Later On

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

Archive for December 17th, 2015

Researchers Who Uncovered VW Dieselgate Are Now Accusing Mercedes and BMW

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2015 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Business, Law

Navy SEALs, a Beating Death and Claims of a Cover-Up

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Perhaps some terrorists hate the US not for its freedoms but because of things it has done. This lengthy and careful report by Nicholas Tulish, Christopher Drew, and Matthew Rosenberg in the NY Times is worth reading. Think of how we would feel if the military personnel were wearing the uniforms of a different country—Russia, say, or China.

The three Navy SEALs stomped on the bound Afghan detainees and dropped heavy stones on their chests, the witnesses recalled. They stood on the prisoners’ heads and poured bottles of water on some of their faces in what, to a pair of Army soldiers, appeared to be an improvised form of waterboarding.

A few hours earlier, shortly after dawn on May 31, 2012, a bomb had exploded at a checkpoint manned by an Afghan Local Police unit that the SEALs were training. Angered by the death of one of their comrades in the blast, the police militiamen had rounded up half a dozen or more suspects from a market in the village of Kalach and forced them to a nearby American outpost. Along the way, they beat them with rifle butts and car antennas.

A United States Army medic standing guard at the base, Specialist David Walker, had expected the men from SEAL Team 2 to put a stop to the abuse. Instead, he said, one of them “jump-kicked this guy kneeling on the ground.” Two others joined in, Specialist Walker and several other soldiers recounted, and along with the Afghan militiamen, they beat the detainees so badly that by dusk, one would die.

The four American soldiers working with the SEALs reported the episode, which has not previously been disclosed. In a Navy criminal investigation, two Navy support personnel said they had witnessed some abuse by the SEALs, as did a local police officer. Separately, an Afghan detained with the man who died provided a detailed account of mistreatment by American troops and Afghan militiamen in an interview with The New York Times.

The SEAL command, though, cleared the Team 2 members of wrongdoing in a closed disciplinary process that is typically used only for minor infractions, disregarding a Navy lawyer’s recommendation that the troops face assault charges and choosing not to seek a court-martial. Two of the SEALs and their lieutenant have since been promoted, even though their commander in Afghanistan recommended that they be forced out of the elite SEAL teams.

“It just comes down to what’s wrong and what’s right,” Specialist Walker said in a recent interview. “You can’t squint hard enough to make this gray.”

Even before the beatings, some of the SEALs had exhibited troubling behavior. According to the soldiers and Afghan villagers, they had amused themselves by tossing grenades over the walls of their base, firing high-caliber weapons at passing vehicles and even aiming slingshots at children, striking them in the face with hard candy.

Abuse of detainees is among the most serious offenses an American service member can commit. Several military justice experts, who reviewed a Naval Criminal Investigative Service report on the case at the request of The Times, said that it had been inappropriate for the SEAL command to treat such allegations as an internal disciplinary matter and that it should have referred the case for an Article 32 review, the equivalent of a grand jury, to consider a court-martial.

“It’s unfathomable,” said Donald J. Guter, a retired rear admiral and former judge advocate general of the Navy, in charge of all its lawyers. “It really does look like this was intended just to bury this.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2015 at 1:47 pm

All the Cops Charged in 2015 for Shooting Suspects

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UPDATE: See this story in the NY Times: “Chicago Pays Millions but Punishes Few in Police Killings.” The reason is a State’s Attorney who views her job as being to protect police regardless of the crimes they commit. That report begins:

The gunshots blasted on and on, 45 in all, until Calvin Cross lay dead in a vacant lot. Mr. Cross, 19, had run away after three Chicago police officers pulled alongside him on a South Side street near his house. Bullets hit his chest, arm, back, face and the little finger on his right hand.

The officers, who fired four weapons including an assault rifle that night in May 2011, said that Mr. Cross had fired at them. Investigators found an old revolver several hundred feet from Mr. Cross’s path. But tests later showed definitively that the gun was inoperable and did not have Mr. Cross’s fingerprints.

Among the officers, part of a special unit that some have accused of aggressive stops and illegal searches and that has since been disbanded, there have been 17 complaints over the years, but none led to discipline. The three were cleared of wrongdoing in Mr. Cross’s death, too, and returned to duty.

Nevertheless, the city this year paid Mr. Cross’s family $2 million after relatives filed a wrongful-death suit. . . .

Continue reading.

Also: Brandon Patterson reports in Mother Jones:

The number of police officers charged with murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings has more than tripled in 2015.

In April, the Washington Post reported that of the thousands of police shootings that have occurred since 2005, just 54 officers were charged—an average of about five officers a year. In the final weeks of 2015, that number has reached 17.

Philip Stinson, the Bowling Green State University criminologist who worked with the Post on its analysis, attributes the increase in murder and manslaughter charges to more video evidence. Ten officers were charged this year based on video of the incidents. Stinson told the Associated Press, “If you take the cases with the video away, you are left with what we would expect to see over the past 10 years—about five cases.” He made the comments in an article published December 4—since then, two more officers have been charged. “You have to wonder if there would have been charges if there wasn’t video evidence,” Stinson, added.

This year, several police shooting incidents have received national media attention. Most recently, the video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer last October sparked mass protests in the city and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation. Other videos that received national attention include those that captured the shootings by police of Walter Scott in South Carolina, Eric Harris in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Samuel DuBose in Ohio.

Here is a list of all the police officers charged with murder or manslaughter this year in on-duty shootings. The list is in chronological order, according to when the shootings occurred, and includes videos of incidents that were publicly available. (WARNING: The videos are graphic.) The list does not include the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray because he died from a spinal chord injury in a police vehicle.

Sheriff’s Deputy Walter Grant, Bolivar County Sheriff’s Office

State: Mississippi

Victim: Willie Lee Bingham, 20

What happened: Grant shot Bingham during a foot chase on March 13, 2013. Bingham and several other men were suspected of breaking into cars in an automobile equipment plant, the police say. They fled in a car, and when it stalled, Bingham ran away from the car. Grant shot Bingham once in the back of the head. Grants has said he thought Bingham had a gun.

Status: Grant was fired and indicted on manslaughter charges in March. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Sheriff’s Deputy Peter Peraza, Broward County Sheriff’s Office

State: Florida

Victim: Jermaine McBean, 33

What happened: . . .

Continue reading.

The stories are damning, but police tend to have de facto immunity for any criminal behavior. Notice, for example, in the Chicago shooting of Laquan McDonald that the prosecutor refused to bring charges until her hand was forced by the release of the video, which shows clearly that the shooting was murder, and the prosecutor has made no movies to prosecute the many police who filed false reports in an effort to protect the murderer.

Videos at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2015 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Drunk with Power: The rise of the police state’s power

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Kelefa Sanneh reviews a book in the New Yorker:

For much of his life, Gerrit Smith was one of the most prominent abolitionists in America, a distinction he retained until 1865, when the end of the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, made abolitionists obsolete. But Smith had other passions, and four years later he resurfaced in Chicago, insisting that his life’s work was unfinished. The occasion was the founding of a new political party, and Smith delivered the keynote speech. “Slavery is gone,” he announced. “But drunkenness stays.” He suggested that this continuing form of bondage might be more miserable, and more dangerous, than the one recently abolished. “No outward advantages can bring happiness to the victim of alcohol—to him who has killed his own soul,” Smith said. “The literal slave does harm to no one, whilst the self-made slave of whom we speak is a curse to his kindred, a burden upon all, and, in no small share of the cases, a terror to all.” In nineteenth-century America, the temperance speech was a common attraction on the lecture circuit. Decades before the Civil War, Lincoln had made his own contribution to the genre, calling for a “temperance revolution.” But Smith didn’t think that these “self-made” slaves could free themselves. The party’s main plank was its support for a federal law to ban any drink that had “power to intoxicate or madden the drinker.”

The Prohibition Party, as it was called, never became a major electoral force. But in 1919, exactly half a century after the Party’s founding, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, banning “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” National prohibition, formerly an eccentric obsession, was now enshrined at the center of America’s legal system. In the fourteen years between its adoption and its repeal, in 1933, many Americans—especially those who had conducted personal research into the compatibility of happiness and intoxication—wondered how Prohibition had come to pass. And, in the decades since, not a few historians have wondered the same thing. In the influential assessment of Richard Hofstadter, Prohibition was a farce, “a means by which the reforming energies of the country were transmuted into mere peevishness.” Indeed, Prohibition is remembered chiefly for its failure to achieve its aims. The Prohibition years were also the roaring twenties, the age of rakish mobsters and glamorous speakeasies, “The Great Gatsby” and “The Untouchables” and Bessie Smith singing, “Any bootlegger sure is a pal of mine.” More often than not, when we think about Prohibition, we think about a time when people seemed to drink—and seemed to enjoy it—more than ever.

Lisa McGirr believes that this is a mistake. She is a historian who studies grassroots political movements in twentieth-century America, and she has concluded that our fascination with the boozy, semi-clandestine world that Prohibition created has led us to ignore its more lasting effects. In her view, Prohibition was not a farce but a tragedy, and one that has made a substantial contribution to our current miseries. In “The War on Alcohol” (Norton), she urges us to put aside our interest in the many ways involuntarily temperate citizens sought relief, so that we can consider the federal government’s strenuous attempts to stop them. Her book’s subtitle is “Prohibition and the Rise of the American State,” and by “state” she means in particular what she calls the “penal state”: the Prohibition Bureau and its many enforcers, some of them drawn from the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan; the laws and prisons required by a federal government newly alarmed about crime; the reality of a country in which addicts were treated not as victims but as perpetrators. Prohibition was patchily enforced, and certain groups were more likely to find themselves tossed into the rough patches: “Mexicans, poor European immigrants, African-Americans, poor whites in the South.” Nearly a century later, she argues, the legacy of Prohibition can be seen in our prisons, teeming with people convicted of violating neo-Prohibitionary drug laws. Many at the time viewed Prohibition as an outrage, and, in McGirr’s view, we are missing its true meaning if we are not outraged, too—and ready to resist its equally oppressive descendants. . .

