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Tag: "The War On (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs"

The Wit and Wisdom of Anthony M. Kennedy

[ 31 ] January 14, 2011 |

Some radical Trotskyites on the Kentucky Supreme Court decided to ignore the new, annotated Federalist Society version of the Constitution, which includes the crucial provision “please disregard all previous clauses if the War (on Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs is involved,” resulting in oral arguments at the Supreme Court earlier this week. The case involves a warrantless search undertaken because police searching for another offender believed they smelled drugs being consumed behind another door. Dahlia Lithwick’s report suggests a strong likelihood that the Supreme Court will use the Federalist Society version and are therefore “poised to eviscerate the warrant requirement in a broad class of “exigent” situations.” Depressing, although far from surprising. The whole thing is worth reading, but I especially liked this passage about some, ah, method acting from Kennedy:

Here’s Chief Justice John Roberts, for example, describing the average jailbreak: “I assume the ordinary prison escape is—I don’t know—over the wall, under the tunnel, or, you know, while the guard’s looking a different way.” Justice Anthony Kennedy wonders aloud: “This may be a bit rudimentary, but can you tell me why isn’t the evidence always being destroyed when the marijuana is being smoked? Isn’t it being burnt up?” And then Justice Antonin Scalia expounds on the need for zealous police enforcement powers, up to and including the right to search your home without a warrant, because, as he explains, “there are a lot of constraints on law enforcement, and the one thing that it has going for it is that criminals are stupid.”

Whoa, like, deep, man. I think we might want to consider some warrantless, no-knock seraches of chambers at the Supreme Court…

The Indefensible War On (Some) Drug Users

[ 44 ] January 7, 2011 |

Pretty much everything Caple says here is right, but this is especially important:

I would agree more with your pompous Hall of Fame voting stance if it weren’t so hypocritical, inconsistent and impossible to defend.

First, how can you reasonably justify withholding a vote for steroid use but not amphetamine use? Amphetamines became illegal two decades before steroids did. That was also about when we learned amphetamine use was rampant in baseball, thanks to “Ball Four.” In other words, a whole lot more players used amphetamines and for a whole lot longer than ever took steroids. And you probably voted for them without hesitation.

Don’t tell me amphetamines are a performance-enabler, not a performance-enhancer. That’s simply a convenient rationalization to excuse amphetamine use by your favorite players. If a substance helps a player perform in any way, it is a performance enhancer.

If you wouldn’t vote for McGwire or Bonds or Clemens and also believe that it’s a disgrace that “cheaters” like Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays are in the Hall of Fame, well, I think you’re wrong on both counts but at least you’re consistent. If you believe that players of the 90s should be held to different standards than players of the 50s and 60s — perhaps because the Brooklyn Dodgers are totally the only team in history that ever had fans, never mind that none of them were actually going to the park to watch their perennial first-place team, so in conclusion steroids are eeeevilllll! — I really don’t see the point in even pursuing the argument.


Russian Narco Subs

[ 17 ] October 3, 2010 |

This is genuinely fascinating:

When police found a russian-engineered submarine under construction on the outskirts of landlocked Bogota last week, one senior officer swore they had stumbled on “irrefutable proof of the presence of the Russian mafia” in Colombia.

Before the 100ft vessel could be bolted together in order to “run silent, run deep” with cargos of cocaine and heroin, the shipbuilders managed to run away, leaving behind incriminating blueprints labeled with Cyrillic letters.

No arrests have been made, although officials said they also found the names and telephone numbers of two American suspects at this dry-dock high in the Andes. Three former Soviet naval engineers are believed to have been involved. A closed-circuit video camera on top of a brick warehouse in rural Facatativa, 18 miles west of Bogota, tipped off workers to the raid by drug enforcement squads, and they made a hasty escape through cow pastures and fields of carnations….

The half-built submarine was about a fifth the scale of the doomed Kursk, and one-third smaller than the second-hand Soviet navy submarine with which a Russian immigrant in Miami tried to secure a $35m (£24.5m) deal between the Russian mafia and a Colombian cocaine baron back in 1995.

Fidel Azula, a former submarine captain, said: “It was unmistakably of superb naval construction, superior to anything in the Colombian navy.”

Obviously, it’s not surprising that there’s collaboration between the Russian mafia and Columbian drug cartels. Moreover, as the cartels have turned towards submersibles and semi-submersibles as a way of smuggling drugs into the United States, it’s not completely surprising that they’d take advantage of former Soviet know-how in this area. Nevertheless, it still has a scent of the Clancy about it; rogue naval submarine architects selling their services to the highest bidder could easily constitute the plot of a Jack Ryan novel.

