Monday, 29 June 2009

Bye Bye, Bernie.

There seems to be, in some people's minds, the idea that "white collar" crime is victimless. It is certainly true that sentences in America are far more severe than in Britain, (unless you have something, or someone, to trade) although that tends to be across the board.
The incredible story of Bernie Madoff comes to an end with his sentence, at the age of 71, of 150 years in prison. The Beeb have two good summaries which may be of interest to Sir Stanford (and you, I hope), and I even wrote a little on the subject meself, in the good old days.
The article accompanying this picture is also worth a read.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Tasty Cheddar

A bright and breezy pre Solstice afternoon saw Cheddar groaning under the weight of leather and tattoos as the SCC (not County Council) descended for an afternoon of noise, beer, rockabilly and mainly friendly chopper comparisons. Probably 5:1 male/female, average age 50 (the new 30), but the driving force, so to speak, is 40 somethings who paint and chop and weld for a living.

Cheddar is pretty tawdry, despite the river and caves contained in its deep gorge, a strip of cider and cheese and stuff shops, interspersed with pubs and restaurants to catch bussed in visitors at the beginning and end of their day. Elderly female visitors no longer sport the lurid blue, pink, red or even green candy floss hair concoctions so favoured a couple of generations earlier, and cheap velcro trainers may have superceded leather court shoes, but these stout pensioners still show an Edwardian curiosity in whatever they find on their travels, and large moustachio'd men in black with lurid noisy machines vied with the Gorge itself for popularity.
"How fast does it go, then luv?", asks Mavis on a zimmer frame, squinting way up into the sun at a man from Kernow. His face is hung with tapered shrapnel.
"Jump on sweetheart, and we'll find out."
"Not with this dam 'ip I won't be..." broad Wiltshire accent.

"One Eyed Jack" turned out some great music, covers and original, with a slap bass, harmonica and two tone shoes. But there were other rhythms in the air and in the faces, that of the huge engines, growling and howling through sculptures in stainless steel. Maybe that's why there wasn't a hint of trouble (not one copper seen in five hours), because they were there for the bikes and the only function of other people is to talk about bikes and stay out of your face.
And the bikes.
Some plucked faithfully from another era, some painstakingly created in sweeping curves and distorted dimensions, all of them symbiotically linked to their owner, himself decorated with metal, a bike.

A beautiful girl, on a beautiful trike.

Over half the show bikes were Harleys, and over half the onlookers' bikes were Harleys. The choppers were old (comme ca), or new personal creations, but, even in these recessionary times, five figure fully loaded showroom fresh 08/09 plates dotted the car parks and pavements.

Another gorgeous trike.

Triumph-ant patriotism.

A really poor photo of an absolutely beautifully engineered work of art.

Underneath the vacuum cleaner hoses, plastic hand footrests, latex skulls, gonks and much other post modern bric-a-brac lies a Yamaha, created proudly and conscientiously 12 years ago by Japanese computers.

And that's the long

and the short
of it.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Does my head look big in this?

Phil Spector, without and with, after and during his trials for murder.

To misquote some old chinese chap, "You cannot prevent the birds of madness from passing over your head, but you can prevent their making a nest in your hair”.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

I don't trust banks..........

The Bed Bunker looks like a product for the times, enough room for a Mississippi lawyer's small change and up to 32 rifles and 70 handguns, as well as a copy of The Constitution.
How Anat's mum wished she had one. The Tel Aviv granny had managed to squirrel away a million dollars (no, no idea) in her mattress, which must have made for a good night's sleep, until, one day, her dutiful daughter decided to treat Mum and surprise her with.........a new mattress.
After fruitlessly sorting through 3,000 tons of garbage at the dump next to the Dead Sea, Anat is reported to have said " "People have to take everything in proportion and thank God for the good and the bad."
No word from Mum.

Tobacco Money

Forty nine states reached agreement regarding money from Big Tobacco in and around 1998, as did their private counsel lawyers. The industry agreed to pay the legal fees in one of two ways, a 'liquidated' upfront, bilaterally negotiated payment, or an arbitrated amount which would be paid pro rata out of the $500,000,000 a year maximum that had been set aside by the plaintiffs.
Twenty one states' counsel shared $625m in liquidated payments, out of a court "Model Fee Paying Agreement" allocated total of $1.25bn, the remaining 50% being shared amongst the arbitration-awarded counsel, at $125m per year, starting Dec 2004 thru 2008.
The twenty eight remaining quibbles of lawyers shared $14.2bn, the lion's share going to Florida ($3.4bn, 30% of the state's total award), Texas ($3.3bn out of $15.3bn) and Mississippi ($1.4bn out of $4bn total, 35%).

Thus, MS lawyers receive about a million dollars a week for twenty eight years, ending around 2026, plus $12.5m more annually from 2004 till last December.

Like all good stats, these are simplistic, probably misleading and ignore complicated inter state/firm arrangements, the like of which provoked the rancour in the Scruggs v Wilson case.
They do, however, give a scale against which to measure the lengths that will be gone to to protect this income. For example, by using this very reasonable service, Mississippian lawyers could wipe out the entire population of Dallas in ten months and still have change.


Current consensus of variably informed  opinion/comment/ rumour is that P.L.Blake will be arrested this week after being indicted regarding the Lackey case. See you in court, Tom.
Please feel free to treat this as a "sticky", or perpetually open thread, on any aspect of this thrilling affair about which you may wish to comment.
I know two things about Spokane. The first is Robert Yates was a serial killer there and the second is that Steve Eugster hails from there. Steve followed the Scruggs affair, setting up a website called Wikiscruggs which was lost in Folo's shadow, then went PL crazy here and here until May 24th, then.......nothing. 
Maybe he's on holiday.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Do you think dyslexic people have difficulty dancing to Y.M.C.A.?*

Considering that I have two left feet, I love dance. Considering that I can't sing a note or bang a drum in time, I love music. So here's some.........

The first one comes from Lotus, who adds: 'This is an awesome dance, called the Thousand-Hand Guanyin; considering the tight coordination required, the performance is nothing short of amazing, even if they were not all deaf. Yes, you read correctly. All 21 of the dancers are complete deaf-mutes. Relying only on signals from trainers at the four corners of the stage, these extraordinary dancers deliver a visual spectacle that is at once intricate and stirring.
Its first major international debut was in Athens at the closing ceremonies for the 2004 Paralympics. But it had long been in the repertoire of the Chinese Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe and had traveled to more than 40 countries.
Its lead dancer is 29 year old Tai Lihua, who has a BA from the Hubei Fine Arts Institute. The video was recorded in Beijing during the Spring Festival this year.'

This second one is a tourist video, shot in Egypt, a great place for dance from all over the world. Thankfully, this amazing twirler didn't grab anyone from the audience (I was in a Tangier club when the belly dancer grabbed the only other european male there and ritually humiliated him. His wife didn't speak to anyone for the rest of the night).

Next, Europe fights back with its big guns, Tchaikovsky, Fonteyn and Nureyev:

Or, you could always pogo the night away........

*Dave Sokolowski, WTFHI.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

A Brief Pictorial History of Britain (Pt. 1)

I've been watching the meltdown of our government with mixed emotions. My Dad was a working class socialist who hated Tories with a class venom. We got "The Daily Mirror" every day, I sent for a copy of Mao's 'little red book' when I was sixteen and was told ten years later that I was still on Special Branch files.
What happened to Britain?

"Britain" came into physical being as a collection of islands after the last Ice Age, around 6000 BC. The melt water swamped the land bridge connecting the south east of England to the rest of Europe, rising temperatures and increasing flora and fauna provided the building blocks for the Neolithic revolution, and protoBrits began to climb the ladder of societal evolution through pastoral and economic cooperation.

Homo Sapien Sapiens were all powerful and, top of the food chain with frontal lobes glowing, they milked their domesticated animals, made flint barbs to hunt elk and deer, but still lived mainly in caves, first venturing into building in the form of earth barrows, to bury their dead.
The Sweet Track,
the world's first "road", was built in Somerset to cross the marshy Levels in 3800 BC, at least a millenia before Stonehenge.

By 1500 BC, the ability to refine ores had been learnt from the Iberian Beaker civilisation
and brought international trade to a developing society that lived in round houses and wore gold ornaments.
The Iron Age made ploughs and axes to manage the land and, by the time the outside world began to record their impressions of this rapidly evolving island, warfare between tribes had led to mass hillfort building and the use of the controversial term "Celt".* A regular Mediterranean export trade in minerals brought these fierce, hardworking people to the attention of the Greeks and Phoenicians.

As the Roman Era approached, it was preceded by numbers of mainland Gauls fleeing its advance and settling in the South East, where population density became such that towns were established for the first time.
Fifty years either side of year zero, contact with Rome increased in the lead up to formal invasion and so began about 400 years of Roman influence and occupation, mainly in the south, with sporadic rebellions and economic development as part of the Empire.
The Roman Republic had dispensed with the Monarchy back home five hundred years earlier, around the same time as Athens developed a fledgling democracy, partially emancipating the "plebs", until Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon

and created the largest Empire ever seen, controlling 2.5million sq miles at its peak.

The Empire brought with it the concept of codified Laws, a prerequisite for democracy, but so limited was the suffrage that decisions made by the Senate were, inevitably, in the interests of its patrician, slave owning class.
So, who was an inhabitant of Britannia in the year dot? There were Picts in Scotland, Gaels in Ireland and, like their neighbours, the Britons lived in tribes, farmed from their round mud and rush huts, used coins and looked to the Druids for spiritual leadership, worshipping deities such as Etharun, the stag-horned god, Cernunnos the bull-horned God of War, Sulis the healing deity, and at least three different mother goddesses concerned with the earth, fertility, sexual pleasures and the magical aspects of warfare.
Our protoBrits would have been short, probably swarthy with dark curly hair, have a life expectancy of around 35 and be prone to arthritis. They outbred their high infant mortality rate to the extent that the population was estimated in millions, a large number of whom were early orphans.
He/she would have owed his allegiance to the tribal chieftain as either a member of the warrior class or, more likely, as a free labourer or a slave routinely captured from a neighbouring tribe. He/she could not read, because there was no writing, nor paper on which to write.
Compliant tribes lived mainly peacefully under the Romans, their chieftains romanicised in stone built villas, ruled by delegation from London via civitas, a system of councillors and magistrates, whilst less cooperative tribes were massacred haphazardly but never entirely subdued, especially in what was to become Wales. They fought savagely, naked and disorganised, the women especially renowned for their ferocity.
They believed that the head carried the soul and so decapitated their enemies, also creating that famous image of a hero relocating his severed head and replacing it on his own shoulders.
Around 300 AD, Christianity arrived in Britain, but it was still about a century from its official adoption by Constantine. The last major persecution counted St. Alban as a victim, predictably later seen as a ghost carrying his own head, but the Romans were on their way out, already harassed in the South east by marauders from across the North Sea.
The Jutes, Angles and Saxons invaded and immigrated in greater and greater numbers as the Romans withdrew (to protect their homeland from the Visigoths and Vandals), mainly concentrated in Essex, Wessex and Sussex and bringing their own political customs, a three tier caste system ruled by satraps, local dictators who drew lots for overall authority when war threatened. They halved the indigenous Brit population whilst converting to Christianity over the next three centuries, before they themselves were subject to invasion by the Danes. Come 800 AD, Britain looked like this- Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in red/orange and the Celtic kingdoms in green.

Alfred the Great was probably the first person who could be called King of the Anglo Saxons. He fought long and hard against the next wave of invaders, Norsemen, who centred themselves in what became the city of York. The Vikings had arrived. He couldn't, however, prevent the map changing in a mere 80 years to this:

The Danish held territory in blue.

The next thousand years to follow.......

*Pronounced with a hard 'c'. That great thespian and serial husband Richard Burton, was asked by a young journalist on his first arrival in the US what it was like to be a Celt in the New World. The hack pronounced it Selt, prompting Burton to look him up and down and ask, "I'm not sure. What's it like to be a sunt in the New World?"

TheManfromPorlock scoops The Guardian

Remember Neal Horsley? Yesterday The Guardian noticed him too:
... "The thing about [Dr. George] Tiller's assassination that was really appropriate is that they killed him in church. While he was there collecting the money, counting the money, his blood poured in to those thick carpets in that church. That was a fitting send off." ...

But remember where you heard of him (and his other-species girlfriends, which The Guardian missed) first.

-- lotus

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Excuse me while I lay my dick on the table

The Man Hisself, not posing for Thomas Neff . When is an image iconic, when stereotypical, when cliched? 

In NOLA*, a loopy lawyer laments -- UPDATED

* New Orleans, Louisiana.
(Rodney thinks the Brit readers will think ? and vaguely picture some Irish sisters.)

Though today it's taking quite a lot to pull my eyes away from what's happening to Gordon Brown and his government, someone has managed to do it . . .

When I put on hiatus in early March, I left the blog up on the Web so folks could browse it as an archive, and occasionally I look in on the stats page to see what's still drawing eyeballs. To my surprise, the last few days have seen considerable interest in a post from last February about a New Orleans lawyer named Ashton R. O'Dwyer, Jr.

When I wrote that, O'Dwyer himself had just turned up in folo's comment threads, hollering about terrible wrongs done him in post-Katrina litigation. His florid rhetoric reminded me of someone I'd seen in TV interviews from New Orleans during the storm's aftermath -- a half-naked, more-than-half-crazed denizen of the Garden District, waving his arms and promising a faceful of hot lead to any National Guard trooper who might try to evacuate him.

As a quick Googling of his name and image confirmed this hazy memory, "AROD" latched onto both my blog and my email address with such ranty racist relish that I soon banned him from both.

And now this week, here he was back. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune explains:
Nestled just over the Mississippi River levee sits a row of cabins on stilts with tin roofs and sun-bleached boardwalks. Chickens roam one of the camps. A goat looks out from another.

This spot on the east bank of Jefferson Parish at the Orleans Parish line is a final remnant of a once-prevalent riparian lifestyle, where the residents bask in a serene view of the river and relish a private domain guarded by the levee.

The tranquillity in this settlement of a dozen camps, however, is cracking, as their secluded home ground has become the scene of a mounting legal battle.

New Orleans lawyer Ashton O'Dwyer Jr., whose family a half-century ago operated well-known but illegal gambling halls, including one on nearby property, claims he owns the inhabited batture land. He is suing to have the river dwellers -- possibly including a few who have lived there for decades -- evicted.

"There is no such thing as squatters' rights," O'Dwyer said. "This is America, and I'm asserting my rights to my property."

The batture residents, among other defenses, are questioning whether O'Dwyer has even legally established his claim to the land. ...
I invite you to read the whole account, imagining, as you do, what an easy afternoon's work Tennessee Williams could have made of a Pullet's Surprise-winning play on Ashton O'Dwyer. Lawd lawd lawd.

UPDATE: Ah. Here's today's addition to the story. Now disbarred suspended from practice and, he says, down to his house and $45, AROD has been held in contempt of court for concluding a telephone status-conference by telling the judge "Screw you!" and hanging upon him.

-- lotus