Saturday, October 25, 2008

And furthermore...

A few years back, John Hodgman wrote (what is to me) the funniest thing ever made, a book called The Areas of My Expertise. I want to come back to this book and its recently released sequel in some length in the future, but in the meantime I thought I'd share this talk by Mr. Hodgman. Watch and enjoy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Oh holy crap.

So now I'm even more fascinated by the backstory here...

Police say McCain worker admits she made up attack story
Friday, October 24, 2008

Pittsburgh police say a McCain campaign volunteer made up a story of being robbed, pinned to the ground and having the letter "B" scratched on her face in a politically inspired attack.

Maurita Bryant, the assistant chief of the police department's investigations division, said Ashley Todd is being charged with making a false report to police.

Chief Bryant said Ms. Todd admitted today that the story was false.

Ms. Todd, who is white, told police she was attacked by a 6-foot-4 black man in Bloomfield Wednesday night.

Chief Bryant said Todd can't explain why she invented the story or explain how the backwards "B" was scratched onto her face.

Ms. Todd had told police the robber carved a "B" on her cheek with a knife when he saw a McCain sticker on her car.

Police said "Ms. Todd indicated that she has had prior mental problems" and she does not remember how the "B" got on her face. "She stated that she thinks she may have done it herself because she was the only one in the car. When she looked in the rearview mirror and saw the "B" on her face she said she thought of Barrack. Once she told her friend the story and once the police were called she had to stick with it."

Ms. Todd, 20, of College Station, Texas, spent more than five hours with robbery detectives last night at police headquarters, giving investigators details that differed from the initial police report after the incident - including that she was sexually assaulted and lost consciousness during the attack.

Because of the inconsistencies, Ms. Todd agreed to take a polygraph test, police said.

Ms. Todd originally said she was robbed after she went to an ATM machine at Pearl Street and Liberty Avenue, but later told police she was accosted as she approached the machine. Police said they had received photos from the Citizens Bank ATM at the location and verified that the victim did not make a transaction around 9 p.m. Wednesday as she had claimed.

Ms. Todd originally said she was robbed at knifepoint. But yesterday she said she was struck from behind and lost consciousness. She originally said the attacker used the knife to carve a backwards "B" on her cheek. But in the later version she said that she awoke after the attack and felt a stinging sensation on her face, and only realized that she had been cut when she went to a friend's apartment and looked in a mirror. She did not tell police initially that she had been assaulted but later said she had been groped during the attack.

According to police, her version of the story yesterday was that she said the attacker approached her from behind and demanded money as she went to the ATM machine around 9 p.m. Wednesday. She pushed him away and ran to her car; then she was struck on the head from behind.

Ms. Todd told police she then fell to the ground, landing on her back. Her attacker then climbed on top of her and hit her face. He then reached under her shirt and fondled her breast.

Ms. Todd also said she passed out during the attack. When she regained consciousness, she got in her car and drove to a friend's house nearby and called police. She also was missing $60, although she doesn't remember giving her attacker any money.

On Wednesday night - immediately after the incident - Ms. Todd had told police the robber became agitated when he saw a McCain sticker on her car. He then punched her in the back of the head, pushed her to the ground and carved the letter into her face.

A photo of the woman shows what appears to be a backwards capital B on her right cheek.

Police said today that photos from the ATM machine, at a Citizens Bank, don't show Ms. Todd making a transaction.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

So yes, it was a bit too convenient.



My local area, part 2

Reason why I'm an anarchist #337

McCain volunteer robbed, assaulted
Friday, October 24, 2008

Pittsburgh police detectives for the second time last night interviewed a John McCain campaign volunteer who told them she was mugged and the letter B cut into her face following a robbery in Bloomfield on Wednesday.

Police said Ashley Todd, 20, of College Station, Texas, reported that the attack happened about 9 p.m. after she withdrew $60 from an ATM at Liberty Avenue and Pearl Street.

She said a man armed with a knife demanded her money. She gave it to him, then began walking to her car, which had McCain stickers on it. She told police that although the robber had moved away from her, he became agitated when he saw her car, punched her in the back of the head, pushed her to the ground and carved a B into her face.

"This is what she's telling police," police spokeswoman Diane Richard said. "We can't substantiate it at this time."

Ms. Todd told police during at least five hours of questioning last night that her attacker said to her, "You are going to be a Barack supporter." She told police the man then sat on her chest, pinning both her hands down with his knees and used what she believed was a dull knife with a roughly 5-inch blade to carve the B.

Ms. Todd then went to a friend's house in the 5100 block of Cypress Street, about a mile away, where she reported the incident to police about 45 minutes later. She declined medical treatment at that time.

A friend said Ms. Todd went to an unknown hospital on her own around 1 a.m.

"The initial report would lead us to believe it was a street robbery," said Zone 5 police Cmdr. Larry Ross.

Zone 5 detectives were handling the case initially, but it was turned over to the robbery squad last night after the case made national headlines.

When Ms. Todd reported the incident, "nowhere did she say to the officer that [the assailant] made reference to the bumper sticker. I don't know how she came to the conclusion that he noticed the sticker," Cmdr. Ross said.

He said the description of the robber as a 6-foot 4-inch, 200-pound black man is similar to that of a man who robbed a Liberty Avenue bank in recent weeks.

Police were checking surveillance video of the Wednesday ATM incident.

Several employees at nearby businesses last night said they were unaware of the attack.

Ms. Todd was in Pennsylvania as a field representative for the College Republican National Committee. She took a year off from her studies at Blinn College, near her home in College Station, to travel to Washington, D.C., in August to train with the committee. Her duties included going to college campuses to recruit students for the organization.

"She was one of our better recruiters this year," committee executive Ethan Eilon said. He said she spent several months working in New York and moved to Pennsylvania two weeks ago. On Wednesday night, she had just returned from a phone banking event before she reported being attacked.

Mr. Eilon said she went to the hospital on her own.

"She's had a pretty terrible 24 hours," he said. "She's hanging in there. Everyone has been very supportive. In our view, this was a random crime that escalated into something worse."

The committee will let Ms. Todd decide if she wants to stay in Pittsburgh.

Ms. Todd thanked "everyone for their thoughts and prayers," yesterday on her blog, where she posted Wednesday night that she was "Stubbornly searching for a Bank of America to avoid ATM fees."

According to the McCain campaign, both Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Sen. McCain called Ms. Todd and her family to express their concerns, but a spokesman declined to comment on the incident.

The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama issued the following statement: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the young woman for her to make a speedy recovery, and we hope that the person who perpetrated this crime is swiftly apprehended and brought to justice."

Now, beyond the awfulness of the actual crime and victimization of this woman, what is really terrible is the fact that given the time and specifics of it, all anyone is going to be concerned about it what this says about the candidates it so peripherally involves. I mean, honestly people.

Then again, those are some sketchy details. So I don't know which is actually worse... the idea that some mugger decided to get political, or some politico decided to politicize her own mugging? This is going to scare out-of-touch, older voters who see this as some sort of microcosm, and it is going to cause everyone else to be scared of those voters who are moved so easily by irrational fear. I mean, 6 friends of mine were simultaneously mugged this summer and no one seemed to notice. Perhaps if the assailant had muttered "This is what I think of your capital gains tax!" or something, people would have cared.

Meg! Snarky observation-- GO!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hey! Johnstown!

Ladies and gentlemen, a town in which I have spent much time.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Another post I didn't finish!

So there's something new coming and big coming on the blog front, probably up by the end of the month. Friends and family who follow this blog once in awhile will very much like it, I think. So yeah.

Anyway, I just typed a lengthy article-style post on Sarah Palin. It seemed innapropriate for some reason, though, given my thoughts on politics, so I deleted it. I'd love to talk to you about it, though. I don't bite! And even if I did, you'd be miles away on the other end of the line.