Tag Archives: crime

McCain at the National Urban League

The moderator said that McCain was the first Presidential candidate to accept questions at the National Urban League to take questions. And McCain took a lot of them. John is clearly fast on his, and it’s not surprising that Barack does not want to debate McCain in an informal setting.

Two major issues caught my attention. One McCain answered very well. The other less so.

On Crime, McCain emphasized Rudy Giuliani’s success in New York. He went a step beyond that to emphasize that similar tactics are working in Iraq, and they work for the same reasons: without security nothing is possible, but once security exists, the foundations for growth and trust exist. Obama, by contrast, opposes urban counter-insurgency operations. Obama supports a ‘Rumsfeld Doctrine’ of minimal policing both at home and abroad. I think that is dangerous, and McCain’s response is the way to go.

Unfortunately, McCain was weak on health care. He said he wanted every Ameriacn to have the opportunity to purchase health care, but did not emphasize the need for universal coverage that is required to keep America. Fareed Zakaria described this dynamic well in The Post American World (which I previously reviewed). We already have socialized health care in this country, and if we’re going to have this degree of massive government interference, we can at least create a system where losing your job doesn’t mean losing your health.

Violence and Hope

A liberal blogger in DC was recently shot by ghetto youths. A few months ago, a graduate student was killed after being chased into the street by them.

Fortunately, we’re getting closer and closer to being able to make a difference. Combine stem cell therapy with dissertations like this one — “Common Genetic Variatns Underlying Cognitive Ability” (PDF, courtesy Razib) — and it’s pretty clear what the general direction is.

Well, that or idiocracy.

Clearing the Ghettos

Eddie of Hidden Unities and another blogfriend alerted me to “American Murder Mystery,” by Hannah Rosin in The Atlantic Monthly.

The article is distress. Read it.

The article covers the attempt to clear the ghettos of Tennessee by moving the residents out into nicer neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, many people who live in the ghettos do bad things. They may be uminaginably lazy, whether individually:

Rodgers didn’t finish high school, although she did get her GED, and she’s never had a job. Still, “I know I have to venture out in the world,” she said, running through her options: Go back to school? Get a job? Get married? Have a baby? “I want more. I’m so ready to have my own. I just don’t know how to get it.”

or in aggregate:

Researchers have started to look more critically at the Gautreaux results. The sample was tiny, and the circumstances were ideal. The families who moved to the suburbs were screened heavily and the vast majority of families who participated in the program didn’t end up moving, suggesting that those who did were particularly motivated. Even so, the results were not always sparkling. For instance, while Gautreaux study families who had moved to the suburbs were more likely to work than a control group who stayed in the city, they actually worked less than before they had moved. “People were really excited about it because it seemed to offer something new,” Popkin said. “But in my view, it was radically oversold.”

They may be criminals, or those who harbor criminals:

In truth, the victims are constantly shifting. Hardly any Section8 families moved into wealthy white suburbs. In the early phases, most of the victims were working-class African Americans who saw their neighborhoods destroyed and had to leave. Now most of them are poor people like Leslie Shaw, who are trying to do what Lipscomb asks of them and be more self-sufficient. Which makes sorting out the blame even trickier. Sometimes the victim and the perpetrator live under the same roof; Shaw’s friend at Springdale Creek wanted a better life for herself and her family, but she couldn’t keep her sons from getting into trouble. Sometimes they may be the same person, with conflicting impulses about whether to move forward or go back. In any case, more than a decade’s worth of experience proves that crossing your fingers and praying for self-sufficiency is foolish.

Moving them is worthless:

If replacing housing projects with vouchers had achieved its main goal—infusing the poor with middle-class habits—then higher crime rates might be a price worth paying. But today, social scientists looking back on the whole grand experiment are apt to use words like baffling and disappointing. A large federal-government study conducted over the past decade—a follow-up to the highly positive, highly publicized Gautreaux study of 1991—produced results that were “puzzling,” said Susan Popkin of the Urban Institute. In this study, volunteers were also moved into low-poverty neighborhoods, although they didn’t move nearly as far as the Gautreaux families. Women reported lower levels of obesity and depression. But they were no more likely to find jobs. The schools were not much better, and children were no more likely to stay in them. Girls were less likely to engage in risky behaviors, and they reported feeling more secure in their new neighborhoods. But boys were as likely to do drugs and act out, and more likely to get arrested for property crimes. The best Popkin can say is: “It has not lived up to its promise. It has not lifted people out of poverty, it has not made them self-sufficient, and it has left a lot of people behind.”

