News and Opinion Based on Facts

Monday, February 28, 2011

Governor Walker Union Buster, and Proud of it

Some Americans comment on the uprising in Wisconsin by attacking unions.
This question is not whether unions are human institutions. 
No one is asking for the unions to be dubbed as perfect. 
Every human endeavor has the potential for corruption. 
Including the  far rights  beloved corporations. 
The issue is whether or not workers have the right to join together and negotiate about wages, conditions and so on. 
That is what the demonstrations are about. 
Governor Walker has as his demand, abolishing public worker's rights to negotiate with employers. 
Anyone who believes  that corporations do not at least have the potential for being corrupt is ignoring the mountains of evidence that proves otherwise. 
Try this google search: " List of Corporations convicted of felonies" 
Big business is not the grandfatherly caretaker some believe that it is. 
Workers need to be able to defend themselves in some way. 
No human institutions are perfect, we have that as our goal, we have to work towards that, but we shouldn't just , for example, say, 'unions have had problems, therefore, let's trust the magnanimous corporations, they'll take care of us!' " 
The workers of Wisconsin are demonstrating for basic human rights. 
The right to organize to negotiate, as a group, for wages and conditions.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Glenn Beck Compares Reform Judaism to Radical Islam

The Anti-Defamation League condemned Glenn Beck on Wednesday for comments he made about Reform Judaism.

Speaking on his Tuesday radio show, Beck brought up the recent letter that 400 rabbis from the Jewish Funds for Justice group took out in the Wall Street Journal against him. He claimed that the list was dominated by Reform rabbis, and dismissed the branch as akin to "radicalized Islam."

Reform rabbis, he said, "are generally political in nature. It's almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way." His comparison was "not about terror," he stressed, but "about politics, and so it becomes more about politics than it does about faith."

In a statement on Wednesday, Abe Foxman, head of the ADL, said that Beck's comments were evidence of his "bigoted ignorance." He urged Beck to apologize to the Reform movement--which, according to Media Matters, makes up 35 percent of American Jews. (Full statement below)

It is not the first time the ADL has put out statements criticizing Beck's comments. In November, they called statements he'd made about George Soros "offensive" and "horrific."

Glenn Beck's comparison of Reform Judaism to radical Islam demonstrates his bigoted ignorance. Despite his feeble attempt to suggest that he was not equating Reform Judaism with Islamic extremist terrorism, the simple fact that he would mention them in the same breath is highly offensive and outrageous.

The truth is that every religious body has political points of view, whether one agrees with them or not. To compare Reform Judaism, which supports democratic institutions, to Islamic extremism, which supports anti-democratic movements and the repression of basic rights - including, for example, the denial of women's rights - is beyond the pale.
Glenn Beck has no business discounting the faith of any people, and he should think twice before commenting on something he doesn't know much about. 
He owes the Reform movement an apology.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Don't Follow Leaders

Recently, on Arutz Sheva,  a writer opined about possible similarities between the demonstrations in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and so on, and speculated whether the wave of anti-government forces would sweep out Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

A better analogy would be Wisconsin.

Thousands of peaceful demonstrators surround the Capitol Building in Madison.
Thousands of Libyans are protesting against Qaddafi's regime.

They are asking for the same things, jobs and financial security.

We see the same situation with all of the major protests being covered in the Media.
In all cases, the authorities, including Republican Governor Walker in Wisconsin, refused to talk to the demonstrators.
Change is not just sweeping the Middle East, the cry for change is here in the U.S., as well.

Governor Walker has threatened to bring in the National Guard.

Although there are many differences in the demographics, political systems, religious beliefs, and so on, the basic demand is Jobs and financial security.

These are issues that will always be with us.
In the past we made tremendous strides in advancing and protecting the human rights of workers.

Recently President Obama said, "It’s a disgrace that veterans should be homeless."

