aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, February 23, 2008
On humanely killed animals
Not that I’m calling you out, but when you write “humanely killed”, um, what?
Well, while it seems abundantly clear to me, I completely understand that it’s certainly not to others (and for some, it never will be).
I think it’s noteworthy that this week we had the largest meat recall in U.S. history. The recall came as a result of a Humane Society video that caught what the USDA later called “egregious violations” of federal animal care regulations.
Here’s an interview with the CEO of The Humane Society on why this video captured the media’s attention when so many of their others do not (among the reasons, it wasn’t too awful to watch). Here’s an LATimes story on the man who shot the video.
For specifics, Temple Grandin has written on redesigning slaughterhouses to make them more humane. I assume my commenter will get the point that if we are going to kill animals for food, it should be done as humanely as possible.
But I gather his real point is to ask, should we be killing animals for food at all? For the moment it is clear where I come down on that question, though I may one day, still, become a vegetarian. It is indeed a very enlightening exercise to look the animal in the eye that you will one day eat. In that I have, in my way, followed Michael Pollan. This from his 2002 NYTimes Magazine piece, An Animal’s Place:
Except for our pets, real animals-animals living and dying-no longer figure in our everyday lives. Meat comes from the grocery store, where it is cut and packaged to look as little like parts of animals as possible. The disappearance of animals from our lives has opened a space in which there’s no reality check, either on the sentiment or the brutality. Several years ago, the English critic John Berger wrote an essay, â€˜’Why Look at Animals?’’ in which he suggested that the loss of everyday contact between ourselves and animals-and specifically the loss of eye contact-has left us deeply confused about the terms of our relationship to other species. That eye contact, always slightly uncanny, had provided a vivid daily reminder that animals were at once crucially like and unlike us; in their eyes we glimpsed something unmistakably familiar (pain, fear, tenderness) and something irretrievably alien. Upon this paradox people built a relationship in which they felt they could both honor and eat animals without looking away.
I don’t know that this one paragraph can capture it, but it can begin to suggest the idea, I think, that there may be an ethical construct for eating animals. From page 325:
To give up eating animals is to give up on these places as human habitat, unless of course we are willing to make complete our dependence on a highly industrialized national food chain. That food chain would be in turn even more dependent than it already is on fossil fuels and chemical fertilizer, since food would need to travel even farther and fertility - in the form of manures - would be in short supply. Indeed, it is doubtful you can build a genuinely sustainable agriculture without animals to cycle nutrients and support local food production. If our concern is for the health of nature - rather than, say, the internal consistency of our moral code or the condition of our souls - then eating animals may sometimes be the most ethical thing to do.
Whether ethical or not, most Americans today—if not most of the people on the planet—eat living creatures. I’d like to see us improve the living standards of those creatures. And when the time comes, I’d like to give them, too, a more humane death.
SEE ALSO: How to avoid meat from factory farms.
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama & Health Care
This one’s been gone round and round but I have to say I liked the way Melissa Block and Julie Rovner captured it on All Things Considered yesterday. Clinton’s been claiming that Obama’s plan will leave out 15 million people:
BLOCK: Julie. Is that number correct?
ROVNER: Well, Senator Obama and his experts certainly don’t think so. They think that they can cover almost all of the uninsured simply with a voluntary system. But most of the economists say that you can’t do that. That you need some sort of a mandate. And in fact, the urban institute came out with a study just a couple of weeks ago that said having a voluntary system like the one that Senator Obama has proposed would in fact leave uncovered about fifteen and a half million people. So that number is pretty close to what Senator Clinton has been saying.
BLOCK: So, then, Senator Obama raises the question that if you have a plan to mandate insurance for everyone, how do you go about enforcing that?
ROVNER: That’s right, and that’s been his main argument against Senator Clinton’s plan, what it would mean to actually have to enforce that mandate...But what Senator Obama is not saying is that he might have to do that too since he has a mandate in his plan for children, so he might have to go after parent’s wages if they don’t pay the health insurance premiums for their children.
Like him or not, Obama is wrong on this point.
ROVNER: Now, Senator Clinton makes the point that health insurance shouldn’t be any different than any other type of social insurance.
Sen. CLINTON: It would be as though Social Security were voluntary, Medicare, one of the great accomplishments of President Johnson was voluntary. I do not believe that is going to work.
BLOCK: Drawing a tie between what she is proposing for health insurance and programs that have long been accepted as part of our economic and social system.
