Category Archives: Law/Justice

Saturday Odds & Sods: Nowhere Man

May is a month for themes at First Draft. Yesterday, I declared it Cole Porter month at the Friday Cocktail Hour. Today, I declare May to be Beatles month since Tell Me Why was last week’s theme song. I do declare. Stop me before I turn into Scarlet O’Hara. I’d look lousy in a hoop skirt…

President Biden visited New Orleans as part of his infrastructure push. He toured the Sewerage & Water Board plant in the Pigeon Town neighborhood. Our water system has been in bad shape forever. They’ve tried muddling through with what we have but what we need is money, money, money. The presidential visit is a good sign that it may be forthcoming. John Neely Kennedy insists that water plants aren’t infrastructure. I insist that he’s an asshole who can still go fuck himself.

This week’s theme song was written by Lennon and McCartney in 1965. Once again, it’s essentially a Lennon song. We’ll get to Macca next week. It was featured on three Beatles albums, Rubber Soul in the UK, Yesterday and Today in the US, and on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack worldwide. That was exhausting. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We have three versions of Nowhere Man for your listening pleasure: the Beatles original, Randy Travis, and Paul Westerberg.

If you’re feeling stuck in Nowhere Land, there’s an easy fix: jump to the break.

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Can’t We All Just Get Along

Rodney King

Beaten to a pulp by LAPD who were later exonerated, he still had the guts to say “Can’t we all get along”

Recently there was a giant hubbub at the podcasting company Gimlet over attempts to create a workplace union. I don’t want to go into all the details but this Vulture report does a pretty good job of summing up the various positions and the backlash involved in it.

Suffice it to say, one side lost and one side won. That’s how things go in this world of ours.

What I am more interested in is the fact that at Gimlet those on the losing side felt they had to leave the company. I want to make it clear this is not a situation where the losers were people in control of policy or direction for the company. The two biggest names to leave, PJ Voight and Shruti Panamanian, were worker bees who had made the decision to oppose the unionization effort. Why they did was their own business and no one else’s. But they felt compelled to leave the company they had helped build because they had been on the losing side of the issue. Whether they jumped or were pushed is of no matter. The point is they left.

They shouldn’t have. They shouldn’t have been put in the position of having to make that decision.

Look if every time one of us loses an argument and feels they have to leave, there would be a whole helluva lot more divorced people living at the Motel 6. When did having a different opinion on something from your nearest and dearest or even just your fellow employees become equated to vacating the premises? Unless it’s a rental agreement we shouldn’t be packing our bags and heading down the highway just because we lost one simple disagreement. The Dodgers, in my humble opinion, suck. There I said it. Some of you might agree with that sentiment. Some of you I know don’t. That doesn’t mean I can’t be friends with you. I’ve got news for you, friends have disagreements all the time as all my Dodger loving friends will tell you about me.

Same goes for the workplace. Yeah, here it gets a little trickier because you do have to negotiate various levels of business hierarchy but I shouldn’t feel I have to leave my job just because you wanted a union, I didn’t, but the union won out. In fact I would argue that it’s more important that I stick around to keep the union on it’s toes or to make sure it really is working in the best interests of myself and my fellow employees.

Last year the Opinion Editor of the New York Times, James Bennet, agreed to publish an essay written, as much as we can believe a politician can write a clear and declarative essay, by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. In it he advocated for using the US military against BLM protesters in the wake of the George Floyd murder. I do not agree with that sentiment in the least. From what I can tell the New York Times and probably James Bennet himself do not agree with that sentiment. Nevertheless Bennet chose to publish it as an editorial about a matter of current affairs written by a serving member of the United States Senate. Some Times staff writers protested the essay should not have been run. Ultimately the uproar over that decision caused Bennet to lose his job. He shouldn’t have, just as the staff writers opposed to the publication shouldn’t have lost their jobs for speaking out, though none did. They made their feelings known, he obviously made his feelings known by running it in the first place and that should have been the end of that. Instead a well respected veteran of the newspaper industry had to be shown/head for the door because apparently unless we all speak as one we can not speak at all.

Which brings me to Liz Cheney.

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The Legal Docket: Bragging Rights

You’re probably asking yourself, what’s up with that title? I’ll get to that in a minute.

The picture above comes from Judge Garland zooming into a Congressional hearing in which he requested a massive increase in spending to combat domestic terrorism. It’s about bloody time.

Note the portraits of past Attorney Generals flanking Merrick Garland: to his left Edward Levi and to his right Robert Kennedy.

Here’s where the bragging rights come in. I wrote a piece called Merrick Garland’s Time. In it, I compared him favorably to his fellow Chicagoan, Edward Levi who cleaned up the DOJ in the wake of Watergate.

Like Edward Levi and John Paul Stevens, Merrick Garland hails from the Chicago area.

Like Merrick Garland, Edward Levi was a modest unassuming man.

Like Merrick Garland, Edward Levi faced a difficult task. He did the job, then returned to the University of Chicago where he had previously served as dean of the law school and president of the university.

Like Merrick Garland, Edward Levi was Jewish. He was the first Jewish AG; Garland will be the third.

<SNIP>

Edward Levi is one of the most underrated figures in American history. He not only had to clean up the DOJ, but he also had to reform the FBI, which J. Edgar Hoover had turned into his private police force. He accomplished both in two years. It can be done again.

1975 was Edward Levi’s time.

2021 is Merrick Garland’s time.

I’m pleased but not surprised to see that Garland shares my high opinion of Levi. Keep up the good work, General Garland.

In other legal news, we have a flashback to former Attorney General Bill Barr’s misrepresentations of the Mueller Report:

The blistering opinion by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson concerned an Office of Legal Counsel memo that was drafted in the key weekend between when special counsel Robert Mueller issued his report to Attorney General Bill Barr and when Barr released a public letter to Congress ostensibly “summarizing” the report.

<SNIP>

She said that the department had made a “misrepresentation” about the purpose of the memo and engaged in a “the lack of candor” about its content. She said that CREW, while never laying “eyes on the document,” had supplied a summary “more accurate than the one supplied by the department’s declarants” in its filings alleging that the memo was being illegally withheld.

Team Barr violated the first rule of litigation: NEVER PISS OFF THE JUDGE.

The DOJ has two weeks to decide if the memo remains withheld. It’s unlikely that Team Garland will continue the cover up.

Today, I once again compared Merrick Garland to Edward Levi. It’s time to recapitulate my comparison of Bill Barr to jailed Nixon Attorney Generals John Mitchell and Dick Kleindienst:

Talk about a rogue’s gallery. None of those guys will be hanging on the wall in a future AG’s office.

I found those official portraits at the DOJ web site. The portraits of LBJ’s AGs took a decidedly modernist turn.

That’s Nick Katzenbach by Alan Wood-Thomas and Ramsey Clark by Robert Berks.

I hope that the fashion of calling presidents by their numbers doesn’t catch on with Attorney Generals. If it does, we began with 86 flanked by 71 and 64.

That is all.

A Postcard From Menlo Park (CA)

Greetings From Facebook Jail

 

This week’s postcard is actually from several places.

It’s from Menlo Park. But it’s actually from East Menlo Park. To be more specific from the campus of Facebook in East Menlo Park.

More specifically it’s from the cyber location called Facebook Jail.

No, I’m not in jail, but in the last few weeks a couple of my friends have been placed there, so like in Monopoly, I’m just visiting. I get to pass Go and collect $200.

It’s the algorithms I tells ya, they rat you out before you can even finish the comment.

Take my friend Don. Nice guy. We used to write together. We even wrote a musical for him to star in.

He’s the blonde on the left. If you’re thinking to yourself I know that face it’s probably from one of his many commercials or appearances on Letterman. He semi-gave up the glamour of show business for the academic life a few years ago and now teaches creative writing at a college in Connecticut. Which makes his crime even more, what’s the creative writing term for it, ironic.

Why is he in Facebook Jail? Because he had the temerity to make the following comment as a reply to someone else’s post:

We have more stupid Americans than at any other point in my lifetime.

That’s it. That’s all. For making the rather obvious statement of fact/opinion that a huge swarth of the American public are stupid. If I’m not mistaken Tucker Carlson has built an entire career on the basis of that assumption. The Repugnicant party as well.

I can hear you now saying to yourself “self, what’s so bad about saying a great number of people are stupid? It’s not like he called a specific person a particular racial slur or maligned an entire group of people by saying all were stupid, he just said there are a lot of stupid people living in America.”

Well self here’s the answer. The algorithm Facebook uses to check for hate speech on it’s site considers the word “stupid” to be hate speech.  Why? Apparently because some people still use stupid as a derogatory synonym for mentally challenged, hence stupid in the context of other human beings is hate speech. Stupid in the context of The Bachelor is okay, though don’t call whoever is the bachelor on The Bachelor stupid even if he was mentally challenged enough to go on a reality dating show.

But stupid has other meanings in relation to humans.

  • “A benumbed or dazed state of mind” as in “I was rendered stupid for awhile after I fell off the ladder”.
  • “Tediously dull, especially due to lack of meaning or sense” as in “This party is stupid”.
  • “In a state of stupor” as in “I am stupid from staying up all night”.
  • “Annoying or irritating” as in “This recitation of all the meanings of stupid is stupid”

So Facebook, do I go to jail for saying “Man last night I was so stupid from going to that stupid party that I tripped on the curb, hit my head, and got stupid for so long that I was stupid to the guy who gave me a ride home”?

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Rudy, Rudy, Rudy

In the last 20 years, Rudy Giuliani has gone from unpopular mayor to national hero to failed presidential candidate to national joke. It’s been quite a journey and he only has himself to blame for the next phase of his odyssey. Rudy’s big fat mouth has positioned him to be a defendant in the dock and/or a stool pigeon who might die in jail. What a long strange trip it’s been.

There’s long been chatter that the Southern District of New York was thwarted in its effort to go after Trump’s nominal personal lawyer by then AG Bill Barr. (I say nominal because the Rudester seems to have been an unpaid volunteer representing a grifter who never pays his legal bills.) That ended last week with a search warrant executed on Rudy’s office and residence. Thanks, General Garland.

Rudy squealed like a stuck pig about how this was an unprecedented violation of attorney-client privilege. Really? What about Trump’s former fixer/lawyer, Michael Cohen? The same thing happened to Cohen and the Impeached Insult Comedian sided with him for half a second before betraying him. This strikes me as Rudy’s most likely fate.

For his part, Cohen thinks that the Artist Formerly Known As Mayor Combover will flip, rollover, and otherwise turn on former President* Pennywise:

It always comes back to Vladimir Putin’s ambition to reassemble the Russian Empire by regaining control of the jewel in both the Tsarist and Soviet crown. Ukraine.

It’s fitting that Rudy’s quest to oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch led to Trump’s first impeachment and now legal jeopardy for the Artist Formerly Known As America’s Mayor.

The weirdest thing about the Ukraine scandal is that the Kaiser of Chaos *had* the power to remove Yovanovitch. But his desire to keep his fingerprints off the ouster resulted in his and Rudy’s ongoing Ukraine-related legal problems. The moral of that part of the story: never send a heavy-handed clown to do a job that requires subtlety and discretion.

Rudy The Clown by Barry Blitt.

The loudmouth Rudy-Pennywise approach worked to defang the Mueller investigation, but it’s failed subsequently. The only thing that saved Rudy’s ass was being backed up by a president* and the pardon power. No wonder Rudy participated in the Big Election Lie. It was a no-brainer and Rudy seems to have precious few little grey cells left. Hercule Poirot weeps.

There’s a certain symmetry to Rudy Giuliani’s rise and fall. He first rose to prominence as the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Now that office is trying to nail his scalp to the wall. How the mighty have fallen.

The question is: how did the seemingly intelligent asshole of the 1980s morph into the stupid asshole of 2021? It’s partially the Trump effect: hanging out with him seems to cut people’s IQ in half and result in chronic mendacity.

Michael Cohen had a more practical explanation in an interview with MSNBC’s Ari Melber last fall:

“The problem here is that Rudy isn’t a soldier. Rudy is—Rudy is drunk all the time, which is a big problem and that’s what makes him susceptible because his faculties are gone. He behaves crazy.”

Melber challenges Cohen on this point, asking, “are you sharing an opinion or are you sharing an observation like you’ve seen him drink X amount?”

Cohen, who was jailed in 2018 for arranging payments to silence women who claimed to have affairs with Trump, continued: “I’ve seen him drink to the point like he’s a high school drunk,” adding, “and it makes him susceptible.”

It also makes Rudy susceptible to Trumpian manipulation. The teetotaler has played the drunk for a chump. He’s kept him inside the tent thus far because Rudy knows too much. That won’t last now that Rudy is under investigation and Trump is no longer “immune” from prosecution. No wonder Rudy wanted a blanket pardon.

This story has more twists and turns coming. I think a bag of pretzels is in order because Rudy has long specialized in Pretzel Logic.

That was just the first last word for this post. The penultimate one involves the demon alcohol and goes to the Kinks:

The last last word goes to Sarah Vaughan with a Sassy rendition of a Stephen Sondheim song:

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – putrid potpourri edition

Short post today, packing for our trip to Terlingua / Big Bend.

Let’s start with – Qtarded!

General Flynn Warns About Possible Threats from Antifa/BLM Interrupting the Audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 Election Results
USSA News ^ | 4/16/2021 | NWO Report

Posted on 4/17/2021, 11:33:34 AM by RideForever

General Michael Flynn warns that it is possible that Antifa and BLM will show up and attempt to stop or interrupt the scheduled audit in Maricopa County.

Why are the Democrats so scared of a valid audit being performed in Maricopa County of their 2020 Election results? Next week an audit of the results in Maricopa County is going to start and the Democrats are absolutely freaking out over it.

If by “freaking out” you mean “refusing to pay for someone else’s conspiracy theory”, you’re absolutely right.

General Flynn warns of the audit being interrupted by Antifa and BLM:

I hear that they’re going to use those Jewish space Lasers to burn up all the votes for Republicans.

 

“Maricopa County is tactical, but it has a strategic consequence, depending on the outcome and we believe we know what the outcome will be. The Maricopa County audit is a big, big deal.

And I’m telling, you know, I’ll say it today, because we have intel that they may be bringing people down from Portland and Seattle to disrupt, what? I mean to disrupt finding the truth, discovering the truth?

And, so if these kinds of things happen, if these types of things happen …it’s basically finding the truth. It’s like me, I knew eventually the truth was going to come out. Truth it has a way of just bubbling up.

So does insanity.

And so it’s going to bubble up. And what is happening is all of this other noise that’s created to distract what it is that we’re doing…”

The Democrats have brought in their top lawyers to attack the audit as well:

Big Tech is getting involved as well. They didn’t just censor the audit, they likely broke the law by interfering with the audit. The posting of this volunteer form by Ken Bennett, an official of the Arizona Senate, was an official act of the Arizona Senate, carrying out its court-approved duties to audit this election. This was an official election act. Didn’t Google and wufoo just break the law or come perilously close to it by censoring this request?

The Democrats must know that the valid results in Maricopa County were nowhere near what was reported or they wouldn’t give a damn about the upcoming audit. Their guy, Senile Joe Biden, reportedly won the election in Arizona by 11,000 votes and became the first Democrat to win Maricopa County since Harry Truman. Biden won the county by 40,000 votes. Maricopa County is 60% of the state’s votes.

1 posted on 4/17/2021, 11:33:34 AM by RideForever
Logan has confirmed that he authored a document titled “Election Fraud Facts & Details” that was posted on the website of Sidney Powell, another pro-Trump lawyer who filed challenges to the election and who appeared at a November news conference with Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani.
Any comments, Freepers?
To: RideForever

Why would Gen. Flynn have any inside knowledge about disruptions to the Maricopa County audit? Sounds like rank speculation to me.

3 posted on 4/17/2021, 11:41:18 AM by SSS Two

To: SSS Two

He doesn’t. He’s Qtarded.

22 posted on 4/17/2021, 1:05:28 PM by Rightwing Conspiratr1

Heh.
To: RideForever
Shoot ‘em.

What an interesting view of Democracy you have.

The rest of the cowards will run back to mommy’s basement.

6 posted on 4/17/2021, 11:49:05 AM by fwdude (Pass up too many hills to die on, and you will eventually fall off the edge of the world.)

Schrodinger’s protestor:

Simultaneously running away and fighting in the streets.

And now – the post of the thread!!
To: mac_truck

Flynn, the same guy who said Trump would absolutely still be in office.

9 posted on 4/17/2021, 12:07:21 PM by glorgau

One more after the break –

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Malaka Of The Week: Amanda Chase

The woman in the red and white elephant skirt with an assault weapon draped around her neck is Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase. She’s running for the Republican nomination for Governor. I don’t think the Commonwealth is ready for a Governor who describes herself as “Trump in heels.” She looks more like Trump in sandals to me. And that is why Amanda Chase is malaka of the week.

Chase is from the Richmond suburbs, Midlothian in Chesterfield County to be precise. It’s a town name I used to like but now regard with considerable fear and Midloathing. It does, however, make for a memorable nickname: the Midlothian Malaka.

Chase gets around. She spoke at the “Stop The Steal” rally that preceded the 1/6 Dipshit Insurrection. She denies storming the Capitol but has vehemently defended the insurrectionists, “These were not rioters and looters. These were patriots who love their country and do not want to see our great republic turn into a socialist country.”

She was censured by her colleagues for that bit of brazen dipshittery and is fighting it in court. You would have thought that she’d wear it as a badge of pride.

Her latest cause is defending this guy:

After the verdict in a state whose capitol is 1.200 miles away from home, the Midlothian Malaka attacked the jury and praised convicted murderer Derek Chauvin:

Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase (R), a prominent Republican candidate in her state’s gubernatorial race, copied Greene’s fear-mongering tactic in response to Chauvin’s verdict by saying that it made her “sick.”

During a campaign stop on Tuesday shortly after the announcement of Chauvin’s verdict, Chase griped that she is “so concerned about our law enforcement right now quitting. And you should be, too.”

Chase, who describes herself as “Trump in heels” and was censured by the Virginia state Senate after praising the mob behind the Capitol attack as “patriots,” doubled down on her stance in a written statement.

“I’m concerned that the decision was politically motivated more to prevent civil unrest than to serve justice,” Chase said in a written statement, according to the Washington Post. “The decision made today sends a clear message to law enforcement; the justice system doesn’t have your back.”

I wonder if she’s going to start a Chauvin fan club and invite rotten defense lawyer Eric Nelson to speak. They both make me sick.

Is it just me or does Eric Nelson look like Garth Algar?

Nelson can still suck it.

Back to the Midlothian Malaka.  She has been on my radar for quite some time. If there’s a retrograde position, she’s taken it. Her comments about rape are reprehensible even by her own low standards: “It’s those who are naive and unprepared that end up raped. Sorry. But I’m not going to be a statistic.”

She’s also a hardcore Lost Causer. She adores the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, which state and local officials want lost like the cause it represents. She described the removal attempt as: “a cowardly capitulation to the looters and domestic terrorists” and an “overt effort to erase all white history.”

Does Malaka Mandy kiss her children with that mouth?

The good news is that the Midlothian Malaka’s chances of being elected Governor are slim and none and slim was just consigned to the dust heap of history. The bad news is that she has any support at all. She’s Virginia’s answer to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. And that is why Amanda Chase is malaka of the week.

I’ve used Sweet Virginia many times over the years, but it has never been more appropriate: the Midlothian Malaka is the shit that needs to be scraped off the Commonwealth’s shoes. That’s why the last word goes to the Rolling Stones:

 

 

The Chauvin Trial: Evidence Matters, Lawyering Matters

I made a mistake yesterday and spent too much time on Twitter before the verdict. The amateur lawyers and jurors were doing their thing, insisting that Derek Chauvin would be acquitted because that’s how it’s always gone. Each criminal case is different, a discrete and insular universe of its own. Precedents are for appellate courts; trial courts are all about verdicts. Each case stands alone.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison assembled a 21st Century dream team for the prosecution. They also had a dream case and the right jury to hear the case. Evidence matters. Lawyering matters. Voir dire matters. Everything came together for this conviction including some significant erosion of the thin blue line.

I’m not a fan of teevee cameras in the courtroom. The prosecution handled it well, acting as if they weren’t there. Eric Nelson (who can still suck it) played to the cameras and his own vanity. Lawyers tend to revel in detail and miss the big picture. Nelson kept making those mistakes and, more importantly, misread the jury. Jurors matter.

During his doomed closing argument, Nelson missed a chance to woo the jury. At the ninety-minute mark, he should have paused and said something like this, “Your honor, I’m going to need more time to make my case, but I see that it’s lunch time. I bet everyone in the court room is hungry. Why don’t we take a break and I’ll finish after lunch.”

Would it have helped his client? Given the evidence, no, but he should done it anyway as a signal to the jury that he cared about them, instead the judge was obliged to intervene.

I don’t know about you, but I get cranky when I’m really hungry. The focus of juror crankiness was Nelson who can still suck it. My idea of hell is his closing argument on a loop for eternity. Now, that’s damnation.

It’s another example of how the defense was focused on minutiae. Details matter but getting lost in them leads to three hour closing arguments that lead to disaster for a client. In this case, Chauvin had it coming.

I usually stick up for lawyers defending the indefensible. Everyone has the right to representation. This was a tough case but Nelson (who can still suck it) made everything worse with his showboating and verbosity. He was blowing smoke to get the jury to invoke reasonable doubt, but his case died of smoke inhalation, right? Apologies for the Nelsonism, they’re annoying, agreed? Nelson can still suck it.

It would not surprise me if the police union and the convicted defendant fired Nelson. Given the mountain of evidence, an appeal is unlikely to succeed in this case but the best ground is ineffective representation by counsel. Nelson was that bad.

A friend asked if I thought Nelson was throwing the case. Definitely not. Tanking a case can get you fired and even worse disbarred, especially in such a high-profile case. Cliche warning: He couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: not all lawyers are smart. I went to law school with some dumb people, but they were good test takers, so they made it through. That’s not unusual in a society where teachers teach to the test, not because they want to but because it’s required. Herd immunity is a good thing, but group think is not. Heed George Harrison’s advice and:

In fairness to Eric Nelson, if the prosecution had the dream case, he had the nightmare client. Derek Chauvin is as unlikeable a defendant as imaginable.

One reason Chauvin murdered George Floyd was stubborn pride. The crowd was urging him to get off Floyd’s neck and he wasn’t going to let them tell him how to do his job. He should have listened. I’m convinced that many problems could be solved if people just shut up and listened.

