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by Peter Moskos

December 31, 2010

Word Frequency

I'm ran the latest draft of my book through a word-frequency count. 47 uses of "simply"?! That's simply too many, and I got that down to 11 (mostly just by deleting them--it's interesting how often "simply" simply isn't needed). Now I'm working on "certainly," "of course," and "actually." It's very easy to fall on such linguistic crutches when you're writing.

So the total number of different words in my new book is about 4,900 (out of 30,000 words).

I don't know why I find that interesting. I also wondered if it's a lot or a little.

Turns out I'm not the only one curious about such matter (oh, the world wide webs, how magic you are!).

Zachary Booth Simpson was all over this, ten years ago.

Compared to most books, I don't use many words at all (that's good news for my friend, Gotti).

Moby Dick uses 17,227 different words. But Moby Dick is long. And my book is short. It turns out that for books of my length, my vocabulary seems perfectly respectable.

Thanks, Zach!

NYPD Releases Misdemeanor Data

Sort of. And only in response to a lawsuit.

Here's the Times story.

Why not just give out the raw data so academics like me can actually use it? It might actually help the NYPD and the city. Just sayin'...

December 29, 2010

Rigid Feminine Pleasure Device

From the Chicago Sun Times: Sex toy defendant arrested for failing to show up to court.

Warning: there's a picture of Ms. Bildsten, 56, of Gurnee, Ill.

Here's how she first came to our attention.

People Who Touch Your Junk

I love Venn Diagrams. This is a good one:



It's from a site I need to visit more, Chartport.org.

Text-to-voice software

If you're not a writer or a computer nerd, just skip this. Really.

I'm editing my book (and being doing so for a long while). It's very near done and still a very slow process.

About six hours ago, I bought a text-to-speech program online for $50 (NaturalSoft, for what it's worth. I have no idea if there are better ones). Honestly, it doesn't work too well in Word, at least not when two word files are open at the same time, but it works just fine when you cut and paste text.

It took me two days to get through about 30 pages. Tonight, using this program and having my book read to me while I looked at it, I swear things went at least three times as fast. That number is an estimate, but it's not an exaggeration. I got through 50 pages tonight!

Not only that, but I know I did a better job catching things I would never have noticed from just reading the text.

And here's why: because the damn thing doesn't stop (unless you want it to, like when you have to make substantial changes). Slow and steady. It's like being on an assembly line of your own words. I felt like cross between John Henry and Laverne De Fazio.

But now it's almost 6am and I'm off to bed.

December 28, 2010

Portugal's Drug Policy

The headline says: "Portugal's drug policy pays off; US eyes lessons." Of course it should probably say, "US ignores lessons."

I like pseudo neutral editor's note: "This is part of an occasional series by The Associated Press examining the U.S. struggles in its war on drugs after four decades and $1 trillion."

The story is here. I haven't read it yet, but I suspect it's good.

[Thanks to Sgt. T.]

December 27, 2010

Then and Now: Jacksonville

This time from Jacksonville, Florida. It looks like the Hamrock Hotel is a pretty upscale place, with all them nice new Ford motorcars out front!


The only old building left is vacant, abandoned, and falling apart. And as usual, business and buildings have been replaced with parking lots and vacant lots. There's one big new building. But no reason to be on the city street anymore. Just four lanes of traffic to drive by quickly and lots of parking. One-hundred years of American progress.

December 26, 2010

In the Nation's Service?

Happy Boxing Day (if you're Canadian). Or Second Day of Christmas (if you're Dutch).

Why don't we have two-day holidays (especially the Friday after Thanksgiving)?

In the news:

People in jail recording themselves reading books for their kids to listen to.

The DEA is big and scary and still unable to stop world leaders from dealing drugs.

And the New York Times has an article about the pay of elties. A person born poor (bottom fifth of the income distribution) in "the Land Of Opportunity," is much more likely to die poor that a person born poor in, say, socialist Sweden or England (the chances are 42%, 25%, and 30%, respectively). Not to mention our poor are poorer.

And this is interesting: In my dad's Princeton class of 1956, 450 of 750 graduates served in the military. By comparison, a third of recent Princeton graduates who got jobs after graduation went into finance (one of the reasons I didn't like Princeton). Just eight went into the military.

Speaking of the military: The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service.

Other signs the times are a-changing, for the worse:
In 1977, an elite chief executive working at one of America’s top 100 companies earned about 50 times the wage of its average worker. Three decades later, the nation’s best-paid C.E.O.’s made about 1,100 times the pay of a worker on the production line.
No doubt because the American economy is so much stronger today. But seriously... Why do we let this happen? Why do people insist on believing that regulation is the problem, that unrestrained for-profit corporations have our best interests in mind, and the only thing federal government is good for is the military?

It just don't make sense.

December 23, 2010

Mexico

First, as my wife sits near me working on a guidebook to the Yucatan (that's Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and the Mayan Riviera for you tourists in Mexico), I feel obliged to point out that the Yucatan has a lower homicide rate than Canada. And Canada is safer than America. So not going to Cancun because of violence in Tijuana is like not going to Disneyland because of crime in Detroit. It just doesn't make sense.

OK... not that I got out of the way... have you see how f*cked up the war on drugs in Mexico still is?! I mention this because one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, murder will go down in Mexico. And when it does, you'll hear about how great the latest get-tough police leader is. And how now we're really winning the drug war. Of course that will be B.S. But just like you (I'm certain) I was wondering, "gee, I haven't heard much about killings in Mexico recently. Maybe things are getting better.

Then I came across this diagram in the BBC:


No. Things are as bad as ever. And now police are shocking the balls of suspected corrupt cops (not all of whom are corrupt). But it doesn't work. Yet another bit of proof that "getting tough" usually fails. In fact, things are worse than ever. It turns out that things are twice as bad as when this stuff last seemed to be in the news. There are now more than 1,000 killings a month. To put that in some bit of (admittedly not quite fair) perspective, total US casualties in Afghanistan topped 1,000 this year.

In 2006, before Mexico got really tough in the war drugs, there were about 60 drug-war deaths a month in Mexico. Now those were the good old days.

The war on drug increases killing. We know this. People... STOP!

Pat Robertson for Legalized Pot Possession

Stranger things have happened. But I can't think of when.

I saw this the other day watching the 700 Club [not true].

"We've got to look at what we're considering crime." Robertson also comes out against mandatory sentences. "It's costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people."



Preach on, Brother Robertson.

[Update: Robertson clarifies his perspective]

But seriously, it's about time so-called compassionate Christians started being a little less filled with Old-Testament vengeance and little more filled with Jesus-like New-Testament forgiving.

Besides... it's (almost) Christmas. Merry Christmas.

Like good New York City Jews [also not true] the wife and I will be eating Chinese food and perhaps seeing a movie.

But we're going to cook the Chinese food.

We happen to have a haunch of hunted Wyoming antelope in the freezer [this part is true, thanks to the Mighty Nimrod (Genesis 10: 8-9), Dan Baum]. And what says Christmas more than Chinese-style antelope? Any antelope-cooking suggestions are more than appreciated.

What you learn on the job

I compiled a little top ten lost of things police learn on the job. You can see it at Criminal Justice Programs.com.
Peter Moskos is a former police officer and author of the popular law enforcement blog, Cop in the Hood (www.copinthehood.com). He is currently a professor of law and police science at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he specializes in police culture, crime prevention and ending the war on drugs.

