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Three writers who have seen a bit of police excess in their lives and reporting adventures discuss Ferguson, media, and what it would take for the rest of the country to demand real reform of the po-pos.

Host: Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag

Guests: Michael Tracey, reporter for VICE, The American Conservative, The Nation, Salon; @mtracey

Justin Glawe, reporter for The Daily Beast, VICE; @justinglawe

Not Ed Krayewski, because his tech failed.

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.

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.

Richard Scaife — the billionaire owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review who died July 4 — was a complicated and interesting man, politically, personally and philanthropically.

If he had been a Democrat and liberal-funder of nutty leftwing causes like Teresa Heinz, instead of a Republican funder of libertarian conservative think tanks, media and politicians, President Obama would have ordered America’s flags to fly at half mast.

If you want two versions of Richard Scaife’s amazing life — and a textbook lesson in the rank subjectivity of newspapers — compare and contrast the obits written by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Trib:

The PG obit:  Obituary: Richard M. Scaife / Ideologue, philanthropist, newspaper publisher

The Trib obit:  Richard Scaife, conservative champion, newsman & philanthropist, dies 

Decide for yourself who Richard Scaife really was. Good luck.

I worked at both papers — the PG in the 1990s and the Trib in the 2000s. When I decided to defect from the PG to the Trib, the first person I met for an interview was Richard Scaife. I worked my way down the chain of command and, after two years of interviews and dogged persistence on my part, I left the PG one Monday morning, crossed the Allegheny River and began work at the Trib 20 minutes later.

The Trib‘s obit is biased in Scaife’s favor, clearly. It leaves out all of the real-and-imagined dirt, nastiness and controversy, political and personal, all of which is debatable and too complicated for this blog item. It’ll be in someone else’s book someday, not mine. Or in a movie.

But the Trib‘s obit, while spun with loving positivity, gives Scaife his full due as a generous and important man. It also contains lots of mini-eulogies from political big shots like Romney and Jeb Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.

For the next week Scaife will be beat up in the mainstream media for his conservative-libertarian politics.

Many creepy liberal pundits and partisans will dance on his grave because he so generously funded the post-Goldwater conservative movement and spent a couple million bucks in the 1990s attempting to bring down the Clintons, who, hilariously, became chummy with him once they were out of power.

Politics, politics, politics. The debate over whether Scaife was the Devil or an angel will, as usual, depend on what your politics are  and it will never die.

Bu what people of every partisan stripe should give Scaife great credit for was making Pittsburgh a competitive two-newspaper town.

Starting in 1993 as the Pittsburgh edition of Scaife’s Greensburg Tribune-Review, his heavily subsidized paper, the Pittsburgh Trib, improved the journalism of the area in countless ways.

Growing slowly, adding talent and steadily improving the quality of its journalism, the Trib applied a strict conservative-libertarian ideology to local, state and national news and politics.

The Trib became a valuable counterweight to the Post-Gazette, which was a union-loving, public-sector loving, liberal Democrat establishment paper that was too cozy for too long with the political and corporate power-brokers of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

The journalism of both papers — news and opinion — was biased to reflect their publishers’ views. But the Trib editorial page (very very much Scaife’s political voice and generally a source of embarrassment/shame for the liberals running the paper’s news side) was not a mindless Republican cheerleader or a right-wing echo chamber.

During the 2000s, when I worked there, The Trib‘s editorials and op-eds were highly critical of any Republican who was insufficiently conservative.

It never got the national credit it deserved, but the Trib, entirely because of Richard Scaife’s positions, editorialized against going to war in Iraq in 2003, wisely/bravely came out in favor of marijuana decriminalization five years ago, and was steadfastly pro-choice.

In 30-plus years of newspaper journalism at the L.A. Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Trib, I worked for and with a lot of good, smart people and a few miserable assholes.

Mr. Scaife, as I called him when he dropped by the office, was always as nice to me as my favorite uncle. He gave me raises, put me on the paper’s masthead as an associate editor and sent me notes of praise for my op-ed columns and feature stories.

Best of all, unlike my previous editors/publishers, he didn’t hold my radical libertarian politics against me. He appreciated them.