Later On

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

Archive for November 19th, 2015

In less than 6 minutes: Ronnie O’Sullivan, down by 60 points, wins the frame

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The 7 ball isn’t potted at the end because O’Sullivan is more than 7 points ahead, so no matter what happens with that ball, he wins the frame.

One careless safe shot by his opponent gives him all the opening he needs.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2015 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Games, Video

Uptown Funk mashup with classic movie dances

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Very cool, though I do miss hearing the sound of the dancers’ taps.

Via this post. And quite a few of the movies are available from Netflix or Amazon Prime streaming:

Red-Headed Woman (1932)
The Littlest Rebel (1935)
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
Sensations of 1945
Broadway Melody of 1940
Honolulu (1939)
Lady Be Good (1941)
Girl Crazy (1943)
You Were Never Lovelier (1942)
Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949)
Colleen (1936)
Gilda (1946)
It Happened in Brooklyn (1947)
Animal Crackers (1930)
For Me and My Gal (1942)
Summer Stock (1950)
The Little Princess (1939)
Easter Parade (1948)
Second Chorus (1940)
Footlight Parade (1933)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
The Pirate (1948)
Carefree (1938)
On the Town (1949)
Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929)
The Gay Divorcee (1934)
A Day at the Races (1937)
Go Into Your Dance (1935)
Stormy Weather (1943)
Babes on Broadway (1941)
Ship Ahoy (1942)
The Sky’s the Limit (1943)
Small Town Girl (1953)
Anchors Aweigh (1945)
Show Boat (1936)
Top Hat (1935)
Broadway Melody of 1938
Roberta (1935)
Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em (1936)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Babes in Arms (1939)
42nd Street (1933)
Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)
The Band Wagon (1953)
Born to Dance (1936)
Broadway Melody of 1936
Rosalie (1937)
Swing Time (1936)
Ziegfield Follies (1945)
Follow the Fleet (1936)
Cover Girl (1944)
Thousands Cheer (1943)
Royal Wedding (1951)
Way Out West (1937)
The Red Shoes (1948)
Blue Skies (1946)
Boarding House Blues (1948)
Panama Hattie (1942)
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
An American in Paris (1951)
The Little Colonel (1935)
Shall We Dance (1937)
On the Avenue (1937)
Hellzapoppin’ (1941)

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2015 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Jazz, Movies & TV, Video

Blowback from drone attacks

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A couple of articles of interest:

Former Drone Operators Say They Were “Horrified” By Cruelty of Assassination Program

Drone Strikes Fuel the Hatred that Led to Paris Attacks, Ex-Drone Pilots Say

15 wedding parties. (Signature strikes, since the identities of those attacked were clearly not known. But the US has decided that it can fire missiles at those whose behavior indicates that they are terrorists—like a few cars driving together to a wedding—and the dead are counted as enemy combatants unless someone raises a stink.)

But 15 wedding parties is only the partial toll.

Those whose children were killed in the US attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital are also likely to have some negative feelings about the US. It was a hospital, for the love of God. (Still, I should await the results of the investigation of the attack, done by those responsible for the attack. But I think I know how it will work out.)

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2015 at 1:58 pm

Reforming police culture is a daunting challenge

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Radley Balko has a good column today on the difficulty of changing police culture, and I will say that this is a problem not just with police: it’s not unusual for a business—particularly a large corporation—to require a cultural change, and the old culture resists change strongly. (For one thing, those in positions of power to some extent owe their power to the culture, and in fear of losing that power they will use it to resist change.) What is needed is (a) an outsider, with no commitments to the current culture, and (b) someone who really understands the company and its mission and culture. Sometimes the answer is to use two people as a team, but one neat way of meeting the requirement is to choose an “insider-outsider”: someone who belongs to the company already, and thus knows it from the inside, but who is also not tied to the current culture. It might be a vice-president or president of the international operation, for example, brought in to head the domestic company; or the vice-president in charge of some division that is somewhat separated (like R&D, perhaps).

