U of C students continue calls to abolish the campus police after three murders of students and a new incident when a man fired at a cop

February 11, 2022 • 12:45 pm

I swear, there is no sight more ridiculous than a group of college students demanding to abolish a campus police department right after cop shoots a guy in self defense after the perp started shooting at the cop!   And this is a particularly sad but egregious case, because the perp was walking down the street waving a handgun, shooting it in the air . And then he started firing at a campus cop when the cop pulled up and demanded that the guy drop to the ground. It turns out the perp was mentally ill and off his meds, and was out on a declared mission to commit “suicide by cop.” He wanted that violence. And yet the students blame the cops!

And all of this is happening in an academic year when three of our own students were killed off campus by robbers or after being hit in other gunfights  It’s been the worst year for off-campus violence in the 36 years I’ve been here. Yet student calls to abolish the campus cops (note: not defund them—ABOLISH them) get more persistent. 

I happened upon the most recent incident about an hour after the shooting described below took place. I was going to get fruit and veg, but four or five blocks around the small shopping center had been rendered off-limits with yellow tape, and cops were everywhere. When I asked one what had happened, he wouldn’t tell me (this laconic response, which is probably the legal response, is common). But the story was on the news that night, and an account appeared in our increasingly woke student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon (I will make no puns here). Here’s the account (click on screenshot):

 

The details:

A man was wounded in a shootout with the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) late Tuesday morning near the intersection of East 53rd Street and South Woodlawn Avenue.

A UCPD officer encountered the man carrying a handgun near 53rd and Woodlawn at 11:43 a.m. on Tuesday, according to an email sent to the University community by Eric Heath, the University’s associate vice president for safety and security.

According to University reports, the officer stopped his vehicle to investigate, after which the man fired shots and the officer ordered him to get on the ground. The individual then came in the direction of the officer, who fired his weapon and struck the individual twice in the thigh, Heath wrote in the email. Chicago Police Department (CPD) units were called to the scene soon after, according to police scanner reports.

According to a follow-up email sent by Heath on Wednesday, UCPD supplied the individual with medical aid before taking him into custody and bringing him to the University of Chicago Medical Center. The man is currently in critical condition, according to Heath’s second email.

Heath’s email stated that no one else was injured in the incident.

CPD and the University are both conducting investigations into the event. “Preliminary evidence indicates that the suspect began firing shots before he reached the intersection, and also fired at the officer,” a University spokesperson told The Maroon.

You can see some video here (note that the bodycam video starts 30 seconds in as there is a time delay):

On Wednesday, UCPD released videos of the shooting taken from the officer’s body camera and two security cameras at Kimbark Plaza. The body camera footage indicates that the officer fired three shots before the individual can be seen advancing, then two shots that struck the man. The officer then moved behind a parked vehicle and fired another four shots. At the end of the video, the man is seen on the ground.

The perp is identified as Rysheen Wilson.

And a walk-through of the videos by the Hyde Park Herald is here.  If you watch them, the beginning of the altercation is a bit unclear because the bodycam hadn’t started, but other evidence recently presented by the State’s Attorney shows that the suspect fired at the officer first, and only then did the officer take refuge behind a wall, order the suspect to get to the ground, and then shoot him when the man continued firing at the cop. The man was, as noted above, given medical aid and taken to the U of C hospital. He’s no longer in critical condition, and has been charged, among other things, with attempted murder of a police officer. (If Wilson is convicted, that will pretty much bring him a life sentence

The Chicago Sun-Times article (below) notes that the perp himself, before he went traipsing down the street waving his gun, called 911 and told the City of Chicago Police that he had a gun and wanted to commit “suicide by cop” (i.e., provoke the cops to shoot him). It’s pretty clear that the guy has some serious mental issues—watch some of the video when he’s dancing around waving the pistol:

The article shows that Wilson did suffer from serious mental problems. This is a tragedy, because perhaps if he’d stayed on his meds he might not have provoked this incident. But we can’t hold Wilson innocent, nor especially hold the cops culpable, when a mentally ill person begins shooting at police and the cops shoot back:

Wilson, 27, was “having mental issues” when he called his cousin Tuesday morning and told him where he was, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said in court. The cousin found him crying and talking about killing himself, Murphy said.

Wilson — who suffers from schizophrenia, PTSD and mood swings — was off his medication, Murphy said.

Wilson ran away from his cousin, pulled out a gun and called 911, Murphy said, telling the dispatcher his name, giving a description of what he was wearing and where he was.

The University of Chicago cop didn’t know about the 911 call, and the incident occurred when the patrolling officer drove by the man waving his gun. Nor, of course, did the officer know that Wilson was mentally ill—not that it would (or should) have made a difference in the cop’s behavior.

