Blog Articles 166–170

Flattening the Law to Catch the Terrorists

Having flattened so many laws (and a good many innocents) in pursuit of the terrorist, the American majority is naturally loath to focus its attention on a terrorist who looks, talks, and dresses as they do. It is particularly uncomfortable for those in the country who feel most reflexively safe when “an American” is beside them on a plane, instead of a bearded man with a turban. Watching Oak Creek, that subset of Americans was put in a position to realize that a day prior they’d have identified with the terrorist more than his victims.

And so they quickly looked away.

Why the Reaction Is Different When the Terrorist Is White

Minneapolis is alt-transit awesomesauce

On my commute in to school today, there was a green-vested City of Minneapolis employee handing out survey cards to bicyclists on 15th Ave. SE.

Bicycling (and other alternative transit), while amazing and lots of fun, isn’t all roses. Last April, a bicyclist was killed by a semi truck at 15th Ave. SE and 4th St., an intersection I ride through every day.

But shortly thereafter (in response?), the city did some major work on 15th Ave. through Dinkytown, adding additional signage, painting the bike lanes bright green when they go through intersections, and other paintwork to increase bicycle path visibility (including a nice big box for bicyclists waiting to cross University). With the exception of the bike lane-bus interaction as southbound buses approach the on-campus bus stop, I think that these improvements have greatly improved bicycle visibility and navigability of this street.

And today’s survey? Now that the new signage and paint has been in place for a year, they’re surveying bicyclists to see whether they have noticed the new features, and whether they feel safe on the street.

Walkability as Freedom

Lee argues well that, while drivers enjoy freedom in a variety of environments, walkable urban settings (often with good transit) provide freedom for those unable to drive to live full and independent lives.

We’re somewhat in this situation ourselves - Jennifer cannot drive at night, but in a walkable environment, she can still go places in the evening (which, in Minnesota, is much of the day during some parts of the year).

I’ll just add that, though I can drive, I generally feel more free on foot, bike, or bus/train than in a car. I enjoy the wind on my face, the feeling of truly being in the city, the ability to take shortcuts and paths inaccessible to cars. I also have the freedom to enjoy my journey, destination, and company without worrying about where to park, or if I paid the meter enough. When I am finished, there will be another bus to take me home. I can live with freedom from worrying about if I need to fix the car, or how much registration and insurance will be.

Basically, I’m free to live rather than maintain, care for, and worry about the state and location of a silly metal box.

Guilty, of failing to prove yourself innocent of a crime

Justices Scalia and Thomas would have supported the Arizona law making it a crime for non-citizens to be without legal immigration papers. Immigration law is complex and filled with opportunities for unpredictable judge discretion. Many undocumented immigrants, once they get before a judge, discover they have a legal basis for being in the U.S. In our innocent-until-proven-guilty legal system, such immigrants have committed no crimes. The Arizona law not only assumed guilty-until-proven-innocent, it actually created the crime of not having previously proven oneself innocent of another crime. Thankfully, such state laws are now clearly unconstitutional.

Rundown of losing legal theories in Arizona v. United States. I found this one particularly poignant — I knew the AZ law went in the highly undesirable direction of a “Papers, please” state, but had not yet thought of it in quite this light.

Rock of Les Misérables

It’s struck me this week how a good number of songs by great rockers are deeply sympathetic to the plight of the down-and-out, the beaten up, the oppressed, those suffering bad luck or systemic injustice. In particular, a number of songs have been on my mind lately that tell of the recently, currently, or hopefully not incarcerated.

So from this week’s heavy rotation (and elsewhere in my collection), a few entries from the rock of les misérables that I’ve been pondering:

  • The Band — “The Shape I’m In”
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — “Don’t Pull Me Over”
  • Johnny Cash — “Folsom Prison Blues”, of course, but also “Give My Love to Rose” and one of my favorites, “Man in Black”