About . . . . Classes . . . . Books . . . . Vita . . . . Blog. . . . Podcast

by Peter Moskos

September 29, 2008

September 28, 2008

Oh, Baltimore

I always leave Baltimore loving it more than ever. This time was no exception. Except I was really wet. Man did it rain.

A shame, considering the Book Fest was outdoors. Yeah, they had tents. But it was wet. Man did it rain.

I got in on Friday night and went out drinking with my Palin-loving friends.

Saturday I had lunch at Icarus (they make good crab cakes) and got to chat with Xenophone, whom I haven't seen in years. Then I walked to the Highlandtown Library in the rain.

Thanks to an influx of Mexicans and other from south of the border, Greektown and Highlandtown are very different than I remember. There are taquerias in Highlandtown! A lot of them. It's hard to imagine. And property values are up. I'll tell you what, Eastern Ave looks a lot better than it did when I left in 2001.

The library talk went well. It was a small turnout, about 20 people, but a very good discussion. Some very good Greeks (and non Greeks) were there. I was actually quite deeply moved. Senator Sarbanes and the Maroudas family and John Gavrilis. If it weren't for them, I never would have gone to Baltimore.

Yes, Senator Paul Sarbanes and his wife were there. Sarbanes knew my father. Sarbanes is a very good man. He gives me faith in both politics and politicians. Seriously. He's so low key. And so nice and caring. Nobody turns their head. But they all know who he is. I didn't even recognize him at first. Like the Senator is always at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Southeast Anchor branch. Maybe he is. I'm proud to have voted for him. Too bad I can't vote for his son.

Then I got a ride to the book fest and a nice little tour of the growth of Southeast Baltimore. But the book fest was basically a washout. I talked twice. And I thank anybody and everybody who showed up in the rain.

Afterward, I went with friends to the Owl Bar in the Belvedere. Classy. I had never been there before. And then on the 10:45 train back to NYC.

29 hours in Baltimore. Such a fine city. And I think it's finally on the rebound. Too bad it rained. Man did it rain.

September 25, 2008

More on the Tase

The Times says the LT who ordered the Tas is getting in trouble.

Supposedly the Post has a video. I wonder if it will change my mind. Here's the link.

Hmmmm.... Unfortunately the video doesn't clear much up. It doesn't show the interaction between the light bulb and cop on the fire escape. That's what I want to see. Was the officer being attached and could the officer not get away?

At the moment of Tas, there was certainly not justification for lethal force. And maybe time for a tactical retreat from the fire escape. But if a person attacks an officer who can't get away, I got no problem with shooting him one way or the other.

60% oppose mandatory minimum sentences

But that means that 40% support mandatory prison terms for non-violent drug offenses. Still I guess it's less than half. Read the story in the Christian Science Monitor.

Overcrowded California Prisons

Something has got to give. We'll see what.

Man farts at officer, charged with battery

Talk about a deadly weapon!

Oh, Taser. How you kill.

In an instructional manual for Taser use. This picture seems like an example of what not to do. Don't Taser naked men standing on ledges.

But it's not that simple. Here's story in The Daily News . The police were tying themselves to the fire escape to try and grab the guy. The guy takes a large fluorescent bulb and starts hitting and pokingthe officers. I think you gotta Tas him and take the chances he dies. I think you could shoot him in this case. But at least using the Taser gives him some chance to live.

But I will note, because I'm generally against the use of Tasers, that this is at least the second man in New York to die after being Tased is the past few years. Tasers can be lethal and should be thought of as potentially lethal force.

September 24, 2008

Republican fiscal mismanagement

You mean ending government regulation, raising spending, cutting taxes, and helping the rich doesn't make the economy strong? Wow. Who would have thought?

You do realize that $700 billion is more than $2,000 for every man woman and child in the United States. That is, as they say, "real money."

I'm no economist. And I don't understand what's really going on any better than you do. But something is very obvious: companies should not be allowed to get too big to fail. Duh! That's why we regulate.

And while I generally prefer my socialism for the poor and working class rather than the rich, I'd feel better if we could get as much of this $700 billion as possible to come from people who profited from this mess.

Now I wonder how Republicans are going to blame Democrats for all this. Oh, that's right. Now we have to rise "above politics." Easy to say when you're the ones that f*cked everything up. Fine mess you rich bastards have gotten us into. If only capital gain taxes were lower, I'm sure everything would be better.

Of course a lot of Republicans are also pissed because they don't like Republican fiscal mismanagement either. Why, I'm old enough to remember when fiscal mismanagement was a Democratic issue. Those were the days!

Meanwhile, poor Americans are being kicked out of their crappy formaldehyde-infested trailers in New Orleans. Years after the flood. It's just not right. It just don't make sense.

Another reason to legalize drugs

The Agitator has a story about a drug raid gone amok. I had never heard about Ryan Frederick or Detective Jarrod Shivers. There is so much I don't like about this: the war on drugs, a bad CI (confidential informant), a drug raid, and (most of all) a dead police officer. I hate the war on drugs.

Police should not be busting down the doors of American citizens. That's not (or didn't used to be) the American way.

Click here For a complete list of botched paramilitary police raids.

Baltimore appearances this weekend

To everyone in Baltimore, I'm heading down there this weekend for a variety of on Saturday appearances. First at the Highlandtown Library, then at the Book Festival. For details, look at the "upcoming events" listed in the right column. Then come say hi.

Interview reschedule

If any of you were planning on hearing me on the Phil Hendrie Show tonight, it's been rescheduled for next Tuesday night, 1:30AM (eastern time). Something about breaking news. I bet it's not the shootings in Harlem.

Police aren't soldiers

And soldiers aren't police. Going from the armed forces to a police department may seem like a natural transition. It's not. A different mentality is needed. Most soldiers can make the transition. Some can't. De-emphasizing the military aspects of police departments would help.

Here's an interesting article in the Austin Chronicle about the problem for some soldiers' reentry into the police world.

Cooking the books

In 2007, the Kansas City Police Department reported a 22% drop in crime to the state (and to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report). Now it turns out that crime actually went up 10%. The department basically blames this mix-up on a paperwork mess. Sounds fishy. But having worked in a real big city police department, I kind of believe them. It's a mess in there.

It is hard to overstate how completely overwhelming police paperwork can be. No matter what you do (except maybe if you deal with doctors, patients, and medical insurance), you have less paper work than police.

If police had less paperwork, they could do more policing. Think about that the next time you call for more documentation of police work. Much police work will be undocumented. All police work can't be documented. That's the truth we've got to live with.

Last year a different city reported low crime numbers to the FBI. After the crime stats got published and this city was reported as safe, the city "discovered" more stats and submitted them to be published in some unpublicized addendum. I don't remember the city, but I don't think this was an accident.

Here's the worrisome thing. With my ear to the ground, I smell smoke (how's that for a mixed metaphor?). There's more and more pressure in the NYPD to produce lower crime stats. That's not necessarily a bad thing... as long as lower crime stats reflect lower crime. But I'm starting to think that stats and reality are less and less related. I didn't hear this a few years ago. Now I do. It's worrisome.

The Compstat pressure to produce lower stats is overwhelming police ability to lower crime. A mid-level commanding officer gets a new asshole chewed out at a Compstat meeting. His numbers are too high. He tells his lower-level officers he needs lower stats. He doesn't tell them to fudge data, of course, but funny things start happening. Reports start getting "reevaluated." Or a foreign tourist is robbed (many tourists lie about being robbed, by the way, but that's another story) and is leaving the country the next day. If the victim is gone, the suspect won't be prosecuted. No victim, no crime. So the robbery is recorded as "lost property." What's the harm?

As a Baltimore police officer, I never felt any pressure to downgrade crime. Nor did I ever downgrade grade crime for the purposes of lower crime stats. But based on my professional judgment and discretion, I downgraded crime all the time.

There's a fine line between common and aggravated assault. "Intent to cause serious bodily harm." Who can say for sure?

There's a fine line between misdemeanor theft and felony theft. How much is your laptop worth? Are we talking current value or replacement price? That's the difference between a bit of paperwork and a major Part-One crime.

There's a fine line between burglary and senility. What do you do if a "victim" "thinks" things are missing from his apartment?

