Later On

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

Archive for September 7th, 2017

Tomi Lahren, Meet The Great Great Grandfather Prosecuted For Forging His Citizenship Papers!

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Jennifer Mendelsohn writes at Wonkette:

An avid genealogist, I have a knack for using the document trail to root out buried family secrets and often help adoptees and others trace their histories. And so it’s with great amusement that I have unpacked the family trees of anti-immigrant right-wing personalities from Rep. Steve “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” King (whose own grandmother arrived in the U.S. as a four-year-old with baby siblings in tow) to Tucker “Why does America benefit from having tons of people from failing countries come here?” Carlson (whose ancestor wrote about how the bleak prospects in his native Switzerland forced him to head for America) to Stephen “We favor immigrants who speak English” Miller (whose great-grandmother most definitely did not speak English, per the census.) It’s a project I have jokingly dubbed #resistancegenealogy.

I was curious how long it would take me to hit an immigrant if I dug into the tree of Tomi Lahren, the platinum blonde, snowflake-hating ultra-conservative firebrand recently hired by Fox News. The answer was “not long,” but I never expected to hit pay dirt quite like I did.

But first, let’s back up. I like to say that following a genealogical trail is a lot like Law and Order. (Stay with me.) You hear the dun dun!, listen for the clues, (“I think she was working in a laundromat on 4th street?”) and then, well, you go to the laundromat on 4th street, for God’s sake. So how do we find out who Tomi’s ancestors were? You follow the dun duns.

Multiple sources identify Tomi’s parents as Kevin and Trudy Lahren of Rapid City, SD, including this Dallas Morning News piece. (While we’re at it, here’s a local newspaper article about the high school work experience that must have helped make Tomi who she is today.) . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

7 September 2017 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Daily life

Facebook Tells Advertisers It Can Reach Many Young People. Too Many.

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Sapna Maheshwari has an interesting article in the NY Times. The opening sentence:

Facebook faced criticism on Wednesday after an analyst pointed out that the company’s online advertising tools claim they can reach 25 million more young Americans than the United States census says exist. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

7 September 2017 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Business

Religion trends and groupings and political outlook, in good charts

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Written by LeisureGuy

7 September 2017 at 4:55 pm

What Does an Innocent Man Have to Do to Go Free? Plead Guilty.

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Megan Rose reports at ProPublica:

On Oct. 15, 2008, James Owens shuffled, head high despite his shackles, into a Baltimore courtroom, eager for his new trial to begin. Two decades into a life sentence, he would finally have his chance to prove what he’d been saying all along: The state had the wrong man.

Owens had been convicted of murdering a 24-year-old college student, who was found raped and stabbed in her home. Then he’d been shunted off to state prison until DNA testing — the scientific marvel that he’d watched for years free other men — finally caught up with his case in 2006. The semen that had been found inside the victim wasn’t his. A Maryland court tossed his conviction and granted Owens a rare do-over trial.

State prosecutors balked, insisting they still had enough evidence to keep Owens locked away and vowed to retry him. But they had also offered him an unusual deal. He could guarantee his immediate release from prison with no retrial and no danger of a new conviction — if he’d agree to plead guilty. The deal, known as an Alford plea, came with what seemed like an additional carrot: Despite pleading guilty, the Alford plea would allow Owens to say on the record that he was innocent. The Alford plea was an enticing chance for Owens, by then 43, to move on as a free man. But he’d give up a chance at exoneration. To the world, and legally, he’d still be a killer.

Owens refused the deal. He told his lawyer he wanted to clear his name, and he was willing to take his chances in court and wait in prison however long it took for a new trial to begin. It was a startling choice for an incarcerated defendant — even those with persuasive stories of innocence typically don’t trust the system enough to roll the dice again with 12 jurors or an appellate court. Most defendants, lawyers say, instinctively and rationally, grab any deal they can to win their freedom back.

The decision cost Owens 16 more months behind bars. Then, on that fall day in 2008, when the trial was set to begin, the prosecutor stood and, without a glance at Owens, told the judge, “The state declines to prosecute.”

In a legal gamble in which the prosecution typically holds the winning cards, Owens had called the state’s bluff. He walked out that day exonerated — and with the right to sue the state for the 21 years he spent wrongly imprisoned.

