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by Peter Moskos

February 28, 2012

"We have to be enraged at this point"

So says, again and again, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

I'm rarely shocked by murders. Nine-month-old shot and killed by a "stray" bullet? 12-year-old girl killed in similar (but separate) circumstances? 6-year-old critically injured after being shot by a 15-year-old with an AK47 in an attempted carjacking? (OK, that last one did make me do a bit of a double take).

Horribly, it's just the same-old same-old. The rest of American A) doesn't care and/or B) can't figure out what to do.

But a 14-year-old (who was on the high-school swim team and in ROTC) killing his mom for not letting him hang out with losers? I'm actually shocked. From the same Detroit News:
Tamiko Robinson, 36, who was fatally shot -- relatives say by her teenage son -- as she was sleeping about 3 a.m. Monday.

Family members say Robinson's 14-year-old son, who is in custody, shot his mother because he was mad she wouldn't let him hang out with friends.

"He just wanted to hang with the thugs," said Robinson's brother....

"He said his mother won't let him have friends; he said his mother won't let him bring his girlfriends over; his mother won't let him stay out until 11 o'clock at night," Roberts said. "He's 14 years old."

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to determine how two people died after their burning bodies were found early Monday on Detroit's west side.

Here's a Fox TV clip where the victim's brother says what happened.

Mayor Bing said: "What we are living with today is totally unacceptable."

What is the answer?

Update: Meanwhile I see we are enraged. When innocent white boys get killed. National front page headlines. And please don't ask why I had to play the race card. Why do we care so much more when the victims are white? We either care about innocent shooting victims or we don't.

A lot of people (and a lot of cops) say, "well the black community doesn't care about black-on-black crime." Well they do. You just never hear them talk. I mean, have you ever heard of Mayor Bing? I hadn't.

I would mention guns. But what's the point in talking about America's gun culture and the lack of gun control? That battle is lost.

As my favorite penguin says:
Relax. Your paranoid political fantasies notwithstanding, no one's going to take your guns away!

Barring some seismic realignment in this country, the gun control debate is all but settled--and your side won. The occasional horrific civilian massacre is just the price the rest of us have to pay.

Over and over again, apparently.

Criminal Officers plead guilty

From the New York Times:
Mr. Ortiz and Mr. Trischitta helped transport three M-16 rifles, one shotgun and 16 handguns from New Jersey to New York. Many had been defaced to remove or alter the serial number.

In another scheme, the officers — along with Mr. Mahoney, Mr. Melnik and others — helped transport what they believed to be stolen goods, including slot machines, counterfeit merchandise and thousands of cartons of cigarettes, across state lines. According to court documents, the goods carried a street value of about $1 million.

February 27, 2012

Right-Wing Lies (VI) - Dutch Euthanasia

"The problem is if they just start lying." That's how Erik Mouthaan (Holland's RTL News) puts it. Or, put less eloquently, this is what I'd say to Rick Santorum, who recently lied about the Netherlands, which seems to be a popular pastime (see, for instance) among US prohibitionists and conservatives. Said Santorum:
People wear differ bracelets if you are elderly. And the bracelet is “do not euthanize me.” Because they have voluntary euthanize in the Netherlands. But half the people who are euthanized every year--and it’s 10% of all deaths--and half those people are euthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older or sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital. They go to another country because there are afraid because of budget purposes, that they will not come out of that hospital.
Mr. Santorum, have you no shame?

What is the Dutch policy on euthanasia? Here's a good, and factually correct, summary. Basically euthanasia has been decriminalized--meaning it's technically illegal but the government will not prosecute--if certain conditions are met. These condition include your ability to make such a choice. You also have to be in unbearable pain without prospect of improvement. A doctor has to sign off on these condition (or risk criminal liability). And so does a second doctor.

And Dutch people are not afraid to go to the hospital (nor do they have to worry about the bill, if they do).

In 2009 there were 2,636 people (just under 2% of all deaths) in the Netherlands who wanted to (and did) end their lives. 80% of these patients died at home.

There is nobody in the Netherlands involuntarily euthanized in the Netherlands. They have a word for that in Dutch, "moord". It means murder. Even in Holland, homicide is still a crime.

Update: I'd love it for a Santorum fan to comment. Could you please tell me which is the following is most true? Seriously.