There's even a fine line between "rape" and "failure to pay." A prostitute says she was raped. When an officer reports a rape, a lot of gears and department resources start moving. Plus the victim needs to go to the hospital and get tested. Maybe the "victim" just wants her money. Or, as I once dealt with, her three winter jackets back that the John took (it was a cold night). I could have reported a rape. That's what she first said. But then all these gears would have turned in the wrong direction and nobody would win (and she would be cold). Instead, I investigated, got the real story, and got her jackets back. I could have locked everybody up. Instead, everybody left happy (sort of). I thought it was good policing. Best of all, there was no paperwork.

The point is there's a lot of discretion in investigating and lots of gray in producing crime stats. Always has been, always will. This isn't the problem. We need to acknowledge the gray, train and pay our officers well, hold them to high standards, and move on.

The problem is when a police department systematically--or non-systematically but on a large scale--begins to change crime data to lower the stats. This is a hole out of which you can not dig. Every year you have to keep fudging the stats just to match the fudged stats from the previous year.

There are only three ways out of this:

1) You fess up after the data is released, published, and reported in the papers. Then you just hope the follow-up story gets less publicity.

2) You get caught. You get fired. And your bosses (who directly or indirectly got you in this mess) get to gloat about how vigilant and angelic they are.

Or 3) you get promoted and your replacements are stuck with a huge "crime" increase to manage during their first year. But they can't say too much. You are, after all, their boss.

There is no great solution except to keep honest stats ("at least," to quote H.L. Mencken, "within the bounds of reason"). It's important to make clear from the top to the bottom that any stat fudging is not to be done.

But if you de-emphasize Compstat, you're losing one of the tools that helped bring crime down.

If you bring in independent oversight, you bring in more layers of management and paperwork. Not good. (But having district commanders in charge of stat collection that can help or hurt their career is begging for shenanigans.)

Maybe you need a special number for police to call anonymously just to report problems with stats. Remember, cops don’t like fudging stats; they do so because they feel they have to. Perhaps if two anonymous officers complain, a little internal audit begins. That could scare some people straight and give honest cops the reason they need to remain honest.

For stats, you could focus solely on homicides. Homicide stats are much harder to fudge (but there's still some room). But that only works in an area where there are a lot of homicides. What if the main problems in an area are quality-of-life issues? How do you measure these?

There is no easy answer. There never is. But the first step to a solution is pointing out that there may be problem.

Harlem Shootings (IV)--You read it here first

Now it's officially in the news. The Daily News, to be precise.

Buy Cop in the Hood

It's a great book. And I'm not the only one who says so.

"Riveting.... An unsparing boys-in-blue procedural that succeeds on its own plentiful—and wonderfully sympathetic—merits."
—The Atlantic

"Never mind 'The Wire.' Here is the real thing."
—The Wall Street Journal

"[A] riveting tale of policing.... A must read."
—Sudhir Venkatesh

"Hard-edged sociological analysis.... A devastating critique of America’s failed war on drugs."
—Orlando Patterson

"[An] adrenaline-accelerating night ride that reveals the stark realities of law enforcement."
—Publishers Weekly

"Just garbage! ... Who does he think he is telling me what to do?"
—My former boss, former Baltimore Police Commissioner (and convicted felon) Ed Norris

Read all the reviews here.

Go to your book store or Amazon.com to buy Cop in the Hood.

Harlem Shootings (III)

Seems like you've officially entered the blogosphere when you're quoted in other blogs.

More on the Harlem shootings at Gothamist and NYC The Blog and great pictures at Harlem Hybrid.

Seems like my initial report of 14 guns and 7 shot was right on the mark (at the time I hedged the shooting number with "give or take one or two"). There were seven shootings if you believe an anonymous comment about "another, unreported shooting at Fred Doug and 127th." I'm inclined to believe seven because that's what I was told. But six or seven, I guess it doesn't matter either way, unless, of course, you're the seventh victim.

The old (high-school) journalist in me likes to be able to actually break some important(?) news.

September 23, 2008

Harlem shootings (II)

I did find this buried in the Daily News. Maybe it's all about location. Location, location, location. Or, as they said in The Wire, "wrong zip code."

