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How do we reduce crime?

Increasingly, this is the image we have of the police.

crimebusters

Terrifying, isn’t it? Once again, America reduces an abstract problem to the metaphor of war, and proposes armored vehicles and armored men with big guns as the solution. All we have to do is go in and kill crime, and we’ll be victorious!

Maybe, instead, we should try these 12 tactics that work first. Addressing the sources of the problem constructively seems infinitely preferable to waiting for criminals to do wrong so we can blow them away.

Comments

  1. Alverant says

    A lot of those 12 things involve getting ordinary people involved (foster care, mentoring, etc) and I’m not so sure we’re going to see that happening. Also if you raise the tax on alcohol you’re going to feed the black market. Remember some of the Founding Fathers were smugglers and bootleggers who protested the tax on goods from England (even when the goods wound up being cheaper in the long run).

  2. Blondin says

    I guess the only thing that stops a bad guy with an armored personnel carrier is a good guy with an armored personnel carrier.

  3. says

    I’m no fan of treating crime as a war, but you can hardly hold up the response to a bunch of guys running around with guns and bombs as a typical example of how the police operates.

    As an example, your average British police force is usually capable of fielding an “armed response unit” to deal with that minority of situations where lethal force might be needed, but the guys running around with light machine guns and sniper rifles are hardly representative of the pepper-spray-toting median police officer.

  4. Steve LaBonne says

    We live in one of the most militarized societies since Wilhelmine Germany (which would amaze our ancestors, who between wars barely and grudgingly preserved the shell of a standing army). Worship of all things military is all-pervasive, and even minor dissent from it is marginalized. But as with a continuing stench, most people have long since ceased to perceive this. Given this, plus the prevalence of veterans of our ongoing wars in police departments, the militarization of policing is not surprising (and in addition it’s actively promoted by Federal “homeland security” dollars). But good luck getting the average dumbass to see that this is a bad thing.

  5. says

    (This is not to say that the US doesn’t have a big problem with the militarisation of its police forces, but that’s one heck of a poor way to try to make that case.)

  6. says

    The new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, made some commentary to similar effect with regards to the Boston bombings and root causes of crime.

    These comments were pooh-poohed by the PM and by others (saw one on my FB feed, but I’ve seen or heard others in the past) who, for some bizarre reason, think that understanding the roots of criminal behaviour and making policy to address those is a bad thing.

    It’s an attitude I’ve never understood. I mean, isn’t it better if people aren’t commiting crimes in the first place?

  7. David Wilford says

    When criminals have access to semi-automatic arms, I’m all for police having body armor and armored vehicles if they need to respond to an actual firefight. As for the list, those are all good things to do, including raising alcohol taxes. (Something Canada has already done, BTW.)

  8. kevinalexander says

    I mean, isn’t it better if people aren’t commiting crimes in the first place?

    Not if you have stock in the companies that make machine guns and armoured personnel carriers.

  9. llewelly says

    Technology will save us, PZ. Police will be replaced with drones.

    With wings of steel
    Justice will fly
    With eyes of crystal
    The truth it will spy

    No more will we rely
    On the frail human mind
    The computer will decide
    Your innocence and your crime

  10. Marshall says

    My problem with the alcohol tax argument is the following: why not issue an infinite tax on alcohol? They arbitrarily cite items like “a 1 percent decrease in the number of outlets that sell alcohol decreases the probability of rape by 1.75 percent.” While this sounds nice on the surface, they completely fail to mention that we are weighing options when we do that, and that society benefits from alcohol. If it does not, then alcohol should be outlawed completely.

    I’m not arguing that an increase in alcohol tax is a bad thing, just that they fail to address an important issue.

  11. Who Knows? says

    Watching the effort to capture the remaining suspect in Boston I couldn’t help but think it was a bit much to bring in a wounded skinny 19 year old kid. Even with all their technology, it seems what brought him in was some guy going out and looking at his boat. Their response was, well he was one block out of the search area.

    Geez, you’d think they would have thought to expand it once they got an idea he wasn’t in the area they were working? Since they managed to see the guy in the boat with their nifty helicopter with the infrared camera once Joe Schmoe pointed him out. It would seem flying around in an ever increasing circle might have produced something.

    I understand these two were dangerous, so maybe the response was justified. I’m still bothered by what seems to me to be the insane level of armaments the police have acquired.

  12. mythbri says

    @Who Knows?

    As I understand it, the two brothers hurled explosive devices out of the window of a moving vehicle during the initial pursuit, before the older brother was killed. He was wearing another explosive device strapped to his chest.

    I think that what might seem “excessive” was not just to protect the law enforcement officers, but also to protect the people living in the neighborhood in which the younger brother was eventually caught. They had no way of knowing what kind of weapons he still had.

  13. davidct says

    With the constant defunding of education, this is what we will need to keep the underclass of Americans out of the gated communities.

    The efficiency of the highly militarized Boston police was less than impressive.

  14. barbara4 says

    All those sound like excellent suggestions. Here’s another suggestion that I read recently: punish more effectively. Don’t punish more (longer sentences, etc.) but punish faster and more certainly. The majority of criminals are acting impulsively. Therefore, a potentially harsh punishment that probably won’t happen isn’t much of a deterrent.

    Instead, sentence with a short prison stay (a week? a few days?) followed by probation. And while the person is on probation, whisk him back to jail for two or three days EVERY time he fails a condition of his probation. After a few cycles of this, the person starts to plan his life to avoid the problems, and that leads to improved planning of his life in general.

    Like all the other suggestions, this does have an initial cost. It requires more investment in probation officers and initially more jail beds available, but has been tried and found to pay off in the long run.

  15. says

    Back when Jesus rode dinosaurs, I spent about 6 months on the police beat as a reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper.

    Part of my job was to go through each and every incident report. Anything that involved a police officer doing something other than eating a donut generated a report. I dunno — about an inch or two of paper each shift (we ran three cop shop shifts at the time — 24 hour coverage.) Way before computers. Each incident generated paper.

    It didn’t take long for me to figure out the pattern. Probably 90% of the incidents had an alcohol or drug connection. Someone too drunk to realize that bashing in the head of his girlfriend wasn’t a great idea. Someone who stole from her friend so she could buy drugs. And on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

    Aside from teaching kids that hitting is not a solution to conflicts, reducing drug and alcohol abuse would be the single most-effective strategy for reducing crime.

    Which is to say — ain’t never gonna happen.

    Abusers of alcohol will abuse alcohol, regardless of cost. In fact, if the price of alcohol increases dramatically, will turn to petty crimes earlier. And as for other drugs — how are you going to impact the cost of a drug that you don’t regulate? Interdiction clearly doesn’t work — else there’d be zero cocaine in the US right now. And only enough weed for the medicinal pot stores in California.

    So, although it’s a nice idea — it’s woefully out of touch with the real world. Abusers abuse. Ask Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan. (BTW: I wouldn’t throw them in jail for their abuse — who cares what they do to their own bodies? It’s the drugged behavior that matters — trashing a hotel room, driving impaired, etc.) Someone quietly turning their liver to stone in their own house neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.

  16. prae says

    Doubting the “increase alcohol tax” one as well. As said, it might raise the profits of black market dealers.
    It *might* work to legalize some other drugs which do not cause violence (people tell that about weed. I have no idea), sell it cheaper than alcohol, in the hope of replacing (or at least reducing) it

  17. truthspeaker says

    Now that there are so many for-profit prisons, it really isn’t in politicians’ interest to reduce crime.

  18. Irmin says

    I especially like that they made sure the “Boston Police” logo looked sufficiently badass to fit the vehicle. All details covered.

    On a more serious note: While I get the argument that what the two did was wide outside the ordinary, London was not put on lockdown after the attacks happened there AFAIK. So yes, the American approach is indeed a bit more… forceful.

    Which is more of a general difference between Europe and the US, I think: While we Europeans love to regulate the shit out of everything, actually enforcing regulations (or laws, for that matter) is stricter in the US (yes, that is generalized very much).

  19. mobius says

    Maybe, instead, we should try these 12 tactics that work first.

    But that’s not the conservative way.

  20. thumper1990 says

    @Irmin

    London was not put on lockdown after the attacks happened there AFAIK. So yes, the American approach is indeed a bit more… forceful.

    It wasn’t. People were back on the Tube the next day.

  21. says

    Aside from teaching kids that hitting is not a solution to conflicts, reducing drug and alcohol abuse would be the single most-effective strategy for reducing crime.

    Which is to say — ain’t never gonna happen.

    Abusers of alcohol will abuse alcohol, regardless of cost. In fact, if the price of alcohol increases dramatically, will turn to petty crimes earlier. And as for other drugs — how are you going to impact the cost of a drug that you don’t regulate?

    Well, you could always have a) manditory drug rehab, instead of jail, b) effective rehab, with real follow up, instead of 12 step crap, and c) more extensive research into drugs, and how they effect the body, and thus, how to treat addiction. I think there was some president who had this idea… Wait, no, sorry, that was Nixon, and he picked someone just as corrupt as he was to try to run it, so, its like just automatically stupid or something… Because corrupt people never, ever, have any good ideas, and our spotty, half assed system to handle this stuff, which includes it being almost as illegal to research the stuff as buy/sell/use it, and near total reliance on the equivalent of Abstinence for drug rehab is giving us so much head way into solving anything.

