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2 July 2010

Vegetables: A Salty Menace?

via Freakonomics by By STEPHEN J. DUBNER on 7/2/10

The three major dietary sources of sodium are grains; meat, poultry, fish, mixtures; and vegetables. Surprised? So was Dubner. The explanation lies in the daily sodium density metric.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

The Gentle Cynic

via Futility Closet by Greg Ross on 7/1/10

More maxims of Rochefoucauld:

  • “Before we passionately wish for anything, we should examine into the happiness of its possessor.”
  • “Were we perfectly acquainted with any object, we should never passionately desire it.”
  • “It is easier to appear worthy of the employments we are not possessed of, than of those we are.”
  • “Those who endeavor to imitate us we like much better than those who endeavor to equal us. Imitation is a sign of esteem but competition of envy.”
  • “We are often more agreeable through our faults than through our good qualities.”
  • “We easily excuse in our friends those faults that do not affect us.”
  • “None are either so happy or so unhappy as they imagine.”
  • “Censorious as the world is, it oftener does favor to false merit than injustice to true.”
  • “Absence destroys small passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes tapers, and kindles fires.”
  • “We never desire ardently what we desire rationally.”
  • “Our self-love bears with less patience the condemnation of our taste than of our opinion.”

And “Why have we memory sufficient to retain the minutest circumstances that have happened to us; and yet not enough to remember how often we have related them to the same person?”

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Which Naturals Are Backed By Serious Science?

via GOOD by Alexandra Spunt on 7/1/10


 

 

Ever met a grandmother who swears her still-youthful glow is thanks to a lifetime of shea butter? Depending what part of the world you or your ancestors hail from, you may have grown up with some promise or other about the powers of natural beauty.

Of course, the personal-care business has figured this out. When researching the book, we spoke to an industry toxicologist who explained how it works: Companies conduct market research to find out what words folks respond to most—aloe! shea! vitamin C!—then they sprinkle a tiny bit of the popular ones into an otherwise crappy product. (To get an idea how much of that lauded ingredient is in your product, check the label: Ingredients are listed in descending order of concentration, so if it's near the middle or bottom, you're  being ripped off.)

What about when these naturals are used properly, though? Do pure, topical ingredients from nature have any science behind them? As it turns out, yes, many of them do. We’ve compiled a list of eleven heavy hitters. But we also want to hear from you: Does your family have any natural beauty secrets that work? What have you tried and liked?

Argan oil: Nicknamed “liquid gold,” Morrocan women swear by this stuff to treat everything from wrinkles and psoriasis to burns and acne. Science is still catching up but argan is extremely rich in linoleic acid, which applied topically is proven to reduce acne, and vitamin E, an antiager that may reduce scarring as well.
Aloe vera: Even if your mom wasn’t a hippie you know that aloe vera gel has calming and restorative properties straight from the plant. Science says that it’s antibacterial and has been proven to speed wound healing in rats. In humans who’d undergone dermabrasion treatment, damaged skin healed 72 hours faster when aloe was applied.
Baking soda: It will wash your sink, but it will also whiten your teeth, banish your bad breath, and deodorize bad smells—including your own.

Coconut oil: With a molecular structure that allows it to penetrate skin and hair, both preventing water loss and replacing lipids that deplete with aging, it’s a double winner. Science says it also accelerates wound healing, can help treat eczema, and has shown to be therapeutic in the treatment of acne.
Green tea: We should all be drinking it, but topical application of green tea has lots of science on its side, too. Several studies have shown it to reduce the effects of UV damage, enhance wound healing, and treat acne. Green tea is also anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the redness associated with rosacea.
Honey: Before we had antibiotics we had honey, which was frequently used in wound dressing to accelerate healing. It’s no surprise then that science says it does, in fact, do just that. Its topical application also demonstrates antibacterial action, and helps prevent scarring. (It's good on toast, too.)
Olive oil: Just when you thought you’d heard everything there is to know about the powers of olive oil: A 2000 study done on mice indicated that topical application of olive oil after UVB exposure effectively reduced the rodents’ chances of developing skin tumors. Already proven to be a powerful antioxidant in food, olive oil may play an exciting role in reducing DNA damage in skin, too. 
Propolis: Bees use propolis, an antimicrobial resin, to sterilize their hives, and a variety of studies have shown its properties to benefit human health—from reducing the duration of common colds to slowing the proliferation of cancer cells. Topically, propolis functions as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory proven to protect skin against photodamage, it’s more antibacterial than honey, and is even effective against cold sores.
Shea butter: West African women (and grandmas) have been using this stuff forever. Not only does its application exhibit powerful anti-inflammatory properties but recent studies are indicating that cinnamic acid (found in shea) reduces the effects of UV damage. Just make sure to choose a brand that’s sourced fairly, like Alaffia.

