Having a Wonderful Adventure from Somewhere on the Road

September 7, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Good morning:

Crane-Station and I were hacked rendering our computers inoperable. Our place was burglarized, our property vandalized and stolen. Our bank account was breached and money stolen.

Our lives were threatened.

We left Kentucky in a hurry to avoid a worse fate.

This problem began when someone burglarized our home and obtained the access code to our AT&T router, which wasn’t difficult to do since it was printed on the side.

Our apartment was trashed.

Then both of our computers were hacked. Our administrator privileges were usurped, our passwords were altered, and we could no longer log-in to our computers.

I was able to reset and restore my computer to the state it was in when I purchased it, but Crane ended up in the same place unable to log-in after she reset hers.

My computer now appears to be operating normally with assistance from HP Tech Support.

Looks like we offended some people.


FBI Director James Comey talks confronts racism in policing

February 15, 2015

In a monumentally important speech at Georgetown University on Friday, FBI Director James Comey spoke about the hard truths of racism as it affects policing. He said,

A second hard truth: Much research points to the widespread existence of unconscious bias. Many people in our white-majority culture have unconscious racial biases and react differently to a white face than a black face. In fact, we all, white and black, carry various biases around with us. I am reminded of the song from the Broadway hit, Avenue Q: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” Part of it goes like this:

Look around and you will find
No one’s really color blind.
Maybe it’s a fact
We all should face
Everyone makes judgments
Based on race.

You should be grateful I did not try to sing that.

But if we can’t help our latent biases, we can help our behavior in response to those instinctive reactions, which is why we work to design systems and processes that overcome that very human part of us all. Although the research may be unsettling, it is what we do next that matters most.

Comey’s speech is long overdue, given the emerging trend of innocent black men and boys dying after calls to 911, but at least it finally happened. For that I am grateful.

He is a man of principle and courage and he is in a position to do something that gives meaning to the words he speaks. For example, he stood up to President Bush and White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez when they attempted to convince a hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign-off on a document approving of an unlawful NSA wiretap program. Wikipedia has the story.

In early January 2006, The New York Times, as part of its investigation into domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, reported that Comey, who was Acting Attorney General during the March 2004 surgical hospitalization of John Ashcroft, refused to “certify” the legality of central aspects of the NSA program at that time. The certification was required under existing White House procedures to continue the program.

After Comey’s refusal, the newspaper reported, Andrew H. Card Jr., White House Chief of Staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and future Attorney General, made an emergency visit to the George Washington University Hospital to attempt to win approval directly from Ashcroft for the program. According to the 2007 memoir of Jack Goldsmith, who had been head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the time, Comey went to the hospital to give Ashcroft support to withstand the pressure from the White House.

Comey confirmed these events took place (but declined to confirm the specific program) in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 16 May 2007. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, like Comey, also supported Ashcroft’s decision; both men were prepared to resign if the White House ignored the Department of Justice’s legal conclusions on the wiretapping issue. FBI director Mueller’s notes on the March 10, 2004, incident, which were released to a House Judiciary committee, confirms that he “Saw [the] AG, John Ashcroft in the room. AG is feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed.” Comey withdrew his threat to resign after meeting directly with President Bush, who gave his support to making changes in the surveillance program.

Only time will tell, but this is an encouraging development.


Court of Appeals to hear oral arguments February 19th in Tsarnaev case

February 12, 2015

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments next Thursday, February 19th, to consider Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s request to move his death penalty trial out of Boston. United States District Court Judge George A. O’Toole has denied three defense motions to move the trial and that prompted the defense to go to the appellate court. Meanwhile, jury selection will continue.

The New York Times reports,

In making their requests to move the trial, defense lawyers had cited the attitudes of prospective jurors. They said that of the 1,373 prospective jurors who filled out questionnaires, 68 percent said they already believed Mr. Tsarnaev was guilty and 69 percent had said they had a personal connection to the case.

They also cited the outpouring of emotion in Boston on Jan. 28 when a man shoveled off the marathon finish line in the midst of a blizzard. The Boston Athletic Association, which oversees the marathon, issued a statement saying that the act “proves that — in Boston — everyone owns the marathon.”

