Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mayoral Misdeeds, Part II

Just in from WDIV, Channel 4 in Detroit:

A Wayne County judge has decided to unseal some of the documents that will tell if lawyers for the city of Detroit and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had a secret agreement during the whistleblower trial to prevent text messages from surfacing.

Then, less than an hour later, the mayor's lawyer announced that she would appeal the decision, even after the judge urged the mayor's team not to.

This is getting to be more and more like a soap opera.

The only reason for trying to keep those documents secret is that releasing them would prove conclusively that Kwame Kilpatrick is a lying, corrupt politician:
  • He (and his Chief of Staff) knowing, willfully lied under oath about their affair, exposing them to perjury charges, and/or
  • He worked out this secret settlement to save his job, and/or
  • There are other scandals reflected in the documents that could cause even more trouble (like, perhaps, confirmation of the stripper party at the mayor's mansion and/or his involvement in the stripper's murder)

Is there a politician anywhere who can keep his/her pants up and his/her hand out of the public cookie jar?!?

What is it with these morons? Republican, Democrat, independent, it doesn't seem to matter: as soon as someone achieves elective office, politicians immediately start pulling various fast ones.

About the only cure I can see is mandatory castration of politicians.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Blogroll Amnesty Day

This weekend marks "Blogroll Amnesty Day" (or B.A.D.), as decreed by skippy the bush kangaroo. It marks the infamous "Night of Long Knives" when Duncan "Atrios" Black did his own blogroll amnesty... by deleting every blog that wasn't as big as his. This wanton trimming of his roll, coupled with a previous post called "Why Your Blog Sucks," proved -- at least to me -- that Black had promoted himself out of the blogosphere (skippy coined the phrase), and into the MSM.

skippy (he refuses to use caps) and his cohorts celebrate this event by running their own Blogroll Amnesty. Unlike Black's, however, skippy's encourages the lower-ranked blogs to acknowledge and link to even lower-ranked blogs - the ones that generate the same traffic in a year or two that Black garners in an hour.

I hit the 1,000 visit mark on October 6, 2006, about 18 months after my first post on February 4, 2005.

In late 2006, several larger blogs -- skippy, Badtux, Cut to the Chase, Dark Wraith/Big Brass Blog, and some others -- apparently enjoyed what I was doing and blogrolled my humble offerings.

In the 16 months since that 1000th visit, I have racked up an additional 8,200 visitors. Much as I like to think of myself as a wonderful writer, with the breadth of the blogosphere, I would never have achieved even the modest level of success I have, without the help of those who blogrolled me.

There are probably millions of blogs with less traffic, but I have yet to find the ones I would like.Please, visit the folks I have blogrolled over on the left. And check out the other links, too; some of the safety and security-related sites are well worth it.

Journalists vs. Sportscasters

In my last post, I mentioned the difference between journalists and sportscasters. Sportscasters, by and large, should never, ever claim to be serious journalists. Not that they're not professionals, they're just not journalists. They don't have the right instincts. There are a few who have the proper journalistic reactions, however. Jim McKay of ABC Sports earned a spot in my personal Journalists Hall of Fame during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

For those who weren't paying attention 36 years ago, terrorists invaded the Olympic village and seized the building housing Israeli athletes. After some tense but fruitless negotiations, German authorities stormed the building. Eleven Israelis and five of the eight terrorists were killed.

McKay was covering the Olympics for ABC Sports, but when confronted with the news story of the decade, he handled it in a manner worthy of Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite. McKay's reporting of this horrific attack went well beyond anything a sportscaster could have imagined. There were no scores to report, no useless stats, no color commentary or play-by-play, in the sense those terms are used by sportscasters. McKay, however, applied his training to a "hard news" story; in fact, his coverage of the situation was far better than some of the real journalists in Germany on other assignments (who had been rushed to Munich to report on the massacre).

A more recent example of how I view journalists and sportscasters occurred in 2005 at the studios of WDIV-TV, Channel 4 in Detroit. A local wacko, who had been haunting the area around the studios, managed to get into an outer lobby of the building. An alert receptionist locked the door to the inner lobby, trapping the gunman. Unfortunately, a former WDIV employee was also trapped, and was seriously injured.

As the situation was unfolding, Detroit police sealed the building... with the entire news staff inside, while everything was happening outside. WDIV anchor Steve Garagiola (son of baseball legend and Hall of Fame broadcaster Joe Garagiola) managed to sneak out of the building (I don't remember if he found an unguarded fire exit or climbed down a drainpipe). Just about every member of the news staff was involved in the coverage. Meanwhile, the Sports Department staff was inside... hiding under their desks.

Yeah, Steve started out in sports, as might be expected, given the family history (his brother, Joe, Jr, is the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks). As a sports reporter for WDIV, he was in Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics; after the Centennial Park bombing, he made a surprisingly smooth transition from sports to news.

You Can Take the Thug Out Of the Ghetto...

... but you can never get the ghetto out of the thug, apparently.

CORRECTION: My wife has informed it was Whoppi Goldberg who made the comment about dog-fighting being culturally acceptable. My apologies to Ms Winfrey (especially since I've gotten a few visits from her company, Harpo). I have corrected the body of the post.

Yesterday's New York Times has a story on the pit bulls formerly owned by disgraced, convicted and imprisoned former NFL superstar-turned-ass Michael Vick.

Vick, as you may recall, operated a dog-fighting business at his Bad Newz Kennels, located on the grounds of his estate in rural Virginia. 48 dogs were seized. One had to be euthanized due to viciousness; the others are scattered around the country at various dog rehab facilities.

Life at Best Friends is nothing like it was at Mr. Vick’s property on Moonlight Road in Smithfield, Va., where many of the dogs were found chained to buried car axles. They slept on concrete. Their water, if any, was kept in algae-covered bowls. Most were underfed. Some showed recent lacerations.

The dogs were bred and trained to be fighters, nothing more. Vick and his cronies abused these animals. They tortured them, And, when the dogs no longer provided income, they killed them. Vick's thugs didn't humanely euthanize the dogs, either: they were electrocuted, hanged, drowned, shot or slammed to the ground.

Many of the surviving dogs may live to be adopted, going to safe, loving homes. Others -- because of what Vick and his homies did to them -- will have to live out their days in sanctuaries, unadoptable for a variety of reasons.

This is what Vick did to his dogs:

  • Georgia has no teeth. All 42 of them were pried from her mouth, most likely to make certain she could not harm male dogs during forced breeding.
  • Little Red is a tiny rust-colored female whose teeth were filed, most likely because she was bait for the Bad Newz fighters. Handlers cannot explain why loud noises make her jumpy.
  • Cherry, a black-and-white male, has what seems to be chemical burns on his back. His file at Best Friends says he loves car rides and having his backside rubbed. But like many of Mr. Vick’s pit bulls, he is petrified of new situations and new people.
  • [Meryl] lunged at a veterinary technician, snapping at him three times. By court order, she must stay at Best Friends forever.
As the story was unfolding, the lovely-yet-talented Mrs 618 mentioned in passing that Whoopi Goldberg had tried to explain that in the culture in which Vick was raised, dog-fighting was acceptable, and that we should not judge him too harshly.

Simple response to that: in that same culture -- the deep South -- lynching blacks was also acceptable. Does this mean I can string Vick up in a tree and Whoopi will leap to my defense?

I didn't think so.

For too many people, the fact that Vick is (or was) a talented football player was more important than any other fact. To some, it is Vick's skin color that is paramount:

But when all is said, done and served, there is the very real possibility that three years will be lost to a celebrated African-American athlete in the prime of his professional life.

That quote, from another NYT article, expresses one of the most infuriating aspects of this case - the race card. Former NFL wide receiver Duke Ferguson expressed that sentiment.

Yes, Vick was a star, a gifted athlete. So was Mike Tyson. As was Darryl Strawberry.

But inside, all are just plain thugs, thugs who used their talent and their money to avoid paying the price for their "off-field" antics. Yet, some people claim Vick should receive special treatment -- i.e., a lighter sentence -- because of his talents. As I recall, that argument didn't work too well for Tyson or Strawberry, either.

Does Vick's superstar athlete status somehow magically exempt him from the constraints of civilized society? And if it does, what does that say about society?

Of course, there are also those who play the race card in reverse, seizing upon Vick and his ilk to "prove" that African-Americans are incapable of participating in society, solely because of race. These morons jump on every mis-step by a black to justify "keeping them in their place." That's equally wrong, obviously.

Pete Rose bet on sporting events. His was banned from baseball, permanently barred from the Hall of Fame, and generally shunned by "polite society."

And all he did was bet on games.

In sentencing Vick to 23 months in a Federal prison, the trial judge did depart -- upwards -- from the prosecutor's recommendation. But 23 months is not enough to punish Vick for his cruel, cowardly actions.

He should be banned from any connection with any kind of athletic endeavor (including coaching, product endorsements, or anything else). He should be barred from any sports arena, even as a spectator. No journalist or sportscaster (and yes, I do imply there is a difference, but that's for another post) should ever interview Vick about anything.

Despite what Vick and the rest of the criminals at Bad Newz tried to do, the dogs are doing reasonably well:

“These dogs have been beaten and starved and tortured, and they have every reason not to trust us,” Mr. Garcia said as Georgia crawled onto his lap, melted into him for an afternoon nap and began to snore. “But deep down, they love us and still want to be with us. It is amazing how resilient they are.”

Let Vick rot in hell.

When I was a kid, professional athletes were people we looked up to. Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizutto, Joe Namath, Whitey Ford, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jack Nicklaus, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, Mario Andretti... these men were role models for thousands of kids (and yes, they were all men, as women weren't really allowed into the ranks until after pro athletes stopped caring about others). They didn't lie, cheat or steal. They didn't do drugs (at least not to today's extent). They didn't charge for autographs (and they sure as hell didn't have 100,000 "signed" pictures printed in advance) - they never refused to sign whatever some little hand shoved in their faces, whether it was a ball, a picture or a trading card.

They also didn't have multi-million dollar contracts. During the heyday of the Yankees, in the 50's and 60's, the guys like DiMaggio and Mantle made $50,000, a fortune by their standards, but a pittance compared to today (even on a percentage basis).

Vick is not fit to share the same honored profession as these men.

Wesley Snipes: Dunce or Anti-Government Extremist?

Actor Wesley Snipes was convicted on three of six tax-evasion charges, but cleared on the the other three. More importantly -- at least to Snipes -- he was cleared also on felony fraud and conspiracy charges.

Snipes, who had struck me as a reasonably intelligent man,
...had become an unlikely public face for the tax denier movement, whose members maintain that Americans are not obligated to pay income taxes and that the government extracts taxes from its citizens illegally.

The tax denier movement is affiliated (to various degrees) with some other less-than-mainstream movements:
  • "Sovereign Citizen" - a bunch of right-wing anarchist loons who believe virtually all government entities (especially Federal, and most especially the IRS and ATF) are illegitimate and illegal. They grew out of the Posse Comitatus crowd in the 1970's.
  • "Christian Identity" - a pseudo-religious group claiming that (a) Aryan races (Germans, Scandanavians, and Anglo-Saxons) are the true descendents of the ancient Israelites, and (b) Jews are descendents of Satan. The Christian Identity crowd -- to which presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has ties -- leaven their beliefs with healthy doses of homophobia and sexism. Christian Identity also has ties to Dominionism, which has many hidden representatives throughout the Cheney/bush regime. (Kos diarist Dogemperor is a survivor of this pernicious belief system).
  • The Militia Movement - right-wing extremist paramilitary groups, many of which sprouted up after the FBI/Branch Davidian stand-off in Waco, Texas.
  • "Redemptionists" - yet another collection of anti-government loonies, this time using bogus money orders, fraudulent liens, the Uniform Commercial Code, and other schemes to "protest" an "illegitmate" government. Recently, one Redemptionist claimed to be a Foreclosure Specialist; he used bogus money orders to "pay off" delinquent mortgages. He was convicted of issuing false government financial instruments. Redemptionists are an off-shoot of the Sovereign Citizen crowd.

Okay, Wesley Snipes is probably not one of the gun-toting good ole boys we've come to expect from the right-wing wacko brigade. For one thing, of course, he's black, and most of the righties would rather have Hillary Clinton in the White House than associate with a "n***er."

Snipes, who now has to pay $17 million in back taxes (plus interest and peanlties, of course), used some of the standard tax-denier arguments (most of which have been tried and found wanting many, many times):

  • He did not file returns or pay taxes in 2002-2004 because he had been informed he was the target of a criminal investigation, and filing returns would have incriminated him; [the jury accepted this argument, as have a couple of other juries in recent years. It does make sense, of course]
  • He was "not required" to pay taxes because he was legally a "nontaxpayer"; the laws did not apply to him because he was not a resident of the District of Columibia, was not a Federal employee, and was not engaged in any trade or business;
  • He claimed that the IRS' own code meant income earned in this country wasn't taxable, and that the IRS itself was not a proper government agency;
  • He claimed to be a "nonresident alien," and hence exempt from all tax laws.

The Smoking Gun has copies of Snipes' tax forms (for 1997; they still show no taxable income, although Snipes lists an adjusted gross income of $19,238,192). The file also contains copies of some of the boilerplate pseudo-legalistic twaddle the tax protesters try to peddle. Although it is hard to see in the TSG image, Snipes' 1040X had been altered to read, "Under no penalties of perjury, I declare..." [emphasis added].

Snipes' co-defendants -- Eddie Ray Kahn and Douglas Rosile -- were convicted on the felony charges. Kahn, a long-time hero in the tax denier movement, fled to Panama after being indicted. He was extradited but refused to attend the proceedings, claiming the court had no jurisdiction over him.

The website Quatloos!, operated by Financial & Tax Fraud Education Associates, Inc, has this to say about Eddie Kahn:

Eddie Kahn of “American Rights Litigators” represents the Hee-Haw contingent of the tax protestor movement. “Without any doubt, the most stupid of all the ‘professional’ tax protesters. Mr. Kahn's ‘arguments’ are so utterly juvenile and worthless as to barely worth the space I am using to type this sentence.”

Yup, just exactly the type of person I'd want for a tax advisor.

Rosile, the other idiot in this trek to Loontown, is a former accountant whose licenses to practice were yanked in at least two states. According to a 2002 New York Times article,

Mr. Rosile's accounting license has been revoked in Ohio and Florida, and he has been barred for life from practicing before the Securities and Exchange Commission, which found in 1995 that he had prepared false financial statements for a publicly traded company.

Rosile has been a thorn in the side of governmental regulators for years. In 1995, the Accountancy Board of Ohio discussed Rosile's competence as an accountant:

Mr. Rosile admitted that he was not familiar with either the professional accounting standards promulgated by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), or the specific requirements of the SEC.... No review was performed concerning the integrity of management prior to accepting the audit.... No direct confirmation of Standard's cash was ever made by Mr. Rosile. No work was performed concerning either accounts receivable or accounts payable.... No federal or state tax returns, payroll records, royalty records, or stock transfer records were reviewed by Mr. Rosile.... It was clear from the SEC transcript that Mr. Rosile does not understand the definition of certain accounting terms such as valuation account.... Mr. Rosile does not understand the definition of "going concern."...

One could ask how, if Rosile is as ignorant of Generally Accepted Accounting Practices as he appears, did he manage to pass the CPA exam in not one, but two, states?

Perhaps the courts should appoint a legal guardian for Mr Snipes. He sure doesn't seem to be doing too good a job taking care of himself.

Mayoral Misdeeds, Part I

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to Grace Saenz-Lopez, the alleged "dog-napping" mayor of Alice, Texas.

Saenz-Lopez was indicted on two felony counts of tampering with evidence and concealing evidence. Last week, the city commissioners voted unanimously for a resolution urging her to resign.

She resigned on Friday.

Now, if the Motor City Bad Boy Mayor Hisself, Kwame Kilpatrick, would just take the hint....

Oh, Please, God...

From an article in today's New York Times:

Across the street, Tom O’Hara, 62, was sullen. He was getting ready to open his bar, O’Hara’s, and was pondering his irrelevance, a Republican man pummeled by a Republican backlash.

“Did the Republicans do too many wrong things?” Mr. O’Hara said. “Oh yes, they did. I’m upset with George Bush. He gave away more money than the Democrats. I’m very concerned about immigration. Don’t tell me everyone should come in here and pick my fruits.”

He said he did not know if he would even bother to vote. None of the candidates stir him. “They don’t have the fight,” he said. [Emphasis added]

Oh, dear God, please, please let all the rest of the Rethuglicans feel this depressed. The more the mouth-breathers stay home, the more likely it is the grown-ups will have a solid majority (and the balls to actually get something done).