April 18, 2014
Illegal Marijuana Dispensary On 3rd Street Shut Down
Press Release: Drugs and Firearm Seizure
Agency: Coachella Valley Violent Crime Gang Task Force
Station Area: Palm Desert
Incident Date: 4-16-14 Time: 11:00 p.m.
Incident Location: 66200 block of Third Street, Desert Hot Springs
On Wednesday, April 16, 2014, a Gang Task Force officer with the Desert Hot Springs Police Department was following up leads from a citizen report of possible drug sales from a residential neighborhood within the city. The Task Force officer arrested one local gang member for carrying a loaded and concealed firearm. Arrested was 18-year-old Nicholas Lee of Desert Hot Springs. Lee was booked into the Riverside County Larry D. Smith Correctional facility, located in the city of Banning.
Officers with the Gang Task Force, Post Release Accountability and Corrections Team (PACT), and officers with the Desert Hot Springs Police Department continued the investigation resulting in locating a marijuana dispensary being operated from a residential home in the 66200 block of Third Street. A search of the location resulted in the seizure of several firearms, a small amount of methamphetamine, and a large amount of marijuana. This is an ongoing investigation and no further information will be released at this time.
If you have any information about this crime, please contact the Gang Task Force office at (760) 345-6268.
Of Moderate Interest
Some company that makes, I think, carbon fiber bicycles with electric motors, I think (I'm not going to even bother to search for any clarification) has provided this video shot from a UAV of a couple of their bicycles in the recent CicLAvia on Wilshire Boulevard. You will see that what could be a pretty cool 60-second video becomes little more than beautiful tedium as the cyclists and the UAV (with, probably, a GoPro) cover no more than 3 blocks of the 6-mile event which went from Grand Avenue on the east to LACMA at Fairfax on the west.
The three blocks videoed to death are centered on the Wilshire United Methodist Church and Scottish Rite Masonic Temple. Beautiful and impressive - once or twice. But after the 17th flyover of the church you begin to wonder if this isn't really a roof inspection service that's being promoted.
I do wish to point out that the first of the two cyclists that the camera focuses on right in front of the church doors is wearing way cool white Crocs because who knows? Because it's L.A. I guess. Maybe they are making the point that you pedal so little on these bikes you can even do it in Crocs.
Flowers In Joshua Tree N.P.
After a little cross-country walking in Joshua Tree National Park my boots were transformed into giant, clumsy bees, transporting pollen hither and thither. I don't know if I successfully pollinated anything, but the bees don't know if they do either. The high desert area is flowering nicely. The photo above was taken not far from the western entrance in the town of Joshua Tree.
I didn't travel down to the Cottonwood exit, so I couldn't observe how the low desert flowers are doing.
This weekend all your National Parks have free entrance. No charge. Get out there.
Footnote To History
Charles Cooper is the attorney who led the defense team for California's Prop 8. His practice is based in D.C. "He was named by The National Law Journal as one of the 10 best civil litigators in Washington."
He was haunted throughout the proceedings by a comment he made when the Proposition 8 case was at trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. Walker asked Cooper how it would harm the state’s interest in encouraging heterosexual couples to marry and raise families if it also allowed same-sex couples to wed. "Your honor, my answer is, I don't know. I don't know," Cooper eventually replied.
These days he is busy helping to plan the marriage of his daughter Ashley Lininger to another woman who is identified only as "Casey." Ms. Lininger is a resident of Massachusetts.
Wow. Just Wow.
Oregon has a ban on same-sex marriage. Therefore, as surely as night follows day, the constitutionality of that ban is being tested in court .
The photo above depicts a conference of some of the parties defending the ban. At the head of the table is, of course, the Attorney General. Along the left side are some attorneys from private organizations who are assisting the state's defense, while along the right are representatives of some of the parties who have filed amicus briefs. Or maybe it's the other way around. They look so much alike.
