Banana republicans watch: April 9, 2014.

April 9th, 2014

Woo hoo woo hoo hoo! A great day!

Five former political leaders in the scandal-plagued city of Bell have agreed to plead no contest to corruption charges and could be sentenced to up to four years in prison for their role in looting the treasury of one of Los Angeles County’s poorest cities.

Let us all say the magic words together now:

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyenas!

(Yes, it is a plea. Yes, they are getting a lighter sentence than they would have if they had gone to trial and been convicted. Yes, they’ve already been convicted of other charges. Yes, it wouldn’t surprise me to see all the sentences served concurrently. But can’t you let me be happy, even if it is just for a short time? Thank you.)

NYPD Blues.

April 9th, 2014
  1. James E. Griffin, a former NYPD detective, settled his lawsuit against the department for $280,000. In 2005, Mr. Griffin reported what he believed was misconduct by a fellow detective to Internal Affairs: “…he had found the word “rat” scrawled on his locker and that other detectives in the 83rd Precinct’s detective squad in Bushwick refused to work with him. Although he switched units a couple of times, the reputation followed him; he was ostracized in each new unit, he claimed.
  2. Jonathan Fleming was released from prison yesterday. In 1989, he was sentenced to 25 years to life on a murder charge. It turns out that the Brooklyn DAs office failed to turn over evidence to the defense, including a receipt that proved Mr. Fleming was actually in Florida shortly before the murder.
  3. Speaking of the Brooklyn DA’s office, “A review of homicide convictions stemming from the work of Louis Scarcella, a Brooklyn detective accused of framing suspects, has turned up a stash of old handwritten police notes that could exonerate two men convicted of a murder in 1985. One of the men served 21 years in prison; the other died behind bars.
    More: “…two previously undisclosed eyewitnesses saw the September 1985 killing of a man named Ronnie Durant, but they named killers different from the two men who were convicted. The notebook could have affected the verdict; not turning it over to defense lawyers decades ago is a serious violation of the rules of criminal procedure, experts said.

Edited to add: In the interest of fairness: NYPD Officer Dennis Guerra died this morning as a result of injuries he sustained during a fire on Sunday.

Officer Guerra, 38, and his partner, Officer Rosa Rodriguez, 36, had been on regular patrol in the public housing developments of Coney Island on Sunday when they responded to a 911 call of a fire in an apartment tower at 2007 Surf Avenue around 12:30 p.m.
They took an elevator straight to the floor and, when the doors opened, were immediately overwhelmed by noxious smoke. The officers collapsed unconscious in the hallway by the elevator where they were found by arriving firefighters.

Banana republicans watch: April 8, 2014.

April 8th, 2014

Samuel In used to be a building inspector in LA.

Samuel In pled guilty to taking $30,000 in bribes while on the job. Samuel In is now serving a 2 1/2 year federal prison sentence.

Samuel In is receiving, and will continue to receive, a $72,000 yearly pension.

Two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure requiring public employees convicted of a felony to give up retirement benefits earned during the period when their crimes were committed.
But the forfeiture requirement doesn’t apply to Los Angeles because it is governed by the City Council under a voter-approved charter, and the City Council manages its own pension systems.

And:

On top of his $6,030-per-month pension, In receives a monthly healthcare subsidy of $1,459, said Tom Moutes, the top executive at the City Employees’ Retirement System.

Also on FARK, but noted here for the record: Antenna Gate.

With a total of about 160 antennas installed in Southeast Division vehicles, 72 had been removed, Smith said. Twenty antennas from cars in other divisions were missing as well.

Gee, Officer Krupke, if you have nothing to hide, why are you afraid of being recorded?

Random notes: April 8, 2014.

April 8th, 2014

For the historical record, your Mickey Rooney obit roundup: NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

The author Peter Matthiessen has also passed away after an illness. The only work of Matthiessen’s that I’ve read so far is In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, which made a strong impression on me at the time. Further, I say not, as I’d sound too much like TJIC. Anyway: A/V Club. NYT. NYT Magazine article published shortly before Matthiessen’s death.

Thanks to “That Guy” for providing a Houston Press link with more details about the Damian Mandola story. There’s also an update in the Statesman: Austin Eater has a story which links to the Statesman, so this may let you get around the paywall.

…security researchers say that in most cases, attackers hardly need to go to such lengths when the management software of all sorts of devices connects directly to corporate networks. Heating and cooling providers can now monitor and adjust office temperatures remotely, and vending machine suppliers can see when their clients are out of Diet Cokes and Cheetos. Those vendors often don’t have the same security standards as their clients, but for business reasons they are allowed behind the firewall that protects a network.
Security experts say vendors are tempting targets for hackers because they tend to run older systems, like Microsoft’s Windows XP software. Also, security experts say these seemingly innocuous devices — videoconference equipment, thermostats, vending machines and printers — often are delivered with the security settings switched off by default. Once hackers have found a way in, the devices offer them a place to hide in plain sight.

Heh. Heh. Heh. (Also: remember some jerk saying “Titles like ‘Restaurant IT Guy’ or ‘SysAdmin for Daniel’ are going to become a thing, if they aren’t already.”? I didn’t even think about the “Hey, let’s put malware on the server for that Chinese place that everyone orders from! That’ll give us a back door into the Federal Reserve!” scenario.)

Al Sharpton: FBI informant.

More tales from the police blotter.

April 6th, 2014

You may have heard of Damian Mandola. He and his nephew Johnny Carrabba have had cooking shows on PBS. The Mandola family are prominent restaurant operators, and the Carrabba’s chain was founded by Johnny and Damian. Damian also has a local chain, “Mandola’s Italian Market”, that I kind of like, and a higher-end Italian place in Driftwood closer to the Salt Lick, Trattoria Lisina.

Damian Mandola is also at the center of one of the more interesting local crime stories I’ve seen in a while.

The story starts on Thursday. Local law enforcement responded to a report of someone driving a golf cart erratically in the area of Trattoria Lisina. This led to Damian being taken into custody and charged with burglary; specifically, he is alleged to have broken into a building at the Dutchman Family Winery (which is next to Lisina but not owned by Damian) and stolen some wine. Other reports I’ve seen put the amount stolen at one or two bottles, which is odd; if he just wanted a couple of bottles of wine, surely Lisina would have that on hand?

So this is already odd enough. But I was talking about the story with my mother this morning, went to look up the press reports, and…

Damian Mandola was arrested again last night, after putting up bail on the burglary charge. This time, the charges are assault with a deadly weapon and “criminal mischief”.

There’s not a whole lot of detail so far about the sequence of events, and I haven’t seen any reporting except for brief stories in the Statesman and HouChron. It is worth repeating that these are just charges, and Mr. Mandola deserves the presumption of innocence. On the other hand, I doubt the Hays County Sheriff’s Office goes around picking up prominent business owners for no reason. And an ADW charge implies both that there was an assault, and the assault victim could identify their attacker (or that there was other physical evidence tying someone to the attack).

This is a darn shame. I really do like Damian’s ventures other than Carrabba’s. (I also like Carrabba’s, but I don’t think he or anyone else from the family is involved in managing it any longer.)

It is sad and odd and I hope it gets straightened out for the better.

Your Yee update.

April 4th, 2014

Mike the Musicologist forwarded an amusing article from the Sacramento Bee about indicted California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee.

Among other things, “Uncle” used campaign funds for his trips to the Philippines, where he allegedly tried to arrange his illegal gun deals:

“Senator Yee said when he arrived, he was surrounded by numerous armed guards carrying automatic rifles,” the affidavit said. “Senator Yee advised the Philippines was a very corrupt country and (the agent) needed to be prepared to pay people at every level during the lifecycle of the deal. Senator Yee reiterated he had been to Mindanao and had an opportunity to shoot some of the weapons discussed with (the agent.)”

Also interesting: “Uncle” spent a total of $62,000 in campaign funds at the New Asia restaurant in San Francisco. I believe this is the New Asia in question.

Last week’s criminal complaint mentions the restaurant as the venue for many events hosted by Chee Kung Tong, an alleged criminal group headed by Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, who also was arrested.

Yeah, you were waiting for “Shrimp Boy” to show up, weren’t you? And by the way, the owner of New Asia is charged with receiving and transporting stolen property: specifically, 15 cases of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

Edited to add: I was finishing up this post as I was coming off my lunch hour, so I pushed research duties to Mike the Musicologist. For those of you (like me) who aren’t that up on your Johnnie Walker label colors, Blue is at the highest end of the Walker line in regular production (as opposed to the occasional special edition/one off runs). Wikipedia says it goes for $200 – $300 a bottle, but the prices Mike and I turned up were more like $1,000 for a case (six bottles). So we’re talking $15,000 worth of blended Scotch. Not exactly something to sneeze at, for sure, but it seems kind of petty compared to “Tell me about the rockets, Leland!” and contract killers.

Plus, you know, this probably puts New Asia’s liquor license in danger. And what’s a liquor license in San Francisco worth? I bet a lot more than $15K.

Also noted.

April 4th, 2014

There’s an article in today’s WP by Sage Santangelo that I really like.

(Edited to add: Actually, it looks like it was originally published on March 28th, and I missed it then. But an update was added today.)

Ms. Santangelo is a Marine officer. She recently went through the Marine Infantry Officer course. She didn’t make it through. Neither did the three other female Marines who went through the course with her.

But Lt. Santangelo isn’t whining about not making it through the course.

So what’s held women back in the Marines Corps Infantry Officer Course? I absolutely agree that we shouldn’t reduce qualifications. For Marine infantry officers, mistakes mean risking the lives of the troops you are charged to protect. But I believe that I could pass, and that other women could pass, if the standards for men and women were equal from the beginning of their time with the Marines, if endurance and strength training started earlier than the current practice for people interested in going into the infantry, and if women were allowed a second try, as men are.

In other words, she’s asking that women be treated just like men are. That seems fair.

I like this, too:

I’ve always been taught that failure provides the greatest learning opportunities. My failed effort at Quantico has helped me better understand the needs of the Marines on the ground and will allow me to better support them in the future. At the same time, I love the Marine Corps philosophy that failure should never be viewed as permanent or representative; it is an opportunity to remediate. Marines cannot meet standards all the time. What do we do? We train until every Marine is competent. “No Marine joins the Corps to be a failure,” Gen. James F. Amos has said. “We don’t raise them up that way.”

(And another recommendation for a really swell book: Nathaniel Fick’s One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer.)

Quote of the day.

April 4th, 2014

As the crucial special session neared, the Times began to resemble a Democratic house organ.

–Robert Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, page 198 in the paperback edition (Chapter 11, “The Majesty of the Law”, discussing the legal and legislative battles over Moses’ parks plan).

Welcome to Hell.

April 3rd, 2014

Back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, Los Angeles had a well-established accordion ecosystem.

I have no joke here, I just like saying “accordion ecosystem”.

(Subject line hattip.)

Art, damn it, art! watch. (#44 in a series)

April 3rd, 2014

Good news out of Palm Springs this week: Work has begun on dismantling “Forever Marilyn,” the grotesque colossus fabricated with typical ham-handedness by sculptor J. Seward Johnson, which has been marring an already vacant lot at a prominent downtown corner for the last two years.

Gee, Christopher Knight, why don’t you tell us how you really feel?

FAQ 2.

April 2nd, 2014

“Who’s Packing What: The Weapons in the Leland Yee Scandal”

Or, as we’ve taken to calling him, indicted California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee.

By way of Mike the Musicologist, who observes that indicted California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee and his friends have bad taste in weapons.

“Chow described how he like to carry two 9mm and a .45 caliber [pistols],” the affidavit reads. “Chow described that a .22 caliber is an assassin’s gun, but he liked carrying something that had real power and would stop someone if you had to use it on the street.”

Two 9s and a .45? I wonder how loud the clank was as he walked.

Also. (By way of Robb Allen.)

Random notes: April 2, 2014.

April 2nd, 2014

Flames! Flames!

Whether Gray directed the scheme that has resulted in five of his top aides going to prison, or, as he contends, was ignorant of what was being done in his name, Democratic voters punished the mayor for the scandal, choosing instead a relatively unknown D.C. Council member, Muriel Bowser (Ward 4).

Obit watch: Charles Keating, of S&L scandal fame.

More flames!

…an uncommon sequence of events, including a cabinet appointment, an election and a corruption inquiry, has led Charlotte [NC] to the point where it will soon have its fourth mayor in less than a year.

The most recent mayor, Patrick D. Cannon, was arrested last week on public corruption charges and resigned.

In Ms. McCabe’s 15 years as an ambassador of the deuce, she has been flatly rejected at a bowling alley on Staten Island, was told to pay with something else at a bar in the East Village and is constantly solicited by people who want to buy her bills.

But has Ms. McCabe ever tried to use a $2 bill at a Taco Bell?

I wanted to link to, and comment on, the latest entries into the National Recording Registry, but the LOC didn’t have them up when I was working on this post earlier today. Now that they are up…well, I’m kind of curious about “Only Visiting This Planet” and “Copland Conducts Copland: Appalachian Spring” (I have recordings of “Appalachian Spring” but not that one). I think the original cast recording of “Sweeney Todd” is probably a good choice, and, yes, even though I think it has been overplayed, I can see putting Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” on the list.

Also: Shaft!

The only one that I really boggle at is “The First Family”. Not that I have anything against comedy, but is that album really memorable or significant? Especially when compared against some of the other comedy entries? Or is this just folks feeling bad (and perhaps rightly so) for poor Vaughn Meader?