It’s a disgrace that children are homeless, as well, and single mothers and young people.
And people who can't find work when 20 million Americans are unemployed.
A Republican Congresswoman said on CNN last night "People need to get used to it.
If they have troubles, and they think there is a social safety net, its not going to be there, be cause there is going to be less jobs.”
This is something I have discussed, that the politicians are already visualizing a country, this country, as having less employment and fewer opportunities in the future.

I have heard Chavez disgusting diatribes against the Jewish people,
So personally, I would love to see him overthrown, but there's no real analogy with the Chavez regime and the middle-east uprisings.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Christina-Taylor Green, Still Making Our Lives Brighter

Life for many Tucsonans has begun slowly returning to normal since the shock of the Jan. 8 shootings. 

But mail for the family of 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, the youngest victim of the massacre, continues to pour in from around the world.
Twelve volunteers spent Wednesday evening sorting through about 1,000 pieces. And the Green family has received just as many condolences at their home, and more still via e-mail. Their home mail is now forwarded to a post office box to handle all the letters and gifts.
"Everyone is finding their own way of showing love and support for the Greens," said Evan Mendelson, vice president of donor relations and program services at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, which is administering a memorial fund the Green family set up in their daughter's memory.
The Community Foundation isn't yet saying how much money has been raised. Mendelson said donations from more than 1,300 contributors have been collected to date. Donations have come from 47 states and 10 countries as far-flung as Brazil and the Netherlands. The Greens say they will designate the money toward a cause that will ensure Christina-Taylor's legacy for children in the community.
Often, people send their memorial fund donations inside cards of comfort for Christina-Taylor's family - parents John and Roxanna and 11-year-old brother, Dallas. The family deeply appreciates the cards and letters, along with the community's support, Roxanna Green said.
Even people sorting the letters find solace in the practice.
"It's a healing process for the people writing and for those of us reading, just to see how many people she's touched," said Randi Lyn Crist, 22, a Green family friend and University of Arizona senior. Crist brought along some of her sorority sisters to help.
"Letters from kids, especially, are the ones that stay with me. Some of them seemed confused with the situation. But their messages are simple and heartfelt. They write things like, 'This makes me sad.' "
A few children have mailed what appears to be their lunch money - one boy included three crumpled dollar bills with a letter to the family. One boy wrote a card to young Dallas, saying he'd lost his sister, too. Another boy said he used to ride the school bus with Christina-Taylor. He sent $1.
A 7-year-old girl wrote to say she'd saved up her tooth fairy money and her allowance to buy and create the gift she sent - a Build-A-Bear wearing a pink ballet dress, with pink ribbons around the ears. The bear has a beating heart, which the girl said she kissed before the bear was stitched up. The Greens could squeeze the bear and listen to the heart when they feel sad, the little girl wrote.
Other children have sent homemade tile mosaics, pictures and crosses, as the family is Roman Catholic.
One cross the family found particularly poignant was made by Tucson artists Veronica and Gabriel Sandoval of hand-embossed metal, Green family friend Katy Martin said. It features an angel dressed in red, white and blue - as a 9/11/01 baby, Christina-Taylor was deeply patriotic - along with a large red heart with her name in it, two white doves and a baseball at the bottom.
The Green family has strong baseball ties, and many people tied to the sport have sent flowers and letters. John played professional baseball for nine years and now works for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Christina-Taylor's grandfather, Dallas, was a major league pitcher and team manager, and Christina-Taylor was the only girl on her Canyon Del Oro Little League team.
UA senior Brooke Blakely read about 50 letters Wednesday. One of her favorites contained a clipping of a newspaper cartoon from Omaha, Neb., that depicted a New York City firefighter greeting Christina-Taylor in heaven.
"I took a picture of that one and sent it to my dad," said Blakely, 21. "We put that in the special pile."
Singer Billy Joel wrote a letter and card to the family. The Greens selected Joel's "Lullabye" as their daughter's farewell song at her funeral.
Country singers Faith Hill and Tim McGraw sent flowers.
Lesser-known artists have sent their own songs on homemade CDs. An oil painting of Christina-Taylor was among the items in last week's mail.
For people who want to give a gift or write a letter without a donation, the Community Foundation has a separate post office box to handle that mail. The mail is finding its way, even when senders don't have the post office box number. One letter came addressed to simply, "John and Roxanna Green, Tucson."
"The postmaster has been wonderful," Mendelson said.
Last week, a woman called Mendelson to say she was sending two pieces of concrete from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center Attacks. As a Sept. 11 baby, Christina-Taylor was featured in a book about babies born that day called "Faces of Hope."
"I get a lot of calls from artists. I've heard from singers, sculptors, glass artists," Mendelson said. "A lot of parents write, telling their own stories of grief. They often include books that have helped them, about losing a child."
Volunteers sort the mail into the different piles, and family friends pass them along to the Greens a few at a time.
In the "stuff" pile are items like stuffed animals, prayer shawls, rosaries and the crocheted angels.
The letters in "personal stories" are mostly from parents who have lost children.
"Personal connection" is mail from people with personal ties to the Green family. Christina-Taylor's teachers and principal at Mesa Verde Elementary School have sent letters filled with memories of a little girl her teachers described as caring, intelligent, giving and a leader beyond her years.
The "special" pile is mainly for cards and letters written by children, including one carefully printed in pencil from a little girl born on 9/11. On Wednesday it also included a letter from a mother in Connecticut whose son's sight was saved by a cornea transplant. Christina-Taylor was an organ donor and her parents have learned her corneas went to help save another child's sight.
Also in the "special" pile: children's drawings of baseball caps, mountains, blue skies, yellow suns and rain puddles - a reference to President Obama's Jan. 12 speech in Tucson.
"If there are rain puddles in heaven," Obama said, "Christina is jumping in them today."

