Later On

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

Archive for January 30th, 2015

Indisputable proof that prosecutors and politicians are penalized when they hold police accountable

leave a comment »

Why it is so very difficult to reform police departments: because they like things the way they are and they are willing to fight dirty. Shaun King writes at Daily Kos:

When police officers shot and killed James Boyd, a homeless, mentally ill man they confronted for illegally sleeping in the mountains, the body camera footage of the incident was so disturbing that the local DA, Kari Brandenburg, recently decided to indict the officers and take the case to court.

Albuquerque, NM, somewhat shockingly to outsiders who don’t think of the city as being notorious for police violence, was reviewed by the Department of Justice and given a scathing review. The court monitored actions required by the DOJ will go into effect soon, but conditions have deteriorated so badly in the city that a resident of Albuquerque is now over 25 times more likely to be shot and killed by an officer there than they would be in New York City.

These problems are bad for everyone—ranging from the citizens who suffer the violence, to the public servants of Albuquerque who are widely branded as irresponsible and violence prone, to the business and tourism industries who may opt to distance themselves from a city mired in controversy of the worst kind.

That’s why when Kari Brandenburg took the rare step to pursue charges against the officers who killed James Boyd, that it was a powerful signal the city was moving in the right direction. The police, though, have started to act out against Brandenburg and her entire office. Just a day after filing charges against the officers, another Albuquerque resident was murdered by police.

And when a prosecutor from Brandenburg’s office went to the scene and sought to attend an investigative briefing, as prosecutors had been doing for years as part of their collection of evidence, police wouldn’t let her in. They claimed that now that the DA’s office had filed criminal charges against a cop, they had a “conflict of interest” and should be excluded.“Clearly, this could compromise the integrity of the investigation of this shooting,” an outraged Brandenburg told KRQE of the police department’s behavior. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 5:50 pm

The Reform the Military Is Already Undertaking

leave a comment »

Another in the “Chickenhawk Nation” series by James Fallows. Like the others, definitely worth reading. Really some good stuff in this one.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Military

Great news: The FCC Just Required Broadband to Be Faster (and Big Telecom Is Unhappy)

leave a comment »

Interesting development, and high goddam time, too. Our 18 Mbps download connection (via AT&T U-verse) is now no longer a broadband connection. Broadband, in the new definition, starts at 25 Mbps and goes up from there.

Read the full article by Sam Gustin at Motherboard. It begins:

The US baseline standard for “broadband” internet speed just increased dramatically—and so did the conflict between the federal government and the largest internet service providers over the future of the internet.

By voting on Thursday to change the definition of broadband upward sixfold to at least 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream, from 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up, the Federal Communications Commission sent a clear message that the status quo is not acceptable, a view that is not shared by the cable and telecom industry.

“Today’s report offers a valuable assessment of US broadband and will hopefully serve as an impetus for meaningful improvements in the speed and availability of true high-speed networks for all Americans,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “We know where we need to be. Now we need to do the hard work to get there.”

The robust new broadband standard is just the latest evidence that the federal government is making internet policy issues a top priority, from net neutrality—the internet’s open access principle—to community internet networks, which are proliferating around the country. President Obama has spoken out forcefully in favor of strong net neutrality protections, and has made clear that he supports local efforts to build super-fast networks.

The new broadband definition, which was adopted by the FCC 3-2 along party lines, formalizes a rhetorical point that Wheeler made several months ago: 25Mbps is now “table stakes,” or a minimum acceptable level, for advanced broadband networks in an era of exploding bandwidth usage due to the popularity of services like Netflix.

“By changing this definition, the FCC has set a new bar that will get America thinking about how to meet it,” said Jim Baller, president of Baller Herbst Stokes & Lide, a law firm that represents communities across the country that are pushing for advanced communications networks. “This puts positive pressure on everyone to think about what we want our advanced communications future to look like.”

The FCC’s new definition of broadband means that 55 million people, or 17 percent of the US population, now lack access to advanced broadband connections. DSL connections, for example, do not meet the new standard. Moreover, 53 percent of rural Americans lack access to the new service standard, sharply highlighting the digital divide.

“There is a large, and unacceptable, disparity in broadband access between urban Americans and Americans in rural areas and tribal lands,” said Wheeler. “Despite the billions in network investment, progress in deployment of faster networks to underserved areas is too slow.”

The new definition of broadband service creates a fresh point of contention between the cable and telecom industry and the federal government.

Next month, the FCC is expected to follow Obama’s cue and reclassify internet service providers under the “common carrier” provisions of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Many net neutrality advocates argue that such a move would allow the FCC to ensure that the internet remains an open platform for free expression and economic growth.

