The Lawyers Will Come By in The Daimler …


… to deliver you your slap on the wrist. Naturally, it will be delivered on the wrist of a subordinate of your choosing, at a time that is convenient for you.

It sounds like a tremendously big number: [nbc]

The maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, and its owners, the Sackler family, are offering to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company for $10 billion to $12 billion. The potential deal was part of confidential conversations and discussed by Purdue’s lawyers at a meeting in Cleveland last Tuesday, Aug. 20, according to two people familiar with the mediation.

That’s about 3 months’ revenues for the company. In 2017, the company was bringing in around $30 billion, annually, up from “a few billion” in 2007.

[not to scale]

If you were to chart their profits over time, it would look something like the above. 11 years of spectacular growth and profitability, ending with shame, disgrace, and the loss of 3 months of income. To be fair, the market for Oxycodone is probably down. Someone who paid more attention in calculus than I did could estimate what that growth-rate looks like over 12 years, but I’m taking a wild-ass guess it’s around $190bn, which makes a $12bn settlement look like peanuts.

Since Purdue Pharma is a privately held company, it’s not even as though their shares took a pummelling in the stock market, either. Basically, $12bn is a pittance to them. I mean, it’s real money and I suspect some of the executives are going to cry real tears, but they’ll be happy to get the whole thing behind them, if they can, at that price.

Remember, the Sacklers already arranged it so that they have a CEO in place who has agreed to be the “fall guy”; it’s part of his compensation package. [stderr] Purdue has also already battened the hatches and … uh, fired their sales force and marketing people, to save money since their services will not be needed until the ship stops taking on water.

It sounds to me like the Sacklers are trying to cash out of their albatross so they can hightail it away with “a few billion” nothing much. But, wait! [ars]

It would do so by first declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy and then restructuring the company into a for-profit “public benefit trust” that would exist for at least 10 years. According to Purdue’s lawyers, the value of the trust would include $4 billion in drugs provided directly to the plaintiff cities, counties, and states. (Some of those drugs would be opioid-overdose rescue drugs.) The remaining $3 billion to $4 billion of Purdue’s share of the settlement would come from profits from drug sales.

I see. So Purdue would liquidate most of its assets and then would continue selling drugs for a while. After all, the first shot’s free, right? It sounds to me as though Purdue’s proposal amounts to “let us get out of the drug business neatly and you guys get a great big slice of the action.” In other words, Purdue is proposing to hand the entire scam over to the state and the lawyers, “here ya go!” potentially leaving ${who} in the drug company business. All that this will accomplish is it’ll fatten up a bunch of litigators and create a new market for an opiate painkiller that will be filled by another pharma company. Codeine, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Fentanyl, Valium – hey, laissez les bon temps roulez – those markets are going to pop.

Fentayl: easier to smuggle than heroin or oxycodone! It’s a great market

The Sacklers don’t sound like they’re movie villain nasty, but if they were, they’d already be setting up a new shell company to sell Fentanyl dermals like hotcakes in Mexico; it’s a shame to see such a great market go unfilled. Let’s leave it to the US to build a wall to keep the stuff out. If you start seeing a lot of press about the government starting a war on Chinese-made Fentanyl imports, that’ll because some capitalist has hired a lobbyist to try to get the government to protect the domestic Fentanyl market. I used to think nobody’d be that cynical but now I realize how naive I have been: capitalists would eat their own children if it’d make them $1 more than eating yours, which they’d do for free.

For the Sackler’s part of the offered deal, the family reportedly said it would give up ownership of Purdue and pay out at least $3 billion and potentially up to $4.5 billion. The family, which has an estimated collective wealth of $13 billion, will get the money for the settlement by selling off its global pharmaceutical company, Mundipharma. The payout will depend on how much the family gets for the sale. If Mundipharma sells for more than $3 billion, the Sacklers could tack on as much as $1.5 billion more.

Let me see if I can parse that out. The Sacklers, who were making tons of money during the period I labeled on my chart as “Laissez les bon temps roulez” are willing to sell the shell corporation through which they shelter all their Purdue Pharma shares and other assets, and the settlement will consist of that. Presumably, after taxes. In other words, the Sacklers will experience minimal out-of-pocket expenses, probably some whopping lawyers’ bills but nothing else.

It’s hard to translate lawyer and capitalists-speak, but I guess I’ll try. Here’s the stick:

In last week’s meeting, lawyers for Purdue reportedly warned plaintiffs that, if they did not take the offered deal, the company would declare bankruptcy anyway. Any other settlements or payouts amid a standard liquidation process, the lawyers said, would be considerably smaller.

“If you don’t take our deal, we’ll spend all the money on lawyers and lobbyists and you’ll end up with nothing. The Sacklers have already fled town with great big bags of money and they’re giving you the choice between ‘here are the table-scraps’ and ‘you can fight over the table-scraps with an army of vicious lawyers and sharks.’ Either way, we’re going to be enjoying the sunset from the deck of our new yacht, which we have named Number 22. Do you want to know why we named it that? Oh, wait, Daimler 4‘s here. Gotta go.”

Comments

  1. Ridana says

    create a new market for an opiate painkiller that will be filled by another pharma company. Codeine, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Fentanyl, Valium – hey, laissez les bon temps roulez – those markets are going to pop.

    I can’t say that this troubles me, per se. Those painkillers are necessary. It’s the rules and ethics (and lack thereof) around marketing and prescribing I have problems with.

    One of the problems is that doctors are afraid or not permitted to prescribe more than the bare minimum dosage to alleviate (not eliminate) chronic pain. I believe studies have shown that if you dose high enough to eliminate pain, the body heals faster, requiring shorter term need for painkillers. But when you’re just taking enough to take the incapacitating edge off the pain, you don’t heal from the cause and end up needing higher and higher dosages chronically just to keep pain at bay. Which of course leads to addiction and overdoses.

    I got a scrip for Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen when I had a tooth pulled. I didn’t really need it, but if I had had it before the extraction I could’ve saved a trip to the emergency room. I hoard it still despite it having expired, because a single pill has seen me through the pain when my root canal got infected, and will be there when my gall stones try to kill me to death. I know I won’t be able to get it on demand, and it works so damn well.

    There will always be people who abuse drugs for fun or escape, but I don’t see why people who need them have to suffer to protect those people from themselves (I’d rather see them get mental health services to get at why they need to be high all the time). And maybe fewer would end up addicted to them if they’d been able to get what they needed in the first place. I know it’s complicated, and drug company greed doesn’t make it any less so, but demonizing the drugs and stopping the legal sale of them isn’t the solution.

  2. says

    Ridana@#1:
    I can’t say that this troubles me, per se. Those painkillers are necessary. It’s the rules and ethics (and lack thereof) around marketing and prescribing I have problems with.

    Agreed.
    I think that such medicines should be available through public medical care, at no cost to the user.

    Furthermore, I don’t see addiction as a moral issue. That makes it hard for me to say that access to drugs should be controlled. Obviously, you can’t hand the stuff out like candy but why should the government be between people and pleasure?

    I believe that a lot of government attitudes towards painkillers is kowtowing to christianity’s love of suffering. They just can’t bear for someone to enjoy themselves. It’s really twisted, I think.

    I hoard it still despite it having expired, because a single pill has seen me through the pain when my root canal got infected, and will be there when my gall stones try to kill me to death. I know I won’t be able to get it on demand, and it works so damn well.

    Ditto. I have a pretty good collection and it came in very handy when I had my kidney stone incident. Apparently the medical establishment felt that lying in bed writhing in pain would be good for my fortitude or something.

    There will always be people who abuse drugs for fun or escape

    I’m on the fence about that. I don’t see anything wrong with using drugs for fun or escape and I wonder whether opioids are that much worse than alcohol. Other than that it’s easier to overdose on opioids. The problem, I suppose, is that it’s more obvious when someone is consuming a fatal dose of alcohol than barbituates or opioids.It makes it easier to stop them.

    I’d rather see them get mental health services to get at why they need to be high all the time

    Agreed. Mental health should be a core service of government. There are people who want to get out from under drugs (or alcohol) and they should be supported.

    There is a weird line between government’s minimal and grudging attempts to do its duty to its citizens, and just letting people have access to whatever they want. It does seem to me that there is some value to stopping people from randomly killing themselves in search of enjoyment or deflecting the anguish of life. My feeling is that these things should be approached consistently and sensibly, which is not what happens at all; i.e.: it should be treated as a public health question. Then we’d have to answer things like: “is it worse to have people addicted to opioids or drinking alcohol?” and “is smoking weed better or worse for your health than vaping?” We have figured out that tobacco is bad, OK, but why can I buy chewing tobacco at the corner store and not weed or a bit of laudanum? It seems to me that the difference between chewing tobacco and laudanum is that while both may kill you eventually, laudanum makes you happy-ish while it’s doing it, at least until you get to the stage where you are hallucinating bugs crawling under your skin.

  3. says

    Ditto. I have a pretty good collection and it came in very handy when I had my kidney stone incident. Apparently the medical establishment felt that lying in bed writhing in pain would be good for my fortitude or something.

    Wait a minute. You had a kidney stone and your doctor didn’t prescribe you painkillers? WTF? I thought that doctors were supposed to prescribe painkillers to people who have medical problems that cause lots of pain. How the hell can a kidney stone not qualify?

    I don’t see anything wrong with using drugs for fun or escape and I wonder whether opioids are that much worse than alcohol.

    I also don’t see a problem with using drugs for fun or escape.

