Once he was safely a lame duck, President Barack Obama let states set their own marijuana policies, pardoned or commuted thousands of prisoners’ sentences and talked more freely—and less hypocritically—about the need to end the war on drugs. In fact, his Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) concluded that Richard Nixon’s famous War on Drugs was now a relict by sending the wrong message in prioritizing punishment over treatment. (In reality, the war did continue, even if the phrase had been covered neatly with a tarp for a few years under the guise of “laboratories of democracy.“)
Now we’re in Donald Trump’s America, with Trump’s ODCP and Trump’s Department of Justice. Attorney General Jeff Sessions heads the latter and he’s expressed befuddlement that the American people aren’t cheering his musings on the prospect of kicking the drug war up a notch to prevent some imagined dystopian future of convenience-store marijuana sales. Unfortunately, POTUS’s supposed pick for drug czar, U.S. Representative Tom Marino, is likely to be just as bad as Sessions. A Republican from Pennsylvania, Marino’s voting record on the drug war makes him well-suited for this position in a Trump administration.
As the Washington Post reports, Marino seems to gung-ho on the “Let’s vaguely pretend this is about public health” front, a position that is all the rage on the right. For Marino, protecting public health may involve “hospital-slash-prisons.”
During a 2016 congressional hearing about heroin, Marino wrung his hands on drug abuse and mostly, how it affects children. His full quote, in context: “One treatment option I have advocated for years would be placing nondealer, nonviolent drug abusers in a secured hospital-type setting under the constant care of health professionals. Once the person agrees to plead guilty to possession, he or she will be placed in an intensive treatment program until experts determine that they should be released under intense supervision. If this is accomplished, then the charges are dropped against that person. The charges are only filed to have an incentive for that person to enter the hospital-slash-prison, if you want to call it.”
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Late last week, the Trump administration ordered a missile strike on Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians. The political and diplomatic effects are still reverberating. Was this the right move?
Another potential crisis is brewing in northeast Asia. A U.S. carrier group is heading to the Sea of Japan as a show of force against recent North Korean aggression. Will this escalate the situation?
Perhaps the biggest story this week was the United Airlines passenger being dragged off a flight. Dr. David Dao was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago to Louisville to make room for United crew members. How can this situation be avoided in the future?
Bill Buck of MyWallit.com, Jerrod Laber of Young Voices Advocates, conservative writer and editor Brian McNicoll discuss these issues & more….
Check out the whole exchange here
On April 6, the hundred year anniversary of the United States’ entrance into World War I, President Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to be fired at Syria’s Al Shayrat airfield. The strike came after Syrian President Assad’s most recent use of chemical weapons against rebel units and citizens living in opposition-controlled areas. Although officials claim this strike is a “one-off,” as we look back at another war –– one that may seem distant –– many parallels emerge to our current War on Terror, and warn of the danger of sending additional forces into Syria. Americans would do well to remember that wars usually cost more than assumed and that they invariably erode the domestic freedoms that the fighting is supposed to protect.
As any good student of history or economics will tell you, wars are expensive and have long-lasting consequences for decades or even a century. Yet, the start of a conflict is often greeted with a bizarre degree of enthusiasm, only for voters and governments to later realize the terrible price. In 1914, crowds cheered in every European capital as politicians predicted glorious victory that would see the boys home “before the leaves fall.” The war would last until 1918 and cause 41 million military and civilian casualties, about 20 million killed and 21 million injured. Moreover, the financial burden was billions of dollars, leaving the major European powers weakened and in debt. The Great War also hit Americans with a bill that would amount to $334 billion in 2014 dollars. This pattern of underestimating the price of war has repeated itself in subsequent conflicts, including our present day ones.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, officials said the war would be short and estimated the cost at no more than $200 billion. Yet mission creep, the phenomenon when military and political objectives of using force keep expanding, set in. With a vaguely-worded authorization for the use of military force passed by Congress, soon the goals and enemies multiplied as the conflict spread across the globe. Including U.S. military involvement in at least five wars: Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. The combined War on Terror has cost at least $3.6 trillion. That rises to $4.79 trillion when requested spending and projected costs are taken into account.
Spending an amount similar to World War II would be alarming enough on its own, but borrowing at such a level when combined with ongoing U.S. entitlement costs is unsustainable. One fact many hawks on the left and right keep ignoring is that the national debt is now greater than America’s GDP and is about to hit $20 trillion.
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Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley recently announced a new initiative aimed at addressing the state’s overcrowding problem,with 23,000 prisoners in facilities designed for about 13,000. The “Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative” would consolidate the state’s fourteen prisons into four mega–prisons, costing taxpayers about $800 million. Amazingly, Bentley argues this is the most cost effective way to handle Alabama’s disastrous criminal justice system.
Instead of throwing money at the behemoth of bureaucracy that the prison complex has become, Alabama should consider an alternative model for reform pioneered by Texas.
In 2007, Texas legislators coalesced around a rare bipartisan effort to slim the country’s most bloated incarceration population. The war on drugs and tough on crime politics skyrocketed the state’s incarcerated population from about 50,000 in 1990 to a peak of 173,000 in 2010. The legislature in Austin was faced with two options—a $523 million prison construction plan or an approach focused on shrinking the amount of people they send to prison (i.e. the root of the problem). Obviously, the tough on crime stance so popular in deeply red states hadn’t stemmed the crime wave in any meaningful sense, so Texas House leaders opted for an alternative strategy.
Instead of placing first-time, nonviolent drug offenders in prison — making them more likely to adapt to the hardened prison culture and reoffend once out on release — Texas expanded drug courts that allowed users to forego prison if they agreed to comprehensive supervision, drug testing, and treatment. The new approach also eschewed the common practice of severe sentencing punishments for technical violations of probation or parole. Instead, Texas’s reforms used graduated sanctions (i.e. increasingly strict punishments for parole or probation violations as opposed to instant re-incarceration) and rehabilitation programs for drug users and the mentally ill.
Texas legislators wanted to send fewer people to prison. After all, housing prisoners is a massive taxpayer burden, with annual cost of $26,000 for just one prisoner, and Americans foot an annual bill of roughly $85 billion for corrections.
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Cuba is sometimes idealized as a successful counter model to capitalism. This month, however, the University of Chicago’s NORC released a study about the opinions of Cuba’s population. The findings of the poll were clear: Cubans want capitalism.
The Cuban people are ready and willing to improve their lives, but the government prevents them from doing so.
This kind of information was not previously available because the Cuban government repressed information in and out of the island. As such, the study, based on in-person interviews with 840 randomly chosen adults, gives a rare glimpse into the sentiments of Cubans about the system under which they live.
Cubans on Cuba
65 percent of interviewees said they want to privatize more businesses and decentralize the economy. 68 percent see competition as a positive way to promote ideas and as a motivator to work hard. Many Cubans have an entrepreneurial mindset with 56 percent of the people planning to start a business in the next 5 years. To compare, 57 percent of Americans plan to become entrepreneurs. The Cuban people are ready and willing to improve their lives, but the government prevents them from doing so.
Further, only 13 percent of the population thinks the Cuban economy is doing well. GDP shrunk by almost one percent last year. Venezuela, one of Cuba’s main benefactors, had to reduce its oil deliveries by 60 percent due to their own economic crisis, which has had a heavy impact on Cuba’s GDP.
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