The Big Story: Jeffrey Goldberg’s Gunsmoke!

by TKOEd • Monday, Dec 10, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Jeffrey Goldberg advocates for more guns, and more gun control in this month’s Atlantic magazine:

I shared—and continue to share—the view that muscular gun-control regulations, ones that put stumbling blocks in front of criminals seeking firearms, are necessary. But I was also seized by the thought that, had I been on the train, I would much rather have been armed than unarmed. I was not, and am not, under the illusion that a handgun would have necessarily provided a definitive solution to the problem posed by Colin Ferguson. But my instinct was that if someone is shooting at you, it is generally better to shoot back than to cower and pray.

The problem with this, and Goldberg’s entire argument is that it’s mostly built on the back of fighting back an assailant who also has a gun. Goldberg asks victims of gun violence if they would have preferred to have been armed on the day they were shot, and all them dismiss the idea to varying degrees. Now the people who were actually in the middle of it all are highly skeptical that being armed would have done them any good, but Goldberg is pretty damn sure it would have. Lots of people like to think they would have saved the day had they been in the theater in Aurora, but the folks who went through it are much less sure. That should give us all pause. Not Jeffrey Goldberg though:

But the worst thing that could have happened to Daniel Mauser did, in fact, happen. The presence in the Columbine library of a well-trained, armed civilian attempting to stop the killers could hardly have made the situation worse.

The fact that extremely few civilians are “well-trained” in the use of firearms doesn’t seem to faze Goldberg in the least. Furthermore he knows that it wouldn’t have made the situation worse. Because he was there! Wait, no, he was not. He doesn’t consider how a shoot-out could have easily made things worse. He moves on to Columbine after talking to an Aurora survivor who’s pretty sure that armed civilians wouldn’t have been helpful at all. You know because it was a theater, and it was fucking dark, and who knows who’s shooting at who? And did I mention the shooter was wearing body armor?

The whole piece seems built around a fantasy Goldberg seems to have about taking down someone shooting at him or someone else. He mentions places with less gun violence in passing, but only to say that we’ve gone past the point of no return, and that we already have so many guns so the only answer is MORE GUNS. Or he posits that the U.K. has more home break-ins when people are home because they have less gun ownership. Never mind that those places have far less gun violence, and crime in general.

Goldberg mentions Trayvon Martin, but only to call Zimmerman a “cowboy.” I’m also thinking of Jordan Davis, and Robbie Tolan, and Oscar Grant, and Sean Bell. All of who were killed or shot by people who were lawfully carrying guns. I point this out because that’s the crux of Goldberg’s argument. Lawful gun owners. He puts up lots of statistics to show that concealed-carry laws don’t create more gun violence. But when I look at how many people seem to have an irrational fear of Black men more guns on the street, no matter how they were obtained doesn’t make me feel any safer. I also think that’s what makes it easier for Goldberg to be so dismissive of the idea that more people with guns could be a problem. It’s doesn’t seem to be a problem for people who look like him. All the most famous instances of people being shot by someone who legally carried a weapon are Black men.

Goldberg seems to assume that when a law-abiding citizen pulls a gun on a criminal the criminal will flee. But given his focus on fighting guns with guns, then what seems more logical is to assume is a shoot-out. Does a shoot-out sound safer then a stick-up for the general public? Shouldn’t we also assume that faced with an increasingly armed populace that more, and more criminals will take up James Holmes’ lead, and wear body armor when they go out to commit crimes? There are so many issues & questions he fails to consider in what is a relatively long piece. In addition his other “evidence” he strongly implies that the rise of concealed-carry laws has played a significant part in bringing down the crime rate in America:

Today, the number of concealed-carry permits is the highest it’s ever been, at 8 million, and the homicide rate is the lowest it’s been in four decades—less than half what it was 20 years ago. (The number of people allowed to carry concealed weapons is actually considerably higher than 8 million, because residents of Vermont, Wyoming, Arizona, Alaska, and parts of Montana do not need government permission to carry their personal firearms. These states have what Second Amendment absolutists refer to as “constitutional carry,” meaning, in essence, that the Second Amendment is their permit.)

