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June 12, 2007

DNS and Hosting Changes

Almost five years later, it is time to leave my current web host and upgrade to a serious paid service. See here for some context. I'll be able to refresh Magnifisyncopathological's visuals and reopen comments (finally!).

So if you have some trouble accessing things, please be patient and hopefully in a few days things will be back to normal.

UPDATED 6/18/2007 3:50pm
Still working on it.

UPDATED 6/27/2007 1:32pm
Had a great four-day birthday weekend, which served as a big distraction to getting this damn website transferred. I've been prepping the new server but the biggest problem is importing my Moveable Type entries from here into the server's preinstalled MT system. The worst outcome would be a simple directory replication of this server so old entries would still be viewable and archived, then continuing the blog with the new software.

Until then, here are some pictures from the weekend.




June 11, 2007

The Age of Consent

Since when can a 15 year-old consent to sex?

It's like a 15 year-old consenting to buy a house.


That's someone named AppyPappy on FreeRepublic, commenting on the news that a Georgia judge rejected a decade-long prison term handed down to a guy who was convicted of having consensual oral sex, when he was 17, with a 15-year-old girl.

I'm not at all worried about the difficulty of finding kids 15 years old (or younger) who would readily consent to engaging in sex acts. The quality of their knowledge leading to their decision is almost certainly going to be less than ideal and there is no question that social pressure to consent is a factor...but that does not in any way metaphysically wipe out the actual, in reality, ability of teens to make their own choices. In principle, any sufficiently intelligent human has the power to give their consent and voluntarily involve him- or herself in an economic exchange. Biologically, it is only within recent modern history that Westerners have generally begun to believe that people under the (arbitrarily determined) age of 18 are, practically speaking, unable to render proper moral judgment and require the guiding grip of the Law to be good.

And what a shoddy analogy to buying a home. If a kid can understand what constitutes a trade (for cash, psychological/physical rewards, goods, services, etc.) and also understand the difference between a straight transaction and one involving credit and debt, then I see absolutely no reason why that person would be incapable of being a primary participant in buying a house. Hell, most of the reasons why buying a house might be a complex pain in the ass is because the state is so thoroughly involved in generating that pain.

Genarlow Wilson may very well be a callous prick who treats others with the disrespect only an arrogant youth at a party can muster. But if the girl who gave him a blow job is honest when she says she wanted to do it, then there should have never been a prosecution in the first place.

June 08, 2007

Vigils

Just a note for those (two? five?) of you who regularly check these pages and wonder with increasing dispair at my somewhat decreased output: I've been quiet lately. That doesn't mean that I'm not watching."

Was Kevin Alexander Brown Murdered?

[Updates below.]

I think it is too early to tell, but when it appears that a cop shoots you twice in the back as you run away, that conclusion seems hard to avoid. Even if Mr. Brown had a gun (the allegation that lead APD Sergeant Michael Olsen to ask him questions and one I've seen little substantive proof for) and given the fact that he ran from the cops, that still doesn't seem to jive with the usual "imminent danger to life and limb" that deadly force legally needs before it can be employed.

I drive near Chester's nightclub every day and at night on the weekends it can get fairly boisterous. Not a good place to bring a gun of your own.

UPDATED 8/10/2007 1:08pm
News8Austin: Officer cleared in Brown shooting

A Travis County grand jury no-billed an Austin police officer who shot and killed a man outside an East Austin nightclub on June 3.

Sgt. Michael Olsen won't be held criminally responsible for the death of 25-year-old Kevin Brown.

The grand jury had to decide whether his use of force was a reasonable act of self-defense. They heard 10 days of evidence and testimony from 12 witnesses, including seven civilians, four expert or law enforcement witnesses and Olsen.


This was one of the cases I thought I might have had a chance to review as a juror.
Brown was shot twice in the back during a chase with police. The incident happened at the Elm Ridge Apartments on East 12th Street, not far from Chester's, the club where the chase actually began.

Olsen had been investigating whether the 25-year-old had a gun.

Copyright ©2007TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


This is the part that still gets me: twice in the back. Not exactly a "he's coming right for me!" scenario.

From the Austin-American Statesman: Officer not indicted in fatal shooting

According to his written statement released Thursday, Olsen told investigators hours after the shooting that he was "100 percent sure" Brown had a gun when he shot him during a foot chase. He said he decided to shoot when he saw Brown reach toward his waistband as if retrieving a weapon and that "I was confident I had a clear shot and a high probability of hitting the target."

Olsen said he fired several rounds, that Brown fell facedown and continued reaching around his waist.

"I still felt threatened by his actions and thought he was still trying to get the gun out," Olsen said. "I paused and hesitated, especially because he was facedown and on the ground, before making the decision to shoot several more rounds to ensure I ended the threat.

"I remember thinking that I really didn't want to shoot him again, but that I still felt he was trying to get a gun and was still a threat to my life," Olsen said in his statement.


This is new info for me. As you'll see below, we aren't talking about long distances here. Shot to the ground and then shot again?
Investigators questioned dozens of people about the incident, but none said they saw Olsen fire the shots. Police later recovered a gun in the courtyard, about 30 feet from Brown's body.

[...]

According to Olsen's statement, he had just finished a traffic stop on East 12th Street, almost directly in front of Chester's, when a club security guard flagged him down about 4 a.m. and told him that a patron had reported being threatened.

Olsen said the guard told him that the customer thought the man had a weapon. The security guard initially described a possible suspect, but later told Olsen that the first man had handed a gun to another patron, later identified as Brown.

Olsen said he walked toward Brown, who then "stepped back away from me. At that point, I had a distinct gut feeling something was wrong and the hair on the back of my neck stood up."

Olsen said he decided to go "hands on" and tried to grab Brown's hands. He said Brown stepped back, pushed him and started to run.

"Had I known I was just arresting him for drugs or something, I would have just wrapped him up and tackled him," Olsen said. "Because I thought he had a gun, I was more hesitant and was trying to keep an eye on his hands."

Olsen said Brown ran toward the back of the parking lot and that he radioed a description of Brown to other officers in the area. He said Brown plunged down a large drop-off and ran into an apartment complex courtyard.

Olsen said he yelled several times at Brown to stop and show his hands, but that Brown kept his hands in his waistband area.

"After a short distance, he slowed and turned slightly towards me, looking directly at me," Olsen said in the statement. "I don't remember exactly how far he turned his body towards me, but it was coming towards me, and his head was turned towards me, looking at me.

"He was clearly digging his hand into his waistband, and I feared he was trying to pull the gun on me. ... I feared for my life and made the decision to shoot him to defend myself from imminent attack."

According to the autopsy report, the bullets entered Brown's body midback on the right side, and travelled from the back of his body to the front, right to left, and down. The bullets entered on the right side and fractured three of Brown's left ribs.


You can look at the scene from Google Maps. The Statesman posted an image of their recreation of the event and I've resized it for this post::


So far, I haven't read anything about what Olsen's partner Ivan Ramos did after Step 6 in that diagram. Did he just stop running?

The district attorney's office Thursday released copies of hundreds of pages of witnesses' statements, diagrams and other documents in the case. The information provides a more specific accounting of what happened minutes before and after the shooting.

Copyright 2007 The Austin American-Statesman. All rights reserved.


I'd like to see this stuff posted on Earle's DA website because I want to read the raw data, not filtered through a news agency.

Do I think, after knowing what I know now, that Michael Olsen murdered Kevin Brown? I haven't read anywhere that Olsen actually saw Brown in possession of a gun. He acted suspiciously and ran from the police, but that doesn't necessarily mean he had a firearm. I also haven't read anywhere (as of 1pm of today's update) that Brown's fingerprints were found on the.22 pistol dropped at the scene; fingerprints weren't even mentioned in any AAS articles. Seems very pertinent to me and no matter how coincidental it may be for a pistol to be laying around, this needs to be made clear. I also think Olsen could have closed the distance between him and Brown (at least as shown in the diagram) without firing "several" (another detail I've not seen explained: how many times did Olsen shoot?) times at Brown...who not only had an apartment building right behind him, but there were several windows through which Olsen's bullets could have easily gone.

The situation stinks (and it isn't the first time Olsen's been in use-of-force trouble), but I wouldn't rise to call it murder until something else pops up.

June 07, 2007

The Las Manitas Loan

News8Austin: City gives Las Manitas $750,000 forgivable loan

Of course, if you went to every resident in Austin and asked them why they gave the restaurant hundreds of thousands of dollars, they'd give you a blank stare and ask what the hell you were talking about. "We" did no such thing. I realize news organizations have space and time requirements to keep in mind when publishing, but this stuff bugs the hell out of me.

Las Manitas restaurant will get the money needed to relocate, remodel and stay in downtown Austin.

Austin City Council members voted Thursday to grant the owners, Cynthia and Lydia Perez, a $750,000 forgivable loan that does not have to be repaid if certain requirements are met for a set time period.

Copyright ©2007TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


I am occasionally asked by friends and family why I don't bother running for office to combat the things I dislike in government. Well, if I did (or was elected), I'd have no choice but to call this entire enterprise local bullshit community-pandering socialist meddling of the lamest order.

Or something like that.

I don't care if an Austin Institution With Decades Of Dedicated Community Ties To The Local Art/Food/Music Scene is about to be bought out and converted to a Mega McDonalds. When a government pulls shit like this, I see nothing but a lightly disguised cash transfer from individuals to the owners of Las Manitas, a cash transfer that could not have occurred without the threat of (and examples of actually applied) police violence to those who did not want to "contribute their fair share," as the fraudulently disingenuous sometimes say. Theft is not OK and that doesn't change when the funds would be used to benefit beloved local businesses.

To their credit, there were two city council members who voted against the loan: Sheryl Cole and Lee Leffingwell. Also to their credit, a slim majority of poll-takers agree with me and don't think the restaurant should have received anything.

June 01, 2007

Primum non nocere

CBS News TB Patient: "I'm Very Sorry"

[Andrew Speaker]'s father, also a lawyer, taped a meeting with the CDC prior to leaving for his honeymoon.

"My father said, 'OK, now are you saying, prefer not to go on the trip because he's a risk to anybody, or are you simply saying that to cover yourself?' And they said, we have to tell you that to cover ourself, but he's not a risk."

Speaker, his new wife and her 8-year-old daughter were already in Europe for the wedding when the CDC contacted him and told him to turn himself in immediately at a clinic there and not take another commercial flight.

Speaker said he felt as if the CDC had suddenly "abandoned him." He said he believed if he did not get back to a specialized clinic in Denver, he would die.

"Before I left, I knew that it was made clear to me, that in order to fight this, I had one shot, and that was going to be in Denver," he said. If doctors in Europe tried to treat him and it went wrong, he said, "it's very real that I could have died there."

[...]

Speaker, however, could be sued by fellow airline passengers, especially if any caught the disease from him - which some legal scholars say is much more likely.

"He may be personally liable if someone contracts TB" from being near him on his recent flights to and from Europe, said Peter Jacobson, a University of Michigan professor of public health law. "I can see a jury coming down very hard on someone like that who willfully ignored advice not to travel."

[...]

In the past week, Speaker was quarantined in New York City and then again - under guard - at an Atlanta hospital. The quarantine order was not approved by a judge, but rather issued under the CDC's administrative powers.

There's a reason for that, Jacobson said: In certain rare instances, such action is deemed necessary to avoid legal delays in rapidly protecting the public from a disease-carrying person.

© MMVII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


I wonder if any of the CDC officials who issued that order were doctors.

Julie Louise Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., "CDC Director, Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, MPH has been leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) since July 2002. She also serves as a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Emory University and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco."

Tanja Popovic, MD, PhD, F(AAM), AM(AAFS), "Tanja Popovic, MD, PhD, CDC's chief science officer, joined the agency in 1989 as a Fulbright Postdoctoral fellow. Since then, she has served as the chief of the Diphtheria Reference Unit, chief of the Epidemiologic Investigations/Anthrax Laboratory, and co-director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Prevention and Control of Bacterial Meningitis. Prior to her position as chief science officer, she served as CDC's associate director for science (Feb 2004 - Jun 2006)."

Stephanie B. Coursey Bailey, MD, MS, "Stephanie B. Coursey Bailey, MD, MS, was known for her ties to CDC long before becoming chief of the Office of Public Health Practice in October 2006. Since 1999, she has worked with CDC on projects, including co-chairing the National PH Workforce Taskforce, serving as a senior consultant for local practice to PHPPO, and serving on the National Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Tuberculosis, among others."

Stephen B. Blount, MD, MPH, "In his current role, Stephen B. Blount, MD, MPH, is responsible for CDC's global health portfolio that includes an annual budget of $900 million, 200 US government staff assigned to 50 countries, and 1,500 locally hired staff and contractors. He provides programmatic and financial oversight for the Global AIDS Program; global immunization and disease eradication activities;, malaria, tuberculosis, and tobacco control efforts; and international training programs. Dr. Blount is the lead strategist for CDC's global activities and manages key partnerships with ministries of health, other US government agencies, UN organizations, the World Bank, private foundations, multi-national corporations, non-government organizations, and academic institutions."

Richard E. Besser, MD, "Richard Besser, MD, serves as director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response (COTPER). He is responsible for all of CDC's public health emergency preparedness and emergency response activities. COTPER is the primary CDC/ATSDR organization tasked with oversight of terrorism preparedness, response and protection for the nation from biological, chemical, radiological, and naturally occurring emergencies."

Hmm. All docs so far.

Rear Admiral Mitchell L. Cohen, MD, USPHS, "RADM Mitchell L. Cohen, M.D., was appointed director of CDC's Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases (CCID) in May 2004. As the director, he provides leadership for CDC's largest, most complex coordinating center which includes the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention; National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases; National Center for Preparedness, Detection, and Control of Infectious Diseases; National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases. When combined, these national centers represent a budget of roughly $4.0 billion and employ over 3000 staff nationally and internationally.

Dr. Cohen received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Duke University. His postgraduate training was in internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, and in infectious diseases at the University of Washington in Seattle."

Steven L. Solomon, MD, "Steven L. Solomon, MD, currently serves as the director of the Coordinating Center for Health Information and Service. He received his MD from Tufts University and is board-certified in internal medicine, preventive medicine, and infectious diseases. He was in the private practice of internal medicine and infectious diseases before joining the Epidemic Intelligence Service at CDC in 1981."

First do no harm.

I think they've forgotten that.

Travis County Jury Duty Summons

[Updates below.]

Dear Prospective Juror: You are hereby summoned for jury service as set out below:
Oh, gawd. This ought to be just awesome.
* This summons must be answered, even if you are not qualified to serve or are exempt from jury service.

FAILURE TO ANSWER SUMMONS AND PENALTIES: A person who fails to comply with this summons is subject to a contempt action punishable by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1000. (Government Code, Section 62.0141). Additionally, a person shall be fined not less than $10 nor more than $100 if the person (1) fails to attend court in obedience to this notice without reasonable excuse; or (2) files a false claim of exemption from jury service. (Government Code, Section 62.111).


I bet this is a boon to their recordkeeping efforts. With legal compulsion like this, they'll at least get confirmation on names and addresses.
PROPER CLOTHING REQUIRED: All persons entering the courtroom should be dressed in clothing reasonably befitting the dignity and solemnity of the court proceedings.

I have a very strong feeling their evaluation of The Court's dignity and solemnity is not exactly similar to my evaluation. If I can't wear shorts and a t-shirt, I'm going to be pissed. I'll even avoid wearing my Murray Rothbard shirt, guys! Not going to stir up trouble where I'm outnumbered 20-to-1 on their home turf...

Anyway, after going through their handy-dandy online registration process, I'm now slated for "duty" sometime between July 23rd and July 27th. The last time I went through this, I was maybe 18 and I didn't get past the first round of selection.

I wonder how far I'll go. Is this for a grand jury or full trial? I wonder if the accused are accused of a real crime or a fake crime. Was someone killed, raped, assaulted, robbed, or defrauded? If I end up on the jury (and not go insane in the process), what will the people on it be like? Will they know the law or be swayed by the lawyers? Will I have to explain the concept of jury nullification to them? I know I'll need to read up a bit on jury service myself.

I'm not looking forward to this.

UPDATED 7/23/2007 8:45am
Today's the day.