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July 2008



Obama in Rolling Stone


The War on Drugs has cost taxpayers $500 billion since 1973. Nearly 500,000 people are behind bars on drug charges today, yet drugs are as available as ever. Do you plan to continue the War on Drugs, or will you make some significant change in course?
Anybody who sees the devastating impact of the drug trade in the inner cities, or the methamphetamine trade in rural communities, knows that this is a huge problem. I believe in shifting the paradigm, shifting the model, so that we focus more on a public-health approach. I can say this as an ex-smoker: We’ve made enormous progress in making smoking socially unacceptable. You think about auto safety and the huge success we’ve had in getting people to fasten their seat belts.
The point is that if we’re putting more money into education, into treatment, into prevention and reducing the demand side, then the ways that we operate on the criminal side can shift. I would start with nonviolent, first-time drug offenders. The notion that we are imposing felonies on them or sending them to prison, where they are getting advanced degrees in criminality, instead of thinking about ways like drug courts that can get them back on track in their lives Ö it’s expensive, it’s counterproductive, and it doesn’t make sense.

[Via Transform]

Do we really want a President operating our nuclear facilities?

It is the silly season, but this goes beyond to some kind of twilight zone. John McCain gave a speech at the NAACP convention, and authorized Dr. Ada Fisher (candidate for the House in North Carolina) to speak as official surrogate to journalists. Here is part of what she said:

‹áObama in his book about his father talked about his use of drugs. And I think it‰s disingenuous of people to vote for somebody for President when you won‰t allow a drug user in any secure or nuclear facility. Yet we as a nation, are willing to consider making somebody President of the United States I think that speaks very poorlyáBill Clinton said he smoked but he didn‰t inhaleáBut he didn‰t come out and flagrantly say he used drugsáand if that‰s going to be our standard God helps us in nuclear facilities and secure facilities who have this kind of history..and this nation must be very careful when it lowers the bar on who and what it will accept.” […]
“See, if you admit it, it should disqualify you. Otherwise, we‰ll have to let all those people who áapplied for jobs in these facilitiesáThere is a reason that those rules are there. I was a detox director for 16 counties in North Carolina , so I have a great understanding about what drugs and what they do to people. And I know that in moments of weakness, people tend to revert those things that they‰ve used in the past. I don‰t think it‰s disingenuous, I don‰t think its fair. If I ran for President of the U.S. and I had that history, I would expect people to look at that very carefully. We cannot have a nation high on drugs and have the Presidentá as an example.”

Now I’ve read Ada’s bio, and while she has some odd thoughts, she doesn’t appear to be stupider than a post, so I’ve got to believe that she’s purposely being stupid for political reasons (which is even worse).
First, I wonder if in her experience as detox director for 16 counties, she ever ran across a person having difficulties with alcohol. Ya think? Is it possible that someone could ever revert to using alcohol? Is it possible that we’ve ever had a President who admitted to using alcohol in the past? Oh, wait.
Second, when did it become a better qualification for President to lie about their past than to tell the truth?
And finally, when did President and nuclear facilities employees end up with the same qualifications? Does this mean that nuclear facilities will have to start employing 72-year-olds who don’t know how to get on the internet?
My view on qualifications for President is that whoever is President should have some real world experience. Nobody should be allowed to be President unless:

They’ve held several non-political jobs.
They’ve traveled abroad and they actively seek out new experiences.
They’ve enjoyed a wide range of cultural offerings, including music, theatre, art, literature.
They’ve had a close friend from a different race (or at least, from a different socio-economic background).
They’ve surfed the web and read a wide range of blogs.
They’ve inhaled.

[Thanks, Ethan]

Prison community dynamics

An interesting, and possibly telling, controversy boiled up in the Illinois House yesterday…

The Illinois House erupted in an angry confrontation over regionalism and race Wednesday, after a legislator from Chicago accused downstate lawmakers of wanting to stoke urban crime to make sure rural prisons don‰t close.
‹There are some people in the Illinois General Assembly who have prisons in their district, and their whole objective is to keep them filled,Š Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago, alleged in a morning committee hearing. She was referring to several downstate lawmakers from prison districts who were opposing a bill that would make it easier for ex-convicts to get business loans.

While Davis’ allegations continued in ways that were over the top, the reality is that she is probably right — at least to an extent. And it’s particularly relevant right now, due to controversy over the Illinois Governor’s threat to close Pontiac prison to help balance the budget.
We’ve talked before how the huge prison industry in this country has developed a life of its own — with the industry and its communities pushing for tougher laws and longer sentences in order to reap the benefits of budget, jobs, and disproportionate representation.
Will we now see this conflict appear openly on the state Legislatures? Perhaps it’s time for that to happen.