Wandering Eye: NYT exposes three-quarter houses, Supreme Court rules on rap lyrics, and more

The New York Times had an exposé Sunday of the "three-quarter houses" that recovering drug addicts rely on for cheap, subsidized housing. The main victim was forced to go back on heroin in order to keep his shoddy housing so his landlord could keep bilking Medicaid for his treatment. The landlord is a felon with a lot of houses full of bunk beds, plus a very nice home of his own and a Mercedes Benz in the driveway, who denies bilking Medicaid. The next day, Mayor Bill DiBlasio pledged an investigation into the abuses, which naturally worried advocates for the poor: "The constant fear is that this can cause immediate homelessness," said Paulette Soltani, who works with tenants as part of the Three-Quarter House Tenant Organizing Project. The whole pattern—the forced relapses, the kickbacks and alleged Medicaid fraud—looks very familiar to those with experience in Baltimore's drug-treatment underworld. Surely it's a coincidence. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Previously, City Paper has written about how local rapper Young Moose has been targeted by police for references to drug dealing in his lyrics and videos. This seemed of a piece with an alarming legal trend of rap lyrics being used as evidence in court proceedings. Yesterday, however, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the conviction of a Pennsylvania man, Anthony Douglas Elonis, who made Facebook posts with rap lyrics that "suggested killing his estranged wife, federal law enforcement officials and even a kindergarten class," according to a report in The Washington Post. The American Civil Liberties Union's legal director, Steven R. Shapiro, praised the decision, telling the Post the law "for centuries required the government to prove criminal intent before putting someone in jail. That principle is especially important when a prosecution is based on a defendant's words" and later adding, "The Internet does not change this long-standing rule." Mai Fernandez, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, said the court's decision could make it harder to prosecute domestic violence cases. "The Internet is the crime scene of the 21st century. The laws governing social media require swift interpretation to keep pace with the ever-advancing criminal activity in this space," she said. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote a concurring opinion with the majority's but complained the decision left too many open questions. The Post quoted this excerpt: "The court refuses to explain what type of intent was necessary. Did the jury need to find that Elonis had the purpose of conveying a true threat? Was it enough if he knew that his words conveyed such a threat? Would recklessness suffice? . . . Attorneys and judges are left to guess." (Brandon Weigel)

 

Kimi Hanauer wants to rethink how we interact with art. In an interview for BmoreArt, she discusses her "radically open" art practice, which aims to break down traditional, hierarchical structures of art engagement. These structures, she says, make us into "passive spectators rather than agents" and this "negates the potential of art to do anything because it necessarily places it outside of our lives." Rather than focusing on an art show as an end product, Hanauer considers her art practice to be the process of collaborating with people, such as with the Press-Press Initiative which ran art and poetry workshops with Burmese refugee kids, and her organizing for the monthly art walk Alloverstreet in the Copycat. Hanauer also prints zines that unpack some of these ideas—most recently in "Blobwork," which, in part, discusses Greg Lynn's architectural model of "the blob," or as she defines it, "something that grows out of its site, rather than being plopped down onto its site." If we want to break down these "art silos" and actually harness art's ability to help us understand each other, we have to think critically about the structures that are in place, and if they're helping or hurting us. (Rebekah Kirkman)

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