Tag Archives: center for a stateless society

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s “War On Drugs” is the Police State U.S. Policy Makers Dream Of

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Why Duterte’s Drug War Can Happen Here and How To Stop It” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. Some tips to make it more likely that your submission will get posted to the CopBlock Network can be found here.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Ryan’s writings.)

In the post below, Ryan discusses the current drug policies with in the Philippines and how it coincides with the desires of those within the United States government who created and then perpetuated the “War on Drugs.” As explained by Ryan, the reality is that those behind the drug policies in this country wish that they could use Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s tactics and in many cases have stated as much publicly.

Why Duterte’s Drug War Can Happen Here and How To Stop It

Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war in the Philippines is unique in its policy of extrajudicial murder of all drug dealers and users. It’s as much a cleansing of one’s population as any genocide. Still, I think Americans should understand that the logic underlying Duterte’s drug war isn’t dissimilar to ours. Once you’ve declared a “war” on an entire group of people, dehumanization is inevitable. The continued existence of drug criminals is seen as a burden and their non-compliance a violent threat. It wasn’t all that long ago Ronald Reagan characterized the drug war as not simply a matter of law and order, but a national security concern. Only 4 presidential administrations ago, in the early 90s, George H.W. Bush’s drug czar William Bennett said he had no issue with beheading drug dealers in public. Infamous chief of the LAPD Daryl Gates said that any drug offense is tantamount to treason and should be punished with the death penalty.

Even now there’s propaganda equating those who buy and sell drugs with terrorists deserving of death. Just this year Maine governor Paul Lepage unapologetically called for the guillotining of drug users on TV. Ronald Reagan’s characterization of drug crime as a matter of national security is to this day the official DEA position. The rather flimsy empirical connection between drug sales and funding of terrorism only gains serious currency in the national discourse because we’re conditioned to view these “criminals” as dangerous. Turning peaceful market participants into threats helps distract from the real enabler of foreign terrorists and criminal cartels’ drug profits: Drug laws.

What is happening in the Philippines is the logic behind all drug wars carried out to its terrifying conclusion. They are only unique in their consistency. What’s happening there can happen here. Trump has voiced his support for Duterte’s tactics and he’s appointed one of the most extreme Nixonian throwback drug warriors to be the most powerful prosecutor in the country. But what Trump lacks is a complicit population; so please, be more vocal in helping humanize people who are simply making a living or trying to enjoy themselves the same way hundreds of millions of Americans do legally — by being intoxicated. Do not rest content with the progress our culture has made, because it can disappear.

There’s been a groundswell of support for ending the criminalization of drugs the past few years, but we must look beyond legalization efforts. These attitudes on drugs aren’t determined by the laws. The laws are determined by the attitudes. We are told more and more to view drug use as a medical problem, but this too takes away the agency of most people who use drugs, who are not addicts and are otherwise unhealthy. Duterte too has characterized drug use as a sickness, so don’t assume the medical approach is purely a liberal narrative. One effective way to get rid of a disease people are willingly infecting themselves with is to kill those people off. So do not compromise the dignity and the normalization of peaceful drug use. The real solution to addiction is to treat addiction, and we can’t do that while all drug users are cast out into the shadows.

Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Alternative Policing Within an Anarchist Justice System

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Creating an Anarchist Justice System.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. Some tips to make it more likely that your submission will get posted to the CopBlock Network can be found here.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Logan’s own writings.)

In the post below, Logan discusses some alternative options for policing and specifically options which might arise within an Anarchist society. Initially, he also addresses the many issues with the current police, court, and prison systems and ways to counteract or avoid them. One of the most obvious and frequent questions asked of those who advocate replacing the current “justice” systems, is what would replace them and how regular people would defend themselves against criminals.

Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Creating an Anarchist Justice System

Anti-police sentiment is on the rise in America and around the world. In the wake of the death’s of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and countless others (Rest In Power), even the DoJ admits that at least some police departments are highly racist in practice and the Black Lives Matter movement has sprung up in response. Those from all sides of the political aisle have come out against police militarization. Pigs have been routinely denied service at various business establishments across the nation. On the inside, prisoners around the country have been on strike since September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising, with guards having recently gone on a solidarity work strike in support of the prisoners at Holman in Atmore, Alabama. So how do we, as anarchists, help provide tactics in the here and now for dealing with the state’s armed injustice system? But more importantly in the long run, how do we build alternative defense and justice systems?

How to Deal With the Pigs

It’s almost inevitable, especially if you’re working class, queer, a person of color, or an activist, that you will have to interact with the pigs at some point in your lifetime. This is why it’s important to hold community “Know Your Rights” workshops such as those offered by the ACLU or the National Lawyers Guild. Hold these workshops at your local infoshop, library, church, community center, or anywhere else where people, activists and non-activists alike, can learn how to hopefully more safely interact with the police. The ACLU also has an app which allows you to film police interactions and upload them automatically to the ACLU’s database for protection in case you phone is confiscated or broken. Groups like Copwatch and Cop Block also encourage people to film the police and hold them accountable for injustice and police brutality.

Movements like Black Lives Matter are currently fighting to curb police brutality by calling for police demilitarization, body cameras, community review boards, community election of police officers, disarming the police, actual punishment for pigs who break the rules, and the end of policies such as Stop and Frisk and Stand Your Ground. These demands hope to curb the worst violence on the way towards abolition.

Unarresting” people can be very risky, especially when you don’t have much support, but has been used as a tactic to free people who are being kidnapped by the pigs both at protests and elsewhere. If you’re up for the challenge then go for it! We need more people like you.

And don’t believe any of that sovereign citizen crap. Some of it sounds good in theory, but none of it has ever really held up in court.

How to Deal With Statist Courts

If you are arrested and/or have to go to court, finding a lawyer is usually key. Sometimes you can luck out and find a more radical public defender who took the job to truly help poor people but chances are you’re better off crowdfunding or throwing other fundraisers or looking for a lawyer who will work pro bono. Some groups, such as the Industrial Workers of the World’s General Defense Committee, are also set up to help pay for bail and legal fees for activists victimized by the state. If you’re looking for a good radical lawyer, depending on your case you could look towards the National Lawyers Guild, the Institute for Justice, or the American Civil Liberties Union. You could also ask you other radical friends for their local recommendations.

The now defunct nonviolent agorist defense agency Shield Mutual offered anarchists and libertarians protections against the state. Instead of armed protection, they promised services attuned to the needs of the individual. They could help with obtaining lawyers, crowdfunding for legal fees, setting up a public freedom campaign website, public relations, media promotion, and networking. They’ve even paid for a woman’s new plane ticket after she was detained by the TSA and missed her flight. The group operated as a friendly society where members paid monthly or yearly dues which went to the cost of helping its membership. They also had a peer-to-peer mutual aid network where members could request funds from other members for emergencies, business ideas, or other projects. Sadly this group has since disbanded (although their website is still up) but it still serves as a model for other agorist defense services.

If you ever happen to be summoned for jury duty, don’t try and skip out. Instead try and use the practice of jury nullification to keep people from being thrown in the state’s cages. The Fully Informed Jury Association has plenty of materials to read and learn from and regularly canvases outside courthouses where they’re active. Join or form a chapter, spread the knowledge. We can decide their laws are not worth enforcing.

How to Deal With the State’s Prisons

If you get locked up, it can seem like the end of the battle but that is far from true. Groups like Books for Prisoners supply reading materials, both radical and non-radical alike, to inmates for entertainment and education. Black and Pink and other letter writing groups provide companionship through becoming pen pals with those held hostage by the state.

In order to help change prison conditions and aid their eventual abolition, groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Free Alabama Movement, the Free Virginia Movement, the Prison Ecology Project, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are essential. While some of these groups are inherently reformist, groups like FAMM and NCADP help fight against specific issues which will roll back the power of the state. Groups like the Prison Ecology Project focus on the high environmental costs of prisons. While on the inside, groups like the Black Guerrilla Family, IWOC, and other prison gangs, organizations, and unions offer a way for inmates to collectively organize against the pigs holding them hostage. IWOC, as a project of the Industrial Workers of the World, helps prisoners set up IWW branches inside prisons to organize against prison slavery and unfair living conditions.

The Anarchist Black Cross is dedicated to fighting for political prisoners and prisoners of war within the radical movement. They collect dues from its membership which are used to help prisoners with little to no resources obtain them, usually in the form of a monthly donation to an inmate’s commissary fund. They also help fundraise and advocate for POWs as well as doing letter writing and in person visitation. The Black Cross is organized by both allies and inmates who control the organization through directly democratic means.

For those trying to obtain freedom, having an outside network fighting for your freedom with online promotion, political pressure, phone blasts, demonstrations, etc. is a huge help. Nobody is going to pay attention to your case unless there’s enough pressure, such pressure works better in numbers, and such support comes through public awareness and media campaigns.

Failing that, there’s always escape.

Don’t Call the Pigs

One of the biggest things we can do in the here and now is stop relying on the police for protection. Don’t call them, don’t report crimes, don’t allow them in your businesses, don’t snitch. There are better ways of dealing with crime then turning to state violence.

Instead of calling the police, set up your own emergency networks. Have a network of friends, family, or neighbors who are willing and able to respond to emergencies and call them instead. Apps such as Peacekeeper and Cell411 make this process simpler allowing multiple people to be contacted at once with GPS directions and everything. Choosing the right network could lead to a faster response time and more adaptive tactics ranging from arbitration and conflict resolution to armed defense.

Essential to living in a society without pigs is learning self-defense. Martial arts, kickboxing, women’s self-defense courses, and firearms training allow individuals to help protect themselves and others from violence. Groups like the Sylvia Rivera Gun Club for Self Defense, Pink Pistols, and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club offer community firearms training to those in their community. The Huey P. Newton Gun Club actually promotes the idea of arming every black and brown citizen that can legally be armed in order to effectively protect themselves from police and white supremacist violence.

The Huey P. Newton Gun Club also advocates Black Panther style community patrols where they both protect the community from internal crime and violence in their communities and track police activity, filming them and yelling legal advice to those being harassed by the pigs while making it known that they are fully armed just in case the pig has any violent inclinations. Other anti-statist directly democratic community watch groups have also sprung up throughout history to protect communities without the need for the pigs.

In some places, especially in those where war or violence is more prevalent such as Rojava, these community watch groups take the form of voluntary militias. From the Zapatista Army to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, community regulated militias have proven an effective response to statist military and police forces. Currently the militia movement in america is of a decidedly more right-wing viewpoint, with groups like the 3%ers, and tend to carry with them underlying statist messages of patriotism and nationalism, but one can hope that a leftist militia movement will grow into a reality.

Grassroots rape crisis centers offer support geared towards the needs of the survivor and most will not go to the pigs unless asked. Some already offer restorative and transformative programs to help deal with the perpetrator as well while others should be so encouraged by their communities. And as communities look towards other institutional alternatives, the creation of private detective, forensics, and arbitration services can offer attempts at filling those needs.

Dispute resolution organizations (DROs) have been proposed as an alternative to police, insurance, and alternative dispute services. According to wikipedia, “The firms would be voluntarily contracted to provide, or coordinate with other firms to provide, services such as mediation, reimbursement for damages, personal protection, and credit reporting.”

Don’t Use Their Courts

Instead of relying on the state’s court system to solve disputes, turning to arbitration services, trained mediators, direct negotiation between either the two parties, or non-statist alternative dispute resolution between the parties’ lawyers or DRO(s) can offer solutions that are more adapted to the specific needs of the victims and the perpetrators. Community tribunals or courts could also be established in smaller communities to deal with situations directly as a community. Retribution for damaged property can be negotiated in such ways as could the establishment of a restorative and/or transformative justice process which normally takes the form of an accountability process negotiated by the victim and voluntarily fulfilled by the perpetrator. Indemnity services can also help pay for property damages in certain situations especially if no victim is caught.

Don’t Fill Their Cages

Establishing accountability processes for perpetrators of violent crimes helps address the needs of both the victim and perpetrator, helps to repair the damages made, and transform the perpetrator’s behavior in hopes that they do not continue to harm others. Un-cooperative perps are subject to social ostracization and denial of community services or support until they are cooperative. Repeatedly violent criminals are likely to eventually see the wrong end of a barrel of a gun in an armed anarchist community as self-defense is encouraged but in the here and now it’s best to familiarize yourself and your community with the local gun laws so as to know your rights when being attacked. Hold workshops to spread the knowledge you discover in your research or find a radical lawyer who will help you put together a workshop. Sometimes there are laws that make shooting to kill is legal while warning shots are illegal and that is just one example of such strange and backwards laws. Very rarely is shooting someone worth going to prison yourself so know the laws and weigh the options.

