Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 16th, 2014

Watching Wallander and got to thinking…

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Wallander is a police procedural, and Season 3 Episode 2 “Missing” includes a big search through woods and fields, along pathways and railroad tracks, for a missing child. I got to thinking about the grueling tedium—and then in the next scene, Wallander says to a colleague, “Go check, see if anyone’s seen anything,” and then thinking about the ordeal of approaching stranger after stranger, asking over and over if they noticed anything, anything at all.

And then it struck me that with that mindset the job would destroy me, and the way to approach it is as exciting sort of gamble/adventure: at any moment, literally in the next step or the next person, you may find the very thing you want. It’s like a perpetual lottery, only with better odds and a more important prize. And then the day would be excitement: always verging on the brink of discovery.

I think they do this same mental adjustment in sales, too: to see objections as a good sign, a thing that offers encouragement—because you’re sure going to hit a lot of objections. Might as well try to enjoy them and see what you can make of them: “So, basically, you like everything but the color, right?”. . .

If you’re going to shave, find a way to do it that makes it enjoyable. If you’re going to have to accept certain necessary aspects of a job, find a way to view them that makes doing them enjoyable. Why not?

UPDATE: Another example occurred to me from back when AT&T had humans staffing their information service. Information operators (as well as customer service and tech support staff) are often faced with irritated and even angry callers, who are frustrated by the time they call. The training was a two-step process: First, operators were trained (via recordings) to judge the anger of the caller on a 5-point scale. (Not sure about actual number of points: it could have been 6 or 7.) With a little practice, all trainees could accurately identify the caller’s anger level—that is, a given caller would get the same anger rating from all.

The next step was to deal with actual callers, and the challenge was to drop their anger by 1 point at least, with bigger drops representing a greater achievement.

This gave a game-like aspect to the calls, and made the calls more interesting and the abuse less apt to be taken personally: it was simply someone else’s anger, and the trick was to see how much you could reduce it. One immediate effect was that persons near the top of the anger scale were welcomed, since one could pretty easily reduce their anger by 2 or even 3 points. (Sort of like those learners who in the initial stages pay attention to progress rather than result: at the beginning of learning anything, progress is apt to be rapid, which is gratifying if that’s what you’re watching.)

The best result, of course, was a caller whose anger dropped to zero and who thanked the operator for the help.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2014 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Daily life

Muckreads from ProPublica

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Here are some—one example from the link:

If you don’t have to pay the fine for having an unsafe workplace, why provide a safe workplace? Thousands of mines are operating despite owing safety penalties that go back as far as 20 years, according to an NPR investigation. In their years of delinquency, these mines reported injury rates 50 percent higher than mines that paid penalties. In a joint investigation, NPR and Mine Safety and Health News discovered that federal regulators are either unable or unwilling to get these owners to pay up. “Coal mine regulation is not a high-profile area of law enforcement. … It’s a fairly low priority,” said one former assistant U.S. attorney.—NPR via @AnnaBoikoW

It’s not a high-priority because our government is oriented to serve the needs of the powerful and coal miners are not powerful, so the government ignores their plight—cf. Native Americans for another example: we steal their land, we force them onto reservations, and then we ignore them.

Another example (but read them all at the link):

Are your strawberries grown with these dangerous pesticides? Nine out of 10 strawberries come from California. But to keep this $2.6 billion industry growing, farmers rely on a fumigant that state scientists say poses an increased risk of cancer. While Dow AgroSciences, manufacturer of the chemical 1,3-Dichloropropene, said agricultural use of the fumigant doesn’t pose a cancer risk, state researchers say otherwise.—The Center of Investigative Reporting via @rachael_bale

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2014 at 12:09 pm

Football players are above the law (in practice)

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You’ll recall this recent post. You’ll also recall the various high-school rapes by one or several members of the football team that police really did not want to investigate. In the NY Times Steve Eder takes a look at how football players who are guilty of domestic abuse are protected (though their wives are not).

Even after sheriff’s deputies arrived at her Weston, Fla., home, Kristen Lennon remained in the bathroom, afraid to leave. Minutes earlier, she had fled there for safety as she called 911, telling the operator that her fiancé had thrown her on the bed and hit her in the face and head. She was two months pregnant.

“Please help,” Ms. Lennon said, her voice shaking. “He’s way bigger than me.” The couple’s first child was nearby in their bedroom.

On the other side of the bathroom door was Phillip Merling, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound defensive end for the Miami Dolphins. When deputies from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office arrived at about 1:30 a.m. on May 27, 2010, they found Ms. Lennon with redness and swelling on her face and a cut on her lip.

What happened next illustrated how relationships between National Football League teams and local law enforcement agencies can lead to special treatment for players.

Minutes after Mr. Merling was taken into custody, Stuart Weinstein, the Dolphins’ longtime security director, was working his contacts in the Sheriff’s Office, trying to confirm the arrest and get information on Mr. Merling’s status. At one point, Mr. Weinstein asked a commander who worked side jobs for the Dolphins to notify him when Mr. Merling’s bond was posted. The commander said he would, according to an internal affairs investigation.

