Tasteless Sells … and So Does Heartless

“Concerning the difference between man and the jackass: some observers hold that there isn’t any. But this wrongs the jackass.” –Mark Twain
“I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!” –Tom Lehrer
Can you believe this unspeakable shit? Well … in today’s world … hell yes, this was almost predictable. Running true to form, Florida’s infamous George Zimmerman wants to sell a gun. Yes, that gun — the one he used to kill an unarmed young man. Such is his claim, at least — for all we know, he may be selling 47 of them, in the entrepreneurial spirit … like the millions of board-feet of “splinters of the true cross” distributed thus far.
Indeed, the only surprise here may be that numerous indignant folks are making spurious protest bids on this obscene relic, with one for over $65 million reported in the article below. Still, some bids are bound to be real, and eventually some sick son of a bbitch will get the damned gun. And proudly shlep it to Klan meetings and gun shows for the rest of his life? I suppose we should be happy that Zimmerman isn’t donating it to the Smithsonian. Or keeping it handy for the next time he feels threatened by children. But don’t worry, he does have noble plans for “some of the proceeds” as quoted below.
When I read the story, I lost it,and immediately wanted to track down, curse and kill everyone involved in this depraved memorabilia sale — the shameless seller, the self-serving gun group hosting the auction, the vicious would-be buyers, and the craven media legitimizing it as just another news item. None of them ever would be missed!
And I know better, or I should. I know that encouraging us to hate and fear damn near everything serves the interests of our privileged power elites. I’m aware that we are systematically and cynically bombarded with lies and distortions meant to foster greed, selfishness, cruelty and contempt for others. I know that we have all been thoroughly conditioned to believe violence is the answer to everything. And we see what a wonderful world this has given us.
Yes, I do know better. But damn it, it’s still hard to feel much compassion for my deluded brothers and sisters when they’re this hateful and obnoxious! Give me strength, and WAY!! more patience!

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George Zimmerman’s 2nd Gun Auction Draws $65 Million Bid, but It’s Probably Fake
The New York Times

By CHRISTINE HAUSER
May 13, 2016
The online auction of the firearm George Zimmerman used in 2012 to kill Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, appeared to have been hijacked by trolls and pranksters as the website hosting the event showed that bids had reached more than $65 million.
A top bidder on the United Gun Group website, where the auction had been posted since Thursday afternoon, used the screen name “Racist McShootface,” though it was later deleted, The Associated Press reported.
Other bidder screen names included “Donald Trump” and “Tamir Rice,” the name of a black 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by the Cleveland police in 2014 while playing with a pellet gun.
By 9 a.m. Eastern on Friday, Mr. Zimmerman’s auction showed 1,109 bids on the gun — a 9-millimeter Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol — with the last bidder’s name listed as “Craig Bryant” and the current price set at $65,039,000. The auction ends in about five days, the website showed.
Bidding on the pistol began at $5,000 around noon on Thursday, but the bidders’ identities have been questioned as the United Gun Group site has been criticized online for capitalizing on a child’s murder. The site has defended itself as a neutral marketplace.
block quote
FYI, United Gun Group is a free service, we are not being compensated for allowing members to utilize our system.
— United Gun Group (@UnitedGunGroup) May 12, 2016
block quote end
The announcement of the sale by Mr. Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted of murder charges in the killing of Mr. Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla., set off a torrent of denunciations and reinvigorated national scrutiny of the case.
Initial efforts to sell the gun fizzled. A listing for the weapon first appeared on the auction website gunbroker.com, but it was removed, replaced by a note that said, “Sorry, but the item you have requested is no longer in the system.”
The sale was then transferred to United Gun Group’s website, which describes itself on its Twitter account as “the fastest-growing social marketplace dedicated to the firearms community.”
United Gun Group had initially advertised the sale of the gun at gunbroker.com on its own Twitter account, and later hosted the auction.
block quote
The gun that shot Trayvon Martin is being auctioned off. https://t.co/I3WdUVHPnI
— United Gun Group (@UnitedGunGroup) May 12, 2016
block quote end
For Mr. Zimmerman, 32, the announcement of the sale was the latest act that has attracted national scrutiny and outrage, including his retweeting of an image of Mr. Martin’s corpse. He said that the firearm had recently been returned to him by the Justice Department and that he hoped to use some of the proceeds to fight violence against law enforcement officers by members of Black Lives Matter; to ensure “the demise” of the career of Angela Corey, the prosecutor who put him on trial; and to counter Hillary Clinton’s “anti-firearm rhetoric.”
Benjamin L. Crump, a lawyer for Mr. Martin’s parents, said the family was appalled.
“It’s insulting,” Mr. Crump said. “To everybody else — the public, the media — it’s a hashtag, it’s a cause, it’s a news story. To them, that’s their child.”

Posted in Civil Rights, Family & Children, Justice, Law, Media, News and politics, Security | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A May Day Mayday

Take Heart!


“Poor folks ain’t got a chance, unless we organize.” –Florence Reece

And many of our world’s working people still understand this rock-bottom truth. Solidarity forever, my brothers and sisters! We can never cease to struggle for justice and human rights for everyone.

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Published on Thursday, May 1, 2014 by Common Dreams
World’s Workers Rise Up in Celebration and Protest on May Day
Demanding dignity and end of economic status quo that undermines labor rights and fair treatment, world’s labor force celebrates and activates
– Common Dreams staff
In marches and street demonstrations, people across the world on Thursday were marking May Day, or International Labor Day, by demanding better treatment of working people and union members as they also called for respect of democratic freedoms and equal rights.
* In Turkey, thousands of people defied new laws barring unauthorized public protest and took to the street in Istanbul where…

View original post 3,460 more words

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Before We Leap

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” –David Lloyd George

“When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.” –C. P. Snow

 

“A man of courage never needs weapons … but he may need bail.” –Lewis Mumford

 

“Even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.” –Aung San Suu Kyi

I’ve been thinking lately. [Okay, I heard you smart-asses say “about damn time” under your breath, — so cut me some slack … it could happen! Theoretically, at least.]

What’s on my mind? It’s funny, when Facebook asks that question, my brain goes blank … and I hate to volunteer a thing to those blood-sucking bastards anyway. But this is different, I hope. There may even be real live human beings reading it! If I don’t piss them off first. Well … I’ll try.

Leap Day is almost here. Way back whenever, I was in school with kids born on February 29, which seemed really cool, unless they only got presents and parties once every four years. These days, that sounds like the best part of being a leap child. I also know a couple who will celebrate their “15th” anniversary tomorrow. Hallmark says watches are the proper modern gift for this … but why bother, they have cell phones.

Tacking an extra day onto the calendar every fourth year just to keep things tidy seems kind of odd, really. Can’t we simply invent one that needs no such cumbersom corrections? Certainly we could. But then how would we deal with a fractional day, or with getting out of synch with day and night? So far, leap year is a reasonable way to reconcile our conflicting needs for timekeeping accuracy with human convenience. I wish we’d hurry up and find some comparable means of resolving our antithetical drives for freedom and security. Preferrably without needing popes or emperors to impose solutions on us all. Those guys always seem to have their own agendas, so we’d better work something out for ourselves. The sooner the better!

[‘Jump’ – Van Halen]

 

And spring is also on the doorstep, if you can say we’ve even had a winter here in Ohio this year … I’m not sure the damn grass ever stopped growing. Which reminds me … I still need to find a better ground cover for my mother’s steep front bank. It’s already well-covered, but to Mom it’s all weeds. Maybe “god-damned weeds”, when she thinks I can’t hear her say it. I like English ivy, but Mom doesn’t, and she hates creeping phlox. I think she’s afraid snakes will hide in it, and ambush her while she’s retrieving her newspaper. Pachysandra perhaps? What’s the nurserymen’s adage? … the first year pachysandra sleeps; the second year it creeps; and the third year it leaps!

[pachysandra]

 

I’m not so sure Mom will last three more years, though she’s proved to be pretty tough in many ways. Tougher than I am, I’m beginning to think. Facing death is one thing. I’m not much bothered by that idea. But facing pain, and dealing with increasing disability and dependence for an unknown length of time? That takes guts. And patience, something my mother and I are not much good at. Screw it — maybe I’ll just see if kudzu is hardy here.

[kudzu]

Then again, maybe not — that shit can grow a foot a day! If no one’s made a kudzu horror movie, they’ve missed a winner. Now, try to sleep after this … try hard. Then tomorrow, go out and make the most of our bonus day … maybe by working toward that next giant leap for humankind!

[‘Leap Frog’ – Les Brown]

 

“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.” –Rollo May

“One man with courage is a majority.” –Thomas Jefferson

“Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.” –George Jackson

 

“Pity the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” –Don Marquis

Posted in Civil Rights, Dissent, Education, Environment, Family & Children, Justice, Media, Music, Science & Technology, Security | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Ready or Not

Ever play Monopoly? As kids, it was a Friday-night ritual with my cousins for a while, though I was never much good … it takes too damn long, and I get bored. Mostly, I was there for the pizza and popcorn. What’s the meaning of those little place markers anyway — the sports car, iron, top hat, show dog and such? Symbols of status, and conspicuous consumption? How cute. my stepdaughter’s older girl is another story, an obsessive competitor in everything. She and her grandpa will keep a game running for days, with neither stubborn soul ever willing to concede defeat. But Mishal cheats,so I refuse to play with her. There’s more than enough of that shit in the real world for my taste. Then again, cheating is fully in the spirit of the game, so I guess I shouldn’t scold her for it. She’ll learn the hard way, if ever. But maybe I should pull out the old Scrabble set … if I can’t hold my own with words, I’ll give it up.

Okay, that’s my long-winded way of introducing yet another example of in-our-faces ruthless capitalism, coming soon to a state near me. This specific measure may or may not pass, I won’t even guess yet. But Ohio has been through this crap before. We voted down casinos more than once. Did the folks so avid to rake in money on gambling give up? You know better — money never gives up. Never. They doubled down, spending time and money where it would do most good — “educating” our voters … and our legislators. And … you know the rest. We were eventually blessed with our very own casinos. At least fifteen of them. We’re so lucky the free market has our best interests at heart.

http://www.worldcasinodirectory.com/ohio/casino-list

So here we go again. Somehow, it was almost shocking to see ads for the current marijuana legalization ballot issue hit local television this summer. I don’t expect much 21st-century legislation to crop up here in the heartland. It’s not Indiana, but … you wouldn’t mistake it for Amsterdam, even if we had canals and windmills. My so-cynical reaction was to guess that Monsanto must already have fully GMO-ed, Roundup-readied, and patented, next-generation pot seeds. And to wonder who’s bought up (or confiscated?) all the best growing land here in the wild midwest. Be interesting to see recent property-transfer records for Meggs County, I thought. (Though perhaps not — no proposed sites are listed for it … maybe the amateurs who’ve been hard at work there for decades as I’ve been told, wouldn’t sell, or wouldn’t sell cheap. Interesting.)

http://ballotpedia.org/Ohio_Marijuana_Legalization_Initiative,_Issue_3_(2015)

In a way, I’m not all that concerned about this issue, marijuana’s never been my thing. I would love to see an end to our ludicrous and shameful so-called war on drugs, but it’s been so good for so much dirty business that I won’t hold my breath. On the face of it, this would seem a great improvement for Ohio’s people. Prohibition never works, except to make something people want harder to get and more expensive. A classic marketing strategy — manufacturing scarcity. Legalization should help with that, to a point. But no one’s putting up twenty million dollars out of the goodness of their hearts. They expect to make even more. Which I guess is fine. Unless they gouge those needing marijuana for its many medical uses — a despicable practice that’s all too prevalent and profitable these days. I don’t much like establishing yet another monopolistic industry, rigged from the outset to bolster our grinding corporate power structure. Then again, we know our people can be most creative and dedicated where evading invasive and irksome laws and restrictions are concerned. We’ll see what happens.

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Ohio may muck up marijuana legalization—here’s how.

Daily Kos * Thu Sep 03, 2015 at 05:26 PM PDT

byRachel ColyerHYPERLINK \l “?friend_id=338796&is_stream=1”Follow

Currently, there are two competing proposals in Ohio that could dictate the process for marijuana legalization in the state if either is enacted.

The problem is one could be very bad for the state, and it’s the one on the ballot this year.

Responsible Ohio has a proposal which will be on the November 2015 ballot. This proposal is a seriously flawed law which would effectively create a monopoly on the marijuana industry controlled by a few wealthy investors who are fueling the campaign, to the tune of $20 million dollars.

The proposal would allow recreational and medical marijuana in Ohio. The most controversial aspect of the proposal is that the plan would limit marijuana cultivation to only 10 grow sites in the state and those grow sites have already been promised to—you guessed it—the wealthy investors who have ponied up to run this $20 million dollar campaign. This law will further line the pockets of the investors and shut out competition from other enterprising individuals who would want to break into the burgeoning market of marijuana products.

Marijuana will be taxed at 15% for wholesale and commercial use and 5% for retail use, and will only be available for purchase through the limited number of stores, which will be set at one store per 10,000 residents or about 1200 licensed stores around the state. Those stores can only sell marijuana grown at one of those 10 sites.

Responsible Ohio defends the proposal, claiming that the grow sites will not be coordinated and that they will be competing with each other, though there is little incentive for them to actually compete through lower prices when they have the market cornered. They also claim the industry will be open to the public and that those roughly 1200 business licenses will be available for the public.

Many of the stalwart national organizations working on drug policy have critiqued this plan, experts like Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance (If you haven’t watched his TED talk on the Drug War do it after you finish reading this). The experts over at High Times have some critiques too (and here is the response from Responsible Ohio).

