Posts Tagged California
Barbara Boxer Triggers Outrage Over Proposal to Deploy National Guard in Public Schools
Critics on the left and right are speaking out.
December 26, 2012
Days after California’s liberal Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer gave an impassioned floor speech saying that big steps must be taken to stop gun violence that is killing 87 people a day across America, she proposed a bill to give governors power to deploy National Guard troops in public schools—or assign them to local police departments, freeing them to put police in schools.
“Is it not part of the national defense to make sure that your children are safe?” Boxer said at a press conference, where she unveiled the Save Our Schools Act. “The slaughter of the innocents must stop….”
“Of all the bad ideas I’ve heard in the aftermath of the Newtown murders, the worst comes from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, who wants to provide federal funds for states to send the National Guard into schools,” wrote the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Chapman:
“She quotes the Guard as saying it is ‘particularly well suited for domestic law enforcement support missions’ since it is ‘located in over 3,000 local communities.’ Putting Guard troops in each (or many) of them is about as sensible as putting them in every movie theater and shopping mall. It will cost money and divert the Guard from its customary purposes, requiring either an increase in its size or the sacrifice of other needs. Not to mention that school, statistically, is a very safe place for a child to be.”
No shortage of liberal writers noted that there was an armed guard at the Columbine, Colorado, high school where 15 students were killed in 1999.
Chapman’s response is part of a growing stream of criticism from the political left and right in the five days since the idea was introduced. But beyond the almost visceral reactions that sending armed officers into schools is inappropriate, or won’t work against assailants armed with military-level weaponry, or is federal overreach, there is a deeper danger.
Every time progressives have ceded some ground in the gun-control debate, the pro-gun right has used their pronouncements to move the center of the gun-control debate onto their side of the aisle.
A generation ago, liberal scholars looked at the history of the Second Amendment and concluded that the Constitution’s framers wanted an armed citizenry—as did Congress after the Civil War so ex-slaves could protect themselves. That uneasy finding gave the Right new momentum to legally fight and overturn gun laws, according to the very right-wing lawyers who triumphed in federal court.
Fast-forward to today: The NRA’s proposal to train and arm teachers in response to the Newtown grade school massacre has been widely ridiculed, yet on the same day one of the most liberal U.S. senators proposed a remedy not all that different, as it places people with arms in schools.
To be fair, Boxer called for other gun reforms right after the shooting, such as “taking the weapons of war and high-capacity clips off our streets,” ensuring local police are more involved in issuing gun permits, closing the gun-show loophole, and “keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.” Boxer closed by saying, “We need to keep our schools safe by utilizing all of the law enforcement tools at our disposal. We have failed our children and we have to stop worrying about our political skins.”
She then introduced the Save Our Schools Act, which would allow governors to deploy state National Guard troops in communities—whether to augment local police—or directly into public schools.
The reaction across the political spectrum has been varied but equally sharp. On the political right, the libertarian pro-gun crowd has said that Boxer’s proposal is an example of the worst kind of federal overeach, because further militarization of local police is what prompted the framers to write the Second Amendment.
“If you’ve been decrying the militarization of law enforcement, hold onto your hats boys and girls—because crap just got real,” wrote the pro-gun blog, UnitedLiberty.org.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Boxer’s idea is that it lends credibility to the notion that a more widely armed society is more immune to wanton gun violence.
A generation ago, a handful of liberal constitutional laws scholars wrote detailed and compelling analyses of the Second Amendment’s roots. The University of Texas’ Sanford Levinson’s readable history, The Embarassing Second Amendment, and more recent work by Yale Law School’s Akhil Reed Amar, reluctantly conclude that the U.S. Constitution’s framers, Congress and many states since then want “strong” gun rights.
The New York Times’ legal reporter Adam Liptak wrote in 2007 how these scholars and other liberals gave new intellectual ammunition to the pro-gun lobby to legally challenge and overturn local gun-control laws. He quoted pro-gun lawyers as crediting the liberal scholars’ more open-minded assessment with boosting their arguments in federal court.
It may be that Sen. Boxer is well aware of this legal history and knows that any new or overly broad gun-control laws will be struck down: i.e., the Second Amendment clearly empowers citizen militias, which implies having military-level weapons available to the public. And so, against the backdrop of an increasingly armed America, the solution that surfaces is placing deterrent force in public schools.
But by proposing this remedy on the same day the NRA proposed arming teachers, Boxer is lending credence to the NRA perspective that the only solution to gun violence is more guns. Progressives would like to believe that civilization is making forward progress beyond the need to have guns at the ready for every nightmare scenario. After all, it’s conservatives who take a dimmer view of human nature and dwell on evil.
- Barbara Boxer Triggers Outrage Over Proposal to Deploy National Guard in Public Schools (alternet.org)
- Where Boxer and the NRA embrace (sfgate.com)
- Let’s Not Militarize Elementary Schools (patheos.com)
- Scratch a “Liberal,” find a Fascist: The Case of Barbara Boxer (flyoverpress.wordpress.com)
- Is THIS What Barbara Boxer Wants? (neverending1.wordpress.com)
- Scratch a “Liberal,” find a Fascist: The Case of Barbara Boxer (fromthetrenchesworldreport.com)
- Idiot Liberals (brainiac-conspiracy.typepad.com)
- Scratch a ‘Liberal,’ Find a Fascist (economicpolicyjournal.com)
- NRA calls for armed guards in schools, causing outbreak of Selective Outrage Syndrome among Liberals (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
- NRA finds few friends on Hill (politico.com)
How does a traffic cop ticket a driverless car?
24 December 2012 by Bryant Walker Smith
EVER since the 1930s, self-driving cars have been just 20 years away. Many of those earlier visions, however, depended on changes to physical infrastructure that never came about – like special roads embedded with magnets.
Fast forward to today, and many of the modern concepts for such vehicles are intended to work with existing technologies. These supercomputers-on-wheels use a variety of onboard sensors – and, in some cases, stored maps or communications from other vehicles – to assist or even replace human drivers under specific conditions. And they have the potential to adapt to changes in existing infrastructure rather than requiring it to alter for them.
Infrastructure, however, is more than just roads, pavements, signs and signals. In a broad sense, it also includes the laws that govern motor vehicles: driver licensing requirements, rules of the road and principles of product liability, to name but a few. One major question remains though. Will tomorrow’s cars and trucks have to adapt to today’s legal infrastructure, or will that infrastructure adapt to them?
Consider the most basic question: are self-driving vehicles legal today? For the US, the short answer is that they probably can be (the long answer runs to nearly 100 pages). Granted, such vehicles must have drivers, and drivers must be able to control their vehicles – these are international requirements that date back to 1926, when horses and cattle were far more likely to be “driverless” than cars. Regardless, these rules, and many others that assume a human presence, do not necessarily prohibit vehicles from steering, braking and accelerating by themselves. Indeed, three US states – Nevada, Florida and most recently California - have passed laws to make that conclusion explicit, at least to a point.
Still unclear, even with these early adopters, is the precise responsibility of the human user, assuming one exists. Must the “driver” remain vigilant, their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road? If not, what are they allowed to do inside, or outside, the vehicle? Under Nevada law, the person who tells a self-driving vehicle to drive becomes its driver. Unlike the driver of an ordinary vehicle, that person may send text messages. However, they may not “drive” drunk – even if sitting in a bar while the car is self-parking. Broadening the practical and economic appeal of self-driving vehicles may require releasing their human users from many of the current legal duties of driving.