Moving them is wore than worthless:

He remembers when the ground began to shift beneath him. He was working as an investigator throughout the city, looking into homicides and major crimes. Most of his work was downtown. One day in 1997, he got a call to check out a dead car that someone had rolled up onto the side of the interstate, on the way to the northern suburbs. The car “looked like Swiss cheese,” he said, with 40 or 50 bullet holes in it and blood all over the seats. Barnes started investigating. He located one corpse in the woods nearby and another, which had been shoved out a car door, in the parking lot of a hospital a few miles away. He found a neighborhood witness, who gave up everything but the killers’ names. Two weeks later, he got another call about an abandoned car. This time the body was inside. “It was my witness,” he recalled, “deader than a mackerel.”

At this point, he still thought of the stretch of Memphis where he’d grown up as “quiet as all get-out”; the only place you’d see cruisers congregated was in the Safeway parking lot, where churchgoing cops held choir practice before going out for drinks. But by 2000, all of that had changed. Once-quiet apartment complexes full of young families “suddenly started turning hot on us.” Instead of the occasional break-in, Barnes was getting calls about armed robberies, gunshots in the hallways, drug dealers roughing up their neighbors. A gang war ripped through the neighborhood. “We thought, What the hell is going on here?” A gang war! In North Memphis! “All of a sudden it was a damn war zone,” he said.

By increasing the geographical range of the network of people who bad things, crime was made easy and policework was made harder.

Memphis’ attempt to clear the ghettos had failed.

Attempts to make the ghettos better places to live have failed. Better education has failed. Better opportunities has failed. We’re now down to COIN (Counter-Insurgency), which is hopeful in as much as it is a generally successful tool to to sacrifice freedom, justice, and liberty for security.

Some problems appear to escape our environmental manipulations. While fiction writers have imagined Objective Rooms and Ludovico Techniques, these have not worked in the real world. While tyrants have come up with initially probably theories based on racial genoplasm and early child development, these have not worked. We now know of a lot of ways to screw people up. Getting them to go along with our political objectives — such as a peaceful society — is far harder.

Fortunately, we seem to now know a mechanism that does work: genetics. An incredible amount of variation in important social characteristics (often between 50% and 80%) is explained by genetics and inheritance. And the technologies we have for working with genetics just get better: we can cross time, cross species, track ancient populations (both human and animal) and change lives.

I do not believe that we will solve the problem of ghettos until mass gene therapy (eugenics-while-you-wait) becomes feasible. Which means we’ll live to see it.

A Surge in DC?

Courtesy of Catholicgauze, good news about replication of the Baghdad “walls” strategy in our nation’s capital:

Geographic Travels with Catholicgauze!: Geography of Denial of Movement
All this is an effort to finally bring order to some of the worst parts of the nation’s capital. The plan has some recent precedents supporting it. Walls in Baghdad have managed to keep fighting neighboring ethnic groups separate. The walls, especially those keeping back Sadr’s Mahdi Army, have been credited in lowering the level of violence. The Israeli government is building barriers between Israel-proper and the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The West Bank Wall is praised by some for preventing infiltration by suicide bombers.

The way denial of movement works is 1) it is harder for an outsider to enter another neighborhood and cause trouble (people usually do not wage violence near their homes) 2) law enforcement has greater ground knowledge of what is going on (it is much easier to control a smaller area than a larger area) and 3) increased police presences acts as a signal showing who is in control.

This is a good idea. The question then becomes which of the major candidates supports it? Obama’s record is a weak on urban COIN, so the question is: does Barack Obama support a ‘Surge’ in Washington?

I guess no.

Update: Fabius Maximus has more on this good news.

Eugenics and Dysgenics

There is no such thing as a gene-neutral social policy. Through its creation and application of laws, every government is engaged in either a de facto eugenics (improvement of ) or dysgenics (degradation of) the national genome*. Currently, much of the United States has a distributed dysgenics program in place, where murder (removal from the genepool) is effectively rewarded through slaps-on-the-wrist that confer social status but do not confer net punishment:

Gothamist: 13-Year-Old Arrested in Columbia Student’s Death
A 13-year-old boy was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter in the Friday night death of a Columbia graduate student. According to a Daily News source, the boy bragged to his 15-year-old friend before chasing Ming-Hui Yu, “Look what I do to this one.”

The teen and his friends apparently hassled Yu, a 24-year-old Ph.D. student in statistics and a teaching fellow, at the median at Broadway and 122nd Street. The Post reports one “punched him in the face, while the other kept watch.” (The Daily News adds that the police are “don’t believe it was robbery. It was some sort of altercation.”–Yu still had his wallet and backpack.) In an attempt to escape them, Yu ran into the street, where he was hit by a Jeep. Yu later died of his injuries.

