Patterico's Pontifications


A Very Good Question from Captain Ed

Filed under: General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 8:58 pm

Captain Ed asks a simple question: Since When Has Geneva Protected Our Troops?

We have yet to fight against a wartime enemy that followed the GC with any consistency at all. The Germans routinely violated it even before Hitler began issuing orders to shoot captured pilots, and the massacre at Malmedy only crystallized what had been fairly brutal treatment at the hands of the Nazis for American prisoners (the Luftwaffe was one notable exception). The Japanese treatment of POWs was nothing short of barbaric, both before and after Bataan. The same is true for the North Koreans and the Chinese in the Korean War, and McCain himself is a routine example of the kind of treatment our men suffered at the hands of the Vietnamese.

In this war, this argument seems particularly despicable. We have been treated to images of broken and tortured bodies of our soldiers on television and the Internet, courtesy of the animals who oppose us in this war. No one suffers under the delusion that captured soldiers will ever return alive, let alone receive Geneva-approved treatment. Our enemy doesn’t even fight according to the GC, so why should they treat our soldiers any better than they treat the civilians they target for their attacks?

If Powell and Levin and McCain can name one modern conflict where our enemies gave POWs treatment in accordance with the GC, I’d be glad to post it right here on my blog. Don’t expect that kind of an update any time soon.

This seems like a pretty devastating riposte to anyone who says we must follow the Geneva Convention against nonsignatories who don’t obey it, like Al Qaeda, because we need to ensure that our other more civilized enemies do.

Usually, our enemies are our enemies because they are the type of folks who don’t live up to agreements. If the Geneva Convention has never protected us in the past, why should we worry about applying it to nonsignatory terrorists now?

UPDATE: Dafydd ab Hugh asked the same question a while back. I remember reading Dafydd’s piece and intending to link it, but for some reason I never did. In any event, you should read his take on this issue as well.

UPDATE x2: This L.A. Times piece claims that Common Article 3 actually did protect an American soldier in a battle against Somalis:

In 1993, the United States invoked Common Article 3 protections for Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Durant, who was captured by Somali warlords. Because he was not the prisoner of a government and because Somalia was embroiled in a civil war, traditional Geneva prisoner-of-war protections did not apply. Although Durant had been roughly treated initially, the militants ultimately decided to observe Common Article 3 and allowed the Red Cross to visit Durant.

Interesting. I don’t know whether it’s true or not.

L.A. Times Editors: That Terrible Program We Opposed Before Is Underfunded!

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:59 pm

California’s DNA database is both too small and too large for the editors of the LA. Times.

The Times ran an editorial today, September 15, 2006, titled Underfunded DNA Mandate, complaining that the database is too small. The editorial opens with acclaim for Proposition 69:

TWO YEARS AGO, CALIFORNIA voters made the state a pioneer in DNA crime-busting by passing Proposition 69. The measure has already proved a godsend for crime victims and cops, producing quick arrests and reviving cold cases.

After this effusive praise for Proposition 69, the editorial goes on to complain that there’s not enough funding to enter all the samples that have been collected into the database — meaning it’s too small:

The problem, as Times staff writer Henry Weinstein revealed Thursday, is that the massive increase in DNA samples has overwhelmed the crime lab. Though more than 285,000 samples have been added to the database, there are more than 287,000 yet to be processed, grinding justice to a crawl.

Message: we want a complete DNA database and we want it now! Nothing less will do!

Interesting . . . because the L.A. Times ran an editorial on October 11, 2004, opposing Proposition 69. The editorial was titled A Risk-Filled Use of DNA. I discussed it and excerpted it in this post.

In 2004, the editors didn’t fault Proposition 69 because they believed the database would be underfunded and too small. Instead, they were concerned about privacy and overreaching — in other words, they worried it would be too large! (If you’re interested, I conclusively refuted their hand-wringing, limousine liberal arguments in my previous post.)

Today’s editorial tries to paper over the hypocrisy with only the briefest nod to the paper’s 2004 arguments. That brief acknowledgement is jarring in its internal inconsistency:

Whatever the cause, the problem stands to get a lot worse soon. Starting in 2009, everyone arrested for a felony — not just those convicted — must give a DNA sample. Not only is this an invasion of privacy that could lead to abuses such as police arresting innocent people to get a sample, it is also a logistical time bomb.

Translation: it’s terrible that we’re going to start collecting DNA from such a broad range of people — and even worse, we can’t get that DNA into the system immediately!!!

The database is too small! And the database is too big!

I guess this is what we should expect from a paper that complains we imprison too many first-time drug offenders — and also that we don’t imprison enough of them.

Face it, editors. The law works, and you should not have opposed it.

Three simple words, editors: “We were wrong.” It’s not so hard to say. Give it a try!

P.S. I suppose one could argue that the editors are consistent: they think fewer samples should be taken, so that they can all be entered immediately. But that argument makes sense only if you think it’s important that every sample taken be entered immediately — a proposition which is inconsistent with the position that certain samples (all of which will be taken at a later point in time) shouldn’t be entered at all.

Steve Lopez Contradicts Pattt Morrison on First-Time Drug Dealers Going to Prison

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:22 am

L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez needs to have a talk with L.A. Times columnist Pattt Morrison.

Back in June, Morrison wrote:

One Californian in five has a criminal record (in no small part because the “war on drugs” has been cramming prisons with first-time offenders).

At the time, I said:

That’s just a bunch of baloney. To put it kindly.

I explained that first-time drug offenders, even those who possess with intent to sell, almost never go to prison. I never heard of it happening, nor had my wife. Between us, we have over 20 years of experience in the D.A.’s office. Prosecutors in other California counties left comments confirming my observations (see here and here).

L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez has now learned that I’m right.

Lopez had a column yesterday titled L.A. Dope Peddler Catches a Big Break. Lopez is upset that a first-time drug dealer downtown didn’t get sent to prison, though he had three separate charges and sold eight ounces ($6000 – $7000 worth) of cocaine:

The criminal code calls for a sentence of up to three, four or five years in state prison for each charge — although such sentences are rarely imposed on first-time felons — and Munoz was facing three charges. But he, as well as two associates, all caught a big break.

In a program the district attorney’s office doesn’t particularly love, lots of non-major criminal cases get kicked over to an express-type court where deals are negotiated for the sake of clearing the way for more serious cases. Munoz agreed to plead guilty to one of the three felony charges of selling a controlled substance, the other two were dismissed, and he got a 120-day sentence in L.A. County Jail with three years’ probation. So did his two associates, whom [narcotics detective] Hodges described as his suppliers.

Lopez goes on to explain that under Lee Baca’s early release policy, the 120 days ended up being more like a week or two.

Lopez calls that a “big break.” To many, it may seem like a low jail term for selling over $6000 worth of cocaine. To others, any jail sentence for a drug offense is too much. Me, I’m not opining on the propriety of the sentence. I know several people mentioned in Lopez’s column: Janet Moore, Tom Higgins, and Ron Hodges. I’m not getting in the middle of that.

But the sentence is certainly nothing unusual. As the rest of Lopez’s column makes clear, almost no county in Southern California would have given this dealer prison time. Lopez writes:

I called defense attorney Paul Wallin of Wallin & Klarich, which covers six Southern California counties.

“Criminals aren’t stupid,” Wallin said. “If I’m going to sell drugs, I’m going to sell in downtown L.A.”

Instead of serving roughly 10% of his sentence, Wallin said, Munoz would have done closer to two-thirds of his time elsewhere, and the sentence would have been longer in the first place. He estimated nine months to a year of county jail time in Ventura and San Diego, four to six months in Orange “if you get a really sympathetic judge,” six months to a year in San Bernardino, and in Riverside, “he may go to prison.”

So, according to Lopez’s column, in every county in Southern California but Riverside, a first-time drug offender selling eight ounces of cocaine would avoid prison. In Riverside, he may go to prison.

So what was that about “cramming prisons with first-time offenders” again?


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