Patterico's Pontifications

11/26/2007

Who Is “Investigate The Media”?

Filed under: Blogging Matters — DRJ @ 11:03 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

I recently posted on a blog claim that the San Francisco Chronicle deletes and bans dissenting comments and commenters.

The blog, Investigate the Media, was linked by Instapundit, Ace, LittleGreenFootballs, and others.

Investigate The Media has only one entry – the SF Chronicle entry – and that makes me curious. I’ve updated the earlier post to reflect my concerns. Does anyone know how I can find out more about this blog?

— DRJ

L.A. Times Responds on Releasing Undercover Officer’s Name

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:30 pm

Reader Dana recently wrote Readers’ Representative Jamie Gold regarding the paper’s decision to release the name of an undercover LAPD officer, despite the fact that LAPD had asked for his name to be withheld. I discussed this in a post, here. Dana first mentioned this e-mail in a comment, here. Here is Dana’s full e-mail:

To whom it may concern:

Regarding the LAPD officer injured as he was hit by a car during a drug probe in Boyle Heights on Tuesday, I would like to know why the L.A. Times named the officer publicly when it was clear he was an undercover officer?

Your article states that the LAPD did not release his name due to his position and that ‘officials’ did. Who are these officials? And who do you think you people on Spring Street are to ‘choose’ to reveal his identity, thereby possibly putting he and his family in jeopardy? What benefit did the officer, his family, or the public derive from having this information made public?

You owe the public an explanation for this decision and disclosure because if the LAPD felt it prudent and wise to not release his name, who are you to override that and determine otherwise?

Dana [last name redacted]

Jamie Gold responded with an explanation that, if true (and I assume it is) is pretty good:

Thank you for writing, Ms. [redacted]. As it happens, the officer’s name was released publicly by the mayor, with LAPD officials present, at a news conference at the hospital. That announcement was carried live by the various L.A. television and radio outlets.

Late that afternoon, the department asked the press not to use the name — some seven hours after it had been announced by department and city officials and released on the airwaves.

It’s also worth noting that [officer’s name redacted] fired his weapon at the suspect — which means that, under California law, the police agency is required to disclose his identity. (After shootings involving SIS — a secretive unit formed to coordinate surveillance against criminal suspects — officials routine[ly] identify their members when they are involved in a shooting.)

Reporters didn’t not [sic] release any physical description or images of him at the scene, in any case.

I hope this addresses your concerns — and now I have a question for you: The readers’ representative office will next week begin publishing an online forum that will explore a number of issues that readers raise. It will be a page at latimes.com, featuring reader questions and editors’ responses. Because your question touches on an issue that is no doubt of interest to many readers and comes up now and again, would you allow this office to publish your question? I will print only the question and your name — much as is done with letters to the editor (no e-mail address).

Thank you for your consideration. And thank you again for taking the time to raise this point.

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

p.s. Apologies if I have the gender wrong by addressing you as “Ms” [redacted]. That happens with my name as well. (For the record, I’m a “Ms.”) (though you can call me Jamie…)

I have two reactions.

First, as I indicated above, I think the paper has a pretty good argument here. The phrase “the cat was out of the bag” comes to mind. Arguably, the paper did further damage by printing it in the paper — even publishing the officer’s name on the front-page, in a “teaser’ summary of stories inside the paper. But it’s hard to argue that the paper’s deed was all that dastardly, given that local TV stations had apparently broadcast this undercover officer’s name all over Los Angeles.

Second, I have a rather disappointed reaction about the new “Readers’ Representative blog.” When I first heard about this “blog,” I thought that it was going to be just that: a blog, with all the interactivity that word promises. It’s now sounding less like a blog, where readers can talk back and demand answers on topic they believe important — and more like a “forum” where the “Readers’ Representative” cherry-picks certain questions that she doesn’t mind answering. It’s sadly fitting that, apparently, she wants one of the first questions to touch on a topic where readers thought the paper had acted badly — but in reality, maybe it didn’t!

The paper is misunderstood, dontcha see.

I’ll still wait to see what actually develops. But my vision of a hard-hitting, truly interactive blog is looking like it may not become a reality.

Googling Yagman

Filed under: Crime,General,Humor,Scum — Patterico @ 9:52 pm

When you Google “Yagman” the top result is his law firm.

The second result is a post of mine about his getting indicted.

yagman-google-result.JPG

Heh.

It’s a similar result when you Google “Stephen Yagman” — with the second result being a post about his whiny little lawsuit over Jerry LeFrois’s letter.

stephen-yagman-google-result.JPG

Heh again.

So what’s it going to take to push us to #1?

An Army of Ellensburgs

Filed under: General,Humor — Patterico @ 9:02 pm

Heh.

(Via Dan Collins.)

But Ace should be listed as a co-author, and perhaps the lead author.

JCG on the Second Amendment Case

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,General — Patterico @ 7:58 pm

Jan Crawford Greenburg has a post that begins:

The other day I spent most of the morning with a .38 in my hand.

She makes some predictions about the upcoming Second Amendment case in the Supreme Court.

You’d do well not to argue with her.

UPDATE: Some commenters decided to argue with her, despite my warnings, and got Jan to issue an update correcting her statement that only few states issue concealed weapons permits.

This shows that she is intellectually honest, which we already knew.

Yagman Sentencing Update – One More Day…

Filed under: Crime,Scum — Justin Levine @ 6:33 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

As Patterico has previously noted, the sentencing of Stephen Yagman has been delayed on numerous occasions.

The hearing continued today, following a six-hour hearing last week. The sentence pronouncement was continued until 9:30 tomorrow [Tuesday – 11/27].

It is unclear what Judge Stephen Wilson might ultimately hand down, but he is definitely asking some insightful questions –

Wilson expressed doubt over assertions about Yagman’s failing health, noting that until very recently, Yagman still practiced law, traveled and fought an eviction case in New York.

“How do you reconcile his desire to continue to practice in one of the most stressful areas with his medical condition?” Wilson asked.

Meanwhile, some good advice for Yagman can be found here.

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I fixed one small error in the post; the six-hour hearing was Friday Wednesday and not today. The linked story has surprisingly little information on today’s proceedings, or why the pronouncement of sentence had to be delayed yet another day.

UPDATE x2 BY PATTERICO: Actually, although the story says the six-hour hearing was Friday, I think it was actually last Wednesday. KNBC is falling prey to the assumption that the previous business day before today (Monday) was a Friday. But, due to the Thanksgiving holiday, it was actually last Wednesday.

UPDATE x3 BY PATTERICO: More here.

British Human Rights Group: Don’t Overlook What the US has Done Right in the War on Terror

Filed under: Terrorism,War — DRJ @ 5:32 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Buried in the same UK Times Online article that I posted about here is a positive analysis by Justice, a British human rights group, of the way the US wages the war on terror and the importance of FBI phone tap evidence:

Swift Justice

Gordon Brown’s plans to double the detention period for terror suspects face further opposition with a report showing that America needs just 48 hours to file charges in Al-Qaeda cases.

The report by Justice, the human rights group, will say this week that Brown’s plans to extend precharge detention to 56 days are untenable. It says: “No western democracy faces a greater threat of terrorism than the US. Despite this, the proven ability of US law enforcement to charge suspects in complex terror plots within 48 hours of arrest without resort to exceptional measures shows that UK proposals to extend precharge detention are both unjustified and unnecessary.”

The report emphasises the importance of FBI phone tap evidence and Brown is considering whether such intercept evidence should be allowed in Britain.

Eric Metcalfe, the Justice report’s author, said: “From Guantanamo Bay to rendition to torture, the US has done a lot of things badly wrong in the fight against terrorism. “But in the rush to extend precharge detention here in the UK, we sometimes overlook what they are doing right.”

I take that as a compliment. A very, very British compliment but a compliment nonetheless.

— DRJ

Al Qaeda, Turkey and Louai al-Sakka

Filed under: Terrorism,War — DRJ @ 4:45 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Yesterday’s UK Times Online published an article about Louai al-Sakka, described as an al Qaeda kingpin currently imprisoned in Turkey. Al-Sakka is a 34-year-old Syrian-born al Qaeda member who claims to have trained the 9/11 hijackers and to have been a close ally in Iraq of the insurgent, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

It’s not clear if al-Sakka is really, as he claims, a senior al Qaeda operative or if he has claimed to be one to enhance his value as a captive. (He was convicted last year of terrorist bomb plots and he may be trying to shield more senior al Qaeda members.) Al-Sakka’s lawyer claims he was the “number one networker for Al-Qaeda in Europe, Iran, Turkey and Syria.”

Whatever his status, there seems to be no doubt al-Sakka was involved in significant terrorist training and events stretching back many years:

“By his own account he is a senior Al-Qaeda operative who was at the forefront of the insurgency in Iraq, took part in the beheading of Briton Kenneth Bigley and helped train the 9/11 bombers. He has been jailed in connection with the bombing of the British consulate in Istanbul.”

