News and Opinion Based on Facts

Monday, March 29, 2010

How many Mexican Drug War Deaths Can We Attribute to U.S. Pot Laws?

Reprinted from Alternet

It's time to remove the production and distribution of marijuana out of the hands of violent criminal enterprises and into the hands of licensed businesses.

It was less than one year ago when acting U.S. DEA administrator Michelle Leonhart publicly 
declared that the escalating violence on the U.S./Mexico border should be viewed as a sign 
of the “success” of America’s drug war strategies.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Biden's Embarrassment and Hillary's Rage: Part of a Staged Effort to Push Israel Away?

Heather Robinson

Heather Robinson

Posted: March 20, 2010 12:29 AM

Is it just me, or does anyone else think last week's drama surrounding Vice President Joe Biden's supposed "embarrassment" and Hillary Clinton's rage over an Israeli decision to build 1600 apartments in East Jerusalem seems manufactured?
I have struggled mightily and sincerely to keep an open mind, and my respect for the Presidency--as well as my sincere hope that President Obama will do the right things vis a vis U.S. security and U.S. allies--have prevented me from being too critical of him thus far about anything, including foreign policy. But last week's brouhaha struck me as unfair towards Israel. It also struck me initially as downright weird, and given deeper thought, as potentially ominous.
At the center of the controversy is the decision--announced by a bureaucratic entity, Israel's Interior Ministry--to approve construction of 1,600 new homes for Israelis in East Jerusalem. This announcement, which was made during Vice President Biden's visit to discuss the "peace process," unleashed a tsunami of anger and reprimand by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and VP Biden towards Israel. Or so we are to believe.
In the name of diplomatic protocol, Clinton berated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for 45 minutes. Apparently, her words suggested that this announcement of apartment building construction in Israel's capital city threatens the U.S.-Israel relationship, because she not only called it "insulting" to the U.S., she used the opportunity to question Israel's commitment to its relationship with America.
Hmmm. Could there be some projection going on here?
For his part, Netanyahu apologized for the timing of the announcement. He said he had been surprised by the timing also. But he did not apologize for Israel's decision to build apartment buildings within its capital city.
Another thread in the drama concerned U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, who was said to have been gravely "embarrassed" by this announcement of building construction, to the point that he, too, rang up Bibi to express his mortification. (It's surprising, by the way, that if Biden were so embarrassed, he would voluntarily call so much attention his alleged embarrassment).
Is it credible that an Israeli announcement of building construction inflicted grave embarrassment on Biden? Or does it strike anyone as more likely that this claim is manufactured - as is this "crisis?"
For starters, these apartment buildings are not settlements in some disputed outpost. They are to be built in Jerusalem. Granted, in East Jerusalem, which is largely Arab. But the units are to be located in Ramat Shlomo, an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Apparently Ramat Shlomo is next to French Hill, a neighborhood of apartment buildings in Jerusalem where I stayed for a month when I visited Israel during college. Having spent quite a bit of time there, I can say it is no remote outpost, but squarely in the heart of Jerusalem.
Since when does Israel have no right to announce the building of apartment houses in its capital? Since when does any country have to get clearance to build on its sovereign territory?
It's true that Palestinians envision East Jerusalem as their capital city some day. But for now, and until Palestinians, including Palestinian leadership, demonstrate they want peace, East Jerusalem is not under their control. East Jerusalem is Israel. There is nothing illegal about building apartment buildings there. (Incidentally, I can entirely believe Netanyahu did not know about the timing of the announcement; as anyone who has spent time in Israel knows, it is a socialist state where almost any enterprise involves red tape and bureaucracy. It is not a stretch to imagine that Netanyahu had no idea when exactly this building project was scheduled to break ground, much less when it was going to be announced).
More significantly, last fall, in discussions with Netanyahu over settlement construction, President Obama accepted a limited 10-month moratorium that did not include the East Jerusalem area where the construction announced this week is to take place. In other words, President Obama knew Israel might build in this area - and had accepted it. Clinton at the time characterized Israel's concessions as "unprecedented."
Thus it is the Obama Administration--not Netanyahu's government--that is reneging. The Obama Administration knew--and even explicitly agreed to--accept construction in the very area where these housing units are to be built. It is the Obama Administration that is pulling the rug out from under Israel--and trying to characterize it as the reverse.
This crisis seems like an excuse--and a flimsy one, at that--to put distance between the U.S. and Israel.
Why might the Obama Administration want to do that?
The white elephant in the room is Iran. Sadly, it is appearing likely that, at least while Obama is in office, Israel will stand alone in the face of this existential threat.
I do not want to make too much of one incident, or to jump to conclusions. As an American, I believe that this great country would not abandon or turn on a small ally in a time of great need. I have faith in the U.S. Congress, which reflects the solid moral instincts of the American people. But this wedge between the Obama Administration and Netanyahu's is concerning.
Given its highly staged quality, it could be a sham designed to fool Iran's radical leadership into thinking there is a rift between the U.S. and Israel so that the U.S. can in fact support regime change in Iran more effectively, without incurring suspicion. Or, similarly, if it could be a decoy to lull Iran's radical leadership into thinking the U.S. would never participate in military action to produce regime change in Iran, when in fact the latter is actually a possibility.
Recently I shared these theories with Iraqi Parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi, one of my best sources in Iraq. Mr. Alusi's only two sons were murdered by terrorists after he visited the Jewish state, and he--refusing to be intimidated--stayed in Iraq and built a political party championing human rights. He characterizes Israel as "a modern state and an important part of the middle east" and believes it is in Iraq's security interest cooperate with Israel on counter-terrorism and other issues.
He is interested in not only Israeli/Iraqi alliance but also Iraqi alliance with other democracies including the U.S., Turkey, and Jordan. A practical man, he sees no benefit in maintaining what he terms the "Israel complex"--or the obsession with hating Israel that he thinks ultimately holds many Arab countries back from true progress.
Although we were speaking about other matters (he has been consumed with the Iraqi provincial elections, in which he is running as an incumbent), we took a break to discuss this diplomatic crisis. I asked him if he thought this flap could be staged - to pacify radical elements in the Arab world. If so, could it indicate that, behind the scenes, the U.S. is preparing to take a tougher stand against against Iran, or at least to support Israel in defending itself?
"Not likely," Alusi said. "Why would America need to do that?"
He pointed out that many Arab countries--all those that are considered comparatively more moderate including Jordan, Turkey, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, and Iraq--are afraid of Iran and would not object to the U.S. and Israel preventing Tehran from getting nuclear weapons. Mr. Alusi believes instead that this action reflects President Obama's world view, and his desire to appease Iran by "bringing them closer." Mr. Alusi qualified his thoughts by saying he hopes he is wrong.
So do I.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Save the Public Option The Votes ARE there

