Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Reflections a Week Later on Derek Chauvin's Conviction: Can a Trial be Simultaneously Fair and Unfair

The jury took slightly over 10 hours to convict Derek Chauvin on all three counts. What took so long? The video was clear. No extenuating circumstances. No ambiguity. Almost everyone, including hardened police officers, had the same reaction of outrage when they saw the video the first time. George Floyd was murdered. The prosecution tied up every loose end, dotting all the “I’s” and crossing all the ‘T’s.” No avenue was left for the defense. Was George Floyd on a lethal level of drugs which could result in asphyxiation? The experts split, which created a question of fact for the jury. Not that it mattered. Even if George Floyd was “Dead Man Walking,” Officer Derek Chauvin accelerated his death. A fact, which would compound Chauvin’s guilt, was not raised by the prosecution. The story is that George Floyd and Derek Chauvin unpleasantly crossed paths when working security at a Minneapolis bar. If true, Officer Chauvin acted with malicious intent. That was a fair trial with a clear result. Yet the conviction is reversible. Holding the trial in Minneapolis was fundamentally unfair. Derek Chauvin’s lawyers, as is normal, will file appeals. Most of the appellate arguments will fail, as is often the case. Judges are human. They have emotions. They know Derek Chauvin is guilty in fact. However, Judge David Cahill made critical, highly prejudicial mistakes at the beginning. First, he did not grant a change of venue. Second, he did not sequester the jury. The trial never should have been held in Minneapolis. The case cried out for a change of venue. Dr. Sam Sheppard was convicted of the 1954 murder of his wife. The trial was a trial by media with the Cleveland Plain dealer leading the parade. One of its frontpage headlines was “Why isn’t Sam Sheppard in Jail.” A drumbeat of inflammatory, salacious articles appeared in the media. Accusations of adultery were published the first day of the trial. The Supreme Court held a fair trial was impossible under the carnival atmosphere and bias of the trial judge. A change of venue should have been granted in the first trial. Dr. Sheppard was acquitted at the retrial, after having spent 10 years in prison. The new judge called the first trial “a mockery of justice.” The Sam Sheppard case inspired a great TV series and a movie, The Fugitive. Minneapolis did not have a carnival atmosphere. It had murderous riots. Minneapolis blew after the video was released – three day s of riots, looting arson over three days with 2 deaths, 1500 properties lost or damaged, and $500 million in damages. And a police station burned. Everyone in Minneapolis knew it. America burnt: Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Portland, St. Louis, Seattle, Washington, D.C. The national toll was 18 deaths and about $2 billion in damages. The Minneapolis City Council voted to defund the police. The city announced during jury selection that it reached a record setting $27 million settlement with the Floyd Family. That was a $27 million highly prejudicial statement of guilt. Chauvin’s attorney asked for a delay when the settlement was released. Judge Cahill refused. He refused to sequester the juror, thereby allowing them to be arrive of the outside developments. They were admonished to avoid newspaper, TV, radio and the internet. Good luck with that. Then came Officer Kim Potter fatally shooting Dante Wright in neighboring Brooklyn Center near the end of the trial. More riots and looting, six days worth and peaceful protests. The jurors had to know. The National Guard was called in: 3,000 National Guard, 1,100 law enforcement. Minneapolis fortified before the jury deliberations. The jurors knew. An acquittal would have ignited another paroxysm of violence, riots, looting and arson. They knew the “house” of a defense witness was vandalized. Barry Brood testified for Chauvin. His Santa Rosa, California “home” was vandalized on Saturday morning, April 17. It wasn’t Brood’s current home. He hadn’t lived there in years. The jury probably knew. The jurors could not have been impartial under the circumstances. Representative Maxime Waters showed up in Brooklyn Center the night before the Chauvin jury verdict. She poured fuel on the fires: I hope we get a verdict that says, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, and if we don’t, we cannot go away, we’ve got to get more confrontational, we’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.” She said to reporters: “If nothing does not happen, then we know that we got to not only stay in the street, but we have got to fight for justice.” The jurors undoubtedly knew of the widespread predictions of more violence if an acquittal verdict was returned. Judge Cahill the next morning in the jury’s