“Sonia Sotomayor knows how many joints you can roll with 1.3 grams of weed”

Good News! You Can’t Be Automatically Deported for Sharing Three Joints | VICE United States:

What’s most surprising about the decision is that noted straight-edger John Roberts and his colleague Antonin Scalia, who’s still pissed about the 1960s, joined the four liberals and moderate Anthony Kennedy in reversing the mandatory deportation of Adrian Moncrieffe. Adrian is a Jamaican citizen who came to the US when he was three and was caught with 1.3 grams of marijuana during a traffic stop in Georgia in 2007. For his crime, the Department of Justice sought to deport him. How much pot is 1.3 grams? According to Sonia Sotomayor, the author of the Court’s opinion, it’s “the equivalent of about two or three marijuana cigarettes.” The more you know!

You’re Eight Times More Likely to be Killed by a Police Officer than a Terrorist

As if we needed any more evidence that the War on Drugs has been a gigantic waste:

In my opinion, too many people are still transfixed by terrorism despite the collapse of Al Qaeda over the last decade and the quite manageable—indeed, the quite well-managed—danger that terrorism presents our society today.

If you want to indulge your fears and prioritize terrorism, you’ll have plenty of help, and neither this blog post nor any other appeal to reason or statistics is likely to convince you. Among the John Mueller articles I would recommend, though, is “Witches, Communists, and Terrorists: Evaluating the Risks and Tallying the Costs” (with Mark Stewart).

If one wants to be clinical about what things reduce death to Americans, one should ask why police officers are such a significant source of danger. I have some ideas.

Cato’s work on the War on Drugs shows how it produces danger to the public and law enforcement both, not to mention loss of privacy and civil liberties, disrespect for law enforcement, disregard of the rule of law, and so on. Is the sum total of mortality and morbidity reduced or increased by the War on Drugs? I don’t know to say. But the War on Drugs certainly increases the danger to innocent people (including law enforcement personnel), where drug legalization would allow harm to naturally concentrate on the people who choose unwisely to use drugs.

Solitary: A Sentence Worse Than Death

Or, why I now find myself an even stronger supporter of the death penalty:

There is always the misery. If you manage to escape it yourself for a time, there will ever be plenty around in others for you to sense; and though you’ll be unable to look into their eyes and see it, you might hear it in the nighttime when tough guys cry not-so-tough tears that are forced out of them by the unrelenting stress and strain that life in SHU is an exercise in.

I’ve read of the studies done regarding the effects of long-term isolation in solitary confinement on inmates, seen how researchers say it can ruin a man’s mind, and I’ve watched with my own eyes the slow descent of sane men into madness—sometimes not so slow. What I’ve never seen the experts write about, though, is what year after year of abject isolation can do to that immaterial part in our middle where hopes survive or die and the spirit resides. So please allow me to speak to you of what I’ve seen and felt during some of the harder times of my twenty-five-year SHU odyssey.

I’ve experienced times so difficult and felt boredom and loneliness to such a degree that it seemed to be a physical thing inside so thick it felt like it was choking me, trying to squeeze the sanity from my mind, the spirit from my soul, and the life from my body. I’ve seen and felt hope becoming like a foggy ephemeral thing, hard to get ahold of, even harder to keep ahold of as the years and then decades disappeared while I stayed trapped in the emptiness of the SHU world. I’ve seen minds slipping down the slope of sanity, descending into insanity, and I’ve been terrified that I would end up like the guys around me that have cracked and become nuts. It’s a sad thing to watch a human being go insane before your eyes because he can’t handle the pressure that the box exerts on the mind, but it is sadder still to see the spirit shaken from a soul. And it is more disastrous. Sometimes the prison guards find them hanging and blue; sometimes their necks get broken when they jump from their bed, the sheet tied around the neck that’s also wrapped around the grate covering the light in the ceiling snapping taut with a pop. I’ve seen the spirit leaving men in SHU and have witnessed the results.