It seemed the ultimate victory in a city like Baltimore, with its deeply rooted and often justified mistrust of police and prosecutors. But Owens wasn’t the only man convicted of murdering that 24-year-old college student. Another white Baltimore man, James Thompson, had also been put away for life. Tests showed that his DNA didn’t match the semen either, but the state’s attorney’s office refused to drop the charges. Instead, as it had with Owens, it offered Thompson an Alford plea. Thompson grabbed the deal and walked out of prison a convicted murderer.

Same crime. Same evidence. Very different endings.


Ever since DNA ushered in a new era in criminal justice, even the toughest law-and-order advocates have come to acknowledge a hard truth: Sometimes innocent people are locked away for crimes they didn’t commit. Less widely understood is just how reluctant the system is to righting those wrongs.

Courts only assess guilt or innocence before a conviction. After that, appellate courts focus solely on fairness. Did everyone follow the rules and live up to their duties? Getting a re-hearing of the facts is a monumental, often decades-long quest through a legal thicket. Most defendants never get to start the process, let alone win. Even newly discovered evidence is not enough in many cases to prompt a review. And, for the tiny percentage of defendants who get one, the prosecutors still have the advantage: They have final discretion about whether to press charges and how severe they’ll be. Powerful influence over the pace of a case, the sentence and bail. And, compared with an incarcerated defendant, vast resources.

No one tracks how often the wrongly convicted are pressured to accept plea deals in lieu of exonerations. But in Baltimore City and County alone — two separate jurisdictions with their own state’s attorneys — ProPublica identified at least 10 cases in the last 19 years in which defendants with viable innocence claims ended up signing Alford pleas or time-served deals. In each case, exculpatory evidence was uncovered, persuasive enough to garner new trials, evidentiary hearings or writs of actual innocence. Prosecutors defend the original convictions, arguing, then and now, that the deals were made for valid reasons — such as the death of a key witness or a victim’s unwillingness to weather a retrial. The current state’s attorney in Baltimore County, Scott Schellenberger, said that “prosecutors take their oath to get it right very seriously” and wouldn’t stand in the way of exoneration if the facts called for it.

The menace of such deals, though, is clear: At worst, innocent people are stigmatized and unable to sue the state for false imprisonment, prosecutors keep unearned wins on their case records and those of the department, and no one re-investigates the crime — the real suspect is never brought to justice.

The plea deals ProPublica examined in Baltimore City involved two prior state’s attorneys. A spokeswoman for Marilyn Mosby, the current chief, didn’t respond to numerous requests for comment or for interviews with prosecutors in those cases. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

7 September 2017 at 3:19 pm

Big batch of chili simmering

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I used the 6-qt pot, with the following recipe as template. Changes were to omit the canned green chilies and the green bell pepper, substituting about 6-7 Hatch chilies, which are now in season.:

Optional: smoked ham shank, cooked overnight
1/4 cup olive oil or bacon grease
3 large onions, chopped – ellow, white, and red
1 Tbsp kosher salt & 1 Tbsp black pepper
1 large green bell pepper, chopped (Hatch chilies instead)
1 large red/yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 Poblano pepper, seeded and chopped (Hatch chilies instead)
3 ancho chile peppers, cut into small pieces
[Optional: 3 chipotle chile peppers or 1 small can chipotles in adobo—if the latter add after meat]
1/4 cup minced garlic cloves
2-3 Tbsp Mexican oregano
2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp Ancho chili powder
3-4 lbs boneless chuck roast or pork shoulder
2 Tbsp espresso grind dark roast coffee (the actual grounds – I use Illy)
2-4 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or fish sauce)
2 oz 99% cacao chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger)
1-2 Tbsp liquid smoke
6 or so good-sized tomatillos, chopped
1 28-oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes
1 can original Rotel tomatoes and chilies
1 small jar or can of tomato paste
1 28-oz can whole green chilies (Hatch chilies instead)
juice of 2 lemons or 4 limes

Optionally, put a smoked ham shank in the cast-iron dutch oven, add 1/4 c water, cover, and leave in a 200º oven overnight. The next day, let it cool and pick all the meat off the bones. Could use fat for sautéing onions, but I just added the liquid to the chili.

Put olive oil or bacon grease in 6-qt pot or 4-qt sauté pan. Sauté until the onions are transparent and starting to caramelize, stirring often (about 20 minutes). It’s best to do this in a large-diameter pan.

