Ferguson, Part Deux

Yesterday, as the entire world knows, another cop was let off, scot-free, after killing a human being.

As after the Ferguson event, conservative white folks twist themselves into pretzels defending the police. Those leaning left blame racism. I don’t know whether Officer Daniel Pantaleo was a racist, but I do know that other warrior cop victims, Jarod Dotson and Wally Kowalski, are both very white.

So do we blame the cops? Yes and no. Neither Michael Brown nor Daniel Pantaleo are in the running for the Andy Griffith policing award. And nor are the costumed government agents whose daily job is to collect traffic taxes for the state. But not all cops thrive on civil forfeitures, victimless crimes and choking people to death.

The real culprits? I blame New York voters for extortionately high cigarette taxes that turn a voluntary exchange into a crime worthy of a SWAT team response. I blame Pennsylvania voters for unconstitutional civil forfeiture laws that let police steal your property without trial. I blame national voters for the War on Drugs that resulted in a militarized police and tremendous social costs.

Without draconian laws, we would have no need for draconian police.

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Ferguson

The least surprising and also least helpful reactions regarding the events of Ferguson, Missouri, are those that promote a mostly racial narrative. Yes, it is true – and no one disputes – that incidents like this shooting can and do chafe race relations.

There are whites who, subconsciously or consciously, identify with Darren Wilson, the white cop. And there are blacks who, too often on the wrong side of history, identify with Michael Brown, the black teenager. And yes, there are whites who blame white privilege and side with blacks, just as there are blacks who are embarrassed by arson and looting and don’t wanted to be grouped in with the rioters.

But the real story here is about government and not race, which I will get to in a moment. Before we go there, let me say something optimistic about race relations. The Millennial generation, fast becoming a majority of the workforce, is the most colorblind generation in modern history. My 8-year-old son chooses friends wholly on the basis of personality and common interest. If he sees race at all, it’s like how older generations viewed hair color – of no importance.

I’m no Millennial. In my generation it was quite easy to be cloistered away from other cultures, racial and religious minorities, and recent immigrants. At my rural Pennsylvania high school, if you didn’t have a German surname, the locals considered you an outsider. My graduating class had only one black student – to be precise, he was biracial and spoke with a Pennsylvania Dutch accent. Diverse it was not.

I’m not here to lecture anyone about their beliefs. I deem political correctness as corrosive to social harmony as racism. Believe, love and hate as you wish as long as you don’t aggress against others. But I will emphatically state that my life is enriched by my black friends, my lifestyle is made more enjoyable thanks to black talents and black culture, and this country is immensely more lively and interesting in its diversity than if it were inhabited solely by a bunch of pasty pink Englishmen.

So back to Ferguson. While everyone else is fixated on black this white that, ask yourselves the following questions: What has led to the rise of the police state and the warrior cop? Is the constant barrage of headlines of people, kids and dogs getting shot by the police a coincidence? Which policy choices contributed to the black teen unemployment rate skyrocketing from 15% in the 1950s to over 42% today? Why did the poverty rate decline from 95% in 1900 to 12-14% in the mid-1960s and then get stuck at that level until today? Answering these questions will get you much closer to the truth about Ferguson than casting the problem in black versus white.

More on that in Ferguson, Part Deux.

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Potpourri: Net Neutrality, The Blacklist and Michael Pollan

If by today you haven’t been pulled into a Facebook debate about “Net Neutrality,” you have my sincerest envy. For those of you not familiar with the concept, Net Neutrality is a scheme whereby the Federal government would mandate that internet service providers like Comcast provide the same access at the same price for heavy content use (streaming 200 high-definition Netflix movies per month) as for light content use (reading Fly in My Bourbon once per week). This is little different than if a President Bushama signed an executive order requiring all delivery services (e.g., USPS, Fedex, UPS) to charge the exact same for mailing a letter to Altoona, Pa., as for shipping three cows to Gjirokastër, Albania. The economically predictable result would be less competition, fewer market entrants, less innovation, and a boon to extreme users subsidized by everyone else. But give this bad idea an appealing name (“What is this you are against neutrality, you commie fascist eater of worms!?”), and every IT guy in America becomes a lobbyist for Obamacare of the internet.

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I’m never on the forefront of popular culture. If it weren’t for my wife, I’d still be wearing my pleated khakis from the 90s. The same is true with tv shows. Breaking Bad premiered in 2008. I watched my first episode, and then the entire season, in fall 2013 after the season finale had aired. My new Benny-come-lately show is The Blacklist, starring James Spader as a Mensa-intelligent master criminal working with the FBI to catch even worse bad guys than he. Having recently Netflixed the first 22 episodes in a one month period, you can say I am addicted. It’s no Breaking Bad, though. Typical of network series, The Blacklist is spoilt by slick production standards and J Crew model-looking costars. That said, the characters, especially Raymond Reddington, are compellingly cool as they maneuver through an epic storyline laced with fast-paced mini-plots. My biggest gripe is the subliminal (and occasionally explicit) support for the NSA and its Orwellian surveillance machine, which Edward Snowden aptly labeled as turnkey tyranny. Which is why I root for bad guy Reddington, who avoided the US globalist dragnet until he voluntarily surrendered in the show’s pilot.

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One of my most loaned books is In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (2008). The first three sentences: “Eat Food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Pollan is an advocate of natural foods but a critic of nutritionism, and he writes lively of food history and lab-created frankenfoods which Pollan argues are the root of downers like cancer and heart disease. As someone who reduced elevated cholesterol and blood pressure solely through healthier eating and exercise, I was keen on Pollan’s message. That is, until yesterday, when Pollan went full food nazi on his Facebook page, recommending that Obama issue an executive order mandating a National Food Policy. So I posted this response: “Michael, I loved your ‘In Defense of Food’; in fact, that may well be one of my top ten most shared books. But what makes you think that desires equal results, or stated differently, what government program or regulation or “War-on” eliminated poverty, drugs, the dearth of surgeons, etc? Your food commissars are no more likely to eliminate Cheetos from Americans’ pantries than Richard Nixon was able to weed out Mary Jane from Grateful Dead concert grounds.”

Eat that, Michael Pollan.

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Tinfoil Hat Wearing Candidate Wins 39% of Vote

This wasn’t a headline in Wednesday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but it should have been. I was, after all, the only candidate for state office endorsed by the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and who advocated a return to the gold standard.

The 45th district is a lonely one for Republicans, who comprise about 25% of the registered voters. That I nearly cracked 40% of the vote with an openly libertarian campaign is a win in my books. As for the 60% who preferred a stalwart defender of government-owned liquor stores, well, I will not be inviting you for dinner anytime soon.

Many have asked about my plans for the future. Will I run again? Can you beat Tim Murphy in arm wrestling? Do I have a beard guy or do I trim it myself? For now, those are my secrets. But as time progresses, I will share my thoughts on these and many issues that you didn’t even know were issues.

Stay tuned.

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