Is the "War on Drugs" effective?

How much are we spending on the "War on Drugs?"

Is the “War on Drugs” working? Has the “War on Drugs” in fact lowered the amount of drug use among the United States population?

The quick answer is “no.”

 

I just came across a handy infographic from “The Atlantic” which demonstrates that the “War on Drugs” is not working as well as the government had hoped. During the years between 1970 and 2010, the drug addiction rate in the United States actually rose to just above one percent of the population. The United States’ federal government spending for the “War on Drugs” has increased dramatically, but without any results. 

The total depicted on the chart represents an all-inclusive cost of $1.5 trillion, courtesy of the United States tax payer. The money spent also includes additional costs which relate to incarceration costs. The current drug rate of the United States population is around 1.3 percent.

 

The chart and the statistics on the chart was completed by Matt Groff, who used information from the United States Department of Health and Human Services to compile the information pictured above. 

 

Had the money spent actually impacted the drug addiction rates in the United States, there might not be so much criticism about the “War on Drugs.” Unfortunately, the money does not seem to be making a dent in the amount of drug use within the United States.

 

Others believe that the numbers on the chart are actually low in comparison to what the numbers actually are. This POST claims that the United States federal government spends $56 billion per year on drug spending and $48 billion at the state and local levels. 

 

The implications of the figures indicated are enormous. Either the money is being misspent, the War on Drugs complete waste of time, or more attention needs to be given to new drug addiction problems in today’s world.  

 

I don’t have the exact figures in front of me on how much money is spent on stopping drugs coming in from countries like Columbia versus how much money is being spent on combating addictions to crystal meth and prescription medications.

 

As the drugs change, the strategies need to be change. I also don’t believe that spending millions of dollars on marijuana enforcement is a cost-effective measure given the extremely lean budgets that all levels of government are facing. 

 

Speculation on Kim Jong Un's Marriage

What Do We Know About the North Korean Leader?

Kim Jong Il, the former head of the Republic of North  Korea before he passed away, was long noted for his maintaining his privacy, his strange taste in Hollywood films, and his use of leverage against South Korea. Now that his son, Kim Jong Un, has taken the reins of North Korea, experts are watching to see how his leadership style will vary from his father’s leadership style.

Today, the New York Times reported that Kim Jong Un has a new wife who was “debuted” wearing Chanel. The NYT reports that this is newsworthy for two reasons: first, Kim Jong Il married multiple women, but never introduced them publicly. Second, North Korean experts believe that this may be a sign that Kim Jong Il is attempting to build a more open government within his country.

 

So little is known about the North Korean leader that many experts are forced to use what basically amounts to gossip columnist speculation to understand the motivations of the new leader. Some notable changes have been an appearance with Mickey Mouse by the North Korean leader and an admission by Kim Jong Un that many people in North Korea are currently starving.

 

Kim Jong Un’s publicity stunt with Mickey Mouse is deemed as notable because Mickey Mouse is a “symbol of the West.”  The obvious change between the admission of the starving people in North Korea is that Kim Jong Il did not admit anything about the poverty within his nation unless there was a political motivation that he could use as leverage to get aid, financial support, or business opportunities within North Korea.

 

It might be too early to tell exactly how Kim Jong Un’s role as the leader of North Korea will differ from that of his father; it also might be too early to determine whether or not the little information that the press has to go on is enough to gauge and predict Kim Jong Un’s policy decisions.

 

It’s almost like the press and policy analysts are so short of information that they overspeculate on any little thing that Kim Jong Un does. The North Korean paparazzi (if that even exists) and the policy analysts have joined forces to figure out how the actions of Kim Jong Un will predict his leadership abilities.

 

So far, the press is not saying much about his wife, so it’s likely that not much is known about her. I guess all we can do is wait and watch with the rest of the world.

 

Buffet Lays Out the Realities of Corporate Taxes to Santorum

RIck Santorum might be singin the conservative free-market chorus, but Warren Buffet's changing the tone.

Warren Buffet, the so-called “Oracle of the Plains”, is one of the wealthiest men in America and has been considered a champion of American capitalism. He’s also become a political lightning-rod for liberal Democratic principals of market fairness and income equality. In August, Buffet’s open letter to a “billionaire-loving” congress was to raise taxes on the super wealthy and, in a less-covered plea, to increase the capital gains tax. Buffet has become so influential in part because Republicans, by and large, dare not challenge the man on corporate policy, and Democrats have invoked him as a champion from “behind the lines, even naming the President’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy as the “Buffet Plan”.

This has not deterred many conservatives, and particularly those running a Republican campaign, of painting corporations as struggling under the burden of corporate taxes and federal regulations. The latest incarnation of this argument is in Santorum’s recently released economic plan, in which he seeks to cut corporate tax rates in order to “restore America’s competitiveness.” However, the talking point doesn’t really lay flush with reality. The two greatest indicators of corporate health and competitiveness show that American corporations are doing better than ever. On one hand the stock market, which can be viewed as a measure of people’s willingness to invest in corporations (amid other things) rallied over 13,000, it’s highest level since May of 2008. In addition, corporations are reporting huge profits in almost every sector of the market: energy, manufacturing, retail, and even housing is looking at a 2-year high.

Buffet addressed this misleading narrative during an interview on CNBC, saying that, “Corporate taxes are not strangling American competitiveness.” As owner of Berkshire Hathaway, one of the most profitable corporations in the country, he would know. He laid out the facts; that corporate profit as a percentage of GDP is the highest that it’s been in 50 years, just over 10%. However, corporate taxes as a percentage of GDP  (the revenue raised from corporate taxes) was only 1.2%, or $180 billion. “Just about the lowest we’ve seen,” Buffet said of corporate tax revenues.

Furthermore many Republican candidates, pundits and politicians have raised the specter of corporate flight; that should the tax rate on corporations rise, those companies may flee to other countries to do business where the tax rate is lower. True, the statutory tax rate that appears on paper is 35%, the true tax rate that most corporations pay after deductions, if anything at all, is around 12%. This rate, the real rate, is the second lowest corporate tax rate in the developed world. In other words, any country that a corporation would have any chance of doing as much business as they do in the U.S. would collect much more in tax revenue from them.

Chinese-Americans More at Risk in China for Social Media Use than Other Americans

Ge Xun's Arrest Highlights the Chinese Beliefs and Fears about Social Media

It’s no secret in the international community that China does not have the best human rights record in the world; it also logically follows that China does not have the best human rights record in the world in terms of its use of social media and suspicion surrounding social media. Today’s story of Ge Xun, an American citizen visiting China who was brutally questioned for several hours regarding his use of Twitter, does nothing but underscore the opinion that China's fear of social media is resulting in human rights abuses.

Ge Xun was abducted by Chinese authorities and asked questions about both his blogging and Twitter accounts. The authorities physically harmed the Chinese physicist and tried to “encourage” him to give his Twitter password, but he refused. Instead, Ge Xun opened his Twitter account to show the Chinese what his Twitter account contained--nothing offensive to the Chinese or the Chinese government--and was released by the government after twenty-one hours of interrogation.

Ge Xun claims that his original intention was never to overthrow the government, but to address the multitude of human rights problems within China and that he was totally caught off guard when the undercover policeman apprehended him in the streets.

During the interrogation, Ge Xun was kicked and punched while the Chinese authorities asked him repeatedly about his Twitter account and his blogging activities. He is not the only American citizen to suffer from the Chinese authorities fear of being maligned on Twitter, Facebook, or in the blogosphere. Some Americans who were originally born in China are actually imprisoned within China for what Americans would view as first amendment rights.

Wang Songlian is quoted in the New York Times as saying that holding passports from countries like the United States and Australia is much more dangerous for people who were originally born in China or Australia than for those with different origins. In this way, China sounds somewhat similar to Thailand if you consider the case of the Thai-Americn who was recently imprisoned by the Thai government for writing negatively about the King of Thailand, who is revered in Siam.

That China is starting to understand the potential ramifications of the Internet and a freer media that is harder to control is becoming more and more evident. Unfortunately, their understanding seems to be leading to more actions like this instead of more transparency and less human rights violations.