I’m not sure what the track record on microevolution on a national scale is, but it’s certainly worth investigating. How many critics of laissez-faire economics likewise oppose laissez-faire dysgenics?

[* Technically a genome is mapped to an individuals, so there is no “national genome.” Still, the species concept is a myth too, but we talk about “the human genome” because it is understood that means both the mean properties of the genome as well as common variation within it.]

Jesse Jackson and the Typical White Person

I give Barack Obama credit for knowing that he’s being outcompeted by Hillary, and that he needs to run out the clock. After Obama’s disaster of a speech, he defends his comparison between his anti-American pastor and his grandmother:

“The point I was making is not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn’t. But she is a typical white person who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, there’s a reaction that’s been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way and that’s just the nature of race in our society.

What’s weird, of course, is that his grandmother appears to be parroting one of Jesse Jackson’s line:

Jesse Jackson is traveling the country with a tough anti-crime message that he is delivering to inner-city youngsters. In Chicago he said, “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.

If I wanted to be snarky, I would write “Does Barack Obama think that Jesse Jackson is a ‘typical black person.'” But of course, the problem with Obama’s actions over the past few weeks is he’s barely thinking at all. Clinton has him frozen in strategic paralysis: Unable to advance or retreat, Obama now hopes that outside forces make Clinton go away.

Too bad.

Practical Eugenics

Gideon, writing at a public defender, criticizes castration of violent felons because those violent felons may be rehabilitated:

Prof. Berman asks whether chemical castration (if proven to work) should be employed (actually, why shouldn’t it be). As readers might guess, I am uneasy with this proposition. There are several assumptions here: That we know that “high-risk” offenders will re-offend; that all “high-risk” offenders will re-offend. This does dip into some “Minority Report” territory. I’m quite uneasy by the idea that we will assume that all high-risk offenders are going to re-offend and we need to stop that by subduing the sexual urge by reducing levels of testosterone.

Those are some mighty assumptions and I’m uncomfortable with that. There are (have to be) better alternatives to this. What if we have an offender that, despite being “high-risk” is rehabilitated and wishes to live a normal life?

However, to a large extent, speaking about rehabilitation of violent felons misses the point.

Consider: violent crime is heritable:

Estimates of heritability for antisocial behaviour from recent research in quantitative genetics cluster around 0.50. The most reliable estimates come from contemporary studies in the Netherlands, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Australia and the US, because these studies examine large, representative samples using sophisticated quantitative modelling techniques. A complementary meta-analysis of 51 twin and adoption studies yielded an estimate of heritability of 0.41 for the genetic influence on antisocial behaviour. Estimates of heritability below 0.20 tend to emerge from studies with unusual design features; for example, observational measures, small sample sizes, very wide age ranges, small groups of girls, or adults being asked to report childhood symptoms retrospectively. Similarly, some, but not all, studies yielding estimates above 0.70 have non-optimal designs, such as small sample sizes or adults being asked to report their childhood symptoms retrospectively….

The largest estimates of heritability tend to emerge from studies using measures able to array individuals along a continuum from non-antisocial to severely and persistently antisocial. These are studies using other-reported delinquent or aggressive behaviours (such as the Child Behaviour Check List (CBCL) externalizing scale), and self-reported personality traits (such as the MPQ aggression scale). These studies tend to include a very large number of items inquiring about a variety of antisocial attitudes and behaviours. Some of these items, such as robbery, are exhibited rarely by people, but others, such as enjoying violent films, are exhibited commonly. As a result, the instruments are sensitive to population variation in the severity of antisocial behavior. Overall, the distribution of more than 100 estimates of heritability from recent papers approximates a bell-shaped normal curve. This distribution is to be expected from a sample of more than 100 imperfect estimates of a true effect that equals 50% in nature.

Further, we are currently undergoing dysgenics as the most violent mate with each other:

As well as the possibility that genes influence antisocial behaviour, it is also possible that antisocial experience can influence how genes are distributed in the population. This is an implication of the finding that men and women mate on the basis of similarity between the partners’ antisocial behaviour (this is called assortative mating), and that couples in which both people exhibit antisocial behaviour tend to have more children than the norm. Assortative mating on a genetically-influenced phenotype, such as antisocial behaviour has consequences for genetic variation in the population. Because people form unions with other people like themselves, the result is that families differ more from each other on average than they would if people mated randomly. If successive generations mate assortatively, genes relevant to the phenotype will become concentrated within families. Consider height as an example. Whole families clearly differ from other families in terms of height, yet families are made up of persons who are similar in height. Part of the explanation for this phenomenon is likely to lie in the positive assortative mating that occurs for this trait.

Castration of violent criminals, besides reducing the likelihood of a particular criminal breaking the law again (and quite possibly inflicting a punishment seen as worse than a 20 year sentence), does even more good to future generations. Violent criminal parents tend to have violent criminal children, so unless we want future generations to experience violent crime, we need to fight the causes of violent crime.

And part of the solution is eugenics.

On the web: Genetics and Human Behavior: The Ethical Context: Current findings: Quantitative Genetics.

The Cost of the War on Drugs

An Associated Press story, 3 Charged in PC Magazine Editor’s Death:

Three men have been charged with murdering a senior editor for PC World magazine in what police said was an attempt to steal marijuana that the victim’s son grew in their home for medical use.

Rex Farrance, 59, the San Francisco-based magazine’s senior technical editor, was shot in the chest on Jan. 9 after masked men broke into his suburban home.

Prohibition kills.

Biology and Culture

Many commentators, slaves to political correctness and ignorant of science, believe that civic biology is stuck in 1925. When faced with an uncomfortable topic that touches on civics and biology (the fact that blacks make up a disproportionate share of murder victims, or the corollary that blacks make up a disproportionate share of murderers), these commentators immediately assume there are only two sorts of valid explanations

  • Disproportionate violence among blacks may be the result of culture
  • .

  • Disproportionate violence among blacks may be the result of race.

they immediately leap to culture-only explanations. Thus, from the Washington Post:

“Blacks in America are facing a unique gun culture,” Sugarmann said. “Blacks are disproportionately likely to be confronted with guns, and that leads to the results that we’re seeing.”

with of course no mention of race. However, there are other explanations. Biology can act a lot like culture, for instance…

Disproportionate violence among blacks may be the result of a stressful environment, including poor nutriotion and greater likelihood of witnesses violence as a child, which leads to biological changes that induce one to violence.

to the almost racial…

Disproportionate violence among blacks may be the result of the unique selection pressures extant throughout the American South until 1865, which explains why ‘African-American’ blacks, but not Afro-Carribean or African blacks in America.

To epigentic explanations, which are biologically heritable but not genetic…

Disproportionate violence among blacks may be the result of an ancestrally stressful environment that existed at least until the mid-twentieth century, and as such (maternal) cytoplasm regulates embriotic environment such violence becomes disproportionate among blacks.

There are many other explanations as well, including the viral, that may be true. My point is not to favor one explanation or the other. Rather, my point is to point out the politically correct scientific ignorance of the mainstream media sabotages any search for answers. To give just one possibility: if the Jim Crow laws still epigenetically harm African-Americans, an extremely good argument can be made for reparations.

But of course, the politically correct, scientifically ignorant, mainstream media does not bother.

After all, the victims (both in the narrow and extended sense) are only black.

(My thanks to Rob Patterson, a fellow blogger, for provoking this post.)

States Encouraging the Murder of Children

States opt for lifetime GPS tags on molesters,” by David Lieb, Associated Press, 30 July 2005, http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0730tracking30.html.

It’s not just the State of Minnesota anymore…

Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma passed laws this year requiring lifetime electronic monitoring for some sex offenders, even if their sentences would normally have expired. Similar bills have been proposed in Congress and other states, including Alabama and North Dakota.

A new Oklahoma law also requires habitual sex offenders to wear GPS monitoring devices for the rest of their lives. Ohio’s budget funds lifetime GPS monitoring only for people classified as sexually violent predators.

Ideas this crazy have to be caused by hysterical cable news outlets…

Spurred by headlines of released sex offenders accused of murder, some states are mandating use of the Global Positioning System for tracking. Many lawmakers see electronic monitoring as a natural evolution of statutes that already require sex offenders to register their addresses with authorities.

A basic thought for my legislator friends in Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Alabama, and North Dakota:

The harsher you make a sentence, the more the criminal will try to avoid being caught

And what is the easiest, most obvious way for a pedophile to avoid being caught?

Kill the witness

In other words, if you want to minimize the number of victims like

After a registered sex offender was charged in March with killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, Florida legislators mandated tougher prison sentences for people who commit sex offenses against children and required lifetime GPS monitoring after serving time.

encouraging murder isn’t the wisest option. And lifetime sentences really, really discourage criminals from getting caught.

Around the blogosphere: PC540 talks sense, and Outside Report examines the issue in depth. Forbush calls some form of pedocide moderate. A wife and mother is heartbreakingly misguided. A compulsive hooker of the yarn variety notes Lunsford-family branding. Chatguard reports just the facts. Pace Forbush, Keith notes that there is muderous monsters deserve death. Omahastar suggests eternal damnation for a lesser offensive.