Patterico's Pontifications

12/19/2007

L.A. Weekly on L.A. Gang Life

Filed under: Crime,General — Patterico @ 9:42 pm

Peter Landesman has an eye-opening piece in the L.A. Weekly about gang wars in South Central L.A.:

I asked [Grape Street Crip Ronny] Pugh if he’d taken part in the string of drive-by murders in Nickerson Garden[s] that started over Christmas. “I’m a part of everything and anything, put it like that,” he said, almost eagerly. “If I’m out here, you do it.” He stopped, looked around and said, “I love this right here. I love this life. I can’t even see myself abandoning this. I don’t care if I got money, or work Monday through Friday. I just go shoot a motherfucker on the weekends. If that’s what need to be done to keep my hood and my young ones around here safe, then that’s what to get done.”

Under the right circumstances, that could make a nice set of admissions at a trial — that is, if Mr. Landesman didn’t end up recanting it when he got to court, as often happens in gang cases. Does Mr. Landesman have anything to worry about? You tell me:

Two hours after I left Pugh, my cell phone rang. I knew the caller, and he told me my conversation with Pugh had been overheard. He’d been told to tell me I’d been “green lit” in Jordan Downs — if I went back there, I’d be killed.

Life in Watts is dangerous:

Every yard, doorway, shop and parking lot is the fiefdom of one of Watts’ 65 gangs and their roughly 15,000 hardcore gang members. In that area alone, gang members shoot 500 people a year, and kill 90. Nearly every citizen living there is enjoined by membership or affiliation; those who try to stay out of the life incur their local gang’s wrath, sometimes with fatal consequences. The average American has a 1-in-18,000 chance of being murdered. In this area of Los Angeles, the chances are 1 in 250.

On New Year’s Eve so much automatic weapons fire pours into Watts’ airspace that LAX air traffic control must divert the flight path of incoming planes.

And dysfunctional:

Today, 75 percent of Watts’ adult black male population will at some point go to jail or prison.

Innocent people get caught in the crossfire:

Gangbangers call the innocents among them “mushrooms” because they pop up in the way of their bullets.

Landesman tells of visiting the Nickerson Gardens housing project, home of the Bounty Hunter Bloods, with a fire captain. As he nears the projects, he dons a Kevlar vest, on the advice of the captain. He talks about how residents “keep their lights off at night to avoid becoming targets in drive-by shootings,” and says that the captain

was relieved when we got out of there. “I probably shouldn’t have done that,” he said.

You could get the impression from all of this that Watts has no good people in it. That the projects are filled with nothing but criminals. That South Central has nobody that deserves to be protected.

You would be wrong.

I visited Nickerson Gardens a while back in order to take pictures at a crime scene. Bounty Hunter Bloods patrolled the area, clearly annoyed that the police had invaded their space and temporarily disrupted their drug trade. Some stared at us. Some played dice and screamed obscenities.

But when we entered the residence where the crime had occurred, the tenants, who had recently moved in and were unaware of the murder that had occurred there, were as nice as they could possibly be. They apologized for the mess — really, it wasn’t bad at all — and allowed us to take pictures of their home. They asked why we were there, and when we told them, the man of the house started ticking off all his family members who had been murdered: his dad, his cousin . . . the list went on. We needed to crawl out onto a second-story ledge at one point, and the residents next door were similarly hospitable, letting me climb on their bed to hoist myself out the window for the pictures I needed to take.

As we walked across the street, three young Hispanic girls greeted us with a smile and a friendly “hi.” I smiled and said hi back — and silently hoped the Bounty Hunter Bloods hadn’t noticed. Jack Dunphy has written movingly of what can happen to kids who are caught being nice to law enforcement.

I am on my third tour in Compton; my first tours were 1999-2001, before and after my juvenile rotation. I used to go to Rosecrans Elementary School and talk to fifth graders about the justice system and the importance of staying out of trouble. Every year, I would invite a judge to speak to the kids. My favorite was the judge who had gone to school there, who told the kids that if he could study hard and become a judge, so could they. I told this story about the school in November 2003, but it still seems relevant:

I was teaching a weekly class about the criminal justice system, and there was a skit that involved someone being shot. I asked the students to raise their hands if they had ever heard gunfire from their houses.

Every hand in the room went up.

I asked them to raise their hands if a family member or friend had been shot.

Every hand but two went up.

So don’t tell me that these areas are lost. They aren’t. You look out at a classroom of 10-year-olds and tell me that they aren’t worth protecting.

Go click on the link and read about gangs in L.A. It’s a great article.

And when you return, remember: the ACLU says we’re cracking down too hard on the poor gangs.

Why, we might be interfering with Ronny Pugh’s right to “go shoot a motherfucker on the weekends.”

Beldar Endorses Fred Thompson

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:13 pm

Read why here.

P.S. I’m not preparing to endorse anyone right now, but I will give my thoughts in a coming post.

Tancredo Out?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:41 pm

Tancredo may be out:

A source close to Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo tells The Associated Press that Tancredo plans to announce he is abandoning his long-shot bid for the presidency.

Will he endorse another candidate? If so, who? And when?

Leave predictions in the comments.

L.A. Times Smears Swift Vet Group

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 5:54 pm

Stephen Braun at the L.A. Times writes:

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth raised more than $25 million for media buys. Some of the money was donated in multimillion-dollar installments from reliable Republican fundraisers, including Texas businessmen T. Boone Pickens Jr. and Bob J. Perry. But last December, the group was fined almost $300,000 by the Federal Election Commission for exceeding spending limits and acting in concert with GOP campaign efforts.

Wrong.

Here is the December 13, 2006 Conciliation Agreement that sets forth the FEC’s findings (.pdf). In it, the FEC explicitly found that the Swift Vets did not act in concert with GOP campaign efforts, and they were not fined for any unlawful coordination with the GOP, because they did not engage in any such activities. Rather, the group was fined for failing to properly register as a PAC and follow rules applicable to PACs:

The Federal Election Commission (“Commission”) found reason to believe that Swiftboat Veterans and POWs for Truth (“SwiftVets”) violated 2 U.S.C. sections 433, 434, 441a(f), and 441b(a) of the Federal Election Campaign Act, as amended, (“the Act”) by failing to register as a political committee with the Commission, by failing to report contributions and expenditures as a political committee to the Commission, by knowingly accepting individual contributions in excess of $5,000, and by knowingly accepting corporate and/or union contributions. Following an investigation, the Commission concluded that Swiftvets did not unlawfully coordinate its activities with, or make excessive in-kind contributions to, any federal candidate or political party committee.

(Emphasis added.) That seems pretty clear.

Time for a correction.

Off goes the letter to the Readers’ Rep.

P.S. Not that it’s particularly relevant to the error, but the document also states that

the Commission has never alleged that the Swiftvets acted in knowing defiance of the law, or with the conscious recognition that their actions were prohibited by law, made no findings or conclusions that there were any knowing and willful violations of the law in connection with this matter, and, thus, does not challenge SwiftVets’ assertion of its good faith reliance on its understanding of the law.

I thought it important to include that finding in the post, lest someone come to the wrong conclusion about the meaning of the FEC’s findings.

The Unwritten Unread Law

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 2:08 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Senators who voted on the omnibus spending bill almost certainly didn’t read it:

“More on that Omnibus [NRO/David Freddoso]

DeMint’s office put a finger in Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) eye last night:

DURBIN: “For 46 hours and 8 minutes—the Senator from South Carolina has had an opportunity to go to the Internet and see this bill in its entirety, with his staff, and to read every page… Please, do not come to the floor and suggest that this is a mystery bill which no one has seen. For 2 days, this has been posted on the Internet . You have had your chance. Every Senator has had a chance.” – Senate Floor, 12/18/07

According to Senator Durbin’s math: Every Senator had 2,768 minutes to read 3,417 pages of legislative text that included next year’s spending for every domestic program of the entire federal government and many new policy changes.

According to Senator Durbin’s math: A Senator that downloaded the bill when it was posted at 12:15 a.m. Monday morning would have had to:

• Read nearly 1.25 pages of the bill every minute for 46 hours and 8 minutes,
• Not sleep,
• Not eat,
• Take no bathroom breaks.

After Durbin’s speech last night, DeMint asked him on the floor if he’d read the bill. He did not answer.”

So a few staffers actually read the bill and probably no one understands it. Anyone could do that job. We need term limits.

H/T Instapundit.

— DRJ

Law Firm Christmas Cards

Filed under: Humor,Law — DRJ @ 12:26 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Today’s Wall Street Journal Law Blog previews two holiday cards, presumably to show that lawyers have a sense of humor and/or can be nice. Here’s one I like from Miami’s Sterns Weaver:

1

“Past contributions by our firm have enabled the Daily Bread Food Bank to deliver over 1.3 million meals to those in need in our community. This year, we decided to contribute a truck to help make the deliveries a little easier.

When you see this truck in our community, you may notice that our name is not on it. That is because the gift of this truck is made in your honor. It would not have been possible without you.”

Here’s another (click the link) from Grodsky & Olecki, a California entertainment firm that represents striking writers.

Our office gets a lot of cards but this year’s cards were noticeably different than prior years’ cards. There were very few green and red cards and no cards actually said “Merry Christmas.” I guess it’s the season of politically correct blue holiday cards.

— DRJ

Justice Thomas Speaks at Chapman University

Filed under: General,Judiciary — Patterico @ 7:37 am

I got to shake Clarence Thomas’s hand Monday night.

Justice Thomas spoke at Chapman University. He was introduced by former Attorney General Edwin Meese and Chapman University law school dean John Eastman. He was there to discuss his book, and to sign books afterwards. Over 1000 people attended.

The evening opened up strangely.

When he was introduced, Justice Thomas received a lengthy standing ovation, and joked that he was going to quit while he was ahead. Immediately, a middle-aged woman standing smack-dab in the center of the audience stood up and began singing a song to him. It was clear from his uncertain expression that this was not a planned part of the festivities. Everyone in the room looked around at each other, thinking things like:

  • How long is this going to last? (It was probably a good 15 seconds.)
  • Is this woman unbalanced?
  • Is this woman going to stop singing and open fire on Justice Thomas?
  • Where is security?
  • For God’s sake, isn’t she done yet?

Finally, she finished. The song turned out to be complimentary, about how wonderful he was. Justice Thomas joked that now he really was going to quit while he was ahead. He said he was grateful for the pigmentation of his skin at that moment, because otherwise he would be visibly blushing. That got a good laugh, and he moved on with his prepared remarks.

Justice Thomas had some amusing stories to tell. He said when he first got to the Court, he was eating with Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice O’Connor, and Justice Stevens. He said he was telling them how awed and humbled he was to be there with them, and how he felt he didn’t belong. He imitated Chief Justice Rehnquist’s low voice saying:

Well, Clarence. The first five years you’re here, you wonder how you got here. After that, you wonder how your colleagues got here.

Asked the eternal question about why he doesn’t ask questions in oral argument, he gave his stock answer (this isn’t Perry Mason) and then told a story about how when the relatively quiet Justice White retired, the also quiet Harry Blackmun came up to Thomas, put his arms around him, and said: “Clarence, it’s just us now.” Then Thomas put his arms around himself and said: “Now I sometimes put my arms around myself and say, Clarence, it’s just you now.”

He did a book signing afterwards, and hundreds of people waited.

I had no idea what to say to him when I met him. I said something inane about how the last time I had seen him was the day Justice White retired. (I was at the Court that day.) And, obviously, that I admire him.

My wife said I blew it by failing to say something like: hey, you and I have something in common. We both got to hang out with Jan Crawford Greenburg. Thing is, that would have entailed explaining how it happened, and somehow it felt like it would have been self-absorbed and/or take too long to do that. In a two-minute conversation, I might have. But in a five- or ten-second conversation, with hundreds of people waiting behind me to have their books signed, it didn’t feel right.

Justice Thomas has a firm handshake, and a very personable manner. He says: hey, how you doin’, man? like you’re an old friend he hasn’t seen in a while.

All in all, it was an interesting and enjoyable experience. I wish his critics could have been there to see it.

The Orange County Register has more here, via Howard Bashman.


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