Always Think Forfeiture

The ATF had a 2007 solicitation for bids to deliver 2,000 Leatherman tools.

Engraved with the following:

ATF-Asset Forfeiture AND “always think forfeiture”

…are you outraged yet?

I wonder how Donald Scott’s family feels about that?

I think asset forfeiture is reprehensible, and when it funds law enforcement corrupting. I think it should be banned outright; I can understand it being used very narrowly in the case of convicted criminals – but very narrowly. And when a law enforcement agency sends little promotional items to the troops reminding them that it’s really about marque and reprisal – will, I’m deeply disgusted.

I debated posting the contract officers information here, and encouraging everyone to let him know what you think of this “opportunity”, but I think instead you ought to send a message to your Congressmember. You can find them at; you can find your local officials by entering your zip in the box at the upper left, and then create your own message about this.

My Intellectual Betters…

…amaze me with their Wiley Coyote Super-Genius brainpower yet again.

Over at the serious academic Thom Brooks ‘Brooks Blog’, we get this gem: “Is promising tax cuts tantamount to bribery?,” which explains:

. . . and so we learn that the Tories are not promising tax cuts before the next election. (Details here.) This tendency of politicians to even discuss tax cuts as a major election issue has always troubled me. Now I think I know a bit more why.

It is wrong for politicians to bribe the electorate. They cannot pay for our votes. Of course, the expenditure of large sums of cash on advertisement, etc. can have positive effects in general (although not always). But spending money on tv ads in no way is like bribery.

When politicians promise tax cuts, they are promising the electorate that if they vote for the politician, then they can expect extra money in their pocket. We might call this indirect bribery. Direct bribery is when politicians pay you directly from their coffers for your vote. This is illegal in an obvious sense. Indirect bribery is different. Rather than pay voters from the party’s accounts, the party pays back voters from the treasury.

Promises to, say raise teachers’ salaries, on the other hand…he’s OK with that:

There is at least one major qualification in all of this. Of course, the public has a right to know how politicians and parties might spend public money if elected.

This is, of course, beyond ridiculous. Politicians make promises of benefits all the time; they discuss zoning plans which may increase or decrease the value of my home; they discuss tax policy that may leave more money in my pocket, or advantage or disadvantage my industry.


It’s B**ls**t Day At Josh Marshall’s

I’m generally pretty admiring of Josh Marshall; he’s an unabashed partisan but usually one with a fair respect for facts and sense.

Today, not so much.

First, he gets spun by Juan Cole’s mistranslation of the Iranian threat to Israel. Here’s Marshall citing Cole:

According to Farsi-speaking commentators including Juan Cole, a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, Ahmadinejad’s exact quote was, “The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” Cole has written that Ahmadinejad was not calling for the “Nazi-style extermination of a people,” but was expressing the wish that the Israeli government would disappear just as the shah of Iran’s regime had collapsed in 1979.

When Cole made his post, a commenter here at Winds took him to school:

I am Iranian, and I can tell you Cole is wrong.

Let’s start with simple fact, that is not directly relevant. He writes that Khomaini said the Shah government “must go”. But “az bain bayad berad” does not mean “go”, it litterarly mean something like “must cease to exist”, and the most direct translation would be “must be destroyed”.

Now to the latter part:

“bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad”
The translation is not perfect, the dear Professor is not convewing the action implyied the sentence, as I or any Iranian would read it.

So Cole errs, or lies, and somehow it becomes a part of the historical record…

Next he catches McCain in a double-secret intellectual jujitsu hold.

…But that’s really secondary to the real issue which is that the strategic aim of the surge has failed. It’s fastened us down even more firmly in Iraq whereas the aim was to jumpstart a political process in the country that would allow us to begin to disengage.

These points are completely lost on McCain. A savvy campaign should be able to make McCain’s failure to understand the surge’s failure into a potent political issue.

So the disagreement becomes a flat disagreement over facts; the problem, of course is that this presupposes that the issue isn’t whether McCain disagrees – because we’ve already assumed facts that make McCain wrong – so no debate is possible or even desirable.

The last time I saw intellectual jujitsu that slick was last week, when the data showed that the oceans were stubbornly not warming up:

Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren’t quite understanding what their robots are telling them.