The FCC will also soon decide whether to help two cities—Wilson, North Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee—that have asked the feds to preempt state laws that pose barriers to super-fast community networks.

Most industry giants oppose the government’s apparent move toward strong net neutrality rules, arguing that a tough new regulatory regime could stifle private investment.

The industry giants also oppose most community internet projects, arguing that they pose an unfair competitive threat to private industry. In a filing with the FCC last fall, AT&T opposed government supported community networks, claiming they would create a “non-level playing field.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 5:17 pm

Things change: 1 Tbyte storage in a very small SSD

leave a comment »

More in the Mashable article by Raymond Wong. From the article:

Samsung’s Portable SSD (solid state drive) T1 ticks both the security and speed checkboxes, and does so in high style without going overboard.

The T1 measures 2.1 x 2.8 x 0.36 inches — smaller than a standard business card — and weighs a featherlight 0.9 of an ounceIt’s so light that it feels like there’s nothing inside its plastic casing, let alone 1 terabyte (TB) of storage.

Samsung says you can slide it into a wallet. It fits in my normal-sized leather bi-fold, but it just won’t close. So not really. It’ll fit in a clutch, small purse or pocket fine, though.

In the age of potential hacking, security is everything. The T1 includes AES 256-bit hardware encryption — real NSA-level protection. Locking up your data is as easy as installing a special driver and then creating a password. Be smart: Don’t use “123456” or “password.”

In addition to being safe from digital snooping, the T1 is also safe — physically. Unlike hard drives, which have platter disks and moving mechanical parts, the T1 has none. Its SSD nature means it can be thrown around like a hot potato and the stored data will be safe at all times.

Fast transfers

Waiting for big files to transfer is as exciting as watching paint dry. Depending on your drive and cable interface (USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, etc.), your transfer speeds will vary.

The T1 boasts read and write speeds of 450 megabytes per second (MB/s) when connected through USB 3.0, which itself supports transfer speeds of 5Gb/s. In practical terms, Samsung says you can transfer a 3GB movie in eight seconds.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Technology

Spanish Peacekeeper Is The Latest Example Of Israel Killing United Nations Personnel

leave a comment »

Murtaza Hussain wrote in The Intercept:

On January 28th a barrage of Israeli artillery fire struck near the South Lebanese village of Ghajar, killing United Nations peacekeeper Francisco Javier Soria. Soria, 36, was a Spanish citizen deployed with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, a peacekeeping mission tasked with maintaining the ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon in the occupied Golan Heights.

His death came in the midst of a recent flare-up of violence between Israel and Hezbollah, and Spain’s ambassador to the United Nations placed blame for the incident firmly upon the Israeli Defence Forces, citing an “escalation of violence [which] came from the Israeli side.” The exact circumstances which led to Soria’s death are still under investigation; Israeli officials expressed condolences for  his death and said their forces were responding to fire in the area.

What is clear however is that Israeli forces have been killing an alarming number of United Nations personnel in the course of their recent military operations — and that UN officials have vociferously criticized the attacks, sometimes saying they appeared deliberate.

This past summer in the Gaza Strip, Israel forces attacked seven different schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, schools that had been serving as temporary shelters for the displaced population of the territory. Despite repeated warnings, condemnations and entreaties, United Nations targets were hit again and again by Israeli airstrikes and shelling during the conflict.

As many of 46 civilians are believed to have been killed in these attacks, as well as eleven UNRWA staff members. One particularly lethal strike on a UN-administered elementary school in Beit Hanoun killed 15 civilians and wounded 200 others. That attack reportedly sent shrapnel flying into crowds of families who had been awaiting transportation in the school’s playground. . .

Continue reading. It gets worse.

You can see why Israel doesn’t want to face an international court.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 4:09 pm

Some things should not be done for profit—e.g., prisons are now profit centers for banks

leave a comment »

Hospitals, in my view. Courts. Law-enforcement (cf. civil asset forfeiture: very profitable, eh?) And prisons. Stan Alcorn writes in Marketplace:

Greg Cavaluzzi spent four years in federal prison, eating cold oatmeal and white bread for breakfast and bologna for lunch and dinner. So the first thing he wanted to do when he was released was to eat “something normal.” When his parents picked him up from Fort Dix in New Jersey, he took them to Wendy’s.

“We didn’t really talk,” he says. “We ate. We were just so happy to be next to each other.”

