Friday, November 23, 2007

Strange Steyn

Though it pains me to quote him, from Mark Steyn, recently:

"If you're going to be novelty-crazed, better the zebra-mussel cappuccino than the Third Reich".

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Near-Future Fears...

Near-Future Fears..., originally uploaded by Stephen10031.

Why does mass culture in America revolve around fears of an apocalyptic near-future (see above) or regurgitated mindless fantasy nonsense (see below)? If anyone can point me towards any books on the topic, I'd be grateful.

Above, take note of the devastated Brooklyn Bridge, an image disseminated throughout the five boroughs right now, as this new Will Smith movie is being plugged. At the same time, the Brooklyn Bridge appears endlessly in real estate plugs for DUMBO and surrounding areas, desirable places to live. It seems to me that America's popular imagination, insofar as pop culture and the mass media informs us of a people's opinion of itself, is deeply uneasy with itself, its successes, its center-piece setting on the planet. It says, almost: "$200/square foot, ringside seat for Armageddon."


Update: It seems not just Americans are uneasy about the future. End-times cults are popular in Russia these days as well.

...or Distant-Past Fantasies

...or Distant-Past Fantasies, originally uploaded by Stephen10031.

Monday, November 19, 2007

US prison system 'costly failure'

BBC: The US prison population has risen eight-fold since 1970, with little impact on crime but at great cost to the taxpayer, researchers say.

There are more than 1.5 million people in US state and federal jails, a report by a Washington-based criminal justice research group, the JFA Institute says.

Inmate numbers are projected to rise by 192,000 in five years, costing $27.5bn (£13.44bn) to build and run jails.

The JFA recommends reducing the number and length of sentences.

The Unlocking America report, which was published on Monday, also advocated changing terms of parole and finding alternatives to prison as part of a major overhaul of the US justice system.

"There is no evidence that keeping people in prison longer makes us any safer," said JFA president James Austin.

Women convicts

The report said that US crime rates, which have been in decline since the 1990s, are about the same as those for 1973.

It says the incarceration rate has soared because sentences have got longer and those who violate parole or probation are more likely to be given prison terms.

The report said that every year hundreds of thousands of Americans are sent to jail "for crimes that pose little if any danger or harm to society".

It cited several examples including a Florida woman's two-year sentence for throwing a cup of coffee at another car in a traffic row.

Its recommendations run counter to the Bush administration's policy of longer, harsher sentences, which the government says has contributed to falling violent crime and murder figures.

The JFA researchers found that women represented the fastest-growing sector of the US prison population.

The report was funded by the Rosenbaum Foundation and the Open Society Institute.