The newspaper headline is "Fatal Gunfire on Westside." One man was shot and killed. Then in the last paragraph it says this:
The slaying came after a chaotic night in uptown Manhattan. Six people were shot in a series of attacks in Harlem - starting at 8:30 p.m. - on an unseasonably balmy evening. None of the victims was expected to die.
Thanks for the weather report.

The way some live

This brings back memories. Bad memories. Cops deal with this sh*t all the time.

Willie Bosket

I recently finished reading Fox Butterfield's excellent All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence.

Amazingly researched (Butterfield is a Class-A journalist), this 1996 book follows a culture of violence and its transference over time from white slave owners in the historically f**ked-up county of Edgefield, South Carolina to Willie Bosket and the contemporary ghettos of today. It's not a feel-good story. But it's a great read.

Willie Bosket
was a very bad boy.

The New York Times has a story on him today. He's been in solitary confinement for two decades.

September 22, 2008

Florida Guns Increase Crime

OK you gun fans (and I know you're out there), explain this to me: I read in the paper today that licenses for concealed handguns have almost doubled in Florida since 2005. "Interesting." I thought. "I wonder what's happened to crime." So I checked. Murder, robbery, and burglary are all up.

Now I know this is a simplistic analysis. But could somebody tell me something else that happened in Florida except another 200,000 people walking around with guns that causes this increase in crime between 2006 and 2007? Criminals can get concealed gun permits, too.

Let's say crime went down, wouldn't gun nuts be shouting about how this proves guns equal safety? Well, now crime is up. Where's the clamor? (There are some good schools of criminal justice in Florida. I'd bet they're working on such reports right now.)

Remember, I'm not a huge fan of gun control (but purely for pragmatic reasons: I don't think gun control controls guns), but I do think guns equal crime. Florida seems to show this, no?

You can read the newspaper article (which interestingly does not talk at all about crime rates) and look at the crime stats here (it's a PDF file).

Florida crime trends over time (thanks to DJK). Looks like crime was going down until 2005.

7 shot in Harlem isn't news

One of my students told me that police took 14 guns off the streets of Harlem last night. This after the annual African-American Day Parade. Seven people were shot (give or take one or two). This isn't in any of today's papers. Say what?!

The parade ended in the afternoon. The tough kids come out at night. Between 11pm and 2am, people were walking around with guns, shooting them in the air. And this right by uniformed officers. Plain-clothed officers would tackle the kids. Policing is dangerous work. Be safe.

Tuesday Update:

For some coverage (it's nice to know I didn't make this whole thing up), see:

The comments at uptown flavor and hip-hop Republican (thanks for the links, DJK).

And there's this video on You Tube. Nothing too exciting. There's a gun shot at 1min and police response to it. And I'm reminded how much I hate police helicopters.

So why wasn't the crazy night a news story? I don't know. Conservatives love bashing the liberal media. See, they say, it's un-politically correct to talk about the annual shootings after the African-American Day Parade. I don't buy it. News is still news and if it bleeds, it leads. Besides, not even the conservative media covered it. Nothing in the Post. Nothing on Fox News. Some feel the media (and most white folk) simply doesn't care about black-on-black crime and what goes on in Harlem. I'm more inclined to that position.

Wednesday Update:

Read all my posts on these shootings and check out my book, Cop in the Hood.

September 20, 2008

Amazon Sales Rank

If you're a published author, maybe you check Amazon.com sales rank (gosh, of course *I* never do).

You can read this, this, or this.

My book topped out at 500 (that's pretty good) and is currently hovering around 15,000 [update: 50,000]. That means there are 14,999 books selling better than Cop in the Hood at Amazon.com.

What does that mean? Hard to say for sure. But the best guess is that a ranking of 15,000 through the world's biggest book retailer means I'm probably selling about a book a day. And Amazon is perhaps about 1/3 - 1/2 of all sales. In terms of royalties, that's about $2 day.

One way to tell for sure is when Amazon gets low on stock. For instance, Amazon.UK (England) currently has one book for sale. They have had one for a while (or so I've noticed). When it sells, they'll have no books for a day or two. So I can be sure I know the next time I sell a book in Europe. ...It may be a few days.

Doesn't anybody read anymore?

Have you bought my book? If not, please do. It's cheap. And good.

