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

Delta State Isn’t Delta House

The College Fix reports that the Mississippi ACLU has taken issue with certain rules at Delta State University.

Policy 27 of Delta State University’s “Student Regulations” states that “words, behavior, and/or actions which inflict mental or emotional distress on others and/or disrupt the educational environment at Delta State University” could possibly “subject violators to appropriate disciplinary action, including suspension and expulsion.”

Expulsion for words that “inflict mental or emotional distress”? That’s a bit extreme, not to mention unconstitutional. Continue reading

The Vote “For”?

In its endorsement of Letitia James for attorney general of New York, the New York Times made a revealing assertion.

As public advocate since 2014, she has sometimes been overzealous in her use of lawsuits to address what she sees as inequities in government. Still, her efforts have aimed at using the true power of her office — the bully pulpit — for good, especially when it comes to tenants’ rights and the needs of vulnerable children.

Or, to remove the gloss, James was a vexatious litigant who abused her office in frivolous suits to push her personal and progressive agenda. Continue reading

Papers, Please

When I was a teen, I did what many children of a certain age did. I bought a fake ID in Times Square that would allow a kid, well below the drinking age, to enter the Metropole Cafe, buy a beer and watch women dance without their clothing. Times Square had not yet been turned into Disneyland at the time.

The ID was, in retrospect, pretty awful. It had a photo and some typed words that included my name and a phony date of birth that said I was old enough to be there. A few years later, when I was in high school and went with my buddies to the Tumble Inn to sample their finest Olde Frothingslosh, a police officer entered and demanded to see my ID.

I showed it to him. He studied it for a few seconds, then handed it back to me and said, “okay,” proving he was either a moron or didn’t care. Back then, everyone of drinking age had a driver’s license, and failing to show it to prove your age was pretty much conclusive proof you were lying. Continue reading

The Simplest Solution

Nelson Rockefeller thought he figured out the secret code. Everybody knew that drugs were bad, evil, destructive, but nobody knew how to stop them. They had been seen as a social and public health issue, but that failed to stem the tide, so Rocky chose to address them as a law enforcement problem, one to be dealt with harshly.

The rationale made complete sense: make the punishment for drugs so harsh, so Draconian, that no one would risk such ridiculous penalties, either to make a few bucks or to get his next fix. The only flaw in the theory was that it failed miserably. It turned out that neither drug dealers or addicts saw it as Rocky did, as law enforcement did, and so it changed nothing.

The Rockefeller Drug laws were enacted in 1973. Not only does the drug problem remain, but we’ve endured several iterations of it since. The current flavor is the opioid epidemic, and much like the crack epidemic, people are dying. Cue the syllogism, as something must be done. Continue reading

The Abrams Proof: Question At Your Peril

Knowing little more about Sarah Lawrence College politics prof Samuel Abrams beyond his self-description as a “conservative-leaning” academic and visiting professor at the American Enterprise Institute, his op-ed in the New York Times was almost certain to evoke outrage on campus. It’s not that it was inflammatory. It wasn’t.

It’s that he questioned the orthodoxy by asking why his small, private, prestigious liberal arts college assumed there was no possible ideas worthy of consideration beyond the fringes of progressivism.

As a conservative-leaning professor who has long promoted a diversity of viewpoints among my (very liberal) faculty colleagues and in my classes, I was taken aback by the college’s sponsorship of such a politically lopsided event. The email also piqued my interest in what sorts of other nonacademic events were being organized by the school’s administrative staff members. Continue reading

The New Wobblies Of Google

The reason the word Google has changed from a noun to a verb isn’t accidental. Before Google, there was a slew of search engines, almost all gone and forgotten now. Infoseek was, perhaps, its biggest competition, but Google blew it away as a search engine, and more importantly, as a business. As much as search engines were critical for using the World Wide Web, they had no means of monetizing their product. Google figured it out and crushed the competition.

It didn’t happen because of diversity. Nobody knew or cared whether they met a quota of women or minorities. The tech made it happen. The geeks made the tech happen. And the geeks were, in the light of the moment, unsavory in their actions.

But at the time, that wasn’t a national obsession and nobody cared. Or more to the point, the geeks were building a world the rest of us didn’t quite understand, and could never build on our own because we lacked their mad skillz, but definitely enjoyed and wanted. It was a brave new world, unseemly though it may have been behind the Silicon curtain. Continue reading