He throws out a couple more stats like that in other parts of his piece. But he also hints that his attempts at providing causation between c-c, and less crime might be bullshit:

Others contend that proving causality between crime rates and the number of concealed-carry permits is impossible. “It’s difficult to make the case that more concealed-carry guns have led to the drop in the national crime rate, because cities like Los Angeles, where we have very restrictive gun-control laws, have seen the same remarkable drop in crime,” Winkler told me. (Many criminologists tend to attribute America’s dramatic decrease in violent crime to a combination of demographic changes, longer criminal sentencing, innovative policing techniques, and the waning of the crack wars.)

He attempts to refute it in the very next paragraph though. The above quote mentions L.A., and its restrictive gun-control laws, but leaves out many other cities like say, NY or D.C. Large cities are responsible for a large majority of the reduced crime in America, and they are also the places most likely to have strong gun-control laws.  All of this gives me the sense that rather than going in trying to find the best resolution to out gun problem, Goldberg went in trying to figure out how to have it both ways. He wants to have his gun so he can one day be a hero, but he wants to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill & criminals. All of this is supposed to make us safer. Despite all the stats he throws out in this piece, at no point does he even hint at any other country where more guns = less crime. Only America do we have this backwards logic. He says 47% of people in this country own guns, he wants us to believe the only real way for the rest of us to stay safe is by getting one ourselves.

It’s clear to me that Goldberg has succumbed to “The Seductive Dream of Standing Your Ground”, but the biggest fantasy is the idea that we can get even get moderate forms of gun control passed at a national level. We’d get more guns, and but no more control.

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The Big Story: Taxes

by TKOEd • Friday, Nov 30, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Ms. Thole, like many in Belleville, is also convinced that governments could avoid raising taxes by adopting more frugal habits.

“There’s some days we stay home and we eat peanut butter,” she said.

What would she like governments to cut?

“I really like it when they cut the weeds along the highway,” she said. “I like it when there’s good roads to drive on. The schools, I don’t know, I don’t want to pull back from the schools. I don’t have the answer of where to pull back.

“I want the state parks to stay open. I want, I want, I want. I want Big Bird. I think it’s beautiful. What don’t I want? I don’t know.”

The above is a perfect example of how many people view taxes in America. They believe that government is spending too much. On what? They don’t know, but they’re sure it’s something. A bunch of things even. Just not any of the things that they like or want or need. People who drive think we spend too much on public transit, people who take public transit think we spend too much on roads (we do, but I digress). Frequently, people think too little money is being on spent on them. “Where’s all this money going?” they say to themselves. The answer is, everywhere. Our local, state, and federal governments do much more than most people comprehend, and it costs much more than they think. Would Ms. Thole want more holistic, and sensible crime policy if she knew that corrections is the 2nd largest state expenditure after Medicaid?:

one out of every 15 state dollars is spent on corrections in this country. Not coincidentally, one in 31 American adults are adrift in this bloated corrections matrix, stretching resources razor thin. Now swing the recession sledgehammer, and you have a nationwide crisis requiring states to come up with creative solutions to meet enormous budget deficits.

There’s something we could cut. Because you know, drug addicts should get treatment not go to jail. Especially when treatment is a far cheaper option (PDF):

…the average cost of placing a participant in DTAP, including the costs of residential treatment, vocational training an support services was $32,974—half the average cost of $64,338 if the participant had been sent to serve the average term of imprisonment for participants, 25 months.

Sometimes my mind is boggled by this stuff, just about everyone wants more services, but many don’t expect to pay more for those services. Nowhere else do you find that attitude except when it comes to the government. No one would walk into a spa for a massage, and then expect to a facial as well for the same price, but everyone wants better schools, and lower property taxes.

Then we have the people who think poor folks are ballin’ out:

Mr. Siemens does have a concern about fairness. He believes that lower-income households are not paying enough in taxes.

“By any measure, the wealthy are still paying a disproportionate amount of their income in taxes,” he said. “Is that fair or not fair? I don’t know, but I have an issue with the dramatic reduction of taxes at the low end because I think everybody needs some skin in the game.”

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The share of Americans who think lower-income households pay too little in taxes increased to 24 percent in 2012 from 8 percent in 1992, according to Gallup.

What a “skin in the game” is going to make poor people do, I don’t know. But clearly those poor people have it good so to make things more “fair”, they should pay more. Because, “some skin” will make you do stuff (*wink*) or something. Meanwhile, Mr. Siemens’ state doesn’t have a progressive tax rate. Which means that the poor are more than paying their fair share in state taxes:

…Illinois, like most states, takes a larger share of income from those who make less. Illinois households earning less than $25,000 a year on average paid 14.3 percent of income in state and local taxes in 2010, while those earning more than $200,000 paid 9.4 percent

We have a couple of people in this article who represent a powerful sentiment across large swaths of America: The idea that rich people work harder than less well off folks, and that’s why they’re rich. Now hard work is 9/10 a prerequisite for wealth, but I’d say it’s a prerequisite for poverty as well. Growing up, I knew many, many people who lived below the federal poverty line (which @ 23 grand for a family of 4 is extremely low). None of them were headed by people who didn’t work. The working poor exist, and education seems like the key to higher wages, and ability to lift oneself out of poverty. Meanwhile California is spending almost a year of room & board at Harvard on incarcerating people for the same length of time. All the while cutting back on their own awesome public colleges & universities. This is perverse. This is a America. Where we lock up drug users, and states like S.C. increase prison spending by %500 only to see recidivism rates increase.But I guess things will get better by admiring the rich, and making poor people pay more.

 

 

 

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The Big Story: David Durk, The NYPD & Corruption

by TKOEd • Tuesday, Nov 13, 2012 • no responses - be the first

R.I.P. David Durk.

Frank Serpico. David Durk. One of those names you almost certainly know. One man was played by someone who now a big time movie star. The other man had a minor character loosely based on him with a different name in the same film. David Durk doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page.

Frank Serpico is alive. David Durk is dead. This is not an obit to Mr. Durk though, the NY Times has done a far better job than I ever could.

We probably never hear of Frank Serpico if not for David Durk. Their stories are intertwined, and you can run a direct line from Serpico/Durk to Adrian Schoolcraft, a man who’s technically still a cop, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he’s been treated. The stories of these three men, all great cops, should serve as an inspiration to all current, and future police officers. Instead the NYPD attempts to push them into the dustbin of history, and tries to minimize their achievements, and their (corroborated) accusations.

The NYPD has a corruption problem. Their PR guy will tell you that things are 10 times better than they were when Serpico was a cop. Does it even matter though? How much of that is through their own efforts, and how much of that is the decline of mob influence in NYC? The NYPD seems so eager to pat itself on the back instead of acknowledging that they have a shit ton of work to do. Abner Louima, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham. You know the names. You know what happened. And I’m telling you that the way the city, and the NYPD handled the findings of the Knapp Commission, which never happens if not for the persistence, and the insistence of Serpico & Durk, is why we have today’s NYPD. A police force of quotas, harassment, and racism.

…the fallout was minimal. Dozens of officers were prosecuted, but no senior police or city officials were charged.

A few people were cast out, and they called it a day. Ray Kelly was a police officer during those days. I wonder if he’s ever been asked about that era. Was he on the take? He sure does like to minimize police misconduct. How can we expect the NYPD to do their job in a fair, honest, and transparent way when they’ve never tackled the ghosts of the 60s & 70s? How many corrupt cops went on to become senior officers? How many are in the top brass today? We’ll probably never know. What we do know that is that the “blue wall” is as strong as ever. Adrian Schoolcraft’s apt was invaded by cops, and he was tossed in a mental ward by those same cops. Unlawful imprisonment anyone? Of course we’ve seen no criminal charges against any of the officers involved in these Gestapo tactics. I now feel vindicated every time I cross the street to avoid walking next to or crossing paths with a cop. If they can do this shit to another cop bet money they can, and HAVE done it a civilian.

I’ve always said that the police should be held to a higher standard than the average person, but this country seems to completely disagree with me. All over America cops are held to lower standards. Shoot a Black man in the back while he’s face down being handcuffed by another cop? Say you were scared, and you were reaching for your, far lighter, Taser. No one will even ask why you were reaching for your Taser in the 1st place. After the judge gives you double credit for time served you’ll end up serving a year in prison total. Now try, and imagine an average white man who’s not a police officer using any or all of that as an excuse. Now do it for the average Black man. I can’t see either of them getting just a year. Add some “fear”, and make ‘em both cops & it’s likely that they’re acquitted, and continue to be police officers.

All a cop has to do is say they were scared, and they’ll have people lining up to defend them. “You don’t know what it’s like to be a cop.” “Their job is dangerous.” There are around 800,000 law enforcement officers in the U.S. (including state & federal officers). In 2010 160 of them were murdered. That’s a rate of .0002. In 2005 about 57,600 cops were assaulted. A rate of .072. Out of that number, about 15,800 were injured. A rate of .0197. My intent is not to minimize police shootings, and assaults, but show that this fear that cops regularly invoke, usually after they’ve shot another unarmed person, is unsubstantiated by the stats. Most cops probably don’t know another officer who’s even been assaulted let alone killed. So what are they so afraid of? The answer seems to be be Black & Latino men. Since we’re the ones that usually end up on the wrong end of a cops glock.

Despite all the talk about “community policing” Ray Kelly has been very confrontational when confronted with just about any criticism of the NYPD. This unwillingness to criticize the self is at the heart the NYPD’s problems, especially with regard to Blacks, and Latinos. When it comes to unwarranted defensiveness, only self-aggrandizing millionaires, and billionaires are in competition. 16 officers get arraigned for ticket fixing, 100s show up in protest. It’s someone else’s fault. They were “just following orders.” Guess what? I believe them. I believe they were just following orders when they stopped, and frisked 685,724 people (87% of them Black & Latino) last year. I also believe that they were just following orders when they stop and frisked 25% less people in the 2nd quarter of this year than last. This brings me back to Ray Kelly, and other cops who were “on the job” during the years the NYPD was nearly completely overrun by corruption. Where are many of these men now? David Durk said during a formal lecture at the police academy he was told to always carry a SASE with him in case he got a bribe. That way he could immediately mail it to himself without fear it would be found later. This is what they were telling recruits! But I’m supposed to believe that the overwhelming majority of corrupt cops who never got any  disciplinary action just suddenly became good cops? Maybe for a little while, ’til the cameras & the reporters & investigators went away, but not for long. Until society stops treating cops as above the law, and infallible we will continue to see corruption, racism & violence flowing from the NYPD.

In 1970 Frank Serpico said:

the atmosphere does not yet exist in which an honest police officer can act without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers.

That’s still the case. Just like in the 60′s, and 70′s today’s cops are “just following orders.”

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Massachusetts Lab Tech Arrested For Faking Drug Tests

by TKOEd • Monday, Oct 15, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Police said the former state crime lab chemist admitted that she altered or faked test results of drug cases assigned to her. Prosecutors said she went as far as adding cocaine to samples that were negative.

“There was clearly a short cutting of corners,” State Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “There was just getting this done as quickly as possible and all of that we’re looking at.”

Officials said during her nine years the lab, Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples. About 11,000 people now in jail were put there in part due to her work.

Already more than a dozen have been released because of questions about how she handled evidence.

But for some reason lots of folks in this country don’t understand why so many people, especially those most likely to be targeted by police, don’t trust the justice system. Couple cases like this with all the forensic science issues with have in this country, and all the police brutality & misconduct & you have a system that hardly any objective observer can be confident in.

Leah Bartos for Pro Publica:

One afternoon early last year, I punched in my credit card information, paid $495 to the American College of Forensic Examiners International Inc. and registered for an online course.

After about 90 minutes of video instruction, I took an exam on the institute’s web site, answering 100multiple choice questions, aided by several ACFEI study packets.

As soon as I finished the test, a screen popped up saying that I had passed, earning me an impressive-sounding credential that could help establish my qualifications to be an expert witness in criminal and civil trials.

For another $50, ACFEI mailed me a white lab coat after sending my certificate.

I don’t know about you, but shit like this makes me not want to leave my house, and carry a video recording device that’s on at all times.

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