Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Crime Without Borders

There's a lot going on this week: two NYPD officers were killed while they sat in their patrol car by a mentally-ill repeat offender from Baltimore.  NYPD's main union leader said the mayor and the #ICan'tBreathe protesters have "blood on their hands." Actor James Wood blamed "disgusting pig" Al Sharpton.  The torture report debate continues.  Psych majors will be interested in the discussion of the role American Psychological Association members played in "medicalizing torture" (Weaponizing Heath Workers).

And then there's this mixture (desire and blood) that I think we talked about. H/t Elizabeth.

The good news? Santa will not crash.

Happy holidays everyone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

FInal Exam Slides

A quick note on clues in the stories: some of the discussions in office hours yesterday were about tweaking good clues so that they held up better against counter interpretations.  For example, a detective says, "we know you lied about going to the zoo because it was 15 degrees F that day and your friend Mike says you'd forgotten your winter coat at his house."  The counter interpretation is "well I have more than one winter coat" or "I borrowed my brother Jim's coat that afternoon."  You can deal with this by keeping the evidence circumstantial, so that it works but only with other clues ("the security camera at the zoo entrance didn't have you on it that day"), or you can make the clue more specific ("you said you wore your fur coat, but your friend Mike says you'd forgotten your fur coat when you'd passed out at his party the night before").  The more precise clue doesn't have to be foolproof, but it can help differentiate between the explanation you want and others that are possible.

The exam slides from Thursday are below.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Elements of Learning

Here are two slides on the basics that are emerging from current research about teaching and learning.  I noted that reviewing notes straight through and repeating learning without variation or delays feels pretty good but is less effective that the strategies below.

I've talked a lot about the close relationship between learning and detecting and we've seen a lot of these principles there too--sudden insights based on dogged preparation, different kinds of knowledge mixed together, etc. etc!!

Only seven things to do!
As you can tell, I really like this stuff.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Plan A Example: Warlord Rotation in Afghanistan

In lecture yesterday I claimed that international criminal justice could replace most cases of international Plan A -- invasion, war, occupation. My example was Afghanistan.  My evidence? It combined historical precedent--successful prosecutions in major public trials in international courts of mass murderers in military contexts--with a counterfactual that I called the criminal justice "thought experiment" (global investigation rather than invasion).  Another piece of evidence was, in effect, justice couldn't be worse than what we're doing right now, which is maintaining the warlord rotation that has plagued the country since the first modern coup in 1973.  Those slide are below.

I framed all this with an outline of the typical noir view in contrast to two standard arguments. Here's that slide:

Permanent war is a feature not a bug for the warlord I discussed, Dostum, since war is what he does and it's the game he wins. Permanent war, especially if it's low-grade and not too destructive, is also a feature not a bug for most military establishments. 

Another feature of permanent war is greater impunity for its actors: as long as the threat continues, actions that would be questioned or even indicted and tried in peacetime and at home have a greater chance of begin tolerated.  An example is torture, and the Exeuctive Summary of the US Senate's  Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program was released the morning of yesterday's lecture on countering Noir Cause 1: Generalized War.  The New York Times posted the (rather redacted) summary of the 6000 page report here.  The NYT has a piece on the summary's 7 Key Points.  They also have a nice timeline of the interrogation program, and a piece on whether torture "works."   There are many defenses of torture: here's one. Here's a clip of Sen. John McCain, himself a torture victim in Vietnam, defending it.  The NYT again has an article by one of their major national security journalists outlining the pro vs. con positions.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan: 

I had an Osama slide as well, in which the US actually does do criminal investigation and, nine years later, it works (though killing and disposal blocked the truth-telling functions of the trial).

This comes to us courtesy of lit and history since they allow us to grasp background or buried causalities.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

US Senate Report on CIA Torture is Released (UPDATED 12/17)

Reflecting an instance of our Noir Cause 1, War Comes Home, the Senate is publishing a landmark report on CIA torture. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is summarizing its findings in in a stream here; NBC news text is below. Sen. Feinstein's summary states that torture produced no reliable intelligence that could not have been obtained in other ways, that the CIA and the Bush Administration deceived elected officials about the nature and extent of interrogation and detention behaviors, among many other findings in the 500 + page document.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calls the release another Abu Grahib moment.  Discussion and analysis is all over the Internet, and today we'll discuss Noir International in lecture as part of our Noir Solutions segment this week.

