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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Amy Bishop, Nidal Hasan, and PC BS

So far it appears I'm the only person to publicly observe a similarity between Amy Bishop (UAH whacko killer) and Nidal Hasan (Ft. Hood islamic extremist killer). Does anyone remember the Ft. Hood shooting or the articles that came out about Hasan afterward? Good. Now read this wire story about Amy Bishop and see if it doesn't send a chill up your spine:

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) - Students say they complained to administrators about an Alabama professor accused of killing three colleagues and wounding three others in a shooting rampage during a faculty meeting.

The students upset with biology professor Amy Bishop told The Associated Press they went to University of Alabama in Huntsville administrators at least three times, complaining she was ineffective in the classroom and had odd, unsettling ways. [emphasis added]

A petition signed by dozens of students was sent to the department head. But students said the complaints made a year ago didn't result in any changes in the classroom.

Bishop was denied tenure last year and was in her final semester when she was accused of shooting her colleagues to death Friday.

Ring any bells? Didn't a bunch of people in the Army raise flags about Nidal Hasan? Didn't coworkers basically say he was ineffective and had odd, unsettling ways? Didn't the people in charge blow off those alarms because they were afraid of being "politically incorrect?"

Everything that has come out in the news makes it seem like Bishop was using Huntsville as a place to hide. Lots of people are saying the administration of UAH should have known Bishop's history before they hired her. I disagree. Lots of people have come to Huntsville to escape the weather and the rat race of the Northeast; Bishop wouldn't have been the first. And, since Bishop managed to escape even being charged for most of her crimes, no reasonable records check would have revealed them. Still, someone should have started digging before this happened.

The article says "dozens of students" approached UAH administrators "at least three times." This wasn't just a few disgruntled kids who flunked a badly written exam. When I was at Purdue, we had a physics professor who just could not teach. The guy didn't have any "odd, unsettling ways." He was probably a genius. He just couldn't teach. A bunch of us were flunking his class, and we petitioned the department. He was replaced within days. It's not like these students at UAH were asking for anything out of the ordinary - just someone who could teach. Being good in your field doesn't mean you can teach.


As one news commenter posted, what was a Harvard-educated scientist doing at UAH, anyway? The poster didn't mean that as an insult, and I'm not trying to twist it into one. But, you have to wonder - if Bishop was everything she obviously thought herself to be - why she wasn't hired by a much more prestigious institution. Sure, Huntsville is arguably still a nice place to live, but a PhD from Harvard doesn't usually end up at a relatively unknown regional campus like UAH - unless her career elsewhere is over for some reason.

Look, we all have our quirks. Lots of brilliant folks are known to be downright flaky. But, they're still effective at whatever it is they do. When flakiness and ineffectiveness collide, it's probably time to dig a little deeper. I'm not suggesting that we start spying on the weird dude in the next cubicle because he wears sandals with socks. But, if he's not getting any work done, it might be time to notify higher authority. If they don't act, it might be a good idea to start working from home - with or without your supervisor's approval.

On a final note, it seems to me that the people who blew off alarm bells about Nidal Hasan and Amy Bishop are the same sorts of "authorities" who have told us not to spank our kids. . . So, when her childhood history comes out, are we going to hear that Amy Bishop was abused? Or, that she never learned the meaning of the word "discipline?" (Or the word "no," for that matter.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Huntsville-Madison. You Ain't in the Promised Land.

Holy crap. One week to the day after a fatal shooting at a local middle school and some whacko neuroscience professor at the UAH campus shoots up a department meeting because she was denied tenure. Interviews so far indicate she was one of those loony professors we've all had for one class or another - the ones who appear to know the material but cannot teach it. I've always wondered why they bother putting those people in classrooms, but at least this one didn't flip out and kill a bunch of students. Just three fellow professors. She also wounded three others (one of whom was described as being a "staff member" which I suppose could include a secretary, janitor, or some other position).

In case you didn't catch the subtle pronoun cue above, the professor here was a female. A Harvard-educated one, at that. What are they teaching these Ivy League-ers? (Some guy at Yale flipped out and killed a fellow grad student there not that long ago. . . ) Can't really blame the parents here. These are full-grown adults we're talking about. Which makes me wonder how many kids running around today are just powder kegs waiting to explode years down the road.

