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by Peter Moskos

October 31, 2011

Happy Holloween

Brought to you by your local constabulary.

But what if I need to bake a last-minute cake for me mum?!

[I'm on blogging break. Regular posts will resume in February.]

Flog It

Neil Steinberg wrote a good review of In Defense of Flogging in my old home-town Chicago Sun-Times.

I'm particularly impressed that caught what I thought was obvious:
Moskos has brilliantly used the old PR trick of marrying a complex, off-putting topic to a fascinating one. If you want to trick people into reading about penal reform, brandish a whip. And be brief.
Steinberg goes on:
In Defense of Flogging is 154 pages long. I read it in less than a day, and it is an eloquent cry to address a problem that we spend billions of dollars trying to ignore. “We’ve run out of options,” Moskos writes. “What we have in America is a massive, terrifying and out-of-control experiment in incarceration.”

There’s no arguing about that.

October 26, 2011

Could it all be about margarine?

From a 1970s Readers Digest.

[I'm on blogging break. Regular posts will resume in February.]

October 20, 2011

The more things change... October 20, 1829

The Commissioners wish to remind the constables that, in every case when it is judged necessary to dismiss any man, the whole of his pay accruing from the last pay-day will be forfeited.

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 17, 2011

The more things change... October 17, 1829

The paperwork begins.
Some instances of rudeness on the part of individuals of the Police towards persons asking them civil questions have been reported to the Commissioners of the Police. the Commissions therefore call upon the Superintendents to instruct their officers and men.

The Superintendents will receive a book of instructions for every man and officer of their respective Companies; each man’s name will be written , and it is to be produced to the Inspector at least once a week, and the Superintendent will take care that those books are taken from the men that are dismissed, and are given to the men that replace them.

The Police Constables are desired to pay attention to that part which immediately concerns their own Duty, and having made themselves well acquainted with it, they may, by studying the others, endeavour to fit themselves for promotion.

The Superintendents of divisions will take special care that all orders given out are carefully read from time to time, when it may appear necessary, to impress on the minds of the men the several subjects to which orders relate.

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 14, 2011

The more things change... October 14, 1829

The Commissioners have again to express their great regret that the pay-day has not passed over without the occurrence of several cases of intoxication by members of the Police. The Commissioners have, in the execution of their duty, been compelled to dismiss the individuals guilty of a crime which renders them completely unfit for the Police service, and which cannot and will not be suffered. All the Police are, therefore, for their own sakes, again cautioned to be more on their guard against committing it.
Duly noted.

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 13, 2011

The more things change... October 13, 1829

The Constables are not to go into public houses at night to order the landlord to close his house, or interfere in any other manner with the management or regulation of the house.

If public houses are disorderly, notice is to be given to the Serjeant, who will report the case to the proper authorities.
Sergeant: "What are you doing in that bar?!"
Officer: "I was [hic] just closing it down."

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons. And the picture from a pub near Bramshill, England.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 11, 2011

The more things change... October 11, 1829

Any man reported for endearvouring to conceal his number, or refusing to shew (sic) or tell it when properly asked, will be dismissed, as such concealment or denial can only be caused by having done something he is ashamed of.

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

Brave Thinkers of the Year

The Atlantic's annual list of Brave Thinkers just came out. I'm in it (and with some pretty impressive company)!

Mind you, this doesn't actually mean I'm a good thinker... just a brave one.

Scalia: Federal Drug Laws Were a Mistake

From the WSJ via the Atlantic:
"It was a great mistake to put routine drug offenses into the federal courts," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal went on to report Scalia's belief that the laws forced Congress to enlarge the federal court system, and diminished "the elite quality of the federal judiciary."
The federal War on Drugs is diminishing the quality of our federal justice system. As far as I can tell, no one contests that conclusion. It would be one thing to bear that cost in exchange for a policy victory. After decades of failure, however, no one even expects the drug war to be won.

Returning drug policy to the states would be a first step in the right direction.

October 9, 2011

How you say that?

Old Europe on the front:New Europe on the backside:

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

Rugby For Dummies

I've made a small effort to understand Rugby, since I'm in the UK and Rugby World Cup is going on in New Zealand (who just beat Argentina).

Next weekend are the semi-finals. It will be late at night in America (it's far too early in the morning here in Europe). Here are my rugby rules for dummies (which may or may not be accurate), the few things I had to learn before I could figure out what the hell was going on beyond a massive game of Smear the Queer (why do I suspect there's now a more politically correct term for that charming game of childhood).

