"property of the people"

The blacker a city is, the more it fines its residents (especially black ones)

In the aftermath of the Ferguson uprising, much ink was spilled on the reliance of the predominantly black city on fines from its residents to pay its bills -- and on the use of what amounted to debtors' prisons that locked up those who wouldn't or couldn't pay the constant stream of fines and scared the rest into begging and borrowing to pay their own fines. Read the rest

Nebraska just abolished civil forfeiture

Crooked cops and prosecutors in Nebraska are gnashing their teeth today. The state has taken away their license to steal cash and property from innocent people and use the proceeds to fatten their bloated budgets.

In some states where civil forfeiture is still allowed, high ranking police officers drive in luxury sports cars taken from owners who were never arrested for a crime. Read the rest

Get ready for Orphan Black's return tomorrow night with this season one recap

What constitutes a family? Are they the people who give you life, the people who raise you, or the people you choose as your support network? Or are they your identical clones created by a mysterious organization seeking to advance human evolution to the next level? That last one might not be a question most family dramas are interested in asking, but Orphan Black isn’t most family dramas.

Like the best sci-fi shows, BBC America’s addictive Orphan Black uses its fantastical lens to explore realities of the human condition. Where Battlestar Galactica examined politics and terrorism using a fleet of spaceships and Buffy the Vampire Slayer depicted the struggles of adolescence through demons and witches, Orphan Black uses human cloning to explore the nature of family. That unifying central theme, a slew of fantastic characters, and an absolutely stellar central performance (well, performances) from star Tatiana Maslany combine to make Orphan Black one of the best shows of 2013 and one you should absolutely check out before it returns for a second season on April 19. Read the rest

DEA steps up its efforts to make life miserable for people in chronic pain

Radley Balko comments on a Reuters article about the DEA's vigorous campaign to make life miserable for doctors, pharmacists, and pain patients.

The DEA is now quite literally treating doctors and pharmacists like potential drug dealers.

The agency has expanded its use of tactical diversion squads, which combine special agents, diversion investigators and local law enforcement officers to track down and prosecute prescription drug dealers.

Forcing the two sides to come together was not easy at first, Leonhart said, since special agents initially were reluctant to work on “pill cases.”

But the effort has shown some results. Asset seizures on the diversion side rose to $118 million in 2011 from about $82 million in 2009, Leonhart said.

That’s a telling metric, isn’t it? The same drug warriors who tell us prescription overdoses are skyrocketing claim, at the same time, that their decade-long anti-diversion efforts are working because . . . the government has been more successful at taking money and property away from people. Let’s not forget that in a civil asset forfeiture case, the government needn’t even charge you to take your stuff, much less convict you.

Reuters on the Painkiller Issue Read the rest

Help Wanted: Youth Media International/Youth Radio

I've posted before about my friends at Youth Media International/Youth Radio, an Oakland-based non-profit that helps underserved young people learn the tools of media creation. You may have heard their excellent contributions to NPR or read their journalism at the Huffington Post and other places. Right now, Youth Radio has two very rare job openings that are killer opportunities for the right people.

First, they're looking for a "Managing Editor" to helm a new online news service and media property for young people. Rob, Dean, and I have all been consulting on this at varying levels, and it's a really groundbreaking, worthwhile project. Managing Editor job description

Also, the organization recently won a MacArthur Foundation competition to launch a "Mobile Action Lab" to build six online/mobile apps "that serve real needs in youth communities." Are you a developer who can run the lab and collaborate with young people to make the apps? Developer-In-Residence, Mobile Action Lab job description

Oscar Grant: Youth Radio's magazine about the aftermath Youth Radio remixes Maker Faire Youth Radio "Brains and Beakers": Tom Zimmerman and Pesco - Boing ... Youth Radio "Brains and Beakers": Eric "Instructables" Wilhelm and ... Gay fashion is the new straight fashion in "the hood"? Digital Literacy's New Moves: The View from a Youth Newsroom ... Youth Radio: Condomless sex is new "engagement ring"? Read the rest

How police departs use asset forfeiture laws to steal money from poor people

Radley Balko posted about a woman in Wayne County who broke no laws yet had to pay $1,400 to get her car back when police seized it "after they mistook Vaughn’s co-worker for a prostitute."

From a Detroit News article:

The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, which helps run the prosecutor’s forfeiture unit, took in $8.69 million from civil seizures in 2007, more than four times the amount collected in 2001. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office gets up to 27 percent of that money.

Obama’s Justice Department supports state asset forfeiture laws, says Balko:

It’s worth noting that Obama’s Justice Department filed an amicus brief on behalf of the state in that case. They weren’t obligated to. Though the solicitor general’s office is charged with defending all federal laws, the law at issue in Alvarez is a state law, not a federal one. In fact, federal civil forfeiture laws are much friendlier to property owners. So you could make a decent case that the administration could have argued against the Illinois law. At the very least, it could have kept quiet. Instead, it argued that the state should retain the power to take property from people without ever charging a crime (and not necessarily kingpins–the Illinois law in question applies only to property valued at under $20,000), and keep that property for a year or more before affording the owner a chance to get it back.

Taking property from poor people without due process of law in order to enrich local police departments.

Read the rest

RIAA explains why they're suing your children

Kim sez, "Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman of RIAA try to explain why they are suing students with a new article in Inside Higher Education."

Yet this is about far more than the size of a particular slice of the pie. This is about a generation of music fans. College students used to be the music industry’s best customers. Now, finding a record store still in business anywhere near a campus is a difficult assignment at best. It’s not just the loss of current sales that concerns us, but the habits formed in college that will stay with these students for a lifetime. This is a teachable moment – an opportunity to educate these particular students about the importance of music in their lives and the importance of respecting and valuing music as intellectual property.

Hilarious: the people who created sex, drugs and rock and roll, who glorified thug life and guns, are suddenly all concerned with the moral character of America's teens. That's about as credible as the idea that they're really worried about musicians' fortunes.

Link

(Thanks, Kim!) Read the rest

Patriot act makes it harder to get real Sudafed

After Paul Boutin cured his blocked sinuses with one does of old-school Sudafed, he looked into the reason why it was taken from the shelves, and learned that Senator Diane Feinstein decided to make it harder to get as part of the PATRIOT act.

To buy original formula Sudafed, Wal-fed, or other pseudophedrine sinus medicine that actually works (not the new Sudafed PE), go to your supermarket or drugstore and look in the cold remedies sections where it used to be. They now have little fake boxes or cards you take to the pharmacist to say "I want one of these." The pharmacist checks your ID and you sign for it.

Why can't you buy Sudafed over the counter anymore?

The renewed USA PATRIOT Act signed into law in March includes a "Meth Act" aimed at reducing production of methamphetamines, which can be manufactured from pseudophedrine, aka Sudafed. That's why Sudafed changed their over-the-counter formula to Sudafed PE. You can still buy Sudafed original if you go to the pharmacist at Safeway or Walgreens. But you can only buy one box a day and three a month, and you need to present a photo ID and sign a log for the pharmacist. The idea is to keep meth dealers from buying Sudafed in quantity to cook it into methamphetamine. The bill was attached to the Patriot Act after co-authors Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jim Talent (R-MO) were unable to get it passed by other means.

Maybe this will encourage people to harvest their own ephedra (aka ma huang / Mormon tea) and make their own decongestant medicine. Read the rest

Rentware phone costs $2,000 over 40 years

An 82-year-old woman with a rental phone ended up paying over $2,000 for the rotary set over 40 years. She began renting the phone at a time when AT&T would not sell you a phone -- and they wouldn't let you buy a phone from someone else and plug it in to your wall.

These days, DRM hardware and media seems to all come on terms like this: a license, a rental, anything except a plain, old-fashioned sale where you end up owning property.

The DRM people tell us that rentals are great for the poor and disenfranchised, since these rental "offers" can be made for less than a real purchase would cost. But I think this is more representative of the trajectory of rentware models: you pay, and pay, and pay, and pay.

It's not a coincidence that rich people who have a choice almost never choose to rent. They own their homes, their cars, and their TVs. Rich people don't sign "agreements" that let repo men come over and take away their stuff. Even if you know you'll never miss a payment, we all know that owning enriches you, renting enriches someone else.

The number of customers leasing phones dropped from 40 million nationwide to about 750,000 today, said John Skalko, spokesman for Murray Hill, N.J.-based Lucent Technologies, a spinoff of AT&T that manages the residential leasing service.

"We will continue to lease sets as long as there is a demand for them," Skalko said.

Benefits of leasing include free replacements and the option of switching to newer models, he said.

Read the rest

Mac-on-Intel site self-censors to avoid Apple's wrath

The OSX86 project, where owners of copies of Apple's OS X discuss how to install their property on non-Apple computers, has instituted a policy of censoring links to entire sites if there's a chance that some part of that site might contain material that might cause Apple to threaten to sue them.

Las week I reported on how Apple had invoked the loathsome Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to censor legitimate technical investigation into the means by which its customers can increase the utility of its products.

The proprietors of the site have reinstated their message-boards, but in order to minimize further legal liability from the corporate giant, they've opted to prohibit any links to a site run by a user called Maxxuss, who has written patches that enable new uses of Apple's products.

Maxxuss doesn't stand accused of distributing copies of Apple's materials, nor of telling people how to get copies of their products. By all accounts, he was written his own, original software that owners of Mac OS X can use to extend the usefulness of their property (of course, people who've downloaded Apple's software without paying for it can also take advantage of this, but it's a principle in law and civil society that we shouldn't punish the innocent to get at the guilty).

The proprietors of the site note that Maxxuss is a valuable contributor to the technical discourse on the functioning of Apple's products, that his site has much that is of "news value," but to avoid the risks associated with Apple's legal threats, they've opted to institute the indiscriminate ban on links to his site. Read the rest

Copyright cops crack down on cooks over cakes

Clay Shirky says:

Here's the sign I saw yesterday morning when getting the daily bread at College Bakery, our beloved local purveyor of pre-Atkins goodies.

Now the decor and ambience of College Bakery are echt Old Brooklyn, so it's an unlikely front in the copyfight, but the staff said they had to bust out the magic markers because they'd been roped in as the front line of defense against non-licit images of Dora the Explorer® and Thomas the Tank Engine®. I was struck enough by the sign to Flickr it immediately, and it's stuck with me since then, for several reasons.

First of all, disappointing children is a lousy tactic for a media company. If a child loves Nemo so much she wants a clownfish birthday cake, it's hard to see the upside in preventing her from advertising that affection to her friends. Second, and more worryingly, this is the very sort of chilling effect that has always been recognized as a significant risk in First Amendment protections. How cool would it be to do a drawing with your kid and have it show up as a cake the next day? Well forget it.

What College Bakery is saying with that sign is "The risk of being sued is so high that we'll give up on helping paying customers create their own cakes." This is Trusted Computing for frosting.

Creativity, in this world, is for Trained Professionals, whose work is owned by BigCos. Loss of amateur creativity is a small price to pay for protecting commercial IP holders.

Read the rest

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