After Dallas: We Must Find a Clear Perspective on Race, Policing and Guns

As President Barack Obama eloquently reminded us Tuesday, it is vital that we recall exactly what actually occurred in Dallas Thursday night, before these tragic events slide into the meat grinder of electoral politics where the blades of heedless partisanship will render them into unintelligible rhetorical sausage. Hundreds of people, mostly African American, had peaceably assembled and were exercising their democratic right to march in protest, the city’s police force was guarding their route and ensuring their constitutional right to petition for redress of grievance. A troubled and isolated young man—who was dishonorably discharged from the Army reserve and  intermittently employed—apparently ...

Fifty more are dead from gun violence and nothing remotely constructive will be done

Kenneth Rexroth began his beautiful 1952 elegy to the old Wobblie Eli Jacobson this way: "There are few of us now, soon there will be none. We were comrades together, we believed we would see with our own eyes the new world where man was no longer wolf to man, but men and women were all brothers and lovers together. We will not see it. We will not see it, none of us. It is farther off than we thought."   These days, those bleak opening lines frequently come to mind when I consider the situation of America’s gun control advocates—of whom I have long been one. I have ...

In much of America, it’s more dangerous to be policed than to be a police officer

When he spoke to civic or church groups about the law and policing, the late Johnnie Cochran often would pose this question: “Who do you think is the most powerful person in the criminal justice system?” Inevitably, most people would respond, “the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.” “Wrong,” Johnnie would respond. “The most powerful single person in the entire criminal justice system is the cop on the street, because only he has the power to summarily execute you—and get away with it.” In the months since Ferguson, I’ve thought a great deal about Johnnie’s question and about his views on abusive ...

Apple Needs to Cooperate with the FBI to Save Lives

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There’s a hoary legal maxim that hard cases make bad law and, at first glance, the standoff between Apple and federal investigators probing the San Bernardino terror attack certainly would seem to be one of those. The basic facts are these: Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife, Tasheen Malik, killed 14 and wounded 22 in a terrorist attack on a San Bernardino government health center. They had an iPhone 5c, which was recovered from the couple’s SUV after they were killed in a shootout with police. On Oct 19—44 days before the shooting—Farook activated an encryption option on ...

Lee Baca Facing Six-Month Prison Term: What Happened to the Idealistic Sheriff from East LA?

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is one of America’s stranger law enforcement agencies, and its former head, Lee Baca, who admitted this week that he lied to federal investigators, is about as strange and troubling a public figure as one can imagine. The organizational oddity begins at the top, since the Sheriff is an independently elected official. That was common in the mid-19th Century, when the department was formed, but today only a handful of agencies retain that arrangement, none of them anything like the size of LA County. What that means is that the head of the nation’s fourth ...

The People v. O. J. Simpson: Recalling the Trial and Johnnie Cochran

I’ve always been fascinated by space exploration and, as a boy, watched all of the Mercury, Gemini and early Apollo manned launches on television. Nowadays, I take a keen interest in the Martian exploration directed from the nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But in all the imaginative literature about man’s adventures into the cosmos, I don’t think there was anyone who foresaw what actually has occurred—that we would go to the moon, and then, just stop going. It’s been more than half a century since the crew of Apollo 17 set foot on the lunar surface and there currently are no ...