Cognitive scientist who enjoys reggae, Nepali food, Anglo-Saxon verse, aperiodic tilings, and Emacsian analytical engines.
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Post-prison punishment for life: The American way

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In the US, a criminal never “pays his debt to society.” The prison term may end, the punishment continues. Read this sobering column by Lincoln Kaplan in the New Yorker. It concludes:

. . . But the bulk of his opinion—the reason federal judges throughout the country have been sending it to one another as a cutting-edge view on an important issue in sentencing—is about why he “rendered a non-incarceratory sentence.” He wrote that it was largely “because of a number of statutory and regulatory collateral consequences she will face as a convicted felon”—restrictions that the federal government, as well as every state government, imposes on anyone convicted of a crime, but especially a felony. A broad range of the restrictions, he said, “serve no useful function other than to further punish criminal defendants after they have completed their court-imposed sentences.”
Block asked the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Federal Defenders of New York, which represented Nesbeth, to provide him with a list of the collateral consequences that she faces as a convicted felon. The government identified what it described as the “handful” that are “potentially relevant.” The loss of a driver’s license is the least onerous. She is also ineligible for student grants, loans, or work assistance for two years, and banned for life from receiving food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, though Connecticut could grant her an exemption. She and her family can be denied federally assisted housing for a “reasonable time,” and she cannot be issued a passport until her probation is finished, which matters to Nesbeth because, as her lawyer told the judge, her “father, grandmother, and extended family all reside abroad.”
The judge recounted that federal law imposes considerably more than a handful of consequences, “nearly 1,200 collateral consequences for convictions generally, and nearly 300 for controlled-substances offenses.” Nesbeth’s counsel, Amanda David, of the Federal Defenders, said federal laws will make it difficult for her client to become an educator because they provide money “for background checks of all employees of educational agencies,” and a conviction for a drug felony “can be used as grounds for denying employment for potential employees who want to be involved in providing care to children under age 18.” David also reported that Connecticut automatically bars anyone from getting a teaching certificate for five years after being convicted of a drug felony.
David’s memo to the judge about collateral consequences began with a quotation from Michelle Alexander’s influential book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” David is concerned that its thesis will apply to her client. Alexander writes, “Many of the forms of discrimination that relegate African Americans to an inferior caste system during Jim Crow continue to apply to huge segments of the black population today—provided they are first labeled felons. If they are branded felons by the time they reach the age of twenty-one (as many of them are), they are subject to legalized discrimination for their entire adult lives.”
The main conclusion of the judge’s opinion is that, while the law allowed him to take account of the civil penalties when he sentenced her, there was nothing he could do to protect her from them. He joined criminal-justice experts in encouraging Congress and state legislatures “to determine whether the plethora of post-sentence punishments imposed upon felons is truly warranted,” and suggested that they do the country “more harm than good.” He didn’t say so, but for many legislatures that would mean carefully assessing these punishments for the first time. As the criminal-justice scholar Jeremy Travis wrote, in 2002, legislatures have often adopted collateral consequences in unaccountable ways: “as riders to other, major pieces of legislation,” which are “given scant attention.” They are, Travis said, “invisible ingredients in the legislative menu of criminal sanctions.”
The judge made clear why the severity of collateral consequences—authorizing discrimination in education, employment, housing, and many other basic elements of American life—means that anyone convicted of a felony is likely to face an arduous future. This predicament has been called modern civil death, social exclusion, and internal exile. Whatever it is called, its vast array of penalties kicks in automatically with a conviction, defying the supposedly bedrock principle of American law that the punishment must fit the crime.


Filed under: Daily life, Law, Law Enforcement
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beslayed
720 days ago
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This is what abortion politics is for

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State Sen. Jake Chapman was in a tight spot. The Iowa legislature was debating a hate-crime bill that would protect transgender people. An anti-terrorism bill, in other words — one that would add penalties for the crimes of violence when that violence was intended to intimidate and terrorize an entire class of people.

That bill being considered would add gender identity and gender expression to the list of protected classes covered by the state’s hate crimes law. …

The bill protecting transgender people is backed by a long list of church, civic and law enforcement groups. It took on added symbolic urgency because the previous week, Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old Burlington High School junior described as female-to-male transgender, was shot to death in an alleyway, and was buried Wednesday.

