Sarah Palin sues NYT for libel

January 26, 2022 • 10:00 am

You may have heard that Sarah Palin (you remember her, right?) is suing the New York Times for libel.  I’m not a lawyer—I just play one on television—but I’d say that in normal circumstances she’d lose. But these are not normal times, for the ultimate arbiter of the case may be the U.S. Supreme Court—no friend of liberals or of the New York Times.

The case is described pretty well, with included links at the GBH site below, the website of the (liberal) National Public Radio in Boston.

According to the law, a libel judgment against a public figure like Palin must involve not just printing something that was palpably false, but printing it with deliberate malice against the candidate. this standard was affirmed in the case of NYT Company v. Sullivan in 1964. Oyez gives the background and details of that case:

During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the New York Times published an ad for contributing donations to defend Martin Luther King, Jr., on perjury charges. The ad contained several minor factual inaccuracies. The city Public Safety Commissioner, L.B. Sullivan, felt that the criticism of his subordinates reflected on him, even though he was not mentioned in the ad. Sullivan sent a written request to the Times to publicly retract the information, as required for a public figure to seek punitive damages in a libel action under Alabama law.

When the Times refused and claimed that they were puzzled by the request, Sullivan filed a libel action against the Times and a group of African American ministers mentioned in the ad. A jury in state court awarded him $500,000 in damages. The state supreme court affirmed and the Times appealed.

The Supremes then ruled unanimously for the NYT (my emphasis):

To sustain a claim of defamation or libel, the First Amendment requires that the plaintiff show that the defendant knew that a statement was false or was reckless in deciding to publish the information without investigating whether it was accurate.

In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Brennan, the Court ruled for the Times. When a statement concerns a public figure, the Court held, it is not enough to show that it is false for the press to be liable for libel. Instead, the target of the statement must show that it was made with knowledge of or reckless disregard for its falsity. Brennan used the term “actual malice” to summarize this standard, although he did not intend the usual meaning of a malicious purpose. In libel law, “malice” had meant knowledge or gross recklessness rather than intent, since courts found it difficult to imagine that someone would knowingly disseminate false information without a bad intent. 

This is what Palin claims the NYT did to her. Here’s a description from the BGH site:

Palin is suing The New York Times for libel, claiming that a 2017 editorial tying her incendiary rhetoric to the 2011 shooting of then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — a crime that also claimed the lives of six people — was false and defamatory. Jury selection in the long-delayed trial had been set to begin this past Monday in U.S. District Court. Then we learned that Palin had tested positive for COVID-19. “She is of course unvaccinated,” said Judge Jed Rakoff. Yes, of course. And the proceedings have been delayed until Feb. 3.

There is no question that there were mistakes in the Times editorial, published after a gunman shot and injured several members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Stephen Scalise. The Times compared the event to the Giffords shootings and noted that Palin’s political action committee had published a map on Facebook with gunsights over the districts of several members of Congress it hoped to defeat — including Giffords.

After that, things went awry. First, the editorial originally stated that the map targeted “electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.” In fact, the map targeted only the districts, not the members themselves. More consequentially, the editorial tied the map to the shootings, stating: “In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear.” (You can read the original Times editorial here, at the Internet Archive; the revised and corrected version is here. You can see the map here.)

The original statement by the NYT that spawned the lawsuit (my emphasis):

Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.

The map (from HuffPo) at issue:

The NYT’s correction:

Correction: 

An editorial on Thursday about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established. The editorial also incorrectly described a map distributed by a political action committee before that shooting. It depicted electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers, beneath stylized cross hairs.

Well, if you look at the map, yes, it is the districts that have crosshairs in them, but the names of the Representatives are right in there.  I remember beefing at the time that this looked like an encouragement of Palin supporters (mostly gun advocates) to go ahead and fire a few off a few rounds at the relevant Congresspeople.  But that’s the way it looks. Just as Palin’s team has to show malice on the part of the paper for making its original statement, I suspect that they must also show that Palin was encouraging murder, which is a defamatory statement. None of us can know that, nor could the NYT, which is why it withdrew the offending paragraph.

It was also my impression that if the offender (the NYT) was contacted and issued a requested correction, a libel suit cannot go forward. The NYT did issue that correction, but the suit is still proceeding. Perhaps one of our legal experts can explain this.

Assuming that the case is going forward under libel law, can we conclude that what the NYT published was done out of deliberate malice? To me that would seem hard to prove (see below for the standard of “proof” here), for, just as I made a connection between the gunsights and murder, but was just speculating, so the NYT could have made that same connection without a deliberate attempt to harm Palin. (On the other hand, we do know that they hated their Palin!).  But proof is proof, and I can’t see the NYT meeting the standards of defamation here. GBH asked two free-speech experts, and they gave opposite opinions:

[Author Dan Kennedy] put the question to a couple of First Amendment experts. One, Boston lawyer Harvey Silverglate, said that the Times’ (mostly) truthful description of Palin’s actions should cut against Palin’s libel claims. “Since the Times accurately described what Palin did,” Silverglate told me by email, “it would not matter whether it actually incited violence.

Taking a different view was Justin Silverman, a lawyer who is executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “Just because Loughner didn’t use the map as motivation, [that] doesn’t mean that readers of the NYT weren’t told that he did — which arguably is the same as being told that Palin incited the violence and is responsible for that violence by publishing her map,” he said in an email. Silverman added: “By incorrectly saying that Loughner was motivated by the map, isn’t the NYT also incorrectly saying that Palin incited Loughner by publishing it?”

Nevertheless, Silverman said the Times should prevail if it is able to prove that its errors resulted from “sloppy journalism” rather than actual malice.

Which brings us back to where we started. Regardless of whether Palin wins her case, it seems likely that it will begin to wend its way through the appeals process — and perhaps to the Supreme Court.

And since two of the current members of the court (Thomas and Gorsuch) have argued or implied that the Supreme Court Sullivan decision in 1964 was wrong, and since there’s a pile of new conservative justices on the court who weren’t there in 1964, it’s possible that the Supremes could rule against the NYT.

My own view is that this is unlikely since malice of the NYT can’t be demonstrated beyond a “preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. a greater than 50% probability; the standard for liability in these cases). But this assumes, of course, that the Supreme Court follows settled law. By allowing the new Texas anti-abortion statute, which contravenes settled abortion law, to go forward, the new Roberts court can do pretty much do anything it wants.

Finally, an affirmation of Palin’s suit would clearly chill speech by the media, for a “> 50% chance” is about the most subjective decision you can make. You’d want to err on the side of not looking malicious.

Was this what Palin wanted?

Ilhan Omar’s “Combating International Islamophobia Act”

December 31, 2021 • 10:00 am

Reader Debra, in a comment on a recent post about the UN’s ongoing anti-Israel resolution, called attention to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s “Islamophobia Resolution,” which you can read about in the ABC News, the conservative site The Daily Caller, or the The Elder of Ziyon.

But you’ll want to see the latest version of the bill itself, here, or as a pdf by clicking on the screenshot of the latest version below. This bill was approved by the House of Representatives in a strict party-line vote of 219-212 last Tuesday.

A few words before we get to the bill itself.  I will pull no punches in saying that I believe Omar is both an Islamist and an anti-Semite, though I have more confidence in the latter than in the former. Regardless, both she and Rashida Tlaib seem determined to use their power in Congress to promote Islam in America and prevent its criticism. I think that this bill is part of that effort, and you can see its purpose under the words “A BILL” above: to establish a special Office in the U.S. State Department to monitor and report on incidents of “Islamophobia” outside the U.S. (it would never get passed if it incorporated America, but, as we’ll see, it might well do that).

I also think the bill is misguided, ambiguous, pushes a form of blasphemy law (though probably not in the U.S.), and would be unconstitutional in America because it privileges one religion—Islam—over all others.  We need no such bills: no “anti-Semitism department” bills, not “anti-Christian department” bills, no “anti-Hindu department” bills, and so on.  Imagine what would happen if we had a surfeit of such bills. India would be the subject of many reports by the Islamophobia and Hinduphobia departments, every Arab country would be the subject of innumerable reports of anti-Semitism from the “Judeophobia Department”, and so on. So my first objection is that this bill is a big waste of time, accomplishing little but serveing Omar’s political ambitions. I suspect the Democratic approval was a kneejerk reaction to soothe Omar (the Progressive Left is pro-Islam and anti-“Zionism”).

In fact, several sources say that the bill is Omar’s personal reaction to being denigrated unfairly by the even more odious Lauren “Glock-Packing Mama” Boebert, who has repeatedly denigrated Omar as a “terrorist” and a member of the “jihad squad.” Here’s a CNN report on Boebert’s statements:

Boebert is bigoted, unhinged, and “Muslimophobic”. A congresswoman should not be talking this way about a colleague. She may well be punished by the Congress for her statements by being removed from committees, and I hope to Ceiling Cat that she won’t be re-elected.

Apparently Boebert tried to call Omar to apologize, but Omar hung up on her, which I probably would have done as well. Nevertheless, I have to add that Boebert did nothing illegal by her remarks about Omar; her speech is protected by the First Amendment. What she said was unwise and bigoted.

But in response, Omar wrote and sponsored the bill above, and the Dems in Congress, eager to parade their virtue, approved it. That was unwise, because it opens a Pandora’s box of religions and ethnicities competing to get their own “x-phobia offices” established in the Department of State.

Now, read the bill. The latest revision is at the end.

One of the biggest problems of the bill is that it doesn’t define “Islamophobia,” which is something it absolutely has to do. At the end we see its latest construal of Islamophobia, which has problems.  We’ll get to in a second.

