Gentrification in Baltimore

Monday, May 18th, 2015

The fact of urban gentrification in Baltimore is that hipster homesteaders have moved into traditional working-class white enclaves:

These areas were sought by the first hipster pioneers to benefit from the protection of the tough whites in those areas who had held out against the black-on-white race purge that was the 70’s and 80’s in Baltimore. The end result is that the housing values go up so much that the working and poor whites must move out as they can’t pay the taxes.

Recently, beginning in the 2000s, Johns Hopkins University and Hospital have been buying up vast swaths of vacant property in East Baltimore [where Boomy the Nigerian cabby rescued the ‘blonde woman of the yuppies’] and along the Charles Village Corridor. This was in response to blacks preying on hospital and university staff. These large institutions are buying up the criminal seed beds which constitute perhaps a third of the black Baltimore economy [with welfare constituting roughly another third]. This has caused more damage to the drug gangs than any police action, and is covered in the final season of The Wire. Over the past two years a concerted effort to discourage white resettlement of Baltimore has been made by black criminal residents. However, the news spin and statistical manipulation engaged in by the leftist city government has successfully blinded the prospective home buyers of these facts until it is too late.

It is no accident that the prime targets of the mob attacks were the Shoppers supermarket [which was successfully defended thanks to the early warnings put out by black cashiers from the neighborhood], and the CVS drug store which the Mayor gave orders not to defend. Both of these locations were only established due to city government initiatives to bring businesses into the neighborhood.

Note that the most successful pockets of gentrification such as South Baltimore, Locust Point and Canton, fared better than the Hopkins controlled areas and the others, because they are neighborhoods with their backs against the water, and raiders have only one way out, with Locust Point, which terminates in Fort Mchenry National Park, being a virtual fortified position.

With the white trash priced out of the community, the protective basis for resettlement is now gone. Without nasty whites to fight the blacks at street level, and with the police now exposed as enfeebled, the hunt for Whitey is on in earnest. This is how I have lived my life, as a white hunted by blacks across an urban crimescape, what H.L Mencken famously called, “the ruins of a once great medieval city.”

The Real Problem With America’s Inner Cities

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

America is not reverting to earlier racist patterns, Orlando Patterson writes — in the New York Times:

[C]alling for a national conversation on race is a cliché that evades the real problem we now face: on one hand, a vicious tangle of concentrated poverty, disconnected youth and a culture of violence among a small but destructive minority in the inner cities; and, on the other hand, of out-of-control law-enforcement practices abetted by a police culture that prioritizes racial profiling and violent constraint.

First, we need a more realistic understanding of America’s inner cities. They are socially and culturally heterogeneous, and a great majority of residents are law-abiding, God-fearing and often socially conservative.

According to recent surveys, between 20 and 25 percent of their permanent residents are middle class; roughly 60 percent are solidly working class or working poor who labor incredibly hard, advocate fundamental American values and aspire to the American dream for their children. Their youth share their parents’ values, expend considerable social energy avoiding the violence around them and consume far fewer drugs than their white working- and middle-class counterparts, despite their disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates.

In all inner-city neighborhoods, however, there is a problem minority that varies between about 12.1 percent (in San Diego, for example) and 28 percent (in Phoenix) that comes largely from the disconnected youth between ages 16 and 24. Most are not in school and are chronically out of work, though their numbers are supplemented by working- and middle-class dropouts. With few skills and a contempt for low-wage jobs, they subsist through the underground economy of illicit trading and crime. Many belong to gangs.

Their street or thug culture is real, with a configuration of norms, values and habits that are, disturbingly, rooted in a ghetto brand of core American mainstream values: hypermasculinity, the aggressive assertion and defense of respect, extreme individualism, materialism and a reverence for the gun, all inflected with a threatening vision of blackness openly embraced as the thug life.

Such street culture is simply the black urban version of one of America’s most iconic traditions: the Wild West.

