Later On

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

Archive for August 13th, 2015

What is up with US police: Cavity searches in public for no reason…

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Radley Balko reports:

Here we go again.

A Spring woman claims sheriff’s deputies violated constitutional protections by conducting a body cavity search on the concrete of a Texaco gas station parking lot during a routine traffic stop in late June.

Charnesia Corley, a 21-year-old African American, was driving in northern Harris County around 10:30 p.m. on June 21 when a male deputy pulled her over for allegedly running a stop sign. He said he smelled marijuana, handcuffed Corley, put her in his vehicle and searched her car for almost an hour. He didn’t find any pot, according to her attorney, Sam Cammack.

Returning to his car where Corley was held, the deputy again said he smelled marijuana and called in a female deputy to conduct a cavity search. When the female deputy arrived, she told Corley to pull her pants down, but Corley protested because she was cuffed and had no underwear on. The deputy ordered Corley to bend over, pulled down her pants and began to search her.

Then, according to Cammack, Corley stood up and protested, so the deputy threw her to the ground and restrained her while another female was called in to assist. When backup arrived, each deputy held one of Corley’s legs apart to conduct the probe.

Incredibly, a spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff’s Department told a local TV station that “the deputies did everything as they should.” And so there you have it. Holding a woman down and forcibly penetrating her vagina to search for pot is official policy in Harris County.

Keep in mind that under Texas law, it takes more than four ounces of marijuana to bring a felony charge. This is what four ounces of marijuana looks like. It seems doubtful that a woman could be casually driving around with that much marijuana stuffed into her vagina. So Corley was forced to the ground, stripped, and penetrated to search for evidence that at worst would have amounted to a misdemeanor. Which means that the Harris County Sheriff’s Department believes its perfectly acceptable to allow a stranger to forcibly probe a woman’s vagina in order to prevent her from possessing a personal-use quantity of marijuana. And even that happened without a warrant, based only on one deputy’s claim to have smelled the drug.

This story comes two years after two women filed a lawsuit claiming they were cavity searched after being pulled over for throwing cigarette butts out of the window. That lawsuit claimed to have found evidence that such searches were “standard procedure” in the Texas Highway Patrol. In May, Reason’s Jacob Sullum found three more incidents, all involving women suspected of possessing marijuana. Publicity from those incidents prompted the Texas legislature to pass a law that’s supposed to prohibit such searches without a warrant. But that law doesn’t take effect until next month. That the state would need such a law in the first place speaks volumes.

But it isn’t just Texas. In January of last year, I noted the other places where these searches have happened: . . .

Continue reading.

By all means, read the whole thing. There is more and it’s very very bad. His column concludes:

. . .There are times when it seems like we’re moving in the direction of sanity in the drug war, at least when it comes to marijuana. These cases are a good reminder that in most of the country, things are as bad as they’ve ever been. A majority of the Americans now believe that pot should be legal. In a few states, it already is, at least under state law. A majority also believe that even harder drugs should be treated as a medical condition, not a crime. Yet the government is still waging terrifying raids on people because of pot. It’s still performing sexual assault because pot. It’s still taking children away from their parents because of pot. And it’s still killing people because of pot.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2015 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Chelsea Manning continues to be insanely persecuted in prison

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Digby blogs at Hullabaloo:

Jesus H. Christ:

Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier serving a 35-year military prison sentence for leaking official secrets, has been threatened with indefinite solitary confinement for having an expired tube of toothpaste in her cell and being found in possession of the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair issue, according to her lawyers and supporters.

Manning, a Guardian columnist who writes about global affairs, intelligence issues and transgender rights from prison in the brig of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has allegedly been charged with four violations of custody rules that her lawyers have denounced as absurd and a form of harassment. The army private is reportedly accused of having showed “disrespect”; of having displayed “disorderly conduct” by sweeping food onto the floor during dinner chow; of having kept “prohibited property” – that is books and magazines – in her cell; and of having committing “medicine misuse”, referring to the tube of toothpaste, according to Manning’s supporters.

The maximum punishment for such offences is an indeterminate amount of time in a solitary confinement cell.

The fourth charge, “medicine misuse”, follows an inspection of Manning’s cell on 9 July during which a tube of anti-cavity toothpaste was found. The prison authorities noted that Manning was entitled to have the toothpaste in her cell, but is penalizing her because it was “past its expiration date of 9 April 2015”.

