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May. 12 2010 — 9:29 am | 2,221 views | 0 recommendations | 24 comments

Elitism is Good for the Supreme Court

Harvard law school dean Elena Kagan

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been annoyed by the opening round of criticism being thrown at Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Apparently, going to an elite high school in New York City (Hunter College), graduating from Princeton, and getting a law degree from Harvard Law School is a problem. If confirmed, the eight of the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices will have received their legal education at Yale Law School or Harvard Law School (the two best law schools in the country). And the ninth — Ruth Bader Ginsburg — got her J.D. from Columbia.

If I’m understanding the criticism correctly, education of our Supreme Court Justices is a huge problem. God forbid that the branch of government that is granted unelected power for life be filled with intellectual elites!

(Full disclosure: I had Kagan as a professor — while apparently losing touch with the rest of humanity locked inside an ivory tower.)

When we are talking about the Supreme Court, we are talking about a group of people who are in charge of defining our Constitution. That seems pretty important to me. But now we’re going to dog these people for being educated at the best possible legal institutions? Seriously? Isn’t that like bitching that there aren’t enough skinny people in the heavyweight boxing division?

The hypocrisy from the critics of Kagan’s educational background is astounding. But is there any point to it? Let’s clear away the BS and see if there is anything growing underneath…

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May. 4 2010 — 9:25 am | 16,260 views | 4 recommendations | 92 comments

At Harvard, Intellectualism is the New Hood to Hide Behind

Harvard Law School

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know exactly when it became socially unacceptable to harbor racist beliefs, but I know that — at least up north — we’ve been here for a while. Because prejudging a person based solely on the color of their skin is so out of fashion, people who have racist thoughts usually try to hide them from the public view of polite society.

People with controversial views about race don’t want to hide, of course. They think that if they could just explain their point, openly and honestly, everybody would agree with them. Hell, some of these people even think that the minorities they’re insulting would agree with them if minorities could just be honest with themselves. The hubris is astounding. But it’s why the right loves a guy like Clarence Thomas. He’s a walking, talking confirmation that anybody can harbor racist beliefs, if they just try hard enough.There are some people who believe that from behind the veil of ignorance, most black people would end up like Clayton Bixby.

But like I said, it’s impolite to openly espouse racist beliefs. And so society has provided a new, hi-tech method of expressing these thoughts, while still giving people the cover they need in order to function in society: the question.

Now you might think that only a lunatic like Glenn Beck would try to hide racism in “I’m just asking questions” rhetoric and think he’s getting away with it. But you’d be wrong. Last week, this method of racial insult made it all the way to Harvard Law School…

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Apr. 15 2010 — 5:10 am | 6,464 views | 3 recommendations | 12 comments

New U.S. News Graduate School Rankings: Why We All Care

Last night, the U.S. News released their brand new Best Graduate Schools rankings. Over on Above the Law — a site geared towards practicing attorneys, partners, and current law students — it’s one of our biggest days of the year. Students and alumni nearly crash our site looking for information and commentary about where their school is ranked.

But why? Why are students and professionals in business and law and medicine obsessed with how a for-profit magazine ranks their institution of learning? To be clear, this isn’t the college rankings, we’re not dealing with 18-year-olds looking for good place to get laid and study the philosophy of thinking for four years. We’re talking about trained professionals and would-be professionals. Doesn’t the working world value performance over prestige?

As a twice-minted Harvard graduate that has benefited from the status of my educational history more times than I probably know, I can tell you that performance wins in the end. Trust me, if performance didn’t matter I’d be rich and dictating this post from Maui to my busty, yet grammatically impeccable, secretary.

But performance is the love-child of confidence and talent, and prestige is the sexiest confidence man you’ve ever met. All U.S. News does is tap into that in order to sell magazines… continue »



Apr. 7 2010 — 9:12 am | 10,668 views | 2 recommendations | 17 comments

Virginia Doesn’t Know Much About Confederate History

Portrait of Gen. Robert E.

Image via Wikipedia

I’m a bit of a Civil War buff — which is to say that I needed to check off the “knows about war” box in the manship handbook and I picked this one. I’m no Shelby Foote (R.I.P.), but I’m conversant in most of the military and political history surrounding that war. Hey, it’s the war that (indirectly) set me free, and it’s easily the most interesting war America has ever been a part of.

I love and respect the history on both sides of the conflict. The Confederates fought with courage, pride, and tactical brilliance. Their fight is something to be remembered, something to be studied, something that deserves its place in the annals of American history.

It is not something to be proud of. Sorry Confederates (and modern sympathizers), you were on the wrong side. Not just on the wrong side of history, but also on the wrong side of morality. The often heroic deeds undertaken by Confederates on the battlefield were in furtherance of an evil cause. I repeat, an evil cause. Let’s not forget that Southern hero Robert E. Lee fought for a pro-slavery state. Sure, he seems to have been really uncomfortable with slavery, but when the chips were down he chose state over morality. Can we respect the man as arguably the best American general? Absolutely. Should we be proud that our greatest general chose the morally reprehensible side? No we should not. Love of country cannot and should not trump love of your fellow man. Unless you are an asshole. Lee, for all of his laudable qualities, failed the crucial moral test of his life. I respect him, but he was a dick. There’s a difference between respect and pride.

That difference is apparently lost on Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell…

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Mar. 31 2010 — 8:48 am | 3,035 views | 4 recommendations | 25 comments

Dear Catholic Church: I’m Not Coming Over For Easter Dinner

Pope Benedict XVI        DSC00023-1

Image by Beyond Forgetting via Flickr

I suppose there comes a time in every man’s life when his faith is tested. As a secular individual, that time came for me when I was about seven years old. That’s when I learned that Jesus could not have possibly hopped on a freaking dinosaur.

Obviously, the more I learned about physics and chemistry, the more I viewed the Bible as nothing more than a guidebook for living as a decent person. But I used to really love the Church. Not the “going to Church” part (c’mon) but I enjoyed being a part of the community of Catholics. I enjoyed the tradition. And until I made the mistake of leaving the New York tri-state area, I enjoyed the kind of theological conversations I’d have with other big city Catholics. I even got married in the Church (which is pretty damn expensive), I went through pre-Cana and everything.

Like so many “lapsed Catholics” before me, as I became an adult I began to pick and choose which church teachings I paid any attention to. No sex before marriage? Whatever, just because you can’t get any doesn’t mean you have to cock-block me, Padre. But there was that one time my girlfriend and I had sex on Good Friday (the most awful day on the Christian calendar). Not good times. It’s all fun and games until you and your lady friend spend Easter weekend doubled over a toilet puking your guts out thanks to some mysterious “stomach flu” that afflicted you only after you climaxed while Jesus was dying. I’m not sure if God exists, but he scares the f*** out of me.

But you know who I’m not afraid of? The Catholic Church. Not anymore. They’ve lost their moral authority.

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    About Me

    My first name is pronounced like Eliot without the “it,” my last name is pronounced like the Crystal I don’t have the “M”oney to afford. I’m an editor of Above the Law, a legal website that covers all of the gossip and business of the legal profession. Prior to that I wrote about politics. I used to be a lawyer, but I quit that profession in lieu of stripping naked and lighting myself on fire. I received a degree in Government from Harvard University because I enjoy pain, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School because I dislike change. I’m also a Met fan (pain + born in Queens).

    I’m African-American thanks to my maternal grandmother (which means there is one word I can use that white people can’t. Mwahaha). My father is from Haiti and my wife is from Zimbabwe, but outside of the northeast corridor I turn into a sniveling idiot. My maternal grandfather is from China, so I can make fun of Chinese-Americans ¼ of the time. It’d be great to go a whole year without embarrassing my mother, as Julia might say “Ye Gods, can that woman wait.”

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