Obit watch: April 28, 2017.

April 28th, 2017

When I was young, there were giants in the earth.

One of them, Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, died this morning.

His characteristic nickname dated back to his days as a running back on the football team at then-Reagan High School in Houston. He never ran straight down the field, but zigzagged in a way his coach described as running like a racehorse. Haynes embraced the nickname. He had business cards made with a horse’s head on it, Tritico said.

He was one of the greatest criminal defense lawyers ever. He represented John Hill in his first and only murder trial. (And the Chron is wrong: the case ended in a mistrial, not a hung jury.)

Later, Haynes represented Cullen Davis, the first billionaire indicted for murder in the U.S., and Pam Fielder, who was accused of killing her abusive husband. Haynes’ defense on the Fielder case is now embodied in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, giving women the right to defend themselves against abusers, said Tritico.

Tribute from Murry Newman.

If you didn’t know who he was when you saw him, you would never guess that you were in the presence of a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima, or Texas’ most famous trial lawyer.

Knee deep in the schadenfreude.

April 28th, 2017

I should have worn waders today.

(Fun fact: “Knee Deep In the Schadenfreude” was Starship’s working title for “We Built This City”.)

Local elections are coming up. I’m not sure what’s on the ballot for Austin specifically and Travis County in general. But in Lakeway, where I’ve been spending a lot of my time, three city council seats are up. Also, the city is considering a proposition to issue $23 million worth of bonds so they can build a new police station.

The new cop shop is kind of a big deal. I haven’t heard a lot of opposition to it, but most of the people I’ve been around in Lakeway are police or police supporters. I’ve been down and toured the current police station, and it is small and cramped and crowded: there’s no room to grow. On the other hand, the figures I cam up with for a certain property owner I know came out to around %6 a month more in property taxes. This is someone who is on a fixed income: six dollars here, six collars there, pretty soon you’re talking about City of Austin property taxes.

Reasonable people can differ on the merits of the proposition and the candidates. But here’s the problem: Lakeway’s mayor, Joe Bain, who is active on NextDoor (and has a blog on the city website) decided he’d be smart.

“John Smart” on NextDoor, to be exact.

Posts made under the name “John Smart” included advocating that residents vote for incumbent City Council candidates Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa.

“Vote for Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa – they actually volunteered for the City and worked hard to make it better, unlike the other candidate that hasn’t attended a council meeting for a long time nor has every [sic] done any work to try to improve the city – no committees, commissions or any other volunteer work,” a post by John Smart reads.

The mayor has confessed and deleted the account.

Bain confirmed by phone Thursday evening that he was behind the “John Smart” account, adding, “The city really doesn’t have anything [to do] with this … there are reasons behind all this.”

I’m not currently on NextDoor, but looking over their rules, Mayor Bain’s behavior is a pretty clear violation. I had thought that NextDoor actually did some validation on signups to make sure you were a real person and lived in the place you signed up for. (I know, I know, silly me: expecting a website on the Internet to do validation.) The one person I’ve heard from so far who is on NextDoor says they didn’t go through any validation process, but they used an invite code provided by their local neighborhood association. Maybe that bypasses the validation?

The first question this leads to is: how did he get a fake NextDoor account? Was someone else…helping him out?

The second question: how is this going to impact the election? Early voting started Monday. I can’t vote in Lakeway, but if I could, I’d be looking cynically at Mayor Bain’s endorsed candidates. Perhaps it is time for some new leadership? (I’d also be thinking about my support for the new cop shop. But honestly, I’d probably end up voting for it anyway.)

As a connoisseur of disaster…

April 28th, 2017

…I am enjoying reading about Fyre Festival so, so much.

It’s the feral dogs that really make a good music festival.

That reminds me. (adds Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus to his Amazon wish list.)

William N. Finley IV’s Twitter feed: Finley was boots on the ground at Fyre Festival and is quoted in many pf the stories I’ve seen.

