Don’t Abolish the Police

Mariame Kaba op-ed in the June 20, 2020 edition of The New York Times, Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police.  She wrote:

“When people, especially white people, consider a world without the police, they envision a society as violent as our current one, merely without law enforcement…People like me who want to abolish prisons and police, however, have a vision of a different society, built on cooperation instead of individualism, on mutual aid instead of self-preservation.”

I’m one of those people who envision a society without police being as violent as our current one.

Like Kaba, I want to build a society based on cooperation instead of individual and on mutual aid instead of self-preservation. The problem I have with her argument is that she doesn’t offer a credible plan for dealing with predators and others of ill will who intrude into peaceable communities. She cites a long history of evil perpetuated by people who hold power – people who achieved power because they sought it, not because anyone conferred it on them – but says nothing about what becomes of those people once police cease to exist. That’s a failure of imagination which will get a lot of us killed. Abolishing organized law enforcement creates the conditions for vigilantism and for local authoritarians to take power. I appreciate many of her points but her lack of a coherent plan for dealing with evil is pathological. The need to protect one’s community from predators and people of ill will has existed for as long as communities have existed and will continue for as long as they do.

Friday the 13th

Yesterday, Friday the 13th, was my last full day at work.  At a high-level, I was tasked with “improving operational outcomes” of military actions.  One of my motivations for leaving was, in the course of doing my job, seeing shit I can’t unsee – not a lot of it but if you have an allergy to something it doesn’t take much to make an impression.  (That’s how I think of it.  I discovered that I have an allergy.  Some people can eat bags and bags of peanuts with no ill effects but others go into anaphylactic shock if they touch one – just luck of the draw.  If you have a peanut allergy then don’t eat peanuts.  Problem solved.)  Thinking about those things every day wore me down to the point that I need to do something else.  What did I see?  That human beings do awful things to one another.  That they spend a tremendous amount of time and energy preparing to do awful things to one another.  And if you think “If we could just get [Country X] to conduct themselves humanely then all would be well.” I’ve got news for you, hippie:  It’s a global problem.  Why we do these things to one another I’ll never understand.  What a waste.  I wish I had some insight into how to get people to stop but I have no fkg clue.  I’m sorry.

And He will judge between many peoples And render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they train for war. Each of them will sit under his vine And under his fig tree, With no one to make them afraid… 

– Micah 4:4

Guns into Garden Tools

My belief is that making it socially unacceptable to use weapons for entertainment will, in the long run, save many more lives than changing gun laws.  (By “entertainment” I mean shooting for the hell of it.  I regard hunting as a serious endeavor, not light entertainment.)  I used to shoot when I was a teenager decades ago. I enjoyed it. There was a zen to it – control your muscles, control your breathing. Picking up a rifle also seemed a bit like having a wild carnivore eat out of your hand. There was danger and the potential for things to go badly wrong but I had it under control.  There was a rush in that. Much as I enjoyed shooting then though, I’m done.  We need to renounce shooting as recreation.  Guns are not toys for grown-ups. They’re machines designed to kill.

Twenty questions for President Trump

From Benjamin Wittes:

  1. Are you making the allegation that President Obama conducted electronic surveillance of Trump Tower in your capacity as President of the United States based on intelligence or law enforcement information available to you in that capacity?
  2. If so—that is, if you have executive branch information validating that either a FISA wiretap or a Title III wiretap took place—have you reviewed the applications for the surveillance and have you or your lawyers concluded that they lack merit?
  3. If you know that a FISA wiretap took place, are you or were you at the time of the application, an agent of a foreign power within the meaning of FISA?
  4. Was anyone else working in Trump Tower an agent of a foreign power within the meaning of FISA?
  5. If you know that a Title III wiretap took place, are you or were you at the time of the application engaged in criminal activity that would support a Title III wiretap or might you have previously engaged in criminal activity that might legitimately be the subject of a Title III wiretap?
  6. Was anyone else working in Trump Tower engaged in criminal activity that would support a Title III wiretap or might another person have previously engaged in criminal activity that might legitimately be the subject of a Title III wiretap?
  7. If you were tweeting not based on knowledge received as chief executive of the United States, were you tweeting in your capacity as a reader of Breitbart or a listener of Mark Levin’s radio show?
  8. If so, on what basis are you confident the stories and allegations in these august outlets are true and accurate vis a vis the activity of the government you, in fact, now head?
  9. If you learned of this alleged surveillance from media outlets, did you or anyone on your staff check with any responsible law enforcement or intelligence officials or agencies before making public allegations against your own government?
  10. What exactly does any of this have to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger?

And ten more:

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Dan Charles, By Returning To Farming’s Roots, He Found His American Dream:

Eighteen years ago, on New Year’s Eve, David Fisher visited an old farm in western Massachusetts, near the small town of Conway. No one was farming there at the time, and that’s what had drawn Fisher to the place. He was scouting for farmland.

“I remember walking out [to the fallow fields] at some point,” Fisher recalls. “And in the moonlight – it was all snowy – it was like a blank canvas.”

On that blank canvas, Fisher’s mind painted a picture of what could be there alongside the South River. He could see horses tilling the land – no tractors, no big machineryand vegetable fields, and children running around.

This is David Fisher’s American Dream. It may not be the conventional American Dream of upward economic mobility. But dreams like his have a long tradition in this country. Think of the Puritans and the Shakers and the Amish. These American dreams are the uncompromising pursuit of a difficult ideal.

The scene that David Fisher imagined, on the New Year’s Eve almost two decades ago, has turned into reality. It’s called Natural Roots Farm.

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2016: Year of the Serpent

Paul Kingsnorth, 2016:  Year of the Serpent:

Last weekend, I was sitting in a packed room in the middle of a wild and wet Dartmoor listening to the mythologist Martin Shaw tell an old northern European story called The Lindworm. It is a tale about an unhappy kingdom. The king and queen want a child, but no child will come. An old wise woman tells the queen what she must do to conceive. She must breathe her desires into a glass and place it on the ground. From that ground, two flowers will grow: one red, one white. The queen must eat the white flower; under no circumstances must she eat the red one. Then she will bear a healthy child.

Of course, the queen is unable to resist eating the red flower too, despite all the warnings. The king and queen agree to tell no-one of the transgression, and the queen duly falls pregnant, but at the birth something terrible happens. The queen gives birth to a black serpent, which is immediately caught and flung in horror through the window and into the forest. People act as if nothing has happened, and the serpent is quickly followed by a healthy baby boy. But when the boy becomes a man, he meets his serpent brother again in the wood, and the huge black snake comes back into the kingdom to wreak terrible damage.

It’s a strange and disturbing story, and if it contains a lesson, it is, suggests Martin, that what you exile will come back to bite you, three times as big and twice as angry. What you push away will eventually return, and you will have to deal with the consequences.

Read the entire essay here.