News

Crystal Not-So-Clear

Crystal Not-So-Clear

The Bird wouldn't be surprised if readers who've been following New Times' series "The Perfect Drug," on crystal meth in Arizona (the final installment of which is in this issue), are left with a certain distrust of the so-called "facts" presented by our fearless civic leaders.

After all, politicians from Attorney General Terry Goddard on down have played loose with statistics as they've sounded the siren about Arizona's meth crisis. Consider this: Goddard's Web site claims that babies exposed to meth in the womb are six times more likely to suffer birth defects. As New Times staff writer Robert Nelson pointed out in his cover story ("Ice, Ice, Baby," November 24), that simply isn't true. And, as Sarah Fenske reported in "Bad Medicine" (December 8), Goddard frequently cites a statistic claiming Arizona kids ages 12 to 17 lead the nation in meth use. The Arizona Republic's repeated the false statistic numerous times.

And speaking of a blatant disregard for the truth, the Republic's December 4 issue may have offered the best example. That day, a Sunday, the newspaper ran an embarrassing correction. Reporter Kerry Fehr-Snyder's piece from earlier in the week ("Study: Meth Linked to Kids' Deaths") reported that, in one of every five cases where an Arizona child died because of mistreatment in 2004, meth was a factor.

You guessed it! It's not true.

If you look at the study, or if you even kept reading the article, the facts turn out to be much different. In fact, meth was only a factor in one of every 50 child fatalities, or 21 in 1,048.

The Republic ran a correction on the story that played down the error by reporting that "a headline overstated the role of methamphetamine," without bothering to mention that the second paragraph of the story contained the exact same mistake.

Okay, a weaselly correction is one thing, but what the Republic did elsewhere in that day's newspaper is another.

In its lead editorial on December 4, "Put Meth to Death," the paper published an impassioned plea to enact a tough state law restricting sales of pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in tabletop meth labs.

The Bird could certainly quibble with the newspaper's argument. But rather than pick that fight, it'll stick to the stats. Like, for instance, the bogus one the Republic repeated, for the sixth time, about Arizona's teenagers leading the nation in meth use.

Or, perhaps, the equally bogus one about the deaths of children.

That's right. The editorial writers claimed once again that, according to a recent report, "one in five child deaths caused by mistreatment in 2004 involved methamphetamine use."

And yes, that was the same statistic they had just corrected.

Chirp it with this avian, people: One in 50! One in 50!

And pundits wonder why the public's confidence in news publications is plummeting.

Tranzylvania Tussle

Here's one that won't make the evening news: DJ Donnie Burbank says he got his arm broken by a bouncer at goth club Tranzylvania.

Burbank, a.k.a. DJ Dr. Father, is half of the creative team behind the wildly popular club night Sadisco, where whacked-out themes like Serial Killers Convention (at which clubgoers dressed as Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy) are the norm. Previously, Sadisco has popped off monthly at venues like Jugheads and .anti_space, though it's currently looking for a new home.

Tranzylvania is the dark-trance/goth night at the downtown hot spot Palazzo, the pride of club guru Steven Rogers, who also either owns or part-owns most of the clubs on that stretch of Central Avenue, including Miami and Amsterdam.

Sadisco Donnie has always struck this winged wordsmith as a most placid guy, so what gives with this hullabaloo?

Burbank showed The Bird his scarred-up arm and claims the injury -- which required surgery -- was sustained when a Tranz bouncer pushed Donnie out onto the sidewalk outside. Seems Burbank had been slam-dancing with a pal when some chick complained to the Tranz staff about Burbank bumping into her.

This extended middle finger's got to ask . . . just how much is too much at the city's goth mecca, for Satan's sake?!

According to Burbank, he was willing to go along quietly, but the bouncer twisted Burbank's arm behind his back and gave him the old heave-ho. Burbank says he didn't realize at first how badly he was injured.

"I was in so much pain," Burbank whimpered to The Bird. "I went to the hospital early Saturday morning, and I didn't get out until Monday evening."

Burbank has since been laid off by his employer until he has a full recovery, which could take as long as four months. He's facing Xmas on unemployment, and applying for food stamps until he can work again.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela