Friday, May 19, 2017

Like Suicide

Chris Cornell, Soundgarden Frontman, Dies at 52:

Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, died on Wednesday night in Detroit hours after the band had performed there. He was 52.
The death was a suicide by hanging, the Wayne County medical examiner’s office said in a statement released on Thursday afternoon. It said a full autopsy had not yet been completed.
Mr. Cornell’s representative, Brian Bumbery, said in a statement that the death was “sudden and unexpected.”
Soundgarden played at the Fox Theater in Detroit on Wednesday night, and had been scheduled to perform in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday at the Rock on the Range festival.
I admit, much as I wrote when I first learned about David Foster Wallace's suicide back in 2008, this one really hit me in the feels...like knocked me on my ass. 

As much as I've written about it, studied it, and been affected by it via close friends and family members, it never ceases to amaze me how shocking, disturbing, and life-changing the act of suicide remains.

I always viewed Cornell as one of the pillars of strength in the music industry, someone whose 4-octave howl and music the rest of us turned to in order to understand why others (like Cobain, Staley, Weiland, et al) succumbed to drugs, suicide and tragedy. 

It was in songs like "Times of Trouble," "Fell on Black Days," "All Night Thing," and others that Cornell always seemed to offer rays of hope and light, amidst the sludge and darkness of depression and sadness. True, the dark side was always there too ("Burden in My Hand," "Let Me Drown," etc.), but generally the themes he always seemed to echo, particularly in his solo work, were perseverance and not letting the bastards get you down.

Which is why, again, yesterday was such shocking news.
Whether he was fronting the ferocious hard rock of Soundgarden or backed simply by an acoustic guitar, his voice — now silenced in a suicide — was spectacular by any reckoning. It was a voice that could sail above the grunge barrage of Soundgarden, with an attack to rival the band’s churning guitars; it was also a voice that gave modest acoustic ballads an existential gravity. At the bottom of its nearly four-octave range, Mr. Cornell’s voice was a baritone with endless reserves of breath and the seething tension of contained power. He couldn’t be more convincing than when he sang one of his definitive songs, “Rusty Cage,” with Soundgarden: “I’m gonna break my rusty cage and run,” he howled.
Oy. Long time readers will remember my previous Soundgarden post and admiration for all things Cornell. There will be plenty of post-mortems written in the days and weeks ahead, but this event definitely confirms one bedrock truth I know about suicide: it is a great democratizing force. It can come to anyone, anywhere, even those you think "would never" think such a thing, and in the end makes us all equal.

I'll leave you with two other videos, one showcasing Cornell's softer side ("Seasons" from the Singles soundtrack,) and "Let Me Drown," which is still the most epic head banger Soundgarden ever did.

I'm going to the holy land...RIP.



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Gabby At The Gallows

Trump Fires FBI Director:

President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry.
Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for his “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.
But in his letter to Mr. Comey, released to reporters by the White House, the president betrayed his focus on the continuing inquiry into Russia and his aides.
You can read his error-filled termination letter to Comey here, as well as the grammatically sloppy, full of typos, memorandums supporting the termination from AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, and his Deputy AG Roderick Rosenstein (who, like Sessions, is another federal judgeship reject).

In fact, the title of Rosenstein's churlish memorandum, "Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI" has pissed off agents, legal, and rank and file staff throughout the Bureau. I'm not sure you could pick a better way to self-immolate than that.

Well, except maybe this: 
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday. White House officials refused to say anything more about the three occasions Mr. Trump cited.
That's because they didn't happen (for a brutal recitation of all of "Trump's lies" so far, read this). In fact, despite the parsing that this is about "Trump's associates" and the campaign, there is evidence to the contrary that the criminal investigation Comey was leading by the FBI does include Trump individually and in his capacity as president. That gets us into clear obstruction territory.

And probably explains why dude is apparently "yelling at the t.v." enraged by what he's seeing in the news about Comey and the mushrooming Russia/Treason investigation. Raging at the t.v...kind of like Nixon raging at the portraits of Kennedy and Lincoln at 3am, crocked out of his mind, in the final days of Watergate.

