Archive for the ‘Schadenfreude’ Category

The Taste of Schadenfreude.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

From the Austin Chronicle‘s runoff endorsements for District 8:

In October, when we endorsed Scruggs, we noted his bulldog efforts to create a Demo­cratic outpost in Circle C, his attention to thorny issues like global warming and gun control, and his affable leadership style.

Ed Scruggs was also one of the people who lobbied the Travis County Commissioners not to renew the contract for gun shows at the Expo Center.

How did that work out for you, Ed?


Oooooooh. Not so well.

By way of Overlawyered, here’s an Orange County Register article on the Costa Mesa PI case, which I wrote about a few days ago.

I was not aware that the law firm had shut down; that’s a good first start, but nothing in the article indicates that any of the lawyers involved have been forced to surrender their licenses.

Even after the phony DUI report, as the union attempted to distance itself form its former law firm – Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir – and the P.I.’s records show that money continued to flow from the union to the law firm to investigators.
The affidavit shows that even after the union said it fired its law firm, after word of the DUI setup got out, the union continued to pay its elevated retainer rate of $4,500 per quarter to the firm as late as January 2013. Lanzillo and Impola were paid by the law firm through January, as well.

Another thing I’m curious about: why does the Costa Mesa Police Department continue to exist? At this point, given that the department is clearly out of control to the point where they’re threatening politicians, wouldn’t it be better to disband them, fire everyone, and let the county sheriff’s department patrol Costa Mesa until they can build a new department from the ground up?

(Of course, this being California, many of the crooked cops from Costa Mesa will probably end up with jobs in the sheriff’s department or other cities in the area.)

Be careful what you promise.

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a couple of weeks now, but have had trouble finding a way into it.

Earlier this century, some researchers working with Boston College came up with what became “The Belfast Project”. The idea was simple; do an oral history of the conflict in Northern Ireland by interviewing people on both sides of the conflict.

This was probably a worthwhile idea. But could you convince these people to talk? Sure, if you promised them that what they said would remain confidential until they died.

In the end, “The Belfast Project” interviewed 46 people; 26 former IRA members, and 20 former members of the UVF. Since they were promised confidentiality, many of them spoke freely. Perhaps a bit too freely.

Because BC apparently didn’t think through all of the legal implications. The United States has a “mutual legal assistance treaty” with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Law enforcement in UKOGBAI became aware of the existence of “The Belfast Project” and decided to subpoena some of the interviews. The US government, under the terms of the treaty, had to cooperate with the request. There was a long legal battle, which BC lost; they surrendered 11 interviews with former IRA members.

As a result of this, Gerry Adams, the former head of Sinn Féin, was arrested as part of the investigation into a 1972 murder. The last I heard, Adams was questioned and released, and so far has not been actually charged with the murder.

Of course, people are upset. Confidentiality was breached! And BC has promised to return the interviews to the participants.

That may be “too little, too late”. Because now the government of Northern Ireland is asking for everything: all the interviews in “The Belfast Project”.

I’m not a lawyer, but I wonder what BC’s chances are at this point. If they return the tapes and burn the transcripts now, after a subpoena has been filed, will they be destroying evidence? Could BC wind up facing obstruction of justice charges?

And it seems that there are a fair number of people, on and off the BC campus, who think BC did a crap job with the project:

“The question that is unanswered is, why was the process not followed with this project?” said Susan Michalczyk, assistant director of BC’s Arts and Sciences honors program and president of the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors. “There should have been direct faculty oversight. Academic freedom can only be maintained when people adhere to the policies that preserve ethical practices.”


Many faculty remain stunned that a project with so many potential ethical and legal pitfalls could be run with so little supervision. Given the risks involved, the project might never have moved forward if other scholars had been given a chance to weigh in, many said.

Random notes: April 14, 2014.

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Don’t forget: tomorrow is National Buy a Gun Day. I’m not sure I’ll be observing it on the 15th this year, but we’ll see how things go…

I see Lawrence’s killer paramedic, and raise: 77 arson fires in a Virgina county over five months. Serial arsons are kind of interesting on their own, but who did it and (allegedly) why, is the twist here.

In the past four days, the NYT has run two stories bemoaning the closing of J&R Music World. Just saying.


“There is a place for using apps and all kinds of technology to prepare for the holiday, but I would prefer to do that beforehand so that when you’re actually at the Seder you’re actually speaking to one another,” said Rabbi Daniel Nevins, the dean of the rabbinical school of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, which ordains rabbis in the Conservative movement.

I think Rabbi Nevins is on the mark with this. But:

The use of the electronic Haggadot comes just as Conservative rabbis are embroiled in a debate over whether to make e-readers permissible on the Sabbath. Rabbi Nevins wrote a paper last year saying that such devices violated the spirit of the Sabbath and the holidays, traditionally viewed as a sanctuary from the workaday world.

