So, something that makes me smile for a change.

It’s a fact that I feel pain in several parts of my body, including in parts I did not know I had. One of the sources of pain is permanent shingles. I only mention this in the hope that it will trigger some of you to get vaccinated or to get their aging parents vaccinated.

So, anyway, recently, someone who ought to know (if you know what I mean) convinced me to try cannabis for my pains. So, I went to the specialized doctor (at least, I think he is a doctor). I gave him $100 and I came out with a medical marijuana card.

I went straight to the dispensary and purchased some cookies, of the kind my adviser had previously let me taste. The effect on my pain was almost miraculous. I felt none from about five pm until I went to bed around 10 pm.

Several things sill trouble me. First, I can’t find a dose small enough to avoid getting a little high, which I would like to avoid. Second, it makes me hungry (surprise!). Third, what if frequent use re-ignites my passions, what then? Fourth, I am really, really pissed off about the $100 because it looks like Californians just passed a recreational cannabis law.

My sage adviser is an excellent auto mechanic in his spare time. You write me, I will give you his name. That would be for mechanical services, of course.

BC’s weekend reads

  1. Smuggling Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs out of the USSR
  2. Are memes disrupting American politics? So asks a Leftist
  3. The 4th Amendment, policing, and pedagogy
  4. At least the end of the War on Drugs is nigh
  5. A new (old) strategy for a polycentric world (but why not federation?)
  6. A simple map of Brazil and its states

Another Race Riot

Note: This is written for my overseas readers mainly. If you live in the US, you will probably find that you already know most of what I am writing about.

A couple of days ago, a police officer shot to death a black man in full daylight in Charlotte, North Carolina, very much the Old South, former home of abject slavery.

This is happening in the last months of the second administration of the first black American president, after more than seven years of his being in charge. “Being in charge” is an exaggeration of sorts though. The President of the United States exercises no constitutional authority over local police forces (or state police forces). His federal Department of Justice only has jurisdiction when a violation of civil rights is at stake and only over that specific putative violation. Homicide is not in itself a civil rights violation. It’s true that Pres. Obama cannot pick up the phone and tell the Charlotte police what to do or how. Yet, Mr Obama is responsible to some extent although indirectly for the violence, an idea I will develop below.

Cop kills black man: familiar story, right?

I forgot to give you important information. The police officer who did the shooting is black and a woman. She answers to a black police chief. He is squarely in charge of training officers and making rules for their behavior, including their use of firearms. The Chief of Police is appointed and answers to the mayor of Charlotte. The mayor is a white woman and a prominent Democrat. She is assisted by a city council of eleven, four or whom are black. As far as I can tell, there are zero, or one, or two Republican city councilors. The rest are Democrats.

The police says the victim had a gun. His family says in was sitting in his car reading a book while waiting for his child to come out of school. Disturbingly different stories, for sure.

There have been three nights or protests in Charlotte, that quickly became riots, with demonstrators throwing heavy objects at police officers and much destruction of property. One demonstrator was shot, apparently not by a police officer. And, of course, there was much looting of stores. It’s nearly always like this: One young black man dies, fifteen young black men acquire brand new mountain bikes.

Watching the riots on TV, I notice something that television channels and printed press journalist don’t comment on: Some of the most aggressive rioters are young white men who seem to me to know what they are doing and who are not distracted by broken store windows. I should use the word cautiously but they seem to me almost professional in their approach to rioting. The white young rioters are not mentioned I think because they cannot be fitted in the prevailing liberal narrative: It’s a race riot, it’s a demonstration against racial injustice by black people who have just had enough. How about the young white guys? Irrelevant, they are just lovers of justice who happen to be there. Yet, I can’t claim that I recognize any of them on TV but there are young white men just like them in every race riot I have watched in the past two years. If they are absent the first day, they are plainly present the second day and the next few days.