On the policy level, there’s been a lot of attention paid to the security risk posed by unemployed, underpaid Soviet nuclear scientists. This article suggests that the nuclear issues is only one small facet of a much larger phenomenon; the detritus of the Soviet national security state finds its way into every nook and cranny. I’m not sure that there’s any productive policy that could counter this problem. Soviet scientists are few enough in number that they can be monitored and given gainful employment. The rest of one of the two largest national security states to ever exist, not so much.

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‘Roid Outrage

[ 61 ] August 23, 2010 |

Given that this particular manifestation of the War On (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs has resulted in another federal prosecution, this research by Eric Walker couldn’t be more essential. Joe Posnanski — whose discussion reminds us of why he’s not only the best mainstream sports journalist in America but one of the best journalists period — sums up the findings:

1. Walker contents steroids are not nearly as bad for responsible adults as people say and are significantly less dangerous than countless other things athletes do as a matter of course (he does say that steroids are extremely dangerous for adolescents).
2. Walker contends steroids do not help players hit more home runs.
3. Walker contends that other players are coerced to do MANY semi-dangerous and vaguely unnatural things to play high level sports … this is the price of playing sports at the highest level.
4. Walker contends kids absolutely do not take steroids because pro athletes do it.

As I’ve said before, rationalizations of the War on Steroids in professional sports based on health are transparently farcical. Essentially, I’ll take people who get hysterical about steroids because of the health effects seriously when they come out for banning tackle football, which has far more deleterious consequences on human health. (And this goes triple for journalists who worship the NFL in part because the owners reduced its union to cringing lickspittles — allowing the owners to keep more money is all about competitive balance doncha know.) If consenting adults are allowed to play football — and I think they should be, although they should be much better compensated — they sure as hell should be allowed to take steroids, and the extent to which steroid use is regulated should be between the league and the union.

But Walker has an even more valuable discussion about about the points raised by djw. Although steroid hysterics constantly issue confident proclamations on the subject, we simply have no idea what impact steroids had on the home run explosion (which, after all, started before steroid use seemed to become widespread) of the 90s. Even if we assume arguendo that steroids help power hitters, since pitchers used them to that tells us nothing about the net effects of steroids on offense, and it’s also impossible to disentangle steroid use from other important factors such as smaller ballparks and livelier baseballs. And as Walker notes, the evidence that steroids are a substantial asset to power hitters at all is in fact rather weak.

In short, the hysteria bout steroids is unjustifiable even by the standards of drug war hysterias, and the fact that it may keep players of the caliber of Bonds and Clemens out of the Hall of Fame for a while during a period in which supermajorities of the BBWAA consider Jim Rice a Hall of Famer is outrageous. At least I remain optimistic enough to think that this equilibrium won’t hold.

Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act of 2009 passes Senate unanimously

[ 12 ] July 30, 2010 |

Helen Lovejoy

The measure was introduced by Dianne Feinstein as a replacement bill for the Hysterical Moral Panic Act of 2009.

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[ 9 ] June 28, 2010 |

This is incomparably awesome:

Via Duss.

It’s Not Complicated, People…

[ 10 ] March 16, 2010 |

LCS-1 USS Freedom has now seized upwards of 3/4 ton cocaine. At a street value of $20000/kilo, that’s roughly $15 million. If the Navy just sold that cocaine instead of uselessly destroying it, think about how many more LCSs we could afford…

QDR Bloggingheadsing

[ 0 ] February 3, 2010 |

Eli Lake and I talk QDR, and Long Wars against abstractions. Here we venture into the War on Drugs:

Moral Clarity

[ 0 ] January 12, 2010 |

Thank heavens, that after years of fluffing incompetents and war criminals, Brian Williams has discovered the gumption to attack History’s Second Greatest Monster for his role in the Worst Scandal In Known Human History. When History’s Greatest Monster finally confesses I assume Williams will take the whole 22 minutes.

Adventures in Drug War Moralism

[ 0 ] August 2, 2009 |

Allen Barra and Will Weiss say much of what needs to be said about Toure’s review of three books largely about steroids in baseball. (Amazingly, a second Times review has considered and uncritically praised Selena’s Roberts’s book while not engaging with any of the problems that pretty much every other reviewer has found with it.) In addition to some bizarre claims about Slappy (who allegedly hurt attendance although the Yankees never drew four million fans before he got there), we get two classic tropes of drug war moralists. First, the inability to distinguish between correlation and causation, taken to extremes:

The real, unignorable problem, the main reason steroids cannot be allowed to proliferate, is that they are killers. Steroids can lead to several forms of cancer, heart attacks, liver disease, even homicide and suicide. The football star Lyle Alzado died at 43 from a brain tumor that he was certain steroids were responsible for. The high school baseball star Taylor Hooton committed suicide, perhaps because of depression brought on by steroids. Ken Caminiti, the National League’s most valuable player in 1996 and an admitted steroid user, died from an accidental drug overdose at 41.

