As it Turns Out, People In Jail Commit Real Crimes

McArdle on not being stupid about de-incarceration:

We’re hampered by the rampant perception that all we need is to wise up and stop incarcerating people for simply possessing drugs, something many of us feel shouldn’t be a crime at all and certainly shouldn’t merit prison time. At the event I attended, someone who has actually studied the matter closely pointed out what experts know and most journalists apparently don’t: Relatively few people are in prison for simple possession or for other minor crimes. The shock in the room was palpable.

Yup. As it turns out, the U.S. has a violence problem, and that violence problem drives the desire to build prisons, as anyone who was paying attention during the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the three-strikes, mandatory-sentencing laws were put in place, should remember.

So what is to be done?

We have the tools to incarcerate less — maybe not down to western European levels, but much less than we do. Those tools include “swift and certain” programs such as HOPE and 24/7 Sobriety, which use monitoring and small but immediate punishments to reduce the rate of reoffense. They also include GPS ankle monitors, which enable law enforcement to keep offenders off the streets during high-crime hours while still enabling them to be home with their families or commuting to a job.

This has a level of creepiness to it, in a Big Brother/Minority Report kind of way. But it’s still not as bad as prison. And if it works, we should take a shot at it. Otherwise, we should expect more of the same.

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Confess Your Whiteness

When Medieval Inquistion (of the non-Spanish variety) rode into a town beset with heresy, everybody got 30 days to confess without punishment. This was known as the “Term of Grace”. Anyone who came in out of the cold during those 30 days and admitted their heresy was considered saved through the mercy of the Church. Anyone who didn’t was suspect.

Witchcraft trials worked the same way. So too did Stalin show trials and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. And so does the endless folderol about “White Privelege”. Here’s John McWhorter, calling the whole parade into question in the Daily Beast:

In a society where racism is treated as morally equivalent to pedophilia, what whites are seeking is the sweet relief of moral absolution. Inside they are pleading, “Please don’t hate me!” And I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an accompanying feeling of purification (redemption, even) that comes with such consultant-given absolution. I can honestly say that I would be engaging in exactly this kind of moral self-flagellation about racism if I were white in today’s America.

However, not being white, I can’t help but see it from a different perspective.

The question he goes on to ask, “cui bono?” And the answer is, “Not blacks.”

When your people have been enslaved for centuries followed by another century of lynching, Jim Crow, and worse, the racial ego suffers. A suffering ego is ripe for using the status of the Noble Victim as a crutch; you gain a sense of worth in being a survivor of the evil one’s depredations. The Noble Victim is in control—of the conversation, as it were, of the parameters of moral judgment.

The Noble Victim, most certainly, matters. He is, in a sense, whole. But meanwhile, no one gets a job; no one gets fed; little tangible progress is actually made. The Struggle, as it used to be called, sits on hold.

Which is why I’ve become perfectly fine with being the wrong kind of white person, the kind who “just doesn’t get it.” You’re right. I don’t get it. When I think about race in America, and about blacks in particular, I am reminded, on this feast day of St. Patrick, of my own ancestors, who populated the “inner cities” of the 19th century and were likewise given to poverty and crime. What’s the difference?

Chiefly, any reasonably functional boyo could walk into a mill or the docks and find a job. Not a great job, not even a job that did much more than keep him in corned beef and whiskey. But a job. His life had purpose and function. He could be a husband and father, if he had the sands for it. And over the generations, his peoples built up the wherewithal for a better life.

Today, those jobs are gone. A young black man who gets a diploma from Baltimore City Public Schools can’t just walk down to the harbor and sign on with a firm. Or at least, not enough of them can to prevent the rest from falling into despair. And despite a mountain of good intentions, despite continuous Crusades on Poverty, despite endless Inquisition into our horrid horrid Privelege, white people have been unable to redeem this situation.

Because in order to do that, we’d have to stop talking about ourselves.

Further Reading:

Leave George R.R. Martin Alone

It’s time to deal with some unpleasant truths, Song of Ice and Fire fans.

Full-Metal-Jacket

  1. The Shows are going to Lap the Books. This is going to happen. We are going to get spoiled by a show in which there is no Lady Stoneheart, no Brave Companions, in which the Greyjoys except Theon hardly exist and have the wrong names. Nothing can be done about it. This was built into the cake when the show started and the books were half-finished.

