Monday, January 21, 2008

Some Crimes Are Just Different

...such as kidnaping a 94 year old man to get at his money, and then killing him when you've gotten what you can from him.
(And hacking off his hand after his death, perhaps to convince loved ones to part with money?)

Darrell Edwin Nance; Bruce Clark Whaley Jr., 38; Jessica Leann Lane, you can all be proud of yourselves: you have participated in a crime that will cause revulsion in absolutely anybody and everybody who learns of your acts.

Knoxville News-Sentinel with the grisly details:

RIP John Stewart

Member of the Kingston Trio back in the day, and a solo artist who had a nice little hit with "Gold" in the late 70s, John Stewart has moved on to t he next phase of existence. He was 68.

The WashPost obit seems to think that his biggest claim to fame was writing "Daydream Believer" for the Monkees. Whatever.

Friday, January 18, 2008

See, We TOLD It Was Their Fault!

"See, they WERE taunting the tiger! They admit it! They were drunk, high, they were standing on the railing, yelling, waving their how is it OUR fault that a tiger tried to eat them?"

Is that going to fool anybody? Trying to make perpetrators out of victims?

Much to nobody's surprise, the three men attacked (one fatally) by a tiger at the SF zoo on Christmas day were drinking, and were trying to get the tiger's attention. Gee, I bet THAT'S never happened at a zoo before...

WashPost with the details on this senseless and insensitive attempt to transfer blame:

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I Made A Chart!

What do you think?

NASA-GISS has completed their monthly anomalies for 2007, so I took the time to chart the entire series, 1880 - 2007. The bottom line is in years, the upward line is in total hundredths of a degree centigrade per year, and the lines are the annual anomaly and running means for 5, 10 and 30 years.

If you can't see a trend there, please explain it to the class.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What Do Jones And Vick Have In Common? I'm Thinking...

...and soon we will add Barry Bonds to that list, unless he wriggles free from the charges against him.

Three prominent black athletes brought down in a very short time. Am I missing something here, or have zero white athletes been brought down by the government during this time? In fact, when was the last time? Pete Rose?

I will honestly admit that I never believed that the charges against Vick were serious enough to warrant jail time. It is not for me to judge the practice of breeding dogs to fight. That may be a legitimate thing to do. Fighting them as a money sport is distasteful and should warrant fines and so forth. It should be condemned.

But to go to jail for raising a dog to fight, then fighting it? I never understood that, still don't.

Now Jones has been tossed into jail for 6 months, the maximum recommended sentence, literally pulling her infant son off of her nipple, because she admitted to lying about taking 'the clear' and lying to protect her former husband's involvement in a check fraud scheme.

The judge went out of his way to explain that Jones received the maximum sentence because she is a role model and should be held to a higher standard.

As if her fall from 5 Olympic medal grace is not complete, as if it is not punishment enough for the role model.

Explain to her small children why mommy is going to Federal prison for six months. Because the judge said so...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bad Programmers Make Bad Crooks

Yung-Hsun Lin was evidently never cut out to be a crook. He also apparently was not cut out to be a programmer. Seems the 50 year old was miffed that he was soon to be terminated from his job at Medco Health Solutions in Newark, NJ, so he wrote a program that would botch the company's database of drug interactions.

So in order to scew his employer, he was fine with giving pharmacists bad information that might affect the health of their patients. His little scheme was found out when the program ran and failed.

Hmm, what's this program? Why did it fail? What was it trying to do? Hey, what the blank is going on here?

The judge was none too amused, either: 30 months in the state pen.

NY Times has the blurb; no doubt there's more out there:'>">

Yes, there is much more out there! Here's a full writeup of the arrest from TechWeb:'>">

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

So, Simon Cowell Was Right All Along...

Final standings for American Idol, season 5, and the U.S. sales from their first record:

1. Taylor Hicks: 699,000
2. Katherine McPhee: 355,000
3. Elliot Yamin: 421,556
4. Chris Daughtry: 3,590,048
5. Paris Bennett:(No record; what is up with that? She was the best singer of the season and a spitfire performer too...)
6. Kellie Pickler: 679,000
7. Ace Young: (No album but then, he was more of a poster boy than a performer anyway...)
8. Bucky Covington: 260,000

Obviously, Daughtry was the rightful winner, as Cowell said. He was an overwhelming crowd pleaser and never failed to give his all. He was consistent and true to his rock influences. He was offered the job as lead singer of Tool, but wisely turned it down to form his own band.

Many of the runners-up did nicely for themselves; Paris Bennett is a hideous oversight. She's young, mannered, perky, has a wallop of a voice, and is a cagey stage performer. Her elimination, followed by Daughtry's, seriously called into question the format of allowing viewers complete discretion to decide who gets bounced. No "saved by the judges" on this cut-throat show.

Cowell spent week after week mocking Hicks as a "bad wedding singer." This was fairly close to the truth, but Hicks looks and sounds a lot like Michael McDonald slash Kenny Rogers, and had no trouble bopping around in his sneakers while going for the gusto night after night. He was perhaps even more of a crowd pleaser than Daughtry, because he engaged the audience the way, say, a wedding singer would.

Cowell had his eyes on the marketplace, where Hicks' act would wear thin and Daughtry's voice would stand out. Despite winning it all and with the push of a major label, producer and publicity machine behind him, Hicks became the first American Idol who failed to sell 1 million copies of his debut. He missed by quite a lot, actually, and was closely followed by 6th place finisher Pickler.

Daughtry, of course, lapped the field several times over.

The label dropped Hicks.

NYTimes (via AP) with Taylor's new plan:

Pathetically Bad Luck

So you're 19 and a bit bored with life. Not an uncommon story these days. In your spare time you get blue and red flashing lights installed in the grill of your gold Explorer. You decide to pull somebody over, just for kicks.

What are the odds she'd be a police officer?

I mean, you gotta be kidding me!

No. Steven Revis of Fairfax, VA faces two felony and two misdemeanor counts after speeding away from his abortive "joy stop".

WashPost with the, you know, unfortunate details:

Has Roger Clemens Been Tarred By A Broad Brush?

Of all the names which popped out of the Mitchell report (an investigation into the use of banned performance enhancing substances by major league baseball players), one stands out: Roger Clemens. A de facto Hall Of Famer based on his career statistics, the mid 40-ish fireballer has steadfastly denied that he ever used steroids or human growth hormone, as alleged by the man who allegedly shot the drugs into Clemens' beefy behind.

Brian McNamaee was a clubhouse attendant during Clemens' years with the Blue Jays and the Yankees, and has claimed that he shot Clemens with steroids in Toronto and HGH in New York. Clemens has missed no opportunity to publicly denounce those claims and to brand McNamee a liar.

He also taped a phone call between the two and publicly played it for the press yesterday. At no point does McNamee refute Clemens' claim that he did not use the substances. In other words, McNamee never defended his version of the story.

This is high stakes poker being played out in the public eye. It is rare for a public figure to come out on the attack against accusations. I have to go all the way back to the early 80s when Carol Burnett won a defamation lawsuit against the National Enquirer (and forced them to raise their price) after the paper published a story claiming that Burnett, a teetotaler, had been drunk at a restaurant.

Clemens is clearly going for all out victory here. He seeks to disgrace and discredit McNamee, whose lawyer has promised war.

Just what is going on here? And it had better not turn out to be "I didn't know what was in the syringe" either. Somebody's lying here. There is no middle ground.

NY Daily News with the scorching story:

Monday, January 7, 2008

What A Stinking Mess!

I've been following this story for several days, but for the citizens of Naples, Italy, it has been going on much longer. Since December 21, nearly three weeks ago, there has been no trash collection in the city. Garbage is piling up everywhere, and apartment dwellers have taken to simply dumping their refuse out the back window. Heaps of garbage are piling up more than a story high.


Interesting. Most of the populace seem to blame corrupt and inept government officials, while the real story is much more complicated. There are fewer and fewer places to dump the trash, and the collection itself is controlled by organized crime.

Yahoo (via AP) with the overview:

Pictures would probably be pretty gruesome. One can only imagine the sizes the rats will grow to.

Our ever shrinking world on full display.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Redemption And Other Quandaries

The case of Osvaldo Hernandez raises several sorts of issues.

The 25 year old from Queens will soon satisfy his tour of duty as an Army paratrooper. When he returns, he wishes to serve in the New York Police Department.

He will not be allowed to do so.

Five years ago, when he was 20 and living in the dangerous neighborhood of Elmhurst, he believed that a gun offered protection. Rather than register for legal possession, he took obtained one from a friend, and stashed it under the seat of his car.

Which is where an officer found it after a traffic stop.

Hernandez served a stretch in prison for the Class D Felony, during which he became convinced that the Army was the life for him. He served his time and enlisted, and by all accounts served very well during a long tour of combat duty.

New York absolutely forbids any person with a felony conviction from serving in the NYPD. It does not matter what the nature of the felony was. There is no statute of limitations, nor any mitigating factors. It is an immovable object.

While deciding how we feel about that, we might give passing thought to the nature of the felony. For his own protection, Hernandez was carrying a firearm. He had not used the weapon for any reason, let alone for a crime. He was merely protecting himself in a high crime area.

Some believe that the Second Amendment confers an absolute right to carry arms. Some believe that local governments can pass restrictions for the common good. There are merits to both views.

It is, however, sad that a person's only crime was to be armed, and that the crime of being armed was not serious enough to prevent him from being armed for his country, but was serious enough to deny him any chance of being armed for his city.

I keep thinking that the lesson is: just stay in the Army. They appreciate you.

The NYTimes has the story:

I Think This Is A Big Deal

You may not.

They've canceled the Dakar Rally for the first time in its thirty year history. Why? Terrorism. See, the route of this auto race is mainly through desert, out the bottom of Portugal and snaking along northwestern Africa. Mauritania is home to 8 of the 15 legs of the rally, and a French family was killed in Mauritania in 2007 by terrorists. They've received warnings that terrorists plan to disrupt the rally.

Now I never heard of the Dakar Rally until a few minutes ago, but I'm sure that many people devote a lot of time, money and passion into this event, which has a long tradition and if nothing else serves as a cultural bridge.

I suspect that's what the terrorists are attacking: multiculturalism. Clearly, the solution cannot be to run and hide. So, for now they packed up and went home. Let's hope they get security figured out - admittedly difficult for a 5,760 mile race through mostly desert - and reschedule the rally, and keep it going for years to come.

If this is to be known as The Long War, then the question will be, how did we go about our lives during it?

A brief recap from NYTimes, you can probably find much more:

Friday, January 4, 2008

Good Thing She Meant No Disrespect actual soldiers and actual families of those actually killed.

We all know about Hannamania, that craziness caused by those who decided to send Miley Cyrus on tour but withhold most of the tickets from the general public. As a result there was a mad scramble for tix, as prices skyrocketed.

I challenge anybody in America to name a single Hannah Montana song, or to even confirm that they know she is a character played by the daughter of Billy Ray "Achy Breaky Heart Cyrus.

But the children! The children know! And their parents want to give the children what they want.

Which brings us to Priscilla Ceballos, whose 6 year old daughter desperately needed to be at that show! Of course there was no way to actually purchase tickets, but fortunately there was this essay contest. Of course, the essay is supposed to be written by the child, but considering how important this was, Priscilla decided to give the girl a helping hand. To the point of making the story so heart-tugging that it would have to win! How about telling how Daddy died in the Iraq war? That would have to move them.

And it did. The little girl won. Now Mommy is on the Today show.

Explaining why she made up the whole "Daddy Died In Iraq" story.

No he didn't. A distant cousin did. Not Daddy.

So the whole thing unraveled when the press started checking facts, such as the name of the dead soldier, who is actually alive, well and not a soldier.


Priscilla made a mistake, an error in judgment, and now she has been harassed out of her home and off of MySpace.

Lesson: Don't make stuff up. Not about stuff like that. Surprisingly, Priscilla didn't already know that.

MSNBC with the pain and suffering:

The Tragic Death Of Britney Spears

Can this headline be far off? Would you be more or less surprised if it does not happen in 2008?

I hate to pick on such an obviously disturbed target; she is the ultimate cautionary tale in just about every possible regard.

Never truer is her Barkley-esque assertion that "I am not a role model."

If this latest chapter isn't the beginning of the end of something in this saga, I'll eat my words.

Yahoo (via AP) with the latest brutal sequence:

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Booby Lynn, Are You Insane?

Well he better hope that's what a jury thinks, because Bobby Lynn Curtis of Lumberton, TX is facing 5 to 99 years for tumble-drying his girlfriend's 2 year old daughter. See, the child was acting up and...

so he left her in there for a bit, then put her to bed. The burns on her arms, though, they were a problem.

CBS 11 out of DFW has the scoop:

Something's Going On In Texas...

...where they are actively seeking to find out how many people they have wrongly convicted.

It's enough to warm the heart on a cold January day.

It seems that down in Dallas County, they went many years doing all they could to get convictions. They didn't much care whether or not they had the right person, they were just trying to get convictions. At pretty much any cost. So, for example, when trying to solve a rape case, why not put into the photo lineup the mug shot of the guy down the block? After all, he went down for residential burglary a few years ago; he could be a rapist too, right? Nevermind the fact that he has no front teeth; surely the victim could have failed to notice whether or not the man who attacked her had front teeth. She was in shock! Scared for her life!

Well, quite naturally the woman recognized the man. Didn't recognize any others. OK, we got our man! And off they went. Shockingly, she also picked him out of a live lineup! (Or perhaps at that point the question was "Do you see the man you identified from the photos?")

Guess what: that was enough to convict down in ole' Dallas County. 99 years for you, mister.

Except the guy never stopped proclaiming his innocence. Not for 26 years.

So the Innocence Project took notice, and after several inconclusive DNA tests, they were able to do a conclusive test.

It wasn't him.

So, he gets a life now. Not the life he was supposed to have, of course. What he does now at age 47 is anybody's guess. I'm sure he has a settlement coming, but how will he know what to do after that?

And of course what stands out beyond that, is the fact that the real rapist was presumably never caught, unless it was for something else. So down in good ole' Dallas County, it did not matter to them that criminals continued to run free.

All they cared about were convictions. Makes you a little queasy, doesn't it?

Like, how many more innocent men and women rot away in Texas jails because of it?

So, they have now partnered down in Dallas County with the Innocence Project, and they are actively reviewing these potentially sloppy convictions. And they are ticked off. To think that the people placed in the position to protect the innocent and punish the guilty would be engaged in behavior that failed the innocent, failed to find, let alone punish the guilty.

You don't see stories like this every day. In many jurisdictions, New York among them, prosecutors fight against overturning their convictions tooth and nail. They want nothing to do with an active review of potentially sloppy convictions. They often refuse to drop the charges after the convictions are overturned; their attirtude is, we still think we got the right person.

So, let us embrace the openness being expressed down in Dallas County. Let us accept that many of our fellow humans do not belong in jail, and must be freed as soon as possible. Let us insist that projects such as this partnership take place wherever the need is suspected. Let us accept the financial burden, because we cannot bear the moral and psychological burden.

The innocent must be free.

Here is the Dallas News writeup:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Jennifer Carter, Poster Girl For "Hardcore Drunk Drivers"

Prepare to meet a new term: "Hardcore Drunk Driver." This is a person who is not deterred by multiple convictions for DUI; not deterred by heavy fines; not deterred by loss of license. This is a person who will drink and who will drive, unless you put them in jail and don't let them out.

They are considered addicts, and as such are not to be trusted within proximity of their drug of choice. And we aren't banning alcohol anytime soon.

So, at some point a person who keeps drinking and driving simply has to be put away, at least until they demonstrate that they no longer drink alcohol.

WTOP radio out of Washington, DC has a copyrighted story regarding Jennifer Carter, the 27 year old who killed herself and two others while driving aggressively in Frederick, MD the weekend after Christmas.

The WTOP story contains comments from a Maryland legislator who has been trying to deal with this issue by stiffening laws and trying to come up with tax money to pay for awareness.

It's not yet known if Carter was drunk at the time of the crash, but the story asks the question: why was she even on the road? She had been convicted of DUI three times, the most recent coming two years ago. So, one way to look at it is, she had been doing alright for two years. Perhaps she had even stopped drinking.

The story is at the WTOP website:

It will be interesting to see which way this story goes. Was alcohol a factor in this crash? If not, will there still be a hue and cry to keep repeat DUI offenders off the road permanently? And no matter what the answers are to the above, there is no question that Carter was driving aggressively.

Why? What was her hurry? I have shown little sympathy for Carter in these pages thus far; knowing that she had three DUIs, and that she was only 27 years old, makes me want to know more about who she was and what was going on in her life. My morbid curiosity has been piqued.

Sometimes, if we slow something down and examine it, we learn more than if we simply toss it onto the pile of all the other human errors which have come before.

So we'll slow this one down a bit. If anything comes along to flesh out the facts of this story, I will report them here. has a picture of the bleached blonde and more details of her vehicular rap sheet:

...and more people suggesting that repeat offender DUI drivers should be locked up. But the question is: for how long? What about treatment? This is a complicated issue, but there seems to be some momentum starting to build, based on the outrageousness of Carter's list of offenses.

And to think she was only 27.

Yeah, this story is a keeper.

Topix has an interesting thread going, including some good-byes from friends of the son who was killed along with his father. Also, lots of calls for prison time for repeat DUI offenders. Here's the Topix thread: (I am guessing the 4 states are PA, MD, VA and WV) interviewed Carter's mother. We now know that Carter was on her way to the store to pick up roses to be placed on her father's grave.

There isn't anything to add to the facts of the crash itself, but it does help to round out the picture.

"I Was Wrong": What A Concept

The NY Times has a nice first person story from a cardiologist who examined an intern for chest pain and made the wrong call. Nobody died; the man was correctly diagnosed the next morning and treated for a blockage.

What's interesting is that the cardiologist struggled with the morality of what to say to the patient. Years of experience caution doctors against admitting anything, or even sincerely apologizing for an incorrect diagnosis.

Anyway, the story tugged at me a little bit, so here it is:

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is...Oh, What A Mess

Saudi Arabia keeps making it difficult for regular Americans to have the same affection for them that the American ruling family has. Sure they have lots of oil and have always been friendly with the Bush clan, and they don't mind much when we tromp all over their desert on our way to the next front in the GWOT.

But then there are those laws they use to suppress individual rights, rights you and I take for granted. Their latest (that we know of) expression of their utter fear of openness is their detention of 32 year old blogger Fouah al-Farhan. In this quote from the NY Times write-up, Farhan says in a letter to friends: "The issue that caused all of this is because I wrote about the
political prisoners here in Saudi Arabia, and they think I'm running an online campaign promoting their issue." In that letter, Farhan alerts his friends that he has been warned of an investigation into his writings.

So, a young Saudi man is in detention today, because he wishes to be able to speak his mind publicly. He isn't a jihadist; he isn't a revolutionary. He is an ordinary citizen who sees things he does not like, and speaks about them.

I wouldn't put it past the American ruling family to try something similar. In these GWOT times, they can do whatever they want in the name of (rigid back, please) "National Security."

The NY Times piece: