Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Crack v. Opioids and Violence v. Racism

Here’s is a PBS commentary by law professor Ekow Yankah:

That Kroger, the Midwestern grocery chain, has decided to make the heroin overdose drug naloxone available without a prescription is a sign of how ominous the current epidemic has grown.
Faced with a rising wave of addiction, misery, crime and death, our nation has linked arms to save souls. Senators and CEOs, Midwestern pharmacies and even tough-on-crime Republican presidential candidates now speak with moving compassion about the real people crippled by addiction.

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Genes, Violence, and Testing

The abstract of an article in Molecular Psychiatry entitled Genetic background of extreme violent behavior reads as follows:

In developed countries, the majority of all violent crime is committed by a small group of antisocial recidivistic offenders, but no genes have been shown to contribute to recidivistic violent offending or severe violent behavior, such as homicide. Our results, from two independent cohorts of Finnish prisoners, revealed that a monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) low-activity genotype (contributing to low dopamine turnover rate) as well as the CDH13 gene (coding for neuronal membrane adhesion protein) are associated with extremely violent behavior (at least 10 committed homicides, attempted homicides or batteries). No substantial signal was observed for either MAOA or CDH13 among non-violent offenders, indicating that findings were specific for violent offending, and not largely attributable to substance abuse or antisocial personality disorder. These results indicate both low monoamine metabolism and neuronal membrane dysfunction as plausible factors in the etiology of extreme criminal violent behavior, and imply that at least about 5–10% of all severe violent crime in Finland is attributable to the aforementioned MAOA and CDH13 genotypes.

Now, we are in the early phases of something that will be one day be termed a genetic revolution. Whatever is known about genetic influences on crime (or anything else, for that matter) pales in comparison to what will be known in a couple of decades. We may not be far from the point where a journal article tells us about eighteen, twenty or fifty three genotypes that explain 85% or 90% or 99.9% of all severe violent crime in Finland. So it pays to think about the big questions early.

And this abstract raises one big question: what if we have the tools to detect those most likely to commit the worst of the worst violent crimes? Biology is not destiny, and some percentage of people who have a tendency toward violence (a big percentage? a small percentage?) may have the fortitude or wherewithal not to follow through. Or to avoid getting caught, which legally amounts to the same thing, though not for the victim(s). That makes widespread testing for these traits problematic, particularly if it were mandatory.

On the other hand, if the genetic link with violence turns out to be sufficiently strong, one can imagine situations arising where people formed associations whose membership is based on disclosure of results of tests for specific genetic traits. I’m guessing parents of young children would join en masse. Exactly what those voluntary associations might look like, and whether they could actually exclude those who “failed” or “tested positive” for the wrong thing might be something future courts will be considering. As long as nobody was being coerced, such situations might be deemed legal. All sorts of things seem to be legal depending on the context. For instance, age discrimination is illegal when it comes to jobs, but seems to be perfectly acceptable when it comes to determining who can live in a retirement community.

One additional tidbit of information worth considering. Despite a number of silly articles in the early oughts that violated all semblance of common sense, not to mention some insane drivel coming out of a few corners of academia today, increased levels of testosterone are associated with aggressive behavior. Testosterone, of course, happens to be the primary male sex hormone, and that’s a big part of the reason that in just about every human society, at just about every point in time, males have been the perpetrators of the overwhelming majority of the violence. (It goes for other primates too.)

Anyway, what can, what should, and what will be done may be three separate questions in a few decades. That’s all too far out for me to have a good idea of the shape of what is to come, but it will tremendously affect society and how we live.  What are your thoughts?

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Shootings by Police Officers: Self-Control and More

I stumbled on a recent paper in the Police Quarterly entitled “Quick on the Draw: Assessing the Relationship Between Low Self-Control and Officer-Involved Police Shootings.”

The authors are Christopher M. Donner, Jon Maskaly, Alex R. Piquero, and Wesley G. Jennings from Loyola, U of Texas at Dallas, U of Texas at Dallas and U of South Florida, respectively.

Quoting from the paper:

While the extant literature on police use of deadly force is voluminous, it is fairly limited with regard to the influence of officer characteristics. Moreover, this is the first known study to explore an individual-level criminological theory(i.e., self-control) in the context of police officer-involved shootings. In building on previous studies linking low self-control to negative police behavior more generally (Donner et al., 2016; Donner & Jennings, 2014), this study uses data from a sample of 1,935 Philadelphia police officers to investigate the extent to which Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) general theory can predict officer-involved shootings specifically.

Based on theory and related research, it is hypothesized that officers with lower levels of self-control will be more likely to have used deadly force because police shooting incidents would provide low self-control officers (those who are more impulsive, self-centered, short-sighted, thrill-seeking, and easily provoked) with an opportunity to engage in a behavior that it is often spontaneous, can provide immediate gratification, is adrenaline-inducing, and can provide an outlet for frustration.

Methods
Data and Sample
In this study, we use data collected by Greene et al. (2004) for an National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-sponsored study on police integrity in the PPD. The initial collaboration between Temple University and the PPD began in an effort to help create an information system that would assist the PPD with integrity oversight. To aid this process, baseline information concerning possible predictors of negative police behavior was needed. The data set includes background files, academy training records, and personnel information for 2,094 police officers across 17 academy classes from 1991 to 1998. Due to missing files and incomplete academy training among some officers, the final sample of cases included 1,935 officers. Additional methodological details may be found in Greene et al. (2004).

On average, the sample was almost 27 years of age (range: 18–55), and approximately two thirds of the sample was male. There was virtually equal representation among White (44.5%) and Black (46.0%) officers, and the sample included a smaller number of Hispanic (7.4%) and other race or ethnicity (2.1%) officers. The average education level and length of service was 13 and 3 years, respectively. About one fifth (21%) of the sample was married and one tenth (10.9%) had a parent who served in law enforcement. Additional descriptive statistics may be found in Table 1.

The paper goes on:

Dependent Variable
Greene et al. (2004) were granted access to various databases maintained by the PPD Internal Affairs Division and Police Board of Inquiry. Specifically, these databases contained information relating to, among other things, citizen complaints, officer-involved shootings, other internal investigations, and depart-mental disciplinary actions. These data were collected in the Year 2000; thus,officers in the sample had been out of the police academy for roughly 2 to 9 years. The outcome variable of interest in this study, police shootings, is measured dichotomously (0 = No; 1 = Yes) and reflects whether an officer had ever been involved in a police shooting in which they discharged their firearm.

The primary independent variable, low self-control, was constructed from selected behavioral indicators contained within an officer’s Personal Data Questionnaire (PDQ).2 Individuals, who apply to be a Philadelphia Police Officer and pass the entrance examination, are referred to the Background Unit of the police department. Here, qualified applicants are given a PDQ.The PDQ collects self-reported background information, including among other things the applicant’s identifying information, family background, residence history, educational history, employment history, credit history, military record, motor vehicle history, adult and juvenile criminal history, and drug-use history. This information is validated through an interview with a background investigator, a full background investigation, and subsequently a polygraph examination.

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There Hasn’t Been a Body Slam Like This Since to Glory Days of Hulk Hogan

David Neiwert (h/t Rebecca Lesses) doesn’t quite get it right:

There will be a lot of hand-wringing in the coming days over the shooting of Rep. Giffords this morning at a constituent event — some of it, almost certainly, from the folks at Fox, who will wonder aloud how this kind of thing could happen.

It can happen, in fact, because conservatives so thoughtlessly and readily use violent eliminationist rhetoric when talking about “liberals” (to wit: anyone who is not a conservative). They will adamantly deny it, of course, but the cold reality is that this kind of talk creates permission for angry and violent people to act it out.

Susan of Texas notes that The Atlantic, in the person of their resident economics and finance blogger, is rather married to the idea as well.

Go Read the Whole Thing.

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CGI, Day 2 – Securing the Health and Safety of Girls and Women

Tina Brown introduces:

  • Gary Cohen, Executive Vice President, BD
  • Geeta Rao Gupta, Senior Fellow, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Richard C. Holbrooke , Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Department of State “and, of course”
  • Ashley Judd, Board Member, Population Services International

Starts with Geeta Rao Gupta, who declares the primary issue to be that hundreds of thousands of women are dying because of entirely preventable causes, such as 350,000 worldwide due to complications from pregnancy.  (Fifty million [50,000,000] child—under 18—brides worldwide.)

Tina takes the microphone away to talk about Ashley Judd’s discoveries in the Congo. (If this organization wants to concentrate on policy, not celebrity, Tina Brown should not be moderating.)  Judd, though, rises to the bait, nothing that Secretary of State HRC’s visit was not productive, and the people on the ground in the Congo did not believe that they were heard.  Only 6% of DRC has family planning ability; those who want to use family planning solutions but do not have access to such will have hundreds of thousands.  “100% of the women Judd met had been gang-raped more than once.”  Tells story of woman whose husband said “you have been raped too much” and left.

