The Chicago PD announced today that it will be putting surveillance cameras on the streets to help fight crime in some bad areas, as well as at some busy intersections to snag wayward drivers:
The camera units will be marked with Chicago Police Department logos, be bullet-proof, weather-proof and remote-controlled by joystick with the ability to zoom and pan 360 degrees, and have night-vision capabilities so they can be monitored 24 hours a day, officials said.

"We designed them this way to ensure we are visible, and the criminals know we are out there," Hillard said. "We're not going to tell you where they're going or how many there's going to be installed, but they will become obvious to the criminals when they see us out there."

I don't know whether this sort of thing is an effective deterrent or not. Clearly it will help reduce crime that's localized to certain areas, but at some point won't people just do their dirty work somewhere else? Obviously they want to be somewhat vague about how many cameras there are and where they'll show up, but the west side is a pretty big place. Will this eventually lead to cameras everywhere? With traffic, this approach might be more effective, since to run a red light you pretty much have to do it at the light. But dealing drugs for instance is a little more flexible in terms of the where.

The Illinois chapter of the ACLU has apparently come out in support of this policy, which surprised me at first. But given the scope of Chicago's crime problem and the fact that the program as advertised doesn't infringe anyone's civil rights, I guess it makes some sense. Not that you can't make a solid argument against it - last December when a traffic camera system was installed in Washingtn DC the citizenry (and the ACLU) made a lot of noise. More recently, they've come up with some creative solutions.

The more disturbing side of this whole thing is that in some cases they will be recording the footage for later analysis. Does that mean it's going to be made available to federal law enforcement? Depending on how ubiquitous these cameras are, this could be a pretty disturbing development, and as I suggested before, there's every chance that more cameras will be needed down the road, as criminals starts to game them. And what happens when somebody is attacked on camera but nobody happens to be watching at the time, and we end up with a murder that could have been prevented with more surveillance?

MORE: BigOldGeek adds at least two cents.

You can trust him
Apostropher, who's been awfully good lately, links to this fascinating/disappointing story about the provenance of this story, which seems to have been edited after the fact (Apostropher has some of the original here). The even more interesting story would be: who was this guy? Makes me feel a little less animosity toward journalists to see what they have to wade through to put a story together - ie it's not just the journalists who are making stuff up.


In other blogs
Ms Magazine has a blog up, not sure how long it's been there but I know people have been reading it because they keep mentioning it to me. The latest is a long piece about Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, decrying the whole backwards notion that the film has something to offer in terms of a coherently positive feminine role. Definitely check this out.

Also, from a couple weeks back there is good rundown of the reviews for Liz Phair's new self-titled album, most notably the NYTimes review by Meghan O’Rourke, to which Liz Phair herself responded. I have to side with the reviewer on this one - the album was pretty much a galactic disappointment...

I'm adding the Ms Magazine blog to the blogroll, along with a couple others I've been meaning to put up.

Political endorsement
For readers in Chicago, check out Barack Obama on Channel 2's Eye on Chicago this Sunday (July 13) at both 10am and 10:30pm. Obama is trying to get the Democracic nomination to run for US Senate in 04.

The fine print
NPR reported today (no link, but this opinion piece confirms) that fully one third of the US aid to Africa to fight the AIDS epidemic must be used for abstinence-only programs. Obviously I don't agree with the ideology that's pushing this; it belies a sick moralistic attitude toward AIDS victims that really amounts to cultural blackmail. And while abstinence may in fact be the best way for an individual to avoid contracting HIV, that doesn't mean that pushing it will be as effective against the epidemic as other programs. It's so typical of this administration to walk all over cultural nuances and order up deeply flawed foreign policies for domestic political consumption. Just what does a five billion dollar abstinence program look like?


Book collecting
The prof I was closest to as an undergrad was seriously into book collecting, so much so that now he's become the director of the Lilly Library at IU, where he continues to collect everything from pop-up books to the original manuscript of On the Road. I'm actually hoping to make it down to Bloomington sometime this summer to take a look at some of the Spanish-Aymara dictionaries and other Aymara vocabulary materials in the collection - there's quite a history to some of these documents, and some of the most significant ones are at the Lilly. No Aymara-English dictionary though; that doesn't exist yet.

