Widespread, illegal debtors' prisons in Ohio

A new ACLU report called The Outskirts of Hope (PDF) documents the rise of illegal debtors prisons in Ohio. A majority of municipal and mayors' courts (an unregulated and rare system of courts only permitted in two states) surveyed by the ACLU routinely imprison people for their inability to pay fines, a practice banned in both the US and state constitution. 20 percent of the bookings in the Huron County Jail are "related to failure to pay fines."

Taking care of a fine is straightforward for some Ohioans — having been convicted of a criminal or traffic offense and sentenced to pay a fine, an affluent defendant may simply pay it and go on with his or her life. For Ohio’s poor and working poor, by contrast, an unaffordable fine is just the beginning of a protracted process that may involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest warrants, and even jail time. The stark reality is that, in 2013, Ohioans are being repeatedly jailed simply for being too poor to pay fines.

The U.S. Constitution, the Ohio Constitution, and Ohio Revised Code all prohibit debtors’ prisons. The law requires that, before jailing anyone for unpaid fines, courts must determine whether an individual is too poor to pay. Jailing a person who is unable to pay violates the law, and yet municipal courts and mayors’ courts across the state continue this draconian practice. Moreover, debtors’ prisons actually waste taxpayer dollars by arresting and incarcerating people who will simply never be able to pay their fines, which are in any event usually smaller than the amount it costs to arrest and jail them.

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Game theory and bad behavior on Wall Street

An opinion piece by Chris Arnade on the asymmetry in pay (money for profits, flat for losses), which he describes "the engine behind many of Wall Street’s mistakes" That asymmetry "rewards short-term gains without regard to long-term consequences," Chris writes in a new guest blog at Scientific American. "The results? The over-reliance on excessive leverage, banks that are loaded with opaque financial products, and trading models that are flawed." [Scientific American Blog Network] Read the rest

Database documenting payouts to UK slave-owners to be launched for public use

The British government paid out £20 million to compensate 3,000 slave-owning families for the loss of their "property" when slave ownership was abolished in Britain's colonies in 1833. At the time, that sum amounted to 40% of the UK's annual spending budget; today, one could calculate the total value of the 19th-century payouts to be around £16.5 billion (=USD $25 billion; the actual sum can vary, depending on how you calculate).

In The Independent, an article digging in to the data, which will be released this week in the form of a publicly accessible database. Read the rest

Caviar vending machines in LA malls

Caviar vending machines have been installed in three upscale malls in LA. In addition to $500/oz caviar, they also dispense blinis, mother of pearl spoons, and other caviar essentials. The vending machines (they're billed as "ATMs for caviar") can be found at Westfield Century City, Westfield Topanga, and the Burbank Towne Center. Apparently, these are old news in Russia, where they are favorites of oligarchs and their entourages.

Finally! Caviar by ATM (via Super Punch) Read the rest

Marijuana dispenser machine company's stock gets really, really high, man

Medbox (MDBX), a firm that makes medical marijuana dispensing machines, says its stock "is getting way too high." Shares spiked 3,000% this week (from about $4 Monday to $215 Thursday), "prompting executives to try and dampen investor enthusiasm." The surge was caused by a MarketWatch story about how to invest in legalized marijuana. Read the rest

Merck halts shipments of key cancer drug to Greece

The German pharmaceuticals maker Merck will no longer deliver the cancer drug Erbitux to Greek hospitals, according to a statement from the company today. The drug also known as cetuximab is often used for patients with head and neck cancers. The move to halt distribution is a sign of a worsening economic and budget crisis, and its impact on critical services including care for cancer patients. (thanks, Gerrit) Read the rest

Fact-checking the RIAA's claim that the number of working musicians fell by 41%

Matthew Lasar's long Ars Technica feature, "Have we lost 41 percent of our musicians? Depends on how you (the RIAA) count" does an excellent job of digging into RIAA CEO Cary Sherman's claim that the number of working musicians in the USA has declined by 41 percent. After checking the RIAA's math, Lasar finds a gigantic discrepancy between the figures they cite and the conclusions they reach. But then Lasar delves further into the underlying sources, as well as government and industry stats, and finds that basically, the number of musicians working in America may have slightly declined, but is also projected to rise.

