Two big stories in the past week regarding the DP:

Court Delays Execution over Secrecy With Drugs:

A federal appeals court has delayed the imminent execution of an Arizona man, saying he has a legal right to details about the lethal injection drugs to be used and about the qualifications of the execution team.

The ruling on Saturday, by a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, contrasted sharply with recent decisions by other state and federal courts defending states’ rights to keep information about drug sources secret.

“This is the first time a circuit court has ruled that the plaintiff has a right to know the source of execution drugs,” said Jennifer Moreno, an expert on lethal injection law at the Death Penalty Clinic of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

The notion that where the junkies (er, states) are obtaining their drugs from are “state secrets” in need of protection from the public is ludicrous, as I’ve written for several years now. But it is interesting that this is the first appellate-level decision to recognize the insanity behind so-called secrecy laws.

On Saturday, the appeals panel ruled that Mr. Wood “has presented serious questions going to the merits of his claim,” according to the majority opinion, written by Judge Sidney R. Thomas.

Arizona’s secrecy, he wrote, “ignores the ongoing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in this country, and the importance of providing specific and detailed information about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered.”

In a dissent, Judge Jay S. Bybee said the court had drastically expanded the “right of access” and had misused the First Amendment “as the latest tool in this court’s ongoing effort to bar the state from lawfully imposing the death penalty.”

For those of you with short memories, Judge Bybee is the same guy who advocated for torture in the infamous “Bybee Memos” (sometimes called “The Torture Memos”) during the Bush years. He has also been the subject of discussion regarding his impeachment and removal from the bench over the years.

Regardless, Judge Thomas’s opinion recognizes the ongoing debate over the efficacy of the death penalty in the 21st century, including the recent take down by a federal judge of California’s death penalty system.

“How has it gone on this long?” Justice Antonin Scalia asked a lawyer for the State of Florida during oral arguments in March on a condemned inmate’s appeal. The legal issue in that case had to do with how states define intellectual disability, but Justice Scalia was troubled that Freddie Lee Hall had been on Florida’s death row for more than three decades.

In that same session, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the last 10 people executed by the state had spent an average of 24.9 years on death row.

“Do you think that that is consistent with the purposes of the death penalty,” Justice Kennedy asked the state’s lawyer, “and is it consistent with sound administration of the justice system?”

Last Wednesday, in an unrelated case, a federal judge in California answered that question with a resounding no. The state’s death-penalty system is “so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay,” wrote United States District Judge Cormac Carney, that it violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In a remarkable ruling overturning the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced in 1995 for the murder of his girlfriend’s mother, Judge Carney, an appointee of President George W. Bush, pointed out that of the more than 900 people California has sentenced to death since 1978, 13 have been executed. More than 40 percent of the rest have been on death row for at least 19 years, and the backlog is growing.

Carney’s opinion is, of course, just one district judge’s opinion. It could easily be overturned at the appellate level or even by the Supreme Court, which itself has said that 20 years or more on death row does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment (Knight v. Florida, 1999).

And the get tough types are immediately pushing back against both decisions. Arizona’s response, for example, to the secrecy injunction:

But Arizona officials were not backing down. On Sunday, the state appealed to the Ninth Circuit for reconsideration by a wider panel of judges and it appeared possible that the state would appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary.

And over at my favorite pro-death penalty blogger’s site:

The California Legislature has been derelict in its duty to pass the needed reforms, killing them in committee time after time.  The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and ultimately the Governor, have been derelict in their duty to carry out their responsibilities to execute judgments and implement a protocol that will allow them to do so.  The California Supreme Court has been derelict in its duty to resolve state habeas petitions in a reasonable time by referring them to the superior court where they belong.  The federal courts have been derelict in their duty to fully implement the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, evading it at every turn despite numerous reversals by the Supreme Court.

In other words, blame everyone else for the failings of a system you advocate for but yourself and your ilk. Even funnier is their proposed “Miranda-like” solution to speeding up the appellate process and gettin’ folks dead (all the while, decrying Miranda as “lawless”). The, uh, “logic” of the pro-dp side never fails to amaze.

At the end of the day, neither of these decisions portends the end of the death penalty as we know it in the United States. But if California were to take the extraordinary step of getting rid of its apparatus of death, the trend towards abolition would undoubtedly accelerate. And under Trop, the death penalty may indeed fall at the SCOTUS level, even given the current makeup of the court.

Cross Posted from: The Power Elite

Snowpiercer

The revolution won’t happen because the revolutionary leader does not appreciate being tricked into becoming a revolutionary leader. So, once he has the choice between taking control of the system (the engine), rather than reorganize the whole social structure (the train) in a more fair manner, or blowing up the whole train, kill a big chunk of humanity’s last survivors, and maybe doom the rest to freeze to death, he picks the latter, of course.

The premise of the movies is not all that different from other dystopian, post-apocalyptic films: ecological disaster (here, global warming and a cure for it that turns out to be just as bad as it), mass death humanity. The few survivors live on a train whose engine technology allows it to run forever on a worldwide track (one circuit = one year). The train is highly stratified and functional: each car corresponds to one layer of stratification or one specific function, with the tail being the “urban”, overcrowded ghetto and the front of the train the luxury areas, with the engine at the very head.

