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Language and Linguistics on Trial: Hearing Rachel Jeantel (and Other Vernacular Speakers) in the Courtroom and Beyond, by John Rickford and Sharese King [.pdf]
"Rachel Jeantel was the leading prosecution witness when George Zimmerman was tried for killing Trayvon Martin, but she spoke in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and her crucial testimony was dismissed as incomprehensible and not credible. The disregard for her speech in court and the media is familiar to vernacular speakers and puts Linguistics itself on trial: following Saussure, how do we dispel such ‘prejudices’ and ‘fictions’? We show that Jeantel speaks a highly systematic AAVE, with possible Caribbean influence. We also discuss voice quality and other factors that bedeviled her testimony, including dialect unfamiliarity and institutionalized racism. Finally, we suggest strategies for linguists to help vernacular speakers be better heard in courtrooms and beyond.*"
johnrickford  shareseking  2016  trayvonmartin  georgezimmerman  racheljeantel  aave  english  bias  law  legal  justice  race  racism  dialect  literacy  intelligence  linguistics  sociolinguistics 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Justice for Jeantel (and Trayvon): Fighting Dialect Prejudice in Courtrooms and Beyond - CornellCast
"When George Zimmerman was tried for the homicide of Trayvon Martin, the testimony of Rachel Jeantel was critical to the prosecution’s case – but was ignored by the jury. According to linguist John Rickford this happened because Jeantel speaks African-American Vernacular English. On Sept. 15, 2016, Rickford presented a University Lecture discussing the potentially devastating consequences caused by mishearings and misjudgments of dialect speakers in courtrooms, police encounters, job interviews and elsewhere."
johnrickford  2016  trayvonmartin  georgezimmerman  racheljeantel  aave  english  bias  law  legal  justice  race  racism  dialect  literacy  intelligence  linguistics  sociolinguistics 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
John Rickford, Sharese King: Full Interview on "Race, Dialect Prejudice, and Literacy in the Zimmerman Trial and Beyond" | Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education
"The testimony of Rachel Jeantel, close friend of Trayvon Martin and the prosecution's star witness in the trial of George Zimmerman, was the subject of considerable public commentary in the summer of 2013. Social media pilloried her for her "slurred" or "ungrammatical" speech and described her as stupid and ignorant.

But as Stanford professor John Rickford and second-year linguistics graduate student Sharese King show from analyses of her use of zero copula, absence of third singular present, possessive, and plural --s, and other features, she follows the systematic grammar of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) quite faithfully.

Rickford and King discuss the evidence of Jeantel's limited literacy that emerged during the trial, and the poor reading performance of African American students at her school, Miami Norland, which did not come to public attention. They ask about the extent to which speakers of African American Vernacular English and other dialects are misunderstood, disbelieved, or otherwise unfairly evaluated in courts, schools, and other settings.

This interview followed the SCOPE Brown Bag Lecture: "Race, Dialect Prejudice, and Literacy in the Zimmerman Trial and Beyond" on February 10, 2014."

[Direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qH-vshQf2g0 ]
johnrickford  shareseking  2014  trayvonmartin  georgezimmerman  racheljeantel  aave  english  bias  law  legal  justice  race  racism  dialect  literacy  intelligence  linguistics  sociolinguistics 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Stanford linguist: prejudice toward African American dialect can result in unfair rulings
"Linguistics professor John R. Rickford contends justice was not served in the Trayvon Martin shooting, in part because testimony in the African American vernacular was discredited."
johnrickford  2014  trayvonmartin  language  linguistics  race  racism  justice  law  aave  georgezimmerman  racheljeantel  sociolinguistics 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
David Graeber on a Fair Future Economy - YouTube
"David Graeber is an anthropologist, a leading figure in the Occupy movement, and one of our most original and influential public thinkers.

He comes to the RSA to address our current age of ‘total bureaucratization’, in which public and private power has gradually fused into a single entity, rife with rules and regulations, whose ultimate purpose is the extraction of wealth in the form of profits.

David will consider what it would take, in terms of intellectual clarity, political will and imaginative power – to conceive and build a flourishing and fair future economy, which would maximise the scope for individual and collective creativity, and would be sustainable and just."
democracy  liberalism  directdemocracy  borders  us  finance  globalization  bureaucracy  2015  ows  occupywallstreet  governance  government  economics  politics  policy  unschooling  unlearning  schooliness  technology  paperwork  future  utopianism  capitalism  constitution  rules  regulation  wealth  power  communism  authority  authoritarianism  creativity  neoliberalism  austerity  justice  socialjustice  society  ideology  inequality  revolution  global  international  history  law  legal  debt  freedom  money  monetarypolicy  worldbank  imf  markets  banks  banking  certification  credentials  lobbying  collusion  corruption  privatization  credentialization  deschooling  canon  firstamendment 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Making the Ordinary Visible: Interview with Yasar Adanali : Making Futures
"Yaşar Adanalı defines his work over the past decade as being that of a “part time academic researcher and part time activist”. He is one of the founders of the Center for Spatial Justice in Istanbul, an urban institute that focuses on issues of spatial justice in Istanbul and beyond. In this interview, he reflects upon “continuance” as a tool of engagement, the power of attending to the ordinary within the production of space, and the different types of public that this works seeks to address.

What led to the founding of the Center for Spatial for Justice and how does its work relate to the worlds of academia, activism and urbanism?

I’m interested in questions regarding spatial production in general and more specifically justice – the injustices that derive from spatial processes or the spatial aspect of social injustices. The Center for Spatial Justice takes the acronym MAD in Turkish – a MAD organisation against mad projects, that’s our founding moto. We bring together people from different disciplines such as architects, urban planners, artists, journalists, filmmakers, lawyers and geographers to produce work in relation to what’s going here: grassroots struggles in the city and in the countryside. The Center for Spatial Justice believes in the interconnectedness of urban and rural processes.

As educator and an activist, you work both within and outside an institutional setting. Have you been able to take the latter experience back into the academy and if so, what in particular? How do these two roles inform each other?

Since 2014 I have been teaching a masters design studio at TU Darmstadt. It’s a participatory planning course that both follows and supports a cooperative housing project in Düzce, Turkey, produced for and by the tenants who were badly affected by the 1999 earthquake. Over the course of the past five years, the master students have been developing a 4000 sq m housing project from scratch. The students from Darmstadt come to Istanbul as interns, working partly on the project. The result is a long-lasting relationship with the neighbourhoods in question and with the organisations we have been working with.

Apart from that, through MAD and Beyond Istanbul we develop summer and winter schools – non-academic experiences that similarly bridge the gap between the alternative universe and the mainstream universe. When you start to put critical questions into the minds of the students, these linger and they then take them back to the university, so their friends and professors also become exposed to that. We prefer to develop this approach outside of the university so that we are freed from bureaucracy and rigid structures but we keep it open to enrolled students and professors.

What are some particular strategies and methodologies that you adopt to engender this approach to urban practice? How do you involve local residents, for example?

That building of long-term relationships with communities is why we do a lot of walking. Our research questions are informed by the community and the site we arrive at – we do not predetermine hypotheses in advance. We remain in direct contact with different groups in the city and walk through these territories – with the neighbourhood association – not just once but every week. We listen to a lot of stories and record them. Oral histories are an important part of the ethnographic enquiry.

We also use mapping, a tool commonly used to exert power but that nature can be reversed. Through mapping we reclaim territories that have perhaps been “erased” – that is, transformed by injustice. We also map informal areas and then give those maps to the communities there because the way they appear on official plans often doesn’t reflect how things look on the ground. What looks like a carpark in the plan might be someone’s house; what’s represented as a commercial development might currently be a neighbourhood park or some other form of already existing social infrastructure.

In addition, we try to embed journalistic means within our academic interests, which is why we work with documentary journalists and photographers on each of our projects. We broadcast spatial justice news videos, in depth films that offer 8-10 minutes of reporting on a particular issue, giving it context and also pointing towards possible solutions. Solution journalism, which doesn’t just focus on crisis, is very important in the work we do.

As part of its work making spatial injustices visible, MAD publishes a wide range of materials. Which are the publics you try to communicate with through this?

Research has to be coupled with a conscious effort to communicate because you want to make change. We don’t want to make research for the sake of research or produce publications for the sake of publishing. We want to create those publics you allude to – and to influence them. We are addressing people involved in the discipline in its broadest sense: planners, architects, sociologists, activists, but perhaps most especially students who are interested in spatial issues, urban questions and environmental concerns. They are our main target. We want them to understand that their discipline has much more potential than what they are learning at university. I’m not saying the entire education system is wrong but there is much larger perspective beyond it and great potential for collaboration with other disciplines and engagement with different publics as well.

Another important public is the one directly involved with our work, i.e. the community that is being threatened by renewal projects. These groups are not only our public but also our patrons – we are obliged to be at their service and offer technical support, whether that’s recording a meeting with the mayor or analysing a plan together. Then there is the larger audience of broader society, who we hope to encourage to think of and engage with these issues of inequality and spatial justice.

I found an interesting quote on your webpage that says that the founding of MAD “is an invitation to understand the ordinary in an extraordinary global city context”. Can you talk a little about the urban context of Istanbul, Turkey and why the focus on the ordinary?

Everything about Istanbul is extraordinary: transformation, speed, scale. We are interested in making the ordinary visible because when we focus so much on the mega-projects, on the idea of the global city, then the rest of the city is made invisible. We look beyond the city centre – the façade – and beyond the mainstream, dominant discourse. This “ordinary” is the neighbourhood, nature and that which lies beyond the spectacle – other Turkish cities, for example. This approach can entail initiatives that range from historical urban gardening practices, working with informal neighbourhoods subject to eviction and relocation processes, or rural communities on the very eastern border currently threatened by new mine projects.

More specifically, today we live in an extraordinary state. The public arena is in a deep crisis and the democratic institutions and their processes do not really deserve our direct involvement right now. Having said that, there are different pockets within these systems, municipal authorities that operate differently, for example, and when we find these we work with them, but we remain realistic with regards to our limits. The “now” in Turkey has been lost in the sense that its relevance is not linked to the future beyond or to the next generation. That is a deep loss. But if you have the vision and the production means, if you set up a strong system, build the capacity first of yourself and then of the groups your work with, then when the right moment comes, all of these elements will flourish."
urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  cities  maps  mapping  neighborhoods  unschooling  deschooling  education  independence  lcproject  openstudioproject  justice  visibility  istanbul  turkey  ethnography  inquiry  erasure  injustice  infrastructure  socialinfrastructure  2018  rosariotalevi  speed  scale  transformation  walking  community  yasaradanali  space  placemaking  interconnectedness  interconnected  geography  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  socialjustice  architecture  design  film  law  legal  filmmaking  journalism  rural  engagement 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Dr Fish Philosopher🐟 on Twitter: "1. <Brews some coffee.> <puts on anthropologist hat> <cracks knuckles> So the theft of my wonderful colleague, @kahente's, daughter's name by a non-Indigenous film production raises the issue of how western/euro-americ
[images throughout with screenshots of citations]

"1. <Brews some coffee.> <puts on anthropologist hat> <cracks knuckles>

So the theft of my wonderful colleague, @kahente's, daughter's name by a non-Indigenous film production raises the issue of how western/euro-american folks understand 'culture'+ the erasure of Indigenous laws

2. Western/euro-american folks have employed the notion of 'culture' to describe the 'customs, traditions, languages, social institutions' of The Other for a long while now. Made perhaps famous in anthropology's embrace of this unit of analysis in the last few hundred years.

3. the thing about 'culture' in its emergence as anthro's unit of analysis (vs, say, sociology's also fraught but in different ways study of 'society') is that it was employed through colonial period (+ still) to displace the legal-governance standing of nations of 'The Other'.

4. While Euro nations/the West were deemed to have 'laws', everyone else (the Rest) were deemed to have 'customs'/'traditions'/'culture'. This coincided with vigorous efforts by British/American & other western actors to do everything possible to invalidate the laws of 'The Rest'

5. What happens when 'the Rest' have laws? It means that Euro-American actors ('The West') might actually have reciprocal responsibilities to those nations under emerging international law in colonial period & cannot just steal land and destroy nations without legal consequences.

6.(Interlude --- everything I know about this is from Joanne Barker's fabulous book "Sovereignty Matters" and Sylvia Wynter's crucial, canonical piece "Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation--An Argument").

7. As Barker (2005:4) shows us: law matters because this is medium through which nationhood/statehood were recognized+asserted. Both Treaties and Constitutions were mobilized to assert claims over lands/peoples. Genocide was done 'legally' within precepts of euro/american law

8. What happened when euro-american actors entered into treaties with Indigenous nations/confederacies in NA? Euro-american colonizers quickly realized recognition of the laws of the 'Other' meant their claims to lands were vulnerable to international challenge (Barker 2005)

9. So, euro-american colonizers had two handy little tricks up their sleeve: first, invalidate the humanity of those you colonize (Wynter 2003). Place them firmly in the category of the 'fallen flesh'/sinners/'Other' incapable of rational thought (law) ((Wynter 2003: 281-282)

(sorry, this one is a slow burn because I want to make sure I cite sources fairly and generously and provide ample material for folks to consult and check out)

10. This invalidation is helped by the papal bull of 1493, which establishes the 'Doctrine of Discovery' (aka: Spain and Portugal have the right to claim lands they 'find' in the name of God). This is re-asserted in 19th century USA http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Alex06/alex06inter.htm
https://upstanderproject.org/firstlight/doctrine/

11. Second, once you invalidate the humanity of those you colonized, & established that only euro-western/euro-american 'man' can possess rational thought/law, you invalidate the knowledge/being of the other as 'myth/ 'story'/ & 'CULTURE'. Law for the West, Culture for the Rest.

12. This is where the rise of Anthropology is so crucial. It arises at a time when euro-american actors are frantically looking for ways to invalidate the laws, sovereignty, nationhood, self-determination and humanity of everyone they colonized.

13. Just when euro-american actors are looking for ways to legally justify their breaking of treaties they entered into with folks they colonized, anthro trots in with its focus on 'culture'. Culture as embodiment of everything that comprises law without recognizing its authority

14. Once you've established a hierarchy of humanity with white western christian males as the only real '(hu)Man' (see Wynter (2003) and Zakiyyah Iman Jackson (2013)), you can set about bracketing out 'the Rest' from your notion of legal and scientific plurality.

15. All of this is crucial. The western 'modern' framing of White Western Christian Men as the only beings capable of rational thought. The anthro fascination w/ 'cultures' of 'The Rest'. (The west/rest framing I borrow from Colin Scott's "Science for the West/TEK for the Rest")

16. This is of course entangled with capitalist expansion. Who can possess things, people, lands is important to expanding claims to property. The designation of subhumanity/de-authorization of laws of The Other are crucial to the violent capitalist white supremacist project.

17. As Christina Sharpe (2016) teaches us: "the history of capital is inextricable from the history of Atlantic chattel slavery".

18. This all comes to matter, anthropologically, because anthro becomes the 'caretaker' of The Other and their de-authorized legal orders, laws, knowing, being. This is the white possessive, as Aileen Moreton-Robinson ((2015) and Moreton-Robinson (2014: 475)) demonstrates:

19. So, when western actors are shocked to discover that they cannot just take things from other nations/societies/confederacies/legal orders, this is because anthro has faithfully done its job as acting as 'caretaker' for the laws/knowing/being of all those nations dispossessed.

20. Remember that the invention/fetishization of small c plural 'cultures' was crucial to the de-authorization of laws, epistemes, ontologies, being of everyone but White European Christian Rational Man. Anthro is basically an epic legal argument against sovereignty of 'The Rest'

21. And this coincided, not innocently, with assertions of racial hierarchies that deemed certain peoples to possess rational law, science, sovereignty, authority. The possession of law coincides with western beliefs in rationality (Wynter 2003).

22. Anthro has a buddy, and that buddy is biology. Biology, as Wynter (2003) demonstrates, mobilizes in the 19th century to develop the notion of Man(2). Man(2) not only has rationality, but he has evolution on his side, justifying his white possessiveness (Wynter 2003: 314-315)

23. So, as long as The West has Law and the Rest has culture, white western actors will continue to dispossess, appropriate, steal,+violate the legal orders of those peoples they colonize, because they believe they have an ontological right to these things (Moreton-Robinson 2015)

24. And anthropology has a lot of answering to do, still, for its role in de-authorizing the legal orders of those colonized by western imperial actors. It is complicit in the re-framing of legal orders, being, and knowing as 'culture', 'myth', 'tradition', and 'custom'.

25. Finally, for an in-depth examination of the ways anthro works to de-authorize Indigenous law, please buy+read Audra Simpson's _Mohawk Interruptus_, which demonstrates how anthro's focus on 'cultures' is used to dispossess Haudenosaunee in North America

26. Please amend tweet 6 to read: Everything I know about this is from Joanne Barker, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Audra Simpson+Sylvia Wynter!!! These 4 thinkers should be among the canon of work taught in Anthro theory courses to help displace its pervasive white possessiveness.

27. So, to wrap up this essay -- the incident this week was the theft of a Kanienkeha name. Audra Simpson (2014) here explains how the concept of 'culture' & western property (il)logics are used to deny Indigenous ownership of lands, knowing, being through white possessiveness:

28. Anthro must contend with this reality that Audra Simpson so clearly lays out in her work: it is built entirely on the denial of Indigenous sovereignty. And Anthro relies on racial hierarchies that emerge with assertion of 'rational' western white christian 'Man' (Wynter 2003)

Important addition to this morning's twitter essay! I cited Colin Scott's 'Science for the West, Myth for the Rest?',but David kindly points me towards the crucial work of Stuart Hall here (which I will now go read!!!) https://uq.rl.talis.com/items/EE89C061-C776-4B52-0BA3-F1D9B2F87212.html https://twitter.com/davidnbparent/status/1074748042845216773 "

[unrolled here: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1074624197639487488.html ]
zoetodd  2018  anthropology  cul;ture  sociology  socialsciences  colonialism  decolonization  capitalism  indigeneity  indigenous  law  joannebarker  sylviawynter  power  truth  freedom  treaties  constitutions  humanity  humanism  dehumanization  spain  portugal  españa  invalidation  thewest  hierarchy  hierarchies  colinscott  zakiyyahimanjackson  othering  rationality  biology  dispossession  colonization  audrasimpson  myth  myths  tradition  customs  aileenmoreton-robinson  property  possession  possessiveness  sovereignty  race  racism  stuarthall 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Are Civics Lessons a Constitutional Right? This Student Is Suing for Them - The New York Times
"Many see the lack of civics in schools as a national crisis. A federal lawsuit says it also violates the law."



"Aleita Cook, 17, has never taken a class in government, civics or economics. In the two social studies classes she took in her four years at a technical high school in Providence, R.I. — one in American history, the other in world history — she learned mostly about wars, she said.

Left unanswered were many practical questions she had about modern citizenship, from how to vote to “what the point of taxes are.” As for politics, she said, “What is a Democrat, a Republican, an independent? Those things I had to figure out myself.”

Now she and other Rhode Island public school students and parents are filing a federal lawsuit against the state on Thursday, arguing that failing to prepare children for citizenship violates their rights under the United States Constitution.

They say the state has not equipped all of its students with the skills to “function productively as civic participants” capable of voting, serving on a jury and understanding the nation’s political and economic life."
2018  civics  publicschools  democracy  law  legal  schooling  schools  education  economics  voting 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
max berger🔥🌹 on Twitter: "I think it's time we started talking about this.… "
"I think it's time we started talking about this.

[image: "Maybe a bunch of white slave owners from the 1700s did not come up with the best government ever" with map showing 40 million (23 small states highlighted in gold) people 46 senators, 40 million (California highlighted in purple) people 2 senators]

The US is one of the only countries in the world with a bicameral legislature and a separately elected executive. There are better (more representative and responsive) systems!

Ours was amazing for 1776, but we have 200+ years of lessons since then.

My suggestion to make the US government more representative and responsive:

- Make the House into multi-member districts with instant run off voting (see @fairvote for more)
- Abolish the electoral college
- Reform the senate to make it much more proportional and less powerful

I have a piece on this forthcoming, but I’ll just briefly say: the survival of the republic depends on reforming our electoral system.

Trump will not be the last authoritarian president if we don’t deal with gridlock, corruption and lack of representation.

There is nothing more American than deciding your system of government is insufficiently democratic and resolving to change it.

The revolutionary spirit of the founders is based on the radical idea that we can remake our world to better reflect the needs of regular people.

Lots of conservatives jumping in to say the founders made a compromise to allow small states to be overly represented. It's true!

They also agreed to a compromises that said slaves counted as 3/5ths of a person, and only men who owned land could vote.

We can do better.

The constitution represented the best thinking on how to create a functional republic at the time it was written. It was also a political compromise that reflected the realities of power at the time.

Much has changed since then. If we rewrote it today, it'd look very different.

The American constitution is outdated; when Americans advise other newly democratized nations on writing their constitutions, we no longer use our own as the basis.

We should learn from the past 200 years and make our system more representative. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/11/the-us-needs-a-new-constitution-heres-how-to-write-it/281090/
Almost nobody uses the U.S. Constitution as a model—not even Americans. When 24 military officers and civilians were given a single week to craft a constitution for occupied Japan in 1946, they turned to England. The Westminster-style parliament they installed in Tokyo, like its British forebear, has two houses. But unlike Congress, one is clearly more powerful than the other and can override the less powerful one during an impasse.

The story was largely the same in defeated Nazi Germany, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, which all emerged from American occupation with constitutions that look little like the one Madison and the other framers wrote. They have the same democratic values, sure, but different ways of realizing them. According to researchers who analyzed all 729 constitutions adopted between 1946 and 2006, the U.S. Constitution is rarely used as a model. What's more, "the American example is being rejected to an even greater extent by America's allies than by the global community at large," write David Law of Washington University and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia.

That's a not a fluke. The American system was designed with plenty of checks and balances, but the Founders assumed the elites elected to Congress would sort things out. They didn't plan for the political parties that emerged almost immediately after ratification, and they certainly didn't plan for Ted Cruz. And factionalism isn't the only problem. Belgium, a country whose ethnic divisions make our partisan sparring look like a thumb war, was unable to form a governing coalition for 589 days in 2010 and 2011. Nevertheless, the government stayed open and fulfilled its duties almost without interruption, thanks to a smarter institutional arrangement.

America is the only presidentialist system (I.e. a separately elected legislature and executive) that hasn't lapsed into dictatorship.

Literally every single other presidentialist system in the world has failed.

It's only a matter of time before ours fails as well.
"There are about 30 countries, mostly in Latin America, that have adopted American-style systems. All of them, without exception, have succumbed to the Linzian nightmare at one time or another, often repeatedly," according to Yale constitutional law professor Bruce Ackerman, who calls for a transition to a parliamentary system. By "Linzian nightmare," Ackerman means constitutional crisis—your full range of political violence, revolution, coup, and worse. But well short of war, you can end up in a state of "crisis governance," he writes. "President and house may merely indulge a taste for endless backbiting, mutual recrimination, and partisan deadlock. Worse yet, the contending powers may use the constitutional tools at their disposal to make life miserable for each other: The house will harass the executive, and the president will engage in unilateral action whenever he can get away with it." He wrote that almost a decade and a half ago, long before anyone had heard of Barack Obama, let alone the Tea Party.

Lots of conservatives asking if I know about the house of representatives or the Connecticut compromise.

Yes.

Have you heard about the perils of presidentialism? https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016/10/21/13352990/presidency-flawed-constitution-dictator-trump

Or how our constitution is inherently undemocratic? https://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1122&context=facpub

You should!

The point isn't what the founders intended: the point is that if we started out writing a new constitution today, no one would suggest we create two houses, including one that disproportionally empowers people from small states.

We'd create a government that looks like America.

The founders do not have a monopoly on wisdom, knowledge or experience. Their constitution was designed for wealthy land owning white men.

We need an electoral system that's designed to represent the American people - all of us - for the first time in our history."
us  government  presidency  constitution  law  democracy  presidentialism  2018  maxberger  governance  donaldtrump  elections  constitutionalcrisis  representation  elcectoralsystems 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | Be Afraid of Economic ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid. - The New York Times
"There are many differences between the situation in 1930s and our predicament today. But given what we know, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are conducting a dangerous economic and political experiment: We have chosen to weaken the laws — the antitrust laws — that are meant to resist the concentration of economic power in the United States and around the world.

From a political perspective, we have recklessly chosen to tolerate global monopolies and oligopolies in finance, media, airlines, telecommunications and elsewhere, to say nothing of the growing size and power of the major technology platforms. In doing so, we have cast aside the safeguards that were supposed to protect democracy against a dangerous marriage of private and public power.

Unfortunately, there are abundant signs that we are suffering the consequences, both in the United States and elsewhere. There is a reason that extremist, populist leaders like Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Xi Jinping of China and Viktor Orban of Hungary have taken center stage, all following some version of the same script. And here in the United States, we have witnessed the anger borne of ordinary citizens who have lost almost any influence over economic policy — and by extension, their lives. The middle class has no political influence over their stagnant wages, tax policy, the price of essential goods or health care. This powerlessness is brewing a powerful feeling of outrage."



"In recent years, we have allowed unhealthy consolidations of hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry; accepted an extraordinarily concentrated banking industry, despite its repeated misfeasance; failed to prevent firms like Facebook from buying up their most effective competitors; allowed AT&T to reconsolidate after a well-deserved breakup in the 1980s; and the list goes on. Over the last two decades, more than 75 percent of United States industries have experienced an increase in concentration, while United States public markets have lost almost 50 percent of their publicly traded firms.

There is a direct link between concentration and the distortion of democratic process. As any undergraduate political science major could tell you, the more concentrated an industry — the fewer members it has — the easier it is to cooperate to achieve its political goals. A group like the middle class is hopelessly disorganized and has limited influence in Congress. But concentrated industries, like the pharmaceutical industry, find it easy to organize to take from the public for their own benefit. Consider the law preventing Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices: That particular lobbying project cost the industry more than $100 million — but it returns some $15 billion a year in higher payments for its products.

We need to figure out how the classic antidote to bigness — the antitrust and other antimonopoly laws — might be recovered and updated to address the specific challenges of our time. For a start, Congress should pass a new Anti-Merger Act reasserting that it meant what it said in 1950, and create new levels of scrutiny for mega-mergers like the proposed union of T-Mobile and Sprint.

But we also need judges who better understand the political as well as economic goals of antitrust. We need prosecutors willing to bring big cases with the courage of trustbusters like Theodore Roosevelt, who brought to heel the empires of J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, and with the economic sophistication of the men and women who challenged AT&T and Microsoft in the 1980s and 1990s. Europe needs to do its part as well, blocking more mergers, especially those like Bayer’s recent acquisition of Monsanto that threaten to put entire global industries in just a few hands.

The United States seems to constantly forget its own traditions, to forget what this country at its best stands for. We forget that America pioneered a kind of law — antitrust — that in the words of Roosevelt would “teach the masters of the biggest corporations in the land that they were not, and would not be permitted to regard themselves as, above the law.” We have forgotten that antitrust law had more than an economic goal, that it was meant fundamentally as a kind of constitutional safeguard, a check against the political dangers of unaccountable private power.

As the lawyer and consumer advocate Robert Pitofsky warned in 1979, we must not forget the economic origins of totalitarianism, that “massively concentrated economic power, or state intervention induced by that level of concentration, is incompatible with liberal, constitutional democracy.”"
timwu  economics  monopolies  history  bigness  scale  size  2018  telecommunications  healthcare  medicine  governance  democracy  fascism  government  influence  power  bigpharma  law  legal  robertpitofsky  consolidation  mergers  lobbying  middleclass  class  inequality 
november 2018 by robertogreco
John Warner on Twitter: "So It looks like the whole damn thing is rotten to its core with lots of powerful, privileged people protecting each other from scrutiny or punishment. Of course we all know this has been going on, but it's rare that it's exposed
"So It looks like the whole damn thing is rotten to its core with lots of powerful, privileged people protecting each other from scrutiny or punishment. Of course we all know this has been going on, but it's rare that it's exposed quite this openly.John Warner added,

[quoting @sarahposner (https://twitter.com/sarahposner/status/1042782775168958464 ):
"'No accident' Brett Kavanaugh's female law clerks 'looked like models', Yale professor told students https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/20/brett-kavanaugh-supreme-court-yale-amy-chua
A top professor at Yale Law School who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a “mentor to women” privately told a group of law students last year that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him, the Guardian has learned.

Amy Chua, a Yale professor who wrote a bestselling book on parenting called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was known for instructing female law students who were preparing for interviews with Kavanaugh on ways they could dress to exude a “model-like” femininity to help them win a post in Kavanaugh’s chambers, according to sources.
]

What's interesting is how mundane all this is to the people inside the privileged spaces. This is just how things work for them, powerful men who get to prey upon women to varying degrees, with women who are granted admittance to that club willing to be some of the enforcers.

This is the meritocracy at work. As someone who has moved in meritocracy-adjacent spaces, but never joined, I've always known the meritocracy was total bullshit based on the people I knew who were inside it, but maybe, just maybe, the lid is being peeled back a bit.

I'm highly skeptical that these revelations will have any impact on the meritocracy, places like Yale/Harvard, the Supreme Court. Ultimately, these places are about power and no group in power has ever relinquished it willingly. The only alternative is to shift the locus of power

At the least, we should end the fiction that these privileged institutions are places of great wisdom or probity, rooted in enduring values. They're among the most corrupt places we have. Note this from the Guardian story about how Kavanaugh likes his female clerks to look.

[image: "Sources who spoke to the Guardian about their experiences with Chua and Rubenfeld would only speak under the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution and damage to their future careers."]

Those who are telling the truth know that to tell the truth publicly about the cesspool they're required to navigate would result in expulsion from the group. Next time someone says someone like Kavanaugh comes from the "best" places, remember it's more like the opposite.

The deep irony is that if all that these people are up to was truly known and exposed, a huge proportion of those coming out of these elite law schools would never be able to pass the American Bar Association's ethics requirement.

Here's how one of the court chroniclers of the meritocracy tries to thread the needle on the accusations. It should be embarrassing to commit this opinion into print, but to hold onto the perch, must placate the powerful while giving a sop to audience. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-there-a-kavanaugh-doppelganger/2018/09/18/88418f52-bb86-11e8-a8aa-860695e7f3fc_story.html

I mean can we believe for even a second that this is Kathleen Parker's genuine opinion? How foolish do they expect us to be? Don't answer that. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-there-a-kavanaugh-doppelganger/2018/09/18/88418f52-bb86-11e8-a8aa-860695e7f3fc_story.html

This Chua statement at the end of the Guardian article is an illustration of the self-reinforcing insularity of the meritocracy. In her mind, Kavanaugh only hires the most qualified clerks because so many are go on to the SC, as though the network of connections didn't matter.

[image: "The couple have hired a well-known crisis communications expert but he did not respond to specific questions from the Guardian about Chua’s remarks or the internal investigation.

In an emailed statement, Chua told the Guardian: “For the more than 10 years I’ve known him, Judge Kavanaugh’s first and only litmus test in hiring has been excellence. He hires only the most qualified clerks, and they have been diverse as well as exceptionally talented and capable.

“There is good reason so many of them have gone on to supreme court clerkships; he only hires those who are extraordinarily qualified. As I wrote in the Wall Street Journal, he has also been an exceptional mentor to his female clerks and a champion of their careers. Among my proudest moments as a parent was the day I learned our daughter would join those ranks.”"]

Consider the psychology underpinning this. Amy Chua is convinced she's helping identify the best, a very important perch, and it matters little that she may be perpetuating sexist and abusive practices as long as these people are reaching the heights of SC clerkships.

It's as thought success inside the meritocracy absolves all previous sins (if they were sins to begin with). If you achieve the spoils, who cares about who or what was damaged on the way? The connections to Chua's tiger mom-ing seem obvious.

Chua and her husband's championing of self-control is also interesting here. Apparently one of the things you're supposed to have self-control over is reporting potentially predatory behavior by powerful people. Chua new about Kozinski for years. Great ethics there.

In sum, those elite spaces are always going to be totally fucked up and if you want to play in those circles you figure out how to justify either tolerating and/or doing some fucked up shit. That we let these people run our most important and powerful institutions is a scandal.

When you hear that someone came out of an exclusive D.C. prep school, Yale undergrad and Yale law, we shouldn't be thinking how great they are, but instead wondering what kind of fucked up shit they've seen or done in order to navigate in such corrupt spaces.

Like a good way to trip up a Kavanaugh-type in an hearing would be to just say: Where did you and friends bury the drifter you hit with the car when you were driving home drunk from the Cape that one summer, and their eyes will go wide and they'll say, "How did you know?"

Now dreaming of a future where a big appointment is announced: Prep school educated, Yale undergrad, Yale law, Supreme Court clerkship, and the public knows to say, "Uh-oh."""
johnwarner  meritocracy  corruption  elitism  2018  privilege  brettkavanaugh  amychua  jedrubenfeld  collusion  politics  scotus  donaldtrump  ivyleague  law  legal  alexkozinski 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Gospels of Giving for the New Gilded Age | The New Yorker
"Are today’s donor classes solving problems—or creating new ones?"



"
We live, it is often said, in a new Gilded Age—an era of extravagant wealth and almost as extravagant displays of generosity. In the past fifteen years, some thirty thousand private foundations have been created, and the number of donor-advised funds has roughly doubled. The Giving Pledge—signed by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Larry Ellison, and more than a hundred and seventy other gazillionaires who have promised to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy—is the “Gospel” stripped down and updated. And as the new philanthropies have proliferated so, too, have the critiques.

Anand Giridharadas is a journalist who, in 2011, was named a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. The institute is financed by, among other groups, the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Gates Foundation. The fellowship, according to its Web site, aims to “develop the next generation of community-spirited leaders” by engaging them “in a thought-provoking journey of personal exploration.”

Giridharadas at first found the fellowship to be a pretty sweet deal; it offered free trips to the Rockies and led to invitations from the sorts of people who own Western-themed mansions and fly private jets. After a while, though, he started to feel that something was rotten in the state of Colorado. In 2015, when he was asked to deliver a speech to his fellow-fellows, he used it to condemn what he called “the Aspen Consensus.”

“The Aspen Consensus, in a nutshell, is this,” he said. “The winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm.” The speech made the Times; people began asking for copies of it; and Giridharadas decided to expand on it. The result is “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.” “I hadn’t planned to write a book on this topic, but the topic chose me,” he writes."



"Inside Philanthropy is a Web site devoted to high-end giving; its tagline is “Who’s Funding What, and Why.” David Callahan is the site’s founder and editor. If Giridharadas worries that the super-wealthy just play at changing the world, Callahan worries they’re going at it in earnest.

“An ever larger and richer upper class is amplifying its influence through large-scale giving in an era when it already has too much clout,” he writes in “The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age.” “Things are going to get worse, too.”

Part of the problem, according to Callahan, lies in the broad way that philanthropy has been defined. Under the federal tax code, an organization that feeds the hungry can count as a philanthropy, and so can a university where students study the problem of hunger, and so, too, can a think tank devoted to downplaying hunger as a problem. All these qualify as what are known, after the relevant tax-code provision, as 501(c)(3)s, meaning that the contributions they receive are tax deductible, and that the earnings on their endowments are largely tax-free. 501(c)(3)s are prohibited from engaging in partisan activity, but, as “The Givers” convincingly argues, activists on both sides of the ideological divide have developed work-arounds.

As a left-leaning example, Callahan cites Tim Gill, who’s been called “the megadonor behind the L.G.B.T.Q.-rights movement.” A software designer, Gill became rich founding and then selling a company called Quark, and he’s donated more than three hundred million dollars toward promoting L.G.B.T.Q. rights. While some of this has been in the form of straight-up political contributions, much of it has been disbursed by Gill’s tax-exempt foundation, which has financed educational efforts, message testing, and—perhaps most important—legal research. “Without a doubt, we would not be where we are without Tim Gill and the Gill Foundation,” Mary Bonauto, the attorney who argued the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage, told Rolling Stone last year.

On the right, Callahan points to Art Pope, the chairman of a privately held discount-store chain called Variety Wholesalers. Pope has used his wealth to support a network of foundations, based in North Carolina, that advocate for voter-identification—or, if you prefer, voter-suppression—laws. In 2013, pushed by Pope’s network, the North Carolina state legislature enacted a measure requiring residents to present state-issued photo I.D.s at the polls. Then the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law—another Pope-funded group—led the effort to block challenges to the measure. (The I.D. law was struck down, in 2016, by a federal appeals court that held it had been “passed with racially discriminatory intent.”)

It is difficult to say what fraction of philanthropic giving goes toward shaping public policy. Callahan estimates that the figure is somewhere around ten billion dollars a year. Such an amount, he says, might not sound huge, but it’s more than the annual contributions made to candidates, parties, and super-pacs combined. The result is doubly undemocratic. For every billion dollars spent on advocacy tricked out as philanthropy, several hundred million dollars in uncaptured taxes are lost to the federal treasury.

“It’s not just that the megaphones operated by 501(c)(3) groups and financed by a sliver of rich donors have gotten louder and louder, making it harder for ordinary citizens to be heard,” Callahan notes. “It’s that these citizens are helping foot the bill.” That both liberals and conservatives are exploiting the tax code is small consolation.

“When it comes to who gets heard in the public square, ordinary citizens can’t begin to compete with an activist donor class,” Callahan writes. “How many very rich people need to care intensely about a cause to finance megaphones that drown out the voices of everyone else?” he asks. “Not many.”"



"
Critiques of “The Gospel of Wealth” didn’t have much impact on Andrew Carnegie. He continued to distribute his fortune, to libraries and museums and universities, until, at the time of his death, in 1919, he had given away some three hundred and fifty million dollars—the equivalent of tens of billions in today’s money. It is hard to imagine that the critiques of the new Carnegies will do much to alter current trend lines.

The Gates Foundation alone, Callahan estimates, will disburse more than a hundred and fifty billion dollars over the next several decades. In just the next twenty years, affluent baby boomers are expected to contribute almost seven trillion dollars to philanthropy. And, the more government spending gets squeezed, the more important nongovernmental spending will become. When congressional Republicans passed their so-called tax-reform bill, they preserved the deduction for charitable contributions even as they capped the deduction for state and local tax payments. Thus, a hundred-million-dollar gift to Harvard will still be fully deductible, while, in many parts of the country, the property taxes paid to support local public schools will not be. It is possible that in the not too distant future philanthropic giving will outstrip federal outlays on non-defense discretionary programs, like education and the arts. This would represent, Callahan notes, a “striking milestone.”

Is that the kind of future we want? As the latest round of critiques makes clear, we probably won’t have much of a say in the matter. The philanthropists will decide, and then it will be left to their foundations to fight it out."
philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  2018  elizabethkolbert  charity  philanthropy  inequality  andrewcarnegie  gildedage  inequity  disparity  wealth  inheritance  hughpricehughes  society  williamjewetttucker  patronage  ethics  wealthdistribution  exploitation  billgates  warrenbuffett  michaelbloomberg  larryellison  anandgiridharadas  aspenconsensus  georgesoros  socialentrepreneurship  laurietisch  darrenwalker  change  democracy  henrykravis  billclinton  davidcallahan  power  taxes  thinktanks  nonprofit  activism  timgill  publicpolicy  politics  economics  us  influence  artpope  votersuppression  law  superpacs  donaldtrump  equality  robertreich  nonprofits  capitalism  control 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Should Rivers Have Rights? A Growing Movement Says It’s About Time - Yale E360
"Inspired by indigenous views of nature, a movement to grant a form of legal “personhood” to rivers is gaining some ground — a key step, advocates say, in reversing centuries of damage inflicted upon the world’s waterways."
rivers  rights  nature  multispecies  morethanhuman  2018  personhood  chile  ecosystems  law  legal  jensbenöhr  patricklynch  indigeneity 
august 2018 by robertogreco
How Crossing the Border Became a Crime
"He believed the US “should absolutely bar from our shores all races which are not naturalizable under the law of the land and all individuals of all races who are physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually undesirable.” He advocated “selective immigration,” “so that America may not be a conglomeration of racial groups […] but a homogeneous race striving for the fulfillment of the ideals upon which this Government was founded.” He supported “scientific testing” of immigrants in their home countries. His was a purely eugenicist approach to immigration. And some of his rhetoric is shamefully reminiscent of modern Republican rhetoric on immigration: He described immigrants’ harrowing stories of persecution in Europe as “sob stories,” saying “these ‘sob stories’ and especially European propaganda with which the country has lately been flooded are simply designed to break down the 3 per cent restriction immigration law.”

In 1929, Sen. Coleman Blease proposed an immigration act that would criminalize illegal entry, and it was passed that March. As Ian McDougall wrote for ProPublica this month, Blease saw Davis’ idea of criminalizing illegal entry as “a way to advance his vision of a white America.” (Blease was a rabid white supremacist, who defended lynching and introduced a constitutional amendment to punish individuals who engaged in interracial marriage.) The bill made it punishable by a $1,000 fine or imprisonment of up to two years to re-enter the United States after having been deported, and made illegal entry a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year.

As the historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez argues, while the law would affect any immigrant who entered illegally, it was specifically intended “as a measure to control and punish unlawful Mexican immigrants.” It did not make illegal presence a crime, a distinction which lasts to this day. It did so, according to Hernandez, to respect court precedent: in Wing Wong v. United States, the court had ruled that “the detention of non-citizens was valid only to facilitate the ‘expulsion of aliens.’” Criminalizing unlawful presence was tricky, but criminalizing illegal entry could have the same desired effect: of deterring the kind of immigrants white America didn’t want."
racism  us  law  border  borders  immigration  migration 
june 2018 by robertogreco
#GeniusTweeter on Twitter: "The Midwest Academy Manual for Activist quotes a consultant who was speaking to a group of corporate executives about some of the *tricks* your opponents will use against you.… https://t.co/FGK2Gw2jPs"
"The Midwest Academy Manual for Activists [http://www.midwestacademy.com/manual/ ] quotes a consultant who was speaking to a group of corporate executives about some of the *tricks* your opponents will use against you.
The authors describe it as: "You are reasonable but your allies aren't. Can, we just deal with you?"... In this tactic, institutions resisting change can divide coalitions, decreasing their power and tempering their demands, by bringing those who have the most invested in the status quo into the Inner circle" to negotiate, in theory, for the full group's interests..? Lawyers often have an easier time getting meetings with decision makers precisely because we are seen as more "reasonable," i.e., amenable to the status quo, and we are too often tempted to accept this access rather than insisting on solidarity with more radical leaders from affected communities...

The manual quotes a consultant speaking to a group of corporate executives to explain this tactic,
Activists fall into three basic categories: radicals, idealists, and realists. The first step is to isolate and marginalize the radicals. They're the ones who see inherent structural problems that need remedying if indeed a particular change is to occur..' The goal is to sour the idealists on the idea of working with the radicals. Instead, get them working with the realists. Realists are people who want reform, but don't really want to upset the status quo; big public interest organizations that rely on foundation grants and corporate contributions are a prime example. With correct handling, realists can be counted on to cut a deal with industry that can be touted as a 'win-win" solution, but that is actually an industry victory.

"There's more to what the consultant advises the corporate executives:
"To isolate them (the radicals), try to create the perception in the public mind that people advocating fundamental solutions are terrorists, extremists, fear mongers, outsiders, communists, or whatever.+"
https://twitter.com/prisonculture/status/962360911225937920

"After marginalizing the radicals, then identify and educate the idealists - concerned and sympathetic members of the public -- by convincing them that changes advocated by the radicals would hurt people.""
https://twitter.com/prisonculture/status/962361148841627649 ]
idealists  idealism  activism  activists  radicals  radicalism  radicalists  centrists  statusquo  elitism  policy  politics  institutions  corporatism  democrats  republicans  marginalization  race  racism  cooption  power  control  corporations  law  lawyers  solidarity  leadership  reform  change  changemaking  fear  outsiders  communists  communism  inequality  oppression  perpetuation  terrorism  extremism  perception  messaging  mariamekaba 
february 2018 by robertogreco
John Perry Barlow gave internet activists only half the mission they need.
"It was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, of all places, where John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996. That might have been an odd place for a poet and former Grateful Dead lyricist to pen a foundational document of internet activism, but it was also an apt one: Barlow’s manifesto, and the movement it undergirds, helped give us the dynamic—but also often deleteriously corporatized—internet we have today.

Barlow died on Wednesday at the age of 71. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the cyber civil liberties organization that he co-founded in 1990—where I used to work—shared in a blog post that he passed quietly in his sleep. He leaves us a legacy that has shaped the mission of the people fighting for the open internet. That mission is an incomplete one."



"I can’t help but ask what might have happened had the pioneers of the open web given us a different vision—one that paired the insistence that we must defend cyberspace with a concern for justice, human rights, and open creativity, and not primarily personal liberty. What kind of internet would we have today?"

[via:https://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hewn-no-252 ]
johnperrybarlow  individualism  californianideology  libertarianism  internet  web  online  2018  open  openness  creativity  liberty  cyberspace  justice  socialjustice  humanrights  race  racism  inclusion  inclusivity  openweb  aprilglaser  government  governance  law  eff  policy  corporatism  surveillance  edwardsnowden  nsa  netneutrality  sopa  pipa  fcc  privilege  power  prejudice 
february 2018 by robertogreco
After Tax Cuts Derailed the ‘California Dream,’ Can the State Get Back on Track? | The California Dream | The California Report | KQED News
"In essence, Proposition 13 became the first shot across the bow in a series of referendums some dubbed “racial propositions” that reached their apogee with Proposition 187, the famous 1994 measure that sought to cut off nearly all public services, including education, to undocumented immigrants.

That was followed by voter-approved measures to ban affirmative action, eliminate bilingual education and expand a prison system marred by racial disproportionality in its sentencing and rates of incarceration.

That Prop 13 itself was a sort of generational warfare with overtones of race was clear in its structure. Since the assessment didn’t increase more than 2 percent unless property changed hands, incumbent homeowners (who were older and whiter) wouldn’t see their tax burden change much as long as they didn’t sell. Meanwhile, new homeowners (more likely to be younger, minority and eventually immigrant) would have to pay higher tax rates and thus bear a disproportionate share of the costs of local services.

And that wasn’t the only bias against the future. The requirement for a supermajority to pass legislation to raise taxes effectively constrained the ability of future state governments to pour in the sort of money that had built the state’s famed transportation, water and university systems.

The Consequences

The immediate damage from Prop 13, however, was masked. When local property tax revenues quickly fell by about 60 percent, the state government stepped in to fill the gaps.

But over time, the damaging effects of Proposition 13 in terms of education spending and income inequality became increasingly apparent. In the 1960s, California ranked among the top 10 states in terms of per-pupil spending. By 2014, its ranking had plunged to as low as 46. And while California’s level of income inequality was in the middle of the pack nationally in 1969, it is now the fourth most unequal state in the country.

While Proposition 13 was the not the only culprit behind these trends, it didn’t help. About half of the total residential property tax relief provided by Prop 13 went to homeowners with incomes in excess of US$120,000 a year – or about 15 percent of all households.

And because the property tax was no longer a growing source of revenue for local governments, cities and counties had more reason to chase sales taxes with retail development and less incentive to promote housing, helping to set in motion the severe housing shortage that wracks the state today.

The final irony is that Prop 13 – a measure promoted by those in favor of smaller government – pushed authority and decision-making to the state capitol, which became the main source to bail out local municipalities.

Efforts to Change It

So why has Proposition 13 not been overturned?

Its political appeal remains, particularly to older residents who vote and to businesses worried about any increase in taxes. Efforts to keep the protections for residential homeowners but allow commercial and industrial property to be assessed at market rates – a so-called “split roll” – have failed or stalled and currently command the thinnest possible majority in public polling.

So while the split role remains a goal for some reformers, many concerned about the effects of Prop 13 have simply tried to raise taxes elsewhere to offset the lost revenue. California voters approved a temporary “millionaire’s tax” in 2012 and its long-term extension in 2016. And more than two-thirds of voting taxpayers in Los Angeles County approved sales tax hikes in 2008 and 2016 that will generate $160 billion over the next 40 years for transportation investments ranging from rail expansion to highway improvement to new bike paths.

But such tinkering does not solve the fundamental problems with Prop 13 that I’ve noted above. Addressing those will require a new set of conversations about optimal tax policy and how to address legitimate concerns such as how to protect older homeowners with a fixed income from the potential end of Prop 13.

California – and the Country – at a Crossroads

Unfortunately, the same demographic shifts, economic anxieties and political polarization that spurred Prop 13 have since gone national. The president’s plan to “Make America Great Again” similarly involves slashing taxes while underinvesting in education and social services – the kinds of investments that actually made America great in the 20th century.

California has the opportunity to show the nation how to get this right and invest in our future and our collective dreams rather than shortchange them. And a growing number of voices, including local governments, unions and political groups, are calling for reform.

The ConversationSo while the discussion about Prop 13 might seem to be about a few obscure tax rules, it is highly symbolic: At stake is the future of the state and, indeed, the nation. A day of reckoning for a measure that seems increasingly out of date may soon be upon us."
proposition13  california  law  education  finance  racism  race  2017  generations  infrastructure  cities  municipalities  inequality  manuelpastor  taxes  government 
november 2017 by robertogreco
The Oxford comma: A Maine court settled the grammar debate over serial commas with a ruling on overtime pay for dairy-truck drivers — Quartz
"A Maine court ruling in a case about overtime pay and dairy delivery didn’t come down to trucks, milk, or money. Instead, it hinged on one missing comma.

Delivery drivers for local milk and cream company Oakhurst Dairy have been tussling with their employers over whether they qualify for overtime. On March 13, a US court of appeals determined that certain clauses of Maine’s overtime laws are grammatically ambiguous. Because of that lack of clarity, the five drivers have won their lawsuit against Oakhurst, and are eligible for unpaid overtime.

The profoundly nerdy ruling is also a win for anyone who dogmatically defends the serial comma."
oxford  commas  punctuation  grammar  law  writing  2017  maine  serialcomma 
march 2017 by robertogreco
A lawyer rewrote Instagram's terms of service for kids. Now you can understand all of the private data you and your teen are giving up to social media — Quartz
"– Officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world. Other people might pay us to use them and we will not pay you for that.

– […] we may keep, use and share your personal information with companies connected with Instagram. This information includes your name, email address, school, where you live, pictures, phone number, your likes and dislikes, where you go, who your friends are, how often you use Instagram, and any other personal information we find such as your birthday or who you are chatting with, including in private messages (DMs).

– We might send you adverts connected to your interests which we are monitoring. You cannot stop us doing this and it will not always be obvious that it is an advert.

– We can change or end Instagram, or stop you accessing Instagram at any time, for any reason and without letting you know in advance. We can also delete posts and other content randomly, without telling you, for any reason. If we do this, we will not be responsible for paying out any money and you won’t have any right to complain.

– We can force you to give up your username for any reason.

– We can, but do not have to, remove, edit, block and/or monitor anything posted or any accounts that we think breaks any of these rules. We are not responsible if somebody breaks the law or breaks these rules; but if you break them, you are responsible."
instagram  facebook  privacy  security  tos  termsofservice  2017  law  parenting 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger: The Nature of Mass Demonstrations (Autumn 1968)
"Seventy years ago (on 6 May 1898) there was a massive demonstration of workers, men and women, in the centre of Milan. The events which led up to it involve too long a history to treat with here. The demonstration was attacked and broken up by the army under the command of General Beccaris. At noon the cavalry charged the crowd: the unarmed workers tried to make barricades: martial law was declared and for three days the army fought against the unarmed.

The official casualty figures were 100 workers killed and 450 wounded. One policeman was killed accidentally by a soldier. There were no army casualties. (Two years later Umberto I was assassinated because after the massacre he publicly congratulated General Beccaris, the ‘butcher of Milan.’)

I have been trying to understand certain aspects of the demonstration in the Corso Venezia on 6 May because of a story I am writing. In the process I came to a few conclusions about demonstrations which may perhaps be more widely applicable.

Mass demonstrations should be distinguished from riots or revolutionary uprisings although, under certain (now rare) circumstances, they may develop into either of the latter. The aims of a riot are usually immediate (the immediacy matching the desperation they express): the seizing of food, the release of prisoners, the destruction of property. The aims of a revolutionary uprising are long-term and comprehensive: they culminate in the taking over of State power. The aims of a demonstration, however, are symbolic: it demonstrates a force that is scarcely used.

A large number of people assemble together in an obvious and already announced public place. They are more or less unarmed. (On 6 May 1898, entirely unarmed.) They present themselves as a target to the forces of repression serving the State authority against whose policies they are protesting.

Theoretically demonstrations are meant to reveal the strength of popular opinion or feeling: theoretically they are an appeal to the democratic conscience of the State. But this presupposes a conscience which is very unlikely to exist.

If the State authority is open to democratic influence, the demonstration will hardly be necessary; if it is not, it is unlikely to be influenced by an empty show of force containing no real threat. (A demonstration in support of an already established alternative State authority – as when Garibaldi entered Naples in 1860 – is a special case and may be immediately effective.)

Demonstrations took place before the principle of democracy was even nominally admitted. The massive early Chartist demonstrations were part of the struggle to obtain such an admission. The crowds who gathered to present their petition to the Tsar in St Petersburg in 1905 were appealing – and presenting themselves as a target – to the ruthless power of an absolute monarchy. In the event – as on so many hundreds of other occasions all over Europe – they were shot down.

It would seem that the true function of demonstrations is not to convince the existing State authority to any significant degree. Such an aim is only a convenient rationalisation.

The truth is that mass demonstrations are rehearsals for revolution: not strategic or even tactical ones, but rehearsals of revolutionary awareness. The delay between the rehearsals and the real performance may be very long: their quality – the intensity of rehearsed awareness – may, on different occasions, vary considerably: but any demonstration which lacks this element of rehearsal is better described as an officially encouraged public spectacle.

A demonstration, however much spontaneity it may contain, is a created event which arbitrarily separates itself from ordinary life. Its value is the result of its artificiality, for therein lies its prophetic, rehearsing possibilities.

A mass demonstration distinguishes itself from other mass crowds because it congregates in public to create its function, instead of forming in response to one: in this, it differs from any assembly of workers within their place of work – even when strike action is involved – or from any crowd of spectators. It is an assembly which challenges what is given by the mere fact of its coming together.

State authorities usually lie about the number of demonstrators involved. The lie, however, makes little difference. (It would only make a significant difference if demonstrations really were an appeal to the democratic conscience of the State.) The importance of the numbers involved is to be found in the direct experience of those taking part in or sympathetically witnessing the demonstration. For them the numbers cease to be numbers and become the evidence of their senses, the conclusions of their imagination. The larger the demonstration, the more powerful and immediate (visible, audible, tangible) a metaphor it becomes for their total collective strength.

I say metaphor because the strength thus grasped transcends the potential strength of those present, and certainly their actual strength as deployed in a demonstration. The more people there are there, the more forcibly they represent to each other and to themselves those who are absent. In this way a mass demonstration simultaneously extends and gives body to an abstraction. Those who take part become more positively aware of how they belong to a class. Belonging to that class ceases to imply a common fate, and implies a common opportunity. They begin to recognise that the function of their class need no longer be limited: that it, too, like the demonstrations itself, can create its own function.

Revolutionary awareness is rehearsed in another way by the choice and effect of location. Demonstrations are essentially urban in character, and they are usually planned to take place as near as possible to some symbolic centre, either civic or national. Their ‘targets’ are seldom the strategic ones – railway stations, barracks, radio stations, airports. A mass demonstration can be interpreted as the symbolic capturing of a city or capital. Again, the symbolism or metaphor is for the benefit of the participants.

The demonstration, an irregular event created by the demonstrators, nevertheless takes place near the city centre, intended for very different uses. The demonstrators interrupt the regular life of the streets they march through or of the open spaces they fill. They ‘cut off these areas, and, not yet having the power to occupy them permanently, they transform them into a temporary stage on which they dramatise the power they still lack.

The demonstrators’ view of the city surrounding their stage also changes. By demonstrating, they manifest a greater freedom and independence – a greater creativity, even although the product is only symbolic – than they can ever achieve individually or collectively when pursuing their regular lives. In their regular pursuits they only modify circumstances; by demonstrating they symbolically oppose their very existence to circumstances.

This creativity may be desperate in origin, and the price to be paid for it high, but it temporarily changes their outlook. They become corporately aware that it is they or those whom they represent who have built the city and who maintain it. They see it through different eyes. They see it as their product, confirming their potential instead of reducing it.

