Friday, September 30, 2005

William J. Bennett - Racist or Idiot?

""I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," Mr. Bennettsaid in the broadcast. "That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.""

Tricky? Read about it here.

Apparently he was tring to debunk or at least criticize one of the conclusions of Steven J. Dubner's Freakonomics, which I think are deemed by many to be quite dubious. However, the way in which he did so seems to betray what might generously be called latent racism.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dewey Lecture

I chilling in the law school auditorium waiting for Joseph Raz to give a lecture. I'll let you know what I think, including whether I understand any of it--I read Raz for my Jurisprudence class, something about a concept of a concept.

For fun, here's Raz with his big Marx-like beard (bigger in real life):

Here's my jurisprudence professor:

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

You guys

driving less or planning on it? StL does not lend itself to walking anywhere (although there are some people moving into downtown lofts). This is one big strike against as a long-term home. Minneapolis seemed much more walkable.

K and I only have one car. We'll probably be getting another one when we move for my grad school. Looking at a civic, maybe a hybrid. You guys feel like hybrids have been on the market long enough that they are relatively as reliable as gas-only? I'm still a bit hesitant.

Will the increase in gas prices change what Americans buy or what Ford/GM produce? I'd guess probably not all that much, but it seems like it wouldn't take all that much to push these companies into more dire financial peril (junk bonds, hello). And they have been giving cars away for the past couple of months. Why would anyone really pay full price for next year's models?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Serge Lang

So Serge Lang passed away recently. You'll remember him from the dining hall when you see his picture. I remember telling my dad that he was always there and he flipped because he had really been impressed by Lang's work when my dad was still in the academic math biz.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Priority and Aid

In my philosophy class with GA Cohen (Vergasy - you might remember some of his readings from our class with Roemer), a philosopher who has done great work on egalitarianism and self-ownership, we discussed the idea of priority and aid. That is, do we have certain obligations to help friends, relatives, etc . . . in need before we help others? Obviously not everyone agrees on this but some, including myself, I think, would make the argument that it's definitional to being a friend that there are things you would do for the friend that you wouldn't do, or have to do for others. However, what I've posted below shows indivudual who have taken this argument to an extreme that I think ignores the fact that the obligations that we owe to those to whom we are close are not unaffeted by the particulars of the situations in which the obligations and needs arise.

LA Times

16, 2005 Friday
Home Edition
SECTION: MAIN NEWS; National Desk; Part A; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 986 words

After Blocking the Bridge, Gretna Circles the Wagons;
Long wary of next-door New Orleans, the town stands by its decision to bar the city's evacuees.

BYLINE: Nicholas Riccardi, Times Staff Writer



Little over a week after this mostly white suburb became a symbol of callousness for using armed officers to seal one of the last escape routes from New Orleans -- trapping thousands of mostly black evacuees in the flooded city -- the Gretna City Council passed a resolution supporting the police chief's move.

"This wasn't just one man's decision," Mayor Ronnie C. Harris said Thursday. "The whole community backs it."

Three days after Hurricane Katrina hit, Gretna officers blocked the Mississippi River bridge that connects their city to New Orleans, exacerbating the sometimes troubled relationship with their neighbor. The blockade remained in place into the Labor Day weekend.

Gretna (pop. 17,500) is a feisty blue-collar city, two-thirds white, that prides itself on how quickly its police respond to 911 calls; it warily eyes its neighbor, a two-thirds black city (pop. about 500,000) that is also a perennial contender for the murder capital of the U.S.

Itself deprived of power, water and food for days after Katrina struck Aug. 29, Gretna suddenly became the destination for thousands of people fleeing New Orleans. The smaller town bused more than 5,000 of the newcomers to an impromptu food distribution center miles away. As New Orleans residents continued to spill into Gretna, tensions rose.

After someone set the local mall on fire Aug. 31, Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson Jr. proposed the blockade.

"I realized we couldn't continue, manpower-wise, fuel-wise," Lawson said Thursday. Armed Gretna police, helped by local sheriff's deputies and bridge police, turned hundreds of men, women and children back to New Orleans.

Gretna is not the only community that views New Orleans with distrust. Authorities in St. Bernard Parish, to the east, stacked cars to seal roads from the Crescent City. But Gretna's decision has become the symbol of the ultimate act of a bad neighbor, gaining notoriety partly from an account in the Socialist Worker newspaper by two San Francisco emergency workers and labor leaders who were in a crowd turned back by Gretna police.

Numerous angry e-mails to Gretna officials accuse them of racism. (Harris and Lawson are white.)

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said Thursday that Gretna officials "will have to live" with their decision.

"We allowed people to cross ... because they were dying in the convention center," Nagin said. "We made a decision to protect people.... They made a decision to protect property."

Paul Ribaul, 37, a New Orleans TV-station engineer from Gretna, said New Orleans and the suburbs have a complicated relationship.

"We say we're from New Orleans, but we're a suburb," he said. "The reason we don't live there is we don't like the crime, the politics."

Ribaul was among Gretna residents who praised the decision to close the bridge. "It makes you feel safe to live in a city like that," he said.

Critics suspect a racial motive for the blockade. City officials heatedly deny any such thing.

Among black residents of Gretna, some say that although they get along with most of their white neighbors, a few of the neighbors harbor strong prejudices.

Some black Gretna residents also speak fearfully of New Orleans. "We don't have as much killing over here as in New Orleans," said Leslie Anne Williams, 42.

Nonetheless, Williams' mother, a lifelong Gretna resident who is also black, disapproved of the Police Department's decision. People fleeing New Orleans "probably had a better chance of survival over here," said Laura Williams, 70, "especially with all that shooting" across the river.

When Katrina hit, about 5,000 of Gretna's residents were still in town. Police zigzagged the trim streets of ranch houses and older wooden buildings, checking on those who had not evacuated.

Like New Orleans, Gretna lost power and water. Town officials pleaded unsuccessfully for help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Then they learned that New Orleans officials had told the thousands trapped in that city's downtown, similarly deprived of food and water but also dodging gunfights and rising floodwaters, to cross to Gretna.

Not sure how to feed even their own residents, Gretna officials were overwhelmed by New Orleans' evacuees. They organized bus caravans Aug. 31 to take the arrivals to Metairie, 16 miles away, where a food and water distribution center had been set up.

The evacuees waited for rides out of Gretna at the foot of the bridge, across the street from Oakwood Mall. As the hours ticked by and the crowd swelled, trouble began, Gretna authorities said.

Sometime on Wednesday, Aug. 31, a fire broke out in the mall, next to the local branch of the sheriff's office, and police chased suspected looters out of the building.

Mayor Harris had had enough. He called the state police.

"I said: 'There will be bloodshed on the west bank if this continues,' " Harris recalled. " 'This is not Gretna. I am not going to give up our community!' "

The following morning, Gretna's police chief made his decision: Seal the bridge.

The San Francisco paramedics said in an interview and in their article that there were gunshots over the heads of people crossing the bridge from New Orleans' convention center -- many of them elderly -- where they were stuck for days without food, water and working toilets.

Nagin, New Orleans' mayor, said that he'd heard similar reports about gunfire, as well as people being turned back by guard dogs.

Chief Lawson said that he was unaware of any of his officers shooting over the heads of evacuees on the bridge but said that one black officer did fire a shot overhead to quiet an unruly crowd waiting to board a bus.

Harris said Thursday that closing the bridge was a tough decision but that he felt it was right.

"We didn't even have enough food here to feed our own residents," Harris said. "We took care of our folks. It's something we had to do."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Best Bible verse ever

2 Kings 2:23-25:

23And he went up from thence unto Bethel. And as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him and said unto him, "Go up, thou bald head! Go up, thou bald head!"

24And he turned back and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two shebears out of the wood and tore forty and two children of them.

25And he went from thence to Mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.

Mocking bald people! Shebears! Kids getting mauled! This verse has it all!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Progressive Sex Study Released

So the first major sex study in the past decade or so was released recently. There were several things about it that I thought were pretty interesting:

1 - Even though it's an individual level study, the newspaper was reporting the statistics in aggregate. In one sense this is the least judgmental in that by not running any regressions the arguments about causation v. correlation are moot. Yet at the same time the age categories they use to describe experiences can mask critical turning points and moreover, if the sexual practices of urban v. rural v. suburban teenagers and adults differe significantly which I suspect they might be, all the talk about median in the article might be somewhat misleading.

2 - The idea is put forth in the article that the prevalence of oral sex among teenagers is due to either (1) the desire to maintain "technical virginity" or (2) being a method of birth control. I suspect that these have little to do with the level or oral sex among teenagers and that the attribution of these motives is due to a gap between generations. I think that most teenagers probably look at oral sex simply as less serious, less intense, and less emotional than actual intercourse. I'd be curious as to what older and younger readers of the blog think.