And Chapman was against this bill. He was on the pro-terrorism side of it. That’s an uncomfortable place to be, because defending violent intimidation doesn’t just make others think you’re mistaken, it makes them think you’re immoral and morally incompetent. They start to look at you not just with moral disapproval, but with that look of appalled consternation that suggests they’re all thinking, “What the f–k is wrong with this guy?”

So Chapman was losing the argument. He was going down not just in defeat, but in disgrace. He had surrendered the moral high ground and was flailing in an indefensible position.

Fortunately for Chapman, there’s a playbook for this situation.

Back in the 1970s, white evangelicalism was mired in the disgrace of having been epically, utterly, spectacularly wrong about the Civil Rights movement. They hadn’t just picked the wrong side in a political battle. It was far worse than that. By defending injustice, they had disgraced themselves, surrendered all claims of moral competence, and become disgraced pariahs.

This was unsettling. These were people who thought of themselves as the standard-bearers of morality and rectitude. They read their Bibles and held forth on what those Bibles mean and how others should read them too. They didn’t drink or dance or cuss or go to the movies. They expected other people to honor them as the arbiters and exemplars of morality and “godly” living. But now those others were looking down on them — appalled by their utter lack of morality and decency because they had failed the biggest, clearest and most obvious moral test of their time. They had no excuse, no answer, no recourse.

For several years, they flailed about, bewildered. White evangelicals had grown so accustomed to assuming their role as the spokespeople for morality that they weren’t quite able to understand how thoroughly they had surrendered any claim to that role. So they chose to keep fighting. They rallied behind private Christian schools as an alternative to the now-desegregated public schools, attempting to relitigate the political battles they had lost. They doubled-down on the shameful defense of injustice, taking to the courts to defend their “religious liberty” to practice segregation. This only made things worse — not just because they were losing the legal battle, too, but because this religious liberty argument loudly proclaimed that the odious, immoral defense of injustice was something they regarded as integral to their faith and their identity.

That legal battle lasted from 1971 until it was lost, conclusively, in 1983, with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bob Jones University v. United States.

But by then it didn’t matter, because by 1983, white evangelicals had found a new strategy to reclaim their rightful place as the standard-bearers of morality. That strategy was simply this: Change the subject.

Failing the clearest moral test of your time and culture is only a problem so long as that moral test is what people are talking about and thinking about. So talk about something else.

If you’ve made yourself a moral pariah because you’ve spent the past three decades fighting a rear-guard battle in defense of systemic, violent, oppressive injustice, then you need to find some other subject on which you can cast yourself as the Good Guy — as the heroic champion of morality. If your position has been exposed as morally indefensible, then don’t even bother trying to defend it. Just go on the offensive instead.

Norman Rockwell, "The Problem We All Live With," 1963. How do you come back from being the guy who threw that tomato? Change the subject.

Norman Rockwell, “The Problem We All Live With,” 1963. How do you come back from being the guy who threw that tomato? Change the subject.

And that’s what white evangelicals did in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. They didn’t change their minds about the Civil Rights movement, but they enthusiastically changed the subject. They started talking about abortion.

This is what abortion politics is for. This is what it was designed to do. This is its function and its purpose. It is — above all — a weapon for reasserting a claim to the moral high ground, and for putting the moral upstarts of the Civil Rights movement back in their proper place as moral subordinates who should have no say in determining right and wrong unless they first consult the rightful arbiters of such things, i.e., us.

Those people, you see, are depraved baby-killers. But how does that change the utter failure of –?

Baby-killers.

But how do you justify defending brutality, inequality, segregation, oppressi–?

They kill babies.

And it worked. It worked so remarkably well that within another decade or so, the disgraced moral pariahs who had so thoroughly shamed themselves by failing the great moral test of the Civil Rights movement had been rebranded as “values voters” — the repository and safeguard of our national morality.

