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Archive for September 23rd, 2020

How Criminal Cops Often Avoid Jail

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Andrew Ford explains in ProPublica:

When New Jersey lawmakers sought advice about police accountability, one of the power players they turned to was Sean Lavin, a police union leader.

Lavin testified before state senators at a July hearing, where he questioned whether civilians are qualified to serve on police oversight boards, and suggested that chokeholds might sometimes be warranted. He also argued against releasing the names of officers who have been disciplined.

“It’s a public shaming to their families,” said Lavin, executive director of the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council. “I don’t see the value in that, and I don’t think there is one.”

But Lavin’s own history illustrates something else. A state law enacted more than a decade ago to jail criminal officers and other public officials who abuse their authority hasn’t worked as intended.

Lavin is one of dozens of New Jersey officers who have been criminally charged with official misconduct but avoided the jail time called for under the law, an investigation by the Asbury Park Press and ProPublica has found.

Lavin was indicted in 2014 when he worked as a Mercer County sheriff’s officer. The indictment accused him of using pepper spray on a handcuffed woman, filing a false report about the encounter and encouraging other officers to fake their reports, too.

The charges included three counts of second-degree official misconduct, which is reserved for public employees who are accused of criminally misusing their position. A conviction on each charge should come with mandatory jail time — up to five years with no parole, in this case — according to state law.

But Lavin received no jail time, no probation, no criminal record. In exchange for his resignation from the force, in October 2015 he entered a “pretrial intervention” program ordinarily reserved for low-level crimes. It wiped the charges from his record.

Plea deals are common in criminal court. But in 2007, a sentencing law was passed and attorney general’s guidelines were enacted to make such deals the exception for official misconduct crimes. Instead, they have become the norm, the news outlets found.

All told, from 2013 through 2017, prosecutors charged law enforcement officers with official misconduct at least 118 times, the investigation found. Less than one-third of them received jail time.

The charges were not based on minor complaints of tardiness or failing to maintain one’s uniform. More than a dozen officers were accused of serious acts of violence, like pistol-whipping a suspect or attempted murder. Among the sexual misconduct charges was one in which an officer allegedly used his badge and gun to coerce a woman into having sex. Officers were charged with smuggling drugs, stealing and using cocaine, and tipping off drug dealers. Other cases alleged bribery, cover-ups, lying, intimidation and more.

“If the sentencing structure is designed to deter conduct we find particularly reprehensible and it all ends up being lip service, that is outrageous, that’s a fraud,” said Jennifer Bonjean, an attorney who has filed misconduct lawsuits against police departments in New Jersey.
Compared with other types of public employees, law enforcement officers charged with official misconduct go to jail less often, our analysis showed.

Prosecutors and judges have consistently downgraded charges in ways that fail to carry out the law that calls for putting public servants convicted of official misconduct in jail.

Now lawmakers in Trenton are trying to erase the law completely. An anonymous amendment, first reported by Politico, was tucked into a sentencing reform package that passed the state Senate and could be considered by the Assembly on Thursday. Gov. Phil Murphy, who could veto the bill, said he doesn’t support getting rid of the mandatory minimum jail time for official misconduct.

The amended bill would ease the penalties for officers convicted of misconduct in a state where police discipline is secret. New Jersey is one of few states where officers aren’t yet licensed. So, short of a criminal conviction, the state has little ability to remove officers or prevent them from moving to another department.

The tendency to go easy on officers who abuse their power is “a problem,” said Thomas Shea, a former Long Branch police assistant patrol commander who now works as program director at the Seton Hall University Police Graduate Studies Program. “And it’s a problem widely agreed upon within law enforcement.”

It may surprise the general public, Shea said, but good cops are outraged when bad ones get away with misconduct. Shea once ran internal affairs investigations and described how officers see police misconduct: Did an officer have a momentary lapse in judgment or did they consciously hurt someone? For the latter, he said, punishment should be severe — including jail time.

“There needs to be deterrence and a mandatory minimum for those cases, so anybody thinking of doing something like that thinks twice,” he said.

When contacted by a reporter, Lavin denied the charges and declined to comment further. Lavin, who has been fighting to recover his taxpayer-funded pension, pointed to documents that included a report by an expert witness he hired who found he had used force appropriately.
“I would love to make a statement,” said Lavin, 49. “But right now, I cannot due to pending litigation.”

His union defends him. “What occurred with him and happened with him was purely retaliatory because of his union activity,” said Bob Gries, executive vice president of the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police.
Lavin’s profile on the police union’s website gives no indication that his career took a turn because of charges of criminal misconduct. Instead, it says he retired from the sheriff’s office due to “severe knee injuries received in the line of duty.”

Current and former prosecutors say accused officers are often offered lighter sentences in exchange for their resignations from the police force. The state’s criminal justice system makes it difficult to seek the maximum penalties, as the law calls for, they say.

Philip M. Stinson, criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, maintains one of the few national databases of criminally charged police officers. He said the analysis by the Press and ProPublica shows how the system fails to stop police misconduct. “It’s not until you aggregate these things, like you’re doing, that you start to realize that these are systemic problems,” Stinson said of the findings by the news outlets. “And when you add up the numbers, it’s quite troubling.”

Sending a Message About Misconduct

When she was a Marlboro town councilperson in October 2002, Ellen Karcher got a strange letter in the mail.

The letter offered her a free grave. A $1,687 value.

But the offer appeared to have some kind of a catch. It was signed by . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more.

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2020 at 3:09 pm

The Trump campaign is reportedly ‘discussing contingency plans to bypass election results’

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From The Week:

President Trump’s campaign is discussing “contingency plans” that would involve bypassing the result of November’s election, reports The Atlantic.

The report delves into possible scenarios if Trump apparently loses the 2020 presidential election but doesn’t concede, noting that although we’re used to electors being selected based on the popular vote, “nothing in the Constitution says it has to be that way.” Citing Republican Party sources, The Atlantic says that Trump’s campaign is “discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority.”

The campaign would reportedly assert that this step was necessary due to claims of supposed voter fraud, which experts have noted is extraordinarily rare, ahead of the “safe harbor” deadline to appoint 538 electors on Dec. 8.

“Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly,” The Atlantic reports. “The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbor deadline expires.”

A Trump campaign legal adviser who spoke to The Atlantic said that in this scenario, “the state legislatures

Continue reading.

The Atlantic article begins:

There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars and lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path.

The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.

Something has to give, and many things will, when the time comes for casting, canvassing, and certifying the ballots. Anything is possible, including a landslide that leaves no doubt on Election Night. But even if one side takes a commanding early lead, tabulation and litigation of the “overtime count”—millions of mail-in and provisional ballots—could keep the outcome unsettled for days or weeks.

If we are lucky, this fraught and dysfunctional election cycle will reach a conventional stopping point in time to meet crucial deadlines in December and January. The contest will be decided with sufficient authority that the losing candidate will be forced to yield. Collectively we will have made our choice—a messy one, no doubt, but clear enough to arm the president-elect with a mandate to govern.

As a nation, we have never failed to clear that bar. But in this election year of plague and recession and catastrophized politics, the mechanisms of decision are at meaningful risk of breaking down. Close students of election law and procedure are warning that conditions are ripe for a constitutional crisis that would leave the nation without an authoritative result. We have no fail-safe against that calamity. Thus the blinking red lights.

“We could well see a protracted postelection struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close,” says Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine School of Law and the author of a recent book called Election Meltdown. “The kind of election meltdown we could see would be much worse than 2000’s Bush v. Gore case.”

lot of peopleincluding Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, have mis­conceived the nature of the threat. They frame it as a concern, unthinkable for presidents past, that Trump might refuse to vacate the Oval Office if he loses. They generally conclude, as Biden has, that in that event the proper authorities “will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”

The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un­certainty to hold on to power.

Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2020 at 1:38 pm

What cements society together?

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A blog post with interesting answers to what holds society together and prevents division and disintegration:

The Cement of Society Is….

submission to the laws of society (George Berkeley, 1712): “And since the bond and cement of society is submission to its laws, it plainly follows, that this duty hath an equal right with any other to be thought a law of nature.”

… charity (Jonas Hanway, 1758): “As charity is the great bond of union, and the surest cement of society, the present occasion will warrant the greater indulgence.”

… sympathy (Henry Home, 1758): “When we examine those particular passions, which, though painful, are yet accompanied with no aversion; we find that they are all of the social kind, arising from that eminent principle of sympathy, which is the cement of human society.” (Henry Home, 1758): “Nor must we judge of this principle as any way vitious or faulty: for besides that it is the great cement of human society, we ought to consider, that, as no state is exempt from misfortunes, mutual sympathy must greatly promote the security and happiness of mankind.”

… sincerity (Henry Venn, 1763): “In these several important particulars, and in all similar to them, you will pay a conscientious regard to sincerity. Your motives also will be distinct from those of the mere moralist, and infinitely more cogent. He may be an advocate for truth and sincerity, and would have all men practice it, because it is the cement of society, and the only foundation of mutual confidence. Feeble motives, alas!”

… the ocean (James Hervey, 1779): “I am glad to find, that a jealousy for the interests of morality, is the chief obstacle in the way of your assent; because, I am persuaded, it is much of the same nature with those forbidding and mistaken apprehensions, which our ancestors entertained, concerning the ocean. They looked upon it as an insurmountable obstruction to universal society. Whereas it is, in fact, the very cement of society, the only means of accomplishing a general intercourse; and the great highway to all the nations of the earth.”

… the illusion that secondary qualities are in external objects (Henry Home, 1779): “Now if this illusion be the only foundation of secondary qualities, they must be defined perceptions in the mind of man, which by an illusion of nature are placed upon external objects….In a word, this illusion is the cement of society, connecting men and things together in an amiable union.”

