Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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:

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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 philly.com:

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?

Memo from the police beat.

Friday, August 12th, 2016

There are a couple of ongoing stories in the news, two of them locally. Both of those two had significant developments today (in other words, “Let’s break this news on Friday afternoon and see if it gets lost over the weekend.”)

First story: You may recall the controversy back in April where our city manager, Marc Ott, accused the police chief of insubordination and fined him five days of pay?

Looks like we know who won that battle.

Austin City Manager Marc Ott, the most powerful man at City Hall, is leaving his post for a prestigious job running a Washington, D.C., association.

Last month, the council gave him a $22,000 raise, bumping his pay and benefits to $361,000 annually. His predecessor at the management association made $478,000 in 2013, the group’s tax returns show.

At least, we know who won for the moment. It will be interesting to see how the replacement process plays out, and how much deference (if any) the incoming city manager will be expected to show to the APD and the chief.

Also worth pointing out is what may have been Ott’s final “F— you” to the APD. There was a recent report (the “Matrix Report”) that called for increasing the number of police officers.

Additionally, the report also calls for the department to create positions for 66 officers and eight corporals beyond what has already been authorized, and to add an average 17 new officer positions over the next four years. Finally, the report calls for adding four officers to the Motorcycle Unit.

So that’s 78 sworn officers over and above the current authorized staffing level, which APD is still about 100 officers short of. What did the City Manager and his team ask for in the current budget?

Currently, the city has taken a phased approach to increasing staffing at APD in FY 2017. Included in the City Manager’s proposed FY 2017 budget are 12 new sworn positions and 21 new civilian positions to transition existing sworn employees back to patrol activities.

Twelve. To quote our great and good friend RoadRich: “‘But first let me deny you most of the required staff to protect the city… and then I shall leave you to your fates. Suckahs.'”

(Another problem which I would like to get into, but the margins of this post are too small to contain: there’s also talk of converting the district representative positions, which are currently sworn officers, into civilian positions.)

Next:

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Obit watch: August 6, 2016.

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Joaquin Jackson passed away June 15 of this year. I did not learn of his death until I flipped through this month’s Texas Monthly at the grocery store today, and I’m not sure how I missed that. Brief tribute from TM. Statesman.

For those folks unfamiliar with Mr. Jackson, he served for 27 years as a Texas Ranger, from 1966 to 1993. His time as a Ranger spanned what I’d call the end of the old Texas and the beginning of the new Texas; the evolution from horses and cattle to technology. He retired in 1993, ostensibly because of his discomfort at changes taking place in the Rangers organization. (However, he states in one of his books that his reasons were actually more complex and personal than that.)

In 1994, he appeared on the cover of Texas Monthly as part of an article on the changes taking place in the Rangers. The cover made him an icon. He went on to do some private investigation work, and appeared in several movies.

Jackson was a member of the governing board of the National Rifle Association, once getting into hot water over remarks he made about assault weapons.
“I personally believe a weapon should never have over, as far as a civilian, a five-round capacity,” he told then-Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith in 2005. “If you’re a hunter, if you’re going to go hunting with a weapon, you shouldn’t need over but one round. So five rounds would be plenty. … Personally, I think assault weapons basically … need to be in the hands of the military and in the hands of the police.”
He later backpedaled from the remarks, claiming that he was talking only about fully automatic weapons and not about semiautomatic rifles.

I remember that controversy, and I’m convinced Jackson knew exactly what he was saying at the time and was covering his butt later. (If you doubt he knew the difference between fully automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons, read Chapter 6 of One Ranger and then try to tell me otherwise.)

He also wrote two books. One Ranger is a damn fine book. I try to snap up firsts of this every time I find them, as I am convinced this will be seen as an important Texas book in the coming years. The sequel, One Ranger Returns, had a different co-author and is not quite as good, in my humble opinion. (There are some interesting things in it; mostly background from his family.)

In spite of my disagreement with him, I would have enjoyed meeting him and shaking his hand. I missed the chance, sadly: he appeared a few times as the Texas Book Festival, but I was never able to get down there on those weekends.

His passing leaves a hole that can’t be filled.

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

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Blogger, with occasional chief.

Blogger, with occasional chief.

This reminds me that I owe you guys a longer post on the Citizen’s Police Academy: thoughts on the academy itself, and the aftermath. I’ve had that stewing for a while now, but various things have gotten in the way.

Dear Mr. President…

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

I’ve never had to fill out a Form 4473 to purchase a book.

Even The Poor Man’s James Bond.

Come to think of it, I’ve also never had to show a permit to purchase a book. Nor has anyone ever called in to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Books to get my purchase approved.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#32 in a series)

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

There were rumors last week that this was coming: I wanted to wait until they became reality, but somehow I missed the report on Friday.

Corrine Brown, the House rep from the 5th District of Florida, was indicted (along with Ronnie Simmons, her chief of staff) on federal charges of mail and wire fraud.

The 24-count indictment unsealed Friday accuses the two of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, theft of government property, filing false tax returns, concealing material facts on required financial disclosure forms and obstruction. It focuses on the charity One Door for Education, the subject of a January Times-Union report and a series of stories since.

The fact that Rep. Brown is a Democrat is never specifically mentioned, though (starting with paragraph 13) there are references to her prominent supporters in the Democratic Party.

The indictment says more than $200,000 raised for One Door was spent at events that Brown hosted or were held in her honor. The indictment mentions money spent on a luxury box for a Beyonce concert and a box for a game between the Washington Redskins and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Cheeez louise, woman. You scammed money to see a Jaguars game?

I might have considered letting this get past me, since I missed the Friday reports, but this woman apparently has an ego the size of a small planet.

