American Daily: May 7, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

7 May 2015

  • Police officer: please stop calling me when black people are doing innocuous things. 
Reddit post by police officer

The Wire very intentionally attempts to position itself outside of the American tradition of police dramas. Employing HBO’s free subscriber-based model (and the subsequent freedom from corporate sponsors), The Wire attempts to complicate, if not eschew, the notion of police as the unambiguous “good guys” taking down the forces of evil that continues to dominate network TV cop dramas. As such, the show attempts to mirror the real life multiplicity of cops; fictional depictions of police violence go beyond what viewers typically see on screen. While the show’s depictions of police violence are advanced, the liberal and Marxist foundations of The Wire too often prevent the racialized reality of police violence from becoming evident. The show seeks intellectual resolution for its educated, white audience over integrating power relations that locate the police force as an institution — good intentions of individual police aside — as a critical force for perpetuating structural racism and white supremacy.

  • The US and Cuba have agreed to permit ferries to travel between the two countries.
Passenger ferries could be set to run between Florida and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years after the US government approved new services.

Services between the two countries stopped when the US imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1960.
One place Almost, Maine is particularly popular is in American high schools, where it was the No. 1 most-produced play from 2010 until 2013, according to statistics compiled by Dramatics magazine. During the 2013-2014 school year, it was No. 2, edged out by a little number called A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by a guy you may be familiar with (hint: William Shakespeare).

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American Daily: May 5, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

5 May 2015

They may have political talent. Republicans can like them, even a lot. But they’re either deluding themselves (and they wouldn't be the first politicians to be so afflicted) or their real plan is to use the attention to further some other goal. Neither of them, at least so far, offers anything new in the way of policy, so their candidacies aren't about changing the party in that way.

  • The difference in life-expectancy between Baltimore neighbourhoods is huge.
Baltimore life expectancy
"Last fall," the article begins, "Christina Turner, a fashion stylist in Brooklyn, was dreading another New York winter in her cramped, lightless Greenpoint, Brooklyn, apartment while gazing longingly at the succulent gardens and festive backyard dinner parties posted on social media by her friends in Los Angeles."
So she moved here. I only wish that I could've gotten word to her sooner. I've always known that New Yorkers are inwardly focused. When there's a municipal election there they don't even realize we're not all picking a mayor of America together. But I would've sworn that everyone already knew about our good weather.

Moreover — and here’s the really gobsmacking part — many of these programs do not figure into the government calculation of the poverty rate. In other words, Brooks is claiming that federal spending on anti-poverty programs is not lifting families out of poverty… when the government specifically does not include the value of those very programs in its poverty calculations.

  • What happens when you run for president without getting your internet affairs in order.

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American Daily: May 4, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

4 May 2015

  • Is it too much work to govern a state and run for president at the same time?
The tales of Walker, Christie, and Jindal undermine the strongest case for the governor-to-president track—that their governing records would be unqualified advantages. The biggest problem for them is that it's hard to run their home states while spending days far from home campaigning in New Hampshire and Iowa. Jindal spent nearly half of 2014 out of Louisiana, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate, and has spent more than 37 days outside of the state this year. As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie spent 152 days in 2014 outside New Jersey, according to a New York Times analysis. A Wisconsin State Journal study found that Walker has been out of state for about half of this year, even as a contentious legislative battle over his budget is heating up.
  • Bernie Sanders could make Hillary Clinton uncomfortable on foreign policy.
For example, he’s vehemently opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade alliance being pushed by the White House. Sanders claims it would kill American jobs while bolstering Asian economies. In 2012, during a State Department visit to Australia, Clinton praised the accord. As a candidate she has refused to comment on the deal, something Sanders is already hammering her on.
  • The overpolicing of Freddie Gray's Baltimore neighbourhood.
The scene at the corner of Gilmor Street and Riggs Avenue on Saturday night is not a protest. It is an occupation. The police, wearing riot gear and holding batons and shields, outnumber the protesters more than 3-to-1 and are arranged in a circle, blocking protesters in. Except that most of them aren’t exactly protesters. They aren’t outside agitators. They live in the neighborhood and one of their friends and neighbors was killed in police custody. They know it could be them. They are sad and angry. And the police force of Commissioner Anthony Batts, who is holding a press conference a block away at the Western District precinct office, takes the opportunity for a show of force.
  • Who is Ben Carson, prospective Republican presidential nominee?