ROVNER: Yes. And I think this is, you know, the remaining - one of the few differences, I think, between these two candidates is they go down the line toward these two very big primaries.
#12: The cow’s come home
Just home from the abattoir, the cow’s in the trunk (frozen). Our dog, Baci, checks it out.
Last winter we had gone out to the pastuer and picked out the calf, #12. Last year we went in with three couples on a half cow; this time around the three couples bought a whole cow. We took half.
292.5 pounds of beef. $757.89. That’s $2.59 per pound.
Here’s the breakdown:
9 Large (huge!) sirloins
18 Rib steaks
2 sirloin tip roasts
5 chuck roasts
4 rump roasts
3 beef ribs (Doug doesn’t like them so most were ground up, the few we got are for the dogs)
390 burgers in patties (quarter pounders at least, I paid extra to have them made into patties)
9 boneless stew (packages of cut up meat for skewers on the grill, I’m thinking a package is good for 2 or 3 people)
Now, if that seems like a lot to you (and it does to most folks) let me just say that if it were to be eaten just by us, it would come to 1.87 pounds per week per person. BUT… it won’t be eaten just by us. We have people over. Often. And lots of them.
Further, this is grass fed, humanely raised and humanely killed, anti-biotic-free and un-processed meat. So, for example, where once we might have had a salt-laden highly-processed luncheon meat, now we will have a burger.
We had gone through last year’s sixth of a cow in four months and now we have my
big eatin’ super-buff nephew living with us. I’m guessing he and his friends will help us finish this new cow off in no time…
Speaking of spent forces…
Yglesias on Welch on NYT on McCain
I think this is about right—non-reporting of a non-scandalous non-affair aside, the Times story manages to reproduce some not-new information about McCain that most people nonetheless don’t know and should.
Hillary’s graceful, gradual, exit
I have been pro-Hillary, not anti-Obama. And I have been absolutely appalled by the anti-Hillary vehemence of some Obama supporters.
Now Hillary is doing exactly what I expected her to do. She is acting in a way that is completely consistent with why I continue to support her. She is putting her best argument out there, making it forcefully and with dignity. She has not quit like a Romney or Giuliani or Edwards,* but she is positioning herself to leave. She’s got grit. She’s fighting tough. And honorably. She’ll leave when she’s lost.
She will become, I firmly believe, an invaluable Obama ally—maybe even yet his very best asset in the Senate—when he faces the immovable corporate, bureaucratic, media and government establishment in DC and starts to try to enact his agenda of change.
After South Carolina I said that I thought if she didn’t win Super Tuesday she’d get out. It was the “how” that would be tricky. Just prior to February 5, and with increasing frequency since, I have asked those anti-Clinton critics of the Left to watch her closely. I think what we saw in that 60 Minutes interview, and what we saw in the debate in Texas, are the “how” happening right before our eyes…
Hillary Clinton, you are a great American political leader, you are my hope, and you are my hero!
* (Inserted later) I’m ambivalent about including Edwards in this list of losers. Edwards’ was an honorable exit, but it did also mean that his signature issue lost currency in the campaign. Arguably, he’d have been able to keep it more front and center had he stayed in.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Ray Kurzweil: Daydream Believer
Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil gave the keynote address at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. In it he apparently touched on pretty much everything. Except games. A sampling from CNet:
Kurzweil explained how previously unrelated fields will essentially become information technology fields. For instance, in the field of medicine, an artificial red blood cell called a respirocyte could eventually duplicate the work of the real thing, but with 1,000 times the efficiency.
“Biology is very capable and intricate and clever,” Kurzweil said, “but it’s also very suboptimal, compared to what we ultimately can build with information technology and nanotechnology...If you were to replace a portion of your blood with these respirocytes, you could do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath or sit at the bottom of your pool for four hours.”
Kurzweil also believes that nanotechnology will solve the world’s energy crisis within two decades. Solar panels are hard to manufacture, heavy, inefficient, and expensive, but Kurzweil said the advent of nanoengineered solar panels will change that.
Within five years, he believes that those high-tech solar panels will become less expensive per watt of energy produced than oil, taking away the financial incentive for people to burn through nonrenewable natural resources. Within 20 years, they will have largely replaced fossil fuels as the primary source of the world’s energy.
In a more general view, Kurzweil noted that the average life expectancy was growing at the rate of roughly three months a year. Now that information technology is affecting medicine, Kurzweil projected that in 15 years, the life expectancy of people will start expanding at the rate of more than a year for every year that passes, essentially not only delaying death, but actually pushing it further away with each passing day.
