Posts by: "Bill Steigerwald"

It’s pretty pathetic when a tin-pot lapsed Commie KBG thug like Vladimir Putin is smarter about the Middle East than America’s foreign policy “experts.”

But he was — and probably still is.us-journalist-critical-of-putin-kicked-out-of-russia

A year ago Putin warned the Obama administration about the folly of intervening in Syria on the side of the rebels.

We (i.e., Obama) chickened out/smartened up and did not  send troops to Syria to dethrone the tin-pot thug Assad. We had already turned the Middle East into a bigger political hellhole than it already was by going into Iraq in 2003.

The Washington Post has a piece out now  entitled “Was Putin right about Syria?” Based on these quotes from a Putin op-ed in the  New York Times op-ed last September, he was:

A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Obviously, real bad shit was happening in Syria and it would have kept happening with or without inserting U.S. men and planes.

But as Putin’s ghostwriter  said, “Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multi-religious country.”

Putin correctly/sensibly/realistically said that Assad, though a major league monster, was a stabilizing force who was preferable to the religious fanatics who’d replace him. He also pointed out that the rebel cause in Syria was attracting Islamist zealots/morons from the West.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria?

It really is depressing how stupid American foreign policy-makers have been since President Woody Wilson came up with the idea that America should use its guns, money and soldiers to force Western-style democracy on all nations.

Our great leaders never learn about the folly and inevitable failures and (always predictable) unintended consequences of sending armed missionaries to take over bad countries and make them good.

Guess who was right all along about the folly of going to war in Iraq?

That is, not counting Pat Buchanan, 156 members of Congress (seven brave Republicans) and thousands of others who opposed or voted against the Bush administration’s war plans for a multitude of good moral, principled, pragmatic, partisan or personal reasons.

The damn French were right. So was a nobody from the American Heartland.

On Feb. 14, 2003, as President Bush and his neocon dream team geared up to take down Saddam, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin  made a vain attempt to cool Bush’s pre-emptive jets.

De Villepin sounded pretty sensible about Iraq, not to mention prescient.

The “premature recourse to the military option,” he began, might appear to be the “swiftest” way to strip evil Saddam of the weapons of mass destruction.

But “let us not forget that having won the war, one has to build peace. Let us not delude ourselves; this will be long and difficult because it will be necessary to preserve Iraq’s unity and restore stability in a lasting way in a country and region harshly affected by the intrusion of force.”

Nine months later, as Iraq began its spiral into bloody chaos, De Villepin offered this unheard advice to America on CNN: “Don’t believe that you are going to solve Iraq because you are going to send more troops or more money.”

America had plenty of its own anti-war Cassandras who predicted the many bad things that invariably go wrong when you send armies to occupy, democratize and police a foreign land. They were all ignored, ridiculed or slurred for being cowards, just like the surrendering French.

One of the sharpest-eyed predictors who warned America’s Interventionist Industrial Complex to stay out of the Middle East came in 2002 from some unknown state senator from Middle America, where American non-interventionism used to be a religious tenet.

“I don’t oppose all wars,” the nobody said in a speech no one heard as the Bushies rattled their sabers and eyed Iraq.

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

The nobody droned on.

Even a successful war against Iraq, “will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.” Among other accurate things, the nobody added it also would “strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida.”

That wise counsel, of course, came in English from Illinois state senator Barack Obama. But even he didn’t listen to himself.

 

 

Pittsburgh, a city of about 305,000, is a safe and relatively crime-free city, right?

Ferguson, Missouri, is lawless and crime-ridden and needs an aggressive police force to keep its citizens in line, right?

But let’s look at some boring numbers.

The St. Louis County city’s population of 21,000 – roughly 65 percent black and 35 percent white — has 54 cops.

All but 3 are white, which has caused black leaders and the media to assume that the disproportionate number of black people stopped by police is a result of racism.images

Maybe.

It could be that Ferguson’s cops had so little real crime to worry about they, like many of their brethren in all-white and super-safe suburbs across the land, concentrated on petty traffic stops and harassing teenagers.

Without a real breakdown on actual “crimes” and such statistics as the ages of the races (old white folks are less likely to be stopped by police, while young black males on foot or in cars will be targeted, etc.) and the profiles of the convicted criminals, the numbers thrown around by the media and idiots like The Rev. Al Sharpton mean nothing.

Statistics can lie and confuse but they can also illuminate.