A competing proposal from Ohioans to end prohibition, which created its campaign with the goal of being on the ballot in November 2016 seems like a much better option because of its competitive, open markets. Any adult will be able to apply to a state board for a license to grow, manufacture, or sell marijuana or marijuana products based on demand. There are no arbitrary caps set by this law—it would be based on those interested in entering the market and the demand in the marketplace.

This could allow for a vibrant competitive marijuana industry where any entrepreneur could start a business, after acquiring the license.

The debate, over these two proposals is vibrant and vehement—there are many pro-legalization supporters who are willing to wait another year for a better plan and there are some pro-legalization supporters who are willing to take what they can get sooner.

I would caution those supporters who choose the latter—many subscribe to the idea that if voters don’t like it they can change it.

Both of these proposals are constitutional amendments.

Changing a constitutional amendment is a painstaking process . There are three ways: It will take 60% of the Ohio legislature, a constitutional convention requiring 2/3 of legislators to agree, or a petition campaign with a Ohio Ballot board oversight and acceptance, then another vote of majority by the public.

That’s damn near impossible. Now, consider that those really wealthy people who have already invested millions of dollars in this campaign will fight like hell with all of their newly minted marijuana money to maintain their control. Ohioans will be stuck with whatever system they choose in the next two years—it’ll be tough to dismantle a system backed by a wealthy monopoly.

Now, to add additional confusion, there is a ballot measure on the November 2015 ballot which would ban constitutional monopolies—it’s a counter attempt to block the Responsible Ohio bill and others like it. If both were to pass in 2015 everything would be tied up in the Ohio supreme court.

The decision on the ballot this year could be disastrous. I support legalization but I urge Ohioans to wait until 2016 and get the right legalization policy. Rushing to the legalization line in 2015 is a bad idea and Ohioans will be stuck with their decision which could lead to less choice, competition, and higher prices. Or, folks can wait a year and get a flexible proposal which could lead to prosperity for many eager would be marijuana entrepreneurs, and more choice and freedom for marijuana enthusiasts.

Vote No on Issue 3 to vote against Responsible Ohio’s proposal. Vote Yes on issue 2 to vote against monopolies in the Ohio constitution. Then wait until 2016 for a better proposal.

The details: Responsible Ohio plan (the one on the ballot)

– over 21 can possess up to 1 ounce, and grow four plants after paying a $50 registration fee

– 10 commercial growing sites, with 1100-1200 licenses for retail and production of marijuana-based products

– 5% retail tax, and 15% tax for wholesale.

Ohioans to end Prohibition proposal

– over 21 can possess up to 100 grams of marijuana, with possession of more than 100 but less than 1000 grams is a ticketable offense, and adults can grow up to 6 plants

– any adult or corporation will be able to apply for a license to grow, manufacture, or sell marijuana or products

– tax rates will be $1 per gram of flowers, and $5 per sale of a seedling for wholesale

– consumers who are not patients will pay a 5% retail tax.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/09/04/1418213/-Ohio-may-muck-up-marijuana-legalization-here-s-how?

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However this works out … I wonder. Once it’s legal, will we miss marajuana’s romantic outlaw image, or the music and humor we’ve had as a result? It will be extremely weird trying to explain the context for so many drug references from the last fifty years of popular culture. Offhand, I don’t know any good meth lab or crack house jokes or songs, but that may just be my ignorance. Or maybe such drugs aren’t much fun.

Posted in Economy, Education, Elections, Family & Children, Health Care, Humor, Justice, Law, Media, Music, News and politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Matters of Life and Death

“The pedigree of honey

Does not concern the bee;

A clover, any time, to him

Is aristocracy.” –Emily Dickinson

This may sound weird, but I love bees. If I were allergic to their sting, maybe I’d feel otherwise. As it is, I’ve been stung only when heedlessly touching them, and it’s never been a problem. In contrast, my mother does react to beestings, and has a kill-anything-that moves attitude to bugs. And snakes. And weeds. Under her hand, even deliberatly-planted ground covers could never exceed 3 inches in height, and woe betide any exuberant strand of ivy or vinca straying past the edge of her patio — that called for immediate amputation! I do some of her yardwork now, and she still hates my no-chemicals approach, to say nothing of my slacker ways, letting all that rebellious vinca run wild!

I’m bad. And I’ve also passed along some of my bee partisanship. One brilliant March day, I brought my stepdaughter’s toddler out to see the first yellow and white crocus, with numerous bees working their little wings off. “They’re feeding their family,” Miriam told me, as she’d learned from her cartoons. She plopped down on the brick walk, and watched in total fascination for half an hour, long after I was ready to retreat from a biting north wind. I’m surprised she didn’t try to pet them!

