Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hanky-Panky in the White House


All right, and just in time for the presidential campaign season, the talented editor and political essayist, Franklin Alfred Kirby Edwards, has re-released the infamous “Starr Report on the Impeachment of President Clinton.”

If you’re hazy on the Starr Report, but remember your mother and father whispering about it back in 1998, it is “The Full Monty” of official U.S. government reports, and contains more porn than the San Fernando Valley.

Yet this smut didn’t happen in some rented bachelor pad. This sexual romp took place in the Oval Office study and bathroom between the “handsome” 42nd President of the United States, then 49 years old, and “stacked” 21-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Yes, he was old enough to be her Daddy.

“Even today, for historical perspective, it is the singularly most prurient report involving an investigation of a sitting president in the 238-year existence of the Republic,” Mr. Edwards writes in his penetrating new preface to the report. Mr. Edwards, who can be ribald himself, jokes that if the only thing readers remember after finishing the report is the “cigar incident” between Bill and Monica, he’ll understand. (It is probably what your Mom and Dad had whispered about.)

But, his new preface also has a serious message.

He warns Americans about returning Mr. Clinton, who doesn’t appear to have changed his stripes, to the White House by voting for his wife. Additionally he notes that President Clinton lied to the American people about the sexual affair, and that other presidents have lied in office, too. He says Congress should pass a law, making it a crime for presidents to knowingly lie.

Mr. Edwards has priced the nearly 50,000 word reprint of the report cheaply at a buck, hardly enough to compensate him for his 4,500-word preface, not to mention the hours of editing he likely spent to make the report readable for people who aren’t government policy wonks.

I’m informed that the publication is out in limited circulation now but should be available soon at all on-line booksellers. I suggest you take a look at it. Remember what George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

R.D. Byron-Smith’s books are available at Amazon and all online booksellers, including his newest novel, American Jihadist.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

NCIS star Pauley Perrette's Ex Loses Harassing Tweet Appeal


The criminal conviction of “NCIS” star Pauley Perrette’s ex-husband for sending harassing “tweets” about her has been upheld in Los Angeles.

Perrette had a restraining order against ex-hubby Francis “Coyote” Shivers when they were involved in an incident at a Hollywood sushi restaurant March 20, 2012.

Laura Pauley Perrette, who married Shivers in 2000 and they divorced in 2004, told police Shivers violated the court order at the sushi joint, and then harassed her on Twitter.

Later found guilty by a jury of two misdemeanors, Shivers appealed his conviction for violating the restraining order and for “electronically distributing a harassing message.”

According to court records the tweets were posted July 4th and 8th of 2012, stating: “HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY EVERYONE. SEE YOU ON MY USUAL HANGOUT, CAHUENGA!! (If you see my stalker Pauley Perrette follow me there call LAPD!!!” and “Speakin of #Cahuenga i’ll be there 2nite as usual. If you see my stalker #NCIS Pauley Perrette follow me there report her to LAPD immediately!”

The Perrette-Shivers case becomes important because the state Supreme Court is allowing the appeals ruling to be used by judges hearing electronic harassment cases in California.

In interpreting the state’s harassing message statute, the judges said such messages or tweets do not have to cause “actual” harm, only create the “likelihood” of harm.

Perrette, 46, plays the role of eccentric forensic scientist “Abby Sciuto” on the hit TV crime drama based on the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Shivers had a role in the 1995 movie, “Empire Records.”

***

According to court records, here is what happened in the restaurant.

Perrette and fiancé, Thomas Arklie, were in the restaurant on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, sitting at a table. At about 7:30 p.m., Shivers and his wife, Mayra Dias Gomes, entered. The only available table was the one next to where Perrette and Arklie sat. As Shivers and his wife were escorted by a waitress toward Perrette’s table, Shivers told the waitress, “I cannot sit over there.”

At Shivers’s trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, Perrette and Arklie testified that Shivers “got within eight inches to one foot from Perrette’s face, and smirked and smiled.” Perrette became very upset, shrunk into her chair, and covered her face with her hands.

Shivers pulled out his cell phone, held it out towards Perrette, and walked backwards while appearing to use the phone’s video function. Her fiancé, Arklie, got in front of the table to block Shivers’s view of Perrette. A dozen feet from Shivers, Arklie, said, “You are not allowed to do that here.” Arklie also held his hand up to avoid being taped. He denied threatening Shivers.