We’re pretty much dealing with self-parody here. I mean, if someone with Lyle Alzado’s impeccable scientific credentials believes with no evidence that steroids caused his brain tumor, that’s all the data I need! And surely Ken Caminiti overdosing on coke and pills provides even more compelling evidence about the negative health effects of steroids.

Toure also engages in bog-standard union bashing, attacking the MLBPA for not agreeing to drug testing with no conditions. (The owners, for some reason, manage to escape scrutiny entirely, although if they had wanted a testing program they could have negotiated it.) Those damned unions, standing up for the privacy rights of their workers! At any rate, I’m sure Toure would be happy to submit a urine sample with every piece he sells and have the results made public. I want to know that his writing is natural — I mean, won’t someone please think of the children!?!?!?!?!?

Speaking of which, make sure to see here for an excellent rebuttal to claims that the illegal leaking of confidential tests should be made more widespread.

What Rule?

[ 5 ] July 27, 2009 |

While I was wondering how much I could quote from his pay site and be within the boundaries of fair use, I see via Neyer that Bill James’s excellent article on baseball and steroids is now available. My money quote would actually be different than Rob’s:

The discrimination against PED users in Hall of Fame voting rests upon the perception that this was cheating. But is it cheating if one violates a rule that nobody is enforcing, and which one may legitimately see as being widely ignored by those within the competition?

It seems to me that, at some point, this becomes an impossible argument to sustain—that all of these players were “cheating”, in a climate in which most everybody was doing the same things, and in which there was either no rule against doing these things or zero enforcement of those rules. If one player is using a corked bat, like Babe Ruth, clearly, he’s cheating. But if 80% of the players are using corked bats and no one is enforcing any rules against it, are they all cheating? One better: if 80% of the players are using corked bats and it is unclear whether there is or is not there is any rules against it, is that cheating?

And. ..was there really a rule against the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs? At best, it is a debatable point. The Commissioner issued edicts banning the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs. People who were raised on the image of an all-powerful commissioner whose every word was law are thus inclined to believe that there was a rule against it.

But “rules”, in civilized society, have certain characteristics. They are agreed to by a process in which all of the interested parties participate. They are included in the rule book. There is a process for enforcing them. Someone is assigned to enforce the rule, and that authority is given the powers necessary to enforce the rule. There are specified and reasonable punishments for violation of the rules.

The “rule” against Performance Enhancing Drugs, if there was such a rule before 2002, by-passed all of these gates. It was never agreed to by the players, who clearly and absolutely have a right to participate in the process of changing any and all rules to which they are subject. It was not included in any of the various rule books that define the conduct of the game from various perspectives. There was no process for enforcing such a rule. The punishments were draconian in theory and non-existent in fact.

It seems to me that, with the passage of time, more people will come to understand that the commissioner’s periodic spasms of self-righteousness do not constitute baseball law. It seems to me that the argument that it is cheating must ultimately collapse under the weight of carrying this great contradiction—that 80% of the players are cheating against the other 20% by violating some “rule” to which they never consented, which was never included in the rule books, and which for which there was no enforcement procedure. History is simply NOT going to see it that way.

On a literal level, I’m not entirely sure that this specific position will be as widely accepted as James thinks. Arbitrary power, union bashing, and drug war moralism are all very powerful factors in society, and as we’ve seen all too often the combination of the three can be potent indeed. So while James is certainly correct on the merits I have no doubt that some sportswriters will continue to refer to players who used PEDs as “cheaters” despite the indefensibility of the position.

Fortunately, because of the other dynamics James mentions I don’t think it will matter. The key factor is that PED users include a player with a serious claim as the greatest pitcher in MLB history and two players likely to have a serious claim as the greatest player ever. Given that some players who used (or will be found to have used) PEDs will be voted into the hall, the exclusion of better players who used PEDs is going to be impossible to sustain. Hopefully this will happen sooner rather than later.

Your Point Being?

[ 0 ] June 26, 2009 |

It’s because of arguments of this quality that they found a civil liberties claim that Sam Alito (albeit superfluously) can support:

Matthew Wright, lawyer for the Safford school district, predicted the decision would have a “chilling effect” on administrators responding to threats of drugs.

The War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs being what it is, I’m less optimistic. But let’s hope so!

Then there’s this:

Francisco Negron, lawyer for the National School Boards Association, said the decision could be confusing for school officials, who typically lack formal training in drugs yet would have to consider whether the contraband they seek is dangerous enough to do to a strip search.

Well, here’s an idea — you could err on the side of not performing arbitrary strip searches! I’m also going to guess that administrators’ lack of expertise and training and their inability to correctly assess the dangers of drug use somehow never come up when they’re imposing draconian penalties and performing humiliating searches on students in the name of combating the dangers of drugs…

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