Thursday, May 19, 2011

Alan Bock, RIP

I was saddened to learn late last night that libertarian author Alan Bock has just passed away at the age of 67. He was the author of several books, including Ambush at Ruby Ridge and Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana, and a regular columnist at the Orange County Register and There's a very nice article about him at the Register that you can read here. It's been at least a decade since I first started reading his work, and when I was a young man starting to delve deeper into libertarianism he was an enormously positive influence - it feels hard to imagine him being gone.

Thank you for everything. Rest in peace.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Partial List of Things the Government of the State of Oklahoma Considers Preferable to the Peaceful Production of Concentrated Psychoactive Plant Resin

The State of Oklahoma recently passed a law increasing the sentence for producing hashish, a concentrated derivative of the cannabis plant, to a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of life imprisonment. On a first offense, no less.

The purpose of this legislation was to "send a message" about illegal drugs, according to the bill's original supporters in the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and Governor Mary Fallin and Oklahoma's legislature have certainly done that. This left me wondering: How are other crimes treated in Oklahoma? What messages are they the subject of?

More specifically, what crimes are punished less harshly- and, it can thus be reasonably inferred, are considered less objectionable?  After a bit of research into the minimum and maximum sentences allowed for various crimes under Oklahoma law, I've compiled an incomplete list of things that, while not smiled upon by Oklahoma's rulers, are more acceptable to them than the prospect of Oklahoma residents being able to smoke hashish. Maximum sentences for other crimes in Oklahoma include:

Using threats or violence to force a child into prostitution- 25 years

Forcible sodomy- 20 years

Assault or battery with a knife, firearm, or other deadly weapon- 10 years

Battery causing bone fracture, protracted and obvious disfigurement, protracted loss or impairment of the function of a body part, organ or mental faculty, or substantial risk of death- 5 years

Abandonment of a child under the age of 10 by his or her parent or legal guardian- 10 years

Culpable negligence resulting in the death of a human being- 4 years

Urinating, defecating, or ejaculating on a child for sexual gratification- 20 years

Forcible restraint of a woman in a house of prostitution- 20 years

Using letters or other printed materials to threaten someone with death or bodily harm- 1 year

Premeditated infliction of a disfiguring or disabling injury- 7 years

Procuring a child for the production of child pornography- 20 years

So, there you have it. Message read and received.

I don't endorse breaking the law, and needless to say the governor and legislature of Oklahoma don't either. But if you do, then for the sake of both the common weal and your own conscience at least restrain yourself to less heinous crimes that are less destructive to the rights and well-being of your fellow citizens. Sell a child into sexual slavery. Show your next-door neighbor that you don't appreciate his critical remarks about the state of your front lawn by shooting him in the face with a nail gun. Cut off the pinky finger of an annoying coworker with a meat cleaver and wear it on a necklace as a warning to the others. Mail your former spouse or significant other a series of packages containing recently killed and dismembered animals, each one larger than the last and accompanied by a crudely handwritten note that says THIS IS YOU.

But while you do so, for the love of God please don't sink so low as to make hash. The  government of Oklahoma will thank you.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Just like Club Med, but with more frequent shiv attacks

There's a blog post at This Ain't Livin' called The Myth of Cushy Prisons that is well-worth reading.  It focuses on the material conditions of the prisons themselves, but the way prisons are run is worth bringing up as well, because in that area the myth goes from being merely mistaken to downright nonsensical.

The popularity of the belief that prisons are some sort of swanky resort or the like- "country club" seems to be the most common term- involves some very weird doublethink, because the fact that prisoners are often subjected to horrendous violence and degradation while in prison is hardly some sort of secret. It's not even something people generally know but avoid talking about.

On the contrary, open acknowledgments of it are pervasive.  Prison rape is not an official part of the legal system, but it's so common and so tolerated that it might as well be. References to it, both serious and comedic, are ubiquitous in pop culture; referencing it is risque, but hardly shocking or taboo. Protagonists on prime time network cop shows threaten uncooperative men with it, and this is generally not considered shocking or unheroic because everyone understands- even if they do not say- that being raped in prison is a de facto component of many prison sentences.

Now, it's true that this sort of incoherence is not unique in political matters. As Roderick Long has pointed out, modern statism in general  depends on people's belief that the state is a peaceful, consensual institution and their knowledge that it actually isn't, existing side-by-side. But while the reality of the nature of the state is obscured by a veil of ideological obfuscations, that's not the case here. People may try to rationalize or justify or condone the prevalence of violence in prisons, but rarely if ever try to claim it's not violent, or isn't horrible for the victim.

It's also true that people trying to deny an intolerable reality can develop irrational, absurd, or blatantly and obviously self-contradictory beliefs to keep themselves going. But this isn't about denial- most people know about it and will acknowledge it if the subject comes up, and some outright revel in it. The subject is not taboo. People may not know the precise details of how prevalent it is, but it's widely understood that it is not a rare, unusual occurrence happening in a generally peaceful and safe environment.

If anything, there seems to be a positive correlation between openly acknowledging what prisons are like and the stated belief that prisons are "country clubs"; my own experience is that people who lament the overly luxurious conditions of the American prison system are more likely than average to openly chortle at the prospect of someone they dislike being raped in prison. Somehow, they're able to reconcile the two. Country clubs are less genteel than popular stereotypes have led me to believe, apparently.

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