Later On

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Archive for September 30th, 2017

Trump is very given to projection: He accuses mayor of San Juan of “poor leadership.”

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Poor leadership is definitely on Trump’s mind, probably because at some level he’s aware of what a piss-poor leader he is. And as is typical, he projects his own feelings of inadequacy onto others, as when he said that Hillary Clinton was “incompetent.” Hillary Clinton is many things, but incompetent is not one of them. Trump, however, is massively incompetent as is shown by everything he’s done or touched as president, beginning with his choice of personnel.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2017 at 8:47 pm

I wanted to understand why racists hated me. So I befriended Klansmen.

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Daryl Davis has a very interesting column in the Washington Post:

One night in 1983, I found myself playing in a country band at a truck stop lounge. I was the only black person in the joint. Taking a break after the first set of music, I was headed to sit at a table with my bandmates when a white gentleman approached from behind and put his arm around my shoulders. “I really enjoy y’all’s music,” he said. I shook his hand and thanked him. “This is the first time I ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis,” he continued.

I told him that Lewis was a friend of mine and that he had learned his style from watching and listening to black blues and boogie-woogie pianists. My new fan didn’t buy it, but he did want to buy me a drink. While we sipped, he clinked my glass and said, “This is the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a black man.”

Why? “I’m a member of the Ku Klux Klan,” he said. I burst out laughing. Then he handed me his KKK membership card, and I recognized the Klan’s symbols. In that moment, I was overcome by a question: How could anybody hate me when they didn’t even know me?

I was no stranger to racism. Having grown up a black person in the ’60s and ’70s, I knew that prejudice was common. But I had never understood why. Sitting in that lounge with my new friend, I decided to figure it out in the only way that made sense: By getting to know those who felt hostility toward black people without ever having known any.

Several years later, I recruited that man, whose name was Frank James, to put me in contact with the grand dragon of the Maryland Klan. He tried to deter me, warning that the leader would kill me. But eventually, after I promised not to reveal how I’d gotten the grand dragon’s contact information, James gave it to me. (I reveal it now, because James has since died.)

By then, I had decided to travel around the country and interview KKK leaders and members from various chapters and factions to get the answer to my question: How can you hate someone you’ve never met? I was planning to write a book detailing my interviews, experiences and encounters with these Ku Klux Klan members. (The book, “Klan-Destine Relationships,” was published in 1998.)

I had my white secretary, who typically booked my band and assisted me with my music business, set up a meeting with the Maryland grand dragon, Roger Kelly, explaining that her boss was writing a book on the Klan and would like his input. Per my instructions, she did not reveal the color of my skin.

Kelly agreed to participate, and we secured a room at a Frederick, Md., motel, where my secretary filled an ice bucket with cans of soda so I could offer my guest a drink. Regardless of how and what he felt about me, if he entered my room after seeing the color of my skin, I was going to treat him with hospitality.

Punctual to the minute, there was a knock on the door. The grand nighthawk (the grand dragon’s bodyguard) entered first, and then the dragon himself. “Hello,” I began, “I’m Daryl Davis.” I offered my palm, and Kelly shook my hand as he and the nighthawk introduced themselves. He sat in the chair I had set out, and the nighthawk stood at attention beside him.

We were both apprehensive of the other, and the interview started haltingly. We discussed what he had hoped to achieve by joining the Klan; what his thoughts were on blacks, Asians, Jews and Hispanics; and whether he thought it would ever be possible for different races to get along. A little while later, we heard an inexplicable crackling noise and we both tensed. The dragon and I stared each other in the eye, silently asking, “What did you just do?” The nighthawk reached for his gun. Nobody spoke. I barely breathed.

Seated atop the dresser, my secretary realized what had happened: The ice in the bucket had started to melt, causing the soda cans to shift. It happened again, and we all began laughing. From there, the interview went on without a hitch.

It was a perfect illustration that ignorance breeds fear and possibly violence. An unknown noise in an ice bucket could’ve led to gunfire, had we not taken a moment to understand what we were encountering.

Even though Kelly had told me he knew that white people were superior to blacks, our dialogue continued over the years. He would visit me in my home, and I would eventually be a guest in his. We would share many meals together, even though he thought I was inferior. Within a couple of years, he rose to the rank of imperial wizard, the top national leadership position in the Klan.

Over the past 30 years, I have come to know hundreds of white supremacists, from KKK members, neo-Nazis and white nationalists to those who call themselves alt-right. Some were good people with wrong beliefs, and others were bad people hellbent on violence and the destruction of those who were non-Aryan.

