Tag Archives: The Atlantic

Stop and Frisk…

Interesting piece in The Atlantic about the indignities of “stop and frisk,” and as Richard Pryor might say, a white guy wrote it so you know it’s true.

When I heard that my 21-year-old son, a student at Harvard, had been stopped by New York City police on more than one occasion during the brief summer he spent as a Wall Street intern, I was angry. On one occasion, while wearing his best business suit, he was forced to lie face-down on a filthy sidewalk because—well, let’s be honest about it, because of the color of his skin. As an attorney and a college professor who teaches criminal justice classes, I knew that his constitutional rights had been violated. As a parent, I feared for his safety at the hands of the police—a fear that I feel every single day, whether he is in New York or elsewhere.

We’re often related stories of the injustice of middle-class “good” black kids being treated like, well, black kids. If this young man’s constitutional rights had been violated, they were not earned in the first place because he was a Harvard student, a Wall Street intern, or the son of a white man. The CUNY student frisked on his way back to Bed-Stuy while working summers bussing tables also deserves the presumption of innocence.

Also, I’ve known many Ivy League kids and Wall Street raiders on drugs. The first time I saw cocaine it was in the possession of a Columbia student.

This example is by no means unique. My African-American brother-in-law, a white-collar professional, was driving to my house on Thanksgiving Day with his 20-something son when their car was stopped and surrounded by multiple police vehicles. The police officers immediately pointed guns at my relatives’ heads. If my brother-in-law or nephew—or one of the officers—had sneezed, there could have been a terribly tragic police shooting. After the officers looked them over and told them they could go, my relatives asked why they had been stopped

Again, the author puts his black relative on a social pedestal — not like them, more like us, and deserving of better treatment. Why else would he mention the profession of his brother in law? Especially when we’ve established his own suburban professional credentials? We presume that his brother in law is not a plumber but if he were a blue collar worker, would that justify a random police stop? And in the officers’ defense, how would they know what his brother in law does for a living?

America is a simultaneously racist and classist society. Recent rhetoric about the poor (lazy, unmotivated, no work ethic) demonstrates the latter but also the former (the rhetoric is usually targeted toward the coded “inner city male”). And that’s the key: A strictly classist society can offer mobility — it doesn’t matter who your parents are. If you work hard, you can escape the confines of your birth. But a racist society does not offer that mobility. It will always matter who your parents are — or at least the parents you more closely resemble.

Black Americans are still Americans and as such are susceptible to the American illness of classism, and its virulent lie that if you work hard, follow the rules, you can advance up the ladder, which somehow justifies the mistreatment of everyone “beneath” you. The rage among many middle and upper class black males who are randomly stopped, frisked, or followed is not that anyone in this country regardless of status is treated this way but that they are when they have earned their position among the elite. It is a shell game of course, because race is a fixed class, and the Harvard Wall Street intern and the black “white collar professional” will never attain the status in this country that is innate for white people, regardless of what they do for a living.

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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Social Commentary


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Coffee Talk…

Coffee Talk…

Corby Kummer at The Atlantic discusses how to make a “simple cup of coffee.”

Spoiler: It’s actually not all that simple.

I’ve always opted for unplugged, no-think, early-morning ways to brew. That’s why in my book The Joy of Coffee I advocate manual drip, a simple version of what today’s shops call “the pour-over”—and what I call “the agonizing pour-over.” My method involves putting grounds into a metal filter (which lets through more flavor than a paper filter), evenly pouring a small amount of hot water over the grounds to thoroughly wet them, and then letting the flavors “bloom” for 15 to 30 seconds or so before pouring the rest of the water over the wet grounds in a slow but steady stream. Simplicity itself, even if the hot-water-to-grounds ratios for different amounts of brewed coffee that I recommend in the book took weeks to work out.

I was born well before the rise of Starbucks when Maxwell House was a common fixture in a coffee drinker’s home, and office coffee wasn’t Flavia or even a Keurig but an anonymous packet of grounds that percolated through a soon-to-expire Mr. Coffee. No matter where you worked the office rules dictated that whoever finished the pot had to make another, so for hours, you’d see a thin layer of black liquid that was not “good to the last drop” slightly burning at the bottom until someone desperate for caffeine gave in and made the next pot.

I can’t state definitively if life is better now that we know all about Kenya and Ethiopian reserve blends. Although my mother, who took her coffee black, would probably insist that if you’re going to dilute your cup with cream and sugar, you might as well stick with freeze-dried crystals.

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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Social Commentary


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The Eyes of Facebook Are Upon You…

A piece in The Atlantic describes how Facebook proves we’re all very predictable.

As couples become couples, Facebook data scientist Carlos Diuk writes, the two people enter a period of courtship, during which timeline posts increase. After the couple makes it official, their posts on each others’ walls decrease—presumably because the happy two are spending more time together.

In the post on Facebook’s data science blog, Diuk gives hard numbers:

During the 100 days before the relationship starts, we observe a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple. When the relationship starts (“day 0”), posts begin to decrease. We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world.

I suppose if you’re keeping track of this sort of thing, it’s better to be paid for it.

I presume this will allow users the ability to filter out new couples. Although, a more useful filter would be parents who post so many photos of their kids, you’d think they work for Gerber.

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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Social Commentary


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Bob Dole endorses Mitt Romney and proves he’s still alive…

The Atlantic on Mitt Romney’s growing collection of endorsements from failed GOP presidential candidates:

It’s amusing that Mitt Romney’s campaign would tout a warning from Bob Dole that Newt Gingrich’s nomination would lead to “an Obama landslide,” because not only did Dole himself lose to a young incumbent Democratic president, but also because Romney looks a lot like the Dole of the 2012 Republican primary.

