Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Obit watch: October 25, 2016.

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

The A/V Club is reporting (based on a Facebook post by his family) the death of Christian comics impresario Jack Chick.

A long time ago, I ordered a complete set of all the Chick comics (at the time) and some of the Alberto Rivera comics. I think I still have those in a box somewhere…

For the historical record: Tom Hayden.

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

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

I want to get this up while it is still fresh, but I don’t have as much time to think and write about as I’d like: I’m actually down at the cop shop tonight.

The chief recently had a closed door meeting with his commanders. Apparently, during the meeting, he laid into a few of them about not following his direction, especially with respect to relations with the minority community.

Someone taped the meeting and provided a copy to the Statesman. (Edited to add 10/21: Link fixed. Thanks, Uncle Kenny.)

Quick thoughts, based on a skim of the article:

  • Taping the meeting and giving a copy to the press strikes me as questionable.
  • I don’t see anything really outrageous in what the chief said.

I may have more to say on further reflection.

Where there’s smoke….

Friday, September 30th, 2016

…there may be flaming tax-fattened hyenas. And also, Monty Hall.

I intended to write about Dawnna Dukes and her sudden retirement announcement (too close to election day for her to be taken off the ballot, so we’ll probably end up with a special election next year). Lawrence, however, beat me to it.

But there’s a new development since Lawrence wrote his post.

According to the Statesman, quoting “a courthouse source”, Ms. Dukes and District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg are playing “Let’s Make a Deal”.

Prosecutors were prepared to ask a grand jury to indict the veteran Austin lawmaker before Dukes announced Monday that she will retire in January, said the source, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation. A lawyer for Dukes reached out to the district attorney’s office and is negotiating with prosecutors, who have delayed taking the case to a grand jury, the source said. No deal has been struck yet.

The DA isn’t commenting on any deal, but she does say Rep. Dukes’ retirement “will affect how we act but it’s not determinative,”

Her retirement announcement came the week after the Texas Rangers delivered their criminal investigation of Dukes to the district attorney’s office. Prosecutors were confident they could obtain indictments related to two issues, the source said: Dukes’ directing her legislative staff to work on non-governmental projects and do personal errands, and Dukes’ misusing her campaign account.

By the way:

Dukes’ state pension will be about $74,000 a year.

Nobody ever calls me “Sir”…

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

…unless they follow it with “You’re making a scene.”

Seriously, there’s a story in Austin that provides some food for contemplation. In brief, a crazed child molester tried to grab an eight-year old girl in the bathroom of a public library branch. Luckily, good citizens stepped in and the bad guy is in jail.

Before he tried to grab the eight-year-old, he tried to grab another girl:

An 11-year-old told her father while at the library a man grabbed her, picked her up, and tried to potentially kidnap her. When she yelled “help,” the man let her go. The girl’s father said they were about to leave after hearing about what happened when the suspect approached them again and “grabbed the victim by the wrist and said the girl was coming with him,” continued in the affidavit. The father told the suspect “don’t touch her” and Powell let her go.

The father is now second guessing himself.

“I still didn’t think of him as a serious threat at that point, I thought maybe he was a homeless guy, with mental issues. I didn’t want to cause a big disturbance, I just wanted to get out,” he said.

He did call 911, but it was after they left the library and were on their way home. By the time he called, the bad guy had already tried to grab the second girl.

“Beating a guy who I thought was homeless and had mental issues wouldn’t have made the situation any better. As far telling the librarian, I didn’t think he was a serious threat at that time,” says the father. “I thought he was some weird crazy homeless guy and someone would tell him to leave. Thought it would be the end, but sadly it wasn’t.”

I’m not criticizing the father in this situation at all. I can understand the desire to leave and just not make a scene. And it doesn’t seem like he had complete information at the time; only after they left did his daughter give him the details that triggered his 911 call.

But it does kind of make me think. The emphasis in license to carry training is on de-escalation, and rightly so. Famous quotes (and I forget who deserves credit for them): “Every bullet out of your gun has a $50,000 lawyer’s bill attached”. “Your best defense is a lifelong commitment to avoidance and de-escalation.”

All of this is true. No normal person wants to shoot anyone. A commitment to avoidance and de-escalation is the right (and practical) thing to do.

But we can’t avoid the world.

We talk about scenarios as a way of furthering our situational awareness. “What would I do if that guy came at me with a broken milk carton?” Maybe, just maybe, one thing we should be doing is thinking about when we shouldn’t make a scene – when we should de-escalate – and when making a scene is justified.

Breaking news from the blotter.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Suspect number three in the shooting of Judge Kocurek is now in custody.

According to the Statesman report, he was run to ground in New Orleans.

According to federal authorities, Burgin led federal agents on a car chase in Southwest Houston on Sept. 22 that resulted in a crash and a foot chase. Burgin escaped and had been a fugitive ever since.

It seemed to me that the HouChron (at least online: I don’t see the print edition these days) was awfully quiet about the chase, the search, and the $10,000 reward that was offered for this guy.

Onyeri and the others are accused of committing mail fraud, bribery of a public official, wire fraud, document fraud, access device fraud and money laundering from January 2012 to November 2015 in Austin, Houston, the state of Louisiana and surrounding areas.

Impressive resume, even without the “tried to kill a judge” part.

A few notes from the police blotter…

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

…or, in this case, sort of the blotter.

The City of Austin approved a budget for next fiscal year in an 8-2 vote. The approved budget “will charge the typical resident about $87 more in city taxes and fees next year”.

And what will we get for the money?

Next year’s operations include a 2 percent pay increase for city employees, to kick in during the pay period before Christmas. There’s funding for a new curbside composting program, at a cost of $4.2 million to the city and a phased-in cost of $64.80 to homeowners after five years. There’s $600,000 more for housing aimed at reducing homelessness.

But the news isn’t all bad. The city is hiring eight new employees to do DNA testing. (But the lab is relying on grant money and whatever they can scrounge elsewhere to actually get the testing done.) And the Transportation Department is hiring 13 new people, “most of which will be dedicated to traffic signal timing”. Traffic signal timing? In Austin? You don’t say.

And what of the cops? What of APD’s request for more officers?

In the new budget, Adler explained, Austin will add 52 emergency service workers, 12 police officers, 21 civilian police staff and 38 development service employees intended to speed up Austin’s notoriously arduous permitting and building inspection process.

Exactly what the city manager asked for. (Well, the cops and police staff anyway: I don’t know about the development staff.)

As a side note, I mentioned when I was taking the Citizen’s Police Academy class earlier this year that we got to go on a tour of the forensics lab. I’m attending CPA again this fall, but as an alumnus rather than a student. (What this means in practice is that I’m basically volunteering to help set stuff up before the class, knock things down after the class, and sit in the back and keep my mouth shut during the class.)

Point of this digression: the lab tour isn’t being offered to CPA students this time around.

In other news, the APD suspended an officer for 20 days for improper use of a stun gun: specifically, the officer tasered a restrained person.

The other part of the story: the guy who was Tasered is the same guy who got pepper-sprayed in the back of the police van.

Wilson had been arrested on suspicion of public intoxication. At the booking facility, Wilson was restrained with handcuffs and a set of belly chain handcuffs, but later stood up from a chair and argued with several officers. Wilson refused to remain seated and a struggle ensued, the memo said.
Jimenez fired her stun gun once at Wilson, discharging a five-second pulse as the struggle concluded, the memo said.

Apparently, Tasering a handcuffed possibly drunk guy who is struggling with officers is FROWNED UPON IN THIS ESTABLISHMENT!

Jimenez admitted during her disciplinary review hearing that she should have used less violent means to control Wilson. She expressed regret for her actions, the memo said.

No appeal is once again part of the deal.

And from the department of “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”: the APD shot and killed a guy earlier today. The initial reports make it sound like a good shoot: they got a call about a suspicious guy wandering around an apartment complex with a backpack looking into cars, responded, didn’t find him initially, came back 2o minutes later after a second report and found him…

Officers radioed for air support and K9 units to help find the man as they continued to chase him on foot. An officer eventually ran the man down and used his stun gun to try to make an arrest, officials said.

The guy went down, the officers stated yelling at him to show his hands, he initially wasn’t compliant, and then…

“What we can see on video is that the suspect very quickly rolls over, produces a handgun and begins firing shots at our officers,” Manley said. “Our officers immediately retreat and return fire. There are multiple shots that are fired, again by both the suspect who initiated the gunfire and our officer who returned fire.”

Part of the referenced video (taken by a resident of the complex, not the police) is on the KVUE website. It isn’t the best quality, and I swear I saw a better version elsewhere, but it seems to show exactly what the APD is saying happened: they told the guy to roll over, he came up shooting…

(Edited to add 9/16: the video I was thinking of is on Facebook and linked from this Reddit thread. I recommend ignoring the comments.)

Noted: this is the second fatal police shooting in Austin in 10 days. A week ago Monday, the APD shot a man whp was wandering around an apartment complex holding a “high-powered rifle”: the police took cover, repeatedly asked the man to drop the weapon, actually shot him several times with “beanbag” rounds, and finally (the exact chain of events is currently unclear) shot the man. It sounds like classic “suicide by cop”: the man was being described as emotionally distraught after a recent break-up with his girlfriend.

Obit watch: September 6, 2016.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

For the record: Phyllis Schlafly.

Hugh O’Brian, star of “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp”.

Mr. O’Brian remained active through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, mostly on television. He appeared on series like “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Fantasy Island” and “Murder, She Wrote.” In 1972 he was one of the rotating leads in NBC’s short-lived high-tech private-eye series “Search,” which also starred Tony Franciosa and Doug McClure.