If it is okay to read books on the Sabbath, why is it not okay to use e-readers? (Please note: while I have a great admiration for the Jewish religion and people, I am not Jewish, nor am I a Torah scholar.)

Lawrence also suggested at dinner the other night that I do a comprehensive prison personæ for the city of Bell: basically, a quick reference guide to who’s been convicted of what, and how much time they’ll serve. I may do that in the next few days, but I want to hold off a bit: Robert “Ratso” Rizzo is supposed to be sentenced on his tax charges later today, and sentenced on the other charges related to his role as Bell city manager on Wednesday. I will update here once Rizzo’s sentences are announced.

By way of Popehat on the Twitter: NYC’s Brecht Forum is closing. No, this wasn’t a place where folks sat around and sang “Mack the Knife” and other songs: that would actually have been kind of cool.

The center’s mission, according to its website, is to “create, within existing society, a counter-hegemonic culture of working people and their allies, who are capable of challenging the capitalist agenda, prefiguring new ways of thinking and of self-organization, as well as creating new ways of relating to each other and nature.”
Figures like Noam Chomsky, William Greider, Lewis H. Lapham and Naomi Klein have spoken at events at the forum. Affiliated groups include the Institute for Popular Education, the Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory and the Strike Anywhere Theater Ensemble.

Yeah, Donnie, they’re Marxists.

“Rising Manhattan rents forced us to Brooklyn, but we have incurred debts and costs that are insurmountable,” the board members wrote, saying that they had decided to close the forum “with dignity” and the hope that “the larger project we all care so deeply about may survive in a different form.”

Awwwww. But where will they go now?

Plenty of serious discussion about politics and philosophy took place in the brick building on West Street, but the activists who gathered there had a lighter side, too, sometimes playing foosball or a Marxist version of Monopoly, called Class Struggle.

I was hoping to be able to provide an Amazon link for “Class Struggle”, just in case you have any children in your life that you hate. Sadly, it appears that “Class Struggle”, produced by Avalon Hill (!), is out of print and used copies are pricy. Here’s BoardGameGeek’s page.

Millions and millions of dollars.

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Sixty million dollars. At least, that’s the estimate according to the NYT:

Investors and executives with the Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” said on Tuesday that the show will have historic losses of up to $60 million when it closes on Jan. 4. The closing follows a sharp decline in ticket sales because of competition from hotter musicals and a lack of star attractions in the cast.


Several investors said they were reeling from the closing announcement, made on Monday night. Three said they have not been paid back anything during the three-year run of “Spider-Man,” which cost twice as much as any other Broadway show, and said they planned to write off their investments. While Broadway flops usually lose $5 million to $15 million, “Spider-Man” will lose far more, given the show’s record-setting $75 million capitalization; the enormous weekly costs of running this special effects-laden production; and its operating losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars a week this fall, as the box office faltered.


“We will see nothing back, not a cent,” said Terry Allen Kramer, a veteran Broadway producer who put about $1 million into “Spider-Man.” “A lot of us feel that it’s an extraordinary show with lousy music, but the main problem is that the budget numbers were a disaster — just a disaster.”

“an extraordinary show with lousy music”. I love that quote.

As the paper of record notes, the show cost somewhere between $1 million and $1.3 million a week to run; weekly grosses went below $1 million in August.

By the end of September, the musical was heavily discounting tickets and its weekly gross had fallen to $621,960.


And the show was also saddled with payments on multimillion-dollar priority loans from a crucial investor, Norton Herrick, and from the show’s lead producers, Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris. (Priority loans made by lead producers and others, and repayment schedules that favor them over regular investors, are standard on Broadway shows that need quick capital to deal with cost overruns.)

That’s…interesting. The producers got their loans repaid up front, and the regular investors will apparently get…nothing. (According to the NYT, those priority loans were at least partially repaid.)

Also: Gene Simmons is the Green Goblin!

Spider-Man, Spider-Man…

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

closing on Broadway in January.

While the musical emerged to become an audience favorite, grossing roughly $1.5 million a week in ticket sales for a time, “Spider-Man” eventually lost popularity. It grossed only $742,595 last week, or 48 percent of the maximum possible amount, with about three-quarters of its seats filled at the Foxwoods Theater.


While “Spider-Man” has grossed $203 million since performances began in November 2010, the musical is still a long way from paying back investors who contributed to the $75 million capitalization. Mr. Harris said he did not know how close “Spider-Man” was to recouping the money. But ticket sales sometimes barely covered the show’s weekly running costs, which exceeded $1 million, so there was relatively little profit to share with investors. Some loans also had to be paid back first.

But don’t worry: the producers are planning to move the show to Las Vegas.

In other news: “King Kong“, the musical?

