Thoughts on a Traffic Stop (1): Backstory

I got stopped the other day in Raritan, New Jersey by the local police department, my first traffic stop in awhile. I regard every interaction with the police as a learning experience, and this one was no exception, so I thought I’d write up what happened, and what I learned from it.

Until recently, I owned two cars, call them Silver and Blue, both insured by Geico, an insurance company for your car and other associated headaches. I generally tended to drive Silver rather than Blue. In July, Blue was driven to Canada by another driver and, in August, was totaled by that driver in an accident in Toronto; it was then towed from the accident scene and taken to a Geico-affiliated inspection site near Toronto, where it sits to this day, awaiting judgment from Geico as to an insurance payout. Recall that the Canadian border is closed due to the pandemic,* so I couldn’t have retrieved the car even if it was drivable, and even if I could have afforded the time and expense of the trip. At any rate, the car isn’t drivable, and I can’t afford the trip. So there we go–three strikes against driving up there, putting the car in my backpack, and bringing it home. Continue reading

Liberty Isn’t Free

This is to think, that men are so foolish, that they take care to avoid what mischiefs may be done them by pole-cats, or foxes; but are content, nay, think it safety, to be devoured by lions.

Locke, Second Treatise, para. 93. 

A case from Ohio making the rounds:

Cops Arrest Mom Working Evening Shift at Pizza Place for Leaving Kids, Ages 10 and 2, Alone

An Ohio mom has been arrested for leaving her kids, a 10-year-old and a 2-year-old, in a motel room while she worked her shift at a pizza shop.

A tip to the police led officers to a Motel Six in Youngstown at about 6:15 p.m. on Thursday night. The 10-year-old explained that her mom was working and would be home at 10:00 p.m.

The officers went to the pizza shop where the mom, Shaina Bell, 24, told them she usually has someone look in on the kids every hour. She was booked into jail on two counts of child endangerment and the kids were sent to their father. She got out on bail.

There may be more to the story, but as reported, this is a sad excuse for law enforcement. Continue reading

Waheed Hussain, RIP

A few months ago, I wrote an entry here about my new job, drawing heavily on Waheed Hussain’s Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on “the common good.” I’d made a mental note at the time to forward my post on to Hussain in case he found it of interest, but procrastinated, partly for the usual reasons, and partly from a sense of timidity and inhibition: what if he found my post, or my use of his entry, superficial and callow?

I finally resolved to send it to him today, only to end up encountering his obituary. Tragically, he died less than two weeks ago, at the age of 48, of causes related to cancer.

caption: Waheed Hussain

By some strange coincidence, I just realized that we had missed one another twice before: he matriculated at Princeton the year I graduated (1991), and graduated the year before I moved back to town and started attending philosophy events at the university (1995).

My condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Stopped Clock: Jason Brennan Gets It Right on the Niskanen Center

If you ignore the well-poisoning horseshit he dishes out against Will Wilkinson, Jason Brennan manages, for once, to get something right: Jerry Taylor really is a hypocritical asshole for firing Will Wilkinson from the Niskanen Center, and, in consequence, the Niskanen Center should, as Brennan says, be boycotted (see Brennan’s post for details).

In addition, I think Brennan is right to put some pressure on Niskanen’s erstwhile supporters to stop supporting the Center. That’s what solidarity is, and how it works. Either you side with Will, or you side with Taylor, or you remain neutral because you’re in a position to be neutral. The latter gambit is not available to those who have supported Niskanen in the past, and intend to do so in the future. They have to make an autonomous, moralized decision one way or another. Do they support institutionalized hypocrisy, or do they support journalistic integrity? It really is that simple. Continue reading

Vox Populi: Arguments Against In-Person Schooling

People sometimes like to brag on social media that they “don’t read the comments.” I like to brag that I do. In this post, I’ve posted nearly a dozen screenshots of comments by ordinary commenters at The New York Times website, demolishing David Brooks’s ignorant, self-righteous, shaming defense of in-person teaching in K-12 public schools.

I’ll refrain from extensive commentary on these comments, but I will say this: I stand in awe at the pathetic quality of the parenting in our country, largely populated by middle class people. Such is the job that American parents have done that they’re falling apart over the dire prospect of leaving their kids home alone in their well-stocked, heated, accoutrement-centered homes. And the kids themselves are so not all right, that faced with the supposedly overwhelming prospect of not learning what they supposedly learn in school, they can’t bring themselves to get off their asses and do some learning on their own steam–not even with the beneficent resources of the Internet, Khan Academy, and the entire paraphernalia of high-tech learning at their finger-tips, so loudly valorized by ideologues until people actually had to rely on the much-hyped technologies to get anything done. Continue reading

CFP: “Rethinking College”

Reason Papers (now edited by Shawn Klein, Arizona State University) has just issued a Call for Papers on the topic, “Rethinking College.” Here’s the blurb:

For years, we have heard about the coming bursting of the higher education bubble. Cancellation of college debt is an active political issue. Free speech on campus (or lack thereof) is a perennial issue. Criticisms of higher education from across the ideological spectrum continue to grow. The Covid-19 pandemic brought many of these issues to a head and has many people rethinking college. This symposium is interested in papers engaging these or other normative questions and issues about higher education.

Here’s a link with more information. Manuscript due date is July 15, 2021.

Blue Line Excuses for the Insurrection

If John Catanzara’s views are representative of sentiment within American law enforcement, that institution is gradually pushing us into an American equivalent of the Third Reich.

The president of Chicago’s largest police union defended the actions of a mob of Pro-Trump rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol—an incident that resulted in four deaths on Wednesday.

John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and a Trump supporter, defended the rioters in an interview Wednesday by saying “there was very little destruction of property.”

“There was no arson, there was no burning of anything, there was no looting, there was very little destruction of property,” Catanzara told the radio station WBEZ in a Wednesday evening phone interview. “It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way.”

Those claims are the twenty-first century American equivalent of excuse-making for the Beer Hall Putsch, and from pretty high up within the law enforcement establishment. It’s hard to know how representative or widespread Catanzara’s view is, but this Newsweek article is not the first time I’ve encountered it. It’s making the rounds within law enforcement circles. Continue reading

It Just Happened Here

For thirty years, I’ve heard conservatives lecture everyone else about the supposed “lessons” of Munich, Neville Chamberlain, and appeasement, all in order to rationalize endless warfare against “threats” abroad. Every time they want to start a war, they roll out their canned lectures on Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler at Munich, the one-size-fits-all analogy that justifies any brutality from the Gulf of Tonkin to the Persian Gulf. In fact, all they’ve managed to accomplish is perpetual war abroad, and fascist sedition at home. (Paul Krugman’s columns on this topic have been both prescient and explanatory.)

Continue reading

Wal-Mart and Mask Mandates: The Empirical Issues

This gallery is meant to illustrate the issues raised in my discussion with Michael Young over Wal Mart in the post on the Great Barrington Declaration. See the combox of that post for further details. Click the thumbnails of each photo for important empirical findings.

Value for Value: Helping Out Roderick Long

I’m a little late to the party with this, but better late than never. My friend and fellow PoT blogger Roderick Long has set up a GoFundMe for help with expenses during a particularly difficult time. I’ve cut and pasted the blurb for his GoFundMe page below, and cut and pasted a comment I wrote responding to it in the combox below. I’m elated to see that Roderick  has exceeded his initial $8,000 goal, but see no reason to stop simply for that reason. I was also extremely pleased to see some of my Felician colleagues, like Sherida Yoder, who know Roderick only through PoT or my Facebook posts, kicking in to help. By the by, I’d love to overhear a literary conversation between Roderick and Sherida. Some day, we should all get together and party like it’s 2099.

But for now. please just give what you can. We’ll set up a separate GoFundMe for the Blowout Party for Friends of Roderick Long at a later date, when we’re all rich and famous. Continue reading