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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Media setting up the case for ground forces in Iraq again

Case in point:

ISIS advances on outmatched fighters

Militants likely
to take town
on Syrian border

Kurdish fighters defending the key Syrian border city of Kobani are dangerously outmatched as ISIS advances, a top U.N. official said. FULL STORY

And ...

UN warns of pending 'massacres'
as ISIS closes in on key Syrian city

A UN ENVOY warns of ‘massacres, humanitarian tragedies, rapes and horrific violence’ if the world does not act against ISIS as the terrorist group moves in on the city of Kobani; above, Turkish soldiers watch over the key border city.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Here is why corporate ownership of the media matters!

From Alternet today:

The following are all relevant, fact-based issues, the "hard news" stories the media has a responsibility to report. But the business-oriented press generally avoids them.

1. U.S. Wealth Up $34 Trillion Since Recession. 93% of You Got Almost None of It.

That's an average of $100,000 for every American. But the people who already own most of the stocks took almost all of it. For them, the average gain was well over a million dollars, tax-free as long as they don't cash it in. Details available here.

2. Eight Rich Americans Made More Than 3.6 Million Minimum-Wage Workers

A recent report stated that no full-time minimum wage worker in the U.S. can afford a one-bedroom or two-bedroom rental at fair market rent. There are 3.6 million such workers, and their total (combined) 2013 earnings is less than the 2013 stock market gains of just eight Americans, all of whom take more than their share from society: the four Waltons, the two Kochs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett.

3. News Sources Speak for the 5%

It would be refreshing to read an honest editorial: "We dearly value the 5 to 7 percent of our readers who make a lot of money and believe that their growing riches are helping everyone else."

Instead, the business media seems unable to differentiate between the top 5 percent and the rest of society. The Wall Street Journal exclaimed, "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before," and then went on to sputter: "What Recession?...The economy has bounced back from recession, unemployment has declined.."

The Chicago Tribune may be even further out of touch with its less privileged readers, asking them: "What's so terrible about the infusion of so much money into the presidential campaign?"

4. TV News Dumbed Down for American Viewers

A 2009 survey by the European Journal of Communication compared the U.S. to Denmark, Finland and the UK in the awareness and reporting of domestic vs. international news, and of "hard" news (politics, public administration, the economy, science, technology) vs. "soft" news (celebrities, human interest, sports and entertainment). The results:
  • Americans [are] especially uninformed about international public affairs.
  • American respondents also underperformed in relation to domestic-related hard news stories.
  • American television reports much less international news than Finnish, Danish and British television;
  • American television network newscasts also report much less hard news than Finnish and Danish television.
Surprisingly, the report states that "our sample of American newspapers was more oriented towards hard news than their counterparts in the European countries." Too bad Americans are reading fewer newspapers.

5. News Execs among White Male Boomers Who Owe Trillions to Society

The hype about the "self-made man" is fantasy. In the early 1970s, we privileged white males were spirited out of college to waiting jobs in management and finance, technology was inventing new ways for us to make money, tax rates were about to tumble, and visions of bonuses and capital gains danced in our heads.

While we were in school the Defense Department had been preparing the Internet for Microsoft and Apple, the National Science Foundation was funding the Digital Library Initiative research that would be adopted as the Google model, and the National Institute of Health was doing the early laboratory testing for companies like Merck and Pfizer. Government research labs and public universities trained thousands of chemists, physicists, chip designers, programmers, engineers, production line workers, market analysts, testers, troubleshooters, etc.

All we created on our own was a disdainful attitude, like that of Steve Jobs: "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."

6. Funding Plummets for Schools and Pensions as Corporations Stop Paying Taxes

Three separate studies have shown that corporations pay less than half of their required state taxes, which are the main source of K-12 educational funding and a significant part of pension funding. Most recently, the report, "The Disappearing Corporate Tax Base" found that the percentage of corporate profits paid as state income taxes has dropped from 7 percent in 1980 to about 3 percent today.

7. Companies Based in the U.S. Paying Most of Their Taxes Overseas

Citigroup had 42% of its 2011-'13 revenue in North America (almost all U.S.) and made $32 billion in profits, but received a U.S. current income tax benefit all three years.

Pfizer had 40% of its 2011-'13 revenues and nearly half of its physical assets in the U.S., but declared almost $10 billion in U.S. losses to go along with nearly $50 billion in foreign profits.

