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July 2008
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Open Thread

“bullet” Misha Glenny: A dangerous fiction

The time has come to shout from every rooftop that the war on drugs hands billions of pounds on a plate to criminal syndicates and terrorist organisations every year. Senior policymakers, police commanders and politicians have all told me in private that the war on drugs does nothing to halt the flow of product to market. But they are all too frightened to speak out against the prevailing orthodoxy.

“bullet” Thanks to Daksya for the link to this 7 page whine by Thomas Schweich (former State Department coordinator of counternarcotics) in the New York Times: Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?. The thing is, I don’t doubt the accuracy of much of what he says, but the only reality he can see is drug war. His five-point plan at the end of the article is quite frankly, absurd.

Inform President Karzai that he must stop protecting drug lords and narco-farmers or he will lose U.S. support. Karzai should issue a new decree of zero tolerance for poppy cultivation during the coming growing season. He should order farmers to plant wheat, and guarantee today‰s high wheat prices. Karzai must simultaneously authorize aggressive force-protected manual and aerial eradication of poppies in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces for those farmers who do not plant legal crops.
Order the Pentagon to support this strategy. Position allied and Afghan troops in places that create security pockets so that Afghan counternarcotics police can arrest powerful drug lords. Enable force-protected eradication with the Afghan-set goal of eradicating 50,000 hectares as the benchmark.
Increase the number of D.E.A. agents in Kabul and assist the Afghan attorney general in prosecuting key traffickers and corrupt government officials from all ethnic groups, including southern Pashtuns.
Get new development projects quickly to the provinces that become poppy-free or stay poppy free. The north should see significant rewards for its successful anticultivation efforts. Do not, however, provide cash to farmers for eradication.
Ask the allies either to help in this effort or stand down and let us do the job.

Update: See Barnett Rubin at Informed Comment: Global Affairs for a good critique: Assume the Existence of a State in Afghanistan
“bullet” Tousawlaw catches Margaret Wente answering questions about her propaganda series in the Globe and Mail. At one point she says”

Marijuana legalization seems so easy! But it‰s very vexed.Here‰s one part of the problem. If we legalize it, someone is going to make a huge amount of money from promoting and selling it. Who do you want that to be? Private enterprise, like Big Tobacco? Or your government? Do you want your government shilling weed the way it does the lottery?

Tousawlaw notes:

Ummm, someone already is making a huge profit promoting and selling it. Is that who Ms. Wente thinks should be doing so?

“bullet” In Athens, Greece, Anna Korakaki was arrested for ordering hemp protein from a United States health food company and charged with four counts of criminal drug possession.

The day of Anna Korakaki’s arrest, her friends went to a local health food store in Athens to purchase a loaf of sprouted hemp bread (meaning that whole hemp seeds had been imported to Greece, then sprouted and ground for baking). The bread was brought before the judge to demonstrate that hemp foods are available in Greece, which seemed to shock the judge, but made no difference to his thinking towards Anna’s parole.

[Thanks, Tom]

“bullet” Marijuana Polic Project has a blog.
“bullet” “drcnet”

Rachel Hoffman continues to fail to die

National Media Interest ‘Intense’ Over Hoffman Case

“Other officers around the country that see this story when ’20/20′ runs it – as well as the jurisdictions around Tallahassee that have seen the coverage already – are going to see what happened there and ask why. “No one is going to ignore this. I can promise […]

More outrages

Last week, I mentioned the excellent OpEd by Joy Strickland of Mothers Against Teen Violence: Drug laws fertilize teen violence
Well, special agent in charge of the Dallas Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency James Capra responded (can’t have people thinking that the drug war is bad for teens).
Here are a couple of his more outrageous comments:

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that legalization or decriminalization would reduce crime in our communities.

and

For Ms. Strickland to suggest that she “is not aware of one single death directly caused by marijuana” or that it “is irrational to lock up an individual because of what he chooses to put into to his own body” as justification to decriminalize is disturbing logic.

What’s disturbing is that our tax dollars are paying for him to lie to us. Prompt at Newsvine does a nice job of taking this apart.

Elsewhere, we have an idiotic background paper from The Heritage Foundation written by Ray Walser, their Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America: Mexico, Drug Cartels, and the Merida Initiative: A Fight We Cannot Afford to Lose. Now, much of this very long background article is just providing, well, the background, but Walser lacks even the basic understanding of drug policy, drug use, and the effects of prohibition, which results in very bizarre statements:

Drug consumption and the resulting international trade in controlled substances remain one of the greatest man-made catastrophes of the past 30 years.

What? Drug consumption is a man-made catastrophe? Anything else related to drug policy perhaps have an impact in the past 30 years? Bueller? Bueller?
Of course, the idiot gets his “facts” from Walters.

Despite modest progress, continued U.S. drug consumption is a root cause and a central driver of drug-related violence in Mexico. John P. Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Pol icy (ONDCP), recently exclaimed, “We will all need to come to grips that American consumers are fund ing the violence. We share responsibility, and we need to do more to help!”

Drug-related violence. Right. And even worse, in Walser’s words, later:

Drug violence inevitably translates into economic losses as well as human loses.[sic]

Drug violence? What is that?

The Mexican people are besieged by the continuing drug violence. […] Much of the intensified drug violence in Mexico is the result of open warfare among the dif ferent trafficking organizations. Undoubtedly, many of Mexico’s mounting drug casualties are traffickers murdered by traffickers. […] Military surge operations have targeted several epicenters of the drug violence [emphasis added]

Don’t you mean prohibition violence?
The conclusion was so dramatically over the top, I couldn’t help laughing:

Mexico is teetering on the brink of another crisis, which involves bullets rather than banking policies and exchange rates. The victims of this crisis range from honest cops and Mexican children to American youth who become hooked on cocaine or methamphetamines.
Mexico and the U.S. face the same enemy: elusive, sophisticated, resourceful, and violent transnational criminal networks that exploit U.S. and Mexican weaknesses and vulnerabilities, defy historical concepts of sovereignty and nationhood, supply the most dangerous and darkest human desires, and undermine the foundations of democratic goverÜnance and the basic concepts of free societies. Making common cause against such an enemy makes eminently good sense.

Oh, and according to Ray Walser’s bio his “areas of policy research and interest include defending the values of freedom and individual liberty.”

Who watches the watchers?

When looking at these stories, keep in mind that drug policy reform could just as easily be the target in each of these.
“bullet” Maryland Troopers spied on activist groups

Undercover Maryland state troopers infiltrated three groups advocating peace and protesting the death penalty Ö attending meetings and sending reports on their activities to U.S. intelligence and military agencies, according to documents released Thursday. […]
‡ On Oct. 3, 2005, an undercover state police agent attending a meeting of activists ferreted out the fact that antiwar protesters were laying plans to distribute fliers at the Towson Town Center mall.

Hmmm, our meetings are much more interesting.
“bullet” They could be eavesdropping. In Massachusetts, where they opposed federal spying on citizens, they apparently want to do it themselves:

MASSACHUSETTS residents are on the verge of losing a fundamental protection from government spying if the Legislature and governor approve a bill to give prosecutors the power to seize Internet, telephone, and electronic communications records – without judicial oversight and without notifying a citizen they have done so.
The attorney general and district attorneys have attached their power grab to a bill aimed at increasing sentences for sex offenders, which is named “An Act to Further Protect Children” or “Jessica’s Law.” However, the power that they seek isn’t limited to investigations of suspected sex offenders or child abuse cases. It is a general grant of unchecked power to district attorneys and the attorney general that can be used against all of us.

Yeah, make it a bill to go after sex offenders, but allow police to use it for anything. Who will vote against that?
“bullet” And score one for the good guys. From the ACLU:

We just received word today that the Third Circuit struck down a federal Internet censorship law as unconstitutional. The law, called the Child Online Protection Act, imposed civil and criminal penalties on those who place ‹harmful to minorsŠ material on the Web. Under this law, no adult, no matter how mature or responsible, would have been allowed to see material that is deemed unfit for a child. The law would have forced vast swaths of constitutionally protected speech off of the Web.

