Not Every Shooting is a Bad Shooting

Reason’s Mike Riggs brings a story about another tragic shooting involving cops. And it is tragic, but his story is also loaded up so that the cops come out looking bad and I’m not so sure they deserve the criticism this time through.

Shortly before 8 a.m. on June 28, police in Broomfield, Colorado, shot and killed Kyle Miller after he brandished a gun at them. Miller was mentally ill. The gun was fake. Miller’s younger brother told the police dispatcher both of these facts. For some unknown reason, reports the Denver Post, Broomfield police shot Miller anyway

That’s a mighty loaded ending there implying that the police are out and about shooting stuff for the most tenuous of reasons. Of course, sans the obvious tone (and that tone might not be so obvious if one weren’t familiar with Reason), Riggs can certainly say that he wasn’t implying anything or criticizing the officers involved, but the comments section certainly backs up my reading of his piece.

I’m happy to aim verbal fire at LEOs when I think they are in the wrong (and, more and more often, I think they are in the wrong), but this is one where the investigation needs to run its course before we can even begin to talk about fault. We have no idea what information was passed to the police and we all know that in moments of high stress, even official communications are garbled and confusing. That’s simple reality. An officer on the scene has to use his or her best judgement on how to deal with a schizophrenic man who was waving around what appeared to be a gun. This young man had apparently worried his family — either because they feared for his safety or for the safety of other — so much that they called the police. This young man then aimed that gun at the officers.

What those officers know, without a doubt, is that family members were so worried that they called the cops. They didn’t call a therapist; they called the guys with guns. If it wasn’t dangerous– if he weren’t dangerous– then calling the cops wasn’t warranted.

What resulted is sad as hell, but it is ludicrous to second-guess officers who thought they were about to be fired on, especially when we don’t have a strong idea of what information they had as they were rushing to respond. Even more ludicrous is the idea that some of the comments are putting forward: that the officers had some obligation to act as moving targets for the young man before they fired. Even if one somehow believes that the officers are well-paid enough that they should willingly submit to live fire from bad guys, then it ignores the reality that we want those officers to stop shooters before they have a chance to cause even more damage. If it had been a real weapon and the man had started gunning down cops, the potential loss of life starts spreading far beyond this one young man and the officers on the scene.

The officers used their best judgement in a difficult situation. We don’t know what information they had, we don’t have a clear view of the situation from behind out monitors and keyboards, and we don’t know what those officers were faced with when they pulled triggers.

Certainly there are questions that need to be answered. Airsoft guns and toy guns are now sold with brightly colored bits to make them easily distinguishable from the real things; was Miller’s fake gun modified or otherwise indistinguishable from the real thing? Should the officers have used “less than lethal” options like a TASER? Did they know that the young man’s brother had called to let them know that it wasn’t a real weapon?

Miller’s family must be facing a wild array of emotions. Guilt, sadness, and anger all mixed in, I would imagine, and I hope I never have to do anything more than imagine. The pain must be overwhelming. Without a good understanding of what happened that day, though, it’s irresponsible to be saying what those officers should or shouldn’t have done; first find the fact, then make judgements.

Frank Ocean

For the record, this was a much braver step than anything Anderson Cooper could have said or done in announcing his sexual orientation. With Cooper, the reaction was predictable: he’s a white guy working in television and the son of Gloria Vanderbilt. His sexual orientation had been a matter of speculation for years. Not only was no one surprised, but there was very little danger in his admission.

Frank Ocean, on the other hand, is a black man whose industry (black, urban music) has been dominated by misogyny and homophobia. It was a real risk to his career to admit to having had same sex relationships.

Hollywood makes “brave” movies about sexuality and race all the time. They pat themselves on the back for their “bravery,” they give themselves awards to celebrate their bold statements, and never seem to recognize that there was nothing particularly brave about, say, Brokeback Mountain. It was a good movie, amazingly well-acted, and well-directed, but it wasn’t a risky career move for anyone involved. It was a play for awards and critical praise from the audience that mattered: the filmmakers’ peers.

Frank Ocean’s peers haven’t, in the past, shown such an open mind to homosexuality in their ranks. From AllHipHop.com:

I have to give Frank Ocean his props for coming out of the closet and announcing to the world that he’s a gay man. While he’s not a Hip-Hop artist as has been asserted in the mainstream, he’s an affiliate. With that said, he’s a representative of the ever-changing times in urban music and general music.

