Thursday: Bob Woodward’s Non-Scoop, and Some Interesting Long Reads

coffee break

Good Morning!!

Poor Bob Woodward! The only way he can get attention nowadays is by whining and crying and generally creating a tempest in a teapot.

Yesterday Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen posted one of their patented “Behind the Curtain” pieces: Woodward at War, in which they dramatically revealed the inside story of Woodward’s little spat with the White House. This is the sort of story only the Villagers really care about, but when they care about something, they insist on forcing their opinions about it on the rest of us. It was the subject of the first hour of Morning Joe for yesterday and today, and the focus of countless media reports and blog posts throughout the day yesterday. Woodward must be in heaven with all this attention. From Politico:

Bob Woodward called a senior White House official last week to tell him that in a piece in that weekend’s Washington Post, he was going to question President Barack Obama’s account of how sequestration came about — and got a major-league brushback. The Obama aide “yelled at me for about a half-hour,” Woodward told us in an hourlong interview yesterday around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington’s powerful have spilled their secrets.

Digging into one of his famous folders, Woodward said the tirade was followed by a page-long email from the aide, one of the four or five administration officials most closely involved in the fiscal negotiations with the Hill. “I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today,” the official typed. “You’re focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. … I think you will regret staking out that claim.”

Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. “ ‘You’ll regret.’ Come on,” he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’”


Horrors! “I think you will regret staking out that claim” is a “major league brushback?” Either Nixon and his men were quite a bit wimpier than we all thought, or Woodward is a lot touchier now than he was in the Watergate days.

In an update, Vandehei and Allen revealed that the White House adviser who supposedly yelled at Woodward over the phone and then “threatened” him was Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council. This morning they published the actual e-mails between Sperling and Woodward. Frankly, I was underwhelmed. Follow me below the fold to read them.
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Developing … Christopher Dorner In Shootout; Two Officers Injured; Fugitive Still At Large


I thought I’d put up a quick post on this.  Dorner broke into a cabin, tied up two women, and stole their car.  One woman escaped and was able to call 911.

Police chased Dorner until he crashed the stolen car.  He then engaged in a shootout with police and reportedly wounded two officers with an automatic weapon.  He’s now holed up somewhere and police are searching  for him.   He has been on foot for close to an hour now.

Watch live local coverage here

LA Times: Dorner gun battle: 2 officers shot, ‘deputies are everywhere’

Fugitive former police officer Christopher Dorner allegedly shot and wounded at least two San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies during a shootout with authorities in the Big Bear area Tuesday afternoon, sources said.

Dozens of law enforcement officers were racing to the last reported scene of a gun battle near the 7 Oaks cabin area near Big Bear.

“There are deputies everywhere on the ground and on foot,” said Cindy Bachman, a San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman.

The shooting occurred after Dorner burglarized a home, tied up a couple and stole a white pickup truck, sources said. San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller confirmed deputies responded to a vehicle theft about 12:20 p.m., and the resident who reported the theft said the suspect matched Dorner’s description.

The U.S. Forest Service confirms there was an exchange of gunfire between officers on foot and the suspect, in the Santa Ana River drainage, north of State Highway 38 and south of Big Bear Valley. At least one officer of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was involved, said John Miller, San Bernardino National Forest spokesman. That officer is not believed to be injured.

Dorner’s status was not immediately known as the gunfight continued.

Real Life Rambo or Public Enemy Number 1?

proxy.storify.comThe frantic hunt for an ex LAPD officer turned shooter has turned into a series of odd and frightening events. The manhunt started out as a search for what was thought to be a spree shooter with a manifesto. The manifesto is available on line and talks about Christopher Dorner’s beef with his former employer the LA police department. It seems the LAPD is now in a stranger-than-life manhunt that is providing more support for Dorner’s manifesto than for the hunt for the ex cop who shot and killed 3 people, including a police officer and the daughter of a former police chief.

We now know that the man hunt for the ex-soldier isthe first known case of a Drone being used to hunt down a US citizen on US soil.