Questions, so many questions: could Ja Rule and Kendall Jenner be prosecuted for fraud? Would this have been a justified use of a MOAB? And is it true that United Airlines was an official Fyre Festival sponsor?

Obit watch: April 27, 2017.

April 27th, 2017

Jonathan Demme passed away yesterday. Which is a damn shame, because I wanted to ask him why he thought it was a good idea to remake “Charade” and “The Manchurian Candidate”.

But I suppose I have to give him a pass for those. “The Silence of the Lambs” is a faithful adaptation of the book, and a great movie it its own right.

And not that he ever needed it, but he would have earned a lifetime pass from me for “Stop Making Sense”.

Come to think of it, “Swimming To Cambodia” was a swell movie, too.

And I actually saw “Swing Shift” when it was in theaters, but I was unaware of the whole editing controversy, and really don’t remember the movie well at this distance. It might be worth a re-watch, but I think I want to see “Melvin and Howard” and “Handle With Care”/”Citizens Band” first.

Random gun and cop crankery, some filler.

April 26th, 2017

Easter Sunday, a group of us went shooting at the KR Training range. Because what better way is there to celebrate the resurrection of Christ than to shoot off guns? Hey, didn’t the man say “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one?”

(Also: KR Training, official firearms trainer of Whipped Cream Difficulties.)

While we were out there, the actor we’ve hired to play Karl mentioned that you can get AR pattern lowers (and uppers) in pistol calibers…that take Glock magazines. Here’s an example. (Not endorsed by WCD: I have no experience with the company or product.) Since most folks who are serious Glock users have a bunch of magazines around, this is an attractive idea. Even more so when you know that you can get magazine extensions for those standard Glock magazines and load up even more rounds.

My mind immediately went in a particular direction, but I’m going to come at it from the long way around. Because that’s just the kind of hairball I am. Let’s start with the question: what calibers do Glocks come in?

I can almost visualize a .380 ACP Glock AR carbine (or an AR pistol). The vision I have of it in my head is that it would be a kind of cute plinking gun…that shoots relatively expensive ammo and doesn’t have a fun switch. It reminds me of the old MAC-11, but even less useful. (Though the AR platform carbine would perhaps be more reliable.)

9mm seems to be where the AR/Glock action is, and for good reason: 9mm ARs are fairly popular in various places, 9mm ammo is relatively cheap, and this seems like a very practical pistol caliber carbine. Perhaps even more so if you pay for the tax stamp and make it a short-barreled rife. I think a lot of folks are looking at these, even without the SBR tax stamp, as good home defense weapons: easier to handle, point, and shoot than a pistol, without the possible over penetration issues of 5.56.

You could make the same argument for .40 S&W, except that the ammo isn’t as cheap as 9mm. and I don’t think it has the same following that the 9mm carbine has in the tactical community.

.45 ACP could be an interesting build. I don’t see a lot of tactical operators talking about operating tactically with .45 ACP carbines. But I don’t hang out with a lot of tactical operators, either. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

.45 GAP? Well, that’d be weird. The Winchester ballistics calculator on my phone says that .45 GAP will drop a little less and have slightly more velocity at 50 yards. But my impression is that .45 GAP is a dying caliber (even though Glock still chambers guns in it) and is maybe a little more expensive than .45 ACP by a few dollars a box for comparable ammo. However, I haven’t shot or bought .45 GAP, so don’t take that as gospel truth. Check prices at your local dealer or online ammo vendor.

.357 SIG? Ah. That’s the first place my mind went. I remember .357 SIG being touted as having a flatter trajectory than the .357 Magnum, but the same punch at range, higher capacity, and the ability to actually feed it in auto pistols. That same Winchester calculator (which only goes out to 50 yards on the iPhone) does show slightly less drop and a slightly lower velocity for the .357 SIG at 50 yards. If I can find a better calculator, I’d love to run numbers out to 100 yards.

Apparently, I’m not the only person who has this thought. there’s an interesting discussion over at Better and Better where Matt G mentions much the same idea (and also responds to a question from your humble blogger about the current role of the police shotgun).

