The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

How to Keep Enforcers Like Police, the Military, and Spies Under Control

There are broadly three groups of enforcers: police, secret police (spies), and the military. All three have a tendency to attract people who are reactionary, and who enjoy having authority and causing fear. The great attraction of being an enforcer, for many people, is that you get to make other people do things, and hurt them, and they can’t fight back.

Police, in particular, are always making choices as to what laws they enforce and how, and how strictly they enforce them. There’s a lot of discretion in the job. It’s long been noted that some people are treated far more harshly, for the same infraction, than others. Indeed, what can get you beaten up and arrested by cops if you’re part of a group they don’t like, or you irritate a particular cop, can also be ignored if they like you, or you’re part of a group they like.

This was a common complaint during the BLM protests, where right-wing protesters would be protected by cops and not arrested for actions for which they would have come down hard on the BLM protesters. In Canada, during the “trucker” protests, it’s been noted over and over again that indigenous and left-wing protesters would never have been treated so leniently by the police for so long — and indeed, it was only when protesters blocked trade between the US and Canada that any serious action was taken.

The most critical part of that action was financial. Chrystia Freeland announced that accounts would be frozen and that truckers’ insurance (without which you cannot operate a rig in Canada) would be terminated. That’s interesting, because these are administrative actions that don’t require the cops to actually do much, beyond report who’s there. There’s no going in with the horses and riot gear and tear gas and beating people up like they do to the indigenous and G7 protesters.

At least when dealing with local cops, and especially in Ottawa and Windsor, it seems like the police basically refused to do their jobs or even, in Ottawa, follow direct orders from the police chief (who has since resigned and who also seemed, initially, very friendly to the protesters).

As I’ve noted before, there are normally three requirements for revolution: an elite faction in support of the revolution, a popular faction in support (at a higher percent than the “truckers” have, about 25 percent to 30 percent), and the refusal of enforcers to protect the current regime.

So, enforcer willingness to act against any threat is important.

But it’s also worth noting that enforcers aren’t a monolith. Police aren’t secret police, who aren’t cops, and even within, say, police, there can be splits. In the US during school integration, local cops usually wouldn’t protect school integration, so the federal police (FBI) were sent in and they did. The FBI traditionally had bad relations with local cops and were happy to stick their thumb in.

This leads to one of the main rules of running enforcers. You want them to hate each other. You want the feds to hate the state/provincial local police. You want the military to despise the spies and look down on the police, state and local. You want the local police to hate the state/feds for horning in on them, and loathe the secret police for keeping track of them and you want them to think the military are out of touch.

You also don’t want them cross-training. They do different things, and what is appropriate for police is not appropriate for secret police or military, and vice versa. As a rule, you should not allow someone who has worked in one branch to apply to have jobs in the others — no vets into the police or secret police and vice versa. You don’t want them thinking of themselves as one group — and in any case, militarized police are always a mistake and militaries that do police and occupation work always become incompetent, weak, and fight worse. This is what turned the Israeli army from one of the best in the world into crackers who get their asses handed to them by Hezbollah and are scared of even fighting it.

This is also why, in the military, there shouldn’t be one “military,” but multiple services. Anything you gain from combining them into one service is more than counterbalanced by the danger. (And, it’s clear, in many ways, they perform better when they feel competitive, in any case.)

The next problem is one of the oldest in history: Demobilizing armed men. This is one of the hardest things to do. Because it’s clear that the Ottawa police, for example, are no longer under civilian control, the majority of them need to be let go and replaced with people who will obey orders.

Doing this is hard. They would probably strike and become even more unwilling enforce laws, and it’s quite likely they would threaten elected officials. Once you’ve given a group a semi-monopoly on force, breaking that monopoly is difficult. This is why you need a divided enforcer class. While you’re disarming and firing, say, the spies, you need to be able to use the federal or provincial police, or in a worst case scenario, the military (who should only be used for policing in emergencies — they’re bad at it, and it’s bad for them, as previously discussed).

Finally, while you will always need some police, we need a lot less. Various cities have experimented with unarmed crisis response teams: If someone’s having a mental breakdown, sending non-police almost always leads to better outcomes, and if force does turn out to be required, someone trained in the sort of violence in which orderlies sometimes need to engage (restrainment) is far better than a police.