[Officer Nicholas] Twardak was driving down the street and saw Wilson pointing a gun at him and slowed down, Murphy said. As the officer stepped out his squad car, Wilson allegedly opened fire at Twardak.

The officer ran for cover toward parked cars on the other side of the street, and then moved to the front porch of a brick home as Wilson continued firing, Murphy said. Using the brick stoop as cover, the officer fired at Wilson, then repeatedly ordered Wilson to get on the ground, Murphy said.

Wilson moved toward the officer’s squad car in the middle of the street, and the officer fired at Wilson again and struck him, Murphy said. Wilson suffered two gunshot wounds to the thigh, two to the lower leg and one to the groin.

As Twardak approached, Wilson said he “wanted to bleed out,” Murphy said.

Three witnesses saw the shooting unfold, including a person in a car in Wilson’s line of fire. She reversed the car and then noticed bullet holes in her windshield and hood, Murphy said.

The sad irony of this is that officer Twardak was also involved in a 2018 incident when he shot (but didn’t kill) a mentally ill student who was having a breakdown and, after breaking windows and bashing up cars, charged the cop with a metal stake. Again ordered to drop the stake, the student continued to rush the cop and the cop defended himself shooting the student in the shoulder. I feel bad for everybody here, but one should also have sympathy for the cop instead of characterizing him as a serial shooter, as some students have done.  As far as I can see in both cases, the cop had no choice but to defend himself.

Those facts nonwithstanding, the organization #CareNotCops has increased the volume of its cry to “defund the U of C police”.  Their object, as you can see from the hashtag, is to argue that proper therapy and mental-illness treatment is a good substitute for police.  But not in this case, and not in the three cases of our murdered students this year—all killed by people outside the University community. Of course it’s possible that, at least in the 2018 case, therapy might have prevented the nonfatal shooting. But the victim, Charles Thomas, did not seek therapy, and went on to commit other crimes. He’s left the University but has completed a program that keeps him out of jail. Thomas’s lawsuit that he was shot in violation of regulations was dismissed.

And so a band of badly misguided students are blaming the police, and seeking their disbanding, in response to an increase in violence against students that could not possibly be stopped by “care”. What kind of crazy world do these students live in?

Here’s a Maroon article on the latest campus rally to protest the shooting of the guy who wanted to commit “suicide by cop” (click on screenshot):

Check out this logic:

#CareNotCops (CNC), a student group dedicated to the abolition of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) in favor of investing in South Side communities and mental health services, gathered on the main quad in front of Levi Hall at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, February 4, to protest the recent shooting of community member Rhysheen Wilson by a UCPD officer.

Fourth-year CNC organizer Alicia Hurtado began the rally by giving a speech calling for the abolition of UCPD. They asserted that far too many UCPD encounters with community members result in “escalation, violence, and criminalization.”

Hurtado spoke out against the increased patrols and surveillance that the University instituted in response to 24-year-old recent UChicago graduate Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng being shot and killed during an attempted robbery at 956 East 54th Place on November 9.

“When the University announced their expansion of their private armed police force, I knew that it only had one predictable outcome,” Hurtado said. “That outcome was not safety or an answer to gun violence.”

The students want safety (see the Maroon article below) but when a student gets killed during a robbery, they get angry at the subsequent increase in policing. What on earth do they want? Patrolling therapists? (Click on screenshot):

Next, Hopie Melton, a third-year CNC member, read a statement on behalf of Students for Disability Justice (SDJ), an advocacy organization that promotes disability activism and discussion within the University community and Chicagoland. The organization said that UCPD and emergency dispatchers are not properly trained to handle mental health crises and unnecessarily escalate many confrontations as a result. SDJ also demanded that the University further invest in mental health services.

“[UCPD] responds to every situation with the same heavy-handed, violent approach, leaving behind the people that need our help the most,” Melton said, reading the statement. “Our Black neighbors are under constant surveillance. Our mad and neurodivergent neighbors are judged and have been pathologized for their differences. Our disabled neighbors are under constant threat, and UChicago acts as a further disabling force.”

This is, as John McWhorter notes, the voice of religion.

No, the two mentally ill people WERE ATTACKING THE CAMPUS POLICE OFFICERS, one with a metal stake and the other with a gun. How would proper mental health training of cops have changed that situation?

Now of course with mental health problems among young people rising rapidly, it behooves any school to ensure that proper therapy is in place. College is a stressful time. But it also behooves the students to develop some sense about how the world works. When a guy is trying to kill you with a gun, you don’t yell at him, “Go home and take your meds!”

Elizabeth Holmes found guilty on four counts

January 3, 2022 • 7:00 pm

Well, it looks like con artist Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos and its nonfunctional blood-testing system, is going to jail. That is, unless the judge lets her off on probation when each of the four counts of which she’s convicted carries a maximum twenty-year sentence.

As the New York Times reports, Holmes was found guilty of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. As for the other seven charges, here’s the outcome (from the NYT); “no verdict” means that the jury was deadlocked.

  • Count one of conspiring to commit wire fraud against investors in Theranos between 2010 and 2015: Guilty.

  • Count two of conspiring to commit wire fraud against patients who paid for Theranos’s blood testing services between 2013 and 2016: Not guilty.

  • Count three of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $99,990 on or about Dec. 30, 2013: No verdict.

  • Count four of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $5,349,900 on or about Dec. 31, 2013: No verdict.

  • Count five of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $4,875,000 on or about Dec. 31, 2013: No verdict.

  • Count six of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $38,336,632 on or about Feb. 6, 2014: Guilty.

  • Count seven of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $99,999,984 on or about Oct. 31, 2014:Guilty.

  • Count eight of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $5,999,997 on or about Oct. 31, 2014: Guilty.

  • Count nine was dropped.

  • Count 10 of wire fraud in connection with a patient’s laboratory blood test results on or about May 11, 2015: Not guilty.

  • Count 11 of wire fraud in connection with a patient’s laboratory blood test results on or about May 16, 2015: Not guilty.

  • Count 12 of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $1,126,661 on or about Aug. 3, 2015: Not guilty.

From the NYT:

A jury of eight men and four women took 50 hours to reach a verdict, convicting her of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She was found not guilty on four other counts. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on three counts, which were set aside for later.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, terms that are likely to be served concurrently. Ms. Holmes is expected to appeal.

The verdict stands out for its rarity. Few technology executives are charged with fraud and even fewer are convicted. If sentenced to prison, Ms. Holmes would be the most notable female executive to serve time since Martha Stewart did in 2004 after lying to investigators about a stock sale. And Theranos, which dissolved in 2018, is likely to stand as a warning to other Silicon Valley start-ups that stretch the truth to score funding and business deals.

The mixed verdict suggested that jurors believed the evidence presented by prosecutors that showed Ms. Holmes lied to investors about Theranos’s technology in the pursuit of money and fame. They were not swayed by her defense of blaming others for Theranos’s problems and accusing her co-conspirator, Ramesh Balwani, the company’s chief operating officer and her former boyfriend, of abusing her.

They were also not swayed by the prosecutor’s case that she had defrauded patients. Ms. Holmes was acquitted on four counts related to patients who took Theranos’s blood tests and one related to advertisements that the patients saw.

Holmes’s defense of blaming her actions on mind control by Sunny Balwani particularly galled me, as she constructed her image, and certainly behaved accordingly, as a strong and independent woman.

My prediction was that she’d be convicted (you’ll see an earlier writing, before the verdict was just issued, in tomorrow’s “Hili News), though I thought she’d be convicted on more charges.  Still, in my own view, she needs some jail time to serve as a deterrent to others entrepreneurs who would extract money from people under false pretenses.

To see what she really did, I highly recommend John Carreyrou’s dissection of the whole saga in his 2018 book, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. Begun as a reportorial job for the Wall Street Journal, the saga was turned by Carreyrou into a page turner that is endlessly engrossing and won several prizes as well. If you’ll read it, you’ll wonder how Holmes got off so lightly.

lizabeth Holmes | CREDIT: YICHUAN CAO/GETTY IMAGES

MSNBC bashes Jussie Smollett’s guilty verdict as the “crowning jewel” of the Right, a verdict that empowers Trump and his minions

December 10, 2021 • 12:15 pm

I’ve heard of the Right bashing MSNBC as  the Left-wing equivalent of Breitbart, but I never read or watch MSNBC, so I had no opinion. But my attention was called this morning to two articles on MSNBC that criticize the Smollett verdict—or rather, wring their hands over it—because, say the writers, it gives succor to the right and to Donald Trump and his supporters. And it will hurt members of the LBGTQ community as well, as people won’t believe any claims of gender-based hate crime.

I couldn’t believe this line of thought, but you could read the articles below.  My take on the verdict is that justice was done, that there wasn’t going to be much political fallout except for racists being glad that a black man was convicted, and that, overall, the verdict was not only just, but useful in deterring future hoaxers from trying the same thing. There’s a penalty if you get caught. I was satisfied that justice was done.

