aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Silent Witness @ Central PA PrideFest
While home in PA for my nephew’s wedding last weekend, I stayed with a high school friend. As it happens, it was pride weekend in central PA and my friend - a married heterosexual mother of two - both sang in the Voices United concert and volunteered as a silent witness for the Unity Parade…
“Free” or “Open Source”?
We’re soon ready to open our new Ubuntu Lab (built with used machines) and the question that has come up is whether to call it “free” or “open source.” Who knew that it could be a debate?
Here’s Richard Stallman on Why “Free Software” is better than “Open Source:”
While free software by any other name would give you the same freedom, it makes a big difference which name we use: different words convey different ideas.
In 1998, some of the people in the free software community began using the term “open source software” instead of “free software” to describe what they do. The term “open source” quickly became associated with a different approach, a different philosophy, different values, and even a different criterion for which licenses are acceptable. The Free Software movement and the Open Source movement are today separate movements with different views and goals, although we can and do work together on some practical projects.
The fundamental difference between the two movements is in their values, their ways of looking at the world. For the Open Source movement, the issue of whether software should be open source is a practical question, not an ethical one. As one person put it, “Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement.” For the Open Source movement, non-free software is a suboptimal solution. For the Free Software movement, non-free software is a social problem and free software is the solution.
It looks like we’ll wind up saying “free or open source software” abbreviated as FOSS.
Thanks Jason! (btw, Stallman’s text has line breaks too.)
Sicko Health Care Card
A nifty idea in so many ways:
You now have the opportunity to print and carry your very own "’SiCKO’ Health Care Card." Playing the ‘SiCKO’ card has worked for a family in DeBary, Florida, whose daughter suffered profound hearing loss and was denied a cochlear implant. Her father sent a letter to Cigna asking, "has your CEO ever been in a film before?" Before he knew it, his daughter’s denial was overturned. It also worked for a family in Flint, Michigan who was stuck with a $66,000 medical bill until they posted their healthcare horror story on YouTube. Click here to see what happened next.
Download the PDF of the card below and follow these simple guidelines:
1. Carry the card in your wallet with your insurance card.
2. If denied treatment, show your SiCKO card to your doctor/insurer.
3. Ask your insurer if they’d like to be in Michael Moore’s next movie, DVD, or appear on MichaelMoore.com.
4. Tell them that, if denied, you will seek coverage from your local media.
5. E-mail your story to .
How to deal with conservative courts
Cass Sunstein says that we’ve hardly noticed a stunningly successful conservative refashioning of the Supreme Court that has radically changed the terms of our legal and political discourse:
According to conventional wisdom, the Supreme Court is equally divided between a conservative wing and a liberal one, with Justice Anthony Kennedy acting as the swing voter. But there is something extremely strange about this view of the current situation. By the standards of the recent past, the liberal wing isn’t liberal at all.
According to conventional wisdom, the Court has long been evenly balanced between left and right, and it has finally shifted a bit to the right under Chief Justice John Roberts. But there is something strange about this view as well. The Court shifted quite dramatically to the right between 1972 and 2000, indeed between 1980 and 2000, and yet people continued to speak of an alleged “balance” even as the dramatic shift was underway.
He goes on to detail “how much has happened, and how little we have understood it.” In a Times OpEd on Friday, Jean Edward Smith sees a way back to the center:
[T]here is nothing sacrosanct about having nine justices on the Supreme Court. Roosevelt’s 1937 chicanery has given court-packing a bad name, but it is a hallowed American political tradition participated in by Republicans and Democrats alike.
If the current five-man majority persists in thumbing its nose at popular values, the election of a Democratic president and Congress could provide a corrective. It requires only a majority vote in both houses to add a justice or two. Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues might do well to bear in mind that the roll call of presidents who have used this option includes not just Roosevelt but also Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and Grant.
My problem is that the Supreme Court is not the only court where this conservative shift has taken place. The same shift has taken place throughout all levels of the judiciary. The Supreme Court hears so few cases that a change there won’t solve the problem.
