September 22nd, 2016

Trump pulls ahead

At least, in this Rasmussen poll.

What’s more, he seems to be gaining in certain key states. However, he has quite an electoral mountain to climb before he can said to have a good chance of winning.

Ever since midsummer, I’ve believed (and written here) that I think Trump’s chances have risen, and that lately I’d give him 1 in 3 odds. I think that is still true, although if this continues it may rise to 2 in 5 or perhaps even more.

I think there are two reasons Trump has been gaining. One has to do with Trump: he’s been acting more “presidential” (or perhaps it’s better to say less profoundly unpresidential—that is, less of a loose cannon). The second has to do with Clinton, who has had a series of bad days, including her health crisis.

Interesting times, interesting times.

September 22nd, 2016

The Dead Sea…

is dying.

September 22nd, 2016

Protests/riots in Charlotte

One person killed during riots.

Powerline offers this bio of the black police officer who shot Lamont, the act that has sparked the protests.

September 21st, 2016

The British shoe wars

It’s come to this:

Can women in power truly command respect if they are wearing high heels? Not according to a group of trade union leaders in the U.K., who are calling upon British Prime Minister Theresa May to ditch her signature kitten heels for flats so she can “set an example” by wearing “sensible shoes.”

The call for flats came out of a conference of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which represents union workers to the government, being held in Brighton, England. The conference is backing a new law that would ban policies that force women to wear heels in the workplace — a reaction to a much publicized incident in May, in which 27-year-old London receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home for not wearing high heels at the office.

The TUC leaders are calling for May’s support on the effort, and for her to take a symbolic step — down and out of her much-talked-about kitten heels.

Requiring high heels seems wrong, unless the job is something on the order of Playboy bunny. But asking May to ditch these snazzy items is also wrong, wrong, wrong:


And women can certainly wield power and command respect while sporting high heels. Case in point:


September 21st, 2016

It occurs to me…

…that even though I absolutely hate, hate, hate this election, it is probably the most interesting one in my lifetime.

And next week’s debate holds the promise (threat?) of being particularly “interesting,” too.

September 21st, 2016

Passengers who land the plane

A recent YouTube distraction of mine has been to watch videos about situations in which airplane passengers in small private planes were faced with the frightening necessity of landing the aircraft when the pilot of the planes suddenly died.

Pretty amazing. In both cases, the passengers (and pilots) were elderly; the passengers had some familiarity with flying (mostly observing it as passengers sitting next to the pilot), but they either never had a lesson or had had just a few lessons many years ago. These folks are made of very sturdy stuff.

First we have the story of a 77-year-old Brit named John Wiley, whose friend had taken him up in a Cessna for an excursion:

Next (and this is just an audio) there is Helen Collins, an 80-year-old woman whose husband died while piloting a Cessna in which they both were riding:

And here’s a bit of video of Helen Collins’ landing:

September 21st, 2016

My post at Legal Insurrection on the Crutcher case

I have a post up at Legal Insurrection that is a comprehensive look at what we know about the Terence Crutcher case so far (or at least, what we knew last night, when I did the bulk of the research and writing for it).

It has a very different focus than the posts I wrote on the case here at my own blog. The Legal Insurrection post focuses more on the law of the thing. Please take a look.

September 20th, 2016

UPDATES on the Crutcher shooting

[Scroll down for more updates.]

More information on the Crutcher case is coming out, and the situation may be even worse than what I had discussed earlier today. The claim now is that Crutcher wasn’t even reaching into his car when he was killed, which was an important part of Shelby’s justification for firing. This new information is coming from the Crutcher family attorney, but it is supposedly based on the video evidence.

There is a video at the link which shows the shooting from two angles, plus Crutcher’s walk to the car that led up to it. I say “shows,” but it’s actually very hard to see what is happening, in part because there are so many police officers around him. But from what I can see (albeit incomplete), this does appear as though it might be a case of overkill (literally). Crutcher is walking slowly with his hands up, and seemingly cooperative. There is no visible struggle. The shooting happens so quickly that I don’t even think the other police officers were aware of what had happened. Then you hear the voice of a female officer (I assume it was Shelby, who had fired the shots?) yelling “Shots fired!” in a very agitated voice.

Here’s a part of the article that leapt out at me; note that it is Shelby’s attorney speaking here, so you can imagine this is the narration most favorable to her [emphasis mine]:

Shelby was en route to a domestic violence call when she encountered Crutcher, who she thought might be impaired, and then the SUV in the middle of the road, Wood said.

She asked Crutcher whether the car belonged to him but got no response, the attorney said. Crutcher began walking toward her with his hands in his pockets. She politely asked Crutcher to take his hands out of his pocket while they were speaking, Wood said.

“He does comply and puts his hands out of his pocket, and then puts his hands up in the air, which she thought was a little bit strange under the circumstances,” he said.

Really? Did it ever occur to her that with all the recent violence he might have been wanting to show her he was completely harmless and cooperative? Is Shelby the Goldilocks of police officers: hands in pockets is not enough, hands in the air is too much, hands dangling by the sides is just right?