Vitamin C: You can’t soak your face in orange juice to get the topical benefits of this powerful antioxidant, but a good natural cream or serum containing L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which in its stable form helps the skin fight free-radical damage, reduces redness, stimulates wound healing, and helps minimize fine wrinkles.
Tea tree oil: When it comes to acne, this is your friendly alternative to that beast benzoyl peroxide, which has been linked to cancer and is banned in Europe. A comparative study found tea tree oil to be just as effective as BP for treating pimples, if a little bit slower on the draw. On the plus side? It exhibited fewer side effects.

This is the eighth installment in a series inspired by No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics, a forthcoming book by GOOD's features editor Siobhan O'Connor and her co-author Alexandra Spunt. It will run every Thursday.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

1 July 2010

Don't Let Facts Get in the Way of Your Opinions

via Change.org's End Homelessness Blog by Joy Eckstine on 7/1/10

Homelessness is one of those topics that everyone has an opinion about. It is a visible social phenomenon, unlike other widespread social problems that happen behind closed doors, like sexual abuse, domestic violence, child hunger, etc. However, those who are the visible homeless are a small fraction of the homeless, which is a shocking fact to many people. Homelessness is so highly stigmatized that it is rare for those who survive it to want to acknowledge it publicly and there is nothing external that identifies a person as homeless or formerly homeless.

A study done a few years back surveyed Americans about their belief systems about homelessness. The Fannie Mae study, called "Homelessness in America: Americans' Perceptions, Attitudes and Knowledge" illuminates some interesting facts. Seventy seven percent of Americans perceive that it is primarily single adults who are homeless, when quite the opposite (pdf) is true. You only have to read this website, look around soup kitchens and food pantries or read the newspaper to realize that family homelessness is on the rise in our country.

Notably, the income level of respondents affected perceptions of whether homelessness was increasing or decreasing in a community and whether a person thought it was likely that he or she might experience homelessness. Another factor which shifted opinions was whether a person had ever taken in a family member or friend who was in danger of experiencing homelessness. Most respondents (85 percent) felt that drug and alcohol abuse (pdf) was a major factor in why people become homeless, although multiple studies show that homeless people only report this as one of many factors. The fact that these studies are generally from self-reports may mean that the rate of substance abuse is under-reported. Or more likely, it means that homelessness rarely has a single cause (pdf), and is often a complex interplay between personal vulnerabilities, social problems and lack of a safety net.

If I had a dollar for every person I've heard say, "Homeless people are coming to Boulder for the services we have here," I would be a millionaire instead of a struggling single mother. This, too, flies in the face of multiple research studies. Research suggests that from 60-85 percent of homeless people in any given community are originally from that community (pdf), not to mention the prevalent and completely erroneous perception that all homeless people do not work.

So, my question is why? Why are homeless people perceived as violent, dangerous, foreign, lazy, stupid, unmotivated, irresponsible and just plain repellent? To a person, every volunteer or visitor that has ever reported back to me on a conversation they had with a homeless person remarked on that homeless person's humanity. And yes, humanity in its aggregate has some unpleasant attributes at times, but the underlying logic of stereotyping has a huge fallacy. It is reductive logic to generalize from one person or experience to the larger group. Much as at the birth of the civil rights movement activists demanded that each person of color be recognized as an individual, the nascent homeless rights movement must insist that each person's individuality and value be recognized.

