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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

United Airlines: Try Doing The Right Thing

The Daily Escape:

Kravica waterfall in Bosnia Herzegovina -photo by Vedrana Tafra

Wrongo needs to start by saying that he has nearly 800,000 lifetime air miles on United Airlines (UAL) and, after the forcible removal of a paying passenger, he will try to avoid flying them again.

You know the story: United Express in Chicago loads passengers on a plane heading to Louisville. Then four employees arrive, needing seats. United was unwilling to offer enough compensation to induce passengers to give up their seats, and ordered four passengers off of the aircraft. Three left, but one refused, saying he had to be in Louisville in the morning.

United officials called the Department of Chicago Aviation, (part of the City of Chicago), the type of government agency that you never even knew existed, to remove him. Officers grabbed his arms, dragged him screaming across the armrests and along the floor and off of the aircraft, apparently injuring him in the process.

Unusual situations like this test organizations and their leadership. The key information here is that UAL wanted to make space to carry their own staff. The flight was not “overbooked”, UAL wanted to take back seats of a few paying passengers to accommodate their own staff. Apparently, UAL had bungled its own logistics, and then looked to its paying customers to solve the problem.

Poor customer service like this exists because of corporate culture, and because the company rarely has to pay a price for it.

In Wrongo’s past, he managed 1000 employees who had technical support and/or customer service contact with the public. We had a mantra: Know when to Do The Thing Right, and know when to Do The Right Thing. 95% of the time, the job is to follow established procedures, to guide the customer to a pre-established solution that had been vetted, one that was company policy.

Our staff’s job was to “do the thing right” in those cases, to follow our processes.

5% (or less) of the time, our people would see something novel, outside the scope of established policy. Something that called for reaching an equitable solution that wasn’t in any manual.

Then, our employees needed to “do the right thing”.

These aren’t difficult concepts to instill, they are entirely consistent with most people’s personal experience, and usually with their views about fairness.

United should try empowering people to do the right thing, when going by the book fails the customer. Whatever it might have cost to compensate volunteers, it would have been far cheaper than what UAL will now pay to this passenger.

This also illustrates how America is changing: Large corporations are willing to use the police to enforce their policies. The passenger’s choice was to comply with police demands, or face physical intimidation, or worse. And Chicago’s sub-contracted police were too eager to jump into the fray.

We should ask: Did the injured passenger break any law by refusing to give up his seat? If that’s the case, the plane was filled with lawbreakers. If not, why was an element of the Chicago police doing UAL’s dirty work?

The Seventh Amendment of the Constitution guarantees a jury trial for civil cases in the federal courts:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved

The $20 amount is trivial in today’s economy. But that idea of a jury trial has been killed by corporatist judges on the Supreme Court, and other courts, and has been replaced the company’s terms of service. When you agree, it takes away most of your rights — disputes are resolved through arbitration that the corporation almost always wins. In this case, UAL’s terms of service gives them almost unlimited authority when dealing with its passengers, including a rule regarding “refusal of transport” (Rule 21) and “denial of boarding compensation” (Rule 25).

But that doesn’t justify bad corporate behavior. Or violence.

But, thanks to Congress’s bipartisan policy of ignoring anti-trust laws for several decades, just four firms now control the vast majority of domestic flights, and they don’t really compete with one another. This is from the DOT’s report on airline competition:

Less competition means you don’t have to worry as much about annoying people with delays or overbooked flights. It also means you can make a lot more money. There’s less pressure to cut ticket prices — even when the price of oil, an airline’s biggest cost, is plummeting — and it’s easier to introduce ever-more obnoxious fees and charges.

UAL isn’t worried about you sharing a video of a passenger being dragged off their plane, because you have no real choice when you fly from certain cities.

Ultimately, the responsibility to blunt this trend is ours. Replace Citizens United. Remove corporatist judges. Keep our police on a short leash.

Don’t just upload a video, organize your neighbors and vote!

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Amazon’s Echo and Personal Privacy

Wrongo’s daughter gave him an Amazon Echo Dot for his birthday. Bob Lefsetz says that Amazon is becoming the new Apple: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The Echo came with almost no instructions. Simple packaging. Not a work of art, like [Steve] Jobs’ creations, but far from the old Microsoft where there’s so much info you’re inundated.

Simple and slick, particularly when it comes to using Echo to listen to music on Spotify, (assuming that you have Spotify premium) because Alexa eliminates a step. Before the Echo, you navigated your PC or mobile to Spotify’s site, entered the artist or track you wanted to hear in Spotify’s clunky search engine, then waited for the track to pop up, and then clicked on it to play.

With Alexa, you say the name of the track and/or the artist, and tell Alexa you want to hear it on Spotify, and it begins playing. Very nice.

Alexa brought in yuuge sales numbers for Amazon this season. Bloomberg reported:

Sales for Echo speakers based on Alexa’s voice-recognition software were nine times more than the 2015 holiday season…Echo and Echo Dot were the best-selling products across Amazon this year…

Sales were so good that Amazon sold out of its Echo speakers in mid-December. The Echo shortage shows voice-activated assistants have found a strong niche with consumers. But there’s a potential dark side to having an Alexa device: Alexa’s job is to listen to you speak, and then recognize and use those data.

This begs the question of whether you should have any expectations of privacy if Alexa is plugged in. If you think this is an academic question, consider that police in Arkansas want to know what an Amazon Echo device may have heard during a murder:

Authorities in Bentonville issued a warrant for Amazon to hand over any audio or records from an Echo belonging to James Andrew Bates. Bates is set to go to trial for first-degree murder for the death of Victor Collins next year.

Sound Orwellian to you? Your hot new Xmas gift may be the Trojan horse that kills your privacy.

Police say Bates had several other discoverable smart devices, including a smart water meter. The water meter shows that 140 gallons of water were used between 1 AM and 3 AM the night Collins was found dead in Bates’ hot tub. The police think all that water was used to wash away evidence of what happened that night.

The data from the water meter, and the request for stored Echo information raise questions about what constitutes individual privacy in the internet of things (IoT). Due to the “always on” nature of the Echo, authorities want any saved audio the speaker may have picked up that night. The Echo is supposed to be only activated by certain words, but it spoke random answers to Wrongo, when not asked a question, if the room it was in was filled with people over the holidays.

What’s more, Echo captures audio and streams it to the cloud when the device hears a wake word, such as “Alexa.” What the owner says are called “utterances” by Amazon, and they are stored in the cloud until a customer deletes them either individually, or all at once.

Why does Amazon save your words? Probably because you can order items from them via the Echo. A record of the sale could be necessary in a dispute.

In the Bates case, Amazon would not provide the police with any information that Bates’ Echo had logged on its servers. It later released a statement:

Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.

So, Amazon just told the Bentonville police and police everywhere what they have to do to get your stored information: Your privacy is in play if you have an Echo, and you get arrested.

We have an expectation of privacy in our homes, but these devices listen to you, they talk to each other, and to companies like Amazon and Spotify, so the challenge to individual privacy seems very clear. Governments from city to federal, will try to develop any information they can about a criminal case. If those data are gleaned from a smart device in your home, it’s just another data point, and it will become your job to make the case that your Constitutional rights were violated.

The Constitutional question is whether the data you generate in your home through internet-connected devices are data that you own at all. Do you share ownership with corporate America?

Does the state have rights to your private information if they say they need it?

Tip: Alexa has a microphone off button. Use it. Its possible that Amazon can’t hear you then.

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Clinton Is (Not) The Issue

As we go down the stretch to Tuesday’s election, the political dynamic has switched from being a referendum on Donald Trump to a referendum on Hillary Clinton.

It seems fitting that in the final stretch of a presidential campaign that has been completely indifferent to policy issues, from Russia, China, and the Middle East, to jobs and income inequality at home. Our news outlets are now focused on an apparently impregnable story about the Pant Suit’s private e-mail server, and the Clintons generally.

Since FBI Director James Comey’s announcement, we’ve seen the drip, drip of musings by the cableistas about whether Clinton can hang on to her lead, or if Trump can win on Tuesday.

There have also been a series of leaks by the FBI that appear to be designed to damage Hillary Clinton and benefit Donald Trump. An anonymous source leaked to the Wall Street Journal that there was an FBI investigation  — including “secret recordings” —  into the Clinton Foundation.

Fox News reported on Wednesday that the FBI is intensifying an investigation into the Clinton Foundation over allegations that it traded donations for access to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.

And there’s more. Judd Legum reports that the FBI’s Inspection Division is launching an investigation into why its FBI Records Vault Twitter bot re-released the files on Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich.