… language (William Parker, 1781): “Communication of thoughts, of mutual counsel, and designs of action, was one original intent and main use of speech: and so language becomes one common bond and cement of society, and mutual connexion of men amongst each other.”

… the administration of criminal and civil justice (Alexander Hamilton, 1787): “There is one transcendant advantage belonging to the province of the State governments, which alone suffices to place the matter in a clear and satisfactory light,–I mean the ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice….This great cement of society, which will diffuse itself almost wholly through the channels of the particular governments, independent of all other causes of influence, would insure them so decided an empire over their respective citizens as to render them at all times a complete counterpoise, and, not unfrequently, dangerous rivals to the power of the Union.”

… the opinion that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2020 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Daily life

Pretty exciting: Black Holes From the Big Bang Could Be the Dark Matter

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Joshua Sokol writes in Quanta:

Black holes are like sharks. Elegant, simple, scarier in the popular imagination than they deserve, and possibly lurking in deep, dark places all around us.

Their very blackness makes it hard to estimate how many black holes inhabit the cosmos and how big they are. So it was a genuine surprise when the first gravitational waves thrummed through detectors at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in September 2015. Previously, the largest star-size black holes had topped out at around 20 times the mass of the sun. These new ones were about 30 solar masses each — not inconceivable, but odd. Moreover, once LIGO turned on and immediately started hearing these sorts of objects merge with each other, astrophysicists realized that there must be more black holes lurking out there than they had thought. Maybe a lot more.

The discovery of these strange specimens breathed new life into an old idea — one that had, in recent years, been relegated to the fringe. We know that dying stars can make black holes. But perhaps black holes were also born during the Big Bang itself. A hidden population of such “primordial” black holes could conceivably constitute dark matter, a hidden thumb on the cosmic scale. After all, no dark matter particle has shown itself, despite decades of searching. What if the ingredients we really needed — black holes — were under our noses the whole time?

“Yes, it was a crazy idea,” said Marc Kamionkowski, a cosmologist at Johns Hopkins University whose group came out with one of the many eye-catching papers that explored the possibility in 2016. “But it wasn’t necessarily crazier than anything else.”

Alas, the flirtation with primordial black holes soured in 2017, after a paper by Yacine Ali-Haïmoud, an astrophysicist at New York University who had previously been on the optimistic Kamionkowski team, examined how this type of black hole should affect LIGO’s detection rate. He calculated that if the baby universe spawned enough black holes to account for dark matter, then over time, these black holes would settle into binary pairs, orbit each other closer and closer, and merge at rates thousands of times higher than what LIGO observes. He urged other researchers to continue to investigate the idea using alternate approaches. But many lost hope. The argument was so damning that Kamionkowski said it quenched his own interest in the hypothesis.

Now, however, following a flurry of recent papers, the primordial black hole idea appears to have come back to life. In one of the latest, published last week in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle PhysicsKarsten Jedamzik, a cosmologist at the University of Montpellier, showed how a large population of primordial black holes could result in collisions that perfectly match what LIGO observes. “If his results are correct — and it seems to be a careful calculation he’s done — that would put the last nail in the coffin of our own calculation,” said Ali-Haïmoud, who has continued to play with the primordial black hole idea in subsequent papers too. “It would mean that in fact they could be all the dark matter.”

“It’s exciting,” said Christian Byrnes, a cosmologist at the University of Sussex who helped inspire some of Jedamzik’s arguments. “He’s gone further than anyone has gone before.”

The original idea dates back to the 1970s with the work of Stephen Hawking and Bernard Carr. Hawking and Carr reasoned that in the universe’s first fractions of a second, small fluctuations in its density could have endowed lucky — or unlucky — regions with too much mass. Each of these regions would collapse into a black hole. The size of the black hole would be dictated by the region’s horizon — the parcel of space around any point reachable at the speed of light. Any matter within the horizon would feel the black hole’s gravity and fall in. Hawking’s rough calculations showed that if the black holes were bigger than small asteroids, they could plausibly still be lurking in the universe today.

More progress came in the 1990s. By then, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2020 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Science

Good Esperanto channel on YouTube

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Take a look at the brief videos on Alex Miller’s channel. Many are introductory videos covering basic words and ideas, generally with excellent mnemonics. (Alex is an actor, and I imagine that actors have a toolbag of mnemonics given that they must memorize much material.) The videos have become more ambitious of late. Here’s the channel’s home page.

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2020 at 9:52 am

Posted in Esperanto, Video

Belatedly thought of Solstice — but Otoko Organics is quite good as well

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I belatedly realize that I should have used Solstice yesterday because the equinox (like yesterday’s) is as far as we can get from the solstices. So it goes. I was happy with Otoko Organics, with its unusual fragrance and lather. My Simpson Case (at one time called Wee Scot 3) worked well, and this Charcoal clone of the EJ head did a fine job.  i do like the Wolfman handle from some years back.

A splash of a tradition bay rum from Taylor of Old Bond Street, and the day gets underway.

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2020 at 9:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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