September 18, 2008

Cop in the Hood now on Amazon Kindle

Hey, my book is now available through Amazon's Kindle. I'm not exactly certain what that means. But I do know it makes me slightly hipper and more likely to be read by tech geeks commuting by train.

Cops and dealers (and The Wire)

Dolan Cummings of Culture Wars has written the best review of my book. I don't mean the most positive review (though I'm very glad he liked my book); I mean the best written review. They sure writes good with that there English language in England.

Along with being the first to juxtapose me, Venkatesh, Homicide, and The Wire (which is a natural but he's the first), I actually found myself learning more about my own book through this review. It's outstanding writing (and it's very rare to see a good use of "yadda yadda").

Read the whole review here. It's a bit lengthy, and worth it.

Crime Alert

Crime alert tip provided by I Can Has Cheezeburger.

September 17, 2008

The Legal Drinking Age Surprise

The New York Times came out today with an editorial against lowering the drinking age. That surprised me, especially from a paper that says we're not winning the war on drugs.

I started drinking when I was 15. Most people do. Seems to me that the legal drinking age for beer and wine should be 16 or 18. Since kids do it anyway, better to regulate and teach kids to drink responsibly. Instead you get kids chugging cheap vodka and being stupid.

The drinking age was raised to 21 with the goal of reducing traffic deaths (so if you don't have a car, why can't you drink?). I always assumed that raising the drinking age accomplished that. Turns out it really didn't.

Here's the surprise:
Since the drinking age was set at 21 in 1984, research shows alcohol-related traffic deaths among those 18 to 20 years old have declined by 11 percent, even after accounting for safer vehicles.
An 11 percent reduction in traffic deaths over 34 years?! Are you f**king kidding me? A higher drinking age criminalized a whole age group, prevented voters and soldiers from having a legal beer, encouraged stupid drinking, and reintroduced the failures of Prohibition back into America. 11%?! You're telling me you couldn't think of a better way to get a minor reduction in drunk driving among a small age group? If so, maybe you need put on your thinking cap and think just a little bit harder.

September 15, 2008

Only in Hollywood (Florida)

A Baltimore reader emailed me this:
Michael Verdugo is a police officer in Florida who was on the HGTV show Design Star. He's openly gay and a porn blog revealed that five years prior to becoming a police he was in a gay porn film. The police department he is in suspended him to investigate these allegations. Apparently he could be fired for this depending on how the investigation goes. This is what I don't understand - how can you be fired for making a legal product?

Gay porn is legal, right? A lot of people (on the internet) say that he is being fired for being gay, but he has been out at his workplace for four years. I don't understand how you can be punished for something legal that occurred before you were even at a job. I feel like there is something I don't understand about police culture that is at the heart of this situation.

I can see the anti-gay lobby chomping at the bits! "See, first they made it legal... then they think it's normal to be in a gay bondage films! Next they'll be tying down our boys! Grab the torches and pitchforks!"

While homophobia isn't the heart of police culture, I think it's safe to say that police culture is not generally very liberal or gay friendly (neither are most Americans, it should be noted). There is an active gay NYPD association. And there are openly gay officers in the Netherlands and nobody seems to care.

But I knew of no openly gay (male) police officers in Baltimore (or closeted ones, for that matter). And yes, I used to joke all the time with my colleagues about their sexual orientation. (Gosh, you know what, I still do. And I'm about as gay friendly as a guy as you can be without... oh, jeeze, there I go again.)

Police, at least in theory, agree to uphold certain standards of morality in their personal life. And there's the rub. Is it immoral to be in a gay porn film? Most people would say yes. And don't forget, in 2003 sodomy was (and maybe still is) illegal in Florida!

Legal or not, police can get dismissed for actions that aren't illegal. For instance, in the P.D., being a "coward" isn't just an insult, it's a disciplinary offense. And occasionally officers are (and should be) brought up on charges of being a coward (like if you watch your partner get his or her ass kicked and don't do anything).

If you're a cop and they really want to get you, "conduct unbecoming" is generally the catch-all. Now applying "unbecoming" to pre-job "conduct" is a bit of a stretch.