The FBI Twitter account was inactive from September 2015 until October 8th. Then there were a flurry of tweets, concluding with the Marc Rich tidbit. It has not been active since that tweet, so:

Candice Will, Assistant Director for the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, said she was referring the matter to the FBI’s Inspection Division for an “investigation.” Upon completion of the investigation, the Office of Professional Responsibility will be referred back to the Office of Professional Responsibility for “adjudication.”

According to Marcy Wheeler, the Inspection Division and the Office of Professional Responsibility doesn’t have statutory independence from the rest of the FBI, which means their investigation can be influenced (or quashed) by FBI executives. So, nothing will be done, despite the fact that Federal law and FBI policy prohibit employees from using the power of the department to attempt to influence elections.

Now, we read this in the Guardian:

Deep antipathy to Hillary Clinton exists within the FBI, multiple bureau sources have told the Guardian, spurring a rapid series of leaks damaging to her campaign just days before the election.

Current and former FBI officials, none of whom were willing or cleared to speak on the record, have described a chaotic internal climate that resulted from outrage over director James Comey’s July decision not to recommend an indictment over Clinton’s maintenance of a private email server on which classified information transited.

“The FBI is Trumpland,” said one current agent.

This was also confirmed to Wrongo recently by an in-law who used to work for the FBI. It’s as if the ghost of ole J. Edgar showed up early in October, and has decided to hang around for a while, even though Halloween is over.

The FBI has now entered parlous political territory. This is law enforcement trying to force its will on civil authority. We need to put a choke collar on this dog, before it tries to bite us all.

We all should care about how FBI’s apparent misconduct is affecting the election.And if the FBI is this politicized, it is an enemy of We the People, and will remain an enemy, even if Comey is ousted as Director.

Wrongo is now beginning to think of Comey as another John Boehner, a guy with decent instincts who is completely ineffective at controlling his team, with disastrous results for the country.

Imagine how The Donald as president, would use a vast public police force that is comprised of Trump true believers.

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We’ve Had Threats To Our Constitutional Rights Before

The Past Is Never Dead, It Is Not Even Past” – Faulkner

Does this sound familiar?

They called for imprisonment of Americans who came from a foreign country. They called for shutting down immigration from certain countries and deporting the immigrants already here. They were for stifling dissent against a looming foreign war by calling the anti-war protestors traitors. They passed laws that curtailed several rights granted in the Bill of Rights.

An administration worked hard to “sell” a war to the American people.

This is not America in the post-9/11 period, it was during World War I, not during Iraq, or our current battle against ISIS.

And it occurred while a progressive Democrat was in the White House.

On April 6, 1917, Woodrow Wilson delivered his war message to Congress. The US, Wilson said, was to embark upon a crusade to “make the world safe for democracy“. Unfortunately, Wilson’s administration gave rise to the greatest attack upon civil liberties (up to that time) since the passage of the Sedition Act in 1798.

Wilson had two problems. First, the citizenry had to be mobilized behind a war effort that did not involve a direct attack on the US. Second, he felt a need to guarantee our internal security against both real and imagined enemies. To solve the first problem, in April, 1917, Wilson established the Committee on Public Information (CPI), under the leadership of George Creel, a respected progressive. The Committee’s job was to convince citizens that the war was righteous, and to educate all Americans about American war goals.

Writers turned out “true” stories concerning what the Germans planned to do to America; speakers toured the nation delivering anti-German talks. Movie audiences thrilled to “Pershing’s Crusaders” and came by the thousands to hate the enemy by watching dramas such as “The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin.”

Congress also enacted laws that curtailed our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and press. Shortly after Wilson’s war message, in June, 1917, the Espionage Act was passed. This made it a crime to make false reports which would aid the enemy, incite rebellion among the armed forces, or obstruct recruiting or the draft. In practice, it was used to stifle dissent and radical criticism.

In October, 1917, another law required foreign language newspapers to submit translations of all war-related stories or editorials before distribution to local readers.

In May, 1918, the Sedition Act bolstered the Espionage Act. It provided penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment for the willful writing, uttering, or publication of material abusing the government, showing contempt for the Constitution, or inciting others to resist the government. Under this Act, it was unnecessary to prove that the language in question had affected anyone or had produced injurious consequences. In addition, the Postmaster General was empowered to deny use of the mails to anyone who, in his opinion, used them to violate the Act.

In October 1918, Congress passed the Alien Act, by which any alien who, at any time after entering the US was found to have been a member of any anarchist organization, could be deported.