There was Bob White, a grand dragon for Maryland who served four years in prison for conspiring to bomb a synagogue in Baltimore, where he had been a police officer. When he got out, he returned to the Klan and later went back to prison for three more years for assaulting two black men with a shotgun, evidently intent on murder. But after I reached out to him with a letter while he was in prison for the second time, Bob became a very good friend, renounced the Klan and attended my wedding.

Frank Ancona, who headed a Missouri Klan chapter, would also become a very close friend. When Ancona was killed this year (his wife and stepson have been charged with his murder), one of his Klan members, knowing how close we had been, called me and told me before notifying the police. I accepted the Klan’s invitation to participate in his funeral service. . .

Continue reading.

The column concludes:

. . . And sometimes, people do change. One day in 1999, after having been in the Ku Klux Klan for about 20 years, Kelly, who had risen from grand dragon to imperial wizard, called me, said he was leaving the Klan and apologized for having been a member. He told me he could no longer hate people. I had not turned out to be what he had always thought of black people. He went on to become one of my best friends, and today I own his robe and hood — one set of many in my collection of garments donated to me by apostate Klansmen and Klanswomen, which is always growing.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2017 at 8:18 pm

Posted in Daily life

How the military broke its promise and handles sexual assault cases behind closed doors

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Craig Whitlock reports in the Washington Post:

For the U.S. Air Force, the case of alleged sexual harassment and assault by a senior officer was exactly the type of misconduct Pentagon leaders had promised Congress and the public they would no longer tolerate.

The victim at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama reported in September 2015 that her married boss, a colonel, had repeatedly said he wanted to have sex with her, tracked her movements and sent her recordings of him masturbating in the shower, documents show. She said that she told him to back off but that he would not stop: Twice, she alleges, he trapped her in the office, grabbed her arms and forcibly tried to kiss her.

Air Force investigators quickly confirmed much of her account, aided by hundreds of messages that the officer had texted the woman and by his admission that he had sent the masturbation recordings, the documents show.

In their report, the investigators compiled extensive evidence that the colonel, Ronald S. Jobo, had committed abusive sexual contact against the woman, a civilian in her 30s. Under military law, the charge would have automatically resulted in a court-martial, a proceeding open to the public. The crime carried a sentence of up to seven years in prison and a requirement to register as a sex offender.

The decision on what to do next rested with a three-star general 600 miles away at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. In the military-justice system, commanders — not uniformed prosecutors — have the power to dictate how and whether criminal cases should be pursued.

In March 2016, Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, the senior officer in Jobo’s chain of command, decided against charging Jobo with abusive sexual contact, or any crime at all. Instead, Thompson imposed what the military calls non­judicial punishment, or discipline for minor ­offenses.

obo was forced to retire and demoted one rank, to lieutenant colonel. Because the military keeps most disciplinary actions secret, the case was hidden from public view.

There would be no trial, no publicity and no public record — the same for thousands of other sexual assault investigations each year in the armed forces.

An examination of the Jobo investigation, based in part on an internal 400-page law enforcement case file obtained by The Washington Post, casts doubt on the military’s promises to crack down on sexual misconduct and hold commanders accountable for how they administer justice.

“This kind of case cries out to be court-martialed,” said retired Col. Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force who is now president of Protect Our Defenders. The group advocates for sexual assault victims in the armed forces and has lobbied for uniformed prosecutors, instead of commanders, to oversee cases. “It just cries out for someone to be held accountable in a public forum.”

Jobo retired from the Air Force last year. He declined requests for an interview. In a statement to The Post, he said he served honorably in the Air Force for more than 25 years but “showed extremely poor judgment by allowing a close work relationship to escalate into an unprofessional personal one.”

“I was misguided and deeply regret the hurt and embarrassment I caused my wife, daughter, extended family, colleagues and friends,” he added.

In an interview with The Post, the woman said she felt betrayed by the general’s decision. “Disappointment is probably an understatement. I felt strongly that Colonel Jobo should be held accountable,” she said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy. (The Post’s policy is not to identify victims of sexual assault or abuse.)

The Pentagon has sought to raise the profile of its campaign against sexual assault and harassment in the ranks since 2013, when a string of scandals raised fundamental questions about whether the military’s justice system was too antiquated to cope with the problem. In testimony before Congress, the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged that they had neglected the issue for years.

Since then, the armed forces have promised to address the problem and have devoted new resources­ to training and law enforcement. Last year, the number of reported sexual assaults — defined as acts ranging from wrongful sexual contact to rape — reached 6,172, a new high.

The Pentagon has called the increase a sign of progress, saying that more victims are coming forward because they are confident that offenders will be held accountable. Still, only about 1 in 3 victims last year reported being assaulted, according to military estimates.