Gingrich Considering a Third-Party Run?

Is anyone really surprised? Really?

Newt Gingrich is one of the most delusional, smarmy, and entertainly egotistical people to ever grace a presidential race (and given the caliber of most people that run for president, that truly is a distinguished place). Perhaps that’s why it should come as now surprise that his significant loss last night to Romney in Florida doesn’t seem to have slowed his personal ambitions at all. In his “concession” speech last night, he vowed that from this point out, he would run not a “Republican campaign, but a people’s campaign.” What does that mean? Is Gingrich flirting with a third-party run? Could he reach Independents with his stridently partisan conservative rhetoric? Personally, I think Gingrich is just muddying the waters, but his campaign won’t ever float.

To understand Gingrich’s ambitions, let’s take a look back at his campaign. He had no problem flouting his party’s baseline, calling GOP poster-boy Paul Ryan’s May, 2011 budget plan “radical right-wing social engineering”. In addition, just as his campaign seemed to be sinking (with top staffers leaving en masse), he took a Mediterranean cruise with his wife. A pretty far cry from his recent image-upload as a “people’s candidate” vs. Romney’s 1%’er status. Over the summer he stayed pretty low key, using his campaign platform as more of a book tour to sell his and mistress-turned-wife Callista’s books. After a few famous flameouts by opposition, Gingrich managed a resurgence via negative ad campaign, a tactic that many Republicans seemed to think was sacreligious, but Tea Party voters rallied around in South Carolina.

Therein is Gingrich’s single biggest problem with attempting a third party run. He has pandered so completely to the far right in his rhetoric, that attempting to pass himself off as an Independent when the Republican ticket doesn’t seem to be cutting it will be a non-starter. Independents tend toward the moderate. If he wanted to run a moderate campaign, he certainly should have started back in May, rather than waiting through four early-voting states. So his rhetorical insinuation that he’s running a “people’s campaign” (code for Independent), is simply his willingness to be whoever he needs to be to stay in the race. As he campaigns in Nevada and Nebraska, we may see a slightly different Gingrich. A more socially moderate conservative that will mercilessly go after Romney as “too-conservative” and “too rich”. Perhaps he’s noticed what Obama and the House Republicans have: that it’s no longer cool to be the GOP. In any case, his vow that, "If I become your president, I pledge to you my life, my fortune and my sacred honor," sounds a little too close to a marriage vow, and we all know how that turned out.

The New Newt Gingrich Novelty

Gingrich's sudden popularity reveals a deep rift within the conservative base of the Republican Party.

New Gingrich’s 12-point victory in South Carolina has touched off a two-man war in the primary, regardless of the fact that a significant third opponent remains on the ballot. The media, however, and the attack ads, are s polarizing force in the political primary running up to Florida’s January 31st primary. It’s Gingrich vs. Romney right now, and the punches are coming fast and furious.

Mitt Romney, who was the favorite to win in South Carolina, even being endorsed by governor Nickie Haley, was defeated by a strange last minute rally in support of Gingrich. Gingrich had been sending volley after volley of negative ads aimed at Romney’s experience with private equity firm Bain Capital, and his perceived membership with the super wealthy. Ironically, these attack ads may have paid off in South Carolina despite the fact the Gingrich himself is very wealthy, owing a quarter million to Tiffany Co. and having almost beached his campaign in June by taking a Mediterranean cruise. Still, by characterizing Romney as out-of-touch and as a corporate looter, he was able to resonate with the large tea Party element in South Carolina and galvanize that electorate.

Since the Iowa Caucus on January 3rd, Romney has been trying to assert his place as the inevitable nominee by staying above the fray of the “lesser candidates”. However, Gingrich’s constant attack ads, and his recent primary win, have forced Romney to acknowledge and respond. The media, likewise, has been reporting the race now as a two-man face-off of sorts, with Rick Santorum staying conspicuously quiet. Santorum, who seems to have won Iowa after a recount of the closely contested caucus, has been largely ignored since an underwhelming performance in New Hampshire, and appears to be a kind of “Iowa fluke”.