I love watching bees too — so intent and purposeful as they move from flower to flower, as they have been doing for millions of years. Too many of us take them for granted, and pay little attention to bees, or to most of the natural world for that matter. After all, our lives are busy, and engrossing, to us. Gotta post those hot selfies, and all our brilliant tweets! Yet we humans (and our so-called advanced civilizations) still depend on bees’ hard work to pollenate many important crops. We exploit the food they make for their common good — as honey. (So do bears and racoons, but hardly on the scale we rob them.) Some of us do provide hives for them, and help maintain their colonies. Is it a fair trade? Probably not.

I guess it’s unreasonable to expect us to treat bees with respect, when we mostly treat one another with such indifference and contempt. Shame on us. I’d like to hope that someday we may become as good at being humans as bees are at being bees. If we last half as long, perhaps we can.

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We’re Better at Tracking the Deaths of Bees Than People Who Die in Police Custody

A revamped federal project aims to tally all people who die in custody

Common Dreams * Monday, August 24, 2015

by Shawn Musgrave

Every year, a certain number of bees die. And every year, a certain number of people die while in police custody. We have a solid figure for one of these death tolls. At present, it’s not the human body count.

As with deaths in custody, the issue of honeybee deaths is not new. Colony collapse disorder — the generic term for mass exodus of adult worker bees from a given colony —

http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572

is nearly vernacular, and wonks routinely debate the scale of the problem and its long-term consequences.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/07/23/call-off-the-bee-pocalypse-u-s-honeybee-colonies-hit-a-20-year-high/

Such debates hinge on quantitative modeling, on forecasts that correlate honeybee population against crop yields or ecosystem resilience. Ask any beekeeper: the only way to know how many bees are around is to count them.

So we do. Agricultural statisticians routinely assess honeybee populations using viable, peer-reviewed survey methods. There’s the Bee Informed Partnership, for instance, a research initiative funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Since 2006, the Bee Informed Partnership has conducted an annual survey of bee colonies nationwide.

https://beeinformed.org/results-categories/winter-loss/Preliminary results from the most recent survey highlighted Illinois and Oklahoma as having particularly high drops in bee colony populations.

https://beeinformed.org/results/colony-loss-2014-2015-preliminary-results/

Beekeepers reported that total losses across the country were lower than for the 2013-2014 winter. Finalized results for the previous year’s surveyed were published in the scientific journal Apidologie following a peer review process.

https://beeinformed.org/results/colony-loss-2013-2014-2/

“Long-term data on losses are critical for putting yearly losses in context,” declares the Apidologie abstract. To get a useful picture of an issue, you need to know its scale and chronological trends.

In May, the White House Pollinator Health Task Force called for more frequent surveys to quantify and map colony losses. But when it comes to bees, there’s a robust baseline from years of granular data collection.

Police reform also has its own White House task force. The May 2015 final report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing emphasized just how inadequate our data is to answer how many deaths occur within the criminal justice system, much less to discern regional trends or policy implications.

All law enforcement agencies should “collect, maintain, and report data to the federal government on all officer-involved shootings, whether fatal or nonfatal, as well as any in-custody death,” the report recommends. The damning implication is that far too many police do not track these figures.

To date, all attempts by the federal government to count how many people die each year while interacting with law enforcement have relied on voluntary reporting. Whether a person dies during a pursuit or while in handcuffs, whether the death is accidental or intentional, the details find their way to nationwide databases only if a particular police or sheriff office decides to submit them up the reporting chain.

This is woefully inadequate, and the White House task force called for the federal government to move beyond voluntary reporting as the centerpiece of its data collection strategy. The statisticians charged with tracking nationwide law enforcement trends agree that we need to take a page from the bee-counters.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) launched its Arrest-Related Deaths program in 2003.

http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=428

The ARD program aspires to be a “national census of persons who died either during the process of arrest, or while in the custody of state or local law enforcement personnel.”

But the ARD was based on the voluntary, decentralized reporting model, and participation varied widely from one state to another. Some states like Georgia, Maryland, Montana and Wyoming declined to contribute to the ARD database for years at a time. Other states identified cases only passively. Far from being a comprehensive census, the ARD program was significantly undercounting deaths in the criminal justice system.

The federal ARD program was thus suspended in March 2014. In an evaluation released a year later, the Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that the ARD program “captured, at best, 49% of all law enforcement homicides in the United States.”

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ardpatr.pdf

Other estimates put the program’s coverage as low as 36 percent.

“If BJS pursues a collection to measure law enforcement homicides or all manners of arrest-related deaths in the United States, changes must be made to the data collection methodology to support more complete coverage,” the evaluation summarized.