He ordered two bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, and paid for the meal with a JP Morgan Chase debit card featuring a photo of him in his prison-issued khakis, a backdrop measuring his height in the background. The cards are standard in the federal prison system for giving discharged inmates money sent by friends and family or earned at in-prison jobs.

Cavaluzzi’s meal cost about $10. Or as Cavaluzzi puts it: “Everything. It was everything. I was used to making $10 a month.”

He made that money as a librarian in prison, where wages start at 11 cents an hour. But those hard-earned dollars disappeared faster than he expected, and when he called Chase, he found out the reason was fees.

“It just seemed a little…” Cavaluzzi trails off. “It was sketchy.”

The fees on prison-issued debit cards were agreed to in a 2011 contract with a branch of the Department of the Treasury, which provided the schedule of fees below.


It costs 45 cents to check your balance at an ATM, $1.50 if your account is inactive for 90 days, $2 to withdraw money at a non-Chase ATM, and $7.50 to replace the card a second time within a year.

The absolute numbers aren’t radically high, but experts say even small penalties can be both more significant – and more insidious –for newly released prisoners, who tend to have less money and banking experience, and face many other barriers to reintegrating into society.

“It’s bus fare to a job, it’s a meal, it’s a room for a night,” says Karin Martin, an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. She researches debt and fees in the criminal justice system. . .

Continue reading. Video at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Under Suspicious Circumstances, FBI Places Brother Of No-Fly Litigant On Most Wanted Terrorist List

leave a comment »

The FBI needs better oversight than it now is getting. Congress spends too much time posturing and soliciting money to do much of its actual work of oversight. Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept:

In late December 2010, 18-year-old Somali-American Gulet Mohamed wasdetained in Kuwait without charges and tortured, almost certainly at thebehest of U.S. officials. Through a cellphone smuggled into the detention camp by another inmate, Gulet was able to call me and New York Timesreporter Mark Mazzetti and recount what happened; that morning, we both published articles reporting on the detention, and (with Gulet’s consent) Ipublished the recording of the 50-minute call I had with him, showing him in extreme distress as he described his ordeal.

After Kuwaiti officials concluded they had no cause to detain him, the teenager was told that he would be deported back to the U.S. as soon as his family presented a plane ticket. Once they did that, he was taken to the airport, only to be told by United Airlines that he was barred from boarding the plane because he had recently been placed by the U.S. Government (in secret, with no hearing or explanation) on the no-fly list. In other words – as has happened many times before to American Muslims – Gulet’s own government secretly exiled him with no due process by placing him on a no-fly list while he was traveling overseas. Only after a stand-off with the Kuwaitis did the U.S. Government issue a one-time waiver to allow him to fly back to the U.S. He remains on the no-fly list.

Once back in the U.S., Gulet (pictured, right) – who, to this day, has never been charged with a crime – sued the U.S. Government for violation of his constitutional rights, a case that challenges not just Gulet’s specific treatment but the no-fly process itself. The federal judge presiding over the lawsuit, Bush-43-appointee Anthony Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia,issued a series of rulingsdemonstrating clear skepticismabout the DOJ’s arguments in defense of the no-fly system. As my Intercept colleague Cora Currierreported in October, Judge Trenga rejected the DOJ’s argument that what was done to Gulet was a “state secret” and therefore could not be adjudicated by any court, thus ensuring the case would be fully heard.

As Gulet’s lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, told The Intercept last night, Judge Trenga has repeatedly signaled serious concern about the no-fly system, including asking why less restrictive means (e.g., subjecting suspects to greater airport security scrutiny, putting air marshals on their planes) couldn’t be used. The judge has also written eloquently about the substantial degradation and harm that comes to someone barred by their own government from boarding an airplane, with no charges to contest and no real process to challenge the prohibition.

One of the most important hearings yet in this case – the argument on the DOJ’s motion for summary judgment – was long-scheduled to take place this morning in Judge Trenga’s Virginia courtroom. Yesterday, the FBIsuddenly announced via Twitter, a specially made YouTube video, and adramatic posting on its site – that Gulet’s older brother, Liban, has now been named to the agency’s Most Wanted List as its “New Most Wanted Terrorist.” The agency revealed that Liban is now charged with material support for terrorism for allegedly recruiting on behalf of the Somalian group Al Shabaab, and is offering $50,000 “for information leading to his arrest and conviction.”

Liban, who was working as a taxi cab driver when Gulet was detained and tortured, was one of his brother’s most vocal and eloquent advocates. I met with him several times in Washington, DC, and listened as he recounted with great sadness the psychological after-effects on his younger brother from his ordeal in Kuwait, as well as Liban’s own contained anger at being constantly surveilled and placed on the no-fly list despite never being charged with any crime.

