Feast of St. Nicholas 2014

  1. Capital Punishment for Loosies
  2. Undertaker, albatross & natterer
  3. Rehoboam wrecks a legacy
  4. Seamless web^n
  5. And the beat goes on
  6. Don’t mess with my mind, TAC!


Some critics of police misconduct implicitly assume that we can have our law and enforcement cake and eat it too. They believe that we can simultaneously have police enforce thousands of petty laws and regulations, yet also extirpate racial profiling and excessive use of force to such an extent that police abuse of civilians will no longer be a serious problem. We can indeed take steps such as curbing the militarization of police, and eliminating double standards under which the criminal justice system treats wrongdoing by police far more leniently than similar violence by civilians.

But even if we make substantial progress on these fronts, a society where almost everyone is a criminal will still be a society where the sheer number of hostile interactions between police and civilians will be very large, which in turn ensures that there will be considerable room for abuse. Moreover, curbing police abuse through training, supervision, and after-the-fact accountability is far from an easy task. Among other things, prosecutors are understandably reluctant to go after the very same police departments whose cooperation they need to gather evidence and apprehend suspects. In addition, police are a well-organized interest group with considerable lobbying power and influence over both major political parties.

(Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy) Somin is elaborating a provocative premise of Stephen Carter, that makes most of the TV and print commentary (I’m watching Shields and Brooks on PBS News Hour missing the point as I type) seem oblivious to root causes:

On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism and puzzlement, until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you.

I wish this caution were only theoretical. It isn’t. Whatever your view on the refusal of a New York City grand jury to indict the police officer whose chokehold apparently led to the death of Eric Garner, it’s useful to remember the crime that Garner is alleged to have committed: He was selling individual cigarettes, or loosies, in violation of New York law…..

The problem is actually broader. It’s not just cigarette tax laws that can lead to the death of those the police seek to arrest. It’s every law. Libertarians argue that we have far too many laws, and the Garner case offers evidence that they’re right. I often tell my students that there will never be a perfect technology of law enforcement, and therefore it is unavoidable that there will be situations where police err on the side of too much violence rather than too little. Better training won’t lead to perfection. But fewer laws would mean fewer opportunities for official violence to get out of hand.

Somin continues:

As Carter points out later in his article, the scope of government regulation has grown so great that the vast majority of Americans have violated criminal law at one time or another. This sad state of affairs multiplies the opportunities for dangerous interactions between police and civilians, and virtually guarantees that abuses like this will recur.

Okay, I’ll forego quoting it again.


Republicans on the Hill now by habit see their adversaries as The Monolith. But it is the Democrats who are increasingly riven, divided, and unhappy.

They are rocked by defeat, newly confused as to their own meaning. They’re disappointed with each other, and angry. They know Harry Reid is a poor face of the party, a small-town undertaker who never gets around to telling you the cost of the casket. They have little faith in the strategic and tactical leadership coming from the White House. They recognize the president as an albatross around their necks. Nancy Pelosi is an attractive, noncredible partisan who just natters wordage.

That’s what they’ve got: an undertaker, an albatross, a natterer.

But the president isn’t the story. That’s what the Republicans need to know. The story is what they make of their new power.

The president wants to be the story. He wants to be the matador taunting the bull with the red cape. He wants to draw the GOP into strange, dramatic impasses. They should not snort, paw the ground and charge. They should shake their heads, smile and gesture to the crowd: “Can you believe this guy?”

Sen. James Webb of Virginia, a possible presidential candidate … told a press group in Richmond that the Democratic Party has lost its way. It lost white working-class voters by becoming “a party of interest groups.” As reported in the Washington Post, Mr. Webb said: “The Democratic Party has lost the message that made it such a great party for so many years . . . take care of working people, take care of the people who have no voice in the corridors of power, no matter their race, ethnicity or any other reason.”

(Peggy Noonan)


The New Republic has sold to Chris Hughes, a 30-year-old Facebook zillionaire barbarian:

I expect the circumstances surrounding TNR’s transformation will be framed as a matter of modernity versus tradition. There is certainly an element of this. At the magazine’s 100th anniversary gala two weeks ago, where Hughes, Foer, Wieseltier, and Hughes’s new CEO, Guy Vidra, all spoke, the speeches took a sharply, awkwardly divergent tone. Foer and Weiseltier gave soaring paeans to the magazine’s immense role in shaping American liberal thought. Hughes and Vidra used words like brand and boasted about page views, giving no sense of appreciation at all for the magazine’s place in American life.

Several weeks ago, Vidra communicated the new vision to the staff in what I am told was an uncomfortable stream of business clichés ungrounded in any apparent strategy other than saying things like “let’s break shit” and “we’re a tech company now.” His memo to the staff predictably uses terms like “straddle generation” and “brand.” It promises to make TNR “a vertically integrated digital media company,” possibly unaware that “vertically integrated” is an actual business concept, not a term for a media company that integrates verticals.

Hughes and Vidra have provided no reason at all for anybody to believe they have a plausible plan to modernize The New Republic. If they did, Frank Foer would still be editor. My only hope now is that one day this vital American institution can be rebuilt.

(Jonathan Chait, H/T Rod Dreher)


I find the argument, of which this is the rhetorical climax, appealing if not entirely convincing:

A “competitive market economy” has been one of the most destructive and destabilizing forces in the entire history of the world, and the Catholic instinct has always been to fear and resist it.Those who champion a competitive market economy and a commercial civilization and at the same time oppose the latest manifestations of decadent liberalism, such as legalized abortion or same-sex “marriages,” are fooling themselves—or trying to fool the rest of us—for liberalism is responsible for both.We cannot at the same time encourage the gratification of greed and restrain the gratification of lust. We cannot have economic liberalism and at the same time a “culturally conservative” social order.

(Thomas Storck) That the competitive market economy can be called “conservative” demonstrates the limited usefulness of “liberal” and “conservative.”


Whew! I bought the Rolling Stone story on the fraternity rape at UVa, because Rolling Stone is pretty mainstream these days and I thought it was reliable. But a brief search search shows I didn’t bet the farm on it. It now is trembling if not collapsing. Rolling Stone has acknowledged some flaws in the story.

Yet, on Facebook, I see many people lamenting Rolling Stone’s retreat.

I think we could be headed for a cycle of mutual recrimination, for politically correct credulity on one side and hard-hearted incredulity on the other. That cycle should be very newsworthy (and the beat goes on).


I have been waiting almost a month, with a browser tab open right between Rod Dreher and Daniel Larison, for an update to the American Conservative’s New Urbs blog. I want some more crunchy conservatism!

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.