Chauvin’s face was blank as the verdict was read. He blinked but his visage was as emotionless as when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. I try not to take pleasure in other people’s misfortune but watching him led away in handcuffs was a thing of beauty. His face remained expressionless and his eyes blank much like the character in this Kinks song:

Justice *was* achieved in the Chauvin case notwithstanding the desire of some to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. But like all criminal verdicts, it stands alone, it has no precedential value. One could even call it a legal island.

It’s a good start but few cases will have such perfect evidence and such good lawyering. It should, however, serve as a warning to rogue cops that things have changed, and that accountability is possible. Some of them, alas, will be slow learners.

In the end, people matter. The conviction was made possible by people like Darnella Frazier, Genevieve Hansen, Donald Williams, Charles McMillian, Courtney Ross, Chief Arradondo. Lt. Zimmerman, Doctors Tobin and Rich, and all the other witnesses who stood their ground and told the truth.

The truth matters.

The Verdict: Guilty On All Counts

I know everyone has already heard but we’ve gone through the process together so we might as well have a brief encounter.

I was expecting a guilty verdict but this exceeded my expectations. The look on Chauvin’s face when he was cuffed was priceless.

The criminal justice system still has a lot of work to do but this is a step forward. I expect some people on the left to try and pull defeat  from the jaws of victory but we should enjoy this moment.

Suck it, Nelson.

I promised to do this. I’ll the Master speak for me:

I’ll be back with more on the verdict tomorrow when the dust has settled.

The last word goes to Randy Newman:

Closing Arguments

The day began with jury instructions from Judge Peter Cahill, which were, of course drafted with input from both sides. I listened carefully and they sounded fairly standard; nothing wildly pro-prosecution or defense. That did not surprise me. The judge has been fair and even-handed throughout the trial. This does, however, give the prosecution an edge because they have such a strong case.

PROSECUTION ARGUMENT: Calm but impassioned best describes lead prosecutor Steve Schleicher’s style. It’s what you’d expect from a Minnesota lawyer. Those people aren’t known for raising their voices. It’s a perfect demeanor for a trial lawyer.

Schleicher began by discussing who George Floyd was and why the police response to his alleged crime was disproportionate. A reminder that the call for service was initiated because Floyd passed a counterfeit bill. It remains unclear if he knew it was a fake or not. Whatever the case, suspects are rarely cuffed and arrested for passing funny money. They’re typically issued a summons. That’s right, it’s a ticket, the monetary equivalent of a traffic stop. Repeat after me: Nobody should die during a traffic stop.

Schleicher emphasized that Floyd complied with the police until they tried to shove this large man into the cramped backseat of a squad car. Even then Floyd’s “resistance” was mostly verbal telling the cops that he was claustrophobic and not a bad guy. I understand this because I’m mildly claustrophobic myself. They did not listen and the result was George’s Floyd’s death.

Schleicher urged the jury to use their common sense and ignore the nonsense thrown at them by the defense. Nonsense is, of course, Eric Nelson’s specialty.

Schleicher pre-rebutted some of Nelson’s sillier arguments: crowd noise, carbon monoxide and the like.

For any conservative leaning jurors, Schleicher stressed that this was “not a prosecution of the police, it’s a prosecution of the defendant.” Something that was supported by the testimony of seven law enforcement professionals AGAINST Chauvin.

This was one of the strongest passages of the prosecution’s argument:

“This wasn’t policing; this was murder,” Schleicher told jurors. He cited the motto of the Minneapolis Police Department, which fired Chauvin and three other officers involved the day after Floyd’s arrest: “To protect with courage and to serve with compassion.”

“George Floyd was not a threat to anyone,” Schleicher said, often speaking with audible anger and disgust. “Facing George Floyd that day that did not require one ounce of courage, and none was shown on that day, no courage was required. All that was required was a little compassion and none was shown on that day.”

Compassion seems to be in short supply when it comes to Derek Chauvin.

I’m in a pedagogical mood so I’ll rate Schleicher’s argument. It was cogent, coherent, and well organized. I give him an A- mostly because I’m a tough grader.

DEFENSE ARGUMENT: Nelson’s argument started off fairly well, but unraveled under the weight of his words. He even conceded that he was going to be long-winded. He did not disappoint.

I originally planned to count Nelson’s use of the word right. I gave up at twenty. Oy just oy.

Nelson’s argument was disjointed and disorganized. It gave me a reasonable doubt that he’s a competent counsel. He also has some issues with the language. I’ve never heard the word fanciful pronounced fancy-full. I laughed, then thought of this venerable song:

Nelson stressed the “reasonable police officer” argument. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing reasonable about putting one’s knee on another guy’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

I thought Nelson’s use of video backfired. It made it clear that Floyd was begging for his life as Chauvin pinned him in a prone position. Floyd was even polite calling Chauvin, Mr. Officer when he was really Officer Asshole.

Nelson must have hoped that the guttural and agonized sounds made by Floyd would evoke stereotypes of scary Black street criminals but instead they were pitiable. Chauvin reacted with no pity. I don’t think he’s capable of it; another reason for keeping him off the witness stand.

The cause of death portion of Nelson’s argument was equally weak. Instead of keeping it short and punchy, he went on and on and on, so I’ll keep it short and snappy. It was unconvincing and so windy that the judge took a lunch break before Nelson finished.

I tried not to be too hard on Nelson just because I’ve come to dislike him over the course of the trial. It’s a very tough case for a defense lawyer. He has an unappealing client who would have no chance of acquittal if he weren’t a cop. I’m doubtful that an acquittal is possible at this point, especially since the jury is likely to be pissed off at Nelson’s windbaggery,

Nelson’s strategy seems to have been to bore or starve the jury into submission. I don’t think it will work. I give his closing argument a D- and that’s being charitable.

PROSECUTION REBUTTAL: Two of MSNBC’s Black reporters insisted on calling Jerry Blackwell the Johnnie Cochran of the Midwest. It’s meant as a compliment, but their styles are entirely different.  Besides, Blackwell is alive, and Johnnie is not. So it goes.

Blackwell did a decent job but I, along with everyone else, had trial fatigue as he spoke. I just wanted it to end.

Finally. today was a disaster for the defense. Nobody wants to hear anyone speak for 3 hours. Nelson is lucky that Chauvin didn’t kick his ass on the break. Eric Nelson is now the Fidel Castro of the legal profession. What a maroon.

The Defense Rests

Who are these masked men? Eric Nelson and Derek Chauvin.

I originally didn’t plan to write about the defense mounted on behalf of Derek Chauvin by his pesky and annoying lawyer Eric Nelson. But I was asked several times to do so, and I’ve been known to take requests. I will not, however, play either Louie Louie or Whipping Post, which are my stock mock concert song requests. I once got Weather Report’s Joe Zawinul to play a few bars of the former and was mocked by Richard Thompson for requesting the latter.

I only watched bits and bobs of the defense presentation because Nelson annoys me so much. Besides, I have other things to do such as writing about my parents and the corrupt Gilroy cop. End of shameless plug for one of my better recent posts.

Nelson’s defense predictably consisted of throwing shit against the wall and seeing how much sticks. But the defense doesn’t have the burden of proof, in a case like this its job is to poke holes in the prosecution’s case. Nelson tried mightily but as far as I can tell failed. His experts simply weren’t as good as those of the prosecution. His use of force guy essentially paraphrased Tricky Dick:

Just substitute police for president and do for does and Bob’s your uncle.

Nelson’s medical expert Dr. David Fowler was no better. He’s the reflexively pro-police former chief medical examiner of Maryland. He’s currently being sued by the family of a 19-year-old black man killed by police. Fowler ruled Anton Black’s death to be accidental and caused by his heart problems and bipolar disorder. The facts of that case are strikingly similar to the Floyd case.

Dr. Fowler pulled a joker out of the deck and cited carbon monoxide poisoning as a factor in George Floyd’s death. That led to the prosecution calling lovable expert witness Dr. Martin Tobin to rebut Fowler’s claim. That was win-win for the prosecution: Fowler is a dick with a South African accent and Tobin is a nice guy with an Irish brogue. He reminds me of two Irish members of the John Ford stock company: Barry Fitzgerald and Arthur Shields.

The least surprising thing that happened yesterday was Chauvin’s decision to exercise his 5th Amendment right not to testify. The guy has 18 citizen complaints against him. If he testified, they would have come in. There was no way Nelson would advise him to take the stand. Nelson is a jerk, not an idiot. I stand by what I wrote on Tuesday.

The trial is on hiatus until Monday. The defense tried to throw Judge Peter Cahill for a loop by resting earlier than expected. The judge was not rattled by Nelson’s antics and stuck to the plan of closing arguments on Monday. He promised the jury the weekend off before being sequestered for deliberation. One of the least commented upon aspects of a judge’s life is jury management. This judge kept his word to his jury. He’s got a swell first name as well.

A few words about the teevee coverage. I mostly watched MSNBC and CSPAN, but I dallied with Court TV. I skipped CNN because of my Wolf Blitzer phobia. Mercifully, MSNBC let its regular hosts handle the coverage, which spared me from seeing New Jersey’s answer to Wolf Blitzer, Brian Williams.

Court TV is used to covering tabloidy trials and its coverage reflected that. This trial is significant in a way that the Casey Anthony trial never was. Their analysts and anchors were shockingly bad. One predicted that Chauvin *would* testify. Say what? Talk about pundit malpractice.

As to MSNBC, its reporters were in over their head and fell back on reporting on juror quirks. How can you read their reaction when they’re wearing masks? Oy just oy.

When MSNBC’s crack legal analysts such as Chuck Rosenberg, Joyce Vance, and David Henderson were on the air things were better. I could have done without some of the political/cultural analysts such as Professor Eddie Glaude who specialized in windy and negative pronouncements about the jury. Here’s the deal: even when juries get it wrong, they’re doing the best they can. It’s not easy being a juror in a high-profile case, you’re going to get criticized whichever way you come down.

The closing arguments should be interesting. Both sides will use them to remind the jury of what happened during the trial. The prosecution has the upper hand because it has a stronger case, but Nelson might be able to pester and annoy the panel into hanging.

Predicting outcomes in a jury trial is a sucker’s game. I don’t expect an acquittal, but a hung jury is a possibility.

Stay tuned.

The last word goes to the Allman Brothers Band:

Small Town Cops

The revelation that Army Lt. Caron Nazario was pepper sprayed last December by Windsor, Virginia police got me thinking of a scary encounter my family had with a small town cop many years ago.

Windsor is as small as it gets with a population of 1,902. Its police force had only five cops at the time of the traffic stop. The number is down one because Officer Pepper Spray was fired. The only reason that happened is that Lt. Nazario sued over what may well be business as usual for that police force.

When I was a kid, my father thought nothing of hopping into the family car to spend weekends with relatives in Salinas or Los Angeles. He grew up in the mountain West where distances are great, and people drive really fast. In fact, my Aunt Mary had a radar detector in her car when she was in her 80’s. That side of the family were fast drivers. Perhaps that explains my affinity for actor/race car drivers such as Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and James Garner.

There was a notorious speed trap on Highway 101 in those days, Gilroy. It’s now part of the San Jose/Silicon Valley urban sprawl but back in the day, it was a very small town in the middle of nowhere or so it seemed to me as a kid.

We were pulled over by the Gilroy police at least five times over the years. Every time we approached that benighted little town, my mom would warn Lou to slow down. He waved her off every time convinced he could talk his way out of anything.

We were lucky. We only received two tickets. Lou’s charm offensive usually worked. On one occasion, it did not. Lou was nearly arrested and cuffed on the spot. We were stopped by a cop who was impervious to his charm and didn’t care that he was related to Los Angeles County Sheriff, Pete Pitchess. This was Gilroy whose only claim to fame was its garlic festival and status as a speed trap.

The officer was infuriated by Lou’s name dropping and ordered him to get out of the car. He complied but didn’t stop talking. Bad idea as all it did was make the cop angrier. He started to pull out his handcuffs, which was when my mother intervened.

She apologized to the officer and offered to accompany him to the station where we would gladly pay the fine on the spot. She added, “We’re just trying to get home so our son can go to school tomorrow.”

It worked. The wannabe brutal cop turned out to be corrupt and asked for a $100 bill to let us go. He insisted that mom drive saying, “You’re a nice lady, but your husband has a big mouth. He should learn to keep it shut.”

We hit the road home. Lou tried to get mom to pull over so he could drive. It was one of the few times I recall her yelling at him: “Shut up, Lou, just shut up.”

She was magnificent.

This is not a story either of my parents ever told as far as I know, a rare thing in my father’s case. I wasn’t sworn to silence but never wanted to embarrass them over something that could have easily gone terribly wrong.

Imagine if we’d been a black family. The story wouldn’t have concluded with a bribe and our departure. I hesitate to think how it would have ended but that was one angry small town cop who was ready to kick my father’s ass or worse. A nice black lady’s intervention wouldn’t have been treated so indulgently.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There’s never any reason for the police to draw their weapons during a traffic stop. In Lt. Nazario’s case, it was allegedly over a temporary license tag. He wisely delayed pulling over until he was in a well-lit area. It could have been much, much worse.

Driving While Black should not be dangerous. If this can happen to a soldier in uniform, it can happen to anyone. I’m glad that Lt. Nazario had the presence of mind to record the incident on his phone camera. The small town cops expected him to be grateful that they didn’t arrest him. So much for supporting our troops.

I told my story about a traffic stop that nearly went sideways, not to equate Driving While Greek with Driving While Black. It’s an example of how police training does not work. A citizen should be able to speak freely with the police, not fear for their safety when pulled over. Not every encounter with the public is life threatening but police are trained to fear those they supposedly protect and serve, especially if they’re people of color. It has to stop.

Repeat after me: Retrain The Police.

The Prosecution Rests

The prosecution in the Derek Chauvin case rested after 11 days. The streets in nearby Brooklyn Center, Minnesota are restless after another senseless shooting during a traffic stop. We’ll get to that wrinkle a bit later.

The state’s prosecutors have built an impressive case.  It was in three acts: the eyeball witnesses, the police, and the medical experts, Yesterday, they closed with a cardiologist, George Floyd’s grieving brother, and a cop turned law professor who’s an expert on police use of force.

George Floyd’s brother Philonise painted a portrait of his brother as a loving man and mama’s boy. Their mother died not long before George did, and he had her on his mind as he died with Derek Chauvin’s leg on his neck.

George Floyd’s crime was to pass a $20 bill that he may or may have not known was counterfeit. Nobody should die because of a minor non-violent offense such as that or a traffic stop. Pesky and annoying defense lawyer Eric Nelson did not cross-examine Philonise. Wise choice.

I saw the entirety of Professor Seth Stoughton’s testimony. He methodically explained why Derek Chauvin’s use of force violated the reasonable police officer standard. Once Floyd was cuffed and subdued, Chauvin’s actions were unreasonable by this standard. I’d add ruthless, vicious, and cold-hearted. How can you listen to someone beg for their life and not relent? That’s some cold shit, y’all.

