Monday, June 23, 2003
Damn, it's time for more Morgan-Quitno rankings. The last time we got dinged, it was for being the 10th most dangerous city, based on 2001 crime statistics and released last fall (and reported by daily media this spring as if they had just come out). In this round, though, the Lawrence, Kan.-based book publishers have the state of Mississippi in its sights. (Didn't that town learn anything about needless agitating back in frontier times?) This hellhole of a state we live in, it seems, is the 14th most dangerous, our second-worst ranking ever. We were more dangerous in 1999 (13th) and hit our safety peak in 1994 (the first year of the rankings). And, after all, Vermont is the safest state, and we wouldn't want to rank anywhere near them wussy-butts, even if they do, too, appreciate the right to arm bears, er, bear arms.
Hey, in this state, we take such a 14th ranking as a downright compliment. There are 13 worse than we are? Start them corks poppin', Lucille.
But … wait. Morgan-Quitno—the brainchild of Bob Dole's former attorney, the lawyer's wife and a friend—isn't finished with the Magnolia State, nosiree-Bob. In its virtual cornucopia of rankings it just released, it also judged the "most livable states," as if anyone who resides in the Great State of Kansas has the right to do such a thing. Minnesota (brrrr) and Iowa (puh-leaze) came in No. 1 and 2, respectively. And guess what proud screw-what-all-y'all-think state came in dead last for the second year in a row? Good old Mississloppy, as my mama used to call us. It seems like any time now our Sen. Lott ought to pick up the Old Boys' hotline and ring up his old buddy Dole and start pulling strings, eh?
Morgan-Quitno uses 43 criterion—from state crime rates to teenage birth rates to fatal car wrecks to divorce rates to the state prisoner incarceration rate (oops)—to brand the old girl dead last one more time.
Of course, not everyone thinks Morgan-Quitno is everything the Kansas babe cracks herself up to be. The company admits that its methodology is "controversial." It seems they use the lump-it-together-and-divide scientific approach: They compare the rates of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft to national averages, then somehow average all that together, divide it out and sprinkle salt on it all (made that part up) and, voila!, Jackson and Mississippi are cesspools not worth living in. Note that in their crime formulas, a murder gets equal weight to an auto burglary. A crime is a crime is a crime.
But there is a consolation prize for Mississippi. Louisiana is again the country's most dangerous state, and we all know that beating the Land of the Parasitic Sportsmen is good enough for us. So there.
(By the way, in case you're counting, Morgan-Quitno found Mississippi the 48th smartest—only Louisiana and No. 50 New Mexico are dumber, it seems. And we're the least healthy state in the union, which we already know.)
I was just adding Morgan-Quitno links to the story above and re-read Eric Stringfellow's April 15th column using the 2001 "dangerous city" rankings released last fall to criticize police chief Moore. I've mentioned that column before on the site, but two of his comments really slapped me in the face this time: The first: "The real question, then, is how Jackson stacks up against other cities, and data from a Kansas-based publishing and research firm suggest there is a gap." The second: "We also know that Jackson's decreasing crime rate, based on the figures Moore recently released, has not kept pace with the rest of the country, according to Morgan Quitno. If true, this demands immediate attention, especially the chief's." http://www.clarionledger.com/news/0304/15/meric.html On the first, I would simply question whether our issue is about what's happening in other cities, or right here at home. Our state has a long history of trying to judge ourselves against other's problems. Whether crime or whatever, it strikes me that we need to keep our focus on our homefront. Re the second: I was struck today by how illogical this statement is, and how far he seemed to be reaching for a chance to criticize the city. This may be true, but you have no way of knowing from the info provided. The rankings were for 2001; they have not been released for 2002. How could Stringfellow or the rest of us know from what he tells us whether or not the city's statistics have "kept pace with the rest of the country" since 2001. And if he's talking about previous to 2001, why is that framed as a criticism of the current police administration? And if the chief did obsess over how book publisher "ranks" the city every year, shouldn't we criticize him for not paying enough attention to the homefront and being obsessed with rankings that don't mean a whole lot?
I'm all for anyone criticizing the government with facts, and hopefully researched suggestions, in hand. But this just looks like an attempt to set up the chief (and, by extension, the city). Why waste energy and print doing this? Please, please, can the mudslinging stop so we can get on with the business of preventing and fighting crime? From what I hear on the streets and in my e-mail, the public's getting sick of unbridled negativity from its media outlets. On that point, Stringfellow today criticizes the Chief for "whistling Dixie" for not having built up enough public confidence -- and this after all of Stringfellow's "sound and fury" anti-Moore columns of the last few months? The whole game just befuddles me. http://www.clarionledger.com/news/0306/01/meric.html At one point, Stringfellow accuses the chief of all dialogue and no action: "That's called wolfing, something else Moore must have mastered in Illinois." Isn't there a way to say that he thinks the chief is doing something wrong without resorting to such mean-spirited, ad hominem attacks? It seems a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T for another human being is in order here. Stringfellow's public vendetta for the chief is very distasteful. I agree with his open-records point, but I see no reason to shroud with such an angry tone. Ick.