Patterico's Pontifications


Investigating the Shooting of Amy Bishop’s Brother

Filed under: Crime,Politics — DRJ @ 9:42 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

JammieWearingFool links a Boston Herald article on the investigation into the shooting of Amy Bishop’s brother:

“Accused Alabama campus killer Amy Bishop insists the 1986 shooting of her brother was an accident, even as authorities probe whether she may have been inspired by a celebrity murder case in a National Enquirer article found on her bedroom floor.

Norfolk District Attorney William Keating said Bishop’s actions after the shooting of her 18-year-old brother were “parallel” to the escape plan of the killers depicted in the news article, which the Herald has learned was an Enquirer piece about the 1986 shooting of “Dallas” star Patrick Duffy’s parents in Montana.”

Like the teenage killers in the Duffy case, Bishop fled to a car dealership to commandeer an escape vehicle after the shooting.

JWF also recaps recent news about Massachusetts Congressman William Delahunt, the former DA who may have been instrumental in the decision not to charge Bishop in her brother’s death.


American Newspaper Readers Revealed

Filed under: Humor — DRJ @ 9:25 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Ed Driscoll has compiled a master list of the demographics of American newspapers. Here are the first two:

“1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.”

Driscoll’s list is fun and spot on, but I have one correction: He forgot to mention the Los Angeles Times makes a good dog trainer.


A Criminal Law Question: Is this Kidnapping?

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 8:08 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Can you be arrested for kidnapping a woman if you didn’t know she was there and she never knew she had been kidnapped?

“Police found a car that was stolen early this morning while a woman slept in the backseat, and she never awoke through what otherwise might have been an ordeal.

She was still snoozing there when police found the abandoned car about six hours later, they said, and she remembers nothing.

As for the thief, he apparently got more than intended at 3:30 a.m. when he took a car that came with a slumbering woman.”

This sounds like a law school hypothetical but it’s real.


Avatar – Pocahontas Trailer

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 6:54 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

CFV 426 – Avatar/Pocahontas Mashup FINAL VERSION from Randy Szuch on Vimeo.

H/T Hot Air and Huffington Post.


Trust and the Media

Filed under: Media Bias,War — DRJ @ 6:45 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

How does a major newspaper decide whether to report wartime news whose release may jeopardize American interests or lives? New York Times‘ Editor Bill Keller says it depends on many factors, apparently including whether the newspaper has a friendly or acrimonious relationship with the President:

KELLER: No, we get asked to withhold information, not often but from time to time. Sometimes it’s a no-brainer, you know we have reporters embedded in military operations – obviously they don’t file information that would put troops at risk. We’ve had other stories that were much more controversial where we decided that we would publish. This one was not, honestly, a very hard call. Obviously we were eager to break the story, it represented a lot of resourceful reporting by Mark and Dexter, but there was no obvious public interest reason to rush the story into print and you know we are responsible people; we didn’t want to compromise what sounded like a possible intelligence coup.

HEADLEE: And certainly, the story retains just as much power more than a week later as it would have had you broken it right at the time, is that kind of your thought process?

KELLER: Yeah, I think that’s kind of the thought process. What actually happened, was yesterday our stringers in Pakistan and Afghanistan started calling our bureaus there and saying, we’re hearing reports that Mullah Baladar is in Pakistani custody, we took that to the White House and they said, yeah we understand it’s not holdable anymore.

HEADLEE: Right, so you published it. Now you visited the White House in 2006 while President Bush was in office and you were getting ready to publish a story about domestic wire tapping and very famously you were told if you published that story you’d have blood on your hands. Is that the kind of dire warning you got from the Obama White House?

KELLER: No, first of all this didn’t even get to my level, they dealt with Dean Baquet, the Washington bureau chief, I mean obviously if they felt they needed to call me, I’m always willing to take a call, but it didn’t even rise to that level. Back in 2006 the conversations were professional and civil, but in the end when we didn’t agree to hold the story as they wanted us to, it was a kind of firestorm of criticism from the White House aimed at the Times. So far anyway we haven’t had that acrimony with this administration, nor as far as I know have other news organisations.”

It sounds like the New York Times‘ editors didn’t [like and/or] trust Bush and that contributed to why they refused his requests, but they [like and/or] trust Obama so they are more willing to accommodate his requests. I don’t know if that’s consistent with journalistic standards but it’s understandable. We are more likely to believe people we trust.

It’s also useful because it explains why subscriptions are dropping at newspapers like the New York Times but not at sources like the Wall Street Journal. It’s about trust.


Bunning’s Line in the Sand

Filed under: Government,Politics — DRJ @ 4:56 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Senator Jim Bunning has single-handedly halted extensions of unemployment insurance and Cobra health benefits for some unemployed Americans. He says the government should first say how it plans to pay for the extensions:

“Bunning is furious about increased spending in the Senate – but he’s waging a lonely battle to stop it. The senior senator from his state, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, with whom he has a frosty relationship, is not backing him up. If he refuses to relent, Democrats will have to file cloture to shut down debate, pushing back final action until next week.

But Democrats are eager to have this fight; even though they know that Bunning remains largely by himself, they know that hammering away at the Kentucky Republican will drill home their argument that the GOP is out to obstruct progress.”

Bunning did share some colorful language with his irritated colleagues:

“In a colloquy with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Jeff Merkley, a freshman Democrat from Oregon, was pleading for Bunning to drop his objection, when the Kentucky Republican got fed up.

“Tough s—t,” Bunning said as he was seated in the back row, overheard by the floor staff and others in attendance.”

It’s not quite the equal of General McAuliffe’s “Nuts” in response to a German surrender demand, but it’s the same sentiment.


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.

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