For example, Pittsburgh’s population is about 25 percent black. Its crime stats – particularly the 41 homicides in 2012 – were like most big cities heavily skewed by the black-male-on-black-male drug-gang wars on its streets. Otherwise, Pittsburgh is an incredible safe town, at least as far being a murder victim is concerned.

But as we watch Ferguson’s nightly riots and lootings (mostly performed by out-of-town trouble-makers), let’s not feel so smug, Pittsburghers.

Below, courtesy of city-data.com, are the crime stats for Ferguson and the city of Pittsburgh.

In 2012, the last year city-data.com offers, Pittsburgh’s murder rate per 100,000 people was higher than Ferguson’s. So was its rape rate and robbery rate. Pittsburgh’s assault rape was twice as high.

Ferguson’s bad guys did more burglaries, stole more cars and committed more thefts per 100,000 people, but Pittsburgh blew Ferguson away on arsons – 249 to 0, though the virtual absence of arsons  in Ferguson from 2000 to 2012 is highly suspicious.

Over all, according to city-data’s numbers anyway, Ferguson commits more crimes per capita than Pittsburgh.

The average crime rate for the United States is meaningless, since it includes virtually crimeless places like Vermont and there is no such place as Average Town, USA.

But in 2012 the U.S. average was 301.1, while Pittsburgh’s was 358.3 and Ferguson’s was 381.1. Chicago, where there were 500 murders in 2012 (most of them black males killed not by white cops but by other black males), the crime rate per 100,000 people was 562 in 2011 (the latest year city-data offered) when the national rate was 214.

So, to sum up the shocking news, Ferguson’s crime rate is only slightly higher than Pittsburgh’s but Chicago’s crime spree makes both cities look like daycare centers.

Here are the crime charts for 2011 and 2012.

Crime rates in Pittsburgh by Year
Type 2011 2012
Murders 44 41
per 100,000 14.3 13.1
Rapes 67 47
per 100,000 21.7 15.1
Robberies 1,126 1,134
per 100,000 364.9 363.3
Assaults 1,239 1,125
per 100,000 401.5 360.4
Burglaries 2,686 2,537
per 100,000 870.4 812.8
Thefts 6,897 7,610
per 100,000 2234.9 2438.2
Auto thefts 480 544
per 100,000 155.5 174.3
Arson 195 248
per 100,000 63.2 79.5
City-data.com crime rate (higher means more crime, U.S. average = 301.1) 368.2 358.3

 

Crime rates in Ferguson by Year
Type 2011 2012
Murders 5 2
per 100,000 23.5 9.4
Rapes 6 3
per 100,000 28.2 14.1
Robberies 45 38
per 100,000 211.5 178.9
Assaults 47 37
per 100,000 220.9 174.2
Burglaries 263 247
per 100,000 1235.9 1163.0
Thefts 649 699
per 100,000 3049.8 3291.3
Auto thefts 85 95
per 100,000 399.4 447.3
Arson 0 0
per 100,000 0.0 0.0
City-data.com crime rate (higher means more crime, U.S. average = 297.5) 433.0 381.1

 

Crime rates in Chicago by Year
Type 2010 2011 2012
Murders 432 431 500
per 100,000 15.2 15.9 18.5
Rapes 1,372 1,459 N/A
per 100,000 48.4 53.9 N/A
Robberies 13,757 12,408 13,476
per 100,000 485.5 458.8 497.6
Assaults 14,213 13,975 12,272
per 100,000 501.6 516.8 453.1
Burglaries 26,203 26,420 22,748
per 100,000 924.7 976.9 839.9
Thefts 74,764 72,373 72,717
per 100,000 2638.5 2676.1 2684.9
Auto thefts 19,446 19,078 17,001
per 100,000 686.3 705.4 627.7
Arson 519 503 N/A
per 100,000 18.3 18.6 N/A
City-data.com crime rate (higher means more crime, U.S. average = 301.1) 554.3 562.0 N/A

Ex-newspaperman Bill Steigerwald is the author of Dogging Steinbeck, which exposes the truth about “Travels With Charley” and celebrates Flyover America and its people. Blogs, photos, a 1960 Steinbeck/”Charley” trip timeline and more are at TruthAboutCharley.com.

In 2003 I visited recently departed ex-Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff at her apartment in Squirrel Hill and wrote this column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Sophie is still something special

Aug. 3, 2003

She’s 85 now, so she’s lost a step or two.

She no longer drives at night. And it’s been a while since she’s been invited to the White House, a place she first visited during FDR’s final term and last saw during Bill Clinton’s time.

