Archive for the ‘Sarcasm’ Category

This is intended to enrage you. (#8 in a series)

Friday, September 1st, 2017

I don’t post every “bad cop, no doughnut” incident here because I just don’t have time. There’s only 24 hours in the day, and I have to work to pay bills and sleep so I can go to work to pay bills and then there’s all that time I spend in the opium den. (Heroin is déclassé. The true gentleman smokes opium.)

But this one set my teeth on edge.

Utah cop wants to draw blood from a hospital patient who was badly injured in an accident. Patient is not under arrest, is not a suspect (his truck was hit head-on by a fleeing suspect who died in the crash), police officer has no warrant, and patient is unconscious so he can’t provide consent.

Nurse says, “I’m sorry, but you can’t do that. It’s against hospital policy, and it’s against the law.”

Cop arrests nurse.

“So why don’t we just write a search warrant,” the officer wearing the body camera says to Payne.
“They don’t have PC,” Payne responds, using the abbreviation for probable cause, which police must have to get a warrant for search and seizure. He adds that he plans to arrest the nurse if she doesn’t allow him to draw blood. “I’ve never gone this far,” he says.

After the arrest:

Another officer arrives and tells her she should have allowed Payne to collect the samples he asked for. He says she obstructed justice and prevented Payne from doing his job.
“I’m also obligated to my patients,” she tells the officer. “It’s not up to me.”

This is one of those things I hear a lot in my CPA classes and on the Internet: “Even if you think the officer is wrong, go ahead and comply. You’re not going to win the argument in the field.” And I can kind of agree with that. Sometimes.

But there are cases like this one where you have to take a stand. Even if it means being handcuffed. Even if it means going to jail. Even if it means a beating. Maybe this is part of your oath as a health care professional. Or just simply a matter of taking a stand when somebody else can’t.

And it wasn’t just a matter of hospital policy conflicting with the law:

In Thursday’s news conference, Wubbels’s attorney Karra Porter said that Payne believed he was authorized to collect the blood under “implied consent,” according to the Tribune. But Porter said “implied consent” law changed in Utah a decade ago. And in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that warrantless blood tests were illegal. Porter called Wubbels’s arrest unlawful.
“The law is well-established. And it’s not what we were hearing in the video,” she said. “I don’t know what was driving this situation.”

The officer in question is Detective Jeff Payne. Remember that name: Detective Jeff Payne.

Salt Lake police spokesman Sgt. Brandon Shearer told local media that Payne had been suspended from the department’s blood draw unit but remained on active duty. Shearer said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown had seen the video and called it “very alarming,” according to the Deseret News.

According to Reason:

Payne also said it was his watch commander, Lt. James Tracy, who told him to arrest Wubbels if she refused to draw blood.

Remember that name, too. Lt. James Tracy. (And Payne doesn’t get a pass because his watch commander said to do this: “I was just following orders” hasn’t flown since Nuremberg.)

Alex Wubbels, the nurse, is actually taking a more moderate position than I would.

For now, Wubbels is not taking any legal action against police. But she’s not ruling it out.
“I want to see people do the right thing first and I want to see this be a civil discourse,” she said Thursday, according to the Deseret News. “If that’s not something that’s going to happen and there is refusal to acknowledge the need for growth and the need for re-education, then we will likely be forced to take that type of step. But people need to know that this is out there.”

I hope she does sue. I hope she sues the department and Lt. James Tracy and Detective Jeff Payne in their individual capacities. I hope Lt. James Tracy and Detective Jeff Payne are stripped of their qualified immunity. I hope they are bankrupted and fired from the Salt Lake City police force. I would like to see them criminally prosecuted and stripped of their law enforcement licenses, though I’m not sure what charges could be brought against them. (Federal civil rights violations?)

TMQ Watch: August 29, 2017.

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Week two. Gesundheit.

Our count is roughly 9,400 words. Will TMQ join the 10,000 Club this season? We would not be surprised.

(And this is why we’re running behind: we do plan to try to get these up on Tuesday, but if the Weekly Standard is going to let Easterbrook run on as long as he wants, without apparent editing or restrictions, we can’t promise that.)

After the jump, this week’s column…

(more…)

I, for one, welcome our New World Order overlords.

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

See, I knew the NWO was good for something.

“We were chanting, ‘Death to the New World Order’ about 10 years ago after watching all of your documentaries, and then about a week later, we were no longer on television and haven’t had a consistent TV gig since then,” Pratt said. “So if the New World Order is watching, you know, we still will not accept chips, but, you know, we will take a gig in the established media because we have a baby and we have some bills to pay so, you know, New World Order, we’re available.”

Recommended reading: May 7, 2017.

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

I’ve stumbled across two articles in the past couple of days that I commend to your attention. At least, if you’re as fascinated with this kind of thing as I am.

1) If you own a Patek Philippe Caliber 89 watch (I know many of my readers do: if you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones who does not, Sotheby’s is auctioning one soon), you’re going to have to get it serviced.

Why? The Caliber 89 has a unique feature (or, as high-end watch folks call it, “complication”): it will tell you what day Easter falls on each year.

It turns out that computing the date Easter falls on is simultaneously two things:

a) Relatively hard to do.

Easter is one of the “moveable feasts” of the Christian calendar; it falls on a different date every year. The reason is this: the basic rule for Easter is that it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring (that is, the first full moon after the Spring Equinox) and because both astronomical events are variable, the Easter date changes every year. (As with any calendrical irregularity, there have been various proposals over the centuries to just pick a single date, but so far nothing has stuck). For this reason, Easter can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.

b) Relatively easy to do for a digital computer. I think you could probably fit a program to do this in 4K of BASIC, or even run it on a good programmable calculator.

But the Caliber 89 is a totally mechanical watch. How does it calculate the date of Easter? There’s the problem:

A method for calculating the Easter date is called a computus; is it possible to make a true mechanical computus, rather than relying on a program disk? The answer is, “sort of.” The first true mechanical computus appears to have been made not long after Gauss came up with his algorithm, and it currently resides in a place more horological enthusiasts should know about: the great astronomical clock in the cathedral at Strasbourg, in Alsace, France. There have actually been three successive astronomical clocks there since about 1354, but the most recent was completed in 1843. Designed by Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué, it has a true mechanical computus – probably the first ever constructed. It’s not the only mechanical computus, but I haven’t been able to find anything in English on other computus devices (although a reprint of a review of a book on the Strasbourg computus mentions at least two other “similar” mechanisms).

Even if you are not a high-end watch person, there’s still a lot in this article that I think is interesting: mostly the discussion of how Easter calculations work, and of the Strasbourg clock (which I’d really like to see one of these days).

(Hattip: The YCombinator Twitter.)

2) I’m a fan of Stephen Hunter’s work, and one who wishes he had time to write more non-fiction. I enjoy his novels, but I also think he’s an outstanding non-fiction essayist and writer. (Mr. Hunter, if you’re out there: I’d buy a hardback collection of your shorter works.)

The most recent American Rifleman has a Hunter article that pushes several of my buttons at once: “A Battle At Barrington: The Men & The Guns”.

You may have heard of the “Battle of Barrington”, though not under that name. It is also covered in Bryan Burrough’s Public Enemies, a book both Hunter and I like a lot. This was the famous shootout between agents of what became the FBI and Lester Gillis, aka “Baby Face” Nelson. Gillis, his wife, and his partner John Chase were being pursued by (and shooting it out with) FBI agents when their vehicle was disabled: they were cornered by agents Samuel Cowley and Herman Hollis. In the ensuing shootout, Gillis killed Cowley and Hollis, and fled in their car: however, Gillis himself was mortally wounded by the agent’s gunfire and bled to death. (Chase and Mrs. Gillis were captured later: Chase spent 33 years in prison, and Mrs. Gillis served one year.)

The nice thing about Hunter’s article is that he addresses the firearms and tactics used by both sides. This sort of analysis is not a strong point of Burrough’s book: Hunter and his researcher actually went back to the old FBI files and turned up some new information.

The FBI’s records are full of fascinating facts about the event. For one thing: these guys weren’t just loaded for bear, they were loaded for bears, a lot of them. Found in the abandoned Model A: three bulletproof vests, five empty magazines for .38 Super automatics; two filled machine gun magazines (presumably Thompson 20 rounders); 200 rounds of loose .45 ammunition, three empty .351 magazines, three boxes of .30-’06 Sprg. soft-nose ammunition; one box of Springfield boattailed ammunition, five boxes, .45 Colt automatic ammunition, two boxes of Springfield bronze-pointed ammunition. One tan briefcase containing one loaded 100-round drum for the Thompson submachine gun; 10 boxes .22 Long Rifle; one Colt Ace .22 Long Rifle pistol and magazine. The last is a revelation: Chase had bought the M1911 variant with a lightweight .22 slide and barrel. Perhaps he and Les used it for low-cost practice on their various travels.

And, as you know, Bob, I love me some Thompsons. My one complaint about Hunter’s article, though, is that he consistently places the Miami Dade FBI shootout in 1987: it actually took place April 11, 1986.

This quote is for Karl (wink wink nudge nudge):

[Hollis] should have used his Super .38, firing prone, two handed, as that round’s velocity and straight-line trajectory could have gotten the job done, ending up center mass in Les. But he hadn’t been trained to two-handed prone shooting. In fact he hadn’t been trained to anything! The soon-to-be Bureau’s firearm training program didn’t begin until 1935!

Knee deep in the schadenfreude.

Friday, April 28th, 2017

I should have worn waders today.

(Fun fact: “Knee Deep In the Schadenfreude” was Starship’s working title for “We Built This City”.)

Local elections are coming up. I’m not sure what’s on the ballot for Austin specifically and Travis County in general. But in Lakeway, where I’ve been spending a lot of my time, three city council seats are up. Also, the city is considering a proposition to issue $23 million worth of bonds so they can build a new police station.

The new cop shop is kind of a big deal. I haven’t heard a lot of opposition to it, but most of the people I’ve been around in Lakeway are police or police supporters. I’ve been down and toured the current police station, and it is small and cramped and crowded: there’s no room to grow. On the other hand, the figures I cam up with for a certain property owner I know came out to around %6 a month more in property taxes. This is someone who is on a fixed income: six dollars here, six collars there, pretty soon you’re talking about City of Austin property taxes.

Reasonable people can differ on the merits of the proposition and the candidates. But here’s the problem: Lakeway’s mayor, Joe Bain, who is active on NextDoor (and has a blog on the city website) decided he’d be smart.

“John Smart” on NextDoor, to be exact.

Posts made under the name “John Smart” included advocating that residents vote for incumbent City Council candidates Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa.

“Vote for Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa – they actually volunteered for the City and worked hard to make it better, unlike the other candidate that hasn’t attended a council meeting for a long time nor has every [sic] done any work to try to improve the city – no committees, commissions or any other volunteer work,” a post by John Smart reads.

The mayor has confessed and deleted the account.

Bain confirmed by phone Thursday evening that he was behind the “John Smart” account, adding, “The city really doesn’t have anything [to do] with this … there are reasons behind all this.”

I’m not currently on NextDoor, but looking over their rules, Mayor Bain’s behavior is a pretty clear violation. I had thought that NextDoor actually did some validation on signups to make sure you were a real person and lived in the place you signed up for. (I know, I know, silly me: expecting a website on the Internet to do validation.) The one person I’ve heard from so far who is on NextDoor says they didn’t go through any validation process, but they used an invite code provided by their local neighborhood association. Maybe that bypasses the validation?

The first question this leads to is: how did he get a fake NextDoor account? Was someone else…helping him out?

The second question: how is this going to impact the election? Early voting started Monday. I can’t vote in Lakeway, but if I could, I’d be looking cynically at Mayor Bain’s endorsed candidates. Perhaps it is time for some new leadership? (I’d also be thinking about my support for the new cop shop. But honestly, I’d probably end up voting for it anyway.)

