Kicking Dick Nixon

March 19- The Denver Post reports: Cash, cars, boats, firearms - even a hot tub - are being confiscated from citizens before they're ever charged with a crime. And few people know where the money or property is going because most law enforcement agencies aren't reporting it. Police have used the cash to pay for everything from pizzas to Christmas parties and use the cars for undercover work.

Democratic Sen. Bill Thiebaut and Republican Rep. Shawn Mitchell are introducing legislation this week after years of complaints of police abuse in Colorado and two years after Congress passed a law limiting the federal government's forfeiture power.

"It's inappropriate for law enforcement to seize and liquidate people's property before they are convicted of a crime ," said Thiebaut, the Senate majority leader from Pueblo. "If you're an innocent person, you shouldn't have your property taken away, and if it is taken away, you should have due process, even if you're guilty."

March 20- Wisconsins Capital Times reports: Dane County's war on drugs was fought primarily against African-Americans in the last decade, a UW-Madison professor said.

"The data is overwhelming," said Pam Oliver, a sociology professor who analyzes drug, crime and imprisonment statistics.

Dane County is above the state average for black imprisonment and below the state average for white imprisonment, she said. Fifty-eight percent of those sent to prison from Dane County are black.

The disparity is even more stark considering that blacks make up only 6 percent of the county's population, Oliver said during a forum on racial profiling and community policing Tuesday evening. In 1999, the black imprisonment rate in Dane County was 39 times what it was for whites. That's down from a high of 48 in 1997, she said.

For 175 years in the United States imprisonment rates were relatively stable, she said. Then, in the mid-1970s the country began incarcerating more and more of its population, with blacks imprisoned at a higher rate than whites.

March 20- Reuters in Britain reports: Motorists who smoke a cannabis joint retain more control behind the wheel than those who drink a glass of wine, British scientists have found.

Research from Britain's Transport Research Laboratory showed drivers found it harder to maintain constant speed and road position after drinking the equivalent of a glass of wine than after smoking a spliff, the magazine New Scientist said on Wednesday.

March 20- The Baltimore Sun reports: Several Supreme Court justices embraced the idea of random drug tests for students involved in after-school activities ranging from band to chess club, a major step toward allowing drug testing for all students.

March 21- Gene Weingarten in The Washington Post, reports: Now that the latest tapes from the Nixon White House have been released, the press is all over them with characteristic glee, eager as always to remind us that not long ago the leader of the free world was buggier than a flophouse blanket. Don't you get tired of this?

Me neither. So when researcher Doug McVay from Common Sense for Drug Policy sent me tapes he culled from Nixon's Oval Office rants about drugs, I pounced on them. I figured it would be a welcome respite from Nixon's recent rants about Jews.

From the Weed Screed, May 26, 1971:

"You know, it's a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it is because most of them are psychiatrists."

The excerpts begin with the Nixon doctrine on why marijuana is much worse than alcohol: It is because people drink "to have fun" but they smoke marijuana "to get high." This distinction was evidently enormously significant to Nixon, because he repeats it twice.

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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