But the first article, below, blames the guilty verdict on a proposed future in which LGBTQ people will not be believed when they report real hate crimes. (Smollett is gay.) That’s really messed up: what will make people less likely to believe the claims of victims is HOAX CLAIMS by LGBTQ people: that is, what Smollett did, not what the jury did. What planet does Zach Stafford live on?

Click to read:

First Stafford dismisses any importance of the actual truth of what Smollett claimed, or of the verdict’s affirmation that he lied (my emphasis):

The Jussie Smollett saga may now be technically over after a Chicago jury found the actor guilty Thursday of five of the six counts he faced, but its impact will be — and has already been — felt for years to come. It doesn’t matter if the actor, who starred on “Empire,” really was beaten up by people yelling “This is MAGA country!” and is wrongly being punished or if he did stage an elaborate hoax, as the jury decided he did by finding him guilty of five counts of disorderly conduct.

No, this is what matters:

Instead, the seemingly never-ending questions over the almost three years regarding the truthfulness of his account means the indisputable victims of hate crimes will now carry an even heavier burden of suspicion.

The only winners found as the dust settles are the members of the right who have declared themselves America’s real victims of hate and discrimination — people who have strategically made the Smollett case their go-to example for how the left operates and how it wrongly makes villains out of Donald Trump supporters.

Meaning Smollett’s guilty verdict is their new crowning jewel as our culture wars rage on.

(I believe he means “crown jewel”.)

For crying out loud! Justice was done in this case, and all Stafford worries about is whether the Right will use the verdict to support their crusade against LGBTQ rights? But you know what? The Right will use what they can use, and beefing that Smollett was found guilty will not change that. Similarly, the Left will use what the Left can use, as it did with Smollett’s initial claims. Does Stafford wish he’d been found innocent, even though a ton of evidence said that he was guilty?

Stafford first revealed how the Left buttressed Smollett, as this tweet from Bari Weiss shows. Yes, people weighed in before the fact, jumping to conclusions. But there was no trial, so all I thought was that his story sounded fishy and if he were tried, he’d likely be convicted. As a scientist, one withholds judgment until evidence starts appearing.

Then Stafford gets distraught because as the hoax began to be uncovered, Trump and his son went on social media talking about the flaws of the media, “fake news”, and mocking the “MAGA hat wearing” that was part of Smollett’s claims.

Here’s how Stafford winds up, and I’m not sure what he’s trying to say.

We couldn’t help but cover the story of a Black, gay celebrity who said he’d been attacked by Trump supporters. This wasn’t just because it was a story involving a famous member of the community we covered, but also because for many of us who had been reporting on anti-LGBTQ crimes for years, we believed his case might help shine a light on the fact that LGBTQ folks — especially trans people — were dying at historic rates in the streets. Smollett claimed to have been attacked in those same streets.

Since journalists began accurately reporting trans homicides in the early 2010s, we have consistently seen a rise in anti-LGBTQ violence, with 2021 being the deadliest year on record, specifically for trans people. Black people in this country, regardless of their sexuality, also find themselves over-represented in FBI data documenting hate crimes in the U.S. each year.

With this guilty verdict, it’s really those people who lost — not just Smollett — with the winners being people who are now more emboldened in demanding even more from victims before receiving justice. Sure, Smollett may have lied — or at least was found guilty of it. But statistically most people who report these cases do not lie and are rarely ever believed.

What is so important for us to do in this moment, as we look to what’s next, is to ensure work is done to stop the epidemic of hate facing folks who look like Smollett. Trump supporters are not being subjected to hate crimes for supporting Trump on any level — full stop.

Nor are Biden supporters being subjected to hate crimes for supporting Biden on any level—full stop.

Is Stafford implying that the verdict should have been “not guilty”, thus helping all the true victims of LGBTQ hate crimes down the line? Or is he just bewailing the fact that it will be harder to take those claims seriously? If the latter, then he should be blaming Smollett,  There is no reason to drag the verdict itself into the fight for LGBTQ rights, which is a good fight.  If Stafford is saying that he wished, in the face of the evidence, that the jury should have acquitted Smollett (perhaps for the greater good, which is NOT a reason for a verdict), then god help him.

This piece by Ja’han jones is too slight to have been published, but there is a telling bit at the end. Click to read:

The last bit:

Smollett held throughout the trial that the incident was not a hoax.

Nonetheless, the strange, seemingly ever-changing details in the case have provided nearly three years’ worth of material for comedians and online commentators. Some of it has been quite funny, in fact.

