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

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

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)

Beer Bottles and a Bug

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


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)

New Tax for You

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.

Colorado Fires

Okay, it’s getting a little scary out there. Not for me; I’m in a place pretty safe from wildfires. But the fires near Boulder and Colorado Springs are scary. Thousands have been evacuated and the weather is doing us no favors.

It’s hot, it’s dry, and we’ve seen gusting winds up to 65mph in some areas. Hundreds of homes have been lost and it looks like the situation is going to get worse before the firefighters will manage to get the fires under control. As I write this, I’m hearing that the Air Force Academy is being evacuated and the TV is showing fire getting uncomfortably close to the academy football field.

There are going to be a lot of families needing the generosity of the rest of us. Here are some organizations that will be needing donations and support.

Salvation Army and Red Cross are both providing a tremendous amount of support.

The Larimer Humane Society is working to rescue animals and reunite them with their owners. has lists of things that are needed by a number of agencies and organizations. That is where I will be focusing my giving.

Brave: A Review


I’ve been a fan of Pixar since before they began making feature films. The shorts Luxo Jr. and Tin Toy, in particular, were groundbreaking. Though they both look dated now in terms of the technology, they both managed to completely change my expectations of what animated films should be. While Disney soldiered on with more traditional forms of animation (and made some wonderful films like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and the underappreciated Hunchback of Notre Dame), Pixar was busy inventing the future of the art.

The obvious bit was the animation. Toy Story brought their vision of 3D animation to the masses; it was beautiful. But the real beauty wasn’t just the animation, it was the writing, the story, and the heart that managed to capture adults as surely as it did children. They turned big profits, earned critical acclaim, and took home awards by the armful. All of it well-deserved, as far as I’m concerned.

There are few more stirring moments in film over the last decade than the opening of Up. Although the “Jessie’s Song” sequence from 1999’s Toy Story 2 would give it a run for its money.  The beauty of Wall-E wasn’t just in its spectacular opening sequence, but in its wonderfully rendered love story about a couple of robots. For that matter, Ellen Degeneres is hilarious as an absent-minded fish in the touching and utterly hilarious Finding Nemo.

The point is not to give a Pixar’s Top 10 Moments list. Nor is it to suggest that they haven’t had some misfires (for me, Monsters Inc. and Cars were largely uninvolving and Cars 2 was a complete wreck). The point is that Pixar has a habit of telling great stories told with an artistic flair and they absolutely changed the face of animated entertainment.

Does Brave live up to the Pixar reputation for excellence? Absolutely.

While Brave isn’t the absolute best of Pixar’s films, that is merely an issue of having set the bar so ridiculously high.

Brave’s story is perhaps more straighforward than most of their best movies. It won’t shock you with originality, then, but what is familiar is still told with a fresh vigor that is infectious. Princess Merida and Queen Elinor have the same kind of parent-child tug of war seen in Finding Nemo, grounded both in the growth and maturation of the young character and the parents’ final understanding of their childrens’ need for self-determination and growth. As I said, somewhat standard stuff, but it’s the twists, turns, and characters that carry us through the films.

In Brave, the filmmakers resisted the temptation to give us the entire plot and all the good bits in their trailers. The audience, then, actually gets to experience the movie without too much in the way of existing expectation. I would love it if other movies followed suit.

And don’t forget the animation. Pixar continues to put out the absolute highest quality animation in the industry and Brave manages to bump the bar up a few extra notches. The texture of fabrics looks more real than anything I’ve ever seen before and Princess Merida’s hair may look violently, unnaturally red, but each of the strands looks real and every bounce and shake moves as it would in the real world. The bark of trees, the toothy texture of the earth, the delicate blades of grass, and flowing water are all such amazing analogs to their real-world counterparts that it is easy to get lost in the rendered world.

Now, the Celtic world of Brave is entirely window dressing. Just the tiniest bit of flavor without the baggage of striving for authenticity. If that matters to you, you’ll find yourself disappointed; for the majority of people, it won’t even register. What will register is that the story is a fun and touching ride, the characters are people you hope will find their way, and the final act brings the kind of emotional swell that Pixar delivers better than anyone this side of Spielberg at his tear-jerking best.

