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Daily Kos Sat, 28 Mar 2015 11:45:25 GMT  

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Is the lesser of two evils all that evil?

CT News:

NEWTOWN – For a team of 26 bicyclists who will ride from Town Hall to Washington, D.C., on Saturday to honor victims of the Sandy Hook massacre and to call on lawmakers to reduce gun violence, the annual event has become less about their own healing and more about the bigger picture.

“Now we ride to honor all the victims of gun violence, to build bridges, and to unite Americans in this movement,” says Monte Frank, the founder of the ride and a Sandy Hook resident.

I'll be commenting less than usual this am, because I'll be there to see them off. Two of my fellow docs, Bill Begg and Armand Daccache, will be riding this year with Monte and the team.

Michael Tomasky:

More serious debates will sometimes compare the positions and platforms of the Democrat and the left alternative. But in my experience, these debates also tend to get personal pretty quickly: "I just can't stand Al Gore," and so on. We're human beings, after all, and it's understandable to feel that you have to be able to at least tolerate the sight of this person you're going to be exposed to on a daily basis for the next four to eight years.

But it's not a good way to think about lesser-evilism. Yes, the candidates' platform positions tell us certain things about their political imagination, their vision of a just society and, more prosaically, which wealthy interests they're unwilling to risk offending. So they do count for something.

But the right way to think about one's vote for president is to think about the presidency not as a person, but as a thing—a huge, sprawling, complex, cumbrous, many-tentacled thing. The executive branch is a corporation. Or, if it makes you feel better, a huge nonprofit. It's thousands of people doing thousands of things: big things, like setting Middle East policy, and small things, like making sure a few painters in central West Virginia are getting a fair wage for federal contract work.

And on this score, the differences between the two major parties are vaster than vast. This maybe didn't used to be so, back when there were actual moderate Republicans. But now? With the Republican Party controlled by the radical right, a Republican presidency doesn't mean merely that you're going to have to see that distasteful reactionary with the cracker-ish accent on your TV screen for the next few years. It means that thousands of people are going to be making many thousands of deeply reactionary decisions, across all federal agencies and departments. This stuff doesn't make the front pages. It rarely makes the news at all. But it goes on, and it affects all of us every day: decisions about civil-rights and environmental enforcement, about the protection of public lands, about the ethical questions raised in scientific research, about the safety of consumer products (and now financial instruments, thanks to Elizabeth Warren), about which polluting or swindling corporations to investigate and with how much zeal… You get the picture.

More politics and policy below the fold.

Pensito Review Sat, 28 Mar 2015 11:45:26 GMT  

Climate Change Comes to Florida: ‘Still Not Scientifically Proven Yet…’

cartoon-climate-change-comes-o-florida


http://blogs.ajc.com/mike-luckovich/feed/ Sat, 28 Mar 2015 03:22:19 GMT  


ThinkProgress Sat, 28 Mar 2015 11:45:29 GMT  

Number Of Palestinian Civilians Killed By Israelis Reaches Nearly 50-Year High

Israel killed 2,314 Palestinians in 2014, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. That’s more than any year since 1967.

The post Number Of Palestinian Civilians Killed By Israelis Reaches Nearly 50-Year High appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Palestinian children walk between the rubble of buildings which were destroyed during the summer 2014 Israel-Hamas war, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip on Feb. 23, 2015.

Palestinian children walk between the rubble of buildings which were destroyed during the summer 2014 Israel-Hamas war, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip on Feb. 23, 2015.

CREDIT: AP

Israel killed 2,314 Palestinians in 2014, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. That’s more than any year since 1967 when Israel defeated pro-Palestinian forces to wrest control of all of Jerusalem and other land then held by Arab countries. Many of the deaths last year were a result of an Israeli military operation in the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip, which left at least 11,000 injured and 500,000 internally displaced.

“Israel, the occupying power, must fulfil its primary obligations to protect the Palestinian civilian population, and ensure that people’s basic needs and human rights are met,” the U.N. stated in a report documenting Israeli treatment of Palestinians. “This would include taking action to secure the physical protection of Palestinian civilians, cease their displacement, ensure accountability for violence and abuse, and lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods, as well as on access to land and resources.”

