Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Obit watch: August 8, 2017.

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

For the historical record: NYT obit for Mark White.

Ernst Zündel, scummy Nazi Holocaust denier and the center of two criminal trials in Canada.

Richard Dudman passed away at the age of 99, surprisingly. I say “surprisingly” because, as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he led an interesting and dangerous life:

Mr. Dudman’s career in journalism lasted more than three quarters of a century. He was in Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and, after oversleeping and missing a flight back to Washington, dropped by the police station where Lee Harvey Oswald was being held and watched as he was gunned down by Jack Ruby.

He covered other wars all over the world, including Vietman. He was responsible for the P-D publishing part of the Pentagon Papers. In 1970, he and two other journalists were taken hostage by the Vietcong and spent 40 days as prisoners before being released.

In 1978, he and two other journalists got an “interview” with Pol Pot (though the “interview” was more like Pol Pot haranguing them through translators for several hours). Then someone tried to kill the three journalists.

He had a motto: “Reporter who sits on hot story gets ass burned.”

David E. H. Jones passed away a few weeks ago. That name may ring a small bell for some of you: he was a chemist and professor, as well as a professional writer.

Dr. Jones, who died at 79 on July 19 in Newcastle upon Tyne in northeastern England, wrote hundreds of irreverent columns about Daedalus for two sacrosanct journals: New Scientist, in a column named for Ariadne, the mistress of the labyrinth, and Nature, in a column called Daedalus.

Back in the old days, I used to spend time in the university library reading New Scientist, and Dr. Jones’s column was always the first thing I flipped to.

Obit watch: August 5, 2017.

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

Mark White, former Texas governor.

Obit watch: July 28, 2017.

Friday, July 28th, 2017

John Kelso, columnist for the Austin American-Statesman since Jesus was a corporal, passed away earlier today.

The staff of WCD extends our condolences to his family and friends.

Obit watch: July 25, 2017.

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Ralph Regula, former congressman from Ohio.

Mr. Regula represented Canton and northeastern Ohio for 36 years before retiring in 2008. At the time, he was dean of the state’s congressional delegation and the No. 3 Republican on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Among his accomplishments: the creation of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Throughout his career, Mr. Regula blocked attempts to change the name of Mount McKinley in Alaska to its original Native Alaskan name, Mount Denali, maintaining that it was important to honor President William McKinley, who was from Canton. For years he included a clause in the Interior Department’s appropriations bill barring the change.

You may also remember him from the National First Ladies Library and Historic Site, previously blogged here.

Memo from the police blotter.

Friday, July 14th, 2017

I don’t write about this story lightly. I’m blogging it because I think it brings up some things that need to be discussed.

An APD detective is being sued in Bastrop County. Specifically, the complaint against her is that she was negligent in securing her duty weapon: a child stole it from her and committed suicide with it.

[Defense attorneys] say that [the detective] had kept the gun in her purse in a locked safe, and there was no way for her to know that [the victim] could have gained access to it. Furthermore, they said it would be unreasonable to expect that every gun owner in Texas should be responsible to keep their weapons under lock and key, where they aren’t accessible during an emergency, according to the motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiff’s side:

But [victim’s mother] claims that [defendant] violated Section 46.13 of the Texas Penal Code, which states that “a person commits an offense if a child gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm” and the person is criminally negligent if she “failed to secure the firearm or left the firearm in a place to which the person knew or should have known the child would gain access.”

Plaintiff’s side also claims that the defendant didn’t actually have the weapon in a locked safe.

It does seem kind of callous and cruel to say “there’s no duty to lock up your guns away from kids”. Responsible people are going to do this anyway, duty or no duty.

But there’s a twist: the child in this case was actually 16 years old. Maybe I am jaded, but it seems to me like a 16-year-old is going to be highly motivated to find the forbidden, if they really want it: drugs, booze, porn…or even a gun. Even a gun in a “locked safe” beside a bed. And I really do wonder what kind of “locked safe” that was: as we all know, Bob, many “gun safes” are actually insecure and can easily be opened by a five-year-old who thinks there’s candy inside. How good does a gun safe have to be to stand up against a 16-year-old?

Especially a motivated one.