That’s good news. I’ve been involved in the fight against internet censorship since the predecessor of COPA (the Communications Decency Act) back in 1996 — I was part of 24 hours of Democracy — my first major internet activism.
These are where the real fights for our freedom take place. Not on the Iraq/Pakistan border.

Jim Webb

Senator Jim Webb was just on the Colbert Report and mentioned that the U.S. has 25% of the world’s prison population and only 5% of the world’s population, and that we need to do something about that. Imprison those who are dangerous, but stop trying to just look “tough on crime.” He stumbled over it […]

Faith-based drug warrior

View at your own risk

Bad journalism and a bad girl

“bullet” Talk about selective historical memory… A very bizarre article in the Guardian: Gangs have made Dublin ‘like Chicago in the 1920s’ makes the parallel between today’s drug gangs and the alcohol gangsters of 20’s Chicago, yet never mentions prohibition.
“bullet” Christian Science Monitor has a piece about an effort to convince environmentally conscious cocaine users that their recreational drug use is harming the environment. The project is being run by Colombian officials. It’s an irresponsible article, which we thoroughly and excellently critiqued in the comments.
“bullet” Margaret Wente really stinks up the place in her final installment of her series with Legalization In Disguise with random statements like these:

In Mr. Weselowski’s view, harm reduction is a farce. “They’re killing people by the truckload,” he says. […]
The noisy marijuana lobby provides a lot of fuel for this crusade, despite the fact that pot is not the issue. […]
Not surprisingly, the group that runs Insite, Vancouver’s safe-injection site, stridently opposes current drug laws, as does the publicly funded drug users’ lobby, VANDU. These two groups are notorious for the noisy lengths they go to in order to silence their critics. […]
Sadly, all this theatre has deprived Canadians of a genuine debate over drug policy.

She even found a way to blame Soros in there. Really horribly bad journalism.
“bullet” DEA bad girl Director Michele Leonhart gave a speech to the International Drug Enforcement Conference. In her world, drug enforcement efforts are doing just fine.

These are just some of the new challenges we all face as we fight a nimble and global enemy. However, we have proven that we are an even more innovative, skilled, and flexible global force. We‰ve proven that no agency or nation can succeed alone in this fight against transnational criminals. In just the last year, we have succeeded beyond what any of us probably hoped for when we met in Madrid.
We are making history against some of the most powerful narco-terrorists, cartels, and global traffickers.

And check out this completely delusional take on Mexico:

In the U.S., we feel the effects of Mexico‰s success. Combined with other enforcement efforts, in the U.S. we‰re seeing a 15-month long sustained trend where prices for meth soared 56 percent and cocaine 30 percent and purity for both dropped by double digits.

And, of course, to the drug warriors, even failure is an indication of success

Inevitably, with our coordinated, successful attacks on drug networks and supply, drug traffickers become more frustrated and more violent.

which is a horrible disconnect with a statement just sentences later

We make a difference in the lives of the citizens we‰re sworn to protect and keep all our countries safer.

Safety through violent and unending war. Right.

Unintentionally accurate headline

Smith: Confused About War on Drugs Yes, he is.

I don’t get it

Can someone explain this to me? New weapon launched in drug war It’s all about the creation of a database of DNA profiles of cannabis plants that will be “ready for police operations in just over a year.” As science, it’s interesting, but as a “weapon” for police, i really don’t understand it. What actual […]

Open Thread

Lots of stuff here… “bullet” Scott Morgan covers another segment of Margaret Wente’s horrible series in the Globe and Mail. In this one, she just makes up her “facts” out of thin air. He suggests you write Globe and Mail. I agree. “bullet” Bob Barr Endorses Accountability Now/Strange Bedfellows coalition. Good for him. Not specifically […]