Tag Archives | Crime & Punishment

Why Legalizing Drugs — All of Them — Is the Only Forward Path For Black America

Prohibition EndsInteresting article from John McWhorter in the New Republic:

This should change, as I have argued frequently over the past year (listen to part of a speech I did on this here). Of the countless reasons why this revival of this Prohibition that looks so quaint in Boardwalk Empire should be erased with all deliberate speed, one is that with no War on Drugs there would be, within one generation, no “black problem” in the United States. Poverty in general, yes. An education problem in general — probably. But the idea that black America had a particular crisis would rapidly become history, requiring explanation to young people. The end of the War on Drugs is, in fact, what all people genuinely concerned with black uplift should be focused on, which is why I am devoting my last TNR post of 2010 to the issue. The black malaise in the U.S.

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WikiLeaks Revelation: The U.S. Tortured an Innocent Man and Threatened Germany to Not Prosecute the Torturers

While the U.S. media simultaneously wrings its hands over whether Julian Assange should get life imprisonment or the death penalty and claims WikiLeaks revealed nothing important except about Iran's WMD ambitions, Scott Horton reports at Harper's:
Over the Christmas-New Year’s holiday in 2003, Khaled El-Masri traveled by bus to Skopje, Macedonia. There he was apprehended by border guards who noted the similarity of his name to that of Khalid al-Masri, an Al Qaeda agent linked to the Hamburg cell where the 9/11 attacks were plotted. Despite El-Masri’s protests that he was not al-Masri, he was beaten, stripped naked, shot full of drugs, given an enema and a diaper, and flown first to Baghdad and then to the notorious “salt pit,” the CIA’s secret interrogation facility in Afghanistan. At the salt pit, he was repeatedly beaten, drugged, and subjected to a strange food regime that he supposed was part of an experiment that his captors were performing on him. Throughout this time, El-Masri insisted that he had been falsely imprisoned, and the CIA slowly established that he was who he claimed to be. Over many further weeks of bickering over what to do, a number of CIA figures apparently argued that, though innocent, the best course was to continue to hold him incommunicado because he “knew too much.”...
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WikiLeaks Revelation: The U.S. State Department Obstructed Spanish Torture Investigations

Coat of Arms of SpainMore from Scott Horton at Harper’s:

In Spain, the WikiLeaks disclosures have dominated the news for three days now. The reporting has been led by the level-headed El País, with its nationwide competitor, Público, lagging only a bit behind. Attention has focused on three separate matters, each pending in the Spanish national security court, the Audiencia Nacional: the investigation into the 2003 death of a Spanish cameraman, José Cuoso, as a result of the mistaken shelling of Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel by a U.S. tank; an investigation into the torture of Spanish subjects held at Guantánamo; and a probe into the use of Spanish bases and airfields for extraordinary renditions flights, including the one which took Khaled El-Masri to Baghdad and then on to Afghanistan in 2003.

These cables reveal a large-scale, closely coordinated effort by the State Department to obstruct these criminal investigations. High-ranking U.S. visitors such as former Republican Party Chair Mel Martinez, Senator Judd Gregg, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were corralled into this effort, warning Spanish political leaders that the criminal investigations would “be misunderstood” and would harm bilateral relations.

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Schwarzenegger Decriminalizes Pot in California

CaliforniaMarijuana

Nicholas Pell writes in the Examiner.com

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Friday morning that decriminalizes possession of marijuana in the state.

Those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana will still receive a maximum penalty of $100. However, Senate Bill 1449 reduces the legal categorization of marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. This means that those caught will not have to appear in court, pay court fees or receive a criminal record.

Schwarzenegger opposes Proposition 19, a pending referendum that will provide a legal framework for the sale, cultivation and taxation of marijuana. However, despite this opposition, Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law. In a letter to the California Senate, Schwarzenegger stated that “less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction in everything but name. The only difference is that because it is a misdemeanor, a criminal defendant is entitled to a jury trial and a defense attorney.” He further stated that “In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket.”