Take away all the miscellaneous activities from armed police, and you’ll have a lot less trouble. Make the traffic enforcers a completely different organization, the mental health guys different, expand the paramedics, etc. The less men with guns and a propensity for violence, the better.

Also, while you may never hear me say this in the case of anything else, I don’t think armed men should also have unions. Police unions always seem to be the worst of the worst. There’s a reason the military doesn’t allow unions and it applies to police, too.

There is also a selection issue, and we need to find a way to not select for reactionaries and bullies in the enforcer class. In the military, this was traditionally done by a draft (which I hate but tentatively endorse). In the police and the secret police, we have to find out a way to do it as well.

In Canada and the US both, the police are out of control. They are gangs, the most dangerous gang wherever they operate, and they despise and look down on civilians, including the politicians who are their nominal superiors. They need to be replaced en-masse, and the new police forces need to be much smaller. Police militarization needs to end, and rivalry between different police forces, the military, and the secret police (spies) needs to be encouraged, while the actual number of police needs to be cut at least in half to a third by giving many of their roles to other groups who are unarmed — or at the very least, don’t have guns, tazers, and so on.

This would be true no matter what type of government you ran. The enforcers are always dangerous, and they always have to be kept divided, and they are always ripe for abusing their power due to impartiality.



The Pro-Death Lobby & Pro-Death Protesters


Open Thread


  1. bruce wilder

    I have lived in cities with a lot of uniformed police (Boston) and cities with a decided shortage (Los Angeles) and the police were generally nicer in Boston than in L.A. as well as available.

    There are a lot of variables. NYC has loads of uniformed police, and then allows them to swarm in Manhattan for no good reason I can see. Probably many of them on overtime. I have never seen literal swarms in any other city in peaceful circumstances. It is creepy and a frequent inconvenience.

    Ian prescribes a “German” solution: several Germanies is better than one for the neighbors.

    The interdependence of prosecutors and police can be extremely problematic, especially under an authoritarian prosecutor, but prosecutors often run scared of alienating police they depend upon, police as a group with strong self-identification but little investment in ethics in that self-identification.

    I am old enough to remember the assassination of Harvey Milk: a lame prosecution that failed to charge California’s only capital crime followed by a police riot (yes, the police rioted). It can get very bad even without using the police to raise revenue or finance themselves with property seizures.

    Sorry to ramble.

  2. edwin

    1492 is an interesting date. Christopher Columbus is well known, but is only part of the story. The other part is the defeat of the Moors. There was the end of a 650 year war and now there was a new problem. The problem of how to demobilize. The discovery of a “new world” must have seen like a godsend. The problem of demobilization was solved and the rest is history.

  3. Dan Lynch

    I would add prosecutors and local judges to the list of enforcers. In theory, they are accountable to the people through elections, but in reality it is a good ol’ boys network and voters have no idea who or what they are voting for. 9 times out of 10 the incumbent wins because they have name recognition & power. Vacancies are often filled by appointment, then the appointee becomes the incumbent in the next election.

    It is the prosecutor, not the cop, who has by far the most discretion in who gets charged and who does not. The cop may write out a citation, but then the prosecutor may dismiss it. Cops quickly learn what type of cases the prosecutor wants them to go after, and what type of cases the prosecutor will ignore.

    In my county, cops and prosecutors go after addicts and people who write hot checks or shoplift. Prosecuting addicts is profitable — there are Federal programs that incentivize the war on drugs. The business class wants the enforcers to come down hard on check bouncers and shoplifters, and they are easy targets because they are poor and can’t afford to hire a good lawyer.

    In my experience, prosecutors are like bullies — they only pick on weaklings who can’t fight back. Criminals who can afford to hire a good attorney and insist on a jury trial almost always get their case dismissed or greatly reduced. For the most part prosecutors are below-average lawyers who know they will lose the case if they go up against a sharp defense attorney. Lawyers pride themselves in winning cases and the way they win cases is by only taking cases that they know they can win.

  4. StewartM

    Excellent post, Ian.

    Other suggestions:

    1) Not only break the military->police connection, also require that everyone has to perform other, non-violent, public services before becoming eligible to become police. If policing by its very nature attracts those just itching to exercise raw physical force against people (a ‘free ticket to beat people up’) then make it less attractive by saying “you must do service to the community–usually helping people in it–before you can sign up”, and make it at least several years long. A possibly useful filter, perhaps?

    2) The military also thinks itself better than the civilians (why not? Isn’t that the message parroted 24/7/365?). We really need to go back to a draft, make military service a ‘ho-hum, no big deal’ thing. If everyone has to do it, then there’s no reason for chest-thumping about it.

  5. someofparts

    This reminds me of a video I saw of some recent demonstration where a military veteran was complaining to a police officer about the behavior of the police. He was stressing the point that the police are armed men dealing with unarmed civilians. He was pointing out that when he was a soldier he had to face people who were armed and all too willing to return fire. That strikes me as a good example of the value of keeping the various violence enforcers in their mutually antagonistic silos.

  6. someofparts

    Actually edwin’s comment reminds me of an interesting thing I learned in Barbara Tuchman’s book A Distant Mirror. Apparently the reason for the Crusades was to get the knights out of Europe. Seems that without an external enemy, the knights would plunder their own neighbors. It got so bad that the ability of farmers to grown enough food to feed their populations was at risk. So the pope and the kings worked together to launch the Crusades to get rid of their own local enforcers of violence.

  7. Mark Pontin

    Ian wrote: ‘The next problem is one of the oldest in history: demobilizing armed men. This is one of the hardest things to do. ‘

    This problem–from the POV of the authorities– was one of the primary reasons for the UK getting the NHS in 1945-46.

    Some 50,000 men across 60 RAF stations in India and Ceylon, then Egypt, North Africa, and Gibraltar, participated in quiet but obstinate — and large-scale — mutinies starting at RAF bases in India when post-WWII demobilization didn’t immediately occur, because the (Attlee Labour!) government was trying to keep forces in place to control the independence movement there.

    Also contributing was the historical situation, which meant the Attlee Labour government had come to power: Churchill’s war ministry, from May 1940 to 23 May 1945, had been drawn from a coalition government and Churchill’s aggressive policies found stronger support from his cabinet’s Labour members like Attlee, Bevin, and Greenwood, than from Tories like Halifax and Chamberlain, who hadn’t distinguished themselves.

    As Orwell’s ENGLAND, THEIR ENGLAND stressed, WWII was one of those strange English moments when large sections of the British upper class and working class joined forces in disregard of the pro-European, pro-appeasement temper of much of the upper middle-class. And then with WWII over, the British voted Churchill straight out in 1945, and the Attlee Labour government came to power.

  8. Ché Pasa

    Hmm. A lot to ponder here. Yes, there is a real problem of over-policing some communities and actions, of making ever more acts and behaviours and people “illegal,” of a critical lack of non-police alternatives, and of gross corruption among law enforcement, judicial and prosecutorial personnel, and of militaristic responses to protest by disfavored groups.

    None of this is new. We’ve been living with it for generations.

    It can be changed, but so far not for the better except sometimes on the margins. The system continues pretty much as it’s been. Yet statistically, it’s slightly less brutal and deadly, slightly less inclined to overt oppression of disfavored groups, and slightly more open to ideas of “reform” and changing notions of what constitutes abuse.

    A mixed bag.

    It wasn’t better back in the Old Days. In some respects it was demonstrably worse. Part of what we complain about now — and I’ve been one of the most vociferous and frequent complainers — is basically unfinished business from previous reform efforts. Ending the draft, for example, was a prime objective back in the day along with ending the stupid war in Southeast Asia. Look what happened when that was accomplished, though: The establishment of a volunteer professional military that rages around the world to do what? To whom? We’ve seen the results, and it’s appalling. The point of ending the draft was ending the ability of Our Rulers to engage in endless pointless meatgrinding conflict like Korea and Vietnam. Well, guess what, we now get endless, pointless conflict on a more “targeted” scale (still immense, though) largely by remote control. Dandy. And “force protection” is the prime military obligation. Oh, and don’t forget civilian worship of Our Troops. Jeeze.

