Sunday, November 30, 2014

On First Looking into Chapman's Homer -- John Keats (1795-1821)


MUCH have I travell'd in the realms of gold, 
  And many goodly states and kingdoms seen; 
  Round many western islands have I been 
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. 
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told         5
  That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne: 
  Yet did I never breathe its pure serene 
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: 
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 
  When a new planet swims into his ken;  10
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes 
  He stared at the Pacific—and all his men 
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise— 
  Silent, upon a peak in Darien.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

I Got It Bad (and that ain't good) -- Carmen McRae (1965)

Lyrics by Paul Webster; music by Duke Ellington.


Never treats me sweet and gentle the way he should
I got it bad and that ain't good
My poor heart is sentimental, not made of wood
I got it bad and that ain't good

But when the weekend's over and Monday rolls around
I end up like I start out, just cryin' my heart out
Doesn't love me like I love him, no, nobody could
I got it bad and that ain't good

Like a lonely weepin' willow who's lost in the wood
I got it bad and that ain't good
And the things I tell my pillow, nobody should
I got it bad, I got it bad and it's no good

Though folks with good intentions, they tell me to save up my tears
I'm glad I'm mad about him, I can't live without him
Lord above, make him love me the way that he should
I got it bad and that ain't good

I got it bad and that ain't good
No good, no good
No good, no good

Friday, November 28, 2014

Will Texas Kill an Insane Man?

Scott Panetti in November 2006. Photo Credit Michael Stravato for The New York Times.
NYT (by the Editorial Board)
"On Dec. 3, Texas plans to execute an inmate named Scott Panetti, who was convicted in 1995 for murdering his in-laws with a hunting rifle. There is no question that Mr. Panetti committed the murders. There is also no question that he is severely mentally ill, and has been for decades.
During his capital murder trial, at which he was inexplicably allowed to represent himself, Mr. Panetti dressed in a cowboy suit and attempted to subpoena, among others, John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ. A standby lawyer said his behavior was “scary” and “trance-like,” and called the trial “a judicial farce.”
It was not an act. Mr. Panetti, now 56, was first diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 20, and in the years before the murders he was hospitalized several times for delusions and psychotic episodes.
In this respect, he is no different from the estimated 350,000 inmates around the country with mental illness — 10 times the number of people in state psychiatric hospitals. But Mr. Panetti is not just another insane prisoner; his name is synonymous with the Supreme Court’s modern jurisprudence about mental illness on death row. In Panetti v. Quarterman, decided in 2007, the justices held that it is not enough for a defendant simply to be aware that he is going to be executed and why — the previous standard the court had used in permitting the execution of the mentally ill. Rather, he must have a “rational understanding” of why the state plans to kill him.
Noting Mr. Panetti’s “well-documented history of mental illness,” the court held that capital punishment serves no retributive purpose when the defendant’s understanding of crime and punishment is so distorted that it “has little or no relation to the understanding of those concepts shared by the community as a whole.”
For example, Mr. Panetti understood that the state claimed the reason for his death sentence was the murder of his in-laws, but he believed the real reason was “spiritual warfare” between “the demons and the forces of the darkness and God and the angels and the forces of light.”
But the justices refused to set precise guidelines for determining whether someone is competent enough to be executed, and they did not overturn Mr. Panetti’s sentence. Instead, they sent the case back to the lower courts for a fuller reconsideration of his current mental state.By any reasonable standard — not to mention the findings of multiple mental-health experts over the years — Mr. Panetti is mentally incompetent. But Texas, along with several other stubborn states, has a long history of finding the loopholes in Supreme Court rulings restricting the death penalty. The state has continued to argue that Mr. Panetti is exaggerating the extent of his illness, and that he understands enough to be put to death — a position a federal appeals court accepted last year, even though it agreed that he was “seriously mentally ill.”
Mr. Panetti has not had a mental-health evaluation since 2007. In a motion hastily filed this month, his volunteer lawyers requested that his execution be stayed, that a lawyer be appointed for him, and that he receive funding for a new mental-health assessment, saying his functioning has only gotten worse. For instance, he now claims that a prison dentist implanted a transmitter in his tooth.
The lawyers would have made this motion weeks earlier, immediately after a Texas judge set Mr. Panetti’s execution date. But since no one — not the judge, not the district attorney, not the attorney general — notified them (or even Mr. Panetti himself), they had no idea their client was scheduled to be killed until they read about it in a newspaper. State officials explained that the law did not require them to provide notification.
On Nov. 19, a Texas court denied the lawyers’ motion. A civilized society should not be in the business of executing anybody. But it certainly cannot pretend to be adhering to any morally acceptable standard of culpability if it kills someone like Scott Panetti."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

RIP: John T. Downey, former prisoner of the Red Chinese

Washington Post

"HARTFORD, Conn. — John T. Downey, a former CIA agent who survived more than 20 years in Chinese prisons during the Cold War before becoming a Connecticut judge, died Monday. He was 84.
Downey was diagnosed with cancer a month ago and died at a hospice facility in Branford, according to his son, Jack Downey, of Philadelphia.
The elder Downey had graduated from Yale University and joined the Central Intelligence Agency a year before his plane was shot down during a botched cloak-and-dagger flight into China in November 1952. He spent the next 20 years, three months and 14 days in Chinese prisons. He was released in March 1973 shortly after President Richard Nixon publicly acknowledged Downey’s CIA connection.
After returning to the United States, he graduated from Harvard Law School and was appointed to the Connecticut bench in 1987.
Downey and Fecteau [his fellow intelligence officer] were hauled off to prison, interrogated and isolated in separate cells. Each spent long stretches in solitary confinement.
After their release, Fecteau said they would visit occasionally during Downey’s time in law school and split a pint of ice cream, because neither of them drank. He said he admired his friend’s mental strength during their time in captivity. 
He never weakened. He never felt sorry for himself,” Fecteau, 87, said Monday. “What happened happened and he lived with it as best he could, and I liked that.”"