But as I found out Wednesday when I visited her at her Squirrel Hill apartment, Sophie Masloff is still up to speed on city politics and still a very recognizable institution about town.

In case you’ve forgotten, Sophie Masloff — the funny old lady in those TV spots for Gateway Clipper Fleet and Appliance Warehouse — was once mayor of Pittsburgh.

She ruled during what now seems like Pittsburgh’s good-old days, 1988 to 1994, when the city wasn’t openly bankrupt and begging for state funding.

“Mayor Sophie,” as everyone naturally called her, was a major civic hoot, an editorial cartoonist’s dream, a TV sitcom mayor come to life. But today, with her native city $60 million in the red, her relatively responsible, competent and uneventful reign looks better every day.

It’s been eight grim years since Sophie the Accidental Mayor turned the keys of City Hall over to Mayor Murphy and his wrecking crew of amateur economic developers.

The former county courts clerk and stalwart party worker bee would be the last to toot her own horn or criticize the Democrats now in charge of her sickly city — for the record, anyway. And she reminds that as mayor she had plenty of help from administrative sharpies like Joe Mistick (now a regular Sunday Trib columnist) and Jim Turner.

But Sophie is not shy about praising what her administration did and didn’t do well. In her first week in office, she said, she had street signs put up throughout the city. She ordered four new street sweepers and put them on a regular cleaning schedule. She cut the city wage tax by half a percentage point.

Asked what her major accomplishments were, she listed the Crawford-Roberts housing plan on the Lower Hill. Also, she said, her administration privatized four city-owned assets that were costing the city money — the zoo, the aviary, Phipps Conservatory and the Schenley Park golf course.

It’s easy to criticize what’s going on now, Sophie said, declining to do so. But, she noted, “I left office with a balanced budget and a triple-A bond rating. I don’t know what happened. It all fell apart.”

Sophie is worried about Pittsburgh’s chronic ailments — its continuing population decline, shriveling tax base and need for more new jobs. She knows the city has too many fire houses and is being robbed by the firefighters’ union, whose greed and political power she admits she could not tame.

Still, she’s optimistic about the city’s future. She’s not against using gambling proceeds to bail it out. And, ever the good big-city Democrat, she thinks higher taxes could save the day. If the state lets the city raise its $10 occupational tax to $52, she said, “We’ll be able to pull it off.”

Several times on Wednesday, as she showed me photos of herself with everyone from the Pope and Pavarotti to Bill Clinton, a man she “loved dearly,” Sophie fretted that it seemed egotistical to be talking about her life, which she insists is nothing special.

She’s wrong, of course. She’s had a truly amazing career in Democrat politics. It was launched at 17 when she saw Eleanor Roosevelt dedicate the Bedford Dwellings housing project and ended with her becoming mayor at age 70.

The scariest thing is, if Sophie Friedman Masloff ran again, she’d probably get elected. Half the people she meets on the street still think she’s their mayor. In some ways, she will always be.

####

Sophie sent me this nice note — the nicest one I ever received from a Democrat mayor.

 

