Wise Words


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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14 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    This comment, as insightful as it is, makes me *MORE* likely to see repeal of Prohibition 2.0 as the answer, not less.

    What Prohibition 2.0 is doing includes the following:

    1) It makes a huge chunk of people deliberately break the law. Maybe a misdemeanor, more likely a felony but they go out of their way to do this.

    2) It makes a huge number of folks automatically resent the cops. Instead of thinking “oh, good, the authorities” when they see them, folks say things that might feel at home in a late 80’s rap song.

    3) It makes the cops see themselves as distinct from citizens. Instead of “citizens”, we are seen as “civilians”.

    4) We have moved from a presumption of innocence to a presumption of “guilty of something”… which is, sadly, accurate. Everybody is guilty of something.

    Which brings us full circle to #1.

    This happened with Prohibition 1.0.
    It is not surprising that it happens with 2.0.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, Absolutely agree. I think the point here – and the reason why I promoted it – is that it explains persuasively why it is unhelpful to criticize the police for the tactics they choose and is instead far more appropriate to point out how those tactics are the inevitable and necessary result of the political regime we have put in place. That regime is democratically created with widespread approval and it literally demands that the police act in this manner.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        @Mark Thompson, I suppose I should be a big enough person to agree wholeheartedly… but I watch that video and I cannot, for the life of me, put myself in the place of the cops. I do not have enough depth of character to see myself as anyone but the guy asking if they killed his dog.Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Jaybird says:

          @Jaybird, Really? Because I think that’s one of the more tragic things about this whole thing, is the impact on the cops. They’re probably decent people most of the time, or at least no worse than any other group of random people you’d encounter at the office or in a bar or wherever. Seeing them turn into something like this is part of what’s heartbreaking about the whole scene.

          It reminds me a lot of the Wire, actually. Part of that show’s power came from forcing you to put yourself into the shoes of even a person like Stringer Bell. You look at him, and on one level obviously he’s a murderous bastard who should be punished; but on another level, you feel sorry that he was never allowed to be a CEO. It’s the same sort of thing, IMHO.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dan Miller says:

            @Dan Miller, Dan, for what it’s worth, I’ve tried composing a response to this three times. Each time, I started talking about Nazis.

            I’m guessing that that means that I should probably not respond beyond telling you why I haven’t responded.Report

    • Avatar Jivatman in reply to Jaybird says:


      Regarding #2,
      I think the effect is particularly pernicious.

      In free republics, the rule of law is the highest authority. Thus, when laws are widely ignored and disrespected, there is tyranny.

      The last three Presidents have admitted to smoking marijuana. Over half of people born since 1960 try it before age 21.

      I think people do, in fact, have at least somewhat of an innate sense of morality. Force and fraud are wrong and people understand this innately. However, the right to alter one’s consciousness, with or without substances, is a fundamental liberty.

      The deprivation of one’s natural liberty for doing so, and lifelong stigma in aspects of life for employment? A grave injustice.
      Said incarceration and stigma on a mass scale… increasingly effecting lawyers and other highly respected professionals?
      Well, you know what they say, a statistic…Report

    • Avatar Will in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, #3 is, by far, the most pernicious.
      I say this as a man that watched, only a month and a half ago, as the police put eight shots into a man that I had known for 11 years.
      He showed up at my house drunk, and refused to leave. I called the police to get him out of there. He had gone down into the creek bed about 100 ft from the house by the time the police arrived.
      He had an air pistol on him. They said he had been holding it to his neck the whole time. He fell over backwards, and when he tried to get up, they shot him– 5 shots into his side. Another shot severed one of his fingers.
      There was a standoff there, and I watched the whole thing unfold; but never once did I think they were about to kill my friend. When I heard the shots ring out and saw the puff of smoke hang in the air, then blow away, I was thinking to myself, “Surely they didn’t just kill my friend.”
      But they did.
      I don’t think they’re bad people; not at all. I think they are people trapped in an us-against-them mentality with everything around them reinforcing that.
      But the various ways that it comes out can be quite horrendous.
      I believe that far outweighs any sense of loss of liberty through the proscribing of mind-altering substances.

