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Ending the silence about criminal justice in California

By on Dec 26, 2015 in Law, Society | 0 comments

For the last five years, the state courts in California have reached out to my law firm to appoint us in cases whereby people can appeal a state court criminal conviction. After handling dozens of such cases to date, I have uncovered some interesting realities about criminal justice in California. The facts invariably involve someone of color, and someone poor. Some of the cases involve people with prior criminal histories. You usually see a pattern over many years of continued run ins with the law. This is huge flag that the criminal justice system is utterly failing in preventing people from reengaging with the criminal courts. Sometimes you see a fact pattern in which someone might have a very old criminal record, and has been rehabilitated for many years, and then they are hauled in for a petty offense or on an outstanding, old, bench warrant. They will have families and friends...

The search for intelligent life starts on Earth

By on Oct 25, 2015 in Society, Spirit | 0 comments

Maybe you missed it, but there was a lot of news in the last week about a supposed alien civilization that astronomers may have discovered. The Washington Post reported – “When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright said. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.” Meanwhile, another Post article observes that the vast majority of planets that may be able to host life probably haven’t even formed yet. That raises the fun possibility that humans are very early to the intelligent life party. Searching for life in outer space is a wonderful endeavor. But I also wonder why we’ve given up on looking for intelligent life on Earth. Whales have bigger brains than humans, ravens are more logical than apes, and elephants display empathy,...

The ethics of the future

By on Sep 6, 2015 in Climate, Society | 0 comments

What responsibility do we have to the future? And what is the role of ethics in that responsibility? The question becomes important in light of the technological and ecological changes now taking place in the world today. Humanity is closer than ever to leaving the planet and creating artificial intelligence. Yet the Earth is in the middle of its sixth great extinction, and the specter of anthropogenic climate change raises the possiblity of a completely different Earth in our lifetimes. Humanity is already locked into a 1.5 degree increase in global temperatures; anything over 2 degrees will likely spell the end of civilization as we know it. In spite of this grave fact, there remains little significant action with respect to the slow and steady warming of the planet. Can thinking people sit by and simply observe these changes without getting involved, hoping for a normalcy that does...

California agrees to reform solitary confinement

By on Sep 2, 2015 in Society | 0 comments

Positive news with respect to prison reform – California has agreed to revamp its procedures regarding solitary confinement in its prisons. Apparently, hundreds of inmates have been held for decades in solitary confinement, often with indefinite detentions within solitary. The New York Times reports: Under the settlement, prisoners will no longer be sent to isolation indefinitely. And gang members will no longer be sent to solitary confinement based solely on their gang affiliation; only inmates found guilty of serious prison infractions like violence, weapons, narcotics possession or escape will be sent to isolation. The state will create a new unit for prisoners who are deemed too dangerous to return to the general population. There, they will have more privileges than in solitary, including more time out of their cells, small group leisure activities, and some job...

Evolving the corporate form

By on Sep 1, 2015 in Society | 0 comments

Is it hyperbole to say that corporations are living things? For purposes of the law, they are certainly alive. A corporation has a perpetual existence until its charter is revoked. It can be subject to a lawsuit, or even criminal penalties. Sometimes they have mascots and trade names, a corporate history, even corporate museums. And like all living things, corporations are capable of evolution. In fact, corporations have already evolved in significant ways. One way is the ease in opening a corporation. It used to be the case that a corporation was created by an official act of government, requiring a specific charter or act of the legislature. About 100 years ago, states updated their laws so that any one could simply open up a corporation by filing papers with the Secretary of State. Opening a corporation today is quite easy. Corporations evolved to “reproduce” more...

How to handle the refugee crisis in Europe?

By on Aug 28, 2015 in Society | 0 comments

Europe is facing its worst refugee crisis since World War II. Ironically, the cause seems to be the havoc caused by US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the current destruction of Syria caused by factionalized fighting between NATO-supported forces, those loyal to the regime, and ISIS. Daily, it seems, there are more discoveries of people dying in boats trying to cross the Mediterranean, or being killed in some other sinister fashion (as in these 71 people who suffocated in an abandoned truck). It is unlikely that European countries, (at least those that have  supported Western military action in these regions), considered the consequences of military action at the time they provided such support. If they had, they probably would have been much slower to agree to such campaigns and may have been more interested in looking for alternatives to war. After all, the entire premise of...

NASA – World “locked in” to 3 feet of sea level rise

By on Aug 27, 2015 in Climate | 0 comments

It’s difficult for most people to wrap their heads around climate change because there really isn’t a everyday frame of reference. People plan their lives around certain factors which they think are predictable and will never change – the weather in a certain location, where family is living, the location of the office. There is already so much going on in life, staying psychologically healthy requires fundamental assumptions that some things are more stable than others. And one of those things, like it or not, is climate. So when NASA releases news that says that the world is “locked in” to 3 feet of sea level rise, and that worst-case scenarios for sea level rise (which assume 21 feet of rise) may be too conservative, most people are likely to understand what those words mean, but will not be able to process what it is those words mean — that,...

Trump as the Trickster

By on Aug 27, 2015 in Society | 0 comments

Trump’s success in the polls calls to mind the archetype of the Trickster.   Wikipedia has a good summary on this archetype: In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphisation which exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge, and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and conventional behaviour. It is suggested by G.P. Hansen that the term “Trickster” was probably first used in this context by Daniel G. Brinton in 1885 Famous Tricksters include Loki, the coyote in some myths, and even arguably the serpent in Genesis. Tricksters are able to cross back and forth the boundaries of social conventions at ease, and are even famous for doing so. I have no idea if Trump is a serious Republican candidate or a Democratic Party double agent. The fact that we are...