Dr. Michael Planty, chief of the Victimization Statistics Unit at BJS, could not agree more. If policymakers, advocates and police officials want to understand the factors that lead to fatal police encounters, Planty says, they need comprehensive data as to where those deaths are happening.

“Law enforcement is often thought of as a localized issue,” Planty elaborates, “but it’s become apparent to most people that a death in one jurisdiction affects all law enforcement across the country. We need to see this as a national issue.”

National issues require national data, and exhaustive coverage. To that end, the BJS is piloting a more aggressive methodology. Rather than rely on agencies to report fatal events on an ad hoc basis, the ARD team itself combs for cases, then confirms details of a given individual’s death with the respective law enforcement agency and coroner.

Since June, the ARD program staff have been using open sources — such as news reports and police department websites — to identify individuals who died in the course of an arrest. Other database projects at Fatal Encounters, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Deadspin likewise depend on open sources as their primary leads.

http://www.fatalencounters.org/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings/

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database#

http://regressing.deadspin.com/were-compiling-every-police-involved-shooting-in-americ-1624180387

Such a proactive approach demands more time to collect each case, and the BJS may retain a contractor as it does with many of its programs.

Federal statisticians will assess the new ARD program this fall by surveying state and local law enforcement agencies to determine how many cases the proactive search method missed. The BJS will refine its approach based on the results, and Planty hopes to have a more robust, systematic methodology on its feet by next year.

The clock is ticking, and not just because of the glaring need to have comprehensive figures on this issue. President Obama signed the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act in December 2014, which ties federal law enforcement grants to states’ reporting of comprehensive information about deaths in custody. The revamped ARD program will be the mechanism for such reporting.

MuckRock will continue to follow the overhaul of the Arrest-Related Deaths census through its pilot assessment this fall and nationwide rollout next year. We have requested documents on the suspension of the program last year, as well as the pilot.

Police chiefs and civil rights advocates agree that rigorous and timely statistics are critical to reforming police practice nationwide. As with honeybee populations or extinctions or financial mismanagement or ebola or deteriorating infrastructure, informed analysis demands sound data. How many people are dying in police custody? Start counting.

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/08/24/were-better-tracking-deaths-bees-people-who-die-police-custody#main-content

Posted in Civil Rights, Economy, Education, Environment, Family & Children, Health Care, Justice, Law, Media, News and politics, Science & Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The “Heart” of America? Don’t Count on It

“A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilisation.” –Samuel Johnson

 

What kind of subhuman shits would starve people just to stay in power, just to gain a few more votes? The war on the poor and on minorities may be undeclared, barely, but it’s pretty obvious around here. So a story like this is no surprise really. Hell, it is more surprising that Ohio’s Republicans aren’t bragging about it. Maybe I missed the memos.

 

Folk singer John Gorka tells us –

 

“I’m from New Jersey

It’s like Ohio

But even more so

Imagine that”

 

If true, may the gods help New Jersey!

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Gov. Kasich waives food stamp time limit for rural whites, forces urban minorities to go hungry

Daily Kos * Tue Sep 22, 2015 at 01:01 PM PDT

by Josie Duffy

In 1996, Congress passed a bill putting a time limit on food stamp access for those in need.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/09/law-john-kasich-wrote-now-keeping-food-stamps-minorities-ohio

The law forbade “Healthy, childless adults” from receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for more than three months in a three-year period, unless they had a job or were in a training program for 20 hours or more per week. Then-Congressman, now-presidential candidate and Gov. John Kasich co-sponsored the bill.

It was the first time Congress had implemented such a time limit, and the impact was extreme: About 1 million people would lose food stamp access under this law. When lawmakers pushed back, an important exception was added to “allow states to seek time-limit waivers for areas with especially high unemployment.”

As governor of Ohio, Kasich has taken advantage of those time-limit waivers himself. While hypocritical—it was his idea to limit food stamps, after all—his use of the waivers is not the problem.

 

The problem is how his administration distributes them. According to Mother Jones:

block quote

“Ohio civil rights groups and economic analysts say Kasich’s administration is using the waivers unequally: It applies for waivers in some regions of the state but refuses them in others, in a pattern that has disproportionately protected white communities and hurt minority populations.”!block quote end
In 2013, the state unemployment rate and economy were so bad that the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services had the opportunity to receive a time-limit waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This would have been the seventh year in a row that the whole state had been eligible for and received it.

But the governor rejected the waiver for two years for most of the counties in the state. Only 16 counties’ waivers were accepted, mostly rural areas where the population is sparse and white, while “urban counties and cities, most of which had high minority populations” did not receive a waiver.

It’s not quite clear how the governor picked these 16 counties to receive waivers. But the demographics are interesting. In Ohio, 75 percent of black residents live in just eight counties—none of which got a waiver, even though they have higher unemployment rates than some of the counties that received waivers. Mother Jones reports:

block quoteBy January—the three-month mark where those without waivers began losing their food stamps if they couldn’t meet the work requirement—it had become clear that the policy had spawned a stark racial disparity in food aid. Across the 16 counties the state had selected for waivers, about 94 percent of food stamp recipients were white. Overall in Ohio in December 2013—immediately before the new policy’s effects began to surface—food stamp recipients were 65 percent white.

By March 2014, six months into the new system, the six counties with the highest rate of terminating food stamps for able-bodied, childless adults were all counties populated mostly by minorities.

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All this in a place where everyone could have utilized SNAP benefits. After all, Ohio is one of the worst food security states in the nation, ranking sixth overall. Instead of helping solve this problem, Gov. Kasich has allowed rural white communities–his base –to receive food stamps, while discriminating against minority communities and forcing them to go hungry.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/09/22/1423910/-Gov-Kasich-waives-food-stamp-time-limit-for-rural-whites-forces-urban-minorities-to-go-hungry?

Posted in Civil Rights, Economy, Elections, Family & Children, Health Care, Justice, Law, Media, Music, News and politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Your Money or Your Life

“A criminal is a person with predatory instincts, without sufficient capital to form a corporation.” –Howard Scott

How in hell do big criminal organizations stay in business when shit like this is legal? Why in hell don’t we call this extortion, price gouging, and reckless endangerment to public health ,and shut these heartless blood-suckers down? [Rhetorical question alert!] Can we say … money … lots of money! … corruption … lots of corruption! … and absolute indifference to human needs and human suffering? We sure can.

I can also say … nationalize the subhuman spawns of sociopaths! We should immediately nationalize our entire monstrous pharmaceutical industry, take back every dime they’ve stolen from us! Then … we should gut-shoot each and every industry executive, past and present. Then … after a while … ask them why in hell we should decide their lives are worth saving.

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Hedge Fund Manager Buys Rights To Critical Drug, Hikes Price By 5000%

Daily Kos * Sun Sep 20, 2015 at 04:05 PM PDT

by Dartagnan

This is enough to make anyone sick.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/business/a-huge-overnight-increase-in-a-drugs-price-raises-protests.html?_r=0

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Specialists in infectious disease are protesting a gigantic overnight increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection. The drug, called Daraprim, was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager. Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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The hedge fund manager responsible for the price increase is named Martin Shkreli. Shkreli has a reputation as some type of wunderkind, having started his own hedge fund company while still in his 20’s. Shkreli has already drawn attention for urging the FDA not to approve drugs made by companies whose stocks Shkreli was shorting.

http://www.citizensforethics.org/legal-filings/entry/us-attorney-investigate-short-seller-martin-shkreli

In July 2012, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called for an investigation of Shkreli and others whom it charged were manipulating the prices of drug company stocks through blog posts intended to spread negative and purportedly misleading information about certain drugs.

http://www.citizensforethics.org/legal-filings/entry/crew-uncovers-another-short-seller-gaming-the-regulatory-system

According to CREW, Mr. Shkreli has acknowledged he has no medical expertise whatsoever. His company stands to increase sales in the magnitude of tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars from the price increase, according to the article.

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The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association sent a joint letter to Turing earlier this month calling the price increase on Daraprim “unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population” and “unsustainable for the health care system.” An organization representing the directors of state AIDS programs has also been looking into the price increase, according to doctors and patient advocates.

Daraprim, known generically as pyrimethamine, is used mainly to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasite infection that can cause serious or even life-threatening problems for babies born to women who become infected during pregnancy, and also for those with compromised immune systems, like AIDS patients and certain cancer patients.

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The history of Daraprim provides an interesting case study into everything that is wrong with the U.S. health care system.

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Daraprim, which is also used to treat malaria, was approved by the F.D.A. in 1953 and has long been made by GlaxoSmithKline. Glaxo sold United States marketing rights in 2010 to CorePharma. Last year, Impax Laboratories agreed to buy Core and affiliated companies for $700 million. In August, Impax sold Daraprim to Turing for $55 million, a deal announced the same day Turing said it had raised $90 million from Mr. Shkreli and other investors in its first round of financing.

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Shkreli may also be able to prevent generic duplication of the drug by controlling its distribution, a tactic which prevents other companies from getting enough of the drug to test.