At any rate, Balko has some thoughts on the specific task of changing police culture:

Earlier this month, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck announced that the department would begin giving out a “Preservation of Life” award. The honor would be given to police officers who show restraint and put themselves at risk in order to resolve a potentially dangerous situation without using lethal force.

At a time in which we’re having a national discourse on police violence, the number of people killed by police this year alone just topped 1,000, and Los Angeles itself has seen its number of police shootings nearly double over last year, the award seems like a positive if largely symbolic effort to encourage deescalation and conflict resolution over brute force.

But that isn’t the way the police union sees it. From the Associated Press:

It was a seemingly innocuous announcement. The Los Angeles police chief said he would begin acknowledging officers for resolving potentially deadly situations with non-lethal means.

The Preservation of Life medal will be one of the department’s highest honors, along with the medal of valor, given out for acts of heroism, Chief Charlie Beck told the Police Commission earlier this week.

Two days later, the union that represents officers in the nation’s second-largest city wrote a blog calling the award “a terrible idea that will put officers in even more danger.”

The Los Angeles Police Protective League blog, published Thursday, said officers already are trained to preserve life and that the award “suggests that officers must go above and beyond their normal activities to avoid harm.”

That prioritizes the lives of criminals over officers and comes at a time when police feel increasingly threatened, the blog said.

“What we don’t want to see is a flag-draped coffin and the chief speaking at an officer’s funeral stating, ‘This brave officer will be awarded the Preservation of Life medal,’ ” the blog said.

Union President Craig Lally said the blog was published after the group’s nine-member board of directors unanimously approved it.

While Beck had good intentions, the award sends a bad message to the rank and file, Lally said.

“There might be a hesitation there,” he explained. “A lot of these shootings and situations that officers are put in happen within a millisecond and it’s over with. … If they hesitate, they’re dead.”

Lally’s comments are part of an emerging narrative in law enforcement circles that might surprise some people: Cops aren’t shooting people nearly enough. They’re also about as stark and clear a statement yet from a prominent law enforcement advocate about where they prioritize officer safety: above all else.

Beck’s award is interesting — and threatening to people like Lally — because it unsettles what you might call the “Cop of the Year Syndrome.” This is the tendency for police agencies and organizations to not only excuse questionable incidents of lethal force, but to honor them, as a way of dispelling critics. But such honors, of course, only reinforce the notion that police officers should assume zero risk — that at even the slightest hint of danger, citizens’ lives are expendableExamples abound:

  • In January 2005, police officers in Baltimore County, Md., staged a pre-dawn raid on the home of Cheryl Lynn Noel and her family. They suspected that Noel’s son had been involved in drug distribution. When Noel, whose stepdaughter had previously been murdered, woke to the sound of armed men breaking into her home, she grabbed a gun the family kept for protection. When the officers broke down the bedroom door, they saw Noel with the gun, still in her nightgown, and opened fire. According to Noel’s attorneys, the police then shot her again from point-blank range as she lay on the ground. Amid criticism over the decision to serve the search warrant in such a violent manner and the death of a woman who led prayer groups, just after Noel’s family filed a lawsuit against the county, the officer who killed her was given the department’s Silver Star for his “valor, courage, honor, and bravery” in killing Noel. The leader of the raid was later named the police chief for Baltimore County.
  • In December 2007, police in Minnesota staged a massive raid on Vang Khang, his wife and their six children. The cops came in at night, deployed flash grenades and shattered windows. They had the wrong house. Kang exchanged gunfire with the officers before he realized they were police. Miraculously, there were no serious injuries. There was no question that Kang and his family were innocent of any wrongdoing. Seven months later, Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan and Mayor R.T. Rybak awarded the officers involved with a big pile of medals and commendations. In handing out the awards, Dolan said, “The easy decision would have been to retreat under covering fire. The team did not take the easy way out. This is a perfect example of a situation that could have gone horribly wrong, but did not because of the professionalism with which it was handled.” Could have gone horribly wrong.
  • In 2013, two deputies in Broward County, Fla., were given awards for bravery for shooting and killing a man carrying an air rifle as he walked home from a pawn shop. They were given the award even as the shooting was still under investigation, and as witness statements and a photo appeared to contradict their account of the incident. (The Broward County sheriff did at least acknowledge last month that the awards were inappropriate.)
  • Last year, the NYPD Muslim Officers Society attempted to give its Cop of the Year award to Mourad Mourad, officer who shot and killed 16-year-old Kimani Gray in 2013. There too, witnesses contradict the report by Mourad and his partner. Moruad had also been involved in a shooting in 2011 and was the subject of three civil rights lawsuits. Mourad declined the award.
  • The Alabama legislature recently issued honors and a commendation to a police officer who shot a man and Tased a woman during a 2014 traffic stop. The honors came at the request of the Birmingham Police Department, which also issued the officer a medal. The legislature is now considering rescinding the honors after dash cam video leaked to a newspaper appears to contradict the officer’s account of the incident. Law enforcement officials had the video all along but had refused to release it to the public.
  • Last October, the Santa Anna, Calif., city council honored a police officer who is being sued for shooting an unarmed man in the back.
  • In 2011, a police union awarded its Officer of the Year honors to an officer who just months earlier had shot and killed unarmed Pace University student Danroy Henry, Jr. Officer Aaron Hess fired at Henry’s car as it drove away from a disturbance at a bar. Police say the car had struck an officer, although witnesses disputed that claim. Hess was later award the highest honor given by the National Association of Police Organizations.
  • That same year, the two Las Vegas officers who shot and killed Erik Scott outside a Costco were honorable mentions for that award. Scott, a West Point graduate with no criminal record, was legally carrying at the time. Police say he was acting erratically, and cited his painkiller medication. Scott’s family says the police told him to both drop his guns and raise his hands, then shot him when he didn’t comply with the contradictory orders. Though Costco had cameras that could have captured much of the incident, the store and the police say those cameras malfunctioned. The lieutenant who nominated the officers told the Review-Journal, “What potentially could have been a bad situation they brought to an end with no citizens being hurt.”

You get the idea. Police groups want law enforcement officers to get all the plaudits and rewards for taking a job that sometimes requires acts of bravery. But they don’t think cops should assume any risk. As former Baltimore police officer Michael Wood explained when I interviewed him in June, there’s nothing brave about shooting a potentially dangerous person from 50 feet away. “You know what is heroic? Approaching the young kid with the gun,” Wood said, referring to the shooting of Tamir Rice. “Putting yourself at risk by waiting a few seconds to be sure that the kid really is a threat, that the gun is a real gun. The hero is the cop who hesitates to pull the trigger.”

Neil Franklin, a former Baltimore cop, Maryland state trooper, and current head of the drug reform group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, made a similar point when I interviewed him in 2013:

“I think there are two critical components to policing that cops today have forgotten. Number one, you’ve signed on to a dangerous job. That means that you’ve agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don’t get to start stepping on others’ rights to minimize that risk you agreed to take on. And number two, your first priority is not to protect yourself, it’s to protect those you’ve sworn to protect. But I don’t know how you get police officers today to value those principles again. The ‘us and everybody else’ sentiment is strong today. It’s very, very difficult to change a culture.”

An award that acknowledges actual bravery — acts in which a police officer assumes added risk in order to save lives — isn’t going to change police culture. It’s the slightest of pushbacks. But the union can’ t allow even that.

I suspect that Beck’s efforts here will only bring him more grief. Over the last year, the reform-minded police chiefs in Salt Lake City and Cincinnati were fired. In Salt Lake, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2015 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Chicago Rarely Penalizes Officers for Complaints

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Police, like prosecutors, generally have immunity. The long-term effects of this immunity seem to be that police feel free to use force, including deadly force, whenever they want, and prosecutors feel free to hide exculpatory evidence in order to secure convictions, thus sending innocent people to prison. Almost never does such misconduct result in any sanctions at all.

