Totally random thought.

April 28th, 2016

Inspired by this:

Now that Prince is dead, he can get his own stamp. And given the way things are going with the Post Office and the Stamp Advisory Committee, it probably isn’t going to take ten years, either.

Of course, the Prince stamp will have to be a “4Ever” stamp.

Cop watch.

April 28th, 2016

Two quick notes:

Remember the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy who thought his gun was a taser and ended up killing a guy last April?

Guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

Followup to the latest Art Watch: I usually don’t link to Statesman editorials, but I’m making an exception in this case. This one contains Chief Acevedo’s response to the reprimand, and the “he did not find any violation of APD or city policy” memo from the city manager.

In other news, it seems at least some members of the city council are not pleased…with the city manager.

Council Member Don Zimmerman said it was that lack of transparency that has led to his growing desire for Ott to be fired.
“When the city manager notified us, he didn’t even bother to attach the same documents that were sent to the media,” Zimmerman said. “I call that secrecy.”

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#Y of a series)

April 26th, 2016

Remember my asking a while back, “Will we get to “Z” in the series?”

That question has suddenly become a lot more pertinent.

The Austin city manager has:

  • accused the chief of insubordination
  • fined him five days of pay
  • reprimanded him
  • and warned him that “he could be fired for future misconduct” (No!
    Really?)

What happened? You know that naked unarmed 17-year-old that got shot back in February? The city manager’s complaint basically amounts to: “I told you to shut up and stop talking to people about this, and you didn’t.” I apologize for the length of this quote, but I feel it is necessary to show the timeline of events that caused the city manager to lose his you-know-what:

Acevedo responded with a news conference Feb. 11 with representatives from several community groups, including Black Lives Matter — a decision that angered many officers and their union who thought the gathering showed Acevedo had already decided that Freeman erred.
Documents show that, several weeks later, Acevedo visited the department’s police training academy, where he again discussed the shooting.
That meeting prompted a formal complaint to Ott by the union, and Ott hired an outside investigator, Larry Watts, to look into whether Acevedo’s comments were inappropriate or showed a bias against Freeman.
Watts found Acevedo hadn’t violated any policies, but wrote that “while I do not find a policy violation, I do believe that the department and city of Austin would have been better served if he had refrained from discussing the Freeman case at that time.”
Soon after Acevedo’s visit to the academy, Ott met with Acevedo and, the city manager wrote, “I directed you to let the administrative investigation process proceed in its normal course; to cease meeting with groups, including APD officers and cadets, and talking about matters connected with the pending officer involved shooting investigation.” He also was told not to discuss the case with union President Ken Casaday, Ott wrote.
According to the memo, Acevedo proceeded to discuss the case with Casaday on March 3, and returned to the police academy March 4 to hold a mandatory meeting with cadets and training staff.

The Statesman goes on to say that, according to the city manager’s memo, he met with Chief Acevedo on April 12th, and “Acevedo agreed that his actions had been insubordinate.” However, the Statesman also quotes the chief:

“I respectfully differ with the city manager and Austin Police Association about my public remarks and response to the officer-involved shooting on February 8, 2016. I acted in the best interests of the City of Austin, Austin Police Department, and community after a tragic incident that cost a young life and ended a police officer’s career.
“While I disagree with the manager’s reprimand, I recognize his right to exercise that authority,” Acevedo said. “The manager and I have worked together for nearly nine years. Disagreements are inevitable. I look forward to putting this behind us and continuing a productive partnership.”

Some thoughts:

  • In case you were wondering, when the chief pulled out of the running for the San Antonio job, he got a five percent pay raise, plus an agreement to pay out “up to six months” of severance if he gets canned. The Stateman puts Chief Acevedo’s current pay at “about $206,086″ (about?), and claims five days of pay “would mean a loss of about $4,000″. I’m not sure where that number comes from: the paper doesn’t specify that $206,000 is yearly, but I feel it is safe to assume so. Divided by 365.25 (to account for that pesky leap year) I get $564.23 a day, or $2,821.16 for five days. Anybody want to double-check my math on that?
  • The Statesman also spells out some additional background: briefly, Acevedo was hired by a former city manager (Toby Futrell) and the claim is that there’s been a simmering ongoing conflict between the chief and the current city manager (Marc Ott).
  • The documents show publicly for the first time dissatisfaction among some in city management for an official who has been arguably the most visible in local government since arriving in Austin in 2007.” On the one hand, in my experience so far with the Citizen’s Police Academy, the rank-and-file seem to love the guy. Yes, they could be blowing smoke up my you-know-what. And I suppose they wouldn’t pick people to come down and present if they knew somebody was going to publicly say, “Chief’s an a–hole.” But the feelings I’ve heard expressed seem heartfelt and genuine: the chief has made the department more professional, more accountable to the city, better equipped, and more transparent. Many people in high law enforcement positions (from what we’ve been told) look to APD as a national model, and are actually calling the chief daily looking for advice.
  • On the other hand, I’m sure there are at least some officers who are disgruntled by the disciplinary action taken as a result of the shooting. I’d like to express an opinion on that myself, but I’m still turning over some issues related to the use of force in my own mind. The question I’m wondering about is: if Acevedo is fired, how does the rank-and-file react? Also, what does this mean for recruiting in an already understaffed department?
  • I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not sure how the city government works in the case. Does the city manager have the absolute authority to fire the chief? Or does the council have to agree? And if the city council has to agree; give the current composition of the council, would they? How would the votes break down?
  • Finally, if the chief does go, I’m worried about me, Al Franken the future of the Citizen’s Police Academy, and of quite a few of the folks I’ve met through it. I’m hoping things don’t come to that. At least, not before May 19th, when we graduate.

Not so great Scott.

