A short film Oscar winner. Beautiful use of metaphor.
Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com has a report this morning linking to an AP article in The Australian that U.S. soldiers lined up against a wall all of the adult males in the village of Mokhoyan after an IED blew up a tank injuring American soldiers at a location near the village.
According to the report, the villagers said the Americans told them they knew they were responsible for the IED and they were going to kill at least 20 villagers, including children, to avenge the attack.
According to the villagers, the incident occurred on March 8th. Mokhoyan is in the vicinity of the two villages (Balandi and Alkozai) where Staff Sergeant Robert Bales allegedly murdered 16 civilians, including 9 children, setting some of the bodies on fire during the predawn hours of March 11th.
Jason Ditz also reports today that Bales’s attorney, John Henry Browne, said his client has no memory of the incident and he denies drinking more than a sip or two alcohol that night.
Mr. Browne also said that Bales told him that a friend lost a leg in an IED explosion while on a patrol on March 9th.
The U.S. military has neither confirmed nor denied that the IED explosion reported by the villagers of Mokhoyan is the same incident that Staff Sergeant Bales mentioned to his attorney.
The villagers in Balandi and Alkozai claim that a group of U.S. soldiers committed the murders. The military insists that Staff Sergeant Bales was the only soldier involved.
Appears that the bodies may have been buried before autopsies could be performed to determine specific facts, such as,
(1) the time of death for each victim;
(2) whether more than weapon was involved;
(3) whether the fatal shot or shots were fired from close range;
(4) what was the trajectory of bullet or bullets;
(5) whether there were any exit wounds;
(6) whether there was any evidence (i.e., ligature marks) that the bodies were bound (e.g., wrists tied behind the back);
(7) whether there were any puncture or slashing type wounds consistent with the use of a sharp piercing or cutting instrument like a knife; and
(8) whether there was any evidence of physical torture prior to death.
We also do not know if the houses in which the murders took place were investigated as crime scenes. For example, were any slugs and casings recovered and, if so, how many weapons and what type were involved. Another question I have is whether any bloody fingerprints or footprints were found. (more…)
A powerful short film on vimeo from the director of the short film The Butterfly Circus, Joshua Weigel.
Do Not Read:
I Did It!
This essay is a personal account that was written by Jo Goodwin Parker. It was published in 1971. Here is an excerpt:
You ask me what is poverty? Listen to me. Here I am, dirty, smelly, and with no “proper” underwear on and with the stench of my rotting teeth near you. I will tell you. Listen to me. Listen without pity. I cannot use your pity. Listen with understanding. Put yourself in my dirty, worn out, ill-fitting shoes, and hear me.
Poverty is getting up every morning from a dirt- and illness-stained mattress. The sheets have long since been used for diapers. Poverty is living in a smell that never leaves. This is a smell of urine, sour milk, and spoiling food sometimes joined with the strong smell of long-cooked onions. Onions are cheap. If you have smelled this smell, you did not know how it came. It is the smell of the outdoor privy. It is the smell of young children who cannot walk the long dark way in the night. It is the smell of the mattresses where years of “accidents” have happened. It is the smell of the milk which has gone sour because the refrigerator long has not worked, and it costs money to get it fixed. It is the smell of rotting garbage. I could bury it, but where is the shovel? Shovels cost money.
I would like to thank the editors at Firedoglake.com/MyFDL for retrieving the code for the photo of the USS Lacerta.
1945: It Wasn’t Just The Poverty
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
- Mark Twain
There was a time in our history when everything changed. People did not know what to do. There were no classes on how to raise children. Everything in the world had vanished and no one knew what to replace it with.
There was a time when right and wrong all got changed, a time when the rules of war and the international laws all went up in the air and generals fought with one another about how to fight.
There were no rules, no guidelines, for the farmers, for the industrial workers or even for the newly rich. There were no norms. No one fit in anywhere.
Poverty was everywhere. But it wasn’t just the poverty. It was the confusion.
Prior to this and during the Great Depression, a man, a poor man, approached my grandfather, another poor man, at a farmers’ gathering. Radio was a recent invention. The man asked a question. It was not a question about finance. The man asked simply, “Can you help me understand the world?”
