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Monday, February 28, 2011

A local serial bomber???

What the heck is a "chemical catalyst/reaction vessel?"

Sounds like a bomb but I am not sure.

I just know one was found near my neighborhood.

Here is the story from the local news:

The discovery of what might have been a bomb caused a Wilkes bomb squad to come to Watauga late this afternoon, and to the closing of Roby Green Road.  The press release from Sheriff Len Hagaman on the matter: At approximately 1606 hours (4::06 p.m.) on Sunday, February 27, 2011, a call was received by the Watauga County 911 Center from a caller who reported some sort of "unusual object" was in a mailbox in the 3000 block of the Roby Green Road.

The caller went to check on mail in a roadside mailbox and when the door was opened noticed something unusual in the box.

The caller rightfully left the object alone and immediately called the 911 Center.

Officers from the WCSO were dispatched to the area and the Shift Commander, Lt. Bumgarner, who is also a fire fighter, quickly determined that the object was not US mail and contacted myself. I contacted Patrol Commander Captain Redmon and advised him to take command of the scene and, if needed, to contact the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office EOD (Explosive Ordinance Division), Meat Camp Fire and First Responders, and, if needed, medics.

Captain Redmon, following consultation with Lt. Bumgarner, requested the Wilkes EOD and Meat Camp Fire Department be dispatched to the scene. Meat Camp Fire and Meat Camp First Responders reported to the staging area away from the 3000 block of Roby Greene Road. Lt. Bumgarner also positioned Watauga County Deputies and MC Fire so-as-to close the road from vehicular traffic.

Roby Green Road was closed for a period of time from approximately 1615 (4:15 p.m.) while initial assessment of the area and mailbox was surveyed and EOD arrived until 1836 (6:36 p.m.). The Wilkes SO EOD arrived on scene at approximately1750 (5:50 p.m.). While enroute Sgt. Cotton from the Wilkes County EOD and Captain Redmon discussed the possibility of the device being a discarded "shake and bake" meth lab as similarly described objects had surfaced in northwestern NC.

Wilkes County Sheriff's Deputy Sergeant and EOD Commander Cotton determined that the object was what is described as a chemical catalyst/reaction vessel. The vessel was safely retrieved by a Wilkes EOD technician and is being processed for forensic evidence. Sgt. Cotton told me that several similar vessels have surfaced in Wilkes and Caldwell Counties.

Sgt. Cotton stated that such vessels and devices are very dangerous as they use a myriad of dangerous and highly reactive chemicals. He cautioned anyone seeing a questionable object should not go near it, poke it, or pick it up as many times these vessels may violently react when moved which may cause burns, loss of sight, loss of a limb, fire, explosion, and/or death.

I want underscore Sgt. Cotton's words of caution and ask the public to report any suspicious device, no matter its location.

I also want to thank the quick reaction by the Watauga County 911 telecommunicators and deputies in safely responding and quickly assessing the situation. Also many thanks to the Meat Camp Fire and First Responders. I would also like to especially thank Wilkes County Sheriff Chris Shew and the rapid response of the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office EOD  - it is comforting to have these highly skilled, trained, and well equipped unit within 20 minutes of Watauga County. This is one of many times we have called them and I am so deeply appreciative of their quick response and the great cooperation with Sheriff Shew.

And from the Watauga Democrat, we get this:

"The team determined that the object was a chemical catalyst/reaction vessel similar to others that have surfaced in Wilkes and Caldwell counties, Hagaman said."

A serial bomber???? Sounds like news!

The realities of terrorism

How many American civilians were killed in 2009?

In the WHOLE world?








How about 27?

So says the State Department in this annual analysis of victims of terrorism around the world.

I provide these data just for context or perspective, since media coverage of terrorism is so prevalent.

Even in 2001, which saw the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history, there were less Americans killed than have been subsequently killed in the US response. In other words, our wars have killed more of us than al-Qaeda did.

And we suprassed that number in September 2006, only five years after the 9/11 attacks.

Amazing, but true.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another thing NOT called crime

From the article:

"... it wasn’t teachers, fire fighters, policemen, and college students that caused the economic recession that has devastated government budgets — it was Wall Street. And as middle class workers are being asked to sacrifice, the rich continue to rig the system, dodging taxes and avoiding paying their fair share.

"...politicians are asking ordinary Americans to sacrifice their education, their health, their labor rights, and their wellbeing to tackle budget deficits, some of the world’s richest multinational corporations are getting away with shirking their responsibility and paying nothing."

And yet it is perfectly legal.

Here are some of the "criminals."

- BANK OF AMERICA: In 2009, Bank of America didn’t pay a single penny in federal income taxes, exploiting the tax code so as to avoid paying its fair share. “Oh, yeah, this happens all the time,” said Robert Willens, a tax accounting expert interviewed by McClatchy. “If you go out and try to make money and you don’t do it, why should the government pay you for your losses?” asked Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice. The same year, the mega-bank’s top executives received pay “ranging from $6 million to nearly $30 million.”
- BOEING: Despite receiving billions of dollars from the federal government every single year in taxpayer subsidies from the U.S. government, Boeing didn’t “pay a dime of U.S. federal corporate income taxes” between 2008 and 2010.
- CITIGROUP: Citigroup’s deferred income taxes for the third quarter of 2010 amounted to a grand total of $0.00. At the same time, Citigroup has continued to pay its staff lavishly. “John Havens, the head of Citigroup’s investment bank, is expected to be the bank’s highest paid executive for the second year in a row, with a compensation package worth $9.5 million.”

- EXXON-MOBIL: The oil giant uses offshore subsidiaries in the Caribbean to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Although Exxon-Mobil paid $15 billion in taxes in 2009, not a penny of those taxes went to the American Treasury. This was the same year that the company overtook Wal-Mart in the Fortune 500. Meanwhile the total compensation of Exxon-Mobil’s CEO the same year was over $29,000,000.

- GENERAL ELECTRIC: In 2009, General Electric — the world’s largest corporation — filed more than 7,000 tax returns and still paid nothing to U.S. government. They managed to do this by a tax code that essentially subsidizes companies for losing profits and allows them to set up tax havens overseas. That same year GE CEO Jeffery Immelt — who recently scored a spot on a White House economic advisory board — “earned total compensation of $9.89 million.” In 2002, Immelt displayed his lack of economic patriotism, saying, “When I am talking to GE managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China….I am a nut on China. Outsourcing from China is going to grow to 5 billion.”

- WELLS FARGO: Despite being the fourth largest bank in the country, Wells Fargo was able to escape paying federal taxes by writing all of its losses off after its acquisition of Wachovia. Yet in 2009 the chief executive of Wells Fargo also saw his compensation “more than double” as he earned “a salary of $5.6 million paid in cash and stock and stock awards of more than $13 million.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

Has anything good ever come out of Tennessee?

In a sign that the fear of "sharia law" has become utterly ridiculous, a new bill in Tennessee will make any Islamic ritual a jailable offense.

Via USA Today:

A proposed Tennessee law would make following the Islamic code known as Shariah law a felony, punishable by 15 years in jail.

A bill introduced by Tennessee state Sen. Bill Ketron, pictured, and Rep. Judd Matheny calls Islamic code a danger to U.S. security.

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and state Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, introduced the same bill in the Senate and House last week. It calls Shariah law a danger to homeland security and gives the attorney general authority to investigate complaints and decide who's practicing it.
It exempts peaceful practice of Islam but labels any adherence to Shariah law — which includes religious practices such as feet washing and prayers — as treasonous. It claims Shariah adherents want to replace the Constitution with their religious law.

A dozen other states are considering anti-Shariah bills, and there's a federal lawsuit in Oklahoma over one.

Imam Mohamed Ahmed of the Islamic Center of Nashville on 12th Avenue South said Islam teaches its followers to obey the law of the land. Shariah law, he said, teaches moral values.

"What do you mean, really, by saying I can't abide by Shariah law?" he said. "Shariah law is telling me don't steal. Do you want me to steal and rob a bank?"

Man gets 25 years in jail for "South Park" threats

From the article:

"A Virginia man who encouraged the murder of Matt Stone and Trey Parker over an episode of "South Park" that portrayed the Muslim prophet Muhammed dressed as a bear was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday.

"Zachary Chesser had written in multiple Internet posts over a four-month period last year that the South Park creators  should "wind up like Theo Van Gogh," who was murdered by a radical Muslim because he objected to the Dutch filmmaker's negative portrayal of Islamic society.

"But Stone and Parker were only a piece of the case against Chesser, who also tried on two occasions to join al-Shabab, a terrorist group in Somalia, and encouraged like-minded people on the Internet to leave suspicious packages in public places in the U.S. so that if and when real bombs were planted they'd go unnoticed.

"Chesser also encouraged violence against cartoonists who were planning to participate in "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day," which was a plan -- that never came to fruition -- created to show support for Parker and Stone and for free speech. He even supplied the necessary contact information for various cartoonists."

This is another case of the media reporting on a Muslim who is out of touch with his own religion. Look it up, it is not forbidden to depict the prophet Muhammad. In fact, Muhammad only said depicting him put him above God, and as a prophet of God, his image should not be shown because it takes attention away from God. Showing his image is idolatry but is not punishable by death.

Perhaps this explains why most Americans are uninformed about the realities of Islam. The media reinforce falsehoods without providing needed context to explain why these kinds of things occur.

Does this man look like a terrorist?

That is what he is being called in the news media.

From the article:

"A suburban Rochester, New York, man described as potentially "the next Oklahoma City bomber" has been arrested and charged with planning to kill former President George W. Bush, according to federal authorities.

"The suspect, 23-year-old Ian Rotunno of Greece, New York, repeatedly told Secret Service agents he was intent on killing the former president, and had planned to go to Washington or Texas to carry out that mission. However, Rotunno, after loading his truck with assorted weapons, turned himself in to Owego, New York, police on October 7.


"At one point Rotunno told agents he was simply going to fire his shotgun into the reflecting pool on the Washington mall to gain the attention of authorities, expecting he would then be arrested or killed by law enforcement officials. But he added he would kill the former president with his bare hands if he could.

"I know where to find President Bush at his ranch in Texas, and I'm not going to stop," Rotunno told Secret Service agents, according to the affidavit."

Sounds like a deranged potential murderer to me, not a terrorist.

But it's easier to LINK him to terrorism, so that is what is being done.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dispatches from jury duty

I got called to jury duty.

Even as a professor of criminal justice who knows many of the police officers, attorneys and others working in the court.

Given my knowledge of the people involved in all the cases, I got deferred to civil court.

And I was on duty this week. All week.


Turned out to be only a three day gig.

Here's what happened.

I walk into the court, along with about 100 other people also called as potential jurors. One by one people get called up, at random, to undergo questioning by both attorneys (voir dire). Eventualy, the jury was selected (12 people along with 1 alternate).

I didn't even get called. But I would not have made the case anyway, since I knew one of the parties involved (ironic, no?).

The case was this:

Woman 1 sleeps with Man 1 who is married to Woman 2. Woman 2 sues Woman 1 for two torts (wrongs or "crimes" in civil court). They include "alienation of affection" and "criminal conversation." (Yes, this is illegal: Woman 1 allegedly seduced Man 1 from his wife. And hey had sex. This is illegal in North Carolina.)

Since Man 1 was a local prosecutor and Woman 2 worked for a local defense attorney, the trial requires an out of town judge. This shuts down the courthouse for the whole week and no other cases can be resolved. On a docket with 6 or 7 cases for the week, this is only one they will get to!

The case was only supposed to take one day, but on day three, the judge was forced to let all the rest of the potential jurors go, since this case was still going on!

And the extent of my jury duty was to sit through part of the mess.

For this, I had to cancel four hours of classes!

Talk about inefficient and incompetent and broken and silly and stupid. And 100 citizens had to watch it. Wow.


... alleges infringement of Americans' Constitutional rights based on suspicion only attributed to religious beliefs.

From the article:

"Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the FBI said Wednesday that the agency's use of a paid informant to infiltrate California mosques has left them and others Muslims with an enduring fear that their phones and e-mails are being screened and their physical whereabouts monitored.

"The claims came at a news conference announcing the lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The civil rights groups allege that former FBI informant Craig Monteilh violated Muslims' freedom of religion by conducting indiscriminate surveillance because of their faith.

"The former fitness instructor with a criminal past spied on Orange County mosques for the FBI for more than a year from 2006 to 2007, recording conversations and meetings with a device concealed on his key ring and a camera hidden in a shirt button.

"To know that he was targeting me simply because I was a Muslim, it's sad," said Ali Malik, one of three plaintiffs named in the suit. "I live in paranoia. ... I just wish the FBI didn't do this."

Like I wrote about in the book, this is happening everywhere.

What Wisconsin is really all about

So if you are following the news, and I know you are, you know that many states are in serious financial trouble. One of them is Wisconsin, where state employees are being asked to sacrifice not only raises and pay, but also health and retirement benefits, plus give up their right to collective bargaining.

The Governor says it is necessary to solve the budget crisis.

Critics say it is just politics (because the unions are heavily Democratic and the Governor is Republican).

Now we know who is right.

A billionaire funder of politics around the country--one of the Koch brothers--called and got through to the Governor. This is the same guy who funds one of the national Tea Party groups and who hosts secret meetings of powerful people around the country to suggest strategies to impact policy. He talked to the Governor for 20 minutes.

And we only know about it because it was not really Mr. Koch but instead was a man described as a "liberal blogger." So the truth has come out what this is really all about.

It's just politics.

(now imagine if you lived in Wisconsin and wanted to talk to the Governor. Could you get through and talk to him for 20 minutes? Shows you the power of money in this country when a person living outside the state can get through and capture 20 minutes of the Governor's time.) As noted in the article: "So! A Koch brother can call up a nationally prominent Republican elected official and get an audience whenever he likes, basically. That is not particularly surprising, I guess."

US government wants to make tobacco tell the truth

What is wrong with that?

From the article:

The Justice Department wants the largest cigarette manufacturers to admit that they lied to the public about the dangers of smoking, forcing the industry to set up and pay for an advertising campaign of self-criticism for past behavior.

As part of a 12-year-old lawsuit against the tobacco industry, the government on Wednesday released 14 "corrective statements" that it says the companies should be required to make.

One "corrective" statement says: "A federal court is requiring tobacco companies to tell the truth about cigarette smoking. Here's the truth: ... Smoking kills 1,200 Americans. Every day."

Another of the government's proposed statements begins: "We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits."

"For decades, we denied that we controlled the level of nicotine delivered in cigarettes," a third statement says. "Here's the truth. ... We control nicotine delivery to create and sustain smokers' addiction, because that's how we keep customers coming back."


The government proposed 14 statements to cover the addictiveness of nicotine, the lack of health benefit from "low tar," `'ultra-light" and "mild" cigarettes and negative health effects of second-hand smoke.

The proposed statements are labeled "Paid for" by the name of the cigarette manufacturer "under order of a federal district court."
Other proposed statements include:
"We told Congress under oath that we believed nicotine is not addictive. We told you that smoking is not an addiction and all it takes to quit is willpower. Here's the truth: Smoking is very addictive. And it's not easy to quit."
"Just because lights and low tar cigarettes feel smoother, that doesn't mean they are any better for you. Light cigarettes can deliver the same amounts of tar and nicotine as regular cigarettes."

"The surgeon general has concluded" that "children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems and more severe asthma."

And I would suggest adding this one:

We are greedy, immoral assholes that have killed people for decades by hooking them on our products as kids by making smoking look sexy and cool, even as we knew that half our customers would eventually die from our products, an average 14 years earlier than normal in slow, painful, expensive deaths.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

OMG is right!

