Category Archives: crime

Public Figure Punishment and Race

As you may have heard, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who helped his team win the Super Bowl a couple times, will be suspended the first six games of the 16-game season for “violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.” The punishment, handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, involved “a 20-year-old college student who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub in March.” The district attorney declined to prosecute, fearing he could not make his case, but he spoke in rather damning terms at a press conference HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE. I didn’t to the whole thing, maybe 10 of the 40 minutes, but it was enough. This is not the first time allegations about Ben’s sexual improprieties have surfaced.

What surprised me, but should not have, is this barrage of comments suggesting that he fared better or fared worse because he is white. Just Google Roethlisberger race. Some people complained that Michael Vick, dog killer, got only a two-game suspension; however, he also went to jail.

1. Is the punishment adequate, too much or too little?
2. What does race have to do with it, if anything?
3. Should Ben get traded to another team? CAN he get traded?
4. Does the NFL Commissioner have too much authority as “judge, jury and executioner”, as one pundit called it? In other sports, there is an appeals process, but the only appeal to the NFL Commissioner is to the NFL Commissioner.

My thoughts: it’s a judgment call, it got the QB’s attention, but I wish action had been taken on some of these earlier incidents; much ado about not much, but race still gets infused in EVERYTHING; another team would be crazy to take him; yes.


Very short takes

Today is the day folks go to the polls in many locations in New York State, everywhere except in the largest cities and vote for the school budget and the school board members. For some reason, the city of Albany only votes for the budget now, and the school board in November. More on that and Rex Smith speaking at the Friends of the Albany Public Library annual meeting this eveninghere.
Don’t care about Dancing with the Stars, but I do care about my wife, and SHE cares about DWTS. So I got the phone number from the end of the taped performance and tried to call in a number of times, but kept getting a busy signal. Then I went online to do so, but it required to be registered with Lo and behold, I WAS registered with, though I don’t recall why. Five votes for Kristi Yamaguchi & Mark Ballas, who got 60 out of 60 points from the judges (the competition got 51 and 52 votes.)
I haven’t sent out my mixed CDs yet because I saved them to the drive, then the burner failed to put the data on the disc. I have figured out a workaround, but can’t get to until this weekend; sorry. It is sequenced and I do like it; Gordon will recognize the inspiration immediately. So far got mine from Gordon (like it), Tosy (listened to about half), and Lefty (haven’t played yet). Details to follow.
Best wishes to Edward Kennedy after his medical episode. I was looking at my Bushisms calendar, where W. referred to him as Theodore, one of the more understandable mistakes in the gaffe-filled daily.
The Subway series played out this past weekend. For me, the excitement is tempered, maybe because they are, at least so far, two mediocre teams, though the Mets, who swept, less mediocre than the Yankees.
The only parts of the NBA playoffs I have watched has been when I’ve taped ABC World News and the game has run over. For instance, I saw the last 18 seconds of the Celtics Game-Seven win over Cleveland, which took about 10 minutes, with all the fouls and timeouts.
Happy birthday, PixieNona!Are you sure it was a cold and not allergies? Your symptoms were very similar to mine last week.
In answer to a comment to this story DNA cleared them, but they’ll never feel free and some of the comments: “There’s particular disdain for the prosecutors of these crimes because, often, the prosecution withheld evidence that could have exonerated the defendant, esp. in Dallas County, TX. At least some of these people were home and with their families or at work; the assertion that ‘people doing the right thing don’t get mixed up in this stuff’ is simply inaccurate much of the time. There is also mistaken identity by witnesses far more often than most people realize. With all that, there’s no way to blame the juries, who can only weigh the evidence presented.”


Domestic Bliss QUESTIONS

Dear Ramblin’:
We’ve had this invasion of ants in our kitchen. How do we get rid of them without using chemicals?

Dear Bugged:
Our family has had some success with leaving the peelings from the skins of cucumbers in front of the back entrance. It does leave little ant corpses, though, and you need to replace the peels daily, lest they dry up and become ineffective. Oh, and when you’re picking up those deceased insects, you should sing that segment from the William Tell Overture best known as the Lone Ranger Theme, “dead ant, dead ant, dead ant ant ant.”
Dear Ramblin’:
Our toilet is clogged up. What should I use that isn’t some dangerous chemical.
Not Going Down the Hole

Amazingly effective: a half cup of baking soda. Slowly pour in the cheapest white vinegar you can find until it stops bubbling.
Dear Ramblin’:
Remember than Seinfeld commercial for American Express in which Jerry walks into a grocery store? His plastic bag comes right open, even as some schmo struggles. I’m like the schmo. Any ideas?

Dear Frustrated:
Water on your fingertips. My store is continually – excessively – washing the produce that I’m going to wash at home anyway. Steal a couple drops. Or, if necessary, lick your fingertips. Also helpful for those plastic garbage bags.
Dear Ramblin’:
I hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes the shell sticks to the egg, requiring excessive time, AND I lose a lot of the egg white as a result. Any suggestions?

Dear Eggsasperated:
While running cold water on the egg, crack both ends of the egg. Last time I tried this, it worked 10 out of 11 times – the 12th was one I tried to peel the old way.
Dear Ramblin’:
Occasionally, I drop a can or bottle of soda. Naturally, I’m afraid that I’ll take a bath when I open the container. Any suggestions?
Not Looking For A Soda Bath

Don’t know about the bottles, other than opening really slowly. But for cans, I’ve found tapping the top of the container with my index a dozen times is often effective.
Dear Ramblin’:
When I make lasagna, my noodles end up sticking together, making putting on those layers of pasta a real chore. Should I just go out and buy that “no cook” lasagna, or is there another way?

Dear Stuck:
Long before I ever heard of that “no cook” product, I used regular uncooked lasagna noodles, increasing the quantity sauce by about 20% and making sure the noodles are covered by sauce on both sides. The lasagna noodles get cooked with the lasagna and tastes great.

Have some helpful household hints? Pleaser leave them in the comments section or e-mail them to: Ramblin’s Household Hints
As an Albany blogger, I guess I ought to note my fair city’s latest claim to fame.


Jury Duty

A couple months ago, both Carol and I received a juror qualification questionnaire from Albany County, which we had to fill out and verify our address and criminal status (or, in our case, lack thereof). So it was not at all surprising to discover that, a couple weeks ago, I received a notification that I had to call to see if I needed to report for jury duty.

The possibility of jury duty has happened to me thrice before. In the fall of 1977, I lived in Jamaica, Queens (NY), voting as I was leaving town for Schenectady; a couple months later, Queens sent me a jury notice. I wrote back that I didn’t live there anymore. In 1991, I received notice to appear as a juror in federal court. I wrote back that I was in the middle of grad school; could I postpone for two months? Apparently yes, but they never followed up. Then about six years ago, I had to make calls every evening, but my number, which was in the 250s, never came up.

This time, however, when I called, I received this lengthy message. One group was to go to one place at 9 a.m., another group to another location, also at 9 a.m., and the group consisting of 243 to 411 ended up having to show up at 9:45 at the Albany County Judicial Center, a building built just a year ago, just behind the county office building; my number was 357. The woman giving instructions was very pleasant, but knew she needed to project to the large crowd in a big room, so her voice was at a constant near yell. (One of my fellow attendees thought it was a monotone.) She swore us all in.

We got the scoop on jury duty. For instance, the law requires the employers of 10 or more employees to pay us at least $40/day. The only folks who will get specifically paid for service by the state are those who are unemployed, retired, not scheduled to work the particular days, or the self-employed. (This is all explained here.) She noted how the law had changed so that there are far fewer automatic exemptions because of one’s profession, a good thing, I think, since a juror class of retirees and the unemployed is not really, a jury of one’s peers. A large part of the discussion was about parking; the Crown Plaza Hotel allows jurors to park for $6/day, rather than $14. We had been encouraged to take the CDTA bus down, but obviously many did not, for at the first break, lots of people went to move their vehicles.

Eventually, we went to the courtroom. After a few more instructions, Judge Herrick came in. He explained that while the jury trial was an important part of the system, he knows it’s inconvenient, so he appreciated our service. He asked if any of us had a problem with serving each day until 5 or maybe a little after this week. At first, only a trickle was in line, but the queue didn’t seem to get any shorter. I got in line myself, not because I didn’t want to serve, but because I had to pick up Lydia before 5:30 that day. No one else who was authorized to get her was in town, as Carol and her parents were all in Harpursville, near Binghamton, at Carol’s aunt Vera’s funeral. I stood off to the side as the judge, DA and defense attorney conferred. The judge waved me back to the bench and said that he didn’t expect that today’s session, involving jury selection – known as voir dire – would last past 4:30. Of all the people who came forward, I was the first to return to his/her seat, as opposed to out the door, only one of three total in that situation. So the pool of over 160 jurors was down to around 120; no wonder they call so many people.

The clerk empaneled the first group of 21, using a cage like one of those BINGO caller devices. The 21st person was Shawn Morris, president of the common council, Albany’s city council. By mutual agreement among the judge, DA and defense attorney, she was sent home, though she had made no effort to get off the trial.

The facts of the case were read. The defendant was charged with two counts of robbery, i.e., he was accused of robbing two named alleged victims at a specific address on South Pearl Street on a date last August, arrested by two named police officers.

The judge used to have jurors do a juror survey, but since he found that keeping them around might violate one’s privacy, he decided on the oral recitation by each juror of the:
Name, City, Job, Spouse/Significant Other’s Job (if retired, what the jobs were), Age of Children, Hobbies, Memberships
People forgot to mention all of these points a lot, especially their city.
The judge asked the jurors about the race of the accused – he was black – and whether that fact would influence their decision-making. No one said “yes”.
He also asked a series of questions such as:
Have you been a victim of a crime?
Do you know anyone in the Albany police department? (One woman was engaged to an Albany city cop.) Do you know the arresting officers?
Do you know the accused?
Do you know either attorney? Do you know the district attorney, David Soares?
What was interesting about the assistant DA in his presentation was that he made the point, over and over again, that if he didn’t make his case, that the accused should be acquitted. Both lawyers and the judge all emphasized that it was unnecessary for the accused’s to speak in his defense, and that one ought not to draw inferences from that, if he does not.
The defense attorney seemed to be trying the case when he asked if it would mitigate the circumstances if it were shown that the accused signed something (a confession, I’m guessing), but that the accused was shown to be incapable of reading.

The first panel of 21 started before lunch, wasn’t finished until after lunch, when 11 of the 14 needed jurors were selected. This required empaneling 21 more people, and I was afraid that picking up Lydia would become problematic. But all parties were more terse, assuming we all were listening. The 21st juror in this panel, when asked if he had been a victim of a crime, said that his girlfriend had been raped, and that he would be unable to render a fair verdict. Why he didn’t go to the bench and tell the judge this – that was an option if there were embarrassing issues – I don’t know. Anyway, he was excused, and another person was chosen. From that group, only three needed to be chosen, and that happened quickly. They had a juror of 12, plus two alternates. It was 3:30, and I was done for the day.

My feeling at the end of this long, tedious process, during which I got through five magazines, was that it made me more confident in the legal system, much to my surprise. So, I’m glad to have served, if even for one day. I was surprised, though, that at least one woman was having trouble with the notion of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Didn’t she watch, as I did, any of these shows?
Perry Mason
The Defenders
Judd for the Defense
The Bold Ones – the lawyer segment
Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law
LA Law
Law & Order (regular, not extra crispy)
The Practice/Boston Legal

But as the trial progressed, if she had been chosen – I don’t think she was – the judge would have made that notion clear.

Boom Box Bust

I got this message in my work e-mail on 12/19/2006:
Please remind your respective staff members as appropriate that personal items and belongings and/or items of a valuable or sentimental nature should be properly secured if they choose to bring them into the workplace or simply left a home. Unlike many of our previous office locations, we have an open floor plan setting at this location with several of our programs merged onto one floor. Our swipe card system simply limits the number of people who have access to our area but does not limit access once inside the secured zone.
Please let me know if you have any questions.

In the last couple weeks, one of the folks in my section had an iPod stolen from his desk. And not just the device itself, but the base, that was plugged in under his desk. The powers that be on our floor were notified, and they sent out this message on 2/6/2007:

Please remind your respective staff members as appropriate that personal items and belongings and/or items of a valuable or sentimental nature…

Yes, the very same message, including the phrase “simply left a home”, rather than the intended “simply left at home”. This means that the thieves work on the floor and/or are from the cleaning crew. In any case, I thought the response was inadequate, and told the powers that be of that fact.

In part at my urging, the victim of the iPod theft had called the Town of Colonie Police. What was striking is that the officer said that the department hadn’t gotten any complaints from our building before the iPod, which of course was a bit discouraging to the victim.

I recommended to the powers that be that they should encourage people to report the thefts. And I told them why, which leads to a story also recollected as a result of my recent jury duty.

It was March 14, 2001. (Why do I remember the date? It was a week after my birthday.) I was supposed to meet Carol somewhere, so I left my office on State Street in downtown Albany at 5 pm. Carol and I must have gotten our wires crossed, because she wasn’t where I expected her. I returned to my office to call her at 5:30, when I discovered the boom box that had been on my desk had disappeared. Initially, I thought one of my co-workers who were there – there were at least two – might have borrowed it. Alas, that was not the case. Immediately, I called the police and reported the theft. I had no illusions of getting my box back, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

What surprised me is that a few months later, they caught a guy who had stolen a number of pieces of personal property from offices all up and down State Street and adjoining streets. Eventually, I had to testify in front of a grand jury – that was surprisingly intimidating – that the boom box pawned by the accused was not given to him by me.

The real surprise, though, was when I received a check for about $70 from some victims’ compensation fund; the particulars I’m not clear on, but the fact that I got back about 88% of what I had paid for the machine was a really pleasant, unexpected outcome.

So, I’m waiting, waiting, waiting for the powers that be to actually follow through on his pledge to encourage police reports to be filed. But holding my breath, I’m not. And in case, you’re wondering why I don’t just tell people myself, I have, informally, but a mass distribution from the powers that be would be much more effective.