The drug war policy Barack Obama should have urged on the NAACP

President Obama spoke to the NAACP’s 100th convention, the first time the group has had a black president as speaker. The president’s speech was at times inspirational, but his talk ignored the elephant in the room at the NAACP, the drug war that has so devastated the black community. In fact, the president’s presence at the convention was due only to the fact that he himself, as a self confessed teenage cannabis user, was not ensnared by the same cruel laws and racially corrosive justice system that he now leaves unchallenged.

The NAACP did have debate on legalizing cannabis, as reported by Radical Russ Belville in Norml’s Daily Audio Stash. This debate, however, did not seem to recognize the drug war policies so devastating to the black community over the last 40 years. Ethan Nadelmann pointed out that of the yearly 800,000+ cannabis arrests in the USA, nearly 40% ensnare black and brown Americans. Often their first arrest, says Nadelmann, often for one joint. They are damaged not by the use of a mild drug, but damaged they are by arrest and prosecution.

Radical Russ summed up the issue:

A 2008 New York Times article, On Arrests, Demographics, and Marijuana, showed that in New York City arrested nearly 400,000 people for pot possession in the years 1998-2007. This is nearly 100 young lives daily scarred and compromised by a needless arrest. Citing the study, the NYT article pointed out:

The NAACP should be out on the streets in force, tearing down the un-American drug war. Current drug war policies and laws, along with their enforcement, are like an enormous, bloated tick, feeding upon the lives of American citizens, most of them brown and black. Shame on NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, normally a sensible man, for supporting such injustice.

The drug war policy Barack Obama should have urged on the NAACP was delivered by Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance.

UN Bureaucrats Promote Drug War Tyranny

The freedoms of Americans and other world citizens are being restricted by a handful of UN bureaucrats.

  • UNODC is the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The office takes a hard line, prohibitionist view of (some) drug use around the world. Essentially, they play out international laws codified from the authoritarian mind of Henry J. Anslinger, the USA’s first drug warrior.
  • The agency has an evil twin, the The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). This INCB operates out of Vienna, Austria. With the UNODC, it successfully works furthering the neocon drug war agenda from the USA to the entire planet.
  • The punitive stance played out by bureaucrats at both powerful organizations was formed and is still maintained by America’s delegation, which has pushed this approach for the last 50 years. Sadly, the same coercive stance continues well into the Obama administration.
International Narcotics Control Board

International Narcotics Control Board

Americans are less free because of the prohibitionist, incarceration-happy inclinations of UN officials. These elderly men promote, even demand, that the USA continue its hard-line, zero-tolerance approach to drug use. The demand is based upon US signing onto UN mediated international treaties such as the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.

Americans have less medical choice thanks to the UN. America and Americans are not free to act, in their view, in ways that challenge these international laws, such as removing prohibitions against medical use of cannabis. The international organization takes the view that cannabis should remain strictly prohibited, world-wide. They deny that it has any medical benefit. Americans in medical need of cannabis, such as those suffering from glaucoma, do now have increasing access to their medicine because of state action, at least in 13 states. Such freedom of medical choice, however, has been fiercely resisted on the national level by entrenched interests such as the DEA, and on the international level by by UNODC and INCB.

Americans are caged behind bars at record rates because of the hard-line, punishment-oriented approach of this country has taken is reaffirmed by the UN. Execution of drug-possession “criminals” around the world remains a part of the UN’s Anti-Drug Day festivities, each June 26.

