The Eclectic One

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Archive for the ‘afghanistan’ Category

Reporting While Armed: The Horror!

Posted by Bill Nance on August 14, 2009

Patrick Appel links to a story about Afghan reporters who are routinely armed for self-defense.

Patrick’s selected quote:

[If] a local journo writes a story that burns a big-shot in government or the drug trade, the reporter will be looking over his or her shoulder (to say nothing of their family’s) for years to come. I don’t know any reporters who carry a gun in the US. Here, I know more than a few reporters who won’t leave the newsroom unless fully strapped.

The original story is about Afghanistan’s dangerous environment, which is hardly a surprise. But the notion that reporters might need to be armed is something that only happens in third-world pestholes is stupid beyond words.

Let me share from my personal experience since I  was a crime reporter for several years.

For a couple of decades now, any crime reporter who actually does their job, as opposed to simply taking dictation from the local police department and talking with the occasional victim, is in serious danger more than occasionally. I’m not complaining about the danger, the streets in crime infested neighborhoods are more violent places than they used to be. But that’s far truer for the residents than for reporters who don’t live there.

If you’re following the scanner, going to crime scenes, talking with neighbors and witnesses etc. in Crack Central at 3am, you’re not unlikely to be accosted by people who really really don’t want the press there asking questions and taking pictures. This is one reason why you almost never see pictures and read interviews with witnesses that were taken at the time unless they happen to be at the scene with a dozen cops around. There are plenty of places where reporters are missing good stories because they aren’t safe for an unarmed person to walk around snooping, even in broad daylight.

The reason all this is bad for newspaper readers is you miss the actual facts, which are often quite different from what the police are saying. As a reporter, you fail to get a genuine understanding not only of the event, but of trends, gang affiliations and lots of other things that give you a depth of knowledge which allows you to inform your readers about what’s going on on a larger scale. In other words, you have no perspective.

Crime sells, so reporters are always going to write about it. It’s also interesting because it’s conflict, which fascinates almost everyone on some level. But how often do you read or hear that crime levels nationally are going down, but in one district, or small subsection of a city the crime rate is 30% above the state’s?  That’s a not infrequently the case and the overall number of murders in a city can be a meaningless statistic. Many police departments don’t keep statistics by neighborhoods and the ones that do don’t share “intelligence information” (not subject to freedom of information act requests) with reporters. If you live in Chicago, the murders in one or two sections may make up 50% of the city’s total. That indicates one area has a crime problem, not the city as a whole.  But reporters who just report blood and take dictation from the cops will never grasp that very important fact.

So if you’re going out there and hustling and taking a few risks (it’s still 10 times safer than being a steelworker) it’s prudent to be armed. I was able to avoid a serious confrontation or assault simply by warning several gang members that I was armed. Who knows how many problems this saved me with other people they talked to.  Criminals don’t like to mess with people who are armed and ready to defend themselves.  Absent a very good reason (like being a rival gang member) they leave you alone.

So I know it’s taking a different tangent from the story Appel linked, but I think the point remains a valid one. That the writer in question doesn’t know any reporters in the ‘States who carry speaks to American reporter’s timidity and hoplophobia, not just that Afghanistan is a dangerous place. I mean seriously, we already knew Afghanistan was dangerous didn’t we?

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Posted in afghanistan, Crime, firearms, hoplophobia, International, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

They Just Never Give Up

Posted by Bill Nance on January 21, 2009

In case you were wondering why it is that the Bush administration not only screwed up everything it touched, but repeated its errors again and again, this article by Peter Wehner gives ample evidence of the causes of this clusterfuck of an administration.

The Juice:

As George W. Bush spends his last few hours as President, many of us who worked for him and deeply admire him are filled with mixed feelings. It is hard to see him leave the scene with approval ratings hovering at 30 percent, with the nation clearly weary and ready to turn the page. All of us hoped he would leave the Presidency with an outpouring of gratitude and affection from the nation.