The social structure very much resembles the setting of In Time or Panem, with the more peripheral areas being the poorest of having the least prestigious functions (making the protein blocks that feel the tail cars — if you thought Soylent Green was bad… —  where cannibalism was practiced before), prison, military (with enforcement of the segregation system). The semi-peripheral areas are higher in prestige and living conditions (hydroponics, schools, meat lockers, aquarium), inhabited by what looks like the middle class. And the core area get the luxury accommodations where the wealthiest denizens live in leisure and indolence, and depravity.

The engine is populated by one person, Wilford, the corporate leader who built the train and its track system, who lives alone and whose job it is to keep the entire system working in a sustainable fashion, which includes manufacturing rebellions from the tail that will allow for some culling of the population, and keep the tail in line with the right balance of fear. It’s like the old AGIL system in action.

This is also an totalitarian system marked by repression and deprivation (even though it’s not clear what the tail people contribute to the entire system, except for children, which they have in large numbers). The inequalities are extreme and the tension is always high in the tail.

The premise and the context are actually interesting (if not entirely original) but the main characters are so completely absurd that they ruined the movie, in my not-so-humble opinion, especially Curtis Everett, the rebellion leader played by Chris Evans. As I noted above, what drives his ultimate decision is not the improvement of the well-being of the tail people or more drastic changes in the system, but rather his ego. He is ticked off at the realization that he was manipulated from the get-go into getting the latest rebellion started. Moreover, Curtis is supposed to be a reluctant leader, rejecting the label over and over, even though he gives the orders and decides on everything the rebels do.

So, when offered the opportunity to control the engine, he prefers to blow up the entire train, based on the shaky view of an imprisoned security specialist who thinks the temperatures are rising (even though a punishment for the criminal elements in the tail cars is to have a limb exposed to the cold for a few minutes, and then amputate the frozen limb). Even if that were true, a warming would probably take decade, most of the earth’s population is dead, no infrastructure works anymore, and no one has grown food is 18 years, so the whole “let’s leave the train and go live outside” makes no sense whatsoever.

So, again, I liked the premise, but the plot, oy.

By now, most of us have heard of the Australian woman’s racist rant on a commuter train. If you haven’t, here it is, in all its glory (warning: racist profanity):

This is reminiscent of another commuter train rant, in the UK, a few years ago:

Both cases seem a good illustration of the frustration-aggression hypothesis of members of the dominant group who think they are not receiving the privilege and deference that they think they deserve and associate that with the macro “decline” of their country. For them, what micro-offence they have just received (such as kids refusing to give up their seats or being pushed a bit… a common occurrence on a crowded commuter train) is reinterpreted as a macro-offence against the country.

In the British video, mostly, we see women arguing. On the other hand, the man filming the ranting woman is apparently accompanied by a non-white girlfriend, which also triggers a sexist rant: only emasculated white men would get g—s as girlfriends. The underlying assumption being that “real” white men would get white girlfriends, hence establishing a sex/race hierarchy where the presence of the non-white girlfriend reveals the lower status of the man.

The different aspect to this is that now, the filming of these kinds of rants works as a shaming device that not only might bring the ranters legal troubles, but at the very least, they get vilified and stigmatized all over the Internet. So, as much as the ranters might want to use their rant as an assertion of privilege and power that they might expect to silence minorities, get some support from the white crowd, and generally reassert their status in the interaction, they actually get the opposite. The filming involves stigmatization, and an element of degradation ceremony.

I am currently (re)writing our online course on marriage and family (a topic I generally stay away from but them’s the breaks). However, as usual, I decided to integrate a module on data exploration. I stumbled upon this Pew research report on global aging that contained a lot of information and data, so I thought I’d just share some of what I found interesting.

First of all, I find this interactive visual very useful as an introduction the state of the world population by age groups, from 1950 to 2050:

You can either examine data for the US (numbers and percentages) or the world. Focusing on percentages, for the global population, you can clearly see which age group is projected to grow or shrink. So, for instance, the 15 to 64 population is stays pretty much stable from 1950 to 2050 (from roughly 61 to 63%). The under 15 category peaks in 1965 (with 38%, the end of the baby boom) but projected at just over 21% by 2050. However, for the 65 and older age group, the shift is from about 5% in 1950, to 15% projected for 2050. These increases and decreases are clearly visible just by eye-balling the graphic. Switching to the Us, that shift to a “geezerification” of the population is even clearer. as it is for most wealthy countries.

The global overview is nice but only as a starting point. There is some need for some fine-tuning by country and since my main topic here is aging, let’s look at that, for selected countries

Let’s do that below the fold:

Continue reading

From Clutch:

“ASU police officer Stewart Ferrin claims he stopped Dr. Ersula Ore for illegally crossing the street. When he accosted the professor she pointed to nearby construction and informed officers that she crossed in the middle of the street because of the roadwork—like several others. Officer Ferrin then asked for her ID and threatened to arrest Ore if she didn’t produce it, that’s when things quickly escalated and the entire confrontation was caught on tape.”

