Category Archives: Uncategorized

Short Take: T-Shirt Testimony

Satisfying as it may be to sucker punch someone who says something you deem awful, you can’t punch a pickup truck. It’s an inanimate object and will just hurt your fist. So Andrew Bartell came up with an alternative. Torch it.

Bartell, a 26-year-old student at the University of Kansas, was visiting his grandparents in Holton in early July 2016. On July 3, Bartell’s grandparents’ neighbor, Steven Battles, had parked his truck on the street near Bartell’s grandparents’ home. Battles’ truck had a Confederate flag painted on the hood and a Confederate flag flying from the bed. Bartell found this very disrespectful because he felt the Confederate flag was “a symbol of hatred, slavery and the KKK.”

Bartell asked Battles to move his truck. Battles refused. Bartell went to the police, who refused to take a report of this hate crime. What else could he do? Continue reading

Punching Scott Alexander

His blog, Slate Star Codex, is very popular, as well it should have been based on content, and yet somewhat surprising based on length. Scott Alexander’s posts are, well, long. Much as he is an excellent and interesting writer, it is a serious dedication of time to read what he wrote. It is usually worth it, but had he worked a bit harder, he could have accomplished the same thing in far fewer words. Then again, who am I to call the kettle black?

What he was not was close-minded, which was perhaps his undoing. A subreddit to discuss his posts was created, and as he describes it (since I’ve never read it), some people with outlier views used it as their platform. While they were a small minority of redditors, they became the focus of the perpetually outraged and their connection to Alexander via a subreddit empowered the attribution of their views to him.

In their twisted rationalizations, the fact that a handful of people with bizarre (if civil) views took comfort in a subreddit about him, he must be complicit. At the very least, he should have silenced wrongthinkers and made clear he was a warrior for social justice, for failure to do so is tantamount to all the bad things they despise and must punch you for.  Then came the attack of the killer tomatoes. Continue reading

A Poor Fit

Having grown up poor, nobody taught me which fork to use, which wine glass was “correct” and whether the bread plate goes on the right or left. I remember being invited to dinner by some of the old guard in my neighborhood and, in the midst of my brilliant small talk, grabbing the wrong glass of wine. A lovely woman to my left whispered in my ear, “That’s my glass. Yours is to the right.” My small talk may not have been as fascinating as I thought either.

It’s one thing for a poor black kid with huge potential to get into an elite college like Harvard, but there’s a good chance he’s not going to know which fork to use either.

Within that cohort, he documented separate groups: the “privileged poor,” who had gained access to day, boarding, or prep schools that introduced them to the social norms and academic culture of elite higher education (for example, making use of office hours); and the “doubly disadvantaged,” whose path led from under-resourced public schools into an often bewildering environment on campus. For the latter group, that transition risked making the very students the colleges had recruited feel vulnerable and alienated, and thus more exposed to academic failure.

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Billionaires, Punch Them Or Kiss Them?

It’s no crime to be poor, but is it a crime to be rich? Farhad Manjoo argues that we should “abolish” billionaires.

“Some ideas about how to make the world better require careful, nuanced thinking about how best to balance competing interests,” [Tom Socca] began. “Others don’t: Billionaires are bad. We should presumptively get rid of billionaires. All of them.”

Mr. Scocca — a longtime writer at Gawker until that site was muffled by a billionaire — offered a straightforward argument for kneecapping the wealthiest among us. A billion dollars is wildly more than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes. It’s far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however much he believes he has contributed to society.

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Time Served, Then Served Some More

It was my first case in the hinterlands of Kings County, a foreign land known to the locals as Brooklyn. A deal was cut to plead out for a sentence of time served, which my client happily accepted. After the judge announced sentence, the court officer was told to “take charge,” which in court lingo means to physically seize the defendant and put him back in the pens.

I immediately got between the court officer and my guy, blocking him from grabbing my client’s upper arm and leading him out of the courtroom. “He got time served,” I said loudly. “He’s walking out with me.”

The judge then explained that they did things differently in the hinterlands than they did in the Big City of Manhattan. Here, he informed me, a defendant had to be “processed out” by corrections before he could be released, but the judge assured me he would be out “today.” Continue reading

Excessive Fines And Petty Forfeitures

The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Timbs v. Indiana is the sort that could either be easily overlooked, dealing with the generally unsexy Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause, or misunderstood. The ruling “incorporated” the clause, meaning applied it to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment. That’s a big deal. But Tyson Timbs won a battle, not yet the war.

The case before the Supreme Court, Timbs v. Indiana, involved the seizure of a $42,000 Land Rover SUV from Tyson Timbs, who was arrested in 2015 for selling heroin to undercover police officers. He pleaded guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years of probation. On top of that, the state of Indiana seized his 2012 Land Rover—which he had purchased with money received from his late father’s life insurance payout, not with the proceeds of drug sales—on the ground that it had been used to commit a crime.

Timbs challenged that seizure, arguing that taking his vehicle amounted to an additional fine on top of the sentence he had already received. The Indiana Supreme Court rejected that argument, solely because the U.S. Supreme Court had never explicitly stated that the Eighth Amendment applied to the states.

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Tuesday Talk*: Hair, The New Frontier For Discrimination

What difference does hair make? A lot if you’re black. Part of it is nature and genetics, and part of it is style. And it could now mean a very expensive haircut if your employees are black and your business is in New York City.

Hair, like any other aspect of one’s personal attire and grooming, speaks to who you are, and so many people choose their hairstyle to express their individuality. What does an employer care? Well, for some, it speaks to professionalism, much as wearing a suit rather than jeans conveys a message to customers or clients. But hair? Continue reading

Discrimination, “Plain and Simple,” Or Religious Accommodation

A funny thing happens when your value system is at work. It makes you blind to the issue at hand, as reflected by this letter to “Ask A Manager” about a woman who complains of discrimination in the workplace.


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The Shamefulness Of Being Ordinary (Update)

Was it that the cover story appeared during Black History Month? Would it have garnered less outrage a month later? Or is that just an excuse to rationalize outrage that would have happened regardless, because Esquire Magazine did something that is unacceptable in the current climate. It put a profile story of a white male teenager on its cover.

What’s wrong with this? Robyn Kanner explains. Continue reading

Casual Lurker Spills The Amazon Beans

[Ed. Note: Casual Lurker posted the following as a comment to this post, because he reads SJ in spurts, invariably far behind most people, and then leaves long, prolix comments that are occasionally fascinating but, as I’ve told him, tend to be more like private conversations between us since others have long since moved on to more recent posts. Much as he can be a huge pain in the ass and he’s too damn smart for his own good, he really should get his priorities straight and put SJ ahead of his work, his family and his health, so other readers can timely benefit from his comments.

Anyway, his comment was good enough to be a stand alone “guest” post, not to mention was longer than my original post, so I post it here without editing or revision. Just wait until he finds out about this post. Heh.]

Rumors of my demise are… yada, yada yada… Continue reading