Volunteer organizations sprung up, dedicated to discovering alleged traitors, saboteurs, and slackers. The volunteer groups were hyper-patriotic, and were often responsible for violations of civil liberties, although the government made no real attempt to discourage or limit their activities.

With the quiet consent of the Department of Justice, the American Protective League’s 250,000 civilian members—many of whom wore official-looking badges reading “Secret Service”—undertook vigilante actions against supposedly disloyal socialists, pacifists, and immigrants; they engaged in domestic surveillance operations; and raided businesses, meeting halls, and private homes in an effort to uncover pro-German sympathizers. As a result, force became the order of the day.

Somewhere during the fight to make the world safe for democracy, Americans lost their tolerance, compassion and mercy, and much of their democratic ideals.

Does this sound familiar?

The various Acts of 1917 and 1918 helped destroy what remained of the left wing in America. Victor Berger, the first socialist elected to Congress, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for hindering the war effort. Eugene V. Debs was sentenced to 10 years in prison for making an anti-war speech.

On November 11, 1918, the Allies and Germany signed an armistice: the war was over.

The American public had shown a willingness to tolerate and even to participate in censorship, mugging, imprisoning, harassment, and forced deportation of Americans who didn’t agree with them.

Given where we are today, it could easily happen again.

Don’t bet against it.

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Super Tuesday Part Trois

A little music to get you to (or through) today’s primary election, particularly if you are in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio or North Carolina.

We’ll see if it is still a race in both parties @11:00pm.

Here is “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the Who. It was released as a 3+ minute single in June 1971, reaching the top 10 in the UK. But the full 8 1/2 minute version appeared as the final track on the band’s 1971 album Who’s Next, released that August.

In 2011, the song was ranked number 134 on Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

When will we not be fooled? When we learn the facts. Knowledge is the first step to resisting the BS. When you know the facts, politicians can’t fool you.

Here is “Won’t Get Fooled Again”:

Here are the lyrics:
We’ll be fighting in the streets with our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

The change, it had to come, we knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same and history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the last war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again, no no

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There’s nothing in the streets, looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again, no no

Yeah
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

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Monday Wake-Up Call – January 25, 2016

Today many are still digging out from the big blizzard, and are getting off to a slow start, but today’s Wake Up is for those who think the answer to domestic terrorism is to get tough with American Muslims, to isolate them, to deport them, or to prevent them from getting gun permits.

Peter Bergen has an article in the current Wall Street Journal Weekend, “Can We Stop Homegrown Terrorists?” in which he reports on the threat posed by domestic Muslim terrorists: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

We found that American jihadists are overwhelmingly male (only 7% are women), and their average age is 29. More than a third are married, and more than a third have children. A little more than one in 10 has served time in prison, similar to the rate of incarceration for all American males, and around 10% had some kind of mental-health issue, which is lower than the general population. In everything but their deadly ideology, they are ordinary Americans.

Bergen reports that in 2015, the FBI investigated supporters of ISIS in all 50 states, and more than 80 Americans were charged with some kind of jihadist crime. It was the peak year since 2001 for law-enforcement activity against Americans who had chosen to join a group or accept an ideology whose goal is to kill fellow Americans. Bergen has assembled a data base of about 300 jihadists indicted or convicted in the US for some kind of terrorist crime since 9/11.

In analyzing the threat, Bergen says:

These individuals represent just a tiny fraction of an American Muslim population estimated at more than 3 million, but 300 homegrown jihadists is still 300 too many. Is the US intelligence and law-enforcement community any closer to knowing how to identify such would-be terrorists and stop them before they act? There has been definite progress, but the sobering truth is that…we are likely to be dealing with this low-level terrorist threat for years to come.

We have no way of knowing if we are at the start of a wave of domestic terror, but it sure feels ominous right now, like something could be coming. But we need to get one thing straight – domestic terrorism, whether by Muslims, Christians or others, can never be totally eradicated. As long as there are people with grievances who don’t believe they have a means to get those grievances addressed, there will be terrorists.

Bergen found that post 9/11, 45 Americans have been killed by jihadists in 15 years. That’s three per year.

But not all homegrown terrorists are Muslims. We had terror attacks by the Unabomber, the “Mad Bomber” and McVeigh at Oklahoma City. Ted Kaczynski, George Metesky and Timothy McVeigh weren’t Muslims, they were angry. Anger can transcend religion or even, the lack of a religion. And today, we have not only our general gun death epidemic, but more specifically, our homegrown red blooded Americans who like to shoot up schools, malls, theaters and churches.