The story of Gingrich’s win is the story of the Republican Party right now; the disconnect between the radicalized conservative popular vote, and the Republican establishment that prefers a plausible candidate for the general election. It comes down to the fact that Gingrich is not an electable nominee. His comments are too controversial, his platform too radical, and his politics too unpredictable to rally the independent votes that are essential to winning a national election. On the other hand, Romney has never been able to galvanize much more than 25% of the Republican electorate nationally, which will prove a tough sell in a general election. On the other hand, his moderate-right politics may be able to move the independents.

It remains to be seen whether the Republican Party will be able to sew up this divide before the nomination, or if Florida and the rest of the primary race will play out like a teeter-totter, pitting safe establishment politics against radical conservative ideology.

North Korea: Harsh Punishments for Non-Mourners of Kim Jong Il

Some North Koreans have been sent to work camps.



Imagine getting judged not only for your poor taste in funeral attire or social manners at the funeral of a Supreme Being, but for your truthful sincerity during the mourning procession. It’s now being reported by The Huffington Post (who got the news through the Daily NK) that offensive mourners at Kim Jong Il’s funeral or those who failed to attend the great leader’s funeral are being sent to a labor-training camp for six months.

The offense of insincerity may sound funny, but the punishment is quite cruel. While no human rights organizations have stated that anyone has been gassed at the North Korean labor camps, Amnesty International issued a report in May of 2011 indicating that as many as 40% of all of the inmates at the labor camps starve to death from malnutrition.

According to the The Huffington Post and The Daily Mail, the North Korean regime is judging mourners as insincere if they failed to cry during the services for Kim Jong Il. Others are being punished in a similar fashion are crimes which include spreading rumors or disseminating information within North Korea about Kim Jong Eun, the new leader of North Korea.

The Daily Mail is also reporting that any North Korean trying to defect from North Korea will be shot by the North Korean government during the period of mourning within the communist nation.

The North Korean regime is also taking initiative to quell any dissent about Kim Jong Eun and is actively educating the public about how great the young Kim Jong is; in addition, the government is broadcasting about the young leader’s greatness from loud speakers throughout the nation.

North Korea is known for controlling the media within the country and is also known for controlling its citizenry by fear.

The Council on Foreign Relations has THIS ANALYSIS describing Kim Jong Un and the military leaders surrounding him. The article describes each of the military leaders around Kim Jong Un and questions whether or not North Korean positions will change strategically as a result of the shift in power from a nation where the decisions were controlled by one leader to a nation with a heavily-influenced seemingly weaker leader. (It should be noted that I am not familiar with the Council on Foreign Relations, but that this report does appear to be unbiased.)

The Egyptian Government Has Raided 17 NGOs

The international community, including the Obama administration, is responding with outrage.

Democracy advocates worldwide and the Obama administration are outraged by the recent raids of NGOs by Egyptian authorities. The Egyptians are claiming that the raids were the result of evidence found suggesting that the organizations, some of which were backed by the United States, were participating in activities to incite riots and organize demonstrations within Egypt. 

 

According to the Washington Post, a total of seventeen individual organizations were raided by the Egyptian authorities. The raids were not peaceful; the Egyptian officials stormed the offices and seized both documents and “devices.”

The United States and the Obama administration are taking a tough stance on the Egyptian raids; the administration is requesting that Egyptian officials list everything that was seized in the process of the raids and that everything taken in the raids be returned to the rightful owners. 

 

The United States’ request may be taken seriously by the Egyptian government because congress recently passed legislation which links all United States aid to Egypt based on Egypt’s participation in the Democratic process. The United States is warning Egypt that the raids and any further action of a similar nature could jeopardize aid to Egypt. 

 

Egyptian officials are taking a different tone entirely; the Egyptian government does not like how foreign aid is reaching the country. They believe that the Egyptian government should have control of all of the funds coming from foreign sources and not the NGOs within the region. 

 

The Egyptian government has not been peaceful since the Supreme Council of Armed Forces took over. There are reports of as many as 100 deaths of Egyptian citizens as a direct result of military crackdowns on protests. The raids appear to be just the latest in a string of actions by the Egyptian government and military intended for the purpose of keeping the Egyptian citizens from having the ability to protest. 

