Satyagraha

Cultural Psychology

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Is the US Drug War is Ruining Mexico and Latin America?

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Is the US Drug War is Ruining Mexico and Latin America?

Some of my posts here are more academically oriented — on issues like social policy or psychology — but since this is a blog, some posts are more ‘from the heart’.  This one is a case in point.

The other day I saw a television news story about the Mayor of Juarez (Ciudad Juárez), the large Mexican city that borders El Paso, Texas. (You can watch the same or a similar interview here:

http://www.ticklethewire.com/2010/03/25/mayor-of-juarez-mex-hates-the-drug-cartels-they-want-him-dead/ )

It was shown how, after receiving death threats from Mexican drug cartels, he has to go everywhere with an armed guard.  In reply to the interviewer’s question whether he’s considered quitting, he said ‘No’, and explained that he was too committed to helping the city develop at a critical point in its history.

The Mayor seemed completely credible, and if that is his motivation then he is heroic.  I tend to believe him.  When I was a child, my family frequently drove into El Paso (the nearest large city).  I vividly remember looking south across the Rio Grande to the hillsides of Juarez, filled with shacks, and signs of utter poverty.  It was incredible to think that, this close to the US, people could live under these conditions.  A person could not witness this without being motivated by the innate human sense of compassion to want to see these conditions improved.

So when this man says that he has a vision of a decent life for his city and people, I believe him.  But standing in his way are drug cartels.  And standing behind the Mexican drug cartels is the insane Drug War of the United States.

Let us speak plainly here, enumerating the plain facts:

1. The Drug War doesn’t work.

Despite the billions of dollars spent, drug abuse is still common in the United States.  Anyone who wants to can easily by marijuana or harder drugs.

2. Public sentiment favors decriminalization of marijuana.

In virtually every referendum in which it’s been put to the test, voters have demanded decriminalization.

3. The Drug War is a cheap ploy to curry favor with voters by appearing tough on crime.

If any American citizens do want the war on drugs, it’s probably because their opinions have been manipulated by politicians.

4. The Drug War results in numerous (and sometimes fatal!) civil rights violations of American citizens.

DEA agent:  “What do you mean, ‘wrong address’?  Oops! Sorry about that gunshot wound.  Nothing personal, right?”

5. The Drug War has filled our prisons.

How to create jobs:  (a) make more laws, (b) put more people in jail, (c) hire more guards.

6. By making drugs illegal, it becomes no longer necessary for people to develop moral character by choosing not to use drugs.

What’s really revealing is that this argument is completely over the heads of government officials.


Americans lived without the Drug War for a long time and it didn’t cause society to collapse.  From the 1930’s through the 1950’s, marijuana use was well known.  It was considered a vice, but wasn’t criminalized to the extent it is today. It was associated with artists, musicians, and bohemians.   Common sense, social norms, and a plea to personal responsibility were enough to keep the problem from getting out of control.

In the 19th century, people could go into a drug store and by opium tincture (laudanum).  Again, this did not lead to the breakdown of society.

These and other examples show that legalization of drugs doesn’t cause society to fall apart.  Yes, there will be cases of addiction and abuse, but these can be dealt with, just as we now deal with alcohol abuse and addiction.  It’s less disruptive to society to deal with drug abuse by individuals than to deal with a government that has gotten out of control, and, at least with regard to drug policy, is indistinguishable from a fascist state.

All this would be bad enough if the problems of the Drug War were confined to our own country, but, as the example of Juarez’ mayor shows, that is not the case.  By making marijuana and cocaine illegal we create a demand for illegal drugs, which are supplied by Latin America.

On top of this, American policy is hypocritical, since the fact is that many Americans want to use marijuana.  In how many motion pictures or television shows do you see sly innuendos or allusions to marijuana use?  Our laws make it illegal, but our culture sees it as ‘cool.’

We are making Latin America do our dirty work, while our politicians strut around congratulating themselves on their high moral principles.

