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Friday, May 31, 2013

"It makes me feel sad"

That is what a 14 year old black kid said after he was tackled by the police after supposedly giving them a bad look.

But it should make him (and you) feel outraged.

The logical outcome of the law defining some acts as crimes (i.e., street crimes) while ignoring others (i.e., white collar and corporate crimes) and the media focusing on some people (i.e., people of color) while ignoring others (i.e., whites) is that we, as a nation, see crime as a black thing, even though in reality it is white people who do the vast majority of damage to us.

There is a ton of research on this by the way. Just Google "Travis Dixon" and "race" and "crime" ...

This king of thing--a 14 year old black kid holding his puppy getting tackled by the police--can only happen in a society whose institutions (i.e., the law and the media) have defined blackness as criminal.

Think about it:

1) Who makes the law? White, old, rich men (WORMs).

2) Who owns the media? White, old, rich men (WORMs).

Who is seen as dangerous? Poor, young men of color.

And who is not?

White, old, rich men (WORMs).


Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's too bad this is on a blog!

But at least it is a blog affiliated with the Washington Post.

My question is, why isn't this THE news?

The following chart shows that even as we've locked up more and more people in prison and jail, the price of cocaine and heroin is falling.


One of the stated goals of drug policy is to drive UP the prices of these drugs. As they get more expensive, less people will be able to afford them, thereby driving down use.

Clearly this has not happened.

And when you consider that, during these same years, we've spent more and more and more money every year fighting the drug war (now in the tens of billions of dollars every year!), what you see is that what we're getting for our money is money inmates (which costs us more, obviously, in the tens of billions of year every year as well).

Drugs are not less available. Drug use is not down. We are not saving lives (more people are dying every year from drugs).

So why are we still fighting this failing war? And where is the media on this?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What is terrorism anyway?

Did you know that terrorism experts generally argue that there is no single accepted defintion of terrorism.

So does this qualify?

International terrorism always gets headlines. Getting much less attention is the ongoing government-sanctioned terror against blacks in America.

This is not hyperbole. The problem is real, and systemic, and a new report out this month confirms it.

Terror is terror, and it often ends in incarcerating the innocent - or worse.

Domestic terror against blacks includes a death count at the hands of "police, security guards and vigilantes," resulting in the fatality of an African-American every 28 hours.

Read more:

Be sure to focus on the part focusing on Bill Moyers and his argument about "justice for all" being a lie. Hmmmmm.................

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stay focused on the trivial ...

I've been reading and writing a lot about major corporate crimes and deviance. Things like defective products (which kill about 20,000 Americans every year), hazardous working conditions under companies like BP and Massey Energy (who have repeatedly killed their own employees), and Wall Street and banking fraud (which caused the collapse of the US economy).

There is a lot of information out there in the media on these crimes. And by "the media" I mean the websites of independent news organizations.

But in the mainstream press, these are some of the leading stories.

From CNN:
Passengers scramble to the decks after a 2:50 a.m. alarm warns of a fire on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship heading to the Bahamas. FULL STORY

From Fox:
These are each examples of "trivial stories" or news.
Why do such stories appear in the news, along with others about a little kid being bitten by sharks off the waters in Florida?
And why don't more serious stories, including those that kill and injure us and wreck our economy, don't make it?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Now THIS is newsworthy

... which means you won't see it in the news.

In many of my classes and in the book, I outline the issue of "power to define," as in the power to define some acts as crimes while ignoring others.

This is a power that is in the hands largely of rich, old, white men, those that make the law (which determines which behaviors are illegal and which are not), as well as those that own the media (who determine what we see on TV and in newspapers and what we do not).

Together, these people define crimes and determine what we fear. They also determine which harms we ignore and don't learn about.

Take the crime of terrorism. We hear about it all the time. And of course many Americans fear terrorists, even though they almost never kill Americans.

Compare terrorism to a "non-crime" you've never heard about--terracide, and the people who commit it--terrarists.

Terracide could be the most harmful act on the planet. Yet, it is legal and will remain so. Even as we all ultimately die from it.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Two days later and it's back to the scandals

... for Fox News.

Only two days after a deadly tornado, Fox News has returned to its pre-storm coverage of the scandals associated with the IRS, etc.

Top IRS Official Pleads The Fifth

BREAKING NEWS: Lois Lerner, director of IRS division that targeted conservative groups, invokes her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuses to answer questions during testimony this morning before House hearing on agency scandal.
  • Official Says Choice to Use Planted Question on Scandal 'Bad Idea' | VIDEO: Groups Suing IRS
  • FOX NEWS POLL: Voters Say Gov't 'Out Of Control' | FOX NEWS POLL: Majority Thinks White House Knew About IRS

  • Imagine if the network had focused such attention on the numerous scandals during the previous presidential administration.