It is worth ending this cautionary tale with a review of the BLS's own occupational handbook projection for musician/singer employment in the near future. Note that the handbook cites a much higher employment figure for both trades in 2010 than mentioned in the above tables: about 176,200 musicians and singers. That's because it comes from the Bureau's National Employment Matrix, I was told, which adds additional data sources.

Employment for musicians and singers is expected to grow by ten percent over the decade—"about as fast as the average for all occupations," the government notes:

The number of people attending musical performances, such as orchestra, opera, and rock concerts, is expected to increase from 2010 to 2020. As a result, more musicians and singers will be needed to play at these performances.

There will be additional demand for musicians to serve as session musicians and backup artists for recordings and to go on tour.

Read the rest

Man in a "drunken blackout" bought 69 percent of the global market in oil futures

2009: "Between the hours of 1:22 a.m. and 3:41 a.m., [Steve Perkins] gradually bought 69 percent of the global market [7 million barrels of crude oil], while driving prices up from $71.40 to $73.05, by bidding higher each time. At 6:30 a.m., presumably sobering up and realizing what he’d done, he sent a message to his managing director claiming an unwell relative meant he would not be able to make it into work." 'Drunken' Broker Sent Oil to 8-Month High in 2009 Read the rest

Compelling bad news about the economy

Ian Welsh writes on Naked Capitalism with 21 dismal and compelling "basics" about the economy and the so-called "recovery."

7) Europe, ex. Germany, is in recession.

8 ) the developed world is in depression, it never left depression. During depressions there are recoveries (such as they are) and recessions, but the overall economy is in depression.

9) China’s economy is slowing down. Since China is the main engine of the world economy, followed by the US, this is really bad. If it goes into an actual recession, bend over and kiss your butt goodbye.

10) Austerity is a means by which the rich can buy up assets which are not normally on the market for cheap.

11) the wealth of the rich and major corporations has recovered and in many countries exceeded its prior highs. They are doing fine. Austerity is not hurting them. They control your politicians. The depression will not end until it is in their interest for it to do so, or their wealth and power is broken.

12) The US play is as follows: frack. Frack some more. Frack even more. They are trying the Reagan play, temporize while new supplies of hydrocarbons come on line. Their bet is that they’ll get another boom out of that. If they’re right, it’ll be a lousy boom. If they’re wrong (and the Saudis think they are, and the Saudis have been eating their lunch since 2001) then you won’t even get that. Either way, though, they’ll devastate the environment, by which I mean the water you drink and grow crops with.

Read the rest

Tuesday linkdump

* Clockwork fairy. Steampunk! Steampunk! Set aside the impulse to tedious kvetching about nonfunctional gears and sit agog with me. (via)

* Stop Pretending Art Is Hard. From botched art restoration to manifesto in one t-shirt.

* The Science News Cycle [PhD Comics]. Don't believe the hype. DING DING! (via)

* Talk on Beat SF, Turing and Burroughs. Rudy Rucker being as Ruckerian as is humanly possible, and we're all better for it.

* The Real Romney. Biography of the man before he became a quadrillionaire sovereign nation in a vat. (via)

* Spanish microcurrency boom. When the going gets tough, the tough issue fiat scrip. (via)

* Anarchist scaremongering at RNC. Black bloc bogeymen for everyone! They've got acid-filled eggs, you know. Because that would totally work. (via)

* Deporting parents of children born in America. No human is illegal*. If your family values demand that the mothers of American children should be sent abroad forever, you're doing it wrong. (via) Read the rest

Canadian border guards stop looking for dope exporters, focus on stolen cars and fissiles

The Canadian Border Service Agency has been ordered to stop hunting for illegal drug exporters and worry instead about catching nuclear material and stolen car smugglers. Lee Berthiaume writes for Postmedia News:

The directive, contained in an internal memo to Canada Border Service Agency managers that was obtained by Postmedia News, is unlikely to make officials in the United States and other countries very happy.

But analysts say that in an age of finite resources, the agency has decided it makes more sense to target areas where it thinks it can make a difference.

The article goes on to quote Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, describing how hard it is to catch dope smuggling, versus big things like cars and radioactive things like uranium.

Border guards told to forget about illegal drug exports (via Reddit) Read the rest

TOM THE DANCING BUG: Cold, Thirsty and Hungry on a Desert Island

Tom the Dancing Bug by @RubenBolling is supported by readers like YOU.

Join the team by going to the INNER HIVE -- it’s easy, fun, and you get STUFF. Read the rest

"Everyone Only Wants Temps"

In Mother Jones, Gabriel Thompson goes gonzo with a stint doing "on demand" grunt work for one of America's hottest growth industries: temping.

I grab a chair from a stack in the corner and take a seat, studying a sign that implores me to be "true" and "passionate" and "creative." In reality, passion and creativity have nothing to do with it. Labor Ready provides warm bodies for grunt work that pays minimum wage or thereabouts. "Here's a sledgehammer, there's the wall," is how Stacey Burke, the company's vice-president of communications, characterized the work to Businessweek back in 2006.

Read the whole piece here: "Everyone Only Wants Temps" (Mother Jones). Read the rest

TOM THE DANCING BUG: Barackman, The Dark Knight vs. Bane Capital!

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Turning out the streetlights in "distressed" parts of Detroit

In Bloomberg, Chris Christoff reports on the city of Detroit's plan to switch off up to half of its municipal streetlights, reducing or eliminating public lighting in "distressed" areas, noting that other cities, including neighboring Highland Park, as well as Colorado Springs, have already done this:

A single, broken streetlight on the northeast side brings fear to Cynthia Perry, 55. It hasn’t worked for six years, Perry said in an interview on the darkened sidewalk where she walks from her garage to her house entrance.

“I’m afraid coming in at night,” she said. “I’m not going to seclude myself in the house and never go anywhere.”

In southwest Detroit, businesses on West Vernor Highway, a main commercial thoroughfare, have sought $4 million in private grants to fix the situation themselves. The state would pay $2.5 million, said Kathy Wendler, president of the Southwest Detroit Business Association.

Jamahl Makled, 40, said he’s owned businesses in southwest Detroit for about two decades, most recently cell-phone stores. He said they’ve have been burglarized more than a dozen times.

“In the dark, criminals are comfortable,” Makled said. “It’s not good for the economy and the safety of the residents.”

Half of Detroit’s Streetlights May Go Out as City Shrinks (via Rejectamentalist Manifesto) Read the rest

Quebec cops kettle and mass-arrest demonstrators

In the Globe and Mail a Canadian Press report by Nelson Wyatt on the mass-kettling and arrest of protesters in Montreal last night. A long-running and hard-fought student strike over tuition hikes led to the passage of a shameful law that limits the rights of protesters. Quebeckers are out in force to protest this law, and often in sympathy with the students' demands. The police have responded with "kettling," the tactic of cordoning off a large area and declaring the resulting space to be a civil-rights-free zone, such that anyone caught inside is arbitrarily detained without access to shelter, food, health services, or toilets. (Above, a photo of Montreal police pepper-spraying demonstrators at a march last week).

Riot officers stood impassively around the corralled demonstrators, feet planted and batons clutched in gloved hands. On a nearby street, a Quebec provincial police officer was seen snapping a rod topped with the flag of the hardcore anti-capitalist Black Bloc and tossing it between two parked cars.

Police on horseback also provided reinforcement as officers sorted out the crowd.

Emmanuel Hessler, an independent filmmaker who had been following the march for a few blocks, said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press from inside the police encirclement that he was surprised by the action, saying, “Suddenly, there were police all around us.”

While the crowd waited to be led away one by one to be handcuffed and sent for processing at a police operational centre – a procedure expected to take several hours – a man started reading poetry and the crowd hushed to listen.

Read the rest

TOM THE DANCING BUG: Super-Fun-Pak, featuring Pato Afortunado mit Heinrich Hund!

Support Tom the Dancing Bug and receive untold BENEFITS and PRIVILEGES by joining the brand new INNER HIVE right now!

"I signed up the second I read about it. It's a lot of fun. I enjoy hearing Ruben tell the story behind each of his comics. Good luck, Ruben!" -Mark Frauenfelder, INNER HIVE member since three weeks ago Read the rest

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