Item #1:

Friends,
Last week was very rough.
Two black men were needlessly gunned down by police; 5 Dallas police officers were slain by a demented man, and on Friday I had to appear in federal court.

Item #2 (by way of Ace of Spades and Mike the Musicologist):

“These are the same agents that was not able to do a thorough investigation of [shooter Omar Mateen], and we ended up with 50 people dead,” Brown said. Mateen was shot and killed by police at the scene of the Orlando nightclub attack, bringing the total death toll to 50.
Brown’s lawyer echoed those sentiments.
“Perhaps had it chosen to devote its resources more thoughtfully, 50 innocent people would be alive today,” Elizabeth White said, according to First Coast News.

For the record, it appears Rep. Brown has historically received a grade of “F” fron the NRA.

Dallas.

Friday, July 8th, 2016

I went to bed pretty early last night (after a frustrating attempt to deal with Wells Fargo) and didn’t find out what was going on until 5 AM this morning. (Great and good friend of the blog RoadRich texted and emailed us, but we were sound asleep when things started breaking.)

I really haven’t even had a chance to look at the news yet, and don’t have any profound thoughts. But I wanted to get something up. Consider this an open thread for discussion and updates.

Dallas Morning News coverage.

Please keep in mind:

In a semi-related vein, this is an interesting thread from Reason’s “Hit and Run”. Part of my answer to this is: the author is asking this question less than 24 hours after the incident took place. All the facts were not in, and probably still are not in even now. Why should the NRA (or any other organization) be making public statements until we have all the facts?

Edited to add: Been tied up. Apologies. The reports I’m seeing now pretty much all state that the dead gunman was killed by a breaching charge attached to a police robot. The temptation is great to make Asimov jokes, but the situation is too serious, so I’ll just link to this Statesman article which quotes the “executive director of a nationally recognized police active-shooter training facility in San Marcos” as stating it was “unprecedented but perfectly legal.”

You know what Kentucky needs?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Strict burrito control.

(Also strict knife control, but mostly burrito control.)

(I have no joke here, I just like saying “deadly assault burritos”.)

(Insert your own “deadly assault burrito” joke here.)

Somebody bring me some water…

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Noted for the record (though I don’t think I ever did a full-blown “you’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena” on this one):

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously overturned former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell’s public corruption conviction and made it harder to prosecute public officials for alleged wrongdoing.

…Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. described the former governor’s actions as “tawdry” in announcing the decision from the bench.

“tawdry”. A great word. And much like “gargantuan”, the opportunity rarely comes up to use it in a sentence.

Random notes, philosophical asides, bookmarks, endorsements, and other things.

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Some things I think are interesting, some I want to bookmark, some I want to plug, something for everyone, a comedy tonight! I am going to try to put these in some kind of rough topic order…

“Introduction to GPU Password Cracking: Owning the LinkedIn Password Dump”.

I Sea, “a mobile app that claimed to help users locate refugees adrift at sea”, appears to be a complete fraud.

The developers swapped information, including screen shots of a static image and a weather tool that one person claimed was used to mislead users into thinking they were looking at live images of the sea. Others noted that the app had been coded to tell users that their login credentials were invalid.

Bonus: the NYT mentions my third favorite security blogger, @SwiftOnSecurity. (Sorry, SecuriTay, but I’ve had my photo taken with the Krebster, and I know Borepatch. Third is still good enough for a medal, if this was the Olympics.)

And it isn’t just that the coding is screwy: PopSci makes a pretty strong argument that what I Sea claims to do is physically and logistically impossible.

To provide images of 1 percent of the total area of the Mediterranean would run over $1 million. And that’s just for one set of still photos. If the app were to provide up-to-date imaging, as it claims, the images would need to be refreshed regularly, at $1 million each time. And that cost is for unprocessed data, Romeijn says. Processing will cost more, as will the licensing fees required to make those images available to the public.

And those satellites make one pass a day, so you’re not getting “real-time” imaging, no way, no how.

The Oakland PD mess, summarized. Yes, I’m linking to an anonymous person on Facebook, but much of the information in this summary has already been reported in the media: this is more of a handy round-up if you haven’t been following this mess from the start. (Hattip: Popehat on the Twitter.)

And speaking of Popehat: the guys get shirts! Women, too. I just ordered mine: not only is $23 very reasonable for a shirt these days, and not only do I like Popehat, but I think Cotton Bureau does good stuff. (You may remember them from the BatLabels “Henchman” shirts, which are back in print! Hoorah!)

Flaming hyena #32: Democratic congressman Chaka Fattah.

In addition to racketeering conspiracy, Fattah was found guilty of bribery, bank fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements to a financial institution, and falsification of records.

A bunch of other folks took the fall with him, including Herbert Vederman:

Through cash payments to the congressman’s children, college tuition payments for his au pair and $18,000 given to help purchase a vacation home in the Poconos, prosecutors said, Vederman bought Fattah’s support in seeking appointment by the Obama White House to an ambassadorship.

(Hattip on this one to Mike the Musicologist.)

Prominent (well, in Chicago, anyway) Chicago journalist Neil Steinberg decides to pull the old “look how easy it is to buy an assault rifle” trick. So he goes to a gun store…

…and they deny his purchase because he’s a drunken wife-beater. (I have seen other versions of this story that state BATF first issued a “delay”, then a “deny” (BATF doesn’t have to give a reason for “deny”), Steinberg threatened to write that they were “denying” his purchase because he was a journalist, and the gun shop then decided to point out that he was a drunken wife-beater. However, this version seems to me to be to be the best sourced, and it doesn’t mention any BATF verdict.)

But at least he had the good taste to go with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15.