Sometimes, the truth is murkier than you’d like

The FBI has released video of the Finicum shooting in Oregon. We’ve been hearing competing stories about it: some have said that he was kneeling in surrender, his arms raised above his head, when the FBI gunned him down in cold blood. Others have said he was charging the police like Rooster Cogburn at the end of True Grit, demanding a hero’s death.

The video shows why both stories are going around. Finicum’s car crashes into the snow at a roadblock. He jumps out, arms held up, and runs away from the road, as if he thinks he can escape. But he’s surrounded. There are agents all around. He stops. He turns around. He lowers his arms and fumbles at his belt. Someone shoots, and he falls to the ground. The camera pans around (it’s on a helicopter or drone, and there is no sound), and you see a few brief flashes of gunfire and smoke — I can’t tell whether the occupants of the car are firing or being shot at. Then there is a few minutes of agents standing around, not ducking for cover, before the occupants begin to emerge with their hands up. Finicum’s body is lying in the snow, not moving.

So it’s a little of all of the stories. I think Finicum was in the heat of anger, ran out with the idea of escaping somehow, saw it was hopeless, and fumbled for a gun. I’d rather the law exercised more restraint — I could imagine that if he did pull a gun, he’d have waved it around in futile bravado before dropping it as the hopelessness of his situation sunk in — but I wasn’t there, and I can sympathize with the officers not wanting to risk getting shot at.

What a waste.

The beginning of the end of the Malheur occupation

Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, and several others have been arrested, and someone unnamed has been killed.

The FBI and Oregon State Police report Ammon Bundy, Ryan C. Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox and Ryan Waylen Payne were all arrested.

Officials also said there was one fatality and one person suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transferred to a local hospital.

It is unfortunate that the standoff seems to be ending (but this encounter occurred outside the refuge, and I presume the fanatics instead are still hoping for martyrdom) in violence, but I suppose it’s inevitable that people who babbled about killing or be killed weren’t going to just peaceably surrender.

Let’s hope the heart has gone out of the remaining occupiers and that the rest fades away quietly.

At least they picked the right place for it

Two men got into an argument over a $25 fee in a gun shop, and what do you know, they all decided to resolve it with — you guessed it — guns. End result: two dead, two in the hospital with critical injuries.

What struck me, though, is where it occurred: Picayune, Mississippi. It seems to me unwise to be selling deadly firearms in a place where you just know petty squabbles are going to flare up all the time.

Fast losing all confidence in the justice system

My wife and I made the mistake of getting hooked on the Netflix series, Making A Murderer, this weekend. Never watch sausage being made, and never take a look inside what the police do to make a case. It will ruin your trust in the system.

There were a couple of things that just infuriated me.

  • There were two clear cases of scientific dishonesty that ought to have simply been thrown out, or never even been presented to the jury.
    • They tested a bullet for blood, and announced that it was from the victim. But the lab tech also disclosed that the negative control was contaminated! My jaw dropped at that. You don’t get to make that claim when your test was invalidated by error.
    • To disprove that the accused’s blood at the crime scene was not planted from a sample in police custody, they declared that the FBI, using a new test, had found no preservatives in the blood, therefore the sample couldn’t have been planted. Again, you can’t do that. What were the limits of detection? The best you can do is say that the test failed, and without a lot of evaluation of the samples and the procedure, you can’t state how likely their answer was.

    Outrageous.

  • One of the prosecutor’s tools was this horrifically detailed story of the murder, which they claim to have gotten from a confession by the accused’s nephew. But we have the recording of the “confession”, and it’s appalling. The nephew is this lost, confused, slow-witted teenager, and the police lead him through the story. He didn’t provide any of the purported details. They did.

    The prosecutors didn’t exhibit a speck of shame at going on and on about knifings and stranglings and shooting and torture, with the only evidence being a fable fed to a not very bright kid. Is that a general character trait of prosecutors? I wouldn’t know.

Just to counterbalance the dismaying unprofessionalism, incompetence, and corruption of the police, though, I have to say I hope that if ever I’m accused of a crime, I want the defense attorneys, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, on my side. They, at least, seemed to be well aware of the inconsistencies and falsehoods in the prosecution’s case. I don’t know whether the prosecutors weren’t very bright or were just doing their job to paper over the failings of their arguments.

