By Doug Porter
These are supposed to be good times for the City of San Diego. Tax revenues are up. One of the biggest problems facing local government is reported to be hiring enough people to fill job openings being created.
So why are our public libraries getting the short end of the stick in Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s proposed $3.2 billion budget for 2016? They may be opening for more hours, but you may need some luck getting what you’re looking for.
A bi-partisan group of City Councilmembers is seeking remedy that shortfall, asking for a restoration of monies to the San Diego library system’s fund for acquiring books and audio/visual materials.
The issue surrounding the library materials acquisition fund stems from last year, when the mayor proposed redirecting the full $500,000 toward a new after-school study program. The spending plan adopted by the council for this fiscal year, however, maintained the half-million dollars through a mix of ongoing and one-time funding sources.
The proposal for the 2015-16 fiscal year only continued the library materials fund with the ongoing sources, leaving a hole of $209,000, according to Chris Ojeda of the city’s Independent Budget Analyst’s Office.
Library Director Misty Jones said her department could cover the shortfall through philanthropic matching funds, but Ojeda pointed out that overall spending on the library system was reduced when taken as a percentage of the budget.
Council members Marti Emerald, Todd Gloria, Sherri Lightner, and Lori Zapf are asking for the materials acquisition budget to be restored.
Budget committee meetings are continuing through the week, with a night council meeting taking public input scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m.
(See Anna Daniels’ article on the budget for more information.)
Librarians as Defenders of Civil Liberties
Speaking of libraries, the Nation magazine has an excellent overview of the challenges facing modern-day librarians, including a long section on their role in fighting overreach by intelligence agencies under section 215 of the Patriot Act.
Long before Section 215 was associated with the Snowden disclosures, it was known as the “library records” provision. In the weeks after 9/11, the FBI announced that some of the hijackers had used public libraries in Florida to plan and coordinate with one another. Although the bureau was able to collect the records of their visits by way of traditional subpoenas, there was a good bit of handwringing from the right about libraries becoming “safe havens” for terrorists, as a Justice Department spokesperson put it. “We put Americans’ lives at risk if we foolishly provide sanctuaries—even in our public libraries—for terrorists to operate,” argued Wisconsin Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., now a critic of the government’s broad interpretation of the Patriot Act, during the debate about reauthorizing the law in 2005.
Congress rushed to give law enforcement greater spying power in the stacks. Section 215 allows the FBI to request “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation, without having to show probable cause that the “thing” is actually connected to a terrorism suspect. The provision applied to library circulation records, patron lists, Internet records, and hard drives, and it prohibited any library worker who received such a request from discussing it with anyone…
…By 2003, librarians around the country had launched a revolt. Librarians in Paulding County, Ohio, among other places, posted signs warning computer users that “due to national security concerns,” their “Internet surfing habits, passwords and e-mail content” might be monitored by law enforcement. Others distributed informational handouts or organized community hearings about the government’s new surveillance powers. Libraries began to destroy computer-use wait-lists, hard- drive caches, and other records. “It used to be a librarian would be pictured with a book,” a Santa Cruz librarian named Barbara Gail Snider remarked in The New York Times. “Now it is a librarian with a shredder.”
Court Ruling Challenges NSA
Section 215 of the Patriot Act is in the news today because a panel of three federal judges for the second circuit court of appeals overturned an earlier ruling on the warrantless bulk collection of telephone metadata.
This decision that clears the way for a full legal challenge against the National Security Agency’s practices, first brought to light via disclosures by Edward Snowden.
From the Guardian:
“We hold that the text of section 215 cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program,”concluded their judgement.
“Such a monumental shift in our approach to combating terrorism requires a clearer signal from Congress than a recycling of oft‐used language long held in similar contexts to mean something far narrower,” the judges added.
“We conclude that to allow the government to collect phone records only because they may become relevant to a possible authorized investigation in the future fails even the permissive ‘relevance’ test.
“We agree with appellants that the government’s argument is ‘irreconcilable with the statute’s plain text’.”
The judicial ruling did not include an order for the government to immediately terminate the NSA programs. The Patriot Act is set to expire on June 1st, and congress is currently debating reauthorization.