I guess this didn't take me completely by surprise. This place has a very weird aura. Plenty of great people - don't get me wrong. But, we picked up a very strange Stepford Wives vibe last year at the local ball park. Many people around here seem to feel they are somehow better than everyone else simply because they're here. Never mind that everyone else around here is also here. They're out to prove their worth by building larger, nicer homes and pretending that their kids are all superior. I'm thinking this professor - for no apparent reason - felt sure that she was going to get tenure and probably made some financial decisions based on that expectation. Perhaps she had signed papers to buy one of the many houses for sale locally with prices "from the $500,000s." When she didn't get tenure, she cracked. At least she won't be needing a house for a while.

They're saying that when she was arrested she was clearly in denial that she had killed anyone. She yelled something like, "It didn't happen. They're still alive." As though somebody else staged a mass killing to frame her or something? Nice set-up for an insanity defense, there. If her attorney doesn't claim that she had a psychotic break, I'll be absolutely flummoxed.

But, wait. This woman clearly showed up at a faculty meeting WITH A GUN. Was she expecting the meeting to be ambushed by 9th-grade-wannabe-Crips? Why did she have a gun? There's no place in this town where I feel like I need to carry a gun to protect myself. Well, until recently there wasn't. Now I feel like I should pack at least a .380 any time I'm near an educational institution around here.

This could just be the beginning of the end of a huge facade. There seems to be a silent consensus that this area is some kind of secret Eden where the schools are drug and gang free, we have no crime, everyone makes a gazillion dollars a year, and the streets are paved with gold. That, of course, helps sell houses "from the $500,000s." Within two years, I had already started to see through this. My son spent the better part of 2d Grade practicing the standardized EOG tests. No wonder the schools around here score well on them. They cheat! Now I'm wondering how much of a gang problem the schools have been hiding and covering up. I'm wondering how many meth labs there are IN this county; we always read about the ones in Guntersville but never seem to hear of anything happening right here - just 30 miles north.

There is one twist that I'll be curious to watch develop. Apparently they're also considering this woman's husband a "person of interest." Why? Did she just bring a gun to scare someone? Did her hubby snipe the victims with real bullets from afar while she believed she was shooting blanks? That would have to be the stupidest plan ever, but I think we've all known geniuses who couldn't change their own oil.

Stay tuned. No, really. Stay tuned. It's only been a week and I've already noticed a significant decline in the number of people commenting on the Discovery MS stories. Give it two months and there's a good chance the whole episode will just sort of go away. . .

Friday, February 12, 2010

An Open Letter to Dr. D, Principle at MES

Dear Dr. D

I just read an article on al.com (http://blog.al.com/breaking/2010/02/post_205.html): which included the following disturbing statement:

Deatrice Johnson's daughter attended Monrovia with Brown before he transferred to Discovery. [emphasis added]

Much has been made of the fact that the shooter transferred from one Madison city school to another. Apparently Todd Brown also transferred to Discovery MS from another school. Not just another school - OUR school, the school my kids will attend soon. Monrovia.
This is NOT good news.

Did Brown's family move into Madison from the county, or was Todd Brown removed from the county schools for some other reason? Did his transfer have anything to do with Discovery having separate academy for disciplinary problems? Since the Browns apparently live in an apartment in Madison, I don't believe their move had anything to do with finding a bigger or nicer place to live. Do we have a problem at Monrovia that Brown's family was trying to get Todd away from?

I'm well aware that kids think this gang crap is totally cool. When I was a kid, the Pagans Motorcycle Club (i.e. gang) moved into our apartment complex and I thought that was totally cool. My dad did not. I sneaked my dad's old leather motorcycle jacket from my grandparents' attic and wore it around so I'd look like a Pagan. Dad was not amused that his son was running around looking like a "hood." But, they didn't really have 9 year-old bikers back then. There was virtually no chance that the Hells Angels were going to gun me down by mistake. My dad took the jacket and hid it anyway. Sadly, the minimum age of gang-bangers has dropped. As we all know.

I have made it very clear to J and J that I do not find this new "gangsta" stuff cool at all. I have told them that just throwing gang signs can get them killed if the wrong person sees them and mistakes their ignorance as a threat from a rival gang.

Ironically, I believe the 3d Graders just finished up their G.I.V.E. poster projects last week, before the shooting. Other than that, my kids haven't said a thing about gang stuff at Monrovia ES. I hope we are watching for signs and have the will to stop any suspected gang activity in its tracks.

Will the county school system be addressing this issue in the near future now that we have a direct connection to one of the players?



Thanks!
J.C.
J and J's dad

New Twist on Discovery MS Shooting

From http://blog.al.com/breaking/2010/02/post_205.html:

Deatrice Johnson's daughter attended Monrovia with Brown before he transferred to Discovery. [emphasis added] She said her daughter is "a little scared" and was too upset to attend the visitation."I don't know the family at all, but I wanted to pay my respects," said Johnson. "It was shocking what happened. My daughter said Todd was a fun guy. She is hurting."Johnson said only two weeks ago did she allow her daughter computer access for the first time. Her 10-year-old son is not allowed on the computer.Deatrice Johnson's daughter attended Monrovia with Brown before he transferred to Discovery. She said her daughter is "a little scared" and was too upset to attend the visitation."I don't know the family at all, but I wanted to pay my respects," said Johnson. "It was shocking what happened. My daughter said Todd was a fun guy. She is hurting."Johnson said only two weeks ago did she allow her daughter computer access for the first time. Her 10-year-old son is not allowed on the computer.

So, Brown also transferred in to Discovery from another school. Not just another school. Another school system. Monrovia - the school my kids will attend soon - is a County school. Brown transferred from a county school to a Madison City school. The shooter transferred from one Madison City school to another.

Did Brown's family move into Madison from the county, or was Todd Brown removed from the county schools for some other reason? I'm not suggesting Brown was kicked out of Monrovia - there are other possible explanations. But, moving from the Monrovia area into Madison City seems sort of a strange move. Do we have a problem at Monrovia that Brown's family was trying to get away from?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Discovery MS as of 2/10/10

Hm. Now they're saying that the shooter wanted out of the play-time gang and that the victim was bullying him over this decision. But, read carefully. Most of the statements in the following article were made by the shooter's defense attorney - not the police.

http://blog.al.com/breaking/2010/02/madison_police_say_both_suspec.html

That doesn't make much sense to me. For starters, I read a comment this week from a kid who claimed to have witnessed an argument between the shooter and victim last Thursday. According to that comment, the victim told the shooter that being in a gang was "stupid," which made the shooter angry.

I'll allow for the possibility that the kid who posted that comment didn't hear correctly or whatever. But, his story actually makes more sense than what the defense attorney is peddling. The victim, by all reports, was well-liked, had lots of friends, and never got into trouble. There appeared to be at least some closeness between the victim and his dad as well as other relatives. I'm not saying the victim wasn't in the "pretend gang" like the MPD say he was - just that he wasn't typical gang material.

The shooter, on the other hand, was a misfit with few friends, had been transferred out of Liberty MS for undisclosed issues, and evidently had virtually no relationship with his parents. He was depressed and apparently spent a lot of time playing computer games. One of the shooter's few known friends, Chris Glover has photographs of himself throwing gang signs posted on his MySpace page. The shooter was exactly the sort of kid who doesn't just end up in a gang but thrives on being in a gang.

So, the shooter finally finds a place to fit in and, according to at least one eyewitness account, the victim tells him he's being an idiot. The next day, who shows up at school with a gun?

If the shooter had decided to get OUT of the gang, the gun just doesn't fit. According to the story, the shooter had received counseling which convinced him to get away from the gang. Wouldn't part of that counseling have included a renunciation of gang-style violence? I don't know - I'm just posing the question.

Consider this. The shooter's father is a doctor and very likely has the resources to hire a very good defense attorney. The victim was black and is dead. It would be easy for the shooter's legal team to throw the victim's body under the bus at this point - make him out to be a bully who harassed the shooter about quitting their gang. I'm not saying that's what's happening here, but it would be a common legal strategy. So far, I'm not buying into it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

School Shooting Rumours and Speculations (and Facts)

This is a collection and analysis of everything I can find out about the shooting at Discovery Middle School. I'll update as I learn more. Not sure what's happening - possibly just an ISP issue, but some photos seem to have disappeared from this post overnight. . .

It's well known that the shooter's name is Hammad Memon. I got that from a comment on a local news posting which has most likely been deleted by now. I've been amazed at how well websites have kept this information quiet.

I also found a link to Hammad's erstwhile MySpace page: www.myspace.com/hammad_007 . Unfortunately the page was deleted as of 8 February 2010. Some of Hammad's posts to his friends' MySpace pages live on, however, including the following: Oct 17 2009 3:55 PM would you want a dad thats abusive as fucc? if you do, you can have mine .


Hammad

Hammad Memon



Oct 17 2009 3:55 PM

would you want a dad thats abusive as fucc? if you do, you can have mine


This is just one of several posts Hammad put on his buddy's MySpace page but it probably says more about his personal/family situation than any of the others. Picture isn't too clear, but I'm sure there will be a better one in the news soon - after the certification hearing next Wednesday (2/17) where they'll decide whether to try this guy as an adult. For now, they won't even officially release his name because he's a minor.

Here's another post: Sep 9 2009 1:37 AM so whats up nigga?? what shit you been through?


Hammad

Hammad Memon



Sep 9 2009 1:37 AM

so whats up nigga?? what shit you been through?


Memon is Pakistani - not black and he was definitely not raised in "the hood." This, kids, is why I go ballistic when you speak this way.

From what I've been able to piece together - and I make no promises that this is accurate - Hammad is the son of Iqbal and Safia Memon. That would be Doctor Iqbal Memon - a Pakistani pediatrician who practices in Athens and Decatur, AL. Previous residences may have included New York City and Osseo, MN. If this is the same guy, he did his medical residency in NYC. No idea what he might have been doing in Minnesota.

This was a "decent family," not "low-income trash" as many commenters on other blogs have suggested. They lived in a nice but not extravagant home in a fairly new subdivision in Madison, Alabama. There was nothing unusual about the place. A fairly nondescript mini-van was parked in the driveway. There was no other sign of life at the house when I drove by this afternoon. Frankly, it was not the sort of place I expected a doctor to live in. I'm tempted to make libelous speculations about money being sent back to Pakistan. But, I won't. The bottom line is that this shooter did not come from a "disadvantaged" background.

Other rumours: It will be very difficult to confirm this one, but it's rumoured that Hammad was removed from Liberty Middle School (which is very close to his family's home) over discipline issues, possibly involving a knife. Dr. Memon talked the school system into allowing his son to switch schools to get away from bad influences at Liberty. Apparently Hammad had been at Discovery MS since this past August.


From the al.com website:

(http://blog.al.com/breaking/2010/02/discovery_middle_school_shoote.html )

Christopher Glover, a ninth-grader at Liberty Middle School, said the alleged shooter, a friend of his, wasn't a bad person but just got caught up in the wrong crowd. Glover said the boy transferred from Liberty Middle to Discovery this year.

"We had met back in about sixth grade," Glover said. "He wasn't a bad kid at all. He just hung out with the wrong crowds. We were like brothers."

The alleged shooter left a chilling message on his MySpace page 21 hours before the shooting: "Squirming in pain, writhing in agony.

Glover said the boy told him several months ago he had been depressed and had been asking Glover for advice.

"I told him not to worry about it, but he didn't listen to me," Glover said. "He had a strange attraction to stuff gang-related, was an avid gamer and heavily interested in African-American culture."

If Glover met Hammad in 6th Grade, they most likely met at Liberty MS. Which suggests that Glover, too, may have been "transferred" to Discovery MS at some point. Here's a picture of Glover, which makes me wonder 1) if Hammad wasn't the only one with some interest in "stuff gang-related," and 2) whether Glover himself wasn't one of "the wrong crowds." Few of Glover's 123 MySpace friends, including Hammad, looked like anyone I'd want my kids hanging around.

If I ever caught my kids posting pictures like this of themselves, they'd be standing up for a week, but apparently Glover's parents have no problem with his MySpace photos. I doubt they even know he has a MySpace page - let alone what's on it. He claims to be 18 on MySpace; apparently he's hoping nobody notices that he's only in the 9th Grade. . .

Based on his posts to Glover's MySpace page, Hammad's ominous "writhing in agony" post to his own MySpace page last Thursday may have been nothing more than Hammad's pent-up adolescent libido. Hard to tell.



There was a bail hearing on Monday 7 February to determine whether Hammad could be released on bail. His parents are Pakistani immigrants and probably hold two passports; his father is a doctor and probably has quite a lot of cash. I'm speculating that these two factors weighed heavily in the court's decision to remand Hammad to the custody of the Neaves-Davis Center for Children in Huntsville.