Just last week, two Colorado teen-age girls were indicted for planning to replicate Columbine.

Can we stop homegrown terrorists? No, not even if we take all of We, the People’s Rights away (well, maybe not the Second Amendment). No free society can stop free citizens from doing whatever they freely decide to do, up to and including converting to Islam and blowing themselves up. So that’s our choice: are we going to continue to be a free society?

Our choice is between having the government acquire more power and spending money in the name of our safety. Or, keep what remains of our Bill of Rights and accept that lone wolf terrorist acts will happen on our soil.

All that can be done is to reduce the amount of terrorism to the absolute minimum. Bergen’s article talks about some of those techniques, but terrorism will always be with us.

And acknowledging that reality is not appeasement. Those who choose to be terrorists will become so, regardless of what the law requires or the people desire.

To help you wake up to the routine prejudice Muslims face in the homeland of the free, here is “Terrorism is not a Religion”, a poem by Hersi. He is a former US Marine and veteran of Iraq, and is by birth, a Somali Muslim. In this video he recounts his experience as a Muslim in the American school system and the US military:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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What’s the Matter with Kansas? Part Infinity

From the WaPo:

In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. When Robert Harte answered, SWAT agents flooded the home.

Read more:

The family was then held at gunpoint for more than two hours while the police searched their home. Though they claimed to be looking for evidence of a major marijuana growing operation, they later stated that they knew within about 20 minutes that they wouldn’t find any such operation. So they switched to search for evidence of “personal use.” They found no evidence of any criminal activity.

It started when Robert Harte and his son went to a gardening store to purchase supplies to grow hydroponic tomatoes for a school project. A state trooper in the store parking lot had the job of collecting license plate numbers of customers, compiling them into a spreadsheet, and sending the spreadsheets to local sheriff’s departments for further investigation.

They were looking for folks who grow marijuana.

Yes, buying gardening supplies could make you the target of a drug investigation in Kansas. Naturally, the family was cleared of any wrongdoing. The Hartes wanted to know why they were targeted. What probable cause did the police have for sending a SWAT team into their home? But that information was difficult to obtain.

Under Kansas law, the sheriff’s department wasn’t obligated to turn over any information related to the raid. They spent more than $25,000 in legal fees to learn why the sheriff had sent a SWAT team into their home. Once they finally had that information, the Hartes filed a lawsuit.

And they lost the case. Last week, US District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed all of the Hartes’s claims. Lungstrum found that sending a SWAT team into a home first thing in the morning based on no more than a positive reading by an unreliable field test and spotting someone at a gardening store was not a violation of the Hartes’s Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Think about this:

The Hartes are a white, financially sound couple who both used to work for the CIA. Most people on the receiving end of these raids aren’t white, aren’t middle-class, didn’t once work for a federal intelligence agency and don’t have $25,000 to fund a fight in court…you can imagine the long odds faced by the typical victim of a botched raid.

Another brick is removed from the wall of Constitutional rights that protects you from your government. By the way, the people who support this kind of thing also like to talk a lot about freedom and liberty.

News you can’t use, Trump edition:

Trump says US wages are too high. (Business Insider)

Trump says US Wages are too low. (CNN)

Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke says that Donald Trump speaks “a lot more radically” than he does. (Reader Supported News) David Duke is now a GOP “squish”, since Trump has gone even further right than the KKK.

Personal Note:

Today is the Wrongologist’s birthday. He remembers a time when to be a liberal was to be heroic. It seems that time has returned. Wrongo’s wish for 2016 is an election that provides Americans with the opportunity to debate US policies. However, our politics also provides entertainment to voters along the way to the election.

My prediction is we will see/hear far more ludicrous posturing than serious policy conversations in 2016.

Yet, think about the rest of the world’s politics compared to ours: We peacefully change presidents, elect new congresses, and 50 new state governments.

We do it via the ballot box, not with guns and tanks. This is the strength of our society.

So, PLEASE VOTE IN 2016!

And remember that your vote in a primary election has huge value. That is where the candidate choices are made.

Best wishes for a healthy New Year.

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Christmas Eve, 2015

Christmas Eve. Deer fencing is up, despite 60° weather and lots of other things for deer to eat just now. The fence makes the deer sad, and Ms. Oh So Right so very happy. Decorations are in place, presents are wrapped. Now we await the arrival of kids, grand-kids, family and friends over the next few days. Merry Christmas to all who read the Wrongologist!