It should go without saying that policing isn’t like what you see on TV shows and in the movies. But it’s not so easy to learn what policing is like. Here are a few of things I learned policing the streets of Baltimore’s Eastern District.

1. Policing is really about the men and women you work with. People are willing to risk their lives for you—it’s a powerful feeling.

2. Despite what police say, officer safety is not the number one priority. If it were, you’d never leave the police station. Danger is part of the job.

3. The job can be dangerous, but it’s the drudgery of routine that wears you down.

4. On the street, everybody lies. Some of the lies are more entertaining than others!

5. To cops, overtime is like a drug. It’s something you’ll crave, and something that influences far too much of what you do on and off duty.

6. Interactions with the public go much better when people show you their hands and sit still when asked.

7. Policing is a job like no other. But, when the day ends, it is just a job. Don’t take things personally. Even when other people want you to. Especially when other people want you to!

8. If they call for a doctor in the house, you might be the next best thing.

9. You’ll be amazed at the things you laugh at. Anything can be funny... at least to a cop. And if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. Laughing is much better.

10. You won’t save the world, but you might save somebody’s life. What other job can offer you that?

December 17, 2010

Change is Bad: Poughkeepsie

I like then-and-now shots of life in America. I posted two of Newburgh a while back and got some interest.

This one of downtown Poughkeepsie, NY, isn't as dramatic or depressing a change as was Newburgh, but is it really to much to ask for things to be better today than they were 99 years ago? Apparently, when it comes to our downtowns, the answer is yes.
Then:
Now:
Then there were businesses and streetcars and pretty brick streets with wide sidewalks (and people using them). Then they narrowed the sidewalk, removed the nice street lights, paved over the bricks and streetcar tracks, and replaced handsome buildings with ugly buildings. Now the street is wide and smooth enough to accommodate parked cars, parked right in front of vacant store fronts.

My point isn't that change is bad (though it often is), but that we can choose how we want our cities to look and live. And a lot of bad choices have been made. All in the name of "progress."

The old picture is nice enough that it's worth going to the Shorpy website to see the full-sized image.

Speaking of private justice

Halliburton pays Nigeria $250 million to drop their case against former CEO Dick Cheney... for paying Nigerian official $180 million between 1994 and 2004 to secure a $6 billion contract. So says the BBC.

Private Prisons in Maine

1) Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest for-profit prison operator, spends $25,000 for Maine Republican candidate Paul LePage. He wins the election. But state law prohibits private prisons. This kind of law is one of the few good things to come from prison guard union lobbying.

2) A few weeks before becoming governor, according to Lance Tapley in the Portland, Maine, Phoenix Lepage meets with CCA's reps

3) The governor-elect's spokesman says LePage "will try to get the law changed."

4) CCA says they will build a giant prison in remote, impoverished Piscataquis County.

5) The last step is to fill the prison by lobbying elected officials for more and longer prison sentences. To not do so wouldn't be in the best interest of your shareholders. It's nothing personal; it's just business.

6) Repeat. Since 1970, the US prison and jail population has gone from 338,000 to 2.3 million.

And check out CCA's creepy website which includes what seems like a parody video from one of those dystopic-future movies like Starship Troopers or Blade Runner.

Also of note from the Phoenix:
CCA officials have talked about a prison housing 2,000 to 2,400 inmates with 200 to 300 employees. If true, that would be an extraordinarily small number of staff for such a large number of prisoners. The Maine State Prison has just over 400 workers — most of them guards — to deal with just over 900 prisoners.
Remember the rule of thumb that you need roughly six employees to man one shift. So CCA would have approximately one guard for every 60 prisoners. Maine currently spends $41,000 per prisoner.

December 14, 2010

National Intelligence, hard at work

The Air Force is blocking its personnel from using work computers to view the Web sites of more than 25 news organizations and blogs that have posted Wikileaks. So says the Times (one of the blocked sites).

Phew. God forbid Air Force personnel would know what is free information to the rest of the world.

“Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority.”

Don't forget to close that barn door on the way out. U.S.A., baby!

December 13, 2010

Politics and the Courts and Health Care

It always bothers me when people bitch about court decisions because they don't agree with the politics. It's one thing to be pro-abortion (as I am) or pro illegal immigration (got me there, too) or anti-2nd Amendment (not too fond of how some people interpret it, personally). It's another to think that every Supreme-Court decision needs to be decided in favor of your particular belief rather than the greater issue on which the courts are supposed to make such decisions.

The Supreme Court doesn't (or shouldn't) decide if a specific law is good or bad; it decides if a given issue is constitutional. I think Roe v. Wade was a pretty weak Supreme Court decision. And yet I believe that every woman should have the right to have an abortion on demand.

Much of the Civil Rights Movement was helped by court cases that relied on greater moral issues more than strict constitutional interpretations. That's fine by me too. I also understand that every decision shouldn't be decided on technical grounds or original intent (see, for instance, the 7th Amendment).

Bush v. Gore? Now that was a terrible decision. But the court has always been political. And to some extent it should be.

Why do I mention this? Because I love Obamacare!

OK, actually, I'm just saying that to be provocative. I think Obamacare is too limited and health care should be single-payer, for everybody, and nationalized! But what do I care? I have health care.

I support health care as both a political and moral issue. The free market does not and cannot provide health care. That said, I could fully support a court decision that says that federal government shouldn't be able to tell citizens they have to buy anything. I'm a states' rights liberal! But not too many of us in this club, I can't help but notice.

I just wish more conservative so-called states' righters were equally supportive of states' rights when it came to issues they don't like, like drug legalization, or highway funds. The power of the federal government should not be a liberal versus conservative issue. But as long as it is, here's to health care surviving court challenges!

The Wet House

This is counter-intuitive thinking I love. The "Wet House." They drink more. You pay less. Just give addicts what they want.

You want to save their soul or protect the rest of us? Sometimes you have to pick between the two (and I'm picking the latter!).

If I remember correctly, there was an article (perhaps in the New York Times Magazine?) about some drunk house in some Scandinavian Country. Seemed like a horrible place... and an excellent use of tax-payer dollars.
Consider Marion Hagerman. In his 39 years of drinking, the 54-year-old has been arrested about 60 times. He has kept drinking despite six drunken-driving convictions and six 28-day treatment sessions.

His drinking has cost the public more than $450,000. And since he was admitted to St. Anthony's two years ago?

Nothing. Not a single arrest, detox stay or emergency-room visit.

It's not that he's turned his life around — he still drinks mouthwash, which he stashes in a nearby Dumpster. But he has drastically cut his cost to the public.

"I use to stumble around and make a fool of myself outside," said Hagerman, as he relit a day-old cigarette butt in his bare room. "But now I go home and do it here."

[Kudos to Pete Guither.]

Keeping Southie Real (...stupid)

The Boston Herald reports on "several random beatings on perceived outsiders by South Boston punks."

Years ago, late at night, I used to ride my bike through South Boston a lot (the Castle Island causeway was a great destination). But it just so happens that Southie was home to some of the stupidest must heroined-out white people you'll ever meet.

It's like a little bit of South Baltimore right in yuppie Boston, but more racist. I felt more ill-at-east in parts of Southie (and also the white parts of Dorchester) than I ever did in the ghetto. And I'm white!