Great story. Hey, Washington Post! He was a United States Intelligence Officer, not a "CIA agent." The guy he was going to pick up was an "agent" [i.e., a foreign national working clandestinely for the U.S.]. I will settle for "CIA officer." Decades of imprisonment in China, by the way, is what happened to Paul Christopher in the excellent spy novels by Charles McCarry. Christopher also handled it with aplomb.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Miss Honduras, a victim of the lost Drug War

"A Honduran beauty queen has been found murdered just days before she was due to compete in the Miss World pageant in London, police said on Wednesday.
The bodies of Maria Jose Alvarado, 19, and her sister Sofia, 23, were found buried near a river in the mountainous region of Santa Barbara in western Honduras, said Leandro Osorio, head of the criminal investigation unit.

Alvarado, a student who aspired to become a career diplomat, had been due to take part in the Miss World events that start on Thursday and culminate in the final in London on Dec. 14.

She and her sister had been missing since Thursday, when they were seen leaving a party in a car without a license plate in Santa Barbara, a coffee-growing region where drug gangs are active.

"I can confirm that the Alvarado sisters were found ... We also have the murder weapon and the vehicle in which they were transported to the site where they were buried," Osorio told local television.

Interior Minister Arturo Corrales told Honduran media that Plutarco Ruiz, the boyfriend of the beauty queen's sister, was responsible for the crime. Police arrested Ruiz and another man on Tuesday, confiscating two pistols and their pick-up truck.

Honduras is the world's most violent country with a murder rate above 90 people per 100,000.

Drug cartels use Honduras as a staging post for U.S.-bound cocaine from South America, aggravating violence in the impoverished Central American nation that has helped spark a surge in illegal immigration to the United States."

So, society is the United States is so dysfunctional that large numbers of us feel the need to use illegal drugs [about 2 million Americans used cocaine within the past month]. Miss Honduras pays the price for our sickness. And when people in Honduras want to live and work somewhere other than a cocaine transit station (all deliveries going one way only -- el Norte), we say that they should go back to where they came from. 

It's about time that "casual" drug users in the U.S. appreciated that scenes like the one below are caused by the demand they create. Acknowledging that the lost Drug War and Immigration reform are tied together is essential, but even better would be addressing whatever it is that is so rotten at the core of American society that so many of its free citizens choose to use drugs.

"Forensic workers stand next to 11 of 16 slain bodies dumped in an abandoned lot in the border city of Tijuana September 29, 2008. Police found 16 bodies dumped in the seedy Mexican border city of Tijuana on Monday in what the state attorney general’s office said could be a revenge attack for the arrest of a local drug gang hit man. "REUTERS/Stringer

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Israeli drone pilot speaks about combat stress

The aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, 2014

Telegraph (UK)
""We do make mistakes," [Major Yair, an Israeli drone pilot] replied. "But it's nature. People make mistakes. We learn from those mistakes. You'll see no smiling face after an incident where kids were killed. None of us wants to be in a position where he does these mistakes. We learn and try to avoid this as much as we can."
After three Gaza wars, Major Yair has made some "wrong calls" himself. Can he sleep after going home at the end of a shift?
"You learn to live with it," he said. "It's not easy. I've made mistakes that, for many years, will come back at me. But it's something that people have to do. It's not easy. We do not shove it back somewhere in our minds and try to avoid talking about it. We talk about it, we support each other."
The strain on drone operators is such that they often receive psychological counselling."

Wonder how much "talking about it" American drone pilots do? The "it," to be clear, is the inadvertent killing of children.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Yet another mentally ill citizen "invited" to the White House

That's where he parked? Yeah, he's mentally ill.

"A man was arrested [on Wednesday, November 19, 2014] near the White House by Secret Service after a .30-30 rifle and ammunition was found in his car.
R.J. Renae Kapheim, a 41-year-old from Davenport, Iowa, approached a Secret Service checkpoint at 15th and E Street just before 1 p.m. and said that someone in Iowa told him to drive to the White House.
He then took Secret Service agents to his car where they found the .30-30 rifle, ammunition and a 6-inch knife in the trunk of his 2013 Volkswagen Passat.
Kapheim arrested on a charge of having an unregistered firearm, which is illegal in D.C."

Here's the fellow's LinkedIn profile:

I'm guessing the diagnosis as Bipolar Disorder I, Most Recent Episode Manic.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Napolean -- Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow, 1812

'What is the world, O soldiers?

       It is I:

I, this incessant snow,
This northern sky;

Soldiers, this solitude
Through which we go

       Is I.'            