According to court documents, [the victim] was sent to stay with her aunt and [the defendant] after her father was convicted of molesting her. Her mother allowed him back in the home, though he was not allowed to be around his daughter. [Victim]’s mother claims there was reason to believe that her daughter was a risk to herself or others because of the abuse and that [defendant] should have been extra cautious to secure the weapons in the home.

“[defendant] should have been extra cautious to secure the weapons in the home…” Or, you know, maybe victim’s mom could have done something else here…trying to think of what that could be…oh, yeah, that’s right.

Did you try not letting the guy who was convicted of raping your daughter back into the house? Instead of sending of sending your kid off to live with other people? Doesn’t that send a pretty clear message: Mom values the man who hurt me more than she does me?

(And I know it seems kind of dismissive, but: what if the victim had taken a whole bottle of Tylenol instead? Or used Google to look up “Japanese cleaning product suicides”?)

This whole thing is just so messed up, I don’t even know where to begin thinking about it.

(In case you need it.)

What class fire extinguisher for hyena?

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Remember Sheldon Silver, former speaker of the New York State Assembly, convicted on corruption charges in 2015? (Previously on WCD.)

His conviction has been overturned. And not for the reason I was afraid it would be overturned (jury issues):

Mr. Silver was convicted on charges that he had obtained nearly $4 million in illicit payments in return for taking a series of official actions that benefited others. But in the jury instructions, the judge’s explanation of an official action was too broad, the appeals court found, because it swept in some conduct that the Supreme Court’s decision would now exclude.

The panel cited the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision involving Bob McDonnell, a former Republican governor of Virginia, that came seven months after Mr. Silver was convicted. Mr. McDonnell had arranged meetings for and attended events with a benefactor who had provided the governor and his wife with gifts worth more than $175,000. The Supreme Court ruled that official action must involve formal and concrete government actions or decisions, like holding a hearing or filing a lawsuit, and not routine political courtesies.

(I’ve also touched very briefly on the McDonnell decision before.)

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have…

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

…baseball bats and machetes.

(Also: “We were looking for ‘knife’ violence. ‘Knife’.”)

(Do I need a “machete” subcategory of “knives”?)

(Well, that guy thinks so.)

I miss Hognose.

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

VA’s foray into Internet of Things faced ‘catastrophic failure’

Memo from the police beat.

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Remember a few months ago, we had a guy who shot himself in the back of a patrol car while under arrest, because the cop missed his gun during the patdown? (Previously.)

Chief Slate Fistcrunch Manley suspended the officer for 20 days. This is one of those “let’s make a deal” suspensions: the officer took the 20 day suspension, agreed not to appeal, and in turn the chief agreed not to fire him.

“A twenty-day suspension is like a vacation,” Sayeed said.

Except he’s not getting paid for it. And he loses benefits for that period. And it is a blot on his permanent record. And he can’t do any part-time work related to law enforcement while he’s on suspension, as I recall. (I think he could mow lawns, or drive for Uber, or other temp jobs, but I don’t think he could work security. At least if I remember the APD discipline policy correctly.)

I hate to seem like I have callouses on my soul. I get that the family is sad and upset, and I get that some people will think I’m a cop apologist. But look: it isn’t like the cop pulled his own gun and shot the guy. It isn’t like the cop killed him in a negligent discharge, or shot him in the back as he was running away.

This man pulled his own gun, held it to his head, and pulled the trigger on his own. What the officer did wrong here was missing the gun in the frisk.

Is that a firing offense? Or is this guy possibly salvageable, and a 20-day suspension, a year of probation, having to go out to the acade4my and tell cadets “this is how I f’ed up, don’t be like me”, and the memory of this incident, is enough? I think maybe it is.

Chief’s memo here.

Meanwhile, in another odd story, another APD officer and his wife are being charged federally with social security fraud Specifically, “making a false statement to an agency of the United States and misprision of felony”. It sounds like he lied about having a joint bank account with the wife, and lied about living in the same household with her.

I love that word, “misprision”. Almost as much as I love “barratry”.

But lying about having a joint account – something that’s so easy to check – is such a stupid thing to do, it makes me wonder: were these two just getting really bad advice from a lawyer, or someone pretending to be a lawyer? Or were they desperate and made bad choices? Or were they really trying to scam the system? The Statesman is oddly short on details at the moment.

Bagatelle (#5).

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Could it be…SATAN?!

No. Actually, it wasn’t Satan at all. It was mass hysteria and a doctor who made a mistake.

I’ll throw this in just for fun: if you are a “dancer” who performs “in paint, latex, wax, gel, foam, film and coatings”, are you a nude dancer in the eyes of the law?

And why does it matter? Because clubs with “fully nude” dancers have to collect a state-mandated $5 entry fee.

…n January 2017 the comptroller amended its rules to include clubs that employ latex and paint-covered dancers as sexually oriented businesses.

Department of I Wasn’t Going to Blog This.

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Really, I wasn’t. But I tossed off a quick email mention to a few friends last night, and I was surprised at the reaction. Then I saw that the story made the WP

Terry Thompson was indicted Thursday on murder charges. His wife was also indicted as an accessory.

The twist is: Mrs. Thompson is a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy.

Backstory: On May 28th, Terry Thompson and his kids went to a Denny’s. There, they ran into John Hernandez, who was allegedly urinating in public outside the restaurant. Thompson confronted Hernandez and the confrontation got physical at some point. Thompson took Hernandez to the ground, pinned him down, and put his arm around Hernandez’s neck.

There isn’t video of what led up to the confrontation, but there is about 50 seconds of video showing Thompson pinning down Hernandez. Mrs. Thompson is also shown helping her husband pin down Hernandez. (My understanding is that Mrs. Thompson also tried, or encouraged other people to try, to stop the video, but I can’t find my original source for that. I may have misread or misremembered one of the stories.)

Hernandez eventually stopped breathing and passed out, at which point Mrs. Thompson administered CPR. Hernandez was taken to the hospital, where he died three days later from “a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by chest compression and strangulation” according to the coroner.

The sheriff’s office, rightly (in my opinion) asked the Texas Rangers and Department of Justice to assist with the investigation, and suspended Deputy Thompson. But there was a significant amount of community pressure in this case, including a demonstration in front of the DA’s offices Wednesday afternoon.

Keep in mind: Hernandez passed on the 31st, and the Thompsons were indicted on the 8th. I’m not sure if anyone knows how far the Rangers and DOJ have gotten in their investigation. But the sheriff his ownself today announced that Internal Affairs is looking at eight other deputies who responded.

That’s probably not unusual: from my understanding pf APD policy, this would be considered a “death in custody”. APD’s Special Investigations Division would be tasked with investigating it, IA would probably be involved as well, and they’d be looking at everyone who showed up to the scene.

What is unusual is that this was presented to the grand jury as a “direct to grand jury” case, and the speed with which it was presented to the grand jury. Murray Newman, who I’ve mentioned many times in the past (former Harris County prosecutor, now defense attorney) has a good explanation: briefly, “direct to grand jury” means the prosecutors present whatever evidence they have, but leave the decision on whether and what charges to file up to the grand jury.

Cases that are presented directly to Grand Jury are usually complicated ones. They often take weeks and weeks, if not months and months, to investigate before a presentation is made. The idea that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to file charges on Thompson last week but there is enough for a full Grand Jury presentation this week doesn’t really compute. The skeptical side me thinks that there is more in play here.

HouChron coverage of the indictment. WP story. Both of these include the video.

So is the DA’s office trying to railroad a guy and his wife for acting in self-defense, because elements of the community are demanding it? Or did this guy and his wife the deputy figure they could get away with choking a minority because of their law enforcement connections?

Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle? I have no idea. This is why we have judges and juries. But it will be an interesting case to follow.

Obit watch: May 28, 2017.

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Gregg Allman, of the Allman Brothers Band and “married to Cher” fame.

In 1977, Mr. Allman and the singer Cher, to whom he was married at the time, released the album “Two the Hard Way.” (They were billed on the cover as Allman and Woman.) The project was poorly received by critics and the record-buying public alike.

Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame baseball player, perfect game pitcher, and later a congressional rep and a senator frim Kentucky.

He was the second pitcher, after Cy Young, to win at least 100 games, record at least 1,000 strikeouts and throw no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues. When he retired after the 1971 season, his 2,855 strikeouts were second only to Walter Johnson’s 3,509.

And, of course, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor and soccer theorist.