Decarceration: COVID-19 is Opportunity Knocking

On March 23, 14 US Senators from both major political parties asked US Attorney General William Barr and Michael Carvajal, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to “transfer non-violent offenders who are at high risk for suffering complications from COVID-19 to home confinement.”

It’s a smart idea, and one local jails and state prisons around the country are already implementing. But it raises an important question and also points to an important opportunity.

The question: If the prisoners in question pose no threat of violence, why were they sent to jail or prison in the first place?

The opportunity: The COVID-19 outbreak should mark the beginning of mass decarceration, not just a temporary exception to a dumb and damaging practice.

More than 2.3 million Americans live in cages.

The vast majority of them are not murderers, rapists, armed robbers, or kidnappers.

In fact, many of them didn’t victimize anyone at all — they didn’t pick your pocket or steal your car, they just got caught disobeying this or that arbitrary government edict (for example, laws against using or selling marijuana).

But instead of letting them pay their own rent, buy their own food, and provide for their own medical insurance — not to mention earning money to pay restitution to their victims if they have any — American politicians extort nearly $200 billion a year from American taxpayers to confine them in institutions that provide those already criminally inclined with higher educations in their chosen fields while simultaneously promoting the spread of every malady imaginable from anti-social behavior to substance abuse to, yes, infectious disease.

That was crazy before the pandemic. It’s crazier now, as even the most dim-witted among us (our politicians) are beginning to understand. And it would be bat-feces insane to go right back to it once the COVID-19 panic ends.

We already have at our disposal, and are already using, the  technology and manpower we need to do away with incarceration for all but the most violent and dangerous criminals: The electronic tracking devices already used to enforce “house arrest” and “work release” convicts, and correctional institution staff who can be transitioned into jobs as tracking monitors and/or probation and parole officers.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. We’ve had the way for ages. COVID-19 has at least temporarily created the will. Let’s hold on to the lesson permanently instead of falling back into error  when this present crisis ends.

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What’s the Worst Thing?

I don’t think it’s death.

Death sucks, and the drive for life is good. But inability to make peace with the utter inevitability of death can lead a person to things worse than death.

I’ve written on this theme before (here most recently) as it’s cropped up in my life with increased frequency. Panic and denial over death can lead humans to do ugly, shameful things. The goal of a human life ought not to be death denial (though pursuits of life extension are awesome) but dignity from start to finish, including a dignified death.

Dignified death has more to do with the frame of mind of the dying than physical circumstances. There’s a reason the peaceful martyr moves us (and sometimes causes a massive social movement). Seeing someone approach death without fear, but with courage, resolve, peace, and dignity reflects the highest human spirit and inspires those of us still living.

The fight for life is noble. Until it’s not. We’ve seen enough epochs of history and fictional portrayals to know the depths of depravity humans can reach when they fall into a zero-sum trap and maniacally compete with their fellow humans for any last gasp of life. We’ve seen what a fever of fear can do to a mob beyond reason.

Each of us has an individual duty to live well. And living well includes dying well. We can’t control the external circumstances of our deaths, but we can control our mentality and example as we face it.

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COVID-19: What Would Rosie The Riveter Do?

Half the readers I hear from accuse me of Trump Derangement Syndrome. The other half accuse me of rabid Trump fandom. In truth, I think of US President Donald J. Trump in exactly the same way I think of most other politicians: He’s usually wrong and often dangerous. But when he’s right he’s right.

He’s right when he says that America needs to “open up” soon.

If anything, his target date of Easter is too distant.

The longer we wait to get moving again, the longer it will take to recover.

The longer we wait, the more Americans will descend into, or fall deeper into, poverty.

The longer we wait, the more Americans will die of causes other than coronavirus.

If we wait TOO long, starvation and malnutrition will be among those causes.

We don’t have to like it. That’s how it is whether we like it or not.

One of the oddest assertions I’ve heard from American politicians is that the COVID-19 outbreak is “our generation’s World War 2.”

I’m far too young to remember World War 2, but I’ve listened to veterans talk about it, read its history, and love the era’s propaganda posters. Rosie the Riveter in “We Can Do it!” “Lay-Offs Cost Lives!” “Work To Win.”

I’m trying to imagine a propaganda poster for “our World War 2,” and all that comes to mind is a hand reaching out from under a bed to grab a government check.

That image isn’t nearly as inspiring, is it? Nor is the sentiment nearly as practical.

America won World War 2 by working and fighting. It isn’t going to beat COVID-19 by shutting down and cowering.

Our politicians are thoroughly enjoying their extended Mussolini cosplay holiday, but their “lockdown” orders and such are merely feeding their egos, not starving the virus. The longer we continue to put up with that authoritarian nonsense, the harder it’s going to get to reclaim our rights and put them back in their places. Once they get used to filthy serfs like you and me taking a knee when they pass by, they’re not going to want to give it up.

The more quickly we seize back control of our lives — from the virus and from the politicians — the more quickly our lives will start getting better again.

Call me a Trump fanboy if it makes you feel better, but I’m with the president on this one.

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Costs of Government Action on Coronavirus

Some whiny statists are complaining that not everyone is embracing the measures being imposed by government to “deal with” the coronapocalypse. It is claimed that they are endangering lives by “downplaying” the risk.

