AF-AM News bits – January 2018

Writing in The Wall Street Journal (December 18, 2017), Jason Furman, Professor of Practice at Harvard Kennedy School and former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, wrote: “Overall the employment rate among men 25-54 has dropped from 96% to 86% today. The GOP often blames disability insurance for keeping men on the couch. Yet the number of prime-age men on disability has increased only 1.6 percentage point since 1967 while the fraction of men not working increased by 8.4 points….the Council of Economic Advisers in 2016 estimated that the expansion of disability insurance accounts for no more than 0.5 percentage points of the reduction in employment rates.” I must admit to being among the guilty on this one after having observed the early morning lineup of young men at Springfield’s own Social Security office. It just goes to show you how misperceptions can be formed by appearances.

“The largest issue facing American men is not that they are rewarded for remaining in a recliner, but that they cannot find rewarding work. The bulk of the decline in employment has been for men with a high school diploma or less, who have seen their employment rates fall from 97% in 1964 to 83% today. This has coincided with a decline in their relative wages: High-school grads in the 1970s earned two-thirds what their college-educated counterparts took home. Today it’s around half.” (Jason Furman, The Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2017)

“Today, around five million men between 25 and 54 are formerly incarcerated, a much higher fraction than in the past….The longstanding withdrawal of men from the workforce has entered into a vicious spiral with another social problem: the opioid epidemic.” (The Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2017) Oh! \“Social problem?” Sounds like “for White folks only” terminology since when Black folks were at the center of drug epidemics, it was termed a “criminal problem” which is, of course, what inflated the prison population.

Everybody is talking about it. Jesse James got robbed! Everybody saw it with their own eyes. He caught the Pittsburg Steelers Ben Roethlisberger’s last minute pass for the win against the New England Patriots. Jesse James caught the pass just short of the goal line and made a desperate dive to put the ball over the line and bobbled it as he hit the ground with arms extended well over the line. The yellow flags flew and Patriots-loving folks like me swooned and struggled with innovative explanations to justify the call against Pittsburg even though we saw Jesse James catch the pass and push the football in. Sure we saw the bobble just as we have seen many a bobble from determined runners who carried the ball to the goal line and stuck it over for a touchdown just enough to drop it without a fumble being called. I went to sleep after the game uncomfortable with the call and the win but joyous in victory for my team. I slept well and woke up pleased but still confounded by a victory that surely looked like defeat until I read the remote rule that governed the decision in an article in The Wall Street Journal by Jason Gay (December 19, 2017). He wrote: “I know you’re going to mention running backs here, but the rules are different for runners crossing the end zone – a running back only has to get a millimeter of that ball across the end zone line, and can lose it immediately, and it’s still a touchdown. A reception, on the other hand, must be completely finished off for it to count as a score.” I know―my unrequited friends who lost to the much too often maligned Patriots―the rule is foolish and unfair. But I’m a lawyer who appreciates the rule of law. So until the rule is changed, I intend to relish the victory without shame.

“Matt Damon is right. There is a big difference between patting someone on the rear and rape or child molestation.” Before I get attacked, I want to make it clear that the above comment was made by the revered female Boston Globe journalist, Joan Vennochi, who was defending the actor against those who were condemning him for making public comments to that effect. He was right and it was good that he said what he said and it was even better that Joan Vennochi defended him. (The Boston Globe, December 19, 2017)

Damon and Vennochi’s comments go directly to the legal issue of “proportionality” in which the punishment must fit the crime. She also defended a related statement by Damon who said: “Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated.” Describing the women who attacked Damon for his comments, Vennochi wrote: “From their perspective, everything, from neck rubs to violent rapes, are actions perpetrated by evil misogynists deserving of professional death by firing and perpetual humiliation.” And she followed up by saying what should be the obvious: “But that’s not how society addresses other wrongdoing. Trespass is different from breaking and entering. Larceny is different from armed robbery. Manslaughter is different from murder. Certain elements of a crime must be proved to warrant a guilty verdict, and the punishment is supposed to fit the crime. The #MeToo movement is not playing out in a court of law, and there’s plenty to be outraged about. But lumping it all together is a mistake, as a matter of fairness and feminist strategy.” (The Boston Globe, December 19, 2017) I couldn’t have written it better and I stand with Damon and Vennochi as I know many folks do.

Boston is the epicenter of racism in the north, which is insidious beyond belief, and it didn’t take a series on racism in The Boston Globe to make the knowing sensitive to it. A Boston Sunday Globe editorial summarized its series of articles with comments that should be widely shared: “Racism is nimble. It shape-shifts away from the most obvious, headline-grabbing horrors, allowing those in corridors of power, as well as ordinary white people, to insist things aren’t as bad as they used to be. And, in the most superficial sense, they aren’t. Still, such facile readings ignore how racism burrows in, normalized and equivocated, until it becomes just another accepted part of our landscape.” (Boston Sunday Globe, December 17, 2017)

“In a national survey commissioned by the Globe this fall, black people ranked Boston, out of eight major cities, as the least welcoming to people of color. More than half of those surveyed also rated Boston as unwelcoming. “When they come at all, many black college students leave the city as soon as they have their degree in hand. For many, four years in Boston is enough and greater opportunities, they believe lie in such places as Atlanta, Philadelphia, or Chicago.” (Boston Sunday Globe, December 17, 2017) ■

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