“We didn’t stay on the ground,” Kurzweil said. “We didn’t stay on the planet. And we have not stayed within the limitations of our biology.”
Here’s Wired’s coverage. I’m guess it will be podcast one day. I’ll be watching for it.
X300 “will be perfect for many” users
So says Walt Mossberg. I am late today because I’ve been waiting for all the crashes with my Mac. (See my earlier Mac complaints with that earlier X300 post.) A Mac pal tells me she rebuilds her Mac every 6 months. I tell you, I’m planning to spend $4,000 bucks (that’s with an education discount!) on my next one.
What am I, crazy???
I am seriously thinking I’ve got to stop sipping from the Apple Kool Aid.
A few words from Walt:
I can recommend the X300 for road warriors without hesitation, provided they can live with its two biggest downsides: a relatively paltry file-storage capacity and a hefty price tag. This ThinkPad starts at $2,476 for a stripped-down model and at $2,799 for a preconfigured retail version with a half-size battery. The configuration I expect to be the most popular, with a full-size battery and DVD drive, is about $3,000.
The key factor in both of these downsides is the solid-state drive, or SSD, which replaces the hard disk. The SSD is fast and rugged, but today it can hold only a cramped 64 gigabytes of files and is very costly. Apple offers a MacBook Air version with the same solid-state drive for a similar high price. But Apple also has a much more affordable $1,799 model with an 80-gigabyte standard hard disk. Lenovo doesn’t.
Why just one kiss?
It all started last Christmas, when Luke and Noah, the young gay couple on “As The World Turns,” were about to kiss. Though fans had seen them kiss before, this time the camera panned up to the mistletoe.
Over the next few months, while heterosexual couples were kissing, Nuke (as fans call the couple) was restricted to holding hands, playing with one another’s neck scarves and sharing meaningful looks.
Ensuing complaints of discrimination to CBS and the show’s producer and sponsor, Procter & Gamble, had no effect. And the last straw apparently arrived on Valentine’s Day, when every other couple but Nuke shared a kiss. They hugged instead.
Online fans began a nationwide media blitz on Feb. 20 to bring attention to the show, which has been twice nominated for an award from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). “Presenting a gay couple on television only to relegate them to insulting hugs and slaps on the back is the 21st century version of putting African Americans on the back of the bus,” wrote one disgruntled fan named Tony. “We’re simply supposed to be happy that we got the ride at all. This is 2008, and yet CBS and Procter & Gamble are clearly stuck in the past.”
Here’s the site started by fans targeting producers and Procter and Gamble.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Geek Chic Girls
The NYTimes looks at the December Pew study finding that girls lead boys significantly in content creation online across all categories except video (boys are almost twice as likely as girls to post video files). Still, the imbalance among adults in the computer industry remains:
Women hold about 27 percent of jobs in computer and mathematical occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In American high schools, girls comprised fewer than 15 percent of students who took the AP computer science exam in 2006, and there was a 70 percent decline in the number of incoming undergraduate women choosing to major in computer science from 2000 to 2005, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
Scholars who study computer science say there are several reasons for the dearth of women: introductory courses are often uninspiring; it is difficult to shake existing stereotypes about men excelling in the sciences; and there are few female role models. It is possible that the girls who produce glitters today will develop an interest in the rigorous science behind computing, but some scholars are reluctant to draw that conclusion.
“We can hope that this translates, but so far the gap has remained,” said Jane Margolis, an author of “Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing” (MIT Press, 2002). While pleased that girls are mastering programs like Paint Shop Pro, Ms. Margolis emphasized the profound distinction between using existing software and a desire to invent new technology.
Here’s the Pew report.
Moving on to Mississippi, you’ll remember that Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks served more than 30 years in a penitentiary there for crimes they didn’t do. Radley Balko’s been doing a bang-up job following these cases when few others have.
West still stands by his testimony. He’s now saying that even if Brooks and Brewer did not commit the two murders a third man has since confessed to committing, his testimony wasn’t incorrect: Brewer and Brooks still bit those little girls. To believe West, you’d have to believe that in two cases that occurred at about the same time, two men living just miles apart coincidentally each repeatedly bit a little girl in their care just hours before a third man unknown to either of them abducted, raped, and killed said little girls.
Alternately, you could believe that Dr. West is a quack who makes shit up. I know which theory my money’s on.
Balko follows up with another piece this week in Slate in which we learn something of the man who performed the autopsy and hired Dr. West to do the bite analysis. He’s Dr. Steven Hayne who has come to monopolize Mississippi’s criminal autopsy system over the last 20 years. Balko says that system is in disrepair, that state officials have had plenty of warning that something is wrong, and they’ve steadfastly refused to do anything about it:
According to the National Association of Medical Examiners, a doctor should perform no more than 250 autopsies per year. Dr. Hayne has testified that he performs 1,200 to 1,800 autopsies per year. Sources I spoke with who have visited Hayne’s practice say he and his assistants will frequently have multiple bodies open at once, sometimes smoking cigars and even eating sandwiches while moving from corpse to corpse. They prefer to work at night, adding to their macabre reputation.
Hayne isn’t board-certified in forensic pathology, though he often testifies that he is. The only accepted certifying organization for forensic pathology is the American Board of Pathology. Hayne took that group’s exam in the 1980s and failed it. Hayne’s pal Dr. West is even worse. West has been subject to exposÃ©s by 60 Minutes, Time, and Newsweek. He once claimed he could definitively trace the bite marks in a half-eaten bologna sandwich left at the crime scene back to the defendant. He has compared his bite-mark virtuosity to Jesus Christ and Itzhak Perlman. And he claims to have invented a revolutionary system of identifying bite marks using yellow goggles and iridescent light that, conveniently, he says can’t be photographed or duplicated.
Mississippi’s system is set up in a way that increases the pressure on forensics experts to find what prosecutors want them to find. The state is one of several that elect county coroners to oversee death investigations. The office requires no medical training, only a high-school diploma, and it commonly goes to the owner of the local funeral home. If a coroner suspects a death may be due to criminal activity, he’ll consult with the district attorney or sheriff, then send the body to a private-practice medical examiner for an autopsy. The problem here is that a medical examiner who returns unsatisfactory results to a prosecutor jeopardizes his chance of future referrals. Critics say Hayne has become the preferred medical examiner for Mississippi’s coroners and district attorneys, because they can rely on him to deliver the diagnoses they’re looking for.
Georgia, the laughing stock, wants to go an extra mile
I went to a Student Government Association meeting on campus yesterday. Aside from the dearth of women representation, I was very, very impressed with the way they conduct their business. I only hope they can carry that skill—that earnest idealism—off into their adult lives. And that maybe they will run for office one day.
LATER: In This land is WHOSE land? Facing south has some Tennessee reaction.
Pollan: Don’t blame the workers
In another interview, this one from Newsweek, Michael Pollan says it’s not the workers who are to blame for the horrific conditions exposed in that Humane Society video of the Hallmark Meat Packing slaughterhouse in Chino, CA., that triggered the largest meat recall in U.S. history.
Pollan aims his criticism at the mass-production system of slaughter, which produces mistakes along with millions of pounds of beef:
NEWSWEEK: What are the dangers posed by letting downer cattle enter the food supply?
Michael Pollan: They are prohibited out of concern for mad cow disease. Cows with BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopathy], as it is officially known, lose the ability to walk, so as one of the several precautions we took, we decided no downers [should enter] the food supply, and we also changed the feed of the animals and decided no meat could be taken from near the spinal column or brain material. But the other thing to be alert to is that downer cows can be sick for other reasons. Whatever the risk, do you want to be eating meat from sick cows?
What is the economic problem?
The industry is eager to turn all cows into hamburger, basically, and they don’t want to exclude anything. I’ve never witnessed what we saw in that video, but we are dealing with production lines that are incredibly fast. In a modern American slaughter plant, as I understand this one was, they slaughter 400 head an hour. What is that, seven per minute? Anything that slows down production is a problem. If an animal falls, he or she slows down the line. The workers are told to keep that supply coming â€¦ Temple Grandin, [who] has written on redesigning slaughterhouses to make them more humane, has written essays on the dehumanization of slaughterhouse workers. You work that long in the presence of death, you get desensitized. You don’t see animals; you see production units and quotas.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says it is rare for slaughterhouse workers to behave like this. The Humane Society, which says it targeted this plant at random, says it’s typical. How is a consumer supposed to navigate these opposing viewpoints?
I don’t know the answer to that. I find it really hard to believe it’s typical. But how much of this behavior is tolerable? There are rules. McDonald’s has rules that they tolerate a 5 percent error rate on the use of the captive bolt gun that slaughters the animals. That means 20 animals an hours are subjected to an imperfect kill, which is to say that they are subjected to a terrifying and brutal process. Is that typical? No, it’s only 5 percent. But that’s a lot when you are talking about this many animals. To see those images and think this is how our lunch is getting produced-if not every day, then sometimes-is very disturbing. It’s one of those episodes that peels back the curtain on how our food is prepared.
RELATED: From The Sacramento Bee, The Humane Society Shows it’s Tough Side in Beef Recall.
The roots of our nutrient fixation
Onnesha Roychoudhuri has an interview with Michael Pollan up on AlterNet. Here Pollan explains how we became fixated on nutrients:
In 1977, Sen. McGovern, who had convened this select committee on nutrition, was looking at why there was so much heart disease post-WWII. The thinking then was that people were eating too much animal protein. So his initial recommendation, quite plain-spoken, was to eat less red meat. Turns out the industry would not let the government say “eat less” of any particular food, so there was a firestorm of criticism. He was forced to compromise on that language. He changed it in a way that would prove quite fateful in many ways. He changed “eat less red meat” to “choose meats that will reduce your saturated fat intake.”
There are a couple noteworthy things about that. One is it’s a lot less clear and a lot of people aren’t going to understand it, which certainly suits the food industry. The other is, it’s affirmative. It’s saying “choose meats.” In other words, eat more of something that will have less of the bad nutrient—saturated fat. We’re no longer talking about eating more or less of a particular food; we’re saying eat more or less of a particular nutrient. That became the acceptable way for everyone to talk about food. It didn’t offend the food industry because they could always change their products to have more of the good nutrient, less of the bad. And I think it was very confusing to people: Foods are not merely the sum of their nutrient parts.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Did you see it?
I fell asleep. Doug says I missed something spectacular.
The Obama Delusion
By Obama’s own moral standards, Obama fails. Americans “are tired of hearing promises made and 10-point plans proposed in the heat of a campaign only to have nothing change,” he recently said. Shortly thereafter he outlined an economic plan of at least 12 points that, among other things, would:
â€¢ Provide a $1,000 tax cut for most two-earner families ($500 for singles).
â€¢ Create a $4,000 refundable tuition tax credit for every year of college.
â€¢ Expand the child-care tax credit for people earning less than $50,000 and “double spending on quality after-school programs.”
â€¢ Enact an “energy plan” that would invest $150 billion in 10 years to create a “green energy sector.”
Whatever one thinks of these ideas, they’re standard goody-bag politics: something for everyone. They’re so similar to many Clinton proposals that her campaign put out a news release accusing Obama of plagiarizing. With existing budget deficits and the costs of Obama’s “universal health plan,” the odds of enacting his full package are slim.
A favorite Obama line is that he will tell “the American people not just what they want to hear but what we need to know.” Well, he hasn’t so far. Consider the retiring baby boomers. A truth-telling Obama might say: “Spending for retirees—mainly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—is already nearly half the federal budget. Unless we curb these rising costs, we will crush our children with higher taxes. Reflecting longer life expectancies, we should gradually raise the eligibility ages for these programs and trim benefits for wealthier retirees. Both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for inaction. Waiting longer will only worsen the problem.”
Instead, Obama pledges not to raise the retirement age and to “protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries.” This isn’t “change”; it’s sanctification of the status quo.
Obama: If not him, who? If not now, when?
None of the presidential candidates has proposed a policy response to the real racial problems facing our society: Many of our nation’s cities are as racially segregated as they were in the era of Jim Crow, many minority neighborhoods are crime-plagued and bereft of opportunities for gainful employment, and one in three black men between 20 and 29 is in prison, on parole or on probation.
Thompson Ford has an important book out, The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, that argues that race relations, in our post-civil rights era, are more complex and contradictory than those of the unambiguously white supremacist past.
I said on the occasion of his OpEd and I ask again:
Looking for coded racism is tricky business; kind of like Bush’s war on terrorism—once we start looking we can find it anywhere. We ought to be careful.
I need to read the book to learn the nuance of the argument. I’ve seen the interview, read the first chapter and reviews and easily agree with what I understand of its central thesis. But it occurs to me that the Race Card can be flipped. We might reasonably ask why is Obama not addressing these very same racial issues that [Thompson Ford] describes in [his] piece.
Yes, I agree, no candidate “has proposed a policy response to the real racial problems facing our society.” By by that very same logic, shouldn’t it be Obama? Not solely because he is the black candidate—though he is—but because he has that absolutely terrific record in Illinois.
Even better, we know from his writings where he stands on so much of this. If he won’t tackle these issues in the relative safety of a primary fight, can we expect him to do it in the general election? And after he is elected, will he do it when hope turns to gritty Washington reality?
Why, in this vitally important presidential primary race, are we talking about the race card and not about issues of racial justice?
Now, I’m just not as swept up in hope as the rest of this nation. Call me cynical or call me whatever you want, but look at my blog in the last week and you’ll begin to understand why…
I’m mad as hell that not only did a Mississippi man, Kennedy Brewer, spend 15 years in prison for a crime he didn’t do, he was held in jail for several years after the DNA revealed his innocence as prosecutors decided whether to retry him. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the whole damned story was not news!
Does anyone want to hazard a guess as to the race of Mr. Kennedy Brewer?
Look at my post from last, evidence of malice. A 17 year-old Atlanta boy—again, want to guess his race???—in a case where the prosecutor did not believe the evidence justified a murder prosecution, is being tried as an adult. For murder. Why? His DA boss ordered it!
Now, I have been convinced by the evidence that there are indeed malicious unlawful convictions and that this is something that must be addressed in our criminal justice system. But I do not believe that is the sole cause for the gross disparity in the number of African Americans in our prisons.
I sit here writing from this rural Georgia community that is far more integrated than the Manhattan neighborhood I lived in for 25 years, in the South that has a rural black population unheard of in the North. I note that my black neighbors here voted for Obama in overwhelming numbers, and I ask, if he won’t raise these issues, if he won’t do something about it, who will? And if not now, is he just waiting until after he is elected?
Every person I admire supports him: Larry Lessig, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Cory Booker, and pretty much every New York friend (some of whom have been uncharacteristically nasty towards me for my support of Hillary) to name just a very few.
But they can’t tell me how precisely this change is going to work. Obama’s going to get to Washington and face a corporate, bureaucratic, media and government establishment all enamored with change—but I’m guessing it’s change for someone else they all want and I will be interested to see what change for themselves they are willing to make.
I promise you my vote will be for Obama; he has my wholehearted support and all my hope. It looks to me like he’ll need it. Because the change I want, the change I need—good old equality and social justice—looks to me like it’s going to be just as hard to achieve tomorrow as it was to achieve yesterday.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Evidence of malice?
Thanks for the link, Maggie. And the tip.
I’ve been posting a lot about kids today and here it turns out we’ve got an Atlanta teen, Michael Murphy, who even the veteran prosecutor handling the murder case he’s in jail for isn’t convinced is guilty. So why’s the kid in jail nine months after the crime?
The prosecutor’s DA boss, Paul Howard, told him to try the kid as an adult on murder charges that carry an automatic life sentence if convicted:
Howard declined to comment other than to say, “The indictment speaks for itself.”
Defense attorney Rusty Mayer insists his client isn’t the one to blame for the June 17, 2007 shooting of Byron Watson, 18, who died a couple of days later.
Instead, Mayer claims that Watson was with a group of 15-20 teens who had surrounded Murphy’s Mills Street apartment near the Georgia Aquarium. They were angry with Michael Murphy’s mom, Teresa Murphy, who then worked as a security guard at the complex, Mayer said.
“She had run several of the kids off or had them arrested for selling weed or trespassing,” Mayer said.
Teresa Murphy, who legally carried a gun, also made enemies in her other jobs â€”tracking down fleeing suspected felons as a bounty hunter and snitching on lawbreakers as a criminal informant to Atlanta police.
So she was frightened when she spotted the group of teens walking up to her apartment. She yelled for her son, who also had a gun, to come to her aid.
Someone from the crowd yelled: “Pull the tool!” which Michael Murphy feared meant he or his mother was about to be shot.
Some serious self-defense. Adds Maggie:
[T]he autopsy shows the victim was hit from the back, meaning it’s more likely the shot came from the crowd, who was also firing. A good DA looks at that information and sees that trying this case is probably not worth their time. And a Assistant DA in Fulton County did just that. He was going to send the case to Juvenile Court to be dealt with on lesser charges. ...given the situation, you’d think the least they could do is let this kid out. But no bond has been granted. Instead the Judge berated the kid for having a gun. (And this is in Georgia! Where we’re regularly expanding the gun rights of our citizens! In fact, it seems like given the political climate, we’d be leaning in the kid’s favor instead of against him.)