California director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Dale Gieringer lauded the governor’s decision…

[continues at the Examiner.com]

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All Drugs Have Been Legal in Portugal Since 2001: Did Decriminalization Work?

Portugal & PotInteresting article in TIME from last year. Maia Szalavitz writes:

Pop quiz: Which European country has the most liberal drug laws? (Hint: It’s not the Netherlands.)

Although its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze–filled “coffee shops,” Holland has never actually legalized cannabis — the Dutch simply don’t enforce their laws against the shops. The correct answer is Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal’s drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

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Charles Bronson for President

Charles BronsonVia the First Church of Mutterhals:

I’ve been watching the Death Wish movies all week on AMC. Quake loves them dearly for the wet explosions and hand cannons. I am amazed that these films ever saw the light of day.

The story goes as follows: Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) is forced into violence by so many thugs and cretins, who run roughshod over New York city like a band of vikings. Kersey never really wants to spill blood, it’s just that the aforementioned thugs will not stop killing and raping his loved ones. The cops are no help either. They are either woefully incompetent or believe Kersey to be just as bad as those he hunts. Paul Kersey has to be the unluckiest man in the history of film.

These are laughably bad films and in no way do they represent reality. But something about them struck me as being fairly accurate, and that something was the sheer panic that some people exhibit right now.… Read the rest

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What’s Wrong With How We Punish Criminals

Mark Kleiman, professor of Public Affairs at the UCLA, talks to ReasonTV about the overriding flaw in the U.S. criminal justice system: it's "randomized draconianism" -- that is, punishments are both too severe, and are applied irregularly, unfairly, randomly, etc., in different cases. For example, get caught violating your drug probation, and most likely nothing will happen, but there's a small chance you will be hit with a twenty-five-year prison sentence. The solution? Modeling penalties on parenting techniques, in which punishment should be swift and certain, but not cruel or too drastic.
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Smile! Aerial Images Being Used To Enforce Laws

Google Earth arial view of downtown Los Angeles.

Google Earth aerial view of downtown Los Angeles.

Benign, or Big Brother? Report from AP/Yahoo News:

On New York’s Long Island, it’s used to prevent drownings. In Greece, it’s a tool to help solve a financial crisis. Municipalities update property assessment rolls and other government data with it. Some in law enforcement use it to supplement reconnaissance of crime suspects.

High-tech eyes in the sky — from satellite imagery to sophisticated aerial photography that maps entire communities — are being employed in creative new ways by government officials, a trend that civil libertarians and others fear are eroding privacy rights.

“As technology advances, we have to revisit questions about what is and what is not private information,” said Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Democracy and Technology.

Online services like Google and Bing give users very detailed images of practically any location on the planet. Though some images are months old, they make it possible for someone sitting in a living room in Brooklyn to look in on folks in Dublin or Prague, or even down the street in Flatbush.

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In Case Anything Happens To WikiLeaks … They Have Posted A Mysterious ‘Insurance’ File

The plot thickens … Excellent story from Kim Zetter on the always interesting WIRED’s Threat Level:
WikiLeaks

In the wake of strong U.S. government statements condemning WikiLeaks’ recent publishing of 77,000 Afghan War documents, the secret-spilling site has posted a mysterious encrypted file labeled “insurance.”

The huge file, posted on the Afghan War page at the WikiLeaks site, is 1.4 GB and is encrypted with AES256. The file’s size dwarfs the size of all the other files on the page combined. The file has also been posted on a torrent download site as well.

WikiLeaks, on Sunday, posted several files containing the 77,000 Afghan war documents in a single “dump” file and in several other files containing versions of the documents in various searchable formats.

Cryptome, a separate secret-spilling site, has speculated that the file may have been posted as insurance in case something happens to the WikiLeaks website or to the organization’s founder, Julian Assange.

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