Don’t talk to the police without a lawyer

The Last Stone, by Mark Bowden (author of Black Hawk Down), shows the terrible consequences for one criminal of not availing himself of his right to have a lawyer present (who presumably would have told him to take the Fifth Amendment, since he was, in fact, guilty).

After decades of smaller convictions, Lloyd Welch was in prison in Delaware for molesting a 10-year-old girl. The Montgomery County, Maryland police detectives came to talk to him in 2013 regarding the disappearance of two girls in 1975. If he had refused to talk to them, he would have been released from prison a few years later, signed up for public housing, Medicaid, food stamps, Obamaphone, etc., and enjoyed the last third of his life:

Prior to this collision with the Lyon squad, the path had seemed clear. His prison mental-health report had all but pronounced him rehabilitated. “Mr. Welch took advantage of the treatment opportunities available within the prison to come to an understanding of the problems that led to [his] offense,” it read, its author either asleep or completely taken in. “Mr. Welch seems to have developed deep insight, empathy, and remorse for his victim’s pain and suffering.”

Over about 70 hours of interviews, though, the police gradually got him to admit his involvement in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of the girls (sisters, aged 10 and 12). The critical tools were flattering, lying (pretending that they knew more than they did), and patience. Multiple interrogators collaborated on this project and they had different personalities, which lent itself naturally to the good-cop, bad-cop ploy.

Mark, in particular, seemed to get this. He showed no sympathy for Lloyd whatsoever. He badgered him with the falsehoods and inconsistencies in his stories. He also liberally exaggerated the evidence against him. “We found a lot of cases that are all across Maryland, South Carolina, Florida. All these cases around Wheaton, Takoma Park, that look like they’ve got your name on them. Rapes. Girls have disappeared. Girls that have been found murdered.” “Hold. Hold. Hold,” Lloyd protested, raising his hand. “No, this is the truth, Lloyd. We have all the old evidence. All the old fingerprints, DNA samples, stuff that was never analyzed. Because back in the seventies they didn’t have DNA analysis. But we kept all that evidence. Now it is all getting compared. And it’s not just going to be us saying that you did it. That’s evidence, Lloyd.” Mark was bluffing. None of this was true.

Electronic surveillance suggests that the family is guilty (see previous post), but does not yield enough information for a conviction:

The squad had anticipated monitoring calls for a month, but they ended up listening for three months. It was costly. Supervised by veteran Montgomery County detective Rich Armagost, the bugs had to be monitored twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, occupying four or five officers at a time. Many of the things overheard were redolent of deeper knowledge. For instance, after seeing news reports about the digging on Taylor’s Mountain, Pat Welch told one caller, knowingly, “They are going to find something on that mountain.” When told where the police were digging, she remarked, categorically, “Those aren’t their graves” and “They are on the wrong side of the mountain,” even though she had insisted to the squad that she knew nothing whatsoever about the Lyon girls.

The police can’t get any good physical evidence, even after they are pretty sure that they know what happened to the two girls’ bodies:

The location of the bonfire had been fixed, and the dirt there scooped out and sifted through screens. A fragment of charred human bone was found, along with scraps of singed fabric that might have been worn by the girls or come from the bags described by Connie and Henry. Melted fragments of beads were found that might have matched a necklace Kate had worn, and a piece of wire recovered might have matched the frame of Sheila’s glasses. None of these items tested out convincingly. No DNA could be recovered from the bone.

So it comes down to getting Lloyd to keep telling his story and lying about the physical evidence is not off limits:

Virginia’s prosecutors weren’t buying it, Dave explained, because they were more intent on nailing him than on learning the truth. In short, Lloyd was about to be charged with murder. “Does the DNA from the bones show that it was the girls?” Lloyd asked. “Got one fragment that shows,” said Dave, falsely.

The most effective tactic is wearing down the suspect.

After four hours, Dave left and Katie stepped in. She buttered Lloyd up at length, going on about how much better a person he was than the rest of his family, how much more cooperative he was. Then she pleaded with him to help himself by helping them. They were on his side!

Katie sometimes tried to simply overwhelm Lloyd. She would start talking, throwing out ideas, her words flowing in great improvisational gusts, easing from one concept to the next, alternately flattering, reasoning, bargaining, confronting, empathizing. Mark called it her superpower; he joked that sometimes suspects would confess just to shut her up. Katie turned it on full bore now. She invoked Lloyd’s children, who, she said, wanted this all to be over. She talked about mistakes she had made in her own life. She was somebody who knew mistakes. Life, she said, was about learning and moving on … She was still at it when the session passed the six-hour mark. It was a magnificent torrent of cajolery, all of it delivered earnestly and with a straight face.

Jesus forgives even if the Montgomery County police do not:

The Virginia detectives came back in before the session ended to reassure him that he had a few more days. Lloyd told them how bad he felt for having done nothing to help the girls back in 1975, about how his life had changed. He’d become a Christian; he was determined to turn things around. “I’m not a bad person,” he said.

But the Montgomery County police pretend to forgive. They often tell Lloyd that his interest in young girls and drugs was perfectly normal back in 1975:

There were totally different things goin’ on back then.” Katie was smoothing the path for Lloyd. She was allowing, for purposes of easing Lloyd’s concerns, that having sex with prepubescent girls was somehow a normal thing, especially in the anything-goes 1970s.

Lloyd said he thought his story would be interesting. He had never touched the girls, he said, but he’d led an interesting life. “I had a lot of ass when I was growing up,” he said. “I didn’t have to force myself or anything like that. I mean, when I lived in Washington, DC, in that runaway house, I had different girls every night, because we just partied together. Nothing forceful or anything like that. We’d all just get together—” “It was the seventies.” “—and it was free love. Sex, rock ’n’ roll.” “Exactly.”

Separately, the author tries to explain why a person would kidnap two girls from a shopping mall, 10 and 12, and participate in their rape and murder. The answer comes from Bernie Sanders and Thomas Piketty:

In a twisted way, it made sense for Lloyd to prey on children at the mall, for several reasons. … Malls were suburbia’s gleaming showcases, lined with high-end stores stocked with goods Lloyd could not afford, displaying colorful, oversize ads for a lifestyle beyond his reach. They drew clean and prosperous families with credit cards and shopping lists. Living in the woods with his girlfriend, Lloyd would not have known how to take the first step into that world. And while he was not the sort to reflect on such things, much less articulate them, he must have resented the plenitude, all the comforts of money, family, and community that he lacked. As Lloyd himself had put it, “I was an angry person when I was young.”

If only we can eliminate inequality, we may also be able to eliminate this kind of crime. #VoteWarren

What do evil people look like? Would we know them if we saw them? The author goes to visit Lloyd Welch in prison and finds “an unimpressive, scheming man.” The guy does seem to lack self-awareness: “He complained about being treated in the prison as a rapist and murderer of children.”

The guy certainly deserves to be in prison, it seems. But he put himself there by not asking for a taxpayer-funded attorney. That is one of the strangest aspects of the story.

More: Read The Last Stone.


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Increase Federal border staff in the south by moving some from the north?

The situation on the U.S. southern border is now considered by our media to be a “crisis.” The crisis is not so severe, of course, that Congress has been motivated to change any of the laws that encourage people to migrate here (birthright citizenship, lifetime taxpayer-funded housing, health care, food, and smartphone, etc.) [Just as the treatment of migrants who say that they’re under 18 is horrific, but not so bad that anyone complaining about it offers to open his or her own home to a migrant!]

Since we don’t have substantially more money or new laws to deal with the situation on the southern border, would it make sense to move resources that we’re already paying for?

When you fly a private airplane into Canada, for example, you let the Canadians know who is on the plane and where you expect to land. On landing, if you don’t see any officials (the usual case) you call up the authorities and they give you a “report number” to write down (unclear what this could ever be used for!), thus freeing the Canadian government to deal with more pressing issues.

