Casualty #4: Sarah Butler, RIP

About two years ago, I mentioned in a post here that a student of mine, Tyeshia Obie, had been found murdered–the third murder across the duration of my (then) twenty-year career in higher education.

Though she was an acquaintance rather than a student, I’m now sadly obliged to add a fourth victim to that list, Sarah Butler, the lifeguard at the YMCA pool where I swim laps. I didn’t know her, but will find her absence from the pool jarring. She was found dead a few days ago at Eagle Rock Reservation, a popular park in a nearby town.

If I add one person taken hostage at gunpoint but not killed (the unnamed bank teller in this story, who was another acquaintance of mine), but subtract friends from Palestine (who are routinely shot by the Israel Defense Forces and border police), that brings the toll of victims up to five–all by coincidence young women in their 20s. Yes, the crime rate has been down lately,* but that doesn’t make the death toll or incidence of victimization any less sickening.

Whatever criticisms we have to make of law enforcement–and I have more than my share–the fact remains that law enforcement is the only barrier between us and victimization. Abolitionist fantasies can’t eliminate that fact. Reform is our only hope, and enough work to last a lifetime.


*Meaning, as a long-term trend. As it happens, violent crime was up in 2015. And no sooner do I blog the subject, but nearby events oblige me.

Fake News: All the Counterfactual Conditionals Fit to Print

I encountered this passage in what was supposed to be a news story about Donald Trump’s intervention in the Carrier factory job decision in Indiana:

And just as only a confirmed anti-Communist like Richard Nixon could go to China, so only a businessman like Mr. Trump could take on corporate America without being called a Bernie Sanders-style socialist. If Barack Obama had tried the same maneuver, he’d probably have drawn criticism for intervening in the free market.

Does that set of claims really qualify as news? I’m not even sure the passage qualifies as editorializing. Neither sentence expresses a verifiable fact. Both sentences just seem like handwaving slop. Continue reading

John Allison at Trump Tower

Readers interested in John Allison’s appearance at Trump Tower may also be interested in Arnold Kling’s review of Allison’s book, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure, which appeared in the October 2012 issue of Reason Papers. 

An excerpt: 

When it comes to the financial crisis of 2008, the conventional view seriously under-estimates the extent to which collectivization of financial risk was the cause of the problem and seriously over-estimates the extent to which strengthening this collectivization represents a long-term solution. I am in complete accord with Allison on that score. However, I do not share his view that there is a free market “cure.” At best, there are movements in the direction of the free market that would reduce the costs of regulation without increasing the risks of another meltdown. However, such changes will not be made as long as the conventional history of the crisis—which treats it as resulting from the loss of will to regulate—holds sway. And I do not believe that, in the end, Allison’s book will have much of an impact on converting those who hold the conventional view.

Read the whole thing here (4 page PDF).

H/t: Alison Bowles (for the WSJ article)

Revisiting the “Muslim Registry”: A Proposal

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post here about the so-called “Muslim registry,” demanding clarity on the topic, and making a proposal for pre-emptive civil disobedience. Without retracting a word I said, I revisit the issue here in light of information that’s come to light since then. The post below is a revised and edited version of a comment I wrote in response to a post by Max Geller at the Mondoweiss website, which (pursuing a suggestion made by the Anti-Defamation League and others) called on non-Muslims to register for the so-called registry. Continue reading

Reince Preibus Meets Moore’s Paradox

Not a perfect example of Moore’s Paradox, but close enough, from incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus:

“Look, I’m not going to rule out anything,” Priebus said. “We’re not going to have a registry based on a religion.”

Clearly, we’re not going to have a registry based on religion. But we might.

Alas, the question Preibus was asked was: “Can you equivocally rule out a registry for Muslims?” Which is exactly what he did. And not all that hard to do, either. I mean, I could do that. And it’s not even my policy.

Kevin Vallier on Decentralization and the Election Results

The election results have been traumatic to many people, and have occasioned the revival of two structural proposals usually unpopular among left-leaning liberals–decentralization through federalism, and secession. Both strike me as pointless and unrealistic gimmicks. The first won’t solve the problem; the second won’t work, and might not solve the problem if it did.