Yes, indeed, my point is that no one, no one, NO ONE is coming forward to defend the state's ban in any way, shape or form whatsoever. The courtroom will have the judge, the plaintiff team, and nothing but chirping crickets on the defense team. In sports you can just call "forfeit" and go home, but I guess in a court of law you've got to go through the motions.
Huffington Post Jumps The Shark
I seem to recall that when The Huffington Post first appeared it had a fair amount of thoughtful and interesting material, although it was always a bit shy on the facts. Over time it has declined terribly and seems to have gotten down to the level of the worst of the British tabloids. Look at this. A phenomenon that is an exciting, but expected everyday occurrence at Burning Man gets blown into some pseudoscience mystery.
Next week: strange lights seen over an Air Force base and rainbows too close to the ground.
April 17, 2014
Can't Wait To Share
This was on a morning hike yesterday on no particular trail that was a loop going south from Jumbo Rocks and returning via Live Oak Canyon. Many more photos to come.
World's Tallest GoPro Photographer
When the GoPro was invented they had no idea the amazing never-berfore-photographed things that would be brought to video. Animal mouths; flying with gulls, eagles and vultures; meteors falling; and now this:
April 14, 2014
Who Loves Train Travel? Silver Lariat To Roll Again
You may recall that round trip train ride I took on the Silver Lariat in June 2013 from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Some photos are here. And here's the video I shot from the dome on the southbound leg. The Silver Lariat was built in 1948 and remained in service until 1980. It is now privately owned and in pristine condition.
The trip by Great Outdoors is being repeated Saturday, June 7, 2014. I won't be going this time and there are still 3 seats to fill (out of a total of 48). Who's interested? For $190 you get the most beautiful train ride in California, really excellent food (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and a really good staff (it's not Amtrak even though an Amtrak engine will be powering you). There's an open bar. There's about a 4-hour layover in Santa Barbara which is plenty of time to explore or eat some more really good food.
The passengers will be mostly older gay men, which means a very friendly time will be had. You will arrive back in San Diego at about 1 AM, so you probably want to have someplace there to crash already arranged.
Each passenger rides in the dome for one leg of the trip and the lower part of the car for the other leg. I will tell you that you want to be in the dome for the return trip so you can watch the sunset cast its golden glow on the coast.
If you are interested let me know (email@example.com) and I may hook you up. Yes, I will be screening, but that sure doesn't mean you have to be an older gay man. Loving train travel would be mandatory.
Breaking Into Quadcopters Without Breaking The Bank
If you have felt the urge to get up there and start shooting aerial videos and you want to go with the right equipment like a DJI Phantom 2 with a GoPro Hero3+ Black mounted on a Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal with live FPV (like this) and have done your shopping research, you too will have found that the whole kit is more complex and expensive than you may have thought. And maybe you found that one of the best deals is this kit at B&H which includes everything - even a hardcase (but no propeller guards) - for $2,208.95. That is, by my calculations, about $100 less than what you would pay if you bought everything separately, but with the B&H deal they assemble it for you, sparing you the task of some soldering.
And then you would have thought "Do I want to send $2,200 skyward when I've never flown anything fancier than a kite or paper airplane?"
Well, lookie here. Reader 'b' sent us that link to a page describing some toy quadcopters for less than $100 that are good for practicing and crashing with no heartbreak.
I'm still looking for one that's mostly pink or that I can spraypaint pink.
An Important Message About Unicorns
Bar Staffer Fired, Allegedly
Fired from a bar in Philadelphia for an offensive message. And this was only a message. In front of a bar. And somebody got fired. No one seems to have come to the defense of the unnamed employee.
"In no way does Bar-Ly condone domestic violence nor do we find it humorous," a statement read. "We are sorry to everyone who was offended."
Today In Ohio
Judge Timothy S. Black in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio has has ruled that Ohio's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed outside of Ohio is unconstitutional. Ohio has a ban on gay marriage within the state and this decision has no direct effect on that (yet). This is, perhaps, not as big an advance as declaring the ban unconstitutional, but Judge Black's decision is worth a read. The emphasis was written by the judge, not added by me.