Shelby thought—and for all I know, she may have been correct about this part—that Crutcher was either intoxicated or on some sort of drug. But, so what? Do we now seek to arrest people who are not being belligerent (at least, it has not been alleged that he was belligerent), just because they might be under the influence in some way? Do we kill them if they make sudden moves?:

“How could [Crutcher] be reaching into the car if the window is up and there’s blood on the glass?” Crump [one of the Crutcher family’s attorneys] asked, pointing to the photo on the easel. “The window is up. There’s a streak of blood on the window. It’s coming down the car door.”

Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons contested Shelby’s attorney’s account, saying Crutcher was complying and made no sudden movements until he was hit with the Taser.

As for the allegations that Crutcher may have been intoxicated, Crump said it’s irrelevant. He pointed out that just Monday an alleged terrorist accused of placing bombs in New York and New Jersey and opening fire on police was taken into custody alive, yet Shelby felt she had to exact deadly force on Crutcher.

“If we started to condemn everybody to death who might have some drugs in their system, all our neighborhoods would be affected,” he said.

I can’t say I find a whole lot of disagreement with that. Let me add, however, that one of the New Jersey police officers who apprehended Rahami after a gunfight with him (an actual gunfight; not an imagined one) was shot in the chest, but was protected from harm by body armor. That gunfight with Rahami was not without risk, to say the least. But unfortunately, police officers must accept a certain amount of risk that goes with the territory. They cannot be shooting just because they are jittery or frightened; if so, they lack the temperament to be a police officer, which may be the case for Shelby.

One more quote, this time from Shelby’s lawyer:

…[Crutcher’s] left hand goes into the window,” at which point one officer deployed his Taser and Shelby fired her service weapon. Shelby had a Taser but did not take it out, the attorney said.

[Shelby’s attorney] told CNN in a follow-up interview that his client had her gun out because she was the only officer there for a few minutes and she thought Crutcher was armed. The second officer had a Taser because the “proper tactic … in that scenario is for second person … to have less lethal (weapon),” said Wood, a former police officer.

If the window was actually closed—as the Crutchers’ attorney says it was (with a photo to prove it, supposedly)—then how could Crutcher’s hand “go into” the window? Did Shelby not know the window was closed? In addition, is it standard operating police procedure for an officer to draw a weapon every time the officer “thinks” a person might be armed, even with no aggression from that person and no actual hint of a weapon? And why did Shelby think Crutcher was armed? I’ve seen nothing in any of the reports I’ve read that indicates a good reason (or even any reason at all) that she might think that. Is it because initially he had his hands in his pockets, even though he had removed them when asked? Is hands in pockets a capital offense?

[ADDENDUM: By the way, a lot of discussion of the Crutcher shooting mentions that “police” or “police officers” were responsible. Actually, it was one police officer, Shelby, and it’s not at all clear that the other officers will back her actions up.]

UPDATE 12:15 AM: It has always been obvious that new information would be coming out that could change things. Now there are reports that Shelby says Crutcher had put his hands in his pockets several times. However, no one is alleging that he had put his hands in his pockets before the fatal shot was fired. It is alleged that his hands were up as he walked to the vehicle, and that he then seemed to be reaching inside the vehicle (or about to reach inside it), which is what caused the decisions to fire the taser and the shots. I’ve read conflicting reports on whether the window was open or not (a potentially important detail). I also read that the side of the vehicle he was approaching—the driver’s side—had already been searched or cleared by Shelby, and if so I’m not sure why she would have thought there could have been a gun right there.

Also, there is a report that a vial of PCP was later found in the car, and that “Crutcher had been incarcerated on a drug-related conviction for nearly four years and was released on parole in 2011.” If true (and I can only find that story about the prior incarceration in one paper, so I begin to wonder), that is certainly supportive of the idea that he was on some sort of drug at the time of the fatal encounter, although toxicological testing will reveal whether or not that is true. At any rate, it is not determinative of whether deadly force was justified (nor did the officers know his drug-related state at the time). What is relevant for determining that is his behavior during the encounter, and whether it justified the perception that he represented a threat of the type that would have allowed the use of deadly force.

September 20th, 2016

And now for something really important—and non-Trump-related…

…is this the end of Brangelina?

Is anyone surprised?

[NOTE: Actually, you may have noticed I haven’t written anything about Donald Trump today. Every now and then I need to take a Trump vacation.]

September 20th, 2016

Tulsa killing of unarmed black man by police

This incident looks like the real thing: a trigger-happy cop panicking and killing an innocent black man, Terence Crutcher.

We don’t know enough about it to make a final judgment, but so far the fact situation looks bad. The exchange was videoed. If you read the description of the chain of events, it’s difficult to understand why this happened, but the following appear to be factors worthy of note:

(1) Only one police officer shot at Crutcher, which happened simultaneously with another officer’s tasering him.

(2) The officer who shot him (Shelby) had recently undergone drug-recognition training, which I suppose might have predisposed the officer to panic if it seemed the individual might be under the influence of drugs. Shelby claims to have felt Crutcher was under the influence of PCP.

(3) The officer who shot him was a woman. I don’t know how that factors into it, but in general female officers have been found to be less likely to shoot rather than more.

(4) The initial exchange wasn’t videoed, but Shelby reported that Crutcher was rather passive (she came on the scene because his car had broken down in the middle of the road) and unresponsive. However, he had made no aggressive moves, and by the time the incident was being videotaped he had been cooperative and following orders. Right before the shooting, however, he was walking towards his vehicle with his hands high in the air, and then:

Shelby shoots when Crutcher’s “left hand goes through the car window” — but no weapon was ever found on him or inside of his car. Wood says that Shelby had cleared the driver’s side of the car prior to the shooting.

It’s probably premature to try to analyze this, but my sense is that a small number of police officers have become so wary of being shot that they are over-reacting. Interacting with a person who may be high on drugs (or who appears to be high on drugs; we don’t know whether Crutcher actually was, but we will probably find out) is an inherently dangerous activity, and evaluating the degree of dangerousness is not easy. But police officers should not be shooting an erratic drug user or mentally ill person (that’s happened, too) merely because he or she doesn’t exactly follow orders and reaches into his/her car, whatever race that person might belong to. The other officer on the scene who tasered Crutcher certainly didn’t think this required a bullet.

Why did Crutcher go back to the SUV and reach into the car? We may never know. We know there was no weapon there (as did Shelby, apparently). We know his hands were up prior to that, but then he reached into the vehicle.

What we do know is that people with an agenda will make the most of this extremely unfortunate chain of events.

September 20th, 2016

Rahami was already known to be a bad apple, but…what to do?

It’s such a familiar story.

After acts of terrorism (or even non-terrorist mass shootings) we hear one of two refrains: he (or she, but it’s almost always a “he”) was a quiet and regular guy and no one saw it coming; or everyone knew he was bad news.

The latter story is more common. Extremely common. A history of fighting with family and/or neighbors, threats, small offenses, sometimes relatively minor violence, an aura of strangeness or anger, involvement in lawsuits. For non-terrorists, often a history of some sort of mental problems and violence, often going way back. For terrorists, often a naturalized immigrant from a Muslim country, plus multiple trips back home or to other Muslim countries, and recent increased religiosity.

Rahami fit the basic pattern, as you can easily tell from a host of articles detailing his history of family strife (including a stabbing of his brother). He had had an illegitimate child with a high school sweetheart. He had made many trips to his native Afghanistan (he had come here as a child), some lengthy. He brought back a wife from Pakistan.

And in 2014 his father had reported to the FBI that he suspected his son was a terrorist:

The father, Mohammad, told New Jersey police in 2014 that Rahami was a terrorist when his son was arrested after a domestic dispute and accused of stabbing his brother.

The information was given to the Joint Terrorism Task Force led by the FBI in Newark, New Jersey. Officials opened a so-called assessment and interviewed the father — who then recanted, the paper reported.

An official said the dad made the comment out of anger at his son. It was unclear if Ahmad was also interviewed…

“He stabbed my son. He hit my wife. And I put him in jail,” Mohammad said after speaking with FBI agents at his home Tuesday.

In 2014, the younger Rahami was arrested on weapons and aggravated assault charges for allegedly stabbing his brother in the leg, The Times reported.

He spent over three months in jail, a high-ranking law enforcement official told the paper, but a grand jury declined to indict Rahami.

FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney referred Monday to a “domestic incident” in which he said the “allegations were recanted.”

The father also now says he didn’t know anything about Kahami’s recent attack, and hadn’t really thought he was a terrorist.

With that sort of fact situation and others like it being so common, what to do? And the answer “ban Muslim immigration” doesn’t cut it for many reasons (see this, for example), including the fact that these people emigrated here 15 years ago and have become citizens. How many other radicals or potential radicals like Rahami are already here, both in the US and in Europe? I don’t know the exact answer—no one does—but we know there are enough to cause major trouble and to be very difficult to track.

The more general problem of prevention and predictability is not limited to terrorists, either; it’s somewhat similar to the issues I discussed in this post about preventing mass murders in general. Preventive detention of citizens who have not been found guilty of anything is not an American value, nor should it be. But PC thought that bends over backwards to be kind doesn’t help at all, and fear of lawsuits such as the one Rahami’s family had filed against the city of Elizabeth probably play into that desire to be extra kind to immigrants of the Muslim persuasion:

According to the [2011] lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, the Rahami family said Elizabeth police officers repeatedly forced the closure of their family restaurant, First American Fried Chicken. The lawsuit alleges one man frequently entered the restaurant and told family members “Muslims don’t belong here” and “Muslims are trouble.”

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage confirmed the longstanding issues with the family, but said the city’s actions against their restaurant were strictly code-related.

“It was strictly about neighbors calling about noise,” Bollwage said. “It was never ethnicity or religion or beliefs or anything like that.”

Then again, this particularfamily did turn out to be “trouble,” didn’t it?

September 20th, 2016

A Rose for Emily

Life imitates art.

I encountered “A Rose for Emily” somewhere in school; don’t remember exactly when, but it was early. The stuff of nightmares..

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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