Government

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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Thumbnail image for US Funds Mexico’s War on Drugs

US Funds Mexico’s War on Drugs

by Eric J. Garcia 12.18.2014 Cartoons
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Thumbnail image for Cuba Sí! Decades of Failed Foreign Policy Comes to an End

Cuba Sí! Decades of Failed Foreign Policy Comes to an End

by Doug Porter 12.17.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

A mutual release of prisoners today marks beginning of the end of the United States embargo against the island nation of Cuba. Cuba released jailed American Alan Gross along with an unnamed non-American intelligence ‘asset.’  The US released three Cubans accused of running a spy operation in the South Florida expatriate community.

The Associated Press reports the two governments are starting talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations; trade and banking ties are will be at the top of the agenda. Observers expect each country to try to open embassies in each other’s capitals during 2015.

While these actions are not part of any overall shift in US foreign policy, the repercussions throughout the hemisphere will be reminiscent of the establishment of normalized relations with China in the 1970’s. It’s a big deal. A really big deal.

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Thumbnail image for In Demanding Apologies, Police Unions Show White Supremacy is a Core Value

In Demanding Apologies, Police Unions Show White Supremacy is a Core Value

by Source 12.17.2014 Activism

By Shaun King / Daily Kos

Racism has a hard time hiding.

People love to deny its very existence, but it just has a way of telling on itself. Those who harbor prejudice on the inside eventually can’t help but let it out in a way, so ugly and toxic, that you soon wonder how they kept it disguised for as long as they had.

The leaked emails from Sony come to mind.

While the overwhelming majority of African Americans see some level of racial discrimination and devaluing of black life in the police murders of unarmed men like Akai Gurley, Kendrec McDade, and Eric Garner, it’s become far too easy for police (and society) to deny race played even a small role in any of these homicides.

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Thumbnail image for The Gun Death Capital of the World – United States of America

The Gun Death Capital of the World – United States of America

by John Lawrence 12.16.2014 Government

By John Lawrence

The US leads the world in deaths from firearms. Countries like Great Britain and Japan, which outlaw guns, have hardly any gun related deaths.

These countries don’t have the “freedom” to own a gun. We Americans are free to own a gun and free to go bankrupt from medical debts. In countries like Britain and Japan they are not free to go bankrupt from medical debt because they have national health care systems which prevent that from happening.

Freedom is relative isn’t it, and open to interpretation. One person’s freedom is another person’s bondage. As Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose.”

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Thumbnail image for Newtown Families Sue AR-15 Gun Maker

Newtown Families Sue AR-15 Gun Maker

by Doug Porter 12.15.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

It’s been two years and a day since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut left 26 people, mostly first graders, dead. The school has been torn down. The house where the shooter lived will soon meet the same fate.

The troubled 20-year-old gunman shot his way into the school. He shot and killed his mother before driving to the school, and he committed suicide as police arrived. The shootings at the school, lasting just over four minutes, were possible thanks to the military-style weapon used.

This morning a law firm representing the families of nine of the 26 people killed and a teacher filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the rifle used in the shooting.


Welcome to Guns, Policy and Progressives week at the San Diego Free Press. We’ll be talking about guns and their role in society. Provided you can be civil about it, we invite you to join the conversation.

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Thumbnail image for On Torture: Deeper into the American Heart of Darkness

On Torture: Deeper into the American Heart of Darkness

by Jim Miller 12.15.2014 Columns

By Jim Miller

A couple of weeks ago I evoked Joseph Conrad’s classic critique of colonialism when discussing the disposability of black and brown lives in the wake of Ferguson and our collective ability to dehumanize or “thingify” black and brown people at home and abroad.

As I observed then, “in Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness we are taken on a journey into the core of the European colonial enterprise. And while the naïve reader may expect an adventure in the ‘savage’ world of Africa, what one quickly discovers is that it is the ‘hollow men’ of Europe bent on the ruthless exploitation of the land and the people who are the real savages, whose moral emptiness and desire to ‘exterminate the brutes’ is the actual horror.”

Well, sadly, last week the Senate report on torture officially revealed that “we are the hollow men” to steal a line from T.S. Eliot, “the stuffed men” whose lips “form prayers to broken stone.”

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Thumbnail image for Washington State Voters Overwhelmingly Approved Citizens’ Initiative to Expand Background Checks to All Gun Sales

Washington State Voters Overwhelmingly Approved Citizens’ Initiative to Expand Background Checks to All Gun Sales

by Source 12.15.2014 Activism

By Jennifer Fuson / The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Washington, D.C. – In the only place where guns were directly on the ballot this election day, Washington state voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative 594 to expand background checks to all gun sales, including online and at gun shows. A competing initiative (Initiative 591) designed to block the implementation of background checks and sponsored by the gun lobby failed 55 to 45%.

