Patterico's Pontifications

4/1/2007

Pessimism from Iraq

Filed under: General,War — Patterico @ 10:58 pm

Power Line offers this pessimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq, from someone on the ground there.

Beginning Tuesday, I will have some guest bloggers for about a week. Among them will be Teflon Don and Badger 6, who both blog from Anbar province, where anti-Iraqi forces are operating hot and heavy. I plan to ask them to give their thoughts about the pessimistic view offered by the Power Line correspondent. I’ll be interested in what they have to say.

Charlton Was Right to Demand Taped Confessions

Filed under: Crime,Current Events,General,Politics — Patterico @ 10:43 pm

The New York Times has an interesting article about fired U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton’s battle to get the FBI to record interviews with criminal suspects.

It’s frankly shocking to me to learn that the FBI is resistant to this. As a Deputy D.A., I have generally found that the more competent, hardworking, and experienced my investigators are, the more likely they are to tape-record interviews with suspects — and, often, with witnesses as well.

I don’t mean to suggest that interviews with witnesses or defendants are necessarily suspect if they haven’t been recorded. Each case is unique, and there are sometimes good reasons that a particular conversation has not been recorded. It’s often not possible to record an interview, or to do so without the interviewee knowing. In cases like that, it’s better to do a non-recorded interview than to do no interview at all.

But the FBI appears to have a general hostility to the very concept of taping statements by criminal suspects. This hostility strikes me as backward and wrong. And I’m not impressed by the agency’s reasoning:

The F.B.I., a division of the Justice Department, has strenuously resisted the practice unless special permission is granted by supervisors, under the theory that it may discourage suspects from talking and expose juries to interrogation methods that the department would rather not highlight.

. . . .

The F.B.I., in documents defending its policy, argued that taping was not always possible, particularly when agents were on the road, and that it was not always appropriate. Psychological tricks like misleading or lying to a suspect in questioning or pretending to show the suspect sympathy might also offend a jury, the agency said.

“Perfectly lawful and acceptable interviewing techniques do not always come across in recorded fashion to lay persons as proper means of obtaining information from defendants,” said one of the once-secret internal Justice Department communications made public as part of the investigation into the dismissals of the United States attorneys.

Well, my friends, if you’re going to use the statements in court, then you’re going to have to tell the jury the way you got it. If you lied to the defendant, you’re going to have to own up to it. Why not let the jury hear exactly how it was done? If you don’t think you did anything wrong, then surely the jury will agree when it hears the recording. I find myself in agreement with Charlton in this passage from later in the article:

Mr. Charlton said the most disconcerting argument to him — and apparently at least one official at the Justice Department — was the bureau’s worry that its interrogation techniques might offend juries. “So we want to hide the truth?” wrote one unnamed Justice Department official in a handwritten note, scribbled alongside the FB.I.’s defense of its policy. “Don’t want the jury to reach its own judgment?”

Exactly.

Being a prosecutor is about presenting the truth. If a defendant’s statement is critical to a case, then — if you have a choice — it’s better for the jury to hear the statement as it came out.

None of this means that Charlton was dismissed for reasons having to do with political prosecutions, as the Democrats are trying to assert with all eight U.S. Attorneys. But even if that didn’t happen, it doesn’t mean that the Administration — and clueless Dweeb-Weasel Kyle Sampson, the point man in this whole effort — didn’t make serious mistakes.

To the extent that the Administration blamed Charlton over this issue, it was wrong to do so, in my judgment.

Their Names Die with Them — Thanks to the Grinding Wheels of Bureaucracy

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:07 pm

Jill Leovy has an excellent piece in today’s L.A. Times titled Their true names die with them. It’s about the apparent inability of LAPD to understand the conventions of Spanish (and Korean, and other foreign) names, and record them properly.

The LAPD’s most basic arrest form — the “5.10” — is designed according to English name conventions. It provides spaces for “last name, first name, middle name,” a format that all but guarantees a Spanish name will be botched, because it won’t fit into the spaces.

Why is that? Leovy explains:

Latin American name conventions differ from those of the United States. Drawn from many countries, with varied and irregular spellings, U.S. surnames form a diverse pool. A Bill Bratton or a Wolfgang Puck or a Tom Cruise is recognizable even without a middle name.

But in Spanish-speaking countries, there are relatively few surnames to choose from and spellings don’t vary much. Names like Rodriguez, Garcia, Hernandez, Perez, Sanchez, Aguilar, Diaz, Gonzalez, Martinez, Morales, etc., are so common that used alone, they do little to pinpoint any one individual. A Jose Rodriguez vanishes amid throngs of Jose Rodriguezes.

This problem is solved by the use of two legal last names in most Spanish-speaking countries—a father’s last name as a primary surname, followed by a mother’s maiden name. Many people also have middle names that help make their first names more distinct; thus, a Maria is Maria Elena.

