Author Archives: David Meyer Lindenberg

Book Review: Radley Balko’s and Tucker Carrington’s The Cadaver King and The Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South

Radley Balko, Washington Post criminal-justice reporter, is an outstanding example of a type of journalist that’s all but vanished at national papers: the “beat reporter,” someone who, despite lacking a top-level credential in the field he covers, researches it so deeply and thoroughly for so long that he becomes the expert.

Better, Balko compounds his knowledge with a rare degree of honesty. Where other “issue” journalists blur the line between reporting and advocacy, Balko consistently refuses to indulge in strawmen. To be sure, he has his perspective – a libertarian one – but he’s well known for the lengths to which he goes to get and accurately report the views of people on the other side of a crimlaw debate. If there’s one thing you can count on Balko to do, it’s report first, provide an analysis second.

It’s tough to overstate how much credibility this gets him in an era dominated by partisan screeching. It also translates into a lot of access: his first book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, wouldn’t have been nearly as insightful if he’d alienated police by condemning them from afar instead of seeking out their company and making the effort to understand their positions. Continue reading

We’re All From “Shithole” Countries, Mr. President

One of the joys, and believe me, there aren’t many, of being an observer of American politics is that you get to watch the teams fumble the ball in real time. To recap, Trump, at a Jan 11 Oval Office meeting on DACA, reportedly asked the following question: 

Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?

The Washington Post’s scoop on the meeting was completely unsourced, as is unfortunately now par for the course at major papers, but at least one politician who was there, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), has since confirmed it happened. Per the original story, the countries to which Trump was referring as “shitholes” were Haiti and several in Africa. What’s more, the WaPo claims he said he’d prefer immigrants from Norway and “Asian countries.”  Continue reading

Meyer-Lindenberg: Roy Moore, From a (Short) Distance

Almost a week ago, the people of Alabama, historically, and so on and so forth. Insert your cliché of choice here.

To disclose my bias: I’m delighted Moore lost. Even a body as tainted as the U.S. Senate deserves better than someone who, even if he weren’t most likely a pedophile, would be the most morally and intellectually bankrupt person to run for office in recent memory.

Over at NRO, David French has a handy reminder of Moore’s utterly lawless, tyrannical approach to judging. His conspiratorial antipathies towards Muslims and gay people are a matter of record. When he didn’t duck appearances by giving the worst excuses known to man, he had the stage presence and rhetorical stylings of a frog being hit with a hammer. And when asked to talk about something serious – or worse yet, law – instead of ranting about “reds,” “yellows” and how much better life was under slavery, he’d say things to make a sovereign citizen blush. Continue reading

A Requiem For Quality Academic Thought

Ed. Note: David Meyer-Lindenberg started out to write about free speech, but midway through, realized that this post by Judith Shapiro, president and professor of anthropology emerita at Barnard College, published at Inside Higher Education was, well, unadulterated gibberish that said nothing. David shifted gears.

As those of you who’ve read my previous work know, I don’t write very well. Heck, I barely speak English. But I didn’t realize just how far I was lagging behind until I read this op-ed by Judith Shapiro, a former president of Barnard College, at Inside Higher Ed.

The topic? The purported need for less “free” and more “quality” speech. I think. It’s honestly kinda hard to tell.

In an era of information overload, we face the problem that too much information is equivalent to too little. But we also face a more serious problem: a Gresham’s law of information in which bad information is driving out good information.

Continue reading

Debate: Ah, What Do Lawyers Know Anyway?

Ed. Note: Following a so-very-Tennessee story about the decisions made by a non-lawyer “judicial commissioner,” the question was posed for debate between David Meyer-Lindenberg and Chris Seaton: Should non-lawyers hold judicial positions? This is David’s argument.

We live in a time of ignorance.[1] This is all the more surprising because, as intellectual tastemakers named Tom keep reminding us, we have more information at our fingertips than we know what to do with.

Nor is the rot limited to the groundlings. Social media, for all its failings, and ongoing access to public figures have done a great thing for American democracy: they showed the country how little those who supply its opinions have in the way of knowledge, consistency and humility. From police spokespeople to pandering politicians, from fraudulent experts to journalists awash in bias, those paid to inform us have done their best to bring public debate into disrepute. We now see credentials with suspicion.

There’s another class of Americans who are, literally, paid to supply opinions. They’re judges, and the backlash against those once considered experts is spreading to the courtroom. The call now is for the professional judiciary, made up of judges who’ve studied law and passed the bar, to make room for laymen on the bench. Continue reading

Meyer-Lindenberg: The Fixing Of America

Scott’s out of town today – a concert of some kind, old-people music, a trip to Cambridge – and he asked me to look after you guys. Entertain you, maybe.

This is not going to end well.

My usual MO would be to rant about the lack of civil liberties in Europe. And maybe that’s still going to happen. But I couldn’t help but notice you people celebrated Brexit 1.0 a couple days ago, so I thought it’d be a good opportunity for an outsider’s perspective on the United States in the midst of all the doom and gloom on social media.

As Scott puts it, you guys are mourning over the corpse of a great nation. It’s incessant. Either you flagellate yourselves because the United States, despite its egalitarian surface appeal, is racist, sexist and took ninety years to free the slaves, or you flagellate yourselves because the United States, despite its egalitarian surface appeal, is corrupt and elitist, a place where government/immigrants/the media (circle all that apply) have spent the last ninety years selling off the nation’s birthright. Continue reading

Cross: IJ’s Scott Bullock, So They Can’t Take Your Home

Ed. Note: David Meyer-Lindenberg crosses the President and General Counsel of the Institute for Justice, Scott Bullock, one of the nation’s foremost opponents of eminent-domain abuse.

Q. As everyone knows, an unorthodox start in life is key to a good story. Paris was raised by a shepherd. Gauguin started out as a stockbroker. And Abe Lincoln was born in a log cabin. But surely no origin story can be as unusual as that of Scott Bullock, the libertarian luminary who was born in, of all places, Guantanamo Bay. Military brat? Did you move around a lot growing up? Live in any other strange and exotic places?

You attended Grove City College, a Christian liberal arts school 50 miles north of Pittsburgh, where you studied economics and philosophy. Why that combination? What did you see yourself doing after you graduated? Was law school already on your radar? “Christian liberal arts” is a pretty unusual combination; what was the intellectual climate like? Is there a reason every libertarian lawyer took philosophy in college? Continue reading

Meyer-Lindenberg: Hate Speech: Never Go Full Europe

234,341. What kind of number is that?

I’ll give you a hint: it’s not how many days it feels like Trump’s been in office. Nor is it how many brain cells you lose when you watch an episode of Bill Nye Saves the World. It’s actually how many criminal insult investigations the German police conducted last year.

“Now David,“ I hear you say, quizzically, “I’m an American. Why do I give a fuck, as you appear to do, about what those demiliterate Teutons get up to in the wilderness of Central Europe? Hell, I’m apathetic about things that happen right here in our very own backyard. Why should I waste five minutes of my time reading your drivel?“

Well, consider this. That First Amendment of yours? Just as those who neglect to study history are condemned to repeat it, so too are you at risk of losing your free-speech rights unless you understand what goes on in places that never benefited politically from the Enlightenment. If that sounds a little hyperbolic, you’d do well to remember that the barbarians – who, in classic barbarian fashion, have chosen to invade the warm places first – are already at the gate.

At Berkeley and across the nation, there’s a large and growing group of people whose contempt for America’s liberties is matched only by their ignorance of its heritage. Each day, a new unprincipled, poorly written op-ed pops up in which they call for the U.S. to adopt a European-style censorship scheme, one that would allow them to bar speech they deem hurtful or hateful. Continue reading

Cross: Ed Whelan, An EPPC Eye On Judicial Confirmations

David Meyer-Lindenberg crosses Ed Whelan, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a leading conservative voice on Supreme Court nominees.

Q. You were born and raised in Whittier, CA, where you grew up listening to Dodgers games on the radio. After you graduated high school in 1978, you departed for bucolic Cambridge, MA, where you graduated with honors and joined Phi Beta Kappa. Where were you headed? What was the plan? Was law school already on your radar, or did that come later, a momentary lapse of judgment? Is legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully to blame for all the baseball references in your work? Continue reading

Cross: Bob Levy, Guiding Cato’s Vision of Justice

David Meyer-Lindenberg crosses Chairman of the Board of Cato Institute, Robert Levy.

 

Q. You grew up in DC’s rough-and-tumble Petworth neighborhood, where your dad ran a hardware store. Clearly, you liked the nation’s capital just fine: you chose to stay on for college at American University and only left the city for the wild and distant climes of Montgomery County, Maryland in ’66, once you had your Ph.D in business.

You went to American U in the early Sixties, a turbulent time when organized left-wing student activism was just getting started and students and faculty alike were outraged over the discovery of a secret U.S. Army counterintelligence program on campus. All in all, it doesn’t seem like a particularly natural breeding ground for libertarians. Where’d your politics come from? Whom were you reading? Who influenced your views? Continue reading