A pertinent example is discussed at length in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article by Brad Schrader in the police shooting of Caroline Small (“, and I urge you to read the article as an example of the lack of accountability police today enjoy. The article, which, well worth reading, begins:

At high noon on June 18, 2010, Caroline Small, a petite 35-year-old woman and mother of two, sat behind the wheel of her beat-up Buick Century with nowhere to turn. Police vehicles flanked her on two sides, a shallow ditch was on another and a utility pole blocked her rear bumper.

Unarmed but distraught, Small’s crime to that point had been reckless driving and leading police on an erratic low-speed chase that ended when her car, tires flattened to the rims, spun out on a suburban street. Sirens blared and officers shouted as she put the car into reverse, then drive, then reverse. Two officers stood ground near their cars, guns drawn.

“If she moves the car, I’m going to shoot her,” an officer yelled. Small pulled forward. Eight bullets tore through the windshield, striking her in the head and the face. The shooting was captured on police dash cam video.

So was what the two Glynn County officers said afterward. They compared their marksmanship. One told a witness how he saw Small’s head explode.

Their words were as callous as Small’s death unnecessary.

“This is the worst one I’ve ever investigated,” said Mike McDaniel, a retired GBI agent who supervised the 2010 criminal investigation into the officers’ actions. “I don’t think it’s a good shoot. I don’t think it’s justified.”

Small’s death has also haunted Byron Bennett, who as a member of the grand jury that considered the officers’ fate voted to clear them of wrongdoing. Bennett now regrets that choice.

“I felt like I let that lady down,” he said. “I felt like they killed that lady. They didn’t give her a chance.”

The grand jury Bennett served on found the two Glynn County officers who fired the shots — Sgt. Robert C. Sasser and Officer Michael T. Simpson — were justified in pulling the trigger. A federal judge last September threw out the Small family’s wrongful death lawsuit saying the two officers killed lawfully because they thought Small posed a threat. Neither officer was ever disciplined.

What happened in Small’s case demonstrates the broad powers police in Georgia have to shoot and kill unarmed citizens and to influence the outcome of their cases in the legal process. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News investigation of the case found that:

  • Glynn County police officers interfered with the GBI’s investigation from the start, seeking to protect the officers.
  • The department tampered with the crime scene and created misleading evidence that was shown to the grand jury.
  • The local district attorney shared the state’s evidence with the officers nearly two months before the grand jury convened and cut an unusual deal with them just before it met.

That seems to be more the rule than the exception. Timothy Williams has a very interesting article in the NY Times on a trove of data that reveals Chicago police seem to enjoy complete immunity. He writes:

In 18 years with the Chicago Police Department, the nation’s second-largest, Jerome Finnigan had never been disciplined — although 68 citizen complaints had been lodged against him, including accusations that he used excessive force and regularly conducted illegal searches.

Then, in 2011, he admitted to robbing criminal suspects while serving in an elite police unit and ordering a hit on a fellow police officer he thought intended to turn him in. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. “My bosses knew what I was doing out there, and it went on and on,” he said in court when he pleaded guilty. “And this wasn’t the exception to the rule. This was the rule.”

Mr. Finnigan is one of thousands of Chicago police officers who have been the subject of citizen complaints over the years but have not been disciplined by the department, according to data released this month by the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism organization, and the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School. Such information is rarely made public and has come to light in Chicago only after a decade-long legal battle by the institute and the clinic.

The trove of information — thousands of pages of officers’ names and brief descriptions of each civilian complaint against the Chicago police from March 2011 to September 2015 — provides a rare look into the cloistered world of internal police discipline.

For example, the data for 2015 shows that in more than 99 percent of the thousands of misconduct complaints against Chicago police officers, there has been no discipline. From 2011 to 2015, 97 percent of more than 28,500 citizen complaints resulted in no officer being punished, according to the files.

