Drug War

Pandering to Idiots: How Obama Flip-Flops

Jorge Gonzalez is a motion designer and political activist living and working in Midtown Atlanta. In his free time, he enjoys filming, photography, and reading.

I recently had a discussion with a close friend of mine who is a very “progressive” guy. He’s the type that buys into all the horror stories about Republicans and libertarians. You know, we don’t care about the poor or women’s rights or worker’s rights and we’re cruel, intolerant etc etc. He started off the conversation by claiming “Romney panders to stupid people. Obama does not…Obama doesn’t bend his beliefs to fit an uneducated and sensationalistic base.” If you didn’t fall out of your chair just now at the sheer stupidity and myopia of a statement like that, then I ask you to read on, dear Reader, because what follows may be of interest to you.

Irresponsible US Intelligence Practices Destroy Real Lives

Thomas McGarvey, who submitted this to UL, is a writer living in East Africa.

As an American expat living in East Africa, I have been amazed at how actively involved the US Drug Enforcement Administration is in these parts. I never imagined that a sub-saharan country like Kenya would be seen as warranting its own DEA office, but it does.

The amount of illegal drugs being routed to the United States via Africa is extremely small. Most drugs on the continent are routed through Western African countries, and most of these drugs are destined for European markets. So it is safe to say that the amount of illegal drugs entering the US through the East African Community is probably less than 1/100th of 1 percent. Yet, the DEA is here. Why?

The most obvious reason can be attributed to law-enforcement support the US regularly provides to allies like Kenya in enforcing its own laws and also in dealing with challenges like the Al-Shabaab terrorist organization strongly present in Somalia— Kenya’s troubled neighbor to the north.

Through this support network, the US government has established an elaborate, well-funded, and intricate web of “busy-bodies” that stretches around the globe. And this intelligence community scoops up any information that is thought to be of interest to itself or its allies. The problem arises when this information is wrong and is publicized (either by accident or design). When this happens, the lives and reputations of innocent people can be harmed or destroyed.

Recently, I met one victim, whose story is a tragic example of Big Brother’s overzealous and sometimes irresponsible intelligence-gathering and sharing practices.

Will Obama Bring Change to U.S. Drug Policy?

A recent news report asks an important question about Obama’s administration:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — President-elect Barack Obama’s pledge to change relations with Latin America will be tested in one key area — the future fight against illegal drugs, political leaders and analysts say.

From Ecuador’s decision to close a military base in Manta that the United States used for anti-drug activities, to Bolivia’s recent expulsion of US Drug Enforcement Administration agents, Latin America’s leftist leaders have put their defiance on display.

The Cry of a Strawman

The discussion between Dr. Lawson and Congressman Price at the TROSA forum on October 13 was an interesting one, to say the least.  The Durham Herald Sun wrote an particularly fascinating report on the discussion between the two candidates on drug-related issues:

Lawson and Price sparred over issues including health care and law enforcement, especially enforcement of drug laws.

Obama may give clemency to hundreds of nonviolent drug offenders

Call it an election year move to rally his base or call it a move that’s long overdue, or maybe even a little of both. Whatever the case may be, President Barack Obama and the Justice Department are considering granting clemency to hundreds of nonviolent drug offenders:

A Department of Justice review of the nation’s clemency system that could free thousands of prisoners was motivated by President Obama’s desire “to make sure that everyone has a fair shot,” the White House said Monday.

“He has asked the Department of Justice to set up a process aimed at ensuring that anyone who has a good case for commutation has their application seen and evaluated thoroughly,” press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.
That review is expected to place a special emphasis on non-violent drug offenders, and especially those given longer sentences for crack cocaine. In recent years, federal lawmakers have moved to reduce additional penalties for those in possession of crack, rather than powder, cocaine, in a bid to both reduce prison populations and the unequal prosecution of minorities.

There has been a bipartisan push in the Senate to reform the United States’ drug laws. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have introduced a measure to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders.

Separately, though similarly, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) teamed up to address sentencing reforms for nonviolent crack cocaine offenders.

Conservatives miss the point on weed and CVS

Yesterday, the drug store chain CVS announced that it would no longer sell tobacco products. The move drew sharp reactions and generated controversy, for and against. President Obama took time away from his busy schedule of campaigning, golfing, and vacationing to praise the decision.

