With the trust of a child

27 08 2014

Oh, did I laugh over this. . . :

. . . because this small being reacts exactly as any being ought to react to having water dumped over her.

UPDATE: Okay, copyright disappeared this vid, but you can see a version at YouTube here. And it’s only 23 seconds long, so go watch it!

h/t: Dan Savage, The Stranger

 





Turn and face the strange

26 08 2014

I knew that birthday call to my sister would last awhile—it always lasts awhile—but I didn’t think it would go on that long.

This, by the way, is my excuse for not posting last night

~~~

Classes begin on Thursday. I am, as ever, looking forward to it.

I recycle a lot of material from semester to semester—if it works well, why change it?—but I periodically amend or even overhaul courses: maybe it works well, but I’m bored, or maybe it doesn’t work so well.

The politics & culture course got revamped (due to boredom) last year, and while it worked okay, it just never came together the way I wanted it to. So for this semester I fiddled a bit with the first third, left the last third alone, and redid the middle third.

I’d been using Charles Taylor’s edited volume Multiculturalism to get at, well, issues of multiculturalism, but the argument of he and his interlocutors was pitched a bit, ehhh, not high, but not in the direction that was most fruitful. So I tossed Chuck and added some online readings, readings which come to the pointy-point much more quickly than Chas and his gang.

(If you’ve ever read Taylor you know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s smart and his stuff is worth reading, but good lord the man won’t use 10 words when a hundred will do.)

Anyway, I think it’s a good bet that the students will be more engaged by Ta-Nehisi Coates (among others) than academics speaking academically.

As for the bioethics, that’s pretty damned well set. I did add some short bits on gene therapy and epigenetics, but otherwise it’s the same. I did dig out for my lectures some more recent stuff on genetics and stem cells and, later in the semester, will on ART issues, mostly to make sure I’m not giving my students out-of-date or, even worse, wrong information.

The lectures on the science are, as I repeatedly warn the students, ur-basic and no substitute for the real thing; still, while I’m willing to simplify, I don’t want to mislead.

The good news is that it doesn’t look as if anything I have been teaching has been wrong.

~~~

I’m watching Criminal Minds on Netflix and it is, of course, terrible.

Yes, I have new shows in my queue and I do watch them (The Fall, Bletchley Circle), but I’ve gotten so televisionally-lazy that more often than not I prefer comfort and predictability over innovation , or even just the mostly-unwatched.

This is a failing, as I often do like something new, (Leverage! Yay, Leverage!), but if I’m in any kind of mood at all, I’ma gonna click on a link that takes me to a place I’ve been before.

As with Criminal Minds. I watched the first season or two on t.v., when I had a t.v., and this past year I’ve been watching the current season on CBS.

Well, okay, not wholly watching: I am over watching psychos torture their vics, so I zip through those portions. And the show has gotten more savage over the years, stretching out the screen-time given to crimes; in the early seasons, these are more glimpses than extended scenes.

And it’s not as if I particularly like any of the characters on the show. I don’t hate them, but, as with NCIS, they range from boring to annoying to eye-roll-inducing.

So why watch? Goddess help me, it’s a fucking procedural and fucking procedurals are my televised comfort food. This fall I’ll probably end up watching both that NCIS New Orleans show and CSI Cyber or whatever the hell it’ll be called.

Jesus.

Yes, I should change my diet, but I’ll probably only go as far as occasionally adding something more intellectually nutritious, and will keep mowing down the junk in the meantime.





All things weird and wonderful, 44

24 08 2014

Oh, those wacky Bulgarians:

Oleg Popov/AP Photo

It seems Bulgarians have been treating Soviet war memorials in their country as a kind of palimpsest, albeit one in which the previous image is incorporated into the new one rather than erased.

The Russians are unamused.

I have some sympathy for the Russian position, not least because I am almost always moved by war memorials. A plaque, some names, dates: I stop, and read, and sigh. Some times I tear up.

And, of course, the Soviet sacrifice, both military and civilian, during World War II was immense, and Allied victory would not have been possible had the Soviets broken.

Still, I have to applaud the Bulgarians, here. They know the memorial matters—why else choose it for periodic makeovers?—and in so re-imagining it, re-mind us (or, at least, me) of the, ahem, absurdity of this human life.





Everybody knows that the captain lied, 8

20 08 2014

RoboCop nailed it 27 years ago: privatizing police functions makes a rising crime rate profitable.

Sarah Stillman in the New Yorker notes that

Missouri was one of the first states to allow private probation companies, in the late nineteen-eighties, and it has since followed the national trend of allowing court fees and fines to mount rapidly. Now, across much of America, what starts as a simple speeding ticket can, if you’re too poor to pay, mushroom into an insurmountable debt, padded by probation fees and, if you don’t appear in court, by warrant fees. (Often, poverty means transience—not everyone who is sent a court summons receives it.) “Across the country, impoverished people are routinely jailed for court costs they’re unable to pay,” Alec Karakatsanis, a cofounder of Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit civil-rights organization that has begun challenging this practice in municipal courts, said. These kinds of fines snowball when defendants’ cases are turned over to for-profit probation companies for collection, since the companies charge their own “supervision” fees. What happens when people fall behind on their payments? Often, police show up at their doorsteps and take them to jail.

From there, the snowball rolls. “Going to jail has huge impacts on people at the edge of poverty,” Sara Zampieren, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me. “They lose their job, they lose custody of their kids, they get behind on their home-foreclosure payments,” the sum total of which, she said, is “devastating.” While in prison, “user fees” often accumulate, so that, even after you leave, you’re not quite free. A recent state-by-state survey conducted by NPR showed that in at least forty-three states defendants can be billed for their own public defender, a service to which they have a Constitutional right; in at least forty-one states, inmates can be charged for room and board in jail and prison.

America’s militarized police forces now have some highly visible tools at their disposal, some of which have been in the spotlight this week: machine guns, night-vision equipment, military-style vehicles, and a seemingly endless amount of ammo. But the economic arm of police militarization is often far less visible, and offender-funded justice is part of this sub-arsenal.

Then again, if citizens are unwilling to pay for a truly public force, the police may be de facto privatized, relying on whatever funds they can rustle up through fines and fees. Sara Kliff at Vox notes that

In Ferguson, court fees and fines are the second largest source of funds for the city; $2.6 million was collected in 2013 alone. That’s become a key source of tension. There is a perception in the area, [advocate Thomas] Harvey says, that the black population is targeted to pay those fines. Eighty-six percent of the traffic stops, for example, happen to black residents — even though the city is 67 percent black.

Harvey, director of ArchCity, reported that “I can’t tell you what’s going on in the mind of a police officer but, in the mind of my clients, they’re being pulled over because they’re black. . . . They’re being pulled over so the city can generate revenue.”

In a brief Q&A with Kliff  Harvey said

The most charitable reading is that the courts don’t know the impact they’re having on peoples’ lives. For people like me this system works. If I got a traffic ticket I would pay $100 to a lawyer to represent me. I would get my speeding ticket turned into an excessive vehicle noise charge, pay a fine, the lawyer would get paid and the municipality too. It’s the easiest transaction. But if you’re poor, that system hurts you in ways they don’t seem to have considered.

And if you look at Ferguson and Florissant, between those two municipalities they expect to net $4 million from these fines annually. That’s no small amount for towns of 25,000 and 50,000. It’s become a line in the budget and they’re relying on it. That’s the real crux of things. The courts are supposed to be the place where you administer justice, not rely on for revenue. That sense has been lost at some level in the community. [emph added]

And the peoples’ representatives don’t help when they praise prisons as job creators.

Yes, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin tweeted that a prison “would be an important piece in the economic future of northern IL”.

I should note that the second tweet, about a 500% increase in fed prison pop is juxtaposed as if it were a kind a praise, but in digging back thru the Senator’s Twitter feed to March 31, the multiple tweets on the topic make it clear that he considers this a problem and touts the Smarter Sentencing Act as a solution.

Well, great, Senator. But who’s going to fill that northern Illinois prison if that act passes?

It should be a shanda on our people—on Americans—every time we build a prison, a failure of our politics to create a society in which people may live as human beings.

Yes, we need the police and we need prisons because there are those among us who seek to dominate and harm us. But what we have already should be enough, should be more than enough.

~~~

h/t Dish staff, Daily Dish; James Fallows; Billy Townsend





Everybody knows the fight was fixed, 7

19 08 2014

Pay-to-play, celebrity version!

It’s only fair, of course: the NFL is a non-profit organization.

And, this being America, nothing like police abuse to juice the market.

Finally, why so much talk about inequality? Why, commoners today live better than kings yesterday!

(Shhhh, just don’t talk about how kings live today.)

~~~

h/ts: Erik Loomis, Lawyers, Guns & Money—3 times!





So now you see the light, eh

19 08 2014

So a cops writes that “yeah you might think you have rights blah blah but I will fuck you up if you try to pull that shit with me”. . . .

To which the only possible response is:





Here I am again

18 08 2014

This is my first tattoo, from a couple of years ago:

003

It’s Sumerian cuneiform, the oldest known written language. It’s a way to mark what I’ve chosen.

It’s zi.

It’s life.








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