Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Friday!

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* Writing Climate Change: A Round Table Discussion. With Julie Bertagna, Tobias Buckell, Maggie Gee, Glenda Larke, Kim Stanley Robinson, Vandana Singh, and Joan Slonczewski.

* This much is for sure: Keeping the cost of borrowed money a bit lower for one more year won’t cure the rising cost of higher education. It’s not even a bandage. It’s more like giving some comforting words to a critically injured patient. It might make a few people feel better, or win some votes, but it won’t do much to help our problems.

* Today’s insane Kafkaesque nightmare: Frank Rodriguez is a registered sex offender because he slept with his high school girlfriend (now wife) fifteen years ago, when he was 19 and she was 16.

Once he was labeled a sex offender, Frank faced a slew of restrictions. “I couldn’t talk to Nikki. I couldn’t go to restaurants, public swimming pools, football games — any places where there might be kids,” he says. “I couldn’t vote. I couldn’t leave the county without permission. My probation officer told me, ‘If you even look at a woman the wrong way, you could go to prison.'”

Frank did not have to go to jail. Instead, he was required to perform 350 hours of community service — picking up trash, mowing lawns — and to attend weekly counseling courses with convicted sex offenders and pedophiles. He also had to move out of his family home, since a 12-year-old girl lived there: his own sister.

Despite the unusual circumstances, Nikki and Frank’s connection grew stronger. “We didn’t have anything — but we didn’t need anything,” Frank says. “We were together.” Nikki finished school, then got a job in the county courthouse, where she works today; she and Frank married two years later. The couple’s first daughter was born about two years after that. Since Frank was still on probation, it was illegal for him to live in the same home as his baby girl. So he lived there against the law, becoming withdrawn and paranoid, constantly worrying about getting arrested. “My personality changed,” he says. “I used to be the life of the party. Now I didn’t want to leave the house.” A second daughter arrived a year later.

In 2003, Frank’s probation came to an end, and he could legally live with his daughters. Still, he needed to go to the police station every year on his birthday to register as a sex offender. Nikki lobbied officials in the courthouse — judges, district attorneys — to clear Frank’s name, to no avail. Frank simply fell outside the parameters of Texas law, which stipulated that the accused had to be within three years of age of his underage sexual partner to avoid registration. Frank is three years and two months older than Nikki. A further element of the law said that the accused could avoid registration if he was under 19 years old and his partner was over 13 years old when they had sex. Nikki was 15. But Frank lost again: He was 19.

Nikki and Frank connected with activists, and traveled to the state capital to participate in a public hearing. Still, Frank remained on the Texas registry, his crime listed as “sexual assault of a child.”

Via Longform.org.

* F*ck the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

* Sometimes Dumb Science Turns Out to be Pretty Smart.

* Rebekah Sheldon preps us for the upcoming C21 Nonhuman Turn conference with “Affect, Epistemology and the Nonhuman Turn.”

* And Amendment One opponents are trending towards a heartbreakingly narrow defeat.

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