The Obergefell ruling was constrained by the limited relief requested by the Plaintiffs in that case, but the analysis was nevertheless universal and unmitigated, and it directly compels the Court's conclusion today. The record before the Court, which includes the judicially-noticed record in Obergefell, is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the State's ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and, therefore, Ohio's marriage recognition bans are facially unconstitutional and unenforceable under any circumstances.
It is this Court's responsibility to give meaning and effect to the guarantees of the federal constitution for all American citizens, and that responsibility is never more pressing than when the fundamental rights of some minority of citizens are impacted by the legislative power of the majority. As the Supreme Court explained over 70 years ago:The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.W. Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 638 (1943) (emphasis supplied). This principle is embodied by the Court's decision today and by the ten out of ten federal rulings since the Supreme Court's holding in United States v. Windsor — all declaring unconstitutional and enjoining similar bans in states across the country.
The pressing and clear nature of the ongoing constitutional violations embodied by these kinds of state laws is evidenced by the fact the Attorney General of the United States and eight state attorneys general have refused to defend provisions similar to Ohio's marriage recognition bans.
It all comes down to the Fourteenth Amendment again:
The Court finds that those portions of Ohio Const. Art. XV, § 11, Ohio Rev. Code § 3101.01(C), and any other provisions of the Ohio Revised Code that may be relied on to deny legal recognition to the marriages of same-sex couples validly entered in other jurisdictions, violate rights secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in that same-sex couples married in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is lawful, who seek to have their out-of-state marriages recognized and accepted as legal in Ohio and the enjoy the rights, protections, and benefits of marriage provided to heterosexual married couples under Ohio law, are denied significant liberty interests and fundamental rights without due process of law and in violation of their right to equal protection.
Judge Timothy S. Black was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1953, graduated Harvard in 1975, got his law degree from Northern Kentucky University and was appointed by President Obama after selection by a bipartisan commission. He was the judge who ordered Ohio to recognize one, single out-of-state gay marriage in July 2013. One member of that Ohio couple was dying, so they flew to Maryland, got married on the tarmac at the airport and flew home. This was so they could be buried next to each other in a family plot.
Ohio State Representative John Becker sent letters to his fellow state legislators calling for Judge Black's impeachment, apparently failing to realize that states cannot impeach federal judges.
April 13, 2014
Yesterday I journeyed over to the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard to see the Bugattis. There were no handouts, no audio tour, and the explanatory signs mounted on the walls were often very far from the cars. Plus, as far as I could see, the only label on a Bugatti is the Bugatti name and logo itself; no model names. So I gathered very little technical information, which was okay. It meant I could move around a lot more freely because I didn't need to be organized in my photo-taking. Just look, say "wow, and get some photos.
There were docent-led tours. I did not partake because I want to take photos and when the docent-led tour group gathers around a car you can't take very many photos. Nevertheless, I did gather one factoid that I overheard from one docent concerning the vehicle pictured below.
He was naming some dollar figures that sounded way, way too high for any single vehicle. I thought maybe he was talking about original design costs or how much it cost for a half dozen cars. I drew nearer and heard him say that if you bought this car in Los Angeles County where the sales tax is 9% you'd pay more than $250,000 in sales tax. I leave it to you to do the arithmetic.
Fortunately, the museum is in Ventura County so this little number could be picked up at quite a savings!
Other photos will come eventually. I just wanted to get this factoid written down before I forgot it or thought it was just a dream.
Speaking of South Dakota
AL, GA, MT, ND, SD*
50 states + DC + Puerto Rico = 52
17 have equal marriage rights
29 states + Puerto Rico = 30 are in court defending bans on gay marriage.
Only five states with bans on gay marriage and they are listed above: Alaska, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. There's an asterisk on South Dakota because they will be pulled into court soon.
