Saturday, October 28, 2006

Souder's hometown paper endorses the other guy

The Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette has endorsed for election to the U.S. House of Representatives the challenger to Rep. Mark Souder, the harshest drug warrior in Congress. In announcing its support for Tom Hayhurst, the Democrat in the race, the editorial board cited Souder's idiotic HEA Aid Elimination Penalty and the particularly devastating impact it has on his own state of Indiana (as reveled in a report released earlier this year by SSDP).
Despite 12 years in Congress, Souder, 56, has yet to earn a committee chairmanship. The issues he has chosen to emphasize, such as reversing a local decision to ban assault weapons in Washington, D.C., and preserving lighthouses, have done little to help the nation or his district. And some of Souder’s other efforts, such as his bill prohibiting college students with drug convictions from getting financial aid, have hurt Hoosiers. Indiana leads the nation in the rate of college students denied federal aid because of the law. Hayhurst is the better choice for voters of the 3rd District.
Without Souder around, it will be much easier for us to get rid of the unfair and harmful penalty next Congress. We'll see what happens...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Up next... cigarette prohibition?

The Drug Policy Alliance recently commissioned a Zogby poll, asking if Americans would support prohibiting tobacco over the next five to ten years.

The results are absolutely terrifying. 45% of Americans agree that we should make tobacco illegal.

The news gets worse. Among Americans aged 18 - 29, support for tobacco prohibition is at 57%!

That's our generation, folks.

Watch DPA's Ethan Nadelmann explain why tobacco prohibition is a very bad idea:

You might say, "Why worry? The tobacco companies are too powerful to ever allow this to happen!" You might be right. But that's not the point.

The point is that we, the generation raised on D.A.R.E. style misinformation and scare tactics, have an obligation to show our peers that prohibiting potentially dangerous substances does nothing to protect us from those substances. History has shown us that it never has, and common sense tells us that it never will. In fact, it only makes the problem much worse.

But if young people are the constituency that supports tobacco prohibition more than anyone else (7% more than evangelical Christians!), then we need to work harder, folks. I'm proud that my generation has been so successful at giving up cigarettes, but holy smokes... there's no need to throw the Marlboro Man in jail!

If you'd like to get involved in the fight to turn back the destructive tide of prohibitionism, while meeting drug policy gurus like Ethan Nadelmann, register for SSDP's conference today!

Everything Seems Fine With My Head in The Sand

The New York Times put out a piece today discussing the horrific amount of murders, torture, and kidnapping that is associated with drug Mexican drug cartels. With atrocious levels of violence, Mexican cartels are attacking the Judges, policeman, and citizens in a campaign terror unseen outside of Baghdad. For once, the drugs were not blamed as the cause of the violence. No story about killers doped on whatever drug it is that government windbags espouse as being linked to violence this generation, but rather a story of how the drug trade is to blame.

As much as I am disparaged that the piece by Mr. McKinley fails to question why no one has thought of looking for a solution to this violence, I applaud it for putting the facts out there plainly for all to see, even if it may have been unintentional. The black market of drugs causes violence and death that would not be associated with a regulated market! How often do you hear about Miller vs. Budweiser battles being fought with automatic weapons? When was the last time that Bayer® tortured Glaxo Smith Klien® employees over rights to sell arthritis medicine to a certain hospital? Why do we support this kind of horrible pain and suffering by keeping all drugs illegal?

The most interesting point in the article was this quote:

Mexico’s law enforcement officials maintain that the violence is a sign that they have made progress dismantling the major organized crime families in the country. The arrests of several drug cartel leaders and their top lieutenants have set off a violent struggle among second-rank mobsters for trade routes, federal prosecutors say. The old order has been fractured, and the remaining drug dealers are killing one another or making new alliances.

“These alliances are happening because none of the organizations can control, on its own, the territory it used to control, and that speaks to the crisis that they are in,” said José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, the top federal prosecutor for organized crime.

So what you are telling me is that every time you destabilize a cartel all you are going to do is increase the violence associated with the drug trade, and yet you are going to continue to plod along this poorly planned path? By turning 10 large organizations into 100 smaller organizations, you just made your job more difficult if not impossible. At what point do you raise your head out of the sand and ask yourself, “Is there a better way to solve this problem?”.

Drugs can be bad. The pain and suffering of drug addiction is reaped onto everyone who loves the addict. However, we must never forget that concentrated pain of prohibition does nothing to ease the pain of addiction, and may in fact make it worse by forcing the addict into the criminal justice system instead of treatment.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Playing politics with students' rights

The Nation online covered Congress's hasty passage of the so-called "Student and Teacher Safety Act."

The article does a great job questioning the Republican leadership's true motivations behind fast-tracking the bill (it completely skipped the committee process and was passed on the House floor by a voice vote of 20 or so members).
Other critics go further, claiming that Davis was desperate for a legislative victory to court voters in his district, where opinion polls have him locked in a statistical dead-heat with Lucas. "[Davis] clearly wants a piece of legislation that lets him say that he stands for school safety," says Mary Kusler, assistant director of government relations for the American Association of School Administrators. "This is typical in an election year--we see legislation passed with fancy titles that isn't substantial policy."

Perhaps just as typically, Democrats and other opponents have charged Republicans with hypocrisy on school safety. Not only does Davis's bill put at stake the very money schools use to keep students and teachers safe, Congressional Republicans also cut those same funds by 20 percent--more than $90 million--in the 2006 fiscal year and are proposing cutting another $36 million this year. In a bizarre budgetary twist President Bush is proposing eliminating the funding for Safe and Drug-Free School Grants altogether in 2007, while Davis's bill calls for any noncompliant schools to lose this funding after 2008. So if Bush and his allies get their way, Davis's legislation would end up threatening school districts with the loss of nonexistent funds. To date, Davis appears to have made no public statement opposing Bush's proposal.

The Congressman's mind may be elsewhere, however. Made up largely of affluent Cincinnati suburbs, his district in Kentucky is considered the most staunchly Republican in the state. But Davis's controversial attacks on Democrats, his ties to disgraced Republican Congressmen and the nationwide impact of the Mark Foley scandal have made the single-term incumbent one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the House.

In November of last year Davis sparked outrage when he accused liberals and Democrats of siding with Al Qaeda. Responding to Congressman John Murtha's call for withdrawal from Iraq, Davis declared: "[Al Qaeda's leaders] have brought the battlefield to the halls of Congress. And, frankly, the liberal leadership have put politics ahead of sound fiscal and national security policy. And what they have done is cooperated with our enemies and are emboldening our enemies." Inspired by the ensuing backlash, the national Democratic Party recruited Lucas--a former three-term incumbent who beat Davis in 2002 but declined to run in 2004--to take on his successor.

Democrats have also seized on Davis's campaign funds as an election issue. Aided by appearances from both President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, Davis has a significant lead in fundraising, but contributions to his campaign include a $10,000 donation from the Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (ARMPAC), once led by recently ousted House majority leader Tom DeLay, who is under indictment in Texas for violation of campaign finance laws. Davis also received donations from former Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, convicted of mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery for taking money and gifts from defense contractors, and Congressman Bob Ney, convicted of conspiracy and making false statements in relation to the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal. Unlike many other Representatives, Davis has chosen not to give back the money.

The worst part about all of this, though, is that House Democrats allowed the Republican leadership to get away with giving Rep. Davis an easy legislative victory on a voice vote. Not one Democrat requested a roll call vote to get members of Congress on record about this bill, even though in doing so they could have likely defeated it since shady legislative fast-tracking required the bill to have a 2/3 majority to pass.

I'm sure the Democrats will be sorry if Rep. Davis wins reelection on November 7 by touting this victory as evidence that he can get things done in Congress. And they'll be extra sorry if they fail to take control of the House by just one seat. They could have stopped they bill and Rep. Davis's victory lap, but they didn't.