Archive for November, 2006
30 Nov 2006

The Militarization of American Police

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Joseph D. McNamara reflects in the Wall Street Journal, in connection with those 50 shots fired in the Sean Bell affair, on an increasing dangerous phenomenon in American life: the militarization of our police.

Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed. An emphasis on “officer safety” and paramilitary training pervades today’s policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn’t shoot until they were about to be shot or stabbed. Police in large cities formerly carried revolvers holding six .38-caliber rounds. Nowadays, police carry semi-automatic pistols with 16 high-caliber rounds, shotguns and military assault rifles, weapons once relegated to SWAT teams facing extraordinary circumstances. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed.

There have been a lot of police in my family, and I grew up around the older school police culture and mentality.

When I was a boy, I once complained to my father that his injunctions about standing up to bullies were impractical when one was outnumbered, and he assured me that the man who knows that he is in the right has a natural powerful advantage over those in the wrong, which is usually decisive in and of itself. Moreover, he observed, criminals and bullies are basically all cowards anyway, and are generally scared to face anyone willing to stand up to them.

There are some limits to the theory, of course, but my life experience persuades me that my father was perfectly correct.

When I was a boy, I also commonly heard the Pennsylvania equivalent versions of the Texan “one riot, one Ranger” story. Policemen typically believed, like my father, that moral ascendancy and personal courage counted for a lot more than brute force.

And, in the old days, police were trained to shoot only as the last possible resort, and to take good aim and hit what you were intending. The idea that police officers required “firepower” would have been laughed at by the men I knew back then. “Firepower?” they would have said. “For what?”

I knew men who served as policemen for thirty years, who never fired on another man once, but who had taken many an armed criminal into custody. If it had ever come to shooting, none of them would ever likely have needed more than one shot per man.

About ten years ago, when I was still living in Connecticut, you could already see the Barney Fife-ification of small town police work setting in. In Brookfield, one day, I saw a local cop stop at McDonald’s for a meal. He was armed with a 15-round Beretta pistol, and was carrying an extra five loaded magazines on his belt. Was he anticipating an attack by a Zulu impi? I wondered. It seemed like an awful lot of weight to carry around, considering the fact that no police officer in Brookfield’s history had ever previously needed to fire a shot in anger.

In my own Connecticut town, the chief of police was always junketing off to remote locations for special FBI training. The Board of Selectmen rained on his parade a bit, when they declined to fund his proposed sniper team. But the federal government nonetheless graciously provided him with a large variety of expensive toys, running the gamut from full-auto M-16s to night-vision devices.

One day, I needed to drop by the Newtown police station to pick up the form for my gun permit. I found myself talking to a secretary hidden away in a bank teller’s window behind bulletproof glass. The police station was now locked up, and fortified. You never know, some aggrieved citizen offended over a parking ticket might drop in one day and attack the poor cowering Newtown cops. The FBI, you see, had told our chief that security was important. You can’t just let ordinary citizens walk in on you.

And so it goes. We increasingly have a bunch of self-important paranoids, practicing and posing in the latest and most expensive hi-tech military gear, trained by some kind of totalitarian Gestapo to fill the air with lead at the slightest provocation.

And we see the results in cases like those of Amadou Dialolo or Sean Bell. Incompetence and cowardice increase with precise proportionality to the increase in police play-pretend militarization. We need to fire all those FBI blackshirts who disseminate these crazy and un-American paranoid procedures and philosophies of firearms use. And we need to turn police work back over to sensible human beings. We need to end the War on Drugs, which supplies most of the pretext for current undesirable trends. And we should take away all the semiautos, the .40 calibers, the 9mm Parabellums (especially the Glocks), and give those cops back nice old-fashioned six-shot .38 Special revolvers and billy clubs.

30 Nov 2006

Iraq Committee Too Yellow to Advise Outright Withdrawal

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The Times reports a leak from the James Baker-led Iraq Study Group. Predictably, a committtee made up of nearly-all-liberal has-been political hacks and trimmers (and mysteriously Alan Simpson) produced exactly what one would expect: a highly unspecific affirmation of the preferred policy of the chattering class establishment, i.e. withdrawal, cravenly couched so as to affix to the committee as little responsibility for any actual decision or result as possible.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal, according to people familiar with the panel’s deliberations.

