Friday, September 07, 2007

Officer Callahan resigns

Officer Callahan has resigned, "after thinking and soul-searching and conversation with his family." (According to his attorney John Gulash , in the Norwalk Advocate.) Presumably this will also help him prepare for his legal difficulties involving drinking, gunplay and a stranger in a men's room in Newtown in June. In his Advocate story, John Nickerson gives a nice summary of his legal odyssey thus far:

He was suspended for three months in 2002 after he was arrested in Bridgeport and charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

In that incident, the person who called police followed Callahan, who turned down a dead-end street. The person told police that when Callahan stopped at the end of a street, he identified himself as a police officer and pointed a weapon at him, according to Callahan's arrest affidavit in the Newtown bar incident.

More recently, Callahan was fired by [Chief of Police] Rilling in October 2005 after an internal investigation determined that he improperly took a 4-by-4-inch skull fragment from the scene of a fatal 2005 Memorial Day weekend accident.

Callahan reportedly bragged that he wanted to use the skull fragment as an ashtray.

The state Board of Mediation and Arbitration concluded that Callahan's handling of the body part was "negligent" and "offensive."

But the panel supported the police union's contention that the skull fragment was not important evidence in the accident investigation and that Callahan had been disciplined excessively.

Let's suppose that Mr. Callahan is a much maligned man, and that all of the facts that he has ever alleged in every court and legal forum are completely true. Even if this were the case, has it really served society at all to have a policeman with a gun and badge out on the streets against the will of his commanders and fellow citizens? Democracy and due process shouldn't be enemies, should they?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Selling Books

A friend of mine, Carolyn Mansager, just sold a bunch of books online to Cash4Books. You mail them your books, and they mail you a check. She said that she liked it, so I might give it a try too. (Truth-in-advertising: if you clink on the link above and then sell your books, Carolyn gets a small referral fee.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

If this guy sues you, I'd advise you to settle

Lawyer Attacks Pit Bulls, Saves Woman

When Paul Geller spotted two pit bulls attacking a pregnant woman walking her small dog in Delray Beach, Fla., this past weekend, he didn't hesitate.

Pulling over to the side of the road, the 39-year-old plaintiffs securities litigator warned his 8-year-old son not to try this himself and then leaped out of his BMW and attacked the two dogs and drove them away, according to the Wall Street Journal law blog.

Geller had perhaps unique credentials for the fray: He is the partner in charge of the Boca Raton office of Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins. Plus, he is a practitioner of jujitsu, a weaponless Japanese martial art that is defined by Merriam Webster as "employing holds, throws, and paralyzing blows to subdue or disable an opponent."

An adrenaline rush helped, Geller told the Journal. He said he kicked and barked orders at the most aggressive dog, and both animals ran away. “In the course of litigation, there’s no doubt that you get adrenaline rushes from time to time,” he says, “but nothing like this. ... The woman was on the ground and one of the pit bulls was on top of her. Blood was everywhere.”

Why we fight and how we are winning

Spiegel magazine, one of our country's worst critics, went to Iraq and discovered -- to their surprise -- that we seem to be winning:

Army Units of the 1st Battalion of the 77th United States Armored Regiment -- nicknamed the "Steel Tigers" and sent from an American base in Schweinfurt, Germany -- approached from the north and south. But the enemy was strong and they quickly realized that in order to defeat it, they needed air support. Before long, Apache combat helicopters, F-18 Hornet and AV-8 Harrier jets approached, the explosions from their guns lighting up the night sky on June 30.

The "Battle of Donkey Island," named after the wild donkeys native to the region, lasted 23 hours. The Americans forced the enemy to engage in trench warfare in the rough brush, eventually trapping them in the vast riverside landscape. It wasn't until later, after the soldiers lost two of their own and killed 35 terrorists, that they realized the scope of the disaster they had foiled.

Three of the captured attackers, who claimed to be members of al-Qaida in Iraq, revealed their plan to plunge Ramadi into chaos once again by staging multiple attacks in broad daylight. By unleashing a devastating series of suicide attacks on the city, they hoped to destroy the delicate peace in Ramadi and bring the war back to its markets, squares, streets and residential neighborhoods.

...

Ramadi is an irritating contradiction of almost everything the world thinks it knows about Iraq -- it is proof that the US military is more successful than the world wants to believe. Ramadi demonstrates that large parts of Iraq -- not just Anbar Province, but also many other rural areas along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers -- are essentially pacified today. This is news the world doesn't hear: Ramadi, long a hotbed of unrest, a city that once formed the southwestern tip of the notorious "Sunni Triangle," is now telling a different story, a story of Americans who came here as liberators, became hated occupiers and are now the protectors of Iraqi reconstruction.



