Archive for July 2015
The cop in question already had a drunk-driving conviction, but was still on the job and driving. Police really do not seem to be held accountable when they break the law. Tom Haydon reports for NJ.com:
More than two months after he crashed head-on into a tractor-trailer in Staten Island in a suspected drunk-driving accident that killed two people, Linden Officer Pedro Abad remains on the city payroll.
Abad, 27, had blood-alcohol level of .24 — three times the legal limit — at the time of the head-on crash, officials have said. He also has previously been charged with drunk driving after two separate accidents. He pleaded guilty to one of those incidents in 2013.
“This destroys the image of the police department for years,” said Maria Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of of Criminal Justice and chair of the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at the college.
“It’s incomprehensible to me that he’s still on the force. It taints the whole department,” she added. She has used reports about Abad in her police ethics class.
Linden police say they are still reviewing the case, and awaiting results of the New York investigation, and have not taken any disciplinary action. New York authorities have not filed any charges against anyone involved in the crash. . .
Continue reading. There’s more.
Kevin Drum points out who is trying to break the sequestration deal:
The LA Times reports today that we might be headed for another government shutdown. Big surprise. But these paragraphs are very peculiar:
President Obama has signaled his intention to bust, once and for all, the severe 2011 spending caps known as sequestration. He’s vowed to reject any GOP-backed appropriation bills that increase government funding for the military without also boosting domestic programs important to Democrats such as Head Start for preschoolers.
The Republican-controlled Congress is also digging in. Since taking control in January, GOP leaders had promised to run Congress responsibly and prevent another shutdown like the one in 2013, but their spending proposals are defying the president’s veto threat by bolstering defense accounts and leaving social-welfare programs to be slashed.
It’s true that Obama has proposed doing away with the sequestration caps. But his budgets have routinely been described as DOA by Republican leaders, so his plans have never gotten so much as a hearing. What’s happening right now is entirely different. Republicans are claiming they want to keep the sequestration deal, but they don’t like the fact that back in 2011 they agreed it would cut domestic and military spending equally. Instead, Republicans now want to increase military spending and decrease domestic spending. They’re doing this by putting the additional defense money into an “emergency war-spending account,” which technically allows them to get around the sequester caps. Unsurprisingly, Obama’s not buying it.
So how does this count as Obama planning to “bust” the sequestration caps? I don’t get it. It sounds like Obama is willing to stick to the original deal if he has to, but he’s quite naturally insisting that this means sticking to the entire deal. It’s Republicans who are trying to renege. What am I missing here?
The American criminal justice system is nothing to be proud of. Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:
A couple weeks ago, Nathan Burney drew up a cartoon for The Watch that explained the concept of qualified immunity. This is the protection given to state employees, including police, from lawsuits alleging violations of constitutional rights. Before even getting in front of a jury, a plaintiff must not only show that his rights were violated, but that a reasonable person in the public employee’s position should have known that the actions in question were in violation of the Constitution. It’s a tough hurdle to overcome. And even then, the plaintiff could still fail to persuade a jury.
A couple recent appeals court decisions demonstrate just how difficult it can be for a victim to win compensation.
The first comes from Ferguson, Mo., where Henry Davis sued three police officers for allegedly beating him in a jail cell while he was compliant and subdued. While the evidence suggests that Davis was initially uncooperative, the appeals court ruling notes that testimony supports the contention that this wasn’t the case when the officers began beating him. Davis was then charged with “property damage” for bleeding on the officers’ uniforms.
That brings us to this amazing passage from an opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit:
The district court granted summary judgment dismissing these claims on a narrow ground. “Qualified immunity shields police officers from liability for civil damages where their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” . . . Noting that, until recently, some of our decisions suggested that an excessive force claim will not lie if the plaintiff suffered only “de minimis injuries,” the court concluded that the police officers were entitled to qualified immunity because, “as unreasonable as it may sound, a reasonable officer could have believed that beating a subdued and compliant Mr. Davis while causing only a concussion, scalp laceration, and bruising with almost no permanent damage did not violate the Constitution.
