Archive for the ‘California Über Alles’ Category

Obit watch: September 9, 2017.

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

Dr. Jerry Pournelle, noted SF writer and longtime computer columnist for Byte magazine back in the day.

Official website. Lawrence. Borepatch.

I don’t have a lot to add here. I never met Dr. Pournelle, and I don’t think I’ve read any of his solo SF. I’m spotty on his collaborations with Larry Niven, though the ones I have read I think are better than Niven’s solo work.

I enjoyed his Byte column, though at the time some of his recurring tropes did kind of grate on my nerves. (See also: Gregg Easterbroook.)

(For the younger set, and/or those who may not know: the Internet Archive has a large digital collection of Byte.)

I’m very fond of Oath of Fealty. And I believe Lucifer’s Hammer has been a huge influence on a lot of people (including me, somewhat),

The only other thing I have to say is: I’m ordering a copy of The Survival of Freedom, as my personal tribute to the good doctor.

Also among the dead: Don Williams, noted country musician.

Troy Gentry, also a country musician with Montgomery Gentry, was killed in a helicopter crash yesterday.

And finally, Rick Stevens, not a country musician, but a funk-soul one. He sang with the group Tower of Power, and did the lead vocal on “You’re Still a Young Man” from the 1972 album “Bump City”.

Then he got into heroin and other drugs. Over about a two-day period in 1976, he killed three men. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but California declared the death penalty unconstitutional and he was resentenced to life. He was paroled in 2012 and started working again.

In January 2013 his old band brought him onstage at the Oakland club Yoshi’s to sing his signature song.
“When he got back onstage with Tower of Power for the first time in 40 years,” Mr. Maloney said, “he felt like he was levitating. That’s what he told me.”

While he was in prison, he became a Christian. He also did counseling and mentoring for other inmates, and formed prison bands.

He remained remorseful for the deadly events of 1976, which he said occurred during a time in his life when he was going from one drug high to another and not thinking clearly — “a jackass in a jumpsuit,” he would describe himself years later. When he began performing again after his release from prison he was realistic about his past.
“I know a lot of people won’t forget,” he said in a 2013 interview. “I won’t forget.”

Not exactly an obit, but:

Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted along with other members of Charles Manson’s cult in the 1969 killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, was granted parole Wednesday by a panel of state commissioners in Chino.

Her parole still has to be approved by the governor. Jerry Brown rejected her bid for parole last year.

Hookers and meth watch.

Monday, July 17th, 2017

By way of Popehat’s Twitter feed: wow, just wow.

The former dean of the USC medical school liked to party. And by “party”, I mean “take GHB, ecstasy, meth, and ghu knows what all else”.

During his tenure as dean, Puliafito kept company with a circle of criminals and drug users who said he used methamphetamine and other drugs with them, a Los Angeles Times investigation found.
Puliafito, 66, and these much younger acquaintances captured their exploits in photos and videos. The Times reviewed dozens of the images.
Shot in 2015 and 2016, they show Puliafito and the others partying in hotel rooms, cars, apartments and the dean’s office at USC.

He’s also a highly respected eye surgeon.

Puliafito resigned his $1.1-million-a-year post in March 2016, in the middle of the spring term, saying he wanted to explore outside opportunities.

His resignation came three weeks after the hooker ODed in their shared hotel room. And then there’s the curious case of the police report that was filed three months after the incident. But you’ll have to read the LAT article for the rest of the story…

Flaming hyenas watch.

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

The LAT has gotten really obnoxious about viewing articles on their site with ad-blockers enabled (or disabled) so I haven’t been keeping up as well as I should with goings-on in the banana republic of California.

For example, I totally missed that Lee Baca was being re-tried. (You may remember his first trial ended in a mistrial.)

And even better:

Lee Baca, the once powerful and popular sheriff of Los Angeles County, was found guilty Wednesday of obstructing a federal investigation into abuses in county jails and lying to cover up the interference.

Let me just remind folks:

To get to Baca, prosecutors methodically worked their way up the ranks of a group of sheriff’s officials who were accused of conceiving and carrying out a scheme to impede the FBI jail inquiry. In all, 10 people — from low-level deputies to Baca and his former second in command — have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Several other deputies have been found guilty of civil rights violations for beating inmates and a visitor in the jails.

Dumber than a bag of hair. But I digress. The NYT claims he “could face up to 20 years in federal prison”. As we all know, claims like this should be taken on good quality rice with some soy sauce and wasabi. My totally outsider speculation, as someone who isn’t a lawyer and hasn’t practiced in federal court: I’ll be surprised if Baca gets any prison time, given his age and alleged Alzheimer’s. I expect a long probated sentence.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#36 in a series)

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Jose Torres, the mayor of Patterson, New Jersey, has been indicted on corruption charges.