For now, however, the appropriate role of a self-driving vehicle’s human operator is not merely a legal question; it is also a technical one. At least at normal speeds, early generations of such vehicles are likely to be joint human-computer systems; the computer may be able to direct the vehicle on certain kinds of roads in certain kinds of traffic and weather, but its human partner may need to be ready to take over in some situations, such as unexpected road works.
A great deal of research will be done on how these transitions should be managed. Consider, for example, how much time you would need to stop reading this article, look up at the road, figure out where you are and resume steering and braking. And consider how far your car would travel in that time. (Note: do not attempt this while driving your own car.)
Technical questions like this mean it will be a while before your children are delivered to school by taxis automatically dispatched and driven by computers, or your latest online purchases arrive in a driver-less delivery truck. That also means we have time to figure out some of the truly futuristic legal questions: How do you ticket a robot? Who should pay? And can it play (or drive) by different rules of the road?
Data protection is a more pressing issue. Many cars and trucks available today already collect driving data through onboard sensors, computers and cellular devices. But imagine taking a dozen smartphones, turning on all of their sensors and cameras, linking them to your social media accounts, and affixing them to the inside and outside of your vehicle. That is an understatement of a self-driving vehicle’s potential data collection. Because consumer versions of such vehicles do not yet exist, we don’t know what data will actually be collected or how it will be transmitted and used. However, legal issues related to disclosure, consent and ownership will mix with important policy questions about the costs and benefits of data sharing. Indeed, some research vehicles in Germany already have privacy notices printed on their sides to warn other road users.
Finally, what happens when things go wrong – or at least not as right as they might? Given that the vast majority of crashes are caused at least in part by human error, self-driving vehicles have huge potential to save lives. But they will not be perfect; after all, humans will remain in the design loop even after they are out of the driving loop. To what standard, then, should these vehicles be held? Must they perform as well as a perfect human driver for any conceivable manoeuvre? Or must they perform merely as well as an average human in a statistical sense? In any case, how should that performance be measured?
These questions will be considered explicitly or implicitly by the regulators who create new standards, the judges and juries that decide who should pay for injuries, and how much, and the consumers who decide what kind of car to buy. The uncertainty that surrounds the answers will affect the speed and price at which these new technologies are introduced.
Why do these questions matter so much? Because ultimately their most meaningful answers will, one hopes, be expressed in terms of lives saved.
- With driverless cars, Volvo seeks injury-free cars by 2020 (smartplanet.com)
- From Horse Power to Horsepower to Processing Power (freakonomics.com)
- How does a traffic cop ticket a driverless car? (newscientist.com)
- How Do You Give a Ticket To a Driverless Car? (hardware.slashdot.org)
- Everything you need to know about the Google driverless car (techi.com)
- Why Driverless/Self-Driving Cars Aren’t the Future and Aren’t Good for Us (transitized.com)
- Volvo Road Train: A Distinguished Driverless Car Passes Major Road Test SARTRE (hitechanalogy.com)
- The driverless road ahead (economist.com)
- NHTSA deputy director will join Google to manage its driverless car program (inautonews.com)
- Google grabs NHTSA safety exec for self-driving cars project (slashgear.com)
Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Change is Good – Except in Politics, Where Incumbents Always Win
No matter your station in life, your political party affiliation or your ethnicity, if you live in California you’re hurting and have been for years.
The state’s unemployment rate has been above 8 percent since 2008 and is much higher in some counties. Income levels are stagnant. For home owners 40 or younger, nearly 48 percent have negative equity. According to Census Bureau statistics, more than 6.1 million Californians live in poverty, putting the state’s poverty rate at 16.6 percent, up nearly 1 percent from 2011. A family of two adults and two children counts as poor when its combined income is less than $22,811. Welfare usage including food stamps is on the rise. More than 25 percent of all California households depend on at least one welfare program.
To re-elect and send back to Washington D.C. the same congressional representatives who have presided over California’s slow but steady decline into the fiscal abyss is the definition of lunacy.
Yet Tuesday night, Californians overwhelmingly voted for two of Capitol Hill’s least effective congressional Democrats-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein—and thus signed up for what is certain to be more of the same dismal leadership. Pelosi is 72-years-old and has served in the House since 1987; Feinstein, 79 and a California official since 1970 when she was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Pelosi and Feinstein have had more than enough time and countless opportunities to restore California to its former greatness but have consistently failed. Their reward is a new term for each.
Californians are apparently eager for more Pelosi/Feinstein incompetence. Although Congress has an abysmal 10 percent favorability rating, incumbents keep winning and keep dishing out more punishment to the uniformed, disinterested electorate.
Pelosi and Feinstein have egregious anti-American voting records. They’ve lobbied for more foreign-born workers in the high tech and agriculture industries despite California’s surplus of labor in both fields. Even though university tuition in California has soared in recent years, Pelosi and Feinstein support the federal and state DREAM Acts that would allow illegal immigrant high school students to pay lower instate tuition and thereby deny an American kid an incoming freshman seat. To Pelosi and Feinstein, border enforcement is a meaningless term that they’ve falsely promised as a compromise in exchange for an alien amnesty.
Arguments that explain why voters return the same failures back to Congress election after election usually focus on the challenger’s shortcomings. This year, Feinstein’s opponent was the politically untested Elizabeth Emken; Pelosi’s, John Dennis. But in past elections, Feinstein and her equally entrenched Senate ally Barbara Boxer have faced and handily defeated legitimate rivals with accomplished records. Among them, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive officer Carly Fiorina, former Secretary of State Bill Jones, five-term Congressman and former Stanford University law school professor Tom Campbell, former state treasurer Matt Fong and one time California Assemblyman and State Senator Richard Mountjoy.
The major reason that more than 90 percent of incumbents keep their jobs is simple: money from those most interested in manipulating the political system like professional lobbyists, special interests, big business and organized labor. Less than 8 percent of average voters donate more than $100 to a candidate.
While I understand that money is a political necessary evil and further understand that party affiliations are often deeply engrained and hard to dislodge, I don’t grasp the etched in stone resistance to voting for the other guy once in a while especially if you have been mercilessly hammered in the pocket book since the last election cycle.
Maybe the old axiom “change is good” should be amended to “change is good except in Congress where voters are committed to going down with the ship.”
- Sen. Feinstein Wins 4th Term By Wide Margin (sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com)
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein Wins Fourth Term By Wide Margin (losangeles.cbslocal.com)
- Feinstein reelected, Associated Press reports (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Details of Dianne Feinstein’s Upcoming Assault Weapons Ban Proposal Begin Leaking (thetruthaboutguns.com)
- Sen. Feinstein explains decision not to debate (ocregister.com)
- Curious statement from Feinstein on Petraeus (bonniesbumps.wordpress.com)
- Turn Them Over: Feinstein Moves To Ban ALL Assault Rifles, High Capacity Magazines, and Pistol Grips (shtfplan.com)
- Feinstein: Call if you don’t want a tax hike (sfgate.com)
- Turn Them Over: Feinstein Moves To Ban ALL Assault Rifles, High Capacity Magazines, and Pistol Grips (dprogram.net)
- Gun Confiscation Next on Obama List? Feinstein Moves To Ban ALL Assault Rifles, High Capacity Magazines (silverdoctors.com)
Friday Talking Points — Wake Me When It’s Over
Posted: 11/02/2012 8:17 pm
Every so often, I get an idea that I know would make me millions of dollars. Today, I had another one: develop and market a pill that, when taken, would put you to sleep until the morning after the election. The pill would be magically timed to work no matter when you took it, meaning a citizen in Texas or California might not want to take one until perhaps mid-October, but the folks in Iowa and New Hampshire might be expected to take one New Year’s Eve — thus avoiding not only the debates and punditary frenzy of the general election, but the entire primary season as well. It would be marketed under the name “The Rip Van Winkle Pill.”
Okay, I fully admit that this would be medically dangerous, and likely downright impossible. But, hey, I bet I’d sell a bunch of RVW pills anyway (at least in the fantasy world of my overwrought imagination). How many of us would be tempted, at some point, to just say to friends and family, “I’ll be out until November 7th, so just leave me a message and I’ll get back to you then.”
As the 2012 election season draws to a close, it feels (as always) as though it’s lasted four full years. At least to me — but maybe I’m just jaded and exhausted because I pay such close attention to politics (speaking of things that are medically dangerous…).
It’s gotten so bad that I can’t even bring myself to write a talking points column today. Oh, sure, I could give President Obama another award for his response to Hurricane Sandy, and even say a few nice things about Chris Christie, for whom I’ve always had a soft spot, just because of his double-barrelled “Chris” name (on which subject, I fully admit, I am biased).
I could go back and dig out the best talking points of the election from Obama and other Democrats out there on the hustings, but at this point it really feels like it would be a wasted effort. How many of you, reading this, are still unsure about which candidate you’re going to vote for? I have pro-Obama readers, I have pro-Romney readers (no, really!), and I bet I even have a few pro-third-party readers to boot. But I really seriously doubt anyone who is still unsure is spending time today reading my column. I could be wrong (I often am), but it just feels like there’s no one left to convince, one way or the other.
Of course, I don’t live in a swing state — that could have a lot to do with it. And I am not donating time to any candidate’s campaign for “get out the vote” efforts, because my personal professional code of ethics forbids me to do such things (although I did make an exception last week to fully endorse a cat who is running for the United States Senate… which goes to show my own state of mind, I suppose). But I do not fault anyone for doing so, and in fact heartily encourage such participation in our democratic process.
Want Obama to win? Call up your local Democrats and offer to put in some hours in a phone bank, cold-calling people in swing states, trying to convince them to vote for Barack. Want to see Romney elected? Call up your local Republicans and offer to do the same for Mitt.
One local Republican Party outlet has a new ad up which is well worth viewing — for all voters. In it, the fictional C. Montgomery Burns offers up the choice between “Broccoli Obama” and “Meat Romney.” At this point, we could all use a little comedy relief, right?
As in all elections, what interests me most are the things the media get horribly, horribly wrong. The biggest one this year would have to be “debates don’t matter, they never change anyone’s mind.” The first Romney/Obama debate will be what is remembered in this election cycle, no matter who wins next Tuesday. It was a true “game-changer,” no matter how overused the term is. It was just as much of a game-changer as, in 2008, the choice of Sarah Palin turned out to be (which was, at the time, dismissed by the punditocracy because: “running mates don’t matter, they never change anyone’s mind”).
The one nugget of conventional wisdom that (thankfully) seems to have gone away this year was the obsession by pundits earlier over whether this would be a “choice” election or a “referendum” election. It’s such a nonsensical theme, like saying the choice of eating ice cream is because it is either “sweet” or “cold.” Well, um… it’s both. It always is. But, like I said, thankfully this seems to have fallen by the wayside.
The media did catch one break this time around. In every single election (at least the ones I’ve lived through), two storylines are consistently pushed by the media — right up to Election Day itself. The first is the old “this is the most important election in your lifetime.” This is trotted out every single time, and nobody ever notices that this cry of “Wolf!” is exactly the same as what was said four years ago. Exactly. Go back and look it up — just pick any presidential election year, and you’ll easily find those stating it’s the most important election in all of American history.
But it’s the second quadrennial media theme in which the pundits actually caught a break this time around. Because every election — no matter how big a blowout — is always portrayed as “excruciatingly close” right up until the minute the votes start getting actually counted. This time around, the media may be right. There, I said it: a tired old media theme from the mainstream media could actually come to pass. I know, I’m as shocked as you are. I mean, these things just don’t happen normally, right?
Another thing this year’s election may be remembered for — if Obama wins — is the “October Surprise” dished out by Mother Nature. Let’s see… in 2008, the first day of the Republican National Convention was disrupted by a hurricane… in 2012, the first day of the Republican National Convention was disrupted by a hurricane… and then Hurricane Sandy arrived just in time for President Obama to look presidential and caring in the final week of the election. Now, I’m not one of those folks who pretends to be able to divine “God’s will,” so I leave it for others to draw conclusions about deities and what message is being sent, if any. Ahem.
The other last-minute news politically looks like it’s going to turn out to be pretty much of a non-starter. The unemployment rate inched up from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent, but more jobs than expected were created in October. This allows both sides to spin things, without giving either side a true knockout punch. Romney will say things are not heading in the right direction — the rate went up! But with unemployment under the psychologically-important level of 8 percent, Romney and the Republicans are robbed of a big conspiracy theory (the one about how last month’s numbers were manipulated for political reasons). If unemployment was back up to 8.1 percent, you can bet your bottom dollar you’d be hearing this theme today.
Obama will point to the number of jobs created and say things are heading in the right direction, the recovery is on track, so just give him four more years and things’ll be better! But because the number went up, not down, Obama can’t point to the rate itself as a good trend. If the rate had fallen to, say, 7.6 percent, Obama would be hammering this number home every chance he got, to put it another way.
But they’ll have to spin things on their own, because this week is the one week that I don’t think anyone needs my help in formulating talking points. I’ve been doing this column for five years now, and while Democrats certainly need all the help they can get on this front in normal times, at the tail end of a presidential election the party machine is cranked into such a high gear that my efforts wouldn’t even be icing on the cake at this point. I checked, and in 2008 the Friday before Election Day had no Friday Talking Points, because it was also the last weekday before Hallowe’en, so my annual “scare the pants off everyone with a little comedy” Hallowe’en column took precedence (if you missed it, check out my scary stories for 2012 from Wednesday).
Comedy is important, in the midst of the political maelstrom. It allows us all to gain some well-needed perspective, at times. Which is why I started off joking about a Rip Van Winkle Pill (you can just picture the ads: “Wake me when it’s over!”). But in reality nobody should sleep through an election. One of the best lines Obama has been using over the last month or so is to bait the crowd during a speech with a line he knows will get booed, and then respond (seemingly spontaneously) with: “Don’t boo… vote!”
I think America should enact this into law. I would support making it illegal to complain about politics – any politics, from any viewpoint or party, including criticizing any politician — unless you can prove you voted in the last election. I would call it the “If You Didn’t Vote, You Can’t Complain Act.” Republicans want photo identification for voting? Well, I want any political commentator — even those posting comments to blogs and articles such as this one — to have to certify that they’ve voted before they’re allowed to say anything – anything – about politics.
Okay, that was comedy as well, I admit. Or at least a weak attempt. First Amendment… blah blah… unconstitutional… yadda yadda. I know it could never happen, but it certainly would be nice, wouldn’t it?
