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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Braves relief pitcher’s wife reacts to his murderer going free

The wife of Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Dave Shotkoski is reliving the anger and pain of her husband’s murder with news that the killer was released from prison in Florida on Tuesday, after serving just 15 years of his 27-year sentence.

 

I don’t remember this at all; I feel like I should.

TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: April 03, 2012 at 11:11 PM | 560 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: general

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   101. zachtoma Posted: April 04, 2012 at 07:11 PM (#4097083)
It seems to many people that there is a distinction, and it lies in this: unlike with slavery and Jim Crow, the remedy seems to be in the hands of the disadvantaged. Don't do drugs? And stay away from people who do. Now, if you're still being hassled after that, see a lawyer, see the ACLU.


Yes, if you are extra vigilant you can probably avoid becoming ensnared in the criminal justice system and having your life destroyed. I don't think that absolves the state of any responsibility for creating an overly punitive, overly expansive, inhumane system that tends to be selectively enforced along racial lines.
   102. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 04, 2012 at 07:14 PM (#4097090)
Yes, if you are extra vigilant you can probably avoid becoming ensnared in the criminal justice system and having your life destroyed.

How much "extra vigilance" is required to not do or sell drugs?

Or are you arguing that America's the only place that does it right, that more nations should be putting more people in more jails?

Re: the latter, yes, absolutely. I said so explicitly just a few comments ago.

EDIT: Question answered.

Not really. I never said I thought the U.S.'s drug laws were smart or the best way to go about things. I simply disagreed with the idea that they're "unjust."

Personally, it seems absurd to use prisons to warehouse non-violent drug users, but I don't know how the matrix should work. On the one hand, if we legalize drugs, a lot of drug users will continue to commit crimes and wreak havoc, and they'll ultimately need to be rehabbed or imprisoned. On the other hand, if drugs remain illegal, then maybe we should have stricter drug laws, but with more emphasis on rehabilitation. (E.g., a first drug arrest or positive drug test = mandatory 180 days in rehab, rather than the current revolving-door system where people get slap on the wrist after slap on the wrist, until their drug problem is so severe as to be unfixable.)
   103. Morty Causa Posted: April 04, 2012 at 07:42 PM (#4097163)
One of the features of criminal behavior, especially violent criminal behavior, is that almost all of it is done by people under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol (yes, I'm aware booze is legal), and a whole lot of them, probably most of them have substance abuse problems or are on the fast track to serious problems. Legalization just might not be the panacea a lot of us envision. The problem, really, may not be legality/illegality: it may be, instead, the use of drugs, and if that's so, maybe we shouldn't be nurturing a culture that encourages their use.
   104. Downtown Bookie Posted: April 04, 2012 at 08:05 PM (#4097223)
One thing that's not completely clear to me when it comes to the decriminalization of drugs is whether that means factories, distributors, retailers, marketing, merchandising--what? Bristol-Myers and others could crank up the factory fires? Walmart stock up the shelves? Commercials on TV? Will there be government regulation? Does the FDA get involved? How is it in the countries that have gone this route--if any have?


Personally, I think drugs should be decriminalized. But, based upon what's happened to the tobacco industry over the past few decades, I can't see any serious entrepreneurs willing to dive in and provide, say, marijuana on a wholesale basis in the U.S. The lawsuits and treat of lawsuits, similar to those fired at the tobacco industry, would kill any corporation before the first pack could roll off an assembly line. At least, in my humble opinion.

DB
   105. CrosbyBird Posted: April 04, 2012 at 08:29 PM (#4097266)
No sane person is going to argue that the sentence for murder shouldn't be really, really long.

I will. The sentence for murder should be of appropriate length to properly rehabilitate the murderer. Once the murderer is fully rehabilitated, he should be released, and not a moment before. The calendar shouldn't even be considered.

Locking up drug dealers isn't unjust, even if violent crime has drawn more police into Area A than Area B.

The very criminalization of drugs is unjust, particularly the severity of the penalties relative to the social evil. The enforcement of drug laws is applied unjustly as well.

If I steal a candy bar and get a slap on the wrist, while you steal a candy bar and get ten years in prison, you could "solve" the problem by not having stolen the candy bar in the first place. But a system that has a range of punishments from "practically nothing" all the way up to "long prison sentence and lifetime second-class-citizen status," and the nature of your punishment strongly influenced by the color of your skin (or the neighborhood you grow up in, or how long your family has been in this country), is unjust. There's simply no other way to describe it.
   106. Baldrick Posted: April 04, 2012 at 08:35 PM (#4097276)
Probably a combination of both. Regardless, the "U.S. locks up more ..." thing is another red herring, as there's nothing shameful about locking up criminals. I've been all over the Americas, and I haven't been to a single place yet that wouldn't benefit from locking up more people, whether it's for violent crimes or corruption or drugs or a long list of other crimes.

This is a crazy statement.

1) Going to prison is a very poor deterrent. For many people, it increases the chances that they'll commit more crimes
2) The over-criminalization of our country has terrible effects on major chunks of society. It separates families, it ruins communities, etc.
3) Prison is a terrible, terrible place. There absolutely is something shameful about locking up criminals. There is something intrinsically shameful about locking anyone up. You will probably be able to justify doing it in a fair number of cases, but the general principle that anyone who commits a crime deserves prison is a very bad starting point.
4) The *application* of criminal justice matters, too. When all the negative effects of prison disproportionately hit minority (and poor) communities, it only serves to exacerbate the downward spiral.

I know lots of people who do drugs. Not a single one of them has ever been arrested or been to prison. They are teachers, lawyers, husbands, wives, accountants, people who work for Fortune 500 companies, people who work for social justice. I know a few degenerate people who do drugs that are probably not contributing positively to society. But the overwhelming majority are. And because they're (mostly) white and (mostly) middle class or above, they have perfect freedom to do so.

I think you'll find that drugs are pretty much harmless on their own. It's the social conditions in which people live that are the problem. And our prison-industrial complex does a whole lot to make those conditions worse, rather than better.
   107. Morty Causa Posted: April 04, 2012 at 08:35 PM (#4097280)
Personally, I think drugs should be decriminalized. But, based upon what's happened to the tobacco industry over the past few decades, I can't see any serious entrepreneurs willing to dive in and provide, say, marijuana on a wholesale basis in the U.S. The lawsuits and treat of lawsuits, similar to those fired at the tobacco industry, would kill any corporation before the first pack could roll off an assembly line. At least, in my humble opinion.


I think, too, there would be a host of unpredictable legal problems, civil and criminal. For instance, you think the laws right now on driving under the influence are a cluster ####...

But, I will point out that the legal problems may be along those we have now with alcohol, only exponential, not with tobacco. Alcohol has yet to be done away with by lawsuits, and it's been around a long time. One of the reasons is it never pretended it was good for you, and as for as we know doesn't hire cadres of "scientists" to show that and to misrepresent the science and the medical problems.
   108. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 04, 2012 at 08:46 PM (#4097292)
I will. The sentence for murder should be of appropriate length to properly rehabilitate the murderer. Once the murderer is fully rehabilitated, he should be released, and not a moment before. The calendar shouldn't even be considered.

Nonsense. Prison is supposed to be punishment for murderers, not a place of rehabilitation. "Rehabilitation" presupposes that the average murderer should even have the possibility of ever walking free again, which is open to debate.

If I steal a candy bar and get a slap on the wrist, while you steal a candy bar and get ten years in prison, you could "solve" the problem by not having stolen the candy bar in the first place. But a system that has a range of punishments from "practically nothing" all the way up to "long prison sentence and lifetime second-class-citizen status," ...

If I get pulled over for speeding, it's not a valid defense to point out that only 1 percent of speeders, if that, get ticketed.

Once again, if you don't like a law, work to change the law. But don't come crying if you get caught breaking that law and then receive a stiffer penalty than some other guy.
   109. CrosbyBird Posted: April 04, 2012 at 08:49 PM (#4097293)
Legalization just might not be the panacea a lot of us envision.

Legalization isn't a panacea.

It's the right thing to do (allow consenting adults to make their own decisions), it's the practical thing to do (prohibition is clearly not working), and it's the cost-effective thing to do (our state and federal governments have already spent over $10 billion in 2012, and we're barely into April).

Even if you disagree on the moral legitimacy of drug laws (and the classification of even more dangerous substances as legal), the War on Drugs is a giant failure. I find it practically impossible to believe that we couldn't spend tens of billions of dollars per year in better places.
   110. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 04, 2012 at 08:58 PM (#4097299)
#106 — I'm not sure why you quoted that particular comment. As far as I can tell, your entire comment is with regard to non-violent drug users, which I covered in #102. But if you were talking about violent criminals ...

There absolutely is something shameful about locking up criminals. There is something intrinsically shameful about locking anyone up.

This is only true in some non-existent fantasyland. There are over 7 billion people on Earth, and millions of them are bad, bad people. There is nothing "intrinsically shameful" about locking up violent, uncivilized people. It would be morally repugnant for a society not to lock up such people.

I think you'll find that drugs are pretty much harmless on their own.

Drugs are rarely "harmless" in a societal or familial sense, and to the extent they're "harmless" to society, they're only harmless if the user is wealthy and doesn't need to rob stores or stick guns in people's faces to get the money they need for their next score. The number of people who can sit around doing drugs, safely ensconced in their McMansions and posing no threats to society at large, is relatively small.
   111. CrosbyBird Posted: April 04, 2012 at 09:25 PM (#4097327)
Nonsense. Prison is supposed to be punishment for murderers, not a place of rehabilitation.

I would say precisely the opposite. That's what prison is, perhaps, but I will argue most strongly that this is not what it should be.

"Rehabilitation" presupposes that it's just for the average murderer to ever walk free again, which is subject to debate.

You are correct that it is subject to debate. But the post I responded to said that no sane person would make the argument that murder should carry a long, long sentence. I am making that very argument from outside the institution.

I maintain that the desire for punishment is a shameful, repulsive aspect of the human condition. My position extends entirely from that principle: punishment for the sake of punishment (as opposed to deterrence, or isolation, or rehabilitation) is morally wrong. If you'd like to engage that principle, we can have a discussion about it, but we can't have any sort of meaningful discussion without first acknowledging that we're relying on different fundamental values.

If I get pulled over for speeding, it's not a valid defense to point out that only 1 percent of speeders, if that, get ticketed.

Not a valid legal defense, but certainly a valid moral defense. Arbitrary enforcement of a law is unjust even if it is random. It is especially unjust if there is a bias in enforcement.

Once again, if you don't like a law, work to change the law. But don't come crying if you get caught breaking that law and then receive a stiffer penalty than some other guy.

I don't have to go crying. I have the luxury of breaking the law (should I care to) without significant consequence because I am white and because I am not poor. It's very easy for me to ignore the unfair nature of the enforcement because I am a beneficiary of the disparity.

I'm not the one guy who gets tagged for speeding complaining about my ticket. I'm the guy who didn't get tagged complaining that it's unfair for this guy to get a ticket. Especially if he is a lot more likely to get the ticket than I am simply because he's a poor black man and I'm not.
   112. Baldrick Posted: April 04, 2012 at 09:44 PM (#4097348)
Nonsense. Prison is supposed to be punishment for murderers, not a place of rehabilitation.

Well then, agree to strenuously disagree. I understand that lots of people think this, but I cannot even comprehend what kind of moral universe those people inhabit.

And presumably you know that the massive majority of people in prison are not murderers.
   113. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 04, 2012 at 09:47 PM (#4097350)
I would say precisely the opposite. That's what prison is, perhaps, but I will argue most strongly that this is not what it should be.

I'm in favor of the concept of rehabilitation for non-violent offenders and for bar-brawlers and those sorts of people. But as far as I'm concerned, the vast majority of murderers and rapists should never again see the light of day outside prison walls.

I maintain that the desire for punishment is a shameful, repulsive aspect of the human condition. My position extends entirely from that principle: punishment for the sake of punishment (as opposed to deterrence, or isolation, or rehabilitation) is morally wrong. If you'd like to engage that principle, we can have a discussion about it, but we can't have any sort of meaningful discussion without first acknowledging that we're relying on different fundamental values.

I disagree about the morality of punishing criminals, but now I understand the disconnect here. I've been coming at this strictly from the legal standpoint rather than the moral. Either way, I don't care much whether murderers are "punished" or locked up as a "deterrent" or to be "isolated." The only thing that matters to me is that they, and other violent criminals, are kept safely away from the rest of society.

Not a valid legal defense, but certainly a valid moral defense. Arbitrary enforcement of a law is unjust even if it is random. It is especially unjust if there is a bias in enforcement.

Perhaps unjust morally, but not unjust legally. If I tell the police that only 1 percent of speeders get a ticket, that's not a valid defense. If I go into court and point out that cops issue more tickets in the suburbs, that's also not a valid defense.

I don't have to go crying. I have the luxury of breaking the law (should I care to) without significant consequence because I am white and because I am not poor. It's very easy for me to ignore the unfair nature of the enforcement because I am a beneficiary of the disparity.

The "white" part seems like race-baiting. The "poor" part seems much more relevant, but it's probably more of a correlation than a cause — i.e., I don't believe the police are so bored that they go out looking to stick it to poor people; rather, poor people tend to live in neighborhoods with higher amounts of drug activity and, thus, a higher police presence, which means more people in those areas get ensnared.
   114. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 04, 2012 at 09:53 PM (#4097357)
Well then, agree to strenuously disagree. I understand that lots of people think this, but I cannot even comprehend what kind of moral universe those people inhabit.

And presumably you know that the massive majority of people in prison are not murderers.

It seems like we're talking past each other. I've already conceded that it seems dumb to warehouse non-violent drug users in prisons, and I'm in favor of efforts to rehabilitate non-violent and moderately violent criminals. But the murderers and rapists and armed robbers, etc. — I want them locked up, and the key thrown away.
   115. CrosbyBird Posted: April 04, 2012 at 10:06 PM (#4097373)
The "white" part seems like race-baiting.

The "white" part seems like what is actually happening in this country. Acknowledging enforcement bias isn't race-baiting.

The "poor" part might be more relevant, but it's probably more of a correlation than a cause — i.e., poor people tend to live in neighborhoods with higher amounts of drug activity and, thus, a higher police presence.

This seems like you're saying that if people live in a crappy neighborhood, they deserve more strict treatment under the law. If they don't deserve it and they get it, there's not a better word for that situation as far as I'm concerned than unjust.
   116. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 04, 2012 at 10:22 PM (#4097386)
The "white" part seems like what is actually happening in this country. Acknowledging enforcement bias isn't race-baiting.

It's what you're claiming is happening. I haven't seen any evidence that white people caught with drugs are routinely let go by the police while minorities caught with drugs get the full weight of the legal system thrown at them. (I know about the sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine, etc., but those are different issues.)

This seems like you're saying that if people live in a crappy neighborhood, they deserve more strict treatment under the law. If they don't deserve it and they get it, there's not a better word for that situation as far as I'm concerned than unjust.

It doesn't have anything to do with "deserve"; it has to do with reality. Areas with more drug activity attract higher levels of police presence, just like areas around bars have more DWI checkpoints, and highways have more speed traps than quiet residential streets. If you live in an area that's known for drug activity and you know there's a heavy police presence, and yet you continue to sell and/or use drugs anyway, it's absurd to complain when such activity comes back to bite you in the rear end.
   117. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: April 04, 2012 at 11:09 PM (#4097442)
POLITICS?!?!?!?! On a SPORTS site?!?!?!?!?!?
   118. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2012 at 11:21 PM (#4097453)
I haven't seen any evidence that white people caught with drugs are routinely let go by the police while minorities caught with drugs get the full weight of the legal system thrown at them.

Bias is not exhibited by extremity.
   119. CrosbyBird Posted: April 04, 2012 at 11:22 PM (#4097454)
It's what you're claiming is happening. I haven't seen any evidence that white people caught with drugs are routinely let go by the police while minorities caught with drugs get the full weight of the legal system thrown at them. (I know about the sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine, etc., but those are different issues.)

That's not what I said is happening at all. If you jump directly to "caught," you're ignoring a huge part of the bias. A wealthy white man is less likely to be investigated than a poor black man. If you're less likely to be investigated, you're less likely to be caught.

It doesn't have anything to do with "deserve"; it has to do with reality.

Here's the simple question: do people who live in crappy neighborhoods deserve to be held to a higher standard of obedience to the law than people who live in better neighborhoods?

If your answer to that simple question is no, that they don't deserve to be held to a higher standard of obedience, then I don't see how you can't recognize the situation as unjust. We know for sure that they ARE being held to a higher standard. They're investigated more often and they have inferior representation. That means that they are caught more often committing not only serious violations, but petty ones. It also means that they are overrepresented in our prisons, and that they serve longer sentences.

You live in a nice neighborhood where there aren't a lot of cops around unless there's a problem, so you can very safely ignore the law. You get to smoke a joint and relax after a long day at work, like millions of Americans do, if that's something you like to do. You can walk home with hundreds of dollars worth of cocaine in your pocket and nobody will ever bother you.

Someone else lives in a crappy neighborhood, and they don't enjoy the same freedoms that you do. That's not just. You can point to reasons why it happens, but it's still unfair: the cost of living in a crappy neighborhood is that the law is enforced more harshly. As you noted above, the cost of using cheap crack instead of expensive cocaine is a heavier sentence (even though it's the same drug).

If you live in an area that's known for drug activity and you know there's a heavy police presence, and yet you continue to sell and/or use drugs anyway, it's absurd to complain when such activity comes back to bite you in the rear end.

It is absolutely reasonable to complain about being punished for activity that should not be illegal in the first place. These are bad laws. That's perhaps the best reason to complain about them; get rid of bad laws and you greatly reduce the (arguably unsolvable) problems of bias in enforcement. Fewer laws, addressing harm caused to others, prosecuted swiftly and effectively, with punishments designed to stop the behavior and not to make people suffer.
   120. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 04, 2012 at 11:23 PM (#4097455)
Locking up drug dealers isn't unjust,
Of course it is. Drug dealing isn't a real crime. (No victim = no crime.)
   121. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 04, 2012 at 11:48 PM (#4097472)
That's not what I said is happening at all. If you jump directly to "caught," you're ignoring a huge part of the bias. A wealthy white man is less likely to be investigated than a poor black man. If you're less likely to be investigated, you're less likely to be caught.

I acknowledged that right upfront. Areas with more crime have more police, which increases the odds of relatively minor lawbreakers getting caught. It might not be fair, just like it's not "fair" that a "wealthy white man" who lives in Beverly Hills is less likely to be a victim of violent crime than a resident of Compton, but it's reality.

Here's the simple question: do people who live in crappy neighborhoods deserve to be held to a higher standard of obedience to the law than people who live in better neighborhoods?

You've moved from "fair" to "deserve." Unfortunately, neither have much applicability in the real world. It would be great if they did, but they don't.

You live in a nice neighborhood where there aren't a lot of cops around unless there's a problem, so you can very safely ignore the law. You get to smoke a joint and relax after a long day at work, like millions of Americans do, if that's something you like to do. You can walk home with hundreds of dollars worth of cocaine in your pocket and nobody will ever bother you.

But this is all a red herring. Police departments, operating with limited resources, tend to focus most of their time and manpower in the areas with the most violent crime. If the "nice neighborhoods" suddenly start having drug-related shootouts (or any shootouts), the police presence will increase and those residents will be in greater jeopardy of being busted for lower-level offenses. This has been true since the very beginning of policing.

(Also, just for the record, I've never even smoked a cigarette, let alone a joint. Boring right-winger, etc., etc.)

It is absolutely reasonable to complain about being punished for activity that should not be illegal in the first place. These are bad laws.

If people don't like the drug laws, they should work to change them. Not liking a law is not an affirmative defense to breaking that law, whether it's drugs or gambling or any number of other crimes, "victimless" or otherwise.
   122. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 12:59 AM (#4097555)
Somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to think of drug warriors as anything but morally deficient.
   123. Ron J Posted: April 05, 2012 at 01:00 AM (#4097557)
1) Going to prison is a very poor deterrent.


Well it's an extremely effective specific deterrent. While in prison they aren't committing burglaries (etc). (But yes, if you're sending them to prison for a drug crime it's pretty likely they'll end up committing more drug crimes there. And it's extremely likely that any young man sent to prison for any length of time will become involved with a gang)

Best I can tell it's a lousy general deterrent. And there's roughly no evidence that increasing severity of sentences has any substantial value as general deterrent. (Cue DMN for the argument on retribution, which has been pretty much ignored in this discussion -- as is typical of these discussions.)
   124. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 05, 2012 at 01:14 AM (#4097566)
Somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to think of drug warriors as anything but morally deficient.

I've conceded several times that much of the current system seems illogical, but I haven't seen many alternatives offered. I don't see how legalizing drugs would substantially reduce crime. If anything, it seems like more people using drugs = more people hooked on drugs = more people committing crimes to support their drug habits.
   125. Lassus Posted: April 05, 2012 at 07:23 AM (#4097598)
I don't see how legalizing drugs would substantially reduce crime.

It's fine not to agree that this would happen, but it's pretty easy to see that taking away the crime of possession and sale substantially reduces the crime of possession and sale.

Whether or not this raises other crimes and thus evens everything out is the debate. Theories and studies abound in either direction, perhaps someone with more time than me at the moment can cite them.

(I don't drink, and don't even understand after all this time why people do that to such idiotic excess. I'm not in favor of more people doing drugs, so I don't know how much in favor of legalization I am myself. But what's going on now is too much for me to just toss up my hands either. Other options need to be explored.)
   126. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 05, 2012 at 08:30 AM (#4097619)
The over-criminalization of our country has terrible effects on major chunks of society. It separates families, it ruins communities, etc.


This is a gigantic point that seems to be being ignored for the most part. All of those arguments people make elsewhere to the degradation of the "nuclear family" in poor neighborhoods? It's hard to be a father when you're in jail for minor possession.
   127. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 05, 2012 at 08:37 AM (#4097622)
If anything, it seems like more people using drugs = more people hooked on drugs = more people committing crimes to support their drug habits.


There's your error, then.

There is no evidence or reason to believe that decriminalization would lead to "more people using drugs," much less "hooked on drugs."

There is even less evidence or reason to believe that decriminalization would lead to "more people committing crimes to support their drug habits."

You're just making up a "slippery slope" bogeyman that just has no bearing to reality at all. Go to Duke, or NYU, or Princeton. Inquire about the rate of violent crime there. The student bodies are all doing drugs, mostly pot, but some others. But because they're not part of the demographic where their drug use is *prosecuted*, their drug use is functionally decriminalized. (No one is sending Michael Phelps or Tim Lincecum to jail, right?) Yet amazingly enough, there's not a bit spike in violent crime in those communities.

Violence, as it relates to illegal drugs, is almost universally a function of the *black market for those drugs.* The myth of the crackhead/methhead/junkie violently attacking passers-by for drug money is popular, but essentially bullshit. As with alcohol, eliminate the black market for the product and the violence of that criminal market will disappear.
   128. Morty Causa Posted: April 05, 2012 at 09:35 AM (#4097667)
Let me again preface what I post here by first pointing out that I’m engaging in it in a spirit of testing those who seem so certain of so much, and who think that what’s best for society is the wholesale implementation of their state of the art sensibilities as statutory law. I tend toward decriminalization, but I see problems that make me hesitate, make me uneasy, which no comment here has assuaged:

1) Going to prison is a very poor deterrent. For many people, it increases the chances that they'll commit more crimes


This is indeed a popular, even a standard, objection. I don’t know how far you want to take this, but it seems to me to, first, fly in the face of cause and effect. Do you really believe that punishment or negative reinforcement has no effect on behavior?

Because I have to admit that there is a lot of stuff I’d probably do that I don’t do because I fear the consequences—the repercussions. And there is also a lot of things I do only because I feel I have to. How about you? Sometimes just the threat of what will happen is enough—other times I have to actually burn my fingers at least once. But I can’t deny that the prospect of punishment plays a big part in my actions. Would you deny that?

Often, too, one bad result isn’t enough; many repetitive episodes are called for before I change my behavior. Are you different? The idea that we are all made perfect, that we are not a work in progress, a being also have to deal with ever-changing circumstances (you can’t avoid a Darwinian analogy), and that we mosey along in a context of others like us who also have their interests and their fears that can (and usually do) conflict with mine, doesn’t pass a threshold giggle test, IMHO. I won’t even get into how taking this as an overarching working principle in running a society is boggles the imagination and seems to me to be a recipe for chaos and anarchy.

Then, granting your point, that it is a poor deterrent, the next question is: what is the better one? (And it doesn't get easier--who decides who's the better one, and by what method?) Is throwing up our hands and giving up a deterrent? Then what would be your state of the art deterrent?
   129. Morty Causa Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:01 AM (#4097695)
Legalization isn't a panacea.

Good, glad that’s behind us. The next questions should revolve around comparisons and relative alternatives with regard to what are likely to be the effects of legalizations and what should we do ahead of time to prevent them—if anything?

It's the right thing to do (allow consenting adults to make their own decisions)

Yes, indeedy. However, limits have always been imposed as to this, yet some always come back to this assertion as if it is an absolute axiom that need not be explained or justified in any way. They simply assert, and assert, and assert....always as if of their own authority.

The bump in the road is that the devil is in the details: when is it the right thing to not allow consenting adults to make their own decisions—for that is the question since the beginnings of societies and governments thousands and thousands of years ago? Neither ends of those assertions are absolute and unqualified—at least at no time and no where in history and prehistory that I know of.

And it’s not just about what’s the best thing to do in your opinion (or mine), but by what institutional mechanism we decide that what opinion (or compromise) we accede to. You can have your views, I can have mine, and others can have theirs: now what? A solution without taking this into consideration is just making castles in the air and wanting everyone to live in them.

How do we arrive at a policy, and then how do we implement it, and along what view as to behavioral expectations?
   130. Morty Causa Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:01 AM (#4097696)
Even if you disagree on the moral legitimacy of drug laws (and the classification of even more dangerous substances as legal), the War on Drugs is a giant failure. I find it practically impossible to believe that we couldn't spend tens of billions of dollars per year in better places.