Three public works supervisors have also been indicted with Mayor Torres. Allegedly, the mayor “asked public employees to work on personal projects while they were being paid by the city”.

Worthy of note 1: various online sources show that Mayor Torres is a member of Criminal Mayors Against Lawful Gun Ownership.

Worthy of note 2: Mayor Torres is the second criminal mayor to face charges this week. SayUncle linked to a report that Mayor Anthony Silva of the (formerly) bankrupt city of Stockton has been arrested again: this time, he’s charged with “money laundering, embezzlement by a public officer, grand theft and embezzlement worth more than $400”.

Annals of law (#11 in a series)

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

This is bizarre, too bizarre not to make note of here. It is also a little squicky, so I’m going to put a jump here and the main body of this post after the jump. Also, trigger warning.

(more…)

Merry Christmas, Lee Baca.

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

The former sheriff of LA county got to open his present a few days early:

A mistrial was declared Thursday in the corruption case against former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca after a jury failed to reach a verdict on charges that he tried to obstruct an FBI investigation into allegations that deputies abused jail inmates.

The LAT reports that the jury was “split 11 to 1 in favor of an acquittal”, which makes me wonder if the prosecution is even going to attempt a re-trial. As noted previously, Baca is also in “the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease”; an attempt at a retrial may run into competency issues.

Related LAT editorial:

If hypocrisy, mismanagement and detachment were crimes, Baca would surely be staring down a long prison term.
But they are not, and they do not warrant criminal conviction or incarceration.

Los Angeles County is such a huge and virtually ungovernable county that any sheriff may be found wanting as a manager.

How hard is it not to beat prisoners and obstruct justice?

Short notes on film: October 30, 2016.

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Since we’re talking about movies anyway, I’d like to make another recommendation. And this one won’t cost you anything.

Last Saturday, it was just Lawrence and I for movie night, and we didn’t want to burn “John Carpenter’s The Thing” with just the two of us there. We had trouble settling on something to watch. We tried “The Architects of Fear” episode of “The Outer Limits”, but neither of us could really get into the episode: it seemed too talky and too relationship oriented, and we turned it off after about 10 minutes. (Also, man, they, like, totally ripped that plot off from “Watchmen”, right?)

We tried watching David Cronenberg’s first movie, “Stereo” (which is on the Criterion disc of “Scanners”) and that was one hot pretentious mess. I think we also made it about 10 minutes into that as well.

We ended up watching, for our feature presentation, a movie I’ve been wanting to see, but which may not technically qualify for Halloween viewing. It is kind of creepy, and falls into the category of “film noir”, so if you’re willing to extend Halloween creepy to noir…(says the guy who has gone in costume as Sam Spade, complete with Maltese Falcon).

The movie in question is 1948’s “He Walked By Night” directed by some guy named Alfred L. Werker (who was supposedly either “assisted by” or “fired from the film and had it taken over by” Anthony “fired from ‘Spartacus'” Mann).

Richard Basehart – excuse me – “Richard Basehart!” – is a burglar specializing in thefts of electronics. At the start of the movie, he shoots and ends up killing a police officer, triggering a massive manhunt by the LAPD. The police lure him into a trap at one point, but he shoots his way out (leaving another police officer paralyzed). The LAPD continues to pursue him, but things are complicated by the fact that he has no criminal record, changes his methods to throw off the police, and almost seems to be one step ahead of them…like he was a former police officer or something.

(Possible spoilers ahead.)

This is often cited as a hugely influential noir film. It is a little stagey (but it was also 1948) and there’s a lot of stuff in it that feels today like clichés. (“I’m taking you off the case because you’re too close to it!”) The thing is, those weren’t clichés in 1948: this is one of the origin points for a lot of what you see in later noir films and procedurals well into today.

A very young (and very thin) Jack Webb plays a police lab technician:

(“You will believe a man can use a slide projector!”) There’s an interesting story behind that: while he was working on this movie, Webb became friends with LAPD Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn, who was working as a technical advisor on the film. One thing led to another, and, well…Webb and Wynn’s friendship and discussions ultimately led to the creation of “Dragnet” (which shares a lot of DNA with this movie.)