Which is why this is so deliciously Nixonian. Even though Nixon never fired the FBI Director, he fired the special prosecutors investigating Watergate (which included "Nixon's associates" and ultimately Nixon himself), only to find himself swinging in the gallows less than a year later.

People seem to think impeachment and removal from office is the worst that could happen to Trump, but it's always possible that formal criminal charges could lead to him ending up in cuffs and leg irons, being frog-marched out the front of the White House. Some have even suggested he could end up out at the ADX in Florence (where those convicted of treason go), though I have a hard time seeing how that could happen since a Ford/Nixon kind of pardon would probably come down via Pence first.

Nonetheless, most people assume dead men walking are very meek, mild, and humble on their way to the gallows. But many often put up a fight, get very gabby and verbose, and wrangle till the noose is tightened just behind the left ear and the floor drops.

I think you're seeing the latter here.

UPDATE: Talk about your day after tone-deaf responses:
At the White House, Mr. Trump shrugged off accusations of presidential interference in a counterintelligence investigation. He hosted a surreal and awkwardly timed meeting in the Oval Office with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. Mr. Kislyak’s private meetings with Mr. Trump’s aides are a key part of the sprawling investigation.
White House officials denied American reporters permission to witness the Oval Office meeting or take photographs, but Russian state news outlets published images taken by their official photographer of a beaming Mr. Trump shaking hands with the envoys. The pictures quickly spread on Twitter.
And TASS, the official news agency of the Russian government, then sold pics to the U.S. press to use. So think about that: our "fake news" outlets are using Russian-approved propaganda in their news coverage of our own president. 

And then, after going to extraordinary lengths to keep the U.S. fake news out of the Oval while the prez met with the Russians yesterday, no one thought this picture, also of a meeting he had yesterday (yesterday of all days!) might be a bad idea as well.

Awesome. Forget the "echoes" of 1974...it IS 1974 all over again.

UPDATE II: Trump Threatens Comey With Tapes:
Donald Trump warned on Friday James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director he fired this week, if Mr. Comey leaks anything negative about the president and warned the news media that he may cancel all future White House briefings.
In a series of angry, early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump even seemed to suggest that there may be secret tapes of his conversations with Mr. Comey that could be used to counter the former F.B.I. director if necessary. It was not immediately clear whether he meant that literally or simply hoped to intimidate Mr. Comey into silence.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Trump appeared agitated over news reports on Friday that focused on contradictory accounts of his decision to fire Mr. Comey at the same time the F.B.I. is investigating ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.
Mr. Trump’s mention of tapes did nothing to dispel the echoes of Watergate heard in Washington this week. His dismissal of Mr. Comey in the midst of an investigation into Mr. Trump’s associates struck many as similar to President Richard M. Nixon’s decision in October 1973 to fire Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor, in an incident that came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
LOL.

Back To The 80's

Attorney General To Toughen Rules on Prosecuting Drug Crimes:

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is expected to soon toughen rules on prosecuting drug crimes, according to people familiar with internal deliberations, in what would be a major rollback of Obama-era policies that would put his first big stamp on a Justice Department he has criticized as soft on crime.
Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has been reviewing a pair of memos issued by his predecessor, Eric H. Holder Jr., who encouraged federal prosecutors to use their discretion in what criminal charges they filed, particularly when those charges carried mandatory minimum penalties.
The policy under consideration would return the department to the era of George W. Bush. In 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered the nation’s prosecutors to bring the most serious charges possible in the vast majority of cases, with limited exceptions. Mr. Sessions could, however, craft his own policy that does not go quite so far; a draft is still being reviewed.
Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who cut his teeth as a young prosecutor in Alabama during the height of the crack epidemic, came to office promising to make being tough on crime a top priority, and his new guidance on charging and sentencing would be the strongest articulation yet of his emphasis on a law-and-order agenda.
Which is why he wants to take the country back to the bad old days...back to the 80's when he was rejected for a federal judgeship "for racism," and then as AG of Alabama when he brought back chain gangs, whipping posts, and life without parole for children under the age of 14 in the 1990's (side bar: all of these things were thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hope v. Pelzer as a violation of the 8th amendment, and as a "racist gratuitous infliction of wanton and unnecessary pain"). 
Sonja B. Starr, a law professor at the University of Michigan who specializes in criminal sentencing, said that even if Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions were to return to the policies of the Ashcroft era — instructing prosecutors to pursue the strictest charges and sentences — there might not be drastic changes in how prosecutors handle drug cases.
“There’s still a lot of discretion left to prosecutors to determine what is readily provable,” Ms. Starr said. “Under any regime, whatever the Department of Justice policy, the choice is made by individual prosecutors.”
Still, she said, should Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions push for a uniformly strict posture in prosecuting drug crimes, it would mark a significant shift in tone.
“Many advocates think there are too many mandatory minimums, and that federal charging in general is still too harsh, even after the shift in policy under Holder,” Ms. Starr said. “But this isn’t especially surprising given what we know about the attorney general and the president and their view on criminal justice.”
I love her phrase "under any regime," which is precisely what these folks are turning the Justice Department, and defacto the executive branch, into (see also: the post above). With crime at an all-time, historic, 50 year low, this is nothing but grating political theater that's about 25 years past its expiration date.

In sum, the individual USA's operate with a lot of discretion, and while some may follow these "rules," they are, at the end of the day, merely suggestions and can be ignored wholesale (which they should be).

UPDATE: The Rules
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions ordered federal prosecutors late Thursday to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations.
The dramatic shift in criminal justice policy, foreshadowed during recent weeks, is Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’s first major stamp on the Justice Department, and it telegraphs his priorities to target drug dealing, gun crime and gang violence. The Justice Department released the new directives on Friday.
In an eight-paragraph memo to the nation’s prosecutors, Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions returned to the guidance of President George W. Bush’s administration by calling for more uniform punishments — including mandatory minimum sentences — and directing prosecutors to pursue the strictest possible charges. Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’s policy, however, is broader than that of the Bush administration, and will be more reliant on the judgments of United States attorneys and assistant attorneys general.
“It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions wrote in the memo, which was distributed late Thursday and emphasized his demand for consistency in federal cases.
Of course, many ADA's will simply ignore it.
Mr. Sklansky, the law professor, said it was unclear how dramatic an impact Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’s new policy may have.
“Prosecutors in the field appropriately pay attention to and try to follow the directions they receive from Washington,” he said. “A reversal or replacement of the Holder memo will be interpreted by many prosecutors in the field as a direction to be more aggressive to use mandatory minimum penalties against low-level nonviolent drug offenders.
For those inclined, certainly. But these people being career prosecutors, some will almost definitely ignore it.

While the reaction to this is almost universally derision, eye-rolling, or laugh out loud disbelief, there are a few reactionaries supportively weighing in on these new rules, including my favorite bloggers over at Crime and Consequences, with this gem (emphasis theirs):
It will be attacked by the Left as likely to produce longer sentences.  That's probably so.  However, there is a ready mechanism by which such sentences can be avoided: Mr. Nicey might consider quitting the smack business and getting a normal job like everybody else.  I'm just not a partisan of the notion that it's always the public that has to change. Instead, in both practical and moral senses, we'll be better off when we insist that it's the criminal who has to change.  We don't need less serious charging. We need less crime.
What we need is less stupid, and these rules basically violate that tenet.

Also, taking "Mr. Nicey" out of "the smack business" for 1 year, or 20 years, does nothing to lower crime, because there are a thousand "Mr. Niceys" just waiting to take his place. Whack-a-mole sentencing schemes do nothing to address the larger problems of economics, crime, and opportunity.

But who wants to talk about all that, when "git tuff" is so much easier to understand? Or worse, the only thing you understand?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Burn The Witch

This Is What A Modern-Day Witch Hunt Looks Like:

In late March, Hypatia, a feminist-philosophy journal, published an article titled “In Defense of Transracialism” by Rebecca Tuvel, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis, as part of its spring 2017 issue. The point of the article, as the title suggests, is to toy around with the question of what it would mean if some people really were — as Rachel Dolezal claimed — “transracial,” meaning they identified as a race that didn’t line up with how society viewed them in light of their ancestry.

Usually, an article like this, abstract and argumentatively complex as it is, wouldn’t attract all that much attention outside of its own academic subculture. But that isn’t what happened here — instead, Tuvel is now bearing the brunt of a massive internet witch-hunt, abetted in part by Hypatia’s refusal to stand up for her. The journal has already apologized for the article, despite the fact that it was approved through its normal editorial process, and Tuvel’s peers are busily wrecking her reputation by sharing all sorts of false claims about the article that don’t bear the scrutiny of even a single close read.

The biggest vehicle of misinformation about Tuvel’s articles comes from the “open letter to Hypatia” that has done a great deal to help spark the controversy. That letter has racked up hundreds of signatories within the academic community — (Update: As of the morning of May 3, all the names had been removed from the letter. A note at the top of it reads “We have now closed signatories for this letter in order to send it to the Editor and Associate Editors of Hypatia.”)
That's because the 800+ idiots from academe who signed this online manifesto of stupidity tucked tail and ran like cowards. The letter, one of the most demeaning, vacuous, and absurdly-written things I've ever seen, is a veritable clarion cry to the Call-Out culture which exists online, in the academy, and (gasp) even among so-called "enlightened" scholars. 

It's a perfect reflection of the political times we live in as well: i.e. it's not just enough to disagree with someone; instead you must demonize your "opponent," and then tear them limb from limb, leaving no chance of survival (or rebuttal).

I know it's hard to believe for those outside academe, but it's true: no matter how many degrees you have, or how many books you've written, you can certainly say and do things that still qualify you as being a dumb ass. And virtually all of these 500+ "deadnamers" who signed the petition (not all, of course, there's a chance I might actually know or work with one of them...ha ha), in the name of "accountability," should be identified and held accountable for the "violence" that's been generated towards the author of the original article, Dr. Rebecca Tuvel.

Here's a gem from the Salem crowd's demands:
Many published articles include some minor defects of scholarship; however, together the problems with this article are glaring. More importantly, these failures of scholarship do harm to the communities who might expect better from Hypatia. It is difficult to imagine that this article could have been endorsed by referees working in critical race theory and trans theory, which are the two areas of specialization that should have been most relevant to the review process. A message has been sent, to authors and readers alike, that white cis scholars may engage in speculative discussion of these themes without broad and sustained engagement with those theorists whose lives are most directly affected by transphobia and racism.
This sounds like a first year graduate student wrote it. Or maybe even a clueless undergraduate. It certainly offers nothing in terms of rebuttal or point for point arguments, and does nothing to address Tuvel's actual construct, because it's quite clear they didn't read it.

By way of comparison, I did read Tuvel's argument and agree with virtually 100% of what she wrote. The points she is making regarding similarities between transgender and transracial are striking, and for all the racism and name calling that has been heaped her way, a simple search of the academic literature on "passing" would tell you everything you need to know about it. 

Passing, as it relates to race, has controversially been applied to both sexuality, gender and religion for decades now. There's nothing new here, except for the pile-on, groupthink, herd mentality of certain segments of the academy, and fueled by online anonymity. Yes, the academy has its trolls too.

It's also interesting that the author is attacked for being a "cis white female," her self-identification being assumed by the very torch and pitchfork crowd who supposedly hates such assumptions of self-identity. And why, because they see a profile picture of an attractive woman at Rhodes, they assume she's a straight, hetero, white, privileged, cis, female? Get the red paint out and put a cross on her office door because she might be (gasp) "kinda hot?"