Add the vegetables and spices, and sauté another 10 minutes or so. The 6-qt pot was full but I did not require moving to 7-qt pot.

Add the meat without browning it—my younger daughter says that the meat is more tender in stews and such if it is cooked without browning, and that sounds good to me. Moreover, this dish does not need the flavoring of the Maillard reaction: there’s plenty of flavor from other sources.

Beef chuck roast works better than pork shoulder: the beef gets very tender, the pork not so much.

Add the remaining ingredients. I use scissors to cut up the whole San Marzano tomatoes after adding them. I recommend getting a large (28-oz) can of whole green chilies or four 7-oz cans of whole green chilies. Canned diced chilies seem to have a short shelf life and turn to liquid when added. The whole chilies are easy to chop because their cutting resistance is low: you can just press the knife through them. In this case, though, I used Hatch chilies.

Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover (or not), and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve plain or topped with grated cheese or sour cream. Chopped avocado and/or cilantro would also be good, and a squeeze of lime juice would not be amiss.

In the knife skills video, it was recommended to use a serrated knife on foods with a slick tough skin. The tomatillos exactly fit that description, so I tried the serrated knife: perfect! Easy cutting, no slipping.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 September 2017 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Beef, Food, Low carb, Recipes

What prompted the EPA to attack an AP reporter over an accurate Harvey story?

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Eric Wemple reports in the Washington Post:

The Environmental Protection Agency is all over Michael Biesecker, a reporter for the Associated Press. His reading habits, for instance. “We are able to see who opens our emails,” says an EPA official, referring to press-release blasts sent out by the agency. “Michael very rarely opens a positive story about [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt. He only opens stories where he tries to create problems.”

Scrutiny of Biesecker’s press-release consumption amped up in the summer months, after a significant dustup between the two organizations. In late June, Biesecker reported that Pruitt had “met privately with the chief executive of Dow Chemical shortly before reversing his agency’s push to ban a widely used pesticide after health studies showed it can harm children’s brains, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.”

Except that the private meeting didn’t really happen, though it was indeed listed on a schedule obtained by the AP. Scheduling conflicts prevented it from taking place. The AP ran a correction stating, in part, “A spokeswoman for the EPA says the meeting listed on the schedule was canceled, though Pruitt and [Dow Chemical CEO Andrew] Liveris did have a ‘brief introduction in passing.’”

Along with the correction, the AP ran a new story with more information about the non-meeting: “The EPA did not respond to inquiries about the scheduled meeting before the AP story was published and later did not state on the record that the meeting had been canceled.” (An EPA official protests that, indeed, the agency did respond before the story was published). The New York Times, by the way, made the very same error.

Following that episode, the EPA pulled Biesecker from its master email list. “He’s more than welcome to visit our website,” says an EPA official, noting that there are some 50 AP reporters on the blast list — and Biesecker can get the releases from them. But why de-list the guy? “We don’t think he’s a trustworthy reporter,” says the EPA official.

The evaluation of untrustworthiness, argues the official, stems from the Dow-Pruitt meeting story, plus a previous instance in which Biesecker — along with staffer Adam Kealoha Causey — wrote an article based on emails from Pruitt’s previous work as Oklahoma attorney general. “Newly obtained emails underscore just how closely Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt coordinated with fossil fuel companies while serving as Oklahoma’s state attorney general, a position in which he frequently sued to block federal efforts to curb planet-warming carbon emissions,” notes the lead of the piece.

An EPA official cited an editorial in the Oklahoman taking issue with the story. “The fact Pruitt regularly corresponded and dealt with energy industry officials as attorney general of a state where energy is the No. 1 industry should not be surprising nor should it, by itself, be considered nefarious,” wrote the newspaper.

Other alleged Biesecker infractions have also upset the EPA. In June, Biesecker forwarded to the EPA press office a news release from Investigative Reporters and Editors announcing that Pruitt had won the organization’s “Golden Padlock” award “recognizing the most secretive U.S. agency or individual.” Noted the EPA official via email, “this unnecessary email reiterates his dislike for Mr. Pruitt.”

So there was distrust in the water when Biesecker and the AP landed on Hurricane Harvey. A trail of emails shows that the wire service decided early on how it would focus its investigative efforts: Houston has long been a petrochemical hub, with $50 billion in chemical plant construction since 2013. The city’s deep roots in this industry mean that companies have left behind a fair number of messes, some of them qualifying as EPA Superfund sites. A team of AP journalists wanted to know how these sites would fare underwater.