More than 90 percent of reported incidents, however, are investigated and adjudicated behind closed doors, Pentagon statistics show. Last year, only 389 sexual assault cases proceeded to trial and produced public records of what happened.

Ordinarily, details of the case involving the colonel from Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base would have remained secret, too. The Air Force rejected Freedom of Information Act requests from The Post for records associated with Jobo’s investigation and punishment, citing his privacy rights.

The documents obtained by The Post from other sources show how the victim futilely pleaded with Thompson, the general in charge of deciding the case, to approve criminal charges­ instead of meting out what she feared would be “a slap on the wrist.”

“Sir, very respectfully, this is offensive to me,” she wrote in a memo in February 2016, when she learned Thompson was unlikely to order a court-martial. “I have been afraid that I would not be believed. I was afraid that I would get blamed for what happened. I am afraid that this whole thing would just get swept under the rug because of his rank.”

Thompson, who was given a new leadership post in May with the Air Force Space Command, declined requests from The Post for an interview. In a statement, he said military law and Air Force policy restricted him from commenting on the reasoning behind his decisions.

“In this case, as in all ­cases, a thorough investigation was conducted and commanders throughout the chain of command reviewed all of the evidence at multiple stages,” Thompson said. He said he had based his decisions “on the totality of the circumstances and the maintenance of good order and discipline in the Service.”

A history of trouble

Located in Alabama’s capital, Montgomery, Gunter Annex is several miles across town from the main base. The annex houses the Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate, which is responsible for managing many of the Air Force’s computer systems worldwide.

About 1,500 civilians and uniformed personnel work for the directorate. Roughly 80 percent are men.

Military records indicate that the former civilian chief of the unit — Jobo’s boss — had previously been rebuked for an overly lenient approach to sexual misconduct allegations.

The Air Force inspector general criticized the chief, Robert Carl Shofner, for his actions in 2015, when he pushed to promote an Air Force supervisor who had a record of sexual harassment and played down another subordinate’s affair with a junior employee.

According to the inspector general’s report, obtained by The Post under FOIA, Shofner was “overly friendly” with his two offending subordinates. By failing to take appropriate action, the inspector general found, he contributed to a culture at Gunter that “condoned sexual harassment.”

“Mr. Shofner gave the impression that leadership turned a blind eye to sexual harassment and thus allowed an environment where sexual harassment festers,” the report concluded. . .

Continue reading. The report details the actions and words of Jobo’s sexual harassment and makes Thompson’s decision quite difficult to understand—and Thompson himself refuses to explain his reasoning (since the offense was handled as a private personnel manner rather than in a public court-martial).

The military apparently uses “honor” with a special meaning. It seems to include quite dishonorable actions. And the military goes to extreme lengths to avoid accountability. (Note how Jobo and Thompson both refused to grant interviews: hide, conceal, lie, and ignore: that’s the drill.)

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2017 at 7:58 pm

Donald Trump Is Upset At People Who Think Puerto Rico Is a Disaster

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Kevin Drum comments on how President Trump handles crisis situations.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2017 at 2:31 pm

One Day in the Life of Battered Puerto Rico

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Frances Robles, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Richard Fausset, and Ivelisse Rivera report in the NY Times. The report should be read at the link because much of the substance is in the photos. Maps show the locations mentioned. The article begins:

6 a.m.
Near Corozal

The sun rose Wednesday morning in the low mountains of north-central Puerto Rico, near the town of Corozal, to reveal the world that Hurricane Maria has made: shattered trees, traffic lights dangling precipitously from broken poles, and, here on the face of a weedy hill, a gushing spring, one of the few places where people from miles around could find fresh water.

At 6 a.m., about a dozen trucks and cars had parked nearby. People brought rain barrels, buckets, orange juice bottles.

Some men clambered up the steep face of the hill, placing plastic pipes or old pieces of gutter underneath the running spring, directing the water into massive plastic tanks, then hauling them away. Others crouched at a spot where the water trickled down to the pavement. Jorge Díaz Rivera, 61, was there with 11 Clorox bottles. He lives in a community a few minutes’ drive away where there is no water, no food, and no help. The National Guard helicopters have been passing overhead, and sometimes he and his neighbors yell at them, pleading for water. But so far he has seen no help.

“They have forgotten about us,” he said.

Puerto Rico has not been forgotten, but more than a week after Hurricane Maria hit, it’s a woozy empire of wreckage; of waiting in line for food, water and gas and then finding another line to wait in some more. A team of New York Times reporters and photographers spent 24 hours — from dawn Wednesday to scorching afternoon heat, to a long uneasy night and Thursday morning without power — with people trying to survive the catastrophe that Hurricane Maria left behind.