I also like this:

One of his more memorable roles (though it was also one of his smallest) was in John Wayne’s final movie, “The Shootist” (1976). Mr. O’Brian played a professional gambler who, in the film’s closing moments, became the last character ever killed onscreen by Wayne.

LAT. And a callback to something I previously blogged here: Mr. O’Brian and Al Jennings hanging out and doing a little practice. In LA. In 1957.

Obit watch: September 5, 2016.

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Officer Amir Abdul-Khaliq of the Austin Police Department passed away yesterday.

He was critically injured in an accident on Thursday. According to reports, he was escorting a funeral procession, and was at the Burnet/Ohlen intersection when a woman pulled in front of him (trying to make it into a gap in the procession) resulting in the officer striking her vehicle.

Cmdr. Art Fortune with the Police Department’s Highway Enforcement Command said the department has handled at least a dozen motorcycle crashes involving officers in the past two years, but none had been as serious as Thursday’s incident.

Officer Abdul-Khaliq had been on the force for 17 years and has five children.

Be careful out there, people.

Semi-related: “A Fighter Pilot’s Guide to Surviving on the Roads..”

The police beat.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

A while back, I mentioned the case of an APD officer who allegedly pepper-sprayed a suspect who was handcuffed in the back of a police van.

The officer and the chief have made a deal: 45 days of unpaid suspension, along with some additional conditions (“requiring him to be evaluated by a police psychologist and to have a one-year probationary period”).

Despite the reprimand, Acevedo said that Caldwell was right to try to gain compliance from Wilson, noting that Wilson wasn’t being cooperative. Acevedo said Caldwell had other options — such as asking other officers for help to pin him down and restrain his legs — but described him as an officer with no previous disciplinary issues who “but for this incident has done a pretty good job.”

Part of the deal is that Officer Caldwell will not appeal the decision, since he just got an unpaid suspension instead of a firing.

More from the police beat.

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Lawrence put up a post yesterday on Austin’s murder rate, which is “up nearly 80 percent from the same time last year”.

So what is the cause of Austin’s rising murder rate? Possibly just random statistical variation. Possibly the result of understaffing the police department.

I’m not totally convinced on the “understaffing the police department” argument. It kind of seems to me that the police basically come along and clean up after the murder’s already been done. Even with more cops on the street, what are the odds that one of those cops is going to run across the guy with the knife raised in time to stop him from stabbing a woman to death?

The flip side of this is the “broken windows” theory of policing: by concentrating on reducing disorder in neighborhoods, serious crime can be reduced. When disorder increases:

…many residents will think that crime, especially violent crime, is on the rise, and they will modify their behavior accordingly. They will use the streets less often, and when on the streets will stay apart from their fellows, moving with averted eyes, silent lips, and hurried steps. “Don’t get involved.” For some residents, this growing atomization will matter little, because the neighborhood is not their “home” but “the place where they live.” Their interests are elsewhere; they are cosmopolitans. But it will matter greatly to other people, whose lives derive meaning and satisfaction from local attachments rather than worldly involvement; for them, the neighborhood will cease to exist except for a few reliable friends whom they arrange to meet.

(Hattip to the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy for the link.)

This probably isn’t news to most of you, but I bring it up here because of a second item, from yesterday’s Statesman:


Citizen Kane.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Kathleen G. Kane, the Pennsylvania attorney general whose aggressive investigation of her predecessor unleashed a chain of scandal that ended with her conviction this week on felony and conspiracy charges, said Tuesday that she is resigning.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#33 in a series)

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Didn’t pick up on this until this morning. Sorry. But it did probably need some time to perk.

Kathleen Kane, the nutty paranoid anti-gun attorney general of the state of Pennsylvania:

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

A jury found Ms. Kane, 50, guilty of nine criminal charges, including perjury and criminal conspiracy, convicting her of leaking grand jury information, and then lying about it, in an effort to discredit a political rival.

More from

Under the state constitution, Kane must resign from office by the day of her sentencing. While Kane faces a maximum sentence of 28 years, state sentencing guidelines call for a far less severe sentence for someone like her with no criminal record.

This is interesting:

“There is to be absolutely no retaliation of any kind against any witness in this case, either by your own devices, from your own mouth or your hand, or directing anybody to do anything,” the judge said. She threatened Ms. Kane, who is currently free on bail, with immediate incarceration if she failed to comply.

My first thought was that this kind of warning is unprecedented; but on second thought, I’m sure federal judges have issued this kind of warning in the past to convicted defendants. For example, members of the Crips or Bloods. Or drug gangs. Or organized crime groups. But has a federal judge ever felt compelled to issue that kind of warning to a politician? And has a politician ever done as much to merit a warning like that?