Look at the link address of the article.

Now, I might say, "Gosh, who cares?"

But obviously people do.

Just more evidence of our fascination with the trivial, and how even that is often linked to criminal justice.

Call me crazy ...

But this sounds like a crazy idea by some crazy people.

Texas lawmaker's proposal would allow cops to drop off illegals at the doorsteps of members of Congress!!!!

The "evil woman"

Remember the "evil woman" hypothesis?

It says that women who commit behaviors outside of their epxected societal roles in society will receive more media coverage and be reacted to more harshly by society.

How about a woman who was an anti-illegal immigration activist?

Who was the ringleader of a hit squad?

And who shot a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter (both Americans)?

Yep, that is a great example of why she just got the death penalty!

Because you need to see his arrest pictures?

I guess so.

Well, they are public record.

But the fascination with how weird he looks makes me sad.

The guy suffers from serious mental illness and never received help.

So he killed six people. And now he will get the help he needs.

Anyone see a problem with this?

From the BBC: US relies on prisons to provide mental health therapy

Now that is not the electric chair. It is a chair where a mentally ill inmate was strapped into for 17 days.

The US now relies on its criminal justice apparatus--prisons and jails especially--to provide mental health therapy for the ill.

It all started in the 1960s when state hospitals closed down with the expectation that people would get help in their own communities. Only, the resources needed were not directed there (and they still are not).

The result? We arrest people who suffer from brain disorders and then get them help behind bars.

So, the largest provider of mental health services in the US is the LA County Jail, followed by the NY jail system.

Imagine if we did this for people with heart disease or cancer. Arrest 'em and lock 'em up so that they can get help.

What a shameful practice and legacy.

You rarely see this in the US press. At least the BBC is talking about it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

State of Florida has gone to hell

Three police officers killed in 28 days.

And six so far this year.

What the hell has happened to my hometown?

Watch out for that snow. It's a killer!


  • Lost snowboarder calls copsVideo

  • Snow brings down store's roofVideo

  • I guess we could call this linkage. Two stories about snow, unrelated, connected anyway and placed together on line.

    Don't randomly kill rich people on a yacht!

    Or else you will end up on the news.

    I wonder how much of a threat piracy really is?

    According to this report:

    Piracy has flourished off the coast of Somalia, which has not had an effective government for two decades. While piracy in the Indian Ocean has taken place for a number of years close to the Somali coast, "in 2008 we saw a very marked and rapid shift into the Gulf of Aden, where Somali pirates were attacking and hijacking vessels very, very regularly," Cyrus Mody said (an official with the International Maritime Bureau in London).

    International navies combating piracy have been fairly successful in setting up a patrolled transit corridor through the Gulf of Aden, Mody and Fox said. But the pirates' activities then shifted into the southern Red Sea, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea area, Mody said.

    In addition, there was "a very large increase" in pirate attacks between 2008 and 2009, although the increase did not continue into 2010. Mody said. He noted that in the first few months of 2010, virtually no pirate hijackings were reported. So far in 2011, "we have already seen more than 50 attacks carried out," he said. "From 2008, what we've seen is they have evolved ... and increased their capabilities."

    By the look of it, it is everywhere!

    More in random, violent, stranger, black on white crime!

    Old, helpless or vulnerable victim? Check.

    Young, meancing black man? Check.

    Stranger? Check.

    With gun? Check.

    Random? Check.

    And that is why it is newsworthy.

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    What happens when the news moves so fast?

    I like this picture. I bet it is a lot like what people remember of a forest shown on the news.

    They know they saw something about a forest but don't remember the details. Or the colors.

    "When it comes to the news of the day, newspapers, websites, bloggers, cable networks and aggregators all trip over themselves to be the fastest and the first. The competition has always existed, but technology has ramped up the rivalries."

    Now the news happens so fast it makes your head spin. And it does this all day, every day.

    One person who watches this each day says that "it is safe to assume the public does not know about many top stories or issues, and cannot be assumed to have enough data to ascertain truth versus spin, and right versus wrong ... people are intentionally filtering the information they consume through sources they agree with, or are turning instead to entertainment and idle-time activities, becoming less informed."

    This is nice explanation for why we as a people are so "uninformed" (or stupid as some of my students say). And ironically, the news is partly to blame (not to mention the rest of the media, especially entertainment media).

    Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?

    Corporate crime committed by Wall Street.

    Yes, Hollywood made a film about it. But that's entertainment, right?

    In this story, Rolling Stone magazine writer Matt Taibbi asks the question, Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?"

    His answer came in part from this interaction he had with a Senate investigator:

    "Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

    "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail," he said. "That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that."

    I put down my notebook. "Just that?"

    "That's right," he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there."

    Of course, the writer did not end it there. But that about says it all.

    Congress does not care about corporate crime. Because they either commit it themselves, personally know the guys who do, or accept money from the guys that do to fund their campaigns.

    And the mainstream news media do not cover it because they are owned by the same guys, too. Beautiful system, ain't it?

    The story has completely left the news, but ...

    BP is still killing things!

    Nothing is better.

    From the article:

    "Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a top scientist's video and slides that she says demonstrate the oil isn't degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the sea floor.

    "That report is at odds with a recent report by the BP spill compensation czar that said nearly all will be well by 2012."

    Gee, I wonder who we should trust. A BP czar???

    Fascinating article on the "CSI effect"

    In the book, I discuss the "CSI effect" (the impact the TV show and others like it have had on the courts).

    Turns out the forsenics on the show are all bunk. And it is causing major problems in criminal justice and our society.

    From the article:

    "In the age of CSI and Dexter, we’re led to believe that forensic science is a high-tech discipline, powerful and sophisticated enough to catch any criminal.

    "As it turns out, whether blood-spatter analysis and disciplines like it qualify as “science” at all is a matter of increasing debate. In a sharply critical report issued in 2009, the National Academy of Sciences said, “The simple reality is that the interpretation of forensic evidence is not always based on scientific studies.” Taking aim at disciplines as varied as ballistics, hair and fiber analysis, bite-mark comparison—even fingerprints—the report declared, “This is a serious problem.”

    My advice -- turn it off. It's polluting your brain with nonsense.

    Coming soon to your college and university


    From the article:

    "Texas is preparing to give college students and professors the right to carry guns on campus, adding momentum to a national campaign to open this part of society to firearms.

    "More than half the members of the Texas House have signed on as co-authors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2009 and is expected to do so again. Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who sometimes packs a pistol when he jogs, has said he's in favor of the idea."

    And the guy in the picture firing the pistol in public, surrounded by tall buildings, is the Governor of the state (the same guys who favors secession from the US).

    One hopes those are blanks.

    Or that he is aiming at someone who currently does not have a gun. Like a college student or professor.

    Just imagine an argument on campus or in class. Now add some guns. I think you see the problem.

    We have a Second Amendment right to carry and bare arms. Yet, the government is allowed to pass reasonable gun controls to keep us safe. The only question is what is reasonable.

    In our history, you've not been able to carry guns on campus. Texans think that is unreasonable.

    Imagine what will happen if this bill becomes law and Oklahoma beats Texas in football, at the campus of Texas. How long until a student pulls a gun for the sake of this rivalry?

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Meth back in the news

    This time it's national news.

    Why? What makes a crime newsworthy at the national level?

    Consider the nature of the crime.

    The race of the offenders.

    The fact that there are child victims involved.

    And the rare nature of the crime.

    Finally, of course it is Meth, which has been established as a moral panic already.

    So how much of a threat are Meth fires to children? How do they compare to fires caused by tobacco? In other words, where is the context?

    I see dumb people

    An update on the campus robbery from the local paper:

    Police arrested a 19-year-old Boone man Wednesday night after claims that he attempted to rob another man of $20 on the Appalachian State University campus.

    Derek Wesley Scism of 4019 U.S. 421 North, Boone, was charged with attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, according to information from ASU.

    The incident started at about 7:50 p.m., when campus police responded to Belk Library after library staff said that Scism, his brother and two others, who had been hanging out there, were making prank calls on the building's security phone.

    (See what I mean by I see dumb people. Wow.)

    Police found Scism's brother and Charles Timothy Smith, a resident of the Red Carpet Inn in Boone, outside the library near the College Street parking deck. Smith told police that Scism had tried to rob him of $20, money that Scism later claimed the man owed him.

    Despite reports that Scism had a gun, police found no weapon in the area.

    Neither Scism nor Smith are ASU students, and both have been banned from campus.

    Scism was held at the Watauga Detention Center in lieu of a $10,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in court April 5.

    University Police are continuing to investigate the incident.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Two crimes not connected, but still connected

     Two rapes reported last week; prosecution declined in both
    Two women reported being raped in separate instances last week in Boone, but both declined prosecution when officers responded.

    A woman reported that she was raped by her boyfriend at her home on Edgewood Drive just after midnight Feb. 8.

    Sgt. Matt Stevens of the Boone Police Department said that the woman did not want officers to start an investigation, collect evidence or take her to the hospital.

    "Even initially, she said, 'Never mind, I don't want to talk with you,'" Stevens said.

    The Watauga Democrat does not name victims or alleged victims of sexual assault.

    Stevens said that the two have filed charges against each other in the past, and the alleged perpetrator had sought warrants Feb. 7 against the woman for making threatening phone calls.

    "Coincidentally or not, she was calling to report this incident mere hours after those charges were taken on her," he said.

    A second, unrelated rape was reported about 12 hours later on Feb. 8 at Scottish Inns on Blowing Rock Road, and the woman also declined prosecution in that instance. The alleged victim and perpetrator also knew each other in the second case.

    So what have we learned from these two, unrelated rapes? That women do not proesctue rape? Even when they report it?

    How often? Why?

    Such context is not provided in the news. Instead, the local paper links two unrelated crimes, even while acknowledging that they are unrelated.

    Crime on Campus

    Federal law requires universities to share information about campus crimes -- to make this information available to the public.

    Apparently, we need to know right away, too.

    I just got this in an email from the university police:

    At approximately 7:50pm this evening, a non-student reported to ASU Police that an unknown white male, approximately 5’ 8”in his early 20’s attempted to rob him outside the library parking deck on campus. The suspect was reported to have a small automatic pistol and fled campus toward King Street. ASU Police and Boone Police officers searched the area and at approximately 9:30pm the suspect was taken into custody. The suspect is a 19 year old white male from Thomasville, NC. He is not an ASU student. Investigation continues by ASU Police.
    Props to ASU for not locking down campus, at least I assume! (unlike the last time a guy with a gun supposedly was near campus)

    At the North Carolina Criminal Justice Association annual meeting ...

    ... in Raleigh!

    Wow, there is a lot going on in the news right now. Seems like even when I take a break from the world, the world does not take a break from itself.

    Lead stories in the news right now:

    Unrest elsewhere
    Celebrity gossip
    Did I mention crime?


    (hey news people, they live there all the time, you know, it's the ocean!)

    More in a few days when the conference is over

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Conflict of interest on the SUPREME COURT???

    Wealthy group gives big money to groups working one side of political issues.

    And the man behind much of it -- a billionaire political organizer -- is close friends with two Justices on the Court.

    "A leading liberal group is now trying to use that connection to argue that Mr. Scalia and Mr. Thomas should disqualify themselves from hearing campaign finance cases because they may be biased toward Mr. Koch, a billionaire who has been a major player in financing conservative causes."

    They're claiming a conflict of interest, largely based on the troubling ruling in the Citizens United case that benefitted people like the billionaire especially.

    Madoff says it was not his fault!

    But the banks knew.

    “They had to know,” Mr. Madoff said. “But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.'"

    My review of the case says he is right. But he still engaged in the largest fraud ever committed by one man is US history.

    So I hope he enjoys the rest of his life in his new home. Here ...

    The truth shall set you free

    Or so Curveball hopes.

    The face on the left is the man who was used to lead us into war.

    His words, explaining why he lied in order to justify an invasion by the US against Iraq (read the link to the story titled: "How US was duped by Iraqi fantasist looking to topple Saddam"):

    "Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities."

    Tell that to the million dead and injured and the 300 million Americans forced to pay $3 trillion for it all (check our the article linked or search the book "The $3 trillion war") even though the war was going to pay for itself, or so we were told (google that one, you'll be shocked to see all the people who said this! Or just read my assessment from 2005, laying out much of the ugly truth).

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Prisons rarely make the news, until they bankrupt us

    But this is a good story on NPR:

    "Budget problems are forcing states and the federal government to rethink their approach to prisons. More than 2 million people are incarcerated in the United States, and the cost is getting unbearable.

    "Even conservatives who describe themselves as tough on crime are starting to call for the release of some inmates. That's in part because the numbers are speaking louder than ever.
    States spend about $50 billion a year to house prisoners, and experts say incarceration is the fastest-growing expense in state budgets, except for Medicaid."

    I've been saying it for years. Now they're finally listening!

    It's an amazing fact that the US leads the world not only in its incarceration rate but also the number of people in prison! If there were an Olympics for incarceration, we'd win the gold medal! (someone should write a song about that ...)

    Wow. Just wow.

    Why do we kill people who kill people to show them that killing people is wrong?

    That's all I can say.

    Dead bodies. Child victim. Duffel bag. Trash can.

    Clearly, that is going to be national news.

    Even though it happened in Massachusetts and is one of only 16,000 likely murders this year.

    There's even a video of the scene for you. I wonder what that adds to the newsworthiness of this story???

    Majority of Americans now favor legalizing pot

    ... but it won't happen.

    And here is why.

    There are enormously powerful industries against it.

    Not only government entities like the DEA.

    But big tobacco.

    Big alcohol.

    And big pharma.

    Not to mention big prisons.

    Read and learn (even though it is from TRUTV!!!)

    Hello PATRIOT Act, welcome back

    They've done it again.

    The House of Representatives has renewed the USA PATRIOT Act.

    From the article:

    "Congress has until Feb. 28 to extend the expiring provisions of law enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    "The House voted 275-144 to continue the provisions through Dec. 8. The Senate is expected to take up the bill before the end of the month.

    "Republican leaders in both the House and Senate want to extend the provisions permanently, and revisiting the issue in December would interject it into the 2012 presidential race. But a permanent extension faces an uphill climb in Congress.

    "House leaders were able to overcome opposition only by using a procedure that required a simple majority for passage, rather than the supermajority required last week. More than two dozen Republicans joined Democrats Monday in voting against the short-term extension.

    "Sixty-five Democrats voted in favor of the extension, while 117 Democrats and 27 Republicans voted against it.

    "The legislation would extend three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. The so-called library provision allows authorities with a court order to investigate a wide swath of documents, including library records, of terrorism suspects. The roving wire tap allows authorizes to conduct surveillance on suspects when they change phones or locations. The lone-wolf provision allows surveillance of foreigners even if they have no relation to terrorist groups."

    It's not how you feel about it that matters. It's that the media STILL are not telling why people are even concerned about it, or whether we need to be.,0,1585488.story

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    How to make the news in Hickory, NC

    Here is your headline:

    Police: Man killed; words carved in body

    They'll tell us words were carved into the victim's body, but they won't tell us what they said.

    So what exactly is the point of telling us?

    "A man was killed early Monday morning in what the police are calling one of the most gruesome crime scenes they’ve seen in years."




    Ball point pen???

    The story is complete with images and a map. I guess in case you want to check it out???

    Kill 3 or 4 people, make the news

    Isn't that a great message of media coverage of random violent street crime?

    Meanwhile, there are lots of ways to kill dozens at a time that either don't make the news or don't get called crime, even when the deaths result from negligence and recklessness of powerful people.

    Apparently it is how you kill people, not how many you kill, that matters.

    Yet another legal way for corporations to hurt and kill us

    Energy drinks.

    From the article:

    They claim to give you that extra boost, but recent studies have shown that energy drinks containing large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, can actually cause major health problems in children, teens and young adults. In fact, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, of the 5,448 U.S. caffeine overdoses reported in 2007, 46% occurred in those younger than 19 years. Now a new report in the journal of Pediatrics warns parents, and doctors that these drinks could be especially dangerous to children with ADHD, diabetes, sleep issues and eating disorders.

    Who knew?

    Goodbye to public media???

    We've talked and you've read about the threats of corporate media and the importance of public media.

    Yet, after only a few weeks into the 112th Congress, and Republicans are already attempting to pull the plug on public media.

    In a budget proposal made public on Wednesday, House Republicans announced plans to zero out all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the nonprofit responsible for funding public media including NPR, PBS, Pacifica and more.

    If the Republicans are successful, it would be a tremendous blow to the entire public interest media sector.

    We cannot allow Republicans to destroy public media.
    Tell Congress: Fully fund NPR and defend public service media!

    Republicans are disingenuously claiming that they need to cut funding for public media because of budgetary constraints. But what they fail to highlight is that national public broadcasting is remarkably cost effective, providing local news and information, free of charge, for millions of viewers while only receiving about .0001% of the federal budget.1

    More to the point, it's nearly impossible to put a price tag on the actual value of public broadcasting.
    Public media is one of the last bulwarks against the corporate media where the combination of consolidation and profit-motive has long since shifted the focused to infotainment rather than substantive news. In many rural and less affluent communities, broadcasters rely on federal funding to provide the only available high-quality news and public affairs programming.

    Without public media, corporate media monopolies would increase their already large control of what we see on television, hear on the radio or read in the newspaper.

    This outcome should deeply worry all of us. The increased accumulation and consolidation of corporate power is a threat to our democracy. And nowhere is this more evident than in our media.
    At a time when media consolidation is shrinking the number of perspectives we have access to over the airwaves and when newsrooms are shrinking, we need more diversity in our media not less. And we simply cannot afford to lose what public media brings to the table.

    Tell Congress: Fully fund NPR and defend public service media!

    Conservatives have longed for any opportunity to defund NPR, PBS and other public media. And with Speaker Boehner wielding the gavel, it looks like they may finally get their wish.

    Don't let Congress pull the plug on NPR and PBS! Tell them reject cuts to public broadcasting.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Girl arrested for fast food found in car, nah just kidding!

    A friend sent this to me and it is just too good to ignore.

    Police search school with drug sniffing dogs, find nothing.

    Sniffing dogs alert to car in parking lot.

    Sniffing dogs find "an illegal substance was inside a vehicle."

    Specifically: "Police found a marijuana joint in a fast-food bag on the passenger floorboard."

    The owner of the car, an 18 year old female (an adult), is arrested and charged with possession. Not of fast food. Marijuana.

    Now, clearly, marijuana is illegal and fast food is not.

    But which substance is actually more dangerous? Which kills more people?

    We have data on this by the way. Anyone want to try to find it?

    Yet, police are arresting people for the relatively safe substance while ignoring the relatively dangerous one. And the mainstream media almost never question the logic of this policy.

    I know, I know, police are "taking a bite out of crime."

    Except these arrests literally make no difference in terms of drug use or drug availability.

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Racial Justice Act passes first court challenge

    From the article:

    The Racial Justice Act has survived its first serious challenge. On Thursday, a judge in Forsyth County rejected arguments by prosecutors that the law was too sweeping and failed to comply with the North Carolina Constitution.

    Two North Carolina death-row inmates, Errol Duke Moses and Carl Stephen Moseley, are using statistics and findings from a Michigan State University study to claim racial imbalance and bias played a role in their trials and sentencing.

    Their cases are the first of the 154 death row inmates seeking relief under the law to get to a courtroom.
    According to the News & Observer story, prosecutors in the case earlier this week attacked the law, saying it was too sweeping to apply fairly across the state.

    For instance, an assistant district attorney, argued that the law does not specify exactly how race is to be considered in evaluating the bias claims. He objected to the fact that one of the two defendants, Moseley, a white inmate convicted of killing white victims, was alleging racial bias played a part in his sentencing.

    Defense attorneys argued that that a broad law was exactly what the legislature intended. “In North Carolina, we have a societal interest in addressing a history that has been marred by racial discrimination,” said Paul Green, one of Moseley’s attorneys.

    Lawyers will now move to the bias claims.

    That said ... the law could be in jeopardy in the political arena.
    Republicans who gained control of the state Senate and House in January have talked about either severely narrowing the reach of the act or repealing it all together.

    Random street crime and trivial nonsense, it's still the thing

    Here are some of the "top stories" in the news today:

    Chandra Levy killer faces sentencing
    Teacher outed over prostitute pastVideo
    Lohan's dress too sexy for court?Video
    Man accused of sex with cyber 'wife,' 13
     'Grandad Bandit' admits heists
     DA to seek death in Philly attacks
     No prelim for Philly abortion doc
     Brothers killed in attack on home
     Fewer charges for Barry Bonds
    Hidden Hostage Helps Police in N.C. Standoff
    California Authorities Hunt for 'Geezer Bandit'
    Police: Dad Wrote He Killed Missing Swiss Twins
    Texas Man Charged With Filming Coeds in Showers
    Mystery Surrounds Disappearance of Indiana Woman

    And my favorite:
    Teen Collapses and Dies Moments After First Kiss

    10 least healhty eating states in America

    From the article:

    "Americans are fat and getting fatter by the year. Recent data reported in medical journal Lancet showed that BMI (Body Mass Index), a recognized measurement of obesity, is higher on average in America than in any other nation.

    "The obesity problem, however, is international. The report in Lancet states that "In 2008, 9.8 percent of the world's male population were obese, as were 13.8 percent of women. In 1980, these rates were 4.8 percent and 7.9 percent." U.S. eating habits and diets have been exported, many experts say. Nations which before had relatively lean diets which were high in grains and fruits now consume many more soft drinks and hamburgers.

    "This trend toward poorer diets has caused obesity to be the most written-about health problem in the United States. Fat Americans are more likely to have diabetes, coronary artery disease, strokes and certain forms of cancer. Less well reported are links between obesity and dementia, obesity and postmenopausal estrogen receptors, and obesity and social status. Thin people, apparently, are more likely to be chief executives and billionaires."

    In my Injustice in America class, the issue of who is to blame for this came up. One student said parents, since they control what their kids eat. Another said they should not be blamed since they are working many hours and are targeted by fast food companies who make the food cheap, fast, and fun for kids.

    Both are probably right. I equated it to crack cocaine dealers. The people who use it are to blame for making the choice to smoke it. But so too are the dealer of the crack, which is why they are arrested.

    Clearly, food is legal and crack is not.

    But remember, anything -- literally anything -- can be a crime. Perhaps it is time to look at how we eat and take appropriate steps to stop us from killing ourselves. Or to stop the food companies from killing us. Or both.

    In this article, the ten states with the most deadly eating habits. Look who is number 1 (the same state that wants to make a license plate honoring the KKK).

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    Failure by the House to Renew Three Key Patriot Act Provisions

    Can you say it with me?

    "Holy shit!"

    From the article:

    "The House of Representatives failed Tuesday to extend the life of three surveillance tools that are crucial to the United States' post-Sept. 11 anti-terror law, a slipup for the new Republican leaders who miscalculated the level of opposition.

    "The House voted 277-148 to keep the three provisions of the USA Patriot Act on the books until Dec. 8. Republicans brought up the bill under a special expedited procedure that required a two-thirds majority, and the vote was seven short of reaching that level.

    "The Republicans, who took over the House last month, lost 26 of their own members, adding to the 122 Democrats who voted against it. Supporters say the three measures are vital to preventing another terrorist attack like those on Sept. 11, 2001, but critics say they infringe on civil liberties. They appealed to the antipathy that newer and more conservative Republicans hold for big government invasions of individual privacy. The Patriot Act bill would have renewed the authority for court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones. Also addressed was Section 215, the so-called library records provision, which gives the FBI court-approved access to "any tangible thing" relevant to a terrorism investigation.

    "The third deals with the "lone-wolf" provision of a 2004 anti-terror law that permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. people not known to be affiliated with a specific terror organization.

    "Among the 26 Republicans against the extension were seven freshman lawmakers backed by the Tea Party movement, whose members have said the Patriot Act intrudes on every-day life, NBC News reported. They are David Schweikert of Arizona, Tom Graves of Georgia, Raul Labrador of Idaho, Randy Hultgren and Bobby Schilling of Illinois, Justin Amash of Michigan and Christopher Gibson of New York. An eighth first-term Republican, Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, joined them."

    Go Tea Party!

    Mississippi license plate proposed to honor KKK leader

    Imagine a licence plate on your car that honors a KKK leader? Like this guy to the left.

    That's what some in Mississippi are trying to bring about.

    Let's keep in mind these are the same folks who have a state university with a mascot that is the "Rebels" and that still flies the "bars and stars" (like the rebel flag to the left) at sporting events.

    Yes, it is their history. Yes, it is their culture. I get that.

    But it is also offensive to a great number of people.

    And the license plate obviously goes too far.

    It's even worse than those stupid bumber stickers saying "The South will rise again."

    What exactly does that mean, anyway? And how will we know when that happens?

    When slaves are working in the fields again?

    I think when Texas finally secedes from the nation, they should take Mississippi with them.

    New crime shows all over TV

    New crime shows all over TV. I literally cannot even keep up with them all.

    Shows like:

    Detroit 1-8-7 (as in MURDER).

    Chicago Code (about a new, female police official who wants to clean up the city and ends up targeting a major public official for corruption -- an assassination is made against her life and a cop is killed, all in the first episode along with several other murders).

    Harry's Law (about a law office -- in the last episode one of their lawyers sued fast food companies, making a heck of an argument to the judge about why the case should proceed during a hearing on a motion to dismiss the case, forcing the company to settle out of court).

    Alaska Troopers (or something like that, about the "most rugged cops in the most rugged terrain").

    Heck, even new shows about a pawn shop and "repo men" feature crime on a regular basis, as in every episode.

    It makes your head spin trying to keep up with it all.

    The point is, crime is literally everywhere in entertainment. And every bit of it is unrealistic and a major source of misconceptions about crime and criminal justice practice in the US.