The hate crime murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the wider problem of social inequality

David Leonhardt, who appears from his thumbnail photo to be white, offers an interesting argument that had the prosecutor in the Ahmaud Arbery case, Linda Dunikoski, highlighted the defendants’ evident racism, she might have lost the case, in which three white men were convicted of pursuing and killing a Black man in a predominantly white neighborhood, by generating a backlash from a largely white jury whose “[c]onservative jurors would be reminded that they often disagree with allegations of racism.”[1] Read more

  1. [1]David Leonhardt to The Morning list, “Fighting racism, quietly,” New York Times, November 30, 2021,

Clairton as strength? Or of survival?

A Public Source article, reported and photographed by Quinn Glabicki,[1] focuses on Clairton, but many of the problems it documents are not Clairton’s alone. They are endemic throughout the Monongahela River Valley (“Mon Valley”) and even in communities away from it. Read more

  1. [1]Quinn Glabicki, “The City of Prayer: Clairton’s residents persevere amid persistent pollution and violence,” Public Source, November 19, 2021,

Scholarly pedophilia

There is a classic essay by Gayle Rubin in which she argues that sex is first to be stigmatized. As she proceeds, she ends up defending the National Man-Boy Love Association (yes, really, and yes, this was a thing) at length.[1] According to Wikipedia, this essay is widely considered a foundational essay for the fields of gay and lesbian studies, sexuality studies, and queer theory.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Gayle Rubin, &ldqo;Thinking Sex,” in Carole S. Vance, ed., Pleasure and Danger (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984).
  2. [2]Wikipedia, s.v. “Gayle S. Rubin,”

Why, for all their bluster, countries will fail to stop migration

Migration is more or less continuously in the news and that desperate attempts to cross the English Channel from France to the United Kingdom continue even after an incident in which 27 passengers on a flimsy boat drowned[1] should illustrate that people are willing to risk their lives to get into places even when they cannot do so legally or safely. Read more

  1. [1]Dulcie Lee, “Channel deaths: More boats arrive after 27 people drown,” British Broadcasting Corporation, November 25, 2021,

The danger that still remains

See updates through January 22, 2022, at end of post.

I’m tired of a lot of things lately. COVID-19 is one. Donald Trump is another.

Judges might have just about had their fill[1] of Trump and his supporters’ 2020 election challenges;[2] we’re starting to see rulings punishing the lawyers.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Robert Barnes, “Supreme Court denies Trump allies’ bid to overturn Pennsylvania election results,” Washington Post, December 8, 2020,; Robert Barnes, “Supreme Court dismisses bid led by Texas attorney general to overturn the presidential election results, blocking Trump’s legal path to a reversal of his loss,” Washington Post, December 11, 2020,; Devlin Barrett, “Judge dismisses Gohmert lawsuit seeking to stymie Biden electoral college count,” Washington Post, January 1, 2021,; Aaron Blake, “Trump lawyers suffer embarrassing rebukes from judges over voter fraud claims,” Washington Post, November 11, 2020,; Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, “Donald Trump’s brutal day in court,” Politico, December 4, 2020,; John Kruzel, “Supreme Court rejects Gohmert’s last-ditch election suit against Pence,” Hill, January 7, 2021,; Jon Swaine, “In scathing opinion, federal judge dismisses Trump campaign lawsuit in Pennsylvania,” Washington Post, November 21, 2020,; Elizabeth Thompson, “Texas congressman suggests street violence after judge rejects his legal effort to overturn election,” Chicago Tribune, January 2, 2021,; Elise Viebeck, “Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismisses lawsuit against mail ballots with prejudice in another defeat for Trump,” Washington Post, November 28, 2020,
  2. [2]Kim Bellware and John Wagner, “Letter from 1,500 attorneys says Trump campaign lawyers don’t have ‘license to lie,’” Washington Post, December 8, 2020,; Kyle Cheney, “Gohmert suit may force Pence’s hand in effort to overturn Trump’s defeat,” Politico, December 28, 2020,; Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, “Trump sought to tap Sidney Powell as special counsel for election fraud,” Politico, December 20, 2020,; Marjorie Cohn, “Trump’s Frivolous Lawsuits Are the Tip of the Iceberg in His Refusal to Concede,” Truthout, November 11, 2020,; Pam Fessler, “Led By Giuliani, Trump Campaign Effort To Stop Certification Falters In Pennsylvania,” National Public Radio, November 17, 2020,; Josh Gerstein, “Trump campaign revises Pennsylvania suit, again,” Politico, November 18, 2020,; Josh Gerstein, “Lawyers retreat from pro-Trump election suit,” Politico, July 12, 2021,; Simon Lewis, “Trump unveils $207 million fundraising haul after election in effort to overturn result,” Reuters, December 3, 2020,; Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, “Al Gore ‘was a man’ about his election loss, unlike Trump, federal judge says,” CNN, November 22, 2021,; Aram Roston and Brad Heath, “Trump campaign spent more than $2 million on election lawyers, including Jenna Ellis,” Reuters, December 4, 2020,; Philip Rucker, Amy Gardner, and Josh Dawsey, “Trump uses power of presidency to try to overturn the election and stay in office,” Washington Post, November 19, 2020,; Stephanie Saul, “Lindsey Graham’s Long-Shot Mission to Unravel the Election Results,” New York Times, November 17, 2020,; Felicia Sonmez et al., “A frustrated Trump redoubles efforts to challenge election result,” Washington Post, December 20, 2020,; Paula Reed Ward, “Federal judge to consider whether to dismiss case filed by Trump campaign in Pa.,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 17, 2020,
  3. [3]Jaclyn Diaz, “An Appeals Court Has Suspended Rudy Giuliani’s Ability To Practice Law In D.C.,” National Public Radio, July 8, 2021,; Rosalind S. Helderman, “‘The stuff of which violent insurrections are made:’ Federal judge punishes Colorado lawyers for 2020 election lawsuit,” Washington Post, August 4, 2021,; Rosalind S. Helderman, “Judge orders two lawyers who filed suit challenging 2020 election to pay hefty fees: ‘They need to take responsibility,’” Washington Post, November 22, 2021,; Erica Orden, Veronica Stracqualursi, and Katelyn Polantz, “Rudy Giuliani suspended from practicing law in New York state,” CNN, June 24, 2021,; Peter Stone, “Rudy Giuliani Is (Probably) Screwed,” New York, October 1, 2021,; Jan Wolfe, “‘Profound abuse’: Judge disciplines pro-Trump lawyers over election lawsuit,” Reuters, August 25, 2021, copy in possession of author; Jan Wolfe and David Thomas, “Judge eyes sanctions on pro-Trump lawyers who claimed voter fraud,” Reuters, July 12, 2021,

The revival of lynching

See updates through December 7, 2021, at end of post.

What we see in the Kyle Rittenhouse exoneration for his killing of two people and the wounding of a third at a Black Lives Matter protest[1] is the natural confluence of multiple related phenomena. The first is in which police operate in the context of a distinctly dubious system of (in)justice,[2] Read more

  1. [1]Kurtis Lee, “Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty of all charges,” Los Angeles Times, November 19, 2021,
  2. [2]Steven E. Barkan, Criminology, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentic Hall, 2006); David Benfell, “On the pretense of ‘law and order,’” Not Housebroken, September 11, 2020,; Ernest Drucker, A Plague of Prisons (New York: New Press, 2011); Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon, 2004); Dan Simon, In Doubt (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2012).

Democrats and contradiction

See updates through December 9, 2022, at end of post.

Fig. 1. Pope Francis and Joe Biden at the White House. Photograph by David Lienemann, September 23, 2015, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Ryan Grim reports that, at least in Virginia, Democrats seem to be losing on cultural rather than economic issues, particularly with education. It’s important to note that focus groups, such as the methodology Grim refers to,[1] are not based on representative samples, but given the six or seven percent response rate (possibly less now) on survey research,[2] this is probably at least a more honest methodology. Read more

  1. [1]Ryan Grim, “It’s Not Just White People: Democrats Are Losing Normal Voters of All Races,” Intercept, November 15, 2021,
  2. [2]Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019,

On the death of the apostrophe and the evolution of discourse

See update for November 17, 2021, at end of post.

In the last English class I ever took, I had a professor who made a point of confessing that she couldn’t remember all the grammar rules either. She was about to retire—I think she did so following the quarter after I took her class. A point to be taken here is that these rules are arbitrary; what they mostly really amount to is a description of what “looks right” from the peculiar perspective of a someone we only sometimes know.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Associated Press, The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law 2018 (New York: Basic, 2018); Ann Raimes, Keys for Writers, 4th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005); William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 4th ed. (Boston: Pearson, 2000); Joseph M. Williams, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, 8th ed. (New York: Pearson Longman, 2005).

Uber and wheelchairs

So the U.S. Department of Justice is suing Uber for charging wheelchair users, who require additional time to get in and out of cars, for wait time, arguing that these charges are discriminatory.[1]

Which means it’s time for me to tell a story about my San Francisco cab driving days. Read more

  1. [1]Preetika Rana, “Justice Department Sues Uber Over Charging Wait-Time Fees for Disabled People,” Wall Street Journal, November 10, 2021,