I leave you with excerpts from a real comedian (well, he plays one on teevee, at least) ranting about the importance of participating. This was from a rant by Craig Ferguson I heard in the last election cycle (read the whole thing, if you’d like — it’s hilarious). Craig is a naturalized United States citizen, so he personally feels very strongly about the issue of voting. And I can’t say I disagree. So, to close, here is Craig Ferguson on why “Wake me when it’s over” is really not even an option, or shouldn’t be:
Are we so lost we have to be sold our own democratic right? What the hell is wrong with… what is going on?!? We have to “sexy-up” the vote for young people? Remember four years ago Puff Diddley had that group “Vote or Die”? Then it turns out he didn’t even vote himself! Maybe he forgot which name he registered under.
Listen. Here’s what I am saying to you… here’s what I’m saying. Here’s what I’ve been saying: If you don’t vote, you’re a moron. Alright?
If you… settle down. I know you say: “Well, not voting is a vote” — no, it isn’t! Not voting is… is just being stupid. Voting is not sexy. Voting is not hip. It is not fashionable. It’s not a movie. It’s not a videogame. All the kids hate doing it. Frankly, voting is a pain in the ass, but here’s a word — look it up — it is your duty to vote! “Duty?”
The foundation in this democracy is based on free people making free choices. So, young people, if you can’t take your hand out of your bag of Cheetos long enough to fill out a form, then you can’t complain when we wind up with President Sanjaya!
Listen. I am an American. This country at… is at war — right now. Americans, in foreign lands, wearing uniforms representing this country, are losing their lives. Americans here in this country are losing their homes. We have two patriotic candidates, right? They both love this country. They have different ideas about what to do with it. Learn about them. Read about them. Question them. Listen to them. Then, on Election Day, exercise your sacred right as American, and listen to yourself.
Craig then took a commercial break, and returned with a second half to his rant, where he gave everyone in the audience voter registration cards:
Here’s the thing that made me think, though, the… the people who didn’t register to vote, when they were asked why they didn’t vote, they said, ah… half of them said, “I’m not interested in the election,” and the other half said, “I’m not interested in politics.”
How could you be not interested in politics? You’ve got, you’ve got to have an opinion about something. Don’t you think? I mean, I don’t know — “I’m not interested in politics” — do you, do you live anywhere? Do you, do you shop anywhere? Do you drive a car? Do you put on pants? Do you leave the house at any point? Do you own the house? Do you rent the house? Do you ever, ah, hope that the police will save you from something that may or may not be illegal? Of course you’re involved in politics. If you’re alive you’re involved in politics.
- Chris Weigant: Friday Talking Points — Wake Me When It’s Over (huffingtonpost.com)
- Chris Weigant: Friday Talking Points — Frankenstorm! Hank for Senate! (huffingtonpost.com)
- Chris Weigant: Friday Talking Points — Frankenstorm! Hank for Senate! (huffingtonpost.com)
- Talking Points Memo: Libya Will Not Be an Issue for President Obama in the Election Thanks to the Media (foxnewsinsider.com)
- What Was The Debate Subject, Again? (businessinsider.com)
- Talking Points Memo: Threats From the Far Left Over the Presidential Election (foxnewsinsider.com)
- Romney, Obama look for edge as campaign nears end (cnsnews.com)
- Five delusional right-wingers who have Mitt in a landslide (salon.com)
- Romney, Obama look for edge as campaign nears end (news.yahoo.com)
- Last Election For Electoral College? (businessinsider.com)
Liberal Berkeley May Fine Homeless $75 for Sitting Down
A new measure up for a vote in one of America’s liberal bastions would make it illegal for homeless people to sit or lie on the sidewalk.
October 30, 2012
Nearly half of America is poor or “near-poor,” government statistics show—below or near the poverty line, barely making ends meet. Anywhere from 1.5 million to 3.5 million Americans are homeless, and one in six children go hungry. Yet here in Berkeley, California, one of the country’s most famously liberal cities, business leaders aim to fine homeless people $75 for sitting on the sidewalk in commercial strips.
That’s right: The nationwide trend of scapegoating homeless people for business struggles and “blight” has found its way to Berkeley. With a “sit-lie” measure on this November’s ballot, Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement and national poster child for civil liberties, is poised to make it illegal to sit on a sidewalk in business zones. Equally startling, the proposal, Measure S—funded almost entirely by real estate and developer interests—has a chance of passing in this reputedly progressive enclave.
Think about this for a minute: in this liberal university town teeming with smart people, the “solution” devised for a chronic business recession is to outlaw sitting on a sidewalk—despite an in-depth report showing the same law in San Francisco has failed to deliver any benefits to merchants, shoppers, or homeless people.
How can such irrationality and scapegoating be possible in one of America’s most progressive cities?
In my work as communications director for the No on S campaign over the past few months, I’ve witnessed a distressing degree of anti-homeless stereotyping and a dedicated disregard for facts by sit-lie adherents who insist, above all else, that the city must “do something”—anything it seems—to remove “the homeless” from business corridors.
There are few groups left in America for whom blatant stereotyping and scapegoating is open season, year-round. A push poll by sit-lie advocates, for instance, referred to “menacing” and “marauding” homeless youth haunting city sidewalks. A pro-S article in the East Bay Express newsweekly referred to a homeless person’s belongings as “detritus,” and replayed the Reagan-era mantra of homelessness as a “lifestyle choice”—a deeply ignorant trope repeated at length in an op-ed titled, “Homeless by Choice” published by the influential UC Berkeley Daily Californian student newspaper.
How easy it then becomes to persuade voters of the need to remove scruffy “menacing” youth who are “homeless by choice,” allegedly destroying businesses and draining the budget coffers of even the most benevolent cities. Sit-lie might sound sensible when framed that way—but it’s a failed model built on a rickety edifice of inaccuracies.
Berkeley is hardly alone—some 33 municipalities across the country have enacted “sit-lie” laws, among a raft of “quality of life” measures that have made it virtually illegal to be homeless anywhere. Making homelessness illegal could be an admirable aim if focused on full employment and universal housing, but these laws instead make accessing services even harder by piling up citations and bench warrants on homeless people’s records.
A 2011 report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) found more than half of 234 American cities “prohibit begging in public places.” Another 40 percent prohibit sleeping in public places; 33 percent prohibit sitting/lying in public places; and 56 percent prohibit loitering in public places. Many cities have shut down public restrooms to remove the presence of homeless people. Increasingly, there is nowhere for a homeless person to go.
Such policies are not only heartless—they’re also ineffective and misguided. As the NLCHP report found, “Cost studies in 13 cities and states reveal that, on average, cities spend $87 per day to jail a person, compared to $28 per day for shelter.
In March 2011, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (made up of 19 federal agencies including the Departments of Justice, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development) “issued a report warning that such measures can be costly, ineffective and lead to lawsuits,” according to the New York Times. The report found, “Criminalization policies further marginalize men and women who are experiencing homelessness, fuel inflammatory attitudes, and may even unduly restrict constitutionally protected liberties.”
Yet in Berkeley, and across America, criminalization measures are on the rise while shelter beds—emergency life rafts of last resort—fall victim to budget cuts. A 2012 Berkeley city manager’s report found 680 homeless people in Berkeley, with just 135 year-round emergency shelter beds to serve them; the city’s one youth shelter is only open in winter.
Against all evidence
Beyond the stereotyping and animosity toward homeless people, what is remarkable about the Berkeley sit-lie push is that it runs counter to nearly every empirical fact about business life and homelessness in Berkeley. Other than a poll showing that UC Berkeley students avoid business strips in part because of their fear of homeless people, there is not a single piece of evidence linking business struggles and street people—not one.