We have no right to do this.  The just and honorable thing, not to mention the practical thing, is to decriminalize recreational drugs.

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Correct transcript of Ambassador Bolton’s remarks on Obama’s Nobel Prize speech

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On December 10, in Oslo, Norway, President Obama gave his acceptance speech for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Fox News host Greta van Susteren later asked the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, for his analysis.  The careless transcript of Bolton’s remarks currently found online at several blogs is very rough and filled with errors.  I’ve made and supply below a more accurate transcript, taken directly from the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-H5vG8Q3CM

Greta van Susteren, Fox News:  Good evening, ambassador.

Former US Ambassador to United Nations, John R. Bolton: Good evening.

Greta: So what do you think of the speech?

Bolton:  I thought it was a pretty bad speech.  I thought it was turgid, repetitive.  I thought it was analytically weak, sort of at a high school level.  It’s like he didn’t have any lead in his pencil left after his speeches at the UN and the speech on Afghanistan.  So all in all a pretty surprisingly disappointing performance.

Greta:  What would you have expected him to say?  Because it’s rather awkward for a couple reasons.  Number one is he was nominated just a few days into his presidency and there’s been a lot of controversy over whether or not that he’d achieved — and even he says his accomplishments at this point are slight compared to others who’ve received it.  Secondly, he had just called up more troops to go to Afghanistan.  So it’s a completely awkward situation for the man.

Bolton:  Well, in circumstances like that, one alternative is not to say very much, is to thank the Nobel Committee for the honor of the award and accept it in humility and then sit down. Sometimes when people don’t have much to say, they don’t say very much.  Other people say it four times as long, which seemed to be the way he did it.

Greta:  Why do you think he was awarded this prize.

Bolton: I think that this was a conscious effort by the Nobel Committee, which has been over the years a very highly politicized body, to try and affect the American political environment, to try and send a signal of what they wanted from the Obama presidency.  I think that it’s a big mistake on their part.  I think our own political polls show that.  And I think that it will turn out to be a millstone around the president’s neck, but that’s obviously not the way the Nobel Committee saw it.

Greta:  How do you compare and contrast the speech that he gave about a week or two ago at West Point, the one when he announced to the nation that he was calling up troops.  Because a lot of the same sorts of themes about Al Qaeda and about Evil in the world.  But, still, very different speeches.

Bolton: Well I think you have to look, as I said, back as well to the speeches at the United Nations.  And what was striking was how little new there was in this speech.  But I think it’s important in looking at how Obama addresses national security, not to try and parse his speeches too carefully, not to say, “well I like this paragraph, but I don’t like this paragraph.”  You have to look at the speech whole, just as you have to look at the man behind the speech whole, and I think that’s where he runs into difficulty.

This speech today in Oslo is filled with some of the most amazing misconceptions about everything from human nature to the role of the United States in the world.

Greta: So, I’ll bite.  What are the amazing misconceptions that you say?

Bolton:  Let’s start near the beginning of the speech.  He says, that “We have to acknowledge the hard truth we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes.”  Well, no kidding.  You know, homo sapiens is hardwired for violent conflict and we’re not going to eliminate violent conflict until homo sapiens ceases to exist as a separate species.  And the whole notion you could even think about eliminating it, not just in our lifetime but soon thereafter, I think reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature.  And when you start from that kind of position it only gets worse from there.  And I’ve got other examples, too.

Greta:  Go ahead.

Bolton:  Okay, then, just a few paragraphs later, he says, talking about the setting up the role of the United States, which many people said was a positive to the speech, he gets to it by saying that stability after World War II was brought about, quote “Not just treaties and declarations that brought stability, but the fact that the United States helped underwrite global security.”  As if to say it’s the treaties and the declarations that were the centerpiece and that the United States made a small contribution here or there.  In fact, it was the American nuclear capability after World War II and the strength of the military alliances, led and dominated by the United States, that brought stability and defeated the Soviets in the Cold War.  That didn’t seem to make it into this speech.