April 25th, 2016

Byron Scott out as coach of the Lakers.

17-65 this season, 38-126 overall in two years with the Lakers.

Scott, whose 454-647 career record stands more games under .500 than that of any other veteran coach in NBA history, finished last in his division in each of his past five seasons as an NBA head coach. He has also coached the Nets, New Orleans Hornets and Cavaliers. He led the Nets to two NBA Finals in his first head-coaching job, and he won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award with the Hornets in 2008.

Obit watch: April 22, 2016.

April 22nd, 2016

Your Prince obit round-up: NYT. Star-Tribune. LAT coverage. WP.

“Poor Lonely Computer: Prince’s Misunderstood Relationship With The Internet” from NPR.

I feel much the same way about Prince as I did about Bowie. I wouldn’t call myself a fan, I never saw him live, but thinking back on it, he turned out a lot of music I like. “1999”. “Little Red Corvette”. “When Doves Cry”. “Let’s Go Crazy”. And every now and then, I’ve been known to spontaneously start singing “She wore a raspberry beret, the kind you find in a second-hand store…” much to the annoyance of my cow-orkers.

And I didn’t realize it until yesterday, but he actually wrote “Manic Monday”.

Also among the dead, according to the A/V Club: Richard Lyons, co-founder of Negativland.

Art, damn it, art! watch (#51 in a series)

April 21st, 2016

And speaking of Damien Hirst:

“One of Hirst’s main subjects is the setting-up of giant fish tanks filled by thousands of liters of FA, in which intact biological specimens are immersed, such as zebras, cows, calves, even sharks,” the abstract of the article said, referring to formaldehyde fumes. “It has been found that the tanks are surrounded by FA fumes, constantly exuded in the atmosphere (likely via the sealant), reaching levels of 5 ppm, one order of magnitude higher than the 0.5 ppm limit set up by legislation.”

In other words, some people are concerned that a tank full of formaldehyde with a dead shark in it may be leaking formaldehyde fumes. Shocked, shocked I am.

The museum also provided a statement from Pier Giorgio Righetti, a professor at Politecnico di Milano university in Italy and an author of the paper, saying that the research “was intended to test the uses of a new sensor for measuring formaldehyde fumes, and we do not believe that our findings suggest any risk for visitors at Tate Modern.”

I was working when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray…

April 21st, 2016

Prince is dead.

The A/V Club is on this like flies over a cow’s head in a Damien Hirst installation.

Full obit roundup tomorrow for two reasons: I want to wait for the dust to settle, and I need that long to figure out how to put this:

into a blog post.

Worthy of note II.

April 21st, 2016

Five former New Orleans police officers were pleading guilty Wednesday (April 20) in federal court to their role in the post-Katrina shooting of civilians on the Danziger Bridge and subsequent cover-up, a move that would wrap one the most notorious prosecutions of police brutality in the storm’s aftermath.

Here’s the sentence each officer would face under the proposed plea deals presented Wednesday, followed by their previous sentence:
Kenneth Bowen, 10 years, previously 40 years.
Robert Faulcon Jr., 12 years, previously 65 years.
Robert Gisevius, 10 years, previously 40 years.
Anthony Villavaso, 7 years, previously 38 years.
Arthur Kaufman, who was involved in the cover-up but not the shooting, 3 years in prison, previously 6 years.

(Previously. Those convictions were later thrown out due to misconduct by the prosecution.)

(See also.)

They’re Masons, Donny.

April 19th, 2016

Remember the Masonic Fraternal Police Department? Wasn’t that a couple of days wonder?

Latest developments: charges against one of the defendants, Brandon Kiel, have been completely dropped.

And a second defendant, David Inkk Henry, who was apparently the “chief”, died suddenly.

Obit watch: April 18, 2016.

April 18th, 2016

Richard Ransom, founder of Hickory Farms.

Mr. Ransom sold Hickory Farms for $41 million in 1980 to the General Host Corporation of Connecticut. Analysts thought the price was steep and attributed it to Hickory Farms’ shrewd marketing. The company has since changed hands more than once and has shifted to catalog sales.

Now I’m nostalgic: I remember the Hickory Farms stores in the malls when I was a child, and going in to scam some free samples. These days, I have to get my free samples of meat and cheese at the gun show…

By way of Popehat (which also calls him “the meanest sonofabitch who ever wore the black robe”), the WP obit for Joe Freeman Britt, whose passing we noted previously.

The WP obit fills in some context:

A 1983 study by an organization investigating justice in rural America found that Mr. Britt’s near-total control of the court system in Robeson and Scotland counties led to “a widespread and serious denial of [the] rights” of poor defendants.
Bails were set unreasonably high, the study found, and the court calendar — set by Mr. Britt — often forced defendants to wait for weeks before their cases were heard. Minority defendants were prosecuted at higher rates, and many were improperly told that they would have to repay the state if they asked for a court-appointed lawyer.

“Because I ain’t killed nobody,” McCollum said. “I want to tell you something, Joe Freeman — God got your judgment right in hell waiting for you.”
McCollum and Brown served more than 30 years in prison — including years on death row — before they were exonerated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. A cigarette found at the scene of the crime contained DNA from the man who had been convicted for the other nearby killing while the brothers were jailed.

Karl!

April 15th, 2016

Not Llamas with Hats, but coaches without teams.

George Karl out as head coach of the Sacramento Kings. Sacramento was 33-49 this season.

Randy Wittman out as head coach of the Washington Wizards. The Wizards went 41-41 for the season, and Wittman was 178-199 during his tenure (4 1/2 seasons, per ESPN.)

Neither team made the playoffs.

This brought a much needed smile to my face.

April 14th, 2016

Classic Programmer Paintings.

Some of my personal favorites.

(Hattip: Morlock Publishing on the Twitter.)