#73 – “Pretty Sure”

On Thursday, a bipartisan majority of the House Homeland Security Committee endorsed the idea of domestic terror laws. US lawmakers heard from the “experts” who claimed that another “domestic terrorist attack” would occur soon.

I’m “pretty sure” this is their Superbowl commercial to rally the audience for more Government protection!

I am “certain” the US lawmakers will take care of all domestic terrorist threats! How did the Patriot Act work out? I am “pretty sure” it didn’t.

#72 – The War is Over

The Oregon Truce

In  February, and Oregon ballot measure that decriminalized drugs took effect. Adults can no longer be arrested for possession of small amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone and other drugs. https://apnews.com/article/oregon-decriminalize-drug-possession-6843f93c3d55212e0ffbdd8b93be9196

Instead, those found in possession would face a $100 fine or a health assessment that could lead to addiction counseling. The addiction recovery centers will be funded by millions of dollars of tax revenue from Oregon’s legalized marijuana industry.  Backers of the ballot measure, which Oregon voters passed by a wide margin in November, hailed it as a revolutionary move for the United States.

Brief History

In 1930, at age 38, Harry Anslinger was appointed the founding commissioner of the Treasury’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The bureau was not set up to target drug users or the “social evils” of drugs, it was instituted to chase untaxed revenue. But after, Prohibition, the 18th Amendment was repealed, out of self-interest and due to the obsolescence of the Department of Prohibition, Anslinger campaigned for a new prohibition against marijuana use. That was the unofficial start of the War on Drugs. In 1972, Richard Nixon formalized and nationalized it.

The Arguments

De-criminalization of drugs will create more violence. It’s the illegal, high risk, high reward environment that attract a unique cliental. People more prone to violence are amongst this demographic. The drug trade, because it is illegal, has no real criminal justice system. Justice is administrated by the violent participants that enforce their own system of justice. This results in violent gang turf wars and cartel rivalries. Cities and communities are torn apart, often times with innocents getting caught in the crossfire.

De-criminalization of substances will enrich the drug cartels. Just as alcohol prohibition gave rise to gangsters in the 1920’s, such as the notorious and deadly Al Capone, the war against drugs has given rise to violent drug cartels, making multi-billionaires out of drug kingpins like El Chapo. Prohibition places a high premium on the commodity due to it being illegal. Cash and power is the reward and violences the price.

In actuality prohibition of substances cost are huge. “The amount of money used to enforce prohibition started at $6.3 million in 1921 and rose to $13.4 million in 1930, almost double the original amount”. A 2015 study estimated that the repeal of Prohibition had a net social benefit of “$432 million per annum in 1934–1937, about 0.33% of gross domestic product.” This was primarily due to the increased consumer and producer surplus, tax revenues, and reduced criminal violence costs.

De-criminalization of substances will increase addiction. Current drug overdose is another issue that is fueled by the fact that the sanctity of the product is always suspect. Illegal drugs are readily available in most areas. Legalizing drugs would provide a higher level of confidence in the ingredients of the drugs being sold. Companies selling drugs could be held liable if they sell tainted drugs that poison their customers, an option not available under the current system.

Portugal took a proactive step to decriminalize drugs in 2000. Prior to 2000, they had the highest percentage of addicts in Europe. According to the AP article, “Portugal’s 2000 decriminalization brought no surge in drug use. Drug deaths fell while the number of people treated for drug addiction in the country rose 20% from 2001 to 2008 then stabilized.” 

Collateral Damage

The War on Drugs tears families apart, it jails people (mostly black men) for using or possessing a chemical that the government deemed illegal. Millions of children have had to grow up with a parent stuck behind bars for non-criminal acts. The Constitution limits the government to protecting citizens against others violating their rights. Government is not to protect us against our own judgment and actions as long as they do not harm others. Incarceration harms individuals, families and communities. 

The Drug War is destructive and it creates criminals. I prefer to call them victims, not criminals. Like every war the innocent are usually the “collateral damage.” This war destroys people’s lives, this war imprisons non-violent people because they choose to use or hold a substance, this war puts a permanent stain on peoples criminal record, this war makes it virtually impossible to join the job market, this war makes it difficult to obtain housing.

“The War is Over?” 

“Today, the first domino of our cruel and inhumane war on drugs has fallen, setting off what we expect to be a cascade of other efforts centering health over criminalization,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which spearheaded the Oregon ballot initiative.

#71 Team Washington and the JCPOA

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy,” Mr. Biden wrote in a September op-ed for CNN. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal (JCPOA), the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.” Biden’s “credible path back to diplomacy” appears to have a few strings attached.

The Obama, I’m sorry, the Biden foreign policy experts are back in town. They are in charge with the handling of the JCPOA “re-negotiations”. Their negotiating tactic includes what Gareth Porter refers to it as good ole American “coercive diplomacy.” But the experts may have a flawed logic stream. 

Selective memory sometimes infects the Washington diplomatic corps. It’s perplexing that, “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal” is the basis for returning to the JCPOA agreement. Did they “forget” that the US violated the deal first and Iran had observed all of the JCPOA’s provisions for about two years after the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement. 

My memory tells me that it was not until the Trump administration reintroduced old sanctions (outlawed by the agreement) and the introduction of new sanctions aimed at preventing Iran from exporting oil did Iran breach its responsibilities of the nuclear deal. 

In reality, the US entered into an JCPOA agreement and then it broke a promise with a partner. By quitting the JCPOA promise, the US divorced itself from the relationship. But now wants Iran, the spurned partner, to make the first move toward reconciliation. Washington may even be looking for Iran to sweeten the deal by insisting on more concessions that were not part of the original deal.

Iran is holding firm on the original JCPOA agreement. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif recently explained, “The time for the United States to come back to the nuclear agreement is not unlimited.” Zarif goes on to say, “The United States has a limited window of opportunity … The United States has to accept what we agreed upon.”

Washington’s propaganda continues to misrepresent the order of events and their motive. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.” 

By declaring that Iran needs to “return to strict compliance” just to establish a “starting point for follow-on negotiations” is disingenuous. This is Washington double-talk for, “the hell with the agreement we signed,” let’s “right” the “wrongs” of the 2015 JCPOA agreement. 

The “rights” and “wrongs” of the 2015 JCPOA agreement may be solidified later this month. Israeli newspapers have reported that Israeli Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and his team will present the Biden administration with, “information gathered by Israel on the progress of Iran’s rogue nuclear program”.  

Cohen appears to be Israel’s messenger. Israeli news reports indicate that Cohen will instruct Biden of Benjamin Netanyahu’s (Prime Minister of Israel) demand “that Iran must halt the enriching of uranium; stop producing advanced centrifuges; cease supporting terror groups, foremost Lebanon’s Hezbollah; end its military presence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen; stop terror activity against Israeli targets overseas; and grant full access to the IAEA on all aspects of its nuclear program.” This would be a radical overhaul of the 2015 deal with far more nuclear stringent commitments with new intrusive dictates. 

Why coercive diplomacy? Have the experts fallen in love the Trump sanctions? It’s always nice to have your boot on the neck of the Iranian economy. Maybe it’s just Biden’s turn to grovel to the wishes of Israel? After all, Team Washington always follows the “next guy up” and “do your job” tradition. 

#70 “1984” – Living it?

Q: Have you ever read Orwell’s 1984? A: Why? I’m living it.

I‘ve started 1984 several times but I have never completed the novel, I find it too depressing. However, I have actually experienced much of the vocabulary that I came across. I recognize terms like: newspeak, Big Brother, thought police, unperson and doublethink. 

1984 is a novel about language and how governments uses it to subjugate and obfuscate. Orwell was not a prophet, he just identified a crucial ingredient needed for any successful authoritarian government. He made it clear that threaten death, imprisonment or torture is not enough to control its citizens effectively. Orwell exposes the fact that the modern authoritarian state needs to be more subtle. It needs the public’s consciousness. 

Orwell points out that, with the destruction of language, independent thoughts become impossible. Confusing the meaning of words by introducing a new gibberish-language neutralizes logic reasoning. Doublethink, the ability to holds one’s mind with two contradictory beliefs at the same time, renders citizens extremely susceptible to propaganda. 

When U.S. government officials use terms such as “enhanced interrogation,” “alternative facts,” “collateral damage,” or “extremists,” some will understand that what they’re describing is actually torture, lies, innocent civilian deaths, and political dissidents.

In 1984, The Party destroys the human mind and heart by using constant propaganda that eliminates the truth by altering historical records to conform to the ever-changing Party Line. With no History, all truth flowed from The Party. 

In 1984 The Party required an unquestioning obedience and blind hatred of any person or group The Party proclaims as its enemy. Today we hear talk of sending the “deplorable” to “re‐education” camps. I picture brutal indoctrination sites, with inmates forced to recite “woke” propaganda and renounce MAGA.

1984’s Winston Smith’s asked “Why?” The Party leader explained;  “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others were cowards and hypocrites. They never had the courage to recognize their motives. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. How does one man assert his power over another? By making him suffer. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement—a world of fear and treachery and torment. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.” 

Today, political dishonesty is rampant; the experts are abundant; the public is in fear; treachery abounds; and we are surrounded by rage. Is totalitarianism just a lockdown away? Will there be a large enough citizens resistance movement to counter the states attempt to dominate the consciousness of the people?