Friday, December 31, 2010

AUBurgeddon: Coker quietly files motions seeking wiretaps

image Typically, the one-week period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is among the quietest of the year in legal, political and government circles. Very little of any magnitude is attempted, negotiated or accomplished because so many lawyers, clerks, magistrates and judges are taking time off to spend with their families over the holidays. In fact, very little is done the week before or after Christmas for the same reasons. It’s the holidays. Who wants to be bothered with work?

The closing days of the 2010 calendar have been different.

The day after Jarrod Massey changed his plea in a deal with the government for his testimony, Tom Coker, another of the 11 indicted in connection with the scheme to buy votes in the Alabama legislature, filed a motion to compel the government to disclose the contents of the voluminous wiretapped recordings of phone conversations between lobbyists, legislators and others involved in the scheme. The government filed its response to Coker’s motion yesterday, December 30.

The motion, and the response from the government, have gone unnoticed by the legacy media.

Coker’s motion contains the following passage:


1. On December 1, 2010, the Government notified Coker that it was going to make available the “binders submitted to Judge Hobbs during the course of the wiretaps” made in relation to this case.

2. However, the Government also wrote that “only counsel for Mr. McGregor, Mr. Gilley, and Mr. Massey will have access to the binders for their respective client’s phone line(s), as they contain material subject to privilege assertions by those three defendants.”

3. On December 8th, Coker’s counsel requested access to the binders also. In doing so, the undersigned wrote that “[a]ccording to phone logs you produced, over 80 captured communications involved calls to/from Coker’s office or cell phone number.”

Admittedly, numerous of these communications were voice mail messages or communications with Coker’s staff but not Coker himself. Nevertheless, several captured communications involve Coker and he is therefore entitled to access to the binders.

4. Last week, on December 14th, at the hearing before this Court, the Government stated that it was refusing to provide Coker access to these binders.

5. Accordingly, having attempted in good faith to resolve this issue with the Government, counsel now is required to seek the intervention of this Court.

6. Tom Coker is an aggrieved party under the wiretap laws. Under Title III, an
aggrieved person is defined as "a person who was a party to any intercepted wire, oral
or electronic communication or a person against whom the interception was directed".


The government does not vigorously oppose Coker’s motion, but seeks to limit Coker’s access to certain “binders” because Milton McGregor asserts privilege over some of their contents.

Recall that one of the key developments in the Cam Newton investigation was the revelation that the FBI agents looking into the pay-for-play matter were interested in a connection between the Newtons and McGregor.

In a separate but potentially related matter, sources confirm that the New York Times has one or more freelancers in the state of Alabama, filing public records requests with the courts and unnamed state institutions and interviewing several individuals with direct or background knowledge of recruiting and corruption matters.

Recall also that Massey worked for Ronnie Gilley, the developer of the Country Crossings casino in southeast Alabama. He did not work for McGregor.  McGregor employed Robert Geddie and Tom Coker. Massey’s plea does not affect McGregor’s case. But a plea deal between the government and either Geddie, Coker or both would be devastating for the former director of Colonial Bank and Auburn booster.

The big development of the weeks ahead will be whether Coker is given access to the wiretap binders (which describe the contents of the recordings, not the recordings or transcripts themselves) and whether the press—and the public—is finally made aware of the contents.

Many believe those contents could implicate one or more of the 11 indictees in the alleged pay-for-play scandal that erupted onto the national scene on November 4. Others scoff at the notion and believe these issues to be unrelated.

Stay tuned, sports fans.


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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tucker Carlson: “Vick should have been executed.”

On a completely different path than my post earlier today: Tucker Carlson, conservative founder of the Daily Caller, says Vick should have been executed.  Carlson is guest hosting for Sean Hannity on Fox News this week.


 

Carlson, who is guest-hosting the Fox News program "Hannity" this week, made the remark during a discussion about Obama's call to Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie in which the President said he was happy the team gave the troubled quarterback a second chance after he was convicted of running a dog fighting ring.

"I'm a Christian, I've made mistakes myself, I believe fervently in second chances, but Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did [it] in a heartless and cruel way," Carlson said. "And I think personally he should have been executed for that. He wasn't."

"But the idea that the President of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs [is] kind of beyond the pale," he said.


Aside from treason or desertion, I don’t think the United States Government uses the death penalty. If they did, all those crack dealers they’ve busted over the years would certainly deserve a noose or a firing squad for killing people.

Vick killed dogs.  He did it cruelly. But he didn’t kill people.

He’s also confessed to his crime, accepted his punishment, done his time and fulfilled all of the terms of his probation.

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UPDATE: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air (I think) agrees with me.  Regardless of where you stand on the appropriateness of Vick’s sentence vis-a-vis the heinous nature of the crime, both he and the Government agreed on a plea bargain and the sentence. Vick fulfilled his end of the bargain and should be free to earn a living.  Morrissey, being one of the “big dogs” on the right blogosphere, also got Carlson to expound upon his incendiary comment:


I love dogs — we have three — and I think what Vick did was horrifying and shockingly cruel. Executed? I don’t know. I do know that 19 months is a joke. People get more than that for tax evasion. He certainly shouldn’t be back in the NFL with Obama rooting for him. What the president said is disgusting. That’s the story as far as I’m concerned.


BCS National Championship Prediction: Auburn will Crush Oregon

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been all over the Cam Newton investigation and other cases involving Auburn University power brokers. I haven’t pulled many punches because I think it’s the biggest story of the year in college football. But you also know that I call it like I see it.  Weeks before the season even started, I predicted a big season for Auburn and I am not surprised at all to see them on the threshold of their first legitimate national title.

image It is a threshold that they will cross, and they will cross it easily.  Oregon has absolutely no chance of beating Auburn on January 10, 2011. The Tigers, led by Cam Newton’s prolific passing and running game, will roast the Ducks, devour them and their young, and then pick their teeth with the bones.  Here are the five reasons why I see this being one of the biggest blowouts in BCS title game history.

  1. Cam Newton. At 6’ 6” and 250 lbs, Newton is as big as Oregon’s biggest defensive lineman. But unlike a lineman, Newton can throw the ball a country mile or simply run over linemen, linebackers and puny cornerbacks. He shredded LSU for 489,506 yards or something. The dude is a freak.
  2. Auburn’s offensive line. The game of football is won and lost on the line of scrimmage. When your big nasties can knock the slobber out of the other guy’s big nasties, you usually win the game. Oregon’s defensive front will be getting up from the turf looking through their helmet earholes. Cheap sports tickets!
  3. Nick Fairley. This guy has NFL superstardom written into his future. Big. Fast. Mean. Relentless. To quote a famous movie line: “Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”
  4. Gus Malzahn is an offensive genius. I know Chip Kelly runs a blindingly fast offense that wears the other team out with a gazillion snaps per game. But Malzahn does too, and his offense is simply one trick play after another. You never know what’s coming, when or where.
  5. Senior leadership. I’m not saying Oregon doesn’t have this. Just that Auburn has more of it. This is a senior laden team, and most of the upperclassmen have been in big games before. Hell, the whole SEC regular season is one big game after another, and Auburn’s Amen Corner this year was Georgia, Alabama in the Iron Bowl and Carolina in the SEC Title Game.

