Wednesday, June 24th, 2015


Doing Time in the Small House

About the time Katrina struck, New Orleans was the jail capital of America, incarcerating people at four times the national average. Since that time, the city has reduced its local inmate population by 67%. What was the trick? First, they stopped treating jailing like a business. And second, they built a smaller jail. No really. That was a key factor. And get this; during the period New Orleans stopped jailing so many people, there has been an overall reduction in crime. Smaller jails. Less crime. Jazz hands.

+ "It almost smacked me in the face when they said that public safety is a logical consequence of a good corrections system, and not the other way around." American officials visit German prisons and get an eye (and mind) opening experience. One of the key differences they discovered is just how hard it is to get a job working in a German prison.

+ This week, Columbia became the first American university to divest from the private prison industry.


Tangled Up in Red, White and Blue

"How many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free? How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?" That seems like an especially poignant Bob Dylan verse from Blowin' in the Wind during a week when there has been a breathtaking shift in attitudes -- public, political, and commercial -- about the symbol that has been blowing above the South Carolina Statehouse. From former College of Charleston president Alex Sanders: "It's a baby step of progress, but we had to step through the blood of nine dead people."

+ On orders from Governor Robert Bentley, Alabama takes down its Confederate Flags.

+ The bans are so widespread that they've even hit the toy car from the Dukes of Hazzard.

+ NYT: Flag supporters react with a mix of compromise, caution and outright defiance. (Pretty cool anecdote at the bottom of this article.)


Enemies, A Gov Story

Americans have a reasonably favorable view of China, and the Chinese have a pretty favorable view of the U.S. Our economies are interdependent, the Chinese now invest more here than we do there, and many debt and currency rifts have been smoothed over. Yet, several experts share the view expressed by David Lampton of Johns Hopkins: "The tipping point is near. Our respective fears are nearer to outweighing our hopes than at any time since normalization." From The New Yorker's Evan Osmos: Can the U.S. and China Avoid the Enemy Trap?

+ BBC: "A group of islands in the South China Sea may not sound particularly significant, but these recently-formed pieces of land could be the key to Beijing's future military strategy."


Car Town

In Portland, if nothing else, they do things the Portland way. So when Uber came to town and tried to push its way in, past the artisanal brewpubs and fairtrade coffeehouses, it looked like it might be a decent fight. But such a view fails to take into account Uber's political muscle which gives them an insurmountable home field advantage on the streets of any town. Uber "has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation, at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores. That doesn't count municipal lobbyists. In Portland, the 28th-largest city in the U.S., 10 people would ultimately register to lobby on Uber's behalf. They'd become a constant force in City Hall. City officials say they'd never seen anything on this scale." Bloomberg's Karen Weise explains how Uber takes over a city.


Working It

There's a decent chance your employer has a wellness program. And usually those programs are well-meaning. But at what point do they become coercive? (I refuse to work with anyone who can't hold open at least 25 browser tabs without a spotter.)

+ "I loved it and hated it." When they're done working out for work, many people are choosing "vacations" that are purposely filled with pain and suffering. (Did I mention I'm taking my kids to Europe later this summer?)


Kindergarten Capitulation

"I felt stunned. I couldn't stop asking myself, 'How did we get here?'"Gerard Sychay slept outside for 16 days. Yes, it was that hard to enroll his son in Kindergarten.


No Words Wasted

"Texting turns out to be incredibly effective for counseling in a crisis. It cuts right to the chase. You don't get hyperventilating and crying. You just get facts. By the third message they're spilling their guts." Nancy Lublin's Crisis Text Line is helping kids in need using a platform with which they feel comfortable. Its also collecting data that illuminates what's troubling teens and makes it more likely they can be helped. You want to know what all this tech is good for? Check out how the Crisis Text Line is saving lives. (Full disclosure: I know Nancy, and she's awesome.)


Body Slam

"Celebrity sex tapes used to thrill us, now they trouble us. What's changed?" In Slate, Amanda Hess argues that in part, "the Internet masses had found a new vice, outrage, to replace our voyeurism." We've gone gone from Paris Hilton, to Kim Kardashian, to a modern-day Hulk Hogan. That arc alone could explain why our level of titillation is down for the count.


How Deep is Your Love?

"After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op, I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit." A man mistakenly left his phone on record during a colonoscopy. When he listened to the recording, he heard himself being mocked, and even threatened. Needless to say, there was a lawsuit.


Bottom of the News

Congratulations to Frank Garcia for becoming the first man to bike up Everest. And he did it from his den. That was still a heck of a lot of work, which is why I decided to scale El Capitan via Google Street View.

+ When your cat meets a mountain lion.

+ ABC: A rare Amazonian fish with human-like teeth was caught in a New Jersey lake. Ah, Jersey...