Yeah, we spend billions of dollars in a lot of places that I’m sure we can reflexively look our noses down.

Too, you say it’s a failure—compared to what? No laws controlling drugs at all? And how do you know that would be better? See my first post—if you think things are complicated now, maybe the solution will not simplify. You know of a place that went from one to the other? That last is not a rhetorical question. We live in a real world with people who have fears and desires—not in a model of any particular persons’ made up world (and many have tried—we’re all sawed-off Platos).
   131. Morty Causa Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:03 AM (#4097700)
The sentence for murder should be of appropriate length to properly rehabilitate the murderer. Once the murderer is fully rehabilitated, he should be released, and not a moment before. The calendar shouldn't even be considered.

What constitutes rehabilitation? Both as a means to an end and end. How do you rehabilitate and how can you tell someone’s been rehabilitated? And who decides that? A panel of lay persons like that in Raising Arizona? Well, o-kay. Or just medical or quasi-medical experts? Are they overseen by the legal system? How would that be?
   132. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:04 AM (#4097703)
Is throwing up our hands and giving up a deterrent?


Is decriminalization throwing up your hands and giving up a deterrent? I think its supporters see is as more than just the legalization of drugs. Things like regulation, a greater investment in rehabilitation and education programs are included. How is that giving up?
   133. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:09 AM (#4097712)
I maintain that the desire for punishment is a shameful, repulsive aspect of the human condition. My position extends entirely from that principle: punishment for the sake of punishment (as opposed to deterrence, or isolation, or rehabilitation) is morally wrong. If you'd like to engage that principle, we can have a discussion about it, but we can't have any sort of meaningful discussion without first acknowledging that we're relying on different fundamental values.

I completely reject your premise. The desire for punishment is central to the desire for justice, which is a noble part of the human condition.

To have justice we must treat like as like, and unlike as unlike. To not punish a serious crime is just as bad as to punish an innocent man.

Basic justice and fairness demands that a murderer or rapist be severely punished. To not do so outrages our basic sense of justice.

If believe murder or rape deserves an extremely long prison sentence even if if has zero deterrant value (it doesn't), zero preventative value (it obviously doesn't) and zero rehabiliative value.
   134. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:10 AM (#4097714)
This is indeed a popular, even a standard, objection. I don’t know how far you want to take this, but it seems to me to, first, fly in the face of cause and effect. Do you really believe that punishment or negative reinforcement has no effect on behavior?


Prison isn't so much punishment for career criminals these days, so much as it's a networking opportunity.
   135. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:13 AM (#4097719)
Prison isn't so much punishment for career criminals these days, so much as it's a networking opportunity.

They should just hang out on Wall Street and in Washington. Better grub.
   136. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:19 AM (#4097729)
This is indeed a popular, even a sandard, objection. I don’t know how far you want to take this, but it seems to me to, first, fly in the face of cause and effect. Do you really believe that punishment or negative reinforcement has no effect on behavior?

I think there is very little difference between "pay arbitrarily large fine" or "be required to perform X hours of community service" and "go to prison," in terms of deterrence. The existence of SOME punishment is a mild deterrent (but not a major one, as people who commit crimes generally do so expecting not to get caught). The degree of deterrence depends far more on how likely you are to face punishment than what that punishment is.

And there is also a lot of things I do only because I feel I have to. How about you?

There are no laws that I follow out of nothing more than fear of punishment that cause real harm to other people. The laws that do fall into this category are either simply bureaucratic rules or victimless violations.

Then, granting your point, that it is a poor deterrent, the next question is: what is the better one?

I don't know that there is a really good one. People who commit crimes generally don't do so with a traditional cost-benefit analysis. They do so expecting to escape the cost, whatever it may be. If our criminal justice system did nothing more than isolate dangerous people and rehabilitate them, and everything else was handled civilly, I think we'd be in a much better place. But not fighting the question?

For real crimes? Reduce the societal factors that lead people toward criminal acts. Make sure people don't regularly commit these crimes without consequence.

For crimes that exist solely because we say they are crimes? Anything done to make these laws more effective is a step in the wrong direction. If we can't completely eliminate the laws, we should at least decriminalize the behavior through non-enforcement.

We might well deter some people from using drugs because they are illegal. Let's assume for the moment that this reduces drug use substantially. Is it worth what we're spending: billions of dollars per year? Is it worth what we're doing to a huge number of people: locking them up, destroying their lives forever, making them second-class citizens? What are the unintended consequences? Prohibition of alcohol was an absolute disaster. Prohibition of drugs is similarly disastrous.
   137. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4097730)
They should just hang out on Wall Street and in Washington. Better grub.


Dark skin and bad teeth eliminate a lot of criminal opportunities, my friend.
   138. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:24 AM (#4097737)
Dark skin and bad teeth eliminate a lot of criminal opportunities, my friend.

Never stopped the NY Congressional Delegation.
   139. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:33 AM (#4097747)
Never stopped the NY Congressional Delegation.


You sure about the teeth? Nothing marks class in America quite like bad teeth.
   140. JPWF1313 Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:02 AM (#4097789)
I will. The sentence for murder should be of appropriate length to properly rehabilitate the murderer. Once the murderer is fully rehabilitated, he should be released, and not a moment before. The calendar shouldn't even be considered.

Nonsense. Prison is supposed to be punishment for murderers, not a place of rehabilitation.


I'm having a law school flashback now, my criminal law professor, almost word for word in response to a student asking about whether "retribution" was a valid societal concern,
"Nonsense. Prison is supposed to be a place of rehabilitation, not revenge or punishment, If you believe that criminal justice is supposed to be about revenge or punishment you are the one whop has no place in this society"

Personally I think both of you are wrong.
   141. JPWF1313 Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:04 AM (#4097797)
Not a valid legal defense, but certainly a valid moral defense. Arbitrary enforcement of a law is unjust even if it is random. It is especially unjust if there is a bias in enforcement.

Perhaps unjust morally, but not unjust legally.


I think you are using a different definition of "unjust" than the rest of us.
   142. JPWF1313 Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:12 AM (#4097810)
I hate to say this but I agree (almost*) wholeheartedly with #127*some drugs should continue to be illegal, but many, such as pot? There is no valid rationale for that ban than there would be for banning alcohol or tobacco - hell there's a better rationale to ban both alcohol and tobacco- alcohol intoxication is related to violence- and tobacco is really bad for you much worse than transfats or whatever food Bloomberg is trying to ban today :-)
   143. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:19 AM (#4097817)
In the 1830s opium production on a modest scale went on in China. Some of the population who could afford it partook. Although it was frowned upon by the government, the Imperial court had relatively little ability to exert direct influence on the provinces.

Meanwhile, the British occupation of India led to an explosion in opium production there, and vastly larger yields than in China. Looking for export markets, the British traders began selling opium to China. In 1799 the Qing government tried to ban foreign imports, but to little effect. By 1820 900 tons of opium from India were sold in China each year. By 1839, the figure was 1400 tons per year.

In that year the Qing government decided to crack down on the foreign importation of opium in Canton, the primary port of call of Western traders (other ports were closed to foreigners). The result was the First Opium War. The British government fought for the right to sell opium in China. The result was a complete victory for the British, the setting up of more legal treaty ports, and the establishment of a colony at what would become Hong Kong.

By the middle of the 19th century, an estimated 50% of the adult male Chinese population was addicted to opium. Every attempt to restrict the trade was met with armed opposition by the British, and only resulted in a steady erosion of Chinese autonomy. All fueled by the British claim to have an unfettered right to sell drugs to Chinese consumers.

The opium trade was not brought under control until the Communist victory in the civil war, which led to a ban on the foreign opium trade. Addiction rates have declined from 50% to only a few percent today.

I find it curious that those advocating for drug legalization never look at China. Did the opium trade not weaken China? Should we applaud the British as the bringers of freedom to China? If drug use is a victimless crime, there is little ground to condemn British actions. Perhaps the U.S. should be encouraging opium cultivation in Afghanistan, take a cut, and then insist as a clause in every trade agreement we sign with the third world that we should be allowed to sell American-Afghani opium without restrictions in that nation. Win-win!!!
   144. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4097820)
some drugs should continue to be illegal


I would modify this to say "some drugs should continue to be highly regulated," but not illegal. Dealing heroin without a license should be illegal, but using heroin should be treated as medical condition. That is, decriminalized, but not given unfettered leeway at large.
   145. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:26 AM (#4097828)
I would modify this to say "some drugs should continue to be highly regulated," but not illegal. Dealing heroin without a license should be illegal, but using heroin should be treated as medical condition. That is, decriminalized, but not given unfettered leeway at large.