    Imagine if the network focused its attention now on the harmful acts of white-collar and corporate criminals, the people who nearly collapsed the entire US economy (and would have if not for taxpayer bailouts). Yeah, what about those?

    I'm not excusing the acts of IRS or Justice Department or State Department. But I am saying such things have been going on for many, many years. They've even made the news.

    Just not Fox.

    Until now.

    And it's all politics. That's pretty disturbing coming from a "fair and balanced" source of information, from a channel that claims to report and let "you decide," and from the most watched cable news network in the country.

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    Amazing how a disaster pushes all other news aside

    It's like a reminder--literally from above--of what is important.

    In this case, it's a tornado.

    Now, IT is the only news that matters.

    For example, from CNN:

    Searching 'board by board'
    24 dead including 9 kids
    • Rescuers in Moore, Oklahoma, in frantic hunt for survivors
    • "This is a tough community," Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb says
    • Looks like a "two-mile-wide lawnmower blade" hit DEVELOPING STORY

    And from Fox:

    Rescue teams search rubble for survivors after tornado kills at least 24

    Oklahoma City officials lower tornado death toll to 24, which includes 9 children, as rescue efforts continue after monster storm destroys homes, buildings and an elementary school.
  • Deadly Tornado Tracked Path of 1999 Oklahoma Twister | Missouri City Devastated By 2011 Twister Aids Oklahoma
  • Photog Describes Rescuers Pulling Kids Out of Rubble | VIDEO: Photog Captures Images of Heroic Effort
  • Worried Parents Seek Out Kids at Oklahoma School | VIDEO: Rescuers Search for Kids Trapped in School
  • VIDEO: 'Loudest Noise I Ever Heard' | Obama: We Will Be There | How Is Twister Formed? | JOIN THE LIVE CHAT
  • PHOTOS: Tornado Tears Through Oklahoma | Deadly Tornadoes in US History | EXTREME WEATHER CENTER

  • Just yesterday, right before the storm, the news was scandal this, scandal that (mostly imagined and not legitimate), especially on Fox. In fact, it took Fox at least two hours after the storm hit to change its website to the storm as the lead story.

    The phenomenon of media coverage of disasters helps us understand why crime is so attractive to the media, as well.


    = news

    Monday, May 20, 2013

    "Criminal Justice Policy" In the news

    These are the top stories from Google News on "criminal justice policy."

    There is some fascinating stuff here, including the first story sharing details on an amazing retelling of a great book.

    Also of great interest is the conservative argument that criminal justice reform saves money! Money, what really matters, no?

    1. The Graphic Truth of America's Criminal Justice System - Truthout

      Truth-Out-May 14, 2013
      Mauer, one of the country's foremost experts on sentencing policy, race, and the criminal justice system, explained how "tough on crime" ...
    2. Conservatives push for criminal justice system reform, say it saves ...

      Washington Free Beacon-Apr 23, 2013
      Right on Crime promotes reforming the criminal justice system by ... and measured results, said Right on Crime policy analyst Vikrant Reddy.
    3. Legal watchdog warns budget cuts will damage justice

      The Guardian-14 hours ago
      Depriving defendants of the ability to choose their own solicitor will undermine confidence in the criminal justice system, an official legal ...
    4. David Onek Named Executive Director of Santa Clara University's ...

      Business Wire (press release)-May 6, 2013
      BUSINESS WIRE)--Long-time criminal-justice reformer David Onek has ... of Criminal Justice, where he led numerous criminal-justice policy ...
    5. Al Qaeda: Enemy or Asset?

      CounterPunch-5 hours ago
      ... support for international terrorist networks and organised crime. ... criminal justice, psychology and public policy at George Washington and ...
    6. Ups and downs - Washington Post

      Washington Post (blog)-1 hour ago
      ... president to tell the attorney general in a criminal matter what are you doing? ... WOODWARD: No, no, but you need to have a policy set down and there is ... GREGORY: But again, you cannot mean the Justice Department.
    7. Niantic prison would get nursery for inmates' infants under proposal hours ago
      Mike Lawlor, undersecretary for the criminal justice division of the Office of Policy and Management, said it could be much less expensive to put ...
    8. Crime victims 'could fall through the cracks'

      Get Surrey-5 hours ago
      The Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley last week appointed a new ... to ensure that victims are put at the heart of the criminal justice system. ... and release of prisoners, police funding and accountability and policy, ...
    9. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel ...

      SYS-CON Media (press release)-Apr 25, 2013
      As a key voice on criminal justice policy in his state, Secretary Wetzel will make a great contribution to our work." Wetzel was selected to serve ...
    10. Poll shows Bachmann trailing in 2014 reelection race

      Salon-19 minutes ago
      According to a new poll by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, ... speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday.