As a connoisseur of disaster…

Friday, April 28th, 2017

…I am enjoying reading about Fyre Festival so, so much.

It’s the feral dogs that really make a good music festival.

That reminds me. (adds Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus to his Amazon wish list.)

William N. Finley IV’s Twitter feed: Finley was boots on the ground at Fyre Festival and is quoted in many pf the stories I’ve seen.

Questions, so many questions: could Ja Rule and Kendall Jenner be prosecuted for fraud? Would this have been a justified use of a MOAB? And is it true that United Airlines was an official Fyre Festival sponsor?

Short notes on film: October 30, 2016.

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Since we’re talking about movies anyway, I’d like to make another recommendation. And this one won’t cost you anything.

Last Saturday, it was just Lawrence and I for movie night, and we didn’t want to burn “John Carpenter’s The Thing” with just the two of us there. We had trouble settling on something to watch. We tried “The Architects of Fear” episode of “The Outer Limits”, but neither of us could really get into the episode: it seemed too talky and too relationship oriented, and we turned it off after about 10 minutes. (Also, man, they, like, totally ripped that plot off from “Watchmen”, right?)

We tried watching David Cronenberg’s first movie, “Stereo” (which is on the Criterion disc of “Scanners”) and that was one hot pretentious mess. I think we also made it about 10 minutes into that as well.

We ended up watching, for our feature presentation, a movie I’ve been wanting to see, but which may not technically qualify for Halloween viewing. It is kind of creepy, and falls into the category of “film noir”, so if you’re willing to extend Halloween creepy to noir…(says the guy who has gone in costume as Sam Spade, complete with Maltese Falcon).

The movie in question is 1948’s “He Walked By Night” directed by some guy named Alfred L. Werker (who was supposedly either “assisted by” or “fired from the film and had it taken over by” Anthony “fired from ‘Spartacus'” Mann).

Richard Basehart – excuse me – “Richard Basehart!” – is a burglar specializing in thefts of electronics. At the start of the movie, he shoots and ends up killing a police officer, triggering a massive manhunt by the LAPD. The police lure him into a trap at one point, but he shoots his way out (leaving another police officer paralyzed). The LAPD continues to pursue him, but things are complicated by the fact that he has no criminal record, changes his methods to throw off the police, and almost seems to be one step ahead of them…like he was a former police officer or something.

(Possible spoilers ahead.)

This is often cited as a hugely influential noir film. It is a little stagey (but it was also 1948) and there’s a lot of stuff in it that feels today like clichés. (“I’m taking you off the case because you’re too close to it!”) The thing is, those weren’t clichés in 1948: this is one of the origin points for a lot of what you see in later noir films and procedurals well into today.

A very young (and very thin) Jack Webb plays a police lab technician:

(“You will believe a man can use a slide projector!”) There’s an interesting story behind that: while he was working on this movie, Webb became friends with LAPD Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn, who was working as a technical advisor on the film. One thing led to another, and, well…Webb and Wynn’s friendship and discussions ultimately led to the creation of “Dragnet” (which shares a lot of DNA with this movie.)

Even with all the staginess and talking, this is, in my opinion, a remarkably compelling movie. It is short (one hour nineteen minutes) but something is going on in almost every frame to advance the plot. And there’s also a feeling of some real stakes at play here: any of the good guys (or an innocent bystander) could get killed at any minute. As Ivan G Shreve Jr. notes in his writeup at “Thrilling Days of Yesteryear”:

The unwritten law of the men in blue is there is nothing more dangerous than a cop killer; after all, if someone is crazy enough to shoot a cop, he’s liable to inflict even more grievous injury on an innocent member of the public.

There’s also a lot of really good cinematography: the use of underlighting and shadows to convey a sense of danger and dread is top-notch. And the crime is broken somewhat by lab work (Jack Webb’s role isn’t trivial), but more so by dogged, unrelenting police footwork.

