Monday, February 16, 2009

Punishment To Fit the Crime

I can't help but compare the eagerness to condemn and punish Michael Phelps for taking a hit from a bong to the utter lack of outrage from so many national leaders and media pundits about the corporate and political criminals who've wrecked the world economy and the lives of millions.

Take Bernie Madoff, inexplicably still allowed to live in his luxury apartment. The jail time he eventually will face seems an insufficient penalty. He--and the other Wall Street titans who ran what I now understand as legal Ponzi schemes--need to hear and see, close up, the consequences of their actions. Putting them in a pillory right next to the raging bull on the real Wall Street has occurred to me, but I doubt they'd survive with their skins intact. And I don't believe in the death penalty.

Better, it seems to me, would be to require them to engage in long-term, unpaid volunteer work at homeless shelters or social service offices,while they, themselves, are forced to live in those Homeland Security trailers--the ones that off-gas toxic pollutants--foisted on the displaced from New Orleans.

I'm not alone in having such fantasies. They are the natural consequence of the unwillingness, so far, of anyone in Washington, including Obama, to hold accountable the crew that bankrupted this country and the world, and who profited and continue to profit from the unjust, calamitous wars that continue to rage. Which of course includes Bush, Cheney & company.

The Nation magazine recently tapped into this public desire with a "Retire Bush" contest. The idea was that people should suggest what Bush should do in his retirement. The winner, Kristen Wack, would give George W. the job as host of a revised version of the reality show The Biggest Loser; the contestants would be corporate executives who would compete for instigating the most colossal management debacle.

I like it--as a start, particularly because it includes the element of public humiliation, a necessary humbling for the arrogance that is surely the hallmark of the era just ended.

But, it's only a start. A runner-up entrant in The Nation contest suggested that Bush spend his retirement "assembling a legal dream team to fight extradition to The Hague for war crimes."

I hope I live long enough to see that happen, or to see one brave district attorney somewhere in America indict Bush & Cheney right here at home.

That last idea is coming from Vince Bugliosi, the author and former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney who prosecuted the lunatic murderer Charles Manson. In his latest book, "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder," Bugliosi presents what he says is more than sufficient evidence for any district attorney in America to indict W for the deaths of 4,000 American soldiers. He argues that by lying to the American public, by saying that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat, Bush was directly responsible for the deaths of our soldiers.

You can find out the name of your local DA, and urge him or her to take action and link to a You at There's also a link there to a YouTube video of Bugliosi testifying before Congress.

While we wait for accountability, here's an invitation: what do you think would be fitting punishment for Madoff, irresponsible bankers, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and company?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Phelps Getting Punished--for Nothing!

The anti-drug moralists are in full cry after Michael Phelps, as predicted.

All hail the idiot sheriff of South Carolina's Richland County, who says he'll charge Phelps criminally if he can muster the evidence. Y'all know how it is down south there, where no crime goes unpunished, right? And Sheriff Leon Lott can't find anything more important to do, or at least nothing else that might make the national news.

Then there are undoubtedly the tee-totalers at USA Swimming who suspended Phelps from competition for three months. Not because smoking a bit of pot would enhance his performance--never a suggestion about pot, which of course, has been surrounded with a mythology that it makes recreational users, well, losers. Phelps a loser? Well, not exactly.

But there's some good news just now on the marijuana front. The Drug Policy Alliance asked folks to protest to the Obama Administration about the latest raids on medical marijuana providers in California, and a whole bunch of losers somehow managed to stay awake long enough to send so many emails and faxes that they got our new prez's attention.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, this was the response:

"The President believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind."

So it looks like some freedom from DEA hardball tactics may be on the way.

Now all we need is for the Obama Administration to stand up for rational discourse on the overall subject of marijuana. It's way past time.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Puritans Set To End Michael Phelps' Career

Horrors! The greatest swimmer in the world took a hit from a bong at a party last November, someone snapped a picture that got published yesterday in a British tabloid, and the sheep in the media immediately began speculating that his career was over.

What a waste if that prediction comes true. But that's the way it is in the insane reality created by the War on Drugs.

I don't know if Michael Phelps smoked any marijuana during all the years that he trained for, and then won his record number of Olympic medals. I doubt it, because he has never tested positive for any banned substances.

But even if he had, marijuana has never been characterized as a performance-enhancing drug, and isn't that what should concern us about athletes using drugs? To the contrary, the official party line of the Drug War is that use of marijuana undermines athletic performance. Yet Phelps has won more swimming medals than anyone else. So where does that line of upside-down logic lead?

It leads, once again, to the conclusion that it is long past time to stop spending billions of dollars every year to stop people from using marijuana, and not just for medical purposes. Despite the uniformly idiotic depictions in Hollywood movies of marijuana users as wasted, useless drop-outs, the truth is that millions of Americans use the weed to relax, loosen social barriers, laugh a lot--and then get on with the serious business of living. In short, for the same purposes as alcohol, which was also once prohibited in this country by the Puritans among us, the hard-noses who think they have the right to tell us which social drugs are acceptable.

Tranquilizers and other mind-altering prescription drugs are fine. Ditto for alcohol. Americans learned from alcohol prohibition that it is a welcome social lubricant, safe to use as long as there are rules restricting it to adults and laws, for example, against driving under the influence.

The same kind of restrictions should apply to marijuana, and its use and controlled sale should also be legal just as it is for alcohol.

It's time for everyone who knows this is true to stop hiding and come out and say so. There's so many good reasons for doing so.

In this time of economic disaster, legalizing use of marijuana would cut taxpayers' costs for police, prisons and judges, money that could be shifted to education, mental health and social services. In 2007 alone, there were 830,000 arrests for violation of marijuana laws, 89% for possession for personal use. Talk about waste!

The Drug Policy Alliance, which is one of the organizations leading the fight for sanity on this issue, says, "The war on drugs has become a war on families, a war on public health and a war on our constitutional rights." It has resulted in a disproportionate impact on minorities, and stripped millions of people of their right to vote, because in many states, conviction on a drug felony means an end to voting rights. Blacks are 4 times more likely to get jail time for marijuana possession as whites; Latinos, 3 times more likely.

For an eloquent description of all that's wrong with the Drug War, go see what the Drug Policy Alliance has to say at their website.

I'd like to think Michael Phelps' exposure as a user of marijuana would cause people to stop and consider the need to legalize marijuana. Last year, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (Dem of Massachusetts) and Ron Paul (Republican from Texas) introduced a bill called the "Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008." It went nowhere, as expected. I hope it will be reintroduced, and that all the people who know the truth about marijuana will pick up their phones and let their reps in Congress know it's past time for this modest reform.

An even easier action is to go to a website set up specifically to urge President Obama to add marijuana law reform to his agenda.

I hope he has the courage to take this on, because of both its economic benefits and its horrible impact on minorities.

That's the horror the media should be writing about. Not the "gotcha" photo of splendid Michael Phelps having a harmless good time.