This Is Bad…

…if you’re a Democrat like me.

Neither Michigan nor Florida look they will do a revote, meaning we’ll have a stupendous floor fight about seating the rump-delagates elected in the non-primaries that were held too-early in the primary season.

Now I just don’t see how this is going to do anything except give the GOP a significant leg up in those states. The ads just write themselves.

I continue to be astounded at the ability of the Democrats to pull defeat from what should have been the slam-dunk electoral victory of the new millenium. Does anyone there have two clues to rub together?

Obama’s Great Speech

First of all, to paraphrase Nixon, “this was a great speech”. I don’t quite know if forensics students will be repeating it in a decade, but the guy is an amazing orator.

Two things struck me negatively about the content of the speech.Obama said:

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

Two percent of the US population died in the Civil War. It seems at best callous of him to slight that very real sacrifice paid in blood by Americans to clean the moral slate of slavery.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

I think the missing piece here is the explanation of how his values intersect those of Rev. Wright. I think that it is legitimate for Obama to state that those values aren’t the same, and that other things that the church brought him made it possible for him to overcome his discomfort with the “…remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church…”

I think he should have talked less about Ashley and more about that. because if people understood that – understood the real values Obama is trying to realize in his life and his policies, I think they would be better able to judge from something other than blind devotion to him or equally blind revulsion.

One of the things I like the most about the speech is the fact that in it, Obama embraces moral ambiguity – and hence embraces the morality of the real world. I am profoundly uncomfortable with people comfortable in the moral certainty of the world that exists in their words or their imaginations.

I’m not sure it’s enough politically, and I’m still a wobbly supporter, but liked what the speech said and who it showed. Now we need to see that that man is really who Obama is.

Conservative parents often raise radical children – and vice versa. I’m not panicked by Obama’s relationship with a radical. Let’s see more of the substance of who he is and what he wants to do with the country.

Voting Machine Fraud in Kentucky

Social engineering, not hacking. Here’s the news:

’06 election officer pleads guilty to voter fraud conspiracy

LONDON, Ky. (AP) — An eastern Kentucky man who was an election officer has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit voter fraud during primary elections two years ago.

Acting U.S. Attorney James Zerhusen’s office says 36-year-old Charles Newton Weaver of Manchester admitted agreeing to change votes of voters who were unfamiliar with new electronic voting machines. The prosecutor’s office says Weaver led voters to believe their vote was cast by pressing one button, although a second button was required to cast the vote.

Zerhusen’s office says Weaver changed votes after voters left the machines during the 2006 primary elections for county officials in Clay County.

The secretary of state’s office said after the 2006 primary that some voters reported that they didn’t know how to properly cast their ballots and that they were misled by poll workers.

For more information, check out the Kentucky SoS site.

LAPD SWAT And Affirmative Action – A Woman Officer’s View

This was sent by an anonymous friend in response to an LA Times editorial on SWAT and affirmative action:

I am a police supervisor in Southern California. I have been in law enforcement for over twenty five years. I am female.

In Sunday’s Los Angeles Times Opinion section, Robert C. J. Parry, exposes the results of a board of inquiry commissioned by Chief of Police Bill Bratton to look into the only hostage death in LAPD SWAT’s 35 year history.

“When Pena retreated to his office, four SWAT officers crossed the alley in a matter of seconds, entered the building, took fire through the walls — fire that struck one officer — and entered Pena’s office. There, they exchanged more shots with the gunman, who was standing behind a desk with Suzie. In the chaos, both Jose and Suzie Pena were killed.

It is important, in the aftermath of this kind of tragedy to review the actions of the involved officers for ways to improve tactics, etc and try to prevent a recurrence and that was the chief’s stated goal in this inquiry. Unfortunately, that is not what he told his team.

“In November 2005, he (Chief Bratton) privately addressed the board about his goals for their inquiry. The final report quotes him: “I’m looking to create change within SWAT. The qualifications to get in are stringent. But are they too stringent? There are no women and few African Americans…. Are there artificial barriers for getting into SWAT that the ‘good old boys’ network has maintained?”

