War on Drugs
A couple of weeks ago, Senator Rand Paul did a courageous and unusual thing by visiting Howard University in DC. Howard is what is known as a “historically black university,” founded in the wake of the Civil War to provide opportunities for higher education to African-Americans. It’s not exactly home turf for Republicans, but that’s precisely why Paul went, in order to bridge a massive gap that is hurting the GOP.
Response to his visit was mixed, but yesterday, NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous wrote a generally supportive op-ed on CNN. Although noting that Paul missed his target in most areas, there is one area that has promise:
Paul struck out when he tried to equate today’s Republican Party with the party of Abraham Lincoln, while ignoring much of the 150 years in between. (He even acknowledged his mistakes shortly after). But his willingness to step up to the plate can provide a lesson for a GOP struggling to get on top.
Republicans will not win black votes by paying lip service to party history while attacking social programs and voting rights. But they can make inroads by showing a commitment to civil rights, something Paul managed to do briefly in his remarks.
I’ve decided to start a new feature here at United Liberty, one that would run on a monthly basis. I’m calling it “7 on the 7th.” It will be a list of 7 agencies, on the 7th of the month, that we should get rid of. The purpose is to showcase just how many government agencie that exist, which most Americans just don’t realize. While they may think the government does too much stuff, I doubt that many know just what the government really does. Most don’t know about the ridiculous organizations that are prt of our government, and I can say because I don’t know.
So this will be informative not just for you, dear reader, but also for yours truly. What sort of stupid things can we uncover? Feel free to submit your suggestions for next month’s feature in the comments (but please, don’t be silly and tell me we must get rid of the Department of Defense; we’re moderate, sensible libertarians here, not barking-at-the-moon anarcho-capitalists.) Hopefully, if enough on the web read this feature, we may be able to spark a genuine discussion about the role of government and what it should actually be doing, so when some politician says we need more money to fund essential services, we can tell him (or her) that nothing he (or she) is demanding funding for is actually essential.
Now, on to the inaugural list. For this one I’ve decided to go for the low-hanging fruit, to get them out of the way and remove temptations for future entries. I don’t really expect to surprise anyone with these, but that just goes to show you how many folks think a lot of what our government does is rubbish.
1 - Department of Homeland Security
Jason Pye has written a great blog post about libertarians and the Romney campaign already. He asked me my opinion about it, perhaps even with the possibility of a “point-counterpoint” sort of thing. I pretty much agree with what he’s saying, particularly about Ron Paul and the Libertarian Party. We are not a monolithic group; we are a very wide and very diverse range of individuals who just want to increase individual liberty.
What I want to add is that, while Republicans and conservatives complain about us, and want us to support them in elections, they have done nothing to earn such support. Let me show you a few examples:
A Romney administration would listen much more closely to a libertarian movement that supported him.
— Brandon Kiser (@Kiser) September 24, 2012
To which I responded with:
@BrandonKiser Then maybe he should do more to support the libertarian movement.
— Jeremy Kolassa (@jdkolassa) September 24, 2012
And to which I got this response:
@jdkolassa I didn’t say it wasn’t a two way street. But I’m pretty sure I know which side burned their bridge first.
— Brandon Kiser (@Kiser) September 24, 2012
Expect to see that tagline more than once associated with a forthcoming documentary, The House I Live In, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2012 Sundance Flim Festival. Written and directed by Eugene Jarecki, whose credits also include, among others, Why We Fight and Freakonomics, the film will have a limited theatrical release beginning with New York on October 5, just three weeks from today. The release will expand into other major metropolitan areas in the ensuing weeks.
The film’s official website describes it thus:
Filmed in more than twenty states, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN tells the stories of individuals at all levels of America’s War on Drugs. From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, the film offers a penetrating look inside America’s criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.
For a scholarly examination of the impacts of the War on Drugs on state and federal budgets, see the September 2010 Cato Institute study “The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition” by Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron and Katherine Waldock.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker has made headlines in recent years for his dedication to responding to citizen complaints via social media, for rescuing a neighbor from a house fire, and for assisting one of his bodyguards in helping a car accident victim.
Indeed, his heroism become the subject of an amusing video with Governor Chris Christie that was part of the state’s annual political correspondents dinner. This past weekend, however, he made some headlines for what many people will likely consider controversial comments about the War On Drugs:
Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker took to Reddit Sunday to criticize the war on drugs, saying it was ineffective and “represents big overgrown government at its worst.”
“The so called War on Drugs has not succeeded in making significant reductions in drug use, drug arrests or violence,” the Democrat wrote during the Reddit “ask me anything” chat. “We are pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that are bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential.”
Booker then called drug arrests a “game.”
“My police in Newark are involved in an almost ridiculous game of arresting the same people over and over again and when you talk to these men they have little belief that there is help or hope for them to break out of this cycle,” he wrote.
