Archive: May, 2010
I don't do hit pieces for the sake of it, and I don't relish at all taking shots at my colleagues and fellow writers around town.
And I don't know, or have any personal beef whatsoever with Jon Campisi, the author of this week's Philadelphia Weekly cover story, Who's Packin' Heat in Philly.
But to call that story half-baked would be generous ... and I won't be generous: It's one of the most irresponsible uses of ink and bandwidth this fair city has seen in a while.
I say this not because I am critical of the story's subjects (although I am), who not only proclaim the joys of walking around packing heat themselves, but actively promote casual gun use among others and oppose attempts to curb it (including opposing attempts to take guns away from people who let them get stolen from their cars).
Not because I think the topic isn't relevant, or the author's subjects don't merit journalistic exploration (it is, and they do).
Not because I think gun ownership or use is inherently wrong (I don't).
Not just because of the silly glorification of the authors' subjects "He wears his gun as well as he rocks his navy blazer," or the obtuse quotes "For me, guns become very academic," and "It's kind of hard to practice Buddhism when you're dead," and fawning, unquestioning representations of their opinions: "Dillon understands how guns can be demonized in a city like Philadelphia ... but he says it's important not to blame an inanimate object for society's problems."
Not just because the author used the phrase "so-called 'assault rifles'" as if the very idea of semi-automatic weapons being made for the purpose of killing were absurd.
But because this is bad reporting.
And if you want to do bad reporting, don't do it about something as serious as handguns.
I won't go point by point, but here are a few particularly low moments:
"One might expect police officers who see rampant gun violence everyday to be offended that people are looking to protect themselves. But a canvassing of city streets shows they're the first to admit they can't be everywhere at once. One Northwest Philly bike cop who spoke anonymously says he sees absolutely nothing wrong with a citizen carrying a handgun for protection."
After "canvassing of city streets," the author produces two comments, one from one anonymous police officer, the other from one Captain William Fisher, who merely says, "I really don't think it matters what our feelings are ... you have a right to bear arms" a statement of fact, not opinion, and by no means a ringing endorsement of packing casually.
What the reporter neglects to say is that urban police forces in Philadelphia and elsewhere have been vocal supporters of tighter restrictions on handguns, with Chief Ramsey joining mayor Nutter in efforts to institute tighter gun laws here.
Including laws regarding straw purchases, an incredibly important part of gun control which the author barely mentions, burying the single reference in a long sentence leading up to Captain Fisher's lukewarm comment:
During an April rally in front of the Shooter Shop in Kensington, where religious protesters gathered to decry urban gun violence, and specifically call for firearm dealers to sign a code of conduct that would aim to cut down on straw purchases (the act of someone who can legally buy a gun doing so for a prohibited person), another police officer said ...
Huh? What was that you said about straw purchases?
That an article about urban gun-use would skip so lightly over straw purchasing which, according to the city's figures, accounts for a whopping 46 percent of all guns used in Philly crimes is bad enough.
But also unmentioned in the article are the number of stolen and illegal guns recovered annually by Philadelphia police alone (more than 5,000); the unintended consequences of handgun use, like the fact that American children are 16 times more likely to be murdered, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die from a firearm accident than children in 25 other industrialized countries; or a slew of other reasons to consider tougher gun laws.
This is the kind of lazy that borders on propaganda.
Speaking of which, how about this whopper:
"[Gun enthusiast David Laden] compiled statistics that showed a drastic drop in Philadelphia murder rates between 1990 (503 homicides) and 2001 (309 homicides) which coincided with the issuance of a greater number of carry licenses for private citizens."
The notion that the issuance of carry licenses somehow caused the decrease in homicides is so laughably absurd I'd be laughing if it wasn't printed in an otherwise respectable magazine's cover story for thousands of people to read.
The declining murder rate also happens to have coincided with the demise of big-hair rock: Correlation, duh, is not causation. Even if Campisi's subjects are too thick to get that, he shouldn't be.
Last is the issue not of accuracy but of taste: in a city where hundreds of people die to gun violence or are assaulted, robbed, raped, or intimidated by people with guns; in a city where police officers are killed by criminals whose guns are sometimes burgled from the likes of Campisi's subjects; and where jackasses keep shooting people on purpose or accidentally for stupid, jackass reasons this article isn't just bad, it's offensive.
Paperboy can say whatever he wants, but our own A.D. Amorosi has been reporting the hell out of this Greenlee and Clarke-sponsored promoters bill since the very beginning (a story he broke in Icepack and A Million Stories). In this weeks AMS, for instance, A.D. reported on the proposed legislative changes that would make the bill significantly less draconian. This morning, A.D. sends over the text of proposed amendments, which I've copied and pasted below for you to peruse (and for PW to use as a tipsheet, natch).
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO BILL NO. 100267
ELIMINATE THE REQUIREMENT FOR A PERMIT PRIOR TO EVERY PROMOTED EVENT
The amendment will eliminate the requirement that promoters must apply for a permit from the police 30 days in advance of each event. The police will no longer have any power to approve or deny any promoted indoor event which features live entertainment
ALL PROMOTERS MUST BE REGISTERED WITH THE CITY AND HAVE A BUSINESS PRIVILEGE LICENSE
The amendment will require promoters of live entertainment to register with the Managing Directors Office and to obtain a business privilege license. Registration should be at no cost or minimal cost and can be completed online. Registration must include full legal name, current address of record, current telephone number, current email address, current website and the promoters business privilege license number.
The amendment will prohibit Special Assembly Occupancy licensees from entering into contracts with unregistered promoters.
IN GENERAL, THERE WILL BE NO REQUIREMENT FOR A VENUE TO PROVIDE ADVANCE NOTICE OF PROMOTED EVENTS TO THE POLICE UNLESS A VENUE PLANS TO TURN OVER OPERATIONAL CONTROL TO AN OUTSIDE PROMOTER FOR A PARTICULAR EVENT
Whenever a venue plans to turn over operational control to an outside promoter for security, crowd control and maintaining the venues authorized capacity, the venue would be required to notify the police two weeks in advance so that the police will have sufficient time to redeploy its patrols.
In no case will promoters have any duty to provide any advance notice to the police.
ELIMINATE THE REQUIREMENT THAT THE VENUE AND PROMOTER PROVIDE A COPY OF A WRITTEN CONTRACT TO THE POLICE
Whenever a venue plans to turn over operational control to an outside promoter, the venue and promoter must complete a simple form which will list which party is responsible for security, operations management during the event, crowd control and maintaining the buildings capacity
AN OUTSIDE PROMOTER WOULD ONLY BE CONSIDERED A RESPONSIBLE PARTY SUBJECT TO PENALTIES IF THE PROMOTER HAS ASSUMED OPERATIONAL CONTROL OVER SECURITY, CROWD CONTROL AND MAINTAINING THE BUILDINGS CAPACITY
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LEGISLATION WILL BE DELAYED TO ALLOW SUFFICIENT TIME TO EDUCATE
"They're tired of funerals every year, and prayer services and who they know that died. So this is taking a stand and letting our young people know this is what they got to do, they got to be about something, stand for something," Sister Nancy Fitzgerald, principal of Saint Martin de Porres, says of her students.
In brightly colored T-shirts identifying their schools, hundreds of children from the five North Philadelphia Catholic schools raised awareness of the violence that plagues their neighborhoods in a flash mob for peace this afternoon. For about 20 minutes, the children held up signs that read Peace and We want peace now, while chanting, P-E-A-C-E, and What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now! Predictable, perhaps, but well meaning.
Teachers and parents from Saint Martin de Porres, Visitation B.V.M., Ascension, Saint Hugh and LaSalle Academy cheered and smiled in support while cars driving past the area honked wildly and the police monitoring the protest sounded their sirens in a show of support. The kids chanted, "P-E-A-C-E," and "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!"
This is Stand Across Lehigh, a spinoff of Hands Across Lehigh Walkathon. It's a flash mob for peace, says Fitzgerald. "We hear enough about young people maybe doing things they shouldn't be doing. This is a Catholic school flash mob for peace, along Lehigh Avenue. We're very proud of our young people. And let's have peace in Philadelphia.
The children were visibly enthusiastic, screaming and waving down passers-by. They are excited about it. They want to do something positive, and we give them a channel and they run with it. Because that's what they want, Fitzgerald says.
Says Saint Martin de Porres seventh grader Chris Nelson, Today we're really chanting for peace," Nelson says. "My grandma died and my cousin died in drive-bys and stuff like that. I don't like my family dying."
Stu Stu Bykofsky I know you're out there. I don't know if you supplied the language for the recent Daily News poll on bike lanes, but . . . j'accuse!
Ladies and Gentlemen, the following rather unfavorably-worded poll has been posted on the Daily News website. So biased, grouchy, and deeply insecure is the language that I suspect the hand of none other than the Daily News' own Stu Bykofsky, who recently engaged in a maddening online debate with the Bicycle Coalition's Alexy Doty.