The show on my TV looks a bit like a movie because it’s not well connected to reality, the reality that everyone knows: On the whole, young black men don’t die because cops shoot them, they die because other young black men kill them. They also kill the occasional child and lately, even a young mother pushing her baby carriage. The percentage of violent deaths of black men at police hands that are legally unjustified, must be minuscule. No one in Chicago demonstrates against this continuing mass killing by African-Americans. I think blacks and whites alike don’t because it would contradict the main, tired old liberal narrative: Injustice and racial oppression are the source of all evils in American society.

Young black men kill one another in gang wars for turf (for possession of a piece of ground.) The turf, the ground, is an important asset in the retail sale of illegal drugs. I would be curious of what would happen if Congress decriminalized all drug sales to adults and if a rational president signed the bill into law. I would bet that young black men’s death rate would plummet by 90% in a few weeks. I have no explanation as to why this is not done. It’s not as if the 40-year old so-called “War on Drugs” were working in reducing drug use!

After seven+ years of Obama, the economic gap between whites and blacks – however you measure it – has increased. African-Americans are worse off in relative terms than they were under Pres. Bush. This is no surprise to me. It’s a Democratic administration. The worst place for a black man to live in America is in Democratic-ruled big cities. It begins with Chicago, a Democratic city for 85 years. And then, there is Detroit, a war zone with no war. All this being said, we must not forget that most African-Americans lead lives that are both normal and peaceful, in crying contradiction to the narrative of continued racial oppression. There is a large minority of young black men however who have never had a job, who don’t look for one, who may have never known a person with a job except teachers and cops.

Democratic politicians have been promising salvation in the form of “social programs” paid for by those who do work. They have done so for fifty years. They have not implemented them, or the programs have done little good, or even worse. It’s time for a revolutionary new idea, one that’s very old, in fact. When there is rapid economic growth, employers compete for labor, even for the labor of the inexperienced, even for the labor of those usually seen as unemployable. Black Americans in ghettos need the same thing that all Americans need: vigorous and fast economic growth. This may be hard to believe but the United States has few problems that could not be solved by ten years of 3.5% annual GDP growth.

There is no sign of a search for economic development in the Democratic presidential candidate’s program. Donald Trump, by contrast, promises to reduce taxes and to rid business of many regulations. Historically, it’s usually enough to produce growth. Black Americans need less abstract “justice” and more of a fair chance. The left wing of the Democratic Party hates the very idea.

Libertarian police officers

When I graduate Chico State in two years, I’ll have Bachelors in both Philosophy and Criminal Justice and a certificate in teaching Critical Thinking and Logic. The political science degree is largely a buffer for the barren philosophy job market, with the benefit of avoiding comments about wasting my time and money. The free market rewards talent; I am learning multiple skill sets.

The reality of working with a criminal justice degree is that I will probably be in procedural justice at some point. I could study pre-law right now and go for administration or argumentation, but the degrees are sufficiently similar in preparing for law school (philosophy majors do better on the LSAT than law majors, anyway), and the criminological aspect of criminal justice is more interesting than mundane memorization of legal case studies.

At some point, I’ll want to become a detective – it seems like an unmatched intellectual exercise and the work is rewarding. However, to make detective, years of patrol is expected. Almost all detectives and high-ranking officers in police departments begin as beat cops. Here the question arises: how could I possibly enforce laws to which I am strictly morally opposed?

I’ve written elsewhere about the disastrous path of American law enforcement. It’s not a great thing to have on my resume when applying for departments. A simple fact is that outsider thinking is discouraged for patrol.

The criminal justice system relies on tremendous obedience. Alternative thinking just has no place in the enforcement aspect of law enforcement. In war, soldiers follow orders, generals project them, politicians fund them. The police department operates microcosmically similar. (With many veterans returning to the states and serving as officers, this similarity becomes even more prevalent. Much of the ideological militarization of departments has its roots here.) The police are (supposed to be, ideally) the enforcers of democratically conceived legislation. Their role is contingent on society’s and they are not expected to reflect or speculate on the law. My own minor-in-possession infraction a couple years ago is illustrative: having a conversation with my detaining officers, they unanimously agreed that the drinking age should not be lowered. This in a culture with one of the highest alcoholism and binge-drinking rates – not shared by all of the other developed countries with lower minimum drinking ages (the United States is one of very few with over 18 legislation, another notable country is Japan). So, do police officers suffer unashamed ignorance about the discordance of law and order, or dysfunctional faith in the creed of criminal justice, or are they just doing their democratic job and avoiding an opinion?