The fantastic thing about this trick is that it worked even though everyone knows that abortion is not the same thing as “killing babies.” That’s part of why it worked. Others might respond by talking about the actual status and personhood of a zygote relative to that of …

See? The rest of that sentence is irrelevant because the subject has already been changed. We’re talking about abortion now, not justice. And this new conversation about this new subject will only be allowed to be discussed in terms of the polarizing caricature of baby-killing. This may be a wholly disingenuous and misleading framework for that conversation, but misleading was the goal here in the first place. This conversation was designed and intended to lead us away. It’s purpose was to change the subject.

And it worked. It still works. Which brings us back to Jake Chapman, defender of violence and intimidation against transgender people. Chapman has read the playbook:

Much of the Senate debate of the bill was taken up by Chapman’s attempt to classify the unborn … to the list of Iowans protected by hate crime laws.

Chapman provided lengthy and detailed descriptions of abortion procedures over the objections of other lawmakers. … Chapman insisted his graphic descriptions of abortion were relevant, and he said the Senate had “failed in its most basic responsibility” to protect “a right to life.”

Kedarie Johnson, 16, was shot to death in an alleyway–

Shut up, baby-killers.

That’s what this is for.

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beslayed
783 days ago
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popular
799 days ago
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b12
796 days ago
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Great to see slacktivist in the people have spoken!
Technicalleigh
799 days ago
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OMG THIS. Thank you, @popular.
SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
notadoctor
799 days ago
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Doesn't get much balder
Oakland, CA

"I know I’ve told this story before, but my abusive ex refused to let me take birth control. I was..."

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I know I’ve told this story before, but my abusive ex refused to let me take birth control. I was on the pill until he found them in my purse.

I went to the Student Health Center—they were completely unhelpful, choosing to lecture me about the importance of safe sex (recommending condoms) instead of actually listening to my problem.

Then I went to Planned Parenthood. The Nurse Practitioner took one look at my fading bruises and stopped the exam. She called in the doctor. The doctor came in and simply asked me: “Are you ready to leave him?” When I denied that I was being abused, she didn’t argue with me. She just asked me what I needed. I said I need a birth control method that my boyfriend couldn’t detect. She recommended a few options and we decided on Depo.

When I told her that my boyfriend read my emails and listened to my phone messages and was known to follow me, she suggested to do the Depo injections at off hours when the clinic was normally closed. She made a note in my chart and instructed the front desk never to leave messages for me—instead, she programmed her personal cell phone number into my phone under the name “Nora”. She told me she would call me to schedule my appointments; she wouldn’t leave a message, but I should call her back when I was able to.

And that was it. No judgment. No lecture. She walked me to the door and told me to call her day or night if I needed anything. That she lived 5 blocks from campus and would come get me. That I wasn’t alone. That she just wanted me to be safe.

I never called her to come to my rescue. But I have no doubt that she would have come if I had called. She kept me on Depo for a year, giving me those monthly injections in secret, helping me prevent a desperately unwanted pregnancy.

I cannot thank Planned Parenthood enough for the work they do.



-

Curious Georgiana

always reblog.

(via housewifeswag)

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beslayed
783 days ago
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popular
810 days ago
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JayM
809 days ago
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.
Atlanta, GA
jhamill
810 days ago
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Fuck the Republican party for waging a culture war against Planned Parenthood.
California
Technicalleigh
810 days ago
additional stars are required for that comment: ★ ★ ★
MotherHydra
806 days ago
The creepy religious obsession with someone else's genitalia and reproductive inclinations make my skin crawl.

Obama repeats 600-year-old argument against printing press at SXSW, only directed at the Internet

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There’s a thread in the Technology section of Reddit right now quoting a part of Obama’s opening speech at SXSW, and in the thread, the discussion makes the point that it sounds like when the establishment was afraid of the printing press 600 years ago:

Rapid technological advancements “offer us enormous opportunities, but also are very disruptive and unsettling,” Obama said at the festival, where he hoped to persuade tech workers to enter public service. “They empower individuals to do things that they could have never dreamed of before, but they also empower folks who are very dangerous to spread dangerous messages.”

The thing is, this Reddit thread probably don’t know how correct they are.

When the Luther bibles started to be produced en masse in German in 1522, followed by similar French editions, it broke the information stranglehold – the power of narrative – that the Catholic Church had held for centuries, if not upward of a millennium. This caused the church to lobby for laws against this disruptive technology that could be used by usurpers to spread dangerous ideas (such as the notion that they could read and interpret the bible for themselves).

And indeed, exactly that justification was used in France to ban all use of the printing press by penalty of death (!) on January 13, 1535 – exactly the justification Obama gives in his opening speech in SXSW against the Internet and encryption: it was “used to spread dangerous ideas”. This justification can still be found in the French log books of law.

Sometimes, you need to know a little bit of history to make sure you’re on the right side of history.

The post Obama repeats 600-year-old argument against printing press at SXSW, only directed at the Internet appeared first on Privacy Online News.

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beslayed
801 days ago
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today on "internet or printing press"
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sirshannon
800 days ago
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Thanks Obama.
fxer
801 days ago
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But this time it's different because blurgle blurg...
Bend, Oregon

The Sneaky Life of the World’s Most Mysterious Plant

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It looks so ordinary, this vine. But it’s not. It is, arguably, the most mysteriously talented, most surprising plant in the world.

Photograph Courtesy of Ernesto Gianoli
Photograph Courtesy of Ernesto Gianoli

It’s called Boquila trifoliolata, and it lives in the temperate rain forests of Chile and Argentina. It does what most vines do—it crawls across the forest floor, spirals up, and hangs onto host plants. Nothing unusual about that.

Drawing by Robert Krulwich
Drawing by Robert Krulwich

 

But one day a few years ago, Ernesto Gianoli, a plant scientist, came upon a Boquila trifoliolata while walking with a student in the Chilean woods. They stopped, looked, and “then it happened,” Gianoli says. On the forest floor, they could see that the vine’s leaves looked like this, kind of stumpy and roundish:

Drawing by Robert Krulwich
Drawing by Robert Krulwich

But once the vine climbed up onto a host tree, its leaves changed shape. Now they looked like this—much longer and narrower:

Drawing by Robert Krulwich
Drawing by Robert Krulwich

 

Both leaves came off of the same vine, but when the vine changed hosts, its newer, longer leaves matched its new surroundings. In Gianoli’s photograph below, the vine leaves are marked “V” and the tree leaves “T,” for “tree.” As you can see, it’s hard to tell them apart.

Photograph Courtesy of Ernesto Gianoli
Photograph Courtesy of Ernesto Gianoli

It’s almost as if the plant is camouflaging itself, changing shape to resemble its host.

As Gianoli walked along, he kept an eye out for Boquila vines climbing through the forest, grabbing onto tree after bush after tree, and it happened again! What he saw he found “astonishing.”

Photograph Courtesy of Ernesto Gianoli
Photograph Courtesy of Ernesto Gianoli

In this photo, the vine is on a different tree, and this time the tree’s leaves (marked “T”) are rounder, more like flower petals. And the vine (the leaf marked “V”)? Its leaves are now roundish too!

Woody Allen once made a film called Zelig, about a guy who takes on the characteristics of whomever he’s standing next to. The more Gianoli looked, the more Zelig-like this vine became, morphing over and over to look like one different host after another.

As my blog-buddy Ed Yong described it in 2014, when he wrote about this same plant, it has all kinds of moves: “Its versatile leaves can change their size, shape, color, orientation, even the vein patterns to match the surrounding foliage.”

On this tree, for instance …

Photograph Courtesy of Ernesto Gianoli
Photograph Courtesy of Ernesto Gianoli

… the tree leaf is jagged-edged, like a saw blade. (We’ve marked it with a “T.”) Our vine tries to create a zig-zag border (see the leaf marked “V”) and sort of pulls it off. Here’s a case, said Gianoli to Yong, “where Boquila ‘did her best’ and attained some resemblance but did not really meet the goal.”

Good try, though. It’s a crafty little vegetable.

But Why? How Does Mimicry Help This Vine?

The probable answer is that it keeps it from being eaten.