Freely available mental health resources such as medication and counseling or even support groups such as the Icarus Project would help alleviate the crime rate as those who suffer from mental health issues won’t be left untreated. This will not only allow for a way to deal with criminals who are mentally unstable in becoming stable but will help prevent crimes before they happen. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other addiction and rehabilitation programs offer a way to deal with drug and alcohol addiction without turning to punishment as the answer.

Creating a Less Violent Society

Moving forward we must continue the fight to demilitarize and disarm the police, to train in self-defense, and to set up our alternative justice systems but we must also get at the root of most crime in this country. Excessive laws and regulation, racism, sexism (including heterosexism and cissexism), and poverty are at the heart of most crime in this country. Repealing prohibitions on guns, drugs, prostitution, squatting, conducting business without a license, and the myriad of other prohibitions the state enacts will empty their prisons of a majority inmates who are locked up for victimless crimes. Taking care of their economic needs by making sure folks have food, shelter, medical care, and their other needs met either through better job opportunities in a freed market (or the agora as it stands today) or through mutual aid such as through groups like Food Not Bombs, free clinics, community lending programs, and grassroots labor unions will help combat economic crimes. As it stands most of those caught for theft, embezzlement, identity theft, robbery, and other economic crimes more often than not did so out of desperation to escape poverty. Taking care of the basic needs of your local community helps relieve such desperation and offers them the resources of survival so that they do not have to steal to obtain resources.

Nonviolent parenting, education, nonviolent communication techniques, and conflict resolution training can help to lead us to a better future where we can solve our own problems instead of relying on the state’s goons to kidnap and throw our enemies – and friends – in cages. The Audre Lorde Project’s Safe OUTside the System campaign teaches people how to set up safe spaces where police are not needed or welcomed. All of these ideas and more are things we could establish and do in the here and now to create our own justice systems in the traditions of agorism, dual power, and “building a new world in the shell of the old.” And with people begging for solutions with both the current ongoing national prison strikes and the movements for black lives and against police militarization, now is as good a time as ever to begin building and put these ideas into practice.

Spread the Word, Break the Chains!

Reality Is No Longer Avoidable; The Only Viable Solution Is To Disband The Police

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Dismantle the Police.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submission Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Trevor’s writings.)

In the post below, Trevor discusses the recent shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa by Officer Betty Shelby after his car broke down. (See embedded videos below.) In addition, he discusses what that shows about the state of law enforcement as an institution. His conclusion shouldn’t be hard to figure out based on the title of the post.

Personally, I came to the conclusion years ago that policing as we know it today is neither the best nor the only system for protecting people within our communities. However, we have now reached the level that a simple car breakdown is treated not as a situation where someone may need a bit of help, but rather as a crime scene necessitating deadly force. I’m pretty hard pressed to understand how any rational, thinking person could feel otherwise at this point.

Dismantle the Police

Last week, Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer Betty Shelby fatally shot 40-year-old stranded motorist Terence Crutcher in the back after another officer tased him to the ground. The database killedbypolice.net lists Crutcher as the 825th individual to have been shot and killed by a cop in 2016.

At this point, it’s clear that nothing short of a complete dismantling of the police force is necessary to stop them from killing black men and women.

There are simply no more justifications to be made here. No more claims of “bad apples,” no more room to use the officer safety argument. Police feel vested with the power to kill anyone they please, and they absolutely know it. This isn’t even the first time an unarmed black man has been killed in Tulsa County within the last two or three years. Either we take the entire system apart or this keeps happening. There are no alternatives.

According to the Associated Press, “Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood, said Crutcher was not following the officers’ commands and that Shelby was concerned because he kept reaching for his pocket as if he was carrying a weapon.”

Disobeying a police officer is not grounds for murder. Handling potentially volatile situations with a cool head and a relaxed trigger finger is ostensibly why we even keep police around in the first place. If we can’t even trust them to keep that commitment, how can we trust them to reasonably keep our communities safe?

No, it’s time to wipe the slate clean and start over. The time is high for us to have a conversation about what proper community protection looks like. We should be attempting to put those new ideas into practice, and we should be doing so while every officer turns in their badge and gun.

Some may find that to be overly harsh. That’s fine. Those are likely the same individuals who misconstrue Colin Kaepernick and dozens of high school and college football teams’ kneeling protest during the national anthem as being “unpatriotic.” No. The fact is, they’re protesting this. They’re protesting the fact that this keeps happening while the people who perpetrate these crimes get away with it, nearly always consequence-free. It should be astoundingly easy for even the most casual layman to see that.

It’s time to dismantle law enforcement.

Full stop.

For the State Death isn’t Even Punishment Enough for Those Who Dare to Expose Their Crimes

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Manning’s Death Wouldn’t be Enough for the State.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submission Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Nick’s own writings.)

In the post below, Nick discusses the recent suicide attempt by Chelsea Manning, who was imprisoned for releasing video and other content related to war crimes by the United States in the Middle East, including the infamous “Collateral Murder” video showing the killing of children and other innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

It also discusses the Federal Government’s plan to further punish Manning for that suicide attempt, as well as actions the government has taken against other whistle-blowers that have exposed misconduct and outright crimes by the United States.

Manning’s Death Wouldn’t be Enough for the State

(Content Warning: Discussion of suicide and suicide attempt)

The ACLU reports that due to Chelsea Manning’s attempted suicide on July 5th in the Fort Leavenworth military prison she could face additional charges including “resisting the force cell move team;” “prohibited property;” and “conduct which threatens.”

The punishment could include, “indefinite solitary confinement, reclassification into maximum security, and an additional nine years in medium custody. They may negate any chances of parole.”

That last part is especially horrifying given the fact that Manning is already serving a 35 year sentence for releasing formerly classified material. Some of this material included the infamous Collateral Murder video released by Wikileaks back in 2010.

This video and other information that Manning helped become public have put the spotlight on a government that has all but assured us it isn’t operating within its own legal limits. Chelsea’s outright heroic actions brought to the forefront the reality that the government is made up of people and people with poor incentives can do horrific things.

That includes punishing whistle-blowers for exposing the truth behind a war that was based on lies, economic and political gain, and anti-foreign bias. A war that has cost the US billions in dollars and thousands of American lives, not to mention the thousands more lives lost who live in the countries the US has all but invaded.

This act of punishing Manning for her failed suicide attempt is just another cog in a brutal machine of torturing Manning for her perceived crimes. Just last year Manning was nearly thrown into solitary confinement for possession of LGBTQA+ reading material and (wait for it) toothpaste. There is no end to the control the state wants over Manning and people like her.