Oregon has outstanding athletes and it’s an extraordinarily well coached football team. They deserve to be playing Auburn for the crystal trophy, but they really don’t have much hope of winning it. Despite the rest of the country’s overwhelming sense that someone has cheated and will be getting away with it, the best team on the field almost always wins the game, and by far the best team on the field come January 10 will be the Auburn Tigers.

 

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Obama’s praise of Eagles’ “second chance” causes left meltdown

image This is one of those rare opportunities to write about a mashup of football and politics. In today’s Los Angeles Times, the paper’s Brian Bennett and Michael Memoli report on a phone conversation between Barack Obama and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeff Lurie. 

El Presidente’s main objective was to give some props to Lurie for greening up Lincoln Financial Field with wind turbines, solar panels and other equally cost ineffective means of powering the stadium (yes, Virginia…  Green Energy costs jobs). But the conversation also touched on Lurie’s controversial decision to give Michael Vick a “second chance” by signing him to a one-year deal after Vick was released from prison.

Vick, as we all know, confessed to operating a dogfighting ring in August 2007 and served 19 months of a two-year sentence in federal prison. Vick was once the highest paid player in the NFL but was suspended by the league after his allocution. He was reinstated prior to the season and Lurie gave him a shot, sparking an intense firestorm from the left’s animal rights wacko groups like PETA.

Vick has had an outstanding season and prior to last night’s upset by the Vikings, Vick appeared headed for a league MVP title. Obama reportedly praised Lurie for taking a shot with the controversial quarterback, and instantly reopened the old can of worms.


"This is a nation of football lovers," said Lisa Lange, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She also said Obama was underestimating the negative reaction his comments would provoke. "It is also a nation of dog lovers."While discussing Lurie's November announcement to add hundreds of wind turbines and solar panels to Lincoln Financial Field, Obama also commended him for giving Vick a second chance, according to Peter King of NBC and Sports Illustrated.

A White House statement Tuesday cast Obama's comments as consistent with the president's view that "individuals who have paid for their crimes should have an opportunity to contribute to society again."

But Bill Smith, the founder of Main Line Animal Rescue in the Philadelphia area, bristled at Obama's characterization that the Eagles' signing of Vick was motivated by wanting to give a convicted felon a second chance.

"If he couldn't throw a football, he wouldn't have had a second chance," said Smith, who organized a campaign last season to collect food for animal shelters every time Vick was sacked on the field. "This isn't about giving anyone a second chance; it's about who can make the Eagles organization more money."

[Vick] riled activists this month when he told NBC News that he "would love to get another dog in the future. I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process."

Vick is not allowed to own a dog while he is on probation, and PETA wants the restriction extended when he is up for review in 2012. In the same way convicted pedophiles are not allowed to be alone with children, PETA's board says, it believes convicted animal abusers should be denied unsupervised access to pets.


The left is all about giving their favored folks—like child rapist Roman Polanski and domestic terrorist Bill Ayers—second chances. But when a favored target like Michael Vick is given a second chance, all hell breaks loose.

Roman Polanski has never even faced justice for seducing an intoxicated tweener, and Bill Ayers tried to kill people. Michael Vick confessed to his crimes, served his sentence and was released from prison on probation. His probation has included volunteering for the Humane Society, where he has spent more than a year speaking to children about the evils of animal abuse.  Tony Dungy, one of the finest men in the NFL world has testified to Vick’s successful rehabilitation.

Vick has paid the price for his misdeeds and has earned the chance to play again. He’s made the best of that chance and by all accounts, has turned his life around. Meanwhile, lefty criminals like Polanski and Ayers are unapologetic and treated like persecuted rock stars.

 

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Connecting Dots: More ties between Colonial Bank, state power brokers and Auburn University

JailAubie On December 17, this blog explored links between defendants in the Alabama corruption scandal and the ongoing investigation into Auburn’s recruitment of eventual Heisman Trophy winning Quarterback, Cam Newton. One of the defendants in that trial—Robert Geddie—is a graduate of Auburn University and partner in the lobbying firm of Fine-Geddie. Fine-Geddie has a multimillion dollar relationship with the Auburn University Athletics fundraising organization, Tigers Unlimited Foundation.

As shown in the viral December 17 post, Sam Franklin—a prominent attorney in the state of Alabama and a partner of the law firm Lightfoot Franklin White—appears on the chop list of court documents filed in motions by the defense in the corruption probe. Franklin is also the chief counsel for Auburn in the NCAA probe, and represents Bobby Lowder in the multimillion dollar class action lawsuit filed by Colonial Bank employees. SportsByBrooks later determined that Franklin had been hired by Geddie, a criminal defendant in a federal corruption rap, who quietly switched attorneys about a month ago.  From Franklin’s bio at the firm’s website, his practice areas are:

  • Directors’ and Officers’ Liability
  • Appellate
  • Environmental and Toxic Torts
  • Business Litigation
  • Product Liability
  • Securities and Shareholder Disputes
  • Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices & Healthcare
  • Class Actions
  • NCAA Compliance and Investigations
  • Professional Liability Litigation

Criminal defense is not listed. Why would Geddie hired a prominent civil litigator and NCAA compliance expert to lead his defense in a criminal trial? Why would Franklin—who already represents Auburn University and Auburn Board of Trustees member Bobby Lowder—agree to represent the lobbyist who has such close ties to Auburn University’s private fundraising organization?

Attorneys and others in the legal profession universally insist that Mr. Franklin is every bit the ethical, professional attorney his reputation projects. Accordingly, we can safely assume that he has fully explored any conflict of interest issues and found none. If none of his clients have conflicting interests in the cases, then would not all the interests be the same?

The answer to that will be interesting.

UPDATE TO ADD: emails from readers point to Franklin’s reputation as a stellar negotiator.  That is, he’s known as a deal maker. My speculation: Could Geddie be close to doing what Jarrod Massey did last week? Massey worked for Ronnie Gilley and Geddie worked for Milton McGregor in the alleged pay-for-vote scandal.  Massey has changed his plea in exchange for testimony.

But here’s another connecting of the dots between Colonial, Auburn and the myriad of investigations, indictments and upcoming trials. According to this CNN/Money report, Colonial Bank switched from a federal to a state bank charter in June 2008 only five years after applying for and receiving federal credentials from the US Comptroller of the Currency. Why?  The official storyline from Colonial was that they switched to save on filing and other fees. But financial industry insiders believe there was another reason why Colonial felt it would receive friendlier regulatory treatment from the Alabama Banking Department, and it wasn’t because the feds were pressuring Colonial management to reduce exposure to the then imploding mortgage market.

Since 2005, the Alabama Banking Department has been run by Superintendent John D. Harrison, who apparently has close family ties to William King. William King is co-counsel along with Sam Franklin on the Auburn University NCAA compliance team. Franklin also represented former Auburn football coach and athletic director Pat Dye in the infamous Eric Ramsey Case. Dye sat on Colonial Bank’s Board of Directors, as did Milton McGregor, one of the two central figures in the bingo corruption case.


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Thursday, December 23, 2010

TattooGate: Given the opportunity to do it right, the NCAA screws it up AGAIN

Sports by Brooks has the whole story.

Ohio State Football players Mike Adams, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Solomon Thomas and Terrelle Pryor have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. Jordan Whiting is suspended for the first game.

The students were accused of receiving a host of improper benefits, ranging from tattoo discounts to proceeds gained from sales of championship memorabilia. The violations of NCAA rules regarding student-athlete improper benefits began occurring well before the start of the 2010 season, so each of the athletes involved (or at least some of them) have been ineligible to play all season long in 2010.

Compare this to the AJ Green case.  The Georgia standout receiver sold a jersey on Ebay and was forced to sit 4 games in the current season.

Compare it also to the Marcel Dareus case. The Alabama standout defensive lineman accepted improper transportation benefits from an agent and was forced to sit 2 games in the current season.

But compare it as well to the Cam Newton case, in which Newton exploited a loophole in the NCAA regs to remain eligible by claiming not to know that his father shopped him around SEC schools for a cool one-eighty large.

Want to know how the Ohio State players got off with no 2010 sanctions and no vacated wins?

“We didn’t know that was against the rules.”

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The NCAA eligibility staff’s pathetic willingness to accept the ignorance defense makes the organization a toothless whore. Student-athletes, their parents, extended family members and “handlers” are now free to represent those players however they want. Just make sure Junior has plausible deniability. The players are also free to use their reputations and sell all their bling and swag to the highest bidder.  Just give’em the puppy dog eyes and say, “I didn’t know that was wrong.  I’m so sowwy.”

The NCAA had a chance to get it right after the Newton fiasco.  They have screwed it up again, and have made fools of themselves all over again.

Going to the Sun Bowl in El Paso? Customs & Border Protection has ‘travel tips’

On New Year’s Eve, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Miami Hurricanes will renew a heated rivalry for the first time in 20 years. In the Ft. Wayne, Indiana Journal Gazette, Fighting Irish beat writer Tony Krausz has a few travel tips for fans visiting El Paso, the site of the game, courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection.


EL PASO, Texas – The city of El Paso is expecting to host a large number of college football fans from around the country who will be in town to attend the annual Sun Bowl football game December 31. Historically some college football fans visit neighboring Juarez, Mexico during their time in El Paso. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is reminding the visiting Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Miami Hurricanes fan base that there are a number of border crossing requirements they need to be aware before venturing across the international boundary.

U.S. citizens returning at an international land border crossing like El Paso must present a U.S. passport, U.S. passport card, or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document to enter the United States. For more information on the U.S. passport card or other WHTI compliant documents, travelers should visit: http://www.getyouhome.gov

h/t Jay Christiansen


CBP doesn’t offer this advice, but I sure will:  Stay the hell out of Cuidad Juarez, or make sure you travel in a heavily armored SUV convoy with trained paramilitary bodyguards. Juarez has become one of the central battlegrounds in the bloody war between two rival drug cartels. The body count since the bloodshed began in 2007 is staggering:  1,600 dead in 2008; 2,600 in 2009 and this year the 3,000 mark was passed. That brings the death toll in Juarez to a total of 7,200 people.

By way of reference, that number is more than twice the worst estimates of total US troops killed in combat for the entire Iraq War since the March 19, 2003 invasion.

From the El Paso Times:


U.S. anti-narcotics officials said the cartel war began after the collapse of an alliance between the drug-trafficking organizations of Sinaloa kingpin Joaquin "Chapo" Guzmán Loera and the Juárez cartel led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. Both kingpins remain at large.

Guzmán had made inroads into Chihuahua state, and several Juárez cartel lieutenants switched to his organization. The dispute set off a war that spawned a violent crime wave in Juárez and other parts of the state.

Along with the cartel war, there was a rise in carjackings, auto thefts and extortionists collecting protection quotas from bars, schools, medical offices and other businesses.

On Monday, about 4,000 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals in Juárez went on a 24-hour strike to protest the lack of security. The strike was spurred by the slaying of José Alberto Betancourt, an orthopedic surgeon kidnapped on Dec. 2 and found dead two days later.

"Drug violence also appears to be affecting people more broadly and more publicly than in the past," stated a midyear report on drug violence in Mexico by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.

"While the government estimates that 90 percent of drug violence impacts individuals involved in organized crime, in 2010 there has been a worrying tendency to target high-profile victims (including politicians and public officials), drug rehabilitation centers, and private parties. In this sense, Mexico's drug-related violence is becoming a much wider societal phenomenon that engages wider sectors of the society."


Here’s another story about football, and how three brave men are trying to help bring order to a city more dangerous than Baghdad.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Review: Likes and a Wish List

What’s this?  a Cell Phone review on a blog dedicated to sports, politics and current events? Why not? It’s a slow news day and I have a new toy.

I’ve had a Samsung Focus with Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 operating system for about a week now. While the OS is a major improvement over the clunky interface of Windows Moble 6.x, the latest offering needs some work if it’s going to be competitive with Google’s Android (forget about reaching the pinnacle and competing with Apple’s IPhone).

Amazon Link: Samsung Focus

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not taking the phone back and exercising the 30-day no questions asked return policy from AT&T. The Windows Phone 7 interface is fluid, attractive and intuitive. The fonts are easy on my aging eyes and the operating system’s responsiveness is fantastic. There are lots things to like about it, and only a few things Microsoft needs to work on in the months ahead.

 

Likes:

Home screen – Almost anything goes on the home screen.  You can pin app tiles, website bookmarks, email accounts, the calendar, a contact, it’s all up to you.  Put web pages down one column, email accounts down the other, mix them up. I like having only a handful of things on the home screen so I’m not searching for important stuff. My wife likes to have it all right there. It’s all up to the user and it’s quite nice.

Live Tiles – These are icons on the phone’s home screen that update based on the application’s content. They haven’t reached the functionality of a live widget, but your tiles for email and messaging show how many dispatches are waiting and the calendar shows upcoming events.

Apps with multiple screens – The Twitter and Facebook apps use this feature, called the Hub, marvelously.  You flip through multiple pages showing friend updates, mentions, wall posts, lists you’re following, etc.  This a very nice way of dealing with applications that provide a ton of information that needs to be organized to be useful.

image The App Bar – located at the bottom of the screen in all apps, the app bar contains options for changing settings, replying to or forwarding an email or switching tabs in the browser. Having those features and settings tucked away in a pop-up app bar is the WP7 equivalent of a drop down menu. Nice feature, here.

Internet Explorer – Major, major improvement over the toy browser that was in Windows Moble 6.x. Scripts don’t hang the browser like they used to and you have the option of viewing websites in either the Mobile or Native mode.  It’s a shame Mozilla spiked the development of Firefox for the OS because it would have certainly made Microsoft tuck in a few extra features and customizability (more on that, later).