Watching Eric Nelson cross-examine Stoughton was fascinating. It was like watching a golden retriever try and fail to catch a Frisbee. Stoughton is a much better lawyer and smarter man than Nelson. He visibly flinched whenever Nelson ended a question with “right” or “agreed.”

Several times Stoughton calmly upbraided the pesky and annoying counsel for the defense by saying, “That’s not my testimony.” I kept hoping that Stoughton would say wrong when Nelson said right. He didn’t but I can dream. Oh well, what the hell.

I’m not sure how much of Nelson’s defense presentation I can stand watching. He’s an annoying little bugger who has already shown his hand. He’ll claim that Chauvin’s fear of the crowd fed his paranoia, but he didn’t cause Floyd’s death anyway. His experts will blame it on drug use, heart problems, anything but the heartless cop who killed him by using unreasonable force.

I’ll be shocked if Chauvin testifies. He’s a cold fish who has been remorseless since he killed George Floyd. There’s very little upside to his testimony. The downside is that the 18 complaints filed against him for excessive force will come out in court. Never gonna testify, my friend.

As to the victim’s drug use, I had this exchange on the Tweeter Tube:

Let’s travel ten miles away from the Hennepin County courthouse to suburban Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Another case of police overreaction occurred last Sunday night. It cost Daunte Wright his life. He was pulled over for an allegedly expired license tag, but it was really for DWB: Driving While Black.

The police chief of that suburban burg called it an accident. I call it manslaughter. A veteran cop thought she was about to tase Wright, but she shot and killed him instead. It was a traffic stop. There was no need to use weapons. In this case, I believe that the officer is sorry, but people are punished every day of the week for things they regret doing. She should be fired and tried.

This latest incident shows that police need to be demilitarized and trained not to shoot to kill. Lethal force is not just unattractive as Eric Nelson characterized it, it’s usually unnecessary. These grotesque errors of judgment are driven by fear and bigotry. When a cop makes a mistake, it can be lethal as it was in this case.

Repeat after me: Nobody should lose their life during a traffic stop.

I watched some of the amazing coverage by Ron Allen on MSNBC last night. He did a good job in getting people to calm down and state their case. Eventually, that was impossible because of the advance of a line of police marching as if they were soldiers in a Napoleonic battle.

Stop the madness.

I got an earworm while watching Ron Allen cope with the crowd. The last word goes to Bruce Springsteen:

INSTANT UPDATE: The Brooklyn Park police chief and the officer who shot Daunte Wright have been forced to resign.

The Trumpcine?

It’s been swell taking a Trump break. I made a conscious decision to reduce the number of former guy posts. All he’s done since leaving office is lie about the election and everything else. He hasn’t made any news, fake or otherwise until last weekend.

The RNC had its winter retreat at Mar-a-Doorn, if only they’d retreat from their 2016 and 2020 nominee. The joint was jumping with party luminaries and potential 2024 candidates who are Trumpier than the original model.

The keynote speaker was the Kaiser of Chaos. It was a litany of familiar grievances, attacks on fellow GOPers, and lies but he added something new:

The former president said, without saying who, that someone recently suggested to him that the coronavirus vaccine should be called the “Trumpcine.” He bragged about his handling of the pandemic, dismissing the widespread criticism of his approach and not mentioning the more than 500,000 who have died of covid-19.

The Trumpcine? Uh, Donald they name vaccines after living viruses, not living people or monsters in your case.

Just imagine people calling it the Trump Harumph instead of the Fauci Ouchie. Ugh, just ugh.

If the Kaiser of Chaos wants a vaccine named for him, it would be nice if he’d actively promote its use. Never gonna happen, my friend. I’m stealing Paul Reiser’s catchphrase since we’re rewatching Mad About You. I only steal from the best, my friend.

We could, however, use a vaccine against Trumpism and all the forces that former President* Pennywise has unleashed.

If only there was a jab that could cure white supremacy, anti-Semitism, QAnon delusions, and the other maladies that exploded during the Trump Regime. I’d love to jab away my memories of his presidency* as if it were one of those movies or teevee shows that turns out to have been a dream like St. Elsewhere. Now, that would be a happy ending.

In other Trump related news, the investigations in Atlanta and Manhattan are heating up. The Manhattan DA’s office seems to be mounting a full court press to flip the man who knows where Trump’s financial bodies are buried, Alan Weisselberg. Circling around his son, who seems to have lived large and largely tax-free on Trump’s dime, is a classic prosecution tactic. There are no pardons to dangle this time. Break a leg, y’all.

I have a dream that sometime this year, I will augment my original nickname for the former guy and call him the Indicted Impeached Insult Comedian. Make it so, prosecutors, make it so.

Let’s circle back to the Trumpcine with a last word from Roseanne Cash:

Gaetzgate: Blankety Blank

We begin with a couple of housekeeping notes. I wrote my maiden Gaetzgate post before hearing that the Panhandle Pinhead himself made a request:

I’ve decided to take pity on a doomed pol and spell it his way instead of in all-caps. Who knew that the Panhandle Pinhead’s fellow whiny man baby had the wit to make such a good pun?

Since Gaetz allegedly sough a blanket pardon, the phrase blankety blank immediately came to mind. I didn’t realize that it was the name of the UK equivalent of The Match Game. Where have you gone Gene Rayburn, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Brett Somers? They’re all long dead, alas.

Dead is also the word that best describes Matt Gaetz’s political career. It’s so dead that not even the Impeached Insult Comedian could revive it. He’s yet to defend his little friend, Matt; only Gym Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene have done so. How’s that for:

I know I’ve made that joke before but I can’t get enough of it. That concludes the classic rock jokes section of the post.

How was that for an epic opening tangent? It’s windy even by my standards.

Let’s move on to the opening lines I wrote immediately upon hearing about the latest Gaetzgate twist:

Blankets have been in the news recently. First Andrew Cuomo, now Matt Gaetz.

in the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions.

Around that time, Mr. Gaetz was also publicly calling for broad pardons from Mr. Trump to thwart what he termed the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But Justice Department investigators had begun questioning Mr. Gaetz’s associates about his conduct, including whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws, in an inquiry that grew out of the case of an indicted associate in Florida.

It was unclear whether Mr. Gaetz or the White House knew at the time about the inquiry, or who else he sought pardons for. Mr. Gaetz did not tell White House aides that he was under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations when he made the request. But top White House lawyers and officials viewed the request for a pre-emptive pardon as a nonstarter that would set a bad precedent, the people said.

An idea so bad that even Team Trump flinched at the notion? That makes it a *really* bad even rotten idea. The whole Trump era could be summed up by the title of this failed Mel Brooks sitcom:

While Gaetz may not have known that a gate was to be affixed to his name when he begged for a pardon, he knew that his little friend Josh Greenberg was in deep shit and sinking fast. My hunch is that Greenberg was to be covered in the blankety blank blanket pardon. But was the My Pillow Guy involved? What’s a blanket without a pillow? I deserve to be given sheet for that joke…

I eagerly await the Panhandle Pinhead’s next PR gaffe. Who will he drag into his mess next: Hannity? KMac? BillO? Donnie Junior?

Stay tuned.

The last word goes to The Kinks:

 

The Thinning Blue Line

I paid another extended visit to the Derek Chauvin trial yesterday. I wanted to see Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo’s testimony. I was not disappointed.

The Chief’s demeanor goes against all the cop stereotypes. He’s a calm and soft-spoken man who thinks before speaking as opposed to the blustery cops we’re more familiar with from both real life and fiction. These qualities made him a devastating witness for the prosecution. I was tempted to make a Marlene Dietrich or Tyrone Power joke but decided to skip it; more or less.

