Archive for the ‘Austin’ 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?

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.)

In case you were wondering…

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

The runoff election was today. The polls closed at 7 PM.

According to the Statesman, Mike Martinez called Not Mike Martinez at 7:15 to concede.

Also, in case you were wondering, Steve Adler was the only candidate who responded to my emailed question about Art Acevedo’s future. That’s why you haven’t seen any updates: because Martinez, Sheri Gallo, and Mandy Dealey couldn’t be arsed to answer.

Steve Adler.

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

We have our first response on the Art Acevedo question, from the Steve Adler campaign.

Since I didn’t state I would be publishing the replies here in my original email, I don’t feel comfortable doing so now. But I can summarize: as you might have guessed, it was the usual politician glurge.

  • The City Council doesn’t hire or fire the police chief, the city manager does. (Perhaps so, Steve, but if the city council says they want the chief gone, I’m pretty sure the city manager takes notice.)
  • Police officers need to be held accountable. (Also, apple pie and motherhood are good things.)
  • “…we need to work diligently to improvement relations between them and the public”.
  • Gratuitous Ferguson reference.
  • Steve Adler has spent much of his life fighting discrimination as a civil rights lawyer yadda yadda yadda.

Not very satisfying.

Random notes: December 9, 2014.

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

I’ve emailed the two candidates in my Austin council district and the two that are running for mayor, inquiring about their positions on Art Acevedo. So far, I have not received an answer from any of them.

As a Libertarian, I am generally opposed to foreign military intervention, absent a direct threat to the United States. I am not convinced that it is our job to impose democracy on foreign countries.

However, if we are going to overthrow a totalitarian regime and bring about democracy, can we start here?

Obit watch: Ernest Brace. He was a civilian pilot working for the CIA in Vietnam; in 1965 he was captured by the enemy and spent nearly eight years in North Vietnamese prisons. John McCain was in the cell next to him.

I sent this to Weer’d for the “Gun Death” files, but it seems worthy of note here: Japanese “Black Widow”.

According to the police and news media reports, Mr. Kakehi was just one of six outwardly healthy elderly men who died abruptly over the last eight years after marrying or starting romantic relationships with Ms. Kakehi.

Anyone want to guess what she didn’t use to (allegedly) kill these men? Anyone? Bueller?

Also among the dead: Nathaniel Branden, “writer Ayn Rand’s former devotee, lover and intellectual heir”. I know this is a few days old, but I’ve been waiting for an obituary to be published in a reputable source that I’m willing to link to. (Edited to add: NYT obit.)

Jonathan Yardley has retired from the WP. His last piece was published this past weekend.

I wanted to make note of his retirement here because I liked Yardley’s writing very much. In particular, he was responsible for one of my favorite things ever done by a book critic: “Second Reading”, where he went back and reconsidered books he’d previously read. And he wasn’t a snob: he’d go back and re-read a classic like “Gatsby”, but he also covered Hunter S. Thompson, John D. MacDonald, Josephine Tey, and Charles Willeford. There is a very good book, Second Reading, that collects about half of these columns; the other half are available in various places on the web, or you can search the WP website. (I think the Post’s tagging of Yardley’s columns is a bit inconsistent, though.)

God bless you, Mr. Yardley. May you enjoy your retirement. And if you’re reading this and happen to find someone whose work you enjoy as much as MacDonald’s, would you drop me a line?

We could fly a helicopter, nothing left to talk about.

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Hey, speaking of Chief Acevedo and the Austin Police Department, were you saying to yourself, “Self, I wonder if the APD got any of that sweet military surplus gear, like snow pants and snow shoes?”

The answer? $2,170,190.24 worth. Including a helicopter.

apd

Also, 13 “RIFLE,7.62 MILLIMETER”. Not that I’m complaining; I own one, so why shouldn’t the APD?

Also, this is just the Austin Police Department. The Austin Community College Police Department, which is a separate entity, got some stuff too. Nothing flashy, though. The Bastrop PD got $93,180.88 worth, including 10 “RIFLE,5.56 MILLIMETER”. The Buda PD numbers look a little odd: they are reported as getting 13 “RIFLE,5.56 MILLIMETER” with a total value of $1,560 (that’s $120 per rifle; you can’t even buy a Mosin-Nagant for $120 these days) and 3 “PISTOL,CALIBER .45,AUTOMATIC” valued at $176.13 (that’s $58.71 per; I’ll buy .45 automatic pistols at $58.71 all damn day. As long as they have a serviceable frame, I don’t care if they fire out of the box; they can be gunsmithed into working guns. It’d be a good learning experience.)