If they want to fire Verdugo for being in gay bondage files, they'll probably get him for lying on his job application. What did he list as his previous employment? It would be interesting if he did list "film career" or "actor" or something on his application. Because then he was open about it and it would be hard to blame him now (and he could place the blame on the background check).

I do wonder if any straight male or female police officers were "porn before police"? Would they get fired for it? In most of America--Hollywood, Florida, included--I doubt it.

September 13, 2008

The Solution to the Failed Drug War

Jack Cole, the founder of LEAP, has an op-ed in today's Boston Globe.
WAR AND RACE dominate the presidential campaign, but one nation-shaping war with profound racial consequences eludes the political radar: the drug war.

I was a frontline soldier in this self-perpetuating, ineffectual effort that has swallowed more than a trillion tax dollars and currently yields nearly 2 million arrests every year for nonviolent offenses. I helped incarcerate some 1,000 young people as part of this irredeemably wrongheaded attempt to arrest our way out of our drug problems. Those arrests will follow them to their graves.

I know they follow me.

Read the whole article here.

September 11, 2008

27 drug raids in one night

A federal a local task force, HIDTA ("High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area") busted down 27 doors in what must have been a very long night's work. I hope people feel safer.

Six shot, one dead

Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Hermann doesn't exactly crack the case, but he does provide a bit more insight and analysis than you usually find in such a story. Read it here.

September 8, 2008

Gambling machines seized from bar

At many many bars in Baltimore, there are video gambling games. Video poker games. Not video games. Not Ms. Pac Man or Galaga. These are not something you would play for fun. You play for money. They're gambling games. If you're a regular, the bartender will pay you out if you win.

Police raided some at a bar I was in a few times.

The story is here.

I don't get it. I don't like gambling in bars, because it tends to make the drunks grouchy. Nobody is more grouchy than a drunk who is losing money gambling. But this is the same state where Keno is legal. And many of these bars couldn't survive without the added income. Everybody knows these games are for gambling. So what? I'd hate for a corner bar to be closed and shut and boarded because the state wants to keep it's gambling monopoly.

September 5, 2008

You can't arrest your way out of problems in a neighborhood

"You can't arrest your way out of problems in a neighborhood," the sheriff said. Communication between the community and law enforcement, Bradshaw said, is crucial.

It's my favorite line. I've said it a bunch myself. You can arrest your way out of some problems, but not drug problems in a drug neighborhood.

There's a piece about community policing in Florida. Sounds like a great idea. Community policing is a great idea in theory. Of course the real question is will it work reducing crime. Usually community policing is just lip service. As a philosophy of a whole department, I don't believe community policing exists. I'd love to be proven wrong.

Charges Against Shoved Cyclist Are Dropped

No surprise here. The question is what will happen to the officer.

September 4, 2008

Crime Platforms: Dems For Aiding Cops, GOP Tough Enforcement

Copied from Crime & Justice News:
The Democratic Party platform includes a four- paragraph section on criminal justice focusing principally on support for local law enforcement and ending violence against women, says the National Criminal Justice Association, which represents states and localities in Washington, D.C. The platform says, "We will reverse the policy of cutting resources for the brave men and women who protect our communities every day. At a time when our nation's officers are being asked both to provide traditional law enforcement services and to help protect the homeland, taking police off of the street is neither tough nor smart; we reject this disastrous approach. We support and will restore funding to our courageous police officers and will ensure that they are equipped with the best technology, equipment and innovative strategies to prevent and fight crimes." The Democrats vow to "reduce recidivism in our neighborhoods by supporting local prison-to-work programs. We will continue to fight inequalities in our criminal justice system. We must help state, local and tribal law enforcement work together to combat and prevent drug crime and drug and alcohol abuse, which are a blight on our communities. The platform includes support for ending violence against women and backing victims' rights.

