Weekly Newsletter (11-30-2014)

This week, I chose to focus exclusively on Ferguson, and only include Other Contributions outside of articles about Ferguson. I did this because I felt I could not give sufficient attention to Ferguson without including more than 2-3 articles about the topic.

On an unrelated note, I’ve been documenting my Winter Break Reading. While this is mostly for myself, I’ve reviewed two of the books I’ve read and intend to document my thoughts on the others subsequently.

Spotlight on Ferguson #

Since Ferguson is a polarizing issue, I did my best to take a methodical approach to covering the issue. My goal in doing this is not to convince you of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the outcome. Rather, I hope to provide you with information that can help you come to an informed conclusion about the case and the events surrounding it.

I included one article containing an interview with Alan Dershowitz, a legal scholar whom I respect.

I included two articles written before the outcome of the case was known. One supports the argument that justice was served. The other argues that justice was not served and the case presents a “failure at every level”. In my research into the case, I found that articles written before the outcome of the case was known typically presented more compelling cases for their arguments, although I’m not totally sure why this was the case.

Then, I included a video of Rep. John Lewis’ commentary on the case, a video and article with Obama’s commentary on the case, and the transcript of the Grand Jury investigation. These primary and secondary sources provide a good context for the case.

We have a moral divide, not a racial one
This article is interesting because it was written before the outcome of the Ferguson case was known. The author claims that we must separate the investigation of the justice system’s handling of the case from the broader issues of race relations. The true goal of the investigation should be to discover the truth of what happened in the case. He goes on to claim that the real divide between the sides of the Ferguson debate is an ideological one, between people who believe that justice can be served based on an investigation and discovery of the facts surrounding the case, and people who deny that justice can be served without considering the racial context surrounding the case. As I’m sure many of my readers will point out, this author possesses a clear bias against “the left”. However, I don’t feel that, in this case, that subtracts from his primary argument about the real goal of the case and “justice” in general.

Ferguson shows failure at every level
This article was also authored prior to the outcome of the case. It asserts that the Ferguson government has failed to provide much-needed leadership and is corrupt. I found this article well thought-out and compelling. Based on the article, the key failure points in the investigation and adjudication processes were the governor neglecting to elect a special prosecutor and choosing to not send in National Guardsmen.

Dershowitz Blasts Media for ‘Whooping Up a Frenzy’ in Ferguson
Dershowitz affirmatively comes out on the side of the grand jury stating that “The grand jury came to the right decision because generally you don’t indict someone unless you believe you can convict them at a jury trial,” and “Any reasonable prosecutor would come to the conclusion that even if he were indicted, he would’ve been acquitted by a jury because there was reasonable doubt written all over this case.”

Rep. John Lewis calls for Massive Non-Violent Protests Nationwide if Darren Wilson isn’t Indicted
John Lewis, a Democratic representative from Georgia who is “a civil rights icon” compares the Ferguson situation to the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march. I think this comparison is ridiculous. First of all, despite Lewis’ suggestion otherwise, the riots in Ferguson were certainly violent, with violence instigated by rioters against innocent businesses in Ferguson. At Selma, the protestors’ non-violent march was quelled by violent police who brutalized them. In addition, the 1965 protests were aimed to eliminate legalized, institutionalized racism in the form of Jim Crow Laws and a practical lack of voting rights and equal protections under the law. While widespread or even potentially instutionalized racism may exist in Ferguson, the situation in Ferguson lacks the distinguishing elements of Selma.

Obama Differs From Lewis: Ferguson Isn’t Selma
Covers Obama’s talk on ABC with George Stephanopoulos. I agreed with most of Obama’s points and appreciated that he refuted Lewis’ claim that Ferguson was analogous to Selma.

State of Missouri v. Darren Wilson Transcript
This is the full transcript of Darren Wilson’s Grand Jury court hearing. It includes the entire interview of Wilson and the presentation of various pieces of evidence. Unfortunately, I have not read it. However, I think any true analysis of the Ferguson case should take into account this primary source.

Other Contributions #

Mean People Fail (Contibuted by Matt Ritter, Described by Me)
Paul Graham, the founder of YCombinator, the first startup incubator, and one of my many startup heros, talks about why being “mean” is inversely correlated with success as a startup founder or intellectual. First, as Matt pointed out to me, this argument refutes the stereotype that bigshots are inherently and necessarily assholes. I agree with this article’s thesis, but have one nitpick. I think Graham fails to discuss and delineate the difference between being “mean” (an asshole) and being “honest.” In my own experience, successful people, in particular technical ones, tend to be honest but benevolent. In other words, they are the type of people who will critique your work and maybe even your flaws but not attack you.

I also wonder and would be curious to hear from my readers whether they believe this holds in other fields. In my limited experience in the working world, I have primarily worked with people who work in tech at small to medium size companies, and I know Matt has too. I’d love to hear from people who work in finance, law, medicine, etc. on whether they believe this holds true.

A quantum world arising from many ordinary ones (Contributed by Leslie Cofer, Described by Me)
Describes a new theory about the root source of quantum phenomenon. I often shy away from including articles about theoretical physics because it is an area where I find science writers often do a particularly poor job due to the fact that most theoretical physics theories are deeply rooted in complex mathematics. However, I appreciated and decided to include this article as the theory presented lends itself especially well to an understandable analogy.

Why we humblebrag about being busy (Contributed by Jen Dalecki, Described by Me)
Asserts that we are currently living in a “more bubble” where both individuals and businesses strive for excessive breadth at the expense of depth. I enjoyed this article and intend to include the Time article on Mindfulness it links to in the next newsletter.