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Doherty on the massive failure known as the Drug War

Brian Doherty shines once again with The International War on Drugs Hits Close to Home: Celebrating 100 years of failure and futility. You should read the whole thing, but I want to highlight a theme I've touched on before and that I still think is critical to really make sense of it all:

Still, no one seriously expects anything significant to change. The international drug war ought to be of enormous meta-interest to students of policy, political science, and philosophy because it reveals better than almost any other issue the essentially unreasonable nature of our rulers—and our populace. There are few other huge policy matters in which the reason for pursuing a goal is more obviously ludicrous, archaic, and disconnected from any reasonable conception of a larger public good (and yet never questioned), and where the effort is more obviously utterly futile and wasted.

And yet the vast majority of documents studying, chronicling, and counting what’s countable about the drug war, even supposedly ameliorist ones that suggest a switch from, say, military means to medical ones in fighting the drug scourge, refuse to question the root of the absurdity. It is generally assumed (without even an attempt at proof) that stopping people from using the drugs they choose to use is as unquestioned a good as increasing human wealth or preserving human life.


Police brutality never ends

Here's another crazy police brutality video:

According to the article, 6'2", 195 lb. Deputy Paul Schene had to beat the hell out of this 15-year-old girl after she kicked her shoe off at him. She was also "lippy". The poor guy even hit his shin against the toilet when he was slamming her head into a wall.

We've all seen this story before. And for all the videos we've seen, how many more are there that we haven't seen?

Via Radley Balko


Duck Tales Inflation Lesson

My friend Kenny L. showed me this video, and I have to share it with you because I love Duck Tales and I hate inflation:


Makes me wonder what plans are being made in 2009

If you're like me, and I know I am, you have a lot of boxes with books and papers and whatnot gathering dust. The December 2001 issue of Photonics Spectra includes a short article called "For Their Eyes Only", containing this:

The US Defense Department has gobbled up all of the material on Afghanistan from the only commercial satellite company that can provide 1-m-resolution images.

A contract with Space Imaging, Inc. of Thornton, Colo., gives the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA)—a Defense Department branch—exclusive rights to all of the time that the company's satellite Ikonos spends in orbit over Afghanistan and another (undisclosed) country, and to all of the images it produces there.

I wonder what country that could have been, back in December 2001...


One less dangerous criminal to worry about

A New York City police officer I wrote about several months ago who was recorded attacking a cyclist, and who then submitted an affidavit saying the attack went the other way around, has finally been fired. Not charged with criminal assault or anything, but it's more than they usually get.


Maybe they need a trillion

In one of those posts I kick myself for not having thought of first, Tim Swanson asks Isn’t war good for the economy? Indeed, if it was World War II that got the world out of the Great Depression, why aren't our wars working now? A good question to pose to your less economic-history-minded friends when the subject comes up.


More libertarian strategizing

Based on my personal experience, the average libertarian has an much higher IQ than the average members of other political groups, however you'd like to slice them. This is all well and good, but of course most insiders will know the frustration of delivering a knockout argument only to have the recipient blink and respond with something like "Well, I just think we should have faith in the president."

I don't think our ideas are necessarily impenetrable to the masses. But the average libertarian has another distinguishing feature: he or she comes across as too brainy and argumentative. People can't relate to that. If we want to make more inroads with the average American, we'll need to adopt my easy plan:

1. Be likeable.*
2. Take this characteristic to bars, where you drink booze and talk to people.
3. Don't get into too many political arguments. Wait for other people to relate to you in other ways and then let those people bring them up. Don't hammer points home. Just act slightly astounded when people say ridiculous things, reluctantly offer the abstract of your Invincible Super Winner Argument**, and let them decide if they want to hear the rest.
4. If at all possible, consider trying to have sex with some of those people (according to your and their preferences). You should take this step seriously, even to the exclusion of offering your libertarian arguments.
5. Remember I'm offering you this plan because I'm one of you and I'm looking out for you and for the team.

Bonuses: be in bands, have interesting non-political hobbies, and read more fiction. I'm struggling with that last one myself.

This plan will work because it will remove the general cultural perception of us as overly-cerebral types who have only loose connections to societal reality. Once we're inside the gates, we'll unleash our memes and all that, but we have to get inside the gates first. People have to vaguely enjoy your company before they want to hear a bunch of abstract political theory and take it seriously.

I believe in you, team. Now get out there and win!

* If you instinctively wanted to criticize my use of the alternate spelling, I'm talking to you. I included a split infinitive, too.
** Believe me, it's my argument too. It's just not always the best use of social terrain.


Historical lenses

After the introduction of the steamship, the poorer peoples of Eastern and Southern Europe began to predominate among those crossing the Atlantic and emigration across the Pacific also accelerated. Prior to the steamship, transoceanic emigration meant largely the emigration of Europeans—mostly Northern and Western Europeans—across the Atlantic, mostly to the United States.

—Thomas Sowell, Migrations and Cultures, p. 40

Most historians, it seems, just like most other people, can't help seeing the past through the filter of the present. For instance, here's a sample from the Wikipedia entry on William Henry Harrison:

A week into his term, tensions briefly flared with Great Britain again, but were quickly resolved by diplomacy. Harrison called Congress into a special session, which he set to begin on May 31, 1841. He and Henry Clay had disagreed over the necessity of the special session, but Clay's powerful position in both the legislature and the Whig Party quickly forced Harrison to give in. He thus proclaimed the special session in the interests of "the condition of the revenue and finance of the country."