Now Prosecutors can often be kept in check by defense attorneys and Judges. But the more serious the charge, the more leeway that prosecutor is going to get. All Murphy has going for him right now is time, but it looks like that’s time he’ll be spending in jail. I’m hopeful the case will turn out now, but how much is being lost in the mean time?
Even if it doesn’t rise to the level of willful malicious prosecution (and I tell you, I really have to wonder) it reeks at the very least of prosecution for the sake of re-election—as opposed to prosecution for what I, the common man, understand to be the legitimate reason: to make a safer city.
Midwest Teen Sex Show: Porn
Among my responsibilities, I oversee a linux lab in an experimental high school. We use Dan’s Guardian and while discussing it with a high school teacher last week I wondered whether the pervasiveness of porn on the Internet means that today’s kids simply pass through a porn phase, then go on with their lives.
Sure, some get stuck and we should identify and help them but it’s the adult males—those who never got to go through that phase (sort of akin to the 40 year-old gay man who comes out of the closet late and does all kinds of embarrassing things)—who have the real problem.
I guess we’ll never know.
Anyway, here’s a fun Midwest Teen Sex Show episode on Porn:
Youth to parents: can we talk sex? (reprised again)
In response to yet another study showing that social networks aren’t breeding grounds for sexual predators - my conclusion is that parents need to talk to their kids about sex! - I’m reprising this entire post from March. My experience, 40 years ago now, was precisely the same (sans Internet) as these kids, and I’m not thinking a single thing has changed since March...
On Morning Edition [March 8, 2007], from Blunt Radio in Portland, Maine, produced by Youth Radio and reported by Johanna Greenberg:
Ms. JOHANNA GREENBERG (High School Student, Portland, Maine): I’m sorry to say this, but parents are falling down on the job when it comes to The Talk.
Have your parents given you the sex talk?
Unidentified Woman #1: No.
Unidentified Man #1: No.
Unidentified Man #2: No.
Unidentified Woman #2: I feel uncomfortable.
Unidentified Woman #3: No, they never did.
Unidentified Woman #4: No.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GREENBERG: At school, when we compare notes, my friends and I realize we are learning about sex from the Internet and movies because our parents aren’t talking with us.
Unidentified Woman #5: They just assume that I did it already. But they didn’t talk to me about it.
GREENBERG: Have your parents given you a sex talk?
Unidentified Man #2: No.
GREENBERG: Nothing? They didn’t say anything about sex to you? Nothing at all?
Unidentified Man #2: No. None whatsoever. No.
Social Networks, predators, & neglecting the real problem
Techdirt reports on yet another study demonstrating that social networks aren’t breeding grounds for sexual predators:
Over the past few years there has been a huge number of grandstanding politicians claiming that social networks like Facebook and MySpace were breeding grounds for online predators, who were trying to entice children. They’ve been pushing for new laws, basically so they can get into the papers along with some quip about how they are out there protecting “the children.” Of course, it turns out that the entire premise is faulty. A few years back we pointed to a study that showed the problem was entirely exaggerated. Very few kids were approached by predators and most who were could easily brush it off, so long as they had been educated about the risks. Now there’s a new study out going even deeper in noting that sexual predators are unlikely to pretend to be teenagers using social networks, but rather are very upfront about who they are and what they want. In most cases, the victims knew that they were chatting with an older person, and believed that they were in a legitimate relationship, rather than being tricked. Once again, this suggests that all the hype and new laws being proposed to deal with the “problem” of predators on social networks are misplaced. The focus should be on basic education. Teach kids to have some “internet smarts” and they’re probably going to be just fine.
While I agree with the education conclusion, what I find tragic is the truth that most of the victims knew that they were chatting with an older person.
The real crisis is these kids need adults to engage, appropriately, with them on the topic of sex. Now that I have a young person living in my household (regular readers will recall that my nephew lives with us) I know just exactly how overwhelming the challenge of that can be.
So if you care at all about the facts… if you have kids—or just honestly care about them—and want to make a difference and help address these issues, here are some important resources:
A danah boyd post from a May 2007 panel of social scientists, Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization.
Stephanie Booth reacts to MySpace removing the profiles of 29,000 convicted sex offenders: Online Predator Paranoia.
Inheritance, good. Pay for grades, bad?