On Aug. 17, more than a week before Harvey’s landfall, the AP requested a copy of EPA’s “screening analysis” involving Superfund sites around floodplains or in danger of sea-level rise. As Harvey later bounced out of Texas and into Louisiana, the AP sprung into action, checking out flooded Superfund sites — by foot and by boat — and pressing the EPA for information. Here’s an Aug. 30 email inquiry obtained by the Erik Wemple Blog: “How many Superfund sites are underwater? Specific locations? What monitoring are state and federal regulators doing this week? Are they visiting sites by boat? Are they sampling floodwater? What specific actions are they taking to potentially mitigate the risk of hazardous materials migrating off site due to flooding?” It continued pressing those issues over the following days.

On Sept. 2, Biesecker and colleague Jason Dearen showed the results of their efforts under the provocative and alarming headline, “AP EXCLUSIVE: Toxic waste sites flooded, EPA not on scene.” In all, the outlet had visited seven Superfund sites in the Houston region. Several hours after the AP issued its story, the EPA responded with a statementindicating that it had seen aerial imagery showing that 13 of 41 sites were flooded and were “experiencing possible damage.” The statement started out by denouncing “misleading and inaccurate reporting” on the topic.

The AP adjusted its article, but not its narrative:

The statement confirmed the AP’s reporting that the EPA had not yet been able to physically visit the Houston-area sites, saying the sites had “not been accessible by response personnel.” EPA staff had checked on two Superfund sites in Corpus Christi on Thursday and found no significant damage.

AP journalists used a boat to document the condition of one flooded Houston-area Superfund site, but accessed others with a vehicle or on foot. The EPA did not respond to questions about why its personnel had not yet been able to do so.

The next day, the EPA did something that federal agencies, as a general proposition, do not do. It put a news release on the EPA websiteblasting not just a news outlet, but a specific reporter. With attitude, too. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

7 September 2017 at 3:09 pm

When Trump Aides Admit He Has No Idea What He’s Talking About

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Benjamin Hart writes in New York magazine:

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that President Trump didn’t appear to grasp the policy specifics of DACA, the executive order his administration was about to unravel:

As late as one hour before the decision was to be announced, administration officials privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take, and when he discovered their full impact, would change his mind, according to a person familiar with their thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity without authorization to comment on it.

This sounded familiar.

Sometimes you have to step back and marvel that the president doesn’t know anything about anything – and that he doesn’t care that he doesn’t know. Anonymous aides have been warning us for months that Trump is incurious on matters of policy and process to the point that he makes George W. Bush look like Adlai Stevenson.

Amid the debate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, for example, there was so much reporting about Trump’s slim-to-none grasp of the complexities involved that even he felt the need to correct the record via Twitter:

Reporting from the Daily Beast just slightly undermined his claim of policy mastery:

The president’s close aides and political advisers, six of whom spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, would beg to differ. Some of them simply laughed at the very suggestion that the president knows much, or even cares, about health care policy in this country.

There was the time, sources told the Huffington Post, that Trump couldn’t remember whether a strong dollar or weak dollar was good for the U.S. economy (remember, this is a guy who’s been inveighing against unfair trade deals for decades), so he naturally called… his then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn, in one of the few sounds decisions he made in his brief tenure, told Trump to ask an economist.

Oftentimes, Trump’s cluelessness extends beyond specific policy details into more rudimentary “how does the government work” territory. At the beginning of his term, Trump seemed to believe the president was a dictatorship, and was chastened to find out that it’s not. From Politico in February:

Trump often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel. And, when discussions get bogged down in details, the president has been known to quickly change the subject — to “seem in control at all times,” one senior government official said — or direct questions about details to his chief strategist Steve Bannon, his son-in-law Jared Kushner or House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay — or even stop — him from filling positions and implementing policies.

Of course, Trump’s ignorance is hardly limited to the bureaucratic; he often seems not to grasp when he’s putting himself in legal danger, as when he fired James Comey, or when the Washington Post reported in July that Trump had dictated an incoherent statement regarding his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, drawing the ire of an anonymous adviser who just couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 September 2017 at 1:58 pm

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