It was not to be, and it would be silly and misleading to pretend that this did not matter at all. How could it not? Yet most of us have the conviction — a fairly deep one, actually — that President Bush will be looked upon by history favorably and that his decisions will be, in the main, vindicated. The obvious question concerns what we see that most of our fellow citizens do not. Why are we convinced that Bush’s presidency will be judged a success when so many people right now consider it to be a failure?

The answer, I think, is several fold. For one things, it is rooted in the belief that on the most important issues of his presidency — keeping America safe after the attacks of 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our broader struggle against militant Islam, the appointment of two Supreme Court justices, and more — Bush got it right or mostly right.

This doesn’t mean that there weren’t serious missteps along the way — failures in judgment, personnel, execution, communication, and persuasion. In Iraq especially, we were much too slow in recognizing the nature of the conflict and adjusting to it. Yet despite those mistakes, it is certainly possible that Iraq will end up very nearly as we initially hoped it would: free and self-governing, an ally of America instead of an enemy, a counterweight to Iran, the place that gave rise to an Arab uprising against militant Islam, and a nation that eventually helps to reshape the political culture of the Middle East. If this in fact occurs, the verdict on Bush dramatically shifts. What was widely seen as his greatest failure while in office will be seen as a significant, and even history-shaping, success. As Ambassador Ryan Crocker has said, how we leave Iraq will matter a great deal more than how we got into Iraq.

Whatever you do, DON’T take responsibility. That has been the mantra of the Bush years. That lack of acceptance has meant the same mistakes get repeated over and over. And the gist of Weher’s article is that this type of approach, to never question whether one might be wrong is good management. -No wonder bush was such a disaster with such nincompoops serving as Deputy Assistant to the President.

Remember this?

President Bush is responsible for “keeping us safe after 911?” Really?  So let me get this straight. We haven’t had another attack here since 911, therefore Bush is vindicated? That’s called a logical fallacy folks. There could be dozens of reasons why no attack has come, none of which necessarily have anything to do with Bush in particular.

First, let there be no mistake: NO American president would have failed to go into Afghanistan. Jimmy “dufus” Carter would have invaded. The public wouldn’t have stood for anything less and a clearer case of causus beli never existed. -When you can get the French to go along… well, you get the idea. So this is no Bush triumph. You don’t get to claim success based on something which absolutely anyone in the office would have done. As for the other possible reasons for no attacks? Who knows. But claiming that the Bush Administration is specifically responsible for this does not follow. Trying to claim it does is illogical and belies all the evidence of incompetence in every other possible arena.

Bottom line: We haven’t been attacked for any number of reasons, none of which can be laid at the feet of GWB. Maybe we’ve just been lucky. God knows the Bush administration’s “security theatre” we see in airports hasn’t kept us safe at all.

Similarly, the wholesale destruction in Iraq, the strengthening of Iran, the neglect of the main enemy based in Afghanistan, will never be vindicated.

George Bush is responsible for throwing out 12 years of Pentagon planning for how to invade and occupy Iraq. Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki testified to this fact before the war and was promptly forced into retirement for daring to call the emperor naked. The absolute clusterfuck of post-invasion Iraq has led to perhaps hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, a fractured polity and a new ally and power base for Iran, which, unlike Iraq, actually does pose a potential threat to U.S. interests.

I supported the war and I still think it was the right thing to do. This had nothing to do with WMDs possessed at the time by Iraq, I hasten to add. I stated at the time this threat was overblown in the extreme, and I thought Colin Powell’s testimony befiore the UN was laughable. If little ‘ole Bill Nance can figure this out, the fact that Bush didn’t is all the more damning.

From Iraq to Afghanistan to Katrina and the TARP, which has mystically disappeared $350 BILLION, to Harriet Miers and “Bring it on,” the Bush presidency has been the most colossal disaster in American History.

Anyone who thinks this president will be “vindicated by history” needs to get off the crack pipe.

Posted in afghanistan, george bush, humor, Iran, iraq, National Security, Politics, Terrorism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »