Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scary Budget Woes Would Trump Human Rights of Homeless Children and Criminalize Homeless Parents

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homeless woman pleads not guilty
to stealing son's education

from Jacqueline Dowd

Moments before going into court McDowell appeared before a phalanx of cameras and reporters in Norwalk, Connecticut.

The homeless woman accused of stealing more than $15,000 from Norwalk taxpayers for sending her 5-year-old son to a city elementary school has pleaded not guilty.

Tanya McDowell, 33, is facing up to 20 years in jail on first-degree larceny and conspiracy charges. The case was continued until May 11.

Defense attorney Darnell Crosland said McDowell was undeniably homeless when she enrolled her son at the school and he should have been allowed to remain there, according to federal law.

Read the Stamford Advocate report here. And see previous post here. posted by Jacqueline Dowd @ 2:59 PM

Linda's Hearth note: This reporter is a 'poverty lawyer' who also teaches law, in Orlando, Florida. Her blog deserves our support: The 13th Juror

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Peace Camp 2010 Defendants in Court~~ Homeless Not Helpless

Trial Begins for Six Peace Camp 2010 "Lodgers"

dateline ~ Santa Cruz ~ Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day Two for six Peace Camp 2010 survivors: legal agents are still picking jurors and their understudies.

The Honorable Judge John Gallagher predicted this Lodging trial could take up to two weeks. Attorney Ed Frey is representing himself and five other brave, persisting defendants; one person is MIA and the four others are stuck sitting all day, backs against the courthouse wall to Judge's left, watching these proceedings.

California Superior Court of Santa Cruz County, Dept 2, 701 Ocean St. Not a lot revealed so far. The trial resulted from last summer's ongoing demonstration and protest over anti-sleeping laws used to render homeless people into criminals, for sleeping at night. After more than a month, Santa Cruz County's Sheriff was pressured to "clean up" the demo-campers, and so he authorized ticketing sweeps. Groups of Deputies came, first with City of Santa Cruz sleep ban citations, then with California's quit broad lodging law, 647(e).

The demonstration changed but did not go away until weeks into this sudden criminalization in the very place locals gather to redress their government, to inform the general public, and to share their grievances: the lawn and walkway, under the US and California flags, in front of the Courthouse. Next door to the County Government Building.

As I noted earlier somewhere, a Necessity Defense will be allowed for this "lodging" trial. Necessity, related to homeless defendants in California, is a strictly defined list of qualities required to be met (proved), to demonstrate one has NO other sleepy-time recourse besides sleeping outside (in public). This trial will likely have five necessity defense presentations.

In the past three decades, the growing body of clinical evidence regarding harm resulting from a person not getting enough sleep has been glossed over or prevented outright, in courtroom efforts I've witnessed over three decades, and in general around these selectively administered anti-sleeping laws.

In my view, one of the hurdles is trying to get the judges and commissioners, or occasionally a jury, to UNDERSTAND we are not concerned about a one-time, middle-class outing, here; like say boy scouts camping with their telescopes, or Faire merchants guarding their wares and their generators or stoves or tents along the riverside before the show.

I get concerned about this TREND of making criminals out of individuals, groups and throngs of people who's every single day is at best ten times more difficult and critical and immediate than most folks', and who's nights are a rigged crap shoot of options for the thirty people in every thousand (around here) of sleeping on somebody's couch or back porch, or of getting rolled and robbed in their sleep by a lost drunk or crushed in a municipal recycling truck. Or committing suicide because they have become isolated for way too long. Yes, I am saying about thirty known-to-be homeless people out of each thousand manage to come up with an alternative to hiding all night.

I become concerned when I meet the huge numbers of women in their 40s who lost their stable housing simply because they were faced with urgent medical needs but had no kind of insurance at their jobs, forced to hide now; or upon seeing already disabled people who cannot round up a landlord and all the trimmings by themselves, despite their fixed incomes, thus being put at greater risk because we shun them at every turn.

I'm trying to say for every "bum" and "ingrate on the sidewalk"we experience, there are hundreds of other folks (who also happen to be homeless) whom you'd recognize as fellow humans if you would only see them: going to work, caring for their kids, studying for their midterms at the cafe with a laptop just like housed dudes, fixing their friend's bike, paying their taxes, and trying to clean things up 'round about themselves, no matter where they land.

Our government could not get away with this total failure of social policy -- creating ever greater homelessness while our banks empty our homes they are not able to sell -- if we were not parties to it's creation. It's called tossing the baby out with the bathwater. It is most certainly NOT Christian to blame a whole sub-population for the actions of a few jerks, whether those jerks are the golden-parachute banking crooks or the hustling street rejects who act out our shadow fears: homeless does not mean "bum", homeless does not mean "thief."

Maybe if we could all stop using the word homeless as a euphemism, and start naming the behaviors that we actually fear or loath, our own eyes could acclimate to notice homeless PEOPLE? But I digress. Remember the movie, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" (Memory wants me to believe it featured a young Jane Fonda, but...)

Struggling around this latest cattle prod, the Lodging Law, alongside the City of Santa Cruz's camping/sleeping ban, and just like many new municipal and national ordinances across the land exhausts everyone involved. A little widespread integrity could help us cure these efforts at legal trickery as banishment and selective enforcement, with it's dishonest underpinnings. We are leaving innocent people to suffer and die in the dark so we don't have to face our own flawed assumptions, just to forestall our collective discomfort for all the wrong reasons.

We need to become more aware of our own and other people's human rights.

It is, simply, wrong to make sleeping illegal. None of the pop excuses hold water, they're just exhortations of fear. The more US Americans get downsized while we ignore and deny our role as citizens in our own economic sinkhole, the sooner what I'm saying will become self-evident.

Meanwhile, here's hoping it's not YOUR uncle who gets his pack stolen because he fell asleep, losing YOUR phone number again, and here's hoping it's not YOUR granny who gives up and goes to sleep for the last time, in the muddy river tonite.

First Day of the Santa Cruz PeaceCamp2010 Trial:




Posted by: "Robert Norse"

Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:06 pm (PDT)

http://www.indybay. org/newsitems/ 2011/04/24/ 18677936. php?show_ comments= 1#18678059

(For a description of the charges and listing of the defendants, go to the website above and read the main story)

First Day of Trial
by Robert Norse

Monday Apr 25th, 2011 9:59 PM


The courtroom was crowded with jury members who were questioned mostly
by the judge. Judge Gallagher began to bemoaning his overcrowded court
schedule with the shutdown of several Watsonville courts and the
diversion of drug cases into his court. This overcrowded court lament
of course, would have been a perfect reason to drop these cases, had
Gallagher actually been serious.

In fact, Gallagher's
explanation was an attempt to head off what developed later in the
day--jury resentment at the D.A.'s decision to prosecute and the judge's
dignifying the prosecution with trial what are essentially homeless
cases that really are immediately dismissable under the Necessity
Defense (that the defendants needed to sleep somewhere, and nowhere on
public property was legal in the city). Why waste everyone's time
(thousands of man-hours if you count jury time) in justifying
politically motivated 647e arrests (of which there were 40)?

Most of them went to Failure to Appear since homeless people can't
afford the luxury of middle-class court appearance games when survival
sleep is the issue. Which means more work for the deputies and police
and deeper disability for the homeless people so stigmatized and

A bizarre case
from the beginning. Judge Gallagher acknowledged from the getgo that
the deputies had "allowed" the protesters to camp in front of the
courthouse for a month, but suddenly decided it was "lodging" in early
August, without there being any change in the law, the signage, or
direction from the Board of Supervisors. What suddenly became illegal
in early August that was legal throughout July?

The judge did
make a show of egalitarianism and respect for the jury by coming down
off the bench, standing by the door as the jurors came in, commending
them, reassuring them, offering to answer any questions throughout by
raised hands. He didn't advise them, of course, of their right to jury
independence or nullification- -that they are the final judges of the
facts and the law.