I am thinking that liberals will need to abandon their faith in the courts and build legally binding, alternative institutions - based on mediation and rooted in social norms - that resolve issues before they ever even get to the courts.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
So I’m not likely to be blogging today…
The Times Magazine today
The NYTimes Sunday Magazine is a trove of interesting articles today. On vacation, I’ve had no time to read them. When I’m home I’ll catch up....
Mary Bucholtz, a linguist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been working on the question for the last 12 years. She has gone to high schools and colleges, mainly in California, and asked students from different crowds to think about the idea of nerdiness and who among their peers should be considered a nerd; students have also “reported” themselves. Nerdiness, she has concluded, is largely a matter of racially tinged behavior. People who are considered nerds tend to act in ways that are, as she puts it, “hyperwhite.”
If God is dead, does that mean we cannot survive our own deaths? Recent best-selling books against religion agree that immortality is a myth we ought to outgrow. But there are a few thinkers with unimpeachable scientific credentials who have been waving their arms and shouting: not so fast. Even without God, they say, we have reason to hope for - or possibly fear - an afterlife.
Last but far fro least, the Magazine cover story, The Real Transformers:
I was introduced to my first sociable robot on a sunny afternoon in June. The robot, developed by graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was named Mertz. It had camera sensors behind its eyes, which were programmed to detect faces; when it found mine, the robot was supposed to gaze at me directly to initiate a kind of conversation. But Mertz was on the fritz that day, and one of its designers, a dark-haired young woman named Lijin Aryananda, was trying to figure out what was wrong with it. Mertz was getting fidgety, Aryananda was getting frustrated and I was starting to feel as if I were peeking behind the curtain of the Wizard of Oz.
85% say no tojail for Genarlow. McDade tape details.
According to an AJC poll:
An overwhelming majority of metro Atlantans polled by the Journal-Constitution believe Genarlow Wilson does not belong in prison.
A telephone poll of 622 adults living in metro Atlanta on Monday and Tuesday found 85 percent of those who knew of Wilson’s imprisonment for having oral sex with a girl two years his junior - at the time he was 17 and she was 15 - think he should not have to serve his entire 10-year sentence.
Meanwhile, Editor and Publisher has AP details on the tape:
DOUGLAS COUNTY, Georgia—Those who obtained a sexually explicit video used as evidence in a criminal trial are warned that the video constitutes child pornography and should be surrendered or destroyed, according to a U.S. Attorney’s office.
The video, released by Douglas County district attorney J. David McDade to journalists and state legislators, is the center of a felony child molestation case involving Genarlow Wilson, 17 at the time, and a 15-year old girl at a 2003 New Year’s Eve party of teenagers. The video shows unforced oral sex between Wilson and the girl. [...]
The Associated Press is in possession of one of the videos. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, David Tomlin, associate general counsel for the AP, said that although he found it unlikely that the AP would be prosecuted for possessing a copy of the videotape, it nevertheless destroyed its copy, since Tomlin said it had no further use for the video.
McDade released approximately 35 copies of the sexually explicit video to journalists and seven state legislators. Nahmias likens the video to contraband similar to seized illegal drugs and weapons and says it shouldn’t be distributed outside of the justice system. McDade’s position is that it’s part of the court record which is subject to state open records law. He claims he was responding to public records requests when he released the 35 copies.
Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization
Here she summarizes a panel from Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths [pdf transcript]:
The numbers are based on a sample of law enforcement cases which Finkelhor et al. performed research upon:
- most victims of “online predators” are teenagers, not young children
- only 5% of cases involved violence
- only 3% involved abduction
- deception does not seem to be a major factor
- 5% of offenders concealed the fact they were adults from their victimes
- 80% of offenders were quite explicit about their sexual intentions
- these crimes are “criminal seductions”, sexual relationships between teenagers and older adults
- 73% of cases include multiple sexual encounters
- in half the cases, victims are described as being in love with the offender or feeling close friendship
- in a quarter of the cases, victims had actually ran away from home to be with the person they met online
- only 7% of arrests for statutory rape in 2000 were internet-initiated
I find these figures very sobering. Basically, our kids are more at risk offline than online. No reason to panic! About this last figure, listen to Dr. Michele Ybarra, president of Internet
Solutions for Kids:
One victimization is one too many. We watch the television, however, and it makes it seem as if the internet is so unsafe that it’s impossible for young people to engage on the internet without being victimized. Yet based upon data compiled by Dr. Finkelhor’s group, of all the arrests made in 2000 for statutory rape, it appears that seven percent were internet initiated. So that means that the overwhelming majority are still initiated offline.
