May 24, 2014 at 1:00 am

EDITORIAL QUICK HITS: THEIRS

Other writers, on James Craig, lawlessness and slavery reparations

Chief Craig stands his ground

Francis X. Clines in the New York Times : What, precisely, did Detroit Police Chief James Craig have in mind when he spoke favorably of citizens arming themselves as an extra protection against violence in his battered city? The chief wound up on the cover of a National Rifle Association magazine this month after he stressed his pro-gun position, telling America’s 1st Freedom that he was celebrating the rise of “good Americans, good Detroiters” carrying firearms because they were “fed up with being victims.”

Observers wondered if he was recommending vigilantism as the cure to the city’s ills, which is why, at a press conference this week, he was asked what he thought about the rash of justifiable homicides in the city — 13 so far this year.

He repeated his enthusiasm for law-abiding citizens taking advantage of concealed-carry gun licenses and even open-carry licenses that let them pack a gun in plain sight.

“It’s the law,” he said. “I support the law.”

But he denied that he was urging vigilantism as an auxiliary to the city’s over-stretched police enforcement. Previously he told The Detroit News, “We’re not advocating violence; we’re advocates of not being victims. We’re advocates of self-protection.”

Even so, the last thing that hard pressed city needs right now, with its wasteland tracts of abandoned neighborhoods, is to become a magnet for gun enthusiasts flaunting their weapons, however legally.

Our lawless government

Judge Andrew Napolitano in Reason : What if the president dispatched his wife to champion the cause of 300 innocent, harmless little girls who were kidnapped by madmen in a lawless area of Africa? What if the hearts and tears of millions were so stirred up by this that the federal government could secretly and without public criticism try to rescue and save these little girls? What if the president’s drones have killed more little girls than the kidnappers have kidnapped? What if the 3,000 people who were killed by the president’s drones, but were not targeted by them, are victims of extra-judicial murder, but the president calls them collateral damage?

What if the Constitution declares that if the government wants to take life, liberty, or property from anyone, it must seek what it wants by means of the courts and not by means of drones? What if, in order to advise the president that he can legally kill, the lawyer assigned to the task sent numerous legal memoranda to the president? What if that lawyer persuaded the president that he could legally and constitutionally kill whom he wishes?

What if that lawyer who advised the president that he could kill with drones — even Americans if he wished — has been nominated to become a federal judge?

What if the Constitution requires Senate confirmation of all of the president’s judicial nominees? What if Sen. Rand Paul and others asked this nominee for public copies of his legal memoranda in which he found a way for the president legally to kill Americans? What if this nominee and the president refused to make these memoranda available for public scrutiny until a court ordered them to do so?

What if these Alice-in-Wonderland tales are really happening? What if you are reading this on a computer and the NSA is looking right at you? What if the government regularly breaks its own laws?

What do we do about it?

The case for reparations

Ta-nehisi Coates in the Atlantic : The consequences of 250 years of enslavement, of war upon black families and black people, [have been] profound. Like homeownership today, slave ownership was aspirational, attracting not just those who owned slaves but those who wished to. Much as homeowners today might discuss the addition of a patio or the painting of a living room, slaveholders traded tips on the best methods for breeding workers, exacting labor, and doling out punishment. Just as a homeowner today might subscribe to a magazine like This Old House, slaveholders had journals such as De Bow’s Review, which recommended the best practices for wringing profits from slaves. By the dawn of the Civil War, the enslavement of black America was thought to be so foundational to the country that those who sought to end it were branded heretics worthy of death. Imagine what would happen if a president today came out in favor of taking all American homes from their owners: the reaction might well be violent.

The federal government is premised on equal fealty from all its citizens, who in return are to receive equal treatment. But as late as the mid-20th century, this bargain was not granted to black people, who repeatedly paid a higher price for citizenship and received less in return. Practically a full century after the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the plunder — quiet, systemic, submerged — continued even amidst the aims and achievements of New Deal liberals.