Coronavirus Diary (28): The Fifth Amendment Under Quarantine

The Attorney General (of New Jersey) needs to explain whether the Fourth and Fifth Amendments have literally been suspended in Essex County, where enforcement actions have been stepped up considerably (especially in Newark, Irvington, Orange, and East Orange).

In order to be stopped by the police, there must be reasonable suspicion of the commission of an infraction within the jurisdiction of the officer doing the stop. The mere presence of a person in public cannot constitute reasonable suspicion of any infraction, including Executive Order 107.* So we need to know: do Fourth Amendment strictures still apply, or have they been discarded for the duration of the order? Continue reading

Bloomberg on “Stop and Frisk” (Part 1 of 2)

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

The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (6): Vengeance Is Theirs

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

Caught with Your Pants Down: The Strange Case of Mayor John Roth of Mahwah

I’m about to recount an almost entirely inconsequential political incident, the strange case of John F. Roth, mayor of Mahwah, a small, affluent town in northeastern New Jersey. But while the incident is almost entirely inconsequential, I’d say that precisely one feature has broad significance. Let’s see if you and I agree on what it is.

About a month ago, John F. Roth, the mayor of Mahwah, went to a party at the home of a Mahwah Township employee. You’re not going to believe this, but alcohol was served at this party. Yes, alcohol. And–hold on to your hats here–but Roth actually consumed some of this alcohol. I wouldn’t lie about something like this. Having done so, he managed to get drunk. He must have realized that he was drunk, because instead of driving home–like a normal person–he decided to walk into a bedroom or guestroom of the house, take off his pants, and fall asleep on a bed. He was later discovered pants-less in that very bed. A call was placed to his wife, who arrived to retrieve him. Retrieved, I gather that he went home to sleep it off, very possibly pants-less, in his own bed. Continue reading

MLK: “Believe Women,” Rape, and the Worst-Case Scenario

Yesterday, I wrote a post arguing that the supposedly woke slogan “Believe Women” has some odd implications for the recent Sanders-Warren controversy. It implies that we should believe Elizabeth Warren’s accusation that Sanders is a sexist, or at least presume his guilt until he can conclusively prove his innocence. Because I take this consequence to be a reductio, I take “Believe Women” to be an absurdity. Put charitably, the original, unqualified version of the slogan has to be modified. Put uncharitably, it has to be rejected. To split the difference, it requires a bit of both. Continue reading

“Believe Women Except When…”

So whatever happened to the “Believe Women” mantra, brought to us care of #MeToo? Yesterday’s unqualified axiom seems to have been washed away by today’s intra-progressive controversy. The reasoning here seems to be: Elizabeth Warren accused Bernie Sanders of sexism. But Bernie is more progressive than Liz. So the accusation can’t possibly be true, because if it were true, its truth would ruin the most progressive mainstream candidate’s shot at the presidency. Hence the accusation must be false, and Elizabeth Warren is a bit of a bitch for making it. From which it follows that the “Believe Women” axiom must also be false, though we’re not to say so out loud.

Gee, that was easy. Who knew that moralized axioms could so lightly be adopted, and so lightly be cast aside?  Continue reading

War with Iran (4): The Target Package

Donald Trump has famously and idiotically tried to assuage fears of a war with Iran with the assertion that he had Qasem Suleimani killed not to start a war but to prevent one. Putting aside the ad hoc quality of his reliance on the distinction between the intended and the foreseen, this happens to be a classic case of its total irrelevance: it doesn’t much matter in this context whether Trump intended to start a war, or merely foresaw that he might start one, or just recklessly took his action without thinking too hard about what he was doing. Yes, there’s a distinction to be drawn between a war brought about by intention and a war brought about through extreme recklessness. But it’s a distinction without a difference in a case where the action leading to war initiates force and violates any plausible conception of prudential rationality to boot. It doesn’t help that the rationalization for it comes from a pathological liar. Continue reading

Police Tailgating and Entrapment Revisited

Since I’ve been revisiting so many things lately, and Roderick just posted his PPE presentation from last year (which I missed), I figured I’d revisit the topic of police tailgating and entrapment that I mentioned here last year. Down below is the (alas, rejected) abstract proposal I sent to the forthcoming PPE conference.  Below the abstract, I’ve pasted a few interesting cases I’ve recently encountered of what I take to be entrapment on my account of it.

I gave an earlier version of the tailgating paper this past July at the NASSP conference in San Francisco, where it was mostly met with puzzlement. The main objection from the audience was that my account of entrapment-by-intimidation was, in some sense, too revisionary to count as entrapment. Police tailgating to induce a moving violation was, most people granted, a due process injustice of some kind–just not a case of entrapment. I was surprised to encounter a small handful of people who didn’t think that police tailgating was either entrapment or a due process injustice of any kind. But I guess weirdos like that are what conferences are for. Continue reading

Reparations Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post arguing that Nozickian libertarianism entails reparations.* The reparations in question follow from Nozick’s “principle of compensation,” which offers compensation for what Nozick calls “preventive restraints,” that is, coercive restrictions on individuals imposed in order to lessen the risk that they will violate others’ rights. So-called Terry stops are a paradigmatic example of a preventive restraint in Nozick’s sense (I argued), so that those on the receiving end of them would on Nozick’s view be owed compensation. If we assume (ex hypothesi, but still plausibly) that young black men (or black people generally) are disproportionately on the receiving end of preventive restraints, then young black men (or blacks generally) would disproportionately receive Nozickian compensation. That compensation, I suggested, is a form of what’s commonly called “reparations.” Continue reading