The bill establishes an office in the State Department headed by a “special envoy for monitoring and combating Islamophobia”. The Office will do this:

So, as you see, it monitors acts of Islamophobia only outside the U.S., and prepares an annual report about what the office uncovers. There is no requirement to monitor any other international acts of religious hatred. (Can you imagine the infinite number of acts that could be reported on anti-Semitic activities of the governments of Arab States? Hatred of Jews is part of the government media in many places.) This wouldn’t fly if it included the U.S., for it would be a very clear violation of the First Amendment, for its language, as we’ll see, could act to suppress free speech as well as singling out one religion for special protection from criticism and reporting above all others.

But the following stipulation worries me because of that:

It seems to bring the Islamoph0bia issue to American organizations like CAIR, who could then use their broadly construed definitions of “Islamophobia”—definitions which often include criticism of Islam—to bear on foreign countries, indicting them for what Americans consider free speech.

Now, what constitutes “Islamophobia”? We can tell only by the things that are supposed to be reported. This is from the bill:

Of course acts of physical violence against Muslims should be condemned, but to be considered “Islamophobic” they have to be perpetrated because the victim is a Muslim. Physical violence against anybody in the U.S. is illegal, but if it’s perpetrated because of the victim’s religion, it is also a “hate crime.” (I’m not sure where I come down on whether “hate crimes” should incur extra penalties.) Thus the bill should state that the physical violence should be based on religion.

Acts of vandalism against mosques are prima facie acts of anti-Muslim activity and are properly reported.

What bothers me most about this bill, both in terms of the international community and the U.S., is not the violence, but the requirement to report “instances of propaganda in government and nongovernment media that incite such acts, and statements and actions relating thereto.”  As we know, some Muslims are easily driven to violence if they perceive an insult (“propaganda”) against Islam. That’s why a fatwa was pronounced on Salman Rushdie, why 12 people were killed in the Charlie Hebdo acts, why Theo van Gogh was murdered (and Ayaan Hirsi Ali requires around-the-clock protection), and why the Danish cartoons satirizing Muhammad resulted in widespread violence, including murder. Those could all have been construed as “incitement” to violence, and thereby excused—as they have been for some.

And what about internecine intolerance among Muslims? Is the violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims to be considered violence perpetuated because of the victim’s religion? Such violence is a regular occurrence in the Middle East, and results from warring sects within Islam.

Is it a reportable offense to criticize the tenets of Islam, like the forced veiling and covering of women, their oppression in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, their own state-run propaganda against Jews, and so on? These are valid criticisms of Islam, some Muslims and Muslim states, but do they fall under “Islamophobia” in this bill? We don’t know.

For, in the end, unlike anti-Semitism, “Islamophobia” is a recently confected term whose purpose, I believe, is primarily to prevent criticism of Islam. Yes, criticisms of Muslims because they are Muslim are rightfully criticized as bigotry, but remember that the word is “Islamophobia,” not “Muslimophobia”.

That brings me to why Omar confected this bill. Why should we care if it applies only to other countries? We should care because the bill, which requires public reporting, has the potential to chill criticism of Islam in other countries, and we should try, I think, to export our First Amendment rights to countries which don’t have such laws. Also, Omar’s bill constitutes a sort of “blasphemy law”, which could chill speech in other countries. (I believe Israel is one of Omar’s prime targets of this bill. Imagine if the bill was about Islamophobia and anti-Semitism together!).

Finally, it has the potential to chill speech against Islam in America, for if we’re holding other countries to standards that we don’t hold ourselves—for we are free to criticize Islam or any other faith whenever we want—the U.S.might be pressured to consider some kind of blasphemy regulations.  Shouldn’t we be held to the standards that Omar’s bill is trying to enforce on other countries? What Omar is trying to do, in the end, is to prevent, worldwide, criticism of her own faith. And that’s not a good basis for a bill.

The bill will now head to the Senate, where I hope it will be tabled or voted down. It is, as they say, a “problematic” piece of legislation.

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, considered a hoaxer by all sentient beings, is defended by BLM

December 9, 2021 • 9:45 am

You must, at least if you’re American, know about l’affaire Jussie Smollett, or, as Dave Chappelle calls him, “the French actor Juicy Smollyé”.  (Smollett was a character in the television series “Empire.”)

In 2019, Smollett reported that he was a victim of a “hate crime” in Chicago perpetrated by two men who accosted him as he was going out to get a Subway sandwich after midnight. He claimed that the men were white, wearing MAGA hats, shouted racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and then put a noose around his neck. You can read all the details at the Wikipedia article, “Alleged assault of Jussie Smollett.”

Police investigations soon revealed that this was likely a hoax perpetrated by Smollett to draw attention to himself, and, sure enough, two brothers, who were black, were located as co-conspirators. They;had worked on Smollett’s set, knew him, and investigation turned up a check from Smollett to one of the brothers, as well as text messages and videos incriminating Smollett.

