COVID-19: Freedom Means That We Can Do Stupid Things, Not That We Have To

NBC News reports that US president Donald Trump is “furious” over “underwhelming” attendance at his June 20 campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Only 6,200 of 19,000 seats ended up cradling Trump supporters’ butts. An optimistically pre-arranged overflow area went unused.

Explanations abound: Trump’s campaign spokesman, Tim Murtaugh, blames “radical protesters, coupled with a relentless onslaught from the media.” Others note the 95-degree heat combined with thunderstorms — not the weather combination most conducive to standing in lines. Still others credit a social media campaign to request but not use tickets to the event.

The most obvious and likely explanations are simpler.

First, Trump isn’t as popular, nor is his base as enthusiastic and energized, at the moment as was the case four years ago.

Second, despite what you may have heard, an individual’s support for Trump does not necessarily indicate more general idiocy.

Believe it or not, COVID-19 really is a thing, people really are worried about it, and it really is sensible to take precautions.

Has COVID-19 been abused by opportunistic bureaucrats and authoritarian politicians as an excuse to violate our rights? Yes.

Have we found ourselves bombarded by dubious claims about everything from how COVID-19 is transmitted to what must be done for humanity to survive it? Absolutely.

Have mask-wearing and other measures transcended their practical containment value and become more like public testimonials to belief in junk “science” as a state-sponsored religion? Yep.

The “lockdowns” should never have happened, it’s a good thing they’re ending, and the sooner life gets back to something resembling normal the better.

On the other hand, it’s a real disease that’s really killing people, and taking reasonable precautions is, well, reasonable.

Yes, as freedom returns, some people will throw caution entirely to the winds. They should be free to act like idiots, right up to the point they actually — not prospectively, not hypothetically, ACTUALLY — cause harm to non-consenting others.

They should also be free to refrain from acting like idiots.

Packing tens of thousands of people from hundreds or thousands of miles around into an arena for a rally in Tulsa was an idiotic idea that might as well have been designed specifically to maximize the spread of COVID-19. But hey, it turned out that most of Trump’s supporters from that area weren’t idiots after all.

Packing thousands of Republicans from all over the country into an arena in Jacksonville, Florida in August, or hundreds of Libertarians from 50 states into a hotel ballroom in Orlando, Florida in July, for gratuitous “national convention events” are idiotic ideas too.

No, those events shouldn’t be prohibited. Freedom demands that they not be interfered with. But freedom also allows us non-idiots to avoid the events and scorn their organizers.

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Rioting is Wrong Way to Protest

There’s a correct way to protest injustice and there’s a wrong way.

You may have recently noticed people in several big cities doing it the wrong way. Although, perhaps people pretending to side with the protesters were intentionally making the protesters look bad — it’s hard to know which.

I’ve been writing about, and opposing, police brutality for years. It’s an important topic. When someone commits wrong while using the defense “I was just doing my job,” I’m among the first to reject the excuse.

Don’t hide your contempt for human life behind your job. A badge can’t grant extra rights and shouldn’t shield bad guys from consequences.

Fighting against a wrongful kidnapping — whether by a freelance kidnapper or by someone committing the ritual euphemistically called an “arrest” — is not a legitimate reason to be killed. Any protest triggered by such a death is justified.

However, if your protest targets the wrong people by violating the life, liberty, and property of people who weren’t the problem, you are behaving no differently than those you protest.

Rioting is the wrong way to protest. Looting, arson, and vandalism are even worse. Blocking traffic will also turn opinion against you. At that point, you’re no longer on the side of justice and I want nothing to do with you. I might agree with every point you are protesting, but I will stand against any rioting or looting. You’ll lose your chance to have another person on your side.

Multiply this effect by thousands and you might see why it’s a bad idea to treat everyone as your enemy.

Don’t harm your own cause. Don’t drive people away if you want them to agree with you.

You’ll also risk wasting your life by forcing people to defend themselves and their property from you.

Your life matters. Act like it matters to you. To be treated as though your life doesn’t matter is wrong, whether or not your treatment is recognized as a crime.

Other people’s lives matter, too. For someone to take a life when the death wasn’t necessary to defend the life, liberty, or property of innocent victims is wrong even if your job allows it or you believe your cause justifies it.

I have no love for police, but they are no worse than the rioters, vandals, and looters. I won’t choose sides in that battle but will stand with those who refuse to violate other people in any way. It’s the right thing to do.

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On Qualified Immunity

Of all the things I’m pessimistic on, the abolition of the doctrine of qualified immunity is probably at the top. I do not expect to see any significant progress made on abolishing this horrible statist practice in my lifetime, or the lifetimes of my children. I’m more optimistic on the police becoming obsolete in some way and simply disappearing in any form requiring qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is protected by police unions, and police unions are protected by their willingness and ability to cause major disruptions in society. If we think social justice rioters are bad, imagine organized police union protests in the name of protecting qualified immunity. Talk about a civil war. And that’s today’s two cents.