Although very few officers were disciplined in the years covered by the data, African-American officers were punished at twice the rate of their white colleagues for the same offenses, the data shows. And although black civilians filed a majority of the complaints, white civilians were far more likely to have their complaints upheld, according to the records.

Information related to complaints and discipline taken against officers is typically tightly controlled by police departments, and in many cases is protected from public release by state or local law.

“It is very unusual to have this much data — and data this rich,” said David A. Harris, a University of Pittsburgh Law School professor and an expert on police accountability. “The general rule is that this kind of stuff is not made transparent, so the public can’t see it and can’t hold people accountable in the way they want.”

The release of the documents comes as police departments around the nation have been placed under intensive public scrutiny after a number of fatal shootings of unarmed African-Americans by white police officers. This has led to criticism about the lack of public availability of even rudimentary data related to police work.

The records take on added resonance in Chicago because the department has a well-documented history of officers physically abusing — including torturing — African-American men, and also because of the possible release on Thursday of a police dashboard camera video showing the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, an African-American teenager.

Mr. McDonald, 17, who had been armed with a knife, was shot 16 times in 2014 by Jason Van Dyke, a white officer. The shooting is being investigated by a team including the F.B.I. and the United States attorney’s office in Chicago.

Officer Van Dyke has had 18 civilian complaints filed against him, including allegations of using excessive force and racial slurs. In each of the complaints, Officer Van Dyke denied that he had acted improperly and was not punished by either the Police Department or civilian police oversight investigators.

In April, the city agreed to pay Mr. McDonald’s family a $5 million settlement. The video of the shooting, which is the subject of a court hearing on Thursday, shows Mr. McDonald lying on the ground as some of the shots are fired, according to people who have seen it.

Dan Herbert, a lawyer for Officer Van Dyke, said the officer believed that he was justified in the shooting. “He fired because he was in fear for his safety, as well as the safety of his colleagues,” Mr. Herbert said in an email. Regarding Officer Van Dyke’s past disciplinary record, Mr. Herbert said, “As far as I know, Jason has not had a single sustained complaint, meaning all allegations were found to be without merit.”

Criminologists say the public’s ability to see civilian complaints against officers and similar data compels police departments to be more accountable, especially when it comes to officers who receive frequent complaints.

“Look, it’s not unusual for a police officer to get a complaint, but the fact is that a complaint is a significant piece of information if it is a recurring thing,” Professor Harris said. “It is the patterns we worry about.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more. Later in the article:

. . . The department said it had “implemented early warning systems to help identify potential concerns with officers’ actions and arrange for the appropriate training, when applicable,” to reduce misconduct.

But Craig B. Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School who founded the legal aid clinic that helped bring about the records’ release, said the department’s early intervention system had identified only 6 percent of officers who received 11 or more civilian complaints. The department did not dispute that figure.

The files show that a number of officers who have been convicted of serious crimes, like Mr. Finnigan, or are being investigated for misconduct have accumulated dozens of complaints while avoiding punishment from the Police Department. . .

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2015 at 12:19 pm

Wall Street’s biggest players are at war with each other

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

Until March 30, 2014, most Americans and even long-term veterans on Wall Street had no idea how the electrical plumbing responsible for transacting buy and sell orders at stock exchanges and other trading platforms actually worked. That all changed on March 30 when author Michael Lewis went on 60 Minutes and told its 12 million viewers that “The United States stock market, the most iconic market in global capitalism is rigged.”

Lewis was promoting his new book, Flash Boys, which detailed in language the public could easily understand, (devoid of the intentionally cryptic acronyms used across Wall Street) how the stock exchanges, mega Wall Street banks and high frequency traders were conspiring through technology to front run orders from unknowing investors.

In the 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft, Lewis drilled down to how the legalized theft had escaped the notice of so many market watchers: “If it’s so complicated you can’t understand it, then you can’t question it,” said Lewis.