UN 1, Magna Carta, 0. Civil forfeiture is the process whereby governments take the property away from their citizens, without need of criminal charges. In the ominous year 1984, the USA adopted this procedure, popular during the Inquisition, to confiscate the property of Americans violating the country’s newly enhanced drug laws. See Why 1984 WAS like 1984. Supposedly to repossess the fruits of crimes of major drug lords, forfeiture became a favored tool of every prosecutor, sheriff and newly formed drug “crimes” team. Taking the money and property of Americans running afoul of draconian laws was far easier than actual police work, protecting people and property, addressing crimes with actual victims. An analysis of American forfeiture legisilation from a South African paper:

  • In 1970, the US passed the federal statute, The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. It was subsequently amended in 1978 and 1984. Unlike the admiralty courts, US civil forfeitures in the modern era are used when wrongdoers are within the court’s jurisdiction. Officials can seize property without notice, upon an ex parte application (without hearing the defendant’s case) of probable cause (a low standard of proof) that the property has been ‘involved’ in a crime.
  • No person has to be charged. The action is against the ‘thing’. The allegation of ‘involvement’ may be that the property is contraband, represents the proceeds of crime, or somehow ‘facilitates’ crime. ‘Probable cause’ may be based on nothing more than hearsay, innuendo, or the oral evidence of a party with interests adverse to the property owner. Family homes, vehicles and other assets have been seized in pursuance of this law, especially in relation to drug-dealing.

As it turns out, the USA and 169 other signatories of the 1988 treaty have to agree to promote forfeiture, just as they have to agree to keep drugs such as cannabis illegal. In the eyes of these UN bureaucrats, Americans have no right to medical cannabis, nor can they even work to change American laws prohibiting cannabis. These international treaties, they argue, trump national sovereignty.  

The only drugs acceptable for use, by the criteria of UN officials such as the UNODC director Antonio Maria Costa, are alcohol and cigarettes. All cultural, sacred and recreational use of other drugs, such as cannabis and coca leaf, are classified as “abuse.” Indeed, in the UN anti-drug mission, both plants, cannabis and coca, are slated for forced extinction.

Idiotically, the UNODC back in 1999 called for a drug-free world in 10 years. Despite valiant efforts towards this goal by such countries as Thailand which killed 2,500 “drug abusers” in 2003, cannabis and other plant-based drugs still exist. In that 10 years, American prison population, already the world’s highest, grew to over 2.3 million citizens behind bars. Instead of no drugs in the USA as the result of this incarceration hysteria, drug use is little changed. Indeed, there is almost no relationship between the harshness of a country’s drug policy and levels of drug use.

The UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna met last March to decide the organization’s drug policy for the next decade. Obama’s UN drug policy team, which was the Bush UN drug policy team unchanged, argued for more of the same hard-nosed approach. Harm reduction tactics were vilified.

This first crack in the UN’s intransigence came last week with the release of the UNODC’s annual report. The report did mention the hugely positive results obtained by Portugal in decriminalizing drugs. The UNODC office took a new look at the rousing success of decriminalization in Portugal. They went on however, to reject decriminalization in other countries.

Perhaps the 4th of July is the time Americans should reject the UN’s overbearing and obtrusive drug war zealotry. Individual American citizens deserve to have their rights to medical choices not quashed by paper pushers sitting behind desks in Austria. The American nation deserves to have its ability to free itself from the evils of the drug war and prohibition not given over to UN bureaucrats.

Souter unsuitable: He sided with Alberto Gonzales against an Angel.

Supreme Court justice David Souter proved he had no business serving on the high court with his ridiculous stance on Gonzales v. Raich in June, 2005. To accommodate the neo-con views of two of history’s worst attorney generals, John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, and to federally prohibit Angel Raich from her life-saving medication, Souter bent logic to a ludicrous degree.

Constitutionally, the federal government should have no drug laws. Remember, an amendment to the constitution was required to prohibit alcohol in that doomed experiment. Other federal drug restrictions, such as laws prohibiting cannabis, should require similar changes to the constitution. But in the well known drug war exemptions to constitution, the federal government has assumed total control over cannabis and declared millions of its citizens to be federal criminals.

Voters in several states, including California, have chosen to provide medical marijuana exemptions to state drug laws. To allow federal control, even over the wishes of state voters, justices were asked by Alberto Gonzales’ government lawyers to determine that the intra-state free distribution of medical cannabis was somehow inter-state commerce, even though it did not involve other states, nor did it involve commerce.

Incredibly, 6 “justices,” including David Souter, went along with this tortured logic. Some, like Scalia, predictably always vote for extending government control over the individual. But even Clarence Thomas, who nearly always mirrors Scalia’s vote, was outraged by this fiction that free activity within a state comprised interstate commerce. He stated:

  • If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption (not because it is interstate commerce, but because it is inextricably bound up with interstate commerce), then Congress’ Article I powers — as expanded by the Necessary and Proper Clause — have no meaningful limits. Whether Congress aims at the possession of drugs, guns, or any number of other items, it may continue to “appropria[te] state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce.

Clarence Thomas went on with a couple of remarkable statements:

  • If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison’s assurance to the people of New York that the “powers delegated” to the Federal Government are “few and defined”, while those of the States are “numerous and indefinite.”
  • Respondent’s local cultivation and consumption of marijuana is not “Commerce … among the several States.”
  • Certainly no evidence from the founding suggests that “commerce” included the mere possession of a good or some personal activity that did not involve trade or exchange for value. In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana.

Clarence Thomas was joined in these rare moment of clarity by now absent Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor.Tragically, both these justices have now been replaced by Bush big government-conservatives John Roberts and Sam Alito. By all appearances, both take marching orders from Antonin Scalia.

To their shame, 6 justices voted in favor a giving federal agents the power to smash down the doors, raid the homes and destroy the lives of sick people growing a medication legal in their state. Joining Souter in this travesty of justice were Stevens, Kennedy, Ginsburg and Breyer. Ever the cheerleader for more obtrusive government, Antonin Scalia wrote a concurrence on his own.

Technically Gonzales v. Raich a big win for the forces of cannabis prohibition, but really has had little impact. Four years later, on the ground in California, medical cannabis is flourishing. One of the biggest backers of this new form of tax-paying intrastate commerce is California’s franchise tax board.

Alarmingly, one of the names circulating for Souter’s replacement is new Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Only weeks into her new job, Kagan (and Obama) disappointed civil libertarians with a new challenge to Michigan v. Jackson. Pathetically, the review of Michigan v. Jackson was instigated at the the behest of new George W. Bush neo-con Supreme Court appointee, Samuel Alito. I wonder which way he will vote? Someone so eager to extend the restriction of personal rights as Elena Kagan has shown so early in her job, would make for an nomination abomination for Supreme Court justice.

To rescue a bit of fairness and balance to the court, the president should appoint a justice nauseated by the injustice of the drug war, with its trampling of the constitution. Barack Obama, I believe former judge and prosecutor Jim Gray from Orange County is available.

Barack Obama’s 1st 100 Days: Drug Policy grade = D

As Barack Obama’s 1st 100 Days in office looms, many are assigning grades. In several aspects of his presidency he get high grades. But this blog is about drug policy. Obama’s drug policy grade = D. Not exactly the change we had hoped for.

Just a couple of bright spots elevate Obama’s grade:

  • The other main hopeful sign is the appointment of a drug czar with a very different and refreshing mindset from any we have had before. Of course, that is a pretty low bar. Gil Kerlikowske, expected to be confirmed as drug czar next month is more friendly to some harm reduction approaches to drug use.

Despite great hope, many of Obama’s appointments and policies are big drug policy reform disappointments. Hope for change dimmed with each of these appointments:

  1. Joe Biden. The vice president is one of the very worst drug war mongers in congress, with a history of supporting authoritarian drug war policies since the Reagan administration. Biden virtually invented the Drug Czar office. He has enthusiastically supported the bare-knuckle enforcement of draconian laws that has done much to quintuple the American prison population into the largest gulag on the planet. See No, Joe Biden, we don’t “know we needed tough laws.”
  2. Rahm Emanuel. Chief of Staff. Pugnacious anti-cannabis zealot. Helped engineer the short-lived policy in the Clinton administration to penalize California doctors who recommended cannabis after Prop 215 legalized its medical use in California in 1996. Luckily the courts would have none of the federal censoring of free speech of physicians. See Rahm Emanuel: Free Speech Hall of Shame.
  3. Eric Holder. A prosecutor with an icy heart, he encouraged the mandatory imprisonment of black youths for minor drug crimes when he served in Washington DC as US Attorney for Bill Clinton. Some of his comments about not persecuting medical cannabis dispensaries in California were encouraging. Other actions, though, show a darkly authoritarian streak.
  4. A telling non-appointment, DEA head. 100 days in office and no new DEA director. 100 days into his presidency, Barack Obama has left control and direction of the DEA in the hands of the lying Bush apparatchiks. They should have been frog-marched from the building by US marshals in the first hours of the new administration. The White House dog is firmly in place for weeks now, but these same thugs are still paid to commit drug war on their fellow Americans.

In addition to these appointments, other actions bring down Obama’s drug policy score:

  • In response to solicited ideas from citizens on how to improve government and the country, Barack Obama twice downplayed the obvious public support for changing marijuana laws. Looking for economic ideas, he dissed the popularity of the questions and said their is no place for cannabis reform in his economy. In reality, cannabis and drug policy could save the American economy tens of billions of dollars a year and provide for whole new areas of innovation that would grow the economy, such as basic materials, food, fuel and medications from hemp.
  • Although Obama promised during the campaign that federal laws would not be enforced against state legal medical marijuana operations, he has equivocated on the issue. The latest bad news was the apparent direction given to federal prosecutors in the case of Charles C. Lynch, the California medical dispensary operator who will be sentenced June 11. The trial judge had asked the justice department for direction in sentencing; by the demeanor of federal prosecutors in court last week a hard-line approach is apparently being taken by the attorney general.
  • Inclusion of the Byrne grants into the stimulus package. These so-called Justice Assistance Grants ramrod through more of the same get-tough drug war policies that have created our prison gulag. Instead of creating positive social capital, as in education or health, they create negative social capital, more Americans behind bars, more felons and ex-felons, more SWAT teams eager to war on their communities. One of George W. Bush’s best policies was to discourage this wasteful spending.
  • Michigan v. Jackson. Just last week, the Obama Solicitor General urged the supreme court to decide in a way that the AP report on the move describes it as “another stark example of the White House seeking to limit rather than expand rights.” The Obama administration policy on this case is nearly exactly what could have been expected from his predecessor Bush administration and attorney general Alberto Gonzales. As it turns out, the behest for initiating the Obama directive came from Bush-appointee neocon supreme court justice Sam Alito. Nauseating!

Although Barack Obama gets only a D grade in drug policy reform, most former drug war presidents fare worse.

  • George W. Bush also gets a D in drug policy. He did hideous things, like appoint mad-dog John Walters as head of the NODCP, the Drug Czar, given free reign and hundred of millions of taxpayer dollars to wage his personal war on cannabis. All to very little effect, thankfully. But George W. Bush pretty much ignored the drug issue. He had other wars to fight. In one of his few acts of controlling wasteful spending, he discouraged the Byrne grants which Obama has embraced.
  • The Bill Clinton administration also get a D, a D – actually, as the growth of the Justice Department, drug war arrests,  prosecutions and incarcerations rose at their highest rate.
  • The George W. H. Bush administration also gets a D-, probably should be an F. Focused on the war on drugs with specials from the White House where he fondled a bag of crack cocaine supposedly purchased near his residence. Expanded drug war by Invading Panama and arresting its leader.
  • Ronald Reagan gets an F. After espousing that big government is part of the problem with America, Reagan pushed through authoritarian, intrusive drug war policies that still have supposedly “freedom loving” Americans lining up to urinate into bottles, just to get or keep a job.

Barack Obama, raise 1st 100 days drug policy grade! Appoint a new DEA director now. Let his name be Norm Stamper.

Obama again ignores public feedback on cannabis laws.

Once again Barack Obama has asked for public policy feedback .

Once again this feedback tells him that the American public wants him to consider legalizing cannabis and hemp to gain their health-care and economic benefits and to create tax revenue.

Once again, president Obama dismissed all these hundreds of thousands of opinions with a three sentence reply. His press secretary later implied that the feedback must have been rigged.

At least this time, Barack Obama admitted to how popular the idea of legalizing cannabis figured in his on-line Town Hall.  During his transition to office, as reported by Norml,

Obama’s response was ignore, as best he could, the fact that so many people wanted change in US marijuana laws. He stated then he was against legalizing marijuana.

This time, in the town hall meeting, he did address the great interest, but again with negatively.

  • WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Legalizing marijuana is not the kind of change President Barack Obama can believe in — at least not as a remedy for the ailing U.S. economy.
  • On Thursday, Obama tackled the issue head-on, only half-jokingly, at an online townhall meeting where he noted that the idea was a favourite among the 3.6 million people who voted on more than 100,000 questions submitted on the White House website.
  • “I have to say that there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high, and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation,” he said to laughter at the White House event.
  • “And I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Obama said, tongue-in-cheek. “This was a fairly popular question. We want to make sure that it was answered.”
  • The answer is, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy,” he said before moving back to a more sober discussion of unemployment and health care reform.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reemphasized the negativity: “The president opposes the legalization of marijuana. He doesn’t think that’s the right plan for America.”

Gibbs went on to invalidate the question, suggesting that “marijuana advocates” had somehow gotten out invalid votes and encouraged multiple voting.

Gee, Robert Gibbs, based on what evidence do you make that assertion? Why do you ask people to participate with suggestions, and then if you don’t like the responses, ignore them and even accuse the earnest people making the suggestions of dishonesty? Don’t you owe them an apology?

Actually it is President Obama who should be apologizing to his Town Hall participants. Yet again, they have pointed out how federal drug policy, espcially for cannabis, is stupid, cruel and wrong. They have shown how money could be saved, lives salvaged, and tax revenue created by simple changes in cannabis policy.

And when confronted by the overwhelming interest in reforming marijuana laws, the President remarked, “And I don’t know what this says about the online audience.” Well, President Obama, maybe it says they have a treasure of great ideas about economic revitalization with hemp and cannabis as food, fuel, fiber and health care alternatives. Maybe it says they have great ideas you should to which you should be listening.

Charles C. Lynch medical cannabis sentencing delayed. Judge Wu to study the issue.

Perversely persecuted medical cannabis figure Charles Lynch escaped the federal slammer today, at least temporarily. After his federal prosecution and conviction for distributing cannabis, he is facing a ‘mountain of time,’ potentially decades in the federal pen. There he would join the other 53% of federal prisoners behind bars for drug “crimes.”

Today U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu postponed sentencing. Like all judges for sentencing federal drug crimes, his hands are essentially tied. In the case of mandatory minimum sentences, the judge becomes just an operational pawn for applying the draconian minimum sentences dreamed up by self-righteous legislators.

Charles Lynch has become a poster boy for the cruelty and idiocy of the federal persecution of cannabis, especially when protected by voter-mandated state medical laws. His story was well told by John Stossel and  Al Roker. The case has taken on a special poignancy with the arrival of the Obama administration and federal policy regarding state endorsed medical cannabis operations.

Still, it is encouraging Judge Wu has been tracking the recent changes on medical cannabis policy issuing from the Attorney General Eric Holder. Less encouraging is his statement “he did not believe that any change in policy would affect the conviction of Charles Lynch, 47.” The LA Times NOW account adds that Judge Wu “said he wanted to consider any new information about the policy before imposing sentence.”

Well gee, the new, current policy from Attorney General Eric Holder dictates that dispensary operators conforming to state laws, as Lynch was, will not be targeted by the Feds. Therefore, Lynch’s case would not have ever transpired under current law. No jack-booted squads dressed in uniforms of brutality  — face-masks shields, and automatic rifles — would have smashed down his door and thrown him to the ground. He would not have been transported from his home and put into a cage. Seems like that might be relevant.

In the federal trial of Charles C. Lynch, Judge Wu enforced the edict that nothing could be said about medical marijuana. The state laws under which Mr. Lynch operated faithfully could not be mentioned, nor the dispensaries Grand Opening with the mayor, nor the great help the medication helped some of the  residents of Morro Bay.

