Suscribe to Weekly RiverCitiesReader.com Updates
* indicates required

View previous campaigns.

Democrats Have One Last Hurrah with Comptroller Vote PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 11 January 2015 05:48

We likely received an early lesson last week in how the upcoming state-legislative session will play out with new Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and a Democratic General Assembly.

The Democrats jammed through their plan to limit the term of incoming Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger to two years, with a special election in the presidential year of 2016. Rauner appointed Munger to replace Judy Baar Topinka, who passed away last month.

Rauner remained silent in the days leading up to the special legislative session, but the House and Senate Republicans went ballistic.

 
Breaking the Control Grid PDF Print E-mail
Editorials
Written by Kathleen McCarthy   
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 10:55

So here we are, welcoming 2015, on the heels of another biennial national, state, and county election season. And whether one considers government spending at the national, state, or local level, we have an ever-increasing lack of fiscal sobriety. This is due mostly to a dangerously inactive populace, and it will not leave this country unscathed. Sadly, these are tired words of mine.

With few exceptions, Americans re-elected bad actors and maintained the status quo in Congress and in state and county governments. This is mostly thanks to a brilliant two-party political system that so expertly marginalizes third-party alternatives. State ballot-access laws, corrupt courts, little to no scrutiny of election equipment and technology, and big special-interest money prevent third-party or independent candidates from gaining significant ground.

And independent or third-party candidates’ ability to gain valuable mainstream-media exposure has only declined over the decades of media-ownership concentration. In 2009, Mother Jones published a graph showing 25 years of media mergers “from GE to NBC and Google to YouTube” resulting in only eight major holding companies that control the vast majority of what is today called news, plus the entertainment and print and digital publishing platforms that generate the content that dominates American media ownership (RCReader.com/y/motherjones). Columbia Journalism Review publishes a useful online directory of “what major media companies own” (CJR.org/resources), and that list has 72 companies. This is roughly one controlling company for every 4 million Americans. When one is trying to control the messaging about the benefits of the two-party system, the lion’s share of campaign funds raised during elections goes to these relatively few media outlets. It is the bread and butter of corporate media, gladly disseminating the gamut of propaganda necessary to maintain the control grid.

 
Nobody Appears Ready to Fill Topinka’s Role with Rauner PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 21 December 2014 05:30

There’s little doubt that the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka would’ve continued her straight-talking ways during the administration of Governor-elect Bruce Rauner.

Topinka was good copy for reporters. When she criticized a budget or a fiscal position, we listened.

Other Statehouse denizens respected her fiscal smarts as well. If she attacked a proposal, legislators and everyone else under the dome took note.

Rauner showed great deference to Topinka after the election, officing in her Statehouse suite and giving her chief of staff the authority to hire most of his new employees. I don’t think there’s any question that he grew to truly admire the quirky redhead.

 
Comptroller Topinka Was a One-of-a-Kind Character PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 14 December 2014 05:41

As you likely already know, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka passed away last week.

Topinka had a stroke the morning of December 9, but that’s not what killed her. In fact, by the afternoon, she announced she was going to walk to the restroom. Her chief of staff, Nancy Kimme, told her not to try because she was paralyzed on her left side. In mocking defiance, Topinka started kicking her no-longer-paralyzed leg.

By early evening, medical staff told Topinka that she’d be out of the hospital in a few days and would then need three weeks of rehabilitation. The indestructible Topinka appeared to have won again, just like she did after she fell and broke her hip and badly injured her back after giving a speech in 2012. The accident slowed her down, but it never stopped her, never silenced her, never broke her spirit, never stopped her from running for re-election.

 
Police Should Be on – Not Behind – Cameras PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by Thomas L. Knapp   
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 05:43

Police body cameras are all the rage lately. Al Sharpton wants them used to monitor the activities of cops. Ann Coulter wants them used to “shut down” Al Sharpton. The White House wants them because, well, they’re a way to look both “tough on police violence” and “tough on crime” by spending $263 million on new law-enforcement technology.

When Al Sharpton, Ann Coulter, and the president of the United States agree on anything, my immediate, visceral reaction is extreme skepticism. In this case, the known facts support that skepticism.

(Editor’s note: According to a recent article in the The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus, Hampton, Illinois, recently began using body cameras, and the Davenport, Bettendorf, and East Moline police departments have either tested them or plan to acquire them.)

It’s exceedingly unlikely that widespread use of police body cameras would reduce the incidence or severity of unjustified police violence. We’ve already seen the results of numerous technology “solutions” to that problem.

The introduction of mace and Tasers to police-weapons inventories encouraged a hair-trigger attitude toward encounters with “suspects” (“suspect” being law-enforcement-ese for “anyone who isn’t a cop”). Their supposed non-lethality made it safer to substitute violent action for peaceful talk.

The introduction of military weaponry and vehicles to policing hasn’t produced de-escalation, either. Quite the opposite, in fact: Now we get to watch small-town police departments stage frequent re-enactments of the Nazi occupation of Paris in towns across America.

And police-car “dash cams”? That’s obviously the most direct comparison. But the dash cam often seems to malfunction, or the police department mysteriously loses its output, when a credible claim of abusive police behavior arises.

On the other hand, it’s absolutely certain that widespread use of police body cameras would increase the scope and efficacy of an increasingly authoritarian surveillance state.

The White House proposal calls for an initial rollout of 50,000 cameras. Does anyone doubt that the output of those cameras would be kept, copied, cross-referenced, and analyzed against law-enforcement databases (including but not limited to facial-recognition databases) on a continuing basis?

Assuming a camera attaches to a particular officer with an eight-hour shift (rather than being passed around at shift changes for 24-hour use), that’s 400,000 hours per day of random, warrant-less searches to be continuously mined for probable cause to investigate and arrest people. Even George Orwell didn’t go so far as to have 1984’s Thought Police carry portable cameras everywhere they went!

Video technology is certainly part of the solution to police violence, but that solution should remain in the hands of regular people, not the state. More and more of us every day come into possession of the ability to record video on the spot, while instantly porting it to Internet storage so that it can’t be destroyed at the scene or tampered with after the fact. Cops need to be on cameras they don’t control.

But part of the solution is still just part of the solution. Even when cameras catch violent, abusive, criminal cops in action – as, for example, when business security cameras filmed Fullerton, California, police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli beating homeless man Kelly Thomas to death in 2011 – it’s incredibly hard to get prosecutions and even harder to get convictions.

Ubiquitous video monitoring of state actors by regular people is a start. But the only real way to guarantee and end to police violence is to bring an end to state “law enforcement” – in fact, to the state itself.

Thomas L. Knapp is senior news analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org), where this commentary originally appeared.

 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 5 of 209