"One month after Napoleon Bonaparte's massive invading force entered a burning and deserted Moscow, the starving French army is forced to begin a hasty retreat out of Russia.
Following the rejection of his Continental System by Czar Alexander I, French Emperor Napoleon I invaded Russia with his Grande Armée on June 24, 1812. The enormous army, featuring more than 500,000 soldiers and staff, was the largest European military force ever assembled to that date.
During the opening months of the invasion, Napoleon was forced to contend with a bitter Russian army in perpetual retreat. Refusing to engage Napoleon's superior army in a full-scale confrontation, the Russians under General Mikhail Kutuzov burned everything behind them as they retreated deeper and deeper into Russia. On September 7, the indecisive Battle of Borodino was fought, in which both sides suffered terrible losses. On September 14, Napoleon arrived in Moscow intending to find supplies but instead found almost the entire population evacuated, and the Russian army retreated again. Early the next morning, fires broke across the city set by Russian patriots, and the Grande Grande Armée's winter quarters were destroyed. After waiting a month for a surrender that never came, Napoleon, faced with the onset of the Russian winter, was forced to order his starving army out of Moscow.
During the disastrous retreat, Napoleon's army suffered continual harassment from a suddenly aggressive and merciless Russian army. Stalked by hunger and the deadly lances of the Cossacks, the decimated army reached the Berezina River late in November but found its route blocked by the Russians. On November 26, Napoleon forced a way across at Studienka, and when the bulk of his army passed the river three days later, he was forced to burn his makeshift bridges behind him, stranding some 10,000 stragglers on the other side. From there, the retreat became a rout, and on December 8 Napoleon left what remained of his army to return to Paris with a few cohorts. Six days later, the Grande Armée finally escaped Russia, having suffered a loss of more than 400,000 men during the disastrous invasion."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Get a Kick Out of You -- Frank Sinatra and Sextet (Live in Paris, 1962)

I get no kick from champagne,
Mere alcohol,
Doesn't thrill me at all,
So tell me, why should it be true,
That I get a kick out of you.
Some get a kick from cocaine,
I'm sure that if,
I took even one sniff,
It would bore me terrifically, too,
Yet I get a kick out of you.
I get a kick every time I see you,
Standing there before me,
I get a kick though it's clear to see,
You obviously don't adore me.
Some get a kick in a plane,
Flying too high,
With some gal in the sky,
Is my idea of nothing to do,
But I get a kick out of you.
I get a kick...out of you

Friday, November 21, 2014

Myron May -- FSU Shooter with paranoid schizophrenia?

Yup, that's a Facebook post by someone with paranoid schizophrenia all right...
No, it's paranoid schizophrenia.

"Brandishing a semi-automatic handgun and carrying extra ammunition in his pockets, a Florida State University graduate opened fire early on Thursday at the school's main library, wounding two students and an employee as hundreds were studying for exams.
The shooter, identified by authorities as Myron May, 31, was fatally shot by police near the entrance to Florida State's Strozier Library, the latest in a string of shootings on U.S. campuses. One victim was critically wounded.
Authorities said they found journals and videos produced by May in which he expressed fears that government agencies were targeting him.
"Mr. May was in a state of crisis," Michael DeLeo, the police chief in Tallahassee, told a news conference.
A 2005 Florida State graduate, May received his law degree from Texas Tech University in 2009 and had moved back to Florida about three weeks ago, DeLeo said.
He recently quit his job and broke up with his girlfriend, according to police reports in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he was living. He told authorities he was hearing voices and thought he was being watched."

Died of untreated schizophrenia.
Here's another opportunity for people to blow smoke about improving access to mental health care in the United States. After they get done blowing smoke about school safety and gun control, of course. My bold prediction is...nothing will change.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Harvard, UNC sued over race discrimination against Asians

""Statistical evidence reveals that Harvard uses `holistic' admissions to disguise the fact that it holds Asian Americans to a far higher standard than other students and essentially forces them to compete against each other for admission," the lawsuit argues.
The lawsuit goes on to allege that Harvard is engaging in "racial balancing," enrolling the "essentially the same percentage" of African Americans, Hispanics, whites, and Asian Americans year after year, even though the application rates and qualifications for each racial group have undergone significant changes over time.
"Harvard's remarkably stable admissions and enrollment figures over time are the deliberate result of system wide intentional racial discrimination designed to achieve a predetermined racial balance of its student body," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuits conclude that "race neutral" policies - such as giving greater consideration to a prospective student's socio-economic background and boosting financial aid, scholarships and minority candidate recruitment efforts - can promote diversity better than affirmative action.
Elite schools should also stop giving preference to so-called "legacy" students and offering early admission deadlines, both of which tend to hurt low income and minority applicants and favor wealthy and white ones, the lawsuits suggests."

Harvard doesn't care if you are the smartest person in the applicant pool. They admit people based on 1) the probability that they will be very successful after graduation; and, 2) how well they fit into their pre-ordained vision of what a Harvard class should look like, e.g., just the right amount of blacks; some, but not too many foreigners (extra points if royalty), a discrete number of alumni offspring, etc. In the 1950s and 1960s they were careful not to admit too many Jews -- the didn't want the Harvard brand confused with Brandeis, for goodness sakes. Over the past couple of decades, they have been taking care not to admit too many Asians -- they don't want the Harvard brand confused with Berkeley or Caltech.

As I've said before, why not just admit anyone with +1400 SATs to the top 30 schools and randomly assign them? Do you think it really makes a difference whether you go to Harvard or Yale or Stanford or Penn? Sure, the social cachet is higher at Harvard, and hence the social capital associated with a Harvard degree, but in terms of an education, it just doesn't make any difference.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Benito Cereno -- Herman Melville

""Ah, my dear friend," Don Benito once said, "at those very times when you thought me so morose and ungrateful, nay, when, as you now admit, you half thought me plotting your murder, at those very times my heart was frozen; I could not look at you, thinking of what, both on board this ship and your own, hung, from other hands, over my kind benefactor. And as God lives, Don Amasa, I know not whether desire for my own safety alone could have nerved me to that leap into your boat, had it not been for the thought that, did you, unenlightened, return to your ship, you, my best friend, with all who might be with you, stolen upon, that night, in your hammocks, would never in this world have wakened again. Do but think how you walked this deck, how you sat in this cabin, every inch of ground mined into honey-combs under you. Had I dropped the least hint, made the least advance towards an understanding between us, death, explosive death—yours as mine—would have ended the scene."
"True, true," cried Captain Delano, starting, "you have saved my life, Don Benito, more than I yours; saved it, too, against my knowledge and will."
"Nay, my friend," rejoined the Spaniard, courteous even to the point of religion, "God charmed your life, but you saved mine. To think of some things you did—those smilings and chattings, rash pointings and gesturings. For less than these, they slew my mate, Raneds; but you had the Prince of Heaven's safe-conduct through all ambuscades."
"Yes, all is owing to Providence, I know: but the temper of my mind that morning was more than commonly pleasant, while the sight of so much suffering, more apparent than real, added to my good-nature, compassion, and charity, happily interweaving the three. Had it been otherwise, doubtless, as you hint, some of my interferences might have ended unhappily enough. Besides, those feelings I spoke of enabled me to get the better of momentary distrust, at times when acuteness might have cost me my life, without saving another's. Only at the end did my suspicions get the better of me, and you know how wide of the mark they then proved."
"Wide, indeed," said Don Benito, sadly; "you were with me all day; stood with me, sat with me, talked with me, looked at me, ate with me, drank with me; and yet, your last act was to clutch for a monster, not only an innocent man, but the most pitiable of all men. To such degree may malign machinations and deceptions impose. So far may even the best man err, in judging the conduct of one with the recesses of whose condition he is not acquainted. But you were forced to it; and you were in time undeceived. Would that, in both respects, it was so ever, and with all men."
"You generalize, Don Benito; and mournfully enough. But the past is passed; why moralize upon it? Forget it. See, yon bright sun has forgotten it all, and the blue sea, and the blue sky; these have turned over new leaves."
"Because they have no memory," he dejectedly replied; "because they are not human."
"But these mild trades that now fan your cheek, do they not come with a human-like healing to you? Warm friends, steadfast friends are the trades."
"With their steadfastness they but waft me to my tomb, Señor," was the foreboding response.
"You are saved," cried Captain Delano, more and more astonished and pained; "you are saved: what has cast such a shadow upon you?" 
"The negro." [i.e., the African slave Babo, who seized Don Benito's ship and held him at dagger's point, forcing him to deceive Captain Delano (Don Amasa)]
There was silence, while the moody man sat, slowly and unconsciously gathering his mantle about him, as if it were a pall.
There was no more conversation that day."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kamikazes and Zen Philosophy

Departure of a Kamikaze Unit From Tachikawa, artist unknown, Japan 1940s. Photo by Rex Features

"In contemporary Western memory, still stocked for the most part by wartime propaganda imagery of mad, rodent-like Japanese, those final weeks [of the Second World War] are a swirl of brainwashed fanaticism, reaching its apotheosis as hundreds of kamikaze planes slammed into the US ships closing in around Japan’s home islands. Three thousand raids and innumerable scouting missions were launched during the climax of the conflict, designed to show the US the terrible cost it would pay for an all-out invasion of Japan.
Yet the vast majority of planes never made it to their attack or reconnaissance targets; they were lost instead at sea. And war’s end failed to yield the apocalyptic romance for which Japan’s leaders so fervently hoped. By late 1944 and early ’45, the only ‘life or death struggle’ was the routine misery to which the empire itself had reduced its soldiers and civilians. Conscripts were trained and goaded to fire their rifles into their own heads, to gather around an activated grenade, to charge into Allied machine-gun fire. Civilians jumped off cliffs, as Saipan and later Okinawa were taken by the Allies. Citizens of great cities such as Tokyo and Osaka had their buildings torn town and turned into ammunition.
Nor do clichés of unthinking ultranationalism fit the experiences of many kamikaze pilots. For each one willing to crash-dive the bridge of a US ship mouthing militarist one-liners, others lived and died less gloriously: cursing their leaders, rioting in their barracks or forcing their planes into the sea. A few took their senninbari – thousand-stitch sashes, each stitch sewn by a different well-wisher – and burned them in disgust. At least one pilot turned back on his final flight and strafed his commanding officers."

The rest of the article is a rather unconvincing (to me) attempt to connect the death throes of the Japanese Empire with the Zen Buddhist concept of absolute nothingness. It was interesting to me in part because my eight-year old asked me last night, "If the Universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?" His ten-year old brother gleefully gave him the answer -- "Nothing!"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why the innocent plead guilty -- plea bargaining

"Oh crap, I should have taken the plea deal."

New York Review of Books
"The criminal justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray, or what the average American believes.
To the Founding Fathers, the critical element in the system was the jury trial, which served not only as a truth-seeking mechanism and a means of achieving fairness, but also as a shield against tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
The Sixth Amendment guarantees that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” The Constitution further guarantees that at the trial, the accused will have the assistance of counsel, who can confront and cross-examine his accusers and present evidence on the accused’s behalf. He may be convicted only if an impartial jury of his peers is unanimously of the view that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and so states, publicly, in its verdict.
The drama inherent in these guarantees is regularly portrayed in movies and television programs as an open battle played out in public before a judge and jury. But this is all a mirage. In actuality, our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.
In 2013, while 8 percent of all federal criminal charges were dismissed (either because of a mistake in fact or law or because the defendant had decided to cooperate), more than 97 percent of the remainder were resolved through plea bargains, and fewer than 3 percent went to trial. The plea bargains largely determined the sentences imposed."