To the contrary, a 2010 Berkeley city manager’s report (ignored by nearly every media outlet covering Measure S) shows that business districts most frequented by homeless people declined the least during the recession. Between 2008 and 2010, the two city corridors with the greatest presence of homeless people suffered far lower business declines than other districts where few homeless people congregate, the city report found. “The retail downturn in Berkeley occurred from the same factors that affect the whole country,” the city manager’s report concluded: “People who are unemployed or underemployed have been forced to cut back their expenditures.”
Not once did the city report mention homeless people as a cause of business slowdown—instead it cited residents’ increased shopping on the Internet and in big box chains outside of Berkeley.
Just last week, a research report by UC Berkeley Law School’s Policy Advocacy Clinic, analyzing national and local economic data associated with sit-lie laws, concluded, “we find no meaningful evidence to support the arguments that Sit-Lie laws increase economic activity or improve services to homeless people.” The report added, “we find: (1) no evidence supporting a link between the enactment of Sit-Lie ordinances and economic activity in California cities, and (2) and no evidence that homeless people negatively
impact economic activity in selected commercial zones in Berkeley.”
Another key bit of evidence largely ignored by media here: an independent San Francisco City Hall Fellows report commissioned by the city controller’s office, which found that city’s sit-lie law failed to produce any benefits for merchants, public safety, or homeless people. The 2011 report concluded that sit-lie “has, on the whole, been unsuccessful at meeting its multi-faceted intentions to improve merchant corridors, serve as a useful tool for SFPD, connect services to those who violate the law, and positively contribute to public safety for the residents and tourists of San Francisco.”
Let’s replay this for a moment. Despite well-documented evidence that sit-lie doesn’t work (even on its own dubious terms), and that business declines have no relationship to homeless presence on the streets, Berkeley business leaders are spending more than one hundred thousand dollars to make sitting on a sidewalk illegal—evidence and reason be damned.
Follow the Money
While Measure S proponents have promoted a “grassroots” campaign sparked by small businesses, campaign records tell a different story. The sit-lie push is funded chiefly by real estate and developer interests. A handful of East Bay merchants have donated small amounts to the campaign—but the bulk of the $103,000 raised by sit-lie forces comes from real estate and developer interests, capital finance companies and landlords.
Among the top contributors to Measure S is Panoramic Interests, LLC (donor of $10,000)—a major infill developer and landlord which, according to its website, “was the largest private landlord of UC Berkeley students” from 2004 to 2007. Other big checks came in from First Shattuck, LLC, a commercial real estate company ($10,000), and $5000 from Constitution Square, a real estate management firm based in San Rafael. Another $3500 in pro-S money came from Townsend II, LLC, a capital management company in San Francisco.
A little sanity and humanity
In a sane and humane society, the sit-lie push goes against both heart and mind. Yet our culture has become fixated on separation from discomforting realities and “inconvenient truths.” We send drone planes to do “our” dirty work abroad (even some local police departments are seeking drones now). We fortify borders with fences and paramilitary outfits to stifle immigration, as if such armaments in any way address emigration’s roots in poverty and economic desperation. And cities across America, now even Berkeley, seek to disappear homeless people via legal fiat instead of by creating job opportunities and housing.
Berkeley may well pass Measure S, as liberal San Francisco did in 2010. And, facts being facts, homelessness and poverty will persist. Homeless people will continue to be just like everyone else, except without a roof over their heads. Some will be “aggressive” in their efforts to stay alive; others will hide and seek a quiet survival. “They” will smell bad, as logic would dictate, lacking showers or laundry money. Some will yell, others will cry, some will ask for money.
I ask you to ask yourself: what society is this that demonizes and disregards its poorest residents—the very ones who need the most help? How have we devolved to the point where making sitting on a sidewalk illegal is deemed a solution to anything—even when it’s been proven a failure?
It’s time to draw a line in the sand: No more crackdowns on homeless people. Housing and employment are cheaper—and far more humane and just—than harassing and incarcerating the poorest of the poor.
PS—please visit www.noonsberkeley.com to learn more about the Berkeley sit-lie fight.
- Berkeley Coalition Kicks Off Campaign to Defeat “Sit-Lie” Measure S (indybay.org)
- Forgotten Voters: D.C. Volunteers Work to Register the Homeless (pbs.org)
- NO on Measure S (dissidentvoice.org)
- Volunteers toil for first transitional home in Elk Grove for homeless people (sacbee.com)
- Arrest after homeless people struck, killed in LA (utsandiego.com)
- NYC’s Homeless (urbanmommies.net)
- What goes through your mind when you hear the word ‘homeless’? (eslschoolforenglish.wordpress.com)
- Begging ban anniversary: Fewer beggars, still plenty of homeless (tbo.com)
- St. Pete sees rise in homeless as weather changes (miamiherald.com)
Space capsule heads home from ISS
WASHINGTON — The unmanned Dragon space capsule set off from the International Space Station Sunday for the cargo-laden return trip to Earth after successfully delivering its first commercial payload, NASA said.
Using a robotic arm, an astronaut aboard the floating laboratory detached and released the capsule at 1329 GMT after an 18-day mission to resupply the space station, the first ever by a privately-owned company, SpaceX.
The next step will be to bring the capsule out of orbit by intermittently firing its onboard engines to slow its speed.
It is then supposed to parachute into the Pacific Ocean off the California coast at 1920 GMT.
The Dragon’s descent will be controlled by SpaceX from a center in Hawthorne, California, although NASA, which was in charge of the decoupling operation, will continue to provide communications.
The mission — the first of 12 planned trips in SpaceX’s $1.6 billion contract with NASA — is a milestone for American efforts to privatize the space industry, aimed at reducing costs and spreading them among a wider group than governments alone.
The capsule delivered about 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) of cargo to the space station and is taking home 1,670 pounds (758 kilograms) of supplies, hardware and scientific tests and results.
Owned by billionaire Paypal co-founder Elon Musk, SpaceX is one of several private firms working with the US space agency to send flights to and from the ISS, but SpaceX is the first to become operational.
The next SpaceX flight is scheduled for early January 2013.
NASA has been relying on Russian spacecraft for the last year, after retiring its fleet of shuttles — but the Soyuz craft does not have room for cargo on the return flight.
- Space capsule heads home from ISS (rawstory.com)
- SpaceX Dragon Capsule To Bring Astronaut Blood, Urine Back To Earth From ISS (huffingtonpost.com)
- SpaceX Dragon capsule leaves ISS, returning to Earth today (slashgear.com)
- SpaceX’s Dragon capsule prepares to head home (news.cnet.com)
- Dragon Exits ISS, Heads Home (newser.com)
- SpaceX capsule headed back to Earth (koinlocal6.com)
- SpaceX Dragon capsule set to launch for ISS tomorrow (slashgear.com)
- SpaceX Dragon Capsule Successfully Sent Toward the ISS [VIDEO] (mashable.com)
- Private SpaceX Capsule Leaves Space Station for Earth Return (space.com)
- SpaceX Dragon capsule launched to ISS (thehindu.com)
California has become the third state to explicitly legalize driverless vehicles, setting the stage for computers to take the wheel along the state’s highways and roads — at least eventually.
On Tuesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1298, which affirms that so call autonomous vehicles are legal in California, while requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to establish and enforce safety regulations for manufacturers. The governor put pen to paper at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, where the technology giant has been developing and testing driverless Toyota Prii for years.
“Today we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality,” Gov. Brown said. “This self-driving car is another step forward in this long, march of California pioneering the future and leading not just the country, but the whole world.”