Going through Southie I had to stay on our toes (inasmuch as you can, riding a bicycle). Local yahoos would occasionally drive by and shout things like, "get a car, you fag!" or maybe throw an empty beer can. It may not sound so bad until you realize how defenseless you are on a bicycle, and how their little "joke" could easily kill you. "Ya honor," they would later say in court, "We didn't mean him to die. We was just kiddin' around, ya know, havin' a good time. We didn't know he was going to fawl off his bike when we bumped him with ah caaah"

Sometimes I'd ride with my roommate after our job at the restaurant ended and the bars had closed. After 2AM the streets were empty. We had a routine--which we still joke about even though we never had to use it--if somebody wanted to run us down for being "bike-riding fags" or some other similar offense. Johnnie, cause he could put on a wicked-thick local accent, would say, "Naw, we ain't fags, this is for the Jimmy Fund! We're doin' it for the retaaaaded kids!"

Anyway, Southie has gentrified quite a bit since the 1990s. But apparently, not enough.

December 12, 2010

Great Stocking Stuffers

Why it's that time of year again... you know, the time of year when I tell you to buy my book. It is a quick and easy present. Cop in the Hood, available from Amazon.com. And for all you cheapskate cops, it's less than $15. Just lock up one looser and you'll make more than that in overtime.

And if you don't want to give a police book for Christmas--or maybe last year you already did--I've got another book you should buy: a cookbook. And I just happen to know just the book: Forking Fantastic (it was supposed to be called F*cking Delicious, and probably would have sold better had it been). And nothing says "Christmas love" like a cookbook with lots of swear words. Of course I'm biased (one of the authors is my wife), but they are damn good cooks. Plus you can see a picture of me holding an entire lamb on a spit and also follow my very own ceasar salad recipe (which just happens to be f*cking delicious).

Plus Forking Fantastic is less than $8 on Amazon. Better yet, the cover price is $20, so you're friends will never know just how cheap you really are.

Brand Name: Fail


Last night I poured myself a big frosty mug of LECH.

I couldn't resist buying this the other day. (So maybe the name is actually a stroke of marketing genius.) It tasted just fine.

December 11, 2010

Wikileaks

I can't help but think the release of all this information is somehow good. I certainly don't feel less safe. I do worry about informants being outed and killed. But are they? And other than that, wouldn't it be better if our government was more open? I mean, has anybody learned anything we didn't already know? If so, maybe this will lead to some diplomatic breakthroughs somewhere.

Or maybe, like Iran said, the leaks are all an American plot! I like that idea.

What are your thoughts?

December 10, 2010

Pssst... Wanna Plant a Bomb?

I'm not opposed to arresting people who are willing to detonate what they think is a bomb in public places. It's not easy to arrest a suicide bomber after an attack.

But consider Glenn Greenwald's article: "The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot" something does smell a little fishy:
Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts -- and an uncritical media amplifies -- its "success" to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government's vast surveillance powers -- current and future new ones -- are necessary.
Or take Ted Conover's (author of New Jack and other great books) excellent article about the Newburgh plot:
The case seems like a slam-dunk—until you learn more about him. [FBI informant] Hussain, driving a flashy Mercedes and using the alias Maqsood, began to frequent the Masjid al-Ikhlas in down-at-the-heels Newburgh in 2008. Mosque leaders say he would meet congregants in the parking lot afterward, offering gifts and telling them they could make a lot of money—$25,000—if they helped him pursue jihad. The assistant imam said the suspicion Hussain was an informant was so great "it was almost like he had a neon sign on him." A congregant told a reporter that, in retrospect, everyone wished they'd called him out or turned him in. "Maybe the mistake we made was that we didn't report him," the man said. "But how are we going to report the government agent to the government?"
At no single point during these government investigations is there a moment where I can say: entrapment! And yet there's little doubt that were it not for the FBI, none of these attacks would have happened (which is, of course, basically the definition of entrapment). Still, it doesn't seem too much to ask people not to kill others even when offered money and "bombs" by the government.

If you start dangling tens and hundred of thousands of dollars of poor people, you're going to find people willing to do anything. And I'd certainly like the FBI to find these suckers before a real terrorist does. Of course it all it takes is money to get people to become terrorists, we're in trouble. Because there's lots of money and lots of poor people.

Maybe, in the end, we're just safer than we think. Matt Yglasias writes:
If you assume the existence of a person willing to die for Osama bin Laden’s war on America, located within the United States of America, and in possession of a working explosive or firearm, there’s basically nothing stopping him from blowing up the 4/5/6 platform at Union Square or the 54 bus in DC or the Mall of America or even the security line at DFW airport. And yet it doesn’t happen.
The Economist concludes:
It's far more sensible to take this happy fact as evidence of the further happy fact that the supply of people ready, willing, and able to blow up America's crowded places is very small.

[update: Holder defends stings.]

December 8, 2010

College Drug Dealers Arrested

It's a headline you don't see much. These guys were Columbia University students.

Notice, if you will, the only real crime--the crime with a potential victim--is entirely the result of prohibition. So much of drug violence revolves around getting people to pay debts. That's what happens when the business is illegal.

And just one more plug for Dorm Room Dealers by A. Rafik Mohamed and Erik D. Fritsvold. In an academic (but readable) fashion, they explain how this all works.

December 6, 2010

You can't make this stuff up

One of the funnier (at least if you're a cop) police reports you will ever read. [I'm warning you, it's not suitable for kids] The report is here and a story about it is here. (By the way, despite what the story claims, I'm sure the actual line has been in many police reports.)

The Block Is Burning

Heard it on Facebook. That's all I know. But it's a big fire.

If I were still a cop...

...I'd have twelve years on today, with eight to go.

We are the addicts

Thomas Friedman in the Times:
Saudi donors today still constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide — not to mention the fundamentalist mosques, charities and schools that spawn the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So basically our oil payments are cycled through Saudi Arabia and end up funding the very militants whom our soldiers are fighting.
...
America lacks leverage in the Middle East because we are addicted to oil. We are the addicts and they are the pushers, and addicts never tell the truth to their pushers

December 5, 2010

Viva Cinco de Diciembre!

Happy Repeal Anniversary!

I just learned through a friend on Facebook that it's Prohibition Repeal Day. No better time to think about vice and the virtues of individual freedom. But remember that the end of Prohibition brought despair, crime, more drinking, and criminals. Oh no, wait, that's the wrong press release. That's what prohibitionists said would happen after we legalized a popular and dangerous drug. When we did regulated alcohol in 1933, murders went down, the mob lost a lot of power, people stopped violating drinking laws, and the government stopped wasting time and money arresting people for selling a drink.

If you support the war on drugs, at least be consistent and advocate for the return of alcohol prohibition, too. Think of the children. Prohibition isn't perfect, but it's better than the alcohol free-for-all we have now! Think of how much safer they'll be after we crack down on those grog shops and foreign liquor peddlers. Here's to an alcohol-free America!

But seriously, remember that ending drug war is not an answer to our drug problems. Ending the drug war is an answer to our prohibition problems. And with that out of the way, we could begin to focus on the actual drug problems.


¡Viva Cinco de Diciembre!

December 4, 2010

Drugged Driving! Lock the doors! Hide the Kids! Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

Drug Czar Kerlikowske said, “drugged driving is a much bigger public health threat than most Americans realize and unfortunately, it may be getting worse."

[Cue evil music!]

Except, of course, it's not.

Kerlikowske is talking about this, which estimates that one-third of those who die in motor vehicle fatalities test positive for drugs.

The problem, at least in context of the war on drugs, is how they define "drugs." Alcohol, nicotine, and aspirin are excluded. That's nice. But what about Acetominophen plus codeine? Ambien? Vicodin? Yep. Yep. And Yep. Ambien may be the ninth most prescribed drug in the US.

You might also test positive for the joint you smoked last month, which covers at least six percent of all Americans. And no, they don't break down which drugs people had in their system. Nor can they know if you're actually high or impaired on whatever drug you're taking.

You can see the complete list drugs tested for starting on page 547 of this big file.

Seeing how from 1999 to 2009, the number of prescriptions purchased in the United States increased 39%--we're talking more than 3 billion prescriptions a year (not all of these are tested for)--how could you not find more drugs in people's systems?

In truth, it's amazing that only one-third of drivers tested positive for one of these drugs. It's not amazing that drug prohibitionists twist, misuse, and sometimes just make up the numbers. They can't handle the truth.

Police Office Saves Life

This is a headline you don't see enough and should see more.

Here's a BBC video from Madrid that is pretty great.

Sure, everybody can wave all they want. But it takes a cop, an off-duty cop in this case, to jump on the tracks and actually do the right thing.

[p.s. Why do trains in Madrid drive on the left?]

December 3, 2010

Lacking Bail Money, NYC Petty Cons Average 15 Days In Jail

Mosi Secret of the Times reports on nonfelony defendants arrested in the city in 2008:
In more than three-quarters of the 117,064 cases, defendants were released on their own recognizance.

In 19,137 cases from that year, bail was set at $1,000 or less. The report found that 87 percent of the defendants in those cases did not post bail and went to jail to await trial. They remained for an average of 15.7 days.

“Here we are locking people up for want of a couple of hundred dollars,” said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel with the domestic program of the advocacy group.

“Pretrial liberty should not be conditioned on the size of your bank account,” Ms. Fellner said.

The report raised the possibility that many of the poorer defendants pleaded guilty at arraignment for sentences with no jail time, simply to avoid being behind bars while awaiting trial.
A fifteen day stay on Rikers costs the city about $3,000 per person.

December 2, 2010

Don't ask, don't tell

Moskos on Moskos. The old man would have loved this one!

Felon Who Fought 3-Strikes Law Kills

Well this is going to set back sentencing reform for a while!

I suspect this seventh strike will put him away for life.
A multiple felon who campaigned against California’s three-strikes law and was free after managing four times to escape its harsh sentencing guidelines has been charged with murdering four people in home-invasion robberies here this year.
...
Mr. Ewell was in courtrooms again this summer after three arrests, accused of switching price tags on a vacuum cleaner and other items at Home Depot stores. The judge postponed his 32-month prison sentence so Mr. Ewell could undergo “prescheduled eye and stomach surgery,” said Jacquelyn Lacey, an assistant district attorney in Los Angeles. Prosecutors said Mr. Ewell spent a month of that grace period — from late September to late October — robbing a string of homes in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County and killing four people he either strangled or beat to the point of a heart attack.

December 1, 2010

How we roll...


I know it's not in the spirit of Thanskgiving to brag, but I'll be damned if five hours later this bird wasn't deee-licious. And besides, "it ain't bragging if it's true."

The Boys of Summer

Or, more accurately, "The Baltimore City police men and women of late Fall 2009," but nobody ever wrote a book with that name.

I've also always wondered just how many of my class are still with the Baltimore Police Department. This seems a rather simple question, but such data, especially if it's police related, can be surprisingly hard to come by. I hear stories about this person leaving by choice and that person being asked to leave, but I really had no idea. I guessed about half of us were still there.

Today the Sun came out with with their searchable pay database for every city employee. Boo-ya!

And since I can can select for police department and sort by date of entry, it's very easy to get my academy class (and it's nice to see some of these names after all these years!).

So, after 11 years, how is the glorious class of 99-5 doing? I'd say fair to middling. When I was in the academy class, most of my fellow trainees assumed that our class was, how do I put this delicately, just slightly sub-par (hey, we can't all be above average). But who could say for sure?

There are 30 of the original 51 still left. That's a 59% retention rate (and similar for men and women). I'm not certain how that compares to other academy classes or police departments (that data is surprisingly hard to get), but I suspect it's a bit low.

More revealing is that just 2 of the 31 officers (6.5%) have been promoted (I hear a third is now number 10 on the list).

So I also looked at every other police officer hired in 2009 (excluding my class, n = 93). The overall promotion rate is 25% (including three lieutenants). Ouch.

And of course, here's what every police officer cares about: money. Are we making bank? I don't think so. I think police (and teachers) should make about $100,000 a year. The average base salary for those in my academy class (11 years experience) is $60,200 (and the city wants to cut it 10%). Those at the rank of officer are making $59,400. Overtime brings the average pre-tax take home up to $71,400. Three guys in my class pulled in more than $40,000 in overtime last year (about 20 hours/week).

[It seems only fair to tell my salary. As an assistant professor at CUNY with a PhD and 6 years I make $74,133. Plus I made about $2,500 in "overtime," a.k.a. book royalties. Best of all, nobody shot at me.]

November 29, 2010

It doesn't matter how tight you tie them

I see pictures like this from the Daily News and I notice one thing: the shoes.

If you're hit by a car going too fast, the shoes will fly off your feet and be left basically where you are hit. Think of how much pressure you can apply and not get your shoes off your feet. It's impossible if you don't untie them, right? It freaks me out.

"The car was going really fast down 93rd St., much faster than normal." So what's the moral? Not don't jaywalk... don't friggin speed!

Smoking Ban Finally Kills One

From Chicago, the Sun-Timesreports on the death of a Bears fan:
A skilled climber who enjoyed scaling up the side of buildings and trees, he may have even hopped over a railing to enjoy a cigarette behind one of Soldier Field’s famous columns before he fell, friends said.

November 28, 2010

Willie Nelson likes smoking pot

But we all know that. He doesn't keep it secret and thinks it should be legal. But since it's not, he's been arrested for it. Again. Of course it's silly a supposedly free country wastes our money and law enforcement resources arresting senior-citizen for smoking a pretty harmless substance.

Of course it's probably not a big deal for him. For Willie, getting busted yet again is almost like another feather in his bandanna. It's more a shame when my students are arrested for such things. They can actually be hurt by a drug arrest. They don't have much money and go to public university. When I went to college at a very rich private university, I don't think anybody was ever been arrested for marijuana possession. (I'm just sayin'...).

But this arrest bothers me more than usual because Willie Nelson, a US citizen, was detained at a US Border Patrol checkpoint while traveling within the US. Willie Nelson never left the Land of the Free. He was simply minding his own business being driven down US Highway 10 when he was stopped by federal agents at a border checkpoint that isn't on the border. Seems they make a lot of low-level drug arrests here which probably brings in a little money to little Sierra Blanca and Hudspeth County, Texas.

US Border Patrol can and does stop people at "Interior Checkpoints" without cause. One needn't be an anti-government survivalist to be slightly bothered by this. The main purpose, supposedly, is to deter illegal immigration. OK. Fine. So why arrest a guy getting stoned in the back of his tour bus? [Update: I should amend that to say the main purpose originally was to deter illegal immigration. Drugs were never mentioned in the original Supreme Court decision. But see the first comment below for yet another example of how the war on drugs creeps into everything.]

Police get power because of fear of terrorism or immigration. But once you give police that power, they can and will (and arguably should) use it as a tool for all law enforcement. I've written about this problem before, albeit in the slightly different context of airport security. If Border Patrol can stop people on trains and roads within 100 miles of an international border to look for illegal immigrants, then they should do nothing but make sure you're not an illegal immigrant. Period.

