Archive for May 2016
I really hate to part with this razor, but the time has come. In the eBay listing, I note that it has two red dots to mark the adjustment, one on either side of the handle. This means you don’t have to place the cap in a specific orientation (as you must on the Merkur Progress and on another, less Mikron that I had). You just slap on the cap, tighten all the way, and use the dot that’s above the “1” to mark your setting.
The razor has many excellent features and is in excellent condition, but I am paring down the collection.
Kevin Drum has a good column, contrasting the facts with Trump’s complaints. One example from the column:
Also read James Fallows’s excellent dissection of Trump’s ignorance of how things work.
It’s pretty clear that Trump is accustomed to getting his own way without question, and when questions are raised he’s confused and offended. He must live in a bubble.
Jonathan Shay wrote two books that I treasure having read: Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming. Both books recognize Homer’s direct knowledge of warfare and its effects and use his two long poems to investigate issues affecting soldiers today. Both books are fascinating and illuminating, and I highly recommend them. The links take you to inexpensive secondhand copies.
Jeff Guntzel has an interesting article on how Jonathan Shay has continued to explore these ideas and his concerns:
“I really don’t like the term ‘PTSD,’” Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Shay told PBS’ “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” in 2010. “He says the diagnostic definition of “post-traumatic stress disorder” is a fine description of certain instinctual survival skills that persist into everyday life after a person has been in mortal danger — but the definition doesn’t address the entirety of a person’s injury after the trauma of war. “I view the persistence into civilian life after battle,” he says, “… as the simple or primary injury.”
Dr. Shay has his own name for the thing the clinical definition of PTSD leaves out. He calls it “moral injury” — and the term is catching on with both the VA and the Department of Defense.
He’s Dr. Shay discussing these topics:
The total time for these two is less than 20 minutes, each being about 9 minutes long.
More Jonathan Shay videos are on YouTube. If you click either of the above to “watch on YouTube,” you see related videos at the right.
This is an important issue. The US is not doing right by its armed services in terms of the care we give them.
. . . Warren’s impassioned call for America’s voters to stand up for what they believe, or in the case of Trump’s supporters, come to their senses, was long overdue. And it badly needed saying. Trump and his pernicious brand of divisive, bombastic and racialist politics will not be defeated by wishful thinking. It is going to be a long, hard fight. The next weeks and months will see a concerted, well-funded effort to render Trump respectable. Already, for example, his spokespeople claim his call to ban Muslims from the US was merely a “talking point”. Already, the ever pragmatical Foreign Office is advising that the special relationship must come first. Already, David Cameron is mending fences, congratulating Trump on his success and inviting him to Downing Street.
A line must be drawn. Illusions must be discarded. The truth must be told. Trump, with his innate, rich man’s hostility to social justice and equal rights, with his greedy love of big business and corporate tax cuts, with his scornful disdain for green policies and climate change science, with his alarming ignorance of strategic realities in the Middle East and east Asia, with his cruel and ruthless contempt for the weak, the less privileged and the vulnerable of this world, with his foolhardy isolationism and protectionism, with his loathsome self-adoration, and with his hateful fear-peddling is a menacing problem, not a passing phenomenon.
Something not dissimilar to the rise of Trump is happening across Europe, where xenophobic and racist parties of the right are advancing, most recently in Austria last week. Trump-ism, for want of a better word, is not something with which tidy, reasonable compromises can be made. It must not be appeased, bought off or left to fester. The only thing to do with Trump-ism, wherever it appears, is to oppose it, fight it, and defeat it. As Elizabeth Warren says, that critical fight must start now.
Radley Balko continues his series on South Carolina’s approach to law enforcement:
Jonny McCoy didn’t intend to practice criminal law. “I wanted to be like Tom Cruise in ‘The Firm,’ ” says the Myrtle Beach, S.C.,-based attorney. “I was chasing all that company money.”
That all changed in October 2009 when he spotted three Columbia, S.C., police officers roughing up his friend Keith McAllister outside a bar in the trendy Five Points area. McCoy attempted to ask the officers why they were apprehending his friend, but barely got the words out before he was shoved, apprehended and arrested himself on charges of interfering with a police officer and resisting arrest. McCoy and McAllister were jailed overnight. When they woke, they discovered that one of their cellmates had hanged himself.
Video of the arrest later revealed major discrepancies in the police’s account of their interactions with both men. After the video was released, the officers pleaded the Fifth Amendment rather than testify at McCoy’s trial. The charges were later dropped, and McCoy settled his lawsuit with the city. (See the previous installment of this series for more on the case.)
