Current Policing Is Bereft Of Value

Back in 2020 I wrote some articles on policing that continue to be relevant, mostly because the history of policing is so consistently corrupt. The reason for this being, police are not designed as arbiters of an egalitarian society, they enforce the will of those in power and their performance at each additional job they are given reflects that bias.

Systemic Corruption

Police understand at one level or another that this is the case, that as long as they satisfy the requirements of the powerful they can do whatever else they want to enrich themselves. Some police choose not to directly enrich themselves, but by supporting the system itself, which requires silence on the wrongdoings of other police, they play their part in perpetuating corruption.

At the time I wrote these articles there were those calling for police abolition and this led to semantic questions around what abolishing the police actually meant. The reflexive defensive measures of the system declared that this was a call to anarchy. The reality is that abolition was a call for a system that does not have at its core the maintenance of the priorities of the powerful at the expense of the weak. This is why all attempts at reform (and they have been numerous) fail, because that core problem is never addressed.

Policing Enforces Laws Not Solutions

In a way, we are setting police up to fail, because they are not prepared or even willing to address certain problems we assign them, but also because in most cases the system they enforce does not address them.

While poverty is not illegal, it leads to many illegal acts, but the enforcement of laws broken due to poverty does not actually alleviate the problem of poverty. If a person does not have money to pay to repair required equipment on their vehicle they will be issued a citation. Ironically, many people in this situation require the vehicle to get to their place of employment, which does not pay them enough to both feed and house themselves as well as upkeep their vehicle as required by the law. As they cannot pay to repair the vehicle, the person most likely cannot pay the citation, which leads to further citations, which leads to them losing their job either due to their vehicle being impounded or them being arrested or both. At this point the person is either homeless or in prison.

Much like poverty, homelessness is not necessarily illegal, but homelessness itself leads to many illegal acts. The enforcement of these laws doesn’t do anything to fix the problem of homelessness. Vagrancy laws just shuffle people around to areas where they are less obvious or in some cases put them in prison. Prison is our only real national solution to homelessness and poverty.

Many people assume that these problems are insurmountable, but this is a false narrative perpetuated by those in power to avoid the necessary changes to the system that would make it more egalitarian and less subject to their whim and the whims of those that profit off of their decisions. An egalitarian society does not spend $2.3 trillion on a decades long war in Afghanistan while people go hungry and homeless in the USA.

Over a 20 year period that is approximately $115 billion per year. Consider what might be accomplished by spending $115 billion per year on ending homelessness.

Police As Violence Enactors

Police are present in most jobs they are given as placeholders for a system that does not want to properly fund a real solution. The fundamental reason for police to exist is to enact violence upon the population at the behest of those in power. Everything else they do is secondary.

The public excuses this, because they incorrectly assume that police will enact violence to protect them. Court cases have shown that police are not legally obligated to do so, that they are only obligated to protect those in their custody. The reality is they do not even do that very well, as deaths in law enforcement custody are conservatively estimated in the thousands per year, though not surprisingly state police departments resist making public any data in this regard.

Utilizing these precedents, police have actively shown their unwillingness in recent years to protect citizens from armed suspects, even while the public spends untold millions on arming and equipping police with the expectation that they will do that work. The reality is that the public is spending money to militarize police so that police can be more effective at enacting violence against the public when they take issue with the problems of the system.

The Non-Existent Blue Line

As police work has become more visible with the advent of portable video technology it has become more controversial and as those controversies have escalated so has the rhetoric from police supporters as to why police are necessary. This has resulted in the concept of the “thin blue line” which posits that police are the only thing standing between society and anarchy. Yet, when anarchy presents itself against the public, police will often throw up their hands and indicate they will not be responsible. Taking all this into account, police in their current incarnation are fundamentally unnecessary and a reflection of a society that needs to make changes to prioritize the needs of everyone.

The Government Wants To Handle Covid Like The Flu

Bad flu seasons put a heavy burden on emergency rooms prior to COVID, but because it is seasonal, the strains are variable and the vaccination efficacy is variable a break always occurred in between the bad seasons. People just put up with it. With COVID, we’re in a never ending bad flu season.

We Don’t Learn From History

During the 2017-2018 flu season an estimated 52,000 people died in the USA according to the CDC. Time reported that hospitals overwhelmed by flu patients were treating them in tents.

“We are pretty much at capacity, and the volume is certainly different from previous flu seasons,” says Dr. Alfred Tallia, professor and chair of family medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “I’ve been in practice for 30 years, and it’s been a good 15 or 20 years since I’ve seen a flu-related illness scenario like we’ve had this year.”

Tallia says his hospital is “managing, but just barely,” at keeping up with the increased number of sick patients in the last three weeks. The hospital’s urgent-care centers have also been inundated, and its outpatient clinics have no appointments available.

The public accepts that situation. People go to work sick, bring their kids to school sick and people due. Billionaires and corporations line their pockets because they insist that people cannot stay home with pay if they are sick.

Nothing has changed with public policy since that 2017-2018 flu season to ameliorate the issue. The expectation is that the public will accept that tens or even hundreds of thousands will die each year either from the flu or COVID and that’s just how it goes.

The CDC recently revised rules on how long people can stay out of work for COVID.

People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter.

They’re saying you could be infectious for those 5 days you’re wearing a mask, but go to work anyway.

Vaccination Is A Stopgap

Vaccination stems some of the rising tide of COVID related hospitalizations, but we know at this point that we will never get everyone vaccinated. If people avoid getting vaccinated for polio and measles they aren’t going to take this vaccine. Even after COVID we managed to get only 52.1% of the population to take the flu vaccine.