And finally: 10mm? Why not? I like this idea, too. It reminds me of Jeff Cooper’s “Thumper”. I could see a SBR version of this working perhaps as a compact police carbine, but more so in Cooper’s original conception: a personal defense weapon for tank crews and other people who need something they can carry and deploy in tight quarters. I think I’d pick a 9mm or .357 SIG version for my daily use. But if I was in an appropriate military position, I’d build up a few 10mm ARs for experimental purposes in the sandbox.

More crankery after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Of airlines and men.

April 26th, 2017

I have no joke here. I just wanted to say:

Tell us about the rabbits, United!

(United Airlines: the Lennie of aviation.)

New York, New York, it’s a hell of a town…

April 25th, 2017

..the cops are crooks and the gun dealers are too. The mimes are food for the bums underground! New York, New York!

(Sorry, had to shoehorn that in somewhere.)

Anyway, more indictments in the NYC bribes for gun licenses scandal. NYT version here, but I prefer the NYPost version Mike the Musicologist sent me.

Paul Dean and Robert Espinel, worked in the NYPD’s Licensing Division before retiring, and allegedly approved permits for kickbacks including cash “food, alcohol, parties, dancers and prostitutes” from gun expediters, the newly unsealed complaint says.

So, wait. The cops were being bribed with hookers? Because I’m thinking, if I’m a crooked cop, I can just go out, flash my badge, and get my own hookers. But maybe there’s less risk of an IA investigation if you let someone else procure the hookers for you. Trade offs.

Dunn and Espinel…

…allegedly accepted bribes and kickbacks from gun expediters, including Gaetano “Guy” Valastro, 58, a retired detective who owns firearms store Valastro International Tactical Academy in Queens and is also charged in the scandal.

Should I feel bad for Valastro? On the one hand, he’s a party to a massive scheme to shake down citizens for exercising their rights. On the other hand, he’s trying to run a gun store in Queens: can you blame him if he felt like he had to go along to get along? On the gripping hand, he’s a retired cop who decided to run a gun store in Queens, instead of someplace in free America.

In a separate complaint, also unsealed Tuesday, a fourth man, John Chambers — the former prosecutor who calls himself the “Top Firearms Licensing Attorney in New York” on his website touting his legal services — allegedly bribed NYPD Sgt. David Villanueva, 43, with Broadway shows, tickets to sports game and an $8,000 Paul Picot watch to expedite gun licenses, sometimes as quickly as a day.

Here’s that website for you. Note the URL. I wonder how much that cost him.

(Also: someone please tell me the “Broadway shows” Villanueva got tickets for included “Hamilton”.)

Have to go back to work now. Will update later if I see any more revolting developments.

Obit watch: April 25, 2017.

April 25th, 2017

Damn it all to hell and Hong Kong.

Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, passed away yesterday.

I’ve written before, but sort of in passing, about Zen. It was a huge influence on me as a young man, and continues to be an influence on me today.

NYT obit for Kate O’Beirne.

Jesus, Joseph. and Mary.

April 24th, 2017

I really feel sorry for this poor kid and his family, which is why I’m avoiding cheap jokes and political agitation.

A suburban Chicago college student who was killed during a track and field meet was struck by an errantly thrown hammer while standing near the field during warm-ups, authorities said Monday.

I did get to wondering how many other people have been killed in track and field events over the years. Wikipedia does not have a list, but this article claims “25 reported cases of people being struck by thrown objects in high school track and field from 1992 to 2012”, resaulting in four deaths. Not included in that figure is the December 2014 death that prompted the article. I’m not clear if that figure includes the 2012 death of a German offical who was hit by a javelin, or if those figures are US only. I also turned up a 2013 report (which I won’t link to, because it is from the Daily Fail) of a Houston high school athlete who was killed by a discus. (Oddly, it aparently hit him in the hip, not the head, and he died of unspeciied complications about a week later.) I assume this 1997 report is included in the stats above.

Tomorrow is promised to nobody, so keep your eyes open.