I would suggest that Up is the more artistically fulfilling and that both Wall-E and Ratatouille are better realized, but Brave certainly earns a position with movies like the Toy Story films, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. That’s pretty good company and worlds better than most of what is being shown in theaters this year.

Bottom line: if you’re a Pixar fan, you’re probably going to love this movie. If you find Pixar films either too simple or too emotionally manipulative, avoid at all costs. This isn’t the one that’s going to change your mind.

I Choose to Feast on Life

LA Arboretum

I won’t fire a round in this chapter of the mommy wars. There is precious little ground to be gained and I don’t fancy myself a willing target of enraged women seeking their own, personal fulfillment.

But this article by Namoi Dector in Commentary Magazine is a mighty fun read for me.

Guess what, ladies! We still can’t have it all. Well, we could, if only the world of work adjusted itself to meet our requirements. As it currently stands, however, we just can’t have a really, really high-powered job and spend as much time taking care of our children as we’d like to — not even if we’re working for a feminist icon, in what is arguably the most aggressively woman-friendly presidential administration ever.


Who’s to blame? You guessed it: SOCIETY. Because men are still socialized to blah blah blah. Studies have shown that blah blah blah. Young women are agonizing over blah blah blah. Older women are agonizing over blah blah blah. And what’s to be done? Right again: CHANGE SOCIETY. Change the way we work; change the way we value different kinds of working (through email, phone and videoconferencing, and not thinking that #hours-spent-in-office=drive and dedication). Oh, and arrange school schedules so that our children can be kept at their own desks for as long as we are at ours. If we do this, we will finally, finally, figure out how to achieve, you guessed it again, WORK-LIFE BALANCE.

I must say this: no one gets to “have it all.” Even the wealthiest, longest lived, healthiest people don’t get to “have it all.” The insistence that anyone should “have it all” is infantile.

Grownups know that you have to make choices and every choice involves not only some gain but some cost. When faced with two wonderful options, I often have to choose one and lose the other; that is the cost of priorities. As good as my life is– and it is– I no more “have it all” than anyone else in this world.

My advice: own your choices. Embrace the path you take without mourning the one you didn’t. Love what that path brings you without obsessing over what other people chose. If you find that the costs in area are too great, then make changes to bring the balance that you want.

You don’t get to “have it all” but, if you make smart choices, you might get to have an awful lot of love and happiness in your life– a job that fulfills you, loyal friends, happy memories, celebrations, and wonderful experiences. Live is a banquet of wonders and beauty and I will feast on all that I can.

And even so, I know that will never, ever “have it all.”

Still Talking Gay Marriage

I’ve talked the subject to death and even said that I was largely done discussing it. I’ve staked out my position– rather openly– but I don’t know that I’ve ever moved someone else even marginally on the issue.

So, for me, it’s mostly done. For opponents: I know your position, you know mine, and for the sake of harmony, I choose to leave it to the side.

But I do want to share this. The founder for the Institute for American Values, a man who has been staunch in opposition to same sex marriage, who has made intelligent and deep arguments against extending marriage to same sex couples has changed his mind and done so in a fashion that I find admirable. Now, I say this while admitting that many of his thoughts are the thoughts that have gone through my own head on my journey from opposition to advocacy (not a short trek), but his explanation is more convincing than anything I ever wrote on the subject.

I had hoped that the gay marriage debate would be mostly about marriage’s relationship to parenthood. But it hasn’t been. Or perhaps it’s fairer to say that I and others have made that argument, and that we have largely failed to persuade. In the mind of today’s public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens. And to my deep regret, much of the opposition to gay marriage seems to stem, at least in part, from an underlying anti-gay animus. To me, a Southerner by birth whose formative moral experience was the civil rights movement, this fact is profoundly disturbing.

I had also hoped that debating gay marriage might help to lead heterosexual America to a broader and more positive recommitment to marriage as an institution. But it hasn’t happened. With each passing year, we see higher and higher levels of unwed childbearing, nonmarital cohabitation and family fragmentation among heterosexuals. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to the reconceptualization of marriage as a private ordering that is so central to the idea of gay marriage. But either way, if fighting gay marriage was going to help marriage over all, I think we’d have seen some signs of it by now.

Please do read the rest regardless of your opinion on the subject. Even if you end up disagreeing with him on his new position, his thoughts remain lucid and compelling.