  22. Grumps says

    As a (recovering/practicing/recovering/practicing) alcoholic I can assure you that a rise in the price of alcohol would have no impact on my drinking behaviour whatsoever. However thirty years ago it might well have stopped me becoming an alcoholic in the first place.

  23. rr says

    Don’t worry, the National Counterterrorism Center is working on it:

    The rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them.

    The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior.

    The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own. In effect, U.S. and foreign governments would be using the information to look for clues that people might commit future crimes.

    WSJ article

  24. says

    Thanks for posting a link that covered the connection with exposure to lead, PZ. I had heard that before, but hadn’t seen the impressive statistics.

    It’s odd that most of the friends and acquaintances of the Tsarnaev brothers describe them as “smart.” They exhibited the usual thoughtless-criminal stuff after the bombing. Doesn’t look “smart” to me. Mother Jones presented a list of the 11 most mystifying things the brothers did.

    These dumb-criminal moves included:
    Dzhokhar wearing a backward hat and no sunglasses to make it easier to identify him on video.
    Leaving the carjacked Mercedes in a shop for repairs.
    Staying in Boston for three days after the bombing.
    Running out of cash — failure at terrorist budgeting.
    Failing to understand how ATMs work.
    Confessing to their hostage.
    Stopping for snacks and letting the hostage escape.
    Keeping the GPS-enabled hostage’s phone.

  25. jand says

    Sorry PZ, usually agree with you, so when I leave a reply it’s also usually when I disagree…
    (Maybe I should post more “yeah, way to go”, but anyway)

    More taxes on alcohol? Lead? After school sports?

    When I clicked the link I was sorely, severely underwhelmed.

    Sorry again if the statistics of my posts (should that be of any interest) come out supernegative.

    It’s only that I usually agree…

  26. imthegenieicandoanything says

    The odd thing here is that it assumes that your typical “conservative” wishes to solve, in this case meaning “significantly reduce and manage,” the problem – or ANY problem.

    What has moved me from thinking I simply disagree with the hard-core opposition to understanding I simply despise and oppose them is that they (the hard core, the 23%ers I call them – people always supported and still support Dubya because THEY CANNOT EVER BE WRONG) have no interest in anything that does not increase unhappiness and suffering. Not even, in any meaningful sense (“tax cuts” for example), for themselves. And, for an even larger percentage of them, no solution that requires actual effort OR time OR money is acceptable, because they are childish, lazy, selfish shits who elect leaders who are as bad or worse than themselves, and willing to flatter their meanness, in its every manifestation.

    If we want to solve problems, we simply have to work around them. That’s the liberal way, at it’s best. They’ll only. a few of them (or their children) will come around AFTERWARDS, when the hard work has been done and proven successful, after which they’ll attempt to take all credit.

  27. thumper1990 says

    Is this just an alibi for not addressing the question of militant islam?

    Is that just someone JAQing off and making the thread all sticky?

  28. Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts says

    More taxes on alcohol?

    Yes. And it does work. Look at Ontario. Seriously, go to Google and type in words that will let you learn about the sale of alcohol in Ontario and how markets outside of Ontario, where people are concerned about alcoholism and responsible sale, copy aspects of that province’s system.

    The enormous tax on alcohol certainly doesn’t detract from alcohol sales (just look at the figures for Ontario; Ontarians drink a lot), but it does do a great deal to subsidise the province’s health care and campaigns against alcoholism and the effects of irresponsible drinking. The province makes a lot of money off of the sale of alcohol and it also has extremely strict control over who purchases and how and when. The only three places where alcohol can be bought are the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) ((liquor, beer, wine (domestic, out-of-province and international)), the Beer Store (beer) and, recently, the Wine Rack (which sells exclusively wine made in Ontario). Wine can be purchased on vineyards, but that’s an exceptional case.

    It costs ~$54CAN to purchase 1.14L of vodka from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (the only place where liquor and international (non-Ontarian) wine) can be purchased in Ontario, whereas in Florida (for instance) the same could be purchased for ~$13USD from just about anywhere.

    I don’t want to draw a correlation where there isn’t one nor imply causation, but look at the crime stats for Ontario and Florida. If it’s not the sale and consumption of alcohol, then perhaps the revenue from the sale of alcohol helps in some way? Then again, the cases may simply be confounded by too many other factors to ever know.

    In any case, I can say subjectively, living under a system where alcohol is comparatively (and significantly) more expensive than anywhere in North America, that paying more for alcohol adds no harm to society and certainly does not increase the crime rate. Really, what’s so bad about paying a lot of tax on alcohol?

    (Oh, I know, prohibition had many of you butt-hurt. Don’t bring that up. It’s a non-starter.)

  29. says

    @19:Kevin
    Aside from teaching kids that hitting is not a solution to conflicts, reducing drug and alcohol abuse would be the single most-effective strategy for reducing crime.

    Which is to say — ain’t never gonna happen.

    Why not? If the Portuguese can slash the number of their most-severely chronic drug users in half in just 10 years (by decriminalizing possession and mandating treatment instead of prison sentences), then why can’t America? We have the resources to do it, it’s just the political will that’s missing.

  30. says

    Alverant

    Also if you raise the tax on alcohol you’re going to feed the black market.

    Not necessarily; the figures quoted show a reduction in overall alcohol consumption associated with the higher tax. After a certain point this will become a problem, but it’s actually possible to determine where that point is, and hold things at a level that reduces problems without creating new ones.
    Kevin

    Abusers of alcohol will abuse alcohol, regardless of cost. In fact, if the price of alcohol increases dramatically, will turn to petty crimes earlier. And as for other drugs — how are you going to impact the cost of a drug that you don’t regulate? Interdiction clearly doesn’t work — else there’d be zero cocaine in the US right now. And only enough weed for the medicinal pot stores in California.

    There’s a lot of false assumptions built in here, many of which indicate that you didn’t read the rest of the article in question. Specifically, items 3, 4, 8, and 11 specifically address ways of reducing drug abuse and domestic abuse, all of which demonstrably work, if they are adequately funded and provided with sufficient trained personnel. This is totally doable, but will require significant funding shifts.

  31. Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts says

    Also if you raise the tax on alcohol you’re going to feed the black market.

    This is empirically untrue. See: Canada and my post, above.

    Abusers of alcohol will abuse alcohol, regardless of cost.

    Largely untrue. Some will. Many won’t. See, again: Canada and my post, above.

    And Google. For the love of everything, it’s at your fingertips, just go read a little before posting assumptions that can be so easily countered.

  32. says

    Republican senators continue to make dumb comments about gun control. It’s hard to see how police forces can dial back their armaments when shooters have clips that hold 30 to 100 rounds.

    “I don’t believe if this law were in effect in that elementary school it would have saved one life,” Plummer [Republican State Senator Gary Plummer] said. He also said there is some information suggesting the Sandy Hook shooter was using a high-capacity clip that jammed and that allowed some children to escape. He said the shooter may have killed more if he was armed with just 10-round clips.

    The quote is from the Bangor, Maine Daily News.

    The Sandy Hook shooter fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes, using 30-round magazines. It looks to me like Republicans at both the state and federal level are pulling every trick in the book to prevent any reform of gun control measures.

  33. says

    Not sure if I entirely buy the notion that if only the Boston bombers had had access to after-school sports, they’d never had done the deed…

  34. says

    @22:Irmin
    On a more serious note: While I get the argument that what the two did was wide outside the ordinary, London was not put on lockdown after the attacks happened there AFAIK. So yes, the American approach is indeed a bit more… forceful.

    There is a lot wrong with the state of policing (and the criminal justice system, in general) in America, but I have to question the validity of this comparison. Boston was put on lockdown only once there was an active manhunt for the bombers underway. In London, the bombers all blew themselves up, so there was no one left to hunt for.

    One can still question the merits of the scale of the lockdown, of course, but the circumstances under which it happened are very different from the 7/7 bombings (and the previous IRA bombings, also).

  35. says

    Jeff Flake, a Republican Senator from Arizona, (and a mormon if it makes any difference), lied to a grieving mother, telling her he supported strengthening background checks, and then voting against them.

    Two-faced, forked-tongued lying dunderhead.

    Maddow Blog link.

    Excerpts:

    in the immediate aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Flake said on camera there’s bipartisan support for “more effective and broader” background checks when it comes to firearm purchases. Soon after, Flake said expanded background checks are “a bridge too far” for him and Republican colleagues….

    The article goes further to explain that Republicans have redefined “background checks.”

