US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show that the government of Cuba banned Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary, Sicko, “because it painted such a ‘mythically’ favourable picture of Cuba’s healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a ‘popular backlash’, according to US diplomats in Havana.”
The revelation, contained in a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks , is surprising, given that the film attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system.
But the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so “disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room.” Castro’s government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it “knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.”
I had a really interesting philosophical discussion with Brad Warbiany, our curator at The Liberty Papers, over a Facebook status I wrote. I had just re-listened to the CBS Radio Workshop rendition of Brave New World and had commented that it seemed like a far more livable situation than 1984.
Warbiany added that California, if Prop. 19 passes and allows the modern equivalent of soma to be freely ingested, the state really will look like Brave New World. With the state already self-organized into a caste system (Listen to someone from Northern California talk about Southern California or someone from Berkeley talk about Sacramento some time), abortion and every sort of contraceptive widely available and the domination of a vapid mass culture (seen at San Diego Comic Con or Wonder Con in San Francisco) taking precedence over civic involvement for Californians, the Golden State really resembles Huxley’s “negative utopia.”
Warbiany also handed me this great cartoon:
On Twitter, alot of progressive and libertarian leaning activists tend to advocate alot for issues of freedom and emancipation in countries like Iran or China. In a way, situations in so obviously repressive countries like those are much easier for the activist. They fit into the Orwell dynamic and the villains and heroes are very clear. In his opposition to the death penalty, our own Stephen Littau does take on the American equivalent to state repression. Along with questionable foreign policy and drug policy, however, those are really the only avenues for passionate American political activism.
Beyond such clear issues of state force, however, one runs into a brick wall when faced with the mass culture, dullness and vapidity of consumer society. It seems that in this society, the majority of more normal people (myself and most people reading this strongly excepted) do not become Jeffersonians but instead “turn on, tune in and cop out,” as Gil Scott Heron once said. How does one become an activist in a society in which people freely subjugate, segregate and limit themselves?
I have a funny story that relates to this, that I didn’t even remember until I read what Brad said. While living in Alameda, California, I lost my phone. A teenage girl, around college age most likely, found it and called my mom, who e-mailed me about it. When I got the phone back, I was really grateful but had no money on hand. The only possession I had literally was a copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I offered it to her.
She literally responded, “No thanks. I don’t read.”
I know. Alameda is not a low income area where reading should be rare, either. There are several bookstores in the area, along with hip restaurants, record stores and everything else you expect in cosmopolitan society. It even has an incredible vintage movie theatre that I rank as the best in Northern California, next to Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre. This girl was obviously more involved in other factors of modern life, all of which I can safely assume are of less consequence intellectually than the work of Huxley.
It’s especially ironic given that there is a passage in Brave New World in which infants are given books while bombarded with screeching, loud noises, in order to dissuade them from being too intellectual when they reach adulthood. With video games, television, the internet and iPhones, that seems unnecessary as modern people have been incentivized out of intellectualism.
That girl did go to extra trouble to give me my phone back, with no advantage to her, however. That means she had a decency and sense of altruism that her lack of reading hadn’t impeded. Having grown up around the hyper-educated and being on that road myself, I can also attest that we’re not the nicest group of people. Perhaps then we really are on the road to progress.
In 2001, Portugal legalized all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs—including cocaine, heroin, and meth—and replaced drug sentences with offers of therapy. If that sounds a bit bleeding heart, well, it worked: In the five years following decriminalization, drug use among teenagers has dropped, as have HIV infections caused by dirty needles. More Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana. Portugal has the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over age 15, at 10 percent; 39.8 percent of Americans over the age of 12 have used marijuana.
As George Orwell put so aptly in The Road to Wigan Pier, “In the end I worked out an anarchist theory that all government is evil, that the punishment always does more harm than the crime and that people can be trusted to behave decently if only you will let them alone.” It’s no business of the state or even in the capacity of the state to brood over what people put in their body.
People have sought mind altering substances for thousands of years. Prohibiting what people will attain anyway only makes it more likely that they will encounter the harms caused by their drug of choice being a crime.
