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by Peter Moskos

March 29, 2011

Moskos Sent to Minors

Not me, but Daniel Moskos of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hey, there's no relation, but there aren't too many Moskos's on this side of the Adriatic. Hopefully, later this year, Moskos will be the first Moskos to play major league baseball (or any other sport, for that matter).

March 28, 2011

Marijuana Arrests in NYC to Decrease in 2011

As one does, I was just reading the future in my Greek (née Turkish) coffee grounds, and I saw an interesting development.

[Cue swamy music] I see that the NYPD is going to start making fewer arrests for possession of marijuana this year starting right about now... I predict that in 2011, misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests in NYC are going to be down from 50,300 in 2010... and somewhat substantially... maybe a third fewer?... but now things are getting a little hazy.

How do I know? I don't. That's wall they call it a "prediction." But I'm not just saying this because of the gypsy blood in me tells me so (even though I am 1/8th gypsy).

Remember to check back in a year or so. Cause I'd love to be the first to say, "I told you so!"

[Update from the future: I was wrong.]

March 24, 2011

Slash and Burn

Aggressive crackdowns on criminal organizations in Mexico and Colombia have increasingly brought the powerful drug syndicates into Central America.

We winning yet?

Unfortunately, this is not The Onion

So in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County, Arizona, they send in a tank and the SWAT team to bust a guy -- a guy with no history of owning weapons -- for cockfighting. A scared neighbor said, “When the tank came in and pushed the wall over and you see what's in there, and all it is, is a bunch of chickens.” The birds needed to be saved. So we killed them. 115 birds were "euthanized on the spot." Isn't that what we used to do in Vietnam?

"We're going to err on the side of caution. We're going to make sure that we have the appropriate amount of force in case we do run into anything like [an armed suspect]," said Sgt. Jesse Spurgin. Wow. What a man. It's amazing he can even take a leak without sh*tting his pants in fear.

But such use of force has become standard operating procedure in policing much of our free republic (especially the parts where blacks and hispanics live).

So what's the icing on cake? The cherry on the sundae? The kicker? Guess who is riding in the tank (which I will christen the M.V. Chicken Killer)?

None other than actor Steven Seagal. For real.

March 23, 2011

Harford Road police shooting

Detective Rice, the officer shot last week on Harford Road, evidently has had some medical setbacks. I wish him the best.

What is it about the 2300 block of Harford?

Here's a picture from March, 2001, I took on the 2300 block of Harford. It's the street memorial to Agent Cowdery.

Civil Forfeiture for a Quarter-Ounce of Weed

So, if you have a quarter-ounce of weed in your home, should police be able to take all your possessions. That's what can happen and has happened in Michigan. And the problem is getting worse in tight economic times.

If you do think it is OK, why shouldn't police be able to take your car when you speed, or better yet, a parking violation? Just what is it about drugs that makes the normal rules not apply?

Radley Balko writes about it in Reason:
Legal niceties are often the only distinction between civil asset forfeiture and a shakedown. [Moskos here: I'm against civil forfeiture. But every time I hear the term "legal niceties" I reach for my gun. Those "niceties" are the law. And that's a pretty important distinction to make, at least for law enforcement.]
Informants are often drug dealers, who benefit from ratting on the competition, or addicts who tip off police in exchange for money, which they then use to purchase drugs. It is not at all uncommon for police to overlook an informant's own drug activity.
Police likewise manufacture crimes when they set up drug deals. The routine deception and betrayal involved in befriending someone, asking him for a favor, and then punishing him for helping you out would be recognized as outrageous in almost any other context.
Even within the context of an unjust prohibition system, there are cops who do their jobs by the letter of the law. But we should not be surprised when some of the police officers we ask to enforce morally suspect laws day after day, year after year, eventually cross the line from actions that are unethical but legal to acts that are both unethical and illegal.
[thanks to D.K.]

Daily Roundup

Two interesting articles:
1) Bring back the drunk tank.
2) Chicago Fighting Police-Misconduct Lawsuits--and Winning.

March 22, 2011

1 in 4 leave Detroit in past 10 years

I bet Baltimore's Eastern District is no different. Because I do know that between 1990 and 2000, the Eastern lost 30% of its population, can't imagine the last 10 years were any better.

Here's a story about Detroit. I've still never been there.

Ken Jefferson for Jacksonville Sheriff

Ken Jefferson of Jacksonville, Florida, that is. Now I've never met Ken Jefferson and I've never been to Jacksonville, but I did get this email from a professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville:
I thought you might like this story from my class, an Intro to Communication Class. The context is students are presenting brief plans for change and asking the legislative body (the class) to debate its merits along the conventional problem, cause, solution logic path.

A 17-year Navy veteran, African-American student from North Jacksonville (heavily black and where most crime takes place in Florida's most dangerous city) relates how he was at the barbershop with the barbershop crowd and in walks Ken Jefferson, a 24-year veteran of the JSO (Jacksonville consolidated city & county governments 40 years ago) who was challenging the incumbent sheriff in Tuesday's election.

Now, I was already impressed that this guy was taking his campaign to the barbershop, and so was my student. But then he started explaining what Jefferson's plan for change was in the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office: bringing back foot patrols.

And so that was this guy's plan, shifting money from vice and gambling investigation to fund foot patrols.... And the whole class (or at least the black/lower class folks) are nodding their heads saying yes that's just what we need and then someone says "can we get them bicycles" and I just lost it....

[And I loved] the beautiful moment of a man practicing what he's preaching by promoting foot policing in the corner barbershop.
I immediately donated $50 to his campaign. But it will do little to even the odds: Jefferson has raised $18,000 compared to the incumbent's $203,000.

I think the election is today. So all you Jacksonville readers (er... well, there's at least one) get out there and vote for Jefferson!

[Update: Jefferson lost, with 37% of the vote.]

March 21, 2011

Union Power

From our local "International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers," comes the best union logo I've ever seen. From Astoria Ugly:

New York Police Station Architecture

The other day my wife and I were walking down a street near we live and I stopped across the street from a handsome old brick building.

View Larger Map

"I bet that used to be the police station," I said.

"How do you know?"

"I don't know."

I didn't know how I knew. But I knew. It just looked like an old police station--how police stations are supposed to look.

And then I noticed the police shield in the brickwork between the 2nd and 3rd floor. It was the old police station.

The Times has a story about beautiful old monuments to the "Wielders of the Club." This actually isn't one of them, but I'm still happy to have it around. Hanac, by the way, is the "Hellenic-American Neighborhood Action Committee."

March 20, 2011

Regulated Vice

Legalizing and regulated vice sure makes things easier and safer.

Here's the latest story, from the BBC, on such matters as prostitution in Amsterdam.

The war on prostitution doesn't affect society like the war on drugs does. But it's just as crazy! Of course prostitution should be legal and regulated. Duh!

The cost for weed arrests just went up

Last week I reported that marijuana arrests in New York City cost the city $75 million per year. In truth, that's a pretty conservative estimate. One thing left out is the cost of actually testing the drugs people are arrested for. Now if somebody takes a quick plea, the drugs may never be tested. But with 50,000 marijuana arrests, there must be a lot of testing going on.

But how much does it cost to test drugs? Good question. I've always wondered. Well in Nassau County (Eastern Long Island), it's going to cost them up to $167 per test to clean up their crime lab mess. That's through a private company. I would hope and assume that the NYPD does it in-house for cheaper.

Still... 50,000 drug tests could cost most than $8,000,000. Just add that to the bill.

March 19, 2011

Eastern District Officer Shot

On Harford road by armed guy on a bike. The suspect was also shot. The story in the Sun.

Movies: Adjustment Bureau & Precious

Not that you asked (you didn't), but here's what I thought of two movies I just saw:

"Adjustment Bureau." Good stuff. I liked it. Cool. Great concept. Good New York movie.

But really I'm here to tell you about the other one: "Precious."

What? "Precious"? Isn't that so 2009? Yes, but I didn't see it till 2011.

Why? Because every time somebody told me it was good I would think: "Yeah, right, like I need to sink into a depression coma for two hours watching a fat, illiterate, HIV-positive Harlem girl get knocked up (twice) by her daddy, brutally battered by her mother and laughed at by a world eager to pound abuse on her 16-year-old ass." Well it showed up via Netflix and we reluctantly put it on.

Well, take it from Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers, the above quote is from his review:
When I tell people how good this movie is — and I can't shut up about it — they flash me the stink eye. As in "Yeah, right, like I need to sink into a depression coma for two hours watching a fat, illiterate, HIV-positive Harlem girl get knocked up (twice) by her daddy, brutally battered by her mother and laughed at by a world eager to pound abuse on her 16-year-old ass."

Won't you dickheads be surprised. . . . Sorry, haters, Precious is an emotional powerhouse, a triumph of bruising humor and bracing hope that deserves its place among the year's best films.
It's true. But here's what the reviews don't tell you:

1) The movie is really cool visually; it's got style and energy. It's not at all cinema verite faux-documentary and depressing lighting. What other movie would have a father banging his daughter and I'm thinking about bed springs and the cool wallpaper?

2) It may be one of the most un-politically correct film made since Birth of a Nation. There's a baby with Down Syndrome and the baby is called "Mongo." Mongo? "You know, short for Mongoloid." Ohhh.... More significantly there is a very-bad very-racist mother in this movie. She wants kids for their welfare. She's also got good aim when chucking an ash tray. She happens to be black.

It's kind of amazing the movie gets away with everything it shows. Is the film realistic? Well, it's certain not typical... but do such situations exist? Yes (though usually the various misfortunes are divided among a few more people). And police often end up picking up the pieces. Though police don't make an appearance in the movie, police--or at least Baltimore police--will relate.

Cops I know deal with this crap all the time. But when police start describing their little slice of reality, some people just call them racist. In some ways, watching this movie made me feel like I was back in some of the so-called "homes" I saw in Baltimore's Eastern District.