In April 2012, I wrote about one of my meetings with Liban, describing the indignities he (and so many other young U.S. Muslims) experienced after going to the airport to try to visit Somalia for the first time, only to be told at the airport that he was barred by his own government from flying (at the time I wrote that article, he was unwilling to be publicly identified in connection with that event due to his fear that government harassment would intensify). The FBI claims he left the U.S. to join Al Shabab in Somalia a couple of months later: “Traveling with his U.S. passport, Mohamed is thought to have left the United States on or about July 5, 2012.”

I obviously have no idea whether Liban has done anything the FBI accuses him of doing: the indictment remains sealed. But independent of that issue, there is a serious question about why the FBI waited until the day before a key hearing in Gulet’s no-fly case to so melodramatically brand his brother as one of the world’s “most wanted terrorists,” particularly since they have had the arrest warrant for almost a full year. . .

What is beyond doubt is that the FBI has previously used dubious criminal charges, specifically terrorism accusations, to demonize and punish those who had the temerity to challenge the legality of the U.S. Government’s terrorism policies. One of the most egregious such instances involved Yonas Fikre, in a case very similar to Gulet’s.

In 2011, Fikre, an Eritrean-American businessman, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 3:25 pm

A memorable commencement address from St. John’s in Annapolis

leave a comment »

Bob Neidorf was a fine tutor, IMO, and also later became a dean. St. John’s College is based on the reading and discussion of the great works of Western civilization (though some non-Western titles may have been added). Classes are small, with a tutor (as faculty are called—not “professors,” since they don’t profess things: their function as guides and coaches) and perhaps 12 students; the seminar (which met in the evening when I was there) was about 20 students with two tutors.

At any rate, Neidorf one year was asked to give the commencement address in Annapolis. It’s short—less than four pages—and you can download the PDF and read it.

This was back during the Vietnam war, to give you some context.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Education

The Problem with Unbundling College

leave a comment »

Interesting essay by Daniel Luzer.

An interesting discussion in higher education policy today has to do with “unbundling” college. Like music, so proponents of the idea argue, we will soon see a world in which people receive higher education based on individual needs and desires. There’s no need to show up at the University of Maryland, after all, if you can just download all the courses you need to get a BA from colleges around the country.

College might become an on-demand exercise that has little to do with specific institutions. This is a popular idea, but is it a realistic assessment of what’s going on? No, this is bullshit, writes Derek Newton at the Atlantic

It’s a fantasy that higher education is careening toward an unbundled future of consumer choice, lower prices, and efficiency. Those making such predictions are peddling flawed analogies, while the technology they rely on is flawed. They just don’t understand the economics of higher education.

Higher-education consumers—students and parents—behave exactly the opposite: They shop for schools, not for professors. The consumer choice is for the bundler—the brand, the label, university—and not the individual course content. Consumers buy Stanford or Princeton in a way no one ever bought EMI or Universal. College data underlines this reality. For example, the 2012 UCLAannual survey of incoming college freshmen found that nearly two-thirds said “a very good academic reputation” was “very important” in their decision on which college to attend.

It’s an interesting take, but he’s overstating his case. Higher education will be unbundled, it just won’t matter for the way most of us think of college. Schools like Princeton or Pomona or the University of Missouri will remain more or less the same. It’s the schools that serve working people that will end.

College, as we know it (or as we know it) will not be unbundled (Newton is entirely correct about how this works). The upper-middle class in this country buys college in bundled form, and pretty much always has. You do not go to college specifically for skills development; you go to college for the college. The bundle, the whole experience, is the reason to go.

This is the problem with so much of this unbundling discussion. Proponents make it sound like technological changes will “revolutionize” education. As Jeff Selingo, a former editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote once , technology will give “students more options to take classes outside of their home institution, accelerating the pace to completing a degree, or serving as a supplement to a face-to-face course.”

Not really. We will not see college students in general “take classes outside of their home institution, accelerating the pace to completing a degree, or serving as a supplement to a face-to-face course.” What this means is that in the future poor people won’t have any chance go to college, because we’re not devoting the public resources necessary to make that happen.

It’s not about the American college system at all; it’s just about the colleges that the relatively poor attend.

In truth, unbundling isn’t about technology at all; it’s about resource priorities. It’s not that people are seeking out online education because the technology is so magical and wonderful that everyone flocks to it. No, it’s because since 1980, inflation- adjusted tuition at public colleges has more than tripled. People are seeking out online education because the United States increasingly fails to makes real college affordable to working people.

