Welfare’s War on Drugs

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/14761/welfares_war_on_drugs/

Why laws mandating drug tests for welfare recipients are doomed to fail.

BY Camille Beredjick
March 20, 2013

The Indiana Senate Health Committee last week approved a bill that would mandate drug testing for welfare recipients. Those who test positive for drugs will be required to enter a treatment program—at their own expense—in order to continue receiving benefits. The bill has already passed the House, but Republican Gov. Mike Pence has not indicated whether he’ll sign it.

Indiana is hardly the first state to tie welfare benefits to drug tests—dozens of states have passed or considered similar measures in the past several years. But if the outcomes of those policies are any indication, Indiana’s program is doomed to fail. Lawmakers who defend drug testing for welfare recipients claim that it will encourage personal responsibility, ensure that taxpayer money doesn’t fund drug use and save the state big bucks on undeserved benefits. But opponents say such laws are rooted in two fatal misconceptions: that mandatory drug testing actually saves money, and that substance abuse is rampant among low-income families who depend on public assistance.

A fiscal failure

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 directs procedures for dealing with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients’ illicit drug use and establishes the framework for state laws like the one under consideration in Indiana. The federal act provides that “states may require drug tests for welfare recipients and may penalize those who fail such tests” and implements a lifelong ban on TANF benefits for individuals convicted of a drug-related felony.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least seven states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah—have passed legislation regulating drug tests for applicants to public assistance programs such as TANF. Provisions vary from state to state; some laws require a test be given if there is reasonable suspicion that a person uses or abuses illegal drugs, while others only mandate specific screening processes. As of March, according to the NCSL, at least 28 states have proposed legislation that would require welfare recipients to take a drug test.

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/14761/welfares_war_on_drugs/

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Shuffleboard? Oh, Maybe Let’s Get High Instead

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/fashion/more-older-americans-use-marijuana.html

Published: March 22, 2013

For Cher Neufer, a 65-year-old retired teacher, socializing with friends (all in their 60s) means using marijuana. Once a week they get together to play Texas Hold ’Em poker “and pass around a doobie,” Ms. Neufer said.

When company stops by her home in Akron, Ohio, she offers a joint, and when it’s someone’s birthday, a bong is prepared. She even hosts summer campfires where the older folk listen to the Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles; eat grilled steaks and hot dogs; and get high (not necessarily in that order).

“It’s nice,” Ms. Neufer said. “It’s just a social thing. It’s like when people get together, and they crack open their beers.”

Statistics suggest that more members of the older generations, like Ms. Neufer, are using marijuana. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2011 that 6.3 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 59 used the drug. That number has risen from 2.7 percent in 2002.

And anecdotal evidence points to much of this use being sociable rather than medical.

When 70-year-old Robert Platshorn, a marijuana activist who was jailed for three decades after dealing the drug, moved into a gated community in West Palm Beach, Fla., three years ago, he said he “met people in my development who were looking strange at me.” Now, he said, couples invite him to their condominiums to get high together (Mr. Platshorn insisted he never accepts these offers).

Moms for Marijuana International, a pro-marijuana group that brings people together to socialize and learn about the positive aspects of the plant, has received so many queries from older people over the past year that it is creating chapters called Grannies for Grass in Illinois, Ohio and Missouri.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/fashion/more-older-americans-use-marijuana.html

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The Rather Effete Right Winger, Gary Bauer Gushes: ‘Polls are skewed’ if they support marriage equality

Why do all these right wing assholes look and sound like negative gay stereotypes.  Gary Bauer looks, acts and sound like he just stepped out of  a summer stock cast of Boys in the Band, a late 1960s play about pre-Stonewall gay men.

What is with the delicately plucked and sculpted into a 1940 movie star eye brows and the pursed pink lips?  Is he going for the Phyllis Schlafly look, or what?

Self hating gay closet cases are the worst enemies of the LGBT communities.

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/24/gary-bauer-polls-are-skewed-if-they-support-marriage-equality/

By David Edwards
Sunday, March 24, 2013

The president of a conservative organization which opposes rights for LGBT people on Sunday rejected the notion that public opinion now supports marriage equality because “the polls are skewed.”

Speaking to American Values President Gary Bauer, Fox News host Chris Wallace wondered if conservatives should oppose the federal government interfering in states’ rights by refusing to recognize the legal marriages of LGBT Americans.

“I don’t think so,” Bauer insisted. “A lot of people are changing their mind because there’s been a full-court blitz by the popular culture, by elites, by all kinds of folks to intimidate and to cower people and to no longer defend marriage as being between a man and a woman.”

“Quite frankly, the argument that the public is overwhelmingly in favor of same sex marriage is ludicrous,” he continued. “If it was so obvious that the American public wants to try a radical social experiment that results in children in those households definitely — definitely not having a mother and a father, that’s what makes marriage a special institution. It guarantees that children have mothers and fathers. If the opinion of the American public was so overwhelming, the gay rights movement and their allies like Nicole [Wallace] would not be asking the Supreme Court to say to the America people, ‘You have no say on this issue.’”

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/24/gary-bauer-polls-are-skewed-if-they-support-marriage-equality/

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How Noam Chomsky is discussed

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/23/noam-chomsky-guardian-personality

The more one dissents from political orthodoxies, the more the attacks focus on personality, style and character

guardian.co.uk, Saturday 23 March 2013

One very common tactic for enforcing political orthodoxies is to malign the character, “style” and even mental health of those who challenge them. The most extreme version of this was an old Soviet favorite: to declare political dissidents mentally ill and put them in hospitals. In the US, those who take even the tiniest steps outside of political convention are instantly decreed “crazy”, as happened to the 2002 anti-war version of Howard Dean and the current iteration of Ron Paul (in most cases, what is actually “crazy” are the political orthodoxies this tactic seeks to shield from challenge).

This method is applied with particular aggression to those who engage in any meaningful dissent against the society’s most powerful factions and their institutions. Nixon White House officials sought to steal the files from Daniel Ellsberg’s psychoanalyst’s office precisely because they knew they could best discredit his disclosures with irrelevant attacks on his psyche. Identically, the New York Times and partisan Obama supporters have led the way in depicting both Bradley Manning and Julian Assange as mentally unstable outcasts with serious personality deficiencies. The lesson is clear: only someone plagued by mental afflictions would take such extreme steps to subvert the power of the US government.

A subtler version of this technique is to attack the so-called “style” of the critic as a means of impugning, really avoiding, the substance of the critique. Although Paul Krugman is comfortably within mainstream political thought as a loyal Democrat and a New York Times columnist, his relentless attack against the austerity mindset is threatening to many. As a result, he is barraged with endless, substance-free complaints about his “tone”: he is too abrasive, he does not treat opponents with respect, he demonizes those who disagree with him, etc. The complaints are usually devoid of specifics to prevent meaningful refutation; one typical example: “[Krugman] often cloaks his claims in professional authority, overstates them, omits arguments that undermine his case, and is a bit of a bully.” All of that enables the substance of the critique to be avoided in lieu of alleged personality flaws.

Nobody has been subjected to these vapid discrediting techniques more than Noam Chomsky. The book on which I’m currently working explores how establishment media systems restrict the range of acceptable debate in US political discourse, and I’m using Chomsky’s treatment by (and ultimate exclusion from) establishment US media outlets as a window for understanding how that works. As a result, I’ve read a huge quantity of media discussions about Chomsky over the past year. And what is so striking is that virtually every mainstream discussion of him at some point inevitably recites the same set of personality and stylistic attacks designed to malign his advocacy without having to do the work of engaging the substance of his claims. Notably, these attacks come most frequently and viciously from establishment liberal venues, such as when the American Prospect’s 2005 foreign policy issue compared him to Dick Cheney on its cover (a cover he had framed and now proudly hangs on his office wall).

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/23/noam-chomsky-guardian-personality

Noam Chomsky: Edward W Said Lecture: Violence and Dignity — Reflections on the Middle East

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The U.N.‘s Hypocritical War on Pot

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/14729/the_united_nations_needs_to_sober_up/

The organization’s double standards stand in the way of commonsense drug policy.

BY David Sirota
March 15, 2013

The notion of alcohol consumers piously demanding that others stop using pot probably makes you think of the beer-swilling World War II generation berating weed-smoking hippies during the 1960s. Now, thanks to the United Nations, that caricature gets an update—and the hypocrisy is at once amusing and depressing.
You may have read the headline-grabbing news that in advance of its conference on drug policy this week, the U.N. issued a report urging the United States government to block Colorado and Washington state from moving forward with voter-approved laws that allow adult citizens to use marijuana as a less harmful alternative to alcohol. What you may not have heard is that on the very same day the U.N. released that report, U.S. ambassador Joseph Torsella slammed his U.N. colleagues for drinking too much on the job. Apparently, binging at the U.N. is so commonplace and excessive that it is hindering the organization from conducting its most basic work.
As hypocrisy humor goes, this is pretty funny. An international body immersed in one drug (alcohol) yet telling governments to outlaw an objectively less harmful drug (marijuana) is biting comedy. It hilariously exemplifies the double standards and contradictions that still define many global leaders’ views of drugs.
Yet before you laugh too hard, remember that it is actually a tragedy for members of the U.N. to be simultaneously drinking too much alcohol and too much anti-pot Kool-Aid. It is a tragedy because the blatant hypocrisy saps the organization’s credibility on the drug issue at a time when the world needs it to be supporting the international political momentum generated by Colorado and Washington state.
That reform momentum is now building as lawmakers in Mexico, Uruguay and Chile are citing the states’ votes as reason for their nations to consider legislation to legalize marijuana. Likewise, according to the Associated Press, presidents of Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica called “for the Organization of American States to study the impact of the Colorado and Washington votes and said the United Nations’ General Assembly should hold a special session” to debate the continued prohibition of marijuana.
Their rationale is simple: Having seen their nations torn apart by the militarized fight against the drug cartels that rely on prohibition and its attendant black market, Latin American leaders see the Colorado and Washington victories as a way to finally start de-escalating the blood-soaked war on marijuana.
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Maryland Senate Passes Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/19/maryland-decriminalize-marijuana_n_2909541.html


Marylanders caught with marijuana may soon face a small fine instead of time behind bars.

The Maryland Senate voted in favor of a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana on Tuesday.

On a bipartisan vote of 30-16, the Senate approved legislation that makes possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense, subject to the maximum penalty of a $100 fine, according to the Capital Gazette. Laws currently on the books for a such a possession invokes a maximum penalty of $500 and 90 days in prison.

If the bill becomes law, Maryland would join a growing number of states that are enacting more lax marijuana laws, including Colorado and Washington state, where voters chose to legalize marijuana on ballot referendums in 2012.

The sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), said that the law was needed in order to avoid overspending on charging individuals with possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“It is a tremendous waste of resources,” Zirkin said, according to the Baltimore Sun.

According to State Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard and Carroll), a co-sponsor of the bill, police made around “47,000 arrests” related to marijuana possession in the state last year.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/19/maryland-decriminalize-marijuana_n_2909541.html

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Howard Zinn on class in America

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Bye, Bye American Dream! U.S. Economic Inequality Is Permanent, Study Finds

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/bye-bye-american-dream-us-economic-inequality-permanent-study-finds

Analysis of two decades of income tax trends also find the rich consume more.

By Steven Rosenfeld
March 22, 2013

A new study by a team of economists in academia and the government has concluded that economic inequality is a permanent—not temporary—feature in the United States, based on an analysis of 350,000 federal income tax returns between 1987 and 2009.

“For household income, both before and after taxes, the increase in inequality over this period was predominantly, although not entirely, permanent,” the highly technical report concluded. “We also find evidence that the U.S. federal tax system helped reduce the increase in household income inequality; but this attenuating effect was insufficient to significantly alter the broad trend toward rising inequality.”

The study by economists at two state universities, the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department, also found, not surprisingly, that the wealthiest Americans consume more than less well-off people, and that disparity causes poorer Americans to suffer as a result.

“Our findings, along with economic theory, suggest that the increase in income inequality observed in roughly the last two decades should translate into increases in consumption inequality, and is therefore likely to be welfare-reducing, at least according to most social welfare functions,” the report said. “Although measurement problems with household consumption data in the U.S. have made it difficult to convincingly measure the degree of the increase in consumption inequality, some recent studies… suggest that the increase in consumption inequality was indeed substantial.”

Simply put, the study confirms what Vermont’s U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders has been saying for years, “The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.”

“The takeaway here is rough,” the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote in his Wonkblog column. “The reason the permanent/transitory distinction matters is that lifetime earnings are much more important than a single year’s earnings. It’s lifetime earnings that decide how you live in general, what sort of house you can afford, whether you can send a kid to college, whether you can retire comfortably.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/bye-bye-american-dream-us-economic-inequality-permanent-study-finds

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