Category Archives: Uncategorized

Closing Costs

Much of intergenerational wealth comes from the ownership of property. It’s a problem. Between deliberate schemes to keep certain people out of neighborhoods, like redlining, and the inability to earn and save sufficient wealth to buy property, a significant cohort has been squeezed out of the market. Needless to say, minorities have not been welcomed with open arms over the years, and so have not been able to accumulate the intergenerational wealth that allows a family to build security and become vested in their community.

But it’s not as if this hasn’t been recognized before, and well-intended programs haven’t been tried to correct this problem by making home-ownership more readily available to black buyers.

Richard Nixon gave voice to a shift in government policy in 1968 when he declared that “people who own their own homes don’t burn their neighborhoods.” The Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 created policies that let low-income black renters, long excluded from conventional mortgages and other standard ways of financing homes, become homeowners. Continue reading

The Numbers Don’t Crunch: EthnoMath

Are there not enough black mathematicians? That’s much like asking how long a person’s legs need to be, but then, if the measure is the expectation that there should be the same percentage of people by race, gender, etc., in any particular field of study, occupation, profession, then the answer is yes, there are not enough. Why is a complicated but critical question, since you can’t fix something when you don’t know why its broken.

Seattle doesn’t seem to care. Or to be more precise, they lept to a conclusion that math isn’t sufficiently relevant to black kids’ lives as to make them care about math, want to be mathematicians, and begged the question by creating a Menckian solution.

The Seattle school district is planning to infuse all K-12 math classes with ethnic-studies questions that encourage students to explore how math has been “appropriated” by Western culture and used in systems of power and oppression, a controversial move that puts the district at the forefront of a movement to “rehumanize” math. Continue reading

The Ruling Gerontocracy

We have a president who’s 73 years old. The leading challengers are 78, 76 and 70 years of age. I’m no spring chicken, but damn, these people are old. Is that a bad thing?

Older people today hold disproportionate power because they have the numbers and the means to do so. People 65 and older, for example, are more than three times as likely to make political donations as those under 30. As a result, their voices, amplified by money, carry farther politically than those of the young and impecunious.

There are, of course, obvious reasons for this, though they’re not the sort of reasons that would interest Astra Taylor, for whom age seems to be a stand-alone hurdle to fixing our democracy. Continue reading

Judge Baker’s 241 Regrets

The Supreme Court will consider whether to grant certiorari to Bobby Bostic. It’s a case that cries out for appeal as a flagrantly excessive punishment in desperate need of fixing. But that’s not what the Supreme Court does, despite the fact that it could and should face a bad legal outcome and correct it.

It’s a pompous Court, a Court that announces big issues of legal doctrine. It’s not a janitor court that cleans up the mess the system left behind. It’s too important to deal with the mere details of lives wrongly ruined. Correcting error is too trivial for the Supremes, rock stars of the legal world whose time and attention are far too valuable to be squandered on simple error. Even retired Missouri circuit court judge Evelyn Baker’s admission isn’t likely to help.

“You will die in the Department of Corrections.” Those are the words I spoke as a trial judge in 1997 when I sentenced Bobby Bostic to a total of 241 years in prison for his role in two armed robberies he committed when he was just 16 years old.

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Kopf: The Milk of Human Kindness and a CDL Named David Tarrell

I am not proud of the fact that all or most of the empathy that I once had has been burned out of me. That is not true for a local criminal defense lawyer by the name of David Tarrell.[i]

So, here is the story.

I recently had a supervised release violation matter involving a woman I had sentenced to a long prison stretch plus five years of supervised release for a meth crime. The woman, now in her late 50s, had been a meth addict.

She was arrested at the hospital after surviving a car wreck. We picked her up because she failed to keep her experienced and patient probation officer (who had gone the extra mile) informed of her whereabout. Turns out, her house had burned down, she got hurt in a car wreck, and blah, blah, blah. David was appointed from our Criminal Justice Act panel to represent her. I think I had met David once before, but this case was the first time he had appeared before me. Continue reading

Gagliano Reflex

Two things happened that day. Antonio Williams was shot to death by New York City police officers. New York City Police Officer Brian Mulkeen was shot to death by New York City police officers. Whether the death of Williams was avoidable is one question. Mulkeen, who was initially thought to have been shot by Williams who, according to the story, went for Mulkeen’s gun, was killed by friendly fire, his own fellow cops.

Williams’ death was one thing. Mulkeen’s death was another. It’s understandable that the unduly passionate might lack the intellectual capacity to distinguish between the two, their world being wrapped up in childish good and evil narratives. It’s also wrong and dangerously simplistic. Even worse, it reflects an inability to grasp cognitive dissonance, that their respect for the value of life is a pretense that only applies to those they favor. Continue reading

Seaton: Sheriff Roy Investigates A Baptism

Sheriff Roy, lost in the pages of Joe Hill’s book “NOS4A2,” heard a knock at his office door. A rather plain, unassuming young man stood at the door.

“Yes, son, come in.”

“Sheriff Roy Templeton?” asked the man, barely out of his teens.

“Yes, son. How can I help you?”

The teen pulled a stack of papers from a sheaf and said, “You’ve been served.” Having completed his assignment, the teen took off at a dead run for the Mud Lick Sheriff Department’s exit. Continue reading

Short Take: Fools And Their $8 Billion

To no one’s surprise, the New York City Council voted to shutter the jail on Rikers Island and spend $8 billion on four new jails, one in each borough except Staten Island because a jail on a garbage landfill seemed redundant. The only surprise was that the original $11 billion was reduced to a mere $8, showing the Council’s thriftiness when the new jails theoretically open in 2026.

In New York time, that means the jails won’t be ready until sometime after President Chelsea Clinton’s administration at an adjusted cost of $92 billion, but I digress because I lack the sound focus of New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay.

On Thursday, the City Council voted to build four jails across the city, a critical step toward making the closing of Rikers a reality. The plan it approved will further shrink the capacity of the city’s jails from about 22,000 to around 3,800.

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Free Speech Even The ACLU Can Support

While the ACLU has largely chosen to forsake its interest in constitutional rights that don’t align with the social justice feelings of its staff, and its donors, it hasn’t entirely lost interest in defending speech, as reflected by the Maine chapter’s support of a high school sophomore at Cape Elizabeth High School.

Aela Mansmann, a 15-year-old sophomore at Cape Elizabeth High School outside Portland, has been at odds with Cape Elizabeth Schools for a month after posting a note in a bathroom that said: “There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is.” She and two other students who left similar notes were ordered suspended.

As it turns out, there may not be a rapist in her school, and she doesn’t know who it is, but that’s not what her sticky notes were about. Continue reading

The Future of Pronouns

In a USA Today op-ed, former Republican turned confused former Republican, Tom Nichols, asks a snarky, yet very real question of the Democrats: Are you trying to lose?

When we watched CNN’s LGBTQ town hall for the Democratic candidates Thursday, we had very different reactions. This is the event, you remember, where former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas said he’d punish religious institutions for refusing gay marriage, and where Sen. Kamala Harris of California started by informing us of her pronouns, and then host Chris Cuomo, after a mild and dopey joke, had to go on Twitter the next day and apologize for making light of it. This is where Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts fielded a question about traditional marriage with a sneering, smug insinuation that the only people who would ask her about that are men who can’t find a woman.

You thought it was great. You saw a ringing defense of LGBTQ rights and a reaffirmation of what Democrats stand for.

I saw it and thought: Are these people insane? Are they trying to lose the election?

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