Various reforms have been proposed, but are currently mired in gridlock. The GOP Senate leadership is pushing for a simple extension. The president has said he believes the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program as it currently exists should be ended. He’s pushing for an alternative mechanism (i.e., the phone companies keep storing the data) to preserve the program’s essential capabilities.
Both libertarians and progressives are calling for this particular program to simply end.
A host of groups and government surveillance whistleblowers have signed a letter stating:
“In the two years since Edward Snowden began disclosing proof of mass, warrantless surveillance of Americans and the rest of the world, surveillance proponents have had ample opportunity to provide proof of its efficacy, legality, and its necessity. They have failed to do so on every front. Instead, they have systematically misled both the public and Congress.
“Under incredible public pressure, the White House and surveillance agencies have telegraphed acquiescence to minimal reforms in exchange for extension of Section 215 via legislation that would also eviscerate numerous court challenges to lawless surveillance and provide for legal immunization and compensation of companies that provide the government with customers’ private information, even where that company knows it is unlawful.
“The sacrifices made by the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 are unacceptable. The modest changes within this bill, in turn, fail to reform mass surveillance, of Americans and others, conducted under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and Executive Order 12333. Given intelligence agencies’ eagerness to subvert any attempts by Congress to rein in massive surveillance programs by changing the legal authorities under which they operate, the modest, proposed changes are no reform at all.
“Section 215 was designed to sunset, and it is well past time that it did so. A vote for USA FREEDOM Act does too little to reform surveillance, and it does so at too great an expense. A vote against it, and against any law that reauthorizes Section 215, is the best step toward ending mass surveillance of Americans. We urge you to pursue such a path in defense of American civil liberties.”
So Ed Snowden’s place in history is looking pretty good right about now.
— Evan Hill (@evanchill) May 7, 2015
SDPD Body Cam Investigation Continues
An investigation is underway seeking to, among other things, determine why veteran officer Neal Browder failed to activate his body camera during the incident.
From UT-San Diego:
This week, more information about the fatal incident surfaced. Rawshannehad wasn’t carrying a knife, as first reported to police, but had a “shiny-looking object in his hand,” San Diego homicide Lt. Mike Hastings said. The object is being analyzed at the crime lab.
And while the officer’s camera didn’t record, police have footage from a private security camera that apparently captured the event. That too is being analyzed, Hastings said.
U-T San Diego requested the footage on Wednesday. The department has declined to release the tape to others, citing the investigation.
‘Rampant Exploitation’ in Nail Salons
The New York Times has an eye-opening and sad story about the manicure business:
Once an indulgence reserved for special occasions, manicures have become a grooming staple for women across the economic spectrum. There are now more than 17,000 nail salons in the United States, according to census data. The number of salons in New York City alone has more than tripled over a decade and a half to nearly 2,000 in 2012.
But largely overlooked is the rampant exploitation of those who toil in the industry. The New York Times interviewed more than 150 nail salon workers and owners, in four languages, and found that a vast majority of workers are paid below minimum wage; sometimes they are not even paid. Workers endure all manner of humiliation, including having their tips docked as punishment for minor transgressions, constant video monitoring by owners, even physical abuse. Employers are rarely punished for labor and other violations.
The practices described are so widespread and seemingly standardized in the trade that it begs the question: Is this also going on in San Diego?
GOP Jobs Program Announced (No Tax Cut Needed)
Now that President Obama is headed out the door, Republicans are apparently gearing up for the person many consider to be his likely replacement: Hillary Clinton.
From Raw Story:
A Republican congressman from Texas gave a preview of what can be expected in the months leading up to the 2016 election — and possibly beyond — promising that the GOP plans on launching multiple investigations into the lives of presumptive 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Speaking on the Sam Malone Show, Rep. Ted Poe (R) said there would be so many investigations, “We need to hire a whole department just to investigate the Clintons,” in audio captured by Right Wing Watch.
During Bill Clinton’s presidential term that lasted from 1993 to 2001, Republicans launched multiple investigation into the couple failing to turn up anything other than a dalliance between the president and an intern.
On This Day: 1824 – Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was performed for the first time. 1937 – Four hundred black women working as tobacco stemmers walk off the job in a spontaneous revolt against poor working conditions and a $3 weekly wage at the Vaughan Co. in Richmond, Va. 1945 – Baseball owner Branch Rickey announced the organization of the United States Negro Baseball League. There were 6 teams
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