Obit watch: April 24, 2017.

April 24th, 2017

Erin Moran, for the historical record. I’m not linking to the AV Club obit because it’s ugly and below their usual standards.

Albert Freedman died a few weeks ago, though the NYT didn’t report his death until Saturday.

Mr. Freedman was a television producer in the 1950s. He specialized in televised game shows: the most famous of the shows he produced was “Twenty-One”.

And now you see where I was going with this, don’t you? Yes: Mr. Freedman was the person who recruited Charles Van Doren and fed him answers so he could defeat Herbert Stempel, leading to the “Quiz Show” scandal.

(I kind of knew in the back of my mind that Charles Van Doren was still alive: I remember when that New Yorker essay was published, though I don’t think I read all of it. What I didn’t know until I looked it up: according to Wikipedia, Herbert Stempel is also still alive.)

Kate O’Beirne, National Review writer and editor. Lawrence sent this to me: I’m not a regular NR reader, but their obit makes her sound like someone I’d enjoy having a holiday dinner with if I didn’t have anywhere else to go.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#39 in a series)

April 20th, 2017

Sherry Cook is retiring May 23rd.

Ms. Cook, if you didn’t know, was the executive director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the agency that enforces the state’s liquor laws. (And yes, I recognize the…irony?…in having someone named “Sherry” in that role. Onward!) She’s been in that post since 2012.

Why retire now?

The decision comes a month after the Texas Tribune reported that Cook and other agency employees spent thousands of dollars in taxpayer money for trips to resorts in Florida and Hawaii, among other places, for meetings hosted by the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, an industry trade group.

But the thing that seems to have really upset people?

Cook was grilled last week during a House General Investigating and Ethics Committee hearing about, among other things, a flyer that depicted Cook and other top agency officials holding or drinking Lone Star Beer as they rode on a plane on their way to a liquor administrators conference.
According to the Tribune, Cook told lawmakers that the flyer was an “inappropriate use of our time” and agreed it was a misuse of state resources to exchange emails about creating it.

You get the feeling that this would have kept on, if she hadn’t rubbed her travel in the faces of her employees? Seems like an important safety tip or two: if you’ve got to go to conferences, make them someplace not exotic, like Buffalo in January. Or if you do have to go somewhere exotic, complain the whole time. Don’t make up a flyer with shiny happy beer drinking people on a plane to Cali.

Reacting to the announcement, Gov. Greg Abbott said in a tweet: “It’s time to clean house from regulators not spending taxpayer money wisely. This is a good start.”

Obit watch: April 19, 2017.

April 19th, 2017

Kevin O’Brien, who blogged under the pseudonym “Hognose” at WeaponsMan, passed away yesterday.

I wasn’t a personal friend of Hognose, and I was a relative newcomer to his blog. I think I found it by way of a link from Tam last year. But this is a huge loss to the gun blogging community.

Hognose was an ex-Special Forces guy (the obit linked above goes into more detail on his service) who wrote a great deal…and I could stop there, because he often turned out three or more posts a day. Substantial posts, too, not stuff that was quickly tossed off.

And he wrote on a wide variety of topics. He wrote a lot about historic and contemporary military weaponry, drawing from his SF background. He also covered military history, contemporary military leadership, and politics (mostly as it related to the military).

He was interested in historical arms in general, but especially obscure Czechoslovakian arms (military and sporting) and was working on a book about Czech guns. He wrote a great deal about the problems with the VA system. He covered defensive shootings (and sort of picked up the “When Guns Are Outlawed…” mantle from Weer’d). Hognose and his brother were building their own plane; hr wrote quite a bit about the build process, and some about aviation in general. He was on Kathleen Kane like a fat man on a Chinese buffet.

The list goes on. He was eclectic. And if he said something, he was good about backing it up with sources.

Nice tribute from Tam.

My hope is that his family leaves the blog up, or at least makes the content available for download. We are already diminished by the loss of Hognose as a blogger; it would be worse if the valuable information he provided over the last five years was irrevocably lost as well.