No room at the inn, or even at the shelter. Maybe some room in your hearts:

COW No Room for MaryNews you can’t use:

Earlier this month 59 Senators put their political differences aside for a Secret Santa gift exchange. (Fiscal Times) It was the fifth annual Secret Santa exchange since Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) brought the tradition to the Senate. Like at most offices, the gifts were lame.

More than 50 police officers involved in fatal shootings this year had previously fired their guns in deadly on-duty shootings. (WaPo) For a handful of officers, it was their third fatal shooting. For one officer, it was his fourth. Nothing to see here.

Republican Poverty: 93 of the poorest 100 counties in America are in red states. (Addicting Information) The overwhelming majority of the poorest counties in America are located in Republican controlled states, subject to Republican economic policies. Most of these Republican controlled states have an overwhelming Republican Senate and House majority, many even have a supermajority. Yet, despite Republican claims of superior economic policies, poverty is rampant where they rule.

Sued over old debt, and blocked from suing back. (NYT) Loan agreements force people into arbitration, but the banks and finance companies do not have to arbitrate, they can sue. This denies debtors access to the courts to contest the seizure of their property. That should be an unconstitutional denial of due process. But unfortunately, SCOTUS ceded that important bit of the US Constitution to the private sector in ATT v. Concepcion. Another knot in the noose that Capital should hang by.

Remember “reshoring”? Manufacturing jobs were supposedly returning to the US from Asia. Not so much. In fact, Offshoring has outpaced On-shoring in every year since 2004 except for 2011. (Global Economic Analysis)

CBGB, the mecca of punk music in the 1970s, closed this year, only to now be revived as a restaurant at Newark Airport. When Hilly Kristal opened CBGB OMFUG on the Bowery in 1973, he served his special chili—cooked in the presence of the chef’s pet rat. Rumors were that “Hilly’s Chili” contained unsavory seasonings like cigarette ashes and (occasionally) bodily fluids. But you went there for the music, not the food. Surely the food at the CBGB’s at EWR will contain better ingredients. And chili is on the new menu.

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Monday Wake Up Call – October 26, 2015

From the NYT:

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said on Friday that the additional scrutiny and criticism of police officers in the wake of highly publicized episodes of police brutality may have led to an increase in violent crime in some cities as officers have become less aggressive.

Comey is lending his support to a meme called the “Ferguson Effect”. As the “Ferguson Effect” theory goes, police have slowed down enforcement due to public scrutiny, which has led to more crime, including homicides. In the absence of tough policing, chaos reigns.

Ever since Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, MO last year, people across the country have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and the mistreatment of black men and women. At the same time, police officers and pundits began arguing that demonstrators are jeopardizing community safety, pointing to rising violent crime rates.

This theory for the uptick in violence in some cities is partly based on a cherry-picking of violent crime data, since some increases actually occurred BEFORE the Ferguson demonstrations, and in general, the data are unclear. We know that far more people are being killed in America’s cities this year than in many years. And to be clear, the increases are largely among people of color, and it’s not cops that are doing the killing.

Most of America’s 50 largest cities have seen an increase in homicides and shootings this year, and many of them have seen a huge increase. These are cities with little in common except being in America—places like Chicago, Tampa, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Orlando, Cleveland, and Dallas.

So something big is happening, but what? Comey thinks he knows, and in Chicago, he floated the same idea as Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently floated, that cops are not doing their job because people have started taking videos of police interactions with their smart phones.

Here is snippet of what Comey said:

I spoke to officers privately in one big city precinct who described being surrounded by young people with mobile phone cameras held high, taunting them the moment they get out of their cars. They told me, ‘we feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars.’…I’ve been told about a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video.

If Comey’s impression both of the Ferguson Effect, and the role of cameras is correct, cops have stopped doing the job we pay them to do because they’re under amateur surveillance.

If Comey’s right, what he’s describing is the chilling effect of surveillance, the way in which people change their behavior because they know they will be seen on camera. That the Director of the FBI is making this claim is more striking, since the surveillance cops are undergoing is targeted, and by the public. It is not the total government surveillance (such as the use of small planes and stingrays to surveil the Baltimore and Ferguson protests), which both the FBI and NSA use in inner cities.

Comey can’t have it both ways. Since he said in Chicago that surveillance has a “chilling effect”, that it makes cops feel under siege, maybe he should consider the implications of what he is saying about surveillance by his own agency and the NSA of all Americans.

If the targeted surveillance of cops is a problem, isn’t the far less targeted surveillance conducted on Americans a much larger problem?

And why can’t Americans hold two diametrically opposed ideas in their minds at the same time? We love the police, and want them safe. But, the real problems in US law enforcement have to be addressed.

And why does Comey imply that we need to accept a trade-off between a brutal police state and weakened policing? Why can’t we have civilized police who focus on getting the real bad guys, instead of choking a man to death for selling loose cigarettes?

So, wake up Mr. Comey! Show us data that support your feelings, or get in line with the data we have. To help you wake up, here is Humble Pie doing “30 days in the Hole”, from their 1972 album, “Smokin’”. The song was featured in “Grand Theft Auto V”:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

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Somewhere, Bull Connor is Smiling

You don’t remember Bull Connor? He was Commissioner of Public Safety (chief cop) in Birmingham, Alabama when, in 1963 he used fire hoses and attack dogs against civil rights activists. The films of the confrontation and Connor’s disproportionate response, became an iconic image of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He became an international symbol of Southern racism.

Now, science has come up with a better, more efficient crowd control product. From the Daily Dot:

Imagine being soaked, head to toe, in a frothy mix of pureed compost, gangrenous human flesh, and road kill, and you might get some idea of what it’s like to be sprayed with Skunk, according to those who’ve had the misfortune of being doused.

A few police departments in the US, including the St Louis Metropolitan Police, have reportedly purchased the spray, a non-lethal riot-control weapon originally developed by the Israeli firm Odortec, and used first in the occupied West Bank in 2008 against demonstrators. The sticky fluid, which Palestinians say smells like a “mixture of excrement, noxious gas and a decomposing donkey,” is usually fired from armored vehicles using high-pressure water cannons.

Decomposing donkey? Where and when do you learn what THAT smells like?

It was used in Hebron on February 26, 2012 to disperse a crowd of an estimated 1,000 people which clashed with Israeli soldiers during a protest described as commemorating the anniversary of the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre.

Mistral Security, based in Bethesda MD, offers Skunk products to US police and the military. According to the company’s website, they sell it using a number of delivery systems, including 60 ounce canisters with a range of 40 feet; a “skid sprayer” equipped with a 50 gallon tank and a 5 HP motor that can shoot over 60 feet at up to 7 gallons per minute; and a 40mm grenade that can be fired by a 12-gauge shotgun.

The company reports that Skunk is made from 100% food-grade ingredients and is 100% eco-friendly – harmless to both nature and people. From their website:

Applications include, but are not limited to, border crossings, correctional facilities, demonstrations and sit-ins. Decontamination soap is available to mitigate the odor.

So what we have here is another way that our police spend money to create citizen compliance. Police have an ethical problem: How do they control (or disperse) a crowd that gets unruly without causing injury?

In the past year, we have seen several examples of “comply or die” in cities around the US. Now, we see that the technology is evolving from Bull Connor’s days of attack dogs and fire hoses, to tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bags, and now, Skunk. Policing seems to be headed in a strange direction. You better do what you’re told, and not participate in any, you know, civil disobedience, like sit-ins, protests, demonstrations and such, or we will Skunk you, (or worse).

A fundamental Constitutional issue has emerged in police response to civil disobedience in the past few years. City property has been “privatized”, with the municipal corporation as the owner. Public space is not owned, it is supposed to be available to the public with only limited conditions. But, we now see a growing number of examples where police, mayors and municipalities are limiting access for the press, for demonstrators as well as for ordinary citizens to public spaces.

When our laws are manipulated in order to suppress a free press, or personal speech, it shows contempt for the entire idea of a free people or a government of laws. When our police continually purchase new weapons to insure compliance with police orders, peaceful protest is at risk.

Consider this: At Donald Trump’s Dallas rally on Monday night, Politico reports that as the mostly white attendees filed out, they clashed with 200 or so protesters, mostly black and Hispanic.

Dozens of police officers, including several on horseback, pushed protesters off arena property. After being pushed to the other side of the street, one protest leader encouraged the rest to arm their families and teach them to protect themselves:

You’re only going to get Martin Luther King so long before you get Malcolm X.

Our police should be careful what they wish for.

See you on Sunday.

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