Liberal photo of the day

Damn I love this (via FB):

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Crime in America

Fabulous article about crime and prisons in modern America by Adam Gopnik in the latest New Yorker.  If you have any interest at all in criminal justice (and our horribly destructive policies towards drugs) you owe it to yourself to read it.   There’s a great part where Gopnik does a really nice run-down on the latest research for our recent decline in crime:

Crime is not the consequence of a set number of criminals; criminals are the consequence of a set number of opportunities to commit crimes. Close down the open drug market in Washington Square, and it does not automatically migrate to Tompkins Square Park. It just stops, or the dealers go indoors, where dealing goes on but violent crime does not.

And, in a virtuous cycle, the decreased prevalence of crime fuels a decrease in the prevalence of crime. When your friends are no longer doing street robberies, you’re less likely to do them. Zimring said, in a recent interview, “Remember, nobody ever made a living mugging. There’s no minimum wage in violent crime.” In a sense, he argues, it’s recreational, part of a life style: “Crime is a routine behavior; it’s a thing people do when they get used to doing it.” And therein lies its essential fragility. Crime ends as a result of “cyclical forces operating on situational and contingent things rather than from finding deeply motivated essential linkages.” Conservatives don’t like this view because it shows that being tough doesn’t help; liberals don’t like it because apparently being nice doesn’t help, either. Curbing crime does not depend on reversing social pathologies or alleviating social grievances; it depends on erecting small, annoying barriers to entry.

Now go read the whole thing!  (I’ll be checking my click-through stats– don’t let me down).

Supreme Court and GPS

I really do love the fact that all 9 Supreme Court justices said it was unconstitutional to attach a GPS to a car and track it without a warrant.  When even Clarence Thomas thinks the police are going too far, that’s really something.  I got a kick out of seeing an actual PS colleague complain about this on FB (“do they think the war on drugs is over?!”).  Not too many political scientists to the right of Clarence Thomas.  Anyway, the Post has a nice editorial arguing that the majority opinion does not go far enough:

“[S]ociety’s expectation has been that law enforcement agents and others would not — and indeed, in the main, simply could not — secretly monitor and catalogue every single movement of an individual’s car for a very long period,” Justice Alito wrote. “In this case, for four weeks, law enforcement agents tracked every movement that respondent made in the vehicle he was driving.” This breach of the “expectation of privacy,” Justice Alito suggested, exists whether the police attach a GPS device or use the car’s own technology. In either case, police would be wise to obtain a court order before beginning extended use of GPS to track a suspect, he concluded.

Justice Alito’s approach should be the law of the land, but the court will have to wait for another case before that becomes a possibility.

Not often I get to quote an Alito opinion approvingly.

Republican Jesus

Just saw this on FB.  Love it.

American’s don’t like big

I find this via Gallup somewhat distressing:

Trend: Satisfaction With Size and Power/Influence of Federal Government and Major Corporations

I listened to a radio interview about this last week, and the Gallup guy mentioned that Americans just really don’t seem to like “big” whether it is “big business” or “big government” whereas we love “small.”  Anyway, that decline is both, certainly is interesting.  And, I suspect, largely a degree of overall unhappiness with the state of politics and the economy.

What bothers me about it, though, is this: Big Government may go too far, be inefficient, do stupid things, but at heart, it is government by the people and, at least, intended to make things better for all Americans.  Big Business, in contrast, is intended to make money.  Seems like the former should be more popular than the latter.

Photo of the day

From a Big Picture photo gallery on China’s Year of the Dragon celebration.  My take- away… Good God, China’s got a lot of people

Passengers queue up to board trains as they return home for the lunar new year holiday at a railway station in Wuhan, China on January 13, 2012. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

SOTU on Twitter

I’ve become a really big fan of the New Yorker’s John Cassidy recently.  He’s got what’s probably my favorite write-up on the SOTU I’ve read so far today, but what I really loved about it was his opening conceit:

What if the State of the Union address was moved to Twitter? What if, rather than presenting a long and tedious speech that would constantly be interrupted by senators and congressmen mugging for the cameras, the President sat in the Oval Office, or anywhere, actually, and tapped out what he had to say in a hundred and forty characters?

Like this, say:

Bin Laden swims with fishes. Economy coming back. R candidate right-wing blowhard or tax-avoiding rich guy. Can’t wait for November.

Or perhaps this:

Things are better! Dow up, U down, Bin Laden dead, Iraq war over. Don’t risk it on rich tax avoider or fornicating influence peddler.

Imagine the possibilities.

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