One more: the Lakeway PD got 30 of those “PISTOL,CALIBER .45,AUTOMATIC” (same price per as above) and two “RIFLE,7.62 MILLIMETER” ($138 per) for a total of $2,037.30.

And why does the Leander PD need a “MINE RESISTANT VEHICLE”?

If you’re wondering about your own municipal police department or other law enforcement agency, here’s the database I drew all this from (scroll to the bottom to search).

Hattip: Popehat on the Twitter.

(Subject line hattip.)

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

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Lawrence sent me a link this morning with the subject “Just go to town on this”. I see that several other folks have already.

Here’s the Statesman version:

Acevedo asked the public to be alert and to keep their eyes peeled for people who are known to be well armed and espouse extremist beliefs.
“And that’s why it’s important for us as Americans to know our neighbors, know our families — tell somebody,” he said. “If you know somebody that is acting with a lot of hatred towards any particular group — especially if it’s somebody you know is a gun enthusiast or is armed with these type of firearms and they’re showing any kind of propensity for hatred — it doesn’t mean we’re going to take them to jail, but we might want to vet these people.”

Mmmmmmmhmmmm. I could point out that anyone who purchases their firearm from a licensed dealer (roughly 80% to 90% of transactions) has already been “vetted”. I could point out that Larry Steven McQuilliams also set several fires, and that a plastic container of gasoline can be more devastating than any assault weapon. I could ask what Chief Art means by a “propensity for hatred”, or how many officers he’s going to assign to vetting people. (Here’s a hint, Chief: you’re probably going to want to start by vetting every single employee of Dell. That may be a slight exaggeration, but when I worked there, pretty much everyone in Enterprise Technical Support owned serious firepower of one sort or another.) Or I could just quote Greg Campbell:

Our civil rights are not to blame for violence and we should not feel compelled to inform on our neighbors like a modern day Stasi.

If I really felt mean, I’d point out that you’re probably in more danger from the Austin PD than any “extremist”, especially if you’re black.

But let me single out one thing I haven’t seen anybody else jump on:

And on Monday at the same press conference, he urged for people to consider supporting laws that would make illegal “straw purchasers” that help put guns into the hands of criminals.

Wow. Just…wow. Dear Chief Acevedo:

“Straw purchases” are already illegal, you fucking moron.

Perhaps if you bought your own ammunition, you would have seen one of these posters at your local gun shop. Or WalMart. Or Academy. Or maybe you could listen to NPR.

But apparently our chief does none of these things.

The city council runoff elections are a few days away. I’m going to make a point of asking the candidates in my district if they support keeping Chief Acevedo in his position. And I plan to vote appropriately.

Ripped from the police blotter.

Friday, November 28th, 2014

This is still a breaking news story, so details are sketchy. I note it here because…well, it is strange, and there may be some lessons to draw from it. Also, I’m not sure how much coverage it will get outside of Austin.

Early this morning (around 2 AM), somebody started driving around downtown Austin shooting at buildings. According to the Statesman, he shot at the Mexican consulate, the Federal courthouse, and APD headquarters.

He did not injure or kill anyone, as far as is currently known. The shooter was confronted at or near APD headquarters by the police and killed. There are rumors that he may have had an explosive device in his vehicle, and possibly one on his person, but these rumors are not confirmed.

Don’t know what to say about this, beyond: trouble can happen anywhere, and where and when you least expect it. I’ll add updates if I see anything substantial.

Edited to add: more from the HouChron, which claims “more than 100 rounds” were fired, and that the gunman tried to torch the Mexican Consulate.

I threw together a quick and dirty Google map, just to illustrate (for the benefit of my out of town readers) the locations in question.

Administrative and other notes: November 5, 2014.

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Happy Guy Fawkes Day. While you’re out and about, please remember poor Guido, the last man to enter the Houses of Parliament with honorable intentions.

It seems kind of fitting that that the holiday falls today. Beyond that, I don’t have much to say about the elections for reasons of time and inclination. Battleswarm is a good place to go if you’re looking for that.

I will be updating the contact pages on this site, but I’m going to wait until after the runoffs are over, everyone is sworn in, and they actually have pages to link to. If this does get past me for some reason, please yell at me until it gets done.

I’m going to avoid my usual “what China needs” snark here, because this is a little scary: Brittney Griner attacked in China by a man with a knife.