1) You don't believe me. That is to say, Santorum was telling the truth. Dutch hospitals really do kill sick old people who have to wear bracelets if they want to stay alive.

2) You think Santorum simply made an honest mistake. He thought it was true it was true at the time. The fact the he is so incredibly ignorant than he could believe such a thing a true? No big deal.

3) You believe Santorum knew he was lying. But again, no big deal. They're all lying bastards, but at least Santorum is your lying bastard.

Cause I can't figure out it. But that's probably because I went to college (but that's a whole 'nuther issue).

Journal of Apocryphal Chemistry

How to make Sudafed from crystal meth.

[thanks to The Agitator]

I [heart] European Socialism

Over at the Montclair SocioBlog ("the best blog I bet you don't read"), Professor Jay Livingston comments on Charles Murray's new book (no, I haven't read it either) and Murray's problem of "The Europe Syndrome." A lot of Republican politicians have noticed this problem over the pond as well. As Murray says [I've added a few comments]:
There’s a lot to like about day-to-day life in the advanced welfare states of western Europe. [I'll say!]

They are great places to visit. [You got that right!]

But the view of life that has taken root in those same countries is problematic. [Oh, when I lived there I didn't realize they were all zombies, and many are kinda pale.]

It seems to go something like this: The purpose of life is to while away the time between birth and death as pleasantly as possible [Why while away time pleasantly when you could work two shit jobs for 70 hours/week?],

and the purpose of government is to make it as easy as possible to while away the time as pleasantly as possible – The Europe Syndrome. [Astute observation. Best we let the government do so only for the rich, as they have more financial means to rise above their own ennui. (Like how I just "happened" to throw in a French word there? Pretty swa-vay, no? Pretty effing European, if I do say so myself. Man, if I actually spoke French, I'd be dangerous.)]

Europe’s short workweeks and frequent vacations are one symptom of the syndrome. [Gosh, are there others? Has he even considered decent healthcare, education, and low-crime societies?]

The idea of work as a means of self-actualization has faded. [Such things happen if you have a dead-end job.]

The view of work as a necessary evil, interfering with the higher good of leisure, dominates. [Yup. Let me tell you, I've heard many actual real Europeans say, mind you this is in their well-spoken second (sometimes even third) language, so maybe I'm not getting it right, "I do not live to work; I work to live.]...

The decline of fertility to far below replacement is another symptom. [Greeks would be happy to know Murray considers them European, if they weren't so busy "self-actualizing" without the burdens of workweeks and vacations at all!]

Children are seen as a burden that the state must help shoulder, and even then they’re a lot of trouble that distract from things that are more fun. [Oh. My. God. Wait till I tell my European nephews. Can they handle the truth? The oldest is only 11?]

The secularization of Europe is yet another symptom. Europeans have broadly come to believe that humans are a collection of activated chemicals that, after a period of time, deactivate. [A bit clinical, but yeah, that's one way to put it.]

It that’s the case, saying that the purpose of life is to pass the time as pleasantly as possible is a reasonable position. Indeed, taking any other position is ultimately irrational.[Gosh. I never realized a shorter workweek and paid vacations were a threat to my "self-actualization" and even non-chemical eternal salvation.]

But Charles, what's the answer!? Thankfully, Murray provide that in the very next paragraph:
The alternative to the European Syndrome is to say that your life can have transcendent meaning if it is spent doing important things – raising a family, supporting yourself, being a good friend and good neighbor, learning what you can do well and then doing it as well as you possibly can. [I thought the Europeans did that, since they have more time to do so?]

Providing the best framework for doing those things is what the American project is all about.
Yeah, if only all those paid vacations and leisure time weren't getting in the way. Or, as the eminent Dr. Livingston puts it, I presume:
No wonder the Republicans constantly warn us against the temptations of “European-style socialism.” It’s not really necessary since most Americans don’t know about legally mandated vacation time or maternity and paternity leave, government support for all families with children, job protection, and other policies. Nevertheless, the conservative helmsmen stuff our ears with wax and lash themselves to the mast lest the siren song of European pleasure lead us off our American course.
I think the decline started with gay marriage. Or was it desegregation? Or maybe giving voting rights to women and non-property owners? Vive la différence!

