Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Better than what?

Ford is running TV ads claiming price discounts they describe as Employee Pricing Plus.

The idea seams to be that they offer special pricing to employees as an employee benefit but the general public gets a better deal than that.

So they are trying to tell us that I can buy a Ford at a better price than the UAW was able to negotiate for union members.

I'm sorry, but I just think they're bullshitting me. No wonder no one wants to buy a car from those clowns. They just can't be trusted.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

I am an American.

When I moved from Kansas to New Jersey, my first job was in sales, calling on clothing importers, mainly in mid-town Manhattan (AKA The Garment District).

This was a rough crowd. I found out later, the reason I got the job was because this was the client base no one wanted. Being the naive girl from Kansas, I thought it would be great fun. It was, but it was pretty tough. Definitely sink or swim.

I always remember one customer who, upon meeting me for the first time inquired "What are you?". I asked, "What do you mean?". He only repeated (more loudly and implying I was an idiot for not understanding the question), "What are you?

I replied "I am an American". To further clarify, I added "I am from Kansas".

This did not satisfy him, so he patiently asked, "Where were your parents born?". Reply, "Kansas". Where were your grandparents born? I replied, "Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana". "What about your great-grandparents?" I had to think hard "Illinois, Kentucky, maybe Pennsylvania". Finally the guy said "OK, you are an American".

I didn't really understand this interrogation until years later I was reading in the NY Times that over 50% of the population in the tri-state area (NY/NJ/Conn) were 1st or 2nd generation immigrants. I did not believe this figure until, all of my colleagues spoke up, and 80% fell into this category. I was shocked.

But, to me they were all Americans. And typical of our American experience. Each with a different story. Indian origin, but parents born in Cuba. Venezuelan born but talking with a NY accent. Second generation Italian. And then the one guy who was definitely Heinz 57. I think he rattled off about 8 different countries of origin.

Wonder what options people will have to choose from on the 2010 census form. Maybe we should all just submit DNA samples.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, December 27, 2008

From an A to a C

I was a business school undergrad and had taken an intro to operations research. The IE department offered an intro to operations research and because of campus politics neither department could claim the courses where the same (official university poilicy would have been to eliminate one of the courses if the departments claimed the course was the same).

So I took the IE course. I'm made an A in the business school course, they had the saqme math prerequisites, no problem (I thought).

He gave a 10 point extra credit question every exam. Going into the final my average was 108. (only engineers and jocks think a performance above 100% is possibile) The final was oinly going to cover inventory theory, which was a single chapter in the book. My car broke down two weeks before school was out, but no problem, I studied that chapter at home, knew the material in my sleep.

The book used greek letters in it's notation in that chapter.

It seems that our teacher decided not to use that chapter, and gave his lectures from notes which used a lot of S's, Z's, X's, etc as notation.

I had no idea what the questions where. I couldn't read the exam. I just sat there and stared at the wall for about 20 minutes. I got up and walked to the front fo the class and asked the teacher the ultimate in stupid questions "If I can't answer any of these questions but just write down stuff I know about inventory models will I* get some kind of partial credit".

He looked at me like I was from Mars (which taking an IE course while a business school student, I kind of was). "No".

"Okay" I went to my seat and stared at the wall some more.

He got curious and came to my desk and asked me what the problem was.

I just said, "I can't answer any of these things", wadded the exam up and threw it at him as I walked out.

I got a C.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, December 26, 2008

Don't take that course

The first course I taught was a sophomore level stat methods course for
business school undergrads.

Our department also taught a graduate course in Stat Methods for Social
Welfare Students as a service course for MSW students.

MSW students who had a stat course as an undergrad were exempted from the
graduate state methods course. It was taught by our department head.

A graduating senior wanted to take my course. She was going to enter the
MSW program in the fall. She needed my permission and my department heads
permission to take my course because she didn't have the freshman math
prerequisites. My department head told her, "Don't take his course, wait
until the fall and take my course". She expfressed concern that she might
make a C and couldn't make a C as a graduate student. "Don't worry about
that. Just wait and take the course that's designed for someone with your
background and interests". She insisted. We gave her permission.