Because Manning symbolizes something that they want to crush: Rebellion.

And a government that is obsessed with control cannot allow Manning to live, or at least not in any real way. In this vein, perhaps the most damaging thing is that the military prison has consistently denied Manning, a trans woman, the necessary medical help so she can deal with dysphoria. This denial is in fact part and parcel of why Manning attempted to commit suicide in the first place among so many other factors none of us can even imagine.

Now the government is additionally trying to punish Manning for attempting to reclaim her life the only way she could think of.

Yes, suicide is a dark and tragic matter, but can any of us truly say we can’t understand why Manning wouldn’t feel like she’s better off that way? Would she really be so much happier living in a military prison for 30+ years where she is subject to all sorts of abuse, trauma and denied any way to medically transition to her desired gender?

This isn’t always (though it is sometimes) due to malicious intent but also the fact that many prisons simply aren’t equipped to deal with the issues. They either lack the institutional know-how or the financial know-how to help trans folks as they should.

But consider that The Intercept reports that in addition, “The punitive tactics that have been employed against her include stripping her naked in her cell on a nightly basis, extended solitary confinement and denial of medical necessities like eyeglasses.”

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Recent Twitter updates from her profile have communicated that Manning seems to be doing better every day and hopefully she will overcome the darkness in her life and persevere. Her life matters, now more than ever and hopefully she knows that.

But can we really be shocked that like Aaron Swartz, the federal government may drive another whistle-blower to suicide?

As people who value a free society that Chelsea Manning fought so hard for, we can’t expect to reform the system at this point.

Snowden, Swartz, Assange and Manning have all been driven out of this country or out of their very existence for disobeying. It’s time to admit that we don’t live in a free society and that the system cannot be reformed.

The only thing to do is bury the state, bury it before it keeps torturing, controlling and killing.

So let’s bury the state and build something better while we dance on its ashes.

Other Posts on CopBlock.org by Nick Ford

  1. If You Want True Reform, Abolish The Police!
  2. Prisons Can’t be Exonerated of Their Role in The Police State
  3. Shifting Prisoners to New “State of the Art Facilities” Won’t Eliminate Prison Abuse
  4. Building More Prisons is Not the Solution to Prison Riots
  5. Jails and the “Justice” System Punish the Poor For Being Poor
  6. Proposed British Prison Reforms Don’t Go Far Enough to Address the Real Issues
  7. Crying Over Spilled Milk: Authoritarianism in Schools and the Criminalization of Children
  8. Brock Turner: Stanford Rapist’s Slap On The Wrist Is A Product Of, Not A Flaw In, The System

“The Purge” is the Laziest, Most Easily Debunked Pro-State, Pro-Police Propaganda

The Purge Movie Statist Propoganda

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “A Lazy Anti-Anarchist Meme That Needs to be Purged.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Kevin’s writings.)

In the post below, Kevin discusses the latest “Purge” film, a series in which the premise consists of one night per year being designated as a “free for all” where no laws are enforced and those who would normally prevent criminals from victimizing the general population take the night off. In doing so, he argues that things would likely go down very differently than what is depicted in these movies.

In reality, one of the worst aspects of the State are the restrictions those who control and benefit from it place on the general population’s ability to defend themselves. The most obvious reason for doing so is that it eliminates the general public’s ability to threaten that control. (As an illustration of that, attacks on high ranking officials are still prohibited even during the Purge.) The somewhat less obvious reason behind it is that when your options for self defense are limited then your dependence on the State and the protections they offer increases.

The net effect however, regardless of the motivation behind it, is that most people are less safe because they are forced to wait for the police to show up, rather than having an option to defend them self directly and immediately. That is even more so in the (many) cases when their assailant is a member of the police force.

A Lazy Anti-Anarchist Meme That Needs to be Purged

I see there’s another upcoming installment in The Purge series of films — a franchise whose basic premise is that there’s one night each year in which all crime is legal and police and rescue services are unavailable, setting the scene for lots of dramatic action footage of terrified people barricading themselves in their houses against marauding psychopaths.

Next to Somalia (“If you hate government so much, you must think Somalia is a paradise!”), The Purge is probably liberal goo-goos’ favorite thing to throw in anarchists’ faces. They’re the same idjits who say “but what about the rooaaaads?” and like to quote Justice Holmes on taxes as “the price we pay for civilization” (of course the civilization Holmes was so proud of included forced sterilization of “inferior races” and throwing people in prison for opposing WWI).

The basic idea, in equating a stateless society with The Purge, is that without the state to compel cooperation and prohibit violent crime, society would revert to a Hobbesian nightmare of mayhem and terror.

Of course the basic assumptions about human nature shared by both critics of anarchism, and the movie they like to throw in our faces, are ridiculous. Both the creators of The Purge and the people who treat it as an abject lesson in anarchy assume, first of all, that the only thing restraining people from murder and violent acts is the fact that they’re illegal and they might be punished by the state. And they assume that people are incapable of helping or cooperating with one another absent the state to force them to do so.

In the real world, the vast majority of people — probably close to 99%, if not more — don’t need fear of punishment to prevent them from committing murder. They don’t go around murdering people simply because it’s something they consider unacceptable behavior. And of the tiny minority of people who don’t refrain from murder and violence because of their own internal constraints, most are deterred most of the time by the significant risk entailed in the act itself. Even for someone with no moral compunction against harming others, in most cases it’s simply more trouble and risk than it’s worth to attack people who are capable of fighting back.

banner govThe biggest suspension of belief involved in The Purge, even bigger than the basic premise itself, is the relative dearth of precautionary measures taken in anticipation of the Purge. There’s a market for home security systems (albeit of limited effectiveness against large-scale assault) for rich people. But people of ordinary means, and especially the destitute and working poor in urban neighborhoods, are considered defenseless and prime targets for attack. None of the marauding gangs seem to consider that the people whose homes they’re assailing are equally capable of acquiring guns and explosives, cooperating with their neighbors, and fighting back in some extremely nasty ways (which are also legal that night). Considering the lack of certain knowledge of what defensive preparations even a poor person might have undertaken, and the risk entailed in even a large-scale assault on their home, it’s hard to imagine what such a household would have of sufficient value to compensate that risk.

In the real world, if people knew a year in advance that a night was coming in which murder was legal and no cops would be available, it’s a fair guess that would be a major topic both for household planning and for discussion with the neighbors long before the date arrived. In short, Purge night would be the single most dangerous night of the year — not for peaceful people staying at home — but for would-be murderers, robbers and rapists planning to invade a house.

