Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cruising the Web

Chief of Dallas Police David Brown is quickly being recognized as a man who has a lot of wisdom to express on the terrible situation his community has just faced and which other communities around the country are confronting. What I didn't know was the personal tragedies that he has faced in his own life. His former partner was killed in action. His younger brother was killed by drug dealers. And most startlingly tragic is that his own son who suffered from bipolar disorder went on a rampage and killed a policeman and another man before being killed himself. So this is a man who has true, personal insights on what both the victims and their loved ones feel and what the family of the murderer must be going through. I can't imagine the strength it takes for someone to carry on and offer wise leadership on a daily basis after suffering such tragedies.

Radly Balko examines Chief Brown's record in Dallas and what he has done that other police departments can learn from. He has been quite proactive in trying to prevent unjustifiable police shootings.
After a series of officer-involved shootings in late 2013, Brown overhauled the department’s lethal-force policies, including a requirement that officers undergo training every two months instead of every two years. The new policies won him a lot of public criticism from police groups and police advocates. He was even criticized by the Dallas Morning News, which accused him of being “reactive” and “moving too quickly.” Brown significantly expanded the data the department gathers on shootings by police, and has set up a team to regularly review that data to identify trends and potential problems.
He also hasn't been afraid to fire bad cops - something that doesn't seem to happen in other cities like Chicago.
Brown has fired more than 70 Dallas cops since taking office. But he doesn’t just fire bad cops, he also announces the firings — and the reasons for them — on social media. It’s a bold sort of transparency for which, again, he’s been criticized by police groups. Shortly after taking office, Brown fired a police officer who had kicked and maced a handcuffed suspect. But he not only fired the cop, he publicly praised the officer who turned that cop in, an implicit acknowledgment and criticism of the notorious Blue Wall.
Another decision that Chief Brown has taken is to try to trim back aggressive enforcement of traffic and other petty crimes.
Between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2013, the number of traffic tickets issued in Dallas dropped from 495,000 to under 212,000. That’s a massive cut. Brown reassigned traffic patrols to beats he felt were more conducive to public safety. In the past few years, we’ve seen appalling examples of cities stepping up enforcement of petty laws — often at the expense of policing for violent and property crimes — to help make up for budget shortfalls. Brown rejected that approach. “The purpose of traffic enforcement is to improve traffic safety, not to raise revenue,” Brown told the Morning News. “We don’t believe the citizens of Dallas want its police department writing citations to raise revenues.” The drop in citations did not cause a noticeable change in accidents or roadway fatalities.
After the shooting in Dallas, Chief Brown spoke of the demands that society is placing on the police.
Saying he was “running on fumes,” Brown spoke frankly about everything that his employees have to deal with on a daily basis – and that it can be overwhelming at times.

“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country” said Brown.

“Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve” said Brown. He listed mental health, drug addiction, loose dogs, failing schools as problems the public expects ‘cops to solve.’

“Seventy percent of the African American community is being raised by single women, let’s give it to the cops to solve that as well” said Brown. “Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

“I just ask for other parts of our democracy along with the free press to help us,” Brown continued. “To help us and not put that burden all on law enforcement.”
As a teacher, I have often heard the same complaint as to the burdens we place on education to solve.

Somehow we have to find a balance between maintaining order and a civil society and over-arresting people which leads to more dangerous encounters. John Daniel Davidson writes about how we could perhaps reduce police violence if we asked them to do less. Several of the police shootings that have been receiving so much attention in recent years have begun as routine police stops to enforce some local ordinance. Remember that Eric Garner, who died in a police choke hold, was originally stopped for signing cigarettes.
In many states, almost any minor infraction of the law is an arrestable offense. Even in a politically conservative state like Texas, where elected officials routinely mock liberal, overregulated states like California and New York, small crimes and traffic violations not punishable by jail time can still get you arrested. That’s in part thanks to a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, which held that arresting someone for not wearing a seatbelt isn’t a violation of their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

Keep in mind that arresting someone is inherently violent. Much of law enforcement is, and of course that means police officers themselves are often in danger, which in turn might explain why some of them seem so jumpy and, at times, too quick to draw their guns and shoot.
Think of the crimes that aren't getting investigated if police have to stop people to raise money for the community by making more traffic stops or stopping people from selling something.

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Much of what President Obama said at the Dallas memorial yesterday was powerful and appropriate. But then he had to add in his own political pet policy pronouncement with this silly claim:
“It’s easier for a teenager to get his hands on a Glock than a computer…or even a book.”
That's just silly and he hurts his own cause by such casual deceptions. Sean Davis has some fun in ridiculing this claim.
For starters, it’s against federal law for anyone under the age of 18 to legally purchase or possess a handgun or handgun ammunition (Glock is the manufacturer of a popular line of handguns, not a synonym for handgun). It’s also against federal law for anyone to sell or deliver a handgun to anyone the seller reasonably believes is under the age of 18. As far as I know, neither computers nor books are illegal. And judging by the number of teenagers I see walking around with their faces glued to their smartphones, they don’t seem to have a particularly difficult time getting hold of a computer.
His claim just fails a basic math test. I guess this is an example of how innumeracy leads people to believe silly stuff.
In 2015, Pew Research Center conducted a survey of teens to gauge their access to technology. According to the Pew study, 87 percent of U.S. teenagers had access to either a desktop or laptop computer. Eighty-one percent had access to a gaming console. The Pew study found that 73 percent had access to a smartphone (for black teens, that number was 85 percent)....

Does Barack Obama believe that more than 92 percent of American teenagers illegally possess and shoot handguns each day? Because that’s what would need to be happening in order for his statement to be true. As of 2014, roughly one-third of U.S. households had guns in them. Are we to believe that the incidence of handgun usage among teenagers is three times higher than the ownership rate of all households in the U.S.? Because that would also need to be true for his statement to be accurate. Is Obama really asserting that handgun access among teenagers, who are prohibited from possessing them by federal law, exceeds that of actual adults who can legally purchase and possess pistols?
It is quite easy for teenagers to get books for free. We have these publicly-funded places where kids can get books for free. Most schools give students books to use for the year. Guns, however, are expensive.
In addition to being completely illegal for anyone under the age of 18, handguns are also pretty expensive, especially compared to things like books, and cost and accessibility are generally inversely related. Free stuff is easy to access, while expensive stuff is not. The Glock 17, a 9mm handgun that according to its manufacturer is the most widely used law enforcement pistol in the world, will cost you upwards of $500.
Apparently, the President claimed last year that it was easier to buy a handgun than to buy a vegetable. I realize that it might have been a while since the President went shopping at a grocery store, but this is just too bizarre.
The lesson the president learned from that embarrassing attempt to lie about guns was apparently to make the lie even more brazen. Vegetables? Those cost money. Why not compare guns to things like books that anyone with a pulse can get for free? That’s the ticket!
If President Obama despairs that his advocacy for gun control is not working, perhaps he might think about not politicizing a memorial service with ludicrous hyperbole that just makes him look silly.

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Bret Stephens derides the President's continual praise of the Iran deal even as Iran keeps violating it. The Germans have just completed a status update on the Iran deal and the Iranian efforts to still procure more nuclear materials and technology.
The report also notes “a further increase in the already considerable procurement efforts in connection with Iran’s ambitious missile technology program which could among other things potentially serve to deliver nuclear weapons. Against this backdrop it is safe to expect that Iran will continue its intensive procurement activities in Germany using clandestine methods to achieve its objectives.”

The BfV report arrived days before Germany arrested a Pakistani national, identified as Syed Mustufa H., accused of spying for Iran. It also corroborates another German intelligence report, this one from the intelligence service of North Rhine-Westphalia, that Iran’s nuclear procurement efforts have increased dramatically in recent years, from 48 known attempts in 2010 to 141 in 2015. Seven other German states have reported similar Iranian procurement efforts. This violates Iran’s explicit commitment to go through an official “procurement channel” to purchase nuclear- and missile-related materials.
So the Germans are aware of what Iran is doing and going public about it. The Obama administration doesn't acknowledge Iran's actions. Instead they praise the deal and plan more deals.
As for the Obama administration, not so much. For the past year it has developed a narrative—spoon-fed to the reporters and editorial writers Ben Rhodes publicly mocks as dopes and dupes—that Iran has met all its obligations under the deal, and now deserves extra cookies in the form of access to U.S. dollars, Boeing jets, U.S. purchases of Iranian heavy water (thereby subsidizing its nuclear program), and other concessions the administration last year promised Congress it would never grant.

“We still have sanctions on Iran for its violations of human rights, for its support for terrorism, and for its ballistic-missile program, and we will continue to enforce those sanctions vigorously,” Mr. Obama said in January. Whatever.

The administration is now weighing whether to support Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organization. That would neutralize a future president’s ability to impose sanctions on Iran, since WTO rules would allow Tehran to sue Washington for interfering with trade. The administration has also pushed the Financial Action Task Force, an international body that enforces anti-money-laundering standards, to ease pressure on Iran, which FATF did last month by suspending some restrictions for the next year.

And then there’s the Boeing deal to sell $17.6 billion worth of jets to Iran, which congressional Republicans led by Illinois’s Pete Roskam are trying to stop. Iran uses its civilian fleet to ferry weapons and fighters to its terrorist clients in Syria and Lebanon.
For the Obama administration, having the fantasy of a deal with Iran to end their efforts to gain nuclear weapons is enough. The reality of what is actually happening is irrelevant. Rather like their fantasy about how well Obamacare is working or how much their stimulus plan helped the economy or their constant claims that gun control legislation would have stopped any of the terrible mass murders that we have seen in the past few years.

USA Today has taken an in-depth look at all the threats that Trump makes to sue people and then at all the suits that have been filed for and against him. His lack of success in such suits is truly yuuuge.
Say something bad about Donald Trump and he will frequently threaten to go to court. “I’ll sue you” was a Trump mantra long before “Build a wall.” But an analysis of about 4,000 lawsuits filed by and against Trump and his companies shows that he rarely follows through with lawsuits over people’s words. He has won only one such case, and the ultimate disposition of that is in dispute.

The Republican presidential candidate has threatened political ad-makers, a rapper, documentary filmmakers, a Palm Beach civic club’s newsletter and the Better Business Bureau for lowering its rating of Trump University. He’s vowed to sue multiple news organizations including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and USA TODAY. He didn’t follow through with any of those, though he did sue comedian Bill Maher, an author over a single line in a 276-page book, and Miss Pennsylvania.

A USA TODAY Network analysis of the lawsuits involving Trump and his companies includes only six in which the Trump team has formally claimed someone libeled, slandered or defamed him, and a few other court cases where he used other legal avenues to fight what someone said about him. At least one Trump target filed a counter-claim for harassment and won.
So he's using such bullying to stifle any criticism. Often the targets of his threats are journalists and media sources. There is something very troubling at the thought of a president using threats of lawsuits against the media to chill any criticism. And he's even mused about trying to "open up" our libel laws so it would be easier to sue. Since much of our libel laws are based on Supreme Court decisions, he would be as unlikely to be able to actually change libel laws as he would be to build the wall he keeps telling us he'll build. It's just more blowhardery from Trump, but the inclination he has to even contemplate such an action shows how little concern he has for the First Amendment.

Democratic Congresswoman Corinne Brown certainly has an elevated sense of her own importance. Now she's claiming that the Orlando shooting wouldn't have happened if the FBI hadn't been investigating her for fraud.
Rep. Corrine Brown, the Democratic Congresswoman indicted last week for running a fraudulent charity scam, thinks the FBI might have prevent the Orlando nightclub massacre if the bureau hadn’t wasted their investigative resources on her.

“These are the same agents that were not able to do a thorough investigation of [Orlando shooter Omar Mateen], and we ended up with 50 people dead,” Brown said.

The Washington Post reminds us
of another time when Hillary Clinton was almost indicted - during the Whitewater investigation. The prosecutors working under Ken Starr drew up a draft indictment, but ultimately decided against indicting her because they thought that her celebrity and politics made it unlikely that any jury in either Arkansas or Washington D.C. where they might have pressed charges would have convicted her. One of the prosecutors in the investigation has been reflecting on the similarities and differences of that decision with what James Comey was facing.
Rosenzweig said he had concluded in 1998 that seating a jury untainted by political bias was going to be so difficult as to make the chances for a conviction too low to proceed ethically with the case.

“This case was, for me, decided on factors external to guilt or innocence,” he said. “I think this case would have had a great chance of a sustained conviction if presented to 12 random people, about someone other than Mrs. Clinton. But that’s an impossible hypothetical.”

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This is yet another indication of how special Tim Duncan has been. While he was at Wake Forest as a psychology major, he helped write a chapter in a psychology book. The title of that chapter is such a Duncanesque topic: "Blowhards, Snobs, and Narcissists: Interpersonal Reactions to Excessive Egotism." Perhaps he learned from that research what not to do in the NBA. You can read the chapter on Google Books.

The WSJ covers Duncan's career as an undergraduate psychology research assistant.
Duncan helped write Leary’s chapter as Wake Forest’s tallest and most talented psychology major. The research assistants would huddle with their professor every week to discuss what they had read. Duncan’s co-authors said he was exactly as shy as most NBA fans would believe—but only in the beginning.

“He’d answer questions only when I asked him directly, but he didn’t volunteer much on his own,” Leary said. “But then, about the third or fourth week, we were having this free-wheeling, intellectual conversation, and suddenly he stopped while he was talking and looked surprised. He said: ‘Man, this is kind of fun, isn’t it?’”

They saw Duncan from that day on like most people never see him. He was only a junior in college, but he was as involved as anyone with the research. He contributed ideas and sentences that made it into the final version of the chapter verbatim. He made jokes—and some of them were even funny....

Duncan was a senior and obviously bound for the NBA when the book came out in 1997. The publishing house mailed Leary four copies—one for each author. “I had to go through the biggest rigmarole,” Leary said. The school’s athletic department was so concerned that Leary gifting Duncan a book in which he wrote a chapter could be construed as a potential NCAA violation, Leary said, that it asked permission from various compliance agencies.
Ah, so typical. The NCAA is all over Duncan getting a copy of a book he helped write, but UNC offering phony classes to hundreds of students for a couple of decades... eh, they're just not interested.

Here is Coach Popovich's press conference from yesterday about how much he loves and admires Tim Duncan.