Chesterton’s E-Fence

Michelle Alexander’s seminal work, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, was a brilliant exposé of how “our prison system is a unique form of social control, much like slavery and Jim Crow, the systems it has replaced.” Buried in there is a problem atop a problem, that the New Jim Crow was born of reform of the old Jim Crow. Or to be blunt, we fixed one problem by creating a new problem.

And now Alexander raises the newest Jim Crow.

Since 2010, when I published “The New Jim Crow” — which argued that a system of legal discrimination and segregation had been born again in this country because of the war on drugs and mass incarceration — there have been significant changes to drug policy, sentencing and re-entry, including “ban the box” initiatives aimed at eliminating barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated people. Continue reading

The Next Generation Gap

Whether it’s for realsies or to make a point is unclear, but Emile Ratelband is trying to do it.

A 69-year-old Dutch “positivity guru” who says he does not feel his age has started a battle to make himself legally 20 years younger on the grounds that he is being discriminated against on a dating app.

Emile Ratelband told a court in Arnhem in the Netherlands that he did not feel “comfortable” with his date of birth, and compared his wish to alter it to people who identified as transgender.

Ratelband said that due to having an official age that did not reflect his emotional state he was struggling to find both work and love. He has asked for his date of birth to be changed from 11 March 1949 to 11 March 1969.

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The Persuasive Value Of “Shut Up And Listen”

In the aftermath of the midterm elections, my pal Elie Mystal noted the voting pattern of that heinous group of awful people, white women.

It’s almost as if there is something wrong with people voting the way they choose to vote, which is particularly odd given that Jill Filipovic attributed the aspect of the election she deemed good to women. Not just black women, but white women. Women. So which is it, are women the heroes or the villains? Continue reading

The Right To Freedom And The Patrol Car Door

Christopher Glenn was on probation, not that you would know that. Contrary to popular belief, there is no brand on the forehead of probationers. They aren’t forced to wear a special symbol on their shirts, or some weird “I’m on probation” hat, so as long as they don’t do anything illegal, they’re pretty much the same as anyone else. That means they get to take a walk and be left alone.

Christopher Glenn took a walk near a school. Someone called 911. Responding officers were filmed arresting him for loitering—an arrest that he resisted.

It’s unclear why someone called 911. Maybe Glenn was an unfamiliar face in the neighborhood, and someone assumed that if a face is unfamiliar, it must be there for unsavory purposes. Maybe it’s the ubiquitous “see something, say something,” designed to turn every good guy into a good snitch, just in case. Continue reading

Changing The Head On The Corpse

Decades ago, my father told me a joke that stayed with me. A woman was at the funeral parlor following the death of her beloved husband. She told the funeral director that she wanted to see the body before the service, and he took her in privately and opened the coffin.

“Oh no, no, no,” she said. “I told you to put him the blue suit, not the brown suit. This will never do.”

“No problem, madam,” the funeral director replied. “I’ll have it fixed in a jiffy.”

“How is that possible,” she cried? “The service is about to start, and you have to change his entire suit!” Continue reading

What Do We Do Now?

There will be many takeaways from the midterm elections by people far more knowledgeable, and far more vested in the outcome, than mine. I couldn’t lose, because my ambivalence left me without a side. My views on Trump are no secret. Neither are my views on progressive social justice. Much as I couldn’t lose, I couldn’t win either.

So the outcome has happened, a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. Will it be congressional paralysis, as we endured for the last six years of the Obama administration, or will subpoenas start flying from a House of Representatives determined to destroy Darth Cheeto?

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Rights, Subject To Social Media Approval

New York City hates guns. This is a politically unremarkable statement, despite the fact that the Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald held that the Second Amendment protected the fundamental right to keep and bear arms. In the past, it was nearly impossible to obtain a carry permit from the NYPD. What will the future bring?

WCBS NewsRadio New York reports:

Two New York lawmakers are working to draft a bill that would propose a social media check before a gun purchase. 

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A Vote To The Death

As he does with every election, Ilya Somin reminded us about the problem of rational political ignorance. After all, why bother to put in time to learn about how government works, about issues, about candidates and positions on issues, when all one has is a single vote? It requires a great deal of time and effort to become politically knowledgeable for almost no return, given that one vote, standing alone, does nothing.

But this election is being sold as different. Whether as the election of women and minorities to office or the election to deny Trump the House of Representatives, both parties are pushing their hardest to turn out their own voters. And to turn away the other party’s voters, whether by deliberate interference and suppression or gamesmanship. One vote does nothing, but the aggregation of single votes wins elections.

For many, this is an election for, and against, Trump. People may not know who their representative or their senators are, or their state reps, or even their governor. They may not understand how a tripartite government works. They can’t name a justice on the Supreme Court. But they know who they hate. Continue reading

Van Wagner: A Lawyer’s Personal Stare-Down with the Opiate Epidemic, Part 2

Ed. Note: This is part two of a guest post by Madison, Wisconsin, criminal defense lawyer Christopher Van Wagner. You can find part one here.

When we learned of the death of our 29-year-old daughter, Mollie, to an opiate overdose, time stood still. But one thing was clear to me, something I had actually said to Mollie at one time as she slowly killed herself by addictions, walking away from every treatment effort: we would tell the truth in her obituary and to anyone who asked. We would not shy way from the truth, and we would do so without shame or stigma.

We had talked openly about addictions for a decade, due largely to her struggles and those of our family. Addiction is indeed a family disease. But it is a disease despite the stigma which many still attach. So we published a candid, baring and honest obituary. We even included the story of how her rescue pit bull, Jocko, stayed with her for 36 hours after her instant death. The obit had the same effect as many viral ones about “nice” people dying from opiate overdose: tears and too many questions. Continue reading

Van Wagner: A Lawyer’s Personal Stare-Down with the Opiate Epidemic, Part 1

Ed. Note: This is part one of a guest post by Madison, Wisconsin, criminal defense lawyer Christopher Van Wagner. You can find part two here.

SHG has written recently of the sadness and challenge of the country’s current opiate epidemic and the difficulties of doing anything more than emote, wring hands, and move on to the next click. A punitive criminal court approach failed under Rockefeller and Reagan, and I saw the failures firsthand. An upstate NY dorm room was my 70’s home when then Gov. Rockefeller enacted the “nation’s toughest drug laws” – which did nothing more than turn our college VP into a mediator whose task was to stave off any on-campus undercover presence. The unstated goal:  protect the University, and no one else.

Then, as an 80’s AUSA in Madison, Wisconsin, I was an OCDETF prosecutor as we sought to “weed” out this hovel’s newly-minted crack and cocaine dealers (read: minority drug users/dealers who plied their trade on the street and not the suburban bedroom) and “seed” those same streets for a chance at new life (read: spend Great Society sums to make those areas more habitable). The unstated goal:  build a virtual “wall” for lovely little Madison (which back then had just been named by Money Mag as the “best place to live in America”) that would keep out Chicago street gangs and their crack cocaine trade. In more recent years, in now my third decade of solo criminal defense here, I have sometimes, if reluctantly, allowed my young middle-class opiate-addicted clients to become police operatives for the stated goal of sparing spare them a “Lenny Bias” homicide prison term. Continue reading