And, reading the comments in that posting, you’ll see the risk that Ocean has taken.

Me, I continue to not care at all about other peoples’ sex lives. As long as they aren’t abusing animals, abusing children, or abusing the unwilling, it doesn’t much matter to me who they sleep with. Generally, I think that these sort of pronouncements should be treated with apathy; if we all cared a little bit less about who other people slept with, the world would be a better place.

This time, though, I’ve got to give some credit to the gentleman for showing some real courage.

Read the rest.

A quick postscript: The same folks on my Twitter feed who were making a big deal out of Anderson Cooper’s announcement last week are strangely silent about this. I would confess to disappointment, but I would first have to have been surprised.

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash: The World Revenge Tour (Updated)

We few, we happy few will be gathering to celebrate friendship and bloggery. We haven’t done one of these things in a while, and it seems like a good time to re-acquaint ourselves with each other (and drink a few shots).

Please share the date and encourage friends and family to join us. Because they might just buy a round of shots.

7pm – Close, 21 July 2012
The Old Mill Brewery & Grill, Littleton, CO

Please RSVP. I will be updating regularly over the next few weeks with links to the folks who will be attending.

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 2012

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 2012

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 2012

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 2012

Huntington Ridge Apartment Fire

For a handful of families, this is a very bad night. Hopefully they all have insurance, but that doesn’t cover the reality of losing all of your worldly possessions to a fire like this.

Huntington Ridge Apartment Fire Video

Huntington Ridge Apartment Fire 1

Walking Up to the Fire

Huntington Ridge Apartment Fire 2

From the Next Complex Over

Huntington Ridge Apartment Fire

Huntington Ridge Apartment Fire

Adrift

Adrift

Adrift – Denver’s Only Tiki Bar (Click to make it bigger)

I spent a few hours drinking with friends at Denver’s only tiki bar, Adrift. It’s on Broadway in a fairly nondescript little building; you might miss it if you didn’t know what you were looking for.

Two of my very favorite people in the whole world– both of whom I’m trying to recruit for this new site and both of whom would bring different voices and ideas to the place– fueled by shots, great stories, and, simply, the pleasure of each other’s company.  It was a good night.

I don’t drink as much as I used to. The expense is too great both in the wallet and in the next day’s recuperation, so I’m feeling a little pain today. There are no regrets, though. I think there is something important about the ritual of spending quality time with friends who can hear your thoughts without judging them, who can argue with good cheer about everything from politics to music to bad movies.

I owe them a great thanks for their time and their friendship.

It didn’t hurt that for the first time in my many years of drinking, I met a cocktail waitress who was almost as obsessed with Mark Lanegan and Screaming Trees as I am; nor did it hurt that I convinced the bartender to play the great Trees’ song, “Silver Tongue,” late in the evening. Even better, the small crowd in the place actually seemed to enjoy the experience and no one complained when the Trees kept playing.

Is there a bigger point? Probably not. Maybe just that life shouldn’t be so mired in its political debates and disappointments that we forget to live and cherish even joys like these.

I’ll be there again tonight with my wife and a handful of other friends. All women. It won’t be quite the same (and I won’t drink quite so much), but you can be sure that I’ll be a happy man.

Any of my friends in the Denver area are welcome to join us. Just follow the sound of my laughter.

The Health Care Ruling (Updated June 29)

I won’t much quibble with the ruling (although I think it takes some interesting gymnastics to get to its conclusion). Here’s my issue: it never would have passed House and Senate if it had been sold as a new tax. We got sold “A” (with a side of “you have to pass it to find out what’s in the shiny package”) and ended up with “B” (and a side of “big, new tax).

It’s like the worst episode of Let’s Make a Deal ever.

Better Reading:

My friend, Roger Fraley, tries to find the silver lining.

Antonio Martinez tweets something that succinctly captures my feelings:

It’s troubling how many people are celebrating a tremendous loss of liberty because they think they’ll be getting something for free.

That, I think, is exactly right.

Todd Thurman at The Foundry finds a silver lining for fans of limited government.

On the statutory level, the Court is inexplicable in reading the mandate penalty as a tax when President Obama and congressional sponsors emphatically denied it was a tax, but that is only a misreading of a statute. On that statutory ruling, the Court majority held that the mandate penalty is not a tax for purposes of the tax Anti-Injunction Act, but is a tax under Congress’s taxing power, despite the fact that the law never calls it a tax. Yes, this is a terribly strained reading of the statute, but conservative constitutional scholars who challenged the mandate never said that Congress did not have the power to enact a tax similar to the mandate penalty.