At first, the Securities and Exchange Commission denied that the markets were “rigged” and simply tried to ride out the public uproar. Then it decided to create an Equity Market Structure Advisory Committee, effectively bringing together in one room the Wall Street people involved in the mad-scientist technology and market rigging devices to hash it out in a public venue.

The Committee most recently held a meeting on October 27, where slurs, barbs and accusations were thrown at opposing sides by meticulously tailored men using their most polite voices.

Jamil Nazarali, head of Citadel Execution Services, landed the best insult of the day with this gem directed at the stock exchanges:

“This industry is the only one that I am aware of where a for-profit public company regulates its customers and competitors. And I understand that you guys think that that’s important but what is it that you guys do that someone else couldn’t do. All those regulatory functions that you described, why couldn’t some other entity do that? Why does it have to be within your four walls?”

Citadel is a hedge fund and dark pool operator. (Dark pools are trading venues which lack full SEC oversight and trade in the dark without public transparency.)

Nazarali heads up Citadel’s trading operations, also known as “execution” services. Nazarali was throwing a jab at the men from the stock exchanges that had given testimony during the full day conference on how they served a public interest function by regulating their members. Dark pools compete with exchanges for customers and trading volume, are typically also broker dealers and members of the exchanges, and resent being regulated by a competitor.

Citadel is an unlikely candidate to be slinging mud, as we explained in an in-depth article on August 14, 2014.

Thomas Wittman, Executive Vice President of the Nasdaq stock market and Global Head of Equities, zinged both the SEC and dark pools, which are also known as “unlit” markets. Wittman told the Committee:

“Given the intense price competition, we question the time and resources spent by the Commission [SEC] analyzing whether exchanges have fully justified proposals reducing their fees. Nearly 40 percent of the executions occur on venues that lack not only pre-trade price discovery but operational and fee transparency. Yet Nasdaq has encountered difficulty in gaining Commission approval for a fee reduction for members that transact the most volume across three of its options exchanges. I ask, again, in what other industry would a company be prohibited from lowering prices for the most value and value contributing investors.”

As for the value of exchanges versus dark pools, Wittman said: “If you take a look at high volatility times like August 24, you saw that the amount of off-exchange trading almost was cut in half as flow moved to the lit venues which underscores the importance of the lit venues in capital formation.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by 1,089 points in the opening minutes of trading on August 24. (See related article below.) Finger-pointing and hostility have grown among competing factions since that day.

Andrew Silverman, a Managing Director at the giant retail broker and investment bank, Morgan Stanley, which also operates dark pools, effectively told the Committee panel: “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee, lousy with virginity.” For example, Silverman testified: . . .

Continue reading. Silverman’s statement is interesting.

The SEC is a failure as a regulatory agency, fully captured by the business interests it is supposed to regulate (with the cooperation of President Obama, who appointed a Wall Street lawyer to head the commission).

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2015 at 11:18 am

Opaque military justice system shields child sex abuse cases

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The Associated Press reports:

As a U.S. Marine, Daniel E. DeSmit swore to live by a code of honor. Semper fidelis, always faithful. But DeSmit shattered that pledge repeatedly — directing dozens of live Internet videos of children having sex with each other.

DeSmit, a chief warrant officer and father of three, spent at least $36,000 viewing and producing child pornography over a span of six years. In emails examined by Navy criminal investigators, DeSmit described his preference for sex with prepubescent girls as “the best experience.”

A military judge in January found DeSmit, 44, guilty of a litany of sex offenses and sentenced him to 144 years behind bars. But he’ll serve just a fraction of that time. In an undisclosed pretrial agreement, the Marine Corps slashed his prison term to 20 years. When The Associated Press asked for the investigative report in DeSmit’s case, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service rejected the Freedom of Information Act request on privacy grounds. The report was released only after AP appealed.

