Chris Uggen's Blog: April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

restrictions on college aid for drug offenders upheld

via school law blog:

a three-judge panel of the u.s. court of appeals for the 8th circuit rejected a constitutional challenge to a federal law that bars students with drug convictions from participation in federal college aid programs. in students for sensible drug policy v. spellings the court ruled that such collateral consequences do not violate the double-jeopardy clause of the 5th amendment.

everybody's a star

1. on march 19, the brightest thing in the known history of the universe, gamma ray burst 080319B, was briefly visible from 7.5 billion light years away. via heather and nasa:

The explosion was so far away that it took its light 7,500,000,000 (7.5 billion) years to reach Earth! In fact, the explosion took place so long ago that Earth had not yet come into existence. "No other known object or type of explosion could be seen by the naked eye at such an immense distance," says Swift science team member Stephen Holland of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "[I]f someone just happened to be looking at the right place at the right time, they saw the most distant object ever seen by human eyes without optical aid."

2. in keeping with time-honored tradition, sly stone has officially canceled friday's first avenue gig. i'm boycotting anyway until larry graham is back in the family, thank you very much. many good shows upcoming, though -- look for devotchka and p-funk later this month.

3. esperanza's new play opens this weekend. i haven't seen the rehearsals, but her makeup is killer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

that's master teaching, right there

if you google the phrase master teacher, you'll return notices such as the clipping at left, celebrating the eighth grade teaching excellence of gladys (a/k/a "mrs. ellwood") brown. in 21st century higher education, however, identification as a master teacher is not always cause for celebration.

a colleague of a friend of a friend-in-another-discipline forwarded me part of a letter she had received about a tenure case in another university. i've changed all the particulars to protect her identity and that of her institution, but the term "master teacher" and the 4/4 load are indeed quite real.*

Chris was up for promotion and tenure this year at Excema State. She was informed that her tenure case was going to be rejected and that, because her teaching was so highly valued, the University was willing to offer her a “Master Teacher” position (with 4 courses/term and a 1-year contract renewable up to 3 years) – but only if she agreed to withdraw her tenure case. She opted for the potential job security and accepted the offer.

yeesh. i can't vouch for the accuracy of the writer's portrayal of the facts, but the source is generally quite reliable. evidently this professor had been carrying a 2:2 load as a non-master teacher, but was just so darn good at it that they doubled her classroom time. it looks as though excema state came out pretty good on this deal -- twice the teaching and no long-term commitment. one can only hope that they didn't reward this master teacher with a major pay cut.

* seriously. "chris" is not a sociologist and excema state is not the university of minnesota.

little billy

via boingboing: a radar magazine story reports on bill geerhart, an unemployed thirtysomething, who sent letters to oprah winfrey, donald rumsfeld, and larry flynt while posing as a ten year old. "little billy" also sent letters to (and received responses from) richard ramirez, charles manson, ted kacynzski, and eric menendez.

this is an old bit, perhaps best executed in don novello's classic the lazlo letters. the prisoners' responses weren't terribly revealing, since billy's short letters didn't give them much to work with. that said, i'm just a bit more sympathetic to clarence thomas after reading him tell billy that he likes egg mcmuffins and pretty much everything at mcdonalds.

Monday, April 28, 2008

cruel and unusual weight loss?

the smoking gun reports on an arkansas man who is suing the benton county jail for not providing him with sufficient food. broderick laswell (left) says he dropped from 413 pounds to 308 pounds after only eight months in the jail. He has filed a federal lawsuit charging that the jail fails to provide inmates with enough food.

while many will no doubt dismiss these claims from such a still-large man, this seems like a scary weight drop over such a short period -- 13 pounds a month or about .44 pounds per day. whenever one visits a prison, inmates will share some shocking food stories. for example, one young man told me he found a single glove and a rat in his food (reminding me, of course, of this #1 hit).

while the quality of prison food is usually unimpressive and sometimes downright shameful, most institutions at least deliver 2000+ calories per day. to the best of my knowledge, however, they are not mandated to deliver any more calories to a 6'10" 400-pounder than to a 4'10" 100-pounder. the issue of weight loss is bigger for prisons than for jails, since prisons tend to keep people far longer. inmates with funds, of course, can often supplement their diets by purchasing snacks in the institution. if mr. laswell is convicted of the murder charge on which he is being held, his weight will likely stabilize over a long term in an arkansas state penitentiary.

credit, attribution and privilege

meg sends word of a debate on feministing and physioprof regarding intellectual appropriation and attribution of credit in blogging. a selection:

When any of us have a soapbox, an opportunity to get up and talk, we must continue to stand by those who aren’t called on. If you want to consider yourself an anti-racist or a white ally to people of color — if you want anyone else to consider you those things — then it behooves you to swim against the current. If everyone did, perhaps the tides would turn, even if it was just in our corner of the blogosphere. And sometimes all you have to do is simply call out the hard work of another woman who went before you, who has paved the path that you’re walking down with research and ideas and words and strong feelings. All you have to do is cover your bases, pay your respects, and make sure you can’t be read as trying to take sole credit.

i like to fall back on the idea that the blog is just a blog, realizing of course that this doesn't absolve me of responsibility for awarding credit where credit is due. in such a spirit, i should point out that while i cited eszter in my POQ special issue post but that meg on the student board had earlier pitched an article in this special issue as a potential contexts discovery. i should have remembered this, but it seems i have to hear something two or three times before it really sticks these days.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

sri/agil 2008

this weekend marks our 18th annual sociological research institute or SRI at the minnversity. the program has been great thus far.

judith stacey gave a provocative and enlightening friday keynote, while today we celebrated big news: the new don martindale endowed chair in sociology, established to recruit, support, and retain outstanding sociology faculty.

after a lively day of student presentations, i'm now changing from the tan suit to the black suit. we'll have a full slate of awards before the evening's highlight: the ritual degradation of the faculty by the grad students. expectations are also running high for the after-party, featuring the killer rawk of the legendary talcott parsons project. can they possibly live up to the hype? or will TPP's AGIL destroy SRI?