The truth is that unbundled training is nothing new. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Education

The FBI in action: Creating terrorist plots so it can disrupt them and get headlines (and ruin lives)

with 2 comments

The FBI often acts in a manner many would call “sleazy.” For example, Lindsay Abrams reports in Salon:

In 2007, then 26-year-old Eric McDavid was sentenced to over 19 years in prison on charges of conspiring to commit environmental terrorism. Nine years into his sentence, on Jan. 8, 2015, he walked free, it having emerged that federal authorities withheld information pertinent to his case.

Just as improbable-seeming as McDavid’s release, 10 years ahead of schedule, are the circumstances that he and his lawyers say led to his conviction in the first place: His romantic feelings for a pink-haired, 18-year-old activist, “Anna,” who spent months encouraging him and two others to join her in committing acts of eco-terrorism — and who also happened to be a paid FBI informant.

To understand how this all could have happened, you have to go back a decade, to when the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and other environmental and animal rights extremist groups were considered the nation’s No. 1 domestic terror threat. (These days, the honor is held by the sovereign citizen movement.) According to the FBI, McDavid was the ringleader of an ELF plot to blow up California’s Nimbus Dam and other targets. According to McDavid, all the incriminating things he was caught saying on tape amounted to mere talk — and it was all instigated by Anna.

Anna told the jury in the McDavid case that she was recruited by the FBI in 2003 after infiltrating a group of anti-free trade activists for a college paper. She met Zach Jenson, one of McDavid’s co-defendants, at a G-8 summit, and, through him, connected with McDavid and Lauren Weiner, his other co-defendant. (Both Jenson and Weiner pleaded guilty and testified against McDavid in exchange for lesser sentences.) Anna spent extensive time and money bringing the trio together, at one point assembling them at a cabin, wired for surveillance, that had been paid for by the FBI. Once there, it was she who gave the group a book of (fake) recipes for firebombs, also provided by the FBI. The group did experiment with building a bomb, but maintains that they never made solid plans to blow anything up. Each time they showed signs of balking, recordings played at the trial showed, it was Anna who urged them to keep going.

All the while, McDavid argued, Anna strung him along like a lovesick puppy. His defense argued that he was a victim of entrapment: that she acted on behalf of the FBI to induce him into conspiratorial behavior that he wouldn’t have engaged in otherwise. And his lawyers maintain that new documents — which the U.S. attorney’s office in eastern California says it “inadvertently” failed to disclose — strengthen his case. Among other things, they include letters in which Anna responds to McDavid’s declarations of love (“I hope that my forwardness w/expressing all this doesn’t scare the shit out of u,” he wrote) by hinting at the potential for a future relationship between the two of them.

“I think you and I could be great, but we have LOTS of little kinks to work out,” she wrote.

The attorney’s office maintains that “none of the omitted items were even remotely exculpatory.” But regardless of their content, the fact that they were withheld was enough to get McDavid a settlement. He pleaded guilty to general conspiracy, which carries a maximum five-year sentence, and, having already served nearly twice that, walked. In exchange, he promised not to appeal or sue the government. The ordeal, for McDavid, is mostly over.

But that’s no reason to put the matter to rest. “This is huge,” is how U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. put it when he signed off on the plea deal. “This is something that needs to be dealt with, and I want to know what happened.”

Mark Reichel, who served as McDavid’s trial attorney, agrees. The FBI’s actions, he told Salon, were improper and at times illegal; that evidence to this effect didn’t come out in the original trial is extremely suspicious, he suggests. Salon spoke with Reichel about his perspective on the case and its broader implications for the way federal investigators and prosecutors go after suspected terrorists. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Could you describe for me the role you played in McDavid’s case?

I was Eric’s attorney from the day of his arrest all throughout the pretrial motions — and there were a lot of them — and through the trial, on appeal, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Then when it came time to file the habeas motion, which is basically taking one last gasp for newfound evidence, I was substituted out and he gave it to Mark Vermeulen and the wonderful Ben Rosenfeld, who came in to save the day when the new stuff came out.

The news of Eric’s release seemed very sudden, but this was obviously something you’ve been working on for years. What finally brought it together? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 1:28 pm

Trying to rein in the right police have to break into your home in the middle of the night with no warning

leave a comment »

And not only can the police break into your home, they apparently love to toss in flash-bang grenades, one of which landed on an infant before it exploded. (Infant was innocent of any crime.)

