Saturday, May 15, 2010

A little non-partisan soothing music for Saturday

Since I scheduled this for posting on Friday, learned that Tammy Reaves, a former Flint Journal colleague, died after a long battle with cancer. Tammy was one of the truly nice and classy people at the newspaper and her loss, along with other former employees who have died too young, have me thinking about how precious life and friends really are.

Posting will end for the weekend.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mayor Daley: Be careful what you wish for

Although Chicago's Mayor Daley is denying the revengeful reasons for it, his decision to post all investigative reporter requests online could seriously backfire on him.

While he believes he is messing over reporters who have been dogging his every move, he may find out that he will just be opening Pandora's Box by tipping off more reporters to the tips.

Chances are this will result in more scrutiny and not less, which would be a good thing in the political cesspool that is Chicago.

I'm just happy there are still investigative reporters.

Arizona law, misguided, but completely understandable

I have stayed out of the Arizona immigration law argument so far because while I understand the frustration of Arizonans to the lack of federal enforcement, I think the law they enacted is actually unnecessary.

Many of you know that I spent 7 years in the 1970s working for two California police agencies. What the Arizona law proposes is already done every day by officers in California. The only thing California law lacks that the Arizona law has is that Arizona has taken the federal law (almost word for word) and said the state can enforce violations of immigration law.

During my time in law enforcement in California I, and all of my fellow officers, routinely questioned people, mostly non-English speaking Hispanics without proper identification, about their legal status. In most cases they were illegal aliens.

When we called federal immigration officials to report the violations and have them take action we would be told: "Get a good address and we'll follow up." Yeah, right. Never happened and immigration enforcement by the federal government has beeen, and still is even in the wake of 9/11, a serious joke. Some times we were called to 'arrest' illegals because their employers wanted an easy way to get rid of them. We sympathized with the illegals to an extent and despised the employers, but still there was no enforcement either on the illegal or the company that hired them.

Last Monday, my USS Cogswell Association voted to hold our next reunion in Tucson, Arizona. The idea of boycotting a State because of a law someone doesn't agree with is perfectly legal, but then people should be free to start boycotts for other issues in other States. Gay Marriage comes to mind, legalized marijuana would be another, name your poison and groups everywhere could find reasons to boycott just about anywhere. We all make decisions to boycott or not to boycott businesses or events (I boycott Barry Manilow every chance I get), but when making a decision to lead a more public boycott people should at least be informed.

Below is a copy of current California law as it affects police officers and illegal immigrants, please note that it includes the same, or nearly the same "profiling" language that the Arizona law does and no one has yet suggested boycotting California:

California Penal Code Section 834b

(a) Every law enforcement agency in California shall fully
cooperate with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service regarding any person who is arrested if he or she is suspected of being present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.
(b) With respect to any such person who is arrested, and suspected of being present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws, every law enforcement agency shall do the following:
(1) Attempt to verify the legal status of such person as a citizen of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident, an alien lawfully admitted for a temporary period of time or as an alien who is present in the United States in violation of immigration laws. The verification process may include, but shall not be limited to, questioning the person regarding his or her date and
place of birth, and entry into the United States, and demanding documentation to indicate his or her legal status.
(2) Notify the person of his or her apparent status as an alien who is present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws and inform him or her that, apart from any criminal justice proceedings, he or she must either obtain legal status or leave the United States.
(3) Notify the Attorney General of California and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service of the apparent illegal status and provide any additional information that may be requested by any other public entity.
(c) Any legislative, administrative, or other action by a city, county, or other legally authorized local governmental entity with jurisdictional boundaries, or by a law enforcement agency, to prevent or limit the cooperation required by subdivision (a) is expressly

The L.A. County Council, which voted to boycott Arizona, might want to note that they are in violation of the last section of that law.