"It's a healing process for the people writing and for those of us reading, just to see how many people she's touched."
Randi Lyn Crist, friend of the family of Christina-Taylor Green, helping to sort huge volumes of mail
The Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund Donations
• Checks made out to Community Foundation for Southern Arizona with a note on the memo line, "In Memory of Christina-Taylor Green" may be mailed to:
Community Foundation for Southern Arizona
ATTN: Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund
2250 E. Broadway
Tucson, AZ 85719-6014
• Donations may be made online at
• Cards and notes for the family of Christina-Taylor Green may be mailed to:
Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 65000
Tucson, AZ 85728-5000
Giffords' office
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has always been a hard-core writer of thank-you notes - she's been adamant about them for her entire political career, dating to her time in the Arizona Legislature.
So her staff, doing what they know their boss would expect, plans to answer each and every one of the condolences and get-well wishes they've received since the Democratic congresswoman was critically injured in the Jan. 8 shooting. Six people, including Giffords' staffer Gabe Zimmerman, were killed. Giffords and 12 others were injured.
So far, the crush of cards, letters, e-mails, handwritten notes and phone calls adds up to more than 18,000.
"And that does not include items left at the memorials, which included hundred of balloons, tiles, votive candles," Giffords' spokesman C.J. Karamargin said.
Helping with the Giffords team's responses are 13 office interns, including Daniel Hernandez Jr. , whose heroics during the tragedy have been credited with helping to save Giffords' life. Hernandez returned to work Thursday.
In addition to the interns and the Tucson office's eight regular staff members, plus two in Sierra Vista, Giffords' Tucson office is getting help from three members of the congresswoman's Washington, D.C., staff.
The local office has always had a thank-you note tracking system maintained by the office manager.
"The power of the thank- you note - we live it, breathe it," Karamargin said. "Everyone who has sent something will get an acknowledgement. They will all get something."
In addition to thank-yous, the Giffords office is conducting daily business working with constituents. And ever since Jan. 8, the staff has also been fielding press calls from around the world. In one day soon after the shootings, they received 900.
"Yes, we are tired, but we don't have time to think about it all that much," Karamargin said.
The outpouring of support from the public is pulling Giffords' staff through their fatigue and sadness, he said.
"I really can't capture for everyone how inspiring these messages are that we're receiving," Karamargin said. "Just to read them is to open a window to such sincerity and caring, it's unbelievable. We keep calling this a tragedy, but the community response is a triumph of what type of town we live in. That has been an unending source of pride, really, for everyone in this office.
"The message of hope and togetherness has really been uplifting."

Wisconsin Is a Battleground Against the Billionaire Kochs' Plan to Break Labor's Back

It wasn't that long ago that, in Wisconsin, realities created mainly by corporate players, so enraged a group of highly educated young people that they introduced the Port Huron Statement  and  formed the SDS.
This is some of what they, Under the leadership of Tom Hayden, said "While two-thirds of mankind suffers under nourishment, our own upper classes revel amidst superfluous abundance. Although world population is expected to double in forty years, the nations still tolerate anarchy as a major principle of international conduct and uncontrolled exploitation governs the sapping of the earth's physical resources. Although mankind desperately needs revolutionary leadership, America rests in national stalemate, its goals ambiguous and tradition-bound instead of informed and clear, its democratic system apathetic and manipulated rather than "of, by, and for the people.' "
Now, again Wisconsin is in a revolutionary mood.
We desperately need, at the least, reform of the system that allows a few wealthy individuals to control our lives and our government.
Here's what happened in Wisconsin today.

Reprinted from

As some 30,000 protesters overwhelmed the state capitol building in Wisconsin today, Democratic state senators hit the road, reportedly with State Police officers in pursuit. The Dems left the state in order to deprive Republicans the necessary quorum for taking a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's bill to strip benefits and collective bargaining rights from state workers. Newsradio 620 WTMJ reported that the Democratic senators were holed up in a Rockford, Illinois, hotel, out of reach of Wisconsin state troopers. Now, it seems, Republican lawmakers are beginning to waver on their support for the union-busting bill.
Last week, Walker threatened to activate the National Guard in the event of any disruption in services from public employees that, he said, could occur as a result of his legislation.
Gov. Walker claims that his war on the public workers in his state is simply about balancing Wisconsin's budget; believe that and there's a collapsed bridge in MInnesota I'd like to sell you. UPDATE: TPM's Brian Beutler reports that half of Wisconsin's budget shortfall results from three of Walker's own business-coddling initiatives.  According to the Capitol Times, as quoted in Beutler's piece, in January, Walker pushed through "$140 million in spending for special interest groups."  Walker claims a budget shortfall of $137 million. You do the math.
The fact is, Walker is carrying out the wishes of his corporate master, David Koch, who calls the tune these days for Wisconsin Republicans. Walker is just one among many Wisconsin Republicans supported by Koch Industries -- run by David Koch and his brother, Charles -- and Americans For Prosperity, the astroturf group founded and funded by David Koch. The Koch brothers are hell-bent on destroying the labor movement once and for all.
During his election campaign, Walker received the maximum $15,000 contribution from Koch Industries, according to Think Progress, and support worth untold hundreds of thousands from the Koch-funded astroturf group, Americans For Prosperity. AlterNet recently reported the role of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Americans For Prosperity in a vote-caging scheme apparently designed to suppress the votes of African-Americans and college students in Milwaukee. In 2008, Walker served as emcee for an awards ceremony held by Americans For Prosperity. There, he conferred the "Defender of the American Dream" award on Rep. Paul Ryan, now chairman of the House Budget Committee. 
On Monday, AlterNet reported on the gaggle of Koch-sponsored politicians who individually graced the podium at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference (including several from Wisconsin:  Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson). Rep. Michele Bachmann, also a Koch favorite from next-door Minnesota, kicked off the conference.
Not Just About Wisconsin -- or State Workers
It's said that states are the laboratories of democracy, but the Kochs are determined to make Wisconsin a laboratory of corporate oligarchy. Nationwide, the war on public workers -- and government in general -- is not simply a facet of an ideological notion about the virtues of small government. The war on government is a war against the labor movement, which has much higher rates of union membership in the public sector than it does in the private sector.
Labor is seen by corporate leaders as the last strong line of resistance against the wholesale takeover of government (and your tax dollars) by corporations. So, by this line of thought, labor must die.
But it's even deeper than that. The labor movement holds whatever modicum of workplace fairness standards exist for the rest of workers, be they organized or not. Contracts won by organized workers function as a ceiling for what the rest of the workforce is able to demand. Without the labor movement, there's not a worker anywhere in the nation who has much of a bargaining position with her or his employer. And that's the way David Koch and his brother, Charles, want it.
Midwest Frontier Province of Kochistan
Although headquartered in Kansas, Koch Industries has at least 17 facilities and offices in Wisconsin (by my rough count of facilities and companies noted on the Koch Industries "Wisconsin Facts" page), and operates "nearly 4,000 miles of pipeline" through its Koch Pipeline Company, L.P. Which may account for Wisconsin's evolution into the Midwest Frontier Province of Kochistan.
The conglomerate boasts "four terminals and strategically located pipelines" through its Flint Hills Resources, LLC, which it describes as "a leading refining and chemicals company" that markets "gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, ethanol, olefins, polymers and intermediate chemicals, as well as base oils and asphalt."
The Kochs' Georgia Pacific paper and wood products division has six facilities in Wisconsin. Its C. Reiss Coal Company "is a leading supplier of coal used to generate power," according to the Koch Web site. "The company has locations in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan."
Is it any wonder that Gov. Walker signed Americans For Prosperity's pledge(PDF) against energy reform legislation?
"I Don't Run a Union Facility"
At the Americans For Prosperity Foundation's RightOnline conference last July, a breakout session for managers and entrepreneurs focused on how to talk to workers about legislative issues -- including the Employee Free Choice Act, which would simplify the process by which workers could elect to join a union. Among the panelists was former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who is currently exploring a presidential bid. (Last month, Mark Block stepped down from his perch as state director of Americans For Prosperity Wisconsin chapter in order to serve as Cain's chief of staff.) The panel also featured Timothy Nerenz of The Oldenburg Group, a mining and defense equipment manufacturer based in Milwaukee. Nerenz illustrated how he talked to his workers about EFCA: "[W]e don't operate a union facility. That's all I have to say."
"Now, you certainly have a right to a union, right?" Nerenz continued. "You got rights, I got rights, all God's children got rights. But you need to know before you make that decision what's involved in that decision."
When I pressed him after the panel to clarify whether he was threatening to shut down a factory whose workers chose to unionize, he simply restated his initial point: "We don't operate a union facility."
Stimulus Spending Seen as Too Friendly to Unions
You'd think that a big business like Koch Industries would love the idea of stimulus spending, since it's bound to improve the economy. So, what gives? Why do these guys hate the stimulus funds so much?
Well, it seems that too much of it, in their view, goes to preserve the jobs of unionized workers -- like autoworkers and teachers -- which, in turn, preserves unions as part of the U.S. workforce. So that's why, presumably, Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips today sent out a newsletter touting an anti-stimulus bill introduced by a House member from the Midwest Frontier Province of Kochistan:
By the way, newly-elected Congressman Sean Duffy from Wisconsin (emphasis mine)  made one of his first efforts in Congress a bill that returns non-obligated stimulus funding to the taxpayers. Now his bill has been included in the continuing resolution the House is working on this week. It’s great to see our efforts to end government overspending become the core of actual legislation and not just something we all rally for.
Bus Follies
While we're on the topic of e-mail blasts, I received quite the indignant one today from something called the Campaign To Defeat Obama, a.k.a., Our Country Deserves Better PAC, a.k.a., Tea Party Express. The e-mail expresses great consternation at the fact that Organizing For America, the remnant of the Obama campaign's organizing effort (now part of the Democratic National Committee), helped get protesters to Madison to protest at the Wisconsin state capitol. "They sent out 54 messages on Twitter alone!" the e-mail shouts (emphasis theirs). They accused the Obama administration of sending in a "mob" to the state capitol to "bully" state lawmakers to abandon Walker's bill.
In the e-mail, Tea Party Express Our Country Deserves Better Campaign to Defeat Obama screams:
Organizing For America is responsible for most of the chaos, and has been filling bus after bus with protestors and shuttled them to the State Capitol.  This was not a spontaneous uprising - this was an organized effort by Barack Obama to further his radical, leftist agenda.
Tea Party Express worked with Americans For Prosperity during the mid-term election campaign. What did they do? Filled buses with activists to get them to rallies and protests.
Today, however, it seems Americans For Prosperity had a hard time finding takers for their free-bus-trip offer for those wanting to support Gov. Walker's union-busting, worker-bashing bill. As of scheduled departure time, reports the RacineJournal Times, only six people had boarded AFP's Racine bus to Madison. Several key Republican lawmakers, according to recent reports, are beginning to waver in their support for Walker's labor-bashing bill.
Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Are We Serious About Human Rights?