Chief Bratton it seems, along with his review team, believe that SWAT needs to be more diverse in it’s membership. The Chief appointed a review board that seemed to reflect this agenda:

“None of the SWAT officers from the Pena shooting were even interviewed by the panel, according to multiple sources. Indeed, the board’s eight members included fewer tactical experts (one) than attorneys (three). In its final report, the board acknowledged that it had been “ultimately precluded from gaining a full and complete understanding of what transpired in Pena until after this report was finalized.”

The final report expresses the following:

“The absence of women … and the low number of African Americans in SWAT should be addressed and dealt with, and the membership of SWAT should be reflective of the community,” the report says, although it offers no qualitative or quantitative evidence that this change would save a single life or lead to a single suspect’s apprehension. The unit, the report says, has become “insular, self-referential and resistant to change.”

As a veteran law enforcement officer/supervisor and a woman, I have a couple of things to say about this that may be relevant.

Let me preface this with some history. When I first applied for a job in my profession, the department, I for which I ultimately worked, did not recognize the affirmative action policies that were practiced elsewhere in the county. The physical agility test included the 6′ solid wall, you had to move 165 pounds of dead weight a certain distance under time and push a car in addition to running fast through an obstacle course. After acing the physical agility, and doing well in the written and oral exams, my sister and I were told that we were in line for jobs “when a female position came open.” We were eventually hired, came in first and third in our academy, which included rigorous physical training and moved on to successful careers.

I have, on occasion, in my career been the beneficiary of affirmative action policies. The ethical trade off for this has been to make sure that I am overqualified for advancement or assignments that I seek. That way I am comfortable that I didn’t ace out someone more qualified for the position for the sake of greater diversity. I also recognize that on occasion, these policies have leveled the playing field appropriately.

Since I came into this job there has been a consistent lowering of standards in misguided attempts to add diversity to policing and the results have been at best, mixed. First of all, if you fall into one of the favored categories, you have the unique pleasure of knowing that when you enter the job you are already stigmatized as below par because the rules were changed to get you in. You’re partners will wonder if they need help on the other side of a wall you didn’t have to climb to get the job, whether you can get to them. It has also resulted in some seriously substandard hires. Rafael Perez comes to mind.

The first and most important thing a person should understand when entering a “risk” profession such as mine is their personal limitations. Failure to understand this basic rule endangers you and others from the beginning. I am a member of the rifle team and have served as a firearms instructor. However, I have not and would not apply to be a motor officer or a SWAT officer because I am too small. I know you cannot hand me the ram to take down the front door. I recognize if the motorcycle goes down, I might have trouble picking it up again. It might take me longer to get one of my partners out of the line of fire after he gets shot upon entry, when time is of the essence.

That is not to say that I don’t belong in my job. I am good at it and have seen officers of all sizes, shapes, genders and colors perform the job with skill and heart. Because I recognize my limitations, I can plan to overcome them tactically in the situations I encounter. SWAT does not have this luxury. SWAT is who I call when the situation overwhelms my immediate resources. If I need them, I don’t give a damn if they are “reflective of the community” or six toed farm boys with acne, I just want them to be the best. Only the most physically capable, tactically gifted, expert shooters, with a proven ability to perform for the good of the team and the innocent victims in immediate need of their services should qualify for SWAT. If some of those super qualified candidates happen to be female, terrific, but I cannot understand, for the life of me what benefit is reached for officer or public safety by lowering standards and tweaking the process to increase the numbers of minorities and women qualifying for this unique and vital function. Chief Bratton’s transparent attempt to court certain groups in this and other situations indicates a troubling willingness to endanger lives in pursuit of his personal ambitions.

Um, not…

At the airport, watching Rick Sanchez on CNN as he pounds home the issue that the Pentagon report on Saddam and terrorism ‘puts to rest the original justification for the war’.

Um, not quite:

This ought to be big news. Throughout the early and mid-1990s, Saddam Hussein actively supported an influential terrorist group headed by the man who is now al Qaeda’s second-in-command, according to an exhaustive study issued last week by the Pentagon. “Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda’s stated goals and objectives.” According to the Pentagon study, Egyptian Islamic Jihad was one of many jihadist groups that Iraq’s former dictator funded, trained, equipped, and armed.

I can imagine that there are political rationales for not taking this falsehood on. But this does show the basically supine posiiton the Bush adminsitation has been taking.

