Following Up and Following Down – January 2014 Edition

WC famously fails to follow up on his posts. But at highly irregular intervals, WC makes a modest effort to track down at least a few of the loose ends and see if there are developments. As always, the Magpie Principle applies.

Goose Creek Prison. There’s good news and bad news about the State’s white elephant of a prison out in the swamps of west Mat Su. The good news is that there are actually prisoners there now, as many as 1,361 according to Alaska Dispatch. The majority of the prisoners have been brought back from private, Outside prisons. It’s still well below design capacity of 1,536 inmates. Worse, two units of prisoners are folks charged but not yet sentenced; they get to be transported to Wasilla, Palmer and Anchorage for hearings. That’s spendy, but a consequence of building a prison 38 miles from anywhere.

The bad news is that we still don’t have an explanation of Goose Creek’s finances. The Mat Su Borough famously disavowed its revenue bonds. Who’s paying on the $244 million in revenue bonds? How did $50 million in cost overruns get resolved? Who’s paying for the expensive, stand-alone water and sewer systems? It’s more expensive to house prisoners at Goose Creek than in, say, a private prison in Colorado. How much more expensive? The original justification was that closer access to families, cultures and support networks would reduce recidivism. Has it? Is anyone checking?

The Injustice of Private Probation. WC has warned against the evil that is private probation before. “Private probation” is when the state or a municipality contracts away its monopoly of force to a private company to supervise probation. It’s a racket, a scam. And it’s still going on, as a recent series of articles (Paywalled) in the Atlanta Constitution document. “In 2012 a court found that the fees levied by private-probation companies in Harpersville, Alabama, could turn a $200 fine and a year’s probation into $2,100 in fees and fines stretched over 41 months. A judge in Richmond and Columbia counties ruled such probation extensions illegal last autumn.”

Fullerton, CA Cops Acquitted. WC posted the sickening story and dubious defense of the Fullerton, California cops who murdered Kelly Thomas. But, if you are a cop on trial in Orange County for murder of a mentally ill homeless person, apparently all you need is a dubious defense. A jury of their peers acquitted the homicidal cops. WC has faint hopes that the feds will bring a civil rights action; in the meantime, it may not be prudent to visit Fullerton, where, on the evidence, the cops have a tendency to pile on.

Pat Cole Building. The City of Fairbanks did the right thing and re-named the old Main School Building the Patrick B. Cole City Hall. It’s an excellent bit of City Council action. Pat Cole was an ideal civil servant: hard-working, highly skilled with a genius for finding compromise. And he was selfless in his long career for the City. The honor is appropriate, well-deserved and one of the few City Council actions in the last five years which has WC’s unqualified support.

The FISC and Sham Justice. WC has blogged repeatedly – perhaps tediously – on the evil that is the FISA Court. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, readers will recall, is the sham court created by the USA Patriot Act. WC calls it a sham court because the judges only get to hear one side of the case before being asked to rule. Edward Snowden has cranked up the heat on the FISC, to the point where President Obama made a national speech in which he promised; well, it’s hard to tell exactly what, if anything he promised with regard to the FISC, or when the promises might be implemented. But parsing through the speech, it’s pretty clear he’s not going to permit a true adversary process. It remains a sham court.

The Troubled Roll-Out of The initial roll-out of the federal health care insurance shopping site was a disaster. It’s been fixed, with upwards of 3 million Americans now benefits from health insurance purchased through the federal web portal. The fixes to the website – and the more critical invisible bits behind the website – were repaired by competent programmers. The interface is surprisingly good, considering it was supervised by the guy who gave us Microsoft Office. WC has two points about the reboot. First, it was never about any important aspect the Affordable Care Act; it was only about lousy web design and bad programming. Second, is the default healthcare insurance shopping portal only for those states which, like Alaska, elected not to create their own site. States like California, Oregon and Massachusetts, which developed their own websites, were largely successful. The folks who had to go to wound up there, in significant part, because of their states’ governors’ efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. It didn’t work. No credit to the governors involved.

That’s enough, more than enough. WC’s acid reflux is starting to act up. If a reader thinks there are other blog posts that need followup, describe it in a comment or an email. WC can only stand to re-read so much of his writing. Or re-inflict on himself the outrage leading to an earlier blog post.