Police Legions

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Riot police may look vaguely like Roman legionaries, but they certainly don’t fight like Roman legionaries — or fight at all, really:

Some of the police are unfit, some female, and most of them are having trouble seeing with the head gear on, causing them to lift their chins and expose themselves to the type of damaging blow taken by the casualty. This engagement is a classic rout of a superior heavy force by a mobile light force. These cops have not been trained to work as a unit larger than two, and many of them seem unable to stay in the front rank out of sheer timidity. I could only imagine what a Roman Centurian would have done to these slackers.

They’re also not allowed to fight. We can’t ignore that.

I can’t help but think that they could use an Israeli-style sniper of one kind or another.

Useless and Out of Control

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

Baltimore-resident James Lafond talks to a 35-year-old Nigerian cab driver at 2:30 in the morning during the recent troubles:

“Sir, thank Dear Jesus above that I am alive! I made good money tonight. People did not want the buses, were being targeted at bus stops. I was driving down Eastern Avenue into Canton and Fells Point to see if anyone needed a ride. You know, Sir, it is all yuppies moving in up there. The demographics have changed, and these yuppies cannot fend for themselves. So I was looking out for them, suspecting a need for help. I got to Fell’s Point and the blacks were coming with sticks and bricks so I pulled out. Not a cop in sight.

“I headed back east up this way looking for needful people. As I was crossing Alicane I saw ten black men with heavy clubs. They were about to cross the street. On the other side of the street was this blonde woman, just standing, wondering, waiting for the bus — a woman of the yuppies. I U-turned and pulled up, saying, ‘Miss get in, quick!’

“She dove in and I pulled off with the blacks in pursuit.

[This guy is blacker than any American black I have met. I like his accent.]

“The lady directed me to her home at Highland and Fayette. When I pulled across Highland these fifteen black men wave me over to them. They wanted the blonde woman!

“I did a U-urn and screeched wheels and they began firing handguns at us — boom, boom, boom! I thought we would die, but their fire discipline is as poor as their manners.

“I took the lady to a hotel, and we both thanked Dear Jesus above.”

I asked him, “What is your name, Sir?”

“Boomy, Sir, I am Boomy — a Christian. What is your name, Sir?

“James.”

“Well Sir James, I have something to say, and I do not wish you to take insult from it.”

“Sure, Boomy, what is it?”

“Sir, I love America — your wonderful country, and am glad to be blessed in being here. But your mayor is a stupid woman that should be married off to Boko Haram, and your n—–s, Sir — your n—–s are useless and out of control, and need to be shipped off somewhere very far away from decent people. Good day, Sir, and God bless!”

The World’s Leading Cause of Homicide

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Gottschall went through a mid-life crisis before finding MMA:

But this crisis about fighting and about courage and about whether I was brave is an old crisis. I was a very late bloomer as a kid. I came into my adult size and muscle very late. Whenever I was confronted in the schoolyard, I found some way to avoid the fight. I ran for it. I backed down. Psychologically and emotionally, that isn’t a low-cost course of action for most boys. You avoid a physical beating, but you pay a real social and psychological cost for it. Those moments of walking away from fights, even though I knew it was the rational and civilized thing to do, cost me tremendously. I think that’s why I finally got in that cage to fight.

People say the duel is dead. The duel really isn’t dead in the sense of escalating conflict over honor. It’s now what it always was — the world’s leading cause of homicide — when one guy brushes another guy’s shoulder in a bar and says, “Hey, man, what the fuck?” Before you know it, they’re bashing each other over the head with beer bottles. That’s a kind of duel.

How Riots Start, and How They Can Be Stopped

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Riots are more common in democracies, Edward Glaeser notes — writing at the time of the London riots a few years ago:

The deadliest was the 1863 Draft Riot. More than 120 people were killed when the streets of Manhattan were taken over by protesters, many of them immigrants, who were furious at the prospect of having to fight in the Civil War.

In the early decades of the 20th century, cities such as Atlanta and Chicago were torn apart as whites attacked newly urban blacks for perceived transgressions. Chicago’s 1919 riot began when a child crossed an invisible racial barrier while swimming in Lake Michigan. In the 1960s, there was widespread unrest. In many cases, including the 1965 Watts Riot, the violence began with an argument over law enforcement.

