The true power of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize winning study of poverty in Milwaukee, comes from the individual stories it tells. Arleen’s story is a good example. When we first meet Arleen (pseudonym) and her sons, Jori and Jafaris, they are moving into a new apartment in Milwaukee’s inner city. Arleen is busy rearranging furniture and stacking dishes next to her nice porcelain plates. It’s a new […]
The cynical art of the “fauxpology” has entered the sacred precincts of the law. Highly respected Judge Alex Kozinski of the prestigious Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was accused late last year by several former female clerks and interns of improper behavior that included unwanted touching and fondling. Kozinski at first denied the allegations, but soon resigned his judgeship and issued this “apology”: “It grieves me to learn that I have caused any of my […]
Identifying a problem is usually easier than solving it. Take, for instance, the spate of police shootings of unarmed minority suspects like Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Proposed solutions seem to vary from mild responses like more racial sensitivity training for police officers to more punitive ones like heavy criminal sanctions that are never in fact imposed . UC Berkeley Law professor Franklin Zimring in his book When Police Kill suggests a more indirect, but […]
The New York Times has good news to report. It turns out that doing good works. Non-profits in inner city areas that have worked on mundane projects– e.g. planting trees, building playgrounds, mentoring students, and finding employment for young males– have played a significant role in reducing the murder rates in American cities. Here’s the whole story.
The title to Tim Wu’s op-ed in the NYT sounds the alarm– “How Twitter Killed the First Amendment.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/27/opinion/twitter-first-amendment.html?_r=0. . Professor Wu points out that there has been a dramatic change in how speech operates in American politics. Formerly, the First Amendment worked to protect speakers from government prosecution, thereby creating a workable national political discourse. But now censors in Russia and China have invented new techniques geared to the internet age that permit them […]
How does social reform happen? History books tend to portray social reform as a tidal wave that sweeps away an unjust and obsolete status quo, but I think reform is better understood as the cumulative result of individual acts of opposition to concrete injustices people encounter in their own lives. Only with hindsight can we assess the importance of any one action. Even an idle question posed in a conversation between old friends might turn […]
Donald Trump has ushered in the era of “fake news.” The only question is whether we should view Trump himself as its creator or its victim. Now we see a parallel problem with Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions– Is Sessions the enemy of “fake evidence” or its champion? This NYT article by Jim Dwyer suggests he is its champion. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/11/nyregion/dental-molds-forensic-dentistry-research-bite-marks.html By “fake evidence” I mean prosecution testimony that purports to be backed by scientific expertise, […]
Back in 1969 I worked in a legal services office in the Imperial Valley on the California-Mexican Border. Most of our clients were Mexican-Americans who had the usual poor people legal problems–rent arrears, welfare, and consumer debt. For instance, I found I had a large number of clients who were being dunned for unpaid bills at the County Hospital. Since my employer, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), believed that we should not only represent […]