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The Banana Is Dead? Long Live the Banana!
By Heath Shive
There are 1,000 varieties of bananas. The banana we eat in America is the Cavendish banana – the world’s most popular banana.
Dan Koeppel – author of the book Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World – had a dire prediction. “There may be five or ten or thirty years left for our banana,” Koeppel wrote.
He wrote that 10 years ago.
Global banana production reached a record peak of 117 million metric tons in 2015, up from 68 million tons in 2000. Bananas are the world’s fourth most plentiful crop (after wheat, rice and corn).
So how is our doomed Cavendish banana doing now?
To the science!
The Cavendish Banana
Americans eat more Cavendish bananas than apples and oranges combined!
The Cavendish is the world’s favorite banana too. According to a FAO Report, Cavendish bananas make up 47 percent of global banana production – about 50 million metric tons every year!
The Cavendish banana has a magical mix of virtues. The Cavendish is more resilient than most bananas, which made it great for shipping. The Cavendish plant is shorter – so harvesting is easier and the plant more likely to survive tropical storm winds. And it is a big producer: on average, one hectare can produce 40 to 50 metric tons of fruit.
And it tastes great!
But once – according to legend – there was an even better banana.
The Gros Michel (“Big Mike”)
Before 1960, the Gros Michel (“Big Mike”) banana was the world’s favorite. You can see the Gros Michel in old movies and TV shows. Compared to the Cavendish, the Gros Michel was bigger, easier to ship, had a creamier texture, and the flavor was unbelievable!
But it wasn’t immune to the Panama disease – a soil-tainting fungus – which destroyed whole plantations.
By 1965, the Gros Michel had vanished from the world’s supermarkets.
The Cavendish was more resilient…until recently.
Trouble in Paradise
For two decades, Cavendish plantations have been struck down by a new variety of Panama disease called Tropical Race 4 (or TR4). There’s no cure. The fungus stays in the soil for decades.
No wonder Koeppel made his dire prediction.
And there didn’t seem to be a new banana variety that could take the Cavendish’s place.
The New Franken-Banana?
Koeppel did suggest – however reluctantly – a quicker solution. The Cavendish could be genetically modified to be more resistant to the new TR4 fungus. Genetically modified (GM) foods are unpopular globally, even banned in some countries. But Koeppel felt that there was no choice.
And behold, there’s a new GM Cavendish!
Last year, a group of scientists from Queensland University of Technology successfully created a stronger “transgenic” Cavendish. They spliced a gene from a TR4-resistant, wild banana species unto the Cavendish genome.
One line of GM Cavendish was disease-free for the 3 years of trials. And 3 other lines of GM Cavendish had a mortality rate of only 20% after 3 years. The normal Cavendish plants had a 67-100% mortality rate in the same time.
As bad as it sounds, losing the Cavendish wouldn’t be the end of America’s banana craving. Nature (and business) abhors a vacuum.
There are other sweet banana varieties in the world. For example, there are the Lakatan, the Latundan, and the Red Banana.
But I have loved the Cavendish my entire life. And there is no love quite like your first love.
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Koeppel, Dan. Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. Hudson Street Press, 2008.
Queensland University of Technology. "Saving cavendish: Panama disease-resistant bananas." ScienceDaily, 15 November 2017.
Mother Nature Mostly Hates Men: Mortality Science!
By Heath Shive
Back in 2000, psychiatrist Sebastian Kraemer wrote a paper for The British Medical Journal entitled “The Fragile Male.” It created quite a stir.
Men have a shorter average life expectancy than women. But Kraemer thought a male was inherently more likely to die from the very beginning – even in his mother’s womb!
Kraemer argued that many obstetric maladies – perinatal diseases, deformities, stillbirths, etc. – afflicted males much more than females. At birth, the ratio of males to females is roughly 105 to 100. Kraemer believed that the ratio at conception started about 120 to 100 – and then Nature started to cull off males.
To the science!
But That Changed
Recently, a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that fetal mortality isn't so simple.
The scientists analyzed 140,000 embryos (conceived by IVF or other technologies) in the first days after conception. Male embryos were more likely to be abnormal and so die a week or two after conception. At first, male mortality is higher.
But data from about 800,000 amniocentesis tests showed that between weeks 10-15 more female embryos are miscarried.
In the third trimester, male mortality rates accelerate.
But overall, female fetus mortality rates were slightly higher.
To be more specific, there would seem to be “different windows of vulnerability” for males and females during development.
Mortality by Gene-Based Behavior
After birth, male mortality rates exceed female rates – because of the consequences of risk-taking behavior. Evolutionary psychologists – like Glenn Geher and Scott Kaufman in their book Mating Intelligence Unleashed – believed that such risk-taking behaviors were intrinsic to men, written on their DNA, to display strength and virility to women.
Behaviors affect vulnerability to disease. Zhang et al (1995) showed men were more likely to die from most diseases (“total cardiovascular disease and cancer”).
In the U.S., homicide victims are 3 times more likely to be male than female. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men are 3 times more likely to commit suicide.
Whether from genes or gene-based behavior, from the womb to the tomb, men seem to be….more expendable to Nature.
According to a nursery rhyme, little boys are made of “snips and snails and puppy-dogs' tails.” Whatever men are made of…it’s perilous stuff.
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Kraemer S. (2000). The fragile male. British Medical Journal, 321, 1609–1612.
Geher, Glenn and Kaufman, Scott. Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love. Oxford University Press, 2013.
Lawlor D., Ebrahim S., Smith G. (2001). Sex matters: Secular and geographical trends in sex difference in coronary heart disease mortality. British Medical Journal, 323, 541-545.
Orzack, Steven Hecht, J. William Stubblefield, Viatcheslav R. Akmaev, Pere Colls, Santiago Munné, Thomas Scholl, David Steinsaltz, and James E. Zuckerman. The human sex ratio from conception to birth. PNAS April 21, 2015. 112 (16) E2102-E2111
Zhang X., Sasaki S., Kesteloot H. (1995). The sex ratio of mortality and its secular trends. International Journal of Epidemiology, 24, 720-729.
The Rise of the Singles! Alone But Not Lonely
by Heath Shive
More than 50 percent of American adults are single! And roughly one in every seven adults lives…alone.
People who live alone make up 28 percent of all U.S. households. More people live alone than in nuclear families, multigenerational families, or have roommates.
Sociologist Eric Klinenberg wrote a book on this phenomenon entitled “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.”
“Singletons” – as Klinenberg calls single people who live alone – are primarily women (about 17 million, compared to 14 million men). Over 15 million are middle-age adults between the ages of 35 and 64. The elderly make up 10 million. Young adults (ages 18-34) number more than 5 million – but they are the fastest-growing segment of singletons.
The Rise of the Singleton
According to Euromonitor International, the number of people living alone in the world has increased dramatically. In 1996, 153 million people lived alone. By 2006, that number was 202 million – an increase of 33 percent in one decade!
In 1950, 22 percent of American adults were single, Klinenberg reports. Today, that number is 50 percent.
In 1950, 9 percent of the population lived alone. Today, 28 percent of America lives alone.
This isn’t just an American trend.
Germany, France, and the United Kingdom all have a greater proportion of one-person households than the United States! So do Australia and Canada.
And the nations with the fastest growth in one-person households?
China, India, and Brazil.
Is This a Problem?
Obviously, singletons are increasing. But is this good or bad?
Unfortunately, as Klinenberg writes, when there is a public debate about the rise of living alone, “commentators tend to present it as an unmitigated social problem, a sign of narcissism, fragmentation, and a diminished public life.”
What is driving the widespread rise in living alone? Simply put, more people live alone because they can afford it.
But something is being lost, right? Not necessarily. The four countries with the highest rates of living alone are Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark – where roughly 40 to 45 percent of all households have just one person. By investing in each other’s social welfare and affirming their bonds of mutual support, the Scandinavians have freed themselves to be on their own.
The pioneer sociologist Emile Durkheim talked about the “cult of the individual,” which he said grew out of the transition from traditional rural communities to modern industrial cities.
But Durkheim also argued that the modern division of labor would bind citizens organically! In other words, you cannot live alone in a vacuum – society must have the institutions (family, economy, effective state policy) to create this environment. Singletons must invest in a strong society for their own sake.
Isn’t this what we see in growing gentrification? The renaissance of America’s downtowns?
How many of the divorced and separated have told you this truth? It is lonelier to live with the wrong person than to live alone.
The evidence suggests that people who live alone compensate by becoming more socially active than those who live with others, and that cities with high numbers of singletons enjoy a thriving public culture.
You can be alone, but you don’t have to be lonely.
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Klinenberg, Eric. Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. Penguin Press, 2012.
Vespa, Jonathon, Jamie M. Lewis, and Rose M. Kreider. United States, U.S. Census Bureau. America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012. Issued August 2013.
You Only Know 150 People! This Is Good for Your Wedding List
By Heath Shive
According to The Knot 2016 Real Wedding Study, a wedding’s average size is 141 guests. It was 136 guests in their 2014 Real Wedding Study, down from 149 guests in 2009.
In fact, you should probably just round up to 150. Why?
Because you only really “know” about 150 people in your life.
It’s called Dunbar’s number.
Don’t believe me?
To the science!
In the 1990s, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar studied primates and found that there was a correlation between the size of the primate’s neocortex and how large their group size was. Using data from 38 primate genera, Dunbar predicted a human “mean group size” of 148 (casually rounded to 150).
So according to Dunbar, a human can comfortably maintain only 150 stable relationships. Dunbar explained it informally as “the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.”
Dunbar’s number suggests that there’s an upper limit to how many people you can form stable social relationships (i.e., you maintain the relationship).
Dunbar went on to connect his number with historical antecedents. For example, 150 is the estimated size of a Neolithic farming village. The upper limit of a Roman century was 150. The size of a modern infantry company is 150.
And the size of an average wedding is around 150.
Malcolm Gladwell discusses Dunbar’s number in his best-selling book “The Tipping Point.” Gladwell used the company W.L. Gore and Associates (best known for Gore-Tex) as an example. The company’s management found that if more than 150 employees worked in one building, social problems began to multiply. So W.L. Gore and Associates operates company offices in buildings that have a 150 employee limit. When the office gets too big, they just set up the next 150 employees in another building!
We tend to think of the brain as infinite and boundless. But we’re only human. There is a limit to what we can do and maintain in our brains.
There’s only so much time to involve your life with only so many people.
Aren’t weddings bad enough to plan already? Keeping that number down to who you really love (and who love you) isn’t just about numbers. It’s about good living.
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Dunbar, Robin. Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language. Harvard University Press, 2000.
Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping – How Little Things Make a Big Difference. Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
Dunbar, R.I.M. (1992). “Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates.” Journal of Human Evolution. 22 (6): 469-493.
The Knot Wedding Study numbers for 2016 were taken from XOGroup Inc. https://xogroupinc.com/press-releases/theknot2016realweddings_costofweddingsus/
The Knot Wedding Study data was taken from PRSNewswire: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-knot-the-1-wedding-site-releases-2014-real-weddings-study-statistics-300049675.html
Fifteen Pretty Cool Facts About Pumpkins
America is pretty pumpkin-crazy from September through November. In 2012, American Studies Professor Cindy Ott wrote an exhaustive book entitled Pumpkins: The Curious History of an American Icon - which details how the pumpkin went from poor people's food to an autumn idol of Americana.
From her book, here are some facts for your pumpkin “fix.”
To celebrate the autumn holidays and seasonal cheer, there will be more “Pumpkin Blogs” in the weeks ahead…as a spice, not a new theme.
We’re still a science blog, of course.
Ott, Cindy. Pumpkins: The Curious History of an American Icon.University of Washington Press, 2012.
Can a car make you more attractive?
The American political satirist and author P.J. O’Rourke famously quipped, “There are a number of mechanical devices that increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief amongst these is the Mercedes-Benz 380L convertible.”
At first, O’Rourke sounds condescending, using a sexist stereotype. But like all stereotypes, it is right…until it’s wrong.
Let’s go to the science!
The Dunn-Searle Experiment
In 2010, researchers Michael J. Dunn and Robert Searle experimented with cars and sex appeal. They used two cars: a silver Bentley Continental GT and a red Ford Fiesta ST. The Bentley is a very expensive, high-status car. The Ford Fiesta is neither. A man and a woman (of “matched attractiveness”) were photographed – individually – seated in each of the two cars.
Dunn and Searle then questioned the study participants – 240 men and women between the ages of 21 and 40 – and asked them to rate the attractiveness of the opposite sex in either the Bentley or the Ford Fiesta.
The psychologists discovered that, on the whole, women rated the same man more attractive when he was in the Bentley than when he was in the Ford. Conversely, men did not rate the same woman more attractive just because she was in a higher-status car! "Males...are oblivious to such cues" is how the study reported it.
To quote psychologist Gad Saad: Drive a hot car and you’ll be perceived as hot, but only if you are a man.
The Hot-or-Not Experiment
The Hot or Not website (HotOrNot.com) lets people upload pictures so that each photo can be rated for its “hotness.” In a 2010 study, psychologists Greg Shuler and David McCord also wanted to test the connection between cars and sex appeal. Would a man’s “hotness” vary depending on his vehicle? The researchers tested four photos of the same man – but in each photo he was either by himself alone or photographed beside one of three vehicles of varying status and price. The man was rated as more “hot” when he was next to a Mercedes C Class C300 – the most expensive of the vehicles in the study – than when he was alone or next to the Dodge Neon.
Again to quote Gad Saad: hot cars translate into hot men.
Or do they?
Why the Car Does Not Make the Man
The glib conclusions I quoted above are from a book entitled “The Consuming Instinct” by Gad Saad – a noted psychologist and blogger. I do not drive a “high status” car, and I have to admit I was dejected after the reading.
But Saad’s conclusions weren’t the whole story.
When I actually read the paper by Dunn and Searle, I noticed something else. When I looked at Figure 3 in their published paper I saw a graph of their data results.
Women who saw the picture of the man in the Ford Fiesta rated him as roughly a 6 (on a 10-point scale) in attractiveness. In the Bentley, he was rated roughly a 7.
The male was only “hotter” by one point! Not much, especially when you consider the staggering price of a Bentley at about $150,000 (₤60,000)!
I think Gad Saad sacrificed scientific accuracy in an attempt to appear…glib.
The more accurate conclusion would be: most women rate a man only one notch higher if he’s driving a very expensive car.
Is it worth a hellish car payment on a rapidly depreciating asset to be one notch better looking?
I’m sure more money can get you more things like cars, admirers, lovers, sycophants, etc. I’m also sure that if you had more corn you could attract more pigs. Question is: why do you want pigs?
So remember, you don’t need an expensive car to go up one meager notch in a someone's estimation. Improve your confidence. Polish your manners. Exercise. Learn to dance. Do interesting things. Volunteer. Or ask them what they want in Life.
You’ll probably go up one more notch in their eyes….and you’ll avoid an awful car payment.
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Dunn, Michael J. and Robert Searle. “Effect of Manipulated Prestige-Car Ownership on Both Sex Attractiveness Ratings.” British Journal of Psychology 101 (2010): 69-80. Accessed 26 August 2017 via semanticsscholar.org.
Saad, Gad. The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal about Human Nature. Prometheus Books, 2011.
Shuler, Gregory A. and David M. McCord. “Determinants of Male Attractiveness: ‘Hotness’ Ratings as a Function of Perceived Resources.” American Journal of Psychological Research 6 no. 1 (2010): 10-23. Accessed 26 August 2017 via mcneese.edu.
Did you know that the world was running out of helium?
Back in 2012, an article in Popular Mechanics magazine prophesied a coming global helium shortage. Many other sources agreed. But things have taken an optimistic tone of late.
Is Helium Rare?
Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe! But on Earth, helium is relatively rare. Helium makes up 5 parts per million of our atmosphere. Pretty low, right? In the earth’s crust, helium is only 8 parts per billion!
Helium is made by the breakdown of radioactive material – mostly uranium – in the earth’s crust. The breakdown is composed of alpha particles – which are basically helium nuclei (2 protons, 2 neutrons). Eventually, helium makes its way to groundwater and natural gas.
Natural gas deposits are the world’s source of helium. America’s natural gas deposits are especially helium-rich. The United States produces over half of the world’s helium, according to the USGS.
The Helium Shortage?
The U.S. National Helium Reserve at one time had over a billion cubic meters of helium, about half of the world’s reserves. The Reserve was founded in the 1920s, to be used in the nation’s (largely imaginary) fleet of airships. The Reserve was later used in the Cold War for rocket-fuel for nuclear missiles and spacecraft. The Reserve was comprised of five production plants and over 400 miles of pipes.
But that’s a lot of equipment to maintain. After the Cold War, the Reserve became too expensive and racked up over a $1 billion in debt. So in 1996, Congress decided to sell off the helium. Everything must go! The price of helium plummeted. Uses increased as prices decreased. It was so cheap, no one bothered with recycling.
Later, fear began to settle in the hearts of the scientific world. Helium is used in many scientific applications – like MRIs, industrial welding, fiber optic production, rocket fuel, etc. It is not what you would call a renewable resource. It escapes into outer space and is lost forever.
Helium Sales Today
So Congress changed its mind. In 2013, Congress passed the Helium Stewardship Act. In a nutshell, there are auction sales now – with a lot of legal hoopla – that now establish a better market price for helium, and in the process, spur private industry to start to pick up the slack. This will help pay off the Reserve’s debt faster. But there won’t be much of the Reserve left afterwards.
The Reserve’s size has diminished from over a billion cubic feet to less than 250 million cubic feet, according to the Bureau of Land Management’s last estimates. According to an article in the New York Times, the Reserve most likely won’t survive another 5 or 6 years.
So Now What
All is not lost, however. The shortage has inspired a lot of “helium prospecting.” According to a Newsweek article, a “world-class” natural gas field in Tanzania has an estimated recovery of over 54 billion cubic feet of helium. According to a press release by the European Association of Geochemistry, researchers in the western U.S. and Canada believe that the helium potential in wells has been greatly underestimated. For that matter, helium recycling is beginning to be a scientific norm. And the rising price of helium (doubling in the last 15 years) will create its own momentum for conservation.
The National Helium Reserve was fixture in the scientific community for almost a century. Its depletion created a huge, unnatural drop in helium prices. The new price shock – and ideas of shortage – are a natural result of the new market equilibrium. On the positive side, this could inspire not only new conservation and appreciation of this remarkable resource, but could also be the beginning of a new age of earth exploration…and a greater understanding of our natural world.
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As stated in the previous blog, the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly one in three working adult Americans has a criminal record.
Nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males are arrested by the age of 23.
Likely, this will impact your future job prospects and finances.
So, how do you keep from getting arrested in the first place?
Start With the Obvious
Street cops make the majority of arrests. So worry about street cops.
Now for the obvious: don’t text and drive, don’t drive drunk, don’t drive with an illegal weapon, don’t run red lights, don’t speed, don’t drive recklessly, and don’t drive with your drugs in the car (keep your prescription meds in their prescribed bottle!).
Appearances Are Important!
D.L. Hughley – comedian and social commentator – wrote a book entitled “I Want You To Shut the F- Up.” In the very first chapter, he warned his son Kyle about “wearing his pants hanging off his ass.” Hughley warned his son that he was “sending out the wrong kind of message.” Later, Kyle was accosted wrongfully in a high-end jewelry store – a store that had had a relationship with the Hughley family for fifteen years!
Kyle was a good kid. But the only people who knew that were his mom and dad! Hughley wanted to raise his son to face the world as it is, not the world he wants it to be.
You’re judged on your appearance. Deal with it.
Keep your car and hygiene clean. Prejudice against the poor is universal because poor people are desperate and do desperate things. Don’t put effects on your car because they draw attention. Don’t have pot-leafs on your tattoos, t-shirts, or bumper stickers! You’re begging to be pulled over.
Be careful about tattoos! All thugs, cons, gangsters, and skinheads get tattoos. It’s part of the lifestyle. Can you be a good person with a tattoo? Of course. But like Hughley’s son found out, the cops don’t know you! And tattoos don’t look innocent at 2 in the morning when you're pulled over.
You’re Pulled Over – Now What?
Like Hughley tells his son, keep your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. It shows the cops that “you’re housebroken.”
No delusions! At this point – YOU HAVE NO POWER! Cops demand respect at all times. Be polite. The cop could be a saint or a devil. Be polite. Don’t move unless given permission. The cop could be courteous or obnoxious. Either way, be polite. You’ll have plenty of time to curse him when you’re home!
Never give a ride to your buddies if they’re potheads. You get pulled over. Your “friend” hides the weed. Now the cops own your car thanks to civil forfeiture.
Never, ever touch a cop for any reason! It’s automatically assault.
“Society will tell you that the more you talk to the police, the better…That’s not true,” writes Hughley.
“You have the right to remain silent.” But don’t stonewall a cop; you’ll make him angry. As Dale Carson – a former vice cop with Miami-Dade and author of the book “Arrest-Proof Yourself” – tells us: just give your name and basic info….then shut up. Don’t speak unless spoken to. The more you talk, the more pathetic or guilty you look.
When pressed with a question you can’t handle, here are Carson’s magic words mixed with Hughley’s wisdom: “OFFICER, I RESPECT YOU VERY MUCH AND WHAT YOU DO, AND I’D LIKE TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS, BUT MY ATTORNEYS TOLD ME THAT IN A SITUATION LIKE THIS, I SHOULD NOT SAY ANYTHING UNLESS THEY ARE PRESENT.”
This respectfully ends the questioning. And let’s the cop think you have a lawyer. By the way…
Get a Lawyer’s Card!
Street cops may not be political, but their superiors are (or they wouldn’t get promoted). The more connected you make yourself look, the harder you seem to arrest. Don’t say something stupid like, “I know people in this town!” You’ll make the cop angry. Nobody thinks when they’re angry. You want your cop to think and be reasonable!
How do you communicate your credentials without a word? Carson’s “best credentials” are your ID, the card of a criminal defense attorney, and…the card of a cop-buddy you know.
Cops are very fraternal. They hate to piss off other cops. Cards let the officer know that you’re connected. Credentials tend to stop the barrage of questions.
Paperclip your business cards to your registration or insurance card. The cop will look at them. Cops are always curious.
But when all else fails…
Ask For The Magic Ticket!
You’ll never see this on an episode of “Cops” because the cameras are rolling, but any officer can give you a Notice to Appear in lieu of an arrest.
A Notice to Appear (abbreviated NOA, or sometimes NTA) is a citation that requires you to appear in court. You’re not arrested because you’re promising to appear in court instead. You can still be convicted in court, but it gives you time to lawyer up and beg the judge to dismiss charges or issue a citation instead of a felony. The best part is that you were never arrested, never fingerprinted, and never had a mug shot. Thus you don’t have an arrest record!
The NOA is a wonderful thing! It’s the juiciest tidbit in this article. When there’s nothing left between you and the backseat of a squad car, beg for a NOA! Let the cop impound your car. That way the cop makes points with his supervisor. The impound fees are far cheaper than legal fees! Just please give me that NOA!
As of July 1, 2015, more than 70 million people have records indexed by the III, the Interstate Identification Index used by the FBI. And that arrest record will be there forever.
To quote Dale C. Carson: “You can never pay your debt to society because society, with its computers, never forgets and never forgives.”
An arrest record doesn’t ruin your life necessarily, but it will always be there to diminish your prospects and power. A record makes life harder, when it’s hard enough already.
If you can’t be a saint, be smart. If you can’t be smart, be respectful. These are the rules when dealing with cops. These are good rules for life!
Caron, Dale C., and Wes Dunham. Arrest-proof Yourself. Chicago Review Press, 2006.
Hughley, D. L., and Michael Malice. I Want You To Shut the F#ck Up: How the Audacity Of Dopes Is Ruining America. Crown Archetype, 2012.
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According to a Wall Street Journal article, nearly one-third of the adult working age population has a criminal record. One in three has a rap sheet.
Criminology professor Robert Brame and his colleagues discovered that nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males are arrested by the age 23.
A Little Arrest Can Be a Big Deal
Watching TV, movies, or bad stand-up comedy, you would think that an arrest is no big deal, maybe even be a little adventurous.
No! The moment you are booked, a record of your arrest is sent to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. There your arrest is entered into the Interstate Identification Index, where each person is assigned a unique identification number that indexes all state records existing for that person.
“There is no clean slate in the era of computers. You can never pay your debt to society because society, with its computers, never forgets and never forgives” writes Dale C. Carson, author of the book “Arrest-Proof Yourself.”
Arrests are matter of public record in many states. In my home state, our DMV offers arrest record searches for free.
An arrest is NOT the same as a conviction. You know that. I know that. But depending on the prejudice of someone reading your arrest record, then an arrest may be tantamount to a conviction.
Every Arrest Has Consequences
A 2012 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, found that 86 percent of employers use criminal background checks on at least some candidates, with the majority (69 percent) checking all candidates.
How many job applications have you filled out that have a box next to the words: “Have you ever been arrested for a serious crime?” Not convicted, just arrested. It’s reasonable to acknowledge that checking that box reduces your appeal.
Could you still get the job? Of course! One-third of this country has an arrest record! Your own boss might have an arrest record! But you’ve lost an important edge.
But There’s Hope
“Legislators and private sector employers are recognizing the futility of chasing ghosts in prospective employees’ pasts and are beginning to adopt common-sense reforms,” writes Matthew Friedman, an Economic Fellow for The Brennan Center for Justice. Friedman has also authored a report “Just Facts: As Many Americans Have Criminal Records As College Diplomas,” which is a must-read for arrest analysis.
A 2017 report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) lists 27 states that have adopted a “ban-the-box” policy for state employment. There are 9 states that have mandated the removal of conviction history questions from job applications for private employers also.
These laws recognize that discriminating on the basis of an arrest record makes little sense.
Some private employers, like Koch Industries, have removed conviction history questions of their own volition.
Conclusion (Part 1)
On the bright side, in the majority of the country, you have every reason to hope for a good job yet – even with an arrest record.
But like my dad used to say, “It’s easier to stay out of trouble, then get out of trouble.”
So how do you prevent your arrest in the first place?
That will be explored in next week’s blog, Make Yourself Arrest-Proof! (Part 2).
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Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.