The assumptions behind The Purge are the same as the assumptions of those who see The Purge as a critique of anarchism: ordinary people are incapable of peacefully cooperating in their own interest, and force is the only thing that holds society together.

Supreme Court’s Curtailing of the Fourth Amendment is Admissible Evidence of Police State

Supreme Court Decision Fourth Amendment Cop Block

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Supreme Court Ruling is Admissible Evidence of Police State.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the Nevada Cop Block can be sent in to us via the NVCopBlock.org Submissions Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Kelly Vee’s own writings.)

In the post below, Kelly Vee discusses the recent Supreme Court ruling in the case of Utah v. Strieff which allowed the inclusion of evidence found during an illegal search to be admitted if it was subsequently found that a warrant existed for someone with the name of the person that had been illegally searched.

Although this has been (rightfully) decried as an invalidation of the Fourth Amendment, essentially encouraging police to profile and illegally detain people in the hopes that they will discover a warrant after the fact. Vee points out why such a decision should not actually be surprising, given the nature and true purpose of the court system.

Supreme Court Ruling is Admissible Evidence of Police State

On Monday, June 20, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that evidence police find during illegal stops is admissible in court. As long as the officer can find some outstanding warrant in your name, the court will excuse the officer’s illegal stop. The Supreme Court’s decision would be disappointing if you expected the Supreme Court to do anything other than serve itself.

Monday’s ruling seems to contradict Mapp v. Ohio, or at least seriously expands the definition of a legal search. In Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the Supreme Court ruled that all evidence obtained through illegal search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution was inadmissible in court. In her scathing dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor wrote, “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

American schoolchildren are taught that the Supreme Court is the ultimate check on government power. When the other branches of government get out of hand, the Supreme Court – somehow free from perverse incentives and filled with good will – will step in for the common people. This fairytale designed to boost faith in government is overturned as the Supreme Court stands behind the prison state, yet again.

Should we be angry? Absolutely. Should we be shocked? Absolutely not. Americans should not feel reassured or secure by the final arbiter in the U.S. justice system. Americans are not safe from their government. The notion that the government will check its own power is misguided and naive. The Supreme Court is made up of former Solicitor Generals, Attorney Generals, and prosecutors. Regardless of lifetime tenure, their incentives are far from pure. Individuals appointed by and working for the government, with a lifetime of experience in service of the government, will often side with the government.

The scope of this ruling is not limited to some small subset of violent criminals. Millions of Americans have outstanding arrest warrants. That speeding ticket you forgot to pay is enough to excuse an officer that stops you illegally. Anything the officer finds is admissible in court, as long as they can find a valid (unrelated) warrant with your name on it. In a country where cops murder and get away with it, corruption charges rarely follow through, and the justice system runs rampant with racial (and other) discrimination, one of our few remaining defenses against police misconduct has just been whitewashed to the point of emptiness.

It’s not hard to imagine how this newfound police power will be abused. In the country that incarcerates more people per capita than anywhere else in the world, ahead of countries such as Turkmenistan, Cuba, and El Salvador, millions more wait to be thrown behind bars. The Supreme Court’s ruling expedites the process of putting people in cages by making it even easier for cops to search and arrest people without oversight. All it takes is an unpaid traffic ticket, and no probable cause is necessary for the police to search someone, using anything they find in court.

Police, rarely held accountable for misconduct, now have even less motivation to behave. Even if their stop is illegal and without cause, the evidence they find will work in their favor in court.

The Police State, the Prison State, and the Court System are all a part of the same twisted, monopolized justice system run with perverse incentives at the expense of its constituents. Police abuse their power, the Court affirms their mistakes, and people end up behind bars. Rather than express righteous shock at the recent Court’s decision, we should recognize the natural progression of the State and oppose it at its core. Power seeks power, but if more people understand the root of the problem, we can fight back.

Brock Turner: Stanford Rapist’s Slap On The Wrist Is A Product Of, Not A Flaw In, The System

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Brock Turner’s Lenient Sentence is a Feature, Not a Bug.” Previously, I also personally blogged about the leniency of the sentence and the role favoritism within the judicial system played in that leniency on the CopBlock Network in a post, which can be found here. Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submission Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Nick’s own writings.)

In the post below, Nick discusses the mere six month sentence that Brock Turner, a student and prominent athlete at Stanford (his victim was actually not a student, contrary to what is stated below), for the rape of an unconscious woman on campus. It is expected that Turner will actually spend only three months in jail due to receiving credit for “good behavior.”

While this has caused much uproar and commonly been referred to as a “flaw” in the judicial system, nick points out his commentary that the leniency of Turner’s sentence is really a result of the way that system is constructed, not an error within it. Additionally, Nick discusses how the system fails the victims of crime, even when their victimizers receive a more appropriate sentence.

Links to previous posts by Nick Ford that have been shared on the CopBlock Network can be found at the bottom of this post. If you appreciate the things Nick has written, you can support him directly here.

Brock Turner’s Lenient Sentence is a Feature, Not a Bug

(CW: This article will include discussions of rape and sexual assault)

On January 18th, 2015, Brock Turner was discovered on top of an unconscious woman. The woman had her underwear removed and her dress pulled up and Brock was making sexual advances on her. Brock had been discovered by two students at Stanford, where Turner and the woman also went. The students were able to apprehend Turner before he could get very far.

In early March of this year Turner went on trial and received a 10 year sentence after being found guilty of three separate felonies. These felonies included intent to rape and sexually penetrating someone with a foreign object.

Turner claimed he was drunk and that he had received prior consent and was not aware of the woman being unable to consent. The woman was found with three times the legal limit of alcohol in her body and didn’t recall what happened, while Turner had two times the legal limit and claimed he did recall what happened.

A judge named Aaron Persky has recently decided that Turner’s lack of criminal record, the amount of alcohol involved and Turner’s lack of general threat to society were mitigating factors. Thus, Persky decided that 6 months with probation and registering Turner on the sex offender list was a more just sentence.

This has understandably caused much outrage among people, with many feeling like the punishment doesn’t fit the crime as the judge gave undue leniency to Turner because of their shared background.

Turner himself is white, a prestigious Stanford student and a once well-respected athlete.

All of these facts are something the media situates this story around constantly. There are multiple articles on The Washington Post and all of them spend ample time discussing how this will affect Turner, but little on what it has done to his victim. Turner’s friends and family have also at times written victim-blaming material for the judge, which evidently helped Turner’s case.

