Wednesday, November 22, 2006

VIOLATING THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

There are a couple of stories kicking around of late that demonstrate the folly of too much law and the unintended consequences it generates…


Last week our own lead neoconservative trooper was outright sky-falling astonished to hear the ACLU was defending a lawsuit involving guns!

Well, sort of… It was really a free speech case involving internet filters. Owing to a Federal “strings attached” arrangement, libraries which received certain Federal grants were required to install filters to prevent minors from “seeing visual depictions of sexual activity,” whatever exactly that means… Is this what we used to call porn?

Well, some Eastern Washington libraries, contrary to Supreme Court edict, didn’t remove the filters to allow unfettered adult access. “The plaintiffs include a Ferry County woman who wanted to do research on drugs and alcohol while studying at Eastern Washington University; a professional photographer blocked from researching art galleries and health issues; and an Okanogan man unable to access a Web log he maintains, as well information relating to gun use by hunters.”

Nobody is explaining how a porn filter blocked access to those subjects, but I think it’s time to slap the software writer…

And a few hundred members of Congress, too. Why do we need this law? Protect kids from porn? C’mon… They don’t need porn. They have Britney Spears, appearing here half a sneeze away from pulling a Janet. Fox calls her single and sizzling… I got another “s” word for her… And a note to Fox – she isn’t single, yet. Some icon… Keeping kids away from explicit sexuality is hopeless.

And BTW, isn’t this one of those parental functions? I know… Ma’s at work. Somebody has to pay for those porn filters.


This one is a lot grimmer… FoxNews, among many others, is reporting the case of a 92 woman who was killed in a “shootout” with narcotics officers who broke down the wrong door on a botched warrant. It’s claimed they announced themselves properly, followed all the right procedures, etc… Except it was the wrong damned house. It’s a good guess Kathryn Johnston didn’t hear their declamation before she wounded three of them…

Something in me wants to curse her aim and curse twice the apologists who insist this was justified – or at least that the cops were justified in their response. I would wish at the very least they never wear a badge again, and that the fool who got the location wrong go to jail for involuntary manslaughter, civil rights violations, and wounding – its his/her fault the cops got shot.

I would, but it’s so futile. It’s just one more case of collateral damage from the most misbegotten war this country has ever fought, the war on drugs.

Over at National Review there is a link to a ten year old article by WF Buckley and the NRO editors. If you haven’t read “The War On Drugs Is Lost” do so now. It’s long and wordy – what else? – but it makes the case very well. And it is especially significant that the observations Buckley et al made in 1996 are still so applicable.

So how goes the war today? Oh, you can search and search – you’ll find thousands of opinions, estimates, and hyperbolic rhetorical excesses – but you’ll find almost no “facts” because nobody knows. All we know for sure is that since 1996, as estimates of total users have gone up and down, methamphetamine and prescription drugs like oxycontin – Limbaugh’s balm – have become hugely popular while the old standbys maintained their popularity and availability - as cheap or cheaper than ever. We know that cops keep busting and users keep buying, while those true capitalists of the black markets wax ever more ingenious in their techniques, digging tunnels and building submarines to facilitate their enterprises…

Lost? Worse than lost: Stalemated. The war on drugs is a quagmire that makes Iraq look like a shining success. And just like Iraq, the collateral damage goes on, as Kathryn Johnston found out…

I don’t expect it to change. Religious zealots and similar dogmatists, fighting side by side with dealers, crooked cops and judges, and the huge numbers of drug customers make this almost certain. I have to wonder, though: Do the anti-drug legions realize they are perpetuating the problem? Do they realize their futile efforts are lining the pockets of those they purport to oppose?

Do they know they have blood on their hands – the blood of people like Kathryn Johnston – just as surely as do the druglords?

Do they care? Or is any means justifiable in their war?

I guess so… That’s what war means.

Comments:
The so-called war on drugs has long been an abuse of power by the government. The "interstate commerce" clause justification for this is flimsy at best.
Most of the drugs that have been made illegal are a problem for the people that abuse them. So are alcohol, tobacco, pornography and a host of other legal things that people abuse and become obsessed with.
In a misguided paternalistic fervor the government has tried to protect society from the symptom rather than the cause of the problem. By focusing attention on drugs the problem is exacerbated. People that could benefit by community outreach instead turn to drugs for the thrill.
To stop this, the government arrests them and puts them in jail. The jails are overflowing with people who were caught possessing these drugs.
The government goes after the suppliers. The risks the suppliers take justifies the high prices for the drugs. The high prices justify the risks and the illegal drug trade becomes big business.
The high prices in part induce the people hooked on the drugs to commit various petty larcenies to finance their habits. Even more people are victimized.
Property used in drug crimes is siezed by the police agencies and sold, often without a conviction of the criminals, whose rights have been violated. The police agencies profit hugely.
The government goes after the sources of supply in other countries, in violation of the sovereignty of those nations. Ill will between nations is generated.
All of this in the name of "protecting interstate commerce", and protecting the nation's youth.
The war on drugs has been a failure from the start. It has been used to justify larger and larger government while putting a larger and larger portion of our population into jail. It has helped to fuel an increase in violent crime. People like Kathryn Johnston are just another sad statistic in this.
It's long past the time this nonsense was ended. Not because I want drugs legalized, but because it grows government, abuses civil rights, and is used to justify violating the sovereignty of other nations.
We need programs to help people get their act together, not to incarcerate them for drug abuse. I'm not talking about a welfare program for drug abusers. I'm not talking about another government funded social program either.
These programs should be funded by the people they help, and through charitable contribution from people that want to see an end to drug abuse.
People that have cleaned up and made something of their lives can be held up as an example of the success that can come from living a drug free life. God knows the youth of today need positive role models.
Drug abuse is a horrible evil, but our government based approach to solving it is a horrible evil as well.
 
"Slap the software writers"?
You've got to be kidding. As long as pornography is profitable the pornographers will hire their own software writers to get past the filters.
Writing filters to block pornography and the like without also catching unintended material in the net is next to impossible.
You either block material that you shouldn't, or you miss material you should block.
We'd be better off requiring minors to be supervised or have a parental waiver to allow them to use Internet connected computers in libraries than trying to filter the content.
This is just another example of paternalistic government. It's yet another thing the government doesn't need to be involved in.
 
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