Greta:  Ambassador, thank you, sir.  Always nice to see you.

Bolton:  Okay, thank you.

Personally, I found the first half of Bolton’s remarks accurate, but the second half strangely peevish.  I think he should have stuck with what he initially said:  that you shouldn’t try to parse Obama’s speeches too closely, but rather should look for what they reveal overall.

Written by John Uebersax

December 14, 2009 at 5:10 am

Undecided? Last minute advice

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As it’s still early in the US, it’s likely that one or two undecided people (i.e., you!) will see this post before going to vote.

Here’s my suggestion. It’s clear that America has many problems now, and solutions are needed. But will Obama or McCain fix them? Not likely. The reason is because, ultimately, America’s problems are spiritual. Problems with the economy merely reflect a deeper spiritual crisis of the United States.

Neither McCain nor Obama, then, can fix the real problems, which relate to core values. Both are mouthpieces of the economic status quo. Neither one is willing to stand up and tell Americans, “what this country really needs is a change of heart”.

Then for whom should a person vote? Couldn’t the same be said of *every* candidate?

No. The Libertarian Party (whose presidential candidate is Bob Barr) has something constructive to offer. No, they’re not actively promoting a spiritual or religious renaissance. Instead, the core principle of Libertarianism is limited government. With a limited government, people have more time and freedom to pursue personal and spiritual development. Given the chance, people will progress. The problem now is that everyone is a slave to a vast political-economic machine. People are taxed, bullied, and frightened by a coercive state that is at the least materialistic and a-moral — if not downright evil.

Reduce the size of the government. Reduce the effect of the government on defining society and culture. Then people will look inward and find the right path.

Therefore even though the Libertarian party isn’t explicitly spiritual, their principles are the most constructive for spiritual people of all the existing political parties.

You won’t be “throwing your vote away” to vote for Bob Barr. Rather, see it as an investment in the future.

Bob Barr’s name is on the ballot except in a few states. Just skip down past McCain and Obama and you should see it.

Written by John Uebersax

November 4, 2008 at 6:25 pm

Who to Vote For?

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Who to Vote For?

Okay, it’s coming down to the wire and you’re still undecided.

A suggestion:  vote for a third-party candidate (like Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, or Ralph Nader).

Let’s quickly review the logic:

1.  You probably don’t like McCain or Obama much, or else you wouldn’t be here.

2.  It’s no coincidence that the main party candidates are so unappealing.  The theory proposed here (and on other websites) is that the Democrats and the Republicans are in cahoots.  They basically share power already, and will continue to do so until we stop them.  Which one is in the White House is a minor technicality.

3.  By colluding, the two parties maintain the current power structure, and prevent any radical (and constructive) changes from happening.

4.  The way they trick people into continuing to vote for them is by fear:  each party nominates someone scarey; and then everyone feels they need to vote against the one they see as scarier.

5.  Regardless of which one wins, the Republican-Democrat duopoly will remain in power for four more years.  Your voting for McCain or Obama won’t change that.

6.  But if you vote for a third pary, then your vote will make a difference.  When they tally votes, other Americans will see how many voted against the duopoly.  The more, the better.  Next election more will have the confidence to do the same thing

Written by John Uebersax

October 31, 2008 at 4:14 pm

The Commission on Presidential Debates: A National Scandal

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The Commission on Presidential Debates: A National Scandal

Following up on a previous post, I did a little research on the mysterious Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which organizes the televised presidential debates.

The sordid details of this Commission supply the most tangible, unequivocal evidence imaginable that the Republican and Democratic parties are a duopoly, collaborating to control the government and to preserve the status quo. The details are also a tragic testimony to how easily the American public is duped. As this blog hopefully shows, I try to stay politically aware; but until a few days ago I, like most people, naively assumed that the debates are being responsibly run. It seems rather clear that they aren’t.

