Have Satellite Truck, Will Travel

My Photo
Location: Sitting inside a TV truck, Somewhere, more then likely in the Southeastern region, United States

I am a grouchy, bald headed old fart filled with opinions and not the least bit shy about sharing them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Socialist Health Care: It's Done.

Clearwater, FL - Everyone reading this blog knows my feelings on Obama-care. There is no point wasting bandwidth with them now. The good side fought the good fight. But the dark side headed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Harry Reid and President Barak Obama managed to pull it off in spite of opposition from the overwhelming majority of people in this country.

So today I'll leave you with someone else's thoughts from 200+ years ago.

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage."

–author unknown (often mis-attributed to 18th century Scottish writer/lawyer, Alexander Tylter)

I guess 234 years wasn't a bad run.


The truth is, in order to get things like universal health care and a revamped education system, then someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more.
- Michelle Obama

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, March 19, 2010

Peter Watts Found Guilty

The jury is back. They found Peter Watts Guilty. More details as they come.


Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.
- Saint Augustine

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Peter Watts Trial: No verdict yet

Cordell, GA - The jury went home for the night without reaching a decision. Tomorrow they will start again.

Times Herald: UPDATED: No verdict in Watts case

I might be home in a couple hours or so.


On the road again...
- Willie Nelson

Labels: , , , , ,

Peter Watts jury asks to see video tape

Macon, GA - An acquaintance I made at the trial is kindly keeping me updated. The jury asked to see the video tape again. This was allowed.

Then they asked to take the video to the jury room where they could review it and still frame it. The judge refused that request explaining that it would be conducting an investigation. This is proper because a jury is only allowed to make their decision based on the testimony and evidence presented at the trial.

It is clear the jury is going into great detail on the case. Wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing.


A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.
- Robert Frost

Labels: , , , , ,

Peter Watts Trial goes to the Jury

Chattanooga, TN - Just heard form the someone in the court room. The jury has the case. There is more to write about the case, but I have to drive.

Times Herald Reporter Liz Shepard did an outstanding job of nailing the facts while staying neutral in story covering the first day of the trial. I recommend following her coverage to the end. Here are the links:

Times Herald: Officer: Author did not comply
Times Herald: Watts' trial to continue at 1:30
Times Herald: Writer takes stand

Now everyone waits.


A criminal jury consists of 12 people, each and everyone one of which have their own personal history they will apply to whatever you present before them. The secret to a jury trial is to find that one common denominator that will compel each one of them to vote your way in the jury room.
- Denver District Attorney Dale Tooley

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Peter Watts Trial - Day One

Port Huron, MI - The majority of today went toward jury selection. Another hour went toward instructing that jury in what their duties are, the rules about discussing the trial with anyone, reading about it or listening to news reports. The judge detailed the elements of the law Peter Watts is charged with breaking. He told the jurors that Watts actions must meet the elements of the law beyond a reasonable doubt.

During the opening statements and questioning of one prosecution witness, the sequence of events leading to Watts' arrest came into sharp focus. Much of the earlier information was very sketchy and painted a different picture from the facts.

One of the things numerous people mentioned after hearing about Watts arrest is there is no customs check point on the outbound Blue Water Bridge. Several expressed doubt that he was actually stopped by border patrol. Others thought he must have been stopped somewhere in town by a roving patrol. It turns out that the border patrol, now known as US Customs and Border Protection, conducts occasional  "outbound operations" on the bridge. When these operations are going on, random vehicles are waved over to the side of the road just past the toll booths for inspection.

It turns out that Watts was flagged over because the rental car he drove had Washington plates. The Blue Water Bridge does not get a great deal of traffic from Washington state, so that made Watts' car stand out in the crowd. That testimony kills off speculation by myself and others that the mere fact that it is a rental car drew the attention.

During his opening statement, Watts' attorney, Douglas R. Mullkoff, stated for the record his version of Watts' initial contact border patrol officer Julie Behranz. He said that Behranz waved Watts over for the initial stop and check. Watts waved back and drove on until his passenger mentioned that he thought she wanted him to stop. Behranz later testified that Watts went "another 30 feet" before stopping.

According to Mullkoff, when Behranz first talked to Watts, she said, "I wasn't waving hello, I was waving for you to stop."

