When I was a baby judge, pulling the rookie duty of midnight jail call, we didn’t have much security at that hour. The cases were misdemeanors punishable by fine only, and the point of bringing them in front of a judge was to get bonds set on not guilty pleas and fines assessed on guilty pleas so, either way, friends or family could get them out without a night in the crossbar hotel.
I believed the Constitution required courtrooms open to the public, security or no. So if anybody started easing toward the outside door, I would remind them that their current charge carried a fine only, but escape from custody carried jail time. Nobody ever kept going.
I was reminded of how to turn a little trouble into a lot when KXAN reported that Quinton Duane Baker, 38, was stopped for a traffic violation in Austin and found to have his mouth full of something he was “chewing feverishly.”
Before the police decided what to do, Baker choked and gagged on what he was chewing and managed to spit it out on the ground, where the police recovered it (yuck!).
For trying to swallow a misdemeanor amount of weed, Baker wound up charged with a felony, tampering with physical evidence. This news resulted in a second life for a YouTube video by two Waco lawyers picking an original ditty called “Don’t Eat Your Weed.”
This video is offered for amusement only. It would not be proper for a judge to recommend the services of particular lawyers to the public even if I knew the lawyers, which I do not.
The government of The Bahamas has also opined on citizens’ interaction with police. On July 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration issued a travel advisory for Bahamians traveling to the U.S. There is a history of free travel between the former British Crown Colony and North America.
The Bahamas refers to over 700 islands, one of which was the place where the Taino people discovered the barbarian Christopher Columbus.
After the removal of the Tainos, the islands were new homes for British loyalists who were on the losing side of the American Revolution, Seminoles fleeing the Seminole wars in Florida, but mostly slaves escaped from the U.S. or confiscated at sea after England outlawed slavery. The modern population is descendants of surviving Taino Indians, Seminole Indians, and European settlers—but over 90 per cent of the population is black.
The Bahamian government warned:
In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate.
If there is any issue please allow consular offices for The Bahamas to deal with the issues. Do not get involved in political or other demonstrations under any circumstances and avoid crowds.
SPLC Report brought the news that Steve Smith, 45, has won election to the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Republican Committee for a second time. He immediately shared the happy news on Stormfront, home of white supremacy on the World Wide Web. Smith is co-founder of Keystone United (formerly known as Keystone State Skinheads). According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Smith has been active in an array of white nationalist, skinhead, and neo-Nazi groups.” The Skinhead leader won 69 out of 73 votes cast.
My cousin Ray Sixkiller asked me if Smith got the bad news? I had to ask what bad news? “Donald Trump already picked a running mate.”
The economic and political fallout continued over the U.K. vote for Brexit, a British exit from the European Union.
Fast Company reported that a new unintended consequence of Brexit is shocking the U.K. The collapse of the pound has caused the price of chocolate to spike, substantially raising expenses for chocoholic Brits. Because the pound is dropping so radically against the dollar, U.S. exports to the U.K. are going to be hurt.
After seeing the impact of Brexit just days afterward, support for the E.U. is rising in the very countries that were feared to be the next dominoes in the fall of the entire alliance. Denmark is up 9.8 percent; Finland up 12 percent, and Sweden up 3 percent.
Cousin Ray reminded me that we still don’t know whether Brexit will cause Scotland and Northern Ireland to withdraw from the United Kingdom. That would leave only Wales, so the U.K. would be only one withdrawal from being called England again.
In the southern part of the E.U., The Washington Post reported that Victor Barrio, 29, has become the first Spanish matador to die in the ring since two years before he was born, when José Cubero, 21, whose fighting name was “Yiyo,” messed with the bull and got the horn. About 7,000 bulls die by ceremonial sword every year after being weakened by the picadors and toyed with by the matador.
This is justified because it is “traditional.” Cousin Ray suggested that a better way to uphold “tradition” would be to reinstate the auto-da-fé.
That “tradition” involved burning heretics, and it was introduced to Indians by the Spanish and Portuguese in Brazil, Peru, and Mexico.
“They called us cannibals,” Cousin Ray reminded me. So why wasn’t the auto-da-fé the first BBQ?
In a cheap imitation of that kind of BBQ, KXAN reported on a case of “burnin’ love,” when Joshua Collins, 26, attempted to set his fiancé on fire. He doused her with lighter fluid but was unable to fire her up with a cigarette. She escaped when he went to get a lighter. He followed her and dragged her back by her hair. She escaped a second time and he was charged with aggravated assault. At press time, no wedding date had been set.
The FBI has closed the only unsolved skyjacking in American history. On November 24, 1971, a passenger on Northwest Orient Airlines who signed in as “Dan Cooper” stepped off the aft airstair of the Boeing 727 and fell about 10,000 feet wearing a parachute and $200,000 in ransom money.
Forty-five years later, the case is closed unless new evidence turns up. Should that happen, there is no problem reopening the case, because the hijacker was indicted as “John Doe AKA D.B. Cooper.” The indictment tolls the statute of limitations.
The only evidence found outside the aircraft was a placard with instructions for lowering the aft door in 1978 and, in February of 1980, three packets of 20-dollar bills with serial numbers proving they were part of the ransom money. Some theorize that the eruption of Mt. Helens on May 18, 1980 destroyed the rest of the evidence and buried D.B. Cooper’s body.
“Or,” Cousin Ray snickered, “Cooper might be living in a palapa on a Caribbean beach where his biggest problem is dodging Zika mosquitoes.”
In a somewhat delayed happy ending, KXTV reported that a German Shepherd fell out of a vehicle on California Highway 99 and spent five weeks living on the highway median because of a combination of fear and having broken a leg in the fall.
After many 911 calls that reported an injured dog in the median and several unsuccessful attempts to locate the dog, she was finally picked up by police officers from the city of Galt with help from the California Highway Patrol. Authorities had no luck finding the dog’s people, but they put her in Bradshaw Animal Hospital for surgery on the broken leg. She now has a name, Frida, and a home with Galt Police Officer Sylvia Coelho.
In another feel better story—if not exactly feel good—the Austin schools continued a trend begun after the South Carolina church shootings to retire relics of treason when they changed the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School.
They changed the name to honor a much-loved Austin resident, Russell Lee. He was best known for his photography for the Farm Security Administration. Along with Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, and Dorothea Lange, he documented the impact of the Great Depression on working people. Their work product was one of the greatest photo essays in history---and all in the public domain!
He went on to document the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII, the medical problems suffered by miners in coal country, and the shocking realities in Study of the Spanish Speaking People of Texas.
Later, he became the first professor of photography at the University of Texas and a mentor to many kids in the neighborhood Lee Elementary serves.
The change was not without controversy, with the usual bleating about “tradition” and “Southern pride.” The best you can say about Robert E. Lee is that he was an honorable warrior, but to honor that you have to overlook that he fought to preserve slavery. Some would honor him because he cared about his troops and was an honest man other than breaking his oath as a U.S. Army officer to fight for the rebels.
“He was honored,” Cousin Ray claimed. “He was allowed to keep his horse and his guns and he was not hanged for treason.”
Honoring Russell Lee allows the school to keep its name, the school district pointed out in a written statement, “while allowing us to attribute the name to a person we feel genuinely embodies our values.”