The History

For many years, the famous League of Women Voters (LWV) ran the presidential debates. They saw themselves as citizens, and the candidates as ‘guests’ — that is, citizens controlled the debates, and the candidates took their directions from citizens. By 1988, the Republican and Democratic parties began to collude in advance, drafting “memoranda of understanding” agreeing with each other on the format and content of the debates. They then tried to dictate format and groundrules to the LWV. At that point the LWV withdrew, stating indignantly, “the League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

So, in their place, the Committee on Presidential Debates was formed — a private and ostensibly nonpartisan nonprofit organization, but actually under the direct influence of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Since then the debates have existed for the sole purpose of consolidating the joint Republican/Democratic monopoly on American government.

You might say, “Wait, wasn’t Ross Perot in the 1992 debates?” Yes he was. That’s because both Clinton and Dole agreed to let him participate. Basically, both major parties saw it to their advantage: each expected Perot to divert more votes from the other major party.

But in 1996 this same Ross Perot was excluded from the debate, despite (1) having roughly the same level of pre-debate public support he had in 1992, and (2) having gained 19% of the popular vote in 1992. Until 2000 there were no objective criteria for inclusion — it was decided by the CPD and their advisers. They weren’t accountable to anyone except the Republican and Democratic parties.

This is all spelled out clearly in a revealing 26-page report, Deterring Democracy: How The Commission On Presidential Debates Undermines Democracy, written jointly by several citizen advocacy groups. I can’t improve on what the reports says and simply refer readers to it. I especially recommend the sections, Candidate Exclusion, and Corporate Sponsorship.

Leadership

A look at the leadership of the CPD, as shown as their website, leaves little doubt about their control by the Republican and Democratic parties:

Here are their co-chairmen:

  • Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. (former chair, Republican National Committee; gambling lobbyist;president, American Gaming Association; directs enormous contributions to Republican and Democratic parties)
  • Paul G. Kirk, Jr.(former chairman, Democratic National Committee)

Here are the ‘Honorary Chairmen’:

  • Gerald R. Ford (deceased)
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Ronald Reagan (deceased)
  • William J. Clinton

Here is the Board of Directors:

  • Howard Buffett: son of Warren Buffett (corporate investor and world’s richest man)
  • John C. Danforth: former Republican senator; grandson of William Danforth, Ralston-Purina founder
  • Antonia Hernandez: Democrat; “Her tenure with MALDEF [Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund] has been marked by controversy…”; narrowly escaped termination from MALDEF based on questions of leadership and administrative capabilities
  • Michael D. McCurry: former press secretary/White House spokesman for Bill Clinton
  • Newton N. Minow: veteran Democrat; former FCC head
  • Dorothy Ridings: former president and chief executive officer of the Council on Foundations
  • Alan K. Simpson: Republican; former US Senator
  • H. Patrick Swygert: Former university president; Fannie Mae board of directors

Corporate Sponsorship

The CPD is funded by corporate sponsors. An interesting trick: the Republicans and Democrats collude to form a non-profit, non-partisan organization for ‘public education’. Corporations can contribute as much as they want to this entity, freed from the usual concerns of limits on political campaign contributions.

Current or former corporate sponsors include: Anheuser-Busch ($550,000 in 2000), Philip Morris ($250,000 in 1992), AT&T, Prudential, IBM, Ford, General Motors.

For more information, why not visit www.opendebates.org. Basically this is a citizen-run group that would like to give back to citizens control of the debates. If the cloud here has a silver lining, it’s that there are still honest Americans like those at Open Debates trying to get the country back on track. You aren’t alone.

2012 Update

For more details and an excellent presentation overall, see this Democracy Now interview with George Farah, Director of Open Debates.

Written by John Uebersax

August 20, 2008 at 7:03 pm

Open the Presidential Debates to Third Parties!

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Open the Presidential Debates to Third Parties!

A recent Zogby poll showed that most American voters would like to see the Libertarian party presidential candidate, Bob Barr, participate in the presidential debates.

However, the Commission on Presidential Debates refuses to allow this. They require that a candidate meet two inclusion criteria:  (1) that their name appears on enough state ballots to grant a “mathematical chance” (i.e., a non-zero probability) of winning the election, and (2) that polls show that at least 15% of voters support the candidate.

As of this writing Bob Barr is already on 38 state ballots — including California, Florida, Illinois, and Texas — and he is likely to ultimately be on 48 state ballots.  Thus the first criterion above is met.  However, he only has a 6% endorsement rate in national polls; on that basis he is excluded from the debates.

The Commission on Presidential Debates fails to appreciate the circularity of their reasoning.  By excluding third parties from the debates, nobody learns about these parties, and therefore nobody supports them.  American is force-fed a diet of ‘Republicrat’ propoganda.  We continue to be presented with a narrow choice between the two major parties, which are basically clones of each other. This is something Americans should be angry about.

American needs fundamental change.  There are solutions — but these must entail bold, courageous, and innovative ideas.  Those will not come from the Republican or Democrat parties, which both reflect the vested power interests that have produced the problems America faces.

Whom you vote for is up to you to decide.  I wouldn’t try to influence your vote even if I could.  But I will supply a link to the Libertarian party platform, and, for that matter, to Ralph Nader’s too.  Please take a minute to look at these — just to see that there are good ideas out there.  People need to see how badly the Democrat and Republican parties are shortchanging us.

The two major parties, the media, and, to a large extent the academic community are colluding to perpetuate a fantasy world of wrong ideas and stupid ways of looking at things.  There’s no reason why the problems we face can’t be solved.  Your common sense tells you that.  Trust your common sense, and extricate yourself from the tissue of lies the major parties and the media present.

And if you haven’t already seen it, here is my article:  Why Vote Third Party?

Written by John Uebersax

August 19, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Ron Paul’s new book – The Revolution: A Manifesto

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You HAVE to check out this new book by Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

Some people say America is finished. But they’re wrong.

America is still the last, best hope for establishing a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Yes, America has fallen onto bad times and has made mistakes. That merely proves that a modern democracy is difficult to establish. If other countries were as large and as free as the United States is, they’d likely be making the same or worse mistakes.

Ultimately, if America cannot succeed in this grand experiment, then nobody can. Or, stated conversely, if modern democracy is feasible at all, then America will find a way to make it work.

This new book is a case in point of how America is still fundamentally committed to the ideals of justice and liberty. The Republican/Democrat political establishment has managed to engineer an oppressive political system. But Americans are still fundamentally free — that’s something built into the principles and spirit of the nation. In a free environment it’s only a matter of time before someone speaks out — and Ron Paul has done so.

His new book is titled The Revolution: A Manifesto

The timing of the book couldn’t be better — obviously planned to coincide with the upcoming November elections.

Here are some excerpts from the editorial review at Amazon:

* The government is expanding.
* Taxes are increasing.
* More senseless wars are being planned.
* Inflation is ballooning.
* Our basic freedoms are disappearing.

The Founding Fathers didn’t want any of this. In fact, they said so quite clearly in the Constitution of the United States of America. Unfortunately, that beautiful, ingenious, and revolutionary document is being ignored more and more in Washington. If we are to enjoy peace, freedom, and prosperity once again, we absolutely must return to the principles upon which America was founded. But finally, there is hope . . .

In THE REVOLUTION, Texas congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul has exposed the core truths behind everything threatening America, from the real reasons behind the collapse of the dollar and the looming financial crisis, to terrorism and the loss of our precious civil liberties. In this book, Ron Paul provides answers to questions that few even dare to ask.

Written by John Uebersax

June 11, 2008 at 5:53 pm