FM newswire for 3 March, articles for your morning reading

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis, collected from around the Internet.  If you find this useful, pass it to a friend or colleague.

  1. About the mancession:  “The Unemployment Gender Gap during the 2007 Recession“, NY Federal Reserve, February 2010 — “The 2.7 percentage point unemployment gender gap was the largest in the postwar era.”
  2. Iraq is not as bad as commonly described:  “Stop the Iraq madness!“, Nir Rosen, blog of Foreign Policy, 23 February 2010
  3. Amateur geopolitical experts go nuts over Yeman, then move on to the next piece of candy.  “Yemen’s 15 Minutes of Fame“, Gregg Carlstrom, Foreign Policy, 26 February 2010 — “The world’s attention may have moved on since January, but that doesn’t mean the country’s problems have disappeared.”
  4. America takes a big step toward the dark side, with its citizens either appluading or not paying attention:  “Brutal, Yes; ‘Torture,’ Probably Not“, Stuart Taylor, Jr., National Journal, 27 February 2010
  5. Most of Taylor’s evidence is false; of course we don’t care (so long as no middle class white folks are tortured):  “The Fundamental Trick: Pretending That ‘Torture’ is a Technical Term“, David Luban, Balkinization, 26 February 2010 — “Taylor’s argument is built on what I have come to think is the fundamental trick used by the torture lawyers: pretending that the legal definition of ‘torture’ is something technical rather than “colloquial.” Because it’s technical, only lawyers can figure out what it means, using The Powerful Methods Of Legal Analysis.  This is nonsense.”
  6. Torture with MD’s assisting, just like in the movies:  “Doctors Without Morals“, Leonard S. Rubenstein and Stephen N. Xenakis, op-ed in the New York Times, 28 February 2010
  7. Big changes coming in November:  “The enthusiasm gap“, Robert Reich, Salon, 1 March 2010 — “I had dinner the other night with a Democratic pollster who told me Dems are heading toward next fall’s mid-term elections with a serious enthusiasm gap: The Republican base is fired up. The Dem base is packing up.”
  8. Is America Becoming a Banana Republic Watch – The John Cornyn Version“, Michael Cohen, Democracy Arsenal, 2 March 2010 — “Only in the alternate universe where John Cornyn and Jim Bunning reside would denying benefits for working Americas and further sapping the economic competitiveness of a great and powerful country be considered “courage.” Ladies and Gentlemen: your 2010 Republican party. “
  9. ‘Why does the country need an independent Air Force?’“, Robert Farley (Asst Prof at Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, U Kentucky), Lawyers Guns and Money, 2 March 2010
  10. Recommended reading — A global perspective from China:  “Stuck in neutral – what Japan’s rebalancing can teach us“, Michael Pettis (Prof at Peking U’s School of Management), 3 March 2010

Today’s outrageous news

Radley Balko explains that “Maryland’s SWAT transparency bill produces its first disturbing results”, showing how extensive and illused are these paramilitary police units.

4.5 SWAT Raids Per Day“, Radley Balko, Reason Magazine, 1 March 2010 — Excerpt:

Cheye Calvo’s July 2008 encounter with a Prince George’s County, Maryland, SWAT team is now pretty well-known: After intercepting a package of marijuana at a delivery service warehouse, police completed the delivery, in disguise, to the address on the package. That address belonged to Calvo, who also happened to be the mayor of the small Prince George’s town of Berwyn Heights. When Calvo’s mother-in-law brought the package in from the porch, the SWAT team pounced, forcing their way into Calvo’s home. By the time the raid was over, Calvo and his mother-in-law had been handcuffed for hours, police realized they’d made a mistake, and Calvo’s two black Labradors lay dead on the floor from gunshot wounds.

As a result of this colossal yet not-unprecedented screw-up, plus Calvo’s notoriety and persistence, last year Maryland became the first state in the country to make every one of its police departments issue a report on how often and for what purpose they use their SWAT teams. The first reports from the legislation are in, and the results are disturbing.

… But there is some good news to report here, too. The Maryland state law, as noted, is the first of its kind in the country, and will hopefully serve as a model for other states in adding some much-needed transparency to the widespread use and abuse of SWAT teams. And some Maryland legislators want to go even further. State Sen. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s), for example, wants to require a judge’s signature before police can deploy a SWAT team. Muse has sponsored another bill that would ban the use of SWAT teams for misdemeanor offenses. The latter seems like a no-brainer, but it’s already facing strong opposition from law enforcement interests. Police groups opposed the transparency bill, too.

From “Tactical raids common in area“, Baltimore Sun, 24 February 2010:

Heavily armed tactical police in Prince George’s County raid more homes than any other law enforcement agency in the state, according to newly released data from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. In the last six months of 2009, police there conducted 195 tactical entries, 105 involving crime deemed nonserious felonies and misdemeanors.

… Prince George’s County police spokeswoman told me that even in cases where minor crimes are alleged, most are for drugs, and police assume there are weapons. That makes a tactical entry necessary. But the argument still is that police, since the Sept. 11 attacks, have armed themselves like never before and are increasingly using military-style tactics that amount to paramilitary like operations to arrest people wanted on crimes that involve small amounts of drugs. Calvo said police last year raided a house in his neighborhood looking for someone wanted for writing bad checks.

The statistics compiled on police raids give a broad picture of how the tactic is used in Maryland. Of the 806 raids conducted in the six-month period, more than 94% stemmed from search or arrest warrants. Most of the others came as the result of a barricade situation.

Police forced their way into 545 houses, seized property in 633 of the raids, made arrests 485 times and discharged their weapons 5 times. In the six months studied, 7 civilians were hurt but none killed, and 2 animals were injured and 2 killed.

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