The Republican platform includes an eight-part criminal justice section on ending child pornography, gangs, sentencing, reforming prisons, federal law enforcement, fighting illegal drugs, and protecting crime victims. The platform calls for "stronger enforcement and determined prosecution of gang conspiracies" and for the immediate deportation of "aliens involved with gangs or who are convicted of crimes of violence or sex offenses." The Republicans are specific in their commitment for tougher sentencing for certain violent crimes, support of the death penalty, and opposition to granting parole to dangerous and repeat felons. The platform calls for reform of the nation's correctional institutions. It discusses the need for increasing the ranks of federal law enforcement agencies to replace the resources shifted to homeland security duties. The document calls for "several thousand new FBI agents, U.S. marshals, immigration officers, and Border Patrol agents. The costs will be significant; but the social and economic costs of street gangs, identity theft, and illegal entry into this country would be much greater." The platform endorses "state and local initiatives, such as Drug Courts, that are trying new approaches to curbing drug abuse and diverting first-time offenders to rehabilitation." The Republicans seek ratification of a constitutional amendment on the rights of crime victims.

You can read the whole summary here. I tend to believe this is all bullshit, anyway. But I'm especially skeptical of any platform promises from the ruling party. Because, you see, this is the party that has had time to do all this and hasn't. Like the next four years would be different than the last eight. Republicans have not been good to police (though most police are Republicans).

A Constitutional Amendment for victims' rights? Be serious. Leaving aside a scary willingness to want to change the Constitution for every minor issues (flag burning, gay marriage), I have a problem with crime victim rights. Really. It sounds goods. But the devil is in the details. Many crime victims are criminals. Drug gangs aren't shooting you. They're shooting each other!

There have been problems when the bad guys get money from crime victim funds. See, for instance this story.

September 2, 2008

War on Drugs: Mexico

"Tens of thousands protested drug violence this weekend. Many blame the president."

Here's the story by Sara Miller Llana in The Christian Science Monitor .
In August alone, the teenage son of a Mexican businessman was found dead in the trunk of a car, after being kidnapped at a fake police checkpoint; a dozen decapitated bodies were discovered in the southern state of Yucatán; and in northern Chihuahua state, gunmen fired on a dance hall, killing 13 people, including a baby.

Mexicans have long been fed up with the escalating violence. But 20 months after conservative President Felipe Calderón launched a massive military effort against drug violence, the bloodshed has only gotten worse.

Mr. Calderón has scrambled to assuage public outrage, signing a national pact this month with the country's leaders to improve anticorruption measures for cops and form new antikidnapping squads. But the pressure is on.
Read the whole story here.

LEAP Becomes Latest Victim of Government Censorship

Retired police detective, Howard Wooldridge, representing Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) was ousted from the National Asian Peace Officers Association (NAPOA) Conference in Crystal City because he was representing a view contrary U.S. government policy.

LEAP is a 10,000-member organization of police, judges, prosecutors, DEA & FBI agents, and others who know ending drug prohibition will reduce death, disease, crime, and addiction, while saving billions of our tax dollars each year.

On Tuesday acting under pressure from unnamed federal officials, Reagan Fong, President of the NAPOA, insisted on the immediate removal of LEAP from the conference vendor roster. It appears that some of the event’s other exhibitors took exception to the LEAP message and put pressure on the event organizer to expel LEAP from the event.

The whole story is here.

September 1, 2008

For the record...

John McCain will lose. Obama will win. Sarah Palin is a horrible choice for running mate. She is not fit to be president. On the plus side I'm sure she knows how many homes she has and that rich is a less than $5 million a year.

Is it too much to ask for candidates to respect the responsibilities of vice president by actually picking people who are smarter and more experienced than average? No doubt, unlike McCain, she is "real." Keep on keeping it real, sister!

And by the way, if your chief qualifications for office are moral righteousness and being a good mom (and being governor of state with a huge problem of sexual abuse, particularly incestuous sexual abuse), your teenage kid getting knocked up is kind of an issue. I'm not opposed to 17-year-olds having consensual sex (and they wouldn't stop, even if I were). I just don't want them having kids. Not in Baltimore. Not in Alaska.

How much I make from my book

I got my first annual royalty check from the good people at Princeton University Press. Not that you asked, but it was for $983.98. In other words, if you're thinking of becoming a writer, don't quit your day job. But it is $983 more than I had yesterday. It also means I've paid off my $4,000 advance and seemingly high $856 indexing fee.

Why do I tell you this? Not to gloat (I'd have to make a lot more if I wanted to gloat, that's for sure), but to help writers and working people.

I think people should talk more about how much they make. My wonderful father, Charles Moskos, always gave his salary in his popular and very large intro sociology lecture at Northwestern University (I'm not certain why this came up. I didn't take his class.). I think it was about $100,000 before he semi-retired. That's about as much as a professor can make. It's funny I can't tell you for sure. I guess if you talk about money, maybe you care less about it.

It's only bosses and rich people (and I'm talking John McCain rich) who don't want you to talk about your wage.

Why poor workers go along with this, I don't know. Knowledge is power. And knowing how much people make is important if you're not making much.

I remember once maybe 10 years ago I was on the L in Chicago and I saw a Chicago Cub usher in uniform. I had that job back in 1988 (a long, hot summer to be wearing polyester pants). It was my first union job. I think I made $4.50/hour. I think somehow my union made me part of the teamsters--that was kind of cool--but my union dues were going straight to crooks.

My first official payroll job, by the way, was in 1986 as a movie theater usher at the M&R Evanston Movie Theatres (you could tell they were fancy because they spelled theater with an "re"). I think my pay was for two dimes over the then $3.35 minimum wage.

Maybe that's when I realized how absurd it is that people making a few cents over minimum wage wouldn't talk about how much they made except in hushed don't-tell-others! voices. Some ushers after a few years made, gasp, perhaps 50 cents an hour more than other ushers! Meanwhile my first boss, Elaine, who was very good to me, was evidently embezzling much larger amounts.

Anyway, back to the L and the Cubs usher. I told this kid that I used to be an Cubs usher way back when and in 1988 made $4.50/hour, about $1 over minimum wage. I told him I was curious how much they were now paying ushers now (or whenever this was).

Ripping tickets, patting down bags, and pointing people to their seats (and yes, if an usher wipes your seat you should tip)... it's not exactly a hard job. But I challenge anybody with a desk job to stand on their feet for 8 hours. You do get used to it after while, in the sense that your feet let you. But it's tiring. One of the strange things rich people like doing to poor people is making them stand while they work. Low paying jobs often have a rule that you can't sit. Can you imagine the kvetching if rich people hand to stand all day?! There's something very wrong when bosses who can sit make workers stand for no reason other than to show that they're in command and that the poor people are actually working.

Anyway, back to the L and the Cubs usher. I remember being told as a Cub usher that we were not to discuss our salary. Because somehow it wasn't in our interest. Undoubtedly we were being paid less than the Andy Frain Ushers who had worked at Wrigley Field for 60 years but the Tribune Company replaced a year or two earlier.

Being told not to say how much I made was like when I was told at worker training at Papagus, Chicago's Richard Melman's "Lettuce Entertain You" restaurant chain's "Greek Concept" (the food was excellent, by the way) that Lettuce Entertain You employees, and I quote, "don't need unions." That was sure nice of management to inform of us that.

I thought of that often on my hour commute on the L back home after being cut at lunch and literally losing money at work after tipping out. For an hour of work, I made $2.01 (waiters make sub-minimum wage in salary). That almost covered both ends of my-hour-one-way commute on the L. But was I not going to give the illegal-immigrant Mexican coffee guy his money just because I didn't make any? Shit, my Spanish wasn't good enough to explain why I was being a cheapskate.

Besides who can put a monetary value on being able to light delicious saganiki and yell, "Oopa!"

Oh well. I wasn't supporting a family. Besides, if I was pulling a double I would drop much bigger bucks between shifts chugging screwdrivers when I took my shift break at a bar down the street (don't worry, your faithful servant would generally sober up while doing his opening sidework--God forbid somebody serving drunk people would actually be a bit tipsy himself).

Anyway, back to the L and the Cubs usher. No doubt he must have feared that I, this guy riding the L, was a spy from high in Tribune Tower, destroyers of workers and newspapers nationwide. No doubt if he told me how much per hour he was paid, I would report back to the evil bosses in Tribune Tower and have him fired. And I would deflower his younger sister, too, just for fun.

Minimum wage in Illinois, by the way, is now $7.75. It's $7.15 in N.Y. and $6.55 in Maryland (that's the federal level). I looked them up. By the way, if you work minimum wage full time, 50 weeks a year, you'll make $13,100. These are just kind of good figures to know.

I still don't know how much Cubs ushers make these days. I'm curious. And yes, Go Cubs!