Reading Around on May 30th through May 31st

A few interesting links collected May 30th through May 31st:

  • Our Man In Chicago: Alderman Carothers, allow me to educate you on James Brown lyrics – “Now, I’m not well-versed in matters of fraud and bribery – or no moreso than most people in Chicago and Illinois, which is to say “more than most of us would like to be” – but I do consider myself one of the top 20 experts on James Brown (Caucasian division). And I’m here to tell Alderman Carothers that, no, there is no “prominent” song by James Brown called “You’ve Got To Deal With It” (or even “You Got To Deal With It” as he was quoted by the Sun-Times).”Amused me as well – I’m only a top 50 expert in James Brown related matters, but was befuddled at this reference as well…
  • Should You Put Oil in Pasta Water? : Only if you want slimy spaghetti – CHOW – Despite a popular belief that adding oil to pasta water keeps the noodles from sticking together, Laura Schenone, author of The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken, says that adding oil does nothing to prevent pasta from clumping.
  • Confessions of a Non–Serial Killer – Michael O’Hare – “he mail was from an amateur sleuth in California named Gareth Penn, who had been trying for some time to interest the police in the idea that I was the Zodiac killer. Perhaps he was trying to alarm me into confessing or doing something incriminating. Who knows. Even today, I know little about the man, beyond the odd detail I’ve picked up here and there—like the fact that he is a librarian and surveyor by trade, that he has (or had) a wonderful Jesus beard, and that he is a member of Mensa.”

Netflixed The Friends of Eddie Coyle

New Criterion Collection release of the cult classic, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (IMDb) / Wikipedia / [Netflix]


“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (Peter Yates)

The gritty 1974 cult classic The Friends of Eddie Coyle, directed by the criminally underrated Peter Yates (Bullitt, Breaking Away), is now available for the first time ever on DVD, in a Criterion special edition. In it, classic Hollywood tough guy Robert Mitchum plays the titular small-time Boston gunrunner, nicknamed Fingers, who’s caught between remaining loyal to his criminal cohorts and turning them in to avoid jail time, and Mitchum does it with a poignant, effortless precision that makes the film’s brutal twists all the more effective. With its evocative sense of time and place, and expert pacing, Eddie Coyle is a brilliant, quintessential work of seventies American cinema.

Kent Jones writes, in part:

Offhanded fatalism is embedded in every word of every exchange, each of which alternates between hide-and-seek games and verbal tugs-of-war. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is an extremely faithful adaptation (in structure, spirit, and flavor) of the first published novel by the Brockton, Massachusetts–born Higgins, whose career as a United States prosecutor and then big-time criminal defense lawyer (his clients included Eldridge Cleaver and G. Gordon Liddy) coincided with his ascendancy as a novelist, and whose dialogue is one of the glories of American literature. “I’m not doing dialogue because I like doing dialogue,” Higgins once said. “The characters are telling you the story. I’m not telling you the story, they’re going to do it. If I do it right, you will get the whole story.” What is remarkable about the film is the extreme degree to which Yates and the producer and writer, Paul Monash, adhere to Higgins’s aesthetic, banking on the contention that if you render the action among the characters as faithfully as possible, their entire moral universe will be revealed.

And so it is. “Look, one of the first things I learned is never to ask a man why he’s in a hurry,” says Robert Mitchum’s Eddie to Steven Keats’s inappropriately relaxed arms salesman, Jackie Brown (guess who’s a fan of this movie), in what might be the film’s most emblematic bit of table talk. “All you got to know is that I told the man he can depend on me because you told me I could depend on you. Now one of us is gonna have a big fat problem. Another thing I’ve learned: if anybody’s gonna have a problem, you’re gonna be the one.” As in every good dialogue-driven film, talk in The Friends of Eddie Coyle equals action. In this case, maneuvering for leverage and self-preservation.

Nothing could be further from Higgins’s full-immersion approach to fiction than a collection of prima donna thespians vying for attention; thankfully, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a true ensemble piece if ever there was one. It’s amazing that a star of Robert Mitchum’s caliber even considered this movie (he was originally offered the role of the bartender); that he integrated himself so fully into the ensemble and the working-class Boston atmosphere is some kind of miracle. Mitchum is on-screen for roughly half of the movie, and never for a moment does he or the filmmakers play the movie star card—no special isolated “moments,” no hammy overplaying or sneaky underplaying. Golden-age Hollywood’s most notorious bad boy arrived in Boston ready for action on every front, as amply chronicled by Grover Lewis in his Rolling Stone profile “The Last Celluloid Desperado.” Apart from the usual shenanigans (think blondes and booze), Mitchum went right to work, getting an “Eddie Coyle haircut” (which might have been executed with a lawn trimmer) and allegedly hanging out with the notorious Whitey Bulger, the prototype for Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed, and his Winter Hill Gang. Higgins was worried, Mitchum was unfazed. “It’s a two-way street,” he told Lewis, “because the guys Higgins means are associating with a known criminal in talking to me.” Apart from a few slippages here and there, Mitchum mastered the exceptionally difficult Boston accent. More importantly, he found the right loping rhythm, the right level of spiritual exhaustion, the right amount of cloaked malevolence. If Mitchum betrays anything of himself as Eddie, it’s his sense of poetry, which, for roughly three-fourths of his career as an actor, seems to have manifested itself off- and not on-screen. But when he rose to the occasion, he was one of the best actors in movies. Thinks like a poet, acts like a jazz musician, hitting on the perfect melancholy chord progression from his initial appearance and playing quietly dolorous variations right to the end.

[Click to continue reading The Friends of Eddie Coyle:They Were Expendable – From the Current]

Sounds intriguing, consider it added to the queue, maybe the book too…


“The Friends of Eddie Coyle: A Novel (John MacRae Books)” (George V. Higgins)

DNA Database will protect the innocent

Putting aside your thoughts regarding the creation of a massive government database of intimate details about its citizens, because that already exists, and consider why the police can copy a suspect’s fingerprints when arrested, but not also take a DNA sample. Seems to me, a lot of the falsely accused would have not spent time in jail for crimes they did not commit if the police routinely collected DNA evidence as well.

When someone is arrested for a serious crime, police automatically take a set of fingerprints and no one thinks twice about it.

In close to 20 states — but not Illinois — the cops go a step further: They take a DNA sample from everyone who has been arrested for a serious crime but not yet tried. The FBI recently started to do the same.

That’s a reflection of just how valuable DNA has become as a way to catch the guilty — and exonerate the innocent. Experience shows that such databases stop criminals and solve cases.

[Click to continue reading: Stretching the DNA net — chicagotribune.com]

Federal Bureau of Investigation Chicago Division

I wonder if the resistance to routine collection of DNA evidence is based on cultural prejudice, or religious grounds (knee-jerk reaction to stem cell and the like)? I see no real reason that evidence shouldn’t include DNA, especially since fingerprint data is problematic, and often wrong.

Reading Around on May 11th through May 12th

A few interesting links collected May 11th through May 12th:

  • Du laisser-faire à la loi : ce que font les autres pays pour lutter contre le piratage – Politique – Le Monde.fr – French newspaper Le Monde republished a photo of mine. Wonder what the article is about?
    FlickR/swanksalot
    Les eurodéputés ont pris le contre-pied du projet de loi français en confirmant, mercredi 6 mai, leur opposition à toute coupure de l'accès internet décidée par une autorité administrative.
  • Jesse Ventura: You Give Me a Water Board, Dick Cheney and One Hour, and I'll Have Him Confess to the Sharon Tate Murders | Video Cafe – I'm bothered over Guantanamo because it seems we have created our own Hanoi Hilton. We can live with that? I have a problem. I will criticize President Obama on this level; it's a good thing I'm not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law. (KING: You were a Navy SEAL.)
    That's right. I was water boarded, so I know — at SERE School, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion. It was a required school you had to go to prior to going into the combat zone, which in my era was Vietnam. All of us had to go there. We were all, in essence — every one of us was water boarded. It is torture.

    It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you — I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

  • Burning and Dodging with Adjustment Layers – "Burning & Dodging With Adjustment Layers And Masks"

    a useful little tutorial

Luck of the Draw Book Cover

Crime Scene

Sold this image1 to St. Martin’s Press to be used as a book cover for a forthcoming murder mystery by Anthony J Cardieri. Hard cover, print run of less than 10,000, scheduled to be released by the end of the year, but I’m still fairly pleased. Received my check today2, on my birthday, so am less maudlin than normal for a birth day.

here is the preliminary mock-up of the cover, which looks like what Amazon.com has listed as well:


“Luck of the Draw: A Crime Novel” (Anthony J. Cardieri)

When Detective Deke Durgess finds himself at the scene of a brutal murder in Lower Manhattan, he has no idea that it’s just the beginning of the most prolific murder spree in New York City history, one where entire families will be wiped out by a vicious killer dubbed The Daily Killer.

The murders are being meticulously committed, with no forensic evidence left behind except for the killer’s callous calling card, a short note left on the body of the victim. The mayor and police commissioner are coming down hard on Deke to make progress, but Deke and his team of detectives and FBI agents are at a standstill until a series of events, and one misstep by the killer, leads them toward cracking the code in the victim selection pro – cess. Believing he knows where the killer will strike next, Deke sets up a sting operation, only to be slapped back down as the killer turns the tables on him, forcing the police department to take a good hard look at its own finest.

Anthony J. Cardieri’s first crime novel is an adrenaline-charged ride through the streets of New York.

About the Author

ANTHONY J. CARDIERI has worked for the city of New York for the past 18 years and currently serves as District Superintendent in the Department of Sanitation. He lives with his wife and three young children in New York City.

Buy a copy! Support the arts! Whoo hoo!!

Footnotes:
  1. the image was of an actual murder that took place about a block from my apartment []
  2. $800, if you are curious []

Reading Around on February 19th

A few interesting links collected February 17th through February 19th:

  • CBS Falsely Portrays Stanford as Democratic Scandal – But as Public Citizen, Huffington Post, ABC News and Talking Points Memo all reported, Stanford and his Stanford Financial Group PAC contributed to politicians and political action committees of both parties (including $448,000 in soft money contributions from 2000 to 2001 alone) to advance his agenda of banking and money-laundering deregulation. Many others journeyed on Stanford's junkets to Antigua and elsewhere, prompting TPM to brand his company "a travel agent for Congress." (TPM has a slide show of one of those of Stanford getaways.)

    As it turns out, the list of Stanford beneficiaries is long – and bipartisan.

  • Remembering Gene – Roger Ebert's Journal – Gene died ten years ago on February 20, 1999. He is in my mind almost every day. I don't want to rehearse the old stories about how we had a love/hate relationship, and how we dealt with television, and how we were both so scared the first time we went on Johnny Carson that, backstage, we couldn't think of the name of a single movie, although that story is absolutely true. Those stories have been told. I want to write about our friendship. The public image was that we were in a state of permanent feud, but nothing we felt had anything to do with image. We both knew the buttons to push on the other one, and we both made little effort to hide our feelings, warm or cold. In 1977 we were on a talk show with Buddy Rogers, once Mary Pickford's husband, and he said, "You guys have a sibling rivalry, but you both think you're the older brother."
  • TidBITS iPod & iPhone: iPhone to Add Location Logging? – Could the iPhone soon be able to track your location in the background as you walk around? A hint that such a capability is in the works at Apple comes from a programmer friend who spent some time spelunking around inside iPhoto '09, which shows traces of being able to associate such GPS log data with photos.
  • Daily Kos: Chocolate Covered Cotton – billmon – The fatal innovation…was the rise of so-called collateralized obligations, in which the payment streams from supposedly uniform pools of assets (say, for example, 30-year fixed prime mortgages issued in the first six months of 2006 to California borrowers) could be sliced and diced into different securities (known as tranches) each with different payment characteristics.

    This began as a tool for managing (or speculating on) changes in interest rates, which are a particular problem for mortgage lenders, since homeowners usually have the right to repay (i.e. refinance) their loan when rates fall, forcing lenders to put the money back out on the street at the new, lower rates. This means mortgage-backed securities can go down in value when rates fall as well as when they rise. By shielding some tranches from prepayments (in other words, by directing them to other tranches) the favored tranches are made less volatile and thus can be sold at a higher price and a lower yield.

  • An old habit dies… hard. « chuck.goolsbee.org – "I stumbled across a likely little application that seems to fit the bill: Gyazmail. It has a very flexible UI that allows me to make it behave very Eudora-like when I want it to. It has very good search, rules, and filters. It can import all my old mail(!)

    I’m test driving it at the moment and liking it so far. Switched my work mail to it late last week, and my personal mail is still coming over one account at a time. So far so good. If you regularly contact me via email be patient while I work through this transition period."

    I'm still using Eudora on three of our most used Macs (since 1995 probably -only 14 years), but the writing is on the wall. Have to check out Gyazmail.

  • Hands on: Drop.io's private, easy file sharing with a twist – Ars Technica – Sharing information online is getting more complex than it sometimes should be. If you want to share pictures, files, plain ideas, or even faxes with friends or businesses, you can try the old e-mail standby, but you may end up joining a social network, agree to a dense privacy policy, and then track down an app made by who-knows-who to get the job done. Even starting a simple blog usually involves more time than most users can afford‚ and more features than they'll ever need. Drop.io is an intriguing, but simple, new service that is part wiki, part file sharing, and part personal secretary, with an emphasis on privacy and ubiquitous access, requiring no signup or account activation.

    Upon visiting Drop.io—pronounced as a seamless single word: "drop-ee-o"—the site presents a basic elevator pitch about its services and a short form with which to get started uploading files.

  • Fat Tire Ale Downed Near Load Of Burgers – A Good Beer Blog – Motorists on Interstate 15 were impeded by a piles of hamburgers after a truck spilled a load of the patties, blocking the northbound lanes for four hours. The driver of a tractor-trailer carrying 40,000 pounds of hamburger patties dozed off around 5 a.m., said Utah Highway Patrol trooper Cameron Roden. The truck driver's rig drifted to the left side of the freeway near 2300 North and crashed into a wall and an overhead sign, which ripped open his trailer, spilling hamburger over the north and southbound lanes of the interstate…A second truck spill east of Morgan caused minor delays. Before 7:30 a.m., a truck was heading westbound on Interstate 84 about a half-mile east of Morgan… The truck slipped off to the left, hit a guardrail, and flipped over on its side. The impact split the truck open, spilling Fat Tire Beer being shipped from Colorado, Roden said.
  • The Associated Press: Chimp owner begs police in 911 call to stop attack – Police said that the chimp was agitated earlier Monday and that Herold had given him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in some tea. Police said the drug had not been prescribed for the 14-year-old chimp.

    In humans, Xanax can cause memory loss, lack of coordination, reduced sex drive and other side effects. It can also lead to aggression in people who were unstable to begin with, said Dr. Emil Coccaro, chief of psychiatry at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

    "Xanax could have made him worse," if human studies are any indication, Coccaro said.

  • Facebook | Home – Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

    If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

  • Big Tuna – Chicago — Anthony 'Big Tuna' Accardo, reputed crime syndicate figure, and his wife are shown as they arrive at the St. Vincent Ferrer Church in suburban River Forest to attend wedding of their son Anthony Jr, who was married to the former Janet Hawley, 1961 Miss Utah. Many top gangland bosses and other underworld figures attended the wedding under the watchful eye of law enforcement agencies
  • Home | Recovery.gov – Recovery.gov is a website that lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going. There are going to be a few different ways to search for information. The money is being distributed by Federal agencies, and soon you'll be able to see where it's going — to which states, to which congressional districts, even to which Federal contractors. As soon as we are able to, we'll display that information visually in maps, charts, and graphics.
  • George Will: Liberated From the Burden of Fact-Checking | The Loom | Discover Magazine – In an opinion piece by George Will published on February 15, 2009 in the Washington Post, George Will states “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”

    We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

    It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.

  • Wonk Room » George Will Believes In Recycling – Will’s numerous distortions and outright falsehoods have been well documented by Joe Romm, Nate Silver, Zachary Roth, Brad Plumer, Erza Klein, David Roberts, James Hrynyshyn, Rick Piltz, Steve Benen, Mark Kleiman, and others. They recognized that George Will is recycling already rebutted claims from the lunatic fringe, and offer the excellent suggestion that Washington Post editors should require some minimum level of fact-checking.

    But I haven’t seen anyone comment that Will is also recycling his own work, republishing an extended passage from a 2006 column — which Think Progress debunked — almost word for word. Take a look:

BART Shooting

Of course we don’t know all the facts in this case, but what the hell kind of excuse is this?

Burris has spoken to witnesses who claim that Grant was trying to resolve the situation.

“He had been telling people to calm down. ‘Be cool. Just do what they tell you to do,’ ” the attorney said.

Johnson told KTVU that authorities are trying to determine whether the officer who shot Grant accidentally drew his gun instead of his Taser.

Burris said he is pushing Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff to press second-degree murder charges, or involuntary manslaughter charges if evidence suggests that Mehserle mistook his gun for a Taser, he said.

“No one wants to believe a cop would just kill somebody like that,” he said. “My view is, this is criminal conduct, period.”

[From Spokesman: Officer in subway shooting has resigned – CNN.com]

Very implausible if you ask me

Standard-issue pistols for BART police are Sig-Sauer .40-caliber semi-automatic pistols, Gee said, and the department uses the X26 model Taser.
A loaded Sig-Sauer weighs nearly three times as much as the X26 Taser and is taller by about 2 inches, according to specifications on a gun dealer and official Taser Web sites.

[From Was BART cop reaching for Taser? – Inside Bay Area]

and this?

Grant holds up his hands, appearing to plead with police. Burris said Tuesday that Grant was asking police not to use a Taser.

“He said to them, ‘Don’t Tase me; I have a 4-year-old daughter,’ ” Burris said.

Seconds later, police put Grant face-down on the ground. Grant appears to struggle. One of the officers kneels on Grant as another officer stands, tugs at his gun, unholsters it and fires a shot into Grant’s back.

Burris said the bullet went through Grant’s back and then ricocheted off the floor and through his lungs.

Grant died seven hours later at a hospital, KTVU reported.…

Johnson has said Mehserle is devastated and is presumed innocent. He also says that the videos making the media rounds are inconclusive and that there is more to the story than what can be seen on the grainy images.

Right, don’t believe your lying eyes when your eyes watch the armed cop shoot an unarmed man in the back. If you can stand it, there is ten minutes of raw footage of the event on Youtube or a two minute version here

The protests turned violent:

The protest started peacefully shortly after 3 p.m. at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, where BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle shot 22-year-old Oscar Grant of Hayward to death early New Year’s Day. BART shut down the station well into the evening commute, although the demonstration there was peaceful.

However, shortly after nightfall, a group of roughly 200 protesters split off and head toward downtown Oakland, prompting the transit agency to close the Lake Merritt station.

Oakland Police Officer Michael Cardoza parked his car across the intersection of Eighth and Madison streets, to prevent traffic from flowing toward Broadway and into the protest. But he told The Chronicle that a group of 30 to 40 protesters quickly surrounded his car and started smashing it with bottles and rocks.

Cardoza jumped out of the car and said some protesters tried to set the car on fire, while others jumped on top of the hood – incidents repeatedly shown on television. Cardoza said the protesters “were trying to entice us into doing something.”

Other protesters marched on BART’s 12th Street Station about 7 p.m., prompting the transit agency to close the downtown hub station even as it was reopening the Lake Merritt and Fruitvale stations.

Protesters blocked the intersection of 14th and Broadway, near the downtown BART station entrance. As police put on helmets and gas masks and stood in a line formation, protesters held signs that read, “Your idea of justice?” and “Jail Killer Cops.”

One man lay in the intersection with his face down and his hands behind his back – seemingly evoking the position that Grant was in when he was shot.

Some protesters wore masks over their faces as they yelled at police. Roughly a dozen stood just a few feet away from police as they screamed at them. Chants included “pigs go home,” “the fascist police, no justice, no peace” and “we are all Oscar Grant.”

[From Protests over BART shooting turn violent]

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vK6ns5PFD8
And as Jimi Hendrix sang,

Sisters and brothers daddys mothers standin’ ’round cryin’
When I reached the scene the flames were makin’ a ghostly whine
So I stood on my horse’s back an’ I screamed without a crack
I say oh baby why’d you burn your brother’s house down ?

Update: Thomas Hawk took some photos on the scene, and blogged about his experience here.

Illinois Corruption

I wonder if the media obsession with Illinois being corrupt has anything to do with the President-elect? Ya think? Because Illinois is no more (or less) corrupt than other states. Politics is a dirty, full-contact sport, and the lure of power and money lead politicians to do many questionable things, some of which are illegal, and some of which they get caught doing.

How many times does the rest of the world need to be reminded that three of our last seven governors went to prison or that at least 79 of our elected officials have been convicted since 1972? Yes, there was a time when it was a very big deal that an entire year had passed without a Chicago alderman going to jail. Do we have to trot that out every couple of weeks?

It was refreshing, then, to learn that USA Today had done some original reporting on the subject and determined that Illinois is not, in fact, the most corrupt place on the planet or even in the United States. That distinction belongs to North Dakota.

That’s right, governor—North bleeping Dakota. Illinois is No. 18.

If you visit the USAToday.com Web site, you’ll find a nifty little interactive map that allows you to roll your cursor over any state and see how many public officials have been convicted of corruption there since 1998. The map is color coded, based on badness, and Illinois isn’t even one of the dark blue ones. Based on an analysis of Justice Department statistics, North Dakota (population 639,715) had 8.3 federal corruption convictions per 100,000 residents; Illinois (population 12.9 million) had 3.9.

[From We’re No. 18 — chicagotribune.com]

Since even the new-look Chicago Tribune refuses to link to other news sources, the USA Today article reads:

On a per-capita basis, however, Illinois ranks 18th for the number of public corruption convictions the federal government has won from 1998 through 2007, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Department of Justice statistics.

Louisiana, Alaska and North Dakota all fared worse than the Land of Lincoln in that analysis.

Alaska narrowly ousted Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in the election in November after he was convicted of not reporting gifts from wealthy friends. In Louisiana, Democratic Rep. William Jefferson was indicted in 2007 on racketeering and bribery charges after the FBI said it found $90,000 in marked bills in his freezer. Jefferson, who has maintained his innocence and will soon go to trial, lost his seat to a Republican this year.

When Doves Cry

More precisely, this is what happens when Republicans are in charge of a government they profess to despise – total and complete failure to govern.

As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.

In three reports delivered to Congress on Wednesday, the department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, found wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service, which collects about $10 billion in royalties annually and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue other than taxes.

“A culture of ethical failure” besets the agency, Mr. Devaney wrote in a cover memo.

The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.

[From Wide-Ranging Ethics Scandal Emerges at Interior Dept. – NYTimes.com]

Hey, but according to the polls, Americans are still evenly decided if they want 4 more years of this sort of leadership or whether they would prefer having a government that attempts to serve the country (versus the Republican mentality of crony capitalism and ethical considerations be damned).

John McCain and his little red Corvette, Sarah Palin, would fit right in to this mentality, since they’ve already expressed their joy to reward lobbyists with federal money whenever possible.

The investigations are the latest installment in a series of scathing probes of the troubled program’s management and competence in recent years. While previous reports have focused on problems the agency has had in collecting millions of dollars owed to the Treasury, the new set of reports raises questions about the integrity and behavior of the agency’s officials.

In one of the new reports, investigators conclude that a key supervisor at the agency’s minerals revenue management office worked together with two aides to steer a lucrative consulting contract to one of the aides after he retired, violating competitive procurement rules.

Two other reports focus on “a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” and unethical behavior in the service’s royalty-in-kind program. That part of the agency collects about $4 billion a year in the form of oil and gas rather than cash royalties.

The Interior Department dropped all pretense of being anything other than a division of the oil and gas industry. I wonder what does happen in the Bush White House since Bush and Cheney both consider themselves part of the oil industry taking a short sabbatical, and why exactly did Jeff Gannon make all those hundreds of visits to the White House?

One of the reports says that the officials viewed themselves as exempt from [ethical] limits, indulging themselves in the expense-account-fueled world of oil and gas executives.

In addition, the report alleges that eight royalty-program officials accepted gifts from energy companies whose value exceeded limits set by ethics rules — including golf, ski and paintball outings; meals and drinks; and tickets to a Toby Keith concert, a Houston Texans football game and a Colorado Rockies baseball game.

The investigation also concluded that several of the officials “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.”

The investigation separately found that the program’s manager mixed official and personal business, and took money from a technical services firm in exchange for urging oil companies to hire the firm. In sometimes lurid detail, the report accuses him of having intimate relations with two subordinates, one of whom regularly sold him cocaine.

The culture of the organization “appeared to be devoid of both the ethical standards and internal controls sufficient to protect the integrity of this vital revenue-producing program,” one report said.

There are plenty more details in Charlie Savage’s article, including this lovely tidbit:

two of the highest-ranking officials who were targets of the investigations will apparently escape sanction. Both retired during the investigation, rendering them safe from any administrative punishment, and the Justice Department has declined to prosecute them on the charges suggested by the inspector general.

Cheney would have instructed Bush to pardon them anyway…

from the (redacted) document covering Gregory Smith, page 19:

The RIK employee recalled that on one occasion in late 2004, Smith telephoned her repeatedly asking for drugs. She said she provided cocaine to him early that evening, but he continued to call her. Eventually, she said, Smith traveled to her house and wanted her to have sex with him. She said he also asked her if she had more cocaine, and she stated that she did not but that someone who was staying with her might. She said Smith obtained crystal methamphetamine from one of these individuals and she watched him snort it off the toaster oven in her kitchen. The RIK employee also said she and Smith engaged in oral sex that evening.

update: the actual documents (PDF) are available at ProPublica.org and are quite a fun read.

Some of these files are quite large, so beware.

In a cover letter (PDF), Inspector General Earl Devaney details the “culture of ethical failure” in the department.

In the first report (PDF), investigators focus on Gregory Smith, the former program director of the royalty-in-kind program. As the Times reports, “The report accuses Mr. Smith of improperly accepting gifts from the oil and gas industry, of engaging in sex with two subordinates, and of using cocaine that he purchased from his secretary or her boyfriend several times a year between 2002 and 2005.”

The second report (PDF) look at the Interior officials who marketed taxpayers’ oil. From theTimes: “The report found that 19 officials — about one-third of the program’s staff — accepted gratuities from oil companies, which was prohibited because they conducted official business with the industry.”

And the third report (PDF) focuses on Lucy Denett, the former associate director of minerals revenue management, who allegedly manipulated the contracting process to steer a contract to her friend Jimmy Mayberry. Mayberry pleaded guilty to conflict of interest charges earlier this year.

I could only imagine the sustained gnashing of teeth if this scandal could be linked to a Democratic client. Since it only involves Republicans and oil industries, it will get a mention or two in passing, and be off the news cycle by the weekend.

The Prosecution of George W Bush for Murder


“The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder” (Vincent Bugliosi)

I picked up a copy of this book, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I should start soon. Funny how the book has been basically ignored by the media, and yet still appeared on the New York Times bestsellers list, even without bulk orders1

Vincent Bugliosi wants George W. Bush prosecuted for murder. There are others who are complicit in the crime, namely the Vice President and Condoleezza Rice, but Bush is the target of this famed former Los Angeles prosecutor (the Charles Manson case) and best selling author (Helter Skelter and The Betrayal of America as two examples). He is undeterred by the virtual major media blackout on interviews and advertising. He’s taking his case directly to the people through alternate media and the internet.

Bugliosi constructs a devastating case in The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. As I write this review, it is still difficult to grasp my sense of shock at this title with this author’s name below it. A legendary prosecutor with a near perfect record in big cases, Bugliosi articulates one of the most revolutionary ideas imaginable in a mix of today’s otherwise vapid and obtuse political thinking. But first, the book and how the prosecutor makes his case.

He wastes no time in following up on the shock generated by the title. In the first sentence, we’re told:

The book you are about to read deals with what I believe to be the most serious crime ever committed in American history – – the president of the nation, George W. Bush, knowingly and deliberately taking this country to war in Iraq under false presences, a war that condemned over 100,000 human beings, including 4,000 American soldiers, to horrific, violent deaths.” (V. Bugliosi, p. 3)

The president “knowingly and deliberately” caused the deaths of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians and that’s called murder, plain and simple. This is not a hypothetical case that could happen under special legal interpretations. When the president leaves office, he is subject to the same law as the rest of us. Bugliosi explains the ability to prosecute the case against George W. Bush by a district attorney or states attorney in any local jurisdiction where a life was lost in the Iraq war. Federal prosecutors also have that option. Bugliosi’s detailed analysis of this phenomenon offers some of the best analysis in the book and the detailed end notes.

[From A review of Bugliosi’s The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder]

George Bush better get his world traveling finished before he leaves office; once 2009 arrives, there might be a few impediments to visiting certain enlightened countries.

Oh, Mr. Bugliosi has a website too, check it out.

Footnotes:
  1. certain right wing organizations bulk purchase, and give away, books they want publicity for. Many bookstores will prominently display a book if it is on the NYT best-seller list. If I was wealthy enough, I’d bulk purchase selected liberal-leaning books []

Flesh and Blood in B-More

For some reason, David Simon didn’t manage to work this scenario into the plot of The Wire. A pity there won’t be another season, say, set in Chicago…

Willie “Bo” Mitchell and three co-defendants—Shelton “Little Rock” Harris, Shelly “Wayne” Martin, and Shawn Earl Gardner— appeared for a hearing in the modern federal courthouse in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. The four African American men were facing federal charges of racketeering, weapons possession, drug dealing, and five counts of first-degree murder. For nearly two years the prosecutors had been methodically building their case, with the aim of putting the defendants to death. In Baltimore, which has a murder rate eight times higher than that of New York City, such cases are depressingly commonplace.

A few minutes after 10 a.m., United States District Court Judge Andre M. Davis took his seat and began his introductory remarks. Suddenly, the leader of the defendants, Willie Mitchell, a short, unremarkable looking twenty-eight-yearold with close-cropped hair, leapt from his chair, grabbed a microphone, and launched into a bizarre soliloquy.

“I am not a defendant,” Mitchell declared. “I do not have attorneys.” The court “lacks territorial jurisdiction over me,” he argued, to the amazement of his lawyers. To support these contentions, he cited decades-old acts of Congress involving the abandonment of the gold standard and the creation of the Federal Reserve. Judge Davis, a Baltimore-born African American in his late fifties, tried to interrupt. “I object,” Mitchell repeated robotically. Shelly Martin and Shelton Harris followed Mitchell to the microphone, giving the same speech verbatim. Their attorneys tried to intervene, but when Harris’s lawyer leaned over to speak to him, Harris shoved him away.

Judge Davis ordered the three defendants to be removed from the court, and turned to Gardner, who had, until then, remained quiet. But Gardner, too, intoned the same strange speech. “I am Shawn Earl Gardner, live man, flesh and blood,” he proclaimed. Every time the judge referred to him as “the defendant” or “Mr. Gardner,” Gardner automatically interrupted: “My name is Shawn Earl Gardner, sir.” Davis tried to explain to Gardner that his behavior was putting his chances of acquittal or leniency at risk. “Don’t throw your life away,” Davis pleaded. But Gardner wouldn’t stop. Judge Davis concluded the hearing, determined to find out what was going on.

[Click to read more about what Judge Davis found out Too Weird for The Wire – Kevin Carey]

Via Kottke, of course.

In case your constitutional memory is weak, here’s the text of the 14 Amendment which the Flesh-and-Blooders think is illegitimate:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No one shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

and the controversy:

Bruce Ackerman claims that the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment violated Article V of the Constitution, because:

  • The Fourteenth Amendment was proposed by a rump Congress that did not include representatives and senators from most of the former Confederate states, and, had those congressmen been present, the Amendment would never have passed.
  • Former Confederate states were counted for Article V purposes of ratification, but were not counted for Article I purposes of representation in the Congress.
  • The ratifications of the former Confederate states were not truly free, but were coerced. For instance, many former Confederate states had their readmittance to the Union conditioned on ratifying the Fourteenth Amendment.[26]

In 1968, the Utah Supreme Court diverged from the habeas corpus issue in a case to express its resentment against recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court under the Fourteenth Amendment, and to attack the Amendment itself:

In order to have 27 states ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, it was necessary to count those states which had first rejected and then under the duress of military occupation had ratified, and then also to count those states which initially ratified but subsequently rejected the proposal. To leave such dishonest counting to a fractional part of Congress is dangerous in the extreme. What is to prevent any political party having control of both houses of the Congress from refusing to seat the opposition and then without more passing a joint resolution to the effect that the Constitution is amended and that it is the duty of the Administrator of the General Services Administration to proclaim the adoption? Would the Supreme Court of the United States still say the problem was political and refuse to determine whether constitutional standards had been met? How can it be conceived in the minds of anyone that a combination of powerful states can by force of arms deny another state a right to have representation in the Congress until it has ratified an amendment which its people oppose? The Fourteenth Amendment was adopted by means almost as bad as that suggested above

National Guard Patrolling the Gold Coast

Such a strange proposal by Governor Blah-Blah1 – National Guard to patrol the streets because “crime is out of control”. Obviously, crime is not out of control here, there is just a slight increase in the number of annual murders, in specific neighborhoods.

Machine Gun at the Ready

A day after Gov. Rod Blagojevich called Chicago’s rising crime rate “out of control” and offered state manpower to help, Police Supt. Jody Weis carefully waded into the political fray Thursday on the city’s behalf, saying reports on the uptick in crime have been exaggerated.

At a news conference, Weis walked a cautious line, avoiding laying blame, asserting that his department has a handle on crime but still welcoming assistance. The superintendent said any deployment of state police would need more discussion and planning, and the Illinois National Guard isn’t likely to be on the way. Weis said the Guard doesn’t have the police powers necessary to help fight crime in the city.

The governor’s offer, which the administration said potentially involved using state troopers to patrol streets and National Guard helicopters to carry out surveillance, raised questions about whether it was more the result of a political struggle with Mayor Richard Daley rather than the need for more police.

[From Weis says he’s open to assistance from State Police, but National Guard wouldn’t help — chicagotribune.com]

Chicago is not Baghdad, nor Detroit, Gov Blah blah must have just been pissed off at Daley for some reason to even suggest such a strange thing without prior notice or discussion.

Footnotes:
  1. as Blagojevich is called in these parts []

Bugliosi v. Bush


“The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder” (Vincent Bugliosi)

Of course, nothing has happened with Dennis Kucinich’s 35 Articles of Impeachment, other than a lot of yammering. Vincent Bugliosi (author of The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President) thinks a different tactic could be used – prosecuting Bush for “malice aforethought“.

Famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, foreshadowing the Senate committee report with much of the same damning evidence, argues in a new book that Bush “deserves much more than impeachment”–a penalty he considers incommensurate with the crimes committed. In The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, the New York Times bestselling author and prosecutor lays out the legal case for prosecuting President Bush in a US courtroom after he leaves office.

Bugliosi writes, “4000 young Americans decomposing in their grave today died for George Bush and Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.” His book is not only a scathing indictment of the President and his Administration but also a blueprint for holding him criminally accountable. Bugliosi accuses Bush of taking the nation to war in Iraq under deliberately false pretenses and thus holds him culpable for thousands of subsequent deaths, detailing in The Prosecution the legal basis for such a case and laying out what he argues is the requisite evidence for a murder conviction.

While at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, Bugliosi successfully prosecuted twenty-one murder convictions without a single loss, most famously that of serial murderer Charles Manson. He also penned a number of best-selling true-crime books, including Helter Skelter and Outrage.

[From Bugliosi v. Bush]

Bretty Story conducts a telephone interview with Mr. Bugliosi, click here to read it in full.

From the book jacket:

In The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, Bugliosi presents a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting the war in Iraq. Bugliosi sets forth the legal architecture and incontrovertible evidence that President Bush took this nation to war in Iraq under false pretenses—a war that has not only caused the deaths of American soldiers but also over 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, and children; cost the United States over one trillion dollars thus far with no end in sight; and alienated many American allies in the Western world.

As a prosecutor who is dedicated to seeking justice, Bugliosi, in his inimitable style, delivers a non-partisan argument, free from party lines and instead based upon hard facts and pure objectivity.

A searing indictment of the President and his administration, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder also outlines a legally credible pathway to holding our highest government officials accountable for their actions, thereby creating a framework for future occupants of the oval office.

Vincent Bugliosi calls for the United States of America to return to the great nation it once was and can be again. He believes the first step to achieving this goal is to bring those responsible for the war in Iraq to justice.

RIP Brendan Scanlon aka Solve

Solve Danger

[click image for full version]

RIP Solve aka Brendan Scanlon. Died entirely too young. My condolences to his family, friends, and many fans. I’ve taken several photos of his work, but didn’t know him personally.

Prominent renegade Chicago street artist, Solve, was one of four homicides registered in Chicago this weekend, raising even more the already large number of violent crimes and shootings in the city this year.

Only twenty-five years old, Solve, A.K.A. Brendan Scanlon, was found with multiple stab wounds to the chest at 3032 W. Palmer Blvd. at 2:40 a.m.

A suspect is in custody for the stabbing incident, but no charges have yet been filed.

The murder Of Brendan Scanlon delivers a overwhelmingly saddening blow to the art and graffiti community of Chicago. Solve was a major influence and participant in the emerging and struggling Chicago street art scene in a city with one of the strongest anti-graffiti laws and tactics in the United States.

[Click to read more .: Chicago Street Artist Killed in Weekend Violence, R.I.P. Solve]

see also discussion here, and brief article at the Sun-Times.

Brendan Scanlon, of the 2800 block of West Palmer Blvd., according to the medical examiner’s office, was found with multiple stab wounds to the chest at 3032 W. Palmer Blvd. about 2:40 a.m., Kubiak said.

As of 6:30 a.m. an adult offender was in custody, but no charges have yet been filed.

Solve

— update: obituary in the Sun-Times

At least one person is in custody for the fatal stabbing of a well-known local graffiti artist in the Logan Square neighborhood early Saturday.

The man was found with multiple stab wounds to the chest at 3032 W. Palmer Blvd. about 2:40 a.m., according to police News Affair Officer Laura Kubiak.

The man, identified as Brendan Scanlon, was leaving a party when he got into a “verbal altercation” and was subsequently stabbed, police said.

Police were “talking to people” Saturday evening and as of 6:30 a.m. an “adult offender” was in custody. No charges have been filed.

Scanlon, of 2846 W. Palmer Blvd., died of a stab wound to the chest, an autopsy determined Saturday. His death was ruled a homicide by the County Medical Examiner’s office.

Scanlon graduated from the Illinois Institute of Art in 2007, and worked as a freelance artist and graphic designer, according to his Web site.

Scanlon is reportedly the man behind SOLVE, a local graffiti and street artist. Many people discussed his death on a Chicago Street Art online discussion forum Saturday.

“The Chicago street art and graffiti community has suffered another devastating blow to our family,” one of the forum members posted Saturday. A memorial featuring Scanlon’s work is reportedly being planned.

Scanlon wanted “to be a respected member of the international design community,” and thought “art is one of the things that makes life worth it,” according to his Myspace profile, where friends posted mournful comments Saturday.

Grand Central Area detectives are investigating.

[From Fight leads to fatal stabbing of local artist :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State]

GapersBlock profiled Solve, and some other Chicago street artists a while ago.


SOLVE
His handle is a verb, not a noun. SOLVE uses his street art to “foster a more positive, productive society.” His work tends to be among the most confrontational in the Chicago street art scene — and that’s precisely his aim. Although he primarily works in larger format paste-ups, SOLVE brings his inventive and colorful style to other aspects of the North Side, especially signal boxes.

SOLVE wants you to know that he is not in a gang. And neither are most street artists.

RIP Solve closeup

Solve RIP Heartbroken tiny RGB

Continue reading “RIP Brendan Scanlon aka Solve”