Michael O. Powell

Recent Posts From Michael O. Powell

Coming Soon: The Marijuana Industrial Complex

Great analysis on the politics of pot from the Atlantic:

Marijuana legalization has gained steam in the last year and a half, and it’s becoming an issue in multiple states. A handful will vote on medical marijuana ballot initiatives this year, and in California, Proposition 19 would allow counties to legalize marijuana outright, taxing and regulating it more or less like alcohol. The California measure appears to have a reasonable shot at success: internal and SurveyUSA polling have shown it in the lead, while the more reputable Field Research has shown Prop. 19 trailing 48% to 44%. If it passes, it will shock many people who haven’t considered legalization of marijuana to be a remote possibility in this country; President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder will have to decide whether to uphold federal drug laws or allow the will of California’s voters to stand; marijuana will explode as a national topic of discussion.

For the first time in our political memory, the old talking points of the health effects of pot are null in void. With a massive fiscal crisis that is straining every aspect of Californian life, the incentives are stronger than ever to get state revenue. Cities like Oakland also need a new industry to get the economy moving again, and hence are preparing the way for the industrialization of marijuana (a Republican friend jokingly and brilliantly referred to this as the birth of the “marijuana industrial complex”).

Liz Cheney Calls On Obama To Shut Down WikiLeaks

From The Raw Story:

“I would point out that although you’ve got the news about the WikiLeaks documents that that came out this week and clearly Julian Assange’s effort was to change course for the US policy in Afghanistan,” Cheney told Fox News’ Chris Wallace Sunday.

“He was unsuccessful in that. He does clearly have blood on his hands potentially for the people whose names were in those documents who helped the US and I think that’s something he will have to live with now,” she continued.

“I would really like to see President Obama to move to ask the government of Iceland to shut that website down. I would like to see him move to shut it down ourselves if Iceland won’t do it. I would like to see them move aggressively to prosecute Mr. Assange and certainly ensure that he never again gets a visa to enter the United States,” said Cheney.

“What he’s done is very clearly aiding and abetting al Qaeda. And as I said, he may very well be responsible for the deaths of American soldiers Afghanistan,” she concluded.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates shared Cheney’s condemnation:

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told ABC’s This Week that he’s “appalled” and “mortified” at Wikileaks’ release of the Afghan war documents, and the Web site is at least “morally” guilty in the matter.

“There are two areas of culpability. One is legal culpability. And that’s up to the Justice Department and others. That’s not my arena. But there’s also a moral culpability. And that’s where I think the verdict is guilty on WikiLeaks,” Gates said. “They have put this out without any regard whatsoever for the consequences.”

Review: Christopher Hitchens - Hitch 22

Just as he has released his memoirs, Hitch 22 tells the story of a truly remarkable man of letters, Christopher Hitchens. On June 30, he revealed through a blog at the magazine Vanity Fair’s Web site that he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

Pakistan: Subsidizing A “Terror Haven”

Jason Pye posted a video that brings into strong doubt the effectiveness of our allegiance with Pakistan, which has been funneling the millions in aid we provide them to the Taliban. This could be called the effective subsidization of the Afghan conflict.

The United States’ allegiance with the Pakistani regime is based entirely on a premise that it benefits the objectives of the war on terrorism, but this premise seems to be increasingly losing its credibility. Osama bin Laden is reportedly somewhere in Pakistan, if he’s alive at all, as is his number 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri. The credibility that Pakistan is doing its best to apprehend Al Qaeda leadership falls flat and down the hill with the revelation that funds are being funneled to the Taliban. The doubts pervading our relationship with Pakistan are even more pronounced when added to the increasing suspicion by the United Kingdom and India:

Cameron said the United Kingdom and India had both suffered the effects of terrorism originating in Pakistan, citing the 2005 attack on the London subway that killed 52, and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed at least 172. India blames Pakistan for having a hand in the Mumbai attacks, committed by Kashmir independence insurgent group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Across U.S., A Slight Plurality Support Marijuana Legalization

Really interesting polling data from Rasmussen:

Americans are evenly divided over whether marijuana should be legalized in the United States, but most expect it to happen within the next decade.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Adults nationally shows 43% believe marijuana should be legalized. But 42% think it should remain an illegal drug. Another 15% are not sure.

That is a very, very slim win for marijuana legalization and, since it’s at the national scale, may be more representative of an urban-rural divide than people who’ve actually thought about the issue. The United States has been beset with decades of anti-drug propaganda that reinforced the notion of prohibition as a natural necessity to keep kids from becoming drug-addled dropouts.

The way to win over those who aren’t pot enthusiasts is to demonstrate that recreational drugs are something beyond the capacity of the state and which will only lead to bloated prisons, wrecked lives and a disturbing level of lethal police raids.

I suspect there’s quite a few people like that in Southern California, which needs to be converted if poll numbers are to be improved on Proposition 19 by November:

Voters are poised to reject a ballot measure to legalize adults’ recreational use of marijuana in California and another that would suspend the state’s landmark greenhouse gas reduction law, according to a Field Poll of to be released today.

What the Shirley Sherrod Episode Tells Us About Obama’s Administration

When he ran for president, Barack Obama did promise change. It looks like he has brought it to us.

There is one integral component to the Obama presidency that differs greatly from Bush. It was evidenced by the controversy surrounding Shirley Sherrod, who fell victim to the lies of smear artist Andrew Breitbart. Sherrod lost her job as the Georgia State Director of Rural Development with the Department of Agriculture after Breitbart’s false claims of Sherrod refusing to help a white farmer while working as a private advocate surfaced.

While condemning Breitbart, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center also condemned “the White House, which, apparently frightened of appearing in any way linked to black racism, stood by the essentially forced resignation even when it became clear that Sherrod’s speech was nothing like what Breitbart suggested.”

The administration’s knee-jerk firing of Sherrod is the other extreme of the stubbornness of the previous administration, which hung on to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for two years after the revelation of abuse at Abu Gharib and major public dissatisfaction with him.

This says something about the current administration, though it is not immediately apparent what it is. Whereas Obama explored race heavily in his memoirs, he has been running from the issue as much as possible since running for president. His unease with a political issue that is so integral to American life is disappointing, because Americans look to their presidents for leadership and if the president is afraid to talk about it, how will any progress ever happen?

Are Public Schools Becoming Prisons?

This comes from J. Richard Cohen of the Southern Poverty Law Center:

It’s not right for a 6-year-old boy to be handcuffed and shackled to a chair by an armed security officer because he “acted up” in school. But that’s exactly what happened at the Sarah T. Reed Elementary School in New Orleans. In keeping with our work to reform the abusive juvenile justice system in the Deep South, we’ve filed a lawsuit against the school district to stop the brutal and unconstitutional policy of chaining students who break minor school rules.

Our client, J.W., is a typical first-grader. He’s just four feet tall and weighs 60 pounds. He enjoys playing basketball, being read to by his parents, coloring and playing outside with friends. But his school treated him like an animal. Within one week, he was twice forcibly arrested, handcuffed and shackled to a chair for talking back to a teacher and later arguing with a classmate over a seat. The amount of force used on J.W. was simply ridiculous and, predictably, inflicted severe emotional distress. Shockingly, this level of punishment is official school policy. We’re not just fighting for the rights of J.W., but for all the students at Reed Elementary.

Unfortunately, J.W.’s story is hardly unique. All across the nation, schools have adopted draconian “zero-tolerance” policies that treat children like criminals and turn schools into prison-like environments. The primary function of school is to help educate our children so that they can become productive, well-informed adults. These policies do just the opposite — they seize on any opportunity to criminalize behavior and eject children from schools, driving up dropout rates.

Drug War Ends Up Brutal For Two Americans

From the Wall Street Journal comes a story of two American males arrested on possession of marijuana. The alleged treatment of them seems like something straight of Iraq:

Those two men—Shohn Huckabee, 23 years old, and Carlos Quijas, 36—are being held in a Ciudad Juárez jail. They tell a different story about what happened that night. They say Mexican soldiers planted the marijuana in their truck. When they arrived at the military base, they say, they were blindfolded, tied up, hit with rifle butts, shocked with electricity and threatened with death.

Huckabee elaborates further:

Mr. Huckabee says he was subjected to similar tactics. “I believe what was done to me was torture,” he said in an interview. “When I did not answer their questions, they shocked me with a wire that was in my hands. My whole body froze up. The pain went from bearable to a point where I couldn’t even talk.”

Perhaps I’m looking too deep into this, but this seems like something from a new era. Growing up, the perception I always had was that mistreatment of an American citizen was an act of war. From Vietnam to the Iran Hostage Crisis, that was certainly how mistreatment of our citizens was interpreted.

Is there a zeitgeist shift going on here? Mexican authorities, representative of a country significantly tied to us economically, being belligerent enough to torture American citizens seems like one to me.

It seems to be more and more accepted that the United States is in decline, for an assortment of reasons to be sure. With that decline in economic and political power must come a decline in the fear once held by other countries. When the United States is no longer feared, its citizens are treated just like any others.

Bye Bye Internet Freedom?

The internet is under assault. It never seems to be the top story, as the website TorrentFreak attests, but the internet is under assault globally on several different fronts.

  1. In China, where continuous shutdown of the blogs by the authoritarian regime continues to create firewalls (pun intended) to the Chinese citizenry’s access to the free flow of information.
  2. In the United States, where Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a perennial foe of creative freedom (having run as Vice President along with presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000 on a platform of censorship) has proposed the government have the authority to shut down the internet in the event of an emergency.
  3. In the Netherlands, where anti-piracy group BREIN (Bescherming Rechten Entertainment Industrie Nederland) has succeeded in shutting down 384 torrent sites.

 

Governor Brewer: Confused on Immigration

In this clip, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer asserts that undocumented workers are beheading people in Arizona.

I imagine that Brewer was actually referencing the horrifying crimes committed by Mexican drug cartels in Mexico:

CUERNAVACA, Mexico — The preferred form of cruelty by drug cartel henchmen is to capture enemies and behead them, a once-shocking act that has now become numbingly routine.

Since March 22, authorities have come across four separate grisly scenes of beheaded bodies, in one case with several heads placed neatly in a row.

Additionally, the foreign policy journal Stratfor goes in depth on this grisly phenomenon of Mexico’s drug cartels effectively adopting the playbook of Al Qaeda.

Brewer’s comments reveal that she is confused about what is going on and that actions by Mexican criminals in Mexico appears to have achieved synergy in her mind with the actions of undocumented workers. Take that and interpret it however you want.

Michael O. Powell

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Michael O. Powell has a storied writing career, having been published in countless blogs, magazines and newspapers in addition to United Liberty. Powell has been at United Liberty since 2008 and en... Click here to read full bio

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