Someone Asked if #NeverTrump People Would Come Around. This Was My Response.

I do not like that Donald Trump.
I could not, would not like that chump.

I would not vote him here or there,
I would not vote him anywhere.
I would not vote him then or now.
I would not vote him anyhow.

I do not like his orange spray tan.
I do not like his tiny hands.
I do not like his gibberish.
I do not like his childishness.

I don’t like his rhetoric.
I don’t like his politics.
He has not read the Constitution.
He does not have any solution.
He does not like free trade and speech.
He does not love that liberty.
He loves walls and lots of rules.
His economics are for fools.
There are no checks and balances
To counterweigh such lack of sense.

So, I do not like him on the stump,
I will not take him with a lump,
Not with a poll jump,
Not with an endorsement bump,
Not in a trash dump.
Not with a sump pump.

I will not change my mind, I won’t.
I don’t like him, no I don’t.

I hate authoritarians.
I hate all that collectivism.
I will not support that rump.
I will #NeverVoteforDonaldTrump.

A Lesser of Evils: Why Ted Cruz Is Not My Anti-Trump

I’ve never been a lesser-of-evils sort of voter. It’s too cynical and depressing an approach to life. Anyway I rarely think one of the major party candidates is “better” in some meaningful sense than the other.

This election is different. I cannot shake a nagging unease that one candidate must be avoided, perhaps with a vote for any marginally lesser evil capable of stopping him, however distasteful.

That candidate is Ted Cruz.

I’m not joking. There’s no punch line coming. I don’t think Ted Cruz believes in fundamental, unenumerated rights, constitutionally protected from political majorities at the state and local levels.

Probably many or even most of the other candidates share this shortcoming. What sets Cruz apart is his more sophisticated ability to appoint Supreme Court justices who share his views, as he has vowed to do.

Under that specter, liberty-leaning voters should ask for clarity and reassurance from the Cruz campaign on the following issues before casting a vote in his support.

Does Ted Cruz Want to Limit the Power of Judicial Review? In 1803, the Supreme Court decided Marbury v. Madison. Since that time, the Court has exercised three powers:

  1. It can refuse to enforce acts of the other branches if five or more of its nine justices believe such act was in excess of constitutional powers.
  2. It can enforce acts of the other branches of government, if five or more of the justices believe such act was constitutional.
  3. It can require otherwise constitutional acts of the other branches to be exercised in accordance with the Equal Protection Clause.

That’s it. Under the first, the Court delineates areas of individual liberty into which no political majority may intrude. Under the second and third, it enforces the acts of other branches of government. Under none of the three does the Court “make law.”

Liberty voters should therefore ask what Ted Cruz is gunning for when he says things like:

I don’t think we should entrust governing our society to 5 unelected lawyers in Washington. Why would ya possibly hand over the rights of 320 million Americans to 5 lawyers in Washington to say, “We’re gonna decide the rules that govern ya?” If ya wanna win an issue, go to the ballot box and win at the ballot box. That’s the way the Constitution was designed.

I think we can rule out number two; he’s not complaining about acts of the political branches. His rhetoric, to the contrary, suggests that he wants political majorities unfettered by such inconveniences as meddling Supreme Court justices.

He could be taking aim at number three, in which case it is not the laws he dislikes, but the doctrine of Equal Protection. Either way, the Court is not responsible for having enacted the laws that are subject to that doctrine. The political branches are.

It sure sounds like it is the first option Cruz is targeting. He does not like the Court delineating areas of individual liberty beyond the reach of political majorities.

That is a deeply authoritarian approach to government. Unless and until Cruz repudiates it convincingly, he cannot be my “not-Trump.”

Does Ted Cruz Believe in Unenumerated Rights and Substantive Due Process? Under the view of many libertarians, the Constitution enumerates the powers of government, but not the rights of individuals. The former are few, narrow and circumscribed. The latter are many, broad and transcendent.

This is the view held by Rand Paul and other libertarian constitutionalists from organizations like Reason Magazine, the Cato Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Institute for Justice.

It is also my view.

One textual source for this approach is the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits political majorities at the state and local levels from depriving individuals of the privileges and immunities of citizenship, of equal protection of laws, or of liberty without due process.

The “liberty” thusly protected has been interpreted to include economic endeavors as well as other peaceful activities integral to enjoyment of life and the pursuit of happiness. The concept that such freedoms are Constitutionally protected, even though not expressly mentioned, is sometimes referred to as the doctrine of “substantive due process.”

There are competing schools of thought. One is that only individual rights expressly enumerated in the Constitution are beyond the reach of political majorities. Under this view, the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted to prohibit racial discrimination, not to proscribe state infringement of unenumerated rights.

That is the view expressed by Ted Cruz at a hearing he conducted before the Senate Judiciary Committee exploring ways to “rein in” the Supreme Court. Cruz’s comments at the hearing suggest, on deeply personal issues from marriage to economic rights, he prefers “the Supreme Court defer to state legislative decisions rather than uphold individual rights.”

This is as unlibertarian a position as a candidate could hold. Saving the GOP from a Trump loss to Hillary Clinton is not a reason to support a nominee committed to undermining individual liberty in favor of majority rule.

Is Cruz Committed to Individual Rights? Or States Rights? Ted Cruz’s passion is not the fundamental liberty of individuals, arguably enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment. It is, rather, the power of state legislatures found in the Tenth.

He’s “a Tenth Amendment guy,” according to his wife. Indeed he once headed the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Tenth Amendment Studies. When Ted Cruz talks about limited government, he is talking about limiting federal government. His concern is federal versus state, not individual versus collective.

Then too, even on that more beloved Constitutional provision, Cruz is willing to stray if it means more power for the right kind of majorities. He was in favor of the federal government defining marriage before he was against it. He likes states’ rights when they ban same-sex marriage, but not as much when they decriminalize marijuana.

He might be a federalist, for those who don’t mind states’ rights served squishy. But he’s no libertarian.

How Far Will Ted Cruz Go to Bend the Judiciary to His Interpretation of the Constitution? Despite the “sour fruit” of John Roberts’ decisions in NFIB v. Sebelius and King v. Burwell, conservatives continue their misguided pursuit of a “deferential” judiciary. In their statist hearts, they would rather accept the big government of Obamacare than lose the power to regulate social order.

If NFIB v. Sebelius is the price of winning the next Obergefell v. Hodges, it is one they will pay.

This is not a trade-off liberty lovers should make.

Yet Ted Cruz wants to subject the Supreme Court to term limits and retention elections. As the Institute for Justice’s Evan Bernick wrote in the wake of Cruz’s SCOTUS hearing:

…[I]t is Cruz who strayed from the text and history of the Constitution, both in his histrionic criticism of Obergefell and his suggestion that the cure for America’s constitutional ills is an even more inert judiciary.

Cruz’s most fundamental error lay in the premise of the hearing itself: The most pressing threat to constitutionally limited government today is not “judicial activism” but reflexive judicial deference to the political branches.

We can have a judiciary that reflexively defers to the political branches or we can have constitutionally limited government — but we cannot have both.

Liberty voters must consider whether they want Supreme Court appointees to facilitate the powers of political majorities or to protect individual rights from the overreach of such exercise. Ted Cruz appears to be on the wrong side of that choice.

Until he convinces me otherwise, that puts him on the wrong side of mine.

 

Bathroom Confusion and the Message of Feminine Frailty

Where does California Mom think REI should make Michael Hughes pee?
Where does California Mom think REI should make Michael Hughes pee?

In August, a California girl in the women’s bathroom of an REI store encountered what she perceived to be a man. Her mother complained. Store personnel informed the mother they could not determine the genders of their patrons. Now, citing civil rights statutes, the general right to privacy, and building codes requiring gender-specific bathrooms, lawyers from The Pacific Justice Institute are writing letters on the mother’s behalf demanding “a clear policy to protect the safety and privacy of customers.”

I find this so irritating.

First, what does this woman want REI to do? Ask customers to pull down their pants so the sales clerks can perform an assessment? Demand papers? Form an Olympic Committee of gender assessors to sit outside the bathrooms?

Second, notice the ways in which her response conveys the message of feminine frailty. The psychological trauma of dealing with this situation is not something girls and women can be empowered to handle, but rather something they must be protected from encountering at all—by the company, by the lawyers, by government, etc.

For any fellow parents who are curious, here is how I would handle this situation with my own daughter.

First, Rule Number One. Which transcends every other rule.

If anyone of any gender anytime anywhere makes you feel even the slightest, tiniest bit uncomfortable in any way for any reason: Leave.

Immediately.

No delay, no apologies. Don’t explain yourself. Don’t worry about being polite or hurting someone’s feelings or being a bigot.

Just go. Turn around, walk away without a word and go to the nearest place you feel safe.

As a culture we are too polite and go too far instilling in our children the habits of acquiescence and accommodation when we should be doing the opposite.

Fuck politeness and fuck other people’s feelings. Just GTFO.

Second, I would tell my daughter (as I already do) that sometimes you cannot tell from the outside whether a person is a man or a woman. Sometimes they might seem to you to be one when in fact they are the other. Sometimes they are both or neither, and the available bathrooms do not reflect their possibilities.

Most people fall into familiar patterns, but not everyone does, and there is nothing inherently bad about nonconformance. It can make us feel weird or uncomfortable when it is unexpected or unfamiliar. It’s not bad to feel that way and also not bad for people to be different.

Just like people who follow familiar patterns, those unexpectedly different people might be manipulative assholes and violent dangerous criminals. Or they could be nice, kind, interesting people.

In either case, always follow Rule Number One.

Third, if my daughter had left the bathroom without finishing what she went to do, I would offer as many options as were available. Return with her so she could finish. Wait until that person had left the bathroom. Look for an individual bathroom. Leave the store. Pee in the parking lot. Etc.

Then let her decide.

This part is crucial.

It empowers her to be the arbiter of her own experiences. She does not have to subject herself to anything to which she does not wish to be subjected. And it focuses her attention on Rule Number One. Did the person really give her a Bad Feeling? Or did she just feel weird because something about the person was unexpected?

At the same time, it conveys no message about the other person. It does not suggest that the person really is dangerous or has done anything wrong or has any lesser right to be in the bathroom. It preserves that person’s agency while focusing my daughter’s attention on her own.

If she chooses to go back into the bathroom accompanied by me—and the person is still there—then she gets the added benefit of seeing how I handle it. For me, my default is polite and kind, and assuming the best of people.

But that’s just the default. Subject always to Rule Number One and taking into account that on the scale of fucks-given, my kid’s comfort is somewhere up in the stratosphere and the tender feelz of an adult stranger in the bathroom are maybe at the height of a fire hydrant.

Fourth, later on and as a consistent topic of discussion, I would review not only all the prior messages, but also the general idea of being proactive about analyzing and identifying her preferences in life and then being assertive about having them met.

Does she have feelings about sharing a bathroom with grown ups, other kids, with people of the same gender, of another gender, of the various other possible permutations of the human condition?

There are no right or wrong answers. I was at least in my twenties, maybe my thirties, before it got weird for me to share a bathroom with males. Now, in my forties, I don’t want to share with anyone.

Does she prefer to have a grown up accompany her into strange bathrooms for the time being? Again, no right or wrong answer. Part of being empowered is being able to assess if she really does need help and have it provided without disapproval.

Does she know that many places have individual bathroom options? Can she find a store employee and ask for directions? Could she wait until she either has the bathroom to herself or, conversely, it is so full that it feels safer and more comfortable?

In contrast, if all the mother does is bitch out the manager and have lawyers write letters and alert the media, then the daughter has learned nothing about how to navigate a sometimes complicated world in ways that make her feel safe and empowered—except by way of demanding that other people take steps to shelter her from the prospect of encountering complication in the first place.

Saving Sci-Fi From Ripley: My Response to John C. Wright’s Essay on Gender in Fiction

Save sci-fi from Ripley!
Save sci-fi from Ripley!

John C. Wright’s essay Saving Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters suggests an essentialistic[1] view of gender that is demonstrably, scientifically, empirically inaccurate. Wright’s personal vision of the feminine ideal nevertheless has a legitimate place in culture and fiction.

I will attempt to explain why both are true.

Outliers Disprove the Theory of Gender Essentialism

To be clear, I do not know whether Wright views his position as one of gender essentialism. He may well view it as more of a theological imperative than a scientific one. Alternatively, the essay could be intended only as an exploration of ideals he acknowledges to be subjective.

His essay nevertheless serves as a interesting backdrop for a critique of gender essentialism, particularly in light of its role in the controversial 2015 Hugo awards season and the various discussions of gender-in-fiction popping up in my social media feeds of late.

I use “gender essentialism” to refer to the idea that there are properties (other than the criteria used to assign people to a gender in the first instance[2]) that are true as to all members of that gender but not true as to any members of any other.

In contrast, non-essentialism refers to the idea that (beyond the criteria used to assign gender in the first instance) there are no properties that are true as to all members of one gender but not true as to any members of any other.

For the record, I harbor no insistence that there are only two genders or that people must belong to one or the other. I am simply using the two categories recognized by Wright—“men” and “women”—for purposes of this discussion.

At the outset, we face a problem. How do we assign people to one group or the other? Chromosomes? Gonads? Outward sex characteristics? Self-reported gender identification?

People will argue for different tests. But the point I am heading toward here is that it does not matter which is used, because there is no test of gender that renders essentialism a viable theory.

For purposes of discussion, I will use chromosomes as the test, not because I think that’s the most appropriate, but because I anticipate it’s the test with the most intuitive appeal to gender essentialists. Thus we will assign all XY people to the category “men” and all XX people to the category “women.”

Everyone else gets excluded.

Admittedly, there are not a lot of “everyone else’s.” Their exclusion is nevertheless significant.

If it is indisputably, empirically true that there are humans who are neither XY nor XX, and who therefore do not fit into either of the two constructs we call “genders,” then how can it be true that all humans possess a combination of essential traits dependent on their role in that construct? It clearly cannot be. However strong the patterns are, there are humans who do not fit.

I see no reason why these scientifically-empirically-confirmed-to-exist-human-beings should not be acknowledged in our culture or our fiction. But taste is subjective, and as I noted, Wright may simply be expressing a preference for characters he finds more comfortingly “normal.” Such is his prerogative. For other science fiction fans, the genre’s draw is precisely that it takes us beyond the boundaries of what is ordinary, out to the far edges of what is possible, to a place where we encounter characters and experiences that transcend our earthly expectations.

Regardless, even if we exclude those inconvenient souls whose chromosomes do not fit our tidy expectations, we shall see that it nevertheless remains all but impossible to identify any trait—even one—that is true of all men but not of any woman.

At this juncture, I posit that most essentialists have already begun to abandon the more extreme claims of their theory. Their anecdotal life experiences, without more, belie any essentialist view of the various traits highlighted in Wright’s essay.

Kara Thrace, destroyer of science fiction and culture.
Kara Thrace, destroyer of culture and science fiction.

There are women who are “direct in speech,” “confident in action,” “cunning in wit,” “unerring in deduction,” or “glib in speech.” There are men who excel at “buoying…spirits,” who possess “tenacity that does not yield even after repeated disappointments and defeats,” and who are “deep in understanding rather than adroit in deductive logic.” Notwithstanding Wright’s insistence that “a real heroine” does not “copulate out of wedlock,” nine out of ten women born in the 1940s did.

For every trait Wright listed as “masculine,” there are or have been women who possessed that trait to a greater degree than some men. For every trait identified as “feminine,” there are or have been men who possessed that trait to a greater degree than some women.

Even if we abandon the broad list of interesting and personality-defining attributes identified by Wright, and instead attempt to utilize a narrow list of less defining traits, we still will not find any that are essential to gender as we have defined it (using chromosomes).

Therem Harth rem ir Estraven from Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Left Hand of Darkness" by snarkyRAINBOW at DeviantArt.com.
Therem Harth rem ir Estraven from Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness” by snarkyRAINBOW at DeviantArt.com.