She made an F. A clearcut F. I consulted with my department head about
what to do (It was the first time I'd ever taught a course). He said, "To
hell with her, I told her and she didn't want to listen."

She didn't just need that course to get the graduate course waived. She
needed it (as an elective) to graduate.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Ba Humbug

When I was a first year grad student at LSU the fledging computer science
department offered an upper level undergrad control theory course for the
first time. I was in quantitative business analysis and enrolled. There
were nine students in the class -- three CS undergrads, 2 grad students
from QBA, 2 grad students from math, and 2 grad students from EE.

When he posted grades I saw 3 A's and 6 B's, I was one of the B's. I had
been a paper grader for the teacher when I'd been an undergrad and I knew
him pretty well. I asked him what the deal was with my grade (I pretty
much made 100 on every assignment).

"Those 3 kids worked their butts off and not a one of the grad students
did a lick of work.", was his explianation.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

I took an undergraduate math course from an old Polish guy who'd been
teaching in Moscow for 25 years or so and had just moved to the US. He
started at LSU in the summer term and he taught the course without tests.
Just homework assignments and then he'd call us to the board -- he would
grade us on our blackboard performance. If we screwed up at the board
he'd call on us again next day to see if we'd figured it out yet. It was
a small class, only about 15 students and Altman (the teacher) couldn't
speak English very well.

The last day of class he comes in and tells us the dean has told him that
he must give a final exam in an undergraduate class so there would be a
final on the scheduled day. A lot of moans from the students.

I took the final and turned it in and when I gave it to him I asked if
he'd be posting grades.

"You got a B", he said.

I said, "How do you know, you haven't graded the final yet".

He said, "The dean told me I'm required to give a final. He did not tell
me I'm required to grade them.".

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


My first semester in college I had an option to opt out of college algegra
but I went ahead and took it anyway -- I'd been out of high school a
couple of years and thought I could use the review plus thought it would
be an easy grade.

Pretty early in the course I figured out I didn't need to go to class,
just show up for the exams. So I did that. I wasn't making an A, a B or
C, but that was fine with me.

The final was all stuff from the last two weeks of class that I'd never
seen in my life. We hadn't covered it in high school. I made a zero on
the final.


The next semester I went to class, did my homework. Made an A.

The A did not replace the F in the transcript. Forty years later that F
is still on my LSU transcript. It never caused me to not get a job and
never caused a problem with admission to graduate school. It just made no
difference at all to my life. And although I have met women who wouldn't
sleep with me, it was never because of a grade I made in college algebra
in fall 1969.

I did learn something about figuring out what's actually important though.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why American's don't celebrate Boxing Day

I don't know why American's don't celebrate Boxing Day. Probably the same reason we don't drink hot tea.

I doubt too many U.S. residents have heard of Boxing Day. They celebrate this holiday (Dec. 26th) in the U.K., Canada and Australia, and probably other places.

This site explains

Boxing Day takes place on December 26th and is only celebrated in a few countries. It was started in the UK about 800 years ago in the Middle Ages. It was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were opened so that the contents could be distributed to poor people. Some churches still open these boxes on Boxing Day.

Dec. 26th is a normal work day in the U.S. Some places close the office (especially this year Christmas is on a Thursday), but generally it is not considered a paid holiday, but might be used as a "floating" holiday, or maybe you just have to count it toward your vacation time off. American companies are not terribly generous with paid time off.

Furthermore, neither Christmas Eve nor New Years Eve are considered official Holidays in the U.S.

Bah Humbug

Just be happy you have a job.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

C student

When I was in grade school whenever my father yelled at me about my grades
I'd show him where they defined C as average and pointed out that one B
and 6 C's was an above average performance.

Then he'd through a beer bottle at me and I'd duck and go hide in the
woods for a couple of hours.

In a 10th grade science class we had a 100 question multiple choice final.
I figured out that I needed a 46 on the final to make a C in the class.
I answered 46 questions and turned it in (I was a smart ass kid in high

The teacher knew my dad and called him to tell him to tell me I'd missed
one. I had not missed one but they thought telliing me I had would "teach
me a lesson". The lesson I learned was to not believe anything a school
employee ever tells you.