But don't see the movie for the message or lack of message. See it because it's an entertaining flick. From start to finish. The acting is great, and, as Bill Cosby used to say, "If you're not careful you may learn something before it's done."

March 18, 2011

Broken Windows (or booze bottles)

This type of crime bothers me far more than it should. Known (at least to the cognoscente) as the "Broken Bottle Scam," some S.O.B. bumps into somebody (usually a tourist), drops a bottle of booze, and confrontationally demands $40 for a replacement.

That's old-school New York and it's wrong. Crap like that preys on the weak, makes people afraid of the city, and is just a bastard way to hustle for a living. Parson said he pulled the scam up to 10 times a day. Many people just give up the dough rather than get into a confrontation with a threatening man.

The story in the Post, the Daily News, and CBS.

Well Mr. Parson picked the wrong mark: a tourist (with his elderly father) who just happened to be a Swedish Navy Lt. Commander and flew back for the trial.

But poor poor Mr. Parson, I can hear liberals complain, he wasn't hurting anybody...

...Unless you don't pay. When Palm didn’t pay up, Parson followed him and his father into their hotel lobby and threatened them with a box cutter. .

He was found guilty and got 20 years. Twenty years?! Really? I don't have sympathy for Mr. Parson. But 20 years?! When does sentence length become absurd? And why do I, as a New York State taxpayer, have to pay part of what will be close to a million dollars to "protect" us from him? Come on, we're all smart people. Are you telling me there isn't a better and cheaper way to deal with bastards like him? Can't we just cut the guy a check for 10 grand on condition he never comes back? People, put on your thinking caps!

Camden brings back some police, firefighters

The AP story.

"Retiree who yelled 'Gun' has 'annoying habit' of visiting crime scenes"

"He listens to scanners and races to locations where police are called, a source told the New York Post."

March 17, 2011

The DEA and the Death Penalty

Good ol' Radley has the most interesting take I've read. The subject is the DEA seizing death-penalty drugs in Georgia because they were... bought illegally from a foreign country.

March 16, 2011

"My name is Frunk-en-steen"

That's a "Young Frankenstein" reference, for all you kids out there. That's from back in the days when Mel Brooks was funny. Or at least funny to a seven-year-old. I watched that from the family Datsun with my dad and brother at the old Sunset Drive-In on McCormick Blvd in Skokie, ILL.

Man, I sound like I'm getting old... Maybe I am.

No matter, the movie was funny to kids my age, however old I was. Anyway, kids, dig this (that expression really is before my time):

March 15, 2011

NYC Marijuana Arrests Cost City $75 mil

So reports the Daily News about a new report by the Drug Policy Alliance.

In response, Commissioner Kelly says if you don't like, call your state senator. Of course, that's a bit disingenuous because the law is already pretty clear: small-scale possession of marijuana in New York State is not an arrestable offense. The problem is how the NYPD enforces a violation they've been told to just write a ticket for. The law is pretty clear: it doesn't want an arrest for small-scale personal weed possession. But the NYPD gets around this law by "asking" people to empty their pockets (that's the legal way, at least). But... why?

I can answer that question, by the way: overtime, paperwork, compstat pressure, and the boss. Remember, in the police world, some arrests are better than others, but all arrests are good. Of course in the tax-paying world and even the crime-fighting world, all arrests are not necessarily good.

Kelly says the NYPD must be doing something right, because crime is still low. He's right about that.... But that doesn't mean it has anything to do with $75 million worth of marijuana arrests. One can make a stronger argument that marijuana arrests increased because crime went down. It became harder and harder to keep up those numbers for Compstat and meet certain "productivity goals."

March 14, 2011

Mistaken-Identity Police Shootings in Black and White

The death of a Nassau County police officer got me thinking about cases of police officers shot by other cops. There's the belief out there that black officers are much more at risk of being mistaken for suspects than are white officers. It's also been said (by me?) that such accidental mistaken-identity shootings almost never happen to white officers. Officer Breitkopf is white.

So this afternoon I went to the Officer Down Memorial Page. I've found the data at Officer Down to be quite reliable and comprehensive. I looked at all deaths involving accidental police shooting of police officers. This does not include officers who were shot and lived. Or officers who didn't meet Officer Down's criteria for being killed on duty. But generally when officers get in any such situation, they're considered on duty. And I wouldn't expect including those data to change the basic findings.

I went back as far as 1960 and looked at the descriptions to determine which officers were killed after being mistaken for suspects (ie: not "friendly fire" or accidents--though I should point out that training grounds seem particularly prone to accidental lethal shooting). At least 47 officers have been killed in such split-second cases of mistaken identity. I then looked at the pictures of the deceased officer to judge race (they were all pretty clear cut). I then coded for the circumstances of the killings based on the description given. (So, what did you do this afternoon?) I ended up selected only those killed since 1976 because half of those between 1960-1976 didn't have pictures. That brought the total number of officers number down to 28 (which was lower than I expected).

Here are the basic facts:

Since 1976, at least 28 officers have been shot and killed by other police who thought the police officer was a bad guy with a gun. (Or bad girl. Two officers killed were women, which surprised me.)

15 of these officers were white; 11 were black; 2 were hispanic. (I was surprised to find that so many white officers have been killed in such circumstances. Before yesterday, I knew of exactly two cases, and one of those was from 1972.)

3 officers were in uniform (all 3 of whom were white); 22 were in plainclothes. (And there were a few unknowns.)

19 were off duty before the incident started; 9 were on duty.

Racially, the only thing that jumps out is that 8 of 11 black officers were off duty and 14 in 15 white officers who were on duty.

39% of officer shot and killed in cases of mistaken identity were African-American. But what does that mean? What's the denominator? Should it be the percentage of black officers? Do we even know what percentage of police nationwide are black? I asked the kind people at the National Black Police Association if they could tell me. I got a quick reply saying they didn't have such a number handy, but would guess around 10 percent (or 80,000 out of 800,000) of police nationwide are African-American.

Or perhaps the denominator should be the race of those working plainclothes? Or narcotics (about one-third of cases I could determine involved drug enforement)?

Or maybe we should look at the race of officers living in higher-crime districts? That seems to be the biggest contributing factor with regards to black officers getting involved in off-duty incidents.

Perhaps it's more important to look at the demographics of the area in which the shooting took place? Or the race of the suspects in the incident? Or the race of the police officer who fired the lethal shot?

Of course most police officers officers are not black, so compared to white officers, black officers are disproportionately killed (about four times more likely) by other police mistaking them for suspects. Is this because police are much more likely to perceive any black man as a threat? Or are there simply more cases in which minority police officers end up in a situations where they're out of uniform and holding a gun? I, for one, was surprised to see the issue isn't so, well, black and white.

RIP Officers Breitkopf and Schaberger

Nassau County Officer Geoffrey Breitkopf was killed in case of mistaken identity.

In Brooklyn, NYPD Officer Alain Schaberger was killed trying to arrest a violent man, who pushed him over a stoop railing. "Mr. Villanueva had been arrested at least three times on charges of domestic violence against the same woman he was accused of threatening Sunday."

Say What?

"Nuclear facilities in Japan ... were built to withstand earthquakes -- but not an 8.9 earthquake."

What?! And why not? It's not like such big earthquakes have never happened before.

The idea that nuclear plants (and waste) need to be kept safe FOREVER seems to be the fatal flaw of the pro-nuclear position. Hubris, people. Hubris.

Anyway, poor Japan. My thoughts are with those missing friends and family and entire hometowns, including my one dear friend from Sendai. I cannot begin to comprehend what she is going through.

March 12, 2011

NPR Video

I love NPR. And if I didn't live in a big city, I'd be more passionate about cutting federal support for what is truly an essential public service in small-town and rural American (public radio is essential here in New York City, too--but it would survive just OK without federal funding).

This is from Glen Beck's website: an analysis of the shenanigans involved in editing the "sting" of the NPR fund raiser. It's actually pretty damning. And not to NPR or Ron Shiller.

Of course, if NPR did what Pam Key of The Blaze did, it would be dismissed by the right-wing as biased left-wing propaganda ("consider the source" is always one of my favorite non-arguments). But considering this source, I'd say it's hard to argue with. Kudos to Key for this and other stories, such as: "What You Didn’t See: NPR Execs... Proud of GOP Past, Love Fiscal Conservatism, Compare Fairness Doctrine to Communist Russia & Defend Intellect of Fox Viewers."

I haven't watched the two hour version. Nor do I plan to. But if I were a betting man, I'd guess I've probably said everything Ron Schiller said. So what? I've said a lot of things. Why Schiller and NPR caved so quickly because of a misleadingly edited video is another issue. Maybe we liberals really are cheese-eating surrender monkeys after all. Or maybe NPR isn't that liberal. Probably the former.

Terrorist Plot Foiled in Alaska

I guess those recent congressional hearings did some good. I mean, just a few days after being inspired to focus on radicalized Muslim youth, law enforcement goes out and breaks up a real terrorist plot.

According the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, five people were arrested for allegedly conspiring to kill multiple Alaska State Troopers and a federal judge.

Actually, not. I mean the plot was real. It just has nothing to do with Islam. This was the usual home-grown white-christian kind of terrorist group. And these guys, police take notice, like to target cops. Focus, people!

But speaking of Muslim terrorists, there's new video of the Twin Towers falling, this from a police helicopter. Just in case there wasn't enough disaster video these days.

Class War? Bring it on!

Or why we don't need to and shouldn't cut spending. Let's compare at "programs at risk" and "tax breaks for the wealthy":

I can't vouch for the numbers, but they seem reasonable.


I just read in the New York Times that kids are using Facebook! But Facebook says you're supposed to be, like, 13. So, some kids are even [gulp] lying about their age!

Says one concerned person: “It’s lying — and about age,” Ms. Kaune said. “What happens when they want to drink beer?”