Israeli military officials have said that so Palestinian civilians were killed, in part, because they were used as human shields by Hamas. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said the bombing of a U.N. school “a true tragedy” but that Palestinian forces hid munitions in schools and hospitals.

The U.N. maintained nonetheless that Israel violated international law, the international organization isn’t very likely to hold Israel accountable for its failures to protect — or even kill — Palestinian civilians. Even if U.N. officials themselves are at the forefront of the call for justice.

“[W]e cannot allow impunity, we cannot allow this lack of accountability to go on,” Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in July after claiming that Israel’s attacks on homes, schools, and hospitals in Gaza pointed appeared to be at odds with the rules of war outlined by the Geneva Convention.

Palestine received overwhelming approval to become a non-member state of the U.N. in 2012, and in his appeal to the assembly even then, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the the international community faced a “last chance” to “issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine.”

That birth certificate was blocked by the U.N. in December when the U.N. Security Council voted down Abbas’ appeal after facing the threat of a veto from the U.S.

In a remarkable shift to unwavering American support of Israel, President Barack Obama said last week that he would “reassess” aspects of the U.S.-Israeli relationship after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced support for a one-state solution, and then walked back that claim after he was re-elected. Netanyahu’s controversial speech before Congress further degraded his relationship with Obama.

That means that recognition of a Palestinian state — and accountability from Israel for human rights violations — may be closer than ever before. On Friday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced that they will call for a resolution to recognize a Palestinian state in the coming weeks.

“Today nothing has moved forward, still development of settlements, the Palestinians are in a more and more difficult situation and we cannot stay like that,” he said.

The post Number Of Palestinian Civilians Killed By Israelis Reaches Nearly 50-Year High appeared first on ThinkProgress.

The Risks Of Police Collecting License Plate Numbers

“The positive of it is at least you’re seeing what the police is storing, but the other side is the sensitivity of the information heightens the security risk.”

The post The Risks Of Police Collecting License Plate Numbers appeared first on ThinkProgress.

License Plate Readers

CREDIT: AP

The Oakland Police Department released a data trove with nearly 5 million license plate scans earlier this week to the media, honoring Ars Technica’s public records request. Ars Technica analyzed data from more than 1 million individual license plates that were scanned 4.6 million times over the course of three and half years.

But the disclosure — one the Ars said is likely one of the largest publicly released datasets in the world — has been received by privacy experts with mixed emotions, praising and encouraging government transparency but fretting over the risks not only of police storing the data but it being available to anyone who fills out a Freedom of Information Act request.

Police departments across the country have been using license plate readers (LPRs) — cameras usually attached to the grill of a police cruiser — to locate stolen vehicles and cars involved in past crimes. The biggest issue is that police departments like Oakland are holding onto this data for an extended period of time, which makes it more revealing about people’s everyday lives.

“If you have one plate scan of one car, all you have is this car was at this place at this time — not what the driver was doing,” said Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney with Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. “But over multiple days, you can get a picture of what someone is doing, where they’re going and why. You can start to make pretty broad assumptions of someone’s life with the more data you have.”

License Plate Readers (2)

CREDIT: AP

LPRs are indiscriminate. They scan the plates that are around them, alerting police officers whether a plate belongs to a stolen car or one linked to a crime. Those plate hits, which account for less than 1 percent of all scanned plates — are stored along with those belonging to passersby.

To best protect privacy, “you don’t want to create unnecessary conglomerations of person information,” said Jay Stanley, American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst, privacy and technology in Washington, D.C. “No good can come of that. Whether its abuse from the people who hold the information, hacking, leaks or access by public info requests.”

Location information is particularly sensitive because the accumulation of data points over time show where someone lives (or spends most of their time), where their friends live, or whether someone has a substance abuse problem.

The dataset didn’t include addresses or other personal information found in Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records, Ars reported. Only the police have the ability to link DMV records with scanned plate numbers. However, if a person’s plate number is known, their whereabouts can be tracked.

And because the data is publicly available through a records request, there is a potential for stalking or physical harm.

“There might be people involved in abusive relationships where they told their spouse they were somewhere and this data shows they were somewhere else. Of course we haven’t gotten to that point, but as the tech becomes cheaper we could see three of these on every block,” Stanley said.

