September 26th, 2016

Waiting for backup : the Crutcher case and police protocol

One of the main suggestions I have made about the Crutcher case and Officer Betty Shelby is that she should have called for backup and then waited. A lot of people seem to have either missed that statement, ignored it, or misunderstood what I meant and on what I was basing that suggestion. So here’s a post to clarify.

I’m not a police officer, nor am I any sort of expert on all the ins and outs of their training in general, or the training of the Tulsa police in particular. Those things are relevant, of course. But I am not making this idea up. It came to me, originally, from two sources. The first is this quote:

Police do, however, have some guidelines for when to shoot a suspect. For instance, research has shown that a suspect who comes within 21 feet of an officer can inflict harm before the cop has time to react (though some contest the validity of the “21-foot rule” in certain circumstances). So officers try to distance themselves from the suspect.

The second was an interview I saw on a cable news show with an NYPD officer (unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name and don’t know how to locate the show) who said this is what Shelby should have done, according to protocol: called for backup and waited in her vehicle.

Crutcher was not a crime suspect, much less a suspect in a violent crime. As I’ve said many many times here, there was no particular problem if he happened to get away and no special urgency. However, there was no reason to imagine he would get away, for several reasons. One is that the road had been cut off from traffic. Another is that a police helicopter was hovering above. It was taking the video that we have seen, and it could have tracked his efforts to get away. In addition, Shelby had his license plate number. Considering that this was no “fleeing felon,” there was no particular reason that he needed to be apprehended at that moment.

As I said, I don’t know the Tulsa police protocol. But you can find scads of articles (not about the Crutcher case, just general articles about police work) saying that when the person a police officer is trying to talk to is not a felon or a violent person in the act of attacking people or waving a gun around—that is, in an ambiguous situation that might become dangerous (such as Shelby’s suspicion that Crutcher might become dangerous)—and the officer is alone (as Shelby was), the officer should call for backup and wait.

See, for example, this.

See also this:

Ask any officer what the most important aspect of policing is, and the most likely answer is going to be officer safety. But studies conducted by the United States Department of Justice seem, to some extent, inconsistent with this premise. These studies were Killed in the Line of Duty: A Study of Selected Felonious Killings of Law Enforcement Officers (1992), In the Line of Fire (1997), and Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers (2006). This last study comprises a summary of behavioral descriptors of victim officers compiled from all three studies. While there were a number of descriptors that were common to all, the most alarming was the finding that many officers did not follow all rules and procedures related to handling arrests, traffic stops, and waiting for backup (when available).1 The purpose of such rules and procedures is to keep officers safe or at least as safe as possible. If rules and procedures are meant to keep officers safe and officer safety is paramount to most officers, how can they be reconciled? The simple answer is that many officers do not realize their officer safety skills have eroded. They never had a problem doing it that way before, so, therefore, they should not have a problem in the future.

Also see this:

Calling for back up and waiting for backup are two different things.
Having another officer on the way can become more of a psychological security blanket than a tactical move. If a call or contact can be delayed or stabilized until additional help arrives, a wise course of action is for the officers to stage first and determine an approach as a team. If an officer plows into the call before help arrives, the officer responding to assist will enter a hot zone without important available information.

This article is about encounters with confrontational “extremists,” but the principle is the same:

Call for backup. If an officer realizes that he or she is in a potentially dangerous situation involving an extremist, one of the first things to do is to call for backup. There is no point in proceeding with an encounter when the officer may clearly be at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the extremist. Moreover, once an officer has made the decision to call for backup, that officer should wait until that backup arrives before proceeding. Several violent encounters have occurred where officers called for backup during a traffic stop involving an extremist, but did not wait for the backup to arrive before confronting the extremist.

Also see this from Police Officer’s Handbook: An Introductory Guide. It’s about searching a motor vehicle with the suspect present, but it states the principle of waiting for backup. So does this when dealing with ambiguous and potentially dangerous situations (“suspicious or unknown-type complaint”).

That’s the gist of it.

Again, I’m basing this not on my own speculations but on what I’ve read and heard about police training and policy in general, policies put in place to protect both police officers and the public. I am not a police officer and have no inside info on this, but if any of my readers are police officers please feel free to explain either where I’ve gone right or where I’ve gone wrong.

September 26th, 2016

There’s a debate tonight: the immoderate moderators

In case you’ve just returned from a year’s stay on planet Xenon, I am here to inform you that there’s a presidential debate tonight.

