AP “Calls” Flopping Aces…This Will Be Interesting!

I’ve been following the issues of the ‘truthiness’ of Iraq reporting with some interest, both at Patterico‘s blog and then at Flopping Aces, who has been pushing the story hard that the AP has been dealing with Iraqi sock puppets as sources.

The AP just doubled down with a new story:

The Iraqi Defense Ministry later said that al-Hashimi, the Sunni elder in Hurriyah, had recanted his account of the attack after being visited by a representative of the defense minister.

The dispute comes at a time when the military is taking a more active role in dealing with the media.

The AP reported on Sept. 26 that a Washington-based firm, the Lincoln Group, had won a two-year contract to monitor reporting on the Iraq conflict in English-language and Arabic media outlets.

That contract succeeded one held by another Washington firm, The Rendon Group. Controversy had arisen around the Lincoln Group in 2005 when it was disclosed that it was part of a U.S. military operation to pay Iraqi newspapers to run positive stories about U.S. military activities.

Seeking further information about Friday’s attack, an AP reporter contacted Hussein for a third time about the incident to confirm there was no error. The captain has been a regular source of police information for two years and had been visited by the AP reporter in his office at the police station on several occasions. The captain, who gave his full name as Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, said six people were indeed set on fire.

On Tuesday, two AP reporters also went back to the Hurriyah neighborhood around the Mustafa mosque and found three witnesses who independently gave accounts of the attack. Others in the neighborhood said they were afraid to talk about what happened.

Not Yet An Iraq Post

As you may have noticed (and may or may not have cared), my next Iraq post isn’t up. It’s a hard post to write, and I need a solid two or three hours at the computer just to get started – and that hasn’t been forthcoming.

I could be like Jake Blues and make a long list of excuses, but I’ll just say that it’s owed, events aren’t yet making it obsolete, and if I can get ahead of work and family obligations, it’ll be the first thing that I do.

This Can’t Be Good News

From AP:

Islamist candidates swept to victory in Bahrain’s parliamentary election, splitting the vote between hardline Shiite and Sunni Muslims while female and liberal candidates fared poorly in the U.S.-allied kingdom, preliminary results showed Sunday.

With several races headed for runoffs, Saturday’s vote appeared to reinforce the sectarian divide between the Persian Gulf island’s governing Sunni minority and the underprivileged Shiites who make up two-thirds of its 700,000 people.

The results also underlined a deepening social and religious conservatism in Bahrain, which has been among the most liberal of Arab states in the region and is host to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Of 18 women running, only one won outright – Latifa al-Gaoud, who was unopposed in her district. Another, Munira Fakhro, advanced to a runoff next Saturday but faces a tough race against Salah Ali of the pro-government Muslim Brotherhood, a hardline Sunni group.

Cops In Trouble

Well, the Iraq is F**ked Part II post is damn hard, but between making turkey chili and making room in the garage for another motorcycle (you know they breed when left alone, right?) I’ve been dinking away at it.

In an effort to work my way through writers block, I think I’d jump onto a couple of newsworthy stories and see if I can piss a few people off in anticipation of my pissing them off about Iraq.

The police have been kinda in the news for two use-of-force stories this week; at UCLA, the PD shocked a noncompliant student while being videotaped, and in Atlanta, a 92-year old woman was shot to death by police after she opened fire on officers breaking her door down in serving a “no knock” warrant.

I’m going to grade these as 1 for the police and 1 against.In the case of the UCLA event, it’s simple – the guy was obligated to show his ID proving he was a student – a policy that’s in place to keep coeds from being raped and students from being mugged in libraries that are open late at night. He had the ID, but decided he didn’t want to show it.

Library staff asked him to show it or leave, he refused, the campus police were called, they apparently asked him to show it or leave, and then – something happened – the cell video that’s widely circulated begins with him screaming “Don’t touch me!!” and the officer saying “stand up!”

So we’ll assume that either the officer put a hand on him to begin to move him along – which I’ll presume happened after he was asked to show ID or leave and refused – and he hit the deck and began to passively resist.

The officers used a TASER on ‘drive stun’ – basically a shock rod that hurts, but is not disabling to try and get him to comply, and a scene broke out.

I’ll note that the officers are widely accused of threatening to tase students standing by who asked for ID information, but the video doesn’t show it. I’ll wager that the officers have audio of the entire encounter, and can’t wait to read the full transcript.

So – did they use excessive force?

Well, what else were they supposed to do? The reality is that anything else they might have done was in fact more likely to result in injury to the student – plus possibly officers – than what they did. An armbar or wristlock easily can result in a fracture, displaced elbow, or shoulder injury to the person it’s done to. Having enough officers there to pick up a resisting – and possibly kicking and flailing – adult male suggest that you’d have 8 – 10 (two for each extremity) and the odds of injury there are also pretty high.

Go read this study (yes, it’s hosted on the TASER corporate site) and notice that there were fewer citizen complaints, fewer injured arrestees, fewer officer injuries post TASER deployment. And that ‘drive stun’ was 75% effective in getting arrestees to be compliant.

Absent some facts not in evidence today, I’m gonna call this one a tempest in a teapot, and the student the “Drama King of the Month“. Next time, just show your ID or leave, OK?

Next to Atlanta.

Here the facts are also pretty much agreed-to. Three narcotics officers , in plainclothes, but with raid vests with “POLICE” on them, executed a no-knock (or not-much-knock) raid on a house in a sketchy neighborhood in Atlanta. The homeowner – a 92-year old lady – greeted them with gunfire, they returned fire, she died & they were wounded.

All of which pretty much sucks.

Here, I’m going to wag my fingers at the PD.

I’ve commented on the overuse of SWAT and felony stops before, and it’s an area where I’ll claim some small expertise – I’ve done a bunch of dynamic entries in training (and resisted a few – also in training), and actually think I’m pretty good at them.

And I think they are insanely dangerous.

Not as insanely dangerous as entering a room with an armed bad guy without using those techniques – but pretty darn dangerous on their own. As I’ve said in my earlier post:

…the dumb but critically important fact is that any time guns come out, the potential for tragedy is there. As soon as this became a felony stop (where the responding police draw weapons in advance, and generally act as though the people being stopped are True Bad Guys), the door to a tragedy was opened. Officers have negligently (I never use the term ‘accidental discharge’ in talking about guns; it is a ‘negligent discharge’) shot the people they were handcuffing, or themselves, or their partners. The people who are stopped sometimes are uncompliant and do things which make the officers believe that a gun is being drawn. There are a million ways for this to end badly…

Add that to the small but significant chance that a disoriented, frightened homeowner might just reach for their gun and shoot back.

Radley Balko – who has been beating the drums on this issue for a while – points out that SWAT rolls over 40,000 times a year in the US, primarily to serve what are perceived as ‘high-risk’ warrants.

Patterico and he are in the middle of a small pissing contest on this issue, and sadly each of them is further away from the core issues than they ought to be.

Let’s be clear – even the best-trained officers (and most officers engaged in these kinds of raids are typically less well-trained than I am, for a concrete example) are going to be adrenalized as they stack up outside the door. And when they go in, they will be handling loaded weapons, safeties off, and pointing them at people. Some significant percentage of those guns are going to go off. If they’re 99.99% good – and that’s a big number – if there are 40,000 raids, 40 people a year will be killed inadvertently.

So is there something else that could be done? Why not stand off and ask for compliance? There’s a judgment call to make – an armed suspect shooting out of a house isn’t remotely a Good Thing. But neither is the string of negligent shootings by officers of other officers, suspects, and random homeowners in the course of dynamic entries.

There’s no correct answer here, just a balancing of risks. Right now, the officers are all too willing to take risks with citizen’s lives. This is out of the legitimate belief in the primacy of officer safety, and in the less legitimate fact that being on SWAT is seen a a cool posting in all police departments that I know of, while being good at talking suspects down seldom gets headlines or wins medals.

Does it matter if the woman’s nephew or neighbor was selling out of the house? I don’t think so. I don’t even think it would matter if she had been selling out of the house. It’s kind of like David Koresh and Waco; if they’d waited for him to walk out of the damn building and arrested him, they could have had tactical superiority without burning the whole damn building down.

The raid – and the thousands like it every month – raises a few simple questions. Here’s a simple one. Why didn’t the officers – who had a battering ram – have ballistic shields? Why don’t the police have better training and tools?

Why isn’t some basic risk analysis done to decide which warrants deserve no-knock warrants (and yes, there are a lot of them that really do), and which ones don’t.

Standing off and asking for compliance means that small quantities of drugs will get flushed. But as I mentioned to Patterico when we discussed it, if there is a small enough quantity of drugs that it can easily be flushed – why are we risking people’s lives doing a dynamic entry?

I’ll suggest a further issue with the militarization of the police. When I lived in Paris, one of the creepiest things was seeing the gendarmes standing on subway platforms with subguns slung over their shoulders. They made it very clear that the state was prepared to use overwhelming force when it chose to.

Yes, the state does have the ability to bring as much force as necessary to win. But does every interaction with agents of the state have to make that quite so clear?

Ooooh…Speedy…

In the spirit of my high school years, which were spend debating Weber carburators vs. Solex and Holley, I want to point out that we just got Verizon fiber run to our house.

15Mbps downloads…ooooh…speedy…

Yes, I am a geek.

Reporting The News

Patterico lays out – in his inimitable prosecutorial style – the case that a LA Times story on Iraq was not only wrong, but maliciously and lazily so.

He says:

So I can’t tell you whether it’s true that the L.A. Times is repeating propaganda from a stringer with ties to insurgents.

But I can tell you this: I don’t have the resources of the L.A. Times. Yet in my spare time from my full-time job, using widely available resources on the Web and contacts built up through blogging, I probably got a more accurate picture of what happened in Ramadi on November 13 than the paid reporter for the L.A. Times did.

and he’s understaing his case. I’ve watched him work on this over the last few days, and I’ll tell you that – in his spare time, apart from his day job and time spent with his family – he’s done original reporting and laid out the truth better than the LA Times with it’s vast resources, layers of editors, and commitment to journalistic excellence.I’m stuck trying to figure out why until I pull down a borrowed copy of Richard Avedon’s portrait book “The Sixties” – which I’d love to blog about – and saw this:

Gloria Emerson
New York Times Correspondent
Saigon
April 1, 1971

Vietnam is just a confirmation of everything we feared might happen in life. And it has happened. You know, a lot of people in Vietnam – and I might be one of them – could be mourners as a profession. Morticians and mourners. It draws people who are seeking confirmation of tragedies…

Once I got so desperate – the Americans had started bombing Hanoi – I ran to the National Press Center where they gave the briefings…a forty year old woman running through the streets in the middle of the night…and I wrote on the wall in Magic Marker, Father, forgive. they know not what they do. And I don’t even believe in God. Who is Father? Father, forgive, they know not what they do. But there were no other words in the whole English language.

If they found out it was me they would have sent me home. New York Times correspondents must not go running around at two o’clock in the morning writing, Father, forgive, they know not what they do. But afterward I thought how there’s no way…no one, no one to whom you can say we’re sorry.

[ellipses in the original]

There’s something here to discuss…

Blegging

For the Iraq/Domestic policy post I’m working on, I’d love to collect cites that support or refute these two positions:

* That the Administration and Republican Party have tempered their policies toward Iraq in order not to make the war too “apparent” to voters – and to try and maintain their electoral advantage.

* That the Democrats have tempered their responses and positions on Iraq – and kept from fully formulating a policy on Iraq – in order not to risk this last election.

I’m digging, but any help is always appreciated….

ROMANTICISM AND TERRORISM

I’ve decided to liven things up a bit here at the old homestead, and to that end, will be republishing some of my favorite old posts by moving them to the top of the page.
This is a really good article, and has been referenced by lots of folks on the web:
Among the Bourgeoisophobes
In it, David Brooks pulls together strains of thought which look at what I’ll loosely call “Western Civilization” and violently reject much of it. Why? Damn good question. But ask yourself: Why is it that when I was in college in the 70’s, the leaders of the most violent radical groups were the children of upper- and upper-middle-class families? Why are the leaders of the Islamicist movement the prosperous, the well-educated, in short, those most likely to prosper and succeed in the context of the Western market economy?
There are a lot of reasons.
And by coincidence, I happened to pick up a book that lays out the philosophical underpinnings that support this issue. It’s a damn good book, and one that anyone who grew up in the shadow of the 60’s … that would be anyone born after 1950 … ought to read.
The Roots of Romanticism by Isiah Berlin.
Isiah Berlin is not considered by many to have been a “serious” philosopher. He never wrote the “Big Book” that was expected of him. But he was hella smart, and in a world where there was required reading for college freshmen, his lectures and smaller publications would be on the list.
To brutally truncate his argument into one quote, let me offer this:


Suppose you went …and spoke with [long list of European Romatic intellectual figures, including Hugo, de Staël, Schlegel, Goethe, Coleridge, Byron]
Suppose you had spoken to these persons. You would have found that their ideal of life was approximately of the following kind. The values to which they attached the highest importance were such values as integrity, sincerity, readiness to sacrifice one’s life to some inner light, dedication to an ideal for which it is worth sacrificing all that one is, for which it is worth both living and dying. You would have found that they were not primarily interested in knowledge, or in the advancement of science, not interested in political power, not interested in happiness, not interested, above all, in adjustment to life, in finding your place in society, in living at peace with your government, even loyalty to your king, or your republic. You would have found common sense, moderation, was very far from their thoughts. You would have found that they believed in the necessity of fighting for your beliefs to the last breath in your body, and you would have found that they believed in the value of martyrdom as such, no matter what the martyrdom was for. You would have found that they believed that minorities were more holy than majorities, that failure was nobler than success, which had something shoddy and vulgar about it. The very notion of idealism, not in its philosophical sense, but in the ordinary sense in which we use it, that is to say the state of mind of a man who is willing to sacrifice a great deal for principles or some conviction, who is not prepared to sell out, who is prepared to go to the stake for something which he believes, because he believes in it – this attitude was relatively new. What people admired was wholeheartedness, sincerity, purity of soul, the ability and readiness to dedicate yourself to your ideal, no matter what it was.
No matter what it was: that is the important thing.
(pp 8 – 9)


Sound familiar?
What began to matter wasn’t the endless small adjustments to “objective” reality or to work with others – what mattered was your wholehearted willingness to pull down the temple rather than submit, and your ability to project your dreams and ideals – objectively, your fantasies – into the world and to try and make the world conform to them, rather than the other way ‘round.
Shortly after I read this book, I was having a late-night dinner at a terrible Italian restaurant in Long Beach, CA (wow, too awful to even allow me to remember the name), and the only other party was a group of “modern-Okie” aerospace workers…badly dressed, overweight, uncultured (they were talking excitedly about ‘The Bachelor’). The dads (two couples w/multiple kids) were apparently in the aerospace industry, and I had a jolt of realization…these were the families that built the airplanes that I fly around in, and millions of families like them build our houses, buildings, sewers, provide water and electricity, etc. etc. And I began to look at my own attitudes and wonder just why the hell I felt permission to look amusedly at them, and to wonder for a moment which team I was on, and which one I wanted to be on.
Just a thought.
Originally posted May 8, 2002

Happy Thanksgiving

I apologize for being absent – I’ve just started three new projects in the last three weeks (maybe four today), am dealing with some (mild, amusing) family tumult, and a couple of outside business issues that have become pressing (two good to great news, one disaster avoidance).

I swear that I’ll do the Domestic/Iraq piece over the weekend – or I’ll forfeit my right to make fun of Keith Olbermann for his lame and historically ignorant smackdowns until July of 2007.

Meanwhile, I’m pulling together the recipes for dinner tomorrow and about to start cooking.

I’m thankful for many things in my life. For family – TG to the boys, to their moms and all the love that they have all lavished on the three young men, to my mom, her fella Tom, and my brother and sister-in-law. For friends – who live here and the ones who visit, and the ones we visit far too seldom. For work, and the stuff and comfort that it has bought. For all the fun I’ve had (Vegas, baby!!).

I’m thankful for those who have put themselves in harm’s way and are spending this weekend in far away places away from the comforts of hearth and home. They are there with the intent of defending us and making the world better – whether you’re thankful for the ones who gave the orders or not, you ought to be thankful for the troops who risk everything trying to carry them out.

I’m thankful for this community as well. In some ways, I’m more thankful for the folks who criticize and engage me than those who just pat me on the back (although I appreciate those as well). When you finish this, take a moment and think about everyone around you and how lucky each of us is for the care and regard we get from others.

I’m thankful for it all, and tomorrow let’s all celebrate together.

It Starts With A Dream

Take a look at Ali Eteraz’s Aziz Poonwalla’s post on Israel-Palestine.

It’s interesting, and positive…but will it get any traction? I’m doubtful.

And it isn’t as if peace is an intractable solution. In fact it is quite simple: resolution of the conflict requires genuine sacrifice by both parties. The ideal framework would be along the lines of the Taba accords and the King Abdullah proposal. It will require that the Palestinians abandon the right of return, and accept some form of financial recompense in its stead to only those displaced families whose property claims can be verified. It will require that Israel dismantle all settlements in the West Bank, and relocate the settlers. It will require that a administrative body with authority over joint issues such as water rights and transportation be established. It will require NATO security guarantees of Jerusalem as a open city, the capital of both nations. It will require peace through diplomacy with Syria, with Damascus granted economic trade rights, security guarantees, and teh return of the Golan Heights in return for total cessation of military and financial support for Hizbollah. It will require bilateral normalization of diplomatic relations with every Arab country. It woudl require Israel to eventually be invited to join the Arab League and begin to interact with its neighbors as a neighbor and member of the regional identity, not a Western satellite. It will require Arab nations to carry Israeli satellite television as part of their media feeds and absolute sanitzation of all anti-Semitic rhetoric in their educational systems.

As to the issue of the West Bank and Golan Heights; they were nominally held after ’67 to provide Israel with some defense in depth – some land on which to fight a land war.

The military challenges to Israel no longer look much like columns of Syrian tanks. While I’m doubtful that the political changes Ali is discussing will happen – it’d be interesting to see what it would take to crack the door open.