Even with all the staginess and talking, this is, in my opinion, a remarkably compelling movie. It is short (one hour nineteen minutes) but something is going on in almost every frame to advance the plot. And there’s also a feeling of some real stakes at play here: any of the good guys (or an innocent bystander) could get killed at any minute. As Ivan G Shreve Jr. notes in his writeup at “Thrilling Days of Yesteryear”:

The unwritten law of the men in blue is there is nothing more dangerous than a cop killer; after all, if someone is crazy enough to shoot a cop, he’s liable to inflict even more grievous injury on an innocent member of the public.

There’s also a lot of really good cinematography: the use of underlighting and shadows to convey a sense of danger and dread is top-notch. And the crime is broken somewhat by lab work (Jack Webb’s role isn’t trivial), but more so by dogged, unrelenting police footwork.

The movie is actually based on a real incident, the Erwin “Machine Gun” Walker case, and it is surprising how closely it sticks to the facts. Walker, like Basehart’s protagonist, was an electronics expert who stole to finance his experimentation. He carried around homemade nitroglycerin that he’d carefully desensitized (to make it safer to transport) had a pretty extensive arsenal (mostly stolen from military armories), experimented with making his own fake driver’s licenses and license plates, and he had worked before WWII as a police dispatcher/radio operator.

There are a few small deviations from historical fact, and one omission: Walker shot and wounded the two LAPD detectives first, the police officer he killed was a highway patrolman (not an LAPD officer), and Walker wasn’t gunned down in an LA sewer. Walker was actually captured alive and sentenced to death, though that sentence was never carried out. One thing the movie doesn’t touch on – perhaps it was too early – was that Walker was emotionally disturbed by his wartime experiences: part of the motivation for his crimes was that he wanted to build a radio-based device that would turn metal to powder, use that device to force the governments of the world to raise military pay, and thus make war “too expensive” to be fought.

You can watch “He Walked By Night” on Amazon Video, and there are several DVD editions of it. Interestingly, though, the film is in the public domain in the United States: you can also download it for free from the Internet Archive.

If you like noir films, or Jack Webb, or Richard Basehart, I recommend you do so. I think you will find this movie amply repays your investment of time and bandwidth.

Today’s update from Oakland.

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Four Oakland police officers involved in a sexual misconduct scandal will be fired, and seven more suspended without pay, for shocking violations that include attempted sexual assault and assisting in the crime of prostitution, city leaders said Wednesday.

Among the alleged offenses, the most startling are that the four officers facing termination committed one or more of the following: attempted sexual assault; engaging in lewd conduct in public; assisting in the crime of prostitution; assisting in the evading arrest for the crime of prostitution; accessing police databases for personal gain; lying to investigators; failing to report allegations of a minor having sex with officers and bringing disrepute to the police department.

In slightly old, but related news, the young woman in question is being held in a Florida jail on charges of “aggravated battery”. Her bail is set at $300,000.

Why was she in Florida? Would you believe drug rehab?

Guap and her mother both told the East Bay Express that the drug-treatment was funded through the Richmond Police Department (RPD), an allegation that has raised eyebrows among people following the investigation into Guap’s prostitution claims (which include RPD officers). “I’m not saying rehab is a bad idea, but there are rehab programs here,” said civil-rights attorney Pamela Price, who is leading a call for the state to take over the investigation from individual agencies involved.

(I feel like I should note here that this is just what “Guap” and her family are claiming. The RPD refuses to confirm or deny that they paid for the treatment.)

And what led up to the aggravated battery? Would you believe drug withdrawal?

Guap’s alleged victim, a detox-center security guard named Joseph Sanders, claimed Guap was getting (verbally) upset with a facility care staffer so he and two other security guards entered the room. At that point, Guap tried to pull a safe off of the room’s countertop and, “when the security officers intervened, [Guap] began resisting, starting a physical altercation,” according to an arrest affidavit. Guap began “screaming at the employees then lunged at one of the female security officers. Sanders attempted to restrain” Guap, at which point she bit his right forearm.

(By the way, “Guap” is not the young woman’s real name, which is why I haven’t edited it out.)

Random notes: August 29, 2016.

Monday, August 29th, 2016

I almost want to give Maywood, California a category of their own.

Today’s update: the city hired ECM Group, an engineering firm, to do some work for them. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Nothing except that ECM Group was fired by the city of South El Monte for “questionable practices” after an audit earlier this year.

The audit slammed the company, saying that among other things, workers were reporting as many as 27 hours for some work days.

More:

Already facing a state audit and scrutiny by the district attorney’s office over whether the city violated open-meeting laws, Maywood this year hired a laid-off Boeing project manager whom the mayor had met as a customer at his auto shop to be its city manager, even though he had no municipal experience.