    I define “addiction” as the loss of control. A person wants to stop taking some substance, but they just cannot do so. For example, an alcohol addict will get a drink whenever some is available. On top of that, they won’t be able to stop after the first glass and they will drink until they pass out. Contrast that with a person who simply enjoys regularly drinking lots of alcohol while still maintaining their ability to decide when and how much they will drink. I don’t see a problem with the latter. As long as using some mind altering substance isn’t harming a person’s life quality, I don’t perceive it as problematic.

    Mental health should be a core service of government. There are people who want to get out from under drugs (or alcohol) and they should be supported.

    Yes. But such help should be strictly voluntary. Nobody should be forced to undergo addiction treatment programs against their will.

    I strongly oppose how various states force their citizens to undergo various medical treatments against their will. This one is personal. I recently found out that in Latvia I cannot get a hysterectomy without first undergoing mandatory psychotherapy. I am aware that some non-cis people do benefit from therapy, but I do not want it for myself. Thus I believe that my state is abusing me by denying my right to decide for myself what I want. (I wrote about that one here — https://andreasavester.com/my-country-wants-me-to-suffer-for-my-own-benefit/ .)

    Denying mental health care to people who want it is very bad.
    Simultaneously, forcing every person who chooses some atypical lifestyle to undergo some treatment is just as bad.

    Our society still suffers from religious doctrines saying that every single person who chooses some atypical lifestyle must be mentally ill. Simultaneously, there’s also the belief that mental health problems are the patient’s own fault. This mix of disgusting beliefs allows countries to simultaneously deny mental health care to patients who demand it and enforce it upon citizens who do not want any therapy, who are happy with their lifestyles and unwilling to change anything about themselves.

    Respecting every person’s desires and letting them choose for themselves is apparently too much to ask from some post-Christian culture.

  4. says

    Issues of state support and treatment for the mentally ill and the addicted are complicated. You get in to trolley-problem kinds of questions almost immediately, but unlike the trolley-problem, these things are very real, and happening all the time.

    In some countries, they solve the problem of the hopelessly addicted by beating them to death and rolling them into a ditch. In the USA, we have a somewhat more humane approach. It is not clear what could be done better here, in at least some cases. I know people who live a thoroughly difficult life, but I am at something of a loss as to what could be done to substantially improve their lots.

    There is no rule that says that a good answer has to exist.

  5. dangerousbeans says

    I’m wonder if the more ethical approach would be to make the drugs legal for recreational use/sale (with a contents statement), provide free purity testing, and then allow consumers and next of kin to shoot dealers who sell shitty product.

    Alcohol is deliberately packaged in ways to make consumption somewhat safer. I don’t know if you’ve ever been around high purity high quality moonshine, but that stuff can be easy to drink (easier than cheap vodka) and very dangerous because of it. There are ways to make illicit drugs less likely to be consumed in dangerous ways, but that’s not what the policies are doing. instead you get more fentayl because that works better in the environment.

  6. jimmf says

    I think a lot of this is due to Nixon’s “war on drugs” which should have been subtitled “mainly black and long haired people”. There’s lots of stuff at http://www.csdp.org/news/news/nixon.htm etc… But it seems to me mostly a war on the poor because recreational chemicals aren’t such an attraction if you’re leading a successful life with lots of exciting things to do. Our access to “The Drugs I Need” is a great song, but it’s just one side effect of a tool that can be used to persecute whoever you don’t like. I think you’re right that there’s some kowtowing to the christian love of (especially other people) suffering. And there’s good money to be squeezed out of the suffering.

  7. bmiller says

    ” Nobody should be forced to undergo addiction treatment programs against their will.”

    In theory, I agree with this. If you had children who impaled themselves on needles scattered randomly around their playground you might be less…sympathetic. If you live in a City and have had to clean human waste for the third time this week because a “citizen” who enjoys himself to the point of catatonia dumped right on your doorstep….you might be joining the hue and cry for government to “do something” And the latter is not a mere problem of bourgeoise sensitivity….cholera could come back very easily. Or if one of the fun bunch (no lights, dark clothes, no helmet, no common sense) just decides in darkness to randomly ride his bicycle right in front of traffic because rules are for squares, dontcha know?

    The freedom to “enjoy oneself” stops when one’s enjoyment causes serious public health harm. I would never deny that the United States in particular is piss poor at administering public health (I don’t understand how an anarchist suggests we will pay for all this, but that is another issue). But I am less libertarian than you because, perhaps unlike Latvia, the social framework is a little more frayed in these United States. There are too many lost souls who refuse or are unable to abide by very basic public rules of life. And some of them are assholes who do not want to be “cured.” Human beings are complicated, and I am much less sanguine than Marcus that “mental health services” will work for many people. People are hard to fix. Which means, unfortunately, that tough love is sometimes needed. Even though I hate typing this, as it offends my more libertarian side.

  8. says

    bmiller @#7

    If you had children who impaled themselves on needles scattered randomly around their playground you might be less…sympathetic. If you live in a City and have had to clean human waste for the third time this week because a “citizen” who enjoys himself to the point of catatonia dumped right on your doorstep….you might be joining the hue and cry for government to “do something” And the latter is not a mere problem of bourgeoise sensitivity….cholera could come back very easily. Or if one of the fun bunch (no lights, dark clothes, no helmet, no common sense) just decides in darkness to randomly ride his bicycle right in front of traffic because rules are for squares, dontcha know?

    Wow. I’m impressed with the amount of contempt oozing from your words. A Christian/conservative would say, “Junkies are disgusting, filthy, sick, threat to public health, they are sinners who deserve to be locked up behind bars and forced to undergo abusive ‘rehabilitation therapy.’” Your opinion is pretty much the same, the only difference is that you are sugar-coating/obfuscating your contempt with some imaginary threat to public health.

    I say “imaginary,” because treating drug addicts with respect and dignity is perfectly reconcilable with making sure that there are no HIV infected needles on the streets. Firstly, create a needle exchange program. Secondly, offer free safe and clean spaces where drug addicts can come for the purpose of injecting themselves with a dose. Thirdly, legalize drugs. Of course, I could go further and add some additional items to this list, for example, reducing income inequality and offering affordable housing would greatly reduce substance addictions among the homeless.

    Marginalizing, abusing, and othering drug users is a choice. That’s something people do only because of their contempt/disgust towards their fellow human beings. There’s no reason for this kind of attitudes/policies to be “necessary.”

    There are too many lost souls who refuse or are unable to abide by very basic public rules of life. And some of them are assholes who do not want to be “cured.”

    And what are the causes for this? Right now you sound like a privileged asshole. Hint: “laziness” or “moral failure” aren’t the reason for why there exists problems like homelessness or drug addictions. The underlying problem is that the society as such fails to make sure that all its members have a chance in life. The root causes are things like poverty, income inequality, lack of access to housing and good jobs, racial segregation, unsafe neighborhoods, and so on.

    People are hard to fix. Which means, unfortunately, that tough love is sometimes needed.

    It’s not people that need to be fixed. What needs to be fixed is the society that abuses some of its members.

    Even though I hate typing this, as it offends my more libertarian side.

    Wow, now you just sound like an abusive jerk who blames his victims for “making him hurt them.”

  9. says

    Pretending that if we were just nice enough, addicts would have no negative social impacts, is simply wrong. Alcohol is legal, and alcoholics are not zero-impact.

    Addicts make poor choices, it’s pretty much in the nature of the disease. When you’re high or drunk, you make bad choices (that being, roughly, the point of getting high), and when you’re high or drunk a lot, you make bad choices more often. You can throw more resources at addicts and lessen the impacts on themselves and on society, but you cannot reduce those to zero. Indeed, fairly quickly you arrive at trolley problems in which the rights of the addicts conflict with the needs of society.

    The “being stabbed by needles” thing is a bit of a trope, junkies keep pretty good tabs on their needles. But, being high a lot, they *do* lose track of them occasionally. Needle exchange programs have exactly zero impact on this. Safe injection sites help, but do not reduce the problem to zero. Some people aren’t good in groups, and would prefer to shoot up outside, and, occasionally, they lose track of their sharps.

    Now, you can go ahead and accuse me of being a contemptuous dick as well, but that will just make me giggle. If by some strange chance you land in my in town, I can introduce you to some of the guys and you can make your own judgement.

  10. dangerousbeans says

    @Andrew Molitor and bmiller
    Except treating addiction like that doesn’t work; it makes the problems worse, and we have decades of evidence about that.
    There’s no perfect solution, you are always going to be able to find someone who is causing a problem, but ‘tough love’ just makes the problem worse.
    I get it on an emotional level, i hate being around drugs (including alcohol) and it would be much easier if we could organise this so we don’t have to deal with it, but that’s just not a practical solution (or ethical imo)

  11. says

    I am not personally advocating, particularly, for a “tough love” approach. It would be fair to say that I agree with neither Andreas Avester nor bmiller.

    My familiarity with these issues is mainly around the complexities of the situation on the ground, I have no special insight into treatment options.

  12. bmiller says

    I am not sure I even agree with my post.

    It was inspired largely by Andreas’ rather blithe and annoying “boyz will be boyz” attitude towards serious street addicts. And addicts may look carefully after their sharps, but when there is a heavy concentration of this population, needles are everywhere. It is not being cruel to describe someone reduced to injecting between their toes as somewhat “lost”. I will repeat what I said earlier: she does not really have to deal with a community seriously impacted by drug addicts, so she can merrily propound “progressive” and “libertarian” tropes.

    I am skeptical and cynical about humanity in general. Why should I be all that much “nicer” about addicts shitting on my doorstep? And in America, those free restrooms that might be an alternative (it is horrible how few public restrooms are available in some cities) are often destroyed or inhabited for yet more injecting.

    I don’t know what the answer is, either. I will note that contra dangerous beans, when policing is seriously ramped back, the problems I describe increase (San Francisco, Seattle).

    But I would agree 100% that you cannot do nothing but throw people in jail. They are still people and have to be treated as human beings. Which means “respect,” but respect does not always mean “let them do whatever they want to do”.

    Some people don’t want to change. Some people can’t or don’t want to stop doing horrific things. This may be true for multiple reasons and it is complicated. But sometimes, you do have to force things a bit. Hence my disagreement with the “no coercion” argument Andreas initially propounded.

    I would end by agreeing 100% with Andrew Molitor that it is complicated and I have no special insights. But I am not willing to go as far as Andreas and say that people should do what they want.

  13. says

    bmiller @#12

    Andreas’ rather blithe and annoying “boyz will be boyz” attitude

    “Boys will be boys” is an extremely sexist and disgusting statement/attitude. Don’t ascribe to me shit I’d never say.

    she does not really have to deal with a community seriously impacted by drug addicts, so she can merrily propound “progressive” and “libertarian” tropes.

    1. My pronouns are “he/him.”
    2. You don’t know a thing about my life, you don’t know where or how I live, so stop making shit up.
    3. I’m not a “libertarian.” And neither of us can define what “progressive” even means.

  14. says

    It seems to be pretty commonly believed that children ought to be denied a certain degree of autonomy, although the details of what and at what age vary. Normally this denial is carried out by parents, or people acting in the role of parents. The rationale is something something the good of the children.

    Many people believe also that some adults ought to likewise be denied a certain degree of autonomy. Adults who cannot seem to stop murdering people, for instance. Normally this denial is carried out by The State of a State-like entity. This is, I think, generally justified on the grounds that the smooth functioning of society demands it, and also that murdering people creates a conflict between the murderer’s right to do as you see fit, and the right of the murdered to go on living. A conflict that the murderer, by decree, loses. Some say that the denial of autonomy here is merely revenge-driven.

    Some people, fewer, seem to think that the mentally ill and the addicted should, at some point, be denied some autonomy.

    Anyways. The idea that everyone should be allowed to do whatever is clearly one that essentially nobody actually holds. The question is only where do the lines get drawn, and for what justification, if any. You draw them here, I draw them there, there’s a pretty good chance that, outside of the internet, we’d find our lines drawn not very far apart.

  15. says

    Andrew Molitor @#14

    It seems to be pretty commonly believed that children ought to be denied a certain degree of autonomy

    This is an irrelevant point. Small children lack the degree of brain development necessary to take care of themselves.

    Adults who cannot seem to stop murdering people, for instance.

    Another irrelevant point. Or are you seriously proposing the idea that smoking weed harms bystanders just as much as murder?

    Some people, fewer, seem to think that the mentally ill and the addicted should, at some point, be denied some autonomy.

    Yes, some people who are sadistic authoritarian assholes who enjoy torturing their fellow human beings.

    My attitude is that if somebody hates me that much and wants to hurt me so desperately, I’d prefer them showing up at my doorsteps with a baseball bat. Overtly hostile abusers are at least honest with me, and I am free to retaliate against them. Patronizing, on the other hand, is much much worse.

  16. says

    Andreas, the points about children and murderers speak to larger, structural, points. They are not, and are not intended as, exact analogies. As you well know, being, allegedly, a serious debater. You are being disingenuous.

  17. says

    @#16

    Andreas, the points about children and murderers speak to larger, structural, points. They are not, and are not intended as, exact analogies. As you well know, being, allegedly, a serious debater. You are being disingenuous.

    No, you are just making irrelevant and idiotic comparisons for no good reason whatsoever.

    “Humans limit the freedom of children and murderers, therefore it’s acceptable to also limit the freedom of weed smokers and whoever gets labeled as ‘mentally ill’” is not even an argument.

    Your so called “larger, structural, point” about how in some situations it is acceptable to limit the freedom of people who harm the rest of the society lacked some essential premises. You don’t have an argument without first proving how addicts and “mentally ill” people pose a danger at least partially comparable in severity to that posed by unsupervised small kids or murderers.

    Incidentally, I could give dozens of counterexamples where some person poses a potential danger to bystanders, but the society does not limit said person’s freedom. For example, I don’t get locked up every time I get sick and catch some contagious infection. By wandering around public places while having a cold I am causing a lot of harm to the society, yet somehow that’s perfectly legal.

  18. bmiller says

    Sincere apologies for the pronoun mixup. I KNEW that and cannot explain why I used the wrong pronouns. I am embarrassed, as you have explained your life story.I simply got things mixed up. :(

    You have repeatedly said you live in Latvia. While I do not know your personal situation, I really doubt Riga or other Latvian cities has the problems of San Francisco or other large American cities. Most civilized European cities have at least a modicum of an effective social welfare system. Of course, every city has addicts, but that is not my main point.

  19. bmiller says

    Some people, fewer, seem to think that the mentally ill and the addicted should, at some point, be denied some autonomy.

    Anyways. The idea that everyone should be allowed to do whatever is clearly one that essentially nobody actually holds. The question is only where do the lines get drawn, and for what justification, if any. You draw them here, I draw them there, there’s a pretty good chance that, outside of the internet, we’d find our lines drawn not very far apart.

    I like this. I think Andreas is being somewhat disingenuous about equating “walking around with a cold” to a addicts “living” in a main street’s median island inhabited by addicts with weeping arm sores, covered with feces, and surrounded by detritus. Which was the situation briefly in San Francisco fairly recently.

    And in the news recently, a disturbed individual followed a young woman home, grabbed her, refused to let her enter her building, shouting the whole time about “aliens”. Even Andreas acknowledged that a direct threat justifies action. The difference is somewhat this disturbed may require more direct intervention than “Come on. Take your meds. Don’t use drugs. Pretty please…” I am being sarcastic, but that seems to be the level of some of the intervention teams working their admittedly thankless jobs.

  20. says

    @#20

    inhabited by addicts with weeping arm sores, covered with feces, and surrounded by detritus

    If you keep on arguing about how disgusting drug addicts are, and how much their mere existence offends your aesthetic preferences, it becomes very hard for me to take seriously any arguments you make about harm reduction. Instead I’m getting the feeling that you just want to further abuse already marginalized people towards whom you feel contempt, and in order to excuse said abuse you just make up excuses. Any serious discussion about harm reduction cannot begin without first treating other people with respect. The amount of impoverished people with addictions (whom you deem “ugly” and “filthy”) is so large that you cannot solve the problem by abusing and incarcerating every one of them. Any actual solution would require the cooperation of said people. When a group of marginalized people get patronized, othered, abused, called names, etc., they just don’t cooperate.

    By the way, the whole idea of “tough love” seems bullshit for me. There is no love in such situations. It’s just some good old abuse obfuscated with thinly veiled excuses.

    Most civilized European cities have at least a modicum of an effective social welfare system. Of course, every city has addicts, but that is not my main point.

    The very fact that drug addicts cause fewer problems in places with decent social welfare proves that abusing them is a choice rather than a necessity.

  21. says

    Way to plant the axiom, Andreas!

    “I’m getting the feeling that you just want to further abuse already marginalized people towards whom you feel contempt”

    You admit that bmiller has not said this, but you are pretty sure that it’s the hidden coded meaning, and then you proceed as if that is in fact what bmiller said. Deftly done and I am sure that it works on your friends, but, not here.

    What’s funny here is that everyone involved actually agrees that:

    “decent social welfare”

    is in fact the correct answer, and literally nobody is contesting that. For some bizarre reason you continue to clip out tiny little fragments of text and misread than to suggest that someone is disagreeing with you, and then you savagely defeat them with your powerful rhetoric.

    Is this fun, or something?

  22. says

    bmiller, here is more to it than danger to society. Despite Andreas dismissal, my remark about children was in fact on-point. To wit: diminished mental capacity is commonly held as a justification for denying someone autonomy.

  23. bmiller says

    It is an observation of how SOME drug addicts are. You are universalizing my comment. Obviously, not all drug addicts lack the resources to avoid these problems, but we are talking about people so far gone that they are in this situation. That is reality.

    As for “tough love”, sure. But I am also not convinced that letting things slide to the point where yes, people are living in median islands with superating sores is the solution either. And no, “Tree” (another case in recent history) does not have the right to spread all of his “literal) shit around a neighborhood park and camp out there. These are tough cases, and having a social worker stop by occasionally to chat with Tree, who has made the park unusable for anyone else, to kindly persuade him to do something else with his life, is not easy to sell to the neighbors.

    “The very fact that drug addicts cause fewer problems in places with decent social welfare proves that abusing them is a choice rather than a necessity.” Sure. But I bet European cities don’t allow these tragic victims to take over public spaces either. It’s not either/or. It’s both. You continue to imply that acting out in public and creating public health problems is a fundamental human right is where I strongly disagree.

  24. dangerousbeans says

    But I bet European cities don’t allow these tragic victims to take over public spaces either.

    No, those places create an environment where people don’t have to. Abandoning people until they are a nuisance to you, then forcing them into ‘treatment’ (AKA a prison) causes these problems that you are so fixated on. Then once they get out of treatment, they are in the same situation and go back to the same patterns of behaviour.
    There’s a reason you keep bringing up San Francisco; there are no social services and the housing situation is fucked. That creates the situations you are talking about. Round all those people up, force them through rehab, and 6 months later they are back on the street in the same situation.