6:51 a.m.
Santurce, San Juan

Elizabeth Parrilla turned the corner at Calle Loíza and trudged quietly down the dead-end road leading to her home of 50 years on Calle Pablo Andino. Her wedges were beginning to get filthy from the damp foliage left behind by the waters that had inundated her street several days before.

7:44 a.m.
Corozal

Three hundred cars and trucks were lined up on the shoulder of the highway just outside town. Another line of at least 100 cars had formed on the other side of the Ecomaxx gas station. . .

Continue reading.

In the meantime, Trump continues to play golf, criticize the officials on site who are trying to deal with the catastrophe, and complain about how Puerto Rico will pay for the help they’re getting (something he did not mention for Texas or Florida). (Puerto Ricans do pay taxes and thus can reasonably expect help from the government, though Trump seems to begrudge giving any help at all to them (though not to Texas or Florida.) Having not bothered to go there, Trump is also claiming that the people in Puerto Rico are not working to repair the damage. (His attitude may be shaped by the fact that Puerto Ricans speak Spanish.)

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2017 at 10:41 am

Amazon’s HQ2 Hunt Is a Transit Reckoning

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Laura Bliss reports at CityLab.com:

If anything good comes out of the current arms race between North American cities to land Amazon’s second headquarters, it might be a disruption of one of the more intractable subjects of public discourse: mass transportation.

Direct access to rail, train, subway and bus routes was chief among Amazon’s requirements in the request-for-proposals it issued to cities nationwide in search of its second headquarters. As readers may by now be sick of hearing, the colossus of e-commerce is promising bidders 50,000 new jobs with average salaries of $100,000, plus $5 billion of investments: a siren’s song to cash-hungry and not-so-cash-hungry metros alike. Cities are now jousting thirstily for Amazon’s attention, a spectacle that has been at turns entertaining, embarrassing, and legitimately provocative.

The emphasis on transit seems to be creating, in particular, something of a come-to-Jesus moment for cities where high-level service has long been an afterthought. Cities with legacy subway systems, such as Boston and Washington, D.C., have risen to the top of more than one ranking; so has Denver, with its relatively forgiving traffic and expanded rail investments. In weeks of speculation and showdowns, a lack of transit connectivity has been one of the the great presumed disqualifiers for other towns.

Look at how folks putting together Raleigh, North Carolina’s proposal are talking about themselves. Raleigh is home to the so-called “Triangle,” a phalanx of research institutions chock-full of human capital. “I felt like the region performed strongly on all of the criteria,” Michael Pittman, vice-president for marketing and communications at the Research Triangle Foundation, told the News & Observer. “And then you get to transit and you think, well that might be our weakness. Because we don’t have a mass transit system in place yet.”

Atlanta is another leading contender. Its massive international air hub and low cost of living make it stand out. But so does its paralyzing traffic and lack of reliable transit. If Amazon is serious about replicating the sort of urban campus model it’s established in Seattle, the Big Peach might be a long shot. “There’s nothing like being left out of the money to force a rethinking of policy,” wrote the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway, reporting on a meeting between Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and regional leaders over concerns that Atlanta would be eliminated over its dysfunctional local transportation systems.

Ditto big hot towns like Miami, Phoenix, and Dallas. The latter “boasts the longest light rail system in the nation,” writes Peter Simek in D MagazineThat might score some points, except, Simek continues:

I can’t imagine Amazon is dumb enough to be fooled by those kind of booster stats that don’t mean anything when it comes down to the messy business of actually moving people around a city. And as anyone who has ever dealt with DART knows, Dallas-area public transit is terrible at moving people around the city efficiently.

Leaders of car-oriented cities around the country might be ogling some of the shiny new mass transit systems in the country and wondering how they might build one of their own. (Or, in the case of Baltimore, whose $3 billion crosstown light-rail project was scuttled in 2015, ruefully regretting recent missed opportunities.) But they should be careful. Building effective mass transport—presumably, the kind Amazon is interested in—is not the same as building trains. Cities might look to Seattle, the city where Amazon already lives, to reverse-engineer their way to HQ2-style mobility.

In order to manage congestion and growth on local streets, the country’s biggest company town has adopted a transit plan that ensures priorities are attuned to local needs, rather than rely solely on its regional transit agency for vision. Notably, Seattle has placed an emphasis on improving the bus network, “systematically rethinking its bus routes one quadrant of the city at a time,” according to StreetsBlog—a bet that’s mostly paid off. Meanwhile, it’s pouring billions into a light-rail expansion. Focused attention on frequent, well-connected service are why, experts say, Seattle is one of vanishingly few U.S. cities where transit ridership is actually increasing.

