More Guns, More Peace?

If there was one thing, one solid-as-a-rock thing, that the New York Times could be counted on, it was that guns were bad. Guns killed. Screw the Second Amendment, which was a bad one and consequently could be rightly ignored, and eliminate guns. Then came the first crack in the rock.

Emily Bazelon’s homage to illegal guns in the hands of black kids was, to be blunt, simultaneously bizarre and unsurprising. It was less about the virtue of guns than an apologia for illegal guns, but only when held by young men who swore that they were only carrying them in self defense and would never use a gun offensively. It wasn’t their fault. They said so. She believed them.

But the New York Times has had its Doctor Strangelove moment. Continue reading

An E For Effort Isn’t Excellence

Will your kids return to college in the fall? They’ve got plans to protect them, you know, from COVID-19. There isn’t a chance in hell it’s going to work, as everyone who isn’t suffering from delusion or selling a delusion realizes. It’s not that they aren’t interested, although many aren’t all that interested, but kids are remarkably good at doing stupid things and coming up with excuses for them. And they’re invincible, every one of them, right up until they feel the pain.

In any ordinary semester, some students fall apart. They overextend themselves with extracurricular activities, fall into depressions, drink to excess, weather their parents’ divorces or their own wrenching breakups. Their performance in class suffers as a result, and we often find ourselves listening to their tales of woe. We can’t hug them, as my colleague Jessica McCaughey observes, so we make do with listening sympathetically, granting extensions, helping them figure out what they can do to catch up in our class, connecting them with resources such as the university counseling service.

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After The First Shot, Drive

Each individual in the crowd of protesters, or mob of rioters as the case may be, sees himself as an individual actor, responsible only for what he does and not for anyone else in the crowd. Should he choose, for reasons that are exceptionally unclear and moronic, to stand before an SUV, he certainly isn’t the person who made the choice to bring a gun to the protest, to pull it out, to aim the gun and fire it at the person in the SUV.

He’s just a nice guy trying to protest police brutality, or a statue of U.S. Grant, or whatever pops into his mind at the moment he decided that whoever is inside the SUV somehow deserves to be stopped, swarmed by the mob, for the offense to race of driving home for work, or maybe driving to the market to buy a quart of milk. What did he do to deserve getting run down? Continue reading

Tuesday Talk*: Canceling George Washington

Charles Blow has a point.

On the issue of American slavery, I am an absolutist: enslavers were amoral monsters.

People often try to explain this away by saying that the people who enslaved Africans in this country were simply men and women of their age, abiding by the mores of the time.

But, that explanation falters. There were also men and women of the time who found slavery morally reprehensible. The enslavers ignored all this and used anti-black dehumanization to justify the holding of slaves and the profiting from slave labor.

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Short Take: Where Did The Overton Window Go?

A few weeks ago, one of my “reply guys” on twitter pointed out to me that my damnable reliance on facts and reason, on “hard” fixes to actual problems rather than empty platitudes and my moderated refusal to indulge in simplistic hatred of tribal enemies, missed the boat.

He told me, “You’re wrong. We’ve moved the Overton Window* so far left that defunding the police is taken seriously.”

At the time, I didn’t appreciate his message. But after due deliberation, I’ve come to realize he’s got a point. A very good point. It’s no longer limited to a small group of nutjobs screaming for inane radical solutions that no one, no elected official, no business leader, no academic, no one of modest intelligence and a limited capacity for reason, would take seriously. Continue reading

No Football In Kansas

It was a lame joke. It was racist. It was offensive. And to add insult to injury, it had already been done before, and so wasn’t even novel. But Kansas State University student Jaden McNeil made it anyway.

Get it? George Floyd was murdered, which was the only way to keep a black man from using drugs. Sick burn, Jaden, who describes himself as the founder and president of America First Students. What’s a state university to do with such a blithering asshole? Continue reading

Violins In Aurora

The cause was simple enough, a vigil to remember Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died last summer at the hands of police.

Mr. McClain was walking home from a convenience store on Aug. 24 when someone called 911, saying he “looked sketchy” and was wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.

The police arrived, and after struggling to handcuff Mr. McClain, officers brought him to the ground and used a carotid hold, which restricts blood to the brain to render someone unconscious. When medical responders arrived, after about 15 minutes, paramedics injected him with ketamine, a powerful sedative.

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Debate: Is Criminal Law Racism Systemic?

The cry of “systemic racism” in the criminal justice system continues to be heard. I remain unpersuaded that this empty phrase is correct or even modestly useful in either fixing the legal system or eliminating racism (which, as I’ve made abundantly clear, are two distinct problems that have been simplistically conflated). But since I may very well be wrong, I pay attention when people I respect have something to say about the point.

So when Reason held a debate between former libertarian Agitator Radley Balko against the Manhattan Institute’s Rafael Mangual, it was worth a listen. The issue was framed as “Is the Criminal Justice System Racist?” Continue reading

Books Thrown and the Misunderstood Legacy of Judge Frankel

His words were uttered at a time when the issue of consistency made not only different sense, but carried different meaning. They were thrown at me by a former federal defender, about to take his new job as a budding law prof, and he took comfort in the United States Sentencing Guidelines. This was jarring. When did the defense find the sentencing guidelines their friend?

It came in response to my “modest proposal” for crim law reform, that we roll back everything about the system, from laws to sentencing to police, to May, 1973. Oddly, no one either asked why May, 1973. But his response was surprising. Continue reading