I'd suggest they check their Lookism. And possibly look up the word "jealousy."
People have a right to be offended by academic articles and to express outrage at those articles, of course, and trans people obviously have a right to contest false or malicious representations of them and their lives made in any forum. Surely Tuvel’s article wasn’t perfect, and surely one could make legitimate critiques of it with regard to its treatment of trans people and their identities. The point here isn’t to suggest otherwise.

Rather, what’s disturbing here is how many hundreds of academics signed onto and helped spread utterly false claims about one of their colleagues, and the extent to which Hypatia, faced with such outrage, didn’t even bother trying to sift legitimate critiques from frankly made-up ones. A huge number of people who haven’t read Tuvel’s article now believe, on the basis of that trumped-up open letter and unfounded claims of “violence,” that it is so deeply transphobic it warranted an unusual apology from the journal that published it.

We should want academics to write about complicated, difficult, hot-button issues, including identity. Online pile-ons cannot, however righteous they feel, dictate journals’ publication policies and how they treat their authors and articles. It’s really disturbing to watch this sort of thing unfold in real time — there’s such a stark disconnect between what Tuvel wrote and what she is purported to have written. This whole episode should worry anybody who cares about academia’s ability to engage in difficult issues at a time when outrage can spread faster than ever before.
The journal Hypatia really did Tuvel a disservice by throwing her under the bus when the gaggle of uglies showed up at the door demanding their pound of flesh. To vet the article and publish it, only to be cowed when the first sign of protest started, is the definition of spineless. If anyone should have come out swinging in her defense, especially to the obvious threat the uglies were posing to the 1st amendment, it was the editor, editorial board and anyone associated with the publication.

Instead, Tuvel is tossed into the den of wolves who seem intent on their career-ending beating. Frankly, it would be awesome if she took to the courts and tried to both out, and collect damages from, the deadenders who signed the petition and did direct, possible irreparable harm to her career. 

Hell, I'd sign a petition supporting that.

BTW, the title of this post comes from one of my favorite Radiohead songs "Burn the Witch," video below. Awesome. Think of Tuvel as the poor, British chap, encouraged to climb the wooden pyre at the end.



UPDATE: The controversy has now jumped into the mainstream media:
To Ms. Tuvel’s critics, the paper, despite her declarations of support for transgender rights, contained “egregious levels of liberal white ignorance and discursive transmisogynistic violence,” as one scholar put it on Facebook.

Ms. Tuvel’s paper is squarely in the tradition of analytic philosophy, an approach that focuses on clarifying concepts and that relies on blunt logical analysis and sometimes outlandish-seeming hypotheticals and analogies. (Do justifications for eating meat also support cannibalism? Are unwanted fetuses akin to rapists?) But it’s an approach, some of her detractors say, that is unsuited to the subject at hand.

“That’s fine when you are looking at abstract metaphysical questions,” like “whether trees exist, or things that exist in the past exist in the present,” said one of the signers of the open letter, Talia Mae Bettcher, a professor of philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles. “But when you start philosophizing about racial oppression or trans oppression or other contemporary social issues, different methodologies need to be employed.”
What a brain dead, anti-philosophical comment. By that measure, only trees should be allowed to question their existence.
Ms. Bettcher, who in 2009 was co-editor of a special issue of Hypatia dedicated to transgender issues, said Ms. Tuvel’s article was part of a long tradition of researchers’ treating transgender people as objects of inquiry without adequately taking into account what they say about themselves.
“This is basically an argument that thought, ‘I can just swashbuckle in and cite a few articles,’ but didn’t really reflect on these deeper issues,” she said. Ms. Tuvel’s conclusions, she added, “are false.”
No, they aren't. The fact that you don't agree with them has nothing to do with their validity or quantitative backing, all of which Dr. Tuvel lays out methodically in the paper.
Tina Fernandes Botts, an assistant professor at California State University, Fresno, and the editor of the book “Philosophy and the Mixed Race Experience,” also strongly criticized what she called the article’s insufficient engagement with work by transgender and nonwhite scholars.
“The content is objectionable, and the conclusions are objectionable, but that’s not the really offensive part,” said Ms. Botts, who delivered a critique of an earlier version of Ms. Tuvel’s paper at a conference last month. “The really offensive part is that the perspectives of scholars working in these areas were treated as nonexistent or irrelevant.”
Another profoundly ignorant comment as well. It's like saying, because she didn't cite ME or MY work, or the work of others I know, her conclusions must be invalid. Since when did being a member of the population you are studying/writing about become a prerequisite for validity?