In 2013 Exxon had about 43% of management, 36% of sales, 40% of long-lived assets, and 70-90% of its productive oil and gas wells in the U.S., yet only paid about 2 percent of its total income in U.S. income taxes, and most of that was something called a "theoretical" tax.

8. Restaurant Servers Go Without Raise for 30 Years

An evaluation by Michelle Chen showed that the minimum wage for tipped workers has been approximately $2 an hour since the 1980s. She also notes that about 40 percent of these workers are people of color, and about two-thirds are women.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wanna talk bias?

I was in the gym on campus today and numerous TVs were on.

The one tuned to CNN featured a live speech by President Obama.

The one tuned to Fox News showed Obama's speech in a small video box while a talking head (who happens to be very anti-Obama) was given the larger part of the screen. On that channel it was her voice that was being heard.

Meanwhile, the CNN audience actually got to listen to the President.

Incredibly, as Obama spoke on CNN, Fox News actually showed a clip of President Bush giving a speech.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Again, what is NEWS?

So, a case of Ebola has been reportedly confirmed in the US.

Of course this is news.

From today's FB feed:

So you see, a friend shares an NBC report indicating a single case of Ebola in the US.

And my reply is, what about all the other stuff that is far more deadly which is not reported in the news?

So why is Ebola news but the rest is not?

Monday, September 15, 2014

If we invade countries that kill Americans....

....when do we invade America?

Specifically, when do we invade the corporations that keep killing us?

19 deaths linked to GM ignition flaw

19 now. And still growing.

At least THIS is getting some news coverage.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Lack of criminal justice education"

"Lack of criminal justice education"

This is one of the major explanations for why the media get it so wrong--i.e., for why the news media often make stupid mistakes when it comes to covering crime and criminal justice.

Here is an example of it:

Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide.  (Getty Images)

Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide

The former Olympian escaped the more serious charge of murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend.  Faces up to 15 years in jail » 

15 years in JAIL?

Sorry, media, that is not possible. People who are incarcerated for more than a year go to prison, not jail. There is a difference, and it actually matters.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Um, CNN, really? These are LEAD stories?

Why do Americans need to know who Tiger Woods is friends with, or that a British royal couple is having a second baby?

Those are among CNN's top stories today.

NEW Will and Kate expecting 2nd baby
Tiger Woods is friends with WHOM?  Tiger Woods is friends with WHOM?

And here is another of their gems:

Camper sleepwalks off of a cliff  Camper sleepwalks off of a cliff

And another:

Falling gargoyle statue kills woman  Falling gargoyle statue kills woman

And this one is highly suggestive that what CNN is after is simply those voyeuristic souls among us who are not interested in being informed but instead just entertained:

Hammerhead chases swimmers  Hammerhead chases swimmers

So when is the news not the news anymore? Right now. Over at CNN.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Color of Justice

This is a story that just won't seem to go away.

And good thing, too, for it is an important one.

Yes, Blacks commit more than their fair share of (some forms of) crime. This is found to be true whether one uses police statistics, victimization surveys, or even contemporary self-report studies.

But their overrepresentation in criminal justice statistics is not justified just by higher involvement in crime. To my knowledge, there is no credible study that has even been able to explain that Blacks are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, and have force used again them more simply because they are more likely to break the law.

Studies in places like New York City, for example, find that people of color (i.e., Blacks and Latinos) make up about 90% of people being stopped and frisked by police, but they are no more likely to be found in possession of drugs or weapons. See here and here.

So today's article in The New Yorker titled, "The Color of Justice," is very important.

From the article:

"Few issues divide white and black Americans more sharply than criminal justice. A Pew Research Center poll found that eighty per cent of African-Americans thought the Ferguson case raised important racial issues; only thirty-seven per cent of whites felt the same. And while fewer than one in five African-Americans expressed confidence that the investigation of the shooting would be fair, more than half of whites said that they had confidence in the investigation.

"A report issued today by the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit advocacy group, confirms the old news that whites and blacks view the justice system very differently, largely because of their different treatment by it. The report’s real significance lies in its further contention that this disparity in perceptions contributes to our astonishingly high incarceration rate, the highest in the world.