Even more comical, in my view, was the predictable conservative outrage over Smollett’s allegations. Conservatives took to social media in 2019 to express outrage over the dropped charges. How dare someone make such a heinous claim about followers of their dear leader, they screeched. Violent, masked white guys who shout Trump slogans and use chemical agents to attack victims?

Many on the right shamed those of us who knew such a claim was totally plausible — and then the Jan. 6 insurrection happened.

Well, one could say that it was equally funny to see the credulous Left accept such a dubious story.  If Jones thought that Smollett’s story was “totally plausible”, he must have been smoking something. Of course I wouldn’t have thought that the January insurrection was plausible, either, but there are plenty of readers here who either thought it possible or were not surprised when it did happen.

But all this is what we Jews call “pilpul”:  meaningless and endless debate about matters of little consequence. Both writers are trying to make political hay out of a verdict that was just and, in fact, will probably deter hate crimes if it has any effect at all.

Happy Friday!

Jussie Smollett found guilty on 5 of 6 felony charges

December 9, 2021 • 5:40 pm

Yes, it’s breaking news: a jury in Chicago just found Jussie Smollett guilty on five of six counts of felony disorderly conduct for faking a report of a hate crime that he concocted against himself. (He was acquitted on one charge.)

In class 4 felonies like this, the judge can sentence Smollett to up to 3 years imprisonment and $25,000 in fines on each count, with sentences to run consecutively or concurrently. Maximum sentence would thus be 15 years in jail and a $125,000 fine, but that won’t happen. In fact, I’m not sure that Smollett will see the inside of prison at all.

Smollett isn’t out of the woods yet, as Chicago is suing him in civil court for $140,000 to recover the costs of the police investigation.

I was correct again, but you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to see this coming.

Aside from the sentencing, this is the last time I’ll mention Juicy unless he pulls another stunt.

Three found guilty of murder in Ahmaud Arbery case

November 24, 2021 • 1:38 pm

I hope that those people who beefed about the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse as an instance of white supremacy will mute their cries that there’s no justice for black people, for this afternoon there was a verdict that, as far as I can see, was eminently just.

An innocent black man, Ahmaud Arbery, was shot to death in Georgia by one of three white men who were practicing vigilante justice with no cause other than the Arbery’s race. They said they were attempting a “citizen’s arrest” when Arbery, who had no weapon, tried to grab one of the vigilantes’ guns, and was himself gunned down. But there was video, and it didn’t support their story. All three men were convicted this afternoon. 

The convicted murderers, Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and their neighbor William Bryan, 52, will likely get life in prison. And that’s just the beginning for them, for that was just a trial in state court.  The trio also face federal charges: hate crimes and attempted kidnapping. That trial will begin in February

Not all of them were convicted on all counts though. From the NYT:

The jury has found Travis McMichael, the man who shot Ahmaud Arbery, guilty on all nine counts, including malice murder and felony murder.

The jury has found Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael’s father, not guilty of malice murder, but guilty of all other counts he faces, including felony murder.

The jury has found William Bryan, who filmed the fatal encounter with Ahmaud Arbery, not guilty of malice murder. He was found not guilty of one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault, but guilty of three counts of felony murder and three other charges.

I predicted this result, but it wasn’t hard to do. Although the murderers claimed that Arbery was a burglar, pointing to video of him wandering inside a house under construction, he didn’t steal anything. (I used to wander into houses like that when I was a kid.) And the video clearly showed the three men pursuing Arbery, who was running away from them.  It’s fairly clear that he was being pursued because he was black.

Condolences to Arbery’s family, who had to sit through the whole trial, and no pity for the other three. The verdict and sentencing will hopefully be a deterrent to others like them, and perhaps the miscreants will some day reform, but surely now they need to be removed from society.

University of California at Santa Cruz also pronounces on Rittenhouse verdict

November 23, 2021 • 11:15 am

Now that the Vice-Chancellor of the University of California at Irvine has apologized for taking a public and official stand on the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict (he didn’t like it), will the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) be next? For here’s their own statement, posted on the University website and signed by UCSC’s Chancellor and by the Executive Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

This one is even more over the top than the UC Irvine statement, for it makes absolutely no bones about their opposition to the verdict, calling it a “failure of accountability.”

Dear Campus Community,

We are disheartened and dismayed by this morning’s not guilty verdict on all charges in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. The charges included fatally shooting two unarmed men, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz at a Black Lives Matter rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020. We join in solidarity with all who are outraged by this failure of accountability.

We also acknowledge that this same week the prosecution and defense concluded their case in the trial of three white men charged with chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old unarmed Black man, in February 2020, south of Brunswick, Georgia.

Trials such as these that have race-related implications can cause our BIPOC communities distress and harm. This is harm that is endured everyday through acts of racism, the pervasiveness of white supremacy and a flawed justice system.

We firmly believe in our Principles of Community and our collective responsibility to continue to disrupt systemic racism. It is important to publicly reaffirm our shared values and to ensure that those who are experiencing distress and impact have access to supportive resources. We reaffirm these values each day through our actions in our own spheres of influence. The Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion is here to help support community members in the work of building a more inclusive climate.

If you are feeling impacted by these events, please do not hesitate to reach out to campus services for support. Staff in our colleges, resource centers, and Counseling and Psychological Services provide assistance for students. Our Employee Assistance Program offers counseling and support to employees. If you need to report discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics, please contact the Office of Equity and Equal Protection.

Sincerely,

Cindy and Judith

Cynthia Larive
Chancellor

Judith Estrada
Executive Director, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Interim Chief Diversity Officer

Note as well the claim that it is everyone at the university’s responsibility to “continue to disrupt systemic racism.”  I don’t think so. They also say “we affirm these values each day.” Who is “we”? Is it everyone at UCSC on board with this? Did the signers ask everyone if they’re affirming the University’s expressed values? Were they equally outraged when O. J. Simpson was pronounced not guilty for the murder of two people?

This statement should not have been made. Like the UCI one, for which the issuer later apologized, it is an unseemly pronouncement on a jury verdict coupled with a huge dollop of virtue signaling.  It also assumes that the Rittenhouse case was all about white supremacy and race—a proposition of which I’m not yet convinced.

The University of Chicago has (so far) issued no official pronouncements on the verdict. And that’s the way it should be.

UPDATE:  A friend I showed this to wrote me the following:

Here’s one detail about the latest pronouncement: it’s signed “Cindy and Judith.”What does that tell us? The chancellor and vice-chancellor at Santa Cruz appear desperately afraid to be perceived as embodying official authority. In effect, they are masquerading as students––part of the unanimous groundswell against “systemic racism.” Now, how pathetic is that?

ACLU condemns Rittenhouse verdict

November 22, 2021 • 11:15 am

Among the many institutions now taking irrational and woke stands as opposed to principled ones, the American Civil Liberties Union stands out. Once my favorite civil-rights organization, known for enforcing the First Amendment, fighting for racial equality but also the speech rights of Nazis, the ACLU was designed to protect every American’s constitutional rights.

Now it’s become a progressive-Left Social Justice organization. I’ve written about this transformation many times; among its activities is calling for the censoring of Abigail Shrier’s book on poorly considered “affirmative therapy” for gender dysphoric kids, changing a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote on abortion so that her references to “women” were changed to “persons,” favoring legislation that allows medically and psychologically untreated biological males who identify as women to compete in women’s sports, and opposing Betsy DeVos’s changes in Title IX guidelines for sexual harassment prosecution as “inappropriately favoring the accused.” (Those changes, by the way, were one of the rare instances of the Trump administration creating a change for the better, for they mandates fairer and more just procedures.)

Speaking of “inappropriately favoring the accused,” the ACLU, letting its Wisconsin branch speak for the organization as a whole, has just issued a statement that seems to say that the Rittenhouse verdict was wrong, also inappropriately favoring the accused:

Click on the screenshot to read:

Excerpts:

Shaadie Ali, interim executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, stated:

“Despite Kyle Rittenhouse’s conscious decision to take the lives of two people protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake by police, he was not held responsible for his actions, something that is not surprising. But Kyle Rittenhouse isn’t the only one responsible for the deaths that night. The events in Kenosha stem from the deep roots of white supremacy in our society’s institutions. They underscore that the police do not protect communities of color in the same way they do white people.

. . .“Rittenhouse’s trial highlights an urgent need for reform for both police and the criminal legal system. The system is broken, and it desperately needs to be fixed.”

Brandon Buskey, director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, stated:

“Kyle Rittenhouse was a juvenile who traveled across state lines on a vigilante mission, was allowed by police to roam the streets of Kenosha with an assault rifle and ended up shooting three people and killing two. These are the simple, tragic facts. His acquittal comes after an ACLU investigation exposing how Kenosha law enforcement used violence against protesters and drove them toward white militia groups, in ways that escalated tensions and almost certainly led to these shootings.

“This complicity, along with the reason for the protests that Rittenhouse took it upon himself to confront — the police shooting of a Black man outside of a family function — highlights that the violence in Kenosha is not an anomaly, but rather endemic to a system built upon white supremacy.

