Sunday, August 26, 2007

Government Lies About the Drug War: A Podcast Interview With Criminal Justice Professor Matthew Robinson

The “war on drugs” doesn’t consume as much oxygen in the public square as it used to. In September 1989, President George Herbert Walker Bush, spoke from the Oval Office, held up a plastic bag filled with white contents and announced,
“This is crack cocaine seized a few days ago in a park across the street from the White House . . . It could easily have been heroin or PCP.”
For Bush this speech was public relations homage to an issue that dominated the media and politics during the 1980s. It also impacted Bush’s 1988 presidential election campaign. The near hysteria about the “crack” epidemic in particular resulted in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. This act established The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). According to their website,
“The principal purpose of ONDCP is to establish policies, priorities, and objectives for the Nation's drug control program. The goals of the program are to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences. To achieve these goals, the Director of ONDCP is charged with producing the National Drug Control Strategy. The Strategy directs the Nation's anti-drug efforts and establishes a program, a budget, and guidelines for cooperation among Federal, State, and local entities.”
The General Accounting Office reported that as of 2000, ONDCP’s annual budget was almost $20 billion. Depending on whether one factors local incarcerations and law enforcement costs we continue to spend billions annually. So as tax payers, how are we to assess the ONDCP’s performance? Are they having any success at achieving their goals? Do they have the right goals? Is ONDCP accomplishing anything useful or simply justifying its own existence and sustaining the prison industrial complex?

Understandably, we have other things on our minds these days. The “war on terror” has dwarfed the “war on drugs” in recent years and unlike 1988, receiving little attention from presidential candidates this time around. However, given the health repercussions of drugs on society as well as the impact on our justice system, foreign policy, and economy, a thorough analysis of the ONDCP’s efforts are in order.

One interesting cost-benefit analysis of the drug war was posted online by Brian C. Bennett, who in 2005 concluded that,
“trying to stop people from using drugs is still costing us more than three times as much as the drug abuse itself.”
Two Appalachian State University professors provide another sobering analysis: Matthew B. Robinson, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Renee G. Scherlen, Associate Professor of Political Science. Their book, Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (State University of New York Press) primarily focuses on data published by the ONDCP from 2000-2006. They also provide an instructive historical overview about America’s war on drugs dating back to 1875 and illustrate the common themes of racism, media hyperbole and bureaucratic self-interest that have helped define this country’s drug policies.

Robinson, an author of six books, including most recently, Death Nation: The Experts Explain Capital Punishment, agreed to a podcast interview with me about his book and the war on drugs. Please refer to the media player below. This interview is just over thirty minutes and can also be accessed at no cost via the Itunes Store by searching for "Intrepid Liberal Journal."

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Karl Rove/Clinton Gambit

My apologies for not posting anything in recent days. A brutal combination of illness and my day job intervened.

I did want to at least post my theory about Karl Rove's recent commentary regarding Hillary Clinton's "high negatives." Obviously, Senator Clinton being on the receiving end of Rove's attention is beneficial to her campaign and Rove knows this. Naturally, this leads to speculation that Rove wants Senator Clinton to prevail in next year's primaries because he perceives her as the Democrats weakest candidate. Senator Clinton's defenders will no doubt claim Rove's attention illustrates she is the strongest candidate and Rove wants her softened up.

This is my take. Rove knows that among the three Democrats perceived among the establishment as most likely to be nominated, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Senator Clinton, she is the most likely to maintain a long term American presence in Iraq. Although Clinton has adjusted her rhetoric about the war and her vote in 2002 to become more palatable to core Democratic voters, she once again was cautious about implementing a withdrawal during yesterday's debate in Iowa.

Rove meanwhile may be thinking that if the next President pulls out of Iraq, Bush's legacy will lose any remaining chance to be salvaged. He also knows the GOP is headed toward its worst defeat since 1964. Hence, the highest probability for staying in Iraq after the election and vindicating the Bush/Cheney immoral war of choice is Hillary Clinton. At least that's probably how Karl Rove sees it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Replacing the Empire Culture: A Podcast Interview With Author David Korten

“There is a culture war in America, but it is not between liberals and conservatives, who in fact share a great many core values – including a commitment to children, family, community, personal responsibility and democracy. It is between the lower and higher orders of our human nature. It is between an imperial politics of individual greed and power and a democratic politics based on principle and the common good. It is between Power Seekers at the extreme political fringes who remain imprisoned in an Imperial Consciousness and the realists of the political mainstream who truly want to solve the problems that beset us all.”
David Korten wrote those provocative words in his book, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community published last year by Berrett-Kohler.

Korten worked for more than thirty-five years in preeminent business, academic, and international development institutions. He eventually turned away from the establishment and instead worked with public interest citizen action groups. He is the co-founder and board chair of the Positive Futures Network and Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures, an associate of the International Forum on Globalization and a member of the Club of Rome. He serves on the boards of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economics and the Bainbridge Graduate Institute.

In his early career, Korten set up business schools in low-income countries starting with Ethiopia, hoping to help establish a new class of professional business entrepreneurs would be the key to ending global poverty. He also completed his military service stateside during the Vietnam War as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, with duty at the Special Air Warfare School, Air Force headquarters command, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Following his service in the military, Korten was a faculty member of the Harvard University Graduate School of Business where he taught in Harvard’s middle management, M.B.A. and doctoral programs. Korten also served as Harvard’s adviser to the Central American Management Institute in Nicaragua and later joined the staff of the Harvard Institute for International Development, where he headed a Ford Foundation funded project to strengthen the organization and management of national family planning programs.

When Korten left academia in 1970 he moved to Southeast Asia where he lived for almost fifteen years, serving as a Ford Foundation project specialist and later as Asia regional advisor on development management in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). His work there earned Korten international recognition for helping to engineer the development of intervention strategies for transforming public bureaucracies into responsive support systems dedicated to strengthening community control and management of land, water and forestry resources.

Korten ultimately broke with the international aid system when he became convinced they were actually increasing poverty and environmental destruction and impervious to change. During the last five years of Korten’s work in Asia he coordinated with leaders of Asian nongovernmental organizations on identifying the root causes of development failure in the region and building the capacity of civil society organizations to better facilitate positive global level change.

Korten’s life experience abroad convinced him that the United States was actively promoting both at home and abroad – the very policies responsible for, inequality, environmental devastation and social disintegration. At that point a friend advised Korten he would best serve the cause of ending global poverty by returning to the United States and educating his fellow Americans about the destructive role of corporate imperialism. Hence, Korten returned to the United States in 1992 to share with his fellow Americans the lessons he had learned abroad.

Ironically, Korten’s original motivation for international travel as a college senior in 1959 was to persuade the world’s poor to reject revolution in favor of America’s political and economic system. Instead, as he writes, Korten found himself learning far more from the people he hoped to teach:
“The subsequent experience of working for some thirty years as a member of the international development establishment profoundly changed my worldview. I had gone abroad to teach. Far more consequential than what I taught was what I learned – about myself, my country, and the human tragedy of unrealized possibility. Ultimately, I realized I must return to the land of my birth to share with my people the lessons of my encounter with the world.”
In 1995 Korten published an international bestseller, When Corporations Rule the World and followed that up with The Post Corporate World: Life After Capitalism several years later. Korten agreed to a podcast interview with me about his current book, life experience and worldview. Please refer to the media player below. The interview is approximately fifty-six minutes.

This interview can also be accessed at no cost via the Itunes store by searching for Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Words of the People

How often do you read letters to the editor in newspapers? I do everyday. They can be a treasure house of golden nuggets. In today's New York Times (subscription required), Carol Shlesinger, of Livingston, New Jersey, wrote the following about the Protect America Act recently passed by the Democratic congress and signed into law by President Bush:
"I have no objection to increasing powers of surveillance by the administration as long as there is a quid pro quo: give the voting public the same rights of surveillance of their elected executive branch.

We could start with records of the lies leading up to the invasion of Iraq; continue with the list of those attending Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy conference; include phone records on the role of Alberto R. Gonzales and others in the firing of United States attorneys and ascertain who was responsible for inadequately protecting our troops with proper equipment and support.

After all, these are matters of national security."
Now why didn't I think of that? Ms Schlesinger, you should start a blog.

And this caustic letter from Fred Roberts of Decatur, Georgia absolutely speaks for me:
"To their shame, 16 Democrats in the Senate and 41 in the House voted to hand the president monarchical powers that the signers of the Constitution had withheld. The Fourth Amendment has served to safeguard citizens against warrantless searches and seizures; this president says instead: Just trust me.

These Democrats will no doubt be astonished, but Republicans will not stop calling them weak on terrorism. The rest of us just think they’re weak, period."
Mr. Roberts, that's what I call telling it like it is.

The American people are broadly culpable for empowering the Bush Administration's six year reign of indecency. Thankfully, in Ms. Schlesinger and Mr. Roberts there are at least two citizens who get it. A generation ago President Nixon referred to the "silent majority." I desperately hope that Ms. Schlesinger and Mr. Roberts represent the emergence of a newly empowered progressive majority that will keep silent no longer. Silence has empowered the agents of indecency for too long.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Anniversary of Death

The Liberal Journal (no relation to my site) has an important post about the anniversary of our dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima sixty-two years ago today. Growing up I was fed a steady diet of justification and rationalization for the destruction my country unleashed at the end of World War Two. Although I remain an admirer of President Harry Truman and can understand why he justified the decision, it was wrong. I’ve come to that point of view reluctantly. Too reluctantly and I’m not proud of it. As the Liberal Journal appropriately points out, we ought to study and examine the real horror we inflicted when casually discussing the use of nuclear weapons in Iran, Pakistan or anywhere else on this planet.

While Harry Truman cannot be absolved of this egregious lapse in moral judgment, I can sympathize with the conundrum he faced at the time. And he didn’t have the benefit of history to guide his decision. We don’t have that excuse.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Forty-One Lame Donkeys

After watching the Republican presidential debate this morning, I am reminded yet again why I vote Democrat no matter my disenchantment. Ron Paul of Texas merits respect even though I disagree with some of his far out libertarian views. The rest are a scary group of fear mongers who shamelessly equate the struggle against militant Islam with 1938 during the Nazi Era or the conflict with Soviet communism.

They're a cabal of one note insipid careerists who have no sense of proportion, history or perspective. And the record shows conservative doctrine about combating terrorism weakens America's geopolitical position. In particular, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani is a joke. This trite figure of testosterone banality actually put his emergency communication center in the World Trade Center following the first bombing in 1993. Why the hell should we trust his judgment?

With fiscal and tax policies this group offers standard conservative boilerplate to justify rewarding wealth over work. Once again we hear the same supply side nonsense that an economy can be "grown" and not nurtured. How do we deal with crumbling infrastructure problems such as the collapsing bridge in Minnesota? Why cut taxes of course. Cutting taxes is the magical elixir that will enhance revenue without pain as as our blood and treasure continues to be spilled in Iraq and Afghanistan. What planet are these people living on?

The Republican presidential candidates also boasted this morning that they support replacing the income tax with the so called "fair tax." What's fair about a sales tax that sanctions working people with a 23% fee? What this is really about of course is the Republicans coddling wealth at the expense of the middle class. They don't want to tax capital gains or people earning high incomes. But they're more than happy to levy a 23% tax on single moms for purchasing groceries. And they're opposed to expanding health coverage for that single mom's kids. If anyone raises an objection to those policies they're attacked for waging class warfare.

So I remain with the donkey party. Putting all that aside however, much work remains to be done in transforming my party. It's wonderful that Democratic presidential candidates are attending Yearly Kos and ignoring the Democratic Leadership Council. But we still have a long way to go.