After this, nobody with a lick of sense thought that Smollett had been the victim of a hate crime; it was realized, even in the black community, that he had perpetrated a hoax. If you want to see a funny video about that, Dave Chappelle’s bit below is very good and hilarious (warning: racist language):

Here’s the history of Smollett’s run-ins with the law about this “assault”, taken from Wikipedia:

On February 13, 2019, Chicago police raided the home of two brothers who had worked with Smollett as extras on his television show’s set. Police recovered records indicating the brothers had been paid $3,500 by Smollett. They had purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store in Ravenswood over the weekend of January 25. They were also seen in the security camera footage in a clothing store where they bought gloves, ski masks, and a red hat that police said was used in the attack. On February 20, 2019, Smollett was indicted for disorderly conduct for paying the brothers to stage a fake hate crime assault on him and filing a false police report. Smollett’s defense team reached a deal with prosecutors on March 26, 2019, in which all charges were dropped in return for Smollett performing community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond.

The charges were dropped, but Smollett was also dropped from the “Empire” show.

On April 12, 2019, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit in the Cook County Circuit Court against Smollett for the cost of overtime authorities expended investigating the alleged attack, totalling $130,105.15. In November 2019, Smollett filed a counter-suit against the city of Chicago alleging he was the victim of “mass public ridicule and harm” and arguing he should not be made to reimburse the city for the cost of the investigation.

On February 11, 2020, after further investigation by a special prosecutor was completed, Smollett was indicted again by a Cook County grand jury on six counts pertaining to making four false police reports. On June 12, 2020, a judge rejected Smollett’s claim that his reindictment violated his right against double jeopardy. Smollett’s trial began on November 29, 2021.

So Smollett is on trial again for six felony counts. The trial ended yesterday and if the jury has any neurons, they’ll find him guilty today. If they don’t, I’ll be completely flummoxed and baffled given the overwhelming evidence against him. But it’s unlikely that, even if convicted, he’ll go to jail. Still, if he’s convicted he’ll have a felony record and will likely be fined the amount that it cost Chicago to investigate his allegations (about $130,000). He’s maintained his innocence the whole time, and even took the stand in his own defense, whereupon his story and explanations (the check was for “exercise and nutrition” for the brothers) was ripped apart by the prosecution.

Reader Luana sent me this tweet by the black conservative Coleman Hughes, who agrees with Chappelle (and me). But regardless of the source, the item of interest is the BLM statement below Jussie’s picture. I’ll put the entire statement below, as it’s worth reading.

Here’s the statement in its entirety (click on screenshot):

As abolitionists, we approach situations of injustice with love and align ourselves with our community. Because we got us. So let’s be clear: we love everybody in our community. It’s not about a trial or a verdict decided in a white supremacist charade, it’s about how we treat our community when corrupt systems are working to devalue their lives. In an abolitionist society, this trial would not be taking place, and our communities would not have to fight and suffer to prove our worth. Instead, we find ourselves, once again, being forced to put our lives and our value in the hands of judges and juries operating in a system that is designed to oppress us, while continuing to face a corrupt and violent police department, which has proven time and again to have no respect for our lives.

In our commitment to abolition, we can never believe police, especially the Chicago Police Department (CPD) over Jussie Smollett, a Black man who has been courageously present, visible, and vocal in the struggle for Black freedom. While policing at-large is an irredeemable institution, CPD is notorious for its long and deep history of corruption, racism, and brutality. From the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, to the Burge tortures, to the murder of Laquan McDonald and subsequent cover-up, to the hundreds of others killed by Chicago police over the years and the thousands who survived abuse, Chicago police consistently demonstrate that they are among the worst of the worst. Police lie and Chicago police lie especially.

Black Lives Matter will continue to work towards the abolition of police and every unjust system. We will continue to love and protect one another, and wrap our arms around those who do the work to usher in Black freedom and, by extension, freedom for everyone else.

They clearly believe Smollett’s story, but for only two reasons: it fits in with a narrative of oppression (two whites supposedly attacked a black man and made racist statements), and, second the investigation was conducted by the police (BLM are police “abolitionists”).  The evidence isn’t even a consideration here; they say “we can never believe police”. But the evidence came from much more than the police: it came from video cameras and especially the two black brothers who testified against Smollett. It also came from the check, which Smollett admitted he wrote to pay the brothers.

Now the claims of police violence and racism are not totally unjustified given the past. The murder of Fred Hampton in 1969, for example, was a horrible police execution of a black activist who had been deliberately drugged. No shots were fired; the cops just pumped bullets into a sleeping man. And yes, there’s been police racism since them, but I would not characterize the police as inevitably racist, liars, and white supremacists.

But this trial is not a matter of police claims versus Smollett’s claims: it’s a matter of what the empirical evidence shows, and Smollett himself, as well as his attorneys, were given a chance to have their say. The BLM statement thus implicates the jury itself as instantiating white supremacy and injustice.

