prisons, part I

June 28, 2006

i’ve written about prisons before, but i want to talk about them a little more.

i was discussing the point of prisons, or what they hope to accomplish, with dlamming last night. he took the standard liberal approach that prisons ought to be centers for rehabilitations (whether or not they actually are) or, if rehabilitation is impossible, places that criminals are at least removed from harming their targets.

to note, we both agree that this is not what prisons are right now.

but i would further posit that this is never what prisons were intended to be, nor what they ever could be.

primarily, i think the purpose of prisons is to remove folks from the economic sector.

starting out, prisons did not exist: there were mostly local, small jails where folks were holed up for short periods of time. initially, being in jail for a few days or a few weeks would have been a good deterrent for future crime: if you can’t work, you can’t eat, or feed your family or take care of your farm or whatever the case may be. in a newly burgeoning economy with seemingly limitless possibilities (early US) you don’t WANT folks to be removed from the economic sector, and they don’t want to either.

but, as you know if you’re logical, there are not limitless possibilities for growth. natural resources, and even (manufactured) demand cannot grow forever.

between 1900 and 1940 the percentage of folks in prison in the US doubled (from .076% to .132%). that number stayed relatively constant until 1980 (.15%), and then more than tripled by 2000 (to .48%). in the six years since then that number has grown about 150% to .67%. in just six years.* i think it is relatively common knowledge that the US has more prisoners per population than any other western country. and here’s a few stunning pics to illustrate that growth.

what interests me most about these numbers is: the great economic downturn between 1920 and 1940; the great number of wars and conflicts between 1940 and 1980 (which concomitantly purged people from the labor market while creating great demand in the market); the recession between 1980 and 2000; and the economic stagnation since then.

further on than this, i hope to get into how racism and classism play into this picture; recidivism and the lack of job oppurtunities for those leaving prisons; the privitization of prisons and using prisoners as slaves.

*numbers determined based on prison population rates and US census data.


verbal tics

June 27, 2006

so, four years ago i started grad school. my first semester i had a prof who would always start his sentences with: so,…

everything began with “so,….” and i thought, “how strange, why does he do that?”

well, many folks will tell you that i now do the same thing. mostly it’s my non-scientist friends who have pointed it out to me. so, i was highly amused to stumble across a blog talking about verbal markers of “the scientist”. the most obvious one, he notes, is starting sentences with “so,…”

why do we do this? why do i do this? who knows, really, but i like this explanation:

See, by training, scientists like to start at the very beginning with first principles, and recostruct the origninal reasoning behind things. But journalists and other civilians like to have final the conclusions right off the bat. Thus, when asked a question, I can almost hear certain scientists “fast-forwarding” very rapidly through a line of reasoning, looking for a kind of off-ramp that’s near enough to the conclusion the listener is hoping for. In this sense, the “So” is an AUDIBLE “therefore” at the end of an INAUDIBLE explanation that the scientist thinks through but isn’t allowed enough time to share.

of course, that’s probably only part of the reason. all subcultures develop verbal tics (akin to “jargon”), and this is probably just another one (which, maybe, sprang out of the above reasoning and then became habit).

Feministe posts a comment about a study that says men often read sexual overtones into conversations where the women involved did not, and did not intend to give them.

ok, great, but what woman doesn’t know this? who doesn’t know that men often see things which just aren’t there? which is what led me to title this what i did. so often i have found that women (myself included) have to act downright rude to men in order for them to not think we’re interested. simply saying you are not interested is not enough.

and, what this all really points to:

The fact that men appear to “oversexualize” more often than their female counterparts may provide the basis of future studies that address the roots of sexual harassment and date rape, Mr. Levesque said.

when you grow up

June 27, 2006

i go through these phases of not being sure what i want with my life and changing my mind a lot and something becoming a passionate obsession for me and then fading away. i guess since i never did this when i was eight, i’m doing it now. right now i’m in the: it would be okay to be a scientist and work at the bench at a company for the rest of my life phase. i think it’s mostly laziness: without really any effort, that’s where life will sweep me.

today is world day against child labour.

here’s an article discussing one facet of this.

here’s another article discussing what are supposed to be solutions.

according to them, we need to end poverty and the way to do this is…more aid from rich countries to poor ones.

we don’t need to stop allowing companies to exploit human beings and the earth for their own gain. we don’t need to re-evaluate the way we live our lives–checking to see if it is sustainable, or compassionate. we can continue to pretend that socialism is a dirty word and that capitalism is the be all, end all of where it’s at.

we can continue to ignore what we (as wealthy americans) are taking from the world, and who we are taking it from.

in this week’s time there is an article about grass fed vs grain fed cattle. the point comes up about how grain fed cattle are often prophylactically given antibiotics because

“…a grain based diest often leads to stomach ulcers and liver abcesses in cattle–a problem that has fueled the wrath of animal-rights groups.”

i knew the article would piss me off before i started because, obviously, if you’re debating the merits of one type of cow eating versus another type you’re starting from a point of saying either is okay.

but, come on…why do you have to say “of animal-rights groups”? why can’t you say:

“a problem that should fuel the wrath of any person who has compassion for other living beings”?

would you be okay with your cat or dog or other various household pets having continual stomach ulcers/ liver abcesses?

i’m sure i can answer for you.

rapier woman

June 6, 2006

posting problems delayed this.

“He had known languishing women with eyes
That looked upon blue, Riviera skies
And pekinese and Paris frocks.
He had known women who looked on kitchen clocks
And aprons and clean beds,
Women one weds.

But this woman was like none of these.
She had a rapier mind to seize
Advantage, quick in thrust and parry,
And she had lips to marry
His own mouth mad with the sight of her.
Here was a woman not as others were:
Things for a man’s delight, brief toys to catch,
To fondle for an hour. Here was his match!

Quicksilver brain to brain,
Temper to temper, arrowing pain.
For once he could not be the buyer.
He must be singed by the beautiful fire
Of the one woman whose spirit he could not span.
Here was a woman mate for a man.”

~lucia trent