Do we not see our own biases??? Paying for grades may well work but even if it does I don’t trust that we’ll ever know:
Family Academy is one of 60 New York City public schools that volunteered to participate in the Spark incentive program, which is open to fourth and seventh graders for one school year. The money they earn is deposited into their own bank accounts, but they are free to spend it however they wish.
The Spark program, conceived by Harvard economist Dr. Roland Fryer, was created to narrow the educational gap between the haves and the have-nots. In other words, “trying to figure out a way to make school tangible for kids, to come up with short-term rewards that will be in their long-term best interest,” Fryer said.
Spark isn’t the only program in the country aimed at motivating kids with monetary incentives. Schools in a dozen states have similar programs. In Albuquerque, N.M., students at the Cesar Chavez Charter School can earn up to $300 a year for good attendance. In Santa Ana, Calif., kids who do well on their math tests can earn up to $250 and in Baltimore, students can take away $110 depending on their test scores.
The story asks “what does the research say?” then answers definitively that “despite short-term gains, [paying for grades] may be detrimental in the long-term by decreasing their motivation, especially when the incentive is removed.”
Huh??? MAY???? It ”may be detrimental?” WTF???
They use that conclusive qualifier to disqualify the whole idea and play into our cultural pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps myth when the simple fact is that social mobility between classes has lessened in this country—not increased—in the past 50 years.
We rail about the “death tax” so that the entitled can keep their leg-up, but don’t you go giving those poor kids money for good grades!!!
Fryer got one interesting quote into the story:
“The idea that we shouldn’t be giving kids rewards—come on. In affluent neighborhoods, parents take their kids to dinner, buy them shiny red cars. We’ve got to get past ‘It’s wrong, it’s bribery.’ We are in crisis mode; we’re beyond philosophy. If it doesn’t work, we’re all arguing over nothing.”
Fryer’s an interesting guy. I’ll be watching him.
Monday, February 18, 2008
k.d. lang - Halleluja
RELATED: Ariel Levy says k.d. lang plays coy about her own iconography:
Lang has gotten big. She is more panda bear than mink now, with her salt-and-pepper hair and her vaguely Inuit eyes (lang was raised in a small town on the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan, her is heritage Icelandic, Sioux, Dutch, English, Irish, Scottish, and German Jewish), but she still has the unmistakable appeal of the unreconstructed butch. Or at least it looks that way to me. “You mean like the actual physical appearance of my person?” she says. “Is that what butch is? How do you define butch?”
Which renders me speechless. k. d. lang, king of the bulldaggers, is asking me what butch means.
“Okay, well, yeah, I am butch, I guess. In my physical appearance. When I show up at the White House and George and Laura just about have a heart attack because they can’t figure out who the fuck I am-or what I am-because I’m in a tuxedo, yeah. Or when every single time I walk into the washroom in an airport, even being famous, people â€¦ think they’re in the wrong washroom, yeah. I think about it.”
Brits, strippers, hookers & financial distress
The UK Insolvency Helpline recently reported that a quarter of its users admitted to having paid money for sex/porn in getting into financial distress. Here’s a British article on the report here. I’m just going to let that sink in on its own. It does, however, make me wonder about the applicability of the adjective “sub-prime” in this context.
Largest Meat Recall in U.S. History
Under-reported and taken in stride, I’ll be interested to learn more. WaPo:
The Agriculture Department has ordered the largest meat recall in its history—143 million pounds of beef, a California meatpacker’s entire production for the past two years—because the company did not prevent ailing animals from entering the U.S. food supply, officials said yesterday.
Despite the breadth of the sanction, USDA officials underscored their belief that the meat, distributed by Westland Meat, poses little or no hazard to consumers, and that most of it was eaten long ago.
Uh, that’s good news???
The recall comes less than three weeks after the release of a videotape showing what the USDA later called “egregious violations” of federal animal care regulations by employees of a Westland partner, Hallmark Meat Packing in Chino.
For now I’ll say this…
I think we’ve come to understand that if a child is abusive to harmless animals it is indicative of problems likely to emerge in adulthood. It would not surprise us to learn later that the child grew into an abusive adult, say, or a criminal type.
What does it indicate of our modern civilization that we so wantonly treat the animals we eat with a callous and needless machine-like cruelty? I don’t think it says anything good. And I think that’s why the food industry does everything in its power to hide its practices from the American public.
If we knew what they did, we would not stand for it. We must open our eyes.