Regardless of how many people take the vaccine, the spread is not going to stop via vaccination. Vaccination for COVID is partly to defend against infection, but mostly to ameliorate the symptoms if you do get sick and keep you out of the hospital. The flu vaccine serves essentially the same purpose. With either one, when you get sick, even while vaccinated, you still transmit the disease just as much as an unvaccinated person.

We can’t fix the core problem without changing the system and eliminating the for profit motive behind basic healthcare and giving people mandatory paid sick leave. Right now the vaccination blame game is being used as the excuse for not making those changes.

The Vaccination Blame Game

The claim is that the real problem are the people not getting vaccinated. This is certainly in some sense true. If we were able to get everyone vaccinated, possibly this could be just another horrible flu season, but since we’ve never been able to get everyone vaccinated that’s a pipe dream. Corporations have always been content to let people die in the tens of thousands as long as the wheels of the machine kept turning and only now that the wheels are coming off do they start to point fingers at individuals for their behavior with regard to vaccination.

The system was broken before this pandemic started. We never were able to vaccinate everyone effectively. We’ve never stemmed a pandemic via vaccination and we’re never going to with an imperfect vaccine and a virus that mutates as quickly as COVID-19.

That the unvaccinated are to blame and not our terrible system is becoming accepted by many circles. The CDC can tell infectious people to go back to work and wear a mask and most people don’t blink an eye, because that’s always been the status quo.

We need to change the status quo. People should not go to work sick, people should be able to see the doctor without bankrupting themselves. The real sickness is our healthcare system and the diagnosis is terminal.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Won’t End Via The Current Vaccines

The COVID pandemic continues. It ebbs and flows as cases rise and fall with the seasons and the changing behavior of carriers.

One thing is constant though, the shouting for people to get vaccinated and the invective directed against those that won’t. The claim is that if everyone got vaccinated we could go back to normal. Normal is not an end to the pandemic though. There are certainly positives to getting the vaccine, but it’s not going to end this pandemic.

An Imperfect Vaccine

The current FDA approved Pfizer vaccine was touted as 95% effective in preventing transmission of COVID during phase 3 clinical trials. New studies show that the vaccine is much less effective against preventing transmission of the delta variant and other variants as time passes. While protection starts off at 93%, after four months that drops to 53%. Other non-delta variants start off at 97% and then drop to 67% after four months.

There can be no end to the transmission of COVID without a vaccine that is at or near to 100% effective in preventing transmission over a relatively long period of time. A polio vaccination confers 99-100% protection against polio for years according to the CDC. The current crop of COVID vaccines don’t even reach that level of protection immediately after vaccination.

You’re Healthy Enough To Get Sick At Work

The vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing serious hospitalizations is noted at 93% throughout the four month observed time period. This is a key point given by people that are in favor of a vaccine mandate, that the vaccine prevents hospitalization, but what does that mean for the people that are being pushed back into public facing jobs? It means they are expected to spread illness at work and deal with it.

No politician or corporation is expecting these vaccines to prevent large scale transmission of COVID-19 and they certainly aren’t concerned about workers that are being put into contact with the disease. They want to mitigate the amount of people being hospitalized only because the USA’s costly and poorly prepared healthcare system cannot bear the burden of people with these illnesses and it is breaking down. Corporations and their political lackeys can’t extract maximum value from an oppressive system if it is broken. This is why state governments don’t care if they have to fire healthcare workers and replace them with the National Guard. It’s not about quality of care, it’s about extracting capital and passing it up the line.

Too Big To Provide Coverage

The USA spends more per capita on healthcare than any other country on the planet while at the same time 32.8 million of its population remain uninsured. The USA is rated the worst among major high income countries for various healthcare outcomes, including life expectancy, chronic illness and obesity. In 2019 the USA ranked below every other high income country and many low income countries, including Cuba and Lebanon, in overall life expectancy by country.

In the 2017-2018 flu season the USA experienced 710,572 hospitalizations and 51,646 deaths from influenza. In the 2018-2019 season, a relatively light year, the USA experienced 380,000 hospitalizations and 28,000 deaths from influenza. In the 2020-2021 season there were 700 deaths from the flu. There was no miracle vaccine for the flu that emerged, people just were not transmitting it due to lockdowns and other precautions such as masking. With mandatory sick leave and actual healthcare coverage 2020-2021 could be closer to the norm rather than the outlier.

Enjoy Normality

What politicians are counting on is that there are an acceptable number of deaths that the country will suffer without complaint. They have no interest in fixing this system if they can get back to that acceptable number. They would rather people get used to a certain rate of deaths per year from illness like they did with influenza so they can put everyone back on the same hamster wheel toiling away for low wages, no sick days and abysmal healthcare service or as they would have it, “normal.”

David Neiwart, offended Greenwald Superfan

People keep offering up links to this rambling diatribe by David Neiwart on Glenn Greenwald as if this is the firm proof that Greenwald is an unwitting tool of fascists and a good reason why Greenwald should be discredited. It’s typical of today’s cancel culture that this horrid piece of opinion riddled with inconsistencies meets the burden of proof for people on this subject.

The article really seems to be about Neiwart having a personal problem with Greenwald more than anything and how any disagreement and or negative response he gets from Greenwald offends Neiwart.

Neiwart starts this off with a tale of how Greenwald and he had a disagreement over the interpretation of another person’s Twitter post, but the graphic he posts doesn’t have the post that Greenwald actually responded to in it, which was Neiwart’s. Instead, this is how he presents Greenwald’s response on his article.

The actual context (which you can still find on Twitter) is shown below.

This is where Greenwald accuses Neiwart of smearing the poster with his accusations. This is a theme that recurs throughout Neiwart’s article. Neiwart being offended at Greenwald using the term smeared, correctly, to describe Neiwart’s actions.

Next Neiwart lays out the whole history of a white nationalist group just because Greenwald acted as a lawyer for a member of the group named Matt Hale. The history of this organization is completely unnecessary and totally out of context unless it’s to create outrage over Greenwald’s defense of Hale.

Neiwart even quotes Greenwald in his defense of Hale stating that, “In sum, Hale, a well-known and vigorous advocate of racist and anti-Semitic ideas, was barred from the legal profession and denied his livelihood because the individuals sitting on the Committee of Character and Fitness for the State of Illinois happened to disagree — strongly — with Hale’s political and religious views.”

Greenwald, admittedly acted as a lawyer for a white nationalist. There is no doubt about that.

After Neiwart attempts to smear Greenwald by association with Hale, Neiwart then, perversely, talks about he Neiwart admired Greenwald and defended him against those that disapproved of Greenwald’s legal work for Matt Hale. He even meets up with Greenwald in 2007 at an event with all sorts of questions for him, but is unable to ask them because he doesn’t have any time to do so.

Neiwart then rolls into how Greenwald supposedly promoted the candidacy of Ron Paul and an incident of Greenwald “attacking” Neiwart in a Salon article over an article Neiwart wrote relating Ron Paul’s record. When you go to that Salon link Greenwald himself only has a problem with one specific point about flag burning that Neiwart brings up and yet Neiwart takes Greenwald’s use of “distortions and smears” as some sort of attack on his overall credibility, despite Greenwald prefacing his critique by saying,

“In an otherwise informative and legitimate (and widely-cited) post today about Paul’s record in Congress Dave Neiwert claims:”

Neiwart ends the Ron Paul incident by stating…
“Before signing off, I offered one more missive, which Glenn sniffed at and dismissed.”

Who cares? Even if Greenwald was a jerk to you what does that have to do with anything?

These salient points make up Neiwart’s blathering so far. Greenwald disagreed with Neiwart’s interpretation of a Twitter post. Greenwald once admittedly acted as a lawyer for a white nationalist defending his 1st amendment rights. Greenwald clarified a point about flag burning and Ron Paul.

Neiwart then states, “At this point, it had become manifestly clear to me that Greenwald has an immense blind spot—an inexplicable one, really—when it comes to far-right extremism and its spread into the mainstream, and the toxic effects of that spread.”

How he comes to this conclusion based on the nonsense that prefaces this statement is unclear. His only real connection between these incidents is Greenwald’s use of the words, “distortions and smears.” He has taken one incident where Greenwald defended a white nationalist’s 1st amendment rights and conflated it with everything else Greenwald has done to paint him as some sort of useful tool of fascists. He conflates Greenwald’s lack of obvious vitriolic hatred directed at Matt Hale either at the time of the defense or subsequent with tacit approval of Hale’s ideology and yet he quotes Greenwald from Rolling Stone when Greenwald was asked about his defense of Hale…

“To me, it’s a heroic attribute to be so committed to a principle that you apply it not when it’s easy … not when it supports your position, not when it protects people you like, but when it defends and protects people that you hate.”

Right there Greenwald says he hates Matt Hale, but defended his 1st amendment rights despite it being difficult.

This back and forth approval / disapproval is typical of Neiwart’s article. He is at one point chastising Greenwald for his use of language in defending Hale and simultaneously lauding Greenwald for his defense of Hale. Neiwart takes many quotes out of context to lay out the case that Greenwald is sympathetic to white nationalism, but then fawns over Greenwald saying “This isn’t a matter of whether Greenwald is a racist or an extremist or an anti-Semite or anything like that. I don’t believe he is, even remotely.”

By the end, the article descends far into absurdity and really paints a picture of Neiwart as some sort of crazed obsessed fan of Greenwald’s that feels he has been done wrong by him. His explanation for Greenwald’s blind spot for fascists doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny at all. If anything, all Neiwart’s article does is point out that Greenwald has consistently defended free speech rights throughout his whole career.

Neiwart’s article appears to be his own excuse for not defending free speech rights and his justification for wanting to silence Greenwald.

Despite Neiwart’s obsession with Greenwald’s use of “distortions and smears” and “guilt by association” to point out logical fallacies people make, he fails to realize that his whole article is literally one big distortion and smear of Greenwald. In addition, Neiwart labels Greenwald a fascist supporter for disagreeing with Democrats and using the Fox News platform as a way to point out those issues to the public. This is exactly guilt by association just like his attempt to paint Greenwald as a closet fascist for his legal defense Hale.

The Top 5 Places To Live In The USA If You Want To Get Cancer

The EPA began a study in 2014 called the National Air Toxics Assessment.

The study evaluates chemical emissions in all areas of the country and makes an assessment of the overall risk of cancer for each locality based on the presence of those chemicals. The chemicals are known carcinogens that are used or have been used in various industries and released into the environment, fun things like tetrachloroethane and trichlorophenol.

The study gives an estimate of how many people per 1 million in a given area would get cancer if they lived there. The (relatively) safe range is considered to be under 100 in 1 million. If you look at their handy GIS mapping tool you’ll find that much of the coasts and the south falls into the 25-50 in 1 million range while if you live farther north you enjoy a 6-25 in 1 million chance of getting cancer.

In addition, they have data on there that tells you the level of hazard in your area for other maladies unrelated to cancer. These are respiratory, neurological, liver, kidney and immunological issues among other things. This data is conveniently tucked away in some very large spreadsheets.

The top five compiled here are mostly in this position due to the heavy release of a compound called Ethylene Oxide EtO. The chemical is commonly used in the production of other chemicals as well as in the sterilization of medical devices and it is also extremely toxic. In 2016 the EPA introduced revised estimates that raised the risk of cancer from exposure to EtO by 60x.

Let’s get down to it though. The top five places to live in the USA if you want to get cancer*.

#1 St. John The Baptist Parish, Louisiana

Coming in at number one is St. John The Baptist parish. In some areas of this parish you have a 1505 in 1 million chance of getting cancer. That’s 15x more than the 100 in 1 million where the EPA draws the “bad” line.

Located in between Baton Rouge and New Orleans this area is home to fun places to visit like the Belle Terre Country Club. While you’re there you can check out the nearby LaPlace Oil and Gas Field or the Bonnet Carre Oil and Gas Field.

The EPA data is divided by FIPS codes that section off the named counties into smaller more easily organized areas. This means that St. John The Baptist is actually made up of a dozen different FIPS codes all of which appear in the top 50 FIPS codes on the list when sorted by Total Cancer Risk.

#2 St. Charles Parish, Louisiana

It’s probably not a coincidence that St. Charles parish is the next door neighbor of St. John The Baptish Parish. You have an 808 in 1 million chance of getting cancer in some areas of St. Charles parish. Those areas appear to border the ironically named Good Hope Oil and Gas Field.

#3 Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

Taking a break from Louisiana we head over to Pennsylvania and Lehigh county. Among other cities Lehigh county encompasses Allentown, made famous by Billy Joel in his eponymous song and also includes the town of Bethlehem where the Bethlehem Steel Corporation was founded. Though Bethlehem Steel ceased operations in 1995, heavy industry and pollution continue as in some areas of Lehigh county you have a 596 in 1 million chance of getting cancer.

#4 Kanawha County, West Virginia

Encompassing Charleston, the state capital of West Virginia, Kanawha county also has areas where you have a 366 in 1 million chance of getting cancer. A Union Carbide plant has been labeled as responsible for releasing Ethylene Dioxide across the area and even had a 2019 class action suit brought against them over the issue. Union Carbide is most famous for being the cause of the Bhopal disaster.

#5 Harris County, Texas

Harris County comes in fifth with a 348 in 1 million chance of you getting cancer in some areas. Though it seems that state regulators in 2019 were considering raising the acceptable levels of exposure to Ethylene Oxide so they might be moving up the list.

Note: The EPA released an update in 2018 indicating that some of the affected areas noted above had some pollution sources either mitigated or removed, but it’s quite likely that this is not the case according to this article from the Intercept.

*The EPA data is divided up by FIPS codes, which uniquely identify certain geographic areas. These areas can divide named counties into smaller areas, we’ve taken the first named counties on the cancer risk by source group sheet after sorting by total cancer risk to obtain the data used here.

The Babylon 5 Guy?

I’m reading J. Michael Straczynski’s autobiography Becoming Superman. It’s a really entertaining book for many reasons that I won’t elaborate on too much so as not to spoil it, but I highly recommend reading it.

I came to this paragraph in the book where JMS reflects on his work on the comic book The Amazing Spider-Man.

The relaunched Amazing Spider-Man performed beyond Marvel’s expectations and helped set the stage for their recovery as a company. I would stay on to write seventy-four consecutive issues, one of the longest runs in the character’s history.

The conclusion he makes here that his Amazing Spider-Man helped set the stage for their recovery is objectively true, but it made me recall how I personally found out about his conversion to comic book writer. To make sense of that story though I need to go back a bit.

I was born in 1974 in Honolulu, HI. I grew up in Kaneohe, HI on the windward side of Oahu.

Despite the amazing scenery and fantastic weather growing up on Oahu had its drawbacks for a kid labeled as the haole and when those pressures became too much to deal with I often found myself turning to reading to pass the time on my own. My first choice was always comic books and my collection began with fits and starts in the late 70s, but then accelerated in the 1980s as I became a regular at one of the local comic book stores called Jelly’s.

The first time I visited Jelly’s the store was located on the corner of Kapiolani and Keeaumoku and I was overwhelmed. I had collected comics intermittently via spinner racks at local stores so there were many gaps in my collection where stories were incomplete and I had no idea how they ended. Comic books of the time were very thorough at summarizing events in previous issues so missing the beginning or the middle of a story was not usually a problem, but missing the end left you hung out to dry. When I realized I could find all of those endings in this store it was such a relief. I didn’t have to go all over the place looking for bits and pieces of treasure, I had fallen ass backwards into a room full of it.

The first back issue I bought was Legion of Super-Heroes 294, the conclusion of The Great Darkness Saga by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. While other missing endings I found were sometimes disappointing compared to the stories I had dreamed up in my head this was one of the ones that delivered the goods. When I discovered the Marvel Universe series that was essentially an encyclopedia of Marvel characters and their histories I was absolutely blown away that something like that existed and made it my mission to collect them all.

By the time I was in the 8th grade Jelly’s had moved to a different location at 404 Pi’ikoi St and I was taking the bus there from school on a weekly basis to pick up new comic issues. Jelly’s was not just a comic book store. They also had games, books and music and so it was a cornucopia of delights for a nerd like myself. I would wait there for my father to pick me up after he finished work.

Though I took it for granted at the time, Jelly’s took the unusual step of bagging all the new comics prior to putting them out on the shelves. I’ve been to few stores since that bagged new issues. Jelly’s also didn’t really go for pull lists and whatever was put out was first come first served and so every Friday (new comic book day in Hawaii) I would show up right after school and wait impatiently for the comics to be bagged and put out.