It was revealed that Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil.

It appears that the drone came from the Customs and Border Control Federal Agencies as reported by the UK-based Daily Express.  You’ll notice that most of the chilling and accurate coverage in this post comes from the UK.

POLICE plan to use spy drones in the hunt for a Rambo-style ex-soldier and policeman who has murdered three people and vowed to kill again.

They believe burly, heavily-armed Christopher Dorner is holed-up in the wilderness of California’s snow-capped San Bernardino mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

The burnt-out shell of his pick-up truck was discovered in the nearby resort of Big Bear, where residents and tourists have been warned to stay indoors as the search continues.

Yesterday, as a task force of 125 officers, some riding Snowcats in the rugged terrain, continued their search, it was revealed that Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil.

A senior police source said: “The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

Asked directly if drones have already been deployed, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, who is jointly leading the task force, said: “We are using all the tools at our disposal.”

The use of drones was later confirmed by Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Ralph DeSio, who revealed agents have been prepared for Dorner to make a dash for the Mexican border since his rampage began.

He said: “This agency has been at the forefront of domestic use of drones by law enforcement. That’s all I can say at the moment.”

Dorner, who was fired from the LAPD in 2008 for lying about a fellow officer he accused of misconduct, has vowed to wreak revenge by “killing officers and their families”.

The most bizarre and sad stories from this chase are the number of innocent people who have been shot and endangered by police who appear to be chasing down anything remotely resembling Dorner’s transportation.  This included an elderly Hispanic woman and her daughter delivering newspapers and neighborhood homes surrounding their ambush.

Two women who were delivering newspapers in Torrance, Calif., early Thursday were shot by jittery Los Angeles police officers who mistakenly thought cop-hunting fugitive Christopher Dorner might be in their vehicle, reported.

One was shot once and the other twice; both were were expected to survive. Police did not release their names.

Police detectives investigate a shooting scene involving a black Honda pickup truck in Torrance, Calif. Police opened fire on the vehicle in a case of mistaken identity while searching for former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner.

The LAPD detectives were in the neighborhood to watch over a home they believed Dorner might target. Hours earlier, the fired cop had allegedly ambushed officers in two other cities, killing one of them.

Across the region, cops on high alert were on the lookout for Dorner’s dark-colored Nissan truck. In the predawn dark, they saw a blue pickup rolling through the streets with no headlights on.

It’s unclear what happened next, but LAPD Chief Charlie Beck confirmed the officers fired on the vehicle, hitting the two occupants. He said it was a tragic case of “mistaken identity.”

The second person was a young, skinny white man.

David Perdue was on his way to sneak in some surfing before work Thursday morning when police flagged him down. They asked who he was and where he was headed, then sent him on his way.

Seconds later, Perdue’s attorney said, a Torrance police cruiser slammed into his pickup and officers opened fire; none of the bullets struck Perdue.

His pickup, police later explained, matched the description of the one belonging to Christopher Jordan Dorner — the ex-cop who has evaded authorities after allegedly killing three and wounding two more. But the pickups were different makes and colors. And Perdue looks nothing like Dorner: He’s several inches shorter and about a hundred pounds lighter. And Perdue is white; Dorner is black.

“I don’t want to use the word buffoonery but it really is unbridled police lawlessness,” said Robert Sheahen, Perdue’s attorney. “These people need training and they need restraint.”

Police gave no warning to any of these folks.  They obviously didn’t look very carefully either as two petite hispanic women and a skinny white dude don’t look a bit like the suspect who is a well built,  large black man.

The women’s lawyer, Glen Jonas, told the Times LAPD not follow protocol or the rules of engagement before they decided to exercise deadly force.

‘With no warning, no command, or no instructions, LAPD opened fire on their vehicle,’ Jonas said.

‘This wasn’t even close,’ their attorney said.

‘This was two petite Latina women versus a large black man, with a different vehicle, different color. The police didn’t take the time to do the identification.  They didn’t give  the “suspect” the opportunity to surrender. So the whole thing was just mishandled, and we expect that the city will acknowledge that and go from there.’