    Police are less deadly than they once were, and they have many, many more obligations than they did in my wasted youth. When the mental health care system was shut down — decades ago now — and the homeless population exploded, police were charged with suppression of the problems that arose because of it. When civil rights were granted previously oppressed minorities, police were charged with suppression of undesirables (forex: gangsters and drug users/dealers) within those communities. They weren’t equipped or prepared, nor are they still. What generally goes wrong with policing has to do with those obligations — that realistically they shouldn’t have to deal with, at least not to the extent they’re required to. The contrasting approaches to protest we’ve seen in such stark relief are legacies of what went wrong a long time ago. “Who do they serve? Who do they protect?” There shouldn’t be any doubt now.

    Ian’s prescription is generally correct but there is no incremental way to do it that I know of.

  9. Todd S

    I have to say that the draft is a bad idea. Ian mentions in the post that demobilizing armed men is one of the oldest problems in history. I fail to see how training / indoctrinating even more people into killing for the state is ever going to have a positive outcome. Imagining that the draft would bring more non-reactionaries into the military and that those people will somehow be able to transform the culture and purpose of armies, whose purpose is to kill for the state, into something different seems ludicrously optimistic. If there is an argument to made for a draft, then make it. But to say that it will automatically make military service into a ho-hum, no big deal thing seems like a blindingly ahistorical idea.

  10. Feral Finster

    Fascinating, Captain.

    I note that, contrary to your recommendations, metro police forces in the US recruit heavily from military veterans.

    And of course, there is more and more “Warrior Cop” rhetoric in the US, not to mention the siphoning off of military hardware to civilian police units. Because the police patrolling the bad streets of Riverside, Iowa (population 1,115) totally need a MRAP.

  11. Astrid


    A many democracies do just fine with universal draft and I’m not aware of demobilization being a problem. Yes, it can a slightly logistical issues after large scale war, but in that scenario a draft will happen no matter what and the problem is quite solvable by normal societies (counters would be weakened states such as post Taiping Rebellion China and certain African countries, but those are not normal draft situations at all). Historically, a lot more societies had problems when they have to rely on mercenaries or professional soldiers, who then gained power over the rest of the populace. Violence isn’t great for societies, but letting one portion of the population gain monopoly over violence is a recipe for feudalism.

    If you can identify specific counter factuals, I would be interested in hearing about them. But the general

  12. VietnamVet

    It was the DC Metro Police that retook the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. The National Guard never showed up until it was over. If the neoliberal Canadian Elite can’t trust the 1,987 sworn and unsworn Ottawa police members, the revolution is on. How will Ottawa be cleared of peaceful protestors? The next weeks will tell if it is just the Western Empire that is collapsing but member states too.

    The western corporate/state aristocracy is so arrogant that they think they can willy-nilly seize the livelihoods of the small businessmen/women plus kill and maim their citizens to increase pharmaceutical industry profits with no blowback.

    I am a member of the last generation in the USA to be drafted. Too old to be noticed. But, the Silent Revolt in Vietnam ended the war. Draftees will not fight in forever overseas colonial wars. The US Army is now composed of mercenaries with multiple tours that fight for money and are way too few to engage in a major war and must have air superiority. A fact hidden by propaganda. To loot, sell armaments, and collect protection money, the Western Empire must now use proxy forces to fight its wars; the Mujahideen, Neo-Nazis, and the Kurds.

    Poking the nuclear armed Russian Bear is crazy insane. 4 million men invaded Russia last time and failed. An invasion of just 100,000 Russians would have a hard time pacifying Eastern Ukraine let alone Western Ukraine. Counterinsurgency doctrine indicates 60,000 troops would be needed in Kyiv alone. Corporate reporters and US embassy staff have all pulled back to Lviv. It is probably safe there until in the battle for air and naval superiority starts on Russia’s borders. The losing side will use tactical nuclear weapons, and within an hour thousands of ICBMs will be fired in order to prevent their loss. The Kremlin recognizes this. The White House apparently not.

    Messaging insanity doesn’t work.

  13. bruce wilder

    When I was very young, the police generally were purposed to punish deviancy in a highly ordered society. The tyranny of the normal dominated the culture and society. And, in that society, hypocrisy paid the tribute due to idealized virtue from hidden, denied shameful “vice” and cruelty.

    We have exchanged denial, shame and hypocrisy for gaslighting, fantasy pr and woke anti-racism. Red and blue can fight for association with police without doing good.