"White Americans are decidedly more punitive than African-Americans or Hispanics. Sixty-three per cent of whites support the death penalty, as compared to only thirty-six per cent of African-Americans and forty per cent of Hispanics. Whites are also more supportive of other harsh measures, including trying juveniles as adults and “three-strikes” laws. Blacks, by contrast, are substantially more likely to support public investment in education and job training as a crime-prevention measure. Since whites are, for the time being, the majority of the polity, our laws reflect their preferences; American criminal law is dominated by mandatory minimum sentences, life sentences for minor offenses, and the widespread abandonment of parole.

"What explains whites’ preference for harsh criminal laws? Crime victims understandably might favor more punitive responses. But whites are considerably less likely to be victims of crime, especially violent crime: African-Americans are six times more likely than whites to die of homicide. Crime has always been a more serious problem in areas of concentrated urban poverty, and blacks more often live in such neighborhoods. Yet despite their substantially lower vulnerability to crime, whites are more likely than blacks to support punitive crime policies.

"Some people charge that whites use the criminal-justice system as a continuation of Jim Crow by other means. But the Sentencing Project report makes a more subtle point. It finds that whites support tougher criminal laws at least partly because they overestimate black and Hispanic crime rates. Blacks and Hispanics do commit certain crimes more frequently, per capita, than whites, but not all. But whites consistently overestimate the difference, according to one study, by as much as twenty to thirty per cent. That perception affects attitudes toward offenders and sentencing. Studies show that the more whites attribute higher crime rates to blacks and Hispanics, the more likely they are to support harsh criminal laws. It is less that they are consciously seeking to subordinate racial minorities than that they fail to treat the negative consequences of high incarceration rates as their problem. As the report explains, 'attributing crime to racial minorities limits empathy toward offenders and encourages retribution.'

"This is a damning indictment. If anyone were to admit that they preferred the death penalty, life without parole, or harsh sentences because they believe the perpetrators of violent crimes are more likely to be black or Hispanic, we would immediately condemn them as the worst sort of racist. If a prosecutor, judge, or juror expressed such a sentiment, any resulting conviction or sentence would be swiftly overturned. No one admits that they feel this way, but the studies recounted by the Sentencing Project suggest that this is precisely what many white Americans feel."

It is called innocent bias or implicit bias or timid bigotry. Or just call it fear of the criminalblackman, as Dr. Kathryn Russell-Brown calls it.

This is newsworthy for sure.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Do white police officers shoot black suspects more than others?

Turns out we don't know, or at least says an article in the New York Times.

Here is how the article begins:

"IF anything good has come out of this month’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., it is that the death of the black teenager shined a spotlight on the plague of shootings of black men by white police officers. And maybe now, the nation will begin to address the racism behind it.

"That is the conventional wisdom, anyway, and maybe it is true. Only a fool would deny that racial bias still pervades aspects of American society. The evidence is clear that some police law-enforcement tactics — traffic stops, to cite one example — disproportionately target African-Americans. And few doubt that blacks are more likely than whites to die in police shootings; in most cities, the percentage almost certainly exceeds the African-American share of the population.

"Such arguments suggest that the use of deadly force by police officers unfairly targets blacks. All that is needed are the numbers to prove it.

"But those numbers do not exist. And because of that, the current national debate over the role of race in police killings is being conducted more or less in a vacuum."

And that is a good start. 

But within the article is information that allows us to draw some tentative conclusions. For example:

Here is a study:

"A more comprehensive analysis exists: Dr. Klinger and Dr. Rosenfeld, among others, examined all 230 instances over 10 years in which officers of the St. Louis police fired their weapons (the city’s police, in contrast to the police in Ferguson involved in Mr. Brown’s shooting).

"Their conclusions, presented last November at the American Society of Criminology’s annual meeting, were striking. Officers hit their targets in about half of the 230 incidents; in about one-sixth, suspects died. Of the 360 suspects whose race could be identified — some fled before being seen clearly — more than 90 percent were African-American.

"But most interesting, perhaps, was the race of the officers who fired their weapons. About two-thirds were white, and one-third black — effectively identical to the racial composition of the St. Louis Police Department as a whole. In this study, at least, firing at a black suspect was an equal-opportunity decision."

Other findings, inconsistent with this one, are mentioned in the article.

Left out are facts identified in the media book:

1) When people think of crime, they tend to think of violent street crime committed by blacks.
2) When people hear news about crime when the suspect's race is not identified, they tend to assumed it is black person.
3) Fear is higher of blacks than whites.

etc. etc. etc.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What's leading the news today?