  36. says

    @Marshall @13:

    As others have noted, increasing alcohol prices is an effectively strategy to reduce consumption, but only up to a point. Blanket bans don’t work, as Prohibition demonstrated – especially because then the alcohol that is being sold is not being regulated and we’d have cases of methanol and butanol poisoning to worry about (and, yes, extending this logic says that some other drugs should be legalized and heavily regulated too).
    _
    @PZ:
    _
    One tangential observation re. your starting picture: at least some police really don’t like having to bring in SWAT teams and their hardware. One of my cousins is a cop in Oakland. She’s been drafted on a few occasions to help SWAT serve high-risk arrest warrants. Preferred strategy: she dress in plainclothes and convinces the suspect to leave the building (e.g. “I just backed into somebody’s car. Is it yours?”), and then her backup tackles them. SWAT’s toys go entirely unused.
    _
    But none of that changes preventing/reducing crime being more important than how it is dealt with once it has happened.

  37. David Wilford says

    While I wholeheartedly support higher taxes on alcohol in general, it’s not a panacea. Where I live in Wisconsin, you can buy 1.75L of vodka for $10, but doubling or tripling that price wouldn’t do that much to dent the crime rate. What it would help do is cut down on health related problems, including fetal alcohol syndrome.

  38. says

    @Martin Wagner @40:

    This is a population-scale conclusion. All of the approaches outlined in the article reduce the overall rate of crime. Fewer things like the Boston bombing would happen. And, more importantly, fewer murders would happen. Understand: as tragic as the Boston bombing was, more people are murdered in the US every 4 hours than died there.

  39. says

    @45 – thank you for bringing up the population factor. I live in Chicago, and couldn’t help but notice that most of the cities that were cited in Chicago were much smaller in population size. I’m wondering how effective some of these approaches would be for other cities like New York and Los Angeles where, not only are the metro populations massive, but so are the economic disparities. I’m not attempting to dismiss this article; I’m simply stating that it appears to have a small sample size in comparison.

    The underlying issue with fighting crime is getting the people who live in crime-infested neighborhoods to care enough to participate in one of the social approaches (fostering, mentoring, etc) and the people who live outside of crime-infested neighborhoods to do something more than write a check to a NPO or put a mention in their blogs.

    I’m not trying to insult anyone here, or accuse anyone of being callous. I’m honestly asking: how many people who regularly follow PZ’s blog live in low-income and/or crime-infested neighborhoods? It’s easy as Pi to sit up here and spout comments about the effectiveness of crime reduction tactics, to play the “smartest man/woman/zucchini” on the thread; it’s a completely different story to get out there, to be in the thick of things, see it for yourself, and get your hands dirty in order to build a better future for an area that may or may not have any connection with you and your world at all.

    Personally? I know that I don’t have it in me (yet) to get down and dirty. I live in a “gentrifying” neighborhood at the moment, and I will be moving out because living there makes me feel uncomfortable. But that’s me. I come from generations of white-collared African-Americans and have been sheltered for most of my life in my comfortable upper-middle class bubble. I can only hope that someone else who follows this blog is a better person than me.

  40. says

    I was struck by the way all the law enforcement agencies spent the hours after the second Boston bombing suspect was captured–patting each other on the back for the great job they all did. In reality, the suspect eluded capture after being wounded in the shootout and hid himself outside the search perimeter, rendering a whole lot of cops, SWAT teams and National Guardsmen pretty useless. Then, when it was decided that the suspect had fled the area, the lockdown was lifted–and, minutes later, a civilian found him bleeding in a boat in his backyard.
    The authorities were then able to apprehend the dying suspect. Yeah, job well done all around.
    Okay, there was probably some good police work done in identifying the suspects, and once the second suspect was located, the cops were instructed not to return his fire. And they captured him alive. Still not law enforcement’s finest moment.
    The most annoying thing, though, was the “America–Fuck Yeah!” crap I heard, as if two guys making bombs off the internet was some organized, well-funded terrorist plot and only Americans could catch such criminals and only Americans are tough and resilient enough to come through such trauma.
    Reduce crime? Nah. That would reduce the opportunities for patriotic dick-waving, wouldn’t it?

  41. says

    @spastic6particle @46:
    I’m a bit confused by what you’ve written.
    _
    My point @45 was that crime-reduction strategies are large-scale and distributed, and show up in the overall rates of crime rather than being obvious in individual cases. After all, few people see violence that could have happened. This is related to the differences between perceived and actual problems. Humans have a cognitive bias to over-react to rare (but not too rare) high-magnitude events and under-react to more common low-magnitude events. This holds even when the low-magnitude events are so common that their overall effect is far far greater than that of the high-magnitude events. This is how casinos stay in business, it’s one reason why too few people get flu shots, and it’s why changes in gun laws only happen when there is a horrific massacre.
    _
    You also seem to be missing some of the details in the article. The benefits of lead abatement are being studied on nation- and world-wide scales. The alcohol taxation ideas are drawn from variations in crime and in alcohol prices between states and countries with populations of several million. The police tactics discussion mentions test cases in San Diego, Jersey City, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. The benefits of after-school programs have been studied in Chicago, but also in NYC and LA and elsewhere. The anti-gang work cited in the article was from Boston, but there is also work in other places. And so on.
    _
    Re. people living in low-income/crime-infested neighborhoods: That is a fair question. It is important for me to be mindful of the various privileges I have in society (almost all of them entirely by accident).

  42. Moggie says

    tacitus:

    In London, the bombers all blew themselves up, so there was no one left to hunt for.

    Not that that was known at the time, of course. The buses were running later the same day, after being searched – it’s how I got home – but nobody knew whether there’d be a second wave of suicide bombers. Still, it was a very different situation from Boston, so I don’t think it can be used against the Boston policing.

  43. Moggie says

    jand:

    When I clicked the link I was sorely, severely underwhelmed.

    Could you be more specific with your objections? In the face of quantitative research, just saying “nuh-uh” doesn’t really cut it.

  44. says

    @feralboy12 @47:
    That bothered me too – although mostly the public reaction rather than that of members of law enforcement. Four people are died, one was dying, and over a hundred are injured. Why is anyone celebrating that? Perhaps understandable relief that the immediate problem was over got turned into celebration, but that is itself problematic.

  45. Moggie says

    composer99:

    These comments were pooh-poohed by the PM and by others (saw one on my FB feed, but I’ve seen or heard others in the past) who, for some bizarre reason, think that understanding the roots of criminal behaviour and making policy to address those is a bad thing.

    This seems to be a widespread conservative attitude, famously summed up by the UK Conservative PM John Major in 1993: “Society needs to condemn a little more and understand a little less”. Yes, understanding stuff is not a conservative virtue. After all, evidence-based policy might benefit the wrong kind of people, you know?

  46. says

    Heh: “Totally doable, but we need to fund it.”

    I’d be happy with having airplanes land safely.

    Here’s the order of events.

    1. Elect a TOTALLY NEW CONGRESS.
    2. Then, fund all the pie-in-the-sky stuff that “totally works” except there’s no funding.

    Seriously, what planet are you people visiting from?

  47. says

    michaelbusch

    Re. people living in low-income/crime-infested neighborhoods: That is a fair question.

    Well, the obvious answer is ‘Improve their incomes.’ Means of doing this would include increasing minimum wage, and wages generally, improvements in the social safety net (ideally involving a minimum income of some type as well as single-payer healthcare), and heavy investment in the infrastructure, physical and social, in those areas, which both employs people directly and adds economic options, and provision of capital (social and financial) to would-be entrepreneurs in such areas. More radically, policies encouraging worker-owned co-ops and economic democracy generally would help immensely.
    calebt

    I’ll add that my favorite panacea for severe reductions in violent crime in America is to end the drug war.

    While this isn’t wrong, Balko is a really, really bad source for pretty much anything, because his dumbass economic ideology permeates everything he writes so badly that it skews his output even when he has got real numbers, which he often doesn’t.

    Kevin
    Typical conservative bullshit: we can’t fix everything overnight, so don’t even bother to talk about possible solutions, let alone try to implement them. You really are pathetically intellectually lazy, aren’t you?

  48. says

    @calebt: As noted above, decriminalizing and then heavily regulating cannabis is a corollary to the “raise alcohol prices” argument.

  49. erichoug says

    One thing that struck me with this, and you see quite a bit of it living in Texas, Is conservatives that want nothing but to cut taxes and reduce the size of government but have no problem with expanding the prison system in this country.

    The other day, I had to laugh when the news report announced that so and so was sentenced to a $10,000 fine and 3 years in prison. OH, I get it, we are going to fine him $10,000 that he will never be able to pay and then spend $20,000-$40,000 a year to imprison him. So loss to the tax payer of $50,000-$110,000 to “punish” this offender.

    Is anyone else seeing the absolute failure of the US justice system as a costly and embarrassing disaster?

  50. truthspeaker says

    Kevin, there would be plenty of funding if we just raised taxes a little bit. There would be even more if we hadn’t let previous Republican Congresses run up such huge deficits.

  51. says

    @Dalillama, Schmott Guy @56:
    Reducing poverty is certainly a good thing to do. But I thought spastic6particle’s point was that it is easy for people who live in low-crime areas to be unaware of all that goes into making a high-crime area a high-crime area.
    _
    @Kevin @53:

    I’d be happy with having airplanes land safely.