1) In rugby, you can only pass the ball backyards, but you probably already knew that. If you pass the ball forward (called a knock-on) with anything other than your feet, a scrum results (where all the players are linked and pushing each other). This is for possessions, but it's not equal odds because the other team tosses the ball into the scrum. Players in the scrum may not play the ball with their hands but try and push the other team back in relation to the ball. They can also kick the ball back out of the scrum.

2) Both offense and defense can be offsides. If you're on the wrong side of the ball you need to get on the right side of the ball before you do anything. But if you're packed together in a maul or ruck, the line that marks offsides in not the ball but where the players are mashed together (so as you push the other team back, you can kick the ball along and march up the field).

3) A tackle is not a turnover or even a stoppage in play. If tackled, you have to give up the ball (handed back, as always). If you're not tackled, your team can keep trying to push you forward (called either a maul or a ruck). The defense can only go after the guy with the ball. There is no blocking, which is called obstruction.

4) A "try" is like a touchdown and is worth 5 points. But you actually have to touch the ball to the ground for it to count. The two extra points (called a conversion) are kicked out from a line from where the try was touched down (so you want to score your tries in the middle of the field). After a score, the team that scores receives the resultant kick-off. Games between mismatched teams can become very one-sided.

5) You can always kick the ball. If you kick the ball out of bounds, the other team throws the ball in from where it went out of bounds. A drop-goal, like punting for a field-goal, is worth 3 points.

6) A penalty results in a kick (which can be place-set) and often a field-goal attempt. The team that “has” the penalty is the one that wasn't penalized.

7) There are two 40-minute halves. The clock rarely stops. After time is up, the game doesn’t end till the ball is dead. There are 15 players on a side with 7 replacements. Unless you’re bleeding, a player cannot return to play if taken out. The number of a player’s uniform relates to his position.

It's a fast and brutal game. World Cup Rugby plays Rugby Union rules. I have no idea what Rugby League is. Nor do I care.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 7, 2011

A few different eras

That's me in 2011, holding a 1950's radio and a 19th century lantern.


[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 6, 2011

The more things change... October 6, 1829

Looks like there may be a little problem with sergeants not keeping order.
The Police Serjeants (sic) are again cautioned, that the manner in which they make their patrol, and march their reliefs along the streets, is constantly observed by the Commissioners, and if the Duty is not done strictly according to order, in silence and regularity, the Serjeant will not long retain his situation.
Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 5, 2011

How to stop cars

Just flip up the red filter and press the button to stop cars at night!


[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

'Ello Cario!

A shout-out to all my fans at the Pension Roma. Cairo Massive, make some noise!

[sound of car horns beeping, calls to prayer, and cooking gas tanks being banging upon]

October 3, 2011

The more things change... October 3, 1829

The attention of the Police is particularly to be directed to the areas and area gates, as person frequently conceal themselves in the area till the Constable on the beat passes, and then commence their operations.

The Police Constables on Duty are strictly cautioned not to stop or talk together when they meet on the their beats, but merely to exchange a word and pass on; any deviation from this order will be punished.

The moment a robbery of any kind comes to the knowledge of the Superintendents or Inspectors, a list of the articles stolen will be distributed amongst the men, and sent to all the neighbouring pawnbrokers’ shops, and a memorandum made of the hour at which the communication was made to the pawnbroker.
Source: Metropolitan police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

White Shirts

They're on my mind, but probably because I'm reading Melville's excellent White-Jacket: The World in a Man-of-War.

But with regards to the protests and the NYPD... I don't see the problem of the "white shirts." (And before you go there, Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna has been taken off the street.) This is one of the very rare times the military-like structure of a police department, usually so counter-productive, actually comes in handy.

Do we really want every cop at a protest making independent judgments about arrest and the first amendment willy-nilly? This kind of protest isn't an everyday occurrence. And the 1st Amendment is kind of important. Isn't it better to have experienced supervisors, in direct conference with experienced lawyers, making such decisions?

It's also smart of the NYPD to release some of their own videos. Eight times out of ten, their natural inclination to secrecy does not help their cause.

