Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Tim Dog update.

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

He’s apparently really most sincerely dead.

(Previously.)

TMQ Watch: September 9, 2014.

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Might as well jump right into the first TMQ of the regular season

(more…)

There’s all kinds of stupid.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Many of which I have written about here.

But forging a court order in an attempt to get content you don’t like removed is a whole new kind of stupid, even for sleazy telemarketers.

(Is “sleazy telemarketer” redundant?)

Today in journalism fraud.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

I have read and admired a fair amount of William Langewiesche’s work. He did some excellent reporting on Pakistan’s nuclear program, and is one of the better mass-market writers on aviation related subjects.

But.

Some of you may have been following Chevron Corp. v. Donziger. For those who haven’t, briefly: Donziger filed a lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador alleging that Chevron polluted drilling sites. Donziger won a $19 billion judgment in the Ecuadorian courts, but it turns out that there was massive fraud perpetrated by Donziger and the Ecuadorian courts. Overlawyered has a Chevron tag if you want more details.

The point, and I do have one, is: Langewiesche was asked by Vanity Fair to do a story on the suit. (Interesting point: “Donziger’s wife at the time worked in corporate communications at Condé Nast, the magazine’s publisher.“)

Langewiesche did the story.

The piece he produced was extraordinarily sympathetic to the lawsuit, so much so that Donziger himself proclaimed it “the kind of paradigm-shifting, breakthrough article that I think is going to change the entire case from here until it ends in a way that is favorable to us.”

But it wasn’t just “sympathetic”.

The reporter asks Donziger to prepare lists of dozens of questions to be asked of Chevron. And he begs Donziger to help him prepare arguments about why there’s no need for him to do face-to-face interviews with Chevron officials, as they’ve requested, even though he spent days meeting with Donziger and his legal staff.
“I want to avoid a meeting, simply because I do NOT have the time. But I don’t want to go on record refusing a meeting,” writes Langewiesche. “Perhaps I could say that my travel schedule is intense . . . ” He not only submits his emails to Chevron for Donziger’s approval (“What say, Steve. I gotta send this tonight”) and even lets him rewrite them. “Let me know if this works,” Donziger says in a note returning one of them. “I was a little aggressive in the editing.”

Langewiesche also sent Donziger a copy of the story before it was printed. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that is a violation of journalism ethics. Especially since

…Chevron did not get to see the story before it went into print, nor submit lists of questions it wanted Langewiesche to ask Donziger. Nor did Chevron get the face-to-face interviews they asked for. Except for a single phone conversation just before the story appeared, Langewiesche insisted all their communication be via email.

And, of course, there were errors. Including one major one: an expert hired by Donziger was quoted as saying cleanup would cost $6 billion.

But the man had repudiated it a full year before the Vanity Fair story appeared, warning Donziger in a letter that the estimate was based on faulty assumptions and was “a ticking time bomb which will come back to bite you, and very badly, if anyone attempts due diligence on it.”

I am looking forward to reading VF‘s response. Certainly, these are just accusations, but they are accusations backed up by Donzinger’s email, which was obtained as part of a court order related to the ongoing fraud case.

(Hattip: JR.)

Ancient trade secret, huh?

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

This is a couple of days old, but I was waiting to find a non-paywalled report.

Kreuz Market (yes, the barbecue place in Lockhart) is accusing a former employee of stealing trade secrets.

“It is believed that Thornton, at or just before the time he resigned from Kreuz, took possession of company documents, including company trade secrets, in paper form and/or by placing electronic versions on a flash drive or other devices,” a court document states. “It is further believed that Thornton deleted electronic copies of these documents from the Kreuz computer system so that such documents would no longer be accessible by Kreuz. Kreuz may have claims against Thornton for trade secret misappropriation, conversion and civil theft, among other claims.”

That’s pretty much the nut. The rest of the story is a decent overview of Kreuz Market history and expansion plans, probably worth reading if you don’t follow Texas barbecue obsessively.

(For my younger readers, subject line hattip.)

Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. Poor guy.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

I’ve mentioned previously that I watched COPS on a regular basis, at least until it left Fox for the wilderness of basic cable. I’ll still watch it if I catch it on somewhere.

I remember seeing some fairly shocking and disturbing things during that time; fatal highway accidents, one carload of police officers (with a camera crew on board) being broadsided during a high-speed chase by another cop car. But I never thought anything like this would happen.

A crew member with the “Cops” television show was fatally struck by police gunfire as Omaha officers confronted a robber — who also was fatally wounded — at a midtown restaurant, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

The robbery suspect apparently had an air gun, a type of BB gun that looks like an actual firearm. He apparently was a prison parolee from Kansas, law enforcement sources said.

The World-Herald claims that the police were the only ones shooting, and that “at least 30 shots” were fired during the incident.

I’m not sure what else I can say about this, other than it is sad and awful, and I’ll pass along any significant updates.

Busted, again.

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

General hattip on all of this to Romenesko.

A while back, I wrote about Busted, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Lasker’s book about their coverage of corrupt cops in Philadelphia. At that time, I asked what they had accomplished, given that the bad cops were still on the street.