I don’t think my detaining officers believed that twenty-one is somehow an optimal age to begin legally consuming alcohol. Working in Chico and citing students daily for pulic intoxication (not to mention responding to emergency calls for poisoning) is enough for a reasonable officer to think, hey, maybe this law isn’t doing its job right. So it’s a matter of opinion discretion. Alternative thinking is not appreciated by law enforcement, and reasonably so. Intellectualism has a place in administration and jurisprudence and Constitutional law, but not patrol. Patriotism and firm belief in contemporary majoritarian values are crucial in officers to keep the apparatus functioning and maintain trust between the shared culture in the department and on the street.

Were I to take up the shield – which is probable if departments don’t reject me on behalf of all my anti-authoritarian articles over the past few years – it would seem difficult to reconcile enforcement with my libertarian instincts. Detaining a student for underage drinking, say, would run very counter-intuitive to all my political reasoning thus far. Indeed, I would be the one with an expensive fine were criminal justice not always about the wrong place and the wrong time. (I wonder how communities like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition proceed – you can’t just not do your job on the job. It seems that any conspicuous libertarian ideals would be rooted out from a department.)

And yet the police force, with its declining reputation among citizens, serves a vital role beneath all the of the mala prohibita legislation, tradition and pot busts: public safety. There is the central function of police, beyond their democratic institution, to protect property and life. Liberty is fought for in courtrooms and, ever increasingly, online; not within the police department. In this stance I find myself aligning with R. P. Wolff’s distinction of philosophical opinions and political opinions… he found himself a philosophical anarchist and political liberal, and here I find myself philosophically libertarian and politically democratic.

I don’t think that change begins behind the badge, and so it seems reasonable to continue the supposedly democratically-conceived enforcement as public servant while background processes shape liberty. In fact it’s one of the few ways to be a “public servant” and actually fulfill this function meaningfully.

Also, here’s an article parodying libertarian law that, though ripe with misunderstanding, is hysterical: http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/l-p-d-libertarian-police-department

Assisted Suicide and the Catholic Church

News item: the California legislature has passed a bill loosening prohibition of assisted suicide. No word from the governor as to whether he’ll sign the bill. I expect he will. I certainly hope so.

I trust no one on this site favors drug prohibition. To be consistent, we must oppose restrictions on medicinal drugs (commonly called “ethical”), not just recreational drugs. As things stand, the government forcefully suppresses purchases of certain drugs. We in the U.S. are forbidden from buying any medicinal drug that is deemed to require FDA approval but has not yet gotten it. Approved drugs are available only if prescribed by a licensed physician. And of course some drugs are freely available over the counter.

Our opposition to drug prohibition is grounded in the most basic human right: control of our own bodies. As competent adults, our choice of what we ingest is nobody else’s business, period. It matters not whether we take drugs to counter illness, enjoy a high, or indeed, to end it all.

Of course, suicide is not something to take lightly. If someone close to us is contemplating suicide, we have an ethical duty to reach out to them and help them find alternatives, if they exist. But we have no right to use violence to restrain them, nor do government agents.

The Catholic Church is leading the opposition to this bill, and has shown its seamiest side in doing so. They are perfectly happy to see terminally ill people forced to endure agony. This is Exhibit A for Ayn Rand’s characterization of the Catholic Church as profoundly anti-life.

Gay Parade: a Conservative Take

So, last Sunday was Gay Pride Parade downtown Santa Cruz. I am all for parades in general. It feels good for people to march, no matter the cause. In this case, I am a little perplexed at first. I don’t know what the marchers are addressing. This is Santa Cruz, after all, where no one is ever judgmental, except against those who are judgmental. Where is the potential gain in tolerance, I wonder?

The parade does not even succeed in browbeating me by making me feel “what it’s like to be a minority.” After all, most of the women in the parade are a lot like me. They like what I like. We may have been rivals once but I was not even aware of it until my wife brought home – in all innocence – an obviously lesbian admirer. My wife is from India. She was young then. There were many things she did not understand. Also, she was striking. Of course, I threatened the woman with beating her up with my big fists. No, I was not acting intolerant. I treated her the way I would have treated any sexual rival. I treated her equally, you might say. (Yes, she quickly vanished.)

The Santa Cruz parade is puzzling in other ways. One small tight group carries two signs. The first shows a Star of David in several colors. The second sign shows a small number of abstractly rendered fish in the same colors. I can’t bring myself to believe that this is a plea for support of Jewish homosexual fish. Yet, I have no other interpretation. The Santa Cruz parade also leaves me a little frustrated because it’s frankly scruffy, overall. I feel parade envy vis-à-vis the flamboyant and perfectly groomed San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. I am not sure but I think the difference is due to the fact that the Santa Cruz event is dominated by lesbians. Many (not all) lesbians make it a point of pride to wear sloppy t-shirts, like guys. Some aspire to be male rednecks and are fast getting there.

Toward the end, I enter into a conversation with two older woman, one costumed. It turns out they are leaders of the local Medical Marijuana Alliance. One is a retired nurse. They both like guys, one of the biddies reassures me unhelpfully. They are there because there is an alliance between the Alliance and lesbian and gay organizations. They support one another politically. This is good American politics at work. Mutual support is set up peacefully, without acrimony, to gain influence over rules and over how public funds are spent. I often complain about the policy results of such coalitions but I can’t think of a better way, in the short term, that is.

I still dislike taxation and I dislike even more large segments of law and order. I detest above all the so-called War on Drugs, a true catastrophe for this whole society. In the short term, though, I don’t see the path forward to doing away with these gross limitations on individual freedom. So, I rejoice in every item of evidence that we could do worse.

My brief thoughts on Ferguson

  • When I first heard the ruling, a few hours after it had been announced, I checked the webpages of the international press. Only two outlets – Germany’s Der Spiegel and Al-Jazeera‘s Arabic language webpage (its English and Turkish language websites were different stories) – had front page headlines not highlighting the riots in the US. The Turkish and British media had the most extensive coverage of events when I checked them out (again, this was a couple of hours after the ruling was announced).
  • The United States has a racist past, and a racist present, that has yet to be fully addressed. Tocqueville saw this coming in 1825. Reparations for stolen labor is the only way I can see this issue being resolved. I don’t see anything that needs to be fixed about black culture. Black culture is an important component of the United States and its image abroad. Every kid in every Ghanaian village knows who 2Pac, Nas, and Jay-Z are, and as a result they implicitly respect the people of the United States. Every teenager in every Chinese city knows who 2Pac, Nas, and Jay-Z are, and as a result they implicitly respect the people of the United States.
  • Ending the War on Drugs will also go a long way to addressing the issue of state-sponsored oppression.
  • Affirmative Action is what you get when you try to address state-sponsored oppression through the legislative process rather than through the judicial process. Few, if any, blacks benefit from AA, and the few who do are highly educated and do not reflect the general population of blacks in the US.
  • Nationalizing policing duties, or giving Washington a more prominent role in policing matters, is a horrible idea that needs to die a thousand, painful deaths.
  • The people who loot and damage private property should be pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
  • There are few things that make me smile more than seeing a police car burning. I hope the bill comes out of the pensions – themselves extracted from the taxpayer by public sector unions – of policemen, though I know this will not happen.
  • I have seen a lot of white, Asian, and Hispanic faces at the protests. There are some blacks who have made a living in academia and in the activist world by claiming that non-blacks are more racist than blacks (“micro-aggression”). I hope these protests will convince the neutral black observer that racism is a structural issue in this country, not a cultural one. I think, through my own anecdotal experience, that most blacks are both neutral and implicitly understand that this is a structural issue.