Ultimately, the problem really isn’t Mr. Shkreli. He’s just a shark doing what sharks do. The problem is that when vital drug treatments and health care are consigned to the whims of the “free market,” people like Shkreli are equally free to charge whatever they want to vulnerable patients by claiming, as here, that the distribution is small enough to warrant “specialty status” for such drugs:

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Turing’s price increase could bring sales to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year if use remains constant. Medicaid and certain hospitals will be able to get the drug inexpensively under federal rules for discounts and rebates. But private insurers, Medicare and hospitalized patients would have to pay closer to the list price.

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Shkreli claims that the higher cost for the drug is necessary for his new company to develop better treatments for toxoplasmosis, a claim which doctors quoted in the Times article call hollow as the side effects for Daraprim are manageable and there is no “clamoring” for a substitute. Interestingly, Shkreli’s is the same type of claim pharmaceutical companies made in response to efforts to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.

http://blog.cahealthadvocates.org/2014/05/why-cant-medicare-negotiate-lower-drug-prices-for-part-d/

Toxoplasmosis affects nearly half of the world’s population and is generally not viewed as a serious health problem for most. The people for whom it is a serious problem and life-threatening are those infected with HIV, those diagnosed with AIDS, cancer patients, or who have otherwise compromised immune systems. These are often the people who can least afford to bear ridiculously inflated drug costs imposed solely to line the pockets of hedge fund managers.

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Dr. [Judith] Aberg of Mount Sinai said some hospitals will now find Daraprim too expensive to keep in stock, possibly resulting in treatment delays. She said that Mount Sinai is continuing to use the drug, but each use now requires a special review.

“This seems to be all profit driven for somebody,” she said, “and I just think it’s a very dangerous process.”

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http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/09/20/1423248/-Hedge-Fund-Manager-Buys-Rights-To-Critical-Drug-Hikes-Price-By-5000?detail=email

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* * * STORY UPDATE * * *

Sheesh! This was predictable too, I suppose. When the richly-deserved bad publicity over such shameful drug-pricing practices kicked in, the poor little misunderstood CEO says he’s not really all that bad. Lucky for us!

What would we ever do without such noble humanitarians? I just wish the word didn’t remind me of the joke –

If vegetarians eat vegetables … what do humanitarians eat?

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Hedge funder defends $700-per-pill price increase: It’s ‘still under-priced’

Daily Kos * Mon Sep 21, 2015 at 11:40 AM PDT

by Laura Clawson

Under fire for buying the rights to a 62-year-old drug and raising the price from less than $20 all the way to $750, former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli is insisting that he did the right thing because before the drug’s potentially lifesaving treatment for toxoplasmosis was just too cheap, as if somehow he’s doing people a favor by charging more. Shkreli even suggested that the drug is not now overpriced:

http://www.rawstory.com/2015/09/ex-hedge-funder-who-hiked-aids-pill-cost-by-5500-percent-says-drug-still-underpriced/

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“We know, these days, in modern pharmaceuticals, cancer drugs can cost $100,000 or more, whereas these drugs can cost a half of a million dollars,” he explained. “Daraprim is still under-priced relative to its peers.”

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Many of the most expensive drugs, though, are ones that have recently been developed where the pharmaceutical company is recouping the costs of development and testing (while profiting handsomely, of course). A drug that’s been around for more than half a century is usually a different story, at least until greedy hedge funders get involved.

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“This drug was making $5 million in revenue,” he said with a smile. “And I don’t think you can find a drug company on this planet that can make money on $5 million in revenue.”

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Not even when the pill costs $1 to manufacture and is being sold for $13.50 or $18, depending who you listen to? Yes, that’s another of Shkreli’s defenses, coming somewhat after the fact:

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He said that media reports had all overstated the price increase, as from $13.50 to $750. The real original price, he said, was $18 per tablet making it merely a 4000% increase in price, not a 5500% increase.

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That’s not outrageous at all, then! Either way, the drug’s price prior to Shkreli getting his hands on it was already a dramatic price increase after a previous time rights to it changed hands. But when Shkreli says “I don’t think you can find a drug company on this planet that can make money on $5 million in revenue,” what he’s really saying is that he wants to make more profit, not that the profit level on this particular drug was unsustainable for people who aren’t greedy leeches on society. Shkreli has also tried to defend himself by claiming that his company will use the profits to develop alternative treatments for toxoplasmosis … except doctors say they weren’t really looking for an alternative. They’d just like to have this one at a reasonable price.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/09/21/1423506/-Hedge-funder-defends-700-per-pill-price-increase-It-s-still-under-priced?detail=email

Posted in Economy, Family & Children, Health Care, Justice, Law, Media, News and politics, Science & Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments