URLs du Jour


  • You know who else liked show trials? George F. Will notes a problem with current judicial practice: Ahmaud Arbery’s racist killers are grotesque, but their ‘hate crimes’ prosecution was a show trial. Those murderers were already sentenced to life in prison. The federal 'hate crime' charge added on… more life in prison. That'll show 'em.

    So, the government can conduct trials for the purpose of virtue signaling — to announce, however redundantly, that it condemns particular frames of mind. A bigot’s shabby mental furniture is, however, not a crime. Were it, what other mentalities might government decide to stigmatize by imposing special punishments? Arbery’s killers had expressed their racism in speech (texts, social media posts, remarks) that no jurisdiction can proscribe. But their federal punishment will be imposed precisely because their speech demonstrated their bigotry.

    Proving the intent behind a criminal act is crucial. And no principle should prohibit ever making punishment proportional to the motive for a criminal act. However, deciding that an actor’s heinous behavior is made more heinous because they had a bad attitude is dangerous. It is one thing for the law to hold individuals responsible for controlling their minds, which presumably control their bodies. It is quite another thing for government to inventory an individual’s mind for the purpose of declaring how admirable the government’s mind is, and perhaps by doing so to improve the public’s mind.

    [Today's Getty image is of the 1938 "Trial of the Twenty-One", back in the USSR, Stalin's effort to get rid of the remaining Old Bolsheviks. 18 of the 21 were immediately shot; 3 were sent to the Gulag and "extrajudicially executed" a few years later.]

  • Maybe a correction. The WaPo suggests I might have been too hasty about the fate of those Snake Island soldiers: Ukrainian officials say border guards may have survived apparent last stand on Snake Island

    Ukrainian border guards who insulted Russian forces this week in a recorded exchange that went viral may not have been killed, Ukrainian officials said Saturday, contradicting an earlier claim by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

    Their bravery is unquestioned; surprisingly, the invading Russians might not have been as murderous as previously thought.

  • Well, hooray! Oops, wait a minute. Christian Britschgi reports the good news at Reason: The CDC Says Most Americans Can Take Their Masks Off

    On Friday, the public health agency released a new COVID Community Levels tool that measures the severity of the pandemic by COVID's burden on the hospital system, rather than the number of cases. That change in measurement means the CDC is now classifying about 70 percent of counties in the country at low or medium threat of COVID. In those areas, the agency is no longer recommending people wear a mask indoors.

    These new guidelines don't change the requirements that people wear masks on well-ventilated airplanes or near-empty buses and subways. The agency is still also recommending that people, including school children in K-12 schools, wear masks indoors in the 30 percent of counties where the risk of COVID-19 is ranked as high.

    Guess what, though? Those 70% percent of counties? They don't include mine (Strafford County, New Hampshire).

    Amusingly, one of the only places I go where masks are still required is the Portsmouth Public Library, in Rockingham County where the threat is "medium". The city dropped its indoor-masking requirement a couple weeks ago, except for the library. Grr.

  • For an even more cynical (probably accurate) take… here's Philip Klein at National Review: CDC Discovers New Masking Science Right in Time for Biden’s State of the Union.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had been stubbornly refusing to revisit its nonsensical masking guidance long after most states had abandoned it, magically discovered new science just days before a desperate President Biden is set to give his State of the Union address.

    Not only was this predictable, but it was predicted by me in this space a few weeks ago. While the CDC would no doubt argue that the situation is better now and so it supports more de-masking, NBC had previously reported that the White House was pressuring the CDC to offer new guidance ahead of the speech. With the crisis unfolding in Ukraine on top of Biden’s mounting political problems, he was desperate to be able to cling to something.

    Klein notes that the new guidelines are just as arbitrary as the old guidelines, and there's "no strong evidence" that indoor-masking mandates are linked with decreased hospitalization rates. But you can get the CDC's details here.

    As near as I can tell from that site, and the numbers at the CDC Data Tracker, we should be "medium" pretty soon.