UPDATE: Many of you are psych majors: Democracy Now had an interesting segment on the role of psychologists in developing torture practices after 9/11.  There's also a history professor discussing the CIA's role in developing "enhanced interrogation" during the Cold War and spreading the practice internationally.  It's kind of amazing stuff actually.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Story Project Slide (UPDATE: Research Slide)

Here's the slide I discussed on Tuesday, with a few added issues that I'll go over briefly in lecture today.
I'm adding the slide about the research paper below:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chinatown Issues for building a quiz question

First, there are those slides that summarize the real Owens Valley deal on which the Chinatown screenplay is based.

The movie does quite a good job of translating the real history.

What's noir about this complicated, multi-year business deal? Hmm, that could be a good quiz question.

Then there's Gittes' failure, which I rushed a bit at the end of that lecture.

We can decide together when you want to discuss noir economics (monopoly capitalism as Cause #5) or Gittes's middle-class weakness.

Causes of Noir #4: Ferguson MO Grand Jury Verdict (UPDATE 1 12/9; UPDATE2 12/17)

I'm going to focus in lecture today on Birdman, men who kill, and psycho- patho- logy, so will post some text and links here to keep myself in check during lecture itself.

A key example of one of our issues came to a head last night when a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson (above) on any of five counts in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO last summer.  Grand juries do not need evidence sufficient to convict, but only enough to bring the case to trial. The grand jury did not indict him even for involuntary manslaughter, so the result is an exoneration of the officer's conduct in the shooting.

The New York Times has a useful timeline.

The grand jury transcripts have been posted. This is an unusual move, and you can experience the Rashomon effect of contradictory interpretations for yourself.

Much current coverage has featured the protests. See for example local St. Louis coverage. One report suggested that most of the damage was to black-owned businesses along Ferguson's main shopping street, while the vaunted National Guard forces were protecting public buildings including the police department. A  St. Louis friend of mine wrote last night that "Ferguson is lost."

A thorough account of the testimony that won over the jury is here (Michael Brown charged and threatened him, and allegedly made him "feels like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan".

There are defenses of the grand jury verdict. One example is "Justice Was Served in Ferguson."

 We've been calling our fourth cause of noir culture "legacies of slavery," and have discussed levels of inequality that enable unilateral conduct and the ongoing radicalization of that conduct.   The Ferguson killing brought together some traditional practices:
  • policing style perceived as unjust and discriminatory ("overpolicing")
  • a white person killing a black person in the name of self-defense
  • trial by grand jury rather than by (public, adversarial) jury
  • non-punishment of the white person for killing the black person
We've talked about how in a noir world justice does not contain violence with the truth, and here we have a kind of case study.

I'll talk about "suicide by police" in the next couple of lectures. Is there an undertone of this motive in the transcripts?  (This of course puts all the more pressure on police NOT to cooperate by pulling the trigger.)

Comments pro and con are welcome.

UPDATED 12/9: The Hands Up Don't Shoot movement has been supplemented, in the wake of the non-indictment of the officer who killed Eric Garner on Staten Island with an (illegal) choke hold), with the I Can't Breath movement.  Protests continued over this past weekend, including protests in Berkeley.

Some useful commentary in the past 2 weeks:

"Why It's Impossible to Indict a Cop" The Nation Magazine (a legal overview)
"Why We Won't Wait,"  UCLA History Professor Robin D.G. Kelley on civil rights precedents and anger
"Ferguson Grand Jury Evidence Reveals Mistakes, Holes in Investigations," Huffington Post analysis of grand jury proceeding (11/25)
"Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid," Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic on the limits of Obama's moderate race position.
"Protesters Take to the Streets of Berkeley" Berkeleyside (12/7).  good images
"Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014" Gawker 12/7.  a truly disturbing "yearbook" with short descriptions of the circumstances of death attached to the photos.

UPDATE 2: many commentators on the Ferguson case noted that when the grand jury refused to indict Officer Darren Warren, it must have taken as truth the claim that Michael Brown charged Officer Warren like a football player, with his head down.  It appeared that only one witness made this claim--"Witness 40""-- which was contradicted by all other witnesses.   The plot thickened: on December 15th, the website Smoking Gun revealed that Witness 40 is Sandra McElroy, a woman with a history of racism, mental illness, and check fraud who may not actually have been on the scene.  The story, along with McElroy's confirmation that she was witness 40, is here

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Exotic Learning Machine

I've talked some this term about learning, and comparing it to the detection process in these books and films.

