Friday, December 02, 2011

Judicial System Shattered in Knox County

The Knox County judicial system was pretty much demolished yesterday by the details of the lengthy drug addiction of Judge Richard Baumgartner, details which led to the inevitable decision that new trials are necessary for four previously convicted killers in the grisly Christian-Newsom murder case. That case already is marked as one of the more heinous criminal acts in recent Knox history, but Judge Baumgartner's intense level of intoxication - which he experienced for years on the bench according to the TBI investigation - should rattle everyone in the county to their core.

The information revealed yesterday indicates so many levels in law enforcement and in the judicial system knew about this travesty and yet years passed before the judge was removed from the bench with the most minor of consequences.

WATE-TV has a blistering report on how bad Judge Baumgartner's behavior truly was:

"... Judge Baumgartner was taking up to 30 hydrocodone pills a day.

"Baumgartner's physician, Dr. Dean Conley, with Knoxville Gastroenterology, tried to wean Baumgartner off his addiction, referred him to another doctor and urged him to retire in 2008. Baumgartner admitted his addiction, but said he needed another three years on the bench.

Dr. Conley described Baumgartner's appearance at that time as "ghastly."

The TBI found Baumgartner was doctor shopping. Eight doctors were eventually prescribing hydrocodone, oxycodone and other pills to him. This was going on from 2006 through 2010.
"There is no other conclusion but that Baumgartner was operating on the bench as incapable since 2008, Judge Blackwood said.
Baumgartner "shouldn't have been on the bench in 2008," Judge Blackwood said. "Everything he's done since then, we're going to have to fight that battle."

 And we've just barely touched the edges of how extensive this judicial disaster will reach.

Glenn Reynolds and Aunt B. note that decisions were apparently made in the Knox Co. Sheriff's Department to ignore Baumgartner's connection to other crimes. Some more questions which need to be answered via Katie Granju.

As for Baumgartner - he was removed from the bench, but the court at that time also ruled that his record would be wiped clean after 2 years and he'll still get his pension.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

America's Economic Self-Destruction

I'm leaning more and more towards at least understanding why massive protests nationwide are being maintained, that indeed 99% of America is being made fools of and abused by the 1%. I see little effort or will by those in power in government or business to change the current stream of greed and madness.

The twisted gyrations in corporate business today defy descriptions and explanations - record profits and continued layoffs are going hand in hand, stalling economic growth in favor of short term benefits at a disgusting and disturbing pace. Yet explaining or understanding this maze of deception is masked by acronyms unknown or seldom defined and is all handled by nebulous executive decisions. It's as if quantum physics has become an economic theory which few can comprehend.

"When Pfizer cut its research budget this year and laid off 1,100 employees, it was not because the company needed to save money.

"In fact, the drug maker had so much cash left over, it decided to buy back an additional $5 billion worth of stock on top of the $4 billion already earmarked for repurchases in 2011 and beyond.

"The moves, announced on the same day, might seem at odds with each other, but they represent an increasingly common pattern among American corporations, which are sitting on record amounts of cash but insist that growth opportunities are hard to find.

"The result is that at a time when the nation is looking for ways to battle unemployment, big companies are creating fewer jobs, and critics say they are neglecting to lay the foundation for future growth by expanding into new businesses or building new plants.

"But spending on capital investments like new plants and infrastructure has stagnated more broadly in corporate America, confounding efforts by the Obama administration to spur economic growth. Capital expenditures by companies on the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index are expected to total $546 billion in 2011, down from $560 billion in 2008, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters Eikon.

"Earlier this month, Pfizer increased its estimate for stock repurchases this year to between $7 billion and $9 billion — essentially spending in one year nearly all of the money it set aside in February for multiyear buybacks. There has been a steady drumbeat of other companies laying off workers even as they have disclosed plans to buy back more stock. On June 23, Campbell Soup said it would buy back $1 billion in stock; five days later it announced plans to eliminate 770 jobs. Hewlett-Packard announced a $10 billion stock repurchase in July, and jettisoned 500 jobs in September after it discontinued its TouchPad and smartphone product lines.

"Powered by huge stock buybacks — [Zimmer]  bought $500 million worth of its own shares last year, more than twice what it spent on research and development — Zimmer posted earnings growth of 10 percent a share, even though operating income and revenue grew by less than 5 percent in 2010."

"A federal judge in New York refused on Monday to endorse a $285 million consent agreement with the SEC that would have allowed Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., to avoid any admission of wrongdoing in a deceptive securities transaction that earned Citigroup$160 million in profits while investors lost $700 million."

"At issue in the case was a 2007 effort by Citigroup to create and market a billion-dollar fund of problematic mortgage-backed securities just as the nation’s housing bubble was about to burst. The arrangement allowed Citigroup to dump assets of questionable quality on misinformed investors.

"Citigroup told prospective investors that the fund’s assets had been hand-picked by an independent investment adviser, when, in fact, Citigroup used the fund to jettison $500 million in risky assets.

"In addition, unknown to the investors, Citigroup had also taken a short position on those same assets, counting on the securities losing their value. When they did, Citigroup realized net profits of $160 million in addition to $34 million in fees it charged to set up the investment. In contrast, the investors lost everything – more than $700 million.

"The judge added: “The court, and the public, need some knowledge of what the underlying facts are: for otherwise, the court becomes a mere handmaiden to a settlement privately negotiated on the basis of unknown facts, while the public is deprived of ever knowing the truth in a matter of obvious public importance.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scooby Doo Battles Liars, Not Monsters

Stories for children have a raw power which can cripple hypocrisies and hatreds and which often celebrates the best qualities of humans - even a seemingly innocuous cartoon like that which gave the world Scooby Doo and Mystery Incorporated.

Doubtful gibberish, you say? Then consider the following insights from Chris Sims' recent article about why the cartoon has endured:

" ... that's the thing about Scooby-Doo: The bad guys in every episode aren't monsters, they're liars.

 "The very first rule of Scooby-Doo, the single premise that sits at the heart of their adventures, is that the world is full of grown-ups who lie to kids, and that it's up to those kids to figure out what those lies are and call them on it, even if there are other adults who believe those lies with every fiber of their being. And the way that you win isn't through supernatural powers, or even through fighting. The way that you win is by doing the most dangerous thing that any person being lied to by someone in power can do: You think.

Read the whole article, 'Scooby Doo and Secular Humanism'.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Waffles of Doom

For many years, I've been at Waffle House customer, though I have never ordered or eaten a waffle while frequenting the restaurant. I prefer steak and eggs or maybe a Patty Melt and plenty of coffee. And for many years, I've found the restaurant an inviting location to sit and write. But that is not true for every location, just a few really.

But now it seems waffles are harbingers of disaster and crime, or at least, despair.

The NYTimes on Sunday featured a report pondering the apparent rise in crimes and robberies at Waffle House - a recent spate of robberies, the so-called Waffle House Terrorists, and more are cited in the report, which says:

"Sgt. Dana Pierce said the police were paying extra attention to all 24-hour diners, but especially Waffle Houses. It is easy to see why they can become targets for criminals, he said. “They are cash-driven,” he said. “They are near Interstate exits. And they are open 24 hours, when people aren’t necessarily in a sober state of mind.”

And this morning I noted a viral video showing Black Friday shoppers going mad for a sale on $2 waffle irons at a Wal-Mart in Arkansas:

So I'm left wondering if the waffle itself is a portent of doom.