Ken White, a noted blogger, spoke out specifically about empathy, “Judge Persky clearly empathized with Brock Allen Turner. Turner was a championship swimmer and a Stanford student; Judge Persky was a Stanford student and the captain of the lacrosse team.”

Privilege and empathy are also two-way streets as White points out, “Judges might be able to empathize with having to quit their beloved college, but how many can empathize with a defendant who lost a minimum-wage job because they couldn’t make bail?”

But all of the empathy in the world can’t change a fundamentally broken system. White is correct to denote the serious flaws in the current justice system but doesn’t take his critique far enough. This is understandable given that White himself is a criminal defense attorney and thus likely believes, to some extent, that the system can be changed from within.

This hope, while understandable, is misguided and treats the system as something that can be reformed should we have the right combination of policies, judges and laws in place. But obtaining such a mix of circumstances is difficult as those who are harmed the most by it (as White points out) have the least amount of power to change it.

The criminal justice system offers little to no restitution to the victims and promises the punishment of putting rapists in places where rape is a widespread phenomenon. And although the desire for justice on the part of the victim and others is warranted, there should be caution in using prison as the answer for social ills.

Prisons do not teach that rape is an unjustifiable violation of an individual’s autonomy. Instead, they teach people that it is a way of life and survival within a violent and corrupt environment. Prisons reinforce rape culture and entitlement culture because prisons privilege and benefit rapists and would-be rapists.

As many commentators have noted, the own victim’s 12 page letter to Turner has done much more to fight rape culture than locking another rapist in prison. And as legal scholar Dean Spade notes, the prison is the rapist, which makes using prisons as a way to rehabilitate rapists problematic at best.

Other Posts on CopBlock.org by Nick Ford

  1. If You Want True Reform, Abolish The Police!
  2. Prisons Can’t be Exonerated of Their Role in The Police State
  3. Shifting Prisoners to New “State of the Art Facilities” Won’t Eliminate Prison Abuse
  4. Building More Prisons is Not the Solution to Prison Riots
  5. Jails and the “Justice” System Punish the Poor For Being Poor
  6. Proposed British Prison Reforms Don’t Go Far Enough to Address the Real Issues
  7. Crying Over Spilled Milk: Authoritarianism in Schools and the Criminalization of Children

Uncompensated Forced Labor Within Prisons Leads to a Modern Day Slave Uprising in Texas

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Modern Slave Uprisings.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Logan’s own writings.)

In the post below, Logan discusses a series of strikes among inmates within Texas prisons. He also discusses the reasons behind those strikes and the nature of prison labor that is being imposed upon those inmates. Essentially, that forced work and the lack of compensation for that work amounts to a modern day version of slavery.

Modern Slave Uprisings

Incarcerated Prisoners“Texas’s prisoners are the slaves of today, and that slavery affects our society economically, morally and politically,” stated the five-page letter put out by the Industrial Workers of the World’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) announcing the prison strike. “Beginning on April 4, 2016, all inmates around Texas will stop all labor in order to get the attention from politicians and Texas’s community alike.” And despite advanced notice given to the prisons and many threats of violence and retaliation aimed at potential strikers, at least seven prisons went on strike, with prisoners refusing to leave their cells and work, to demand an end to modern day slavery. In effort to quash the strikes, several prisons went into complete lockdown, forcing prisoners to stay in their cells with no lights, visitors, phone calls or access to educational or recreational resources, and little more than the occasional sandwich to ward off hunger, while denying the existence of such strikes to the outside world. They’re instead claiming that the prison-wide lockdowns are only one of two regularly scheduled prison lockdowns and searches conducted a year and have nothing to do with “alleged” strikes, thus forcing this story into a media blackout.

According to Texas law, inmate workers are not required compensation for their labor. The fact that work for able-bodied inmates is required under threat of punishment reveals itself as modern day slavery. Add to this the all too real images of armed guards, some on horseback, and incarcerated workers, disproportionately people of color, in the Texas heat on prison farms picking everything from vegetables to, in a throwback to the olden days of classic American slavery, cotton. And prisoners aren’t just saying that these conditions resemble slavery or are a resurrection of such practices but are in fact a direct continuation of pre-Civil War slavery. Even the 13th amendment said to abolish slavery specifically states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States,” thus insuring that prison slavery stayed completely legal.

Prisons SlaveryPrisoners are put to work doing laundry or janitorial work, making clothes, mattresses, shoes, garments, brooms, license plates, printed materials, janitorial supplies, soaps, detergents, furniture, textile, and steel products. Texas prisoners grow at least 24 different crops and care for 10,000-head herd of cattle. They also run pork and beef slaughterhouses and a vegetable cannery. Texas Correctional Industries forces inmates to make a variety of products which are sold to public schools, hospitals, and government agencies including police departments, “from hand soap to bed sheets, from raising livestock to making iron toilets and portable buildings.” Not only does the company not pay workers, little if any of the money made by these slave labor using corporations goes back towards the operating costs of the prison which essentially means it doesn’t even lower the taxes currently forcibly taken from taxpayers who are carrying the burden of paying for the daily expenses of this corporate slavery scheme. And with overpriced phone calls and a statewide inmate copay of $100 for any medical services, inmates are having to rely on outside help or go without. Even in prisons that do pay workers a few cents an hour, prisoners have to save up for months, even years, to cover basic expenses.

The striking prisoners have issued five demands: 1) compensation for their labor in the form of payment and accrued Good/Work Time, applied retroactively, as well as usage of a “presumptive parole system” which requires inmates to be released at their earliest possible release date, 2) the repeal of the $100 medical copay, 3) the right to be appointed an attorney on habeas corpus cases, 4) the establishment of an independent TOCJ Oversight Committee to review grievances, and 5) humane living conditions and treatment including access to quality food and water, installation of air conditioning, repairs to cracks and leaks in roofs, extermination of roaches and other pest infestations, access to adequate medical care, better access to vocational and educational resources, alleviation of overcrowding, an end to prisoner verbal, physical, and sexual harassment, and the reduction in the use of solitary confinement. Currently, approximately 7000 prisoners are subjected to solitary confinement at any given moment in Texas with some staying in solitary for upwards of 20 years.

One mother of an inmate whose son’s prison is on lockdown showed her support saying, “My son and others are literally sitting down to say, ‘Stop killing us. Stop enslaving us. We are human. This has got to stop, I think the strike should spread. I believe prisoners and families together have the power to collapse this system.”