  14. Ché Pasa

    The ideal of universal service, military or civilian, is to reinforce the notion of patriotism and community. Among many problems with the military draft that Vietnam Vet and I remember is that it wasn’t universal at all, there were too many exemptions, particularly for the rich, and it enabled the ruling class to engage in the kind of pointless bloodlettings like the Vietnam War with essentially no cost or loss to them. There would always be enough cannon fodder to keep it going so long as there was a military draft.

    And VV is right that it was the spreading troop mutinies that brought the system crashing down — to be replaced with “volunteers”, ie: mercenaries, murderers for hire. Which unfortunately has shaped US policing thanks to police consultants like Col. Dave Grossman and others who go around training police departments in the fine art of “Killology”.

    Since the ’80s the national psyche has lost any communitarian ideals that might have been. The whole notion of community has been warped to such an extent that it’s become a danger to more and more people. Negative cells pop up all over, each trying to force their way into power over everyone else — simply by force, not persuasion. Each determined to destroy whatever is in front of them, good, bad, or indifferent. The anger level grows exponentially.

    So what do we do now?

  15. Adam Eran

    U.S. population in 1981 was 229.5 million. In 2017: 325.1 million. That’s a 42% increase. During that period, funding for the police went from $40 billion to $115 billion. That’s a 187.5% increase. Could there be room to reduce police budgets? Gosh, I wonder!

  16. Jan Wiklund

    Things can be too good, though. The Belgian children molester and mass murderer Marc Dutroux could escape police for twenty years because Belgian police can’t even think of cooperating on the local, regional and national levels.

    Of course it’s not only the police that is fiercely uncooperative in Belgium. The country stays often without a government because the political parties can’t cooperate on anything.

  17. Trinity

    I normally don’t respond to vicious posts directed at me. It’s usually a waste of time, which is one of the many things I learned in my recovery from extreme child abuse. That is, never feed the bullies and their agendas.

    I’m making an exception, because it’s instructive as to who bullies are and where they come from. We already know who I am and where I come from.

    The reality is, we live in a nation (the US) where the vast majority of people are suffering from PTSD. Worse, most don’t realize it or even acknowledge it, although the evidence is everywhere these days. We are in a moment in history where everyone living in the Western nations are being abused, gaslighted, and repeatedly told they are worthless, in so many different ways and by so many means.

    This is classic narcissistic behavior, performed by broken and traumatized (and clinically insane) “people” who can never admit they are broken. Instead, they play cover-up 24/7/365 to maintain the facade that they are the chosen. They love to cover up their own lies by accusing others of lying. They love to cover up their own problems by accusing others of being the problem. Do you see the pattern here? They search and find sub populations (or individuals), always ones they think are weaker (but they are sometimes wrong), so they can attack and undermine, so they can feel superior.

    And just as with a narcissistic parent, our insane leaders do what they do to protect their insatiable need to be considered “better than” everyone else, and to protect the lie that only they are worthy. As one podcaster put it, we are living in a world built by dark triad types, and designed by them as well, a narcissist-induced holocaust (little H, look it up), which Ian and many others are documenting so well.

    So, you can choose the dark side, and massage your ego and your need to feel superior to us lesser mortals at my expense, helping your buddy along the way, or you can acknowledge you are (perhaps unintentionally) operating the same way they are and just stop doing it. You might consider what part you are contributing to the problem instead of solving it. Or not. It’s up to you.

  18. StewartM

    Todd S

    I fail to see how training / indoctrinating even more people into killing for the state is ever going to have a positive outcome.

    I would argue that a big part of the problem of ‘brutalized vets coming home who inflict violence in civilian society, including their wives and children’ is related to the increase in brutalization in boot camp that occurred after the Korea War. In a misguided and futile attempt to keep prospective POWs from breaking in enemy captivity, in the 1960s basic training was made more brutal and dehumanizing. Perhaps that’s why some GIs could and did behave some abominably in Vietnam.

