Some Nuance on “Baltimore’s Prodigal Mayor”

Dave Weigel and Arit John, at Bloomberg Politics:

The former mayor of Baltimore, former governor of Maryland, and likely candidate for the Democratic Party’s next presidential nomination, was standing at the end of a food giveaway at the St. Peter Claver parish hall in northwest Baltimore’s Sandtown neighborhood on Wednesday. He had arrived around 1 p.m., clad in white shirt, suit pants, and tucked-in tie.

And, yes, he’d been lifting pallets of food and water, and pulling the official leafy green of yuppiedom into plastic bags. That way, they could be collected by people whose local Save-A-Lot and CVS has been looted in the riots that followed the death of 25-year old Freddie Gray in police custody. He’d dug into the job, pausing occasionally to note the Irish-American history of the city, or the fact that as governor he’d plussed up the funding of the Maryland Food Bank, or that he knew a great recipe for vegetables…

The last few days had been difficult for Baltimore, and difficult in another way for O’Malley. He lived in Baltimore. He started his political career in 1991, at age 28, on Baltimore’s city council. Twenty-two years later, when he relaunched his political PAC for, probably, a White House bid, it was with a short documentary about how he turned Baltimore around. It was an uncontested, uncontroversial résumé highlight, something that allowed O’Malley to move on to current topics and challenge Hillary Clinton from the economic left.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, he looked like a mayor again, albeit one whose entourage had been reduced to fit one SUV. That was a necessity. The mayor who had brought New York-style “zero tolerance” policing to Baltimore had to confront critics, long after he was in a position to change. On both days, during a walk through the Freddie Gray protests and during his visit to the food giveaway, O’Malley said he had been “promoted to citizen.”

He usually did so when people shared a specific worry about a missing city service, and he assured them that he would talk to the current governor and mayor—that he had already, in fact. “I live in the city. I’m a resident of the city. I’ve spent my entire life trying to make the city a more safe and a more just place.”…

Not every fellow Baltimore’citizen’ hates O’Malley. From that NYTimes article about O’Malley at the Sandtown protests Tuesday:

… A few seconds later and a couple yards closer to the intersection, a young man named Chris Dickens read to Mr. O’Malley a list of young black men who he said had been victims of police brutality.

“I’ve heard of them all,” Mr. O’Malley said. “I think it’s tragic and I think we all need to search for a deeper and better understanding… When you worked for me, were you over there at some of those police funerals we had too? I buried 10 police officers too, half of them were black and half of them were white.”

Mr. O’Malley said he had to keep moving, and Mr. Dickens happily signed off with “take it easy.”

Next came Ernest Taylor, who thanked Mr. O’Malley for getting him off drugs through a government prison program. “Ah, good man,” Mr. O’Malley said. “Say that again. Give me a big hug.”

As Mr. O’Malley moved closer to the intersection, he defended Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake against charges of not caring (“She does, I talked to her today”) and trumpeted his own administration’s “zero tolerance for police misconduct.” …

Ed Kilgore, at Washington Monthly, discussed the political wonkery related to the David Simon interview yesterday:

[T]he basic idea is that in the pursuit of really impressive crime-fighting statistics (and O’Malley was and remains perhaps the country’s foremost advocate of data-driven police work), not to mention higher office, O’Malley radically pushed up arrest rates via mass arrests and “humblings” (minor status offense arrests) in high-crime areas even as the books were cooked to reduce the severity of reported crimes. The charge is sort of the equivalent of “teaching to the test;” I guess you could call it “arresting to the stats.”…

It’s a pretty deadly charge, one that suggests O’Malley’s successors have been making progress but still cannot overcome the poisons he introduced into the system. We haven’t heard O’Malley’s side of the argument, and there’s a history of bad blood between the two men (though they reportedly made up last year during an encounter in the bar car of the Acela).

But there’s more at stake in this argument than David Simon’s or even Martin O’Malley’s reputation. The whole point of the kind of data-driven resource deployment—not just for police, but for virtually every other domestic government function—O’Malley’s made his signature (as you can read about in Haley Edwards’s profile of him at WaMo in 2013) is to promote transparency and to give everyone a common frame of reference for discussing what to do and not to do at the policy level. If, however, the inputs are artificial, much less “cooked,” the outputs are as well, and the whole exercise is a hoax. So it matters a great deal whether David Simon knows what he’s talking about, as inevitably, policymakers in other cities look at how to make “community policing” more than an empty slogan.