I was an intelligent, but obnoxious child and I often crossed the line from smart to smart ass when talking with the employees, but one fellow that I remember well dealt with my social inadequacies with great patience and kept me coming back. His name was Percy.

We became acquaintances if not friends and after I showed up regularly for a time he gave me a card that entitled me to a 10% discount on new comics purchased from the store. The card was good for a year and I could get another one after it expired. For a comic nerd like myself this was one of the most significant things I ever got from someone and I treasured this privilege like no other. Whenever Percy was around I tried to talk with him about comics, bothering him to no end. Among other things he recommended Lone Wolf and Cub to me back in those days when it was newly brought to the USA and I foolishly eschewed it as I was dedicated to super hero comics.

I spent many years going to Jelly’s for comics, but when college came around in 1992 I moved quite far away from Hawaii to attend the University of Connecticut at Storrs. I found a comic store within walking distance of campus and continued my collecting during this time, but as the 90s rolled on it became clear that comic books were in a bit of a slump. While the artwork evolved tremendously due to the influence of creator titles the market became flooded and the writing suffered. By the time graduation rolled around in 1996 I had become a bit disenchanted with comics and as I entered the working world and started dating I also found I had different priorities and so I stopped collecting.

Fast forward to the year 2000. I was living in Connecticut near my Aunt who I visited on a regular basis. She had divorced and was dating a man who had several sons, one of whom was a comic book fan much like myself and when he found out I was also a fan he encouraged me to get back into certain stories that I had missed. This fellow later published his own comic book series through Image and Dark Horse and he also became a comic book writer for DC and Marvel.

The first title he recommended was The Golden Age by James Robinson, a title that I overlooked during my collecting days. He had a good eye and after I picked up the trade paperback I realized I was missing out on some really great work.

By this time the graphic novel had become a much more prevalent sight in regular book stores. You could walk into any chain book store and pick up a variety of collected stories from Marvel and DC. I resolved only to buy these collected works rather than get back into the weekly grind of collecting.

That didn’t last.

By the time 2003 rolled around I was edging back into buying individual issues.

In December of 2003 I took a trip back to Hawaii to visit my parents. Despite some ups and downs Jelly’s still existed at the time having moved out to a location in Pearl City. While the building was different, the feel was the same. There was never anything fancy about Jelly’s. It was always setup in a barebones warehouse. The product was the decoration.

As I perused the shelves I came upon someone I recognized. He was a bit more gray, but it was definitely Percy. I approached him and said hi. I could tell he didn’t fully recognize me. I had come pretty far from that bespectacled little shit I once was. I was a much bigger bespectacled shit that was probably unrecognizable from a decade prior when I last saw him.

Despite the perceived lack of recognition he was unfailingly polite and helpful. I told him that I was getting back into comics and asked him if he had any recommendations.

“Yes! You have to read The Amazing Spider-Man!”

“Really?” I was somewhat skeptical as most mainstream titles were a bit tepid when I left the scene.

“Yes! It’s by this guy J. Michael Straczynski,” he tells me as he leads me over to the shelves and starts handing me books.

“J. Michael Straczynski? The creator of Babylon 5?” I asked somewhat incredulously and stupidly. Really, how many J. Michael Straczynskis can there be running around out there?

(Side Note: I am a huge B5 fan. When TNT started rerunning them I even taped all of the episodes on VHS to have them for posterity. This was right at that time when you still ran the risk of never seeing a show again after it was broadcast on television and I couldn’t take that risk for B5. I even taped them in SP for better quality so I had a lot of VHS tapes of B5 at one point.)

Percy didn’t really get the B5 connection, “I don’t know about that, but it’s the best comic out there right now.”

So, I bought the books and Percy was right. That J. Michael Stracynzki really does know how to write a comic.

The Normalization of Cruelty

Matt Taibbi recently posted a story about a man named Chris (a pseudonym) who took out student loans starting in 1981 that left him in $79,000 of debt at an interest rate of 9% by the time he graduated from law school. Through a series of misfortunes and admitted mistakes on his part Chris got behind on his loan payments. Once he began making good on his debt he was already in the hole for penalty fees that are required to be paid before any money is put against the principal balance.

Chris as of 2020 is 59 years old and has paid $190,000 on his original $79,000 debt. He still currently owes $236,000.

That this is seen as anything other than usury at this point is astonishing, but in the comments of the story the response to this situation is an equal balance of agreement and dissent. There are many that see this as a game that Chris has played badly and lost, but they fail to see that the game is rigged in favor of the corporations and institutions generating these loans. They also point and laugh at Chris for his misfortune and proclaim that Chris is stupid and lazy for getting into his current situation and deserves what he gets.

I find the entire situation to be laughable. Why? Because all of these whiners borrowed money to get a college and advanced degrees. One would think they’d be smart enough to read the papers they were signing so that they’d understand what they were committing to.


You wrote an entire article about someone that admittedly created his own problems. The day I pay for someone else’s student loans is the day I stop paying taxes.


Pay your damned bill, Chris. When you can employ 10s of 1,000s like Ford and GM, maybe we can talk, otherwise, you’re a slacker – knowing it’s half the battle.


The abject subservience to corporations in these comments and the complete lack of empathy for the individual is appalling. For all they give back, corporations enact a huge toll on society. The environmental destruction created by corporations and the costs to clean up toxic waste and the human lives affected by it alone are staggering. The individuals concealed behind the legal fiction of a corporation never bear responsibility for their actions and yet Chris is expected to bear the full brunt of his mistakes without any recourse.