I don’t know whether it’s the charitable assumption to guess that the prosecutors just didn’t care about the truth.

It’s also a shame because the victim was murdered, and my impression is that the Manitowoc police were more interested in pinning the blame on the accused than in actually figuring out what happened.

Your mission this morning

Read this long essay, An Unbelievable Story of Rape. Or don’t. Some of you might think it’s just a little too believable, and would rather not suffer through the misery.

Here’s the short version to help you decide. A young woman with a troubled history is attacked in her apartment one night. She’s in shock. She reports the crime to the police. The police pick at little discrepancies in her story, pressure her to recant. Full of self-doubt and stress, she does…she wonders if maybe she dreamt it all. The police drop the case, and then decide to prosecute her for wasting their time.

Later, in another state, more diligent police officers track down and ultimately arrest a serial rapist. In his room, they find his “trophies” — he collects underwear and takes photos of his bound and terrorized victims. And there in his collection, they find a photo of a young woman they don’t recognize.

Guess who?

It’s a terrible story of gaslighting and a criminal justice system that would rather sweep crimes against women under a rather large and strangely lumpy rug. This is the story of false rape accusations a lot of people would rather you didn’t hear.

Don’t go under Duntsch’s knife!

duntsch

If this man is your doctor, run away. Christopher Duntsch is terrifyingly incompetent.

Duntsch arrived in Dallas in 2010 to start a neurosurgery practice. In the course of the next three years he would work at several different hospitals, earning infamy for his haphazard surgical technique wherever he went, according to the Texas Observer. His colleagues described him in the harshest superlatives: “worst surgeon I’ve ever seen,” “sociopath.”

“I couldn’t believe a trained surgeon could do this,” Robert Henderson, another surgeon at Dallas Medical Center, where Duntsch performed several operations, told the Observer. “He just had no recognition of the proper anatomy. He had no idea what he was doing. At every step of the way, you would have to know the right thing to do so you could do the wrong thing, because he did all the wrong things.”

In one case, authorities allege, Duntsch operated on his roommate and friend after a night of using cocaine. The man emerged from the operation a quadriplegic. In another, he purposefully left a surgical sponge inside a man’s body. During that surgery, a fellow doctor forced Duntsch to stop operating because of his “unacceptable” technique, the Dallas Morning News reported, citing a search warrant affidavit.

[Read more…]

Leveraging religion into money and death

The Korean ferry Sewol that abruptly capsized and sank last spring sank because of an act of god … that is, the depredations of a scummy Christian cult. A story in the NY Times today summarizes the causes. The company that ran the ferry was a front for a religious cult run by Yoo Byung-eun, called the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea. He had a whole network of enterprises, all funneling millions of dollars into the pockets of Yoo and his family. One of the ways they profited was by cutting corners on everything, including safety.

Scores of cabins and even an art gallery laden with marble were added to the ferry’s upper decks, making the ship top-heavy. So much extra cargo was crammed on board that there was sometimes no space to secure it properly with chains and lashings. And, prosecutors say, the ferry’s crucial ballast water, needed to balance all the additional weight, was deliberately drained so that the vessel would not sit too low — a telltale sign to inspectors that the ferry was dangerously overloaded to bring in more money.

“It was a miracle that the ship actually sailed as far as it did; it could have tipped over any time,” said Kim Woo-sook, dean of the graduate school at Mokpo National Maritime University. “For them, cargo was cash.”

The art gallery was there to feed Yoo’s monstrous ego — he fancied himself an artist, and with so much cash flowing through his hands, he spent millions to get his photographs displayed at the Louvre. He claimed to be just about everything.

Mr. Yoo, who in his guise as Ahae cultivated an air of mystery by only allowing himself to be photographed from behind or the side, is described by the website of Ahae Press as a sort of renaissance man: “an inventor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, environmental activist, martial artist, painter, sculptor, poet, and photographer.”

Con artist. Murderer. Ruthless exploiter. Christian. Or at least, someone who saw Christianity as another easy gimmick to prey on the rubes.

But hey, they spent some money on safety.

In one of their more damning findings, prosecutors say that so much money was being siphoned away from the ferry company to Mr. Yoo and his relatives that it was starved of funds and spent just $2 last year on safety training for the Sewol’s crew members. The money went to buy a paper copy of a certificate.