Can you imagine a modern legislator dictating actions to the president these days? It would be inconceivable because of the growth in presidential power during the ongoing transformation from Republic to Empire, but at the time was nothing special. Yet still children are trained to view the past in the modern mindset in which if you only know about one person, it's the president. Almost all non-specialists and from what I can tell most specialists follow this pattern, whether with presidents, kings, or applicable local variants.

How narrow a view! The steamship surely had more impact—and certainly more positive impact—on history than did the rulers doing more than their share to make life miserable for the immigrants, and their counterparts on this side of the Atlantic. Of course this impact is well-known to historians, but the common pattern in the non-specialized literature I find seems to me to be: "Here was the ruler. He did X, Y, and Z. And also A and B happened. Next was this other ruler, who did X2, Y2, and Z2. ..."

One of the reasons that economic history and other explanations (example) are such a pleasure to read is that they focus on what, from my view, are vastly more important phenomena, and things that affect day-to-day life for the societies under analysis much more than who the man in the castle is.

Historians among the readers, please feel free to comment. (I'm looking at you, Payne.)


The hidden resistance

Plotki.net is a fascinating webzine about Eastern European cultures, with an emphasis on these cultures during the Communist occupation. If you're at all interested in this topic, you'll dig it. One especially nice article that's been posted recently is Anything to Declare?, about a Romanian woman's childhood experiences smuggling various consumer goods into the country with her family. You'll like it.


Vexing line of the day

In an article that begins...

It sounds glib to say that every age moulds Charles Darwin to its own preoccupations, but the temptation is hard to resist. To the Victorians, he was an atheistic agitator undermining humankind's privileged moral status.

...The Observer's Philip Ball follows it with:

In the early 20th century, he became a prophet of social engineering and the free market.

Talk about being all things to all people.


Something is rotten in the state of Chihuahua

Holy Christ, there is something seriously wrong brewing in Mexico: Juarez Femicides Lawyer Murdered.

All lawyers involved in the defense of two Juarez bus drivers falsely accused of femicide have been executed; state police shot one in the head

Two unidentified gunmen executed Mario Escobedo Salazar and his son Edgar Escobedo Anaya, also a lawyer, in their Juarez office on Tuesday, January 6.

The double homicide comes nearly seven years after Chihuahua State Judicial Police killed Escobedo Salazar's other son, Mario Escobedo Anaya, during a chase. The police originally stated that Mario Escobedo Anaya died when his vehicle crashed during the chase. It was later revealed that he died of a gunshot wound to the head fired by state police.

Prior to Mario Escobedo Anaya's 2002 execution, he, his father, and a third lawyer, the late Sergio Dante Almaraz Mora, represented the two Juarez public transportation bus drivers accused of murdering eight women whose bodies were found dumped in an area of Juarez known as "the Cotton Field." Escobedo Salazar's recent execution means that the entire defense team is now dead; all were executed. One of the bus drivers also died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody.

The Mexican military and high-level government officials seem to be behind not only the drug trade and its violence, but also behind systematic miscarriages of justice. The Mexican people deserve better than that.


The Great Disappointment continues

How's this for hope and change: Obama picks RIAA's favorite lawyer for a top Justice post. I guess the next four or eight years will be interesting. We'll get to see the anti-revolutionary left making lame excuses for their man just like the right has done for the last eight.

Via Radley Balko


Probando...

Habría interés en entradas en castellano? Los únicos países cuyas noticias leo a menudo son México, Uruguay, y un poco de Argentina, pero se me hace que los temas del desarrollo económico y de la prohibición de drogas son los más importantes--salvo la guerra--en el mundo actual, y América Latina es uno de sus mejores escenarios.

Por favor, diganme aquí. A ver lo que podemos.


Obama "a calculating manipulator of the first order"

While a bunch of wild-eyed "progressives" begin to see the first signs that Barack Obama is not quite what they'd hoped for, the brilliant Arthur Silber pulls no punches. I'll be interested to see how committed to ideals many of Obama's supporters are when it becomes clear that the new boss is pretty much the same as the old boss.


Do as they say, not as they do, or else they will get you

I can't wait to see how right-wing talk radio hosts dismiss our criticisms of this:

While fiercely loyal establishment spokespeople such as The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus continue to insist that prosecutions are only appropriate for common criminals ("someone breaking into your house") but not our glorious political leaders when they break the law (by, say, systematically torturing people), the Bush administration has righteously decided that torture is such a grotesque and intolerable crime that political leaders who order it simply must be punished in American courts to the fullest extent of the law . . . . if they're from Liberia:

MIAMI (AP) -- U.S. prosecutors want a Miami judge to sentence the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 147 years in prison for torturing people when he was chief of a brutal paramilitary unit during his father's reign.

Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles "Chuckie" Taylor Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9 by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga. His conviction was the first use of a 1994 law allowing prosecution in the U.S. for acts of torture committed overseas.

Glenn Greenwald gets in almost all the good points, like "Acts which, when ordered by Liberians, are 'criminal torture' meriting life imprisonment magically become, when ordered by Americans, mere 'aggressive interrogation techniques.'"

Only a few more days until (some of) the faces telling bold-faced lies change.

Via Radley Balko