The Implausible Becomes Plausible

Update II: OK, it’s a lot less plausible.

/Update II

Confederate Yankee has the official release from the Army concerning Scott Beauchamp’s tales.

They appear to be tall.

To your question: Were there any truth to what was being said by Thomas?

Answer: An investigation of the allegations were conducted by the
command and found to be false. In fact, members of Thomas’ platoon and
company were all interviewed and no one could substantiate his claims.

As to what will happen to him?

Answer: As there is no evidence of criminal conduct, he is subject to
Administrative punishment as determined by his chain of command. Under
the various rules and regulations, administrative actions are not
releasable to the public by the military on what does or does not
happen.

So someone is fibbing here; I think TNR either got snookered or the Army is covering up. My money? Snooker. The consequences to the Army of falsifying this are too high.

“Plausible” certainly doesn’t mean “true”.

/Update:

TNR has published a commentary on Scott Beauchamp which suggests that there is at least some third-party validation of Beauchamp’s core claims.

In this process, TNR contacted dozens of people. Editors and staffers spoke numerous times with Beauchamp. We also spoke with current and former soldiers, forensic experts, and other journalists who have covered the war extensively. And we sought assistance from Army Public Affairs officers. Most important, we spoke with five other members of Beauchamp’s company, and all corroborated Beauchamp’s anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one solider, heard about contemporaneously. (All of the soldiers we interviewed who had first-hand knowledge of the episodes requested anonymity.)

– emphasis added

I said that I felt Beauchamp’s stuff sounded “implausible”…I’ve got to say, as much as it stings, that it sounds a lot less implausible now.

And while Beauchamp may be a low-performing soldier in a low-performing unit, if these claims are plausible there’s a bunch of stuff that needs to be looked into.

I’ll try and have a longer comment tonight.

We’re All Bridge And Tunnel People

See Update

This is what not investing in infrastructure looks like:


02collapse.2-600.jpg

While I don’t know the exact cause of this specific disaster, I’ll suggest something that anyone who has owned a boat knows for a simple fact – when you skimp on maintenance and upkeep of the basic systems, they fail.

In our case, we have one party – the Democrats – who want to spend the maintenance money on transfer payments and ridiculous pension plans for public employees. We have another – the Republicans – who want to give it away in corporate welfare. They both seem very good at giving it away to family, friends, and campaign donors.

I wrote about it a while ago supporting “sewer socialism”; both parties ought to be damn focused on fixing the systems and keeping the bridges, roads, and sewers working. If they aren’t, we need to change them until they are.

Update: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

The highway bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River on Wednesday was rated as “structurally deficient” two years ago and possibly in need of replacement.

eanne Aamodt, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said the department was aware of the 2005 assessment of the bridge. “We’ve seen it, and we are very familiar with it,” she said.

Aamodt said the department plans its bridge repairs using information from the Bridge Inventory database.

Many other bridges nationwide carry the same designation that the I-35W bridge received, Aamodt said.

Politicians – well-meaning, honest, decent ones – killed those people by making bad decisions about priorities. We have a backlog of bad decisions about priorities built up, and if we don’t clear it out, we’ll wind up killing people until we get politicians who get it.

John Quiggin, Scott Beauchamp (and Jamail Hussein and Karen Toshima)

Once again, we’re dealing with the issue of conditions in Iraq, which those who oppose the war (most of whom opposed the war from the beginning and are proud to have done so) saying things like the comment left by John Quiggin in the post on News, Good, Bad, and Fake:

Interesting. On the one hand, the point that the general situation in Iraq is so terrible as to make disputes over minor points in a single story irrelevant is dismissed with “fake but accurate”.

On the other hand, the point that this is a huge waste of effort if all you are concerned with is minor points a single news item is rejected because such items are indicative of a pervasive MSM bias.

I addressed exactly the same point last year, and don;t think I can improve on my argument. Rather than linking back to it, I thought I’d reproduce the post and see what kind of discussion we can kick off.

