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Off-Season Wire Blogging

A colleague sends this link to a New York Times story about crime in Baltimore. Long story short, it's down, but the murder rate is up. That should make you initially suspicious that the alleged crime drop is a result of police manipulation of the statistics. It's very hard to not count a murder (there's a body, after all) but most other crimes can be classified away. The Baltimore Police Department, however, has another theory -- crime is down but drug-related gang violence has become deadlier, sparking an increase in the murder rate. Maybe so. If something like that is really going on, it would seem to be a good justification for a Hampsterdam approach (as seen on, of course, The Wire) aimed at reducing the incidence of drug-related violence and on segregating dealers from the regular population.

Perhaps more interesting in television terms is that Mayor Martin O'Malley of Baltimore is a white guy. I probably should have watched his convention speech instead of just listening to it while on line to buy some food. This would seem to somewhat undercut the whole "how could a white person ever get elected mayor in Baltimore?" plotline. On the other hand, perhaps we're supposed to infer that Carcetti's character is based on the Shocking True Story of Baltimore's real-life mayor.

UPDATE: For the record, Season Two DVDs are still unwatched since it was the Super Bowl last Sunday and the Arcade Fire were in town the Sunday before that. Gonna start watching with Kriston this weekend.

February 9, 2005 | Permalink


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Is that the Martin O'Malley that just compared Bush's budget to 9/11?

Yeah, he's a comer.

Posted by: Al | Feb 9, 2005 6:13:35 PM

Great. I nailed my stock picks for today, shorted GOOGLE, and bought BYD before earnings. Made 4 bucks a share on GOOGLE and BYD is up $2.50 in afterhours. Perhaps you should try trading. I post all my trades before the stocks move. My portfolio is up 650% in 05

Posted by: Jacob Whitney | Feb 9, 2005 6:31:37 PM

Sorry wrong blog.

Posted by: Jacob Whitney | Feb 9, 2005 6:32:24 PM

"listening to it while on line to buy some food"

That's "in line", Yankee.

Anyway, Baltimore is 64% African-American. Winning would require picking up 100% of the white vote and about 30% of the vote. That's not entirely impossible. Of course, it begs the question why Atlanta has not had a non-African-American mayor despite similar demographics. If the city has runoff elections, it's possible O'Malley won by turning out his voters during the runoff.

If new episodes of The Wire are still based on The Corner, then it's quite possible that Carcetti is based on O'Malley, who was elected in 1999.

Posted by: niq | Feb 9, 2005 6:58:18 PM

Interesting stuff, MY, though you neglected to mention that if HBO cancels The Wire, we will be forced to cancel our subscriptions and encourage others to cancel theirs as well.

Posted by: Kriston Capps | Feb 9, 2005 7:10:32 PM

I'll just jump in here one more time to say how friggin relieved I am that Cutty didn't get fucked in the end.

Posted by: Realish | Feb 9, 2005 7:19:45 PM

That of course is the O'Malley that Republicans tried to pin an affair. And by Republicans I mean the Governor's office.


Posted by: Rob | Feb 9, 2005 7:41:18 PM

One more on the "How Can a White Guy win an election for mayor of Baltimore?" front: my guess is corruption plus presiding over a crime upswing. If the outgoing mayor tapped a successor who defended him, and charges came out that the mayor was corrupt, or charges came out that the mayor was corrupt, he resigned, and his successor couldn't distance himself well enough, that would leave an opening for someone O'Malley or Carcetti to run by being tough-on-crime (but tough on some causes of crime too) and for accountability in government.

Posted by: niq | Feb 9, 2005 8:33:41 PM

The scuttlebutt, in an article in the Baltimore SUn I believe, was that the Carcetti plotline (complete with the broken friendship with a black city council rep.) was taken, at least in part, by O'Malley's life and campaign. David Simon acknowledges influences (practically every character on the Wire is partially based on a real person- confusingly, some of the originals, like the real Jay Landsman, also have roles on the show.)

Posted by: davey | Feb 9, 2005 9:25:26 PM

Baltimore isn't fictional. You can look these things up on the internets.


After NAACP head Kweisi Mfume decided not to run, the race for mayor had no clear favorite. The democratic primary had three main candidates, one white guy and two black guys. It isn't such a wonder that the white guy won.

Posted by: joe o | Feb 9, 2005 9:32:51 PM

Back in 1970s, Philadelphia had a similar phenomenon. The mayor, Frank Rizzo, was an incredibly corrupt former police commissioner, and quite possibly the worst big city mayor in American history. (Richard M. Daley is not high on my list right now, I must admit.) Another mayor -- it may have been Baltimore! -- remarked, "I guess Old Frank can't hide the bodies."

Posted by: db | Feb 9, 2005 10:12:30 PM

Interesting point about the crime figures. It is possible to massage away a lot of numbers but you can't hide bodies. Another indicator that would be worth looking at is car crime, due to the neccessity of reporting for insurance purposes this is another category, like homocide, that can't easily be massaged away.

A connected question. Does anyone know how to contact David Simon? I want to try to persuade him to come and speak about the wire and the underlying issues at the Kennedy School but so far I havent found a decent contact.

Posted by: Duncan | Feb 9, 2005 11:00:00 PM

So how has Season two treated our host? The last post I saw said he had gotten the DVDs but not seen them yet, but that was a while ago - or is this a demonstration of superhuman self-control?

Posted by: HC | Feb 9, 2005 11:16:16 PM

Democratic Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is comparing Bush's budget cuts to 9/11 and Bush wielding a "budget" ax to Al-Qaeda flying planes into the WTC & Pentagon. Does he actually consider 9/11 to be such a trivial event that he'd compare it to having less taxpayer money to fritter away?

It's no wonder the public doesn't trust us on national security. We have to start taking terrorism seriously, or we will never get back in power.

Posted by: HillaryisnotHitlery | Feb 9, 2005 11:33:00 PM

9/11 killed roughly 3,000 people. On a purely logical level, anything that kills this many people is its equivalent. This should apply to anything from budget cuts that will have the effect of higher crime, or increasing poverty, which inhibits access to health care, meaning more people die who otherwise wouldn't. Or, as Bush would LOVE to do, gutting the Clean Air Act completely. And how about refusing to allow stem cell research? The best counterargument to this position is that the importance of 9/11 is not the number of deaths but the fact of the difference in kind. This does not necessarily dictate that we should ignore the objective, dead-dead trade-off. (and on that score, how about the number of U.S. servicepeople killed needlessly in Iraq, not to mention the innocent Iraqis?) I wouldn't make that metaphor, but people shouldn't flip out about it. It's a useful metric for comparison, especially with respect to the allocation of scarce funds -- like the trillion dollar hole in Mesopotamia. The best parallel is to the "Missing Women" in the developing world, which far outpaces the Holocaust, but is certainly different in kind. So, our political culture recognizes it as just to react to obvious sea-changes, but not to deaths by 1,000 cuts, even if the death tally is the same. Why can't O'Malley spin the rhetoric his way? If people don't buy the metaphor, fine, if they do, whatever. The interesting thing is not the fact of the comparison, but whether he backs it up with data.

And, anyone who 'fritters away' over 2,000 of the best America has to offer in a war that has nothing to do with terrorism, all while justifying said loss of life by appealling to Sept. 11 is not "taking terrorism seriously." The risk of 9/11 is that it could have been 300,000 -- that's what needs to be taken seriously. When Bush starts doing that, I'll consider voting Republican, once they stop fighting with beatniks. We'll get back in power once we do what O'Malley does -- call out Bush's fundamentally immoral budget priorties.

Posted by: db | Feb 10, 2005 12:09:23 AM

Amazing (il)logic, db.

It is people like you that make our side look bad.

Posted by: HillaryisnotHitlery | Feb 10, 2005 1:46:21 AM

"On the other hand, perhaps we're supposed to infer that Carcetti's character is based on the Shocking True Story of Baltimore's real-life mayor."

- It's always been pretty obvious that Carcetti is modelled on O'Malley.

My first thought when I find read about the O'Malley affair rumor story was that The Wire had gotten itself a free plotline.

- I assume Matthew and all The Wire fans are aware of the stories about the Stop Snitching DVD's that were released by Baltimore drug dealers.

The DVD is an entertainment program to threaten potential drug snitches with death. It got national attention because it featured Baltimore raised NBA star Carmelo Anthony and the actor who plays Omar in supporting roles.

Yet another free plotline for The Wire.

Posted by: Petey | Feb 10, 2005 1:48:52 AM

I found nothing wrong with O'Malley's comments:
"Back on September 11, terrorists attacked our metropolitan cores, two of America's great cities. They did that because they knew that was where they could do the most damage and weaken us the most," O'Malley said. "Years later, we are given a budget proposal by our commander in chief, the president of the United States. And with a budget ax, he is attacking America's cities. He is attacking our metropolitan core."

Catchy way of putting it I thought.

I did, however, have a problem with the responses from spineless Democrats (Mayor Williams and Executive Duncan) who criticized O'Malley's "inflammatory rhetoric." Like being polite about bad Republican policy is any way of inspiring opposition.


Neither Party takes terrorism seriously, especially the Republicans. Neither Party acknowledges the anti-democratic, imperialistic nature of our foreign policy, which is the cause of so much US-directed animosity. In fact, when the Dems were in power, the nature of the policy was the same and arguably worse because it didn't inspire such outright opposition worldwide.

Posted by: Phil | Feb 10, 2005 3:57:42 AM

This is old hat in Baltimore. A few years ago, when violent crime was down (again) and the murder rate up (again) the police were given to speculating that all that practice was making dealers better shots.

Posted by: david | Feb 10, 2005 10:14:28 AM

For your enjoyment: the interactive Martin O'Malley paper doll on-line, courtesy of the Baltimore Sun:


Actually, I find this entire web page very scary and cult-like, but the paper doll is just disturbing (though funny)

Posted by: flip | Feb 10, 2005 10:17:48 AM

A few in one:


Using the "other side's" rhetoric while clearly not knowing what the quote actually was is, uhm, idiotic. O'Malley made no such comparison, and it doesn't take any parsing to see it.


Carcetti's character is based on the Shocking True Story of Baltimore's real-life mayor. Although the Wire takes place post-9/11, its actual setting is Baltimore much as it was in 1998. If you really want to see the germination of the Wire, I highly recommend you buy or rent seasons 4,5 and 6 of "Homicide", when Simon was a writer on the series. You can clearly see early development of ideas that feature prominently in the Wire.

Also, the "gang violence" aspect to the homicide rate is probably a solid inference to make. If you wanted to make a connection to the Wire, you'll note that a bunch of major drug dealers were just "taken down", and there is quite probably a "turf war" on. I highly recomend you check out baltimorecrime.blogspot.com for both updates on what's going on crimewise in Baltimore as well as future plotlines for the Wire(assuming it stays on air).

Posted by: jayinbmore | Feb 10, 2005 10:25:20 AM

Thanks for the shout-out, if I didn't thank you already. Did you hear that the wire did get renewed? Rah!

Posted by: choco | Apr 1, 2005 3:41:34 PM

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