In this case, the officer smelled weed when the door opened. This "plain smell" gives probable cause for further detention and search of a motor vehicle.

And let me just mention how nice it was of Willie to take one for the team. He said the six ounces of found marijuana was his. That's a lot of weed, even for Willie!

At fixed check points (but not roaming ones) Border Patrol got the authority to stop people at their discretion in US v. Martinez-Fuerte (1976) when the court said:
It is agreed that checkpoint stops are "seizures" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.... But it involves only a brief detention of travelers during which "[a]ll that is required of the vehicle's occupants is a response to a brief question or two and possibly the production of a document evidencing a right to be in the United States."
The decision was seven to two. The two dissenters, Brennan and Marshall, wrote:
There is no principle ... which permits constitutional limitations to be dispensed with merely because they cannot be conveniently satisfied. Dispensing with reasonable suspicion as a prerequisite to stopping and inspecting motorists because the inconvenience of such a requirement would make it impossible to identify a given car as a possible carrier of aliens is no more justifiable than dispensing with probable cause as prerequisite to the search of an individual because the inconvenience of such a requirement would make it impossible to identify a given person in a high-crime area as a possible carrier of concealed weapons.
The lonely dissenters also took objection to the majority's opinion that, "We further believe that it is constitutional to refer motorists selectively to the secondary inspection area ... even if it be assumed that such referrals are made largely on the basis of apparent Mexican ancestry, we perceive no constitutional violation." That's a bit scary.

Is such constitutional racial profiling still law of the land or has some more recent case overturned that?

Baltimore Officer Shot

A one-year veteran was seriously shot on N. Calvert Street early Sunday morning.

He's expected to survive. I hope he does.

From the Sun:
A man opened fire on him near the downtown nightlife hub, touching off a running gunbattle as tactical officers pursued the suspect up North Calvert Street.

The suspect fled on foot, then sped away in a silver-colored Toyota Camry before crashing into a light pole near Calvert and Franklin streets. Police apprehended him at Mercy Medical Center, where he was seeking treatment for several gunshot wounds.
...
Several tactical officers, who patrol the area on weekend evenings, shot at the gunman, firing at least 20 bullets on one city block, police said.
...
Court records show that Gross, who was identified as the suspect by law enforcement sources, had been convicted of three prior felonies. A police source said he was on parole for armed robbery at the time of the latest shooting.

November 24, 2010

Five NYPD Officers Cleared in Shootings of Bystanders

Ray Rivera in the Times:
Five New York City police officers who wounded two bystanders in a shootout with a suspect in Harlem in 2005 cannot be held negligent, the state’s highest court ruled on Tuesday, ending a five-year legal battle before it went to trial.

In a 4-to-3 decision, the State Court of Appeals found that the five officers were within department guidelines when they returned fire on a robbery suspect who had opened fire on several officers. The suspect was killed, but police bullets also struck a 78-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman who was playing with her 18-month-old daughter.
I'm not certain where I stand on the legal issues, but I do want to point out the vote was only 4 to 3. And I hate to think of a world where police are legally prohibited from shooting back!

November 12, 2010

Balto. City Police Reject Contract, 19 to 1

The story by Julie Scharper in the Sun. The contract would have reduced wages by 1.95 percent in exchange for five additional vacation days. The FOP president said, "It's not just a rejection of the city's best offer. It's a rejection of the mayor and her inability to respect what these men and women do for the city every day and every night."

Now if there's no new contract, the old one stays in effect, right? When I was there, the city dragged its heals for years on giving us a contract. Now it seems like the shoe is now on the other foot.

November 11, 2010

The high cost of crime

Here's a sad story about the costs--physically, psychologically, and financially--from one shot crime victim.

Veterans Day

Thank you, veterans. You all have chosen to do something I am not willing to do. That doesn't reflect well on me.

(Though I do wish we had fewer wars and fewer veterans.)

November 10, 2010

Kill them all and let God sort 'em out

I'm strangely un-passionate about the death penalty. I think it's wrong to kill. If I could wave a magic wand and do away with it, I would. And yet I don't really care when criminals are executed. I certainly don't shed a tear them.

Recent poll data show that 83% of Americans support the death penalty (other polls have shown this figure to be a bit lower, around 70%). But what I don't get is that 81% of these same Americans also believe that innocent people have been executed (and just 39% believe it acts as a deterrent). That means at least 44% of Americans believe we've killed innocent people and still support the death penalty. How can you support the death penalty if you think we've killed innocent people?

I wish there were, when giving the death penalty, a standard of judicial proof higher than "beyond a reasonable doubt." Something like "we know 100% damn well for certain without any doubt that the person is guilty." Then we could debate the death penalty. Then I might even support it. Until then, I think Justice Blackmun was right when he said, "I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death."

Just FYI, in Russia, the not quite comparable figure in support of the death penalty is 44%. Many people love to think the rest of the world, compared to America, is horribly barbaric and blood-thirsty. These same people usually don't have a passport.

Never Happened to Me

Carolee Bildsten, 56, of the 5300 block of David Court, allegedly assaulted the officer on Tuesday evening with what Gurnee Police Cmdr. Jay Patrick called “a rigid feminine pleasure device.”
So says the the Trib.

[Thanks to Hephestos, my Koumbaros.]

NYPD Holds Fire

The Wall Street Journal reports:
New York City police fired fewer bullets at suspects last year than any time since the department first began keeping in-depth shooting statistics 39 years ago
...
In 2008, the department was also involved in 105 shooting incidents, with the 125 officers firing a total of 364 bullets. No city police officer last year was shot by a suspect for the first time since the police department started keeping detailed shooting statistics in 1971
I was just talking about this in class last week.

In 1972, the NYPD was involved in 211 shootings. In 2006 (the last I have data for), the number was 31. That's a big drop. And it's been a pretty consistent drop with the notable exception of the late 1980s during the rise in crack. It's something the NYPD should get more credit for. And it's often overlooked when there is a high-profile controversial shooting.

To put these numbers in some (somewhat random) context, in 2006: 35,000 NYPD had killed 13. 2,100 Las Vegas PD had killed 12. 6,600 Philadelphia PD had killed 19.

In Baltimore, about 3,000 Baltimore City Police Officers shot 31 in 2007, 21 in 2006 and 11 in 2004.

Higher levels of violence in places like Baltimore explain some of this difference, but not all of it.

[Update: Here's Al Baker's take in the Times.]

NYPD Quotas (and Schoolcraft)

I would love it if we could distinguish between quotas and what happened to Adrian Schoolcraft. Just because the NYPD has (as Schoolcraft says) quotas (or at least something that line officers feel are quotas) does not grant legitimacy to Schoolcraft's media-hungry self-serving whining about how he was treated by the NYPD.

There is a quota issue in the NYPD. High-ranking officers say there aren't quotas, just "productivity goals." Patrol officers say compstat creates stat pressure and they have quotas to meet. Regardless of the semantics, quota pressure makes officers write stupid tickets. And this is bad for policing and bad for New York City. For instance, a student just showed me a $50 ticket he got for... taking a nap on the subway. Technically it was for taking up two seats of a not crowded train at 10pm. That's not right. But the officer had to write tickets. And my student was a sitting (or sleeping) duck.

So can anybody tell me the legal difference between a quota and a productivity goal? The state law says,
quota shall mean a specific number of (A) tickets or summonses ... or (B) arrests or C) stops of individual suspected of criminal activity within a specified period of time.

But then the law goes on to say:
Nothing provided in this section shall prohibit an employer ... from taking ... job action against ... a police officer for failure to satisfactorily perform his job assignment of issuing tickets or summonses for traffic ... except that the employment productivity of such police officer shall not be measured by such officer's failure to satisfactorily comply with the requirement of any quota.
Huh? So you can judge an officers on how many tickets they write as long as you don't require them to write any? I don't get it. What's the law say?

November 9, 2010

November 8, 2010

Zimring on the NYPD crime drop

Frank Zimring has always been one of the better criminologists out there.

This nine minute video from the Vera Institute of Justice hows some of the reasons why.

DEA funds terrorism

Of course that's meant to be a sensational headline... but it's actually true.

And God only knows how the DEA would flip the tables if some anti-drug-war group was guilty of the same thing.

According to the Times:
[The DEA] sent David C. Headley, a small-time drug dealer and sometime informant, to work for them in Pakistan months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, despite a warning that he sympathized with radical Islamic groups, according to court records and interviews. Not long after Mr. Headley arrived there, he began training with terrorists, eventually playing a key role in the 2008 attacks that left 164 people dead in Mumbai.
Nice one.

Remember kids, drugs don't cause terrorism, the DEA does.

I wonder what the DEA's brain looks like funding terrorists?

November 7, 2010

It'll never work...

The suspect is an armed and crazy and racist murderer. He's killed before. He has multiple weapons. After a tip-off you get a warrant for his arrest. You know where he lives. A surveillance unit outside confirm his presence. Plan B is to send in the SWAT team and bust down the door in a carefully rehearsed show of surprise and overwhelming military-like force. You will fire potentially fire-causing flash grenades, shoot any dogs that approach, and keep your finger on the trigger in case the suspect wakes up in a (justifiably) paranoid haze and start shooting.

[But if officer safety were paramount...]

Try Plan A:
When [police] were satisfied they had enough evidence to make the arrest, they telephoned the man and asked him to step outside his [apartment].

The suspect did as he was told and did not offer resistance.
Crazy! It'll never work! But it did in Sweden. So why not try it? It'll work more often than not. If it doesn't work, you can always go to a barricade situation and/or Plan B. Sure you loose the element of surprise, but maybe the trade off is worth it. Wouldn't it be nice if Waco were best known for the Dr. Pepper Museum?

November 6, 2010

Mehserle sentenced to 2 years

Seems about right to me.

Not everyone agrees.

Mehserle is the BART cop who (apparently) accidentally shot Oscar Grant in the back and killed him. Mehserle has already served most of his time.

COPS & Opera

From my favorite comic strip, Stephan Patsis's Pearls before Swine:

November 5, 2010

Because it's a sin!

A SWAT team busted up a poker game of seniors. One cop and one gambler were shot.

This is not what SWAT teams are for. Actually, unfortunately, it is what SWAT teams are for. So let me rephrase: this is not what SWAT teams should be for.

The shot 72-year old reportedly said, “Why didn’t you tell me it was the cops?” According to WYFF (South Carolina), "After the exchange of gunfire, a standoff ensued that lasted about 20 minutes." The 12 people in the home were ticketed for unlawful betting and released.

Just think, if we legalize gambling... uh, it could lead to dancing? (That's the punchline to joke I can't remember--oh wait, here it is. See the last comment).

I didn't know...

"...marijuana use is associated with voluntary treatment admissions for addiction, fatal drugged driving accidents, mental illness and emergency room admissions.” So says Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. Come to think of it, so is life.

There's more on Pete Guither's blog.

Regardless, thanks God we're still safe from this reefer madness.

I don't think marijuana makes you crazy. But I'm started to suspect that being elected to high office does.

If Obama is going to unpopular for being liberal... I just wish we actually were.

Exceptional Clearance

"The presumed slaughter of 20 tourists in Acapulco — apparently has been solved by thugs who captured the alleged killers, posted their confessions on the Internet, then murdered them and directed police to the crime scene." From the Houston Chronicle.

Read More

If you don't read The Atlantic, you should. Not only can you act like you're smart, you might become smart. Or at least a lot smarter than you'll ever become reading the typical drivel in a cop magazine (yes, I know, "staying alert can save your life"--so remain in "Code Yellow" and read something worthwhile).

Here's a short piece on "truth" in politics. "The Truth Lies Here."

Academics should read this, about how most of medical science is... what's the word?... Wrong. (God save us if Dr. Ioannidis ever took on Sociology). (And extra credit because the story is good for the Greeks.)

And last but not least, read the latest about TSA and pat-downs in Jeffrey Goldberg's hilarious (and disconcerting) story about airline security.
I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. "No way. You think Congress would allow that?"

I answered, "If you're a terrorist, you're going to hide your weapons in your anus or your vagina." He blushed when I said "vagina."

"Yes, but starting tomorrow, we're going to start searching your crotchal area" -- this is the word he used, "crotchal" -- and you're not going to like it."

"What am I not going to like?" I asked.

"We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance," he explained.

"Resistance?" I asked.

"Your testicles," he explained.

'That's funny," I said, "because 'The Resistance' is the actual name I've given to my testicles."
...
The agent snapped on his blue gloves, and patiently explained exactly where he was going to touch me. I felt like a sophomore at Oberlin.
...
He felt me up good, but not great. It was not in any way the best pat-down I've ever received.
The best pat-down my wife ever received was in the Vienna Airport. It was five years ago. We were newlyweds. The young woman feeling up my wife was young, stern, fit, and wore leather gloves. I got to watch. She was meticulous. And thorough. We both thought it was hot.

November 4, 2010

What do we do with all that weed?

Explain this to me:

In the past few weeks about 155 tons of marijuana has been stopped from coming in from Mexico. Numbers of that magnitude tend to numb. I have no idea what 155 tons means. So I did some figuring. 155 tons is about 1,500 big men (or 3,000 very petite women). It's about 1.3 times what the space shuttle weighs (at landing). It's a lot.

And, according to the magic elves at google, 155 tons is 4,960,000 ounces, or about an 1/8th of an ounce for every 6 adults in the USA.

Can't picture an eighth-of an ounce? According to some crack online research here and here, 1/8 oz. is roughly equal to the amount of tobacco in 4 cigarettes (or 3 cigarettes whole). 1/8 oz of marijuana is more than enough to get a few people nice and high.

Now keep in mind, 1) there's a lot weed grown right here in the ol' US of A, and 2) There's a lot of weed still coming in from Mexico.

So how much marijuana are we as a country smoking? The amount seems truly amazingly astronomical.

War on Drug Continues

It didn't surprise me that Prop 19 lost. I'm still amazed that it did so well and was taken so seriously. A lot of progress has been made over the past 10 years. I suppose only history will tell if we'll look back on this as the high point (there was really no pun intended when I first wrote that) or whether it's just a step down the path toward a better drug policy.

Meanwhile, another secret tunnel was found from Mexico. It included 25 tons of the maryjane. English Aljazeera reports. And that's on top of the 134 tons the other week.

I say this in my best whiny Mike Bloomberg voice: "People, it's the tunnels that make us less safe, not the drugs." I don't want people building tunnels under the border. But they will as long as we keep building walls on top of them and fighting "wars" against things and people from Mexico.

Here's a good story in the Christian Science Monitor on the tunnel and one on the Latin American leaders and the failure of Prop 19. Here's a good quote: "The two presidents who have come out strongly against legalization [in Mexico and Columbia] are presidents who have received a combined total of nearly $9 billion from the United States government."

November 3, 2010

Trick or Treat

Some very good Halloween pics from Baltimore by photojournalist Martha Cooper.


(Though it's titled "Halloween in da Hood" and from what I can tell -- occupied blocks and well maintained buildings -- she's in a pretty decent neighborhood.)

[thanks to A.H.]

November 2, 2010

Reality-Based Thinking

The key is to un-learn the academic habit of treating every proposition and argument offered as needing to be taken seriously and requiring a refutation, if false.

Note to self: Making sh*t up is a valuable research technique. Must use it more often.
So says Mark Kleiman.

[thanks to Jay]

I don't understand

“No one can get a straight answer on how many cops are patrolling the streets,” Vallone said.

In other cases, he added: “They just don’t want to provide the statistics. I don’t understand why, because when they do, it always shows the N.Y.P.D. is doing what they are supposed to do.”
Just FYI, I don't like Vallone. He's my councilman and I didn't vote for him. But he's got a good point.

The article by Ray Rivera and Al Baker in the Times is "Data Elusive on Low-Level Crime in New York City."

Convicted prisoners to get vote

In the UK. According to the BBC. Something about "human rights," sez the E.U. Bunch of socialists.

October 30, 2010

2nd Amendment for Immigrants

It's not too often supporters of the 2nd Amendment and supporters of immigrant rights can find common political ground. But here's a case. Whatever happened to discretion?
Immigration officials are always on the lookout to deport “criminal aliens,” and it appears that last week, Mr. Valerio’s name came up.
...
He had been a legal permanent resident of the United States for nearly 30 years.
...
Mr. Valerio’s offense dated back more than 20 years to a conviction for possessing a gun without the proper license. He had bought the gun to protect the bodega he owned from burglars, his daughter said. He served three years’ probation in the mid-1980s and had never again been in trouble with the law.

October 29, 2010

Rapist Acquitted

Timothy "So I can't call you no more?" West was acquitted despite, best I can tell, admitting to it. According the Daily News:
Privately, several jurors interviewed after the verdict said they didn't buy the victim's story because there were no signs of forced entry into her home.

One juror said the panel believed the victim must have known West, and that she let him into her home.

West has a history of break-ins and was on parole for robbery when arrested, but the jury did not hear that evidence: Buchter ruled it could prejudice the jury against him.

October 28, 2010

The Dream

From Doonsbury.

Prisons seek prisoners

National Public Radio says an investigation revealed a "quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry." . . . The anti-immigration law amounted to "a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants."

Gruesome Pics...

...of the war in the drugs, mostly in Mexico.

While you lose you appetite looking at these, remember the US party line that violence in Mexico is a sign the drug gangs are on the run.

War is peace!

(I've never seen those evidence cones get to number 71... and we had some pretty big shootings in Baltimore.)

[thanks to Irish Pirate for the tip]

October 27, 2010

RIP Tommy Portz, Jr.

Portz is the first Baltimore City officer to be killed in the line of duty since 2007, and the third city officer killed in less than a month. His funeral is today.

You can read my account of a police funeral on the last two pages of this.

October 26, 2010

Feris Jones was Lucky

Officer (now Detective) Jones was lucky she wasn't killed. 19-year-old Winston Cox was robbing a store and Jones pulled her gun and announced her presence as a police officer. Cox fired and she returned fire, striking Cox.

Why did she say anything before firing? She should have just come out and "incapacitated" Cox (ie: shot center mass, likely killing Cox). Did she think he was going to drop his gun? His gun was bigger. Cox tried to kill her. Luckily, Cox missed. But what if he hadn't? What if he killed Jones? Then we'd all be going to her funeral. I wouldn't want to risk my life on Cox having bad aim. Jones shouldn't have either.

[But it all turned out well and I wish Jones the best of luck and repeat that she did great and she's a good shot and a bad-ass. (I'm really happy she's not dead.)]

Now here's my plan, at least in theory. In the next couple of days, I'm going to present a couple of hypothetical situations related to this scenario. I'm curious as to how you'd respond.

Still a joke, that 911 is

From The Detroit News:
The average response time for dangerous runs in Detroit is 24 minutes from the time a 911 call is received, according to statistics released in April.

Nationwide statistics are not available, but Atlanta, Ga., police have an 11-minute average response time and in Washington, D.C., police respond in an average of eight minutes.

Two Down in Sector Two

Four killed in 15 hours in Baltimore. Two, I believe, in the Sector Two of the Eastern District.

Good Shooting in Brookyn

From the Daily News:
The fearless off-duty cop who faced down an armed robber in a Brooklyn beauty parlor on Saturday managed to shoot the pistol right out of the crook's hands, cops said Monday.

And in a scene that would be over the top even for the most ridiculous Hollywood cop movie, one of Officer Feris Jones' bullets hit the front door - and locked it.
...
He escaped by kicking out the glass on the lower portion of the door and crawled out to the street on his hands and knees, leaving a trail of blood.

When Cox was arrested in a single-room-occupancy hotel on Pacific St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant early Monday, he answered the door meekly, his bloody hands wrapped in Bounty paper towels borrowed from his mother.
...
The suspected gunman's mom told the Daily News she was shocked her parolee son was mixed up in it.

"I can't come to grips with it," said Cheryl Cox, whose 19-year-old son, Winston Cox, the youngest of her eight kids.
I was hoping for a better quote from him mom, though. But maybe she made those little air quotes with her fingers when she said the word, shocked. That would make it good.

[Update: Actually, in the mom's defense,she has filed eight charges of assault against her son and had good things to say about the police officer, "I'm just thankful to God the police officer is OK -- she did a good job." It's in the Post.]

Oh, please!

Here's a non-story: NYPD Commissioner Kelly didn't disclose that the Police Foundation paid his dues at the Harvard Club. My God, who cares? Good God, Lenny, I know you hate Kelly with a passion bordering on obsessive (and that's putting it mildly), but is this the best you got on the guy? If so, you should have skipped it and talked more about Jennifer Hunt's great book.

I wish the Police Foundation would pay my dues at the Harvard Club. I wouldn't mind being a member. And I did go to Harvard. I'm just too cheap to join.

Well, should Kelly have disclosed it? I guess if them's the rules, he should have. But they shouldn't be the rules. The rules are too strict. Nothing wrong with a free cup of coffee. And nothing wrong with the commissioner taking people out on the Police Foundation's dime. Assuming the police commission isn't a crook (what do Bernard Kerik and Ed Norris have in common?) can't we let him do his job? And no, I don't want to know who he was with.

October 25, 2010

"Excuse me, sir, do you know where I can find...

...Oh, never mind. I see it now. G2. Thanks anyway."

It's a sign from Athens send by the woman who runs this great bike tour company in Greece.

The weird part is that for the life of me I can't figure out what it's supposed to be (and I speak Greek!).

[Update: I think I figured it out. It's supposed to say fishing wharf.]

National Service

Mark Shields has a good column about a speech by Robert Gates, "the one memorable speech of the 2010 campaign":
Gates spoke directly of an avoided undemocratic reality — that most Americans have grown detached from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the great civilian majority has come to view military service as "something for other people to do."

Those "other people," as Gates reminded us, come overwhelmingly from a "tiny sliver of America" concentrated in the South and the Rocky Mountain West, in rural areas and small towns.

There is the distinct possibility that eventually the U.S. military and its leaders will be estranged — culturally and geographically — from the civilian population it is defending.
Then Shields quotes my father:
Nobody understood this as well as the late military scholar and ex-GI, Charles Moskos, who told me that the U.S. "national interest is determined not so much by the cause, itself, but instead by who is willing to die for that cause."

Moskos continued: "Only when the privileged do military service, only when the elite youth are under fire does the nation define the cause as worth the blood of our young people." He added that, in both World Wars, the British nobility had higher casualty rates than did the British working class.

A Dog That Barks

White dog... that's moonshine, hootch, likker. Who hasn't dreamed of distilling up a little batch in their basement (What? Is it just me?). It's also generally illegal. Max Watman, I nice guy I met once (what's how I learned about his book) has written a gem, Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine. I'm enjoying more than any other book I've read in a while. Well written, informative, and with a very lively and personal style. I'm about 55 pages from the end, but I wanted to post his guide to "How to Be a Criminal," scattered throughout the book, based on people who failed (interestingly and tellingly, the fourth commandment of crack, never get high on your own supply, does not make the list):
Item 1: Do not, while on probation or having recently come to the attention of the law, engage in large-scale felonies with strangers.

Item 2: Surprisingly, drugs and crime don't mix. Stoners will forget what they have to remember, crackheads are unreliable, meth heads are crazy. Even drunks--they'll either get pulled over for driving drunk or they'll get in a fight.

Item 3: Do not write down the keys to the code. If you can't count to ten, think of another code.

Item 4: Read up on the law you are breaking.

Item 5: It's important to understand that criminal justice attends no only to the crime committed but to every ancillary activity involved in the perpetration, and especially perpetuation and concealment, of illegal activity, and that those acts, because they suggest intent, because they are part of a scheme, often carry heavier sentences than what we would normally think of as the illegal act. If you view it in a forgiving light, the law could be seen to forgive reckless impulse ("I was lonely and drink and I picked up this hooker") and punish a pattern of concealment and manipulation ("I set up this bank account so that I could withdraw cash without my wife noticing and pay for hookers").

Item 6: Do not hire as underlings people whose next strike will be their third.

Item 7: Buy equipment at tiny mom-and-op hardware stores with no computer systems and no video.
You can buy the book here.

Smoke and Horrors

Charles Blow of the New York Times write about drugs (and yes, that is his real name), specifically about the racial disparity in marijuana arrests. Some people just don't seem to care, but it seems to be a fundamental issue about fairness in justice.

Whites and blacks smoke weed at nearly similar rates (actually whites smoke more), and yet blacks get arrested for it far more often. This report reflects more good work by Queens College professor Harry Levine:
From 2006 through 2008, police in 25 of California's major cities have ar­rested blacks for low-level marijuana possession at four, five, six, seven and even twelve times the rate of whites.

The City of Los Angeles, with ten percent of California's population, arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.

These racially-biased marijuana arrests were a system-wide phenomenon, occurring in every county and nearly every police department in California. They were not mainly the result of individual prejudice or racism. In making these arrests, patrol officers were doing what they were assigned to do.
Doesn't that matter?

October 24, 2010

Change is bad

Yeah. I changed the layout of my blog. Honestly, I should probably care more about how my blog looks, but I have other things to do.

So why'd I change anything when I, of all people, know damn well that change is bad?

Because I wanted to make the text column wider. It was (for me) annoyingly narrow. It didn't hold much text, and I had to manually re-size almost every video I embedded. But to make the text column wider, I had to pick a different template. I went with... simple.

"So, I can't call you no more?"

Says the rapist to his victim. It led to his arrest.

Timothy West, who broke into a stranger's house and raped a woman at knifepoint, wanted to continue this beautiful relationship. The 21-year-old victim wanted to get him confessing on tape.

Victim: "What do you mean, I'm mad at you? Of course, you know, I don't know you like that, and just over here, raping me and everything with a knife in your hand. Damn! What you gotta say about that?"

Timothy West: "Sorry. I apologize."
...
Victim: "You just broke into my house, yo. I've never seen you before .... You try to rob me, then you rape me,"

Timothy West: "I know, man, that s**t is crazy. I apologize, though."

Victim: "But do you understand what you did to me? Like, has it hit you what you've done to me? Like, how do you expect me to be cool with you, and just expect a simple apology. I've never seen you before, and you just walk up to my house with a pocket knife, and then you didn't find anything from me, no money, so you raped me! And then you expect me to be cool with that the next day? I mean, what's up with that?"

West: "So, I can't call you no more?"

Victim: "Wow, I don't even know what to tell you."

This happened in March, 2009. Why does justice take so long?

There's a bit more here and at the above link.

[Update: West was acquitted]

What Muslims Wear

My wife sent me this: Muslims Wearing Things. She would also like to point out if Muslims were going to crash Juan William's plane, they probably wouldn't be dressed in conservative Muslim garb. That should make Juan a little more relaxed next time he's in an airport.

Now don't get me wrong, I think it's crazy that NPR fired Williams for expressing his own irrational personal fears. But no, it's not OK to think terrorist every time you see a Muslim (or a Greek priest... I wonder what ever happened to that idiot who attacked a Greek priest because he thought he looked like a Muslim terrorist.)

Now you may also get the willies if you think there's a Muslims on your plane. I unfortunately suspect many if not most Americans share this fear. But that doesn't make it right. Thinking every Muslim is terrorist is just as wrong (and absurd) as thinking every black man is rapist, every Jew is money-grubbing shyster, every gypsy is a thief, every gay man is a pedophile, every cop is a bastard, or.... you get my point. I think I've said enough.

Update: In the case of the marine reservist who attached a priest for looking like a Muslim terrorist, all charges were dropped. The priest didn't stick around America to press charges. To rehash, this idiot chased a Greek priest for three blocks and beat him with a tire iron while telling a 911 operator (listen to the call here):
I got a guy who's trying to mug me. … He just grabbed my f------ b---- when I got out of my car. … I just hit him with a tire iron and he's trying to take off. He said he was going to f------ kill me. … This guy's not gonna come back. I wanna knock him out.
...
He looks like a Middle Eastern guy, a Taliban guy. … He straight up looks like he came from Afghanistan … knows where I live and knows what I drive and I'm not letting him come back. I'll kill him. I got a wife.
So let me get this straight. This priest, who says he was lost, looked like he was from Afghanistan, tried to rob the idiot, then grabbed his balls, and then yelled "Allahu Akbar."

Ohkaaay.

The prosecuting lawyer called this 'roid rage noting the attacker is "a 220-pound pharmacy manager who blogs photos of himself flexing his muscles and had worked as a drug informant for police."

The attacker, after charges were dropped, says he forgives the priest. Gee, that's mighty Christian of him.

Here's a picture of the attacker.


He's not gay at all.

October 23, 2010

Stupid-mobiles (II)

The stupid mobile gets more press, this time in the Times, which has a few more details. The NYPD has ordered 30 and they cost 8,900 though that's retail and I'm sure the NYPD pays much much less, if anything.
For patrolling a big event or traversing big distances, T3 scooters seem like ideal tools, an energy-efficient mix of speed and agility. For navigating a semicrowded subway station, they can seem a little ridiculous.

Most people who need to get from the Seventh Avenue side of the 42nd Street station over to the shuttle platform just hop down the quarter-flight of stairs. Some take it in a single step.

But two officers on scooters last week had to detour to the wheelchair ramp, then daintily zigzag their way down like a fashion victim in too-high heels. Then, as they threaded their way through the commuters, going barely faster than they would on foot (but wearing tough plastic helmets just in case).