Criminal Negligence of Cause and Effect -- November 8, 2004 --
By: Clay Waters

Times Watch for November 8, 2004

Criminal Negligence of Cause and Effect

Some things never change. On Monday, crime reporter Fox Butterfield files "Despite Drop In Crime, An Increase In Inmates," yet another Butterfield story that fails to grasp that putting criminals in prison can actually lead to a drop in crime. It's a simple idea, but one that's evidently beyond Butterfield and his headline writers, who instead puzzle over the apparent paradox of an increase in inmates coupled with a lower crime rate.

Butterfield begins: "The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday. The continuing increase in the prison population, despite a drop or leveling off in the crime rate in the past few years, is a result of laws passed in the 1990's that led to more prison sentences and longer terms, said Allen J. Beck, chief of corrections statistics for the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics and an author of the report."In seeking to explain the paradox of a falling crime rate but a rising prison population, Mr. Beck pointed out that F.B.I. statistics showed that from 1994 to 2003 there was a 16 percent drop in arrests for violent crime, including a 36 percent decrease in arrests for murder and a 25 percent decrease in arrests for robbery."

This is becoming something of an annual ritual for Butterfield, who back in September 1997 wrote a similar story over a na"ve headline that read "Crime Rates are Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling" (as if the two trends were unrelated).

For Butterfield's latest crime story, click here.

" Fox Butterfield | Crime | Gaffes | Headlines | Prison

"Angry Conservatives," Erroneous Names

Carl Hulse's Saturday front-page story, "Abortion Remark By G.O.P. Senator Puts Heat on Peers," begins with this loaded sentence: "Angry conservatives flooded Senate phone and fax lines on Friday demanding that Republicans prevent Senator Arlen Specter from presiding over the Judiciary Committee after he remarked that strongly anti-abortion judicial nominees might be rejected in the Senate."

Later Hulse notes: "The outpouring illustrated how the party's conservative wing has been emboldened by the White House victory and the strengthening of Republican majorities in Congress, potentially raising new hazards for moderate Republicans who might want to break from the president or House and Senate leadership on major issues".But the conservative groups were not mollified. The Concerned Women of America planned a news conference critical of Mr. Specter on Saturday in Pennsylvania, and Michael Schwartz, the group's vice president for government relations, said his organization would continue to press the case against the lawmaker."

"The Concerned Women of America"?

That's the second time over two days the Times has gotten wrong the name of Concerned Women FOR America, a prominent conservative group. (Hulse evidently copied the group's name from Sheryl Gay Stolberg's front-page story on Friday, which made the identical mistake).

For the rest of Hulse, click here.

" Abortion | Concerned Women for America | Gaffes | Carl Hulse | Sen. Arlen Specter

"Poll Tax" for Poor Voters in Ohio?

The Times investigates voting problems in Ohio (the state that awarded the presidency to Bush) in Sunday's story from Adam Liptak, "Voting Problems in Ohio Set Off an Alarm."

Liptak finds a racial angle and even "a sort of poll tax" in long lines at the polls: "Most scholars and lawyers agree the main problems in Ohio resulted from technical failures and inadequate resources rather than partisan bickering in polling places or intentional disenfranchisement. But they said poor and minority voters may have suffered disproportionately. 'There is a feeling here that the long-line problem was a problem of disparity that fell along socioeconomic lines,' Professor [Edward] Foley said. 'There were isolated instances of long lines here in the seven- to nine-hour range, and the common lines were two to three hours. When your line gets to two or three hours, it's system failure.' Even if the waits were comparable in poorer and richer precincts, legal scholars said, they might have had a disproportionate impact. If time is money, a long wait is a sort of poll tax, and the rich may be more able to pay it."

For the rest of Liptak's story, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Gaffes | Adam Liptak | Ohio

About That "Stagnant Economy""

"Despite an utterly incompetent war performance in Iraq and a stagnant economy, Mr. Bush held onto the same basic core of states that he won four years ago -- as if nothing had happened." -- Columnist Thomas Friedman, November 4.

"The American economy created 337,000 new jobs in October, the government reported yesterday, snapping a prolonged jobs slump and igniting renewed hopes that after years of caution, businesses may finally be starting to hire workers more aggressively. It was the biggest monthly increase in employment since March." -- Front-page story by Eduardo Porter, November 6.

" Campaign 2004 | Columnists | Economy | Thomas Friedman | Gaffes

"A More Imperial President"

Elisabeth Bumiller writes on Monday's front page ("President Feels Emboldened, Not Accidental, After Victory"): "It was a small but telling change for a president whose re-election has already had a powerful effect on his psyche, his friends and advisers say. They say Mr. Bush's governing style may change as well, although they acknowledge it is too early to tell if victory will lift what critics call the chip on his shoulder and make him more magnanimous -- or whether it will simply create a more imperial president."

Bumiller has no doubt about Bush's strong conservatism: "Mr. Bush's conservative supporters continue to believe that he will emerge as the political heir of Ronald Reagan, determined to use his presidency to usher in a Republican ascendancy. Moderates hope that Mr. Bush, freed from the need to stroke the right, will be more pragmatic and look for common ground with the Democrats and moderate Republicans".His goal at home, they say, is to persuade the nation that there really is such a thing as a compassionate conservative and that Republicans can solve the problems of poverty, the inner city and education that have long been considered the preserve of the Democrats."

She lays out a bleak playing field for Bush's second term: "Of course, Mr. Bush faces enormous problems, many of his own making. Most immediately, he must move to begin extracting American forces from Iraq even with the assault on Falluja under way, and he must push for an expensive plan to overhaul Social Security without the money in the Treasury to do it."

For the rest of Bumiller, click here.

" Elisabeth Bumiller | George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Iraq War

Bush: Moving Out of Hooverville?

Economics reporter Eduardo Porter's analysis of healthy new jobs data ("October Hiring Set Strong Pace Of 337,000 Jobs") makes Saturday's front page: "The American economy created 337,000 new jobs in October, the government reported yesterday, snapping a prolonged jobs slump and igniting renewed hopes that after years of caution, businesses may finally be starting to hire workers more aggressively. It was the biggest monthly increase in employment since March".The new employment report comes close to relieving the president of one of the most pointed Democratic charges: if job growth continues near this pace for the next two months, Mr. Bush will avoid becoming the first occupant of the White House since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net job loss during a four-year term."

Not only is the "Herbert Hoover" factor a Democratic charge, but it's one the Times used before the election as well. Here's fellow Times economics reporter Edmund Andrews from October 9, after the release of a weaker batch of job numbers: "It's official. President Bush will be the first President since Herbert Hoover to face re-election with fewer people working than when he started."

For the rest of Porter's story, click here.

" Edmund Andrews | Economy | Gaffes | Herbert Hoover | Eduardo Porter

No More Clarence Thomases!

Liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof has some advice for Democrats in Saturday's "Time To Get Religion," including this beauty: "Hold your nose and work with President Bush as much as you can because it's lethal to be portrayed as obstructionists. Sure, block another Clarence Thomas, but here's a rule of thumb: if an otherwise qualified Supreme Court nominee would turn the clock back 10 years, approve; back 25 years, vote no; back a half-century, filibuster."

For the full Kristof, click here.

" Columnists | Nicholas Kristof | Supreme Court | Clarence Thomas

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