Truncheon Collection

Posted by Picasa

October 1, 2011

Burglary, Guns, and the UK

One of the thing 2nd-Amendment advocates love pointing out is the England has a much higher burglary rate than the US. Best I can tell this is due the mostly to the publications of one professor.

The subtext (or main text) of the more guns equals fewer burglaries argument, of course, is that if the government restricts guns (the U.K. has strict gun control laws) then burglars become fearless and break into our home, steal our property, and rape our children.

In the US, thanks to God and guns, we shoot our burglars. Ergo there are fewer burglaries. Hence our properties (and children) are safe.

Could be true... but I've always been skeptical of this line of thought. Mostly because I simply do not believe that any crime (except public drunkenness, hare coursing, and being pale and chinless) is more common in Britain than the U.S.

Well best I can figure (looking at those pesky figures we call "facts") burglary in the U.S. is much more common than burglary in the U.K.

So why the confusion? Over here in England and Wales (that's a statistical unit in the U.K., which is really what I'm refering to when I say the U.K.), if you're trying to get into a property with intent to "cause damage," that's burglary. "Attempted burglaries" are counted as burglaries in the U.K. Not in the U.S. In the U.K., you don't have to steal something to be a burglar. You don't even have to break in!

Now I'm not here to tell you which is a better definition of burglary. Frankly, I don't give a damn. But I do want to point out that the official stats for burglary in the U.K. are going to be much higher than the official stats for burglary in the U.S. because burglary in the U.K. is defined much more broadly.

In the U.S., a UCR-defined burglary means you broke into a place to commit theft. In the U.S., criminal trespassing as a seperate charge. In the U.K. it's burglary. In the U.K., even attempted criminal trespassing is burglary. That makes a big difference in the stats.

So what are the stats?

Each year, according the UCR, there are roughly 2.2 million reported burglaries in the U.S. With 311 million people, that's a U.S. burglary rate of about 700 (per 100,000).

According to NCVS (survey) data, there are 3 million burglaries in the US, or a rate of 960.

In England and Wales, the BCS is the equivalent of the NCVS (in that it's based on random survey). According to the BCS estimate, there were 745,000 domestic burglaries in the last fiscal year. But get this... and this matters:
[Just] three in five domestic burglaries involved entry (452,000, the remainder were attempted burglaries) and about two in five involved loss (298,000, the rest being accounted for by burglaries with no loss, including attempts).
So by U.S. definitions there would be 298,000 burglaries in England and Wales. Given 53-million people, this is a burglary rate of 560 per 100,000, lower than the equivalent U.S. rate of 960.

Now let's look at reported crime (the UCR equivalent): "The police [in England and Wales] recorded 258,148 domestic burglaries in 2010/11." Assuming that same ratio of "2-in-5 involved entry" holds true (and it may not), then by the UCR definition there would be about 100,000 police-recorded burglaries in England and Wales. This is a rate of 200, much lower than the equivalent U.S. rate of 700 per 100,000.

No matter how you slice it, there is more burglary in the U.S. than England and Wales. And we have more guns. Many more guns. Seems like this matters, especially if you believe that more guns equal fewer burglaries. You're not going to find supporting evidence in the U.K.

So what do gun lovers have to say? I don't know. But usually they comment pretty freely.

The view from my pub

I don't know why, but he looked kind of angry.

Lot's of gun shots around here in rural England. Reminded me of Baltimore, except they're shooting at pheasants. Pheasant hunting season started today. There are actually a lot of guns here, but they're for hunting, not "protection." There's a big hunting culture: "If it moves around here," I was told, "somebody will shoot it."

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]



[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

Absurdly cute

It really is like this in rural Hampshire.


[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

Like no crab I've ever seen

"Can I take a picture?"

"No," said the old fish monger.

"But I've never seen a crab like this."

"What do you mean? You never seen a crab?"

"I've seen lots of crabs. But not like this."

"How can you not have seen a crab?"

"How do you cook them? Do you boil or steam them?"

"Yes, it's cooked through."

"But how do you cook them? Boiled or steamed?"

"I boil them!"

"Steamed crabs are better."

"Don't you tell me how to cook crabs! I've been cooking fish longer than you've been around.

"I've still never seen crabs like this. They're all big and round."

"You must be from the moon, then!" he harumphed. "But go ahead, take a picture."


[I'm in England. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

The old days

A nineteenth-century police rattle. Just twirl if you need backup. This was before the radio, before the callbox, and even before the police whistle.


[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]