Important safety tip (#18 in a series)

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

A while back, I suggested the words ‘f–king” and “b-tch”, along with the conjugate “f–king b-tch”, do not belong in a professional email.

To that list, I now suggest that the word “whore” be added.

Also: pay the writer! But that’s not really a “safety” tip…

You spin me right round baby right round…

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

The Astros have broken their team record, and are now at 108 losses.

The team is off tonight, and starts their final series against the Yankees on Friday. Remember, the Astros have to win 2 out of 3 in order to avoid 110 losses.

And by the way, the Yankees won’t be playing in the post-season. I note this here just because it will make this guy unhappy.

More schadenfreude!

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

I can’t help it. I’m enjoying this too much.

Anthony D. Weiner, the digital Lothario who called himself the “imperfect messenger” of the mayoral race, mustered a measly 5 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Eliot Spitzer, a former governor and noted patron of prostitutes, lost his comptroller bid to a journeyman politician whom he outspent two to one.

Hey, remember when folks were saying this was Weiner’s comeback?

“It turns out sexual misconduct is a fast track to a concession speech,” Sonia Ossorio, president of the local branch of the National Organization for Women, wrote in a triumphant note on Wednesday morning. “Voters will reject candidates who fail to treat women with respect and dignity.”

We can hope.

Other New Yorkers, who watched with dismay when Mark Sanford, the philandering former South Carolina governor, won a Congressional seat this year, seized on the primary results from Tuesday to indulge in a more time-honored city tradition: feeling superior to the rest of the country.

“time-honored city tradition”. There’s really nothing I can say here, is there?

Mr. Spitzer lost by a small margin, receiving nearly half of the votes cast, and about half of voters had a favorable impression of him, according to exit poll results. Mr. Weiner performed far worse, placing fifth in the primary, and about three of every four voters said they had an unfavorable view of him.

I wonder if this is a rejection of the nanny state exemplified by Bloomberg.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily that all of a sudden New Yorkers are these chaste moral beings that can’t deal with scandals,” Dr. Greer said. “The larger story is we were looking for a new day, a new day post-Bloomberg, post-drama, post-scandal and embarrassment for the city and state of New York.”

Note the paper of record’s use of “post-Bloomberg” there, too. Interesting.

(Edited to add: More on the “Bloomberg backlash” theme by way of Insta.)

Random notes: September 12, 2013.

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Two games in, and we have our first head coach firing of the college football season: Doug Williams is out at Grambling. The team lost the first two games of this season, and was 1-10 last season (0-9 in conference).

The Chicago City Council voted to do away with the city’s gun registry.

The change, which the Council made reluctantly, comes as Chicago is trying to control a rash of gun violence that drew national attention when the city’s homicide count surpassed 500 last year. The Chicago Police Department has cited gang activity and a flow of firearms from suburbs and from across the Indiana border into the city, which continues to pursue more aggressive gun restrictions.

Or, as Iowahawk once noted, Chicago blames their violence problem on other states…that don’t have a violence problem. (I can’t find his exact quote. By the way, Twitter’s search features stink.)

Criminal experts say the gun registry database in Chicago, which contains more than 8,000 gun owners and about 22,000 firearms, has helped the police better understand the movement of weapons in the city as they put in place new law enforcement strategies. Adam Collins, a spokesman for the Police Department, said in a statement that officers would be able to use a new online database of permit holders maintained by the Illinois State Police under the law.
“There’s no scenario where this makes the jobs of police easier,” said Jen Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, about having to repeal the registry.

Of course, because Chicago’s criminal class is composed of law-abiding permit holding individuals who register their illegally possessed guns.

Speaking of sad pandas:

While some voters in the two districts groused about the flood of donations Mr. Bloomberg and outside groups made in the recall campaigns, analysts in Colorado said the election results were shaped by an eruption of local discontent from voters who say their leaders are ignoring the concerns of gun owners and abandoning Colorado’s rural, libertarian roots.

Kind of interesting that the paper of record mentions Bloomberg specifically, and not the NRA.

Ms. Giron’s loss raised far more red flags for Democrats. She represented a district where registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by two to one, and she won her seat in 2010 by 10 percentage points. But on Tuesday, voters lined up against her, 56 percent to 44 percent.

Heh. Heh. Heh.

And among the many things Mexico needs: strict machete control.

Four men hacked a state legislator to death with machetes and wounded a journalist who was apparently talking to him on the side of a highway Wednesday in the western Mexico state of Michoacan.

Broadway watch.

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Hands on a Hardbody“, the Broadway musical, is closing this Saturday. The musical opened March 21st, and played 28 regular performances and 28 previews.

The total cost of mounting “Hands on a Hardbody” on Broadway has not been revealed, and the producers also did not say on Monday whether the show would close at a total loss to investors, which appears likely. The musical grossed only $240,040 for eight performances last week, or about 22 percent of the maximum possible amount — almost certainly not enough to cover its weekly running costs.