Chris isn’t even trying to shirk responsibility for his mistakes. He admits to them fully and yet these people look at him with his hand out asking for assistance and not only refuse to help, they kick him when he is down. They deride him and call him names. All this because of laws made up by politicians to favor the corporations that get them elected.

These commenters consider Chris a loser in this game and they don’t even care that the game is rigged as long as they aren’t being affected. They speak about fairness to themselves and to corporations, but when considering the fairness of Chris’ situation they are completely unwilling to see any compromise. This is the definition of hypocrisy.

Chris has paid more than double his original principal back to the lender in this case and yet these people would have the lender continue to extract funds from Chris until the day he dies. This is capitalism.

We Can Enforce The Law Without Tyranny

When police abolition is discussed the first question brought up by most is fear based. Who will stop the murderers and rapists? Or in other words who will exercise force to make people submit to the rule of law if we no longer have police?

That this question comes up in this way so often speaks to the propaganda around the police and the notion that violence is the means to an end for the majority of conflict resolution. At the same time, it would be naive to assume that enforcing the law never requires force. The question then should be asked, when is force being legitimately applied and why does that justify the abolition of our current system? To answer this we need to look not only to the history of policing, but to the history of our government and its origins in the writings of John Locke.

John Locke

Locke was a philosopher in the 17th century who wrote a number of important works. In the political realm his most famous work is The Second Treatise of Government that arguably forms the basis of both the US Declaration of Independence and the original US Constitution.

In the Second Treatise, Locke forms the logical basis for the separation of church and state as well as that of legitimate government. Locke postulates that humans in nature exist in a perfect state of equality, liberty and executive power. They only subordinate these natural powers to the legislative power of society with the intent to better preserve themselves, their liberty and property. To do so with any other intent would be irrational.

Sect. 142. These are the bounds which the trust, that is put in them by the society, and the law of God and nature, have set to the legislative power of every commonwealth, in all forms of government.First, They are to govern by promulgated established laws, not to be varied in particular cases, but to have one rule for rich and poor, for the favourite at court, and the country man at plough.

The trust people put in government to subordinate themselves to laws that could lead to their own death is based on the firm promise that those laws will be applied fairly and equally.

Locke also states…

…wherever the power, that is put in any hands for the government of the people, and the preservation of their properties, is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass, or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it; there it presently becomes tyranny, whether those that thus use it are one or many.

When people address the issue of pervasive police violence and corruption abetted either fully, partially or unwittingly by the government they are referring to tyranny.

Sect. 202. Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another’s harm; and whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate; and, acting without authority, may be opposed, as any other man, who by force invades the right of another.

In many areas of the country, the police no longer exercise authority derived from the rule of law, they exercise it solely by force. The reason is that people living in those areas no longer consider police authority to be legitimate due to their continuing excessive and egregiously malicious use of their powers. This hampers enforcement of the law across the board, because even non-violent offenders consider themselves at risk of death and act appropriately within that belief.

Locke also tells us why this sort of tyranny does not cause the dissolution of government very often and also why the riots we are seeing are a sign of how bad things have become.

Sect. 225. Secondly, I answer, such revolutions happen not upon every little mismanagement in public affairs. Great mistakes in the ruling part, many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the slips of human frailty, will be born by the people without mutiny or murmur. But if a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people, and they cannot but feel what they lie under, and see whither they are going; it is not to be wondered, that they should then rouze themselves, and endeavour to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the ends for which government was at first erected; and without which, ancient names, and specious forms, are so far from being better, that they are much worse, than the state of nature, or pure anarchy; the inconveniencies being all as great and as near, but the remedy farther off and more difficult.

The public is willing to put up with a lot of stupidity from government. Government can screw up on the little things and people won’t revolt, but when they screw up on the big things over and over again people rise up. The response we are seeing on the streets is based in pervasive abuse of the system by those that are supposed to govern it.

Locke even tells us he doesn’t have the answer on handling resistance of illegal force (essentially what we see as protesting and rioting), because if you let it get to that point you’re a fucking idiot.

Sect. 209. But if either these illegal acts have extended to the majority of the people; or if the mischief and oppression has lighted only on some few, but in such cases, as the precedent, and consequences seem to threaten all; and they are persuaded in their consciences, that their laws, and with them their estates, liberties, and lives are in danger, and perhaps their religion too; how they will be hindered from resisting illegal force, used against them, I cannot tell. This is an inconvenience, I confess, that attends all governments whatsoever, when the governors have brought it to this pass, to be generally suspected of their people; the most dangerous state which they can possibly put themselves in, wherein they are the less to be pitied, because it is so easy to be avoided; it being as impossible for a governor, if he really means the good of his people, and the preservation of them, and their laws together, not to make them see and feel it, as it is for the father of a family, not to let his children see he loves, and takes care of them.

The Conflict That Keeps The System In Place

It’s easy to see why people are upset and that the obvious solution is to have police do the right thing, but there is a conflict that we refuse to acknowledge. The conflict results from the exigencies of capitalism. Police started as a way for those in power to enforce unfair and unjust practices on laborers. In the South, modern police arose from slave patrols, while in the north police forces were created at the behest of merchants to control labor unrest in the face of “riots” (protests and strikes in actuality) over appalling working conditions.

The nature of modern policing in the USA is based on this origin and it has never really changed. We’ve thrown good on top of bad for so long that it’s hard to see to the rotten core of policing anymore, but it’s there and it’s the reason why we need to abolish them and find something different. We can legitimately exercise force to require people to submit to the law only when we have removed the gross excess of tyranny imposed upon them by those chosen to enforce the law.

