Author Archives: Sue Allen

Inside the Wild, Shadowy, and Highly Lucrative Bail Industry

Mother Jones

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The largest annual gathering of bail bondsmen in the country—the convention of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, or PBUS—was slotted between Dunkin’ Donuts and Elk Camp 2013 at the Mirage Resort and Casino, a tall, shiny structure shaped like an open book and set against replicas of the Colosseum and Eiffel Tower on Las Vegas’ Strip. The sidewalk out front was littered with cards bearing phone numbers and pictures of naked women. In the courtyard, flames licked the late-winter air to the rhythm of a tribal drum every hour, on the hour. A sign at the entrance announced that the casino’s dolphin just had a baby and we would be able to see it soon. As I walked through the smoky slots area I saw a man with a PBUS lanyard doing an extremely forced I’m-having-fun dance with his assistant while a casino employee showed them how to play the one-armed bandit. It was a bit of a letdown from what I’d been anticipating—all-night blackjack sessions with bondsmen and bounty hunters telling tales from the street over stiff drinks. I’d even grown a mustache for the event, thinking it would help me blend in a little—bondsmen have mustaches, don’t they?

Not really, I discovered when I arrived at the welcome reception. “So how do you like the industry?” I asked a clean-shaven man in a shiny gray suit who looked to be about 30. “I like it,” he said buoyantly, taking a sip of his beer. “Sometimes you get real lucky.” He told me about the first bond he ever wrote in the cheerful, blow-by-blow manner of a poker player recounting a winning hand. A college student went out drinking and crashed his car into a fence, he explained. “So him and a girlfriend both get kinda messed up.” He beamed. I was confused—was I to realize that this was a boon? He quickly explained that normally, bail for a DUI was $5,000, but since it involved an injury, the amount automatically jumped to $100,000. When he told the driver’s mom she would have to pay him a $10,000 fee to get her son out of jail, she said, “No problem. Here’s my credit card number.” He smiled and took a sip from his beer, nodding happily. “I couldn’t believe it.”

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Inside the Wild, Shadowy, and Highly Lucrative Bail Industry

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Opposing View: Yes, We Should Keep Adding "Gate" to Every Flap

Mother Jones

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USA Today’s media columnist, Rem Rieder, is tired of the rest of us tacking gate onto the end of every conceivable scandal. Here’s his argument:

It’s not cute. It’s not cool. It’s not clever.

I will give it knee-jerk. And lazy. And oh, so predictable.

But it’s not supposed to be cute, cool, or clever. It’s supposed to be knee-jerk, lazy, and predictable—or, as the rest of us refer to this quality, instantly recognizable. Tomato, tomahto, my friend.

Perhaps recognizing the tenuousness of his case, Rieder adds this:

But there is a more serious reason to show gate to the gate. By awarding the suffix to everything from serious government misconduct to the exposure of Janet Jackson’s breast during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII (surely you remember Nipplegate), you create a false equivalency that ends up trivializing everything.

That certainly was the take of Sam Dash, who served as chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee all those years ago. “When people hear this proliferation of ‘gates,’ they feel the press is telling them this is the same as Watergate, and whatever Watergate has stood for has lost its meaning,” Dash told Suzan Revah of American Journalism Review.

I dunno. We’ve been slapping gate on the end of things for 40 years now, and Richard Nixon’s notoriety remains safe. So I don’t really think this argument holds water. Besides, gate actually has a very specific meaning. Watergate was the first big example of scandal as public spectacle during the media age, and because of this gate is generally reserved for spectacles large and small. But it’s not used for things that go beyond the realm of political spectacle. There’s no such thing as Benghazi-gate because that was a tragedy in which people died. Likewise, there’s no Surveillance-gate or Waco-gate. Its use is actually surprisingly specialized.

Still, what if we did all get tired of gate? What would we replace it with? It would be even more boring to just call all these things scandals, and that wouldn’t clearly identify them anyway. But maybe we could poach some other scandal-related suffix? What options do we have? Teapot Dome. Crédit Mobilier. The Plame Affair. Iran-Contra. The XYZ Affair. The Keating Five. Chappaquiddick. The vicuna coat. Let’s try these out to see how they sound as a replacement for Bridgegate:


It’s hopeless. Teapot Dome is the only one that works—though I’ll confess that Bridgexyz has certain possibilities depending on how you pronounce it. So that’s that. We either keep using gate or else switch to dome. I think we’re better off sticking with gate.

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Opposing View: Yes, We Should Keep Adding "Gate" to Every Flap

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Bangladesh’s biggest power plant will harm world’s biggest mangrove forest

Bangladesh’s biggest power plant will harm world’s biggest mangrove forest


Burning coal is a surefire way of damaging the climate, and harming mangroves is a surefire way of worsening climate impacts. Which makes the planned construction of Bangladesh’s largest coal-fired power plant at the edge of the world’s biggest mangrove forest doubly troubling.

Construction is beginning on the 1,320-megawatt Rampal power plant less than 10 miles from the Sundarbans, the sweeping mangrove system that straddles Bangladesh and India, helping to protect an eastern chunk of the Subcontinent from floods and cyclones.

An estimated 20,000 people recently marched to protest the project. Scientists warn it will produce pollution that feeds acid rain over the mangroves and suck up vast quantities of the ecosystem’s water.

The Bangladeshi government says the plant is needed as part of an effort to ease blackouts and help half the nation’s population access electricity supplies for the first time. But when it comes to the plant’s environmental impacts, government officials are stuck in obstinate-denier mode. They say the plant will be built using “the latest ultra super critical technology” and burn “high-quality imported coal” meaning that it “would not affect the environment of Sundarban.” Yeah, right. From an article in e360:

The construction of the Rampal plant is part of an ambitious government strategy to increase electricity generation to 20,000 megawatts by 2021 — a goal that relies heavily on coal. The current administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is proposing a dozen new coal plants, with more likely to come. Until recently, less than five percent of Bangladesh’s electricity production came from coal. Instead the country produced most of its energy from natural gas and biomass.

Critics of the Rampal plant and the country’s growing embrace of coal argue that it is a reckless strategy for a nation that is consistently rated as one of most vulnerable countries to global warming. Few nations are as low-lying as Bangladesh, and the Sundarbans is one of the country’s most important bulwarks against rising seas and intensifying typhoons and other extreme weather events.

Bangladesh endures frequent cyclones and, with much of the country laying less than five yards above sea level, it frequently floods — with deadly results. Bangladeshis deserve access to electricity, but they don’t deserve this filthy project. There are much better ways.

A Key Mangrove Forest Faces Major Threat from a Coal Plant, e360

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Bangladesh’s biggest power plant will harm world’s biggest mangrove forest

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Elizabeth Warren Declares Victory over GOP on Senate Confirmation of Wall Street Watchdog

Mother Jones

“It is truly a historic day,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday after the Senate agreed to allow a vote on Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the consumer watchdog agency that Warren devised and helped get on its feet. “It took nearly two years, but…now the American people will have a strong watchdog in Washington,” Warren continued in a conference call with reporters. “David beat Goliath.”

On Tuesday evening, the Senate confirmed Cordray by a vote of 66 to 34 after Republicans agreed not to filibuster his confirmation. The vote came after Republicans spent years trying to block Cordray’s appointment and attacking the CFPB in court.

The CFPB has already accomplished much to benefit consumers—forcing credit card companies to refund nearly half a billion dollars they juked consumers out of, implementing new rules to make mortgages safer, and creating a center that fields consumer complaints about shady dealings by financial institutions. But without a director confirmed by the Senate, the agency’s powers were limited. Now that Cordray has been confirmed, the CFPB is fully legitimate, Warren says. “There are no more clouds. Period. This locks all the pieces in place,” she told reporters Tuesday.

It was a long struggle. Senate Republicans filibustered Cordray when Obama first nominated him to head the agency in July 2011. In response, Obama used a recess appointment—a presidential appointment that happens while the Senate is on vacation and does not require Senate approval—to install Cordray in January 2012. Republicans then sued to challenge the constitutionality of Cordray’s appointment. Senate Republicans intended to filibuster Cordray again this time around, demanding fundamental changes that would weaken the CFPB before they’d allow a vote. Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, threatened to change the rules of the Senate to block the GOP filibuster. But late Tuesday, the Senate devised a truce to avert the Republicans’ filibuster—and Reid’s rule change.

The agency was devised by Warren after the financial crisis, who pointed out at the time that it was “impossible to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house. But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of putting the family out on the street.” The agency came to life as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform act, and Warren has aggressively campaigned for Cordray’s confirmation ever since.

Republicans will continue to push for changes to the agency, such as forcing the agency to be subject to the congressional appropriations process so Congress can revoke its funding and allowing other regulatory agencies to veto CFPB actions. And the Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of Cordray’s previous recess appointment in the fall.

But Warren is not worried. “They can introduce whatever legislation they want. The political stalemate is over,” she told reporters, adding that any Supreme Court ruling would have few implications since Cordray now has the Senate’s official approval. As she said in a statement after the Tuesday vote, “The consumer agency is the law of the land and is here to stay.”

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Elizabeth Warren Declares Victory over GOP on Senate Confirmation of Wall Street Watchdog

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Choosing The Solar Panel Contractor Best Fit For Your Project Concerns

The home renovation is underway and you’re nearing the finish line. But now comes the fine detail work that can make or break any sort of project. Maybe it’s wise to make the investment in a professional solar panel installation contractor to finish this job the right way. Take a look over the following list of qualities to seek in a contractor you employ.

Always check a solar panel installation contractor’s credentials to make sure everything is correct when it comes to your state and city regulations. If a contractor doesn’t have the right licenses, certifications and permits it can cause delays and problems in your project.

Never hire a solar panel installation contractor who doesn’t obtain the proper insurance coverage and bonding. The consequences could be very harmful to you if they don’t legally have these. Always verify they have proper licensing, insurance and bond information.

A good solar panel installation contractor always listens to your needs and concerns and gives helpful suggestions at all times. If the contractor has been active during interview and estimation and is easy to talk to than he is probably a good choice to do further business with.

During the process of implementing a major project, you should be ready to learn and to adjust. Flexibility is advised so as to avoid frustrations; however, the choice of a solar panel installation contractor is a determinant too. A contractor with good attitude will assist in the adaptation process.

As a bare minimum, you should at least get 3 quotes from different solar panel installation contractors. This way you ensure a proper comparison and further negotiation to make the right choice. You might increase your risk of paying more if you get less than 3 bids.

In some states, a solar panel installation contractor obtains the license only when he undergoes an apprentice program i. e. training under a previously established contractor for four years to gain the required amount of taining and experience. Make sure that you hire these trained professionals whenever and wherever available.

A way to determine if a solar panel installation contractor is professional can be apparent as soon as they answer the phone. You want a contractor who will show you respect in every situation. If they are unable to do that in a phone call, they might be unable to do it in a more stressful situation.

You could face hefty fines if you hire a solar panel installation contractor that does not get the proper permits. Confirm the contractor has secured the necessary permits prior to starting the next phase of your job. It is easier to make a call to the permit office than to write a check for a fine.

Make a follow up from the referee to ascertain that they were satisfied with the work done and most likely get to know the reasons. Draw up an agreement to be signed by the solar panel installation contractor outlining the terms of working in terms of budgetting and time for reporting to wok. This should be in line with the professional ethics.

When you are interested in the topic of perth solar panels, go ahead and visit Google and look for westsun solar solar panel installers perth. You’ll be glad you did!

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