In case you've forgotten the sort of thing that we are fighting against, here is a reminder:


It is early dawn as seven young men are led to the gallows amid shouts of "Allah Akbar" (Allah is the greatest) from a crowd of bearded men as a handful of women, all in hijab, ululate to a high pitch. A few minutes later, the seven are hanged as a mullah shouts: "Alhamd li-Allah" (Praise be to Allah).

The scene was Wednesday in Mashad, Iran's second most populous city, where a crackdown against "anti-Islam hooligans" has been under way for weeks.

Here is another:


Iranian authorities in Tehran lashed a man on his back earlier this year for having a bible in his car, an Iranian Christian group said in a report on its website on Friday.

The man was only identified by the initials A. Sh.

On 5 May, the man, driving his vehicle, was involved in a road accident with a car belonging to security guards for a government official in Tehran.

A bible and a video of Jesus Christ were found in the man's possession upon inspection of his vehicle by the state security forces (SSF).

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Congress bickers over ... renovations to the House gym

From The Hill: Pelosi arm-wrestles over cash for the House gym
After dueling with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) to pass a renewable energy bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) faces a wrestling match with another rogue chairman. And this one can bench-press 265 pounds.

Pelosi is set to square off against Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), the power-lifting chairman of the House gym committee.

Abercrombie is touting his efforts to secure funding in the legislative branch spending bill to begin an estimated $8 million renovation of the House gym. The project is personally important to Abercrombie, who sets a yearly goal to bench-press 200 pounds more than his age, now 69.

Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are not eager for a multimillion-dollar renovation of the congressional members-only gym to be one of the first accomplishments of the Democratic majority.
Well, they've been collecting salaries for 8 months already without a single major accomplishment. At least a new gym would be something.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

An English Magistrate

When I was a teenager, I was a big John Mortimer fan. So I loved reading this English Magistrate's blog. Here, for example, is his reaction to the news that Texas' prosecutors are now allowed to carry guns in the courtroom:
Prosecutors in parts of the USA are, it seems, to be allowed to go into court armed (or 'tooled up' as they say on my patch).
The idea of knowingly allowing weapons to be taken into court is stupid enough; but by prosecutors? Most of the [prosecutors] I deal with are people I would not trust to feed my goldfish, even if I had any goldfish. If they turn up in my court packing heat - I'm going to look for something - anything - safer to do in my spare time..

Monday, July 16, 2007

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jolly Islamic Innkeepers

The Times of London reports that BBC reporter Alan Johnston's kidnappers are annoyed that he hasn't been more grateful for their hospitality:

THE mastermind behind the kidnapping of Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent, is an experienced terrorist who fought with Al-Qaeda alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
...
“We used to give him everything he wanted,” Abu Zobayer, an aide to Dagmoush, said.

“We spent £70 on his food every week. The Matouk restaurant [one of the best eateries in Gaza] got rich because we had to feed him ... We had people with him all the time to try to help him to relax”

I'm no expert, but I imagine that Muslims believe that lying is a sin, like murder and suicide, so I guess Mr. Abu is telling the truth. Otherwise, one might suppose there was some other reason why they had someone with Alan Johnston all the time.

Betsy from Betsy's Page commiserates with the Palestinians:

How rude of him not to appreciate all that the kindnappers were doing for him.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Man arrested for giving away Bibles near school

In Key West, authorities have prohibited a man "from peacefully handing out Bibles on a public sidewalk within 500 feet of any school in the entire State."

He and his co-conspirator are member's of the Gideon society, and are being defended by the Alliance Defense Fund. Here are the facts according to their lawyers:
Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Friday on behalf of a member of Gideons International threatened with arrest for distributing Bibles on a public sidewalk. A Monroe County sheriff’s officer told Thomas Gray, along with several other members of the Gideons, that he had “no right” to be within 500 feet of a public school’s property.
So, at the same time that we apparently have al-Quaeda doctors trying to get into the United States in order to kill infidels, in Democrat-controlled cities authorities are trying to suppress ... the Gideons. Just a few years ago, when al-Quaeda was sneaking terror cells into the United States for the Sept 11 attacks, the Democrats in New Jersey and California were busy trying bring the full machinery of the state against .... the Boy Scouts!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Halloween comes early this year

Never mind the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Never mind "An American Werewolf in London". Never mind the fiction of my partial namesake Edgar Allan Poe. If you feel like being terrified tonight, read this one-paragraph classified email from an FBI intelligence analyst; and remember that your government is what stands between you and Al-Quaeda.

Paris Hilton and the progression of western art

I sent the following story to a friend, and told her that politics couldn't get any sillier:
When Barack Obama arrived this week for a campaign fundraiser at a Virginia art gallery, one large painting was covered by a curtain and another had been removed entirely before the Democrat's arrival. Obama's staff apparently was concerned that the paintings--both by artist Jamie Boling--would somehow embarrass the Illinois senator, who spoke Tuesday night to a crowd of 500 supporters at Richmond's Plant Zero gallery.
My friend, a deep and thoughtful art historian, cut through the irrelevant politics and got right to the heart of the matter:

Forget about politics; what about art? If silly is the word.

She's right on-target! The market for vapid contemporary art is mostly people who want to buy a reputation for intelligence without having to do any actual thinking. Why else would Sen. Obama have a fundraiser in an art gallery? But then his advisors realized that a fundraiser in an art gallery runs the risk of being seen with the artwork for sale in that gallery.

So, summing up:
  • Paris Hilton is famous because she is famous.
  • The paparazzi become famous by photographing Paris Hilton, who is famous because she is famous.
  • Jamie Boling is trying to be famous by imitating the paparazzi who become famous by photographing Miss Hilton, who is famous because she is famous.
  • Sen. Obama's handlers try to project a cultivated image by holding an event in the Plant Zero gallery, which in turn projects a hip image by showing the artwork of James Boling, who is trying to be famous by imitating the paparazzi who become famous themselves by photographing Paris Hilton, who is famous by being famous.

JFK started this all, so I guess that this is the house that Jack built.

I wish I liked Dunkin Donuts coffee

Like a lot of people, I imagine that I prefer to deal with ethical companies. Dunkin Donuts has always struck me as a very ethical company: it encourages investment in deprived areas. I just wish that their donuts and pastries weren't so unpleasantly greasy.

It actively seeks out immigrants and single mothers for franchises and employment. Thousands of future Americans have gotten their leg-up by owning a Dunkin Donuts franshise. I just wish that every Dunkin Donuts didn't have a kazillion noisy refrigerators near the tables making conversation or eating impossible.

Its stores are always clean and well-lit. But there are only a few seats and table in each store.

Finally, Dunkin Donuts is one of the few large companies that actually refuses to hire illegal immigrants. I wish that I found their coffee drinkable.

When I want a quick coffee and snack in the morning, I go to McDonalds. And yet I still delude myself that I am the sort of person who prefers to deal with ethical companies.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Hamlet

I'm awfully fond of Mel Gibson's Hamlet, but if you want a 7-minute version of the play then you can't do better than this:


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Embedded Lawyers

A letter in the Wall Street Journal this morning:

With regard to "Deadly Double Standards" by David G. Bolgiano, editorial page, July 3, the Department of Defense could clarify the matter as follows: The leading airplane, the leading infantry platoon, and especially the leading vehicle in a convoy should each contain a lawyer. When the lawyer is shot at, wounded, or killed -- take your pick -- then it is OK to engage the enemy. As we have such a large surplus of legal talent in the U.S., we could then draft a few patriotic lawyers to uphold the rights of the enemy combatants.

Don Sims
Northridge, Calif.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Thompson

From a BBC "Talking Points" thread about anti-Americanism:

"Their values are screwed, with their gun laws their people are screwed. They show arrogant capitalism to the point of disgust allowing all types of immorlity, caring more about money than life."
Andrew Knight, Leeds

Then please teach us Oh, Enlightened one!, how us misguided souls can reach your level of holiness and be free of all earthly desires. We are eagerly awaiting for your inspiring wisdom.

Richard Thompson, Cape Coral, United States

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Is "self-esteem" devouring the life of the mind?

Turfgrrl quotes an Hour article by Amanda Pinto:
However, West Rocks Principal Lynne Moore said middle schools are not solely responsibly for freshmen’s achievements — they may have poor grades as they begin in high school because teachers there are not doing enough to support students, Moore said.
Okay, I'll ask the obvious question: why do West Rocks students now need more support than students from Nathan Hale?

I can contribute one little data point to this problem. Last election, West Rocks was my polling station. I walked around the school with a friend for a bit after I voted.

Something amazing struck me: when I was a Norwalk middle school student, the walls were full of posters about art and history and foreign countries and biology and the periodic table. But in West Rocks, the walls were full of motivational posters and cheezy "I'm OK - You're OK" posters.

A sing of changing standards? Maybe, but maybe a sign of how little Norwalk's schools value the life of the mind.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hamas steals Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize

This sounds too good to be true, but the Jerusalem Post says it, so I guess it really happened. Hamas looters have allegedly looted Arafat's home and stolen his Nobel Peace Prize. Little Green Footballs summed it up nicely in a single sentence:

That will save the Nobel Committee the trouble of awarding Hamas the prize; they already have one!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Salvadore Corda vs. the miserable tax-paying hobbits of Norwalk

I just loved turfgrrl's take on Corda's outrageous slur:
He must have thought he was being clever when he pointed out, during the BOE finance committee meeting that the “public” was not there in great numbers. All I could think was that he was as masterful as Dr. Evil in his island hideout bemoaning the fact that only his henchmen were there.

Officer Callahan "at center" of assault investigation

Officer Liam Callahan, who as you may know got the Connecticut Board of Mediation and Arbitration to rule that body snatching is not grounds for firing a policeman, is the subject of an assault investigation (Norwalk Advocate). He is merely a suspect; nobody has accused him of anything yet. I certainly hope that there is nothing to this story. But the incident gave the reporter, John Nickerson, an opportunity to recap the story thus far:
  • On Memorial Day, 2005, Alfred Caviola tragically died in a car accident.
  • According to an internal investigation by the NPD, Officer Callahan stole part of Mr. Caviola's skull, and bragged that he was going to make an ashtray out of it.
  • The state Board of Mediation and Arbitration found that the facts were as the city alleged, but ruled that body snatching is not valid grounds to fire a police officer in Connecticut.
  • Officer Callahan returned to the Norwalk Police force, against the will of the city, his commanders, the overwhelming sentiment of his fellow officers, and the citizens (not that they have any say in the matter of course.)
  • The city offered the Caviola family an undisclosed sum of money for their grief.
  • Officer Callahan is investigated for brandishing a gun in a men's room in another town.
  • The city's counsel said that neither the family nor their lawyer contacted the city about the offer, "which he called unusual."
So summing up, we've gotten to the point where stealing body parts, making them into ashtrays, brandishing guns in men's rooms and outrageous violations of our citizens' right to a democratic and responsive city government are all usual -- but a grieving family that doesn't grab at a juicy settlement is somehow "unusual."

Monday, June 04, 2007

More legal questions about fireman literacy

The federal government does not think that firemen need to be able to read well. (I learned about this from Walter Olsen at Point of Law.)

Now let's ask ourselves: what would the world look like today if the brave firefighters who rushed to the Pentagon after the attacks of September 11, 2001 hadn't been able to read orders and disaster plans?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tim Gutmann, 1966-2007

I don't have the words right now to describe my sorrow at learning that my grad school buddy, Timothy Gutmann, was killed last night in a kayaking accident off of Woods Island, Maine.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Even more Dell laptop annoyances

Dell customer support is really a gift that keeps on giving. Our lawyer got a form letter email back from Dell that has her hopping mad. Here's part of the email:

Dear Mr. Gold,



Greetings!

Thank you for contacting Dell Customer Care.


I will be more than happy to assist you; however, I am unable

to locate your account with the information that was provided.

(stuff deleted about how to verify who are. Notice that this

we have been trying to get in touch with them for a week, and

that this is the first time that they asked us this.)

Customers are our top priority and we are committed to them.

I will be glad to provide you with the best possible support

from my end. We value you as a customer and your satisfaction

is important to us.

We immensely value our relationship and consider it a privilege

to serve you. We value you as a customer and your satisfaction

is our highest priority.

Here was our attorney's response:

Richard:
I am outraged by your insinuation that I am a man. In our

culture, women are treated with dignity and respect. I suggest,

Richard, that you send this issue way, way up the ladder, along

with the link I sent you. I purchased two Dell laptops whose

problems clearly fall within the two repair letters you

sent me; I paid good money for your inferior product, and I

expect either a speedy, seamless repair, or replacement.
Yours truly, June Gold, Esq.

So let's tally up the score. 10 days ago I had two laptops with broken screens. Now I have two laptops with broken screens, frustrated users, and a lawyer whose office is near mine who is hopping mad at how men treat women in high-tech fields. I am the closest man to her office.

If that weren't bad enough, I just ordered two fast servers from Dell. Now, if anything goes wrong with them, I'm going to look like an idiot for dealing with this company.

Another letter from Dell

Our company lawyer complained yesterday to Dell about our rather strange interactions with their customer support. That very day we got ANOTHER identical copy of the letter that they disavowed in their voicemail.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hysterically funny Dell customer support message

Dell used to be everybody's favorite place to shop for computers online. But nowadays, you're lucky to even talk to a human being, much less find what you need and order it.

A case in point: we bought two Dell Inspiron 9300 laptops, both of which developed strange lines on the screen. Here is a copy of the letter that we got from Dell: (click to enlarge)"Great!" we said. Well, we called the (first) toll-free number specified in this letter -- and it not a valid phone number. After 1.5 hours of being put on hold, one of our employees finally got in touch with one of Dell's customer service representatives, "Lapsong." He asked if he could put her on hold again. She said "No!". So he said that he would call us back.

Next week he did call her back, and left a voice-mail. It has to be heard to be believed.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

How to read the newspaper

"Newsrooms are full of English majors who acknowledge that they are not good at math, but still rush to make confident pronouncements about a global-warming "crisis" and the coming of bird flu."

John Stossel

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Enough already

I wish that my female friends and relations would stop emailing this to me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Saint Mathew's Passion in East Norwalk

The Community Advent Christian Church will be performing an abridged version of Bach's St. Matthew's Passion this Sunday (April 1, 2007) from 11-12.

Community Advent Christian Church
16 Van Zant Street
East Norwalk, CT 06855

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Body snatching should't be legal

Most of you would agree, I hope, that body snatching should be against the law. But my previous post about ADA accomodations for firefighters reminds me that Norwalk has been told that body snatching is a legal right. At least, a policeman who snatches bodies while in uniform cannot be fired for cause. [Note: this link is now dead. Current links with similar information can be found in the Connecticut Law Tribune and at topix.net ]


NORWALK, CONNECTICUT – The city will not appeal a state Labor Department ruling to reinstate police officer Liam Callahan, a nine-year veteran fired last fall for taking a skull fragment from the scene of a May 2005 accident.

...

Callahan was one of the first officers on the scene of the accident last year on Flax Hill Road that killed Alfred Caviola, 62, of Hopewell Junction, N.Y.

According to the panel’s report, Callahan, who was assigned to direct traffic at the one-car accident, picked up “a small skull fragment”; told an officer at the scene he intended to keep it; placed it in his duty bag and placed the bag in his locker; and reported the fragment to a superior officer two days later, after being confronted by the head of the police union.

The panel concluded that Callahan’s testimony that he had forgotten about the fragment was not credible and called his handling of the body part “negligent” and “offensive.”

But the panel supported the police union’s contention that the skull fragment was not evidence in the accident investigation and that Callahan had been excessively disciplined.

...

“To state that it’s not crucial to the investigation is true. It’s not a piece of evidence,” Rilling said. “But it still needs to be treated with dignity and respect. I doubt whether any officer, including Officer Moerler, would find it acceptable to kick a piece of remains into the bushes.”

According to his colleagues, Officer Callahan intended to use the skull fragment to make an ashtray. Am I hopelessly out of date to think that "Dignity and respect" is the least we should expect from our government?

Disability law runs amok in Norwalk

According to the the Norwalk Advocate, the city of Norwalk, Connecticut has been told, in essence, that timed exams for firefighters violate the ADA:
STAMFORD - A state human rights investigator has faulted the city for denying a learning-disabled firefighter's request for extra time on a test for captain's rank, documents show.

The city has defended its handling of the request, claiming fire captains must be able to read and interpret information quickly at emergency scenes. But disability rights experts said the city likely violated rules for disability cases and criticized its lack of a standardized procedure for employees who request extra time and other accommodations.
The city argues, in essence, that this is stark raving mad:
The reasoning is that lieutenants and captains are in charge at emergency scenes and have to make split-second decisions, Wirzbicki and other city officials said. Those decisions often are based on floor plans, hazardous material reports and similar documents, they said.

Speed is an "essential function of the job," the city argued. If Lenotti couldn't finish the test on time, it means he doesn't have the quick reading, writing and thinking skills necessary to be a captain, they said.

"You don't get extra time at a fire scene" ...


But alas, the notion that the Fire Department's purpose is to keep people from dying horribly in fires does not cut any ice with the lawyers:
"You're supposed to give accommodations, period," said Suzanne Kitchen, a clinical instructor and consultant for the Job Accommodation Network, a federally funded non-profit that provides employers with advice on disability rights. "No is never the right answer."


This reminds me, sadly, of the hundreds of firefighters who volunteered to help with Hurricane Katrina, only to be sent to Georgia for mandatory sexual harassment training.