I ended up making surprisingly good grades in college for someone who
never much cared what grade I got.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Baseball tryouts

I don't remember how old I was when I tried out for Little League Baseball. Either 7 or 9.

They were real try outs. This was beforethe day that everyone gets a medal, even before the day's of everyone gets to play. It was not only possible to not make it through the Little League selection process, it wasn't all that uncommon to fail in the first tryout.

They were really mean to us kids back in the '50's.

The tryout consisted of fielding 3 ground balls, catching 3 pop up fly balls, and taking 3 swings at bat. Based on that performance the coaches in attendance would hold some sort of draft and select their teams for the season. If you didn't get picked, then well you didn't get picked.

I practiced and prepared for that tryout. It was one of the few times I can remember that my Dad actually sat aside some time and put in the effort to help me. My dad's little brother (who was either 17 or 19 that year) gave me his baseball glove to use and Dad told me he'd buy me one of my own if I made a team.

I went to the tryout alone, riding my bike with my Uncles baseball glove hanging from the handle bars.

I fielded the three grounders and the three pop flys. I don't remember if I caught any of them or not, probably not.

Then it my turn at bat. I left the glove on a bench in the dugout and went to strike out. I do remember three swings and never connecting.

Then I went back to the dugout to wait for them to tell me to try again next year.. My Uncles glove was gone. Somebody had stolen it when I was at bat.

I don't think I was all that disappointed in not making a team. But losing that glove just embarresed me to no end. When next year came along I didn't try out again. Not becuase of the shame of not making the team, I could deal with that just fine. But because I couldn't go through a repeat of having my Uncle's glove stolen from me.

Phil (my Uncle) probably didn't really care about the glove at all. But I didn't know that. And to me having him entrust his glove to me and then me getting it stolen was just the ultimate failure on my part.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Age discrimination

Inside Higher Ed has a story about age discrimination in faculty hiring at universities.
A lawyer at the AARP views academe as a sector of society with a serious age discrimination problem — and not just in employment. Dan Korhman, who works on employment discrimination cases, said he has received several inquiries from people who were either rejected from graduate programs or admitted but denied aid, and who were told that departments didn’t see the logic of their starting a graduate program at their age. “It’s blatant age discrimination,” he said, adding that he’s looking for a test case to bring.

A few years abo, when I was in my 40's I was thinking about going back to school to act5ually finish up a PhD. I talked to someone on the faculty of the University of Texas business school graduate program in Information, Risk, and Operations Management.

Basically they use the fact that age discrimination is rampant at major universities to rationalize their own illegal discrimination in graduate program admissions.

What he told me was that they p;ick students they think have a good chance to excel in research careers at top 20 schools and that someone my age is unlikely to get a job at such a school after graduation so it would be a waste of my time to apply to their program.

They're really just a bunch of slimeballs.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, December 15, 2008

Economic Downturn Discourages Adultery

From the New York Times

Financial Crisis Tames Demand for World's Oldest Service

Hana Malinova, director of Bliss Without Risk, a prostitution outreach group, ....

Even with the downturn, she added, prostitution was far more resilient than other industries, though the downturn was discouraging adultery.

“An Austrian farmer from a remote area who is not married will still cross the border to the Czech Republic looking for sex,” she said. “On the other hand, the recession is helping to keep husbands at home who might otherwise be cheating on their wives.”


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Now I know why Bush went to Iraq today!

I saw on the news tonight that President Bush made an unexpected trip to Iraq. This is the trip where the guy threw the shoes at him.

This evening I was reading the NY Times regarding the cuts at the American auto makers who are desperately waiting for bailout money from Washington.

They didn't get it from Congress, and now they are waiting on the White House.

But, they'll have to wait a few more days.

A White House spokeswoman, Dana M. Perino, said Sunday that any action on the auto bailout would have to wait until the president returns from a trip to Iraq.

Ah - ha. Don't be surprised if Bush suddenly decides to visit a few more out of the way places. I think there is still a problem in Kashmir, and he could always go to Somalia and find out what's going on with those gawl durn (southern for gosh dang) pirates.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, December 12, 2008

Countdown to Christmas

Here is a clip from my childhood in Kansas.

Much to my mother's irritation, we always enjoyed watching Santa and Toyboy. We joined in "zoooooming around" the big wide world, with much verbal and physical exuberance.

Santa's Workshop - Santa and Toyboy, KAKE TV, Wichita, Kansas, circa 1965.


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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

New Jersey mobster dies in prision

Robert Bisaccia, formerly of Belleville, NJ, passed away.

From the Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ

Iconic 'Goodfella' Robert Bisaccia dies in prison
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Star-Ledger Staff

Before state and federal prosecutors clipped his wings, Robert Bisaccia was considered one of organized crime's most feared and unpredictable figures, a New Jerseyan with a wit as quick as his temper and a murderous streak immortalized by his childhood friend Joe Pesci in the movie "Goodfellas."

Convicted of running the Gambino crime family operation on this side of the Hudson for mob boss John Gotti, as well as for a New York hit, he was sentenced to life in prison in 1993.

The New York Times also covers this story, adding quotes worthy of a Soprano's episode.

Mr. Gotti, in a videotaped jailhouse conversation, once talked about how Mr. Bisaccia could find humor in a negative biopsy from prison. “He said, ‘Sure, if I was out on the street they’d tell me I got two weeks to live. I’m doing life, so it’s benign.’ ”

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Doing the Census

The impacts of the Bush incompetency isn't going to go away January 20.
As with any huge undertaking, the census requires years of planning, but preparations have been systematically sidetracked during the Bush years. The most plausible explanation, beyond incompetence, is that the administration aimed to make it even more difficult than usual to count hard-to-count groups, like minorities, immigrants and the poor, who tilt Democratic. Their numbers, if accurately gauged, could reshape electoral maps.

The White House, with the early support of a Republican-led Congress, shortchanged and delayed financing for the Census Bureau. The administration left top bureau positions unfilled for long stretches and allowed political judgment to dominate bureau management, which damaged morale and impaired performance.

I really think they're just incompetent, I don't think it's intentional.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hijacking a cruise ship

It was a failed attempt but some of those Somali pirates tried to hijack a cruise ship. The part I thought was funny was this quote from one of the passengers.
"We didn't think they would be cheeky enough to attack a cruise ship," Wendy Armitage, of Wellington, New Zealand, told The Associated Press shortly after disembarking the ship for a daylong port stop in the Omani capital of Muscat.

1985, the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship, was hijacked.

1996, the Avrazya, a passenger ferry on the Black Sea was hijacked.

So maybe some passenger vessel is hijacked about every 10 years or so? I'd think that if you're going through pirate infested waters on a cruise ship these days I'd take a quick break for a little thought about the possibilities.

A cute little tidbit of the history of the Achille Lauro is:
The ship continued in service; she was reflagged in 1987 when the Lauro Line became StarLauro. On November 30, 1994, she caught fire off the coast of Somalia. Abandoned, the vessel sank


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, December 08, 2008

Piracy Explained


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fake guns allowed, but no beards

A review of the Quantico FBI dining hall talks about dress codes
The FBI Academy's dining hall is decorated with oversized flags of all U.S. states. The flags are framed, and attached half way to the very high ceiling. A large flag of the United States, together with the Bureaus logo is attached to the entrance side of the hall (fig. 2). Piles of bread that might have been thought as decoration were eaten within a few days by guests. Since many of the eaters wore brownish pistols, the author did not try to discuss that topic any further. (Later it came out that all painted pistols in the building are fake weapons for beginners.)

The dress code within the eatery is somewhat weird. A sign at the entrance explicitly discourages wearing shorts. Since the clima control sends a cold breeze through the room, and because of the standard training uniform consisting of green shirts and beige field trousers, it is hard to imagine anyone trying to wear shorts (fig. 3). A fashionable item that is a must in the eatery is a neckband saying either FBI Academy (white embroidered letters on blue ribbon band), or FBI National Academy (white on green). The ribbon is designed to hold the student's ID; the ID's allow to open all doors in the building that lead to/from the outside. (Inside the building, the ID's are of no use since inside doors are not closed.) The ID's also provide one with as many free meals as one wishes.

Neither bearded men nor any other photographs are, or were ever present in the eatery. One reason for this might be that the directors of the FBI tend not to wear beards. However, a high incidence of moustaches was observed amongst the (male) eaters.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Navy Rules for a Gunfight

1. Go to Sea

2. Send the Marines

3. Drink Coffee

h/t Classical Values


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Idea for the U.S. auto manufacturers

On Wheel of Fortune they always give away cars. Tonight one was an American made, and the other was a Saab.

It started me thinking that it might be good for the American car companies to start giving more of their cars away for promotions. Especially as there are so many unsold ones sitting around.

Then I hit on the perfect idea. They should start a lotto for cars. So many people buy lotto tickets it's not even funny. If you priced the tickets so the total amount sold per car would be about what the manufacturer would expect to get for the car, then the companies would be essentially made whole. And, the odds might not be too bad.
Maybe even good enough I would consider buying these lotto tickets.

Maybe Gary can do the math for me on this proposal.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Pirates and International Law

A news release from Northwestern University
Eugene Kontorovich, associate professor, Northwestern University School of Law, comments on the failure of international cooperation to address the piracy spike off the coast of Somalia. He points to international legal rules governing piracy and maritime operations that could be used in the present circumstances.

“Universal jurisdiction has been around for 400 years and is much less controversial in relation to piracy than, say, to war crimes,” Kontorovich said. “Everyone agrees that any country can prosecute these people. Yet, today international law seems incapable of dealing with the basic problem of piracy.”

It doesn’t need to be that way, according to Kontorovich.

“When you’re thinking of a solution to piracy, you don’t need to make up anything from scratch,” he said. “We have a lot of history and practice to draw from. There are ways to deal with piracy that are not completely consistent with what we are doing today.”

Listen to the interview here.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, December 05, 2008

Oilfield jewelry, must have for that roughneck (or redneck) on your list

Lloyd's List (an old line, international shipping newspaper) had an ad on their Internet site for "Oilfield Jewelry". I could not resist checking it out. You know, for that person on my list who has everything.

Not only is there jewelry available, there is also a selection of songs.

For your listening pleasure, click here for Roughneck Songs.

I haven't listened to them all, but I suspect the words roughneck and cowboy are pretty much interchangeable.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Police coverup

There's an old police liability case in Houston that illustrates how full of it many appeal judges are when it comes to taking a frank, honest look at police misconduct. From a 5th circuit appeals court decision:
Randy Webster, a seventeen year old Shreveport, Louisiana youth, stole a van from an auto dealership in southeast Houston, Texas by driving it through a showroom window. Almost immediately, members of the Houston Police Department began pursuit. After a dangerous, lengthy, high speed chase, the van was stopped. When Randy emerged from the van unarmed, Officers Mays and Olin began to hit him and pull his hair. In the scuffle, Officer Mays' pistol discharged. The bullet struck Randy in the head and hand. Randy died as a result of these wounds. A fellow officer provided Mays with a "throw down weapon" to place next to Randy's body to make it appear that he had been armed. All police officers at the scene who later gave statements falsely declared that Randy was armed. The internal investigation of the shooting conducted by the Houston Police Department exonerated the officers, despite the statement of at least one first hand witness, a cab driver, that Randy was unarmed. Only after the youth's parents provoked a federal investigation of the incident over a year later did the true story emerge.

That's from the majority opinion on the appeal of a jury finding of liability on the part of the City of Houston. The court overturned that jury finding.

It's interesting to contrast the language used to describe the factual situation with the language used in a written dissent of the ruling.
This case involves a shockingly heinous episode of police misconduct. Randall Allen Webster, 17 years old, stole a van from a Dodge dealership in southeast Houston, Texas, in the early morning of February 8, 1977. In a matter of minutes, Houston police officer Mays spotted the van and gave chase. Fellow officers Holloway and Olin, responding to Mays' radioed calls, joined in. The chase ended when Webster lost control of the van turning a corner, and it spun to a stop. The police officers left their patrol cars, ran up to the van, and ordered Webster out. Webster emerged from the van and was pushed or thrown to the ground by Mays and Olin. He had no gun and put up no resistance. Mays shot Webster once in the back of the head. The bullet passed through his head and inflicted a wound in his right hand.

