Posts Tagged ‘ war on drugs

The Bikecast Episode #39: The War on Drugs and the “Winding Up of Violence”

The war on drugs, like all wars, is actually a war on people. It has an endless list of disastrous and tragic social consequences that reaches to the very heavens. In this episode of the bikecast, I focus on one of the most pernicious and long lasting effects of this type of psychotic state program–what I call the “winding up of violence”.

By applying ever-increasing levels of force in an attempt to control voluntary human interactions, international drug policy weeds out all but the most lunatic element of the black market. It then makes this element very, very, very rich and gives them monopoly on the use of violence over a geographical region (just like their larger counterpart, the state!). Even if the drug war were to end tomorrow, the violence in places like the U.S. – Mexico border will take decades of ongoing human misery to wind down.

Download this episode of the bikecast

Prohibiting commodities of any sort has two effects that I want to concentrate on. First, it tends to remove peaceful, honest business-people from the production and distribution processes. For obvious reasons, most farmers won’t grow that which is illegal and most distributors (pharmacists in many instances related to the drug war) won’t stock illegal products. The exceptions to this tendency are people who don’t have good prospects in the conduct of legal business. People who are already distrusted, who have a tendency toward violent dealings or who otherwise prefer not to rely on the legal market will fill the spots vacated in the newly criminalized market sector.

The greater the degree of prohibition, the more this tendency will increase. At the level of open warfare that exists between the drug cartels and the north and central american states[1], only the most desperate and brutal criminal elements are willing to risk traffic large amounts of product. All but the most casual growers and sellers face threats so large that any reasonable alternative source of income is preferable.

The second effect that I want to look at is that prohibition drives the price of the commodity artificially high because of the new overhead of avoiding or bribing law enforcement and the associated risk of imprisonment and death.

One result of the price increase is that it becomes profitable to grow the market for the illegal substance in a way that it previously was not. If a drug costs a few cents per dose, it’s not (very) profitable to try and get another customer interested in long term use of the drug.

Once the price goes up to dollars or tens of dollars per dose, the seller has a much greater motivation to seek out new customers. Thus the salesman, who formerly served existing customers becomes a “pusher” who gives away free samples and travels from schoolyard to schoolyard attempting to maximize his customer base.

The consequence of price increase that I want to focus on for this discussion is a far more primary effect. Whoever gains control over part of the market for an illegal substance has an artificially inflated source of wealth with which to grow and protect the operation. Again, the greater the effort put into prohibition, the greater the increase in price.

Over time, the interaction of these two factors leads to large, well armed, and ruthless organizations with a steady stream of tremendous wealth. This is what we see today on the us-mexican border, in columbia and afghanistan[2].

These changes have taken place over a period of decades and the misery will continue to escalate in response to further increases in the violence used for prohibition.

The aspect of this dynamic that I focus on in the bikecast is the hangover after the flow of energy to such a system is halted. If the war on drugs was to end tomorrow, the organizations that traffic drugs illegally aren’t going to go away. They will continue to search for ways to exploit their position as the best armed group of thugs in the region in ways that will plague the communities/regions they’ve claimed for years and decades to come.

The longer prohibition escalates, the more wealth and power accrue to the most ruthless of drug organizations, and the longer the period of “wind down” to normalcy will last.

This same phenomenon also occurs in foreign military occupations. In Vietnam, relatively diplomatic and scholarly nationalists seeking independence for French Indochina were imprisoned and suppressed. This left increasingly violent guerrilla leaders as the only opponents of western imperialism. After 30 years of continuous warfare, the peasant armies that carrying antiquated armaments in the 1940s were heavily armed, well trained, and lead by a ruthless political class.

What might have been a bloodless transfer of power to a nationalist government or a minor and short lived civil war in 1945 was instead a bloody internal conflict after the south fell. Violent, radical collectivization and centralized economic control in the hands of the revolutionary leadership lead to untold violence and generated millions of refugees. It’s remarkable, given the degree of brutality with which the vietnamese were treated that they recovered relative stability within a couple of decades.

Currently we’re watching a decade long windup in afghanistan and another in iraq, plus a 20 year windup in somalia and another underway in yemen. The flawed logic of increasing violence until stability is reached is killing not only the present well being, but the future chances of stability in the societies cursed by foreign occupation.

I go into more detail about the winding up of violence (along with a pained analogy) vis à vis foreign wars in a supplementary bikecast that I didn’t like enough to put into the general stream. It’s here if you’d like to listen. This is the intro paragraph for the podcast:

I want to apologize in advance for the analogy in this episode of the bikecast. Every now and then I have to indulge my inner dork. I flesh out the concept of the “winding up of violence” that we talked about in the last bikecast. Much as heat will tend to “even out” throughout a closed system, violence tends to dissipate when the resources energizing it are removed. Violence is expensive and unsustainable and, left in isolation, violent situations quickly flame out as the particpants exhaust themselves and are compelled to seek compromise and reconciliation.

Unfortunately, this winding down cannot begin until the “energy sources” fueling the conflict are removed. Thus on the U.S.-Mexican border, as well as around the world where the United States (and to a far lesser degree other large nation-states) provide weapons, wealth and motivation to violent conflicts, the distance between the current situations and “normalcy” grows larger every day. The longer the winding up of violence, the longer and more painful the winding down.

Download this supplementary bikecast (attached to the above paragraph)

Other excellent resources for recovering drug warriors (there are roughly ∞ of these online, I picked a semi-random handful).
Drug War, What Is It Good For?
Timeline of the Drugwar
America Should Decriminalize Drugs
The Drug War vs. American Civilization (Drug war and civil liberties)
The Eternal Drug War

  1. [1] The United States, obviously, chief among them
  2. [2] And any number of other narco states whose products are shipped to the west.

The Bikecast Episode #15: Rand Paul, Racism and Moral Priorities

I’ll keep the background notes short for this one. If you didn’t see Rand Paul make an ass of himself on the Rachel Maddow show (I didn’t either), here are the clips: Part 1, Part 2 . I still haven’t watched them, but I read about the aftermath in ye olde blog-o-sphere the next day. I have a pretty good idea what happened: a right-wing candidate opened himself to a charge of racism and the left, having psychologically suppressed the conscious recognition that “their” party is in complete control of the most racist institution on the planet, exploded in a cathartic release on said politician.

Download this episode of the bikecast

It’s a challenging task to be progressive in the united states today–I guess it always has been. The racist war on drugs and a racist war on terror haved destroyed millions of lives based on the accidental attributes of birth. That the drug war is racist almost goes without saying, but it’s said so well here that it bears repeating:

Except, obviously these policies are designed to cause immense suffering, to be hugely and disproportiately punitive, and to be monstrously racially unjust so as to maintain a persistent, racially segregated, socially inferior underclass. You think it’s a coincidence that the creation of the DEA and the passage of the Rockefeller drug regime and its imitators came right on the heels of the Civil Rights era, you fatuous stooge?

As to war, black and latino americans are intentionally mandated to attend the worst schools on the planet. Military recruiters feed on the broken results of a racist school system and the victims are sent off to fight other non-whites 10,000 miles away from home.

The left cannot acknowledge these blindingly obvious truths. The people they spent unfathomable time and energy pushing into power could stop both these and a whole host of other evils with a few pen strokes. They won’t because they don’t oppose racism, they oppose not being in power–i.e. the benefactor of wealth and privilege that benefits from racism. 

Asking their elected officials to actually combat racist policies would quickly lead to the realization that their elected officials don’t give a shit about righting racial injustice. Since this course cannot be pursued, the problems must be ignored at all costs. As a result, the political left must project the actual instantiated evil perpetuated by a democrat controlled executive and legislative branch onto whatever acceptable target makes itself available.

Besides being a target of projection for the evil progressives detect in their political heroes, the attack on Rand Paul serves a second purpose. Three truths cannot be brought under rational examination if the state is to maintain its control:

State capitalism is an inefficient, unjust, and anti-human way for an economy to be structured.
War is everywhere and always evil.
Violence, and therefore government cannot sustainably resolve social problems.

Anybody speaking these truths must be ridiculed to the greatest degree possible. Supporting #1 will bring charges of communism or stalinism. Supporters of #2 will be shouted down as naive accommodationists (what about the Nazis?) or racists (what about the the Civil War?) and those supporting #3 will be called, among other things, racists. In many cases, of course, they are! That doesn’t affect the truth value of the statement.

Rand Paul may not have supported the Civil Rights Act had he been in the legislature in 1964–maybe because he’s a racist. Barack Obama is actually enforcing racist laws, presiding over one million plus non-white prisoners and murdering thousands of non-white humans because on their race. Which of these two deserves to be the focus of our scorn, moral outrage, and condemnation?

Rand Paul may be a tool, but he’s not a war criminal (at least not yet).

Good further reading:
The IOZ trifecta:

This article is OK
but this comment is especially worth reading:

The Bikecast Episode #13: The Purpose Of a System Is What It Does

Download this episode of the bikecast

In the swirl of intention, motivation, side effects and unintended consequences, the discussion of a “purpose” for a sufficiently complicated system can be difficult. Noted cyberneticist and all around crazy person, Anthony Stafford Beer, proposed that, “the purpose of a system is what it does. This is a basic dictum. It stands for bald fact, which makes a better starting point in seeking understanding than the familiar attributions of good intention, prejudices about expectations, moral judgment or sheer ignorance of circumstances.”

A friend of mine, with whom I recently had a discussion about the topic, summed it up thusly:

Put simply: if you’re trying to explain a complicated system (say, health care),ignore what the interested parties say the purpose is and focus on the demonstrated outcomes.

The purpose of the system is what it does. It comes in handy so frequently, it has an acronym: POSIWID.
IOZ, brought POSIWID to mind in a recent post rebutting a claim that the current war on drugs is based on “broken” policies:

Calling “current policies” “badly broken” implies that they functioned in some other manner from whose effective heights they have declined through use, or abuse . . . you know, the usual wear and tear. Except, obviously these policies are designed to cause immense suffering, to be hugely and disproportiately punitive, and to be monstrously racially unjust so as to maintain a persistent, racially segregated, socially inferior underclass. You think it’s a coincidence that the creation of the DEA and the passage of the Rockefeller drug regime and its imitators came right on the heels of the Civil Rights era, you fatuous stooge?
The prohibition regime isn’t broken. It functions exactly as it is supposed to function. Iniquity is its purpose . . . well, that and secondarily the preservation of market share for the legal tobacco and alcohol industries. The fact that powerful people can talk openly on the teevee and in their hackjob memoirs about smokin’ doobs and blowing a few lines without consequence isn’t evidence that we need to address the unequal application of laws and statutes but rather evidence that inequality is the fundamental principle underlying the practical application of these policies.

A perfect analysis. POSIWID: the purpose of US drug policy is to incarcerate 100K’s of poor, mostly black and hispanic, people. Its purpose is to provide a huge military budget for godawful central and south american Juntas to murder and imprison their respective subjects. Its purpose is to artificially support the patented drugs of pharmaceutical mega-corporations. Its purpose is to increase the budget of the police state. That’s what it does, thus, that is the purpose.

Wouldn’t you know it, when I was already in a POSIWID state of mind, bam, IOZ points me to a new find (blogwise): ladypoverty’s J.R. Boyd. He was talking about Greek “debt restructuring.” As it turns out, I totally missed the point of the article, which is that currency inflation is *no longer* a tool of euro-zone countries. Luckily, it doesn’t matter too much because I ended up blabbing about the “world financial system” meaning the IMF, World Bank, and the major world economic powers and the purpose of having such a system instead of delving much into the Greek economy in particular.

What’s the purpose of the world financial system? What does it do? It allows thugs internationally recognized as state leaders to get loans in exchange for mineral rights, access to labor (read: peasants), and the promise of business friendly policing. Invariably, the loans are used to build ridiculous palaces and other luxury items for the rulers and an army/security apparatus to defend the ruling class from their impoverished countrypeople. When one group of thugs is overthrown, assassinated, or, occasionally, voted out of office, the debt remains and must be serviced by the new government. To do so, they typically require further assistance from the global financial system which imposes harsh budget restrictions and extracts further guarantees about the inviolability of western interest’s land and labor holdings in the country.

The purpose of the world financial system, then, is to take the riches and labor of the poorest 99% of the planet’s population and deliver it to the corporate and ruling classes. They, in turn, make tremendous profit in the sale of manufactured goods created by and from the labor and materials or the poor and working classes.

As I recorded the podcast, I thought I might be overly enamored of what is simply a rhetorical flourish. Then I thought, “Nahhh.” I like POSIWID because it turns attention and analysis to effects of a system, laying them bare. Once the purpose of the drug war is posited to be the continued oppression of minorities, a clear line is drawn in the discussion between people that are for human progress, and people who should be ignored.

The Bikecast Episode #8: The Big Lie

This podcast is an amalgam of a couple recordings. I think that it flows OK, but I’m afraid that I have a hard time detecting incongruities because I’ve listened to the material so many times. Due to poor use of sound editing, there’s a number of instances–especially toward the end–where words get clipped. I found a way around this, but not in time to “save” this recording. Let me know what you think.

Download this episode of the bikecast
In this episode I talk about The Big Lie. I’ve written about it before and, if you’re hunting down references, you’ll find some of them in that post. This set of show notes will be brief as they are essentially a supplement to the previous article.

When I refer to The Big Lie, I’m actually identifying a particular pattern–a subset of big lies–that I define as being the exact opposite of the truth. I see this pattern everywhere and it’s effectiveness at diverting attention or investigation is evident.

There is a weakness in the method because, once a skeptical mind grasps the pattern and begins to identify it in the narratives that surround it, the big lie loses all effectiveness. In fact, the truth–or its approximation–can now be derived from assuming the opposite of the big lie.

Here are a couple of links to get you started, should you disbelieve any of the claims I make during the podcast.

War on Drugs

A canvassing of unintended consequences of drug criminalization.

Increase in social violence due to prohibition.

War on Terror

The war on terror (and it’s undeclared predecessors) is the cause of terrorism. The war on terror (and it’s undeclared predecessors) is the cause of terrorism


For debunking the Big Lies around education, I cannot recommend these resources highly enough:
John Gatto was long-time educator. His website is a bit of a mess, but you can find his articles all over the place. Here are a couple of representative samples. The Six Lesson Schoolteacher. Why Schools don’t Educate

School Sucks podcast, also run by an educator of 10 years, is excellent.

I may get back to the other examples–religion as anti-answer and religion as enabler of immoral behavior–in future podcasts. They don’t have the same body of evidence as the other examples.