Poor Cliven

You should read all of the charges in Cliven Bundy’s indictment: assault, extortion, conspiracy, and more, and it’s all based on the 2014 standoff at his ranch. The FBI has been waiting patiently all this time to sweep him up and lock him away with an overwhelming list of crimes.

The other rather amusing thing about it all: Bundy, the guy with the great ranch and who has been grazing herds of cattle on federal land, who owes at least a million dollars to the federal government, has asked the federal government to provide him with a public defender. The freeloading never ends.

Oregon occupation is ending

I’m actually respecting the way the FBI has been handling the Bundy situation. They’ve been deliberate and cautious and have been trying to minimize the gunplay. I wish police everywhere were paying attention: guns are a last resort.

OPB has been tracking developments. The FBI has closed in on the Malheur refuge, and has demanded that the remaining four surrender. Those four have been freaking out and posting defiant videos to youtube, which do diddly for their situation now but are going to play well in the courtroom. The story is that they’re going to surrender sometime this morning.

The next step will be for the FBI to document all the damage the militia did to the refuge. That’ll also play well in court.

Cliven Bundy has been arrested. He sent out a twitter message and email calling for all “patriots” to go to Oregon. All caps, of course.

After his plane landed in Oregon, he was arrested. How anticlimactic. And how totally predictable. And about time. Anyone else who is a million dollar scofflaw wouldn’t need to incite rebellion to find themselves in jail.

These people aren’t heroic patriots. They’re just arrogant, privileged crooks with weird religious beliefs to justify criminal behavior.

Sometimes, the truth is murkier than you’d like

The FBI has released video of the Finicum shooting in Oregon. We’ve been hearing competing stories about it: some have said that he was kneeling in surrender, his arms raised above his head, when the FBI gunned him down in cold blood. Others have said he was charging the police like Rooster Cogburn at the end of True Grit, demanding a hero’s death.

The video shows why both stories are going around. Finicum’s car crashes into the snow at a roadblock. He jumps out, arms held up, and runs away from the road, as if he thinks he can escape. But he’s surrounded. There are agents all around. He stops. He turns around. He lowers his arms and fumbles at his belt. Someone shoots, and he falls to the ground. The camera pans around (it’s on a helicopter or drone, and there is no sound), and you see a few brief flashes of gunfire and smoke — I can’t tell whether the occupants of the car are firing or being shot at. Then there is a few minutes of agents standing around, not ducking for cover, before the occupants begin to emerge with their hands up. Finicum’s body is lying in the snow, not moving.

So it’s a little of all of the stories. I think Finicum was in the heat of anger, ran out with the idea of escaping somehow, saw it was hopeless, and fumbled for a gun. I’d rather the law exercised more restraint — I could imagine that if he did pull a gun, he’d have waved it around in futile bravado before dropping it as the hopelessness of his situation sunk in — but I wasn’t there, and I can sympathize with the officers not wanting to risk getting shot at.

What a waste.

The beginning of the end of the Malheur occupation

Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, and several others have been arrested, and someone unnamed has been killed.

The FBI and Oregon State Police report Ammon Bundy, Ryan C. Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox and Ryan Waylen Payne were all arrested.

Officials also said there was one fatality and one person suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transferred to a local hospital.

It is unfortunate that the standoff seems to be ending (but this encounter occurred outside the refuge, and I presume the fanatics instead are still hoping for martyrdom) in violence, but I suppose it’s inevitable that people who babbled about killing or be killed weren’t going to just peaceably surrender.

Let’s hope the heart has gone out of the remaining occupiers and that the rest fades away quietly.

At least they picked the right place for it

Two men got into an argument over a $25 fee in a gun shop, and what do you know, they all decided to resolve it with — you guessed it — guns. End result: two dead, two in the hospital with critical injuries.

What struck me, though, is where it occurred: Picayune, Mississippi. It seems to me unwise to be selling deadly firearms in a place where you just know petty squabbles are going to flare up all the time.

Fast losing all confidence in the justice system

My wife and I made the mistake of getting hooked on the Netflix series, Making A Murderer, this weekend. Never watch sausage being made, and never take a look inside what the police do to make a case. It will ruin your trust in the system.

There were a couple of things that just infuriated me.

  • There were two clear cases of scientific dishonesty that ought to have simply been thrown out, or never even been presented to the jury.
    • They tested a bullet for blood, and announced that it was from the victim. But the lab tech also disclosed that the negative control was contaminated! My jaw dropped at that. You don’t get to make that claim when your test was invalidated by error.
    • To disprove that the accused’s blood at the crime scene was not planted from a sample in police custody, they declared that the FBI, using a new test, had found no preservatives in the blood, therefore the sample couldn’t have been planted. Again, you can’t do that. What were the limits of detection? The best you can do is say that the test failed, and without a lot of evaluation of the samples and the procedure, you can’t state how likely their answer was.


  • One of the prosecutor’s tools was this horrifically detailed story of the murder, which they claim to have gotten from a confession by the accused’s nephew. But we have the recording of the “confession”, and it’s appalling. The nephew is this lost, confused, slow-witted teenager, and the police lead him through the story. He didn’t provide any of the purported details. They did.

    The prosecutors didn’t exhibit a speck of shame at going on and on about knifings and stranglings and shooting and torture, with the only evidence being a fable fed to a not very bright kid. Is that a general character trait of prosecutors? I wouldn’t know.

Just to counterbalance the dismaying unprofessionalism, incompetence, and corruption of the police, though, I have to say I hope that if ever I’m accused of a crime, I want the defense attorneys, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, on my side. They, at least, seemed to be well aware of the inconsistencies and falsehoods in the prosecution’s case. I don’t know whether the prosecutors weren’t very bright or were just doing their job to paper over the failings of their arguments.

I don’t know whether it’s the charitable assumption to guess that the prosecutors just didn’t care about the truth.

It’s also a shame because the victim was murdered, and my impression is that the Manitowoc police were more interested in pinning the blame on the accused than in actually figuring out what happened.

Your mission this morning

Read this long essay, An Unbelievable Story of Rape. Or don’t. Some of you might think it’s just a little too believable, and would rather not suffer through the misery.

Here’s the short version to help you decide. A young woman with a troubled history is attacked in her apartment one night. She’s in shock. She reports the crime to the police. The police pick at little discrepancies in her story, pressure her to recant. Full of self-doubt and stress, she does…she wonders if maybe she dreamt it all. The police drop the case, and then decide to prosecute her for wasting their time.

Later, in another state, more diligent police officers track down and ultimately arrest a serial rapist. In his room, they find his “trophies” — he collects underwear and takes photos of his bound and terrorized victims. And there in his collection, they find a photo of a young woman they don’t recognize.

Guess who?

It’s a terrible story of gaslighting and a criminal justice system that would rather sweep crimes against women under a rather large and strangely lumpy rug. This is the story of false rape accusations a lot of people would rather you didn’t hear.

Don’t go under Duntsch’s knife!


If this man is your doctor, run away. Christopher Duntsch is terrifyingly incompetent.

Duntsch arrived in Dallas in 2010 to start a neurosurgery practice. In the course of the next three years he would work at several different hospitals, earning infamy for his haphazard surgical technique wherever he went, according to the Texas Observer. His colleagues described him in the harshest superlatives: “worst surgeon I’ve ever seen,” “sociopath.”

“I couldn’t believe a trained surgeon could do this,” Robert Henderson, another surgeon at Dallas Medical Center, where Duntsch performed several operations, told the Observer. “He just had no recognition of the proper anatomy. He had no idea what he was doing. At every step of the way, you would have to know the right thing to do so you could do the wrong thing, because he did all the wrong things.”

In one case, authorities allege, Duntsch operated on his roommate and friend after a night of using cocaine. The man emerged from the operation a quadriplegic. In another, he purposefully left a surgical sponge inside a man’s body. During that surgery, a fellow doctor forced Duntsch to stop operating because of his “unacceptable” technique, the Dallas Morning News reported, citing a search warrant affidavit.

[Read more…]

Leveraging religion into money and death

The Korean ferry Sewol that abruptly capsized and sank last spring sank because of an act of god … that is, the depredations of a scummy Christian cult. A story in the NY Times today summarizes the causes. The company that ran the ferry was a front for a religious cult run by Yoo Byung-eun, called the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea. He had a whole network of enterprises, all funneling millions of dollars into the pockets of Yoo and his family. One of the ways they profited was by cutting corners on everything, including safety.

Scores of cabins and even an art gallery laden with marble were added to the ferry’s upper decks, making the ship top-heavy. So much extra cargo was crammed on board that there was sometimes no space to secure it properly with chains and lashings. And, prosecutors say, the ferry’s crucial ballast water, needed to balance all the additional weight, was deliberately drained so that the vessel would not sit too low — a telltale sign to inspectors that the ferry was dangerously overloaded to bring in more money.

“It was a miracle that the ship actually sailed as far as it did; it could have tipped over any time,” said Kim Woo-sook, dean of the graduate school at Mokpo National Maritime University. “For them, cargo was cash.”

The art gallery was there to feed Yoo’s monstrous ego — he fancied himself an artist, and with so much cash flowing through his hands, he spent millions to get his photographs displayed at the Louvre. He claimed to be just about everything.

Mr. Yoo, who in his guise as Ahae cultivated an air of mystery by only allowing himself to be photographed from behind or the side, is described by the website of Ahae Press as a sort of renaissance man: “an inventor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, environmental activist, martial artist, painter, sculptor, poet, and photographer.”

Con artist. Murderer. Ruthless exploiter. Christian. Or at least, someone who saw Christianity as another easy gimmick to prey on the rubes.

But hey, they spent some money on safety.

In one of their more damning findings, prosecutors say that so much money was being siphoned away from the ferry company to Mr. Yoo and his relatives that it was starved of funds and spent just $2 last year on safety training for the Sewol’s crew members. The money went to buy a paper copy of a certificate.

There is no justice, though. The elder Yoo’s rotting corpse was found in his garden, cause of death unknown. Most of his family (apparently one son is still on the run), who all profited from his schemes, have been arrested so at least there’s that.