Radley Balko discusses the attempts to reform the law to restore presumption of innocence and require probable cause before turning the paramilitary groups loose on someone’s home:

The legislatures of two relatively conservative states are considering new bills that would put some restrictions on when and how police can break into private homes. First, in Georgia, “Bou Bou’s Law” would require police to show probable cause that suspects could be dangerous to police or could destroy evidence if police were required to knock and announce themselves before forcing their way into a home. It basically raises the standard of evidence for no-knock raids from reasonable suspicion to probable cause. The bill is named for Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, a toddler who was badly burned and nearly killed by a flash grenade during a drug raid last year.

But as Jacob Sullum points out at Reason, it’s far from clear that the new law would have even prevented the incident for which it’s named.

The cops who raided the home where he was staying with his sisters and parents were looking for his cousin Wanis Thonetheva, a small-time meth dealer, and they argued that his history of gun charges suggested they would face violent resistance.

It turned out that Thonetheva no longer lived in the house, where police found no drugs or weapons. He was unarmed when police arrested him later that day at a different location.

The Habersham County grand jury that investigated the raid nevertheless concluded that Thonetheva’s history justified the no-knock warrant. Even under the stricter standard favored by [Sen. Vincent] Fort, a judge might agree.

Assuming police could not meet that test and therefore had to announce themselves, it might not have made any difference, since the raid occurred between 2 and 3 a.m, when everyone in the house was asleep. It is doubtful whether the Phonesavanhs would have heard and understood the police, let alone that they would have had enough time to answer the door before it was knocked down.

Police are supposed to wait a “reasonable time” after announcing themselves, but it’s not clear what that means. According to a 2003 Supreme Court decision, the relevant question is not how long it takes to answer the door but how long it takes to flush drugs down the toilet. In that case, the Court said 15 to 20 seconds was plenty of time. For people awakened in the middle of the night, that is probably not enough.

And this gets to the heart of the problem. The no-knock raid is different from other raids in that it dispenses with the knock-and-announce requirement. This requirement, which dates back centuries to English common law, is part and parcel with the Castle Doctrine, the idea that the home should be a place of peace and sanctuary and that even when police have just cause to search a house, residents should be given every opportunity to come to the door, answer peacefully and let the officers in, thus avoiding damage to their property and violence to their person. (It also gives innocent residents the opportunity to point out to the police that they have made a mistake.) Under the Castle Doctrine, suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The Supreme Court began chipping away at that presumption in 1963 with Ker v. California. In that case, the majority allowed for a home entry without announcement if police encountered one or more exigent circumstances, specifically if the police believed that announcing themselves would give suspects the opportunity to destroy evidence or to arm themselves. As Justice William Brennan pointed out in his dissent, the majority opinion does “obvious violence to the presumption of innocence.” That is, it begins its evaluation of when police may enter a home without announcing by presuming that the suspects are guilty — not just of the crime of which they’re suspected, but that they’re also capable of committing the additional crimes of destroying evidence and/or assaulting or attempting to kill law enforcement officers.

The case to which Sullum refers, U.S. v. Banksin some ways represents a complete abandonment of the Castle Doctrine. As Sullum points out, the issue in the case is how long the police must wait after knocking and announcing before they can force their way into a home. But the majority goes about calculating that period of time not by estimating how long it would take a resident to come to the door to avoid violence and destruction of property — as it would do if it were starting with a presumption of innocence — but by estimating how long it would take someone to destroy drug evidence, as it would do if it were starting with a presumption of guilt. So while the court’s majority in Banks affirmed the knock-and-announce requirement, it dispensed with the very reason the requirement exists in the first place. It reduced the requirement to a mere formality, a kind of ritualistic but ultimately meaningless tribute to a time when the law took more seriously the presumption of innocence and the sanctity of the home.

If you’re asleep in a bedroom, there’s little difference in whether the police burst in without knocking; announce themselves as the door is coming down; or even knock, announce and wait a few seconds before applying the battering ram. The entire point of “dynamic entry” is to take the occupants of a building by surprise — to overwhelm them with force and violence before they have an opportunity to do much of anything, much less come and answer the door.

Once you’ve decided to use dynamic entry tactics, you’ve already dispensed with the entire purpose of the knock-and-announce requirement. In fact, when the police do knock and announce, any resident who does manage to open the door before it is blown open is probably subjecting himself or herself to a lot more danger. (You certainly don’t want to be holding anything in your hand.)

This is why the proposed Georgia bill is basically meaningless. . .