Webster lay mortally wounded for some minutes where he had fallen. Other Houston police officers arrived. None of them attempted any care or first aid for the victim, who did not die until later that night while being transferred from one hospital to another. At the scene of the shooting, a plan to conceal the circumstances of the shooting was formulated. After some discussion the group of officers decided that to protect their fellow officer a weapon should be placed at Webster's side. Officer Byrd, among others, offered his "throw down"--an unregistered gun he carried in his patrol car.1 Someone laid the unloaded pistol next to Webster as he lay moribund at the scene.

The dissent goes on to discuss something that was ignored by the majority opinion.
We stress the importance of the fact that this is a case involving a custom of carrying and using throw down weapons that directly leads to the use of excessive force in arrests by covering up the use of excessive force, and the further cover up of the fact that a throw down weapon has been used. As is shown in the following part of the opinion, the existence of both of these aspects of the custom were convincingly demonstrated by the evidence in this case. Our recent en banc decision in Bennett v. City of Slidell, supra, is readily distinguishable. That case involved an isolated instance of actions taken against a citizen of the city for personal reasons by high ranking but nonpolicymaking public officials. We held in that case that no city policy was established under those facts. Bennett recognized, as we have earlier pointed out, that custom is a separate justification for holding a city and its officials responsible under Section 1983. Bennett raises the issue of the existence of an authoritative governmental policy. In contrast, this is a case which involves custom rather than policy. In Bennett, on its facts, a policy was found not to exist. In this case, on its facts, a custom was found to exist under a careful and fully adequate jury charge. The Bennett holding falls far short of controlling this case.

Finally, we stress the sub rosa nature of any custom which if widely known would be recognized by everyone but the self-served insiders as manifestly and overwhelmingly wrong. In such circumstances custom must properly be provable by evidence that a limited number of municipal employees follow the practice, or from evidence of fewer examples of such a practice. The usual high levels of persistency and pervasiveness cannot be required in these atypical cases because the risk of serious injury to the public is so great and because municipal employees would be expected to conclude, on fewer instances of such a practice or sooner after its inception, that reasonably diligent city policymakers must know about the practice and are willing to disregard it.

IV. The Custom

A careful and full reading of the trial transcript discloses ample evidence supporting the jury's finding that a policy or custom of the City caused deprivations of Webster's and his parents' federal constitutional and statutory rights. Of course, there is testimony from top police officials and other police denying any knowledge of or condoning the use of throw downs. Several officers testified they knew discovery of use of a throw down would lead to discipline. Admittedly, the evidence shows that written HPD rules specifically forbid excessive use of force, altering the scene of a crime, and concealment of improper police activity. These rules forbid all three of the improper actions in this case. But as we have pointed out and as Sec. 1983 has contemplated from its inception, a custom which violates the written law nevertheless can violate Sec. 1983.

The jury had a right to believe the evidence set out before while in the process of disbelieving conflicting testimony. The jury was entitled to discredit the above self-serving testimony and believe the strong evidence to the contrary.

The carrying of throw down weapons was an established custom among HPD police officers. The practice was widely acknowledged and frequently discussed. Former police lieutenant Dillon, one of the supervisory HPD officers at the scene of the shooting, testified that every officer on the force in 1977--"in my opinion ... one hundred percent"--understood the term "throw down." Former officer Holloway testified:

What [he and his partner] discussed was whether we should carry [a throw down weapon] or not.... I would go as far as to say ... and I have had regular partners before ... that most partners would discuss that, because it would be something that would be on your mind.

Holloway's partner, former officer Olin, agreed that they had discussed whether to carry and when to use a throw down weapon and that such weapons were "necessary evils." Former officer Estes agreed that he had learned about throw down weapons through shop talk and that they were the subject of common discussion in the force. In fact, former officer Byrd stated that "as far as the superiors, they don't directly condone it. They know it happens." This is borne out by Dillon's testimony that he had heard discussions of the use or potential use of throw down weapons among fellow officers.

It was brought out that as early as 1964 HPD instructors at the police academy, where new recruits are taught how to be officers of the law, had "casually mentioned" that an officer who happened to shoot an unarmed suspect "best have something to lay down" to protect himself. The jury heard testimony that the operation of the HPD property room was lax and casual. This testimony firmly supported a jury inference that officers were easily able to obtain the difficult-to-trace weapons stored there. Moreover, the nature and outcome of the grossly inadequate investigation of Webster's shooting, showed that officers using "throw downs" had a great likelihood of success. As brought out at trial, this investigation was in full accord with prevailing HPD policy. Yet the investigation turned up nothing suspicious about shooting a young man in the back of the head under a claim that he got out of a stolen van and pointed an unloaded gun at three armed policemen.

Read the whole decision -- both the ruling and the dissent. It's instructive.

Here's an article from the Buffalo Law Review (1999) that mentions the case.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Watch OJ go to prison

The sentencing will be streamed live on the internet at 9am Friday, Las Vegas time (that's 11 am Central, LV is Pacific Time).


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Who needs to make cars?

GM, Ford, and Chrysler can't seem to make any money by making and selling cars. So they've found a new way to make a living.
Chrysler said it needed $7 billion by year's end just to keep running. And GM asked for an immediate $4 billion as the first installment of a $12 billion loan, plus a $6 billion line of credit it might need if economic conditions worsen. The two painted the direst portraits to date — including the prospects of shuttered factories and massive job losses — of what could happen if Congress doesn't quickly step in.

What are they going to do with the money? Who knows? It's not important. What's important is that we must give them the money NOW or else something bad will happen. If we give them the money now then next year they'll make some changes in the way they spend money.
GM, which along with Ford and Chrysler was criticized for using corporate jets to get to Washington last month, said in a statement it will halt travel on such aircraft starting Jan. 1 and is pursuing the sale of four planes.

Ford plans to sell five jets and would pay Chief Executive Alan Mulally a $1 annual salary if the loan is used. GM’s Wagoner and Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli also would be paid $1 a year under their companies’ requests.

Of course such changes will come later. They can't make those kind of changes now because they're busy trying to con the US Congress into giving them money this year, so they can collect those end of year bonuses before their pay gets cut.

We're probably going to give these clowns money. There's no hope for us. We're doomed.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Christmas at the White House

These guys just amaze me.
The invitation sent to American Jewish leaders on behalf of the President and First Lady, requesting "the pleasure of your company at a Hanukkah reception," bore an image of a Clydesdale horse-drawn cart, carrying the White House Christmas tree, with a Christmas wreath-adorned White House in the background.

A lot of Christians, and the Bush White House seems to have more than it's share of such Christians, think Hanukkah is just the Jewish word for Christmas.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


While not actually a teacher, this woman is a member of the Texas Board of Education.
In a column posted on the Christian Worldview Network Web site, Dunbar wrote that a terrorist attack on America during the first six months of an Obama administration "will be a planned effort by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is threat to tyranny."

She also suggests Obama would seek to expand his power by declaring martial law throughout the country.

She is actually part of the process of determining education policy in the State of Texas.
The State Board of Education will begin revising public school social studies curriculum standards after adopting rules for science next year. Those standards will determine the content in new public school textbooks.

I went to grade school through a couple of years of high school in Texas and this sort of thing is really sad to see.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, December 01, 2008

Poll watching

I'm a little late catching up with some back issues of Houston Chronicle.

Here's an example of a poll watcher kind of taking her oversight responsibility a little farther than might be considered reasonable.
The 40-year-old Houston Realtor was wearing one of her souvenir T-shirts when she went to cast her ballot at a Cypress polling place Oct. 26. A poll worker told her she would have to change the shirt if she wanted to vote.

Hurley, who votes in every election, is familiar with poll site etiquette. She knows not to wear campaign paraphernalia. She's never run into trouble before.

What, she asked, was wrong with her light blue cotton T-shirt, emblazoned with a moose head, fishing poles, and the words "Seward, Alaska"?

The word "Alaska," a poll worker answered.

"She said it could be misconstrued as support for a candidate," Hurley said.

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