The law immediately allows for testing of the vehicles on public roadways, so long as properly licensed drivers are seated at the wheel and able to take over. It also lays out a roadmap for manufacturers to seek permits from the DMV to build and sell driverless cars to consumers. It requires the department to adopt regulations covering driverless vehicles “as soon as practicable,” but at least by Jan. 2015.
In other words, don’t expect the highways to be overrun with robot drivers just yet. Which is good, since most companies and researchers say there’s much work still to be done.
But Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), who introduced the bill, and Google, which lobbied for it, say autonomous vehicles could vastly improve public safety in the near future. Google co-founder Sergey Brin added that driverless cars will provide the handicapped greater mobility, give commuters back the productive hours they now waste sitting in traffic and reduce congestion on roads (and by extension, pollution).
“It really has the power to change people’s lives,” he said.
The case for improved safety certainly makes intuitive sense, assuming the technology is adequately developed. A 2006 Department of Transportation study found driver error occurred in almost 80 percent of car accidents. Computers, on the other hand, never get tired or distracted. Presumably they also won’t speed, run red lights, forget to signal or tailgate.
But it’s worth noting that there’s no wide-scale testing of the premise to date. And as every computer user knows well, machines are fallible and occasionally unpredictable. The artificial intelligence software operating these vehicles is making predictions about appropriate responses based on programmed rules and huge volumes of data, including maps and previous miles logged.
But there are always unknown unknowns, unique conditions the software might not have encountered before and might not react to in the way we’d hope.
Ryan Calo, an assistant professor of law focused on robotics at the University of Washington, noted in an earlier interview that a vehicle might know to avoid baby strollers and shopping carts; but might make the wrong choice if suddenly presented with a choice between the two.
Calo thinks autonomous vehicles can improve safety, but notes that public perception of the technology could turn on events like these, even if the machines prove statistically safer than humans. In other words, we’ll be tough and unfair critics. That makes it all the more critical that the technology works well before it’s widely deployed.
This leaves the DMV to tackle all sorts of weighty questions concerning safety and liability, including: How safe is safe enough? How should these vehicles be evaluated against that goal? And how do you create regulations for technology that’s still under development?
“The hard work is left to be done by the DMV,” said Bryant Walker Smith, a fellow at Stanford’s Center for Automotive Research.
He has pointed to a statistical basis for safety that the DMV might consider as it begins to develop standards.
After crunching data on crashes by human drivers, Walker Smith noted in a blog post earlier this year: “Google’s cars would need to drive themselves (by themselves) more than 725,000 representative miles without incident for us to say with 99 percent confidence that they crash less frequently than conventional cars. If we look only at fatal crashes, this minimum skyrockets to 300 million miles. To my knowledge, Google has yet to reach these milestones.”
On Tuesday, Brin said Google cars have now traveled more than 300,000 miles, the last “50,000 or so … without safety critical intervention.”
“But that’s not good enough,” he said.
Brin said there should continue to be extensive field tests, as well as safety evaluations in labs and closed courses.
“The self-driving cars will face far greater scrutiny than a human driver would, and appropriately so,” he said.
In order for the DMV to adequately understand the safety issues potentially posed by an artificial intelligence program, it must reach out to a broad array of stakeholders, Calo said on Tuesday.
“It’s crucial that the DMV speak to technologists, and not just Google,” he said.
Calo added that the DMV should also talk to academic researchers and car companies developing new safety features that could tip into “autonomous” territory. Among other things, it should be cautious about defining “autonomous” vehicles in a way that could discourage companies from adding features that could improve safety, by subjecting them to rigorous new rules, he said.
Another concern about driverless cars is privacy. The machines will have to collect and store certain information as part of its basic functioning, as well as to improve over time.
Due to pressure from privacy advocates, the final version of law now requires manufacturers to provide a written disclosure describing what data is collected. But John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project, says that doesn’t go far enough.
“We think the provision needs to be that information should be gathered only for the purpose of navigating the vehicle, retained only as long as necessary for the navigation of the vehicle and not used for any other purpose whatsoever, unless the consumer specifically gives their permission,” he said.
Technically, driverless vehicles are already legal in many states insofar as no one ever thought to make them illegal. That’s why Google has been able to test its cars on California’s roads. But those sort of advances have pushed a number of states to take up the issue.
Nevada’s governor signed a driverless car bill last year, as did Florida’s earlier this year. Meanwhile, legislatures in Hawaii, Oklahoma and Arizona have considered similar measures.
- Google’s Driverless Car | Shocking Effects & Information (aptusinsurance.com)
- Calif. gives driverless cars go-ahead (sfgate.com)
- California governor to sign bill to OK driverless cars (kmov.com)
- Calif. governor to sign bill to OK driverless cars (ktvb.com)
- California legalizes Google’s driverless cars (electronista.com)
- Driverless cars bill is signed (bbc.co.uk)
- Calif. governor to sign bill to OK driverless cars (sfgate.com)
- California affirms legality of driverless cars (seattlepi.com)
- California affirms legality of driverless cars (sfgate.com)
- California governor signs driverless cars bill (bostonherald.com)
Big Soda Sues to Hide its Funding of Anti-Tax Campaign
Sometimes the actions of food companies defy credulity.
Get this: The Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, a “grassroots” group funded by the American Beverage Association, has taken the city of Richmond, California to court to block it from requiring disclosure of funding sources in election campaigns.
In case you haven’t been following this situation, the Richmond city council got a soda tax initiative (“Measure N”) placed on the November ballot.
Richmond is a low-income, mixed-race city (80% non-white), with an 11% unemployment rate, and an average household income of $23,000 a year. It population is largely obese and drinks a lot of sodas.
You would hardly think a city like this would get on the radar of Big Soda, but you would be oh so wrong.
For details, we have to thank Robert Rogers who writes for the local Contra Costa Times.
Mr. Rogers has been following the money.
Because California requires lobbyists to register, he has been able to get hard numbers on the relative spending of anti-tax forces and those who favor the tax. The difference is impressive.
The city of Richmond must have suspected that something like this would happen because the city council passed an ordinance that requires special interest groups to disclose who funds them in campaign literature. They must list their top five funders.
You might think this idea entirely appropriate to a democratic society, but the American Beverage Association (translation: Coca-Cola and PepsiCo) does not.
According to Rogers’ account on September 4, Big Soda has sued the city in federal court to stop it from insisting that campaigns disclose who funds them.
On what grounds, pray tell?
The First Amendment, of course.
The suit, filed in federal court in San Francisco on Aug. 30, seeks an order barring the city from imposing its campaign ordinance on the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, a declaration that the groups’ First Amendment rights were violated and money to cover court costs.
The coalition is funded mostly by the American Beverage Association and has spent more than $350,000 locally in an effort to defeat a November ballot measure that could impose a penny-per-ounce tax on sales of all sugar-sweetened beverages in the city.
…Coalition spokesman Chuck Finnie said Tuesday that the law itself is unconstitutional and should not be applied to the anti-soda tax groups.
“The law in question is being enforced to prevent opponents of an unfair, misleading and misguided tax from being able to communicate effectively with Richmond voters,” Finnie said. “The sponsors of the Measure N tax don’t want voters to hear how the tax is going to raise grocery bills, hurt local businesses on which livelihoods depend, and the fact that city politicians would be free to spend all of the money raised by Measure N in any way they see fit and that not one penny must be used to fund anti-obesity efforts.”
In other words, revealing funding sources prevents “effective communication.”
The court will hear this suit on Friday. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, here are the relevant documents, thanks to Robert Rogers.
