30
Mar
15

ehwaz

Ehwaz 2

Today is the first day of the fortnight (March 30–April 13) governed by the rune Ehwaz. Its phonetic value is “E” and its name literally means “horse.”

In both its physical form and poetic meaning, Ehwaz is the rune of combination. It is usually associated with twins, brother- and sisterhood, and the intuitive bond between a horse and its rider.

Positioned as it is at the beginning of the Creative Aett and the creative phase of the cycle of transformation, Ehwaz reminds us that so much progress in our lives relies on our ability to work with others.

The relationship between humans and horses is based on mutual trust and respect. As any experienced horseman or horsewoman will tell you, this trust must be earned. Heroes in Germanic lore treated their horses almost as equals, not just a means for getting around—and, more often than not, their horses returned the favor.

Thus, the essential wisdom of Ehwaz, especially relative to our relationships with others, is about doing everything we can to ensure trust and loyalty and—more essential yet—love between us and those with whom we partner.

I’m not one to beat a dead horse; this pretty much says it all. But as most people who have spent any time at all on this planet can tell you, it’s easier said than done. Most people spend their entire lives searching for trust, loyalty, and love.

If you’ve found it, never let it go—and do everything you can not to betray or lose it.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to the Rolling Stones performing “Wild Horses”

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Weather Report

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29
Mar
15

“religious freedom”

Indiana has done it again. Time and again, its conservative politicians have made me ashamed that I was born and raised in that state, and thankful that I escaped. My support for Paul Henry Gingerich gave me a personal outlet for atonement—but the case seems not to have made much of a difference on the redemption of the place. Years ago I realized the irony that there are no Indians in Indiana. This is just the latest insult. I’m finally over it.

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Gay-discrimination

Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ bill sparks firestorm of controversy

by Scott Neuman ·
March 28, 2015

When Indiana’s Republican Governer Mike Pence signed a bill into law allowing the state’s businesses to refuse to serve same-sex couples on religious grounds, he knew the move was a controversial one.

penceEven so, he probably didn’t anticipate the level of vitriol that it would spark, much of it directed at him personally.

On Thursday, in a statement issued immediately after signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, widely supported by conservative groups but vocally opposed by others, Pence said the bill had been “misunderstood” and that “If I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it.”

Almost immediately, however, a #boycottindiana hashtag launched on Twitter. Once social media icon George Takei—the actor of Star Trek fame, who is also gay—weighed in, there was no turning back.

Since then, a stream of critical and sometimes vulgar tweets, Facebook memes, editorial cartoons and even a parody video have been unleashed–many labeling the Hoosier state, its people and/or Governor Pence as bigoted.

And today, (NPR) member station WFYI reports that an estimated 3,000 people were gathered outside the Indiana Statehouse to protest the law, some carrying signs reading “no hate in our state.”

For all the fuss, The Washington Post points out that Indiana is not alone—19 other states have similar laws.

Even so, before Pence signed the bill—which was overwhelmingly approved by the GOP legislature—GenCon LLC, a major gaming convention that meets annually in Indianapolis threatened to pull out of the state, as did several high-profile companies.

safe_image.phpIndianapolis-based Angie’s List announced today that it would put a $40 million dollar expansion, that planned to add 1,000 more jobs, on hold over the law.

“Angie’s List is open to all and discriminates against none and we are hugely disappointed in what this bill represents,” CEO Bill Oesterle said.

The CEO of Salesforce, a $4 billion software company with operations in Indiana, changed its mind about an expansion in the state.

Cummins, an engine manufacturer and drug-maker Eli Lilly and Co. were among others that voiced objections, along with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who like Pence, is a Republican.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) also said it might cancel its next convention scheduled for Indianapolis in 2017.

NCAA President Mark Emmert has also expressed concern as to whether gay and lesbian customers could be turned away in the name of “religious freedom.”

“We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees,” Emmert said in a statement Thursday afternoon, shortly after the bill was signed.

Former NBA star Charles Barkley added his voice to the debate.

“Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me,” he said. “As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.”

