Thursday, April 30, 2015

From Watergate to reading minds

Everyone expected that when Amazon took over the Washington Post it would jazz up the institution, but who would have thought its reporters would now be reporting based on mind reading
Gone are the days when Woodstein were required to have two sources. On Thursday, the Post kept at the top of its page for many hours a story based on a document based on what a prisoner had told Baltimore police.
“A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post,” the newspaper reported.
Even though the unnamed prisoner could not see Gray, who died as a result of a severed spinal cord and crushed larynx, he was able to tell what was going on. Gray, who was not being held by a seat belt, wasn’t just bouncing around while cops put him through their “rough ride” routine. This was “mens rea,” done with intent as the lawyers say.
The second prisoner was tracked down by Baltimore television stations and denied having told police the story the Washington Post was peddling.
On Twitter some claimed that Gray had probably eaten lead to qualify for thousands of dollars in a settlement with pain manufacturers who used lead.
The article was written by longtime Baltimore Sun police reporter Peter Hermann. Critics said Hermann had served as a mouthpiece for the Baltimore cops and “zero tolerance” ex-Gov. Martin O’Malley.
The Daily Beast said O’Malley, who had been the leading Democrat opposing Hillary Clinton, had committed political suicide by returning to Baltimore.  It was said this reminded people he was the one responsible for the paramilitary police and “broken windows” and “zero tolerance” programs.
Maryland has a law called the cops' bill of rights that lets them have 10 days to get their stories straight before they are questioned. This is three weeks.
Read further:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Aurora theater shootings: ultimate edition

The trial of Aurora theater killer has started, and threatens to produce more editions than Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” and last longer than the agony and death of Spanish dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.
Graphic photos of the dying dictator were sold to the media. In this case, no money is being paid directly to show the havoc the killer wreaked.
It remains to be seen whether after a couple of months of testimony about the violence and death in the theater whether Saturday Night Live will do a skit.
Given that the judge, a former prosecutor, appears likely to allow the prosecutor to introduce essentially the same evidence over and over, justice won’t be the only loser. Ratings of the live streaming will fall.
It already pales when compared to the Oscar Pistorius live streaming.
The killer, James Holmes, is a schizophrenic and his defense has offered to plead guilty in return for a life sentence. Viewers cannot clearly see him, wearing glasses, because the court room has fixed camera that cannot be adjusted, let alone zoomed.
Any time the defense objects, the sound is blurred out as the judge talks with the two sides who come to the bench. No one knows why the decisions, almost without exception made in favor of the prosecution, are being made.
Time after time the defense has claimed, even in the first day of testimony, that the testimony is repetitive and prejudicial, violating rule 403. Imagine how it will seem after two or more months.
Critics say prosecutor George Brauchler wants a death penalty to boost him to election to a statewide post.
Ten people, including nine survivors of the attack that left 12 dead and 70 wounded, testified Tuesday about the horror in the theater. One was severely wounded and could only answer by indicating letters on a board.
Defense lawyers said as the trial opened this week that 20 psychiatrists had deemed their client insane. Even a hardened crew from Denver General Hospital, or Denver Medical Center as it is now known.
The prosecution claims that two psychiatrists who examined the killer found him sane. Until they testify it will not be known exactly what they found, and how much it may have been influenced by the heavy dose of medication the crazed killer has been on. It is known that the judge rejected the testimony of one of the two psychiatrists.
One side effect of the defense insistence on showing that the killer was insane is that it will make the issue of why police didn’t act to stop him after being warned by a psychiatrist.
Before many massacres, including Columbine, police have had warnings but did not act.
In the end the trial is vengeance against science, much like global warming or climate change. Dragging the trial out benefits neither the victims or their families.
The public will pay millions.
Ten years of appeals could easily follow a death sentence. And by the time Holmes faces execution the death penalty could have been declared unconstitutional.
On Tuesday the blood lust was visible like sharks circling meat in a pond. Some called for a "botched execution," perhaps fitting for a botched trial

Monday, April 27, 2015

Science or political gain in Aurora theater trial?

