Why do you hate prisoners?

Mike Epifani has a compelling piece on antipathy towards prisoners:

Over 6.74 million people are supervised by US adult correctional systems, and tens of millions of people have a criminal record. And to many, their rights don’t matter because “they must have done something wrong.”

Let’s start with the fact that “we spend billions to keep 480,000 people locked in cages without a conviction.” And that abhorrent criminal justice system practice is the tip of the iceberg — this is getting worse, not better. Jeff Sessions just recently reinstated the practice of allowing law enforcement to seize personal property without a conviction or even an indictment.

Did you know that around 95% of convictions are obtained through guilty pleas, and, more specifically, through plea bargaining? That means that only 5% of prisoners receive a fair trial. Most of us have seen it on television: the prosecutor comes in, says that if they really want to take it to trial, they’ll push for the maximum sentencing, but if they plead guilty, they’ll be charged with a lesser crime or receive a shorter sentence. Given the fact that many people who are arrested do not have the resources (time and money) to feel confident in their legal counsel’s chances in front of a jury, they’ll go with the guilty plea just to be on the safer side, guilty or not.

So, if the punishment really fits the crime, what is the justification behind making a deal to release them sooner?
Or does the punishment not fit the crime?
Or are they admitting that, in large part, prisons fail to rehabilitate?
Or is there often not enough evidence to lock up a cash cow (inmate), so intimidation tactics are required?

If you argue that the prosecution wouldn’t even bother proceeding with the process if the evidence wasn’t there to make a conviction…okay…but 95%? Only 5% of people convicted of a crime enact their 6th Amendment right to a trial in front of a jury of their peers? That seems right to you? Well, it’s not right. In fact, prosecutorial strategies when someone decides to take it to trial can be downright abhorrent, including blatantly adding additional charges.

Read more here.


The transition from “purge” to “genocide”

In Turkey, convicted criminals do not have to wear uniforms in prison, and accused individuals may wear what they want while still under trial.

At least, that used to be true, until Turkey commissioned orange jumpsuits just for suspects linked to the Gulen movement.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said on Monday that Justice Ministry officials are working to design a special uniform for suspects who are allegedly linked with the faith-based Gülen movement and accused of attempting to stage a coup in July 2016 to wear during court hearings.

Speaking to reporters following a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Kurtulmuş said: “Our [Justice] Ministry is working on it. There is a high demand from the public. Court hearings are open to the public, so it is more appropriate to bring suspects before the court in uniforms.”

One of the suspects on trial for an assassination attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the night of July 15 2016 was thrown out of the courtroom for wearing a T-shirt bearing the word “hero” because it caused tension between the parties during the hearing.

Mustafa Doğan İnal, a lawyer representing Erdoğan, asked the suspect, former master sergeant Gökhan Güçlü, to stand up during the hearing.
“Suspect Gökhan Güçlü came to the courtroom wearing a ‘kahraman’ [hero in Turkish] T-shirt. There are no heroes here. This is a challenge against the government,” İnal said and demanded that he take the T-shirt off.

After a quarrel between the lawyers, presiding judge Emirşah Baştoğ called a recess and asked everyone to leave the courtroom.

Demanding that Güçlü change his shirt, the prosecutor for the case said the word on the T-shirt sent a certain message and disturbed the discipline of the hearing.

Baştoğ ruled that the suspect should be brought to the courtroom after changing his T-shirt on the grounds that it “led to arguments and disturbed the atmosphere of the hearing.”
Güçlü, who said he did not want to attend the hearing, was sent back to prison.

With regard to the “hero” T-shirt issue, Erdoğan said: “We recently spoke to Mr. Prime Minister. They should wear uniforms like they do at Guantanamo [prison] when going to court.”

On Saturday, a textile manufacturer told CNN Türk that he is willing to donate 50,000 jumpsuits that he designed for people jailed over links to the Gülen movement across the country. Orange color jumpsuits resemble prison uniforms that are used in the United States and the Guantanamo prison.

According to the private İhlas news agency, the textile firm that manufactures the “hero” T-shirts stopped production after discussions with the police. The T-shirts were withdrawn from sale in stores and online, İhlas said.

I’m calling it. This is officially the switch from “purge” to “genocide.” We already know what happens when you single out a group of people for a special marker.


“Biological sex” myths

Julia Serano is back with another fantastic takedown of arguments predicated on notions of immutable, discrete sex binaries.

Clarifying the “sex is a social construct” argument

Sometimes people who are trying to debunk “biological sex” myths will point out that sex (like gender) is a social construct. The reason for doing this is to show that the “biological versus social” distinction is far more muddied (as I have detailed in the last two sections) than the “trans women are biological males” camp is willing to admit.

Unfortunately, people who are unaware of, or misinformed about, social constructivism will often mistake the word “constructed” to mean “fake” or “not real,” and thus assume that such claims represent a denial of the existence of sexually dimorphic traits. However, this is not what the word “constructed” means.

Saying that sex is “socially constructed” does not mean that biological sex differences do not exist or do not matter. It simply conveys that our definition of sex, and the way that we categorize people into sexes, is determined by society and our assumptions about how the world works.

In our society, people are assigned a legal sex at birth based on the presence or absence of a penis — that is a social process. When people argue that it must be chromosomes, or a particular reproductive organ, that defines or determines a person’s sex, that is a social decision — one that ignores the multiplicity and variability of sexually dimorphic traits. Indeed, the very fact that, given the same evidence, people will disagree about the nature of sex (strictly binary versus multifaceted and variable; immutable versus somewhat malleable) demonstrates that sex is socially constructed!

So in other words, we can say that biological sex differences exist, and also that our understanding of sex is socially constructed — these are not contradictory statements at all.

Read more here!


I’m sure all the freeze peachers are right around the corner

Maybe all those people so heavily against censorship can actually pay attention to actual censorship instead of admonishing trans folk for not wanting to debate scientifically illiterate people who issue a ceaseless stream of threats:

Academic censorship is nothing new — especially for scholars of color — but in Donald Trump’s America, the issue has taken on new and frightening dimensions. Trump’s emboldened base, en masse, has been attacking leftist educators with renewed vigor since his election, and universities across the country have wasted no time caving to alt-right (read: white supremacist) pressure to discipline professors, freedom of speech/academic freedom be damned. In a peculiar twist of logic, members of the alt-right have positioned themselves as victims of discrimination, and as such, have demanded that universities take action to “protect” them.

Sadly, many are.

George Ciccariello-Maher was censured and is the subject of an ongoing investigation by Drexel University over a tweet mocking white nationalists. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor was bombarded with death threats for calling Trump a “racist, sexist megalomaniac” in a commencement speech at Hampshire College (though the school defended her, a rare occurrence). Johnny Eric Williams was placed on leave by Trinity College for using a hashtag drawing attention to systemic racism. Lisa Durden was fired from Essex County College for defending a black-only Memorial Day event while appearing on Fox News. This is just a small sample, all since November’s infamous election.

Inevitably, these stories get some press, then are largely forgotten. But the repercussions reverberate long after the news cycle has moved on.

I know because Trump’s weaponized base came after me, too.

Read more about it here.

And stop buying the fucking freeze peach canard with right-wingers issuing veiled threats.


Post-structuralist feminist

PST is an essayist whose series is still young. The works are meticulously argued, and thorough enjoyable for their acerbic wit. Here’s one she did on the motivations of the “YouTube Pundit” genre of vlogging:

The exasperation of the debunker presents as a study in contrast to the giddy self-importance of the YouTube Guru (who may themselves have begun this theatre of the absurd as a pseudo-debunker); Incredulous of the absurdity of the situation they now find themselves in, they also, unfortunately, realize they are one of a precious few people who are adequately equipped to untangle the mess that was gleefully dumped onto YouTube. Again.

The increasing prevalence of this situation is linked to the increasing popularity of a specific attitude — derisive, dismissive, and disingenuous — that has come into fashion over the last decade. It may be funny to think of attitudes as being subject to fashion trends, but it’s pretty obvious this is the case if you spend any length of time watching the various YouTube authorities and Gurus, particularly the ones who prefer to have every position with which they align themselves prefixed by “anti-”.

It is fashionable to LARP intellectual authority, even when it is clearly absurd for the person in question to have a reasonable claim to the title (at least on the topic proposed).

The basic drama of the LARPing performance also includes a crowd participation element — a kind of Greek chorus LARPed by the audience in the comment section — and the formula for the whole production is as follows:

The YouTube Guru has a video published of them haranguing on some topic/person/entire discipline that is presently fashionable to harangue (aka “cool” aka delicious internet points). The video might be an upload from the Guru, or might be uploaded by a curating channel. In either case, they have been posted on YouTube with a trendy title, which, at the time of the writing of this essay, is: “_____________ DESTROYED!!!

Through the video, the Guru passes their pre-digested bits of nonsense down to the baby birds in the comment section, who chirp with delight at their imagined relationship and resemblance to the hero of the hour (doomed to falling out of favor as fashion changes, but for now, the “thumbs up” button is being tapped more than an excellent yo mama joke I could make right here).

The comment section occasionally includes something nominally reminiscent of debate, where fledgling birdbrains try their hand at further regurgitation of nonsense, or perhaps even jumping off an intellectual cliff entirely. “Dumpster fire” is a popular descriptor of comment sections for this reason, but there is at least a sense of belonging in the circle jerk flight patterns, a sense of family; the excitement of attending the daily reunion of All The Very Clever People.

This flavor of YouTube content (though it is an acquired taste, as the uninitiated readily observe) is apparently a very seductive treat — although, I think, seductive only when someone has been starved so completely of intellectual nutrients that any nugget even resembling wisdom is not only palatable, but seems downright profound.

Read more about it here.


“Biological male”

It takes a lot for me to endorse a Twitter thread, mostly because if your message takes more than one tweet I think you should just get a blog. Still, Zinnia Jones has made an argument for why insistence on labeling trans women “biological males” has troubling ethical implications, aside from the overly reductionist interpretation of science.

(Click on the embedded tweet to view the thread).


Thoughts on the Omar Khadr settlement

Stephen Harperbot’s many grave atrocities are still haunting the Liberals today, and much to my chagrin the Liberals have been slow to act on many of them. One such Ghost of Xmas Past is Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was taken to Afghanistan at the age of 15 by his father, a man allegedly affiliated with Al-Qaeda. At some point during his stay in Afghanistan, Khadr was either involved or simply proximal to a combat between AQ and the United States Army. Khadr was wounded during the combat, and was alleged to be responsible for the death of one American soldier. He was captured, and tortured “enhanced interrogated” by both Canadian and American intelligence in Guantanamo Bay. He confessed (as victims of “enhanced interrogation” are wont to do) to a series of war crime charges and sentenced to 10 years prison during a military tribunal, in violation of his rights as a minor to be tried as a minor, based on evidence extracted from torture. In addition, his war crime allegations are a violation of the Geneva Convention–if Khadr was an active combatant, as the “evidence” claimed, then killing another active combatant is supposed to be within the “rules of war.” In other words: Khadr’s trial was a clusterfuck, and nobody involved at any point stopped and said “are we the baddies?”

[Read more…]