Stanley believes the data should be stored in the first place but there’s an upside – even if it’s a conflicted one. “The positive of it is at least you’re seeing what the police is storing, but the other side is the sensitivity of the information heightens the security risk.”

One takeaway from Ars Technica’s data analysis is that if over a million plate scans are being collected every year in a small city of about 406,000, the impact in larger municipalities is even greater and needs to be exposed.

“We don’t know how license plate readers are being used by large agencies like LAPD and LA Sheriffs, where they’re collecting 3 million license plate scans a week. It’s important for this information to be released to the public so the public can see how much data is being collected, where the neighborhoods are cops are focusing on, are there certain communities that are being burdened by this kind of surveillance technology more than others,” Lynch said.

But new technologies, especially data-driven tools, have become staples in police departments that want to drive down crime, and hopefully prevent it. Police and new technology have a checkered past that include nuanced and blatant brushes with privacy and civil liberty violations.

In addition to predictive technologies based on crime data, police also rely on social media surveillance, smartphone tracking and drones to deter and reduce crime.

The public often worries when police get new toys without consulting them first, Lynch said, “that’s why the Seattle Police Department no longer has drones and the Domain Awareness Program in Oakland got scaled back so completely.”

For LPRs, several states have passed or are working toward legislation that limits how long police can keep license plate scan data if the plates aren’t linked to criminal activity. Earlier this week, Minnesota legislature reached a deal to purge LPR data after 30 days.

“In holding onto the data, law enforcement is arguing that, ‘if we hold onto the data, then we can use it to solve crimes that happen in the future.’ That’s not how our criminal justice system is set up. Law enforcement should be doing investigations when a crime happens or when there’s ongoing activity at a specific location. They should not just be storing information on everybody when people are completely innocent at the time the data is collected.”

But making sure what police do collect is available for public scrutiny is paramount. “Our open government laws were designed to let the people know what the government is doing,” Lynch said. “Realistically, I don’t think anything will change until law enforcement are forced to release [collected] information like Oakland did.”

That way, police can think about policies and the impact new technology will have on the community it serves.

The post The Risks Of Police Collecting License Plate Numbers appeared first on ThinkProgress.

More Than 4 Out Of 10 Farmworkers In These Three States Are Undocumented

Nationally, more than one out of four farmworkers are undocumented.

The post More Than 4 Out Of 10 Farmworkers In These Three States Are Undocumented appeared first on ThinkProgress.

apples picked by immigrant hands

CREDIT: ThinkProgress/ Esther Y. Lee

Nearly half of all farmworkers in New Jersey, Washington State, and Idaho are undocumented, a new Pew Research Center study found. Culled from 2012 government data, the state-by-state breakdown provides a glimpse into labor trends among undocumented workers, who are mostly concentrated in the low-skilled service, production and construction occupations.

The study found that 44 percent of farmworkers in Nevada and Washington are undocumented, while 43 percent of farmworkers in Idaho are undocumented. Nationally, Pew found that about 26 percent of farmworkers are undocumented immigrants. Undocumented workers make up an even higher percentage of seasonal workers — more than half of the 2.5 million, according to Farmworker Justice.

About 85 percent of fruits and vegetables are hand-picked by farmworkers and they remain one of the most vulnerable workers at risk for occupational illnesses and injuries. Twenty farmworkers in Washington state became ill last year after being exposed to pesticide drift from a neighboring field, causing neurological symptoms, stomach problems, eye irritation, and respiratory issues. Farms may not provide the appropriate gear or equipment to work around pesticides, which partially contributes to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doctors diagnosing “between 10,000 and 20,000 farmworkers with pesticide poisonings each year,” an Environmental Protection Agency press release stated.

But without undocumented farmworkers, fruits and vegetables will rot in the fields as they did in 2010 after the passage of Georgia’s anti-immigrant laws. Apples are a $1.5 billion-a-year industry in Washington State, where growers have been dealt with a series of picker shortages over the past four years in part due to strong anti-immigrant tensions in agricultural communities. One orchardist recalled that only five workers remained of the 149 people that were referred to him earlier in the season, the Seattle Times reported.