Real learning is an active process, and I've also discussed my ongoing concern that the lecture format that is common in public universities doesn't encourage active learning.  I assigned my piece about advising in France earlier this term, and am planning to add a layer to this on Tuesday.

Then today the New York Times published an interesting piece about learning.  Towards the end it says this:
One reason scientists suspect that studying in pairs or groups can be helpful is that students are forced to talk to one another about the material — or better yet, argue about it. These are all forms of self-examination, and as such deepen learning more than passively rereading or reviewing the material.
So that's your WRG's for you!  And then there's my favorite paragraph:
The brain is an exotic learning machine, to put it mildly. It does not take orders well. You can tell it to remember the major players in the settling of Manhattan, stress how crucially important that is, and on the test a week later very little comes back. And yet you might remember nearly every play in the San Francisco Giants’ Game 7 World Series victory. Why? Because the brain doesn’t listen to what you say; it watches what you do. And thinking often about Madison Bumgarner pitching, talking about the game, arguing about it: These are mental actions, as well as subtle forms of testing knowledge.
Cognitive scientists aren't just re-installing another testing regime, but trying to figure out the role of self-testing in learning. There are some good ideas in this piece. The book he mentions, Making it Stick, has a lot of ideas that could make your college studying much more effective.  To be continued Tuesday . . .

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Innocent who plead Guilty

In lecture yesterday I discussed a rewrite of The Long Goodbye in which Marlowe would have framed an innocent Eileen Wade, and added that many people plead guilty when they are innocent, for various reasons.  Here's a new piece on the subject from the New York Review of books, which argues that 20,000 people who were wrongly convicted are currently serving time.  The excessive use of plea bargains (95% to 97% of all non-dismissed cases) is a major reason. The photo is of Brian Banks, a Long Beach high school football star who served five years for a crime he didn't commit on advice from his defense attorney.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Original Marlowe

Is this man at the left--Samuel Marlowe, the first licensed PI west of the Mississippi, or so it is thought.  He was born in Jamaica and, after setting himself up in LA, had among his many activities a long correspondence with Dashell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.  Thanks to Daniel for pointing to the LA Times story about this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Paper 1 General Topics and Procedure

Here's the first slide on that from yesterday's lecture
and here's the procedure that we discussed
For example, five minutes ago, Keely in Colton's section mentioned that she's going to do number 2, "ripped from the headlines."  So what are you interested in, I asked?  The school shootings in Marysville, WA, she said, for example. One way to proceed, we said, is for Keely to figure out what aspect of the shooting is most interesting or compelling to her.  Maybe it's the idea that the shooter was a "very loved child" and really cared about his friends, as the linked article notes.  So is it the idea that he killed people--his friends--but didn't seem like a killer? And that even after he killed at least two of his friends he still doesn't seem like a killer?

That's one piece of the two-piece topic.  Now, what course material would help explain this interesting specific part of the "headline" piece? (Remember that specific is important.)   Are there characters that seem nice but kill anyway?  Mr. Cubitt tried to kill Abe Slaney, and he's almost a saint.  Eileen Wade? She kills, but is originally quite a nice idealistic person.  There may be clues to the Marysville situation in Chandler's analysis of Eileen Wade.  or some other character . . .

A similar process would work for 1 and 3 as well--starting with a passage (1) or issue (3) you really like, and thinking of the topic that emerges (1) or a course analogy (3).

Come see us!

Monday, October 27, 2014

From Desire to Drunk

In lecture last Tuesday, I did a close reading of the encounter between Philip Marlowe and Eileen Wade (pp 212-13).  The slide that summarized the buried, sub-logical sequence looked like this.

In our section after lecture, Olga summarized Marlowe's behavior like this (my paraphrase): he wanted her, and he pushed too hard, and felt badly about how he'd acted and so got drunk to forget.

That's quite a reasonable summary.  

The slide above has a somewhat different reading, which involves Marlowe have issues around rejection and loss that Eileen Wade triggers.   

So there are at least two readings here. There's a quiz tomorrow. One of the questions will be about this passage and how to read it.

Our section also had quite an interesting discussion about whether this scene has elements of sexual assault as we now understand it.  California has changed requirements for all colleges and universities, public and private, that receive state funding including financial aid. Dubbed the "Yes Means Yes" law, you can read the text here. A central paragraph reads like this:
An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
This is not what is happening in the Marlowe-Eileen Wade encounter.  We talked what following this law would mean in practice, both what it would do to safety and to the sex itself.