In 2003 I visited ex-Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff at her apartment in Squirrel Hill and wrote this column for the Trib.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Sophie is still something special<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Aug. 3, 2003</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>She's 85 now, so she's lost a step or two.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>She no longer drives at night. And it's been a while since she's been invited to the White House, a place she first visited during FDR's final term and last saw during Bill Clinton's time.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>But as I found out Wednesday when I visited her at her Squirrel Hill apartment, Sophie Masloff is still up to speed on city politics and still a very recognizable institution about town.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>In case you've forgotten, Sophie Masloff -- the funny old lady in those TV spots for Gateway Clipper Fleet and Appliance Warehouse -- was once mayor of Pittsburgh.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>She ruled during what now seems like Pittsburgh's good-old days, 1988 to 1994, when the city wasn't openly bankrupt and begging for state funding.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>"Mayor Sophie," as everyone naturally called her, was a major civic hoot, an editorial cartoonist's dream, a TV sitcom mayor come to life. But today, with her native city $60 million in the red, her relatively responsible, competent and uneventful reign looks better every day.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>It's been eight grim years since Sophie the Accidental Mayor turned the keys of City Hall over to Mayor Murphy and his wrecking crew of amateur economic developers.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The former county courts clerk and stalwart party worker bee would be the last to toot her own horn or criticize the Democrats now in charge of her sickly city -- for the record, anyway. And she reminds that as mayor she had plenty of help from administrative sharpies like Joe Mistick (now a regular Sunday Trib columnist) and Jim Turner.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>But Sophie is not shy about praising what her administration did and didn't do well. In her first week in office, she said, she had street signs put up throughout the city. She ordered four new street sweepers and put them on a regular cleaning schedule. She cut the city wage tax by half a percentage point.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Asked what her major accomplishments were, she listed the Crawford-Roberts housing plan on the Lower Hill. Also, she said, her administration privatized four city-owned assets that were costing the city money -- the zoo, the aviary, Phipps Conservatory and the Schenley Park golf course.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>It's easy to criticize what's going on now, Sophie said, declining to do so. But, she noted, "I left office with a balanced budget and a triple-A bond rating. I don't know what happened. It all fell apart."</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Sophie is worried about Pittsburgh's chronic ailments -- its continuing population decline, shriveling tax base and need for more new jobs. She knows the city has too many fire houses and is being robbed by the firefighters' union, whose greed and political power she admits she could not tame.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Still, she's optimistic about the city's future. She's not against using gambling proceeds to bail it out. And, ever the good big-city Democrat, she thinks higher taxes could save the day. If the state lets the city raise its $10 occupational tax to $52, she said, "We'll be able to pull it off."</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Several times on Wednesday, as she showed me photos of herself with everyone from the Pope and Pavarotti to Bill Clinton, a man she "loved dearly," Sophie fretted that it seemed egotistical to be talking about her life, which she insists is nothing special.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>She's wrong, of course. She's had a truly amazing career in Democrat politics. It was launched at 17 when she saw Eleanor Roosevelt dedicate the Bedford Dwellings housing project and ended with her becoming mayor at age 70.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The scariest thing is, if Sophie Friedman Masloff ran again, she'd probably get elected. Half the people she meets on the street still think she's their mayor. In some ways, she will always be.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>####</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Sophie sent me this nice note -- the nicest one I ever received from a Democrat mayor.

LikeLike · ·

Rand Paul gets schooled: Libertarian fantasies don’t help kids learn — teachers do

The Tea Party senator has some wild and damaging ideas about education — and overlooks what actually works

Boy, Salon is pretty awful — and desperate to beat up on Rand Paul.

They let a public school math teacher from northwest Ohio attempt to put down some of Paul’s education reform ideas that were sketched out in Politico.

The selfless teacher actually argued that the best way to improve the quality of public K-12 teachers was not to offer more choice to parents/consumers but to pay teachers more. Brilliant.

Here’s the comment I posted to annoy everyone:

Nice headline. It’s hardly a “libertarian fantasy” to imagine a genuine k-12  education market that is overflowing with choices for consumers (parents) and the other taxpayers who foot the bill for the bloated, over-funded, poorly performing public school industrial complex. Our math teacher, like all good selfish/greedy union school teachers, doesn’t want any competition — human or digital — that might encroach or poach on “his” government-protected economic turf.

Rand Paul isn’t talking about replacing flesh and blood teachers with online lecturers. He wants to remove the myriad government restrictions that protect the current public school system and create an education market.  He wants to allow/encourage a thousand schools of every kind and size and shape to bloom. Our high college tuition costs are caused by government subsidies/policies, but there is far more choice for parents/students in the American college market (and in cars and shoes and grocery stores and many other goods and services) than in k-12 education.

The current system — a 19th century factory-school, made-in-Prussia model of control and brainwashing that liberals and libertarians have lamented and loathed for 140 years — should be broken up, defunded, deregulated, privatized and taken away from government control and protection.

Meanwhile, paying public school teachers more is not the way to get better teachers; but allowing people to become teachers without having to waste two years at a state teachers college getting a teacher’s certificate is. If Christ or Einstein came back from the dead and said they wanted to teach ethics or physics at your local high school, they’d be told they weren’t allowed until they got their teacher’s certificate and got at the end of the waiting line.

Public school teachers have a good racket because they and the “industry” they work in are protected from competition by their friends in government. Until their privileged racket is broken up, they deserve all the competition and damaging they get.

 

Politico.com is a pain in the ass.