Continue reading. He goes on to point out that the Utah effort at reform is substantially better. From the article:

On the other hand, the reform bill just introduced in Utah is quite a bit better. The bill’s chief sponsor is state Sen. Steve Urquhart (R) and is the product of the continuing great work of Connor Boyack and the Libertas Institute, a libertarian think tank in Salt Lake City. The bill would eliminate no-knock raids for the preservation of evidence. It would require the police to show that a suspect poses a risk to their safety for any forced-entry raid (not just a no-knock raid), and it raises the standard of evidence to probable cause. It would require raiding cops to wear uniforms with large, conspicuous lettering indicating that they are police, and it would require all raiding cops to wear a body camera. Incredibly, in Utah (and quite a few other places) the warrants for these raids can be issued by magistrates and justices of the peace who have no training in criminal law. The new bill would end that, too. Most interesting, the Utah bill would statutorily override the Supreme Court’s decision in Hudson v. Michigan. In that case, the court found that even when the police clearly violate the knock-and-announce rule, any evidence they find in the subsequent search can still be used against the suspect in court. Under this bill, such evidence would be inadmissible in Utah.

The Utah bill hasn’t yet passed. I suspect it will be vigorously opposed by police organizations and will probably be watered down a bit if it does pass.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 12:07 pm

Video-recording cops in public places is protected by the First Amendment, but court rules that the police can arrest you anyway

with 2 comments

The police can arrest you for doing something perfectly legal that they happen not to like, and you have no recourse: the police in the US can do pretty much what they want with impunity.

Here’s the decision by a Federal judge:

Christopher Montgomery, Alexine Fleck, and Coulter Loeb were all arrested in 2011 for separate incidents arising from their interactions at different times and places with Philadelphia police officers. Montgomery alleges that Officer David Killingsworth arrested him in retaliation for filming Killingsworth and other officers as they arrested people on a public street outside a Wendy’s restaurant. Fleck claims that Officer Alex Nicholson and Officer Jane Doe arrested her for objecting to Nicholson’s treatment of an intoxicated man sitting on a stoop on her street. And Loeb contends that Officer George Gaspar arrested him for photographing Gaspar as he escorted a woman from a public park. They each filed separate § 1983 lawsuits against their respective arresting officers, also naming the City of Philadelphia as a defendant.

Against the individual defendants, Montgomery, Fleck, and Loeb brought claims of First Amendment retaliation and Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment. Additionally, Montgomery asserted a Fourth Amendment illegal search and seizure claim, and Fleck a Fourteenth Amendment excessive force claim.[1]

Although filed individually, these lawsuits were consolidated for discovery and summary judgment purposes. Killingsworth, Nicholson, Doe, and Gaspar filed a joint motion for partial summary judgment, asserting qualified immunity on the First Amendment retaliation claims. The court will deny Nicholson and Doe’s motion based on qualified immunity, for Fleck has alleged enough facts to show that they violated her clearly established constitutional right when they arrested her. But the court will grant summary judgment to Killingsworth and Gaspar, finding that the constitutional right asserted by Montgomery and Loeb was not clearly established in 2011.
[Emphasis added. – LG]

Killingsworth, Nicholson, Doe, and Gaspar did not move for summary judgment on the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims and concede there are genuine issues of material fact with reference to those claims.

I. Factual Background[2] . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 11:51 am

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

NYPD includes machine guns to handle protests

with 2 comments

Amazing. The militarization of our community police departments seems to be picking up speed. Azi Paybarah reports in Capital:

New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton unveiled a sweeping new plan to redeploy officers in order to boost police-community relations, while also increasing the city’s counterterrorism efforts.

At a breakfast hosted by the Police Foundation at the Mandarin Oriental, Bratton announced 350 officers will be permanently assigned to rove throughout the city, with rifles and machine guns, in anticipation of possible terrorist attacks. These officers will also be used to assist on crime scenes, and help with crowd control and other large-scale events.

Previously, some of this work was done by officers assigned to local precincts throughout the city. Now, those officers will be able to stay in their regularly assigned precincts, enabling them to work in a more focused way on their beats, Bratton said.

Also, officers assigned to local precincts will see their work re-prioritized.

Bratton called it a “new patrol model for how we deploy resources.” . . .

Continue reading.

And the story also is carried by CBS News:

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Thursday that the NYPD is establishing a new anti-terror strike force.

The unit of 350 cops will be specially trained in high-tech weaponry to deal with protests, “lone wolf” attacks and evolving threats posed by terrorists, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

The Strategic Response Group, Bratton said, will be dedicated to “disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities.”

“It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris,” the commissioner said.