Reform won’t work, but abolition will.

A recent article on entitled “I Abolished and Rebuilt the Police. The United States Can Do the Same.” by Georgia’s ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili makes claims that it has trouble backing up with facts.

Defund, Reform, Abolish

Before examining the article, there needs to be clarification around the terminology being thrown about. There is a misunderstanding around whether “defund the police” means to reform them or abolish them. This is an actual disagreement on the liberal side.

For instance Christy E. Lopez writing in the Washington Post links defunding to reform, while Mariame Kaba writing in the New York Times links defunding to abolition.

At the same time Fox News conservatives want defund to mean abolish, because they claim police abolition is the same thing as anarchy. This has centrist liberals scrambling trying to claim defunding is definitely reform.

The reality is that abolition does not mean a descent into anarchy. Police abolition does not mean abolishing laws or law enforcement. It means dismantling a system of oppression that has affected both blacks and whites for over a hundred years.

Abolition Is Not Reform

The article by President Saakashvili rather than a tale of abolition is actually a lesson about why reforming our system has never worked and will never work.

Distrust of police is symptomatic of a widespread sentiment: The system is built to protect the interests of elites. If we could solve this problem in Georgia, so can Americans. With that said, reform in any society is a continuous process because backsliding is always a danger. In the seven years since I left Georgia, the current ruling party has done nothing but erode the institutions that my government built. Approval of police dropped precipitously from 87 percent to 59 percent following the violent dispersal of peaceful protests in Tbilisi last summer.

President Saakashvili did not abolish policing in his country. He reformed the existing system putting it back together in much the same fashion while attempting to root out the more extreme elements of corruption. He is correct in that the system is built to protect elites, but he did not eliminate that failing, he put back that same core system and the result is the “violent dispersal of peaceful protests” he mentions.

Police Are Corrupt Because The Police System Is Corrupt

Policing both here and in Georgia is a symptom of a larger problem. For much of the late 1800s and early 1900s we existed in the same state as Georgia did before their reforms. Modern organized police in the USA originated as a way for merchants to keep their workers (or slaves) in line and have the public pay for it. Police were part of corrupt state and local governments that ran crime operations alongside actual government giving their organizations a veneer of respectability. Probably the most well known of these political machines was Tammany Hall. Police were the muscle behind political power and mostly they went around putting down “rioting” as the elite termed it, which was actually laborers protesting and striking against horrific working conditions.

When Prohibition started, corruption of the system became universal. With thousands of speakeasies in most major cities it was a given that police could not enforce the law. Power shifted away from political machines into the hands of bootleggers giving rise to the myth of the gangster. These gangsters did the same business the machines were doing, but without the veneer of respectability. Police at this point became little more than enforcers for the people that would pay them the most.

Police over the years have been given more jobs (most of which they should not be doing) to assuage the public as to their existence, but at the same time, as we see in the reaction to the current protests, their real role is still to enforce the will of those in power using extreme violence.

This is what President Saakashvili either failed to understand or is just being dishonest about. His police force received training from the USA.

A new force was built around new recruits.[3] The United States State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law-Enforcement Affairs has provided assistance to the training efforts.[5]

He took the model of policing we have used for over a hundred years and tried to place some level of accountability on top of it, but the reality is that doesn’t make the police accountable to the public, it makes them accountable to the politicians who are beholden to the rich. You still have heavily armed police available to be used at the discretion of the powerful to put down the public and that is what happened in the recent Georgian protests.

Abolish The System

The only real solution to the policing problem is to abolish policing as we know it and make changes to the system that creates the “criminals” we are putting in prisons by the millions. Again, this is not an abolition of law or law enforcement, this is a rejection of the way we currently go about law enforcement. This is also an economic choice more than anything. If we choose to pay people a living wage, give them a clean environment and affordable healthcare both mental and physical we will largely eliminate the need to put down the “riots” of society.

We can start by giving away all of the jobs police do that could be done better by some profession other than a police or at the very least by someone that isn’t heavily armed with a blank check to kill anytime they feel threatened.

  • Direct traffic or organize parade routes
  • Issue civil citations.
  • Assist people in mental or physical health emergencies.
  • Defuse a violent situation or deal with those that intend to hurt people.
  • Investigate sexual assault and domestic violence issues and support survivors.
  • Deal with substance abuse issues.

Once police stop doing these jobs we can pretty easily evaluate whether we need a heavily armed paramilitary organization to operate on a wide scale across our country. If anything, there will need to be a small force in each urban area that continues to react to violence (police don’t prevent violence) because we won’t deal with the incredibly easy access to firearms in this country.

That said, if we don’t deal with income inequality and the rest of the societal issues mentioned above then there won’t be a police force in the country that can stop people from burning things to the ground.

Why we should consider police abolition rather than reform.

Most of this article is excerpted or grossly lifted from this well sourced analysis by Dr. Gary Potter.

The cry to defund the police brings widespread skepticism and confusion on both sides of the police brutality issue. Defund on the liberal side to many means reform, but to others it means abolition. Conservatives have seized on this idea that defunding is abolition to scare the public into thinking that anarchy is the real goal. They are taking advantage of the fear of blacks and the poor that has been perpetuated in this country since the Civil War ended. The reality is that abolition is not that scary. It doesn’t mean abolishing laws or law enforcement and it might be the only way to solve the problem of policing.

In my previous article I laid out some of the reasons why we can and should abolish the police based on a podcast from Intercepted. To further understand why reform won’t work, we have to understand why all the reform attempts made in the hundred plus years since professional police were created have failed. To do that we have to go back to the beginning and look through the history of policing.

