The Starting Line

A week-day SDFP column by Doug Porter

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I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org

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Thumbnail image for McDonald’s Customers, Employees Not Lovin’ It

McDonald’s Customers, Employees Not Lovin’ It

by Doug Porter 01.23.2015 Business

By Doug Porter

Fast food giant McDonald’s is reportedly spending $3 million daily on U.S. advertising, yet business is declining. As the company has pumped up its menu to counter the explosion of fast-casual restaurants, food quality and service times have suffered. And increasingly negative image of the fast food industry as an exploiter of its workforce certainly hasn’t helped matters.

Last year was the company’s worst in three decades. Domestic sales actually declined by 1.7 percent. Global profits declined by 21 percent in the most recent quarter. Franchise owners are unhappy about menu bloat. Customers are confused by assorted pricing schemes. Employees are appearing on TV holding picket signs. And now the company is facing even more bad news.

A July ruling by the National labor Relations Board deeming the company a “joint employer” with its franchisees could spell big trouble, as 10 former workers at three McDonald’s locations in Virginia have filed a lawsuit alleging they were unceremoniously fired last May after being told by supervisors that there were “too many black people” working at their locations.

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Thumbnail image for What’s the Fix for San Diego’s Crumbling Infrastructure?

What’s the Fix for San Diego’s Crumbling Infrastructure?

by Doug Porter 01.22.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

Pssst! Got a spare two billion dollars? That’s a number being talked about in the search for a comprehensive approach to fixing San Diego’s deteriorating streets, pipes and public spaces.

The City of San Diego has issued a report outlining what it says are our infrastructure needs over the next five years, and it isn’t pretty. Our roads are falling apart. Public buildings like libraries and fire stations have repair needs that are mounting faster than the city can pay for them.

I’m told discussions about how to sell taxpayers on paying for this among the city’s big time players (led by the Chamber of Commerce) are already underway. While I don’t dispute the need to upgrade the bones of this city, whatever deal emerges to sell us on paying for it needs to include a whole lotta people who’ve been getting the short end of the stick lately.

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Thumbnail image for 2015 State of the Union Speech: Framing a Future Democratic Agenda

2015 State of the Union Speech: Framing a Future Democratic Agenda

by Doug Porter 01.21.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

Unless we have some sort of national emergency over the next couple of years, last night’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama was his last best chance to give a speech that would be heard by a significant slice of Americans.

From here on out the focus of political coverage will be the 2016 elections. Not because there’s actually any news there, but because it’s much more entertaining than watching the Black guy in the White House bang his head against the wall of NO built by Republicans.

After all, if you actually analyze the actions of the loyal opposition–which includes a gaggle of incidents wherein they became against some idea they used to champion–you’d end up talking about the racism built into Republican political strategy over the past half a century.

I was frankly amazed after reading the reactions to and reportage on the President’s speech before both houses of Congress last night. Perhaps through some miracle of internet algorithms different speeches were broadcast into every household in America. People heard what they wanted to hear.

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Thumbnail image for Trouble With Filing Your Federal Taxes? Try Calling Congressman Darrell Issa

Trouble With Filing Your Federal Taxes? Try Calling Congressman Darrell Issa

by Doug Porter 01.20.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

National Public Radio broadcast a story this morning on the upcoming tax filing season. In years past it would have been the typical annual “how to” feature timed to coincide with W2’s arriving in mailboxes around the country. But this year it wasn’t.

This year the onset of tax season story was more of a warning. If you expect IRS help with tax questions, expect to wait. And wait.  As in “The IRS is predicting it will only be able to answer half of the 100 million calls it expects from taxpayers this year, and those who do get through can expect to wait a half hour to hear a live voice.” In 2010 the IRS answered calls with an average 11 minute wait.

We can thank Republican Congressman Darrel Issa and his cronies for the 17.5% reduction (adjusted for inflation) in the IRS budget since 2010. The US Treasury will be out about $2 billion, thanks to the inability of the government’s tax collectors to conduct audits. That money could have been used to repair bridges, like the one collapsing on an Interstate last night in Cincinnati.

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Thumbnail image for As Measles Continues to Spread, It’s Time to Hold the Anti-Vaccine People Accountable

As Measles Continues to Spread, It’s Time to Hold the Anti-Vaccine People Accountable

by Doug Porter 01.19.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

Nuts. That’s what the people behind the current batch of measles cases spreading through the country are. And not in a good way, like a zany friend. In a bad way, as in gun nuts, a small group of people whose fanaticism poses a danger to those around them and society at large.