One reason mayors, even more than governors, are handicapped in presidential sweeps is that they’re held responsible for every tragedy during their tenure — senators can opine that mistakes were made or gesture at the guys in the opposing party. In one sense, for horse-race journalists who prefer to ignore mundane issues like poor people of color being targeted by corrupt law enforcement, it’s bad for O’Malley’s nascent campaign that Freddie Gray’s death should happen so soon after he announced it. But we’ll soon hear pundits expounding that all this will blow over by Labor Day. From the Bloomberg Politics article at the top:

Stephen Kearney, who worked as O’Malley’s director of policy and communications, said in an interview that while several factors contributed to a drop Baltimore’s drop in crime “government has a responsibility to make a difference where it can, and during [O’Malley’s] administration that included better policing, but also policing the police, increasing drug treatment, and making sure there’s better opportunity for kids. And all those factors worked together in Baltimore’s crime reduction.”

“There was a great demand in Baltimore in 1999 to do something about conditions that people did not want to live with and could not live with,” Kearney said. “At the time there was an increase in arrests in Baltimore and many other cities as police and communities tackled these problems. And as violent crime was reduced arrests also declined.”…

63 replies
  1. 1
    srv says:

    A real witch hunt at BJ today.

  2. 2
    askew says:

    O’Malley is still the horse I’m backing. He ran for Mayor on a tough crime policies including policing the police in 1999 against multiple AA candidates and had a huge win including 30% of the AA vote which was unheard of for a white candidate and with his his policies Baltimore went from worst in violent crime to #13th which was the largest drop in the nation. He promised to close 10 open-air drug markets and met that promise. When he ran for re-election he won the primary with 67% of the vote and won with 87% in the general. The city approved of his policies because they made the city safer and he reversed the flood of people fleeing Baltimore.

    He also assigned 2 Detectives to the community oversight board to police the police. The # of police-involved shootings fell dramatically as did excessive force complaints.

    Even O’Malley’s harshest critics don’t want to go back to the Baltimore that existed prior to O’Malley’s tenure.

    As Governor, he repealed death penalty and commuted remaining death row inmates to life in prison.

    As for crime reforms, O’Malley called for mandatory cameras for cops weeks ago at Al Sharpton’s National Network Conference.

  3. 3
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Interesting. The threads tearing down HRC got a metric shit ton of comments. The threads debunking the anti-HRC stories got very few. Now, the thread tearing down O’Malley gets a bunch of comments, but the one offering some nuance is getting no traction. Maybe folks around here just like tearing people down.

  4. 4
    srv says:


    Al Sharpton’s National Network Conference.

    Is that like an Adelson event?

  5. 5
    srv says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Capt. Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that astroturfing is going on in here!

  6. 6
    Cacti says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    It’s easy and emotionally satisfying to be against things.

    Offering solutions or alternatives is a bit more challenging.

  7. 7
    askew says:

    I am not worried about O’Malley defending his record in Baltimore and Maryland. He’s been doing it for years and the facts are on his side. He’s made the tough decisions over 15 years. And Hillary and all of the GOPers supported zero tolerance as well. O’Malley is to the left of both because he opposes death penalty and he has actually put in reforms to police the police.

    O’Malley had a great essay on Huffington Post today:

    The hard, truthful reality is this: growing numbers of our fellow citizens in American cities across the United States feel unheard, unseen, unrecognized — their very lives un-needed.

    As Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” And, this week the people of our city and our entire country were forced to listen.

    But make no mistake about it, the anger that we have seen in Ferguson, in Cleveland, in Staten Island, in North Charleston, and in the flames of Baltimore is not just about policing. It is about the legacy of race that would have us devalue black lives — whether their death is caused by a police officer or at the hand of another young black man. It is about declining wages and the lack of opportunity in our country today. It is about the brutality of an economic system that devalues human labor, human potential, and human lives.

