Demilitarizing the Police

I just got back from St. Louis, staying just a few blocks from the riots in Ferguson over the police shooting an unarmed teenager.  I didn’t see anything and I don’t want to address the incident, as such.  But the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson raises some interesting questions:

Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? (“‘This my property!’ he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.”) Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone”?

Now Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky), citing what happened in Ferguson and quoting his fellow libertarian Olson, challenges the militarization of the police, which has happened thanks to the federal government. [Read more...]

Time to change your passwords

A group of Russian criminals has collected 1.2 billion user names and passwords.  And since most people use the same password for everything–from travel sites to banking (how else to remember the things?)–that makes 1.2 billion people extremely vulnerable. [Read more...]

Stoned federalism

The United States Constitution sets up a system of federalism, a union of states, each of which can have separate laws.  We are seeing some quirks of federalism today, as certain states legalize and commercialize what neighboring states treat as a serious crime.

Colorado is turning marijuana into a major industry and tourist attraction, while police from the states next door are filling their jails with people who have brought their purchases over the state line. [Read more...]

Louisiana court challenges seal of confession

We blogged about how Anglicans in Australia are doing away with the absolute “seal of confession”–that is, the pastor’s pledge of total confidentiality when they hear penitents confess their sins.  Now an American court is trying to do the same thing, forcing a Roman Catholic priest to testify about what he heard in the confessional from an accused child abuser. [UDATE:  In the very interesting discussion that is waging, Jeremiah pointed out that I got this wrong,  that it wasn't the confession of the abuser but that of the abused child that is at issue.] [Read more...]

Australian Anglicans repeal the seal of confession

The Anglican Church of Australia has voted to amend the canon on confession, which traditionally has required ministers to observe total confidentiality when people confess their sins.  Now, if penitents confess a crime, the pastor will be expected to rat them out to the police. [Read more...]

The Santa Barbara killings

Is there anything that can be said about the 22-year-old who killed six people–stabbing three, then shooting three more before killing himself–in Santa Barbara?  Elliott Rodger, the affluent son of the assistant director of the Hunger Games,  gave his reasons in a 171-page manifesto and a series of YouTube videos, but his motive comes down to his frustration that no women would have sex with him.

My impression is that this mass murder has to do with some unique pathologies of pop culture–a child of Hollywood who wanted to be a star, whose life was mostly in the media, and who was outraged that the easy sex of the movies wasn’t so easy for him. [Read more...]


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