 ...a defendant’s decision to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit may represent a “rational,” if cynical, cost-benefit analysis of his situation, in fact there is some evidence that the pressure of the situation may cause an innocent defendant to make a less-than-rational appraisal of his chances for acquittal and thus decide to plead guilty when he not only is actually innocent but also could be proven so. Research indicates that young, unintelligent, or risk-averse defendants will often provide false confessions just because they cannot “take the heat” of an interrogation. Although research into false guilty pleas is far less developed, it may be hypothesized that similar pressures, less immediate but more prolonged, may be in effect when a defendant is told, often by his own lawyer, that there is a strong case against him, that his likelihood of acquittal is low, and that he faces a mandatory minimum of five or ten years in prison if convicted and a guidelines range of considerably more—but that, if he acts swiftly, he can get a plea bargain to a lesser offense that will reduce his prison time by many years.
How prevalent is the phenomenon of innocent people pleading guilty? The few criminologists who have thus far investigated the phenomenon estimate that the overall rate for convicted felons as a whole is between 2 percent and 8 percent. The size of that range suggests the imperfection of the data; but let us suppose that it is even lower, say, no more than 1 percent. When you recall that, of the 2.2 million Americans in prison, over 2 million are there because of plea bargains, we are then talking about an estimated 20,000 persons, or more, who are in prison for crimes to which they pleaded guilty but did not in fact commit."

When I tell my Forensic Psychology students that 95% of criminal cases are plea bargained, and that sometimes defendants plead guilty to crimes that they didn't commit, I get the feeling that they think that I am making it up. Such is the power of television -- they see jury trials on t.v., therefore most criminal cases must be decided by jury trial. The "just world hypothesis" is also at play -- bad things happen to bad people; going to prison is bad; therefore, only bad people are in prison. When I tell them that if you are facing 50 years in prison and you are offered a plea bargain involving just 5 years in prison, then the rational decision is to plead guilty even if you are innocent, I can almost hear the shattering of their faith in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sonnet LXXI -- William Shakespeare

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell

Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O! if, I say, you look upon this verse,
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay;
   Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
   And mock you with me after I am gone.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Get Off of My Cloud -- Rolling Stones (Live, 1967)

I live in an apartment on the ninety-ninth floor of my block
And I sit at home looking out the window
Imagining the world has stopped
Then in flies a guy who's all dressed up like a Union Jack
And says, I've won five pounds if I have his kind of detergent pack

 I said, Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Don't hang around 'cause two's a crowd
On my cloud, baby

The telephone is ringing
I say, "Hi, it's me. Who is it there on the line?"
A voice says, "Hi, hello, how are you?"
Well, I guess I'm doin' fine
He says, "It's three a.m., there's too much noise
Don't you people ever wanna go to bed?
Just 'cause you feel so good, do you have
To drive me out of my head?"

I said, Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Don't hang around 'cause two's a crowd
On my cloud baby

I was sick and tired, fed up with this
And decided to take a drive downtown
It was so very quiet and peaceful
There was nobody, not a soul around
I laid myself out, I was so tired and I started to dream
In the morning the parking tickets were just like
A flag stuck on my window screen
I said, Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Don't hang around 'cause two's a crowd
On my cloud

Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Don't hang around, baby, two's a crowd

Friday, November 14, 2014

India pays poor women to be sterilized, kills them sometimes

American billionaire Melinda Gates says, "Cute kid -- now get your tubes tied;
there are too many people in the Third World."

"Sterilisation is the most popular form of birth control in India. Encouraged by cash incentives[$10 for the woman, less for the "health worker" who brings her to the "sterilization camp"], about 4 million people a year undergo surgery. Almost all are women.
In Chhattisgarh, one of India's poorest states, the government had a target to carry out 165,000 female sterilisations and 26,000 male sterilisations in 2013-14, according to government documents.
Some members of India's medical establishment and activists say targets make the sterilisation programme coercive.
Investigating officer S.N. Shukla said all the women who were operated on Saturday had signed written consent. That is in line with national standards that also say consent should be not obtained under coercion or while the patient is sedated.
Tubectomies are considered major surgeries, but doctors often exceed limits. Before guidelines were set there were reports of doctors performing 200 surgeries a day, said Suneeta Mittal, head of gynaecology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute near New Delhi.
Operations at the camps are conducted in minutes, with little time to maintain hygiene. Nearly 600 deaths were reported between 2009 and 2012, according to the government."

 India is soon going to surpass China as the world's most populous nation. Twelve women just died from this procedure, apparently from septic shock -- their doctor tied the tubes of 83 women that day and probably never re-sterilized his instruments. Perhaps this is not surprising for a country that has to have a public service campaign to encourage people to use toilets.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Julian Jaynes -- The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

The Origins of Consciousness
Another excerpt from a great Chronicle of Higher Education feature on What Book Changed Your Mind?

"For me, that book was by Julian Jaynes. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976) is one of those lush, overambitious books that gets many things wrong, but in such an interesting way that readers, on finishing it, find that they think about the world quite differently. At least I did, although I think the book crept up on me year by year until I suddenly decided that this odd book I’d read in college had a fundamental insight—and had presented to me the puzzle that became my life’s work.
Jaynes taught psychology at Princeton, back in the days before psychologists had walled themselves off from literature, and he noticed that in the Homeric epics, the gods took the place of the human mind. In the Iliad we do not see Achilles thinking. Achilles acts, and in moments of strong emotion, he acts as the gods instruct him. When Aga­memnon steals his mistress and Achilles seethes with anger, Athena shows up, grabs him by the hair, and holds him back. Jaynes argued that Athena popped up in this way because humans in archaic Greece had no words for inner speech. So when they felt compelled by this strong internal force, they attributed that sensation to the gods. "The gods take the place of consciousness."
Moreover, Jaynes thought that in these moments, the ancient Greeks heard with their ears the gods speak. He thought that the inability to name the sensation as internal altered the sensation so that in moments of powerful feeling, moments when one feels pushed from within by one’s own overwhelming rage or joy, the Greeks heard the cognitive trace of that emotion audibly, as if it were coming from outside. "Who then were these gods that pushed men about like robots and sang epics through their lips? They were voices whose speech and direction could be as distinctly heard by the Iliadic heroes as voices are heard by certain epileptic and schizophrenic patients, or just as Joan of Arc heard her voices."
Well, maybe yes and maybe no. To me the point was that the way we pay attention to inner sensation changes the nature of the sensation, sometimes profoundly. The way we recognize mental events and deem them significant, the way we reach for what we take to be real—those differences shape what we know of God and madness.
The book begins: "O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind!" I feel drab in Jaynes’s company. I just want to get the facts right. But this was another of his lessons. He taught me that data can sing.
 —T.M. Luhrmann is a professor of anthropology at Stanford University."

See here for an earlier post on this book.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Freshman Year reading -- the way it used to be

Professor Miller's favorite book

Law Professor William Ian Miller gives a glimpse of what a college education used to mean. If you are not being asked to read such books in college, you should feel really ripped off. (In part, professors aren't assigning them anymore because they think that you aren't smart enough or hard-working enough to understand them.) After I read this, I wondered where he had his transformative freshman year experience back in 1965. Harvard? Yale? Some other exclusive, privileged outpost of the liberal arts? Nope -- University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Chronicle of Higher Education
"I am 68; if you had asked me the question about a self-transforming book when I was 19, I would have had to say just about half of the ones I read. You could say these books changed my mind, but my mind was pretty much a tabula rasa when I was in my first year of college. Rather they made my mind. Each week was a transformative experience. In one course these: the Pensées, which made a callow teenage atheist suspend his judgment; The Red and the Black, which is fiction, I know, but I took it as how psychology would look if properly done. Besides, my first true love was Madame de Rênal. Fear and Trembling followed, and it caused me to give up biochemistry for the humanities, because who in his punk teenage mind would have thought that you could write 46,000 words on 18 verses of Genesis and still not come close to exhausting the topic? It showed me what it meant to read, really read. But then next week it was The Genealogy of Morals. Oh, my. Transformed again.
The exhilaration of meeting ideas and thoughts you had not known existed piggybacked on the hard truth that you knew diddly. You were not being transformed so much as formed. But the more you read, the fewer ideas seemed as new or surprising. If you were reading generously and attentively, Thucydides or Montaigne appeared to have been already on to it, at least on psychological and sociological matters. Technological knowledge marched to a different drummer, awe-inspiring as it could also be.
William James says there are two kinds of people in the world, the once born (me), and the twice born (St. Paul). The latter can have a true conversion experience at any age, but it would be unlikely to be brought on by any nonfiction book from the past 30 years. Self-help books? If you think so, your transformation is an illusion; you have remained the idiot you were."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

James Burnham and the Bipartisan American Oligarchy

"Meet the new boss...Same as the old boss."
The American Conservative
"Myths...are plentiful in American politics. On the right, they include the idea of ending all abortion or returning to a pristine interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. On the left, they include the goals of eliminating all discrimination and bringing about universal human equality—as if more equality in some things might not lead to more inequality in others.
“A myth cannot be refuted,” however, “since it is, at bottom, identical with the convictions of a group, being the expression of these convictions in the language of movement; and it is, in consequence, unanalyzable into parts which could be placed on the plane of historical descriptions,” Sorel writes. Such myths “are not descriptions of things but expressions of determination to act.”
The key is the ability of myths to organize groups and mass movements. The effects of such mobilization, however, can be paradoxical. The election of a Tea Party senator like Ted Cruz, a Princeton and Harvard graduate whose wife is a Goldman Sachs executive, or a left-wing populist like Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor herself who is, if not a one-percenter, much closer to the top one percent than to the bottom 90, shows how the myths of the masses serve society’s winners."

Monday, November 10, 2014

"My son was a mentally ill White House intruder"

Scotty Baker, with his mother, mental health advocate Dottie Pacharis, in 2006, one year before he died by suicide.