Today, criminal law occupies a lot of McCoy’s time. “That really opened my eyes,” McCoy says of his arrest. “I was sheltered, I guess. I had no idea how bad it was. But to be falsely arrested and accused like that spurred something inside me. It made me want to take criminal cases. And what happened to me was pretty minor. It’s nothing like what happens to people like Julian.”
That would be Julian Betton, a 31-year-old Myrtle Beach man left paralyzed after a drug raid on his home in April 2015. McCoy represents him. After an investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), special prosecutor Kevin Brackett announced in July 2015 that the officers would not face criminal charges in the shooting.
SLED investigates officer-involved shootings in all but one county in South Carolina. It’s commonly seen as the most elite law enforcement agency in the state. Defenders point to its independence as an outside agency as a boon to its integrity when looking into police shootings. McCoy says the case is yet another example of how SLED falls well short of its reputation.
“Independence?” McCoy asks, incredulously. “There’s no independence. These cops lied — and that’s the right word. They lied. They nearly killed a man over $100 worth of pot, and then they lied about it. And the SLED investigators and the solicitors do everything they can to defend them. SLED’s primary role in these cases is to protect other cops.”
The raid on Betton’s home came after a confidential informant made two $50 purchases of marijuana from Betton in his apartment. The ensuing raid was conducted by 12 officers from the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit, a multi-jurisdictional task force consisting of officers pulled from several local police agencies.
Every officer who participated in the raid later claimed that someone on the raid team clearly knocked and announced the police presence before one officer took a battering ram to Betton’s door. That’s an important claim, because the investigating officer didn’t request a no-knock warrant. “The statements, the verbiage, it’s almost identical. Twelve different officers, and it’s nearly identical,” McCoy says. Ideally, officer statements should be in their own words. Police watchdog groups say boilerplate language smacks of coaching, particularly when it includes legalese drawn from court opinions.
Several officers claimed to be wearing clothing that clearly indicated they were law enforcement. Four claimed that upon entering the home, Betton fired a handgun at them. Within a couple of seconds of entering, three officers then unleashed a barrage of bullets in Betton’s direction.
“They sprayed the walls, the floor, the ceiling,” McCoy says. “They filled that place with bullets.” In the end, agents David Belue, Frank Waddell and Chris Dennis together fired at least 57 shots, according to WPDE. Julian Betton fell to the ground when the first bullets hit him. They kept firing. A bullet struck his left arm. Another entered his back; another, his rectum. He was shot in each thigh. One bullet went through a wall, traversed a basketball court and stuck in the wall of a house nearby.
Betton was hit nine times in all. He ended up losing his gallbladder and parts of his bowel, colon and rectum. The bullets also damaged his liver, small intestine and pancreas. His lung partially collapsed. His left leg was broken. One of his vertebrae was partially destroyed; two others were fractured. He’ll never walk again or be able to have kids of his own. He’ll also need to use a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.
The Sun News’s Charles Perry reported that when the shooting finally stopped, one officer ordered Betton to roll over and put his hands on his head. He replied, “I can’t, I’m paralyzed.” He spent the next six weeks in a coma.
Over the next several months, Betton was portrayed in the local media as a dangerous drug dealer and would-be cop killer. The police announced that they’d found about eight ounces of marijuana, $970 in cash, a handgun and an “assault rifle” in his apartment. They noted a security camera outside the apartment door that he had installed. In announcing his decision not to press charges three months later, Brackett said, “This was an armed dealer — holed up in his apartment — with heavy duty firearms and surveillance equipment. This wasn’t a regular drug pad — it was sophisticated.”
But then the officers’ narrative began to fray. The first problem for the officers was the gun they claimed Betton had shot at them. Ballistics testing showed it hadn’t been recently fired. . .
There’s quite a bit more. SC police seem to be little more than armed thugs.
Robert Kolker has an extremely interesting article in Wired. From the article:
. . . To the department’s detectives, something bigger than Campos-Martinez was under close scrutiny in this case: the American way of interrogation.
The modern style of questioning criminal suspects—the set of techniques practiced fruitlessly by those first detectives in the Medellin case, and familiar to all of us from a thousand police procedurals—is a rusty, stalwart invention that’s been around since the days of JFK. It has a proud history: Born during a period of reform, it started out as an enlightened alternative to the bad old ways of policing that preceded it.
Until the mid-1930s, police still widely used the “third degree”—that is, torture—to get suspects to talk. Officers across the country hung suspects out of windows, dunked their heads underwater, and hit them. [The use of torture continued in Chicago, particularly at their black site, until very recently. – LG] In 1931 a presidential panel known as the Wickersham Commission called attention to the brutality of the third degree. Then, in 1936, the US Supreme Court effectively outlawed the practice with its ruling in Brown v. Mississippi, a case involving three black men who were beaten and whipped until they confessed.
Police closed ranks at first, but they eventually came around to new approaches. J. Edgar Hoover, for one, was especially keen to rebrand his agents as advanced practitioners of law enforcement science. “Third-degree methods, an ill-trained officer might think, perhaps a severe beating, will force a confession,” Hoover said at the time. “But the trained officer, schooled in the latest techniques of crime detection, will think otherwise.” Crime labs were developing new methods of solving cases—ballistics, fingerprinting, document examination—and with them came a new, more psychological approach to interrogation.
The most influential nonviolent method of questioning suspects debuted in 1962 with the first edition of Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, by Fred Inbau, a Northwestern University law professor who ran one of the country’s first crime labs, and John E. Reid, a former police officer turned polygraphy expert. Now in its fifth printing, the book set the mold for police interrogations in America. Through the 1940s and ’50s, Reid had built a reputation as a master interrogator, extracting confessions in over 300 murder cases. He and Inbau likened the interrogator’s task to “a hunter stalking his game.” An interrogation, they explained, should be designed to persuade a suspect that confessing is the only sensible option; to get confessions, they wrote, police must sweep up suspects in a wave of momentum that they’ll find impossible to reverse.
All the major tropes of a traditional police interrogation can be traced back to Reid and Inbau’s manual: the claustrophobic room, the interrogators’ outward projection of certainty, the insistence on a theory of the case that assumes the suspect’s guilt. (The manual calls this a “theme.”) The interrogators bolster that theme with what they characterize as incontrovertible evidence, which can include facts drawn from real detective work (“We know you got off work at 5 pm”) or details that are completely fabricated (“The polygraph says you did it”). Toward the end, interrogators are encouraged to “minimize” the crime in a consoling sort of way (“He had it coming, didn’t he?”). All the while, they cut off all denials until the suspect cracks. Detectives are allowed to use deceit and trickery because, as Inbau and Reid explained, none of these techniques are “apt to induce an innocent person to confess a crime he did not commit.”
The manual gave rise to a new archetype: the silver-tongued interrogator—someone who, through intimidation and seduction, can get anyone to admit to anything. No less an authority than the US Supreme Court acknowledged the sway that the method held over suspects; in its 1966 Miranda decision, the court cited the Inbau-Reid training manual as an example of why all suspects should be read their rights.
Over the years, the Reid technique, as it came to be known, became a kind of powerful folk wisdom, internalized by generations of police officers. Even among those who received little formal training, it was passed down from cop to cop. “You would think that at a large organization like the LAPD, a large emphasis would be put on developing interrogation skills for their detectives,” says Tim Marcia, reflecting on his own haphazard indoctrination into modern interrogation technique. “To be quite honest, we go to an 80-hour detective school, and probably about four hours is devoted to interrogation.”
Earlier in his career, Marcia spent 10 years as one of the original members of the LAPD’s cold-case unit. Researching old unsolved cases gave him a flyover view of interrogation tactics through the decades. While styles fluctuated somewhat, the basic outline of the Reid technique remained intact. And the most consistent thing over the years? No matter what detectives did with a suspect in the interrogation room, they were convinced they were doing it right.
THE TROUBLE WITH modern interrogation technique, as Marcia would learn, is that, despite its scientific pose, it has almost no science to back it up. Reid and Inbau claimed, for instance, that a well-trained investigator could catch suspects lying with 85 percent accuracy; their manual instructs detectives to conduct an initial, nonaccusatory “behavioral analysis interview,” in which they should look for physical tells like fidgeting and broken eye contact. But when German forensic psychologist Günter Köhnken actually studied the matter in 1987, he found that trained police officers were no better than the average person at detecting lies. Several subsequent studies have cast doubt on the notion that there are any clear-cut behavioral tells. (Truth tellers often fidget more than liars.) In fact, the more confident police officers are about their judgments, the more likely they are to be wrong.
But the scientific case against police interrogations really began to mount in the early 1990s, when the first DNA-based exonerations started rolling in. According to the Innocence Project, a group dedicated to freeing the wrongfully imprisoned, about a third of the 337 people who’ve had their convictions overturned by DNA evidence confessed or incriminated themselves falsely. These and other exonerations furnished scientists with dozens of known false-confession cases to study, giving rise to a veritable subfield of social psychology and the behavioral sciences. (At least one confession elicited by John Reid himself—in a 1955 murder case—turned out to be inaccurate; the real killer confessed 23 years later.)