The report, unanimously approved by the 10-member panel, led by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, is to be delivered to President Bush next week. It is a compromise between distinct paths that the group has debated since March, avoiding a specific timetable, which has been opposed by Mr. Bush, but making it clear that the American troop commitment should not be open-ended. The recommendations of the group, formed at the request of members of Congress, are nonbinding.

At the present time, as I watch one ambitious member after another of our policy establishment hold his finger in the air, conclude that the media and the domestic left has won, that the United States has been beaten by the Avenging Swords of the New Yorker and the Party of God of the Times, and that the time has come to scuttle over to the domestic camp of defeatism and make his personal obeisance in the direction of Michael Moore, I really wonder if it might not be possible to trade our entire corps of policy intellectuals to Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for some inferior quality herd of sheep.

29 Nov 2006

Life Among the White-Tails

Odocoileus virginianus virginianus

I decided this afternoon to use the telephone in our second-floor bedroom, which features a picture window overlooking the rear acreage and (in the distance) the Shenandoah Valley. While I was chatting with a friend in New York, deer started appearing in the second mown field, just past the back yard.

First, we had a doe accompanied by four fawns. But, before long, an entire procession of does and fawns began emerging from the woods.

Their progress was too irregular for me to be able to make a good count, but there must have been more than 20 in the herd. Then, finally, in broad daylight, and right in the middle of hunting season, arrived the imperial buck himself, horns shining in the daylight.

He was only about a six-pointer. His rack was low and square, with short tines, so he was not terribly old. But he was a handsome buck, well muscled and in prime condition.

I took my eyes off him for an instant, and when I looked back, there he was, engaged in combat. A younger and smaller buck, who must have been a spiker, as I couldn’t even discern his horns, had been driven head-first to the ground. The 6-pointer skillfully used his rack to pin his rivals head to the ground, and was delivering a vigorous thumping.

The younger buck was not enjoying all this a bit. He kept trying to twist free, and escape his punishment. But the old buck determinedly pinned him down, and pounded away.

Finally, the smaller buck submitted completely, and the older buck grudgingly released him. Then his polygamous majesty stalked off triumphantly, herding the last laggard does and fawns away from the society of the unworthy ruffian.

The defeated buck was left momentarily alone, deserted and disconsolate. But, after only a moment, he gathered his modest cervine wits, and set off, slinking, again in pursuit of the champion’s herd of females. Who knows? Even alpha bucks have to sleep sometime, he probably thought to himself.

29 Nov 2006

Mountain Lion Expelled From Humboldt State

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An academically-inclined mountain lion (Felix concolor) recently took up residence on the sylvan campus of Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, denning up under a university office building, and apparently surviving on a cannibalistic diet of domestic tabbies. The puma had become so blasé where people were concerned, that he would insolently stop to groom himself when confronted by night shift campus police before disappearing into the night.

The trespassing cougar was finally tracked down, tranquillized, and rusticated far off campus by a posse comitatus led by University Professor of Wildlife Richard Golightly.

Humboldt State News Online

Arcata Eye


Hat tip to Karen Myers.

29 Nov 2006

Jury Verdict Impossible to Understand

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The Morning Call reports:

Five Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) police officers used excessive force to restrain a man high on crack cocaine who killed a drug dealer with a samurai sword and set him on fire, a federal jury ruled Tuesday night.

The verdict, after four hours of deliberation, stunned officers Matthew Crenko, Matthew Lazur, David Strawn, William Kissner and Louis Csaszar, and surprised Senior U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam, who called it ”remarkable.”

Sonny Thomas claimed he didn’t resist police efforts to handcuff him, but jurors found the officers violated his constitutional rights when they punched and kicked him that night in January 2005.

Thomas, 50, who testified he suffered bruises and recurring migraine headaches as a result of the violent scuffle, sought $35 million in damages but was awarded $1.

The jury found that five other officers named in the suit — Jeremy Alleshouse, John Iatarola, Mark DiLuzio, Moses Miller and Ronald Brazinski — did not use aggressive force or violate Thomas’ Fourth, Fifth and 15th Amendment rights of due process and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

It’s impossible to sympathize with the defendant’s claims of “bruises and recurring migraine headaches.” And the judge’s comment on the jury’s verdict (“remarkable”) seems to indicate that he disagreed with their decision.