    Tangent, but: airplanes do land safely. Aviation safety standards are very good, and so the death rate is measured in fatalities per billion passenger-miles. The rate for automobiles is a factor of several higher.
    _
    The death rate from passenger rail is a bit higher than for airplanes in the US but significantly lower in places with better railway safety standards, but trailing by rail is safer than traveling by car regardless.

  52. Alverant says

    I don’t think it’s honest to use stats from Canada when it comes to alcohol use. There’s a big difference in culture and history between our two countries. In the USA drinking is considered a right. Many of our Founding Fathers were involved in the production and trade of alcohol. Heck back then even families made their own booze. And maybe I’m wrong, but Canada doesn’t have the moonshine culture of the USA. When it comes to booze, USA wants it and wants it cheap and if we can’t get it legally we’ll go to the gray/black market either directly or indirectly. We even created a TV series glorifing moonshiners and back in the day running shine created NASCAR. Can you see that happening in Canada?

  53. says

    Alverant said:

    I don’t think it’s honest to use stats from Canada when it comes to alcohol use. There’s a big difference in culture and history between our two countries.

    I am not sure it is really that different. We do not have silly laws that keep people from drinking until they are 21, so perhaps there is a bit less of a culture of drinking illegally in large quantities, or they drink illegally for a shorter period of time. But drinking is a huge thing in Canada. Beer, even crappy macro lagers which is not much better than most generic lager in the US is highly praised and pretty important to most people. There is a long history of bootlegging in PEI and probably elsewhere. Rum running during the prohibition era in the US was big here. The popular drinking culture is not exactly one of moderation or dedication to quality drinks over drinking cheaply.

  54. says

    As someone that is pretty dedicated to quality beer and support local microbreweries I am not really the average drinker I imagine. But I have to admit, I drink often, just probably in smaller quantities than others. However, price definitely is my limiting factor. If it was cheaper to drink I would definitely drink more often. I doubt high prices would really stop someone that was an alcoholic, but it might reduce overall consumption.

  55. wbenson says

    What was most worrisome about Boston’s Patriotic Army in Defense of the American Way was their absolute lack of human qualities, in particular courage, responsibility, and mercy. It makes me shudder.

  56. says

    @61: Drinking isn’t considered a right in the US; we have one of the highest drinking ages and we’ve even amended our constitution specifically to prohibit alcohol in the past.

  57. truthspeaker says

    @marthabie the law and popular attitudes are two different things. In our case in the US, we’ve had conflicting social attitudes on alcohol among various demographic groups for a long time. Even in my state there are people who would view drinking as a right and people who think Prohibition was a good idea.

  58. says

    The crime that matters is taking place on Wall St. Unless you want to count the criminals who committed torture (and the criminals that absolved them) or the criminals like AT&T that turned their customer data over to the NSA. Those are the crimes that will make the biggest difference to the future of the US. Not the folks who smoke dope or text while they’re driving. Sure, that stuff matters, too, but in the grand scheme of things it’s penny ante crime.

  59. says

    Marcus Ranum
    True, but tangential to the the discussion. Those types of crimes are dealt with by different law enforcement agencies, typically, and the SEC are not highly militarized. They need better funding, and not to have their head selected from among the ranks of the financiers they’re regulating, and there need to be a lot more regulations for them to enforce (This ties into what I said above about increasing the capital in poor communities; first we have to get said capital loose from the bastards who are clinging to it like grim death.)

  60. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    I dunno, most of the Canadians I know seem to drink just as much as we do here in the US, if not more.

    Indeed a quick glance at Wikipedia puts Canada slightly ahead of the US in terms of per capita consumption. Which makes sense. I mean, do you really think people would be curling in a state of sobriety? Anyways, the two countries are so close together in this respect that it seems like Canada is actually an excellent country for a comparison of policies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_alcohol_consumption

  61. m.brndt says

    It’s worth noting that that most everything on the list either is not related to policing (i.e. alcohol tax, after school programs) or requires more police presence (i.e. proactive gun confiscation, targeting problem areas). Our large police force is a symptom, not the disease itself. Our militarized police force is unfortunately necessary because we have failed in so many other areas. What we’ve actually done is create a militarized culture.

    On a side note: RE: alcohol tax. A better solution might be to include prohibition as a condition of parole/probation, or even as a sentence in it’s own right. I sincerely doubt that higher prices will deter the kind of drinkers that cause the problems. As some one else has said, it will just reduce consumption in casual, social drinkers.

  62. ck says

    I don’t think it’s honest to use stats from Canada when it comes to alcohol use. There’s a big difference in culture and history between our two countries.

    I find it interesting that this is always the claim. Experiences in country “X” is not relevant because that country is not an exact carbon copy of the United States. It doesn’t matter what you’re arguing for, the objection is always the same. You can’t look at emulating factors of the gun prohibition in the U.K. or Japan because those countries are not the United States. You can’t take the drug policies from European countries because they are not the United States. Etc, etc.

    And to say that Canada doesn’t have an alcohol culture is very funny. There may be less “underage” binge drinking because the legal age is 18 or 19, but remind me which of our two countries prohibited the sale of alcohol again? What is different is that alcohol is tightly regulated. You are not permitted to possess an open container of alcohol in public except in private residences or licensed premises (except in Quebec). It’s heavily taxed, and usually only available from province-owned specialized retailers who sell only alcohol (beer is sometimes available from other retailers and Alberta has completely deregulated and divested themselves of their provincially-run alcohol business).

    As someone who doesn’t drink, trust me that I feel plenty excluded from many parts of Canadian culture because of my status as a non-drinker.

  63. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    So, jack up the prices so us poor folks can’t afford a cold one after work?

    That solution fucking sucks.

  64. mikeyb says

    Has anybody read what this Bob Davis Minnesota NRA radio freak said about the Newtown victims. Whata total fucking asshole.

    “I have something I want to say to the victims of Newtown, or any other shooting,” Davis said. “I don’t care if it’s here in Minneapolis or anyplace else. Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. I’m sick and tired of seeing these victims trotted out, given rides on Air Force One, hauled into the Senate well, and everyone is just afraid — they’re terrified of these victims.”

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/17/conservative-radio-host-families-of-newtown-shooting-victims-can-go-to-hell/

  65. brive1987 says

    I get the obvious concept that an ounce of prevention … etc.

    But if (and when) the proverbial hits the fan then we need a response proportional to the threat at hand. The Boston police get two thumbs up from me.

    Also the dichotomy implicit in “Once again, America reduces” and “Maybe, instead … ” is unfairly simplistic.

    On another note is anyone game to revisit the Sam Harris profiling issue given the criticism the FBI is starting to get.
    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/fbi-fire-keeping-tabs-boston-marathon-bomber-tamerlan-tsarnaev-article-1.1323399

    Is there a common thread between the Underwear Bomber, Times Square Bomber and Boston Bombers that could assist in the allocation of security resources … assuming there is any point in preventative measures at all (which is debatable).

    (BTW if there is commonality between the 3 cases it’s certainly not race).

    http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2/#profiling

  66. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    No, seriously think about it. Remember all those threads about welfare where some douche comes in telling what people can and cannot use it for?

    Everytime the commenters here are like “Well, what’s wrong with wanting a beer? There’s no health care and they are self-medicating/coping with their life and it’s cost effective for calories!”

    Rising the price on alcohol can come up after we fix the lack of safety net, health care, justice system and poverty. That’s a huge difference between the USA and Canada right there. Just raising the tax now would suck fucking ass. Not to mention it would foster this idea that we control what poor people are allowed to do/buy.

    Rich people could still afford it no problem and hey, they already have the money to cover up the crimes they commit but let’s take it out of the hand of poor people! Everyone knows the poor people are the problem! /sarc

    From There are no marching morons thread:

    #75 Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty

    I’ve lived in trailer parks. I’ve lived in nice suburban neighborhoods where every other house had a pool. I’ve had family in the oil business that lived in million+ dollar homes.

    I’d say there was as much abuse, neglect, theft, rape, bigotry and idiocy to go around in all of those places. The difference was that the wealthier people stole more and feared detection less. I was neighbors with a banker who stole thousands from retirement funds. My wealthy family member routinely cheated his clients out of scads of cash. At worst the trailer park kids might run off with a bike.

    You can’t buy good manners or ethics and if financial gain was a decent marker of intelligence, George W Bush would be a freaking genius. Instead he’s a lack-wit and a war criminal.

    The War on Poverty is really a war on poor people and adding taxes on alcohol in the USA would foster it. I don’t think it should be a solution for crime rates until we deal with the other larger factors. It would just cause more problems.

  67. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    35 Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts

    It costs ~$54CAN to purchase 1.14L of vodka from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (the only place where liquor and international (non-Ontarian) wine) can be purchased in Ontario, whereas in Florida (for instance) the same could be purchased for ~$13USD from just about anywhere.

    There’s no fucking way anyone in the low income neighborhoods I’ve lived in could afford $50 for alcohol unless they were doing something illegal to supplement their income.