3 - I love the fact that a Dr. Manlove is quoted in a study on sexuality. You can't make that stuff up, unless, as Socalpundit says, the Times does.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Our Fearless Leader

For no good reason except that I can:
check out the link for legitimacy -

Saturday, September 10, 2005

5 Questions

The Time Op-Ed section has 5 contributors today each giving five questions they would ask of Judge Roberts. . . .some of the academics were just having fun and the conservatives were lobbing up softballs. Clinton's man, below, just went for the jugular. Roberts wouldn't be able to really answer many of these.

Carols in the Court

1. Some senators have suggested that you should follow the example set by Ruth Bader Ginsburg as to what sort of questions she answered at her confirmation hearings. Here's what she said at that time regarding a woman's right to choose: "It's a decision she must make for herself. And when government controls that decision for her, she's being treated as less than a fully adult human." Was she right to make such a specific and clear statement regarding a woman's right to choose, and do you agree with the substance of her statement?

2. One of your roles as chief justice would be to comment on what matters should be in the jurisdiction of the federal courts. In a radio interview in 1999, you criticized the Violence Against Women Act - a federal law that put hate crimes against women on a par with hate crimes against racial minorities. You questioned the need for a national law, saying that "conditions are different in different states, and state laws can be more relevant" because they are "more attuned to the different situations in New York as opposed to Minnesota." Why should a misogynistic attack be regarded differently in one state or another?

3. Over the past 50 years, 20 different men and women have been appointed to the Supreme Court. Recognizing that political labels are of limited value, and generalizations are generalizations, I wonder if you can identify one of these 20 jurists - just one - who you think has a view of constitutional rights that is "to the right" of your view, as that label is commonly used by legal commentators?

4. In a memo you wrote in 1981, you criticized affirmative action "preferences" based on race, calling them "objectionable." If preferences given to those born into families that have suffered past discrimination are objectionable, what is your view of preferences given to those born into the families of privilege - namely, the preferences that many universities give to the families of their alumni?

5. Chief Justice William Rehnquist held an annual Christmas celebration in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court, complete with avowedly religious carols, despite periodic objections from some of his colleagues and non-Christian law clerks. As chief justice, will you continue with this practice, and do you find it at odds with the spirit of the court's edicts regarding church and state?

Ron Klain directed judicial selection for the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1994 and was chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas and David Souter confirmation hearings.

Big V

Can we require people to sign in before posting comments. While I hate the idea that we'll miss some comments from people that don't want to be associated with them, the new appearance of adds by anonymous posters in the comments sections pisses me off.

Just Passing It Along

This came from an email my dad got from and old co-worker down south. I think it speaks to another reason why people who had no where to go didn't want to leave (in addition to the fact that there have been warnings with little or no incident for 30 years):

> My brother lives in Florida and I go down there each year at this time and
> last year we got caught in a hurricane and ended up going to a shelter. It
> was a difficult decision to make, but since this was the first major
> hurricane my brother and his wife were experiencing in his current
> townhouse, they just weren't sure how it would hold up, and from the news,
> it was hard to determine what to do -- flee.. where? So, the first night
> in the shelter was an "interesting" sociological experience... We were in
> an air conditioned school room, bathroom in the room, TV.. Red cross
> delivered food at night --- What a life!
> But then, the electricity went out, bathroom problem, no A/C.. and then the
> roof started leaking.... so we had to move to another room that was packed
> (with a lot of snorers). That second night was just lovely... On the
> third day, we were all ready to move out! So while two of us were cautious
> about leaving without sheriff approvals (before they were able to determine
> if there were downed cables in the streets, etc...), one of us wanted out
> -- end of story..... So... out we went as did some others, ultimately
> with no problems. What is unfortunate is that after having an experience
> in what started out to be a "luxurious" shelter, you never want to have to
> go through such conditions again and may put yourself in danger in the
> future. (And fortunately my brother's home was fine -- they just had to
> live without electricity for awhile in humid Florida, no decent food, and
> limited gas..) I can only imagine what the people in LA and MS had to
> deal with.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"Separation Sunday" by the Hold Steady

I can't say enough good things about this album. It's (self-aware) bar-rock cliche done really, really well. Plus they're from Minneapolis (originally).

See Pitchfork's review here.