Monday, April 30, 2007

taser this

Part of the whole idea of Taser stun guns is that they are supposed to save lives and decrease injuries. The theory is that, in some situations, police can use them "as a safer alternative to other uses of force," as TASER International itself puts it.

Well, yes and no. In Texas, there's been some good controversy of late over their use.

The issue got a burst of attention when Fred Weary -- who plays on the Texans football team -- was tasered in November after being pulled over for a traffic violation, under very disputed circumstances.

Then in January, the Houston Chronicle published an extensive investigation on the use of Tasers by police in Houston, finding that:
* since the introduction of Tasers, "officers have shot, wounded and killed as many people as before the widespread use of the stun guns"
* "in 95 percent of [cases] they were not used to defuse situations in which suspects wielded weapons and deadly force clearly would have been justified."
* "more than half of the Taser incidents escalated from relatively common police calls, such as traffic stops, disturbance and nuisance complaints, and reports of suspicious people."

Now, there are several bills in the Texas Legislature that would require various levels of restrictions on Taser use.

Back in Houston, the city is doing some kind of official inquiry, and the person leading the inquiry told the Chronicle last week that the initial findings show that yes, many of the Taser cases are not about avoiding using guns but about officers trying to avoid physical confrontations.

What happened to the FBI?

As mid-size papers across the country strain to remain relevant, it's always nice to see cases of them still doing their own reporting on national or international topics that we haven't heard much or enough about.

Earlier this month, the Seattle Post-Intelligcencer published an article based on original statistical analysis showing that the FBI's "Focus on national security after 9/11 means that the agency has turned its back on thousands of white-collar crimes."

Among the findings:

* White-collar crime investigations by the bureau have plummeted in recent years. In 2005, the FBI sent prosecutors 3,500 cases -- a fraction of the more than 10,000 cases assigned to agents in 2000.
* Civil rights investigations, which include hate crimes and police abuse, have continued a steady decline since the late 1990s. FBI agents pursued 65 percent fewer cases in 2005 than they did in 2000.

Friday, April 27, 2007

two notes from the Globe

Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe speaks to Salon about his Pullitzer Prize, which he recently won for his coverage of Bush's use of signing statements. He talks about how after he broke the story in the mainstream press, other outlets mostly ignored it (because they didn't want to repeat his extensive reporting and tell a story that had already been reported elsewhere... even though this left many people in the US completely unaware of the signing statement controversy for weeks or months). It sort of reads as if Savage is tooting his own horn, but I think everything he says is completely true.

In other news from the Globe, Rick Klein reported on Wednesday that Congress is moving toward passage of two gay rights bills -- the one on hate crimes and the one on employment discrimination. Both include gender identity. The White House isn't saying if they're going to veto or not. The Washington Blade, of course, had stuff on this a couple weeks ago, I now realize. I haven't seen it elsewhere in the mainstream, though.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

those Amnesty International people

On Tuesday they released a report examing widespread rape of Native American and Alaska Native women -- and showing how and why so often there is no justice following these crimes.

See coverage in AP, NYT and All Things Considered.

Addendum: Washington Post.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cable news porn

By cable news porn, I mean those men yelling at eachother -- hey, you know you want to watch it.

The debate between O'Reilly and Geraldo last week was actually somewhat interesting, at least in parts. O'Reilly lost his cool, as they say. I'm surprised they aired all of that -- it's been documented that O'Reilly at least sometimes cuts out parts he doesn't like.

You can watch the video here. If that link has been removed by the time you get there, just go to youtube and search for O'Reilly and Geraldo.

As the Denver Post editorial page keenly noted about this segment, "When Geraldo is the voice of reason driving home solid points, you know things are out of hand."

About those U.N. troops in Darfur

On Monday, Sudan announced that it would allow the "second phase" (of three) of the implementation of a hybrid African Union / United Nations peacekeeping force. This is the "heavy support package" that will include 3000 UN troops.

Over the last half a year or so, there have been many news reports of "Sudan accepts this" or "Sudan accepts that," almost all of which turn out to be nonsense. Headline writers have been fooled quite a bit, and it's a discrace, actually.

This announcement seems more genuine, though I wouldn't but too much money on it. Even if all goes perfectly, which it won't, it would be several months before these U.N. folks arrive. But it's be a good step in the right direction if it actually happens.

Anyhow, today, the headline writers at the Post -- and to a lesser extent the NYT -- still couldn't get it right, grossly misportraying what was announced. The LATimes did far better.

NYT: "Sudan Drops Objections to U.N. Aid In Darfur". Front page reefer: "Sudan to Allow U.N. in Darfur"

Post: "Sudan To Allow U.N. Force in Darfur". sub-head: "Peacekeepers Will Aid African Union"

LATimes: "Sudan accepts limited U.N. role in Darfur". sub-head: "The world body will supply attack helicopters and command a largely African force. Diplomats react with hope and skepticism."

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Gowanus Lounge reports: Community Board Six Rejects Sixth & Seventh Ave. One-Way Proposal.

That racist schmuck

What will it take for the media to talk about Giuliani in at least a quasi-realistic way?

For years, he has been a mythical hero -- a case study in how centrist media embraces a complete wacko because they like him personally.

As Newsweek wrote the history in their cover-story from a few weeks ago, "As long as Rudy got results, the public didn't particularly care how he did it, or how many fights he picked."


That article, titled "Master of Disaster", epitomizes the media attitutde toward Giuliani. They write off almost anything that doesn't fit with the storyline of him as hero.

Media Matters, in their response to Newsweek, hit some of the key points, a lot based on Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins' book.

The question is, with Giuliani running for Prez, will the media finally take a real look at his history?

The LATimes was - perhaps not surprisingly - the first to step in and offer up the theory that, maybe, just maybe, Giuliani did a few things wrong. In their front pager last Sunday, they point out that some "foes" suggested that his performance in regards to 9/11 wasn't so hot. Now, they weren't willing to put these criticism into their own voice; they were just quoting others. So that's a hesitant start; just a he-said-she-said piece. But it's better than nothing.

I see the Giuliani criticisms falling into two general areas: he was a racist, pro-police brutality mayor, and his performance before, during, and after 9/11 was horrible.

Unfortunatley, I don't think the 1st area is going to get much talk, but the 2nd could make a nice little controversy (if 5 years late). It's going to be hard for the media to jump into it, in part because they will have to reveal that everything they're reported about Giuliani's 9/11 performance in the past was lies. But on the other hand, if they tell it as a controversy -- a battle of two different storylines -- like the LATimes did, then I can see them going there.

For a primer on Giuliani's action before, during and after 9/11, listen to the Barrett interview on Counterspin.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Too bad he's not from Indiana; that would be funny

I don't know that I'll ever forgive Gary Younge for his sloppy hit-piece on the Park Slope Food Coop. But his columns in the Nation these days are often not to be missed. Here are two I recommend:

White History 101

Obama: Black Like Me

Monday, April 09, 2007


"Nationwide Chalk Shortage Brings SDS Protests, Teaching to a Grinding Halt"