  8. 8
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @askew: FWIW, when I said you were sounding like an anti-HRC crank and challenged you to make a case for your chosen candidate, this was the sort of thing I was hoping to see.

    ETA: I am not in any way suggesting that my comments influenced the comments yo are making tonight. I am just happy to see the discussion being conducted in this way.

  9. 9
    askew says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The post from John Cole on O’Malley is bullshit. They tried all of this in 2006 and they found absolutely nothing. They did 10+ audits of their #s and found a few minor errors. It’s kind of sad to see that the disproved critics of O’Malley from over a decade ago are being given an audience to spew their lies with no pushback.

    Today Andrea Mitchell had a Baltimore police officer who was fired for ethics reason during O’Malley’s tenure on air and let him say that if Martin O’Malley came back to Baltimore there would be a riot. He said that while O’Malley was on day 2 of being on the ground with no incident besides some jeers which were matched by cheers and hugs for him being there. Even conservative pundit, Dave Weigel, who was on the ground with O’Malley called out the rest of the media for the bullshit. MSNBC deleted their tweets promoting Andrea’s segment saying that there would be a riot but never apologized for their segment. And Politico is the one who called bullshit on putting on discredited cops with grudges on the air to slam O’Malley.

  10. 10
    askew says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I’ve been making positive arguments for O’Malley since last summer. People were telling me to shut up I kept talking him up so much. I’ve been writing diaries at Daily Kos for that long on positive diaries supporting him as well.

  11. 11
    srv says:

    Citicorp wins:

    CHICAGO — Chicago can breathe a sigh of relief: New York City will not be home to the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum.

    Mr. Obama’s library will be in his adopted home, Chicago’s South Side, according to two people who were briefed about the decision. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak before the official announcement.

    Maybe they can lure some UChicago Economics profs over to his foundation.

  12. 12
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @askew: I don’t read DK so I have no reason to know what you post there. My comments were related to your comments on this site. I was attempting to make a positive comment. You can take it as you choose.

  13. 13
    trollhattan says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Well, duh. It’s how we do.

    –Siggy Freud’s third cousin, twice rebooted.

  14. 14
    askew says:

    Some more nuanced comments from AA leaders on O’Malley’s term:

    “What was positive was that there was zero-tolerance for criminals and drug dealers locking down neighborhoods and taking neighborhoods hostage,” said the Rev. Franklin Madison Reid, a Baltimore pastor. “Does that mean there was no down side? No. But the bottom line was that the city was in a lot stronger position as a city after he became mayor.”

    Benjamin T. Jealous, a former president of the national NAACP who worked with O’Malley when Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013, credited him for supporting a civilian review board as mayor and for a sharp drop in police shootings that occurred during that time. Jealous said O’Malley’s “mass incarceration” police strategy is “a separate issue” than police brutality, and “a conversation for a different day.”

  15. 15
    eemom says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Now, the thread tearing down O’Malley gets a bunch of comments, but the one offering some nuance is getting no traction. Maybe folks around here just like tearing people down.

    Jayzus, dude, give it some time.

    A Cole-AL pissing contest over the anti-Clinton? The mathematical possibilities are endless.

  16. 16
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @askew: Link?

  17. 17
    askew says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Here you go:

    There are plenty of negative comments there for people who want to read them too.

  18. 18
    JordanRules says:


    Jealous said O’Malley’s “mass incarceration” police strategy is “a separate issue” than police brutality, and “a conversation for a different day.”

    I’m confused by this part.

  19. 19
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @eemom: No, I don’t really need to give it time. Cole’s thread started getting comments almost immediately. AL’s sat silent for a while. Like I said, I noticed the same sort of thing with HRC threads. Anecdata? Sure. But an observation I thought was worth making. YMMV.

  20. 20
    JordanRules says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I think what you’re saying is generally spot on, but I also think the timing of the threads plays a part.

  21. 21
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @JordanRules: It may in this particular instance; that is true.

  22. 22
    askew says:


    Jealous was saying that O’Malley’s record on policing the police was good and that the mass arrest record is not the main concern here. During his tenure, police involved shootings and excessive force complaints fell. The media is ignoring that as they give camera time and ink to critics of O’Malley. Many of whom have been debunked a decade ago.

  23. 23
    Peale says:

    @JordanRules: yep. It seems to me that that issue is kind of a critical issue. When we looked at Fergusson it certainly looked like a town where the demonstrators weren’t going to give the police the benefit of the doubt because they had been arrested so often for other things. It looks like that might be the case in this Baltimore neighborhood.

    I’ve been doing as much reading as I can on Baltimore police shootings and demonstrations against the police in general in Baltimore. I found an instance of another shooting recently, but because the guy was exiting a closed store, it very much looked like a theft. I couldn’t find related protests for that one. So it’s not like protests are automatic. And there isn’t a history of violent protests either. Maybe it’s because there was no video. But I think the protests are also about why he was detained, not just how.

  24. 24
    JordanRules says:

    @askew: I guess I can kinda appreciate that nuance from Jealous but damn…

    and that the mass arrest record is not the main concern here.

    …that shit rings hollow. I appreciate black folks not getting beat at the hands of police but arresting them en masse pretty much affirms the disgusting drug war and that they will likely get beat in prison and if let out, have a hard time making a good life. That’s abusive to me.

    Only criticism I’ve read since this blew up was Simon. Haven’t been searching it out though. Was he debunked back then too? Very curious about that.

  25. 25
    JordanRules says:


    But I think the protests are also about why he was detained, not just how.

    Mmm hmm…and it feels like the critical mass was reached because it touches so many (combined with the cruelty factor of this case and the temperature around the nation wrt violent policing and black deaths) and they know what the deal has always been. Mass incarcerations, arrests, fines and the dynamic between the law enforcement community and the black community in towns like Ferguson and many more is so crucial to this.

  26. 26
    srv says:

    Tesla announces a wallmounted 10kW battery pack for $3500.

  27. 27

    @JordanRules: You’re confusing whether something is important, and the mass incarceration is, with whether it’s relevant to the subject under discussion. There’s a metric fuckton of issues that are important without being relevant to a specific conversation, and the fact that someone is setting them aside for a different conversation in no way means that they don’t think it’s important.

  28. 28
    JordanRules says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym: I guess I see them as so supremely linked it sounds weird to try to set one aside. But I take your larger point.

  29. 29
    Mike E says:

    @srv: Yep, it can power up to a third of the typical household energy needs…the hard part will be charging it up. PV panels are getting cheaper and more efficient, so it’s a big step in the right direction.

  30. 30
    gwangung says:

    You’re confusing whether something is important, and the mass incarceration is, with whether it’s relevant to the subject under discussion.

    Given how they’re linked in many other cities, and there is a plausible link between the two, it is up to people who say they are not linked to make that case.

    To be less academic, something saying increased arrests and police brutality are not necessarily linked pings my bullshit meter.

    I guess I see them as so supremely linked it sounds weird to try to set one aside.

    And it is weird. So the people saying we should set one aside should make the case. I won’t do it just on their say so.

  31. 31
    Elizabelle says:

    Headline up on NYTImes website, this very moment:

    A New Era for Crime and the Clintons

    Got that? Crime and the Clintons.

    Article in US news section is actually titled

    “Crime, Clinton and a New Era.”, which seems more reasonable, and even informative.

    Le sigh.

  32. 32
    Betty Cracker says:

    It’ll be interesting to see how this issue shakes out, not just for O’Malley, but for the entire Democratic slate at every level. Crime rates were a lot higher 15-20 years ago. There were many factors that contributed to the escalation and the decline, and the issue is complicated by the fact that many people have no idea that crime rates have dropped precipitously.

    If Democrats want to have a discussion about what works and what doesn’t, how income and social inequality factors in and ways to address abuses, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t have to be a circular firing squad or a game of gotcha between candidates. It can and should be about where we go from here.

  33. 33
    askew says:


    Simon and O’Malley have a long history with each other. O’Malley didn’t like how The Wire protrayed the city nor did many of the universities and other entities in the city. They also fought over money for filming in the city, etc. Simon created a character in The WIre to go after O’Malley but to his credit he and writers did apologize when O’Malley’s opponents tried to use a storyline involving that character having an affair in O’Malley’s first Governor’s race.

    Simon’s point that mass arrests contributed to the problems of Baltimore is valid. His point that the main tipping point was O’Malley’s zero tolerance laws is complete BS. He ignored all of the other programs O’Malley put in place to bring down police-related shootings/excessive force complaints as well as drug treatment programs and after-school/community programs to try to repair the city. And Simon also ignores what Baltimore was like before O’Malley. It truly was a shithole due to drugs/violence. By the end of O’Malley’s terms as Mayor, the violent crime rate dropped 42% and the city was significantly safer. Basically, Simon is trying to argue that O’Malley’s tenure made things worse in Baltimore and basically every other critic of O’Malley’s concedes the city was better off after O’Malley’s tenure. And Simon also ignores the city supported O’Malley’s policies. He ran on these policies in 1999 and again in 2003. He faced AA Democratic opponents in both races and the city overwhelmingly chose him and his policies as Mayor. Simon also tried to say that O’Malley cooked the books on his stats because they didn’t fit Simon’s narrative. The 2006 Governor’s race focused on this extensively. However, the #s from O’Malley had been audited repeatedly and they found only tiny errors. They did find huge errors from the previous mayor’s tenure though.

    Simon is a great fiction writer and he has interesting things to say about crime, economic inequality and the drug war. However, he has a huge ax to grind with O’Malley so you can’t really take what he says at face value.

  34. 34
    askew says:


    To be less academic, something saying increased arrests and police brutality are not necessarily linked pings my bullshit meter.

    They can be linked but the increased arrests didn’t happen in a vacuum. They were coupled with the increase in policing the police as well as diversifying the police force. O’Malley doubled the # of minority police in BPD as well as increase the # of minorities in key roles throughout the city. That brought down the # of police-involved shootings and excessive force complaints. That certainly doesn’t mean that there wasn’t police brutality but the #s show that during O’Malley’s term he was successful in lowering this #.

  35. 35

    Quite interesting.

    I start Krav Maga tomorrow. The sorceror that is my therapist just makes things happen.

  36. 36
    askew says:

    Some perspective on what Baltimore was like before O’Malley took over as Mayor:

    With nearly 10 percent of the population—60,000 people—addicted to drugs, more than 300 murders a year throughout the 1990s, only 16 percent of third-graders meeting state reading standards, 15 percent of teenagers neither in school nor employed, an unemployment rate twice that of the rest of Maryland, and somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 homes left vacant by the fleeing population, the city he turned over to O’Malley was on life support.

    In a city the Drug Enforcement Agency says has the worst heroin epidemic in the nation, and one of the worst crack problems, only 23 detectives were investigating narcotics cases citywide when Norris arrived.

  37. 37
    askew says:

    What O’Malley accomplished in the first year:

    BALTIMORE, Jan. 2— After years of remaining a grim holdout in the national decline in urban crime, this city is celebrating the fact that its homicide toll fell below 300 victims last year for the first time in a decade.

    At the same time, the city flooded the eastern police district, the most violent, with an extra 100 officers, cutting the homicide rate there by two-thirds as the most dangerous drug dealerships were made targets. In addition, the commissioner ended the practice of restricting detectives to no more than three years service in the homicide squad, a policy that he found discouraged experience and depth in tracking the roots of the murder toll. With this change as well as a larger squad of more than 50 homicide detectives, the rate of clearing murder cases, which had annually trailed the national average by 10 points, jumped to 80 percent last year from 54 percent in 1999, according to the police.

    In its intensified focus, the O’Malley administration also increased the salary scale of police officers to $31,000 a year to start, while approving annual raises of up to 9 percent and recruiting more intensively in the minority neighborhoods of this city, which is predominantly African-American. At the same time, Commissioner Norris introduced police integrity ”sting” operations to combat police corruption. Three major felony cases have been brought against officers.

  38. 38
    askew says:

    I am hoping that the debate on crime will be more nuanced than what we are seeing now. It isn’t just about zero tolerance laws and police brutality. We need to know where the candidates stand on the death penalty (O’Malley repealed death penalty and commuted sentences), marijuana decriminalization (O’Malley came around to this late but did sign the bill on this) and 3 strikes laws.

    I was a criminal justice major many moons ago and I interned at with the police and the public defender’s investigation unit. It was an eye-opening experience and really changed my views on 3 strikes and death penalty and made me see how much damage the drug trade can have in poor neighborhoods.

  39. 39
    Ian says:

    For a blog which was so damn hard on pumas in 08, this has been a harsh day.

    I don’t expect O’Malley to win the primary. I don’t expect him to agree with me on everything. I don’t expect it of H.R.C. or the current president.

    Can we at least discuss a primary with multiple people running for a democratic nomination for president in a sane fucking way?

  40. 40
    askew says:


    This thread has been pretty reasonable. I think debate and criticism of candidates is fine. I am an O’Malley backer but am not taking this criticism too seriously. At least this blog covers other candidates besides Hillary. Daily Kos didn’t front page a story on Sanders until late tonight even though he declared earlier. They had 1 thread whining about Hillary not getting fair treatment in the press though.

  41. 41
    Ian says:

    Not you, just a belated comment from last thread.

  42. 42
    fuckwit says:

    @Betty Cracker: I think part of the problem is that, nationwide, crime rates were higher 15-20 years ago, now they are lower, and, nationwide, communities of color have been suffering under a great deal of police brutality and destructive incarceration rates for that entire time too, and have reached a breaking point. I do not know whether those things are causally related, or if they are, in which direction, or if communities of color have perhaps been collateral damage in the rush to be tough on crime (certainly seems obvious on its face that that’s the case, but maybe that’s incorrect). But in any case I sure do think it requires some thought and study. And Baltimore and O’Malley seem like a damn good time to start studying it. He’s a lefty so we can’t dismiss his actions as malice or callousness as we could with, say, Giuliani. Baltimore has a lot of people of color in power so we can’t dismiss them as racist politicians and police as we can with say Ferguson. Something else is at work here. It must get fixed, because whatever it is, we don’t know in what city it will next blow up but we can be pretty sure it’ll be somewhere. And all the while, black people are getting killed by police for no reason and punished cruelly and without due process, and that’s just unacceptable, we can’t let it continue.

  43. 43
    Baud says:

    Good thread.

  44. 44
  45. 45
    raven says:


  46. 46
    msdc says:


    Today Andrea Mitchell had a Baltimore police officer who was fired for ethics reason during O’Malley’s tenure on air and let him say that if Martin O’Malley came back to Baltimore there would be a riot.

    I watched most of that segment, including the riot line, and the incompetents at MSNBC never identified him by name. Not on the screen, not a tag at the end of the interview from Mitchell, nothing. If you missed the beginning of the interview you had no way of knowing who he was or why anybody should listen to him.

    At the time I half suspected it was because the incompetents at MSNBC didn’t know who he was and were just looking to book anyone they could find to rant for five minutes. That theory is looking better and better.

  47. 47
    msdc says:


    By the end of O’Malley’s terms as Mayor, the violent crime rate dropped 42%

    Any argument about O’Malley’s cooking of the stats will not be answered by quoting those same stats.

    I mean, Michelle Rhee raised test scores in DC, right?

  48. 48
    Kay says:

    When I was reading the first piece I thought the same thing Kilgore did- it reminds me of the Atlanta teachers and the testing fraud- this part:

    The initial crime reductions in Baltimore under O’Malley were legit and O’Malley deserved some credit.
    But that wasn’t enough. O’Malley needed to show crime reduction stats that were not only improbable, but unsustainable without manipulation. And so there were people from City Hall who walked over Norris and made it clear to the district commanders that crime was going to fall by some astonishing rates. Eventually, Norris got fed up with the interference from City Hall and walked, and then more malleable police commissioners followed, until indeed, the crime rate fell dramatically. On paper.”

    I read the investigator’s report and followed the teachers’ trial, and that’s what happened there. They had real gains, initially. Unfortunately, the entire culture then began to revolve around test score gains. They were rewarded or shamed and denigrated based solely on test scores. In the interviews, they said things like “we couldn’t get them up fast enough” or “we were making progress but it wasn’t enough”.

    Of course, the comparision falls apart after that because the teachers were arrested, charged and convicted but I DO think the obessession with data-driven anything could stand some scrutiny. The problem is “data” becomes unmoored from any context of ethics or trust or human judgment or really common sense. There’s a false certainty that comes with a reliance on data- “numbers don’t lie!”- well, sometimes they do- if we don’t have any faith or trust in the people who do these jobs, politicians, cops, teachers, “data” isn’t going to save us.

  49. 49
    Kay says:

    The sad part is the reliance on data-driven (partly) came out of a search for equity. The idea was we’d rely on numbers rather than human discretion and that would smooth out dispararities that come from bias. Part of data-driven policing is they’re relying on actual crime stats so they would focus on actions rather than any preconceived notions they had about the where crime would happen or which groups commit crime. Why are there so many police in that neighborhood? That’s where the windows were broken! The original justification for the focus on standardized testing was identical. The objective measure was supposed to mitigate bias.

    I think what we found out is it’s more difficult and complicated than that.

  50. 50
    Kay says:


    I mean, Michelle Rhee raised test scores in DC, right?

    Right, and Rhee’s management motto could have been “I don’t trust teachers”.

    Well, that’s great, but if you’re relying solely on data then you’re trusting the managers who oversee and report the data collection, so ultimately you’re going to run into a fallible human being, despite best efforts :)

    The data evangilists are manipulating the data on high school graduations right now, because they have to justify their obessive focus on data-driven education. They have to show gains, because there’s political push-back to their theory.

    You can’t take human beings out of it, so I think we’d do better to focus more on those human beings instead of trying to remove them completely.

  51. 51
    Procopius says:

    @srv: Lure some UChicago economics professors over? Sure, no problem. Where do you think he got his ideas about “reforming entitlements?”

  52. 52
    Paul in KY says:

    @askew: If Gov. O’Malley is the Democratic nominee, I will happily vote for him.

  53. 53
    Procopius says:

    @askew: This is a very persuasive rebuttal of Simon’s assertions, but one thing bothered me:

    However, the #s from O’Malley had been audited repeatedly and they found only tiny errors. They did find huge errors from the previous mayor’s tenure though.

    Who did this “audit”, Arthur Anderson? The reason I’m skeptical is that I’ve been seeing stories for years from other places about how they (e.g. the FBI) went about making their stats look better. One of the things Simon said in the interview was that O’Malley’s people did a lot of work to raise the rates from the previous administration, so there’s a little overlap of the narratives here. Well, I’m going to have to do more digging to try to get a handle on this. Or not.

  54. 54
    Miki says:

    @raven: Another good read from Mr. Simon – thanks for the link.

    Prescient ….

  55. 55
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Kay: Wasn’t that the worm in the NCLB apple – that to keep from falling into “failed school” status the ongoing improvements had to continue? It seems a very Republican approach: the curve must keep going up or else the World Will End, and it it doesn’t then it’s Proof that Everything is Doomed to Failure.

  56. 56
    askew says:


    So because someone cheated on their stats we should throw them all out? This has been hashed out a decade ago. Simon has been saying that the books were cooked for years without any proof. He just lays it out there and people lap it up. Republicans and O’Malley’s Democratic enemies in the state have been looking for a smoking gun to prove this guilt since 2001. They’ve never found one. There is really no way to prove they weren’t cooked besides what O’Malley did. He did audits over and over again. At this point, the people who believe this bullshit do so because it fits into their narrative of who O’Malley is not because of any facts.

    There is an interesting debate to be had on crime policy, income inequality and race. None of that is being had because people would rather talk about David Simon’s conspiracy theories. Too bad.

  57. 57
    askew says:


    I think conflating the issues with education data usage and what was done in Baltimore with data is pretty weak tea. Baltimore used stats in a smart way. Not that anyone read any of the quotes or links provided. They used stats to help them re-organize the police force so they had more people working homicide and drug cases. They also used technology in a smart way so they could work more cases more efficiently.

    And those neighborhoods with more police presence weren’t just there because they were targeting poor/minority neighborhoods. They were there because there were open-air drug markets that caused crime and the people in the neighborhood wanted more police presence there.

  58. 58
    slag says:


    You can’t take human beings out of it, so I think we’d do better to focus more on those human beings instead of trying to remove them completely.

    So so true. The unfair advantage data gains through our perceptions of its objectivity is massive.

