Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

I have heard this figure quoted numerous times in the past six months, usually in connection with another suspected campus rape: according to psychologist David Lisak’s 2010 study, only 2% to 10% of sexual-assault reports are false.

I didn’t dig into it at the time I first heard it– I just assumed that it belonged in the category of “30% of women in the military report being sexually assaulted”, which is based on a definition of sexual assault that includes inappropriate comments and “leering” behavior or standing too close.

In any case, the Wall Street Journal dug into it a little more deeply and reports that Lizak’s statistic is based on the assumption that all reports of sexual assault that are not categorically proven to be false are therefore true.

Think about it. There is a percentage of cases which are clearly proven to be true, as when there are witnesses and physical evidence or a confession. There is a percentage which are definitively proven to be false, as in the now notorious case at the University of Virginia reported in Rolling Stone Magazine by Sabrina Erdely in an article which has since been retracted and discredited. And then there are all the cases for which there is no proof either way. Mr. Lizak seems to assume that proof is only required to demonstrate that an allegation is false. Otherwise, it is assumed to be true.

One of the lame arguments presented in defense of Sabrina Erdely’s work for Rolling Stone was the usual “re-victimization” trope: that the idea of actually needing to confirm a victim’s story is itself a form of “re-victimization”.

Incidentally, you may have been left with the impression– as I was, for a time– that the victim in the University of Virginia case, “Jackie”, might have really been a victim, but of somebody else, somewhere else, on a different day. She was traumatized and confused so she conflated different fragments of experience into the one damning narrative and accused the wrong person.

Okay– that sounds a bit absurd now, but I was trying to be fair. The trouble is that Jackie actually went though some effort to deceive her friends about the issue: she actually made up a fake former boyfriend (whom she claimed set up and encouraged the gang rape) using the picture of a former classmate and created an anonymous SMS account from which “he” sent texts to her friends. She wrote fake love letters to the fake former boyfriend that she showed to her friends, which appear to have been copied from “Dawson’s Creek” episodes.

Lizak assumes that all of the other cases, which have not been proven either way, are actual sexual assaults. This is a scurrilous assumption.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some earlier studies have placed the percentage of false reports at 40-50%. You might say that those are just some studies. So is Lizak’s.

You might also say– as I have heard frequently– that women just “don’t make those things up”. I don’t know why anyone would believe that, given the overwhelming evidence that, in fact, women do sometimes make it up, as in the two thirteen-year-olds who destroyed their Grade 8 teacher’s life successfully even though it was later shown that they were lying. (Among other things, they claimed it happened in a room that had not been built at the time they said it happened. They later confessed they had made it up.)

By that time, the teacher’s career and marriage had been destroyed.  And it must be noted that even when the accusations are proven to be false, people still tend to believe them.

If you like think that we live in a world in which school boards and ex-spouses then say, “oh, I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you”, you are delusional.

The two girls? They were not punished. We don’t punish people for the real harm that they do (or half of the Wall Street brokers would be in prison) but on the basis of what is required politically. That is why the Wall Street Journal is more sympathetic to the victims of false accusations than the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal is more conservative. It’s an issue I think they might be right about.

Why did those two thirteen-year-old girls make it up? It’s not congenial to anybody, it seems, to inquire into that.

Some people cite the number of women claiming to have been drugged and raped by Bill Cosby as proof that he’s guilty. On the other hand, the similarity of the stories might also suggest that the alleged victims are cribbing from each other.

I am skeptical of the “drugged” angle: there is a widespread belief out there that there are drugs– Rhoponal and GHB– that turn women into compliant zombies who will forget that they were raped. The reality is that these drugs are no more or less effective than alcohol at achieving the results claimed. Read their stories: the use of these drugs is almost always within the context of the victim drinking a lot. Some studies suggest that the symptoms the women describe, of having been drugged, are more indicative of a simple hangover.

I have no problem believing that vulnerable and impressionable young women, believing that Bill Cosby could give them a big break, an acting role in his tv series or movies, or whatever, might end up willingly going to his apartment or hotel room and drinking with him and drinking too much and perhaps even (willingly) ingesting some of drugs he offered them. Perhaps he forced himself on them.