Office – If Windows Phone 7 is going to survive, it’s going to be the corporate market that keeps it competitive and the integration of Office applications Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Sharepoint and One Note is critical to that. Pull a letter template off of the Sharepoint Server, start typing. The Office app also makes nice use of the Hub interface.

Syncing with Outlook – There are some features in Exchange that Windows Phone 7 do not support, such as changing Out of Office settings, Viewing free/busy status for other Exchange users and searching for email message in your mailbox on the server. Desktop Sync through the ActiveSync application is gone, too. But all of the major stuff is there, including DirectPush, multiple accounts, multiple calendars, flagging of messages, auto-discover and multiple policies. Microsoft says that WP7 was originally designed as a consumer-oriented OS rather than an enterprise platform, which is why several Outlook features are not supported. In my estimation, the critical features are supported. Having a tightly integrated email and calendar is essential and its there.

Organizing SMS messages into conversations – Another huge improvement over Moble 6.x and a complete blow-away of the Blackberry. No more scrolling through hundreds of texts to find the one with that contact phone number or specifications website address.

Audio, Video and streaming – Windows Phone 7 gets it. Mobile 6.x did not. The Netflix app is killer. Easily the most well done feature on the phone and every bit as good as anything offered by Google or Apple. Seriously.

XBox Live – Here’s where Microsoft shows its hand in aiming WP7 at consumers. It’s on here, and your account is easily integrated.

Dislikes:

Battery consumption – This must be a bane we’ll just have to live with when it comes to the Windows OS, regardless of the platform. The one thing I like about RIM’s Blackberry phones is that they sip on the battery. Windows Phone 7 is a drunken lush by comparison.  Use the phone normally over the course of a busy, 8- to 10-hour workday, and you will likely need a car charger to make the trip home.

No cut and paste? SRSLY? – Come on, Microsoft. I was writing a blog post on the phone and needed some text from a news story I was writing about. How am I supposed to deliver the money quote without copying text from a website?  And no pasting an Excel table into a Word document or Powerpoint presentation? This is a MUST HAVE item. Fortunately, an update is coming, according to Microsoft.

No custom ring / alert tones – This was a disappointment, because my personal ringtone—the Monday Night Football Theme—is the most awesomely awesome ringtone ever. Everyone agrees, and now I can’t use it.

One size fits all customization – Tiles of different shapes, please.  Tiles of different shapes with different fonts.  Tiles of different shapes, with different fonts and different font sizes. More colors. Tile textures. Honest to God themes that change the look and feel of the interface without changing its functionality. Please.

The Touchscreen Keyboard – needs work. It’s a big improvement over the tortuously tiny thing that was on 6.x but it will still give some sausage-fingered owners some grief.

 

image The Samsung Focus is a wonderful piece of equipment. The last Windows phone I had was an HTC Tilt. It had a slide out QWERTY keyboard and boy was it rugged, but it was heavy and thick. The Focus is a much slimmer unit. No slide out, so it comes in about 1/3 the thickness.

while the Windows Phone 7 operating system is still in relative infancy, it’s a stable, usable platform with rich features and intuitive interface. It’s a great combination and this will be a very competitive combination of sleek hardware and mobile software.

If you’re anticipating an upgrade to a smart phone, the Samsung Focus is a good choice. I recommend it.

 

CIA launches new Wikileaks Task Force called… WTF?

OMG LOL WTF?


Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it's mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: W.T.F.

The irreverence is perhaps understandable for an agency that has been relatively unscathed by WikiLeaks. Only a handful of CIA files have surfaced on the WikiLeaks Web site, and records from other agencies posted online reveal remarkably little about CIA employees or operations.

Even so, CIA officials said the agency is conducting an extensive inventory of the classified information, which is routinely distributed on a dozen or more networks that connect agency employees around the world.


I am not making this up. The CIA really has launched a Wikileaks Task Force and it is actually known as WTF.

What’s next is obvious.  We’ll hear about BFD initiatives that make us LOL and get lots of Facebook likes and Twitter RT’s.

This one earns…

image

A story in American free enterprise: College Textbook Rental

A good bit of this site’s content concerns college football. I live in a college town.  My favorite football team is the University of Alabama Crimson Tide (hence the blog’s name). And if you visit this site often you’re probably like me in that you believe the American free enterprise system of capitalism is the greatest economic engine in the history of the planet.

One of the great features of that system is the ability of entrepreneurs to spot a market opportunity, invest, and capitalize on a demand not yet being met by competitors.

Maybe you’re also like me and have one or more kids in college. If your kids are smart and made good grades in high school, many colleges and universities offer tuition assistance under academic scholarship programs. But that assistance doesn’t cover everything, and one of the major expenses associated with college is the cost of textbooks.

A new textbook can cost as much as $125, and students selling the book back to the school bookstore usually get half back, setting them back $60+ a pop, per semester, per book.
Ouch.  Is there a better way?


Check this story in the Mobile Press-Register from last July.


Renting textbooks is not a new concept, said Charles Schmidt, a spokesman for the National Association of College Stores, also known as NACS. Some schools have been offering them since the Civil War, he said.
 
But until recently, only a few stores have offered rentals because of the high startup costs, said Schmidt. Faculty members also were reluctant to buy into the rental program because it required them to have to adopt the same edition of the course materials for four to six semesters, he said.
 
Last fall, about 300 of the 3,000 stores that are NACS members offered rentals. This school year, that number will jump to 1,500 stores.
 
Students appear to be open to the rent option.
 
A NACS survey of 540 college students conducted in May showed that only 12 percent had rented books in the past. But 44 percent said they would consider the option if it were made available to them. Another 36 percent were unsure if they would rent.
 
Using the textbook "Bedford Handbook" as an example, Zdyb said new it costs $73, while the used price is $54. A student at UMobile will be able to rent the book for $35 this fall, he said.


God bless America, and God bless capitalism!


And welcome to CollegeBookRenter.com, my newest sponsor.  Click the link below and see what is becoming one of the biggest trends in making college more affordable.


This site is going to save me thousands of dollars over the next six years as my two oldest make their way through their undergraduate degrees. 


If they want to go forward for graduate degrees, it’s on them. ;)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Net Neutrality and DISCLOSE Act: A two-pronged attack on sites like this one

image In today’s Wall Street Journal is report on the FCC’s move to impose stricter regulation on the Internet. A similar attempt by the agency in 2005 was thrown out last April by a federal court. Unbowed and defiant, the FCC is taking another bite at the apple. At stake is the eventual regulation of internet service as a telecom or public utility. Ed Morrissey at Hotair.com calls the current compromise proposal a “bullet dodged.” But I’m not so sure.

I have known no government effort to regulate or control something stop at the first step.  That crucial first step is always one on a slippery slope. As the WSJ piece notes, it’s a matter of concern for service providers and small startups alike, and it has liberals huffing that it doesn’t go far enough:


Net neutrality has become a contentious issue as worries grow that large phone and cable companies are growing too powerful as Internet gatekeepers. Start-ups and small businesses that rely on the Internet to provide shopping, information or other services to consumers are particularly concerned.

The FCC has wanted to step in and act as an Internet traffic cop, but Congress has never given it clear authority to do so.

"We must take action to protect consumers against price hikes and closed access to the Internet—and our proposed framework is designed to do just that: to guard against these risks while recognizing the legitimate needs and interests of broadband providers," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a blog post this month.

Liberal activists and some consumer advocates have sharply criticized the proposal, saying it allows too much leeway to big broadband providers and falls well short of promises made by President Barack Obama, including limits on how the rules apply to mobile broadband networks.


The proposal will certainly be challenged in court, using the same arguments that led to a successful block earlier this year. And the new Congress—elected in large part by a majority expressing anger at the ever-growing reach of the federal government—is just as likely as not to gut the FCC’s budget for enforcement. A battle looms that will play out through the 2012 elections.

Meanwhile, the left is eager to pursue the Orwellian DISCLOSE Act, which was narrowly defeated in the US Senate just before the November bloodbath that swept Republicans into power in the House.  Thank GOD:


In the past week, Senate Democrats considered a bare-bones strategy for the measure that would involve stripping the bill down to just the disclosure requirements, effectively setting up a vote for or against transparency.

With time running out before Senate heads out of town, however, leaders have decided to begin debate with the bill they voted on before the August recess. That vote attracted 58 votes in the Senate, two shy of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was absent the day of the vote and has told watchdogs he will vote in favor of the bill, so supporters need to flip just one of Maine’s senators to break the filibuster.


The measure would have forced sites like this one to file full disclosure on all sources of revenue if they engaged in the ordinary exercise of First Amendment rights. If this blog were to carry a series of opinion pieces opposing or supporting a particular candidate for office or a ballot measure, I would have to eventually either shut down the site or spend countless hours and money filing Federal Election Commission reports, even if not one cent of revenue came from political campaigns, PAC’s or party organizations.

Meanwhile, big labor unions and other traditionally leftist groups would be exempted from the legislation’s requirements by the loopholes carved out by lobbyists and opponents of free speech.  It exempts non-profits with 500,000 or more members. Special provisions were included to keep the National Rifle Association on the sidelines.  It is an onerous and blatant attempt to squelch speech that favors individual liberties, smaller government, lower taxes and a better business climate.

Speech that readers saw here daily in the run-up to the November elections.

Give the government the opportunity to control who accesses the Internet, and the government will certainly limit the access of its critics. Give the government the opportunity to control not only the access to free speech but the content of the expression itself, and it is certain to do so.

Net Neutrality and the DISCLOSE Act are nothing more than a two pronged attack on conservative voices, and they absolutely must be stopped.

Monday, December 20, 2010

And so it begins: Jarrod Massey will plead guilty in Bingo Case

image Ask any good investigator why they were able to unravel such a complicated, well planned conspiracy and the answer is almost always “somebody talked.”

Jarrod Massey, one of the lobbyists accused of trying to influence politicians’ votes on a controversial bingo gambling bill in Alabama, will change his plea to guilty on six of the charges leveled against him.

The Mobile Press-Register has the story, breaking today:


MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- The federal electronic filing system indicates that lobbyist Jarrod D. Massey has given notice today in federal court that he intends to plead guilty to 6 counts leveled against him in the bingo bribery case.

A federal indictment against Massey and 10 others alleges that Massey offered state legislators bribes worth $3.2 million in a scheme to pass pro­-gambling legislation.

The federal court system filing states that Massey intends to plead guilty to counts 1, 2, 4, 5, 8 and 10 of the indictment and that he was to enter the pleas today  before United States Judge Wallace Capel.

Massey's plea likely will send shockwaves through the other defendants in the case, many of whom have said they will fight the charges and that there was no undue legislative influence in the bingo vote.

Early pleas can be a sign that a defendant has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and testify against fellow defendants in return for leniency from the court system.


Minor nit: Wallace Capel is a Magistrate, not a full “black robe.”

For folks just crawling out from underneath rocks or returning from months long deployment to Mars, The BingoGate® case is part of a wide-ranging federal probe into corruption in the state of Alabama. The feds are investigating bank fraud, political corruption and the probe may go as far as finding whether a criminal enterprise is in control of a major college athletics program.

Readers wishing to get the background should start with the piece from last month: The court cases that kicked in the Barn door.

Plea deals like the one Massey is making often lead to a domino effect in federal cases, especially if one or more of the “weak sisters” among the defendants believe the early pleaders are squealing on them. Of course, the big fish in BingoGate® is Mllton McGregor.

But there is a bigger fish out there…

UPDATE: Massey is a 1994 graduate of Auburn University.

UPDATE II: The complete text of Massey’s filing:


IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN

DISTRICT OF ALABAMA SOUTHERN DIVISION

Case No.: 2:10-CR-186-MHT-001

UNITED STATES, Plaintiff

VS.

JARROD D MASSEY, Defendant.

NOTICE OF INTENT TO PLEAD GUILTY

Comes now the defendant in the above-styled cause and hereby gives notice of his intent to plead guilty to counts One, Two, Four, Five, Eight, and Ten of the indictment in this cause.

This change of plea is based on plea negotiations with the U.S. Attorney. As a result of these plea negotiations and in exchange for his plea of guilty, the Government has agreed to recommend to the Court that Counts Twenty-Three through Thirty-Three of the Indictment be dismissed, along with additional considerations.

The Defendant understands that pursuant to the provisions of Rule 11(e)(1)(B) F.R.Cr.P., a recommendation of the U.S. Attorney pursuant to this plea is not binding upon the Court. The Defendant further understands that if his plea of guilty is offered based on a recommendation of the U.S. Attorney he will have no right to withdraw his plea of guilty if the Court elects not to accept the recommendation of the U.S. Attorney.


College T-shirts

UPDATE III: Massey’s plea is accepted by the Government only upon his providing “substantial assistance” to the prosecution.

Welcome Leather Helmet Blog readers!

Sand Island Lighthouse to get its island back

image

What you see on the right is an artist’s depiction of what Sand Island probably looked like before the Mobile Ship Channel was authorized and dredging commenced just before World War II.

The channel was a necessity, and the Port of Mobile was an important shipping and shipbuilding location for the war. But the channel also robbed the coast’s sediment transport system of material that build Sand Island, Little Sand Island and Dauphin Island. Those islands continue to morph and move with the currents of the Gulf of Mexico.

Beginning in March 2011, the US Army Corps of Engineers will begin placing millions of cubic yards of sand around the lighthouse to restore—in part—the island that the Corps’ dredging practices have destroyed.

Considerable debate exists over whether it’s appropriate to use federal funds to restore an almost uninhabitable island, especially in a time of soaring deficits and out of control spending. Sand Island Lighthouse has an important role in the history of the Gulf Coast. Not doing anything means eventually, the lighthouse will be no more. That would be akin to allowing the Appomattox Courthouse to be reclaimed by the forest, or simply abandoning the Alamo to the sands of West Texas. Tragic. My take on this—the federal government caused the problem at Sand Island, so the federal government should be on the hook to at least help mitigate it and provide a solution. Tens of millions have been spent dredging the Mobile Ship Channel, and the cost savings to commerce using the channel have produced tens upon tens of millions in economic productivity.

The Corps is becoming a “greener” agency, using multiple output projects that include environmental or cultural resource outputs as well as the traditional national and regional economic outputs. These features typically add insignificant to moderate sums to project costs, but the environmental and cultural resource outputs are almost always significant. I take a lot of heat from my conservative colleagues over my respect for the Corps as an agency, which I deflect by pointing out that the Corps’ budget is a creation of the Congress, not the agency itself. If allowed to, the Corps will eventually develop cost effective methods of maintaining ship channels like the one in Mobile Bay that continue to provide transportation cost savings and have positive impacts on the environment as well.

Stars fell on Alabama: Solstice Lunar Eclipse Tonight (Live video)

 

image Most Alabamians will be treated to a rare spectacle just after midnight. It’s a total Lunar Eclipse, where the Moon falls into Earth’s shadow. The result is an eerie,Crimson Tide red glow, which is caused by light refracted by Earth’s atmosphere.

NASA will have a live video feed sometime tonight.

When that comes online, the feed will be embedded here for those of you who might be behind cloudy skies or can’t get out (or, like me, too lazy).

And, here it is. Unfortunately, Huntsville is likely to have clouds tonight.  So it looks like your beloved blogger is either going to have to stay up late or get up early…









 

The Crimson Tide: The Official Illustrated History of Alabama Football, National Championship Edition

Friday, December 17, 2010

Alabama Political Corruption and the Cam Newton NCAA Investigation

SCROLL DOWN for update.

Last month, readers of this blog were treated to a brief analysis of the events and court cases that literally kicked open the barn door. That posting noted that the cases could span from the state house in Montgomery to the President’s Mansion at Auburn University. Key events in those court cases and investigations leading up to them are included in the stand-alone Timeline

These cases demonstrate why the Auburgeddon that appears to be looming on the Plains is so much bigger than one star quarterback and a father with his hand out. They are also why the Cam Newton investigation is certainly not an orchestrated campaign by enemies of Auburn University or jealous conference competitors. But it is also clear that the cases are connected.

On Saturday, November 13, it became known that AU had again hired Lightfoot, Franklin and White, the Birmingham law firm that has represented the school in numerous other NCAA matters, including the 2002-2004 investigation into the men’s basketball program.

On December 1, the NCAA shocked the media, fans and collegiate sports by declaring Cam Newton eligible after conducting an investigation into the player’s amateur status.

On December 3, indicted Country Crossings owner Ronnie Gilley filed a motion requesting a continuance of his and ten others’ trial on charges of political corruption. One of the co-defendants in the case is Milton McGregor, former Colonial BancGroup Board Member and multi-million dollar booster for Auburn. Oral arguments were heard on December 15, and Judge Myron Thompson refused to move the trial back from its April 4 scheduled date.

So what, you ask? 

Sam Franklin, a Senior partner at Lightfoot, Franklin and White, is on the chop list in the court documents filed by Gilley’s lawyer. If the BingoGate case is not connected to an NCAA investigation, then why is Auburn’s NCAA counsel being served court documents in a supposedly unrelated case? What interests are being served by keeping a sports litigator in the loop in a federal criminal trial?

UPDATE: SportsByBrooks is picking this up, with screenshots of the court filings.

UPDATE II: The Dothan Eagle has the complete list of defendants and their counsel.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cam Newton’s Laptop Revealed!

ScamsLapTop

A Florida media company briefly had a look at the legendary laptop that Cam Newton confessed to stealing from a fellow UF Student.  The story, via teh innerwebs, is that the student-victim apparently asked the media company’s tech guy if he could retrieve some of the files from the system after the student-athlete tossed it out the window when police arrived.

You know what makes me think that eventually, ol’ $cam gets caught?  He ain’t too bright.

Notice where the hinges are on the laptop. When you open it up, it looks something like this:

ScamsLapTopOpen

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fatal Panama City Shooting: “Surreal”

Authorities in Panama City called yesterday’s violent outbreak at a school board meeting “surreal.” I call it typical and expected.  It’s typical, and it’s bound to happen again when we have a government and a media that constantly enforces the false sense that life is supposed to be fair and that everyone is entitled to their fair share.

Here’s the video from ABCNews.com:



Despite his shock, Bay City Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt mustered a calm voice and tried to persuade Duke to drop the gun, but the 56-year-old ex-convict just shook his head, blaming officials for his wife being fired. Video showed him slowly raising the gun and leveling it at Husfelt, who pleaded "Please don't, please don't."

Here’s a snapshot of the shooter’s facebook page (click the image for the full size version):

image

"My testament: Some people (the government sponsored media) will say I was evil, a monster (V) ... no ... I was just born poor in a country where the Wealthy manipulate, use, abuse, and economically enslave 95 percent of the population. Rich Republicans, Rich Democrats ... same-same ... rich ... they take turns fleecing us ... our few dollars ... pyramiding the wealth for themselves."

The facebook page (which has been taken down) also lists Media Matters, Warren Buffet, and theprogressivemind.info as interests.

There seems to be a pattern, here. That’s right, folks.  Clay Duke, the deceased shooter in the video above, was upset because he’s a lefty who thinks the rich are out to soak the little guy. He bought into the leftist meme that everyone is supposed to get their fair share of the world’s income “distribution.”  Who does this sound like to you?  If the man had any ambition, he could have started a new career as a community organizer.

BREAKING: US Senate votes to BLOCK Obama’s planned tax hike

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives.

Notice that I didn’t use the words "Bush” or “Tax Cut” in the title?  Appropriate isn’t it, considering that an extension of existing tax law is not, by definition, a cut in taxes.  Nor was Bush responsible for the legislation that created the existing tax law.  Only the Congress can cut or raise taxes and had the Congress failed to act, then it would have imposed the largest tax increase in the history of the Republic.

That is all.

NCAA: “National Chaotic Athletic Association”

image Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com has a blog post up, where he discusses the comments given by NCAA president Mark Emmert to a group of reporters in Indianapolis late yesterday.  The gist of Parrish’s post is that Emmert believes coaches should be held to the same standards as student-athletes when they are caught lying to investigators looking into potential violations of NCAA bylaws.


Emmert's comments came in the middle of an informal and wide-ranging conversation at St. Elmo Steak House here in Indianapolis with nine reporters from various national media outlets. His opinion on the subject is relevant because of the ongoing investigation into Tennessee's basketball program given that Bruce Pearl has already acknowledged lying to an NCAA investigator when initially asked about a photograph that proved he hosted a recruit at his home in violation of NCAA rules. Emmert repeatedly explained that he could not specifically discuss ongoing investigations, and that no two cases are alike. But when asked if a college coach who lies should be held to the same standard as a student-athlete who lies -- and when reminded that former Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant was suspended all of last season after lying to the NCAA -- Emmert said, "We certainly want to uphold the standards for coaches -- who are the teacher and the authority figure in that relationship -- to at least the same standards that we hold our students."

"All these situations are case-specific, so you can't easily or appropriately generalize," Emmert said. "But I want to make sure that we're creating an environment where coaches and universities are appropriately rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad behavior. I know that sounds silly and tripe. But we do need to have a situation where when coaches … are committing major infractions the penalties will be significant enough that they serve as a discouragement to that kind of behavior."


There are several very high profile cases going on right now, in which coaches, student-athletes or both may have been less than candid with investigators. The league is currently investigating a mess of an agent infiltration in the University of North Carolina’s football program. They have also been investigating the University of Tennessee’s men’s basketball program, where Head Coach Bruce Pearl has admitted that he lied to investigators about illegally hosting a recruit at his home, and of course the breathtaking saga taking place at Auburn University and Mississippi State University, where current Auburn quarterback is embroiled in an alleged pay-for-play scandal.

Emmert’s belief—that coaches should be held to at least as high a standard as the student-athlete—is a valid one.  Coaches are supposed to be the responsible adults and example setters, so if they’re caught lying to investigators, the punishment should be at least as severe as what would be handed down to student-athletes who break the rules and lie about it.

But there is a fatal flaw in how the NCAA treats the cases it investigates and how it decides punishment for violations. That flaw is expressed by Emmert himself, and in virtually every statement, press release or blog post from NCAA representatives.  Here it is, from Emmert himself yesterday:

"All these situations are case-specific, so you can't easily or appropriately generalize.”

Imagine if the criminal justice system were modeled like this, where no two cases are ever treated similarly. No two serial killers would be given life in prison without parole or the death penalty. What about two mob bosses convicted of extortion, money laundering, illegal gambling and drug trafficking? Don’t they both get life in the federal lockup? Not in the NCAA model.

Each state has a standard way of dealing with repeat offenders. The first offense is treated the same way throughout the state. The second offense is dealt with more harshly, but identically. The third offense might result in a life sentence (depending on the state), but there is a standard procedure to be followed. This produces a criminal justice system that is ordered, understandable and predictable.

The NCAA’s “all cases are different” approach is the diametric opposite of order and predictability. In fact, if there’s one thing that’s consistent with the NCAA’s investigative and punitive procedures, it’s that there’s no consistency whatsoever.  The result is chaos.

A kid at one school accepts a ride in a golf cart from someone who turns out to be an agent. That kid is ruled ineligible. Another kid’s dad shops him around for hundreds of thousands of dollars, lies about it at first, then finally cops to pimping his son. That kid doesn’t miss a down. One kid’s dad accepts a plane ticket from an inappropriate source and is ruled ineligible, even though the kid had absolutely no clue about his father’s transgression. The kid whose dad was pimping him to the highest bidder says he didn’t know what his father was doing, and he gets to skate?

It leaves everyone—from the other college programs to the media to the everyday fans—scratching their heads and going “WTF?” It’s utter chaos.

When a governing body with the power to investigate the governed and impose penalties on violators says “no two cases are alike,” it creates an environment for arbitrary (some say even capricious) interpretation of applicable rules. It’s akin to a criminal justice system that executes jaywalkers and lets violent thugs walk the streets. It lets investigators, prosecutors and judges look for and find loopholes where none exist. It lets them make it up as they go along.

Until the NCAA learns to treat similar cases similarly, the chaotic methods of the league are going to create a lot more WTF moments.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Judge denies motion to move trial date

image This story is an update of this morning’s post.  Scroll to the bottom for updates.

Oral arguments were heard today on a motion filed by Ronnie Gilley and eight other defendants in the ongoing probe into political corruption in Alabama. Gambling magnate Milton McGregor and State Senator Harri Anne Smith are the only two defendants not seeking a continuance, and the Government  strongly opposed it.

The deadline for motions and discovery had originally been set for December 30 of this year. If US District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson kept the April 4 trial date and the December 30 deadline in place, interesting things could take place as those dates approach.

Milton McGregor is a gambling and racetrack magnate in Alabama. He is also a prominent Auburn University booster and served on the Board of Directors for the failed Colonial BancGroup.  Colonial was the $26 billion bank holding company founded by another prominent Auburn supporter, Bobby Lowder.  Lowder has been on the Auburn Board of Trustees for decades, and has been accused of meddling and micromanaging the affairs of the university.  As a result of Board of Trustee micromanagement, the Southern Associations of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placed Auburn on probation.

Media reports have also linked McGregor to the ongoing probe into alleged pay-for-play schemes for athletes at Auburn. Those issues were brought to the forefront when ESPN.com broke the story that current Auburn Quarterback, Cameron Newton, had been shopped to at least one SEC school in late 2009. The FBI has already interviewed at least one of the key players in the scheme, John Bond. The FBI has refused to publicly acknowledge an investigation, but multiple and independent sources close to the investigation have told this blogger that the feds probe focuses on gambling, extortion, money laundering, human trafficking and conspiracy.

The NCAA, which granted eligibility status to Cam Newton earlier this month, has also refused to acknowledge that its enforcement division is currently investigating Auburn, but media sources close to the matter have been told that enforcement probes continue, and carefully worded press releases and statements by NCAA representatives strongly indicate this as well.

Judge Thompson is expected to release his decision on the motion to continue the BingoGate® trial as early as the end of the week.  His decision, and the effects it has on key role-players in the various probes, could produce developments associated with yet another federal probe, this one into bank fraud on the part of Lowder, McGregor and other people close to Auburn University.

This blog is also running a Timeline on the investigations, which is updated as news becomes available.  Please bookmark and visit often.

Welcome, Leather Helmet Blog readers!

Welcome, The Bama Page readers!

UPDATE: That was fast.  About an hour after the hearing, Judge Thompson refused to move the trial, but will revisit his decision in February or March, according to news reports.


MONTGOMERY, AL. (WSFA) - A judge ruled Tuesday not to move the trial date for suspects in the Bingo Corruption case.

The trial date was originally set for April 4, 2011.

The Defense argued they didn't have enough time to sort through all of the evidence in just four months.

Victoryland casino owner Milton McGregor, Country Crossing casino developer Ronnie Gilley and state Sens. Harri Anne Smith, James Preuitt, Larry Means and Quinton Ross Jr. were indicted back in October on federal corruption charges.


UPDATE II: The court is also modifying case deadlines.  US Magistrate Wallace Capel ordered the prosecution to submit all discovery by Monday and identify the documents  specifically pertaining to each defendant, and provide that information to the defense team in early January.

UPDATE III: An eyewitness to today’s oral arguments provides the following information:


“McGregor asked to be severed from the other defendants. It is widely believed that Senator Smith has flipped, but that did not come out in the hearing.

“Based on the hearing, I am fairly confident in saying that early reports that pay for play was not mentioned on the wiretaps are unfounded. It may be that McGregor knows that just because he never mentioned it on the phone, but it is not due to a review of the wiretaps themselves. The transcripts are voluminous and no one, other than the government, really knows what is on them yet.

“Several mentions were made to another investigation in northern Alabama. The parties were rather obscure about what exactly that meant.”


Sunday, December 12, 2010

STUNNING VIDEO: Inside the Metrodome as the roof collapses

Wow. Just… Wow. 

Thank heavens that this happened early Sunday morning instead of Sunday afternoon, when the New York Giants were scheduled to play the Minnesota Vikings.  The game has been moved to Monday night, giving fans two Monday Night Football choices.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, DOOM

Just before midnight on December 09, 1993 the shareware version of DOOM was uploaded to ftp servers and the Software Creations BBS "sysop" nodes for release the following day.

My BBS, Cybernautics, was the one of the first in Alabama to have the game available for download.

To all of you who, like me, wasted thousands of hours in deathmatches, alienated bosses and clients, annoyed wives and mothers:

IDKFA, Baby!

image

 

Microsoft Windows NT almost killed DOOM, but a 32-bit Windows port called ZDoom was released and can still be downloaded here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CamGate: “Buying a Tiger”

I’ve tried resisting posting this video.  Really.  I have.  But I… just… can’t… resist… anymore.

Enjoy.



Media Cartel Mouthpiece: “Move to Georgia.”

Kevin Scarbinsky started off really well in his column in the Birmingham News today.  No, honestly Kevin… You really did.  It’s a great half of a piece that touts the state’s two-year run in outstanding college football and rubs Texas, Florida and California’s nose in the fact that, despite those other state’s massive population, economic educational and political advantages, the State of Alabama has become the top dog in the state of college football.  He notes that, in the history of the sport, no state has ever had two different programs from within its borders win back-to-back national championships and back to back Heisman Trophy winners. 

But Kev, ya go straight down the slippery slope from there.


This should be the greatest time ever to be a football fan in the state of Alabama. So why do so many fans want to make the worst of it?

It's not everyone, but you know who you are. If you're not posting fantasy conspiracy theories on message boards, you're whining and crying and embarrassing yourselves on talk radio.

It's a vocal minority of Alabama fans and Auburn fans. At least, I hope it's a minority.

Bill Curry had the perfect name for you: Fellowship of the Miserable. Instead of respecting and appreciating what the other side has accomplished, some of you act like your rival just stole your mascot.

It's past time to lighten up, smell the roses and enjoy the warmth of the desert.

Alabama and Auburn have given us one memorable season after another, highlighted by two straight epic Iron Bowl comebacks. All of us who live in this state and care about this sport should be in a state of bliss.

If you're too full of bitterness and resentment to enjoy it, you could always move to Georgia and cheer for the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets. I hear Memphis and Shreveport are lovely this time of year.


I should note that back in August, I predicted that Auburn would be a major player in the SEC. Most Alabama fans watched in respect and anticipation as Auburn rolled through its schedule undefeated, sensing a Clash of SEC Titans in the 2010 Iron Bowl.  That respect turned to shock, then horror, and finally disgust from November 4, when ESPN first broke the story that Cam Newton’s father was shopping him in a pay for play scheme; through December 1, when the NCAA incredibly declared Newton eligible on what amounts to a loophole. 

After watching Alabama lose to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, most Alabama fans would have grudgingly but honestly supported Auburn against South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game, and eventually against Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game in Glendale next month.

That is, if there wasn’t an overwhelming sense that someone has cheated and gotten away with it.

Contrary to Scarbinsky’s belief, this overwhelming sense isn’t limited to Alabama fans.  It’s common to pretty much everyone without allegiance to the Loneliest Village on the Plains. It’s the national media. It’s four major conference commissioners. It’s almost every college football fan outside of the 334 area code.

But Scarbinsky’s column brings up an interesting oddity.  It’s an embarrassment too—one that directly contradicts the column’s opening sentiment that Alabama is somehow better than the big boys in the big states.  Here’s the deal, sports fans:

ESPN, the New York Times, Yahoo! Sports and other big boy news outlets kicked your ass in uncovering a story that you should have known, could have known or would have known about if you were doing your damned jobs. If you were being journalists instead of tisk-tisking at the silly fanatical followers of the two schools, you’d have had this story and be winning awards.

Instead, you copped an attitude and you got scooped, big time.

Worse still, instead of mobilizing some of your resources to get in front of the story, the entire media cartel represented by al.com has circled the wagons, with chump piece after chump piece from beat writers, columnists and editors giving a pass to a player with a checkered academic and legal record the benefit of the doubt.  They’ve also given a pass to the player’s father, who also has a history of being a bit less than candid about the alleged pay for play scheme. “There’s no evidence” is now the same as “I believe thieves, cheats and proven liars.”

It’s as astonishing as it is embarrassing.

My questions to Scarbinsky and the rest of the cartel members at al.com: “When did you stop becoming journalists and start becoming cheerleaders?” And, “Any chance of you guys going back to finding sources and reporting facts?”

Answer at your convenience, ladies and gentlemen.

Meanwhile, my part-time hobbyist blog has more credibility than you do.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Garbage In, Garbage Out: BCS “Glitch” causes teams to be ranked wrong

Via Jerry Palm, BCS Guru, writing in a special piece for CBS Sports.


The final BCS ratings show LSU ranked 10th and Boise State 11th. But I discovered a mistake that would switch the order of those teams. The Broncos should be BCS No. 10.

Wes Colley's final rankings, as submitted to the BCS, were incorrect. The Appalachian State-Western Illinois FCS playoff game was missing from his data set. I will spare you some of the gory, mathematical details, but the net result of that omission in Colley's rankings is that LSU, which he ranked ninth, and his No. 10, Boise State, should be switched. Alabama and Nebraska, which he had 17th and 18th, would also be swapped.

The impact on Nebraska and Alabama is negligible. Nebraska is still the 17th ranked overall computer team either way. The Huskers' BCS score would go up slightly, but they wouldn't still rank 18th. Colley's ranking is discarded for Alabama because it is the worst ranking for the Tide. But LSU and Boise State are so close in the overall BCS standings (.0063) that this one error switches the order. Boise State should be 10th in the overall BCS standings and LSU should be No. 11.

This may not seem overly important, especially since neither team qualified for a BCS game either way. It may be important though because the Mountain West, Boise State's new home, is making an effort to become an AQ conference. This week's data -- the final regular season standings -- is part of the basis for making that determination. Every little bit helps, or at least it could.

But the bigger point is that nobody checks the BCS computer data. We should all be grateful to Colley for having a system that is open, accountable and verifiable. The BCS owes us an entire system that is open, accountable and verifiable.


A little more ammunition for the Playoff Agitators.  Which, if you ask me, a 4-team, 8-team or even 16-team bracket simply changes the argument over who should be the #2 team in the final BCS rankings to who should get an at-large bid to the tourney.

Get your **OFFICIAL** 2010 Auburn BCS National Championship T-Shirt!

While supplies last! Only $8.99 plus $180,000 shipping and handling.

If Auburn does not beat the mighty Oregon Ducks, all unsold shirts will be donated to Tsunami victims, or something.

 

Barn-MNC

 

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