I agree with Paul Krugman about masking, but he’s wrong about public urination, and wrong to use the laws against it as an analogue of the laws requiring masking in the COVID-19 pandemic:
Relieving yourself in public is illegal in every state. I assume that few readers are surprised to hear this; I also assume that many readers wonder why I feel the need to bring up this distasteful subject. But bear with me: There’s a moral here, and it’s one that has disturbing implications for our nation’s future.
Although we take these restrictions for granted, they can sometimes be inconvenient, as anyone out and about after having had too many cups of coffee can attest. But the inconvenience is trivial, and the case for such rules is compelling, both in terms of protecting public health and as a way to avoid causing public offense. And as far as I know there aren’t angry political activists, let alone armed protesters, demanding the right to do their business wherever they want.
Laws against public urination do not impose a merely trivial inconvenience. If someone has a medical condition that involves urinary frequency or urgency, and there are no public bathrooms available (as often there aren’t), discreet “public” urination becomes unavoidable. Likewise if someone is homeless. Continue reading
Though there’s room to quibble about its exact definition, on some conception of it, almost everyone agrees that pedophilia is wrong–very wrong. When the acts in question involve very young children, and involve obvious reliance on violence or coercion, the issues left to quibble about rapidly diminish to zero. In such cases, we’re just left to stare pure evil in the face. I don’t think it much matters whether the incentives involved include pecuniary ones. Whether you monetarily profit off of pedophilia or not, it remains wrong. Continue reading
I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing a few days ago of Carol Manigault, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Felician University. Carol was a dear friend, and one of the very few people I would see in Kirby Hall either “after hours” or on the weekend–there for the same reason as I was, out of a preference for working at the office rather than working at home. I sometimes wondered whether the explanation for that preference was the same in Carol’s case as in mine–a reluctance to go home from the sense that home was better avoided than inhabited. Continue reading
Some readers may remember the dispute I had here back in April with Jason Brennan and Phil Magness over the use of lethal force to enforce social distancing orders. The issue was: are there any circumstances such that lethal force would be justified in enforcing such orders?
I said yes: if someone refuses compliance, and then not only resists an order to comply, but escalates resistance to the point of serious physical danger to others, it can be justifiable to shoot them dead. I say “shoot them dead” because under the rules of engagement that apply in police work, every shot is intended to be a kill shot: if an officer draws a weapon, it’s understood she had no choice but to do so; if she fires, she aims at the subject’s torso, which is the largest and most easily-hit target; and given the nature of standard police firearms, and the likelihood that the officer will fire more than once, the subject’s death is highly likely, whether literally intended or not. Continue reading
“Case study” is a bit grand for what follows, but this post was originally a comment I wrote a few days ago on an article in The New York Times. It was buried in the comments of the discussion about Kevin Vallier’s views on cancel culture, but I thought I’d pluck it out and post it here for better visibility. I’ve re-written the comment a bit, partly for clarity and partly for explicitness.
I guess my questions for critics of cancellation/cancel culture are these:
- Is Thompson’s action objectionable? If so, how?
- Is Thompson’s action a cancellation? If not, why not?
As far as I’m concerned, Thompson’s action is unobjectionable. I don’t like the term “cancellation,” but if we stipulate that we must use it, I feel no compunction (given the imprecision of the concept) in using it here. Since things like Thompson’s quit happen all the time, I regard such “cancellations” as entirely justified. I don’t know if this story is representative of what anti-cancellation types regard as a real cancellation, but part of the problem is that they haven’t explained themselves very well on that score. And considering the ridiculous-idiosyncratic-obscure origins of the concept, I would say that they owe us some precision before warning us against the supposed activity to which it refers. Continue reading
I wrote this post back when Michael Bloomberg was still a presidential candidate. He dropped out of the presidential race on March 4. Soon after that, the pandemic struck. Consumed in the latter issue, I forgot that I’d written the second half of my “Bloomberg on Stop and Frisk” series. In some ways it’s dated, but in other ways not, so for whatever it’s worth, I’ve decided to run it now, six months after the fact. Sue me.
In my last post on this topic, I distinguished between two different senses of “stop and frisk,” ordinary and Bloombergian, and argued that the distinction between them matters to our assessment of Michael Bloomberg as presidential candidate. On the one hand, it makes no sense to attack Bloomberg for his support of ordinary stop and frisk. To attack ordinary stop-and-frisk is to attack police work as such. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense to attack him for the specific version of it that prevailed when he was mayor of New York City. To attack Bloombergian stop and frisk is to attack a perversion of the real thing. Continue reading
Two years ago, my cousins Sa’ad and Salman (Khawaja Saad Rafiq and Khawaja Salman Rafiq) were arrested in Pakistan on charges of “corruption” by that country’s absurdly named NAB, or National Accountability Bureau. For two years (and not for the first time), they endured incarceration and vilification at the government’s hands. The first time this happened (to both of them), was during the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq; the second time (for Sa’ad, but not Salman), was the military dictatorship of General Pervez Musharaff. This time, for both, was under Pakistan’s Trump-like civilian Prime Minister, Imran Khan.* Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
I can’t stand Michael Bloomberg. I don’t intend to vote for him, and regard his entry into the presidential race as a net loss for liberty and justice. That said, I also think that some of what’s been said in criticism of him is confused, and in some cases downright childish. Unfortunately, this is particularly true of the policy that most obviously redounds to Bloomberg’s discredit: stop and frisk. If we’re going to nail Bloomberg on stop and frisk, we need to get the issue right, or at least avoid getting it wrong. But “we” haven’t. Continue reading
Friday was the second anniversary of the tragic Parkland shooting. The shooting was remembered in an appropriate-enough way in the media, except for one (to me) conspicuous thing: the continued, thoughtless, fact-free demonization of Scot Peterson, the School Resource Officer universally blamed for not entering the building where the shooting took place. Almost without exception, journalism about Parkland continues to take for granted the unexamined dogmas that Peterson “failed” to enter Building 12 and “failed” to confront the shooter, that he knew where the shooter was but deliberately hid from danger, and that his malfeasance goes beyond cowardice to legally actionable neglect, and beyond civil wrong to outright criminality. Continue reading
I’ve held off on commenting on the recent anti-Semitic shooting in Jersey City, partly because I’m too overloaded with grading to comment intelligently, and partly because the facts are too sparse for comment. But confusions have already crept into mainstream reporting on the subject. Here is The New York Times. Continue reading