"The Wars on Drugs, Gambling, and Prostitution are Rackets."

 

 

 

A local news outlet in Winston-Salem produced a brief feature, “Former federal agent says putting drug addicts in prison is a ‘mistake.’”  I don’t think the title truly reflects the gravity of this story. Those are not the typical words of someone like Robert Stutman who is a former DEA special agent. He was later promoted to be the Chief of the New York DEA Office. He has certainly earned his stripes in the war on drugs. Case in point, the Medellin Cartel at one time had a price on his head. Stutman aggressively promoted a strong response to illegal drugs during his time as a leader within the DEA. He was quoted in my book, The Drug War: A Trillion Dollar Con Game, because he openly “used the media” to hype the drug war. He stated that the media exploited the crack cocaine crisis of the 80s, calling it the “hottest combat reporting story to come along since the end of the Vietnam War.” Stutman played a major role in one of the most influential drug war media presentations of the 1980s, 48 Hours on Crack Street. In fact, he appeared on the show. It was a two-hour CBS documentary with Dan Rather and Bernie Goldberg exploring some of New York City’s most crime-infested areas. It was aired in September of 1986 to the tune of 15 million viewers, which was the highest ratings for a TV documentary in five and half years. 48 Hours on Crack Street was one of many crack-related news segments that had American voters clamoring for tougher drug laws. One month later, Congress passed the infamous Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which made the penalty for crack 100 times longer than the same amount of powder cocaine. Stutman retired from the DEA in 1990 and he began vocalizing his criticisms of the war on drugs in a very public manner. For nearly three decades, Stutman has been a strong advocate for more spending on drug education and treatment, rather than law enforcement. In fact, he formed his own company, Employee Information Services Inc, which specializes in providing drug rehab services. In an interview with Frontline, Stutman asserted that politicians love to “patronize voters” with the tough on crime approach to drug addiction, but it isn’t effective policy. However, despite this liberal mentality, Stutman isn’t an advocate of decriminalization. Although I certainly disagree with Stutman’s views on that subject, it’s quite refreshing to hear someone with his background who doesn’t “toe the company line” by insisting that harm reduction (drug education and treatment) needs to be prioritized over law enforcement.
Last Friday, June 2nd, was International Sex Workers’ Day. That day is in memory of a historic sex worker protest that took place on June 2, 1975 in Lyon, France. A combination of events sparked this protest. A few sex workers had been murdered in the area and the police had shown no commitment to solving these cases. The murderer hadn’t been captured and the local police reacted to these crimes by increasingly enforcing prostitution laws. In other words, the police weren’t protecting these women and the criminal penalties were making them more vulnerable to violence. Sex workers would have to risk going to jail if they wanted to come forward with information about a serial killer. In response, a group of roughly 100 sex workers who called themselves “the French Collective of Prostitutes” decided to take extreme action. They chose a highly visible scene to stage their protest. They gathered at a local church and refused to leave until their basic rights were observed.[1]   They also hanged a banner (in reference to their children) from within one of the windows that read, “We do not want to see our mothers in prison.”[2] The French Collective of Prostitutes were inside of the Saint-Nizier church for eight days before the police raided the building. Upon entrance, many of the women were beaten by these law enforcement officers.   Photo - Jenn Farr/Flickr Needless to say, this very public act of political speech gained a great deal of media attention. It sparked a wave of interest and helped lead to the formation of several sex worker activist organizations. This brave act became an international story and every year since then June 2nd has been recognized as International Sex Workers’ Day. In some countries, it’s called International Whores’ Day.  Out of curiosity, I held off on writing this post for a few days because I wanted to see how much media coverage the International Sex Workers’ Day would receive. I wrote a similar post last December, “U.S. Media Ignores International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.” If you’re not familiar with the significance of December 17th, it is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. (There’s a horrific backstory to why that day is commemorated and it’s explained in full in the article.) Anyhow, long story short, there was barely any recognition of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers by corporate media outlets within the U.S. With that knowledge in mind, I assumed that at least one media outlet in the U.S. would cover the International Sex Workers’ Day. Guess what? I was wrong. If you’re on social media, you probably noticed that National Donut Day dominated Internet traffic on June 2nd. Case in point, there were over 150,000 posts on Twitter related to this topic.  Granted, most readers prefer light-hearted topics on a Friday. Furthermore, most Americans don’t support the decriminalization of prostitution. And those who support decriminalization may enjoy a brief mental escape with some silly memes about donuts. Clearly, a liberal take on prostitution policy doesn’t fall in line with mainstream news. However, it’s a sad state of affairs that not one American news organization was willing to cover this story. On the other hand, there was some media recognition of International Sex Workers’ Day in other countries, particularly where prostitution is either legal or decriminalized. One article in Australia quoted a local sex worker activist, Julie Bates. “But unfortunately, stigma is rife and very few sex workers can stand tall as we’re still treated as second class citizens.” Americans need to hear that kind of perspective. After all, the media has a very influential role in shaping public opinion. Hence, there needs to be fair and balanced coverage of this issue. Suffice it to say, that hasn’t happened in the United States. Instead, the average American has been inundated with news reports that conflate human trafficking with prostitution.   Occasionally, there is a prostitution news report similar to what happened yesterday. A police officer in Ridley, TN was arrested for official misconduct and patronizing prostitution. He’s accused of having sex with prostitutes in his police car while on duty on multiple occasions. According to the investigators, this police officer paid for sex. And that may be the case. However, police officers frequently extort prostitutes for free sex. And the average person is completely unaware of this issue. Understandably, it’s difficult to quantify this problem because sex workers operate in the black market. However, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (the famed “Freakonomics” duo) conducted a study, which included eyewitnesses, and found that 3% of prostitutes’ sex acts were performed for free with police officers.[3] Most sex workers don’t report these sexual assaults because their line of work is illegal. However, a recent scandal in the Bay Area revealed that over 30 police officers had sex with one particular sex worker, Celeste Guap. Four of those officers had sex with her while she was underage. Guap explained that she felt compelled to have sex with these officers in order to stay out of jail. Two weeks ago, the city of Oakland agreed to a nearly $1 million settlement. On a related note, there’s also been some media coverage about Michigan closing a legal loophole that allowed police to have sex with prostitutes during undercover stings. However, the coverage was flawed on multiple levels. First of all, there’s the official rule and there’s the way that events actually unfold in the real world. Secondly, most news outlets reported that Michigan was the last state to close this loophole. That’s not true. A sex worker activism group in Alaska, Community United for Safety & Protection (CUSP), is actively lobbying the state legislature to end this practice. Conversely, various Alaskan police officials have also lobbied to keep this loophole in place. They’ve insisted that an officer would be fired for engaging in such activity. Yet, police officials claim that this loophole shouldn’t be closed. Suffice it say, that’s a very contradictory viewpoint. One police official told the Alaska Dispatch News that he was offended by the suggestion that police officers would abuse their authority in this manner. Well, you can watch this NSFW video with multiple testimonies from sex workers in Alaska who’ve been violated in this exact manner. You don’t need to be a scholar to realize that it’s a human rights crisis when a particular group of people can be targeted for rape with little to no fear of legal repercussions. To wrap up, this is only one of numerous issues that result from criminalizing prostitution. Unfortunately, the American media is generally unaware of the injustices that sex workers are subjected to. Or, the industry is unwilling to report on these human rights violations.   [1] Gail Pheterson. A Vindication of the Rights of Whores. Seattle: The Seal Press, 1989. Print. P 5 [2] Nils Ringal. Love For Sale: A World History of Prostitution. New York: Grove Press, 2004. Print. P 373 [3] Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance. New York: William Morrow, 2009. Print. P 45  