  68. Tethys says

    JAL

    The article is talking about raising the tax rate on alcohol, which is artificially low due to pressure from the liquor lobby.

    Economist Sara Markowitz, for example, found in a study of U.S. crime patterns that a “single percent increase in the beer tax decreases the probability of assault by 0.45 percent” and “a 1 percent decrease in the number of outlets that sell alcohol decreases the probability of rape by 1.75 percent.” Researchers in Finland found that a 2004 cut in the country’s alcohol tax caused a sudden 17 percent spike in fatalities relative to the previous year. There’s preliminary evidence that alcohol taxes can reduce the number of U.S. female homicide victims. Kleiman cites findings of Duke’s Philip Cook to the effect that a doubling of the federal excise tax on alcohol would reduce homicide and automobile fatalities by 7 percent each, for a net 3,000 lives saved. What’s more, it would only cost twice-a-day drinkers (who, as it is, drink considerably more than average) $6 a month.

    The increase is about 10 cents a beer, which does not seem particularly oppressive IMO.

  69. says

    It costs ~$54CAN to purchase 1.14L of vodka from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (the only place where liquor and international (non-Ontarian) wine) can be purchased in Ontario, whereas in Florida (for instance) the same could be purchased for ~$13USD from just about anywhere.

    You know.. The funny thing is we have Canadians, and some others, from places like this, who “winter” in Arizona. They get around this by buying entire cases of their favorite booze, in Arizona, and taking it back home with them. I tend to suspect, if we where closer to Ontario, or any other part of Canada, than we are, our largest purchaser of entire cases of alcohol would be Canadians. So… Yeah, all this proves is that if you are too lazy to travel, you will buy it locally. lol

  70. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    35 Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts

    In any case, I can say subjectively, living under a system where alcohol is comparatively (and significantly) more expensive than anywhere in North America, that paying more for alcohol adds no harm to society and certainly does not increase the crime rate. Really, what’s so bad about paying a lot of tax on alcohol.

    This is so easy for someone to say who can afford it. My Roomie drinks a beer or two after work. He works nights and the schedule sucks. Why cut him off completely from something that does him no harm? He’s not addicted or an alcoholic so he wouldn’t be harmed in the withdrawal sense – just in the now his way of relaxing and sleeping after work is gone. In a society where he can’t just “do something else” because everything else is far more expensive. Seriously, he buys $3 six packs.

    What about the time when me and him self-medicated our extreme tooth pain with alcohol? We couldn’t afford to get any actual care for it (until you guys donated to me, and even that didn’t fix everything and I’m sure it’s going to happen again) so with the tax we’ll be left screaming in pain because we can’t get any help.

    Like I said, fix our other major societal problems first. The funding for fixing those things can be from taxing the rich or our ridiculous military budget. Oh, but people object that no one politically powerfull will go for that. So the rich keep everything, the powerful control everything and poor people have to give up alcohol to fund needed problems like after school or whatever? WTF?
    Why do we need to tax the poor more to pay for things everyone should have (like health care or better justice system)? What the tax on cigarettes and lotto tickets isn’t enough? Why are we the ones making the sacrifices and paying for everything when we can barely make rent, even with several jobs (leaving out kids in expensive day cares or on their own)?

    Foster care, after school programs and preschool are great things, needed things but if you have the money – you can have those things already. We’re POOR! We can’t afford those things, so taxing us more wouldn’t do a damn bit of good – we’d have to work more or end up homeless. Not to mention not having the time/energy to be apart of those programs as volunteers in our community.

    No, to get those things we’d have to raise the minimum wage, get health care so an illness can’t bankrupt us, better public transportation so it doesn’t take 4 hours to go 20 miles, dental care. Yet here we are talking about taxing alcohol so much to effectively take it out of poor people’s hand completely for crime rates when it’s going to do fuck all but make our lives, the lives others feel so free to control what we do, when we do and what we buy, all the more fucking depressing.

    Now, I need a fucking drink. As someone who lives in and will probably continue to live in high crime, low income areas, fuck all of you trying to take my alcohol. I expect better from the very people who are responsible for keeping my family and I alive.

  71. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    80 Tethys

    The increase is about 10 cents a beer, which does not seem particularly oppressive IMO.

    So Roomie buys a $3 pack of beer, pays $6 bucks in taxes. Yeah, that’s definitely going to cut into the amount of drinking. Fuck, if we had $10 we’d buy a thing of vodka that gets the tooth pain better and last longer. Oh, wait. What would the tax on that be?

    Yep, there goes our drinking. There goes the evenings where we can forget about how fucking close we are going back into the shelters or on the streets. I AM the very bottom.

    —————–
    79 Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    JAL
    You are entirely correct. Indeed, I would implement everything I mentioned in #56 before an alcohol tax; I can’t afford to drink as it stands.

    Exactly.

  72. says

    @ck

    “As someone who doesn’t drink, trust me that I feel plenty excluded from many parts of Canadian culture because of my status as a non-drinker.”

    Right there with you.

    @40 Martin

    “Not sure if I entirely buy the notion that if only the Boston bombers had had access to after-school sports, they’d never had done the deed…”

    I’m sorry martin but this was dumb…. Functionally identical to I’m not sure that getting the flue shot would prevent me from getting the flue. As others pointed out these are large scale solutions population. Just as vaccines aren’t 100% effective no program will ever prevent incident X but can reduce the overall number of incidents on a larger scale.

  73. says

    The funding for fixing those things can be from taxing the rich or our ridiculous military budget.

    Indeed, at least half of the measures I recommended could be funded without the slightest change in the tax structure, if we cut the military budget by 90% (which would still leave us in the top 10 spenders worldwide) and devoted it to infrastructure, physical and social. That could extend Medicare to everyone, pay to retrofit every dwelling in the country with solar panels/wind turbines, improved insulation, and energy-efficient primary appliances (washer/dryer, stove/oven, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher) over a 10 year period, and provide high-speed internet (real high speed, not the shit that gets offered by the monopolies) to everyone, TVA rural electrification style. Then shift the money that goes into direct farm subsidies into food stamps (which would increase the affordability of high quality foods in multiple ways). While those alone would be a huge boost, with an actual progressive tax structure we could do fucking wonders.

  74. Tethys says

    with an actual progressive tax structure we could do fucking wonders.

    QFT

    Public preschool, universal healthcare, and post-secondary education are much better uses for tax dollars than building better WMD’s and giving millions in corporate welfare to the obscenely wealthy.

  75. says

    Yeah, public preschool and post-secondary education are big ones; they didn’t make the list above because the things I mentioned would start to have visible effects in a much shorter timeframe.

  76. Tethys says

    JAL

    Yep, there goes our drinking. There goes the evenings where we can forget about how fucking close we are going back into the shelters or on the streets. I AM the very bottom.

    Nobody is actually proposing raising the federal excise tax on alcohol, but don’t you think an overall reduction in crime is worth a 1 percent increase? I haven’t read all the linked articles in the OP, but their data is very compelling so far.

    I do sympathize with the suckage that is living below the poverty line. I can’t afford alcohol either.

  77. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    88 Tethys

    Nobody is actually proposing raising the federal excise tax on alcohol

    Uh, isn’t this precisely the point of the article? Hasn’t that sentiment been expressed in this thread by people such as comment 35?

    , but don’t you think an overall reduction in crime is worth a 1 percent increase? I haven’t read all the linked articles in the OP, but their data is very compelling so far.

    As of right now? No. I think it would foster more of this control and domination of poor people mentality and would make life suck more. After, we change some fundamental things? I’m absolutely up for it. Right now, it just feels like trying to bandaid a slit throat. Sure, a tiny portion is covered but it isn’t actually deal with the root problem. And it comes at a cost on a disadvantaged group a people. “Oh, it’s just 10 cents!” Yeah, well, every penny counts for a lot of people and I’m tired of having that factor just brushed off. It matter to me. It’s a big deal to me. It is to my Roommate and every other person I know. This isn’t just about drinking. It’s about how people want to control every purchase we make. With “Oh, you can’t buy that on foodstamps!” and “Oh, they have a big TV they must be scammers and criminals!”. Every purchase, every decision is under the microscope and yes, alcohol helps. Alcohol is already treated like the cause of homelessness with the sentiments of “Oh, now those homeless drunks can’t afford beer anymore!”. Nope, they will just self medicate another way because our health system sucks and probably die faster on the streets.

    Me #82

    Now, I need a fucking drink. As someone who lives in and will probably continue to live in high crime, low income areas, fuck all of you trying to take my alcohol. I expect better from the very people who are responsible for keeping my family and I alive.

    This closing of my comment was extremely emotional due to a feeling of betrayal. I feel picked on day in, day out for being poor. There are people who actively wish me dead just because of it. This proposal of a tax on alcohol feels more of the same shit. It feels like ” Oh, charge those drunks more so they can’t afford it and crime will go down! Those poor folks just can’t control themselves!”

    This place is only place I have that doesn’t suck. That doesn’t hate me for things like classism. Having people here all for this proposal without thinking about what it would do it people like me felt like a betrayal. Hence, my outburst.