Idaho, the third largest dairy state behind California and Wisconsin, relies on undocumented farmworkers to work the long hours in its $3.25 billion dairy industry. A lobbyist for Idaho’s dairy industry estimated that the workforce consisted of “probably about 70 percent foreign-born labor,” while Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) put the number closer to 90 percent. But like other owners in the agricultural industry, dairy farm owners face worker shortages. One dairy farm owner complained that domestic workers are hard to find because “people in the domestic labor pool don’t have the skills [the owner] needs” and those workers are harder to hire and retain. He also said that domestic workers “last maybe one, two, three days at the most,” KTVB reported.

While farms, like other businesses in America, are required to use legal workers, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported that “many small farms do not have the ability to use the federal E-Verify system to check [the] immigration status of applicants. Many farmworkers seeking a job present some form of identification making them appear legal, and farmers worry that privacy laws may prohibit them from challenging them too much.” Immigration statuses may also slip through the cracks because farms might contract out migrant crews that include undocumented workers.

One of the biggest barriers that farms come across when they hire immigrant laborers through the H-2A temporary worker visa program, which has no annual visa cap, is that it takes a long time and expensive. According to a 2013 Brookings Institute report, “only ten percent of farm jobs are estimated to be filled through the H-2A program, while 55 percent of farmworkers are estimated to be working without legal status.”

Overall, the Pew study found that about 62 percent of undocumented immigrant workers are concentrated in lower-skill jobs, nearly twice as many as U.S.-born workers, the study found. The vast majority of undocumented workers worked in farming, followed by workers in cleaning and maintenance, and construction.

The post More Than 4 Out Of 10 Farmworkers In These Three States Are Undocumented appeared first on ThinkProgress.


PoliticusUSA Sat, 28 Mar 2015 11:45:29 GMT  

Friday Fox Follies – Tucker? Don’t Even Know ‘Er!
Last week Tucker Carlson proved he isn't a real journalist (which may be why he's on Fox). This week he proved he's running a frat house, a topic in the news lately for systemic sexism, not to mention racism.

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President Obama Surprises Retiring Sen. Harry Reid On Nevada Radio Show
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) got a surprise caller as he was taking questions KNPR. President Obama called in and shocked Reid by glowingly paying tribute to retiring senator.

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Swift Corporate Backlash Follows Indiana Governor Pence’s Decision To Sign Anti-Gay Law
Shortly after Indiana Governor Pence signed an anti-gay bill into law, corporations lined up to boycott the state in response.

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Paul Krugman Sat, 28 Mar 2015 11:45:29 GMT  

Hidden Healthcare Horrors
There must be victims somewhere, right?
Friday Night Music: The Lone Bellow, Watch Over Us
A surreally good performance.
Hook, Line, and Thinker (Trivial)
What's a smart guy like Russell Brand doing in this company?

Media Matters for America - Latest Items Sat, 28 Mar 2015 11:45:29 GMT  

Alan Colmes Dismantles Fox's Defense Of Indiana's "Religious Freedom" Law

From the March 27 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson

Previously: 

Fox News' Dishonest Defense Of Indiana's Anti-LGBT "Religious Freedom" Law

Doctor Refuses To Care For Gay Couple's Baby - Is This Conservative Media's "Religious Freedom"?

The Ugly, Hateful Result Of The Anti-Gay "Religious Liberty" Debate 


Right Wing Watch Sat, 28 Mar 2015 11:45:30 GMT  

Right Wing Round-Up - 3/27/15
  • PFAW: Senate Republicans' Failure to Confirm Obama Nominees — By the Numbers.
  • Peter Montgomery @ Religion Dispatches: Russian Attack on LGBTs at UN Rejected; Gay Cake Controversy Rages in N. Ireland; Bishop Calls for Marriage Referendum in Puerto Rico; Global LGBT Recap.
  • Steve Benen @ The Maddow Blog: Scott Walker’s immigration position is as clear as mud.
  • Warren Throckmorton: George Barna, Please Meet the Barna Group.
  • Media Matters: Comedy Central's Jon Stewart Calls Out Fox News' "Massive Ego" And "Rush To Judgment In Almost Every Situation".
  • Andrew Desiderio @ Mediaite: S.E. Cupp: Conservatives Need to ‘Get Serious’ About 2016 and Ignore Ben Carson.

http://blog.buzzflash.com/rss.xml Sat, 28 Mar 2015 11:45:30 GMT  


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