Here’s exactly how Booker put it in his Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session:
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the latest in a slowly growing number of politicians who is admitting what millions of Americans already know - that the policy of incarcerating millions of drug users is extremely illogical and counterproductive. Christie joins fellow Garden State politician Cory Booker who recently took to Twitter to decry the so-called “War on Drugs,” which, by any reasonable standard, is a war that has been a utter disaster.
In Christie’s view, the state of New Jersey would be far better off providing treatment for drug abusers than it is “warehousing addicted people.” By the Governor’s math, incarceration costs the state $49,000 a year as opposed to $24,000 for treatment. While one can debate whether taxpayers should be footing the bill to provide such treatment, it’s surely a significant improvement over a mindset that sees abusers as felons to be punished, rather than patients who need help.
Christie is remarkable for being one of the few Republican figures to criticize the War on Drugs. GOP nominee Mitt Romney has expressed his intention to fully continue the War on Drugs, even amp it up. Newt Gingrich famously praised Singapore’s draconian policy of executing drug smugglers.
For many years, it is has been something that was hardly discussed by mainstream leaders. So it is indeed encouraging to see more and more of them come to the understanding that the War on Drugs is doing immense harm. We’ll see if this actually has any impact on policy.
Is the Drug War flipping inside out?
For decades, we’ve had conservatives—traditionally associated with the Republican Party and the right wing of American politics—rail against drug use and fight for a stronger Drug War that throws more people in jail, while liberals—traditionally associated with the Democrats and the left wing—did the exact opposite, arguing for legalizing drugs or at least scaling back the war. Now, this has never been a perfect analogy—Buckley himself wrote in National Review that the Drug War was stupid and could not be enforced, and many liberals in the government have done truly nothing to try and end this war, and in fact have reveled in it (see: Clinton, Bill and Obama, Barack.)
But lately, we’ve been seeing a complete switch. First, on the conservative side, we have Pat Robertson coming out against marijuana prohibition, followed by George Will’s latest columns that, while not actually arguing for legalization, is seriously questioning prohibiting hard drugs. Meanwhile, President Obama says he wants to have a “debate” about it, but says that legalization is “not the answer.” (To which I say, “Well, then what is, big guy?”)
Of course, we can rack a lot of this up to people being out of power and others being in (and needing to appease the government beasts.) But still, it seems quite baffling to me, where we have conservatives/Republicans questioning the Drug War and liberals/Democrats more or less supporting it.
There’s a lot of outrage over the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida, last month. Trayvon was allegedly killed by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, who is claiming “self-defense.”
I’m not really clear on what actually happened. It appears that Trayvon entered a gated neighborhood, visting his father, when Zimmerman confronted him. Trayvon ran, unsure of what was going on, and Zimmerman—apparently the guy was some sort of criminal—shot and killed him. At some point during all of this, Zimmerman spoke with a 911 dispatcher, who asked him to back down. At least, this is what I think, from my limited knowledge, happened. (It should be noted that Zimmerman has not been arrested and is still out and about, though apparently in hiding.)
There have been calls to disarm neighborhood watch groups over this. There is also a lot of criticism towards a particular Florida law, called “Stand Your Ground,” which brings the self-defense claim out of the home and anywhere the person may be. These are both charges I disagree with; I am against disarming people in general, since law enforcement is essentially useless when it comes to actual, personal defense, and it seems ludicrous to me that you can defend yourself in your home but not on the street, such as if you get mugged. Such arguments are irrational.
But so are defenses of George Zimmerman.
What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.
During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.
Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.
Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
If you missed the debate on CNN last night in Arizona, count yourself lucky. It was miserable. I only watched it because I discovered—much to my chagrin—that a recently purchased WiMAX adapter allowed me to stream video directly off the web at a framerate that wouldn’t make my brain explode. (It instead left that job up to the candidates.)
If you were a conservative turning in to your first presidential debate, you may have been surprised. Up on stage was one Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania, who in a number of statements said that he voted against spending and was dead set against the big government philosophy of Barack Obama…only to then say that he wanted to use the power of the government to force his own view of family life on people, and that he was for the big government philosophy of Barack Obama.
Just, you know, for his things. Riiight.
If you were still unswayed by the arguments by myself or Kevin or anyone else that Santorum was not a friend to libertarians or even fiscal conservatives, well, Santorum should have swayed you tonight. Let us focus on his whopper of a quote during one of his numerous tirades against Mitt Romney:
[C]ongress has a role of allocating resources when they think the administration has it wrong.
Newsflash, Santorum: Neither Congress nor the administration has the role of allocating resources. We have this thing called the “free market” that does that. Now, one could say that I was misconstruing Santorum’s argument, because he was only talking about resources that were justly appropriated for government use (though that is a whole Pandora’s box right there.) But as Alex Roarty over at the National Journal points out, the whole thing came in over a discussion on earmarks, something that Santorum has defended.