What we see here is how strongly an ideological commitment can override evidence. If the system is so committed to oppressing blacks no matter what, why did O. J. Simpson, whom I believe was a murderer, get off?

But of course anecdotes won’t settle this. What will settle the Smollett case is evidence—evidence that can be both adduced and inspected by Smollett and his lawyers. If the jury finds him innocent, I will be very, very surprised.

About the BLM call to abolish the police: I think that’s impractical and ridiculous. Remember, they’re not calling for “defunding” police, but abolishing them.  While I appreciate that the principle of BLM is to secure equality of blacks and whites, and I support that goal, I am not behind some of their other principles. Abolition of the police, which is palpably insane, is one of them. I can’t stand behind BLM so long as they remain “police abolitionists.

A Gallup poll last year showed that 81% of blacks wanted the police to spend as much or more time as they do now patrolling where they live. That means that BLM is not even close to expressing the wishes of the people they claim to represent, at least as far as policing is concerned.

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?

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)

Texas makes no bones about its new abortion law, asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade

October 22, 2021 • 9:15 am

I received a link to this article in an email from Esquire Magazine, which baffles me because I never read the thing and never asked for alerts. Nevertheless, I read the very short article, in which author Charles P. Pierce shows that the draconian new Texas anti-abortion law is explicitly designed to get the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. As you know, that law allows abortion in the first and sometimes second trimester of pregnancy. And you may remember that the case was decided in 1973 by a 7-2 vote on the grounds that the the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment confers a “right to privacy” that protects a woman’s choice to have an abortion.

Texas’s law, which protects all fetuses that have a heartbeat, even those resulting from rape and incest, is manifestly unconstitutional (heartbeats start about six weeks in), and yet has been affirmed by appeals courts. (The law also is supposed to be enforced by citizen vigilantes.) It’s now before the Supreme Court, with the Dept. of Justice appealing for the Supremes to strike it down. The Court then asked Texas to answer the DoJ’s filing, which is the subject of Pierce’s column.

You can read his piece by clicking on the screenshot, but also be mindful that there is an antiabortion law from Mississippi scheduled to be heard by the Supremes in December. That case, Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, is explained by BallotPedia:

The newly-enacted [Mississippi] law prohibited abortions after the fifteenth week of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities. The U.S. district court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that the law was unconstitutional, and put a permanent stop to the law’s enforcement. On appeal, the 5th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. Click here to learn more about the case’s background.

This violates Roe v. Wade in prohibiting almost all abortions during the second trimester. If the Supreme Court were to reverse the Fifth Circuit’s affirmation of the district court ruling, then it would be overturning—or at least well on the way to overturning—Roe v. Wade.

Now, about the Texas law:

Pierce quotes from page 49 of Texas’s response to the DoJ, and adds this:

On Thursday, Texas filed its answer to the administration’s request that the Supreme Court block the draconian new Texas anti-choice law. In that answer, toward the end, the kitty comes screeching from the burlap.

The federal government criticized Texas for not “forthrightly . . . asking this Court to revisit its decisions.” Texas has done so now.

Despite the Court’s hope that its decision in Casey would “call[] the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution,” abortion remains a divisive issue. There will always be those who deem abortion “nothing short of an act of violence against innocent human life.” Consequently, there will always be States who seek to protect unborn life through their laws, and there will be those who seek to challenge such laws, unless and until this Court returns the question of abortion to where it belongs—the States.

If the Court decides to construe the federal government’s application as a cert petition, it may also construe this response as a conditional cross-petition on the question whether the Constitution recognizes and protects a right to abortion and whether the Court should reconsider its decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

Pierce’s interpretation, which isn’t hard to discern, is this:

Texas is saying that if the Court takes up the administration’s case against a Texas law that essentially repeals Roe in practice, it may consider Texas’s response to be a request that the Court repeal its previous decisions on the subject outright. They don’t care about the gender gap anymore. They don’t really see politics that way anymore. Qui audet adipisciturgoes the saying.

I don’t think that Texas has been this explicit before, but of course we all know that although most Americans favor Roe v. Wade, religionists and Republicans in particular (there’s substantial overlap) want that ruling in the dumpster. Below are the latest Gallup statistics on what Americans feel about the 1973 decision. Only 32% think that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, while nearly twice that (58%) don’t want it overturned.

Now of course the Supreme Court is supposed to rule on Constitutionality, not popular support, but given that the Court previously ruled 7-2 in favor of a right to abortion, overturning the law now would be a severe violation of stare decisis. It will be an interesting year for the Supreme Court, but I’m not optimistic.

New appeal leads to reinstatement of Texas’s restrictive abortion law

October 9, 2021 • 10:15 am

Most of you know about Texas’s restrictive new abortion law, which bans all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected—about six weeks into pregnancy. Past that point, abortions are not allowed even in cases of rape or incest.

To add insult to injury (seriously: you have to carry a rapist’s or relative’s baby to term?), the Texas legislature allowed regular citizens to enforce the law, making it harder to declare it unconstitutional (even though it is). Everyone is “deputized” to enforce the law, allowing citizens to sue anybody who aids in an “illegal abortion” (including the Uber driver taking the woman to a clinic) for $10,000.  Finally, the provision makes the law retroactive even if it is blocked, so if it’s “paused,” as it was for a few days this week, legal abortions conducted during that pause can be considered illegal after the law kicks in again, and the providers sued. It’s nefarious, and designed to make it hard to legally block the law.

Nevertheless, after a request from Biden’s Justice Department, the law was blocked on Wednesday by federal judge Robert Pitman, who didn’t pull any punches in his 113-page decision.

“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their own lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” he wrote in his opinion.

“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” he added.

Well, the exercise of that right lasted just two days. A three judge panel in the conservative Fifth Circuit of Texas ruled that Texas’s law would take effect again, although temporarily. Previously illegal abortions started up again (even though clinics could be sued later), but most clinics suspended activity. The panel gave the Justice Department until 5 p.m. Tuesday to respond to Texas’s appeal, but the unanimity and terseness of the ruling suggests that the Firth Circuit will permanently reinstate the law some time after Tuesday. You can see the two-page ruling here, but here’s the gist:

As you know, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene before the law went into effect, a decision that baffles me because, according to present law, Texas’s law was palpably unconstitutional. That may changes as they move toward overturning Roe v. Wade, which I once thought unlikely but now think probable. So, as of now, the women of Texas are forced to obey an unconstitutional law, seeking abortions in other states if they’re past the sixth week of pregnancy.

A quote from the NYT piece:

“The Supreme Court needs to step in and stop this madness,” Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “It’s unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit stayed such a well-reasoned decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return in Texas.”

But the Supremes have already refused to step in, and, in an upcoming Mississippi case about a similar law, may step in in a way we don’t like.

The transgender/prison dilemma

August 12, 2021 • 9:15 am

I find that writing about transgender issues is difficult, for I want to both adhere to liberal tenets that respect people’s identities ensure moral and legal equality as far as possible, yet also ensure a kind of fairness that comes from realizing that while, for gender labels, a “transwoman is a woman and a transman is a man”, there are a couple of exceptions because transitioning involves modifying one’s biological (natal) sex. My solution has been pointing out a few areas in which inequality of treatment of trans- verus cis-people is useful in the interests of fairness (some sports participation, prison occupancy, rape counseling, halfway houses, and the like), but to hew to equality in all other areas (pronoun use, bathroom occupancy, etc.)  But even carving out a few exceptions gets one called a “transphobe”. Well, I can live with the opprobrium so long as I think I’m right.

The latest flare-up in this matter involves the transfer of prisoners from men’s to women’s prisons, and vice versa, as outlined in the articles below from the Los Angeles Times (first piece) and the Associated Press. Click on the screenshots to read.

There’s also this article from WOLF (the Women’s Liberation Front), which is more tendentious and uses more anonymous sources. But it shouldn’t be ignored. I believe WOLF is one of those feminists organizations branded as TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminists), which seems even more restrictive of trans “rights” than I am. But their claims might well be right.

The backstory: last September, California governor Gaven Newsom signed a bill allowing people to occupy prisons conforming to their gender identity (with the exception of any “management or security concerns” by the state). Gender identity is determined solely by asking prisoners to name theirs when they enter prison (some of these are sexual offenders), and are based solely on self-identification—not on anatomy, chromosomes, or other markers.  There are similar laws in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York City.

One can envision problems with this, even if one used markers other than self-identification by gender. But going with the self-ID criterion alone, the possible problems for trans men who want to transfer to men’s prisons is that they are biological women, though they may have undergone hormone or surgical treatment (some prisons pay for that), and thus possible targets for harassment and rape. You can imagine the kind of flak such a prisoner would get given the rough nature of prison life. On the other hand, a trans woman who requests transfer to a women’s prison creates two kinds of problems. The first is that, if they still have the sexual equipment and urges of men, as well as the superior body strength of that sex, they could sexually assault cis female inmates. Or sexual congress could be unforced, with cis female inmates getting pregnant through voluntary sexual intercourse, creating the problem of pregnant prisoners which sex-segregation of prisons is meant to avoid.  (One can imagine that in both cases, someone of the opposite biological sex thrown into an institution of voluntary celibacy would create “issues.”) These issues should not arise, though, with those whose identity is not a ruse, and whose reasons for requesting transfer, is genuine.

The WOLF article, and their tweets below, reports that at least one California cis-woman inmate has gotten pregnant “after being housed with a male (i.e., trans-female) felon.” The implication is that this was rape, but it’s not at all clear what happened. What is clear is that the problem will increase. With the recent exponential rise in adolescent natal girls wanting to become trans-men, and laws (in my view misguided) that regard self-identification alone as an unchallengeable marker of both gender and sex (this is creating problems for sports as well), we have a recipe for trouble.

I thought the requests for transfer would be few, and the problem small, but the AP report says that there have been 261 requests for transfers since the law took effect on January 1 of this year. (1% of California’s prisoners, according to the AP, “identify as nonbinary, intersex, or transgender.”) Even without these transfers, the problem is acute, as they report a 2007 study that 59% of prison inmates in these gender categories experience sexual assault: a rate 13% higher than cis people.  It’s expected that, for example, if you identify as a woman in a man’s prison, and act or dress like one, you’re making yourself liable for assault by sexually deprived (and criminal) inmates. That is not the fault of the nonbinary or transgener prisoners, of course, but it’s a predictable problem that, like prison transfer, needs a solution.

Another issue, mentioned by the AP as a concern of prisoners and staff, is that prisoners may try to game the system. An untreated biological male may say he’s a transgender woman simply to get into a women’s prison where he might have access to women—and sex. Indeed, the LA Times article reports that one transgender woman incarcerated in a men’s prison knows of five biologically male inmates who have applied for transfer to women’s prisons “under false pretenses”.  Again, most of the reporting in these articles by inmates is hearsay, as names cannot be used.

Advocates of the California policy say the problems are few, but so far there have been few transfers. And those transfers that have occurred between prisons have attendant problems (not always—some prisoners report improved conditions after transfer), problems involving bad treatment of transsexual inmates. While it’s not fair for transsexual people to be treated differently in prison than on the outside, it’s understandable given the conditions of prison life.

As for the WOLF article; it’s summarized in part by the tweets below (indeed, the whole organization’s Twitter feed seems devoted to the California issue):

They add that women’s prisons have started informing inmates about abortion, adoption, and prenatal care, and making both condoms and the Plan B pill available to inmates.  I can’t confirm this from any other article. The article also makes the following claims, some of which are verifiable (but which I haven’t verified):

Women’s prisons across the state appear to be making final preparations such as these for a massive wave of transfers after nearly 300 requests were initiated following SB 132 going into effect in January of this year. So far, only about 20 of the transfers have been processed (and exactly zero transfer requests have been denied) — leaving hundreds of men, many of whom are sex offenders, awaiting entry into the women’s estate.

. . . The facilities are also increasing security measures in preparation for potentially hundreds of new dangerous and violent men living alongside the vulnerable female inmate population. Women’s prisons have traditionally been lower-security and afforded more privileges to inmates since incarcerated women are less violent than men and pose a lower risk to Correctional Officers (COs) and each other. CCWF’s prison yard, for example, had been home for over three decades to trees which provided shade from the desert sun and a home to local birds. Once the men started coming, the trees were cut down, as they were seen as a security risk. (CCWF denies this happened, despite the first-hand accounts from incarcerated women). The security level of individual male inmates is otherwise completely disregarded once they enter the women’s facility, as prisons opt instead to remove privileges from all inmates.

. . .The prison has been unable to prevent or stop sexual activity between male inmates housed with incarcerated women, though. Sources tell us there have been incidents of sexual assault, as well as illicit sexual activity between the male inmates and women, putting the women at risk of pregnancy and disease, including HIV, as well as increased risk of disciplinary actions that can affect chances of parole. Avoiding the negative consequences of sex between males and females is, of course, one reason why prisons are single-sex to begin with.

As more men arrive at the women’s facilities, the crisis will only worsen. In just six months since the enactment of SB 132, the number of incarcerated people self-identifying as trans or non-binary (thus becoming eligible to request a facility transfer) has increased from 1,088 to 1,237. The nearly 300 pending transfers are only the beginning of the invasion of women’s prisons by violent male inmates, including convicted murderers and rapists.

“You might as well declare the prison is co-ed and ship us off to Pelican Bay!” one devastated woman currently incarcerated in CCWF said.

As I said, there is no substantive documentation of the anecdotes or verbal assertions of inmates in California from WOLF, though, as in the penultimate paragraph, there are checkable statements.

The good news is that this is not an insoluble problem. One solution is to have special wings for transsexual prisoners segregated from other cis-sexual inmates. That, however, would violate the trans-activist claim that “trans women are women and trans men are men.”

Sadly, that isn’t always the way they’re treated in prison, and all the activism in the world can’t prevent rapes, sexual congress in supposedly single-sex prisons, or violence. What is clear is that there is a problem, that it will grow more serious, and that adhering to the mantra above will do nothing to solve it.

Really? Defund the police?

August 10, 2021 • 11:15 am

Cori Bush, a Congresswoman representing Missouri’s First Congressional District, is one of those people who want to defund the police. And yet she has her own private security detail for which her office, according to the article discussed below, paid nearly $70,00 for just 2.5 months this year.  Here’s her rationale on Twitter:

According to Woodhouse’s piece on defunding the police (below), “When asked about this apparent hypocrisy, [Bush’s] answer was sharp, “Would you rather see me die?”