The “prohibited property” charge relates to a number of books and magazines that were found in her cell and confiscated. They included the memoir I Am Malala by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, a novel featuring trans women called A Safe Girl to Love, the LGBT publication Out Magazine, the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair and a copy of Cosmopolitan that included an interview with Manning.

Also confiscated was the US Senate report on torture. It is not clear why any of these publications were considered violations of prison rules – a request by the Guardian to the army public affairs team for an explanation of the charges received no immediate response.

I’m going to guess it that report on torture that really set them off. After all, these prisons practice torture every day so they probably believe that a prisoner reading such material is automatically insubordinate.

Solitary confinement is torture.The Center for Constitutional Rights says:

The devastating psychological and physical effects of prolonged solitary confinement are well documented by social scientists: prolonged solitary confinement causes prisoners significant mental harm and places them at grave risk of even more devastating future psychological harm and at times, these harms were found to be permanent or persist even after one was released from solitary.

Researchers have demonstrated that prolonged solitary confinement causes a persistent and heightened state of anxiety and nervousness, headaches, insomnia, lethargy or chronic tiredness, nightmares, heart palpitations, fear of impending nervous breakdowns and higher rates of hypertension and early morbidity. Other documented effects include obsessive ruminations, confused thought processes, an oversensitivity to stimuli, irrational anger, social withdrawal, hallucinations, violent fantasies, emotional flatness, mood swings, chronic depression, feelings of overall deterioration, as well as suicidal ideation.

Exposure to such life-shattering conditions clearly constitutes cruel and unusual punishment – in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Further, the brutal use of solitary has been condemned as torture by the international community.

Manning is a political prisoner being held as an example to others. And they are apparently contemplating torturing him. For reading about the United States torture program. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2015 at 4:04 pm

Study Finds ‘Detectable Effect’ Of Climate Change In Texas’ Devastating May Floods

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Wonder whether Texans are still stubbornly denying global warming? Joe Romm reports at ThinkProgress:

A new study directly links human-caused global warming to the catastrophic flooding in Texas and Oklahoma this spring.

In May, more than 35 trillion gallons of water fell on Texas — enough to cover the entire state in eight inches of water. More than two dozen people were killed, and it was thewettest single month on record in both Texas and Oklahoma.

A new peer-reviewed study from Utah State and Taiwanese researchers concluded, “There was a detectable effect of anthropogenic [manmade] global warming in the physical processes that caused the persistent precipitation in May of 2015″ over the southern Great Plains.”

We’ve known for a long time that global warming puts more moisture in the atmosphere, which in turn makes deluges more intense. And the 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment found that Texas and Oklahoma — and indeed most parts of the country — have already seen an measurable increase in the most intense rain storms.

But the Geophysical Research Letters study found a much deeper link between human-caused climate change and the Texas floods. I asked the study’s lead author, Simon Wang of the Utah Climate Center, to explain the findings:

Basically, we linked the weather conditions that caused the consecutive and high amounts of rainfall to two main climate sources: (1) El Niño and its enhanced teleconnection owing to the warming Pacific temperature and (2) middle latitude circulation that is becoming increasingly “wavy,” causing the trough (or any ridge for that regard) to stick around for a long time.

The second conclusion — that climate change is causing weather patterns to stall — joins agrowing body of research tying the recent jump in extreme weather to a warming-driven weakening of the jet stream and “more frequent high-amplitude (wavy) jet-stream configurations that favor persistent weather patterns,” as a January 2015 study put it.

The study explains some of the science underlying the first point about the link between global warming, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and the El Niño Southern Oscillation(ENSO) in more detail: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2015 at 3:18 pm

What If Barack and Bibi Are Both Right?

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James Fallows continues his interesting series on the Iran Deal:

Robert Hunter, a former ambassador and longtime foreign-policy eminence, has written that the Iran debate has reached the familiar “cairn-building” stage. That’s the stage in which each side adds a new rock—of argument, endorsement, rebuttal—to the piled-up cairn it has created. “The merits of the arguments are politically meaningless,” Hunter says. “The side with the highest pile of stones wins!” But as he goes on to say, these piles themselves also become meaningless. All that matters is what actually weighs on the senators and representatives who will cast up or down votes.

Recognizing that the cairn-building is reaching its useful end, and while taking a break from my article-writing duties of the moment, let me introduce three more reader messages on Iran. All bear on an aspect of the debate I’ve mentioned before but keep coming back to.

That aspect is: What lies behind the “existential” complaints?