The defense seized on this as evidence of bias. “Such remarkable and enduring displays of public solidarity in the wake of the Marathon bombings are laudable,” the defense wrote. “But jurors drawn from the community where ‘everyone owns the Marathon’ cannot be dispassionate and impartial.”

Judge O’Toole and the lawyers have individually questioned 173 potential jurors so far in an attempt to create a pool of 60 – 70 potential jurors who have been passed for cause by both sides (i.e., people who claim that they can put aside what they know about the case and any opinions they may have formed about Tsarnaev’s guilt and impartially decide the case solely on the basis of the evidence introduced in court and the jury instructions). Judge O’Toole wants a pool that large before the lawyers exercise their peremptory challenges. Unlike challenges for cause that must be supported by a reason why the potential juror cannot be fair and impartial, peremptory challenges do not require a reason. Each side has 20 peremptory challenges, plus 3 for the 6 alternates. If both sides exercise their full complement of peremptory challenges, 46 potential jurors could be disqualified. To be on the safe side, the pool should consist of 64 potential jurors. They are not there yet, despite a month of jury selection and that demonstrates how tainted the potential jurors are by the extensive pretrial publicity and their feelings about the case.

In addition, a large percentage of the potential jurors would either automatically impose the death penalty if Tsarnaev is convicted or automatically refuse to impose it because they are opposed to it. Only people who can agree to balance evidence in aggravation against evidence in mitigation can serve on the jury. This is called the death qualification process.

I do not believe it’s possible to select a fair and impartial death qualified jury in Boston and I would grant the defense motion for a change of venue, if I were the judge. Judge O’Toole disagrees. Now a three-judge panel will decide whether to keep it in Boston or move it to another location.


How many black Americans were lynched in the American South between 1877 and 1950?

February 11, 2015

How many black Americans were lynched in the American South between 1877 and 1950?

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), which is based in Montgomery Alabama, reports that 326 black Americans were lynched in Alabama during that 73 year period. Jefferson county, in which Birmingham is located, led the way with 29 lynchings. Jefferson County is the most heavily populated county in Alabama and Birmingham has the largest population in the state. According to the 2010 census, the population of Birmingham was 658,466.

ELI reports that,

This was not “frontier justice” carried out by a few marginalized vigilantes or extremists. Instead, many African Americans who were never accused of any crime were tortured and murdered in front of picnicking spectators (including elected officials and prominent citizens) for bumping into a white person, or wearing their military uniforms after World War I, or not using the appropriate title when addressing a white person.

I will post the correct answer at 7 pm EST.


Chaos in Alabama

February 9, 2015

Acting in defiance of United States District Court Judge Callie “Ginny” Granade, who ruled last month that the Alabama prohibition against same-sex marriages violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, yesterday ordered all of the probate judges in the state to refuse to issue same sex marriage licenses.

In a letter, Moore wrote, “Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with Article 1, Section 36.03, of the Alabama Constitution or § 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975,” the state laws banning same-sex marriage.

Until today no same-sex marriage licenses had been issued in Alabama since Judge Granade’s decision because she had issued a stay delaying enforcement of her order until this morning in order to give the Attorney General of the State of Alabama an opportunity to appeal her decision. After granting certiorari to review Alabama’s appeal from Judge Granade’s decision, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) by a vote of 7-2 today rejected Alabama’s request to continue the stay of enforcement pending the outcome of Alabama’s appeal. The SCOTUS’s rejection of Alabama’s request for the stay conflicts with Chief Justice Moore’s order yesterday prohibiting probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Chaos has ensued as probate judges in some counties have issued same-sex marriage licenses while probate judges in other counties have refused.

The solution is simple. It’s called the Supremacy Clause. Article 6, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution provides,

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

And that is the end of that.

Chief Justice Roy Moore is the same guy who a few years ago defied a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a public building. He conjures up memories of former Governor George Wallace who defied the federal courts. Here’s Wikipedia to toggle your memory,

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy’s administration ordered the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division from Ft. Benning, Georgia to be prepared to enforce the racial integration of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In a vain attempt to halt the enrollment of black students Vivian Malone and James Hood, Governor Wallace stood in front of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. This became known as the “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.”

SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote the dissenting opinion from today’s order denying Alabama’s request for a stay. He said in pertinent part,

Today’s decision represents yet another example of this Court’s increasingly cavalier attitude toward the States. This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution of [the gay-marriage] question. This is not the proper way to discharge our [constitutional] responsibilities. And, it is indecorous for this Court to pretend that it is.

It doesn’t take a weather man to tell which way the wind blows.

Congratulations and best wishes to every same-sex couple in Alabama who waited so patiently for this day to finally arrive.

For more information and photos, go here.


North Carolina grand jury indicts officer for voluntary manslaughter for killing schizophrenic teen

February 4, 2015

Good news from North Carolina: A grand jury has indicted Officer Bryon Vassey for voluntary manslaughter. He is the officer who allegedly said, “We don’t have time for this,” before shooting and killing a schizophrenic teenager who had been subdued by two officers.

Think Progress has the story,

Officer Bryon Vassey was one of three officers from different North Carolina precincts to respond to a call by the family of 18-year-old Keith Vidal last month. The teen, who suffered from schizophrenia and weighed just 90 pounds, had apparently picked up a small screwdriver and wasn’t putting it down. But his parents say the two other officers already had the scene under control when Vassey walked in. They say the third officer simply tased Vidal, then took out a firearm and shot him dead, saying “we don’t have time for this.”

Records show Vassey was at the Vidal residence for just 70 seconds before calling in that shots had been fired, reports the North Carolina Star News.

The two officers who had subdued Vidal before Vasey arrived were cleared of wrongdoing by the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation.

I wrote about the incident here.

In the Boiling Spring Lakes case, there were three different officers at the scene. The first two didn’t open fire, but Vassey did. His lawyer, W. James Payne told CNN that Keith Vidal attempted to stab one of the officers multiple times with a screwdriver, but the officer was wearing a bulletproof vest, did not request assistance and was not injured.

Vidal’s stepfather, Mark Wilsey, who witnessed the shooting with Vidal’s mother, told CNN that the detective disrupted the situation,

“(He) walks in the room, walks around the corner, (and) says, ‘We don’t have time for this. Tase that kid now. Let’s get him out of here.'”

At a protest following the shooting, Keith’s mother warned,

“My word that I want to get out to every family who has a mentally ill patient: Do not call the police department for help,” Vidal’s mother told reporters. “Because your son will probably get shot and killed, just like mine did. Think twice about who you call for help.

Vassey has to post a $50,000 bond by today or surrender himself at the county jail.

I was really beginning to wonder if a grand jury would ever indict a cop. This indictment gives me some hope.

In other good news, a week before Christmas a jury in Missoula, MT rejected Markus Kaarma’s claim of self-defense, based on Montana’s stand-your-ground statute, and convicted him of deliberate homicide for the shotgun killing of a 17-year-old German foreign exchange student named Diren Dede. After an unsolved burglary, Kaarma installed some motion sensors in his garage and set a trap by leaving the door open with his wife’s purse in plain view. When Dede set off the sensor, Karma entered the garage and fired his pump shotgun four times, killing Dede.

Kaarma, whose case is similar to the Byron David Smith case in Minnesota (he also was convicted), will be sentenced on February 11th.

These three cases provide a basis for guarded optimism. I use the word ‘guarded’ because the victims in the three cases were white and I am not convinced the results would have been the same, if they had been black.


Psst, Hey Buddy! Are you interested in forming a transnational criminal enterprise?

February 3, 2015

Are you interested in forming a transnational criminal enterprise? If so, the Los Angeles Police Department will host and provide security for you and your friends to spend 90 quality minutes with Rene Enriquez, a former “shot caller” for the Mexican Mafia who is serving two life terms for murder.

I’m not kidding. This is not an Onion piece, although I wish it were.

The Los Angeles Times reported late last week that the LAPD hosted such an event a private group of prominent business leaders and local law enforcement officials.

LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing defended the department’s involvement, saying that the event helped “inform and create awareness” for local police officials and private-sector guests.

He said the roughly 90-minute event stemmed from a request by the Young Presidents’ Organization, an international nonprofit group of business executives that has several local chapters. Downing said a member of the group approached him and asked if the LAPD could help the group talk to someone who had experience “building a transnational criminal enterprise.”

Downing said the LAPD decided to sponsor the event and invite local chiefs and other law enforcement officials from the region. Several hundred people attended, he said.

“They really saw how an individual on the opposite side of what they do — kind of the underbelly of society, the violence and criminality — how he grew an organization,” Downing said. “I think it was really interesting for them to listen to something that they’ve never really been exposed to.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti was not amused. Speaking through a spokesperson, he said what you might have expected him to say. The event “was inappropriate and should have never happened. We expect a full accounting of why this occurred and we are going to make sure this sort of thing never happens again.”

I suspect LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing is being encouraged to resign in order to spend more time with his family.

Meanwhile, in the Big Apple NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced late last week that the NYPD is forming a new elite unit that will be called the Strategic Response Group or SRG that will be made up of hundreds of officers tasked specifically with counterterrorism and “disorder” policing. The Intercept reported,

“They’ll be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not,” the commissioner said. “They’ll be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns that are unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.” Bratton said the SRG “is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris.”

/snip/

When asked if New Yorkers should expect to see police officers with “machine guns” at city protests, a spokesman for the NYPD told The Intercept, “No. They’re not carrying them at protests.” In general, however, the spokesman said officers would have access to the weapons “either on them or in their vehicles.”

Pretty obvious what Commissioner Bratton thinks about the Black-Lives-Matter nonviolent protests. Maybe the LAPD can make Mr. Enriquez available to instruct him and the NYPD/SRG on the finer points of assassinating trouble makers.

Our two largest police departments are out of control and they are not alone.


2014 was a record year for post-trial exonerations

January 29, 2015

Criminal justice is an oxymoron, but sometimes the legal system gets it right. Unfortunately, getting it right often does not happen until after the case is over.

In the better-late-than-never category, Mother Jones is reporting,

In 2014, 125 people across the United States who had been convicted of crimes were exonerated—the highest number ever recorded,according to a new report from the National Regestry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan Law School. The 2014 number included 48 who had been convicted of homicide, 6 of whom were on death row awaiting execution. Ricky Jackson of Ohio spent 39 years behind bars, the longest known prison term for an exoneree, according to the NRE. Jackson was sentenced to death in 1975 after false testimony implicated him in a robbery-murder he did not commit. Texas led the nation with 39 exonerations; it is followed by New York (17), Illinois (7), and Michigan (7). The federal government exonerated eight people.

Most of these post trial exonerations were obtained by so-called conviction integrity units (CIUs) created and staffed by prosecutors. There are 15 now in existence with more to come.

The Harris County CIU, which encompasses Houston, is responsible for 33 of last year’s exonerations. In early 2014, it reviewed drug cases it had prosecuted after learning that many people who had pled guilty to possession had not, in fact, possessed actual drugs. The Harris CIU’s findings reflected another trend: 58 exonerations this year, nearly half of the total, were so-called “no-crime exonerations,” which means, according to the NRE, “an accident or a suicide was mistaken for a crime, or…the exoneree was accused of a fabricated crime that never happened.”

Channel 5 News in Cleveland reports,

In Baltimore, the State’s Attorney’s office helped vacate the conviction of a man 46 years after he was convicted of murder. In Cleveland, three men convicted of a 1975 murder they didn’t commit were cleared, setting a new record of time behind bars for an exoneree: 39 years, 3 months 9 days. In Tulsa, DNA testing showed a mother hadn’t killed her 15-month-old baby, leading prosecutors to dismiss charges after nearly 20 years. And in Detroit, a man was released after police got a tip that the wrong person had been convicted in a 2006 murder.

Now we need to improve on getting it right the first time.

But if you’re black, you better not count on it because, if you call 911 seeking help, you are apt to get killed.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,089 other followers

%d bloggers like this: