Archive for January, 2012

TMQ watch: January 31, 2012.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Before we get into this week’s TMQ…well, we were going to snark on Women’s Professional Soccer, but that’s kind of kicking a person when they’re down. (“…average attendance 2,714 before the World Cup final”, “…season’s final average was 3,518, slightly below the 2010 average of 3,601″)

Other than that…well, this is the slowest week in sports. Why don’t we just jump in now and avoid the Super Bowl rush?

(more…)

Rogue grand jury update.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

The 185th Grand Jury – that would be the one investigating the Harris County DA’s office – ended their term today. (Previously: here, here, here, here, and here.)

And?

No indictments. But the grand jury is not pleased with the DA’s office:

[Grand jury foreman Trisha] Pollard signed off on a one-page report blasting the DA’s office for “unexpected resistance” and accusing the office of launching an investigation into the grand jurors, the special prosecutors and judges.
The grand jury also harshly criticized Rachel Palmer, a prosecutor who invoked her fifth amendment right to refuse to testify.
“The stain upon the HCDAO will remain regardless of any media statements issued or press conferences issued by anyone,” according to the statement.

The current Chron article is a bit short; I expect a longer version later today. Murray Newman had a good piece up this morning with his predictions; I would expect commentary from him once he’s had a chance to read and digest the grand jury report.

Edited to add: The Hon. Mr. Newman has the statement, and his thoughts, up over at his blog.

Edited to add 2/1: Longer story from the HouChron. Note the fine copy editing (which I hope will be fixed when you see it):

Obit watch: January 31, 2012.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Master Sergeant John Franklin Baker Jr. (United States Army -ret.)

In November of 1966, then Private Baker’s company was tasked with rescuing another company that was pinned down by Viet Cong troops.

As the company began its rescue effort, the lead man in Private Baker’s column was killed. Moving forward, Private Baker took part in knocking out two enemy bunkers, killed four Viet Cong snipers and then led repeated assaults, killing more Viet Cong. During his forays, he grabbed wounded soldiers and took them to safety. At one point he was knocked off his feet by a grenade.

In addition to saving the lives of eight comrades, he was credited with knocking out six Viet Cong machine-gun bunkers, killing 10 enemy soldiers.

Baker was promoted to sergeant, and received the Medal of Honor for his actions.

In his later years, Mr. Baker volunteered to help ease the transition out of combat for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, including those hospitalized in Germany.

A little late for this year…

Monday, January 30th, 2012

…but I propose that, next year and every subsequent year, January 20th be celebrated as “National Buy an AK Day“. (The connection between this date and presidential inaugurations is purely coincidental. I am sure Mr. Cube did not plan things this way.)

If you already have an AK, I propose you observe the day by purchasing at least 50 rounds of 7.62 x 39 ammo. Or whatever it takes to feed your AK if you have a variant caliber.

(Hattip: Kottke.)

Obit watch: January 30, 2012.

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Today’s NYT has the most entertaining obit I’ve read in a while, for the late Jonathan Idema.

Mr. Idema was a fast-talking, sunglasses-wearing, AK-47-toting fortune hunter and a flamboyant figure in Kabul, the capital, in the early 2000s. He flaunted his experience as a member of the Army’s Special Forces, or Green Berets. and let on that he was in cahoots with American and Afghan intelligence officials as he pursued the big rewards offered for leaders of Al Qaeda. He cultivated the news media, often with tall tales.

Idema was sentenced to ten years in an Afghan prison for allegedly imprisoning and torturing eight men.

…Mr. Idema was pardoned by President Hamid Karzai after 3. He said he did not know Mr. Karzai’s reasons, nor why he had been given an apartment-style cell in prison with satellite television, Persian carpets and specially prepared meals.

And perhaps my favorite part:

He had a temper. He once fired a shot within six inches of the head of a reporter for The Dallas Morning News. He threatened to punch the broadcast journalist Geraldo Rivera.

Apropos 2.

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

“If I’m the G-dd–n Batman, why am I on top of a cake with this amazonian bimbo?”

I commend to the attention of future brides everywhere the strategy that this one used to encourage participation by both genders in the bouquet toss: attach a Fry’s gift card to the bouquet. (However, brides should consider carefully the value of the card they’re going to attach. For $10, yeah, I’ll participate. For $250, I’ll kill a snitch. I’m not saying I have, I’m not saying I haven’t…)

People you normally don’t see this dressed up, part 1.

And two. Finally, here’s what seems like a fitting song for the happy couple.

Apropos of events earlier today…

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

…I was not aware of the existence of “The Infosphere“, aka “The Futurama Wiki”.

Here’s the link to “A Head In The Polls“.

And I still think “All hail the happy couple. May death come quickly to their enemies” would be an awesome wedding toast.

Random notes: January 27, 2012.

Friday, January 27th, 2012

How stupid do you have to be to test positive for five banned substances?

“I’ve never seen a case like this, and we’re talking about 30 years I’ve been doing this kind of work,” said Don Catlin, an antidoping expert and former director of the U.C.L.A. Olympic Analytical Laboratory. “I’ve had doublets and triplets, but to have five, and have it cover three different subclasses of drugs, is unique, as far as I can tell.”

Obit watch: Robert Hegyes, best known as Juan Epstein on “Welcome Back, Kotter”. (FARK already did the “Epstein’s Mother” joke so I don’t have to.)

Today’s literary fraud update…

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

…comes to us by way of our great and good friend Earl Cooley III on Google+.

It starts with the arrest of Mitchell Gross on charges of wire fraud and money laundering. According to the indictment, Gross defrauded a woman he met online of $3 million.

Okay, so? Mitchell Gross is also known as “Mitchell Graham”; he published fantasy books with HarperCollins and mysteries with Tor and Forge.

And then this is where it really starts to get weird. Gross claims to be a championship fencer (there are some questions about that claim; it seems clear, at the very least, that he was not on the US Olympic fencing teams in 1984 and 1988). Gross also claimed to have been a practicing lawyer for twenty years, and that he quit practicing in order to go back to school and earn a doctorate in neuropsychology. (Gross was actually disbarred in 1990, and convicted of practicing law without a license in 1992.)

And then it gets weirder. Gross may have set up his own fake writing contest, complete with judging by Ben Bova, and used that to get published. (“Mr. Bova told us that he had indeed been hired as a contest judge–the only one, so far as he was aware. He was a bit surprised to discover that there was also only one finalist, but went ahead and did as he was asked–to read the manuscript and judge if it was fit to win.“)

The best roundup of this is at the Writer Beware blog. Be sure to read the comments, as people seem to be digging up more information on Mr. Gross. There’s also a lot of good stuff in the linked AJC article.

Speaking of traffic lights…

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Battleswarm was doing a better job of covering the red-light camera issue in Houston than I was. However, I ran across an item (by way of Overlawyered) that I thought was worth sharing.

When the referendum outlawing the red light cameras was being litigated before District Court Judge Lynn N. Hughes, Judge Hughes blocked Francis and Randy Kubosh, the people behind the referendum, from participating in Houston’s lawsuit against American Traffic Solutions (ATS). The Kuboshs (and other people) were concerned that Houston was going to go into the tank for ATS, “especially after ATS and Houston’s lawyers sat together at the same table during oral arguments.”

Yeah. Well. The Fifth Circuit ruled on Tuesday that, no, Judge Hughes, you can’t do that.

“There is no federal authority nor state law prohibiting intervention of right in this type of case,” Chief Judge Edith H. Jones wrote for the appellate panel. “These intervenors are unique because they engineered the drive that led to a city charter amendment over the nearly unanimous, well funded, and longstanding opposition of the mayor and city council… They have raised substantial doubts about the city’s motives and conduct in its defense of the litigation with ATS. Without these intervenors’ participation, the city might well be inclined to settle the litigation on terms that preserve the adverse ruling on the charter amendment and thus preserve its flexibility to reinstate red light cameras in the future. This is no matter of simply defending city policy of one sort or another: it involves millions of dollars of revenue to city coffers during a period of considerable economic uncertainty.”

Meanwhile, the city settled with ATS for $4.8 million. Noted:

Hughes has close ties with ATS, having served on the bench for 25 years with Judge David Hittner, the father of ATS General Counsel George Hittner.

Obit watch: January 26, 2012.

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Legendary actor Nicol Williamson passed away on December 16. However, his death was apparently not reported until yesterday.

…during the Broadway run of Paul Rudnick’s 1991 comedy, “I Hate Hamlet,” in which he played the ghost of John Barrymore, he criticized the play in interviews, audibly offered coaching to his fellow actors onstage, and finally, during a staged swordfight, ignored the choreography and smacked the actor Evan Handler with the flat blade of the sword, prompting Mr. Handler to leave the stage and resign.

And:

A young actress who shared the stage with him in 1965 and who spoke to The New York Times said of him: “Drinking, fighting and wenching — God, he’s fabulous!”

(In addition to playing Hamlet and Macbeth, he was also Sherlock Holmes in “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution”.)

Traffic.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

The city of Galveston has placed all twelve members of the city’s traffic division on “paid administrative leave”. Apparently, there’s some sort of investigation going on.

Note: these are not Galveston PD officers, and don’t issue traffic tickets. These are the folks who maintain the city traffic lights and suchlike. Which kind of makes this a full on “WTF?!” moment. (As the HouChron notes, there is a budget for the division, but they don’t collect money from the public, so you’d figure the chances for skimming and embezzlement are slim.)