When I see that 73% have multiple sexual encounters and half of the victims think they’re in love with the offender it strikes me that first among the kinds of help our kids need is parents to talk to them about sex!
Instead of doing that, we look to law enforcement to solve the problem for us. It seems to me that it’s not them, it’s us.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Romney proves the point
For those of you who need more evidence, Time Magazine has a story on the Republican reluctance to engage in a YouTube debate:
Still, some Republicans worry that shying away from YouTube will make their candidates seem technophobic or out of touch. Patrick Ruffini, a G.O.P. online political strategist, wrote on his blog: “It’s stuff like this that will set the G.O.P. back an election cycle or more on the Internet.” Democratic consultants are rubbing their hands together at being able to portray their general election rivals as being - as one put it to me - “afraid of snowmen” or simply ignorant of techonologies that many Americans use on a daily basis. Indeed, Governor Romney today, in the context of evincing concern over Internet predators, supported that suspicion: “YouTube looked to see if they had any convicted sex offenders on their web site. They had 29,000,” he said, mistaking the debate co-sponsor for the social network MySpace, which has recently done a purge of sex offenders from its rolls.
Snowmen. They’re afraid of puppet snowmen. And convicted sex offenders on some random other site not having anything to do with YouTube. (MySpace is owned by Rupert Murdoch, so I’m sure Romney will be boycotting the next Fox News debate as well...)
Of course, the GOP is still coming to terms with the fact that the internet is not a truck. So we can’t expect anything less than baby steps.
The Blogosphere: talk radio for liberals
In a podcast interview of Markos Moulitsas ZÃƒÂºniga by Dave Weinberger last May, Kos articulates why, like talk radio and conservatives, the blogosphere is an inherently liberal medium:
I often say that the blogosphere is really the first medium that plays to our strengths as liberals. [...]
[W]e’ve been at a disadvantage in the media world, because everybody jokes that liberals do not work from the same playbook. Will Rogers saying, “I’m not a member of an organized party, I’m a democrat.” This notion that were not going to follow: “Don’t tell me what to think, I’ll think for myself.” Obviously, that’s been a problem in a world that has been increasingly dominated by the talking points and by being able to properly message, and getting on that same messaging book.
So, we have a medium that doesn’t necessarily require that sort of singularity of message, that actually encourages what we love to do the most, which is just to sit there and argue, fight, and debate. And sure, when the elections come--when the time comes, we can actually get together and work for campaigns and work for elections. [...]
The conservatives can heat up--this is what they do: they say on message, they hammer that message, and it can be very, very effective and help them win for decades, that singularity of message. Everyone knows what the Republican Party stands for because we’ve heard it eight billion times: small government, lower taxes, national defense, and strong family values. Everybody can recite those. Ask somebody why they’re a democrat, and you’ll get 18 million different answers about why they’re a democrat. There’s no singularity in message. And again, in a traditional media world, that was a problem because everybody’s saying a different thing. There’s no common messaging, so the viewer is left wondering: “What are these people are about? I have no idea.”
Now we have a medium, the blogosphere, that allows us to embrace that diversity in voices, and that desire to debate, argue, and think for ourselves, and actually turn that, what used to be a negative and a weakness, turns it into a strength. [...]
The beauty was that we were so fragmented in the past that we would end up in our own silos. You had the environmentalists in one corner, and the women’s groups in another, and labor in yet another group. You had all these constituencies in the Democratic Party, and in a broader progressive movement, always sitting at a different table.
Now, what a place like Daily Kos allows us to do is that everybody will come to Daily Kos--the center of the party, the left of the party, the right of the party--and we’ll argue, argue, argue. We’ll hate on each other fierce. People talk about the echo chamber at Daily Kos, and it’s a joke because actually it’s quite a brutal place.
But, then what happens is we’re all at the same table, and we’re all arguing, but we’re at the same table. When an election rolls around, and it’s time to get together to work on behalf of our candidates, people will put aside those differences for those six months before the election, and will work their butts off. Then sure, once the election is over, they’ll go back to arguing, and a lot of that will be arguing and hating on the democrats that we just helped get elected. But, by putting everybody at the same table, we’re able to harness that collective energy and work for a commonality of purpose when that is needed--when the time for that is around, which is usually around elections. But sometimes, it could be around activism campaigns.
Friday, July 27, 2007
BBC puts shows online. With restrictions.
The BBC launched a new on-demand service called iPlayer on Friday that lets people download from the Internet shows like “EastEnders” and “Planet Earth” that they may have missed on the telly that week. The shows represent as much as 70 percent of the BBC programming, about 400 hours of programs, according to Reuters.
Sounds great, huh?
Unfortunately, the free service is only available to people in Britain and on computers running Microsoft XP. [...]
Once viewed, the downloaded shows are automatically deleted after 30 days and technology prevents people from making copies of them.
Who to blame? PeterB of DefectiveByDesign used to work for BBC Network Radio. Says he:
Let’s start from the top. Queen Elizabeth was directed to bestow Bill Gates with an honorary knighthood in 2002, for “services to global enterprise”. This knighthood came after Microsoft had been convicted of monopolistic practices in the US. And just before the European Commission investigated Microsoft’s bundling of Windows Media Player into Windows ending with Ã¢â€šÂ¬497 million ($666 million) for its breaches of EU competition law.
Bill was nominated for this honor by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who, on June 27, 2007, became the the new Prime Minister of Britain. You may not know this, but Gordon is tight with Bill, and the Labour Party is tight with Microsoft. And after 10 years of one party rule, the UK is a politically tied up Microsoft shop. Everything else that follows in relation to the iPlayer can be connected to this corrupting political association.
Peter’s packing his bags and heading back to the UK to be there on Tuesday, August 14 when DefectiveByDesign will be heading to the BBC Television Studios in London to protest “the incompetent management that has allowed this to happen.”
He wants us to be sure to ask anyone we know in the UK to join the protest. You can sign up to help plan the campaign here.
On David Petraeus
More from the NYTimes Book Review coming this weekend. In a major look at George Bush’s war on terror, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard’s Samantha Power says, “The book to begin with in looking for a revised 21st-century strategy is, unexpectedly, the landmark U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual.”
The leading architect of the manual was David Petraeus, then a lieutenant general, who commanded the 101st Airborne Division in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 and took responsibility for governing Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, immediately thereafter. He is now the overall American commander in Iraq. Petraeus emphasized economic and political development and is said to have asked his soldiers, “What have you done for the people of Iraq today?” He worked with another military man who also saw that his job would have to be more than strictly military - Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who commanded the First Marine Division during the initial invasion and then in 2004 returned to help stabilize Anbar Province. His division motto was “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy - First Do No Harm.” In February 2006, while the new counterinsurgency doctrine was still being drafted, and while international criticism of American military excesses mounted, Petraeus invited journalists, human rights lawyers, academics and practitioners of counterinsurgency to Fort Levenworth to vet a draft, initiating what participants characterized as one of the most open and productive exchanges of ideas they had ever witnessed.
Our Polyface Visit
Joel Salatin says farms should be aesthetically and aromatically pleasing and invites anyone to come, look around, and see for themselves.
On our way from Georgia to PA, we got off I-81 in Staunton, VA and made our winding way out to the farm. We arrived just as they were cleaning up from the slaughter of about 100 chickens.
I was reminded of Michael Pollan’s call for glass walls and Joel’s prideful transparency - “No trade secrets, no locked doors, every corner is camera-accessible.” The young apprentices greeted us warmly, gave enough general direction for us to find our way around, and sent us on our way.
Crocs were obviously not the best shoe choice for tromping through a landscape nutritionally healed by poultry that is genuinely free range, so after briefly checking out the incubator and the eggmobile we made our way to the dirt road and wondered off to find the pigs.
Thinking we had made a wrong turn and about ready to give up, we came upon the feeder, an oddly shaped aluminum contraption. We stood ogling it for a moment when, to our surprise, a pig approached, flipped up the flap with his snout and began to chow down. Soon a few more approached.
Impressed at the simple truth of it - “Plants and animals should be provided a habitat that allows them to express their physiological distinctiveness. Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health.” - we made our way back to the house and bought a chicken as a gift for our Harrisburg hosts.
Polyface, Inc. is a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm and informational outreach in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. [...]
We are in the redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.
Compare and contrast: Joel Salatin’s hog heaven; Smithfield Foods pigs in shit.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Our War on Terror
Coming in the NYTimes Book Review this weekend, a major look at George Bush’s war on terror:
...by branding the cause a war and calling the enemy terror, the administration has lumped like with unlike foes and elevated hostile elements from the ranks of the criminal (stigmatized in all societies) to the ranks of soldiers of war (a status that carries connotations of sacrifice and courage). Although anybody taking aim at the American superpower would have seemed an underdog, the White House’s approach enhanced the terrorists’ cachet, accentuating the image of self-sacrificing Davids taking up slingshots against a rich, flaccid, hypocritical Goliath. In rejecting the war-on-terror frame recently, Hilary Benn, the British secretary of state for international development, argued: “What these groups want is to force their individual and narrow values on others, without dialogue, without debate, through violence. And by letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength.”
But criticizing the calamities of the last six years of American foreign policy has become all too easy. And it does not itself improve our approach to combating terrorist threats that do in fact loom large - larger, in fact, because of Bush’s mistakes. The challenge now is to accept that just because George W. Bush hyped the threat does not mean the threat should be played down. Rather, we must urgently set about reversing the harm done to the nation’s standing and security by simultaneously reasserting the moral difference between the United States and Islamic terrorists and by developing a 21st-century toolbox to minimize actual terrorist threats. Several new books take up this challenge, each addressing a different piece of the national security predicament. Together, they allow one to begin to define a new approach to counterterrorism…
I’ll link when it’s out from behind the paywall.
Doctors trained in Cuba to serve poor in the U.S.
Eight US students have graduated from a Cuban medical school after completing a six-year study programme funded by the country’s communist government.
The eight came to Cuba as part of a deal agreed between President Fidel Castro and members of Washington’s Congressional Black Caucus.
Under the plan, Cuba offers students from deprived backgrounds full scholarships, including accommodation.
They are meant to return to the US to offer low-cost healthcare. [...]
According to the Cuban authorities, more than 80 young US students are currently receiving training at the Latin American Medical School in Havana, whose qualifications are recognised by the World Health Organization.
Cuba’s free healthcare system has been a key foreign policy tool for winning hearts and minds in the developing world, our correspondent says.
The government has sent tens of thousands of Cuban doctors abroad to help some of the world’s poorest communities.
It also trains large numbers of foreign doctors on the island.
29,000 reasons to doubt MySpace sex-offender action
Stephanie Booth reacts to MySpace removing the profiles of 29,000 convicted sex offenders. Her post is an amazing compilation of important facts that must be read in full and kept as a reference:
I think that MySpace’s announcement is more of a PR stunt than anything. This kind of action is the result of the ambient paranoia around sexual predators online, but it also fuels it. If MySpace are doing that, it must mean that we are right to be afraid, doesn’t it? I think it is a great pity that the media systematically jump on the fear-mongering bandwagon. We need more sane voices in the mainstream press.
Here is a collection of links related to this issue. Some I have mentioned in the body of the post, some I have not.
- MySpace bars 29,000 sex offenders
- Could You End Up on a Sex Offender Registry?
- MySpace and the Sex Offenders
- Megan’s Flaws?
- Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths (see danah’s post for YouTube video)
- Video: BBC Interview (Teenagers, Facebook)
- Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins (quotes are in English)
- De la “prÃƒÂ©vention internet”
Via danah boyd, “the Attorneys General have far better PR machines than MySpace. What you are seeing in the press is what the AGs have spun out in their ongoing efforts to force legislation to ban youth from social sites. This is about throwing out numbers that will make people feel afraid; it is not about trying to paint an accurate portrayal of what’s happening.”
Disney pledges to cut out smoking
The Disney Studio has pledged to remove smoking from its family-oriented films.
The media giant’s chief executive Robert A Iger said depictions of smoking in future Disney-branded films would be “non-existent”.
And smoking will be “discouraged” in films aimed at adults released under its Touchstone and Miramax banners.
Mr Iger made the promise in a letter to US congressman Edward Markey. DVDs that show cigarettes will also carry anti-smoking announcements, he added.
Meanwhile, over at Fox News a guest opposing a bipartisan Senate proposal to fund an extension the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by way of a cigarette tax lit up a cigarette on-air to prove his point. (President Bush, of course, opposes SCHIP.)
Disney is likely to garner kudos for its move. The American people generally favor the regulation of cigarettes:
For seven years, proponents have been trying to get the Food and Drug Administration to regulate cigarettes, and President Bush has firmly opposed.
Just last week, he declared that “nicotine is not a drug to be regulated under FDA.”
But most Americans think it is. In a new Washington Post poll, two-thirds of the public said they support the proposal set to be considered in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions this morning.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Doug digs “Timeframe” at Telfair
We thoroughly enjoyed the three interactive video works by Daniel Shiffman at Savannah’s Jepson Center for the Arts. Shiffman describes Timeframe:
In the late 19th century, Englishman Eadweard Muybridge photographed progressions of animal and human movements, capturing the beauty of motion imperceptible to the human eye. Timeframe takes inspiration from Muybridge’s work, unlocking the frozen frames of his motion studies with live video. The viewer is invited to witness him or herself inside a grid of one thousand and twenty four frames of video, his or her movements rippling across and around the screen.
Cynthia Tucker on Troy Davis
In studying cases of innocent people who have been wrongly convicted, University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett has concluded that erroneous identifications by eyewitnesses are, by far, the leading cause, occurring 79 percent of the time. (Garrett examined 200 cases of people later exonerated by DNA evidence.) All six of the Georgia men who have been exonerated by DNA evidence were convicted because of faulty eyewitness testimony.
But, in Davis’ case, there is more than just the 11th-hour remorse of prosecution witnesses who now say they were pressured by police or influenced by news reports. There is also the genuine regret of a woman who saw something important that night but withheld the information from police.
Tonya Johnson now says she was sitting on the porch when she saw a man running from the direction of the Burger King. She watched as he hid two guns behind the screen door of the abandoned apartment next door. She says he returned later, panicked and sweaty, and asked her: “Is he dead?”
When police questioned her, she never mentioned the man. She was afraid of him and afraid of the police, as well. “They weren’t nice,” she told the AJC. “You did all you could to avoid them.” But now she believes her silence may have helped to send an innocent man to death row.
MacPhail was cut down doing his duty; he left a multitude, including two young children, to mourn his loss. But, as deeply as they have been wounded, it could hardly help them - or us - for the state to take the life of another innocent man. If Georgia insists on putting someone to death for MacPhail’s murder, it ought to make sure it has the right man.
LATER: The state Board of Pardons and Paroles will hold another clemency hearing on August 9 to listen to 14 witnesses. Fax the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Troy’s behalf. The number is (404) 651-8502. Or via Amnesty International here.
USA Today on defining teens as sex offenders
In a piece about states criminalizing kids for consensual sex, here’s what is said about Georgia:
Officials who say punishment has gone too far cite the case of Genarlow Wilson, who is serving a 10-year sentence in Georgia for receiving oral sex at a party from a 15-year-old girl when he was 17.
“We’re reliving the crucible,” says New Hampshire state Rep. Lee Hammond, a Democrat. Once on a public registry, he says, a teen’s future can change dramatically. “You can hang up a lot of careers.”