The Governor of Vermont, Phil Scott, vetoed a bill last month  Photo - Get Budding that would have legalized recreational marijuana. This would have been an unprecedented moment in history. Sure, eight states and the District of Columbia had already legalized recreational use. However, those states legalized recreational marijuana via ballot measures or public referendums. In other words, you can’t give credit to the politicians; it was left up to the voters to decide. The Vermont legislature, on the other hand, passed this bill. Regardless of the fact that the Governor vetoed the bill, no state legislature has ever accomplished this task. With that in mind, this was a very positive development for the American democracy. After all, a strong majority of Americans support legalized marijuana. Hence, this is the perfect example of the manner in which special interests exert control over the legislative process. Will recreational marijuana be legalized in Vermont? The state legislature could overrule the Governor’s veto with a two-thirds majority vote. But, that seems unlikely because the bill wasn’t passed in the House by a wide margin, 79-66. The margin was much wider in the state Senate, 20-9. The legislature reconvenes on June 21st. Most likely, the members will have to make some alterations to secure the Governor’s signature in the future. Governor Scott has expressed vague concerns about “protecting children,” the regulations, and the methods for roadside testing for impairments. If we are to take him at his word, no system would “protect children” better than a legal and regulated cannabis industry. Secondly, the regulations can be hammered out before the new laws go into effect. As for the roadside testing, we’re at the mercy of the scientific community. There are many new, promising forms of technology in the works, but a perfect method has yet to be finalized. Hopefully, Governor Scott doesn’t lean on these excuses as a crutch to avoid signing this bill. With that said, Phil Scott has publicly supported the general idea of legalizing recreational marijuana. He said, “Generally, I view it through the lens of a libertarian, I believe what adults do behind closed doors and on their own personal property is their own choice so long as it doesn't negatively impact the health and safety of others.” For the short term, he should deserve the benefit of the doubt and we’ll see if a compromise bill can be finalized later this month. A Disturbing Trend Someone who doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt is New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. This may seem familiar if you read my column, “Want to Solve America’s Public Defender Crisis? Stop Arresting People for Cannabis.” Governor Martinez, a GEO Group campaign finance recipient, has taken her loyalty to various conservative special interest groups to a ridiculously absurd level. She has twice vetoed bills to legalize industrial hemp. When I first read about vetoes, I immediately thought of that iconic soundbite from Allen Iverson, “We’re talking about practice?!?” In this instance, we’re talking about hemp?!? This should be a noncontroversial issue. The restrictions on hemp are completely unnecessary. Industrial hemp production and recreational marijuana are two entirely different issues. Hemp contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical, THC, within marijuana. In other words, it’s impossible to get “high” with hemp. Long story short, it is inexcusable for a politician in 2017 to block industrial hemp production in this country. Keep in mind, Governor Susana Martinez vetoed two hemp bills in the state with the highest unemployment rate. With that sentiment in mind, the governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, also vetoed an industrial hemp bill last month. That’s particularly disturbing because Ducey’s website claims that it’s his mission to “boost economic growth, create new jobs and promote 21st-century innovation that improves the way Arizonans live.” There is a tremendous economic upside with hemp, but the United States is far behind the curve. Thousands of products can be derived from hemp and several other countries are progressing with some amazing innovations. For instance, Canadian-based Motive Industries has built one of the most eco-friendly cars on the planet, the Kestrel. The body of the car is composed of hemp, which makes it lighter and more crash resistant. In fact, unlike all other cars, the hemp panels of the Kestrel can actually pop back into place after an accident has occurred. Likewise, homebuilders in the U.K. are constructing houses with several different materials derived from hemp, particularly concrete. Hemp can also produce eco-friendly versions of plastic, fuel, clothing, paint, etc. Suffice it say, there are too many hemp products to list in a concise manner. Unfortunately, our nation will continue failing to achieve its full economic potential until the Governors’ offices across this country stop blocking the bipartisan progress with legal cannabis legislation. (Update 6-6) Just hours after this was posted, the Governor of Florida Rick Scott vetoed line items that would have allocated $3 million to medical marijuana research. That's a disappointing decision on multiple levels, in particular, Florida hosts the most senior citizens in the U.S. However, this decision was part of a record-setting day of vetoes in which Governor Scott blocked $11.9 billion of spending.