The movie is actually based on a real incident, the Erwin “Machine Gun” Walker case, and it is surprising how closely it sticks to the facts. Walker, like Basehart’s protagonist, was an electronics expert who stole to finance his experimentation. He carried around homemade nitroglycerin that he’d carefully desensitized (to make it safer to transport) had a pretty extensive arsenal (mostly stolen from military armories), experimented with making his own fake driver’s licenses and license plates, and he had worked before WWII as a police dispatcher/radio operator.

There are a few small deviations from historical fact, and one omission: Walker shot and wounded the two LAPD detectives first, the police officer he killed was a highway patrolman (not an LAPD officer), and Walker wasn’t gunned down in an LA sewer. Walker was actually captured alive and sentenced to death, though that sentence was never carried out. One thing the movie doesn’t touch on – perhaps it was too early – was that Walker was emotionally disturbed by his wartime experiences: part of the motivation for his crimes was that he wanted to build a radio-based device that would turn metal to powder, use that device to force the governments of the world to raise military pay, and thus make war “too expensive” to be fought.

You can watch “He Walked By Night” on Amazon Video, and there are several DVD editions of it. Interestingly, though, the film is in the public domain in the United States: you can also download it for free from the Internet Archive.

If you like noir films, or Jack Webb, or Richard Basehart, I recommend you do so. I think you will find this movie amply repays your investment of time and bandwidth.

You know what Travis County needs?

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Strict dog control.

A pack of dogs killed a 36-year-old woman in North Travis County, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Thursday.

More:

Animal Protection officers impounded six dogs that were on the property, most of which appeared to be Labrador/Great Pyrenees mixes, the release said. They also found 14 puppies. Fraga said city records show no prior animal complaints at the property.

I come from a family of dog owners. My mother currently owns a Corgi, and my sister owns a German Short-haired Pointer. But nobody except maybe the police and military needs these large deadly high capacity assault dogs that are capable of maiming or killing dozens of people with one bite of their jaws. No private citizen needs 20 dogs.

And do you realize that just anyone can walk into a pet store and purchase one of these deadly assault dogs with no background check?

Sensible dog control now!

Random notes: July 16, 2015.

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

The Birdman of Altiplano.

“There is already a significant problem every single weekend with widespread, out-of-control peeing,” Mr. Johnson, who represents much of Manhattan’s West Side, said.

(I love the “Citations for public urination” graphic that goes along with this article.)

I’m a little surprised this one hasn’t made FARK yet: local police find an unresponsive man in a car. He had bite marks on his wrist, and there was a non-venomous snake (and other animals) in the car. Man dies.

And it seems like his venomous cobra snake may be on the loose. (Hattip: Lawrence.)

(Huh. I didn’t realize that Frederick Forsyth won an Edgar for “There Are No Snakes in Ireland”. That’s not a bad story, but I like “The Emperor” from the same collection a little better.)

Edited to add:

Austin Animal Services is not actively searching for a missing monocle cobra that may have killed an 18-year-old Temple man on Tuesday.

You know what this means, folks. If Animal Services isn’t actively searching for it, it’s up to the rest of us to be on the lookout. Get that Taurus Judge out of the gun safe and load it up with snake shot! Fun for the whole family! At least, until someone gets bitten…

The monocled cobra causes the highest fatality due to snake venom poisoning in Thailand. Envenomation usually presents predominantly with extensive local necrosis and systemic manifestations to a lesser degree. Drowsiness, neurological and neuromuscular symptoms will usually manifest earliest; hypotension, flushing of the face, warm skin, and pain around bite site typically manifest within one to four hours following the bite; paralysis, ventilatory failure or death could ensue rapidly, possibly as early as 60 minutes in very severe cases of envenomation. However, the presence of fang marks does not always imply that envenomation actually occurred.

Edited to add 2:

Oh, thank God. They’re going to start an organized search. I was afraid they’d be engaging in a disorganized search.

(Hattp: the Austin Cobra Twitter. Hattip on the Austin Cobra Twitter to the great and good Joe D. in the comments.)

News of the world.