 

Some of the members of the organizations who were targeted by the military raids believe that the raids were nothing more than acts of vengeance against anyone who played a role in the Egyptian revolution and are not in fact the result of any new intelligence gleaned by the authorities within Egypt. 

 

The consequences of the raid are serious for all of the NGOs and the members of their organizations; the NGOs could be shut down, fined, and the employees of the NGOs could be jailed indefinitely. 

 

If the Egyptian government has responded to the international outcry from the American governments and democracy advocates already, I haven’t read anything about it. The Egyptian government’s current stance seems to be the antithesis of the American position and I am guessing that it won’t change easily. 

Kim Jong Il is Dead: What Will Kim Jong-Un Do?

Early reports indicate that either Kim Jong-Un is an idiot or an evil genius. Maybe he's both?

The strange thing about Kim Jong Il’s death is not that he died, but that several South Koreans thought that he died a couple of years ago when he had a stroke and was out of the spotlight for some time. It would have been easy to hide the death of Kim Jong Il as the North Korean regime is one of the most secretive in the world. Somehow, I don’t imagine that North Korea is known for its transparency. Now that Kim Jong Il has been confirmed dead, North Korea will fall to the hands of Kim Jong-Un, who is only 28.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine what Kim Jong-Un will do. According to what I’ve read, he’s either an idiot or a manipulative genius who knows exactly what he is doing. If Kim Jong-Un learned anything at all from his father, my guess is on the latter. As Slate observes, Kim Jong Il used what little he had to manipulate the South in many ways. During my ten year stay in South Korea, I think that Kim Jong Il threatened to attack the South no less than three times. 

 

While idle threats wouldn’t work with most other nations, North Korea and Kim Jong Il in particular was able to play upon the sentimentality of South Koreans who felt both threatened by the North and sad for the people who they are tied to by blood. I noticed that whenever North Korea wanted aid from the North, they would threaten the South who always capitulated because of the Korean people’s deep love for their neighbors to the North. 

 

 

The recent history of North Korea and multi-nation talks suggests that the North needed a little more leverage to get what they wanted from the South and the West, which is why they detonated a nuclear bomb in 2006. At that time, they had much more leverage to back up any threats that were made. Over the course of many years, the North was angry with South Korea for allowing the United States presence in South Korea. 

 

The United States still maintains a military presence in South Korea, but since the troops got diverted elsewhere, there has much less of a presence. Some Americans also believed that the South misused the American presence or at least mis-termed when some Koreans referred to the American troops on the DMZ as the trip wire. 

 

It’s anybody’s guess what will happen now in North Korea, but I’m sure that all eyes will be on Northeast Asia right now.

American and European Corporations Have Been Selling Internet Surveillance Technology to Repressive Regimes

Sometimes the Devices Have Led to the Deaths of Middle-Eastern Citizens

 

 

 

Social media has been of strategic use to protestors in the middle east seeking to organize protests against their government(s). Likewise, the governments spy on the citizens who use social media with technological tools and advances sold to them by western companies. The governments in turn use the information they uncover to arrest dissidents who they sometimes torture. 

 

In response to the news that American and European corporations are aiding repressive middle eastern regimes, Republican Chris Smith introduced the Global Online Freedom Act of 2011 to ban exports of software and hardware used for monitoring and surveillance on the Internet. Just recently, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asked corporations to be responsible with the exports of technology used to to spy on individuals in different countries. 

Bloomberg news now a series discussing different individual cases when technology purchased by western corporations was used to stop protestors. In Tunisia, for example,  Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s government used advanced systems to intercept and change the content of emails sent by anyone thought to be fighting against the regime. When the content of emails was changed, it was often disturbing, threatening, or pornographic. 

 

Since Bloomberg started reporting on the complacency of both European and American companies in their dealings with repressive regimes, some companies in the cyber industry have stopped selling their products to repressive middle eastern regimes.The Italian company  Area SPa stopped selling surveillance technology to Syria after international pressure. American giant Hewlitt-Packard has not yet bowed to international pressure at the time of this writing; the company has actually sold computers to a company who is selling surveillance technology to the Syrian government. 

 

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