“There’s been a sea change in attitudes about juvenile sex offending,” says David Finkelhor of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. He says schools and therapists take even lesser incidents, such as touching, more seriously. [...]
Some state officials say teens, even in consensual sex cases, deserve what they get.
State Sen. Eric Johnson, a Republican in Georgia, disagrees with colleagues who say Genarlow Wilson was unfairly punished. “There’s no evidence anyone is in jail because two young lovers got overheated in the back seat of a car,” he says.
Muppets move to Atlanta
ATLANTA, July 24 - Time’s fun when you’re having flies, Kermit the Frog once said. And how time has flown: Kermit, or more precisely one of the many puppets that have played Kermit, will be retired to Atlanta on Wednesday, part of a major gift being made by the Jim Henson Foundation.
The flippered phenom, who began life as a scrap of fabric cut from a green coat discarded by Jim Henson’s mother, will be presented to the Center for Puppetry Arts here. He is a symbol of a large gift of Mr. Henson’s work that will be donated to the center and exhibited in a planned Jim Henson Wing, said Cheryl Henson, president of the Jim Henson Foundation. [...]
The Center for Puppetry Arts was offered the Henson Foundation archive because of its long history with the Jim Henson Company. Alongside Kermit and Miss Piggy (dressed as Rhett and Scarlett), Jim Henson cut the ribbon at the center’s opening in 1978, and the center’s collection already includes the Pigs in Space from “The Muppet Show.” Another factor favoring the center was its plan to expand and complete an already impressive collection of international puppets.
The institution is “the prime center of puppetry arts in the country and really has been for a long time,” said Eileen Blumenthal, a professor of theater arts at Rutgers and author of the book “Puppety, a World History.”
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Sex offender registries: do they work?
Last month David Giacalone wrote an excellent post parsing Schenectady’s PanderPols vote to evict sex offenders:
Talk about child abuse. More than a dozen Schenectady County high school students were “shadowing” our county legislators at a public meeting last night, and they got an unsavory and unvarnished civics lesson. Not only were the youth kept in their seats for four hours, but they had to witness both the ugly refusal by the Chair (Susan E. Savage) to permit debate on what is surely the most controversial piece of local legislation this year, and the nasty sight of posturing and pandering politicians, who “did something to protect children” by passing a meanspirited, shoddily-drafted and predictably ineffective set of residency restrictions on sex offenders. (see a FoxNews23 video covering the story) As today’s Albany Times Union explains, in “Law aims to shield kids: Schenectady County passes housing rules for sex convicts (June 13, 2007), under County of Schenectady Local Law No. 03-07 & 04-07, no matter what their risk level, the age of their victims, or the nature of their crimes, sex offenders may no longer reside near places where children congregate (that is, any elementary, middle or high school, child care facility, public park, playground or swimming pool, or youth center). Not only are they prohibited from moving to a residence within 2000 feet of such places, but:
“The change requires sex offenders — at every level — to leave their homes starting Oct. 1, should they reside within 2,000 feet of public parks, pools and playgrounds, as well as schools, day care and youth facilities.” (emphasis added)
Indeed, if any of those facilities are built, relocated, or licensed within 2000 feet of the residence of a sex offender at any future time, he or she must move within ninety days.
With that David launches into one of the most impressive collections of resources I’ve found:
You can find a very good discussion of issues presented by the residency restrictions on sex offenders by Lior Strahilevitz and many commentors at PrawfsBlawg’s “Sex Offender Residency Restrictions and the Right to Live Where You Want,” Aug. 3, 2005, and Michael Cernovich reviews many of the relevant legal issues at Crime & Federalsim, in his posting Doe v. Miller: The Legal Theories. Residency restrictions have been in the news a lot recently, and have been covered well by Corey Rayburn Yung at Sex Crimes (e.g., here), and by Prof. Douglas A. Berman, at Sentencing Law and Policy weblog. Last year, Prof. Berman pointed to “A potent and important prosecutorial statement against sex offender residency restrictions” (Feb. 9, 2006). The document was released by the Iowa County Attorneys Association, an organization of county prosecutors seeking “to promote the uniform and efficient administration of the criminal justice system.” In its five-page statement ICAA explains that Iowa’s broad sex offender residency restriction “does not provide the protection that was originally intended and that the cost of enforcing the requirement and the unintended effects on families of offenders warrant replacing the restriction with more effective protective measure.” [...]