Maddening, I say, because whether he's behind this poll or not Stu seems to have made himself the journalistic point-man on bicycling simply by virtue of being denser and meaner than anyone else to the city's growing population of people who happen to use bikes to get around.
His latest bout may have been triggered by the city's new bicycle/pedestrian plan, which calls for over 200 miles of new bike lanes. Stu feels that the welfare of drivers is threatened by bike lanes. I disagree: I think the welfare of drivers is threatened by other drivers. Bikes don't cause traffic cars do.
Look: Do I think the city needs 200 miles of new bike lanes? No. But I think it'll be a better city for them. So I encourage you to vote yes, and, yes, stick it to Stu. So far, the forces of Stu-vil have been kept at bay:
center city, south philly, no libs, ftown, west philly
- Joe Biden got himself a Flyers Jersey, with #2 on the back. Word is this is a vice presidentthing, not a poop joke. (Dan Gross, Daily News)
- In keeping with the "everybody wants us to lose" mentality we strive for, here's a little piece on the U.S. government's attempts to contain the Flyers. It's satire but it's also really real, you know? (Philly Gameday)
- 700level's got a smart thinkpiece on the "he can take it, he's a hockey player" mentality, particularly when it comes to Ian Laperriere who's lost teeth, blood, looks and brains for the Flyers this year. (700level)
- Finals tickets is totally a buyer beware situation. (Inky)
This amazing/insane Mike Richards goal from last night's clincher against the Canadians kinda sums up the Flyers' remarkable run in the playoffs so far. It's all about brute force, smarts, self-sacrifice, stretching your limits, getting a little lucky, staying aware, being the first guy to the puck and just plain wanting it more. Once you watch the video, check out this photo. Look at the faces of the people on the other side of the glass. Stanley Cup Finals. I mean, seriously.
Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky, he of the many columns excoriating cyclists, bike lanes, etc., will be doing one of those live online chat things over on philly.com's Earth to Philly blog at 1 p.m. He'll be joined by Bicycle Coalition executive director Alex Doty and they will attempt to rip each other a new one have a civilized discussion with each other and you the readers about the state of cycling/driving/walking in the city. I'm sure it will be enlightening, as these types of things tend to devolve into acrimonious namecalling and ad hominem attacks be.
|Courtesy of North Escambia|
In this week's A Million Stories, we told you about the recent report on Philadelphia's jails put out by the Pew Charitable Trusts:
Good news, Philadelphia: After a decade of our prison population going up, up, up, it finally, magically, went down. From January 2009 to now, the average daily count dropped from 9,787 to 8,306 which is still way overcrowded (the city spends 7 cents of every tax dollar on jails, in fact), but hey, a little less so!
There was only one problem: The city hadn't a clue what happened, until the Pew Charitable Trusts conducted a yearlong study of the prisons. Turns out, the answer has little to do with the city itself, but rather, a 2008 Pennsylvania law requiring that inmates serving between two- and five-year sentences be sent to state prisons instead of local lockups.
You can stop patting yourself on the back now, Mayor Nutter.
At a panel discussion hosted by Pew on May 19, the mayor did indeed pat himself on the back quite a bit saying that the population was "down certainly not by accident" and that there were plenty of "things we're doing here to drive down the prison population." Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison concurred, claiming that the state law only accounted for about 300 of the 1,500 fewer prisoners in 2010, as compared to 2009. (The Pew report notes that fewer arrests and changes in the Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Department were also factors in the decreased jail population.)
Gillison says his ultimate goal is to be able to shut down an entire jail indeed, that's where the real savings will come from and that he only needs "1,000 fewer inmates" to do it. The panel, which included Gillison, District Attorney Seth Williams, Rev. Ernest McNear and Vera Institute of Justice director Michael Jacobson, discussed several possible ways to further reduce the jail population: relying less on cash bail, updating and following the bail guidelines, more day reporting centers, more diversion programs, etc. However, the discussion kept coming back to this: What if you let out the wrong 1,000 people? Or, more to the point, what if you let out just one person who kills a cop, while the other 999 freed people hurt no one?
Williams put it this way: "I don't know if the public cares if the prison population goes up or down," noting that safety is people's main concern.
And with that in mind, it's hard to tell what, if anything, will be done to further reduce the jail population.
You can download the report in full here.
Yes, the World Cup's still 20 days away, but we're getting more and more stoked.
And now that Philly Chester's a legit soccer town, you don't even have to feel like a poseur when you pretend you know what a yellow card is or how penalty time is calculated.
Yes, this vid's a Nike spot, but see if you can watch it and not get pumped for a little FIFA action.
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