The tragic fates of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others have increased scrutiny of horrendous police practices. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver took advantage of this spotlight to turn their invaluable form of comedic long-form journalism to the practice of civil asset forfeiture.
The New Yorker featured an essential piece on the practice and people who are affected by this flagrant abuse of power last year. Dara Lind at Vox offers a helpful overview of the practice. On what police departments are doing with the money:
In its ongoing investigation of civil asset forfeiture, the Washington Post analyzed several years of reports from state and local law enforcement to determine what they’d done with the money the federal government had returned to them. They found that the most common use of asset funds was for “communications and computers,” with “building and improvements” coming in second. But even “communications and computers” was dwarfed by the amount of money that police marked as “other” — 44 percent of the money that police got back from the federal government went to “other.”
The Post investigation noticed some particularly frivolous spending, like a $600 coffeemaker or $225 for the face-painting services of Sparkles the Clown. But at least the money spent on Sparkles went to community outreach, which is generally cops’ lowest priority when it comes to asset money. Less than 1 percent of all federally returned money went to community outreach — five times less money than any other category.
The above video is well worth your sixteen minutes, running the gamut from the ridiculous justifications police offer for running off with people’s money and possessions, to systems that incentivizing robbing innocent people of their stuff, to the near impossibility of regaining the stolen property. And yes, I would totally watch Law and Order: Civil Forfeiture Unit.
Republicans have reportedly seen the writing on the wall and realized they need to change their ways to appeal to women. Most of the suggestions that have been made public are of course cosmetic and have little to do with changing policy. While thus far this election cycle there hasn’t been a “legitimate rape” moment, conservatives and their allies in the media have found ways both big and small to reveal what they really think of women. (more…)
Emma Watson got a great deal of attention, both positive and negative, for her speech at the UN on gender equality. At a time when feminism is receiving a warm cultural embrace, it’s always welcome when more people join the fold and use their celebrity to elevate the cause. But one part of her speech sparked some pointed criticism. As Mia McKenzie at BlackGirlDangerous writes:
In her speech to the UN, Ms. Watson said:
How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation? Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too.
Here, she seems to suggest that the reason men aren’t involved in the fight for gender equality is that women simply haven’t invited them and, in fact, have been unwelcoming. Women haven’t given men a formal invitation, so they haven’t joined in. It’s not because, you know, men benefit HUGELY (socially, economically, politically, etc. infinity) from gender inequality and therefore have much less incentive to support its dismantling. It’s not because of the prevalence of misogyny the entire world over. It’s just that no one’s asked. OMG, why didn’t any of us think to ask?!
There are certain issues and interest groups that politicians will bend over backwards to avoid upsetting. We all know from the abysmal state of gun laws in this country that the National Rifle Association is one of them. Think Progress reports on just what fealty to the gun lobby got Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR):
Last year, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) voted against a popular proposal to require people who purchase firearms online or at gun shows first complete a background check. On Tuesday, however, the National Rifle Association announced a $1.3 million ad buy in Pryor’s home state of Arkansas supporting Pryor’s Republican opponent Rep. Tom Cotton.
Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is in the news again for sharing her abortion story in her recently released memoir. She shares the heart wrenching tale of ending two wanted pregnancies. It’s brave of Davis to share these personal stories, surely anticipating the ridiculous pushback and prying questions she would face. As many people have pointed out, while it’s very important for people to share these stories to end the stigma around abortion in this country, it’s no woman’s responsibility to carry that burden.
But Davis’s story also raises questions about what is viewed as an “acceptable” abortion in our culture, and what decisions are still shrouded in shame. Tara Culp-Ressler writes at Think Progress: (more…)