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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).