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

by Peter Moskos

February 28, 2009

"So I killed Someone"

“So I killed someone,” Keith Phoenix, 28, told New York police detectives who found him hiding in the bathroom of a Yonkers apartment, the police said. “That makes me a bad guy?”

Er, uh... yeah. It does.

The story is in the Times.

Four Shot in Eastern

None killed.

February 27, 2009

B*tch, stop lying!

Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora claims that US cocaine prices have increased 100% and purity dropped by 35% since the Mexican crackdown began in 2006.

Really? Let's examine that, shall we?

In April 2007 John Walters (the drug czar) said that cocaine prices had declined 11 percent from February 2005 to October 2006, to about $135 per pure gram of cocaine. Of course he might have been lying. But let's accept that figure as the base point for 2006. $135.

Since then, according to the prohibitionists, the retail price of cocaine has doubled. Plus purity has gone down 35% (adding another 35% to the price or a pure gram). So by logic the retail price of cocaine should be $270 per pure gram of cocaine.

According to shady data from the DEA, the price of cocaine in September 2008 was $183. Not $270, mind you, but that would still be a substantial increase compared to 2006.

But I don't believe the $183 figure. Not just because I'm cynical, but because elsewhere, you see (supposedly using the same STRIDE source for data), the US government lists the price of as $124 per pure gram. Hmmmmmm. Curious.

So which one is it? The 235% percent price increase? The 50% price increase? Or the 5% price decrease? If I were a betting man, I'd guess the latter.

See the DEA keeps two sets of books. One is used to claim the price goes up ($183); the other to use as the low price ($124) so that next year they can say the price went up. Just watch. I've been keeping track.

As far as I can tell, this system of lies became policy in September, 2007. That's when they claimed the price of cocaine in April 2005 was $94. Really? Because if you remember from six paragraphs up (and they're really dependent on you not remembering), the DEA said in April 2007 that cocaine prices had declined 11 percent from February 2005 to October 2006, to about $135 per pure gram of cocaine. Zoinks! We've come full circle.

You've got to admire their chutzpah. They just make things up with a straight face. Do they really think nobody will notice? To believe that we're winning the war on drugs requires a willing suspension of disbelief and a very short memory.

No doubt in 2010 the DEA will claim they've always said the 2008 price of cocaine was $124. You got a problem with that?

In further amazing displays of chuzpah, the DEA says that seizure data "indicate decreased cocaine availability beginning in early 2007. According to Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data, quarterly cocaine seizures by federal agencies have decreased significantly since the first quarter of 2007." So less seizure means we're winning the war drugs? Last time I checked they said that more seizures mean we're winning.

My head hurts.

I suppose when usage rates dip they'll stop talking about price. And when use goes up, they'll talk about seizures. And when that gets old, we'll go back to rising prices.

What's amazing about this game is that the DEA can't come up with any single standard that shows success.

The war on drugs is such a beautiful war because we never stop winning! No wonder they want to keep it going. Who can argue with success?

Wait till Next Year!

"Mexican president rejects 'failed state' label."

Well, I suppose he would.

He also says he'll have the war on the drugs pretty much wrapped up when he leaves office in 2012.

Mean more than 1,000 people have been killed in Mexican war-on-drugs violence in the first eight weeks of 2009. According to the Mexican Attorney General, Eduardo Medina Mora, the total killed in 2008 (6,290) was double that of 2007. About 90% are suspected drug traffickers; 6% police and soldiers; 4% innocents caught in the crossfire.

Medina Mora also took a page from our DEA and starting marking shit up. He said the cartels are "melting down" under pressure from turf wars and the national crackdown. He also lied when he says that US cocaine prices have increased 100% and purity dropped by 35% since the Mexican crackdown began in 2006.


Why do foreign leaders lie? Because American leaders pay them. That's what foreign aid is all about. We give them money. But I guess the gravy train runs out for former presidents. They start telling the truth.

February 26, 2009

Fender bender probe could cost NYPD captain his career

If they want to get you, they can always find a way.

"A patrol car's $221 side-view mirror could wind up costing an NYPD captain his career. A story about a double-parked cruiser and a minor fender bender has snowballed into allegations of conspiracy and coverup." The whole story is in the Daily News.

This is compstat pressure. Or traffic-stat or whatever it's called in this case. See, the captain was worried about getting himself chewed out a new assh*le because traffic accidents in his precinct were up 3.5%. So, the story says, he wanted an accident reclassified as vandalism. Did he do wrong? Yes. Should his career be ruined? No.

I feel sorry for the captain. Of course if he had told me to file a false report, I wouldn't feel sorry for him at all. I don't know. At some point it's a matter of "he-said she-said." It's a messed up situation that now becomes a matter of internal department politics in a micro-managed department. And that's f*cked up.

Compstat has done a lot of good for the NYPD and for New York. And I can't imagine a police world today that didn't use the timely compilation of statistics to allocate resources and identify problems. Really... what's the alternative?


For stats to matter, they need to accurately represent what they claim to. If you judge performance and crime on stats, it is inevitable that the numbers--and not the incidents they're supposed to represent--become more and more important.

When the pressure to produce stats becomes too great, and when the people held responsible for the stats control the stats, then playing with the numbers becomes too tempting and too easy.

I'm not defending fuzzy math, not by any means (plus there's always the problem that once the books are cooked, you need to keep cooking them). I'm just saying it should come as no prize when people living in a stat-based world play with the numbers.

February 25, 2009

For a Police Surge

More cops. Less crime. Plus it's good for the economy.
Ready the interesting article by William J. Stuntz in the Weekly Standard.
House and Senate alike are making a serious error. For $5 billion per year--five years' funding would be about 3 percent of the stimulus package--lawmakers could put another 50,000 cops on city streets. Doing so would likely both reduce crime and reduce the nation's swollen prison population--a rare combination--and would also help the economy in poor city neighborhoods by making investments in those neighborhoods safer. This is one policy that conservatives and liberals alike could support. If the Obama administration is looking for opportunities for bipartisanship, it should look hard at urban policing.

February 24, 2009

More wars!

Why are teen prostitutes "victims" who need to be "rescued" and drug users "criminals" who need to be "punished"?

Here's the story in the Miami Herald.

FBI Deputy Assistant Director Daniel Roberts said, "The goal is to recover kids. We consider them the child victims of prostitution." Well that's awfully sweet of him to say. Sounds to me like the FBI is codling prostitutes! Suspicious.

And if, like "they" say, we're winning the war on drugs, shouldn't we start on war on prostitutes? That would solve the problem. Besides... just think... if it weren't for all the prostitutes walking the street, my little John wouldn't have been pressured into sleeping with that whore! Let's have mandatory life sentences! Now that would send the right message and keep our streets safe. Either we're going to get tough with prostitutes or they'll be prostitutes in your neighborhood!

They say sarcasm doesn't translate well into writing. So I'd like to make it very clear.

Kathryn Johnston

Three years after the police killed Kathryn Johnston the case is almost finished winding through court. Johnston is one of those names you should know, another victim of the war on drugs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the whole story. It includes these lines:

"Tesler said when he joined the narcotics unit, he was told to 'sit, watch and learn' from superiors who cut corners to meet performance quotas for arrests and warrants. 'I was a new part and plugged into a broken system,'"

"Smith said his moral compass failed when he began to think 'drug dealers were no longer human.'"

Growing Support for Legalized Pot

For the first time more than 40%. Read about it at 538.com.

My world? I would guess 90% of my friends (99% not counting Baltimore cops) and 75% of my students support legal marijuana.

February 23, 2009

11-year-old kills family

What do you do with an 11-year-old murderer? Really. I have no idea.