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Scott Neuman works as a Digital News writer and editor, handling breaking news and feature stories for NPR.org.

Religious Objections.

PS: Following the protests and controversy, Governor Pence has immediately begun backpedaling. Pence said he’ll look at a bill to clarify the law’s intent if lawmakers send him one. He also told the Indianapolis Star on Saturday that he was in discussions with legislative leaders over the weekend and expects a clarification bill to be introduced in the coming week.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Brent and Johnson performing “Equality Street”

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Weather Report

87° and Clear

28
Mar
15

singin’ in the rain

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I’m not one to hold a grudge, but there are some things that are just hard to let go of.

The year is 1952 and I am four years old. Sometimes my mother would take my sister and me with her to the movies, and that afternoon she took us to see Singin’ In the Rain. Today the film is often chosen as one of the all-time top ten American films, and generally considered one of Hollywood’s greatest and finest musicals. But all that was lost on me then.

I vividly remember that film, not because it would be critically-acclaimed, but because of an event that happened immediately afterwards. My mother took us to Potawatomi Park for a picnic, and though the sun had come out, there were still puddles on the ground because it had rained while we were in the movie theatre. And what does any small child do who has just seen Gene Kelly cavorting in the rain? Well, of course: he splashes in a puddle.

My mother yelled at me to stop, but I have never gotten over the perceived injustice of her reaction. I’m not screaming “child abuse”—believe me, in my day, I’ve certainly seen much worse than that. But she was like the cop at the end of the scene. And I have never forgotten about that movie.

So I guess I’d have to thank her for that.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Louis Armstrong performing “Memories of You”

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Weather Report

80° and Clear

27
Mar
15

merely decent

Superman-Reeve

The American poet May Sarton (1912—1995) once said: “One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being.” The thought has been borrowed by writers as varied as John Le Carre and J.D. Salinger. I was exposed to a variant of the idea yesterday while watching a documentary about film history, when a director who didn’t believe in heroes was said to believe that only the “merely decent” was possible. But it’s not easy being a decent human being.

Sometimes we must adjust our sights to the merely decent from the heroic. There’s no shame in that. Facing the reality of a situation can even touch on the heroic.

Yesterday Derek King called, and I took the opportunity to initiate a “heart to heart” dialog with him. He has been having a particularly hard time recently. He had car trouble, and without reliable transportation, he lost his job. Last month I sent him nearly $700 to help him hold things together, but I had to borrow money to do it. Even if there were an uptick in contributions, providing support at this or a similar level would be unsustainable.

As more of our young people are released into the world, just multiply that challenge. Shit happens, and in the best of circumstances, life is just one damned thing after another. But for the former inmate out there in the world alone, chances are especially great for failure.

Derek understands this, but it doesn’t ease the financial pain he’s feeling.

I shared with him the strategic conclusion that were he here in West Texas, I would be able to swing doing more. If he were here, we would be concentrating our spending at a single point in space and time. Were he here, maybe we would have even been able to prevent the mechanical break-downs that started his chain reaction of misfortune, or failing that, at least provide a spare vehicle. Were he here and saddled with the restrictions of parole or probation (which he is not), there would be little opportunity for him to fail.

But Derek wants to pursue his dreams in a place that is populated with lots of people and that offers more worldly opportunities. A place that is more expensive to live in—you know, with rent, utilities, insurance and all the other things that “normal” people pay for.

I understand. It is no different from what virtually every other young person desires. Plus, I understand that he now has a girlfriend with a son who does not want to relocate to a radically different and challenging place.
But it may not be a practical or realistic desire for every former inmate. I have come to the conclusion that a comprehensive “safety net” can exist only for prison releasees who choose to locate themselves at Estrella Vista. If they wish to make their ways somewhere else, the level of guaranteed support must necessarily be minimal—maybe $200 a month at most—and only when they need it. The outer world is likely to be inhospitable to them for a long, long time.
In any event, the young people we help must agree that they will come here immediately upon release from prison and give us at least 9 months of voluntary service helping to build the place. They will also be asked to help us build a community where the efforts of each will enhance the success and happiness of all.
And who knows? Maybe they’ll like it here and choose to stay (they are free to stay here as long as they want). If West Texas isn’t their cup of tea, we’ll pay for them to get elsewhere; after that, they’re nearly on their own. But at least they’ll have given it a chance.
Not owning up to the truth, or refusing to accept reality for fear of looking bad, puts our primitive instincts in charge of our lives. Facing reality can focus our attention on the winnable challenges and recognizing that the biggest and most noble struggle is deep within ourselves.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to David Bazan performing “Hard To Be