This one is kind of old, and I have no excuse except pure laziness for not blogging it before now. But it is still one of the more popular stories on the Statesman‘s website, and illustrates two important points.

Point 1: you know what weapon has a lot of stopping power? A 4,000 pound Lexus.

A woman ran over a man in her silver Lexus after he fired shots at her and her boyfriend in a Round Rock parking lot, according to an arrest affidavit.

More:

It said the man challenged Viera to fight in the parking lot of the Concentra Clinic at 117 Louis Henna Blvd. The man then called his girlfriend — the driver of the silver Lexus — and told her he was going to be involved in a fight and asked her to pick him up, the affidavit said.

Note a: The strip club in question is Rick’s Cabaret, for those who know Austin.

Note b: Where do guys find these women? With all due respect, most of the women I’ve known, if I called them and said, “Honey, can you pick me up at the strip club? Some guy wants to beat my ass.”, they would show up…with a big bag of popcorn to watch the beatdown.

This leads to point 2: you know what matters more than stopping power? Shot placement.

It said Viera then stepped out of his car and pointed his handgun at the woman’s boyfriend. The woman told police she then sped toward Viera to try to hit him, but Viera fired toward her car and stepped out of the way, the affidavit said.

The woman told investigators that she then turned her car around and saw Viera pointing his gun again at her boyfriend and running after him, according to the affidavit. The woman said she tried to hit Viera with her car again but he fired another shot at her vehicle, the document said.

Third time’s the charm:

It said Viera then fired a shot at the woman’s boyfriend. The woman then ran over Viera and struck a parked car, according to the affidavit. The woman’s Lexus became inoperable and rolled to a stop a few feet away from Viera, the affidavit said.

At last report, the bad guy is in jail, the woman wasn’t charged, and there’s no word about the state of the boyfriend or the Lexus.

Mayors gone wild!

Friday, August 5th, 2016

The mayor of Stockton, California, was arrested Thursday and charged with felony eavesdropping, among other misdemeanor charges, related to a strip poker game that he allegedly played with teenage counselors at a camp for economically disadvantaged kids last year, according to prosecutors in neighboring Amador County.

In October 2015, Silva was detained at San Francisco International Airport upon his return from China, where Department of Homeland Security officials demanded that he hand over his electronic devices, including the passwords. He seemingly complied with their requests, but he publicly objected to how the matter was handled.

Would you like to take a guess what organization Mayor Silva belongs to? Ding ding ding! Yes, Criminal Mayors Against Guns is the correct answer.

silva

Screen snapshot, just in case this goes down the memory hole.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, the mayor of Fairfax City has been arrested in a meth-for-sex scheme:

Richard “Scott” Silverthorne, 50, was arrested as part of an undercover operation by police, authorities announced Friday. The scheme involved offers of meth in exchange for group sexual encounters with men, police allege.
Before his arrest Thursday, police claim Silverthorne provided the drug to undercover detectives at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Tysons Corner.

In fairness to Mayor Silverthorne, while meth is a hell of a drug, he does not appear to be a member of Crooked Mayors Against Civil Rights. At least, he’s not currently listed on that website…

Edited to add 8/6: Well, he wasn’t listed on the website when I checked yesterday. But, according to Uncle, he does appear to be a Bloombergian shill.

Memo from the sentencing desk.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Remember Christopher Correa, the St. Louis Cardinals “director of baseball development” who plead guilty to hacking the Houston Astros player database? (Previously.)

46 months in prison. $279,038 in restitution.

In other news, Former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca was supposed to be sentenced yesterday. The former sheriff, as you may recall, plead guilty to lying to federal investigators. He had agreed to take a plea, and the prosecution, in turn, had agreed to seek a sentence somewhere between probation and a maximum of six months in prison.

Yesterday, the judge in the case threw out the plea agreement.

Six months in prison for the man who ran the Sheriff’s Department “would not address the gross abuse of the public’s trust … including the need to restore the public’s trust in law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” Anderson said.

Baca must now choose among several unappealing options. He could go ahead with the sentencing and accept whatever punishment Anderson has in mind. He could withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial, taking his chances with whatever charges the government might decide to bring. He could negotiate a new deal with federal prosecutors for a longer sentence that the judge would find more acceptable.

Former sheriff Baca has also been diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease, which may be one reason why the prosecution was so willing to agree to a relatively light sentence; if his condition gets worse, he may not be competent to participate in his defense, which could result in any trial being delayed.

And an update.

Monday, June 27th, 2016

(Previously on WCD.)

Paul Tanaka was sentenced today.

Five years in federal prison.