This idea of "epistemological insiderism," where only trans scholars can write about transgender issues, only black scholars can write about the black experience, only feminist scholars can write about women, and so on, is, of course, the last bane of the intellectually vacuous. And it violates the value-free, value-relevant pursuit that social science should be done with (in the strictest Weberian sense, that is).

Put it this way: I'm not aware of many, if any, penological scholars who have actually done time in the joint, so does that mean they shouldn't be studying and writing about the prison experience? We can't comment on mass incarceration because, well, we've never been to prison?

Again, what it boils down to is simple: you don't like what Tuvel said, so instead of arguing the issue, let's shoot the messenger and burn the witch. 

I'll reiterate my advice to the 800+ mobbers who signed the petition and have tried to ruin the career of Dr. Tuvel: just because another scholar challenges your sacred cows, with ideas that you don't like, doesn't mean the scholar or her conclusions are invalid.

It means you are.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Lunch Shaming

Shaming Children So Parents Will Pay Lunch Bill:

Holding children publicly accountable for unpaid school lunch bills — by throwing away their food, providing a less desirable alternative lunch or branding them with markers — is often referred to as “lunch shaming.”
The practice is widespread — a 2014 report from the Department of Agriculture found that nearly half of all districts used some form of shaming to compel parents to pay bills. (About 45 percent withheld the hot meal and gave a cold sandwich, while 3 percent denied food entirely.)
A Pennsylvania cafeteria worker posted on Facebook that she had quit after being forced to take lunch from a child with an unpaid bill. In Alabama, a child was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money.” On one day, a Utah elementary school threw away the lunches of about 40 students with unpaid food bills.
Hazel Compton, 12, remembers being given a sandwich of white bread with a slice of cheese instead of the hot lunch served to other children at her Albuquerque elementary school. (A school district spokeswoman said the sandwich met federal requirements.)
LOL. There is nothing anywhere in the Department of Agriculture's guidelines that says two slices of Wonder bread, a slice of cheese, and some ketchup meet the daily nutritional requirements of a school lunch. No one operating on more than a brain stem would make such an assertion (which I assume explains the Albuquerque school district spokeswoman).
Oliver Jane, 15, said that when she had meal debt at Shawnee Heights High School in Tecumseh, Kan., she was told to return her tray of hot food and was given a cold sandwich instead.
“If you didn’t eat the lunch, they were just going to throw it away,” she said. “It seems unfair to me to expect a bunch of kids to be responsible for putting money in their lunch accounts when they don’t even handle their own funds.”
Marty Stessman, superintendent of the Shawnee Heights Unified School District, said that younger children were allowed to take a limited number of meals despite debt, but that high school students were not.
“Notices are sent home automatically when they go below $5, so it shouldn’t be a surprise,” Dr. Stessman said. “They should know before they get to the cashier.”
Jawohl, Herr Superintendent! (eye roll) I'm pretty sure only an idiot would correlate the "notice going home" with the student having any idea whether the balance has been paid. Expecting the kid to know and therefore avoid the lunch line completely is beyond cruel and unusual, frankly, unless your idea of a healthy lunch is white bread, cheese, ketchup, and a side of shame.

Free lunches require paperwork on behalf of student's families that oftentimes gets lost or never completed. And for free lunches to go district-wide, the district itself must meet a 40% threshold of free lunch qualification.

Here in Athens-Clarke County, we are on year three of totally subsidized meals for every student in the county K-12. While our free lunch percentages are just over the minimum (41%), our free or reduced lunch number is closer to 80%. We are now one of 75 school districts in the state of Georgia where kids eat breakfast and lunch for free.