The Chief made it clear that Chauvin’s actions on that fateful May evening violated departmental policy:

“To continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back — that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy,” said the chief, Medaria Arradondo. “It is not part of our training. And it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.”

It’s extraordinarily rare for a police chief to testify against one of their officers but it’s not the first time for Arradondo:

 In 2017, he became its first Black chief after his predecessor was forced out in the wake of a police shooting: Another officer, Mohamed Noor, was accused of murder in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, who had called the police to report what she thought was a sexual assault of a woman in an alley behind her home.

In one of the few previous instances of a police chief testifying for the prosecution against an officer, Chief Arradondo took the stand in that case as well; Mr. Noor was ultimately convicted of third-degree murder.

The Chief kept his cool while under cross-examination by pesky, annoying defense attorney Eric Nelson. He has a nasty habit of ending every question with either “right” or “agreed.” He laid several rhetorical traps for the Chief who declined to take the bait.

Given the weakness of the defense’s case, Nelson kept posing hypothetical questions to muddy the waters. Arradondo listened carefully and thought before replying as well as asking Nelson to repeat his questions. Nelson is a wordy lawyer who often trips himself up because he’s in love with his own voice. It’s an occupational hazard.

The Chief has a long record of independence: he sued his own department for racial discrimination and served as the head of internal affairs; not a post that’s guaranteed to win friends among old school coppers.

Arradando was the third senior police officer to testify against Chauvin. His former supervisor and the head of the department’s homicide bureau chimed in earlier. The thin blue line may not be vanishing in Minneapolis but it’s eroding.

One thing I’m not going to do is to predict a verdict. That’s a sucker’s game. I do, however, think that the Chief’s testimony reduced the chances of an outright acquittal as has the defendant’s demeanor. He rarely makes eye contact with the jury instead scribbling notes even when nothing is happening in the courtroom. Chauvin is lucky he’s required to wear a mask: I have a hunch he’s scowling under it. He’s such a cold fish that the visitor’s seat behind the defense table has been empty every day. I’d feel sorry for another defendant but not this guy.

Back to possible outcomes. It will take more than one holdout to hang this jury. It’s difficult for a lone juror to resist peer pressure and refuse to compromise. That’s why Henry Fonda was cast in Twelve Angry Men. It was plausible that the guy who played Young Mr. Lincoln, Tom Joad, Wyatt Earp, and Mr. Roberts would stand on principle and buck the majority. There are few Henry Fondas in real life. It always comes back to John Ford movies with me, doesn’t it?

I’m cautiously optimistic about the trial. My only quibble with the prosecution is they’re using too many lawyers: five by my reckoning. That gives Nelson the chance to play David to the prosecution’s Goliath. Nobody roots for Goliath. But given the complexity of the evidence, it’s understandable. Besides, Nelson is *not* a likeable lawyer so this is a push.

The blue line may be thinning in Minneapolis but whether or not it will happen elsewhere is a different story. If a department has a reform minded chief, it can happen, but we’ve ridden the reform rollercoaster several times in New Orleans. We had a reform chief in Richard Pennington from 1994-2002. NOPD suffered a relapse of “old school” policing after the storm and federal flood so pronounced that a consent decree was imposed by the Feds in 2013. It requires not only strong leadership but eternal vigilance. And you know what they say about that.

A final note about Chief Arradando’s surname. It’s similar to that of longtime WWL-TV weatherman Carl Arredondo.  Carl, too, is a calm man who radiates knowledge and authority. He was my go-to guy during hurricane season: when he looked grim on the Friday before Katrina hit, I knew we were in for it. He had to retire in 2019 because he’s going blind. I wish him well. The same goes for Chief Arradando. Hopefully, he won’t reap the whirlwind after this trial concludes.

The last word goes to Roxy Music:

These Little Town Blues

 

The attack on an elderly Filipino women named Vilma Kari in New York City this past week was horrific. I don’t want to make light of it in anyway. But I do want to talk about two related issues to this attack.

The first is whether this was a “hate crime”. There are genuine hate crimes, attacks where the only rational is the victim’s race, color, or national origin. I want to suggest that this might not be the case here.

The attacker, Brandon Elliot, had recently been paroled from prison. He had been sent there as a 19 year old for having murdered his mother by stabbing her in the chest. He had been sentenced to 15 years to life, got out in November 2019 after having served 16 years and was unceremoniously dumped on the streets of Manhattan with no job, no home, no support system. He banged around from flop house to flop house until he ended up at a hotel turned into a homeless shelter for the duration of the pandemic on West 40th Street. That hotel had been made into a homeless shelter because a hotel previously used for that purpose had to be closed because of complaints from the neighborhood residents.

Put a pin in that thought, we’ll get back to it in a moment.

Dermot F. Shea, the NYC police commissioner, put it succulently when he said

“I don’t understand why we are releasing or pushing people out of prison not to give them second chances, but to put them into homeless facilities or shelters — or in this case a hotel — and expect good outcomes”

Why indeed?

Taking a 19 year old kid who obviously had serious mental health issues, so serious that he killed his mother, throwing him in prison for 16 years with no psychiatric therapy or even remedial education or job training, and then releasing him back to society is a recipe for an outcome that is never going to be good. That it took nearly a year and a half for that fetid pot to boil over is amazing in and of itself. That it happened to manifest itself as an attack on an Asian woman in the midst of a national outcry over anti-AAPI hate crimes I submit was just a coincidence.

Perhaps what was going through the unhinged brain of Brandon Elliot was not seeing an Asian and blaming her for COVID-19 but rather seeing an old woman who might have had a slight resemblance to his mother. “You don’t belong here” might have meant “You don’t belong here because I killed you 19 years ago”. It might have meant “I killed you once and paid for it and now here you are to continue to torment me”.

So he did the only thing he knew to do, the thing his life experience in prison had taught him to do. He attacked.

To ascribe this as a hate crime by definition means the perpetrator has to KNOW he is carrying out his actions solely and only because of his victim’s race. Brandon Elliot is, pardon my bluntness, a crazy person. Crazy people listen to the voices in their heads, not to the propaganda from Fox News.

The second point I’d like to bring up concerns the two security guards and the delivery man who are seen in the video of the attack standing around not doing anything to help the victim and then closing the door with the victim still on the ground and Brandon Elliot running off.

Like the voices in Brandon Elliot’s head, those three men did what the voices they heard from on high told them to do. The thing is these voices were real and they all said the same thing.

Don’t get involved.

Their bosses say “don’t get involved because we don’t want you getting hurt”. Nice, but that’s not the real reason. That real reason has to do with insurance and possibly getting sued; sued by the victim, sued by the guards, sued by the perpetrator, sued by the guy who just happens to be walking by. Better to do nothing and be called callous then to do something and get your financial ass handed to you.

The delivery company’s rational is even more cavalier. Don’t get involved because you need to finish your route. Mrs. Fancy Pants has been waiting two days for that special cream from Amazon and if you don’t get it to her by 5pm we’re going to never hear the end of it. The route, the route, that’s the only thing that matters. A crazy person stomped on an old woman outside the building you were delivering to? Too bad, so sad, did you get your deliveries done?

In both cases it comes down to commerce over compassion, keeping your job over being fired.

360 West 43rd Street is located in what they now call Midtown West. Back in my time in NYC we called it Hell’s Kitchen and it was, to be polite, not a nice place to be. It’s the West Side in West Side Story. It’s the dirty streets of Sleepers. It’s where Sonny Corleone had his talk with his brother in law.

Nowadays it’s been renovated into an upper class island of prosperous housing, trendy restaurants, and high end shopping. The kind of neighborhood that has security guards, not doormen, in the lobbies.

Remember that thought I asked you to put a pin in? Time to pull it out.

The hotel that was closed down as a homeless shelter was on 36th Street, four blocks from the hotel Brandon Elliot was now staying at on 40th Street. Four blocks closer to 43rd Street. If it hadn’t been closed down there is a good chance Brandon Elliot never gets near 43rd Street, never sees Vilma Kari, never goes nuts, just remains yet another whack job roaming the streets of New York.

I hope the neighbors who forced the hotel shelter out of their neighborhood think about that. I hope the parole board who released Brandon Elliot think about that. I hope the New York Department of Corrections and Community Service who were handed a mentally unstable 19 year old and turned him into a severally disturbed 37 year old through neglect and inattention think about that.

But they won’t. Like the security guards at 340 West 43rd Street, they’ll just close the door.

A much better version than Sinatra. See what Marty Scorsese and an unlimited budget for cocaine can do?

Shapiro Out

Calling The Cops On The Cops

I’ve been watching bits and pieces of the trial of Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd. I have some random thoughts about what I’ve seen thus far.

The way the defendant’s name is pronounced is jarring to this Louisianan’s ear. In the Gret Stet, it’s pronounced SHOW-VAN. We have some good friends who are Chauvins, no relation.

In Minnesota the name seems to be pronounced SHAW-VIN.

Oh well, what the hell.

The prosecution’s main witness is THE VIDEO. But it needed to be authenticated by Darnella Frazier who filmed the whole incident with her camera phone. She was also a helluva witness. The defense opened the door with a question about her emotional reaction to the murder of George Floyd. The prosecution threw her a hanging curveball and she knocked it out of the park.

Defense lawyer Eric Nelson is a bad cross-examiner whose attempts to provoke witnesses have been largely ineffective. He’s trying to prove that the crowd assembled outside Cup Foods was an angry mob in a bad neighborhood. It hasn’t worked with me but I’m not on the jury. It’s the only audience that matters.

Nelson wisely limited his cross-examination of the underage witnesses. Bullying a 9-year-old girl is a bad look.

He had no compunction about going after Donald Williams who was one of the most voluble eyeball witnesses at the crime scene. He’s a mixed martial arts fighter so he immediately understood the peril George Floyd was in.

Williams heckled the cops with the refrain, “You a bum.” I believe in calling a bum a bum so I’m in complete agreement.

Nelson trotted out the angry black man thing with Williams. It was undermined by the simple fact that he was the one who called the police on the police. I’ve paraphrased it for the post title: cops flows better.

That brings me to firefighter Genevieve Hansen. The defense quite rightly views her as an existential threat. She’s a certified EMT who has the expertise to comment upon Chauvin’s actions.  The police refused to allow her to help George Floyd.

Hansen is also a white chick and, more importantly in Minnesota, Norwegian or Swedish. Probably the former because of the sen.

If you’ve ever seen the original Fargo, you know that her ethnicity is a big deal in heavily Scandinavian Minnesota. It’s like a Cajun witness testifying against a rogue racist cop in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Nelson’s cross-examination of  Hansen made me cross. He patronized her because of her youth and gender. Hansen got irritated and fought back. The judge was not amused. I was.

The prosecution case is off to a roaring start. The hard part comes next: proving intent. In order to convict Chauvin of any degree of murder, intent is the key. His actions meet the depraved indifference standard but intent is the key to locking this bigoted bastard up.

The MSM focus on social media reactions to the trial is amusing but misplaced. The only reaction that matters is that of the jury. Just ask Perry Mason and Hamilton Burger, they know. Mercifully, Eric Nelson is no Perry Mason.

Groundhog Day

I’ve written many times over the years about the latest mass shooting. I’m almost at a loss for words after 2 mass shootings in 9 days.

While I gather my thoughts, below are links to my past-post atrocity posts; many of which have a pink tinge, Pink Floyd, that is. I’m sure there are more but I’ve lost track after 12 years at First Draft.

12/3/2015: Still Comfortably Numb

06/16/2016: Still Comfortably Numb Revisited

10/10/2017: Still Comfortably Numb Revisited 2

10/29/2018: Kristallnacht In Broad Daylight

03/18/2019: Post Mayhem Rituals

08/05/2019: Still Numb

I guess I missed 2020 because of the pandemic. One of the few good things about the year of the plague.

There are guns in every country. The citizenry in the English-speaking world are particularly well-armed. But American-style mass shootings are rare elsewhere in the world. Why? Laws requiring firearms licenses, background checks, and above all else bans on assault weapons and their components.

The South is often demonized as a heavily armed region. My family is from the West and there were guns everywhere as well. Not in my house: my Republican father wouldn’t allow guns in his house after having to use one in World War II. He didn’t judge our relatives who had firearms for hunting and such, nor do I.

When I was growing up, mass shootings were rare. There were lunatic killers out there, but they weren’t packing assault rifles that made the Tommy Guns used by Prohibition era gangsters look almost as tame as this toy replica:

Then came the rise of the NRA and mass shootings became more common as they espoused a purist nearly theological interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Once the 1994 assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse, the 21st Century became the golden age of mass mayhem.

It keeps happening. The reactions on both sides are as predictable as they are tiresome: thoughts and prayers and yadda, yadda, yadda.

I don’t know about you, but I hate making the same mistakes over and over again. I try to avoid that in my own life. I prefer to make new and original mistakes.

As a country we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. The mass shootings keep coming and our reactions are almost stereotypical. We always have to hear from Joe Manchin who continues to value the filibuster more than the human lives lost in mass shootings. Remember the Manchin-Toomey fiasco in 2013? Manchin told us he could pass a modest gun control measure in the Senate. He failed. He’s likely to make the same mistake again in 2021.

We’re all trapped on a stationary bike, peddling fast but getting nowhere in a hurry.

I don’t mean to trivialize mass shootings by using a movie analogy, but we’re stuck in a post-mayhem stupid loop. It keeps repeating over and over again just like in Groundhog Day. We’re all Bill Murray.

I love Bill Murray, but I want to escape the endless time loop of mass shootings. The time to wake up from this nightmare is now: the NRA is enfeebled by scandal and bankruptcy. President Biden understands this issue and is prepared to act. It’s time for the United Senate to change the plot by acting. I’m tired of quoting Pink Floyd songs and being Bill Murray.

Stop the madness.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Day After Day

La Décalcomanie by Rene Magritte

I’m getting vaccinated this afternoon at the Morial Convention Center. I’m a bit nervous and uncertain as to which vaccine I’ll be getting. I’m fine with any of them. The one-shot J&J variant has considerable appeal because I hate needles. Here’s hoping I get jabbed by someone with a light touch. Just don’t give me a smiley faced Band-Aid. I hope that’s not too much to ask. Enough jab jabber.

It’s pollen season in New Orleans. The mighty oaks are spewing forth their yellow poison (to me) and my eyes are red and runny. If I were a Republican, I’d turn this into a culture war grievance but I’m not so I won’t.

This week’s theme song was written in 1971 by Pete Ham for Badfinger’s Straight Up album. It was a smash hit across the globe hitting number 4 on the Billboard charts in the US&A. The song was produced by George Harrison and featured George on slide guitar and Leon Russell on piano.

We begin with the Badfinger original:

I had no idea that the second version existed until I checked out Second Hand Songs. Ladies and gentlemen, Bradyfinger:

The Brady Bunch kids cut two albums of then contemporary hit songs. It’s weird to hear a chirpy version of Pete Ham’s mournful song. If it weren’t so damn funny, I’d give it the finger, then eat a Butterfinger. Candy is the cure for many of the ills of society including Bradyfinger.

Speaking of fingers:

It’s time to cut out (cut off?) the finger jokes and jump to the break.

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