These public disturbances are a classic example of tipping-point phenomena, which occur when there is some positive feedback mechanism that makes an activity more attractive, or less costly, as more people do it.

There is a tipping point in rioting because the cost of participating — the risk of going to jail — gets lower as the number of people involved increases. If I decided to start rioting tomorrow in Harvard Square to express my outrage at the closing of the beloved Curious George children’s bookstore, it’s a pretty good bet that I would be immediately arrested. But if thousands of others were involved, I’d probably get off scot free. The police would be overwhelmed, and my probability of incarceration would fall to zero.

Thus, riots occur when the shear mass of rioters overwhelms law enforcement. But how do these mass events get started?

In some cases, such as the New York Draft Riot, organizers get people out on the street. In others, such as the 1965 Watts Riot, a peaceful crowd provides cover for initial lawlessness. Sporting events, such as Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Vancouver this year, can easily produce the crowds that allow a riot to start. Most strangely, riots can follow an event that creates a combination of anger and the shared perception that others will be rioting. The acquittal of police officers in the Rodney King case seems to have created these conditions in Los Angeles in 1992.

The London riots appear to have had a simpler starting point. About 300 people gathered at a police station to protest the shooting of a 29-year-old suspect. Once there were so many angry people in one place, setting fire to an empty police car became a low-risk piece of pyrotechnics for the protesters.

After riots, there is often an attempt to explain the outburst as the result of large societal forces. The events in the U.K. have been blamed on growing inequality and the current government’s austerity program. The disorder in the U.S. in the 1960s was attributed to racism.

But across U.S. cities, there has never been much of a link between unrest and either inequality or poverty. In fact, the riots of the 1960s were actually slightly more common in cities that had more government spending. Riots were significantly less common in the South, where the Jim Crow laws were making their long overdue exit. This isn’t to say that many people involved in riots don’t have valid grievances, but plenty of people have serious grievances and don’t riot.

Somewhat paradoxically, even though the police often provide the flash point for these outbreaks, larger police expenditures per capita in a city in 1960 was associated with fewer arrests and arsons when riots occurred. Even if a riot provides a wakeup call for police reform, in the short run, the outbreaks typically end only when there is enough law enforcement to ensure that such behavior leads to arrests.

I hope the U.K. can handle its violence with a purely police response, but in the U.S. restoring law has typically meant bringing in the military. The 1863 Draft Riot ended when federal troops arrived after a long march from Maryland. Detroit’s terrible 1967 tumult ended with tanks on the streets. The National Guard was deployed in Los Angeles in 1992. Trying to stop a riot with too small a force can often lead to more, not less, bloodshed, because as the riot continues, vigilantes step in and beleaguered policemen can resort to brutality.

My colleague Christopher Stone has argued that there is another lesson about fighting riots to be learned from the incidents in the Paris suburbs in 2005, and the violence that didn’t happen during the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004. In France, the police initially arrested relatively few people, but sought serious criminal penalties for those they did arrest. The New York Police Department arrested more than 1,000 people and let them go. The New York strategy protected the city; the French strategy wasn’t as effective.

The lesson: Light penalties widely applied and serious penalties applied to a few can both deter unlawful behavior. This is a central conclusion of Gary Becker’s path-breaking economic analysis of crime and punishment. But in the case of riots, it is awfully hard to actually prove wrongdoing and extremely important to clear the streets. Arresting widely and temporarily can be far more effective.

A Good Guy with a Gun

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

We have yet another example of a good guy with a handgun stopping a slaughter, in the recent Garland, Texas shooting, where a police officer apparently used his .45-caliber Glock to stop two AK-armed terrorists before their rampage got started in earnest. An unarmed security guard got shot in the ankle, but no one else was harmed:

The national media has gone to great lengths to try and discount the potential impact of someone with a firearm and the knowledge to use it making any positive difference in an intended mass-casualty event, but every time there is armed resistance present at the opening stages of an intended slaughter it turns out completely different to the plans of the bad guys. A sixty year old off-duty police officer armed with a handgun saw these two chuckleheads roll up and open fire…and apparently without hesitation he pulled his pistol out and used it to excellent effect. Kudos, sir. I hope you remain anonymous for the sake of your personal safety, but I think I speak for tens of millions of people when I say I’d like to buy you a beer and a few boxes of ammo. You. Rock.

Two dudes with AKs bent on slaughter versus one guy with a pistol is some pretty bad math on paper… but violence doesn’t happen on paper. In the real world the ability to put a bullet exactly where it needs to be exactly when it needs to be there can make the critical difference. From what I’m hearing, the good guy here fired his weapon with exceptional accuracy delivering hits on both terrorists that were almost instantaneously physiologically debilitating if not instantly mortal. If you want a handgun to make someone stop their violent actions, you have to put the bullets in important bits of their anatomy. There’s no better way to overcome being outnumbered and outgunned than putting bullets into the hearts and central nervous systems of the bad guys with lethal efficiency.

A Time for Men

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Baltimore, the Greatest City in AmericaJames Lafond, who lives in Baltimore, suggests we may be entering another time for men:

I have noticed that many libertarians and masculinity advocates in their 30s and 40s are hoping for civil unrest and government breakdown so that men may once against find a place in society along traditional lines, as protectors, as the strength of a family, or the autonomous drivers of a business.

[...]

Commercial districts and residential areas were patrolled by gangs of 5–15 mature black men with clubs, unopposed by police, but easily deterred by the two gun armed white men who stood up to them. The professional gun-armed black criminals were staging home invasions, drug stash-house raids, and stealthy break-ins of high value targets under cover of darkness and were not present as officers with the bully packs, as they were in Rwanda, making these incursion teams shy away from organized and/or gun-armed white men.

Approximately 12 murders were reported on social media and are, just now — a week later — being looked into by police and the media. I theorize that as many additional drug gang executions and assassinations took place during this period, and that the riots and zero police presence outside of the riot zones, has facilitated easy disposal of the bodies and blocked any effective investigation. It seems likely to infer that the three gangs that organized these riots: the Cripps, Bloods and Black Guerilla Family, have strengthened themselves at the expense of rival crews, which may therefore alter the scope of the next round of unrest in ways I could only guess at.

Over 200 businesses, including at least 13 pharmacies, and up to a third of liquor stores, have been wiped from the face of the earth, many of them minority businesses which are uninsured and will not recover. This places the drug gangs in a position to expand the illegal economy in areas where businesses will not return — as they did not return after the 1968 riots — which offsets losses of territory recently suffered at the hands of Johns Hopkins Hospital and University buying up drug territory.

[...]

The leaders and academics of our sick corrupt society have labored for nearly two centuries to emasculate our young men from the cradle to the grave.

I now observe, through what of my primal man’s eye I have been able to salvage from this systematic assault on my humanity, that all it takes is a few urban savages to rip the mask away from the slave mistress that owns us to expose her for the impotent squabbling bitch that she is, and open the door for men to be men once again, as the lie that encases our souls crumbles to dust with every fumbling falsehood that falls flat beneath the reality of naked force. The hooting black heathens that have hunted me in the streets of Baltimore for over 30 years might be my enemies, but they at least acknowledge my manhood as they probe for my every weakness, and have struck a resounding blow against the slave mistress society that seeks with its every apparatus to render me weak to the point of meek.

The Enemy of My Enemy is Still My Enemy, and I recognize his achievement, even as I prepare to oppose him.

(Hat tip to our Slovenian guest.)

Baltimore Cop in the Hood

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

A former Baltimore cop explains things:

You know, cops are put in this horrible position where they have to solve the problems of America that nobody wants to deal with. The same idiots who burned shit down Monday, they’re gonna be there today and tomorrow. The cops are always dealing with them, whether they’re burning things down or not. They’re always there.

I was speaking to a cop, a black guy from East Baltimore, and he’s like look, “Cops reflect where they work. Yeah they can be dicks, but that’s the neighborhood they’re working in. Whether they’re from there or not, they end up speaking the language of the ghetto.”

[...]

And they feel that outsiders, particularly liberals and the media don’t really understand what cops have to deal with. They know things are fucked up, but we put cops in an impossible situation. We tell them to do the best they can, and then when an individual cop messes up, everybody blames the police. And cops feel strangely victimized by this system — they’re put in the middle and used as political tools.

[...]

Of course, another thing is that most people who can leave have left. And so, in these pockets, how can you have good community relations when a substantial number of people are actively or passively involved in crime?

I think there are a lot of cops that just say, “Fuck ‘em, they want burn their neighborhood, let ‘em.” But on the other hand, the cops are out there putting their lives on the line to save their city.

This jumped out:

What does a cop feel when the police begin assembling as they did on Monday to confront unrest?

Whatever they’re doing, keep in mind, they’ve never done it before. They’ve never really trained for this. We had like a half day of riot training in the academy. There’s fear, but mostly of the unknown. You’re going to work and kissing your loved ones and you don’t know what the hell you’re going into. You don’t know if and when you’re coming home. You don’t know. I try not be a cop cheerleader, but they could, at some point, say, “Fuck it, I quit. I don’t like this job anyway.”

There are still swaths of vacant lots in the Eastern District that haven’t recovered from the ’68 riot, he notes.

Psychopathic violent offenders’ brains can’t understand punishment

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Psychopathic offenders are different from regular criminals in many ways:

“Regular criminals are hyper-responsive to threat, quick-tempered and aggressive, while psychopaths have a very low response to threats, are cold, and their [aggression] is premeditated,” added Dr. Nigel Blackwood, who is affiliated with King’s College London. “Evidence is now accumulating to show that both types of offenders present abnormal, but distinctive, brain development from a young age.”

[...]

While inside the brain scanner, the violent offenders and non-offenders completed a task that assessed their ability to adjust their behaviour when the consequences of their responses changed from positive to negative. The task was an image matching game — sometimes points were awarded for correctly pairing images, sometimes they weren’t. “When these violent offenders completed neuropsychological tasks, they failed to learn from punishment cues, to change their behaviour in the face of changing contingencies, and made poorer quality decisions despite longer periods of deliberation,” Blackwood explained.

The researchers also examined activity across the brain during the completion of the task. “We found that the violent offenders with psychopathy, as compared to both the violent offenders without psychopathy and the non-offenders, displayed abnormal responding to punishment within the posterior cingulate and insula when a previously rewarded response was punished. Our previous research had shown abnormalities in the white matter tract connecting these two regions. In contrast, the violent offenders without psychopathy showed brain functioning similar to that of the non-offenders,” Blackwood explained. “These results suggest the violent offenders with psychopathy are characterized by a distinctive organization of the brain network that is used to learn from punishment and from rewards.”

Deciding on what to do involves generating a list of possible actions, weighing the negative and positive consequences of each, and hopefully choosing the behaviour most likely to lead to a positive outcome. “Offenders with psychopathy may only consider the possible positive consequences and fail to take account of the likely negative consequences. Consequently, their behavior often leads to punishment rather than reward as they had expected,” Hodgins said. “Punishment signals the necessity to change behaviour. Clearly, in certain situations, offenders have difficulty learning from punishment to change their behaviour.”

(Hat tip to Peter Turchin.)

Marijuana Taxes

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

Colorado’s marijuana tax collections are not as high as expected:

In February 2014, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office projected Colorado would take in $118 million in taxes on recreational marijuana in its first full year after legalization. With seven months of revenue data in, his office has cut that projection and believes it will collect just $69 million through the end of the fiscal year in June, a miss of 42 percent.

That figure is consequential in two ways. First, it’s a wide miss. Second, compared with Colorado’s all-funds budget of $27 billion, neither $69 million nor $118 million is a large number.