The case would turn, the judge said, on the
prosecution' s proving "beyond a reasonable doubt" that (a) the
defendants "lodged" (in being present at night on the county courthouse
steps with political signs against the Sleeping Ban), many of them
sleeping there overnight, and (b) the defendants didn't have
"permission" to be there (on what supposedly public property which
wasn't posted with closing hours).


I did hear some remarkable statements by a couple of potential jury
members that they felt the entire trial was a waste of taxpayer time and
money as well as citizen time.

One woman, who said she been
the foreperson of a previous jury said she couldn't sit on this one
impartially because she felt the whole thing was such a colossal waste
of time plus the fact that she saw police wasting still money issuing
harassment tickets (as to her two teenage sons) and then ignoring real
robberies such as happened to her.

Two other male jury panel
members said they'd either lived in their own vehicles in the past and
seen the extent of police harassment and were familiar with it, and so
couldn't be a part of the trial.

Scores of people were being
pulled away from their work, their families, their livelihoods to punish
homeless people for publicly and peacefully protesting the city and
county anti-homeless laws and establish the kind of safe sleeping zone
that the city and county refused to establish.

There were
others who said they were too hostile to the "homeless by choice" and
those who were "manipulating a political agenda" or too friendly with
the police to sit on the jury.


Expected are thirty prosecution witnesses, almost all of them Sheriff's
Deputies and SCPD officers--who will be called away from their work in
this costly and time-consuming punitive exercise to punish protesters
for insisting on raising issues that city and county officials don't
like to think about and have refused to address.

Gallagher was
the same judge who had denied attorney Ed Frey's claim that the law
(647e) was itself overbroad. Overbreadth in Gallagher's court is
apparently a virtue for the judge, who told a potential juror,
"lodging" means "staying without permission virtually anywhere".

The notion that police can order us away from public property if we
don't have "permission" to be there, should raise alarm bells in any
member of the community, but to the homeless it cuts especially deep.
For those who are holding a picket sign, it's doubly abusive--since it
means we don't have First Amendment right son any public property unless
we're given "permission" .

Sounds a little like Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. perhaps?

I left around 2:30 PM and understand the jury selection process continued through the afternoon.

I was told it resumes tomorrow at 11 AM, and is slated to go until 4:30 PM with a lunch break from noon to 1:30 PM.

The case is likely to take two weeks, the judge told the jury panel.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Creative Brain -- how is it different from most of our brains?

why some people are creative

from for April 25, 2011

In today's excerpt - many highly creative people behave in ways that are viewed as eccentric. Why? Researchers are finding that their creativity and their eccentricity are rooted in the same cause - a diminished ability to filter out nearly as much of the constant stream of information as the average person, and thus the need to process and organize this information in untypical ways. The term for this trait is "cognitive disinhibition":

"Many highly creative people [display] personal behavior [that] sometimes strikes others as odd. Albert Einstein picked up cigarette butts off the street to get tobacco for his pipe; Howard Hughes spent entire days on a chair in the middle of the supposedly germ-free zone of his Beverly Hills Hotel suite; the composer Robert Schumann believed that his musical compositions were dictated to him by Beethoven and other deceased luminaries from their tombs; and Charles Dickens is said to have fended off imaginary urchins with his umbrella as he walked the streets of London. ...

"In fact, creativity and eccentricity often go hand in hand, and researchers now believe that both traits may be a result of how the brain filters incoming information. Even in the business world, there is a growing appreciation of the link between creative thinking and unconventional behavior, with increased acceptance of the latter. ...

"In the past few decades psychologists and other scientists have explored the connection using empirically validated measures of both creativity and eccentricity. To measure creativity, researchers may look at an individual's record of creative achievements, his or her involvement in creative activities or ability to think creatively (for example, to come up with new uses for ordinary household items). To measure eccentricity, researchers often use scales that assess schizotypal personality. ... Schizotypal personality is a milder version of the clinical psychiatric condition called schizotypal personality disorder, which is among a cluster of personality disorders labeled 'odd or eccentric' in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. ... Not all schizotypal people have a personality disorder, however. They are often very high functioning, talented and intelligent. Many of my students at Harvard University, for example, score far above average on schizotypal scales, as well as on creativity and intelligence measures. ...

"My research suggests that these manifestations of schizotypal personality in and of themselves do not promote creativity; certain cognitive mechanisms that may underlie eccentricity could also promote creative thinking, however. In my model of how creativity and eccentricity are related, I theorize that one of these underlying mechanisms is a propensity for cognitive disinhibition. ...

"Cognitive disinhibition is the failure to ignore information that is irrelevant to current goals or to survival. We are all equipped with mental filters that hide most of the processing that goes on in our brains behind the scenes. So many signals come in through our sensory organs, for example, that if we paid attention to all of them we would be overwhelmed. Furthermore, our brains are constantly accessing imagery and memories stored in our mental files to process and decode incoming information. Thanks to cognitive filters, most of this input never reaches conscious awareness. There are individual differences in how much information we block out, however; both schizotypal and schizophrenic individuals have been shown to have reduced functioning of one of these cognitive filters, called latent inhibition (LI). Reduced LI appears to increase the amount of unfiltered stimuli reaching our conscious awareness and is associated with offbeat thoughts and hallucinations. ...

"Reduced cognitive filtering could explain the tendency of highly creative people to focus intensely on the content of their inner world at the expense of social or even self-care needs. (Beethoven, for example, had difficulty tending to his own cleanliness.) When conscious awareness is overpopulated with unusual and unfiltered stimuli, it is difficult not to focus attention on that inner universe. In 2003 my colleague Jordan Peterson and I reported [that] ... we think that the reduction in cognitive inhibition allows more material into conscious awareness that can then be reprocessed and recombined in novel and original ways, resulting in creative ideas. ...

"A brain-imaging study, done in 2010 by investigators at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, suggests the propensity for both creative insights and schizotypal experiences may result from a specific configuration of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. Using positron-emission tomography, Örjan de Manzano, Fredrik Ullén and their colleagues examined the density of dopamine D2 receptors in the subcortical region of the thalamus in 14 subjects who were tested for divergent-thinking skills. The results indicate that thalamic D2 receptor densities are diminished in subjects with high divergent-thinking abilities, similar to patterns found in schizophrenic subjects in previous studies. The researchers believe that reduced dopamine binding in the thalamus, found in both creative and schizophrenic subjects, may decrease cognitive filtering and allow more information into conscious awareness.

"Clearly, however, not all eccentric individuals are creative. Work from our lab indicates that other cognitive factors, such as high IQ and high working memory capacity, enable some people to process and mentally manipulate extra information without being overwhelmed by it. Through a series of studies, we have, in fact, shown that a combination of lower cognitive inhibition and higher IQ is associated with higher scores on a variety of creativity measures. The shared vulnerability model suggests that at least a subgroup of highly creative individuals may share some (but not all) biological vulnerability factors with individuals who suffer from psychotic illnesses, such as schizophrenia. This vulnerability may allow the highly creative person access to ideas and thoughts that are inaccessible to those of us with less porous mental filters."
Author: Shelley Carson
Title: "The Unleashed Mind"
Publisher: Scientific American Mind
Date: May/June 2011
Pages: 22-29

About Us is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

Linda's Hearth note: I finally found someone with professional status and the credentials of scientific systems who is able to say what I, myself, have been trying to articulate. I believe many of the people we typically call "sensitive" have this quality of filtering/depth which Shelley Carson is talking about here, and in her coming book, "The Unleashed Mind."

I have other beliefs -- based in the same observations and study of my fellow humans -- that compliment this one, too. For example, I am convinced that the more rigid an environment we subject ourselves and our young to, the harder it is for these "sensitives" amongst us to develop strategies for coping and being creative. More reverie must be allowed in our children's lives, just as more contact with the natural world is needed, or this great capacity will be turned into self-destructive development (and potentially outwardly directed destruction).

Having said all this, I should sidestep Carson's the final statement in this excerpt: I'd avoid the word "access" in favor of a more open term regarding where thoughts come from.