Archive for the ‘Rage’ Category

Kelly Thomas.

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Since I’ve started thinking seriously (as a grown-up adult, not a child) about criminal justice issues, I’ve maintained certain positions.

One of those positions is that the verdict of a jury deserves a certain amount of deference. Yes, I may disagree with the verdict the jury returns. But: they were there in the courtroom. I was not. They watched all the testimony in person. I did not. They were able to see subtle cues of tone and inflection. I was not. At best, what I am basing my judgment on is what I read in the newspaper or saw on TV. These things are subject to conscious and unconscious bias, as well as errors and omissions. How can I question the verdict a jury returns without all the information they had access to? George Zimmerman or OJ Simpson, I’ve always thought the jury should be respected.

But I’m having trouble reconciling that with the acquittals of Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli in the beating death of Kelly Thomas. (Previously. Also previously and graphic image warning.)

How does a jury return a verdict that says hitting a man in the face twenty times with a Taser is okay? How does a jury return a verdict that says telling a man “See these fists? They’re getting ready to [expletive] you up.” and then beating him until he can’t breathe and his blood is pooling on the sidewalk is not, at the very least, involuntary manslaughter? What evidence did they see that we did not?

And is it a compromise of my principles that I’m hoping the Justice Department indicts Ramos and Cicinelli?

Fiat justitia ruat caelum. But what is justice in this case?

This is intended to enrage you. (#6 in a series)

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Wednesday’s verdict in particular seemed to line up with what many of the officers on trial have argued: that these were unique events under extreme circumstances rather than, as the Justice Department and even some city officials have insisted, symptoms of a much deeper and broader dysfunction within the police force.

These “unique events under extreme circumstances” include shooting an unarmed man, beating and handcuffing three other men who drove the shooting victim to a police station, driving their car to a levee, and setting the car on fire with the shooting victim inside.

These “unique events under extreme circumstances” also include shooting even more unarmed people and covering those shootings up as well.

Random notes: December 10, 2013.

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

One bright and lovely morning in September, on the first day of school, three traffic lanes that went from the streets of Fort Lee, New Jersey, to the George Washington bridge were suddenly shut down:

Cars backed up, the town turned into a parking lot, half-hour bridge commutes stretched into four hours, buses and children were late for school, and emergency workers could not respond quickly to the day’s events, which included a missing toddler, a cardiac arrest and a car driving into a building.

The lanes were ostensibly closed for a “traffic study”:

But the workers testified that the Port Authority already collected data on how many cars traveled in each lane, so such a traffic study would have been unnecessary.
The director of the bridge, Robert Durando, testified that in 35 years at the Port Authority, he had never heard of lanes being closed down for a traffic study.

The lanes were shut down for a total of four days. The Port Authority controls the bridge, and gave the order to shut down the lanes. And the members of the Port Authority are appointed by Chris Christie.

The mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, complained in a letter in September that the lane closings were “punitive” — Mr. Christie, a Republican, was leaning heavily on Democratic mayors to endorse him for re-election so he could present himself as a presidential candidate with bipartisan appeal, but the mayor was not going along.

So now the New Jersey legislature is holding hearings, and it sounds like there’s very little paperwork documenting exactly why the Port Authority decided to hold a traffic study on one of the busiest days of the year. It also sounds like there’s a lot of…obfuscation, shall we say?

On the one hand, I want to give this the “NYT covers a Republican politician” discount. On the other hand, there seems to be no dispute that three access lanes to the busiest bridge in the United States were closed for four days, and not for emergency repairs. That to me is simply inexcusable; in a case like this, I would support individuals taking it upon themselves to reopen the “closed” lanes, as well as the liberal application of tar and feathers.

Speaking of tar and feathers, here are some excerpts from yesterday’s testimony in the Kelly Thomas trial that are designed to enrage you:

“That would not be good proper police procedure,” [John A. ] Wilson [testifying as a "use of force expert" - DB], a 26-year FBI veteran, said when asked hypothetically about a suspect being hit on the head. Such a blow “is going to cause serious bodily injuries.”

Prosecutors maintain that Thomas was struck repeatedly in the face with the front of [Jay] Cicinelli’s Taser and that the injuries contributed to his death. Audio from the night captures Cicinelli saying he hit Thomas 20 times in the face with his stun gun.

Wilson also testified that when the video captures [Manuel] Ramos putting on latex gloves and threatening to punch Thomas, it was a show of force by Ramos: “It indicates there’s going to be contact made, or blood or some body fluid may be exposed as a result of a violent contact.”

In the video, Ramos puts on the gloves and tells Thomas, “See these fists? They’re getting ready to [expletive] you up.”

Wilson said officers should have stopped hitting Thomas after he started complaining that he couldn’t breathe and a pool of blood started forming on the concrete.

Morning coverage of the Spaccia conviction:

Spaccia probably faces a sentence similar to the 10 years to 12 years in prison that her former boss, Robert Rizzo, is expected to receive, prosecutors said. Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 corruption charges in October.

I promised more coverage of the LA County Sheriff’s Department indictments, but I’d be doing it anyway. There is a lot of “Wow” going on here.

The indictments allege two assaults on inmates and three on people who visited the jail. They also include claims that deputies wrote false reports to justify using force and conducted illegal arrests and searches of jail visitors.
A sergeant who supervised deputies in the visiting area of Men’s Central Jail was accused of encouraging violence and reprimanding employees “for not using force on visitors … if the visitors had supposedly ‘disrespected’” jail deputies, according to an indictment.

Remember, these aren’t inmates (not that it would be any better if they were): these are visitors. But wait, it gets better:

In one case, prosecutors say, an Austrian consul official trying to visit an Austrian inmate was arrested and handcuffed even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution, the indictment said.

There’s even more. A crooked jailer smuggled a cell phone in for an inmate who was an FBI informant.

After the discovery, sheriff’s officials moved the inmate — identified only as “AB” in the indictment — and changed his name. They then altered the department’s internal inmate database to falsely say he had been released, prosecutors allege. Deputies continued to isolate the inmate even after federal authorities had told sheriff’s officials that a judge had ordered the inmate’s appearance before a grand jury, the indictment states.

Can you say, “obstruction of justice”? I knew you could. But it gets even better:

Stephen Leavins, a lieutenant in the unit that handles allegations of criminal misconduct against sheriff’s employees, was accused of directing two sergeants to confront an FBI agent working on the investigation outside her home. The sergeants — Scott Craig and Maricella Long — falsely told the agent that a warrant was being prepared for her arrest, prosecutors said in court records.

They tried to intimidate an FBI agent? Does LACSD make it a practice to hire and promote deputies who are dumber than a bag of hair?

For a while now, I’ve felt like the HouChron is trying to become more like BuzzFeed; if you look at their website, there’s a huge emphasis on slideshows and listicles. I generally don’t like linking to that crap (though the slide shows of fair food are often interesting) but here’s an exception: historical photos of Bonnie and Clyde. The HouChron isn’t kidding around with the “graphic photos” warning, either; there are a couple of photos of Bonnie and Clyde after the shootout. (There’s also some nice photos of a couple of their guns, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

(Yeah, it is tied to the mini-series, which I didn’t watch, but the photos are still interesting on their own.)

Edited to add: Grammar question. “A FBI agent” or “An FBI agent”? “A FBI informant” or “An FBI informant”?

SDC update.

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

I’ve been running way behind on these (life has gotten in the way) and am hoping to fix that soon.

In the meantime, I do have a post up about my experience last night at The Goodnight. The categories on this post might give you a hint as to how things went…

This is intended to enrage you. (#5 in a series)

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Back in April of 2012, I noted the convictions of five New Orleans police officers on charges stemming from the “Danziger Bridge” incident.

About that:

Citing “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct” on the part of federal lawyers here and in Washington, a judge on Tuesday threw out the 2011 convictions of five former police officers who had been found guilty in a momentous civil rights case of killing two citizens and engaging in an extensive cover-up in the days after Hurricane Katrina.

More from NOLA.com:

In a 129-page order that strongly criticized prosecutors in former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt pointed to “unprecedented events and acts” that “has taken the court on a legal odyssey unlike any other.”

And yes, this is a direct result of the anonymous comments scandal that led to Letten’s resignation:

The revelations and other instances of misconduct prompted Engelhardt to call for a criminal probe of former prosecutors Sal Perricone and Jan Mann, neither of whom were directly involved in prosecuting the Danziger Bridge case. Tuesday’s order alluded to additional misconduct uncovered by that probe.
The judge outed a third Justice Department prosecutor as an anonymous poster.