There are lessons for other states:

Because of low public support for marijuana prohibition, many jurisdictions have intentionally lax enforcement around illegal marijuana markets. This often shows up as a wink-wink culture around medical access. (See, for example, “Medical Kush Doctor” signs that once adorned storefronts in Venice, Calif.) After legalization, that culture of lax enforcement can be a barrier to tax collection.

Another lesson is that marijuana taxes should be “specific excise” taxes per unit of intoxicant. In most states, cigarettes are taxed by the pack and alcohol by the liter. Marijuana could similarly be taxed by the gram (either of plant or of T.H.C.), which would protect states from revenue declines if pretax prices fall.

Taxes on intoxicants are meant to offset the negative social effects of intoxicant use; the size of those effects should not be expected to vary with market price.

But even if Colorado got all this right, improved revenues would not be among the most important effects that marijuana legalization has on the state.

“Tax revenue is nice to have, but in most states is not going to be enough to change the budget picture significantly,” Mr. Kleiman says. “The stakes in reducing criminal activity and incarceration and protecting public health are way higher than the stakes in generating revenue.”

The Mind of Those Who Kill, and Kill Themselves

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Erica Goode looks into the mind of those who kill, and kill themselves, and writes — without irony, in the New York Times — that such killers seek fame, glory, or attention:

Before Adam Lanza, 20, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, killed 20 children, six adults and himself in 2012, he wrote in an online forum, “Just look at how many fans you can find for all different types of mass murderers.”

Robert Hawkins, 19, who committed suicide after killing eight people at a shopping mall in Omaha in 2007, left a note saying “I’m gonna be famous,” punctuating the sentence with an expletive.

And Dylan Klebold, 17, of Columbine High School fame, bragged that the goal was to cause “the most deaths in U.S. history…we’re hoping. We’re hoping.”

“Directors will be fighting over this story,” Mr. Klebold said in a video made before the massacre.

Yes, let’s repeat their stories in the most important newspaper in the country, maybe the world.

The standard comic-book supervillain motivation — “a towering narcissism, a strong sense of grievance and a desire for infamy” — seems to describe these killers surprisingly well:

Serious mental illness, studies of mass killers suggest, is a prime driver in a minority of cases — about 20 percent, according to estimates by several experts. Far more common are distortions of personality — excesses of rage, paranoia, grandiosity, thirst for vengeance or pathological narcissism and callousness.

“The typical personality attribute in mass murderers is one of paranoid traits plus massive disgruntlement,” said Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist in New York who recently completed a study of 228 mass killers, many of whom also killed themselves.

“They want to die, but to bring many others down with them, whether co-workers, bosses, family members or just plain folk who are in the vicinity.”

Murder-suicides are rare — maybe 1,000 to 1,500 deaths per year — and murder-suicides involving strangers are rarer still — and different in character:

In domestic cases, depression does appear to play a significant role. A recent psychological autopsy study of murder-suicides in Dallas, most of which involved domestic violence, found that 17 of the 18 perpetrators met the diagnostic criteria for major depression or some other form of the illness.

The study, conducted by Dr. Knoll and Dr. Susan Hatters Friedman, a forensic psychiatrist at Case Western, found that a majority of the killers also abused alcohol or drugs. Four had a family history of suicide. The study has been submitted to a scientific journal.

Domestic murder-suicides are almost always impulsive — committed in fits of rage or jealousy, often enabled by the presence of a firearm. In contrast, killers who take groups of strangers as targets plan their crimes carefully, waiting for an opportunity to act.

Continue reading the main story
And while domestic murder-suicides are frequently fueled by alcohol, people who plan ahead to kill themselves and others seem concerned about keeping a clear mind for the task ahead.

Stopping Crimes Before They Start

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

“Would-be criminals tend to rethink their nefarious plans when there’s an airship hovering overhead”:

Gotham Police Airships

They aren’t talking about Gotham, but Los Angeles, and they’re not talking about actual airships, but helicopters — and they’re not really talking about stopping crimes before they start in some kind of precog sense, either, just patrolling hotspots:

The Los Angeles Police Department began exploring the deterrent approach a few years ago with a new model called predictive policing that deployed officers and patrol cars to areas where data suggested crime was more likely to occur.