I have no concept of what essentialists tell themselves about the inherent nature of a person with mosaicism who is 96% XY predominant but capable of giving birth. I do not know what people who view gender as a theological imperative think of their god’s plan for individuals who are phenotypically female, have heterosexual female gender identities, but who are XY chromosome.

What I do know is that while nature (or the Creator) works in patterns, it simultaneously permits endless permutations of outliers.

Essentialists will again point to the rarity of such individuals. But they fail to grasp the implications, however rare, of the fact they exist.

If data points must be excluded to make the theory work, the theory does not work.

If nature does not require people’s chromosomes to conform to our conceptions of gender, why would it require any other part of us to do so? If nature produces XY individuals who appear female on the outside and identify as female, while simultaneously producing XY individuals who appear female on the outside but identify as male, why would it require any greater consistency in other subsets of the population? If nature produces mosaics of cells and chimeras of chromosomes, why would it not produce mosaics and chimeras of traits?

There is no logical reason to deny this breadth of possibility.

Even so, if we nevertheless exclude all the additional outliers that do not fit within the theory, we still cannot plug its gaping holes.

Distribution Curves Confirm Overlap Greater Than Differences

If gender were essential, we would expect the distribution curves[3] for dispositive traits to look like this:

wrong view of everything curve


What we find, however, is that the distribution curves for the traits hypothesized to be essential actually look like some variation of the following:

bell curve usmenandwomenheight

bell curve math ability 2

assertiveness curve

In other words, the traits associated with concepts like “masculine” and “feminine” occur in both genders (albeit at varying rates and degrees). While the distribution curves are not identical, the areas of overlap are so wide that differences between the groups cannot be extrapolated to differences between individuals.

Patterns exist, but are not absolute, and the potential for outlying permutations is unlimited. We are all individuals in a category of one.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask science:

Gender differences in personality traits are often characterized in terms of which gender has higher scores on that trait, on average. For example, women are often found to be more agreeable than men (Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001). This means that women, on average, are more nurturing, tender-minded, and altruistic more often and to a greater extent than men. However, such a finding does not preclude the fact that men may also experience nurturing, tender-minded, and altruistic states, and that some men may even score higher in these traits than some women. The goal of investigating gender differences in personality, therefore, is to elucidate the differences among general patterns of behavior in men and women on average, with the understanding that both men and women can experience states across the full range of most traits. Gender differences in terms of mean differences do not imply that men and women only experience states on opposing ends of the trait spectrum; on the contrary, significant differences can exist along with a high degree of overlap between the distributions of men and women (Hyde, 2005).

Gender essentialism—like racial essentialism—finds no support in science. Wright’s paradigm cannot be anything more than precisely what it wants so badly not to be: a construct built not on empiricism, but upon its architect’s subjective personal preferences about what is beautiful, good and beneficial. 

Nonetheless, qua preferences, Wrights gender ideals are perfectly legitimate in culture and fiction.

The Inherent Subjectivity of Ideals

Step aside, honey. That's a man's job.
Step aside, honey. That’s a man’s job.

Let us stipulate that Wright’s construct seems poorly-suited to the science fiction market in that it discounts characters modeled on such women as: Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, who led an uprising against the Roman Empire; the Irish pirate Grace O’Malley; Amelia Earhart and any members of the WASP and Air Transport Auxiliary; or the lady spies of World War II—including Andree Borrel who was so fucking tough she couldn’t be cracked under interrogation, refused to die of lethal injection, and had to be cremated alive to make her stop. It excludes such women as Triệu Thị Trinh, who led a Vietnamese rebellion against Chinese forces, wearing bright yellow robes and carrying two swords as she rode atop her war elephant, and to whom history attributes such bon mots as:

I only want to ride the wind and walk the waves, slay the big whales of the Eastern sea, clean up frontiers, and save the people from drowning. Why should I imitate others, bow my head, stoop over and be a slave? Why resign myself to menial housework?

And:

I’d like to ride storms, kill sharks in the open sea, drive out the aggressors, reconquer the country, undo the ties of serfdom, and never bend my back to be the concubine of whatever man.