Had this exchange with a friend on Facebook and thought it was relevant:


I just wanna say I think it’s important to note that the death penalty and solitary confinement can’t really be compared in the same way. You get sentenced to the death penalty in a courtroom, you are given solitary confinement when you have already been given your prison sentence and have violated a rule while in prison. Therefore, it’s not just the most violent hardened individuals who end up in the SHU, it can be any inmate. But both systems are abused by law enforcement and both have irreversible effects.


They’re comparable in that both are a punishment. Ideally, prison would be a place where criminals would go to reform, to find a new place for themselves when they return to society. The death penalty is a punishment – once it’s done, you’re done. The same can be said for solitary over a life sentence – you have no more connection to humanity for the rest of your life.

Don’t go to grad school in the humanities

There are no academic jobs and getting a Ph.D. will make you into a horrible person: A jeremiad.:

Well, what if I told you that by “five hours” I mean “80 hours,” and by “summers off” I mean “two months of unpaid research sequestration and curriculum planning”? What if you’ll never have time to read books, and when you talk about them, you’ll mostly be using made-up words like “deterritorialization” and “Othering”—because, as Ron Rosenbaum pointed out recently, the “dusty seminar rooms” of academia have the chief aim of theorizing every great book to death? And I can’t even tell you what kind of ass you have to kiss these days to get tenure—largely because, like most professors, I’m not on the tenure track, so I don’t know.

Don’t do it. Just don’t. I deeply regret going to graduate school, but not, Ron Rosenbaum, because my doctorate ruined books and made me obnoxious. (Granted, maybe it did: My dissertation involved subjecting the work of Franz Kafka to first-order logic.) No, I now realize graduate school was a terrible idea because the full-time, tenure-track literature professorship is extinct. After four years of trying, I’ve finally gotten it through my thick head that I will not get a job—and if you go to graduate school, neither will you.

Rebecca paints a very bleak picture of what the job market is like for those who decide to follow the academia route. Glad I’m taking a different path.

The good news about Pope Francis

As the Roman Catholic Church celebrated the rejuvenation of the Earth through Christ, they may well be celebrating a rejuvenation in the Papacy. The unprecedented resignation of one pope and the ascension of an extremely qualified Argentinean Jesuit lend new and optimistic possibilities for the future of the struggling church. On Easter, March 31, Pope Francis delivered his first Easter Address as Pope on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Easter Address is traditionally to rejoice the Risen Christ, Christ’s redemption of the world, and make a plea for international understanding and world peace. The new pope hit all of these marks, and also hinted at progressive views on social justice and the environment. These small hints of progress in the body of tradition reflect a greater urge on the part of the Church under a new leader to reassert itself without reinventing itself.

It is important to note that the hints were steeped in the language of Christianity rather than politics. That is, while Pope Francis condemned “greed for easy gain” and expressed sympathy for the poor and those in prison, the progressivism there is well aligned with Christian teachings.  That is exactly the point. You might call it progressive, but you must certainly call it Christian. The pope must equate tradition with progress in order to engage both the faithful and the world .

Pope Francis’s statements on the environments, on the other hand, appear to apply Christianity to a mainly progressive idea. In his speech, he condemns the, “iniquitous exploitation of natural resources” and asks Christ to make us, “responsible guardians of creation.” In this case environmental squander is equated with sin, and our scriptural dominion over nature is tempered with a duty to protect it. Importantly, these ideas are not traditionally Christian, but rather adapts the language of Christianity to a progressive issue. The new pope is astutely seeking to equate modern and Christian philosophy to build the legitimacy of the Church.

This policy embracing the modern world and seeking legitimacy within the limits of orthodoxy is not new to the Modern Papacy. Perhaps its most renowned practitioner  is John Paul the Great (II), who is now well on his way to sainthood. Pope John Paul II supported the reforms of Vatican II, worked on interfaith dialogue with religious leaders around the world, supported Solidarity in Poland, and vehemently opposed Apartheid.  In all of these Pope John Paul II used his influence to engage the modern world in a Catholic context.

Pope Francis has the right mix of symbolic importance and qualifications to continue the process of adapting to the modern world within the bounds of orthodoxy. First, he comes in at the time of a papal resignation that is unique in papal history. Not only was the last time a pope resigned in 1417, a pope has never resigned for the reason of exhaustion. It sets the kind of precedent that if followed will forever alter the course of the Papacy. Increasingly in Papal Conclaves merit is replacing seniority. With this precedent might we be looking at meritocratic temporary popes, and what will become of the office of Roman Pontiff Emeritus, which Benedict XVI inhabits now?

Secondly,  Pope Francis is the first Jesuit and the first South American Pope. The significance of both of these facts must not be understated. Jesuits, or the Society of Jesus, have long been a powerful and often suppressed order within the Church focused on charity, education, theology, and ecumenical dialogue. A Jesuit pope is symbol of these works and ascetic values.

It is perhaps more important that he is the first South American Pope. South Americans now make up the single largest group of the world’s roughly 1.2 billion Catholics due to centuries of Iberian settlement . The ascension of an Argentinean to the chair of St. Peter reflects and increasingly global and meritocratic ecclesiastical hierarchy, as well as a break from European primacy within the Church.

Third, Pope Francis is the perfect fit for the job at this time. His rise through the church hierarchy can only be described as meteoric. He is a profoundly gifted theologian and in a short time became the leader of the Jesuits in Argentina, a rector of theology at a university, and then the Archbishop of Buenos Aries. As Archbishop he worked as an advocate for the Eastern Orthodox Church to the government to help the Ukrainian immigrant community. He also reconciled clergymen that were defrocked during the military dictatorship in Argentina. His assumed asceticism, humility, and theological achievements lend him credibility as a spiritual leader, which is the pope’s primary function.
Moreover, he excels at symbolic gestures and the moderate policies that an immoveable yet accessible church depends on. In an act of asceticism, he has chosen to reside at the papal guest house, rather than the papal apartment. Granted, this is trading one palace for another, but as a symbol it sets an excellent example for the clergy and gives him credence a spiritual leader in ways that opulence would not. Moreover, his name taken from St. Francis of Assisi, is symbolic of an ascetic who dedicates his life to peace and the poor, and the patron saint of the environment.

The new pope’s  career reflects a combination between the active and progress role of John Paul II and Jesuit additions that can only increase the legitimacy of the Church.  It would not be unwise to predict his leadership will further charity, interfaith dialogue, peace missions, education, and altogether use traditional outlets to improve the reputation of the Church in the modern world.

Why this middle road where progress is reined in by Orthodoxy? The Catholic Church has extremely deep roots linking it to centuries past. It is from these roots that it takes its prestigious styling as the one true and universal Church. They must also react to other forms of Christianity; Protestants and Anglicans define themselves as apart from the Catholic Church, and the Church has historically done likewise. The Church proclaims seniority and therefore must define itself as being the most traditional. Even Catholic Reformation movements such as Vatican II and the Council of Trent have been aimed at reasserting itself to the world by restating its values. For this reason John Paul II could not support female ordination, and Pope Francis will not likely support same-sex marriage in the face of adaptive Protestant groups. To do so would not be Catholic, and thus the pressure for popes to remain orthodox despite criticism is huge.

The new pope had better be as good I predict, because he inherits the leviathan task of spiritually leading 1.2 billion, and administrating a worldwide bureaucracy racked with banking and sex scandals, the legacy of collaboration with rightist dictators, and an identity increasingly cemented in an ancient sexual morality. However, this symbolically important pope also has the opportunity to utilize the means available to him in the context of this tradition. by emphasizing charity, education, and diplomatic and humanitarian missions, Pope Francis has an opportunity to use the immense power of the Vatican for universal good, which will both redeem the church in the eyes of the world, and reassert its purpose to itself. From the center balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica addresses not only the crowd of faithful, but the entire world.

Cookbook Calls For “freshly ground black people”

When you work with words, you always try your best to avoid spelling mistakes. But unfortunately, as the Guardian highlight below, Penguin didn’t manage to avoid making a pretty big clanger in this cookbook:

A recipe for tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto has proved a little too spicy for Penguin Australia, after a misprint suggesting that the dish required “salt and freshly ground black people” has left the publisher reaching for the pulping machine, rather than the pepper grinder.

This has got to be high up on the list of worst typos ever.


Dogs Improve Productivity

Wade Foster, Zapier Co-founder: 

At first I thought it would be a little bit of extra work, but I quickly realized that having Tuna around was actually boosting my productivity rather than putting a dent in it.

This is an interesting, light-hearted read. Despite the subject matter being quite silly and the title phrased as though you’ve tuned in to the internet on April Fools’, it’s quite interesting how having something that needs to keep to a schedule can actually influence your own work rate and routine.

I particularly liked the note about a dog reminding you that it’s time to step outdoors. Too often on the internet are we able to sit for hours, working on the same thing for a hefty length of time. It’s easy to forget to take a break and breathe in that clean, cold, fresh air that you find outside.

Roger Ebert, 70, passes away


The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that Roger Ebert passed away of cancer today. He was a film critic whose body of work was both celebrated and vast; Ebert regularly produced reviews over the course of 30 years, sometimes writing about nearly 300 movies a year.

Ebert’s renown as a writer is widely known, but something particularly fascinating about him was his status as an early adopter of new technology. As the Sun-Times states, he invested in Google initially, and was one of the first notable personalities to be found on emerging social network Twitter. He was a man who recognized quickly and accurately the influence that digital innovation would exert over the ways we communicate with one another and, to an extent greater than any other critic around him, leveraged that into a wide c0ntinued readership. Yet he rarely seemed perturbed by the caveats that this increased degree of exposure, remaining mum about the occasionally infuriating Internet experience. A late-life shot across the bow at trolls and his well-documented war against people who believe video games are art were some of the only ruptures in an otherwise perfectly manicured online presence.

Ebert could be inconsistent and somewhat arbitrary, and because of his de facto status as the Big Dog Film Authority that opened him up to a lot of heat. But he also recognized that such is the toll that comes with the democratization of voice – not everyone is able right away to use it in a courteous manner, and not every authority figure that emerges is able to stand up to scrutiny when nearly everything they say is archived on the Internet. Good on him for nonetheless recognizing the value of a forum for open discourse and having the grace to accept the pitfalls that still come with that.

Drew Byrd-Smith – drewbyrd.blogspot.com

We shouldn’t bring back extinct species

Extinct Animals Should Stay Dead | VICE United States:

Stewart Brand and his team of mad scientists want to bring extinct animals back to life. While we’re at it, why don’t we have the Olympics on Mars? Why don’t I have a carbon-fiber toilet seat? Oh yeah, because those ideas would cost a shitload of money and everyone everywhere is broke. Surely it would be cheaper and better for the environment to preserve the flora and endangered species that we still have.

Money isn’t everything, of course. Some view de-extinction as a moral responsibility—to extend an olive branch to the planet that we’ve fucked up so badly. However, my glass has been half empty since before I even took a sip. And so, I see two possible outcomes.

First, there’s the absolute worst-case scenario: we bring back our extinct species, but since we hunted them to extinction, they seek revenge. Then there’s the slightly less-worse-case scenario: we make them live in misery, or even relive the misery of their original existence and cause them to go extinct again.

Scumbag humanity: bring back extinct species only for them to go extinct again because of the permanent damage to the environment caused by anthropogenic global warming.