When you fly a private airplane into the U.S., on the other hand, you have to provide complete information on all occupants of the aircraft via a web site (eAPIS) and also make a phone call as you would with Canada. The Feds will send out an armed agent ($1000 per working hour if we factor in pension, overtime for evenings/weekends, periodic weapons training, government SUV, and other benefits?) to do a cursory inspection of the plane and the people.

If the U.S. went to the “random sampling” approach that the Canadians use, there would be a lot of resources freed up to deal with the tide of migrants washing over the southern border. Aircraft operators are fairly diligent about customs and immigration. None of them want the government to take away their airplanes if an unauthorized person is found on board.

The same approach could be used for commercial airline flights. Why have 100 people at Logan Airport to deal with flights coming from London? The government already was advised via eAPIS of the passenger manifest. The passports were already checked in London by the airline. Why not move 90 of the 100 people to where they are most needed and have the remaining 10 randomly sample passengers from London?

If we had a country in which 100 percent of the residents were documented, maybe it would make sense to screen 100 percent of inbound travelers. But if we already have between 10 million and 22 million undocumented people living in the U.S., why does it make sense to screen the inbound family Cessna, the inbound Fortune 500 company’s Gulfstream, or the inbound British Airways flight whose passengers were carefully sifted through by the carrier?

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Boeing hires software engineers for $9/hour

“Boeing’s 737 Max Software Outsourced to $9-an-Hour Engineers” (Bloomberg) seems to be getting folks’ attention regarding the aviation safety angle. I think the career planning angle is much more interesting. The other day, I met a bright young high school student who said that he was considering a career in software engineering. He used the term “STEM” about 15 times. Presumably he is being pushed in this direction by well-meaning adults, including our politicians (nothing helps turn a person into a cheerleader for STEM more than a complete absence of any engineering background and a college transcript that is devoid of a single science class).

Programming/software development/software engineering tends to be a brief career, almost certain to end when the former coder is in his or her 50s (usually much quicker because people don’t love this job).

Now we learn that one of America’s most demanding employers is able to find programmers to work for $9/hour. Why would a young American want to slug it out against that kind of competition?

Coders can make decent money, but they often need to be in high-cost cities to get the bigger paychecks. Earning an above-median $125,000/year does not secure a good lifestyle in New York, D.C., Boston, or anywhere in California. The dental hygienist (BLS median $75,000/year) has much more flexibility regarding where to live and work and can probably enjoy a higher standard of living. (Tax Foundation’s real value of $100 map.)

This is not to say that nobody should be a programmer. If you love to code, don’t feel the need to interact meaningfully with humans during the day, don’t mind having less personal space than a McDonald’s cashier, think that you can manage the health risks of a sit-all-day job, and have the discipline to save for a forced retirement at 52, go for it!

But I am confused as to how non-programmers can read a story like this Bloomberg one and then tell a young person “You should go try to grab that $9/hour job!”


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Meet in Ireland?

I’m planning a trip to Ireland, arriving Tuesday, May 28 and returning on June 5. Would any readers like to meet up there? If so, please email:


(The plan is to teach a couple of classes at a flight school in Dublin, do some helicopter flying, possibly visit the Isle of Man, and check out Belfast before it is swallowed up into the ocean like the Brexit doomsayers predict. Experience regarding the Isle of Man would be especially welcome. My local guide in Ireland is not a fan…)

Here are some ideas that I pulled from a guidebook

Dublin (2 days)

  • National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology
  • Trinity College (arrange Book of Kells?)
  • Dublin Castle and Chester Beatty Library?
  • Hugh Lane Gallery
  • Irish Museum of Modern Art
  • Tenement Museum

Helicopter Trip to Cork?