At the time that Brad Warbiany and I had a debate about state’s rights, I’d just come back from CPAC in Washington D.C. where there had been a mix of the really good and the really bad. I volunteered at the Campaign for Liberty booth and found three copies of anti-Abraham Lincoln books for sale. Bob McDonnell was declaring “Confederate History Month.” Reports were emanating that tea partiers had hurled racial epithets at congressmen, an accusation that from first hand contact seemed pretty believable. I was beginning to link “state’s rights” with the crusty, racist definition that George Wallace gave us.
Now that I’m back on the Left Coast, state’s rights are able to be looked at in a much different context. With a crippled economy, a fiscally broken state government and 12.2% unemployment, Californians should pass Proposition 19 this November and pay federal drug law no attention. California can be an experimental laboratory for the testing of a new marijuana industry.
For all of the failures of Obama’s spendapaloozas, his administration’s policy of lessening penalties on medical marijuana has helped dispensaries grow in size. Oakland’s city council has voted to allow industrial production of marijuana. Passage of Proposition 19 would precipitate what my friend Dan Carlin called a “Berlin Wall” moment in which the federal government would have to decide if it wanted to enforce drug laws or give way to the will of California. If the federal government, during a crippling recession and a 42% approval rating for the president, acted to stomp out one of the few industries with growth potential in favor of decaying paternal laws, it would be perfectly just to associate Obama with “failure.”
The federal government has had it all wrong on drug policy for a really long time now. The winds of change are moving and the chance for a new industry to develop around a substance that has an unrelenting demand is too good to pass up. California had better not mess this one up, and the federal government had best back off.
Spending, stimulus and bailouts have not pulled us out of an economic rut. I’m not an economist but it seems to me that in a capitalist system, all elements, from Wall Street to the welfare office, need to be driven by capital created from the production of a good that people demand. That’s why marijuana legalization is so important. No amount of government spending is going to be able to create production, but it can stop it.
Stratfor is an incredible policy source that looks deeply into matters of geopolitics. Policy wonks are often able to look at what is going on dispassionately and with eye for understanding what is actually happening and that indispensable ability is in evidence in Robert W. Merry’s analysis of the Tea Party movement:
Nearly every American with a political memory recalls that Texas billionaire Ross Perot captured 19 percent of the vote when he ran for president as an independent candidate in 1992. Less well known is what happened to that vote afterward. Therein lies an intriguing political lesson that bears on today’s Tea Party movement, which emerged on the political scene nearly 17 months ago and has maintained a sustained assault on the Republican establishment ever since.
Just this week, the Tea Party scored another upset triumph, this time in Delaware, where protest candidate Christine O’Donnell outpolled establishment scion Michael N. Castle in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. It was merely the latest in a string of political rebellions that have shaped this campaign year much as the Perot phenomenon influenced American politics in the 1990s.
Two years after the Texan’s remarkable 19 percent showing, the Perot vote — a protest movement spawned primarily by political anxiety over what was considered fiscal recklessness at the federal level (sound familiar?) — washed away the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. In a stern rebuke to President Bill Clinton, the Perot constituency gave full congressional control to the Republican Party for the first time in four decades. And then, just two years later, it turned around and helped elect Clinton to a second term.
The political lesson, worth pondering in these times of Tea Party rumbling, is that serious protest movements such as the Perot phenomenon or today’s Tea Party revolt never just fade away. They linger in American politics, sometimes largely unseen but sometimes quite overt, and exert a continuing tug on the course of electoral decision-making. Eventually they get absorbed into one major party or the other. In the process, they often tilt the balance of political power in the country, occasionally for substantial periods of time.
The Perot comparison is strong, as is the possibility that this movement could crater due to its orientation toward ideological purity.
While not a fan, the Tea Party movement is genuinely one of the most grassroots political efforts I’ve seen in my lifetime. The like of Christine O’Donnell or Rand Paul are not conventional Republicans, and any corporate “astro turf” movement, since it is not in the interest of corporations to try to push political instability, would have handpicked Mike Castle or Mitch McConnell instead.
This piece from Al Jazeera illustrates how comedy can positively affect politics. Like in the United States with comedians like Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, satirists, comedians and cartoonists in Afghanistan are able to go where conventional journalists are afraid to go. With the dreary headlines coming out of the region, it’s good to see civil society breathing.
