April 20, 2005

Happy 420

Anything working? Allen St. Pierre:

* The enforcement of state and local marijuana laws annually costs US taxpayers an estimated $7.6 billion, approximately $10,400 per arrest. Of this total, annual police costs are $3.7 billion, judicial/legal costs are $853 million, and correctional costs are $3.1 billion. In both California and New York, state fiscal costs dedicated to marijuana law enforcement annually total over $1 billion.

* Marijuana possession and sales arrests disproportionately impact black adults. African Americans are among the demographic groups most adversely impacted by marijuana law enforcement. While adult African Americans account for only 8.8% of the US population and 11.9% of annual marijuana users, they comprise 23% of all marijuana possession arrests in the United States.

* Marijuana possession and sales arrests disproportionately impact younger Americans. One out of every four marijuana possession arrests in the United States involves a person age 18 or younger. Seventy-four percent of all US marijuana possession arrests are for people under the age of 30. Marijuana users who are white, over 30 years old, and/or female are disproportionately unaffected by marijuana possession arrests ... Marijuana prohibition fails to produce intended results. Total US marijuana arrests increased 165% during the 1990s, from 287,850 in 1991 to 755,000 in 2003. However, these increased arrest rates have not been associated with a reduction in marijuana use, reduced marijuana availability, a reduction in the number of new marijuana users, reduced treatment admissions, reduced emergency room mentions of marijuana, any reduction in marijuana potency, or any increases in the price of marijuana.

Here's Radley Balko of CATO:
Today, federal and state governments spend between $40 and $60 billion per year to fight the war on drugs, about ten times the amount spent in 1980 -- and billions more to keep drug felons in jail. The U.S. now has more than 318,000 people behind bars for drug-related offenses, more than the total prison populations of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain combined.

Our prison population has increased by 400 percent since 1980, while the general population has increased just 20 percent. America also now has the highest incarceration rate in the world -- 732 of every 100,000 citizens are behind bars.

So are we winning (and would anyone say we're winning with a straight face?)
Even by the government's own standards for success, the answer is unquestionably "no." The illicit drug trade is estimated to be worth $50 billion today ($400 billion worldwide), up from $1 billion 25 years ago. Annual surveys of high school seniors show heroin and marijuana are as available today as they were in 1975. Deaths from drug overdoses have doubled in the last 20 years.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the price of of a gram of heroin has dropped by about 38 percent since 1981, while the purity of that gram has increased six-fold. The price of cocaine has dropped by 50 percent, while its purity has increased by 70 percent. Just recently, the ONDCP waged a public relations campaign against increasingly pure forms of marijuana coming in from Canada.

So despite all of the money we've spent and people we've imprisoned, despite the damage done to our cities and the integrity of our criminal justice system, despite the restrictions we've allowed on our civil liberties, despite the innocent lives lost and the needless suffering we've imposed on sick people and their doctors -- despite all of this -- the drug trade isn't just thriving, it's growing. Illicit drugs are cheaper, more abundant, and of purer concentration than ever before.

FYI, the background of 420.

Posted by Eric at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

The Unregulated Offense

A worthwhile read by Jeff Rosen, a George Washington University professor, on the Constitution in Exile movement, which wants to push back the federal government to 1937, when "Social Security, job-safety laws and environmental protections were unconstitutional." Some adherent may soon be heading to a court near you. Flipping to the end:

Advocates of the movement are entirely sincere in their belief that the regulatory state is unconstitutional as well as immoral and that a principled reading of the Constitution requires vigorous enforcement of fundamental limits on state power. Nevertheless, it is a troubling paradox that conservatives, who continue to denounce liberals for using courts to thwart the will of the people in cases involving abortion and gay marriage, now appear to be succumbing to precisely the same temptation. If the lessons of the past 60 years teach us anything, when judges try to short-circuit intensely contested democratic debates, from the New Deal cases to Roe v. Wade, they may provoke a fierce political backlash that sets back the movement they are trying to advance. In this sense, even if the Constitution in Exile movement manages to transform the courts before it has transformed the country, it may find that it has won less than it hoped.

Posted by Eric at 01:31 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2005

What Liberal Judiciary?

From the LATimes, "Judges Battle Transcends Numbers: Republicans already rule most federal courts. The issue is how far right the GOP can take them." Quote:

Ninety-four of the 162 active judges now on the U.S. Court of Appeals were chosen by Republican presidents. On 10 of the 13 circuit courts, Republican appointees have a clear majority. And, since 1976, at least seven of the nine seats on the U.S. Supreme Court have been filled by Republican appointees.

Even if Bush wins approval for the dozen disputed nominees who have been blocked by Senate Democrats, only one circuit would change its ideological balance — hardly a seismic shift. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, now evenly divided, would become 10-6 Republican ... The fight may have more to do with the kind of Republican who joins the courts, in particular the Supreme Court. While Democrats are determined to block judicial nominees they see as conservative ideologues, the Republican leadership pushes for right-leaning judges.

Posted by Eric at 02:30 AM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2005

Those Obstructionist Dems

Contrary to GOP rhetoric, the Democrats have confirmed a huge majority of Bush's judicial nominations. Numbers from the WPost:

Crotty's nomination has been pending awhile. Democrats complain that Republicans are purposely not sending consensus judges to the Senate floor so that the confirmation rate doesn't increase. After Crotty's presumed approval today, the tally will be 205 judges confirmed since Bush was elected in 2000, with 10 not confirmed.