Any good news?

You know, positive stories?

Um, no.

Watch this video

'Please release my child'

Shirley Sotloff says her son, Steven Sotloff, who was in the video showing the beheading of another journalist, should be spared. FULL STORY

Jack Donaldson, 12, left, with family. (Courtesy of Whiston-Donaldsons)

She let her son play in the rain.
He never came back.

After Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s son died, she wrote a memoir about his death and her slow emergence from a cloud of grief. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

How Often are Unarmed Black Men Shot Down By Police?

This is a question that is now being asked by the media (finally), in the wake of the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Here's an example from the DailyKos.

From the article, an exhaustive review of the available data:

"If the use of kicking, punching, tasering and pointing guns at citizens is felt to be excessive an average of 74% of the time - and is Three Times Higher for Black People - just what would the percentages of unjustified, excessive uses of deadly force really be like if we had those numbers?
Could it be as high as 80%, 90%?

"Could it be so bad that the obviousness of it all would be plain for all to see? Just how bad is it? Maybe that's why, with all this number crunching already being provided by the BJS and Police
Departments and the FBI - we still don't have that. one. strategic. figure.

"Somehow I don't think that's a coincidence."

What we do know is that police are more likely to stop a black person, detain a black person, question a black person, search a black person, arrest a black person, use force against a black person, and use excessive force against a black person. Perhaps the rest is obvious.

And while I still will not draw any conclusions about the officer in this case, until all the facts are known ... there is this!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Why do we fear the things that are least likely to happen to us?

... while we don't fear the things that are most likely to harm us?

Yes, the media share a lot of the blame. Because of what they cover. And what they don't.

Turns out it is also innate to our species. It is part of our biology/psychology.

The dread factor predicts that events that are uncontrollable, catastrophic, fatal, and lead to involuntary exposure produce the most fear, anxiety, worry, and well, "dread."

Hence our fear of terrorism, shark attacks, and even ebola (although the latter is so unlikely to lead to involuntary exposure).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

If it's scary and violent, it is in the news


These are among the lead stories in the news today:


Watch this video


U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder plans to visit Ferguson Wednesday, after a night when bottles flew again and police chased young men. FULL STORY
Just remember, there is good news in the world. Much in fact.

You just rarely see it on the news.

Stay informed folks. But READ your news and READ it from balanced, informed sources that share the good and the bad, providing context for it all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Interesting discussion about the Ferguson, Missouri PD

The lethal shooting of an unarmed young black man (again!) by a police officer--this time in Ferguson, MO--has of course been all over the news.

I am not passing judgment on the case because all the facts are not out.

Yet, I have stated that it does have something to do with the unbelievable militarization of the police. And of course it has something to do with stereotypes of crime rooted in the law and the media.

And most recently I said this: "By law, the amount of force that CAN be reasonably used is determined by the behavior of the suspect. If a person is not armed and is not using force that can lead to serious injury or death, he or she CANNOT be shot dead."

Yet, a police officer friend of mine replied: "Actually yes, by law they can. The law is interpreted that if the officer is in fear for his/her's been done before and the media has not blown up about is the same for a citizen."

And this really shook me up. Why?

Because it means that if a police officer is afraid, he or she can kill someone, even if the reason he or she is afraid has its roots in racism.

As shown in the book, the media create the impression that black people--and young black men in particular--are dangerous and thus scary. So when one runs at you or refuses to back down, you are now justified in shooting them? Even if the only reason you are afraid is because you have been constantly bombarded with images of dangerous black men over the course of your entire life?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Reportedly shot multiple times in broad daylight with his hands up?

This explains the intense media coverage of it, no?


Governor calls in National Guard

An independent autopsy conducted for the Brown family says the teen was shot twice in the head and four times in the right arm, all to the front of his body. FULL STORY

Monday, August 11, 2014

"Broken Windows" in the news

You have likely heard of the theory, "Broken Windows," It asserts that signs of incivility, such as broken windows (but also graffiti, burned out and abandoned buildings, and the presence of untended people) attracts crime. Incivilities do so by sending a message to would-be criminals that this area is not cared about and thus not protected and thus easy to victimize!

