Archive for June, 2014



23
Jun
14

end of the world

That's All Folks

The year is 2014 and, by Hollywood’s account, we should all be riding hoverboards and having robots tend to our every whim. Hell, we should have even destroyed ourselves by now. Such was the nature of the  futures, many of them dystopian, we’ve been sold over the past decades in the movies.

According to writer-director George Miller’s 1979 film Mad Max, there should have been a huge fuel shortage in Australia “a few years from now” (’82 or ’83?), with leather-clad bikers roaming the countryside with the police incapable of stopping them.

Yet another movie that claims to be set in the “near future,” the 1987 film RoboCop by Paul Verhoeven predicts that Detroit is in shambles, overtaken by crime and an evil corporation with plans to demolish the decrepit city center. Here fallen police heroes can be reconstructed into state-of-the-art, cybernetic crime stoppers that can store the entire police database in a chip in their brains. RoboCop‘s bold claims for the future will likely come to fruition, if ever, years after the time frame predicted.

According to George Orwell’s 1984, since made into a film by British director Michael Bradford, we should have entered an era of constant surveillance by Big Brother more than thirty years ago. Today’s NSA revelations seem long overdue.

According to the Terminator series’ timeline, Skynet was to have launched the ultimate war between man and machine in 1997, with the nuclear holocaust predicted in Terminator 3 happening in 2004.

Director Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi flick 2001 predicted colonization of the moon and travel to Jupiter long before now. And out-of-control robots! While 2001 didn’t feature a nefarious group of androids enslaving all mankind, it did show one super-computer Hal 9000 killing four astronauts.

Back to the Future Part II takes place in the very near 2015. Director Robert Zemeckis has set up a pretty accurate timeline of events (like wireless video gaming, tablet computers, etc.) leading up to that year. That said, hoverboards, instant pizza, and flying cars don’t look like they’ll be hitting the market anytime in the next six months.

Dystopia reigns in 2017-19. Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road (2009) was the bleakest of bleak films. An unnamed Man and Boy roam a post-apocalyptic earth (cause of the devastation unknown), avoiding the last remnants of humanity who are scavenging for any remaining sustenance, including human flesh.

In Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, pollution and overpopulation have transformed cities such as Los Angeles into depressing megacities by 2019. Replicants–androids with superhuman strength yet visually indistinguishable from humans–are pursued by bounty hunters known as blade runners. Off-world colonies advertise a greater life via flying billboards. Animals are scarce and must be genetically engineered. And we have flying cars. Clearly, this vision of the future isn’t going to come true within five years.

The fact that so many catastrophes have been predicted before now, and their dates have come and gone, reminds me that the economy has been judged unsustainable by so many people (including my son). He and others are waiting for the “other shoe to drop” after the financial crisis which precipitated the recent Great Recession.

But will that shoe ever drop, or will the powers-that-be simply define away the massive, unrepayable debt that so many naysayers say dooms our future?

We humans have an apparently insatiable appetite for predictions about the future, but the experts to whom we turn for predictions (including Hollywood scriptwriters) often do an exceedingly poor job of forecasting. Psychologist Philip Tetlock’s 20-year study of expert predictions has suggested that experts are about as accurate in predicting the future as dart-throwing monkeys.

Wanting definite, unqualified answers about the future, we encourage scriptwriters and prognosticators to make bold, unconditional predictions that often turn out to be wrong; but we are quick to forgive and forget. We use predictions about the future for our entertainment.

There will always be Bible-thumpers who will use some obscure Bible passage to predict a possible future. Most Biblical prophesy seems to be based on passages in Luke, which predict a proliferation of war and strife (Luke 21:10) and all manner of natural disasters (Luke 21:11) as signs of the end times. The only problem is that such passages are an apt description of the period from 70-80 AD  in which this gospel was written (Roman civil wars and fighting against the Jewish uprising, Roman invasion of Scotland; eruption of Vesuvius and tsunamis in Italy; droughts in Germany and Italy; famine in Ireland and Italy; floods in England).

More specific proclamations of the beginning of the end times supposedly based on the Bible include William Miller’s prediction of the second coming of Christ and the end of the world by fire between between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844 (and subsequently, October 22nd of 1844 when the first predictions didn’t pan out). More recently, Harold Camping predicted the end of the world sometime between September 15-27th, 1994 (based on a reference in John 21:1-14) and then May 21, 2011. There have been any number of additional specific end-of-the-world predictions based on interpretations of the Bible, some by cultists, others from major religions-–and yet we’re still here.

Other schools of thought ascribe the end of the world to some sort of cosmic event, either a collision with the supposedly mysterious rogue planet Nibiru, a killer solar flare (or coronal mass ejection), or a disastrous celestial alignment. Most are familiar with historical occasions of Halley’s Comet being hailed as a harbinger of doom, starting at least as early as 989 AD and most recently in 1910, but there have been other predictions of the end of the world from celestial objects such as Comet Hyakutake (1996), Comet Hale-Bopp (1997), and Comet SOHO (1998), with only those members of the Heaven’s Gate cult having their world come to an end…of their own volition.

Finally, there are the end-of-the-world predictions tied to some specific date on a calendar, without necessarily taking into account that any calendar is a human invention. Whether driven by the end of one of the periods in the Mayan Long Count Calendar, the end of the millennium according to the Gregorian Calendar, or Y2K, any excuse will suffice. Yet we’re still here.

The only predictions that can be made with confidence is that the sun will rise tomorrow, the days will get shorter until the Winter Solstice (when they will get progressively longer), and that the Earth will experience seasons in an immutable sequence in which summer will follow spring and winter will follow autumn.

Everything else, all detail, is unknowable and unpredictable.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to the Reverend Edward Clayborn performing “This Time Another Year You May Be Gone”

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22
Jun
14

could we be wrong?

british flag
One of the things which has astounded me since starting this blog is the tremendous amount of attention it attracts from other parts of the world. A part of this is anti-Americanism; America is that place in the world, it seems, that everybody loves to hate.
At the same time, there is an irresistible attraction that the ideals of America seem to have for others. Even though they know the American dream is a fraud, it seems the rest of the world wants it to be true.
So it is with youth justice.
One of my keenest supporters is an Englishman living in the US. He helps to keep me grounded in what is “normal” in the world beyond the boundaries of the US.
Here is his latest email to me. It has really gotten me to thinking:
“The latest youth custody report shows that there are 1,197 kids in custody in England and Wales.  That is out of a population of 58 million, of whom 4.5 million are 12-18.
“No juvenile is held in adult prison, and if their sentence extends only a short period beyond 18th birthday, they are retained in the juvenile system.
“That is 0.002% of the total national population.  Extrapolated to the USA, it would be 6,460 kids in custody nationwide.   The actual number in the USA (2011) is 61,000, excluding those charged as adults. (My emphasis.)
“The attached pdf gives immense detail on the system and statistics.  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/youth-justice-statistics
“British kids are not all angels with cute accents.  But they are not locked up as much.”

۞

Groove of the Day

21
Jun
14

the longest day

sunrise over earth

Today is the Summer Solstice, occurring at 5:51 am central time, or at 10:51 Universal Time. While we are observing the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere, people in the southern hemisphere are observing the Winter Solstice.

In the Gregorian calendar the solstice dates vary between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year. For example, it occurs on June 21 in 2014 and 2015 but on June 20 in 2016. A June 22 solstice will not occur until June 22, 2203. The last time there was a June 22 solstice was in 1971.

sunrise over cloudsA solstice occurs when the sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. During the June solstice it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.5 degrees. It is also known as the northern solstice because it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere.

If the Earth’s rotation was at right angles to the plane of its orbit around the sun, there would be no solstice days and no seasons.

The June solstice day has the longest hours of daylight for those living north of the equator. Those living or traveling to the north of the Arctic Circle are able to see the “midnight sun”, where the sun remains visible throughout the night, while those living or traveling south of the Antarctic Circle will not see sun during this time of the year. For those living near the equator, the sun does not shift up and down in the sky as much compared with other geographical locations away from the equator during this time of the year. This means that the length of day does not vary as much.

sunrise over oceanThe June solstice marks the first day of the summer season in the northern hemisphere. The word solstice is from the Latin word “solstitium”, meaning “sun-stopping”, because the point at which the sun appears to rise and set stops and reverses direction after this day. On this day, the sun does not rise precisely in the east, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west allowing it to be in the sky for a longer period of time.

In the southern hemisphere, the June solstice is known as the shortest day of the year. It is when the sun has reached its furthest point from the equator and marks the first day of winter.

In ancient times, solstices and equinoxes were important in guiding people to develop and maintain calendars, as well as helping them to grow crops. It was important for many people, especially those who spent a considerable amount of time outdoors, to understand the seasons and weather, which played a key role in their lives. Over the centuries, the June solstice was a time when festivals, celebrations and other festivities were celebrated.

We have reached the halfway point of the year and have shorter days to look forward to until the shortest day, the Winter Solstice, and the process starts all over again.

halfway

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Benny Goodman and Helen Forrest performing “When the Sun Comes Out”

20
Jun
14

unmasking private prison investors

mask

It has long been my belief that the individuals and companies behind the injustices perpetrated against young people must be unmasked, otherwise reform will never take place. CCA and GEO are the two largest private prison companies in the US, and these are the biggest shareholders profiting from their growth and practices.