Of course, the front-and-center reason for Israel’s existential fear of a nuclear- armed Iran is obvious. As The Atlantic’s own Jeffrey Goldberg wrote recently, “My position on this is simple: If, in the post-Holocaust world, a group of people express a desire to hurt Jews, it is, for safety’s sake, best to believe them.” This has been the consistent theme of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu’s speeches as well, and its emotional and psychological logic is undeniable.

But the strategic logic of the concern is more puzzling. No one doubts (although no officials can publicly say) that Israel has a large nuclear-retaliatory force, including on submarines. Thus any leader in Iran knows that an attack on Israel would with 100-percent certainty mean devastation for Iran as well (as Thomas Friedman went into on Wednesday). So to think that Iran might actually try to “wipe Israel off the map” requires assuming either that its leadership is literally suicidal, or that, like the Nazis in Germany, Iranian leaders are so bent on destruction that nothing other than brute force can hold them back.

The problem with the suicidal martyr-state assumption is that never in its 36-plus years in office has the Iranian leadership taken a move that rashly jeopardized its own well-being or hold on power. Iran’s leadership has been theocratic but not psychopathic. A serious problem for the United States, Israel, and others: yes. A Reich-like monster-state: no. Under its Islamic leaders, Iran has been at war once—a war that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq started when it invaded Iran in 1980. So the “existential” argument would be stronger were there any evidence of Iran’s leaders ever taking suicidal risks.

As for the comparison with Nazi Germany, last week Peter Beinart carefully laid out the reasons that modern Iran and Hitler’s Reich have exactly one point in common: their anti-Semitic rhetoric. In every other strategic, political, and military dimension they are completely different.

I am sure that officials in Israel’s security and military services realize this. Perhaps even Netanyahu does as well. So what lies behind the over-the-top claims?

That is what these posts address. The first is from Samuel J. Cohen, who was born in the United States and graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies but has lived in Israel since 1977. For 20 years he was a trade negotiator for the Israeli government. He argues that the U.S. government under Obama and the Israeli government under Netanyahu may both be sanely pursuing their national interests, but that these interests may be diverging. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2015 at 2:23 pm

Some problems have solutions so simple that one wonders why they are “problems”: Labor shortage example

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Kevin Drum writes in Mother Jones:

The Washington Postinforms us today of yet another looming labor shortage:

There’s a growing problem that chefs and restaurateurs are talking about more these days.

Good cooks are getting harder to come by. Not the head kitchen honchos, depicted in Food Network reality shows, who fine-tune menus, and orchestrate the dinner rush, but the men and women who are fresh out of culinary school and eager to earn their chops. The shortage of able kitchen hands is affecting chefs in Chicago….It’s an issue in New York as well….And it extends to restaurants out West, where a similar pinch is being felt. Seattle is coping with the same dilemma. San Francisco, too.

….One of the clearest obstacles to hiring a good cook, let alone someone willing to work the kitchen these days, is that living in this country’s biggest cities is increasingly unaffordable. In New York, for instance, where an average cook can expect to make somewhere between $10 and $12 per hour….

Let’s just stop right there. We’ve seen this movie before. What’s really happening, apparently, is that there’s a shortage of skilled people willing to work lousy hours and face long commutes in return for $10 to $12 per hour.

Offer them, say, $15 per hour, and who knows? Maybe there are plenty of good entry-level cooks available. This would raise your total cost of running the restaurant by, oh, 2 percent or so,1 but it’s not like restaurants are competing with China. They’re competing with other restaurants nearby that have the same problem. If the price of a good cook is going up, it’s going to affect everyone.

I tire of reading stories like this. Tell me what happens when employers offer more money. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2015 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Business

Putting a Wall Street lawyer in charge of the SEC: SEC Admits It’s Not Monitoring Stock Buybacks to Prevent Market Manipulation

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President Obama named Mary Jo White, a lawyer who worked on behalf of big Wall Street firms for years, to be head of the SEC. This apparently is part of his overall protectiveness of Wall Street, and I imagine the reasons for the attitude will become clear once he’s out of office and in a position to receive the quid pro quo.

David Dayen reports in The Intercept:

The Securities and Exchange Commission has admitted that it has no ability to enforce the main rule intended to prevent market manipulation when companies buy back their own stock, and has no intention to do so.

SEC Chair Mary Jo White made the acknowledgement in a response to Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., who queried the agency about stock buybacks. Baldwin is one of agrowing number of politicians — including presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — who are citing buybacks as an example of deliberate financial engineering that bolsters concentration of wealth and keeps working-class wages stagnant.