“After Ore refused to be handcuffed the situation got worse. Officer Ferrin slammed her to the ground, causing her dress to rise up and her body to be exposed. When he picked her up off the ground, her skirt was hiked up, and as the officer reached toward it, Ore kicked him.”

Here is the video:

Are we not surprised ASU is supporting the white male officer over the black, female professor? Disgusting. P.E. had it right.

otrThat is what a cop said to Alice Goffman after she was swept up in a raid at the residence of her African American subjects / friends. Actually it gets even better than this:

“On the way to the precinct, the white cop who is driving tells me that if I am looking for some Black dick, I don’t have to go to 6th Street; I could come right to the precinct at 8th and Vine. The Black cop in the passenger side grins and shakes his head, says something about how he doesn’t want any of me; he would probably catch some shit.

At the precinct, another white guy pats me down. He is smirking at me as he touches my hips and thighs. There is a certain look of disdain, or perhaps disgust, that white men sometimes give to white women whom they believe to be having sex with Black men—Black men who get arrested, especially.

(…)

Do your parents know that you’re fucking a different nigger every night?

(…)

What is your Daddy going to say when you call him from the station and ask him to post your bail? Bet he’d love to hear what you are doing. Do you kiss him with that mouth?” (70)

It’s a double whammy: patriarchy mixed with racism and rape threats

So far, this is a very powerful book, I have to say..

It is not an administrative matter for colleges and universities to adjudicate:

Lawyers representing colleges have a host of worries about if and how their institutions can possibly meet a burgeoning list of federal rules for dealing with sexual violence on campuses.

The new, and still evolving, laws and guidelines have set off a scramble at institutions across the country. Colleges that can afford it are hiring staff members to investigate and help resolve sexual-assault complaints. Smaller institutions that may not be able to afford to hire their own staff are pondering alternatives, such as collaborating with other colleges. Nearly every institution is poring over its policies and procedures for how to manage cases of sexual violence.

OK, let’s stop right there and pause for a moment. Is there another institution in the world that gets to have its own “rules, guidelines and policies” concerning sexual assault or violence in its midst? Is there another organizational entity that has to have its own “sexual assault policy” that is somehow outside the bounds of what the law proscribes concerning sexual assault?

If an employee at Google or Home Depot is sexually assaulted at work, would the police turn over the investigation to the company and tell them to adjudicate guilt or innocence using their own “judicial review board”? If you were sexually assaulted at a Braves game, would the Braves get to decide the validity of the claim? If a high school student is sexually assaulted, do we convene a “judicial review board” made up of the principal, a teacher, a student and the janitor to decide guilt or innocence?

Of course not. The police would be called in those instances and trained investigators, experts in physical evidence and in working with victims of sexual assault, would decide whether to make an arrest. And then trained prosecutors would decide whether there was evidence enough to move forward with a prosecution.

But that’s not what happens to victims of sexual assault on campus. Instead, we have created this fantasy world, this extra-legal bubble around colleges and universities where victims of sexual assault have somehow forfeited their 14th amendment right to due process and often endure re-victimization at the hands of university bureaucrats.

In conversations with lawyers here at the annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, nearly all stressed that colleges want to protect students from sexual violence, and that it is the right thing to do. But even as colleges work to do so—and to meet the administrative and legal requirements that now entails—lawyers here expressed frustration that their institutions were being held to a different standard than even law-enforcement agencies and were being given increasingly complex rules that sometimes go well beyond their capacity.

It goes beyond their capacity because there is not one single qualified individual on a college campus to sit in judgment of such a criminal matter. Not one. That’s a matter that should be left to trained judges in our criminal courts. Bringing in university or college Legal Department lawyers, who claim they want to protect the students, is an insult. These are are the last people who should be involved because university lawyers have only one primary responsibility: to protect the university. Not you.

The pressure on colleges to respond more comprehensively to sexual assaults has been increasing since 2011, when the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights sent a letter to campuses explaining that a college’s mishandling of complaints could lead to a finding that it was in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal money.

That pressure has grown significantly in recent months. In May the Education Department announced that the Office for Civil Rights was investigating more than 50 colleges for possible violations of Title IX in their handling of complaints of sexual violence or harassment. The number of colleges under investigation has since grown to more than 60.

In Apri, (sic) the White House issued stringent guidelines designed to help colleges prevent and respond to sexual violence and to offer students a “road map” for filing complaints against institutions that fall short in their responses.

Incredibly, all of this federal morass of guidelines, investigations and threats confuses sexual assault/violence with sexual harassment in the workplace. The latter is definitely the purvey of college and university boards to police and handle as they see fit. However, sexual assault on campus is not a “gender discrimination” issue. It’s a crime.

This is very simple: victims of sexual assault should notify the police. And if they choose not to notify the police and instead inform someone at the college or the university, the appropriate measure at that point is for the college or university to bring in the police and determine what happens next.

For those who worry about the nature of “he said, she said” claims involving college students, drinking, etc., (incredibly and stupidly articulated by the brain dead George Will recently) again, this should quite clearly play itself out in the criminal justice system, and not be adjudicated by a university administrator, a professor, a student, and a university lawyer (which sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, frankly). As agents of the university, none of those people is qualified to determine what happened in a sexual assault case, and the lack of oversight (and incriminating, blame the victim mentality that seeps into these informal hearings, none of which is made public) is beyond problematic.

Sexual assault and violence on campus is not a civil rights issue. It’s a criminal issue, and as such should be handled in the criminal justice system. Period.

Cross Posted From: The Power-Elite

Years ago, I was still living in France, in a Southern city with a very far-right mayor (he had defected from the National Front mostly because it was not big enough to fit his massive ego). He was all one would expect from a fascist, except on one topic: HIV-AIDS. On that topic, he was pretty compassionate and almost progressive. His wife would sit on the board of multiple NGO related to that cause. Why the discrepancy? Because their son had the disease. Now, all of a sudden, it affected them so, they could not buy their own rhetoric and policies on this.

Still years ago, at my workplace, I am listening to a talk (I don’t remember the topic or the speaker), but it had to do with gender equality. During the Q&A, one person stated that whatever problem was under discussion would have been solved if the ERA had passed and that the conservative governor was against it then. The speaker said that since then, the governor had become the grandfather of several now-young women and that he was much more sensitive to gender equality issues, because gender inequalities might affect them.

More recently, I watched the documentary Food Inc. and one of the people featured then is Barbara Kowalcyk who lost her son to E.coli after eating a burger. She describes herself as a conservative who did not care about food issue and thought this was all liberal / hippie stuff. But then, she directly suffers a personal loss as a result of lack of food safety, and all of a sudden, she becomes a food safety advocate.

And a few days ago, this piece in the New York Times:

“It turns out that judges with daughters are more likely to vote in favor of women’s rights than ones with only sons. The effect, a new study found, is most pronounced among male judges appointed by Republican presidents, like Chief Justice Rehnquist.

(…)

The standard scholarly debate about how judges decide cases tends to revolve around two factors: law and ideology. “Here, we’ve found evidence that there is a third factor that matters: personal experiences,” Professor Sen said. “Things like having daughters can actually fundamentally change how people view the world, and this, in turn, affects how they decide cases.”

The new study considered some 2,500 votes by 224 federal appeals court judges. “Having at least one daughter,” it concluded, “corresponds to a 7 percent increase in the proportion of cases in which a judge will vote in a feminist direction.”

Additional daughters do not seem to matter. But the effect of having a daughter is even larger when you limit the comparison to judges with only one child.

“Having one daughter as opposed to one son,” the study found, “is linked to an even higher 16 percent increase in the proportion of gender-related cases decided in a feminist direction.”

The authors also looked at the same judges’ votes in a separate set of 3,000 randomly chosen cases. There was no relationship between having daughters and liberal votes generally. Daughters made a difference in only “civil cases having a gendered dimension.””

The above are only anecdotal but it seems that conservatives can only reach a compassionate position on something if it affects them personally. No amount of data or evidence or stories from other people matter. It is not entirely surprising since conservatism is based on a rather pessimistic view of “human nature” (such as it is) and a proclivity for punitive social policy based on the idea that bad things only happen to stupid / bad people who make bad decisions usually based on a lack of personal restraints.

But, once personally affected, then they see an issue as having affected one of the “good guys”, then, the issue becomes understandable as one of policy rather than individual failings. Think back in the early days of HIV / AIDS when conservatives really didn’t give a damn until “the good guys” (not gays, not drug users) started getting infected.

This particular form of sociopathy is also what is at work in TV shows like Undercover Boss. Does one really need to experience exploitative working conditions to understand exploitation? Reading about them on paper really does not convey that understanding? It takes a massive amount of privilege and just not giving a damn to only start to care about issues when one is directly affected.

It is also a massive failure of thinking if one cannot think past one’s own experience. It is also a major failure in understanding complex issues. Issues can only be understood as personally experienced or they don’t exist (kinda like being born again). This is something that, maybe, should be considered alongside the anti-intellectualism of that particular political ideology, an avatar of it.

Over at his blog, Ludovic Lestrelin (a football / sport sociologist specialized in fans and supporters, well worth following) has an interesting post (and a version published by Le Nouvel Observateur) on the convergence of the World Cup, globalization and support for national teams. I’ll highlight the main points since the post is in French, obviously, with my comments in there as well.

As we are getting close to the end of the group phase of the World Cup, a few teams will be going home. What of their supporters? Do they still to go, or watch, the games once “their” teams are done?

For Lestrelin, the system of sport-as-spectacle has two pillars:

Uncertainty tied to the confrontation at every game; after all, the current World Cup has already produced a few surprises with “big” teams not making it through the group stage (so long, Spain and England). At the same time, the whole system of qualification rounds pretty much guarantee a certain equalization between the different teams as no team would have made it past the qualification stages if it weren’t of good caliber.

Identification: this is the sociologically well-known in-group / out-group dynamic, the team becomes “we” and everyone else is “them”. In his most recent book, David Goldblatt emphasizes the importance of football in solidifying nationalism in Brazil. Also insert appropriate reference to Benedict Anderson’s imagined community. There is no question that, whatever the motivation (be it political or crassly commercial), these kinds of global competitions are major vehicles for the production of nationalism (also see Durkheim on the importance of such rituals).

But wouldn’t the last point mean that once one’s team is disqualified, the experience is over for the fans and supporters? Well, one possible reaction is resentment. One certainly the highly negative reactions triggered by the incidents with the French team at the last World Cup in 2010 where the players were accused to be traitors to their countries, happy to play well for the individual teams that pay them handsomely, but reluctant to break a sweat for “their” national team.

For Lestrelin, there is more though, as football does not necessarily lead to ultra-nationalism (pun intented). Indeed, Lestrelin argues, that one gets a stronger and more emotionally involved sport experience once one has chosen a side and so, the supporter of a losing team finds a substitute allegiance, having to do with their individual history and experience.

This is not new but increased migration and geographical mobility in the context of globalization has made finding such replacement allegiance easier to find. But the main point is that these replacement allegiances have their roots in individual history and experience: you root against the team that beat “your” team, you root for the team of the country where you studied for a term, the country of your best friend, or whatever, etc. Of course, one can also root for individual super-players. Lestrelin notes that in 2002, quite a few French supporters from the Lens and Sedan clubs supported Senegal as many Senegalese players played in these two clubs.

Increased migration and presence of diasporic communities also provide easy multiple allegiances as societies become more diverse and cosmopolitan. Indeed, as Lestrelin notes, supporters of Algeria or Turkey or Morocco are not hard to find in France or Belgium. Immigrant communities do not cut emotional ties with their countries of origin and these get reactivated at times such as the World Cup. National identity as floating signifier in a multi-layered experience, not necessarily primarily tied to national citizenship.

Actually, for Lestrelin, supporters’ experience is less and less national. Allegiance is not a given. One gets to pick sides in the context of weakening boundaries where individualistic choice is the default posture (see, Bauman, individualization). And so, supporting as individualized identity becomes easily a multiple identity and switching from one allegiance to another becomes an available strategy (much to the chagrin of nationalist and anti-immigrant political groups) for whom anything less than total devotion is akin to treason (except if the team itself is made of x-generation immigrants, in which case, any defeat – or lack of anthem-singing –  will be interpreted as lack of loyalty to the nation).

Last year, I posted about the first season of In The Flesh, a BBC zombie show that I liked quite a bit. Season 2 finished airing on BBC America last week and it is still very good. Season 1 was only three episode-long, but season 2 has six episodes, so, it allowed a more complex and multi-dimensional storyline as well as more character development.

[Spoilers included]

Season 2 picks up a little later and is marked by backlash on both sides of the issue. On the one hand, the living are no longer as frightened of the PDS sufferers as they were in season 1, and that leads to both interpersonal and political backlash, with the rise of the UKIP-type political party, Victus. Hence the arrival of the new Victus MP for Roarton, Maxine Martin, one of the new characters for this season.

The rhetoric of the party is very fascist and soon after her arrival, MP Martin starts registering PDS sufferers, and later on forcing them in to the new Give Back scheme, a forced labor program, supposedly designed to make PDS sufferers “repair” some of the damage they did during their time as zombies.

Why would they participate? Because concurrently, their basic civil rights have been suspended, and, supposedly, they can only get them back after completing the Give Back. Needless to say, this is a system of exploitation and abuse that generates resentment on the part of the PDS sufferers.

And, of course, no discrimination and stigmatization scheme would be complete without a visual status signal. So, it’s not a yellow star, obviously, but the orange vest that tells the world that one is a PDS sufferer working on the Give Back scheme, which makes enforcement of all the restrictions easier.

That resentment is then used to unofficially reactivate the Human Volunteer Force (under a new name) to enforce the Give Back scheme. That scheme is hilariously presented in all its hypocrisy, with fancy brochures and cheesy DVD presentation to the community. Also, most of the PDS sufferers are made to work building a fence whose purpose is not yet really known. And, of course, one of the rules is to use lenses and make-up. PDS suffered are forbidden from leaving their present location (so, no trip to Paris for Kieren). Any deviation from the rules marks the PDS sufferer as non-compliant, which can lead to their return to the treatment center.

On the other side, there has been radicalization on the part of the PDS sufferers as well, with the introduction of a social movement organization, the Undead Liberation Army (ULA), that conducts terrorist attacks, using a substance called “Blue Oblivion” that temporarily returns the PDS sufferers to their zombie state.

The ULA is led by a mysterious “prophet” (whom we do not see during this season) who appoints people to lead PDS rebellion in various areas. That is how another new important character shows up in season two, Simon, “the Irish” as some Roarton denizens call him. This dual radicalization (Victus v. ULA) has religious undertones on both sides, and the show treats religious fanaticism as inherently violent.

Whereas fear was still somewhat present in season 1, it is mostly mutual hostility that sets the tone of season 2, which is much darker than its predecessor and the entire season leads up to an ultimate confrontation by religious fundamentalists from both sides, exposing the absurdity of their beliefs.

Season 2 is also marked by the disappearance of older patriarchal figures, and their replacement by different, more diverse figures. Last season ended with the death of HVF leader, Bill Macey, shot dead by Ken Burton, who, himself is killed in an ULA attack in the first episode of season 2. Later on, Vicar Oddie, a big anti-PDS agitator, dies of a heart attack (and MP Martin could have helped him but decided to do nothing, in effect, letting him die). So, three old white men are out. Enters the black female MP (Martin). And then, younger characters take more center stage: Phil Wilson (the young town councillor who used to take his marching orders from Vicar Oddie, and now from MP Martin… up to a point), Gary Kendall (the new HVF leader who claims for himself the rank of captain), Simon (of the ULA), and Kieren Walker and Amy Dyer, of course.

In this season, the themes of the previous one (stigmatization) are still here, but the in-group / out-group dynamics are much more salient and obvious. Living and PDS sufferers position themselves in opposition to each other, extremist living not longer considering PDS sufferers as humans, and extremist PDS sufferers rejecting the label and considering themselves a kind of superior race to the living. How these distinctions and ideologies are created, sustained, amplified, and transmitted is the most interesting part of this season.

There is one narrative thread that is started in season 2, and, is one the most promising for season 3 (hopefully, there will be season 3): the two doctors that created the drug that keeps PDS sufferers from “turning rabid” also created the pharmaceutical company that mass produces it. In the last episode, the government agents are sent to Roarton to collect someone (we never know who it is until the very end) but we don’t know why. That government / corporate storyline will hopefully be developed more in season 3, as there are references throughout the season, to experiments (torture, really) conducted on PDS sufferers at treatment centers (Nazi experiments, anyone?).

In all, it is hard to avoid the comparisons with the rise of fascism and seeing the PDS sufferers as the racial/ethnic target of hatred, along with their economic exploitation, and the curtailing of their rights. It is hard not to think about the current situation in Europe, with the rise of far-right / fascist parties all over the EU.

There are also still interpersonal storylines going on throughout the season, that add a human (see what I did there?) dimension to the socio-political aspects.

I like the way that Kieren’s homosexuality is treated as a non-issue in itself, and so, his burgeoning affair with Simon is only a story because because of Amy’s crush on Simon, or the fact that Simon is then tasked by the Undead Prophet to kill Kieren. There is the Amy / Philip story, the Jem / Gary / Henry storyline, and a series of other secondary characters that really add texture to the entire series.

I highly recommend it.

California Illegally Sterilizes Female Inmates:

An investigation of the California prison system revealed troubling numbers of female inmates who had been sterilized without their consent, in addition to many other breaches of protocol.

A report released on Thursday by the California State Auditor examined 144 cases of tubal ligations (more commonly referred to as having one’s “tubes tied”) performed on imprisoned women over the course of eight years.

“Some of the inmates were sterilized unlawfully, and there were certain safeguards that were designed to limit those occurrences, and those failed,” Margarita Fernández, the auditor’s chief of public affairs, tells TIME.

Among the 144 cases, 39 sterilizations were performed without the inmate’s lawful consent. In another 27 cases, the inmate’s physician did not sign the form that confirmed two key components of consent: first, that the patient was mentally competent and understood the lasting effects of the procedure, and second, that the required waiting period had been satisfied.

Odd that they’re calling in the “Medical Board of California” to investigate this rather than, y’know, the FBI with the possibility of seeking criminal indictments against those responsible.

Well, they’re just a bunch of women criminals, right? Who cares?

In other “Orange is the new Dead” news, this past week saw three executions, one here in Georgia, within a 24 hour span.

When Florida followed through with the execution of John Ruthell Henry Wednesday evening, it brought the tally of state executions in the last 24 hours up to three, a change of pace since a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma on April 29 caused a de facto pause on the death penalty due to national jitters over the humaneness of the drugs used in the procedure.

This recent spate of executions comes just months after Oklahoma botched the lethal injection of inmate Clayton Lockett, who had a heart attack and whose physical movements indicated pain for 25 minutes after being administered the lethal injection. In the wake of that execution, a number of appeals have been granted to prisoners seeking to avoid a similar fate.

Lawyers for Marcus Wellons, executed on Tuesday evening in Georgia, and John Winfield, executed Wednesday afternoon in Missouri, used similar arguments in their appeals, but were rejected.

Apparently, there were no incidences of writhing around in agony on the gurney, that we’re aware of anyway. Some reports say it took more than an hour to get Wellons dead in the Georgia execution in Jackson, and that a witness passed out.

Wellons was executed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, located about 45 minutes south of Atlanta.

His execution was first reported by Alan Blinder of the New York Times. None of the media witnesses reported seeing anything unusual, other than a guard fainting. While an official initially told reporters that the execution took more than an hour, witnesses said later that it didn’t take nearly that long.

Georgia used to carry out lethal injections using a three-drug combination, but the state changed its execution protocol in July 2012. Now executions are carried out using only the drug pentobarbital, which had previously been one of the three drugs Georgia used in executions.

Pet tested, Vet approved, baby.

I suppose it’s a brief but momentary victory for the pro-death penalty bloggers out there. Key word being “momentary.”

BTW, if you read that blog, support for the death penalty, when given LWOP as an option, has been well below 50% for decades. It’s nowhere near “60% for the fortieth straight year” or whatever drivel is noted there.

Cross Posted From: The Power Elite

PunkSociologyHow can I not read this book with a title like this?

The central theme of is pretty simple:

  1. Sociology is in crisis and in need of renewal.
  2. The punk ethos is a good approach to provide such renewal.
  3. Punk sociology.

And that’s about it. In and of itself, that’s not a problem. The book is rather short (99 pages of pages) and reads more like a pamphlet more than a full-fledged sociological treatise on the subject of sociological crisis and renewal.

Let me get through the main points before offering my views on all this.

So, the starting point of the book is that sociology is in crisis for a variety of reasons: it is a fragmented discipline (which is why people often ask what sociology actually is and what sociologists do). As a result, the discipline faces uncertainty and identity crisis and the response has been to play it safe, which, according to Beer, is not what we should be doing. He also reviews some of the literature on the subject of the future of the discipline, from Howard Becker’s live sociology, to the advocacy for more openness and inventiveness when it comes to methods.

From this diagnosis, the questions are as such:

“How do we re-imagine the craft and promise of sociology? How do we find ways of being creative, inventive, and lively? How can we deploy the sociological imagination in creative ways? How can we resist the restrictions of uncertainty, crisis, and measurement?” (Loc. 344)

Beer comes back over and over to the promise of sociology as outlined by C. Wright Mills in The Sociological Imagination and wants his book to be considered a contribution to the discussion of where we should take the concept at this point in the history of the discipline.

Beer also positions his book in the current academic context and the changes happening in universities, that we are all familiar with: universities as businesses, students as consumers, etc., all under the broad umbrella of neo-liberalization.

“It is obvious that we are not going to reverse the apparent marketization and neoliberalization of higher education. Instead, we need to think about how we should respond. The best response, that is to say the best form of protection, is to shape a discipline that is attractive, lively, and exciting. A discipline that draws people in.

(…)

It will also make it far more likely that value is seen to reside in the sociological project. This does not mean that we are ‘selling out’, it is not to go with the flow and to simply adopt the spirit of market-based competition into our lives. Rather it is to work towards a version of sociology that thrives under these conditions by offering an alternative voice and an engaging tone. Sociology will then thrive, because it will draw people into its debates, into its ideas, and into its findings, all of which are likely to provide alternative visions of the social world. This is a version of sociology that plays the game to its advantage. It is a version of sociology that succeeds by its own rules. This is a version of sociology that operates in the contemporary, if you will forgive the expression, knowledge economy, whilst providing a space for thought and provocation. My suggestion is that the best way to achieve all of this is to work on producing a discipline that fires people’s imaginations.” (Loc. 406)

What is that supposed to look like?

“what I am suggesting with punk sociology, is that we attempt to play along with the demands placed on us, but that at the same time we try to preserve a creative space. This will be a space in which sociology is not entirely bounded and shaped by the directions that are intended for it (by systems of government, measurement, and the rhetoric of impact). In other words, it uses an engagement with a creative cultural form to help direct it away from the obvious and to give it space to react and respond to the challenges it faces. The punk ethos, as one example, gives us the type of creative space and imaginative framework that might allow us to continue to thrive in a changing academic and social context, whilst also enabling us to be bold and confident, and to think in ways that escape from orthodoxy and conservatism.” (Loc. 418)

But is the punk ethos exactly? As defined by Beer, it involves a certain number of characteristics:

Punk Ethos

The idea then is that sociology should embrace these ideas (“punk sociology”) as the basis for renewal in the discipline:

“A punk sociologist is likely to want to think with and draw upon alternative and outside forms of knowledge – such as film, literature, TV, social media, and the like, as well as materials from across the scientific, computational, political, and journalistic fields – but this is not restricted to the outputs that might be labelled as punk. Rather this is about using punk as a resource for reflecting upon our very craft and the way we go about being sociologists. In this instance, punk is an approach rather than an object of study.” (Loc. 686)

A punk sociologist would questioning hierarchical and normative judgment on cultural products, would question the very existence of hierarchies, and would accept as equally valid high versus marginalized cultures. The punk sociologist would not treat her version of the social as privileged or superior or more valid and would value other sources of knowledge on the social without being threatened by them. Other accounts of the social (be they literary, visual, sonic, etc.) would be embraced by the punk sociologist. All knowledge is seen as subjective.

The punk sociologist would also be open to interdisciplinarity but also to breaking barriers and boundaries between researcher and researched, author and audience. This is where the deliberate unlearning comes in: we might want to reconsider our disciplinary training and conceptual / theoretical apparatus.