Uh, last time I checked, when you want you're underage, you lie about your age and drink beer. Actually, you don't lie about your age until you want to buy beer. Kids still do that, right? I hope so.

Is that really this parent's fear? That her son will drink a beer before his 21st birthday?

The only think I celebrated on my 21st birthday was no having to use my excellent fake ID.

You know, it's one thing to have an absurdly high 21-year-old drinking age for beer. It's another to think that these prohibition laws somehow make sense.

Beer, weed, crack, shooting up heroin: the slippery slope starts with 11-year-olds on facebook! Stop them before it's too late!!

March 11, 2011

Our Socialized Health Care

From Tom Scocca at Slate. The column is actually about the debt and David Brooks. Scocca questions whether the debt is really "the" central moral challenge of our time: "Maybe I was distracted and missed the day we let all the young black men back out of prison. (How are they doing? They must feel great now.)"

But I particularly like his part about socialized health care in America.
The awkward, mainly unspoken fact of our time is that America is a socialist country, or that Americans operate under the assumption that it is a socialist country. American socialism works the same way that our system of universal health care does--and we do have universal health care.

Here is how universal health care operates, as we currently practice it: if you are sick and dying in the street, and someone sees you and calls an ambulance, the ambulance is required by law to pick you up. The ambulance will take you to the hospital, which is required by law to treat you. (These procedures are not always followed, but--at present--the failure to follow them is still mostly seen as an outrage.)

The treatment may use up all the money you have, but even when the money is gone, treatment will continue. This approach to handling the illness of poor people is incoherent and irrationally expensive--the amount spent on ambulances alone is staggering--but it comes from a series of moral decisions. We do not believe people should be left to die without medical care.

[thanks to Alan I.]

"I am therefore ill-equipped to be her judge in this matter."

David Simon on Snoop's Arrest from the Baltimore Sun:
What follows is a personal statement from David Simon, Creator and Executive Producer of "The Wire" (and currently in production on "Treme").

First of all, Felicia's entitled to the presumption of innocence. And I would note that a previous, but recent drug arrest that targeted her was later found to be unwarranted and the charges were dropped. Nonetheless, I'm certainly sad at the news today. This young lady has, from her earliest moments, had one of the hardest lives imaginable. And whatever good fortune came from her role in 'The Wire' seems, in retrospect, limited to that project. She worked hard as an actor and was entirely professional, but the entertainment industry as a whole does not offer a great many roles for those who can portray people from the other America. There are, in fact, relatively few stories told about the other America.

Beyond that, I am waiting to see whether the charges against Felicia relate to heroin or marijuana. Obviously, the former would be, to my mind, a far more serious matter. And further, I am waiting to see if the charges or statement of facts offered by the government reflect any involvement with acts of violence, which would of course be of much greater concern.

In an essay published two years ago in Time Magazine, the writers of 'The Wire' made the argument that we believe the war on drugs has devolved into a war on the underclass, that in places like West and East Baltimore, where the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring and where the educational system is so crippled that the vast majority of children are trained only for the corners, a legal campaign to imprison our most vulnerable and damaged citizens is little more than amoral. And we said then that if asked to serve on any jury considering a non-violent drug offense, we would move to nullify that jury's verdict and vote to acquit. Regardless of the defendant, I still believe such a course of action would be just in any case in which drug offenses -- absent proof of violent acts -- are alleged.

Both our Constitution and our common law guaranty that we will be judged by our peers. But in truth, there are now two Americas, politically and economically distinct. I, for one, do not qualify as a peer to Felicia Pearson. The opportunities and experiences of her life do not correspond in any way with my own, and her America is different from my own. I am therefore ill-equipped to be her judge in this matter.

Looking Good...

I got the design for the book cover for In Defense of Flogging. That's always kind of an exciting moment. I like it.

And the front and back flaps:

The book will be out June 1. You can pre-order on Amazon, if you're so inclined.

Community Policing Dispatch

Has an interview with me.

Our Worst Justice

From an LA Times column by Jonathan Turley: "Clarence Thomas insisted that his wife was being attacked because she believes in the same things he does and because they were 'focused on defending liberty.'" Wow. I like liberty. Why all the brouhaha?
Thomas reported "none" in answering specific questions about "spousal non-investment income" on annual forms. ... In truth she had hundreds of thousands of dollars of income from conservative organizations.
A justice is expressly required by federal law to recuse himself ... when he knows that "his spouse ... has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding."
Thomas simply wrote a brief letter to the court saying that the information was "inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions."
The Thomas's has a history of strange responses to criticism. Now he says that any attack on him as an attack on the Court:
"You all are going to be, unfortunately, the recipients of the fallout from that — that there's going to be a day when you need these institutions to be credible and to be fully functioning to protect your liberties."
Is Thomas a stalwart defender of liberty or just a corrupt sleazy bastard? Who can say? But I don't think Virginia ever did get that apology from Anita.

The Banana Boat Is In!