We agreed with most other nations that jobs and housing and medical care are basic human rights. 
But as a country we don't implement them. 
I've heard Republicans argue that in fact, they ARE not human rights at all. 
I‘ve even heard right-wing commentators say that health care for all Americans is communism. 

The U.S. signed an agreement with other UN nations, defining and agreeing on what issues are basic human rights. 

One of the basic human rights the U.S. agreed to was housing. 
We lead the first world in the number of homeless citizens. 
To my knowledge, there is no serious plan being discussed to house these people. 

Obama's plan is education, concentrating on science, math, and technology. 
That could work in twenty years, leaving, among others, lots of women and children without homes or incomes for quite a few years. 

The Republican plan is to slash spending to the poor and provide more tax breaks for the rich. 
This will, they say, create a "trickle down" effect. 
The increased wealth will sort of slop over the wheelbarrows, or the banks of the money river, and wind up in the hands of the undeserving poor. 

The one effective talking point that I have heard from Muslims is the way we treat our poor in America. 

They say, "You have millions of poor people living on the street. 
You lead the world in the number of your own citizens you put in prisons. 
Millions of Americans have no jobs. 

We should be like you?" 

At some point we may have to acknowledge the things we do to our own people, and move forward to make progress on the issues affecting them. 

I believe it would make us more effective as advocates for human rights, if we practiced them here, on our own disadvantaged citizens.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is one of the first international documents to be based on the idea that rights are guaranteed to each human being. Most previous international declarations and treaties were based on the idea of positivism, whereby rights are only recognized once they have been set forth in national legislation. Like the UN itself, the UDHR was written with the aim of establishing world peace by promoting human rights. Originally, the UDHR brought together 58 distinct geographic, cultural and political backgrounds in the formation of one universal document. Although the UDHR is not legally binding it has created international human rights standards that are codified in various international treaties.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted between January 1947 and December 1948. Its text was composed by the then eight-member Commission on Human Rights headed by Eleanor Roosevelt, and sought to include the whole spectrum of human rights: from cultural, social and economic to civil and political rights. Following over 1,400 votes modifying the document's text, the UN General Assembly unanimously passed the Declaration on December 10, 1948, with eight abstentions to the vote, coming from Belarus, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the Soviet Union, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia.


Article 25

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Disastrous War on Drugs Turns 40: How Do We Stop the Madness?