Last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer (the other daily newspaper, and the one that got soundly beat by Ruderman and Lasker on the story) ran a piece “Why an accused Phila. officer is still on the force” purporting to answer the question of why Thomas Tolstoy hadn’t been fired yet, even though he’d been accused of sexually assaulting three women. There are various reasons, but the Inquirer‘s key one:

The documents also show that actions the victim ascribed to two Philadelphia Daily News reporters who wrote about her assault further undermined the criminal case by damaging her credibility and complicating a federal investigation.
The woman told investigators that the reporters – whose account of the assault and other police abuses would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 – provided her with gifts, paid her bills, offered her money to hire a lawyer, and told her that she could collect a financial windfall if she talked to them and not to law enforcement officials, according to the documents.
She also told investigators that the reporters were aware that an associate of hers had pressured her to lie about the circumstances of the attack. And she said one of the reporters encouraged her to give an exaggerated account of the raid, saying it would help in a potential lawsuit.
The woman’s accusations of impropriety by the reporters – included in detailed interview summaries signed by FBI agents – imperiled an already precarious case, according to three high-ranking officials familiar with the investigation.

Uh-huh. Ruderman and Lasker deny this, of course. Ruderman has posted a response on Facebook. And it’s worth pointing out that these accusations only involve one of the three women, and have nothing to do with the separate allegation that Tolstoy was one of the cops caught on tape stealing from bodegas.

Philadephia magazine has published their own piece about the problems of the Inquirer story. Points:

Obit watch: August 26, 2014.

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Missed this over the weekend, but notorious Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen descended into hell last week.

Bill James, in his book Popular Crime, devotes some space to Hansen and makes two good points:

  1. Hansen’s criminal career was largely symptomatic of the way the criminal justice system worked at the time:

    Robert Hansen was the end product of a criminal justice system that really didn’t want to convict people, a criminal justice system that had lost track of its responsibility to protect the public. But you know what? That was 30 years ago, when Hansen was running wild and nobody would step up to stop him. It was a long time ago. It isn’t that way anymore. The system has, to a large extent, healed itself.

    Specifically, Hansen had a long career, mostly involving petty theft but including some serious crimes against women. Yet somehow he managed to make the charges against him mostly disappear, and minimized the severity of the ones that remained. He was convicted of rape in 1971 and sentenced to five years in prison; Hansen was paroled after three months. And as far as I can tell, that, and a year and half for setting a school bus barn on fire when he was young, are the only time he did until his arrest for the killings; he was at one point sentenced to five years for stealing a chainsaw, but that sentence was overturned on appeal and he ended up on parole again.
    In short, the courts and the cops had plenty of opportunities to stop him before and while he was hunting women, and botched them all.

  2. Hansen, unlike many serial killers, was publicity shy. So much so that, according to James, he used that as a negotiating tool; “I’ll answer your questions about what I did, as long as you keep the press and the people writing books away from me.” This would explain why he wasn’t as well known as Bundy or Gacy, even though his crimes were equally sensational.

Book note.

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

The NYT has a brief interview with Doug J. Swanson, tied to the release of his new non-fiction book, Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker.

This is great news, as far as I’m concerned, for two reasons:

  1. The story of Benny Binion and his foes, especially Herbert Noble, is a fascinating one. Lawrence gave me a copy of The Green Felt Jungle (a work I’m surprised Swanson didn’t mention) for Christmas one year, and that covers the Binion/Noble story at some length. But I’m excited about a more up-to-date book length treatment.
  2. I’m also kind of fond of Doug Swanson’s work. I’ve read and enjoyed (to varying degrees) four out of five of the Jack Flippo books, and was wondering why I hadn’t seen a new one in a while.

So, yeah, I’ll be picking this one up soon.

The Washington Post makes me testy again.

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Actual WP headline:

Waldman: Libertarians silent on Mo. shooting

(I won’t provide a link because 1) the Posties tell me I’ve used up all my articles for the month even though I’m a subscriber, and II) I don’t link clickbait.)

Yeah! Those pesky Libertarians haven’t been talking at all about Ferguson!

Except for Walter Olsen at Overlawyered.

And the folks over at Reason.

And Popehat on the Twitter.

And Morlock Publishing, but technically I think he’s an anarcocapitalist rather than a Libertarian.

To be fair, Balko hasn’t had much to say specifically about Ferguson, though he has been continuing to write about police militarization and misconduct.

Perhaps the WP issues highly effective hearing protection to their staff. Maybe something like these.

Random notes: August 12, 2014.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Garry Kasparov lost his bid to run the World Chess Federation. The incumbent president, Kirsan N. Ilyumzhinov, was re-elected by a wide margin (110 to 61).

Mr. Ilyumzhinov, 52, a native of Kalmykia, a poor Russian republic on the Caspian Sea, has led the chess federation since 1995, but not without controversy. He cultivated friendships with Saddam Hussein, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and claims that he was abducted by space aliens one night in 1997. He also claims the game was invented by extraterrestrials.

(Previously.)

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright: or, Lawrence goes to the tank museum. Hilarity ensues.

Actual LAT headline: “Convicted smuggler of prized fish bladders gets 1-year prison term“.

When seconds count…

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

the police are only minutes away the phone company will send your 911 call to an answering machine.