I’m not a Rand Paul fan, not a Kentuckian and am not going to endorse him or give money to his campaign. Given that, all of the above is true of his Democratic opponent Jack Conway as well. His disingenuous advertisement attacking Paul for an alleged laissez faire approach to law enforcement is absurd and actually makes Paul look like a much more attractive candidate:
As has been made fairly clear by my posts and also by my colleague Stephen Littau, law enforcement in this country has gone out of control into zones of paramilitary tactics that are frightening.
Littau posted a Cato Institute video that showed a police arrest of a motorcyclist by an armed police officer showing no badge who looked on all accounts as if he were conducting a robbery.
Over at the Agitator, Radley Balko reports on the murder of Michael Sipes, seventeen, by police after responding to a noise complaint. As the drug war continues to escalate in Mexico, a smaller escalation appears to have occurred at home, with arrests up and disturbing lethal attacks on homes, including many where dogs have been killed. In 2007, drug arrests for marijuana possession alone totaled 775,138! If a Senator Paul will introduce legislation that would eliminate non-violent arrests for “crimes” like marijuana possession, more power to him.
I can not express enough how much I disagree with Paul on the Civil Rights Act and, given being told by a Kentuckian that racism was benefitting Paul in his senate race, it makes me distrust him highly. Given that, if Paul does think non-violent crimes should be at least a lower priority, that makes me give him a second look. The last thing we need is the “cops know best” approach that Jack Conway seems to be endorsing.
In a disturbing and matter-of-fact article, Seattle Weekly’s editor in chief Mark D. Fefer explained to readers that there would not be a cartoon by Molly Norris in that week’s paper, nor would there be one in any future issues. No, she wasn’t fired. Norris has followed advice from the FBI, left town, and changed her name after a fatwa was placed on her by Islamic extremists following her cartoon promoting the made up “Draw Mohammed Day.”
Norris has been effectively silenced into submission (that word used intentionally) by the forces of fear. If we play by the rules of religious fundamentalists, Muslim, Christian or whatever other theocratic label the forces of reaction choose to label themselves with, we are not going to live in freedom any more. We will live in the same feudal regression that now dominates the Middle East and that once dominated the West during the times in which Galileo Galilei was put under house arrest by the Catholic Church for his theory of heliocentrism. While Thomas Freidman may have jokingly called his book on globalization The World Is Flat, forces around the world who fear their “traditional” cultures are under threat by globalization seek to have us regress to an era in which knowledge was illegal and, in the minds of men, the world was flat.
As the economy continues to stagnate, Jon Stewart appears to have developed a very healthy helping of skepticism about progressive economic policies. This on top of his tearing President Obama apart for his continued embrace of executive power (completely counter to the criticism of Bush-era civil liberties violations that got him a standing ovation at the Democratic National Convention in 2004) and embrace of Charlton Heston makes one wonder if Stewart is making himself up to be some sort of left-libertarian. If that’s the case, I would be more than happy to have him on board.
“The City of Emeryville, California, is looking for individuals to serve on its new ‘Food Truck Taskforce’ — a bureaucratic reaction to the increased competition local ‘brick and mortar’ restaurants face from mobile kitchens. Local worker Catherine Hicks tweeted, ‘restaurants are whining that trucks are more popular at lunch!’ But the city sees this shift in lunching habits as a political problem requiring a political solution …” (09/14/10)
This has been mumbled about quite a bit before, but mostly in southern California. Apparently multiculturalism isn’t a strong enough ethos among Bay Area lawmakers to welcome the rise of taco trucks selling legitimate, authentic Mexican food.
Just as religious groups played a significant role in revoking the freedom to marry in California, it looks like religious groups are subsequently involved in squashing the freedom to put whatever you want in your own body:
The same day Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca became co-chair, with Dianne Feinstein, of the No on 19 campaign, he held a press conference to announce the arrest of a suspect in a triple murder case in West Hollywood.
Baca used the platform — and his role as sheriff — to further the goals of the political campaign by railing against medical marijuana dispensaries. He said that they had been “hijacked by underground drug-dealing criminals” and that “it is no surprise that people are going to get killed … drugs and violence go together.”
Baca is an enthusiastic advocate of Scientology’s drug treatment programs, which he actively promotes. Baca has close ties to Scientology, and claims to have to trained deputies in his department using Scientology materials. The Scientology website says that it “sponsors” the independent non-profits drug treatment programs Narconon and Criminon, which and are based on “The Fundamentals of Thought” by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
According to a Time Magazine cover story:
Hubbard’s purification treatments are the mainstay of Narconon, a Scientology-run chain of 33 alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers — some in prisons under the name “Criminon” — in 12 countries. Narconon [is a] classic vehicle for drawing addicts into the cult.
Revenues for Narconon and other drug treatment programs are generated in large part by court-ordered rehabilitation for drug users, which would be dramatically reduced if marijuana prohibition ended. Much like other elements of the prison industrial complex, Narconon has campaigned aggressively against medical marijuana over the years.
Every era and generation has a common force of darkness that threatens liberal society. In the first half of the twentieth century, it was aggressive collectivization which resulted in a near dictatorship in the United States and tyrannies in the form of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan and Communist China.
The common thread destroying individual liberty in our own age, from women who are forbidden to go to school, cartoonists who are threatened with death for daring to be creative, religious minorities who are terrorized and loving couples who are forbidden to wed due to their matching chromosomes, is religious fundamentalism. It’s our job to fight it.
During a visit to the International Tourism Fair in Caracas yesterday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced he would meet with leaders of Venezuela’s Jewish community. “We respect and love the Jewish people,” said Chavez, who added that opponents have falsely painted him as “anti-Jewish.”
Chavez has been a close ally of Iran and a strong critic of Israel. He severed ties with Israel in January 2009 to protest its actions in the Gaza Strip. A series of recent incidents have ignited concerns about anti-Semitic violence in Venezuela.
The Chavez remarks came one day after Jeff wrote on this blog about his recent reporting trip to Havana and his conversations with Fidel Castro. Castro excoriated anti-Semitism and criticized Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust. The former Cuban president called upon Ahmadinejad to “stop slandering the Jews.” (Castro also expressed misgivings about his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but that’s another story.)
The government of Mexico, tired of drug war violence, is considering the legalization of marijuana and possibly other drugs.
With Mexicans everywhere, exhausted by the deadly drug wars, asking for answers, the debate has grown more urgent.
Discussion about legalization has already been put on the public agenda by President Felipe Calderon, who has held a series of open forums with politicians and civic leaders.
The president is also known to be watching the neighbouring US state of California, to see if the state approves an initiative on November 2nd to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Calderon has said that Mexico will not be able to act alone in legalizing drugs, saying if the cost of drugs is not levelled, at least in the United States, the black-market price will still be determined by US consumers.
Change is not one-sided. Hopefully the American populace and lawmakers are as willing to reconsider their drug laws as well, so that we can enter a new period in which marijuana is legal, controlled and commoditized. Californians have the chance to make change happen this November by passing Proposition 19.
(Reuters) – Fidel Castro said Cuba’s economic model no longer works, a U.S.-based journalist reported on Wednesday following interviews with the former president last week.
Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly magazine, wrote in a blog that he asked Castro, 84, if Cuba’s model — Soviet-style communism — was still worth exporting to other countries and he replied, “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”
The comment appeared to reflect Castro’s agreement, which he also expressed in a column for Cuban media in April, with his younger brother President Raul Castro, who has initiated modest reforms to stimulate Cuba’s troubled economy.
Goldberg said Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in Washington who accompanied him to Havana, believed Castro’s words reflected an acknowledgment that “the state has too big a role in the economic life of the country.”
I sent my esteemed colleague Larry Bernard, who contributes to Global Crisis Garden, a link to the story and he promptly said “Holy shit.” Indeed. If even Fidel Castro is putting a gravestone on the Marxist-Leninist style of government, that really is progress.
The interview also produced a line from Fidel Castro critical of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his endless anti-Semitism:
Does this release him from the “Axis of Evil”? Cuban Leader Fidel Castro attacks Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his anti-Semitism in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. Quotes include, “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews,” and “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.”