Collectively known as anti-vaxxers, these folks use faux science to justify not immunizing children against highly contagious diseases. Measles, chicken pox, mumps and whooping cough are all on the increase nationwide.

There are 51 cases of measles reported in the latest outbreak, traceable to Disneyland visitors in the week prior to Christmas. Orange county, with 21 cases reported in 2014 is ground zero for one other reason: a pediatrician friendly to parents seeking to exempt their children from public health agencies requirements for vaccinations.

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Thumbnail image for GOP Winter Meeting in Coronado Strives for Sanity

GOP Winter Meeting in Coronado Strives for Sanity

by Doug Porter 01.16.2015 Columns

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”– Dr. Martin Luther King

By Doug Porter

The Republican Central Committee has been meeting over the past few days at the Hotel del Coronado. Much of the work has been done in closed sessions, where the mundane business of administration, finances and logistics are discussed.

The state chair, national committeeman and national committeewoman for the fifty states and assorted territories each receive one vote at RNC meetings, along with a vote for the RNC Chairmanship. Following last fall’s victories at the polls Reince Priebus will likely be elected to a third term, making him the longest-serving chairman in the committee’s history.

Logistics decisions for the GOP’s 2016 presidential campaign include moving the nominating convention set for Cleveland from its usual August slot to mid-July and reining in the primary debate process. I suspect what everybody’s really hoping for are no embarrassing incidents. They’ve already censured a Michigan delegate for racist social media posts.

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Thumbnail image for The Mayor’s State of the Chargers Speech: Where’s the Beef?

The Mayor’s State of the Chargers Speech: Where’s the Beef?

by Doug Porter 01.15.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer made a pile o’ promises in his decidedly optimistic State of the City speech last night.

“Never before has there been so much promise for our future,” said the Mayor. “After a decade of crises and crashes, San Diego is writing its comeback story and each of us has a line to contribute.”

Twin task forces will tackle paying for a football stadium and figuring out a way for locals to make enough money to afford tickets for seats at football games.  Streets will be repaired, government will become more efficient and the city will have a year round facility for the homeless.

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Thumbnail image for World Wide and in San Diego, 2014 Was Warmest Ever

World Wide and in San Diego, 2014 Was Warmest Ever

by Doug Porter 01.14.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

There really shouldn’t be much debate about the fact the world is getting warmer. Outside of the Republican leadership in Congress, most people seem to be acknowledging that reality.

Next week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), agencies whose mission includes keeping track of what’s going on with planet earth, will schedule their first ever joint press conference to announce that 2014 broke all records as the warmest year globally since record keeping started in 1880.

The National Weather Service part of NOAA has already declared 2014 to have been the warmest year in San Diego’s history.  The city experienced 342 days last year recording warmer than normal temperatures, with 4 days hitting the normal mark and only 19 days seeing below average readings.

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Thumbnail image for Policing the Police: San Diego’s Problems

Policing the Police: San Diego’s Problems

by Doug Porter 01.13.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

As police departments nationwide are facing increasing scrutiny, local law enforcement agencies are finding themselves under the spotlight.

A news story based on internal documents obtained by the local NBC affiliate on use of force reveals the San Diego Police Department documented 16,238 incidents in which an officer used force in 2014.

A report in Voice of San Diego calls points out what I think are questionable “crime prevention” practices by the County Sheriffs Department at the Lemon Grove trolley station.

And then there’s the promise of a soon-to-be-released report from the Police Executive Research Forum under contract by the US Justice Department on SDPD practices instituted in the wake of several years of scandals and lawsuits regarding sexual misconduct.

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Thumbnail image for Mental Health Professionals Strike at Kaiser Permanente

Mental Health Professionals Strike at Kaiser Permanente

by Doug Porter 01.12.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter 

Protesting what they’re calling systematic under-staffing, 2,600 psychologists, therapists and social workers have called a week-long strike at Kaiser Permanente medical centers.

Organized by the National Union of Health Workers (NUHW), there are 65 picket lines in 35 California cities in responding to failed negotiations with the company.

Back in September, Kaiser agreed to a $4-million fine levied by state regulators. The Department of Managed Health Care found patients had excessively long wait times to get a therapy appointment, or were shuttled into groups when they wanted individual therapy.

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Thumbnail image for A Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party, San Diego Style

A Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party, San Diego Style

by Doug Porter 01.09.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

Oh, the drama. As the dates approach for the Democratic party election in San Diego for delegates to the state party convention, a behind-the-scenes rebellion against the current party leadership is going on.

Steve Rivera, an event coordinator for the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice is challenging current party Chair Francine Busby,  Wounds within the party dating back to the Filner scandal and the Fletcher vs Alvarez contest have been re-opened.  Emotions are running high. Backroom caucuses are running late into the night.

Activists, disillusioned by what they perceive as ineffective leadership and a lack of support for progressive candidates and causes, are challenging the old guard. Based on what I’ve been able to piece together it appears (the vote isn’t until January 20th) the established leadership will weather the crisis. But the rebellion is, at a minimum, symbolic of the lack of faith many rank and file members have in the Democratic Party.

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Thumbnail image for National Campaign to Increase Minimum Wage Takes Aim at San Diego

National Campaign to Increase Minimum Wage Takes Aim at San Diego

by Doug Porter 01.08.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

San Diego is one of seven cities selected by the national AFL-CIO for a long-term effort to concentrate political and economic actions aimed at making increasing the minimum wage an issue in the next presidential election.

The labor federation’s President Richard Trumka announced the nationwide campaign Wednesday during first National Summit on Raising Wages, held at  Gallaudet University Washington, District of Columbia. More than 300 activists and labor leaders along with thousands of other people watching a live stream video also heard speeches by Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The AFL-CIO effort will kick off with statewide Raising Wages Summits in 2015 in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina, typically the first four presidential primary states.

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Thumbnail image for Behold! An Opportunity for San Diego Democrats to Get Their Act Together

Behold! An Opportunity for San Diego Democrats to Get Their Act Together

by Doug Porter 01.07.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter
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Hours after members of its staff were murdered, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo brought its website back online with a “Je Suis Charlie” graphic, which has become the image of social media solidarity. (See story in column inside)
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Are you sick and tired of elected Democrats who don’t act like Democrats? Does the phrase “herding cats” come to mind when assemblypersons in Sacramento can’t even get it together on things like climate change? Are you tired of voting for lesser of two evils? Can I get an “Amen?”

Well, you’re in luck. With a small investment of time this weekend Democrats in San Diego can help select delegates to the state party convention, the body that makes endorsements ( a critical step in our top-two primary system) and writes the state party platform, among other things.

Today’s column will start off by telling you how to participate and where to get information on some of the choices available. Mind you, this election won’t fix everything wrong with the party of FDR, but it’s a start.

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Thumbnail image for Gov. Brown’s Legacy, DA Dumanis Forever and Human Rights in Mexico in the News

Gov. Brown’s Legacy, DA Dumanis Forever and Human Rights in Mexico in the News

by Doug Porter 01.06.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

There was a whole lotta swearing going on yesterday around California, as state and local officials took oaths promising to obey the constitution and whatever else it is they’re supposed to do. Today we’ll look at some of the promises made as politicians used the opportunity to talk about the future.

In Sacramento Gov. Jerry Brown made headlines, announcing a sweeping plan to address climate change. After taking the oath for his fourth and final term, Brown used his inaugural speech to proclaim that California must lead the way if the world is to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.

In San Diego county supervisors Bill Horn and Ron Roberts were sworn in for their final term limited time. Also taking the oath were Sheriff Bill Gore, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Assessor/Recorder/Clerk Ernest Dronenburg, Jr., and Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister.

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Thumbnail image for Police Officer Associations and Racism: If the Shoe Fits….

Police Officer Associations and Racism: If the Shoe Fits….

by Doug Porter 01.05.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

Television networks presented live coverage of the funeral for slain NYPD Officer Wenjian Liu on Sunday. As the ceremony was underway officers on the streets outside the funeral parlor turned their backs when New York Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared on  on streetside screens to give a eulogy.

Estimates of just how many officers participated in this protest varied, with some outlets saying a majority turned their backs and the New York Times reporting only “hundreds” involved. The rank and file NYPD action (many higher ups are political appointees) occurred despite a plea for no political statements from Liu’s widow.

As the snarky website Wonkette noted, a photographer documenting the situation was treated for “minor irony-induced whiplash” after being told by officers at the scene “You’re being very disrespectful walking around like that.”

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Thumbnail image for 2014 Wrap Up: The Tide Turns on Rape Culture, Climate Change and Same Sex Marriage

2014 Wrap Up: The Tide Turns on Rape Culture, Climate Change and Same Sex Marriage

by Doug Porter 01.02.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

The term rape culture became mainstream in 2014. Practices and behavior in society excusing or otherwise tolerating sexual violence were exposed. Activists around the country took to the streets to push back. Examples, ranging from the callousness of the San Diego City Attorney’s office accusing a sexual assault victim of trying to bribe a police officer with her underwear to investigations into the widespread accommodation of rape in college fraternities, were given wide media coverage.