02.05.2017
Brian Saady
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President Trump (Official Portrait) On March 29th, President Trump conducted a meeting with various “experts” on the heroin epidemic, i.e. Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions, Chuck Rosenberg, along with others. Trump kicked off the meeting by citing a ridiculous statistic that was presumably provided by John Kelly, the Secretary of Homeland Security. Trump claimed that illegal trafficking across the border had been reduced by 61% within his first two months in office! Only moments later, he contradicted that “alternative fact” with another one. He claimed that cartels have brought such vast supplies of illegal drugs that some illegal narcotics “are cheaper than candy.”     It’s no secret that America is now experiencing an unprecedented opioid epidemic. This is an issue that has been covered, in great detail, by essentially every major news organization. Then again, Trump apparently gets his news updates entirely from Fox News. Hence, Trump, and his inner circle, seems to believe that this crisis is “probably almost untalked about compared to the severity that we're witnessing.” He added: “It's really one of the biggest problems our country has, and nobody really wants to talk about it. Vice President Pence mentioned this coming into the room. He said, this is a problem like nobody understands.”  Chris Christie chimed in with this gem as though he had insight that most Americans were unaware of: “I think the President and I both agree that addiction is a disease, and it's a disease that can be treated, and that we need to make sure we let people know -- the President talked about how folks don’t talk about it.” This belief that “folks don’t talk about it,” is stunningly out of touch with the views of most Americans. Public opinion about drug addiction is rapidly changing in favor of treatment and harm reduction, not incarceration. To be fair, Chris Christie has been one of the more vocal Republicans to publicly advocate softer stances in the war on drugs, such as criticisms for mandatory minimum sentences. But, his actions haven’t lived up to his rhetoric. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who believes that the drug war has been a success. Most people recognize that criminalizing drugs has been counterproductive and led to an increase in crime. And drug-related crime is apparently what Donald Trump was referring to when he made another statement. Albeit, it’s difficult to decipher what President Trump was trying to convey: “Our Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is working very hard on this problem. It takes a lot of his time, because this causes so much of the problem that you have to solve -- that problem.” The war on drugs is an endless cycle that is inadvertently designed to fail. Time and time again, each administration swears that it will be the one to solve the drug addiction problem. And Jeff Sessions believes he’s the right man for the job. He said, “When I became a United States attorney in ’81…it took 20 years, but we reduced drug abuse in America, addiction and death dramatically.”   Another troubling aspect of this meeting was a repetitive theme in which President Trump focused on when this opioid epidemic began, not the reasons why it began. This panel of “experts” listened to a few emotional stories from people whose life hit rock bottom before overcoming addiction. Prescription drugs were the gateway drugs for two or those three speakers. Nonetheless, this point seemed to be lost on the listeners. Anyhow, the head of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, told the panel what Trump apparently wanted to hear. He estimated that the last eight to ten years have been the worst as far as heroin addiction. Obviously, Rosenberg didn’t go into depth about the corrupt connection between the DEA, drug companies, and the opioid crisis, which was the focus of my column “Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War.” Instead, Rosenberg informed the group about a DEA “takeback” initiative in which people can return unused prescription drugs. Remarkably, he mentioned “We're going to do that relentlessly twice a year, encourage people to turn in these drugs, and try and break this cycle.” Now, let’s pause for a second. That may have been a first. Arguably, no person has ever claimed to do anything “relentlessly…twice a year.” For all of the different points of view that were presented--harm reduction, addiction treatment, etc.--Trump ultimately showed his hand. As we all know, he believes that a wall along the border with Mexico will eradicate drug trafficking. Trump asked Rosenberg, “Would this (increase in drug use) have anything to do with the weakening of the borders?  Because a lot of it comes from the southern border.” Rosenberg acknowledged that a large percentage of drugs are trafficked through Mexico, but he also pointed out that China is a major importer as well. With that said, it must be noted that Trump genuinely believes that our border security has been “weakened” over the years, even though the budgets for counternarcotics, terrorism, border patrol, national security, etc. continue to rise every year. All in all, this 30-minute meeting was illuminating and concerning in regard to the direction of our country. ### Brian Saady's three-book series, Rackets, is now available at all major bookstores. The Drug War: A Trillion Dollar Con Game Dealing From the Bottom of the Deck: Hypocritical Gambling Laws Enrich Crooked Politicians, a Select-Few Casinos, and the Mob Decriminalized Prostitution: The Common Sense Solution  