Here's an excerpt of the story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Jordan Brown, a fifth-grader from New Beaver, Lawrence County, allegedly killed his father's pregnant girlfriend, Kenzie Marie Houk, 26. Police say he used the child-sized 20-gauge hunting shotgun his father, Chris, had given him for Christmas. Ms. Houk, who was due to deliver a son in a couple of weeks, was shot while lying on her bed in the family's two-story farmhouse near New Castle. Her body was found by her 4-year-old daughter, Adalynn.

Mr. Bongivengo described the killing as "premeditated and cold-blooded." He said Jordan shot his future stepmother, put the shotgun back in his bedroom, got rid of the spent shell casing and rode the bus to Mohawk Elementary School with Ms. Houk's 7-year-old daughter, Jenessa. Jordan's father was at work at a local factory at the time of the killing.

The whole store is here. What do you now do with the kid? I don't know. Any ideas?

Of course, for starters, not giving your 11-year-old a child-sized 20-gauge hunting shotgun comes to mind! Oh, snap! Yes, I did go there. Sorry, it doesn't answer the question, but it needed to be said. Am I back sounding like a two-bit commie gun-hating liberal again?

Next year little Jordan is getting a lump of coal for Christmas, that's for sure.

The War on Drugs Had Failed

That line is nothing new coming from me. But it is something new coming from Fernando Cardoso, Cesar Gaviria, And Ernesto Zedillo. Who the hell are they? Just the former president of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. In the Wall Street Journal they write:
Over the last 30 years, Colombia implemented all conceivable measures to fight the drug trade in a massive effort where the benefits were not proportional to the resources invested. Despite the country's achievements in lowering levels of violence and crime, the areas of illegal cultivation are again expanding. In Mexico -- another epicenter of drug trafficking -- narcotics-related violence has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the past year alone.

The revision of U.S.-inspired drug policies is urgent in light of the rising levels of violence and corruption associated with narcotics. The alarming power of the drug cartels is leading to a criminalization of politics and a politicization of crime. And the corruption of the judicial and political system is undermining the foundations of democracy in several Latin American countries.

The first step in the search for alternative solutions is to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of current policies. Next, we must shatter the taboos that inhibit public debate about drugs in our societies. Antinarcotic policies are firmly rooted in prejudices and fears that sometimes bear little relation to reality. The association of drugs with crime segregates addicts in closed circles where they become even more exposed to organized crime.
Read the whole op-ed here.

February 20, 2009

Robber Killed

This is the kind of shootings that makes cops smile. Bad guys gets what he had coming. Reminds me of the time in roll call when the sergeant was describing a complicated shooting in Sector One on Barclay St. or Greenmount Ave. It was a confusing tale of a Mexican guy, a black guy, a woman (perhaps girlfriend to one and prostitute to the other), money, a gun, and finally a man shot and killed.

A friend of mine interrupted to ask, "Who got shot? The robber or the rob-ee. I kind of like it when the robber gets shot." But in that case is was the rob-ee.

Not here:

Sometimes people are surprised to learn that yes, you can (and should) shoot a man holding a gun at somebody. No you don't need to say anything. No, you don't need to give a warning. In fact, doing so could endanger an innocent life. If somebody is threatening people with a gun and he points it toward you or anybody else, you cap him. Double tap. Plain and simple. That's a good shooting.

In this case it just so happened that an on-the-ball 65-year-old retired police captain was working security. If there had been no security guard, it is true that the odds are nobody would have been killed. But those are odds I wouldn't want to play.

The retired officer shot the robber four times (quadruple tap?) and is not being charged. Nice bit of shooting, I would say.

This robbery and violence related to a legal and regulated drug. That goes against what I say about regulation and drug violence (namely that the former prevents the latter). Too bad there was no legal way for the addict to get his drug. If there were, robbery prevented, addict lives to stay addicted another day, and the retired police officer wouldn't have to shoot anybody. Everybody wins.

Life and Death in New Orleans

My friend Dan Baum has written an excellent book about New Orleans. Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans. Baum was the New Yorker reporter covering the aftermath of the flood.

And it's not just me who says this book is great. The New York Times gave it a great review. You can read an excerpt here. Then go buy it. You'll be happy you did.

Bicylist-Assualting Cop Fired

Police Officer Pogan, who tackled a bicyclist in Times Square, has been fired.

I told you so.

Here's the the story in the Times .

A friend of mine has claimed that there's "more to the story" and that the officer was specifically trying to stop this bicyclist. I don't buy it. If that had been the case, he would have said something about it in his arrest report.

Here's the officer's lie-filled arrest report, from The Smoking Gun.

February 18, 2009

Good News for Coke Heads

The DEA makes up numbers about the price of cocaine and used the funny numbers to claim rising prices and victory in the war on drugs. The UK is more honest and admits that the price of cocaine has fallen by half in the last 10 years and is set to decline even more. The report comes from the International Narcotics Control Board.

Now of course it is possible that prices are falling in the UK and rising here.

But seriously, if rising cocaine prices means, in theory, that we are winning the war on drugs, what do falling prices mean? I can't wait to hear the spin from the DEA.

According the BBC, the report also says:

Canada has become a primary source of ecstasy for North America and a significant supplier for Asia.

Poppy cultivation has shrunk in Afghanistan but the US occupied country still produces more than 90% of the world's opium.

Perhaps if we weren't so busy fighting drugs in Afghanistan we could better fight terrorists--and take away their source of income.

February 17, 2009

Mexicans block border to protest drug war

"Hundreds of people in Mexico have blocked key crossings into the US in protests against the deployment of the army fighting drug traffickers." Read the complete story in the BBC.

Another Officer Killed

Philadelphia has seen seven officer die in less than three years. That is seven too many.

From an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
The police say it's not their fault that career criminals aren't in prison; they keep arresting them, but judges' sentences are too lenient.

The judges say it's not their fault; they follow proper sentencing guidelines, but the prisons don't use the time to effectively rehabilitate.

The prisons say they have good programs to rehabilitate inmates, but society doesn't provide the help returning felons need - a good job, for starters - to stay out of trouble.
Read the whole piece here.

February 16, 2009

Sheriff Leon Lott is an Idiot

Lott is the guy who wants to lockup Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, for smoking mari-ju-wana in his county.

That at least made me suspect that Lott is an idiot. But this picture, of Lott in front of his new "peacekeeper", confirmed it.
Talk about putting the war back in "war on drugs." What a dope. Thinking that a tank is an appropriate civilian police vehicle.

Former Police Commissioner and LEAP member Norm Stamper has a more thoughtful perspective.

[Update from the AP: "A South Carolina sheriff said Monday he won't charge swimmer Michael Phelps after a photo of the 14-time gold medalist showed him smoking from a marijuana pipe."

But eight others have still been arrested. Time Magazine says that 42% of Americans have smoked weed. So let's see... eight down, 302,999,992 to go.

But what's a sheriff to do when there is clear evidence of minor law breaking? Doing nothing is always an option.]

February 13, 2009

Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty is "Totally Badass"

Award Winning Cop in the Hood

I was just informed that Cop in the Hood won an award. How exciting!

I won the 2008 PROSE Award for best book in Sociology and Social Work. PROSE is the Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence.

You know... PROSE... recognizing the best books for 33 years and, uh, er, well no, I actually hadn't heard of them either. But I still happily accept...

No, there's no cash prize so I don't think I can quit my day job. But still, it's an honor nonetheless.

Kindle at last!

No doubt timed to sync with the release of the Kindle 2, Cop in the Hood is finally available via Kindle. Ten dolla. What a bargain! Buy it to-day!

February 12, 2009

Stop and Frisk

Officially, the NYPD stopped and frisked 531,000 people last year. That’s a lot. They resulted in 31,665 arrests and 34,081 summonses.

Because of the 4th Amendment, you need “probable cause” for a search or arrest. A search happens once you go inside pockets or look for anything accept weapons (drugs do come to mind).

Because of a Terry v. Ohio, you need “reasonable suspicion” to stop and/or frisk a suspect. Afrisk is a pat down of the outer closing for weapons in the interest of officer safety. Sounds benign, but a frisk is aggressive, hands on, and personal. Ask anybody who has been frisked. It's not fun. (I should mention it's not fun to frisk, either. But similar to being hit by a car or hitting someone while driving a car, I'd prefer to be the "frisker" rather than the "friskee.")

Now half a million frisks a year is a lot. In NYC it’s part of a strategy to disarm criminals. There’s debate as to its effectiveness, but personally I think it's likely that aggressive stop and frisks did and do play some role in reducing crime in NYC.

But that's easy for me to say. It’s not me they’re frisking. I’m white, professional, getting to middle age, and know how to talk to police. Though I have been stopped twice by the NYPD, both times while on my bike.

I ask my undergrad students how many have been frisked. About half the hands go up. Most have darker skin (though there are white hands, too).

Maybe the first time you’re frisked and innocent you say, “Fine. OK. I want a safer city, too.” But the fifth time your frisked on your way to work or school? I don’t know about you, but I’d be pissed off.

So what level of frisking is acceptable? If there were 500,000 frisks and 500,000 illegal guns found, I don’t think anybody would have a real problem with frisks.

If there were 500,000 frisks and no guns were found (though it could be argued that frisks still served some deterrent value), nobody would argue it was a good policy.

So what “hit rate” justifies the frisks? 50%? 10%? 5%? I don't have the answer.

Also, consider these:

1) Most police tell me that the vast majority of frisks in NYC are officially counted (that certainly was not the case for me in Baltimore). But still, there is certainly some undercount.

2) If officers make an arrest, many don’t fill out the stop and frisk form. In other words, for some, the form is only filled out when nothing is found. So the hit rate may be somewhat higher that official stats indicate.

3) To argue, based on the stats, that 88% of those frisked did nothing wrong is absurd. If there’s a corner of active drug dealers and you stop and frisk eight people. You find a gun! Well the stats, seven out of eight (88%) were innocent and doing nothing wrong. Bullshit. In this case, all eight of those frisks were justified. Even if no gone was found (this time)!

4) On the other hand, if you're frisking walking to work with a small bag of weed, that counts as a hit but I'd say isn't justified. You frisk for weapons, not drugs. And in New York State you can't use plain feel from a frisk to prosecute for drugs. but many NYPD don't know this.

5) Does a 21-year-old white rookie cop out of Long Island have any knowledge regarding the nuances in street behavior and dress that distinguish between hip street-look and criminal thug?

6) Is it fair to disproportionately discover marijuana on urban minorities (found during a frisk) when the equivalent risk of discover for suburban whites is virtually zero?

So let's say frisks do lower crime. Let's say they also pisses off a lot of the non-criminal public. Is it worth it?

Class cancelled

Fewer police is not a good option. If anything is "shovel ready," the next NYPD academy class sure is! Too bad it's not going to happen.

New Drug Czar

Do I have faith in any drug czar? No. But who knows. Maybe I'm wrong.
This guy is interesting. Especially because of the "jaywalking incident" that got him a vote of no confidence from the police union.

Latin American Panel: Drug War Failing, Honest Debate Needed

The drug war has failed, and its repressive policies are having negative consequences in Latin America, a 17-member commission said today. The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, co- chaired by former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Cesar Giviria of Colombia, and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico called for an "open and honest debate" on the problem.

February 9, 2009

"You cannot call 911 because you're unhappy with your burger"

But the truth you can call 911 because you're unhappy with your burger, or for any other dumb reason. That's part of the problem.

The AP reports:
Authorities said a man, 66, was arrested after calling 911 on Saturday to complain that a fast food restaurant ran out of lemonade. After a drive-through employee failed to respond to the man's threat of contacting the police, the irate diner called 911, a police report alleges.

He spent about 5 minutes talking to the 911 operator about his complaint.

Boynton Beach said the man was charged with abuse of 911 communication.
The Smoking Gun has the best coverage of this important issue.

To me the real surprise isn't that the man called 911 because of this (I have calls to match this one), it's that the man was charged with a crime. Good (not that anything will happen to him).

You can listen to the actually call here.

Broken Windows Works

Researchers, working with police, identified 34 crime hot spots. In half of them, authorities set to work - clearing trash from the sidewalks, fixing street lights, and sending loiterers scurrying. Abandoned buildings were secured, businesses forced to meet code, and more arrests made for misdemeanors. Mental health services and homeless aid referrals expanded.

In the remaining hot spots, normal policing and services continued.

Then researchers from Harvard and Suffolk University sat back and watched, meticulously recording criminal incidents in each of the hot spots.

The results, just now circulating in law enforcement circles, are striking: A 20 percent plunge in calls to police from the parts of town that received extra attention. It is seen as strong scientific evidence that the long-debated "bro ken windows" theory really works - that disorderly conditions breed bad behavior, and that fixing them can help prevent crime.

Read the whole story in the Boston Globe. I'll try and get my hands on the actual report.

[Update: The article is Braga, Anthony A and Brenda J. Bond. 2008. "Policing Crime and Disorder Hot Spots: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Criminology. Vol. 46(3).

February 8, 2009

Was that all a dream? Or Baltimore?

My wife, a friend, and I were on the 10:05 train to Baltimore this morning. Twelve hours and one Bull & Oyster Roast later, we're back in New York City. It's a shame we couldn't stay longer, but a good time was had by all.

On the menu:
About 2 1/2 dozen delicious Maryland Oysters.
3 deep fried oysters (about 3 oysters each).
1 cup of delicious oyster soup (1 oyster).
3 big hunks of pit beef burnt ends.
A few regular slices of pit beef.
One small Italian sausage.
One piece of cake.
One diet coke (to keep the girlish figure)
And God only knows how many buckets of beer.

I don't like oysters as much as crabs. But these were very good oysters. Unlike the crab feast, this was almost a stag affair. 80% male. And lots of tables brings cards and gamble at their table. Drinking, gambling... all we needed was whoring to make this church party complete.

I also learned from my friend cooking the beef (strange coincidence he's a guy I actually know from meeting him in a bar in Somerville, Mass, many years ago...) that pit beef is not, as I've described it, smoked roast beef. Well it sort of is. But it's marinated overnight first. Then baked to 100 degrees. Then grilled and smoked to 130. It's delicious.

If this were in New York City all this would probably cost, including tax and tip, close to $200. Of course it's not in New York. And that's why we go to Baltimore, hon.

At St. Francis of Assisi, it's all included in $38 ticket (plus maybe another $10 in tips).

Incidentals: On the money wheel I broke even (played $4 won $4). I didn't play the liquor raffle (I won 3 bottles last time and didn't want to press my luck) but my buddy did win.

Nor did I win any other raffle for a grand loss of about $10. And I bought a souvenir hat, also $10.

Using Amtrak miles, the train trip was free (otherwise that would be the $200 bank-breaker).

No carry outs seems like a fair rule. Though some people always try.

Back behind my sergeant's Baltimore police home bar:

February 7, 2009

A story of 6 immigrants

I hate anti-immigrant people. Really. And I don’t hate easily.

No, we’re not full. Just think of all the depopulated cities in this country. Those are the places that need people: Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, Camden, South Dakota. The list goes on and on. The very least we could bring these places back up sustainable and healthy population from the past.

The U.S., despite being incredibly friendly to immigrants, has long has a Nativist strain. Idiots, they are. And over the past decade they’ve become a lot more powerful.

Not to my surprise, part of the war on terrorism has somehow morphed into a war on good immigrants.

I hate U.S. policy that deports and makes criminals of good men and women. I hate splitting up families. I hate kicking productive tax-paying men and women out of our country.

At a talk today I was asked why New York became so safe. There are a lot of reason, but one of these is the 40% of New Yorkers (that’s right: four in ten) are immigrants born in another country. And many of them are illegal. And I’m happy they’re here. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t want to be here. Immigrants are what makes this neighborhood, this city, and this country great.

Here is a story of six immigrants:

1 and 2) My grandparents.

My grandparents were Greeks from what is now Albania. They were born Ottoman Subjects (sounds ancient, doesn’t it?). My grandfather came to America around 1918 on an Italian passport. He shined shoes and started a shoe repair business. They met and married here. They raised two successful sons. He lived with us till he died when I was seven. I am named after my grandfather.

3) My mom.

She came to America from Germany when she was 16, in 1959. At the time she just wanted a visa to study English. But when she went to get her visa, the woman on the other side of the glass said, “Why don’t you apply for an immigration visa rather than a tourist visa? Then you can work.
“Because I am not going to stay there,” said my mom.
Well, check it anyway, she said. There’s no downside. You don’t have to stay. But you never know.

Well, my mom did stay. Thanks to some bureaucrat and a system that wasn’t out to get her, my mom checked the right box and stayed here. It was that easy. If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here. I like to think we’re all better off.

Those were the old days. Now things are different. Now we’re stupid.

4) A business owner.

I just got back from my favorite bike store. Yes, business is crappy, but the owner was very happy. He's now a U.S. citizen!

Despite being a model resident, paying taxes, starting a business (you know, the kind the provides jobs), being a good grandfather, he feared deportation for 18 years.

He came with his wife and two young daughters overland (and sea) from South America via Guatemala and Mexico. I asked him if the Mexicans were nice to them. This good-natured man simply said: "No. It was rough." I can't even imagine.

They traveled to the U.S. via boat, foot, train (freight), bus, and truck (hitching). Any way they could. Many times in many countries they were caught and deported.

And no, it wasn't always technically, what's the word? Legal.

He applied for U.S. citizenship but was afraid that his “crime” of being here was going to get him deported. He was afraid, and for good reason, that he would be kicked out.

He got his passport on December 28. He celebrated by going home, for the first time in years, to visit his parents. He hadn't seen them in years because he was afraid he wouldn't be able to get back into America, his home.

5) A nurse.

A young woman took care of my father briefly before he died last year. She wants to stay in this country. It may not be possible. She is from Nepal and a registered nurse. She is a good nurse. But she only has a student visa. So she’s got to keep taking classes. What then?

6) My cousin.

This Russian came to America on a student visa. She’s smart. She graduated and went on to Harvard Law School. Then she got a job in a Chicago law firm. At work, she met and then married my cousin. They live in Chicago and pay taxes (a lot of them, I might add). They also have a one-year-old son (who is adorable and really took a liking to me, for some inexplicable reason). She is currently expecting a second son in June.

Well in the process of making her a citizen, it was discovered that a requirement of her original visa was that after school she would had to leave the U.S. for two years. Why? Who knows? She didn’t.

Yeah, just like a common criminal, she went to college, Harvard Law School, and then to work in a law firm. For that she is now at risk of being deported. And this despite doing all the right things, being well educated, having an American husband, and being financially well off.

So if she gets deported, they all leave. For at least a two-year forced exile. In whose interest is this? Really. People, what the hell are we doing?

Who the hell wants these good people out of our country? Who thinks we’d be better off? Sure, I suppose it would be good if everybody followed the rules. But that assumes the rules make sense. They don’t!

Why do we educate people and then deport them? Why do we threaten nurses, business owners, and lawyers with with deportation? What the hell are we doing? Where is the rationality? Where is the humanity? Where is the morality? Where is the common sense?

Really, what’s become of us? Have we no shame?

February 6, 2009

One man. No vote.

Prison-based gerrymandering.

Drug free ain't gonna be

The New York Daily News has a story about police raids in the Queensbridge Homes.

59 people arrested in a "lengthy undercover probe" that "brought down an extensive drug-dealing operation.

Interesting, I thought. And not just because I live nearby and often ride my bike past The Bridge. No, it rang a bell. Ah, yes, here it is... a headline from 2005: Long Island City Drug Sting Rounds Up 37 Suspects.
The drug dealing started every day at 7 a.m., the police said, and was centered in a shopping area known as the Hill, at the heart of the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City.

Drug dealers divided up the 26-building public housing development -- the city's largest -- and agreed to buy their crack and cocaine solely from a group of seven wholesalers and enforcers affiliated with the Bloods street gang, who called themselves the Dream Team, the police said.

But the enterprise, which the police say has been entrenched in the housing project for years, came to an end yesterday as the police and prosecutors announced the arrests of 37 people on state and federal drug charges.

The arrests, made over the past few days, ended an 11-month sting operation in which undercover officers bought 500 grams of cocaine from dealers and conducted surveillance at the project, the police said. The police are still seeking at least a dozen other suspects in the case, officials said.
Flash forward to 2009. There are still drugs. Still violence. Same homes. Same deal.

Back in 2005, Danny Jackson had it right: “‘It’ll cool down a bit, but the next generation will come,’ said Danny Jackson, 27, a rap artist who works in warehouses for $6.50 an hour to support himself, his mother and his year-old daughter.”

And in four more years we’ll do it all again, spending more money, risking more police lives, and throwing more people in prison for no real long-term gain.

We need to stop this nonsense and legalize it all. Otherwise how can we regulate it?

Dump Kellogg's

Ethan "Rabble-Rouser" Nadelman has a clever idea.
A "Call Kellogg's Campaign" that lets the corporation know that their dumping Phelps is good reason for us to dump Kellogg might just make the point that more and more Americans are sick and tired of this particular spectacle.

Just say No to Kellogg's. Call them at 800-962-1413 and 269-961-3799 to tell them what you think.

February 5, 2009

Same old same old

After a Howard County police raid on his house three weeks ago, Mike Hasenei says he has a sprained wrist, a dead dog, a bullet hole in his bed and a 12-year-old daughter who is scared every time she hears a knock on the door.
No one was arrested in the raid.

February 3, 2009

Turkey leg killing

I mentioned the turkey leg killing story to my classes today. Many of the NYPD officers in my class had heard the story! How? I don't know. It really is like a police urban myth. None claimed it as a New York City story. But none had any idea where it was from.

Phelps and weed

Read The Agitator's letter that Phelps should say. Brilliant.

February 2, 2009

Bong Hits for Phelps

Too bad it's illegal.

The News of the World has the scoop: A picture of Gold Medal swimmer Michael Phelps (gasp!), smoking marijuana (gasp!) from a bong (double gasp!)

So what? Most people (at least young Americans) have smoked marijuana. Many from a bong. You can smoke marijuana and live a perfectly functional, even gold-medal winning life. And certain lifestyles, so I hear, are virtually dependent on the wacky weed (musicians and snowboarders come to mind).

Tone Newman in the Huffington Post is right on the mark saying no apology needed. Drug use is only called a "youthful indiscretion" when the rich and famous don't get locked up for it. Drug use is not a youthful indiscretion; it is an adult choice.

Cell phone jamming

As President Obama's motorcade rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day, federal authorities deployed a closely held law enforcement tool: equipment that can jam cellphones and other wireless devices to foil remote-controlled bombs, sources said.

It is an increasingly common technology, with federal agencies expanding its use as state and local agencies are pushing for permission to do the same. Police and others say it could stop terrorists from coordinating during an attack, prevent suspects from erasing evidence on wireless devices, simplify arrests and keep inmates from using contraband phones.

But jamming remains strictly illegal for state and local agencies. Federal officials barely acknowledge that they use it inside the United States, and the few federal agencies that can jam signals usually must seek a legal waiver first.

Read the whole story in the Washington Post.

Killed Over a Loosey

A 30-year-old man was chased down by four women and stabbed more than 20 times early Sunday after arguing with them over a broken cigarette, sources said.

Here's the story in the Chicago Sun Times: "The slain man, Morris Wilson, was drinking with the four women at about 2 a.m. when he broke a cigarette, angering the women, a source familiar with the investigation said."