Saturday, July 18, 2015

Civilian empowerment in police-civilian encounters

I was pleased to hear about the New York City Council's Committee on Public Safety's June 29, 2015 hearing on the proposed legislation by Council Members Ritchie J. Torres and Antonio Reynoso known collectively as the Right To Know Act, (Int 0182-2014 and Int 0541-2014), which includes such requirements as police officers identifying themselves and providing the specific reason for the law enforcement activity and officers being required to obtain the voluntary consent of the civilian prior to conducting a search that requires consent and to tell the civilian that they have a right to refuse such a search. I was also interested in Council Member Jumaane D. Williams' police body-worn camera task force proposal (Int 0607-2014) as well as the other proposals. I watched the video of the hearing and have nine suggestions in relation to this legislation.

These suggestions come from a perspective that the power in any police-civilian interaction must be shared between these two groups with the preponderance of power with the civilian where a specific, reasonable and lawful allegation of criminal activity or impending criminal activity is not being made by the police and the preponderance of power shifting to the police when a specific, reasonable and lawful allegation of criminal activity or impending criminal activity is being made by the police. I feel there is no reason for the police to have authority over private individuals in a non-crime situation. To give them this authority or an expectation of this authority would make New York not a free, but a police state, with the public constantly surrounded by an occupying force of 34,000 officers to whose authority they must submit for any reason at any given moment. Having strong institutional protections such as Inspectors General or the Civilian Complaint Review Board are important, but by the time it reaches that stage, the damage has already been done. So it is also important for civilians to have the power and authority to stop these illegal police actions before they occur at the time of the encounter and to not be afraid to exercise this power and authority when they feel their rights are being violated. Overly broad interpretations of public safety or officer safety should not be allowed to erode these basic democratic rights.


1) Officers must tell a civilian at the beginning of the encounter whether they are being detained (not free to go), being arrested (not free to go), or if they are free to go. If the civilian's status changes at any point during the encounter, the officers must tell the person immediately of the change. If the civilian feels that their status may have changed during the encounter, they may ask the officer if their status has changed and the officer must answer immediately with a yes or no.

2) If a civilian declines to communicate with an officer or to be searched or to engage in any other police interaction to which they are not legally obligated to engage, the officer must immediately cease attempts to communicate with, to search or persuade the civilian to be searched, or attempt any other police interaction with the civilian, including attempts to stop, stall or follow the civilian if the civilian is free to go.

3) Officers must tell the person at the beginning of the encounter that if they dispute the officer on a point of law or policy or feel the officers are acting in an unprofessional manner, the officer will immediately put the person in contact with an independent legal expert whose expertise and authority in such matters is accepted by the NYPD and the city of New York, if the person wishes. This can be done via cell phone or other communication device. If the expert agrees that the officer is incorrect on the point of law or policy, then any action of the officer based on the officer's misinterpretation of the law must not be allowed. If the expert agrees that the officer is correct, then the civilian should submit to any accompanying legal police action and avail themselves of possible alternative remedies after the encounter is completed, if they wish. Alternatively, the officer may put the person in contact with a legal expert at the NYPD. If a dispute still exists after the NYPD contact, then a contact must be made with the independent legal expert. If alleged unprofessional behavior is the issue and such behavior is no longer occurring after contact is made with the expert, the civilian may nonetheless request that the legal expert remain in communication for the duration of the encounter despite the lack of such behavior for the duration of the encounter. If the alleged unprofessional behavior continues after contact with the legal expert has been made and the expert agrees that the behavior is in fact unprofessional, then the civilian may exit the presence of the offending officer and resist further police actions from that officer in a legal non-violent manner without penalty. If there are non-offending officers present, they should take over the arrest or detainment proceedings or other arrangements should be made where the civilian does not have to be in the presence of or interact with the offending officer such as the issuing of a summons to appear in court.

4) Officers must tell the person at the beginning of the encounter that the person is free to audio/video/photographically record or record in a written manner, the encounter, if they wish.

5) Create a civilians' bill of rights concerning police-civilian encounters & have it printed on the sides of all marked police vehicles and on the front of all precincts. A copy could also be given to civilians at the beginning of any encounter.

6) Create a comprehensive curriculum for students that teach them their rights in police-civilian encounters and the history and philosophy behind such rights and make available practice sessions so that students may begin to become accustomed to thinking in terms of their rights during such encounters and to begin to feel more comfortable in asserting those rights. One curriculum can be developed for grade school students and another for high school students. A similar curriculum and practice sessions should be made available for the general public as well and can be given through public or community organizations or other outlets.

7) Create a marketing campaign similar to the anti-smoking or If You See Something, Say Something campaigns that remind people of their rights in police-civilian encounters and remind them of the importance of asserting those rights. Along the same lines, perhaps a Civilian Rights Day could be declared (or Week or Month) for added promotional or educational value.