  78. scourge99 says

    Government taxing on goods in order to control, encourage, or dissuade certain citizen behavior seems to fit the definition of totalitarianism to me. I can’t support such Orwellian measures on principle alone. There has got to be other ways that don’t requiring sacrificing liberty for measly statistical bumps in safety and security.

  79. cpa425 says

    The police look that way because they want to go home at night. These two men bombed innocent people and then fired on police. Is there really any other question here to understand why the Police did what they did in Watertown. I have no problem on how this was handled. Civility is a shared responsibility and they failed on their part, and we handled our part.

  80. John Morales says

    scourge99:

    Government taxing on goods in order to control, encourage, or dissuade certain citizen behavior seems to fit the definition of totalitarianism to me.

    If so, then you show yourself to be an ignoramus.

    Here: Totalitarianism.

  81. says

    Government taxing on goods in order to control, encourage, or dissuade certain citizen behavior seems to fit the definition of totalitarianism to me.

    You must be using the same dictionary Republicans use when they look for the definition of communism.

  82. says

    @JAL:
    Tangential, but I am a little confused by your mention of using alcohol for pain management. How is alcohol at $0.5 per can of beer cost-effective as compared to generic acetaminophen at ~$0.03 per 325 mg tablet?

  83. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    94 michaelbusch

    @JAL:
    Tangential, but I am a little confused by your mention of using alcohol for pain management. How is alcohol at $0.5 per can of beer cost-effective as compared to generic acetaminophen at ~$0.03 per 325 mg tablet?

    Because acetaminophen isn’t enough for the nerve pain, in my experience. Ibuprofen has helped for tooth pain because a part of it is infection due to rotting but when multiple nerves are being extremely painful those over the counter pills aren’t enough. Swishing vodka and doing shots, or drinking several beers not only dulls the pain but also helps get to sleep – which is hard to do when you’re in pain.

  84. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    Yeah, my teeth are that bad. I’ve never done meth but my mouth looks like meth mouth. It’s all due to diet and no dental care. I lose little bits while brushing and sometimes entire chunks of teeth while eating. No over the counter pill helps with that.

    That’s not even mentioning my back problems and how my legs go numb when walking. Drinking numbs it all so I can do the things that I need to do like grocery shopping and walking back and forth my child to school.

  85. demonhype says

    JAL @ 89, etc.

    I couldn’t agree more. I work for minimum wage part time as a cashier, and it’s nearly impossible to get full time hours on these jobs–and with their insistence on writing schedules with hours and days that are entirely random, it would be a worse hell than what I’m doing, and even then I couldn’t make ends meet. I know I’m lucky, though–I live with my parents, as that was the only thing they could give me to help me get through college, and then the economy tanked right around when I graduated and I was unemployed for 3 years before I could even find this inadequate job. But not everyone has parents who are able or willing to help them like that. I don’t know how other people even survive having to work like slaves for crumbs, but I do know how disgusting it is to have people judging you at every turn (I get judgment for “living at home at YOUR age?!!!”, as if I’m some slacker with no education who has been mooching off mom and dad my whole adulthood, rather than being judged for being poor, but it still sucks.)

    I had one co-worker recently wanting to get into a discussion about how “rude and disgusting” people are who come up and pay with WIC coupons. I told her I hadn’t noticed, and she seemed very surprised. I went on to say that perhaps she has managed to ring out only “rude and disgusting” WIC people on her register, but that I haven’t really had anyone on public assistance who acted that way. They’ve always been perfectly polite and even fairly apologetic in attitude–when they aren’t apologizing outright. The only “rude and disgusting” people I’ve ever had in my line have been rich fucking yuppies with a sense of entitlement you can smell coming from a mile down the road.

    And another bitching about how all those “dirty” people buying nice cakes on food stamps when she worked in a bakery at one point–in my experience, people who bitch about “all those dirty people on food stamps” buying [insert "luxury" item here] are usually bitching about a single instance they saw someone on public assistance get something they didn’t “deserve”, and immediately extrapolate from that to all people on welfare living in the lap of luxury on their dime, while they actually work for a living. For example, another person I knew was whining about “all those filthy lazy bums” getting to eat nothing but steaks on the tax dime while “we” work like slaves to buy those steaks. I asked where she got her information and how she knew this, and pressed through the efforts to change the subject, until this person had to finally admit that “one time” she saw a guy buy a lot of steaks on a welfare check. I told her that she had NO idea what his situation was, that he might have been stockpiling a lot of non-perishables for months to buy himself a small stockpile of steaks that he could make himself once a week to look forward to for all she knew, not that it was any of her business, and I could just smell the Jesus (she was Christian) reeking off her, that she was actually indignant that a poor person might actually have a nice treat to look forward to once in a while rather than wearing sack cloth in a ditch while eating gruel, as she apparently felt he ought to live. She seemed pretty shamed by the time I was done, though she’d never admit it verbally, and she’s increasingly backed off the poor-bashing and welfare-bashing over the years.

    It’s the same with this “let’s tax the fuck out of booze” magic bullet for crime–until you fix all those other problems, taxing the booze more is only going to hurt the people who kind of need it the most, but you know, those fixes require us “deserving” people to fork over money, time, and some level of concern, while taxing the fuck out of booze requires no money or effort from us, plus we get the added bonus of being able to control and punish the “undeserving” even more! Anything that makes you feel good about yourself at the expense of someone less fortunate is always going to be more popular than things that actually work but might require us to actually do something.

    I think I hate people sometimes, when I think about that.

    I also nailed her ass to the wall about “those n****r welfare queens” and their children getting free health care through Medicaid when she, horror of horrors, had to PAY for her own kids’ care! I told her off on how she was actually UPSET that a CHILD was getting healthcare! I told her that we may never agree that a poor adult who spent his/her last $50 on beer and lottery tickets “deserved” medical care when they got sick (yes, they do “deserve” it), but how could she actually resent that a sick CHILD gets medical care? What kind of monster doesn’t want a child getting medical care? Are you going to tell that child what you want to tell his mother–that this will “teach” her not to be so “lazy” and “reckless” and perhaps he will “think twice” in the future before he gets born to someone who can’t afford a doctor? She got really quiet and didn’t want to talk about it anymore, but at least she hasn’t whined about the poor getting free care for their kids ever since–at least not in my presence. (And it’s not even like its the best care either, which is even more disgusting to resent them for it.)

    But the mentality is insidious. Even with years of defending people on welfare (people I once denigrated, having absorbed my parents’ contempt for them as a child, before I grew up and found out the facts), I found myself getting disgusted with how much candy people on food stamp cards seemed to buy. I had to actively tell myself “THIS IS NOT YOU! YOU KNOW BETTER THAN THIS!” and force myself to pay attention to people with food stamps in general and not just when they bought a lot of candy, and you know what? I discovered that they don’t actually buy a lot of candy in general, that most of the time they do buy candy it’s when it’s for a really great sale price and seem to be stocking up, and many if not most of the people who do have children in tow (and who really thinks a child shouldn’t get some candy once in a while just because Mom and Dad are on welfare? only a completely self-centered entitled asshole, that’s who). Somehow, even with my better knowledge of the situation regarding welfare, my mind was still running to confirmation bias about how those “unworthy” people were buying things they “shouldn’t”, that they didn’t “deserve”, and I had to take an active role in challenging that perception. All this despite the fact that I knew better! I can’t imagine the cess pool that exists in the minds of people who wallow in the “welfare queen” BS and other hate-mongering myths about poor people and people on public assistance.

    How the HELL do you fight a mentality like that, that can even seep into the mind of someone who knows better? I guess we can all talk about it, challenge the mentalities, and keep the subject in the spotlight, and if you take the right tone you might hit a nerve with some individuals (for example, with my Christian friend, pushing the idea that Jesus didn’t say “Blessed art thou for when I was hungry, you scrutinized my spending and discerned that I had not spent my last few dollars on beer and lottery tickets and was therefore deserving, and then you fed me” or any other such qualifiers seemed to hit her pretty damned hard–but sometimes I wonder if it can really be fought until most of us are struggling below the poverty line and possibly on some sort of public assistance. For some reason, it really hits home for some people only when the shit finally hits them in the face. Until then, they cling to this idea of the “undeserving” poor who need to be “controlled” for “their own–and society’s–good” (especially if the poor person is brown), to shield themselves from the terrifying and very real possibility that such poverty and desperation could happen even to a “good” and “deserving” person like themselves. I understand that motivation, but I don’t have much sympathy for such self-centered cowardice that harms everyone in the long run.

    But I agree–fuck all those people who are trying to push measures that only hurt poor people, and that includes trying to take away their alcohol–the only thing that most of those people now have to help them through their day and their untreated physical pain, saying “can’t you just suck it up and suffer more than your already obscenely large amount of suffering, so we can enjoy a slightly lower crime rate?” Why is it that measures that are proven to work that might cost the rich more money are framed as “unworkable pipe dreams”, but measures that make the already-miserable lives of the less fortunate more miserable are portrayed as some kind of civic fucking duty and that the poor are being selfish if they aren’t willing to “pay such a small price” to “reduce the crime rate”? (Also, those lower crime rates in some of those regions aren’t necessarily correlated with taxing the fuck out of alcohol–could have a lot more to do with the fact that many of them have already implemented those other things, like universal healthcare and better education for everyone, rather than relying first and possibly solely on measures that primarily punish the poor.)

  86. demonhype says

    Also, that woman who said WIC people are “rude and disgusting” hasn’t even worked there a year, while I’ve been there for over two years, so I don’t think she knew what to say. It’s a pretty hefty coincidence that somehow in over two years I haven’t had “rude and disgusting” people on public assistance, and somehow you’ve manged to get nothing but that about six months.

  87. says

    @JAL:
    So you were using the alcohol for the depressant action as much as or more so than for the analgesic effect. I suppose that makes some sense, but it is a bad thing for anyone to be in that situation.
    _
    The US really needs to do a better job on the social support system.
    _
    (If I read the comparative-dosage tables correctly, in terms of analgesic effect, one 325 mg acetaminophen tablet is usually approximately equivalent to 3 standard drinks – I also note a warning to not combine acetaminophen with chronic ethanol consumption).

  88. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    99
    michaelbusch

    Dude, I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve taken over the counter pills regularly for my pain and it wasn’t enough. I don’t know the math or the science behind it. I just know I was left literally curled up in screaming agony even after the pills.

    ————–
    97 demonhype
    Thank you. I get that crap from people (either cashiers or other customers) every time I go grocery shopping. It doesn’t matter what I’m buying – cake mix for a birthday or candy for Easter or just Popsicle or juice – I always get shit for being on food stamps. Even when the other customers have the same things in their basket. (Seriously, who doesn’t buy Popsicle for a sore throat or during summer in AZ?) It doesn’t matter. Poor people are other. They must be and must deserve to be, otherwise anyone can become poor and that just scares the shit out of people. It should scare people but it should scare them into ending our war on poor people. Instead, it makes a nasty harmful mentality of control the undeserving underclass.

    Every day it’s pick, pick pick and poke, poke, poke and push, push, push. This alcohol tax now would be just another thing to push.

  89. birgerjohansson says

    When Sweden joined the EU we had to reduce our taxes on alcohol*. The consumption promptly increased.

    *because the alcohol lobby in EU makes sure it is regarded as just another commodity.

  90. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I’m no fan of treating crime as a war, but you can hardly hold up the response to a bunch of guys running around with guns and bombs as a typical example of how the police operates.

    As an example, your average British police force is usually capable of fielding an “armed response unit” to deal with that minority of situations where lethal force might be needed, but the guys running around with light machine guns and sniper rifles are hardly representative of the pepper-spray-toting median police officer.

    (This is not to say that the US doesn’t have a big problem with the militarisation of its police forces, but that’s one heck of a poor way to try to make that case.)

    An American, writing about conditions in America? Well, I never!

    British

    (…I thought that was just a stereotype).

  91. thumper1990 says

    @Uncle Ebeneezer

    As Mike Wilmott said, “I’m a drinker. Well, in Canada I’m a drinker. In America, I’m an alcoholic. But in England, I’m normal! And in Ireland, I’m a pussy.”

    I think the international stereotype is that Canadians drink more than USians. It would appear statistics back that up.

  92. Nakkustoppeli says

    The article states that alcohol use and alcohol related deaths spiked in Finland in 2004 when alcohol taxes were lowered because of our southern neighbour Estonia (where alcohol is cheap) joining the EU. True enough. Even after the tax cuts alcohol is expensive here. I’m not sure if the most unfortunate homeless alcoholics still drink camping stove fuel or windshield washer fluid (denatured ethanol) but that has been common here.

    Regarding the use of alcohol as medication, back in 15th century in the Swedish Riksdag (parliament consisting of four estates), the Peasant Estate was long opposed to banning of home distillation because brännvin/viina (vodka) was the only medicine the peasants could afford. The fact that it’s still the case in one of the richest countries in the world is a shame.

  93. says

    Government taxing on goods in order to control, encourage, or dissuade certain citizen behavior seems to fit the definition of totalitarianism to me.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    totalitarianism doesn’t bother with the subtlety of trying to genlty nudge people into doing what it wants; it tells them to do what it wants at gunpoint.

    – – – – – – – – – – –
    JAL, you’re absolutely right to be upset at “sin taxes”; they’re bullshit, and they’re really just one more way to tell poor people that they need to be made to pay for problems they’re not causing.

  94. Turtles says

    Every time I see that picture it makes me laugh – it’s just big boys playing with big toys.

  95. says

    Government taxing on goods in order to control, encourage, or dissuade certain citizen behavior seems to fit the definition of totalitarianism to me.

    and on another note regarding this: what sort of mind looks at a picture of a highly militarized police force and an article about social programs meant to prevent crime, and picks the latter as an example of totalitarianism?

  96. Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts says

    JAL, you’re absolutely right to be upset at “sin taxes”

    Considering the programmes that those taxes help to fund and the fact that they don’t dissuade many people from consuming alcohol, it’s hard to characterise them as ‘sin taxes’.

    Also, it’s perhaps not a fair comparison between the US and Canada in terms of the cost of alcohol. Canada is a much richer country per capita than the US. Across the country, the minimum wage is a living wage and while it certainly can be difficult to get by, with health care and other programmes provided as a safety net (and partially paid for by alcohol consumption), people still have the income to purchase alcohol.

    It should be noted that, largely, the cost to drink in a bar is comparable to any major city in the US across the country. $5CAN mix drinks tends to be the average. This is because, in Ontario for instance, licensed establishments purchase alcohol from the LCBO (or private, licensed distributors) on a very different payment scheme than under what prices consumers purchase alcohol at. So, despite the cost of purchasing, one can still drink at a price not considerably different from that across America (of course, exceptions apply).

    I suppose it’s exactly the problem that the States don’t have anything like the socialist culture of Canada with the extensive (hardly complete or without problems) safety nets, or a livable minimum wage or the expectation for a relatively high standard of living even at the margins of low income. With exceptions, and the exceptions are serious and problematic, we have in place in Canada a coherent system that is codependent on it’s constituents. It’s quite easy for me to say that raising taxes on alcohol would be no big thing, but thinking about the fact that the system in Canada is fully integrated, I can see how it would seem impossible to implement a tax increase in the absence of the rest of the system that benefits from the tax. However, implementing such a system has to start somewhere and at least there’s revenue in taxes which could start to pay for, in part, such a system. It’s not a fix, it’s a start and it’s part of the solution. It can’t really be disputed that pricing alcohol at a certain point dissuades abuse and reduces some crime.

  97. md says

    Two terrorists terrify a city, go on a rampage, and a week after they are caught you start a post with a photo of that same cities police force and say the police are terrifying. Tsk, tsk, what poor taste. If the bombers never bombed you wouldn’t have that photo to post. I’ve been to Boston many times and never seen an armored vehicle cruising the streets with police in riot gear on every corner. That kind of response should be reserved for extraordinary situations and this was one of them. Three cheers for Boston PD for catching the killers.

    Which is not to say you don’t have a point. In precincts around the country SWAT teams are routinely called upon to serve felony warrants whether or not the suspect is thought dangerous. Sometimes this happens. I suppose there is an argument that says if the PD’s don’t have military grade equipment, they can’t mis-deploy it. Another argument would be to have some competent management with the restraint to reserve that force for those rare but real occasions when it is needed, like Boston last week.

    As for lead abatement, im intrigued by Drum’s implication that the 60’s never would have happened if it weren’t for the poor decision making as a result of too much lead ingestion. To read that rising rates of children born out of wedlock and indulging in drugs are a bad things to be avoided, rather than blows of liberation from the iron grip of the patriarchy and 50’s conformity right there in the pages of Mother Jones 2013 is contrarian indeed.

  98. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    WeedMonkey @ 114

    You also have this fitzy drink with acetaminophen in it?

    I tried it once and was pleasantly surprized that I could keep it down and that it kind of worked on my migraines. I’d like to find it here in Canada, as it would be much cheaper than Maxalt.

  99. Marcus Hill (dripping with unearned privilege) says

    See, if I were a terrorist, having a major metropolitan area grind to a halt would probably exceed my win conditions. Not only did London not shut down after 7/7, it also kept going after the failed bomb attempts a fortnight later even whilst the bombers were still at large and almost certainly intending to try again. People were saying even at that time that not carrying on as normal was letting them win.

    Nobody should “need” alcohol in place of medication, since everyone should have access to healthcare free at the point of delivery based on the need of the patient and not his/her ability to pay. Once you get beyond that point, I see some similarities between the arguments that “implementing alcohol pricing policies with proven effects in lowering crime shouldn’t be done as it impinges on the rights of people to have a beer” and arguments that “implementing gun control measures with proven effects in lowering crime shouldn’t be done as it impinges on the rights of people to buy guns”. The difference, of course, is that alcohol pricing disproportionately affects law abiding people on low incomes rather than middle class drinkers of real ale, decent wine and single malts like me, whereas gun control legislation is far less regressive. It’s a difficult problem, and hinges on whether (assuming you’ve got a non-barbaric health system) you view alcohol as a basic human need. The UK government recently dropped plans to introduce a minimum pricing law for alcohol – not because of the arguments about it being recessive (don’t be silly, they’re Conservatives), but because of pressure from the drinks companies. I’m genuinely torn on this one.

  100. WharGarbl says

    Um… need a little help here. I clicked on the article, and it listed just 7 things.
    1. Reduce lead.
    2. Increase alcohol taxes.
    3. Foster care
    4. Better police
    5. After school sports
    6. Preschool
    7. Target gang.
    And after that… nothing.
    Unless some of those numbered list contains more than 1 thing to do (that total up to 12).

  101. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    To read that rising rates of children born out of wedlock and indulging in drugs are a bad things to be avoided, rather than blows of liberation from the iron grip of the patriarchy and 50′s conformity right there in the pages of Mother Jones 2013 is contrarian indeed.

    Only when your mind is so hopelessly mired into deontologism as to conflate “children born out of wedlock” with “children raised without sufficient parental resources” and “indulging in drugs” with “pathological substance abuse”.

  102. says

    PZ’s post is titled “How do we reduce crime?” One way to reduce crime would be to elect representatives that are smart enough to pass laws that will reduce crime. All too often, Republican state lawmakers do not fit into this category. Stella Tremblay, a New Hampshire legislator is one example:

    Huff Po link.
    State Rep. Stella Tremblay (R-Auburn) posted on conservative talk show host Glenn Beck’s Facebook page Friday that the attack and the subsequent search for suspects was playing out how Beck had suggested. She said the bombings were a plot by the federal government, and included a link to a video from another conservative talk show host Alex Jones, in which Jones also claims the federal government planned the bombing. Tremblay’s message to Beck was posted Friday morning, before suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested.

    Daily Kos link.
    Tremblay is making wild claims that the United States government is the entity responsible for the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Seriously. We’ve heard/seen it from the Infowars nuts, and now it turns out that one of those Infowars nuts is representing constituents in the state government of New Hampshire. Jesus.

    Tremblay flashed her conspiracy theorist creds on Glenn Beck’s Facebook page, appropriately. Take a gander at what she had to say. She even cited Infowars:

    Just as you said would happen. Top Down, Bottom UP. The Boston Marathon was a Black Ops “terrorist” attack. One suspect killed, the other one will be too before they even have a chance to speak. Drones and now “terrorist” attacks by our own Government. Sad day, but a “wake up” to all of us. First there was a “suspect” then there wasnt. Infowars broke the story and they knew they had been “found out”.

    Maddow Blog link.
    …Tremblay is also a birther who recently argued that former President Woodrow Wilson agreed with Adolf Hitler, despite the fact that Wilson died before Hitler rose to power. One of Tremblay’s aides believes the U.S. government is under the control of Queen Elizabeth II.

    Pressed for an explanation by a local news outlet, the New Hampshire Republican said she had suspicions of some kind of plot involving Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi nationals, and “black ops” soldiers.

    Say hello to the Glenn Beck wing of the Republican Party….

  103. says

    In reference to my post @123, I probably should have included Steve Benen’s analysis (see quote below) which dismisses the lone-nutter conclusion about Tremblay and Beck:

    …before you dismiss this as the strange rants of a crazed and largely unknown state lawmaker, let’s not overlook the fact that last week, Beck used his Internet show to push a bogus claim about a Boston suspect, but his arguments quickly drew attention from the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, the chairman of the House subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, the chairman of the House subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, and the chairwoman of the House subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security — all of whom are Republicans, and all of whom took Beck’s nonsense seriously.

    There’s a strain of madness running through contemporary Republican politics, and it runs deeper than just some random state lawmaker in New Hampshire.

  104. says

    @WharGarbl @121:

    I just scroll down and get:
    8. Confiscate already illegal guns.
    9. Reach out to parents.
    10. Mentors and teachers can help.
    11. Therapy (specifically, effective therapeutic approaches).
    12. Street lighting.

    Perhaps you just need to refresh the page?

  105. says

    JAL: THANK YOU.

    Seriously. Shades of the same poor-hating elitist bullshit that Mike Bloomberg’s pulling in NYC. Do some people here realize how fucking patronizing they sound?

    md:

    To read that rising rates of children born out of wedlock and indulging in drugs are a bad things to be avoided…

    How dare women have children without being properly owned by a man first. How dare people wish to alter their consciousnesses in a way that doesn’t benefit corporate America.

  106. says

    What about the time when me and him self-medicated our extreme tooth pain with alcohol? We couldn’t afford to get any actual care for it (until you guys donated to me, and even that didn’t fix everything and I’m sure it’s going to happen again) so with the tax we’ll be left screaming in pain because we can’t get any help.

    o.O Uh… Unless you, for some reason, can’t take them, you are definitely better off with taking ibuprofen, which my dentist recommended, when one tooth went really bad, and I couldn’t like, get in the very next day for a root canal. It never even occurred to me to try “alcohol” as a solution, because, well.. I knew the amounts needed would be, way too much. Interestingly, my “first” solution was to take half of someone else’s Vicodin, which worked, but.. could have gotten me fired, if they had, for some reason, needed to drug test me. The ibuprofen worked “just as well”, while other things, like aspirin where completely bloody useless. Seems, different pain meds, even in the same “class” don’t always work the same way, on different nerves.

    But, yeah, the days when self medicating with alcohol made sense, for most people, should have been long gone. The only reason to do so, is because you want to spend more money that real meds, don’t know which ones to take, and you, and your job, don’t mind you skipping work for it.

  107. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    127
    Kagehi

    o.O Uh… Unless you, for some reason, can’t take them, you are definitely better off with taking ibuprofen,

    {…}
    The only reason to do so, is because you want to spend more money that real meds, don’t know which ones to take, and you, and your job, don’t mind you skipping work for it.

    First off, I DO still take ibuprofen. 800mg twice a day in fact. Still doesn’t keep the pain away all the time. So yeah, I know my pain and my situation better than you. Disregarding the fact I said I’m still taking pills and lecturing me is pissing me off so fuck you. You’re also assuming that I or my Roomie couldn’t drink some alcohol and go to work functioning, which is untrue. It doesn’t take a large amount to help us. We aren’t downing a 6 pack everyday. I said he drinks one or two after work and a beer or a shot of vodka when the pain is bad.

    And ‘more than real meds’ you mean the over the counter stuff? Still taking it, still more than alcohol considering how much I take of them to do any good. If you mean prescription, than that costs a fuck lot more. You don’t fucking know. This isn’t just one root canal tooth. Google image meth mouth for an idea of how bad my mouth is.

    Jesus fucking christ. How about a little self-fucking-reflection. Apparently, Daisy’s question is already answered: No, people don’t realize how patronizing they sound.

  108. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    o.O Uh… Unless you, for some reason, can’t take them, you are definitely better off with taking ibuprofen, which my dentist recommended, when one tooth went really bad, and I couldn’t like, get in the very next day for a root canal.

    o.O

    Ibuprophen isn’t even remotely effective on my migraines when they get out of control, so I can’t really imagine using only that for the kind of accute nerve pain JAL is describing – that’s the kind of stuff I’ve seen fentanyl patches and methadone prescribed for.

    Also, as a chronic ibuprophen user myself, let me tell you that using it for a few days and using it constantly are two very different kinds of things. It has more or less destroyed my stomach. Sometimes you get GERD so bad that Zantac has fuck-all effect on it and you’d rather take the damn pain. All NSAIDS, OTC or not, share this problem.

  109. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    JAL: Isn’t it helpful when people decide they’re completely aware of your pain situation and how to deal with it?

    And seriously, the idea of pricing a beer out of the reach of the working poor is just so very much bullshit. For one, it wouldn’t work, because making booze is easy. For another, yes! Let’s make illegal drugs easier to get and more convenient! Enrich those cartels and private prisons! Fucking modern sumptuary laws.

  110. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    kemist: Yep, regular high doses of ibuprofen is mostly just a giant middle finger to your stomach, on the off chance it works.

  111. says

    Ibuprophen isn’t even remotely effective on my migraines when they get out of control, so I can’t really imagine using only that for the kind of accute nerve pain JAL is describing

    Migraines are a different problem entirely. What does work with them is “proactive” use, prior to the start of pain, of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine. The reason seems to be that its not just “pain” but a complex set of issues with everything from nerve reactions, to blood flow, and vessel constriction. There is some research going on that suggests they may have found one of the trigger points for it, and that there may, at some point, be a more precise target, to prevent them. But, at this point, once you have one, short of unconsciousness, there is damn near nothing that will end one. Well, unless you believe House, and can find a) acid, and b) the counter agent he took, to reduce the other side effects. lol

    In any case, I wouldn’t take ibuprofen for migraines. It won’t work on them, at all. And, if it does… its probably not a real one.