Millkoff then stated that Watts replied, "Well I guess I'm still on the American side. In Canada that means hello." Mullkoff added that is something Watts now wishes he had not said. Behranz testified that Watts appeared "agitated" from the first contact. 

Behranz said that border patrol officers began a search of Watts' car. They opened the trunk and looked in the back seats. One of the officers opened Watts back pack holding his computer and said something about it. At that point Watts got out of the car and asked what the officer was doing with his computer. During opening statements, Mullkoff stated the importance of that computer to Watts. He said it contains notes, several chapters of a new book, etc.

Behranz testified she ordered Watts back into the car. She said that Watts did not comply, instead standing there with his hands firmly gripping the open car doors. She said that Watts repeated his question making no move to get back in the car. At that point Berhanz stated she decided to cuff Watts and ordered him to step away from the car. She said that Watts took neither action and continued standing there.

Behranz testified at that point Officer Beaudry came over to assist. During her testimony she said that Beaudry was their defense instructor and the other officers gave him room. She said that Beaudry and Watts "tussled" and both of them ended up back in the driver's seat of the car, Beaudry in Watts' lap.

During the prosecution's opening statement, the prosecutor stated it was at this point that Watts choked Beaudry. She said that Watts' had a grip on Beaudry's uniform collar.

During further testimony, Behranz stated that somehow Beaudry and Watts exited the car with Watts assuming an "aggressive stance." She described that stance as "bladed" and clarified that to mean standing at and angle giving a better advantage to strike from. Behranz said that Beaudry ordered Watts to ground several times.

Behranz said at this point Beaudry used his "C-Spray." Watts did not go down and continued standing there, only moving to wipe his eyes clear. She said that Beaudry then pulled his baton and again ordered Watts to the ground. At that point she states Watts did drop to a sitting position and then after more commands, a prone position where he was cuffed. She testified that Beaudry did not strike with the baton.

According the testimony today, during this entire event, the passenger in Dr. Watts' car did nothing but sit there.

Behranz later testified that EMS was called and did examine Watts.

Only one witness was heard today. Both sides wrapped up with her around 4:00 p.m. and the judge recessed the court room until 9:00 a.m. Wednesday.

Journalist Mode OFF - Editorial Mode ON: Everything from here on down are my own thoughts.

During his opening remarks, Mullfoff carefully pointed out that all the reports on the incident were very much alike. He flat out said he felt they were too close in nature and were contrived. I have not seen the reports so cannot weigh in on that statement. But I can tell you that all the officers on scene were at the same event. They are trained to take mental notes as things unfold. To me it makes sense their reports would be similar in nature. I would find more problem if they they were all different.

There is a video tape. It was not shown today, but both sides alluded to it. Mullkoff stated that if the prosecution did not introduce it, he would. Watts himself told me the tape is not very good, that he was but a "few pixels" in the frame. And here I thought we'd spent millions putting cameras all over the border.

I like Peter Watts. I talked with him several times. He seems like a really decent sort. I really hope he comes out of this more or less unscathed. I also understand the need for local, state and federal officers to do their jobs in such a way that won't get them injured or killed. And the law states that you must follow officer instructions during a border search. This is for the safety of everyone, officers and those being stopped.

I won't be able to see the entire trial. It was only by a good twist of fate that I managed to make it up here today. It is doubtful the jury will get it before Thursday based on the detail the defense is going into while dissecting the prosecution witnesses. I may catch an hour or two in the morning. But that is it.

That prohibits me from seeing any of the defense. Under these circumstances I will not speculate as to Watts' guilt or innocence in this matter. Nor will I speculate as to whether or not officer Beaudry over reacted as Mullkoff so firmly declared in his opening statement. That privilege is now left to the jury.

Oh, one other thing. No sign of Cory Doctorow or any of the rest of all those people that so freely played with Watts' life while trying to make him a martyr to the cause. Are they afraid of the courthouse?

Fortunately, he does have a couple people there supporting him. A few more would be nice if you are in the area and don't have anything better to do.


How many different ways can you ask her that question?
- Me, thinking to myself in court today.

Labels: , , , , ,

Peter Watts Trial - Part One: Jury Selection

Port Huron, MI - A jury is now seated. Out of the 34 that answered the jury summons, there are now 13 jurors seated, 12 jurors and one alternate. Three failed to answer that summons and will be answering to the court. The voir dire process took up the morning ending a little after 12:30. While it was tedious, it is also comforting to see that each side took that kind of care to seat a fair jury.

The repeating theme through the prosecution's jury questions centered around border and airport security. Each prospective member was asked whether or not they crossed the Blue Water Bridge and or dealt with airport security and how that juror felt about the experience.

The defense's repeating theme was asking anyone that crossed that bridge if they've ever been stopped by American officials on the American side of the line after they paid their toll. He asked most of the jurors one other thing that made sense to clarify their understanding of innocent until proven guilty. "With what you know about Mr. Watts right now would you vote not guilty?" All of them replied "yes."

Out of the original 13 drawn, six were bounced and replaced. One for cause and the rest on peremptory challenges form either the prosecution or defense.

Court begins again at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. No sign of Cory Doctorow. Pity that.

On another note, this trial will go for two days. I may not be able to stay for the entire thing. Any pinch hitters out there?

- 30 -

So far as I know there are very few things we have to do in exchange for the freedoms in this country. One of those things is jury duty.
- Judge James P. Adair

Monday, March 15, 2010

'twas the night before trial...

Port Huron, MI - The fates allowed me to witness Peter Watts' trial. Once the proceedings are over I will sit and start writing. My goal is to give an unvarnished account of the trial. After which I may or may not post my own thoughts and feelings on the matter.

It will be interesting to see if Cory Doctorow shows up. He helped make Dr. Watts' bed, he should be there when the doctor has to lay in it.


A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.
- Robert Frost

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We got the Toyota PR blues!

Today brought a couple things on the Toyota front. The first item on the Toyota uncommanded acceleration news front is Yesterday's rather harrowing ride down California's I-8 in yet another runaway Toyota. According to multiple news reports, this one required help from the California State Patrol to get the car stopped. Why the driver didn't drop the car into neutral, I'll never know.

The second was an opportunity to watch Toyota's live press conference and webcast. That was some interesting TV. Anyone watching learned the basics of Toyota's fly-by-wire throttle control system. At least the part of it that involves human input.

However the main focus of the presentation is an attempt to shoot down an experiment by Professor David Gilbert. Gilbert demonstrated that under a fairly narrow set of specific circumstances an uncommanded acceleration can take place.  A pedal-to-the-metal acceleration that occurs without setting a fault code in the computer or generating a "failsafe" shut down. In fact 90% of this presentation was all about smacking Gilbert across the nose with a rolled up news paper.

Toyota's presentation emphasized to a fault that Professor David Gilbert "re-engineered" the circuit. That he rewired the harness to introduce that fault condition.

That he did.

Toyota engineers and spokespeople stressed many times that trial lawyers suing Toyota are paying Gilbert to discover and perform that trick.

That they are.

Everyone at Toyota repeated many times, even while giving us a live demonstration of Gilbert's magic trick, the conditions that Gilbert set up creating a faultless unintended acceleration required, at the least, a wild combination of cascading events in the correct sequence.

They are right.

But Gilbert did demonstrate in an easily reproducible manner that it is possible to get an uncommanded full throttle acceleration while the computer thinks everything is just dandy. Something that Toyota said could not occur under any circumstances until Gilbert did his resistor trick.

There were some things missing from the Toyota presentation. It would have been interesting to see the computer module itself and the position of those wires in the computer connector. A look at the insides of one of those computer modules to follow the traces from the dual throttle sending wires would be enlightening to electron pushers like myself.

Even more interesting would be to look at the part no one seems to be talking about. That is the driver circuitry and electromechanical linkage that opens and closes the butterfly valve at the engine air intake. Some discussion as to how the computer knows where the butterfly is positioned would have been interesting.

Roughly two minutes were dedicated to praising the software that runs the computer that runs the car. But nothing was said about any code that gives the brake absolute override over the rest of the system. There is something that common sense says should be in every fly-by-wire ground vehicle.

It is a given that that Toyota engineers are looking at all of this and things I haven't even dreamed of. There are far wiser people then myself putting in some long hours on this problem right now as you read this. Toyota wants the problem indentified and fixed. This is as it should be. But if yesterday's Prius event turns out to be the real deal, Toyota has even more serious problems then they thought.

Doing the PR version of dropping a safe on Gilbert's head isn't going to fix it.


I hooked up my accelerator pedal in my car to my brake lights. I hit the gas, people behind me stop, and I'm gone.
Steven Wright

Labels: , ,