      What you fail to see in the video is that they would just as soon shoot another person as the animal.
      That’s a real problem.Report

  2. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Cops: the world’s biggest Milgram experiment.Report

  3. Avatar A.R.Yngve says:

    So you’ve tried to ban alcohol once, a drug which really does kill a lot of people directly (liver damage) or indirectly (violence, drunk driving)… and it failed, for the simple reason that anyone can manufacture alcohol easily.

    Same problem with pot (and as for its dangers, I find it hypocritical how little is said about lung and throat damage from smoking pot *or* tobacco) — it is too easy to manufacture to effectively stop.

    Guess what: It’ll get worse. Much, much worse, because of the coming revolution in computer-guided “micro-factories”.

    Already now, you can combine your PC with gadgets using plastic pellets as building material, and manufacture simple objects in your own home.

    The next step is to use your PC, the correct gadget, and household chemicals to manufacture drugs in your own home – medical, harmful, most drugs you could imagine.

    How do you wage war on that? That sort of ubiquitous technological power is not countered with threats. It has to be countered by teaching people social responsibility. The automobile is a dangerous tool, but we don’t ban cars. Guns are dangerous, but you haven’t banned them — we teach people how to use them responsibly and have laws and rules to limit abuse of the technology.

    A final victory over our own human folly will always be slightly out of reach.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I think the comment is great too. But I’m still skeptical. I used to work with this guy who was fat, creepy, and really antisocial. He used to “joke” about his guns and how someday he’d get the chance to beat up everyone who’d ever crossed him. He had a crush on a friend of mine, and she said he scared the hell out of her. Anyway, long story short: his big dream was becoming a cop. For him, it was all about power. Lots of “jokes” about that too. Hopefully, he failed the psychological tests.

    Then I also had a cop relative who used to pass around Polaroids of black kids who’d been hit by the Metro line at family gathering and do his “funny” black guy voice. Har har.

    I’m not saying that most cops are dicks. Probably not. But, if you’re a dick, it’s not a bad line of work.Report

  5. Avatar Barry says:

    I disagree with the original poster about ‘threatened animals lash out’. The police here were not threatened, they were the aggressors, and carried enough firepower and armor to win a military skirmish. And if anybody had actually succeeded in shooting a police officer and wasn’t killed immediately thereafter, he’d be looking at life in prison.

    This is anecdotal, but I’ve heard that clerking at a 7-11 in a bad neighborhood is more dangerous than being a police officer.Report

  6. Avatar Boegiboe says:

    I appreciate the discussion here, and wasn’t going to insert myself any further, except that Barry has defused the idea we were following. It doesn’t matter whether the police should feel threatened; it matters that they feel threatened. For what it’s worth, I think Jaybird’s first response lays things out pretty much the way I see them, and I come to the same conclusion: our current Prohibition institution must be repealed.

    Originally, a great deal of the popular support for banning drugs like marijuana came from good old fashioned American xenophobia. Mexicans smoke marijuana; therefore, it can’t be good, and banning it is a good way to clear them out. Many found it very easy to hate crack users when they consistently identified crack with African-American populations. Racism was a cause of the War on Drugs, and the outcome is overwhelmingly favorable to racists in this country. Plus, the environment it creates leads directly to events like the Rodney King beating or, more recently, Henry Louis Gates.

    As to anecdotes about horrible police officers: An institution (the Drug War) with its roots in racism and its fruits appealing to racists is going to attract racists to its ranks, such as Rufus’ relative. An institution (policing in general) in which brutality is likely to go unpunished is likely to attract brutes. It’s hardly surprising that the cross-section of these institutions attracts some of the worst elements of our society, but that doesn’t mean it’s fair to paint all police with the same brush. On the contrary, we must take it as a reminder of how hard it really is to be a decent police officer.

    Taking this together, I think it’s difficult to see how we can make much more real progress toward liberty and equality for all social groups/classes in this country while the Drug War continues. It’s also far too easy to see how the continuation of the Drug War steadily advances us to an Orwellian police state. My biggest hope in Obama’s election was that the nation’s first black president would finally start the process of dismantling this meat-grinder that makes criminals of so many good people, including so very many of our youth of color. We’ll see whether change is really in the cards, but it’s going to take some letters, I think, to give politicians the bravery they need to start.Report