The police have lost track of the suspect and are now offering a huge reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.  Given the trigger happy police and the drone, I doubt arrest is what these folks have in mind.  The most interesting thing is the shift of public opinion.   The LAPD has a PR nightmare on their hands as well as the manhunt. This is from the Christian Science Monitor

The hunt for alleged cop killer Christopher Dorner has turned into a major public relations challenge for law enforcement officials, in particular the Los Angeles Police Department working its way back from a history of corruption and abuse.

Not only have hundreds of well-trained officers equipped with military-style vehicles – including helicopters with thermal imaging devices one pilot says can pick out a rabbit in a snowstorm – been unable to find the man charged with killing three people and wounding two others on a rampage aimed at police officers and their families.

The LAPD also has been forced to reexamine the reasons for Mr. Dorner’s dismissal as a police officer in 2009 – brought about, Dorner charges in the 11-page manifesto he posted on Facebook, by racism in the department. And the LAPD is having to make amends to the two people – a middle-aged Hispanic woman and her mother delivering newspapers – wounded when police riddled their truck with gunfire. (The women’s truck was neither the make nor the color of Dorner’s pickup later found abandoned.)

A California Public TV station reports that a number of social media outlets are seeing increased expressions of support for Dorner.

America’s history is sepia-soaked with outlaws who have engendered popular support. In keeping with this difficult-to-deconstruct go dorner gophenomenon, a number of social media corners are cheering on suspected murderer Christopher Dorner while authorities are still trying to track him down.

Frankly, I find it very disturbing that the police are using more and more military style tactics.  There are now scads of articles where military tactics used in Iraq are being used in the streets of the US by police departments.  BB pointed out a few of these to me and you may want to look a them.

To counter gangs, Springfield adopts tactics from war zones

Police deployed military tactics to rescue hostage in Alabama bunker

So, there is a growing question about the usefulness of these insurgency tactics in Afghanistan, but apparently, it’s fine to use them in US cities.  This first jumped into public awareness in 2008 as John McCain suggested it was a good thing during his campaign for POTUS.

Senator John McCain has suggested adopting tactics used in Iraq to combat urban crime here at home. McCain made the comment while he spoke before the National Urban League.

Sen. John McCain: “And some of those tactics, very frankly — you mention the war in Iraq — are somewhat like that we use in the military. You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control. And you provide them with a stable environment, and then they cooperate with law enforcement.”

We’ve had our own issues down here in New Orleans with our corrupt police, our broken criminal justice system, and out of control urban shootings.  I believe this will continue to be an issue.  Here’s a related thing I just learned today  and it’s been on the ACLU’s radar since 2006. It’s just been expanded to something really frightening in a DHS Report which many lawyers believe is a direct violation of the 4th amendment.

The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security.

The DHS, which secures the nation’s border, in 2009 announced that it would conduct a “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment” of its suspicionless search-and-seizure policy pertaining to electronic devices “within 120 days.” More than three years later, the DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties published a two-page executive summary of its findings.

“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said.

The memo highlights the friction between today’s reality that electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves housing everything from e-mail to instant-message chats to photos and our papers and effects — juxtaposed against the government’s stated quest for national security.

The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The President Barack Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.

So, we should really be worried about our due process and the access of police departments–all ready out of control–to sophisticated military tactics, techniques, and equipment via Homeland Security.  Meanwhile, keep your eyes on the Dorner case.  It appears to be layered with morality plays and plots from movies.

Lazy Saturday Afternoon News Reads

michael caine reading

Good Afternoon!!

It’s a perfect day to curl up with a great detective novel. As you can see, Michael Caine up there is deeply engrossed in Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely. Chandler is terrific for those of us who are connoisseurs of the hard-boiled school of mystery writers; I think his masterpiece was The Long Goodbye. I’ve read it multiple times. Here are a few great one-liners from the book:

“I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.”

“The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back.”

“I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split.”

“A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all. You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before.”

“The French have a phrase for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right. To say goodbye is to die a little.”