8) My feeling is that police body cams should be turned on at all times with the officers having no control for when they are turned on or off. To do otherwise runs the risk of selective recording by the officers and the non-recording of the all-important early moments of a police-civilian encounter or an impending encounter. Privacy concerns can be addressed through the issue of access. The police or anyone else (except the civilian being recorded) would not have access to these recordings unless an actual legal encounter has occurred. The prior, specific, legally-recognized crime or impending crime, that had been declared as the reason for the encounter must be included in the request. The recording would be reviewed by an independent legal expert and actionable evidence of the alleged crime or impending crime that has occurred prior to the encounter would have to be included in the recording before access is granted. Such limitations would help guard against the use of the recordings for fishing expeditions by the police, for purposes of embarrassing or intruding on the privacy of those being recorded, including the officers, or for other questionable purposes. The recordings could only be used as evidence for the prior stated criminal activity or impending criminal activity unless a major felony such as murder or kidnapping has been inadvertently recorded. Access could also be granted if the police or other official party are facing a legal or administrative accusation or question by the civilian recorded and the content of the recording is relevant to the accusation or question. Perhaps access could also occasionally be granted if the police or others wanted to use the recordings to study such constructive areas as general police practices or conditions, but only after receiving permission from an independent publicly-accountable organization such as the City Council. As alluded to above, the civilian recorded would be entitled to a copy of the recording upon request with no review by a legal expert required. And if any restrictions are placed on the ability of officers to record in certain situations, ensure that it is known that such restrictions do not apply to civilians' ability to record officers in similar situations.

9) Automatic financial compensation should be given to civilians whose rights have been violated by police actions. The solutions for such violations often seems to be a call for police reform or some sort of sanction for the offending officer. In big dramatic cases that draw the interest of defense attorneys, financial awards often seem to be given out as well. But what about the hundreds of thousands of mostly black and Latino young men who were stopped and frisked in an unwarranted manner? Or the many other civilians such as Muslims, the homeless or members of the LGBT community whose rights have also been violated? Filing a lawsuit can be an unpleasant and daunting option for the average civilian who often does not have the time, money or confidence to mount an adequate suit. Automatic compensation would go far in helping to address this often overlooked area of concern, may help to compensate the feelings of damage and injustice suffered by such civilians and may even serve as a deterrent to overzealous or discriminatory officers or others who chose to perpetrate such violations. A beginning compensation of $5,000 for a brief stop and question of a few minutes where a violation has occurred and where no searches or other actions have been taken seems sufficiently substantial with higher compensations awarded for increased violations.

(A earlier version of this posting has been sent to the Committee on Public Safety.)

posted: 7/18/15 - 4:25 pm, et.
update: 7/22/15 - 8:58 pm, et.

Friday, March 27, 2015

5th Dimension lately

Listening to the 5th Dimension lately. Think I see a biopic in here somewhere. Great songs, great vocal opportunities, two love stories (Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Florence LaRue & manager Marc Gordon), and a late 1960s backdrop with songs like Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.

post: 3/27/15 1056am (et)
update: 3/27/15 505p (et)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New Post - Columbine conspiracy theory

I said in my last post in 2007 that I was going to stop blogging for awhile so I could concentrate on a 9/11-related paper. I’ve been working on it on and off since then, but I’ve been having problems getting much beyond the information gathering stage. So instead, I’ve decided to write about individual violent events that have possible connections to me. I am basing these connections on the theory that these events seem to be related to significant events in my life through some sort of process that was begun since at least around 1989 when I was being harassed and surveilled in Los Angeles by I believe Scientology and others and my subsequent fleeing of L.A., eventually ending up in New York City in 1991 where the harassment and surveillance continued.

I noticed a few of these types of events in Los Angeles, but on a smaller scale. In New York, especially in the early 1990s, these events seemed to become larger, more frequent and more violent. Possible supernatural or not-yet-explainable occurrences like mind reading or weather control, especially in the early years, plus the seeming involvement of a sometimes mysterious, powerful organization like Scientology made the possibility of these otherwise implausible-seeming connections seem more plausible, though I had no direct proof of this. I wrote to many public agencies and officials and private organizations about my circumstances and theory in the early ‘90s, but didn’t get too many responses. Those that did respond either said they couldn’t do anything or didn’t really address the issue. A good overall view of my circumstances and theory can be found in a 1994 paper I wrote which I originally called the “38-page letter” and later changed to “Scientology, Christians and Crime” when I posted it to my website,, in 2004 along with similar writings.[1]

The first new event I’ll cover is the April 20, 1999 killings at Columbine High School by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

The thing that first caught my attention was that Eric Harris and I have the same first name, Eric. Later I noticed that we also had the same middle name, David.[2] Eric and Dylan were students. I was a student at the time, but in college, not high school. Eric (and Dylan to a lesser extent) were being harassed by some students at school, mostly the athletes. I was being harassed at my school by some students and some professors, too. But it was more indirect than what Eric seemed to experience, things like students and professors saying negative things near me, but not directly to me, or from certain students who I found annoying frequently being in my vicinity. While harassment had been an ongoing occurrence in New York City to varying degrees, being harassed in a school setting was a similarity to the Columbine situation.[3]
In terms of significant events in my life, since around the end of 1998 I had been having problems with my welfare payments, food stampsmay have been and Medicaid due to my non-compliance with workfare requirements in 1995. I had not complied because of harassment at the workfare assignment. I wanted the people in the workfare department to investigate in the context of my conspiracy-like situation which I believed the harassment was may have beenrelated to, but they wouldn’t do it.