Griner sustained a small cut when she was attacked by a man while boarding a bus after practice Monday in Shenyang. The man, who followed the players onto the bus, also stabbed one of Griner’s teammates. She was wearing two jackets and wasn’t injured because the knife didn’t go through.

How did Peter Siebold (the other Virgin Galactic pilot) survive a bailout from 50,000 feet without a pressure suit? Bonus: quotes from Bob Hoover. The Bill Weaver story is also touched on briefly: a fuller account can be found here.

Things may be slow from Thursday until Monday. We will see.

You will know them by the company they keep.

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell (who is also a member of Criminal Mayors Conspiring to Infringe Your Rights) has declared today in Austin “Edwin Edwards Day”.

Yes, that Edwin Edwards, who for some reason came to Austin as part of his campaign for a Louisiana congressional seat. You may also remember him as the former governor of Louisiana who spent eight years in federal prison after being convicted of taking bribes.

What next? I would suggest Albert DeSalvo Day, but the Texas Legislature has been there and done that. Maybe Mayor Leffingwell would go for Lynette Fromme Day.

Tax-fattened hyena watch.

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) said Tuesday that he plans to resign from Congress this month to take a job with a Philadelphia-based law firm, a move he said is best for his family.

“a move he said is best for his family”. Is your Spidey-sense tingling yet?

A report released in 2012 detailed how in May 2011 Andrews initially used personal funds to pay roughly $16,500 for four business-class airplane tickets for himself, his wife and two daughters to attend a wedding in Scotland. Andrews later had the money refunded and paid for the tickets with funds from his leadership PAC and has generally denied any wrongdoing. The Office of Congressional Ethics report, which was released by the House Ethics Committee, said that Andrews “refused to provide requested documents” to investigators related to his travels and provided credit card statements only “after making significant redactions.”

Andrews also allegedly used “a graduation party for his daughter to raise campaign cash.” Both of these things are violations of Federal law, in addition to House ethics rules.

By way of Grits for Breakfast, here’s a mildly interesting story: Aaron Rosenberg is suing his former employer and claims to be cooperating in “an ongoing federal investigation” of same.

So? Mr. Rosenberg’s former employer is Redflex Traffic Systems, one of the companies behind red light cameras.

Aaron Rosenberg, who was the company’s top national salesman, said in a civil defamation claim against Redflex that he was made a “scapegoat” to cover up a long-standing practice of “providing government officials with lavish gifts and bribes” after the Tribune began asking questions about the Chicago contract.
Redflex fired Rosenberg and sued him for damages in Arizona court in February, largely blaming him for the company’s wrongdoing in Chicago. In a counterclaim filed in October, Rosenberg disclosed that he provided information to local and federal investigators as well as to the outside attorney who conducted a damaging private investigation of the company.

And more:

Rosenberg said that during his tenure Redflex “bestowed gifts and bribes on company officials in dozens of municipalities within, but not limited to the following states: California, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia.”

Texas, eh? Would you like to guess some of the cities in Texas that have Redflex contracts? You don’t have to: Grits lists a few of them at his site. And yes, Austin is one of them.

Random notes: July 24, 2013.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Man, this is a day for sad sports stories in the NYT.

George Sauer Jr. passed away in May.

He caught eight passes in the Jets’ upset victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. In six seasons with the Jets, Sauer caught 309 passes for 4,965 yards and 28 touchdowns. But after the 1970 season, when he was 27, George Sauer retired, criticizing a sport that he described as having a “chauvinistic authority,” “militaristic structure” and that he termed “inhumanly brutal.” He briefly returned to play with the New York Stars of the World Football League three years later, but after that, Sauer’s football days were over.

What makes this story interesting is that Sauer, according to people who knew him, was a really smart guy who may have never wanted to play football in the first place; what he really wanted to be was a writer.

On a slightly more upbeat note, there’s an interesting piece by Frank Bruni in the paper of record. Vetri, a very well regarded Italian restaurant in Philadelphia, transformed itself for three nights into Le Bec-Fin, a legendary restaurant that closed (temporarily?) in 2012.

I like the idea of recreating legendary restaurants for a few nights. I’m not sure what Austin restaurant I’d like to see do this; I think that needs some more consideration than I am currently able to give it.

And since this isn’t behind the paywall, i’ll link to it: the Austin Police Department has fired another officer. What did he do? Well…bad guy broke into someone’s home and stole their pickup and gun. Police chased the bad guy. Bad guy wrecked the truck, fled on foot, and broke into another house.

As police converged on the home, he began backing out of the garage in the homeowner’s car.
In a disciplinary memo, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said [Christopher] Allen [the fired officer – DB] fired four shots into the car’s window as it backed out of the driveway before chasing the car down the street on foot while firing an additional 10 shots, forcing other officers to take cover.

This has gone to the arbitrator:

According to the opinion, Allen acknowledged that he shouldn’t have fired all 14 shots but contended that he complied with the department’s deadly force policies because the suspect was an imminent threat to the public.

And the arbitrator said:

…that sustained violations of use of force policies have consistently resulted in termination, and that Allen should have been expected to avoid approaching the vehicle containing a possibly-armed suspect.
Though he said Allen seemed like a “thoroughly decent individual and dedicated police officer,” he decided there was no justification to overturn his termination.

I think the take-away here is: hit what you aim at. And always be sure of your target and what’s behind it:

The chief said Allen’s actions violated several departmental policies, including determining the objective reasonableness of force, and that he was a more of a threat to the public than the suspect.

Random notes: May 12, 2013.

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Remember Detective Louis Scarcella, aka one of the “likeable scamps” who put David Ranta away for 22 years?

The other shoe has dropped.

The [Brooklyn district attorney’s] office’s Conviction Integrity Unit will reopen every murder case that resulted in a guilty verdict after being investigated by Detective Louis Scarcella, a flashy officer who handled some of Brooklyn’s most notorious crimes during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

More:

The development comes after The New York Times examined a dozen cases involving Mr. Scarcella and found disturbing patterns, including the detective’s reliance on the same eyewitness, a crack-addicted prostitute, for multiple murder prosecutions [Emphasis added – DB] and his delivery of confessions from suspects who later said they had told him nothing. At the same time, defense lawyers, inmates and prisoner advocacy organizations have contacted the district attorney’s office to share their own suspicions about Mr. Scarcella.

And more. I don’t want to quote the entire article, but this is an important paragraph because it illustrates a key point: what you post on the Internet doesn’t disappear.

A prosecutor’s view of Ms. Gomez is available in an Internet posting on a cigar-smokers forum. Neil Ross, a former assistant district attorney who is now a Manhattan criminal court judge, prosecuted the two Hill cases. In a 2000 posting, he reminisced about a cigar he received from the “legendary detective” Louis Scarcella as they celebrated in a bar after the Hill conviction.

In the post, Mr. Ross said that the evidence backed up Ms. Gomez but acknowledged, “It was near folly to even think that anyone would believe Gomez about anything, let alone the fact that she witnessed the same guy kill two different people.”

Ms. Gomez is the crack addicted prostitute mentioned above. She’s dead now.

Have you ever wondered what it is like to manage a motel in the Rundberg/I-35 area? The Statesman has your answer.

(Note to my out-of-town readers: the Rundberg/I-35 corridor is notorious as a haven for drug dealing and prostitution.)

Austin politics note (readers who aren’t into Austin politics can skip this one):

We had an election yesterday. Specifically, we were asked to vote on bonds for the Austin Independent School District.

There were four bond proposals on the ballot, totaling $892 million. That’s right: AISD wanted to issue nearly one billion dollars worth of bonds.

This is one of the few times where I’ve actually seen organized opposition to a bond election in Austin. There were a lot of large “vote no” signs in yards and in front of businesses. Surprisingly, even the Statesman came out and opposed the bonds. (Our local alternative newspaper, the Austin Chronicle, endorsed the bonds. But the AusChron has never met a tax, a bond issue, or a government boondoggle they didn’t like.)

The end result: half the bonds passed, and half the bonds failed. This is kind of a “WTF?” moment: you’d figure the voting would go all one way or the other. Then again…

Proposition 2, which totaled $234 million, would have relieved overcrowded schools, which district officials said were among the most critical needs on campuses. The proposition contained three new schools and campus additions that district officials say are desperately needed. It also would have funded a 500-seat performing arts center at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, something critics called a luxury.

“a 500-seat performing arts center at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders”?!

Proposition 4 would have provided $168.6 million for academic programs, fine arts and athletics. That measure had several controversial proposals in it, most notably $20 million for renovations to the old Anderson High School to create an all-boys school.

Those are the propositions that failed.

Proposition 1, which passed by just a few hundred votes, will provide $140.6 million for health, environment, equipment and technology. The bulk of Proposition 1 will go to technology upgrades, including new computers and networks, and will pump money into energy conservation initiatives.

Proposition 3, the other one that passed, “provides money for renovations across the district”. Proposition 1 and 3 together total out to $489.6 million, and “will add $38.40 to the property tax bill for a $200,000 home.”