A candidacy like Carson’s presents a new kind of problem to the establishment wing of the G.O.P., which, at least since 1980, has selected its presidential nominees with a routine efficiency that Democrats could only envy. The establishment candidate has usually been a current or former governor or senator, blandly Protestant, hailing from the moderate, big-business wing of the party (or at least friendly with it) and almost always a second-, third- or fourth-time national contender — someone who had waited “his turn.” These candidates would tack predictably to the right during the primaries to satisfy the evangelicals, deficit hawks, libertarian leaners and other inconvenient but vital constituents who made up the “base” of the party. In return, the base would, after a brief flirtation with some fantasy candidate like Steve Forbes or Pat Buchanan, “hold their noses” and deliver their votes come November. This bargain was always tenuous, of course, and when some of the furthest-right activists turned against George W. Bush, citing (among other apostasies) his expansion of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, it began to fall apart. After Barack Obama defeated McCain in 2008, the party’s once dependable base started to reconsider the wisdom of holding their noses at all.

Despite the substantial improvement in the economy, the Fed's easy-money policies have been controversial. Initially, detractors focused on the supposed inflation risks of such policies. As time has passed with no sign of inflation, that critique now looks rather threadbare. More recently, opposition to accommodative monetary policy has mostly coalesced around the argument that persistently low nominal interest rates create risks to financial stability, for example, by promoting bubbles in asset prices or stimulating excessive credit creation.

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American Daily: April 30, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

30 April 2015

Clinton will lay out her vision for criminal justice reform, centering around an "end to the era of mass incarceration," according to an aide who provided a preview of her remarks. Those changes include addressing probation and drug diversion programs, increasing support for mental health and drug treatment and pursuing alternative punishments for low-level offenders.

Clinton's position on mass incarceration is at once a stunning condemnation of one of the most clear-cut policy failures of Bill Clinton's presidency, a flashing sign of how that policy failure has fundamentally altered the national political landscape on criminal justice issues, and a relatively pedestrian prescription for a Democrat, given where some Republicans stand on sentencing reform.

  • Economic history casts a long shadow over the present.

The first [paper], by Cornelius Christian of Oxford University, looks at the consequences of the lynching of black Americans between 1882 and 1930. Mr Christian found that this history of racial violence still echoes down the decades. He also found that the higher an area’s lynching rate before 1930, the wider the income gap between blacks and whites remained in 2008-12, even when adjusted for factors such as the education and employment levels of a local area. A high rate of lynching widens this gap by as much as 15% in some cases.

Q. As your last show approaches, have there been times when you’ve thought: I’m leaving too soon?
A. Yeah, I’m awash in melancholia. Over the weekend, I was talking to my son, and I said, “Harry, we’ve done like over 6,000 shows.” And he said, [high-pitched child’s voice] “That’s creepy.” And I thought, well, in a way, he’s right. It is creepy. Every big change in my life was full of trepidation. When I left Indiana and moved to California. When Regina and I decided to have a baby — enormous anxiety and trepidation. Those are the two biggest things in my life, and they worked out beyond my wildest dreams. I’m pretending the same thing will happen now. I’ll miss it, desperately. One of two things: There will be reasonable, adult acceptance of transition. Or I will turn to a life of crime.

With its usual impassivity, the Library of America has reissued a strange and awkward book, Theodore Dreiser’s nine-hundred-and-thirty-page realist epic of 1925, “An American Tragedy.” As with all the Library’s volumes, no celebratory essay accompanies the beautifully printed text. The novel’s appearance under these auspices is, of course, an effort to consecrate it as a classic, but the attempt may have come too late. My suspicion is that Dreiser’s books (with the exception of “Sister Carrie”) are now considered too long for high-school students, too earnest for college literature classes, and too odd for many common readers. Dreiser’s reputation has always been vexed, and the long debate over his stature has been accompanied by a secondary debate—a malignant shadow of the first—devoted to the question of whether he could write at all. In a groundbreaking appreciation published in 1916, H. L. Mencken, although he was Dreiser’s friend, nevertheless referred to the “mirthless, sedulous, repellent manner” of the author’s work, and, throughout his reviewing career, Mencken made gleeful lists of Dreiser’s blunders. The year after “Tragedy” came out, Edmund Wilson wrote, “Dreiser commands our respect; but the truth is he writes so badly that it is almost impossible to read him.” F. R. Leavis remarked in passing that Dreiser wrote as if he did not have a native language, and Lionel Trilling, in the influential essay “Reality in America,” saw the critical “indulgence” of Dreiser (there were many champions besides Mencken) as a case of American hostility to intellect itself.

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American Daily: April 29, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

29 April 2015

  • In Baltimore, non-violence has become a form of compliance.

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city's publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city's police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

This hopelessness — expressed by many young protesters in Baltimore — arose from frustration with a system that they believe has consigned them to police brutality, poverty and even poorer prospects. The streets were filled with children Monday, many of them fresh out of school and itching for a fight with police. By 4 p.m., around the time schools let out for the day, people were hustling out of office buildings and stores and restaurants were closing their doors to customers.
  • Why Freddie Gray is not like Michael Brown or Eric Garner.
Because Darrien Hunt — who was shot four times in the back — had just turned 22. He was into anime cosplay. His mother’s name is Susan. Rekia Boyd, also 22 when shot in the back of the head by Chicago detective Dante Servin, had eight brothers and seven sisters and was known for being “light-hearted.” Ernest Satterwhite, the 68-year-old great-grandfather shot to death after a slow-speed chase as he parked in his own driveway, was a former mechanic. 37-year-old Tanisha Anderson, who battled schizophrenia before dying facedown while an officer’s knee was in her back, graduated from East High School in Cleveland.
On Saturday night, following the violence that broke out near Camden Yards, a photo of me supposedly protecting a woman from violent protesters surfaced on BuzzFeed and then trickled down to the conservative armpit of the internet where it was mischaracterized. In the photo, I look strangely heroic, and the picture was quickly co-opted by those who like to present an all-too-common and easy narrative: white people being terrorized by black people.
  • Gray is not the first Baltimorean to emerge from a police van with serious injuries.

Relatives of Dondi Johnson Sr., who was left a paraplegic after a 2005 police van ride, won a $7.4 million verdict against police officers. A year earlier, Jeffrey Alston was awarded $39 million by a jury after he became paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a van ride. Others have also received payouts after filing lawsuits.

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American Daily: April 27, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

27 April 2015

  • Could the Miami Herald have stopped the Bay of Pigs invasion?
By the end of September, after weeks of reporting and crosschecking, Kraslow had a blockbuster story. “It was about 1,500 words and it said the CIA was secretly recruiting and training Cuban exiles for some sort of major military operation against Castro,” he recalls. “It didn’t say this was a huge, frontal-assault invasion — I don’t think they had even decided that yet.”
What went wrong? The Post continues: “Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.” The shameful, horrifying errors were uncovered in a massive, three-year review by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project. Following revelations published in recent years, the two groups are helping the government with the country’s largest ever post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.
Chillingly, as the Post continues, “the cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death.” Of these defendants, 14 have already been executed or died in prison.
Over the past year, new studies and media reports have documented America’s extraordinary number of child-involved shootings. These occur when a child happens upon a gun, or is left alone with one, and ends up shooting themselves or another person. Such disasters result in hundreds of child fatalities and have made American children nine times more likely to die in gun accidents than children anywhere else in the developed world. These deaths pose a massive challenge for the NRA. They demonstrate fairly conclusively that guns cannot be both safe and ubiquitous; the inevitable consequence of widespread gun ownership is a never-ending series of tragedies involving children. But, desperate to insist there’s nothing wrong, the NRA has proved itself totally incapable of responding to the problem.
  • Here's what you get when you land on a 404 at Hillary Clinton's campaign site.

