RSSCategory: hypocrisy

Our insane drug war, revisited

July 20, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
Our insane drug war, revisited

Mother Jones has hammered our drug war with undeniable facts . . . well, undeniable unless you are a government official in charge of the “drug war.” In fact, as authors Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery advise us, the entire history of the U.S. “war on drugs” is actually a governmental war on truth.

[T]he drug war has never been about facts—about, dare we say, soberly weighing which policies might alleviate suffering, save taxpayers money, rob the cartels of revenue. Instead, we’ve been stuck in a cycle of prohibition, failure, and counterfactual claims of success. (To wit: Since 1998, the ONDCP has spent $1.4 billion on youth anti-pot ads. It also spent $43 million to study their effectiveness. When the study found that kids who’ve seen the ads are more likely to smoke pot, the ONDCP buried the evidence, choosing to spend hundreds of millions more on the counterproductive ads.) What would a fact-based drug policy look like? It would put considerably more money into treatment, the method proven to best reduce use. It would likely leave in place the prohibition on “hard” drugs, but make enforcement fair . . . And it would likely decriminalize but tightly regulate marijuana, which study after study shows is less dangerous or addictive than cigarettes or alcohol, has undeniable medicinal properties, and isn’t a gateway drug to anything harder than Doritos.

If you want to see a bunch of demoralized people wasting time, park yourself at your local drug court and watch a judge slapping faux sentences on marijuana users and small-time peddlers. Everyone involved knows that the system is a joke–a money sucking time-wasting absurd joke that ruins lives, because every so often someone gets ripped from his or her family, thrown into prison for years. The crime (just to remind you) is that these users wanted to feel pleasure. And sometimes its more absurd: the criminal wanted to escape stress or anxiety and he didn’t have a fancy health insurance policy that would allow a doctor to hand him legal pills that do the same thing. And maybe he didn’t want to legally rot out his liver with alcohol, which is the other way of getting a similar high.

As I’ve made clear many times, I am not promoting drug use of any kind. I just had serious surgery and I could have loaded up on narcotics that were made available to me, but I didn’t because I don’t want that or need that. I’m a lucky person in that regard. I am not interested in altering my mind through chemicals. I am trying to convince my daughters that they should strive for clean drug-free living. But I am aware that many people want or need relief from stressful lives (or from their own misfiring brains) or maybe they want the option to simply chill out. I certainly don’t want to stand in their way any more than I would tell a patient to not take those pills prescribed by her doctor.

It’s time to stop spending billions of tax dollars on a drug war that doesn’t stop drug use and only ramps up violence, destabilizes governments and steals critical services from taxpayers. The drug war is highly immoral, but we won’t be able to fix the situation until we have the courage to have an honest conversation.

Related posts:

The most harmful thing about marijuana is jail (reporting on the opinion of a conservative judge).

The Economist’s argument to stop the war on drugs. (includes the mind-scrambling statistic that the U.S. spend $40 B each year trying to stop the use of illegal drugs).

Johann Hari’s argument that It’s time to stop the drug war. (more shocking statistics)

It isn’t dangerous to use marijuana. (Really, no more dangerous than Doritos)

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Healthcare executive: Michael Moore’s Sicko was accurate

July 14, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
Healthcare executive:  Michael Moore’s Sicko was accurate

Wendell Potter, a former healthcare executive told Bill Moyers that Michael Moore’s “Sicko” was on target. Potter agrees with Moore that there is a significant role for government in healthcare and that government systems such as Canada and Great Britain are successful, contrary to the vicious and dishonest spin by the American healthcare industry. Note: For 20 years, Potter was head of corporate communications for one of the country’s largest insurers, CIGNA.

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How to do harm by following the rules

June 13, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
How to do harm by following the rules

Stephen L. Winter is a law professor at Wayne State University School of Law I’ve followed his excellent writings for many years. I recently read one of his more recent articles, “John Roberts Formalist Nightmare,” alleged in the January, 2009 edition of the University of Miami Law Review (63 U. Miami L Review 2009) (not available online).

To set the stage for his brutal critique of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Winter considers four approaches to the meaning of “formalism.” In the first approach,

The term “formalist” is an epithet to describe a judicial decision that ascribes away responsibility (as in, “It’s not me, it’s my job . . . or the law, or the text, etc.”). Hence, formalism is the frequent refuge of socially and politically conservative judges when faced with the claims of reform movements.