To be clear, I’m not enraged at the judge: I think he made the right decision, especially given the discovery of Karla Dobinski’s activities:

Ms. Dobinski had an important role leading up to trial, as the lawyer in charge of the so-called “taint team,” which among other things ensured that testimony given by police officers under immunity was not later used against them (the failure to do so is what fatally compromised the case in state court).

Ms. Dobinski is the third “anonymous” commenter. (Also: “taint team”. Ken White, call your office, please.)

I’m enraged at Letten, and at his office, for f—ing this one up. It looks like there will be retrials. I hope the defendants get a fair second trial. I also hope that Letten, and the other folks in his office responsible for this mess, face their own criminal trials, and receive appropriate punishment if they are found guilty of criminal acts.

Random notes: February 1, 2013.

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Nobody needs a high-capacity assault snowmobile. Actually, I’m not even sure the general public should be allowed snowmobiles; perhaps we need to limit those to the police and military, people who have had special snowmobile training.

This is intended to enrage you:

At the 11th hour of its deadline to do so, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration on Thursday asked a judge to allow it to withdraw from a federal consent decree aimed at implementing sweeping reforms in the New Orleans Police Department.

The request is based on three factors:

  1. The consent decree “failed to disclose costs to fix Orleans Parish Prison until after the NOPD consent decree was executed”.
  2. Former prosecutor Sal Perricone and the NOLA.com comments scandal.
  3. There are questions about whether the consent decree’s provisions regulating secondary employment for police officers are compliant with federal labor law.

Previously. I am still unable to find an execution date for Antoinette Frank.

Over the past several weeks, dozens of other sheriffs from across the country have reacted with similar public opposition to Mr. Obama’s call for stiffer gun laws, releasing a deluge of letters, position papers and statements laying out their arguments in stark terms. Their jurisdictions largely include rural areas, and stand in sharp contrast to those of urban police chiefs, who have historically supported tougher gun regulations.

“C’est un Nagra. C’est suisse, et tres, tres precis.” (I’m surprised that quote, or the English translation, isn’t on the IMDB page for “Diva”.)

Heh. Heh. Heh.

Nine current and former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges were charged with conspiracy and fraud Thursday, capping a three-year FBI probe into what authorities said was rampant ticket-fixing and pervasive corruption on the bench.

The judges are being accused of pretty much what you’d expect: taking bribes to fix tickets.

According to the indictment, [Fortunato] Perri [one of the indicted judges - DB] got free landscaping and a patio for assisting one unnamed contractor with “dozens of Traffic Court citations.” He also is accused of accepting free auto services, towing, and a load of shrimp and crab cakes from Alfano, whose company, Century Motors, ran a towing service.

You know, I like shrimp. I like crab cakes. I wouldn’t go to prison for them, though.

This is intended to enrage you. (#4 in a series)

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

What we do instead of doing something:

City of Austin and Travis County officials plan to take steps to ban gun shows on city- and county-owned property — and potentially even curtail them on private property within the city limits, the American-Statesman has learned.

Additionally, [Austin City Council member Mike] Martinez said the city will likely explore the possibility of enacting a law that would require a special permit — granted only by the City Council — for gun shows held on private property in Austin. Martinez said he will seek legal opinions on that idea. Eckhardt said she doesn’t think state law gives county governments such authority.

And:

“I can’t think of anything dumber,” [Texas Land Commissioner Jerry] Patterson, a supporter of gun rights, said of the proposals. “It’s absolutely not going to reduce gun violence.”

Time to make some phone calls Monday morning.

Edited to add: Giving this some more thought, Charles Harris of Storied Firearms (who is quoted in the article) deserves some praise. He could easily have thrown the gun shows under the bus. After all, that’d drive business to his place. But no.

…he sees the measure as “a feel-good thing. Politicians saying, ‘Look what we’re doing. We’re doing something to curb gun violence,’ when in reality, it doesn’t do anything to prevent crimes. Criminals can still get a gun on the streets anyway. I think there are other laws that can do a lot more good to get bad guys away from their guns.”

If you live in the greater Austin area, why not stop by Storied Firearms and pick up a little something? I visit there fairly regularly and find it to be a very nice shop. If you’re not in the Austin area, but support gun rights, there’s a contact form on their website that you could use to send a “thank you” to Mr. Harris.

Thugs. Pimps. Nazis. Ceridian Benefit Services.

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

My opinion is that Ceridian is not a “service,” it is a criminal enterprise run by thieves and engaged in systematic interstate mail and wire fraud. It is my opinion that Ceridian takes money from the recently unemployed, then, instead of passing the portion due onto the insurance company, takes that money and then fails to inform the insurance company.

Edited to add 8/26: Lawrence has pointed out to me that this is somewhat unfair. There are, more than likely, many pimps who are kind to their women, do not beat them unnecessarily, and in general do not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Ceridian Benefit Services. So noted, and my apologies to the pimps.

This is intended to enrage you. (#3 in a series)

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

The Air Force dumped the incinerated partial remains of at least 274 American troops in a Virginia landfill, far more than the military had acknowledged, before halting the secretive practice three years ago, records show.

Dear AT&T: Please die in a fire.

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I spent the better part of three hours at a Best Buy yesterday, with Mike the Musicologist waiting for me, trying to upgrade the cell phone that I’ve had since 2004.

Every time the Best Buy rep tried to go through the process, even with AT&T on the line with her, they got an error message. Every time the AT&T rep tried to go through the process on his end, they got an error message.

At one point Miguel, the AT&T rep, had four different people looking over his shoulder trying to figure out what the problem was; both the Best Buy and AT&T rep said that they had never seen anyone have this much trouble with an upgrade before.

(You’re probably wondering, “Why did you spend three hours trying to do this?” Well, a large part of the reason was that during the process, I developed something of a crush on the Best Buy rep, who was pretty, smart, has excellent taste in movies, and kind of likes guns. But that’s another story.)

In the end, the lovely Best Buy rep told me that the best they could do was make notes in my account, that Miguel was escalating this to “Premier”, “Premier” is only open Monday-Friday, and that I should be hearing from “Premier” once they’ve had a chance to review the case.

I’ve called AT&T Customer Service four times today. The first time, the customer service rep at the main number transferred me to “Premier”. The “Premier” rep told me he couldn’t access my customer records or any notes in my account. I asked him to get a supervisor on the line and waited close to an hour for the supervisor. (I eventually had to hang up because it was the end of my lunch hour. Yes, I spent my entire lunch hour on hold with AT&T.)

The second time, the customer service rep transferred me to “Premier”, but we got a crappy connection; I could just barely hear the “Premier” rep on the other end of the line. I asked for a direct callback number, and was told “Just call the same number you called earlier” (that’s the main customer service line).

The third time, the customer service rep actually gave me the direct “Premier” number (866-499-8008) and transferred me to “Premier”. The “Premier” rep I spoke to seemed totally incapable of understanding that I didn’t have an order number (because we never completed the order), and insisted that they only deal with activation issues on web-based orders. After telling her three times that this case had already been escalated to “Premier’, I asked for a supervisor again, was put on hold again, and eventually had to hang up. (Memo to AT&T: I have a freaking job. I can’t be on hold with you people all damn day.)

5:07 PM: I am now speaking to “Premier” rep #4 today, who is telling me once again that she can’t pull up my account, and she can’t help me. I’ve just asked her to get a supervisor on the line. It’s now 5:40 PM.

5:51 PM: still holding for that supervisor.

6:00 PM: Supervisor. Holding.

6:08 PM: Supervisor Nathan Snow is on the line. Nathan Snow is telling me that “Premier” can’t help me, that “Premier” is just a return order/exchange department for orders placed on the web. I’ve told Nathan Snow that I want to talk to the person who can help me, and I want to talk to them now.

6:14 PM: Back on hold. Nathan Snow was singularly unhelpful, just like everyone else I’ve spoken to (except the lovely and talented Best Buy sales person; I never spoke to Miguel, the AT&T rep, directly).

6:17 PM: Nathan Snow is still trying to get “Business and End User Care” on the line.

(You’re probably wondering at this point, “Why don’t you just DTMFA?” Because I’m stubborn. “Why don’t you just go to the Apple Store?” Because I’m not sure I wouldn’t have this same problem, and be waiting another three hours, at the damn Apple Store. “Why didn’t you go there in the first place?” Ever been to an Apple Store on a Sunday afternoon? That’s the classic example of a Mongolian fire drill. “Why can’t you write more like Stingray? That’d be entertaining.” Agreed, and I would be very happy to suggest in public that AT&T take their G–d—ed phones, their f—ing service, my final m—-rf—ing bill, and shove all of them squarely the f–k up their a–. However, my mother does read this blog, and I try very hard to watch my language out of sensitivity to her.)

6:24 PM: Nathan Snow has Rosa Velasquez (sp?) on the line and is transferring me to her.

6:27 PM: Rosa clearly hasn’t read the notes in the account.

6:29 PM: According to Rosa, the problem is that I was on the “Blue” network and they’re the “Orange” network, so they need to transfer me from the “Blue” network to the “Orange” network. She’s trying to figure out how to do that.

6:32 PM: Even though they upgraded my plan, they didn’t change me over from the “Blue” network to the “Orange” network. Rosa is trying to figure out how to change me over from the “Blue” network to the “Orange” network, but now she’s saying I may have to go to a physical AT&T store to get that done. I’ve explained to Rosa that surely, during the three hours I spent at Best Buy yesterday, Miguel or one of the four other people he worked with yesterday would have figured that out.

6:36 PM: Rosa is trying to tell me the nearest AT&T stores are in Kyle and Lockhart. That’s interesting, since their store locator brings up one at 2601 S. IH-35, about 8/10ths of a mile from the main Dell campus. Rosa just found that one as well.

6:40 PM: Rosa says that they can order any device “except the iPhone”, so I’m going to have to go to the physical AT&T store in order to get my account transitioned from the “Blue” to the “Orange” network. At this point, I honestly do not know why I have not suggested to Rosa that she, and the entire AT&T corporation, consume a giant bowl of something disgusting and unfit for human consumption, and gone over to the Sprint store instead. Sheer perversity, I guess.

6:46 PM: Rosa just came back and confirmed that, yes, I have to physically go to the AT&T store in order to complete the upgrade. She’s checking to make sure that the AT&T store is actually open.

6:54 PM: How long does it take to check and make sure the store is open?

7:04 PM: Rosa has had me on hold for 20 minutes now while she supposedly verifies that the store is open and can complete the upgrade. If I hear “No text message is worth getting hurt over” one more G-dd—ed time, I am going to hurt someone myself.

7:07 PM: Rosa is finally back with me, and has confirmed that yes, they can do the “migration” from the “Blue” to the “Orange” network. For my time and trouble, they’re willing to offer me…a $50 credit. That was exactly two hours, start to finish, on the phone this time. Plus three hours in the store yesterday, plus close to another hour and a half over my lunch hour and breaks, for a total of six and a half hours. That implies that AT&T values my wasted time at about $7.69 per hour. Isn’t that roughly minimum wage?

Edited to add: 8:28 PM: F–k AT&T. F–k them, f–k everyone who “works” for them (where “works” is apparently defined as “slithering across the ground, leaving a trail of pus and corruption everywhere they go”), f–k their infrastructure, f–k the f–king iPhone, f–k all of it. I have reached the limit of my patience and tolerance with these mouth breathing a–holes. Someone needs to wipe the entire company off the face of the Earth with a liberal dose of cleansing fire.

I went by the Sprint store after I walked out of the AT&T store. Unfortunately, it looks like an Evo 4G from Sprint would be $15 more a month, even with my 25% discount (vs. 21% with AT&T), they don’t have any of those in stock, and they don’t know when I’d be able to get one. Since AT&T and Sprint are the two companies that offer a discount, I’m seriously considering just simply doing without a cell phone. The other option I’ve considered is picking up a Go phone and swapping SIMs, but at this point I’m not even sure that would work (the whole “Blue”/”Orange” network thing). I’m also seriously considering mailing my phone back to AT&T along with a container of K-Y Jelly and detailed instructions on how to use those two things together.

LabRat, I know you and Stingray aren’t going to read this until you get back, but how do you people cope with this level of rage without killing people or breaking things?