The forest is full of leaf-eaters. Imagine a hungry caterpillar wandering up to a tree:

Drawing by Robert Krulwich
Drawing by Robert Krulwich

It loves eating leaves. It might find vine leaves extra tasty. But if our vine is hiding among the many, many leaves of the tree, each vine leaf has a smaller chance of being chewed on.

Or maybe the vine is assuming the shape of leaves that are toxic to the caterpillar. This is called Batesian mimicry, when a harmless species tries to look like a very bad meal.

Whatever the reason, mimicry seems to work. Gianoli and his co-author, Fernando Carrasco-Urra, reported that when the vine is mimicking its neighbors higher up, it gets chewed on less. On the ground, it gets eaten more. But what’s really intriguing about this vine is how it does what it does: It’s been called the “stealth vine” because, like the classified American spy plane, its inner workings are still a secret.

Learning Its Secret…

No plant known to science has been able to mimic a variety of neighbors. There are some—orchids for example—that can copy other flowers, but their range is limited to one or two types. Boquila feels more like a cuttlefish or an octopus; it can morph into at least eight basic shapes. When it glides up a bush or tree that it’s never encountered before, it can still mimic what’s near.

And that’s the wildest part: It doesn’t have to touch what it copies. It only has to be nearby. Most mimicry in the animal kingdom involves physical contact. But this plant can hang—literally hang—alongside a host tree, with empty space between it and its model, and, with no eyes, nose, mouth, or brain, it can “see” its neighbor and copy what it has “seen.”

How Does It Do This?

Gianoli and Carrasco-Urra think perhaps something is going on in the space between the two plants. They imagine that the bush or tree may be emitting airborne chemicals (volatiles) that drift across, like so …

Gif by Robert Krulwich
Gif by Robert Krulwich

… and can be sensed by the vine. How the vine translates chemicals into shapes and then into self-sculpture nobody knows. The signal could be written in light, in scents, or perhaps in a form of gene transfer. It’s a mystery.

“It’s hard for us to grasp that there are … ‘scents’ that we cannot smell, but which plants, noseless and brainless, can,” writes science journalist Richard Mabey in his new book The Cabaret of Plants. It’s against the rules to call a plant “smart” the way we might call a dolphin smart; brainless beings aren’t properly called intelligent. Intellect, we like to think, requires a nervous system like our own, which is an animal thing, except that, as Mabey writes, “[I]n being able to cope with unfamiliar situations, [this vine] is demonstrating the first principle of intelligence.”

Hmmm. A knock, knock, knocking on the animal kingdom’s door? Or do plants have their own secret ways of reckoning, totally unknown to us? If Boquila can do this, surely there are others.

This little vine is sitting on a gigantic secret. I can’t wait to find out what it’s doing, because whatever it is, it’s whispering that plants are far more talented than we’d ever imagined.


To find out more about Boquila trifoliolata, you can start where I did, with Ed Yong’s wonderful post from a couple of years ago, then go on to geneticist Jerry Coyne’s post, which asks a barrage of provocative and stimulating questions, and finish up with Richard Mabey’s short essay in The Cabaret of Plants. Or you can check out the science paper from Gianoli and Carrasco-Urra that started it all.

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beslayed
814 days ago
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popular
820 days ago
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kleer001
820 days ago
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Can't wait to read the paper where grad students built a thousand different rigs to try and fool the vine.
synapsecracklepop
823 days ago
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This made me happier for the world than anything I've read in a long time.
Atlanta
gradualepiphany
822 days ago
It's so very rarely that something pops up that makes me think "woah, we really don't know everything yet". When those things come along it also makes me super happy. Thanks for the share!
gazuga
809 days ago
I'm in the middle of a really enjoyable book called Brilliant Green that tackles the question of plant intelligence and our biases against recognizing it, even though it's all around us.

Photo of Bernie Sanders being arrested in 1963 Chicago protest

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056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x966

Some of Sanders' Democratic Party adversaries have claimed that the Senator's history of principled stands has been short on racial equality, a charge that has required those opponents to claim that photos of Sanders being arrested at civil rights demonstrations are actually photos of someone else. (more…)

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beslayed
821 days ago
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Meanwhile... Hillary Clinton works for the Goldwater campaign against civil rights.
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