Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Texas now more progressive than Canada on crime

By BJ Bjornson

I always knew that electing a Conservative majority under Harper was going to cause more than its fair share of embarrassment for Canada over the next four or five years, but this is just plain painful.

Conservatives in the United States' toughest crime-fighting jurisdiction � Texas � say the Harper government's crime strategy won't work.

. . .

On a recent trip to Texas, an array of conservative voices told CBC News that Texas tried what Canada plans to do � and it failed.

As recently as 2004, Texas had the highest incarceration rate in the world, with fully one in 20 of its adult residents behind bars, on parole or on probation. The Lone Star state still has the death penalty, with more than 300 prisoners on death row today. But for three decades, as crime rates fell all over the U.S., the rate in Texas fell at only half the national average.

That didn't change the policy � but its cost did.

Faced with a budget crisis in 2005, the Texas statehouse was handed an estimate of $2 billion to build new prisons for a predicted influx of new prisoners. They told Madden to find a way out. He and his committee dug into the facts. Did all those new prisoners really need to go to jail? And did all of those already behind bars really need to be there?

Madden's answer was, no. He found that Texas had diverted money from treatment and probation services to building prisons. But sending people to prison was costing 10 times as much as putting them on probation, on parole, or in treatment.

"It was kinda silly, what we were doing," says Madden. Then, he discovered that drug treatment wasn't just cheaper � it cut crime much more effectively than prison.

That was the moment, he says, when he knew: "My colleagues are gonna understand this. The public is gonna understand this.�The public will be safer and we will spend less money!"

His colleagues agreed. Texas just said no to the new prisons.

Instead, over the next few years, it spent a fraction of the $2 billion those prisons would have cost � about $300 million � to beef up drug treatment programs, mental health centres, probation services and community supervision for prisoners out on parole.

It worked. Costs fell and crime fell, too. Now, word of the Canadian government's crime plan is filtering down to Texas and it's getting bad reviews.

Admittedly, I approached this story with some skepticism. After all, Republicans shifting from their ideological preferences due to empirical evidence? I forgot that was even possible anymore. And given the that Rick Perry was governor during this period, I�m wondering how long it will be before his primary opponents start attacking him over it.

Snark aside, it would be really nice if Canada�s Conservatives would be wise enough to learn from their southern brethren�s example. Instead, we�ve seen our corrections budget double in the last five or six years, plans for building numerous new prisons despite a continually dropping crime rate, and their working to shut down a safe injection site in Vancouver that even the Supreme Court ruled would cause disproportionate suffering and refused to allow. It's going to be a long four years.


  1. Unfortunately I'm still a Canadian that operates in the real world unlike, it seems, most of my fellows who live off somewhere in conservative world. That's unfair I guess as a majority of us voted against Harper - about 60% against and 40% for - and his gang but in the ridiculous first past the posts horse races, aka elections, we have you can rule with much less than a plurality of votes nation wide. I'm increasingly finding it unbearable to know much about what is going un federally with the harper gang in power. Meaning, now I only cursorily scan any news regarding our federal governmentI to avoid anger and keep my blood pressure reasonably normal. I note that Jim Bell, in the nutsy news, has finally written an editorial attacking the Harper gang's zombie like march into the mad policy of mandatory sentences and more & more prisons and of course rightly worrying about its implications for Nunavut. Those worries should I suspect be extended to all provinces with large 1st Nation populations as well as the Northern Territories. I expect Manitoba and saskatchewan to have increasing prison difficulties in the future. I note that as far as I can gather no one has pressed Leona, as you know a member of the Harper cabinet, on the implications for her territory Nunavut. She's not a nut but seems to answer questions now as though she is an automaton but it would be good to ask her anyway.
    Bell's editorial:

  2. I generally don't read Bell's editorials anymore since they're rarely worth the effort, but it's not like the correctional situation up here is any big secret. Even at just the infrastructure level, we're sitting with an old and outdated facility housing twice the number of inmates its designed for, with nearly that number being shuttled off to other jurisdictions as overflow. This is one place where the construction of a new and far bigger facility would actually make sense, but also probably one of the last places Harper will consider putting real money into. And all that's before you get into the lack of sufficient judicial space and personnel to try people's cases in a timely fashion.
    And people up here have pressed Leona on this, but she's every bit the automaton in answering those questions with canned lines straight from the PMO as she is with everything else.