Apart from the headline-grabbing claims, the article reveals several nuggets of information that are probably reliable. For instance, al-Sakka comes from a wealthy family:

“According to the documents provided by Karahan, Sakka grew up in the ancient city of Aleppo, Syria, the son of a wealthy factory owner, and followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming the general manager of a company that sold one of Syria’s most popular washing-up liquids. But he was drawn to the Islamic cause from a young age, according to his memoir.”

He was motivated to be a jihadi by Syrian politics and not by Western politics, actions or ideology:

His politics were shaped by the conflict between President Hafez al-Assad, the former Syrian dictator, and the Muslim Brotherhood, an underground Islamic group. When Sakka was nine, Assad quelled an uprising by the brotherhood in the town of Hama by killing an estimated 10,000 people. “Like any other Muslim boy he was deeply affected by these events,” says his memoir.”

Al-Sakka’s quest to became a jihadi started during the Bosnian and Chechen conflicts:

When the Bosnian war opened a new front for jihadists in the early 1990s, Sakka left his job and headed for the conflict. He stayed in Turkey initially and established the “mujaheddin service office”, which provided medical support for Bosnia and later the two Chechen wars.”

Even before 9/11, Turkey was and is a central hub for terrorist support such as the preparation of false passports and visas, and Turkish authorities knew about it:

“One of Sakka’s chief roles was to organise passports and visas for the volunteers to make their way to Afghanistan through Pakistan. His ability to keep providing high-quality forged papers made Turkey a main hub for Al-Qaeda movements, his lawyer says. The young men came to Turkey pretending to be on holiday and Sakka’s false papers allowed them to “disappear” overseas.

Turkish intelligence were aware of unusual militant Islamic activity in the Yalova mountains, where Sakka had set up his camps. But they posed no threat to Turkey at the time.”

For several of the hijackers, the path to 9/11 led from the terrorist training hub of Turkey to Chechnya. Afghanistan was an afterthought or back-up plan:

“But a bigger plot was developing. In late 1999, Karahan says, a group of four young Saudi students went to Turkey to prepare for fighting in Chechnya. “They wanted to be good Muslims and join the jihad during their holidays,” he said.

They had begun a path that was to end with the September 11 attacks on America in 2001. They were: Ahmed and Hamza al-Ghamdi who hijacked the plane that crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center; their companion Saeed al-Ghamdi whose plane crashed in a Pennsylvanian field; and Nawaf al-Hazmi who died in the Pentagon crash.

They undertook Sakka’s physical training programme in the mountains and later were joined by two of the other would-be hijackers: Majed Moqed, who also perished in the Pentagon crash, and Satam al-Suqami, who was in the first plane that hit the north tower.

Moqed and Suqami had been hand-picked by Al-Qaeda leaders in Saudi Arabia specifically for the twin towers operation, Sakka says, and were en route to Afghanistan. Sakka persuaded the other four to go to Afghanistan after plans to travel to Chechnya were aborted because of problems crossing the border.

Supporting al-Sakka’s claim, the 9/11 Commission Report found evidence that the hijackers al-Sakka says he trained “had initially intended to go to Chechnya from Turkey but the border into Georgia was closed.” Instead, they went to Afghanistan and Pakistan for further training. Al-Sakka even helped clean the hijackers’ Pakistani visas off their passports so they could more easily enter the US.

Al-Sakka’s account suggests the official 9/11 history may have incorrectly identified the pilot of the plane that hit the Pentagon:

According to Sakka, Nawaf al-Hazmi was a veteran operative who went on to pilot the plane that hit the Pentagon. Although this is at odds with the official account, which says the plane was flown by another hijacker, it is plausible and might answer one of the mysteries of 9/11.

The Pentagon plane performed a complex spiral dive into its target. Yet the pilot attributed with flying the plane “could not fly at all” according to his flight instructors in America. Hazmi, on the other hand, had mixed reviews from his instructors but they did remark on how “adept” he was on his first flight.

Paul Thompson, author and 9/11 researcher, said Sakka’s account was credible. “I think there is a lot more about the history of the hijackers that needs to be found out and Sakka’s claim may resume the debate about just how much was known about them before 9/11,” he said.”

During the invasion of Afghanistan, al-Sakka apparently left for Fallujah, Iraq, while Zarqawi may have fled to Iran. It was in Fallujah that al-Sakka claimed to have killed British hostage Kenneth Bigley, where he says Bigley was buried. The British were unable to find Bigley’s body based on a map al-Sakka provided. The Turks claim al-Sakka is insane or lying.

In summary, this article supports other reports that jihadis don’t fight because they are poor or uneducated, nor are they particularly motivated by anger at the West. In addition, it suggests Turkey is central to al Qaeda’s network and operations. It is repeatedly described as al Qaeda’s hub. Like Saudi Arabia, Turkey’s relationship with Muslim fundamentalists is complicated, and that relationship helps explain Turkey’s reluctance to publicly participate in the Iraq War and the war on terror.

— DRJ

Morton’s – R.I.P. [Gratuitous Name Dropping Alert]

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Justin Levine @ 2:30 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

In the past, when friends from out of town visited me in L.A., they often asked where they could go to see famous people. I told them they can always buy the ‘Maps To The Homes Of Hollywood Stars’ and see if lightning strikes for them with that method. There were also certain areas and shops that provided an increased chance of seeing somebody famous if they hung around there long enough. Having lunch at the Ivy would give you a better than 50-50 shot of seeing somebody famous. But if you wanted a 100% surefire guarantee of seeing somebody famous – I knew of only two options:

1. Go to a home NBA Laker game close to or during the playoffs. You are guaranteed to see Jack Nicholson there.

2. Go to Morton’s for dinner on a Monday night. You are guaranteed to see Ben Stein.

Actually, I don’t even know if method # 2 is still valid these days. But it certainly was for a long stretch in the late 90’s. That’s where I met Ben Stein. I only went to Morton’s on Monday maybe 6 or 7 times in my life. But each time I did, I saw Stein there every single time. Eventually, I spoke with him, and he was kind enough to give me advice about getting through law school.

Ben Stein was having dinner at the time. Normally, its rude to walk up and interrupt someone of Stein’s stature when he is having dinner. But at Morton’s, such table hopping was expected – provided that you had at least a modicum of Hollywood street cred. That’s what made the place so great.

Fortunately, I had the Hollywood mojo on that evening. I had worked briefly at a talent agency where we represented an actress who often turned heads when she walked into a room. She was with me for drinks that night, and was kind enough to accompany me to Ben Stein’s table, subtly conveying the message that it was OK for me to interrupt people’s dinner at Morton’s (although Stein himself is such a cool dude that I’m not sure I needed the ‘Hollywood street cred’ to come up and ask him a question).

Anyway, my drinking date was a trooper as she just quietly hung by my side as arm candy while the great Ben Stein and I geeked out on law school talk. [She was from Europe, so I’m not sure she even knew who Ben Stein was.] It was a magical moment, and I’m proud to say that I resisted temptation and didn’t embarrass myself by saying “Bueller?…Bueller?” in front of him.

Sadly, another L.A. icon is set to die a slow death. [I mean the place – not Stein.]

This is becoming a city of ghosts. A wake is definitely in order. I will miss it.

Trent Lott to Resign

Filed under: Government,Politics — DRJ @ 1:05 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Trent Lott, the senior Senator from Mississippi and GOP Whip, announced today he will resign at the end of the year or in early January:

“Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) announced Monday that he will retire from the Senate effective late next month or early January, stunning Republicans who had only last year reinstated Lott to their leadership ranks.

“It’s time for us to do something else,” he said at a press conference in his hometown of Pascagoula, Miss.

Lott, 66, made the decision over the Thanksgiving weekend at home with his family, saying that his state’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina had improved sufficiently so that he felt he could pass “the flag” to a younger generation of Mississippians. Lott’s move shocked Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have seen a wave of veterans announce their decision to retire next year as the GOP looks increasingly certain to remain in the minority.

But Lott is the most senior Republican to announce he is leaving office, and his decision comes barely a year after he won re-election to a six-year term.”

I’m a cynic when it comes to Lott. I think he’s ready to move into a lobbyist position and wants to avoid the 2-year waiting period:

“Lott’s departure is equally stunning because, after cruising to his re-election last year, he completed a political rehabilitation from allegations of racial insensitivity because of remarks he made at a 100th birthday party for Strom Thurmond in December 2002, which led to his banishment from GOP leadership. Last November, after four years as a back-bench Republican who burnished his image as a deal-maker, Lott won a narrow race to become GOP whip, the No. 2 post in leadership.

Lott said that he was going to move into the private sector after 35 years in Congress, but denied that he was getting out before a new two-year “cooling-off” restriction takes effect on Jan. 1. The restriction bars lawmakers from taking lobbying jobs for two years after they leave public service. Lott also denied that health issues were the cause. “Let me make it clear: There are no problems, I feel fine,” he said.”

Lott was an effective GOP Whip and he brought many skills to the Senate that benefited Republicans and Mississippians. But he’s an old-style, earmark-entrenched politician and I’m glad to see him move on.

— DRJ


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