Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Comedy or tragedy? Thre Three Stooges of Smith County: Cary Nix, JoAnn Hampton, Jeff Warr

Please read this article and others on the new blog, here: https://smithcountytexas.blogspot.com/2017/07/comedy-or-tragedy-three-stooges-of.html  

The REAL Three Stooges

It occurred to me the other day that many young people probably don't know who the Three Stooges were.  Most of those who do know of them are familiar with them because they watched many of the short films they made in the 1930's and 1940's on television in the 1960's and 1970's.  The premise was basically this:  Three loveable, bumbling buffoons manage to get themselves into a variety of unlikely situations where they reek havoc.  They settle conflicts among themselves by beating the crap out of each other for a minute or so, then go back to whatever zany thing they were doing.  In many of the episodes they take on short-term jobs for which they are egregiously under-qualified, like moving a piano or plumbing.   Some scenes would never pass "political correctness" muster today:

"This house has sho' gone crazy!"
(Actor Dudley Dickerson in the episode "A Plumbing We Will Go")
Good clean, moronic, slap-stick hilarity.  But like most comedy, it existed within the context of troubling social realities.  The sketches were set against the backdrops of the Great Depression and later, World War II.  In many of the skits, the Stooges were day laborers, taking on any job they could find in order to survive.  Many young men in that day would have identified with their characters.  They even did a spoof on Hitler's regime before most Americans started disliking Hitler and the Nazis.

This county has sho' gone crazy:  The "Three Stooges" of Smith County

The Three Stooges of Smith County:  Cary Nix (Larry),  JoAnn Hampton (Mo'),  Jeff Warr (Curly)

If you watched the Three Stooges as a child, you might remember the "lost" Stooge, Shemp, who was eventually replaced by Curly.  We have our own "Shemp" here in Smith County--Joel Baker--who is gone but not forgotten.  A couple of his antics were hilarious.  You had "Cameragate which was funny because, well, mugshot:

FORMER Smith County Judge Joel Baker

And then you had "Sexting-gate," which was funny because, um, "sexting" and because it involved pictures of his hoo-ha.  On the other hand, not funny--because taxpayers had to pick up the tab for the legal fees caused by "Cameragate,"  and because the Sexting-gate story went nationwide and "cast discredit" on the Texas judiciary and the commissioners court. (Like they needed any help with THAT!)

You have "Curly" (Jeff Warr), but I couldn't think of anything funny to write about him yet, so I'm giving him a reprieve.

Then there's Cary Nix, AKA "Larry."  Like his Stooge namesake, Nix plods along, going along with whatever ridiculous schemes the other Stooges come up with.  He's sort of an afterthought--comedic filler, kind of like cabbage is to Chinese food.  For the life of me, I can't understand why Precinct 2 hasn't found someone to replace him.  Anybody with an IQ above room temperature without a criminal record would be an improvement.

Ah, but speaking of criminal records, we have Commissioner JoAnn Hampton (Moe).  She's really got the slapstick thing down.  Earlier this year she was arrested for allegedly assaulting an elderly woman.  According to the police report, Hampton and the old woman were a-feudin' over something that had to do with decorations down at the Baptist church.  The elderly woman went in to talk to her pastor about the situation in private, and Hampton barged in and got into a shouting match with her.  Things escalated, and Hampton allegedly pushed the woman, injuring her wrist.

If it were fiction, it would be funny like a scene from a Madea movie.  And of course funny, because, again, mugshot:

No, we're not all going to look back on this some day and laugh.

But not funny--rather disturbing actually--because the alleged victim was an elderly woman.  Troubling, because sheriff's deputies, armed with more than enough evidence for "probable cause" were unable to get a warrant from a judge in Smith County.  Not funny because Mrs. Hampton has always held herself up as a leader in the African-American Community.  She's supposed to set an example.  Instead she has shown herself to be lacking in good judgment and self-control.  Want to re-elect her as your representative in a government body that is responsible for public safety and manages a $90 million a year budget? Want someone like her "representing" your community?