I came across a bit of a collectors item (to me, at least) today at Potbelly of all places, on my way home from class. It's an old (the edition is 1961, but it's not the first) intro economics text by Paul Samuelson, one of the University of Chicago's finest economists. I read a couple of articles by Samuelson for my political economy class last year and they were quite dense, but not so this text. Instead it's as an intro text should be, but with that pleasantly condescending air that I imagine all textbooks from that era had. And it's a historical document - it provides a wonderful snapshot of the state of the art at that time, complete with charts and graphs and references to President Eisenhower. There's the explanation of how the US income tax was progressive, with the top tax bracket paying 87 cents on the dollar to the govt - and then the insight (new to me) that almost nobody paid that rate, because the tax system created incentives to invest rather than earn monster salaries. And then there's the chapter entitled "Fiscal policy and full employment without inflation." Sounds like one to read and enjoy.


Uka jach'a uru, jutaskiway
A good friend brought this (also here) to my attention, it's a worm you should watch out for, one that brings up pictures of Aymara leader Evo Morales, a Bolivian cocalero (takes over your addressbook too, of course). It's aparently not the first politically motivated worm, but I mention it because I'm studying Aymara at the moment. (No, I did not come down with the worm.)

I can't claim to know anything about the plight of the Bolivian coca farmer, but this is what it says about the political mess that seems to have led to the Evo Morales phenomenon:

Bolivia is one of the world's largest producers of the coca leaf, the raw material for cocaine. The government of Bolivia, with financial encouragement from the United States, has initiated a crop-eradication programme. However many of Bolivia's poorest farmers, led by Morales, are incensed because the coca leaf is often their only source of income. The dispute has become bloody, with armed conflict between the army and some coca leaf growers.
It's actually more than just a simple matter of money - the eradication of the coca plant has major cultural implications for the Aymara people too. They chew it on a daily basis, and it probably has more cultural significance than for instance alcohol has for us - after all, they use it in part to sustain themselves at altitudes of 2 miles plus. Given this context, eradication seems like a bad idea - or at least a problematic, culturally troubled idea. It's not really that practical, anyway - aren't these kinds of things impossible to enforce, what with the amount of money real producers can bring in?

By the way, I also intend to post some Aymara language links in the near future. Studying the language has been a lot f fun just for its own sake, but I've also discovered that Aymara has all kinds of greater significance for the project of modern linguistics because of some truly unique properties. All this has had me a little preoccupied, browsing JSTOR, etc.

The compassion of our country
Letting Americorps slip into disrepair (or even oblivion) is a seriously bad idea. This has been an enormously successful program, with tens of thousands of volunteers each year making valuable contributions in every imaginable area. Now legislative minutiae have left it with only half the funding necessary for the coming year, despite support from the president and scores of petitioners.

That'll teach you
Haggai links to Fareed Zakaria's excellent suggestion that we internationalize not just the humanitarian aid to Iraq, but some of the policy decisions as well. This might alleviate some of the pressure our forces there face, and lend the legitimacy of international institutions to the whole debacle. The only problem with this approach, it seems, is Bush's unwillingness to forgive our European allies for protesting an illegal war. Meantime we're footing the bill in coin, blood, and contempt from our neighbors.


A seam of online middle-class resentment?
Apropos of Dean's impressive internet campaign take, EJ Dionne suggested today on This Week that the internet is doing for liberalism what talk radio did for conservatism 10 years ago. I wonder how others feel about this. If for instance we were in the middle of a Republican primary right now, would some candidate on the Right have demonstrated similar internet prowess? A year ago the blogosphere seemed to be dominated by conservative and libertarian ideologies; now this seems to be less true, although there isn't really a good metric for this kind of thing. I definitely don't have the sense, though, that the liberal line lights up cyberspace the way conservative bluster blares on my AM dial.

Rethinking California
Well, it's looking more and more like California will actually recall its governor. What's really bizarre about it is the way in which his replacement will be selected - basically anyone who wants to pay the $3500 registration fee can be on the ballot (which will take the form of an afterthough question to referendum on Davis's recall), and a simple plurality will be needed to win. Depending on the number of candidates, this means the winner could take office with the votes of only a tiny fraction of California's population. The mechanism is especially favorable to those with good name recognition; this is why there's so much speculation that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be California's next governor.

The whole referendum system has really destroyed California - according to a recent NPR piece 90% of the state's budget is locked into entitlements or programs mandated by referenda, so that neither the governor nor the legislature has that much power in the first place. Given this context, it seems strange to hold the governor responsible for the huge budget problems California faces now - won't a recall just serve as an indictment of California's whole political structure? The power of any new governor will be further eroded, making it even more difficult to address the serious problems facing the state. The referendum in this instance is being used specifically to demand more accountability from elected officials, but ultimately it just takes away their power, localizing it not in the hands of the people, but in the hands of those who have the money to run massive media campaigns for a population of tens of millions. It's a disastrous policy that just works to undermine any kind of stability in government institutions.

Powered by Blogger