Wright has placed himself in the unfortunate position of renouncing any intent to write such heroines into his fiction. But while this may be ill-advised for market reasons, his preference for a different type of heroine cannot be “wrong” in any objective sense

The nature of subjective preferences is that they are unfalsifiable.

Sarah Connor, acting like a man—or maybe a mother. ...Can someone do a spreadsheet?!
Sarah Connor acting like a man. Or maybe a mother. …Can someone do a spreadsheet?!

To be clear, I have no interest in participating in the culture Wright espouses. His construct is not my own, is not one toward which I would guide my daughter, and plays no role in the fiction I love best.

I nevertheless acknowledge that it is built upon archetypes that took shape in our collective consciousness precisely because they represented combinations of traits occurring naturally—and correlating with that construct we call “gender”—at a frequency rendering them significant. Denying that reality, insisting that in all people, over all time, and in all ways, gender has never been anything more than an ephemeral social construct, silences the pain of those for whom it turned out to be so much more.

I am not one of the women Wright idealizes. But among the wide range of women that exist, I have known and loved some who were. Wright is not merely fantasizing their existence. Nor can he possibly be wrong in admiring them. Where Wright errs is only in mistaking his subjective preferences for moral and literary imperative.

But here is the thing.

Some of his detractors make the same error. They have a different vision of the feminine ideal. But they are no less strident in insisting deviation therefrom constitutes a literary transgression bordering on ethical failure.

We are all free to read and write what we wish, to direct our resources and attention where we will. But the rigidity that goes beyond that, to the punishing of heresy, achieves nothing more than substitution of a new stereotype for an old one. The silencing of a new set of voices. A new list of required and forbidden traits.

A new brand of essentialism.

_____________________________________________

[1] Yes, I might be inventing a new word here.

[2] Using the same criteria for defining gender as the essential traits thereof merely results in a tautology.

[3] The distribution curve images used herein were retrieved from a post entitled “On gender essentialism in public schools, bell curves and CPD” at the blog Perry Street Palace or from the article “Science Confirms the Obvious: Men and Women Aren’t That Different” at Popular Science.

A Few Short Words About the Use of Profanity by the Fairer Sex, in Fiction

As a result of watching the #HugoAwards stream on the night of the Sasquan ceremony, I found my way to an essay by nominee John C. Wright called “Saving Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters.” This essay appears to be part of the collection “Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth,” for which Wright was nominated in the Best Related Work category. Among other nuggets in Wright’s gender polemics, there is this:

The point of vulgarity is to desecrate the image of man in the eyes of man: filthy language is meant to make us seem like filthy yahoos to each other. It is the same vice as if a man swears, but the delicate nature of maternal and educational tasks, not to mention the greater need for consensus-building in the circle of women, gives this vice a darker and longer-lasting stain when a woman indulges in it.

Also a woman who is crude inspires contempt, because she has contempt for God and man. The difference is that a woman who loses her native delicacy and modesty does not become an object of fear and respect, but an object of contempt and loathing, because the aura of sanctity women naturally inspire in men is tossed away.

5-the-matrix-trinity-dodge-this

I just have one thing to say:

Fuck that shit.

Bullshit Laws, Fiscal Irresponsibility and the Inevitability of Police Abuse

missing plateEvery day fleets of law enforcement officers, from the DEA on down to the local police department, head out onto the streets armed with guns and hair-trigger-fear for their own safety.

If they were going to fight the good fight against violence and theft, we could be unreservedly grateful. All too often these armed ingenues, represented by unions, covered by workers comp, and unwilling to tolerate any degree of risk to their person, instead spend their time enforcing petty, bullshit laws that accomplish nothing more than mindless bureaucratic authoritarianism—and revenue for overspent budgets.

Samuel Dubose was missing a front license plate. Walter Scott had a broken brake light. Caroline Small was sitting in her parked car. Eric Garner was selling untaxed cigarettes. James Boyd was camping in the wrong place. David Garcia was feeling suicidal. Zachary Hammond was on a first date with a woman carrying ten grams of marijuana. Freddie Gray was …

Does anyone even know?