Perhaps they were willing and then disappointed that he didn’t promote their careers as they hoped he would.

You want real political correctness?  Try discussing that angle with anybody.

 

Let’s stay balanced:

In More Detail, a Review of Jon Krakauer’s book “Missoula”.

The Grass Grows Under My Feet

They said the psychiatrist told them he didn’t believe their son had a substance abuse problem. But by then, the boy had other problems. After the disciplinary hearing, “he just broke down and said his life was over. He would never be able to get into college; he would never be able to get a job,” Linda Bays said. Roanoke Times, 2015-03-15

On March 14th, the Roanoke Times posted a story, a true story, about a school district which suspended an 11-year-old boy for possession of marijuana.

The “marijuana” was not marijuana, but here’s what happened– and it’s a profound story that authorities far and wide should study carefully, because it’s the story of the most wicked and stupid actions of authorities everywhere.

A snitch told the principal at Bedford Middle School that a boy– known as R. M. B.– had some marijuana in his possession that he was showing around, on the bus, or maybe it was in the bathroom, or, wait a minute, I think it was in the classroom.

The boy was apprehended and searched and a leaf of something was found. The expert pedagogue consulted google and concluded that it was a marijuana leaf and summoned the police and suspended the boy from the school for 364 days.

First detail of note: it was a leaf, not a bud. It does not appear to have occurred to the authorities that this detail mattered in the least.

Second detail of note: the boy was 11 and both of his parents were, or had been, teachers in the public schools in this area. No matter: zero tolerance. Authority must be respected.

The leaf was sent away to be tested. Months went by. The suspension had a profound affect on the boy’s self-esteem, feeling of community, trust in authority figures, and happiness. The leaf was tested: it was not marijuana. But authorities must be respected and respected authorities do not make mistakes that have unpleasant, destructive consequences on innocent people. Test again! Still not marijuana. Test again!!

I’ll bet that the authorities were “disappointed”.

Think about that.

Do you think they were elated to discover that the young lad was not a hardened criminal drug addict? Here is the detail that matters: I have no doubt that they were disappointed. At this stage, the story is about authority that refuses to admit that it makes consequential mistakes. No: that refuses to admit that it is stupid.

That is what they know, and we know, they must admit to, if they are to honor the truth: we were stupid. We were not worthy of your trust and respect. We are more concerned with our personal status and comfort and authority than we were with the welfare of a young, innocent 11-year-old boy. Screw the boy: authority must be respected.

The parents rightly– well, too late, for my taste, but eventually– launched a lawsuit. Here we see how far they will go: the authorities announced that it wouldn’t have mattered if it was real marijuana or not because the school system’s policy states that possession of anything that is an “imitation” of a prohibited substance can have the same consequences as possession of the real thing.

Are there any criminal laws that state that a person can be convicted for doing some that looks illegal regardless of whether or not they actually did something illegal? Maybe there is– but it still seems stupid. It is stupid. The school board, and their lawyer Jim Guynn, are stupid: we don’t care if he really had marijuana, we should be able to punish him for having something that the morons in the administration of school might mistake for marijuana.

The truly moronic thing about it, though, is that anyone ever thought it was a good idea to have a one year suspension even for possession of real marijuana. This is a policy that only a psychotic person could believe in. But we are, unfortunately, a psychotic society. We approve. We elected the fools that appointed these fools who implement this idiotic policy.

What happened is that the authorities become vested in their own actions and judgments. They have to continue the charade because the moment they drop it, it becomes clear that they are inadequate human beings without common sense or decency.

The drug war is the most obvious misguided policy. Homeland Security, the War in Iraq, the War in Viet Nam, and countless other government policies are now clung to because the authorities became invested in them. What could President Johnson do in 1968? Admit that he made a mistake that cost thousands of American lives, or continue the war the point was reached wherein something could be tarted up to look like victory and then walk away and hope it doesn’t collapse until the helicopters are out of the country.

What could Bush do once he — perhaps– realized what an egregious error Iraq was?

What can Obama do now that he doubled-down in Afghanistan?

Rohypnol

I am a bit surprised the poll did not ask students if they had ever had a drink spiked with the date-rape drug, Rohypnol (also known as flunitrazepam). If you are interested in facts, a study in the UK examined 120 claimed cases of use of “date-rape” drugs: not a single instance survived scrutiny.

I repeat: not one survived scrutiny.

The San Diego Medical Examiner’s office also looked into the issue– again, using real science– and found some evidence of possible flunitrazepam in about 1% of the alleged incidents. (Keep in mind that Rohypnol is sometimes– often– used intentionally, recreationally by people.)

Obviously, the investigators never watched Oprah or 20/20, or any of the other numerous programs on their mission of frightening the uninformed.

The University of Illinois, incidentally, casually asserts that date rape drugs are being used “at an increasing rate”. Really? And how do they know this? What previous studies are they comparing current studies to? What was the rate ten years ago, or fifteen years ago? They further assert that it is “often” brought back from Europe (where it can be prescribed as a sleep aid) by students.

I think I know where they got these conclusions from. They asked people their impressions. Do you think the use of date-rape drugs is going up or down? What do you think? Give us your honest opinion.

Do a search on the question of “does Rohypnol leave any traces” and you will find that a lot of websites use exactly the same text to say it does not. Look for the phrase:  “is colorless, odorless, and tasteless and dissolves without leaving any traces”.  They are all republishing information from same misinformed source.

It is not truthful. First of all, since about 10 years ago, the manufacturer, Roche, has made the tablets “less dispersible”. It doesn’t dissolve cleanly quickly, and colors the liquid in which it is mixed.

More importantly, Rohypnol can be detected in the urine of a person who ingested it for up to 60 hours afterwards. In the situation in which a woman suspects she has been secretly drugged and raped, she has at least two days to report it and have her urine tested for the unlikely possibility she really has been drugged.

But then, Rohypnol is supposed to cause amnesia: the victim is supposed to lose her memory of the assault, and even time before the assault. Then how would she know? That’s problematic, especially since alcohol has a similar effect. And that’s why when you do see cases of suspicion of the date-rape drug, victims report that they were bruised or sore in the groin area, and that’s what made them suspicious. They understand the problem: how did they know?

Even more problematic: many of the alleged symptoms of the drug are very, very similar to symptoms of excessive alcohol consumption. Would there be a temptation for a woman in this situation to under-state the amount of alcohol she has consumed?

Have you ever understated the amount of alcohol you have consumed?

The disturbing part of this– something which should be very disturbing to women who are genuinely concerned about sexual assault– is the number of women who have claimed to have been drugged and then raped. A charge of rape can often boil down to he said/she said arguments, and feminists urge us to always believe the woman, but if a woman is tested within 60 hours, it is possible to prove, scientifically, whether or not she was drugged. But if it can be proven that most of the claims of having been drugged and raped are false– at least, insofar as the drug part goes– a rational person might consider whether there’s something going on here that needs to be acknowledged by the legal system, by society, and by feminists.

The Appropriate Sentence for a Crime

Almost everybody loves to whine about criminals getting off easy. That’s all he got? Four years? Five years? Twenty years? It’s not enough. They should lock him up for life. No wonder there’s so much crime!

I don’t know of any divine tablet or sacred spreadsheet that tells us what a “light” sentence is or what is a sufficient punishment for, say, a burglary, or an assault, or a rape. People routinely act as if they know but they usually only say it should be more than what it was. Always more. If you asked someone out of the blue how many years in prison a man should serve for, say, rape, I doubt that most people have a clue as to how to arrive at a particular number.

How long should a man serve for conning people out of money? 144 years?

The most useful measure, in my opinion, is the relative seriousness of a crime. And the “seriousness” of a crime should be measured in harm.  And what is a harm?  If you have deprived someone of a material good, or health, life, or limb. There, we are on firmer ground, though not in the clear.

What types of crime are there?

There should never be any punishment for thought crimes. You would think that would be obvious– I would have thought it would be obvious– but in the so-called war on terror, the U.S. is now locking up young men for talking about jihad even if they cannot be shown to have taken a single actual step towards committing an act of terrorism. Talking about a crime is not really a crime unless you proceed to commit the crime. Talking about using drugs without using drugs is not illegal. Talking about having sex without having sex is not illegal. But talking about jihad without doing any jihad will get you 20 years, especially if an enthusiastic FBI informant offers to supply you with guns and bombs.

There are “victimless” crimes like possession of drugs for personal use, prostitution, possession of pornography (which, under the Canadian criminal code, used to include depictions of homosexual acts). When people try to justify prosecution for these crimes they frequently give, as reasons, consequences that are already illegal under other laws: driving while drunk, assault, exploitation of minors. But if a man (or a woman) uses threats of physical violence to force another person into acts of prostitution, I believe he or she should be prosecuted for a) exploitation (taking the money earned by someone else’s forced labour) or b) assault. But if two independent adults agree to have sex with each other in exchange for money, the government should stay out of it. Drugs, like alcohol, should be a controlled substance. The government has no business telling anyone they can’t grow a particular plant and then stick its leaves in their mouths and set them on fire. As long as they don’t get behind the wheel of a car after doing so.

There are property crimes. I think there should be a big difference between the punishment for property crimes and the punishment for crimes of violence. And I think the punishment for property crimes should be focused on restitution, not on revenge.

Crimes of violence should be taken very seriously, and repeat offenders should receive escalating sentences. This is one area where I have some sympathy for victims’ rights organizations– with limitations. Quite often, we hear mythical tales of someone who committed numerous violent acts and kept getting released after light sentences. In many instances, the story is more complicated than that: our judges are not stupid.

Capital Punishment is absurd: if we really believe that life is sacred and the taking of a life is a horrible offense, the last message we want to send to society is that we will do it too. Besides, as DNA testing has shown, we are all too frequently wrong in determining who committed the crime and a capital sentence cannot be reversed.

Unfortunately, what has happened in the U.S. is a ratcheting up of criminal sentencing. And the word “ratcheting” is exactly what I mean. A ratchet, if you don’t know, is a box wrench on a handle that can be switched to allow the user to quickly turn the handle back and forth while applying force in one direction only. In the U.S., over the last forty years, there has been constant political pressure to lengthen sentences without the slightest movement backwards. It has become politically impossible–thanks to the “tough on crime” wing of the Republican party– to advocate for lighter sentences for anything (though there are signs the U.S. is coming to their senses on the issue). As a result, sentences for some crimes in the U.S. have moved beyond severe to ridiculous and then to the sadistic and finally absurd. Yes, there are people in federal prisons in the U.S. serving 20-25 years for possession of marijuana. If you’re a rational person, you probably don’t believe me.

The benchmark sentence for violent crime should be 25 years for murder and there should be a chance of parole after 15 years. Hey, I can be specific. And you can quibble all you like about the exact number, but I believe that 25 is a rational, reasonable guess as to how much is appropriate and constructive. I believe that even a murderer should have some hope of being released some day if only to provide him with an incentive to change his life while in prison. Prison guards will tell you that it is not helpful for a prisoner to know that he will never be released no matter what his behavior is like, in prison.

Scale that down to three months for a basic assault that does not include sufficient violence to inflict permanent injury to the victim for a person who is a repeat offender. It seems rational to me to give suspended sentences to first-time offenders in this category, particularly if they take steps to turn their lives around, especially making personal, public apologies and restitution.

The rest I will leave alone– it would take years of work and analysis and practice to develop a useful, sensible scale of appropriate punishments for violent crimes that fall in between murder and assault. Hey, we have that: it’s called the criminal justice system. It needs to be fixed, within parameters like the ones I suggest above, but it’s possible, because we do still have the miracle of rule by law.

And we must stop adjusting criminal sentences by blandly pleading for “more”.

Medical Marijuana

It is no great shock that the Canadian government should suddenly decide that human beings in this province must not be allowed to grow a certain plant. The only surprise is that, given the real purpose behind this kind of legislation, the government didn’t also make it illegal to grow your own food. If you grow your own food, the wealthy corporations who can call government ministers and arrange meetings with them and donate to their re-election campaigns, will have competition for their products. But even Harper could not go that far. But he could make it illegal for you to grow your own marijuana, even if a doctor prescribes it for your own medical use.

