California uber alles

California, here’s your new state anthem.

The media lied to me. They said California was progressive. Social freedom? Not technically allowed here, but maybe they’ll let it slide if it’s something the bourgeoisie don’t frown on. I didn’t expect much in terms of economics. I’m not that naive. But I guess I’ve traveled too much and forgot I was in the United States, where liberal means “10 degrees to the left of center in the best of times, and 10 degrees to the right of center when it affects them personally.” In a way, I prefer the discreet fascism of the red states because of their brutal honesty and authentic, ignorant convictions. Nothing is worse than hypocrisy. These California progressives speak equality and freedom while stuffing money into their pockets and legislating enough bureaucracy into existence to make Big Brother proud.

I’ve seen homeless people treated better in right wing cities where no one cares about anything but money. Here the methadone clinics apparently don’t even match federal guidelines and restrict you to 7 day take homes instead of 28, are even more overpriced than the rest of the country, and all sound horrible. The better to protect you from yourself? Also, everything is against the law.

The original is by Phil Ochs, an early compatriot of Bob Dylan, and a great protest singer.

Maybe Woody Guthrie summed up California best.

The alternative state anthem is a pretty obvious choice.

Drug czar uses marijuana study to distract media from crime drop in Denver after legalization

DEA Stormtrooper

The empire strikes back.

With studies showing drug legalization in Colorado has already lowered Denver crime rates, the feds have to do something to protect their lucrative drug war.

According to data from the Denver Police Department, violent crime (including homicide, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) fell by 6.9% in the first quarter of 2014, compared with the same period in 2013. Property crime (including burglary, larceny, auto theft, theft from motor vehicle and arson) dropped by 11.1%.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy, office of the U.S. “drug czar”, is the anti-drug propaganda arm of the U.S. government. At the ONDCP, it’s actually against the law to tell the truth about drugs, a fact highlighted by a Feb. 4, 2014 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The hearing was originally planned by Republicans to denounce the president, but that backfired when deputy drug czar Michael Botticelli was made to look like an idiot by Democrats defending Obama’s factual observation that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol.

Recent events that led up to the timing of the release of the latest federally-funded anti-marijuana study:

1. President says marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol.

2. Study is published showing crime rates fell after medical marijuana decriminalization in the 2000s.

3. Crime rates in Denver fall up to 11% in 2014 Q1 after full legalization of marijuana.

4. Feds continue to get angry, crack down on dispensaries in Denver and whine about legalization in D.C.

5. ONDCP hauls out their zillionth anti-marijuana study, after being embarrassed in a Congressional hearing.

6. Worthless news media takes ONDCP study seriously.

7. Tabloids do ONDCP’s dirty workrepeatedly.

8. Reports on the recent study showing crime rates falling after decriminalization get buried by ONDCP propaganda.

At least USA Today, a semi-literate newspaper full of colorful pie charts, is playing it safe, probably under the assumption that anyone who reads USA Today must be stoned:

Gregory Gerdeman, a biologist and neuropharmacologist at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., said he has no reason to doubt the new study’s findings but worries generally about marijuana research funded by federal agencies… “If you’re getting money from the drug czar’s office, that money’s not going to continue if you don’t end up publishing something that at least supports the general story of the danger of drug abuse,” Gerdeman said… “if it were my child, even with this study, I’m more comfortable with young people having a casual marijuana habit than drinking regularly.”

As usual, President Obama says it’s up to someone else to do something about the inequities of the drug laws. Since Congress never does anything they’re not compensated for, that leaves things open for the anti-drug cartels to recapture their market share. After all, drug war is big business for federal agencies, contractors, and private prisons.

This will all come down to money in the end. Capitalist entrepreneurs turned legal drug dealers aligned with states hungry for tax revenues will compete against federal agencies desperate to maintain their funding, all to see who can bribe the most people on Capitol Hill. Welcome to America.

Media Shocker: You Are Not Upwardly Mobile

Harvard academics being studied by ordinary people.

Harvard academics being studied by ordinary people.

The American media has been shocked by the latest study out from the Equality of Opportunity Project at Harvard which examines social mobility in the United States on a 40 year timeline. Stunned and confused journalists are trumpeting the finding that social mobility “hasn’t changed” in the past 40 years despite the massive economic inequality that exists today in the U$A.The news, however, is no surprise to ordinary people and those who are not lost in jingoist nostalgia for the better times of the racist, sexist, homophobic, oppressively hazy days of the 1970s.