Four decades after President Nixon declared his war on drugs, let's take a look at the devastation and figure out how to end this thing.
February 11, 2011  |  

Some anniversaries provide an occasion for celebration, others a time for reflection, still others a time for action. 
This June will mark forty years since President Nixon declared a "war on drugs," identifying drug abuse as "public enemy No. 1." As far as I know, no celebrations are planned. What's needed, indeed essential, are reflection -- and action.
It's hard to believe that Americans have spent roughly a trillion dollars (give or take a few hundred million) on this forty-year war. Hard to believe that tens of millions have been arrested, and many millions locked up in jails and prisons, for committing nonviolent acts that were not even crimes a century ago. Hard to believe that the number of people incarcerated on drug charges increased more than ten times even as the country's population grew by only half. Hard to believe that millions of Americans have been deprived of the right to vote not because they killed a fellow citizen or betrayed their country but simply because they bought, sold, produced or simply possessed a psychoactive plant or chemical. And hard to believe that hundreds of thousands of Americans have been allowed to die -- of overdoses, AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases -- because the drug war blocked and even prohibited treating addiction to certain drugs as a health problem rather than a criminal one.
Reflect we must on not just the consequences of this war at home but abroad as well. The prohibition-related crime, violence and corruption in Mexico today resemble Chicago during alcohol Prohibition -- times fifty. Parts of Central America are even more out of control, and many Caribbean nations can only hope that they are not next. The illegal opium and heroin markets in Afghanistan reportedly account for one-third to half of the country's GDP. In Africa, prohibitionist profiteering, trafficking and corruption are spreading rapidly. As for South America and Asia, just pick a moment and a country -- and the stories are much the same, from Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Brazil to Pakistan, Laos, Burma and Thailand.
Wars can be costly -- in money, rights and lives -- but still necessary to defend national sovereignty and core values. It's impossible to make that case on behalf of the war on drugs. Marijuana, cocaine and heroin are effectively cheaper today than they were at the start of the war forty years ago, and just as available now as then to anyone who really wants them. Marijuana, which accounts for half of all drug arrests in the United States, has never killed anyone. Heroin is basically indistinguishable from hydromorphone (aka Dilaudid), a pain medication prescribed by physicians that hundreds of thousands of Americans have consumed safely. The vast majority of people who have used cocaine did not become addicts. Each of these drugs is less dangerous than government propaganda claims but sufficiently dangerous that they merit intelligent regulations rather than blanket prohibitions.
If the demand for any of these drugs were two, five or ten times what they are today, the supply would be there. That's what markets do. And who benefits from persisting with doomed supply control strategies notwithstanding their evident costs and failures? Basically two sets of interests: those producers and sellers of illicit drugs who earn far more than they would if their product were legally regulated rather than prohibited; and law enforcers for whom the expansion of prohibitionist policies translates into jobs, money and the political power to defend their self-interests.
Republican and Democratic governors confronting massive state budget deficits are now endorsing alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent drug law offenders that they would have rejected out of hand just a few years ago. It would be a tragedy, however, if these modest but important steps result in nothing more than a kinder, gentler drug war. What's really needed is the sort of reckoning that identifies as the problem not just drug addiction but prohibition as well - and that aims to reduce the role of criminalization and the criminal justice system in drug control to the maximum extent possible while enhancing public safety and health.
What better way to mark the 40th anniversary of the war on drugs than by breaking the taboos that have precluded frank assessment of the costs and failures of drug prohibition as well as its varied alternatives. Barely a single hearing, audit or analysis undertaken and commissioned by the government over the past forty years has dared to engage in this sort of assessment. The same cannot be said of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or almost any other domain of public policy. The war on drugs persists in good part because those who hold the purse strings focus their critical attentions only on the implementation of the strategy rather than the strategy itself.
The Drug Policy Alliance and our allies in this rapidly growing movement intend to break that tradition of denial -- by transforming this anniversary into a year of action. Our objective is ambitious -- to attain the critical mass at which the momentum for reform exceeds the powerful inertia that has sustained punitive prohibitionist policies for all too long. This requires working with legislators who dare to raise the important questions, and organizing public forums and online communities where citizens can take action, and enlisting unprecedented numbers of powerful and distinguished individuals to voice their dissent publicly, and organizing in cities and states to instigate new dialogues and directions in local policies.