Since I had always paid for my kids to eat lunch at school, I wasn't aware that "shaming" on behalf the lunch ladies was actually a thing. It would seem if you were going to badger or shame anyone, it would be the parents. But resorting to Go Fund Me campaigns to pay off lunch debt seems extreme as well.

If you read the comments in the article, it's shocking how unsympathetic the readers are (even for the so-called liberal New York Times) to the plight of these kids. Most are referencing the two girls' weight featured in the story with a lot of "seems like they should skip a meal or two!" derogatory comments. Several are weighing in about "teaching them a lesson in responsibility" and other conservative tropes.

Pathetic. One reader made an excellent point: free lunch should be a part of the public school experience just like free textbooks, free heating and air, and free safety. It's always been ironic that students are required, by law, to be held captive for seven hours during the day in school, but they make you pay to nutritionally survive the experience. 

At the end of the day, the fastest way to stop this lunch shaming nonsense is give all students a free lunch. I realize that won't happen anytime soon in today's political climate, but it sure as hell should happen one day.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Like Rushing To Drink Your Milk Before The Expiration Date

Only Instead, Killing People:

Arkansas executed two convicted murderers on Monday night, the first time in almost 17 years that any state has executed two inmates on the same day, as the state carries out a series of capital punishments before one of its lethal injection drugs expires.
Jack H. Jones Jr. died at 7:20 p.m. local time, and Marcel Williams at 10:33 p.m., both from the injection of a three-drug combination, after a flurry of failed, last-ditch appeals. The executions in the death chamber at the Cummings Unit, a state prison southwest of Pine Bluff, came four days after the state put to death another killer, Ledell Lee. A fourth condemned man, Kenneth Williams, is scheduled to be executed on Thursday.
On Monday, the courts rejected a series of appeals by Mr. Jones and Mr. Williams, including an effort minutes before Mr. Williams’s execution, arguing it would be unconstitutionally cruel, based on complications Mr. Jones might have experienced. In a court filing, Mr. Williams’s lawyers wrote that infirmary workers had tried unsuccessfully to insert a central line in Mr. Jones’s neck for 45 minutes, before placing it elsewhere on his body. Then Mr. Jones gulped for air during the execution, the filing said, “evidence of continued consciousness.”
Apparently the one last night (number 4, for those of you marking X's on your calendar) was even more gruesome
Media witnesses reported "coughing, convulsing, lurching, jerking" for a 10 to 20 second period during the execution of Kenneth Williams at the Cummins Unit, where the Arkansas death chamber is housed.
The allegations come amid questions around the use of the controversial lethal injection drug midazolam. The state's stocks of the drug were due to expire and it has been racing to execute a record number of inmates — Williams was the fourth to be executed inside of a week.
"This is the most I've seen an inmate move three or four minutes in," said Associated Press reporter Kelly Kissel, who witnessed his tenth execution Thursday night. Kissel explained that Williams "lurched" 15 times in quick succession, followed by five slower lurches, three minutes after the sedative midazolam was introduced.
Kissel said two other witnesses from local media organizations agreed with his assessment and also said that Williams could be heard after the microphone to the death chamber was turned off. Williams' attorney called for an investigation and called the descriptions "horrifying."
Good times. Four down, four to go before the drugs expire on Sunday.

As I told my students, lost in this story is the unbelievable fact that these four killings so far, and the ones to come, are directly related to the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Back in March I mentioned to them that it was astonishing Gorsuch didn't face one question re the death penalty during four days of testimony. Not even from the left.

While we get worked up about abortion, speech, or business-related areas where nominees may rule, almost no one ever asks about the death penalty anymore...and the fact remains the justices hear WAY more cases related to the death penalty than ANY other issue, combined.

And so what was the first vote that Anne Gorsuch Burford's kid cast his first week on the court? The fifth vote to lift the stay over Arkansas' gruesome desire to whack 8 inmates in a 10 day period. And poof, just like that, four people are dead, one apparently tortured, another mentally disabled. Well done, Neil, in your first week, in your stolen seat.

