She Fights the Law and She Wins

Joyce Phipps, Esq. is the founder and director of Casa de Esperanza–a non-profit legal aid and social service organization in Bound Brook, New Jersey, created to serve immigrants and refugees. I met her last February at the vigil for immigrant detainees I described in an earlier post.

We met more or less by chance: lost in thought, I wandered away from the vigil to prowl around the perimeter of the facility, and poke at its edges; Joyce, who was doing the same thing, noticed me, and struck up a conversation. It took just a few minutes of conversation to convince me to invite her to Felician to talk about her work defending the rights of immigrants and refugees. It took less time for her to accept. Continue reading

Imagine: Living in a Socialist America (Run by Republican Aristocrats)

I met these Democratic candidates for Readington Town Committee over breakfast the other day, and asked them what differentiates them from the Republicans who dominate politics around town. Without blinking an eye, they said that as Democrats, they favor a pro-development, pro-business platform against the local Republican machine, which is running against development and against business in the name of “Open Space.”

Image result for elizabeth fiore denise esakof

According Esakoff and Fiore, thirty percent of Readington Township is already open space, large swatches of it off limits to most people, but the Republicans want more: because you can never have too much of a resource that lots of people are excluded from using.  Huge swatches of “preserved farmland” lie in Readington Township alone, acquired at 50-100% “State Cost” i.e., through purchases by the county or the municipality, or through purchase by State Agricultural Development Committee fees. Continue reading

Police Tailgating as Entrapment: A Comment and Query

I live a fair distance from work, so I spend a fair bit of time driving on interstate highways. Because I do, I have a fair opportunity to observe the rather unfair doings of the New Jersey State Police on our interstate highways. This is the kind of behavior I see just about every day:

And this is the kind of behavior I’ve seen more than once (albeit by local police, not by state troopers):

I once saw a Glen Ridge police officer tailgate and then crash into the car he was tailgating, in part because he was lighting a cigarette while doing so. Having crashed into the car in front of him (at a red light), he called in backup, surrounded the victim’s car, then aggressively interrogated her at the scene–presumably for the crime of his having crashed into her. (This despite the fact that liability for rear-end collisions is almost always pinned on the car in the rear.) I wish I’d recorded it, but I didn’t have a cellphone at the time.   Continue reading

Dr. No at the Voting Booth: An Election Day Parable

Today is Election Day in New Jersey–our primary election. For months I’ve been blathering on and on like a fan-boy about the virtues and wonders of the Democratic front runner for Congress in New Jersey’s 11th district, Mikie Sherrill. I was a fan way before the Times was. I went to her meetings. I contributed dutifully to her campaign via Blue Wave. At the last meeting, I grabbed a “Mikie Sherrill for Congress” lawn sign–not that I have a lawn. Today was going to be the proud day when, at last, I voted for her. Indeed, I Facebooked my intentions the night before:

My votes for the primary election: a “yes” to Mikie Sherrill for 11th district congressional representative, a “no” to Robert Menendez for US Senate.

I’d cross out the entire Republican slate if I could. But I’ll save that for November.

And I would, if I could. But I’ll get to that. Continue reading

Congratulations to Gurbir Grewal

Congratulations to Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal for his nomination to the position of Attorney General of New Jersey by Governor-Elect Phil Murphy.

I got to know Gurbir last year when he spoke at the series on “Race and Criminal Justice in America” that I organized at Felician University; I was deeply impressed then, and remain impressed now, at his capacity to walk the fine line between prosecutorial toughness about enforcing the law, and moral sensitivity to considerations of justice. It’s a tough balancing act, but I sleep better at night knowing that someone knows how to pull it off. Because I certainly don’t.

Gurbir Grewal speaking at Felician University, December 5, 2017

Continue reading

Check Your Suburban Privilege

Perhaps I’m being petty, but I’m convinced that there is a distinctive ethos endemic to the suburban American northeast which might be called the suburban entitlement mentality. (I’m sure it ranges beyond that, but that’s the version I know best. I didn’t encounter it when I lived in the midwest–though I encountered other unsavory things.) I’m not a Kantian, but there are days when I think that some of the essential elements of Kant’s moral philosophy–action from the motive of duty, universalizability–were formulated in (over)reaction to a version of the mentality I have in mind. Continue reading