  • Cork
  • Cobh
  • Kinsale
  • Skellig Islands
  • Lakes of Killarney (orbit in heli)
  • Bantry House (if extra time)

Lower Shannon

  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Foynes
  • Lough Gur
  • (maybe) Roscrea

Helicopter Trip to Galway?

  • Galway
  • Aran Islands
  • Connemara National Park (get some exercise!)

Northwest Ireland (helicopter up there?)

  • Sileve League (only if WX perfect)

Drive to Belfast (2 days)

  • Carlingford way up or down
  • Belfast downtown (1 day?)
  • Giant’s Causeway
  • Glenariff Forest Park
  • Seamus Heaney HomePlace
  • Mount Stewart
  • Mourne Mountains
  • Castlewellan Forest Park
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A successful executive advises a woman beginning her career

A friend’s daughter is finishing up law school. Due to my not-so-secret double life as an expert witness working with big law firms, she asked me for advice as to whether to join one of three international firms that had offered her jobs. Her passion is white collar criminal defense (should be a growing field if the taxpayers keep investing in multi-year investigations that reveal nothing more than Americans getting paid for having sex and/or trying to minimize their tax payments):

Right now I am struggling because at [Firm A] they have an incredible white collar group that is small, extremely prestigious and also full of incredible women …

At [Firm B], I would just go into general litigation, and then I could put my hand up to get in on white collar projects, but it might be more difficult to specialize. They are also really committed to pro bono … It is also a litigation-forward firm (rather than dominated by the corporate practice) which I like too.

I assembled a group email panel of lawyers and business executives. Male perspective:

I wouldn’t rely on women. Female intrasexual competition is human nature (other species too). You are a young fertile woman. The women in management are aging, no longer as attractive, and no longer fertile. Maybe they voted for Hillary but their biological instinct will be to have you killed, not to help you take their places in the boardroom.

It would be an advantage to be the only women on a litigation team. There will be women on the jury and perhaps the judge will be a woman. The team will have to put you forward in order to forestall accusations of sexism. Whereas if there are 10 women on the team you could be at a back desk handing out documents. Maybe there are other good reasons to like [Firm A], but I wouldn’t give any extra points because there are woman running the show there.

Female perspective:

In my view, all else being equal, the woman factor might be a reason to chose [Firm A] over your alternative. However, most important is whether the role at [Firm A] is what you want and the environment/ team dynamics are the best route to your success/ achieving your goals.

For me, working with women vs men really doesn’t matter as long as I feel I am set up for success.

Working with “incredible women” may not be better for you than working with incredible men. What makes these women incredible? Is there a difference between “incredible women” and “incredible men”? And what does their being “incredible” mean for you?

As I think back to all the work situations I’ve been in with women vs men over the last 20 years, I can say that this is absolutely right: “their biological instinct will be to have you killed, not to help you take their places in the boardroom.” It takes a very accomplished woman who is not insecure about where she is in life to suppress that instinct. No matter how old she is. There are not many women that accomplished in the workforce today. If you find one to work with awesome. If not, no big deal.

Men are generally easier to deal with in my experience. They are less complex. With men it usually comes down to ego. If you don’t attack their egos, and keep your relationship professional, they won’t try to compete with you or cross any lines. To the contrary, they will see you as an ally and they will support you.

I also agree about the advantage of being the only woman on a team. It’s not just about being the only woman though, it’s about being good at what you do AND being different from your peers in a way that obviously benefits the team/company.

Example: I am the VP of North America [Widgets and Services], two levels removed from our corporate ([Fortune 500 company name]) CEO. I am the only female VP on [this] team and the only person in the company who understands [something that brings in a growing amount of revenue].

Next month, [the Fortune 500] will hold it’s investor day. 20 of our top institutional investors will be visiting along with the entire top executive team. My boss and his boss will be presenting to this group, as will the Presidents of every other division. I found out yesterday, that I too will be presenting. I am the only VP – level person from all of [the Fortune 500] who will be presenting and the only woman. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a President or SVP because I am the best they have and a woman to boot!

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Zero progress in American politics since 1776

I’ve been listening to America’s Founding Fathers, a lecture series by Allen Guelzo, a professor at Gettysburg College.

It turns out that all of the things that Americans fight and fret about today were issues around the time of the country’s creation (i.e., the traitorous and illegal secession from Great Britain).

People questioned whether a republican form of government made sense. From the notes:

… there had been only a few examples of successful republics in human history—particularly, Rome and Athens—and they offered only a handful of useful rules for guidance:

First, a republic must be harmonious. It cannot be divided in purpose; it must be guided by a common vision of the public good.

Second, it must be homogeneous—composed of citizens who are ethnically, economically, and socially more or less equal in wealth and status.

Third, a republic must be small, if only because harmony and homogeneity break down whenever the boundaries of a republic are drawn to include too many different kinds of people or so much territory that people cannot keep vigil over their fellow citizens.

Fourth, every citizen of a republic must be independent and self-sufficient enough to be able to occupy a public office.

Our Founding Fathers, including George Washington, questioned whether Americans were sufficiently virtuous to govern themselves. With the average person being primarily concerned with making money and quite a few folks “corrupt, selfish, and indolent,” how could the resulting conglomeration of these folks ever be sustainable? Washington, 1783:

the want of energy in the Federal government, the pulling of one state and party of states against another and the commotion amongst the Eastern people have sunk our national character much below par [and] brought our politics and credit to the brink of a precipice.

(i.e., we’ve been on the brink of a precipice for more than 230 years!)

During the Confederation period, Americans attacked political opponents, e.g., Robert Morris, the rebellious colonies’ first “superintendent of finance,” by alleging that people with high-level executive jobs were enriching themselves via corruption.

Politicians were not necessarily examples of traditional virtue in private matters:

[President of Congress Thomas] Mifflin retired from his congressional presidency and spent most of the remaining 16 years of his life in Pennsylvania politics and in what one critic described as “a state of adultery with many women.” Several towns and structures were named for him, but he also burned through most of his family’s fortune and ended up hiding from bill collectors.

The course is replete with examples of “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” (Samuel Johnson). Patrick Henry:

In 1774, when he called on the House to begin arming Virginians for resistance to the Crown, Henry spoke his most famous words: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me … give me liberty, or give me death!”

Paying 1-2 percent of income in total tax (see this article Foreign Policy on what American colonists paid) was an intolerable state of “slavery” and equivalent to being in “chains,” for Henry, “a slaveholder throughout his adult life” (Wikipedia).

Early Americans complained about concentrations of wealth and considered themselves fortunate that the disparities were not as large as in Europe.

States maintained a degree of independence and sovereignty to a degree that would be unimaginable today. They would use this to issue their own paper currency, help their citizens escape paying debts to Britons or citizens of other states, and weasel out of their own financial commitments to the Continental Congress.

The bad news is that we’re not making any progress, but maybe the good news is that the disputes that described as “crises” every day in the New York Times were with us in the 1780s.

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Price of uncertainty for MacKenzie Bezos: $36 billion

Had MacKenzie Bezos married and divorced Jeff Bezos in Germany, checking the “separate property” box on the marriage application, she would be getting no asset transfer, only child support that maxes out at $6,000 per child per year (see Real World Divorce‘s international chapter).

Had the divorce happened in California, she would have been entitled to 50 percent of the assets accumulated during the marriage, a total of about $72 billion.

The divorce occurred while the family courts of Washington State had jurisdiction, however, resulting in “MacKenzie Bezos’s $36 billion in Amazon stock from divorce settlement makes her world’s fourth-richest woman” (MarketWatch).