I had various administrative “fair hearings” by the New York State Department of Social Services to try and possibly get my benefits restored and to get my allegations investigated. My benefits had continued for awhile after my workfare non-compliance as I made my way through the fair hearing and appeal process. I won the first administrative fair hearing in terms of benefits, but lost the last two, including the final hearing in August 1996. I appealed the August decision to the Supreme Court of New York State which referred my case to the next highest court, was the Appellate Division, which ruled against me. At the time of the Columbine killings, I was trying to get permission to appeal to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. I was very late in applying for this appeal, however, since I was not aware that the Appellate Division had issued its decision on April 28, 1998. I had not been notified by the NYS Attorney General’s office, which was representing the Department of Social Services, that the decision had been issued as they were supposed to. Nor was a copy of the decision mailed to me as had occurred with a previous decision on a procedural matter. I did not find out what the decision was until January 28, 1999 when I called the court to see if anything had happened yet. In order to appeal to the Court of Appeals, I first had to submit a motion with the Appellate Division to either reargue my case or appeal to the Court of Appeals. The Appellate Division denied my motion in a decision dated March 30, 1999. I then began the process of submitting a Motion for Permission to Appeal directly to the Court of Appeals. I received a Permission to Appeal form and instructions from the Court of Appeals, postmarked April 2, 1999. I mailed the motion to the Court on May 3, 1999, but it denied my motion on July 1, 1999.

Another big event occurred on April 16, 1999, a few days before Columbine, when I handed in a required annual statement of income to the public housing development where I was living. I was told that student loans, which I was using to pay my rent and other expenses after my welfare benefits had been discontinued, could not be counted as income. People living in public housing need an acceptable source of income to live in public housing. Welfare was an acceptable source of income, but since my welfare had been discontinued, I no longer had that acceptable source. The public housing staff and I were able to work something out eventually, but as of April 20 my eligibility for public housing had been uncertain.

In addition to Eric Harris and I having the same first and middle names and our both being students who were being harassed, another thing that caught my attention was that some students would sometimes call Eric and Dylan “freaks” and other names as a kind of insult.[4] I believe an episode of Nightline on ABC on April 21, 1999 even had a video of Eric say the line “the freaks of the school.” I had written my first musical called Freaks the previous year and had mailed inquiries to different New York City theaters in November 1998 to see if they might be interested in producing it. By the time of the Columbine killings on April 20, I had received some responses (polite rejections) and was waiting for others.

Dylan was friends with the theater students at Columbine High and would work behind the scenes at school plays.[5] A few of the victims had theater or music connections also. Rachel Scott had the lead role in a non-musical school play the previous month. She had also written a play about a piano player who couldn’t read music, but wrote music in his head. Rachel is said to have written songs in a similar manner.[6] I couldn’t read music much and wrote songs mostly in my head as well. I am not a piano player, but I would play my songs on an electric piano keyboard that was connected to songwriting notation software in order to have a record of my songs or bits of songs. I completed the songs for my musical using the piano keyboard and songwriting software. Another victim, Kelly Fleming, also wrote songs and other things.[7] A third victim with music connections was Isaiah Shoels who wanted to become a record company executive.[8] His father, Michael, owned a small independent record company, Notorious Records, and a company that promoted black musicians, Ft. Knox Entertainment.[9], [10]

On April 28, 1999, about a week after the killings, I picked up a letter at my PO Box from a company called Columbine Records in Hollywood, California. It was a form letter that said I had been referred to them by one of their sources as being interested in songwriting. They wanted me to send them some of my songs to possibly record and help promote. The envelope had an April 20, 1999 postmark and another marking that said April 21, 1999. So apparently I wasn’t the only one thinking about a possible connection, assuming the letter wasn’t just a coincidence. Or maybe they were just playing with me. But this was another music connection and one with a significant name and date attached. The Columbine Records’ letter wasn’t the first such letter I had ever received, however. Prior to the killings, I had gotten somewhat similar letters, also unsolicited, from a song production company called Hilltop Records, also from Hollywood, California. I had sent a few songs in response, sometime in the summer of 1998, though nothing came of it after I found they wanted money to produce my songs.

Christianity also played a prominent role in the stories of several of the victims. Cassie Bernall famously was said to have died a martyr after Dylan asked her if she believed in God. Cassie, a devout Christian said yes, and then Dylan shot her.[11],[12] Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels and another victim, John Tomlin, were also said to be very devoted Christians.[13] Christianity had also played a role in my original conspiracy situation, mostly in the form of Christian-run or affiliated shelters I had stayed at after fleeing from Los Angeles. Later, I began noticing that several of the events that I included in my theory also had a Christianity connection.

One of the bigger events, at least in terms of notoriety, was the Branch Davidian standoff at Waco in 1993. The Branch Davidians were also described as a cult-like group. Since my conspiracy theory involved Scientology, which I and others described as a cult-like group, this made me think there might be a possible connection. The lead FBI investigatorFBI ,, psychologist Dwayne Fuselier, was part of the FBI Crisis Management Unit at Waco. He was also the lead investigator for the FBI in the Columbine killings. Dwayne had previously worked for the Air Force like Eric’s father, Wayne. His son, Scott, had attended Columbine High School which was apparently how Dwayne got involved in the FBI investigation.[14],[15]

Columbine had some New York references also and since I was living in New York City, this also caught my attention. The after-prom party on April 17, 1999 that the parents threw for the Columbine High School students had a “New York, New York” theme.[16] Eric had also said in his journal that he and Dylan would hijack a plane loaded with bombs and crash it into New York City if they escaped and could not find a safe haven.[17] But the New York link that made me pay the most attention was that Eric had lived in Plattsburgh, New York for two years before moving to Littleton, Colorado in 1993 with his family. Though this is several hundred miles from New York City, it’s still in the same state. I was also in the preliminary stages of appealing my workfare-conspiracy case to the New York State Court of Appeals which is located in Albany, New York.[18] Albany is not especially near Plattsburgh either, but it is curiously almost halfway between Plattsburgh and New York City, 141.4 and 134.8 air miles respectively, in an almost perfectly straight line.[19]

Eric was living in Plattsburgh because his father was stationed at the Air Force base there. Wayne had been stationed at a number of bases around the country prior to this as well. He was a decorated Air Force pilot, flight instructor and trainer who had helped develop and modify the Air Forces’ EC-18 (JSTARS) electronic warfare plane and others. He had had the type of high level military career that might put him in a position to be involved, either wittingly or not, with a conspiracy as complex as the one I am proposing, though I could find nothing specific beyond his high level career. Though he had retired from the Air Force after leaving Plattsburg for Columbine, Eric’s father still had active Air Force connections through his new job training pilots at the Flight Safety Services Corp. which had contracts with the Air Force and Department of Defense.[20] 

During his two year stay in Plattsburgh, Eric’s two best friends were said to be black and Asian.[21] I am Asian-American. Another possible Asian connection is the owner of Blackjack Pizza where Eric and Dylan worked. The owner, Christopher Lau, who had bought the store only six weeks before the killings, could be Asian based on his last name.[22] Pictures of most people I’ve seen on the internet with the last name Lau are Asian-looking, but there were a few people who looked white also, so it isn’t certain that Christopher is of Asian descent based on his last name alone. I was only able to find one picture of Christopher on the internet. Based on this, it appeared he could be of Asian or part Asian descent, but he’s facing away from the camera so it’s hard to tell.[23] And Blackjack Pizza’s address was 6657 West Ottawa.[24] I connect things with the number “57” to myself since my birth year is 1957.

One of Eric Harris’s psychologists, Kevin Albert, was said to be “affiliated with the Colorado Family Center at 26 W. Dry Creek Circle in Littleton.”[25] In addition to 57, I connect things with the number “26” to myself because my birthday is on August 26. I had several experiences in the early 1990s with psychiatry or psychology also, though I was never in therapy. I had told several social workers-types I was seeing as a result of my homeless or jobless condition about my theory and being harassed and some had repeatedly urged me to see a psychiatrist and arranged interviews for me with apparently psychiatry or psychology-related people. Some of these people would also urge me to take some sort of medication which I declined to do.

Eric Harris was taking a psychotropic medication, Luvox, to help deal with mental problems at the time of the killings. Some questioned whether the Luvox helped cause the killings, though others denied this connection.[26] Scientology has a long history of criticism against psychiatry, including the use of psychiatric medication.[27] So it was able to benefit from this aspect of Columbine through a well-publicized example of the possible negative consequences of psychiatry. I could find no direct connections between Scientology and Columbine, however. The closest thing I could find was when Scientology’s anti-psychiatry watchdog group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, had given an award in 2005 to an anti-psychotropic-drug activist, Lisa Van Syckel,[28] who had helped fund a lawsuit against the maker of Luvox by one of the shooting victims, Mark Taylor.[29] Though they may have given her the award more for her other anti-drug work rather than for supporting the suit.[30] Another item I found was a 2002 Columbine-related fictional film Home Room that starred Erika Christensen who has a background in Scientology.[31]

[1] The best writing on the early harassment and fleeing of Los Angeles and why I feel Scientology was involved is probably the Yanny letter, also on my website.

[2] Lynn Bartels and Carla Crowder, “Fatal Friendship: How Two Suburban Boys Traded Baseball and Bowling for Murder and Madness,” Rocky Mountain News, 22 Aug. 1999, 1N.

[3] The harassment may have been more intense in the last semester or two at my college, possibly because some people may have not been happy with my changing my major from Graphic Arts to Art and Advertising Design the previous semester, even though a representative of the Art and Advertising Design department had come to one of my classes to promote their department and the Graphic Arts professor of that class had personally urged me to switch to Art and Advertising Design. The harassment may have also decreased in the weeks leading up to Columbine.