    Understanding systems (aka science) takes time to do well. And it takes diverse and well-trained people. And extremely hard work. All of which we persistently undervalue and underestimate in every sector of our economic, political, and justice systems.

    We’re trained incessantly, practically from day 1, to focus on the A. What the A actually means becomes almost irrelevant as a result.

  59. 59
    msdc says:


    So because someone cheated on their stats we should throw them all out?

    No, but it means quoting the same stats is a piss-poor response to the charge that they’re cooked.

  60. 60

    I want to know who did the social science here. I want to see the peer-reviewed work, or at least the report of an independent panel. The corruption of the Baltimore police force, by whatever means—it happened, and a lot of it happened on O’Malley’s watch. Where’s the accountability?

    (Yes, O’Malley has supporters in Baltimore. They’re probably the same people who are supporting the cops right now.)

  61. 61
    chopper says:


    to be fair, if someone is going to accuse someone of cooking the books, it’s on them to offer up convincing evidence, not on the other person to disprove it. automatically pooh-poohing the data based on an accusation isn’t too smart a move.

  62. 62
    mclaren says:


    It’s easy and emotionally satisfying to be against things.

    Offering solutions or alternatives is a bit more challenging.

    Offering solutions or alternative is easy and simple — but none of the do-nothing know-nothing DINOs on this forum are interested in listening to solutions or alternatives.

    We all know what has to be done to turn this country around. The good news? It’s easy, because all America’s problems right now are problems we’ve created ourselves. We don’t face a giant Evil Empire like the USSR anymore. We’re not being threatened by global pandemics like the Spanish Flu anymore. We don’t face threats from bomb-throwing anarchists roaming the streets and blowing up Haymarket Square anymore.

    All we have to do to fix America is stop fucking it up. And everyone who’s sane knows how we do that.

    We need to repeal the USA Treason — excuse me, Patriot — Act and shut down the DHS and the TSA. We need to rein in the NSA and make surveillance against American a crime punishable by death unless a warrant from a regular judge (not some FISA rubber stamp) is obtained first.

    We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

    We need to repeal corporate personhood and pass a law making Citizens v. United illegal.

    We need to pass single-payer national health care.

    We need to cut 80% of our defense budget and use the money to knock down and rebuild our cities to accommodate massive public transit, along with rebuilding our crumbling sewer and water and bridge and tunnel infrastructure.

    We need to make the internet a national utility payed for with a modest monthly fee, like $10, per person, everywhere. The equivalent of water and sewer charges.

    We need to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine and shut down Fox News, turn off far-right talk radio, unless they allow full equal time for far-left commenters.

    We need to revive the Sherman anti-trust act and start using to break up too big to fail banks, too big to fail thieving companies like Wal-Mart, too big to fail colleges that have no business accumulating 13 billion endowments and still charging students $40,000 a year.

    We need to have another Pecora Commission and start indicting the Wall Street crime lords who destroyed the American economy. Jamie Dimon should be doing life in prison.

    We need to enforce a nationwide federal law requiring bodycams for all police everywhere at all times.

    We need to stop the endless unwinnable foreign wars that piss away trillions of dollars for nothing.

    We need to end the War on Drugs.

    We need to end the endless unwinnable War on Copyright Infringement.

    We need the president of the united states to start obeying the law and stop ordering the murder of U.S. citizens without trial or charges, under pain of indictment for high crimes and misdemeanors, impeachment, and trial for treason with the death penalty on the table.

    We need to repeal the insane copyright extensions that now make copyrights last lifetime of creator + 80 years, and put it back at 14 years, with no extension.

    Every sane person on this forum knows we have to do these things. But the sociopaths and kooks and cranks like eemom and Mnemosyne and soonergrunt keep polluting these discussions with rants about how wonderful it is for the president of the united states to murder American citizens like a mafia boss, or how marvelous the current corporate kakistokleptocracy is, or how we can allegedly fix all these problems with even more tyrannical crazy totalitarianism like a biometric national ID card or more surveillance or more private corporate cops given full police powers.

  63. 63
    The Sheriff's A Ni- says:


    Every sane person on this forum knows we have to do these things.

    You know who else declared everyone that didn’t share his ideals insane?

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