No, they are not endangering society, nor will they be the cause of millions (or even dozens) of extra deaths. People who are “downplaying” coronavirus are serving an important purpose. Besides disarming the panic-bomb, I mean.

What they are doing is acting as a drag chute to slow down runaway government overreach.

This is essential.

Those who object to the “downplayers” aren’t adequately (or even minimally) considering the costs of government intervention. You’ve seen this happen in other topics as well, such as with AGCC/”climate change”.

Government-supremacists are pushing the narrative that not taking the actions government promotes will cause deaths, but are ignoring the deaths which will result from doing the wrong thing, or even too much of the “right thing”. They are not considering the costs and benefits of both courses.

Maybe doing nothing about COVID 19 would kill more people. Of course, you have the option of doing everything you ought to do without government mandating anything. Doing something doesn’t require anything being done by government. That is a bad assumption to make. But, I will concede that ignoring the problem would probably result in some unnecessary deaths.

However…

Damaging the economy– as government is actively doing– will also kill people. For certain. It may, in the long run, kill more people than the coronavirus would have even if no one had done anything about it– but we don’t know. We won’t know. There is no way to know because you can’t rewind history and change what was done.

Yes, some people caution against comparing how many deaths are resulting now and comparing that to the total deaths in previous plagues after they were over. That makes sense. However, you can compare death rates in the midst of the event– which is something government-supremacists don’t seem to like for anyone to do. It gets in the way of the narrative they prefer.

This is why we need brakes on the speeding car of statism. Those who “downplay” the danger are those brakes. They complete the costs vs. benefits big picture for the situation. Without them you only get one side, advocating only one path. Objecting to the balance they provide is not productive or smart.

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Who’s in Charge Here?

Nobody asked but …

… I’d like to know.  The first stage of panic (and second and third) is to scramble around looking for someone to follow.  Many of us followed others into bars, but clearly most followed hoarders of toilet paper and hand sanitizer into all the dollar stores, the drugstores, and the supermarkets.  But the thing that is now most scarce is information.  Human beings continue to query “whadya know?”, but the answer is still “not much, you?”

Some say that in times of war, the first casualty is the truth.  But the “truth” is that the human race is at war with itself.  Will we win, and what will a win look like?

At any rate, here are some questions I’d like to be answered (and I’ll bet you would too):

  • Who’s in charge?  Every scheme cooked up throughout history has been a kicking of the can down the road.  If the buck really stops somewhere, why hasn’t the buck stopped?
  • What is “the buck?”
  • WTF?  Did POTUS really offer help to North Korea?  Who’s the dunderhead who decided that we are fine, so NK needs our help?  Is NK the model of collective that we seek to preserve?
  • Is there anyone with a microphone and teevee camera who will stand up and say “I am just a narcissistic glutton who will make up bullshit just to keep the red light glowing?”
  • Does one have a duty to others?  Yes, if you know them personally and have accepted responsibility for their care.  I have Kilgorette with whom I have exchanged vows.  We have 2 daughters, 8 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren.  We have neighbors.  We have friends.  We have 2 horses, 3 dogs, and 7 cats.  We do not triage among the members of this list.  After that, triage.  North Korea is vanishingly small on that list.
  • How do I get tested?  Where?  When?
  • If I am looking for a manager for my life, whom should I turn to?  The only possible answer is ME.

Stay tuned.  More questions are forming.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Yes, the COVID-19 Panic Does Call for Drastic Measures

As an old saying goes, it’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the end.

The world’s politicians are innovating on the fly (pun intended) by trying to combine the fall — the COVID-19 epidemic — with the sudden stop, bringing life and commerce to a halt through draconian travel restrictions, business closures, etc.

We don’t yet know what the COVID-19 death toll is going to be. In the US,  based on current numbers, it looks like we’re going to see quite a few more deaths than occurred in the 9/11 attacks, more even than from the usual seasonal flu, but not nearly as many as predicted by the “I know the word exponential! I know how to draw a hockey stick on graph paper! Quick, hide under the bed, or COVID-19 WILL GIT YEWWW!” social media crowd.

What we’ve not yet seen is anything remotely justifying the declarations of dictatorship coming from politicians at all levels of government.

Everyone from mayors to governors to the president himself is getting in on the act, claiming authority to shut down businesses the politician doesn’t consider “essential” — and at the federal level to centrally plan and manage those businesses’ operations — to clear the streets of anyone and everyone whose activities the politician hasn’t listed as “approved,” etc.

On the back end, those same politicians are trying to figure out how to cushion the economic blow of their own authoritarian stupidity with bank and corporate bailouts, individual stimulus checks, and other voodoo rituals that threaten to turn a short, mild recession into a Greater Depression.

I do agree that the situation calls for drastic measures, and I have one to offer:

I propose a 90-day total quarantine, effective immediately, on all elected or appointed government officials.

By “total,” I mean they are to be restricted to their homes without telephone or Internet access, and physically restrained if they try to leave, have a communication device smuggled in, or speak to anyone through an open window.

As compensation (and to keep ringers from smuggling out proclamations), the taxpayers should provide for grocery delivery.

Three months without politicians exploiting panic to enhance their own power would reduce both the short-term death toll and the long-term problems of economic recovery.

Alternatively, we could all just start ignoring them and their edicts and get back to living again whether they like it or not.

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