Hillary Clinton's 404

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American Daily: April 21, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

21 April 2015

In short, America enjoys the luxury of an enormous power buffer in the region, and that asymmetry creates the space for mischief-making like that GOP Iran letter. The US can absorb the costs of domestic irresponsibility and constitutional in-fighting, posture belligerently and abjure deals and negotiation, all because the costs are rather low (for the US). Even were the US to bomb Iran, the conflict would be far from US homeland with a minimal (or at least not very visible) impact on most Americans. Indeed, the US managed to fight an entire war in the Middle East that went horribly wrong and alienated much of the planet, yet without seriously jeopardising its regional hegemony. That is astonishing asymmetric power.
None of this applies at all in Asia.
  • Hillary Clinton's innovative campaign launch video.

The "presidential campaign trailer" is a relatively recent phenomenon. All you need to do to see this is to look back at Clinton's announcement video from the 2008 campaign, which is shockingly bad. (The camera keeps shifting back and forth, like it's been placed on the base of a rotating fan.)

The Mohawk are one of five hundred and sixty-six tribes recognized by the United States whose presence on the continent predates “contact”—the advent of Europeans. Only about a hundred and seventy indigenous languages are still spoken, the majority by a dwindling number of elders like Marie Wilcox, of the Wukchumni, who is eighty-one, and who spent her youth doing farmwork south of Fresno. About fifteen years ago, she started recording her tribe’s creation myths and compiling a dictionary of its unwritten language. Navajo, which helped to decide the outcome of the Second World War (the Japanese were never able to decrypt messages relayed among native speakers—the celebrated “code talkers”), is an exception. It is used in daily life by two-thirds of the nation’s two hundred and fifty thousand citizens, who refer to it as “Diné bizaad,” “the people’s language.” Fluency, however, is declining. The election of a new tribe president was suspended, in October, by a dispute over the requirement that he or she speak fluent Navajo. A leading candidate, Chris Deschene—a state representative from Arizona and the grandson of a code talker—was disqualified for that reason. “I’m the product of cultural destruction,” he told the Navajo Times, when he was asked why he couldn’t speak Diné. (He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and, after retiring as a major in the Marine Corps, he earned two graduate degrees, in engineering and law.) A new election will take place in April.
For those who watched in some dismay last spring when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (along almost perfect religious lines) that city councils may indeed begin their meetings with sectarian prayer, it is quite an astonishing opinion. Canada does not have an Establishment Clause, but it does have a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a Quebec Charter, which provide that the state has a duty to ensure that no particular belief should be favored or hindered. While a good bit of the decision was a very technical analysis of how the case got there, and the legal framework for this week’s decision is not the same as that deployed in last year’s U.S. case Town of Greece v. Galloway, the questions of neutrality, coercion, minority religions, and what it means to promote religion are remarkably similar.
  • Virginia is keeping an almost certainly innocent man in prison.

Of all the maddening stories of wrongful convictions, Michael McAlister’s may be one of the worst. For starters, he has been in prison for 29 years for an attempted rape he almost certainly did not commit. For much of that time, the lead prosecutor who secured his conviction, the original lead detective on the case, and more recently, the current Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney, Michael Herring, have argued that McAlister is innocent and that someone else—a notorious serial rapist with the same MO as the perpetrator of the crime for which McAlister was convicted—is in fact the real criminal. “I think our justice system is one of the best on the planet,” Herring told the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week. “But this case makes me ashamed of it.”

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American Daily: April 17, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

17 April 2015

  • America still hasn't gotten over the Civil War, 150 years on.

On this 150th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox, Americans mark the end of the Civil War. The questions at the heart of the war, though, still occupy the nation, which has never truly gotten over that conflict. The great issues of the war were not resolved on that April morning at Appomattox. In this sense, not only is the Civil War not over; it can still be lost.