The court overturned the district court judge’s opinion. But it’s remarkable that it would need to. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
- Davis is fortunate to have attorneys willing to appeal that decision.
- He could still lose in front of a jury.
- Even if he wins, the officers could appeal.
- Even if he wins the appeal, the officers likely won’t be paying a dime. Unless the jury specifically calls for punitive damages, the award will be paid for by the people of Ferguson.
- The appeals court ruled against Davis’s claim against the city of Ferguson, finding that the city is protected by sovereign immunity. To get past sovereign immunity, Davis would have to show that Ferguson police have demonstrated a pattern and practice of constitutional violations. (This incident happened in 2009.) Despite the numerous reports of precisely that, including one from the Department of Justice, Davis lost here. It seems doubtful that the DOJ report would have been released in time to be admitted into evidence. But this shows how tough it is to establish a pattern or practice of violations, even in jurisdictions where that’s clearly the case.
The other case involves Benny Starks, about whom I wrote in my series on bite mark evidence. Starks spent 20 years in prison after he was convicted of the rape and assault of a 69-year-old woman in 1986. He was convicted primarily due to testimony from bite mark analysts Russell Schneider and Carl Hagstrom, testimony from blood serologist Sharon Thomas-Boyd, and an identification by the victim. (The victim initially described her assailant as clean-shaven and 18-19 years old. Starks at the time was 26, and had a mustache and beard.) Schneider and Hagstrom claimed to have found a bite mark on the victim that matched Starks’s teeth “to a reasonable medical certainty.” . . .
Continue reading. And do read the whole thing: The Starks case is an eye-opener into just how bad the US criminal justice system is.
Kari Paul reports in Motherboard:
A law Spain passed in October 2014 charging online aggregators like Google News a fee for linked content has backfired, according to a new study.
The legislation, which went into effect January 1 of this year, requires aggregation sites to pay a fee to original publications when posting links or excerpts from them online. The law, which caused Google News to shut down in Spain, was pushed by the Association of Editors of Spanish Dailies as a means to protect the print industry. But the study commissioned by the Spanish Association of Publishers of Periodical Publications (AEEPP) found it has been harmful to Spanish media at large,
“The negative impact on the online press sector is also very clear, since a very important channel to attract readers disappears, resulting in lower revenues from advertising,” the study said.
The report found clear evidence news aggregators actually expand the market for original sources rather than diminish it. It also showed the law disproportionately hurt smaller publications that relied on Google News and similar aggregators for traffic.
In addition to Google News, other aggregators including Planeta Ludico, NiagaRank, InfoAliment, and Multifriki shut down for fear of legal and financial liability. Companies that don’t pay the tax could face fines of up to €600,000 or $654,480.
The shutdown of these sites, particularly NiagaRank, was a blow to innovation in Spain, the report stated. . .
A very fine shave indeed today. I had ordered the Chiseled Face synthetic brush, standing next to the giant Stirling synthetic, and I received with it the pre-shave gel shown and the Trade Winds aftershave sample. So today is Chiseled Face all the way.
Habits can trap us. I had planned to apply the pre-shave gel to my beard in the shower and let it sit while I showered, but I did my usual shower and remembered it only as I washed my face at the sink. I did apply it, but of course did not give it really a fair chance. I’ve now put the bottle in the shower, and I’ll be using it daily for a week in lieu of MR GLO, then back to MR GLO a week, and then another week of the gel. Then I’ll report back. It has a pleasant fragrance and strikes me as more likely to work than a shave oil.
The Chiseled Face brush is extremely nice. It’s a much better size for me than the Stirling, and the handle is quite nice: a different look and a really comfortable grip. And of course the angel-hair synthetic knot makes lather like nobody’s business. Sherlock is a tip-top soap and I immediately got a very rich and fragrant lather, with “a warm tobacco based scent blended with toasted caramel, black pepper, moist dirt, and finished with a touch of leather, moss, mandarin, honey and rose.” Extremely nice tallow-based soap.
Three passes with the RazoRock Baby Smooth razor which, though not a slant, regularly delivers an effortless BBS shave, and today was no different: no nicks, no burn, no worry—and totally smooth outcome. It also has a very nice feel in the handle, somehow feeling exceptionally rigid.
A good amount of Trade Winds aftershave—-another great fragrance: “ocean, ozone, cucumber and a touch of mint backed up by a base of old spice.”
Altogether a great shave. Chiseled Face Groomatorium in my experience offers first-rate products.
Now about the enjoyment I experienced. Although I do know some do not derive any enjoyment from shaving—I certainly did not, when I was shaving with canned foam and cartridge razors, which was totally a chore—I have the strong impression that most who shave with a DE and true lather do in fact enjoy their shaves, but yesterday I fell into an interesting discussion with a man who does not derive any enjoyment from traditional shaving and moreover thinks that those who do are “silly” (his word), and indeed thinks that I am a very silly person. He did explain that this is not a value judgment, by which I presume he means he would be happy to also be silly but simply has not learned how to enjoy a shave.
(There was a brief confusion in which he mistakenly thought I was saying that one could force enjoyment, which is indeed a silly notion (in the common sense of “silly,” not the special sense in which he uses it), but with that misconception corrected the discussion continued and I wrote a brief note about how to learn to enjoy a shave and thus achieve silliness (in his sense of the word). I thought it might be of interest. And I think it’s interesting that some are anhedonic with respect to music and to food, so being anhedonic to shaving is not so surprising.
Israeli adopts forced-feeding torture in order keep Palestinians imprisoned indefinitely without charge
A very ugly scene: Israeli locks up people indefinitely with no charges filed, and if they go on hunger strike in protest, Israel will adopt forced-feeding despite medical personnel stating that this is torture. Israel justifies the torture by pointing out that the US has adopted torture, including forced-feeding, which the US continues to do at Guantánamo. The US: an exemplar of the acceptability of torture—not to mention imprisoning people without charge: cf. the 16-year-old boy locked up in solitary at Riker’s Island for three years, and finally simply released without going to trial. (The boy later committed suicide.)
Joel Greenberg reports for McClatchy:
Israel’s parliament passed a controversial law Thursday authorizing the force-feeding of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, drawing swift condemnation from the country’s medical association, which called the practice torture.
The government-backed bill was introduced in response to cases in which Palestinian prisoners have gone on prolonged hunger strikes to protest jail conditions and their detention without trial, sometimes winning early release.
The legislation, passed 46-40 in the 120-member Knesset, authorizes a district court judge to approve force-feeding of a prisoner who in the opinion of a doctor is in imminent danger of death or severe and irreversible disability.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year cited force-feeding at the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay detention camp to bolster the government’s case for the practice, in which liquid nourishment is pumped in tubes run through prisoners’ noses into their stomachs.
Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who sponsored the bill, said after it passed that “hunger strikes by imprisoned terrorists have become a tool for attempts to pressure the state of Israel.”
“We must not reach a situation in which a prisoner who poses a public threat will be freed because the state did not have the ability to save him from death and is compelled to release him,” Erdan said.
Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner who had been on a hunger strike for 55 days to protest his detention without charges, was released this month by the Israeli authorities because of fears that his possible death could trigger widespread unrest.
Israel holds more than 5,600 Palestinians in its jails, 391 of them without charges or trial, according to the Israel Prison Service.
Dr. Leonid Eideleman, chairman of the Israeli Medical Association, called passage of the force-feeding bill “a black day in the annals of Israeli legislation.” He said his group would instruct doctors not to cooperate with the procedure.
“Force-feeding is torture, doctors must not participate in torture, and Israeli doctors will not participate in torture,” Eidelman said, adding that his group would challenge the law in the Israeli Supreme Court. . .
Jon Scharz reports at The Intercept:
Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally-syndicated radio show The Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”
Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.
HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy … your thoughts on that?
CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congressmembers. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody’s who’s just a challenger.
(Thanks to Sam Sacks for pointing this out.)