Monday, July 27, 2009

I COULD NOT agree more with Radley Balko's take on the Gates arrest. The whole piece is worth reading, but I particularly like Balko's explanation of why deference to police authority isn't necessarily productive or warranted. New technologies have allowed citizens to record cops abusing their authority -- and then cops further abuse their authority by trying to confiscate the evidence:
Just days before Gates was arrested, Philadelphia newspapers reported on a local cop who was captured by a convenience store's security video brutally assaulting a woman who had been in a car accident with his son. He then arrested her and charged her with assaulting him. The officer then demanded the store clerk turn over surveillance video of his attack. The clerk says other officers made subsequent demands to turn over or destroy the video. To his credit, the clerk refused. The video vindicated the woman. The officer has since been suspended.

After Oakland police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed subway passenger Oscar Grant at point blank range last New Year's Day, police attempted to confiscate cell phone photos and videos of the shooting. Fortunately, not everyone complied. Mehserle will now be tried for murder.

In the last few years we've seen numerous other incidents where cell phone videos and photographs, surveillance video, or handheld video cameras have both exposed police misconduct and shown officers to have falsified police reports. In most of these cases, the police at various points attempted to confiscate, alter, or destroy the photographic evidence.
Yes, many cops are selfless, noble, heroic, etc. But can anyone seriously deny that many are maladjusted bullies who signed up for the job because they get to carry a gun and boss people around? Balko neatly sums up the problem I have with many conservatives' attitudes about law enforcement:
Put a government worker behind a desk and give him the power to regulate, and conservatives will wax at length about public choice theory, bureaucratic pettiness, and the trappings of power. And rightly so. But put a government worker behind a badge, strap a gun to his waist, and give him the power to detain, use force, and kill, and those lessons somehow no longer apply.
Again, read the whole thing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

ON GATESGATE, I agree 100 percent with both Jim Geraghty and Jacob Sullum. The real issue isn't whether Gates was a victim of racial profiling, or whether he acted like a jerk (I suspect the answer is yes on both counts). The issue is whether mouthing off to a cop is criminal behavior. Sullum:
Let's say Gates did initially refuse to show his ID (an unsurprising response from an innocent man confronted by police in his own home). Let's say he immediately accused Crowley of racism, raised his voice, and behaved in a "tumultuous" fashion. Let's say he overreacted. So what? By Crowley's own account, he arrested Gates for dissing him. That's not a crime, or at least it shouldn't be. Instead of admitting that he "acted stupidly" (as Obama put it) in the heat of the moment by deciding to punish Gates for hurting his feelings, Crowley continues to defend his conduct, refusing to apologize.
I've read a lot of worldly-wise people expressing some variant of, "Yes, but Gates should have known better. You're just asking for it when you antagonize cops in these situations. I always behave obsequiously when interacting with law enforcement, because I know that will result a better outcome for me."

Fine. But then the problem is a thin-skinned, swaggering law-enforcement culture that treats disrespect of its authority as a criminal matter. And it isn't obvious to me that the solution is for everybody to just shut up and be more respectful.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

DAVID BROOKS on the "liberal suicide march":
Nancy Pelosi has lower approval ratings than Dick Cheney and far lower approval ratings than Sarah Palin. And yet Democrats have allowed her policy values to carry the day — this in an era in which independents dominate the electoral landscape.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

AS THE RIGHT gets all jazzed up about Obama's falling approval ratings, Daniel Finkelstein reminds us that that the Republican Party has problems of its own. For example, this is a party that didn't have room for Jon Huntsman.
So Mr Huntsman's name had just started to be bandied about as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination in 2012. Here was a man with real appeal outside the base, the only candidate from the centre. And the governor began to accept a few out-of-state invitations. In May, for instance, he was down to address Republicans in Kent County, Michigan. Nothing big time, a toe in the water, that was all.

And then, a few days before the event, Kent County Republicans announced very publicly that they were withdrawing the invitation. They had discovered that Governor Huntsman favoured civil partnerships between homosexuals. They did not want to be addressed by such a man. Two weeks later Barack Obama announced that he had offered Governor Huntsman an appointment as Ambassador to China. And he had accepted.

Mr Huntsman's decision is a tragedy for the Right in America. But it is the right decision for him. Because he correctly divined that there was no point him seeking the leadership of the Republican Party. For the Republican Party already has a leader. It is Sarah Palin.
Finkelstein continues:
The maths of politics aren't very complicated. If you want to win and you don't have enough votes from people who agree with you, you have to win support from people who don't by accommodating their views. You cannot win elections by getting the same people to vote for you by pulling the lever harder. This, however, is the strategy the Republicans seem to be embarking upon.
Whole article here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: When no dinner will do but the ultimate carby, cheesy, comfort food, I pull out a box of San Giorgio macaroni (my mother's brand, and therefore mine) and follow the basic macaroni and cheese recipe on the back.

This routine hit a snag one night this spring when I got a box of macaroni out of the pantry and discovered that San Giorgio had replaced the recipe with some kind of DVD cross-promotion. Crisis! I tried to find the recipe on the web but wasn't successful. So I improvised, with only so-so results.

This week, I was happy to find that the cross-promotion is over and the recipe is back. I'm recording it here for my own benefit and that of the world:

Macaroni and Cheese
(From the San Giorgio macaroni box)

1 package (1 lb.) elbow macaroni, uncooked
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
5 cups milk
4 cups (16 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350. Cook pasta according to package directions. [This part isn't in the recipe, but it's crucial: RINSE the pasta.]

In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper; gradually stir in milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens and mixture begins to boil. Add cheese; stir until cheese is melted.

In 3-quart casserole dish, stir together pasta and cheese sauce. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly. 8-10 servings.

[Obviously, you can jazz it up with ham, veggies, or whatever. I usually top it with some buttered bread crumbs for a little crunch.]

Friday, July 03, 2009

A MUST-READ open letter to Sarah Palin regarding her public persona of late: "[I]t's not presidential. It's not even gubernatorial."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

"'THEY HAVE other men on the team,' the boy said to Hemingway's old man.

'Naturally,' the old man said. 'But he makes the difference.'"