February 1, 2007

draw sand with your fingers
into circles just for fun

Kristen Schiele, Reach, 2004. Oil on canvas

* RIP, Molly Ivins. excerpt:

"Columnist, best-selling author and partisan wit Molly Ivins died Wednesday after a long and recurring battle with breast cancer.

"She did not confine her humorous skewering to Republicans. She aimed it at wherever she perceived pomposity or wrongdoing.

"Of the Gore-Bush presidential race in 2000 she said, 'It's like having Ted Baxter of the old 'Mary Tyler Moore' show running for president: Gore has Ted's manner and Bush has his brain.'" [read the whole article]

-- related: "There are two kinds of humor," she told People magazine. One was the kind "that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity,"
she said. "The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule. That's what I do." -- Molly Ivins

-- Ivins' final column.

* Dumb title for this long, but excellent, article on the failure of the war on drugs. excerpt:

"Thirty-five years into the 'war on drugs,' the United States still has a huge drug abuse problem, with several million problem users of illicit drugs and about 15 million problem users of alcohol. Illicit drug-dealing industries take in about $50 billion per year. Much of the retail drug trade is flagrant, involving either open-air activity or identified, dedicated drug houses. Flagrant dealing creates violence and disorder, wrecking both the neighborhoods where it goes on and the lives of the dealers. Chronic heavy users of expensive illicit drugs steal and deal to finance their habits. Drug injection spreads HIV and hepatitis-C.

"On top of all that, we have a highly intrusive and semi-militarized drug enforcement effort that is often only marginally constitutional and sometimes more than marginally indecent.11. For accounts of the 'epidemic of isolated incidents' in which innocent people have been killed or injured when their homes were wrongly subjected to SWAT-style searches, see Radley Balko, Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America (Cato Institute, 2006). That enforcement effort keeps about 500,000 Americans behind bars at any one time for drug law violations, about 25 percent of the total U.S. prison and jail population. A larger proportion of U.S. residents is doing time for drug law violations than is behind bars for all offenses put together in any country to which we’d like to be compared.

"These are depressing facts that cry out for a radical reform to solve the drug problem once and for all. But the first step toward achieving less awful results is accepting that there is no one “solution” to the drug problem, for essentially three reasons. First, the potential for drug abuse is built into the human brain. Left to their own devices, and subject to the sway of fashion and the blandishments of advertising, many people will wind up ruining their lives and the lives of those around them by falling under the spell of one drug or another. Second, any laws—prohibitions, regulations or taxes—stringent enough to substantially reduce the number of addicts will be defied and evaded, and those who use drugs in defiance of the laws will generally wind up poorer, sicker and more likely to be criminally active than they would otherwise have been. Third, drug law enforcement must be intrusive if it is to be effective, and enterprises created for the expressed purpose of breaking the law naturally tend toward violence because they cannot rely on courts to settle disputes or police to protect them from robbery or extortion."
"Supervising the national drug policy research agenda, and thinking about how to create less disastrous national drug policies, ought to be part of the job of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the 'drug czar' operation). But instead, that office has been mostly a cheerleader and ideological enforcer, intent on maintaining current ideas and defending the interests of the public and private agencies that provide enforcement, prevention, treatment and drug-testing services. A president who is serious about dealing with the twin problems of drug abuse and drug enforcement, and is prepared to be bold about it, would have to start either by finding smart, knowledgeable, serious and bold people to staff that office—or by getting rid of it entirely. Such a president, alas, is nowhere is sight."

* "One certain effect of war is to diminish freedom of expression." -- Howard Zinn


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