DeSmit’s crimes are not all that uncommon. Neither is the misleading prison sentence.

An AP investigation found the single largest category of inmates in military prisons to be child sex offenders. Yet a full accounting of their crimes and how much time they actually spend behind bars is shielded by an opaque system of justice.

Child sex assaults committed by service members have received scant attention in Washington, where Congress and the Defense Department have focused primarily on preventing and prosecuting adult-on-adult crimes. And those steps were belated. Despite years of warning signs that adult sexual assault in the ranks was a persistent problem, it took a documentary film about the situation to shock lawmakers and military leaders into action.

Of the 1,233 inmates confined in the military’s prison network, 61 percent were convicted of sex crimes, according to the AP’s analysis of the latest available data, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, known as FOIA. In just over half of those cases, the victims were children.

Since the beginning of this year, children were the victims in 133 out of 301 sex crime convictions against service members — including charges ranging from rape to distributing child pornography.

“This disturbing report exposes, once again, that our military’s justice system has glaring and unacceptable failures,” Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., said Wednesday of AP’s investigation. Tsongas, co-chair of the congressional Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, said she will be taking a closer look at what she described as “alarming findings.”

The military justice system operates independently of state and federal criminal courts. The U.S. Constitution mandates a presumption of openness in civilian courts — trials are open to the public, as are court filings, including motions and transcripts, with exceptions for documents that have been sealed. Anyone can walk into any county or U.S. courthouse and ask to read a case file without providing a reason beyond curiosity. That openness is designed to provide accountability.

But visibility in connection with military trials is minimal. While brief trial results are now made public, court records and other documents are released only after many FOIA requests, appeals and fees, and often months of waiting. While military trials are technically “open,” as are civilian trials, they take place on military bases, which are closed to the general public.

Over the past five months, AP has filed 17 separate requests under the FOIA for documents from more than 200 military sexual assault cases that ended with convictions. At the time this story was published, the military services had provided complete trial records for five cases and partial records for more than 70 others.

Under military law, children are defined as “any person who has not attained the age of 16 years.” Victims aged 16 and 17 are counted as adults, which is consistent with age-of-consent laws in most states. . .

Continue reading.

It’s a long and detailed article, and DeSmit will be released from prison in less than 7 years. (The 144-year sentence quoted in the military press release is a fiction.)

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2015 at 8:41 am

No news yet on why the US military struck the Kuduz hospital

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The military promised a full investigation, and just to be extra sure that the investigation proceeds to a good conclusion, the military (and President Obama) have absolutely rejected any independent investigation. In their experience, if an organization makes a serious error, it works best for the organization to investigate itself. And, no doubt, it’s best of all if those directly responsible for the error do the investigation—after all, they were right on the spot when it happened, so they know more about what happened than anyone else. Do you see any problem with that?

Still, it would be good to have an update, especially since the military floated several different stories. From this excellent summary by Laura Gottesdiener at TomDispatch (and the whole column is definitely worth reading), following her detailed summary of the events of the attack:

. . . That’s one version of the story, based on a Doctors Without Borders preliminary report on the destruction of their hospital, released on November 5th, as well as on articles published by Reuters, the Associated Press, theWashington Post, the New York Times, and Al Jazeera, the testimonies of medical staff published by MSF, and a Democracy Now! interview with the executive director of MSF USA.

Here’s the second version of the story, the one we in the United States are meant to believe. It’s far more confusing and lacking in details, but don’t worry, it’s much shorter.

On October 3rd, an American AC-130 gunship “mistakenly struck” a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz. The attack was ordered by U.S. Special Operations forces, possibly at the behest of the Afghan army (ormaybe not).

Earlier contradictory accounts, all issued within the span of four days, go as follows: (1) it may not have been an American air strike; (2) the U.S. launched airstrikes in the neighborhood of the hospital and the facility was hit by accident; (3) the hospital was hit because American Special Operations forces were under fire near the hospital and called in the strikes in their own defense; (4) the facility was hit because Afghan forces supported by that Special Ops unit “advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces.”