How could a federal judge not feel shame in participating in, indeed enforcing, such as sham? Hopefully, Judge Wu heard the outraged complaints of a jury who, denied the basic facts, felt no choice but to convict. Now they feel outrage and shame, and they should rightfully feel scorn for a judge who forced their participation in this miscarriage of justice.

Judge Wu, after your additional study of the changes taking place in the justice department and in California, and the day of sentencing comes, do the right thing. Any sentence beyond time served would be an obvious and hideous violation of right and wrong, a perversion of American ideals. To say nothing of violation of 8th and several other amendments, of the Bill of Rights. Do your duty for American justice, Judge Wu and free Charles C. Lynch.

Speak up for the judiciary about idiotic mandatory minimum sentences. Insist on real justice rather than conforming to rote sentencing schedules.

Speak out as an American for the great injustice done Mr. Lynch and millions of other Americans ensnared by arbitrary and cruel drug laws, especially those on cannabis, with its great medical usefulness. Insist that cannabis be rescheduled down from Schedule 1.

Speak up for freedom and say that there is no way you would sentence a community resource and public servant like Charles C. Lynch to a day in federal prison.

Stem cells, science and Schedule I for cannabis.

Three cheers for President Obama for freeing stem cell research from nearly a decade of stagnation. Federal research in the USA was crippled in 2001 when, driven by politic and superstition, George Bush stopped federal funding and restricted access to new cell lines. Now Barack Obama has promised embryonic stem cell findings will not be “distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda.” Millions of Americans with paralysis and other disabilities, or with family members suffering a variety of afflictions, from diabetes to cancer, can go to sleep tonight with a little more hope.

In addition to the decision on stem cells, the president made more sweeping statements. He promised to free scientific research from the tyranny of politics and to bring back “scientific integrity to government decision-making.” Every branch of government and most public institutions suffered during the Bush administration. Karl Rove and his graduates of “colleges” such as Liberty University, were allowed to run roughshod over science at NASA, NOAA and nearly everywhere.

If science is to truly govern policy and decision making in the Obama administration, the next step should be to reschedule cannabis on the Controlled Substance Act. Perhaps no other ruling than classifying (and keeping) cannabis as Schedule I classification more clearly exemplifies putting politics and bureaucracy before science. This tragic error (actually fraud), made 39 years ago, is responsible for much of the wasteful and punitive mess made of the American justice system, now bursting at the seams with non-violent prisoners.

Scientifically, cannabis’ Schedule I status is clearly in error. To “qualify” for this most restrictive and punishing status, drugs so classified must have “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” Obviously, cannabis does have currently accepted medical use in the USA, despite the best efforts of federal bureaucracies to prevent research into its medical value. Additionally, cannabis meets neither of the other two criteria required to classify a drug as Schedule I.

By insisting on a science based classification for cannabis, Barack Obama could strike down the cause one of the great evils of the past few decades, the tragic consequences of twenty million arrests for cannabis. Because of its schedule I status, most state laws were modeled after this most punitive model. Thousands of prisoners languish in jail, millions have had their rights as American citizens crushed because cannabis was misclassified. Now citizens of 13 states have voted to by-pass some of this cruel idiocy with medical exemptions to their laws.

The DEA has resisted numerous attempts and lawsuits by drug policy groups to correct this error. It ignored the findings of its own law judge in 1988 to move cannabis to Schedule II. Strangely, the drug-war bureaucracy did reclassify synthetic THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, down to Schedule III in 1999. Dronabinol, sold as Marinol by Solvay Pharmaceuticals is pure THC. Bizarrely, the DEA uses the availability of Marinol to justify the repression of cannabis. After extensively claiming that there are no medical uses for cannabis, the DEA website claims that “Medical marijuana already exists. Its called Marinol.”

Cannabis could be rescheduled in a number of ways, but the easiest would be for President Obama to instruct the Attorney General to direct the DEA to make the change. To which schedule should cannabis be moved? As the pure THC in Marinol is now Schedule III, this would be a good start. The World Health Organization has recommended that cannabis be down classified to Schedule IV.

Arguably, with its self-serving history of lies and obstruction, the DEA should have no control over the cannabis plant, and it should  be removed from the Controlled Substances Act. Science, truth and justice would be far better served by simply ending the legal prohibition of cannabis. So Barack Obama, follow through with your assertion that science, not ideology, should govern policy. Remove the arbitrary, anti-scientific Schedule I demonization of cannabis.

The race issue Eric Holder cowardly does not talk about.

Eric Holder observes that as “we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”  When the new Attorney General starts talking race issues, a giant elephant enters the room. No, not the republican elephant trying to smear the new top cop at the Justice Department with spurious allegations about a pardon during the final days of the Clinton administration. No, Holder’s real elephant in the room is the disaster befallen America’s blacks from the ill-conceived and mis-directed War on Drugs.

Because Eric Holder was a principal architect of this decade’s long war on its own people, it is a topic he, rather cowardly, refuses to address. Meanwhile, black people especially, continued to have their lives smashed by their government and are disproportionately jailed in America’s “drug gulag.” As top prosecutor in Washington DC, he tried to increase punishment for minor drug possession.

The “war on (some) drugs” has been – and continues to be – disastrous for blacks in America. Although now a little dated, the year 2000 Human Rights Watch report Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs. It documents he harshness with which minor drug crimes are punished in the USA and how black Americans suffer disproportionate arrest and imprisonment. In 1954, 100,000 black America’s languished behind bars. Now that number is 900,000. Black lives, careers and families have been trashed by a vicious drug war that has had little or no effect on drug use.

President Obama has spoken about the need to abolish the crack sentencing disparity that has landed so many blacks behind bars wth felony convictions. But neither Obama or Holder have addressed the basic problem of a drug war that has declared many Americans, especially black Americans, to be the enemy.

So Eric Holder, as Attorney General, don’t be a coward. Reexamine your prosecuter’s zeal for imprisoning your fellow black American. Help stop the idiotic, and racist, War on Drugs.

License to Kill: Drug war idiocy in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, many predict, will become Barack Obama’s Viet Nam War. The situation in that land-locked country is becoming dire. The Taliban control ever more territory and have recently thrown a choke hold onto military supplies coming into the country with attacks on bridges and convoys.

The latest strategy for NATO as directed by the USA seems to redirect military efforts into a war on drugs. U.S. General John Craddock, the NATO Supreme Commander reasons that the $100 million dollar poppy and heroin industries finance the Taliban. He is proclaiming that military action will commence “within days” against a new target in Afghanistan, the opium, heroin and cannabis industries. Under new policy, civilians involved in the poppy trade will become military target coequal to Taliban fighters.

Does Craddock not know or recall that there was a recent model of success in eradicating opium production in Afghanistan, not ten years ago? The Taliban themselves accomplished this feat, for the first time in Afgan history, after a decree in July 2000. Opium acreage reportedly dropped to nearly zero.  And while the good news is the Taliban successfully banned opium production, the bad news in they also banned, pork, pig, pig oil, anything made from human hair, satellite dishes, cinematography, and equipment that produces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, alcohol, tapes, computers, VCRs, television, anything that propagates sex and is full of music, wine, lobster, nail polish, firecrackers, statues, sewing catalogs, pictures, Christmas cards.

American anti-drug bureaucrast were so happy with the (apparent) eradication of the opium trade, the Bush administration actually awarded 43 million dollars to the Taliban theocrats ruling Afghanistan and playing host to Osama bin Laden less than 4 months before September 11, 2001. Less than 6 months after this payment, , the USA attacked Afghanistan, over seven long years ago. At first the American effort seemed to work out well,; the Taliban fled from cities into the countryside and into Pakistan. Much of the populace was glad to see them and their sharia law. But since then, Afghanistan, ignored once America attacked Iraq, has slid into deep peril.  Never in this seven years has the situation looked worse than currently, with the Taliban control closing in everyday on provincial capital and Kabul. The Karzai government is disliked. Wariness of, and weariness with, foreign military occupation are ripe.

Much of the population is unemployed and most civilians with jobs work in the profitable opium industry, the country’s cash crop. If the NATO commander, US General Craddock has his way, this broad swath of the Afghan population may soon come under fire from US (and other NATO) guns.In a bizarre leap of drug war logic, General Craddock proposes that no distinction is now to be made between customary NATO target -the Taliban fighters – and this new group of targets. These Afghans producing and trading opium comprise a good proportion of the populace. Such policy is, thankfully, illegal under international law. The German news magazine Der Spiegel brought this policy and its illegality to the world’s attention in January 2009. Entitled, NATO High Commander Issues Illegitimate Order to Kill, the article documents how General Craddock still argues that such policy is legal and correct. He is opposed by other NATO leaders and General McKiernan.

Barack Obama rightfully claimed that George Bush took his eye off the ball of Afghanistan and shorted the effort to nab or kill bin Laden. Now that he is president, he better put his eye on the ball and decide what America;s objectives in that poor, mountainous country, larger than Iraq. Hopefully his policy will not include gunning down agricultural workers from helicopter gunships.

There is some hope: Head of US Central Command,  David Petraeus recalled  the country’s long history. He was quoted by The Washington Post,  “Afghanistan has been known over the years as the graveyard of empires,” he said. “We cannot take that history lightly.” He concedes conditions have deterioated in the last two years but nonetheless encourages an surge-type sustained advance into the countryside to win hearts and minds.

Even such sensible policy may fail. But is is incompatible with Craddock’s license-to-kill the populace for performing the one activity that can help them make a living. Barack Obama stands on the precipice in Afghanistan. He should not be guided by more drug war idiocy. The drug war in the USA has become an enormous boondoggle serving only those in its employ. American drug warriors can not even keep drugs out their own prisons. Now the US military will solve the Afghanistan opium problem by killing Afghan civilians?

Rahm Emanuel – Free Speech Hall of Shame

For a man that likes to curse a great deal, Barack Obama’s Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel does not much believe in the free speech rights of his fellow Americans. Indeed Rahm Emanuel committed an act so in conflict with his Constitution’s Bill of Rights he should be denied any government position. Yet, despite his egregious attack on the First Amendment Right of Free Speech, he is now “the second most powerful man” in the American government.

What was Emanuel’s great crime? In the 1990s the Chicago democrat was a key Clinton administration drug policy adviser. This was a time of rapid rise in drug arrests, especially cannabis arrests, driven by all the new laws and huge funding of the “war on drugs.”  After Californians voted in 1996 to legalize the medical use of cannabis, Emanuel, and fellow drug war mongers Joe Biden and Barry McCaffrey sought to deny these voters their rights by threatening cannabis-prescribing California physicians. In just this one policy, then, Emanuel and company worked to deny state voters their elected choice and also deny doctors the right of free speech in making their medical recommendations. Californians suffering from medical need such as glaucoma and nerve pain would be denied medical information by these bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

So much for democracy. The actions of Rham Emanuel and the drug czar McCaffrey show total disdain for voter rights, states rights, and medical rights. Their coercive policies reek of tyranny. In just about the only US Supreme Court decision favorable to these rights in the last 40 years, the high court said such over-bearing federal meddling violated the free speech rights of the physicians and their patients. Such arrogance and disregard for the US Constitution and the rights of fellow Americans should preclude Emanuel from any important goverment job.

President Obama professes to view Abraham Lincoln as a role model. Good idea. Perhaps, you Mr. President and your zealous chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel should revisit the earlier president from Illinois opinions on prohibition. Abraham Lincoln said,

A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded… Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man´s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes.

Too bad now we are stuck with a presidential chief-of-staff who views medical cannabis in the most reactionary possible way.  Rahm Emanuel is no Abraham Lincoln. Regrettably, neither is Barack Obama.