Insanity and the War on Drugs or One Way to Stimulate the Economy

Obama’s political success has largely been a result of his opposition to the Iraq war from the start and the belief of voters that he will put an end to that war. He has been less consistent, but at times has also indicated objections to aspects of another failed war–the drug war. Hopefully once in office he takes a closer took at the issue.  Reuters looks at the insanity of the war on drugs, and a move from an unexpected source to end the war:

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. His definition fits America’s war on drugs, a multi-billion dollar, four-decade exercise in futility.

The war on drugs has helped turn the United States into the country with the world’s largest prison population. (Noteworthy statistic: The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population and around 25 percent of the world’s prisoners). Keen demand for illicit drugs in America, the world’s biggest market, helped spawn global criminal enterprises that use extreme violence in the pursuit of equally extreme profits.

Over the years, the war on drugs has spurred repeated calls from social scientists and economists (including three Nobel prize winners) to seriously rethink a strategy that ignores the laws of supply and demand.

Under the headline “The Failed War on Drugs,” Washington’s respected, middle-of-the-road Brookings Institution said in a November report that drug use had not declined significantly over the years and that “falling retail drug prices reflect the failure of efforts to reduce the supply of drugs.”

Cocaine production in South America stands at historic highs, the report noted.

Like other think tanks, Brookings stopped short of recommending a radical departure from past policies with a proven track record of failure such as spending billions on crop eradication in Latin America and Asia while allotting paltry sums in comparison to rehabilitating addicts.

Enter Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization started in 2002 by police officers, judges, narcotics agents, prison wardens and others with first-hand experience of implementing policies that echo the prohibition of alcohol. Prohibition, now widely regarded a dismal and costly failure of social engineering, came to an end 75 years ago this week.

As LEAP sees it, the best way to fight drug crime and violence is to legalize drugs and regulate them the same way alcohol and tobacco is now regulated. “We repealed prohibition once and we can do it again,” one of the group’s co-founders, Terry Nelson, told a Washington news conference on December 2. “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”

For the last few months policies have been analyzed largely on how they will affect the economy. If we don’t end the drug war for any other reason, perhaps we should look at how it would stimulate the economy:

The budgetary impact of legalizing drugs would be enormous, according to a study prepared to coincide with the 75th anniversary of prohibition’s end by Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron. He estimates that legalizing drugs would inject $76.8 billion a year into the U.S. economy — $44.1 billion through savings on law enforcement and at least $32.7 billion in tax revenues from regulated sales.

More information on LEAP can be found at their website.

Thumbs Down for Expelled

Roger Ebert finally got around to reviewing the creationist movie Expelled as part of an examination of Ben Stein’s mind. He ends with this:

The more you know about evolution, or simple logic, the more you are likely to be appalled by the film. No one with an ability for critical thinking could watch more than three minutes without becoming aware of its tactics. It isn’t even subtle. Take its treatment of Dawkins, who throughout his interviews with Stein is honest, plain-spoken, and courteous. As Stein goes to interview him for the last time, we see a makeup artist carefully patting on rouge and dusting Dawkins’ face. After he is prepared and composed, after the shine has been taken off his nose, here comes plain, down-to-earth, workaday Ben Stein. So we get the vain Dawkins with his effete makeup, talking to the ordinary Joe.

I have done television interviews for more than 40 years. I have been on both ends of the questions. I have news for you. Everyone is made up before going on television. If they are not, they will look like death warmed over. There is not a person reading this right now who should go on camera without some kind of makeup. Even the obligatory “shocked neighbors” standing in their front yards after a murder usually have some powder brushed on by the camera person. Was Ben Stein wearing makeup? Of course he was. Did he whisper to his camera crew to roll while Dawkins was being made up? Of course he did. Otherwise, no camera operator on earth would have taped that. That incident dramatizes his approach throughout the film. If you want to study Gotcha! moments, start here.

That is simply one revealing fragment. This film is cheerfully ignorant, manipulative, slanted, cherry-picks quotations, draws unwarranted conclusions, makes outrageous juxtapositions (Soviet marching troops representing opponents of ID), pussy-foots around religion (not a single identified believer among the ID people), segues between quotes that are not about the same thing, tells bald-faced lies, and makes a completely baseless association between freedom of speech and freedom to teach religion in a university class that is not about religion.

And there is worse, much worse. Toward the end of the film, we find that Stein actually did want to title it “From Darwin to Hitler.” He finds a Creationist who informs him, “Darwinism inspired and advanced Nazism.” He refers to advocates of eugenics as liberal. I would not call Hitler liberal. Arbitrary forced sterilization in our country has been promoted mostly by racists, who curiously found many times more blacks than whites suitable for such treatment.

Ben Stein is only getting warmed up. He takes a field trip to visit one “result” of Darwinism: Nazi concentration camps. “As a Jew,” he says, “I wanted to see for myself.” We see footage of gaunt, skeletal prisoners. Pathetic children. A mound of naked Jewish corpses. “It’s difficult to describe how it felt to walk through such a haunting place,” he says. Oh, go ahead, Ben Stein. Describe. It filled you with hatred for Charles Darwin and his followers, who represent the overwhelming majority of educated people in every nation on earth. It is not difficult for me to describe how you made me feel by exploiting the deaths of millions of Jews in support of your argument for a peripheral Christian belief. It fills me with contempt.

To illustrate his point, he includes this cartoon (click on it for a larger version):

Extremist Views Doomed the GOP

Ross Douthat joins the ranks of Republicans who think they can remain a viable national party in the 21st century while embracing the mind set of the middle ages. He takes offense from the advice of Republicans who reject the social conservatives:

Pro-choice Republicans, in particular, know exactly whom to blame for their party’s showing. As Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and Bush administration E.P.A. chief, explained after the election, it lost because “the party was taken hostage by ‘social fundamentalists,’ the people who base their votes on such social issues as abortion.” The conservative columnist Kathleen Parker made the same point more vividly: “The evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the G.O.P. is what ails the erstwhile conservative party.” The neoconservative writer Max Boot was diffident about the matter (“I don’t think Republicans need to panic,” he wrote, but “one area where I do see some room for adjustment is on the issue of abortion”) and the right-wing humorist P. J. O’Rourke was blunt (pro-lifers should “give the issue a rest”). The message is clear: If the Republican Party would only jettison its position on abortion, it would be back on its feet in no time.

Maybe they wouldn’t be back on their feet very quickly considering how many ways the Republicans screwed up the country while in power, but their association with the religious right will make it much harder for them to ever recover. The views of the religious right are increasingly making the Republicans an unacceptable choice to affluent educated voters as well as the young, making it very hard for them to win a national election in the future. Their views on abortion are a part of this, but the problem goes beyond abortion. Douthat fails to give enough consideration to the problems faced by the Republicans due to their overall opposition to science and reason, including the belief of many in creationism and the manner in which they allow their ideological views to lead them to denial of the scientific consensus on climate change.

Douthat tries to portray opponents of abortion rights as being fair minded people willing to compromise. They have even stopped trying to kill those who perform abortions, after all! Such willingness to compromise was not seen when Sarah Palin opposed abortion under any circumstance, or when John McCain mocked the very idea of allowing abortion to save the life of the mother during the third presidential debate. Nor does the right wing appear willing to compromise when they oppose also oppose contraception and embryonic stem cell research. Nobody with any real understanding of the science will buy Douthat’s claims that those on the right are more knowledgeable on the subject because of their support for adult embryonic stem cell research. This is no replacement for embryonic stem cell research.

Douthat sees overturning the Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey as being the “very purpose” of the conservative movement. As long as they define their movement in terms of such a return to the past they are not likely to regain power nationally. While there have been periods of back sliding, the general trend of our history has been to enable greater individual freedom. A movement which opposes this, along with embracing ignorance and opposition to science, is doomed to becoming a relic of the past.

SciFi Weekend: What Summer Glau Does After Dark; Dexter Captured; Caprica Ordered; and Dutch’s Killer to be Revealed

When Terminator: The Sarah Connor Adventures began I was fearful that the stories would primarily involve chase scenes and fights as Sarah tried to keep Jon safe. The show has moved well beyond such stories, and has increasingly been playing around with the ramifications of time travel. This week’s episode answers the question of what Cameron (Summer Glau) does at night since, as a cyborg, she does not sleep.