Stock buybacks are an increasingly common practice in which corporations take profits, and instead of investing in facilities, research and development, or boosting worker wages, buy shares of their own stock on the open market, thereby boosting demand and driving up its price. Companies bought back over half a trillion dollars’ worth of their own shares last year.

The practice creates short-term rewards for executives who are paid in stock and stock options, and benefit from an increased price. They also make corporate earnings look better by reducing outstanding shares and increasing the commonly reported ratio of earnings-per-share.

Prior to the Reagan era, executives avoided buybacks due to fears that they would be prosecuted for market manipulation. But under SEC Rule 10b-18, adopted in 1982, companies receive a “safe harbor” from market manipulation liability on stock buybacks if they adhere to four limitations: not engaging in buybacks at the beginning or end of the trading day, using a single broker for the trades, purchasing shares at the prevailing market price, and limiting the volume of buybacks to 25 percent of the average daily trading volume over the previous four weeks.

In White’s letter to Baldwin, dated July 13, she admits that the SEC doesn’t collect data that would let it know whether companies breach even these generous limits. “Performing data analyses for issuer stock repurchases presents significant challenges,” White writes, “because detailed trading data regarding repurchases is not currently available.”

Initially, Rule 10b-18 didn’t include any disclosure whatsoever on the part of companies. A 2004 revision requires companies to report monthly buyback totals at the end of each quarter, as part of their 10-Q SEC disclosures. But they do not have to disclose how much they repurchase on a particular day.

“The companies have that information, but the SEC doesn’t collect it,” said William Lazonick, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, who has done extensive research on buybacks, and who provided the White letter to The Intercept. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2015 at 11:51 am

Donald Trump discusses policy

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Kevin Drum comments at Mother Jones:

A “friend” of mine forced me to read the transcript of Sean Hannity’s interview with Donald Trump earlier this week, and it was fascinating in a train wreck kind of way. After a few minutes, Hannity said it was time to get serious and talk policy. Trump says great, let’s do it. So Hannity then tries manfully to get Trump to explain how Mexico is going to pay for a wall on the border. No dice:

HANNITY: You talked about Mexico. How quickly could you build the wall? How do you make them pay for the wall, as you said?

TRUMP: So easy. Will a politician be able to do it? Absolutely not….

HANNITY: Is it a tariff?

TRUMP: In China — listen to this. In China, the great China wall — I mean, you want to talk about a wall, that’s a serious wall, OK….

HANNITY: Sure.

TRUMP: So let’s say you’re talking about 1,000 miles versus 13,000. And then they say you can’t do it. It’s peanuts. It’s peanuts….

HANNITY: So through a tariff?

TRUMP: We’re not paying for it. Of course.

HANNITY: You want to do business, you’re going to help us with this.

TRUMP: Do you know how easy that is? They’ll probably just give us the money….And I’m saying, that’s like 100 percent. That’s not like 98 percent. Sean, it’s 100 percent they’re going to pay. And if they don’t pay, we’ll charge them a little tariff. It’ll be paid.

Trump gets five chances to explain his plan, and all we get is endless bluster. It’s easy! Hell, the Great Wall of China cost more! We’re not paying for it! The closest Trump comes to an answer—after prompting from Hannity—is some kind of tariff on Mexican goods, which of course is illegal under NAFTA. Trump would have to abrogate the treaty and get Congress to agree. In other words, maybe just a wee bit harder than he thinks.

(Oh, and Mexico’s president says the entire idea is a fantasy. “Of course it’s false,”a spokesman told Bloomberg News. “It reflects an enormous ignorance for what Mexico represents, and also the irresponsibility of the candidate who’s saying it.”)

The whole interview with Hannity is like this. The fascinating part is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2015 at 11:22 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Great lather (Mike’s Natural), great shave (Frankenrazor: iKon & Tradere)

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SOTD 13 Aug 2015

Extremely nice shave today. The HJM, soft and fluffy, evoked an excellent lather from Mike’s Natural Rose & Cedarwood shaving soap. It’s strange to me now that I ever had any difficulty making lather from this soap: today’s lather was thick, creamy, smooth, and fragrant. The trick, I finally learned, was to start with a dampish brush and add a little bit of water as I loaded the brush.

The razor is the Tradere handle holding the polished stainless head from the second iKon razor model made. It is extremely comfortable and extremely efficient and delivered an effortless BBS result in three passes.

A splash of Myrsol Lemon, and the day begins.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2015 at 9:12 am

Posted in Shaving

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