Thursday, January 28, 2010

US waves white flag in disastrous 'war on drugs'

After 40 years of defeat and failure, America's "war on drugs" is being buried in the same fashion as it was born – amid bloodshed, confusion, corruption and scandal. US agents are being pulled from South America; Washington is putting its narcotics policy under review, and a newly confident region is no longer prepared to swallow its fatal Prohibition error. Indeed, after the expenditure of billions of dollars and the violent deaths of tens of thousands of people, a suitable epitaph for America's longest "war" may well be the plan, in Bolivia, for every family to be given the right to grow coca in its own backyard.

The "war", declared unilaterally throughout the world by Richard Nixon in 1969, is expiring as its strategists start discarding plans that have proved futile over four decades: they are preparing to withdraw their agents from narcotics battlefields from Colombia to Afghanistan and beginning to coach them in the art of trumpeting victory and melting away into anonymous defeat. Not surprisingly, the new strategy is being gingerly aired in the media of the US establishment, from The Wall Street Journal to the Miami Herald.

Prospects in the new decade are thus opening up for vast amounts of useless government expenditure being reassigned to the treatment of addicts instead of their capture and imprisonment. And, no less important, the ever-expanding balloon of corruption that the "war" has brought to heads of government, armies and police forces wherever it has been waged may slowly start to deflate.

Prepare to shed a tear over the loss of revenue that eventual decriminalisation of narcotics could bring to the traffickers, large and small, and to the contractors who have been making good money building and running the new prisons that help to bankrupt governments – in the US in particular, where drug offenders – principally small retailers and seldom the rich and important wholesalers – have helped to push the prison population to 1,600,000; their imprisonment is already straining federal and state budgets. In Mississippi, where drug offenders once had to serve 85 per cent of their sentences, they are now being required to serve less than a quarter. California has been ordered to release 40,000 inmates because its prisons are hugely overcrowded.

At the same time, some in the US are confused and fear that the new commission proposed by Congressman Eliot Engel, a man with a record of hostility to the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, may prove to be a broken reed. As he brought in his bill he added timidly: "Let me be absolutely clear that this bill has not been introduced to support the legalisation of illegal drugs. That is not something that I would like to see."

Part of the reason for the slow US retreat from the "war" is that the strategy of fighting it in foreign lands and not at home has proved valueless. Along the already sensitive frontier with Mexico the effect of US attempts to enforce a hard line by blasting drug dealers away has been bloody. Anxious to keep in check the flood of illegal immigrants into territory that once belonged to Mexico, Washington is building a wall and fence comparable to that which once cut through Berlin and that which is today causing havoc between Israelis and Palestinians.

In the areas of Mexico closest to the US frontier the toll of deaths in drug-related violence exceeded 7,000 people in 2009 (1,000 of them dying in January and February). This takes the death toll over three years to above 16,000, figures far in excess of US fatalities in Afghanistan. The bloodshed has continued despite – or perhaps because of – the intense US pressure on President Felipe Calderon to station a large part of the Mexican army in the region. It is deploying 49,000 men on its own soil in the campaign against drugs, a larger force than the 46,000 Britain sent to take part in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003. But still the blood flows.

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And, from across the Atlantic:

UK Citizenship Cannabis Project 2009

Follow the money



Standing at the pump, watching the numbers tick away, do you ever wonder where the money goes? You're not alone: People on the other end of the pipeline are wondering too. While we feel the pinch in our pockets, citizens of oil-producing countries are often not seeing the profits.

Humor: Lewis Black - The Old Testament



How it is, was and will be.

Don’t give money to Haiti

...The problem is that Haiti, if it wasn’t a failed state before the earthquake, is almost certainly a failed state now — and one of the lessons we’ve learned from trying to rebuild failed states elsewhere in the world is that throwing money at the issue is very likely to backfire.

What’s more, charities raising money for Haiti right now are going to have to earmark that money to be spent in Haiti and in Haiti only. For a Haiti-specific charity like Yele, that’s not an option. But as The Smoking Gun shows, Yele is not the soundest of charitable institutions: it has managed only one tax filing in its 12-year existence, and it has a suspicious habit of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paying either Wyclef Jean personally or paying companies where he’s a controlling shareholder, or paying his recording-studio expenses. If you want to be certain that your donation will be well spent, you might be a bit worried that, for instance, Yele is going to be receiving 20% of the proceeds of the telethon.

Meanwhile, none of the money from the telethon will go to the wholly admirable Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders, which has already received enough money over the past three days to keep its Haiti mission running for the best part of the next decade. MSF is behaving as ethically as it can, and has determined that the vast majority of the spike in donations that it’s received in the past few days was intended to be spent in Haiti. It will therefore earmark that money for Haiti, and try to spend it there over the coming years, even as other missions, elsewhere in the world, are still in desperate need of resources. Do give money to MSF, then, but if you do, make sure that your donation is unrestricted. The charity will do its very best in Haiti either way, but by allowing your money to be spent anywhere, you will help people in dire need all over the world, not just in Haiti...

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Focus on Haiti - The politics of rice





In 2008, in the midst of the global food crisis, we travelled to Haiti to look at the politics of rice - how such a fertile country became dependent on food aid. In the wake of this current disaster, that dependence is - initially - going to deepen. But as relief efforts slowly turn to plans for reconstruction, it is important to look back at the policies that brought Haiti to the brink in the first place, and the people who had their own vision of self-sufficiency all along. Avi Lewis talks about the US role in the development of Haiti with PJ Crowley, the spokesman at the US state department, and Emira Woods, the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and an expert on US foreign policy.

Slavery in US prisons - Interview with Robert King & Terry Kupers



"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." --13th Amendment, 1865.

An 18,000-acre former slave plantation in rural Louisiana, the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is the largest prison in the U.S. Today, with African Americans composing over 75% of Angola's 5,108 prisoners, prison guards known as "free men," a forced 40-hour workweek, and four cents an hour as minimum wage, the resemblance to antebellum U.S. slavery is striking. In the early 1970s, it was even worse, as prisoners were forced to work 96-hour weeks (16 hours a day/six days a week) with two cents an hour as minimum wage. Officially considered (according to its own website) the "Bloodiest Prison in the South" at this time, violence from guards and between prisoners was endemic. Prison authorities sanctioned prisoner rape, and according to former Prison Warden Murray Henderson, the prison guards actually helped facilitate a brutal system of sexual slavery where the younger and physically weaker prisoners were bought and sold into submission. As part of the notorious "inmate trusty guard" system, responsible for killing 40 prisoners and seriously maiming 350 between 1972-75, some prisoners were given state-issued weapons and ordered to enforce this sexual slavery, as well as the prison's many other injustices. Life at Angola was living hell -- a 20th century slave plantation.

Black Panthers Robert Hillary King, Albert Woodfox, and Herman Wallace are known as the "Angola Three." Woodfox and Wallace were co-founders of a Black Panther Party chapter at Angola in the early 1970s. These Panthers saw life at Angola as modern-day slavery and fought back with non-violent hunger strikes and work strikes. Prison authorities were outraged by the BPP's organizing, and retaliated by framing these three BPP organizers for murders that they did not commit. Woodfox and Wallace were both framed for the 1972 stabbing death of white prison guard Brent Miller, and have now spent over 37 years in solitary confinement. King was framed for a 1973 murder of another prisoner, and spent 29 years in solitary confinement until he was released from in 2001 after his conviction was overturned.

This new video released by Angola 3 News is the third part of an interview conducted with Robert King and Terry Kupers in October 2009, in Oakland, CA. when King was in town for Black Panther History Month. In the first two parts King and Kupers discussed the psychological impact of imprisonment (watch here). In this new video, Robert King and Dr. Terry Kupers, argue that slavery persists today in Angola and other U.S. prisons, citing the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which legalizes slavery in prisons as "a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." As King says: "You can be legally incarcerated but morally innocent."

Dr. Terry Kupers, M.D., M.S.P. wrote the introduction to Robert King's 2008 autobiography entitled From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Robert Hillary King, and is Institute Professor at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. Dr. Kupers is a psychiatrist with a background in psychoanalytic psychotherapy, forensics and social and community psychiatry. His forensic psychiatry experience includes testimony in several large class action litigations concerning jail and prison conditions, sexual abuse, and the quality of mental health services inside correctional facilities. He is a consultant to Human Rights Watch, and author of the 1999 book entitled Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It.

This video features archival photos from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal editor Douglas A. Blackmon, entitled Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.

Why the use of a nuclear weapon, most probably on a U.S. city, is becoming likely

...Dear enemies,

A few days ago I sent the following letter…:

Admiral Timothy J. Keating
Commander
Northern Command
northcompa@northcom.mil
Dear Admiral Keating,

    Rummy is nuts.  Your upcoming nuclear 'exercise', (response to a make-believe terrorist nuking), is now making the rounds of the alternative Internet news.  I clicked to the Northern Command site from www.rense.com. Can't see how it would not as the false-flags of 9/11 and London had many concurrent military exercises.

    Here is a joke that was going around Norfolk awhile back: Imagine a big plate of spaghetti.  You know what military unit markers are on maps.  Imagine a whole shaker of them.  Sprinkle them all over the spaghetti. Now you need some small arrows, curved and straight.  Get a shaker of these and sprinkle them all over also.  What have you got?  That's General Montgomery's and General Patton's assault on Sicily reworked by Rummy's Joint Forces Command.

    Joint Forces Command has the real function of making the command structure so complicated that at any given moment only a few insiders know what is really going on.  Therein an army Lieutenant. could at some moment out-rank a naval Captain etc.  All in awe of those 'officers' with some strange inside connections.  And most of those officers who do seem 'connected' in that way are so unprintably strange I pity those who must salute them.  Joint Forces Command, by hidden and convoluted command structure itself, has been turned into an SS sans jack boots.  Look at the colossal military mess with sea supply 'Van Riper'ly threatened and the air supply through the Stans facing ten divisions.  Courtesy the 'bunker boys' someplace underground near Tampa.

    This leads, sir, to an obvious question.  While you are in Ft. Monroe as commander of this 'make believe' nuking will you in fact be truly and fully in command?

    Sincerely,
    Michael Donovan
    Camden, Maine

I have lived through, and been close to, two separate nuclear threats.  One was in 54 as a child and the other in 1984.  Neither is well known.  There is an unmistakable energy, a 'feel', leading up to these events.  This dire energy is emerging again.  I reason that unlike the other close-calls only wider, vastly wider, understanding of the overall problem could defuse this.

The letter was posted on a number of Internet sites.  I see now that I need be far more specific.  The simple broadcast of the exercise itself has irrevocably changed the entire nuclear landscape. The underlying nuclear threat is not seen correctly.  It is not seen correctly either by the masses or by the rulers who for six decades have held a very different view of atomic bombs, a view never presented to the masses.  Nuclear threat dynamics are changing more quickly than any sensible pragmatic reaction. Even with a stand-down of this exercise, and a clear up-to-date dialogue concerning how nuclear threats emerge, the known concept of the exercise alone will be dangerously counter-productive.  It could blow up.  And if it does not blow up, it will still lead down that blow-back greased slope.  We are tending toward a nuclear event one way or another...

~ more... ~

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