“Hands on a Hardbody” the movie.

“Hands on a Hardbody”: why they don’t do that any more.

Random notes: April 3, 2013.

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Some notes from the legal beat to get things started:

Javaris Crittenton is being charged with murder and “gang activity”. Crittenton is a former NBA player with the Lakers, Wizards, and Grizzlies. You may remember him as “that guy who got into a locker room altercation with Gilbert Arenas that ended with guns being pulled and a 38-game suspension”.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, Louis C. Taylor has been freed from prison. Mr. Taylor served 42 years before his release: he was convicted of starting a hotel fire in 1970, when he was 16, and sentenced to 28 life terms. However, it looks like the evidence used to convict Mr. Taylor was questionable, and (if I read the article correctly) the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence.

Mr. Taylor’s release offered him only a small measure of redemption. Under an agreement with prosecutors in Pima County, he entered a no-contest plea during an hourlong court hearing, which set aside his original conviction and gave him credit for the time he had spent behind bars. The arrangement means that he did not admit guilt, but because he did not contest the charges, he is effectively barred from suing anyone who had a role in his conviction.


Prosecutors, in filings and at Tuesday’s hearing, said they still believed Mr. Taylor was guilty, but chose to accept the agreement because they would not have been able to pursue a new trial. The evidence is too old and scarce, and there are not enough living witnesses, they said.

Of course they believe Mr. Taylor was guilty. God forbid they should admit someone served 42 years for what may not have even been a crime.

On Tuesday, [New York State Senator Malcolm A. Smith], Councilman [Daniel J.] Halloran and the Republican Party leaders were charged with wire fraud and bribery. The senator was also charged with extortion.

Senator Smith is accused of trying to bribe his way onto the ballot for the mayor’s race in New York City.

The complaint described envelopes of cash trading hands in Manhattan hotel rooms and restaurants, payments of thousands of dollars to persuade Republican leaders in New York to put Senator Smith, from Queens, on the Republican ballot in November. The bribes were to be paid to obtain certificates authorizing him to run for mayor as a Republican even though he was a registered Democrat.

Wait. What?

In case you were wondering, Robert “Ratso” Rizzo’s trial on corruption charges is scheduled for September. Ratso’s former assistant, Angela Spaccia, is asking for a separate trial.

From the department of things that suck: noted SF author Ian Banks is dying. Many of my friends, including Lawrence, are big Banks fans. I never got into his work, personally: the only Banks book I own is Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram, his non-fiction book about touring Scotland in search of single-malts. But I know that Banks was a hugely important SF writer, and this is just a damn shame.

Firing watch: Mike Rice out as basketball coach of Rutgers after video of him acting like an a–hole becomes public.

Oh, the things you learn…

Monday, April 1st, 2013

…reading the newspaper.

A couple of local idiots blew up their apartment last week, and now face “third-degree felony arson charges” to go with their third-degree burns. (I kid: apparently, their burns were only second-degree.)

How did they manage this? They were making BHO.

No, not “Barack Hussain Obama”, but “Butane Honey Oil”. I’d never heard of BHO before (not being a stoner), but the Statesman goes into an astounding level of detail about the process. Apparently, you put pot in a pipe with coffee filters at one end, screw a drilled cap on to the other end, and spray butane through it. The butane supposedly extracts the THC, and the butane/THC mix drips out through the coffee filter into a catch vessel (like a Pyrex pie plate). Then you can evaporate off the liquid butane, and viola!

What’s left is a concentrated oil, which can have a THC content of 40 percent or more, he said.

Back in the bad old days, when I was young, I would have had to do much more painful research to figure out the few details of the process that the Statesman left out. (Not that I was a stoner: I didn’t smoke then and I don’t smoke now.) Kids today have it easy: they can go watch idiots do it on YouTube.

(I got a kick out of the YouTube commenter who pointed out that that mask will do sweet FA for inhaled butane. I also got a kick out of the suggestions to use glass instead of PVC. Of course, if something does go wrong and these South Austin engineered rigs do explode in your hands, it won’t make any difference: the doctors will still have to dig fragments out of you.)

The Statesman does not detail, but I assume that something went wrong in the process of evaporating off the butane. Probably “didn’t do it outside, away from ignition sources like pilot lights”.

In related stories, “Using butane to extract THC from pot risky, experts say“. Gee, you think so?

This year, authorities said a man and a woman were critically injured in an Ocean Beach, Calif., motel room trying to extract hash oil from marijuana using butane when the man lit a cigarette, causing an explosion, according to the Los Angeles Times. It took 45 firefighters half an hour to get the fire under control, the newspaper reported.

Dude, I’m sorry. I don’t wish burns and hospital stays on anyone. But if you’re lighting a smoke while messing around with butane? Think of it as evolution in action.