"They wanted to have just the bad judges on the floor to make us look obstructionist and let pressure mount toward a nuclear showdown," one senior Democratic Senate aide said.

So how about those Republicans when Clinton was president? See this Prospect article.

Posted by Eric at 06:43 AM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2005

Why Gonzales Matters

Wesley Clark on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Jan 4:

How can the American people have confidence in a man like Gonzales after what he‘s written for the president of the United States? He‘s basically said the Geneva Convention was irrelevant. He basically said that torture is something that‘s very limited, that you could be in terrible pain and that you still wouldn‘t be being tortured.

MATTHEWS: Yes. He said we could have cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners.

CLARK: And not have it be torture.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CLARK: And Mr. Gonzales has basically said the power of the presidency is unlimited and he can do anything he wants.

How can we feel confident as Americans that we‘re living under the rule of law when the attorney general has violated what we believe to be the law? ... MATTHEWS: So Gonzales is not your man.

CLARK: I think strict Geneva Convention, strict adherence to the law.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

CLARK: We put that law in place to protect our soldiers.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You can‘t officially do it anymore, but—you‘re retired. But do you think a lot of military men of your rank, flag rank, do you think that‘s a common view? McCaffrey certainly had it last night. Is this a general view you hear from military men?

CLARK: This is what we believe in.

We—look, we fought for the Geneva Convention. It was put in place to protect our soldiers, our values and our institutions ... We can‘t win the war on terror if we give up what we stand for as the American people.

Clark also made a good point about Jimmy Carter:
MATTHEWS: Do you find it odd that the former president who has the most role to play in the last 20 years in terms of helping poor nations with disease and problems like this, smaller versions of this, Jimmy Carter, was not asked to participate? Do you find that interesting?

CLARK: Well, I think it‘s a terrible thing that he wasn‘t asked to participate. And I‘m sure that President Carter is going to do everything he can to help this effort.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it was partisan knocking Carter off the list?

CLARK: I don‘t know if it was partisan or not. But I will tell you what. Jimmy Carter is held in very, very high esteem around the world. I‘ve had people from every walk of life around the world tell me how much they think of President Carter. So it‘s in our country‘s interest that we put President Carter out there on the line as one of America‘s great representatives.

Posted by Eric at 05:07 AM | Comments (7)

December 23, 2004

On Protecting Rights for All

From David Shapiro in the Honolulu Advertiser:

We must stand up for our fellow citizens of the Muslim faith not only because it is the moral and American thing to do, but also because a threat to their rights is a threat to all of us.

Anybody who doubts this should remember the poem by the Rev. Martin Niemoller, a German dissident interned in Nazi concentration camps during World War II:

They came first for the Com- munists

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade union- ist.

Then they came for the Catholics

and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me

and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Posted by Eric at 06:05 AM | Comments (6)

November 11, 2004

Concerns About Gonzales

Another group, Alliance for Jusice, has serious concerns about Alberto Gonzales:

"Alberto Gonzales served as a primary author of memos advocating the use of torture in defiance of the Geneva Conventions, international law and standards of human decency," said Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron. "Gonzales provided the Bush administration with the legal architecture to sidestep and ignore the rule of law that, as attorney general, he will be mandated to enforce."

Prominent members of the legal community, in a bipartisan effort, have long been demanding full disclosure of all memos related to torture-a request that White House Counsel Gonzales, among others, has failed to meet. "Alliance for Justice urges the Senate Judiciary Committee to review all memos relating to torture written during Gonzales' tenure as White House counsel before voting on his nomination," said Aron.

Aron noted other areas of concern in Gonzales' record, including his direct role as White House counsel in selecting extremist judicial nominees; his cavalier treatment of clemency petitions in Texas death penalty cases while advising then- Governor George W. Bush; and his financial connections to Enron as a Texas Supreme Court justice.

Posted by Eric at 11:49 AM | Comments (1)

PFAW on Gonzales Record

Serious questions need to be asked, says People for the American Way; for example:

"Alberto Gonzales's role in the development of policies that ultimately led to the Abu Ghraib prison scandals in Iraq is deeply troubling. Few images have done more to scar our nation's image at home and abroad than the terrible pictures of prisoners being abused in Iraq. Further, there are many questions that must still be answered regarding the rights and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. We expect Senators to question him closely on these matters.

"An even more fundamental question is whether Mr. Gonzales will continue the damaging course set by John Ashcroft at the Justice Department. John Ashcroft's tenure was marked by a severe erosion of Americans' civil liberties and a diminished commitment to civil rights enforcement. Would an Attorney General Gonzales continue policies that restrict Americans' constitutional protections? Would he undermine voting rights by supporting recent Justice Department actions to restrict Americans from turning to the courts to enforce the Help America Vote Act?

"Senators should explore Mr. Gonzales' support for the excesses of the PATRIOT Act, parts of which come up for renewal in 2005, as well as his central role in the administration's efforts to pack the federal judiciary with far-right ideologues. Senators should also examine his role in White House actions promoting excessive secrecy, interfering with constitutional checks and balances and demonstrating contempt for Congress' oversight role, threatening affirmative action, and restricting workers' rights by executive order.

Posted by Eric at 12:02 AM | Comments (1)