Actually, we only need the fingers on one hand – or the toes on one foot.

$500 million for 4 or 5 fighters still in the game. Tell you what, Mr. President. I’ll need more than my social security check. Give me $100 million and I’ll go over and fight as an American civilian senior citizen.

Airfare, new military duds, snazzy firepower – I’d really like one of those $5000 sniper rifles – enough to hire a couple gangbangers to cover my butt.. I could get into action for less than $100K. I’d leave the rest of the money behind to fund education for school kids here in New Mexico. I’d fight for them.