Monday, March 05, 2018

What we're waiting for: "The farewell helicopter ride to Mar-A-Lago"

Alec Baldwin is right. Yes, Trump is going down. I too have been waiting for the inevitable fall of this contemptible human being. He's terrifyingly unfit for the job, easily the worst president we've ever had, even worse than George W. Bush, who ordered the invasion of Iraq.

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Homelessness in LA: Sound familiar?

From the editorial board of the LA Times (Los Angeles' homelessness crisis is a national disgrace):

At last, the problem became so acute — and so visible — that Los Angeles took extraordinary action. To your credit, to all of our credit, the citizens of this city and this county voted in November 2016 and again in March 2017 to raise our own taxes to fund an enormous multibillion-dollar, 10-year program of housing and social services for the homeless.

As a result, Los Angeles now has its best chance in decades to combat homelessness — an opportunity that surely all can agree must not be wasted. It is neither desirable nor morally acceptable nor practical for this city or this county to blithely tolerate the signs of destitution more commonly associated with 1980s Calcutta or the slums of Rio de Janiero or medieval Europe. 

We cannot go on shutting our windows to beggars at freeway offramps or stepping casually over men and women curled up in sleeping bags or turning away when people who have no access to public bathrooms use the city streets as toilets. We cannot indefinitely roust people who have nowhere to go or confiscate their belongings or criminalize their struggle for basic necessities. Such desperate stopgap measures are not solutions, but emblems of a deteriorating city, admissions of failure. We now have the opportunity to do better.

But here’s the bad news: Passing Measures H and HHH was the easy part. Money alone doesn’t solve problems, and in the end the tougher questions are how to spend it, where to spend it, on whom to spend it and how to measure success. 

If we hope that the crisis will be gone — or, more realistically, under control — when the money runs out in 10 years, we need city and county officials to explain what actions they’re taking and why, how many people they’ve housed or failed to house, what they expect to accomplish by the end of the year and by the end of the decade — so that we can hold them accountable for their actions.

All the region’s politicians must step up, but especially Mayor Eric Garcetti — whose legacy and political future will rise or fall on how he handles this colossal urban crisis — and the members of the Los Angeles City Council, who have too often allowed political expediency and timidity to guide their actions. Homelessness in the city of Los Angeles has risen every year since Garcetti took office in 2013. Over the course of his tenure, it is up 49%.

County officials have made some progress — breaking down bureaucratic silos, leveraging new federal Medicaid dollars, setting sensible goals and priorities, using Measure H money to quadruple the number of homeless outreach teams, add shelter beds and help with rental subsidies — but they too have an enormous task ahead of them. 

And homelessness, which does not recognize municipal boundaries, is also present in most of the other 87 cities in L.A. county, many of which have historically tried to push the poor and homeless out, hoping the problem would go away. 

Only three cities in the county are on track to meet their “fair share” housing construction goals...

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Tech companies: Legions from Hades

Joel Kotkin in The Orange County Register:

Once seen as the saviors of America’s economy, Silicon Valley is turning into something more of an emerging axis of evil. “Brain-hacking” tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon, as one prominent tech investor puts it, have become so intrusive as to alarm critics on both right and left.

Firms like Google, which once advertised themselves as committed to being not “evil,” are now increasingly seen as epitomizing Hades’ legions. The tech giants now constitute the world’s five largest companies in market capitalization. Rather than idealistic newcomers, they increasingly reflect the worst of American capitalism — squashing competitors, using indentured servants, attempting to fix wages, depressing incomes, creating ever more social anomie and alienation.

At the same time these firms are fostering what British academic David Lyon has called a “surveillance society” both here and abroad. Companies like Facebook and Google thrive by mining personal data, and their only way to grow, as Wired recently suggested, was, creepily, to “know you better.”

The techie vision of the future is one in which the middle class all but disappears, with those not sufficiently merged with machine intelligence relegated to rent-paying serfs living on “income maintenance.” Theirs is a world in where long-standing local affinities are supplanted by Facebook’s concept of digitally-created “meaningful communities”...


Still waiting for all the JFK files

Image result for magic bullet theory jfk
Warren Commission's Magic Bullet theory

Hard to believe that those who conspired to kill President Kennedy haven't already sanitized government files of any incriminating evidence. But why the continuous fiddling about releasing all the files?

...According to the JFK Records Release Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1992, all still-classified documents related to the assassination of JFK were to be made public in full by October 26, 2017 — unless the president personally decided that certain documents posed such a risk to national security that their continued suppression outweighed the public good of disclosure.

There was great anticipation leading up to the deadline — researchers and enthusiasts had been waiting 25 years to see these documents. NARA helped pump up the excitement with an early release of a small batch of documents in July. And President Donald Trump seemed to allay fears that he might succumb to pressure from the intelligence community to withhold documents; a series of presidential tweets appeared to indicate that the scheduled release was on track.

But that didn’t happenCome the day of the deadline, the White House explained that the various agencies needed time — six months’ worth — to “re-review” all of the records to make sure that national security was not at risk...

The various agencies involved — CIA, FBI, State Department, and others — were given until April 26, 2018, to determine how much of the redacted material would need to remain so.

“The National Archives’ commendable efforts to make the new records available online notwithstanding, overall the release process has been disappointing and disheartening,” Rex Bradford — president of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, which hosts one of the premiere sites for searchable, online JFK documents — told WhoWhatWhy.

“The amount of continued withholding by the CIA and other agencies — including huge stretches of whited-out pages in newly released records — is beyond anything remotely like that contemplated under the JFK Records Act. And the process itself has been marred by abundant errors and moving targets.”

But back in late October, John Greenewald of the Black Vault filed a FOIA request seeking the number of still-withheld documents at that time. He finally received a response in late January from NARA’s Office of General Counsel:

We conducted a search and were able to locate an EXCEL spreadsheet that lists everything that has not been released since December 15th, 2017 (the last release date). We are releasing this document [in] full with no redactions. The spreadsheet lists the JFK record number, the decision, the file number, document date, number of pages, and the origination agency.

The list contains 22,933 record numbers. When comparing it to NARA’s master spreadsheet of 2017 releases, it appears that the majority of files on the FOIA list were already made public last year. So “not been released” includes all of the many files that were in fact released in 2017, but with redactions, and are now awaiting the final review deadline in April.

Curiously however, there are 2,901 files listed that are not on NARA’s spreadsheet. That’s certainly a much larger number than the 86 files NARA mentioned in December. WhoWhatWhy has created a spreadsheet detailing these files....

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