The sneaky politics of “Suicide Squad”

Published: Salon (August 5, 2016)

[Note: The end of this essay contains spoilers for the ending of “Suicide Squad.”] 

If the critics at RottenTomatoes are to be believed, Suicide Squad is a terrible movie with “a muddled plot, thinly written characters, and choppy directing.” (Salon’s ownAndrew O’Hehir calls it “profoundly second-rate … at every level of conception and execution.”) This puts me in a distinct minority when I write: I actually loved this movie.

I thought the characters were colorful and entertaining. The plot, though a tad formulaic, was far more streamlined and coherent than a lot of the cluttered fare we’ve seen in recent superhero films (including many outside of the DC Extended Universe). Based on the screening I attended, I can attest that audiences seemed to genuinely enjoy the jokes and get swept up in the action sequences. read more

Could Gary Johnson end the drug war? Libertarian candidate’s presidential bid could put sane drug policy in our grasp

Published: Salon (June 1, 2016)

A recent survey found that Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor who was just nominated to be the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, does surprisingly well against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump. Although his 10 percent is nothing compared to Clinton’s 38 percent and Trump’s 35 percent, it’s enough to make his candidacy relevant to our national conversation.

This is where Johnson’s bold and unorthodox view on drug policy could alter the course of American history. read more

On the Police

Published: The Good Men Project (May 26, 2016)

As a progressive, I’ve found there is an argument that seems to be effective in debates with conservatives on law and order issues.

What I’ll say is that police officers have an inherent civic responsibility to be responsive to the concerns of their left-wing critics because they are, in a literal sense, the most important and powerful agents of the state. There are plenty of state officials who have greater overall power over our lives, of course, but a police officer is the one with whom the vast majority of us will directly interact in our day-to-day lives. Even the word “police” is derived from the French “policier,” involving the conduct of public affairs. read more

Ireland is right—it’s time to rethink how we treat heroin users

Published: The Daily Dot (November 5, 2015)

This week, Ireland took a bold step in ending the war on drugs: The nationannounced this week that—as part of a broader program to decriminalize not only cannabis but cocaine and heroin—the country will create specially designated rooms in Dublin where addicts can safely and legally inject themselves with small amounts of their drugs. This plan coincides with recent bill introduced by Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to legalize recreational marijuana—to which the Internet responded with predictable enthusiasm. read more

A prisoner was dragged 107 feet by guards and died 9 days later—where’s his hashtag?

Published: The Daily Dot (September 25, 2015)

Back in October, 59-year-old Wayne County Jail inmate Abdul Akbar suffered multiple bodily injuries—after prison guards tried to restrain him. Reports obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request claim that Akbar became violent after he overslept and missed breakfast, destroying a computer and resisting guards’ orders when they tried to control the situation. Video footage from jail cameras—which has since gone viral—showed Akbar’s unconscious body being dragged 107 feet across the floor to an elevator, clearly violating proper protocol regarding prisoners’ rights. read more

How American taxpayers are spending billions to keep innocent men behind bars

Published: Daily Dot (July 14, 2015)

As talk show host John Oliver explained in a segment last month, America’s bail bond system discriminates against low-income Americans who can’t afford to make bail. “Jail can do for your actual life what being in a marching band can do for your social life,” Oliver quipped. “Even if you’re just in for a little while, it can destroy you.”

After going viral, Oliver’s video is now returning to the news cycle by virtue of New York City’s recent announcement that they will gradually start replacing bail with various other supervising options for low-risk, nonviolent defendants. It’s a step that the New York Civil Liberties Union’s senior attorney Corey Stoughton referred to as a “tremendous development” that could be the first step toward outright abolition of bail. read more

Debunking the 3 biggest myths about the death penalty

Published: Daily Dot (July 6, 2015), Salon (July 8, 2015)

After the Supreme Court issued a 5-to-4 ruling upholding the use of a lethal injection drug for death penalty cases last week, Justice Breyer’s dissent has lit up the Internet. In his opposition, Breyer not only opposes the controversial use of midazolam, a drug that’s been criticized as “cruel and unusual punishment,” but also condemns the death penalty altogether. His argument that the United States must rethink its stance on capital punishment. read more

Solitary confinement is torture

Published: Daily Dot (June 24, 2015)

The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution may not have as much political cachet as the First or Second, but it’s a safe bet you’re familiar with one of its most important phrases (italics added for emphasis): “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

This brings us to Barrett Brown, a self-described “mild-mannered freelance journalist, activist, and satirist” who was sentenced to 63 months in prison last January on a number of charges related to his work with the controversial hacktivist group Anonymous. His incarceration is troubling enough in its own right (Reporters Without Borders cited it as a main reason for downgrading America’s ranking on freedom in the press), but now his social media followers are reporting that prison officials have moved him to solitary confinement. read more