Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Drug War Toll Mounts

Excellent quick summary of the drug war insanity:

The Drug War Toll Mounts

by Radley Balko

Radley Balko is a policy analyst for the Cato Institute.

In Washington, D.C., a 27-year old quadriplegic is sentenced to ten days in jail for marijuana possession, where he dies under suspicious circumstances. In Florida, a wheelchair-bound multiple sclerosis patient now serves a 25-year prison sentence for using an out-of-state doctor to obtain pain medication. And in Palestine, Texas, prosecutors arrest 72 people -- all of them black -- and charge them with distributing crack cocaine. The scene bears a remarkable resemblance to a similar mass, mostly-black drug bust in nearby Tulia five years ago.

These examples aren't exceptional. They're typical. America's drug war marches on, impervious to efficacy, justice, or absurdity. Drug prohibition was nowhere to be found in Election 2004. There was no mention of it in the debates, the conventions, or the endless cable news campaign coverage.

In some ways, that was a blessing. Campaign discussion of drug prohibition has too often focused on which candidate took what drugs when, and who was more sorry for having done so.

While it's refreshing that we've moved beyond apologies, it's also true that under the laws many of today's politicians support, a kid who experiments with illicit drugs the same way many of them once did may not get the chance to finish school or go to college, much less run for political office.

The number of policymakers who've dared to question any aspect of the drug war could comfortably fit on the back of a pocket-sized edition of the Bill of Rights. This needs to change. America should reexamine its drug policy.

Today, federal and state governments spend between $40 and $60 billion per year to fight the war on drugs, about ten times the amount spent in 1980 -- and billions more to keep drug felons in jail. The U.S. now has more than 318,000 people behind bars for drug-related offenses, more than the total prison populations of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain combined.

Our prison population has increased by 400 percent since 1980, while the general population has increased just 20 percent. America also now has the highest incarceration rate in the world -- 732 of every 100,000 citizens are behind bars.

The drug war has wrought the zero tolerance mindset, asset forfeiture laws, mandatory minimum sentences, and countless exceptions to criminal defense and civil liberties protections. Some sociologists blame it for much of the plight of America's inner cities. Others point out that it has corrupted law enforcement, just as alcohol prohibition did in the 1920s.

On peripheral issues like medicinal marijuana and prescription painkillers, the drug war has treated chronically and terminally ill patients as junkies, and the doctors who treat them as common pushers. Drug war accoutrements, such as "no-knock" raids and searches, border patrols, black market turf wars and crossfire, and international interdiction efforts, have claimed untold numbers of innocent lives.

For all that sacrifice, are we at least winning?

Even by the government's own standards for success, the answer is unquestionably "no." The illicit drug trade is estimated to be worth $50 billion today ($400 billion worldwide), up from $1 billion 25 years ago. Annual surveys of high school seniors show heroin and marijuana are as available today as they were in 1975. Deaths from drug overdoses have doubled in the last 20 years.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the price of of a gram of heroin has dropped by about 38 percent since 1981, while the purity of that gram has increased six-fold. The price of cocaine has dropped by 50 percent, while its purity has increased by 70 percent. Just recently, the ONDCP waged a public relations campaign against increasingly pure forms of marijuana coming in from Canada.

So despite all of the money we've spent and people we've imprisoned, despite the damage done to our cities and the integrity of our criminal justice system, despite the restrictions we've allowed on our civil liberties, despite the innocent lives lost and the needless suffering we've imposed on sick people and their doctors -- despite all of this -- the drug trade isn't just thriving, it's growing. Illicit drugs are cheaper, more abundant, and of purer concentration than ever before.

Like alcohol prohibition before it, drug prohibition has failed, by every conceivable measure. Isn't it about time for America to take a hard look at its drug policy?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Bush dons fake uniform. What are his handlers thinking? This is getting wierd. Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Real Crimes of the UN in Iraq
Looking the Other Way

Shortly before sunrise, this morning, a small band of us gathered at a busy Chicago intersection and unfurled vinyl banners bearing enlarged pictures of Iraqi children. One banner called for an end to US warfare in Iraq. On my banner was Johan, smiling wanly, a 14 year old child who weighed 75 pounds shortly before she died of cancer in the oncology ward of a Baghdad hospital on September 21, 2003. As our banners flapped in the wind, I tried to compose a letter in my head to her teenage brother, Laith, who recently wrote to tell me how much he misses her.
Had Johan lived in a country that wasn't reeling from 13 years of economic sanctions, she might have survived childhood leukemia. She is one of hundreds of thousands of children who died while economic sanctions and war shattered Iraq's health care delivery system.

Writing my mental letter, I thought of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's words of comfort to bereaved parents of four little girls who were murdered when the Birmingham Baptist church was bombed on September 18, 1963. A former member of the Ku Klux Klan was convicted of the crime. Addie, Carol, Cynthia and Carole had been praying inside the church.
"These children-unoffending, innocent, and beautiful-were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity." Dr. King said. But he offered comfort. "In a real sense," he continued, "they have something to say to each of us in their death. . .they did not die in vain. . .Indeed, this tragic event may cause the white South to come to terms with its conscience."

This morning, columnists in major US papers will continue alerting US people to possible wrongs, even crimes, committed by UN officials in the course of the "oil for food" program which coordinated and monitored sales of Iraqi oil, while economic sanctions ravaged Iraq. These economic sanctions constituted the most comprehensive state of siege ever imposed in modern history. It's not likely that Saddam Hussein ever missed a meal, but children, hundreds of thousands of children, suffered gruesomely. Their suffering and death can be likened to child sacrifice, certainly the most egregious instance of child abuse in modern times. They'd committed no crime, yet they were brutally--and lethally--punished for the government of the country into which they were haplessly born. You aren't likely to find this story in the current exposés of UN wrongdoing.

In fact, many UN officials tried valiantly to put an end to the economic sanctions. Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday resigned their posts and crisscrossed the globe educating people about the effects of the economic sanctions which Halliday termed "genocidal." UNICEF's Executive Director, Carole Bellamy, held a 1999 press conference to announce the release of a "Situation Analysis of Women and Children in Iraq" which carefully explained that the economic sanctions contributed to the "excess deaths" of over 500,000 Iraqi children, under age five. Not one US television network aired coverage of the press conference. Only two of 50 leading US papers reported the actual shocking number of one half million "excess deaths" of children. The Wall Street Journal asserted that it was all Saddam's fault. The New York Times echoed this in an 800 word story quoting Jamie Rubin of the State Department questioning the study's methodology.

The sanctions punished children while Saddam's regime profited through smuggling: Many Westerners who traveled to Iraq tried to communicate this to people in their home locales. The smuggling and the rake-offs were no secret, especially in the final years of the sanctions when there were many reports of lucrative kickbacks and inflated prices. Many witnessed the sanctions actually strengthening Hussein's control, as the regime became the only source of food and stability for an increasingly desperate and disempowered population.
The children were punished. When the pictures of those little ones, writhing in pain, wrinkled with wasting, desperate and bewildered, ...held by equally despairing and tortured parents...when those pictures were held up, sometimes as we fasted, sometimes while we were being led off in plastic handcuffs, sometimes at press conferences in front of the UN in Baghdad, sometimes in the middle of Basra cesspools and cemeteries...when those pictures were held up, many people looked the other way.

When I try to understand why columnists in far away places wouldn't take on the story of these worthy victims, I try to remember that there are many worthy victims and one person can't undertake care and concern for every devastating, brutal injustice. Pick your battles. But I can't for the life of me understand how a steady stream of columns have appeared on op-ed pages, in the NYT and other papers, alerting us to possible crimes committed by UN officials in the course of the "oil for food" program while there has been no mention of the crime of child sacrifice in Iraq.

The concern generating reams of verbiage at this point is that UN officials may have looked the other way as Saddam Hussein and a number of collaborators pocketed rake-offs in underhanded dealings using profits from Iraqi oil sales. I'm not equipped to comment on those charges. But is there no columnist who will remind us that 500,000 children under age five died as the US used the UN to wage economic warfare against children?

Let's consider the UN workers who stood a chance of getting food and medicine into Iraq ­ were they to look Iraqi families straight in the eyes and say, "sorry, we'll have to prevent these contracts from going through because you, in your pitiful weakness, can't prevent the dictator that rules you from getting rake-offs on the deal. We can't compromise our principles...
They looked the other way. I looked the other way myself. We in our delegations looked the other way even as we knew that normally we'd be hopping mad and demonstrating in front of any government bastion that inflicted so much fear on its people...but that would have been the wrap-up for our entry into neighborhoods, families, hospitals, schools, ... it was a trade-off.
King said, "And so I stand here to say this afternoon to all assembled here that in spite of the darkness of this hour, we must not despair. We must not become bitter . . . Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality." But this said, what words of comfort can I offer to Johan's brother Laith? I can tell him where we stood this morning, and whose picture I held. People looked.

Kathy Kelly is a co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign to nonviolently resist U.S. militarism at home and abroad. Her book, Other Lands Have Dreams: Letters From Pekin Prison, will be published in the spring of 2005 by CounterPunch Books / AK Press. She can be reached at kathy@vitw.org

Monday, November 29, 2004

Raich v. Ashcroft - A Guide to the Supreme Court Case: "Raich v. Ashcroft - A Guide to the Supreme Court Case"

Oral argument today in Raich v. Ashcroft, the California medical merijuana case. Here is an opportunity for the Court to do something right. A reasoned decision reigning in the Federal government just might be a first step toward lessening the unreasoning hysteria surrounding the drug war.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Toronto Sun Columnist: Eric Margolis - Ukraine flirting with a civil war

Understanding what is going on in the Ukraine. Solution: Decentralization (i.e., secession).

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Leithner&Company Pty Ltd - The Leithner Letter

Poor Principles, Phony Recoveries and Festering Problems

Follow the links.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Politics (H. L. Mencken)

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Dick Morris -- How were the exit polls so wrong?

Interesting analysis. Curious commentary last night as all the pundits "knew" the results and spent at least the early evening explaining the Bush "defeat."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair: How Bush Was Offered Bin Laden and Blew It My favorite commie journalist exposes how "war was in the cards." Reminds one of FDR.
H. L. Mencken, "The Politician Under Democracy" (1926), quote courtesy of Tom DiLorenzo at www.lewrockwell.com:

"He is a man who has lied and dissembled, and a man who has crawled. He knows the taste of boot-polish. He has suffered kicks in the tonneau of his pantaloons. He has taken orders from his superiors in knavery and he has wooed and flattered his inferiors in sense. His public life is an endless series of evasions and false pretenses. He is willing to embrace any issue, however idiotic, that will get him votes, and he is willing to sacrifice any principle, however sound, that will lose them for him. I do not describe the democratic politician at his inordinate worst; I describe him as he is encountered in the full sunshine of normalcy."
"They are men who, at some time or other, have compromised with their honor, either by swallowing their convictions or by whooping for what they believe to be untrue. They are in the position of the chorus-girl who, in order to get her humble job, has had to admit the manager to her person. . . . He becomes a coward and a trimmer ex officio. . . . Thus the ideal of democracy is reached at last: it has become a psychic impossibility for a gentleman to hold office under the Federal Union, save by a combination of miracles that must tax the resourcefulness of God."

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Loco-Foco returns to the water. Posted by Hello

Laissez-Faire received substantial damage but floats and the motor cranked right up. Posted by Hello

Pool at Atlantis needs a little cleaning. Gulf is flat, ready for fishing. Posted by Hello

Banned in Orange Beach. Posted by Hello

Flora-Bama Posted by Hello

Tacky Jack's Posted by Hello

Panama Mac's Posted by Hello

View from the South. Posted by Hello

Finally got to Atlantis. All is well. Posted by Hello

Loco-Foco is rescued by barge and crane. It floated and started right up. Little damage to the boat. Extensive damage to lift and docking. Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Saddam as the Twentieth Hijacker

Bovard exposes some of the usual, shameless lies which were told by our Leader leading to the war on Iraq, or rather, "terror."

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Dead End in Orange Beach. House posted as condemned. Posted by Hello

Monday, September 27, 2004

I am still not allowed into Florida, but here is a shot from the State Line. Atlantis is the building on the right just past the condo under construction. Supposedly, all is well there. Looks like the road could stand a little work. Posted by Hello

Friday, September 24, 2004

I never got across the Alabama line into Florida to check on Atlantis. Alabama State Troopers have blocked the exit from Alabama until further notice. This seems pretty unreasonable as the area cannot be reached from Pensacola because the roads are impassible.

Legacy Key condominium in the background, again on Old River. Posted by Hello

Broadmoor Condominium took a beating. Posted by Hello

Island Royale in pretty good shape. Posted by Hello

These houses are on Old River, again on Perdido Key, Alabama. Posted by Hello

About a 35 foot boat across the road from Cotton Bayou. Posted by Hello

More houses on Perdido Key. Posted by Hello

One of the beach houses on Perdido Key, Alabama, gutted by Ivan. Posted by Hello

In the background is what is left of the dry dock storage facility at Zeke's Landing. Most of the boats look ok. Posted by Hello

On the way to the Florida state line, this is Perdido Place, which is similar in construction to Atlantis -- looking good. Posted by Hello

Here is a clearer picture of the Flora-Bama. View is from the Gulf facing north. Water on other side of the road is Old River. Panama Mac's is across the street pass the SUV. I have a condo just east of here in Florida which I hope to visit today for the first time. Will post photos. Posted by Hello

This is the Gulf down West Beach at the bridge/cut for Little Lagoon. Posted by Hello

This is Mikee's, about two blocks north of the beach. Posted by Hello