The Beginning of Modern Policing

Modern policing in the USA takes form in the 1830s and by the 1880s most major cities in Northern states have municipal police forces in place. Prior to this, policing in the north is largely informal and reactive with public watch systems and private-for-profit policing the norm in these cities.

These “modern police” organizations share similar characteristics:

  • They are publicly supported and bureaucratic in form
  • Police officers are full-time employees, not community volunteers or case-by-case fee retainers.
  • Departments have permanent and fixed rules and procedures, and employment as a police officers is continuous.
  • Police departments are accountable to a central governmental authority

Policing in the Southern states begins differently. It starts as slave patrols that capture escaped slaves, terrorize slaves to deter revolts and deliver summary justice. These police evolve after the Civil War with new tactics to control freed slaves and enforce Jim Crow laws.

The Reason For Modern Policing

Modern police evolve in the 1880s as a response to “disorder.” Disorder is defined at the time by mercantile interests, those with the money and influence over political forces to effect change. Social control is the goal. To ensure a stable and orderly workforce and the maintenance of what is referred to as the “collective good.” These mercantile interests also want to divest themselves of the cost of protecting their own enterprises and move those costs to the state.

In the late 1800s, without any laws governing worker’s rights, there is gross exploitation of labor from the profit-based production system. Workers are subject to long hours, dangerous working conditions and low pay. The only available method for workers seeking redress is what the economic elites refer to as “rioting,” which is actually the nascent form of union strikes. The modern police force is created and authorized to use force to quell these protests under the guise of maintaining the rule of law, rather than doing the bidding of the economic elites.

The Dangerous Classes

A fundamental change in society has to come about to accomplish this goal. The core of this arises via the concept of “dangerous classes.” The suggestion is that public drunkenness, crime, hooliganism, political protests and worker “riots” are all the product of a biologically inferior, morally intemperate, unskilled and uneducated underclass. This underclass is easily identifiable as it is largely made up of the poor, foreign immigrants and blacks.

At the time, consumption of alcohol is widely believed to be the major cause of crime and public disorder. The irony is that widespread consumption of alcohol is facilitated by the mercantile interests that set up the police department in the first place.

This change in how we perceive the crime problem, as resulting from “bad” individuals rather than socioeconomic conditions persists today and is one of the fundamental issues with policing in general. Previous to this, crime is dealt with reactively, in response to a specific criminal act. With a defined set of “bad” actors comes the idea that crime can be prevented by subjecting everyone to surveillance and observation. This leads to the insertion of police forces into everyday life.

Here is a description of the work of a typical urban police force of the late 19th and early 20th century.

  • Police systematically take payoffs to allow illegal drinking, gambling and prostitution
  • Police organize professional criminals, like thieves and pickpockets, trading immunity for bribes or information.
  • Police actively participate in vote-buying and ballot-box-stuffing.
  • Police drink while on patrol, they protect their patron’s vice operations, and they are quick to use peremptory force.
  • Police engage in strike breaking through forced dispersal of workers using extreme violence.
  • Police engage in strike breaking via vague “public order” and vagrancy law arrests to round up large numbers workers.

This is the core of the issue that we have with police. They started out as a corrupt and flagrantly brutal enterprise run by local government beholden to economic interests and they have never really changed. The only difference is that until the advent of widely available video cameras their flagrant brutality was not on display and could be swept back under the covers.


The first cries for reform begin nearly as soon as the modern police force is created. Reform efforts arise as investigative commissions usually, as today, in response to outrageous acts of criminality by police.

Examples of specific outrages leading to the formation of investigative commissions:

  • The formation of a prostitution syndicate by Los Angeles Mayor Arthur Harper, Police Chief Edward Kerns, and a local organized crime figure, combined with subsequent instructions to the police to harass this syndicate’s competitors in the prostitution industry.
  • The assassination of organized crime figure Arnold Rothstein by police lieutenant Charles Becker, head of the NYPD’s vice squad.
  • A dispute between the Mayor and District Attorney of Philadelphia, each of whom control rival gambling syndicates and each of whom use loyal factions of police to harass the other.

Reform Committee History New York City

  • Lexow Committee (1894) – Investigates police involvement in gambling prostitution and extortion. Finds that it requires a bribe of $1,600 to be promoted to sergeant and up to $15,000 to be promoted to captain.
  • Curren Committee (1913) – Investigates police collusion with gambling and prostitution.
  • Seabury Committee (1932) – Investigates Prohibition-related corruption.
  • Brooklyn grand jury (1949) – Investigates police involvement in gambling payoffs.
  • Knapp Commission (1972) – Investigates corruption related to gambling and drugs.
  • Mollen Commission (1993) – Exposes massive drug corruption, organized theft by police officers, excessive use of force and use of drugs by the police.


Despite the continuing professionalization of police forces, changes in organization structures and the exposure of widespread corruption by regular investigations year after year, decade after decade, nothing ever really gets fixed by reforming the police.

The reason is that the police, as they exist now, are not actually necessary for the functioning of a fair and equitable society.

Police are a response by political and financial elites to the unfairness that they have posited is deserved by the poor and marginalized. They do not prevent crime. They are there to put down dissent and revolt both at the micro and at the macro level. That is their primary function and it has not changed since their inception. Every other duty we have given them that seems positive (that someone else can and should be doing better) is to mask this issue and to ensure compliance.

Reformers point to removing the relatively recently established laws around police conduct and lack of accountability as the solution. This will not change the situation, it will just change who gets to make the excuses and who takes the blame.

This article has been edited to change the title and clarify the intent as advocating abolition while clarifying some of the terms used.