[4] Ann Imse, Lynn Bartels and Dick Foster, “Killers’ Double Lives,” Rocky Mountain News, 25 Apr. 1999, 24A; “Columbine Students Talk Of the Disaster and Life,”
New York Times, 30 Apr. 1999, A1.

[5] Bill Briggs and Jason Blevins, “Harris, a Consummate Actor, Hid Secret Yen For Revenge,” Denver Post, 2 May 1999, A-18; Lynn Bartels and Carla Crowder, “Fatal Friendship.”

[6] Steve Caulk, “Slain Student’s Car Becomes a Shrine,” Rocky Mountain News, 22 Apr. 1999, 7A.

[7] Corky Siemaszko, “Columbine’s Tragic Roll Call,” New York Daily News, 23 Apr. 1999.

[8] James Barron, “Father of Victim Says Son Had Dispute With Suspect,” New York Times, 22 Apr. 1999, A26.

[9] Andrew Guy Jr., “Shoelses Fight Clouded Image,” Denver Post, 26 Sept. 1999, accessed

[10] Mike McPhee, “The Victims: Isaiah Shoels,”, 23 Apr. 1999, accessed

[11] Carla Crowder, “Martyr for her Faith: Youthful Christian Confesses Her Belief to Rampaging Gunman, Then Pays With Her Life,” Rocky Mountain News, 23 Apr.1999, 5A.

[12] Others say this had happened not to Cassie Bernall, but to Valeen Schnurr, a student who was not killed after she said yes. Dan Luzadder and Katie Kerwin McCrimmon, “Accounts Differ on Question to Bernall: Shooting Victim May Not Have Been Asked Whether She Believed in God,” Rocky Mountain News, 24 Sept. 1999, 5A.

[13] “Inscriptions For Each Victim at the Clement Park Monument,” Rocky Mountain News, 22 Sept. 2007, 24.

[14] Dave Cullen, Columbine, New York: Twelve, 2009, 108.

[15] There were also some other interesting connections between Fuselier’s two sons and the events at Columbine which I won’t go into. See Hector Gutierrez and Kevin Vaughan, “Video Produce by FBI Agent’s Son: 1997 Columbine Grad Is Not Considered a Shooting Suspect,” Rocky Mountain News, 7 May 1999, 5A; Howard Pankratz, “FBI Agent Downplays Son's Film: Columbine ‘comedy’ Won't Influence Work,” Denver Post, 13 May 1999, B-03.

[16] Sara Rimer, “Good Grades, Good Teams and Some Bad Feelings,” New York Times, 22 Apr. 1999, A27.

[17] Charley Able, “Attack Was Long Planned: Harris Diary Shows Details In Motion Year Before Shootings,” Rocky Mountain News, 7 July 2006, 21A.

[18] The state’s Department of Social Services and Attorney General’s office, both of which were involved in my welfare-conspiracy case, had their headquarters in Albany also, though I dealt mostly with their Manhattan branches.


[20] Dick Foster, “Harris’ Dad a Military Man of Distinction,” Rocky Mountain News, 27 Apr. 1999, 26A.

[21] Kevin Simpson and Jason Blevins, “How Team Players Became Loners: Friends Remember Two Suspects As Bashful, Ordinary Children,” Denver Post, 23 Apr. 1999, A-04.

[22] Christopher Cooper. “The Pizza Franchise Was His Dream; Then The `Unfathomable' - New Owner's Model Cooks Became Littleton Killers,” Wall Street Journal, 23 June 1999, A1.

[23] Kevin Moloney, “Christopher Lau 33 Owner and Manager of a Blackjack Pizza Franchise in Littleton Colorado,” Getty Images, 23 Apr. 1999.

[24] Peggy Lowe, “Pizza Jobs Gave Connections: Killers Made Contacts Who Helped Them With Guns, Explosives They Used In School Attack,” Rocky Mountain News, 22 Nov. 2000, 25A.

[25] Karen Abbott, “Harrises Question Therapist’s Care: Parents Cite Their Son’s Psychologist in Papers Filed with Federal Court,” Rocky Mountain News, 19 Sept. 2000, 5A.

[26] Carla Crowder, “Rage Fueled by Antidepressants? Psychiatrists Dispute Beliefs Medication Was Connected to Murderous Events,” Rocky Mountain News, 30 May 30 1999, 60A.

[27] Katharine Mieszkowski, “Scientology’s War on Psychiatry,”, 1 Jul. 2005.

[28] Terence, “CCHR: 36th Annual Human Rights Awards,”, 26 Feb. 2005.

[29] Jeff Kass, “Columbine Victim Pursues Lawsuit Against Drug Firm: Mark Taylor Claims Drug Luvox Partly At Fault For Rampage,” Rocky Mountain News, 19 Oct. 2002, 19A.

[30] In a 2009 document listing successful lawsuits against psychotropic drug manufacturers, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights cites Lisa and her husband for their 2003 lawsuit on behalf of their daughter who was misdiagnosed as depressed and had a negative reaction to a psychotropic drug that was prescribed to her. Citizens Commission on Human Rights, “Chronology of Psychotropic Drug Lawsuits,” 2009, accessed

[31] “Home Room (film),” Wikipedia.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


The blog of is going on hiatus to work on a 9/11-related paper. Oh, there may be an occasional song, but hopefully it will mostly be the paper. So good luck to the surge and reconciliation, if that's what Iraq wants. Don't forget semi-autonomous federalism and mixed region, if anyone feels the need. And always be on the lookout for conspiracies.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:45 AM ET
update: saturday, june 16, 2007, 3:51 PM ET


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Congress passes benchmark bill

"Congress sent President Bush a new Iraq funding bill yesterday that lacked troop withdrawal deadlines demanded by liberal Democrats, but party leaders vowed it was only a temporary setback in their efforts to bring home American troops.
War opponents dismissed the bill as a capitulation to Bush and said they would seek to hold supporters in both parties accountable. But backers said the bill's provisions -- including benchmarks for progress that the Iraqi government must meet to continue receiving reconstruction aid -- represented an assertion of congressional authority over the war that was unthinkable a few months ago.
Bush, who had vowed to veto any legislation with restrictions on troop deployments, announced he would sign the $120 billion package.
. . . The focus now shifts to September, when the new funding runs out, and when U.S. commanders say they will be able to assess the results of an ongoing troop buildup.
. . . 'We are moving backward,' said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a war opponent. 'Instead of forcing the president to safely redeploy our troops, instead of coming up with a strategy providing assistance to a post-redeployment Iraq, and instead of a renewed focus on the global fight against al-Qaeda, we are faced with a spending bill that kicks the can down the road and buys the administration time.' "

Murray, Shailagh. (The Washington Post). Congress Passes Deadline-Free War Funding Bill. May 25, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:17 AM ET


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US public still wants out, poll says

"Americans now view the war in Iraq more negatively than at any time since the invasion more than four years ago, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
Sixty-one percent of Americans say the United States should have stayed out of Iraq and 76 percent say things are going badly there, including 47 percent who say things are going very badly, the poll found.
Still, the majority of Americans support continuing to finance the war as long as the Iraqi government meets specific goals.
. . . A majority, 76 percent, including 51 percent of Republicans, say additional troops sent to Iraq this year by Mr. Bush either have had no impact or are making things worse. Twenty percent of all respondents say the increase is improving the situation.
Most Americans support a timetable for withdrawal. Sixty-three percent say the United States should set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq sometime in 2008."

Sussman, Dalia. (The New York Times). Poll Shows View of Iraq War Is Most Negative Since Start. May 25, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:08 AM ET

update: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:18 AM ET


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Maliki names cabinet replacements

"In Baghdad on Thursday, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki named replacements for six cabinet ministers who quit last month on the orders of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr. At the time, Mr. Sadr said he was taking the action to protest Mr. Maliki’s refusal to back a timeline for the departure of American forces. But the cleric may also have wanted to distance himself from the increasingly unpopular Maliki administration, which completed its first year in office this week with scant progress in curbing violence or improving Iraq’s devastated public services.
Officials in Mr. Maliki’s office described his nominees as technocrats who would bring new levels of efficiency to the ministries, which included the politically delicate portfolios of agriculture, health and transport.
But Mr. Maliki also voiced some of his strongest opposition yet to pressure for his government to meet political 'benchmarks' on bitterly contested issues like the division of oil revenues. 'How can the head of an elected government accept another country imposing restrictions or conditions on its actions?' he said Wednesday in a television interview."

Burns, John F. (The New York Times). Iraqi Tribal Leader Is Killed, and Mourners Are Attacked. May 25, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:02 AM ET
update: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:19 AM ET


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Sadr returns as Hakim & Talabani medical problems / Sunni tribal leader visits Sadr City

"Moqtada al-Sadr, the influential Shiite cleric and militia leader who went into hiding before the launch of a U.S.-Iraqi security offensive in February, is in the southern city of Kufa, senior U.S. military commanders said Thursday.
Sadr, who has long opposed the U.S. occupation and is ratcheting up pressure for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, has returned from neighboring Iran, perhaps as recently as this week, they said.
. . . Sadr's movement is wooing Sunni leaders and purging extremists in his Mahdi Army militia in an attempt to strengthen his image as a nationalist who can lead all Iraqis at a time when antiwar sentiments are growing in the United States and Iraq's political landscape is increasingly fractured.
Sadr's apparent reemergence comes days after his main Shiite rival, cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, went to Iran for treatment of lung cancer. Hakim is also trying to strike a nationalist stance, recently changing the name of his party from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq to the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq." [1]

"The Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, flew to the United States on Sunday for a multiweek visit that his office said was for rest and for help in reducing his weight. His office denied local news media reports that Mr. Talabani was ill and said he was in general good health apart from his weight, The Associated Press reported. His extended departure comes at a time when the United States is pressing Iraqi politicians to make progress on a variety of measures." [2]

"Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr resurfaced Friday after nearly four months in hiding and demanded U.S. troops leave Iraq, a development likely to complicate U.S. efforts to crack down on violence and broker political compromise in the country.
. . . 'No, no for Satan. No, no for America. No, no for the occupation. No, no for Israel,' the glowering, black-turbaned cleric chanted in a call and response with the crowd.
. . . 'To our Iraqi Sunni brothers, I say that the occupation sows dissension among us and that strength is unity and division is weakness,' he said. 'I'm ready to cooperate with them in all fields.'
. . . Al-Sadr's associates say his strategy rests in part on his belief that Washington will soon start reducing troop strength, leaving behind a hole in Iraq's security and political power structure that he can fill. He also believes al-Maliki's government may soon collapse under its failure to improve security, services and the economy, they say." [3]

"In a hopeful sign on Tuesday, a Sunni tribal leader made a conciliatory public visit to Sadr City, the Shiite enclave in western Baghdad. Sheikh Hamid al-Hayis, leader of an alliance of Sunni tribes that recently began providing men to fight Al Qaeda beside the marines in Anbar Province, met with backers of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.
Salih al-Ugaily, a Sadr supporter in Parliament, said in an interview that the two sides had agreed on the need for reconciliation and to expedite holding provincial elections, a major demand of Sunni Iraqis, many of whom have said they feel disenfranchised after boycotting previous elections." [4]

[1] Ricks, Thomas E. & Raghavan, Sudarsan. (The Washington Post). Sadr Back in Iraq, U.S. Generals Say. May 25, 2007.
[2] Cloud, David S. (The New York Times). 7 U.S. Soldiers Die in Iraq, 6 in Sweep of Baghdad. May 21, 2007.
[3] The Associated Press. Radical Anti-American Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr Returns to Iraq. May 25, 2007.
[4] Cloud, David S. (The New York Times). Baghdad Truck Bomb Kills 25 and Wounds 100 Others. May 23, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 10:55 AM ET
update: saturday, june 16, 2007, 3:55 PM ET


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Sectarian killings increase

"More than three months into a U.S.-Iraqi security offensive designed to curtail sectarian violence in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, Health Ministry statistics show that such killings are rising again.
From the beginning of May until Tuesday, 321 unidentified corpses, many dumped and showing signs of torture and execution, have been found across the Iraqi capital, according to morgue data provided by a Health Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. The data showed that the same number of bodies were found in all of January, the month before the launch of the Baghdad security plan.
Such killings are a signature practice of Shiite militias, although Sunni insurgents are also known to execute victims. The number of found bodies is a key indicator of the level of sectarian violence, but the statistics also include some who died from causes unrelated to the political situation.
. . . Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, the Iraqi commander overseeing the security plan, acknowledged in an interview that the number of unidentified corpses is rising and said there has been a spike in sectarian assaults by Shiite militias, especially elements of the Mahdi Army, the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
. . . 'It's possible that some parties are using the name of Mahdi Army for killing the Sunnis,' said Ahmed Shaibani, a senior Sadr aide."

Raghavan, Sudarsan. (The Washington Post). Morgue Data Show Increase In Sectarian Killings in Iraq. May 24, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 10:25 AM ET


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New US plan to have political emphasis

"Top U.S. commanders and diplomats in Iraq are completing a far-reaching campaign plan for a new U.S. strategy.
. . . The classified plan, scheduled to be finished by May 31, is a joint effort between Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American general in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
. . . The overarching aim of the plan, which sets goals for the end of this year and the end of 2008, is more political than military: to negotiate settlements between warring factions in Iraq from the national level down to the local level.
. . . The plan has three pillars to be carried out simultaneously -- in contrast to the prior sequential strategy of 'clear, hold and build.' One shifts the immediate emphasis of military operations away from transitioning to Iraqi security forces . . . toward protecting Iraq's population in trouble areas.
. . . Next, the plan emphasizes building the government's capacity to function, admitting severe weaknesses in government ministries and often nonexistent institutional links between the central government and provincial and local governments.
. . . Finally, the campaign plan aims to purge Iraq's leadership of a small but influential number of officials and commanders whose sectarian and criminal agendas are thwarting U.S. efforts."

Tyson, Ann Scott. (The Washington Post). New Strategy for War Stresses Iraqi Politics. May 23, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 10:15 AM ET


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Shiite stronghold model community, but tradeoff

"Ice cream shops in the Shiite stronghold of Kadhimiya are flush with sweet-toothed customers. Hospitals have new supplies. Rents have tripled as displaced Shiites flock to the historic district’s spacious homes, while pilgrims stream to the golden-domed shrine at its heart.
. . . Religious Shiite leaders and their militias have unquestionably consolidated control, transforming Kadhimiya into what could be a model for much of Baghdad if the Shiites have their way.
. . . But the future that Kadhimiya points to may not be democratic, inclusive or just, at least by Western standards. Residents and American commanders describe the area as a nerve center for benign and malignant elements of Shiite power, the raw embodiment of the Shiite revival that has swept Iraq in the last four years.
. . . For the average Iraqi, the tradeoff for relative safety is living with a certain level of extortion, political corruption and religious militancy.
Loyalties in Kadhimiya can change block by block as rival militias vie for turf. Clerics post guards with Kalashnikov rifles in winding alleyways . . . There is even a gas station controlled by a different armed group every few days.
. . . The militias’ intimidating form of street justice, complete with underground Islamic courts, has helped prevent the catastrophic bomb attacks all too common in other Shiite neighborhoods."

