Patterico's Pontifications


More on the Child Porn Guy at the L.A. Times Who Murdered Five Women — He Was Already a Convicted Child Rapist While Employed at the Paper

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 4:22 pm

The other day I posted about serial murderer Rodney James Alcala, who has since been convicted of five counts of murder. As I noted in my post, Alcala was an L.A. Times typesetter who was going around showing co-workers child porn — a tidbit that somehow got omitted from an L.A. Times Column One story about Alcala.

The cover-up continues.

After Alcala was convicted, an L.A. Times blog post noted the convictions, and included a detailed timeline of Alcala’s history. Detailed . . . with one major omission: the dates of Alcala’s employment at the L.A. Times.

Unlike the Column One story, the blog post does at least mention Alcala’s past employment with the paper — if not his habit of showing child porn to his colleagues. But the dates that he was employed are obscured with a phrase describing him as a “onetime typist at the Los Angeles Times.”

Why is this interesting? Because the timeline begins this way:

1972 — Alcala is convicted in the 1968 rape and beating of an 8-year-old girl.

And we know from the L.A. Weekly — the same source that provided the details about his child-porn sharing — that he was employed at The Times in the late ’70s:

In one fantastic irony, even as the L.A. Times was publishing sensational articles in the late 1970s about the mysterious Hillside Strangler, who terrorized much of L.A. at that time, Alcala, who worked typesetting articles for that paper, was being questioned by the LAPD in relation to those very murders.

. . . .

He brought his photography portfolio to show his Times workmates, she says, and the photos were “of young girls. I thought it was weird, but I was young, I didn’t know anything. When I asked why he took the photos, he said their moms asked him to. I remember the girls were naked.”

Gonzalez adds that she wasn’t “smart enough or mature enough to know” that she was looking at child porn. Yet incredibly, she describes how L.A. Times’ management in the 1970s had a golden opportunity to turn Alcala in, but did nothing: “There were other people in the department who were in their 40s and 50s. The [Times] supervisor at the time — she saw it.” Instead, the reaction at the newspaper was, “We thought he was a little different. Strange about sex.”

So they didn’t just have a guy going around showing child porn to colleagues.

They had a guy who had been convicted of a violent child rape who was going around showing child porn to colleagues.

And management knew about it, and did nothing.

Just to flesh out the timeline a little further: the Hillside Strangler murders occurred between October 1977 and February 1978. So that would be the time period during which those murders were being discussed in the L.A. Times. While convicted child rapist Alcala was showing around his child porn, with the knowledge of L.A. Times supervisors.

And several of Alcala’s murders occurred after that:

June 24, 1978 — Charlotte Lamb, a 32-year-old legal secretary from Santa Monica, is found in the laundry room of an El Segundo apartment complex. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a shoelace.

June 14, 1979 — Jill Parenteau, 21, of Burbank is found strangled on the floor of her Burbank apartment.

June 20, 1979 – Robin Samsoe, 12, disappears near the Huntington Beach Pier. Her body is found 12 days later in the Sierra Madre foothills.

Yeah, it’s kinda little wonder they describe him as a “onetime typist” rather than fitting his L.A. Times employment into that timeline.

Thanks again to Ben S.

“You have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk.”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:44 pm

Can we get this guy to come yell at Obama?

Rangel Won’t Resign His Chairmanship

Filed under: Government,Politics — DRJ @ 3:28 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) has resisted calls that he step down as chair following a House ethics committee admonishment for lobbyist-paid trips to the Caribbean. Now Rangel claims the admonishment actually exonerated him:

“Rangel said lawmakers “will be blind-sided with ethics problems” if they’re held accountable for everything known to their staff members. Rangel called the committee’s findings “ill-considered, unprecedented, unfair.”

The committee said that while it could not prove that Rangel did or did not see the communications, he was responsible for the actions of his staff.

Rangel on Friday brushed off the panel’s criticism and focused on its inability to prove whether he knew about the corporate sponsorship. “Clearly the wording exonerates me,” he told reporters.

He said he didn’t even have “constructive knowledge” of the corporate sponsorship of the trips and couldn’t be held responsible for something staff members may have known but which he didn’t.

Asked if he planned to remain committee chairman in light of the admonishment, Rangel responded: “Why don’t you ask me am I’m going to stay chairman of the committee in light of the fact that we’re expecting heavy snow in New York?” He said that would be just as relevant.”

More ethics complaints are pending against Rangel and, in related news, more snow is expected in New York tomorrow.


Statistics Expert: L.A. Times “Mischaracterized” Key Statistic in Front-Page DNA Article

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 2:09 pm

Statistics expert Prof. David Kaye today writes that the Los Angeles Times mischaracterized a crucial statistic in a front-page 2008 article about DNA and statistics.

Regular readers know that the L.A. Times‘s series of flawed articles on DNA, cold cases, and statistics is a longstanding complaint of mine. In May 2008, The Times ran an article about the case of John Puckett that claimed that “the probability that the database search had hit upon an innocent person” was 1 in 3. This phrasing told readers that, based on the relevant DNA statistics, there is a 1 in 3 chance Puckett was innocent. But the statistics did not support this claim.

The issue comes up again now because the Washington Monthly this week published an article repeating the false suggestion:

[John] Puckett was arrested, tried, and eventually convicted based mostly on the DNA match, which was portrayed as proof positive of his guilt—the jury was told that the chance that a random person’s DNA would match that found at the crime scene was one in 1.1 million.

If Puckett’s were an ordinary criminal case, this figure might have been accurate. . . . But when suspects are found by combing through large databases, the odds are exponentially higher. In Puckett’s case the actual chance of a false match is a staggering one in three . . .

. . . Jurors told the Los Angeles Times that the one-in-1.1-million statistic had been pivotal to their decision. Asked whether the jury might have reached a different conclusion if they had been presented with the one-in-three figure, juror Joe Deluca replied, “Of course it would have changed things. It would have changed a lot of things.”

Prof. Kaye succinctly explains that this is misleading:

What did the Los Angeles reporters who interviewed the poor juror say that “1 in 3″ meant? Their article mischaracterizes it as “the probability that the database search had hit upon an innocent person.” As noted above, no one knows the probability that this search hit upon an innocent person. We know only that if Puckett and everyone in the database were innocent, then the chance that at least one person could have matched could have been no larger than about 1/3.

Concerning the Washington Monthly article, Prof. Kaye told me:

A definite tilt toward one side, I’d say. If investigative journalists presented a balanced and nuanced story, would they have a cause celebre? The author is right about one thing — people do not understand statistics. Indeed, the author himself perpetuates the silliness of comparing the Arizona database size to the random match probability for a specific nine-locus match that came from an all-pairs trawl of the database, fails to mention the strongly opposing view in the statistical community about the relevance of the Np statistic as an indication of the false positive probability, etc.

These errors, of course, originated in a series of similarly flawed articles in the Los Angeles Times by Maura Dolan and Jason Felch, of which the article on the Puckett case was only one part. The links debunking Dolan and Felch’s numerous errors are collected here.

But the worst error was the “1 in 3″ claim made in the Puckett aticle. This error was never corrected. It should be. The error has been repeated endlessly, in Law and Order TV shows, by Ed Humes, and most recently in the Washington Monthly article. People have been led to believe by the Los Angeles Times that there is a 1 in 3 chance that Puckett is innocent. As Prof. Kaye explains, that is a conclusion that is not supported by the available evidence and statistics.

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Filed under: Current Events — DRJ @ 1:07 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan and an 8.8 magnitude quake off the Chilean coast sparked tsunami warnings in both nations, although the Japanese warning appears to have been rescinded. There is no tsunami warning for Alaska or the West Coast of the United States as a result of the earthquake in Chile [UPDATE BY PATTERICO: there is now a warning for the West Coast], but there may be an impact in Hawaii.


It’s Not Easy Being Kay

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 12:49 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is running in a tough primary fight with incumbent Rick Perry for Governor of Texas. Voting is March 2, Texas Independence Day, and the most recent poll shows Perry leads Hutchison 48%-27% with Debra Medina at 17%. There will be a run-off of the top 2 candidates if no candidate gets 50% of the vote.

Hutchison has been interested in running for Governor for some time. She was neck-and-neck with Perry in 2003 polls and led by as much as 25 points early last year, but what a difference a year makes. The conservative backlash from Obama’s first year hasn’t helped the moderate-by-Texas-standards Hutchison as she’s dealt with unpopular issues like the Stimulus and bailouts.

Hutchison’s current Senate term ends in 2012 and Perry even capitalized on Hutchison’s indecision regarding when she would announce her retirement from the Senate and how much a special election would cost. Most expected her to resign last Fall but the Senate’s importance in the health care debate altered that plan. (She ended up not resigning so she could serve out her Senate term if she loses the gubernatorial primary. However, she recently said she plans to move on to a new career after the primary, win or lose.)

This probably doesn’t interest most people outside of Texas and there’s no reason it should, but now even Washington is treating Kay like the Rodney Dangerfield of politics. The House Press Gallery website has a “Casualty List” of retiring and deceased House and Senate members [at the link, click Casualty List in the left sidebar]. The Senate side includes this entry:

Hutchinson (R), TX

She’s been in Washington since 1993 and they can’t even spell her name.



The Reconciliation Process

Filed under: Health Care,Politics — DRJ @ 7:52 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

WHODemocrats only:

“Obama To GOP: It’s Over. Obama listened politely for six hours, with occasional flashes of temper, but in the end, the message was clear: It’s over. We’re moving forward without Republicans.”

WHATA health care plan with the one issue President Obama apparently won’t compromise … abortion:

“The President’s proposal was a pro-abortion health care plan before today’s meeting and after six hours of political posturing, it’s still a pro-abortion health care plan.”

WHEN By Easter? We may know more next week:

“In Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs skirted a question about whether the White House wants to use reconciliation in the Senate to advance a health care bill.

“Those questions are better left for when we have an announcement from the president on the way forward,” he said, referring to an announcement to come next week.”

Dick Durbin and Politico [below] say it will probably happen by Easter.

HOWThe Democratic Three-Step:

“Democrats will likely need to embark on three-step process, with a target to finish it before the Easter recess.

Step one, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said Congress must first pass a reconciliation bill with major, but limited, fixes to the original Senate bill.

Step two, the House would then agree to pass the Senate bill.

Step three, both chambers would have to pass a third bill with policy changes that would not pass muster under reconciliation, which requires every element to have a direct impact on the federal budget. For example, the third bill would be needed to make any changes to abortion and immigration provisions in the Senate bill. … House Democrats may well withhold their votes on the first two bills until they are assured their concerns will be addressed in a third bill.”

The hard part is “How.”


The World Needs You

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 7:30 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

I’m a bookmark packrat. I have dozens of bookmark files saved on my computer and hundreds of links deposited in each file. There are so many I only look at some of them once a year. But there is one bookmark named “Very Best Stuff” that only has a few links and I read them often. This Doctor Zero post is one of those links.


Desirée Rogers Resigns (Updated)

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 1:38 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The White House announced today that Social Secretary Desirée Rogers is leaving her post:

“White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, a friend of President Obama’s from Chicago, is leaving her job to return to the private sector, the White House said Friday.

Rogers’s tenure as the top party and events planner for the administration was marred by the Salahi gate-crashing incident, in which a Virginia couple managed to enter the White House grounds during Obama’s first state dinner in November.”

The link notes conflicting statements regarding whether Rogers’ departure was voluntary or requested, but the White House had been criticized for refusing to allow Rogers to testify into Congressional hearings on the Salahi incident.


UPDATE: Andrew Malcolm at the LA Times’ Top of the Ticket looks at “what’s really behind the departure of Desirée Rogers from Obama’s White House.”

Paterson Bows Out

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 10:18 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

The AP reports New York Governor David Paterson has informed Washington he is abandoning his re-election campaign:

“Gov. David Paterson, struggling to get traction on his agenda and shadowed by a popular and well-financed potential foe, abruptly ended his nascent election bid Friday amid criticism of his handling of an aide’s domestic abuse case.

Democratic officials in Washington were informed of Paterson’s plans early Friday. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because Paterson had not publicly disclosed his plans.”

That’s cheery news for Democrats since it clears the way for Andrew Cuomo:

“It has been widely expected – and among some Democrats, eagerly awaited – that the more popular Cuomo would run for governor and help prop up a reeling Democratic party in the state. Cuomo, son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, has already built a campaign fund five times larger than Paterson and consistently outpolls Paterson among New York Democrats, who hold a 2-to-1 edge over Republicans statewide.

“This was a campaign that was going nowhere very quickly and the numbers couldn’t have been any more bleak for him before this,” said Lee Miringoff of the Marist College poll. “Regardless of the legalities involved and this specific controversy, the odds of him taking the oath of office next January were very remote.”

Paterson’s decision lets Cuomo avoid an expensive and divisive primary, he said.

For Republican candidate Rick Lazio, it means he can no longer try to split the Democrats and now must confront the far better funded and more popular Cuomo.”

President Obama had asked Paterson not to run as early as last September.


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