February 25, 2012

In Praise of the Beat Cop

In the current issue of New York's Transportation Alternative's Reclaim magazine.

[And dig the picture of me, from 12 years ago:]
[photo by Amy Eckert]

February 24, 2012

Street Soldiers

I'll be on Hot 97's Street Soldiers with Lisa Evers this coming Sunday morning (it was prerecorded today). Rounding out the roundtable is Noel Leader, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, and Norman Seabrook, President of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association. It's a lively hour.

You'll hear me question Brooklyn rapper Uncle Murda as to whether a stop-snitching advocate who goes by the name of "Murda" is really a good voice for violence reduction.

February 23, 2012

I'm on Twitter

For those who believe this whole "new media" thing isn't simply part of liberal fiction and the socialist agenda, you can follow all my twats (that is what they're called, right?) @petermoskos.

Personally, I'm skeptical. I think Twitter is a plot to get us to believe global warming is real and everybody should have health care. What I do know is that my IBM Selectric II don't lie (And if it does, no worries... I've got correcto-ribbon)!

Drug Warrior Drug Dealers

El Paso County Commissioner Willie Gandara Jr. recently said:
Legalizing drugs is the coward practice of combating cartels, it is an insult to our men and women in law enforcement, and the laziest form of parenting our children and youth about the effects of drugs.... Unfortunately, on this upcoming primary election we will have many wolves in sheep's clothing running for office who are seeking election with an ulterior agenda to legalize drugs.
Keep fighting the good fight, right? Standard talk from a prohibitionist politician. But makes this interesting...

Gardara was just arrested on federal drug-trafficking charges including possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and conspiracy. How about that?

[thanks to Drug WarRant]

Another Day at the Office (II)

From Sarah Armaghan in the Daily News:
Sgt. Craig Bier and Officer Donnell Myers [were] in an unmarked car ... when the gunfire started.

Myers, who was in the driver’s seat, whipped his head around to see Chinloy squeezing off shots from a .40-caliber Glock handgun at some people in front of a store, police said.

“When Officer Myers looks over his [left] shoulder, he sees the muzzle flash on the firearm as the guy is shooting toward the group,” a police source said. “They were right there.”
When Myers stopped the car, Chinloy came charging at them - the gun still in his hand, a police source said.

With their guns drawn and badges on display, the cops ordered the man to drop his weapon.

The Crip threw his weapon to the ground, police said.

Bier - who has spent four years of his 14-year NYPD career in the gang unit - and Myers, an eight-year vet with three years in the gang unit, quickly collared the teen, police sources said.

February 20, 2012

Police versus Disciples in Chicago

There's some good reporting by Frank Main of the Chicago Sun-Times. He goes beyond Police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s bombast (“We’re going to obliterate that gang,” he told police brass in a meeting in June. “Every one of their locations has to get blown up until they cease to exist.”) to talk to actual gang members. I'm generally tempted to dismiss "get tough" language as ineffective bombastic bravado, but I have faith in Superintendent McCarthy. And so far what police in Chicago are actually doing seems to be working.
"Maniac Latin Disciples members are now under gang orders to keep violence to a minimum because of the police crackdown, the ranking member said."
Well now, isn't that the idea? The gang member continues, talking about their cars:
“Most of the shorties don’t have licenses or insurance,” the ranking member said. “They’re easy to pick off.”

He said a lot of them aren’t reclaiming their seized cars because they don’t have the money. Some of the seized cars contained hidden guns the police didn’t find, he added.

Asked if he thinks the police will let up, the gang member acknowledged, “Stopping the violence is the only way. They know we’ll always be selling drugs. The cops will tell you, ‘I won’t trip out about you having weed in your pocket to feed your kids.’ But when you start shooting across schoolyards and shooting little innocent kids and s--- like that, they’re not going to tolerate that. I get mad. I’ve told the mother-f------ shorties in our mob to stop doing that f------ b-------. How do you think the parents feel? That’s our neighborhood.”
Surprisingly, the gang member said he didn’t know police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s name — even though the superintendent is the source of the Maniac Latin Disciples’ recent troubles.

But he does know McCarthy’s face from the TV news as the “top dog who gives the orders to the foot soldiers.”