The real options, it seems to me–at least for those of us traumatized by the prospect of a Trump presidency, as opposed to those welcoming it or viewing it with equanimity–are endurance or emigration. Since I count myself among the traumatized, those are what I regard as my own options. Endurance is the less pleasant but more realistic option, emigration the more attractive but harder to pull off. Continue reading

The Victim Who Wasn’t: or, The Continuing Saga of the Purloined Pillow

November 19, 2016

Pamela M McCauley
Victim-Witness Coordinator
Office of the Essex County Prosecutor
Essex County New Courts Bldg
Newark, NJ 07102-0000

Dear Ms. McCauley:

Over the past few weeks, I have been receiving correspondence from your office concerning State vs. Godfrey, Prosecutor File # 16-002030, Indictment # 16-0601832-I. The correspondence comes from the Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy, and describes me as the victim in the abovementioned case. Unfortunately, the correspondence re State vs. Godfrey has all been sent to me in error.  I am not the victim in State vs. Godfrey. I phoned your office and left a message about this matter several weeks ago, but have not received a response.

I am the victim in a case of larceny involving a defendant named Michael Ramos (Prosecutor File # 16-002203). The alleged crime took place in Bloomfield in March of 2016. In your last correspondence to me regarding the case, the case had been referred back to Bloomfield Municipal Court for adjudication. I have heard nothing about it since. In any case, I lack the standing to receive victim impact information regarding State vs. Godfrey. To the best of my knowledge, the case has nothing to do with me.

Best wishes,

Irfan Khawaja


For previous installments in the series, see “Best Voice Mail Ever,” “Our Friend, the State,” and “Pissed, Dissed, and Out $89.18.

Felician University Event: “Community Policing in Rutherford”

FIRST CALL: “Community Policing in Rutherford,” a conversation about town/county/university relations and related issues, with John Russo, Chief of the Rutherford Police Department, and Gurbir Grewal, Bergen County Prosecutor.

The event is the third in the University’s series on Race and Criminal Justice in America, and takes place Wednesday, November 30, @1-2 pm, Castle View Room, Felician University Rutherford campus (227 Montross Ave, Rutherford, NJ, 07070). All are welcome. Free registration required at the door.

Sponsored by the Felician University Committee for Leadership & Social Justice, the Department of Criminal Justice, the Pre-Law Program, and the Felician UN Fellows Program.


Prior events in the series:

September 27: “Racial Profiling in Bloomfield? A Discussion,” with Professor Mark Denbeaux, Seton Hall University Law School.

November 10: “Police Stops: What Are Your Rights? What Should You Do?” with Maria Lopez-Delgado (New Jersey Office of the Public Defender) and John E. Link (adjunct professor of Criminal Justice, Felician University; former Chief of Police, Clifton, New Jersey).

Against Unity: A Response to Mayor Michael Venezia (Bloomfield, New Jersey)

This is a comment I wrote on the Citizens of Bloomfield Facebook page, responding to Michael Venezia, Mayor of Bloomfield (Nov. 11 at 2:10 pm). Venezia had called in his post for a “united Bloomfield” behind Trump. I reject the idea. My comment was deleted from the comments section of the post without explanation, as apparently violating the site’s policies. Evidently, the mayor has free rein to say whatever he wants, but firm criticism is impermissible.

I’m not interested in any form of unity with anyone who voted for Trump. The whole idea of “uniting” with such people is presumptuous and ridiculous. No, we shouldn’t violate their rights (or anyone else’s). We should keep our hands off others’ property and persons, regardless of their politics. And yes, those in power should facilitate a peaceful transition of power.

But that has nothing to do with making common cause with Trump supporters. I have nothing in common with them, and they have nothing in common with me. We have to stop engaging in wishful thinking and amnesia about these people and their intentions. We can’t make America great by uniting with people who unapologetically believe in and promulgate lies. We can only keep our distance from them and demand that they do the same from us.

It’s cheap for Venezia to preach to us about “unity.” No one’s ever accused him of dancing in the streets after 9/11. Let that accusation sink in and then, as it does, try to “unify” with the people who spread it. I didn’t see Michael Venezia’s wanting to “unify” with Mark Denbeaux after the Seton Hall racial profiling report came out. And I don’t imagine Bloomfield is going to “unify” with Denbeaux now. Fair enough–but then don’t expect people like me to unify with Trump supporters. They are our enemies, not our fellow citizens.

The election is over. We don’t need any more cheap political rhetoric from our mayor or anyone else. We need Democratic leaders to tell it like it is–as Trump supposedly does, but more truthfully. We need them to face the fact that the Republic is in danger. It’s time to face that danger and call it by its proper name–rather than appeasing it with baby talk. I voted for Venezia and the entire Democratic line. They owe us more than this.


Worth reading, very much on target, and of broader scope than my post: Masha Gessen’s “Autocracy: Rules for Survival,” and David Cole’s “The Way to Stop Trump,” both from The New York Review of Books.