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

Carol Manigault, RIP

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

What’s Wrong with “Cancel Culture,” Again? “A Case Study”

“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

Coronavirus Diary (42): Should the Parks Be Closed in Jersey?

Feel free to believe this or not, but just about everyone who knows me well–friends, wives, ex’s–knows of my long history of altercations with the cops. Many of these altercations have taken place during my nocturnal rambles in local parks. Cops often claim that the parks “close,” and are willing to hassle anyone walking in the park “after hours.”* In doing so, they will often (falsely) insist that “there’s a curfew,” and ignore the blackletter of the laws they claim to be enforcing. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (31): The Dark Side of South Jersey

When all this is over–whatever that even means–I hope no one tells me that things like this never happened. I know how tedious it is to see another post on this much-belabored issue. But hard experience with the 9/11 celebration rumors taught me that if you don’t rigorously document something in real time, people will deny its existence after the fact. Actually, some will deny its existence as it’s happening, and others will deny its existence no matter how rigorously it’s documented. Unfortunately, not every disease has a cure. Continue reading

“Issues in Local Government”


I like democracy. Democracy is perhaps best exemplified in local government. Hence, I like local government.

You might quibble that that’s not a valid argument, and suggest that the conclusion is a reductio, but hey, democracy is messy.

Anyway, I’m interested in local government. To that end, I’m organizing and moderating a panel discussion at Felician University that you might want to attend if you’re in the neighborhood. Sponsored by the Felician Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs. 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