April 12, 2014
Coachella Ain't Burning Man
Like you didn't already know, take a look at this. $799 is effectively the cover charge to be allowed to belly up to the VIP cash bar. BYO ice & cup? Probably not.
Venice Marmol Radziner On The Market
The seller, a writer on The Simpsons, is asking just under $3 million which is not a lot more than the $2.3 million it changed hands for in 2005.
UPDATE: Don't write that check yet! You could save about $300,000 and buy a ranch with an outdoor spa that, uh, seats? handles? ensconces? 20 people. Why, it would be like owning your own hot spring spa in Desert Hot Springs, except you'd smell the chemicals in the water and you'd be in Malibu, which is a fact that might kill the deal for some people.
Nevada Republicans Break Ranks
Today at their annual convention in Las Vegas, Nevada Republicans voted to remove both opposition to abortion and opposition to gay marriage from their platform.
Republicans who sat on the platform committee said they decided not to deal with social issues this year because the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have weighed in and it doesn’t make sense for the party of "personal freedom" to have the government or the political party get involved in people’s personal lives.
I don't know what got into the water so that these Republicans finally realized that the party's libertarian history meant something more than just paying lip service to the memory of the 1960s.
Mono County Law Enforcement
You may recall that I mentioned the "driver's license checkpoint" in Bridgeport, California, (Mono County) on the way to Burning Man last year. I saw three or four vehicles pulled over for additional investigation (or whatever they call it) in the 15 or 20 minutes I spent in that town (I bought gas within view of the checkpoint) which is a lot more than I can recall seeing at any similar checkpoint in California. It may have been a statistical aberration, but every one of those vehicles that got pulled over while I was there was a screamingly obvious Burner-mobile, a big RV or trailer with maybe a big Burning Man symbol taped on the back or a side. Later I seem to recall some discussion among Burners on the subject who also thought that particular checkpoint seemed a little odd to them.
Locally, this is how that story was reported. It lists all the arrests from traffic stops over a period of a few days before Burning Man. There were seventeen total. It says the pediatrician mentioned above also had GHB. Don't know how that got dropped from later stories. It also says NO ONE was cited for DUI, which means that the totally squirrelly RV driver that I followed into Bridgeport and who was pulled over for additional investigation was just a damn squirrelly driver, not stoned or drunk.
With the bigger issues of law enforcement on the playa itself and by Pershing County Sheriff's Deputies, I forgot about the Mono County story.
Well, it seems the office of Sheriff is on the ballot in the upcoming election. In a local news article about the two candidates, incumbent Sheriff Obenberger and retired LAPD Supervisor Braun, there is this: "Given the controversy in recent months over traffic enforcement during the Burning Man festival, and a perception of more rigorous (some might say more aggressive) policing under Obenberger (criminal arrests were up 89% in 2013 over 2012), the race sets up perhaps as a referendum on the type of policing local citizens want."
Really? I was surprised to hear that the handling of Burners would cause anything more than a tiny ripple in Mono County politics. But the county includes Mammoth and other touristy areas, and the banner that appeared on the playa encouraging all Burners to avoid Mono County in the future may have seemed like a threat to pocketbooks in that county.
If they would take a look at a map they wouldn't worry so much. Anyone coming from southern California has few choices in routes. We could go way west so that we could get on I-80 to Reno, skipping Mono County. Or we could go over into Nevada and take route 95, but some years ago (before my time) there was a problem with the law enforcement personnel of some Indian tribe along that route pulling over Burner vehicles and searching them without any regard for Constitutional restrictions. I think Burning Man used to have a warning up on their website advising Burners to avoid that route. I guess I could try to boycott Mono County by waiting to buy gas until after I enter Nevada.
On the FAQ page on Sheriff Obenberger's re-election campaign website question #7 is " Can you explain what happened between the Sheriff and the Board of Supervisors back in December and what it was about?" The answer describes some small bit of heat between the County Supervisors and the Sheriff. I had to go dig up the minutes of a couple of board meetings to try to find out what that was and, as usual with official minutes, they don't include a lot of juice.
December 3, 2013: there was an item about participating in a grant as part of a drug abuse enforcement program (approved 5-0). Supervisor Stump "Brought up law enforcement issue over Burning Man weekend." The District Attorney gave a legal answer. Supervisor Johnston warmed to the subject:
- Wants an agenda item to discuss the stopping of motorists, saturation patrols.
- These stops are subjective and potentially prejudicial; we need to have a discussion about this.
- Personally it’s a breach of his freedom to be stopped in this way.
Supervisor Fesko backed up Supervisor Johnston. Then Sheriff Obenberger defended the operation saying it was all legal and proper. On his campaign website the Sheriff writes:
After leaving the Board room that day I felt it proper and necessary to advise the Board what their role is relating to law enforcement policy in the County and the Sheriff's Office. I drafted a letter how the Sheriff's Office is a constitutional office and that the Sheriff alone has the authority to set policy relating to law enforcement services in the county.
Sort of a "respect mah authoritay!"
A week later on December 10, 2013, the Sheriff read a letter to the Board of Supervisors and it sounds like the Supervisors heard the message. The minutes tell us that Supervisor Johnston "wasn’t questioning techniques, he stated he doesn’t like being stopped at sobriety checkpoints, a lot of people don’t. That’s his opinion. Asked Sheriff not to take offense. Sheriff has a lot of good things going on in his department."
Meanwhile, candidate Braun seems to be staying away from the issue. Her FAQ page has only two questions! (C'mon Mono-ites, you gotta ask more questions!) neither one of which refers to Burning Man or traffic stops or drugs.
April 11, 2014
He Alleges He Is Still Alive
Press Release: Officer Involved Shooting
Agency: Sheriff's Administration
Station Area: Thermal
Incident Date: April 10, 2014 Time: 5:16 PM
Incident Location: Northbound Highway 86, South of Dillon Road, Coachella
On Thursday, April 10, 2014, at about 5:16 PM, deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department responded to assist the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in the area of Highway 86 and Avenue 62. CHP advised the Sheriff's Department that a Hispanic Male adult had evaded their officers in a stolen vehicle and was armed with a handgun.
While searching for the suspect, the Sheriff's Department received information of a Hispanic male adult with a handgun, who was attempting to stop vehicles on Highway 86. During this time the suspect was able to successfully carjack a motorhome occupied by an elderly couple. The suspect forced the male driver at gunpoint to drive northbound on Highway 86. Responding deputies were able to locate the motorhome and attempted to conduct a traffic stop. The suspect threatened the driver not to stop and a pursuit ensued on Highway 86. During the pursuit, which involved the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and CHP, spike strips were deployed successfully. The motorhome came to a complete stop northbound on Highway 86, south of Dillon Road.
Shortly after the motorhome stopped, officers heard shots being fired within the motorhome. The female victim then exited the vehicle and retreated toward the safety of the officers. Shortly thereafter, the suspect appeared at the door way of the motorhome pointing a handgun at the officers. Officers from the CHP and Sheriff's Department fired their weapons at the suspect. The suspect retreated back into the motorhome. A short time later, the suspect exited the motorhome, surrendered and was taken into custody.
The male victim was airlifted to a local hospital, where he was admitted and treated for a gunshot wound he sustained by the suspect, during the course of the carjacking/kidnapping.
Investigators from the Coachella Police Department and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department's Central Homicide Unit responded to the location and assumed the investigation. The male suspect, identified as 34-year-old Coachella resident Jorge Valdez, was booked into the Riverside County Jail in Indio for attempted murder, kidnapping, carjacking, felony evading, felon in possession of a firearm, and a parole violation. The involved officers have been placed on administrative leave per Department policy. The involved officers' names are not being released at this time. No officers were injured during this incident.