The second approach is closely related to the first. It refers to “mechanical jurisprudence.” The basic idea is that “general doctrines can be applied deductively to decide specific cases, thereby assuring the objectivity and neutrality of judicial decision-making.” Under this approach, the reasoning process is “supposed to be guided solely by the formal entailment of the concept. Under this second approach, a judge will insist that a concept (e.g., “freedom of contract”) fully determines the outcome of a particular dispute, irrespective of the broader social ramifications.

The third approach connotes “hypertechnicality in judicial decision-making.” Winter points to two recent decisions by Chief Justice Roberts in which the United States Supreme Court rigidly applied legal deadlines “notwithstanding the presence of strong equable claims and long recognized exceptions.” One of those cases was Ledbetter versus Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., a decision so palpably unfair in its anal-retentive application of a narrow statute limitations that Congress promptly got to work on the issue and recently overruled it. See here and here. As Winter points out, Ledbetter is a great example of the many instances in which “hypertechnicality and conceptualism often work hand-in-hand to provide a cover of necessity for willfully reactionary decisions.”

There is also a fourth sense of formalism. In this fourth approach to formalistic reasoning, concepts are treated as meaningful “entirely abstracted from their contexts. Winter gives the example of Plessy vs. Ferguson, in which the Supreme Court presented its solution to the case as one of “formal equality,” presuming the absolute equality of the races before the law, bringing to mind Anatole France’s famous quote that “The law in all its majesty forbids the rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and this deal their bread.” Winter laments that thanks to its ability to frame individuals in abstract ways, far from their real-life social contacts, this sense of formalism allows a court to simultaneously express regret for an outcome yet fiercely perpetuate it through conscious and narrowly tailored decision-making.

What do each of these senses of formalism haven’t common? Each of these approaches allows decision-makers to

give every appearance of deciding the case according to law without ever acknowledging that the law they are “following” is in actuality a product of their own interpretive acts. . . . Formalist legal reasoning engages the decision-maker in a performance of impersonal decision by appealing to authority. It disclaims the personal responsibility of the decision-maker and, though us, frustrates accountability. . . It operates in abstraction from the social prerequisites and consequences of law. In all these ways, formalism is anything but democratic . . . it is a distorting methodology that weighs on the law like a nightmare more reminiscent of the injustices of the 19th century than of a modern society that professes to value equal justice under law.

Stephen Winter’s analysis of formalism can be extended far beyond exercises in jurisprudence. It can be extended to all instances wherein someone wielding political power makes an argument or a decision by focusing tightly on a principle detached from the social context that gives that principle its legitimacy.

Winter’s article is also well worth reading for anyone who wants to see substantial evidence that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of United States is quite capable of a substantial misreading of one of the most important cases ever decided, Brown v Board of Education. For instance, Justice John Roberts claims that Brown determined the outcome of Parents Involved in Cmty. Sch. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 127 S. Ct. 2738 (2007) in that Brown purportedly prohibited government classification and separation, whereas the boundary plan adopted by the Seattle and Louisville school boards did not “separate” students at all. These were plans that were adopted for the purpose of providing a remedy for racial isolation. Winter points out several other major distortions Roberts gives to Brown. Winter also establishes Roberts’ hypocrisy in criticizing a fellow justice (Justice Stephen Breyer) for relying on dicta when Roberts himself strays even further from relying on the holdings of precedent when he relied upon statements contained in appellate briefs, statements not included in Supreme Court opinions at all.

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Frank Schaeffer lays, and takes, the blame for murder –

June 1, 2009 | By | 7 Replies More
Frank Schaeffer lays, and takes, the blame for murder –

I found this an interesting response to George Tiller’s murder. Frank Schaeffer, a reformed evangelical, argues that the hate speech continually spewed by the religious right regarding abortion set the stage for George Tiller’s murder, and other abortionists before him. He still expresses disgust at late-term abortion, and while I am more likely to agree with that, I do believe there are situations in which that choice is the only one that makes sense. Painful, horribly so, but sometimes the only choice is.

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Abortion Doctor George Tiller Killed at Church

May 31, 2009 | By | 9 Replies More
Abortion Doctor George Tiller Killed at Church

George Tiller, a Kansas doctor who performed abortions, some of them late-term, was shot this morning as he entered his church for services.

Read the story here – and then someone explain how one justifies murder again?

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Does Gingrich think racism is evolving?

May 31, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More
Does Gingrich think racism is evolving?

I loved this op-ed piece over at Huffpo by John Ridley – “Note to Newt . . . ” – regarding Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor’s supposedly racist comment about the perspective of a Latina woman in a 2001 speech. Ridley is right on target with his comparisons of “old racism” and “new racism” – as if a comparison can even be made. Mostly, Newt and his ilk just seem annoyed that “they” just don’t know their places these days. Not women, not minorities, not gays . . . life just isn’t as simple when everyone goes off and thinks they’re just as good as the good ol’ white guys.

Sotomayor’s point was essentially that anyone who has seen the system from the bottom up has a deeper experiential perspective from which to draw when discussing said system. That doesn’t make her every thought on it correct or best, but overall, her perspective has more to draw on than that of a privileged white male who never had to fight for his place at any table, let alone on any bench.

I don’t discount white males, by any means, and neither did she. Lots of them, present company included, are wonderful, open-minded, intelligent and fair people. By calling her comment “racist,” Gingrich has merely shown he has precious little understanding of what racism is really all about.

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What is obscene?

May 29, 2009 | By | 19 Replies More
What is obscene?

I was watching TV recently. At the climax of one of my favorite shows a man was murdered. He was stabbed twice in the chest. I watched as the blade entered his chest two times, piercing his lungs and heart. The man fell to the ground and was kicked into a nearby fire where he burst into flames as he was dying.

This was shown on television, during prime time, with no outcry from the public or the censors. And why would there be an outcry? One can witness murders of this kind and worse on TV many times a week.

Now imagine this scenario…

Prime time TV. A loving husband and wife wish to have children. They take off their clothes and get into bed, as married couples do. We then clearly watch his erect penis enter her vagina two times as he tells her he loves her.

Cut to nine months later and she gives birth to a healthy baby boy. The couple rejoices. The husband kisses his wife on the forehead and we…Fade to Black.

Can you imagine the outrage? Can you imagine the FCC fines and the righteous letters of condemnation?

In the first case we see the brutal, senseless ending of a life, and we get to see it in great detail. In the second scenario we are witnessing the loving, natural creation of life between two married adults.

Which one is obscene?

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Amazing Bridge in France: the Millau Viaduct

May 27, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
Amazing Bridge in France: the Millau Viaduct

I was checking MSNBC tonight when I saw a link to the “Worlds Most Amazing Bridges.” OK, fair enough, I thought. It turned out to be an awesome collection of bridges, selected for a variety of qualities. One of the bridges stood out for its raw dimensions, however: The Millau Viaduct near Millau France (southern France, near Spain).

Image by facemepls at Flickr (creative commons)

Check out the dimensions:

This breathtaking cable-stayed bridge, completed in 2004, is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world. It spans the valley of the Tarn River near Millau in France, with a total length of 8,071 feet. Its maximum height soars to 1,130 feet. This colossus was engineered by Michel Virlogeux and designed by Norman Foster. At 890 feet, its road bridge deck is the highest in the world; drivers have said it feels like sailing through a cloud.

arch-at-sunset

To put this incredible bridge in perspective, we have a spectacular monument in St. Louis. Our 630 foot tall Gateway Arch is often described as even “soaring.” See insert. Now consider that the road deck of the Millau Viaduct is 260 feet taller than the Gateway Arch and that it runs for more than 1 1/2 miles. Consider, too, that the tallest towers of the bridge (1,130 feet) are taller than the Eiffel Tower (986 ft) and almost as tall as the Empire State Building (1250 feet).

millau-viaduct-phillipc

For more spectacular views, check out the website of the architechts, Foster + Partners, where you’ll learn that the

For more spectacular views, check out the website of the architechts, Foster + Partners, where you’ll learn that the Millau Viaduct “connects the motorway networks of France and Spain, opening up a direct route from Paris to Barcelona. The bridge crosses the River Tarn, which runs through a spectacular gorge between two high plateaux.”

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David Letterman casts Judgment on Dick Cheney

May 13, 2009 | By | Reply More
David Letterman casts Judgment on Dick Cheney

Cheney has been making the circuits berating Obama for failing to turn the country around in 100 days. David Letterman created a short video to serve as Dick Cheney’s report card.

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