26.04.2017
Brian Saady
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Today’s post picks up from a previous post, Crony Capitalism; Private Prison Stocks Have Doubled Since the Election.  We all remember the “Pay to Play” rhetoric from Donald Trump during the campaign. However, the Trump administration made a controversial decision last week to award their first federal contract for an immigration detention center to the GEO Group. As mentioned in the previous post, a $100,000 donation by the GEO Group to Trump’s Super PAC may have violated federal. Private companies can’t make political donations while their contracts while holding or negotiating a federal contract. Then again, the GEO Group is unlikely to be penalized due to a technicality; one of their subsidiaries, which doesn’t have any federal contracts, made the donation. Was there a quid-pro-quo for this newly acquired $110 million immigration detention center contract? There’s no evidence at this time, but the optics are horrible. Nonetheless, this type of decision was the exact scenario that Trump adamantly campaigned against. He was supposed to “drain the swamp.” He repeatedly pointed to the “Pay to Play System,” i.e. preferential treatment for Clinton Foundation donors. Now, he can be accused of the same kind of corruption. Making matters worse, the Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Justice issued a damning report yesterday about another private prison operator. Their office revealed clear corporate negligence at the infamous federal prison, Leavenworth, which is being operated by CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CoreCivic compromised inmate and staff safety by understaffing and closing “mandatory” security posts. Remarkably, their company compensated, at times, by placing staff members who were not corrections officers into these security posts.  CoreCivic also repeatedly placed three beds into cells that were designed for two beds. Furthermore, their company tried to hide that decision from government auditors. There were other details demonstrating that this company prioritized profits over rehabilitation. You can view a condensed video of the Inspector general’s report: Did this report impact the Trump administration’s decision to award the recent $110 million contract to the GEO Group? Again, there’s no evidence. And this latest report was years in the making. In fact, there’s no evidence suggesting that Jeff Sessions or the Trump administration considers the recommendations of the Inspector General’s Office in any manner. Otherwise, they would have not reversed the decision by the Obama administration to phase out all federal prison contractors, which was based upon a report by the Inspector General.
Another major opioid manufacturer has been fined by the DOJ since my column, “Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War,” was published six weeks ago. This time around it’s a corporate sponsor of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (formerly the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA). In fact, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals is a “Champion Partner” with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Then again, CVS Health is also a “Champion Partner,” even though their company was fined $3.5 million by the DOJ after pharmacists ignored red flags and filled fake prescriptions for dangerous narcotics.  Companies such as Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals can hide behind their tax-deductible donations to organizations such as the Partner for Drug-Free Kids. Such contributions tend to purify the image of a company that sells opiates that are frequently abused recreationally, particularly Roxicodone. However, a recent investigative report by The Washington Paper left no doubt about the company’s complicit role in the opioid epidemic. According to confidential government records and emails that were obtained by their newspaper, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals’ negligent conduct may have been responsible for nearly 44,000 federal violations and left their company liable for $2.3 billion in fines. Roxicodone (Wikimedia Commons) Needless to say, the obvious conclusion from this piece by The Washington Post, “The government’s struggle to hold opioid manufacturers accountable,” is that Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals should be facing criminal indictments. However, this is a $7.5 billion company. Hence, the same rules of criminal justice don’t apply. After multiple years of investigations and negotiations, the DOJ reached a civil settlement agreement in which their company will pay a fine of $35 million and not have to admit any wrongdoing. As you may have guessed, this penalty elicited a collective yawn from Wall Street traders as their share prices dropped merely 1% for the day. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is the one person on Capitol Hill who is leading an official inquiry into the major drug companies involved with the opioid epidemic. In the end, she'll likely more damning evidence that isn't presently available to the public. However, none of these companies will be truly held accountable until there are major structural changes to our governmental system. One Senator is no match to the systemic corruption that has enabled this corporate criminality.  My column, “Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War,” goes into much more detail about why this cycle will continue until major changes are made. The revolving door between government and the private sector has corrupted the regulatory process. The DEA determines the exact number of prescription opiates that can be manufactured each year. Nonetheless, the DEA increased the manufacturing limit even as record numbers of prescription drug overdoses were occurring. Worst of all, financial conflicts of interest and outside pressure have forced the DEA and DOJ to act unconscionably lenient towards to the major drug companies that are responsible for this crisis. Instead, it’s much easier for the feds to target the low-hanging fruit that doesn’t have an army of lobbyists at their disposal. Our government is unwilling to confront the real players who are responsible for the massive black market for prescription drugs. Suffice it to say, the war on drugs is an absolute lie. (By the way, there are more examples of hypocritical/shameless donors to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America included in The Drug War: A Trillion Dollar Con Game, the first volume of my book series, Rackets. All three books will be released next Tuesday, April 11th.)
There were a couple of alarming news stories from Honduras in recent days. A past blog post of mine, “The Hillary Clinton/WikiLeaks Email Scandal That Was Neglected by the Media: The Honduras Coup,” provides a lot of background about the political situation in that country and our nation’s role in its chaos.  Long story short, Honduras has become a “narcocracy” after a military coup in 2009, which was supported by the U.S. State Department under Hillary Clinton. Honduras is now run by a brutal right-wing regime that has unofficial police death squads. Some would suggest that such drastic measures are necessary in a country such as Honduras, which has one of the highest rates of gang violence in the world. However, corruption is rampant and these death squads are often acting as enforcers for rival drug trafficking organizations. Furthermore, numerous high-level Honduran government officials have clear links with drug trafficking. That leads us to a recent story by the Associated Press. A Honduran drug lord, Devis Rivera Maradiaga, testified on Monday that the former President of Honduras, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, accepted bribe money in exchange for protection and government contracts for money laundering. Devis Rivera Maradiaga was a leader of one of Honduras’ most powerful drug trafficking organizations, the Cachiros, which has acted as transshipment service for various Mexican cartels, including the Sinaloa cartel.  Devis Rivera Maradiaga made these accusations during his testimony in a pre-sentencing hearing for Fabio Lobo (the son of Pepe Lobo), who pled guilty to arranging a multi-ton shipment of cocaine to U.S. last year. Naturally, the former President, Pepe Lobo denied this claim. However, it is undeniable that there are numerous links between the Cachiros and the Honduran economic and social elite, including the former and current President. This report by InSight Crime goes into extensive detail. Remarkably, this group was a listed by the U.S. government as a known crime organization at a time when they didn’t face any charges in their home country.  Bear in mind, the Obama administration was a strong supporter of the Lobo even though our government was fully aware of his administration’s corruption and human rights abuses. In fact, our government went to great lengths to avoid using the word “coup” to keep sending foreign aid to their country.  Why would our government fund such atrocities? The answer is simple. Honduras is a military ally. (You can read about this in more detail, “The Hillary Clinton/WikiLeaks Email Scandal That Was Neglected by the Media: The Honduras Coup.”) In short, the U.S. government provides military aid for “counternarcotics” to various Latin American countries. In many cases, this aid is counterproductive with its anti-drug mission, but the real purpose is to expand our military forces abroad without declaring war. In other words, the drug war serves as a pretense for various geopolitical/military purposes. (You can read about this type of scenario in Mexico and Colombia.) It’s important to know the origin of the 2009 Honduran coup. The official justification was that the former Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, was trying to amend the constitution to allow himself to run for re-election. The economic elite feared that Zelaya would then abuse his power to stay in office indefinitely. However, that same group of oligarchs helped the current President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, amend the constitution to allow him to run for re-election. Hernandez is certain to face waves of protests when the next election occurs. Then again, the Honduran government passed a controversial law last week that will suppress their free speech rights. This law was posed as a way of combating the country’s gang activity by barring any “illegal association” in public. By law, any form of vandalism that takes place during a political protest can lead to the demonstrators and organizers being charged with “terrorism” and facing 30 years in prison.  (Protest of 2009 Honduran military coup-Photo-Wikimedia Commons) It turns out that the Honduran government has used the pretense of the drug war for subversive purposes in a similar way to the U.S. government.
Miguel Estrada (a partner with a law firm that represented New Jersey's quest for legalized sports gambling) is reportedly a leading candidate to be the Solicitor General nominee. New Jersey passed a statewide voter referendum to legalize sports betting in 2011. The sports leagues sued the state of New Jersey as their legislation violated a federal law that bans sports betting, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), in every state other than Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. In response, the state of New Jersey appealed the constitutionality of this decision through the federal courts. Their attornies contested, to no avail, that PASPA violates the 10th Amendment. New Jersey appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to take their case. However, the U.S. Supreme Court recently asked the Solicitor General to file a brief with more details. In other words, one or more of the justices seem to be interested in this case. Therefore, if the new U.S. Solicitor General believes that there is merit to New Jersey's appeal, then there is a good chance that the U.S. Supreme Court would hear their case. Hence, whoever is appointed as the next U.S. Solicitor General could have a major impact on the future of sports gambling. Photo (Wikimedia Commons) Chuck Cooper (a D.C.-based attorney with connections to Trump and Jeff Sessions) was reportedly the first choice of President Trump. However, Cooper has since withdrawn his name for consideration due to the negativity associated with the nomination process for Jeff Sessions. According to law.com, Miguel Estrada is now the likely frontrunner for the job. He's an especially relevant name with this issue because he's a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. That firm has received over $6 million to represent New Jersey's challenge against PASPA. In fact, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has been somewhat of a nemesis to the NFL. Their firm represented the NFL Players' Union during the players' strike of 2011 and an anti-trust civil suit of 2009. In addition, their firm issued this report that was critical of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) due to its burdens on financial institutions. Estrada has yet to be named as the nominee, but he worked in the Office of the Solicitor General during the George W. Bush administration. With that said, like Chuck Cooper, Estrada may now be reluctant to go through the nomination process. Estrada was nominated in 2001 by George W. Bush for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He was aggressively filibustered by the Democrats because he was part of the infamous U.S. Supreme Court case, Bush v Gore, which decided the 2000 Presidential election. Ultimately, Estrada withdrew his name from consideration and he returned to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. To sum up, the news of Miguel Estrada as the next potential U.S. Solicitor General is promising news if you're a supporter of legalized sports gambling. Maybe this issue will be finally legislated on a state by state basis.
Update 2-23-2017    It's official. Jeff  Sessions overruled the Obama administration's ruling to phase out private prison contractors for federal prisons.  ----------------------------------------------------------------------  This is an update from a previous post about the explosive rise of the private prison industry. That article included a call to action for everyone to contact the Senate switchboard and protest Jeff Session’s confirmation. The Senate switchboard was overloaded with calls from like-minded activists, but Sessions was ultimately confirmed by the Senate to be the U.S. Attorney General. With that said, his confirmation was expected as the Republicans have the numbers. However, even the libertarian-leaning Rand Paul (R-KY) voted for Sessions.  Meanwhile, the stock prices of the top two private prisons, GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly CCA), have continued rising. Their share prices have increased by 100% and 140% respectively in the three and a half months since Election Day.  (via Google Finance) There’s no other way to look this development; it’s crony capitalism. Their industry is entirely dependent upon government contracting, which is influenced by strategic political donations. Both companies donated to Republicans over Democrats at a 9 to 1 ratio.  For several years, neither company was held accountable for their poor track records. However, in August of last year, the Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Justice issued a comprehensive review of the private prisons that house federal prisoners. The IG report concluded that private prisons don’t offer significant savings to the taxpayers and there were more violent incidents in those facilities. One month later, a DOJ official announced that they planned to no longer issue contracts to private prison companies for federal prisons. One day after that IG report was issued, a subsidiary of the GEO Group, GEO Corrections Holdings Inc, made a $100,000 donation to Donald Trump’s PAC, Rebuilding America Now. In reaction, a watchdog group, Campaign Legal Center, issued a formal complaint with the Federal Election Committee (FEC). Their group contends that the GEO Group violated a federal law that bars companies from making political donations while holding or negotiating a federal contract.  A company spokesperson for the GEO Group pointed out that their subsidiary that made the donation, GEO Corrections Holdings Inc, which doesn’t have any federal contracts. The FEC has yet to make a decision. However, in the end, the GEO Group will likely avoid any penalties due to this technicality. Their company may not be guilty according to the letter of the law, but they are clearly guilty of violating the intent of the law.  We can all agree that crony capitalism is alive and well in America. 