Fidel Castro is going to have to act along with his words. He came into the international political world as a Vladimir Lenin. If he really wants to, he can leave a Mikhail Gorbachev. This would require stepping from power and leading a transition not toward continued Castro hereditary rule but towards a Jeffersonian Chile-style system of political freedom, market economies and a welfare state all checking and balancing one another. Chilean leaders only serve one term, despite their personal popularity.
Last Sunday night, police in Morganton, North Carolina shot and killed 17-year-old Michael Sipes. The officers were responding to a noise complaint called in by a neighbor in the mobile home park where Sipes lived. His mother says there were three children in the home on the night Sipes was killed, and were likely he source of the complaint.
According to Sipes’ mother and others in the house, the police repeatedly knocked on the door to the home, but never identified themselves. They say both Sipes and his mother asked more than once who was outside. A neighbor who heard the gunshots also says he never heard the police identify themselves. Police officials say the officers did identify themselves.
According to those in the trailer at the time, as the knocks continued, Sipes retrieved a rifle, opened the door, and stepped outside. That’s when Morganton Public Safety Officer Johnny David Cooper II shot Sipes in the stomach “four or five times.”
More here and here. Profile of Sipes here. The story is still fresh, but at first blush he certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who would knowingly confront police officers with his rifle.
Why is this not becoming an electoral issue? Police have various means at their disposal to nullify suspects and yet story after story of unnecessary lethal force seems to pop up. Republican, Democrat or any party, the candidate who runs on restoring the Fourth Amendment and focussing on law enforcement that prioritizes enforcing laws over terrorizing citizens will get my vote.
A device designed to control unruly inmates by blasting them with a beam of intense energy that causes a burning sensation is drawing heat from civil rights groups who fear it could cause serious injury and is “tantamount to torture.”
The mechanism, known as an “Assault Intervention Device,” is a stripped-down version of a military gadget that sends highly focused beams of energy at people and makes them feel as though they are burning. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department plans to install the device by Labor Day, making it the first time in the world the technology has been deployed in such a capacity.
This is one of the Texas congressman’s best appearances since the heyday of his presidential run. I’ll admit my enthusiasm for him has waned mostly due to his son and a lot of the people who have associated themselves with Paul. Paul himself, however, is consistently a voice of reason over the irrationality and hatred of both political “sides.”
It’s beginning to be really easy to hate Facebook. While Google has stuck to its libertarian principles of free exchange of information by not cooperating with Chinese censorship, Facebook has become more and more creepy:
The people behind the “Just Say Now” marijuana legalization campaign (oft-Boinged Salon contributor Glenn Greenwald is one of many political thinkers on their board) want Facebook to back off its decision to pull their ads from the social networking service.
This is what Facebook’s PR says:
It would be fine to note that you were informed by Facebook that the image in question was no long acceptable for use in Facebook ads. The image of a pot leaf is classified with all smoking products and therefore is not acceptable under our policies. Let me know if you need anything further.
One key indicator that you are dealing with unapologetic authoritarians is when you’re being harshly reprimanded for violating regulations and rules that are unpredictable, undefinable and more than likely not even known by the person touting them. That appears to be the case with Facebook’s policies:
But the group points out that Facebook’s ad policy doesn’t ban “smoking products,” just “tobacco products.” Also, Facebook does permit alcohol ads, even ads featuring images of alcohol products and packaging, though alcohol ads that make alcohol consumption “fashionable,” “promote intoxication” or that “encourage excessive consumption” are banned. Just Say Now calls Facebook’s action censorship.
Perhaps Facebook goes by the old Jack Webb Dragnet school that pot consists of “marijuana cigarettes.”
There’s alot of faux outrage out there, as the Cordoba Crowds in NYC have shown us. Given the extensive cost to normal livelihoods by the continued prison construction and law enforcement funding required by prohibition, Facebook does deserve to be boycotted for trying to silence a group like Just Say Now.
Just Say Now’s Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake.com, is also on the side of liberty in her fight against punitive immigration laws. Check out an appearance she did that I posted at my website Voice of the Migrant. She’s also a cancer survivor and all around political superhero. Give her support and take it away from Facebook.