Researchers have even broken down these false confession cases into categories. There are “voluntary” false confessions, like the many presumably unstable people who claimed credit for the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in order to get attention. Then there are “compliant,” or “coerced,” false confessions, in which people are so ground down by an intense interrogation that, out of desperation and naïveté, they think that confessing will be better for them in the long run. The third category, “persuaded,” or “internalized,” false confessions, may be the most poignant. Here, the interrogator’s Reid-style theming is so relentless, the deployment of lies so persuasive, that suspects—often young and impressionable or mentally impaired—end up believing they did it, however fleetingly.
And yet, even in the face of these documented cases, police and prosecutors have resisted admitting that false confessions are even possible. In court, they routinely move to reject expert testimony on the phenomenon by saying it goes against common sense that an innocent person would ever confess to a criminal act. But a wealth of research since the 1990s has shown that false memories are remarkably easy to implant. And in 2015, Julia Shaw, then a psychology PhD candidate in British Columbia, conducted a study that took direct aim at the idea that ordinary, innocent people would never confess to a crime they didn’t commit. In fact, she found that people can be made to do it quite reliably.
In just three one-hour sessions, Shaw was able to convince 21 of her 30 college-age subjects that they’d committed a crime when they were around 12 years old—assaulted another child with a weapon, for instance—and had a run-in with the police as a result. She supplied details that were recognizable to the subjects—the location where the assault supposedly happened, who the other child was—drawn from information their parents provided in a questionnaire. Shaw tells me she designed her study to mimic the techniques used in some false-confession cases. “I’m essentially marrying poor interrogation tactics with poor therapeutic tactics,” she says. The results were so strong, in fact, that she stopped administering the experiment before she had run through her full sample. . .
. . . A SECOND REFORMATION of American interrogations is quietly under way right now. And it stole into the country via an unexpected route: the war on terror. . .
One problem with having a Congress that is effectively controlled by corporate interests is that it finds great difficulty in taking any action against corporate interests. The interests of the public, though, are fair game, so when actions are taken, it is often the public interest that is sacrificed. (In the book Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher and Willliam Ury point out that it is a bad idea to negotiate with anyone who lacks the power to make concessions: if only one side can make concessions, it’s clear that all concessions will be made by one side.) Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are proudly touting recently passed measures to address the nation’s growing heroin and opioid crisis, but the legislation may have handed the drug companies at the center of the epidemic a major victory.
The legislation focuses on treating addiction and does nothing to limit the role of pharmaceutical companies in fueling the opioid crisis. In fact, it instructs the federal government to review and potentially undo sweeping new guidelines that recommend less prescribing of highly addictive opioid painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin.
The review panel would be made up of a range of stakeholders including pain management groups, many of whom are financially tied to the drug industry.
Four out of five people addicted to heroin began using it after trying prescription opioid painkillers, which provide a similar high. Investigations have found that drug companies orchestrated much of the epidemic by promoting claims that opioids are not addictive and by financing third party groups that promote opioid painkillers for minor pains, such as toothaches.
Now the boldest effort to curb the flow of legal opioids may face a setback.
The Centers for Disease Control issued new guidelines in March to encourage doctors to prescribe opioids with low dosages, and only after other pain relief treatments, such as ibuprofen, have been tried. Since the voluntary guidelines were first leaked online last year, the drug industry has reacted furiously, even convening regularly in Washington to discuss how to derail the proposal. A legal group funded by the makers of OxyContin threatened the CDC with a lawsuit.
The legislation, which passed the House and Senate and is currently in conference committee, calls for the prescribing guidelines to be reviewed and potentially changed by a new panel made up of representatives from a range of stakeholders, and for the revisions to incorporate “pain management” expertise from the “private sector.” The legislation calls for the task force to be convened by the end 2018, and for it to issue a report within 270 days.
“We must make sure that these guidelines are updated and reviewed regularly,” said Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., who co-sponsored one of theHouse bills now being merged with the Senate version, which contains similar language instructing a new panel to review the guidelines.
The demand for pain advocacy and pain specialists to review the CDC guidelines comes as recent reports show that the leading societies for pain management have been funded and controlled by painkiller companies for years.
One leading pain advocacy group, the Pain Care Forum, is funded and largely controlled by Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin. According to areport from the Associated Press, the Pain Care Forum organized a lobbying campaign last year to defeat the CDC guidelines.
A complaint filed by the City of Chicago found that . . .