For further reading on this topic, I suggest:
- An important amicus brief to the Ohio Supreme Court, which is quoted at length in the Sex Crimes posting “Amicus Brief in Challenge to Ohio Residency Restrictions” (June 5, 2007). Among many cogent points, the brief argues that “the Ohio statute may increase the risk of recidivism by forcing many sex offenders to move from supportive environments that reduce the offenders’ risk of re-offending. See, e.g., JOAN PETERSILIA, WHEN PRISONERS COME HOME: PAROLE AND PRISONER REENTRY (2003) (concluding that positive social support is critical to the success of released offenders.).”
- The Sun Sentinel article “Offender fights Palm Beach County ordinance: Tough laws limit where they can live, but critics doubt their effectiveness (June 3, 2007).
- The Newsday story, “Residency laws for sex offenders under microscope:
Restrictions aim to prevent repeat crimes, but critics say all laws do is prevent offenders from rebuilding lives,” Dec. 2, 2006.
- “More limits on sex offenders won’t help, advocate tells board,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 7, 2007, covering the consideration of residency restrictions in Wentzville, MO.
- [update: June 14, 2007] “Patchwork of sex offender laws leads to confusion,” CapitalNews 9 [Albany, NY], June 13, 2007.
- “Montgomery County reacting to Schenectady sex offender restrictions,” WNYT.com, June 14, 2007. [”We’ll take a look at what we have here on the books already, do an assessment in order to keep them from making a mass exodus from Schenectady County or any other county into our county,” said Tom DiMezza, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.] And, “Sex offender says he has no place left to go,” WNYT.com, June 14, 2007 (focus on Richard Matthews, a registered sex offender living in Scotia, NY).
I believe the policy issues presented by sex offender residence restrictions are important for the integrity of our society. Notwithstanding the example of the current Administration in Washington, we cannot react to fear (especially exaggerated fear) by unduly restricting the civil liberties of an undesirable or unpopular class of people. The issues are important enough, that I told the County Legislature last night that I would come out of retirement to help bring a declaratory judgment suit or other challenge to their actions (that really brought them to their senses). Since I’m a bit rusty (as well as under the weather a lot), I would appreciate any volunteer assistance in this battle. If you don’t know how to contact me, just leave a Comment below.
LATER: Corrected attribution. Sorry David!
The YouTube debate debacle
My sum up from PrezVid.com:
I am sorely disappointed.
CNN selected too many obvious, dutiful, silly questions.
Anderson Cooper didn’t pace the debate; he tried to trip the runners.
The videos were too tiny to be given justice.
The candidates’ videos were just commercials.
There were far too few issues.
There were too many candidates.
The candidates gave us the same answers they always give.
I have no doubt - no doubt - that we, the people, would have done a better job picking the questions than CNN did.
I have no doubt that we would have heard far more substance without CNN and TV cameras in this. This should have been a debate held online: candidates answering questions directly without the need for CNN, Anderson Cooper, or their questions.
We end with the usual horserace blather of the TV commentators.
A terribly wasted opportunity, this was.
Of academic inquiry
Another observation from Steven Pinker in defense of dangerous ideas:
Though academics owe the extraordinary perquisite of tenure to the ideal of encouraging free inquiry and the evaluation of unpopular ideas, all too often academics are the first to try to quash them. The most famous recent example is the outburst of fury and disinformation that resulted when Harvard president Lawrence Summers gave a measured analysis of the multiple causes of women’s underrepresentation in science and math departments in elite universities and tentatively broached the possibility that discrimination and hidden barriers were not the only cause.
From the preface to his forthcoming book What Is Your Dangerous Idea?: Today’s Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable. My experience says his observation is spot-on!