Over the past three decades, local police forces have seen a tremendous influx of military weaponry and technology. Investigative reporter Radley Balko writes that starting in 1997, the “1033 Program” has allowed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military-grade weaponry to be transferred to local civic police stations. This inventory includes tanks, grenade launchers, and .50 caliber machine guns that are largely impractical for police work. The tactics have also become militarized. Criminologist Peter Kraska estimates that annual deployments of SWAT and paramilitary police have surged from 3,000 in 1980 to around 45,000 in present times. This increase appears to be a result of mission creep — while originally conceived to be used in the most extreme scenarios such as hostage situations and bank robberies, Kraska points out that the majority of SWAT raids are now centered on drug-related crimes, with authorities often breaking down doors during pre-dawn hours to serve warrants. While these forces have an important role in dealing with the most volatile situations, the huge surge in the use of SWAT teams and military-grade weapons for regular police work should raise concerns about the impact of militarization on the relationship between law enforcement and civilians.
With few facts to report on regarding the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, cable news outlets have been filling hour after hour of airtime with wild speculation.
Lately, the Federal government has sought to assure Americans that its intelligence and spy agencies have strong congressional oversight. However, a recent incident involving the C.I.A. allegedly impeding, intimidating, and even hacking the committee responsible for holding it accountable, suggests that the C.I.A. is also overseeing Congress.
The country leading the world in foreign military interventions leading the world in blasting Russia’s foreign military intervention.
The National Rifle Association’s opposition to the regulation of firearms isn’t only guided by the staunch position to protect the “constitutional rights” of gun owners. The NRA has received tens of millions of dollars from the firearms industry since 2005, which it in turn has used to lobby against even the most common-sense gun laws. GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners support criminal background checks to qualify for purchasing a gun, yet the NRA continues to lobby against mandatory federal background checks, suggesting it has more than just its constituents’ interests in mind. The NRA has also been using campaign donations and lobbying to promote state legislation, such as Florida’s 2005 “shoot first” Stand Your Ground Law, which has now been adopted by half of the country. All of this contributes to a legal environment where both ownership and the size of the firearms economy are as widespread and large-scale as possible, and the ability to use deadly force is given to any citizen who purchases a gun.
Using the the term “piracy” to describe copyright infringement is a pejorative metaphor that takes copyright infringement and file sharing, something that is relatively benign and non-destructive (though definitely disruptive to the way we currently distribute media) and maps it onto theft and violence. There are certainly still conversations to be had about content and media distribution and compensation, but these discussions would be best served by cutting out deceptive language like “piracy.” Aaron Swartz wrote on this misconception in a blog post, where he wrote:
“Stealing is wrong. But downloading isn’t stealing. If I shoplift an album from my local record store, no one else can buy it. But when I download a song, no one loses it and another person gets it. There’s no ethical problem. The evidence that downloading hurts sales is weak, but even if downloading did hurt sales, that doesn’t make it unethical. Libraries, video rental places, and used book stores (none of which pay the artist) hurt sales too. Is it unethical to use them?”
Swartz also elaborated on this topic in a cut NYT point/counterpoint.
I think an important and often missing part of the on-going “low wage” conversation is how a company’s decision to pay below-poverty-line wages affects more than just the employees. The vast majority of individuals receiving public benefits are from working families that are poorly paid, which costs taxpayers an estimated quarter trillion dollars every year.
I don’t want to frame this only as an issue of “poor workers are costing taxpayers money.” Instead, it’s an issue of corporations with profits in the billions of dollars taking advantage of public money to subsidize their labor operations in order to keep prices low. People say raising the minimum wage will also raise costs for consumers at these businesses. That seems appropriate, or at least it makes more sense than every American subsidizing their labor costs. And the argument that increasing wages will lead to a favoring of capital over labor, or increased automation, is an issue that this country will have to face (and the subject of my Amazon and Google cartoon a couple weeks ago) but is not a good argument for continuing to treat workers unfairly.
