Monday, March 30, 2009

March Madness

Several stories worth mentioning today. First, an article in yesterday's Parade Magazine by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia on the dire need for prison reform.

America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation's prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.
Nothing particularly new or earth shattering in the piece, but the noteworthiness comes from the fact that Webb is a sitting United States Senator who not only has the power to do something about it, but dares speak so politically incorrect regarding crime and political capital.

The Times has endorsed his proposal, and the National Commission they mention, which will evaluate the entire C. J. System from the top down? Senator Webb, feel free to have your people call mine. I'd be happy to serve.

Switching gears, last week in Criminology we waded into the gun/crime debate and ended a discussion about whether students carrying concealed guns on campus might have prevented the Virginia Tech shooting from two years ago. Today comes word Texas (of course) is considering allowing students to carry guns on its college campuses.

Supporters say the bills would protect the rights of those licensed to carry concealed weapons and help prevent a massacre on the scale of the shooting at Virginia Tech and another last year at Northern Illinois University, where 5 were killed and 18 wounded.

If gunfire erupted on campus, “would you rather sit and just take shot for shot or would you rather have a chance to fight back?” asked Katie Kasprzak, a spokeswoman for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a group that claims more than 37,000 members.

Opponents say that if guns are allowed on campus, students and faculty members will live in fear of classmates and colleagues, not knowing who may pull a gun over a drunken argument in a dormitory room or a poor grade.
The "poor grade" part kind of bothers me too (ahem).

In other news, guess who's walking away from their foreclosures? Deadbeat homeowners? Irresponsible poor people? The newly unemployed?

Try the banks.
City officials and housing advocates here and in cities as varied as Buffalo, Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fla., say they are seeing an unsettling development: Banks are quietly declining to take possession of properties at the end of the foreclosure process, most often because the cost of the ordeal — from legal fees to maintenance — exceeds the diminishing value of the real estate.
Which means the public ends up on the hook for condemnation and/or demolition of the properties. Funny, but in the foreclosure crisis, all the rhetoric always paints the homeowner as "irresponsible," "in over their heads," and "deceptive." Odd that the same adjectives don't apply to the banks.

Last, I read a great piece yesterday by one of my favorite artists, John Mellencamp. If you want to know the state of the record industry and pop culture in general, check out his rant.
When all is said and done, unfortunately, it's not really about the music or the artist. It's about you and your perception of yourself and how you think things ought to be. And we all know that this very rarely intersects with what actually is. Just because you think this is how it should be only makes it just that: what you think; it doesn't make it true. So let's try to put our best foot forward and remember that anyone can stand in the back of a dark hall and yell obscenities but if you want a better world it starts with you and the things you say and do.
In that spirit, let's revisit a great tune of Mellencamp's, from ten years ago, "Your Life is Now."

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