Friday, April 25, 2008

logs, interactions, and polynomials (oh my!)

via social science statistics:

professor regina branton of rice university maintains a nice set of faqs on statistical interaction in multiple regression analysis.

handy stuff, well-presented.

day of silence

just before midnight, esperanza said g'night and handed me a slip of paper. it indicated that for the next 24 hours, she's participating in the day of silence. from the website:

The National Day of Silence brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. This year’s event will be held in memory of Lawrence King, a California 8th-grader who was shot and killed Feb. 12 by a classmate because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. Hundreds of thousands of students will come together on April 25 to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior.

the other larry king offers a psa and helpful introduction. though she will not speak all day, esperanza won't be completely silent. she's negotiated a singing-only class with her music teacher.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

is texas 3.3 times more democratic than minnesota?

there's another fine adam liptak piece on punishment in today's times. as is by now well-documented, these united states have the highest incarceration rate in the world.

one of the cited lawprofs pointed to democracy as the reason for high u.s. incarceration rates. yeesh -- i get the whole "lack of civil service institutional buffer" thing, but c'mon. fortunately, marc mauer pointed out that each of these semi-united states have wildly divergent incarceration rates: minnesota (with a rate of 300 per 100k) looks more like sweden (80 per 100k) than like texas (1000 per 100k). would anyone but a carpetbagging dallas stars fan suggest that texas is 3.3 times more democratic than minnesota? or, worse, that texans are 12 times more democratic than swedes?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

war of the roses

via boingboing:

using appropriated footage from a single episode of "charlie rose," filmmaker andrew filippone jr. gives us 'charlie rose' by samuel beckett. steve, it would appear, is not happy.

minnversity sports: tucker report and ashley anklam in boston

two minnversity sports stories today. first the bad news:

1. the minnversity's tucker center just released a report showing that although more girls are participating in organized sports than ever before, their physical activity outside of sports is declining.

now, the good:

2. ashley anklam (at right) told a strib reporter that her best finish at the state cross-country meet "was in the 30's." nevertheless, she was the top u.s. women's finisher at yesterday's boston marathon. ms. anklam, a 22-year-old minnesota medical student, finished well behind the 2:07 posted by men's winner, robert cheruiyot of kenya, and the 2:25 of women's winner dire tune of ethiopia. nevertheless, simply qualifying for boston represents a major accomplishment for most runners.

i'm a sucker for underdog student-athlete stories, so one of the comments on the strib story brought a warm smile:

You rock!
Congrats Ashley! We were watching your splits while studying pathology.
posted by katabata on Apr 22, 08 at 11:34 am

sweet. here's hoping ms. anklam continues her ascent in the marathon ranks -- and that she aces the next pathology exam.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

he'd never eaten well against baltimore

bob costas loves to spin yarns about milwaukee's ballpark brats and red sauce. i thought i'd share one that popped up in a bob uecker radio interview this week. mr. costas described his correspondence with a certain "ma pesh," a champeen brat eater from stevens point:

Ma wants to challenge me to a bratwurst eating contest," Costas said in Smith's book. "He enclosed a Polaroid and the guy had to tip the Toledos at about 430. Ma wears bib overalls, he's got a big head, looks like Junior Samples and claims he holds the record for County [stadium] bratwurst consumption. Says he consumed the most brats in a game between the Brewers and Orioles in August 1972 -- and that this was even more surprising because before then he'd never eaten well against Baltimore. You know, what do ya' say? I wrote back and he wrote back to me and now we're pen pals.

i haven't attended a game in milwaukee in fifteen years, but i still miss that bbq-based bratsauce. wikipedia traces its origins to a county stadium vendor named rick abramson, who ran out of other condiments during the george "boomer" scott era of the early 1970s.

“ We were sort of running out of ketchup and mustard, and we needed a condiment. I took barbecue sauce, a little ketchup and mustard and smoked syrup and other ingredients and came up with secret stadium sauce. We said, 'We don't have [ketchup and mustard], but we have secret stadium sauce.'” — Rick Abramson

The unique flavor has inspired a wide variety of comparisons, from "a combination of barbecue sauce and sauerkraut juice" to "a mix of clam juice and sweetened tomato sauce."

mmm. smoked syrup, sauerkraut, and clam juice. i can't vouch for the story, but i sure miss county stadium on a warm spring night.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

public opinion quarterly on cells and surveys

via eszter: public opinion quarterly offers a special issue on cell phones and surveys.

i've been worrying a lot about this issue lately, as students and colleagues argue about the potential biases associated with various attempts to gain representative samples. i haven't worked through all the papers, but i generally trust the editors and reviewers of poq on matters of survey methodology.*

to get the flavor of the issue, here's the conclusion in "Reaching the U.S. Cell Phone Generation: Comparison of Cell Phone Survey Results with an Ongoing Landline Telephone Survey" by Link, Battaglia, Frankel, Osborn, and Mokdad:

Sampling and interviewing respondents by cell phone no longer appears to be a choice, but is now a necessity if surveys by telephone are to provide valid, reliable, and representative data. Such surveys, because of issues of differential nonresponse and cost per interview, should include all eligible sample members reached by telephone and not simply focus on cell phone only households.

and here's the take-home message in "The State of Surveying Cell Phone Numbers in the United States: 2007 and Beyond" from Lavrakas, Shuttles, Steeh, and Fienberg:

...surveying the U.S. cell phone population is possible, if at a higher cost than surveying their landline counterparts, and if with less precision than currently can be done surveying the landline population. The next five years should see a considerable growth in the methodological and statistical know-how that the survey community uses to plan, implement, and interpret cell phone surveys.

the special issue offers many similar empirically-based conclusions. were i prepping a grad methods course, i'd be sure to direct students to at least one of its selections on problems of coverage and bias.

*when i wrote for them a few years ago, i learned a ton in the review process -- and also learned how much i have to learn about polling and survey methodology.


as tonight's pasta cooked, i raced to the grocery for bread and the wine shop for a li'l sangiovese and goats du roam.

funny how a baguette or two seems to cry out for friendly attention. g'head and try it -- carry a loaf of bread into the shop on your next visit and just listen to the ensuing banter.

i figure it must have something to do with linking bread and wine in the rubáiyát. here's fitzgerald's famous translation:

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

hmm. if one really craved attention, i suppose it would be helpful to carry, say, the poems of john keats along with that baguette. here's a newer, though century-old, translation by arthur talbot:


If in the Spring, she whom I love so well
Meet me by some green bank - the truth I tell -
Bringing my thirsty soul a cup of wine,
I want no better Heaven, nor fear a Hell.


Whether my destin'd fate shall be to dwell
Midst Heaven's joys or in the fires of Hell
I know not; here with Spring, and bread, and wine,
And thee, my love, my heart says "All is well."


Give me a scroll of verse, a little wine,
With half a loaf to fill thy needs and mine,
And with the desert sand our resting place,
For ne'er a Sultan's kingdom would we pine.


Let Fortune but provide me bread of wheat,
A gourd of wine a bone of mutton sweet,
Then in the desert if we twain might sit,
Joys such as ours no Sultan could defeat...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

pulp shakespeare (closed-circuit post to esperanza)

via boingboing and ceruleanst:


A road, morning. Enter a carriage, with JULES and VINCENT, murderers.

J: And know'st thou what the French name cottage pie?
V: Say they not cottage pie, in their own tongue?
J: But nay, their tongues, for speech and taste alike
Are strange to ours, with their own history:
Gaul knoweth not a cottage from a house.
V: What say they then, pray?
J: Hachis Parmentier.
V: Hachis Parmentier! What name they cream?
J: Cream is but cream, only they say le crème.
V: What do they name black pudding?
J: I know not;
I visited no inn it could be bought.

there's another nice bit on the site: describe Marsellus Wallace to me, pray.

big news from iowa on racial impact statements

i've written about how racial impact statements might be an effective vehicle for assessing the racial effects of proposed measures to protect public safety. this week, iowa governor chet culver signed off on a bill "requiring a "minority impact statement" for any legislation related to a public offense, sentencing, or parole and probation procedures." like some other midwestern states, iowa has a small african american population, but great racial disparity in criminal justice.


Gov. Culver: Signs minority impact statement bill into law 4/17/2008

Des Moines - Today, at the John R. Grubb YMCA in Des Moines, Governor Chet Culver signed into law HF 2393, a bill requiring a "Minority Impact Statement" for any legislation related to a public offense, sentencing, or parole and probation procedures. The legislation also requires that any application for a grant from a state agency must also include a minority impact statement.

According to Governor Culver, "This means when members of the General Assembly and Executive branch are considering legislation of this nature, we will now be able to do so, with a clearer understanding of its potential effects - positive and negative - on Iowa's minority communities. Just as Fiscal Impact Statements must follow any proposed legislation related to state expenditures, with my signature, Minority Impact Statements will serve as an essential tool for those in government - and the public - as we propose, develop, and debate policies for the future of our state."

This bipartisan legislation passed the Iowa House of Representatives unanimously and passed the Senate overwhelmingly with a vote of 47-2.

During his remarks, Governor Culver said challenges remain in Iowa on our way towards achieving true equality and opportunity for all.

* Currently, while 2% of Iowa's population is African American, 24% of Iowa's prison population is African American. This makes Iowa first in the nation in the ratio of African Americans in prison.

* And although African American kids made up roughly 5% of the school population last year, these students were involved in nearly 22% of suspensions and expulsions.

* Nearly 40% of all residents at state juvenile detention centers are minorities. Of that number, a full two-thirds are African-American.

Governor Culver said simply: "We can do better, and we must do better." He went on to outline progress which has led up to signing this legislation:

* First, In April, the Governor convened a group to review the problem of racial disparities in Iowa's prisons, and to make specific recommendations to him on how to tackle this problem head-on.

* Second, the Governor's office is working directly with the Iowa Department of Education to identify why African-Americans are suspended at a higher rate than their white student peers.

* Third, the Governor issued an Executive Order, creating the Youth, Race, and Detention task force. This task force will make recommendations to assure young minorities are fairly and justly treated by our criminal justice system, and to develop policies to specifically address the rate of repeat offenses among juveniles.