“All I know is that people are hiding under rocks because of him,” the gang member said.
Between Jan. 9 and Feb. 5, for example, there weren’t any shootings in the district, compared to seven for the same period of 2011, police said.
Beat 1423 saw calls for police service drop from 127 for the last six months of 2010 to 56 for the last six months of 2011.
Let's keep an eye on this and see whether it lasts. That's what separates a dumb crackdown from smart policing. You can always flood an area with cops, and that will reduce crime. But you can't afford to keep an area flooding with cops. And what happens after police leave is the real test. Violence stays down when police patrol and police intel and the DA and probation and patrol all get on the same page.

I mention this because there's a tendency among academics to fail to notice the key moment when police do something right. If violence does stay down, in a few year's time the SPSS set will say, "Correlation doesn't equal causation. We can't say police were the cause because there was no proper control-group study (or any study at all)." And then later, looking back, you'll hear, "well, the neighborhood got better" and "there were a multitude of factors" and "community efficacy really coalesced." Sociologists will look at the community and might credit the positive transformation of gang culture; economists will notice a greater involvement of gang members in the legal workforce; teacher will credit themselves; preachers will credit God. Well, yes, but sometimes it all starts with the good, smart, aggressive policing.

In effect, academics assert that if we can't prove (to a level of 95-percent statistical certainty) that police are the cause of a crime drop, then it would be misguided (at best) to give police (or, God forbid, an individual police chief) credit. Think about it... we use our own ineptitude and short-sightedness to justify our dismissal of effective policing. That's a nice little trick!

The time to do research isn't after the fact, from your office, but right now, on the streets around Humboldt Park, Chicago.

Maybe what's going on in Chicago is just a few months of police overtime and a few extra arrests. Maybe next year everything will be back to normal and cops will be sitting in their cars waiting for the next shooting. But maybe not. It would be nice to know.

February 19, 2012

"Your stated interest is in being a cowboy"

Ta-Nehisi Coates has good thoughts on the New York Times piece by Binyamin Applebaum and Robert Gebeloff describing how people vote against the government programs they receive. This isn't necessarily against their own interests. As Coates says:
What I strongly suspect is the sort of shame you see in Mr. Falk's is neither crazy, nor ignorant, nor shocking, once you think about it. We all want to be cowboys. More, we sometimes want leaders who push toward that imagined self, as opposed to our statistical self.

As I have always said, this not a matter of voting "against your interest." Your stated interest is in being a cowboy. The way to engage that person is not to condescend to them and assume they just have less information than you. It's to try to get them to game out where cowboy logic leads.

February 18, 2012

Jeffrey Goldberg on the crime drop in DC

And talking to Washington’s police chief, Cathy Lanier. Bloomberg.com:
Lanier outlined some of the changes in the way her department does its job -- procedural, technological and investigative changes that I suspect have more to do with the drop in homicides than sociologists might credit.
I suspect the same.

My most requested record

This may surprise you, but my all-time most-read post, by far, has (almost) nothing to do with police or the war on drugs.

This post has gotten more hits (by more than a 2:1 margin) than my next most-read post. And the latter was featured in the Atlantic Wire.

My most-read post is about a young black man of no particular note who died a violent death in New Orleans. Very much a father-to-many-married-to-none kind of guy. He was also a drug dealer. His obit--I think tongue in cheek--called him an "entrepreneur."

So somebody reads the obit and gets upset. He writes an email to his buddies complaining about liberal values and welfare. The email goes viral. The problem, of course, is that the "facts" in his email aren't true. So I tried to set the record straight.

People continue to get this email and a few of them run it through google. My post comes up. I'm definitely not preaching to the choir on this one. It's worth a read.

Up with Up with Chris Hayes

I've always loved doing radio interviews and never been keen on TV. Partly because most TV is so stupid. Why should I put on a suit to get driven to Manhattan (they don't like it if you make your own way to the studio) to stare into a camera and then say a talking point to somebody I can't see (and can barely hear)? And then, after the ever awkward slight audio delay, say one more thing. Then somebody says something and the host pats himself on the back for such an in-depth discussion. Sometimes, rarely, it might even last 5 minutes.

Roger Ebert once said, “When writing you should avoid clichĂ©, but on television you should embrace it.” Unfortunately, that's true. TV is a strange medium. And that's what you'll be thinking when you're done.

Or maybe it's one of those craaazy shows. Think about it the next you see somebody on TV--especially somebody huffy and "passionate," particularly if he's conservative and on some trading floor or doing an infomercial (I'd love to see a conservative infomercial on a trading room floor--not certain what they'd be selling)--think of how crazy (and scarily skinny) most TV people would look if they were behaving that way and weren't on TV. It's a very silly game to play.

Up With Chris Hayes was different. Don't like the political slant? Get over it. (Whatever happened to it being unpatriotic to criticize the President during wartime? Oh, I guess that only applied from 2001-2009.) But leave that aside and think of what "Up With Chris Hayes" actually does.

It's an actually conversation. With real live human beings. People with whom, as a guest, you can make eye contact with and touch. It also is long (time flies when you're on the air... but I think I was there for 40 minutes). It's somewhat free form. And yes, the conversation really does continue unabated during the commercial break. (Usually there's just some mindless shuffling of paper until some techie gives the all clear.) Up with Chris Hayes is like the best of radio... but in living color. And at least now, a few years after my first TV appearance, I finally have a suit that fits.

Also, I was really tempted by those pastries in the center of the table. I wonder if they were tasty? I really wanted to shove them into my pie hole and sit back contently spitting out bits of sugar every time I talked. Hey, free is free! You can take the cop out of the uniform... but then you might have trouble getting the uniform back on the cop.

Here's the link to the video. It's segments 4 through 6.

[You can read more about the TV experience in general on one of my older posts.]

February 17, 2012

Me on "Up with Chris Hayes"

Tune in tomorrow (Saturday) around 8:40AM (Eastern Time) to MSNBC.

PTSD in the BPD

An article by Peter Hermann in the Sun on an important but little talked about subject, the effect on police of police-involved shootings:
Union leaders say city police do a good job of providing counseling to officers in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, but fall short in recognizing long-term psychological effects. Psychiatrists and police officials interviewed all caution that each shooting is different, as is the reaction of each officer.

One active-duty officer, Andrew W. Gotwols Jr., said he was never offered help after he shot and killed two people nine months apart in 2006 and 2007. He still has nightmares that "guys are trying to shoot and kill me, and that I'm trying to shoot and kill them."

And a retired police commander who was one of the officers involved in the 2005 shooting with Willard said he suffers no ill effects from the incident, but added that after a time, "you start thinking, 'There's another close call, hopefully I can make it through my career without running out of luck.'"
My own experience in the aftermath of a horrible cop-on-cop car crash (in which a friend of mine was nearly killed) was that a shrink was made available to me and others on scene. I didn't feel the need to use the services. That was that. (My friend was lucky to live, and never policed again.)

I will vouch for the fact that as a cop, work/anxiety dreams are never fun. Now, as a professor, I just have the occasional dream of not being able to get to class on time. It's laughable compared to the dreams I would sometimes have as a cop, always involving guns and danger. (Of course everything about my job can sometimes be laughable compared to what I had to as a Baltimore cop. Anyway... work-related dreams are something I do not miss about policing--just one of the reasons teaching is better.)

February 16, 2012

Good guys win one in subway shootout

Denis Hamill writes in the Daily News:
For all the criticism the cops are taking these days for the out of control stop-and-frisks, for the questionable shooting of Ramarley Graham in the Bronx, let's take a deep breath and not lose track of the vital, life-risking work these guys do every day in this big scary city.
And kudos to Officer Herlihy for successfully returning fire after taking one in the arm.

What they think I do

There are a lot of these "what people think I do" versus "what I do" gags going around. Some are pretty funny. Here's one on policing. The intellectual in me thinks of the Rashomon Effect. The kid in me just giggles at seeing Lou Costello in a police uniform.

[thanks to Stef the Greek]

[Hey all you folks, consider buying my book, Cop in the Hood. It's good.]

February 14, 2012

Poor Greece

Well the bastards burnt down my favorite movie theater in Athens.

Perhaps in the big picture of cultural destruction, it doesn't rank up there with the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, but man, those red seats were comfy.

Supposedly the theater will be rebuilt. (And supposedly a train will once again connect Athens and Patras).