As the story changed, culpability shifted back and forth. The Afghans, not the Americans, had called in the attack. No, the Afghans never directly called in the attack. The Americans called in the attack from within the U.S. chain of command.

In the end, the bottom line from Washington was: we’re conducting a full investigation and one of these days we’ll get back to you with the details.

This second version of the story (in its many iterations) came from commander of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan General John Campbell, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest, and Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook. Unnamed sources added some colorful, although unsupported allegations about a Pakistani intelligence agent or armed Taliban fighters being inside the hospital — despite all evidence to the contrary.

Campbell offered his “deepest condolences.” President Obama called the head of MSF and personally apologized for the “tragic incident.” The Pentagon promised to make “condolence payments” to the families of those killed.

Several investigations into the “incident” were launched by the Pentagon and a joint Afghan-NATO team. However, MSF’s repeated call for an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, established under the additional protocols to the Geneva Convention, have been ducked or ignored.

There is, at least, one aspect both accounts agree on: the timing.

It’s undisputed that the attack occurred on October 3, 2015 — just over nine months after President Obama officially declared the ending of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan. . .

One thing I had realized: the number of US attacks on wedding parties is greater than I thought. From the column introduction by Tom Englehardt:

. . . [A]t least eight wedding parties wiped out in whole or in part between December 2001 and December 2013 in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen by U.S. air power, and evidently two more barely a week apart this fall by the U.S.-backed Saudi air force, also in Yemen. In the first of those, two missiles reportedly tore through wedding tents in a village on the Red Sea, killing more than 130 celebrants, including women and children; in the second, a house 60 miles south of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, “where dozens of people were celebrating,” was hit leaving at least 28 dead. Cumulatively, over the years (by my informal count) close to 450 Iraqis, Afghans, and Yemenis have died in these disasters and many more were wounded.  Each of the eviscerated weddings made the news somewhere in our world (or I wouldn’t have noticed), though with rare exceptions they never made the headlines and, of course, never did any of them get anything close to the 24/7 media spotlight we’ve grown so used to; nor, except perhaps at this website, has anyone attended to these disasters as a cumulative, repetitive set of events. . .

We lucky that this slaughter of civilians has not triggered a backlash from inhabitants of the region. Or, come to think of it, perhaps it has.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2015 at 8:38 am

The OneBlade shaves just keep getting better

with 4 comments

SOTD 19 Nov 2015

A BBS result today. I can easily/automatically now find the best cutting angle, with the sound and feel confirming that the blade is at work. Despite the pivoting head, I do find that you still must get the angle right: the pivot doesn’t do it on its own, though it offers some auxiliary assistance.

Precision-made items seem to have a different feel. They feel “precise,” and if there are two or more parts, the fit also is precise. The feel of something made with high precision is beyond, say, the feel of a smooth dining-room table. I commented previously about how Above the Tie conveys the sense of a precision machine with just three parts. The OneBlade has more parts (though they are already assembled and stay that way) and, with the pivoting head, has a moving part, and so it feels even more like a precision machine. And the smooth, easy insertion and removal of the blade with no play or slop conveys the same high-precision feel.

This is the third shave with this blade, so tomorrow I’ll change blades and do one more shave, and then I’ll return the razor, a loaner, to Mantic59, with my thanks. Using the OneBlade has been a good experience, although I don’t think I’ll buy one. Still, it offers a good option for single-blade shaving for a certain type of well-heeled novice.

The soap is First Canadian Grapefruit-Peppermint, a very nice fragrance indeed. The soap made a fine lather quite easily, thanks in part to the Satin Tip brush shown.

Three passes, once again no nicks (and I think nicking yourself with the OneBlade would require some effort). As noted, I got a BBS finish today, so I am quite interested to see what I do with a new blade tomorrow.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2015 at 7:38 am

Posted in Shaving

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