From December, 2006:


Jamail Hussein and Karen Toshima

In the thread to my first Jamail Hussein post below, commenter Andrew Lazarus says:

A.L., you seem to be seizing on this fire incident as an indication that the MSM coverage of Iraq is way off. But at the same time, neither you nor anyone else is suggesting that the counts of maimed corpses, or dead soldiers, or explosions is in any way exaggerated. The impression of Iraq as some sort of hell on earth really doesn’t depend on this one gruesome story…any more than our perception of the Holocaust depends on the discredited story of Jews turned into soap.

I happen to think that this particular story – and the other stories – coming out of Iraq matter a lot because our policies on the war will be driven by our perceptions which are in turn driven by – the stories we read.My reply to Andrew started this way (with some amendations):

The problem, Andrew, is [we don’t know] whether [Iraq is] hell on earth or heck (or Beaumont, Texas); that’s the point I keep trying to raise and that keeps getting slapped aside.

I spoke with Greg Sergeant today about all this, and we had a friendly chat in which I tried to explain why it is that one reported tragedy like this matters so much (and why the aggregation of small tragedies matters so much) and I asked if he’d ever heard of Karen Toshima.

He hadn’t so let me explain here.

I did a fast experiment – someone with Lexis-Nexis could do better – and searched the LA Times website archive (which has stories searchable since 1/1/1985) and looked for some word combinations…


Mentions of ‘gang murder’ in the L.A. Times in 1987: 297
Mentions of ‘gang killing’ in the L.A. Times in 1987: 192

Mentions of ‘gang murder’ in the L.A. Times in 1989: 649
Mentions of ‘gang killing’ in the L.A. Times in 1989: 435

Annual increase (both terms summed) from 1987 to 1989: 60.8%

Mentions of ‘murder’ in 1987: 3,893
Mentions of ‘killing’ in 1987: 3,585

Mentions of ‘murder’ in 1989: 5,686
Mentions of ‘killing’ in 1989: 5,117

Annual increase (terms summed): 22.2%

The underlying numbers look like this:

Overall Homicides in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County in 1987: 975
Overall Homicides in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County in 1989: 1,053

Annual Increase: 4.0%

Gang Homicides in Los Angeles County in 1987: 387
Gang Homicides in Los Angeles County in 1989: 554

Annual Increase: 21.5%

Note that the increase in gang homicides – 167 – is greater than the increase in the number of total homicides – 78. This suggests the possibility that some homicides that would otherwise have been classified as ‘normal’ were instead classified as ‘gang’ – something I’ll take up with my law-enforcement friends.

What changed? Why did the coverage go up so much more than the underlying numbers?

Karen Toshima was murdered, that’s what changed.

In 1988 in Westwood Village, then the ‘Third Street’ of Los Angeles, where young upper middle class people went to dine and catch a movie or listen to some music or dance, two gangs opened fire on each other and Long Beach resident Karen Toshima died.

Suddenly in the consciousness of the upper-middle-class of Los Angeles – the class that produces TV news and newspaper columns – gang murders, which had been confined to streetcorners and alleys in South Central and East Los Angeles were vividly real.

And if you lived in Los Angeles then, you locked your doors and bought guns. I must have taken half a dozen friends to the shooting range and then the gun store that year.

For most of the next decade, as gang crime rose, peaked in 1995, and then fell dramatically, the narrative of life in Los Angeles was the omnipresent fear of gang violence.

That fear was fed by sensational media – first news, then movies and television – and it defined and limited life in Los Angeles.

Was gang violence a real issue in Los Angeles before 1988? Of course. Was it something worth spending significant resources on and attempting to suppress? Yes.

But the monomaniacal focus on Los Angeles as the “Gang Capital of the World” created a false impression that Crips and Bloods ruled the streets. Where did that perception come from? From reporting the, like a hip-hop drumbeat, regularly pounded home the point

In a few small pockets, for a few years, yes. But the vast majority of people in Los Angeles – people like me – drove throughout the city, ate in restaurants throughout the city (three of my favorites are in South Central and two in East LA).

But the perception of the city changed. Policies changed as a result – policies that may or may not have been good ones.

In Iraq the stakes are much higher. But the mechanisms we’re using to sort them out really are no different. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were?