Funding for the new squad is expected to come from both the city and federal Homeland Security grants.

“They’ll be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not,” Bratton said. “They’ll be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns — unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.” . .

Continue reading. Videos at the link.

Interesting that Bratton is talking openly of using machine guns to quell protests. This is really getting out of hand.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 11:38 am

Good rundown on Fox News

leave a comment »

Leonard Pitt, Jr., writes in McClatchy:

Tucker Carlson said on Fox that more children die of bathtub drownings than of accidental shootings. They don’t.

Steve Doocy said on Fox that NASA scientists faked data to make the case for global warming. They didn’t.

Rudy Giuliani said on Fox that President Obama has issued propaganda asking everybody to “hate the police.” He hasn’t.

John Stossel said on Fox that there is “no good data” proving secondhand cigarette smoke kills nonsmokers. There is.

So maybe you can see why serious people – a category excluding those who rely upon it for news and information – do not take Fox, well … seriously, why they dub it Pox News and Fakes News, to name two of the printable variations. Fox is, after all, the network of death panels, terrorist fist jabs, birtherism, anchor babies, victory mosques, wars on Christmas and Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. It’s not just that it is the chief global distributor of unfact and untruth but that it distributes unfact and untruth with a bluster, an arrogance, a gonad-grabbing swagger, that implicitly and intentionally dares you to believe fact and truth matter.

Many of us have gotten used to this. We don’t even bother to protest Fox being Fox. Might as well protest a sewer for stinking.

But the French and the British, being French and British, see it differently. And that’s what produced the scenario that recently floored many of us.

There was Fox, doing what Fox does, in this case hosting one Steve Emerson, a supposed expert on Islamic extremist terrorism, who spoke about so-called “no go” zones in Europe – i.e., areas of Germany, Sweden, France and Great Britain – where non-Muslims are banned, the government has no control and sharia law is in effect. Naturally, Fox did not question this outrageous assertion – in fact, it repeated it throughout the week – and most of us, long ago benumbed by the network’s serial mendacities, did not challenge Fox.

Then, there erupted from Europe the jarring sound of a continent laughing. British Prime Minister David Cameron called Emerson an “idiot.” A French program in the mold of “The Daily Show” sent correspondents – in helmets! – to interview people peaceably sipping coffee in the no-go zones. Twitter went medieval on Fox’s backside. And the mayor of Paris threatened to sue.

Last week, Fox did something Fox almost never does. It apologized. Indeed, it apologized profusely, multiple times, on air.

The most important takeaway here is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 11:22 am

Posted in Media

Open comb all the way: the Phoenix Double Open-Comb Razor

with 4 comments

SOTD 30 Jan 2015

Just got a couple of things from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements, including an unusual razor: open-comb all the way, with both guard and cap using the open comb design.

First, though, the prep. I used my Whipped Dog silvertip that I ordered in the optional ceramic handle he offered at the time, and the lather was instant and very good—the coconut fragrance is quite present. The 5″ puck is very nice, IMO, because it provides lots of room to load the brush.

The soap seems excellent, and the ingredients tell us why:

Phoenix Coconut ingredients

And now to the razor. The chequering on the handle is quite nice and somewhat different, but what draws the eye is, of course, the unusual open-comb cap. And in fact, during the shave, I could feel some difference—difficult to quantify, but the cap felt “different” and seem to slide easier (possibly simply because not so much of the cap contacts the skin). The razor seems well made, and with a Voskhod blade I had no trouble getting a BBS result. At the link is a fuller description of the razor, including this note:

Being a collector of vintage razors I have seen a lot of oddities from yesteryear, some great concepts and designs that never really “blew up”. I blame this mostly on Gillette’s aggressive marketing back in the day. If they couldn’t buy out a small razor company, they would bury it. And that’s what we have here…

The Phoenix Dbl OC is based on the classic Self Lubricating Grand Razor, a masterpiece in both design and concept! It is one of my favorite razors of all time, and again, I don’t think it was ever fully evolved or explored after it disappeared into wet shaving history…until now!

I took the basic design tweaked it and made some slight alterations, removed the dip in the center of the head cap, added a tad more weight to the handle for consistent fulcrum, and hit it with our special brand of knurling. Also unlike it’s GRANDfather, this razor head will fit on a number of standard handles! A perfect razor for the collector and a perfect razor for your daily driver!

It’s $35 and is not merely a curiosity but actually a good razor to shave with. And the feel of the cap is quite interesting.

A splash of Paul Sebastian, and I move into the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2015 at 10:16 am

Posted in Shaving

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: