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Was Robin Williams Brain Injured?

I don’t want to dwell on this, but there’s been so much noise about this latest celebrity suicide I thought there should at least be some discussion, somewhere, that might be worthwhile.  At least for some people.

It’s just my opinion, of course – although it is perhaps a bit more informed than most – but I believe that any person who exhibits symptoms of  psychological or psychiatric disturbance should be neurologically evaluated for brain injury.

Brain injuries, as we are learning from things like former NFL players who commit suicide for no apparent reason, are extremely common.  Extremely.  Very extremely.  In fact, in my opinion a significant percentage of the people reading this post have at least some limited form of brain injury.  I may have a brain injury without knowing it, and so might you.  These are scary thoughts in a way, but it’s the truth.

What happens to people with brain injuries?  Well, read a pretty good summary here.  Compare the kinds of problems brain injured people have with problems associated with various kinds of mental illness.  There’s a good deal of overlap that can be discerned immediately, but things like depression, mania, lack of impulse control, Parkinson’s should jump right out at you.

Greenfield put up a good post about mental illness in relation to the Robin Williams suicide.  But nobody that I know of has mentioned the possibile role of an undiagnosed and unknown brain injury in many aspects of Robin Williams’ personality, including his suicide.

One reason I think it’s important to mention this is that in recent years some promising treatments for brain disorders have been developed, in particular neurofeedback therapy, where it’s possible that the brain can be re-trained to function better essentially through playing a kind of video game.   This is, of course, non-invasive and non-pharmacological. 

People might not be so tempted to make harsh moral judgments, as has apparently happened surrounding Robin Williams’ death, if they realized not just that there might have been psychological or psychiatric issues, but physical brain issues over which no one has any control.

 

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Shepard’s Off The Wall ‘Warning’ Re: Mooney v. Holohan, 294 US 103 (1935)

With apologies, probably only lawyers will really understand this post.  Nevertheless, on to it.

Shepard’s is this service that’s been around for a log time helping lawyers to find cases (usually published opinions from appellate courts) dealing with a specific subject, where those cases have been cited by other cases, whether the citations are favorable or unfavorable – and very importantly, whether a case has been overruled and is no longer good law.

In recent years of course all these functions have been computerized and data-based and Shepard’s is primarily an online tool.

So recently I was checking Shepard’s for any recent developments relating to a case that’s been pretty important fodder for discussion around here for quite some time:  Mooney v. Holohan, 294 US 103 (1935).  That’s a US Supreme Court case.

And Shepards contains a warning that Mooney has been “abrogated”.  The warning then directs the reader by hyperlink to an unpublished opinion from a case in an intermediate state appeals court in Arizona – State v. Branch, decided April 17th of this year.

This unpublished opinion maintains that while under Mooney the prosecution’s knowing use of perjured or false testimony in a criminal case is a denial of due process, Mooney has been qualified to include a “materiality standard”:  that is, there is only a denial of due process of law when the perjury or false testimony affected the outcome of a criminal trial.

Two things about this.  First, it’s not true.  Mooney has never been limited or qualified, and we can hope never will be. 

But second, how can Shepard’s issue a “warning”, complete with the red stop sign symbol, that a US Supreme Court case has been “abrogated” by an unpublished opinion from an intermediate appellate court in Arizona?  State intermediate appellate courts don’t have the authority to limit or abrogate US Supreme Court precedents. 

Who is running things over there at Shepard’s?

 

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Moreland Commission – Continued

So just to drive the point home, one of the allegations of the New York Times article goes like this:

Word that the [Moreland Commission's] subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.

“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:

“Pull it back.”

The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.

“They apparently produced ads for the governor,”

 

Nothing to see here, right?

Besides, the Commission Chair William Fitzpatrick, in his three page letter, had this very detailed response to this specific allegation:

 

“Fuck you.”

 

Okay, that wasn’t really what Fitzpatrick said.  What he really said was a far more egregious gesture of contempt, something to the risible effect that he always gave a lot of thought to issuing subpoenas because that’s “serious”; and the Commission reissued the subpoena a few weeks after it was retracted; and finally, the suggestion that the Commission was interfered with by such things as, oh, the Governor’s henchman aide Schwartz telling the Commission to “pull it [the subpoena] back” was – and I quote – “absurd”.

Of course, it’s not like that kind of thing happened except for that one time, though.  Right?

 

According to a subpoena that had been prepared, investigators wanted to examine the real estate board’s political donations, its materials related to a valuable tax break for new housing, and its communications with public officials, including phone calls with lawmakers…

Whereupon Mr. Cuomo’s office stepped in to shut it down.

Mr. Schwartz, the secretary to the governor, telephoned one of the commission’s three leaders in a fury, according to four people briefed on the call. There would be no subpoena to the real estate board, he said.

Ultimately, the commission merely sent the real estate board a letter asking it to provide information voluntarily, which it did.

 

Apparently the Governor’s office got advance notice of objectionable subpoenas because the Governor had a spy lackey close associate as one of the Commission’s co-chairs.  Her name is Regina Calcaterra.

Investigators began to suspect that Ms. Calcaterra was monitoring their activities and reporting back to the governor’s office:

  

Ms. Calcaterra repeatedly pressed Ms. Perry [another investigator with the Commission] not to serve the subpoena, emails show. Yet the commission backed Ms. Perry, and on Aug. 19, she wrote to the co-chairs that she would be sharing a subpoena with them “shortly.”

 

I don’t know what is more laughable – or depressing, depending on your mood:  the Commission itself, or Fitzpatrick’s & Cuomo’s when-you’re-caught-just-deny-deny-deny defense.  Ugh.

I mean, this shows the “Commission” was just a toxic mix of tawdry skullduggery and highly dishonest political posturing by the Governor’s office.  The Feds tried to criminalize such conduct through some statute or other regarding public officials’ failure to render “honest services”, but that was held unconstitutional.  And I don’t know if criminalizing is the right way to go, or even remotely effective.  Given day to day realities of the political system in the US I’d tend to say no.  In any event, I’ve made my suggestion and that has nothing to do with putting anyone in prison.

This does not, of course, indicate that the entrenched corruption of the political class is not a serious problem; indeed I wish we could overcome this vague belief that unless the government is prosecuting someone the wrongdoing, if it exists at all, must be trivial.

Our ‘leaders’ do not so much lead us as reflect us.  We tolerate in them the kind of wrongdoing we tolerate in ourselves.  Thus we like a little bit of ruthlessness in our politicians, it seems.  Unless we’re on the receiving end personally.

We’ll improve the character of our political class when we improve our own.  Until that happens, “Moreland Commissions” are worse than a waste of time; they are a farce.

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Can This Be Right?

That over a million people – mostly Americans – have signed a petition directed to the Prime Minister of the UK declaring that the US is still a British colony?

Or is that some kind of hoax website?

 

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Having Their Way With Dawn Nguyen

Another sad chapter in the ongoing saga of the law enforcement community getting its way.

“We now know that Dawn Nguyen knowingly and intentionally bought those firearms for William Spengler, the man who was responsible for the tragedy,” said U.S. Attorney William Hochul.

Of course we know nothing of the kind.  We know what she said in the course of pleading guilty, and that if she hadn’t said that she would have had to go to trial, and if found guilty at trial she would have spent the balance of her young adult life in federal prison.

This was a plea of convenience.  As far as being the truth of the matter, you can read a recent 2nd circuit opinion recognizing the uncomfortable reality that innocent people plead guilty and say what they have to say in order to avoid draconian punishment here.

If you terrorize people into pleading guilty they most often will. 

There’s nothing to be happy or satisfied about in all this.  If my opinion counts for anything, the only reasonable interpretation I can see of what happened here is that the law enforcement community, far from honoring their fallen comrades, helped their murderer to posthumously, and gratuitously, injure another person.  And that would be my opinion even if Dawn Nguyen actually did buy the guns for Spengler.

But here’s something that’s not just my opinion:  whatever Dawn Nguyen claimed in pleading guilty is only marginally more factually unreliable than jail house snitch testimony.  It should hardly be any sort of “closure” for anyone.

And if law enforcement as a group can take any satisfaction from this sordid episode where a mob relentlessly brow-beats a young woman into prison I just feel sorry for them.  Though not nearly so much as I do for her.

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Eulogy for Charles Thomas Dienes

Originally posted on JONATHAN TURLEY:

Submitted by Kimberly Dienes, guest blogger.  

Sometimes, paradoxically, the most difficult times in our lives can lead to some of the happiest occurrences and memories. Although I had heard about Jonathan Turley from my father many times, I met him at my father’s funeral. Some of you may have seen his wonderful blog about my father, Charles Thomas Dienes (http://jonathanturley.org/2014/04/24/farewell-to-tom-dienes/).   Jonathan suggested that I join his blog as a contributor and publish my eulogy for Dad.

The key message of the eulogy is this: it is not easy to love. Many words, phrases, and stories in our culture might lead you to believe it is, falling, instant, first glance, but love takes much more than effortless submission to a greater force…it is an act, and sometimes that act can be difficult. The act requires vulnerability, it requires communication, it requires thought and time. Loving can be so…

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Behind The Curve

The NYPD’s public image campaign on twitter didn’t exactly succeed.

I really hope the NYPD isn’t as bad as the anecdotal evidence suggests:

A New York Police Department campaign to burnish its image via social media instead produced a flood of pictures of police brutality and tweets critical of the force being shared at a rate of thousands an hour…The tweets included images of violence from New York’s Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, pictures of an NYPD officer pointing a gun at a dog, and an officer asleep in a subway car.

Images and tweets also referred to the fatal, controversial New York police shootings of Sean Bell in 1999 and Amadou Diallo in 1999, each of which led to criminal trials in which all the officers were acquitted.

Granted, the social media thing is a little hard to read.  You’re dealing with the people who have a strong opinion, which is not the general public.  At least not necessarily the general public. 

In any case I give credit to the department for resilience in the face of the torrent, though this might seem a bit pollyanna-ish:

After the campaign appeared to backfire, the department issued a two-sentence statement saying that it was “creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community.”

“Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city,” the statement said.

Sure.  I feel you.

But I can’t help but wonder if this social media incident is on the cutting edge, such that the perspectives of many of the players in the system – such as we just noted with federal Judge Kopf – have a lot of catching up to do. 

But then again we also know, or at least have inferred, that there’s movement afoot.  Does change come from the top down or the bottom up?  Or is that a simplistic question anyway?  Maybe it’s just in the ether, or it’s a weltgeist

Does the future belong to the twitter community, or to Judge Kopf?  Either way, it’s an interesting time right now in the law world, n’est-ce pas?

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The Case Of Dawn Nguyen

So here in Rochester we just completed one of the most high profile trials of the last year or so, involving the prosecution of a woman who now stands adjudged guilty by a jury of having ‘falsified business records’.

Ordinarily, of course, falsifying business records charges don’t generate a lot of copy, but this particular business record was a form filled out when buying guns that were later used to kill two firefighters and wound two others in a particularly depraved act on Christmas Eve 2012.  The killer shot the first responders when they came to help, there having been a fire no doubt started intentionally by the killer himself.  Who had just killed his sister.

He had been released from prison years before.  He was in prison because he had killed his grandmother.

I’m not making any of this up.

The basis of the case against Dawn Nguyen is that she had stated on the business record that she was the purchaser of the guns, when in fact the guns were intended for the killer, named William Spengler.  The puchase of the guns occurred, apparently, in June 2010.

That’s two and a half years before Spengler went on his perverse Christmas killing spree.

Let’s assume she’s guilty as charged on the business record thing, just like the jury said.  What’s really animating the prosecution, what made it “high profile”, is not what Nguyen did; it’s what Spengler did.  To drive the point home, Nguyen’s trial was very well attended by fire fighters from the relevant department and cops from the relevant village police department.  Indeed after the guilty verdict the firefighters and police chief were breathlessly interviewed by local media for their opinions, which were uniformly that they had been extremely interested or involved in the prosecution of Nguyen, that they were ‘gratified’ by the verdict as far as it went, that they were upset that the 1-1/3 to 4 year maximum sentence was woefully insufficient punishment, and that they looked forward to a federal prosecution arising from the very same facts and circumstances that would entail as much as 30 years in prison.

And then they would set about the business of changing the state law to provide for more severe penalties for doing what Dawn Nguyen had done.  One of the wounded firefighters commented that as far as he was concerned, Dawn Nguyen was a conspirator in the murder of his comrades.

Now.  A few more observations.

Ms. Nguyen’s lawyer, Matt Parrinello, did a fine job and knows a lot more details than I do.  It’s a very tough thing to do:  stand up and defend someone when the most important possible constituency – law enforcement and their fellow travelers in the fire/EMT communities – is out for blood very publicly.  Matt is my hero today.  Let’s be clear about that.

Second, this was as clear cut a case as you could ever have of what might be called a substitute criminal prosecution.  The guy everyone would really like to see hanged is dead, having killed himself.  Good riddance, but it does leave law enforcement bereft of that particular remedy.  Not to be left unsatisfied, they go looking for an alternate target, and lo they find one:  a twenty something Vietnamese heritage (maybe an immigrant but I don’t have that information) woman.  The fury they would like to unleash on the deceased miscreant they unleash on her instead.  Its searing intensity is wildly, insanely disproportionate to the wrong alleged, but that’s one of those things you mention at your peril, from a community point of view.* 

I don’t know how you could get a much more attenuated moral fault than filling out – or maybe just signing – a form some two and one-half years before a crime you had no involvement with took place.  I mean, this is one of the problems here.  Spengler’s sister must have known that he illegally possessed weapons.  He lived with her, each and every day of that two and one-half years.  She bears much more responsibility for what her brother did than Dawn Nguyen.  But of course Spengler’s sister is dead, too – Spengler killed her.

Beyond Spengler’s sister, how many neighbors knew Spengler had those guns but never reported it?  According to the village police chief, Spengler was a braggart about the neighborhood, in addition to all his other sterling qualities.  That’s one of the reasons the police chief figures Dawn Nguyen must have known all about what a bad guy and felon he was. 

Of course the problem with that is, lots of other people must have known, too.  Figure out something they did or didn’t do that violates some law or other within, say, merely one year as opposed to two and a half, and maybe you’ve got yourself a better case than the one against Nguyen.  File into the courtroom every day of their trial and glare at the jury until they convict, as by now almost any jury in the United States has been conditioned to do through decades of relentless law enforcement propaganda.

What’s to stop you from doing that, from roping in many, many other people to pay for Spengler’s crime?  Why, nothing.

 A third observation:  Dawn Nguyen is an attractive female.  The jury dynamics for attractive female criminal defendants are atrocious.  There’s almost no way to win:  other women hate her; men, of course, side with law enforcement.

Fourth:  that attractive female defendant thing also seems to generate a fevered intensity all by itself, to say nothing of combining it with a homicide.  Throw in the victims are law enforcement, or at least quasi law enforcement.  Throw in that it was Christmas.  Ugh.

Fifth:  Will anyone – other than me and her lawyer, that is – venture to state the obvious, that at this point a federal prosecution is overkill?  Will the local media give any air whatsoever to this, or is it a thought crime?

Sixth:  Dungeons, racks, screws, stockades, the pillory.  When someone is facing 30 years over lying on a form, these medieval tortures begin to look comparatively humane.  Something is seriously wrong when that happens.

But we already knew that, didn’t we?  Why do you think this blog and others like it even exist?

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*  Note, that is an obviously correct observation, and that makes it all the worse.  There’s no answer for it, so it interferes with the desire to wallow in simmering hatreds and desires for revenge.  Woe unto the cooler head pointing out such an obvious moral consideration in the midst of a collective frenzy.

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I Don’t See The Problem.

A hissy fit this morning from Greenfield and another blawger named Josh Blackman over an opinion by Judge Posner of the 7th Circuit US Court of Appeals.

It’s interesting, because on the one hand I found the little experiment the judge conducted in chambers kind of startling myself, at first.  That is, my first inclination was that this was improper.

But thinking it through a bit, juries do that kind of thing:  conduct some little experiment while they are deliberating to see if they can figure out who’s telling the truth.  Watch 12 Angry Men sometime.  Seems like that’s all the jury did when they weren’t at each others’ throats. 

Anyway, if a jury can do something like that can’t a judge, to the extent the judge has to determine a fact?

Of course, appellate court judges do not determine facts.  Not directly.  As Blackman and Greenfield point out, the record on an appeal is fixed, nothing else comes in or out.  That’s pretty basic to the whole idea of an appeal, at least in our system.  Such as it is.

But there are limits to this principle.  As a general rule, intermediate appellate courts do have jurisdiction to ‘review’ – that is, second guess – the fact findings of the trial court.  And there are times they should do so.  Many more times than they actually do, in my experience. 

The ‘standard of review’, it is constantly noted, is ‘highly deferential’, although deference is as deference does and there is an obvious disparity on how much deference there is depending on which kind of litigant benefits:  lots and lots when the favored litigant has prevailed in the trial court; none when the disfavored litigant has prevailed.

But I digress.

Greenfield and Blackman are a bit off, and they’re being a little unfair to Judge Posner.  The evidence in an appeal, it is true enough, is fixed in the record.  But evidence isn’t always res ipsa loquitur.  Interpretation is sometimes necessary.  A fact finder is entitled to interpret where he feels he needs to, and a judge reviewing a fact finder is entitled to do that, too.

There are some contentions that are true, or they are false, and the conclusion is not debatable, at least not on the practical level on which we operate on a day to day basis and not, therefore, in our courts of law.  If we fairly assess what an appellate judge might do in ‘reviewing’ the facts found by the trial court, he surely has an obligation to point out a fact finding that is clearly wrong, or absurd.

We’ve been over this idea here at Lawyers on Strike several times.  We return to it occasionally simply because we reject the notion that the “adversarial process” requires courts to seriously entertain the clearly false, or the clearly fraudulent, or the clearly stupid.

Now is there a danger that a judge, or a jury, will mistakenly conclude the degree of clarity required, or involved?  Sure.  We live in a dangerous world.  Greenfield:

The possibilities are endless for judges to conduct secret experiments in their chambers, or on the streets, or, if they have any clue how to gain access, on the internet, to figure out “who was telling the truth.”  The flaws of the experiment will never be known, never be subject to question or challenge, and yet will dictate the outcome for people’s lives and fortunes.  What could possibly go wrong?

 

Two things here:  first, Judge Posner’s experiment wasn’t “secret” – he disclosed it in his opinion, for which he should be given credit, not excoriated.  And second, it doesn’t seem quite right to complain that a judge wrongly believes himself to have some sort of clarivoyance about assessing witness “demeanor”, and finding the truth that way; but then complain more loudly when he eschews that kind of superstition for a more rational and better method. 

At some point the fact finder – or the fact reviewer – must make his decision and the time for the advocates to have input is past.  That might rankle ego-centric lawyers who feel their input can be both absurd and never-ending and the fact finder must listen to it, but I have to disagree.

There was nothing wrong with what Judge Posner did, especially considering he disclosed it in his opinion.

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Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 – UFO’s, Wormholes, Bermuda-East Triangle, Etc. (Updated)(x4)

Actually, I am agnostic on the very existence of aliens from another world or wormholes or that kind of thing, but you have to start considering some pretty bizarre scenarios at this point.

I’m probably a little more knowledgeable than most people (hardly an ‘expert’, but a little more knowledgeable) about aircraft and the communications type stuff involved.  You know, US Navy and all.

So, I think what might be perplexing a lot of folks right now is….there are almost no non-supernatural/extra-terrestrial  scenarios that fit, other than maybe some highly skilled pilot-hijacker who could basically shut off all the automatic signaling devices, like the IFF transponder, fly under the radar coverage, evade satellite detection and land the plane in some pre-determined location where it can be quickly hidden.

Of course, that would mean there are 239 people to account for and no one’s demanding ransom so far as we know.

So in other words, the one natural, same-dimension-as-the-rest-of-us scenario that might fit seems so unlikely that I, at least, don’t believe it.  Then again, if you had told me that a 777 jetliner could have any kind of accident – mid-air, over water or over land without some indication something had gone wrong – a distress call, an explosion detected by someone – and that even if this had happened no one would find any trace of the plane for almost a week, I would have said that was a practical impossibility, too.  There is just too much stuff on an airplane that squawks no matter what happens, the whole idea being that if some sudden catastrophe takes place you’re still going to find what’s left in fairly short order.  Even with AirFrance 447 in ’09 they found debris after a couple of days and that was pretty much over the middle of the Atlantic, which is way more remote than the anything on the flight path of this one.

As a practical matter, the longer it goes with no trace of anything, the less chance anything is going to be “found” – like debris, other than the “black box” which has a beacon that can’t possibly have stopped working.

So in other words: 

     1.  The highly skilled pilot-hijacker scenario is so unlikely I don’t believe it.  

     2.  The absence of any evidence at all after almost a week that the plane has been destroyed or crashed through a bomb or some natural catastrophe leads to, at the very least, significant doubt that either of those things actually occurred.

That leaves as wide an opening for some sort of paranormal/supernatural occurrence as you’re ever going to get.  Right?  Or am I wrong?

Thoughts/opinions appreciated.

Update:  Well, there’s been quite a bit of information since I posted this, so I think I should address the matter again.

Now, I found the skilled hijacker scenario unbelievable, but since I wrote that it appears that certain of the automated communications devices were deliberately disabled (but not all of them) and so now we must re-evaluate.  Also, it appears that the plane was deliberately diverted westward and flew pretty close to the point that its fuel would have run out, and maybe it did run out of fuel and crash into the Indian Ocean, although you’d think someone would have found something by now.

So at this point the skilled hijacker scenario has legs.  But it also has some problems. 

As for “legs”, there is a fairly believable scenario at this juncture.  The plane was hijacked by a skilled hijacker, the pilot(s) did what they could to avoid endangering anyone else or helping the hijackers to complete their mission, and they were somewhat successful in that the plane never reached its hijacked destination and either ran out of fuel over the Indian Ocean or perhaps there was some kind of altercation in the cockpit and in the melee the plane was crashed into the sea.  Or perhaps the hijackers blew it up mid-air, in which case it wasn’t so much a hijacking as a terrorist act like 9-11.

Of course if any of that happened search parties should find something soon.  Something.  So the jury’s out on a crash scenario of any kind, hijacker or no.

But going a little further with the hijacking scenario, you can’t rule out yet that the plane was landed somewhere.  If the hijacker was skilled enough to disable so many systems that would have tipped off authorities, he would also be skilled enough not to just crash the plane but to deliver it to wherever it was that he was supposed to be hijacking it to, and skilled enough to hide it once he got it there.

Yet another scenario is that one or both of the pilots are the “hijackers”, with some mysterious agenda that at this point it’s very difficult for me to fathom. 

In any scenario that does not involve a crash, of course, there are 239 people to be accounted for.  Let’s not forget that.  Ugh.

Finally, until search and rescue finds something – anything – UFO’s and Wormholes or some other supernatural cause are not off the table.  If you don’t rule that out in advance because you can’t accept something like that, that is.

Update 2:  As some on twitter have noted – and which I had forgotten about, oddly enough – there is a US Naval Air Station at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and I’m sure a 777 could land there, if indeed it could make it that far, though I don’t know whether it could or not.

That puts the US Government in the cross hairs of the usual conspiracy theory suspects, of course.  Not that I’m buying anything like that, mind you.

Then again, could Diego Garcia have been the target in a 9-11 type suicide mission that failed?

Update 3This is a good article, via CNN.

Our previous consideration of supernatural causes, never really too heavy, has been pushed to the outer margins at this point.  Actually it really belonged out there as soon as it became apparent that transponders and other auto-communnications devices were deliberately disabled.

There’s a lot of focus on the pilot and co-pilot right now, as in some kind of pilot suicide.  While I realize this kind of thing has happened (very rarely) before, there would have to be some really good evidence to convince me that either one of those guys did this.  It is likely they would both have had to be in on it.  Very hard to swallow that one.

Most plausible to me at the moment?  A hijacking.  A sophisticated hijacker, perhaps bent on a suicide mission to crash the plane into the Diego Garcia US Naval Base.  Similar to the 9-11 style of attack, turning a commercial airliner into a missile.  Lots of innocent people terrorized and killed.

The two pilots may have foiled the effort and crashed the plane in the attempt, perhaps deliberately running out of fuel or something.

Some people are still thinking the plane landed somewhere, but while I suppose that’s possible – just barely – I can’t see it as having any likelihood given all the other evidence.  As between that and the pilot-suicide scenario, I’d opt for the latter, and I just find that one too hard to accept at this point.

Update 4So here’s a pilot writing on CNN.com saying that the Boeing 777 can essentially fly itself, even with auto-pilot off, for a good long ways and that some of the manuevering that has been alluded to in other reports is consistent with such a scenario.  This lends plausibility to the “sudden, catastrophic decompression” scenario in which everyone on the plane is more or less instantly knocked out.

Ugh.  11 days later and things are just as confused as they were at the beginning.  For a while there it seemed that a deliberate act, such as a hijacking, was a certainty.  No longer.

A very tragic situation for anyone who had a loved one onboard. 

Honestly, I don’t see much point in speculating further.  If they don’t find the aircraft – and it appears we may never find it – it’s just going to remain very much a mystery.

The black box emits a signal and remains active for about 30 days.  If the plane is underwater, that is.  But of course like everything else we don’t know that one way or the other, either.

 

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Medley Centre – Waste And Shame

In a suburb just north of Rochester called Irondequoit there was a rather nice, bright and airy shopping mall (‘nice’ as those things go, mind you), first called The Irondequoit Mall when it opened in 1990.

For reasons that will always be something of a mystery to me*, it began failing as a retail outlet within ten years and has now been almost completely vacant for about a decade.  A few hucksters have appeared on the scene in the years since promising this and that to the town board, but nothing of any significance has come to pass.  Then, a couple of months ago, with the rather brutal winter afflicting the entire country and of course in this area as well, a bunch of pipes burst in the now unheated gigantic space and the results have been captured on film (or digits, as the case may be) and posted by one of the local news stations here.

A couple of samples:

medleycenter_5

medleycenter_18

Bottom line is, it’s a tear down at this point. 

Everyone’s sights are turning on the most recent con man developer, but I think it’s clear from the photographic evidence that the waste of this facility, both inside and outside, is not the product of one pipe bursting incident in January, although I’m sure that didn’t help things.  I mean, like I said, the place has been largely vacant for 10 years and it looks just the way it should.

I don’t know why the story interests me.  Part of it may be the role that “rumors” of “crime” at the mall around the year 2000 might have played in gutting the place.

There’s a race angle there, of course.

In any event I’m sure some scapegoat will be identified and pilloried somehow, but I don’t think this is as simple as all that.  We may be letting ourselves off the hook too easily.

Maybe more on this later.

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*  Probably the most reasonable explanation is that opening a mall in the Rochester area in 1990 is pretty bad timing, and we might have been pretty well saturated with malls by that time, but like a lot of things economic, you can fake it for a long time, covering losses, etc.

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Thoughtful

Norm Pattis on privately operated drones, the FAA, negligence law, technological advances, and so on.

Highly recommended.

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Quick Political Note – GOP And The Debt Ceiling

The Republicans in the US House of Representatives are so pathetic at this point that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has to tell her troops not to “gloat” about their latest tactical victory.  No kidding.

I don’t know what is worse:  that the GOP threatened to refuse to raise the debt limit (you know, “government shut down” time again) unless some goodies would be dispensed to one of their core constitutencies (military pensioners); or that when they were called on it they caved.  Both are so miserably inept.  The GOP shows you craven, unprincipled pandering competing with despicable cowardice – a complete and almost nauseating lack of character or fortitude – and asks people for their votes.  It would be funny.  Maybe it is anyway.

Ugh.

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The Woody Allen Case (Updated)

I do not know the parties at all.  I am not a big Woody Allen fan.  I am not a big Mia Farrow fan.

One way or another, Dylan Farrow has been through hell.  Either because Woody Allen did to her what she says, or because her mother has made her believe that he did that even though it didn’t happen.  I mean, those are the only two alternatives here, so that much is certain.

If I had to pick a side it would be Allen, for two very basic reasons:  no previous or subsequent similar allegations; and the fact (which I am trying to verify) that the allegations of abuse were not made until after Allen had started an affair with his current wife (Soon-Yi), which understandably greatly upset Mia Farrow for a lot of reasons.

I wouldn’t accuse anyone of “lying” here.  All parties may believe what they are saying even though they can’t all be right.  But this is a very good example of a case where you cannot be certain and you have to be comfortable with being uncertain.  When defense lawyers are asked:  how do you defend those you know are guilty? – this kind of situation is one very good answer.  Most of the time you don’t know.

Update:  Well, no wonder I was having trouble nailing down the timing of the first emergence of these allegations that Woody Allen sexually abused Dylan Farrow.  Look at the NYS Supreme Court opinion from 1993.  It bounces around from time to time and person to person in a somewhat chaotic fashion as it recites “fact findings”, which, in a case like this, it’s extremely important to get right.  There are some places in the opinion where the only time frame referred to for an important development or even is “…in 1990″.  Ugh.

In any case, it’s apparent that Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi began developing in 1990 when he started taking her to Knicks games.  The first independently verifiable* indication that Mia Farrow had concerns about Allen’s relationship with Dylan occurred in the fall of that year, with a therapist named Coates who opined:

I understood why she [Mia Farrow - ed.] was worried because it [Mr. Allen's relationship with Dylan] was intense, …I did not see it as sexual, but I saw it as inappropriately intense because it excluded everybody else and it placed a demand on a child for a kind of acknowledgment that I felt should not be placed on a child…

 

So by the fall of 1990 Mia Farrow is expressing concerns to a therapist about Allen’s conduct with Dylan.  Whether the concern was that this conduct was of a sexual nature is not clear, at least from the opinion, though the possibility was considered and rejected by the therapist herself.  At roughly the same time a relationship is beginning between Allen and Soon-Yi, which apparently developed into something romantic no later than fall of 1991.  Again, during roughly this same time period, Dylan enters therapy with a Dr. Schultz in April of 1991, and was formally adopted by Allen, finalized by December, 1991.  It was just a few weeks later in the following month – January 13 of 1992 – that Mia Farrow learned that Allen had been romantically involved with Soon-Yi.

This led to a lot of strife in the Farrow-Allen-Polyglot household(s), obviously.

The molestation incident described in Dylan’s open letter allegedly occurred in early August of 1992, more than 7 months after Mia Farrow had definitively learned of Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi.  August 4th, I believe is the exact date but the opinion is frustratingly vague about it.  Dylan is alleged to have told her mother about it on August 5, the next day.  On August 6th Dylan saw a doctor and the report was made and presumably all hell broke loose.  On August 9th Dylan was examined and no evidence of sexual abuse was found.

The timeline undercuts (Doesn’t rule it out entirely, but undercuts it) the case against Allen, for two reasons:  

1)  He was openly involved with Soon-Yi and had been romantically involved with her for at least a year, probably longer.  He was in an acrimonious dispute with Mia Farrow for months.  It would seem bizarre beyond description that he would pick a time like that to molest his adopted 7 year old daughter.  

2)  Mia Farrow’s anger at Allen that had begun in earnest in January showed no signs of abating, and every indication of hardening and deepening by then.  This doesn’t mean she is “lying”, but it does make it more likely that she’s looking for horrible things to think and say about Allen.

Bottom line is, the allegations don’t add up. They’re not impossible, but they are very, very unlikely to be true.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman, RIP

Very, very sad news.  Such a talented man.

First time I remember seeing him was in a film called “Twister” that I thought was so terrible, but the one thing I enjoyed was watching him.  And I had no idea who he was at the time.

He hailed from Fairport, New York, and his mother – Marilyn Hoffman – has been a fixture in the Rochester legal community for decades. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with her, obviously.  This is a great tragedy for the acting community and the country, but it’s an unbearable sadness for her.

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