These are the “crimes” for which they died.

In July, protestors at the Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix interrupted Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley to heckle their talking-point platitudes and demand concrete proposals for addressing police abuse. O’Malley, whose tough-on-crime polices as mayor of Baltimore sent its police department into a downward spiral of violence and corruption, had little to offer. Earlier this week Scott Walker, the only candidate in the first GOP debate asked a question on the topic, came up with nothing more tangible than better training, more support, and “consequences.”

Not independent investigators to handle accusations of misconduct. Not better record keeping to identify problematic officers and departments. Not body cams or enhanced protection of the public’s right to record. Not abolishing mandatory minimum sentencing laws that make suspects desperate. Not decriminalizing nonviolent offenses. Not ending the disastrous “war” on drugs.

Some of the protestors, who have continued to interrupt Sanders’ appearances, focus on racism. An independently worthy cause, ending racism is nevertheless not enough to solve police abuse. Racism is a sufficient cause of such problem, but not a necessary one.

No. The problem is you.

You have to stop supporting all the petty laws that can ultimately be enforced only with violence. Sex-for-money between consenting adults. Sale by and to and ingestion of substances by peaceful adults. Jaywalking, loitering, broken tail lights and the myriad thousand other nonviolent offenses that exist for no greater purpose than that the upper castes may express their disapproval of those who achieve less-than-Stepford levels of respectability.

Every law, every rule, every regulation—from cigarette taxes to fines for broken brake lights to driving without a license to civil penalties for refusing to make a wedding cake—carries with it the implicit edict that you are willing to have officers in uniforms kill people to enforce it.

That you are willing to throw flash grenades at babies to keep grownups from ingesting methamphetamine (even though you know once thusly tasked, cops will lie to get those warrants). That you are willing to put that cigarette-tax dodger in a chokehold. That you are willing to kill those Oregon bakers if they won’t pay the fine for not baking the cake, and try to lock their door when the sheriff comes to execute on that judgment. You will risk violence by sending thuggish swat teams into legal medical marijuana dispensaries to terrorize customers inside. You would rather that poor mother with the broken brake light or the expired plates pay her fine to your government than feed her children. You are willing to shoot a man in the head for only having a rear license plate on his vehicle.

You are willing to spend billions packing our prisons, eroding our civil liberties and constitutional rights, and imposing roadside anal probings as the acceptable costs of keeping peaceful people from ingesting the substances of which you disapprove.

To your countenance of such tactics for such ends, add the near irresistible temptation of unearned riches—in an era of profligate spending and mismanaged budgets—and violence is an all but inevitable outcome. Civil asset forfeiture creates perverse incentives that lead police departments to prioritize nonviolent drug crimes, while victims of violence wait weeks for assistance; where crime labs let murder evidence backlog for decades, while drug cases get processed within hours.

Yet the insidious evil of treating citizens like municipal ATM machines takes place on an even smaller level than civil asset forfeiture. An official shake-down system also exists in the form of excessive tickets for petty offenses, doled out to those who cannot afford to fight back (disproportionately poor and minority), and then ballooning and escalating into ever more unmanageable sums until arrest and jail time result.

There are no debtors prisons in the U.S.A. Unless the creditor is the government. Then you’re fucked.

The Justice Department’s scathing report on the Ferguson, Missouri police department documented the disturbing end-game of such practices: a situation where 25% of the city’s revenue came from fines imposed by an unsupervised police force prone to excessive use of force. Jack Hitt at Mother Jones has reported on another Missouri suburb where, in response to a legislative cap on revenue that could be generated via traffic stops, the city enacted a whole host of other petty, bullshit laws (against such menaces as basketball hoops in the front yard, overgrown hedges, disorderly window blinds, and pants worn to low) and increased its non-traffic related arrests by 495%.

For the affluent this may be nothing more than an annoying shadow tax system to prop up an overreaching government that spends so far outside its means it pays tax dollars to research how robot-provided Swedish massage affects rabbits’ recovery from exercise. For the poor, knowing their lives will be ruined by fines they cannot afford to pay, jail time, job loss, and mandatory minimums that destroy families, it is why they run.