Years later, another hard-boiled detective novelist, Ross MacDonald, wrote a kind of paeon to The Long Goodbye called The Goodbye Look, which I also enjoyed and have read more than once.

These days I tend to prefer female detectives and women writers, but I still prefer the hard-boiled types over the “cozy” ones.

There’s not a whole lot of exciting news out there, but I have a variety of recent reads for you to delve into today if you choose.

I wish John Boehner and Mitch McConnell would read this article in today’s New York Times, although it probably wouldn’t begin to melt their cold cold hearts: Restored Payroll Tax Pinches Those Who Earn the Least.

Jack Andrews and his wife no longer enjoy what they call date night, their once-a-month outing to the movies and a steak dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse in Augusta, Ga. In Harlem, Eddie Phillips’s life insurance payment will have to wait a few more weeks. And Jessica Price is buying cheaper food near her home in Orlando, Fla., even though she worries it may not be as healthy.

Like millions of other Americans, they are feeling the bite from the sharp increase in payroll taxes that took effect at the beginning of January. There are growing signs that the broader economy is suffering, too.

Chain-store sales have weakened over the course of the month. And two surveys released last week suggested that consumer confidence was eroding, especially among lower-income Americans.

While these data points are preliminary — more detailed statistics on retail sales and other trends will not be available until later this month — at street level, the pain from the expiration of a two-percentage-point break in Social Security taxes in 2011 and 2012 is plain to see.

“You got to stretch what you got,” said Mr. Phillips, 51, a front-desk clerk and maintenance man for a nonprofit housing group who earned $22,000 last year. “That little $20 or $30 affects you, especially if you’re just making enough money to stay above water.” So he has taken to juggling bills, skipping a payment on one this month and another next month.

Don’t I know it!

President Obama used his Saturday radio address to once again poke Congress to deal with the upcoming “sequester” cuts.

“If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or energy are likely to be laid off,” he said. “All our economic progress could be put at risk.”

Mr. Obama’s remarks echoed a statement issued by the White House Friday that warned the sequester would “threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class.”

But, as usual, Republicans are blaming Obama for the problem.

“We know the President’s sequester will have consequences,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement this week. “What we don’t know is when the President will propose a plan to replace the sequester with smarter spending cuts and reforms.”


I hope President Obama reads this op-ed in The Washington Post by Georgetown constitutional law professor David Cole. Cole is the author of the recent book The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable.

There are plenty of problems with President Obama’s targeted killings in the war against terrorism: The policy remains secret in most aspects, involves no judicial review, has resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, has been employed far from any battlefield and has sparked deep anti-American resentment in countries where we can ill afford it.

But when it comes to the particular legal issue raised in a recently leaked “white paper” from the Justice Department — namely, whether it is legal to kill Americans with drones — one problem looms largest: The policy permits the government to kill its citizens in secret while refusing to acknowledge, even after the fact, that it has done so.

There may be extraordinary occasions when killing a citizen is permissible, but it should never be acceptable for the government to refuse to acknowledge the act. How can we be free if our government has the power to kill us in secret? And how can a sovereign authority be accountable to the people if the sovereign can refuse to own up to its actions?

Cole likens Obama’s assassination policy to the “disappearances” in Argentina in the 1970s.

When Argentina’s military junta secretly abducted and killed its citizens during that country’s “dirty war” in the 1970s, the world labeled these acts “disappearances” and condemned them as violations of human rights. A disappearance is not just an abduction or killing, but an unacknowledged abduction or killing. To “disappear” citizens not only deprives them of their liberty or life without fair process but is deeply corrosive of democratic politics, casting a shadow of fear over all.

Please read the whole thing if you can.

I liked this piece by Gary Gutting at The New York Times, despite my initial hesitation to read anything by a professor at Notre Dame. I finally decided I shouldn’t condemn him by association over the ND football team scandals. Headlined “Depression and the Limits of Psychiatry,” it’s a philosophical discussion of the upcoming changes in the definition of depression in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Read the rest of this entry »