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Weather Report

70° and Clear

26
Mar
15

the new study hall

IMG111016

How Prison Stints Replaced Study Hall

America’s problem with criminalizing kids.

by Jody Owens, Politico Magazine

March 15, 2015

Police officers in Meridian MS were spending so much time hauling handcuffed students from school to the local juvenile jail that they began describing themselves as “just a taxi service.”

It wasn’t because schools in this east Mississippi town were overrun by budding criminals or juvenile superpredators—not by a long shot. Most of the children were arrested and jailed simply for violating school rules, often for trivial offenses.

One 15-year-old girl, for example, was suspended and sent to the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Center for a dress code violation. Her jacket was the wrong shade of blue. A boy served a suspension in the juvenile lock-up for passing gas in the classroom. Another landed behind bars because he walked to the alternative school instead of taking the bus.

For many kids, a stint in “juvie” was just the beginning of a never-ending nightmare. Arrests could lead to probation. Subsequent suspensions were then considered probation violations, leading back to jail. And suspensions were a distinct possibility in a district where the NAACP found a suspension rate that was more than 10 times the national average.

In 2012, the US Department of Justice filed suit to stop the “taxi service” in Meridian’s public schools, where 86% of the students are black. The DOJ suit, still unresolved, said children were being incarcerated so “arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience.”

We should all be shocked.

The reality, though, is that Meridian’s taxi service is just one example of what amounts to a civil rights crisis in America: a “school-to-prison pipeline” that sucks vulnerable children out of the classroom at an alarming rate and funnels them into the harsh world of police, courts and prison cells.

ms-harrison-co-juv_sharonsteinmann_20100114_splc_sls_021For many children, adolescent misbehavior that once warranted a trip to the principal’s office—and perhaps a stint in study hall—now results in jail time and a greater possibility of lifelong involvement with the criminal justice system. It should surprise no one that the students pushed into this pipeline are disproportionately children of color, mostly impoverished, and those with learning disabilities.

The story of Meridian is more than an example of school discipline run amok. It’s a key to understanding how the United States has attained the dubious distinction of imprisoning more people—and a larger share of its population—than any other country.

It’s one reason why the United States today has a quarter of the world’s prisoners—roughly 2.2 million people—while representing just 5% of its total population. And it helps explain an unprecedented incarceration rate that is far and away the highest on the planet, some five to 10 times higher than other Western democracies.

As the managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office, I’ve seen firsthand the devastation wrought by the school-to-prison pipeline, and the senselessness of it all.

When SPLC advocates began interviewing children at the juvenile detention center in Meridian in 2009 we were investigating children being pepper-sprayed by guards when they were in their cells and posing no threat. But we kept hearing stories from students who were pushed out of school and into cells for noncriminal, minor school infractions. These stories would eventually spark the DOJ lawsuit and a thorough examination of how the “pipeline” operated in this town.

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The origins of the school-to-prison pipeline can be traced to the 1990s when reports of juvenile crime began to stoke fears of “superpredators”—described in the 1996 book Body Count as “radically impulsive, brutally remorseless youngsters” with little regard for human life. The superpredator concept, based on what some critics have derided as junk science, is now known to be a complete myth. Former Princeton professor and Bush administration official John DiIulio, the Body Count co-author who coined the term, admitted to The New York Times in 2001 that his theory of sharply rising juvenile violence had been wrong.

