Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An Empirical Propensity for Gangsterism

Malcom Klein, retired USC Professor, has designed a 70 question survey that intends to objectively assess the likelihood of a 10-15 year old in joining a gang.

The questions range from how one behaves with their peers, to whether they use Paint, glue or other things inhaled to get high.

Many of the questions are pretty obvious, essentially driving at "if it walks like a gangster, talks like a gangster, acts like a gangster... than it must be a gangster" But some take a more interesting approach: "Did you break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend or did she break up with you?"

The study is part of a new "epidemiological approach". "...drawing analogies between the spread of crime and disease. The focus is shifted from treating "symptoms" of gang activity -- violent crime, for example -- to prevention efforts that will stem proliferation." (from the WSJ)

This surveying is bound to offer some very interesting results, yet I am not convinced that it is really key in stemming the gang issues in America. I think that many of the problems (including problem areas, and susceptible inductees into gangs) are known in addition to their causes. It is the lack of resources and willingness to act that is facilitating the continuation of gang violence and the drug trade. For example, it does not take a 70 question survey to learn that there is a higher chance for a kid in an inner city school to join a gang than in an upper class neighborhood. It is the fact that these schools with high gang populations are not given the resources required to create proper learning environments, or to assist kids that are already on the path of joining a gang. (no counseling for kids with trouble at home, no money for noon meals, no special classes for kids who might have learning disabilities etc.)

I feel that the survey even hints at many of the causes of the problems (drugs, broken homes, violent childhoods etc.) Though a survey would help policy makers hone in, with more certainty, on the biggest causes (and I suppose also on which individual children have a propensity to join a gang), I feel that these aren't exactly mysteries. Surveying can be very expensive and time consuming, rather than wasting resources here, I see it as being more beneficial to tackle the causes and problems we already know exist before developing this "empirical preventative strategy." I think more than anything, such a survey shows the disconnect between governing bodies and the problems faced on the streets.

Read the survey here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Toy Story

Brian McCarty brings toys to life through photography.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Decriminilization of Marijuana and Economics

Prohibition doesn't work, we could tax it, it would reduce violence, prohibition prevents a boom in pot usage, marijuana is unhealthy/healthy... Some of the arguments in the debate surrounding the decriminalization of Marijuana.

In a country where Marijuana is more or less legal in small amounts, the boom concern does not seem to have materialized. That having been said, the people at the freakonomics blog have compiled an interesting group of people to contribute their opinions on the matter. Read it HERE.

One part I thought that was particularly interesting...

"...a graduating economics major at Brown named Max Chaiken, ... finds that “a legally taxed and regulated marijuana market could generate upwards of $200 billion annually in excise tax revenues for the federal government … [which] would be enough to fund Medicaid.”"

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The End to the War on Drugs

The head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has said that the War on Drugs should be dropped, as the term seems to suggest a war on the people when the current administration is trying to make the drug issue one of public health rather than of criminal justice. As many as 1 in 10 Americans are/have been in jail or are on probation for something related to drugs. With little progress achieved through the strong arm of justice, and proven alternatives (safe injection sites, education, needle exchanges and the legalization of drugs) it seems only logical that the "war on drugs" should end.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama Commencement Speech

Tonight President Obama delivered what was probably the most poignant ideological speech of his Presidency at the Arizona State University commencement ceremony. In the speech, Obama preaches for redefining one of the central tenants of Capitalism (greed) suggesting that rather than pursuing success in wealth and name, one ought to pursue a legacy that is defined by the sum of one's actions towards a greater good. In complete contrast to Ayn Rand or Adam Smith, Obama's speech is going to be perceived by the American right as a tyrannical socialist doctrine, but I would suggest moderation in one's reaction: His entire career has been based on being different, and as one might conclude from reading some of my posts, there is success to be had in breaking from the mold in pursuit of success through creative, innovative, intelligent, philanthropic and altruistic means. I believe Obama's intentions are good: most would agree that the stale nature of the American Machine has disastrously affected the world. To some, this requires a fundamental redefinition so that this country might keep pace in the coming century. (The success of Google and Apple over GM and Chrysler or diplomacy over war for example). Despite the distinct Utopian and unrealistic feel of this philosophy, it is refreshing, that the leader of the free world has finally grown some sense of purpose beyond that of a century old doctrine relieving America of most social and ethical responsibilities. More than the closing of Guantanamo, the scolding of Wall Street and the pursuit of public health care in America, I believe that the discourse raised by this speech is indication of real fundamental change, and I believe in that, this ambitious philosophy is in fact pragmatic.

But judge for yourself:

(Part I of III)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stop Motion Graffiti

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

An engrossing combination of media, bringing the inanimate to life.
Absolutely ingenious.

This here is another pretty impressive usage of graffiti in a different context.