April 10, 2007

God's portrait in the clouds
I am bloodthirsty no more



Emily Noelle Lambert, Strange Dust, 2006

* Arianna Huffington on The war on drugs' war on minorities. excerpt:

"There is a subject being forgotten in the 2008 Democratic race for the White House.

"While all the major candidates are vying for the black and Latino vote, they are completely ignoring one of the most pressing issues affecting those constituencies: the failed "war on drugs" — a war that has morphed into a war on people of color.

C"onsider this: According to a 2006 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, African Americans make up an estimated 15% of drug users, but they account for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. Or consider this: The U.S. has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70%) of them are black or Latino.

"Such facts have been bandied about for years. But our politicians have consistently failed to take action on what has become yet another third rail of American politics, a subject to be avoided at all costs by elected officials who fear being incinerated on contact for being soft on crime.

"Perhaps you hoped this would change during a spirited Democratic presidential primary? Unfortunately, a quick search of the top Democratic hopefuls' websites reveals that not one of them — not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, not John Edwards, not Joe Biden, not Chris Dodd, not Bill Richardson — even mentions the drug war, let alone offers any solutions."
...
"I remember in 1999 asking Dan Bartlett, then the campaign spokesman for candidate George W. Bush, about Bush's position on the outrageous disparity between the sentences meted out for possession of crack cocaine and those given for possession of powder cocaine — a disparity that has helped fill U.S. prisons with black low-level drug users (80% of sentenced crack defendants are black). Federal sentencing guidelines dictate that judges impose the same five-year prison sentence for possession of five grams of crack or 500 grams of powder cocaine.

"'The different sentencing for crack cocaine and powder cocaine is something that there's no doubt needs to be addressed,' Bartlett told me. But in the more than six years since Bush and Bartlett moved into the White House, the problem has gone unaddressed. No doubt about it.

"Maybe the president will suddenly wake up and decide to take on the issue five days before he leaves office. That's what Bill Clinton did, writing a 2001 New York Times Op-Ed article in which he trumpeted the need to 'immediately reduce the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences' — conveniently ignoring the fact that he had the power to solve it for eight years and did nothing."
...
"The injustice is so egregious that a conservative senator, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), is now leading the charge in Congress to ease crack sentences. 'I believe that as a matter of law enforcement and good public policy, crack cocaine sentences are too heavy and can't be justified,' he said. 'People don't want us to be soft on crime, but I think we ought to make the law more rational.'

"There's a talking point Hillary and Obama should adopt. It's both the right thing and the smart thing. Because of disenfranchisement statutes, large numbers of black men who were convicted of drug crimes are ineligible to vote, even those who have fully paid their debt to society."

* Ten famous literary bars.

* Portrait in the Clouds, by Wooden Wand. Catchy, with a scruffy solo to carry it out.

* "All television ever did was shrink the demand for ordinary movies. The demand for extraordinary movies increased. If any one thing is wrong with the movie industry today, it is the unrelenting effort to astonish." -- Clive James

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