But the damage had been done. As these fears took root and mass school shootings like the one at Columbine made headlines, not only did states enact law laws to increase punishment for juvenile offenders, schools began to adopt “zero-tolerance” discipline policies that imposed automatic, pre-determined punishments for rule breakers.

At the same time, states across America were adopting harsh criminal laws, including long mandatory prison sentences for certain crimes and “three strikes” laws that led to life sentences for repeat offenders. The term “zero tolerance” was, in fact, adopted from policing practices and criminal laws that focused on locking up minor offenders as a way to stem more serious crime.

Somewhere along the way, as local police departments began supplying on-duty “school resource officers” to patrol hallways, educators began to confuse typical adolescent misbehavior with criminality. Schools became, more or less, a part of the criminal justice system. With police officers stalking the halls and playgrounds, teachers and principals found it easy to outsource discipline. Almost overnight, a schoolyard scuffle could now land a kid in a jail cell.

The results have been disastrous.

In some school districts, as in many African-American communities, police seem to view students as the enemy, or at least as potential criminals.

In places like Birmingham AL, their tactics grew ever more extreme. Officers in this former steel city—where black schoolchildren braved police dogs and fire hoses during the civil rights movement—routinely doused students in predominantly African-American schools with Freeze + P, an aerosol weapon that combines pepper spray and tear gas.

LaTonya Stearnes vividly remembers when the chemical weapon was used on two of her daughters, one of whom is named as a plaintiff in an ongoing class action suit filed by the SPLC. The incident began after a boy pushed one of her daughters. When the girl defended herself, a police officer grabbed her from behind and sprayed her in the face. Her sister also was caught in the stinging mist. “I will never forget my daughter’s red and swollen face,” Stearnes said. “I sent my girls to school thinking they would be safe and protected. I never thought they would be pepper-sprayed. These are teenage girls, not criminals.”

But they were treated like criminals, as were many others. The SPLC found that from 2006 to 2011, chemical weapons were used on about 300 students in the Birmingham Public Schools district, which is 95% African American. When you take into account the bystanders inadvertently caught in a cloud of pepper spray, the number swelled to more than 1,000.

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In Lauderdale County MS, children caught in the pipeline faced long odds in court.

They had little time to spend with their public defender before appearing for a detention hearing—just minutes, according to the DOJ lawsuit. The public defender did not even provide a way for a child or parent to contact him or her. Instead, meetings regularly took place in the courthouse hallway before a hearing.

It’s little wonder that the DOJ’s lawsuit charges that the public defender did not “meaningfully advise children of the possible consequences of admitting to charges or of proceeding to trial.” But Lauderdale County is just one example of the confusing legal maze children and their families are sometimes forced to navigate with little help.

study-hall-with-american-flag.

Jody Owens is the managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to The Omegas performing “Study Hall”

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Weather Report

60° Windy and Clear

25
Mar
15

temporary sociopaths

Morgan-Geyser-left-and-Anissa-Weier

Why trying kids as adults is unjust

Slender Man case latest example. Studies show young suspects think differently from adults.

by James Alan Fox, USA Today

At least for now, 12-year-old Morgan Geyser (left) and 13-year-old Anissa Weier (right) of Waukesha WI are facing prosecution as adults for the near-fatal stabbing of their sixth grade classmate Payton Leutner following a birthday celebratory sleepover.

0f08a3170515c45b3150d892a37d44abThe two girls reportedly acted out of fear that the fictional villain Slender Man (right) would harm them or their families unless they complied with his sacrificial demand.

According to Wisconsin law, anyone age 10 or over who is charged with first-degree homicide, including attempts, must be tried in adult criminal court. The girls’ only hope, one that in today’s political climate may be slimmer than Slender Man himself, is that the judge will reduce the charge to second-degree attempted homicide, thereby allowing the case to be moved to juvenile court.

Wisconsin is hardly unique in its handling of youthful offenders. Some states leave to juvenile court judges the decision of transferring minors to the adult system, while others give prosecutors discretion over where a case will be tried. Still other states, including Wisconsin, stipulate that juveniles charged with certain offenses will automatically be tried as an adult, although in some situations a criminal court judge can return jurisdiction to juvenile court, a so-called reverse transfer.

In recent years, the US Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions to eliminate certain draconian punishments for juvenile offenders. Yet, the matter of trial jurisdiction is just as critical.

There are many drawbacks to trying kids as adults, and few advantages. The juvenile justice system is predicated on the principle of rehabilitation, for which youngsters have greater capacity than their older counterparts. By contrast, criminal courts are far more punitive and far less concerned with what might be in the best interests of a young defendant. Scientific studies have demonstrated that youngsters prosecuted and punished as adults recidivate at a higher rate than those adjudicated in the juvenile justice system for similar offenses.

If juvenile court punishments are insufficient to achieve justice, then they should be lengthened. But pretending that teens are just smaller versions of adults runs contrary to what we know about neurological and social development. Committing a crime ordered by some mythical miscreant reflects the kind of immature thinking that is typical of youngsters. Although they may offend like adults, they reason like children.

The most prominent characteristic separating youth violence from adult offending is the especially senseless nature of what motivates juveniles to murder and maim others. Killing to appease some imaginary figure is absurd to most people, but youngsters who sometimes have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality can see things differently, particularly if reinforced by a like-minded friend.

In a sense, some teenagers can be loosely characterized as “temporary sociopaths.” Insensitive to risk, they think almost exclusively about the short-term. Adolescents have limited empathy for others and limited ability to assess the long-term impact of their behavior on their own future, much less that of their victims.

At same time, the response of accomplices can be all important. Peer approval is a powerful reward, while rejection can seem like a fate worse than death. As in the Wisconsin case, teenagers sometimes perpetrate despicable crimes, more to express loyalty to their partner in crime than to express any disdain for the victim.

The late-’80s and early-’90s surge in youth violence prompted rapid change in state laws nationwide, widening the range of offenses and lowering the minimum age when transfer to adult court is possible, if not mandatory. The steady decline in violence over past 20 years, however, has done little to limit the juvenile-to-adult jurisdictional pipeline. Many legislators, worried about voter reaction were they to be viewed as soft on crime, hesitate to roll back tough-sounding policies.

In order to realize major reform of transfer laws in this country, it will likely take the politically insulated US Supreme Court to do the right thing, just as it has in rethinking juvenile sentencing rules. In the meantime, here’s hoping that the Wisconsin girls will be adjudicated in juvenile court and spared the full weight of a felony prosecution.

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James Alan Fox is the Lipman Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Parliament performing “Fantasy is Reality”

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Weather Report

80° and Clear

24
Mar
15

the price of shame

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Oh, wow. If I were to ask any of our parricides to watch a presentation to demonstrate that life goes on, that it is possible to reclaim their own narrative, this is it.

Who didn’t make a mistake at 22?” asks Monica Lewinsky. Who didn’t make a mistake at 11, or 14, or 16?

monica_lewinskyYou have to admire the way that 17 years after the fact, Monica Lewinsky has stepped out of the shadows of “a life of approbation,” a life of being the punch line of hundreds of cruel jokes, and using her experiences to elevate the way in which we all treat one another.

In a talk titled “The Price Of Shame,” given last week at the TED 2015 conference, Lewinsky does not shy away from her role in the 1998 scandal that bears her name. In the ensuing public scrutiny of her private life, she “was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo, and, of course, ‘that woman.’

“I was known by many, but actually known by few,” said Lewinsky. “I get it. It was easy to forget ‘that woman’ was dimensional and had a soul.”

For Lewinsky herself, it was the death of Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after a roommate secretly filmed his tryst with another male student, which spurred her into action. Having been harassed, mocked, and bullied, she demands in no uncertain terms that “public humiliation as a blood sport has to stop.”

To her it comes down to a question of compassion. “We all deserve compassion,” she concludes in her speech, “and to live both online and off in a more compassionate world.”

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You can watch her entire TED talk below:

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Keith Urban performing “Shame”

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Weather Report

77° and Clear




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