Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Crime and War Posting


I've been saving up a lot of ideas on crime, war, justice, pragmatism and valuation of life; and in this blog posting will try to display all of them as coherently as possible. This blog posting will jump around from abstract theory, all the way over to technological or legal specifics. I will have lots of links that are sometimes a fundamental read to understand what I am saying.

Also note that all crime I am concerned with relates to murder, theft, assault, intimidation, and harassment. I do not care what someone does in the privacy of their own home as long as it is not harming another person.

The poor and female are at the greatest risk

A common perception of pro-Law & Order types are as Republican/Conservative, are above the poverty line, own property, and support Law & Order to protect their private interests. I think the stereotype is largely true. I also think the Republican/wealthy demographic should not be the only ones pro-Law & Order. I believe many on the political Left, especially including the inner-city poor and independent single females, should be pro-Law & Order. Why?

Because the easiest targets for violent crime are the poor and the independent, single female.

Compare the lives of the wealthier and the poor or more frugal in inner-cities. Those with more means can buy a car, pay for parking at their condo and at their job, while the poorer, or more frugal, must travel in less of a bubble on the sidewalk and by bus. The point of greatest threat in the inner-city is on the sidewalk, the most basic and austere of all transportation choices. Sure, all can potentially be on that sidewalk. But citing the Washington DC underground walking corridors exclusively for government workers as an archetypical example, plebians walk the most unsafe routes.

And we do not have to stay in the city, focused on dangers faced by plebians going to work or shopping for groceries. For the single female, life has gotten wrought with danger in the wealthiest suburbs. In the Seattle metro area, the "Eastside" is a synonym for wealth, suburbia, and a life removed from the troubles of the city. Arpana Jinaga, 24, was a young woman with great promise in the software industry, living her dream working at an Eastside company and living near Microsoft headquarters. Someone broke through her apartment door (shattered the door jam), and strangled her to death. The case is unsolved. See more info here. Look up the cases of Eve Carson, and Anne Pressly to see more of the same trend.

This is properly a feminist issue. Why aren't feminists inflamed and vocal about such an immediate, quantifiable and objective threat? Because capital F Feminism as an institution is configured to go after systemic abuses of power such as the professional "glass ceiling", dominance of white men in the pantheon of great thinkers, and too many phallic symbols on billboards. When it comes to immediate measurable violence against women, Feminism tends to only prosecute if the perpetrator is a white male, or white cultural unit.

Women are dying in part because of this cultural dialogue paralysis. We need Feminism, we need more independent females, and we need them in the war against their truest threats.

Great Depression/Transition of the 21st century

We may all become poor as the economic trends of late 2008 spin us away from a hyper consumer/production world economy to something still industrial but with a new austere overall lifestyle. This means less money for everything, including pay for cops to come and rescue you, or investigate the murder next door.

Americans have a lot of disinformation thrown at them via TV and movies. On TV, the detectives work what seems to be thousands of man hours on any and every murder case. On TV, viewers are conditioned into thinking the police are capable of infinite labor. Recently I was watching Jericho, and was disappointed the writers promoted the idea of infinite resource in saving people, especially in a series about the collapse of all basic services in our economy due to a terrorist nuclear attack. This was not a crime solving issue, but still my point is about the continued "principled" myth of infinite labor and resource even in a plot about the upheaval of all our basic needs.

The solved case and bad guys sent away forever, if it happens at all, will have to be done with less money. If we don't start planning now for how to do law enforcement with far less funds, we may not have law enforcement.

There are several theorists pointing out with details a near future social collapse due to a total end of global consumerist economics. John Robb and Dmitry Orlov have the most detailed view of this future, and I recommend reading their blogs and books. Robb predicts an America that is like swiss cheese -pockets of crime/anarchy/chaos/miserable poverty called Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ). He predicts a future in which some regions/cities figure out how to do the new lower wage economy well, and others that simply rot into misery.

My crime and war ideas are corollary with this swiss cheese America in which some places are safe to live in and others are some form of dangerous. I believe we are already well along this path, and the extremes are becoming more pronounced. Examples: Phoenix Arizona is the 2nd highest rate for kidnapping in the world as of 2008, with over 370 for the year. Across America their are formerly nice suburbs now ghost towns due to foreclosure evictions. Drug users and sellers are filling the vacant houses, and creating an unsafe environment for the few remaining homeowners. My own mother and father were held at gunpoint in their suburban home, threatened out of their neighborhood by blacks wanting no white homeowners.

Jurisprudence, Justice and Public Safety

Read a news article about a court case involving a murderer. Most I've seen weave a story around justice and rights. In this story the inner motivations of the killer are weighed, or we muse about the value of the killer's life and take its value into account while meting out justice. For the more vengeful, reasoning is presented about the killer's life needing to be spent behind bars or terminated altogether for justice to prevail, basically an eye for an eye religion/ideology. The story may weigh the killer's change in personal values, and ask if the killer regrets the act ( repentant ).

In a war, or in a place in which murder is so prevalent it might as well be war, communities may not have the resources to hold court and slowly, cautiously parse the incident in question. Equal valuation of life without regard to economics is ultimately religious, with Secular Humanism and Catholicism being the main religion examples ( I see the apparent error in categorizing something secular as religious. Most Secular Humanists I know have a mystical, non-empirical, non-pragmatic approach to their ideology) . One has to believe in an unquantifiable framework of psychology, spiritual motivations, and the like for a discussion of justice, repentance, and equal valuation of the killer's life to make sense. In a tough austere world in which murderers are prevalent, and the means to stop them rely on depleted funds/resources of the community, we will likely switch off the long nuanced story of justice or repentance. We may turn to a short dialogue of pragmatism and empiricism with immediate public safety as the only goal. We may turn to whatever is the quickest, cheapest means of eradicating the problem.

An overarching theme emerges, that I am going to tag as a meta quality of the Depression/Transition era: everything is tactical.

We can still have ideals, and aspire, but these will need to address needs and vulnerabilities in the now, in the corporeal world.

Paradigmic Blur

In the Post 9/11 world, especially with the advent of swarm terrorism and system disruption, acts of war no longer look like two official armies going at it. Acts of war look like crime.

The "actors" in war and crime are beginning to blur also. Al-Qaeda and Mexican Drug Cartels, are they both simply organized crime, with the trafficking of Allah ( with opium a complimentary export ) and cocaine as the main differences? Still, my main point is the open source nature of contemporary threats -in the national army paradigm the nation's military regulated who could become an actor of war, whereas religious fanaticism or drug trading are open to anyone to join the movement by merely copying the lifestyle and tactics, which are easily accessed in songs, media and internet sites.

"We are seeing Mexican hit men coming into the US doing hits for the drug gangs. One hit team took out three people at one time in (a middle American city). My team took out two small groups in (a middle American city), but they are here to stay. Very dangerous group. They cross over into the US then using Greyhound buses to travel up north. They are good at counter surveillance. They have been hiring private eyes to find cops, and informers to deal out death." -Undercover cop in middle American city. (source)

Solutions: Cheap and Technical

CPTED(wikipedia entry) is a direct, intelligent way to approach the problem of crime, by designing the manmade environment to naturally thwart crime. It usually requires lots of eyes and lots of social participation, the eyes and participation of the intended users of the environment (example: mall shoppers). CPTED is a viable component of crime prevention even in an era of austerity, but is a weakness for remote stretches of land, remote facilities such as oil or electrical lines, and single females living alone.

In Better Together the authors believe in non-technical, offline social solutions. I believe the physical, non-technical, offline lifestyle will be more prevalent in an austere era, but anticipate it will be the source of weakness in some and the source of strength in others.

Absolute anti-technical communities will be candidates for the worst kind of TAZ, a vulnerable off-grid community with little means to import good open source solutions (example: capturing rainwater on rooftops) posted on the internet, and little means to combat crime other than the way of the Old West. The criminals or terrorists, if organized, will likely have electronic communications of some sort, giving them crucial tactical advantage.

The point I'm trying to make is a subtle one. This Depression/Transition era will be a shift to more austere living, and less consumerist culture. But it will not mean an absolute negation of industrial/technological culture. Luddite anti-industrialist, all-localism types may see the Depression/Transition as a carte blanche affirmation of their desired world coming into existence. I think something more dialectical will emerge, best described as an end to easy money and rampant consumerism, but with industrialism moved to a distributed in-home topology. Less trips to Best Buy, and more welding/fabrication at home. Also, recall the industrial age existed long before the Consumerist Age born after WW2. To turn off the Consumerist Age does not turn on a primitive hunter-gatherer society.