As predictable as the sun rising out of the east every morning, some conservatives took the opportunity to attack President Obama and proceeded to look like fools in the process.

One of the conservatives (the term is used loosely in this case) who chimed in on this pressing controversy was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “Many of the same people applauding #CVS for not selling tobacco are ok with making it easier to buy and smoke pot,” he tweeted, adding the hashtag, “#makesnosense.”

For starters, it appears Rubio is not familiar with the difference between the private sector making a business decision and government policy. CVS can choose whether or not to sell tobacco products. If customers have a problem with this decision they can shop at another retailer.

If someone wants to buy and consume marijuana, however, they may go to prison under current laws. I understand this is a difficult concept for Rubio to grasp, but it is entirely consistent to applaud a private company’s decision to no longer sell tobacco and to oppose throwing people in jail for smoking a joint.

Christie: End the drug war

Don’t count Chris Christie out just yet, folks. The embattled governor of New Jersey is doing his best to keep recent scandals out of the headlines by offering new ones of his own. Today in his inaugural address, Christie explicitly called for an end to the 40+ year old federal war on drugs.

“We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse. We will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands this simple truth: every life has value and no life is disposable.”

Strong words from an executive who might find new difficulty getting his policies through his legislature given recent news and softening public support. More generally, a strong statement in an inaugural speech doesn’t mean a successful change in policy in any case, as has also been excessively clear since President Obama’s second. But with less favorable news in New Jersey making all the headlines lately, you can be sure Christie will do what he can to make more positive news over the next two years as the 2016 primary elections approach.

Ted Cruz Defense of States’ Rights Doesn’t Apply to Drug Policies

We should support Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for calling out on President Obama for overlooking the Commerce Clause and giving the federal government more authority due to the Affordable Care Act. But when Sen. Cruz comes out against states’ sovereignty by claiming that Obama and the Department of Justice are lawless by not enforcing federal drug laws, as they allow Colorado to enforce their own drug policies, we should hold Cruz accountable for simply ignoring the Constitution.

Sen. Cruz has been an eloquent defender of federalism in the past but has seemed somewhat clueless during his keynote address at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation last Friday.

According to the conservative senator, federal laws must be changed before the President can go ahead and say that Colorado has a right to enforce its own pot laws. That’s right:

A whole lot of folks now are talking about legalizing pot…. And you can make arguments on that issue. You can make reasonable arguments on that issue. The president earlier this past year announced the Department of Justice is going to stop prosecuting certain drug crimes. Didn’t change the law.

Learn Liberty: The Human Cost of the Drug War

 Cost of the War on Drugs

The heavy emphasis on the war on drugs is leading police officers to neglect other areas of public safety, according to the latest video from Learn Liberty, a project of the Institute for Human Studies.

In the video, Alex Kreit, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, explains that in New York City, for example, police officers have spent 1 million man-hours to make 440,000 arrests for marijuana possession since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002. He notes that these hours could have been better spent tracking down violent criminals, such as murderers and rapists.

“Nationwide, we would save $41.3 billion every year by ending the war on drugs,” says Kreit. “That’s tens of millions of man-hours in investigation, office work, and court appearances for drug cases. We’re choosing to direct these resources to crimes other than rapes and murders, only to arresting and incarcerating large numbers of non-violent offenders.”

“Worse yet,” he continues, “the war on drugs doesn’t even work.”

Poll: 82% of Americans say U.S. is losing the war on drugs

War on Drugs

The survey of 1,000 adults, which was conducted on August 12-13, found that only 4% of Americans believe the United States is winning the “war on drugs,” a term first coined by then-President Richard Nixon in 1971 when he launched his policy initiatives to combat illicit substances .

Eighty-two percent (82%) of Americans say the United States is losing the more than 40 year battle against drugs. Thirteen percent (13%) were undecided.

Since the war on drugs began, the United States has spent over $1 trillion and incarcerated millions, giving us the largest prison population in the world, only to see the drug addiction rate remain steady. Earlier this year, a Huffington Post/YouGov poll found that 53% of Americans believe that the war on drugs isn’t worth the cost.

Radley Balko, a critic of the drug war and author of the new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, says that Americans are finally catching on to the problems with nation’s drug policy.

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