Someone raised two bleached American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge. Apparently the cameras and Orwellian police surveillance signs did not stop them. Nor did it, yet, allow the New York Police Department to catch who did it. If the juxtaposition of this sign and the flags — perhaps a protest, the symbolism is your guess — didn’t illustrate a problem this statement made by Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President might:
“If flying a white flag atop the Brooklyn Bridge is someone’s idea of a joke, I’m not laughing. The public safety of our city is of paramount importance, particularly our landmarks and bridges that are already known to be high-risk targets. We will not surrender our public safety to anyone, at any time. Political and social expression, whatever its message may be, has a place in our society, but not at the expense of others’ security. I am confident in the NYPD’s ability to investigate this matter.”
“We will not surrender our public safety to anyone, at any time.” Speak for yourself, Eric. Many individuals prefer dangerous freedom to living in a secure police state. And your statement reads like the political equivalent of an old man telling children to get off of his lawn. Except the old man is confused and it is not even his lawn to begin with.
What if a police officer witnesses another officer commit an act of brutality? If it were any other individual they would be arrested on the spot. Not so here. When Lieutenant Lawrence Curtis witnessed Officer Matthew Worden brutalize a man and tamper with evidence he had to ask the state’s attorney, Gail Hardy, for a warrant. And Hardy refused. According to Hardy’s rationale, “Worden’s conduct seemed to be aimed at an attempt to restrain Maher who was resisting officers’ attempts to handcuff him, rather than an intention to inflict physical harm.”
Police in Enfield, Connecticut, were ready to arrest one of their own, Matthew Worden, for punching a suspect when it was “neither necessary nor needed.” They prepared a 7-page arrest warrant where it sounded like the cop’s excuse was that his victim got in the way of his punches, but the state’s attorney in Hartford rejected the application because, well, the incident was too complicated to follow.
Add this to the long list of ways the criminal injustice system is broken. A judge might not be held accountable even if they broke the law, engaged in corruption and damaged an individual socially, mentally and financially.
Disgraced former Wayne County Circuit Judge Wade McCree, who had an affair with a woman while presiding over her child custody case, got some good news from a federal appeals court this week: He can’t be sued by the child’s father.
That’s what the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in a 24-page decision Monday, stating that while McCree’s actions were “often reprehensible,” he is immune from lawsuits under the long-held doctrine of judicial immunity.
The ruling rubbed one attorney the wrong way: Joel Sklar, who is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court for help in loosening up the doctrine that says judges can’t be sued for decisions they make on the bench.
It has become passé to invoke the ghost of Hitler, National Socialism or the Third Reich. Godwin’s law is an adage that says: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” It is inevitable that if Hitler or National Socialism is mentioned an individual will eventually speak up and chirp out, “Godwin!” This means that we have discovered a second so-called law: In any online discussion where Nazis are Hitler are mentioned the probability of someone gleefully shouting, “Godwin!” approaches 1.
This is often accompanied by the phrase “as bad.” As in “this politician is not as bad” or “the state is not as bad.” And for the most part this is true. Most modern politicians are not literally as bad as Adolf Eichmann, nor are the atrocities committed by many states as bad as the Holocaust. The statement is literally true. Yet this statement, along with Godwin’s law, is also used to shut people up and limit discourse.
The literal truth of “not as bad” is also the literal truth in comparing any two states. All regimes, ideologies, and politicians have been distinct and incomparable. Especially many of the world’s most brutal. Yet, the point of history is to compare these events. More importantly it is to learn from past events. If we have developed a level of discourse where no comparison at all can be made to the Nazi regime we effectively wall it off and seal it out; we can draw no parallels, no conclusions and thus can not learn anything from it.
And if we take that approach, if we reject our ability to draw comparisons from the past, how do we ensure that we are not doomed to repeat it?
Joseph Rudolph Wood III remained alive at Arizona’s state prison in Florence long enough for his public defenders to file an emergency motion for a stay of execution with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, after the process began at 1:53 p.m. CST. The motion noted that Wood “has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour” after being injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs.
According to Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, who witnessed the execution, lines were run into each of Wood’s arms. After Wood said his last words, he was unconscious by 1:57 p.m. At about 2:05, he started gasping, Kiefer said.
“I counted about 660 times he gasped,” Kiefer said. “That petered out by 3:33. The death was called at 3:49,” Kiefer said.
Another reporter who witnessed the execution, Troy Hayden, said it was “very disturbing to watch … like a fish on shore gulping for air.”
Imagine a hypothetical alternative scenario. Wood is strapped down to the table. He is given the injection. He starts to gasp and it is evident something is not right. A jailer leans over, ties a cord around Wood’s neck and strangles him, finishing him off. Would this be legal or just? Many might say it would be preferable to letting him suffer. Yet it would be unlawful. Thus, this statement shows just how Kafkaesque and bizarre state sanctioned executions are:
Gov. Jan Brewer issued a statement Wednesday saying she was concerned about the length of time it took for the drug to complete the lawful execution. She said she has ordered the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process.
“One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer,” her statement said.
Not only did the individual suffer — no form of capital punishment is free of suffering — but the eyewitness accounts we have say that he suffered in a particularly extreme and gruesome way.
Back in February I compared an assortment of political spectrums and questionnaires. Here are two more I had not seen:
This is Thomas L. Knapp’s political bell curve. You can read what he has to say about it at the Center for a Stateless Society. I think that this is one of the better conceptions of a political spectrum in that it accounts for anarchism and movements such as anarcho-capitalism or right-libertarianism. It is also correct in distinguishing classical anarchists, classical liberals, and market anarchists from modern right-libertarians such as Ron Paul or anarcho-capitalists such as Murray Rothbard:
On the far Left (market anarchism) and the far Right (anarcho-capitalism), appetite for political government trails off to zero (which is why “Left” and “Right” libertarians have so much in common).
As we move toward the political center, that appetite grows. The “Left” and “Right” disagree on ends, but closer to that center, both see government as an acceptable means to their desired ends. And the center is a corrupting influence. As you get closer to it, you grow less willing to give up the means and more willing to give up the ends.
It is also spot-on in that it accounts for the similarity between left-wing authoritarian ideologies, such as those of Stalin and Mao, and right-wing authoritarian ideologies such as the fascism of Mussolini. Rothbard and Thoreau are questionable placements on this chart; arguably Rothbard should be further to the right, squarely within the anarcho-capitalists instead of the Paul/Rand libertarians, while Thoreau should be further to the left on the very fringes of classical liberalism.
Here is a chart by Jesus Huerta de Soto that plots political ideologies on an axis of pro-state/anti-state and pro-private property/anti-private property:
This bucks typical the right-left paradigm, which is good. The left-right paradigm is relevant only in the context of the internal party politics of any given state. It has never been an accurate way to contrast ideologies and regimes across history. This, like Knapp’s bell curve, helps to explain the similarities in the authoritarian left (e.g. Stalinists) and the authoritarian right (e.g. Nazis, fascists). It may show too much sympathy to classical liberals, some of whom placed limits on private property (Locke’s provisos) and most of whom believed in states and social contracts. That is, it is questionable if “classical liberals” should be almost straddling the line between statists and anti-statists.
In the city of Amargosa in Brazil, citizens took to the streets after a stray bullet fire by a local police officer struck and killed a one-year-old girl. But they didn’t stay in the streets. They quickly took the police station, freeing prisoners, jacking state-owned weaponry and burning the station and police vehicles to the ground.
In the end, no one was seriously harmed and the message was sent: We won’t accept your institution’s “collateral damage” any longer. We are taking it, we are burning it, we are taking the weapons of the police for ourselves. Eventually, this “riot” was quelled by neighboring police forces, but in the Battle of Amargosa 16th of July 2014, the victors were the citizens. And what of the state officials most likely to face the wrath of these fierce, enraged individuals? Like the cowards they are, they held up inside a local hotel.