Google and others claim that any technology that frees humans from doing repetitive manual labor is a positive thing. In an idealistic way, I agree, but realistically, it seems like the market is eliminating many more jobs than it is creating. Oxford researchers suggest that 47% of total U.S. employment is at risk due to computerization. This cartoon was mostly about robots in the future, but as Paul Krugman pointed out, computerization is already hollowing out middle-class and highly skilled jobs, from legal research to chip design, and is reducing labor’s influence in the market. How far off is an editorial cartooning robot that can simplistically label stock images to provide thoughtless commentary? Cartoons like this and this suggest it’s not very far.
See this cartoon and more at The Gabbler.
Arnau Bach is a self-taught photojournalist currently based out of Barcelona, Spain. In Bach’s series, entitled “Suburbia”, he ventures into Clichy Sous Bois, a suburb north of Paris, France where in November 2005 Zyed Benna (15 years old) and Bouna Traore (17 years old) died after being electrocuted by an electric generator while hiding from police in their neighborhood. In a matter of days, suburbs surrounding Paris would erupt in flames from violent protests from the disenfranchised communities of color outraged from the death of the two teens. | Via Empty Kingdom
I… There are no words.
EDIT: Let me add this
So which is it?
Fine for J.P. Morgan Chase
J.P. Morgan Chase just settled with the Justice Department for $13 billion over a series of allegations that the bank, and its acquisitions Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns, knowingly sold faulty mortgage securities that contributed to the financial collapse of 2008.
$13 billion is a lot of money – it’s the largest government penalty levied against a company ever – and a lot of industry interests have been throwing a tantrum.The Wall Street Journal called it “a watershed moment in American capitalism” where the Feds are confiscating company profits for “no other reason than because they can and because they want to appease their left-wing populist allies.” They use a common frame that most of the issues were with Bear and WaMu, and that an innocent and helpless Chase was pressured by the Feds into taking on these failing banks in the first place.
It’s key to note that Chase had been interested in buying the banks before the government asked, that they received these banks for pennies on the dollar with the Feds taking the bulk of the risk, and they’ve been enormously lucrative. It was estimated on Bloomberg that the two companies, essentially acquired for $3 billion, have helped add $36 billion of worth to Chase. At the time of acquiring the banks, Chase’s Superstar CEO Jamie Dimon said, that “there are always uncertainties in deals” and “our eyes are not closed on this one.” The bank certainly had this in mind in 2010 when it prepared for this risk by setting aside $28 billion for litigation regarding the acquisitions.
And for the actual punishment – no individual will be penalized at all. No jail, no personal responsibility. The number may be big, but it’s important to consider Chase’s revenue (it comes out to about half of their annual profits), and also that a percentage of the penalty will be tax-deductible. Maybe the best indication of the severity of the punishment is in Chase’s stock price – as of this week, its at it’s highest point in years.
See this cartoon and others at The Gabbler.
Egypt | August 16, 2013
1. Soldiers take their positions on top of and next to their armoured vehicles while guarding an entrance to Tahrir Square. (Hassan Ammar/AP)
2. Egyptian army soldiers take their positions on top and next to their armored vehicles while guarding an entrance to Tahrir square. (Hassan Ammar/AP)
3. A woman shouts slogans as supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi take part in a protest outside Al-Fath Mosque in Ramses Square, in Cairo. (Youssef Boudlal/Reuters)
4. A supporter of Morsi holding an ordinance, march towards downtown Cairo from the Mohandeseen district of Cairo. (Thomas Hartwell/AP)
5. Egyptian Army soldiers stand guard outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, in the center of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo. (Hassan Ammar/AP)
6. A supporter shouts slogans after he is injured in front Azbkya police station during clashes at Ramses Square in Cairo. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)
7. Egyptian government employees clean up outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque. (Hassan Ammar/AP)
8. Supporters of Morsi surround a coffin, covered with national flags, of their colleague who was killed during Wednesday’ clashes in Amr Ibn Al-As mosque before a funeral prayers in Cairo. (Amr Nabil/AP)
9. A military helicopter flies over clouds of smoke after clashes at Azbkya police station in Ramses Square. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)
10. Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi gesture at an army helicopter as they shout slogans during a protest outside Al-Fath Mosque in Ramses Square. (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)