It is also why they kill.

Because at its worst, this system of official shakedown invites the very threats that put officers on edge. Dionne Wilson, widow of a slain California officer, understands this only too well. Her husband Dan Niemi showed up to investigate a noise complaint and found himself facing Irving Ramirez, who had a history of drug incarcerations. Carrying both guns and drugs when confronted, and desperate not to go back to jail, Ramirez shot and killed Officer Niemi. Wilson used to wonder why Ramirez was ever let out of prison.

Now she wonders why he ever had to go in.

It is easy to blame the problem of police violence on racist cops with (the gender neutral equivalent of) small dicks and big Napoleon complexes. It is harder to take responsibility for the crap laws and fiscal irresponsibility that make bad cops inevitable.

___________________________

This post was first published at The Liberty Papers on August 11, 2015.

Takeaways From First Republican POTUS 2016 Debate

Participants line the stage in the Quicken Loans Arena at the first GOP debate of the 2016 season hosted by Fox News, Thursday, August 6, 2015.
Participants line the stage at first GOP debate of 2016 season, hosted by Fox News.

Kasich: Handled the gay marriage question with so much grace and kindness it surprised me. That answer should become the standard GOP position on the issue.

Paul: In the opening minutes of the debate, I contributed money to his campaign. Need I say more? He didn’t even have to be there and I would have thought he won. He ended up getting the least speaking time of all the candidates. I don’t think it was unfairness on the part of the moderators, however. He just used less time when given the opportunity. I think he’s playing a strategy of saying as little as possible in the hopes he can retain the libertarian vote while courting social conservatives. He disappointingly lost his cool when needled by Christie and Trump.

Trump: Went on about how he gives lots of money to politicians and then when he needs something, they do it for him. Suggested he could start calling Megyn Kelly vile names on Twitter because she’s not nice enough to him. I’m not sure he hurt himself. Those keeping him at the top of the GOP polls won’t care. My expectations were so low he had nowhere to go but up.

Rubio: A bit rehearsed, but so what? He was prepared and knew his stuff and perhaps gave solid policy answers versus talking points more often than some of the others. A lot of people in my Twitter feed seemed to think he and Kasich were the “winners.”

Bush: Every time he talked all I could think about was what a nice man he seems to be. By the end, I had a little crush going and found myself Googling his wife and thinking his parents must be really nice people. I can’t remember what he actually talked about, except that I couldn’t keep track of whether he was for or against Common Core. And I still wouldn’t vote for him. I predict he will be the nominee.

Christie: Doesn’t like the 4th Amendment or Rand Paul. I can’t remember anything else he said, but he seemed dour and unhappy throughout, with big solemn puppy dog eyes that I guess were supposed to make me take him seriously. I didn’t.

Walker: The main thing I remember is that he nodded so hard at everything Ben Carson said I started perceiving him as a bobble head.

Ben Carson: He does not have the temperament for POTUS. I kept imagining him leading a prayer group where no one ever raises their voice or speaks over one another and Carson nods encouragingly with his eyes half-closed at everything contributed by the other members. In the closing statements, he told a joke so delightful and adorable that I wondered where *that* Ben Carson had been all night.

Huckabee: The Planned Parenthood scandal seems to have pushed same-sex marriage from the center of the GOP radar. Huckabee managed to focus on the former without getting drawn into the latter. He mostly managed to avoid sounding too much like a big-government-social-conservative-closet-theocrat. I had to Google it just now to remember he was there. Oh wait. He did allude to his attack on judicial supremacy. Of all the nonsense peddled on the right, this is the most dangerous. If the GOP nominates a candidate who wants to abolish judicial supremacy, I will vote for the Democrat.

Oh yeah…

Cruz: He was there too. You know that commercial where the guy goes for an interview but he has a spot on his shirt and all the potential employer can hear is that spot yammering gibberish? Cruz is like that for me. Whenever he talks, all I can hear him saying is: “I am holding hearings to rein in the Supreme Court’s defense of individual freedom. And Lochner was wrongly decided!” I have no idea what else he might have said.