Washington became the seventh state to require background checks on all gun sales, the fifth state since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 (Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and New York).

“The bottom line is this law will save lives. Washingtonians should sleep better tonight knowing that their state will be a safer place thanks to expanded Brady background checks,” said Brady Campaign President Dan Gross.

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Thumbnail image for A Call for Councilwoman Zapf to Do the Right Thing

A Call for Councilwoman Zapf to Do the Right Thing

by Lori Saldaña 12.15.2014 Government

When you were elected to the San Diego City Council 4 years ago, to represent my Clairemont neighborhood, I was willing to give you a chance.

After all, you claimed to be sensitive to working class issues, as asmall business owner. And you have mentioned having Mexican-American family members, which made me hopeful you would find common ground with the growing Latino community in my native Clairemont.

But this week, your staff’s comments about how she “wanted to shoot” the “… idiot” protesters at a City Council event displayed a shocking lack of awareness about public safety, civil disobedience, efforts to achieve social justice, and the constitutional right of Americans to use peaceful protest to communicate with elected officials.

And what makes this latest situation even worse: it was the SECOND time a member of your staff displayed this tone deaf, cavalier disrespect towards public protest.

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Thumbnail image for From Boston to San Diego, 12/13/14 Was A Day of Resistance

From Boston to San Diego, 12/13/14 Was A Day of Resistance

by Doug Porter 12.13.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

Thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday in cities all over the US. The mass media is telling people these protests are in response to recent grand jury decisions regarding the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers. It’s bigger than that.

They really ought to be saying lots of people are sick and tired of being sick and tired of racism in the US of A. They’re sick and tired of hearing excuses. They’re sick and tired of being treated like second class citizens. And most of all they’re sick and tired of injustice at the hands of a legal system that claims to be color blind.

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Thumbnail image for Just Another Day at the CIA

Just Another Day at the CIA

by Junco Canché 12.13.2014 Cartoons
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Thumbnail image for Bankers, Pot Smokers Get Holiday Gifts in DC Budget Bill

Bankers, Pot Smokers Get Holiday Gifts in DC Budget Bill

by Doug Porter 12.12.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

The The Grinch was alive and well yesterday as the House of Representatives passed a compromise “CRomnibus.” The word is politi-speak for a combined continuing resolution (to keep funding the government) and omnibus (comprehensive budget) legislation.

A rebellion on both sides of the aisle nearly blocked passage of the bill. Conservatives wanted to make more of a statement about the President’s executive order on immigration. Progressives were steamed about language –actually written by lobbyists–rolling back financial industry reforms put into place following the 2009 economic collapse.

But there’s so much more to see here. In these days of Congressional gridlock and Obama derangement syndrome, a bi-partisan leadership group (House Republicans and Senate Democrats) deemed it necessary to drop a document bigger than War and Peace on Tuesday,  expecting a vote in less than 72 hours.

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Thumbnail image for Readers Write:  Conflict and Order, Society’s Pressure Cooker

Readers Write: Conflict and Order, Society’s Pressure Cooker

by At Large 12.12.2014 Activism

By Daniel J. Smiechowski

The recent social unrest in a place called America is as old as time itself. Racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri on the heels of the Michael Brown shooting by a white police officer spilled onto the streets of San Diego, the results of a tea pot left unattended.

Many Clairemont folks missed the point in railing against the protesters. A small group of UCSD Students who chose to block the north bound lanes of Interstate 5 were signaled out as being highly disruptive. Geeze, is that not the point? Are we not blinded in not seeing the forest for the trees?

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Thumbnail image for Readers Write: The High Cost of Torture

Readers Write: The High Cost of Torture

by At Large 12.11.2014 Government

By Richard Blankenburg/Quixotic Tales

Today, I am reading about the United States of America sadistically torturing their prisoners of war, during the Afghan and Iraqi Wars. These wars began without a Declaration of War by Congress during the administration of President George W. Bush 2001-2009.

These are two wars that as a patriotic American citizen I refused to support because neither sovereign nation, Afghanistan nor Iraq, was responsible for the terrorist bin Laden’s heinous attack on America, nor did either sovereign nation represent a threat to the United States of America and also because bin Laden was a citizen of Saudi Arabia.

Personally, I had two grandsons serving in combat in Afghanistan; I am proud of their service to their nation, despite my opposition to these wars.