Funny if you don't live here.  Not funny if you do.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Whites only: Another Rose Festival rant and who's going to pay to renovate Harvey Hall?

Hey, faithful CCUSA followers!  Please read this article and comment on the new blog, here: https://smithcountytexas.blogspot.com/2017/07/whites-only-another-rose-festival-rant.html

I was doing pretty good there for a while, wasn't I?  But within the past week there have been THREE feature articles in the Telegraph about the RF and I got that letter from the RF people soliciting a donation.  A donation?  So rich people can afford to have their annual debutante ball and glorify themselves?  Oh, and the letter points out that if I make a cash donation, I will be given the "privilege" of getting to purchase tickets to an event early, on a "VIP basis."  Notice it didn't say I would get "VIP tickets."  I take that to mean, if you send us some money we will let you come to our party, but you have to sit at the back with all of the other...well, you know.

What pushed me over the edge was Friday's 410-word article about how the Rose Queens and Duchesses or whatever are practicing how to walk in high heels and stand up straight and bow and stuff.  Really?  It blows my mind that there are people out there who really care.  Then, while I was face-down in the dust, the Telegraph hit me with another front-page article about it.  Hey, it's your rag, Mr. Clyde, so you can publish what you want.  But have you wondered why your circulation numbers are so low and why an attempt to set up a paywall for your online edition a couple of years ago failed so miserably?  All I can say, is hey, this "small-town newspaper" thing ain't workin' for most of us.

Don't get me wrong.  I don't think the RF should be banned or anything.  It is an elitist, "whites-only" affair and hey, people in this country have the right to assemble in elitists, whites-only groups and do whatever they choose as long as they don't hurt anybody.  I put this thing up there with the rebel flag in that it doesn't need to be whitewashed out of history, but neither does it need to be overly glorified.  And the taxpayers shouldn't have to pay one red cent to support it.  (As far as I know, we don't.  But I don't know whether the RF pays for the increased need for law enforcement presence at their events and other hidden expenses that the community incurs...)

2018 Rose Festival royalty:  What a diverse group!
(If by 'diverse', you mean one of them is fat.)

Another thing worth considering is the message the RF sends to little girls and young women:  It's not like hey, you can do great things if you work hard, study, stay off of drugs and don't get pregnant--Maybe you can be a doctor or a CEO of a company, or maybe even a member of Congress.  It's more like, sweetie, you can never be like one of us unless you are well-connected and rich.  While your family worries about a mortgage and how they are going to send you to college, our families are so wealthy they can spend $30,000 dollars a pop on frivolous crap like ridiculous-looking dresses.  But make sure your mommy and daddy buy tickets for you for our fabulous events so we can continue to fund our annual debutante ball at their expense!
This is a blog about local government and politics.  So what does the RF and the recent free advertising for it in the 'Graph have to do with any of that?  I'll tell you, Tylerites:  Your city council just voted to move ahead with a radical makeover of Harvey Hall and the Rose Complex that is projected will cost over $17 million.  Yet, plans for building a convention center--that would have likely contributed to the local economy year-round--have seemingly put on the back burner, if not removed from the stove entirely.  No sooner had the news come out about a proposed convention center than a bunch of people started wringing their hands, worrying about what was going to happen to Harvey Hall.  So, voila!  We now have a plan to build a real purddy place for the Rose Festival!  Yeah, I know there's more to it than that. like the football and baseball fields and the Rose Garden.  But no one seems to be publicly musing about whether the rebuild is going to pay for itself.  I take that to mean that there is no evidence that it will.  They also haven't talked about just who is going to fork over the $17 million.  Taxpayers?  Private donors?  I have an idea:  The Rose Festival people obviously have a lot of money.  Lease Harvey Hall to them for $1 a year for 20 years and let them pay for the project.  Let them keep the revenue generated by event fees and such, and see if they can make it work!
Okay, I'm gonna go take my blood pressure medicine now.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Looks like Commissioner JoAnn Hampton may cop a plea

Hey, faithful readers, please go to the new blog to read and comment on this article: https://smithcountytexas.blogspot.com/2017/07/looks-like-commissioner-joann-hampton.html

This is definitely not a surprise:
I hate how our criminal justice system works.  Something like 90 percent of all criminal cases are disposed by pre-trial agreements.  For public officials like JoAnn Hampton and Joel Baker, it means that they get a slap on the wrist.  And the embarrassing details of why they were prosecuted for a crime in the first place never see the light of day in open court.
With less fortunate defendants, it means that even those who are innocent are forced to plea guilty to avoid having to wait in jail until their court date if they cannot post bail.  Harris County is now dealing with a crisis involving HUNDREDS of defendants who were falsely accused of drug possession on the basis of false-positive results of unreliable field testing kits.  Many of those individuals are now having to live with a criminal (drug) record and cannot afford to seek exoneration.
On the other hand, the cast of characters here is in itself somewhat amusing.  First you have clownishioner JoAnn Hampton herself, the star of the show:

Source:  Smith County Jail

And currently the case is in the 241st District Court, which is Judge Jack Skeen, Jr., who's also on my "Ten Worst Politicians" list:
Judge Jack Skeen, AKA "Junior"
And then we have Mrs. Hampton's attorney, Clifton Roberson:

Attorney Clifton Roberson

I thought the name was familiar.  Back in 2013 Roberson got into a tiff with District Judge Christi Kennedy.  Roberson was a no-show at an afternoon hearing for a burglary defendant.  Roberson claimed that he had notified Kennedy's colleague, Jack Skeen and a member of Kennedy's staff that he had to go to a local hospital to be with his family at his aunt's deathbed.  Kennedy ordered that bailiffs locate Roberson and haul him back to court in handcuffs.  The humiliated Roberson threatened to file a grievance, but apparently nothing ever came of that. (There just HAS to be more to the story!)
On a more serious note, in 2004 Roberson had to go to court and defend his representation of a capital murder defendant who was convicted in 2002.  On appeal, the defendant claimed he got inadequate representation by Roberson and co-counsel Brandon Baade.  The case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and the conviction was upheld.
Fun, fun!  Can't wait for the show to start!

Smith County's bogus "public input" meetings = free campaign advertising for incumbents

7-12-17 Correction:  When I originally published this post, I thought the "public input" meeting was on Monday, July 10.  It actually occurred Tuesday, July 11.  But my comments about it are still the same.

Now I'm going through one of those phases when I think that I'm wasting my time on this blog, because it seems little has changed in Smith County in the past 4 years.  Yesterday your kownty klownishioners held the first of a series of meetings ostensibly seeking "public input" for a master road plan.  I didn't go because it would have been a waste of time.  The paper hasn't reported how it went yet, but I don't really care.  I just have one word to say about this:
Anybody remember late 2013 as the 2014 elections approached?  Joel Baker and Commissioner Cary Nix made a big show of holding "town hall" style meetings seeking "public input" about a special taxation zone to fund an extension of Loop 49.  Well the "public input" they received was that the "public" didn't want to "input" any more county money into the project.  Did Baker and Nix care?  No!  in December of 2014 they passed a proposal to create the taxation zone.  The whole "town-hall" meeting thing was a public relations ploy to get free campaign advertising for Baker and Nix.
So here we are, four years later.  I'm still on the fence about Judge Nathaniel Moran.  But Cary Nix has been in office since 2011 and JoAnn Hampton has been in office since 2003.  Except during their campaigns for re-election, have either of them shown any substantial interest in developing a plan to repair the county's roads and bridges?
And look at the proposed 2018 budget.  If I'm understanding this article in the Telegraph correctly, it looks like the road budget, including funding for "special projects" is going to be $3.2 million less than the previous year.  With the total road and bridges budget for 2018, we will be able to repair a whopping 50 MILES out of our approximately 1,200 miles of county roads!  Why?  The clownishioners' reasoning is that we need to develop this imaginary "plan" before we spend more money.  Is it really necessary to have a full-blown 10-year comprehensive plan in place before you adequately fund the roads budget so that at least basic repairs and maintenance can get done?
Here's why I think it's bogus:  MOST of the "plan" is going to have to be how to repair and maintain our EXISTING roads.  It was my understanding that since the 1950's the county has used a "unit system" to determine what roads get serviced and when.  That means the county engineer makes repairs to roads without regard to whose precinct the roads are in and who lives there.  The system is designed for the purpose of keeping politics out of the process.  So, when a road needs repair, it shouldn't matter whose precinct it's in and how many rich people have sent e-mails to the county judge.  I wonder what they are going for here.  Are they going to dramatically throw up their hands and say, well, looks like we're going to have to borrow $100 million?  Then we can have a bond election and the public would likely vote it down.  That would give them the excuse of claiming the public rejected the plan, then they could go back to business as usual.
So have you looked at the "input" form they want people to fill out?  They want your name and what precinct you live in, etc.  Seems pretty innocent, but...
Don't fall for it, sheeple.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Why Commissioner JoAnn Hampton is bad for the African-American community