Forty-one pathetic Democrats in the House of Representatives supported the Bush Administration's grab at more power for the executive branch and voted in favor of the recent domestic surveillance bill. How can Democrats support giving a proven congenital liar such as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales even more power with this bill?

Obviously, the Democratic Party continues to suffer from battered wife syndrome. Below is a list of the forty-one House Democrats who supported this bill. If any of them represent your district, please click here to express your objections.

Jason Altmire (4th Pennsylvania)
John Barrow (12th Georgia)
Melissa Bean (8th Illinois)
Dan Boren (2nd Oklahoma)
Leonard Boswell (3rd Iowa)
Allen Boyd (2nd Florida)
Christopher Carney (10th Pennsylvania)
Ben Chandler (6th Kentucky)
Rep. Jim Cooper (5th Tennessee)
Jim Costa (20th California)
Bud Cramer (5th Alabama)
Henry Cuellar (28th Texas)
Artur Davis (7th Alabama)
Lincoln Davis (4th Tennessee)
Joe Donnelly (2nd Indiana)
Chet Edwards (17th Texas)
Brad Ellsworth (8th Indiana)
Bob Etheridge (North Carolina)
Bart Gordon (6th Tennessee)
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (South Dakota)
Brian Higgins (27th New York)
Baron Hill (9th Indiana)
Nick Lampson (23rd Texas)
Daniel Lipinski (3rd Illinois)
Jim Marshall (8th Georgia)
Jim Matheson (2nd Utah)
Mike McIntyre (7th North Carolina)
Charlie Melancon (3rd Louisiana)
Harry Mitchell (5th Arizona)
Colin Peterson (7th Minnesota)
Earl Pomeroy (North Dakota)
Ciro Rodriguez (23rd Texas)
Mike Ross (4th Arkansas)
John Salazar (3rd Colorado)
Heath Shuler (11th North Carolina)
Vic Snyder (2nd Arkansas)
Zachary Space (18th Ohio)
John Tanner (8th Tennessee)
Gene Taylor (4th Mississippi)
Timothy Walz (1st Minnesota)
Charles A. Wilson (6th Ohio)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Thank You Chris Dodd

I've been a member of Daily Kos for nineteen months. Over that period I've become disenchanted with the site's direction and highly mistrust the motives of Markos Moulistas. They're many terrific members of the Daily Kos community and I appreciate the platform they provide for progressive bloggers such as myself. Unfortunately, Markos and the front pagers are more consumed with "winning" under the Democratic Party's label than the cause of real reform. Furthermore, I resent the banning of My Left Wing's Maryscott O'Connor and others for daring to point out the site's flaws. Hence, my misgivings about Daily Kos.

Putting those feelings aside, I highly appreciate the spirited defense of Senator Chris Dodd against Bill O'Reilly's smear tactics. O'Reilly has been waging a fanatical campaign of lies and distortion against Daily Kos and the progressive blogosphere as a whole.

The mere fact that five Democratic presidential candidates, including the "establishment" front runner Hillary Clinton are attending Yearly Kos illustrates the growing power of the netroots. It wasn't so long ago the Democratic Party's establishment treated us progressive bloggers as step children. How wonderful that the vile and corporatist Democratic Leadership Council is currently in the wilderness while progressive bloggers are courted.

So when Bill O'Reilly attempts to "swift boat" Daily Kos, he's also attacking each of us among the progressive netroots who want to prevent Christian corporatists from causing more damage and shame for our country. O'Reilly and his kind represent the dark underbelly of America's reactionary subculture that feeds off hate, homophobia, xenophobia and exploits fear for self-aggrandizement. They're a waste of skin with the blood of children who go without health insurance, soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as non-combatants who have been killed or tortured on their hands.

Thank you Chris Dodd for putting Bill O'Reilly in his place. It's regrettable the mainstream media doesn't consider thoughtful candidates such as yourself as belonging to the "first tier." Now please watch this inspirational clip from YouTube.