Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Random notes: October 13, 2014.

Monday, October 13th, 2014

The New York Times may have killed their chess column. Or perhaps not.

Greg “Three Cups of Tea” Mortenson is trying to make a comeback. (Previously.)

The WP also has a longish story about the Navy silencer scandal, covered previously here.

At one pretrial hearing, a defense attorney for the auto mechanic, Mark S. Landersman of Temecula, Calif., accused the Navy of impeding the investigation by destroying a secret stash of automatic rifles that the silencers were designed to fit. Prosecutors immediately objected to further discussion in open court, calling it a classified matter.
The destroyed weapons were part of a stockpile of about 1,600 AK-47-style rifles that the U.S. military had collected overseas and stored in a warehouse in Pennsylvania, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

I really don’t have much to say, but the thought of a warehouse full of “AK-47 style rifles” brings a goofy smile to my face.

Quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore (#2 in a series).

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

This one is a little unusual.

I find Erle Stanley Gardner (or, as he is often called, “ErleStanleyGardnerTheCreatorOfPerryMason”, all one word) to be a fascinating person.

I’m not very well read in the Perry Mason books; I should perhaps give them another try, but it seems to me that Gardner’s style in those books was somewhat arch and stilted. I think I’ve read a couple of the A.A. Fair books that my mother had lying around the house when I was younger, but I don’t really recall those.

I’m more interested in Gardner as a non-fiction writer. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but his book The Court of Last Resort (based in part on his experiences with the organization of the same name) contains what I believe is some of the smartest and sanest writing about crime and criminal justice ever. There are things in there (especially about drug policy) that still hold up nearly 60 years after the book was written.

Lawrence and I have periodically discussed the idea of putting together a collection of Gardner non-fiction firsts. In addition to his writing about criminal justice, he also wrote about exploring Baja by jeep, Hunting Lost Mines by Helicopter, and other outdoors subjects. Copies of his non-fiction books show up pretty regularly on the Internet auction sites, sometimes even signed, but I have yet to find one that’s in good enough condition to justify Heritage’s minimum $15 price.

I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so fascinated by Gardner: he was certainly a hellaciously smart man, and no slouch as a lawyer, but he was also a serious outdoorsman, and he blended both sides of his character well. (The “Court of Last Resort” actually got started around the campfire one night on one of Gardner’s Baja trips; one of his campfire companions was the publisher of Argosy, who listened to Gardner’s account of the Lindley case and promised him space in the magazine for any additional cases where Gardner felt an innocent man had been convicted.)

(As a side note, we could really use a contemporary “Court of Last Resort”. We could also use more public intellectuals like Erle Stanley Gardner.)

====

Last weekend, I was poking around at one of the Half-Price Books locations and found something that intrigued me: two bound volumes of the American Rifleman from 1971 and 1973. This is close to the time when I started reading AR (Dad had a stack of old ones in the garage, and I was a precocious child), and I still have a fondness for the magazine of that era.

So I started flipping through the bound volumes, and ran across this cover story from the May 1971 issue:

esg_ar

“Well. Well well well. Well.” said I.

(I apologize for the kind of crappy photo. These bound volumes run at about two ox-stunning units, and are very hard to get on a scanner.)

The cover story is a tribute to Gardner, who was also an NRA member, and who had passed away about a year previously. The two guns on the cover were donated by his wife to the NRA Museum. The handgun is a Colt Single Action Army in .45 Colt; it and the leather were given to him by a client in a shooting case. (Gardner won an acquittal.) The rifle is an early Weatherby in .300 Weatherby Magnum, using a Mauser action (instead of the Weatherby Mark V action used in later rifles).

There are a few interesting bits of trivia in the AR tribute that I wasn’t aware of:

  • Gardner was so accurate with a rifle that he gave up using firearms for hunting for a long period of time. Instead, he did his deer hunting with a bow and arrow.
  • In his 70s, Gardner set out to prove that a person with a .22 handgun could survive indefinitely on the small game he could harvest “within 300, 200, or even 100 miles of Los Angeles.” This became a three-part article for Sports Afield. (I dare you to try that today.)
  • “He had a habit of racking .22 tubular-magazine rifles with the magazines pulled partway out.” He also liked inexpensive guns, probably (as the article notes) because his guns were working guns for his ranch, not safe queens.
  • Gardner invented “archery golf”: “Players were allowed so many shots with a bow and arrow to get up to a hole – actually, a paper sack on a pole. Each player then made the hole by shooting an arrow through the paper sack.”

What I find even more interesting than the tribute is that the American Rifleman also reprinted a Gardner essay: “Why Gun Registration Can’t Cut Crime”. I can’t find it online, but it is in another essay collection, Cops on the Campus and Crime in the Streets.

There is an old expression which somehow indicates the subconscious thinking of the American people. It starts out, “There ought to be a law against…”
Whenever the American people want to stop something they want a law prohibiting the thing they want stopped, as if laws in themselves were a solution.

Gardner’s essay goes on from there, outlining the flaws in gun registration laws. (Why would a criminal register their guns? How do you deal with the registration information and keep it secure?)

We aren’t going to disarm the criminal. We may as well make up our minds to that right at the start. We can try to do it, but the criminal is going to be armed. The man who needs a gun in order to perpetrate a holdup is going to have a gun.