Criminologists say the use of helicopters is a natural, if highly unusual, expansion of that policing strategy.

So far, LAPD officials say, the stats show the strategy is having a positive effect. Months of data show that the number of serious crimes reported in the LAPD’s Newton Division in South L.A. fell during weeks when the helicopters conducted more flights.

The Dark Science of Interrogation

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Five years ago, President Obama created the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which has funded studies into the dark science of interrogation:

Not too long ago, as part of a test designed by psychologist Melissa Russano, a young woman in a tank top sat at a table with a look of growing apprehension, hunched protectively over her handbag. A student, she had just taken an exam, and a test administrator was accusing her of cheating: Her answers, he said, matched up with those of another student. The administrator said he had just called the professor running the study and reported that he was not at all happy. “He may consider this cheating, I don’t know,” the man said, with sympathy. “I’m sure you didn’t know it would be such a big problem to be sharing. I probably would have done the same thing if I were in your shoes…. It would ease my professor up if you were seen to be cooperating.” He slid a piece of paper toward her with a confession written on it.

“I don’t think I should sign it. I didn’t do anything,” said the student. Shaking her head, her face pursed in disgust, she signed. As it turned out, she was innocent.

A decade ago, Russano, a professor at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, set out to design a study that would replicate the social and emotional dynamics of a real interrogation in the lab, where conditions could be controlled. And where, unlike in the messy world of actual cases, the truthfulness of confessions could be easily evaluated. Her study had subjects take a cognitive ability test in a room with another student. Half the time the second student, who was actually working for Russano, would ask for help. The test subjects knew it was against the rules, but most would willingly share their answers. Later, after the test administrator had ostensibly looked over some of the results, he would come back, say there was a potential issue, and leave the subject to stew alone in a room for five minutes. Then some version of the interaction above, taken from a video of one subject, would unfold.

Russano was interested in testing what have long been the twin poles of interrogation styles: “minimization” and “maximization.” They’re forms of coercion that correspond, roughly, to “good cop, bad cop.” Minimization plays down the significance of the crime and offers potential excuses for it — “you just meant to scare her” or “anyone in your situation would have done the same thing.” Maximization plays it up, confrontationally presenting incriminating evidence and refusing to allow any response except a confession. The two are the most widely used tools in the American police interrogator toolkit. The Army Field Manual, which governs all military interrogations, lists approved maximization methods such as “Emotional Fear-Up” and “Emotional-Pride and Ego-Down.”

[...]

“Guilty people are more likely to confess” when minimization and maximization are used, she says. “The problem is, so are innocent people.” Minimization alone nearly doubled the number of cheaters who confessed in her studies. But it tripled the number of noncheaters who falsely confessed. The videos of those false confessions make for fascinating viewing. Some are angry, some resigned. One young woman keeps her composure until the test administrator leaves the room with her signed confession, then dissolves into tears.

[...]

Russano is still running versions of that first interrogation study, changing the script to see how it affects the outcome. In one iteration, she explored whether minimization could be purged of the implicit offer of leniency. She had her interrogators be sympathetic, even flattering — saying things such as, “I am sure you are a good person, and no one wants to be accused of cheating or breaking the rules” — but without playing down the seriousness of the offense or its potential punishment. They got just as many true confessions that way, but far fewer false ones.

Research has also found that the biggest difference between professional and amateur lie detectors is that professionals are much more confident in their abilities — despite the fact that they’re no better at it.

The End of South Africa

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Things are very bad in South Africa:

When the scourge of apartheid was finally smashed to pieces in 1994, the country seemed to have a bright future ahead of it. Eight years later, in 2002, 60 percent of South Africans said life had been better under apartheid. Hard to believe — but that’s how bad things were in 2002. And now they’re even worse.

When apartheid ended, the life expectancy in South Africa was 64 — the same as in Turkey and Russia. Now it’s 56, the same as in Somalia. There are 132.4 rapes per 100,000 people per year, which is by far the highest in the world: Botswana is in second with 93, Sweden in third with 64; no other country exceeds 32.