And that spread is happening with Alabama inmates going strike this past May Day. Ohio, Virginia, Mississippi, and Florida have also joined the effort and many prisoners across the US are now calling for a series of coordinated strikes to take place on September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot. For information on how to help please contact IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee at [email protected] or 816-866-3808.

Proposed British Prison Reforms Don’t Go Far Enough to Address the Real Issues

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Gove’s Good Intentions for Prisons Don’t Amount to Necessary Action.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submission Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Nick’s own writings.)

In the post below, Nick discusses reform proposals that have been put forward for British prisons by “Lord Chancellor” Michael Gove, a member of the British Parliament. Within that discussion he explains why he believes that, although the reform efforts are a product of good intentions on Gove’s part, they ultimately fail to address the real issues with the prison system and even if adopted will be destined for failure.

Although this post references the prison system within Britain specifically and reform efforts within that system, obviously there many similarities between the prisons inside the United States. Therefore, the commentary is equally relevant here as it is there.

Links to previous posts by Nick Ford that have been shared on the CopBlock Network can be found at the bottom of this post. If you appreciate the things Nick has written, you can support him directly here.

Gove’s Good Intentions for Prisons Don’t Amount to Necessary Action

In the UK the “Lord Chancellor” and Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove wants to be remembered for his efforts to reform prisons. Writing in The Telegraph, Gove says “The emphasis of our penal system must be on more effective rehabilitation, because our current approach is costing us all dear. At present, nearly half – 46 per cent – of all prisoners are reconvicted of a crime within a year of being released.”

Gove’s emphasis on rehabilitation rather than on punishment is a welcome change for British citizens. Especially given the fact that Britain suffers similar problems that the US does when it comes to overcrowding in prisons. The Prison Reform Trust reports jail population has risen 90 per cent to 86,000 since 1993. In addition suicides and deaths in British prisons have been on the rise in recent years, leading to even more uncertainty about how to effectively handle criminals.

These calls for reforms come in tandem with Queen Elizabeth’s speech which included a use of satellite tags to allow prisoners to leave during the week and coming back on the weekend. This may allow them to get employment and thus hold down jobs while they transition into society. In addition, they may be able to see their families more easily than they had before.

These tags would likely apply to those who are already on their way out of prison but it may be broad enough to include even serious offenders. The pilot testing for this reform will be tried in September 2016 and particularly in the hopes of “reform sentencing”.

But however good these intentions are, they’re insufficient to undo the harms that prisons do.

Prisons are not, as Gove argues, an institution to “keep us safe” but rather focus chiefly on enforcing the rules of the state. Even within a sentence on stressing the containment element of prisons, Gove states that “When we put criminals behind bars we take them off our streets, prevent them from preying on the innocent and uphold the clear bright line between right and wrong.”

But where is the “bright line” of morality for individuals who have not harmed others but are still imprisoned? Are we to believe that everyone who has ever been imprisoned has somehow upheld this imaginary lack of gray in morality that Gove has discovered?

Not only that, but putting people behind bars alongside countless other criminals who have committed worse offenses is a poor attempt at instilling morality that lacks any sort of gray lines. These prisoners are more likely to learn about how morality is very much anything but black and white and they’ll likely learn how to become a much more effective criminal as well.

Moreover, Gove’s sense of moralism when he proclaims that he will “…reject the idea we should give up on any human being…” contradicts the central purpose of prisons. Prisons exist first and foremost to put the “criminal element” outside of our minds. This accentuating of out-group bias allows us to look the other way or even laugh at the misery prisoners go through.

Gove uses the satellite tags as another way the British government are working toward reforming prisons. But it’s just as easy to see this as another way to make the British citizenry legible to the members of the British parliament. These tags are also a clear expansion of the surveillance state in a country already well associated with surveillance cameras and 1984.

If “hope” is really at the heart of Gove’s idea of a better world, I recommend he look into different theories of justice all together. Consider the fact that if you truly believe that people can be redeemed that actually giving them that chance with their victims (or the victims families) is a more direct, cost-effective and moral way of resolving conflicts then locking them in cages.

Consider theories of restorative and transformative justice which put the individuals who are the center of the conflict as the aggrieved, instead of the state.  These forms of situating justice require real hope and love for others because it gives them the autonomy to make their own choices outside of the confining realms of prisons.

Other Posts on CopBlock.org by Nick Ford

  1. If You Want True Reform, Abolish The Police!
  2. Prisons Can’t be Exonerated of Their Role in The Police State
  3. Shifting Prisoners to New “State of the Art Facilities” Won’t Eliminate Prison Abuse
  4. Building More Prisons is Not the Solution to Prison Riots
  5. Jails and the “Justice” System Punish the Poor For Being Poor

“Justice” For The Wealthy, Law Enforcement For The Poor

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “America’s Divided Justice System.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links were added within the text.)

The post consists of a book review of “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gapby Matt Taibbi. That book relates to what is effectively two different “justice” systems faced by the wealthy and the poor, minorities, and immigrants. The latter group is the target of enforcement policies such as “broken windows” and “zero tolerance” that emphasize cracking down on even the most minor of crimes, often times consisting of victimless crimes. In contrast, the former group benefits from policies that have come to be referred to as “too be to fail” or “too big to jail” that effectively allow fraud and other financial crimes when committed by wealthy people.

Obviously, the disparity between the ability of wealthy people and poor people to hire lawyers, expend time, and utilize personal connections within that system in order to fight any charges they may face exacerbate those differing experiences with the judicial system even further.

America’s Divided Justice System

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi (2014).

One does not often find it a pleasant surprise to receive unpleasant information, but this is a reaction many readers will get from Matt Taibbi’s 2014 book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. While the book has largely been billed as a piece on the evils of growing economic inequality in the US, a more accurate description would be that it documents the discrepancy in how the American legal system treats wealthy offenders as opposed to poor ones. Taibbi’s thesis is that America’s legal system lets the wealthy get away with massive injustices, while the poor, racial minorities and immigrants are faced with draconian punishments (not to mention nightmarish bureaucracy) for minor violations and even unsubstantiated allegations. The picture he paints is not a pleasant one, but the author’s storytelling ability and grasp of the subject matter make for a surprisingly enjoyable read.

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

Matt Taibbi is best known as a generally left-of-center columnist for Rolling Stone, for which he is arguably the star political writer. He has also written for The Nation, Playboy and New York Press as well as several books of his own. While Taibbi is clearly in the liberal or social democratic camp, The Divide offers much that is of interest to libertarians, especially where it criticizes the excesses of bureaucracy and the prosecution of victim-less crimes. Left libertarians especially will appreciate that the book strongly echoes their concerns that the state actively takes actions that make the poor even worse off. While Taibbi uses statistics to make his case, the real driving force of the book is his depictions of specific examples of injustices. In these anecdotes the human consequences of plutocracy are vividly illustrated.

Taibbi alternates between stories of white collar criminal activity going unpunished and mean-spirited state aggression leveled at poor people. This does well to illustrate Taibbi’s point that the rich and poor in America live in two different worlds when it comes to treatment by law enforcement. However it may be the book’s biggest weakness for some readers who will find the back and fourth changes in setting distracting. To his credit, Taibbi ultimately ties his narratives together, asserting that lax treatment for the rich and overly harsh punishment of the poor combine to form a dystopian reality.

Taibbi begins with Eric Holder, the Clinton administration official who would become Attorney General under Barack Obama. In the late nineties Holder authored a memo which made explicit the concept of “Collateral Consequences.” Holder argued that courts could consider the indirect negative economic consequences of subjecting large companies to legal penalties if a court ruled against them. This idea would later become known as “too big to fail” and by extension “too big to jail.”  Between his time with the Clinton and Obama administrations, Holder worked with Covington and Burling, a law firm that pioneered the use of “Collateral Consequences” to keep major companies from facing legal penalties. Taibbi largely credits the Clinton administration for passing laws which  exacerbated the disparity in legal punishment between the rich and the poor. Specifically he notes that Clinton’s presidency marked a time of agreement between democrats and republicans on “getting tough on crime,” specifically crime committed by poor people. leading to the escalated war on drugs and increased prison population (specifically the black prison population) during Clinton’s presidency. This was coupled with an increased leniency towards crimes committed in the financial sector. Taibbi claims it is no coincidence that Goldman Sachs was among the biggest contributors to both Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns (not to mention Hillary Clinton’s current campaign).

All of this occurred during a sharp decrease in overall crime, which continued through the 2000’s. Taibbi notes that as crime decreased police officers whose performance and promotion potential was evaluated on numbers of arrests were forced to chase increasingly pettier offenses. Police adopted a wide net strategy, comparable to fishing with dynamite, in which large numbers of ostensibly “suspicious” poor or working class people would be searched, arrested, ticketed, or issued summons for minor violations which they may or may not have committed. These offenders almost certainly did not have the time or money to fight the allegations in court. Arrests for marijuana and violations like “blocking pedestrian traffic” sky-rocketed. Taibbi discusses one instance where the accused chose to fight this particular allegation due to the fact that the supposed offense took place on a morning when there was no pedestrian traffic. His own defender and the judge had little knowledge of how to handle this as the entire system is set up to encourage guilty pleas for such offenses. In another instance cops accuse a young man of drawing graffiti in black ink with a pink highlighter. Unsurprisingly police cruelty, dishonesty and downright stupidity are often on full display in this book.

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Taibbi gives a great deal of attention to Howard Safir, the Giuliani-appointed New York Police Commissioner, who expanded the “Broken Windows” and “Zero Tolerance” policies of his more well known predecessor Bill Bratton, with an even greater focus on arresting and fining people for petty offenses. Under Safir, arrests for marijuana sky rocketed. Taibbi notes that the accused faced hours on end at court hearings, in which large numbers of cases are reviewed by judges who themselves would rather be anywhere else. The court appearances and other bureaucratic red tape often forced the accused to take time off from work or seek child care that they otherwise would not have to. Taibbi discusses many of the violations reviewed as “administrative crimes” which while technically illegal do not cause demonstrable harm to anyone. While crime with actual victims had gone down, police focused on violations of arbitrary statutes. Illegal immigration is one example. Taibbi relates this to occurrences of police setting up “drunk driving” checkpoints at the roads going in and out of immigrant neighborhoods during times when people would come and go to work. He notes that the increased deportations that occurred under the Obama administration enabled a massive kidnapping industry in Latin America, in which kidnappers would locate deportees while seeking ransoms from their remaining relatives in the US.

Elsewhere Taibbi discusses the collapse of Lehman Brothers and its secret backroom deal with the English firm Barclays that ripped off millions from smaller creditors around the world. This section is an excellent primer on the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. As is the chapter on JPMorgan Chase, which committed massive fraud involving fake credit card judgement. He notes that the business of collecting delinquent credit card debt itself relies on fraud, as it would be uneconomical for collection agencies to review the actual records of the alleged debtors. Often they instead employ “robo-signing” (the practice of having entry level staffers sign as many documents as possible, without actually reading them) and “gutter service” where a server may or may not deliver a summons to an accused who may or may not show up to contest the allegation. In all cases discussed, real people are genuinely harmed and the perpetrators are never given more than negligible fines. He also contrasts the treatment of crimes committed by HSBC (a firm that has worked with murderous drug cartels and Islamist terrorists) to the disproportionately worse treatment of small time drug users.

In one of the more interesting stories of the book, a gang of well-funded hedge fund managers attempt to bully the owner of a smaller insurance firm, Fairfax Financial Holdings, into going out of business through an elaborate campaign of harassment, threats, late-night phone calls, and phony accusations of a criminal activity. This may be of interest to libertarians looking for a starting point to a discussion of what forms of malicious activity do and do not violate the non-aggression principle. Similarly, Taibbi’s discussion of welfare recipients who largely forgo their right to freedom from government search and seizure without probable cause is a potential starting point for conversation. Such people are often subject to inspectors rooting through their underwear drawers and bathrooms looking for evidence of unreported income. While Taibbi’s sympathy for people on welfare may rub some mainstream libertarians the wrong way, he argues that regardless whether one opposes the welfare state or not, one should find this excessive, especially when such zeal for fraud prevention is not matched when it comes to white-collar criminals committing the same crimes on a larger scale.

Banner - Tunnel1Overall Taibbi finds that the poor are subject to bureaucracy while the rich are able to become bureaucracies in and of themselves by hiring lawyers capable of generating decades of red tape for anyone who makes any accusation against them. He feels that America has such love for and fear of people with power and money and disdain for those who lack it, that its people allow two divergent class-based legal systems to govern. The book is an engaging and often entertaining read that will likely find a sympathetic ear from anyone who values justice.