I have no idea what to expect, but it depends in great part on which candidates show up, particularly Trump. Will it be the more sober, “presidential” Trump? The angry insulting pouty Trump? The braggart Trump, the—you get the idea. And which Hillary? The strange one with the shrill voice and the odd off-putting laugh? The calm and sober lawyer-type one?

I was going to say “well, at least it won’t be boring,” but you know what? Maybe it will indeed be boring.

And at Powerline, Paul Mirengoff notes the following advice liberals are giving debate moderators this year:

In advance of Monday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton’s cheerleaders in the media have been encouraging moderator Lester Holt to contradict, during the debate, candidates whose assertions of fact they disagree with. Glenn Kessler, the liberal “fact-checker” for the Washington Post, even compiled a list of assertions he says don’t withstand fact-checking, the vast majority of which are by Donald Trump. He urges the moderator to “clip and save.”

It is wholly inappropriate for a moderator to argue with a candidate about facts, and Kessler’s piece illustrates one of the main reasons why.

Mirengoff goes on to describe how Kessler lists “facts” to check that aren’t facts at all, but liberal opinions and interpretations of facts and events, and describes why they’re not equipped to do this fairly in real time. Those things are certainly big problems with fact-checking by moderators in the heat of a debate. What’s more, as Mirengoff adds:

My final point is that contemporaneous fact-checking by the moderator isn’t necessary. If a candidate misstates an important fact during the debate, the other candidate will probably call him or her on it. If a particular voter finds the dispute important, he or she will likely find out which candidate was right. An army of fact-checkers is available to assist the voter in this endeavor.

Even if the candidate who misstates a fact isn’t corrected by his or her opponent, the same army of fact-checkers will have its say once the debate is over. Voters who consider fact-checking valuable and reliable will consult the fact-checkers.

I would add that moderators are not supposed to debate the debater. That’s the job of the debaters themselves.

However, I was surprised that Mirengoff failed to mention one of the main reasons (in my opinion, anyway) that this is being urged this year. One of the reasons, of course (which I believe is implicit in his piece) is that the left and liberals are horrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency, and feel that anything and everything would probably be justified if it would help to prevent that. But the other reason is that in 2012 moderator Candy Crowley turned debater (on Obama’s side) and it worked. It worked to fool many people into believing that what she said was true and what Romney had said was false, and it worked to stop Romney in his tracks when he tried to make an important point about Obama.

In political life, once something is done and the person gets away with it successfully, it is seen as a great tactic to be used again. That “something” may be something that was heretofore thought to be forbidden; now it is seen as perfectly okay and even desirable.

[NOTE: I documented the 2012 Crowley debate incident in great detail on this blog. If you want to refresh your memory, go here.]

September 24th, 2016

Europe and the Sea of Faith

rouen

rouenSunset

When I was in college, I took a year-long survey course in art history. We began with a deep dive into Greek and Roman art, and then lingered long and hard on the cathedrals of Europe, particularly the Gothic variety. We were required to learn to tell them apart by their myriad minor variations on the theme, and I found the task exceedingly difficult.

All Gothic cathedrals looked pretty much alike to me.

What I remembered most about those cathedrals was not their differences, but how impressive they all were. What an extraordinary effort it was to build them way back then, and on such a scale! Later, when I visited western Europe and saw some of the cathedrals for myself, the scope of the undertaking involved in designing and constructing them seemed even more impressively stunning, a testament to the extreme importance of the Christian religion in the lives of the people of that time. How other-wordly and inspiring it must have been to gather inside such vast and soaring structures to worship and ponder the mysteries. And it still is, I would imagine, for those who do it.

One of the most famous of the huge Gothic cathedrals in France is in Rouen. It was begun in the 12th Century (on the site of an earlier church) and added to slowly but surely during the 13th and 14th centuries, with repairs made in subsequent centuries for various calamities such as lightning strikes, fires, and bombings. It was the world’s tallest building for four years during the late 1800s, and had its portrait painted repetitively just a few years later by Claude Monet in a series of impressionist works that always looked to me as though the cathedral was melting.

I thought of that cathedral—and those paintings—some time ago when I read the news of the murder of a priest near Rouen by an Islamist terrorist, although the church where he was murdered was not that Rouen Cathedral, but another Catholic church nearby.

The centrality of Christian belief in western Europe has been on a long slow decline for centuries (I chronicled a major event connected with that decline here), with no end in sight. And it struck me, when I heard of the priest’s murder in Rouen, that the intensity of faith today in the Muslim world forms a stark contrast to the decline of faith today in western Europe—and that the latter forms a similar contrast to the powerful faith of the western Europeans who built structures such as Rouen Cathedral.

Which in turn put me in mind of Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach” (please bear with me; there is a tie-in), which begins with the poet describing, appropriately enough, the beach at Dover. Arnold is widely believed to have started writing the poem on his honeymoon, which took place in 1851, although the poem was not published till 1867.

When the poem begins, it is evening:

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; – on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

Can you not picture it? I think of it as a summer night, cool after a hot day.

In the next stanza (which I’ve omitted) Arnold describes the sound of the waves upon the beach, and throws in a historic allusion to Sophocles. Until that point the poem is good. But then it veers into greatness:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

It’s that “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,/Retreating,” that gives me a chill and shudder. You can hear the tide going out, and what is it taking away with it?

The last stanza is perhaps the most famous one of all, where Arnold takes his stand for love against the emptiness and meaninglessness he fears is what remains once that wave has retreated:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Those “ignorant armies” are probably another classical reference:

The metaphor with which the poem ends is most likely an allusion to a passage in Thucydides’s account of the Peloponnesian War (Book 7, 44). He describes an ancient battle that occurred on a similar beach during the Athenian invasion of Sicily. The battle took place at night; the attacking army became disoriented while fighting in the darkness and many of their soldiers inadvertently killed each other.

Another apt metaphor. Another chill down the spine.

Why do I love poetry so much? I love it because, although poems say things we are able to say in other ways, there is no substitute for poetry’s ability to merge emotion and mind and gut cognitively, viscerally, and aesthetically. Paraphrasing a poem can explain the thought. But only a poem can express the poem.

doverBeach-001

September 24th, 2016

The Tulsa shooting and the mind of Officer Shelby

Now, that’s a pretty presumptuous title, isn’t it? How can I presume to talk about what was in the mind of Officer Betty Shelby when she shot Terence Crutcher in Tulsa a week ago?

The answer is: of course I don’t know. Of course I am speculating here, and everything I say in this post should be read with that caveat in mind. But my speculation isn’t idle, either; it’s based on statements made by Shelby’s own lawyer and by the police as to her state of mind, as well as the fact situation as reported. For the purposes of this post I am ignoring the statements of the Crutcher family and/or their lawyers, and focusing instead on what information is available from Shelby’s own side and from the police.

Why am I writing this? After all, isn’t it premature, because we don’t know enough? Absolutely. But this particular case grabbed my attention from the start, because it is one of the seemingly more extreme examples of a shooting that appears unjustified. To me, what may have happened in this case has little to do with the other cases that people lump in with it—Ferguson and Charlotte and Zimmerman and the ones I listed in my Legal Insurrection piece and all the other Black Lives Matter causes célèbres—although of course they are used in the same way to score political points. But they all have different fact situations that point to different conclusions about exactly what was going on in each.

My interest in the Crutcher case was especially piqued at the outset:

[Shelby] asked Crutcher whether the car belonged to him but got no response, the attorney said. Crutcher began walking toward her with his hands in his pockets. She politely asked Crutcher to take his hands out of his pocket while they were speaking, Wood said.

“He does comply and puts his hands out of his pocket, and then puts his hands up in the air, which she thought was a little bit strange under the circumstances,” he said.

Really? Did it ever occur to her that with all the recent violence he might have been wanting to show her he was completely harmless and cooperative?

In retrospect, that reaction of hers seems even more significant to me. It occurred right at the start of their interaction, when Shelby was trying to piece together what was happening in the strange scene she came upon: a car in the middle of the road, empty but running (some reports say the doors were open, some not; some say she encountered Crutcher before the car, some say it was the other way around). When Shelby talked to Crutcher he was unresponsive, and she had to decide what that behavior of his meant. There were a large number of possibilities, some benign (deaf, distracted, having a health problem) and some not (purposely uncooperative, hiding something).

All along the way, Shelby was trying to make sense of things. All along the way she had choices, and for whatever reason (we don’t know why) she kept choosing the most negative one.

Now, don’t get me wrong.
Continued »

September 24th, 2016

Undercover Obama; undercover Hillary

spy

President Obama used a pseudonym to communicate with Hillary Clinton via email through her private server:

President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton and others, according to FBI records made public Friday.

The disclosure came as the FBI released its second batch of documents from its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of state…

The State Department has refused to make public that and other emails Clinton exchanged with Obama. Lawyers have cited the “presidential communications privilege,” a variation of executive privilege, in order to withhold the messages under the Freedom of Information Act.