Eric Garner is dead and nothing will change because of that. At most, we will see a policy shift discouraging chokeholds (will of course not be abided by). Tomorrow or next week, there will be another Eric Garner. There will be another Eric Garner because there is still an NYPD precinct that wasn’t razed.
Read it in full: Where’s Eric Garner’s Amargosa?
A very good article by Ryan Calhoun on Eric Garner. I have said the same myself: until Americans begin to fight back aggressively against the police then the brutality will continue to escalate. Although many people would argue that fighting back will precipitate additional police aggression, I feel confident to say this line of reasoning is mistaken. It is the very willingness of people to fight back against the police that has kept police brutality in check in Europe and Latin America. Nor does the fear of additional police aggression delegitimize the right to fight back. It simply keeps people fearful, cowed and submissive. If Americans adopted this pessimistic attitude of defeat in the 18th century the American Revolution might have never happened.
The Libertarian Horse of Troy
We all know some version of the story. In Virgil’s Aeneid the Achaeans construct a giant wooden horse. The Achaeans place the horse outside the gates of Troy. The inhabitants of Troy are confused and ask the bearer of the horse, a boy named Sinon, just what exactly is going on. Sinon tells the Trojans that the Achaeans have left him behind and that the wooden horse is an offering to Minerva. The horse, Sinon says, will bring good fortune to the people of Troy if they bring it inside the gates. If they destroy the horse, however, Minerva will destroy Troy.
The Trojans bring the horse inside the gates. Then that evening, after dark, the Achaeans spill out of the belly of the wooden horse and start killing people.
The Trojan horse is an apt political metaphor. “Libertarian” politicians, too, are no exception. The crony capitalist Koch brothers may be the epitome of the Trojan horse, dangling the lure of free markets with one hand held out while rigging the corporatist state with the other hand behind their backs. Rand Paul, a GOP politician, also whispers words of liberty while simultaneously engaging in authoritarian party politics. But is a lesser known politician, a man named David Patterson, also a Trojan horse?
You see, David Patterson is a police officer in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. In 1995 Patterson finished a B.S. in Police Administration. Patterson has worked for six different police departments in Kentucky. And Patterson has specialized in apprehending people for victimless crimes: according to his own campaign website he has “multiple awards for impaired driving apprehension.”
The Campaign Platform
Patterson’s own platform, which you should read, is vague and nonspecific. Most political platforms are phrased in such a way that they espouse goals most people agree with. No bailouts and tax reform – issues now embraced by Republican and Democratic politicians alike. Immigration reform, similarly, is a bipartisan issue. And at this point allowing farmers to grow hemp is not a controversial position.
When I visited Patterson’s campaign website it felt like the empty, bland promises of a party politician. In short, it did little to inspire trust. If a politician says, “I would end the drug war,” for example, this can mean anything. Does he mean the full legalization of all drugs, or the gradual transition of “soft” drugs such as marijuana to a highly regulated and taxed market? Or does it mean keeping certain drugs illegal, yet simply ending the current policies of enforcement? Politicians have said they wanted to “end the drug war” before. Few have stuck by that position when pressed. Many mean something very different by that phrase. Ron Paul, to his credit, famously said that he would favor the legalization of vices such as heroin and prostitution. Rand Paul, despite having said he opposed the drug war in the past, backtracked and reassured evangelicals that he would not end the drug war.
The Facebook Platform
I decided to have a look at Patterson’s Facebook. I was surprised. I expected more intangible political obfuscations. That is, I expected it to resemble the heavily sanitized Facebook of party politicians or Patterson’s own campaign website. Instead, Patterson seemed to be fairly candid. And despite his long career as a police officer Patterson seemed to have a genuine anti-authoritarian streak.
Patterson’s Facebook was full of libertarian memes and images. Many had strong anti-state, even anarchist, implications. He was calling for the full abolition of the NSA. He said taxation is theft. He quoted Murray Rothbard. That alone put him outside of the Koch and Rand Paul category.