The young woman who was at the cash register was the only employee on duty at the time who thought she recognized her. She considered asking if anybody had ever told her she “looked like Hillary Clinton.” But she didn’t. It was 1:20 p.m., at the tail end of “peak time,” lunch rush.
  • More than 43 per cent of Dems in Congress have endorsed Clinton for president.
One hundred one lawmakers have endorsed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run for president, locking down over 43 percent of all Democrats in Congress, according to a survey by The Hill.
Seventy-three House lawmakers, nearly 40 percent of the 188 Democrats in the chamber, as well as 28 senators, more than 60 percent of the upper chamber’s 46 Democrats, are in the former secretary of State’s camp.
In Hillary Clinton’s case, though, there’s still a good argument that the Democratic Party could use a contested primary this cycle: not to toughen Clinton’s calluses, but to build some redundancy into the presidential campaign. It may even be the case that some of these Democrats with rattled nerves are less anxious about Clinton’s prowess against Republicans than about the fact that all of the party’s hopes now rest on her shoulders. Her campaign has become a single point of failure for Democratic politics. If she wins in 2016, she won’t ride into office with big congressional supermajorities poised to pass progressive legislation. But if she loses, it will be absolutely devastating for liberalism.
  • Why creationists really don't want scientists to find aliens.

Could primordial soup be served ice-cold and made with a liquid other than water? Astrobiologists believe that it’s possible on Titan. Although the temperature on Saturn’s massive moon is a chilly minus 179 degrees Celsius, it has a thick nitrogen atmosphere rich in organic molecules and a surface speckled with methane lakes. These ingredients, according to computer simulations recently conducted at Cornell University, could combine to form cellular membranes, which are crucial for the evolution of complex cells. “Ours is the first concrete blueprint of life not as we know it,” said one of the researchers in a news release. Another expressed hope that we might someday send a probe “to float on the seas of this amazing moon.”

But the creationists at the hilariously misnamed Discovery Institute, a prominent advocate for intelligent design theory, had a different spin on the story. It described the Cornell researchers as hucksters who had proved nothing: “Get out your checkbook, U.S Congress. Coming up: a search across the Solar System for stone-cold dead BUBBLES.”

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Why predicting presidential elections is so hard

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

15 April 2015

I'm not as bullish about Hillary Clinton's chances at the White House as Jonathan Chait is (I think my colleague Brendon O'Connor is right to rate her about 55 per cent), but he has a smart point about how difficult it is to make useful predictions on presidential politics based on past trends;

Is it time for a change? The one remaining ground for Republican optimism is the possibility that voters will decide three straight presidential terms for the Democratic Party is too much. Many political scientists (such as Alan Abramowitz) believe this exhaustion factor is real; after a second term, voters grow increasingly restless with the in-party and are more likely to decide it’s time for a change. If this is true, Clinton may face headwinds even in an otherwise favorable landscape.

It may well be true. But there are reasons to doubt it. One reason is that models that detect voter impatience are based on a very small number of data points. Since World War II, there have been eight presidential elections in which the incumbent party has held office for two terms or more. It’s hard to draw definitive conclusions from such a limited number of events.

Right! And, so goes the theory — which I essentially subscribe to — that since the incumbent party has won on only two of those occasions (Truman in 1948 and Bush in 1988), it looks like the American electorate does have a kind of eight-year itch. 

But although a 25 per cent strike rate is low, Chait is right that the sample size is unreliable. Look at the campaigns in which the incumbent party was beaten to see how much divination and palm-reading is involved in presidential progonostication:

One election in which the incumbent lost decisively: Not easy to see this one going the other way.

  • In 1952, Adlai Stevenson was wiped out by Dwight Eisenhower after twenty years of Democratic Party rule.

Three elections that were essentially coin-tosses: These could have gone either way, depending on the caprices of campaign tactics or turnout.

  • In 1960, Richard Nixon lost the popular vote to John Kennedy by a tenth of a percentage point. Some Republicans still believe Kennedy only prevailed through voter fraud in Texas and Illinois. (The Republican obsession with voter fraud really is mostly about shoring up their advantage amongst more reliable and privileged voters, but it does have some roots in history.) 
  • In 1968, Hubert Humphrey lost the popular vote to Richard Nixon by 0.7 per cent of the popular vote and in the Electoral College might have been spoiled by Southerner George Wallace's protest campaign. He was also hampered by the Democrats' connection to the War in Vietnam, the party's chaotic convention that year, and the unpopularity of President Lyndon Johnson — all of which seem better explanations for his loss than the eight years his party had already spent in the White House.
  • In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote against George W. Bush, and lost the Electoral College when the Supreme Court halted a recount in Florida and awarded its votes to his opponent. 

Two elections that closely followed recessions: Recessions have a more reliable track-record of predicting electoral outcomes.

  • In 1992, George H.W. Bush saw his sky-high approval ratings following his victory in the Gulf War plummet when the economy went into recession.
  • In 2008, John McCain sought to succeed fellow Republican George W. Bush in the midst of a deep financial crisis and recession. (That Bush had presided over the unpopular war in Iraq didn't help.)

One election that followed the Watergate scandal: A president resigned in the face of certain impeachment and conviction.

  • In 1976, Gerald Ford's bid for a Republican third term after Richard Nixon had resigned in disgraced was almost certainly doomed.

Even if voters do tire of incumbent parties, that's not a solid body of evidence in favour of the theory. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle: the longer a party holds the White House, the more likely it is to be struck by recession, corruption, or a badly run campaign. It's good news for the Clinton campaign that the Obama White House has been exceptionally clean in its dealings and has overseen a period of economic growth. But even if it's not quite true that nobody knows anything about presidential politics, the past is complex territory on which to base one's expectations.

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American Daily: April 9, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

9 April 2015

  • Should America reserve a holiday to celebrate the Union's Civil War victory?

This week provides an occasion for the U.S. government to get real about history, as April 9 is the 150th anniversary of the Union’s victory in the Civil War. The generous terms of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House foreshadowed a multitude of real and symbolic compromises that the winners of the war would make with secessionists, slavery supporters, and each other to piece the country back together. It’s as appropriate an occasion as the Selma anniversary to reflect on the country’s struggle to improve itself. And to mark the occasion, the federal government should make two modest changes: It should make April 9 a federal holiday; and it should commit to disavowing or renaming monuments to the Confederacy, and its leaders, that receive direct federal support.

The framework nuclear deal establishes only the very basics; negotiators will continue to meet to try to turn them into a complete, detailed agreement by the end of June. Still, the terms in the framework, unveiled to the world after a series of late- and all-night sessions, are remarkably detailed and almost astoundingly favorable to the United States.

  • How Democrats went from looking to cut Social Security to trying to expand it.
During a last-minute budget session, the Massachusetts senator [Elizabeth Warren] introduced an amendment to “expand and protect Social Security” by raising taxes to keep the program solvent and increasing benefits to better assist seniors. The resolution failed to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, but not before Warren won support from all but two of her Democratic colleagues. (The holdouts were Tom Carper of Delaware and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.)
  • White American milennials are about as racist as their parents.
When it comes to explicit prejudice against blacks, non-Hispanic white millennials are not much different than whites belonging to Generation X (born 1965–1980) or Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964). White millennials (using a definition of being born after 1980) express the least prejudice on 4 out of 5 measures in the survey, but only by a matter of 1 to 3 percentage points, not a meaningful difference. On work ethic, 31 percent of millennials rate blacks as lazier than whites, compared to 32 percent of Generation X whites and 35 percent of Baby Boomers.
  • Why did California charge a black woman with lynching?

Hampton’s arrest — and sensational-sounding charge — made headlines. California’s lynching law was put on the books in 1933, to prevent mobs from forcibly taking people from police custody for vigilante justice.

But the statute has long been used against protesters as well, by police if not prosecutors. In 1999, anti-fur protesters in San Francisco who blocked access to a Neiman Marcus store in Union Square were charged under the lynching law. Prosecutors declined to take the case to court.

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