    Friday, May 17, 2013

    This is literally crime "in the news" today

    Every once in a while you can go to Google News and enter a search term to see what is in the news that day.

    This is today's result for "crime" ...

    What do you notice about these results?

    What makes something a relevant crime story in the US?

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    CNN claims cause of blast in Texas unknown

    Investigators have not ruled out an intentional fire being behind an explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West that left 15 people dead, the Texas fire marshal said. The blast registered on seismographs as a magnitude 2.1 earthquake. FULL STORY

    In fact, there is a simply explanation ... negligence and recklessness.

    Time will undeniably show this to be the case.

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    I'm not making this up

    Today I was in the gym and they had on CNN.

    CNN had live footage of a courtroom, often the inside of the front door of the courtroom. And what was happening?


    Literally nothing. I mean, no one was even inside moving around.

    The headline underneath was something like, "OJ Simpson expected in court soon."

    On the television was a live shot of any empty courtroom door! For minutes at a time.

    Maybe any time now he'll enter?

    My reactions are these:

    First, why is this news?

    Second, why can't CNN wait until something happens until they cover it?

    Why the need to fill every second of air time with nonsense?

    Is this what the news has become?

    He's back!

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    The very definition of partisan ideology

    ... only this comes in the form of a "news organization."

    As I write about in the book, we expect the news to be "neutral" and "objective" and to "tell both sides of the story" (even though I clearly show this is not possible and that there are almost always more than two sides to the story).

    Many have written about bias in the news media. Some claim the media have a "liberal bias." Still others (like me) show the "corporate bias" in the news.

    But almost no one thinks the media have a "conservative bias."

    But check out the top stories on Fox News, a news organization owned and operated by prominent Republicans that still claims to be "fair and balanced" and following the motto of "We report, you decide." As of today, these are their top stories:

    1) 'VERY TROUBLED': Lawmakers Rip Justice Dept. Over AP Records Grab

    GOP Wants New Benghazi Testimony from Clinton

  • Benghazi Emails Underscore State Department's Failure to Act
  • OPINION: Media Can't Ignore the IRS and Benghazi Scandals
  • VIDEO: More Benghazi Fallout

  • 3)  IRS targeting went beyond Tea Party, conservatives
    - Attorney for Tea Party group: IRS told me a year ago about 'secret working group'

    Such stories are important to be sure. So I have no problem with them being covered in the news.

    My problem is the partisan ideology behind covering them during one presidential administration while ignoring similar (and worse) stories during the previous presidential administration.

    So, let's assume the worst about President Obama: A terrorist attack occurred on foreign soil (Benghazi, Libya)--a place known to be dangerous--killing four US diplomats. Let's assume he lied about it and covered it up.

    Let's also assume he personally directed the Justice Department to spy on AP reporters and that he personally approved the IRS targeting of the Tea Party.

    This would all be newsworthy.

    But, if such stories are covered because they violate some principle deeply held by Americans, then they should be covered regardless of who engages in the behaviors. That is, shouldn't Fox News have covered such events (and worse) by the Bush Admininstration?

    Like when President Bush authorized the illegal wiretapping of American citizens, which had to be later approved by Congress (ex post facto) to avoid criminal prosecution.

    Like when the IRS, under President Bush, targeted churches that promoted liberal messages about the coming Iraq war.

    Like when President Bush approved torture, a practice that was far more widespread than he and his employees downplayed significantly.

    Like when President Bush intentionally hyped and manipulated intelligence to justify the Iraq war, a war that was unnecessary and illegal and that killed more Americans than the 9/11 attacks.

    Oh, and like when President Bush ignored clear warnings of a forthcoming attack against the US homeland, which resulted in almost 3,000 Ameircan deaths (many more than the 4 killed in Benghazi), and then allegedly tried to cover up what he knew.

    What I am saying is that I have no issue with Fox News covering the abuses of the Obama Administration. But they should not claim their stories to be based on some kind of high level principle that transcends party lines unless they covered such stories when "their guy" was in office.

    Likewise, I don't blame normal citizens for being upset about abuses by President Obama. But they should not claim their concern is based on some kind of high level principle that has nothing to do with party unless they were also upset about abuses by "their guy."

    In other words, if Fox and normal citizens only get upset about abuses of power when it occurs by Democrats, then what they are expressing is nothing but partisan ideology. A principled objection is stated at all times, whenever principles are violated and regardless of who violates them.

    Here is an example: I wrote many letters to the editor during President Bush's time in office. I stated my objections to what I perceived to be illegal and/or wrong actions--things like targeting Americans for arrest or worse and then treating them as enemy combatants so that they have no right to trial. When Obama became President, I did not stop. In fact, I've written several letters expressing my disapproval of and serious reservations about Obama approving killing US citizens without trial. This is a principled objection based on the principle that Americans have the Constitutional right to due process, regardless of what actions of which they are accused.