Despite the Court’s error in reading the individual mandate penalty as a tax, five justices opined that the mandate, standing alone, cannot be justified under the Commerce Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause. This is not remarkable to anyone who knows the original meaning of the Commerce and Necessary and Proper powers, but it is a serious blow to 90 percent of the legal academics and about 90 percent of Congress, since these have been the clauses used to justify so much of the modern administrative state.

I’m not so sure I agree, though; to me it seems an invitation to just penalize tax the hell out of us to achieve policy objectives. It seems to invite wrapping the biggest government programs and ideas in a big fat blanket of taxation to justify the overreach (which he somewhat acknowledges in the paragraph after what I’ve quoted). I actually think his opinion closely mirrors my own with one significant exception: I’m having a hard time finding enough shine to the silver lining. I think the bad of the decision so outweighs the good that the little bits we’re trying to grab onto are almost meaningless.

I see this as a big roadmap for further government excess. Except for one thing:

The majority’s ruling on the onerous conditions attached to the Medicaid expansion is also helpful in limiting Congress’s power to bribe states into submission or to threaten them with the loss of federal revenue in a long-run federal-state program. In a fractured set of opinions that will take some additional time to untangle, a majority of justices imposed limits on Congress’s ability to threaten the denial of previous funding streams based on states’ agreeing to new funding conditions in those programs. Indeed, seven justices seemed to agree that some constitutional limitations were breached in the Medicaid expansion. This itself is a landmark ruling.

That bit, in and of itself, is a good thing. A very good thing.

Damned shame that it is freighted with so much other baggage today.

Jeff Goldstein roars: I warned you. And he did.

Steve Green answers the question: “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a tax or a mandate?”

National Review’s editorial is blunt. And right.

 What the Court has done is not so much to declare the mandate constitutional as to declare that it is not a mandate at all, any more than the mortgage-interest deduction in the tax code is a mandate to buy a house. Congress would almost surely have been within its constitutional powers to tax the uninsured more than the insured. Very few people doubt that it could, for example, create a tax credit for the purchase of insurance, which would have precisely that effect. But Obamacare, as written, does more than that. The law repeatedly speaks in terms of a “requirement” to buy insurance, it says that individuals “shall” buy it, and it levies a “penalty” on those who refuse. As the conservative dissent points out, these are the hallmarks of a “regulatory penalty, not a tax.”

Last Update:

Peter Wehner pulls no punches over at Commentary Magazine’s web site.

The main challenge Roberts faced was to jerry-rig a (Tax Clause) argument to get him to where he was determined to end up. He employed specious, result-oriented reasoning in order to achieve an unprincipled—but for him, an institutionally desirable—outcome.

It was simply not his place to do this. And on what may have been the most important decision he is ever called upon to write, John Roberts produced a political, even disingenuous, and too-clever-by-half opinion. (Consider the withering dissent by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito to be mandatory reading. “What the government would have us believe in these cases is that the very same textual indications that show this is not a tax under the Anti-Injunction Act show that it is a tax under the Constitution,” according to the four Justices. “That carries verbal wizardry too far, deep into the forbidden land of the sophists.”)

I cannot overstress just how disappointed I am with Justice Roberts’ decision and the damage that I think has been done. I’m not sure I’m willing to carry it as far as Mr. Wehner does here; that is,  I don’t know that Roberts thought that his gymnastics routine was anything other than good reasoning. I don’t know that he really did work from a desired end and then concocted a ruling to support that desire.

I  consider that to be a generous reading, but it does pose a problem: if he wasn’t acting in bad faith, believing that he needed to “protect the reputation of the court” more than he needed to make a correct legal ruling, then we have to face the fact that we have no idea how this man will rule on anything. His guiding principles are most certainly not ours (the left’s wailing and rending of garments during his confirmation notwithstanding) and he is not particularly conservative.

He is obviously intelligent and seemingly decent, but he will not be a reliable voice for conservatives in the future. For all that the left believes that we have packed the court with hard core conservatives, the truth is that the left has been far more successful at nominating and confirming true liberal voices to protect their interests.

What I wouldn’t give for another Thomas or another Alito…

Also worth reading, Daniel Foster’s wrap at NRO.