But they awarded the defendant a mere $1, which has to be interpreted as indicating that they believed the police behaved improperly, and felt obliged to rule accordingly, but had no inclination to do anything meaningful for the defendant whatsoever. I would say that Mr. Birkbeck has misreported the story completely. He immediately arouses our indignation at the defendant’s actions, supplies no information supporting the jury’s decision, and simply treats the whole affair as a “man bites dog” bizarre incident. But there was clearly a bit more going on here.

29 Nov 2006

Asteroid’s Revenge


You are an asteroid who has seen many of your brethren blasted out of existence by evil spaceships in the original game. The loss of your fellow rocks pains you deeply, and you have longed for revenge. Now you are going to get those spaceships.


28 Nov 2006

What American Accent?


What American Accent Do You Have?



I got:

Your Result: Boston
You definitely have a Boston accent, even if you think you don’t. Of course, that doesn’t mean you are from the Boston area, you may also be from New Hampshire or Maine.

Doesn’t make much sense to me. I’m from Pennsylvania originally. And I certainly do not speak like a Bostonian.

28 Nov 2006

Those Imams Were Up To No Good

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The Washington Times reports that those ullulating imams removed from a US Airways flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix

Muslim religious leaders removed from a Minneapolis flight last week exhibited behavior associated with a security probe by terrorists and were not merely engaged in prayers, according to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials.

Witnesses said three of the imams were praying loudly in the concourse and repeatedly shouted “Allah” when passengers were called for boarding US Airways Flight 300 to Phoenix.

“I was suspicious by the way they were praying very loud,” the gate agent told the Minneapolis Police Department.

Passengers and flight attendants told law-enforcement officials the imams switched from their assigned seats to a pattern associated with the September 11 terrorist attacks and also found in probes of U.S. security since the attacks — two in the front row first-class, two in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle and two in the rear of the cabin.

“That would alarm me,” said a federal air marshal who asked to remain anonymous. “They now control all of the entry and exit routes to the plane.”

A pilot from another airline said: “That behavior has been identified as a terrorist probe in the airline industry.”..

According to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials, the imams displayed other suspicious behavior.

Three of the men asked for seat-belt extenders, although two flight attendants told police the men were not oversized. One flight attendant told police she “found this unsettling, as crew knew about the six [passengers] on board and where they were sitting.” Rather than attach the extensions, the men placed the straps and buckles on the cabin floor, the flight attendant said.

The imams said they were not discussing politics and only spoke in English, but witnesses told law enforcement that the men spoke in Arabic and English, criticizing the war in Iraq and President Bush, and talking about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

All this sounds like their actions were calculated as a test of current flight security which, if they provoked a reaction, could opportunistically be used to complain about profiling.

Original Story

27 Nov 2006

From a Private Email List


Wit and wisdom from the military manuals and flight records:

A slipping gear could let your M203 grenade launcher fire when you least expect it. That would make you quite unpopular in what’s left of your unit. — Army’s magazine of preventive maintenance

Aim towards the enemy. — Instruction printed on U.S. rocket launcher

When the pin is pulled Mr. Grenade is not our friend. — U.S. Marine Corps

It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed. — U.S. Air Force Manual

Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons. — General MacArthur

Five-second fuses only last three seconds. — Infantry Journal

If your attack is going too well, you’re walking into an ambush. —Infantry Journal

No combat-ready unit has ever passed inspection. —Joe Gay

Any ship can be a minesweeper. Once. — Unknown

The three most common expressions (or famous last words) in aviation are: “Why is it doing that?”, “Where are we?” and “Oh S…!”

Airspeed, altitude, and brains. Two are always needed to complete the flight successfully.

If something hasn’t broken on your helicopter, it’s about to.

Basic Flying Rules: Try to stay in the middle of the air. Do not go near the edges of it. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees, and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.

Hat tip to ES.


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27 Nov 2006

New York Bachelor Party Shooting

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Sean Bell, the unfortunate groom-to-be, shot by undercover NY police in the aftermath of his bachelor party at the Kalua Cabaret strip club in Queens made a serious mistake, according to this FOXNews report.

(One) undercover (officer), thinking there was about to be a drive-by shooting in front of the club involving Bell’s group, followed Guzman, Bell and two others to their car.

“It’s getting hot! Something’s going to happen! Something’s going down!” the undercover radioed to his backup.

He hurried to the front of Bell’s Altima, which was parked on the side of a nearby street, and jumped in front of it.

That’s when the undercover put his right leg up on the hood of the Altima and began screaming that he was a cop, the sources said.

The cop was leaning over the hood of the car to try to see the hands of the people inside and make sure they didn’t have any guns, they said. But Bell floored the gas pedal and headed for the cop, the sources said, striking him and badly cutting his knee.

One of the Altima’s passengers — who possibly had a gun — jumped out of the back of the car, the sources said.

Around the same time, an unmarked Toyota Camry driven by a plainclothes police lieutenant and another cop behind him pulled up, but overshot Bell’s car. A police van with an officer and the narcotics detective then managed to block Bell’s car in.

Bell’s Altima first struck the police van in the driver’s desperate bid to escape, then backed up and struck the roll-down metal doors of a commercial building behind him. He then revved his car again toward the undercover — which prompted the cop to scream, “He’s got a gun!” and start firing, according to the sources, with the bullets passing through Bell’s car.

“The undercover thought they had more than one gun. He thought they would do anything to get away. He was yelling, ‘Let me see your hands!'” one source said.

The other cops, thinking they were under attack, started firing at the car, too.

Unfortunate, and doubtless a classic example of poor police marksmanship and gun-handling, but one is forced to face the fact that choosing to attempt to run down a police officer was a very bad decision on Mr. Bell’s part, resulting in Mr. Bell himself bearing the primary responsibility for subsequent unfortunate events.

One could not help reflect that if only the unfortunate shooting victim had previously viewed this helpful Chris Rock video: How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked By Police, he might have avoided making that particular fatal mistake.

27 Nov 2006

Some Kind Words For President Bush

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John L. Overland, Jr., Esq.

Even as I write this I know that people smarter than I will have written their own concise and analytical commentaries as to what went wrong for Republicans during the mid-term elections of 2006 and for me, that’s OK. My intent is not to analyze what went wrong for us but to express my own appreciation to a man often belittled, often maligned, and often unjustly so. That man is my President, George W. Bush, and right now I sincerely believe that the President needs some kind words. He has received damned little in the course of his Presidency. Instead, throughout his Presidency and certainly in the last week he has suffered the most vicious attacks, consistently from the Left but lately even from certain of us on the Right, and it’s time to provide an honest appraisal.

I have a few problems with Gerge W. Bush myself, but I always reconsider when I reflect upon his ability to drive the lefties right around the bend. Nobody who affects leftists the way the crucifix affects vampires can be all bad.

27 Nov 2006

Al Gore Told Us: Hurricanes Will Increase Due to Global Warming

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2006 was predicted by the climatologists who believe in Global Warming, and by the climatologists who don’t believe in Global Warming, to be a humdinger of a year for storms, as “Global Warming of the oceans” spawned more vigorous and more numerous storms, or simply as the regular climatic cycle ticked round to a period of greater storm activity.

But, as the Tampa Tribune observes, all those predictions failed to pan out.

It was not the hurricane season we expected, thank you.

With cataclysmic predictions that hurricanes would swarm from the tropics like termites, no one thought 2006 would be the most tranquil season in a decade.

Barring a last-second surprise from the tropics, the season will end Thursday with nine named storms, and only five of those hurricanes. This year is the first season since 1997 that only one storm nudged its way into the Gulf of Mexico.

Still, Florida was hit by two tropical storms, Alberto and Ernesto. But after the pummeling of the previous two years, the storms barely registered on the public’s radar.

So what happened? Lots.

Storms were starved for fuel after ingesting masses of dry Saharan dust and air over the Atlantic Ocean. Scientists say the storm-snuffing dust was more abundant than usual this year.

In the season’s peak, storms were curving right like errant field goals. High pressure that normally hunkers near Bermuda shifted far eastward, and five storms rode the clockwise winds away from Florida.

Finally, a rapidly growing El Nino, a warming of water over the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifted winds high in the atmosphere southward. The winds left developing storms disheveled and unable to become organized.

As they say about the stock market: Past results are no indication of future performance.

Take off the bedsheet, and come down from the roof, Al! The world isn’t ending after all.

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