It’s running a great excerpt detailing how Washington, D.C., grew in size and power during WWI from Christopher Capozzola’s book Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen

“America has a real capital at last,” wrote journalist Harrison Rhodes in March 1918, in the thick of World War I. Although the United States had only joined the war raging in Europe less than a year earlier, those 11 months were enough to transform American politics and its capital city. Gone was the sleepy crossroads capital with its swampy southern feel, and in its place stood something bigger, faster-paced and heftier—a city commensurate with America’s capacity to govern at home and wage war abroad.”
I wrote a comment under the Politico piece  (longer and rantier than the one below, but now lost in the blogosphere) and it was rejected. I was not deterred. But this one was rejected too.

Thanks to Politico for this history lesson too few know. It’s a reminder that WWI-critic and wise socialist Randolph Bourne’s observation that “war is the health of the state” is true — for DC as well. WWI started us down the road to our current bipartisan warfare/security/welfare/crony-capitalist state. Those WWI Democrats who worried that we’d turn into Prussia were right, except that we turned into something much worse.

As of 12:24 pm, this third attempt at commenting by me was still there:

WWI critic Randolph Bourne was right when he said “war is the health of the state.” It was healthy for DC too.

Meanwhile, while my contribution was being purged by some moron-in-charge, for the previous 12 hours, this spambot was among two spambots residing happily in the commentaries:

I just got<- paid $7500 parttime working online with a lap-top b­­­­­­­­y G­­­­­­­­­­­­oog­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­l­­­­­e­­­­­­­­­­­­­.I­ a­­m ­­­­­­­­­m­­a­­k­­­­i­n­­­g ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­go­­od ­­­­­­­­­sa­­la­­ry ­­­­­­­­­fr­­­om ­­­­­­­­­h­­.o­­m­e ­­­­­­­­­$­­5­5­0­0­­­­­­­­­-­­­­­­­­­$­­70­0­0/w­­­­­e­e­kL­­­ast Monday got a brand new BM­­­W since getting a check for $647­­­4 this – 4 weeks past. I beg­­­an this 8-months ago and imm­­­ediately was bringing home at lea­­­st $97 per hour. I wo­­­rk thr­­­ough this link, go to tech tab for work det­­­ail­­­

As of 12:40 my comment was removed, but the spambots remained. Maybe the screener is a robot.

Yes, as the great/heroic Ethan Nadelmann proclaims in the Huffington Post, it’s a very big deal for the country that the influential New York Times has editorialized in favor of marijuana legalization.

Now let’s see how many other liberal papers grow a set and follow their thought leader.

Too bad the Times‘ epiphany is pathetically long overdue — and five years behind a conservative/libertarian paper from Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review — the daily owned by the late Richard Scaife — wrote the editorial below on July 29, 2009 because Scaife had been persuaded (by me, I’m proud to say) that the government’s war on marijuana was not just a total failure but a horrible infringement on individual freedom.

Though I and other Trib columnists  regularly called for the end of the War on (all) Drugs and did our best to ridicule the Bush and Obama administrations for their immoral and stupid drug policies, I had left the Trib by the time its call for legalization ran:

 

Stop ‘reefer madness’: Legalize marijuana

It’s time to legalize marijuana.

Note we did not say it’s time to “decriminalize” marijuana. And note we did not say it’s time to legalize marijuana nationwide for medicinal purposes only.

It’s time to flat-out legalize the production, possession, sale and use of marijuana.

This should be a no-brainer for thinking people. After all, alcohol prohibition in the early 20th century was such a “success,” right?

The federal prohibition against marijuana took effect 72 years ago this Sunday. It has flooded our legal system, jails and prisons. It has cost taxpayers billions of dollars annually.

It also has fueled organized crime and violence on a massive national and international scale.

And it has sent billions of dollars into an underground economic system that could bolster the mainstream economy, especially in these recessionary times.

Indeed, with legalization there must be some commonsense, effective and market-friendly regulation. (Please, no Pennsylvania Marijuana Control Board.)

Marijuana sales should be taxed. (But not at a level that discourages its commerce.)

Use by minors should be prohibited. (Let the debate begin whether that should be under 21 or under 18.)

And the same under-the-influence laws that apply to alcohol and driving should be applied to marijuana.

We’re off our conservative rocker, you say• Then late conservative icons William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman were, too.

Citing the Dutch example, Mr. Buckley said usage did not swell. “Today we have illegal marijuana for whoever wants it,” he added.

Noted Mr. Friedman, citing clear economic thinking: “There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana.”

Marijuana’s prohibition long has been rooted in fear, not facts, and in government propaganda, not sane public policy. Prohibition has led to far more fearsome things, true reefer madness, if you will.

It’s time for sanity in the Great Marijuana Debate. It’s time, at long last, to legalize marijuana.