Thursday, 1/7/16

  1. Bureaucratic Unaccountability
  2. Fear & Loathing at Cambridge
  3. Dark skin, dark money
  4. Damn racket update
  5. Blind pig update
  6. Better villains


I, who have never toked, continue to be haunted and outraged by this story of a SWAT Team raid on a house suspected of — are you ready for this — growing pot. In Tea and Unaccountability: Bureaucracy and the Drug War, Ken White, writing as Popehat, makes it even worse by explaining why nobody is accountable for such thuggishness.

Do read Popehat. I’ll wait.

All finished?

My first reaction was to say “That’s the last straw! I’m voting Libertarian and to legalize pot! Legal pot can’t be worse than this!” But then I came to my senses: this SWAT raid was not about marijuana.

How can I say that? How can I deny the obvious?

Because this SWAT raid really was not about marijuana.

The whole case arise from “Operation Constant Gardener,” a Sheriff’s initiative to conduct marijuana cultivation raids on April 20th because that date is considered an “unofficial holiday among marijuana users.” … When the seven officers could not find evidence of marijuana cultivation, they extended the search for a couple of hours in an effort to find personal use amounts of marijuana. They found none. The Sheriff’s Office later conducted a press conference bragging of the success of Operation Constant Gardener, presumably referring to other raids.

This was a publicity stunt by a Sheriff, probably elected. If pot were legalized, they’d find some “unofficial holiday” among fantasy football fans, septegenarian mahjong players, people who are tardy renewing pet licenses or something else.

And if it wasn’t a Sheriff, it would be an elected or politically ambitious prosecutor.

How much did all of that cost the taxpayers? Tens of thousands of dollars, at least. Was it worth it? Would it have been worth it even if law enforcement had found a private-residence-sized marijuana grow at the house? That’s not a question you’ll hear asked. The War on Drugs means never having to say “sorry I wasted your money.” Certainly nobody who’s paid to sit in a parking lot taking down license plates, or paid to raid trash cans and squint (quite literally) at tea leaves, or paid to devise cleverly-named gestures of defiance at marijuana users and then give press conferences about it, will ever ask that question. Financially, law enforcement is unaccountable.

The small amount of leaves in the trash is consistent with mere personal use of marijuana, and some would argue that a seven-officer armed raid is a disproportionate use of law enforcement force to investigate such use, but nobody’s asking about proportionality and nobody’s being held accountable for the lack thereof ….

The problem is that we voters reward elected preening creeps who trample on people to get re-elected or to climb to higher office. It will continue until the courts decide that limited immunity is feeding the beast of unaccountability or until voters decide that the problem is over-reaching law enforcement and prosecutors as much or more than the innumerable things we criminalize now.


Ever since I arrived at Cambridge as a student in 1964 and encountered a tribe of full-grown women wearing puffed sleeves, clutching teddies, and babbling excitedly about the doings of hobbits, it has been my nightmare that J.R.R. Tolkien would turn out to be the most influential writer of the twentieth century. The bad dream has materialized. At the head of the list, in pride of place as the book of the century, stands The Lord of the Rings.

(Germaine Greer via Joseph Pearce) I thought “book of the century” was a bit overwrought, but it says more about Greer than Tolkien that he fills her with such loathing.


It’s kind of ironic that today’s opponents of “dark money” and advocates of “transparency” are following in the footsteps of those who sought to silence persons of dark skin:

In 1956, the Alabama Attorney General sought a court order seeking to stop a politically active group from “conducting further activities within, and to oust it from, the State.” Among other things, the group had recruited members and solicited contributions within Alabama, had provided financial and legal support to students seeking admission at public universities, and had supported political boycotts. Throughout the litigation, the Attorney General demanded that this politically active group turn over the names and addresses of its members to the government. The group refused. And the case made its way up to the United States Supreme Court.

A unanimous Supreme Court struck down the State of Alabama’s attempt to compel the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to turn over its member list to the government.  In so doing, the Court compared the “[c]ompelled disclosure of membership in an organization engaged in advocacy of particular beliefs” to a “requirement that adherents of particular religious faiths and political parties wear identifying arm-bands.” Recognizing the “vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations,” the Court reiterated a fundamental principle under the First Amendment—the right to privately associate and speak freely without the fear of harassment or retaliation.

Unfortunately, the government reporting activists are at it again. Throughout the country, at all levels of government, there are efforts to force donors to private nonprofit organizations to turn their names, addresses, and contributions amounts over the government in order for those groups to engage in political dialogue.

Couched as transparency measures, these “dark money” disclosure mandates are in actuality a concerted effort to stifle speech with which disclosure advocates disagree.

(John Riches) This I believe. Having tasted the blood of Brendan Eich, they want more. Only the hateful ideology driving the suppression has changed.


Why are the politicians who say they’re concerned about the spreading income and wealth gaps all over this one?

But what about Tesla? Surely chief executive Elon Musk’s high-tech product, priced north of $100,000, will pave the way to all-electric nirvana, even if gas prices are, for now, heading down and interest rates are heading up.

That’s certainly the impression one would get from the press on Musk and his company, the most fawning media treatment of any public figure since Pravda covered Stalin.

Tesla did sell 50,580 vehicles worldwide in 2015, just within the 50,000-to-52,000 range that Musk promised investors. Skeptics note, though, that this is a trivial percentage of the global market, and that Tesla’s achievements generally have taken longer than initially promised. Tesla owes its survival tosubsidies from taxpayers, who are usually less well-heeled than its plutocratic customers; this Silicon Valley start-up has gotten $4.9 billion in state and federal support over the past decade, according to a May 30 Los Angeles Times report.

You’re welcome to your answer. Mine is that nobody has the guts to admit that we’re going to have to give up such extensive driving, that the rich are going to move back to the cities centripetally, and that those suburbs are going to be full of poor people paying $10 per gallon to commute to their jobs.


Darn! The second most offensive personality in the GOP field is right again!


Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both have campaigns about outrage, but Sanders’s has much better villains.

(Fun lead to a Gail Collins opinion piece in the New York Times)

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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.