absence said in open court: that her words may have given “something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.” He added: “I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and the judicial branch and our function.” President Biden said the morning of the jury verdict that he was “praying” for the jury to reach “the right verdict,” adding the evidence was “overwhelming.” We know Derek Chauvin was guilty in fact. We also know holding the trial in Minneapolis was inherently unfair. His trial was simultaneously fair and unfair. One final comment. Derek Chauvin should not have been a police officer, much less a training officer. He had a history with 18 complaints filed against. Derek Chauvin was a ticking time bomb ready to explode. Other Derek Chauvins are on other police forces. Contracts between the governments and police unions and due process protect the officers in their employment. Bad cops remain on the force until the next George Floyd tragedy.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Hangtown Loses Its Noose

Placerville is hanging Up on Hangtown Welcome to Hangtown. Gold was discovered on January 24, 1848 at Sutter’s mill in Coloma, El Dorado County, California, setting off the California Gold Rush. The mining town of Old Dry Diggings sprang up on a creek, now known as Hangman’s Creek. Old Dry Diggings was both a mining town and a jumping off point for miners going farther into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It named itself Hangtown in 1849 since public hangings were the second biggest activity after panning for gold. Law and order was simple in the Old West. Judge Lynch ruled with rump trials. Horse thieves and cattle rustlers were summarily hanged. No due process, appeals, right to counsel, or right to confront witnesses. The tale is that three miners, two Frenchmen and a Chilean, committed a robbery for which they were accused of robbery, murder, and attempted murder. A quick trial was held without their presence. They were convicted, followed by an equally quick hanging from a white ash tree. None of the three spoke English. The town incorporated in 1854. Several classic old mining towns rose in the West, including Aspen, Bisbee, Bodie, Calico, Central City, Cripple Creek, Deadwood, Frisco, Gold Hill, Silver City, Tombstone, and Virginia City. The miners didn’t understand the words gauche or declasse, but they knew neither Old Dry Diggings nor Hangtown would do., Thus, it became Placerville, the county seat of El Dorado County. Placer as in placer mining. Look on a map and you will find Placerville on U.S. 50 between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento, the scenic route between the two. Some major figures in American history passed through Hangtown, as did the Pony Express. John Studebaker sold mining basket @$10, discovered gold, amassed a small fortune of $8,000, and then joined his brothers in Indiana building carriages and then Studebaker automobiles. He helped cut down the white oak hanging tree during his days in Hangtown. Mark Hopkins opened a store in Hangtown. It failed so he moved to Sacramento. Leland Stanford had a store just outside Hangtown. He moved to Sacramento. Mark Hopkins and Leland Stanford became two of the Big Four partners who built the Central Pacific/Southern Pacific Railroad connecting the West. Leland Stanford became Governor of California and founded Stanford University. The monopolistic Southern Pacific became known as The Octopus. Placerville may sound classy, but for 170 years its real name is Hangtown. It’s marketed as Hangtown. The city’s seal represents the Olde West and Hangtown, a miner panning for gold with a noose in the background. A noose today is often the vile symbol of racism, lynchings, and the KKK. The noose is justifiably viewed as a threat by African Americans. Not Hangtown’s noose. It is the marketing symbol of a mining town time has passed by. Hangtown has cachet; it’s distinctive, reflecting the old west. The shopping center is Hangtown Village Square. The city has a Hangtown Music Festival, Hangtown Christmas Parade, Hangtown Halloween Ball, and just plain Hangtown Days. One can play the Hangtown Board Game, join the Hangtowm Women’s Tennis Club and the Hangtown Fibers Guild. The Hangtown Kennel Club will babysit your pets. One can take the Hangtown Ghost Tour. Hangtown Pest Control will remove non-human vermin. If bored, read John Putnam’s Hangtown Creek: A Tale of the California Gold Run. Grab a ride on the Hangtown Taxi. Shop at Hangtown Paints and Hangtown Antiques. Look for Hangtown fleece sweatshirts. Not everything is classy about Hangtown. Kathie and I stopped off in Hangtown 40 years ago. Kathie, the New Yorker, had never been out West before, much less in a Western Store. She was game when we saw one in Hangtown. She wanted to experience it. I advised against it – this was not the one to go into. She persevered; we entered. The store was selling a T-Shirt with a silhouette of a young woman with Daisy Duke’s figure. The lettering on the shirt said “Lay a Local Hangtown, U.S.A.” Never bought that shirt – don’t know if they still market it. Some engage in cultural appropriation by trading on the name Hangtown, which the city’s fathers foolishly never trademarked. The brand is so valuable that Lucas Oil sponsors the Hangtowm MX National Motorcross 30 miles away in Rancho Cordova. Hangtown Electric of Sacramento is also in Rancho Cordova. The Hangtown Little League is In neighboring Diamond Springs. Hangtown is the birthplace of the world famous Hangtown Fry. No one expresses interest in the Placerville Fry, but the Hangtown Fry was featured by Martha Stewart in the June 2007 Living. Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, 2251.7 miles from Hangtown mostly via I-80, features the Hangtown Fry on the menu of Zingerman’s Roadhouse. The tale is a miner struck it rich on a vein, came into town at the El Dorado and asked the manager to cook up the most expensive meal he could. The result was a combination of oysters, bacon, and eggs with cream, milk or butter plus salt and pepper tossed in. Contrast San Francisco’s culinary claims to fame with Chop Suey and the Irish Coffee. Hangtown Skate Shop on January 1, 2021 formally changed its name to Motherload Board Supply Company, an erstwhile boring name. Kelly Rogers, owner, explained “I want to be more inviting and my business name to reflect that. If it brings negative feelings to any segment of society, then I don’t want that.” Placerville’s City Council voted to remove the noose from its seal after a year of effort by the cancel culture “Lose the Noose” Movement. You can’t have a hanging without a noose. Council members said they wanted to “rebrand,” “refresh” the city’s “look.” The hanging White Oak Tree is gone, but its stump lies in the cellar of the Hangman’s Tree Bar, now Hangman’s Tree Ice Cream, which has a dummy hanging from a second story window fronting Main Street. Placerville, Hangtown, without the noose is an exercise in misrepresentation and consumer fraud. The town was Hangtown before Placerville, and will always be Hangtown for the merchants and tourists.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

New York's New State Motto: "I Love New York's New, Sky-high Taxes"

I Love New York: Do Taxpayers Still Love New York States are the laboratories of democracy. Justice Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann wrote “A single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” I Love New York. My wife is a New Yorker. I will spend money in New York on the rare visits to New York. New York is playing with fire. Rising unemployment – 8.9%, the second highest in the nation. Rising crime, especially shootings and homicides. A tourist was just shot a few blocks from Times Square. No cash bail; quick release, even for attacking police officers. No prosecutions for “victimless crimes.” Shrinking police force. Rising homeless population. Riots, looting, and arson, even on Fifth Avenue. Property values are dropping in New York City. Office buildings empty during Covid. The hospitality, restaurant, and cultural attractions are shut down, with many not reopening. The small business sector is in intensive care. Restauranteurs that could reopened in Florida. Moody’s in downgrading New York City municipal bonds. New York is testing the never yet proven theory that raising taxes leads to prosperity. New York is acting as a laboratory of democracy. Census Bureau data shows New York leads the nation in population loss from July 2019 to July 2020. The Post Office reports over 300,000 change of address forms from high income families from March to October 2020. It’s new income tax rates: 10.9% for income above $25 million; 10.3% for income $5-$25 million The New York State rates have to be combined with New York City’s income tax rate of 3.88%. Thus taxpayers in the City could pay up to 18.8%, greater than even California’s 13.3, which is also seeing an exodus. New York is in a race with California for the highest state income tax rates – a race to the economic bottom! New York: a $212 billion state budget, over twice the size of Florida ‘s $ 96.9 Billion, Florida whose 2019 population of 21.48 million is larger than New York’s 19.45 million. California, which is no slouch in spending money will have a budget of $217 billion with a population of 39.51 million, twice New York’s Size. It’s for the “services,” such as $2.2 billion compensation, retroactive for those unqualified under federal law, mostly for undocumented immigrants and recently released prisoners – up to $300 weekly and $15,600 for the year – an open invitation for fraud. Also for renewables, art and cultural centers. Small businesses, put out of business by the state during the Covid shutdown, will be allotted $1 billion, showing the priorities of the progressives, mainly newly elected, in the New York Legislature. Rebecca Bailin, campaign manager for the Invest in Our New York Coalition, thanked “thousands of New Yorkers who took to the streets and the ballot box, tireless advocates and grass-root organizers, and the new Democratic legislative power in Albany. She added “[W]e are beginning to transform New York from a state which protects the wealthy to a state that delivers for the many.” Note the word ”invest” in the organization’s title. “Invest’ and “Investment” are often euphemisms for tax increases. Those who pay little or no taxes always demand more from taxpayers in the name of paying their “fair share” without ever defining “fair share.” The top 2% of New York’s taxpayers pay about half the state’s income tax revenues. The top 165,000 families pay ½ of New York City’s income tax. How much is too much? Supporters of the tax increases resorted to standard practices of the left: rallying in front of the Governor’s house, shutting down bridges, camping out, and engaging in a hunger strike. They flooded the streets while tax paying New Yorkers head for the U-Hauls. Frank Sinatra once sang “New York, New York”: ”Start spreading the news I’m leaving today I want to be part of it New York, New York.” Tammy Wynette had a major hit with “Stand By Your Man.” Her later song “DIVORCE” is becoming the new motto for the city, replacing “I Love New York.”

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Just Wondering: Questions, Mysteries, and Incongruities in 2021 America

The border is open; schools are closed. You need a Covid test to fly into the United States, but not to illegally cross the border. Why are teachers volunteering to teach migrant children, but not their regular students in their classroom. San Diego teachers are offered a choice of teaching their regular students or the migrant children housed at the San Diego Convention Center. Will the migrants teachers teach the migrant children that America is a racist country? You need a driver’s license to board an airplane, but not to vote. Progressives want 17 year-olds to be tried as juveniles, but to let 16 year-olds vote. Several elite universities express solidarity with Asian Americans after the Atlanta shootings, but discriminate them in admissions. The Covid-19 virus emerged from Wuhan, China, quite likely from the Wuhan Institute, but WHO is clueless How can a cop killer decades later end up on a police reform panel in Ithaca? How is it that Felicia Friedman could survive the Nazis, Auschwitz and the Holocaust only to fall victim in a Long Island nursing home because of Governor Cuomo? Can one utter vicious anti-Asian racist statements and not be racist? Soon to be ex-San Francisco Board of Education member Ali Collins is finding out.. How many council members and supervisors who have voted to defund the police also have personal security at taxpayer expense? What ever happened to MLK’s preaching of forgiveness and judging people by their character rather than their race? Does DEI, diversity, equity, inclusion include intellectual diversity? Can President Biden spend trillions of dollars without igniting inflation? How much less will President Biden’s tax increases raise than forecast? Which has a lower percent of the advertised purpose of the bill: Covid relief in the $1.9 trillion Covid relief Bill or infrastructure in the $2 trillion Biden Infrastructure Bill? How many jobs have Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and the Squad created? Lester Holt in accepting the Edward R. Morrow Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award said: “I think it’s become clearer that fairness is overrated. … Our duty is to be fair to the truth,” this from the evening news anchor of a network that played fast and loose with the truth during the Trump Presidency and suppressed negative news – the truth – about Joe and Hunter Biden. How about Secretary of Transportation riding a bike to resident Biden’s first cabinet meeting Thursday? April Fool’s. It was a publicity stunt. He arrived at the White House in an SUV with a staffer unloading the boke from the SUV. Why do the climate zealots Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Kerry fly private jets? Does Major League Baseball deal with China, but not Atlanta? Covid hypocrites include: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi Senator Diane Feinstein Governors Gavin Newsom (Cal.) J.B. Pritzker (Ill.) Gretchen Whitmer (Mich.) Tim Walz (Minn.) Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.) Tom Wolf (Pa.) Mayors Steve Adler (Austin) Lori Lightfoot (Chicago) Muriel Bowser (D.C.) Eric Garcetti (L.A.)) Bill De Blagio (N.Y.) Jim Kenney (Philadelphia) Berkeley Federation of Teachers President Matt Meyer Chris Cuomo