A couple of solid articles today from unexpected sources, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan and Slate's Reihan Salam.
Nolan argues for the legalization of all drugs and calls advocating only for the legalization of marijuana as “cowardly” and “absurd incrementalism.”
It means acquiescing to the continued imprisonment of those who sell or consume the wrong drugs, while pretending that our own personal drug preferences somehow carry more moral value. It is not an intellectually honest response to the horribly misguided war on drugs.
Salam makes the case for legalizing prostitution and cites some convincing evidence.
A pair of economists, Scott Cunningham and Manisha Shah, recently found that when Rhode Island accidentally decriminalized indoor prostitution due to a quirk of statutory language, cases of female gonorrhea plummeted, as did the number of rape offenses. A recent study drawing on data from Vancouver, British Columbia, found that the decriminalization of sex work has the potential to greatly reduce the spread of HIV.
I’ve always thought of the broader arguments for legalizing drugs and sex work as being essentially the same. If an individual is freely consenting to an activity and not hurting anyone else by doing so, why should the state criminalize that activity? And if someone is being hurt, why would the state respond by imprisoning rather than helping that person? Since we can’t prevent people from buying sex or using drugs, the best policy would be one that causes the least amount of harm.
How many promising people have rotted away in jail, losing the best years of their lives, because they had a drug abuse problem, or because they were poor and wanted to make some spending money, or because their boyfriend decided to use their apartment as a stash house? The horror stories are endless. America’s knee-jerk and thoughtless inclination to deprive people of freedom and lock them in cages as a penalty for using drugs is sickening. It is one of the great moral crimes of our lifetime. — Hamilton Nolan
- Police officers arrested a construction worker on a weapon charge because he had a painting knife, which was covered in paint, sticking out of his pocket. He now has a criminal record.
- Police officers arrested a Chinese woman who has a license to sell flowers because she had two artificial flowers on her cart for decorative purposes.
- A police officer arrested a young man for using his girlfriend’s MetroCard.
- A police officer arrested a young man for having his backpack on the seat next to him.
- A police officer arrested a 16-year-old Latino boy on two different occasions for trespass while the boy was standing in the hallway of the building he lives in.
- Two police officers arrested a Latino veteran in the Times Square area on the charge of aggressive begging on eight separate occasions. In one instance, his lawyer has found an exculpatory video that shows him behaving politely and not pressuring walkers-by. The man refused to plead and is taking the case to trial.
- Two police officers stopped and questioned a black fourteen-year-old girl while she was on her way to school—she was only one block away. When she protested, the officers arrested her and charged her with truancy. She understood, as many people in her community who are treated similarly do, that her real offense was “insisting on her rights.”
I noticed this interesting exchange on Twitter tonight between Conor Friedersdorf (a libertarian) and Arun Gupta (a progressive). It seems to highlight the differences between left-wing and libertarian foreign policy views. Neither side is particularly enthusiastic about Israel’s actions in Gaza but only one side seems willing to protest those actions.
Recently, Democrats have been propagating the canard that Republicans are eager to impeach President Obama. While it’s true that Sarah Palin called for the President’s impeachment on Fox News earlier this month, it’s helpful to remember than Palin isn’t a politician anymore and that her statements are in no way indicative of the Republican Party’s intentions. The occasional Republican endorsement of impeachment has been milked by Democrats for the purpose of raising money and placing the blame for government inaction entirely on the shoulders of conservatives.
Nate Silver crunched some numbers related to talk of impeachment and found, unsurprisingly, that liberals raise the topic far more often than conservatives, both in the media and in the halls of Congress.
So far in July, there have been 10 mentions of the term “impeachment” in Congress and four others of the term “impeach.” Eleven of the 14 mentions have been made by Democratic rather than Republican members of Congress, however.
…for every mention of impeachment on Fox News in July, there have been five on liberal-leaning MSNBC.
This data comes from a Lexis-Nexis search of transcripts on each network. It counts each mention of the words “impeach” or “impeachment.” The terms were used 32 times in a single episode of MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” on Monday. … The scoreboard so far in July: Fox News has 95 mentions of impeachment, and MSNBC 448.
David Graham of The Atlantic couldn’t help but notice all the fundraising emails mentioning impeachment that have flooded his inbox recently:
If all you were reading were Democratic email lists…you might imagine it was December 1998 all over again. The set of increasingly hysterical missives from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee presents an alternate political history of the last week.
It’s no secret why Democrats are so eager to talk about impeachment. By their own admission, it’s been a cash cow, drawing in millions of dollars in donations.
Talk of impeachment is an illustrative example of how liberals use the most outrageous utterances of Republicans as a means of drumming up hatred for conservatives, a propaganda war that conveniently serves the purpose of excusing the President’s failures.
Undoubtedly, House Republicans hold many unreasonable views, especially on economic issues. But contrary to what Democrats suggest, there is common ground between progressives and Tea Party conservatives.
Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), for instance, collaborated on the REDEEM Act, which seeks to “cut the cost and stigma of non-violent drug offenses by limiting how long criminal records stick to ex-convicts.” They also proposed an amendment, described by the Drug Policy Alliance as “groundbreaking,” that would prohibit federal agencies from interfering with state medical marijuana laws.
Earlier today, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) proposed a bill that would end NSA bulk collection. Last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) participated in Rand Paul’s drone filibuster, protesting executive overreach. Senators Paul and Lee also joined with Democrats Chris Murphy and Tom Udall to oppose the arming of Syrian rebels.
Reforming drug policy and scaling back U.S. military involvement overseas should enjoy Democratic support. The war in Iraq cost trillions, caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and did little to stabilize a country currently in the midst of civil war. The war on drugs has resulted in a mass incarceration crisis that betrays our values and ruins the lives of countless nonviolent offenders.
While economic issues such as unemployment and low wages are certainly worth addressing, the current ideological divide between liberals and conservatives on all things fiscal makes progress on, for instance, a minimum wage hike, nearly impossible. Thus, it would be sensible for liberals to re-prioritize and focus on bipartisan initiatives that might stand a chance of succeeding. So why haven’t they?
Because President Obama’s views on drone strikes, military interventions, NSA spying, and drug policy are disappointing at best and shameful at worst. No Republican, no matter how loony, is responsible for Obama’s support of the NSA collecting and storing intimate details about the private lives of innocent civilians, or the supposedly “surgical” drone strikes that wipe out civilians, or the intervention in Libya that has left the country a war-ravaged mess, or the proposed intervention in Syria, or the imprisonment of mostly young black men for the “crime” of selling marijuana. The President supports these disastrous policies of his own accord.
Alexander Hamilton once advised that “if a government appears to be confident of its own powers, it is the surest way to inspire the same confidence in others.” President Obama and his fellow Democrats inspire no confidence whatsoever and their incessant finger-pointing won’t disguise that reality.
“Lover’s Lane’” New Jersey, 1983
David Frum Accuses New York Times of Staging Photos of Palestinian Victims
So this is pretty awful. David Frum, alongside a blogger named Thomas Wictor, are accusing the press of publishing fake photos that purport to showcase injured or traumatized Palestinians. In particular, Frum points to a photo of two young men in which one of them has blood on his arms. In a second photo appearing elsewhere, however, the same man no longer has blood on his arms. Q.E.D. conspiracy, amirite?
Except there’s a very easy explanation for why the young man has blood on his arms in one photo, and no blood in another:
Photographers had gathered at the building, according to The New York Times’ Sergey Ponomarev. Photos appear to have been captured and used by some of the world’s top news gatherers, including The Associated Press, Reuters and The New York Times.
While their father was admitted, the brothers, drenched in blood, were given a chance to clean themselves up. Ponomarev said, “I saw his brother take him to a nearby room and he must’ve washed him off because afterward there was no blood on his face and his hands were clean. He was sitting on the chair and seemed calmer, and that’s when I took the photo.”
So the two photos look different because—wait for it—they were taken at different points in time. The second photo was taken after one of the brothers had an opportunity to wash his father’s blood off his hands and face, which I’m sure he was anxious to get off his body.
One of the most useful skills for a public intellectual to develop is to exercise a greater degree of care when investigating stories that confirm your biases vs. those that don’t. We are already naturally predisposed to exercise additional scrutiny to stories that don’t support our political beliefs. But when we see stories that seem to confirm our beliefs, we’re more likely to accept them at face value because they feel correct.
That’s why Frum’s claim is shockingly unreflective for someone who pretends to be a public intellectual. Is it really fair to jump to the conclusion that a photo was staged because the two individuals pictured look different in each photo? Particularly when a legitimate explanation is easily arrived at? Of course not.
On another note, Frum is not the only person looking for an excuse to minimize Palestinian suffering or pretend it doesn’t exist. I wrote this morning about an article written by Avi Issacharoff, who wrote that the Israeli government’s siege in Gaza was ”nonexistent,” which is pure fantasy. I personally have a law school friend who used to jokingly refer to Gaza as “beachfront property,” suggesting that life there was not nearly as bad as Palestinian activists claim it was.
It would be one thing if this was propaganda being handed down by a tyrannical government. But it’s not. These are journalists and opinion leaders whose words have a lot of purchase in the public sphere. This is why, as I mentioned this morning, many people choose to focus on the Israeli government over more oppressive regimes in the Middle East. Nobody is pretending that the those regimes don’t oppress people, but a lot of people pretend that Israel doesn’t. And there’s no better way to erase the suffering of a people than to convince the international community that it doesn’t exist.
via Ali Gharib:
If Frum had done a little more digging, he would have found other posts on Wictor’s blog that call into question his credibility. Frum might have discovered some of Wictor’s recent free-associative rhapsodies or winding disquisitions on minstrel shows. Frum might’ve even found Wictor’s post where he thinks he has taken a photo of a “dematerializing” cat – apparently the second coming of a ghost cat Wictor knew earlier in life.
When prodded on whether the dematerializing cat thing was serious or ironic, Wictor laughed. “No, it is serious. You can present me as completely off my rocker,” he says. “The fact is I took a picture of a cat that looked like my beloved dead cat, and when the shutter snapped the cat was gone. I tend to believe that when we’re under a lot of stress and pain, we can hallucinate. Sure, why not? But I also believe that we might get signs to help us carry on.”
Reading over Wictor’s blog, it’s clear that he’s not entirely well, and that his analysis is wanting. Which all raises the question of what exactly Frum was thinking questioning a bevy of professional journalists based on Thomas Wictor’s writings.
Always a good idea to check your sources…
The Hoover Administration’s initial response to the Great Depression was to supplement private aid without creating the type of permanent public social insurance programs that would arise in the New Deal. Hoover’s goal was to maintain, in the words of the historian Ellis Hawley, a “nonstatist alternative to atomistic individualism, the romantic images of voluntarism as more truly democratic than any government action, and the optimistic assessments of the private sector’s capacity for beneficial governmental action.” As President Hoover said in 1931, much like conservatives do today, any response to the economic crisis must “maintain the spirit of charity and mutual self-help through voluntary giving” in order for him to support it.
Noble as that goal may be, it failed. The more Hoover leaned on private agencies, the more resistance he found. Private firms and industry did not want to play the role that the government assigned them, and even those that did found it difficult, if not impossible, to carry out those responsibilities. The Red Cross, for instance, did not want to move beyond providing disaster relief. Other groups, like the Association of Community Chests and Councils, had no interest in trying to coordinate funds at a national, rather than local, level. Hoover understood that private charity wasn’t getting to rural areas, yet private charities couldn’t be convinced to meet these needs. — Democracy Journal
“We fled to the Philippines, which was under American occupation at the time. But it wasn’t long before the Japanese took over the islands. We were living in Manila, and when the Japanese occupied the city, they began to teach us to read and write Japanese. When the Americans came to retake the city, they invaded from the north, and the Japanese blew up the bridges and barricaded themselves in the southern part of the city where we lived. Shells were falling all around us, because the Japanese had stationed a gun encampment across from our house. One morning, we decided to make a run for the hospital, so that we could put ourselves under the protection of the Red Cross. Our neighbors were running in front of us, pushing their belongings on a pushcart, when they stepped on a land mine and the whole family was killed. We kept running, but when we got to the main street, there was a checkpoint and we weren’t allowed to cross. So we hid beneath a house, and soon we were discovered by Japanese soldiers. They lined us all up against the wall to be executed. We begged and begged and begged for our lives. They finally allowed my mother and the children to step aside, but they told my father to stay. My mother dropped to her knees and asked the Japanese commander to imagine it was his family. And he finally let all of us go.”
In July 2013, No Labels held a rally where lawmakers of both parties crowded a park outside the Capitol, stood on a grandstand and one by one declared themselves “problem solvers.” The government shut down a few months later as Republicans, including some who appeared on that stage, refused to allow a budget to pass unless it defunded the president’s health care law.
Even in its own May document, No Labels claimed only one legislative victory: a bill that passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee by voice vote, but which never came up for a vote in the House or became law. —
Self-described centrist or “problem solving” bipartisan groups like No Labels are utterly useless for myriad reasons.
This is one of the hundreds bombs that I'm hearing #Gaza YOU MUST LISTEN -
A young woman from Gaza recorded the sounds of bombs dropping on her city. Imagine being holed up in your house, sitting in darkness, hoping one of these things doesn’t obliterate you and your family. Terrifying.
[Andrew Cuomo has] basically put two interns, I think they’re like 18 or 19-year-old interns to sue us in court. I couldn’t imagine the idea I would go to my interns and be like, ‘You should be a plaintiff in my lawsuit.’ It’s totally weak, it’s totally pathetic. I hope Cuomo asked their parents, because they probably still live at home. —
Mike Boland, campaign manager for Zephyr Teachout, who is running against Cuomo in the Democratic primary for Governor.
Cuomo’s campaign sent out interns to hold signs contesting Teachout’s residency (team Cuomo says she’s a Vermont, not New York, resident). When reporters attempted to find out who these mysterious protesters were, the interns refused to identify themselves. Their shenanigans are part of a bizarre and pointless attempt to get Teachout tossed off the ballot. Because Andrew Cuomo really doesn’t like democracy all that much.
As Reason's editor defends its racist history, here's a copy of its holocaust denial "special issue" -
Astonishingly, in February 1976, Reason [magazine] dedicated an entire “special issue” to promoting Holocaust deniers, under the guise of so-called “historical revisionism.” … When we shared with [noted Holocaust historian and Holocaust Museum expert Deborah Lipstadt] the list of Reason’s “special issue” contributors and authors positively cited in the issue, Lipstadt described it as “the Who’s Who of early American Holocaust deniers.”