Family At Last: 1946-1949
by Letty Owings
With the USS Lacerta back from the Pacific, Ray’s discharge could only be a matter of when and where. His parents thought it would be neat if he reenlisted, but I did not consider that an option. I had waited quite long enough for us to begin life as a family. The Lacerta went all the way down the West Coast from Seattle, through the Panama Canal and up the East Coast to Norfolk, Virginia. Ray’s trip through the canal convinced him that someday we would do that together, which we did a few years ago.
Ray had one health issue he wanted to have taken care of before he left the Navy and that was tonsil removal. When he was a kid, some family doctor removed his tonsils in such a botch job that they grew back. Free surgery in Norfolk would delay him a few days. I was not about to wait. With June in my arms, I talked my brother into a drive to Kansas City to the train station. Again the family considered me impatient and foolish, but again their worries did not deter me.
Service people coming home from the Pacific and Europe jammed every train car. They were dead asleep in the aisles and even on the floor in the women’s restroom. Many of them were coming home to wives and new babies, so June became a star attraction. They looked at her and wondered what their own babies might be like. In Cincinnati, I left one train for another and had some time to wait. I lay down on a bench, dead from fatigue and holding June next to me. Next thing I knew a man was shaking me. He assumed I was between trains and that mine might be leaving the station. His assumption was correct, so eternally grateful to him for shaking me out of my deep sleep, I ran for the departing train.
Our meeting in Norfolk I remember little about except that spring was in the air in February, and June took her first steps reaching for daffodils in a park. For our return trip, Ray was able to get me on a service aircraft. Of that trip back to Missouri, I remember how miserably cold it was in Chicago where we were shifted here and there. Also I recall June crawling up and down the aisle in the small plane with service men holding her and playing with her. She was dirty as a pig when we arrived. Back in Kansas City I stayed with Ray’s Aunt Beulah and Uncle Alfred for a few days. June had not one stitch of clothes that were sanitary to wear, so we pinned Alfred’s undershirt on her. He was about a size 46, and she was a tiny size one.
Ray went through Great Lakes Naval Station to muster out. That is when our life as family began in earnest. He had only three years of college and needed to get back to the university forthwith. The problem was that so did thousands of other returning service men. Since the GI Bill provided some benefits, returnees who never considered higher education went to universities and colleges by the droves. We could not find a place in Columbia, so we rented a farmhouse in the country outside of Wellington. Ray took a job as principal and math teacher at a tiny high school in Henrietta, Missouri.
We bought an old pickup truck to get to and from. The house we rented had no indoor bath or anything that fancy, but we were glad to have it. We planted a garden and raised some chickens. Soon I was pregnant again and we felt even more of an urgency about Ray’s finishing his degree.
End Note: The woman sharing this excerpt of her story is my mother, Letty Owings.
The quote, “It wasn’t just the poverty. It was the confusion” belongs to her.
She emphasizes this clarification and identifies this theme as central to the Great Depression, the war, and the post-war eras. She believes that we are currently in a time of great confusion where the question “Can you help me understand the world” is appropriate.
Also seen on reddit.
By timbrauhn under creative commons on flickr.
There was a time, early in my dumpster diving and scavenging career when I clung to the notion that somehow, some way, I would have a lot of money, and things would be wonderful. By scavenging, I mean this in the truest sense. There was a Labor Ready close by, but the place was always packed, and if you were not a connected regular worker, days could pass without work and so, I looked for coins in the street. One coin leads to almost always another nearby. Fast-food drive through windows were the best places to search for breeding loose change.
My feet hurt all the time. There is no real place to sit in any given urban area. It can take all day to put a meal together because this place that has this thing for these few cents can be very far from that one. Sometimes I would sit, on a curb, to rest my feet and study people. Here is what one who fits into society puts into a shopping cart at the grocery.
Weekend shopping carts were the best to watch because people with lives could not only afford to eat, they could also afford to wash clothes. They had dishes and they could wash them. They rushed and rushed, all the time. Groceries, appointments, lessons, kids. Rush, rush, drive and park. Rush in and rush out. In and out the aisles, up and down the stairs, a non-push push here, a little shove there, rush, rush. Everyone had a phone and every call was as if it were the last phone call ever to be placed; everything was important to everyone.
I studied and studied: There is what one wears; Here is what one drives; Here is one who maintains a lawn; There is one who probably has made beds and not just mattresses. Everything matches. There is never, ever less than everything. Everything for the car, everything for the kid, everything matching and complete for everything. I’ll just bet, I would think to myself, that these are some underpants people. One clean pair for each day of the week, I’m certain of it.
I studied and studied, so that someday, when I had a life just like those people, I would be ready. I would know what to buy, and what to wear to buy it, and how to cut my hair and what toothpaste to use for the whitest teeth, what car to be seen in, what gym to be seen at, what detergent for the most gleaming clothes. I could drink with the shopping cart people someday because the ads everywhere assured me I could. Casually not checking the level in my glass, I could drink and be younger and thinner and sexier and funnier, because people who fit into society, of course, don’t have a half gallon of Popov vodka under the kitchen sink, and they are not sitting in a room, in a worn-out recliner, twisting the window shades open and shut just to make sure the passing public is not aware.
I studied and studied, so that someday, when I had a life, the only thing that I would ever be tired from would be my wonderful, lucrative job where I was admired and constantly promoted. I would go out to dinner; go to the park; attend important meetings where I would make important decisions; supervise people and projects, tell people that my schedule was too busy just now, could we do this say, next week; drink designer cups of coffee with all the right people in all the right places; plan more coffee time with more people.
I would have people in my life who would ask, so that I could tell them these things and make these plans.
During my studies, my curb was not always solitary. But it was always anonymous, which was absolutely perfect, because the non-distance distance allowed me to shock, comfort, and then leave the company of wanderering curb dwellers. I could say anything from So how much time did you do this last time, to Boy do I ever remember living on a plane all the time. I could blend. I had no idea how to blend in with the socially acceptable groups I studied, but this was minor. It would come with time, teeth, looks, youth, money, and a home packed with beautiful things and visited by gardeners and housekeepers.
On my curb, I was lower than some and higher than others, and a perfect judge of everyone.
The shopping cart underpants people were a blast to judge: I’ll just bet this one is sleeping with that one and lying about it to this other one and milking this from that one and cooking the books and showing up a little too late and a little too hung over. Well, they kind of made it easy to be supreme judge because they talked about themselves all the time and always loud because I was just a nobody on a curb, who would shut up for that? The lower people were no match for my curb-gavel, I mean, I’ve hit the skids, but at least I’m not walking around the park on the fourth of July asking complete strangers for money.
I did not know any of these people and I judged them all, every last one of them, from my curb courtroom. The court of last resort. I judged the cart people because I wanted to be the cart people. That way, other cart people would like me.
Today, I subsist on what people throw away. I do not have the wonderful job or the money or the possessions that I once wanted and thought I needed. I notice more because I am not in a hurry. For example, where where I live, right on the main road in the middle of town, in a grassy area, are some graves. You can drive by this a thousand times and never even come close to noticing them. I noticed the graves, because I am living and noticing and not just reacting to the latest crisis.
I do not judge people anymore. I am just fine, being who I am, and being poor. It is more than enough.
Written by Masoninblue and reblogged here with permission.
Ahem, and now back to our regularly scheduled program. That would be the law, in case you are keeping score. This article should be read in conjunction with my earlier article, Does A Seven-Year-Wait-Behind-Bars Violate The Sixth-Amendment Right To A Speedy Trial?
I practiced law in the State of Washington where a judge imposes the sentence in all criminal cases, except death penalty cases. In most cases, the sentencing occurs approximately 6 weeks after the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty by a jury. During the 6-week period, the Probation Office prepares a presentence report for the sentencing judge and the defense prepares for the sentencing by conducting a mini-mitigation investigation and arranging to have a defense expert evaluate the client, if there is a possible mental illness or impaired functioning issue due to an underlying alcohol, drug, or sexual deviance problem.
Federal court works the same way.
Death penalty cases are different because the jury that heard the evidence and convicted the defendant also sentences the defendant. Jury sentencing, in other words.
In death penalty cases, the courts proceed to sentencing within a day or two after receiving the guilty verdict, rather than recess the trial for six weeks pending the sentencing hearing. Therefore, the mitigation investigation must take place before the trial starts, which is putting the cart before the horse since a mitigation investigation must necessarily proceed from the assumption that the client is guilty.