    And sure, you can say, “Then she shouldn’t have started the show!” But be honest. You’ve busted your butt your whole life to create a literary work that is both popular and significant. And the premium of premium cable channels offers to turn it into a massive television series. You’re supposed to say, “No, I’d hate to see my story visualized by creative people and performed by awesome actors. Please spend your money on something else.” Please.

    Accept that this is happening. Enjoy it as best you can, and when the books finally come out, take solace in the fact that it will be better than what you’ve just watched. The book always is.

  2. George is gonna give us the books when he can give us the books. Yep, we’re four years past A Dance With Dragons and no end in sight. That’s the reality. And the madder we get about it, the more nothing happens, because our nerd-rage has no bearing on how fast we get The Winds of Winter. No. Bearing. Whatsoever.

    So don’t be this guy, whining to Martin on Martin’s own livejournal, accusing him of “betraying” his fans. Display some awareness of cause-and-effect. Do you honestly think this sort of moaning inspires the man to write faster? That he says to himself “Gosh, I’d better not disappoint them any more”? Because it it was me, I’d start wondering how hard I really wanted to work to please the same group of malcontents who took a crap all over my artistic process when I was fighting my way through A Dance With Dragons. If you’re not helping him, you’re not helping yourself. So knock it off.

  3. It’s All Gonna Work Itself Out. If George delivers the books, and they complete the story in a satisfying way, then all of the wait will be forgotten, and we can go back to the books or the series whenever we want and enjoy them. If we don’t like the books’ ending, maybe we’ll like the show’s ending. If George should die with ASOIAF uncompleted, someone else will finish it. That won’t be as good, but it will still be better than Wheel of Time (and the chatter I’ve picked up from those that slogged all the way through WoT is that the books that Jordan didn’t write were at least an improvement over the tedium that the series was stuck in. So who knows what can happen?). We’re going to get our books, one way or another. If we stop complaining, we might even like them.

This is what I had to say in 2011, around ADWD‘s release:

The length of the wait caused no small amount of reader acrimony, and I can see why. The Internet breeds contempt. When authors were faraway geniuses who you might meet at a signing if you paid attention, you had no choice but to wait like a cat left home alone for the weekend. But when an author has a livejournal of his own, and regulary updates it, it’s hard to avoid thinking “Yeah, that’s nice George. Now is Dance of Dragons gonna write itself, or…? And while we’re at it, a few miles on the NordicTrac wouldn’t kill you.”

For myself, I got tired of reading Martin’s dull football commentary, his middlebrow center-left political statements, his self-congratulatory merchandising for his less-interesting books (Fevre Dream: there’s $16 I’m never getting back). So I stopped reading them. I left his site alone until a wikipedia blurb suggested some chatter from his publishers that he might get around to being done soon.

Understand that I’m one of you. I’ve been reading the books since 2003 or thereabouts. I feel frustrated,  like my fandom has been abused. But abusing Martin in return won’t save that. In fact, I kind of regret the mean things I said above (why would he not use his success to say “Hey, if you like this book, check out these others”? Honestly…).

So if the current ridiculous state of ASOIAF is just too much for you, then consider leaving it alone until it resolves itself. You’ll only diminish the wait thereby.

Mad Monday Linkfest

I need a nap.

  • In the Wall Street Journal, Matt Ridley argues that fossil fuels are not going anywhere. In a nutshell: they’re getting cheaper to get, the alternatives are either false or not feasible yet, and the climate catastrophe is probably overstated. This quote struck me:

    Although the world has certainly warmed since the 19th century, the rate of warming has been slow and erratic. There has been no increase in the frequency or severity of storms or droughts, no acceleration of sea-level rise. Arctic sea ice has decreased, but Antarctic sea ice has increased. At the same time, scientists are agreed that the extra carbon dioxide in the air has contributed to an improvement in crop yields and a roughly 14% increase in the amount of all types of green vegetation on the planet since 1980. [Bold mine]

  • Japan Builds up its Military. I feel as though they’ve been doing this for decades, slowly slipping their internal revulsion of active defense policy. Most of this is aimed at China, as it should be. Odd quote:

    One Japanese analyst described the strategy of countering Chinese intrusions as “don’t be the first to pull a knife—like we mistakenly did at Pearl Harbor.”

    Do the Japanese really think that way? Or is that the sort of thing they reflexively say around Americans?

  • Vladimir Putin is Not Dead. He Feels Happy!
  • Jesus Loves Winners: How Drop Dead Gorgeous Found Cult Success as a Flop” My wife is one of the few who actually owns a copy of DDG on DVD. We watched it over the weekend. It remains a deeply, brutally cynical film, which was to be expected in the late 90’s, but not in films about teenagers. Pretty funny, though.

I’ll have more to say about the upcoming sixth season of Community later. Happy Monday.

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Disney is Going to Re-Release UnAltered Star Wars, Says the Same Stupid Rumor That Said So Last Year

Watching Star Wars – the original trilogy, I mean – as it was before George Lucas screwed with it is what we’ve all been hoping for since the Disney buyout.

Rumors of this were floated about last spring, but Disney did not confirm that they even wanted to do this. A debate was prompted about whether Disney even could do that, inasmuch as Fox owns the distribution rights for Episodes I, II, III, V, and VI until 2020, and for Episode IV in perpetuity. It seems to me that it could be done, so long as Fox and Disney make a reasonable agreement.

Yesterday, I saw a link that seemed to confirm that this was happening. I clicked it. It’s dated yesterday. It says the same thing: sources have indicated that Disney wants to do this, but they’re not ready to announce yet.

The source it links to? The same Comicbook.com blog post, from last May, that we’ve already debated.

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Meanwhile, what has Disney actually confirmed for us re: Star Wars? The existence of a standalone Star Wars film “Rogue One”, and who is going to direct and star in it. Also, the director and planned release date of Episode VIII. Read about it here. This was released on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Disney announced the existence of 20 or so book and comic titles to fill in the history between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awaekens. Read about that here.

These are things that will be released in the near future and into 2017 and beyond.

But about uncut OT? Not a peep. Not a whisper.

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Are People Really That Bothered by the Word “Moist”?

I remember first hearing this back in college. It was girls who said that they hated the way “moist” sounded. I’ve never had that level of aversion to a word, where I experience white-girl-ewws if I hear it. There’s one four-letter word that I wrinkle my nose at, but I fortunately don’t encounter it that much.

Yet if The Oatmeal is any guidepost, “moist” is about to join clowns in the group of Things That We Just Can’t With Right Now.

And as far as both “moist” and clowns go, I’m calling BS. Clowns are not that scary. They just aren’t. Yes, some people have legitimate coulrophobia.  And some people are scared of wide open spaces. Some people are scared of books. Some people have a phobia about clocks. Here’s a whole list of innocuous things that people are irrationally terrified of.

Anything can be scary. You give a clown a mouthful of blood and a flail made from children’s bones, and yes, I’ll be running in the other direction as quick as my feet will carry me. That doesn’t mean that all clowns are terrifying all the time. Are the clowns in Dumbo scary? No, they’re dumb and kind of mean, but not scary. Hitchcock devoted a whole film to making birds scary. That doesn’t mean we devote endless memes to the horror of a robin.

The horror…the horror.

This is all a miasma of trendiness. It’s trendy to think clowns are scary, and its trendy to act all skeeved out whenever someone utters “moist.” I say “moist” is a perfectly fine word to describe things that have an appropriate level of wetness, or “moisture” if you prefer. I’m not going to stop using it, and I’m going to offer racheting levels of disdain to people who call attention to their inability to function in the world by objecting to my use of it. Put on your big-kid pants and deal.

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Clinton Fatigue Returns: The Martin O’Malley Bubble

In the 229 years of this Republic’s existence, no one has successfully made the 50-mile trek from the Annapolis Governor’s Mansion to the White House. I don’t know how many have even tried. Maryland is too small to be a big state, and too liberal to be a contended state. It would take a peculiar set of circumstances to upend that tradition.

Nevertheless, Martin O’Malley believes he is the man to do it. Never mind that even liberal Maryland convincingly rejected O’Malley’s legacy by rejecting his hand-picked successor in favor a a Republican businessman. Like Obama, O’Malley’s success owes more to a TV-ready personality and a friendly media than actual sucess at governing. If O’Malley can connect with Dem primary voters, his failure as a governor may not matter.

I don’t know how large that “if” is. If Democrats are truly looking to rejuvenate their party with new blood, and are unable to draft Elizabeth Warren, then O’Malley might find himself at least a slot on the podium. But I don’t know the minds of Democrat primary voters, so I can’t tell. I can only say that if O’Malley makes any kind of splash at all, it will be a sign of just how weak a candidate Clinton really is.