According to the piece, Romney’s campaign sent The National Review a statement from Dole regarding Gingrich:

I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late.  If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices…

In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad.  He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty ice-bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it.

Yes, Bob Dole does not like Newt Gingrich.

Dole gets around to endorsing Romney, sort of, toward the end of his statement, but his endorsement has far less enthusiasm and passion than his tirade against Gingrich.

The Democrats are spending millions of dollars running negative ads against Romney as they are hoping that Gingrich will be the nominee which could result in a landslide victory for Obama and a crushing defeat for Republicans from the courthouse to the White House. Democrats are not running ads against Gingrich which is further proof they want to derail Governor Romney. 

In my opinion if we want to avoid a sweeping victory by Obama in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He could win because he has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president in whom we could have confidence and he would make us proud.

Romney’s campaign and its supporters keep saying that the Obama campaign is attacking Romney because it doesn’t want to face him in the general election. I don’t think Romney himself is that formidable a foe. Obama is going after him because he’s the likely nominee, and this will be a tough race for him no matter who his opponent is. So he’s not wasting any time.

Dole’s endorsement might help further raise concerns among primary voters about Gingrich — although some of those voters might like the fact that Gingrich was so contentious toward Democrats, especially Clinton. However, it doesn’t alter Gingrich’s depiction of Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate.”

There’s also an alarming sense of panic in Dole’s statement: Nominating Gingrich would result in an “Obama landslide”? Many Democrats believe that’s the case (I disagree), but a Republican arguing that it’s even conceivable for Obama to defeat a Republican nominee so soundly is simply not good politics. Gingrich himself has said that Romney would lose to Obama — for the historical reasons with which I’m inclined to agree — but he tends to downplay the loss. It would be a squeaker, perhaps, like 2000 and 2004. But the rout that Dole describes does not fit the GOP narrative of Obama as a failed president.

It doesn’t help the image of Romney as politician who’ll say anything, either. Yesterday, he claimed he’d consider Gingrich for the VP slot — clearly, a lie given that his campaign sent this hit job from Dole. Its whole point is that Gingrich would be poison at the ballot — most likely regardless of where his name was.

This makes me think that there’s a true disconnect in Romney’s campaign regarding the current Republican party. He’s trotting out an assortment of establishment politicians with mixed conservative credentials: John McCain, Nikki Haley, and now Bob Dole. He can’t seem to make headway with the usual suspects at FOX News (Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee). Even sending Dole’s endorsement to The National Review is very 1990s.

It’s probably the best Romney can do because the Tea Party branch of the GOP doesn’t think much of him. A competent campaign — having learned anything from South Carolina — would be courting Tea Party caucus leader Michele Bachmann’s endorsement, as she dislikes Gingrich so much you’d think she was one of his ex-wives.

The Gingrich/Romney battle is compelling to watch not just because of the almost Reality TV level snarkiness, but because it shows a GOP in disarray. Backbiting statements against other Republicans would never have happened even 10 years ago. This is normally the disciplined party, in sharp contrast to the Democrats. It makes Obama vs. Clinton look like a screwball comedy with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Political Theatre


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What happened to manners?

The Atlantic published a piece of libertarian wonkery regarding a proposed amendment to a Tennessee anti-bullying bill.

Not so many years ago, liberals and progressives would have supported a law ensuring the rights of high school students to express unpopular ideas that could make their classmates uncomfortable but would not threaten anyone’s person or property. Today, they’re apt to condemn this simple affirmation of basic student-speech rights as “horrifying.” Why? Because it appears in a proposed amendment to a Tennessee anti-bullying bill, advocated by an anti-gay Christian activist, and it would establish a religious and political “loophole” for anti-gay speech.

I graduated from high school almost 20 years ago but I don’t recall it being an episode of “Meet the Press.” Unpopular ideas could be expressed in a newspaper — I did it fairly often — but even that was under the guidance of the faculty adviser.

The anti-bullying bill reads as follows:

Under present law, “harassment, intimidation or bullying” means any act that substantially interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities or performance, that takes place on school grounds, at any school-sponsored activity, on school-provided transportation or at any official school bus stop, and that has the effect of:      

(1)  Physically harming a student or damaging a student’s property;      

 (2)  Knowingly placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm to the student or damage to the student’s property; or      

(3)  Creating a hostile educational environment.

This bill specifies that “creating a hostile educational environment” would not include discomfort and unpleasantness that can accompany the expression of a viewpoint or belief that is unpopular, not shared by other students, or not shared by teachers or school officials.

The last paragraph has been interpreted as granting a “license to bully” among students who are anti-gay for stupid religious reasons rather than stupid secular reasons. It doesn’t make a lot of sense when you consider that it gives students less protection in school than their parents receive in the workplace. You’re not allowed to tell your female colleague you think her skirt is too short based on your interpretation of the scripture. It’s also not advisable to tell your coworker that he’s living a life of sin with his husband.

If it’s the job of a student’s parents to teach him basic manners, the job of a school is to reinforce them. That would mean you’re polite to your classmates, even if they look or behave differently than you do. I’m not sure how the merits of gay marriage would come up in Algebra, but even if it was a topic during Debate Club, the goal would be to discuss different viewpoints congenially and not make things personal.

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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Social Commentary


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