Do what you will with this information. My own son works for one of these investors, and this information will certainly affect how I advise him. He is a deeply ethical young man, and it is essential that he knows his employer is working against my goals.

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Million Shares Club: 36 Major Private Prison Investors

by the Prison Divestment Campaign

June 12, 2014

There are 36 US-based major financial investors that own over one million shares of CCA and GEO combined. The following companies each own over 1 million shares of CCA and GEO, and collectively own over two-thirds of CCA and GEO:

American Century Companies Inc.
Ameriprise Financial Inc.
Balestra Capital LTD.
Bank Of America Corp.
Bank Of New York Mellon Corp.
Barclays Global Investors
Blackrock Fund Advisors
Carlson Capital LP
Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn LLC
Dimensional Fund Advisors LP
Eagle Asset Management Inc.
Epoch Investment Partners, Inc.
FMR LLC
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Hamlin Capital Management, LLC
ING Investment Management, LLC & Co.
Invesco LTD.
Jennison Associates LLC
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Keeley Asset Management Corp.
Lazard Asset Management LLC
London Co. Of Virginia
Makaira Partners LLC
Managed Account Advisors LLC
Morgan Stanley
Neuberger Berman Group LLC
New South Capital Management INC
Northern Trust Corp
Principal Financial Group Inc
Renaissance Technologies LLC
River Road Asset Management, LLC
Scopia Capital Management LLC
State Street Corp
Suntrust Banks INC
Vanguard Group INC
Wells Fargo & Company

Without the financial support of major investors like Vanguard and Wells Fargo, CCA and GEO alone would not be strong enough to successfully lobby for policies that increase the federal government’s demand for private prisons. With these powerful allies, however, they have been able to sway public policy in favor of more severe “tough on crime” laws and the increasing criminalization of immigrants.

The financial services industry now makes up a third of the US economy, and its members collectively own over two-thirds of CCA and GEO Group. It is the most powerful lobbying force in both Washington DC and in state governments. To address the root causes of anti-immigrant and other racist legislation, it is imperative that we expose and sever the financial ties that allow shareholders to cash in on the incarceration of immigrants and people of color.

Divestment from these financial services companies because they support CCA and GEO will force these companies to change their investment practices if they want to continue making a profit. With enough public pressure, these 36 major investors will divest or create portfolio screens shielding their investments from making their way to CCA and GEO. Once deprived of the financial support of their investors, CCA and GEO will lose capital and with it, their ability to lobby for stricter punishments, anti-immigration laws, and more contracts.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Fleetwood Mac performing “Behind the Mask

19
Jun
14

ice pulse

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It is still hotter than hell here. I picked up a wrench that had been left in the sun for a day, and I had to constantly turn it over in my hand to prevent it from burning me. There is little wind here to cool off the house. I can think of little more than drinking a glass of icy water.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Cocteau Twins performing “Ice Pulse

18
Jun
14

bad decisions

wolf 1
I read somewhere—I can’t remember where—that now that whole TV series are available on-demand, more people are treating them like books, gorging on them all at once, and seeing them through to the (sometimes bitter) end despite their quality. I must confess that I am a compulsive member of the “clean plate club.”
Chances are, if I can get past the pilot of a series, I will watch everything that’s available—even if it becomes more exasperating as time goes on.
I am currently finishing up the fifth season of Six Feet Under, and I cannot wait for it to be over. The series would more appropriately be called “Sex Feet Under,” and it is an unending display of the characters making stupid, bad decisions that make me cringe. Every second or third scene is sexual in nature, and many of these scenes model kinky sex, betrayal, dishonesty, cowardice, a lack of character. Bad decisions about heterosexual sex, gay sex, bi sex, sick marriages (including a doormat of a woman who marries a man who has been married and divorced six times), and just plain craziness. I would love nothing more than for all the characters to be killed off by the last episode. There’s nothing they can teach me about living a better life.
It makes me wonder once again what is normative behavior? This is not my behavior, but it may well be more common in the outer world than I imagine.

A 2013 study at Marquette University suggests that no one really knows. Researchers questioned young women between the ages of 3 and 17 about their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual violence, and the results were truly alarming and disheartening.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Many of the young women surveyed said they chose not to report harassment because they didn’t want to make a “big deal” or were afraid they would be labeled “whores” or “sluts” by their peers.

Many girls also said they believed that men cannot keep themselves from harassing or grabbing women, describing men as “unable to control their sexual desires.” According to the report, “they perceived everyday harassment and abuse as normal male behavior, and as something to endure, ignore, or maneuver around.”

A sad commentary on what we think of as acceptable.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing “Yer So Bad”

17
Jun
14

be careful

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۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Gillian Welch performing “Wrecking Ball”