Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More "Cheer"

So at Tam's recommendation, I picked up Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom

It was only now that I got to it in my reading queue. I've just started and it's already a great depression. Dalrymple's thesis is that the West, despite having less poverty in terms of wealth and health among its pour has far greater levels of dysfunction and depravity. And that this is mostly due to the indulgences of the Left intelligentsia in their culture of victimization, identity politics, and general removal of responsibility.

When people are given an inch and told that they are not responsible for their actions they will take advantage of it.

Hmmm.... sounds familiar. I wonder if any other highly liberal places are being subjected to people taking advantage of the leftist system.

Anyway this passage struck me in the Introduction:

A specter is haunting the Western world: the underclass.

This underclass is not poor, at least by the standards that have prevailed through the great majority of human history. It exists, to a varying degree, in all Western societies. Like every other social class, it has benefited enormously from the fast general increase in wealth of the past hundred years. In certain respects indeed, it enjoys amenities and comforts that would have made a Roman emperor, or and absolute monarch gasp, Nor is it politically oppressed: it fears neither to speak its mind nor the midnight knock on the door. Yet its existence is wrenched nonetheless, with a special wretchedness that is peculiarity its own.

Emphasis mine. This book was published in 2001, and that specific bit seems naive today.

Why? Well often it seems that if your house is silently broken into by a gang of armed in the middle of the night it's being done by government agents.

According to surveys of police departments conducted by University of Eastern Kentucky criminologist Peter Kraska, we've seen about a 1,500 percent increase in SWAT deployments in this country since the early 1980s. The vast majority of that increase has been to serve search warrants on people suspected of nonviolent drug crimes. SWAT teams are inherently violent. In some ways they're an infliction of punishment before conviction. This is why they should only be used in situations where the suspect presents an immediate threat to others. In that case, SWAT teams use violence to defuse an already violent situation. When they're used to serve drug warrants for consensual crimes, however, SWAT tactics create violence where no violence was present before.


As horrifying as the video from Columbia, Missouri, is, no human beings were killed. The police got the correct address, and they found the man they were looking for. In many other cases, such raids transpire based on little more than a tip from an anonymous or confidential informant.


The Columbia raid wasn't even a "no-knock" raid. The police clearly announced themselves before entering. The Supreme Court has ruled that police must knock and announce themselves before entering a home to serve a search warrant. If they want to enter without knocking, they have to show specific evidence that the suspect could be dangerous or is likely to dispose of contraband if police abide by the knock-and-announce rule. As is evident in the Columbia video, from the perspective of the people inside the home that requirement is largely ceremonial. If you were in a backroom of that house, or asleep, it isn't at all difficult to see how you'd have no idea if the armed men in your home were police officers. The first sounds you heard would have been gunfire.

All emphasis added.

Change! So yeah, and it apparently happens 100-150 times every day. But it only happens to the bad guys in the war on drugs, so you don't have to worry. Unless an anonymous or confidential informant fingers you, or the police simply attack the wrong address.


And speaking of depressing changes that I learn about via Tam let's end with a link to Mark Steyn using his tricksy math to show that having more babies means having more people, and the implications of such demographic shifts.

This is why I mix up my heavy books with mindless pulpy scifi books.

1 comment:

Keith Anselm said...

I think the War on Drugs has perhaps been the single most damaging policy to the Constitution.

Illegal search and seizure, unneeded brutality, and double jeopardy are common now. I don't know how many parts of the country have enacted laws that allow them to keep your house and car if you are acquitted of a drug crime UNLESS you win a subsequent civil suit that might cost more than the car.

And let's not forget the spurious assult charges for people who cooperate quickly enough with police. Did you hear about Peter Watts?

Until recently I'd blamed this entirely on the political right, but both parties are complicit.

I think fixing this requires a "it took Nixon to go to China" moment. Someone whose tough-on-crime credentials are clear, who doesn't approve of the drug war.