In addition, just like punk rock, punk sociology should aim for contributions that are “raw, stripped back, and fearless“:

“One of the key defining features of punk was its stance against forms of progressive or ‘prog’ rock. Similarly, if we are looking to provide points of comparison, then punk sociology might be understood to exist in counter-distinction to ‘prog’ sociology. This distinction provides a helpful starting place for thinking about the communication of sociological work. Prog sociology, as the academic adaptation of prog rock, could be understood to be sociology that is indulgent, maybe even self-indulgent, and self-congratulatory. This is sociology that is wrapped up in its own sense of self-importance. As with the prog rocker’s foregrounding of virtuosity, the prog sociologist is someone who uses their research to show off their virtuosity in research – the sociological equivalent, we might imagine, of a 10-minute guitar, keyboard, or drum solo. ‘Prog’ sociology uses research as a vehicle for demonstrating the abilities of the researcher.” (Loc. 861)

Instead, a punchier sociological style might help us keep up with the deluge of materials and news that circulate everyday and trigger debates that sociologists should be part of.

The punk sociologist should engage with the variety of media through which content circulates and, just like punk rocks had fanzines as opposed to glossy magazines, punk sociology should have alternative publications to the academic journal (blogs, for instance).

And the punk sociologist should be inventive in two ways: (1) in topics, questions, and research methods, and (2) in the way we deal with the neoliberal university. In both cases, the punk sociologist should refuse to play it safe. What does this mean?

“The punk sociologist uses the limitations of austerity to find creativity, to motivate their nothing-to-lose attitude, and to embed resistance and edginess in their outlook. They bounce off the restrictions and respond with creative means.” (Loc. 1089)

Now, if all this looks like very general statements of principle, with not much concrete substance, that is because that is exactly how the book is written. The reader will find very few examples in the book overall. The most sourced section is the lit review on the crisis in sociology.

Beyond that, I have several major issues with this book:

1. I understand that Pivot is an imprint that is based on quick turnover and publishing, but this book needed some serious editing. The writing is very repetitive. The same phrases are used over and over again.

2. Isn’t sociology always in crisis? Or when has sociology not been in crisis? When Talcott Parsons ruled US sociology? I see the “permanent crisis” state as a reflection of the well-known fact that sociology is obviously not a dominant discipline in the field of social sciences (political science, economics, and psychology get more respect, dammit). And one of the consequences of being in dominated status is a constant search for a relevance that is always in question in the academic context (and yes, especially now, with the whole idea that education = job training).

3. Looking back at the description of the punk ethos, couldn’t pretty much every new musical genre be described that way? At least partially? Doesn’t every new musical genre either borrow and absorb other genres, or clearly demarcate itself from others? Same deal for the questioning of hierarchy?

4. As for punk sociology itself, the way it is described, it seems to me that, precisely because the discipline is so diverse, we are already doing all of that: crossing boundaries, finding new types of data and types of sociological questions, looking at new trends in media and other fields. Sociologists blog, tweet, etc. and generally engage with the topics of the day in formal (through traditional academic publications) and informal (through blog posts, tweets, FB posts, etc.) ways. And this has led to a proliferation of sociological voices, not just the usual academic stars.

It is also weird to see punk sociology described as one that does not rank cultural products… Bourdie’s Distinction, anyone?

5. As for taking risks, that is all well and good, but in the context of tightening academic labor markets, limitation of tenure protections, etc., that seem a tall (and very vague) order. I am not sure what this specifically involves, and creativity and inventiveness are always good, but Beer needed to be clearer as to what this implies and how to deal with being tossed out of academia as a result.

In the end, Beer asks, what else are we going to do?

I don’t have an answer (or maybe I’m just a prog sociologist) but one thing is certain: I teach at a community college so, my workload is all teaching (5/5! That ain’t for the faint of heart) and this is where one gets to be more safely creative (although I wouldn’t put my tenure on the line. Call me a sellout) because we are not constrained by the requirements of research and publication. I really do think that cc faculty should be doing a lot more public sociology.

But the bottom line is that I don’t think there is much that is new here (and it is very possible that I missed the point entirely… wouldn’t be the first time). From where I stand, punk sociology already exists in a multitude of places, practiced by a lot of sociologists, functioning within their own national, institutional, and organizational constraints, I don’t think the punk framing brings a lot to the table here.

Yup, I’ll be watching the World Cup. And a few media outlets have come up with some great dataviz on the subject. My favorite so far comes from the Economist, and you can spend a lot of time playing with this one:

Goals

It is fully interactive and it visualizes all the World Cup goals with a lot of neat filters (countries, year, stage). You can see which countries are big scorers and try to derive playing style based on that.

Business Insider looks at the average temperatures at kick-off (it will be interesting to see if that correlates with other things, like goals scored, etc.):

wc_temps

More interesting is this dataviz dashboard that comprises information regarding which league players play in during the regular season, as well as the experience v. age factors:

And here is a bunch of various stats on the World Cup (the whole scrolling thing is a bit tedious… simplicity is often better):

And via Le Monde (in French), here is a dataviz video summarizing roughly the same statistical info:


Les chiffres insolites de la coupe du Monde by lemondefr