Wong, Edward & Cave, Damien. (The New York Times). Baghdad District Is a Model, but Only for Shiites. May 22, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 10:02 AM ET


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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sadr fight qaeda so US exit; outreach to Sunnis

"Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr . . . is reaching out to a broad array of Sunni leaders, from politicians to insurgents, and purging extremist members of his Mahdi Army militia who target Sunnis. Sadr's political followers are distancing themselves from the fragile Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which is widely criticized as corrupt, inefficient and biased in favor of Iraq's majority Shiites. And moderates are taking up key roles in Sadr's movement, professing to be less anti-American and more nationalist as they seek to improve Sadr's image and position him in the middle of Iraq's ideological spectrum.
'We want to aim the guns against the occupation and al-Qaeda, not between Iraqis,' Ahmed Shaibani, 37, a cleric who leads Sadr's newly formed reconciliation committee, said.
. . . 'We are not anti-American. We think the Americans have an important role in rebuilding Iraq, but as companies, not as an army,' [Salah al-Obaidi, a senior aide to Sadr said]. . . 'We can open a new channel with the Democrats, even some of the Republicans.'
. . . If the sectarian war can be stopped, if the Mahdi Army and Sunni insurgent groups can join hands and break al-Qaeda in Iraq, there will be less reason for U.S. forces to stay, said Shaibani, wearing a black dishdasha, a traditional loose-fitting tunic, and clutching a Nokia cellphone during an interview in late April. 'The American argument is we can't have a timetable because of al-Qaeda,' he said. 'So we're going to weaken al-Qaeda for you.'

Raghavan, Sudarsan. (The Washington Post). Iraq's Sadr Overhauls His Tactics. May 19, 2007.

posted: tuesday, may 22, 2007, 2:40 PM ET


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Hakim to be treated for "limited tumor"

"The leader of Iraq's largest Shiite party said Monday that tests in the United States have shown that he suffers from a "limited tumor" and that he will get medical treatment in Iran.
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, 57, did not say where the tumor was, but officials close to him said he was diagnosed with lung cancer after undergoing tests last week at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston."

Hendawi, Hamzi. (The Associated Press). Iraqi Shiite Leader Says He Has Tumor. May 21, 2007.

posted: tuesday, may 22, 2007, 2:19 PM ET


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Record number of contractor deaths

"At least 146 contract workers were killed in Iraq in the first three months of the year, by far the highest number for any quarter since the war began in March 2003, according to the Labor Department, which processes death and injury claims for those working as United States government contractors in Iraq.
That brings the total number of contractors killed in Iraq to at least 917, along with more than 12,000 wounded in battle or injured on the job, according to government figures and dozens of interviews.
The numbers, which have not been previously reported, disclose the extent to which contractors — Americans, Iraqis and workers from more than three dozen other countries — are largely hidden casualties of the war, and now are facing increased risks alongside American soldiers and marines as President Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Baghdad takes hold.
. . . Nearly 300 companies from the United States and around the world supply workers who are a shadow force in Iraq almost as large as the uniformed military. About 126,000 men and women working for contractors serve alongside about 150,000 American troops, the Pentagon has reported. Never before has the United States gone to war with so many civilians on the battlefield doing jobs — armed guards, military trainers, translators, interrogators, cooks and maintenance workers — once done only by those in uniform."

Broder, John M. & Risen, James. (The New York Times). Contractor Deaths in Iraq Soar to Record. May 19, 2007.

posted: tuesday, may 22, 2007, 2:12 PM ET


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Friday, May 18, 2007

US ignored Afghan drugs now financing Taliban

"To fight a Taliban insurgency flush with drug money for recruits and weapons, the Bush administration recognizes that it must also combat the drug trafficking it had largely ignored for years. But plans to clear poppy fields and pursue major drug figures have been frustrated by corruption in the Afghan government, and derided by critics as belated half-measures or missteps not likely to have much impact.
. . . The State Department and Pentagon repeatedly clashed over drug policy, according to current and former officials who were interviewed. Pentagon leaders refused to bomb drug laboratories and often balked at helping other agencies and the Afghan government destroy poppy fields, disrupt opium shipments or capture major traffickers, the officials say.
And the C.I.A. and military turned a blind eye to drug-related activities by prominent warlords or political figures they had installed in power, Afghan and American officials say.
. . . Administration officials say they had believed they could eliminate the insurgency first, then tackle the drug trade. “Now people recognize that it’s all related, and it’s one issue,” said Thomas Schweich, the State Department’s coordinator for counternarcotics in Afghanistan."

Risen, James. (The New York Times). Poppy Fields Are Now a Front Line in Afghan War. May 16, 2007.

posted: friday, may 18, 2007, 6:11 PM ET


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