The report doesn’t provide more details on the contents of that particular email exchange, but says it took place on June 28, 2012, and had the subject line: “Re: Congratulations.” It may refer to the Supreme Court’s ruling that day upholding a key portion of the Obamacare law.

I wonder what his pseudonym was. More importantly, it’s interesting that Politico managed to write that entire article without referencing the fact that previously Obama had explicitly denied any knowledge of Hillary’s private email system. Well, I guess he can always say it was his alter ego—the pseudonym—who knew about it, not him.

There were some other revelations in the Politico article that gobsmacked me:

[Monica Hanley, a veteran Clinton aide who worked for her in the Senate and at State]…revealed in her FBI interview that she had no idea where a thumb drive she used to store an archive of Clinton’s emails had gone. Hanley searched for the thumb drive, which the FBI described as “something she happened to have laying around the house,” several times but was unable to find it.

The interviews provide more insight into Clinton’s lack of technical acumen. According to the FBI’s Abedin writeup, she “could not use a computer”; Hanley said Clinton had no idea what her own email password was, and had to rely on aides.

There are two possibilities there, I suppose. One is that the whole story—lost thumbdrive, Hillary’s complete computer ignorance—is a lie manufactured for some tactical purpose. Another is that it’s the truth. I’m not sure which is worse.

I’m a bit disorganized myself, and I can imagine carelessly losing or misplacing a thumbdrive. They’re so small, right? But not—I repeat, not a thumbdrive with information of that magnitude. I would store that with extreme care, to say the least.

Like Hillary, I’m in an age range that isn’t exactly up to speed on all the accoutrements of modern life. But computers? Email passwords? I don’t give you a break on not knowing about that sort of stuff unless you’re in the 90+ age range.

I’m not sure how much capacity I retain to be surprised by all of this, but I certainly am disturbed.

September 23rd, 2016

Ted Cruz endorses Donald Trump

Yes, it happened. Here’ a short excerpt from Cruz’s statement:

This election is unlike any other in our nation’s history. Like many other voters, I have struggled to determine the right course of action in this general election.

In Cleveland, I urged voters, “please, don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket whom you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”

After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

I’ve made this decision for two reasons. First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word.

Second, even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable — that’s why I have always been #NeverHillary…

Our country is in crisis. Hillary Clinton is manifestly unfit to be president, and her policies would harm millions of Americans. And Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way.

Why would anyone be surprised or disappointed at this? That’s a rhetorical question, of course; I’m well aware of the reasons. But I don’t share them. I’ve figured, particularly in the last month or two, that this would probably be Cruz’s only possible course of action. I also happen to think that, although politicians always have tactical/strategic aspects for their decisions, and that the same is probably true for Cruz as well, I also happen to think he is one of the most reluctant of reluctant Trump supporters but that he means what he says and that neverHillary finally won him over.

That’s pretty much it. It’s pretty much the way I lean, too, despite my abhorrence and distrust of Donald Trump.

[ADDENDUM: By the way, when Cruz said “vote your conscience” back at the Republican Convention, he meant just that. Take a look at what I wrote about it back then. Also see this.]

September 23rd, 2016

My post about Officer Shelby’s indictment and what led up to it

I said I would be posting more on that topic today, but other events intervened, I wrote about those other things, and now I’m just about burned out for today.

So, that Shelby post will be coming tomorrow. I still have a lot to say on the topic (is that a promise, or a warning?).

September 23rd, 2016

Cars, riots, Glenn Reynolds—and the law

Glenn Reynolds—known in the blogosphere as Instapundit—is probably one of the most widely read, if not the most widely-read, conservative bloggers. He’s also a law professor at the University of Tennessee. And he’s also (like so many pundits, politicians, celebrities, and just regular folk today) a user of Twitter.

I’ve written before what I think of Twitter, and it’s relevant here:

I don’t use Twitter, and rarely read it. But I certainly check it out now and then, when there’s a tweet in the news that catches my eye. Right from the start Twitter held little interest for me, although a lot of bloggers took to it immediately…

I’ve not only not been drawn to it, but something about it repels me…

…Twitter favors snarky one-liner put-downs and/or bragging. Those of you who like Twitter may say I’m selling it short, but every time I go there, that’s what I see and that’s about all I see.

Reynolds is a smart guy, a very smart guy. Ordinarily he’s a mighty thoughtful and yet straightforward guy, too. But in this case, my best guess is that the medium of Twitter—its atmosphere of pithy snark—encouraged him to say something quickly that was not really what he meant. Here’s what Glenn now has to say about it (I reproduce the whole thing here):

Wednesday night one of my 580,000 tweets blew up. I didn’t live up to my own standards, and I didn’t meet USA TODAY’s standards. For that I apologize, to USA TODAY readers and to my followers on social media.

I was following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence. Joe Bruno of WSOC9 interviewed a driver whose truck had been stopped by a mob. Trapped in her cab, she “feared for her life” as her cargo was looted. Then I retweeted a report of mobs “stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles” with the comment, “Run them down.”

Those words can easily be taken to advocate drivers going out of their way to run down protesters. I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed I did. What I meant is that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles. I remember Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was beaten nearly to death by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. My tweet should have said, “Keep driving,” or “Don’t stop.”

I have always supported peaceful protests, speaking out against police militarization and excessive police violence in my USA TODAY columns, on my website and on Twitter itself. I understand why people misunderstood my tweet and regret that I was not clearer.

Twitter favors simplification of complex issues. Twitter favors punchy one-liners. That appears to have been what happened with Glenn, and all it takes is one time out of thousands and/or millions (in Reynolds’ case, half a million tweets and perhaps that many posts on his blog, too) and people who are out to get you will do their best to get you. We’ve seen that happen time and again.

Reynolds has made his statement and I very much hope the furor now dies down. But the larger question is how to talk about issues that are nothing if not complicated, such as the law of self-defense in difficult situations like a riot.

I tend to write long posts and to be long-winded. Maybe too long-winded. Yes, probably too long-winded. That’s my tendency anyway, and that’s what interests me, and I’m glad I’ve found at least some people (hello, stalwart and patient readers!) who are interested in coming along with me for the ride. Twitter doesn’t favor that, so I don’t use it. But I totally understand that if I did, I might end up saying something I regret, too. Hey, even on this blog I might end up saying something I regret, and probably have now and then.

Yesterday I linked to this post by Andrew Branca at Legal Insurrection on the same topic Glenn was writing about: the law of self-defense when caught in a car surrounded by rioters. Branca was of course writing a post and not a tweet, so he took his time to explain the law of the thing in his usual thorough way. It ordinarily takes a lot of words to explain something like that, which is unfortunate but true. Read the whole thing and the links he provides at the end of you want to know the pros and cons of various actions if you’re unfortunate enough to be caught in a mob that makes you feel threatened.

People often don’t like lawyers, and there are lots of reasons for that. But one of those reasons is that law isn’t simple and explaining law is most definitely not simple. To those not legally inclined it sounds like a bunch of blah-blah-blah claptrap. But it’s not.

I went to law school a long time ago—long time—and I never practiced except as a law interne for a semester. I didn’t think law was for me, although I finished the three years. But I’ve never regretted what I learned there, even though I went to law school when I was extremely young and knew virtually nothing about law when I got there (some would say I didn’t know that much when I got out, either). I learned to appreciate the remarkable and logical (mostly logical) edifice that is the law, the striving to be clear and to be fair and to be thoughtful. I learned to understand that this is sometimes violated, and that it is almost never easy even when everyone concerned is trying his/her best. I learned that one of the reasons legal language tends to be so very wordy is the effort to be clear and to cover all possibilities and exigencies, and how it is never possible to do either.

On yesterday’s thread, commenter “Frog” had this to say:

What, Dear Mr Andrew Branca, great legal guru, are the drivers of those immobilized vehicles supposed to do? Flee their vehicles, thus exposing themselves to the mob? Sit there and await a windshield smash, having no defense? What? Oh, Branca of the Ivory Tower, you did not say, did you?

The lawyers have the luxury of chin-stroking at leisure. And of course debating. What they do.

The victims of this black mob do not have the same pontificating hair-splitting luxury.

No, the potential victims of any mob, black or white, have no such luxury. But as I wrote to Frog in my response:

Do you think he’s telling you what you should do? Do you think he’s telling you what’s right and wrong? He’s not telling you anything of the sort, nor is he suggesting that he’s telling you that.

He’s telling you one thing and one thing only: what the law is. And yes, lawyers do that. Knowing the law—and therefore the possible consequences for their actions—helps people to make informed decisions.

I’m in favor of information. Knowing as much as you can about the law not only tells you the possible consequences of what you do, it tells you what a lot of fairly brilliant minds have thought about what’s reasonable under the circumstances (“reasonable” is a big big word in law). I’d certainly want to know, and I concede that in order to write articles and posts about the law a person needs a bit of chin-stroking leisure. Posts are not ordinarily written while sitting in a car in the middle of a riot (although I suppose tweets could be).

[NOTE: A personal note here, for what it’s worth. I’ve been trapped in a car in a demonstration that felt as though it could easily turn into a very threatening situation. It was a long time ago, I’d say either 1970 or 1971, during the antiwar protest years. Some of these protests were big and angry, although not as angry as the later racial riots (I’ve certainly seen the Reginald Denny beating footage and was horrified by it).

The situation in which I found myself initially was having to halt in gridlocked city traffic. I was the passenger and my boyfriend (later to be husband) was driving his car, a very very small fabric-topped convertible sports car (MG) that probably could have been lifted with both of us in it (our combined weight in those days was barely 250) by just a few people. We didn’t know why the traffic had stopped, and then after a few minutes we saw it coming—a wave of humanity, marching and screaming, coming right at us and washing over us.

I don’t remember what they were saying, but some of it was to us. I recall some of them pounding on the car and looking very angry. I considered our options, but there didn’t seem to be any good ones. I felt completely vulnerable to whatever they would decide to do, which fortunately ended up being limited to shouting and pounding. It took minutes for them to all pass by; it was a big demonstration. I don’t remember seeing any police; I couldn’t see much of anything except the sea of people flowing past us. I don’t remember if my boyfriend tried to drive the car, but I recall that between the crowd and especially the stopped cars all around us there seemed no way to do it even had we wanted to.

It the crowd had gotten physically violent I honestly don’t know what would have happened. But I don’t see how being aware of the law would have harmed me; I would have been happy to have been able to consider my options with some knowledge behind me.]

September 23rd, 2016

Let’s make an immunity deal

Like candy?:

Hillary Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills and two other staffers were granted immunity as part of the now-closed FBI probe into the former secretary of state’s email practices, according to a top House Republican who questioned whether the numerous deals hindered the bureau’s ability to build a case.

“This is beyond explanation,” House oversight committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said in a statement Friday. “The FBI was handing out immunity agreements like candy. I’ve lost confidence in this investigation and I question the genuine effort in which it was carried out.”

The arrangements detailed by Chaffetz bring the total number of publicly known immunity deals in the Clinton case to five.

Chaffetz first revealed the additional deals in an interview with The Associated Press, saying “no wonder they couldn’t prosecute a case.” He said Mills gave federal investigators access to her laptop on the condition that findings couldn’t be used against her.

“Immunity deals should not be a requirement for cooperating with the FBI,” Chaffetz

I have no idea whether this is an unusual amount of immunity for a similar investigation. The article goes on to say that some of the deals were for limited immunity, so that has to be factored in, as well.

September 22nd, 2016

Tulsa Country DA charges Officer Betty Shelby with manslaughter in the first degree

That was quick.

And not really surprising, from what I’ve seen and read so far. More facts will no doubt be coming out as the case proceeds.

I plan to write more tomorrow on the topic.

In a different but related matter, I recommend this post by Andrew Branca, the go-to guy on the law of self-defense. He deals with the legal issues surrounding a question that’s come up recently: “Is it lawful self-defense to ‘run down’ rioters surrounding your vehicle?”

September 22nd, 2016

More Publius, more Flight 93 Election

My post a couple of days ago on the Publius Flight 93 Election essay drew a hefty amount of discussion, and quite a few people have suggested that I look at a further offering of his: this interview with the writer on essentially the same subject. So now I’m going to tackle it.

My opinion? No, it’s not better than the original essay.

Publius is not a stupid person. On the contrary, he (or she? let’s go with “he”) is very smart, and uses that intelligence to weave a web of argument that just doesn’t make sense to me when I reflect on it. I remain puzzled not only as to why so many people I respect find him persuasive, but also in particular why they think that such reasoning might persuade me. It’s mostly very familiar stuff, the same sort of thing we’ve been hearing about Trump for over a year, trotting out the same old strawmen, the same old assumptions and generalities, and the same omissions.

In the interview, Publius says some very generalized things about “conservatives,” such as this:

We just lived through a summer in which police were targeted simply for being police officers—risking death to protect low income, primarily non-white lives. It wasn’t Trump supporters who were doing that or egging it on. But the Left and its propaganda arm instantaneously disavow any connection between that kind of fringe violence and official leftism or Democratic politics and that norm is enforced….

“The ‘conservatives’ have at least two motives for band-wagoning with this nonsense. One is that they simply don’t understand higher principle anymore, because their whole mindset is unconsciously leftist, so they believe that everything the Left calls “racist” is in fact racist. Oppose more immigration? Racist! Don’t believe the police systematically try to kill blacks? Racist!”

The other is simple cowardice. Conservatives are terrified of being called racist. I don’t know if this is bad conscience or what—maybe at heart they really believe it? Maybe living in all-white neighborhoods perhaps makes them feel guilty. But being called out for it scares them above all so they are always desperate to make public declarations of their purity as non-racists. They think they will get credit from the Left, which of course they never do, but that never stops them from trying.

I had to read that passage several times to even try to comprehend who and what Publius is talking about in it. What conservatives are “band-wagoning” with what “nonsense”? I missed the news of all the conservatives jumping on the Black Lives Matter bandwagon in order to not be called racists. I missed the conservative non-Trump supporters who were “egging on” the police killers or making excuses for them.

Nor does Publius see fit to help us out by naming those conservatives or offering something as concrete as a quote from them. Now, it’s certainly possible that some very moderate GOPe/RINO type said something or other that was a bit hedgy about it; I don’t pretend to have scoured the comments of every single member of the Republican party on the subject (which of course is not the same as conservatives, who seem to be Publius’ target). I can’t escape the notion that Publius has a bee in his bonnet about a couple of pundits and is generalizing to a huge huge group he wants to discredit, and thinks he can get away with it by being vague about it.

Apparently he is correct about that; he’s not only gotten away with it, he’s been highly praised for it and widely read.

As for Publius’ statements about conservatives’ cowardly “terror” at being called racists: that isn’t necessarily cowardice nor are they terrified. If a person is called a racist and knows that he/she is not, why not say one is not, and why? No one in America wants to seem racist or be called racist if that person knows that he/she is not. Hey, actually, even Donald Trump has gone to some pains to deflect the charge of racism. Is he, too, “terrified” about it and a coward?:

“Well, I am not a racist, in fact, I am the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered. I’ll give you an example. It’s funny, I just got this, it was just sent to me by Don King. Now, Don knows more about race than anybody. He owns this newspaper, you know — Don’s made a lot of money. He just sent this to me, look at this.”

He handed me a copy of the latest edition of the Call & Post, a black weekly based in Cleveland that King owns. On the back of the paper was a full-page announcement endorsing Trump for president and Bernie Sanders for vice president.

“Isn’t that funny?” Trump continued. “You know, Don endorsed me. You wanna take that back with you? You know, this could be a story…

If it’s a story, it’s a story Publius seemed to miss. He misses it because it suits his argument to miss it, and then he invents another story: that conservatives sympathize with Black Lives Matter and cop killings because they are cowards who are afraid of being called racists, unlike the unafraid Trump.

Publius also claims that “[Trump] wants to assert the right of the sovereign American people to control their government, which is the core constitutional principle… I think the idea that Trump wants to be a tyrant is preposterous.”

I submit that if he thinks that it’s preposterous to disagree with him on that, then he hasn’t been paying attention either to history or to Trump. Of course, Trump may not want to be a tyrant, and it definitely is possible that Trump really does want the American people to control their government. But the idea that Trump wants to be a tyrant (or at least somewhat of a tyrant in terms of executive action and the balance of powers, or to ride roughshod over certain rights such as free speech), and that Trump’s wanting the people to control government is a mere rhetorical device of Trump’s in order for him to gain power, is not the least bit “preposterous.” In fact, I’ve written several posts giving evidence that Trump is quite interested in being a tyrant, such as this and this. Whether you agree with the idea or not, there’s nothing “preposterous” about the notion or having the discussion.

Then Publius makes a statement with which we’re very very familiar—the old “Trump’s the only one who…” argument:

…Trump did something no one else has done in a long time. He broke through the taboo on talking about immigration, trade and economic policy in ways not reflective of Davos-class, administrative state ideology…

All the other “conservatives” who’ve run in the past 20 years either opposed Trump’s take on those questions or ran from them or ignored them.

No, Trump did not break through a taboo on talking tough on immigration. I’ve written several posts about that, the earliest being in October of 2015. No one has talked quite as tough as Trump, it’s true (although it’s a matter of slight degree if you compare him to Cruz, and mostly a matter of tone)—but funny thing, Trump has retreated from just about all the toughest of his initial statements. And who can forgot (of course, Publius has) Trump’s post-2012-election statements about Romney’s “mean-spirited” stance on immigration?:

“Republicans didn’t have anything going for them with respect to Latinos and with respect to Asians,” the billionaire developer says.

“The Democrats didn’t have a policy for dealing with illegal immigrants, but what they did have going for them is they weren’t mean-spirited about it,” Trump says. “They didn’t know what the policy was, but what they were is they were kind.”

Romney’s solution of “self deportation” for illegal aliens made no sense and suggested that Republicans do not care about Hispanics in general, Trump says.

“He had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump says. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump notes. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”

The GOP has to develop a comprehensive policy “to take care of this incredible problem that we have with respect to immigration, with respect to people wanting to be wonderful productive citizens of this country,” Trump says.

Moving right along, nothing PC to see there.

Ah, but Trump’s changed, don’t you see?

Then there’s Publius on Trump’s character issues:

I’ve read troubling things about Trump’s character so I don’t dismiss those concerns. But character isn’t everything. Aside from smoking a lot of pot, Obama’s character seems sterling. He’s a good family man, was a good student, has had a good career (in the narrow sense), does not appear to be corrupt in any way, and so on. But he is an ideological disaster for America.

He’s read troubling things about Trump’s character? He hasn’t observed them himself? Is he too busy trashing his phantom “conservatives” to notice? And then there’s more:

If I thought Trump were an Aaron Burr, I would feel differently. But I don’t. He’s a showboat and a ladies’ man and I gather he has done some shady things in business. But I don’t think he wants to use the presidency for his own ends, beyond self-aggrandizement, which I noted above, can correlate with the common good. Bottom line, if he builds a wall, gets serious about trade and economics, stops the bleeding overseas, and takes on the administrative state, then I can overlook his sins. I would rather have a sinless president, sure. But I wonder if a sinless man could win in these times. Plus, all the sinless men—such as Jeb—are horrible on the issues that really matter.

There are so many errors there and so much wrong there it’s almost overwhelming, and that’s just one paragraph (his entire interview is shot through with things like this). Publius minimizes Trump’s character flaws, lists only his least important ones and acts as though they’re what’s being criticized (no, we’re not against him because he’s a ladies’ man), ignores evidence that Trump might indeed have impulses towards tyranny or at least executive power squared, and advances the irrelevant argument that self-aggrandizement can correlate with the common good (so what? It so often doesn’t).

And then there’s Publius’ statement that “if [Trump] builds a wall, stops the bleeding overseas. etc. etc.” all will be forgiven. Those are some mighty big “ifs,” and they leave out an awful lot, such as the fact that many of those who oppose Trump doubt that he’ll actually do any of that, and think it more likely that he’ll do things that are worse in certain fields—particularly in foreign relations.

Also, what “bleeding” overseas is Publius talking about? He sounds like a leftist himself at this point (or a Buchanan-esque paleoconservative, which is actually what I think he is). ISIS? Afghanistan? What magical powers does he think Trump has? How will Trump do this?

And then Publius introduces the familiar straw man of a “sinless president” vs. Trump (some people prefer a “perfect candidate” as the Trump foil, but it’s the same idea and the same sophistry). Publius acts as though pointing out the deep and myriad and really quite potentially dangerous character flaws of Trump is the same as a request for a “sinless” president, which no one has made.

There’s a lot more in that Publius interview with which I disagree, but I think this essay is already long enough. I’ll just mention that one of those other things is Publius’ general insistence on ignoring the mutability of virtually all of Trump’s statements and positions, and picking and choosing among them, taking seriously only the ones Publius prefers. Publius seems to be one of the many many people who invent the Trump they want Trump to be rather than the Trump that is (a criticism Publius blithely and characteristically dismisses in the interview as “silly”).

I well understand the impulse to believe the best of Trump, since I’m a person who may end up reluctantly voting for him. I can assure you that if Trump wins the election, I will be very happy that Hillary Clinton has not, and I will sincerely hope the Trump that shows up to be president is the Trump I would want him to be, or at least a lot better than the Trump I believe him to be. But if I do vote for Trump, nothing Publius has said or written has done a thing to convince me to do so.

September 22nd, 2016

Trump pulls ahead

At least, in this Rasmussen poll.

What’s more, he seems to be gaining in certain key states. However, he has quite an electoral mountain to climb before he can said to have a good chance of winning.

Ever since midsummer, I’ve believed (and written here) that I think Trump’s chances have risen, and that lately I’d give him 1 in 3 odds. I think that is still true, although if this continues it may rise to 2 in 5 or perhaps even more.

I think there are two reasons Trump has been gaining. One has to do with Trump: he’s been acting more “presidential” (or perhaps it’s better to say less profoundly unpresidential—that is, less of a loose cannon). The second has to do with Clinton, who has had a series of bad days, including her health crisis.

Interesting times, interesting times.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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