Cameron spends her nights doing research, and stumbled upon a picture which showed that a terminator wound up in the wrong year when going back in time. Cameron ultimately pieces together what was changed by his actions and what he has planned for the future. It might not be entirely realistic that she could figure out as much as she did and I might be disappointed if this story was central to the series. For one episode I was willing to accept what Cameron accomplished and found it enjoyable.

The episode was a nice change of pace from the usual episodes but one problem with weekly television shows is that they feel obligated to bring in most of the major cast members. The episode would have been stronger if it dealt entirely with Cameron. Besides, so far I’m not impressed with the Riley and Jon story line. If Riley really is a resistance fighter from the future who has reason to keep Jon save, many of her actions to date are questionable.

It is unusual for me to be watching Dexter one week at a time. I watched the first two seasons in a very short time. For the second season, we watched a few episodes during the week and then one Saturday evening my wife and I sat down for a marathon session, winding up staying up all night to watch the entire season. Watching that way you don’t have periods of a week to contemplate what will happen next.

Last week’s episode ended with the Skinner capturing Dexter, with unexpected involvement by Miguel. Now I’ve had the week to try to guess how Dexter gets out of it. He might escape on his own, either by overpowering the Skinner or perhaps by using his knowledge of Frebo’s fate to influence him. Dexter might also be rescued by others. Debra has been after the Skinner and might track him down in time to save Dexter. Another long shot is that Miguel, in another attempt to manipulate Dexter rather than kill him off, could save Dexter. Plus, what happens now that Maria has reason to suspect that Miguel was involved in Ellen Wolf’s murder?

Dexter wasn’t the only one that was captured at the end of a genre show this week. On Fringe Oliva has also been kidnapped. The problem is that, while I still have some curiosity as to where J.J. Abrams is going with the show, I don’t really care all that much about what happens to her. As I believe I’ve said before, they are going to have to start revealing more of interest about what is going on in order to keep the interest of viewers for much longer.

The SciFi Channel has ordered twenty episodes of the Battlestar Galactica prequel, Caprica:

The drama, which kicks off with a two-hour pilot movie, stars Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Paula Malcomson and Polly Walker.

Set 50 years before the events in Battlestar Galactica, Caprica follows two rival families–the Graystones and the Adamas–as they grow, compete and thrive in the vibrant world of the 12 Colonies, a society recognizably close to our own.

Enmeshed in the burgeoning technology of artificial intelligence and robotics that will eventually lead to the creation of the Cylons, the two houses go toe to toe in a series that blends action with corporate conspiracy and sexual politics.

Back in September I mentioned plans for a television series based upon the novel Flash Forward by Robert A. Sawyer. John Cho, who plays Sulu in the upcoming Star Trek movie, is in negotiations to co-star.

A couple of weeks ago I reported that Dirty Sexy Money, Eli Stone, and Pushing Daisies were all to be canceled. There’s somewhat good news for fans of the first two. Ausiello reports that there will be satisfying series endings for DSM and Eli Stone:

Unlike Daisies, DSM and Eli had the time and money to produce what an ABC insider describes as “satisfying series endings.” DSM will finally answer the question, “Who whacked Dutch?” (brace yourself for a killer twist), while Eli wraps with what my source describes as a “powerful scene between Eli and his father.”

Last month I reported rumors that John Hamm of Madmen might be appearing in 30 Rock as Liz Lemon’s love interest. It looks like this rumor is true, with Hamm already having filmed a couple of episodes.

Sylar might have killed off Elle on Heroes this week, but there is hope of seeing Kristin Bell back in her better role. There’s still rumors of a Veronica Mars movie down the road, but at the moment Rob Thomas is busy with other projects. He told Ausiello:

“I haven’t gotten far on my VM movie outline,” he tells me. “I thought I had the idea broken, but I’ve hit a wall in the final act that I haven’t quite figured out. And with Cupid and Party Down occupying 80 hours a week, and a new baby boy occupying the remaining hours, I haven’t nailed it down. I’m hopeful that I can find the time to figure it out over the Christmas holidays.