Its founders were both conservatives, so it makes sense that the theory revolves around issues of order and disorder. After all, research shows that conservatives are hyper-sensitive to such issues, wanting things to be in their proper order.

Frankly, the theory is quite logical, and there is evidence that incivilities is linked to crime. Yet, as I showed in my book, Why Crime?, incivilities are as much an outcome of crime as a cause of it. Further, both are outcomes of larger social phenomena.

Policies resulting from the theory (e.g., aggressive stop and frisk and zero tolerance policing) have led to horrible outcomes, including racial disparities in policing as well as unjustifiable use of force by the police against often unarmed young men of color.

Yet, it is interesting that the theory's founders still support it. So indicates an article in the New York Times. In the article, one of the theory's founder, Professor Kelling, still defends the theory. At the same time, he sais that "stopping and frisking was 'overused; during the previous [city police] administration" as well as zero tolerance, which he described as “zealotry and no discretion — the opposite of what I tried to preach.”

I just wish there was more in the story as well as more in the news about the downsides of this theory as well as the police practices that emanate from it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Learning of racial disparities in punishment may lead to ...

... HIGHER support for that punishment!

So found a recent study summarized here:

According to a study done by Stanford University published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, concluded that if white people are presented with evidence of crime rate statistics that show African-Americans represent 40 percent of  the prison population, then they are  more likely to support harsher criminal policies.

From Stanford:
Stanford psychology researchers Rebecca Hetey and Jennifer Eberhardt found that when white people were told about these racial disparities, they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities.

This fits in nicely with research reported in the book that people are more likely to assume offenders reported in news stories are black when the race of the offender is not reported.

And it is more evidence that race still matters.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why the death penalty persists ...

... according to an article in Huffington Post.

In this great article about why the Supreme Court will not take a stand on the death penalty--including recent cases dealing with unknown (i.e., secret) chemicals used to carry out lethal injection--a death penalty scholar is quoted. He offers one reason why the death penalty persists in the US, in spite of the fact that its use has dramatically declined.

Part of his quote is "the Court appears happy not to be confronted with the issue" (of the death penalty).

According to the article, "One reason may be that some justices believe that problems with the death penalty plague the criminal justice system more generally, he said."

"If your chain of reasoning is that the death penalty is arbitrary and therefore unconstitutional, why are other long prison sentences not unconstitutional. If anything, the noncapital system is more arbitrary," Mandery said.

Got that? Yes, the death penalty is plagued by serious problems--arbitrariness, bias based on race and social class, wrongful conviction, etc. But then, so is all of criminal justice.

So if capital punishment is unconstitutional, so too is all criminal punishment.

Except, according to the Court, "death is different."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Well here is an interesting take on Israel-Gaza

Right here read about the claim that the media are obsessing about Gaza while "Ignoring Syria (and Most Everything Else)."

This blog has focused on the Gaza a bit in the past week (and rightfully so), but the media have ignored other important stories, even in the same region.

The authors writes, for example: "I was struck, over the weekend, by the lack of coverage of the Syrian civil war, in which the death count recently passed 170,000. By Sunday night, it had become clear that the weekend in toll in Syria would stand at roughly 700 dead—a larger number, obviously, than the weekend toll in Gaza (and more than the total number of deaths in this latest iteration of the Gaza war to date.)"

Turns out there are in fact bigger stories, even bigger related stories. But as the media pick and choose which to cover and which to ignore, our awareness of the issues is either higher of lower as a result.

Friday, August 1, 2014

FAIR examines media coverage of the Gaza war

In its article, Gaza as 'PR Battle', FAIR reports that: "The three-week Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip ... was accompanied by aggressive public relations strategies intended to improve the assault’s portrayal in international media. 'In the war of the pictures we lose, so you need to correct, explain or balance it in other ways,' said Israeli public affairs official Aviv Shir-On ... In U.S. corporate media, that effort faced little resistance."

The article goes on to examine how the US news media handled the PR efforts of Israel.

Oh, just to be sure you know, this article was from 2009!

That it is happening again is truly amazing (not yet another war there, but the lack of critical coverage in the media, again).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

This is what passes for news these days

Not only does it focus on crime, but it allows you to watch it happen, sort of like a video game.

For example:

This qualifies as the lowest common denominator in news. It provides no useful information and only serves to scare people of crimes--the kinds of crime they are least likely to be victimized by.