Somewhat unexpectedly, another one is Houston, which also recently revamped its poorly performing bus network with an emphasis on density and frequency over geographic spread. But the Texas metro has been DQed by many speculators for its lack of highly skilled labor and still-scant transit resources. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2017 at 9:10 am

ProPublica Seeks Source Code for New York City’s Disputed DNA Software

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Lauren Kirchner reports in ProPublica:

ProPublica is asking a federal court for access to the source code for New York City’s proprietary DNA software, which some scientists and defense lawyers contend may be inaccurate in matching a defendant to a complex sample of genetic material. Known as a pioneer in analyzing the most difficult evidence from crime scenes, the New York City medical examiner’s office has processed DNA samples supplied not only by local police, but also by about 50 jurisdictions nationwide.

Employees developed the disputed software — known as the Forensic Statistical Tool, or FST — to analyze evidence consisting of multiple people’s DNA and determine the likelihood that a suspect’s DNA was present. According to the medical examiner’s office, FST was used in about 1,350 criminal cases from 2011 until this year, when it was phased out. The office has long kept the source code secret, successfully opposing requests in court by defense attorneys to examine it.

A motion ProPublica filed today in the Southern District of New York asks Judge Valerie Caproni to lift a protective order she had issued in a recent case, U.S. v. Kevin Johnson. While she became the first judge to require the lab to turn over the source code to the defense, her order barred parties in the case from sharing or discussing it.

As reported earlier this month by ProPublica and The New York Times, defense expert Nathaniel Adams, a computer scientist and an engineer at a private forensics consulting firm in Ohio, reviewed the code and found that “the correctness of the behavior of the FST software should be seriously questioned.” However, the versions of Adams’ affidavits available to the public were heavily redacted and the code itself remains shielded by the judge’s order. The medical examiner’s office characterized Adams’ criticisms as stylistic rather than substantive and said FST’s calculations were reliable.

FST played a key role in Johnson’s case. He was arrested after a police search found two guns in his ex-girlfriend’s apartment, where he sometimes stayed. The DNA lab in the medical examiner’s office found two people’s DNA on one gun; by FST’s calculation, it was 156 times more likely than not to contain Johnson’s DNA. The second gun had three people’s DNA and a formidable likelihood of 66 million. Johnson pleaded guilty to illegal gun possession and Caproni sentenced him last month to 28 months in prison, most of which he has already served.

ProPublica filed a public-records request for the FST source code in July. The medical examiner’s office denied the request, citing its “sensitive nature” and writing that “source code consists of information that, ‘if disclosed, would jeopardize the capacity of [OCME] to guarantee the security of its information technology assets.’” The office’s special counsel denied ProPublica’s appeal in August.

ProPublica is seeking to intervene in U.S. v. Johnson with the assistance of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, which offers pro bono services to news organizations.

Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica, said, “We are seeking disclosure of this code because of the considerable public interest in the accuracy of its predictions, and to further scrutiny of its impact. If we prevail on our motion, we would envision publishing the code alongside an analysis of its likely effectiveness.”

Other nonprofit organizations are also seeking to open proprietary source codes for DNA analysis to wider scrutiny. On Sept. 13, the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation filed briefs in California’s appeals court, supporting efforts by a man convicted of sexual assault and burglary to gain access to the algorithm behind a widely used software program called TrueAllele.  The DNA evidence in his case was so small and mixed that initial analysis was inconclusive, but prosecutors say TrueAllele linked him to three crime scenes in east Bakersfield. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The developer of TrueAllele contends that its code is a trade secret.

Kevin Johnson’s attorneys, Sylvie Levine and Christopher Flood of the Federal Defenders of New York, said they also plan to submit a motion to make the FST source code public. Flood told Caproni in Johnson’s sentencing hearing last month that Adams’ critique of FST “affects every result that has ever been produced by that software,” so there is a public interest in allowing him to discuss it freely.

“It’s hard to imagine a justification for a public lab to be so opaque, when science demands transparency,” Flood told ProPublica after the hearing.

A coalition of defense attorneys, including Flood, sent a letter to New York state’s inspector general, Catherine Leahy Scott, on Sept. 1, asking her to investigate the DNA lab and the thousands of past criminal cases that relied on the results of either FST or a second controversial technique called “high-sensitivity testing.”

Because the lab has kept problems with its “unreliable” testing and “unsound statistical evidence” secret from the public and the courts, the attorneys wrote, “innocent people may be wrongly convicted, and people guilty of serious crimes may go free.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2017 at 8:57 am

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