Bush’s further rationale, as told to CBS News, was that her funds, unlike “regular” police funds, were being used to protect her from white supremacists who would try to kill her. But that’s the same reason that the defunders give for not having any police! At any rate, I suspect that she, like all members of Congress, could get a public security detail if her life was really threatened.

According to the article below, which just appeared on Bari Weiss’s Substack site, most of those who want to deep-six the cops seem to be from areas that don’t have much crime, and are mostly white. In contrast, black people, often living in crime-ridden areas, often want more police presence, and don’t favor defunding. I think that’s borne out by statistics, too, but I don’t have them at hand. All I know is that night after night I hear black people on the local news, people who have lost loved ones to gun violence, demanding that our mayor cough up more police presence.

Click the screenshot to read Woodhouse’s piece (he’s a documentary filmmaker and journalist):

I’ve already given his argument: those who call for defunding the cops are those who aren’t desperate for more police protection. Here I just want to relate a few anecdotes from Woodhouse’s piece, as some of the defunders are absolutely unbelievable. When they say “defunding” they really do mean no more police.  When asked what will replace the cops, they mumble about social workers and negotiators. Well, those people do have a place working with police, and I strongly believe there should be a place for non-police, like those experienced with domestic violence, to work with the police to minimize violence and show up after 911 calls. But to drastically cut police budgets to do that? I’m not a fan.

Meet a big-time defunder:

This typifies the split between the two sides of this debate: critics from the neighborhoods most affected by violence tend to regard the defund crowd as outsiders with their own agenda. Defund advocates, meanwhile, tend to regard those critics as either corrupted or manipulated by the police.

Foremost among those advocates is Cat Brooks, the co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, one of the main groups pushing for defunding the Oakland Police Department. She was brought up in Las Vegas by a white mother who was an anti-domestic violence activist. Her father, a black man, struggled with substance abuse and ended up in prison. “I watched him be terrorized and traumatized by law enforcement,” she recalled.

While pursuing a career in acting in Los Angeles, Brooks stumbled into political activism, which eventually brought her to Oakland. In 2018, she ran for mayor, coming in second with about a quarter of the vote.

When I asked Brooks about the two Council members — both black — who voted against the reduction in the police budget she was unambiguous in her contempt. They are “representing the interests of the police, and they’re representing the interests of development,” she said. “If they were representing the interests of the people, then they, too, should want black bodies to stop falling.” [JAC: could these people please stop using “black bodies” to mean “black people”? It’s at least as dehumanizing as saying “slaves” for “enslaved people.”]

But Taylor [an Oakland councilman who voted against defunding] questions who Brooks’ group represents. “A significant amount of that movement calling for defunding without regard for those calling for service don’t reflect my community,” he said. “They’re not the ones making the two-thirds of the calls to 911.”

This is a sad tale of a meeting of the two sides, then we get back to the odious Cat:

Last month, the two sides met face to face at a rally to stop gun violence at Oakland’s Lake Merritt that was organized, in part, by the police department. I wasn’t there, but my colleague Lee Fang was. He described the scene as “surreal,” with families, mostly African-American, mourning the deaths of their loved ones, while a small group of mostly white protesters jeered at them for collaborating with the police. Towers, who attended the event and spoke directly to the protesters, described them as “a lot of white folks that don’t even live out here.”

This reminds me of the white folks eager to say “Latinx” to show their savvy when speaking of Hispanics. Only 4% of real Latinas and Latinos would choose “Latinx” as their self description, with 61% preferring “Hispanics”. So let’s cut out the “Latinx” nonsense as well!

But I digress; let’s return to Cat:

When I asked Brooks if she supports the abolition of police, she said, “Absolutely. Unapologetically.” Describing the role of the police in society, she said, “Their job is to maintain the status quo. And the status quo is race-based capitalism. And so they are the front line soldiers of the larger system of white supremacy, which is the engine of this country, both here locally and globally.”

Now there’s a mouthful of unthinking jargon for you!  I wonder what Cat would replace with the police with, or would she just let criminals go wild. Too bad Woodhouse didn’t ask her that question.

After Woodhouse visits a black barbershop and heard most of the customers denying that white cops killing black people is the big problem, but rather blacks killing other blacks, he returns to the protest and gives a few anecdotes that show the usual suspects mouthing woke sentiments:

The consensus in the room echoed what I heard from Chief Armstrong and Councilman Taylor rather than the worldview of the anti-police protesters at Lake Merritt holding signs reading “Quit Your Job, KKKop.”

On the national stage, though, the “KKKop” message has real resonance. Cori Bush has compared policing to slavery. So has Jamaal Bowman, a recently elected congressman from the Bronx. Rep. Rashida Tlaib has called policing “inherently and intentionally racist” and said that it “can’t be reformed.” The same arguments have been published in The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Yes, do check the links, because they say what Woodhouse said they said.  The world is insane—or at least a big slice of it is.