Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Black Friday in Little Falls

On the day after Thanksgiving, Morrison County, MN law enforcement was informed that Byron David Smith, a retired State Department "security engineer", had shot and killed two teen-age cousins that had broken into his home on the northern outskirts of Little Falls, a small community about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis, as described here and here.  The incident is cause for reflection on several levels.

While no one disputes Smith's right to protect his own property, he has been charged with two counts of second degree unpremeditated murder not because he shot the two, but because he used excessive force, admitting to administering a coup de grace to each of the intruders. The reality of the situation is that had Smith only wounded the two he would be in basically just as much trouble as he is now.  Their survival would have meant a probably endless series of legal action that would have bankrupted Smith.

 Not reporting the affair to police immediately is also a violation of the law but such bizarre behavior that it would seem to be grounds for an insanity plea.  Most normal people would be reluctant to keep the dead bodies of two people in their basement overnight.

If we are to maintain that Smith used excessive force in protecting his person and property we must also consider other uses of what could be considered excessive force.  Incidents like this and this are a daily occurrence around the country but generate limited amounts controversy because law enforcement almost never has to travel the same legal path for a killing as other members of society.  It is standard operating procedure for cops to empty their guns at a suspect they feel threatens them.

Substantial amounts of cash and property had been stolen from the Smith residence in the past.  While newspapers have published copies of the legal paperwork that have resulted in his being jailed, it would be revealing to also see the file on the burglary he reported to the police but in which they admit having no suspects.  How much effort has actually been expended to find the perpetrators or the items stolen?  It'd be interesting to know just how dedicated the local gendarmes are in attempting to solve property crimes.

The media have pointed out that "grief counselors" have been made available at the Little Falls schools to students who may have problems dealing with the tragedy.  Who are these grief counselors?  Are they on a retainer so that they're immediately available to do what, exactly?  Or is there a pool of grief counselors from which to pick?  What do they do when grief is at a low ebb?  How are they rated as to effectiveness?  Do grief stricken teens emerge from their temporary offices next to the physics lab with happy smiles on their faces?  Do they point out to the teens that the best way to avoid grief is to refrain from breaking into houses and abstain from alcohol consumption and driving?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Niall Ferguson Decries Government Regulation

In this piece on the Real Clear Politics website, historian Niall Ferguson explains that the western legal system and its attendant bureaucracy is holding back development.  Like this is news.

When labor and management have a beef with one another, there's a number of things that can happen.  The workers can be locked out, like the NHL hockey players.  The workers can go on strike, as has happened countless times all over the place.  These two events are commonplace.  A third option, however, really gets management's attention, labor threatening to "work to rule".  Which means that employees will obey every regulation put in place by management and abide by every clause in the management-labor contract.  Management would rather have everyone walk out of the plant than pay them normal wages for the decreased level of production resulting from following management guidelines.

The relevance of this is that the government, in its many permutations, ALWAYS works to rule, regardless of the negative effects on both its management and its customers, who are the citizens.  In fact, government apparatchiks are always searching for rules that they can use to frustrate and fluster the very people that pay their salaries.  A short visit to the building permit office, a visit from the health inspector, a difference of opinion with law enforcement, literally any interaction with bureaucracy will result in consternation.  The increasing complexity of regulations and the power of the bureaucracy is leading to the inevitable breakdown of the nation-state.

Supreme Court OKs Recording Police Activity

The Supreme Court has left in place an appeals court ruling that says the state of Illinois law that bans taping police actions is unconstitutional.  The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to block prosecution of ACLU staff for recording police officers performing their duties in public places, one of the group's long-standing monitoring missions.  More about it in this Chicago Tribune article.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Scottsdale Taxpayers Foot The Bill For Police Killings

Per the Arizona Republic, the City of Scottsdale has set aside $1.6 million just for legal fees to defend itself and the police officers accused of wrongful death in two cases, one dating back to 2008.

 Sat Nov 24, 2012 11:34 AM

 Scottsdale’s legal fees grow in 2 cases

Scottsdale cop James Peters, six notches on his gunbelt, has applied for a disability pension after his latest shooting.

 Scottsdale has agreed to spend more money to defend against lawsuits brought by the families of two men shot by police in separate incidents in 2012 and 2008, bringing the total authorized to date to nearly $1.6 million.
This month, the City Council approved paying up to $75,000 in legal fees for an appeal in the 2008 case of David Hulstedt, 35, who became a paraplegic after two Scottsdale sergeants shot him in the back as he was walking toward his house carrying his 2-year-old daughter, according to court records.
The council also approved spending up to $350,000 in the Feb. 14, 2012, fatal shooting of John Loxas Jr., 50, who was holding his 7-month-old grandson when he was shot and killed by Officer James Peters. 
The city has authorized more than $1 million total in legal fees for the Hulstedt case and up to $515,000 in the Loxas case, according to  Mike Phillips,  a Scottsdale spokesman.
Loxas was the seventh Scottsdale resident Peters had shot in the line of duty since 2002. Six of the suspects died. Peters was granted a disability retirement this year.
The families of Loxas and Hulstedt filed lawsuits seeking damages against Scottsdale officials. Loxas’ family seeks $7.5 million from Peters, the city, Police Chief Alan Rodbell and Detective Brian McWilliams, according to documents prepared for the City Council.
Hulstedt’s family seeks $40 million from the city and 19 police officers and former employees, the documents said.
Both shootings were deemed justified by the Police Department’s Deadly Force Review Board, according to records, as were Peters’ prior shootings while on duty.
A federal judge disagreed with the review board in Hulstedt’s case, finding that “reasonable” officers would not have fired at Hulstedt, who had psychological issues, was unarmed, made no sudden movements and held his daughter.
The judge further said the baby could have been hurt. In fact, the baby did fall 6 feet to the ground and suffered a minor facial injury, according to the ruling. The judge also noted that police did not warn Hulstedt before they fired.
After three of four police-fired bullets struck Hulstedt, police handcuffed and dragged him facedown 400 feet to paramedics, the judge found.
Hulstedt was suffering from anxiety and paranoia when he called Scottsdale police the day he was shot and demanded that U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano come to his house, according to the ruling.
Police ascertained he was having psychological difficulties, but they were concerned about the safety of Hulstedt’s daughter because Hulstedt threatened to “pile-drive” her, according to court documents.
The judge ruled that the officers are not immune from damages stemming from the suit.
“Considering ‘the totality of the facts and circumstances’ in the particular case, no reasonable officer could have believed that shooting David without warning, while he calmly walked back towards his house with (his daughter) over his head, was a proper means of protecting (her) safety,” the judge said in his ruling.
“Neither Sgt. Richard Slavin nor Sgt. James Dorer warned (Hulstedt) that they would shoot him if he did not comply with their commands, and both of them shot him in the back as he was walking away from them and towards the house.”
The council Nov. 13 approved up to $75,000 with the law firm of Osborn Maledon to appeal the judge’s findings to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The partners of the firm, which has experience with appellate litigation in excessive-force cases, will make $370 an hour, according to City Council documents.
It is unclear how much money the city has spent on prior legal action in either the Hulstedt case or Loxas case or in other lawsuits against retired Officer Peters.
The council approved up to $250,000 in attorney’s fees and up to $100,000 in other litigation fees to the law firm of Struck, Wieneke & Love of Chandler to represent Peters in the Loxas shooting. Lead attorney Kathe Wieneke will make $195 an hour, according to City Council documents. Separate counsel was retained for the city and other defendants.
Loxas’ neighbors had called police to his house Feb. 14, 2012, after he waved a gun at them, according to police reports. He was walking back to his house holding his grandson when he was shot, according to court documents.
The lawsuit filed on his family’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union claims that Scottsdale police failed to adequately investigate Peters’ prior shootings and that he should not have been armed and on the force the day Loxas was killed.
Another story on Peters is here.
As said above, the shootings are justified by the Police Department's Deadly Force Review Board.  What this means is that policemen are not subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens and are not subject to indictment or prosecution.  Their acts are examined by the same hierarchy that employs them and their acts that involve injury or harm to ordinary citizens aren't measured by the legal process but by "department policy", which is, apparently above the law.
Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shackleford Wires the Clark Handicap

Preakness winner Shackleford wired the field in the Clark Handicap, signature race for older horses in the Churchill Downs fall meeting, pushing his earnings over the $3 million mark with his sixth win in 20 starts, all against the best of his generation. The Forestry colt, trained by Dale Romans, ran his usual race, storming to the lead and holding off all challengers, in this case Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy and Super Derby victor Bourbon Courage. This was scheduled to be Shackleford's last race and the fan favorite goes to stud at Darby Dan Farm where his matings will involve a fee of $20,000.

Lucas Brunelle Alleycat Video "Line of Sight"

Bostonian maniac cyclist/videographer Lucas Brunelle has released a DVD with some of his spectacular footage of mostly unsanctioned bike races from around the world.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

You Win the Tour in Bed

Dutch cyclist Marijn deVries, now riding for Lotto Belisol Ladies

You win the Tour in bed (quote by Joop Zoetemelk)
Imagine you’re a cyclist, and your boyfriend is the one who got you into the sport. Then ‘doing sports together’ must be one of the top activities on both your lists. Well. No. Not at all. On the contrary. We both love working out, but doing it together always leads to a huge relationship crisis. Or at least to a big fight.

We never cycle together. Actually, we should have decided to never ever do that again after our very first cycling trip already. We had both bought a race bike – for J. a new one, while I bought my first one. After putting the bikes on our car, we drove to Italy, to have a nice cycling holiday. At least, that was the plan.

On the very first day in Italy, we decided to climb the most challenging pass in the surroundings, the Passo di Cento Croci. I was impatiently drumming my fingers on the ’1.055 s.l.m.’ sign for 10 minutes at least, when Mr. Boyfriend finally turned up with his very convincing behind-this-rock-I-want-to-die act. For the rest of the holiday, he felt a little ‘sick in the stomach’ because of the inhuman effort I demanded of him on the first day. And he kept asking himself, “What, for heaven’s sake, happened?” He always thought he was a pretty neat climber – which he is. But suddenly he got outclimbed big time by his girlfriend, who was green as grass when it came to cycling.

So we should have known better. Nevertheless, we still make this mistake now and then. Because after a while, it sounds so nice: riding together. But it never is. I go too fast. Or he goes too slow. It all depends on how you want to look at it. Even if I do a recovery ride, he thinks I go bloody fast. He just doesn’t like sweating. J. is an adventurer on his bike, he wants to stop and take photos, he wants to look around, and he wants to find new roads. So at every corner he can stop to stare at his #$%! map endlessly. While – Argh! – I just want to ride on! So piss off with your stupid map and your annoying new shitroads!

We already should have known to never do such things together in the first months of our relationship, yet one blissful Sunday afternoon we decided to go canoeing. In a two-passenger canoe. The ultimate relationship test. We failed. Big time. Within five minutes we had a terrible fight. Screaming, yelling, throwing the paddles, and each desperately trying to go in the opposite direction, but whoops – duo-canoe…

So. All our sportive activities together are doomed to fail. Last week for example, we went snorkeling together, in CuraƧao. The summit of a relaxing, romantic holiday activity you would say. What could possibly go wrong? Well, this:  J. was so fascinated by the superclear sea, he didn’t want to come out again at all (untill he spotted a stingray, which he thought to be a diver it was so big). In the meantime, I was sitting in the boat because I felt cold. Uh huh. Cold. In 28 degree warm sea water, with a 33 degree air temperature. I didn’t want to admit it, but I thought snorkeling was scary. I’m reckless when it comes to a lot of things, but swimming in the ocean… I mean, come on, there are water animals, yikes!

We would have split up a long time ago if it wasn’t for this one particular sportive activity which we’re we’re both – thank god – extremely good at. Which binds us. Which we – it’s unbelievable – do completely unanimously, for hours and hours on end. Without fighting, not even with one single displeasing word. We understand each other in silence, and we keep on training and training, with Joop Zoetemelk in our minds. With our eyes closed, nice and warm under the bed covers, we do long sleeping sessions. Because that’s where you win the Tour:  in bed.

More Marijn de Vries on her blog:

Marianne Vos

Marianne Vos:  Olympic Road Race Champion 2012
                        UCI World Road Race Champion 2012
                        Giro Donne 2011, 2012
                        Holland Ladies Tour 2009, 2010, 2011
                        Five time UCI world cyclo-cross champion
                        Two time UCI world track champion
                        And lots more.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vanderkitten & Exergy Get New Bikes

Wilier Triestina to sponsor Team Vanderkitten and Team Exergy

Two US-based women's pro cycling teams have chosen to straddle Italian Wilier Triestina bikes for the 2013 season.  Team Vanderkitten, headquartered in Mountain View, California, had ridden Focus bikes for the last three years.  

A team photograph from the Vanderkitten website gives everyone a pretty good idea who each of these team members might be.  With their helmets, sun glasses and identical kits, can you tell which one is Ruth Winder?  How about Jazzy Hurikino?  Sadly, as a publicity photo this is quite similar to a group picture of Saudi women in burkhas. And this from a sport that constantly complains of lack of exposure.

Team Exergy, with two medal winners at the 2012 London games, Kristin Armstrong and Lauren Tamayo, is getting a Wilier Triestina sponsorship after switching from Felt bikes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Little Mike and the Breeder's Cup Turf

The valiant Little Mike, overlooked by the bettors with odds of 17-1, was taken out of his normal control-the-pace style by a streaking Turbocompressor yet managed to hit the finish line ahead of betting favorite Point of Entry and a host of accomplished turf runners from all over the world in the 2012 edition of the Breeder's Cup Turf, a 1 1/2 mile run over the grassy course at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Little Mike's victory took only .03 seconds longer the world record for the distance, set in 1989 and brought the gutty 5 year old gelding's earnings total to $3,074,412 with 12 wins in 21 starts.

Emma Johansson, Lizzie Armitstead and Others Move Their Cycling KIt

Swedish general classification star Emma Johansson has switched allegiance from the Norwegian Hi-tec team to the Australian Orica-AIS group, essentially as a replacement for retired German leader Judith Arndt. Although Arndt may have been more effective in the time trials than Johansson, Emma has been a very effective rider in both one-day and stage races and is always a podium threat, even after breaking both collarbones in a head-on collision with a car during training on the Canary Islands earlier this year.  In spite of this physical setback, she returned to the peloton later in the season, winning the Swedish national road race and time trial championships, finishing fifth overall in the Giro Donne and 6th in the Olympic women's road race.

Twenty-three year old British track and road racing threat Lizzie Armitstead has moved from the now-disbanded Netherlands team, AA Drink-Leontien,, to another Dutch assembly, Dolmens-Boels, after winning the silver medal in the 2012 London games road race.  In 2011 she was the British national champion on the track in the both the points race and the scratch race and the national road champion as well.

Personable Aussie sprinter Chloe Hosking was once considered to have professional potential.  That potential has been realized with successful American and European campaigns in the kit of HTC and its successor Specialized-Lululemon.  Chloe has joined the Scandinavian Hitec Products UCK team, along with  other young budding stars Rachel Neylan, Rossella Ratto and Emilia Fahlin.


 The Optum Pro Cycling powered by Kelly Benefit Strategies women's team was led by Durango, CO native Carmen Small in 2012 as she brought home the NRC individual championship.  Next year she'll join Evelyn Stevens, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Trixi Worrack, Loren Rowney and others on the Specialized-Lululemon roster.

The aggressive style of popular African-born rider Sharon Laws will make her a favorite of followers of her new home in the Lotto Belisol line-up.


PastaZara-Cogeas-Manhattan will be the new home of Olympian and 2008 world time trial champion and 2003 US national road racing champ Amber Neben.

DSCN0410-1 Megan Guarnier, Emilia Fahlin and Amber Neben will all be wearing different kit in the year to come.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gustave Molinari Quote From Cafe Hayek

A quote from Don Boudreaux's Cafe Hayek:

But how is this contradiction to be reconciled – that the protectionists and socialists, who call for intellectual liberty and political liberty, intend to make use of it to impose economic servitude?
They affirm the fitness of every individual to influence the general direction of the country, to criticise, to judge every question, and at the same time, they deny his fitness to regulate his own affairs; the protectionists subject him to a fine if he wishes to buy this or that product or to devote himself to this or that industry, this or that trade, which does not suit them; the socialists of all descriptions intend, by means of so-called social laws and labour legislation, to substitute, for the individual’s will, his initiative, his judgment, his responsibility, the decisions of a government composed of individuals, as if power conferred infallibility on those who govern, and as if the governed were nothing but incompetents.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mark Rothko's "Black Stripe (Orange, Gold and Black)", $20 million?

Hurricane Sandy has extended the suspense on how much a number of works by impressionist, modern and contemporary artists will sell for in a postponed auction at Sotheby's and another scheduled sale at Christie's International in New York according to this WSJ article.

One of the potentially most valuable of the items on offer at Christie's will be Mark Rothko's "Black Stripe (Orange, Gold and Black)", slated to go for in excess of $15 million.

I'm not going to bid quite that much.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kauto Star Retired

Farewell Kauto Star, the pleasure's been all ours

Two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and steeplechase legend Kauto Star has been retired by trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith.  Regular rider Ruby Walsh describes his relationship with the most successful National Hunt competitor of this era here.  In addition to his victories in the prestigious Gold Cup, Kauto Star won the the King George VI chase 5 times and a total of 16 grade I races in his nine year career, that included 23 wins in 41 starts and earnings of L2, 375,883.

While races over hurdles and fences is a fringe activity on the American horse racing scene, it's the focus of fans from the fall to early spring in the British Isles.  The Cheltenham Festival at Prestbury Park on the edge of the glorious Cotswolds is one of the premier European sporting events, attracting an army of Irish punters and other racing fans from all over the world.