Wait, Sweden?

The Swedish police recorded the highest number of offences – about 63 per 100,000 inhabitants – of any force in Europe, in 2010. The second-highest in the world.

This was three times higher than the number of cases in the same year in Sweden’s next-door neighbour, Norway, and twice the rate in the United States and the UK. It was more than 30 times the number in India, which recorded about two offences per 100,000 people.

On the face of it, it would seem Sweden is a much more dangerous place than these other countries.

But that is a misconception, according to Klara Selin, a sociologist at the National Council for Crime Prevention in Stockholm. She says you cannot compare countries’ records, because police procedures and legal definitions vary widely.

There are other factors, too.

Anyway, back to South Africa:

Before the end of apartheid, South African writer Ilana Mercer moved, with her family, to Israel; her father was a vocal opponent of apartheid, and was being harassed by South African security forces. A 2013 piece on World Net Daily quotes Mercer as saying, with all her anti-apartheid chops, that “more people are murdered in one week under African rule than died under detention of the Afrikaner government over the course of roughly four decades.” The South African government estimates that there are 31 murders per 100,000 people per year. Or about 50 a day. That would make South Africa the tenth most murderous country in the world, outpacing Rwanda, Mexico, and both Sudans. And that’s using South Africa’s official estimates — outside groups put the murder rate 100 percent higher. Choosing not to trust the South African authorities is a safe bet — South Africa’s government, which has been led by Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress since the end of apartheid, is outstandingly incompetent and corrupt.

Of course, de facto one-party rule doesn’t promote integrity. Unemployment is 25 percent, but President Jacob Zuma, of the ANC, recently spent $24 million of public money to add a pool and amphitheater to his private home. Not long after the story broke, he was elected to a second five-year term. Think-tank theorist Leon Louw, who helped defeat apartheid, calls the crime and corruption “a simple manifestation of the breakdown of the state. The government is just appallingly bad at everything it does: education, healthcare, infrastructure, security, everything that is a government function is in shambles.”

He adds — citing “anecdotal data” — that “most people don’t bother to report crimes.”

It appears that South Africa is about the most dangerous place you can be outside a war zone. What’s more worrying is the chance that it might become a war zone. Nelson Mandela was able to hold the “rainbow nation” together, but he’s passed on. Now, according to the human-rights organization Genocide Watch, South Africa is at pre-genocide stage 6 of 8: “Preparation.”

Genocide? Of which tribe?

With the country skidding toward anarchy, naturally, the people want to know whom they should blame. In 2010, a prominent member of the African National Congress named Julius Malema revived an old anti-apartheid song whose lyrics — says Genocide Watch — call for genocide: “Shoot the Boer, shoot, shoot.” “Boer” means “farmer” in Afrikaans; colloquially, it means “white South African.” Malema was ejected from the ANC and convicted of hate speech; he has since formed a new opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, which is currently the third largest party in parliament. Seven months after Malema’s conviction, President Zuma sang the genocide song himself, leading a crowd in a musical chant: “We are going to shoot them with machine guns, they are going to run… The cabinet will shoot them, with the machine gun… Shoot the Boer, we are going to hit them, they are going to run.” Watch the video on YouTube — it is surreal. Nelson Mandela’s successor, the president of South Africa, addresses a crowd of — according to the Guardian — tens of thousands, in a giant stadium, and calls for the murder of what amounts to about 10 percent of his constituents. Among the audience, uniformed members of the military dance.

According to Genocide Watch, the murder rate among South African white farmers is four times higher than among South Africans en masse. That rate increased every month after President Zuma sang his song, for as long as accurate records are available: The police have been ordered to stop reporting murders by race. The police have also disarmed and disbanded groups of farmer-minutemen, organized to provide mutual security. Consequently, says Genocide Watch, “their families” have been “subjected to murder, rape, mutilation and torture.” Meanwhile, “high-ranking ANC government officials… continuously refer to Whites as ‘settlers.’”

Josh Gelernter recommends that the settlers form their own Singapore-style city-state.