1905 Baltimore Harbor.

To appreciate the details in the picture, you need to click here and then click on "full size."
I'm assuming this picture is taken from where the aquarium is, looking northwest. Anybody know?

Balto Tow Scandal

More from the Sun:
A federal grand jury has indicted 10 Baltimore police officers and two repair shop workers....

Only 10 officers who were charged last month are named in the indictment. Seven others named in the scheme remain charged in the criminal complaint. They could be indicted later, but not taking their cases before a grand jury is typically a signal that they are cooperating with investigators.

March 10, 2011

The Problem With King

Peter King sees nothing wrong with the hearings he's holding on Muslim radicalization in America. I can't imagine anything productive or less radical coming from these hearings.

But my main objection--even fear--is that these hearings will allow the next terrorist attempt to be successful, thus "proving" their point, and creating a horrible vicious cycle.

How are these hearings dangerous? Because, as any intel expert will tell you, plots get foiled because somebody talks. Have you noticed there hasn't been a successful attack recently? Perhaps we're doing something right.

The NYPD has worked long and hard to build connections (which includes everything from friendly talks to infiltration to snitches to calls to 311). These connections have paid off. Plots have been foiled. The NYPD doesn't need help identifying radical groups; they need help infiltrating and gathering information from these groups. The police need to keep friendly lines of communication open, and they fear that this hearings will destroy years of hard work. The second people stop talking, we're in trouble.

Pissing off good Muslim-Americans for no real gain (unless you could political points as a real gain) is not the answer. Doing things to piss off young Muslim Americans to the point where they might learn to hate America--creating radicals--is certainly not the answer.

Seriously now, what am I missing? What are we going to learn? Except for pissing off pansy-ass terrorist-loving unpatriotic people me (I write that sarcastically), what are the potential benefits to these hearing? What is Peter King, a supporter of past IRA terrorism, going to tell law enforcement that we don't already know?

[And does anybody notice that King sounds like a bit like Barney Frank? That's got to be the next worst thing to Santorum.]

Another Day, Another Drug Raid

What makes this one unique is that they got Snoop! And pictures.

March 7, 2011

Fight the Terror

I received an email from Richard Hughbank with a letter written by Police Major Joseph Bail, Jr. (ret.). This is in response to the Washington Monthly article I linked to a short while back. Hughbank asked if I would post it. It’s too long to post. It’s very long (too long?). But I’m happy to link to it.

Mostly it’s a character defense of a few of the people attacked in the article, including Hughbank. Please understand I don’t know any of these people from Adam. So I have no idea what the truth is. Nor can I delve into the issues of journalism ethics involved here. Though I do find a 40-year veteran police officer (Major Bail) complaining about being duped by a smooth talking interrogator to be a bit precious. Even I was taught in the police academy, "Don't get into a battle of words with people who buy ink by the barrel."

But as to character anti-defamation, I’m happy to help. Character anti-defamation is a worthy cause.

But beyond that, honestly... I think the letter supports the article's main point: people with a thin or false knowledge of Islam are being paid to miss-educate police about Islam and terrorism prevention in the US.

Let’s assume, for instance, that one of the guys slammed in the piece really did train with the biggest baddest Russian special forces ever. And let’s say that he can can bench 500lb, run a 4-second 100-meter dash, and that in hand-to-hand combat he can kick Bruce Lee’s ass and use it as an ashtray. He's a real-life Rambo. If we were conducting a tactical raid on terrorists, that would be the guy I would want on my side. But what does special-force training have to do with anti-terrorism education? This isn't about skills, it's about knowledge.

From the letter:
I am mad that the politically motivated, Islam-loving, terrorist-apologizing media continues to paint the Muslim extremists as reasonable, decent people.
Honestly, I don’t think anybody in media, “liberal” or otherwise, paints terrorist extremists as reasonable, decent people. But indeed, the “terrorist-apologizing media” might point out that the vast majority of the worlds billions of Muslims are not terrorists or extremists. This seems to be the main point of contention.
Perhaps the real lesson to be learned from this is that there are people out there who are ideologically motivated to see that America is unprepared for the next terror attacks. And they will do anything possible to undermine us.
There’s that “us-versus-them” and slightly conspiratorial attitude that worries me. I guess because I disagree with their world-view, by these standards I would be a “them.” But I don't want to make America unprepared for the next terror attacks! Hell, my city of New York will probably be the target.

Here's my fear, which the letter does nothing to lessen: simplistic right-wing anti-Islam thinking makes a successful terrorist attack much more likely. To defeat “them” (terrorists, not Muslims) we need people like "them" (Muslims, not terrorists) to tell us what "they" are planning to do. Thinking of all Muslims as potential and wannabe terrorists is not only wrong, it will only make it much more likely that the next terrorist attack will succeed. To think that Islam is the enemy is as silly as thinking that every black who lives in the ghetto is a criminal. Not only is it wrong, it makes you an ineffective police officer because you can't focus your attention on those who need your attention, the criminals who actual want to kill you.

March 5, 2011

Brokeback Marijuana

It amazes me that all those rugged western cowboy can get all Big State when it comes to drugs (actually, nothing really amazes me in the war on the drugs).

The headline reads: In Montana, an Economic Boom Faces Repeal Effort. Really? Because you'd think they wouldn't be in a position to shut down money-making agriculture.
A resurgent Republican majority elected last fall is leading a drive to repeal the six-year-old voter-approved statute permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes, which opponents argue is promoting recreational use and crime.
Promoting recreational use? Who cares. Ain't much else to do with all that nature. And maybe fewer people will take meth. Perhaps they problem is that they've become too dependent on taking our money. That's what they're really addicted to. Talk about a culture of poverty.

As to legal marijuana promoting crime? I'd like to see some of those pesky "facts." [A quick search of Montana crime rates shows less crime than six years ago.]

An industry group of marijuana growers (probably exaggerating a bit, but whatever) claims they spend $12 million annually around the state and created 1,400 (legal) jobs.

Montana has 975,000 people.

975,000 people.

Man oh man... The Borough of Queens has 2.3 million people. 165,000 people live in my neighborhood.

I guess Montana is so booming that they can do without their one free-market agricultural success story. I mean, who needs to work if you get $380 million in federal farm welfare last year.

It's a shame Montana, Wyoming, and the two Dakotas--with a combined population of 3 million--get 8 senators to represent their world-view of small government and pseudo "self-sufficiency."

These four states collectively sucked up $1.9 billion in farm welfare in 2009. They wouldn't survive without government largess. Maybe we should take some of that dole away, at least until they reconsider their position on profit-making agriculture.

And yet not surprisingly, the same people who shout loudest again big government are really just closeted. These welfare queens (here's a good story) say they hate Washington, but then they get a look at all sexy green coming from D.C., and they say, "I just can't quit you!"

NYC Settles in Public Housing Trespassing Cases

From the Times:
New York City has quietly reached settlements with several plaintiffs in a federal class-action lawsuit alleging that the city’s trespassing-enforcement policies in public housing complexes are discriminatory and unlawful, lawyers and others said this week.
The city made its offers in October and December and is in the process of paying a total of slightly more than $170,000, with individual payments ranging from $5,000 to $75,000, said a spokesman for the comptroller’s office.
None of the payments are an admission of wrongdoing.
The NYPD needs to continue to police public housing without actually arresting people for trespassing in the building in which they live. This isn't too much to ask. I like to think the NYPD will rise just fine to this challenge.

Officers in Alvarez Shooting Not Indicted

Well I guess since nobody was indicted, we can all shake and go home.

But seriously... it would have been horrible if the officers were indicted for doing their job. Though the fact that Alvarez also gets to walk bothers me less since he already survived his "trial by ordeal." I mean the guy was shot 23(!) times, "27 holes," and four bullets in his body. Let's just count that as time served.

From the story in the Times:
Mr. Alvarez had gotten into a fight with another man, Luis Soto, who Mr. Alvarez said had shot at him.

The police had accused Mr. Alvarez of shooting at them as they converged on the fight. In a frantic span of about 10 seconds, with about 500 people swarming the block, four officers fired, and Mr. Alvarez received 23 gunshot wounds.

In case you were wondering...

In case you were wondering--I sure was--what happened to Marisol Valles García, the 20-year-old Mexican woman/criminal-justice student who became police chief in a town because nobody else wanted the job... here's an update in the Times. Nothing too revelatory... but at least she's still alive. Though there's also a chance she hopped over the border.

Update, March 7: I just heard on the NewHour that she was fired. Turns out she did cross the border "for personal reasons." Well, it was fun while it lasted. ...I wonder how she did before the left?

March 4, 2011

This is America

Hopefully just a very small part of it.

Shame on us.

I try not and make the Nazi comparison lightly, but people, this is American fascism. You know you're a fascist when:

You wrap yourself in an American flag to call another group of Americans terrorists, killers, and pure evil.

You wish another group of Americans an early death for no other reason than their religion.

You tell people born in this country to "go back home" (Only native American Indians should be allowed to use that line).

Any others you can think of?

And in some ways these idiots are worse than the Amerikadeutscher Bund of the 1930s. Sure they're all ignorant, hate-filled, nativists who wrap themselves in the American flag.

But at least The German American Bund of the 1930s, wanted to keep us out of war. And at least the old-time haters were kind enough to carry around swastikas, making them much easier to spot. Oh, look, there they are parading in New York City:

I'm not certain what these new extremists want (many of whom are elected Republicans) want, even if you could peel away the hate.

I hate Illinois Nazis.

Since now England seems to be the bad guy, ever since they've fallen under Sharia Law (note: they haven't), can we have Freedom Muffins for breakfast?

Mexico Frustrated at US Inability to Control Border

At least when it comes to our guns and demand for drugs. Calderon and Obama met, and seemed to accomplish nothing.

Of course the border can't be sealed, not if we want free trade. So we'll keep getting their drugs, because we want them and have money. And they'll keep getting our guns, because they want them and have money. That's the way the free market works.
In a show of confidence in Calderon's efforts, the Obama administration said it would continue to send aid to support Mexico in the drug war. A senior administration official said the U.S. plans to speed up implementation of the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative, with $900 million to be doled out by the end of the year.
I didn't realize that we haven't actually honored our word to give them the money we promised to give, back in 2006. That was when we told then President Fox that we would give him billions if only he backed down from his rational idea to end the drug war. He did. We didn't. "Here's your money... Psych!" What a sucker. He believed us!

I imagine it went something like this. Let's pretend Fox's first name were Bob, and that he's a fan of country and western music. The US "Good Ole Boys" of A are like The Blues Brothers. The location, naturally, is the Bunker Country de Bob:
Mexico: You know you boys owe me a lot over money for that war on drugs you want me to fight goddamnit.

US: We loved playing here. My brother's writing out an American Express travellers cheque to cover the extensive tab.

Mexico: Well, I sure would appreciate it.

US: I'd better check up, see how he's doing, see I have to sign it too. I usually sit in the car and write it out on the glove compartment lid. Okay?

[US walks towards the car and feels jacket pockets.]

US: Need a Pencil!

[US get in the car, quickly starts it and zooms off toward the border.]

Mexico: Them boys owe me 1.4 billion dollars!

US: Our lady of blessed acceleration don't fail me now.
The drug war got ramped up and turned Northern Mexico into a killing zone.

Today's article also says that current President Calderon has been worried that "politicians could be tempted to return to a tacit policy of tolerating the gangs." Short of legalizing and ending the drug war, isn't that we want? Then at least we might be able to turn back the clock to 2006 before all this deadly nonsense, when there were just a few hundred prohibition deaths each year.

The Headline You Never See

"An Angry Man Is Met by a Smart, Experienced Police Team"

But this headline is real. And it's not from the Onion.

It's from the New York Times. The story is by Al Baker. I did not know, as his bio says, that he's the son of a police officer. Maybe that's why his stories are generally more nuanced and intelligent than your average reporter's.

March 3, 2011

Alvarez is no Ham Sandwich

A grand jury didn't indict Angel Alvarez. This is surprising, given how they say a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.

Here's what I wrote about his shooting back in August.

Fewer Cops = More Crime

That's the news from Camden.

Though I should point out that were it not for the layoffs (almost half the department!), the chief would probably be boasting that homicides are down. But everything else is up, including shootings. Hmmm, maybe there's a correlation between fewer cops and bad aim?

How We Train Our Cops to Fear Islam

Here's an interesting article by Meg Stalcup and Joshua Craze in The Washington Monthly. The subtitle is: "There aren’t nearly enough counterterrorism experts to instruct all of America’s police--So we got these guys instead."
Despite their different backgrounds, the counterterrorism trainers we interviewed have a remarkably similar worldview. It is one of total, civilizational war--a conflict against Islam that involves everyone, without distinction between combatant and noncombatant, law enforcement and military. “Being politically correct inhibits you,” Hughbank said. “I know Islam better than my own religion. Some things need to be called a spade.”
On one occasion, we asked a student whether gangs--a more conventional subject of police attention--weren’t a more pressing issue for cops than terrorists.

“Yeah, the gangs are a threat,” answered the officer. “But they don’t have 1.5 billion members.”
Many of these classes are paid for by tax dollars, taught by people without law enforcement background, exaggerated military backgrounds (John Giduck, author of Terror at Beslan), and are "accredited" by people such as Keith Flannigan (the certification chairman of the scammy "Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board") who seems to make up his own college degrees.

Of course a couple people faking their C.V. isn't a big deal. What is a big deal is that this bigoted war-like approach to fighting terrorism in dangerous. Real, effective, anti-terrorists efforts are not helped by cops learning B.S. profiling to spot the "terrorists among us" by, say, looking "at the owners of convenience stores."

Plots get foiled because people talk to cops:
In counterterrorism, as in most areas of intelligence and law enforcement, vital information often comes from those closest to the suspected perpetrators--from neighbors, friends, even family members. It was an anonymous handwritten note from an Arab American in Lackawanna, New York, a small city outside Buffalo, that led the FBI to arrest six men.
Same with the foiled plot described in Jennifer Hunt's excellent Seven Shots. Teaching cops that 1.5 billion Muslims are potentially terrorists is not the answer.

March 1, 2011

On Unions

A level-heading analysis from David Leonhardt in the New York Times:
Fat and happy government workers, however easy the caricature may be, are not the cause of our looming federal and state deficits. Neither are spineless politicians.

The cause is Americans’ collective desire for low taxes and generous government benefits. We want our politicians to promise us tax cuts, a strong military, safe streets, good schools and unchanged Medicare and Social Security. And promise it all they do.

Eventually, we will have to pay for the government we want, regardless of what happens in Wisconsin.

Cannabis use 'raises psychosis risk'

Sez a study reported in the BBC.