Photo in Aurora on Monday by Robert Weller
In a presentation that could have been a Power Point done in Hollywood, the prosecutor sought vengeance during the opening of the Aurora theater trial.
The defense countered with science, and the killer’s known history of insanity. Twenty psychiatrists who have seen James Holmes since he killed 12 people during the Batman movie and wounded dozens more have said he is a florid schizophrenic, the defense said. That means seriously delusional.
The prosecutor, who has been accused of refusing a guilty plea in order to promote himself for higher office, made several arguments that were patently absurd.
For example, the facts that the killer had developed an intricate plan and was of superior intelligence, meant he couldn’t be insane.
Numerous studies have found a link between genius and insanity.
“Most people inherit a version of a gene that optimizes their brain’s thinking circuitry, yet also appears to increase risk for schizophrenia, a severe mental illness marked by impaired thinking, scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have discovered. The seeming paradox emerged from the first study to explore the effects of variation in the human gene for a brain master switch, DARPP-32,”
ScienceBlogs reported.
The prosecution misrepresented what a court-appointed psychiatrist had said. They said he had found the killer sane, but his finding referred to his condition after the shootings when he had undergone strong medications.
In fact, in an apparent second finding which cost him his consultancy, he came to a different conclusion about the killer’s mind when the shootings occurred July 20, 2012.
Prosecutor George Brauchler said that Dr. Jeffrey Metzner had found the killer was sane.
The Denver Post had previously reported: “The results of Metzner's exam, which was court-ordered, have not been released other than that Metzner found Holmes mentally competent enough currently to stand trial. Prosecutors are challenging Metzner's two other conclusions, one related to Holmes' sanity at the time of the shooting and one related to whether Holmes is mentally fit enough to be eligible for the death penalty.”
The defense questioned why jurors, the public and families of victims were being shown so many graphic photos of the attack. Holmes’ lawyers offered a guilty plea for a life sentence.
The prosecutor wants him executed. Even if he succeeds it likely will be a decade before that is accomplished, if ever.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Police getting rough ride around the nation

With their perceived major role in the drug war and dealing with terrorists after Sept. 11, police have had a smooth ride most of the time.
They have even been showered with the kind of gear U.S. soldiers would get in Afghanistan. They also got in-car computers and video cameras _ a double-edge sword.
It was only a matter of time before their balloon burst. It has long been known that if governments and their corporate sidekicks develop weapons, they will be used.
A term new to most of us, "rough ride," may have turned the tables. It means a suspect is thrown in the back of a police van and driven around fast, often falling on the floor and suffering injuries. In Baltimore it was a nearly severed spine.
Along with new weapons come new strategies. A new phrase is appearing: the dignity of theory.
“Zero tolerance policing,”  first known as “broken window policing,” first became a formal policy in New Jersey in 1973.
This “theory,” that heavy-handed crackdowns on even minor property damage and theft, would slow the growth of crime, gave city cops the leverage they needed. Such policies would produce a “tipping point,” at which crime would begin to be nothing more than a nuisance.
No room was left for figuring in how the economy might play a role.
Of course the violent tactics of drug cartels, and growing terrorist threats meant it would be best to prepare. The vast majority of drug arrests in the U.S. are for marijuana, which will be legal in a few years, but the drug war created jobs for cops and bureaucrats and made money for cartels.
Whatever cracks there might be in this cosy cop-military industrial complex relationship, would be covered up at the court house level. Former Colorado state Atty. Gen. Ken Salazar made it clear he would take no action against the officers whose lack of action facilitated Columbine. Yes, he told families, he needs these people.
On Monday, the latest in a s With eries of massacres that could have been prevented comes to trial in Centennial, Colo. It is not far from the site of the Columbine High School massacre, another example of where police failed to act to prevent killings. One of the jurors in the Aurora theater trial was a Columbine student and knew the two killers.
Forgetting the question of justice, are we even getting what we pay for? Do we know how much are paying.

How can it be determined? There are so many costs for this militarization of police. Billions for sure. The costs of lawsuits against city police forces and sheriff’s departments across the country must be added.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Aurora theater shooting trial begins Monday

Image from

Nearly three years after a crazed gunman killed 12 people and wounded 70 others during the premiere of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises, his trial will begin Monday in Centennial, Colo.
If prosecutors win a death sentence for James Holmes the case will likely linger in the justice system for several more years or longer.
The only retribution so far since the movie was a federal judge’s decision _ by the same judge who presided in the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh _ to rule a family must pay legal fees of $280,000 for suing the companies who sold the deranged killer
the bullets he used. Their lawsuit was dismissed.
Judge Richard Matsch said that the sale of the bullets by online retailers
Lucky Gunner and Sportman’s Guide did not constitute negligence.
Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter Jessica, was killed in the July 20, 2012 massacre, filed suit.
There is some irony in the Matsch decision since the McVeigh trial led to McVeigh’s execution.
The only reason the trial is going ahead Monday is because the Arapahoe County prosecutor refused to accept a guilty plea offered by Holmes’ lawyers, who offered a guilty plea in return for a life sentence. They argue their client is insane.
District Attorney George Brauchler wants him executed.
Aurora Sentinel Editor Dave Perry put it this way: "The trial is supposed to settle whether Holmes was so mentally ill that he was unable to know how vile and despicable his actions were. Or, the jury will decide whether Holmes viciously pulled off the heinous crime because, well, we don’t know yet why prosecutors think Holmes was anything but whack-job crazy. That will be the surprise ending of the show."
The old McNaughton rule is from English law, and the idea that being able to tell the difference between right and wrong determines sanity has been updated. Not being able to stop yourself can be used as a reason.
The trial will be shown live on TV and streamed on Web sites, though with only one fixed camera it will not be exciting. There will be some graphic photos.
Joanne Ostrow of the Denver Post reported there will be no zooming in and at times the view of the killer may be obstructed.
One interesting aspect likely to come up is why police did not act when a University of Colorado psychiatrist warned them that Holmes was dangerous.
The same sequence of events has preceeded most if not all of the massacres, including Columbine.
They raise questions about why law officers, who are seen as too often hasty in killing citizens, especially blacks, failed to act to prevent mass shootings.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

2016 becomes cluster duck for GOP

Would they be flagged for 12 men on the field? Is the GOP piling on Hillary? Especially on a short field in New Hampshire.

One potential candidate, Sen. Lindsay Graham of S.C., urged voters to “Look to the 35 people running for president on the Republican side.”

Is even the Republican party having a hard time taking the expected presidential race against the former First Lady seriously.

Sometimes, particularly with Benghazi and insults aimed at President Obama the GOP field sounds like a chorus. There was a strong reaction to the Benghazi replay on Twitter, with many angry tweets.

Jesus H Fucking Christ.. If I have to hear about Benghazi for another year and a half from the dumb ass republicans.. Cancel my cable!

Considering that whatever happened in Benghazi was at least partly a result of the invasion of Iraq by former President George Bush, who also led the country to a recession almost as bad as the Great Depression, it is not a jolt that some find this chorus off key.

To distinguish themselves the candidates are going to have to start attacking each other.

Meanwhile, Democrats will remind voters that the country prospered and eliminated the federal deficit under Clinton’s husband, Bill. Of course he doesn’t deserve all the credit for that, but he cooperated with Republicans to make it possible.

The GOP has blocked Obama at every turn, after bequeathing him a dysfunctional economy and a failed war in Iraq.

Hillary Clinton’s biggest pressure at the moment from her own party is to show where she stands on issues like growing income inequality, immigration, police violence, Iran, same-sex marriage, and legal marijuana. She can duck these issues to a certain degree, but those who might strongly support her may stay home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Court backs off marijuana reform

Showing once again that the nation’s court system, along with law enforcement, is in the hands of those opposed to democracy, a California federal judge has refused to take marijuana off the list of the most dangerous drugs.

Along with the shootings of unarmed people by police and blocking same-sex marriage, the U.S. legal system is being run for the benefit for those who run it and those who pay for it, and that does not include the people.

Kimberly Mueller, district court judge for eastern California, had given hints science would prevail when she agreed to hear arguments that marijuana was not a killer drug.

The court’s blog showed how reluctant the judge was to rule based on merits.

Eastern California District Court Blog

Mueller admitted things have changed, particularly with dozens of states legalizing medical marijuana, but said, "This is not the court and this is not the time" for change.

If not now, when?

A new Pew Research Center survey found that 53 percent of America thinks marijuana should be legal, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

But marijuana will remain right up there with heroin, CelebStoner noted. Mueller declined to even lower weed to a less dangerous classification.

On the same day, High Times reported millions being invested in methods of delivering marijuana just as grocery stories now do with online orders. “People love convenience, and pot delivery services” are filling those demands.

“Eaze, an on-demand pot delivery service, recently raised a cool $10 million thanks to a group of investors led by DCM Ventures, Fresh VC, 500 Startups and Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital,” High Times reported.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-marijuana legalization group NORML, said the decision was not a surprise.

“It is our hope that lawmakers move expeditiously to change public policy. Presently, bipartisan legislation is before the House and Senate to recognize cannabis’ therapeutic utility and to reschedule it accordingly, and we encourage members of Congress to move forward expeditiously to enact this measure,” Armentano said.

Polls show overwhelming support for legalization of medical marijuana, and growing majority support for recreational marijuana both north and south of Mason Dixon line

Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority said, “Legalization isn’t just some liberal trend on the coasts. It’s a mainstream issue with majority voter support in crucial states that national politicians need to win. Presidential candidates would do well to start courting the cannabis constituency instead of running away from us.” Well, Hillary?

Marijuana is widely seen as the kind of none-existent threat that results if the fatal police shootings of civilians, usually blacks. Marijuana arrests include far more blacks than population statistics would justify, given the popular of marijuana with the white community.

Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have legalized it entirely, though legal sellers remain under strict controls.

The history of banning marijuana shows that it began as a way to control hemp, which industry wanted to control and dominate with synthetic equivalents.

The Weed Blog