Thursday, October 09, 2014

Roundup: Of atonement, prison bankers, pot and imaginary terrorists

Lots going on and I won't have time to write about all of it. Here are several items clogging my web browser that merit Grits readers attention, even if they may not make it into independent posts:

Dallas PD will move to citations for pot possession
After revamping its systems, Dallas PD will attempt for the second time to exercise authority granted them by the Legislature in 2007 to issue citations instead of arrest people for marijuana possession and a handful of other Class B misdemeanors, reported the Dallas News. The main reason is to keep police officers on the street, saving: "each officer the two to four hours squandered in driving a nonviolent misdemeanor suspect to the county jail and going through the booking rigamarole." At a House County Affairs Committee hearing in May, legislators discussed simply reducing penalties for pot possession and driving with an invalid license (DWLI) because so few departments were using this authority and local jails were still too full of petty pot offenders. MORE: From Unfair Park.

Austin to eliminate rape kit backlog
Thanks to extra staff and funding, Austin PD plans to eliminate its rape-kit backlog - which is much smaller than was Houston's - within 12 months, the chief announced.

Dallas DA's race goes negative, gets personal
The Dallas DA's race is getting ugly and personal. This is the kind of election that both makes me miss performing opposition research in campaigns and simultaneously glad to stay miles away from the process. Watkins should, and may still, win this election going away. The only things keeping it close are inexplicable, self-generated gaffes. His opponent Susan Hawk may have strayed over the line implying he was drunk at a debate. There are various means for launching an attack and that wasn't the smartest way to stage that one. But Watkins doesn't look much better. He seems bent on providing fodder for critics instead of creating an alternative narrative voters can latch onto. Such races make me miss oppo research because this is the sort of race where well-crafted negative messages could make a big difference. (Neither side seems to have that sort of professional help, judging from the predominant messages in the campaign.) It makes me glad to stay away because the whole thing is becoming highly personal and will result in grudges held by the principals for many years to come. I don't need that kind of pointless, narcissistic drama in my life.

Bexar considers expanding public defender office
In San Antonio, Bexar County officials are mulling a full-blown public defender office, expanding on the appellate and mental health public defenders operating there now. This article by Michelle Cassady discussed obstacles to creating a public defender steps the county is taking to overcome them. The reason for the move: economics. "Defendants in 64 percent of all criminal cases filed in the county last year declared themselves indigent — too poor to afford representation — and were appointed an attorney, according to county records."

Do criminal laws rob offenders of atonement?
Hanna Liebman Dershowitz, a former staffer for state Sen. Rodney Ellis and now an attorney with the Jewish Council for public affairs, had an article in the Jewish Daily Forward (Oct. 6) which opened, "We are emerging from the Day of Repentance — a time for contrition for misdeeds, focusing on self-improvement and making a fresh start. But what about people who don’t have the luxury of wiping their slates clean, even for minor transgressions? Are our laws and policies robbing millions of citizens of their own opportunities to turn toward good, to achieve the possibility of teshuvah, atonement, that we claim for ourselves each year?"

ISIS still not infiltrating the Texas border
Politicians are going to keep repeating this garbage so it's worth highlighting the factual counter whenever it's offered: The "claim that Islamic State fighters were apprehended in Texas" was “categorically false” according to the Department of Homeland Security and “not supported by any credible intelligence.” The allegations "gained widespread attention on Wednesday, especially on conservative news websites." And remarkably, "The National Republican Congressional Committee, for example, is running an ad in Arizona that claims terrorists are entering the country through the state’s southern border." Rick Perry put similar, garbage allegations on TV in 2006. It was a lie then, just like now, but that didn't make the political message any less successful. The reason politicians just make stuff up and stick to their guns in the face of all evidence is that, as often as not, it works.

'Meet the prison bankers who profit from the inmates'
The subhed is the title of a recent Time magazine article focused on the little analyzed topic of moving inmates' money.

Police and private surveillance
Every time one turns around there are new stories out that make you question the vast scope of mass public surveillance, including these developments regarding private surveillance of public spaces.


Anonymous said...

The "claim that Islamic State fighters were apprehended in Texas" was “categorically false” according to the Department of Homeland Security...

This may be the case, but what percentage of the time do the current agency officials tell the truth in this administration? If someone wants to secretly cross the border, they will not announce it, they will do it in secret.

Remember, the important issue is not whether people have been apprehended but whether they are here. With our border open, heck anyone can come across. We should expect bad guys to take advantage of our unprotected border and join the flood of crossers.

It's like an attractive nuisance--by keeping it open and sending a green light we're asking for trouble.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"keeping it open and sending a green light" ?!?

What does that mean? It's just pointless rhetoric with no basis in reality.

Otherwise, just as it's true no ISIS agents have been apprehended in Texas, there's also zero evidence that "they are here" if "they" are Islamic terrorists who entered the country illegally from Mexico. It's all just a politicized meme completely devoid of facts or common sense. ISIS succeeds in Iraq because the Sunni populace supports them; that's not true of evangelicals and Southern Baptists in Texas - the very idea that they'd come here misunderstands what they're about. The last thing ISIS wants is an attack on US soil that drags America into putting more boots on the ground.

Richard Dulany, Jr. said...

I am the interim Chief Public Defender in Bexar County. The referenced article from the Express News says we are moving into temporary space in the former Federal Reserve Building. That is what I was told late last week, but I was also told that we would share space with a child-support enforcement unit. As should be obvious, that is unacceptable. As of today, we have a new Mental Health Unit attorney position posted, but have not hired anyone because we have no office space available. There is also no space at present for the permanent Chief Public Defender, when hired.

JJ said...

The Texas Department of Republican Safety says they need at least 1 billion to catch an ISIS scapegoat at the boarder.

Anonymous said...

The Texas Department of Republican Safety says they need at least 1 billion to catch an ISIS scapegoat at the boarder.