BR Blog

May 14, 2015 Corporate Welfare Is Draining Baltimore Lester Spence

The Baltimore headquarters of the Under Armour apparel company was built with millions in tax benefits. Photo: Phil Romans


On May 4, Stephen Curry, deadeye starting point guard for the Golden State Warriors, was named the 2015 National Basketball Association MVP. In honor of his award, Baltimore-based athletic gear firm Under Armour announced a special edition of his Curry One Basketball Shoe, currently the company’s bestseller.

A week before Curry won his award, Freddie Gray was buried. After the funeral, Baltimore Police deployed in full riot gear to Mondawmin Mall, situated on the city’s west side. The Baltimore school system doesn’t have its own buses, so many students access public transportation from Mondawmin. When school let out that day, students were prevented from getting on their buses by police in body armor. After a tense standoff, some students began to throw rocks at the police, who responded by tear-gassing them.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank was among the first in the local business community to respond to the protests. His lead his annual shareholders meeting by sending thoughts and prayers to Gray’s family and by promising he would work with other leaders to bring positive change to the city. However, Under Armour’s...

May 14, 2015 Elder Consent: The New Sex Panic? Judith Levine

Photo: Ryan G. Smith

The saddest part, the most infuriating part, of the trial of Henry Rayhons is that he had to plead not-guilty and testify that all he had done that night was kiss, hold hands, and pray with his wife.

Rayhons is the seventy-eight-year-old former Iowa legislator who was recently tried for felony sexual abuse of his now-deceased wife, Donna, while she was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. He faced ten years in prison if convicted.

When the alleged offense occurred, the couple, both widowed, had been together seven years. They were still buzzing with early-relationship randiness. Even at the nursing home, according to Henry, Donna liked to unzip his pants and fondle him.

Then, at the behest of Donna’s daughters—who had put her in the home, perhaps against Henry’s wishes—a doctor concluded their mother was incapable of consenting to sex. The home’s administration ruled her off...

May 04, 2015 Family Farms vs. Americanism Claude S. Fischer

A corn and dairy farm in Dodge County, Wisconsin in 1941. Image: Library of Congress

Although much of today’s debates around immigration reform is, on the surface, about legalities and economics and human rights, we know that below the surface–and sometimes above it–a lot of it is about cultural assimilation. Resisters worry that recent immigrants, usually meaning those from south of the border rather than those from, say, Europe, will not assimilate to mainstream American culture. And some on the immigrants’ side worry, at least privately, that the new arrivals or their children will assimilate too much and abandon their native cultures.

An earlier post reported evidence that recent arrivals from Spanish-speaking nations were assimilating at least as fast as those who had come from Europe a century earlier. Now, a new paper in Rural Sociology addresses the issue of immigrant assimilation from a wholly different angle: the continuing cultural distinctiveness of German-American farmers in the Midwest.

19th Century

Sociologist Amanda McMillan Lequieu’s study of twenty...

May 01, 2015 Boxing's Labor Problem Joel Calahan

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao at a press conference ahead of their fight. Photo:

In the past six weeks, professional boxing has experienced an influx of money that would give any sporting industry a major shock. Saturday’s welterweight fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, the two most popular boxers of the last decade, will easily be the highest grossing single bout of all time, even according to its most conservative income projections of $300 million. On top of this, former pop music mogul Al Haymon has raised $425 million from a $40-billion private equity fund to consolidate the sport’s athletes under a single promotional company and brand, Premier Boxing Champions (PBC). Boxing, longtime domain of the blue-collar fighter with the hardscrabble life story, has suddenly become the playground of the one percent.

But the rising tide...

April 30, 2015 Police Manipulate Freddie Gray Story Through Leak Simon Waxman

A boarded-up building in Baltimore on April 29, 2015. Image: Talk Radio News

One of the many disturbing dimensions of Freddie Gray’s death after riding in a Baltimore Police van is how little the public knows about the circumstances. We have collectively been kept in the dark, even though several police officers were in the van with Gray and presumably know a great deal that the rest of us do not. No doubt this asymmetry is a source of anger to Baltimore residents.

We might have consoled ourselves with the usual bureaucratic platitude that officials do not comment on ongoing investigations, but even now, with the police investigation concluded, those officials are silent about the cause of death.

Well, almost silent. An anonymous source within the Baltimore Police Department has leaked to the Washington Post a document quoting an unnamed prisoner, also reputedly in...