As we watch our country in economic and social decline, as a culture we can no longer afford to write off any group of people as worthless.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Which Gang do you Belong To?

via Stepcase Lifehack by Craig Harper on 6/30/10

Lessons on the Freeway

So there I was, cruising along the freeway at 110 kph (70mph) on my big, comfortable Suzuki, complete with the electric (up/down) screen to deflect wind and rain, full-face helmet (which covers the entire head, including face), waterproof jacket (with body-armour inserts) and waterproof gloves, when a guy on a Harley passes me doing around 120 kph (75 mph). Gotta say, he looked much cooler than me. Complete with open-face helmet (no face protection), a pair of teeny tiny sunglasses, no gloves, no screen (to deflect wind), some ripped jeans and an old leather jacket (not waterproof) with his gang symbol on the back. He probably thought I was just another big tosser on a Japanese bike. He may have been right.

Commitment to the Cause

With the wind nearly blasting his head off (courtesy of his open-face helmet) , the cold giving him frostbite on his fingers, face and knees and the combined noise of a Harley with shotgun exhaust pipes (that means loud!!) and an open-face helmet at 120 kph deafening him, I had to respect his commitment to his gang, the uniform and the code.

The code that says: no synthetic blue jackets with body armour (they are for sissies like me), no full-face helmets (also for girly-men) and gloves are only to be worn in snowstorms. The code that says, ‘this is our uniform’. Looking at his contorted face (courtesy of the wind) as he flew by, I began to think about the way we humans love to belong and the price we’re prepared to pay for that membership. To our gang. Our group. Our church. Our click. Our team. To something bigger than us.

The Cost of Membership

But what I really pondered as I cruised along (it was a long ride) was whether belonging was more likely to be a positive or a negative in our lives over the long term. Is it always good to belong? When isn’t it? What compels so many of us to ‘join’?

Part of it is that we’re social creatures, and on a level, we love being in a ‘family’. However, sometimes in our efforts to belong, we compromise our values and beliefs, we lie to ourselves and we do anything we can to be accepted. Belonging (to something) can make us feel better about ourselves. If only for a while. It can also make us feel trapped.

Sometimes being a member of a group means security. Sometimes it means pressure. Sometimes it means ‘keeping up’, conforming and ticking the boxes. Sometimes belonging to a group can define us. It can also be where we lose ourselves. Sometimes in an effort to find ourselves we actually become a clone of others.

Many people want to belong to something, no matter what. The thought of not belonging terrifies them. Somewhere and somehow they have learned that they’re not good enough, worthy enough or valuable enough on their own. They’re deficient unless they’re part of a collective.

I’m not against belonging to a group (I’ve been involved in many) but I think once we all start to look, sound, walk and talk the same, alarm bells should ring. I don’t think my purpose is to be a replica, cyborg or mouthpiece for someone else’s ideas, message or mission. I think my purpose is to live a life in alignment with my core values. Whatever that means and whatever that requires.

If you belong to a group and you can honestly say that your life is better for the ‘membership’, then my advice would be to stay. If your membership (involvement in, or obligation to, the group) means something not quite so positive, then maybe it’s time for you to discover who you are beyond the group identity, the collective mindset, the gang rules and the weight of expectation.

It might just be the most liberating and empowering thing you ever do.

You’re welcome. =)

Some Discussion Questions:

1. Have you ever ‘lost yourself’ in a gang?
2. Have you ever lost a friend or family member? (no naming of specific groups please)
3. Are you a member of a gang that makes your world a better place?
4. What should we consider when we’re thinking of joining a gang?
5. What advice do you have for people who feel stuck (trapped) in a gang (situation, group, organisation)?

* Feel free to answer as many or as few as you like. Or… just add your general thoughts on the post.  :)

Image: f650biker

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Craig Harper (B.Ex.Sci.) is a qualified exercise scientist, author, columnist, radio presenter, television host, motivational speaker and university lecturer. For the past 25 years he has been a leading presenter, educator, motivator and commentator in the areas of personal and professional development. You can visit Craig's blog at Motivational Speaker.FREE eBookSo… You’ve Decided to Get in Shape (Again) Craig's FREE eBook takes 20 – 30 minutes to read, and addresses the REAL getting-in-shape issues based on his 25 years of experience. To get Craig’s FREE eBook click here, weight loss books.

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Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Allegheny County Housing Authority- sec. 8 - criminal conviction

Belajac v. Allegheny Co. Housing Authority - Cmwlth. Court - June 30, 2010

The court upheld the decision of ACHA to terminate the petitioner's sec. 8 benefits based on a criminal convictions involving sexual offenses against a minor child that had taken place six (6) years earlier.

The court said that "the Authority is permitted to terminate Section 8 assistance “[i]f the family violates any family obligations under the program.” 24 C.F.R § 982.552(c)(1)(i). The family obligation set forth in Section 982.551(l) of the HUD regulations provides: “The members of the household may not engage in . . . violent criminal activity or other criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents and persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises.” 24 C.F.R. § 982.551(l).

via PLAN Legal Update by noreply@blogger.com (Donald Marritz) on 7/1/10

Belajac v. Allegheny Co. Housing Authority - Cmwlth. Court - June 30, 2010 - unreported memorandum opinionhttp://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Cwealth/out/1319CD09_6-30-10.pdfThe court upheld the decision of ACHA to terminate the petitioner's sec. 8 benefits based on a criminal convictions involving sexual offenses against a minor child that had taken place six (6) years earlier. The court said that

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

DPS balking at issuing driver licenses to inmates

via Grits for Breakfast by Gritsforbreakfast on 7/1/10

It'll be awhile before the Department of Public Safety begins to comply with state Rep. Sylvester Turner's  HB 2161, which requires Texas state agencies to facilitate getting drivers' licenses to former inmates upon release.

Although Turner's legislation directed DPS to enter a memorandum of understanding with TDCJ and  the Department of State Health Services to get departing inmates ID, DPS Director Steve McCraw testified at yesterday's House Corrections Committee hearing that he wasn't willing to commit to complying, claiming to do so would cost too much money. He suggested instead that DPS create a mobile licensing station as a "pilot" program for $600,000. Some inmates would need driving tests to get a license, he said (though as a practical matter, such folks could just get a state ID card), and the Real ID Act requires fingerprint verification and other security measures that complicate issuing licenses remotely.

From the dais, Rep. Jerry Madden pointed out that TDCJ is a criminal justice agency that's fully capable of taking fingerprints or performing other tasks, and said there was no reason two state agencies couldn't figure out how to delegate those duties through the memorandum of understanding required by law. McCraw said he'd consider that, but the committee seemed unsatisfied with his answer and several disparaging references were made throughout the day about the state's seeming incompetence to get this done after many years of debating the topic. A consultant from the National Institute of Corrections pointed to the discussion later in the hearing to make the point that government creates many of its own problems. No inmate was responsible for why the state couldn't get them IDs upon release, she said; it was the state's failure causing the barrier.

One reason, I'm sure, for legislators' frustration is that DPS was asked while the bill was pending how much it would cost them to implement the program. The Department of State Health Services said it would cost them $1.5 million per year to comply, but here's what DPS told the Legislative Budget Board according to the fiscal note:

To maintain security to the driver license identity program, the DPS Driver License Division would create a process to accept identifying information from TDCJ and current offender photographs to produce Texas Identification Cards. Modifications to the existing driver license system to create a program to enter, scan, and produce the ID card will require programming estimated to be $56,400. Additionally, costs associated for an image collection application to be developed and manually scan the offender photograph and signature into the driver license system for the ID card is estimated to be $32,000. DPS anticipates one additional FTE (A15 classification) would be needed for this project. DPS has determined that costs associated with implementing the bill would not be significant and could be absorbed with current appropriations.
Now, though, McCraw says it will take five FTEs just to do the pilot, and more if the Lege wants to roll out the program to all inmates, which at 72,000 released per year, he complained, amounted to a "mid-sized city." But that's about the same number released last year and the year before. The agency should have anticipated these costs just as DSHS did instead of lowballing the fiscal note then refusing to comply with the statute after it's passed.

McCraw said the Real ID Act requires certain tasks (like fingerprinting) be performed in person in order for the license to be a "federal purpose document" that allows travel on airplanes, etc.. McCraw seemed resistant to Madden's pragmatic suggestion that DPS delegate duties performed at driver license offices to TDCJ, though he identified no legal or practical barriers to doing so and such duty sharing is clearly anticipated in the bill language about the MOU.

TDCJ's Brian Collier told the committee that, according to their research during implementation, 73% of inmates had some history with DPS - either a driver license or state ID - in the past, and those with shorter sentences like state jail inmates often still have current ID. The other 27% have no such record, usually because they're from out of state, though the agency is studying further the makeup of that group.

McCraw said it's in DPS' interest to deal with inmates before they leave prison instead of having 72,000 more customers at driver license offices, but I wondered as he was speaking if that's really true. Could DPS' hesitation stem from fear of lost licensure revenues? If DPS issues licenses to prisoners, they don't get the associated $24 fee. When an ex-inmate shows up at a driver license office with birth certificate in hand, DPS gets paid. If 73% of exiting prisoners each year pay that $24, that's just more than $1.25 million in lost revenue.

The good news, reported Dee Wilson, who runs TDCJ's new Reentry division, is that inmates are now leaving TDCJ with sufficient documentation (usually a birth certificate and social security card) to get their own driver license when they leave custody. By this time next year, she said, she expected to be able to tell the committee that all 72,000 people released from TDCJ will have either the birth and social security documents or a DPS ID when they left custody.

Chairman Jim McReynolds said the idea behind the bill was that offenders would leave TDCJ with a DPS ID or driver license in hand when they walked out the door. He pointed out that the first two months - and he could have added the first few days - after release are critical to whether or not someone recidivates, so creating a gap during that period without ID problematically thwarts the intent and specific dictates of the bill.

McCraw's intransigence seems particularly inexplicable when compared to the agency's TDEX database (Texas' version of "Total Information Awareness" and one of McCraw's pet projects from when he was the governor's homeland security director). For that project, there seems to be no end to the spare cash the agency can find lying around in the couch cushions. But the whole Big-Brotherish TDEX boondoggle has never resulted in a documented arrest nor terrorist act prevented, while facilitating prisoner reentry has direct, immediate and positive public safety impacts.

Wilson and TDCJ should be commended for getting as far as they have - leaving prison with that documentation is a lot better than nothing - but it's depressing the state as a whole can't figure out how to get this done.

MORE: Tela Mange, public information officer for DPS, emails to say "By the way, DPS does not retain any of the money for DLs/IDs. All that $ goes to GenRev." Duly noted, and thanks, Tela, for the clarification.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

The "End of Men" Isn't the End of Racism

via Colorlines by Daisy Hernandez on 6/30/10

The

Men have it hard these days. The recession took their jobs, be it construction or finance. They're not attending or graduating from college very much. They're having to take business classes that tell them to work on their communication skills. Women, by comparison, are flooding college campuses, holding down most of the country's jobs, and leading a couple of countries around the globe.   This is the picture of gender relations drawn by Hanna Rosin in the latest issue of "The Atlantic." "The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men's size and strength," she writes. "The attributes that are most valuable today--social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus--are, at a minimum, not predominantly male."

In Rosin's interpretation of events, men are about to become the wall flowers of a post-industrial economy ruled by women. This might sound like a 1970s radical feminist dream come true, except for one small detail. The end of men won't be the end of racism.

The origin of Rosin's story was actually about a decade ago. That's when men started having a crisis. In truth, it was researchers who began having a crisis as they looked at data and found that women were more likely to graduate from college than men. College administrators were also noting that they had more women on campus, in some cases more than men. The data and anecdotes were picked up by columnists, media pundits and authors at the time and the alarms went off: men--and here we're implicitly speaking of white men--might be losing their prized place in the educational and economic pecking order.

A funny thing happened, however, when Jacqueline E. King of the American Council on Education sat down in 2000 to look at the problem. She found that the gender gap on college campuses was actually among Blacks, Latinos and poor whites. "There is little evidence to suggest that white, middle-class males are falling behind their female peers," she wrote at the time. 

But the white-man-in-crisis story took hold. It spawned books and articles about boys being left behind. It was a gripping tale, after all. It was horrifying, even. Ostensibly, it was about gender, about men being outdone by women. Except it wasn't. It was a story that tapped the worst, unspoken fears of white men--that they might be left behind like poor Black men, dropping out of school at high rates, desperate to find good-paying jobs, unable to pay child support.   

To Rosin's credit, she addresses this racial fear directly in her Atlantic story, albeit it without suggesting that it might be problematic: "The whole country's future could look much as the present does for many lower-class African Americans: the mothers pull themselves up, but the men don't follow. First-generation college-educated white women may join their black counterparts in a new kind of middle class, where marriage is increasingly rare."

The future of the country might be poor, Black and unmarried? You can almost feel the collective shudder among Atlantic readers.

Rosin, unfortunately, does what her supposedly now almost extinct male predecessors have done, laying out information about poor Black families as if they existed in a political vacuum. Perhaps that wasn't her intention. Presumably she knows about the racial disparities in sentencing laws that put more Black men behind prison, the welfare mandates that make it impossible to receive assistance if a partner is around, the double-digit unemployment rates for Black men. But Rosin skips mentioning any of this.

Instead, she sums up the theories about why boys in general are falling behind in school. They're not verbally equipped at young ages like girls. They don't test well in the age of standarized testing. They need boy-friendly environments where they can walk around and get all that aggression out.

You wouldn't know from Rosin's story that all of this is happening in a public education system that's racially segregated and underfunded. Neither would you find out that King's most recent research shows that the big gender gap on college campuses right now is in the Latino community. Immigrants are still more likely to be male than female, and against a backdrop of immigration raids, men are focused on finding work while a BA seems like a luxury. (King's research also points out that women earn the majority of master's degrees today because they're in education and nursing; (white) men still dominate engineering and business programs.)

If women like Rosin are about to take over the world then, as her article suggests in ominous and sometimes self-congratulatory tones, the rest of us have been forewarned: these women are not going to talk about race.

This is painfully obvious in discussions of the economy, by Rosin and others. When the recession hit two years ago, male-dominated professions from finance to construction work took a beating. As Rosin reminds us, three-quarters of the 8 million jobs lost used to be held by men. The recession was declared a "he-cession."

A Black-cession would have been more accurate. Unemployment rates for Black men this past May were at 17.1 percent compared to white men's 8.8 percent. But lump them altogether and we have a he-cession.

For those who think that the new world order run by white women might only be insulting in an implied, racially coded kind of way, take note. Rosin writes that the economy is becoming a "kind of traveling sisterhood." What kind of sisterhood exactly? One where "upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill."

Marvelous. If Rosin is right, we can look forward to an economy where even more white women get high-end jobs, hire Black and Latino women to clean their babies and their toilets, and call this racialized economic structure a sisterhood.

Rosin does note that men are still at the top of the jobs pyramid and that female CEOs like eBay's Meg Whitman are "minor celebrities." What can we expect about race relations if that top of the pyramid flips to white women? The same old, same old. After Whitman pushed anti-immigrant talking points to get the Republican party's nomination to run for governor and won, she starting producing commercials to get the Latino vote.

None of this is to suggest that Rosin's interpretation is all we can expect if white women take over the world.

Journalism professor Caryl Rivers did a nice job criticizing Rosin's work at Huffington Post, writing in a fiery, if slightly high-pitched kind of way: "The president is male, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is male, the fifty highest-paid CEOs are male."   

At The American Prospect, Anne Friedman broke down Rosin's piece with a sharp analysis about gender, arguing convincingly that the crisis is the insistence of old school gender roles. "The narrow, toxic definition of masculinity perpetuated by Rosin and others -- that men are brawn not brains, doers not feelers, earners not nurturers -- is actually to blame for the crisis."

Curiously the online version of Rosin's story is illustrated with a drawing of business women crowding what appears to be Grand Central Station. At the forefront are two Asian women and behind them a blonde white woman. It's a peculiar choice. Perhaps it's a reference to China where Rosin reports that women own more than 40 percent of private businesses and "where a red Ferrari is the new status symbol for female entrepreneurs." Regardless, it plays into familiar media images and stories of Asians taking over the global economy, of Asians excelling and eventually beating white men. Mostly, it stands out as odd because it's in contrast to Rosin's focus on white, and to a lesser degree, Black women here.

The best that can be said of Rosin's article is that if her predictions come true, which they won't, but if they did, it would prove what feminists of color have told their white sisters for a long time: racism doesn't go away because some of us know oppression in other areas of our lives.

Photo: istock/Jeffrey Smith

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

The sugar cane machine

via Seth's Blog by Seth Godin on 6/30/10

A small island grows sugar cane. Many people harvest it, and one guy owns the machine that can process the cane and turn it into juice.

Who wins?

The guy with the machine, of course. It gives him leverage, and since he's the only one, he can pay the pickers whatever he likes--people will either sell it to him or stop picking. No fun being the cane picker. He can also charge whatever he likes to the people who need the cane juice, because without him, there's no juice. No fun being a baker or cook.

But now, a second machine comes to the island, and then three more. There are five processors.

Who wins?

Certainly not the guy with the first machine. He has competitors for the cane. He can optimize and work on efficiency, but pretty soon he's going to be in a price war for his raw materials (and a price war for the finished product.) Not so much fun to be the factory owner.

And then! And then one cane processor starts creating a series of collectible containers, starts interacting with his customers and providing them with custom blends, starts offering long-term contracts and benefits to his biggest customers, and yes, even begins to pay his growers more if they're willing to bring him particularly sweet and organic materials, on time. In short, he becomes a master of the art of processing and marketing cane. He earns permission, he treats different customers differently and he refuses to act like a faceless factory...

Who are you?

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

on the outside

27 June 2010

Voices from Solitary: Oscar Wilde’s Cry from the Depths

via Solitary Watch by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway on 6/27/10

The door of Oscar Wilde's cell at Reading Gaol, displayed at Nottingham's Galleries of Justice.

 In 1895, Oscar Wilde, who was arguably Britain’s most famous literary and cultural figure, was sentenced to two years’ hard labor in solitary confinement for the crime of “acts of gross indecency with other males.” He served most of that time in Reading Gaol, subject of his famous ballad

In petitioning the government for his release, Wilde wrote that “while one may bear up against the monotonous hardships and relentless discipline of an English prison, it is ultimately the complete isolation, “the solitary confinement, that breaks one’s heart, shatters one’s intellect too.” Wilde argued that what were then considered ”modern modes of punishment”–years of solitude and silence in prison–”create what they should cure, and, when they have on their side time with its long light of dreary days, they desecrate and destroy whatever good, or desire even of good, there may be in a man.” 

While he was denied early release, Wilde was eventually given pencil and paper, which he used to write wrote a 50,000-word letter to his former lover, focusing on his prison experiences. In it, Wilde writes of seeking redemption through suffering, and condemns the shallowness of his own former life. He even more powerfully condemns society and the state for inflicting such suffering, and then abandoning its former prisoners once they have served their time. Society, he writes, “is really ashamed of its own actions, and shuns those whom it has punished, as people shun a creditor whose debt they cannot pay, or one on whom they have inflicted an irreparable, an irremediable wrong.” 

Wilde was never allowed to send the letter, but it was published after his release under the title De Profundis, from Psalm 130, which begins: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” 

…Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain. The paralysing immobility of a life every circumstance of which is regulated after an unchangeable pattern, so that we eat and drink and lie down and pray, or kneel at least for prayer, according to the inflexible laws of an iron formula: this immobile quality, that makes each dreadful day in the very minutest detail like its brother, seems to communicate itself to those external forces the very essence of whose existence is ceaseless change. 

For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow. The very sun and moon seem taken from us. Outside, the day may be blue and gold, but the light that creeps down through the thickly-muffled glass of the small iron-barred window beneath which one sits is grey and niggard. It is always twilight in one’s cell, as it is always twilight in one’s heart. And in the sphere of thought, no less than in the sphere of time, motion is no more… 

 The poor are wise, more charitable, more kind, more sensitive than we are. In their eyes prison is a tragedy in a man’s life, a misfortune, a casualty, something that calls for sympathy in others. They speak of one who is in prison as of one who is ‘in trouble’ simply. It is the phrase they always use, and the expression has the perfect wisdom of love in it.

With people of our own rank it is different. With us, prison makes a man a pariah. I, and such as I am, have hardly any right to air and sun. Our presence taints the pleasures of others. We are unwelcome when we reappear. To revisit the glimpses of the moon is not for us. Our very children are taken away. Those lovely links with humanity are broken. We are doomed to be solitary, while our sons still live. We are denied the one thing that might heal us and keep us, that might bring balm to the bruised heart, and peace to the soul in pain… 

When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. I am advised by others to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else – the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver — would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul…. 

The fact of my having been the common prisoner of a common gaol I must frankly accept, and, curious as it may seem, one of the things I shall have to teach myself is not to be ashamed of it. I must accept it as a punishment, and if one is ashamed of having been punished, one might just as well never have been punished at all….And if I then am not ashamed of my punishment, as I hope not to be, I shall be able to think, and walk, and live with freedom. 

Many men on their release carry their prison about with them into the air, and hide it as a secret disgrace in their hearts, and at length, like poor poisoned things, creep into some hole and die. It is wretched that they should have to do so, and it is wrong, terribly wrong, of society that it should force them to do so. Society takes upon itself the right to inflict appalling punishment on the individual, but it also has the supreme vice of shallowness, and fails to realise what it has done. When the man’s punishment is over, it leaves him to himself; that is to say, it abandons him at the very moment when its highest duty towards him begins. It is really ashamed of its own actions, and shuns those whom it has punished, as people shun a creditor whose debt they cannot pay, or one on whom they have inflicted an irreparable, an irremediable wrong. I can claim on my side that if I realise what I have suffered, society should realise what it has inflicted on me; and that there should be no bitterness or hate on either side… 

We think in eternity, but we move slowly through time; and how slowly time goes with us who lie in prison I need not tell again, nor of the weariness and despair that creep back into one’s cell, and into the cell of one’s heart, with such strange insistence that one has, as it were, to garnish and sweep one’s house for their coming, as for an unwelcome guest, or a bitter master, or a slave whose slave it is one’s chance or choice to be. And, though at present my friends may find it a hard thing to believe, it is true none the less, that for them living in freedom and idleness and comfort it is more easy to learn the lessons of humility than it is for me, who begin the day by going down on my knees and washing the floor of my cell. For prison life with its endless privations and restrictions makes one rebellious. The most terrible thing about it is not that it breaks one’s heart — hearts are made to be broken — but that it turns one’s heart to stone… 

The full text of De Profundis has been published online by Project Gutenberg. (H/T to AS for providing this excerpt.)

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Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Validation is overrated

via Seth's Blog by Seth Godin on 6/27/10

If you're waiting for a boss or an editor or a college to tell you that you do good work, you're handing over too much power to someone who doesn't care nearly as much as you do.

We spend a lot of time organizing and then waiting for the system to pick us, approve of us and give us permission to do our work.

Feedback is important, selling is important, getting the market to recognize your offering and make a sale--all important. But there's a difference between achieving your goals and realizing your work matters.

If you have a book to write, write it. If you want to record an album, record it. No need to wait for someone in a cubicle halfway across the country to decide if you're worthy.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

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