Journalists themselves belong to a peculiar caste in American society. As the most intellectually-challenged members of the intellectual bourgeoisie, they think positively of their country in the past tense, if not the present. Things are bad now, so they must have been better 40 years ago, when the average person just had a high school diploma, and being black or female or gay meant you might as well emigrate or start protesting in the streets. This view is characteristic of their profession, which supposes to require a liberal arts degree but does not technically require actual comprehension of history, politics, or culture. Or literacy.

Some older journalists who have yet to succumb to full dementia, such as the undead who host the PBS Newshour, vaguely recall that opportunities have increased for a number of social groups in the United States since 1970. In occasional lucid moments away from the teleprompter, however, these ancient mummies are now becoming aware that a decrease in social oppression does not equate to an increase in economic egalitarianism.

Which basically amounts to a loss.

JEFFREY BROWN:I mean, first of all, is it a glass half-full or half-empty situation?  How do you look at the problem that we have today?

RAJ CHETTY:  Well, I think you shouldn’t interpret the lack of a decline in upward mobility as good news, in the sense that intergenerational mobility in the U.S., social mobility, is lower than virtually any other developed country for which we currently have data.

And so the way to think about this is that upward mobility is quite low, unfortunately, on average in the U.S., and it has remained — it’s been persistently low for the past few decades.  And so, in that sense, I think it’s still an important and urgent policy priority to focus on identifying ways of improving upward mobility.

Silk Road Online Drug Bazaar was a Libertarian “Economic Simulation”

FBI claims Dread Pirate Roberts is actually a libertarian economic theorist

The FBI claims this pirate is actually a libertarian economic theorist

The FBI claims Ross William Ulbricht, 29, of Austin, Texas, ran an online drug market called the Silk Road using the alias Dread Pirate Roberts. Ross Ulbricht had this to say about his economic philosophy:

“I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and agression amongst mankind… I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end. The most widespread and systemic use of force is amongst institutions and governments, so this is my current point of effort. The best way to change a government is to change the minds of the governed, however. To that end, I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.”

Dread Pirate Roberts, by the way, is a character in the film The Princess Bride, who is not just one man, but a series of individuals who periodically pass the name and occupation of pirate captain to a chosen successor. The world seems to contain more than one radical libertarian willing to dress up their greed as a political ideology, so, you never know—maybe Ulbricht is just the latest captain of the Silk Road. Life imitates art.

Ulbricht hails from Texas, home of lots of other radical right wing libertarians, like perennial presidential contender Ron Paul. Cody Wilson deserves a mention, even if he considers himself an anarchist. Wilson is using 3-D printers to make assault rifles and isn’t breaking any laws. Regardless, libertarians want to give you some serious freedom. Or, at least, sell it to you.

Now, you may not be willing to view the Silk Road as anything but a for-profit endeavor. I’m sure that’s what the FBI thinks, not that they care one way or the other. But let’s imagine it really was an attempt to change the world.

Ross Ulbricht is actually a libertarian economic theorist

The FBI claims this man is actually a pirate from a 1980’s adventure film

The problem specifically with Silk Road is that it will take more than a radical “economic simulation” to achieve freedom from the injustices of the War on Drugs (Albricht’s quote didn’t get this specific, but it stands to reason if you ask, “freedom from what?”) Not to mention the fact that improving drug consumers’ shopping experiences (in what still amounts to a black market) doesn’t significantly improve drug safety. Having a feedback system and a more normalised shopping experience may have ensured that bad sellers got fewer customers, but the black market of Prohibition still guarantees the existence of toxicity, additives, and the poor manufacture of substances designed for human consumption. Drugs require control, safety—regulation, perhaps; which is anathema to many libertarians. The main problem then is the law, not the economy.

Second are cultural perceptions of drug use, and here Silk Road might have had some impact. Anything that lessens the stigma and risk of the black market has the cultural potential to change people’s minds about what it means to use drugs. But power (law) usually trumps culture (attitudes toward drug use). It’s a two-way street, and culture can change law, but only when cultural forces reach a critical mass. Normally, power dominates culture. And Dread Pirate Roberts is up against one of the great empires of our times, which puts his ability to effect cultural change there at a significant disadvantage.

As for the notion that laissez-faire economics leads to a more free society, let’s take a case Ulbricht himself mentions in the same LinkedIn comment: slavery. Slavery in the United States was certainly first and foremost a financial institution, but it didn’t end because of market changes. In fact, global market changes and rules restricting the U.S. market did very little to force change. It took a civil war to eradicate the market, and the culture of racism slavery created in the U.S. only shifted gradually over the following one hundred years.

To change unjust laws that correspond to social norms, you must first change what people believe. A social movement, not an economic simulation, is required to end the Drug War.

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