I can see an argument for dialing back enforcement, but why ever make hard drugs "legal"? Why give defacto societal approval to them?
   146. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:26 AM (#4097830)
However, limits have always been imposed as to this,

People have always murdered other people. Does that make it right?

yet some always come back to this assertion as if it is an absolute axiom that need not be explained or justified in any way.

Eventually we get to a first principle: autonomy. If you don't acknowledge the primacy of autonomy, then no explanation or justification will be of value to you. If you do acknowledge the primacy of autonomy, then no explanation or justification is needed.

Why isn't it acceptable to murder other people and take their things? Would it matter one bit to you if society thought it was acceptable? Would you think it morally acceptable if others did, even if many others did?

when is it the right thing to not allow consenting adults to make their own decisions—for that is the question since the beginnings of societies and governments thousands and thousands of years ago?

When the results of that behavior cause harm to other people? I shouldn't have the liberty to make the decision to punch you in the face, because it's your face. I should have the liberty to eat an apple of my own possession rather than an orange of my own possession.

And it’s not just about what’s the best thing to do in your opinion (or mine), but by what institutional mechanism we decide that what opinion (or compromise) we accede to. You can have your views, I can have mine, and others can have theirs: now what?

You live your life according to your views, to the extent that those views don't infringe on the fundamental rights of others. I live my life according to my views, to the extent that those views don't infringe on the fundamental rights of others. We both let each other live as we each believe to be appropriate.

There is no compromise between "I feel that competent adults should be allowed to take drugs recreationally" and "I feel that competent adults should not be allowed to take drugs recreationally." These positions are binary. However, Person A can take drugs while Person B does not, and both live according to their own beliefs. It is only when Person B insists that Person A lives according to his beliefs that there is a true conflict.

But again, it all starts with the first principle of autonomy. If you have, as a first principle, "there is a set of absolute moral rules, laid down by an inerrant authority, and it is the responsibility of each person not only to follow those rules, but to compel others to follow them, by force if necessary" then there is no compromise. If it's important enough to each of us, one of us has to die.

A solution without taking this into consideration is just making castles in the air and wanting everyone to live in them.

I think I am taking that into consideration. We should reduce the number of situations with unresolvable conflict to the bare minimum, and one way to do that is to set strong limits on one person's ability to force another person's behavior. If we have the right to possess different worldviews in the first place, we're already respecting autonomy.

Yeah, we spend billions of dollars in a lot of places that I’m sure we can reflexively look our noses down.

Not reflexively. As a result of mountains of evidence.

Any situation where we're spending as much as we do on the Drug War and accomplishing as little is a situation that I'm equally comfortable saying should be stopped.

Too, you say it’s a failure—compared to what? No laws controlling drugs at all? And how do you know that would be better?

Yes, precisely that. And I don't "know" it would be better; I hypothesize that it would be better on the basis of overwhelming historical evidence.

We saw the consequences of prohibition in this country's past, and we're continuing to see it now. We can also see the effects of recreational drug use through personal experience and the experiences of others. The position that recreational drug use constitutes a monstrous societal harm is simply unsupported by the evidence. The position that criminalization of drugs is a policy of tremendous economic and social cost is unquestionable.

See my first post—if you think things are complicated now, maybe the solution will not simplify.

Where's your evidence?

We're actually doing something that causes a lot of harm. That requires tremendous justification, and there has never been any remotely compelling evidence that we're addressing an even greater harm.

What constitutes rehabilitation? Both as a means to an end and end. How do you rehabilitate and how can you tell someone’s been rehabilitated? And who decides that?

I didn't say it was an easy question. It is the right question to ask.

Crime is a symptom, not a disease. Sometimes you have to treat the symptom before you can worry about the disease; we can't worry about why the patient's heart stopped until we get it started again, and we can't rehabilitate a criminal without isolating him from society first.

But I'd rely on criminal psychologists and psychiatrists to determine if someone is rehabilitated. A person would not go directly from a cell to mainstream society, either.
   147. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:41 AM (#4097853)
I can see an argument for dialing back enforcement, but why ever make hard drugs "legal"? Why give defacto societal approval to them.


Because the state is not there to prance about telling grown men and women what to do? I thought that was the conservative position, no?

Practically, the nicotine and caffeine and codeine aren't notably less addictive - that is to say, notably less "hard drugs," - than heroin. I see little reason to treat heroin different from codeine at the very least.

Decriminalization (which isn't identical to legalization, mind you) removes the social stigma and fear of incarceration from addicts, which makes it far more likely that addicts will get treatment and rehab.
   148. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:47 AM (#4097864)
Because the state is not there to prance about telling grown men and women what to do? I thought that was the conservative position, no?

Not really, no. Not if there are major negative effects on society from grown people doing what they want to do.

Practically, the nicotine and caffeine and codeine aren't notably less addictive - that is to say, notably less "hard drugs," - than heroin. I see little reason to treat heroin different from codeine at the very least.

Codeine and other opiates can be treated very harshly if sold w/o prescription. One of the cases in the article on crim linked earlier was some woman doing 7 years fro dealing prescription pain pills.

Cocaine and heroin are legal as prescription medicines, I just don't think there's any medical use for heroin (it was meant for animal use, IIRC). Cocaine is definitely used in ENT surgery.
   149. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:54 AM (#4097874)
Not if there are major negative effects on society from grown people doing what they want to do


You mean like the "major negative effects on society" from that demon alcohol? Are you reading your points off of a Women's Christian Temperance Union worksheet, by chance?
   150. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 12:04 PM (#4097887)
You mean like the "major negative effects on society" from that demon alcohol? Are you reading your points off of a Women's Christian Temperance Union worksheet, by chance?

Except that alcohol has major positive effects as well, and 90%+ of the people that use it suffer or inflict no negative consequences. That's a damn sight different that heroine or cocaine or abuse of presciption opiates.

Just because not everything with negative effects should be illegal, it does not follow that everything should be legal, regardless of negative effects. It's always a cost benefit analysis.
   151. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 05, 2012 at 12:23 PM (#4097914)
Except that alcohol has major positive effects as well


beer goggles?
   152. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 12:24 PM (#4097915)
I find it curious that those advocating for drug legalization never look at China. Did the opium trade not weaken China? Should we applaud the British as the bringers of freedom to China? If drug use is a victimless crime, there is little ground to condemn British actions.

The British invaded a foreign country to force it to trade with them. That's the main reason to condemn them, not because they happened to be selling opium.

Also, we can't discount the negative effects of Chinese prohibition. The British couldn't have been so successful without the help of organized criminals. Making opium illegal (and opium sale punishable by death, in some cases), drove the market underground. It made addicts avoid help because of fear of punishment. China couldn't have had a more aggressive anti-opium policy than it did in the early-to-mid 1800s, and yet addiction rose dramatically. (I've heard 25% of all males, not 50%, but still, that's an insanely high percentage.)

I do not recommend drug legalization and then ignoring the harmful effects of drugs. We'd still need drug education (real education, not propaganda) and rehabilitation. In this country, we have a thriving drug trade in large part because the illegal drugs are very profitable: profitable to Big Pharma, profitable to the prison industry, and profitable to the black-market sellers. There's a very good reason why there's lots of drug dealers in crappy neighborhoods: there's a tremendous financial incentive and few prospects of an even marginally acceptable legal career. We should be fixing both problems: make drug sale less profitable by destroying the black-market markup, and provide greater opportunities to those in poor communities so that there isn't such a strong incentive to make a career of crime.
   153. Gaelan Posted: April 05, 2012 at 12:47 PM (#4097934)
Well then, agree to strenuously disagree. I understand that lots of people think this, but I cannot even comprehend what kind of moral universe those people inhabit.


You and Crosbybird don't inhabit a moral universe at all. I say this as someone who agrees that the state of the US prison system is a disgrace.

There can be no justice without restitution and with some crimes punishment is an integral element of restitution.

[Edit] I'll expand. To say that justice is solely about rehabilitation is to imply there is no victim to whom some form of restitution is required. To consider the matter solely in terms of the need for and goodness of rehabilitation is to consider the matter solely from the standpoint of society, while ignoring the specific individuals involved. This is a violation of any coherent principle of morality that has room for individuals. This is fundamentally immoral in the abstract and cruel satire in the real cases of actual victims.
   154. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 01:13 PM (#4097978)
Except that alcohol has major positive effects as well, and 90%+ of the people that use it suffer or inflict no negative consequences.

What are the positive effects of alcohol that are different from other recreational drugs? Alcohol has some medicinal properties, but so do cocaine and marijuana and heroin.

90+% sounds outrageously high. In this country, over 100,000 people die each year from the direct or indirect effects of alcohol (medical conditions, accidents due to impairment, etc.). Alcohol is the third-largest risk factor for disease and disability in the world.

4% of world's deaths caused by alcohol.

That's just death. There's alcohol-related disabilities, alcohol-related violence, addiction, and financial ruin. Alcohol is a terrible, terrible drug. From the same linked article:

A survey in Australia found that two-thirds of respondents were adversely affected by someone else's drinking in the past year.


That's a damn sight different that heroine or cocaine or abuse of presciption opiates.

Is it? What percentage of cocaine users cause serious damage to themselves or others? Heroin users?

There are three legal drugs that are individually more dangerous than all of the illegal drugs put together: alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. Volume plays a role: more people use alcohol or tobacco or caffeine than these other drugs. That said, these drugs present the same or greater dangers as many illegal drugs: physiological harm and addictive qualities in particular.

Just because not everything with negative effects should be illegal, it does not follow that everything should be legal, regardless of negative effects. It's always a cost benefit analysis.

I challenge you to show your work regarding the approval of alcohol and tobacco and the disapproval of cocaine and heroin through comparative cost-benefit analysis. I'm open to consideration that these particular drugs are dangerous enough to demand criminalization, but bear in mind that I have done quite a bit of research on this issue and I'm reasonably well-educated as to the physical and psychological effects of these drugs; I'm not taking my position without substantial evidence and it will therefore take substantial evidence to influence me.

To step away from drugs for a moment, should it be illegal to cut your own (perfectly healthy) hand off if you care to? I don't think that we can make much of an argument that there's much benefit at all, and there's a clear cost. I wouldn't criminalize self-mutilation but I don't see much of a compelling case that the benefit exceeds the harm (outside of the benefit of being free to do what one wishes with one's own body... but that's the same argument I'd use for cocaine/heroin legalization).
   155. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4098025)
To say that justice is solely about rehabilitation is to imply there is no victim to whom some form of restitution is required.

I'll stop you right here because you're distorting my position. There is indeed a victim, and that victim is owed restitution. However, the criminal justice system is not the appropriate place to provide that restitution. We have a system for addressing harms that one individual causes another: civil court.

The criminal system is about doing what is right for society. The civil system is about addressing harm. You will notice that at no point does "making the criminal suffer" enter the equation: that is nothing more than vengeance. It is saying "you caused suffering so you must suffer"; that's not restitution.

It is unjust for a society to rob an individual of freedom unless that individual constitutes a significant threat to the society's well-being. It may be unjust even if that individual constitutes a significant threat, but it is never just if it the individual does not.

It is unjust for an individual to be harmed by someone else and not receive as reasonable restitution as is possible. We cannot bring back the dead. It is true that we cannot measure the worth of a human life in dollars and cents, but it is better than no compensation at all for the harm caused (and the imprecision of the measure is not a reason to torture the person causing the harm; that's even worse of a proxy than money).
   156. asdf1234 Posted: April 05, 2012 at 01:41 PM (#4098081)
Nonsense. Prison is supposed to be punishment for murderers, not a place of rehabilitation.


Punishment is always intended to alter future behavior, never as an act of retribution. We don't punish our children to torment them, but to prevent them from making the same mistakes twice. Behaviorists don't punish lab rats for the sake of seeing them suffer, but to shape their behavior. Punishment with no hope of changing future behavior is torture (see hell, doctrine of).

In terms of state prison systems, California is a great example of what happens when punishment/reform gives way to simple imprisonment. Amazing how the state can transform a useful system into an overpopulated, extraordinarily expensive (and corrupt) boondoggle in a generation or two.
   157. JPWF1313 Posted: April 05, 2012 at 01:51 PM (#4098111)
Because the state is not there to prance about telling grown men and women what to do? I thought that was the conservative position, no?


No, that's the libertarian position, the conservative position is that the state cannot tell grown men and women what to do with their property/money but can tell them what to do/not do with their "private" parts.
   158. Lassus Posted: April 05, 2012 at 02:11 PM (#4098178)
Except that alcohol has major positive effects as well

What?
   159. The Good Face Posted: April 05, 2012 at 02:31 PM (#4098238)
Except that alcohol has major positive effects as well

What?


Moderate regular alcohol consumption is supposedly correlated with improved longevity.
   160. Lassus Posted: April 05, 2012 at 02:41 PM (#4098270)
Moderate regular alcohol consumption

GUFFAW
   161. The Good Face Posted: April 05, 2012 at 03:06 PM (#4098369)
Moderate regular alcohol consumption

GUFFAW


I am confuse. A guy having a glass or two of wine with dinner every night would qualify, and I know several people who do just that.
   162. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: April 05, 2012 at 03:13 PM (#4098392)
California is a great example of what happens when punishment/reform gives way to simple imprisonment. Amazing how the state can transform a useful system into an overpopulated, extraordinarily expensive (and corrupt) boondoggle in a generation or two.

This is about the UC system, right?
Man, California is totally uck-fayed.
   163. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 05, 2012 at 04:11 PM (#4098632)
I think you are using a different definition of "unjust" than the rest of us.

I know what the textbook definition of "unjust" is, and that definition is not operative in America's courts. As I've said several times, if you march into court and declare that your speeding ticket is "unjust" because less than 1 percent of speeders get ticketed, you'll be laughed out of court. Likewise, if you declare that your speeding ticket is "unjust" because the police write more tickets in Area A than Area B, you'll be laughed out of court.
   164. Morty Causa Posted: April 05, 2012 at 04:43 PM (#4098744)
   165. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 04:59 PM (#4098793)
To step away from drugs for a moment, should it be illegal to cut your own (perfectly healthy) hand off if you care to?

Yes. It should be illegal.

A sane moral system recognizes no right to do wrong. We may choose not to criminalize all wrongs b/c the negative consequences of enforcement outweigh the benefit, but one can never claim a right to do it.

I see absolutely no downside to making self-amputation illegal.
   166. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 05:03 PM (#4098810)
Punishment is always intended to alter future behavior, never as an act of retribution. We don't punish our children to torment them, but to prevent them from making the same mistakes twice. Behaviorists don't punish lab rats for the sake of seeing them suffer, but to shape their behavior. Punishment with no hope of changing future behavior is torture (see hell, doctrine of).

That's not true at all. Punishment has multiple purposes, one of them is simply to punish; to mete out justice for the wrong committed. There's no problem with retribution, and/or restitution.

A parent who kills their only child by neglect is never going to do that again (they've got no more kids). Should they therefore not be punished?

Hermann Goering was never going to achieve a position of political power again, so he wasn't going to re-offend. Should he have been sent home to his country estate in May, 1945?
   167. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 05:27 PM (#4098849)
A lot of nonsense. Areas with high drug activity have always tended to have a high amount of violent crime, which attracts a heavier and heavier police presence. If drug-related shootouts start happening in the suburbs, the police will start being heavy-handed there, too.

Confusing correlation with causation. Areas with high drug activity have a high amount of violent crime *because* the sale and use of drugs has been criminalized. The wine shop and liquor store around the corner from my apartment are not hotbeds of violent activity despite the fact that drugs (alcohol) are sold there; neither are the bars despite the fact that drugs (alcohol) are consumed there.

If you criminalize drugs, only criminals will sell drugs. And they'll need the services of other criminals for protection, smuggling, money laundering, etc. This is the precise problem with the war on drugs -- besides the fact that it's completely unnecessary, it's also completely counterproductive.
   168. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 05, 2012 at 05:49 PM (#4098879)
Confusing correlation with causation. Areas with high drug activity have a high amount of violent crime *because* the sale and use of drugs has been criminalized.

I'm not confusing anything. The drug laws are the law of the land. Don't like them? Work to change them.

"I don't like that law" is not an affirmative defense to lawbreaking.
   169. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: April 05, 2012 at 06:11 PM (#4098902)
I'm not confusing anything. The drug laws are the law of the land. Don't like them? Work to change them.

"I don't like that law" is not an affirmative defense to lawbreaking.


Some laws just need breaking. Sometimes the best way to rally support to change a bad law is to demonstrate and publicize the absurdity of it by breaking it.
   170. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 06:19 PM (#4098906)
I'm not confusing anything. The drug laws are the law of the land. Don't like them? Work to change them.

The question is not whether the laws are the laws. The question is whether they are unjust and discriminatory.

You're arguing that the overbearing police tactics used in the War on Drugs, which just so happens to be focused on heavily minority neighborhoods, are justified because drug use causes violence which attracts police activity. I am saying that those police tactics are unjustified because it is the War on Drugs and the police tactics themselves that are leading to most of the violence. If drugs were legal they would be sold by the equivalent of Pfizer or Anheiser-Busch, not your local corner dealer.

"I don't like that law" is not an affirmative defense to lawbreaking.

EDIT: I am not saying that it is, although in some cases it may be.
   171. Zipperholes Posted: April 05, 2012 at 06:29 PM (#4098910)
A parent who kills their only child by neglect is never going to do that again (they've got no more kids). Should they therefore not be punished?