    In addition, after WWII an analysis was done that showed many infantrymen either did not fire their weapons at all in combat, or simply stuck their weapons over the parapet and fired blindly. Part of this was fear, of course, but part of this was the reluctance many men had in killing. A book I have written by John Comer, a B-17 engineer/top turret gunner, relates how in his first mission both he and the navigator drew beads on an attacking German fighter with their 50-caliber machine guns but held their fire (as he wrote, the commandment “thou shalt not kill!” came into his head) Their pilot exploded in anger at them but luckily the attacking German fighter missed in its fire as well. So training was modified in order to condition men to fire on order, immediately, without thinking. This may have too been reflected in the Vietnam war and its high death toll among even friendly civilians.

    None of this was necessary. We won WWII without brutalizing our own troops to the same extent, and it’s folly anyway to harden men to resist all forms of pressure (the torturers ultimately will win). We also won WWII even though some of our infantrymen did not use their weapons to the maximum effectiveness, as the casualties caused by small arms fire (even including machine guns) is a tiny fraction of the whole–maybe 2 % from memory. There is a saying that “artillery does the killing, and infantry does the dying” that is true–over 80 % of our causalities suffered in WWII was due to German artillery, over 90 % of German casualties were due to Allied artillery, and over 50 % of German casualties were inflicted on the Eastern Front by Soviet artillery.

    Despite what the movies and TeeVee would have you believe, making your infantry be more efficient killers with small arms would only raise that 2 % to something a little more than 2 %. And I would wholeheartedly agree with you there, if you have to brutalize men into becoming vicious, unthinking killers, that’s not worth the cost you will face when they return to civilian life.

  19. bruce wilder

    One thing that has changed over time has been the acceptable type and range of rationales and critiques of policing and law enforcement. The change has not been in a linear, progressive direction for the most part, though as Ian recently noted, incarceration rates increased marked in the U.S., a phenomenon that was an intentional result of policy changes aimed at putting more people in jail and keeping them there for longer periods. That was a response to an unexplained rise in crime rates that frightened the polity. I am making an observation about the “unintended” culture.

    A police raid on a gay bar was a regular occurrence in major cities well into the 1960s; police beating transvestites; important men blackmailed over encounters with prostitutes; moral panics over the supposed discovery of “sex rings”. And, just as important to the milieu was what was never revealed and what was regularly denied: movies that put twin beds in a marital bedroom, Liberace winning a libel suit against an English newspaper for noting he was a homosexual (duh), politicians supposedly ruined by the scandal of divorce and more seriously, tragic back-alley abortions.

    I am emphasizing sexual control, but there were vast structures of social control founded in race and even ethnicity, of which racial segregation policies were the most prominent. There were important allied structures for censorship and propaganda.

    Our own 21st century political culture celebrates the half-remembered detritus of those now-vanished mid-20th century structures of social and political control and the valorized struggle over abolishing them. Fictional retrospective imaginings and irregular “discoveries” of, say, graves at state-sponsored religious schools or investigations of sexual abuse hidden back-in-the-day by complex conventions of denial, power and privilege.

    Those structures of control broke down under the pressure of overlapping, and corrosive critiques sustained over many decades. (Yeah!) It profoundly affected how the police and common law enforcement was applied, at least for a time, which is why this thread makes me think about it.

    But, I am not sure that we have a realistic or morally potent critique of our own politics and social problems. We’ve inherited and re-purposed those of programs of sexual and racial liberation, as they had matured during the 1960’s and fell ripe from the tree in the 1970s, but they are inherently out-of-our-time, out of phase with the dynamics of the third decade of the 21st century. In a way, I am glad that His Royal Lowness, Prince Andrew, had to pay up for what happened 20 years ago. Still, it focuses us on 20 years ago. Ditto for the settlements imposed on the Roman Catholic Church for events even longer ago.

    Police in the U.S. kill roughly a thousand people every year, and the stories we tell about that are highly racialized ones, embraced fervently enough to be incendiary and to drive a limited kind of reform of how the law applies to police violence — some police have been successfully prosecuted on criminal charges, which is historically unusual, to say the least. On some level, that is something to celebrate I guess, though I doubt that it is a proper and sufficient reform, or one that would leave policing in a better political equilibrium.

    Even on the narrow issue of deadly police violence, the racialized frame filters out public investigation of other factors driving the phenomenon. The inspired rage may have driven some prosecutions to become vindictive while the problems with how the police deal with mental illness, for example, are not given national focus by the Media.