I’m used to finding that people whose work I generally like have big blind spots in certain areas, especially guns. It perhaps should not have come as a surprise, but it is refreshing to me that Gardner was as wise and sane about gun politics as he was about other aspects of criminal justice.

Ripped from the headlines!

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

In Solvang bust, a bottle of cheap vodka, counterfeit cash, and meth


Cue Major Kong.

The bills were convincing enough that at least a few clothing and jewelry businesses in the Danish-themed town near Santa Maria were fooled into accepting them, officials said. Because of the sophistication of the bills, the Sheriff’s Department has notified the Secret Service, which is conducting its own investigation.

The tweakers are turning out good quality counterfeit $100s? So we don’t have to worry about the Iranians any longer, but the meth addicts? Why does this surprise me?

Obit watch: September 30, 2014.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

We haven’t heard much recently from the notoriously corrupt California city of Vernon.

The first council member to get elected in a competitive race since the Nixon presidency in the small city of Vernon — population about 100 — has died.

His death appears to have been the result of natural causes (and not in the “he was shot in the head six times, so naturally he died” sense).

Historical video, emphatically NOT suitable for use in schools.

Friday, September 26th, 2014

By way of Ace of Spades: The LA Police Department Skilled Shooting Exhibition Of 1936. (As Maetenloch notes, this is probably from 1938. And although the heading says LAPD, this is actually the LA Sheriff’s Department.)

There’s some good stuff in this:

  • I do love me some nice Thompson work.
  • It is an interesting piece of history, if you want to see how police shot back then. I believe the LAPD was pretty progressive in their pistol training at that time; certainly they were in 1955, when Sterling Walker wrote “How Cops Get Killed” for Guns Magazine. It seems logical to assume that that the LACSD worked the same way. The one-handed shooting stance looks funny in retrospect, but you have to remember the Weaver Stance hadn’t been invented yet. And I suspect that “Combat” range and the practice drills were pretty far out in front of the curve for 1938.
  • I like the course of fire shown at the range. I might try that next time I go out to the range with one of my revolvers.
  • LAPD

  • I wonder if this is where the shooting competition in Magnum Force was staged. IMDB is no help here.

There are also some things I really dislike about this video:

  • The tinkly piano music really gets on my nerves.
  • I wish it were better lit, or in better focus, or both. I can’t tell what guns the shooters are using (except for the one guy with the Thompson, of course). Various sources say LAPD was issuing the S&W K-38 Target Masterpiece and the K-38 Combat Masterpiece until 1988. (The difference between the two is that the Target Masterpiece had a 6″ barrel; the Combat Masterpiece had a 4″.) The Walker article mentioned above says they also used the Colt Officer’s Model Special. The problem I have is that the K-38 in either version didn’t start showing up until post-WWII. I think the guns in the video may be Colts, and there could be a couple of M&P Model of 1905 4th Change revolvers in there; it is just hard to tell. (Again, I’m assuming LACSD and LAPD used the same or similar equipment. Frankly, there weren’t a lot of choices at the time, though I guess they could have issued Registered Magnums…)
  • JESUS JOSEPH AND MARY ON A FREAKING POGO STICK, WERE THESE PEOPLE IDIOTS?! In case you’re wondering why I’m screaming, it should become apparent to you at about 35 seconds into the video. What the frack? What the fracking frack? Was life cheaper back then? Were these guys getting some hefty hazard pay? For my readers at home: DON’T DO THIS, OKAY? Seriously, this has “manslaughter” written all over it.
  • Also, there’s much more effective ear protection out there these days than cigarettes or wads of cotton.

When ice picks are outlawed…

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Admittedly, this is kind of old, but I only ran across it today (while, oddly, looking up Trotsky for reasons I won’t go into):

“There is no prohibition right now against carrying an ice pick in New York City,” said City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., chairman of the Public Safety Committee, “which is interesting because I don’t know of any legitimate use for an ice pick.”

At NHS Hardware on Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx, a worker, Jose Santana, strode toward the back of the store and grabbed a $3.89 model, whose wrapper said that it was of “professional quality” and “high carbon steel,” from a display of ice picks hanging from a peg.

The demand is greater than the store chooses to meet: because the store has a policy restricting the sale of ice picks to anyone under the age of 21, it has sold only two in the past six months or so.
“Some guy might buy this for torturing people,” another worker, Victor Reynoso said. “Sometimes they come to buy, but we don’t sell. If you are going to buy this, you have to show me ID.”

“I would entertain expanding it further, banning all public possession, once we learn, during the hearing process, whether there are any legitimate uses in this day and age for an ice pick,” [Councilman Vallone] said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

In other news, it appears that you can listen to Trotsky Icepick on Google Play or Spotify, or buy some of the albums from iTunes. The same cannot be said of Mussolini Headkick; only one of their songs is available on iTunes.

Banana republicans watch: September 23, 2014.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The six members of the LA County Sheriff’s Department who were convicted of obstructing a FBI investigation were sentenced today.

Former Lt. Gregory Thompson was sentenced to 37 months; Lt. Stephen Leavins to 41 months; Sgt. Scott Craig to 33 months; Sgt. Maricela Long to 24 months; Deputy Gerard Smith to 21 months; and Deputy Mickey Manzo to 24 months.

(Previously.)

And a seventh LACSO deputy was convicted last week.

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.)