There is no justice, though. The elder Yoo’s rotting corpse was found in his garden, cause of death unknown. Most of his family (apparently one son is still on the run), who all profited from his schemes, have been arrested so at least there’s that.

Oh, no! Zombie Hitler is speechifying to death squads!

Mike Adams of Natural News has gone a little too far. In addition to his usual pseudoscience, useless “medicine”, and bizarre diet advice, he’s really pissed off at promoters of GMO foods. Now I’m no fan of Monsanto — corporate agriculture is a self-serving institution where profit is king and locking farmers into second-rate solutions is a business strategy — but GMOs are really not that scary. Yet the Adams paranoia has him ranting away and comparing scientists to Nazi war criminals. Really.

Just as history needed to record the names and deeds of Nazi war criminals, so too must all those collaborators who are promoting the death and destruction caused by GMOs be named for the historical record. The true extent of their collaboration with an anti-human regime will all become readily apparent once the GMO delusion collapses and mass global starvation becomes an inescapable reality.

That’s offensive hyperbole and also cartoonishly stupid — the Nazi accusation is so tired we even have a rule to summarize it — and it’s unjustified. There’s no sign that GMOs will suddenly collapse; they’re just plants with a few genes added, you know, and that it’s done artificially and with intent doesn’t make them any worse than getting the same result by chance recombination and mutation.

But Adams takes the next step.

Interestingly, just yesterday German President Joachim Gauck celebrated the lives of those brave Nazi officers who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. (1) Their attempted Wolf’s Lair bombing failed, but it was an honorable attempt to rid the world of tremendous evil by killing one of the people responsible for it.

This official ceremony sends a message to the world, and that official message from the nation of Germany to the rest of the world is that “it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.”

Obviously, if molecular biologists and geneticists are just like Hitler, then the ‘health’ wackos justified in assassinating them. And the German President has just told everyone that it’s OK! They’ve got both the moral high ground, and the excuse that they were just following the orders of the German leadership!

She shouldn’t have gotten her face in the way of his fist

Some football player named Ray Rice got in a fight with his fiancée, and knocked her out cold in an elevator — there is surveillance of him dragging her unconscious body out. You would think, maybe, that a professional athlete would have at some time learned that he’s very strong, and that a little caution in dealing physically with other was warranted, and maybe that the appropriate way to deal with someone you purportedly love does not involve beating her unconscious.

Rice has sort-of-apologized in a press conference — to which he brought his new wife to also apologize for her actions (makes you wonder what kind of beating she’d get if she didn’t). And now he’s been sort-of-punished, so the NFL is back to stroking his ego.

It’s also precious as heck that Ray Rice feels an obligation to The Children, what with being a role model and all, but maybe he should not be a role model because, kids, lady-beating is wrong, even if the NFL doesn’t really think so. Sure, it suspended Rice for TWO WHOLE GAMES and fined him $529,411.24, which sounds like a lot of money until you realize that it is merely two games’ worth of pay for Rice the Role Model. But everyone in the sportsball world is tripping over themselves to assure us that Ray Rice really is a nice guy, no really, and he will never ever knock his wife out cold again, he promises, even though the recidivism rate for lady-beaters is about 110 percent. (Okay, not exactly, but pretty close.) Here’s the team’s general manager, Ozzie Newsome, giving Rice some quality reach-around, but not in a gay way of course, because that would be a REAL problem for the NFL:

“We also respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be.” Newsome said. “That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Hmm. I’ve been married for 34 years, and she’s never hit me, and I’ve never hit her. In our case, if I started using her as a punching bag, you could say it’s “not typical”…but even that many years of respectful behavior would not be sufficient to justify doing harm now. But if he’s a pro football player, it’s all water under the bridge.

What I’d like to know is whether, if there is any other issue of domestic violence with this guy, the NFL will come back and say, “We were wrong — turns out thumping women is typical of Ray Rice, he’s an asshole, and he’s fired.” Any takers on that one? I suspect instead the NFL is right now deploying a team of PR specialists prepared to hush up any future incidents.

But here’s a professional apologist for athletes from ESPN commenting on the issue:

But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong done upon them?

But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong done upon them?

Yeah, ladies, it’s your responsibility to avoid pissing off muscular 200 pound football players. Ultimately, it’s all your fault.