    Our politics does not seem to have any potent moral principle to apply in critique of authoritarian abuses and negligence except the disparities of racial injustice and the exercise of power in colorably sexual situations. It is a desiccated moral vocabulary that we are left with and a serious political handicap in confronting neoliberal “inequality” (did they pasteurize that term, “inequality”, before releasing it to the Media to use? could any term for what is, in fact, cruel predation, be more empty of moral feeling?)

    A few years ago, there was a political struggle in New York City with then-Mayor Bloomberg over a policy of suspicionless stopping and frisking of people in the street as a strategy of combating gun crime and, I suppose, drug crime. The critique that more-or-less prevailed in lawsuits was not that the policy violated the standard of personal privacy and autonomy instituted in the 4th Amendment, but that the policy as executed entailed racial profiling and racial disparity in who was stopped, questioned and frisked. I find it disturbing that authoritarianism is being normalized by reasoning that it is only wrong when it entails racial disparity.

    We seem to have a deep archetypal memory of Bull Connor and the Scopes Monkey trial and Emmett Till and various other half-remembered dramas reimagined when convenient, no method for grappling with our own times as they are. We hurl “racist” as a catch-all insult, with no modulation to reflect details or degree or type or anything until we can scarcely manage any discourse at all that is actually about the reality of economic life or social policy. We attach stock narratives without much attention to factual reality — does anyone have any idea what real controversy happened in Loudon County schools recently, other than Fox News showed up and the shouting began?

  20. Hickory

    The question is do we belong in a society that allows a small group to rule over a large group? If so, there will always be some degree of systemic violence and the police will abuse their privileges in addition to channeling that systemic violence. Exactly how and to what classes will vary by society. But we’re already unfree if we’re even talking about police, and the deepest response is to free ourselves from authority that rules through coercion – so no police will exist. Anything is changes things only at the margin, as people say.

  21. bruce wilder

    Answering a private communication publicly (and arguably going off-topic to do so):

    Yes, I think it is a problem that so much of our collective or shared appreciation of our own times is detached from a scrutiny of present reality for its own sake. Consider how much so-called news reporting takes a counter-factual frame: projecting trends linearly into a distant future to create alarm; abstracting to cover for incommensurable qualities — LatinX or the Hispanic vote or anti-asian racism. Framing the present with the heroism of a past that never was so simple is just one symptom of avoidance.

  22. StewartM

    Vietnam Vet

    4 million men invaded Russia last time and failed. An invasion of just 100,000 Russians would have a hard time pacifying Eastern Ukraine let alone Western Ukraine. Counterinsurgency doctrine indicates 60,000 troops would be needed in Kyiv alone.

    I see you caught that too. 100,00, or even 150,000, even if you’re just counting the combat soldiers and not the support troops, won’t do the job. Yet the US press is going bonkers over the ‘threat’ of what I think is a woefully insufficient force to pull off an invasion.

    Let’s crunch some basic numbers for comparison (round numbers):

    Size of the Ukraine: 233,000 square miles
    Size of Vietnam: 128,000 square miles (size of South Vietnam, 67,000 square miles)
    Size of Germany: 138,000 square miles (West Germany, 96,000 square miles)
    Size of Japan: 146,000 square miles

    Maximum size of US force in Vietnam (just South Vietnam): 500,000 troops

    Size of Allied occupation force in Germany (just West Germany, no combat required) after WWII: 250,000 troops

    Size of Allied occupation force of Japan, just control, no combat required: 1,000,000 troops

    So the big bad Russian bear is going to overrun and conquer a country 2-3 times larger with two-thirds to one-tenth of the military ‘boots on the ground’ we thought was necessary just to occupy and administer and control two defeated countries that weren’t fighting us?

    And moreover do it with one-third to one-fifth the military force to occupy a country one-fourth as large that *was* resisting us? And in a war that we lost to boot?

  23. Willy

    I’ve seen Chris Rock’s famous video “How to not get your ass kicked by the police” posted by white Christian conservative types trying to make a point. When I try telling them that that video was a parody of the white Christian conservative point of view, no dice.

    I wish somebody’d make a parody video about white Christian conservatives at the capitol insurrection doing that shit trying to get police to kick their own asses. But I’m not sure if it’d do any good. At least, not unless Tucker Carlson was involved with such a video.

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