Meanwhile minimum wage in Greece is to be cut drastically to about €600/month. That's less than $5/hour (and not even that, if you're under 25). You try living on that. Thank you, Angela Merkle.

Why should you non-Greek don't-give-a-damn kind of person care?

Because it's the Republican solution. Cut spending. Cut pay. Balance the budget. No welfare. Limit unemployment to a year. Don't worry so much about getting the rich to pay their taxes (after all, if they paid tax, they may not produce all those jobs for swimming pool cleaners).

Screw the economy because it feels morally right. Gotta balance the budget. F*ck the working poor. After all, I heard on the radio they're kinda lazy.

Bet it won't work.

February 11, 2012

Misquoted in Salon

Not me. But my father. And he died in 2008.

Linda Hirshman seems to have a bone or two to pick. She writes in Salon.com:
If any evidence of this ["warfare is the business of heterosexual men, the penetrators"] agenda were needed, the same person who created and defended the dreaded “don’t ask, don’t tell” — military sociologist Charles Moskos — was the loudest advocate of excluding women from any combat roles.

Woman’s “compassionate nature” Moskos speculated in a 1990 Washington Post op ed, would be a real hindrance.
That doesn't sound like my father. It just didn't ring true.

So I looked up the Washington Post op-ed ("Women in Combat: The Same Risks as Men?" Feb 4, 1990) and could not find those words or that meaning. I wonder where the quote is from. Regardless, it seems low to misquote a dead man.

In fact, in that op-ed my father made exactly the opposite argument: "The problem of a trial program of women in combat roles is not that it will prove women cannot fight, but that it will prove they can." He thought society wasn't ready to have women forced into combat situations. Twenty-two years ago, he might have been right.

But I guess such facts get in the way of Hirshman's agenda.

February 10, 2012

Congrats to Officer Brennan

Who left the hospital today after being shot in the head. He too, was just doing his job.

Round up the Usual Outrage

An officer, who heard over his radio that a drug suspect was armed with a gun, kicks down the door of his apartment, finds the suspect hiding in the bathroom (probably trying to flush weed down the toilet), thinks the suspect is going for his gun, and shoots and kills the suspect. The problem is that the suspect, according to police, wasn't armed. (Remember this the next time you think officers carry a drop gun.)

The officer made a big bad lethal mistake. And he was very quickly thrown under the bus by the Commissioner and the department. But I don't know what I would have done in the same situation. Probably the same thing. The cop fired not because he wanted to kill an unarmed man and destroy his own life and career, but because he thought he was going to be killed. Unfortunately for everybody, he was wrong.

When this kinds of events happen, don't be be surprised or shocked or outraged. This is what happen with drug prohibition and the war on the drugs. The courts destroy the 4th Amendment. Police bust down doors. Police assume (with the courts' blessing) that drug dealers are armed. Sometimes police make mistakes, and unarmed people get shot.

I wouldn't say it happens all the time. But it sure does happen a lot. And it will continue to happen as long as we keep fighting the bad fight and refuse to seriously consider changing our laws against illegal drugs. In the meantime, let me know when we start winning.

February 9, 2012

Those were the days... The Evanstonian

This isn't about policing in the old days. It's about me. Or more specifically, my old high-school newspaper, the Evanstonian, in the late 1980s.

I was just cleaning house (which, admittedly, is a rare activity) and stumbled across my old bound collection of Evanstonians.

Sara Agahi (nee Rubin), my former student editor (before I became one), still likes to take credit for all my writing success. Perhaps she deserves it. So did Mr. Ronald Gearring, my sophomore English teacher (who I believe passed away a few years ago -- Most amazingly, to anybody who knows ETHS, is that Mr. Gearring kinda secretly lived across the street, on the 1600 block of Dodge Ave... just a few doors down from the house from which a student on the high-school front lawn was shot in 1988).

But pitty poor Mr. Rodney Lowe, the fine journalism teacher and faculty adviser of the Evanstonia. He took over from a legendary journalism teacher and had to deal with a declining school paper... and me.

From the March 10, 1989 Evanstonian, I came across this line, written by me: "I have succeeded in my goal as a writer if people read my words and think, discuss, and questions -- whether in agreement or opposition -- the issues I raise." I couldn't agree more. But, hey now, what was that about?