And here is a dated legal argument on the California law. Here is a pertinent excerpt from that discussion:

"4. California AG Opinion 01-213 (11/16/2001): While California’s Penal Code Section 843b’s mandate that local officers inquire into immigration status has been enjoined, officers can still voluntarily make the inquiry. A local law enforcement officer during detention of Spanish speaking person for otherwise valid purposes may question the person as to immigration status, but may not question status solely because the individual speaks a non-English language. Local officers may continue investigation into a person’s immigration status prior to arraignment on state charges. In footnote 4, the Opinion indicates “Civil violations of immigration law are not cognizable” under a formula in Pen. Code s. 836, sub. (a), (a)(1), which allows California peace officers to arrest either in obedience to a warrant or without a warrant where the officer has probable cause to believe that a public offense has been committed in the officer’s presence."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Destroyer reunion over, back home

No time to outline all the fun and good times at my USS Cogswell reunion tonight, but I'm home and basking in the glow and fun of reconnecting with friends and shipmates I haven't seen for 43 years.

Some of those guys have really gotten old. Glad that didn't happen to me. I'll have some photos to put up as well.

Like cars? Check out Fast Eddie's Cruisin' blog

A long time friend, and one of the best newspaper photographers I ever worked with, has extended his car review reach to a new blog. Ed is a devoted and accomplished gear head and knows more about cars than any person I know. Fast Eddie's Cruisin blog should be a fun read.

I've put a permanent link over to the right and I'm sure Ed would love so readers and commenters.

Ed doesn't just write about cars, he has built a couple of the nicest rods I've ever seen.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Lessons from a former El Al security official

As part of another volunteer activity of mine I recently was privileged to hear a terrorism security consultant discuss some issues related to Homeland Security. The speaker, a former member of an Israeli airport security force, discussed the differences between Israeli airport security and the rest of the world.

It was a stark, but realistic and common sense appraisal of what most travelers already know.

El Al and Ben Gurion Airport have been remarkably successful in staying safe, considering the considerable enemies faced. So it was surprising to me that the speaker started out with criticism of the TSA and the ongoing efforts in this country and most of the rest of the world as it relates to airport and airline security.

Did you know, that there are no restrictions on El Al Airlines as far as liquid carryons? I didn't.

Israel doesn't worry about what is being carried on board airliners, its concerns are with who is being carried on airliners. Every passenger coming through Ben Gurion or boarding an Israeli flight is talked to by security officials and interviewed. Several rings of security, which start in the Ben Gurion parking lot and don't end until folks get on the plane, don't slow down security, they actually help speed it up.

"When was the last time you were talked to by airport security personnel in a meaningful way?," the speaker asked.

Israeli security officials are intensely trained on what to ask and what to look for in passengers who pose a risk. Every layer of Israeli security is empowered to act on any suspicions it has about a would-be traveler. Passengers in Israel or flying on Israeli flights must pass through a number of rings of security. In other airport security systems, there are only "security patches."

In some cases, people who raise suspicions are allowed to fly, but only after a complete body search and then they fly with an escort or marshall watching their every move on board the airliner. They will likely face additional scrutiny when the arrive in Israel.

Shoe bomber Richard Reid was one of those who raised suspicions and eventually flew into Ben Gurion escorted on the flight by a flight marshall. In later interviews he said he never flew on El Al again because, "too many people asking questions." He also picked another airliner to attack when he finally made his attack.

"Current airport security is focused too much on the means, and not enough on the terrorist. Don't look for bombs, look for bombers." Makes sense to me.

Certainly Israel uses technology and physical screening, but that's only a small part of their security approach.

The interviewing and suspicion is not based on ethnicity either. Israel doesn't profile based solely on your looks or physical factors, but on what your answers to their questions are. And a trained knowledge of body language. They are constantly tested on their proficiency in unannounced drills, he said.

In many cases this scrutiny costs less than the current technology heavy methods we use now, the agent said.

As soon as terrorists found out we were screening for liquids, they sent a terrorist on board the aircraft wearing liquids as underwear, the speaker pointed out. A series of speakers at the conference pointed out that while some might find comfort in the failure of recent terrorist attack attempts, most speakers point out that only the incompetence of the terrorist, and not effective law enforcement or intelligence saved us from a disaster.

"Most security efforts are aimed at the last attack and not the next one," the speaker said.

And random screening, such as pulling out a passenger every so often to reduce the liability for "profiling" is useless, the man said. Our worries about liability and negatively affecting our ability to make flights safe.

Israel avoids the liability by making everyone subject to the interviews and scrutiny until they have satisfied the system that they do not pose a threat.

Food for thought next time some TSA officer confiscates your 5-ounce bottle of expensive perfume you accidentally left in your travel kit.