David Simon on Baltimore policing

This Marshall Project interview with David Simon is so, so good.  As much as I try and follow the issue of policing and read what Simon has to say, I actually learned a bunch of new stuff in this interview.  Well worth reading the whole thing.  That said, here’s some of my favorite parts.

And they basically decided that even that loose idea of what the Fourth Amendment was supposed to mean on a street level, even that was too much. Now all bets were off. Now you didn’t even need probable cause. The city council actually passed an ordinance that declared a certain amount of real estate to be drug-free zones. They literally declared maybe a quarter to a third of inner city Baltimore off-limits to its residents, and said that if you were loitering in those areas you were subject to arrest and search. Think about that for a moment: It was a permission for the police to become truly random and arbitrary and to clear streets any way they damn well wanted… [emphasis mine]

You take out your nightstick and you’re white and you start hitting somebody, it has a completely different dynamic than if you were a black officer. It was simply safer to be brutal if you were black, and I didn’t know quite what to do with that fact other than report it. It was as disturbing a dynamic as I could imagine. Something had been removed from the equation that gave white officers — however brutal they wanted to be, or however brutal they thought the moment required — it gave them pause before pulling out a nightstick and going at it. Some African American officers seemed to feel no such pause.

What the drug war did, though, was make this all a function of social control. This was simply about keeping the poor down, and that war footing has been an excuse for everybody to operate outside the realm of procedure and law. [emphasis mine]

And if there’s still some residual code, if there’s still some attempt at precision in the street-level enforcement, then maybe you duck most of the outrage. Maybe you’re just cutting the procedural corners with the known players on your post – assuming you actually know the corner players, that you know your business as a street cop. But at some point, when there was no code, no precision, then they didn’t know. Why would they? In these drug-saturated neighborhoods, they weren’t policing their post anymore, they weren’t policing real estate that they were protecting from crime. They weren’t nurturing informants, or learning how to properly investigate anything. There’s a real skill set to good police work. But no, they were just dragging the sidewalks, hunting stats, and these inner-city neighborhoods — which were indeed drug-saturated because that’s the only industry left — become just hunting grounds. They weren’t protecting anything. They weren’t serving anyone. They were collecting bodies, treating corner folk and citizens alike as an Israeli patrol would treat Gaza, or as the Afrikaners would have treated Soweto back in the day. They’re an army of occupation. And once it’s that, then everybody’s the enemy. [emphasis mine]

Alright, you get the drift.  It’s the weekend, take some time to read the whole thing.

 

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Photo of the day

Somehow I forgot to post a photo from this awesome eruption of a Chilean volcano.  Photo from the LA Times.  (Great set at In Focus, but they make it harder to share now).

Calbuco volcano erupts

Calbuco volcano erupts

Ideology and birth control

It’s one thing when facts are ambiguous, it’s only natural then that people will have ideological interpretations.  But, throughout the country, Republican legislators are uninterested in letting pesky things like facts, science, or empirical evidence get in the way of what they know to be true.  So frustrating when the result is worse public policy and actual human suffering for a result.

The latest from Colorado (via Steve Benen):

Colorado launched a health initiative a few years ago with a specific target: reducing teen-birth rates. To that end, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) implemented a program that provided tens of thousands of contraceptive devices at low or no cost.

The results were amazing: teen-birth rates dropped 40% in just five years. This week, the state even won an award from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, celebrating Colorado’s success story.

Ironically, the award came the same week Colorado Republicans chose to scrap the effective policy…

As one local report noted, “Opponents of the bill worried that increasing access to birth control would not have a net public health gain because it would increase promiscuity.” One GOP lawmaker accused the policy of “subsidizing sex.” Another said of the program, “Does that allow a lot of young women to go out there and look for love in all the wrong places?”

The amazing thing to remember here is that Colorado wasn’t talking about experimenting with a new policy measure; state lawmakers were considering whether to keep an existing policy in place. That’s important because, in this case, Colorado already knows the program was working.

In other words, Republican critics of the idea raised concerns that the policy might fail – which might be a credible point were it not for the fact that the policy has been in place for five years, offering real-world proof that those concerns are unfounded.

I half expected to find quotes from GOP lawmakers saying, “Sure, the idea works in practice, but does it work in theory?”

Or, as my FB friend who shared this succinctly summed it up:
Sure, why would we want to prevent abortion, poverty, crime, health problems, higher public spending, and other negative outcomes at little cost?
Well, that’s easy.  Old white men cannot seem to handle young women having sex.  At least if it’s not with them.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Republicans have even alienated Robert Samuelson for their true dedication to helping America’s richest citizens at all costs (in this case by trying to eliminate the estate tax).

2) I’ve always found fonts rather fascinating.  But I don’t think I’d ever be in the running for a job where I looked upon poorly for using Times New Roman.

3) Loved David Simon’s marxist- based analysis (no, he’s not a communist) analysis of the situation in Baltimore.

4) I’ve always much preferred Diet Coke (and especially Coke Zero) to Diet Pepsi.  Now I’ll have even more reason to as Pepsi has decided to pander to science deniers and remove aspartame from Diet Pepsi.

But the problem with appeasing customers at the expense of science is that it sets a poor precedent. And in this case it’s also unlikely to reverse Diet Pepsi’s waning appeal.

What Pepsi’s move will likely accomplish, more than anything else, is give credence to unfounded fears that aspartame is somehow more harmful or artificial than a lot of other sweeteners being used in products on supermarket shelves. That myth doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to dying.

5) Interestingly, we probably need to make it easier for kids to skip grades.

6) Nice summary of social science on the persistence of racism in America.

7) If you want to help the earthquake victims in Nepal, send money.  Not stuff and not yourself.  And that goes for pretty much any disaster.

8) Just one more unarmed teenager killed by police who thought he had a gun.  Make no mistake, this is absolutely a necessary consequence of America’s gun culture.  Yes, we need better policing, but the police in America are uniquely deathly afraid because there really are guns everywhere.

9) The smartest students (as judged by LSAT scores) are increasingly deciding against law school.  Good for them.  Especially because the job market is really, really tough for law school grads.

10) Sometimes the Onion headline nails it better than anybody:

Nation On Edge As Court Votes Whether To Legalize Gay Marriage Now Or In A Few Years

11) Wonkblog with 7 “facts” about healthy food that aren’t actually true (I’ve probably written about each of these at some point).  On a related note, a Vox post nails it with the headline, “The real side effect of a gluten-free diet: scientific illiteracy.”

12) And sticking with food, OSHA knows we should do more to keep workers safe in meat production (and really, we’re horrible at this), but just doesn’t have the budget for it.

13) The attempt to turn climate change into a moral issue and how that could change everything if it succeeds (and it’s got Pope Francis on its side).

14) Speaking of threats to the earth, how about that good old-fashioned problem of too many people (okay, guilty of the fact of helping create more than my fair share).

15) Good to know that I know far more about Premier League Football than UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who totally embarrassed himself on the matter.  For the record, I’m an Arsenal fan.

16) Jamelle Bouie’s post placing the problems in Baltimore into deep historical context.  Is excellent.  I’ve left it for last so that you actually read it.

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