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Got Your Divide, Got Your Conquer

Nobody asked but …

There’s a popular behavior that consists of dividing everything in two parts.  All people are of two kinds — those who like this behavior, and those who don’t.

First those of ill-will tell us we must choose (why must we, btw?).  There are two occasion: being judicious, sometimes it is wise to make a binary choice, and sometimes not.

Last week I saw a statistical graphic on Facebook.  It was underlabeled and overinterpreted.  Mislabeling purported that it was a showing of dramatically different rates of Coronavirus cases by Red vs Blue political districts.  But how did the pollster determine which territory leaned which way?  How many voters were in each district?  At what level were the offices determined — local, state, federal?  What had been long term results of voting, or short term?  What had been long and short term effects of gerrymandering?

The graphic simply did not say, but complicated division was going on nonetheless — there was division between those who understood statistics and those who did not.  There was division between those who understood graphic representation and those who did not.  There was division among those who sought confirmation and those who sought information.

But why do we allow this kind of labeling?  Those among us who are cogent realize that this is knee-jerk divisiveness that is second nature to politicos.

Now we have at least 4 wedges at work, coronavirus, government response to a pandemic (real or supposed), police brutality, and protest.  Each of these wedges are in the process of spinning off new wedges, as I write.

But considering only the 4, that gives us the potential for 16 groups of sentiment composition (2^4).  But journalism keeps drumming up new wedges which are surreptitiously ideated by courtiers in the oligarchy.  The more division, the smaller are groups to be conquered.  The more division, the exponentially more groups of minorities.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Police Violence: “Reform” Is Not Enough

Every few years, some particular instance of a pervasive phenomenon — police violence in the form of unjustified or at least highly questionable killings — “goes viral” with the result that America’s cities explode in protest.

Every time that happens, some American politicians complain about a non-existent “war on police,” while others promise “reforms” such as closer supervision (like the increase in body camera use following the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri), civilian review boards to investigate complaints, better training, and of course more money.

After each round of “reforms,” the problem continues.

“We can’t settle for anything other than transformative structural change,” says US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). She’s right, but the bill she’s  promoting — the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 — isn’t any such thing.

The bill isn’t likely to become law. It may pass the Democratic House, but the Republican Senate and White House are already busking for support from police unions and their faux “law and order” base in November’s elections.

And even if it did pass, it’s a glass not even half full. Pelosi herself contradictorily describes it as both “full, comprehensive action” and “a first step” with “more to come.”

The bill would “reform,” rather than eliminate, “qualified immunity.” It would reduce some of the barriers that plaintiffs have to get over in holding police accountable for rights-violating misconduct, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Cops need to be held to EXACTLY the same standards as civilians when it comes to use of force.

The bill would also outlaw “no-knock raids,” but only for drug cases. “No-knock raids” are nothing less than violent home invasion burglaries. They’re precisely the kind of “unreasonable searches” forbidden by the Fourth Amendment and need to be outlawed entirely.

The Justice in Policing Act isn’t “transformative structural change.” It’s a band-aid on a gaping, traumatic wound that is, indeed, structural.

The root of the problem isn’t police violence.  It’s police themselves, and the system they serve. The purpose of police as we know them is to hold the productive class down so that the political class rule and rob us, full stop. Everything else — “serve and protect,” etc. — is incidental or illusory.

Progressives calling for “defunding” of the police are on the right track, or would be if they were serious. Most of them seem to use “defund” to mean “shift funding between state activities,” not to mean “eliminate a state activity.” They don’t want the pepper balls and rubber bullets, but they refuse to abandon the system the pepper balls and rubber bullets prop up.

“Transformative structural change” would require more than re-training and de-militarizing the police. It would require dis-empowering them and going back to voluntary community “peace officer” models of law enforcement.

Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, et al. know their control over the rest of us relies on the existing police state model. The only way for it to go is for them to go as well.

We need a real revolution, not fake “reform.”

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On Police Brutality III

It’s difficult to emphathize with a protest against racism if empathy, at it’s core, is projection. To my knowledge, I have never been the victim of racism, nor have I ever victimized another on the basis racism. I do not believe that I have a racist bone in my body, but I have been, according to my perception, brutalized. No, not by the police, but certainly by authority figures, and mostly from early in life. Plus, I loathe authoritarianism. A protest against police brutality I can get behind and support and empathize with, but it’s driving me crazy that the narrative surrounding the current episodes of protests are focusing on racism, and not the authoritarianism inherent in monopolistic policing practices. Minneapolis City Council is pledging to dismantle their police department. Let’s hope this reduces the disgusting and shameful authoritarian impulse and spreads around the country. And that’s today two cents.

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