Mr. Merling was booked on charges of aggravated domestic battery on a pregnant woman. Almost all inmates are required to leave the jail through the public front door and arrange their own transportation home, but Mr. Merling was granted an unusual privilege: He was escorted out a rear exit by a deputy, evading reporters. The commander, who was off duty and in uniform, drove Mr. Merling in an unmarked car to the Dolphins’ training complex 20 minutes away.

After Mr. Merling met with team officials, the commander drove him home to get his belongings — even though a judge had ordered Mr. Merling to “stay away” and avoid any potential contact with Ms. Lennon.

N.F.L. teams, which have their own robust security operations, often form close relationships with local law enforcement agencies, say people familiar with the procedures. Teams routinely employ off-duty officers to be uniformed escorts or help with security, paying them, providing perks and covering costs for them to travel to away games. When allegations of crimes such as domestic violence arise, the bond between officers and team security officials can favor the player while leaving the accuser feeling isolated.

In California, for instance, the San Jose Police Department is investigating why one of its officers who worked part time for the San Francisco 49ers was at the home of defensive lineman Ray McDonald around the time of his arrest on domestic violence charges in August. Prosecutors said last week that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr. McDonald but noted that the officer “was working for the 49ers while being paid by the citizens of San Jose.”

The treatment of players involved in domestic violence cases has become an inflammatory issue for the N.F.L. this fall after

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2014 at 12:02 pm

My Last Day In Yemen

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Interesting story at BuzzFeed by Gregory Johnsen. Their blurb:

Yemen was like a home away from home for me — until the day I was nearly abducted in broad daylight, and narrowly missed suffering a grim fate similar to other journalists drawn to covering, and living in, the Middle East.

The story begins:

Mostly I remember his face — the anger and hatred and evil as he realized his plan was not going to succeed. There is no sound to this memory. The traffic and background noise that must have existed are gone, edited out as superfluous. All that I have left is an image. Zubayri Street on a Saturday morning in Yemen, a silent movie that plays on a continuous loop.

In that clip, about 45 seconds in, the man is getting frustrated. I can see it. He keeps pulling me toward the cab and I keep resisting. Everything is falling apart, and he knows it. The hardness on his face twists into anger and then rage, almost as if it is traveling along some sort of spectrum of hatred. This happens quickly, like he has to touch every base when all he wants to do is get to the end. Then he is there and the decision is made.

The man grabs for his gun. He needs both hands to chamber the bullet; his right holds the metal, the left works the lever. And now it is just him, waving his gun like he wants to destroy the world and press reset. For three seconds, an eternity when you’re waiting on bullets, I’m stuck in the middle. One man is about to shoot and another is pulling on my backpack. The second man drops my backpack and chambers his own bullet. Then everyone is moving at once. And I’m running with them. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2014 at 8:37 am

Posted in Daily life

Lethal mix: Lawyers’ mistakes, unforgiving law

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A good longread by Ken Armstrong of the Marshall Project:

In 1992, Kenneth Rouse, an African American man with an IQ between 70 and 80 — “borderline intellectual functioning,” in the clinical parlance — prepared to stand trial in North Carolina on charges that he had robbed, murdered and attempted to rape a white, 63-year-old store clerk.

Rouse’s lawyers questioned the prospective jurors to try to expose any racial or other bias they might have against the defendant. But several years after the all-white jury convicted Rouse and recommended a death sentence, his defense team made a stunning discovery.

One of the jurors, Joseph S. Baynard, admitted that his mother had been robbed, murdered and possibly raped years before. Baynard had not disclosed this history, he said, so that he could sit in judgment of Rouse, whom he called “one step above a moron.” Baynard, who used a racial slur when referring to African Americans, added that he thought black men raped white women for bragging rights.

As claims of juror bias go, the evidence could hardly have been stronger. But Rouse’s final appeal was never heard. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Rouse’s lawyers had just one year after his initial state appeal to petition for a last-resort hearing in federal court.

They missed the deadline by a single day.

A federal appeals judge wrote that it was “unconscionable” for her court to reject Rouse’s case because of such a mistake by his court-appointed lawyers. But dozens of lawyers have made the same mistake, and most of their clients, like Rouse, have not been forgiven by the courts for missing the deadline.

An investigation by The Marshall Project shows that since President Bill Clinton signed the one-year statute of limitations into law — enacting a tough-on-crime provision that emerged in the Republicans’ Contract with America — the deadline has been missed at least 80 times in capital cases. Sixteen of those inmates have since been executed — the most recent was on Thursday, when Chadwick Banks was put to death in Florida.​

By missing the filing deadline, those inmates have usually lost access to habeas corpus, arguably the most critical safeguard in the United States’ system of capital punishment. “The Great Writ,” as it is often called (in Latin it means “you have the body”), habeas corpus allows prisoners to argue in federal court that the conviction or sentence they received in a state court violates federal law.