Please read this article and comment a the main blog, here: https://smithcountytexas.blogspot.com/2017/07/why-commissioner-joann-hampton-is-bad.html

I've been debating with myself whether I should publish a post like this.  I know what I am about to say here is certainly provocative, if not outright inflammatory.  But our county government is still a mess and it is high time Smith County residents took an honest look at their county commissioners.
So here's JoAnn Hampton's mugshot from the Smith County Jail:

Smith County Commissioner JoAnn Hampton
Source:  Smith County Jail

We'll get to that issue later.  Let's talk about Commissioner Hampton's absolute FAILURE to represent her community.

Going along to get along

Hell, I'm guessing that if Hampton has an opponent in 2018, Smith County's establishment Republicans are going to secretly support Hampton.  After all, Hampton--the lone Democrat on the commissioners court--has proven to be more of an establishment Republican than anyone else on the court.  She consistently supported the FAILED policies of former Smith County Judge Joel Baker and often travelled with him to conferences where she was potographe at his side, accepting bogus awards for (ironically) stuff like "transparency in county government."

Putting more black men in jail

Hampton and her fellow commissioners have consistently increased the budget for the district attorney's office at a rate that is much higher than the population growth of the county.  And, they pushed and pushed for an expansion of the county jail until voters finally approved a $35 million bond package to add a 384-bed maximum-security facility to the existing jail.  But Smith county incarcerates its residents at a rate that is about double the state average.  Has Commissioner Hampton ever urged county leaders to explore why that is?  Did Commissioner Hampton ever speak out and demand that county leaders look at safe alternatives to pre-trial incarceration for non-violent offenders?
You see, a draconian legal system like we have here in Smith County disproportionately incarcerates young African-American men.  For one thing, African Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested for low-level offenses like drug possession, for a variety of reasons.  Once they are arrested, minority defendants are less likely that whites to be able to post bail or to afford adequate legal representation.  Therefore a young black man is much more likely to stay in jail awaiting trial than a white defendant.

Letting her precinct crumble

For almost ten years under former County Judge Joel Baker, the county commissioners spent millions of dollars on unimportant pet projects while the county roads and bridges crumbled.  During that time the sheriff's department was chronically understaffed, and response times for emergency calls in rural parts of the county were way too long.  Many of Commissioner Hampton's constituents are low-income African-American and Latinos living in rural parts of the county.  They are the ones having to contend with washed out roads and inadequate law enforcement, and Commissioner Hampton has failed them!


"Cameragate" is a name I've given to an illegal, unconstitutional plan hatched by county commissioners to allow an out-of-state company to set up automated camera devices to catch speeders in school zones.  So what does this have to do with the African-American community?  The answer is that it would have likely disproportionately affected low-income--and therefore minority--drivers.
Let me explain.  You see, if you get a "regular" traffic ticket from a police officer, you have the opportunity to appear in court before the fine is assessed.  Therefore, if you can't afford the fine, the judge might work with you on setting up a payment plan, reducing the fine, or letting you do community service instead.  Not so with this asinine plan.  The out-of-state company would send the "offender" a bill for $150, called a "civil penalty."  The plan was for the county to withhold vehicle registration renewals for those who didn't--or couldn't--pay the fine.  Can't get your vehicle registration renewed, you can't drive (and get to work) or you keep driving and risk getting a ticket for that.  Cant pay that ticket?  You get a warrant issued for your arrest.  Then if you get pulled over again, you go to jail and possibly lose your job, can't pay your unpaid fines, and it goes on and on.  It's called "debtors' prison."

A bad example

Okay, so back to the mugshot.  Earlier this year, Commissioner Hampton was indicted and arrested for allegedly assaulting and injuring an elderly person.  Of course her guilt or innocence will be determined by a judge and/or jury.  But the incident was witnessed by the pastor of her church and was carefully investigated.  The story went something like this:  Commissioner Hampton and an elderly woman at her church were having a dispute over decorations at the church, of all things.  The older woman went in to discuss the matter with the pastor in private, in his office with the door closed.  Hampton barged in and confronted the woman and a shouting match between the two escalated to the point where the woman was pushed to the ground and injured.
Now I don't know if Hampton actually intended to injure the woman.  But ask yourself this: Mrs. Hampton is supposed to be a "leader" in her community.  Is this a good example to young people in how to resolve conflicts?  And please excuse me for saying something that may make some of you very uncomfortable:  Does this not help perpetuate the racist stereotype of blacks as being volatile and lacking in self-control?
You decide.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Stupid attorney tricks and why Joel Baker needs to make a video (of himself)

Hey, faithful readers, I'm trying to move this whole operation to a new blog.  Please enjoy this article here: https://smithcountytexas.blogspot.com/2017/07/stupid-attorney-tricks-and-why-joel.html


The legal profession in shambles

Most Americans are not aware of this but the legal job market is a mess.  For decades, U.S. law schools have churned out thousands more graduates per year than the job market can bear.  You'd think that in free market, this situation would correct itself, but it is only getting worse, because new law schools keep opening, and existing law schools are going to great lengths to keep enrollment up.  Awareness of this situation, ironically, has actually worsened the problem in that smart college kids are staying away from law school, while the law schools keep lowering admissions standards.  At the same time, law school tuition is at an all time high, and crappy law schools typically charge as much as prestigious institutions.  It's gotten to the point where anybody with a  pulse (who can also borrow $150,000 in federal student loans) can get into law school somewhere.  So, not only do we have too many lawyers, we are churning out bad lawyers faster than ever.  To make matters worse, tort reform in Texas has limited "non-economic" damages (i.e. "pain and suffering") to a degree that personal injury attorneys can only hope to profit from cases involving severe injuries or extremely costly damage.  It used to be that a shyster lawyer could make a living with a "sue everybody and see which suits stick" approach.  But there are only so many torts to go around, or only so many ambulances to chase, so to speak.  So, even for established law practices, business is down, as are attorneys' incomes.  No, we're not talking about having to settle for a pre-owned Lamborghini instead of brand new.  Newly-minted lawyers are having a hard time finding jobs that pay more than $60K per year, if they can find work at all,  and solo-practice attorneys have to really hustle to bring in $70K.

This state of affairs might make your high school reunion a little more enjoyable in that you can now laugh at that smug jackass of a classmate who used to brag about "going to law school" and showed up at the 10-year reunion in a BMW.  But this overabundance of bad lawyers is really causing some problems for the rest of us.  After all, some of these dolts from low-ranked law schools manage to pass the bar (after several tries) and get to practice law.  Most judges are lawyers, as are most of our state legislators.  And American voters typically choose such down-ballot candidates on the basis of party affiliation and name-recognition, not academic or professional qualifications.  I shudder to think about what our already dysfunctional criminal justice system is going to look like in ten years!

And then you have these hordes of hungry lawyers looking for ways to generate income, by any means necessary.  For example, a few years back a gaggle of local attorneys tapped into a mother-lode and managed to rack up $1.33 million in charges in a single year--paid by Smith County taxpayers--to provide ad litem services related to child custody matters handled by one court!  Finally you have our very own de-frocked county judge, Joel Baker who had worked for the DA four a couple of years, dabbled a little in private practice, and then went into local politics, where he could set his own salary and come and go (pun intended) as he pleased (pun also intended).  He had a good thing going, then he threw it all away.

As an aside, here I must mention that some good things came out of the Joel Baker saga.  It put our dysfunctional county government under a microscope, and now the county commissioners cannot so much as fart without the public knowing about it.  And it was good, cheap entertainment for many of us.  (I'd say "free" entertainment, but Baker's misconduct has cost the county something around $50,000 in legal fees, so divide that among all of the taxpayers and it cost us each a little.)  On second thought his shenanigans put the county government in disarray for about a year, so maybe it wasn't so good after all...

Joel Baker, Attorney
Source:  Smith County Jail

I snickered a little when I heard Baker went back into private practice.  More power to him, I initially thought.  But, if you remember the scandals I called "Peepergate and "Sexting-gate" you can understand why I got an icky feeling when I heard through the grapevine that he had been representing some juvenile defendants.  I dunno...form your own conclusions.


Crazy lawyer stunts

What got me thinking about Baker's plight was seeing this video, which has gone viral:

It's Bryan Wilson, a Fort Worth lawyer whose video antics have made him a hit on YouTube.  This one is over the top.  My favorite part is when he lights one of those exploding shells that work kind of like mortar rounds, tosses it like a grenade, and it detonates a few feet away while he is "running away" on a treadmill!  My first response was to laugh my head off.  Then I got to thinking:  Some kids are going to see that and think it is perfectly okay to shoot Roman candles at each other and set of packages of firecrackers on their heads!  So much for Mr. Wilson's sense of social responsibility.

But, I got to thinking--this guy is on to something here.  What an ambitious private-practice attorney like Joel Baker needs is a shtick--something to make him stand out in the crowd.  And I say if you are already known nation-wide for something scandalous, embrace the notoriety and make the name-recognition work for you!

Joel Baker needs to make a video advertisement.

Here's what I'd suggest:

The first scene is Baker dressed up in a tuxedo, James Bond-style, at a roulette wheel in a casino, with several scantily-clad, attractive, young women hanging on him.

Baker:  The legal system in East Texas can be a real gamble.  Don't leave it up to chance.  You need a lawyer who knows the system from the 'inside'.  You need ME!  Traffic tickets?  (Cut to the next scene which shows an exasperated housewife who smacks herself on the forehead as she looks at a document titled something like "Automated Speed Enforcement Violation Notification.")

Baker:  Drunk driving?  In this scene, a police officer is talking to a driver while the camera cuts to empty liquor bottles on the passenger-side floorboard.  (To save money, Baker's law partner can play the part of the driver.)

Baker:  Divorce?  In this segment, a husband is scrolling through sexually provocative messages and images of women wearing lingerie on his phone as his wife, standing in front of him with one hand on her hip, wags her finger at him

The final scene has Baker in an elegant hotel room, his bowtie loosened and the first few buttons of his shirt undone.  He turns and points the camera on his iPad towards an open window in an adjacent hotel and starts recording a young Hispanic woman in lingerie as she bends over to plug something into an electrical outlet.

Baker:  Did something naughty?  Don't get caught with your pants down!  Stop hiding: TEXT OR CALL ME. Baker points the screen of his iPad to the camera and displays his phone number.

I think it'll work.