"I am committed to making sure government at all levels reflects our shared values of fairness and justice," Governor Culver said in closing. "And so, while I am very proud of the steps we have taken, and are taking, I want to be clear: our efforts are the first of many steps."

Friday, April 18, 2008

it'll probably not be the last time i have to be out by the first

i got up early to take my class to a youth correctional facility today. we drove through grant hart-land and ended up by greg norton's restaurant. feeling nostalgic over my favorite band's breakup, i stumbled on a blog tribute and mp3 to 2541, mr. hart's ode to love and the band's old address.

pretty obscure, i know, but well worth the search for me.

well, they gave us a number,
they gave us a place to stay,
and billy got hold of a van, and man,
we moved in the very next day.

twenty-five forty-one -- big windows to let in the sun. 2541...

well, we put down the money,
and i picked up the keys,
we had to keep the stove on all night long so the pipes wouldn't freeze.

we put our names on the mailbox,
and I put everything else in the past,
it was the first place we had to ourselves -- we didn't know it would be the last.

2541, big windows to let in the sun. 2541...

now everything is over,
everything is done,
everything in my head,
has 2541.

well things are so much different now,
i'd say the situation's reversed,
and it'll probably not be the last time i have to be out by the first.

2541, big windows to let in the sun...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

a practice called ghostwriting...

yahoo/ap reports today on a strongly-worded JAMA piece on guest authorship and ghostwriting in publications related to rofecoxib.

from lindsey tanner's associated press article:

CHICAGO (AP) -- Two new reports involving the painkiller Vioxx raise fresh concerns about how drug companies influence the interpretation and publication of medical research.

The reports claim Merck & Co. frequently paid academic scientists to take credit for research articles prepared by company-hired medical writers, a practice called ghostwriting...

the story gets better, but i'm stuck on the idea that the "academic scientists" are literally selling their names and the credibility of their institutions -- and that the results are published in respectable journals. while authorship norms vary greatly by discipline and department, i always figured that the putative authors were the ones paying the ghostwriters.

although big pharma wouldn't care to tempt me, i can envision such a scenario arising in my field of study. let's say i get a grant from privateprisonco to fund my next recidivism study. they hire criminological ghostwriters from the firm of shill & hack to write a manuscript comparing the recidivism of privateprisonco releasees with that of a matched comparison group of statepen releasees. they give me first authorship and $500 for my trouble, in exchange for whatever credibility attaches to my name and institution.

the full JAMA piece is well-documented, though merck is challenging the article and its pointed conclusion:

Authors who "sign-off" on or "edit" original manuscripts or reviews written explicitly by pharmaceutical industry employees or by medical publishing companies should offer full authorship disclosure, such as, "drafting of the manuscript was done by representatives from XYZ, Inc; the authors were responsible for critical revisions of the manuscript for important intellectual content."

Monday, April 14, 2008

halving the homicide rate

hillary clinton unveiled an ambitious $4 billion proposal to halve the homicide rate in major american cities. the plan involves adding 100,000 new police officers and targeting gangs, drug markets, and illegal gun trafficking.

you might recognize (all of?) these elements from the 1992 clinton crime bill. this is great news for my teaching, since i can now dust off a killer essay question on the anticipated impact of 100,000 officers on the perceived certainty of apprehension and punishment. i'm also intrigued by the weapons interdiction aspects of the proposal. if you click on the chart above, you'll see how gun homicide rates have fluctuated wildly relative to non-gun rates over the past three decades.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

consumption and a torp's music love story

juliet schor visited last week, giving a couple of well-attended talks on consumption. she emphasized the social costs of consuming new crap at ever-increasing rates, of course, but also spoke eloquently on the social meaning and community to be found in some forms of consumption.

on the latter point, the kindred soul in the handsome suspenders recently commented on one of my old guitar geek posts. i doubt our paths ever crossed, but old st. paulites and fans of less-heralded guitars might enjoy mjp's well-told tale of the flying-v knockoff at left. a brief excerpt:

Well, I walked into Torp's on Rice Street just north of downtown St. Paul, and there they were; every guitar bass, drum, keyboard and amp any band could want. I felt intimidated. I didn't have any idea how to play the guitar so trying them out would prove to be troublesome. I also didn't realize that the less than $200 in my pocket wouldn't really buy any name brand sh*t in there. I came to learn that later, of course, and Torp's pocketed about a third of my income for the next 8 or 9 years.

So I walked up and down the cramped rows between the amplifiers and just thought, "What the f*ck? How do I pick one of these, and what the f*ck am I going to do with one of these after I pick it out?"Just then Arnie walked up to me. Arnie must have been in his fifties, buzz haircut, pocket protector, and he had one leg shorter than the other that made it necessary for him to wear a giant shoe, just like the guys in KISS, so I figured he couldn't be all bad.

Without the slightest condescension, disdain, ridicule, pity, or anything else he could have felt toward me in my obvious virgin condition, he casually said, "Which one of 'em to you want to play? You really have to play a guitar before you buy it."

Well, I said, since I was standing in front of it, "I really like that red one." "The flying V?" "Yeah, the Flying V." (I had already learned my first rock term. I was well on my way). "Oh, this is a good one," he said. But then he probably said that about every guitar, bass, accordion or other piece of crap in the place. He was right, as it turned out, so maybe he wasn't bullsh*tting me. But probably he was. He was old school like that.

Arnie pulled it down, laboriously plugged it into some crappy amp and said, "let me get you a strap." A strap? How the hell do you put on a strap? Does it tie around the top part where the end of the strings are? Luckily Arnie connected the strap for me, and then, in the kindest and most understanding gesture of the evening, turned and walked away.

Because, remember, I didn't know how to play the guitar. So had he stood there and watched me I would have probably just shit my pants and ran home. Instead I plucked some stings, tried to put my fingers on the frets like I saw the bands do on TV, and then I unplugged the guitar, which made a huge buzzing sound that you recognize if you've ever just jerked the cable out of a guitar.

Arnie walked back over and took the V from me and hung it back up on the rack. "What else do you want to try?" He asked, but I couldn't take my eyes off the V. "None," I said, "I want that one." So he smiled and brought it up to the counter and I bought it. Somehow, the exact amount of money that I had in my pocket was what it cost! Isn't it amazing when that happens? I think it happened a lot at Torp's.

yup, that's torp's in a nutshell. if you liked that, you might enjoy the whole story. i don't want to spoil it, but the ending involves a righteous reuse/recycle connection with yet another old guitar geek.

spinning a story -- parents fighting over kid's gang affiliation

you might have heard the story of the 19-year-old colorado couple who busted up a video store fighting over their 4-year-old's gang affiliation. here's the denver post version:

A heated dispute between two parents about what street gang their son should join resulted in one parent threatening to kill the other, Commerce City police say. The center of the battle is a 4-year-old boy. The child was born to parents, who are not married, when they were about 15 years old, said Sgt. Joe Sandoval of the Commerce City Police Department.

On Saturday, the boy's father, Joseph Manzanares, allegedly went to the Hollywood Video at 5961 E. 64th Ave., where his ex-girlfriend and the mother of the boy works. There, according to Sandoval, Manzanares, 19, began knocking over several displays in the video store, as well as knocking a computer off a counter. Manzanares began to verbally threaten the woman, including saying he was going to "kill" her, said the police sergeant. Manzanares then ran out of the store and was arrested a short time later at his residence.

The mother of the child told police that she and the boy's father have been involved in ongoing domestic disputes regarding their son. The woman said she is a "Crip" gang member and that Manzanares is a "Baller" gang member, and "they have different ideas on how the baby should be raised," said Sandoval. "Basically she said they cannot agree on which gang the baby would 'claim,' " Sandoval said. Sandoval said the "Ballers" were formerly known as the "Westside Ballers." He said the father is Latino; the mother, African-American.

On Tuesday, Manzanares pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a Class 1 petty offense. A charge of harassment, a Class 3 misdemeanor, was dismissed. Adams County Judge Simon Mole sentenced Manzanares to 12 months probation and imposed $835 in court costs and fees.

i've heard the story spun in four ways:

1. criminals do the darnedest things. this lighthearted approach, often delivered with a chuckle at the end of a newscast, portrays people convicted of crimes as idiots. it is generally better-suited to stories involving burglars caught in chimneys, however, than to those involving domestic disputes and children.

2. suffer the children. the newsreaders usually put on a frowny face when they tell stories about innocent kids caught in bad circumstances. sometimes progressive reforms are suggested, though simple tsk-tsking is more common.

3. end of the world as we know it. older generations sometimes take a well-practiced "hell in a handbasket" approach to such stories. this one seems to bring together a host of social pathologies, embodying all that a talk-radio commentator identifies as wrong or evil about contemporary society.

4. those people. every report that i've seen or heard about this case notes the race and ethnicity of the mother and father, though this information really isn't central to beefs over gang affiliation. beyond simply identifying the parents, explicit racist stereotyping emerged in at least one of the reports i saw. you can bet that some profane and exaggerated version of this story will show up on every white nationalist site on the web.

though the manzanares case seems newsworthy, i suspect the full story is pretty mundane. there's nothing new about couples fighting over their children, particularly the friends and relatives to which their children will be exposed. i'd guess that mr. manzanares was likely upset about the continuing social affiliations of his child's mother as well as those of his child. there's also nothing new about 15-year-old parents having an especially tough time of it, regardless of whether they've been involved in gangs.

as they age and take on new responsibilities, most gang-involved young people desist from gang involvement. if there's anything positive to find in this story, it is that two kids who had a kid at 15 remain passionately committed to at least some vision of the child's best interests.

missing lester

digging out the back of my trusty alamo electra 2570, i came across a few rusty strings, a non-functioning bad stone phase shifter, a gnarly bottle of ernie ball guitar polish, and some crumpled-up pics from a mid-70s creem magazine -- y'know, iggy n' blondie at cbgb, that sort of thing.

dang. those words and pictures once meant a great deal to me. for better or worse, creem taught me to write, or at least got me interested in writing. at age 11, i first encountered lester bangs -- a fearless cultural critic who relished upending well-established status hierarchies. without apology or explanation, he'd compare dylan's masters of war with sabbath's war pigs, then rip on the latest buzz band as some sort of "triumph of artifice." some kids learn their chops from the new yorker, but i'm glad to have grown up on creem.

Friday, April 11, 2008

president bush signs the second chance act of 2007

via the sentencing project:

President George W. Bush this week signed into law the Second Chance Act of 2007 - legislation inspired by his 2004 State of the Union address - which authorizes $362 million to expand assistance for people currently incarcerated, those returning to their communities after incarceration, and children with parents in prison.

The Second Chance Act was first introduced in 2004, by then-Representative Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), to help the nearly 700,000 people leaving prison each year. It quickly gained broad bipartisan support and earned the backing of law enforcement, state and local government, religious and justice reform organizations. Passage of the Second Chance Act highlights a new political approach to crime prevention. Imprisoning 2 million Americans has diverted enormous resources that could have been used more effectively in reducing crime. Programs that provide housing, drug treatment, education and employment provide more cost-effective approaches to producing public safety.

The Second Chance Act seeks to promote public safety by reducing recidivism rates among people reentering communities after prison. Presently, two-thirds of formerly incarcerated people are rearrested within three years after release. The services to be funded under the Second Chance Act include:

· mentoring programs for adults and juveniles leaving prison;
· drug treatment during and after incarceration, including family-based treatment for incarcerated parents; · education and job training in prison;
· alternatives to incarceration for parents convicted of non-violent drug offenses;
· supportive programming for children of incarcerated parents; and
· early release for certain elderly prisoners convicted of non-violent offenses.

For decades, political concerns have trumped research findings in promoting harsh sentencing laws. Passage of the Second Chance Act signals that a bipartisan consensus exists for offering opportunities to those who are at risk of committing crimes. Innovation in crime prevention should be applauded; incarceration should not be the only option.

sign on the door says ...

via inside higher ed:

Lake Superior State University... threatened to reprimand a tenured professor whose door boasted cartoons and other images of a conservative political bent... Richard Crandall, was ordered to remove the materials from his door in 2007 (he eventually complied). Items included a photo of Ronald Reagan, pictures mocking Hillary Clinton, a sign posting a “Notice of the Weekly Meeting of the White, Male, Heterosexual Faculty and Staff Association (WMHFSA),” and various cartoons about abortion, Islamic terrorism and other topics...The university argues that the postings contribute to a hostile environment and therefore do not fall under First Amendment protections... Crandall, who could not be reached for comment, point out that other professors at the university are able to post politically charged pictures and phrases on their doors without consequence, presumably because their perspective is liberal or leftist rather than conservative or right-wing.

yeesh. sure, i'd be annoyed if colleagues posted reagan love poems on their doors, but i'd still be too offended by the ideological double-standard to actually do anything about it. and, if a minnversity sociologist were reprimanded for her door signs, i might summon the courage to collect systematic data on the doors around campus. such data might help establish the campus norms for political expression. then, administrators might make a judgment as to whether dr. crandall was spreading hostile work environment-style hate speech or expressing political views in a manner consistent with campus norms.

since i've been enjoying new morning-era dylan lately, i might as well link to bob's take on door signs.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

killin' floor

i've had little time online or elsewhere the past few weeks, as i've struggled to keep pace with chair / editor / teacher / scholar / father duties. one story that caught my eye, however, came via amelia at the crawler. apparently, slaughterhouse workers on the killing floor exhibit relatively high rates of post-traumatic stress. similarly, communities with slaughterhouses exhibit relatively high rates of violent crime.

i haven't assessed the researchers' causal claims, but the finding fits my experience growing up around the south st. paul stockyards and nearby processing plants. i knew a few shell-shocked former cattle-killers who ran screaming to minimum-wage restaurant jobs at a fraction of their former pay. i remember one tough-guy cook whose probation officer set him up in some kind of full-time throat-slitting or bludgeoning job. it was a good job, he said, but he just couldn't cut it.

the story is timely, since tomorrow marks south st. paul's last cattle auction. it was evidently the world's busiest livestock market when i was growing up, but the yards have been empty for years. i wonder whether south st. paul is becoming significantly less stressful or violent...

Monday, April 07, 2008

email from a felon's spouse

i got the following email from the spouse of someone convicted long ago for a drug offense. with her permission, i'm reprinting it in full.

her first-hand account of the impact of collateral sanctions -- even supposed "no-brainers" such as firearms restrictions -- offers an important perspective on a set of contentious issues.

Mr. Uggen,

My name is ___, and I am the wife of a convicted felon. My husband's felony is now 13 years old, and we both still are paying the price. He was originally arrested for a rolled up dollar bill with traces of cocaine on it. He was given a five year suspended sentence with a 3 year probation term. After successfully completing one year, he tested positive for cocaine use and was sent to prison for "treatment" for 120-days.

I ran across your information while researching a paper I am doing for college, I am a criminal justice student, with a goal of being a probation officer. I am continually discouraged by the prospects for a convicted felon in the world today. I feel they serve a life sentence after their initial sentence has long been completed: lack of employment possibilities, brick walls with help for gaining an education or housing assistance, etc. It is no wonder the prison doors are revolving!

I am interested in working with someone to change the laws in MO, in the United States for that matter to reinstate non-violent felons' rights after they have "paid their debt to society." My husband has been a model citizen since his incarceration, but continues to have "convicted felon" tattooed to whatever he tries to do. We have a son in the Army National Guard, who thought of being a police officer at one time - what to do with his gun and ammunition…because of course my husband might go murder 15 or 20 people with it, because he is after all a convicted felon!! I plan to be a probation/parole officer this time next year, same situation…what to do with my gun? I actually requested a copy of the law be sent to me a few years ago when I was working as a substance abuse counselor - we are not even allowed to have fireworks in our home!

OK, I will get off of my soapbox now. I just need to do something to work with someone to get these laws changed, rewritten, whatever! Please let me know what I can do!