Hermann Goering was never going to achieve a position of political power again, so he wasn't going to re-offend. Should he have been sent home to his country estate in May, 1945?
These people should be "punished" for the purpose of general deterrence, not retribution.
   172. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 05, 2012 at 07:23 PM (#4098974)
The question is not whether the laws are the laws. The question is whether they are unjust and discriminatory.

The latter is just a distraction from the former. These aren't the Jim Crow laws we're talking about here, which were morally (and constitutionally) repugnant.

Even if, just for the sake of discussion, I concede that the drug laws are "unjust and discriminatory," they're still the law of the land. Prohibition was dumb, too, but it wasn't some great moral outrage that people couldn't have booze for a while. People didn't like the laws and the laws were changed, but, in the meantime, the people caught breaking the laws were punished. The drug laws are, and should be, no different.

If drugs were legal they would be sold by the equivalent of Pfizer or Anheiser-Busch, not your local corner dealer.

I don't buy this at all, at least not as a wholesale solution to street-level drug crime. The only way drugs will ever be legalized in the U.S. is if a large tax is assessed on them, just like with cigarettes. Wealthier people would pay the tax to avoid the possible unpleasantries associated with being arrested, but poorer drug users will look for alternatives — i.e., the substantial tax on "legal" drugs will provide pricing opportunities for the present-day cartels and dealers. There still won't be shootouts in Beverly Hills, and there might be fewer shootouts in Compton, but there will still be shootouts in Compton. Drug legalization isn't remotely a panacea.
   173. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: April 05, 2012 at 07:36 PM (#4098983)
To step away from drugs for a moment, should it be illegal to cut your own (perfectly healthy) hand off if you care to?

Yes. It should be illegal.
I agree wholeheartedly, and furthermore an eye for an eye means that his punishment should be cutting off the other one.

Prohibition was dumb, too, but it wasn't some great moral outrage that people couldn't have booze for a while.
Or like, say, the great moral outrage of making it somewhat more difficult for people to obtain high-powered firearms.
   174. DA Baracus Posted: April 05, 2012 at 07:39 PM (#4098988)
I agree wholeheartedly, and furthermore an eye for an eye means that his punishment should be cutting off the other one.


So long as he cuts it off.
   175. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: April 05, 2012 at 07:44 PM (#4099002)
I'll post this here since I'm know many here care about good writing, and this writer in particular. A really nice letter to a young fan (can I say "nice"? Or "really?").
That was friggin' fantastic.
   176. Zipperholes Posted: April 05, 2012 at 07:48 PM (#4099009)
Joe, I think you're not understanding the argument.

Question: is it just that people from the ghetto are disproportionately in prison?

Crowd: No. It's a result of a bigger police presence, not more crime.
Joe: There should be a bigger police presence. There's more violent crime.
Crowd: Yes, but the violent crime is a result of the criminalization of drugs, which is unjust.
Joe: But those are the laws. People should follow them.
Crowd: Yes, but they are still unjust, and therefore the disproportionate arrests resulting from drug laws is unjust.
Joe: But those are the laws. People should follow them.
   177. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: April 05, 2012 at 07:48 PM (#4099010)

Even if, just for the sake of discussion, I concede that the drug laws are "unjust and discriminatory," they're still the law of the land. Prohibition was dumb, too, but it wasn't some great moral outrage that people couldn't have booze for a while.

The moral outrage is not that people can't get drugs (although I imagine libertarians would regard that as a moral outrage), it's the (completely expected) consequences of those laws. It's that families are being torn apart, entire neighborhoods (hell, some could argue countries) are being destroyed, tens of billions of dollars are being wasted, criminals are being enriched and empowered, resources are being diverted from more important priorities, all for no good reason. I don't understand how someone could not be outraged by that.

I will also add that I don't think anyone went to prison for alcohol possession during Prohibition. Consumption itself was not criminalized, just manufacture, sale and transport. That's an important distinction, IMO.

I don't buy this at all, at least not as a wholesale solution to street-level drug crime. The only way drugs will ever be legalized in the U.S. is if a large tax is assessed on them, just like with cigarettes. Wealthier people would pay the tax to avoid the possible unpleasantries associated with being arrested, but poorer drug users will look for alternatives — i.e., the substantial tax on "legal" drugs will provide pricing opportunities for the present-day cartels and dealers. There still won't be shootouts in Beverly Hills, and there might be fewer shootouts in Compton, but there will still be shootouts in Compton. Drug legalization isn't remotely a panacea.

Are there shootouts in Compton over cigarettes? Liquor? Perhaps occasionally. I'm sure there will still be drug-related crime, just as there is still alcohol-related crime (and smuggling of cigarettes to avoid the taxes), but it would be much less than it is today. And of course, you could solve that problem by eliminating the punitive taxes.
   178. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 05, 2012 at 08:03 PM (#4099026)
Joe, I think you're not understanding the argument.

No, I understand the argument. I'm just not falling for the flimflammery people are trying to pull here.

Prohibition lasted for 14 years, while the drug laws have been on the books for over half a century. The most onerous of the drug laws were enacted in the 1980s by members of the Democratic party — a party that typically gets upwards of 85 percent of the vote of the alleged "victims" of these drug laws. There's neither a national consensus that drugs should be legalized nor a big right-wing conspiracy to imprison more and more blacks for purposes of the "prison industrial complex."

The moral outrage is not that people can't get drugs (although I imagine libertarians would regard that as a moral outrage), it's the (completely expected) consequences of those laws.

If the consequences were "completely expected," why were the laws enacted in the first place? Why have they lasted for over 50 years? And why do the "victims" of these laws still vote overwhelmingly for members of the party that enacted the toughest of these laws?

Are there shootouts in Compton over cigarettes? Liquor?

The drug cartels and distribution networks already exist. If drugs are legalized tomorrow, the people who work for them won't simply shrug their shoulders and go work at Walmart.
   179. Zipperholes Posted: April 05, 2012 at 08:11 PM (#4099035)
There's neither a national consensus that drugs should be legalized nor a big right-wing conspiracy to imprison more and more blacks for purposes of the "prison industrial complex."
The argument was about why there are more arrests in the inner city.

Consensus is irrelevant. Political ideology is irrelevant. The point is higher violent crime in the inner city is largely a result of idiotic laws. No stupid drug laws --> less violent crime --> less police presence --> fewer arrests. That's it.
   180. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 05, 2012 at 08:15 PM (#4099044)
The argument was about why there are more arrests in the inner city.

There's no argument about this. More violent crime in the inner city draws a higher police presence which ensnares more lower-level criminals. This has been true since the beginning of policing.

Consensus is irrelevant. Political ideology is irrelevant. The point is higher violent crime in the inner city is largely a result of idiotic laws. No stupid drug laws --> less violent crime --> less police presence --> fewer arrests. That's it.

If it's that simple, then why do the drug laws still exist? And how did the drug laws become an example of the "racism" in the GOP (as per the current Calcaterra thread), when the most onerous of the drug laws were passed by Democrats after the death of Len Bias?
   181. Zipperholes Posted: April 05, 2012 at 09:08 PM (#4099062)
There's no argument about this. More violent crime in the inner city draws a higher police presence which ensnares more lower-level criminals. This has been true since the beginning of policing.
Yes. And this violent crime is ultimately largely a result of stupid laws. "That's the law" isn't a rebuttal.

If it's that simple, then why do the drug laws still exist?
Because most voters and politicians act out of self-interest.
   182. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 05, 2012 at 09:38 PM (#4099072)
181 — Neither of those comments is compelling. If there was a national consensus to legalize drugs and repeal the "stupid laws," then both would have happened by now. We're not talking five years or 10 years here. These laws go back over half a century. Not even Obama, who got 98 percent of the black vote, has said the first word about changing the status quo.
   183. Lassus Posted: April 05, 2012 at 09:48 PM (#4099076)
I'm still trying to wrap my head around Morty posting writing advice that lauds brevity and clarity.



Anyhow:

I am confuse.

Rightfully so. I wasn't very clear, and sort of doing seven things at once.


A guy having a glass or two of wine with dinner every night would qualify, and I know several people who do just that.

Certainly, and my GF is right in this bell-curve. Hell, I usually pick out the wine, which I have proven to be quite excellent at for a non-drinker. My trouble is that

Moderate regular alcohol consumption is supposedly correlated with improved longevity.

is really not close to

Except that alcohol has major positive effects as well.


I don't think that "probably helps you live longer" stacks that well up against all the crap and death. I don't think alcohol should be banned, but the sweeping "major positive effects" just doesn't fly for me.

   184. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: April 05, 2012 at 09:57 PM (#4099078)
Not even Obama, who got 98 percent of the black vote, has said the first word about changing the status quo.

95%. Black people have been voting overwhelmingly (about 85%+) Democrat since LBJ in 1964. The Obama rate was a record, but just barely.

Most voters and politicians act out of what they perceive as their own self-interest.
Politicians are happy to ignore national consensus - for example, on legalization - unless and until it might actually cost them an election.
   185. Zipperholes Posted: April 05, 2012 at 09:59 PM (#4099083)
181 — Neither of those comments is compelling. If there was a national consensus to legalize drugs and repeal the "stupid laws," then both would have happened by now. We're not talking five years or 10 years here. These laws go back over half a century. Not even Obama, who got 98 percent of the black vote, has said the first word about changing the status quo.
I'm sorry, I have no idea what you're arguing about anymore. I haven't said anything about a consensus.
   186. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:07 PM (#4099088)
I'm sorry, I have no idea what you're arguing about anymore. I haven't said anything about a consensus.

You keep declaring the drug laws "stupid," but if there was anything like a consensus that they're stupid, they would have been repealed by now, or, at the very least, there would be a lot more momentum for repealing or changing them.

Again, the solution for "stupid" or "unjust" laws is to change the laws. We can't allow each individual person to decide which laws they're going to follow, and we assuredly don't want the police deciding which laws they're going to enforce.
   187. Zipperholes Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:34 PM (#4099107)
You keep declaring the drug laws "stupid," but if there was anything like a consensus that they're stupid, they would have been repealed by now, or, at the very least, there would be a lot more momentum for repealing or changing them.
Ah. No, I (and others here) think they're stupid. I'm aware that there are plenty of people who think crack smokers should be incarcerated.
   188. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:40 PM (#4099111)
Any discussion about drug legalization that doesn't distinguish between marijuana and other illegal drugs is pointless to anyone but a doctrinaire libertarian. And any legalization proposal that allows for the advertising and marketing of marijuana, as opposed to simply decriminalizing its possession and use, is a non-solution that's about as bad as the current problem of cluttering up our jails for trivial offenses. There's a big difference between actively encouraging marijuana use and not harassing and arresting those who choose to use it.

And regardless of what the racial motivations or non-motivations may be behind the discrepancy between the cocaine and crack possession penalties, that discrepancy obviously produces a racial disparity that's hard to brush aside.
   189. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 10:56 PM (#4099118)
I'll post this here since I'm know many here care about good writing, and this writer in particular. A really nice letter to a young fan (can I say "nice"? Or "really?").

Great advice. Very similar to Orwell's:


A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

What am I trying to say?
What words will express it?
What image or idiom will make it clearer?
Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

Could I put it more shortly?
Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
   190. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:01 PM (#4099119)
A sane moral system recognizes no right to do wrong. We may choose not to criminalize all wrongs b/c the negative consequences of enforcement outweigh the benefit, but one can never claim a right to do it.

The entire source of disagreement here is that I believe you're missing two critical words in that first sentence: "to others."

I see absolutely no downside to making self-amputation illegal.

All laws are restrictions on freedom, and all restrictions on freedom are downside. I see no compelling public need to define self-amputation as illegal in the law, nor to spend money enforcing that law and administering punishment that merits the downside of restricting such freedom. (To the best of my knowledge, self-mutilation is NOT illegal. Especially since one man's mutilation is another man's fashion statement.)
   191. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:11 PM (#4099126)
A parent who kills their only child by neglect is never going to do that again (they've got no more kids). Should they therefore not be punished?

To make them suffer? No. To deter others from killing their children? Perhaps, if it really will be a deterrent.

I would, however, consider that person unfit to have children or pets without demonstrating some moral transformation. That's not a punishment so much as a protective measure; I'd isolate that person from situations in which he or she is a caregiver for another living thing.

Hermann Goering was never going to achieve a position of political power again, so he wasn't going to re-offend. Should he have been sent home to his country estate in May, 1945?

I do not believe a sane person could commit such evil. We're talking about a psychopath, and the appropriate remedy is almost certainly institutionalization. It would take quite a bit of evidence of rehabilitation before you'd let someone like that back into society.

Once again, not because he must suffer for his crimes, but because he is dangerous.
   192. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:26 PM (#4099133)
If it's that simple, then why do the drug laws still exist?

For many of the same reasons that many bad laws exist: general lack of accurate information, propaganda, unsympathetic victims of the law, the ability for many people to circumvent the law (so it is mere inconvenience), repeal runs counter to the financial interests of powerful lobbies, and inertia.

And how did the drug laws become an example of the "racism" in the GOP (as per the current Calcaterra thread), when the most onerous of the drug laws were passed by Democrats after the death of Len Bias?

I wouldn't claim that the laws are, on their face, racist. The enforcement of those laws and the penalties for lawbreaking demonstrate a clear bias (both wealth-based and race-based). It's likely that the wealth-based bias significantly contributes to the race-based bias, but not entirely. Poor white people aren't as often a target of enforcement as comparably poor black people, and they generally face lower sentences.
   193. Morty Causa Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:27 PM (#4099134)
   194. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:29 PM (#4099138)
I would, however, consider that person unfit to have children or pets without demonstrating some moral transformation. That's not a punishment so much as a protective measure; I'd isolate that person from situations in which he or she is a caregiver for another living thing.

Isn't that just a fancy way of saying, I'd put them in jail? If not, how would a society "isolate" such people without putting them in jail?
   195. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:41 PM (#4099141)
Isn't that just a fancy way of saying, I'd put them in jail? If not, how would a society "isolate" such people without putting them in jail?

Finally a job for Pro Abortion Man!
   196. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:52 PM (#4099143)
Any discussion about drug legalization that doesn't distinguish between marijuana and other illegal drugs is pointless to anyone but a doctrinaire libertarian.

I am interested in your evidence that cocaine is more dangerous than alcohol.

And any legalization proposal that allows for the advertising and marketing of marijuana, as opposed to simply decriminalizing its possession and use, is a non-solution that's about as bad as the current problem of cluttering up our jails for trivial offenses. There's a big difference between actively encouraging marijuana use and not harassing and arresting those who choose to use it.

Why? It's perhaps the least dangerous drug imaginable. The more research you read about, the more you'll be shocked at how benign a drug it is. It's even safer when ingested or inhaled through vaporization rather than smoked.

No human being has ever died from marijuana in recorded history. It is so impractical as to be impossible to overdose on marijuana; one would have to smoke literally thousands of joints at once. Marijuana is toxic at a dose of something like 40,000 times the active dose for typical use.

Moderate use doesn't impair lung function; occasional marijuana use can actually enhance lung function (although to be fair, it does so through what amounts to breathing exercises, not some inherent value in the plant). Recent studies have shown that, contrary to long-held popular belief, regular marijuana smoking does not contribute to lung cancer. A Canadian study showed no effect on IQ for light-to-moderate use among teenagers.
   197. CrosbyBird Posted: April 05, 2012 at 11:59 PM (#4099147)
Isn't that just a fancy way of saying, I'd put them in jail? If not, how would a society "isolate" such people without putting them in jail?

No, it's not. I'm saying I might restrict that person's ability to be a caregiver, without restricting their freedom.

Also, I'm not opposed to incarceration. I'm opposed to retribution. Put people in jail to isolate them from society, put people in jail as a deterrent (specific or general)*, or put people in jail to rehabilitate them. Don't put people in jail to make them suffer, and don't make jail a place designed to inflict suffering.

*I think deterrence, especially severity of punishment as a deterrent, is highly overstated. Most people that commit crimes do not consider the consequences as part of their decision process. Nobody says "I would steal that watch if the sentence were only three years in prison rather than four years."
   198. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 06, 2012 at 12:42 AM (#4099155)
No, it's not. I'm saying I might restrict that person's ability to be a caregiver, without restricting their freedom.

So a person who killed their child would be free to roam around freely as long as they agree not to have more kids or not to kill someone else's kid(s)? That seems utterly crazy to me.

Most people that commit crimes do not consider the consequences as part of their decision process. Nobody says "I would steal that watch if the sentence were only three years in prison rather than four years."

I bet a lot more people would steal if the penalties were lighter (or non-existent; e.g., the civil-court recourse you mentioned earlier). But either way, the inclination to steal seems like a sufficient reason for society to lock a person away. I'd certainly consider mitigating factors — first-time offender, family in dire need, sincere remorse for succumbing to temptation, intoxication, etc. — but anything after a second chance (or maybe a third chance) seems like a chance too many. (I'm not talking about life sentences for people who steal a bag of chips, but how many cars should one be allowed to steal before enough is enough? In my opinion, the number is 1.)
   199. Los Angeles El Hombre de Anaheim Posted: April 06, 2012 at 03:51 AM (#4099183)
(I'm not talking about life sentences for people who steal a bag of chips, but how many cars should one be allowed to steal before enough is enough? In my opinion, the number is 1.)
So, life sentence for a second grand theft auto?
   200. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 06, 2012 at 04:05 AM (#4099184)
No, but locked up for a long time, rather than a stern talking-to and a free pass out the door.
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