Well, in just two issues of the school paper, I had managed to insult a vengeful Dean ("Why doesn't my dean use correct grammar? Or are double negatives and 'ain't' just a post-modern liberal approach to student relations?"), bring attention to the Superintendent ("The day Robert Goldman tries to dry his hands with flimsy toilet paper will be the day all bathroom are stocked with paper towels."), and, with this line, provoke a girl to track me down and seriously threaten me: "Does anybody out there have a Coach Sheehan photo album?"

[Turns out this girl was the very same he took pictures of! In his defense, they did get married during his trial for child pornography, for which he was found guilty.]

I went to a great high school. Seriously!

But poor Mr. Lowe. What a pain in the ass I must have been. Mr. Lowe may not have loved what I wrote, but he did support me, and probably more than he wanted to. And should you read this, Mr. Lowe, thanks for getting me out of all those classes I ditched!

February 6, 2012

Ethical Imperialism

A quick shout-out to Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences, 1965-2009. It's exactly what it says it is. And it does it well. It's a book about the IRB. If you don't know what an IRB is, it's not your fault, it just means you haven't done research at a university. (Trust me, then the book isn't for you.)

But if "Institutional Review Board" makes you wake up in a cold sweat or has made you do worse research (and that just about covers all social-science researchers), you owe it to yourself to buy and read this book.

Zachary Schrag is a Professor of History at George Mason University and trust me, he's thought much more about the IRB than you ever will. So thanks for schooling us, Zach.

Amazon link here.

Couldn't have said it better myself! (II)

So after an email correspondence with an editor at The New Yorker, they responded at length and denied pretty much everything: "The particular facts and comparisons you cite...don't seem specific to your work." Really? I beg to differ. But what can I do?

I still think Adam Gopnik needed to cite me in the magazine.

Gopnik now says rather nice things about In Defense of Flogging online. Had he just done so in the article, parts of which were, so, let us say, "inspired," by my writing, I would be pleased instead of pissed. And despite Gopnik's ever-modest insistence, he does manage to "unpack" my argument rather well:
Peter Moskos’s In Defense of Flogging ... depends on an extended analogy, difficult to unpack in summary form. Moskos, a professor of law (and, not incidentally, a former Baltimore police officer) both does mean his “case for flogging”--he thinks that the system is so rotten than even restoring the cat would be better--and rather strongly, I think, doesn’t mean it. He doesn’t really want to flog the evil out of prisoners. He wants to flog the indifference out of the rest of us. Moskos (who, I’m informed, seems to have coined the phrase “natural rate of incarceration”) rightly calls prisons “an insidious marriage of entombment and torture,” and his provocative book makes many sanely provocative points; it is one I’ve urged on those who want to do more reading on the subject, and I’d urge it again now.
I'm sure glad Gopnik liked my book. I'm also sure it would have saved a lot of hassle had he just said so earlier.

[Also, just FYI, I'm not a professor of law. Never have been. Never taken a law class in my life. The confusion comes from the name of my department: "The Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration." Call me a criminologist or a sociologist or, if you must, a professor of police science.]

February 2, 2012

The attempted murder of Officer Brennan

I wish Officer Brennan and his family the best. Nobody recovers completely from a gunshot wound to the head. Nobody.

And I can't help be moved by this amazing photo by Robert Stolarik for the New York Times capturing a failed two-bit criminal being himself. The caption reads:
Luis Ortiz taunted photographers and jeered at onlookers as he was taken from a Brooklyn precinct station house on Wednesday to be booked for the shooting of Police Officer Kevin Brennan.
Purely as photography, it's a gem. As an insight into a person, it's depressing.

February 1, 2012

Low-Level Marijuana Arrests Rise for Seventh Straight Year

Andy Newman of the Times reports:
Low-level arrests for marijuana possession in New York City increased for the seventh straight year in 2011, according to a study released Wednesday — despite a September memorandum from the police commissioner that reminded officers to follow the letter of the law and not arrest people with marijuana unless they have the drugs in plain view.

Though arrests dropped significantly after Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly’s memorandum, an increase of 6 percent during the first eight months of the year more than offset the decline, according to the analysis, conducted by [Queens College sociology professor Harry Levine].
I was wrong.

Update: A WNYC report by (award winning) Ailsa Chang