Obama and Wright

Well, this has been kinda depressing.

I’m on record as supporting Obama, and continue to support him. But his viability as a candidate is about to hit major midair turbulence, and the question now is how he’ll be able to fly the giant cumbersome machine of his campaign through it.

Look, part of my view of Obama is that he’s a post ’68-er; he grew up on the other side of the shockwave that split American politics, and as a consequence there’s a chance that he can find new frameworks to understand issues and create policies that aren’t entirely driven by the relatively stupid positions taken by my cohort back when we were smoking a lot of pot and working out our anger issues with out parents.

His appeal thus is in part post-racial; he’s someone who isn’t neatly pigeonholed as a ‘black man’ or a ‘Harvard man’ or anything else. As someone who sees himself as a ‘mutt’, and thus as ‘a Californian’, I like that a lot.Sadly, with this we discover that he’s aligned himself – at least in some serious ways – with the worst kind of Afrocentric communities out there.

I’m not shocked that there are African-American preachers who say things like this. But – speaking as someone who probably has spent more time in black churches than any other kind – I know preaching like this isn’t the only kind that exists in black churches, and I know that it doesn’t help black people; and I don’t think it represents values that help America (or the world).

It represents the worst kind of conspiratorial thinking – where 9/11 is a comeuppance, if not an inside job; where the real struggles faced by many black people aren’t structural outcomes of choices by both black and whites but are deliberate; where AIDS is the white man’s way of depopulating Africa.

I’ve written about this a bit:

I know two really bad parents. One is a couple that simply refuses to control their children; they love them totally, and so, they explain, they love everything they do. Unsurprisingly, they are raising two little monsters. The other is a single mother who explains that everything bad in her life is the fault of her child, and that everything he does is wrong. Unsurprisingly, her child is depressed, withdrawn and equally badly damaged.

I’ll define patriotism as ‘love of country’. Both the parents above (all three of them, actually) claim to ‘love’ their children. But to blindly smile and clean up when your child smashes plates on the floor is not an act of love. And blindly smiling and waving flags when your country does something wrong is not an act of patriotism.

But – there is a point where criticism, even offered in the guise of love, moves past the point of correction and to the point of destruction. It’s a subtle line, but it exists. And my friend (who is less of a friend because I can’t begin to deal with her fundamentally abusive parenting) is destroying her child. And there are liberals who have adopted an uncritically critical view of America. Who believe it to have been founded in genocide and theft, made wealthy on slave labor and mercantilist expropriation, to be a destroyer of minorities, women, the environment and ultimately they argue, itself.

I’m sorry but their profession of love for America is as hollow to me as that mother’s profession of love for her son. Are those things true’ As facts, they are an incomplete account of this country’s history. As a worldview, they are destructive and self-consuming.

I obviously don’t support those values and beliefs, and bluntly, there is no way that anyone who embodies those values is going to be elected President.

The problem, of course, is that while it’s indicative – it doesn’t tell us what Obama himself believes.

But neither has Obama.

Here’s something from his first statement at Huffpo on Wright:

Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

He goes on to explain that 1) he’s never heard anything like this in the church; and 2) gives a history of his association with the church.

He rejects the words that are “at issue”?

You know, that doesn’t it. It reminds me of Zelazny’s ‘Possibly Proper’ prayer:

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

What Obama needs to do – to make me feel confident in my support of him – is what John Kerry needed, and failed to do. He needs to explain the arc of his beliefs, and how it is that he could sit in a church where outrage and hyperbole seem to be the stuff of conversation, and at the same time embody a politics of unity. How is it that he attends a church that seems to be energized by the politics of ’68 and hopes to lead the country past it?

And how will he make this explanation and do it without alienating the black community who will feel offended? Or without alienating the deeply progressive Democratic base?

I made a comment a while ago:

One of my best friends spent years as a community organizer for parks in New York City. She is a fountain of funny stories and ‘on-the-ground’ political wisdom, and one of her truisms is: dog doo ends all meetings.

That is to say, much like Godwin’s Law, as soon as dog waste is brought up, the meeting is effectively over. The room divides, the tempers get hot, and constructive discussion flies out the window.

I’ll suggest a corollary of this, which is: race ends all Democratic politics.

God, I was hoping we were past that…