Doing Time, Double-Time

prisonerWhile I was glad to see another piece on criminal justice making the front page of the Times (lord knows the subject has been conspicuously absent from the presidential debates), the article weirdly omitted some key issues surrounding astronomical imprisonment levels in the U.S.

First, one of the reasons that our crazy conviction rates and harsher sentences matter, beyond interest in international comparisons, is that they correspond to massive disenfranchisement levels, another of our ignominious distinctions among Western countries.

Second, the piece discusses rates of imprisonment without questioning the value of prisons themselves — making no mention whatsoever of the nation’s prison abolition movement. I mean, I know it’s the New York Times, but still. Look at the other perspectives included:

“The simple truth is that imprisonment works,” wrote Kent Scheidegger and Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in The Stanford Law and Policy Review. “Locking up criminals for longer periods reduces the level of crime. The benefits of doing so far offset the costs.”

If you’re gonna quote some dude saying that prisons are a dandy solution to crime, then you could at least find someone who thinks that maybe prisons aren’t totally awesome.  And who doesn’t view the whole world and its human populations in terms of a series of cost-benefit analyses.

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The Long-Awaited Premiere…Video Blogging!

Lefty political bloggers, as a species, have earned something of a reputation for being both confrontational and cowardly. There’s nothing inherently wrong with assertiveness, of course, or even outrage: see, for instance, the fabulous Angry Black Bitch. And, to a certain extent, discord (as opposed to, say, politeness) is healthy for democratic online communities. But although computer screens can embolden introverts and make for rousing debates, belligerence and impersonal exchanges in comment threads can leave even committed blogophiles feeling…disconnected.

We at Cambridge Common believe that online political dialogue can be especially edifying when rooted in offline community. CC has wonderful readers across the nation (and a few beyond), but ultimately, we are a place-based blog: Harvard is where we build. Online, we write, but we’re always looking to do more, to experiment and engage. So, in order to share wisdom with each other, and to give y’all a peek into our crazy heads, we now present our foray into video blogging (or “vlogging”): Common Conversations.

The premise is simple. Each week, a few Cambridge Commoners will get together, pick some subject that confuses, inspires, or enrages us, and talk about it together, on camera. Weekdays, we’ll post the video in segments so you can follow the conversation. Use the comments section to talk back and add your thoughts!

And now, without further ado, diving into a notoriously juicy political topic, here’s Part 1 of our very first episode of Common Conversations: Birth Control. Enjoy!

Fire Up Those Word Processors

woman at laptopThere’s been a bunch of gender-related excitement on campus lately: Take Back The Night; an intergenerational feminist panel; an anti-feminist conference; and, Wednesday, an abysmally moronic editorial that, in a true feat of triteness, manages to concatenate Moynihanian logic, the model minority myth, and ‘post-sexism’ antifeminism (framed–how else?–through the Clinton-Obama race). In short: the good, the bad, and the Crimson.

Got some thoughts on these or other gender-related issues at Harvard? Pissed that Harvard won’t grant the Women Gender and Sexuality concentration institutional support? Heartened by the trans activist gains on campus of the past few years? Check out this essay contest through the Women’s Center, and get cracking on a personal narrative, exposé, or whatever floats your feminist boat.

The First Annual Women’s Center Writing Prize
Topic: Does Harvard – however you define it – care about gender?

Deadline: April 23, 2008.

The essay submissions are to be between 700 and 1,000 words long and can be journalistic, personal/anecdotal or creative. The pieces should be imaginative, pertinent and well-written.

ALL genders welcome to apply.

Winners will receive a cash prize of $350, prizes from the Coop and publication in the Women’s Center’s AMPLIFY! magazine.

To submit, please email your entry in a Word Document to Please include both your real name and a code name of your choice – your name will be removed before your writing is evaluated. Winners announced in early May.

The ‘Clean’ Black

No comment…

The original speech (also notice that Obama scrapes the shit right off his shoes for the Joe Bidens that missed the Jay-Z):

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Just Doin’ My Part…

for the vast left-wing conspiracy:

Do yours, click here –> Expelled

Have a nice day!

Militarization: Coming Soon To A Campus Near You (Part I)

As already noted, though today’s reports of a political intelligence unit within HUPD are disturbing, they aren’t shocking. Considering recent patterns of militarization–from the ongoing “war on terror” farce and its criminalities, to federal strangleholds on civil liberties, to local Cambridge moves toward beefing up police weaponry–transforming Harvard’s campus into a conflict zone is no aberration, but a sign of the times.

What does it mean, though, to describe a campus as “militarizing?” Can we make such claims about our environments without coming off like weirdo conspiracy theorists? To provide some historical context, here’s a little background on more instances of police and military involvement on campus. The series will include documentation of one recent incident of police brutality right outside a Harvard dorm. Decide for yourself whether it’s troubling. Continue reading

Free Speech At Harvard?

Hat tip to our friend Markus over at Dem Apples.

The Harvard Crimson is reporting that the American Civil Liberties Union has discovered that Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) runs a political spying unit. Aside from the meta-concerns like the fact that such a unit would presumably be reading this blog, this is a disturbing though not very surprising revelation.

I have heard stories from people who were involved in the 2001 Living Wage Campaign that corroborate such activity. During the time of the sit-in, campaigners had planned an action that was coordinated partially over email but not advertised publicly at all. When they showed up to the location of the action, HUPD was waiting for them. It seemed that the only way that HUPD could have known the action was taking place was if the authorities had been spying on the group, either electronically or by other means.

More shadiness of this kind took place during the Stand For Security Campaign last year. During the hunger strike and the daily actions that accompanied it, a plainclothes man with a nice camera was taking pictures of us almost every day. I went up to him one day to see what he was taking the pictures for and he told me that they were for the Harvard Gazette. I am sure the Harvard Gazette has photographers, but this guy was there almost every day and he was not taking pictures of things that you would really put into a magazine.

Whether these things are all connected or not, the fact remains that there is a dangerous culture here at Harvard around political speech. From HUPD’s political intelligence unit to arrests of activists (including last year’s arrest of students protesting FBI Director Mueller), Harvard is not a welcoming place for dissent outside of the prescribed (and controlled) “rational discourse.”

At the heart of the American academy there should be the widest latitude given to political dialogue, unfortunately most evidence shows that this is not the case. A group of students here at Harvard are beginning a campaign to broaden the range of free speech and democracy on campus. If you would like to get involved, email (but you might not want to use an Harvard email account lest HUPD and the FBI find out that you are a terrorist).