Solutions: Surveillance and Citizen Involvement

In the here and now of the early Depression/Transition era, we have the tools to combat crime more effectively. At the top of the list is an Open Democratic Surveillance System (ODSS). Recently a discussion on Slashdot generated what I consider a fairly robust and near complete description of an ODSS. I saved the salient points in another blog entry, here: slashdot discussion: open democratic surveillance system, it is recommended reading.

I have been obsessed with the ODSS concept, and began writing a web app for citizen reporting of crime here ( tip: does not work with Internet Explorer, use Firefox). Since beginning this programming project I've found somewhat better examples already on the web.

  1. Texas Border Patrol (live cams with citizen monitoring enlisted)
  2. YouNews (archived footage)
  3. Anchorage Crime Map

Changing focus now to sociology more than specific technical, to examine why ODSS may be better than CPTED and offline "get-out-in-the-community" crime prevention. Walking around a neighborhood, hoping to view and subsequently report a crime is tactically dangerous. Viewing it on a surveillance camera and clicking on a submit button ( see Texas Border Patrol example) to report an incident in progress is much more tactically sound, by being both safer and quicker in getting the info to the right people faster. Once the reporting of the incident is sent to the most appropriate actors ( police, US Army, citizen vigilantes, etc) the information can still remain in public view at something like this. Of course information that would be an extreme tactical advantage for the criminals may need shielding, the answer might be an email list to confirmed residents/stakeholders rather than general WWW publishing. But the surveillance footage should always be fully public.

An ODSS and online reporting tools have another tactical advantage that is sociological, not technical. Racial and class solidarity is often a support system for crime, and the anonymity of web based civic action could help break this kind of solidarity. As an example of the no-snitch code within some communities, I give the example of the murder of Tyrone Love and the silence maintained in that community. The best people in that community, people like Tyrone, need a means of defense that does not put them at risk for doing so. Online channels of reporting help with that.

Solutions: The old American melting pot

Panning to a much broader view of fighting crime, with Tyrone Love in mind, I want to close with message that may sound odd, and may not fit well with typical Conservative nor Liberal talking points. Fighting crime in the Depression/Transition era will work better with the most honest and intelligent dialogue we can muster. For liberals, it is time to admit that certain neighborhoods or regions have crime coming mostly from blacks or Mexican immigrants. These fail my Acid Test of Legitimacy. It is an automated Liberal reaction to claim such racial statements as heinous, and that is unfortunate hypocrisy. The same people who play the language/rhetorical game of never stating the danger of a neighborhood, but make absolutely sure never to place themselves in that neighborhood. This Liberal game helps kill black men like Tyrone Love. This Liberal game prevents society from the natural hygiene critical dialogue provides. It is the most complete and utter fool who thinks by stating "these particular blacks or Mexicans are a threat" we will denigrate all in that race or class. We are able to effectively point to the meth dealing Aryan Nation membership whites living in trailer parks from Florida to Oregon as people deserving prison or worse, without confusing ourselves into thinking all whites fit that profile.

For Conservatives, to win the war on crime, do like the US military -try to recruit all the good people. Remember, everything is tactical. Creating an all-white, all-Protestant, all-heterosexual club would be fine, except you create more criminals, and you tell them to target your club. An all-white, all-Protestant, all-heterosexual club is tactically weak. Recruit every homosexual that wants to own a home, be a professional, and contribute to the community. Recruit every black that doesn't identify with gang culture or solely with black culture. Recruit every Chinese immigrant that wants to run their business in peace. Recruit every Mexican immigrant that is afraid of, or opposes, the Mexican Drug Cartels.

That is a community army that could kick crime right in its head.

1 comment:

mark.a.craig said...

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that "ODSS" is the right way to implement a Surveillance State, but it DOES take someone whose motives are truly egalitarian. Someone with selfish or autocratic motives would never even conceive of such a system, because such a system doesn't maximize the benefit to them. Can you guess why all the government-conceived systems, such as in the U.K, always closely resemble Huxley's Big Brother? It's precisely because the people we're electing to LEAD us are people with selfish or autocratic, NOT egalitarian, motives. That observation leads to the obvious conclusion that we're consistently electing the WRONG people to lead, and that is because the criteria we're using to judge and choose them are completely wrong for creating an egalitarian society. We're still selecting leaders based on that nasty old instinctive "alpha male" paradigm and hierarchy. Why haven't we learned by now that those alpha-male hierarchies always have ethically dubious figures at the top giving orders and desperately cooperative people implementing them without question, which ultimately leads to governments and corporations doing very bad, unethical, un-egalitarian things?