In the early articles on this subject, Washington was erroneously reported by many journalists as being a 50/50 property division state. In fact, as noted in Real World Divorce,

Are the assets split 50/50? “We’re a ‘fair and equitable’ state,” says DeVallance. “It is not a 50/50 state. The property division can be a disproportionate.” Does the fact that Washington State is a “community property” jurisdiction mean that assets acquired before the marriage remain with each party? “No,” explains DeVallance. “All property is before the court, including separate property, though it is somewhat rare to invade separate property.”

In other words, it is uncertain. A judge might have decided to give Mrs. Bezos more than 50 percent of the property, on the grounds that she hadn’t worked since 1997 and therefore wouldn’t be as easily able as Mr. Bezos to earn more money. Or a judge might have decided that $1 billion was the maximum profit that someone should be able to obtain from being a stay-at-home spouse. There wouldn’t have been any precedent for these numbers.

It would appear that a certain $36 billion was preferred by Mrs. Bezos to the possibility of obtaining $72 billion or more, but with a small risk of getting much less than $36 billion. Thus, she settled, and, assuming that she was most likely to come away with $72 billion, we can say that the price of the uncertainty that the Washington State Legislature built into the family law system was $36 billion.

Generally I think it is more important for ordinary people to learn about more ordinary applications of family law, but the MacKenzie Bezos story is interesting as an illustration of the strange characteristic of U.S. family law. Marriage is primarily a financial partnership in the eyes of the law and yet, in most states, the value of an individual’s stake in the partnership is unknown and unknowable without spending potentially all of the partnership value on years of litigation. It is kind the opposite of all other American business partnerships where the value is supposed to be readily ascertained at any time and litigation is a rare last resort if something has gone badly wrong.

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How would the Wall work through Big Bend National Park?

The U.S.-Mexico border is 1,954 miles long, of which 580 miles was fenced (not “walled”!) prior to Donald Trump taking office (Wikipedia). That leaves 1,374 miles of proposed new barrier (immoral “wall” if built by Trump; moral “fence” if built by others?). Of those 1,374 miles, 118 miles are part of Big Bend National Park.

Reading The Line Becomes a River, by a former Border Patrol agent (2008-2012), made me wonder how Trump’s proposed barrier can work along this part of the border. Some excerpts:

On a hot Texas evening at the edge of Big Bend National Park, I watched a man ride his horse across the Rio Grande.

I gestured at the village across the river and asked the man if he lived in Boquillas. Of course, he said, beaming with pride. I asked what he did for work and he nodded at the unattended souvenirs and handmade crafts that had been set out atop the rocks. No hay trabajo, he complained—we make our money from tourists. I asked if many Americans crossed over to visit. Sure, he said, Boquillas is very safe. Narcos don’t bother us, even the rangers and la migra leave us alone. He paused. You know, he said, there’s a nice restaurant in my village. Is there breakfast? I asked. Of course, he smiled. I’ll come for you in the morning.

The next morning, as the sun grew pale and white in the eastern sky, I met my guide at the banks of the river. He instructed me to climb onto his horse, and then, like it was nothing, he spurred the animal across the river into Mexico. We spoke little as I jostled atop sauntering haunches and grasped at the back of his saddle. Passing the first cinderblock homes of Boquillas, I considered the extent to which my safekeeping depended upon this stranger, leading me into the silent and unfamiliar streets of his village.

Our young fit fluent-in-Spanish half-Mexican hero bravely makes a trip that, during my visit to Big Bend, was mostly being taken by senior citizens after exiting from their RVs. The “river” is more like a wide shallow stream at this point in its course. Neither the U.S. nor Mexico was bothering to do any border control at the border. In the case of the U.S., there were checkpoints across the roads about 50 miles north. I enjoyed my time in Boquillas, especially the town’s dusty museum (unattended by any guard; pay into a box via the honor system).

The National Park Service now has an official guide to visiting Boquillas. It seems that the ability to walk to Boquillas and get a taco was one of the freedoms we supposed lost after 9/11 (Wikipedia; except that the author made it across easily!), but since 2013 (Wikipedia) there is a formal border crossing.

I wonder how Trump’s political promise can be implemented in this part of the country. Here are some possibilities:

  • Despite the idea that national parks are supposed to be mostly natural, we install an ugly fence along our side of the river. It will appear in every visitor’s snapshots from Big Bend.
  • We build a fence on the north edge of the park, with checkpoints at the handful of roads that would cross the fence. Any caravan of migrants that has made its way to Mexico City can ride a bus for another 18 hours, get off in Boquillas, walk across the Rio Grande and tell the nearest park ranger “I am seeking asylum” (or give birth to a baby who will then be entitled to bring the parents in 18 years from now, thus saddling U.S. taxpayers with the cost of public housing, health care, food stamps, etc., for the now-older parents)
  • We pay the Mexicans to build a monster fence somewhere on their side of the border, out of sight of the tourists who come to Big Bend (but the Mexicans have their own state park on their side).

Is there any other alternative that is consistent with Trump’s campaign promise?

[Also, given that it is easy to walk into the U.S. at Big Bend, why aren’t migrant caravans choosing this route right now? Why wait near the border in Tijuana, for example, when one could just as easily be over the border and on one’s way from Big Bend?]

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Why does the FBI investigate “truths” that violated no federal law?

A friend on Facebook cited “2nd Fairfax accuser says she was raped by former Duke basketball player Corey Maggette” (CNN):

“I say again without reservation: I did not sexually assault or rape Meredith Watson, Vanessa Tyson or anyone else,” Fairfax said in the statement.

“The one thing I want to make abundantly clear is that in both situations I knew at the time, and I know today, that the interactions were consensual.”

Fairfax said what he has “expressed is the truth.”

“I want to stand here in that truth and restate that my truth, as well as the truth of Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson, should be fully investigated and thoroughly assessed,” Fairfax’s statement said. He called on the FBI to “investigate fully and thoroughly the allegations against me.”

The story was highlighted for the fact that the person accused of a criminal act asserts that his accusers are telling “the truth,” but that he is also telling “his truth” in contradiction them.

As a taxpayer, I’m more interested in the question of why the FBI even could be involved. From the bureaucracy’s web site:

Federal law gives the FBI authority to investigate all federal crime not assigned exclusively to another federal agency (28, Section 533 of the U.S. Code). … The FBI has special investigative jurisdiction to investigate violations of state law in limited circumstances, specifically felony killings of state law enforcement officers (28 U.S.C. § 540), violent crimes against interstate travelers (28 U.S.C. § 540A0), and serial killers (28 U.S.C. §540B). A request by an appropriate state official is required before the FBI has authority to investigate these matters.

There is no “truth” that has been covered by the media that would fit into one of the above categories.

Why do taxpayers in Ohio need to pay the FBI for an investigation of stuff that happened at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston or in North Carolina? If there were crimes committed under state or local laws, why wouldn’t it be state or local taxpayers paying the bills for any required investigations?


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Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine for a winter vacation

We experimented this year with a winter escape to a part of Florida that is a little cooler than Miami, but a lot less packed with both locals and tourists. Here’s a report…

Jacksonville Beach was a huge hit with the kids. A beachfront hotel with a pool is about $200/night and will keep everyone entertained all day. Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach are lower density. The One Ocean hotel in Atlantic Beach is a good place to start. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Jacksonville Beach, which is okay, but the room-to-room sound transmission makes earplugs essential. The adjacent Marriott looked newer and might be better. All of these places have wide firmly packed beaches (partly due to the miracle of dredging and “beach replenishment), ideal for long walks. The beaches are also dog-friendly all winter all day, so bring the family dog.

The killer breakfast option is Maple Street Biscuit Company, a small local chain. Metro Diner is more traditional/conventional, but also excellent. We enjoyed V Pizza for lunch. This is strictly wood-fired and presided over by a fanatical Albanian who spent 10 years in Italy. (St. Augustine has Pizza Time, for which people wait in line for 45 minutes, but it is boring electric-oven pizza that you could get on any street corner in NYC.) Atlantic Beach has a bunch of elegant dinner spots with outdoor tables. They’re all pretty good, but service suffers when they’re busy (the future of U.S. restaurants, I’m pretty sure, is Panera-style order-at-the-counter; Maple Street works this way and so does V Pizza; it doesn’t make sense to buy health care at the world’s highest prices for a waiter when it is easy enough to get up and grab one’s own dish). Kazu Sushi Burrito in Jacksonville Beach and Tokyo Ramen in a strip mall in Atlantic Beach were both good breaks from the burgers.

St. Augustine was so packed in the days before and just after New Year’s that it wasn’t pleasant. Make sure to book a hotel right in the center of town (i.e., in the historical walking area) because traffic and parking are murderous. Most of the sights are best for kids 7 or older, I would say. Younger children will be happier at Jacksonville Beach. Consider a day trip from Jacksonville Beach to St. Augustine, though it needs to be a 12-hour day if you’re going to see the main sights. There is an awesome playground right next to the main parking structure in St. Augustine.

If you brought a light airplane, Sky Harbor at KCRG is a great FBO. Zip down to KTIX (about 45 minutes) to the Valiant Air Command warbird museum (park on their ramp after calling ahead). We stumbled into a tour by a retired USMC F-4 pilot. See also the B-52 cockpit below!

A 10-minute ride from KTIX is the Kennedy Space Center’s visitor theme park. This is privately run and keeps chugging along despite any government shutdowns. The only interaction with official Feds is when guards (armed with the assault rifles that the government assures us no reasonable person actually needs) board the tourist bus (to make sure nobody is planning an armed takeover of NASA’s launchpad?).

(Here’s a good image for flight instructors:

“They made it to the moon with a paper flight plan and you need a phone app to go on a 50 nm cross country?”)

The Cummer Museum in Jacksonville is a good escape from the kids (see The Jacksonville Zoo is awesome. The Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Jacksonville had some interesting exhibits. Don’t forget the candy factory across the square!

“The economy is based on poor people,” said one local. His perspective was confirmed by the fact that the most impressive building in Jacksonville is the new 800,000 square foot Duval County Courthouse (more than $400 million including the land?). Billboards through the region feature personal injury and divorce lawyers (Florida offers permanent alimony, so plaintiffs have a strong incentive to litigate; for unmarried plaintiffs, the state also offers unlimited child support, assuming the defendant has sufficient income). The next tier of awesomeness in building is occupied by hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic. A young local couple on the beach with their Bernese Mountain Dog said that both worked in health care and that “all” of their patients were on either Medicaid or Medicare. At least they won’t be wiped out from buying gasoline…

Locals seemed surprised that anyone would want to come to this part of Florida for a beach vacation before April or after October. However, the lack of crowds is nice (except in St. Augustine between Christmas and New Year’s!). The ocean isn’t warm enough for swimming, but a typical daily high temperature is close to 70 degrees and walking around in a T-shirt is a luxury from this Bostonian’s perspective. Atlantic and Neptune beaches are built up only to a reasonable human scale:

Aviation enthusiasts should make sure that they arrive with full IFR currency. We had fog or a low-ish cloud layer over the coastal airports at least half of the time so there were plenty of instrument approaches to be done. Sky Harbor at Craig is a great FBO and Atlantic at SGJ is very welcoming as well.

How about New Yorkers and Californians relocating to Atlantic Beach to escape the new cruel taxation regime of the Trumpenfuhrer, in which their state income taxes (used by state Democrats only for the most virtuous purposes) are no longer deductible against Federal income tax? What if these well-meaning folks decide that they like the beach and don’t want to pay the higher effective tax rates that they’ve long been advocating?  Zillow says that a nice 20-year-old 5BR house just one block back from the beach (will be beachfront soon enough!) is $950,000 and attracts property tax of $7,700 per year (barely raised since 2003).

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