That said, I was intrigued by this article regarding the American sadistic torture of prisoners of war since 2001, in violation of International Law that was approved as treaty by the U.S. Government and by the U.S. Congress.

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Thumbnail image for State Department Selected Chevron as Finalist for “Corporate Excellence” Award

State Department Selected Chevron as Finalist for “Corporate Excellence” Award

by Source 12.11.2014 Activism

By Dan Bacher

It’s hard to believe, but the Obama administration recently selected Chevron, the San Ramon-based corporate giant known for environmental destruction and the violation of human rights throughout the world, as a finalist for its “corporate excellence” award!

According to a State Department press release, “The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs has announced the selection of nine finalists for the Secretary of State’s prestigious 2014 Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE).”

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Thumbnail image for SDSU Students Fight Fraternity Rape Culture

SDSU Students Fight Fraternity Rape Culture

by Doug Porter 12.10.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

Students at San Diego State University participated in a march and sit-in on Tuesday, demanding the school take action in response to sexual assaults and harassment. The protest was triggered by reports of people associated with fraternity houses yelling  obscenities, waving dildos and throwing eggs at a Nov. 21st  anti-rape march called Take Back the Night.

Their demands included an open forum with  SDSU President Elliot Hirshman during the spring semester, along with the resignations of fraternity members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon and Delta Sigma Phi from various posts on the campus. The protesters cited the need for a planned Women’s Resource Center to serve as a rape crisis center and for CSU and UC colleges to release all statistical data on the investigation, adjudication and sanction of cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.

As is the case with police-linked killings around the country, the protests are the local manifestation of a much larger problem, and today I’ll try to give this story some context.

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Thumbnail image for What a Difference a Few Decades Make : An Interview with Kevin Beiser

What a Difference a Few Decades Make : An Interview with Kevin Beiser

by Judi Curry 12.10.2014 Education

By Judi Curry

As a public school teacher beginning my career in the early sixties, I have seen the pendulum swing many ways in the past fifty years. (Fifty Years! My God!) Perhaps one of the biggest swings was from the professional organizations of the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the National Education Association (NEA) to the American Federation of Teachers ( AFT) and other labor organizations.

As a member of “management” later in my career, I have been disillusioned with professionals (educators) belonging to labor organizations, because I have always felt that the “product” – read children – we deal with cannot be “recalled” to put in a missing part. We get one time to do it correctly, and God help us all if we are not successful.

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Thumbnail image for Who is Mike McCoy?

Who is Mike McCoy?

by At Large 12.10.2014 Activism

By bzzaragoza / South Bay Compass

Eye on the Locals: In the micro-world of our communities, many people dedicate their lives to bettering our neighborhoods and end up bettering the world. Mike McCoy of Imperial Beach is heralded as the individual who helped save the largest coastal wetland in Southern California. Here is his story:

Mike McCoy grew up in Boulder, Colorado and came to San Diego in 1970, the year he graduated veterinarian school and got an internship at the San Diego Zoo. While going to vet school, he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and it qualified him to land that particular internship. It was the first long extended internship they offered at the zoo.

It was here that he met his wife, Patricia McCoy, an Englishwoman from London who fled to the countryside during the WWII bombings. She eventually became a city council member in Imperial Beach and they both were avid environmental activists.

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Thumbnail image for Obama’s Plan for Better Policing: The Good, the Bad, and the Body Cameras

Obama’s Plan for Better Policing: The Good, the Bad, and the Body Cameras

by Source 12.10.2014 Courts, Justice

By Nadia Kayyali / Electronic Frontier Foundation Deep Links Blog

You may be shocked to hear that EFF doesn’t think technology is a solution to every problem. That includes problems with the police and with public safety. And, as we’ve pointed out when it comes to drones and other types of local surveillance, we think adoption of new technology requires communities to understand and discuss the pros and cons.

That’s why we think President Obama’s announcement last week about federal assistance to local law enforcement was a little lackluster.

The President made it clear that he plans to leave largely untouched the controversial programs that funnel military equipment and surveillance technology to communities like Ferguson, and fund programs like fusion centers.

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Thumbnail image for Torture Tuesday: A Study in Manufacturing Consent

Torture Tuesday: A Study in Manufacturing Consent

by Doug Porter 12.09.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

If you are unfortunate enough to be aware of the news today, you’ll be a witness to our country’s greatest exercise in what Walter Lippmann and subsequently Noam Chomsky called ‘manufactured consent.”

I’m referring to the release of the heavily redacted summary of the the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture. By the end of the day, via the conclusions of the chattering class, the American public will know three things:

  • US policy following the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks included broadly worded permissions to engage in torture.
  • There is controversy over whether torture was effective.
  • Oversight of the intelligence apparatus in the government is a danger to our national security.
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Thumbnail image for The Silliness of the Council President Selection Drama

The Silliness of the Council President Selection Drama

by Norma Damashek 12.09.2014 Government

By Norma Damashek

San Diego can be such a silly city. For proof, consider the oddly loopy hubbub that surrounds this year’s annual City Council ritual of choosing a council president.

People (many of whom should know better) have been turning themselves inside out over the roaring-hot question: will Todd Gloria be awarded a third term as council president or will another council member (presumably Sherri Lightner) get a turn to be the council’s presiding officer?

In case you’ve forgotten, ever since San Diego switched over to a “strong mayor” form of government (it’s been almost a decade) council members have selected one of their own to run council meetings and set the council agenda. First there was Scott Peters (2005-’06-‘07), then Ben Hueso (’08-’09), then Tony Young (’10- ’11), and then Todd Gloria (’12-’14).

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Thumbnail image for Conversion to Renewable Energy is Going Too Slow to Avoid Catastrophe – Part 2

Conversion to Renewable Energy is Going Too Slow to Avoid Catastrophe – Part 2

by John Lawrence 12.09.2014 Business

By Frank Thomas and John Lawrence / Part 1 can be found here

We are lucky to have advanced to a stage that scientists can determine the relationship between the rate of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere, the absolute value in tons of CO2 already in and projected to be in the atmosphere, the rate of increase of CO2 emissions and the relationship between amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface temperatures.

If we didn’t have this science, we might go right ahead destroying the earth’s environment to the point of extinction of human life without even understanding what was happening to us.

As it is, even though scientists have spelled it out for us, many people are not convinced the threat from global warming is even real or, if it is, that moderate methods that don’t disrupt current economic relationships will be sufficient to keep the problem at bay.

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Thumbnail image for Barbara Boxer Likely to Step Down from US Senate

Barbara Boxer Likely to Step Down from US Senate

by Doug Porter 12.08.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

Washington DC’s Politico.com has posted a story strongly suggesting California Senator Barbara Boxer is on her way out the door in 2016.

It’s been more than two decades since California’s sitting Senators were first elected and a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll indicates voters are ready for a change. A majority of state voters (59%) told pollsters they believed it was time for new blood, even though both incumbents remain popular and would likely win re-election if they sought it..

The Politico story focuses on the back-room maneuvering underway among candidates who may seek Senator Boxer’s seat in 2016. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, billionaire hedge-fund manager and environmentalist Tom Steyer, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are all mentioned as possible candidates.

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Thumbnail image for A Day of Protests in San Diego and Around the Nation

A Day of Protests in San Diego and Around the Nation

by Doug Porter 12.05.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

The big news in downtown San Diego yesterday, if you are a reader of the local daily newspaper, was the bomb squad being called in to investigate a discarded sex toy left on the ground near the federal courthouse.

In keeping with UT-San Diego’s historic lack of coverage, there was no mention of early morning protests temporarily causing a McDonald’s franchise in City Heights to lock their doors. Or the members of the City Council who came out at 6am to stand with the demonstrators. Or the 150 or so protesters who marched all over downtown for a three hour period mid-day, targeting not only fast food stores but federal immigration enforcement, and echoing nationwide dismay over recent killings at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Local TV stations sent cameramen to get a bit of footage of the downtown demonstrations. KUSI, KFMB, Fox5, and 10news all used a local wire service for their actual reporting on the demonstration.

Now I know these demonstrations weren’t “page one or lead story” news by contemporary journalism standards. Something is happening here in San Diego and around the country. There is a larger story about inequality and injustice. And it’s not going away.

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Thumbnail image for Mentally Ill People Often Face Violence From Police—But These Cities Are Trying to Fix That

Mentally Ill People Often Face Violence From Police—But These Cities Are Trying to Fix That

by Source 12.05.2014 Culture

Crisis Intervention Teams train police officers to understand mental illness without resorting to violence.

By Daniel Ross / Yes! Magazine

Brandy Brown was in her kitchen when she heard the gunshots.

“I thought it was fireworks at first. But I looked outside and I saw a police car down the street. My first instinct was to get my nephew inside the house,” she said.

Brown shepherded her 4-year-old nephew inside her apartment in South Central Los Angeles before going to investigate, which is when she discovered that her friend Ezell Ford had been shot and killed by police.

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