It’s a bizarre world. By what moral or ethical authority does the government take it upon itself to stop you from harmlessly enjoying a few tokes in your own basement while watching the latest episode of Homeland? Who invented his ridiculous idea?

As soon as it became clear that the courts were ready to allow medical marijuana for private use, the toadies to the pharmaceutical industry– the government– had to step in to preserve Corporate Profits. Their worst nightmare is that the public should get to use nature’s bounty without having to pay for the services of a pimp.

LSD

There is an experiment going on right now in Switzerland in which LSD is given to terminally ill patients to help them deal with the approaching end of their lives. Scientists want to know if it can ease the feelings of anxiety and depression.

The hysterics who still want to fight the war on drugs must have their skivvies in a knot about it. They are not innocent. It is because of the hysterics that the most effective drug against pain that there is, heroin, is not available to terminally ill cancer patients. And it is because of them that tens of thousands of young men spend years in prison for crimes that harm no one but themselves. And it is because of them that the terminally ill may not choose to end their lives with dignity at a time of their own choosing. It is because of them that we torture people in the last months of their lives, injecting and pricking them, bombarding them with x-rays or chemicals that destroy their resistance to colds and viruses and cause them no end of discomfort in the illusory hope that this time will be one in a million and they might get better.

There is no dearth of people eager to tell you what you may or may not do or say or ingest. But let’s be clear: nobody is in favor of drug abuse, and nobody wants drugs distributed like candy to anyone with a momentary impulse to escape life’s issues. But, by any standard, the “War on Drugs” in the U.S. has been a colossal failure and the only thing that keeps people from admitting it is the powerful urge to delude ourselves into believing that when we do something that ruins the lives of thousands and thousands of people and wastes billions of dollars was good and necessary and right.

How could we possibly have not learned the lesson of prohibition? The cure was far worse than the disease.

I suspect that we will always have a drug problem. We will always have people in our society who can’t cope or don’t want to cope or can’t postpone gratification or control their urges. Most of them go for alcohol, but those who want more powerful anesthesia will find drugs whether they are illegal or not. But the dumbest thing we, as a society, ever did, was to compound the problem by sending tens of thousands of these people to prison for possession of even a small amount of an illicit drug. It’s a medical and social problem and should be treated the same way we treat those issues: with therapies, medical treatment, and support. Perhaps our governments have learned the lesson of prohibition– but perhaps the campaigns against drugs are just a smoke screen for the need to guarantee a monopoly on anesthesia to the pharmaceutical companies.

Or maybe we should treat that problem the same way we treat obesity. With complete indifference.

Growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s our parents and teachers and government exerted themselves to hysteria in the attempt to convince us that if you tried a drug like LSD or marijuana or cocaine or heroin, you would immediately become addicted for life. Without a doubt, those drugs are addictive, but so is alcohol. That doesn’t mean that all users become addicted. It is believable to me that no one would fund a study to determine how many people can and do use drugs recreationally, on the odd weekend, at a party, and so on, but remain more or less functional at work and in social settings.

The great, raging hypocrisy among American conservatives is their determination to allow anyone who wants to to own a gun. How bizarre is that? You want to ingest a substance that may give you a consciousness-raising experience, or just make you feel good, and the nanny government steps in to stop you, even though no one is endangered by your actions. But even in the face of overwhelming evidence that guns causes thousands of deaths every year, they believe it would be “intrusive” for the government to regulate where and when you can carry a gun. These people are so irrational it hardly seems worthwhile to argue with them. Every poll shows they represent a small minority of voters. They need to be pushed aside and marginalized for society to function rationally, but the Republicans won’t let that happen because they provide the electoral margin of victory in many states.

Skyler’s Complaint

In a baffling op-ed piece in the New York Times, August 23, 2013, the actress Anna Gunn complains about what she perceives to be a double standard: the main male character of the TV series “Breaking Bad”, Walt White, seems to be regarded as a kind of lovable rogue, who’s just trying to take care of his family while selling methamphetamine to pathetic addicts who have faded further and further into the background of the series. Her character, Skyler White, who, she says, lives a relatively faultless life, is vilified. Why? It’s because, she says, Skyler is a woman. It’s a double standard. Skyler has become “a measure of our attitude towards gender”. And that measure indicates rage and hypocrisy towards women who don’t stand by their man. At least, that’s Anna Gunn’s take on it.

Guilty. I’ll admit it: I found the character of Skyler White repugnant.

Is she arguing that Skyler should be admired? She says Skyler “has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, non-submissive, ill-treated women”. Ill-treated? If, I suppose, you buy one of the fundamental conceits of “Breaking Bad”, which is, that there really is something admirable about Walt White’s desire to support his family, even if it means destroying hundreds of other lives. Then Skyler is ill-treated, I suppose, by Walt’s dishonesty. But Skyler had the opportunity to walk away and didn’t take it. Walt provides for her, desires her, and wants to sustain their marriage. How is that “ill treated”?

But what if you didn’t even buy the first part: that Walt is admirable in some way, because, after all, he is taking care of his family. Americans seem to be complete suckers for family: you can commit any atrocity, as long as it is to protect your family.

Well, in my view, Walt is a psychopathic criminal and a cold-blooded killer. In my view, anyone who would harm another man’s family to protect his own is not admirable: he’s selfish. Just as a mother who brags about her overweening love for her children can be suffering from “overflowing self-infatuation”. I don’t admire either of them. Am I off the hook?

The brains behind the program, Vince Gilligan, claims that “Breaking Bad” is about how far a man will go to take care of his family. If he is a psychopath.

Skyler wants it both ways, and it’s not unusual for audiences to find hypocrisy more repellent than mischief or even murder. Walt is repellent but he really doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t have any morals other than the desire to provide for his family, which isn’t really a moral. It’s a motive. And it doesn’t, in my view, make him admirable. His family really isn’t “other”. It isn’t someone other than himself who benefits from his criminal activity. And his passion for his family, as dramatized in “Breaking Bad”, is fundamentally unbelievable. In real life, that is something put on, a charade. In real life, people like Walt White are fundamentally psychotic and narcissistic.

Why does Vince Gilligan make this a central trope in “Breaking Bad”?  So the viewer can enjoy Walt’s shenanigans without feeling repulsion.  After all, he’s just taking care of his family.

Skyler doesn’t walk away. She doesn’t turn him in. She accepts the money. She cheats on Walt. She helps her employer cheat. Just what does Anna Gunn believe is admirable about her? That she is “strong”? But not strong enough, apparently, to walk away.

War on Drugs

I am against drug abuse on a deeply personal level, but I am against drug prohibition on every level, personal and political. But it doesn’t matter that I am or that The Wire reflects this, because our political culture cannot and will not produce the selfless courage necessary for a political leader to address the problem honestly. Our political culture only produces politicians and it serves only the relentless ambition of those willing to tell us what we think we want to hear. David Simon, Co-creator of “The Wire”.

Was a war ever fought, for so long, and with such poor results, as the war on drugs?

It was started over 40 years ago by Richard Nixon, as part of his law and order campaign, a successful appeal to middle America, in the belief that more resources and money and manpower could eliminate the scourge of drug addictions. In fact the opposite has happened: drug smuggling, sales, and use are more pervasive than ever before. The initial reduction in the amount of drugs entering the country resulted in increased prices which resulted in increased imports, more dealers, more runners, more robbery and murder, and more addiction. The war on drugs was a compete failure.

Now, in a normal situation, people might look at a program, at it’s goals and methods, and it’s expectations, and decide whether or not it was a success. And if it was a failure, they would abandon that program and try something else.

But the thing about drugs is that America can always imagine that it could be worse. It’s not easy to analyze the drug problem from the point of view of what the untold billions of dollars the war on drugs is costing America could do if they had been spent on treatment instead of interdiction.

As Simon observes, there is almost no politician with the guts to admit that the war on drugs is a complete failure even though, by any reasonable measure, it obviously is. Except, perhaps, for Ron Paul, who has more or less declared that if anyone wants to destroy himself with drugs, why should the government get in the way?

