Police Overreach, Rioting, and a Noxious Rhetorical Climate

Unless you’ve been living under a very impressive rock – like a bad Brendan Fraser movie about people stuck in a bunker for decades – you know about this George Lloyd business. I’ve seen the video. If you haven’t, you should do so. It is pretty incriminating for the officers involved. I’ve never been much of a thin blue line kind of guy, but I definitely check out here. I know two very good friends who have been screwed over by exceptionally bad police overreach. Francis, over at Bastion of Liberty, surely knows one of them – he is a friend we have in common.

Police petty tyranny has been growing worse in recent years, and we add to that a certain tendency of some urban police departments to engage in soldier-LARPing behavior, well the problem only gets worse. Add to that the condition of various inner-city black communities, the current political climate of race-baiting social justice activism, and the fact that COVID-19 lockdowns have surely driven people mad with boredom and lack of social contact, and you have a perfect storm for this rioting behavior.

It’s hard to blame it on any one thing, save that the poor behavior of the officers in question surely struck a match and stuck it firmly in a powder keg of epic proportions. Personally, I am exhausted of this repeating cycle, which has been a thing since at least the early 90s and the Rodney King riots. Questionable police behavior (sometimes not really so bad, and other times absolutely inexcusably idiotic) leads to racial animus, which results in barbaric looting behavior. We’re all spiraling toward a singularity of stupid, the gravity pulling us deep into a descending orbit, too strong for any of us to escape.

Political rhetoric has become absolutely poisonous. Sure, it was bad in 2016, but this year it grows worse, and I grow weary of it. Every discussion even coming anywhere near a political point is liable to turn into a land mine. Friendships are breaking. Families are cracking. America is burning and creaking at the seams. I don’t know how much longer this dysfunctional system is going to continue to limp along. We may be witnessing its slow death. Or maybe we’ll bounce back again, and our country will be undone at some unspecified point in the future. It’s hard to say.

With the election approaching, I think it’s only going to get worse.

Sadly, I think underneath all the nuclear-level rhetoric, the unleashed ids, the emotional appeals and post-hoc rationalization, both sides of the American political spectrum are clutching a piece of the truth. I’m not sure how many people want to hear that, but I’ve become convinced that it is true. I posted the following summary on Twitter earlier:

  1. In general, policing has gone very bad in many ways.
  2. Black communities in most major cities suck.
  3. At least some of the suck is self-inflicted.
  4. I despair of any of that changing in the near future.
  5. We’ll be here again. And again
  6. Racial profiling is almost certainly a thing.
  7. It is not without some rational basis.
  8. Both facts poison interactions between cops and blacks.
  9. White liberal race-baiting doesn’t help.
  10. Neither does ‘thin blue line’ garbage.
  11. No political faction wants to tell the whole truth because it will piss off constituents who don’t want to hear it.
  12. Both major factions possess at least some components of the truth.
  13. I feel like some character in Battlestar Galactica. “All of this has happened before.”

The black communities in most major cities are littered with problems. Violence, crime rates, economic depression – you name it. Rightists are right about that. Leftists want to blame white racism, but that doesn’t hold up to investigation. Surely, even if Leftists believe racism to still be bad even they must acknowledge that it is far less bad than, say, the Jim Crow era. Why do these problems continue? Why do we see so little progress? I was rereading Larry Elder’s Ten Things You Can’t Say in America today after a debate with a Leftist on this subject, and it struck me how little had changed since then on matters of race, saving that acrimony continues to worsen. The same issues from 20 years ago are little changed today. What gives?

Police officers know this as well as anyone. Let’s be real, they certainly do racially profile (the Left is right about this); stereotypes about violent crime have a basis in fact, and cops know it. And, from the other direction, blacks certainly are inclined to see cops as the enemy, the attitude leaks into police interactions all the time. Combine those two factors, and the chances of an interaction going bad increase dramatically. And when that happens, prepare for protests that, likewise escalate in severity. Riots, looting, mob interactions – all intermingling with the still-peaceful (but emotional and crazy) main element – while the cops either stay on the sidelines as Rome burns, or escalate the situation even more themselves.

In some ways, it almost doesn’t matter that this particular policing incident really was bad. If it had been a legitimate death, it still had the potential to flare up into what we have today. We are at the point that any police interaction with the black community has the potential of blowing up into a national orgy of combined protest-riots. This one is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime. There is a protest scheduled down the street from where I live tomorrow – it is likely they won’t bother my neighborhood (it is known that a lot of military folks live around here), but even the potential is strange to me. There were burnings and lootings all over Tampa Bay, especially in the University Mall/Temple Terrace area.

Tampa is not exactly a city known for rioting behavior. I cannot imagine how bad it must be in other major cities.

And we’re not even halfway through 2020 yet. The election looms over us, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues (and may be exacerbated by the riots – we don’t know yet), and political rhetoric has reached levels that make 2016 look like a picnic in the park. We may solve the police overreach issue – though I really doubt it, now – but the broader issue about any police interaction with the black community potentially triggering national riots remains no matter what might be done about that. I think we’re well beyond the ability to solve this in any constructive manner.

I’d like to be wrong. I’d like for someone to pour some water on this fire, to rein in police overreach, to deal with qualified immunity, poor recruiting, travesties like civil asset forfeiture, etc… I’d also like to take us back from 5 minutes until midnight on the racial rioting clock. But I doubt either will happen anytime soon.

Like I said, I feel like it’s an episode of Battlestar Galactica, and I’m reciting the catchphrase. All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again. Again. Again. Again…

 

Memorial Day, Book Sales, and Approaching Election Insanity

First off, I hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day weekend. The kids are having a blast, we can grill up some hot dogs and hamburgers – now that the backyard is back in some kind of semblance of order, and the weather is perfect.

There’s a lot I could say about Memorial Day in principle. Most of my family is/was military. I never joined, and it’s something that has periodically bothered me. I’ve been exploring some reservist options before I age out completely, at the suggestion of Tom Kratman. But aside from all that, well… I’m not a big “this is what this holiday means to me personally” kind of guy. I just hope if you are active duty out in the sticks, or like my brother, stuck in the middle of nowhere doing COVID testing, you can find some rest and fun at some point throughout all this.

COVID continues to be a mess, and arguments over continuing or ending the lockdown have ascended to idiotic status. Most of these people don’t know anything about anything, but a few media buzzwords circulate and they think they are experts. I don’t know how it’s going to go, personally. I continue in a form of semi-lockdown myself, working from home and leaving only rarely. But I am an introvert, and a UI developer. For me, staying away from people is kind of great. Certainly, it’s not much of strain on me. I imagine it is different for others.

As election 2020 approaches, everything is all up in the air. I have no predictions. If COVID is still out in the wild come November, things are going to get messy. There has been a great deal of speculation that voting by mail increases the potential for fraud. Whether or not this is really true, the perception is there, and that could be dangerous. Before COVID, I would have said Trump would probably win. Give him 3-to-1 odds, especially against that doddering old fool, Biden. Really, Democrats? That’s the best you could come up with? Tulsi Gabbard might have had a chance at reconciling some of the tribal madness and appealing to some Trump converts. But Biden? Without this Black Swan event, that was probably a foregone concludion. But COVID and the economic damage mean it’s difficult to make any meaningful prediction, save that it’s going to be a nightmare no matter how it shakes out, probably.

On a more positive note, some of my best author friends are having a Memorial Day sale, and I can vouch for the quality of most of these authors. My friend Hans G. Schantz led the charge, but we also have some of my favorites like Travis Corcoran and L. Jagi Lamplighter. Give it a go and pick up some new reads if you’re interested. My own novel, Eternal Crusade (this title is tentative at the moment) is about 50% complete. At my current speed, I figure it might be done before the end of the year. Let me know in the comments if you’re interested in some excerpts. Also, Terra Nova: Wars of Liberation, containing my short, is now available in paperback form and a lower Kindle price.

It’s also worth noting that as time become difficult for many Americans, I’ve noticed a definite drop off in SJW nonsense. I think even they know that the patience for 59739.5 genders has cratered now that a lot of folks are worrying about whether or not they’ll even have jobs tomorrow. Good times can breed a high degree of political idiocy. Bad times can sometimes restore a little realism. That’s not to say this is a good thing. More like a silver lining in a really nasty storm cloud.

Some Quick Ranting

As far as political ranting goes… well, I’ve got to get something off my chest. This Coronavirus business has made people insane. I don’t know any other way to put it. There are those out there who are convinced this thing is so bad, we need to stay locked up until the end of time, and in trademark Leftist fashion, if even one person dies…. Wuhan Flu is serious, certainly serious enough to take some sensible precautions. There is no evidence I’ve seen that suggests it’s the fucking plague.

On the other hand, there are those who are going on as if nothing is happening, and they are pretty dumb too. Beaches were opened back up recently in my state. And by itself, that is fine. I’m worried that excessive use of executive power to enforce the lockdown can go very badly in the end. But just because you can do a thing does not mean you should. Hordes of people going to the beach to party… well that’s pretty dumb too. It’s one thing if you need to break quarantine to earn a living, to get food, to do the things you need to do for you and yours.

It’s quite another to party as if nothing is happening. Again, it’s their right. But it’s stupid.

Worse than both of those, though, is the SURETY so many folks posting all over social media appear to have. They use the word “facts” after a cursory 5 minute Google search, or watching some journalist on TV, one who hasn’t been right about anything since before Donald Trump was elected President. The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect is in full force. And they get so damned angry when you dare to point out that, quite frankly, very few people know what they are talking about.

I don’t either! But at least I’ll say so. We’re not really going to have solid numbers on this disease until the threat has passed, in all likelihood. It’s one thing to make a semi-educated guess based on the fragmentary data we have now. It’s quite another to claim it’s a “fact”.

Take fatality rates by country. Some Leftists have been bloviating about how America has the highest death toll! Okay. America has, for example, roundabout 5 times the population of Italy. You need to compare death rate per capita. Second, China’s numbers are most likely bogus, and probably much higher than they’ve reported. I have no specific evidence of this, but that is standard operating procedure for the ChiComs: saving face and burying the truth. They certainly buried the impact of the disease when it was in its early stages. Why should anybody trust their numbers now?

But beyond that, data collection methods differ by country. For instance, if someone has cancer, and coronavirus, and dies… which one is labeled as the cause? How accurate is the tally in each country? How corrupt is each country’s government? Speculating on relative death rates per capita using the official numbers as a base, I get that. It’s probably still inaccurate, but it’s something to look at.

Being SURE about the numbers… that’s a different kettle of fish.

The same operates on the side of some Rightists, many of whom appear to be taking the threat too lightly given the lack of data. If you don’t know for sure how bad it is, it makes sense to take some precautionary measures until you can assess the risk more accurately. I get that the various governments are exceeding the bounds of the Constitution in many places, and need to be smacked down, in case these measures acquire some kind of permanence. But one of the few legitimate functions of a government is to protect the citizenry from the kinds of existential threats individuals, alone, cannot effectively defend against. The same moral justification for the existence of the military may be valid in the case of an international pandemic.

I am very, very worried about politicians getting a taste for power right now. So I’m not going to shit overmuch on the people who are angry at the limitations. Again, I don’t have enough accurate data or knowledge to make these kinds of calls. Neither do the politicians. Or the protesters. So do as you will, as makes sense to your own personal risk assessment.

But understand that not even the doctors are sure about much of anything right now.

And be ready to change your position as better data trickles in. We may find that we grossly overreacted to this.

Then again, we ma

Kung Flu, New Books, Preparations, and Other News

Good Lord – and I feel justified in invoking Him in this – what a mess since I’ve last dropped a blog post here. I have a mix of good, bad, and ugly. Some may prefer the bad news first, but I’ll lead with the good instead, because in light of a lot of folks being stuck indoors for the duration, this may be a helpful recommendation.

My good friend Francis is releasing his new book The Warm Lands for free this Friday (Amazon link). We’re all going to need a lot of reading material, I suspect. By nature, I am an introvert, and so I suppose being stuck indoors with a virtual stack of books is not the worst thing that could happen. In any event, folks, nab yourself a copy and pass it along to your friends. You’ll need the entertainment in the days to come.

But then I look at my various investments. You know, a friend of mine known ’round the world as ClarkHat told me I’d be better off going cash. I didn’t listen. Usually I have an internal heuristic: ClarkHat is always right. It’s not 100% accurate, but it’s well north of 95%. Next time I’ll remember that a bit better. I kept a lot of my holdings in gold, and even that tanked, which was pretty damned shocking. Last Thursday I made the mistake of looking at my investment balances, and it took about a quarter of a bottle of cheap scotch going down the hatch to numb the pain.

Preparations-wise, I am good to go. Being the paranoid introvert that I am, I was well ahead of the game in stocking up with canned goods and various foodstuffs. Ammunition? Heh. It’s me. I’ve got enough to conquer my zip code without too much difficulty. I joke about leading a Mad Max Road Warrior gang up the I-4 corridor to sack Disneyworld and make it the seat of my hive of scum and villainy. I’m only mostly joking.

Look, I’m not a doctor. So I won’t dispense advice of the nature, save to mention that my brother is in medical, in the military, and he’s been indicating that things are very bad. They are working him to the bone on lab testing, and the information coming down from on high hasn’t been very optimistic. I’ll summarize my thoughts on the matter:

  1. This isn’t the zombie apocalypse. Fatality rates seem to vary from 0.7% at the low end to 7% at the high end, depending on a lot of factors. ~2% seems to be pretty standard, insofar as we can tell. That’s not enough to collapse a civilization, but…
  2. …It is enough to collapse an economy. If the lockdown/suppression activity ends in a few weeks, I expect the markets will snap back into place like a rubber band. Most of the losses will be made good. Business as usual will resume. But that does not seem likely. If lockdowns continue for months without end, I expect the economic damage will be severe. The rubber band will break. Enter a depression to make the ’08 recession look like a walk in the park.
  3. The fact that Trump is already talking about massive stimulus and UBI packages indicates that he’s well aware of this. Things are going to get ugly, economically. Prepare accordingly.
  4. If all of the above is true, we might get a major political shift. We’re talking once-in-a-generation shift.

Consider that white liberal urbanites have been spotted lining up at gun stores in otherwise gun-unfriendly locales like California. Deep down, I think they know the same truth that Francis has talked about at his place on more than one occasion: urban race relations are very poor. Add social justice race hustling to the mix, and… well we saw what happened in Ferguson. With this crisis comes the opportunity for a great deal of nefarious behavior. We know it. Hustlers know it. And the urbanite cosmopolitans – for all their supposed enlightened sophistication – know it too.

This goes far larger than that, though. Border shutdowns are being discussed even in the European Union. We may see a shift away from globalism, and its supply chain vulnerabilities to diseases like this, to stronger borders and domestic manufacturing and supply chains despite a higher cost in dollars, because now awareness of vulnerability to situations like this one is added to the “cost” column. The fact that China was saber-rattling with Trump about the possibility of stopping pharmaceutical shipments to the US is a big red flag, and probably a knee-jerk misstep on the part of the Chinese. That only adds to this perception.

So while Trump appears to be shifting Leftward on policies like temporary UBI, the rest of the populace may be shifting rightward on matters of border security and “social justice” stupidity. How much time does anyone have for genderqueer fartkin when the economy is taking a gigantic dump and a worldwide pandemic is in full swing? Expect patience for that stupidity to evaporate like a fart in a hurricane.

I don’t know where this leaves the 2020 election, except that if Trump plays his cards right, he could come out looking like a prophet with regard to his on-the-record opposition to Chinese supply chain dominance in particular, and globalism in general. But either way, one of Taleb’s Black Swans has made its appearance, and I expect the ramifications from COVID-19 to continue to echo for many years. The political and economic fallout may well be an order of magnitude greater than the disease itself.

Meanwhile, active debate continues among many very intelligent people in my circle as to how bad the disease really is. It’s probably not worth buying 500 boxes of toilet paper – as some have done. But if you don’t have 3 months of food, water, and other consumables now, you better get on that. A 2% fatality rate is enough that things will be shutdown. No polity can tolerate that high of a death rate for an extended period of time in the modern era. Governments will take all kinds of measures – for good or ill – to prevent it. Navigating the suppression of the disease through social distancing while avoiding catastrophic economic collapse will be a hard road. I expect some countries will fail in this regard. Others (like China) will probably turn to outright tyranny to suppress it.

It may very well be that the WWE President Comacho… er… Trump is exactly what the doctor ordered (sorry, the pun was irresistible). Either way, as a friend of mine said earlier today, this will further reduce the Obama legacy to oblivion, sandwiched between the 9/11 president, and the Kung Flu president. An empty suit who faced little in the way of challenge.

Stay safe, my friends, and attend to your reading lists. May God keep you.

Pacifism is Cowardice

Francis posted an interesting screed this morning on having the courage to name one’s enemies. It got me thinking, as his posts often do. Tom Kratman has explained to me on more than one occasion that pacifism is moral cowardice. If you are unwilling to fight for your beliefs, if you are unwilling to confront evil, how can you call yourself good? This was one of the reasons I abandoned the Seventh Day Adventist church to swim the Tiber, as it were. Adventism preaches pacifism, and though there have been those Adventists like Desmond Doss who absolutely could not be described as cowards, the ideology as a whole comes uncomfortably close to it. Even Desmond’s heroism and sacrifice meant that someone else had to do the fighting. In other words, a nation full of nothing but Adventists would be conquered in short order.

In this sense, pacifism requires a sort of freeloading in order to exist. Someone must fight so that you do not have to fight, or else evil walks in the front door, kills you, takes your stuff, and your pacifist ideology goes extinct. History gives us a few examples of what happens when pacifism exists without someone willing to fight on its behalf, including the story of the Moriori.

Francis took issue with David French and the man’s constant bleating about Trump’s supposed disobedience of Christian morality because Trump names his enemies, and fights his enemies in the political arena. Pre-Trump, this trait was relatively rare in the Republican party. Most members were content to play the game as gentlemen, secure their sinecures, and fill the role of polite opposition to the Democrat party. A role, it should be noted, that suited men like David French well enough.

Now for one, I think it’s a mistake to ascribe “Christian values”, especially those derived from an Evangelical line of thinking, to Donald Trump. It’s silly when Trump supporters cast him as a being a gift from God or something. And it’s silly from the other side, when the Frenchies of the world disparage him because, in their mind, he’s not a good enough Christian. But more importantly, the notion that Trump defending himself from a barrage of media and political attacks is somehow immoral is idiotic at best, and cowardly pacifism at worst.

Consider what a regular person would do when accused of a crime. Would he defend himself from the accusations? If he knew himself to be innocent of the charges, and suspected his accusers knew likewise, would he not regard the accusers as his enemies? And if they were his enemies, trying to railroad him for personal gain, is he not permitted to say so? Is the Christian supposed to sit idly by and allow himself to be unjustly tried and sentenced? Why?

If the answer is “because Christ did”, you might want to rethink that. Christ had a higher mission that required sacrifice, to save humankind from its own mistakes. To knowingly sacrifice yourself for the good of others is a great and noble trait. This is not the equivalent of pacifism, however. If Trump did not fight his enemies, and let himself be defeated by them without a fight, what good is he doing? For who or what is he sacrificing himself? For the peace of mind of talking heads on CNN? For the sensibilities of Leftist politicians? For the aid and comfort of his enemies? That’s not Christ-like in the least. It’s stupid, though.

Francis explains:

Christ’s exhortation to “Love your enemies,” in the theological lexicon of First Century Judea, simply means to regard them as children of God like yourself. You are not to wish them harm, nor to harm them by any action you can avoid. But if you must fight them for a good reason, you do so.

Love your enemies is not an exhortation to allow yourself to be conquered, enslaved, or murdered by them. It is, rather, to regard them as human, like yourself. When you regard your enemies as less than human, you become like them. You become what you hate. Tom Kratman has explained that your enemy will learn from you. If you do [some horrible thing], he will likewise do it to you, sooner or later. If you must fight, then fight. Sell your cloak and buy a sword. But never forget that your enemies are human, too. They are children of God, also. He may be your enemy, but after you have defeated him, it is well and good to pray for his soul, for his redemption from whatever evil was afflicting him. Consider, also, the possibility that you have been touched by evil too.

Trump has many flaws, far too many for a quick blog post. But his willingness to name his enemies and to fight them on the political stage is not one of them. That is a virtue. And David French’s virtue signalling about his moral superiority is, in fact, a vice. Christ tells us not to trumpet our works before us. Those who do good have their own reward. Virtue signalling is not required. God already knows your heart on these matters, and the opinions of the mob don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

In this respect, at least, it is possible Trump actually is more Christian than David French, at least. Not, in my opinion, that this is saying overmuch, or is even particularly relevant to politics as a whole.

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