Continue reading.

cf. the DEA and our enormous prison population.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2015 at 12:50 pm

Andy Borowitz: “Lawyer for Martin Shkreli hikes fees 5000%”

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A humor column in the New Yorker:

A criminal lawyer representing Turing Pharmaceuticals chief Martin Shkreli has informed his client that he is raising his hourly legal fees by five thousand per cent, the lawyer has confirmed.
Minutes after Shkreli’s arrest on charges of securities fraud, the attorney, Harland Dorrinson, announced that he was hiking his fees from twelve hundred dollars an hour to sixty thousand dollars.
Shkreli, who reportedly received the news about the price hike while he was being fingerprinted, cried foul and accused his attorney of “outrageous and inhumane price gouging.”
“This is the behavior of a sociopath,” Shkreli was heard screaming. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2015 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Business, Comedy, Law

Elon Musk: Not Paying Carbon Taxes Is Like Not Paying for Garbage Collection

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A very interesting point. The article by Amy Thompson in Motherboard begins:

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently trekked to Paris to give a talk during the climate discussions that resulted in a global treaty. On Tuesday, he spoke to a packed audience in San Francisco about the importance of innovation, renewable energy sources, and especially the need for a carbon tax.

“This is essentially analogous to not paying for garbage collection,” he said. “We cannot say ‘let’s have a garbage free society’ because it’s nearly impossible to have a garbage-free society. But people still need to pay for the garbage collection.”

Taxes on carbon emissions would help the world transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, Musk said. There are major costs to consumption, in other words, and we can’t see the whole picture and what climate change is really costing us.

“It’s kind of like if we had high taxes on fruits and vegetables, but low taxes on alcohol and cigarettes,” Musk said. “That wouldn’t make much sense and would reinforce bad behaviors. But, that’s sort of what we have in respect to energy, and with very powerful sources trying to keep it that way.”

The issue of climate change is neither a right or left, liberal, or conservative issue, Musk said; it’s a global issue. As the chairman of SolarCity, one of the largestproviders of solar energy in the United States, it’s not surprising he views it as the energy source of the future. “You can take one corner of a state like Utah and Nevada, cover it with solar panels and power the whole country with solar power,” he said.

The world’s supply of fossil fuels is not going to last forever, so at some point we will have to shift to other sources of sustainable energy. The big question according to Musk is when will this shift occur and how much carbon dioxide will be in the atmosphere compared to the ground.

“We know we will end up, which is with a sustainable energy source, so we should just end the experiment that is fossil fuels as soon as possible,” explained Musk. He also stressed how important it is for the general public to understand the carbon cycle. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2015 at 11:53 am

Annual Study Finds Legalization Hasn’t Increased Teen Use

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I blogged yesterday about a NY Times story on this same report. At Philip Smith gives his take on the report:

The University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of teen drug use was released today and shows that softening attitudes toward marijuana and actual marijuana legalization in four states and Washington, DC, have not translated into increased teen pot smoking.

The survey also had generally good news about other drugs, reported declines in teen use of ecstasy, heroin, alcohol, cigarettes, and synthetic cannabinoids.

MTF has been tracking drug use, including alcohol and tobacco, since 1975, and surveys more than 40,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in some 400 public and private secondary schools across the country. The research is sponsored by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse.

“Marijuana, the most widely used of the illicit drugs, did not show any significant change in annual prevalence this year in any of the three grades, nor in the three grades combined,” MTF reported in its press release. “After rising for several years, the annual prevalence of marijuana has more or less leveled out since about 2010.”

That’s significant since legalization wasn’t approved in Colorado and Washington until November 2012 and in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, in November 2014. And in each case, it took some time to actually go into effect.

If legalization in the states has had any effect on teen pot use rates, the MTF figures make clear it hasn’t shown up yet. Teen pot use stabilized before legalization and hasn’t increased since.

While use rates have been stable for the last five years, with 12% of 8th graders, 25% of 10th graders, and 35% of seniors reporting using at least once in the past year, they are well above the historic lows that MTF reported in the early 1990s (although near the levels of the survey’s earliest years in the 1970s, which, interestingly, are omitted from the tables accompanying this year’s report). . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2015 at 11:50 am

Posted in Drug laws

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