The Latest DSM

The latest DSM manual will now assert that grieving the death of a loved one is a dysfunctional condition that calls for treatment.

As in, paid for by your benefit plan.

Your therapist will almost certainly prescribe a drug. In my opinion, what the drug does is not all that different from what marijuana or cocaine or methamphetamine does. The difference is all in the packaging, including the “therapist” and the doctor and the pharmacist, the rigid doses and schedule, and everyone soberly declaring that this substance can correct some kind of deficiency in your brain cells which is the cause of your unhappiness. Except that death is not a chemical deficiency, so we have an unusually naked moment here: hell, let’s just call a spade a spade: people who are sad should do drugs.

If you packaged marijuana in the same way, you could convince just as many people that this is some kind of impressive therapy that addresses a real medical condition. Exact dosages, on a schedule, with monitoring. The difference is, marijuana would not have as many side effects and would not be nearly as expensive. The difference is that marijuana is not patented.

There, done. While we’re at it, children who have discovered that school work is “work” should do drugs. Every teenage girl in the country who worries about how she looks should do drugs. Every mother who wishes she could put her feet up and watch tv all day while strange men fall over themselves to buy her gifts should do drugs. Every businessman who thinks the competition is competition should do drugs. Every liar should do drugs.

As you read the previous paragraph did you think of the fact that, for all practical purpose, they are all doing drugs, with nice names and prescriptions.

I have my own suggestion: every executive at every pharmaceutical company should do drugs, just as every congressman should go through the long lineups at the airports and every congressman’s firstborn child, male or female, straight or gay, should enlist.

And every Ayatollah who believes in the Intifada should be the first to strap on that explosive belt. Lead the way!

“No One Cares About These People”

Mr. Keane, in his Chronicle article, offered two major reasons the police lie so much. First, because they can. Police officers “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.” At worst, the case will be dismissed, but the officer is free to continue business as usual. Second, criminal defendants are typically poor and uneducated, often belong to a racial minority, and often have a criminal record. “Police know that no one cares about these people,” Mr. Keane explained (NY Times, 2012-02-03)

And, I suspect, neither do you and I.

If you did, you would speak up, make your voice heard, vote for the progressive reformer, not the tough-on-crime conservative. But we don’t care about those people. Unless they are played by Morgan Freeman or Tim Robbins in a movie. Then we care a whole lot, because we really are good, decent people, and so is Morgan Freeman, and the fact that I just love him shows that I am not biased or bigoted. I judge people by what they actually do, not by which actor they look like.

And if the police lie in order to lock them up for a particular crime, it doesn’t really matter if they didn’t commit that particular crime: the important thing is that someone has been locked up for something.

Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. (NY Times, 2012-02-03)

How small a minority are we now, those who think “these people” do matter? That they have souls and feelings and inner lives? We’re not popular, that’s for sure. We are an affront to the overjoyed multitudes who love punishment because they really feel that that is the only way to keep people from taking our stuff or hurting us. This conversation takes place at one level and they either hurt us or we hurt them and if you help them you are hurting us.

My wife and I are watching “The Wire” right now. It’s a gritty, realistic police drama set in Baltimore. The police in “The Wire” cover all shades of humanity, from the obese thoughtless bureaucrat to the passionate honest street cop. The behavior of the cops on this show– and their physical appearance (as on “Hill Street Blues”, another of a handful of credible police dramas) strikes me as consonant with detailed news stories about crime and justice. Deals are struck. The really bad guys, with smarter lawyers, get the light sentences while the poor loyal schmuck who served them bears the brunt of the criminal justice system. And the police, in “The Wire”, lie. Sometimes for personal gain or to cover up incompetence or corruption. Sometimes in a well-meaning effort to put the bad guys behind bars.

Noted

Yes, the police have a tough job. So do criminal lawyers, and farmers and miners and lumberjacks, and doctors and teachers, and those kids who pick through the trash heaps in India. Cry me a river. If you don’t want to be a cop because somebody thinks you should actually be required to obey the law, or control your temper, or risk your life to try to disarm a suicidal homeless man… then get out and do something else.