Monica Potts

Monica Potts is a freelance writer, and former staff member of The American Prospect. A fellow with the New America Foundation Asset Building Program, her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Connecticut Post and the Stamford Advocate. She also blogs at PostBourgie.

Recent Articles

Reforming the Meat Market

As the USDA's latest appointee, Elisabeth Hagen has been charged with keeping our food safe. But can one person fix a system that in some ways still resembles The Jungle?

(Flickr/Xose Castro)
Last week, after leaving the post vacant for a year, President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Elisabeth Hagen to be undersecretary for food safety at the Department of Agriculture. The appointment comes after years of food-borne illness outbreaks spread by everything from spinach to peanut butter, and after George W. Bush weakened biotechnology oversight as he was headed out the door. During the time the post was unoccupied, The New York Times revealed that much of the ground beef we consume contains ammonia -- an additive meant to kill E. coli and salmonella, of course. That kind of lax regulation of the industrial food chain is exactly the kind of thing food-safety advocates hoped Obama would change. Those same advocates are a bit unsure about what to think about Hagen, a physician who's served as the Department of Agriculture's chief medical officer, since she's been a behind-the-scenes player in the department who also worked at its Food Safety and Inspection Service. Tom Laskawy at...

The Rental Crisis.

In yesterday's New York Times , Gretchen Morgenson wrote that the soured deal to buy Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan -- two rent-regulated apartment buildings bought at the top of the market by developers who intended to turn them into higher-rate rentals -- was just the most high-profile failure. Little deals like that all over the city sucked up about 100,000 affordable apartments, or about 10 percent of the rent-regulated stock, she writes. Those stats just highlight how left out renters were during the boom. Plenty of homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages are now seeing the value of their dream homes falling below what they owe or are even facing foreclosure. But before that, renters, especially those at the bottom of the income scale, were allegedly being harassed out of their apartments on specious accusations by new landlords who wanted to capitalize on the boom. And it was harder for those people to find a new apartment because landlords were trying...

Because it's Murder.

After deliberating for just 37 minutes, a jury in Kansas found Scott Roeder guilty of murder in the killing of George Tiller , a Kansas doctor who performed late-term abortions. Shortly before, Judge Warren Wilbert ruled the jury would not be allowed to consider a voluntary manslaughter charge. That was despite a ruling earlier this month, in which Wilbert said he wouldn't block Roeder's attorneys from bringing up a voluntary manslaughter defense, a lesser charge that allows defendants to argue they had an unreasonable but honest belief that deadly force was necessary. The lesser charge would have carried a roughly five-year sentence, had he been convicted. What was so disturbing about the previous ruling, and what makes it such a relief that the lesser charge is off the table, is that almost any belief is honest. If we start saying that unreasonable but honest beliefs justify deadly force in a way that makes them less than murder, the logical end road is that we start to justify...

Women and the Law.

Female judges make up less than a quarter of the federal bench, and only a little more than that at the state level, a new report found. The report noted that there were plenty of women graduating from law school and passing the bar, just under half, so it's not that there isn't a talent pool. From the Blog of Legal Times: The report says that the disparity cannot be attributed to a lack of qualified women. According to the American Bar Association, women comprise 48% of law school graduates and 45% of law firm associates. Instead, the report blames a lack of opportunity and access. This is a problem for the U.S. Again, it's not just about making the bench look representative of the population, though that's a part. It's also providing different perspectives with which to look at cases. If it's not clear now, it should be soon that being a judge involves judgment affected by background. It's not just an interpretation of the law that is the same for everyone. After serious candidates...

Criticizing the Court.

President Obama wasn't the only high-profile critic of the United States Supreme Court for its ruling in the Citizens United case. Sandra Day O'Connor , who wrote a 2003 decision the law reversed, gave a speech at Georgetown University Law Center a few days ago. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor did not sound happy on Tuesday about the Supreme Court’s big campaign finance decision last week. It repudiated a major part of a ruling Justice O’Connor helped write before her retirement from the court in 2006, and it complicated her recent efforts to do away with judicial elections. 'Gosh,' she said, 'I step away for a couple of years and there’s no telling what’s going to happen.' O'Connor feels the ruling could further jeopardize the integrity of judicial elections. Electing judges -- the norm in many states -- is a practice she's argued in recent years should be undone. What is not understandable is the criticism of the criticism. Tunku Varadarajan , writing for the Daily Beast , calls Obama's...

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