Many of these statements are contestable, including the notion that Rittenhouse was a white supremacist who killed white demonstrators because they were supporting Black Lives Matter protests. In fact, one of the men he killed was apparently a racist, and he killed, as the jury determined, in self defense.  Rittenhouse is certainly not a saint or someone I’d want to hang around with—why would someone go to a protest with a gun, even (as Rittenhouse maintained, to guard a car dealership?—that’s asking for trouble. He seems to be troubled and confused. But from the outset Rittenhouse had a credible claim of self-defense, and the videos bore that out.

As for his “white supremacy”, this is what the NY Post says (you can check other sources if you don’t like this one):

The FBI scoured Kyle’s phone and found nothing about white supremacy or militias, the court heard. All they saw were pro-police, “Blue Lives Matter” posts from a kid who had been a police and fire department cadet, wanted to be a police officer or paramedic and once sat near the front of a Trump rally. That was enough for the media to brand him a white supremacist.

The media had a narrative it bought into early, and refused to give it up in the face of the videos, the verdict, and the facts. The ACLU statement, from an organization designed to protect the civil rights of the accused from unjust state power, is now refusing to do that for Rittenhouse. The reason they are not defending Rittenhouse despite the verdict is simply because he was white and supposedly killed white men because they were supposedly supporting a Black Lives Matter protest. The jury said he killed because he had credible threats of being killed or harmed.

As Jesse Singal wrote on the preview of his pay-for-view Substack column:

If you know anything about the ACLU’s history or reasons for existing, these are very strange — disturbing, I’d argue — statements. The ACLU of Wisconsin seems to be saying Kyle Rittenhouse should have been convicted. What else could a statement noting that he “was not held responsible for his actions,” issued the day of his full acquittal, possibly mean? If you don’t think he was guilty of the crimes he was accused of, there’s nothing for him to have been “held responsible” for. The ACLU is supposed to stand on the side of vulnerable people facing a justice system that has a chronic tendency to overcharge and to withhold from suspects and defendants their full constitutional rights. Why is the ACLU of Wisconsin siding with that system — especially without any further explanation as to why this was an unjust ruling?

And here’s another one I found, but won’t quote or dissect, on the MSNBC website. Click to access:

Supreme Court goes execution-happy; prisoner suffers horrible death

October 29, 2021 • 12:00 pm

Biden has stated that he wants to end the practice of federal executions, though he can’t stop ones by the states. However, most Americans still favor the death penalty (60% approve, 39% oppose). And so, apparently, does the Supreme Court. As reader Ken emailed me:

SCOTUS lifted the stay of execution on two Oklahoma death-row inmates imposed by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The three liberal justices dissented. (Justice Gorsuch took no part in the decision, presumably because he had considered one or both of the cases while he was a 10th Circuit judge, prior to his appointment to the high court.)

One of the inmates was executed tonight within hours of the ruling; the other is scheduled for execution on Nov. 18th. The NYT article reporting SCOTUS’s action recounts Oklahoma’s history of botched executions.
And this one was botched too (cruel and unusual punishment is just one reason to oppose capital punishment).  As KOCO in Oklahoma City reports, the lethal injection did not at all go smoothly. There’s an eyewitness account by AP reporter Sean Murphy:

The Associated Press’ Sean Murphy, who witnessed the execution, described what he saw after Grant was injected with the first of three execution drugs called midazolam.

“He did convulse more than two dozen times, and those were pretty violent convulsions while he was strapped to the gurney,” Murphy said. “Then he began to vomit. The vomit pooled in his mouth and ran down his face. At that point, he was still trying to breathe because you could see bubbles coming out of his mouth as he attempted to breathe.”

Murphy said he’s seen more than a dozen executions, and he’s never seen an inmate vomit like that. He added that the only other time he’s seen violent convulsions like this was during the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, one of the last before Oklahoma stopped executions.

“We have come to the conclusion that for the third time in a row, the Oklahoma lethal injection protocol did not work how it was supposed to work,” said Dale Baich, one of the lawyers challenging Oklahoma’s use of midazolam.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections later released a statement saying the execution was carried out “without complications.” ODOC officials also shared a statement from the daughter of Grant’s victim, saying in part that she prays justice prevails for other victims’ loved ones.

Midazolam, a benzodiazepine normally used as a light anesthetic to calm patients before surgery or during colonoscopies, is now used by seven states as the first drug in the three-drug execution sequence. But it has an uneven history, being part, for example, of one execution where the inmate was given 15 doses and took two hours to die. One problem is that no drug company will sell it for execution purposes, so the states have to get it from secondary sources like “compounding pharmacies” that aren’t subject to FDA standards or approval. This means that drugs could be made in improper ways or be contaminated.  Here’s what the Death Penalty Information Center says of Midazolam:

MIDAZOLAM: Seven states have used midazolam as the first drug in the three-drug protocol: Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Oklahoma used midazolam in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April 2014, and Lockett died after the procedure was halted. Alabama’s use of midazolam in the execution of Ronald Smith in December 2016, resulted in nearly fifteen minutes of Smith heaving and gasping for breath. Arkansas’s use of use midazolam in four executions in April 2017 raised concerns and in the execution of Kenneth Williams, witnesses reported coughing, convulsing, lurching and jerking. In January 2017, Florida abandoned its use of midazolam as the first drug in its three-drug protocol and replaced it with etomidate. Two states have used midazolam in a two-drug protocol consisting of midazolam and hydromorphone: Ohio (Dennis McGuire) and Arizona (Joseph Wood). Both of those executions, which were carried out in 2014, were prolonged and accompanied by the prisoners’ gasping for breath. After its botched execution of McGuire, Ohio abandoned its use of midazolam in a two-drug protocol, but then in October 2016 decided to keep midazolam in a three-drug protocol. In December 2016, Arizona abandoned its use of midazolam in either a two-drug or a three-drug protocol. Three states have, at some point, proposed using midazolam in a two-drug protocol (Louisiana, Kentucky, and Oklahoma) but none of those states has followed through with that formula. Some states have proposed multiple protocols. Missouri administered midazolam to inmates as a sedative before the official execution protocol began.

Regardless, though, I oppose any killing in return for killing; life without parole (or, better, Norway’s system of 21-year sentences with periodic evaluation after that) is sufficient punishment. The Supreme Court apparently disregards this shameful history of botched executions. Biden should commute every federal death sentence to a life sentence, but he can’t do squat about state executions.

Midazolam for proper medical use (not executions)

New Zealand PM exculpates religion in an ISIS-inspired terrorist stabbing attack in New Zealand

September 3, 2021 • 11:30 am

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, like many government officials, can go to great lengths to avoid implicating religion—especially Islam—in any terrorist attack, even if it’s clearly inspired by Islamism.  Take last Friday’s stabbing attack at a supermarket in West Auckland, which wounded six people (the perp was killed by police).

As the New York Times reports, this has every sign of a being terrorist attack: the method, the ideology, and the fact that the suspect had already been under surveillance for five years because of his “ideology”. (Could that be Islam? As HuffPost reports—which for some reason isn’t allowing comments on this story—”Ardern said the attacker, who was not identified, was ‘obviously a supporter of ISIS ideology,’ in reference to the Islamic State terror group.”) It has in fact been officially deemed a “terrorist attack.”

More from the NYT:

The suspect, a Sri Lankan national, was shot and killed by the police, officials said. He had been under constant, active surveillance at the time of the attack at the market in West Auckland, they said. The suspect was not immediately identified.

“A violent extremist undertook a terrorist attack on innocent New Zealanders in the New Lynn Countdown in Auckland,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference, referring to the supermarket.

“What happened today was despicable, it was hateful, it was wrong,” she added. “It was carried out by an individual — not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity, but an individual person who is gripped by ideology that is not supported here by anyone or any community. He alone carries the responsibility for these acts; let that be where the judgment falls.”

. . .The prime minister said the suspect, who came to New Zealand in 2011, had been known to security forces since 2016. She described him as a lone actor who had been under constant monitoring because of concerns about his ideology.

“This was a violent attack,” she said. “It was senseless, and I’m so sorry it happened.”

Yes, of course the act was carried out by an individual.  Cultures, faiths, and ethnicities cannot by definition carry out a terrorist attack because humans have to do the deed. But Ardern is thick-headed here, for can she deny that that individual was motivated, at least in part, by a religiously based movement: Islamism? In fact she admits that! 

So what does she mean by her exculpation of faith, culture, or ethnicity?

What she means is apparently this: “Yes, this guy was inspired to stab people because he was gripped by Islamist ideology, but the ideology isn’t to blame.”  It’s similar to the mantra used by American NRA-ites: “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Except the U.S.statement is milder, because guns don’t incite people to use them in shootings, whereas ISIS ideology promotes the extirpation of nonbelievers.

It’s hard to understand a mentality that argues that an individual can be motivated to attack others because of faith, but then adds that the faith is not at all responsible. I suppose that when ISIS starts raping, oppressing, and beating the women of Afghanistan, Ardern will say, “These odious acts are carried out by individuals—not a faith, not a culture, and not an ethnicity.”

I used to admire Ardern, but sometimes she’s osculates the rump of religion way too arde(r)ntly.