Mike Kueber's Blog

November 29, 2014

A system that insulates the police

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 1:42 pm
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My least favorite columnist in the SA Express-News is Brian Chasnoff. My distaste for him results from not only from his white-liberal viewpoint, but also a clash of my curmudgeon against his whippersnapper.

His column in today’s paper is titled, “A system that insulates police.”

The apparent thesis of the column is that Ferguson is not an anomaly and that we almost had a similar situation in San Antonio a few years ago. The column reads as follows:

  • An unarmed black man walks down a street. A police officer in a patrol car veers into his path. The confrontation provokes anger, then explodes into violence: The officer, who is not black, shoots the black man in the head. Months later, a grand jury declines to indict the officer. I’m not depicting the August shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, although these facts also describe the incident sparking angry protests this week across the nation. I’m sketching, rather, the 2006 shooting of Jospeh Fennell by police officer Robert Rosales in San Antonio….”
  • The shooting in Ferguson unfolded differently but with echoes of Fennell….”
  • “An inch or two, and it could have been Ferguson.”

I left the following comment for Chasnoff on the newspaper website:

  • Brian, too clever by half. ‘The shooting in Ferguson unfolded differently but with echoes of Fennell.’ Echoes? You could have easily written a substantive column that distinguished the two incidents instead of selectively focusing on superficial similarities that echo of the laughable Kennedy/Lincoln coincidences.”

What are the substantive differences between the two situations:

  1. Ferguson’s Officer Darren Wilson was white; nonwhite Officer Robert Rosales was Hispanic. Blacks are not going to riot against Hispanics, which is why George Zimmerman had to be labeled a “white Hispanic.”
  2. Officer Wilson first interacted with Michael Brown for obstructing traffic in the middle of the street, and then tried to stop him when he noticed that Brown fit a detailed description (shirts, socks, size) of a recent, nearby robber. Officer Rosales stopped Fennell while innocently walking on a sidewalk merely because he met a vague description (short black male) of a non-recent robber.
  3. Michael Brown was the robber who Wilson was looking for; Joseph Fennell was innocently walking to work.
  4. Michael Brown reached into Officer Wilson’s car for his gun; Officer Rosales pulled his gun before talking to Fennell.
  5. Officer Wilson’s first shot was to wing Brown while the guy was leaned in through the car window. Officer Rosales shot Fennell because of Fennell’s sudden movement.

Although Rosales was not indicted, San Antonio paid $80,000 to Fennell for his minor injuries. I agree with Chasnoff’s comment about the difficulty of the SAPD trying to defend a civil action:

  • Already, the actions of the officer seem misguided. Why veer onto the sidewalk? Why point a gun?”

If I had been on the Grand Jury, I would have been tempted, in a very close call, to indict Rosales. Whereas indicting Ferguson’s Officer Wilson would have been a travesty of justice. (Not unlike the NFL’s lifetime suspension of Ray Rice.)

It seems that Chasnoff and the NFL’s Roger Goodell can be counted on to talk/do the political thing, but not the right thing.

February 7, 2013

Briones continues to self-destruct

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:27 pm
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Rolando Briones, the reputed City Council frontrunner in District 8, continues to self-destruct.  According to an article in the San Antonio Express-News today, Briones was fined by the state of Louisiana in 2011 for doing post-Katrina work without first securing an engineering license from the state.  Briones responded that the fine was the result of an innocent oversight.

This incident by itself might not be so bad, but the article reminded the readers of another incident that was also reported on a few days ago:

  • Briones has faced professional troubles before. In 2002, he was fired from his engineering job at the San Antonio Water System for “lack of leadership” and “willful violation of company policy.”

 And then for extra measure, the article layered Briones with some additional sleaziness by describing his business practice of claiming that his vast engineering business is co-located in places like New York City or New Orleans when, in fact, he only has post office boxes there. 

I’ve seen low-information, cynical voters overlook a lot of flaws in their politicians, but that doesn’t describe the voters of District 8.  I suspect they will gravitate to a conservative alternative.    


January 31, 2013

Shake-up in the District 8 race

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:49 pm
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Only one day after I wrote about the difficulty in competing against a moneyed candidate, the moneyed candidate for the San Antonio City Council in District 8 received the worst sort of free media coverage.  In a column in today’s Express-News, columnist Brian Chasnoff revealed that candidate Rolando Briones not only lied about his reason for leaving his job in 2002 at the San Antonio Water System (SAWS), but also covered up that he had been fired “for cause” for accepting gifts from SAWS contractors.  Briones’s response – he believed accepting meals and golf outings from vendors was the normal course of doing business.

Although this conduct occurred more than a decade ago, Briones apparently has applied the same sort of ethics in building his multi-million-dollar engineering business as a government vendor.  Last May, an article in local on-line newspaper Plaza de Armas wrote the following:

  • If you’ve glanced through even a handful of local campaign finance reports, you’ve probably seen the name Rolando Briones, owner of Briones Engineering. He’s politically connected and a prolific contributor to City and County candidates. Well, Briones is also looking to make the leap from mini king-maker to candidate. We hear he’s busy lining up support to run next year in Council District 8.    

And just a couple of months ago in November, a Chasnoff column in the Express-News pointed out that Briones was actively securing engineering contracts with the city of San Antonio earlier in 2012 while concurrently running for the Council, even though this was contrary to ethical precedent established by Councilwoman Chan a few years earlier.   

In Chasnoff’s column today, Briones attempted to justify his departure from SAWS in 2002, and his justification is both surprising and ironic – “I thought [SAWS] was a very military-esque environment.”  It is surprising that an aspiring San Antonio politician would be critical of a “military-esque environment,” and it is ironic that someone who prefers a more free-wheeling environment would want so badly to serve in the capacity of an elected representative, where even the apprear of impropriety is unacceptable.



January 29, 2013

Innovation and creativity used by Joaquin Castro against the radical, crazy Republicans

Filed under: Culture,Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:58 pm
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Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff’s column today appeared to have a two-pronged purpose:

  1. Advance the deification of the Castro twins.
  2. Create a perception that Democrats are on the verge of becoming competitive in Texas.

Chasnoff addresses the first prong by telling a three-act story involving Joaquin Castro.  In the first act, Castro is block-walking on the Republican northwest side of San Antonio.  Then in the second act, Castro is depressed because his list of targeted houses – those with reliable voters – causes him to walk past most of the houses.  And in the third act, Castro has an inspiration, which is to get the reliable voters to influence their unreliable friends and family to vote.  For melodramatic measure, Castro names his idea the “Victoria Project” after his late grandmother.

Your response to Castro’s inspiration might be, “Duh?  Tell me something I didn’t know,” but that is not how Chasnoff characterizes it.  Instead he describes it as an epiphany – “Castro’s idea, conceived that day on the campaign trail, is more modest in scale. But its creative approach might inform the myriad efforts here to revitalize Democrats, who haven’t won a statewide election in two decades.

And that brings us to the second prong of Chasnoff’s column – i.e., there is a serious movement underway to make Texas a competitive state for Democrats within the decade.  Chasnoff refers to an extensive new article in Politico.com that describes the myriad, far-reaching efforts to revitalize Democrats that might be informed by Castro’s creative approach, but instead of discussing those efforts, Chasnoff decides to elaborate on Castro’s “more modest in scale” project:

  • Each voter would cast a personal appeal powerful enough to motivate nonvoters to cast ballots.  Castro offered a fictional example: Maria Fernandez, whose father died from diabetes, emails 10 people “who really cared for her dad” with a message that “combines a personal narrative with a policy imperative.” In other words, Fernandez mourns both her father and GOP policy on health care.

The column concludes by suggesting that the Victoria Project would work perfectly against Republicans if Governor Rick Perry and party leaders persist in refusing to extend Medicaid under ObamaCare to two million poor, uninsured Texans.  According to Castro (and Chasnoff?), this position is beyond radical, it’s crazy.

Although this simple concept of trying to leverage your voters unquestionably makes sense, its effectiveness is questionable.  As Castro says, “It’s very intensive work.  There’s a lot of follow-through and a lot of handholding because you’ve got to help people craft the message.”  You think?

Think about crafting a message from your voters to their friends telling them about their poor family member who can’t afford ObamaCare, but would be eligible for free Medicaid if more people would vote Democratic.  Good luck on that in Texas.

July 7, 2012

Chasnoff strikes again

Filed under: Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:18 pm
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My hometown paper, the San Antonio Express-News, has two new columnists – Brian Chasnoff and O. Ricardo Pimentel – who regularly pull-the-chain of the paper’s conservative readers.  Today it was Brian’s turn. 

All you have to do is read the first sentence in his column to get his drift – “As the nation watches Arizona wage an open war against immigrants, it’s important to remember the same clash is under way in Texas.”  Nothing gets the gander of a conservative quicker than a columnist who fails to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.  Obviously, there are few shared characteristics between them, and the only reason to lump them together is to unfairly characterize opponents of illegal immigration as xenophobes and nativists.   Imagine the difference in Chasnoff’s lead sentence if he wrote it in an accurate, non-inflammatory fashion – i.e., “As the nation watches Arizona wage an open war against illegal immigrants….”  Suddenly, Arizona does seem like the land of the loony.

What is Chasnoff complaining about today?  Apparently, the Texas legislature recently passed a law that “requires noncitizens to prove they’re in this country legally before they’re allowed to renew a driver’s license,” and Chasnoff thinks this as “a devious twist on Arizona’s ‘show-us-your-papers’ provision.”  This new law is so dastardly bad because, without a driver’s license, an illegal immigrant who is driving a car is subject to being arrested.  Once arrested, the illegal immigrant might come to the attention of federal authorities and be deported. 

Fortunately for illegal immigrants who operate a car without a license in San Antonio, our local police chief is as anti-enforcement as President Obama.  SAPD chief William McManus has assured the San Antonio community that his officers will ticket, but not arrest, an illegal immigrant operating a car without a driver’s license.

Chasnoff really likes McManus’s policy of non-enforcement, calling it a rebuke to lawmakers in Austin, but he is concerned that many of San Antonio’s police officers do not share the chief’s  sentiments, and they might actually enforce the law by arresting the lawbreakers.  “To ease the fears on which the cold war feeds” (the column started with an “open war” and closes with a “cold war”), Chasnoff wants the chief to issue explicit instructions to all officers to follow his lead in refusing to enforce the law.

The does sound a lot like Arizona, doesn’t it?