The word “fistula” was used extensively during Ms. Judd’s presentation, including a couple of times about “fistula repair operations.”

Gary Cohen notes that he was pulled into the issue of sexual violence against girls because of his work in fighting HIV/AIDS.  Found that 1/3 of girls in Swaziland who had experienced sexual violence, and that 29% of those became pregnant—effect is that about 10% of the female population is effectively eliminated from being part of the productive workforce, even if they are not part of the ca. 2% of the total female population that will die in childbirth.

Now working through other organizations, including a partnership with PEPFAR (about which Mike Kimel is more enthusiastic than I am, but which abides in either case) to try to empower women to facilitate AIDS/HIV relief.

Richard Holbrooke notes that he has never seen a State Department initiative to educate the men in leadership positions about the dangers of sexual violence against women.  They are trying to change that, but facing political issues. (We need to work with the [corrupt, violent] police in Afghanistan, but they have until recently been the largest part of the problem.)

Discusses the flood in Pakistan; shows a map of the affected area superimposed over U.S. and Canada—very little not covered.  International community is not going to be able to raise enough;Pakistani government is going to have to increase its revenues just to be able to pay them out.

The biggest problems will be now: 4-5,000 schools, hundreds of hospitals, countless homes have been washed away.  People will go back and they—especially the kids—will start drinking the stagnant water, resulting in dysentery at best. We are in a massive new round of fundraising to address the flood.  “Not one child I talked to knew how old they were.”  Information must be disseminated by radio—need portable radios.  Water purification: working with P&G, but do not have 10-gallon cans that can be used with P&G’s PUR product.  Need to teach people to use part of a packet.

Ms. Judd notes that the water issue is key to PSI; do monitoring and real-time data analysis and “barefoot entrepreneurs” (people on the ground) to emphasize the issues, and deal with “the chlorine taste” (if the mix is not ideal) as “the taste of health.”  Work toward a positive result, not the “if you drink this water, you will die” so much as developing social capital. (Dysentery is the #2 killer of under-5 children in the developing world.)

Geeta Rao Gupta notes that programs have been developed on the social level—cites several projects that have emphasized male education activities.  If you can provide services where women get a return on their labor, the household income is increased.  Needs to be cast as initiatives to improve the welfare of the households.

Mr. Cohen notes that they categorize “sexual violence against girls” as a human rights issue. Notes that Swaziland is the most leading respondent to their initiative, which also has cooperation from UNICEF.  Transfer to community level, which directly deal with organizations that educate men and boys about the opportunities when women have the opportunity to earn as well.

There is more data, and it is getting more attention, so it is easier to talk about the problem. Mr. Cohen notes that the Soviet rape in Berlin in 1945 (“a drunken orgy of revenge”) while Bosnia was a “calculated use of rape as an instrument of war.”  (Maybe John Barnes’s painful phrase Serbing should be used more generally.) Clearly becoming more systematic.  Geeta Rao Gupta notes that she works with efforts such as GEMS to provide information and educational opportunity to people.

Tina Brown finally proves her value by noting that need to make these points through stories and narratives.  That gets the young people involved in an issue.

Ashley Judd lists several organizations with which to work, such as Women 4 Women, Girl Up, Girl Effect (which, as Tom Watson notes, released a marvelous PSA today), and The Enough Project (which is directly related because a substantial amount of the  most egregious sexual violence against women occurs in “conflict mineral” countries).

She also notes that there is a female condom available worldwide (though not so much in the U.S.), which they promote through dialog with hairdressers (who then speak with their clients).

Best route to a good result is to provide access to contraception, planning, and information.  Will not help to “wag the finger from the top”; need to enable control with the people who want to have control over—freedom for—their own bodies.

Mr. Cohen is optimistic, partially because we have seen much progress made on this issue over the past few years at CGI.  Tina Brown notes that we’re probably not at a “tipping point” yet, but certainly getting closer to achieving awareness.

As Nick Kristof twitted earlier today (again, via Tom Watson, translated from Twitter into English), “Clinton Global Initiative this year seems very focused on investing in girls as cost-effective strategy to fight poverty.”  As strategies go, this one is—or, more accurately would be, in a world where economic models worked well—Most Likely to Succeed.

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