And then it hit me. Patterson was either lying, another political Trojan horse attempting to court anti-authoritarians, or the words he was reading meant something very different to him than they did to me. This was the only way I could reconcile his behavior — his career as a police enforcer — with his political sentiments.
For example, take this image that Patterson shared:
I don’t know how Patterson interprets this, but, “if John told you that you had to obey him or he would violate you” describes the role of law enforcement. It is only through illegitimate threats of force that individuals are made to comply with unjust laws. And yet Patterson is one of the agents of enforcement. How, in his mind, does he reconcile his own career with this type of rhetoric? Does Patterson not see that he is John in this image? His choice of career makes him John every single day.
Patterson, however, is not unaware of this contradiction. If you’ve already asked yourself just how a libertarian can be a cop, well, he has an answer for you (sort of):
You may have noticed two things: he did not answer the question and he has only been a libertarian a very short period of time. Neither “I have been a ‘cop’ for almost eighteen years” nor his statement on the “many different duties” of a police officer get at the heart of the issue. This may be because it is impossible to reconcile a career that mandates acts of aggression with adherence to the nonaggression principle.
It all breaks down here. I do believe that Patterson believes some version of the things that he says. I believe that he agrees with his interpretation of the memes that make his Facebook look like Reddit’s /r/LibertarianMeme. He is not being intentionally dishonest. Patterson is stuck in the position of an individual who halfway knows that his behavior is wrong, but is not willing or able to change it. This is the precariously defensive position shared by both police officers and politicians. This position creates cognitive dissonance. And cognitive dissonance breeds rationalization.
Here’s a rationalization that may be familiar to anybody who has spent time with law enforcement:
This might have been a great opportunity for Patterson to distinguish himself from mainstream law enforcement and politicians. Instead of playing the “cop hate” card, oft used to by police officers to gloss over why people dislike the police, Patterson might have used his unique experience as a law enforcement officer to address the issue. The individuals who were the topic of this story, Jared and Amanda Miller, were both libertarians who had libertarian rationales for what they did. This makes the event a particularly relevant issue for a politician who is also a police officer, who also claims to be a libertarian, to address. And by address I mean explain with more than a hand-wave and dismissive utterance of “anti-cop” or “hate” to describe the thousands of people who commented on the CopBlock article in question.
Patterson also seems self-unaware in some moments. While he thanks Americans on Veterans Day he overlooks that this holiday is one form of American propaganda that perpetuates a culture of warrior worship and support for foreign intervention. Many libertarians are tired of such prostrations and see them as culturally harmful. Patterson’s campaign boast of awards in “impaired driving apprehension” seems a faux pas that ignores the the libertarian rejection of victimless crimes as well as Kentucky’s own draconian DUI policies, including mandatory minimum sentences, multi-year sentences, felony DUIs, and sobriety checkpoints.
Should You Vote For David Patterson?
Patterson wants you to vote. All politicians want you to vote for them. Patterson’s Facebook is full of testimonials by and anecdotes of people who say they will vote for him. One image macro calls non-voting “surrender” and another depicts the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant throwing feces at one another. There is no critical analysis of voting itself, which also adds to the sense of self-unawareness surrounding Patterson.
That said, if you live in Kentucky and you plan to vote then Patterson is as good as anyone. That is as far as I can endorse him, because that also means that he is as bad as anyone. The trimmings of the Libertarian Party don’t turn an individual who seeks an authoritarian position of power — particularly not one who is already in an authoritarian role using violence to enforce unjust laws — into a libertarian. Anyone who expects liberty to spring forth from a police officer elected to the United States Senate is more misled than the Trojans were when they accepted the Achaean offering inside the walls.
As a final thought, I leave you with this from Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience:
All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.
We need more people like Angry Grandpa. Most of us have heard the story of Eric Garner, the man who was choked to death by individuals in the New York Police Department after breaking up a fight. Maybe it’s time to start taking the Angry Grandpa approach in how we respond to acts of violence committed by the police.