The ecological crisis facing the planet was another subject getting increased attention this year. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in New York and other cities, including San Diego, in September demanding action on man made climate change. Despite evidence supporting the impending dangers accumulated throughout the year, dirty energy apologists leveraged their economic and political resources, hoping to block actions limiting greenhouse gas in 2015.

Finally, there was some terrific news for a supporters of marriage equality this past year, as court decisions and legislatures rolled back restrictions on same sex marriage. These victories were a testament to the validity of persistent long term activism on many fronts as an effective strategy.

Welcome to Day Three of the Starting Line’s summation of 2014’s top stories. On Wednesday the focus was on challenges not met in San Diego. Yesterday I wrote about issues of economic and radial justice rising to the forefront of the local and national consciousness.

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Thumbnail image for Lessons Learned in 2014: #FightforFifteen and #Icantbreathe

Lessons Learned in 2014: #FightforFifteen and #Icantbreathe

by Doug Porter 01.01.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

Welcome to Day Two of the Starting Line’s summation of 2014. Yesterday the focus was on challenges not met in San Diego. Today we’ll look at some serious challenges rising to the forefront of the local and national consciousness.

Struggles for economic justice and ending racism (re) emerged as serious issues over the past year, and there certainly is every indication they’ll remain at the forefront in 2015. Taking the long view, it seems as though in the past we’ve ended up in the past settling for half a loaf in these matters; the symptoms got treated but never the disease.

Promises of hope and change have run into the politics of “No.” Often the personification of that attitude is the Republican Party, a convenient diversion from the reality that the underlying attitudes are part of our national consciousness. Entitlement based on race, wealth and class are as American as apple pie. Passing laws and declarations by elected leaders can no longer be regarded as a substitute for changing our culture.

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Thumbnail image for Lessons Not Learned in 2014, Part One: Tourism and Law Enforcement

Lessons Not Learned in 2014, Part One: Tourism and Law Enforcement

by Doug Porter 12.31.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

Five days a week, fifty weeks out of the year I write about the news. Mostly I write about local stories. And what I’m always trying to do, in addition to sharing information, is to make sense of all these events from a progressive point of view.

For the rest of this week I’ll discuss stories deserving to be part of our understanding of how things actually work in San Diego. The fast breaking nature of news and information these days, I think, discourages taking the long view.

I propose a New Year’s Eve toast to the concept of having a local historical memory longer than that of a goldfish. May we someday get to the point where our public servants learn from past mistakes.

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Thumbnail image for Nightmares, Political Aspirations and Hope for 2015

Nightmares, Political Aspirations and Hope for 2015

by Doug Porter 12.30.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

The good news about 2015 is that no elections are scheduled for San Diego. Last year saw three opportunities for people to express their preferences at the ballot box. By the time it was all over even hard core political junkies were disgusted.

I still have nightmares about the DeMaio/Peters contest… DeMaio coming out with a new app that will automatically block Democrats from his social media accounts. Peters announcing a hack that replaces DeMaio’s avatar with a picture of Dick Cheney… Being trapped in a room with TV screens blaring with Political Action Committee ads playing the darkest of music… Or worse, DeMaio winning… DeMaio grinning… [WAKE UP!]

Today I’ll engage in speculation based on rumor and innuendo, along with whispered words of advice from a bookie I used to know, about political personages and their likely impact in 2015, even if it doesn’t mean running for higher office..

Do not try this at home. This is for entertainment purposes only. And all stunts are by a professional driver on a closed course….

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Thumbnail image for End of the Year: Listicles of Made Up News, Brazen Lies and Centrist Propaganda

End of the Year: Listicles of Made Up News, Brazen Lies and Centrist Propaganda

by Doug Porter 12.29.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

The last few weeks of the year are like a black hole for journalists. Politicians and their media minders are on vacation. Celebrities aren’t doing celebrity stuff (unless they die). And research oriented organizations are waiting for the year to wrap up so their statistics can be complete.

This information void leads to stories with headlines like “Military Couple Relocates Wedding for Obama’s Golf Game” and airtime for a Fox News talking head speculating about confusion over the metric system as the cause of an AirAsia flight gone missing.

When stupidity won’t do the trick, stuff just gets made up, like the boy wonder featured in New York Magazine who claimed he’d made $72 million on Wall Street trades during his lunch hour at Stuyvesant High School. Or the story making the rounds on Facebook about the eight NYPD officers who were refused service in a Chipolte restaurant.

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Thumbnail image for A Dozen Organizations Doing Good Deeds in San Diego

A Dozen Organizations Doing Good Deeds in San Diego

by Doug Porter 12.26.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

As our daily newspaper demonstrated yesterday with a full section detailing the efforts of over forty individuals and organizations, there’s no shortage of people in San Diego looking to do good things. What I’d like to do today is to cast a spotlight on some of the groups whose work in 2014 included advocacy for causes we hold near and dear.

Now is the time of year when many groups dependent on donations make their pleas, hoping to tap into the holiday feelings of goodwill and the promise of a tax deduction. While I’m sure that many of the groups mentioned today would be glad to accept donations, my intent here is to say thanks for their efforts.

This list represents only those organizations I am aware of or those that have reached out to SD Free Press in the past. I’m sure there are others, and please feel free to use the comments to enlighten our readers.

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Thumbnail image for A Bakers Dozen: People Who Made San Diego a Better Place in 2014

A Bakers Dozen: People Who Made San Diego a Better Place in 2014

by Doug Porter 12.24.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

Today I’ll talk about individuals who are making a difference in a very nice way. They’re not politicians, just ordinary people doing extraordinary things in San Diego who deserve recognition. I wish I had gold medallions or fancy embossed certificates to give them. All I have are my words of praise.

As I’ve been reflecting on the past year one thing that stood out was the leadership shown by women in activist causes around San Diego. Despite many not-so-good things happening in the past year, their dedication to causes near and dear to progressives was outstanding. Oh, and there is one guy on this list. It just worked out that way.

On Tuesday I presented a list of people who ought to be on Santa’s Bad Boys & Girls list. Today it’s the Good Girls and Boy list. Today’s list is not meant to be in any order, nor is it inclusive. You are welcome to suggest additional names in the comments section.

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Thumbnail image for Dear Santa: Here’s a Dozen Bad Boys and Girls from the Past Year in San Diego

Dear Santa: Here’s a Dozen Bad Boys and Girls from the Past Year in San Diego

by Doug Porter 12.23.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

We could have generated at huge list. It’d probably look more like a phone book (remember those?), so the elves decided to limit this list to individuals who’s graced the pages of the San Diego Free Press over the past year.

And then we had to pare it down to a dozen. So many bad boys & girls, so little time…

Several individuals were selected as representatives of organizations that have done bad deeds locally in the past year. Others will need no introduction. They all deserve coal and sticks as our version of the jolly man (he wears a red suit for a reason) makes his rounds.

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Thumbnail image for Stories from the Weekend: NYC Cop Killing Brings Out the Fear Mongers

Stories from the Weekend: NYC Cop Killing Brings Out the Fear Mongers

by Doug Porter 12.22.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

Two New York City policemen were gunned down in cold blood as they sat their patrol car in Brooklyn and Saturday. The gunman had a long history of mental illness and a criminal record to match. He used social media to brag about his murderous intent, saying it was revenge for police injustices.

Cable news networks and social media were all over it. It took about a half hour before I saw the first threats against Rev. Al Sharpton on Facebook. A rep for the NYPD union declared the city a war zone, blaming Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying he had blood on his hands. Former mayor Rudi Giuliani blamed the President and Attorney General. Fox News interspersed film clips of NYC protesters advocating violence with clips of an Al Sharpton speech in Washington.

The usual fear-mongers to wasted no time using these senseless deaths as an opportunity to denigrate those who’ve been protesting police shootings of civilians in recent months. There is, of course, no connection. But look for the nation’s press to back away from reporting on future protests. The taint is in the air, even if the facts don’t support the narrative.

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Thumbnail image for SDPD: Tell Us About Your Stingray Cell Phone Spy System

SDPD: Tell Us About Your Stingray Cell Phone Spy System

by Doug Porter 12.19.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

A lawsuit filed by the First Amendment Coalition aimed at getting the San Diego Police Department to disclose how it uses cell phone tower simulators to collect data has been covered by multiple local news outlets over the past two days.

Two things strike me in studying these accounts: a mostly blind eye towards how this latest news fits into a pattern of opaqueness by the SDPD and  a lack of understanding about the true nature of the technology in question.

Today I’ll provide some analysis and information on those two points.

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