Picture this: Very few people can afford to retain counsel in a death penalty case. Therefore, almost all death penalty lawyers are private counsel appointed by the court and paid at public expense, or they are public defenders. With few exceptions, clients charged with a death penalty offense figure that a court appointed lawyer or public defender is not a ‘real’ lawyer. Clients typically presume the lawyer is really working for the prosecutor and does not give a damn about them or their case.
Okay, let me now introduce you to Mr. Hyde. He is charged with 5 rape-murders and the prosecution is seeking the death penalty. He claims he is innocent and he is convinced that you are lower than pond-scum, unfit to sleep with the dogs, and you are going to sell him out. Greet him with your brightest smile and explain that you need some information from him to get your mitigation investigator started.
And, for God’s sake, don’t forget to duck.
Now that you understand the importance of delay . . .
Judges are concerned that it would be practically impossible to reassemble the jury following a long break after it returns a guilty verdict in a death case and they are not going to sequester jurors for six weeks with nothing to do in order to prevent them from seeing or reading anything about the case and to assure that they show-up for the sentencing hearing. That would be too expensive and impossible to police. They know that most jurors want to get on with their lives and would resent and be distracted while facing a decision to sentence a defendant to death or life without parole. Some jurors might even run away to avoid making the decision or sicken and die from stress-related causes. Sending the police out to find missing jurors would waste time and divert overstretched resources. In addition, judges know that proceeding with less than 12 jurors would raise issues about whether the defendant’s right to trial by jury was compromised. Meanwhile, retaining alternate jurors for the duration of the trial and a 6-week continuance for a sentencing hearing is impractical.
Prosecutors like to shorten the break ‘to strike while the iron is hot,’ so to speak. That is, while the jurors are still emotionally affected by the horror of the crime and more likely to vote for the death penalty. Theoretically, however, death-penalty verdicts should not be vengeance based, right? How is that for an understatement?
Defense counsel always want to lengthen the break as much as possible hoping that the delay will cool tempers and increase the possibility that the jury will return a verdict of life without parole. The more extreme members of our select fraternity and sorority of life savers, would prefer the sentencing hearing be continued for ten or more years, if not indefinitely. I include myself in that select category, just so you know where I am coming from.
In reality, we are lucky if we get more than 48 hours before we have to face a stern and hostile jury. You do not know what constitutes a tough sell until you try to convince a jury to spare your client’s life.
Death penalty trials take a long time. In the cases that I tried, for example, jury selection averaged 3 weeks (attorney conducted voir dire of prospective jurors individually out of the presence of the other prospective jurors) and the evidentiary portion of the guilt phase lasted from 6 weeks (my shortest) to 9 months (my longest).
In practice, because the client’s life is at stake, the mitigation investigation in a death-penalty case is far more extensive and intensive compared to the ordinary case.
I say ‘ordinary’ because there is no comparison to the intensity of a death penalty trial.
Mitigation investigation begins with collecting all available documents concerning your client, starting with medical reports regarding the mother’s pregnancy and your client’s birth. Then we want all medical, school, military, employment, and institutional records concerning the client.
After assembling all available records, we identify, locate, and interview every living person who had a significant relationship with the client and every person for whom he performed a favor or did something nice that he did not have to do.
We are looking for evidence of what we call “a hole in the head.” That is, evidence of an organic brain disorder or injury that impaired functioning and might have caused or contributed to the commission of the crime or crimes with which the client is charged.
We are also looking for evidence that the client might have been abused sexually, psychologically, or physically as a child. As you might well imagine, clients and families often would rather die than open up and talk about that sort of deeply personal, embarrassing, and humiliating information to strangers. We often find that they so deeply suppress or spin memories of abuse to excuse the abuser that it practically takes a miracle to break through the denial and get at the truth. And we have to dig for that information without planting false memories.
We search until we find something.
Because we honor and never judge our clients, no matter what they have done in their lives, and we do everything possible within the boundaries of the law to save their lives.
We call it God’s work.
And most of the time the money we are paid for doing this work does not even cover our expenses.
Cross posted at my law blog.