Elections have consequences, folks. And so too does refrigeration, expiration dates, and the desire to hurry people to their death simply because your drugs are passed the date on the bottle.

God I love Arkansas. Soooooie!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Arkansas 8 Repreive

Federal Judge Blocks Arkansas Rush to Executions:

A federal judge on Saturday halted Arkansas’ plans for an extraordinary series of executions set to begin on Monday, adding to the legal chaos surrounding what began as one state’s effort to put eight convicted murderers to death over less than two weeks.
Although the Arkansas attorney general’s office appealed the ruling, Saturday’s preliminary injunction by Judge Kristine G. Baker of Federal District Court in Little Rock, Ark., threatened to unravel the state’s plan for its first executions since 2005.
The state’s execution schedule, which Gov. Asa Hutchinson set in February, was steeped in turmoil even before Judge Baker’s order on Saturday morning. Rulings by other judges had already resulted in stays of execution for two prisoners, and on Friday, a Circuit Court judge in Pulaski County issued a restraining order that barred the state from using one of its three execution drugs.
“I understand how difficult this is on the victims’ families, and my heart goes out to them as they once again deal with the continued court review,” Mr. Hutchinson said in a statement. “However, the last minute court reviews are all part of the difficult process of death penalty cases.”
In a 101-page order on Saturday, Judge Baker embraced arguments by the eight prisoners whose executions had been scheduled, plus one other death row inmate, that Arkansas’s reliance on midazolam, as an execution drug posed a risk to their constitutional rights. The drug is supposed to render a person unconscious and unable to feel pain during a lethal injection.
“The threat of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs is significant: If midazolam does not adequately anesthetize plaintiffs, or if their executions are ‘botched,’ they will suffer severe pain before they die,” Judge Baker, an appointee of President Barack Obama, wrote. She added that the men had “shown a significant possibility that they will succeed on the merits of their method of execution claims based on midazolam.”
We even found out that Arkansas, like a lot of other desperate junkies, er states running out of lethal injection drugs, purchased midazaolam under false pretenses.
Although the case before Judge Baker was central to the efforts to stop the executions, state judges were also asked to consider an array of arguments, including one on Friday that Arkansas had relied on a false pretense when it bought one of its lethal injection drugs from the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distributor.
According to that company, McKesson Corporation, the state bought vials of vecuronium bromide in July, even though Arkansas officials knew that McKesson and the drug’s manufacturer had taken steps to prevent its use in executions.
A quiet clash simmered for months, and in a letter to state officials on Thursday, a lawyer for McKesson complained that the Arkansas prison system had “purchased the products on an account that was opened under the valid medical license of an Arkansas physician, implicitly representing that the products would only be used for a legitimate medical purpose.”
The company went to court on Friday, and a judge quickly blocked state officials from carrying out executions with the drug. After Judge Baker’s ruling on Saturday, McKesson asked for the temporary restraining order to be abandoned because “the imminent danger that defendants would use McKesson’s property and be unable to return it” had been addressed by the federal court’s action.
Predictably, the get tough types went apoplectic, citing Justice Sam Alito's brain dead observations in Glossip (and ironically, on this Easter weekend).
Supporters of midazolam’s continued use in executions often say that the drug is not one of choice — they would prefer to carry out death sentences with other drugs that have become especially difficult for states to buy — but they contend that the medicine does not leave prisoners vulnerable to unacceptable risks.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the Supreme Court in the 2015 case that allowed for midazolam to remain the ranks of the nation’s execution drugs, said the court had found that “the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain.”
Then he added: “After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.”
Sorry, Sam, but most humans don't wish to died at all, regardless of varying degrees of pain involved. The Constitution doesn't even contemplate "humans wishing to die" in any shape or form.

Anyway, for now the big ol' Razorback experiment in bone and flesh seems to be at a halt. We'll update and report.