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

The female editor of a major daily newspaper has been forced out of her position.

Also, the NYT let their executive editor go.

Big dismal science.

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Dean Karlan lives in New Haven, Connecticut. He gets a lot of trick-or-treaters in his neighborhood: “Residents say the area’s popularity is because the houses are so close together, minimizing the door-to-door travel time for trick-or-treaters.”

Dr. Karlan is also a behavioral economist. So why not combine the two and do science experiments on children?

Last year’s study found that 38% of kids 9 and older who saw a poster of First Lady Michelle Obama chose fruit instead of candy — twice as many as those who made that choice after seeing Ann Romney, wife of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The study indicated that the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign, promoting healthy living for children, appeared to be reaching its target audience.

In other experiments, Karlan has found that the more generic the costume is, the more likely it is that the child will choose a see-through bag with candy in it over a non-transparent bag. Karlan has also found that…

…older children would change their stated political party loyalty if it meant getting a little more candy. Younger children, however, could not be bribed, and remained steadfast.

I’d like to see a follow-up to this experiment where children get equal amounts of candy, but those who identify as Democrats have more of their candy confiscated by the researchers.

This year, the study aims to test whether some children are inherently planners — whether they planned their costume ahead of time or procrastinated until the last minute, and whether they have a plan for how they will eat their candy. They’ll weigh their answers against whether kids choose fruit or give into the easy temptation of candy.

One more thing I’d like to know: why isn’t Dubner interviewing Karlan, instead of doing a re-run this week? With all due respect, guys, it seems like you’ve been doing a lot of re-runs recently, and that doesn’t really motivate me to give you money.

(This also reminds me that my youngest niece has gotten to the age where I can start doing science experiments on with her. She’s still a little young for the economics based ones, though.)

That ’70s post.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Ah, the 1970’s. What a time.

Remember Alexander Calder, the noted sculptor? Died in 1976? Well, he had a dealer, Klaus Perls, that he worked with exclusively. It was, by all accounts, a close and very friendly relationship.

Was.

In a recently amended complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court, the Calder estate says the Perlses surreptitiously held on to hundreds of Calder’s works and swindled the artist’s estate out of tens of millions of dollars. Perhaps most surprising, it says that Perls, a dealer with a sterling reputation who campaigned to rid his industry of forgeries, sold dozens of fake Calders. The suit depicts Perls as a tax cheat who stashed millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account, a secret his daughter said she maintained by paying off a former gallery employee with $5 million. She added that Calder had his own hidden Swiss account.

It looks like the Perls family stipulates at least part of these claims, specifically the parts about the Swiss bank accounts. But they also claim that part of the reason Perls had a Swiss bank account is so he could transfer profits to Calder’s Swiss bank account.

In court papers, Mr. Wolfe, the Perls lawyer, said, “Alexander Calder and Klaus Perls were kindred spirits in that they both had an aversion to paying taxes.”

I knew there was a reason I liked Alexander Calder’s work.

The 1970’s were also a time when it was much easier to get your hands on explosives. Especially if you were 17 years old. And if you were peeved at the California Department of Water and Power.

The blast ripped apart a 4-foot-wide steel gate that regulates the flow of water to the aqueduct. Windows were blown out of the gatehouse atop the spill gates and its concrete floor buckled.
About 100 million gallons of water meant for Los Angeles were instead flushed into Owens Lake, which had been dry since the Department of Water and Power opened the aqueduct in 1913.

Nobody was injured. Mark Berry, one of the two men responsible, spent 30 days in juvenile detention. And he now works for the DWP.

(I love this telling detail: “The air was filled with the banana-like smell of nitroglycerin.”)

(And this one: “Berry said his father, as yet unaware that his son was one of the culprits, boasted to a neighbor, ‘If I ever find out who bombed the gates I’ll buy him a steak dinner.'” Gardner Dozois and Edward Abbey, please call your offices.)

(Since I made a “That ’70s Show” reference, I believe I have to link to this Penny Arcade. Especially since I am all about fish out of water prison dramas.)