Count on five themes to emerge over and over during this anniversary year.
1. Marijuana legalization is no longer a question of whether but when and how. Gallup's polling found that 36% of Americans in 2005 favored legalizing marijuana use while 60% were opposed. By late 2010, support had risen to 46% while opposition had dropped to 50%. A majority of citizens in a growing number of states now say that legally regulating marijuana makes more sense than persisting with prohibition. We know what we need to do: work with local and national allies to draft and win marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in California, Colorado and other states; assist federal and state legislators in introducing bills to decriminalize and regulate marijuana; ally with local activists to pressure police and prosecutors to de-prioritize marijuana arrests; AND assist and embolden prominent individuals in government, business, media, academia, entertainment and other walks of life to publicly endorse an end to marijuana prohibition.
2. Over-incarceration is the problem, not the solution. Ranking first in the world in both absolute and per capita incarceration is a shameful distinction that the United States should hasten to shed. The best way to address the problem of over-incarceration is to reduce the number of people incarcerated for non-violent drug law violations -- by decriminalizing and ultimately legalizing marijuana; by providing alternatives to incarceration for those who pose no threat outside prison walls; by reducing mandatory minimum and other harsh sentences; by addressing addiction and other drug misuse outside the criminal justice system rather than within it; and by insisting that no one be incarcerated simply for possessing a psychoactive substance, absent harm to others. All this requires both legislative and administrative action by government, but systemic reform will only happen if the objective of reducing over-incarceration is broadly embraced as a moral necessity.
3. The war on drugs is "the new Jim Crow." The magnitude of racial disproportionality in the enforcement of drug laws in the United States (and many other countries) is grotesque, with African Americans dramatically more likely to be arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated than other Americans engaged in the same violations of drug laws. Concerns over racial justice helped motivate Congress to reform the notorious crack/powder mandatory minimum drug laws last year but much more needs to be done. Nothing is more important at this point than the willingness and ability of African American leaders to prioritize the need for fundamental reform of drug policies. This is no easy task given the disproportionate extent and impact of drug addiction in poor African American families and communities. But it is essential, if only because no one else can speak and act with the moral authority required to transcend both deep seated fears and powerful vested interests.
4. Politics must no longer be allowed to trump science - and compassion, common sense and fiscal prudence - in dealing with illegal drugs. Overwhelming evidence points to the greater effectiveness and lower cost of dealing with addiction and other drug misuse as matters of health rather than criminal justice. That's why DPA is stepping up our efforts to transform how drug problems are discussed and dealt with in local communities. "Think global but act local" applies to drug policy as much as any other domain of public policy. Of course it would be better if a president appointed someone other than a police chief, military general or professional moralist as drug czar. But what really matters is shifting the locus of authority in city and state drug policies from criminal justice to health and other authorities. And equally important is ensuring that new dialogues about drug policy are informed by scientific evidence as well as best practices from around the country and abroad. One of our specialties at DPA is getting people to think and act outside the box about drugs and drug policies.
5. Legalization has to be on the table. Not because it is necessarily the best solution. Not because it is the obvious alternative to the evident failures of drug prohibition. But for three important reasons: first, because it is the best way to reduce dramatically the crime, violence, corruption and other extraordinary costs and harmful consequences of prohibition; second, because there are as many options -- indeed more -- for legally regulating drugs as there are options for prohibiting them; and third, because putting legalization on the table involves asking fundamental questions about why drug prohibitions first emerged, and whether they were or are truly essential to protect human societies from their own vulnerabilities. Insisting that legalization be on the table -- in legislative hearings, public forums and internal government discussions -- is not the same as advocating that all drugs be treated the same as alcohol and tobacco. It is, rather, a demand that prohibitionist precepts and policies be treated not as gospel but as political choices that merit critical assessment, including objective comparison with non-prohibitionist approaches.
So that's the plan. Forty years after President Nixon declared his war on drugs, we're seizing upon this anniversary to prompt both reflection and action. And we're asking all of our allies -- indeed everyone who harbors reservations about the war on drugs -- to join us in this enterprise.
Ethan Nadelmann is founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.