On this day in history, (February 13, 1905), Teddy Roosevelt delivered his “Lincoln Dinner” speech Theodore Roosevelt at the Republican Club in New York City. Roosevelt honored Lincoln’s legacy and he insisted that race relations needed to be improved throughout the country. This was a historic speech that represented genuine progress. However, he expressed himself in ways that revealed a deeper truth about the prevailing opinions about race at that time. Roosevelt referred to white people as the “forward race” and he felt that it was their responsibility to train the “backward race” to fit within American culture and gain prosperity. He listed various issues, but Roosevelt was particularly concerned with morality, crime, and drug abuse. He said: Laziness and shiftlessness, these, and, above all, vice and criminality of every kind, are evils more potent for harm to the black race than all acts of oppression of white men put together.  Roosevelt’s condescension for other races wasn’t limited to black people. He was a firm believer in eugenics, which was a form of propaganda that was posed as “scientific proof” of the superiority of the white race. Eugenics was quite popular in the early 20th century. Hence, many Americans believed that drugs needed to be outlawed to protect “inferior” races from themselves. Teddy Roosevelt signed the first federal anti-drug law, the Opium Exclusion Act of 1909. The law didn’t explicitly target Chinese immigrants, but the intent was implicit. Numerous newspapers proclaimed that Chinese men were using opium to lure white women into sexual slavery. It was a contrived moral panic that was manufactured by the media, but there was some truth to higher addiction rates among Chinese immigrants. However, practically no Americans newspapers were critical of the American families that made fortunes selling opium in China. That includes Warren Delano Jr., the grandfather of Franklin R. Roosevelt. With that said, let’s continue reviewing Teddy Roosevelt’s speech from this day in history. You have to put a speech within the context of the time period. Even though Roosevelt expressed some clearly racist viewpoints, in fairness, the overall tone of Roosevelt’s speech was quite progressive for this time period. Albeit, it was a very low benchmark. For example, Roosevelt noted in his speech: I am glad to say that during the last three months the (reports)…show a smaller number of lynchings than for any other three months during the last twenty years. What will historians have to say about our current era? The punishments are less severe, and the political rhetoric has changed. However, the discriminatory nature of drug laws hasn’t improved much over the course of 100 years. In fact, there is now a higher percentage of black men in prison in America than there were in South Africa during Apartheid. A disproportionate percentage of blacks and Latinos are serving prison sentences for crimes even though all races use/sell drugs at relatively equal rates.   Teddy Roosevelt openly asserted that minorities needed to be protected from themselves. On the other hand, no current politician can make such claims, but that doesn’t mean that a sizeable group of voters wouldn’t like to see a resurgence of Jim Crow. After all, everyone knows that white people won’t be targeted with the “stop and frisk” programs that Donald Trump supports. Furthermore, it would be Chicago’s black and Latino neighborhoods that would be converted into official police states if Trump made good on his threat of “bringing in the Feds.” Yes, that’s the same condescending racial tone that was more openly asserted over 100 years ago. How do you think historians will describe our current era?
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© Brian Saady