. . . .

These conventions are consistent and well-established abroad. But in English-speaking America, they go haywire.

So what is the LAPD doing about it? Not much:

The department says it trains around this issue. But not surprisingly, officers queried in the field described making it up as they go along. Some said they hyphenate Spanish-speakers’ names. Some said they use one or the other last name. Some said they put one of the last names in the “middle name” slot.

Here’s an idea: stop “training around it” and change the form.

Oh, I’m sorry — did I just propose a change in how things are done in a huge bureaucracy?

Sorry. That makes me look really, really stupid — no matter how good the suggestion is.

I’ll shut up now.

Poor Charles Karel Bouley

Filed under: Scum — Patterico @ 1:53 pm

Poor Charles Karel Bouley. It’s everybody’s fault but his.

P.S. O’Reilly should have invited Bouley to appear — and O’Reilly should have been prepared to counter Bouley’s dishonest pretense that he hadn’t really said anything that offensive. That would have been good television.

UPDATE: In case you missed the language from his post that was so offensive, I chronicled it in this post.

Incidentally, he deleted the offensive language, originally without acknowledging that he’d done so. It took Michelle Malkin, putting pressure on the editor of the Huffington Post on “The O’Reilly Factor,” to get that simple acknowledgement. (By the way, notifying readers when you have edited a post is something that most of us bloggers already know to do.)

L.A. Times: We Publish Anonymous Opinion Pieces By Others Only in Extraordinary Circumstances — But We Get to Do It Ourselves Three Times a Day!

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 12:11 pm

In comments to this post, commenter dchamil makes a great point:

We don’t let people write without using their real name — except, of course, every single time we publish an editorial, an opinion piece which is customarily unsigned. One rule for me, a different one for thee.

Indeed.

I wonder how the editors reconcile their position on anonymous op-eds with their tradition of unsigned editorials.

True, the public knows the names of the group of people who write editorials. But we don’t know who wrote any given piece. That’s not accountability. If I had numerous people posting on this site, and we never told you who wrote which post, do you think any of us would feel truly accountable for our words?

I don’t.

To me, this shows that the rule that opinion pieces must be signed is a rule that can and should be discarded in the presence of appropriate countervailing considerations.

In the case of editorials, the countervailing consideration is the paper’s desire to render opinions in a unified voice that speaks for the newspaper as an institution. Arguably, that’s a worthy consideration (though many disagree).

In the case of Jack Dunphy, the countervailing consideration is the need for a police officer to safeguard his job while he speaks necessary truths about his administration. Arguably, that too is a worthy consideration.

I fail to understand why the former countervailing consideration is so critical that it justifies publishing three unsigned opinion pieces every day, whereas the second one is considered so relatively trivial that the officer’s well-written and insightful opinion pieces will be published only under extraordinary circumstances.

Glenn Greenwald: Correct

Filed under: Humor — Patterico @ 10:54 am

After much sincere soul-searching, I have come to conclude that Glenn Greenwald & Co. have a valid argument that hate speech is a more serious problem on the right than on the left. I have allowed my acknowledged partisan feelings to obscure this fact in the past. But I have decided that it’s time for us conservatives to come clean on this issue.

My feelings are set forth more fully here.

L.A. Times Not Alone: Paper Was Just the Latest Target of Thomas Rooney’s Astroturfing Campaign

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 9:25 am

On Friday, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed on deteriorating sewer pipes, written by Thomas Rooney, the head of a company that replaces such pipes. That same day, a blogger at Radosh.net revealed that the piece had been promoted in spam e-mails, and had already been published in other places on the Internet. I wrote this post about the moldy and self-promotional opinion piece, and called it an “op-ad” due to its remarkable resemblance to an actual advertisement that the company had developed to promote its products and services.

Commenter Becky did some more digging, and learned that the op-ad was simply one in a long line of Rooney-penned op-ads run by newspapers throughout the country. In other words, the Los Angeles Times was far from the first publication to fall for Rooney’s self-promoting tactic.

On August 15, 2006, the Boston Globe ran an op-ed by Rooney, about corroding Alaskan oil piplines. Rooney turned the topic around to his favorite issue: corroding sewer pipelines. The piece opened:

AS BAD AS they are, the corroding Alaskan oil pipelines in the news are far from the worst in America — though you might never know that from recent headlines, and as I found out in the media aftermath of the pipeline shutdown.

As head of a company that repairs more oil, water, and sewer pipes than any other firm, I found myself talking to print and electronic reporters from across the country who wanted to know the inside story of the Alaskan pipes.

(All emphasis in this post is mine.)

On August 17, 2006, the Washington Times ran the same op-ed:

Bad as they are, the corroding Alaskan oil pipelines are far from the worst in America, though you might never know it from the recent headlines. I discovered this recently in the media aftermath of the pipeline shutdown.

As president and chief executive officer of a company that repairs more oil, water and sewer pipes than any other company around the world, I found myself talking to print and electronic reporters from across the country who wanted to know the inside story of the Alaskan pipes.

In addition to touting Rooney’s status as president and CEO of a large sewer pipe repair company, both versions of the piece also contained a signature phrase: “[M]ost sewer pipes were built 60 years ago, and only intended to last 50 years.” (You can read the line in the linked Boston Globe piece. To read it in the Washington Times piece, you have to go to page 2, which is available only in the cached form, here.) If you read my previous post, you know that this line sounds a lot like a line from Friday’s L.A. Times op-ad: “Most water and sewer pipes in the United States were built 60 years ago — but were meant to last 50 years. Do the math.” It turns out that some variant of that line appears in just about every piece of writing Rooney ever produces. He probably whispers the line in his sleep.

On August 15, 2006, the same day that this piece in the Boston Globe, the exact same piece appeared on an Internet site for the Water Infrastructure Network.

In September 2006, the hot topic in the news was E. coli in spinach. Here’s how Rooney turned that into an op-ed about sewer pipes, in the Toledo Blade:

WHEN E. coli in spinach makes hundreds of people sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is all over it.

But when millions of people get diseases every year from the same bugs spilling into our waterways from broken sewage pipes, the CDC says nothing.

Very clever. The op-ed also said:

Most sewer pipes were built 60 years ago, but meant to last 50 years.

. . . .

As the president and CEO of a company that inspects and repairs more sewer pipes than any in the world, I’ve seen the problem firsthand.

On October 5, 2006, the Roanoke Times ran an op-ed by Rooney which began:

When E. coli in spinach makes dozens of people sick, the Centers for Disease Control is all over it. But when millions of people get diseases every year from exactly the same bugs spilling into our waterways from broken sewage pipes, the CDC has nothing to say.

Yes, it is the same op-ed as ran in September in the Toledo Blade. And, of course, it has the all-important lines:

Most sewer pipes were built 60 years ago, but meant to last 50 years.

. . . .

As the president and CEO of a company that inspects and repairs more sewer pipes than any in the world, I’ve seen the problem firsthand.

Are you starting to see a pattern?

Rooney next turned his attention to sinkholes. As Radosh.net already documented, a version of an op-ed about sinkholes appeared in Inside the Bay Area in December 2006. On March 13, 2007, the Ashland, Kentucky Daily Independent ran a Rooney-penned letter to the editor that said:

Last year was the worst year ever for sinkholes in America. This year will be worse.

Here’s why: Most sewer pipes were built 60 years ago but meant to last 50 years. They are breaking at record rates doing record damage all over the country — including Ashland. We ignore them until they break — when it’s too late.

As president of the largest oil, water and sewer pipe company in the world, we have video tapes of what these pipes look like from the inside, including some from the Ashland area.

I’m starting to get the sense that Thomas Rooney is the president of the largest oil, water and sewer pipe company in the world. It’s a good thing we have such a company, because (did you know?) most sewer pipes were built 60 years ago, but were meant to last only 50 years.

The “Inside the Bay Area” op-ed reappeared in a blog comment and in spam e-mails in March 2007.

And then, finally, it appeared in the L.A. Times.

Ironically, on December 1, 2006, Rooney ran a piece in Civil Engineering News, which decried the lack of publicity that the issue of deteriorating sewer pipes has received:

As president and CEO of the company that looks inside more broken sewage, water, and oil pipes than any company in the world, I guess we should take our fair share of the blame for not doing more to get the word out. . . .

. . . .

So here is the message civil engineers need to spread: Most water and sewer pipes in America were built 60 years ago, but they were meant to last only 50 years.

He ends the piece with a call to action: everyone must do their part to convince local municipalities that deteriorating sewer pipes need to be replaced. Which, it just so happens, means money in Thomas Rooney’s pocket.

The message is indeed getting out, Mr. Rooney. And who better to spread the word than the “president and CEO of a company that inspects and repairs more sewer pipes than any in the world”?

P.S. In 2005, on this very site, See Dubya had a fascinating guest post about this phenomenon happening with letters to the editor. A guy named Paul Kokoski had managed to get the same letter to the editor (about the election of Pope Benedict XVI) printed in the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Canada’s National Post, and the Miami Herald. The very same guy had a letter about the previous Pope’s death printed in the Irish Times, the Tobago News, the Chicago Sun-Times, Al-Ahram Weekly, the Taipei Times, and the Korea Times — among many others.

Rooney appears to be the op-ed version of that guy.

Consider a Donation

Filed under: War — Patterico @ 9:20 am

Causes that might be worth a few bucks:


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