Friday, April 21, 2006

If Press Coverage were Equal

Writing in The American Enterprise, historian Victor Davis Hanson wonders how things would sound if the press covered California the same way it covers Iraq. Some excerpts:

As a fifth-generation Californian, I deeply love this state, but still imagine what the reaction would be if the world awoke each morning to be told that once again there were six more murders, 27 rapes, 38 arsons, 180 robberies, and 360 instances of assault in California—yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every day. I wonder if the headlines would scream about “Nearly 200 poor Califor­nians butchered again this month!”

***
Iraq’s judicial system seems a mess. On the eve of the war, Saddam let out 100,000 inmates from his vast prison archipelago. He himself still sits in the dock months after his trial began. But imagine an Iraq with a penal system like California’s with 170,000 criminals—an inmate population larger than those of Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Singapore combined.

Just to house such a shadow popula­tion costs our state nearly $7 billion a year—or about the same price of keep­ing 40,000 Army personnel per year in Iraq. What would be the image of our Golden State if we were reminded each morning, “Another $20 million spent today on housing our criminals!”

***
Much is made of the inability to patrol Iraq’s borders with Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. But California has only a single border with a foreign nation, not six. Yet over 3 million foreigners who snuck in illegally now live in our state. Worse, there are about 15,000 convicted alien felons incarcerated in our penal system, cost­ing about $500 million a year. Imagine the potential tabloid headlines: “Illegal aliens in state comprise population larger than San Francisco!” or “Drugs, criminals, and smugglers given free pass into California!”

Every year, over 4,000 Californians die in car crashes—nearly twice the number of Americans lost so far in three years of combat operations in Iraq. In some sense, then, our badly maintained roads, and often poorly trained and sometimes intoxicated drivers, are even more lethal than Improvised Explosive Devices. Perhaps tomorrow’s headline might scream out at us: “300 Califor­nians to perish this month on state highways! Hundreds more will be maimed and crippled!”


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