Daydreams

I wish that Fat Tony Scalia was only a bit player on The Sopranos rather than a member of a five-man oligarchy.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

13 thoughts on “Daydreams”

  1. Campbell, I think it’s “Fat Tony” as in “Fathead.” Mark’s very far from that. And it’s very inappropriate and crude to refer to the shape of people’s bodies, if that’s what you were doing, at the dinner table.

    1. I didn’t watch the Sopranos, so I don’t know what the name means, but if this is more fat-phobia, I second Campbell’s objection. It’s not funny when Maher does it, or those late night talk show idiots, and I really don’t need to see it here either.

      And marcel might have a point too.

      Having said that … what an egregiously stupid thing for a Supreme to say. He has really gone off the rails. Mark, you were talking about semi-meritocratic oligarchs before, and I think maybe the Supremes have gotten too insular. Maybe law clerks these days are too subservient? I’d be interested to know if the nature of the students they get has changed. Because I don’t know who else would ever have the guts to personally challenge them about anything.

    2. When I read the comment, it called to mind Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, who was alleged to be the boss of the Genovese Family and was imprisoned during the 1980s.

  2. This plays into offensive ethnic stereotypes too much. I make ethnic slurs often, but always in private, and rarely seriously. Like many other Jews, I make them most frequently about fellow members of the tribe. I think if you wish to make them in public, you should stick to members of your own group. Scalia is contemptible for many reasons; being Italian-American is not one of them. This comes off as though you think that is one of his faults.

    I suspect that (to pick a frequent commenter who disagrees frequently with you, but whom I do not recall ever expressing an anti-semitic statement) if BB said that he wished that Kagan or Ginsburg worked for GS or Lehman Bros. rather than on the Supreme Court, you would ban him. Netanyahu too. You’d find it offensive, and rightly so.

    1. You beat me to the punch, but with better prose. Mark should apologize.

      Which doesn’t mean that I have much love for Justice Scalia. There are plenty of perfectly acceptable insults for the guy: bully, thug, ressentiment-monger, pseud, Maistreene, reactionary, etc.

  3. Scalia’s made himself a political figure, even by the ordinary standards of SCOTUS judges, so is exposed to the rougher standards of fair comment than apply to ordinary citizens like Mark. Cf. Edwards’ and Gingrich’s marital problems.
    His background is also relevant in that he’s a hyphenated American, and might be expected to show some empathy for the Mexican illegals of Arizona.

    1. And none of this justifies public ethnic slurs from people who belong to a different ethnic group. You can call him a thug without the specific ethnic angle. You can point to his own immigrant roots to illustrate his heartlessness and lack of empathy, remind readers of his hand gestures to highlight his vulgarity and sense of entitlement.

      Your comment suggests that ethnic stereotypes would not be out of place when discussing Lieberman or Sharpton. It’s worth recalling the speculation that Cuomo never ran for President because of concerns about publicity concerning his parents’ dealings with the Mob. Comments like these are lazy, thoughtless and, like napalm, leave lasting scars in others than their intended target.

  4. “His background is also relevant in that he’s a hyphenated American, and might be expected to show some empathy for the Mexican illegals of Arizona.”

    In fact if not in common usage, all Americans are hyphenated Americans, and it’s one of the most pernicious and destructive aspects of our national discourse that some people think, and are encouraged to think by our linguistic tics, that *they* are the only true and default Americans, and everyone else is an interloper.

    Many unhyphenated Americans are as recently off the boat as Scalia’s ancestors: “…more than 3 million immigrants from the British Isles entered the United States between 1892 and 1954, representing one of the largest immigrant groups of the twentieth century. Approximately 1.3 million came from England, 1.1 came from Ireland, some 600,000 from Scotland, and about 53,000 came from Wales.” (From “Passages to America,” by Emmy E. Werner, which I happen to be reading at the moment.)

    So all those Brits and their descendants just get to blend into the woodwork, unhyphenated, and furthermore they carry no extra special burden of being “expected to show” some extra special empathy for “the Mexican illegals of Arizona”? I wonder why that is….

    In other words, why assume that having immigrant ancestors is a/the relevant parameter? It would make just as much sense to assume that legal immigrants or their descendants, having done everything by the book, would be extra tempted to resent illegals.

    In yet other words, this is just one person arbitrarily saying which commonalities of experience “should” be relevant to someone else. (Not to defend Scalia; I can’t stand him.)

    In general, I don’t get why it’s so common to assume that people who have undergone hardships will (much less should) feel extra empathy for other people undergoing hardships. I assumed this when I was young, but it got kicked out of me by hard experience early in adulthood. People who have managed to climb the ladder seem equally likely to offer the ones still struggling below them a hand up or a kick in the face.

    When I was a kid, the country club in my (small midwestern) home town didn’t admit “Italians.” (We didn’t do hyphens in the fifties.) Time passed, and things changed, and an Italian M.D. was eventually admitted. More time passed, and the Italian M.D. became president of the country club, at which point he presided happily over its refusal to admit the town’s first black M.D. to its exclusive ranks. (This is to say nothing, of course, about exclusivity based on wealth.)

    But it’s one thing to mistake how people *are* and another to say how they *should be*. I don’t agree that we have a right to impose extra moral obligations on particular groups of people, especially groups who, we assume, have undergone hardships. I don’t mean Scalia; I mean the generalized assumption that hyphenated Americans “should be expected to feel some empathy,” implying that other Americans (assuming there were any) don’t carry this burden of expectation.

    *****

    For the record, my thoughts are framed by the fact that my dad’s parents came to Ellis Island from Naples as children in 1902 and 1909 respectively, and my mom’s family — at least the few ancestors who’ve been traced far back — came from England in the 1630s. Furthermore, I’m gay, and I once had an Irish girlfriend whom I couldn’t bring to this country to stay, because, well, you know….

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