Washington Post
"My adult son suffered from severe bipolar disorder. During his first manic episode in January 1994, while he lived in northern Virginia, he became psychotic, paranoid, and lost touch with reality. He developed an unhealthy fixation for the president and made many attempts to get into the White House for what he actually thought were scheduled meetings with President Bill Clinton.
But he was in denial that anything was wrong with him. It took the assault of a police officer to get him committed. He spent his 27th birthday in a padded cell in the psychiatric ward at a Virginia hospital. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and transferred to a mental hospital where, after six weeks of involuntary commitment and forced meds, he recovered and resumed his life. Six years later, when he stopped taking his meds, he suffered a second psychotic break, this time fixating on President George W. Bush. He claimed he was in possession of very important information for both these presidents and he needed to share it. As seems to be the case with the two alleged White House fence-jumpers this month, Dominic Adesayana and Omar Gonzalez, his sickness propelled him there.
After 9/11, my son told his family he had obtained a top secret security clearance at the White House, that the FBI had issued him a special gun permit, and that he was exercising his constitutional right to purchase a gun. Several days later, he showed up at the White House and told the Secret Service he was there for his scheduled appointment with Bush. I became very concerned for his and everyone else’s safety. What would Secret Service do if they ever encountered him? Were they trained to distinguish between a terrorist and a mentally ill person?
Most people who try to enter the White House without permission, [a Secret Service agent] told me, suffer from mental illness. Nevertheless, it is the job of the Secret Service to protect the president, and his colleagues were sworn to do so at all costs, he said. He told me the agents would first shoot my son with rubber bullets. If that didn’t stop him, they would use a Taser on him. If that didn’t take him down, they would be forced to shoot him in one or both of his legs to immobilize him.
I was flummoxed by how familiar the Secret Service was with this sort of threat. How very sad that in this country we allow individuals with serious mental illness to commit crimes before we treat them. Mr. Gonzales, an Army veteran, who is charged with recently scaling the White House fence with a knife in his possession, suffered from post-traumatic stress, according to his family."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

In Time of Pestilence -- Thomas Nashe (1593)

The Triumph of Death -- Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1562)

ADIEU, farewell earth's bliss! 
This world uncertain is: 
Fond are life's lustful joys, 
Death proves them all but toys. 
None from his darts can fly;         5
I am sick, I must die— 
        Lord, have mercy on us! 
Rich men, trust not in wealth, 
Gold cannot buy you health; 
Physic himself must fade;  10
All things to end are made; 
The plague full swift goes by; 
I am sick, I must die— 
        Lord, have mercy on us! 
Beauty is but a flower  15
Which wrinkles will devour; 
Brightness falls from the air; 
Queens have died young and fair; 
Dust hath closed Helen's eye; 
I am sick, I must die—  20
        Lord, have mercy on us! 
Strength stoops unto the grave, 
Worms feed on Hector brave; 
Swords may not fight with fate; 
Earth still holds ope her gate;  25
Come, come! the bells do cry; 
I am sick, I must die— 
        Lord, have mercy on us! 
Wit with his wantonness 
Tasteth death's bitterness;  30
Hell's executioner 
Hath no ears for to hear 
What vain art can reply; 
I am sick, I must die— 
        Lord, have mercy on us!  35
Haste therefore each degree 
To welcome destiny; 
Heaven is our heritage, 
Earth but a player's stage. 
Mount we unto the sky;  40
I am sick, I must die— 
        Lord, have mercy on us! 


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Bloodletting -- Concrete Blonde (1990)

There's a crack in the mirror
And a bloodstain on the bed
There's a crack in the mirror
And a bloodstain on the bed

Oh, you were a vampire
And baby, I'm the walking dead
Oh, you were a vampire
And baby, I'm the walking dead

I got the ways and means
To New Orleans
I'm going down by the river
Where it's warm and green
I'm gonna have a drink and walk around
I got a lot to think about

Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah

There's a rocking chair by the window
Down the hall
I hear something there in the shadow
Down the hall

Oh, you were a vampire
And now I am nothing at all
Oh, you were a vampire
And now I am nothing at all

I got the ways and means
To New Orleans
I'm going down by the river
Where it's warm and green
I'm gonna have a drink and walk around
I got a lot to think about

Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah

They used to dance in the garden
In the middle of the night
Dancing out in the garden
In the middle of the night

Oh, you were a vampire
And I may never see the light
Oh, you were a vampire
And I may never see the light

I got the ways and means
To New Orleans
I'm going down by the river
Where it's warm and green
I'm gonna have a drink and walk around
I got a lot to think about

I got the ways and means
To New Orleans
I'm going down by the river
Where it's warm and green
I'm gonna have a drink and walk around
I got a lot to think about

Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah

Friday, November 7, 2014

"8 Reasons Children of the 1970s Should All Be Dead"

Some things you just have to steal outright and re-post:

8 Reasons Children of the 1970s Should All Be Dead

By on 9 June 2014 | comments 708
The way things are going, every kid is going to go to school wearing bubble wrap and a helmet.  Back in the 1970s (and earlier), parents didn’t stress about our health and safety as much as they do today.  It’s not that they cared less – they just didn’t worry compulsively about it.
Parents of 2014 need to be reminded of how less restricted, less supervised, less obsessively safety-conscious things were… and it was just fine.


should be dead (10)

Can your mind comprehend a more deadly toy than a weighted spear that kids hurl through the air like a missile? No one ever obeyed the actual manufacturer’s rules, we just flung these damn things everywhere.  We threw them. They stuck where they landed. If they happened to land in your skull, well, then you should have moved.
After roughly 6,700 emergency-room visits and the deaths of three children between 1978 and 1988, they finally outlawed Jarts on December 19, 1988. I suppose it needed to be banned, but a part of me is sad that kids today won’t have the battle scars and Jart survival stories we had. Goodbye Jart – you were an impaling arrow of death, but I loved you anyway.


should be dead (2)

Cars came with seat belts in the 1970s, but no one used them except maybe out of curiosity to see what it was like to wear one. Of course, you’d have to fish them out of the deep crevice of the backseat cushion where they often came to rest, unwanted and ignored.
The only “click” heard in the 1970s automobile was your dad’s Bic lighting up a smoke with the windows rolled up. (cough!)
I should also mention that, not only were there no seat belts, child seats were nowhere to be found.  Whether it was the front seat of your mom’s station wagon or her bicycle, chances are, you were entirely untethered.


should be dead (8)

Remember when playgrounds were fun? Sure, there was a pretty good chance you’d be scalded by a hot metal slide, or walk away with tetanus, but that’s what memories are made of.
The ground wasn’t coated with soft recycled rubber or sand as most are today – they were asphalt.  Remember being hurled from a spinning merry-go-round, then skidding across the gravel at full speed?  Good times.
I remember my school playground had a metal ladder “wall” that I swear went up three stories – it didn’t connect to a slide or anything. It was literally a ladder to the sky. I remember fully believing the oxygen was thinner at the top.  One false move and I’d have been a flesh colored stain on the asphalt.
According to the New York Times we are making playgrounds so safe that they actually stunt our kids’ development.  So, while blood was spilt and concussions were dealt on the playgrounds of the 1970s, we were at least in a developmentally rich environment – and we had the bruises and scabs to prove it.


should be dead (4)
“Tanfastic lets the sunshine in.  It’s not loaded up with sunburn protection like old folks and kids want.  Tanfastic’s for you 15-to-25 year olds who can take the sun.  Especially if you want to get superdark.  Superfast.”
Back in the 70s, your goal was to get as brown as your skin would permit.  Sun BLOCK or sun SCREEN was basically nonexistent. You wanted to AMPLIFY your rays, so women typically lathered on Crisco and baby oil to get that deep baked look.
For the kids, SPF numbers hovered around 2, 4 and 8.  The idea that you would spray an SPF of 50 or even 30 wasn’t even an option, except perhaps from medical ointments prescribed for albinos.


should be dead (7)

Whether you were riding a bike, roller skating, or skateboarding, one thing was for certain: you were not wearing a head protection.  You would have been looked at as a sideshow freak by other kids, and parents would assume you had some kind of medical condition.


should be dead (5)

Hey, who’s watching the kid in the stroller?  YOU MUST HAVE YOUR EYES ON THE KID AT ALL TIMES OR ELSE HE WILL DIE!
My mother routinely left me alone in the car at a young age while she ran errands.  Today, this will literally get you arrested.  You see, once upon a time it was okay to leave your kids for long periods without supervision (remember the so-called “latch-key kids” of the 70s?), or let them free roam without constant surveillance.  Today, parents won’t let their kids go out to get the mail alone, and any fun with friends has to be scheduled, closely monitored “play dates”.
On summer break or weekends in the 1970s, parents kicked their kids out the front door and didn’t let them back in until the sun went down.  “Go play,” were their only words, and you were left to your own devices for hours upon hours.  Neighborhoods looked like Lord of the Flies.


should be dead (3)

This poor kid is about to get rammed in the nuts by a goat, and the nearby adult isn’t the least bit concerned.  In fact, he finds this all incredibly amusing!  As hard as this is to believe, but when kids got hurt back then, adults didn’t come running with first-aid kits.  More than likely you’d be left alone with your pain, with no alternative but to get over it.
In the 70s, parents watched their offspring fall from trees and fall off bikes with a smile.


should be dead (1)

From airplanes to your family car, it seemed the world of the 70s was shrouded in a haze of cigarette smoke.  It wasn’t just the fact that many more people smoked, it was the absolute 100% lack of concern for those that didn’t, including children.  Teachers smoked, doctors smoked, your parents smoked…. and they didn’t take it to a secluded smoking area, they did it right in your face.
Please don’t interpret this as condoning it.  There’s no question that engulfing your child in a thick carcinogenic cloud isn’t a good idea.  I’m just stating facts – this is the world we lived in.  It was full of adults who didn’t seem to have anxiety attacks over our safety, and we turned out just fine…. right?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

North Carolina to pay reparations to eugenics victims

Pacific Standard
"From the early decades of the 20th century until 1974, 32 states in the union mandated the sterilization of more than 65,000 citizens. At the behest of government eugenics boards, girls and women had their tubes tied or uteri removed, and boys and men their vasa deferentia snipped because they had been deemed unfit to reproduce. Still others came under the scalpel of private doctors, and this second group makes the calculations difficult—65,000 represents only the number of sterilizations where there was municipal paperwork.
In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Eugenics Compensation statute, and last week the state’s department of commerce began the long-awaited disbursement of financial reparations to victims of sterilization. Two hundred twenty living victims will receive checks of $20,000 each—220 checks, out of 768 claims. Between 1929 and 1974, North Carolina sterilized at least 7,600 people. However mortifying the disparity here, we must give the Assembly credit for passing legislation that no other state has so far brought to a vote; by contrast, California has kept positively mum about its own similar history, which accounts for a third of all American sterilizations."
Oddly, the author of this piece later seems to laud Roe v. Wade as an advance in civil rights, rather than regard it as a continuation of eugenics by other means. The disparity in abortion rates between high and low income women tells the tale. Nearly 70% of U.S. women receiving abortions earn less than $22,000/year. The federal government, by funding Planned Parenthood ($360 million in 2009), the nation's largest abortion provider (over 300,000 in 2009), happily supports the effort to limit reproduction among the poor. And don't forget the 2.4 million Americans who are currently incarcerated -- long-term incapacitation tends to depress fertility rates as well.