The conventional wisdom in D.C. is that the public option is dead because it cannot pass the Senate.
That couldn't be more wrong.
There are 51 votes in the Senate to pass the public option if the House goes first and includes it in the reconciliation bill.
The ball is now squarely in Speaker Pelosi's court. The House has already passed the public option once. If she passes the public option through the House again, the votes will be there in the Senate to carry the public option over the finish line.
Let's make sure Speaker Pelosi knows that we'll back her up if she moves forward and puts the public option in the House reconciliation bill.

Call Speaker Pelosi:
Save the public option.
There are 51 votes in the Senate to pass the public option if the House goes first and includes it in the reconciliation bill.
How do we get to 51 votes? Watch this new ad from PCCC, DFA and CREDO. The ball is now squarely in Speaker Pelosi's court. Let's make sure she knows that we'll back her up if she moves forward and passes the public option through the House.
Calls already reported!

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Friday, March 12, 2010

Free Gilad Shalit! Says EU

In an unprecedented move, the European Parliament on Thursday passed by majority vote a call for the immediate release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

Members of parliament from across the political spectrum signed on to a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton ahead of her visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories next week.

The letter demands that Shalit, who also holds French citizenship, be released and voices protest against the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.
Noam Shalit, the father of the abducted soldier, called the letter sharp and clear and said he hoped that it would encourage the Israeli government to work toward his son's release and the Hamas government to submit its response to Israel's offer at once.

The elder Shalit met Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, with European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and updated him on the stalled negotiations with Hamas on a potential prisoner exchange. Hamas has not responded to Israel's most recent proposal.

Shalit  urged for the EU resolution to call for the immediate release of his son and to demand that he be treated according to the Geneva Convention.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

SC Lt. Gov. Andre' Bauer's controversial comments

In the case you missed out about SC Lt. Gov. Andre' Bauer's controversial comments on the poor: comparing public school students who get subsidised lunches to stray animals that engage in "that type of behavior".
  At first I thought I understood his message, but the more I thought about it, the more questions it prompted.
  Was his message?
A) To specifically end school lunch programs?
B) To end all forms of public assistamce?
C) Curtailing "that type of behavior"?

Let's address A&;B first:

Libertarians think that 1)
It's glorified socialism to make everybody pay for such wasteful spending on boondoggle social programs. 2) Intrusive of an individual's financial freedoms. 
Many libertarians in general agree that socialism is to take from the productive and give to the unproductive. It offends believers of the work ethic who think "I earned mine, go earn yours you lazy...(follow up with your favorite expletive)"
  Let us now tackle C.)

 This is where social conservatives and libertarians split. Social conservatives believe in regulating personal behavior. Libertarians do not belive that it's the place for government to be involved in. Somewhere in between, the answer should involve birth control. If we as a society are truly serious about reducing poverty we need to look at one of the root causes of it; poor people popping out kids they can't afford
(I could write a whole other piece on that one).
  Bottom line is that Andre' Bauer was the wrong messanger who took the wrong angle on his desire to eliminate a government program.

             Written by Eric Pino