Thank you for your time and patience, listening to me rant and rave!


spring came

there's nothing like springtime* in minnesota. according to my personal timetable, running shorts mark the official start of the season. so, blinding the world with my pasty luminescence, i ran in shorts this weekend. saturday was so glorious that 20 miles seemed like 20 minutes, but the rains returned today.

the lad (at center) had three rugby matches on saturday, returning with a smashing good shiner. he's enjoying his newfound freedom with my oldfound jeep, but thus far handling it responsibly. esperanza's rehearsing for a local production of cats these days, while she prepares for the state destination imagination tournament. truth be told, we're all hanging on by our fingernails until the end of the school year.

*i've written on winter songs and summer songs, but rarely say much about spring music. a handful of locals -- those with skinny ties balled up in the back of the closet -- might still recall the 'burbs' ballad spring came.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

midwest law & society retreat 9/19-20

i attended this one a few years ago and learned much from the good folks and their good ideas. via howie:

Invitation and Call for Proposals
Midwest Law and Society Retreat
September 19-20, 2008 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Hosted by the Institute for Legal Studies

INVITATION Faculty, independent scholars, and graduate students are cordially invited to the fourth Midwest Law and Society Retreat, a biennial event to be held at the University of Wisconsin on September 19-20, 2008. Sessions will take place at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Madison.

ABOUT THE EVENT In Fall 2002 the Institute for Legal Studies organized an interdisciplinary retreat that brought together faculty and graduate students from the region's diverse social science and law programs for a weekend of intellectual exchange and community building. By popular demand, subsequent sessions convened in 2004 and 2006. (Programs can be viewed at http//

The 2008 Retreat will continue to offer opportunities for participants to share research ideas, discuss professional issues, receive feedback on works in progress, and develop future projects with regional colleagues. However, this year we expect to place somewhat less emphasis on the traditional ‘paper presentation’ panel, and more emphasis on panels that deal with broad research issues, professional development, and the future of the field. We encourage people to consider presenting on these topics, or just coming to the retreat to join in the discussion. To ensure that the conference remains informal and personal, attendance will be limited to 75 people. Early registration is strongly encouraged.

KEYNOTE AND OVERVIEW The opening session will begin at 300 pm on Friday, September 19th, with a keynote address by Erwin Chemerinsky, inaugural Dean of the Donald Bren Law School at UC-Irvine, who will discuss his plans to make law and society one of the focal points of the Irvine curriculum. The Retreat will continue through Saturday afternoon, and will include group meals for dinner on Friday and lunch on Saturday.

Proposal Deadline June 1, 2008.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

top 10 myths of jury trials

via criminal defense attorney jeralyn merritt:

richard crawford, a communications prof and past president of the american society of trial consultants, lists his top ten myths about jury trials in today's rocky mountain news.

1. Your only chance as a defendant is to have lots of money.

This is largely false, primarily because as many as 80 percent of those charged with a crime are rigorously defended by public defenders or court-appointed attorneys. Believe it or not, if you have just enough money to hire your own trial lawyer, you might end up with a less effective defense lawyer than if you had very little money and were lucky enough to live in Colorado and receive representation from a career and free public defender.

2. Innocence will protect you in a criminal trial.

Regrettably, this is usually not the case. Specifically, for anyone who faces a jury, there is roughly an 85 percent chance that the trial will end up with a conviction. Tim Masters just might have something to say on this subject. Studies indicate that from 7 percent to 10 percent of those in prison today are actually innocent persons who got caught in this process.

3. Lawyers prefer jurors with little formal education.

The answer here is that it depends. There are instances like the recent Nacchio case when the issues are sufficiently complicated that both sides prefer very bright jurors. And, yes, there are other instances when the defendant is a barroom fighter of sorts and the defense would prefer to have jurors just like him who can identify with him.

4. Defendants should always take the stand in their own defense.

While all defendants have the absolute right to testify on their own behalf, frequently they do not exercise that right. And there is no doubt but that jurors often reason: "If he didn't do it, why doesn't he take the stand and say so?" On the other hand, there is a long list of very good reasons why a particular defendant should say nothing during his or her trial. For example, an innocent defendant may have once been convicted of a felony and the jury would learn that prejudicial fact only if that defendant decided to testify.

5. Juries sometimes find defendants innocent.

No, this cannot happen anywhere in these United States. "Guilty" or "not guilty" are the only two options open to an American jury. Sometimes juries believe that a defendant committed the act as charged, but that it was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the state, so they vote "not guilty" as a way of saying, "not proved." Sometimes juries think a defendant did not commit any crime and they vote "not guilty," meaning "innocent."

6. Defense lawyers who defend those they know to be guilty are unethical.

No, a person charged with a crime is never guilty unless and until a jury has said so and a judge has affirmed same. Our Constitution guarantees everyone the right to a vigorous defense or testing of the evidence and it would actually be illegal and unethical if a defendant were denied this right.

7. A trial is about discovering the truth.

No, the truth may be that a good young man broke the law when he went for the first time with a group who committed a robbery. But justice might say he should get another chance. The truth may be that a wife killed her violent husband, but justice might say she should not give up her freedom for that act. Trials are always about justice and the truth may be a part of getting there, but justice is the goal.

8. Jurors deliberate in the classic sense until they reach their final verdict.

The requirement for a unanimous verdict means that jurors usually only deliberate during the first stages of their time together. Ninety percent of the time, the majority overcomes the minority in order to get that unanimous verdict. Make no mistake about it, eight or nine jurors can and do exert enormous pressure on three or four holdouts to get a verdict that will wrap it up and get everyone home.

9. Evidence drives the outcome of jury verdicts.

Actually, when the evidence on either side of a case is overwhelming, a verdict can be pretty predictable. The reality is, however, that deals are almost always struck when one side or the other has a huge evidence advantage. Thus, since a majority of trials could go either way, the final verdict is often determined by nonevidentiary factors. Two such factors include the quality of the lawyers and the pro-conviction predisposition of most jurors.

10. When a jury votes guilty, that is final.

No verdict is ever final until the judge says so. In fact, although it is rare, the trial judge can set aside a guilty verdict with the tap of his or her gavel. Of course, any guilty verdict can also be appealed to a higher court.

the real dukeman would belt him in the mouth

i delete most scam emails without reading them, but i can't resist some of the more creative offerings. today's inbox included the standard fare addressed to "Dear Sir or Ma" and "dearest one," as well as a more creative offering from "Captain Dukeman" with the eye-catching photos at left and below.

i'm intrigued by scammers' appeals to compassion, religion, patriotism, and simple greed, but also by the legitimizing details they include to let us know that this particular email is on the up and up. here, for example, captain dukeman was simply fighting the good fight against terrorists when he came across $14 million in cash. you can have 30 percent of the loot -- and there's pictures to prove it. invoking the duke is clever, of course, but invoking david duke(man) is just bizarre.

Dear Friend,
Let me start by introducing myself. I am Captain David Dukeman of the US marine forcescurrently serving in Iraq. My troops were deployedhere in Iraq since the start of the war, though I have visited home thrice since then. Just last week Tuesday we received an urgent call from Baghdad that some terrorists were camping there and my troops were sentthere to forestall their activities. On perceiving our presence, they first opened attack on us. There was nothing we could do rather than return fire. We were really under heavy fire. Finally, we brought the situation under control and some of them fled, 6 were killed and we were able to arrest 11 of them alive. When I was interrogating one of them, whom I got to know was their leader, to see if he could give us more useful information. After series of intense interrogation, he promised to show us where they kept their weapons.I took some of my men and went there not too far from karbala here in Iraq. When we alighted from our mobile units, he took us straight to a deserted building where inhabitants had vacated forlong because of the war.Later, he took us to a particular room inside the building where Guns andBombs were kept. I ordered my boys to search the other rooms. About 5 minutes later, one of them came backand took me to one of the rooms where there were five (5) trunk boxes. I opened them and to my amazement,there were loaded with US dollars. I was confused, I ordered him not to show or tell anybody about it andwe all returned to our base. At night of the same day, I took one of my men who found the boxes and we wentback there. We counted the money and they all amounted to $14million in $100 bills. Now, I need your help to transfer this money because I want it to be in safe hands. I want you to give me your name, contact address and bank account number so that I can send the money there for keeps. You will be given 30%, my boy who found the money will have 20% while I have the rest. I will come down there immediately you cash it for the sharing. Please, endeavor to keep this information secret. Don't disclose it to anybody for security reasons and to protect my interest with the US marine forces.I will take pictures/photos of the said trunk boxes filled with money for confirmatory purposes.
Best regards,
Captain. Dukeman

Friday, April 04, 2008

cnn on lawsuits v. state juvenile institutions

via sothea: a cnn report on abuses in juvenile institutions.

The U.S. Justice Department has sued nine states and two territories alleging abuse, inadequate mental and medical care and potentially dangerous methods like the use of restraints. The department doesn't have the power to shut down facilities -- states do -- but through litigation it can force a state to improve its detention centers and protect the civil rights of jailed youths.

New Jersey
Puerto Rico
Northern Mariana Islands

Thursday, April 03, 2008

recruiting formerly incarcerated participants in minnesota

via michael bischoff:

I’d like to ask for your help in recruiting formerly incarcerated participants for some listening sessions that the Council on Crime and Justice is helping organize. The participants will get a $25 gift card. I’m attaching a flyer about the sessions, which gives more details. Please post the flier, and please also help us personally recruit people that you think would be a good fit for it.

These listening sessions will collect input about how neighborhoods can engage more fully in prisoner reentry. The attached flier is for 2 sessions for North Minneapolis residents that were formerly incarcerated. There will also be sessions in Frogtown (St. Paul) and Rochester, and we’ll send those flyers out as the sessions are scheduled. In each location, there will be 2 listening sessions with individuals who have been formerly incarcerated:

Group 1: Participants must have been previously incarcerated in a Minnesota State Prison and have encountered successes in re-entering your home community.
Group 2: Participants must have been recently released from a Minnesota State Prison and currently be under supervision.

This project is being done in partnership with the New Living Way Christian Center, the MN DOC, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Governor’s Office on Faith and Community Service. Later this year there will be community forums in North Minneapolis, Frogtown, and Rochester to discuss the findings.

Thank you for your help in inviting people to these groups. I think this process will be very useful for all of us that are working in reentry. When you have people that want to sign up for the sessions, please have them contact the Council’s Research Department at

Thank you!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

79 and 83

despite their 3-2 opening day victory, i just can't see my beloved twins getting past 80 wins with the current starting rotation. though i'm usually much more optimistic, i'm gonna call it at 79 this year, with high hopes for the 2009 season. i mean, we lost our number 1 (santana), 2 (garza), and 3 (silva) starters.

that said, how can you not love the twins? we've got a fine new slugger, a cozy li'l downtown ballpark under construction, and a sidearmin' local-boy vegan blogger, who clearly knows his place in the local boy baseball firmament.