Author Archives: nerdface

Reply to Book Review

-by Nerdface- 

Thanks to David Kennedy for responding to my previous post!

David Kennedy here.

Many thanks for the review and thoughts.

The book doesn’t talk about legalization for the same reason it doesn’t talk about gun control or economic development or fixing urban education: because none of it is going to happen, if at all, on a scale and at a pace that will mean anything anytime soon for these devastated communities. The country is simply not going to legalize heroin and crack. Whether it should or not is another question, but one entirely immaterial to a practical approach to addressing violence and related issues. A core part of the outlook that has led to the Don’t Shoot work is that anything meaningful has to be capable of being done by real, ordinary people using ordinary resources. That’s led away from a lot of the usual discussion to a different set of – thankfully very powerful – approaches.

On the race front, the point is less that the history exists – though in fact a lot of people really don’t understand what it was – than it is that the history has led to a set of very powerful and destructive narratives that the opposing parties don’t understand at all. Most white folks simply can’t comprehend why angry black communities would think that the CIA would conspire to destroy them with drugs. Most folks in angry black communities can’t understand why the police would believe that they’re all living off drug money and don’t care about their kids being killled. What matters to changing the way we see each other and work together is understanding how we’ve gotten from the history to where we are today. The main point of the book on that front is that those narratives hide the fact that on the core issues of violence nearly everybody – communities, cops, and offenders – feels the same way: they’re against it. That common ground is enough on which to build massive, and thankfully rapid, change.

Thanks again,

David

It’s an election year…

-by Nerdface-

…so let’s take a look at Obama’s record, shall we?

Negative:
-He didn’t close Guantánamo Bay, possibly the largest stain on the American conscience right now (and that’s saying a lot, sadly). If you read only one article today, read this.
-He signed the 2012 NDAA, which allows Americans to be imprisoned, indefinitely, without trial, until “the end of hostilities” (of the war on terror), which, we can all agree, at the current rate, is never.
-He supports the PATRIOT Act and has voted for it (as a Senator) and signed it into law (as President), despite the many times that he previously spoke out against it.
-He authorized the assassination of an American on foreign soil, based on his say-so as President: no day in court, no trial.
-Continued and escalated foreign conflicts, including the use of drones. He brought troops home from Iraq only when (per a treaty signed under George W. Bush) he could do nothing else. There are still thousands of “security” contractors in Iraq.
-His administration stated it would have a hands-off policy for medical marijuana, then did an about-face and orchestrated an on-going, multi-agency crackdown against pot that’s far beyond anything Bush did.
-The Obama administration has prosecuted more current or former government officials for providing classified information to the media than every previous administration combined.
-Supported the Wall Street bailouts, appointed former heads of JP Morgan and Monsanto to influential government positions.

Arguably mixed bags:
-Passed a health reform law.
-Deported record numbers of illegal immigrants, supposedly focusing on those with criminal records.

Positive:
-Repealed DADT.
-Officially ended the policy of torture carried out by the Bush administration.

The negative list is worthy of the Bush administration, and, under a Republican president, would be subjected to scathing critique and righteous fury from liberals.
We cannot afford to overlook these acts, even when they come to us at the hands of an eloquent, handsome, black, nominally progressive President. Believe me, I understand. I doubt that anyone—except maybe those imprisoned without trial or killed—is more sorry than I that Obama is not what he could have been. But reality is here. And we cannot and must not delude ourselves any longer.

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GUNS AND DRUGS AND STUFF

-by Nerdface-

I recently finished reading Don’t Shoot: One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence by David Kennedy (quite a mouthful, eh?). Don’t Shoot chronicles the author’s work developing and helping implement what was originally called the Boston Ceasefire program—alternative policing strategies designed to lower the rates of street homicide and/or shut down open drug markets. Kennedy and his coworkers started in Boston and then took the program ‘on the road’—to Stockton, Baltimore, Minneapolis, and Cincinnati—after they saw how dramatic and immediate the results could be. The program has since been used all over the country, including in Los Angeles.

Don’t Shoot was a fascinating but incredibly frustrating read. I highly recommend it—the story deserves attention, and the writing is lyrical and gorgeous. But I cannot emphasize enough how frustrating I found it.

The primary reason for my frustration is Kennedy’s thundering silence around the question of drug legalization. Multiple times in the book he explains, and backs up with statistics, that the basis of street violence is NOT in drug use, but in drug markets. He makes this point over and over, almost from page one. The first time he brought it up, I waited for the logical follow-up, addressing legalization. It never came. Well, it’s a huge issue, I thought—maybe he’s saving it for a chapter down the road… or the other road… or that other road…? No?

It drove me crazy the whole time I read the book, and it’s driving me crazy still. I don’t know which side Kennedy would argue, but I believe he would have some interesting and valuable insights. He spent years and years working on the forefront of drug-market-fueled violence. Surely he has something to say on the question. I doubt he is in favor of substance criminalization in its current form—he says as much when he says that police on the ground never chose the ‘war on drugs’, that they readily admit, in private, it’s unwinnable. But he also comes down over and over again on the side of The Law—as he must, for someone trying to work with and within The Law—and, of course, he never specifically addresses the question. So who knows?

I also found some of his writing on racism, minority communities, and street criminals frustrating. Not offensive—not wrong—just frustrating. At times he writes as though America’s racist past (and present), the distrust of police by poor urban minority communities (and the damn good reasons for it), etc, are a revelation. My God, he seems to say—did you know?!?! It used to be this way—and it still is this other way? Sometimes the police do this? I’m not sure if he was simply white-upper-middle-class naïve (not a good excuse, if you ask me), or was working too closely with The Authorities to easily see it, or what exactly, but I found it frustrating that the reality of Our Super Fucked Up Past and Our Still Fucked Up Present seemed so mind-blowing to him. It was frustrating because if these basic realities, which millions of Americans lived and live daily, represented such an awakening to this [liberal, educated] guy, how much further must that same awakening be from a hell of a lot of other guys?

In conclusion. I never threw this book across the room, as I have done with certain other books, but I did find it frustrating. And fascinating. And beautifully written. So read it, and if you ever get the chance, tell David Kennedy to get on the damn record already about drug legalization. We need his voice. We need every voice.

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oh I’ve just come from the land of the sun…

-by Nerdface-

…from a war that must be won
in the name of truth

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we’re rich!

-by Nerdface-

Haitibabies got this today:

Our reply:

Awesome. Can you please send it in cash. Twenty dollar bills would be best, I think.

Once it gets here, we’re taking all four five of you devoted readers out to dinner!

I also appreciate how bankers are now using Comic Sans. It is a sign that clearly we have now reached the end times. Hope you guys have your zombie-shotguns ready.

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“lies, damned lies, and statistics”

-by Nerdface-

Stuff like this makes me absolutely batty. Right wing/left wing? Love Reagan/hate Reagan? Love Obama/hate Obama? You pays your money and you takes your choice.

It’s all the same—impossible to find out the truth, because no one cares about the truth. We just want to be right. We need to be right. We’re sure we’re right. OF COURSE we’re right. How could we possibly be wrong? OTHER PEOPLE are the wrong ones.

We cherry-pick. We believe the articles that agree with us, we repeat/repost/regurgitate the data that fits our particular worldview, we surround ourselves with media that tell us only what we want to hear. And all the while we spiral more and more into our own crazy.

Both these images came to my attention as recent Facebook shares. Beautiful, isn’t it, how Reagan increased debt by a whopping 189% compared to Obama’s paltry 16%, while simultaneously Obama doubled the overall debt of all previous presidents before him? Impressive, to say the least!

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” -Mark Twain

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Dear Congress

-by Nerdface-

Dear United States Congress,

No offense and all, but you’re a bunch of old fogeys. And the lobbyists and industry heads behind your SOPA and PIPA legislation are just as bad. None of you really understands how the Internet works. Half of you secretly suspect dark magic (FYI, if you stopped using AOL it might help). I’m willing to bet approximately 100% of you have no idea how to torrent. (“More dark magic,” you say, crossing yourself. “Possibly gremlins.”)

Continue reading

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A Modest Proposition

-by Nerdface-

Whereas it has previously been established at the highest levels of our government that the terrorist organization known as al-Qaeda hates us for our freedoms;

And whereas both supporters and detractors of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act admit that the law endangers—even tramples upon—the basic American freedoms of due process and habeus corpus, guaranteed us by Articles 5 and 6 of the United States Constitution;

And whereas the 2012 NDAA provides for the indefinite detention of any person who “was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces”;

I hereby submit that the members of Congress who voted for this bill, and the President who signed it into law, are, under this bill, directly supporting al-Qaeda in their goal of destroying America and her freedoms, and are therefore subject to indefinite detention under said law.

I move that they be detained under the law they signed, new representatives elected, and the law immediately repealed.

Continue reading

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“freedom to do what you should do”

-by Nerdface-

Rick Santorum: “Happiness today is enjoyment, pleasure, what makes you feel good. At the time of our founders, one of the principle definitions was to do the morally right thing. So, think of what our founders envisioned: the freedom to do the morally right thing. Rights given to us by God to serve him and his will in our lives. That is the moral foundation that is America…

“We build a culture of freedom, but a freedom to do what you should do, not what you want to do.”

Ohhhhhh. Thanks for clearing that up, Rick. Much appreciated. I shouldn’t have the freedom to do what I want—just the freedom to do what you want me to do. Got it. Sounds great.

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With Liberty and Justice for Some

-by Nerdface-

Excerpt from Glenn Greenwald‘s excellent new book, which discusses the way the powerful in America (both public and private) are generally exempted from prosecution for crimes they commit:

[Washington Post’s Richard] Cohen protested: “As any prosecutor knows—and Martha Stewart can attest—white-collar types tend to have a morbid fear of jail.” Of course, blue-collar types, and poorer ones still, do not mind prison at all. Why would they? It’s their natural habitat, where they belong. Prison is for people like them.

Under this view, law is needed to control and constrain the ignoble masses (that is, the powerless), who will otherwise spread chaos and disorder. But the noble among us need no constraints. Indeed, the opposite is true: society is better off if the most privileged are free to act without limits, for that will maximize the good they can produce for everyone.

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