For example, of the 12 condemned prisoners who have left death row in Texas after being exonerated since 1987, five of them were spared in federal habeas corpus proceedings. In California, 49 of the 81 inmates who had completed their federal habeas appeals by earlier this year have had their death sentences vacated.

The prisoners who missed their habeas deadlines have sometimes forfeited powerful claims. Some of them challenged the evidence of their guilt, and others the fairness of their sentences. One Mississippi inmate was found guilty partly on the basis of a forensic hair analysis that the FBI now admits was flawed. A prisoner in Florida was convicted with a type of ballistics evidence that has long since been discredited.

Just last month, Mark Christeson, a Missouri inmate whose lawyers missed the habeas deadline in 2005, received a stay of execution from the Supreme Court just hours before he was set to die by lethal injection.

In a court brief filed on Christeson’s behalf, 15 former state and federal judges emphasized that he had not even met the appellate attorneys handling his federal case until after the filing deadline had passed. “Cases, including this one, are falling through the cracks of the system,” they wrote. “And when the stakes are this high, such failures unacceptably threaten the very legitimacy of the judicial process.” . . .

Continue reading.

And take a look at other reports by the Marshall Project.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2014 at 8:26 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Israel’s Ban on Norwegian Humanitarian Dr. in Gaza spells ‘trouble for gov’t’

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Once governments start hiding from public view what they are doing, the nation is on a downward path. Sunlight really is the best defense against oppressive government—and one clear danger sign in the US is the increasing secret activity of the government and the vicious persecution of whistleblowers.

Juan Cole notes:

RT reports –

“Israel has permanently banned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert from entering Gaza. He told RT that he has become “a great problem for the Israeli government” because he documents the atrocities he sees in Palestine.”


Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2014 at 8:08 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Now police departments are building civil asset forfeiture into their future budgets

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If the police build proceeds from civil asset forfeiture (a legal form of robbery that allows the police to take property from people not even accused of a crime) into their budgets, then very soon we’ll see civil asset forfeiture quotas that police officers must meet. Robert O’Harrow, Jr., and Steven Rich write in the Washington Post:

D.C. police have made plans for millions of dollars in anticipated proceeds from future civil seizures of cash and property, even though federal guidelines say “agencies may not commit” to such spending in advance, documents show.

The city’s proposed budget and financial plan for fiscal 2015 includes about $2.7 million for the District police department’s “special purpose fund” through 2018. The fund covers payments for informants and rewards.

The financial details emerged Wednesday, when the D.C. Council’s judiciary committee unanimously voted to forward a bill that would overhaul asset forfeiture laws in the nation’s capital. The bill would raise the threshold of proof required for a forfeiture, bolster the rights of individuals whose property has been taken and require that proceeds from seizures under federal law go into the city general fund, rather than directly to the police department. The full council is set to vote on the bill Tuesday.

Council member Tommy Wells, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, said police should not have a financial incentive to make seizures. He said the bill addresses problems that are common across the country.

“All across the nation, law enforcement agencies are directly benefiting from forfeiture,” said Wells (D-Ward 6), who is leading the effort to reform asset forfeiture in the District. “In those places, forfeiture proceeds go directly to the law enforcement entity, creating at best the appearance of a conflict of interest, and at worst, an unchecked incentive for slush funds.”

Civil forfeiture laws permit local and state police to take cash, cars, homes and other property from people suspected of involvement in drug trafficking or other wrongdoing without proving a crime has occurred. Police can make seizures under state or federal laws.

Since 2009, D.C. officers have made more than 12,000 seizures under city and federal laws, according to records and data obtained from the city byThe Washington Post through the District’s open records law. Half of the more than $5.5 million in cash seizures were for $141 or less, with more than a thousand for less than $20. D.C. police have seized more than 1,000 cars, some for minor offenses allegedly committed by the children or friends of the vehicle owners, documents show.

When D.C. police seize cash or property under District law, the proceeds go into the city’s general fund. But proceeds of seizures made under federal law go directly to the police department through the Justice Department’sEquitable Sharing Program, which allows local departments to join with federal agencies in forfeitures and keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds. . .

Continue reading. There’s a video at the link you may want to see. It is well worth watching.

And the entire column is well worth reading. In civil asset forfeiture we see the government in the US start to turn on citizens and begin to treat all citizens as criminals—unless the citizen can prove otherwise. This is strong-arm, repressive, out-of-control government that is moving toward a police state in which citizens are powerless victims of the state. We’re not there yet, but that’s where we’re headed.

More from the “Stop and Seize” series:

Part 1: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes

Part 2: Pollice intelligence targets cash

Part 3: They fought the law. Who won?

Part 4: Asset seizures fuel police spending

Part 5: Highway seizure in Iowa fuels debate about asset-forfeiture laws

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2014 at 7:41 am

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