Finally, there is another way in which revolutionary awareness is rehearsed. The demonstrators present themselves as a target to the so-called forces of law and order. Yet the larger the target they present, the stronger they feel. This cannot be explained by the banal principle of ‘strength in numbers,’ any more than by vulgar theories of crowd psychology. The contradiction between their actual vulnerability and their sense of invincibility corresponds to the dilemma which they force upon the State authority.

Either authority must abdicate and allow the crowd to do as it wishes: in which case the symbolic suddenly becomes real, and, even if the crowd’s lack of organisation and preparedness prevents it from consolidating its victory, the event demonstrates the weakness of authority. Or else authority must constrain and disperse the crowd with violence: in which case the undemocratic character of such authority is publicly displayed. The imposed dilemma is between displayed weakness and displayed authoritarianism. (The officially approved and controlled demonstration does not impose the same dilemma: its symbolism is censored: which is why I term it a mere public spectacle.) Almost invariably, authority chooses to use force. The extent of its violence depends upon many factors, but scarcely ever upon the scale of the physical threat offered by the demonstrators. This threat is essentially symbolic. But by attacking the demonstration authority ensures that the symbolic event becomes an historical one: an event to be remembered, to be learnt from, to be avenged.

It is in the nature of a demonstration to provoke violence upon itself. Its provocation may also be violent. But in the end it is bound to suffer more than it inflicts. This is a tactical truth and an historical one. The historical role of demonstrations is to show the injustice, cruelty, irrationality of the existing State authority. Demonstrations are protests of innocence.

But the innocence is of two kinds, which can only be treated as though they were one at a symbolic level. For the purposes of political analysis and the planning of revolutionary action, they must be separated. There is an innocence to be defended and an innocence which must finally be lost: an innocence which derives from justice, and an innocence which is the consequence of a lack of experience.

Demonstrations express political ambitions before the political means necessary to realise them have been created. Demonstrations predict the realisation of their own ambitions and thus may contribute to that realisation, but they cannot themselves achieve them.

The … [more]
johnberger  demonstrations  1968  revolution  massdemonstrations  assembly  democracy  rehearsal  resistance  awareness  practice  authority  authoritarianism  civics  change  law  order  organization  violence 
january 2017 by robertogreco
An Evening with Lawrence Abu Hamdan | MoMA
"MoMA presents the US premiere of an “audio essay” by Beirut-based Jordanian-British artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, whose work attempts to trace and highlight the relationship between the act of listening and politics, human rights, international law and borders, testimony, and truth. Using audio documentaries and essays, as well as audiovisual installations, Abu Hamdan expresses his fascination with different types of listening at work in today’s legal and political forums. MoMA has recently acquired three important works dealing with similar themes: The Whole Truth, Conflicted Phonemes, and The Aural Contract Audio Archive.

In this new audio essay (a term the artist prefers to “lecture-performance”), he focuses on Saydnaya prison, near Damascus. Working with Forensic Architecture, Amnesty International, and the survivors of Saydnaya, Abu Hamdan captures “ear-witness accounts,” as detainees reconstruct events and the architecture of the prison they experienced through sound. The work raises pivotal questions about the politics of the field known as “forensic listening.”

The artist will be joined for a conversation by Ana Janevski, Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan is a 2015–17 Vera List Center Fellow."

[Casey says:

"he’s… just about the smartest person ever… Super dense speaking/listening/visuals on secret prisons, gunshots, birds.

Precedent for the kind of surveillance we’re dealing with, he argued, isn’t ~the Panopticon~, but Cage’s 4’33 (Silence).

(Listening to foley reconstructions of military prison torture sounds for 2 hrs…"]

[See also:
"What Now? 2015: The Politics of Listening - Keynote presentation by Lawrence Abu Hamdan"
https://vimeo.com/129018344

What Now? 2015: The Politics of Listening
April 24 - 25, 2015
The New School, Anna-Maria & Stephen Kellen Auditorium
66 Fifth Avenue, New York City

What Now? 2015 is a two-day annual symposium, organized by Art in General in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, which investigates critical and timely issues in contemporary art. Dedicated to the topic of “The Politics of Listening,” the 2015 symposium comprises four panel discussions spanning Friday and Saturday, a keynote delivered by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, and a program of sound installations, audio works, film screenings, and performances.

For more information on What Now? 2015: The Politics of Listening, visit:
artingeneral.org/exhibitions/592

Lawrence Abu Hamdan is a multi-media artist with a background in DIY music. In 2015, he was the Armory Show commissioned artist and participated in the New Museum Triennial. The artist’s forensic audio investigations are made as part of the Forensic Architecture research project at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he is also a PhD candidate and associate lecturer. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at institutions such as The Showroom, London; Casco, Utrecht; Beirut, Cairo; and forthcoming at Kunsthalle St Gallen and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.]

[See also:
"LAWRENCE ABU HAMDAN: Introduction"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8UAwxoeIi8

"VOICE ~ CREATURE OF TRANSITION

“[…] the voice is elusive, always changing, becoming, elapsing, with unclear contours […]“ – Mladen Dolar in: A Voice And Nothing More (2006)

Conference- festival that took place from 20-23 March, 2014 at De Brakke Grond, a theater space located in the heart of Amsterdam’s old city center.

Gabriëlle Schleijpen, head of Studium Generale Rietveld Academie invited  Lawrence Abu Hamdan, If I Can’t Dance I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution, Ruth Noack and Mark Beasley to each inaugurate a discursive and performative program of one day.

Thursday March 20

The Right To Silence, curated and presented by Lawrence Abu Hamdan

A daylong exploration of how voices are both heard and silenced; listening itself will be interpreted in its many forms and affects, allowing us to understand both the frontiers of the voice and the tireless battle to govern and contain it.

With contributions by Noah Angell, Ali Kaviani (Silent University), Anna Kipervaser, Maha Mamoun and Haytham El-Wardany, Kobe Matthys (Agence), Niall Moore, James Parker and Tom Rice."]

[And more:

"Artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan Demands the Right to Stay Silent"
http://www.vice.com/read/artist-lawrence-abu-hamdan-demands-the-right-to-stay-silent-981

"THE RIGHT TO SILENCE: An event series in three parts"
http://www.electra-productions.com/projects/2012/silence/overview.shtml

"Lawrence Abu Hamdan on Contra Diction: Speech Against Itself"
http://www.newmuseum.org/calendar/view/452/lawrence-abu-hamdan-s-contra-diction-speech-against-itself

"LAWRENCE ABU HAMDAN: THE POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS OF SOUND AND SILENCE"
http://www.digicult.it/articles/lawrence-abu-hamdan-the-political-implications-of-sound-and-silence/

"The Right To Silence I"
http://www.theshowroom.org/events/the-right-to-silence-i

"The Right To Silence II"
http://www.theshowroom.org/events/the-right-to-silence-ii

"Lawrence Abu Hamdan: Aural Contract: The Freedom of Speech Itself"
http://www.theshowroom.org/exhibitions/lawrence-abu-hamdan-aural-contract-the-freedom-of-speech-itself
http://sound-art-text.com/post/34633829824/lawrence-abu-hamdan-aural-contract-the-freedom ]
via:caseygollan  lawrenceabuhamdan  listening  politcs  humanrights  tolisten  borders  law  internationallaw  testimony  truth  audio  politics  saysnayaprison  damascus  syria  amnestyinternational  forensiclistening  gunshots  birds  soundscapes  classideas  earwitnesses  hearing  anajanecski 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Trust Me - Freakonomics Freakonomics
"Societies where people trust one another are healthier and wealthier. In the U.S. (and the U.K. and elsewhere), social trust has been falling for decades — in part because our populations are more diverse. What can we do to fix it?"



"HALPERN: We almost seem to hardly notice that it’s there. So it’s incredibly consequential and we see it in lots of areas of policy that we touch on.

DUBNER: So you write this about low trust: “Low trust implies a society where you have to keep an eye over your shoulder, where deals need lawyers instead of handshakes, where you don’t see the point of paying your tax or recycling your rubbish since you doubt your neighbor will do so, and where employ your cousin or your brother-in-law to work for you rather than a stranger who’d probably be much better at the job.” So that has all kinds of business and ultimately economic implications. However, when you talk about high trust being good for us on a personal level, whether it’s health or individual income, do the two necessarily go in hand? In other words, can we have a society that has a business climate where there isn’t a lot of trust and, therefore, you do need all those lawyers instead of the handshakes, but where you have good social trust among neighbors, family and friends, communities and so on, or are they really the same thing that you’re talking about?

HALPERN: Well, there is a key distinction and Bob Putnam has often made this too, between what’s sometimes called bonding social capital and bridging social capital.

PUTNAM: Social capital is about social networks. But not all social networks are identical, and one important distinction is between ties that link us to other people like us, that’s called bonding social capital.

HALPERN: Bonding social capital often refers to your closeness to your friends, your relatives, those that are immediately around you. It’s particularly important, it turns out for, things such as health outcomes.

PUTNAM: Because, empirically, if you get sick, the people who are likely to bring you chicken soup are likely to represent your bonding social capital."



"PUTNAM: What strategies I would want to emphasize for moving in a positive direction would be more contexts in which people connect with one another across lines of race or economics or gender or age."



"HALPERN: People that go to university end up trusting much more than those who don’t, particularly when they go away residentially. It doesn’t look like it’s explained by income alone. So there’s something about the experience of going off as a young person in an environment where you have lots of other young people from different backgrounds and so on, hopefully, and different ethnicities. You learn the habits of trust because you’re in an environment where you can trust other people; they are trustworthy. And you internalize these habits and you take them with you the rest of your life. So we tend to not think of going away to university as being the reason why you’re doing it is to build social capital and social trust, we think about learning skills and so on, but it may well be that it has as much, or even more value, in terms of culturing social trust going forward. The question is: do you have to do that in university, can you do it another way? So in the U.K., following partly an American lead, the government has championed a national citizen service. And what this means is for every young person, essentially a 17-year-old, increasingly, starts off with a — not everyone does it alone, but more and more every single year, goes and does voluntary experience, community service. This deliberately includes a couple of weeks which are residential and deliberately includes mixing with people from all different walks of life. Look, it’s only limited data, but in terms of before-and-after data, we see significant impacts in terms of higher levels of trust between groups and individuals, as well as instantly higher levels of life satisfaction and well-being too. So it looks like we can do something about it."



"HALPERN: In the most recent data, it looks like it’s one of the biggest risers. So the Netherlands had pretty similar levels of social trust in the 1980s to America and the U.K., but whereas we have now drifted down towards sort of 30-odd percent, they are now up close to 70 percent in levels of those who think others can be trusted.

DUBNER: What would you say it’s caused by?

HALPERN: Well, I mean, one of the characteristics of the Netherlands, and you have to be a bit careful when you pick off one country, is it has wrestled quite hard with the issues of, not just inequality, but social differences. They’ve really tried to do a lot in relation to making people essentially build cohesion. Particularly Amsterdam, is a very famous area for — it’s long been an extremely multicultural city. It’s had issues over that over time, but they’ve really in a sort of succession of governments have tried to quite actively make groups get along with each other in quite an active way. So that may itself, of course, root in the Netherlands, it’s quite a deep culture of a strong sense of the law, being trustworthy and that contracts will be honored and so on. It’s what helped to power its economic success in previous centuries, so it does have that tradition also to draw on."



"PUTNAM: I looked hard to find explanations and television, I argued, is really bad for social connectivity for many reasons.

“More television watching,” Putnam wrote, “means less of virtually every form of civic participation and social involvement.”

HALPERN: As Bob sometimes put it, I think, rather elegantly, when we were looking forward in terms of technology or the Internet and of course, even pre-Facebook and so on, would it be, in his words, a “fancy television”? In other words, it will isolate us more and more. Or would it be a “fancy telephone” and would connect us more and more? Because technology has both those capabilities. So when I played video games when I was a kid, you basically did them mostly by yourself or with a friend. When I look at my teenage kids playing videos, they’re actually talking to each other all the time. To some extent it looks like, to me, that we get the technology that we want, and even this is true at sort of a societal level. So one of the arguments you can make, in my view is true anyway, by explaining some of these differences in the trajectories across countries is in Anglo-Saxon countries, we’ve often used our wealth to buy technology and other experiences. That means we don’t have to deal with other people — the inconveniences of having to go to a concert where I have to listen to music I really like, I can just stay at home and just watch what I want and so on and choose it. And even in the level of, if I think about my kids versus me growing up, I mean when I was growing up we had one TV and there were five kids in the household. You know, had to really negotiate pretty hard about what we were going to watch. My kids don’t have to do that and probably not yours either. There are more screens in the house than there are people. They can all go off and do their own thing. To some extent, that is us using our wealth to escape from having to negotiate with other people, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Some people and some countries seem to use their wealth more to find ways of connecting more with other people. And the technology has both these capabilities and we can’t just blame it. It’s the choices we’re making and how we use it and the technology which we’re, kind of, asking and bringing forth.

DUBNER: It reminds me a bit of — we once looked into the global decline of hitchhiking, for instance. One of the central reasons being that people no longer trusted strangers to not kill each other, really, is what it boiled down to, even though there was apparently very little killing involved, but just the fear of one. And yet now, Uber is a 60-some billion-dollar company that’s basically all about using technology to lure a complete stranger into your car. Which, I guess, argues, if nothing else, the fact that technology can be harnessed very much in either direction.

HALPERN: That’s right. Indeed, so, as you say, there’s actually two points here, and there’s a really important behavioral one, which I think we’ve only figured out in recent years to bring together these different literatures, how does it relate to behavioral scientists versus those people studying social capital? We look like we have certain systematic biases about how we estimate whether we think other people can be trusted. And in essence, we overestimate quite systematically the prevalence of bad behavior. We overestimate the number of people who are cheating on their taxes or take a sickie off work or do other kinds of bad things. This doesn’t seem to be just the media, although that may reinforce it. It seems to be a bit how we’re wired as human beings. So why is that relevant and why does this have to do with technology? Actually, technology can help you solve some of those issues. So when you’re buying something on eBay or you’re trying to decide where to go using, you know Trip Advisor, you’re actually getting some much better information from the experiences of other people as opposed to your guesstimate, which is often systematically biased. So it turns out it’s a way we can sometimes use technology to solve some of these trust issues. Not just in relation to specific products and “Should I buy this thing from this person?” but, potentially, more generally in relation to how do we trust other people because, ultimately, this social trust question must rest on something. It must be a measure of actual trustworthiness. "
trust  diversity  socialtrust  2016  us  society  socialunity  via:davidtedu  trustworthiness  socialcapital  australia  uk  netherlands  davidhalpern  stephendubner  bobputnam  italy  corruption  socialnetworks  civics  government  governance  community  brazil  brasil  norway  edglaeser  tobymoscowitz  hunterwendelstedt  ethnicity  stockholm  education  colleges  universities  military  athletics  multiculturalism  culture  law  economics  behavior  technology  videogames  socialmedia  television  tv  toolsforconviviality  hitchhiking 
november 2016 by robertogreco
The Long History of America's Constitutionally-Challenged 'Border Zones' | Atlas Obscura
"The extension of Customs and Border Patrol's mandate to a 100-mile zone has alarmed civil liberties' groups for years."

"Recently Maria Abi-Habib, a journalist at the Wall Street Journal, had a troubling experience. As she detailed on Facebook (picked up by Motherboard), customs agents at Los Angeles airport tried to take her phones after grilling her for an hour—something she protested as a violation of her rights. But it went further than that. "My rights as a journalist or U.S. citizen do not apply at the border," she wrote, "since legislation was passed in 2013 giving DHS very broad powers."

This is true, but the meaning of "border", a concept that one normally assumes is a hard line, has been shifting for much longer than that. In particular, a technical definition in federal regulations established in 1953 has resulted in 100-mile “border zones,” sometimes encompassing entire states, and some groups becoming increasingly alarmed by the implications of such wide-ranging border areas.

In 1952, the government authorized the United States Border Patrol (initially established in 1924) to patrol “all territory within 25 miles of a land border” and board and search vehicles for illegal aliens, according to the website of its successor agency, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Immigration officers—then and now—receive their authority from Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Currently, section 287 of Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations authorizes immigration officers to search and interrogate, without warrant, any person suspected of being in the United States illegally within a “reasonable distance” of any external boundary of the United States. In 1953, the Department of Justice amended section 287.1 of 8 CFR to define “reasonable distance” as 100 miles, a distance the American Civil Liberties Union insinuates was arbitrarily determined.

“[O]ther than their presence in these publications, there is no public history as to why the Justice Department chose 100 miles as the ‘reasonable distance’ from the border under the INA. It may simply be that 100 miles has a history of being the distance considered to be reasonable regarding the availability of witnesses for examination, responses to subpoenas, and numerous other discovery issues under other federal laws,” the ACLU notes in their fact sheet on the issue.

Given that over two-thirds of the U.S. population lives within 100 miles of an external boundary, the ACLU and others argue that the 100-mile distance—coupled with the expanded mandates afforded to immigration officers as part of the “wars” on drugs and terrorism—creates “border zones” where ordinary American citizens could be caught up in warrantless searches and interrogations with no legal recourse.

Journalist Todd Miller provided a gripping depiction of the alarming scenario in a 2013 article written for the Nation, which he opened with a dramatic recounting of U.S. citizen Shena Gutierrez’s detention by CBP agents in Arizona:
Shena Gutierrez was already cuffed and in an inspection room in Nogales, Arizona, when the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent grabbed her purse, opened it, and dumped its contents onto the floor right in front of her. There couldn’t be a sharper image of the Bill of Rights rollback we are experiencing in the US borderlands in the post-9/11 era.


While Gutierrez’s story is a gripping reminder of the protections provided by the Bill of Rights—and the brutality that could be visited upon any citizen if those protections are undermined—it’s reasonable to question whether such a blatant violation of citizens’ rights could occur to any person living in Maine, Vermont, or any of the other states entirely within the 100-mile zone without public outcry.

According to a 2013 blog post from the National Constitution Center, the ACLU and other groups are overstating the threats to constitutional rights within the border zone. Citing two 2009 analysis papers from the Congressional Research Service, the NCC argues that because border agents must have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, and because they can only search individuals who have recently crossed the border, most searches should not violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful search and seizure; the NCC does, however, note that searches at border stops and airports do not require reasonable suspicion.

The requirement of “reasonableness” has, in fact, been used by federal courts to uphold the legality of warrantless searches in the border zone, as Kate Huddlestone notes in a legal note published in the Yale Law Journal examining the constitutionality of Texas House Bill 2 vis-a-vis the burden it places on undocumented immigrants within border zones. Essentially, because people live and work in border zones, immigration officers must have a reasonable suspicion to conduct a search; if border zones were purely areas of transit (like an airport), officers could (and, as we all know, do) search everyone, no suspicion required.

Of course, illegal searches can and do happen, all the time. But the 100-mile border zones established over 70 years ago may not be the Constitution-free lands of unauthorized search and seizure some fear. Regardless, the border zones serve as a timely reminder that national borders aren’t as cut-and-dry as putting up a wall."
border  borders  us  mexico  2016  policy  law  legal  airports  transit  migration  canada  maine  vermont  arizona  borderpatrol 
august 2016 by robertogreco
What's deadly dull and can save the world? (Hint: We can't stand it)
"What do poor people need most? Food? Healthcare? Education? The answer is as surprising as it is simple. And it can be found under fluorescent lights and modular ceilings."



"“Do you live here?” I say.

“Yes, over there.” He points his spoon at a shack with a corrugated roof, walls made from advertising signs, and – unusual for this neighborhood – a window, salvaged from a bus, frame and all.

“Have you been here long?”

“Since the earthquake.”

That was five years ago. In the meantime, billions of euros in aid money have been pumped into Haiti, including millions from the Netherlands. Yet Lebrun – along with more than half the country’s population – still lives below the poverty line.

“If you could name one thing that would really change your life, what would it be?” I say. I'm expecting him to say a better house, or more food, or a doctor, or education for his kids. I'm expecting him to mention one of the things relief money often provides.

But Sony Lebrun grins broadly at me, revealing a missing tooth, and says, “What would help me most? A land registry.”

I assume I’ve misheard.

“A land registry,” he repeats, smiling.

A land registry. An agency where you can officially affirm that the land you’re building your house or planting your food on is your own. Lebrun would love to build a brick house, he says. He wants to save up for the materials. But what if someone shows up at his door one day claiming to own the land? His savings would be gone in a heartbeat.

What Lebrun needs is security – security he can build a future on. And he needs agencies to safeguard that security. What Lebrun needs is bureaucracy."



"Development organizations are starting to take notice. Along with food, schoolbooks and mosquito nets, one agency after the other has started donating paperwork, Excel sheets and bookkeeping courses. They call it “capacity building.”

For instance, the OECD sends idealistic experts from the group Tax Inspectors Without Borders to help developing countries. Because poorer nations don’t just suffer from a shortage of tax inspectors: they also often lack the knowledge needed to bring crafty multinationals to book.

British tax veteran Lee Corrick went to Kenya in 2011 to train local inspectors. For years, the Kenyan tax office had had problems with a big multinational company – something to do with tea auction license rights and letters of credit. It sounds overly complicated, and the Kenyans thought so too. But after two workshops with Corrick and a stern talk with the multinational, the Kenyan tax office managed to collect $23 million. In fact, revenues from Kenyan tax inspections doubled after Corrick came to town. And in Colombia, the take increased tenfold after training.

And the effects of Lebrun’s longed-for land registry are being studied in a growing number of developing countries. A few months ago, World Bank researchers published a paper on land registration in Benin. containing the first results of an experiment in Benin. In one area, farmers’ land was officially added to a land registry; in another, it wasn't. The researchers then looked at how the farmers used their land.

Here’s what they found: farmers who owned their land on paper invested more. For example, they more often planted trees, such as oil palms, that would continue to provide income all their lives. And since they no longer feared their land would be snatched out from under them, they spent less time guarding it. That left them more time to do other things – like earn money. Similar results have been seen in Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Why doesn’t Haiti have a land registry?

The big question, then, is: why, in spite of all the aid money and relief organizations, does Haiti still not have a land registry? If development economists and slum dwellers like Sony Lebrun are calling for bureaucracy outright, why don’t we all – aid organizations, governments, companies – get behind it 100%?

The answer is simple. Bureaucracy is boring.

To convince people to donate money and persuade taxpayers their money is being well spent, you need pretty pictures. A TV ad showing a sweetly smiling Haitian girl who’s just gotten her first school uniform works better than one with a blah bureaucrat in a fluorescent-lit office drawing lines on paper with a ruler. Pictures of starving children with distended bellies still bring in the most money, research shows. And so all too often, capacity building remains the neglected stepchild.

But the truth is, real progress is a gradual, thoroughly bureaucratic, deadly dull process. Saving the world isn’t sexy.

We need to update our image of what it looks like to change the world. The superheroes aren’t the people handing out well-intentioned teddy bears to smiling toddlers; they’re the nondescript worker bees printing out forms in gray offices.

Yes, it’s invisible work. Yes, it’s boring. But the people who will genuinely save the world won’t have throngs of kids hanging onto their superhero capes. The people who will save the world will sit hunched over heaps of files, stamping one certificate after another, sporting an office pallor. The people who will save the world will give Sony Lebrun what he wants: the bureaucratic security he needs to build a future."
bureaucracy  landregistries  law  legal  haiti  ownership  security  2016  maitevermeulen  governance  rwanda  ethiopia  land  landregistration  kenya 
july 2016 by robertogreco
How Kids Just Being Kids Became a Crime | TakePart
"There’s a story that liberals like to tell about “underprivileged” children and the government, a story about how the state has abandoned such kids to historical inequity, uncaring market forces, bad parenting, and their own tangle of pathologies. We talk about the need to “invest” in communities and in the children themselves. Analysts speak of “underserved” communities as if the state were an absentee parent. If kids are falling behind, they need an after-school program or longer days or no more summer vacation. A combination of well-tailored government programs and personal responsibility—a helping hand and a working hand to grab it—are supposed to fix the problem over time. Pathologies will attenuate, policy makers will learn to write and implement better policies, and we can all live happily ever after.

There’s just one fly in the ointment: The best research says that’s not how the relationship works. The state is as present in young Americans’ lives as ever.

For his 2011 ethnography Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys, sociologist Victor M. Rios went back to the Oakland, California, neighborhood where he was raised a few decades earlier to talk to and learn from a few dozen young men growing up in a so-called underserved neighborhood. What he discovered was a major shift in how the law treated the young men he was working with.

“The poor,” Rios writes, “at least in this community, have not been abandoned by the state. Instead, the state has become deeply embedded in their everyday lives, through the auspices of punitive social control.” He observed police officers playing a cat-and-mouse game with the kids, reminding them that they were always at the mercy of the law enforcement apparatus, regardless of their actions. The young men were left “in constant fear of being humiliated, brutalized, or arrested.” Punished details the shift within the state’s relationship with the poor and the decline of a social-welfare model in favor of a social-control model. If the state is a parent, it’s not absent—it’s physically and psychologically abusive.

One of the things Rios does well in Punished is talk about the way just existing as a target for the youth control complex is hard work. Simply trying to move through the city—walking around or waiting for the bus—can turn into a high-stakes test at a moment’s notice. Rios calls the labor the young men he observed do to maintain their place in society “dignity work.” The police exist in part to keep some people on the margin of freedom, always threatening to exclude them. Nuisance policing comes down hard on young people, given as they are to cavorting in front of others. Kids don’t own space anywhere, so most of their socializing takes place in public. The police are increasingly unwilling to cede any space at all to kids: patrolling parks, making skateboarding a crime, criminalizing in-school misbehavior.

“Today’s working-class youths encounter a radically different world than they would have encountered just a few decades ago,” Rios writes. The data back him up: According to a 2012 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “since the last nationally defensible estimate based on data from 1965, the cumulative prevalence of arrest for American youth (particularly in the period of late adolescence and early adulthood) has increased substantially.” Now, 30 to 40 percent of young Americans will be arrested by the age of 23. When researchers broke it down by race and gender, they found 38 percent of white boys, 44 percent of Hispanic boys, and 49 percent of black boys were affected. (For young women it was 12 percent across the board.)

Dignity work, then, has intensified. It’s harder than ever for kids to stay clear of the law. The trends in policing (increasingly arbitrary, increasingly racist, and just plain increasing) have played out the same way in schools. This is how researcher Kathleen Nolan describes the changes in one New York City high school in her book Police in the Hallways: “Handcuffs, body searches, backpack searches, standing on line to walk through metal detectors, confrontations with law enforcement, ‘hallway sweeps,’ and confinement in the detention room had become common experiences for students.... Penal management had become an overarching theme, and students had grown accustomed to daily interactions with law enforcement.” Interacting with law enforcement is not just work—it’s dangerous work. Especially when the school cops have assault rifles.

There are many explanations for the rise of American mass incarceration—the drug war, more aggressive prosecutors, the ’90s crime boom triggering a prison boom that started growing all on its own, a tough-on-crime rhetorical arms race among politicians, the rationalization of police work—and a lot of them can be true at the same time. Whatever the reasons, the U.S. incarceration rate has quintupled since the ’70s. It’s affecting young black men most of all and more disproportionately than ever. The white rate of imprisonment has risen in relative terms but not as fast as the black rate, which has spiked. The ratio between black and white incarcerations increased more between 1975 and 2000 than in the 50 years preceding. Considering the progressive story about the arc of racial justice, this is a crushing truth.

Mass incarceration, at least as much as rationalization or technological improvement, is a defining aspect of contemporary American society. In her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, law professor Michelle Alexander gives a chilling description of where we are as a nation: “The stark and sobering reality is that, for reasons largely unrelated to actual crime trends, the American penal system has emerged as a system of social control unparalleled in world history.”

The rise of racist mass incarceration has started to enter the national consciousness, but though it coincides with millennials’ growth and development, most commentators don’t connect the two. If the change in the way we arrest and imprison people is a defining aspect of contemporary America—and I believe it more than qualifies—then it follows that the criminal justice system also defines contemporary Americans. Far from being the carefree space cadets the media likes to depict us as, millennials are cagey and anxious, as befits the most policed modern generation. Much of what a few decades ago might have been looked on as normal adolescent high jinks—running around a mall, shoplifting, horsing around on trains, or drinking beer in a park after dark—is now fuel for the cat-and-mouse police games that Rios describes. One look at the news tells us it’s a lethal setup."
children  youth  adolescence  poverty  class  government  legal  law  2016  malcolmharris  schools  underprivileged  inequity  inequality  victorrios  schooltoprisonpipeline  race  racism  police  policing  lawenforcement  criminalization  socialcontrol  abuse  behavior  skating  skateboarding  dignity  policy  prisonindustrialcomplex  massincarceration  newjimcrow  michellealexander  crime  prisons  skateboards 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Radiolab Presents: More Perfect | WNYC
"How does an elite group of nine people shape everything from marriage and money, to safety and sex for an entire nation? Radiolab's first ever spin-off series, More Perfect, dives into the rarefied world of the Supreme Court to explain how cases deliberated inside hallowed halls affect lives far away from the bench. Produced by WNYC Studios."
radiolab  podcasts  history  scotus  supremecourt  us  law 
july 2016 by robertogreco
In New Zealand, Lands and Rivers Can Be People (Legally Speaking) - The New York Times
"Can a stretch of land be a person in the eyes of the law? Can a body of water?

In New Zealand, they can. A former national park has been granted personhood, and a river system is expected to receive the same soon.

The unusual designations, something like the legal status that corporations possess, came out of agreements between New Zealand’s government and Maori groups. The two sides have argued for years over guardianship of the country’s natural features.

Chris Finlayson, New Zealand’s attorney general, said the issue was resolved by taking the Maori mind-set into account. “In their worldview, ‘I am the river and the river is me,’” he said. “Their geographic region is part and parcel of who they are.”

From 1954 to 2014, Te Urewera was an 821-square-mile national park on the North Island, but when the Te Urewera Act took effect, the government gave up formal ownership, and the land became a legal entity with “all the rights, powers, duties and liabilities of a legal person,” as the statute puts it.

“The settlement is a profound alternative to the human presumption of sovereignty over the natural world,” said Pita Sharples, who was the minister of Maori affairs when the law was passed.

It was also “undoubtedly legally revolutionary” in New Zealand “and on a world scale,” Jacinta Ruru of the University of Otago wrote in the Maori Law Review.

Personhood means, among other things, that lawsuits to protect the land can be brought on behalf of the land itself, with no need to show harm to a particular human.

Next will be the Whanganui River, New Zealand’s third longest. The local Maori tribe views it as “an indivisible and living whole, comprising the river and all tributaries from the mountains to the sea — and that’s what we are giving effect to through this settlement,” Mr. Finlayson said. It is expected to clear Parliament and become law this year.

Visitors can still enjoy Te Urewera the way they could when it was a park. “We want to welcome people; public access is completely preserved,” Mr. Finlayson said. But permits for activities like hunting are now issued by a board that includes government and Maori representatives. A similar board will be set up for the river.

Could this legal approach spread beyond New Zealand? Mr. Finlayson said he had talked the idea over with Canada’s new attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould."
newzealand  land  rivers  law  legal  nature  2016  maori  personhood  via:anne 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Life under curfew for American teens: ‘it’s insane, no other country does this’ | US news | The Guardian
"Tonight though, leniency was in short supply. “Happy hunting,” was how commanding officer, Sgt Jay Moser, kicked off the sweep at the Boys & Girls Club. By 10.13pm four kids were under arrest and six more came in throughout the night. That’s an average number, says Moser. Some nights it’s higher – the division record is about 50. Others it’s lower, especially recently. “That’s not a failure,” Lt Ziegler says of the decline in numbers, which is probably a combination of police getting the word out about curfews and kids becoming more savvy at avoiding sweeps. “Basically it means that we’re doing our jobs.”

Bardis Vakili with the ACLU of San Diego questions the premise that curfews, and curfew sweeps, are the best tactic. Calling the approach “very heavy-handed”, he says that it has a lasting effect on kids. “[What is does] is cite them, offer diversion programs that are difficult to complete, and ends up in involvement in the criminal justice system,” he said, suggesting expanded after-hours options for youth instead. At the very least, he would liked to see “a real dialogue” around the topic.

One problem is that analysis of curfews is relatively scant, and opinions often fall in the more emotional realm. “It’s a gut-level sort of response,” said Councilmember Emerald, when asked about her support for the laws. “It’s not real scientific, is it?” The data though, does exist, with the California Criminal Justice Statistics Center (CJSC) keeping detailed statistics stretching from 1980 to 2014.

While officials in San Diego reject the notion of racial bias in the city’s curfew law, a Guardian analysis clearly shows that it has a disproportionate impact on minorities, especially Hispanics. In 2010, Hispanic youth accounted for 59% of all curfew arrests, as opposed to 16% for white youth. Comparatively, census figures for the same year put the city’s population at 28.8% Hispanic and 45.1% white. The data also shows that diversion programs are indeed keeping more kids of all races out of the courts. In 2011, a majority of curfew cases were handled within the department for the first time in decades. That trend has continued, with only about a third of curfew cases going to juvenile probation 2014.

As to whether the curfew actually reduces crime, critical findings like Males’s are often countered with University of California professor Patrick Kline’s research, which concludes that “curfews are effective at reducing both violent and property crimes.” The Voice of San Diego took perhaps the closest look at the situation locally.

A 2012 article challenges the alleged benefits, finding that “neighborhoods without the sweeps have reported greater drops in crime in the last five years than those with them.” Males says that, again, he’s seen a similar, broader, pattern in his research. Noting that between truancy laws and curfews kids could conceivably only be allowed outside for a few hours a day, he says, “the underlying assumption [is] that most youth are criminals.”"
sandiego  youth  lawenforcement  police  2016  curfews  law  children  teens 
may 2016 by robertogreco
The Parliament of Things: Into Latour and His Philosophy
"Researching the conversations between Things, Animals, Plants and People and design the House of The Parliament of Things."



"The Parliament of Things is a speculative research into the emancipation of animals and things. It acknowledges that mankind has reached the end of an anthropocentric world. We can no longer maintain the distorted dichotomy between culture and nature. We share this world with many. Law should not be centred around Men, but around Life. We are just one party, among all animals, plants and objects. What if we welcome all things into our Parliament? What would be the plight of the planet? The reasoning of a fish? What claims would trees make, and what future would oil see for itself?

Do you you want to join? Send us an e-mail: info@theparliamentofthings.org

We at Partizan Publik have invented the Parliament and are playing the role of clerk by bringing it to you. The writer’s contest was a collaborative project that was organized by several partners. In the winter and spring of 2016 we invite several organizations to build the Parliament with us."



"We Have Never Been Modern and the Parliament of Things

Introduction

In We Have Never Been Modern (1991) Bruno Latour criticizes the distinction between nature and society. He states that our sciences emphasize the subject-object and nature-culture dichotomies, whereas in actuality, phenomenons often cross these lines. As an example, he mentions the hole in the ozone layer, and the different ways the sciences should look at it: ‘Can anyone imagine a study that would treat the ozone hole as simultaneously naturalized, sociologized and deconstucted?’ (6). With this mentioning of the hole in the ozone layer (as well as, among other things, computer chips, Monsanto, and aids) he gives an example of things or phenomena that are not merely objects, but that are hybrids between nature and culture.

With regards to the title of this work, Latour argues that this dualism between subject and object is a ‘modern’ mode of classification, and that this modern mode does not actually correspond with the practical ways in which we live. Thus, this modern dualism actually has never existed: we have never been modern.

The Constitution

‘Modernity is often defined in terms of humanism, either as a way of saluting the birth of ‘man’ or as a way of announcing his death. But this habit itself is modern, because (…) [i]t overlooks the simultaneous birth of ‘nonhumanity’ – things, or objects, or beasts (…)’ (13)

In this chapter, the question at hand is about the constitution. ‘Who is to write the full constitution?’, Latour asks (14). For political constitutions, this is normally done by jurists and Founding Fathers; for the nature of things, this is the task of scientists. But, if we want to include hybrids as well, who is going to write the complete constitution?

Latour calls this complete constitution the ‘Constitution’ with a capital C, to distinguish it from the political one. It defines ‘humans and nonhumans, their properties and their relations, their abilities and their groupings’ (14).

Hobbes & Boyle

When discussing the separation between science and politics, Latour uses the dispute between Robert Boyle and Thomas Hobbes as an example. Boyle can be seen as the founder of modern science – he developed the methodology in which scientists observe a phenomenon produced artificially in a laboratory (in Boyle’s case, the workings of a vacuum pump, in our case, for example, CERN).

Hobbes, on the other hand, rejected this manner of analysis, and focused on theorizing social and political order in terms of human conflicts and agreements. ‘Boyle and Hobbes, then, jointly constructed the program for purifying the discourses of nature and society – expunging from each the traces of the other’ (Pickering). This distinction between science and politics is not just typical for ‘modernity’, but actually defines it, as Latour argues: ‘they are inventing our modern world, a world in which the representation of things through the intermediary of the laboratory is forever dissociated from the representation of citizens through the intermediary of the social contract’ (Latour 27).

Hybrids

Latour established that the modern constitution ‘invents a separation between scientific power charged with representing things and the political power charged with representing subjects’ (29). However, he states we should not think that subjects are far removed from things. Even though Hobbes and Boyle create this distinction, they still speak about the same things: God, the politics of the King of England, nature, mathematics, and spirits and angels, to name a few. It becomes clear that in practice, this separation between science and politics, and nature and culture, does not hold. As Latour states:

Here lies the entire modern paradox. If we consider hybrids, we are dealing only with mixtures of nature and culture; if we consider the work of purification, we confront a total separation between nature and culture.’ (30)

The paradox of modernity, thus, is that we divided the world into two groups –

nature (science) and culture (politics) – but at the same time, in our daily lives, we constantly deal with hybrids between these two groups. But this division renders ‘the work of mediation that assembles hybrids invisible, unthinkable, unrepresentable’ (35). As Latour succinctly puts it: ‘the modern constitution allows the expanded proliferation of the hybrids whose existence, whose very possibility, it denies’ (35).

We Have Never Been Modern

‘Modernity has never begun’, Latour argues. Instead, he calls himself a ‘nonmodern’: ‘A nonmodern is anyone who takes simultaneously into account the moderns’ Constitution and the population of hybrids that that Constitution rejects and allows to proliferate’ (47). He states that hybrids – also called monsters, cyborgs, tricksters – are ‘just about everything; they compose not only our own collectives but also the others, illegitimately called premodern’ (47). So only minor changes separate our era from the periods that were before, Latour states.

Revolution

In this part, Latour discusses the action that has to be undertaken to acknowledge the existence and the importance of hybrids:

When the only thing at stake was the emergence of a few vacuum pumps, they could still be subsumed under two classes, that of natural laws and that of political representations; but when we find ourselves invaded by frozen embryos, expert systems, digital machines, sensor-equipped robots, hybrid corn, data banks, psychotropic drugs, whales outfitted with radar sounding devices, gene synthesizers, audience analyzers, and so on, when our daily newspapers display all these monsters on page after page, and when none of these chimera can be properly on the object side or on the subject side, or even in between, something has to be done. (50)

Latour calls for the need to outline a space that encompasses both the practice of purification as well as that of mediation. ‘By deploying both dimensions at once, we may be able to accomodate the hybrids and give them a place, a name, a home, a philosophy, an ontology and, I hope, a new constitution’ (51).

Quasi-Objects

Latour tries to locate the position of hybrids, quasi-objects and quasi-subjects by first problematizing the status of the social scientist. He argues that the social scientist, on the one hand, shows that ‘the power of gods, the objectivity of money, the attraction of fashion (…)’ have no intrinsic value, but ‘offer only a surface for the projection of our social needs and interests’ (52). To become a social scientist, Latour states, ‘is to realize that the inner properties of objects do not count, that they are mere receptacles for human categories’ (52).

On the other hand, social scientists also debunk the belief in the freedom of the human subject: they show how the ‘nature of things (…) determines, informs and moulds’ humans (53). So, Latour states that the social scientist ‘see[s] double’:

In the first denunciation, objects count for nothing; they are just there to be used as the white screens on to which society projects its cinema. But in the second, they are so powerful that they shape the human society, while the social construction of the sciences that have produced them remains invisible. (53)

The solution to these contradictory beliefs is dualism, much to Latour’s disapproval. The nature pole is divided into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ parts, the same partition is made for the subject/society pole. ‘Dualism may be a poor solution, but it provided 99 per cent of the social sciences’ critical repertoire’ (54).

Latour, instead, states objects are society’s co-producters. ‘Is not society built literally – not metaphorically – of gods, machines, sciences, arts and styles?’ (54). He argues we should not focus too much on dialectics, as dialectics foreground the existing dichotomies; instead, he focuses on quasi-objects.

Quasi-objects are in between and below the two poles (…) [and] are much more social, much more fabricated, much more collective than the ‘hard’ parts of nature (…), [yet] they are much more real, nonhuman and objective than those shapeless screens on which society (…) needed to be ‘projected’. (55)

By focusing on the two poles rather than on that what is in between, ‘science studies have forced everyone to rethink anew the role of objects in the construction of collectives, thus challenging philosophy’ (55).

Relativism

In this chapter, Latour treats the function of anthropology and the role it might be able to play, as well as the concepts of symmetry and asymmetry. If anthropology is to become symmetrical, ‘the anthropologist has to position himself at the median point where he can follow the attribution of both nonhuman and human properties’ (96).

To analyse this new field of study, anthropology … [more]
multispecies  objects  plants  animals  brunolatour  robertboyle  thomashobbes  hybrids  modernity  nonmodern  modern  quasi-objects  law  biology  anthropology  entertainment  science  architecture  campainging  literature  things  theparliamentofthings 
april 2016 by robertogreco
manifestos/1985-GNU-manifesto.md at master · greyscalepress/manifestos
"Why I Must Write GNU

I consider that the Golden Rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others. I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this way. I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license agreement. For years I worked within the Artificial Intelligence Lab to resist such tendencies and other inhospitalities, but eventually they had gone too far: I could not remain in an institution where such things are done for me against my will.

So that I can continue to use computers without dishonor, I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I will be able to get along without any software that is not free. I have resigned from the AI Lab to deny MIT any legal excuse to prevent me from giving GNU away.(2)"



"Why Many Other Programmers Want to Help

I have found many other programmers who are excited about GNU and want to help.

Many programmers are unhappy about the commercialization of system software. It may enable them to make more money, but it requires them to feel in conflict with other programmers in general rather than feel as comrades. The fundamental act of friendship among programmers is the sharing of programs; marketing arrangements now typically used essentially forbid programmers to treat others as friends. The purchaser of software must choose between friendship and obeying the law. Naturally, many decide that friendship is more important. But those who believe in law often do not feel at ease with either choice. They become cynical and think that programming is just a way of making money.

By working on and using GNU rather than proprietary programs, we can be hospitable to everyone and obey the law. In addition, GNU serves as an example to inspire and a banner to rally others to join us in sharing. This can give us a feeling of harmony which is impossible if we use software that is not free. For about half the programmers I talk to, this is an important happiness that money cannot replace."
gnu  richardstallman  friendship  solidarity  opensource  law  legal  cynicism  via:caseygollan 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Why the Economic Fates of America’s Cities Diverged - The Atlantic
"What accounts for these anomalous and unpredicted trends? The first explanation many people cite is the decline of the Rust Belt, and certainly that played a role."



"Another conventional explanation is that the decline of Heartland cities reflects the growing importance of high-end services and rarified consumption."



"Another explanation for the increase in regional inequality is that it reflects the growing demand for “innovation.” A prominent example of this line of thinking comes from the Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti, whose 2012 book, The New Geography of Jobs, explains the increase in regional inequality as the result of two new supposed mega-trends: markets offering far higher rewards to “innovation,” and innovative people increasingly needing and preferring each other’s company."



"What, then, is the missing piece? A major factor that has not received sufficient attention is the role of public policy. Throughout most of the country’s history, American government at all levels has pursued policies designed to preserve local control of businesses and to check the tendency of a few dominant cities to monopolize power over the rest of the country. These efforts moved to the federal level beginning in the late 19th century and reached a climax of enforcement in the 1960s and ’70s. Yet starting shortly thereafter, each of these policy levers were flipped, one after the other, in the opposite direction, usually in the guise of “deregulation.” Understanding this history, largely forgotten today, is essential to turning the problem of inequality around.

Starting with the country’s founding, government policy worked to ensure that specific towns, cities, and regions would not gain an unwarranted competitive advantage. The very structure of the U.S. Senate reflects a compromise among the Founders meant to balance the power of densely and sparsely populated states. Similarly, the Founders, understanding that private enterprise would not by itself provide broadly distributed postal service (because of the high cost of delivering mail to smaller towns and far-flung cities), wrote into the Constitution that a government monopoly would take on the challenge of providing the necessary cross-subsidization.

Throughout most of the 19th century and much of the 20th, generations of Americans similarly struggled with how to keep railroads from engaging in price discrimination against specific areas or otherwise favoring one town or region over another. Many states set up their own bureaucracies to regulate railroad fares—“to the end,” as the head of the Texas Railroad Commission put it, “that our producers, manufacturers, and merchants may be placed on an equal footing with their rivals in other states.” In 1887, the federal government took over the task of regulating railroad rates with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Railroads came to be regulated much as telegraph, telephone, and power companies would be—as natural monopolies that were allowed to remain in private hands and earn a profit, but only if they did not engage in pricing or service patterns that would add significantly to the competitive advantage of some regions over others.

Passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 was another watershed moment in the use of public policy to limit regional inequality. The antitrust movement that sprung up during the Populist and Progressive era was very much about checking regional concentrations of wealth and power. Across the Midwest, hard-pressed farmers formed the “Granger” movement and demanded protection from eastern monopolists controlling railroads, wholesale-grain distribution, and the country’s manufacturing base. The South in this era was also, in the words of the historian C. Vann Woodward, in a “revolt against the East” and its attempts to impose a “colonial economy.”"



"By the 1960s, antitrust enforcement grew to proportions never seen before, while at the same time the broad middle class grew and prospered, overall levels of inequality fell dramatically, and midsize metro areas across the South, the Midwest, and the West Coast achieved a standard of living that converged with that of America’s historically richest cites in the East. Of course, antitrust was not the only cause of the increase in regional equality, but it played a much larger role than most people realize today.

To get a flavor of how thoroughly the federal government managed competition throughout the economy in the 1960s, consider the case of Brown Shoe Co., Inc. v. United States, in which the Supreme Court blocked a merger that would have given a single distributor a mere 2 percent share of the national shoe market.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren explained that the Court was following a clear and long-established desire by Congress to keep many forms of business small and local: “We cannot fail to recognize Congress’ desire to promote competition through the protection of viable, small, locally owned business. Congress appreciated that occasional higher costs and prices might result from the maintenance of fragmented industries and markets. It resolved these competing considerations in favor of decentralization. We must give effect to that decision.”

In 1964, the historian and public intellectual Richard Hofstadter would observe that an “antitrust movement” no longer existed, but only because regulators were managing competition with such effectiveness that monopoly no longer appeared to be a realistic threat. “Today, anybody who knows anything about the conduct of American business,” Hofstadter observed, “knows that the managers of the large corporations do their business with one eye constantly cast over their shoulders at the antitrust division.”

In 1966, the Supreme Court blocked a merger of two supermarket chains in Los Angeles that, had they been allowed to combine, would have controlled just 7.5 percent of the local market. (Today, by contrast there are nearly 40 metro areas in the U.S where Walmart controls half or more of all grocery sales.) Writing for the majority, Justice Harry Blackmun noted the long opposition of Congress and the Court to business combinations that restrained competition “by driving out of business the small dealers and worthy men.”

During this era, other policy levers, large and small, were also pulled in the same direction—such as bank regulation, for example. Since the Great Recession, America has relearned the history of how New Deal legislation such as the Glass-Steagall Act served to contain the risks of financial contagion. Less well remembered is how New Deal-era and subsequent banking regulation long served to contain the growth of banks that were “too big to fail” by pushing power in the banking system out to the hinterland. Into the early 1990s, federal laws severely limited banks headquartered in one state from setting up branches in any other state. State and federal law fostered a dense web of small-scale community banks and locally operated thrifts and credit unions.

Meanwhile, bank mergers, along with mergers of all kinds, faced tough regulatory barriers that included close scrutiny of their effects on the social fabric and political economy of local communities. Lawmakers realized that levels of civic engagement and community trust tended to decline in towns that came under the control of outside ownership, and they resolved not to let that happen in their time.

In other realms, too, federal policy during the New Deal and for several decades afterward pushed strongly to spread regional equality. For example, New Deal programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the Rural Electrification Administration dramatically improved the infrastructure of the South and West. During and after World War II, federal spending on the military and the space program also tilted heavily in the Sunbelt’s favor.

The government’s role in regulating prices and levels of service in transportation was also a huge factor in promoting regional equality. In 1952, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered a 10-percent reduction in railroad freight rates for southern shippers, a political decision that played a substantial role in enabling the South’s economic ascent after the war. The ICC and state governments also ordered railroads to run money-losing long-distance and commuter passenger trains to ensure that far-flung towns and villages remained connected to the national economy.

Into the 1970s, the ICC also closely regulated trucking routes and prices so they did not tilt in favor of any one region. Similarly, the Civil Aeronautics Board made sure that passengers flying to and from small and midsize cities paid roughly the same price per mile as those flying to and from the largest cities. It also required airlines to offer service to less populous areas even when such routes were unprofitable.

Meanwhile, massive public investments in the interstate-highway system and other arterial roads added enormously to regional equality. First, it vastly increased the connectivity of rural areas to major population centers. Second, it facilitated the growth of reasonably priced suburban housing around high-wage metro areas such as New York and Los Angeles, thus making it much more possible than it is now for working-class people to move to or remain in those areas.

Beginning in the late 1970s, however, nearly all the policy levers that had been used to push for greater regional income equality suddenly reversed direction. The first major changes came during Jimmy Carter’s administration. Fearful of inflation, and under the spell of policy entrepreneurs such as Alfred Kahn, Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. This abolished the Civil Aeronautics Board, which had worked to offer rough regional parity in airfares and levels of service since 1938… [more]
us  cities  policy  economics  history  inequality  via:robinsonmeyer  2016  philliplongman  regulation  deregulation  capitalism  trusts  antitrustlaw  mergers  competition  markets  banks  finance  ronaldreagan  corporatization  intellectualproperty  patents  law  legal  equality  politics  government  rentseeking  innovation  acquisitions  antitrustenforcement  income  detroit  nyc  siliconvalley  technology  banking  peterganong  danielshoag  1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  1990s  greatdepression  horacegreely  chicago  denver  cleveland  seattle  atlanta  houston  saltlakecity  stlouis  enricomoretti  shermanantitrustact  1890  cvannwoodward  woodrowwilson  1912  claytonantitrustact  louisbrandeis  federalreserve  minneapolis  kansascity  robinson-patmanact  1920s  1930s  miller-tydingsact  fdr  celler-kefauveract  emanuelceller  huberhumphrey  earlwarren  richardhofstadter  harryblackmun  newdeal  interstatecommercecommission  jimmycarter  alfredkahn  airlinederegulationact  1978  memphis  cincinnati  losangeles  airlines  transportation  rail  railroads  1980  texas  florida  1976  amazon  walmart  r 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Orion Magazine | No Man's Land
"In 1500, no one sold land because no one owned it. People in the past did, however, claim and control territory in a variety of ways. Groups of hunters and later villages of herders or farmers found means of taking what they needed while leaving the larger landscape for others to glean from. They certainly fought over the richest hunting grounds and most fertile valleys, but they justified their right by their active use. In other words, they asserted rights of appropriation. We appropriate all the time. We conquer parking spaces at the grocery store, for example, and hold them until we are ready to give them up. The parking spaces do not become ours to keep; the basis of our right to occupy them is that we occupy them. Only until very recently, humans inhabited the niches and environments of Earth somewhat like parking spaces.

Ownership is different from appropriation. It confers exclusive rights derived from and enforced by the state. These rights do not come from active use or occupancy. Property owners can neglect land for years, waiting for the best time to sell it, even if others would put it to better use. And in the absence of laws protecting landscapes, the holders of legal title can mow down a rainforest or drain a wetland without regard to social and ecological cost. Not all owners are destructive or irresponsible, but the imperative to seek maximum profit is built into the assumptions within private property. Land that costs money must make money.

Champions of capitalism don’t see private property as a social practice with a history but as a universal desire—a nearly physical law—that amounts to the very expression of freedom. The economist Friedrich Hayek called it “the most important guarantee of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not.” But Hayek never explained how buyers and sellers of real estate spread a blanket of liberty over their tenants. And he never mentioned the fact that the concept, far from being natural law, was created by nation-states—the notion that someone could claim a bit of the planet all to himself is relatively new.

Every social system falls into contradictions, opposing or inconsistent aspects within its assumptions that have no clear resolution. These can be managed or put off, but some of them are serious enough to undermine the entire system. In the case of private property, there are at least two—and they may throw the very essence of capitalism into illegitimacy."



"Private property’s second contradiction comes from the odd notion that land is a commodity, which is anything produced by human labor and intended for exchange. Land violates the first category, but what about the second? As the historian Karl Polanyi wrote, land is just another name for nature. It’s the essence of human survival. To regard it as an item for exchange “means to subordinate the substance of society itself to the laws of the market.”

Clearly, though, we regard land as a commodity and this seems natural to us. Yet it represents an astonishing revolution in human perception. Real estate is a legal abstraction that we project over ecological space. It allows us to pretend that a thousand acres for sale off some freeway is not part of the breathing, slithering lattice of nonhuman stakeholders. Extending the surveyor’s grid over North America transformed mountain hollows and desert valleys into exchangeable units that became farms, factories, and suburbs. The grid has entered our brains, too: thinking, dealing, and making a living on real estate habituates us to seeing the biosphere as little more than a series of opportunities for moneymaking. Private property isn’t just a legal idea; it’s the basis of a social system that constructs environments and identities in its image.

Advocates of private property usually fail to point out all the ways it does not serve the greater good. Adam Smith famously believed that self-interested market exchange improves everything, but he really offered little more than that hope. He could not have imagined mountains bulldozed and dumped into creeks. He could not have imagined Camden, New Jersey, and other urban sacrifice zones, established by corporations and then abandoned by them. Maximum profit is the singular, monolithic interest at the heart of private property. Only the public can represent all the other human and nonhuman interests.

Unbelievably, perhaps, the United States Congress has done this. Consider one of its greatest achievements: the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. The act nails the abstraction of real estate to the ground. When a conglomerate of California developers proposed a phalanx of suburbs across part of the Central Valley, they came face to face with their nemesis: the vernal pool fairy shrimp. In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the shrimp’s status as endangered and blocked construction. It was a case in which the ESA diminished the sacred rights to property for the sake of tiny invertebrates, leaving critics of the law dumbfounded. But those who would repeal the ESA (and all the other environmental legislation of the 1970s) don’t appreciate the contradiction it helps a little to contain: the compulsion to derive endless wealth from a muddy, mossy planet."



"Should private property itself be extinguished? It’s a legitimate question, but there is no clear pathway to a system that would take its place, which could amount to some kind of global commons. Instead I suggest land reform, not the extinguishing of property rights but their radical diffusion. Imagine a space in which people own small homes and gardens but share a larger area of fields and woods. Let’s call such legislation the American Commons Communities Act or the Agrarian Economy Act. A policy of this sort might offer education in sustainable agriculture keyed to acquiring a workable farm in a rural or urban landscape. The United States would further invest in any infrastructure necessary to move crops to markets.

Let’s give abandoned buildings, storefronts, and warehouses to those who would establish communities for the homeless. According to one estimate, there are ten vacant homes for every homeless person. Squatting in unused buildings carries certain social benefits that should be recognized. It prevents the homeless from seeking out the suburban fringe, far from transportation and jobs (though it’s no substitute for dignified public housing). Plenty of people are now planting seeds in derelict city lots. In Los Angeles, an activist named Ron Finley looks for weedy ground anywhere he can find it for what he calls “gangsta gardening,” often challenging absentee owners. In 2013, the California legislature responded to sustained pressure from urban gardeners like Finley and passed the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, which gives tax breaks to any owner who allows vacant land to be used for “sustainable urban farm enterprise.”

Squatting raises another, much larger question. To what extent should improvements to land qualify one for property rights? The suppression of traditional privileges of appropriation amounts to one of the most revolutionary changes in the last five hundred years. All through the centuries people who worked land they did not own (like squatters and slaves) insisted that their toil granted them title. The United States once endorsed this view. The Homestead Act of 1862 granted 160 acres to any farmer who improved it for five years. Western squatters’ clubs and local preemption laws also endorsed the idea that labor in the earth conferred ownership.

It’s worth remembering that there is nothing about private property that says it must be for private use. Conservation land trusts own vast areas as nonprofit corporations and invite the public to hike and bike. It’s not an erosion of the institution of property but an ingenious reversal of its beneficiaries. But don’t wait for a land trust to be established before you enjoy the fenced up beaches or forests near where you live. Declare the absentee owners trustees of the public good and trespass at will. As long as the land in question is not someone’s home or place of business, signs that say KEEP OUT can, in my view, be morally and ethically ignored. Cross over these boundaries while humming “This Land Is Your Land.” Pick wildflowers, watch sand crabs in the surf, linger on your estate. Violating absentee ownership is a long-held and honorable tradition."
2016  onwership  capitalism  land  friedrichhayek  stevenstoll  squatting  property  socialpractice  socialsystems  privateproperty  homeless  homelessness  ronfinley  farming  gardening  agriculture  commodities  markets  adamsmith  us  law  legal  society  karlpolanyi  enclosure 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The State of the Right to Education Worldwide Free or Fee: Executive Summary
"It is simple. Preventing poor students from studying at the university is bad enough, but forcing primary-school children to work because they are too poor to pay for education which should be free is intolerable.

The State of the Right to Education Worldwide is the first global report to review the education laws and practice in 170 countries and to expose the hypocrisy whereby the right to free and compulsory education is loudly and universally proclaimed, and quietly and systematically betrayed.

Katarina Tomaševski, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education spent six years compiling this Report before her untimely death in October 2006. The result should serve as a wake up call to all those concerned with global education and poverty reduction. It exposes the global pattern of poverty-based exclusion from primary education, and calls for poverty reduction strategies to use the elimination of economic exclusion from education as a benchmark. The current reality – where education is priced out of reach of the poor – subverts human rights, and denies another generation its birthright: free and compulsory education worthy of the name."



"Human rights law defines what governments should and should not do. Amongst the should-dos, ensuring education for all children tops the list. Using human rights as the lens for examining education necessitates challenging exclusion from education and also asking what education is for. Schooling, which is what global targets prioritize, is not the end but merely the means for education. Without human rights safeguards, compulsory education can amount to institutionalization of indoctrination. Many governments today neither provide education for all, nor know who are educating the youth. The right to education also demands that public authorities take charge of education because it is simply too dangerous not to do so. Human rights law requires policy makers to ask the questions which bean-counters avoid."
katarinatomaševski  education  compulsory  2016  humanrights  law  legalm  institutionalization  indoctrination  governance  government  policy 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Toward Humane Tech — Medium
"If you make technology, or work in the tech industry, I have good news for you: we won."

"We’re not nerds, or outsiders, or underdogs anymore. What we do, and what we make, shapes culture and society, deeply influencing everything from artistic expression to policy and regulation to the way we see our friends, family and selves.

But we haven’t taken responsibility for ourselves in a manner that befits the wealthiest and most powerful industry that’s ever been created. We fancy ourselves outlaws while we shape laws, and consider ourselves disruptive without sufficient consideration for the people and institutions we disrupt. We have to do better, and we will.

While thinking about this reality, and these problems, I’ve struggled with all the different dimensions of the challenge. We could address our profound issues around inclusion and diversity but still be wildly irresponsible about our environmental impact. We could start to respect legal processes and the need for thoughtful engagement with policy makers but still be cavalier about the privacy and security of our users’ data. We could continue to invest in design and user experience but remain thoughtless about the emotional and psychological impacts of the experiences we create. We could continue to bemoan the shortcomings of legacy industries while exacerbating issues like income inequality or social inequity.

I’m not hopeless about it; in fact, if there’s one unifying value that connects everyone in tech, no matter how critical or complacent they may be, it’s an underlying vein of optimism. I want to tap into that optimism, but direct it toward making sure we’re actually making things better, and not just for ourselves.

So I’m going to start to keep some notes, about the functional, pragmatic things we can do to make sure our technologies, and the community that creates those technologies, become far more humane. The conversation about the tech industry has changed profoundly in the past few years. It is no longer radical to raise issues of ethics or civics when evaluating a new product or company. But that’s the simplest starting point, a basic acknowledgment that what we do matters and actually affects people.

We have to think about inclusion, acceptance and diversity, to start. We need to think deeply about our language and communications, and the way we express what technology does. We need to question the mythologies we build around concepts like “founders” or “inventions” or even “startups”. We need to challenge our definitions of success and progress, and to stop considering our work in solely commercial terms. We need to radically improve our systems of compensation, to be responsible about credit and attribution, and to be generous and fair with reward and remuneration. We need to consider the impact our work has on the planet. We need to consider the impact our work has on civic and academic institutions, on artistic expression, on culture.

I’m optimistic, but I think this is going to continue to require a lot of hard work over a long period of time. My first step is to start taking notes about the goal we’re working toward. Let’s get to work."
anildash  2016  technology  siliconvalley  inclusion  inclusivity  diversity  acceptance  gender  language  communication  compensation  responsibility  attribution  environment  privacy  security  inequality  incomeinequality  law  legal  disruption  culture  society 
january 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 2: legacies of the past
"We are locked into paths determined by decisions or choices made in previous eras, when the world was a much different place. For various reasons these legacies stubbornly persist through time, constraining future possibilities and blinkering us from alternative ways of thinking.

Here, sketched as usual on a napkin over coffee and toast, are some thoughts on legacies of the past that exercise power over our future.

Infrastructure. Take energy, for example. Tesla’s invention of alternating current became the dominant system - rather than Edison’s direct current - essentially because it allowed electricity generated at power stations to be capable of travelling large distances. Tesla’s system has, for the most part, been adopted across the world - an enormous network of stations, cables, pylons, and transformers, with electrical power arriving in our homes through sockets in the wall. This pervasive system dictates or influences almost everything energy related, and in highly complex ways: from the development of new energy generation methods (and figuring out how to feed that energy into the grid) to the design of any electrical product.

Another example is transportation. As Crap Futures has discovered, it is hard to get around this volcanic and vertiginous island without a car. There are no trains, it is too hilly to ride a bike, buses are slow and infrequent, and meanwhile over the past few decades the regional government - one particular government with a 37-year reign - poured millions into building a complex network of roads and tunnels. People used to get to other parts of the island by boat; now (and for the foreseeable future) it is by private car. This is an example of recent infrastructure that a) perpetuated and was dictated by dominant ideas of how transportation infrastructure should be done, and b) will further constrain possibilities for the island into the future.

Laws and insurance. There is a problematic time-slip between the existence of laws and insurance and the real-life behaviour of humans. Laws and insurance are for the most part reactive: insurance policies, for example, are based on amassed data that informs the broker of risk levels, and this system therefore needs history to work. So when you try to insert a new product or concept - a self-driving car or delivery drone - into everyday life, the insurance system pushes back. Insurance companies don’t want to gamble on an unknown future; they want to look at the future through historical data, which is by nature a conservative lens.

Laws, insurance, and historical infrastructure often work together to curb radical change. This partly explains why many of the now technologically realisable dreams of the past, from jetpacks to flying cars, are unlikely to become an everyday reality in that imagined form - more likely they will adapt and conform to existing systems and rules.
"No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time." — Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays (1910)

It is true that laws sometimes outstay their welcome or impede progress. The slow pace at which laws change becomes more and more apparent as the pace of innovation increases. But there are positive as well as negative constraints, and laws often constrain us for good (which of course is their supposed function). At best, they check our impulses, give us a cooling off period, prevent us from tearing everything down at a whim.

So the law can be a force for good. But then of course - good, bad, or ineffectual - there are always those who find ways to circumvent the law. Jonathan Swift wrote: ‘Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.’ With their shock-and-awe tactics, companies like Uber manage to overcome traditional legal barriers by moving faster than local laws or simply being big enough to shrug off serious legal challenges.

Technology is evolutionary. (See Heilbroner’s quote in the future nudge post.) Comparisons between natural and technological evolution have been a regular phenomenon since as far back Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859). Darwin’s revolutionary work inspired philosophers, writers, and anthropologists - Marx and Engels, Samuel Butler, Augustus Pitt-Rivers - to suggest that technological artefacts evolve in a manner similar to natural organisms. This essentially means that technological development is unidirectional, and that radical new possibilities do not happen.

Viewing technology in evolutionary terms would appear to constrain us to only the possibilities that we could reasonably ‘evolve’ into. But this does not have to be the case: natural evolution works by random mutation and natural selection with no ‘plan’ as such, whereas technological innovation and product design are firmly teleologic (literally ‘end-directed’). In other words, the evolutionary model of technological change ignores basic human agency. While natural organisms can’t dip into the historical gene pool to bring back previous mutations, however useful they might be, innovators and designers are not locked into an irreversible evolutionary march and can look backward whenever they choose. So why don’t they? It is a case - circling back to constraint no. 1 - of thinking under the influence of progress dogma."
2015  crapfutures  constraints  darwin  evolution  innovation  future  progress  progressdogma  transportation  infrastructure  law  legal  time  pace  engels  friedrichengels  technology  californianideology  emmagoldman  anarchism  insurance  policy  electricity  nikolatesla  thomasedison  systems  systemsthinking  jonathanswift  samuelbutler  karlmarx  longnow  bighere  augustuspitt-rivers 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Monkey selfie case: judge rules animal cannot own his photo copyright | World news | The Guardian
"A San Francisco court said that while the protection of law could be extended to animals, there was no indication that it was in the Copyright Act"
multispecies  law  monkeys  primates  copyright  2016  macaques  legal  photography  animals 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Sha Hwang - Keynote [Forms of Protest] - UX Burlington on Vimeo
"Let’s close the day by talking about our responsibilities and opportunities as designers. Let’s talk about the pace of fashion and the promise of infrastructure. Let’s talk about systematic failure — failure without malice. Let’s talk about the ways to engage in this messy and complex world. Let’s throw shade on fame and shine light on the hard quiet work we call design."
shahwang  2015  design  infrastructure  fashion  systemsthinking  complexity  messiness  protest  careers  technology  systems  storytelling  scale  stewartbrand  change  thehero'sjourney  founder'sstory  politics  narrative  narratives  systemsdesign  blame  control  algorithms  systemfailure  healthcare.gov  mythmaking  teams  purpose  scalability  bias  microaggressions  dignity  abuse  malice  goodwill  fear  inattention  donellameadows  leveragepoints  making  building  constraints  coding  code  programming  consistency  communication  sharing  conversation  government  ux  law  uxdesign  simplicity  kindness  individuals  responsibility  webdev  web  internet  nava  codeforamerica  18f  webdesign 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Bloom and Bust by Phillip Longman | The Washington Monthly
"Yet starting in the early 1980s, the long trend toward regional equality abruptly switched. Since then, geography has come roaring back as a determinant of economic fortune, as a few elite cities have surged ahead of the rest of the country in their wealth and income. In 1980, the per capita income of Washington, D.C., was 29 percent above the average for Americans as a whole; by 2013 it had risen to 68 percent above. In the San Francisco Bay area, the rise was from 50 percent above to 88 percent. Meanwhile, per capita income in New York City soared from 80 percent above the national average in 1980 to 172 percent above in 2013.

Adding to the anomaly is a historic reversal in the patterns of migration within the United States. Throughout almost all of the nation’s history, Americans tended to move from places where wages were lower to places where wages were higher. Horace Greeley’s advice to “Go West, young man” finds validation, for example, in historical data showing that per capita income was higher in America’s emerging frontier cities, such as Chicago in the 1850s or Denver in 1880s, than back east.

But over the last generation this trend, too, has reversed. Since 1980, the states and metro areas with the highest and fastest-growing per capita incomes have generally seen hardly, if any, net domestic in-migration, and in many notable examples have seen more people move away to other parts of the country than move in. Today, the preponderance of domestic migration is from areas with high and rapidly growing incomes to relatively poorer areas where incomes are growing at a slower pace, if at all."



"Since 1980, mergers have reduced the number of major railroads from twenty-six to seven, with just four of these mega systems controlling 90 percent of the country’s rail infrastructure. Meanwhile, many cities and towns have lost access to rail transportation altogether as railroads have abandoned secondary lines and consolidated rail service in order to maximize profits.

In this era, government spending on new roads and highways also plummeted, even as the number of people and cars continued to grow strongly. One result of this, and of the continuing failure to adequately fund mass transit and high-speed rail, has been mounting traffic congestion that reduces geographic mobility, including the ability of people to move to or remain in the areas offering the highest-paying jobs.

The New York metro area is a case in point. Between 2000 and 2009, the region’s per capita income rose from 25 percent above the average for all U.S. metro areas to 29 percent above. Yet over the same period, approximately two million more people moved away from the area to other parts of the country than moved in, according to the Census Bureau. Today, the commuter rail system that once made it comparatively easy to live in suburban New Jersey and work in Manhattan is falling apart, and commutes from other New York suburbs, whether by road or rail, are also becoming unworkable. Increasingly, this means that only the very rich can still afford to work in Manhattan, much less live there, while increasing numbers of working- and middle-class families are moving to places like Texas or Florida, hoping to break free of the gridlock, even though wages in Texas and Florida are much lower.

The next big policy change affecting regional equality was a vast retreat from antitrust enforcement of all kinds. The first turning point in this realm came in 1976 when Congress repealed the Miller-Tydings Act. This, combined with the repeal or rollback of other “fair trade” laws that had been in place since the 1920s and ’30s, created an opening for the emergence of super-chains like Walmart and, later, vertically integrated retail “platforms” like Amazon. The dominance of these retail goliaths has, in turn, devastated (to some, the preferred term is “disrupted”) locally owned retailers and led to large flows of money out of local economies and into the hands of distant owners.

Another turning point came in 1982, when President Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department adopted new guidelines for antitrust prosecutions. Largely informed by the work of Robert Bork, then a Yale law professor who had served as solicitor general under Richard Nixon, these guidelines explicitly ruled out any consideration of social cost, regional equity, or local control in deciding whether to block mergers or prosecute monopolies. Instead, the only criteria that could trigger antitrust enforcement would be either proven instances of collusion or combinations that would immediately bring higher prices to consumers.

This has led to the effective colonization of many once-great American cities, as the financial institutions and industrial companies that once were headquartered there have come under the control of distant corporations. Empirical studies have shown that when a city loses a major corporate headquarters in a merger, the replacement of locally based managers by “absentee” managers usually leads to lower levels of local corporate giving, civic engagement, employment, and investment, often setting in motion further regional decline. A Harvard Business School study that analyzed the community involvement of 180 companies in Boston, Cleveland, and Miami found that “[l]ocally headquartered companies do most for the community on every measure,” including having “the most active involvement by their leaders in prominent local civic and cultural organizations.”

According to another survey of the literature on how corporate consolidation affects the health of local communities, “local owners and managers … are more invested in the community personally and financially than ‘distant’ owners and managers.” In contrast, the literature survey finds, “branch firms are managed either by ‘outsiders’ with no local ties who are brought in for short-term assignments or by locals who have less ability to benefit the community because they lack sufficient autonomy or prestige or have less incentive because their professional advancement will require them to move.” The loss of social capital in many Heartland communities documented by Robert Putnam, George Packer, and many other observers is at least in part a consequence of the wave of corporate consolidations that occurred after the federal government largely abandoned traditional antitrust enforcement thirty-some years ago.

Financial deregulation also contributed mightily to the growth of regional inequality. Prohibitions against interstate branching disappeared entirely by the 1990s. The first-order effect was that most midsize and even major cities saw most of their major banks bought up by larger banks headquartered somewhere else. Initially, the trend strengthened some regional banking centers, such as Charlotte, North Carolina, even as it hollowed out local control of banking nearly everywhere else across America. But eventually, further financial deregulation, combined with enormous subsidies and bailouts for banks that had become “too big to fail,” led to the eclipse of even once strong regional money centers like Philadelphia and St. Louis by a handful of elite cities such as New York and London, bringing the geography of modern finance full circle back to the patterns prevailing in the Gilded Age.

Meanwhile, dramatic changes in the treatment of what, in the 1980s, came to be known as “intellectual property,” combined with the general retreat from antitrust enforcement, had the effect of vastly concentrating the geographical distribution of power in the technology sector. At the start of the 1980s, federal policy remained so hostile to patent monopolies that it refused even to grant patents for software. But then came a series of Supreme Court decisions and acts of Congress that vastly expanded the scope of patents and the monopoly power granted to patent holders. In 1991, Bill Gates reflected on the change and noted in a memo to his executives at Microsoft that “[i]f people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”

These changes caused the tech industry to become much more geographically concentrated than it otherwise would have been. They did so primarily by making the tech industry much less about engineering and much more about lawyering and deal making. In 2011, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and patent purchases exceeded their spending on research and development for the first time. Meanwhile, faced with growing barriers to entry created by patent monopolies and the consolidated power of giants like Apple and Google, the business model for most new start-ups became to sell themselves as quickly as possible to one of the tech industry’s entrenched incumbents.

For both of these reasons, success in this sector now increasingly requires being physically located where large concentrations of incumbents are seeking “innovation through acquisition,” and where there are supporting phalanxes of highly specialized legal and financial wheeler-dealers. Back in the 1970s, a young entrepreneur like Bill Gates was able to grow a new high-tech firm into a Fortune 500 company in his hometown of Seattle, which at the time was little better off than Detroit and Cleveland are today—a depopulating, worn-out manufacturing city, labeled by the Economist as “the city of despair.” Today, a young entrepreneur as smart and ambitious as the young Gates is most likely aiming to sell his company to a high-tech goliath—or will have to settle for doing so. Sure, high-tech entrepreneurs still emerge in the hinterland, and often start promising companies there. But to succeed they need to cash out, which means that they typically need to go where they’ll be in the deal flow of patent trading and mergers and acquisition, which means an already-established hub of high-tech “innovation” … [more]
us  inequality  urban  urbanism  coasts  economics  policy  politics  1980s  ronaldreagan  ip  intellectualproperty  wages  salaries  states  socialcapital  robertputnam  georgepacker  trusts  law  legal  regulation  business  finance  philliplongman 
november 2015 by robertogreco
TEDxNYED - Mike Wesch - 03/06/10 - YouTube
"Dubbed "the explainer" by Wired magazine, Michael Wesch is a cultural anthropologist exploring the effects of new media on society and culture. After two years studying the implications of writing on a remote indigenous culture in the rain forest of Papua New Guinea, he has turned his attention to the effects of social media and digital technology on global society."
michaelwesch  2010  papuanewguinea  anthropology  culture  cultureshock  socialmedia  seeinglikeastate  measurement  recodkeeping  relationships  census  society  conflictresolution  law  legal  media  systemsthinking  themediumisthemessage  change  internet  web  online  freedom  hope  surveillance  control  transparency  deception  massdistraction  participation  participatory  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  pedagogy  instruction  authority  obedience  compliance  collaboration  highered  highereducation  themachineisus/ingus  deschooling  unschooling  avisionofstudentstoday  digitalethnography 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Peter Galison, 2011 Sheffrin Lecture at UC Davis - YouTube
"Peter Galison delivered a lecture on the political history of secrecy from the Espionage Act to Wikileaks at UC Davis for the annual Sheffrin Lecture in Public Policy on June 1, 2011. Galison is the Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics at Harvard University.

The Sheffrin Lecture in Public Policy supports an annual lecture by distinguished scholars from across the social science disciplines on the day's most relevant issues of national public policy.

The annual series was established in 2008 by former Dean of the UC Davis Division of Social Sciences Steve Sheffrin, and his wife Anjali."
petergalison  2011  secrecy  law  politics  history  tolisten 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The Bombs Dividing Chile | VICE News
"Around 200 bombs have been either found or detonated in Chile over the past decade. Many of these bombs have been located in the capital city of Santiago, and have generally avoided harming innocent civilians.

This changed on September 8, 2014. A bomb was detonated inside a crowded subway station, leaving 14 civilians injured. Some blamed anarchist groups, while others suspected ultra-right terrorists.

In response to the threat, Chile's government has increasingly invoked its controversial anti-terror laws, which were originally enacted during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

VICE News traveled to Chile to speak with lawyers, politicians, and civilians about the current climate following the September 8 attack, and to ask whether the government will be able to guarantee and protect the rights of its citizens as it seeks to solve the mystery of the bombings in Chile."

[Direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3do2YUHIIuU ]
chile  2014  law  legal  violence  terrorism  danielhernandez  pinochet  history  economics  politics 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The first and last climate change refugee | Overland literary journal
"Three weeks ago, in a brief judgment issued by the Supreme Court of New Zealand, the world’s first application for climate change refugee status finally failed. ‘We agree with the Courts below’, declared a full bench of New Zealand’s highest court, ‘that in the particular factual context of this case the questions identified raise no arguable question of law of general or public importance’.

In other words, the decisions of the lower courts stand and Ioane Teitiota, the shy farmhand from Kiribati in the central Pacific, cannot claim refugee status as a victim of climate change. Ioane, his wife and his New Zealand-born children will be deported to Tarawa, a tiny sand strip perched at the western end of the enormous ocean state. All avenues for appeal have been exhausted.

The result mocks the liberal optimism of the climate change movement, many of whom hoped that – in the absence of a political solution for climate change refugees – there may be a legal solution. While the courts accept that Tarawa’s carrying capacity is ‘significantly compromised’ by climate change – a finding of fact – as a matter of law they cannot accept that this amounts to ‘persecution’ for the purposes of the Refugee Convention.

It’s a timely reminder that the legal system privileges the status quo. The court could have found a ‘pathway’ into the convention for Mr Teitiota, but it made a choice to apply the orthodox law (as I explained in the Guardian last year). Rather than assess where the balance of justice lies, the courts retreated to the security of formalism and merely asked a series of threshold questions (‘Was there a failure of state protection?’ etc.).

The unspoken fear, from common law courtrooms to international summits, is that a successful climate change refugee case could open the floodgates (so to speak). The precedent would compel the New Zealand government to develop a policy framework for accepting climate change refugees. The effect would be to partially redistribute the burden of immediate climate change action from developing states to developed states.

That’s an untenable political outcome, even for other common law countries like Australia. The developed world prefers to shift the costs of climate change adaptation to the developing world. Brian Fisher, the government’s former chief economic adviser on climate change, admitted as much when he ventured the view that it would be ‘more efficient’ to let the Pacific Ocean swallow its low-lying islands rather than require Australian industries to reduce their emissions.

Rather than being about applied science and international values, the developed world’s response to climate change has always been about applied ideology. In the lead up to the Kyoto Protocol the Australian government pressured Pacific countries to abandon their advocacy and proposals for strict emission reduction targets. The primary motive was to protect Australian capitalism against reform. States tend to prefer self-interest to social justice.

Except, of course, where there are profitable market mechanisms like emissions trading schemes which create opportunities for accumulation in carbon offsets (while generally failing to reduce overall emissions). Yet no one appears to have imagined a profitable framework for shifting and settling climate change refugees, which means there is little political will to solve the existing emergency or, indeed, to prepare for the oncoming human migration disaster.

In part, this is a failure of the left because – despite all the hot air emitted at party conferences, activist meet-ups and online – we have ceded the terms of the debate. (This actually has serious consequences for the expansion of neoliberalism through, for example, emissions trading markets). The Teitiota case should have been framed as a fight for justice, not a mere test case for the movement.

This is not an argument for better language – often ‘aspirational’ language in the climate change debate is designed to cover up disagreement – it is an argument for better strategy. The climate change movement should have done more than swing behind the legal case, it should have agitated for a political solution as well. We appeared to be hoping against experience that the courts would rule against the interests of power.

Now, all that’s left is political struggle."
climatechange  law  refugees  2015  newzealand  politics  policy  statusquo  morgangodfery  kiribati 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Spaciocide: Design Observer
"This only scratches the surface of the physical architecture of displacement. Yet, it couldn't succeed without the buttress of an equally draconian legal architecture to sanction the mechanisms that make it virtually impossible to (lawfully!) live below the poverty line. A recent study found that California alone has 500 laws on its books across fifty-eight cities, an average of nine in each. Even the ACLU is pleading with Berkeley lawmakers to reconsider its homeless policy framework. The London borough of Hackney just passed a “Public Space Protection Orders” law giving authorities powers to remove a broad spectrum of people almost at will from downtown.

While camping in the American city is generally illegal, sleeping in vehicles overnight is becoming increasingly illegal too, and more dangerous. Sacramento has an ordinance that outlaws camping on private property for more than one night, prompting claims that such laws have caused a 2,400 percent leap in Sacramento's city camping citations. The homeless have long since been priced out of public transportation. And the library, a homeless sanctuary for decades, has begun preventing people from napping and using restrooms based on various new policies, including an “anti-odor” law. Many lack access to clean water, and are often ticketed for simply being homeless."
architecture  law  legal  homeless  homelessness  2015  spaciocide  urban  urbanism  cities  us  bryanfinoki 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Marriage Equality Is a Win for Single People Too -- The Cut
"For those Americans who are not married — by choice or by circumstance — or for those who simply do not regard the institution as the apotheosis of adult existence, Kennedy’s flowery prose in this otherwise stirring context, which unlocked matrimony to millions who have been barred from it, was jarring and more than a little depressing.

“Marriage,” Kennedy writes, “responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there.” It’s one of several sentences in his decision that sound really lovely and warm, but is in fact both cruel and inaccurate, what with its implication that marriage is a cure for loneliness and that those who have not found conjugal recourse are howling into an abyss of solitude that brings to mind Alien and its single heroine, Ripley: In [unmarried] space, no one can hear you scream! Kennedy’s vision of unmarried life is apparently absent friends, lovers, siblings, children; contra the experiences of millions, there is no satisfaction, relief, or fulfillment in independence.

He builds further on this in the decision’s ultimate paragraph, one that is destined to be read at gay and straight weddings for decades, but which Nation editor Richard Kim fairly described on Twitter as a “barfy, single-shaming kicker.”

“No union is more profound than marriage,” Kennedy writes, “for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.” This will come as news to the millions of people who aim their love, fidelity, sacrifice, and devotion high, but in directions other than at a spouse. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were,” Kennedy continues, just hammering it home: Married partnership, according to the Supreme Court, is not only a terrific institution into which we rightly should welcome all loving and willing entrants, it is an arrangement that apparently improves the individuals who enter it, that makes them greater than they were on their own. Those who have previously not been allowed to marry, Kennedy avers, should not be “condemned to live in loneliness,” as if the opposite of marriage must surely be a life sentence of abject misery."



"Kennedy’s framing seems to bolster McArdle’s prediction of a return to Victorian social constriction. But because of the growing number of single people in America, it brings up the possibility of something worse: the cutting off of rights and benefits to an ever-expanding population of independent adults. It corresponds to the worst fears of single advocate Bella DePaulo, who has written that even when gay and lesbian people gain true marriage equality, “all those people who are single — whether gay or straight or any other status — will still remain second class citizens,” wanting for the tax breaks and legal dispensations and next-of-kin rights enjoyed by their married peers.

What’s extra galling about Kennedy’s wording is that it makes the glorious same-sex marriage victory a cramped thing, when in fact the social progress it represents is expansive in ways that should redound positively to many Americans, not just those who have already or who aspire to walk down an aisle or into a judge’s chambers. In reality, the right for gay people to marry each other represents a victory not only for gay-marrying people and their straight-marrying brethren but also for non-marrying Americans."



"Here is what we should not be doing: adding one narrow, institutionally defined expectation of adult life to another narrow, institutionally defined expectation for adult life. The freedom to marry someone of the same sex is the freedom to not have to marry someone of the opposite sex, which in an ideal universe should be tied to the freedom not to have to marry, period."
marriage  marriageequality  2015  scotus  singles  legal  law  rebeccatraister 
july 2015 by robertogreco
more than 95 theses - frequently unobserved distinctions
"(a) Approving the outcome of a judicial decision
(b) Accepting as valid the legal reasoning in support of that outcome

(a) Believing in the need to enshrine in law a great social good
(b) Believing that that social good is already enshrined in the Constitution

(a) Believing in traditional Christian teaching on a given subject
(b) Believing that that teaching needs to be enshrined in secular law

(a) Wishing to commend to the whole society the excellence of Christian teaching
(b) Believing that legislation is the best way to do that"

[See also:“The Six Axioms of Politico-Judicial Logic”
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-six-axioms-of-polito-judicial-logic/

"These six axioms provide all you need to know to navigate the landscape of current debates about judicial decisions:

1) The heart wants what it wants.

2) The heart has a right to what it wants—as long as the harm principle isn’t violated.

3) A political or social outcome that is greatly desirable is also ipso facto constitutional.

4) A political or social outcome that is greatly undesirable is also ipso facto unconstitutional.

5) A judicial decision that produces a desirable outcome is (regardless of the legal reasoning involved) proof of the wisdom of the Founders in liberating the Supreme Court from the vagaries of partisan politics so that they can think freely and without bias. The system works!

6) A judicial decision that produces an undesirable outcome is (regardless of the legal reasoning involved) proof that the system is broken, because it allows five unelected old farts to determine the course of society.

From these six axioms virtually every opinion stated on social media about Supreme Court decisions can be clearly derived. You’re welcome."]
alanjacobs  law  legal  constitution  courts  christianity  belief  religion  society  legislation  2015 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Hooray for Same-Sex Concubinage!
"Simply put, mutual responsibility towards offspring naturally demands a long-term commitment (at least 18 years) while mutual attraction and erotic desire does not. What we see in the modern world is the fracturing of a very lofty ideal of marriage back into two different kinds of relationships: those which are primarily focused on children, and those which are primarily focused on erotic love. The battle over the institution of marriage is basically a battle over whether which of these two purposes of marriage ought to have primacy.

The answer that the Supreme Court has given by ruling in favour of same-sex marriage is basically a ruling in favour of erotic love. This should surprise no one. It’s the more culturally popular option, and it’s the view of marriage that the vast majority of heterosexuals already subscribe to. It’s also, in practice, the definition that we’ve been using for a long time. The truth is that most of the material and social supports that exist to help parents with the task of raising children are no longer associated with the institution of marriage in any way – and unfortunately, the pro-family groups that could be providing financial, emotional and practical support to people who are choosing traditional marriage tend to waste their resources fighting fruitless political battles instead.

The challenge, then, is for advocates of the traditional family to stop wringing their hands over the SCOTUS decision and blaming the gays for the demise of the family, and to focus instead on renewing the practice of sacramental marriage by building up communities of support so that the traditional understanding of marriage will become practicable and attractive again."
marriage  parenting  law  marrigeequality  20915  via:ayjay  melindaselmys 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The simple idea that could transform US criminal justice | Tina Rosenberg | US news | The Guardian
"Judge Victoria Pratt looks defendants in the eye, asks them to write essays about their goals, and applauds them for complying – and she is getting results"



"Calabrese was using what have become the four principles of procedural justice: first, that people who come before a judge trust that the process is impartial; second, that they are treated with respect; third, that they understand what is going on and what they are expected to do; fourth, that they have a voice. Defendants find the procedure fairer when they are allowed to state their views. Experimental evidence shows that this is true even when they are allowed to speak only after the judge has announced their decision. No one likes to lose a court case. But people accept losing more willingly if they believe the procedures used to handle their case are fair.

* * *
The concept of procedural justice was first formulated by a social psychologist named Tom R Tyler. Entering Columbia University in 1969, Tyler started college at a moment when respect for the law was at a low point. Racial segregation had been outlawed in the US only five years earlier, but was still defiantly enforced in many parts of the south. The US was fighting a war in Vietnam that was widely considered immoral and illegal. “My entire generation was preoccupied with the question of why we would or wouldn’t obey laws, and whether the law was legitimate,” he said.

The question continued to preoccupy Tyler throughout his time in college. Unlike other researchers in his field, what interested him was not why people break the law, but why they do not. Even criminals, he noted, follow the law most of the time. In his 1990 book Why People Obey the Law, Tyler came up with a novel explanation.

Criminal justice systems everywhere run on the assumption that people obey the law because they are afraid of punishment. B Tyler argued that the key factor is legitimacy: people obey the law because they believe the state has the right to tell them what to do. Broad legitimacy matters more than whether people believe an individual law to be right or wrong – although the public’s view about individual laws can influence broad legitimacy.

In the courts, Tyler argued, legitimacy is created by the perception of fairness. But while lawyers and judges tend to assume that fairness refers to the outcome of a case, that is generally not what matters most to the people who come before a court. For example, Tyler and a colleague asked defendants to describe the process and the outcome of their cases, and whether they willingly accepted the court’s decision. Through statistical analysis, the researchers found that defendants were far more likely to willingly accept the court’s decision if they felt they had been treated fairly. Indeed, this was much more important to defendants in this regard than a favourable outcome.

In other words, an offender is more likely to do what the authorities tell him and refrain from committing further crimes if he feels that he is treated with respect and fairness – regardless of the judge’s ruling. “This discovery has been called ‘counterintuitive’ and even ‘wrongheaded,’” stated a paper published in 2007 by the American Judges Association, “but researcher after researcher has demonstrated that this phenomenon exists”."
law  crime  justice  proceduraljustice  2015  criminaljustice  dignity  respect  fairness  victoriapratt  newark 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Orion Magazine - Fotos de la biografía | Facebook
"Great old poem criticizing those who took common lands for personal gain:

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who takes things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.

"This 17th Century folk poem is one of the pithiest condemnations of the English enclosure movement—the process of fencing off common land and turning it into private property. In a few lines, the poem manages to criticize double standards, expose the artificial and controversial nature of property rights, and take a slap at the legitimacy of state power. And it does it all with humor, without jargon, and in rhyming couplets." —James Boyle, Duke Law School Professor via On the Commons [https://www.facebook.com/OntheCommons ]"
poems  poetry  via:anne  commonlands  enclosure  multispecies  property  privateproperty  commons  nature  propertyrights  statepower  jamesboyle  law  legal 
june 2015 by robertogreco
What's Your Algorithmic Citizenship? | Citizen Ex
"Every time you connect to the internet, you pass through time, space, and law. Information is sent out from your computer all over the world, and sent back from there. This information is stored and tracked in multiple locations, and used to make decisions about you, and determine your rights. These decisions are made by people, companies, countries and machines, in many countries and legal jurisdictions. Citizen Ex shows you where those places are.

Your Algorithmic Citizenship is how you appear to the internet, as a collection of data extending across many nations, with a different citizenship and different rights in every place. One day perhaps we will all live like we do on the internet. Until then, there's Citizen Ex."

[http://citizen-ex.com/download

"Citizen Ex is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, which shows you where on the web you really are, and what that means."]
geolocation  identity  immigration  jamesbridle  internet  web  privacy  law  time  space  data  location  legal  extensions  browsers  chrome  safari  firefox  citizenship  browser 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Which Students Get to Have Privacy? — The Message — Medium
"As a youth advocate and privacy activist, I’m generally in favor of student privacy. But my panties also get in a bunch when I listen to how people imagine the work of student privacy. As is common in Congress as election cycles unfold, student privacy has a “save the children” narrative. And this forces me to want to know more about the threat models we’re talking about. What are we saving the children *from*?

Threat Models
There are four external threats that I think are interesting to consider. These are the dangers that students face if their data leaves the education context.

#1: The Stranger Danger Threat Model. It doesn’t matter how much data we have to challenge prominent fears, the possibly of creepy child predators lurking around school children still overwhelms any conversation about students, including their data.

#2: The Marketing Threat Model. From COPPA to the Markey/Hatch bill, there’s a lot of concern about how student data will be used by companies to advertise products to students or otherwise fuel commercial data collection that drives advertising ecosystems.

#3: The Consumer Finance Threat Model. In a post-housing bubble market, the new subprime lending schemes are all about enabling student debt, especially since students can’t declare bankruptcy when they default on their obscene loans. There is concern about how student data will be used to fuel the student debt ecosystem.

#4: The Criminal Justice Threat Model. Law enforcement has long been interested in student performance, but this data is increasingly desirable in a world of policing that is trying to assess risk. There are reasons to believe that student data will fuel the new policing architectures.

The first threat model is artificial (see: “It’s Complicated”), but it propels people to act and create laws that will not do a darn thing to address abuse of children. The other three threat models are real, but these threats are spread differently over the population. In the world of student privacy, #2 gets far more attention than #3 and #4. In fact, almost every bill creates carve-outs for “safety” or otherwise allows access to data if there’s concern about a risk to the child, other children, or the school. In other words, if police need it. And, of course, all of these laws allow parents and guardians to get access to student data with no consideration of the consequences for students who are under state supervision. So, really, #4 isn’t even in the cultural imagination because, as with nearly everything involving our criminal justice system, we don’t believe that “those people” deserve privacy.

The reason that I get grouchy is that I hate how the risks that we’re concerned about are shaped by the fears of privileged parents, not the risks of those who are already under constant surveillance, those who are economically disadvantaged, and those who are in the school-prison pipeline. #2-#4 are all real threat models with genuine risks, but we consistently take #2 far more seriously than #3 or #4, and privileged folks are more concerned with #1.

What would it take to actually consider the privacy rights of the most marginalized students?

The threats that poor youth face? That youth of color face? And the trade-offs they make in a hypersurveilled world? What would it take to get people to care about how we keep building out infrastructure and backdoors to track low-status youth in new ways? It saddens me that the conversation is constructed as being about student privacy, but it’s really about who has the right to monitor which youth. And, as always, we allow certain actors to continue asserting power over youth."
internet  safety  privacy  inequality  policing  lawenforcement  education  policy  coppa  surveillance  data  ferpa  law  legal  markets  criminaljustice  advertising 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Why One Silicon Valley City Said “No” to Google – Next City
"Big money and even bigger egos are colliding in the tech world’s new company towns."



"In 2012, Mountain View and Google entered into a $222,000 annual contract for Google to pay for city planning staff to handle all the reviews needed to get Google’s projects off the drawing board and into construction phases. Today, that contract is valued at $377,838. While the city normally charges companies an hourly rate for municipal services, the vetting of Google projects required more hours than the city had available. Instead of rejecting the company’s plans outright for lack of staff, Mountain View asked Google to fund the hiring of two additional planners. It was an unusual arrangement, the kind usually reserved for corporate polluters that must pay for large-scale government cleanups.

The agreement to have Google subsidize public servants didn’t necessarily raise many local eyebrows. After all, like it had before, Google solved the problem it had created, albeit by playing a major role in government affairs.

But local will for such involvement appears to have waned. In rejecting the vast majority of Google’s campus expansion, the Mountain View city council also rejected most of the company’s $240 million community benefits package, from the bike lanes and affordable housing, to the $15 million public safety center and ecological restoration, all planned at Google’s behest and design.

The vast majority of the North Bayshore area was instead granted to LinkedIn, which offered far fewer community benefits, but had one major factor in its favor: It’s not Google.

The political climate for tech companies in the Bay Area is, to a great extent, confused. The Googles of the world are blamed for a sharp rise in the cost of living and an increased strain on public services and infrastructure, but at the same time, no one can deny the huge boost they’ve given local government coffers.

Still, there is a discrepancy between the billions of dollars these companies make and the checks they write to the local governments that host them.

The sales tax model that served California cities for decades doesn’t work in the knowledge economy. While Apple remits local tax on the products it sells, Google and Facebook don’t collect sales tax on the digital ads we click away and the data we unwittingly share. Community benefit deals can potentially bridge the gap between those taxes and impacts, but they allow companies to determine which civic projects should be priorities. Facebook might want more police and Google might want more local ecology — but what do residents want?

If cities want to take greater control of their future, they’ll have to create and enforce new tax revenue streams — something Mountain View council member Lenny Siegel says he is working toward.

Without a significant local tax burden, companies can afford to drive policies and services, superseding the role of local government and advancing their own ideology. When that ideology includes bike lanes and public school support, this arrangement might work well.

But in a region in the grips of a controversial housing crisis spurred in no small part by an influx of high-paid tech talent, Silicon Valley companies on the whole appear comparatively disinterested in funding the affordable homes these cities so desperately need."



"Big companies in small cities are bound to exert some of their own power, either purposefully or passively. Much of this seems inevitable — it’s how this valley was named “Silicon” decades ago. But these companies are no longer dealing just in silicon. Regardless of Google’s loss in North Bayshore, soon Mountain View will feature Google-designed cars running on Google-funded roads planned by Google-paid city engineers. Where they once built semiconductors and software, tech is shaping the future of human communication, infrastructure, transit, law and collective lived experience — all the things that make up a city."

[Related: “New Balance Bought Its Own Commuter Rail Station [in Boston]: Instead of asking the cash-strapped public-transit system to add a stop, the company simply paid for one itself.”
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/05/new-balance-bought-its-own-commuter-rail-station/392711/ ]
siliconvalley  google  mountainview  california  infrastrcuture  taxes  2015  susiecagle  government  governance  economics  publictransit  transportation  housing  law  transit  boston 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Arkansas Adoption Preys on Cultural Misunderstanding with Marshallese | The New Republic
"Adoption is embraced in the Marshall Islands, but in the Ozarks, it means something very different. The tragic consequences of cultural misunderstanding."



"But nothing baffled Arkansas officials and community members more than the fluid notions of Marshallese family: a matrilineal system wherein all related members of a generation are considered the joint parents of a child. “[Kids] will show up [to school] one day with someone and say, ‘This is my mom,’” said Sandy Hainline-­Williams, an American nurse who has become a cultural liaison for Springdale’s Marshallese. “And the next day, a different woman: ‘This is my mom.’” Other nurses puzzled over women who were slow to answer when asked how many children they had. “I’ve teasingly said, ‘You can’t not remember having a baby!’” said Gina Jeremiah, a pregnancy intake nurse at Parkhill Clinic for Women, an obstetrics-gynecology practice within Willow Creek Women’s Hospital in Springdale. “All the women take on the role of mother in the kids’ lives,” said another nurse.

These attitudes, anthropologists believe, were born of the ethos of extreme generosity necessary for crowded island life. “There’s a general idea that things belong to everyone, as opposed to specific people,” said Elise Berman, an anthropologist at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. “And those things include children.” Some studies have found that 25 percent of Marshallese children are raised by someone other than their biological parent. Many adoptions in the Marshall Islands take place because an older relative has actively solicited the offspring of their younger kin—a stark contrast to the United States, where adoption is mainly seen as the last resort of unprepared or unwilling parents. Older family members will approach expectant relatives and, in a telling linguistic formulation, say, “Give me my child.” And because an adopted child usually just moves a few doors down, adoptees almost always know their biological parents. If a birth mother suspects her child is being mistreated, she has the right to take him back. “We have this belief that the role of the mother will stay there forever,” said Melisa Laelan, a Marshallese court interpreter and the founder of Springdale’s nonprofit Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese. There’s even a Marshallese phrase for this: Jined Ilo Kobo, which refers to the unbreakable connection that a mother has with her children; it can’t be severed no matter who raises them."



"Furlow wasn’t the only one concerned. At area hospitals, staff watched dozens of their Marshallese patients plan to relinquish their children, often to couples who had signed up just months—or even weeks—earlier. (Hopeful adoptive parents frequently wait years for a match with a healthy newborn baby.) Labor and nursery nurses traded horror stories involving tearful and confused new mothers, who asked whether they were allowed to hold or feed their babies, and lamented that they couldn’t change their minds because they lacked the money to repay the lawyers. Once, after a mother refused to part with her baby, an adoption attorney came in with his translator to “chew the mother out,” said one nurse. Another time, an attorney wrote an angry letter to an area hospital, instructing the staff to stop speaking to the mothers about adoption, said another nurse.

Staff at both local hospitals, Washington Regional and Willow Creek, began increasing their efforts to inform Marshallese mothers of their rights, but they were often stymied by the language barrier. Though the hospitals subscribed to a phone-in translation service, Marshallese interpreters were so rare that they needed to make an appointment. They often had to rely on family members or the adoption liaisons instead, and were never sure what information was being passed along. And Marshallese women were arriving from the Islands all the time; it was the new arrivals who seemed to give up their children most often. “It sounds juvenile, but I put it in terms of, ‘Do you understand that your baby goes away and never comes back?’” said Gina Jeremiah, the pregnancy intake nurse at Parkhill. “There’s been several instances where they go, ‘No, I’ll see my baby when it turns 18.’”

For Furlow and many of her colleagues, an uneasy sense of complicity began to set in. (It was Furlow who contacted me last July and asked me to look into this story.) “I feel like I’m involved unwillingly,” said Jeremiah last November. “On the one hand, we’re happy for the couples that are struggling and can’t get pregnant. But then from the other side of it, I ache for them a little bit—for the patients that are having to go through this,” said another Park­hill physician, Julian Terry. “For all of us,” said Laureen Benafield, one of Furlow’s pediatric partners and an adoptive mother herself, “the red flag has just been the volume ... the sheer numbers feel so wrong, predatory.” Benafield wasn’t the only one to note the volume: “When we say it’s gotten out of control, it’s really a money-­making business for many people,” Robert Hix, an OB-GYN at Parkhill, told me. “You can almost tell that some of them are not sure what’s going on until the baby is gone.” A judge who has handled many adoption cases summarized the sense of concern and helplessness among his colleagues, who told him: “If they present you paperwork in the right manner, then you’ve gotta sign it.”"



"To Laelan, it seems clear that adoption brokers are trying to spread their business across multiple jurisdictions to capitalize on the fact that not all courthouses have implemented strict translation requirements. A doctor at Parkhill clinic, Robert Hix, said Marshallese patients have begun evading the doctors and nurses’ questions, and nurses have seen people exchanging babies in the parking lot in order to hide from suspicious medical staff. “As we’ve started to try to create systems to protect them,” said Koehler, “will it just become a kind of arms race,” with attorneys coaching potential birth mothers at every step? “Because it seems like we’ll always be behind on that.”

When the illicit adoption business was booming in Hawaii, it took a coordinated community campaign to create an alliance strong enough to stop it. Advocates met with Homeland Security, the FBI, and local and state legislators; judges intervened and hospitals and politicians were enlisted to help enforce regulations to protect Marshallese mothers and children. But the first step in Arkansas should probably be a widespread education campaign to help recently arrived Marshallese understand that the adoptions happening in Arkansas are a far cry from those back home. Marshallese women are offered false comfort, Lang said, through another Marshallese proverb, Jinen Koto In—or “Mother of the Wind”—which implies, even more than Jined Ilo Kobo, that nature will always return a child to her original mother. In the United States, where the rules governing closed adoptions are rigid and unyielding, that’s simply not true. Birth parents who sign away their children in closed adoptions will likely not see them for years or decades—if ever."
adoption  marshallislands  parenting  culture  2015  kathrynjoyce  arkansas  ozarks  us  law  legal 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Meet the lawyer taking on Uber and the rest of the on-demand economy | Fusion
"If cases like Liss-Riordan’s are successful, on-demand companies would have to pay overtime, deductions from wages, and, in California, the expenses incurred by their service providers. Those costs would mount into the millions, and proponents of the on-demand economy worry that they could force successful companies out of business.

“Our community cares about flexibility and setting their own hours,” said Fiona Ramsey, the director of communications for Peers, an advocacy group for the on-demand economy. She added: “We worry the share economy will cease to exist if these cases are successful.”

That worry may be exaggerated, however. Deep-pocketed companies like Uber, which has raised nearly $5 billion in venture capital since launching, could surely afford the additional expense of putting drivers on its payroll. And several on-demand companies, such as the house cleaning start-up MyClean and the food delivery service Munchery, already treat their workers as W-2 employees. These companies’ labor costs are higher than their 1099-dependent rivals, but they get additional benefits, such as being able to train their workers and hold them to consistent schedules.

Liss-Riordan thinks Uber did “a great thing for the world in terms of convenience for customers.” But she contends that the company’s insanely high valuation is based on its skirting employment responsibilities and having drivers bear the costs of its business operations. She also thinks the on-demand economy’s existential fears about the oncoming wave of class-action lawsuits are overblown.

“Uber and Lyft can survive classifying drivers as employees,” she says. “It might cost them a little more, but it’s a successful concept. It’s not going to go away because we are trying to enforce the rules.”
business  law  uber  sharingeconomy  2015  economics  employment  labor  work  compensation  shannonliss-riordan  kashmirhill 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting - Bloomberg View
"Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Maryland want to raise their children as "free-range kids," which is to say giving them the kind of range of movement that those of us over 30 recall as a normal part of childhood. One of my cherished childhood memories is the long walks my best friend and I would take home from church through New York's Riverside Park, which Google Maps records as a distance of a mile and a half, stopping at every playground along the way. This is slightly longer than the walk home from the playground that caused Montgomery County's Child Protective Services to investigate the Meitivs last year, after someone called the police to report the alarming sight of ... children walking down the street alone. On Sunday, after another "good Samaritan" called the cops, CPS seized the children, leaving the parents frantic with worry for hours.

One could argue that this is a good lesson for the parents. One could also argue that it would be bracing to have the police periodically break into our homes to educate us about weak points in our security systems. In fact, the sort of abduction that CPS apparently wants the Meitivs to obsess over is incredibly rare and always has been.

Why has America gone lunatic on the subject of unattended children? Parents hover over their kids as if every step might be their last. If they don't hover, strangers do, calling the police to report any parent who leaves their child to run into the store for a few minutes. What's truly strange is that the parents who are doing this were themselves left to their own devices in cars, allowed to ride their bikes and walk to the store unsupervised, and otherwise given the (limited) freedom that they are now determined to deny their own kids. The police are making arrests that would have branded their own parents as criminals. To hear people my age talk about the dangers of unsupervised children, you would think that the attrition rate in our generation had been at least 30 percent.

Even people who haven't gone crazy are afraid of the Pediatric Patrol. A mom of my acquaintance whose house backs up to a school playground, with a gate that lets her children walk straight into the schoolyard, is afraid to let them go through the gate without an adult, for fear that someone would call the same nutty CPS that has taken to impounding the Meitiv children. She compromises by letting them play alone in the playground only when she is in the backyard, so that she can intervene if the police arrive.

Think about that: Kids have the priceless boon of a playground right in their backyard, but they can't use it unless Mom drops everything to accompany them. I am running out of synonyms for "insane" to describe the state we have worked ourselves into. What on earth has happened to us?

As it happened, I looked into that for my book, and the disappointing news is that I didn't find much good research to explain this mass shift in American parenting. I did, however, develop some theories from watching parents, law enforcement officials and others discuss the pros and cons of free-range parenting.

I should add a caveat: I don't have kids, so I lack an important perspective. And I should say that if I did have kids, I'm sure I too would be a safety paranoiac, making my own baby food from organic ingredients just in case pesticides in their unsweetened applesauce turn out to cause cancer. So I'm not blaming individual parents; this is a collective insanity, not a personal foible.

So how can we explain it?

1. Cable news. When you listen to parents talk about why they hover, you'll frequently hear that the world is more dangerous than it used to be. This is the exact opposite of the truth. The New York City where I walked to school, past housing projects with major crime problems and across busy streets, was much more dangerous than the New York of today. And that is true of virtually everywhere. The world is not more dangerous. But it feels more dangerous to a lot of people because the media landscape has shifted.

Think of it this way: There were always stranger abductions, but they were always extremely rare, perhaps 2 or 3 per 1 million children under 12 in the U.S. each year. However, in the 1970s, you most likely only heard about local cases, and because these were rare, you would hear about one every few years in a moderately large metropolitan area. This made it sound like what it is: an unimaginably terrible thing that thankfully almost never happens. Very occasionally, a case would catch the imagination and make national news, like the Lindbergh baby. But these almost always happened in big cities like New York, or to rich people, so people didn't imagine that this was a risk that faced them.

Then along came cable news, which needed to fill 24 hours a day with content. These sorts of cases started to make national news, and because our brains are terrible at statistics, we did not register this as "Aha, the overall rate is still low, but I am now hearing cases drawn from a much larger population, so I hear about more of them." Instead, it felt like stranger abductions must have gone up a lot.

The Internet also enables parents to share stories of every bad thing that happens to their children. We used to be limited to collecting these stories from people we actually met, which meant that we didn't hear a lot of truly terrible stories. Now we have thousands at the tips of our fingers, and the same failures of statistical intuition make it feel like wow, terrible things are happening all the time these days.

2. Economic insecurity. As college degrees, and particularly elite degrees, have become more valuable, parents have come to feel that they must micromanage their children's lives in order to make a good showing on college applications. The result is vastly more supervised activities. This has shrunk the pool of kids who are around to play with, making free-range childhood less rewarding.

3. Mothers working. In suburbs and small towns, stay-at-home moms formed "eyes on the street," so that even if your kid was roaming the neighborhood, there was a gentle adult eye periodically sweeping across their activity. But I don't think we can lean on this too much, because kids in cities also had a lot more independence back then, and the Broadway of my youth was not exactly a sweet, sheltered world where nothing much could go wrong.

There's another reason I think this matters, however. More mothers are paying others to take care of their children. It's easy to impose severe limits on the mobility of your children when you are not personally expected to provide 24-hour supervision. When I was a kid, there were a lot of mothers at home who believed that being home with kids was important but did not actually personally enjoy playing with 4-year-olds. Those parents would have rebelled at being told that they should never let their kids out of hearing range. Those mothers are now at work, paying someone else to enjoy playing with their 4-year-old or at least convincingly fake it.

4. Collective-action problems. When it comes to safety, overprotective parents are in effect taking out a sort of regret insurance. Every community has what you might call "generally accepted child-rearing practices," the parenting equivalent of "generally accepted accounting principles." These principles define what is good parenting and provide a sort of mental safe harbor in the event of an accident. If you do those things and your kid gets hurt -- well, you'll still wish that you'd asked them to stay home and help bake cookies, or lingered a little longer at the drugstore, or something so that they weren't around when the Bad Thing happened. But if you break them and your kid gets hurt, you -- and a lot of other people -- will feel that it happened because you were a bad parent. So you follow the GACP.

Over time, these rules get set by the most risk-averse parent in your social group, because if anything happens, you'll wish you had acted like them. This does not mean that the kids are actually safer: Parents in most places "shelter" their kids from risk by strapping them into cars and driving them to supervised activities, which is more dangerous than almost anything those kids could have gotten up to at home.

5. Lawsuits. In the U.S., the liability revolution of the 1970s has made every institution, from parks departments to schools, much more sensitive about even tiny risks, because when you go before the jury in a case about a hurt child, arguing that what happened was less likely than getting hit by a bolt of lightning is going to have much less impact than the evidence of a hurt child.

6. Mobile phones. All these strangers calling 911 to report a 6-year-old who has been left in a car outside a store for a few minutes are probably doing so because it's easy. If that person had to dig for a piece of paper and a pen to write the license plate down, then take time out of their day to find a pay phone, dial the police and stand around talking to the 911 operator, most would probably think "You know, I bet his mom is going to come out of the store in a minute, and I really need to get home to start dinner." Now you can just take a picture of the license plate and call from the comfort of your car. It would be surprising if we lowered the price of being an officious busybody and didn't get a lot more of it.

7. We're richer. Richer countries can afford more safety. That's a good thing, but there can be too much safety. There are major downsides to this form of parenting, as many authors have laid out: It's hard on the parents, may result in the kids developing more phobias, and stunts the creativity and self-reliance that we theoretically want to develop in children so that they can become happy and productive adults.

I don't think there's one easy answer to why we've become insane; rather, there are a lot of forces that are pushing in this direction. But that doesn't mean we can't push back. And a good start would be for … [more]
parenting  children  safety  meganmcardle  freedom  free-rangeparenting  2015  media  news  statistics  liability  litigiousness  law  legal  helicoperparents  helicopterparenting  labor  work  economics  insecurity  micromanagment  lawenforcement  childcare  overprotection  risk  riskassessment  risktaking  lawsuits  mobile  phones  wealth  cps  via:ayjay  helicopterparents 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Two sentences that perfectly capture what it means to be privileged in America today - Vox
"Giridharadas's point is particularly salient now, as Robert Putnam's book about the growing fissure between upper- and lower-class America is a hot topic in political circles. Toward the end of his talk (around the 16-minute mark), he hammers home the point that there are two Americas, and that many people who reside firmly in the more privileged version don't even realize it.

"Don't console yourself that you are the 99 percent," he says. "If you live near a Whole Foods; if no one in your family serves in the military; if you are paid by the year, not the hour; if most people you know finished college; if no one you know uses meth; if you married once and remain married; if you're not one of 65 million Americans with a criminal record — if any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that actually, you may not know what's going on, and you may be part of the problem."

Harsh as that sounds, Giridharadas gets at an important point that Putnam also echoed in a recent interview with Vox: as the highest and lowest incomes in the US move further apart, well-off and low-income Americans also know less and less about each other and what it truly means to be from another social class. Indeed, only 1 percent of Americans consider themselves upper-class. As economic segregation grows, it plays a part in keeping people from climbing up the social ladder."

[YouTube link for Anand Giridharadas's talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i-pNVj5KMw ]

[Response from Connor Kilpatrick:
“Let Them Eat Privilege: Focusing on privilege diverts attention away from the real villains.”
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/04/1-99-percent-class-inequality/

"By forcing the middle class to divert their attention downward (and within) instead of at the real power players above, Vox and Giridharadas are playing into the Right’s hands. It’s an attempt to shame the middle class — those with some wealth but, relative to the top one or one-tenth of one percent, mere crumbs — to make them shut up about the rich and super rich and, instead, look at those below as a reminder that it could all be much worse.

[…]

Even when the income of the one percent (mostly the bottom half of that select group) is derived primarily from high salaries (as opposed to returns on investment) it’s far more likely to be reinvested in shares, bonds, and real estate — and of course elite educations and other opportunities for their children — than the income of the middle 40 percent, who have hardly anything left once the bills are paid.

That means that even with nothing more than a killer W-2, the salaried lower half of the one percent still have the means to consolidate themselves as an elite class while the rest of us are immiserated.

When a cut in capital gains taxes is paid for by hiking state tuition and slashing social services, the one percent benefits while the vast majority of the 99 percent loses. When a new law is passed making it harder to organize a union or wages are squeezed to ring out higher and higher corporate profits, it’s the one percent — and their investment portfolios — that benefits and the majority of the 99 percent who loses.

It’s real winners and losers — not a state of mind and not a “culture.” And it works like this:

[chart]

What’s bad for you economically is probably good for them. That’s why the rest of us will have to come in conflict with this tiny elite and its institutions if we’re going win a more just and egalitarian future for ourselves.

By substituting class relations for an arbitrary list of “privileges,” Vox is attempting to paint a picture of an immiserated America with no villain. It’s an America without a ruling class that directly and materially benefits from everyone else’s hard times. And this omission isn’t just incorrect — it robs us of any meaningful oppositional politics that could change it all.

It’s a conclusion that, despite Vox’s endorsement, plays into conservatives’ hands. Like the journalist Robert Fitch once wrote, it is the aim of the Right “to restrict the scope of class conflict — to bring it down to as low a level as possible. The smaller and more local the political unit, the easier it is to run it oligarchically.”

So why turn inward? Why argue over who’s got the sweeter deal and how we’re all responsible for the gross inequity of society when it’s not that much more than a tiny sliver of millionaires and billionaires at Davos sipping wine and rubbing shoulders with politicians?

Let’s try worrying more about knowing thy enemy — and building solidarity from that recognition. “Check your privilege?” Sure. But for once, let’s try checking it against the average hedge fund manager instead of a random Whole Foods shopper."]
anandgiridharadas  inequality  privilege  2015  race  military  employment  work  labor  drugs  addiction  poverty  education  marriage  class  robertputnam  politics  secondchances  religion  islam  mercy  forgiveness  grace  us  humanism  segregation  lifeexpectancy  healthcare  faith  civics  law  legal  capitalpunishment  deathpenalty  raisuddinbhuiyan  markstroman  connorkilpatrick 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The double-standard of making the poor prove they’re worthy of government benefits - The Washington Post
"Sometimes these laws are cast as protection for the poor, ensuring that aid is steered in ways that will help them the most. Other times they're framed as protection for the taxpayer, who shouldn't be asked to help people who will squander the money on vices anyway.

But the logic behind the proposals is problematic in at least three, really big ways.

The first is economic: There's virtually no evidence that the poor actually spend their money this way. The idea that they do defies Maslow's hierarchy — the notion that we all need shelter and food before we go in search of foot massages. In fact, the poor are much more savvy about how they spend their money because they have less of it (quick quiz: do you know exactly how much you last spent on a gallon of milk? or a bag of diapers?). By definition, a much higher share of their income — often more than half of it — is eaten up by basic housing costs than is true for the better-off, leaving them less money for luxuries anyway. And contrary to the logic of drug-testing laws, the poor are no more likely to use drugs than the population at large.

The second issue with these laws is a moral one: We rarely make similar demands of other recipients of government aid. We don't drug-test farmers who receive agriculture subsidies (lest they think about plowing while high!). We don't require Pell Grant recipients to prove that they're pursuing a degree that will get them a real job one day (sorry, no poetry!). We don't require wealthy families who cash in on the home mortgage interest deduction to prove that they don't use their homes as brothels (because surely someone out there does this). The strings that we attach to government aid are attached uniquely for the poor.

That leads us to the third problem, which is a political one. Many, many Americans who do receive these other kinds of government benefits — farm subsidies, student loans, mortgage tax breaks — don't recognize that, like the poor, they get something from government, too. That's because government gives money directly to poor people, but it gives benefits to the rest of us in ways that allow us to tell ourselves that we get nothing from government at all.

Political scientist Suzanne Mettler has called this effect the "submerged state." Food stamps and welfare checks are incredibly visible government benefits. The mortgage interest deduction, Medicare benefits and tuition tax breaks are not — they're submerged. They come to us in round-about ways, through smaller tax bills (or larger refunds), through payments we don't have to make to doctors (thanks to Medicare), or in tuition we don't have to pay to universities (because the G.I. Bill does that for us).

Mettler's research has shown that a remarkable number of people who don't think they get anything from government in fact benefit from one of these programs. This explains why we get election-season soundbites from confused voters who want policymakers to "keep your government hands off my Medicare!" This is also what enables politicians to gin up indignation among small-government supporters who don't realize they rely on government themselves.

Mettler raises a lot of concerns about what the submerged state means for how we understand the role of government. But one result of this reality is that we have even less tolerance for programs that help the poor: We begrudge them their housing vouchers, for instance, even though government spends about four times as much subsidizing housing for upper-income homeowners.

That's a long-winded way of saying that these proposed laws — which insist that government beneficiaries prove themselves worthy, that they spend government money how the government wants them to, that they waive their privacy and personal freedom to get it — are also simply a reflection of a basic double-standard."
us  poverty  government  benefits  2015  politics  discrimination  patronization  legibility  illegibility  indignity  emilybadger  privacy  freedom  control  suzannemettler  law  legal  morality  inequality 
april 2015 by robertogreco
No legal merit | A Working Library
"In happier news, The Verge reports on Amazon’s shameless enforcement of non-competes for low-wage temporary workers, and Amazon rapidly about-faces. Nevermind pageviews and reading time, let’s measure publishing success by the actual change we bring about. Metrics could include unjust laws repealed, despicable company policies reversed, social welfare improved, centimeters of sea level increase averted, pseudo-science rejected, reduction in atmospheric carbon, happy children, puppies with loving homes. I’m only half-kidding. Business metrics are critical, but they’re not why we pour our hearts into this work, and we can’t ever let the numbers obscure that."



"An interesting aside: media Twitter was understandably aghast at Facebook’s new initiative, while seemingly unmoved by similar patterns on YouTube. I suspect this is because we have feels about words that we don’t have with video. It’s worth noting that while the web has become the de facto distribution method for video, the internet—that is, the open network of hypertext documents—privileges words over images. HTML is words annotating words. Words are foundational to HTML; images and video are not. Even our relationship to images is driven by language: one can “read” a picture, and our interpretation of images is constrained by words. I’m tempted to think our angst about the economy of letters should be directed at the underlying economic concerns—of which publishing is only one victim—and away from the words themselves. The words will be fine."
2015  mandybrown  metrics  journalism  activism  justice  policy  politics  business  measurement  publishing  success  change  changemaking  socialwelfare  society  law  legal  progress  climatechange  science  education  happiness  ellenpao  gender  inequality  amazon  labor  exploitation  women  facebook  html  text  images  video  youtube 
march 2015 by robertogreco
New Hampshire legislatures kill fourth graders' bill and dreams.
"Last Thursday, fourth graders from Hampton Falls, New Hampshire visited their state legislature to observe a bit of democracy in action. The children had previously proposed House Bill 373, establishing the Red Tail Hawk as the New Hampshire State Raptor, as part of a civics lesson in how bills become laws. Their measure had already sailed out of the Environmental and Agriculture Committee. Now the young students gathered in the House galley to watch their bill pass its next hurdle.

But the nine and ten-year-olds were in for a brutal lesson in realpolitik. At the start of the day, legislators turned and applauded to children for coming to the statehouse. When lawmakers began to consider the bill, however, Republican Rep. Warren Groen—who has devoted his career to combating abortion and marriage equality—took the floor to denounce the Red Tail Hawk. "It grasps [its prey] with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb," he explained as the children watched. "And I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood."

Rep. John Burt, another Republican, also castigated the effort to name an official state raptor. "Bottom line," he said, "if we keep bringing more of these bills, and bills, and bills forward that really I think we shouldn't have in front of us, we'll be picking a state hot dog next."

[video]

A number of other legislators, it seems, shared Burt's and Groen's concerns: Ultimately, the House killed the bill by a 133-160 vote. In the end, New Hampshire's lawmakers may have crushed the dreams of several fourth graders. But in fairness, the legislators probably gave the students a better lesson in the realities of American democracy than their teacher ever could have hoped."
law  lawmaking  newhampshire  us  raptors  children  education  politics  via:jannon  2015  lawmakers 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories (HBO) - YouTube
"A set of Supreme Court decisions made over 100 years ago has left U.S. territories without meaningful representation. That’s weird, right?"
us  law  legal  citizenship  guam  americansamoa  puertorico  virginislands  northernmarianaislands  racism  history  voting  votingrights  johnoliver  usterritories 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Laws | Free Range Kids
"Wondering if you can let your kids walk to the park or wait in the car for a few minutes — legally?

This list should help.

At Free-Range Kids, we believe parents are the best judges of what their kids are ready for, when. But the sad fact is, some loving and responsible parents have found themselves in legal trouble when a busybody or law enforcement official perceived their actions as unacceptable.

Until the day we see the Free-Range Kids and Parents Bill of Rights become the law of the land — a bill stating kids have the right to spend some time unsupervised, and parents have the right to let them — here’s a guide to state child welfare laws.

You’ll see that 19 states have specific laws about when it is legal to leave a child in a car. Five states have laws that specify what age a child can be home alone, and 10 states have “guidelines.” For states that don’t have these, the child neglect laws are the next most relevant sources of information. You can find those here.

This list is not a legal document and some localities have rules and guidelines even when the state does not. But we hope this at least provides a starting point. It was compiled by my incredible assistant, Paul Best, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. If you have any questions, inquiries or local laws to add, please contact him at pkinb21@gmail.com."
law  us  homealone  parenting  children  cars  childwelfare  lawenforcement 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Seamless Transitions | booktwo.org
"Seamless Transitions is a visualisation of three spaces of immigration judgement, detention and deportation in the UK. Field House in the City is the home of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), designed around the presentation of secret evidence, Harmondsworth IRC at Heathrow is just one part of the UK’s detention estate, and the Inflite Jet Centre at Stansted is where I watched the deportation flights take place in December 2013 – and where they still carry on.

Each of these spaces is “unphotographable” in the traditional sense, so I used investigative journalism techniques, eyewitness accounts and other research to reconstruct each of them. I then took these plans to Picture Plane, a leading architectural visualiser about whose work I have written at length before. The resultant film – a walkthrough of the virtual environments created by Picture Plane based on research and investigation of real spaces – is a simulacram that nevertheless reveals a reality, one which has remained hidden behind law and indifference.

I have written more about the sites depicted for the Guardian newspaper [http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jan/27/hidden-world-of-uk-deportation-asylum-seamless-transitions ]:
Politicians on all sides – when it suits them – have criticised the current asylum system. Human-rights groups and courts have questioned the legality of many of its aspects. Successive reports over a decade have decried the conditions, management and humanity of the flights and detention centres. Newspaper stories every month recount a litany of abuses, deaths, broken families and traumatised individuals. But even if you don’t know these stories, just watching people of colour being loaded off buses by burly men in hi-vis jackets at night is enough to tell you something inhumane, morally embarrassing, legally questionable and fundamentally objectionable is going on.

And I wrote about the investigative process and the meaning of visualisation for the Border Criminologies blog of the Centre for Criminology [http://bordercriminologies.law.ox.ac.uk/seamless-transitions/ ] at the University of Oxford:
Seamless Transitions is not about the individual stories of immigrants and borders ― as necessary and important as those stories are. It’s about the unaccountability and ungraspability of vast, complex systems: of nation-wide architectures, accumulations of laws and legal processes, infrastructures of intent and prejudice, and structural inequalities of experience and understanding. Through journalistic investigation, academic research, artistic impression, and, I believe, the confluence of these approaches with new technologies, there is an opportunity to see, describe, and communicate the world in ways which have not been possible before.
"

[See also the video interview: https://vimeo.com/117787795 ]
2015  jamesbridle  immigration  deportation  uk  law  visualization  research  journalism  legal  architecture  seamlesstransitions  invisibility 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Century of the Fugitive and the Secret of the Detainee | SAMPLE REALITY
"And what is the relationship between fugitives and detainees?

As the fugitive becomes one of the dominant images in American cinematic, literary, and folk culture, the detainee will become one of the dominant figures in real life.

The principle works under a law of inverse visibility. Detainees, for all their sheer number, will be virtually invisible to the mainstream media. The more detainees held indeterminately in detention centers, internment camps, and black ops military barracks, the less visible they will be. In their place stands their opposite: the fugitive.

Detainee should be the watchword of the 21st century, but it won’t. Instead, the fugitive will dominate the stories we tell ourselves about the modern world."
fugitives  detainees  surveillance  police  prison  amrksample  2013  storytelling  law  visibility  legibility 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Johann Hari: Everything We Know About the Drug War & Addiction is Wrong | Democracy Now!
"If you had said to me four years ago, when I started on the really long journey through nine countries to write this book, "What causes, say, heroin addiction?" I would have looked at you like you were a little bit simple-minded, and I would have said, "Well, heroin causes heroin addiction." We’ve been told a story for a hundred years that is so deep in our culture that we just take it for granted. We basically think if you, me and—I guess there’s about 20 people in this office—if we all took heroin for 20 days, by day 21, because there are chemical hooks in heroin, our bodies would physically need the heroin, and we would be heroin addicts. That’s what we think heroin addiction is.

The first thing that—I had a really personal reason to want to look into this: We had a lot of addiction in my family. One of my earliest memories is of trying to wake up one of my relatives and not being able to. And one of the first things, when I was looking at what really causes addiction, that alerted me that that story may—there’s something wrong with that story, someone just explained to me, if one of us steps out here today and we get hit by a car, right, God forbid, and we break our hip, we’ll be taken to hospital. There’s a very good chance we’ll be given a lot of diamorphine. Diamorphine is heroin. It’s much better heroin than you’ll score on the streets, because it’s 100 percent pure as opposed to, you know, massively contaminated. You’ll be given it for quite a long period of time. That is happening in every hospital in the United States. All over the developed world, people are being given lots of heroin for long periods of time. You will have noticed something odd about that: Your grandmother was not turned into a junkie by her hip operation. If what we thought about addiction was right, those people should be leaving hospital as addicts. In fact, they’re not.

When I learned that, I didn’t really know what to do with it, until I went and met an incredible man called Bruce Alexander, who’s a professor in Vancouver. He explained to me the old theory of addiction comes from a series of experiments that were done earlier in the 20th century. They were actually featured in a famous anti-drugs ad from the '80s in America. Very simple experiment your viewers can do at home if they're feeling a little bit sadistic: You get a rat, and you put it in a cage, and it’s got two water bottles. One is just water, and one is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water and almost always kill itself. And so, it was concluded, there you go: That’s addiction.

But in the '70s, Bruce comes along and says, "Well, hang on a minute. We're putting the rat in an empty cage. It’s got nothing to do except drink the drugged water. Let’s do this differently." So Bruce built Rat Park. Rat Park is like heaven for rats. They’ve got loads of cheese—actually, I don’t think it’s cheese; it’s some very nice food that rats like—loads of colored balls, loads of friends. They can have loads of sex. Anything a rat can want, it’s got in Rat Park. And they’ve got both the water bottles: They’ve got the normal water and the drugged water. But here’s the fascinating thing. They obviously try both the water bottles; they don’t know what’s in them. They don’t like the drugged water. The rats in Rat Park use very little of it. They never overdose. And they never use in a way that looks like addiction or compulsion, which is fascinating. There’s a really interesting human example—there’s loads of human examples, but I can give you a specific one in a minute.

But what Bruce says is this shows that both the right-wing theory of addiction and the left-wing theories are wrong. The right-wing theory is, you know, you’re a hedonist, you party too hard, you know, that you indulge yourself—it’s a moral flaw. The left-wing theory is your brain gets hijacked, you get taken over. What Bruce says is it’s not your morality, it’s not your brain, it’s your cage. Addiction is an adaptation to your environment.

Really—and there’s massive implications of that, but there’s a really interesting human example that was actually going on at the same time as the Rat Park experiment. It’s called the Vietnam War. Twenty percent of American troops in Vietnam were using heroin a lot. And if you look at the news reports from the time, there’s a real panic, because they believed the old theory of addiction. They believed that if you—these troops were going to come home, and you were going to suddenly have enormous numbers of addicts on the streets of the United States. What happened? All the evidence is the vast majority come home and just stop, because if you’re taken out of a hellish, pestilential jungle, where you don’t want to be and you could be killed at any moment, and you go back to your nice life in Wichita, Kansas, with your friends and your family and a purpose in life, it’s the equivalent of being taken from the first cage to the second cage. You go back to your connections.

What this show us is, I think there’s huge implications for the war on drugs. And obviously, the war on drugs is built on the idea that chemicals cause addiction, and we need to physically eradicate the chemicals from the United States. Now, I don’t think that’s physically possible. We can’t even keep them out of prisons, and we’ve got a walled perimeter. But let’s grant the philosophical premise behind that, right? If in fact the chemicals are not the primary driver of the addiction, if in fact huge numbers, in fact the vast majority, of people who use those chemicals don’t become addicted, if in fact the driver is isolation, pain and distress, then a policy that’s based on inflicting more isolation, pain and distress on addicts is obviously a bad idea. That’s what I saw in Arizona. I went out with a female chain gang that are forced to wear T-shirts saying, "I was a drug addict," and, you know, made to dig graves and collect trash. And, you know, the idea that imposing more suffering on addicts will make them better, if suffering is the cause, is crazy.

I actually think there’s real implications for the politics that Democracy Now! covers so well and that we believe in so much. We have created a society where huge numbers of our fellow citizens can’t bear to be present in their lives and have to medicate themselves to get through the day with these drugs. You know, there’s nothing—a hypercapitalist, hyperindividualist society makes people feel like the rats in that first cage, that they’re cut off, they’re cut off from the source. I mean, there’s nothing—as Bruce explains, there’s nothing in human evolution that prepares us for being as isolated as the—you know, as the ideal citizen of a hypercapitalist, hyperconsumerist country like yours and mine."
addiction  johannhari  warondrugs  crime  lawenforcement  economics  capitalism  politics  democracy  drugs  vancouver  britishcolumbia  portugal  uruguay  josémujica  harryanslinger  prohibition  law  budosborn  philipowen  joãogoulão  policy 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Enthusiasms: No Copyright Intended
"we live in a post-copyright society where everyone is a serial infringer, yet the outdated laws are still in effect, and sometimes, the copyright holders have the will and means to use those laws to punish single instances of what they, themselves, are likely doing."
2015  copyright  law  legal  hypocrisy  dmca  tumblr  internet  online  fairuse  sharing 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Sneakiest Way Prosecutors Get a Guilty Verdict: PowerPoint | WIRED
"In Washington state earlier this month, an appeals court threw out a murder conviction based on shoddy work by the defense. But the court also took the prosecutor to task for something even stranger: a bad PowerPoint presentation.

The prosecutor had dressed up her closing argument to the jury with a series of slides, complete with “sound effects and animation,” the appellate court wrote. On one slide, footprints materialized across the bottom of the screen. Other slides exhibited “concentric rings of a target,” with each ring corresponding to an item of evidence; the defendant’s name, Sergey Fedoruk, was in the bull’s-eye. The prosecution’s final slide, the pièce de résistance, opened with a header that said “Murder 2.” Then, under the header, a single word flashed, in all capital letters, in 96-point red type:

[image]

As the word flashed, the prosecutor told the jury: “The defendant is guilty, guilty, guilty.”

At least 10 times in the last two years, US courts have reversed a criminal conviction because prosecutors violated the rules of fair argument with PowerPoint. In even more cases, an appellate court has taken note of such misconduct while upholding the conviction anyway or while reversing on other grounds (as in the case of Sergey Fedoruk). Legal watchdogs have long asserted that prosecutors have plenty of ways to quietly put their thumb on the scales of justice —such as concealing exculpatory evidence, eliminating jury-pool members based on race, and so on. Now they can add another category: prosecution by PowerPoint. “It’s the classic ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’” said Eric Broman, a Seattle attorney who focuses on criminal appeals. “Until the courts say where the boundaries are, prosecutors will continue to test the boundaries.”

Perhaps the most common misuse of what some legal scholars call “visual advocacy” is the emblazoning of the word “Guilty” across a defendant’s photo. Almost always the letters are red—the “color of blood and the color used to denote losses,” as one court wrote."
law  legal  powerpoint  justice  injustice  presentation  imagery  us  policy  prosecution  2014 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Tony Comstock's Kōan of Silence » Blog Archive » Art with a Capital A
"In my films there is no ennui, no cynicism, no boredom or brutality, no disenfranchisement, disconnection, or disaffection. These are the proven cinematic devices used to signal “But this is art,” – devices I intentionally banish from my films. I want to create a sexual and cinematic environment devoid of the familiar landmarks found in art,and scrubbed clean of the familiar hiding places that allow people to watch lovemaking with clinical detachment.

In my films the human condition is a joyful condition. In my films human beings revel in their ability to connect with one another; physically, mentally, emotionally. In my films people know what they want and get what they want. My films are idealistic, passionate, and compassionate. In short, my films are a refutation of everything that art, and especially art films have tried to teach me about love and sex. Where art is expected to be cool and detached, my films are lush; where art is expected to be coy, my films are frank; where art is expected to celebrate pain, my films celebrate pleasure.

But these films are also a refutation nearly of everything I was taught about the art game.

What I was taught is that what can be said is more important that what is seen; what can be argued is more important than what is felt; and that anything anything anything can be art, so long as the “artist’s statement” is sufficiently clever. (Of course the trump card is “You are simply too unsophisticated to understand why this is art.”)

Well guess what? I’m calling bullshit.

I’m calling bullshit on the fraud and the fakery, the mannered ugliness and studied brutality. I’m calling bullshit on the clever artists statements, cunning manifestos, wine and cheese receptions, director’s Q&As, panel discussions. I’m calling bullshit on all of it.

I’m calling bullshit on the fact that the same night police were sent to prevent the screening of ASHLEY AND KISHA the cultural elites were across town at ACMI watching DESTRICTED, and chattering about it as if the film was anything other that a crass publicity stunt, calculated precisely in accordance with cultural norms, and challenging nothing.

I’m calling bullshit on being told I have to choose between the chardonnay sippers and the talk show hosts. I’m not picking sides because they’re on the same team.

I’m calling bullshit on the cheap provocation, with everyone lining up for their meager share of another 15 minutes of media fame.

I’m calling bullshit on the fundraising letter that will go out from the right and the golf-clap that will rise up from the left.

I’m calling bullshit because after it’s all over, nothing will have changed. (After it’s all over, loving, consensual sex between adults, shown as the most joyful of human pleasures will still be among the most radical and subversive subjects a photographic artist can focus his camera upon.)

But mostly I’m calling bullshit on the silly idea that art is a justification.

Art is vocation. Art is avocation. As entertainment, or hobby, or even mere whimsy, art is important. But in an era when everything from toilet bowls to bags of trash are called art, if you want to defend a grown man spending his time with naked 12 year-olds and taking pictures, you’re going to have come up with a better reason than art.

Tell me you just don’t think it’s a big deal; that we are entirely too hysterical about all this stuff. I’ll listen. I may or many not agree, but I’ll listen.

Tell me you’re not sure how you feel about Mr. Henson and the parents who provide him with his “vehicles”, but you feel cautious about handing the decision about what a parent should or should not do over to the state. I’m all ears; and once we’ve hashed that out we can discuss parental notification laws.

But do not tell me it’s okay because Bill Henson was making art; I’m no more ready to accept that than to accept that Ed Gien’s art making excuses, justifies, or even mitigates what he did. You do something criminal, you get punished. You do something reprehensible, you get shunned. You make some art along the way, that’s a footnote.

Do not tell me it’s okay for a middle-aged man to spend his time taking naked photographs of 12 year old girls, so long as he’s making art. My family and I live every day of our lives on the wrong side of this unanswerable and meaningless question about what is and what is not art. We know what happens when the state says “No, that’s not art.” We live every day with the possibility that we will be deprived of our livelihood, our property, our freedom because somewhere someone in a position of power might ask this question about our films, and then answer as they see fit.

Lastly, I’ve seen in the last few days that some of the photos in question are now available to be seen online, but with the naughty bits covered by black bars. This is quiet possibly the low point in this whole farcical episode, and to illustrate my point, I would propose that we conduct another thought experiment:

Let us suppose that a photographer were to create photographs of children that even the most liberal of minds would readily recognize as evidence of child abuse. Now let us suppose that she were to display these photographs with the naughty bits covered with black bars so as to render the photos devoid of the sort of details that are commonly use by art critics and censors to distinguish between what is art and what is not; the sort of details the Australian Office of Film and Literature insisted that I remove from DAMON AND HUNTER before they would declare it to be art, and allow it to be screened at the Sydney International Gay & Lesbian Documentary Film Festival.

Would these photographs be provocative? No doubt. Challenging to our sensibilities? I’d hope so. Would they be art? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter. The photos would be evidence of a crime and the people who made them would be criminals."

[via: https://twitter.com/CaptDavidRyan/status/552233813494231042 and
https://twitter.com/CaptDavidRyan/status/552160885763215360 ]
tonycomstock  art  artascover  law  legal  2010  via:davidryan  artasdefense  edglien  2008  billhenson  photography  film  fraud  fakery  decency  responsibility  socialjustice  artgame  ennui  frankness  detatchment  coyness  pleasure 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Anarchism 101 | Human Iterations
"The freedom of all is essential to my freedom. I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation." –Mikhail Bakunin

***

For anarchists who do know something about anthropology, the arguments are all too familiar. A typical exchange goes something like this:

Skeptic: Well, I might take this whole anarchism idea more seriously if you could give me some reason to think it would work. Can you name me a single viable example of a society which has existed without a government?

Anarchist: Sure. There have been thousands. I could name a dozen just off the top of my head: the Bororo, the Baining, the Onondaga, the Wintu, the Ema, the Tallensi, the Vezo… All without violence or hierarchy.

Skeptic: But those are all a bunch of primitives! I’m talking about anarchism in a modern, technological society.

Anarchist: Okay, then. There have been all sorts of successful experiments: experiments with worker’s self-management, like Mondragon; economic projects based on the idea of the gift economy, like Linux; all sorts of political organizations based on consensus and direct democracy…

Skeptic: Sure, sure, but these are small, isolated examples. I’m talking about whole societies.

Anarchist: Well, it’s not like people haven’t tried. Look at the Paris Commune, the free states in Ukraine and Manchuria, the 1936 revolution in Spain…

Skeptic: Yeah, and look what happened to those guys! They all got killed!

***

"The dice are loaded. You can’t win. Because when the skeptic says “society,” what he really means is “state,” even “nation-state.” Since no one is going to produce an example of an anarchist state—that would be a contradiction in terms—what we‟re really being asked for is an example of a modern nation-state with the government somehow plucked away: a situation in which the government of Canada, to take a random example, has been overthrown, or for some reason abolished itself, and no new one has taken its place but instead all former Canadian citizens begin to organize themselves into libertarian collectives. Obviously this would never be allowed to happen. In the past, whenever it even looked like it might—here, the Paris commune and Spanish civil war are excellent examples—the politicians running pretty much every state in the vicinity have been willing to put their differences on hold until those trying to bring such a situation about had been rounded up and shot.

There is a way out, which is to accept that anarchist forms of organization would not look anything like a state. That they would involve an endless variety of communities, associations, networks, projects, on every conceivable scale, overlapping and intersecting in any way we could imagine, and possibly many that we can’t. Some would be quite local, others global. Perhaps all they would have in common is that none would involve anyone showing up with weapons and telling everyone else to shut up and do what they were told. And that, since anarchists are not actually trying to seize power within any national territory, the process of one system replacing the other will not take the form of some sudden revolutionary cataclysm—the storming of a Bastille, the seizing of a Winter Palace—but will necessarily be gradual, the creation of alternative forms of organization on a world scale, new forms of communication, new, less alienated ways of organizing life, which will, eventually, make currently existing forms of power seem stupid and beside the point. That in turn would mean that there are endless examples of viable anarchism: pretty much any form of organization would count as one, so long as it was not imposed by some higher authority, from a klezmer band to the international postal service." –David Graeber

***

"See, what we always meant by socialism wasn’t something you forced on people, it was people organizing themselves as they pleased into co-ops, collectives, communes, unions. …And if socialism really is better, more efficient than capitalism then it can bloody well compete with capitalism. So we decided, forget all the statist shit and the violence: the best place for socialism is the closest to a free market you can get!" –Ken Macleod

***

"But where would these ne’er-do-wells be taken, once they were brought into “custody”? Specialized firms would develop, offering high security analogs to the current jailhouse. However, the “jails” (or rehabilitation programs) in market anarchy would compete with each other to attract criminals.

Consider: No insurance company would vouch for a serial killer if he applied for a job at the local library, but they would deal with him if he agreed to live in a secure building under close scrutiny. The insurance company would make sure that the “jail” that held him was well-run. After all, if the person escaped and killed again, the insurance company would be held liable, since it pledges to make good on any damages its clients commit.

On the other hand, there would be no undue cruelty for the prisoners in such a system. Although they would have no chance of sudden unchaperoned escape (unlike government prisons), they wouldn’t be beaten by sadistic guards. If they were, they’d simply switch to a different “jail,” just as travelers can switch hotels if they view the staff as discourteous. Again, the insurance company (which vouches for a violent person) doesn’t care which jail its client chooses, so long as its inspectors have determined that the jail will not let its client simply escape into the general population and do harm." –Robert Murphy

***

"Knowledge is an immense power. Man must know. But we already know much! What if that knowledge should become the possession of all? Would not science itself progress in leaps, and cause mankind to make strides in production, invention, and social creation, of which we are hardly in a condition now to measure the speed?" –Peter Kropotkin

***

"To the daring belongs the future." –Emma Goldman

***

Primers

“Towards Anarchy” – Errico Malatesta, 1920
[http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/malatesta/towardsanarchy.html ]

“Anarchy Works” – Peter Gelderloos, 2010
[http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/peter-gelderloos-anarchy-works ]

***

Theory

The Possibility of Cooperation – Michael Taylor
An influential work in game theory, Taylor covers how most of the collective action problems used to justify the state are misdiagnosed and/or solvable through alternative means. pdf torrent | amazon

Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective – Kevin Carson
A comprehensive survey of the economic dynamics that pressure for and against large organizations and hierarchies, as well as the historical and political causes of our present situation. full text | direct purchase | amazon

How Nonviolence Protects The State – Peter Gelderloos
How nonviolence is rarely responsible for the historical victories often claimed in its name, the difficulty of defining “violence” and the problems with absolutist constraints on tactics. full text | printable booklet | amazon

Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty – ed. Charles Johnson & Gary Chartier
A collection of pieces on a variety of topics, united by a focus on the centrifugal dynamics within truly freed markets that equalize wealth and facilitate broad resistance to power dynamics. pdf | direct purchase | amazon | audiobook

Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice – ed. Edward Stringham
Writings on conflict mediation mechanisms in societies with polycentric social norms and arbitration courts. amazon | direct purchase"
anarchism  mikhailbakunin  favidgraeber  introduction  emmagoldman  peterkropotkin  robertmurphy  kenmacleod  theory  primers  anarchy  petergelderoos  kevincarson  michaeltaylor  edwardstringham  charlesjohnson  garychartier  capitalism  inequality  power  horizontality  law  legal  nonviolence  gametheory 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Poll: Most Americans Want to Criminalize Pre-Teens Playing Unsupervised - Reason.com
"A whopping 68 percent of Americans think there should be a law that prohibits kids 9 and under from playing at the park unsupervised, despite the fact that most of them no doubt grew up doing just that.

What's more: 43 percent feel the same way about 12-year-olds. They would like to criminalize all pre-teenagers playing outside on their own (and, I guess, arrest their no-good parents)."
helicopterparenting  lenoreskenazy  2014  children  freedom  supervision  authority  parenting  us  law  legal  unschooling  deschooling  safety  fear  helicopterparents 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Coming Showdown Over University Endowments: Enlisting the Donors [.pdf]
"This Essay focuses on the discordance between universities with particularly large endowments and what is occurring in the rest of higher education, particularly with respect to skyrocketing tuition and a growing institutional wealth gap. The Essay considers absolute endowment values, the amount of endowment per student, and expense-endowment ratios at sixty private universities. It concludes that a small number of schools have an excess endowment, and then provides a convenient proxy for determining when an endowment is so large that it should receive less preferential tax treatment. The Essay then considers the effects that large endowments have at their home institutions and throughout higher education, the arguments in defense of large endowments, and some frequently proposed modifications to the tax code. The Essay recommends that policymakers modify the charitable deduction for gifts to universities with mega-endowments, as part of a multifaceted effort to spur endowment spending and control tuition."

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:5dcd8b659f56 ]
sarahwaldeck  charities  nonprofit  2009  law  legal  finance  universities  colleges  wealth  taxation  taxes  endowments  charity  nonprofits 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The Breakthrough Institute - Love Your Monsters
"Dr. Frankenstein's crime was not that he invented a creature through some combination of hubris and high technology, but rather that he abandoned the creature to itself. When Dr. Frankenstein meets his creation on a glacier in the Alps, the monster claims that it was not born a monster, but that it became a criminal only after being left alone by his horrified creator, who fled the laboratory once the horrible thing twitched to life. "Remember, I am thy creature," the monster protests, "I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed... I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous."


Written at the dawn of the great technological revolutions that would define the 19th and 20th centuries, Frankenstein foresees that the gigantic sins that were to be committed would hide a much greater sin. It is not the case that we have failed to care for Creation, but that we have failed to care for our technological creations. We confuse the monster for its creator and blame our sins against Nature upon our creations. But our sin is not that we created technologies but that we failed to love and care for them. It is as if we decided that we were unable to follow through with the education of our children.4

Let Dr. Frankenstein's sin serve as a parable for political ecology. At a time when science, technology, and demography make clear that we can never separate ourselves from the nonhuman world -- that we, our technologies, and nature can no more be disentangled than we can remember the distinction between Dr. Frankenstein and his monster -- this is the moment chosen by millions of well-meaning souls to flagellate themselves for their earlier aspiration to dominion, to repent for their past hubris, to look for ways of diminishing the numbers of their fellow humans, and to swear to make their footprints invisible?"



"4.
The link between technology and theology hinges on the notion of mastery. Descartes exclaimed that we should be "maîtres et possesseurs de la nature."10 

But what does it mean to be a master? In the modernist narrative, mastery was supposed to require such total dominance by the master that he was emancipated entirely from any care and worry. This is the myth about mastery that was used to describe the technical, scientific, and economic dominion of Man over Nature.

But if you think about it according to the compositionist narrative, this myth is quite odd: where have we ever seen a master freed from any dependence on his dependents? The Christian God, at least, is not a master who is freed from dependents, but who, on the contrary, gets folded into, involved with, implicated with, and incarnated into His Creation. God is so attached and dependent upon His Creation that he is continually forced (convinced? willing?) to save it. Once again, the sin is not to wish to have dominion over Nature, but to believe that this dominion means emancipation and not attachment.

If God has not abandoned His Creation and has sent His Son to redeem it, why do you, a human, a creature, believe that you can invent, innovate, and proliferate -- and then flee away in horror from what you have committed? Oh, you the hypocrite who confesses of one sin to hide a much graver, mortal one! Has God fled in horror after what humans made of His Creation? Then have at least the same forbearance that He has.

The dream of emancipation has not turned into a nightmare. It was simply too limited: it excluded nonhumans. It did not care about unexpected consequences; it was unable to follow through with its responsibilities; it entertained a wholly unrealistic notion of what science and technology had to offer; it relied on a rather impious definition of God, and a totally absurd notion of what creation, innovation, and mastery could provide.

Which God and which Creation should we be for, knowing that, contrary to Dr. Frankenstein, we cannot suddenly stop being involved and "go home?" Incarnated we are, incarnated we will be. In spite of a centuries-old misdirected metaphor, we should, without any blasphemy, reverse the Scripture and exclaim: "What good is it for a man to gain his soul yet forfeit the whole world?""

"via this string of tweets from @infrathin:

2 months later, still processing this B. Latour essay http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/past-issues/issue-2/love-your-monsters …"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544737470605451265

"LT how to be responsible in the way we conceive of what our responsibility is +?"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544737846280863745

"Like responsibility, love is an allegiance to follow through with the monstrous dilemmas created by it. +?"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544738933566083072

"Love and responsibility both require setting aside what we want them to look like. +?"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544739636665651200

"LT so difficult that i don't know how to do it and have never been able to--except briefly in song. How can i expect "us" to do it?"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544740052379901952

"so.... um, love you monsters y'all http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/past-issues/issue-2/love-your-monsters …"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544740320005853186 ]

[Related: Audrey Watters’s “Ed-Tech's Monsters #ALTC ” https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:42f77ca711c1 ]
brunlatour  anthropocene  responsibility  love  technology  2012  frankenstein  science  descartes  nature  environment  sustainability  care  nonhumans  emancipation  exploitation  environmentalism  climatechange  modernism  postenvironmentalism  morality  ethics  legal  law  epistemology  reason  decisionmaking  politics  policy  caregiving  intervention  stewardship  posthumanism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Why has human progress ground to a halt? – Michael Hanlon – Aeon
"Some of our greatest cultural and technological achievements took place between 1945 and 1971. Why has progress stalled?"



"Yet there once was an age when speculation matched reality. It spluttered to a halt more than 40 years ago. Most of what has happened since has been merely incremental improvements upon what came before. That true age of innovation – I’ll call it the Golden Quarter – ran from approximately 1945 to 1971. Just about everything that defines the modern world either came about, or had its seeds sown, during this time. The Pill. Electronics. Computers and the birth of the internet. Nuclear power. Television. Antibiotics. Space travel. Civil rights.

There is more. Feminism. Teenagers. The Green Revolution in agriculture. Decolonisation. Popular music. Mass aviation. The birth of the gay rights movement. Cheap, reliable and safe automobiles. High-speed trains. We put a man on the Moon, sent a probe to Mars, beat smallpox and discovered the double-spiral key of life. The Golden Quarter was a unique period of less than a single human generation, a time when innovation appeared to be running on a mix of dragster fuel and dilithium crystals.

Today, progress is defined almost entirely by consumer-driven, often banal improvements in information technology. The US economist Tyler Cowen, in his essay The Great Stagnation (2011), argues that, in the US at least, a technological plateau has been reached. Sure, our phones are great, but that’s not the same as being able to fly across the Atlantic in eight hours or eliminating smallpox. As the US technologist Peter Thiel once put it: ‘We wanted flying cars, we got 140 characters.’

Economists describe this extraordinary period in terms of increases in wealth. After the Second World War came a quarter-century boom; GDP-per-head in the US and Europe rocketed. New industrial powerhouses arose from the ashes of Japan. Germany experienced its Wirtschaftswunder. Even the Communist world got richer. This growth has been attributed to massive postwar government stimulus plus a happy nexus of low fuel prices, population growth and high Cold War military spending.

But alongside this was that extraordinary burst of human ingenuity and societal change. This is commented upon less often, perhaps because it is so obvious, or maybe it is seen as a simple consequence of the economics. We saw the biggest advances in science and technology: if you were a biologist, physicist or materials scientist, there was no better time to be working. But we also saw a shift in social attitudes every bit as profound. In even the most enlightened societies before 1945, attitudes to race, sexuality and women’s rights were what we would now consider antediluvian. By 1971, those old prejudices were on the back foot. Simply put, the world had changed."



"Lack of money, then, is not the reason that innovation has stalled. What we do with our money might be, however. Capitalism was once the great engine of progress. It was capitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries that built roads and railways, steam engines and telegraphs (another golden era). Capital drove the industrial revolution.

Now, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite. A report by Credit Suisse this October found that the richest 1 per cent of humans own half the world’s assets. That has consequences. Firstly, there is a lot more for the hyper-rich to spend their money on today than there was in the golden age of philanthropy in the 19th century. The superyachts, fast cars, private jets and other gewgaws of Planet Rich simply did not exist when people such as Andrew Carnegie walked the earth and, though they are no doubt nice to have, these fripperies don’t much advance the frontiers of knowledge. Furthermore, as the French economist Thomas Piketty pointed out in Capital (2014), money now begets money more than at any time in recent history. When wealth accumulates so spectacularly by doing nothing, there is less impetus to invest in genuine innovation."



"But there is more to it than inequality and the failure of capital.

During the Golden Quarter, we saw a boom in public spending on research and innovation. The taxpayers of Europe, the US and elsewhere replaced the great 19th‑century venture capitalists. And so we find that nearly all the advances of this period came either from tax-funded universities or from popular movements. The first electronic computers came not from the labs of IBM but from the universities of Manchester and Pennsylvania. (Even the 19th-century analytical engine of Charles Babbage was directly funded by the British government.) The early internet came out of the University of California, not Bell or Xerox. Later on, the world wide web arose not from Apple or Microsoft but from CERN, a wholly public institution. In short, the great advances in medicine, materials, aviation and spaceflight were nearly all pump-primed by public investment. But since the 1970s, an assumption has been made that the private sector is the best place to innovate."

[See also this response from Alan Jacobs: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/105225967233/the-future-of-ambition

"I’m not sure this essay by Michael Hanlon on the lack of technical and scientific progress over the past 40 years adds much to other recent speculations on the same theme: Tyler Cowen’s book The Great Stagnation, talks by Neal Stephenson on our lack of visionary imagination, and so on.

But it’s an indication at least of a growing awareness that, despite the determined efforts of the advertising world to suggest that everything is getting better all the time, our society is stuck in something of a technological rut, especially with regard to travel and, more important, medical care. Flying is a more frustrating experience than it has ever been and is only getting worse; only Google and Elon Musk are even trying to innovate in automobiling; and, as Hanlon points out, a person getting cancer today will receive treatment not fundamentally different than he or she would have received in 1970, and doesn’t stand a much greater chance of beating the disease.

So why aren’t we doing better? Hanlon offers a few fairly vague suggestions, as does Cowen, but this is an inquiry in its early stages. Let me just offer my two cents — precisely two.

Cent number one: Litigiousness. Every technological development in every field, but especially in health care, is hamstrung by the need to perform due diligence, and then beyond-due diligence, and then absurdly-over-the-top diligence, before putting a product on the market lest the developing company be sued by someone unhappy with their results. How many times have you read about some exciting new cancer treatment — and then never hear about it again, as it disappears into the endless Purgatory of tiny clinical trials that dying people beg (usually unsuccessfully) to be allowed to participate in?

Cent number two: Self-soothing by Device. I suspect that few will think that addition to distractive devices could even possibly be related to a cultural lack of ambition, but I genuinely think it’s significant. Truly difficult scientific and technological challenges are almost always surmounted by obsessive people — people who are grabbed by a question that won’t let them go. Such an experience is not comfortable, not pleasant; but it is essential to the perseverance without which no Big Question is ever answered. To judge by the autobiographical accounts of scientific and technological geniuses, there is a real sense in which those Questions force themselves on the people who stand a chance of answering them. But if it is always trivially easy to set the question aside — thanks to a device that you carry with you everywhere you go — can the Question make itself sufficiently present to you that answering is becomes something essential to your well-being? I doubt it." ]
science  technology  progress  michaelhanlon  tylercowen  attention  distraction  litigiousness  law  legal  funding  economics  capitalism  research  society  channge  inequality  innovation  riskaversion  risktaking  risk  medicine  healthcare 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The American Justice System Is Not Broken
"In July, New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked unarmed black man Eric Garner to death, in broad daylight, while a bystander caught it on video. That is what American police do. Yesterday, despite the video, despite an NYPD prohibition of exactly the sort of chokehold Pantaleo used, and despite the New York City medical examiner ruling the death a homicide, a Staten Island grand jury declined even to indict Pantaleo. That is what American grand juries do.

In August, Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown to death in broad daylight. That is what American police do. Ten days ago, despite multiple eyewitness accounts and his own face contradicting Wilson's narrative of events, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson. That is what American grand juries do.

In November 2006, a group of five New York police officers shot unarmed black man Sean Bell to death in the early morning hours of his wedding day. That is what American police do. In April 2008, despite multiple eyewitness accounts contradicting the officers' accounts of the incident, Justice Arthur J. Cooperman acquitted the officers of all charges, including reckless endangerment. That is what American judges do.

In February of 1999, four plainclothes New York police officers shot unarmed black man Amadou Diallo to death outside of his home. That is what American police do. A year later, an Albany jury acquitted the officers of all charges, including reckless endangerment. That is what American juries do.

In November of 1951, Willis McCall, the sheriff of Lake County, Fla., shot and killed Sam Shepherd, an unarmed and handcuffed black man in his custody. That is what American police do. Despite both a living witness and forensic evidence which contradicted his version of events, a coroner's inquest ruled that McCall had acted within the line of duty, and Judge Thomas Futch declined to convene a grand jury at all.

The American justice system is not broken. This is what the American justice system does. This is what America does.

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates has written damningly of the American preference for viewing our society's crimes as aberrations—betrayals of some deeper, truer virtue, or departures from some righteous intended path. This is a convenient mythology. If the institutions of white American power taking black lives and then exonerating themselves for it is understood as a failure to live out some more authentic American idea, rather than as the expression of that American idea, then your and my and our lives and lifestyles are distinct from those failures. We can stand over here, and shake our heads at the failures over there, and then return to the familiar business, and everything is OK. Likewise, if the individual police officers who take black lives are just some bad cops doing policework badly, and not good cops doing precisely what America has hired and trained them to do, then white Americans may continue calling the police when black people frighten us, free from moral responsibility for the whole range of possible outcomes.

The murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Sam Shepherd, and countless thousands of others at the hands of American law enforcement are not aberrations, or betrayals, or departures. The acquittals of their killers are not mistakes. There is no virtuous innermost America, sullied or besmirched or shaded by these murders. This is America. It is not broken. It is doing what it does.

America is a serial brutalizer of black and brown people. Brutalizing them is what it does. It does other things, too, yes, but brutalizing black and brown people is what it has done the most, and with the most zeal, and for the longest. The best argument you can make on behalf of the various systems and infrastructures the country uses against its black and brown citizens—the physical design of its cities, the methods it uses to allocate placement in elite institutions, the way it trains its police to treat citizens like enemy soldiers—might actually just be that they're more restrained than those used against black and brown people abroad. America employs the enforcers of its power to beat, kill, and terrorize, deploys its judiciary to say that that's OK, and has done this more times than anyone can hope to count. This is not a flaw in the design; this is the design.

Policing in America is not broken. The judicial system is not broken. American society is not broken. All are functioning perfectly, doing exactly what they have done since before some of this nation's most prosperous slave-murdering robber-barons came together to consecrate into statehood the mechanisms of their barbarism. Democracy functions. Politicians, deriving their legitimacy from the public, have discerned the will of the people and used it to design and enact policies that carry it out, among them those that govern the allowable levels of violence which state can visit upon citizen. Taken together with the myriad other indignities, thefts, and cruelties it visits upon black and brown people, and the work common white Americans do on its behalf by telling themselves bald fictions of some deep and true America of apple pies, Jesus, and people being neighborly to each other and betrayed by those few and nonrepresentative bad apples with their isolated acts of meanness, the public will demands and enables a whirring and efficient machine that does what it does for the benefit of those who own it. It processes black and brown bodies into white power.

That is what America does. It is not broken. That is exactly what is wrong with it."
us  justice  law  legal  racism  2014  ferguson  michaelbrown  darrenwilson  nyc  nypd  danielpantaleo  ericgarner  ta-nehisicoates  institutionalracism  race  history  amadoudiallo  samshepherd  police  lawenforcement  politics  policy  power  whitepower 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Howard Zinn: The Problem is Civil Obedience
"We all grow up with the notion that the law is holy. They asked Daniel Berrigan's mother what she thought of her son's breaking the law. He burned draft records-one of the most violent acts of this century- to protest the war, for which he was sentenced to prison, as criminals should be. They asked his mother who is in her eighties, what she thought of her son's breaking the law. And she looked straight into the interviewer's face, and she said, "It's not God's law." Now we forget that. There is nothing sacred about the law. Think of who makes laws. The law is not made by God, it is made by Strom Thurmond. If you nave any notion about the sanctity and loveliness and reverence for the law, look at the legislators around the country who make the laws. Sit in on the sessions of the state legislatures. Sit in on Congress, for these are the people who make the laws which we are then supposed to revere.

All of this is done with such propriety as to fool us. This is the problem. In the old days, things were confused; you didn't know. Now you know. It is all down there in the books. Now we go through due process. Now the same things happen as happened before, except that we've gone through the right procedures. In Boston a policeman walked into a hospital ward and fired five times at a black man who had snapped a towel at his arm-and killed him. A hearing was held. The judge decided that the policeman was justified because if he didn't do it, he would lose the respect of his fellow officers. Well, that is what is known as due process-that is, the guy didn't get away with it. We went through the proper procedures, and everything was set up. The decorum, the propriety of the law fools us.

The nation then, was founded on disrespect for the law, and then came the Constitution and the notion of stability which Madison and Hamilton liked. But then we found in certain crucial times in our history that the legal framework did not suffice, and in order to end slavery we had to go outside the legal framework, as we had to do at the time of the American Revolution or the Civil War. The union had to go outside the legal framework in order to establish certain rights in the 1930s. And in this time, which may be more critical than the Revolution or the Civil War, the problems are so horrendous as to require us to go outside the legal framework in order to make a statement, to resist, to begin to establish the kind of institutions and relationships which a decent society should have. No, not just tearing things down; building things up. But even if you build things up that you are not supposed to build up-you try to build up a people's park, that's not tearing down a system; you are building something up, but you are doing it illegally-the militia comes in and drives you out. That is the form that civil disobedience is going to take more and more, people trying to build a new society in the midst of the old.

But what about voting and elections? Civil disobedience-we don't need that much of it, we are told, because we can go through the electoral system. And by now we should have learned, but maybe we haven't, for we grew up with the notion that the voting booth is a sacred place, almost like a confessional. You walk into the voting booth and you come out and they snap your picture and then put it in the papers with a beatific smile on your face. You've just voted; that is democracy. But if you even read what the political scientists say-although who can?-about the voting process, you find that the voting process is a sham. Totalitarian states love voting. You get people to the polls and they register their approval. I know there is a difference-they have one party and we have two parties. We have one more party than they have, you see.

What we are trying to do, I assume, is really to get back to the principles and aims and spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government-and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offenses and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes. My hope is that this kind of spirit will take place not just in this country but in other countries because they all need it. People in all countries need the spirit of disobedience to the state, which is not a metaphysical thing but a thing of force and wealth. And we need a kind of declaration of interdependence among people in all countries of the world who are striving for the same thing."
howardzinn  1970  civildisobedience  disobedience  civilobedience  law  authority  civics  unschooling  deschooling  independence  declarationofindependence  resistance  interdependence  wealth  politics  government  power  frankzappa  noamchomsky 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Bolivia passes "Law of Mother Earth" which gives rights to our planet as a living system | Minds
"The Law of Mother Earth ("Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra") holds the land as sacred and holds it as a living system with rights to be protected from exploitation, and creates 11 distinguished rights for the environment. It was passed by Bolivia's Plurinational Legislative Assembly. This 10 article law is derived from the first part of a longer draft bill, drafted and released by the Pact of Unity by November 2010. Can we please spread this law? There has to be a way for the free market to interoperate with reverence for this planet. Period.

In accordance with the philosophy of Pachamama, it states, "She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation."

"It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all," said Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. "It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration."

The law enumerates seven specific rights to which Mother Earth and her constituent life systems, including human communities, are entitled to:

• To life: It is the right to the maintenance of the integrity of life systems and natural processes which sustain them, as well as the capacities and conditions for their renewal

• To the Diversity of Life: It is the right to the preservation of the differentiation and variety of the beings that comprise Mother Earth, without being genetically altered, nor artificially modified in their structure, in such a manner that threatens their existence, functioning and future potential

• To water: It is the right of the preservation of the quality and composition of water to sustain life systems and their protection with regards to contamination, for renewal of the life of Mother Earth and all its components

• To clean air: It is the right of the preservation of the quality and composition of air to sustain life systems and their protection with regards to contamination, for renewal of the life of Mother Earth and all its components

• To equilibrium: It is the right to maintenance or restoration of the inter-relation, interdependence, ability to complement and functionality of the components of Mother Earth, in a balanced manner for the continuation of its cycles and the renewal of its vital processes

• To restoration: It is the right to the effective and opportune restoration of life systems affected by direct or indirect human activities

• To live free of contamination: It is the right for preservation of Mother Earth and any of its components with regards to toxic and radioactive waste generated by human activities

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_Rights_of_Mother_Earth

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/10/bolivia-enshrines-natural-worlds-rights

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/13/bolivias-law-of-mother-earth_n_848966.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/science/earth/14bolivia.html

http://www.newser.com/story/116229/bolivia-to-give-nature-same-rights-as-humans.html "
bolivia  law  legal  environment  sustainability  motherearth  2014  air  water  life  biodiversity  cleanair  restoration 
october 2014 by robertogreco
When Uber and Airbnb Meet the Real World - NYTimes.com
"They subscribe to three core business principles that have become a religion in Silicon Valley: Serve as a middleman, employ as few people as possible and automate everything. Those tenets have worked wonders on the web at companies like Google and Twitter. But as the new, on-demand companies are learning, they are not necessarily compatible with the real world.

The first principle is to be a middleman — or in tech lingo, a platform — connecting the people who post on YouTube with those who watch their videos, or the people who need a ride with people who will drive them. As platforms, the thinking goes, they are just connectors, with no responsibility for what happens there.

For websites, this is codified in law — they are not legally responsible for what their users publish, according to the Communications Decency Act, perhaps the most influential law in the development of the web. That is why Yelp avoids liability when people post inaccurate or abusive restaurant reviews, and why YouTube does not have to remove videos that some find offensive.

The law protects online speech, not actions people take in the offline world. Yet its ethos has permeated Silicon Valley so deeply that people invoke it even for things that happen offline.

“These folks grew up in a world where platforms are not responsible, and then when they go do stuff in the real world, they expect that to be the case,” said Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington law school who studies cyber law.

Take Airbnb’s terms of service. “Airbnb provides an online platform that connects hosts who have accommodations to rent with guests seeking to rent such accommodations,” it says. “Airbnb has no control over the conduct” of hosts or guests, the terms continue, and “disclaims all liability in this regard.”

Yet it is one thing to say a company has no control over the conduct of online commenters, and another when its users are in people’s homes or cars. Airbnb, like others, has been forced to learn the limits of its status as a platform. In response to reports of renters’ damaging and ransacking homes, it added a round-the-clock hotline for people in unsafe situations and a policy covering $1 million in loss or damages.

The second web business principle is to minimize the number of paid on-staff employees. Tech companies have long shunned the idea of hiring lots of sales staffers or call-center workers. Instead they automate ad sales with auction algorithms or offer help forums where other customers offer advice on their sites. When Instagram was acquired by Facebook, it employed 13 people; Kodak, in its heyday, employed more than 140,000.

That mentality may be why new on-demand companies are running into trouble with workers. Most of these companies avoid having employees by using contract workers. But some are wondering whether the companies are pushing the definition of contract worker too far. Uber drivers have filed class-action lawsuits in Massachusetts and California, and advocates are pushing for things like benefits and disability compensation for workers at many start-ups."
siliconvalley  labor  uber  airbnb  regulation  law  legal  2014  homejoy  middlemen  work  clairecainmiller  responsibility  sharingeconomy 
october 2014 by robertogreco
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