- Document: Richmond’s campaign disclosure ordinance
- Document: Soda-tax opponent’s application for temporary restraining order
- Document: Soda-tax opponent’s lawsuit against Richmond campaign disclosure law
- Richmond: ‘Big Soda’ pours in $354,898 to fight tax on soft drinks (mercurynews.com)
- Soda tax debate pushes Richmond into national spotlight (mercurynews.com)
- Richmond measure would tax sugary sodas (sfgate.com)
- The Masterminds Behind the Phony Anti-Soda Tax Coalitions (civileats.com)
- Two California cities to vote on penny-per-ounce tax on soda (medcitynews.com)
- Judge rules on Richmond soda tax mailers (AGAINST campaign finance transparency) (democraticunderground.com)
- Soda tax debate pushes Richmond into national spotlight (mercurynews.com)
- Group fighting Richmond soda tax files lawsuit (utsandiego.com)
- Soda tax war taking shape in two California cities (news.terra.com)
- A fight against sugary drinks, far from the streets of New York (sacbee.com)
Sara Alvarez was afraid.
The doctors told her she needed surgery — brain surgery. Operations on such a complex organ are never simple, but this procedure was exceptionally difficult. There was a high risk of complications, of debilitation, of post-op problems. Alvarez might wake up paralyzed. She might wake up legally blind. Worse still, there was a chance she might not wake up at all.
Her mad dash to the emergency room had all begun with a walk in the park four days earlier. It was December 20, 2010, in Sunnyvale, Calif., a town that lives up to its name. The West Coast winter, not as long or as harsh as seasons in the East, gave her the opportunity to take her youngest child out for an afternoon stroll.
In the fading light of dusk, Alvarez, too, began to fade. She lost the feeling in her right leg. Her right foot followed suit. She couldn’t lift or move her right hand. She was weak, and her body was numb.
There was fear then, too.
At 10:15 p.m., Alvarez says her husband drove her to Redwood City. That night she became a patient at Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Hospital. She says the doctors batted diagnoses back and forth. It was a tumor. No, it was cancer.
It was Christmas, and Alvarez’s children cried and prayed, terrified that an unknown affliction would steal their mother away. Finally a CT scan revealed the malady. Alvarez had neurocysticercosis — a calcified tapeworm lodged in her brain.
Neurocysticercosis, which is common around the world but is not recognized as a major health concern in the U.S., has taken root in California, some health officials say. The disease is easy to prevent and relatively inexpensive to treat if caught early on. But once in the advanced stages, these brain parasites are costly to both patient and government.
The problem is that, due to a lack of education, most of the population doesn’t know that there’s a parasite wriggling within them, says Patricia Wilkins, a scientist with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Latinos, the community most afflicted by the disease, do not receive outreach or education about how to avoid or treat the potentially life-threatening organism, Wilkins adds.
Neurocysticercosis “primarily exists in marginalized populations, Hispanic immigrants,” Wilkins adds.
The National Institutes of Health classifies neurocysticercosis as the leading cause of epilepsy worldwide, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tapeworms infect 50 million people globally. The CDC says an estimated 1,900 people are diagnosed with neurocysticercosis within the United States yearly.
According to in , California bears much of the burden with 304 hospitalized cases in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics exist. Eighty-five percent of patients in California were identified as Latino, and 72 percent were reported in the southern half of the state.
The high percentage of Latino cases is not surprising. Neurocysticercosis is common within third-world countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The disease’s telltale symptoms of paralysis, extreme headaches and chronic seizures present themselves in mass form. Individuals contract neurocysticercosis after becoming infected by tapeworm carriers. Immigrants traveling between countries, such as migrant workers, are often unwitting tapeworm hosts, transporting the disease across borders in their guts.
Scientists aren’t quite sure how it works, but tapeworm larvae seem to have developed a chemical secretion that keeps the human body’s immune system from barging in on their banquet. People can live for decades without any symptoms of neurocysticercosis because the tapeworm larvae break down natural defenses. Unfortunately, tapeworm larvae can’t live forever.
“While it’s alive, it’s a problem, but when it starts to die it’s a bigger problem,” Despommier says.
When the larvae die, the chemical balance is restored, and the immune system begins to attack, causing headaches, seizures and paralysis. Alvarez says she experienced debilitating headaches for 20 years before her diagnosis, but she probably consumed tapeworm eggs much earlier than that. When Alvarez immigrated to the United States in
the late 1980s she complained to American doctors of a pain so absolute it blinded her and made her vomit.
They gave her Tylenol.
“That’s a very typical story,” says Darvin Scott Smith, chief of infectious disease at the Kaiser Hospital.
Many physicians, even those in highly populated areas sizable immigrant populations, are unaware of the disease and how to diagnose it, he adds. Even many of the health organizations that target Latinos had never heard of neurocysticercosis and said their institutions were not funding research or community outreach.
Nobody cares about this disease, and they should, if not from a humanitarian point of view than from a fiscal aspect, says Wilkins, a scientist with the CDC.
Drugs such as Ablendazole and certain steroids, which are used to treat tapeworms and brain swelling, are relatively inexpensive — a maximum of a few hundred dollars. Wait until it’s a serious problem, though, and the dollar amount rises dramatically.
The CDC reports the average cost of neurocysticercosis at $37,600 per hospitalization.
The most common form of payment is Medicaid, a tax-funded public service. In Los Angeles County, the economic impact is even more pronounced, costing $66,000 on average, the increase likely due to the high cost of health care in the state, says Frank Sorvillo, a University of Los Angeles professor of epidemiology.
Despite a marked decrease in immigration over the past few years, the number of neurocysticercosis cases has remained relatively constant since 2001, when there were 386 recorded hospitalizations in California. This suggests that the parasite has taken hold in the U.S., Sorvillo says.
These numbers are likely underestimated. Only five states — New York, California, Texas, Oregon and Illinois — report the disease, and the data is inconsistent. Oftentimes, departments rely on each other to deal with paperwork, and the numbers are never recorded, Smith says. As a result, not much is known about tapeworm outbreaks in the U.S. — or the parasites themselves. Scientists still consider much of their life cycle a mystery.
Pork tapeworms, or , are complex organisms. They exist in three life stages: egg, larvae and adult, but their growth is not a straight progression from one form to the next. Tapeworm larvae enter the body when humans eat contaminated pork.
The babies, about the size of peas, fight their way into the small intestine and attach, using rows of grappling hook-like teeth to make tiny slices into the soft flesh of the intestinal walls. The parasites cling to the slippery surfaces of their new homes and begin draining nutrients from their host. If all goes well, adults can grow up to 20 feet long.
It sounds unpleasant, but if you’re going to contract a tapeworm, dealing with 20 feet of invertebrate is really the way to go. Researchers say that adult is relatively harmless and asymptomatic. The real trouble starts when they begin to reproduce within their human host.
Tapeworm adults are made up of hundreds of segments called proglottids. The parasite grows like a fingernail, the newest addition at the head and old material at the tip. The senior proglottids contain eggs — thousands of them. During the course of a natural lifecycle, the proglottids are discarded through their host’s anus. A family member, friend or restaurant cook infected with an adult tapeworm can secrete tens of thousands of tapeworm eggs daily, which can be easily ingested by others.
Being infected with the eggs, however, doesn’t result in an adult tapeworm. The eggs just develop into larvae—and grow no further. According to parasitologist Judy Sakanari at the University of California, San Francisco, no one really knows why. Unlike most animals whose lifecycle follows a child-adolescent-adult pattern, these eggs will never mature into adulthood. Their development is stunted at the larvae stage, which allows them to ride the bloodstream. They use their hooks to rip apart tissue and gain access to nutrient-rich hotspots. Some of these miniature reapers ultimately find their way into the brain. That’s where the trouble starts — and stops.
While alive, the larvae are not as dangerous as they are when they’re dead. The brain calcifies the dead larvae, and, oftentimes, surgery is necessary to remove them. This ramps up costs for the hospital and drains Medicaid funds. The State of California is not responding to the issue, Wilkins says, because there isn’t enough funding to tackle every bug that infiltrates a community. Health officials must pick and choose which diseases require the most resources. So far, neurocysticercosis has not been one of them.
In a 2000 proposal filed by the WHO, doctors called for international monitoring of neurocysticercosis. They argued that surveillance was key to eradication, that statistics were paramount if governments across the globe had any hope of reducing epilepsy and increasing quality of life. So far, the petition has not experienced much success.
In early January 2011, Dr. Smith of Redwood City, Calif. celebrated his birthday in the operating room of Kaiser Hospital, observing Sara Alvarez’s brain surgery. Medical professionals trimmed Sara’s hair, gingerly peeled away layers of skin and cut through a portion of her skull. Hours later, the chief of infectious disease watched as a neurosurgeon plucked a calcified tapeworm larvae from Sara’s head.
Before she was diagnosed, Alvarez had never heard of neurocysticercosis, and she still isn’t sure who gave her the eggs. It could have been a chance encounter, or one of her loved ones might be a carrier. She’ll never know for sure. The host may remain undetected and contagious, spreading the disease — thousands of eggs at a time.
Watch the video:from on .
- Brain Parasites, California’s Hidden Health Problem: neurocysticercosis (engineeringevil.com)
- Brain Parasites, California’s Hidden Health Problem (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Brain Parasites, California’s Hidden Health Problem (zen-haven.dk)
- California’s Unspoken Health Problem: Brain Parasites (news.slashdot.org)
- Brain tumor or parasite? (biosil.wordpress.com)
- Oy Vey!: Pig Tapeworm in the Orthodox Jewish Community (bodyhorrors.wordpress.com)
- San Carlos’ fire department needs infusion of bodies (mercurynews.com)
- Redwood City cyclist wins bronze at London Paralympics (mercurynews.com)
- Tinea solium (slideshare.net)
- Redwood City woman and boy killed when truck veers off creek bank in Yolo County (mercurynews.com)
The Billionaires Bill of Rights
California’s Proposition 32, on the ballot this November, would severely limit unions’ election spending while leaving corporations free to spend as much as they like.
August 26, 2012
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Billionaire corporate interests and other well financed anti-labor forces are waging a major drive to stifle the political voice of workers and their unions in California that is certain to spread nationwide if not stopped – and stopped now.
At issue is a highly deceptive measure, Proposition 32, on the state’s November election ballot, that its anti-labor sponsors label as an even-handed attempt to limit campaign spending. But actually, it would limit – and severely – only the spending of unions while leaving corporations and other moneyed special interests free to spend as much as they like.
Unions would be prohibited from making political contributions with money collected from voluntary paycheck deductions authorized by their members, which is the main source of union political funds.
But there would be no limits on corporations, whose political funds come from their profits, their customers or suppliers and the contributions of corporate executives. Nor would there be any limit on the political spending of the executives or any other wealthy individuals. What’s more, corporate special interests and billionaires could still give unlimited millions to secretive “Super PACs” that can raise unlimited amounts of money anonymously to finance their political campaigns.
The proposition would have a “devastating impact” on unions, notes Professor John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University. As he says, it would likely all but eliminate political spending by unions while greatly increasing political spending by business interests and wealthy individuals.
Anti-labor interests are already outspending unions nationwide by a ratio of more than $15 for every $1 spent by unions. Between 2000 and 2011, that amounted to $700 million spent by anti-labor forces, while unions spent just a little more than $284 million.
Proposition 32 would even restrict unions in their communications with their own members on political issues. That’s because money raised by payroll deductions pays for the preparation and mailing of communications to union members, including political materials.
Unfortunately, there’s even more – much more -to Proposition 32. It also would prohibit unions from making contributions to political parties and defines public employee unions as “government contractors” that would be forbidden from attempting to influence any government agency with whom they have a contract.
That restriction applies not only to unions. It also would cover political action committees established by any membership organization, “any agency or employee representation committee or plan,” such as those seeking stronger civil rights or environmental protections.
Proposition 32 seeks to weaken, that is, any membership group which might seek reforms opposed by wealthy individuals or corporations and their Republican allies. It’s no wonder the measure is actively opposed, not only by organized labor, but also by the country’s leading good-government groups, including Common Cause and the League of Women Voters.
Yet the proposition’s sponsors have the incredible gall to bill their measure as genuine campaign finance reform. They obviously hope that claim, which Common Cause accurately describes as a “laughable deception,” will win over the many voters who have been demanding reforms and who, in their eagerness, will fail to recognize the measure’s true nature.
“This is not genuine campaign finance reform,” as San Francisco State’s John Logan says, “but a bill of rights for billionaires.”
The losers would include teachers, nurses, police, firefighters and other union members and those who benefit from the essential services they provide – students, the elderly, and the ailing, the poverty stricken, those who work and live in unsafe conditions and other needy citizens, and consumers, environmentalists and others who also are neglected by the profit-chasing corporate interests that dominate political and economic life.
Make no mistake: Lots of money is being funneled into the Proposition 32 campaign by some of the same wealthy backers who bankrolled such anti-labor efforts as the campaign that blocked the massive attempt to recall virulently anti-labor GOP Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin this year.
Should the anti-union forces also prevail, it will undoubtedly lead to what Logan says “will promote a tsunami of ballot initiatives in 2013 at the local level and in 2014 at the state level designed to drive down working conditions in both the public and private sectors.”
Logan adds, “Lacking the ability to oppose these reactionary measures under the new election rules, California’s workers could soon face the weakest labor standards in the country”. But if the measure is rejected, it “may slow the momentum behind other attempts to increase the corrosive impact of money in politics.”
It’s true that some states already have laws and regulations seriously limiting labor’s influence. But it’s certain that victory by the anti-labor forces in California will slow any attempts at reform in other states and lead as well to attempts to impose anti-union measures elsewhere, as well as expanding those that already exist.
The stakes are huge. If the 1 percent have their way in California, the country’s largest state, other states are certain to follow.
- California Prop. 32: A Billionaires’ Bill of Rights (talkingunion.wordpress.com)
- California’s Prop 32: The next big, deceptive corporate attack on working families, by @DavidOAtkins (digbysblog.blogspot.com)
- California’s Prop 32 on political funding is a bill of rights for billionaires | John Logan (guardian.co.uk)
- Wisconsin Recall Post-Mortem: Implications for Labor (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- California voters to have say on taxes, state budgeting process, crime and justice (mercurynews.com)
- California’s Proposition 32 would still allow corporations to buy politicians (deathandtaxesmag.com)
- Bernie Sanders Exposes the 26 Billionaires who are Buying the 2012 Election (diane-whitedove1.newsvine.com)
- Temp Worker Nation: If You Do Get Hired, It Might Not Be for Long | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Prop 32 Is Citizens United on Steroids (eastbayexpress.com)
- California’s Prop. 32 would be Citizens United on steroids (thehill.com)