big sky, big money

A genuine “big sky” shout-out to grad school friends Dave Parker and Erika Franklin Fowler, both PROMINENTLY featured in this week’s fascinating PBS Frontline “Big Sky, Big Money” examining “dark money” in Montana politics and in campaigns around the country in the wake of Citizens United (2010). Parker, a coauthor on research looking at congressional investigations, is a dedicated student of American politics. He’s driven countless hundreds of miles this year collecting information on campaign advertisements from local television stations, filling a vital gap in available information about what’s going on in American politics. And he is rewarded with a spot on PBS Frontline,  the coolest show on TV’s nerdiest channel. Not bad!

cab wars, continued

Today’s Washington Post includes an article detailing new taxicab regulations taking hold in DC. In a post last week, I mentioned the contentious history of the rules governing cabs in the district. Today’s article gives the driver’s perspective, noting that DC’s cabs are more plentiful with many more drivers working as independent contractors (whereas cities like New York are dominated by large cab companies). Will reform change all of that as drivers have long feared? Continue reading

843,000 gallons

Two years ago, while many Americans were preoccupied with a man-made hole spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, another “smaller” but still pretty massive spill was dumping oil in Michigan. Was I the only one who basically missed the 843,000 gallons of tar sands oil gushing into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River? If not, news accounts are here and here. Continue reading

faulty forensics, continued

A follow-up on last week’s post about the reliability of forensic crime scene evidence, today the Washington Post reports DOJ and the FBI are undertaking a broad review of forensic evidence. The Post reports:

The undertaking is the largest post-conviction review ever done by the FBI. It will include cases conducted by all FBI Laboratory hair and fiber examiners since at least 1985 and may reach earlier if records are available, people familiar with the process said.

The Post story also includes short videos profiling innocent men – Kirk Odom and Santae Tribble – who together spent half a century in prison wrongfully convicted based on faulty crime scene evidence.

cab wars

Want to learn about corruption and venality in Washington politics? Jump in the back of a DC cab. Until a few years ago, the first thing you might have noticed was the indecipherable “zone” system  map – rather than distance or time, riders were charged based on the number of zones traveled. Even after years in DC, the complex algorithm drivers used to translate zones into dollars was a complete mystery me. I stepped out of lots of cabs puzzled and a little suspicious.

Continue reading