    It’s telling that you keep focusing on a very small proportion of very confronting cases, rather than the actual situation. I’m inclined to agree with Andreas Avester that you are trying to avoid empathising with these people. You need to examine that, dealing with people and their problems out of contempt won’t help anything (or just ignore the topic, there are plenty of topics I’m not in a spot to provide useful commentary on)

  25. Jazzlet says

    I know of at least one homeless man who was allowed to live in a tent on the central reservation of Wolverhampton (in the UK) ring road for years. He’d been trapped under rubble at some poin,t and had an extreme fear of being inside buildings, letting him live in a tent on the centrl reservation was kind. I don’t know whether he took drugs or drank, I do know the local Hindhu temple took him breakfast every morning.

  26. says

    For everybody who believes that homelessness should be illegal, I strongly recommend you to watch this short video— http://englandyourengland.tv/Richard It is about a piano tuner Richard Roberts who lives in London and is voluntarily homeless. He saw rent as too expensive and housing as unnecessary, and he moved out. Literally. Now he sleeps outdoors in London parks and other places. He made a lifestyle choice, and he’s not harming anybody.

    A few years ago I used to read his blog (which seems to be taken down by now). There he published very detailed descriptions of his homeless lifestyle. He also wrote about all the other homeless people he encountered and talked with. A lot of homeless people turned out to be normal and likeable once Richard got to know them. They weren’t some evil monsters hurting anybody. Homelessness must be legal. People should have a right to sleep in public parks. If the mere sight of a homeless person offends somebody, that’s not a significant reason to outlaw homelessness.

    Drug usage also must be legal. There’s no reason why merely taking some substance should be criminalized.

    Sure, some drug users commit some crimes. Whenever that happens, just deal with each person individually after they have already done some crime. Pre-emptively abusing all drug users just because some drug users commit crimes is as logical as pre-emptively abusing all white men just because some white men commit crimes.

    More importantly, being ugly cannot be treated as a crime. If you don’t like the sight of some ugly person in a city park, that’s your problem, not theirs. “Weeping arm sores, covered with feces, and surrounded by detritus” cannot be a reason for abusing or patronizing some person.

  27. says

    Pretty sure nobody is proposing that homelessness or ugliness should be illegal. Not sure where people stand individually on drugs, but I personally lean toward radical liberalization of access to them. Perhaps not vending opiates like candy bars, but, you know, some middle ground between Now and Vending Machines. So, not sure who you’re addressing, Andreas.

    It’s all very well to say “well, just wait until the commit a crime” but then you get (more) news stories like “All the warning signs were there, but since he hadn’t actually committed a crime we couldn’t arrest him until he beat his girlfriend to death” which is not an outcome I am love with. These stories already happen, so you can’t actually pretend that this isn’t a real scenario.

    You might be OK with a modest body count, I dunno. How does one balance Acceptable Fatality Rates against the rights of the mentally ill, the addicted, and so on, to not be hassled? I have no pat answer, but I do think societies should in general deploy some spectrum of interventions between Nothing and Prison. You know, kinda like we have now, but maybe with some adjustments to make it better.

    But hey, horses for courses and all, right?

  28. says

    And just to expand on the general flavor and nuance involved here, let us briefly examine the issue of camping in parks. This is one of dozens of similarly complex and nuanced issues.

    I live less than one block from a park which has homeless campers in it sporadically, maybe a dozen or more times a year. I walk my dog there, as I am fully entitled to do, and I am at some pains not only clean up after my dog, but to tidy the park a little as well when I have the chance. I try to respect this commons and care for it as a member of the community.

    Many campers are also fairly sound custodians of the commons. When they leave, there is little to no trace of their presence. Usually not *none* but often little trace.

    Others, less so. Piles of trash, various broken… things which they have collected and dragged into their camp site. Unburied poop which my dog would very much like to eat and then share with me, and so on. Of course one could deploy various solutions that would mitigate or lessen these problems, but we’re talking about people who are frequently addicts, and so are not exercising great judgement all the time. While you can surely reduce the problems you probably cannot entirely eliminate them, as long as you permit people to camp in the parks. See also teenagers.

    Ok, so what? I run hot and cold on whether Someone Ought To Do Something. Mostly, I just sigh and carry some items of trash to the trash can every night for a few nights, and eventually the mess gets cleaned up. I shout at the dog when she tries to eat poop, until the rain washes the poop into the soil, and so on.

    My attitude here has no effect on whether this category of people — who are extreme outliers in the community of the homeless, I hasten to add — are abusing a commons. They are. What ought we to do? Ought we to simply cede any commons to anyone who chooses to abuse it? Ought we to cede commons only to those in great need? Which commons, when? These are complex problems, blanket solutions are unlikely to satisfy anyone.

    Again, I have no pat answers here. I just tidy things up in the park, and vote for city bond measures to provide housing for the under-housed.

  29. says

    @#29

    Pretty sure nobody is proposing that homelessness or ugliness should be illegal… So, not sure who you’re addressing, Andreas.

    Nobody proposed that being ugly or sleeping in a public park should be a crime? OK, great. Wait a minute, then why the hell is this comment thread full with quotes like these?

    If you had children who impaled themselves on needles scattered randomly around their playground you might be less…sympathetic. If you live in a City and have had to clean human waste for the third time this week because a “citizen” who enjoys himself to the point of catatonia dumped right on your doorstep….you might be joining the hue and cry for government to “do something” And the latter is not a mere problem of bourgeoise sensitivity….cholera could come back very easily. Or if one of the fun bunch (no lights, dark clothes, no helmet, no common sense) just decides in darkness to randomly ride his bicycle right in front of traffic because rules are for squares, dontcha know?

    @#7

    And some of them are assholes who do not want to be “cured.”

    @#7

    People are hard to fix. Which means, unfortunately, that tough love is sometimes needed.

    @#7

    Pretending that if we were just nice enough, addicts would have no negative social impacts, is simply wrong.

    @#9

    But sometimes, you do have to force things a bit. Hence my disagreement with the “no coercion” argument Andreas initially propounded.

    @#12

    addicts “living” in a main street’s median island inhabited by addicts with weeping arm sores, covered with feces, and surrounded by detritus

    @#20

    But I bet European cities don’t allow these tragic victims to take over public spaces either.

    @#24

    If we agree that taking drugs, and being homeless or ugly is legal, then it follows that anybody is free to sleep in public places. Forcing homeless people to move away from public parks becomes illegal. Abusing homeless/addicted people in any way becomes illegal. Mandatory treatment (aka abuse) also becomes illegal.

    Law enforcement agencies cannot start abusing some person until they have committed an illegal act. So what justification do you propose that would allow limiting drug addicts’ freedom? The fact that some of them litter and lose their needles? You know, also some rich white men litter. Should the police abuse all rich white men next just because some rich white men litter?

    If we agree that sleeping in public parks and taking drugs is legal, then we cannot next demand that homeless addicts are forcefully removed from public places. Then only non-coercive methods for dealing with these people become permitted. You can offer nice and affordable housing to the homeless, but you cannot forcefully move them anywhere.

    It’s all very well to say “well, just wait until the commit a crime” but then you get (more) news stories like “All the warning signs were there, but since he hadn’t actually committed a crime we couldn’t arrest him until he beat his girlfriend to death” which is not an outcome I am love with. These stories already happen, so you can’t actually pretend that this isn’t a real scenario.
    You might be OK with a modest body count, I dunno. How does one balance Acceptable Fatality Rates against the rights of the mentally ill, the addicted, and so on, to not be hassled?

    The way how you measure the “body count” is weird. A bystander getting hurt goes into your “body count.” An innocent person getting abused by the law enforcement does not go into your “body count.” How comes? With this kind of accounting you would come to the conclusion that the police must arrest 100% of the population, because this way no innocent bystander will ever get hurt.

    My accounting is different. If the police abuses 9 innocent people and 1 potential criminal in order to prevent 1 bystander from getting hurt, the end result is still a net loss. Yes, one innocent bystander got saved, but also 9 innocent people had their lives unfairly ruined by the police. The fact that we cannot predict the future means that preemptively catching all the criminals who are about to commit some crime in the future is impossible.

    Incidentally, we already have real-world case studies on how well preemptive imprisonment works. Suspected terrorists are spending decades within USA prisons without any charges brought against them, without a trial. We are talking about completely innocent people here who are unfairly suffering immense abuse.

    Here’s the problem with “warning signs”—the law enforcement agencies overestimate the importance of any “warning sign” when dealing with poor people of color. They totally ignore identical “warning signs” when dealing with rich white people. A billionaire is photographed with his hand around the waist of some 16 years old girl? That’s no big deal. A rich white man is rude towards his wife or secretary? That’s no big deal. A rich white man hits somebody? Whatever, he’s a good man.

    Allowing the police to preemptively target potential criminals simply means allowing them to abuse all the already marginalized people who are simply poor and non-white. So yes, “wait until a person commits a crime” is the only possible approach. Abusing all mentally ill or addicted people just because some of them commit crimes makes as much sense as abusing all rich white men because some rich white men commit crimes. By the way, majority of homeless, mentally ill, or drug using people don’t commit any actual crimes.

    @#30

    Where I live, some dog owners pick their pet’s poop. Others do not. I have accidentally stepped into dog poop on countless occasions. Whenever I walk in some public place, I will spot at least one pile of dog poop somewhere. Nonetheless, I cannot advocate a ban on dog ownership. After all, a significant percentage of dog owners are responsible and don’t leave piles of dog shit in their wake. The problem are those few dog owners who are too lazy to pick of their pet’s poop. Therefore it would be wrong to hurt all dog owners just because some dog owners engage in harmful behavior.

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