As Shivers backed away, pointing his camera in Perrette’s direction, he screamed, “I have a restraining order against her. I have a restraining order against her.”

Video captured by Shivers’s phone camera was taken from near the restaurant’s entrance. It showed the table where Perrette and Arklie were sitting.

In other words, jurors likely thought that he saw her and could have left. The restraining order required him to stay 1,000 yards from his former wife.
 
On the video, Shivers pointed to the table and stated, “He just threatened me,” an apparent reference to Arklie. “He just came at me threatening me.”

His wife, Gomes, responded, “I know, I saw.”

Shivers asked, “You saw?” to which Gomes responded, “Yeah.”

Shivers then shouted, “Could you tell the manager here that I have a restraining order on that other person,” and “He just came at me threatening me.”

Other restaurant guests turned around to see why Shivers was shouting. Perrette was “extremely embarrassed” by the commotion. She then called 911 to report a violation of the restraining order. Before police arrived, Shivers left.

His wife testified that when she and Shivers reached the table next to Perrette, Shivers immediately returned to the front of the restaurant and did not get near Perrette’s table.

She also testified she felt threatened by Arklie, “the way that he suddenly got up from the table and came at us seemed . . . threatening.”

After hearing both sides, a jury convicted Shivers of violating the restraining order. Jurors also found him guilty of transmitting a harassing electronic message, a tweet.

In his appeal, Shivers contended Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathryn A. Solórzano erroneously failed to instruct the jury on self‑defense, after jurors asked a question about it. He also claimed there was insufficient evidence for his conviction for a harassing tweet.

The three-judge appeals division of Los Angeles Superior Court rejected his arguments, and affirmed his convictions. He faces up to a year in jail, but probation is more likely.

For those keeping gossipy Hollywood Film Star score, it is Pauley Perrette 1, Francis “Coyote” Shivers 0. But the real significance of the case is in the emerging law of electronic harassment, especially on Facebook and Twitter, in California.

***

In their discussion of the charge of harassing messages, the judges noted that as a result of Shivers’s tweets a third party “searching for Perrette’s name could find his tweets. Also, by using a hashtag for the show (“#NCIS”) and the location (“#Cahuenga”), third parties searching on Twitter would also come across” Shivers’s tweets about Perrette.

“Several of the tweets were made in response to persons who had read defendant’s tweets, and other tweets had been retweeted by third parties, indicating to defendant that third parties were accessing the information he posted and his tweets were being disseminated,” the appeals judges wrote.

In other words Shivers was aware people other than himself and Perrette saw or read the tweets.

“The tweets leading up to the ones posted on July 4th and July 8th, 2012, falsely indicated that defendant had a restraining order against Perrette, and that she was stalking him and making death threats against him,” the judges said. “The July 4th and 8th, 2012 tweets referenced the area of Cahuenga where Perrette lived. These tweets also referred to Perrette as defendant’s ‘stalker,’ and requested that readers ‘call LAPD!!!’ and ‘report her to LAPD immediately!’ if they saw her following him in the area.”

The judges concluded that it “can be inferred” Shivers “knew that persons who encountered Perrette after reading his tweets could have been motivated to report her to the police for what they believed was her stalking him, or to otherwise harass her.”

California’s Penal Code defines “harassment” as “conduct directed at a specific person that a reasonable person would consider as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing the person.”

The appeals judges ruled that “given the nature of Twitter and the provocative contents” of Shivers’s tweets, a person could “conclude defendant posted his tweets with the specific intent to incite or produce unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment at the hands of a third party.”

Here is where the appeals courts further fine-tuned California criminal statute on electronic harassment.

Shivers’s lawyer argued there was no proof that his tweets “actually incited any third parties to commit unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment of Perrette,” and that none “actually produced any unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment by third parties.”

This is where the appeals court set a precedent.

The Penal Code states that a defendant is guilty of a misdemeanor if he, “with intent to place another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of the other person’s immediate family,” sends an “electronic message of a harassing nature about another person, which would be likely to incite or produce that unlawful action.”

The judges rejected Shivers’s legal contention that he didn’t violate the law because his posts never “actually incited” someone to harm his former wife.

The judges said in essence it didn’t matter, saying the Legislature’s intent in writing the law was clear because the statute specifically states that “a person is guilty if he or she electronically distributes a harassing message which would likely incite or produce” a third party’s action. They added, the law “reveals no requirement that actual incitement or actual production of the enumerated unlawful effects be caused by a person’s electronic distribution of a message.”

From this case the court’s own message is clear. Be careful about your e-mails and posts on Facebook and Twitter.
 
R.D. Byron-Smith's books, including his latest novel, American Jihadist, are available at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

America's Dumbest Mayor; Replaces NYC's Bill de Blasio


 
Listen up, rioters!

Baltimore’s mayor’s got something to tell you.

“It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”

Did she really say that days before the big riot?

Oh, yes, it’s on videotape.

And so with these fateful words the witless mayor not only encouraged thugs to plunder her city, she raised alarm bells across the nation among property owners who fear their elected officials will also let their property burn in the name of some mindless politically correct agenda.

I proclaim Baltimore’s Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as “America’s Dumbest Mayor.” She can now make a new Dumb and Dumber movie with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

***

Today I loaded up on gun maker Smith & Wesson’s stock, symbol: SWHC. Cynical? OK. Nonetheless, while I’m not encouraging it, I am predicting it: gun sales will soar thanks to the Baltimore mayor’s stupid example.

Here is why.

Monday night Americans watched in disbelief (and horror) as lines of Baltimore’s finest gave the mayor’s “space” to lawless thugs who “wished to destroy.” Police stood by as looters torched businesses. When asked why they didn’t stop the lawlessness, police whispered, “Ask the Mayor.” Yes, indeed, the buck stops with the mayor.

Her message to the would-be looters was unavoidable; and a question looms large today. Is this how police departments will now handle urban rioters? Hands off? Stand down, letting criminals loot and burn private property? (Had these same thugs tried to loot Baltimore City Hall, you can bet the moron mayor would have uncuffed police. Not in my office, you don’t!)

If this is the “new” way politicians plan to handle big city riots in the future, then they should tell private property owners in advance. Because it means private property owners will be left to protect their own property from thieves and arsonists.

I’ll never forget the interview CNN did with a Baltimore Sun newspaper reporter in the thick of the rioting. The reporter said “self-professed gang members” rescued him when looters tried to steal his cell phone. Folks, when we have to rely on the Crips and Bloods to protect our private property, we’re in big trouble.
 
Find R.D. Byron-Smith's books at Amazon and other online booksellers.
 
 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Watch The Back Church Pew


Again, California’s timid courts fail to show courage. In a case involving an accused church-going child molester the court coddles sexual miscreants.

In the 1990s a member of a California Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses began molesting a nine year old girl member when they were alone together, handing out church literature door-to-door. The victim says she was molested until she turned 11, when she told her mother about it.

Years later, as an adult, she sued her ex-congregation and the (much deeper pocket) parent church, Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc., which has 1.2 million members, claiming her congregation’s elders knew the man was a child molester before he molested her and should have protected her by informing the congregation and her parents.

A jury thought it was a reasonable assertion and awarded her $7 million in damages and an additional $21 million to punish the parent church. All damages were later reduced to a total of about $12 million.

The church appealed to the California court of appeal, which, while saying yes to the general damages, the three-judge court tossed out the punitive award. It essentially ruled that the elders did not have an obligation to warn either the congregation or the girl’s parents about a suspected child predator among them. (I hope your church has better sense.)

In its long-winded (aren’t they all?) opinion this month the judges said “misfeasance” and “nonfeasance” law states that a person cannot be civilly liable for failing to snitch off another for being a wrongdoer. In California law, the court said, “As a general rule, one owes no duty to control the conduct of another, nor to warn those endangered by such conduct,” saying, “this derives from the common law’s distinction between misfeasance and nonfeasance,” and, that the “basic idea is often referred to as the ‘no duty to aid’” rule in tort law. In a nutshell: one has no duty to come to the aid of another.

OK. I’ll buy into the argument up to a point.

For instance, say I know my brother once pilfered an ice cream bar from a store. From then on, obviously, the law cannot expect me to tell the guy behind the counter that my brother was once a thief when we walk into his store together. Alas, there is an exception to this “no duty to aid” rule, and it is precisely where the appellate court judges should have shelved their dusty law books and shown some courage to protect kids. This exception to the no-duty-to-aid rule is when a “special relationship” exists. Say, I have agreed to a “special relationship” to protect stores from my thieving brother. This means that I have a legal obligation to tell the guy behind the counter to keep an eye on my brother because he is prone to steal ice cream bars.

Here is my point: the appeals judges ruled that the church elders did not have a “special relationship” with members. Therefore elders had no legal obligation to inform the girl’s parents of the man’s prior molestation rap, even though they knew he was taking her proselytizing door-to-door; and even though members saw him “hug” and “sit” her “on his lap” in church. Maybe elders didn’t witness him molesting her but, come on, they knew his alleged proclivities with children. (Hell, an elder could have told her parents to check him on Megan’s Law.)

In giving the church elders a legal pass, the appeals judges showed timidity. They should have ruled there was a “special relationship” between elders and child members of the church; in other words, that elders have a legal obligation to protect kids. I mean, these are children for God’s sake. Who else are they going to depend on to protect them? It is not farfetched to say society’s first obligation – in front of protecting money in the bank and rights of criminals (sorry, ACLU) – is protecting children. To their credit, elders decided to watch the accused molester’s conduct in church. Guess what? He took her to his house.

In excusing the elders from having a legal obligation to inform the girl’s parents of what could be danger from a molester, the court shoehorned in the sacrosanct principle that a priest cannot be forced to disclose a penitent’s confession. It was a stretch but apparently the judges were worried more about the molester’s soul than the victim’s life. The only good result of this ruling is much of the money damages was upheld, basically because the court agreed the church was negligent in failing to restrict the man’s proselytizing so he couldn’t molest her. Still, these judges failed to even inch law towards enhancing civil protections for children from predators who sit in the back pew.
 
R.D. Byron-Smith's latest novel, American Jihadist, is now available at all online booksellers.
 

 

Monday, April 13, 2015

AMERICAN JIHADIST


I got this release from Pilar Publishing of California, and share it:

 
“With online bookshelves crammed with fantasy tales of buxom babes commanding armies of sword-slashing minions, where Earth is ultimately saved from the wrath of fire-spewing dragons, novelist R.D. Byron-Smith says he decided to write an action-thriller closer to the real neighborhood, a saga of good versus real-life evil, of defeating terrorists so America is the last man standing. Yes, it is a novel, but American Jihadist runs deeper than fiction. One bold reviewer called it a how-to guide to defeat Islamic extremists. We don’t know about that. We will let R.D.’s readers decide.”

Just published, here’s the official blurb:

“They're coming to kill us, and America is paralyzed without a military strategy to defeat radical terrorists. One man has a plan and it isn't a four-star general or a president. It's Medieval History Professor Eric Craig, and his idea harkens back to the brutal Middle Ages. Once his audacious plan is published all hell breaks loose. The professor's life is threatened and he is fired from his university. Ready to take refuge in a monastic life of studying ancient parchments, he is secretly offered billions to fund his ambitious plan of saving Americans from evil. In this provocative political action-thriller, novelist R.D. Byron-Smith immerses the reader in a world of knights in armor and modern weaponry where international terrorists soon discover, they're not the only warriors of God.”

 
American Jihadist and all R.D. Byron-Smith’s books are available at Amazon and all online booksellers.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Curmudgeon Walks His Dog


 

Each morning at six-thirty, rain or shine, I walk my peppy little Shih Tzu around the block in my California neighborhood. Yes, I always carry poop bags. I’ll admit, carrying a droopy poop bag back home for discard isn’t as sexy as carting a bag-o-cash to the bank vault, but I got over the ickiness of it long ago.

On these walks I often pass by kids walking to school, some clomping in a steady beat along the sidewalk on skateboards and others taking the shoe-leather express, much the way I did as a schoolkid. And as often as not I hear them talking, laughing and arguing. Oftener, I cringe at the simpleton rap music blaring from their iPods. (Are you telling me that in fifty years these kids are going to be reminiscently singing the lyrics to these songs? Like MC Hammer’s Pumps and a Bump which goes “I don’t like ’em figgity fat, I like ’em stiggity stacked, you wiffity-wiggity wack if you ain’t got biggity back.”)

. . . Hmm. Enough swaggy tongue, let us get back to English you can’t dance to. Here is what happened on today’s walk. My area was shrouded in a weak fog. Walking about forty yards behind two high school-aged boys, I saw that one was eating Cheetos from a bag – I mean pouring a cascade of them into his wide-open mouth and right down his throat, seemingly without the benefit of having to touch teeth. He finished the bag and uninhibitedly tossed it on the ground in my neighbor’s front yard. Then he saw me, yes, the old curmudgeon and his leashed, wimpy little dog not far behind him. (About then I kind of wished I had had a snarling pit bull instead.) Obviously the kid didn’t know if I lived in the home where he had just dumped his unfriendly trash, so he stepped back and scooped up the Cheetos bag. (It was adroitly done, like the way I sweep up my dog’s crap from the middle of the road.) Then, for good measure, he said loud enough for me to hear: “I’m feeling generous today, there’s a trash can over there.”

In return I snorted a sneer at him, something I’ve gotten pretty good at in my old age, which basically says in guttural shorthand, “You’re a moron!”

Carrying his would-have-been litter, he walked on until he came to the curbside trash receptacle (it was trash pick-up day). Then he turned and made sure I saw him lift the lid and put his garbage gingerly into the trash can, as if to grunt back, “See, old geezer?”

Yes, kid, I see all right – right through you: the guilty actions of a litterbug who’s been caught. If this kid actually thinks that being “generous” is doing the right thing only when you’re caught doing the wrong thing, he’s on the expressway to being institutionalized. Okay, a litterbug doesn’t a criminal make. But it does make a kid and someday, an adult, who has little if any respect for, or sense of, community. And, come on, you know this wasn’t his first time. Such crude habitual actions are an infectious symptom of a coarsened American culture. I call it craping on our community values, without a poop bag.

 R.D. Byron-Smith’s books can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and other online booksellers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ten Times 57 Channels and Nothing On


 
As a California appeals court notes, Bruce Springsteen said it best in “57 Channels (And Nothing On):”

Man came by to hook up my cable TV,

We settled in for the night my baby and me,

We switched ’round and ’round ’til half-past dawn,

There was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on.

You can almost hear the three-part harmony of the judges of a California appellate court as they upheld dismissal of a lawsuit by four subscribers against Time Warner Cable, Inc.:

“We do so keenly aware of how this issue affects millions of our fellow Southern California residents. With apologies to Bruce Springsteen, we appreciate the lament of cable television subscribers who feel that although they now receive 10 times 57 channels or more, mostly nothing’s on that they wish to view. We simply hold that federal pre-emption principles bar application of state consumer protection laws in this case. Thus, consumers must present their complaints to Congress or the Federal Communications Commission.”

In other words, yes, cable television sucks but we’re passing the buck anyways.

The state’s Second District Court of Appeal issued its ruling in the case of Sherry Fischer vs. Time Warner Cable Inc. Other states will likely follow it if they have similar cable TV lawsuits.

Backgrounder: In 2011, Time Warner paid the Los Angeles Lakers $3 billion for rights to televise Lakers games for 20 years. Time Warner’s subscription rates rose by $5 a month as a result of bundling the basketball games into enhanced basic cable. (Given the Lakers lousy last couple of seasons – Kobe injured and out for much of them – Time Warner might be having second-thoughts.) Then in 2013, Time Warner paid the L.A. Dodgers $8 billion to carry their baseball games for 25 years. The deal sent rates for enhanced basic cable up an additional four bucks month.

The $9-a-month hike for enhanced basic will cost subscribers $11 billion over the next 25 years.

Four subscribers cried foul. Neither Lakers nor Dodgers fans, they sued, claiming bundling of games with existing programs violated California laws against unfair competition. Compellingly they argued that 60 percent of the population doesn’t follow basketball and baseball but were being forced to pay for games they didn’t watch. (How about all those TV shopping shows?) They said viewers that want Lakers and Dodgers games should pay separately for them. The whole thing really gagged them, because as it is, Time Warner was slam-dunking an extra $9 charge down their throats. (They didn’t say that but it’s what they meant.)

Miles from the Staples Center basketball court in the real L.A. court, a judge agreed with Time Warner to dump the suit in what’s called a “demurrer,” which is simply an anachronistic legal term, meaning that even if facts in the case are true, the case is insufficient under law to continue. The subscribers appealed, wasting more than $9 a month. (Their lawyers must have been a sporting bunch or just hungry for an easy-grounder fee because the case had about as much chance as another Lakers Three-peat.) On February 23 the appellate court upheld the dismissal, saying federal communications law allows Time Warner to bundle programming like it did with Lakers and Dodgers games, and cited the “supremacy clause” of the federal Constitution, which makes state laws subservient, therefore California’s unfair competition statutes have no force in the case. Adding more punishment, the court ruled Time Warner could go after the litigants for money spent to defend their appeal. (Kind of like letting the winners pelt the losers’ bus with eggs as they leave.)

So, dear L.A. cable TV subscribers, enjoy the Lakers and Dodgers because you’ve paid admission.

Find R.D. Byron-Smith’s books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and all online booksellers.