Saturday, April 16, 2011

DEA head: A thousand dead children means we're winning war on drugs

Michele Leonhart, our top drug cop, has a funny definition of victory

By Alex Pareene

Producing and distributing illegal drugs is a profitable business, because there will always be a lot of demand and because illegality allows you to charge a great deal of money. That illegality also means that the people who produce and distribute the drugs are generally not responsible corporate citizens. So thanks to our expensive, terribly ineffective and endless war on drugs, lots of people are dying.

The Washington Post recently reported that the victims of Mexican drug cartel violence increasingly include children, who are being specifically targeted in order to terrorize people and intimidate potential business rivals:

The children’s rights group estimates that 994 people younger than 18 were killed in drug-related violence between late 2006 and late 2010, based on media accounts, which are incomplete because newspapers are often too intimidated to report drug-related crimes.

Government figures include all homicides of people younger than 17, capturing victims whose murders might not have been related to drugs or organized crime. In 2009, the last year for which there is data, 1,180 children were killed, half in shootings.

This article is actually almost a week old, but I did not notice, until it was highlighted by Jonathan Blanks, this astounding quote from America's top drug warrior:

U.S. and Mexican officials say the grotesque violence is a symptom the cartels have been wounded by police and soldiers. “It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs,” said Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The cartels “are like caged animals, attacking one another,” she added.

It seems "contradictory" because that is absolutely appalling spin. For one thing, these "caged animals" are actually attacking civilians and children. And they are doing so because the drug war has made their chosen industry both profitable and dangerous enough to make murder and brutality effective means of winning competitive advantages. If this is a sign of success, maybe we should reconsider waging this war.

Leonhart, a DEA lifer, is actually a Bush appointee, reappointed by President Obama. She is, obviously, an inflexible zealot when it comes to drug prohibition. This is easily the worst and most offensive thing she's said that I've read, but she does have a history of asinine remarks. This is the sort of quote -- dead children are a sign that we're winning! -- that should lead to a resignation. But it probably won't.

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene
DEA head: A thousand dead children means we're winning war on drugs - War Room -

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Right-winger + hard time = compassion?

Saturday, Apr 9, 2011 14:01
By Justin Elliott
"....While incarcerated, he learned "of the realities of street level American race relations; of the pathology of incorrigible criminals; and of the wasted opportunities for the reintegration of many of these people into society. I saw at close range the failure of the U.S. War on Drugs, with absurd sentences, (including 20 years for marijuana offences, although 42% of Americans have used marijuana and it is the greatest cash crop in California.)...."


Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Root: We Can't Afford To Not Fix Justice System

Statistics released by the U.S. Bureau of Justice and analyzed by Ohio State law professor Michelle Alexander show that, as of 2008, more African American men are in jail today than were slaves in 1850.

Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP.

Lateefah Simon is executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Reforming the nation's criminal-justice system is one of the most urgent civil rights issues of our time. One shocking fact illustrates why: More African-American men are entangled in the criminal-justice system today than were enslaved in 1850.

How did we get here? The rise in America's penchant for punishment can be traced as far back as the 1964 presidential campaigns of Barry Goldwater and George Wallace, each of whom made law and order a defining plank of his platform.

President Richard Nixon continued the trend, framing Democrats as "soft on crime" and pushing for tough law-enforcement policies in opposition to President Johnson's credo of tackling crime through a "war on poverty." "Doubling the conviction rate in this country would do more to cure crime in America than quadrupling the funds for [Hubert] Humphrey's war on poverty," Nixon told voters.
..Benjamin Todd Jealous and Lateefah Simon, NPR

Friday, April 8, 2011

NAACP Report Calls Shift in Funding Toward Prisons ‘Alarming’

On Thursday, the NAACP released a report called Misplaced Priorities
that examines America’s escalating prison spending and its impact on state budgets, state educational systems, the stability of our inner city communities, and the well being of our children.

To amplify its point, the report profiled six cities: New York, Houston, Indianapolis, Jackson, MS, Philadelphia and, of course, Los Angeles.

Here are a few of the other facts about LA that are in the report:

* 50 percent of the people who were in prison in California, and are now on parole in Los Angeles live in zip codes that are home to only 18 percent of the city’s adults.

* This means that more than a billion taxpayer dollars are spent every year to incarcerate people from Los Angeles neighborhoods where less than 20 percent of Los Angeles residents live.

* In Los Angeles, 69 of the 90 (67 percent) low performing schools are in neighborhoods with the highest incarceration rates.

* By contrast, 59 of the city’s 86 high performing schools (68 percent) are in neighborhoods with the lowest incarceration rates.

* During the last two decades, as the criminal justice system came to assume a larger proportion of state discretionary dollars, state spending on prisons grew at six times the rate of state spending on higher education. This is particularly true in California.
from Celeste Fremon, Witness LA