Friday, April 13, 2012

Latin American pleas for US drug legalization


Hal Pepinsky,,

April 13, 2012

Check al Jazeera’s report on pleas for US drug legalization at the Summit of the Americas--which President Obama will attend tomorrow after discussion of the legalization is over--at . The report points to the irony that among political leaders in Latin America, it is those self-identified as leftist in Nicaragua and Cuba, and U.S. ex-colony Panama, who continue to support the U.S. led war on drugs, launched by President Nixon in 1971. Asking for drug legalization are presidents self-identified as conservative: a former defense minister in Columbia, a former general in Guatemala who was elected president on a platform of fighting a broad war on crime, and in Mexico, a president who at U.S. behest launched an ill-fated war on drug traffickers. “Conservative” presidents of Costa Rica and El Salvador have joined them.

In a visit to Central America last week, the US vice president said that the topic of legalization was worth discussion, even though this administration was opposed. Perhaps if re-elected, President Obama will moderate this stance. Progress toward legalization will probably continue with the illicit drug most known to be a drug of choice among white people, marijuana, while drug enforcement will continue to account for most of the increase in imprisonment of people of color, particularly so for women.

When the U.S. modern war on drugs began, proponents of legalization in this country were leading self-identified conservatives too, notably William Buckley, Barry Goldwater and Milton Friedman.

At a time of high unemployment, it may seem cruel to want to put those in the drug enforcement industry out of work, but in this case, call me a fiscal conservative. Love and peace--hal

Thursday, April 12, 2012

the price of abolishing the death penalty


Hal Pepinsky,,

April 12, 2012

Connecticut has just abolished their death penalty. I have heard one advocate for abolition say that a new strategy is to get capital punishment abolished state by state until the US Supreme Court recognizes that even in our country, executions have become cruel and unusual punishment.

Meanwhile here in Ohio home, over 200 clergy petitioned the governor to stop a forthcoming execution--commute the convict’s sentence to life without the possibility of parole, which sentence could only be changed by executive clemency or pardon, so far unheard of.

A capital trial is massively expensive both because of legal forces mobilized, and steps taken like screening of potential jurors, plus the requirement that if convicted, a separate sentencing hearing must be heard by the trial jury with evidence formally gathered and introduced on factors that aggravate and mitigate the defendant’s act of murder--especially costly to poorer rural counties.

Some people, especially those who have done hard time, argue that from a prisoner’s perspective, life without parole is as draconian and punitive as execution, perhaps even more so because it tends to prolong the prisoner’s hell on earth. Given the option, I wonder how many of those serving life sentences without parole might seek lethal injection as a way out, analogous to the couple of times I have held beloved pets as they were euthanized late in life to spare them suffering. Prosecutions for life without parole proliferate in cases where having sought the death penalty would have been deemed not worth the expense. Given the odds that those prosecuted and sentenced to life without parole will predominantly be young men of color, as prison populations age, racial imbalances among prisoners can be expected to grow.

Before life without parole, US sentences were already extraordinarily long by world and hemispheric standards. With life without parole as an option, the length of sentences served in the US has taken a great leap forward. Under these circumstances, I’m a little reluctant to celebrate as death penalty abolition progresses. Love and peace--hal

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Conflicts of the Ages


Hal Pepinsky,,

April 7, 2012

Have you noticed several commonalities among political divisions worldwide, from Occupy movements in the US vs. Republicans United, to general strikes from France through to Europe’s currently hottest spot—Greece, across North Africa, in violent clashes and mass incarceration of ethnic majorities by the militarily dominant minorities in Palestine, in Syria, in Iraq, and in Bahrain (be they Jew vs. Palestinian, or Shia vs. Sunni regardless of which of the two is dominant):

· Those at the forefront of resistance, and bearing the brunt of repression, and ordered to carry out that repression personally on behalf of the dominant minority, are young adults, in places where

· Young adults, even those with the most prestigious higher degrees these days are disproportionately unemployed,

· Especially young adults of the political underclass, with

· The weight of repression and poverty falls most heavily on young women and children of color (e.g., the rise in rate of incarceration of young women of color in the US; the brunt of hunger by children)

· Repression, suppression and oppression is led by men in the prevailing political class whose own livelihood and that of large families and supporters, especially when,

· Power over others has passed to leaders who belong to the same generation as the youths’ parents (as for instance in the US when Bill Clinton became the first president of the post WWII generation)?

In my lifetime, from the youth of WWI to children-of-the-Great Depression/WWII generation represented in the US by the presidential shift from Eisenhower to Kennedy, and from the WWII to the “baby boomer” generation represented in the presidential change from Bush I to Clinton, then from baby boomer parents (aka children of the Depression) to their children represented by the transition from Clinton through Bush II to Obama, there have been waves of youthful resistance, accompanied by waves of repression where their seniors kill and oppress their juniors by pitting groups of youths against each other and against rival leaders in war and by various forms of confinement and torture. The first global wave of youthful unrest I noticed was that of the late sixties in the US throughout Europe and in China’s Cultural Revolution (see particularly chap. 3 of the 1991 Geometry of Violence and Democracy book, pp. 34-61, on “societal rhythms in the chaos of violence,” where one of my prophecies—that with the end of the Cold War the primary military divide would shift from between East and West would shift to between the predominantly white North and Southern people of color—has come to pass).

I would love to explore implications of this phenomenon of global waves of in loco parentis repression and youthful resistance with anyone who is interested. One implication I think is that neither putting the person many resisters are overjoyed to see become head of state in office (as many of were who had tears in our eyes as Obama led the Democrats to legislative and executive power), nor lopping off the head of a tyrannical state (as in Iraq, Egypt and Libya) works. Suppression of youth represents a structure that from metaphorical (e.g. a father in Washington) to literal levels, rests on the cultural premise that middle-aged adult authorities know more and better than even their own children, and that youthful disobedience is the greatest threat to the social “security” of young and old alike. Most of us older folks have ample opportunity to challenge this premise in our relations with our juniors, as in my case as a teacher, volunteer mediator between “victims” and ”offenders,” parent or now grandparent, and in my relations with those who are or have been in prison (though I have not). This is the most direct way I can see to building a culture counter to ageism in generations to come. As Marx put it in his essay “on the Jewish question,” political emancipation falls far short of human emancipation, where in this case the global political culture tips away from ageism. In my own lifetime, I see no such tipping point. I just hope that over generations, humanity will eventually get there.

I became a “professor” (visiting asst.) in 1970—the year that percentage of high school students going to college in the US peaked, academic job supply with it. I recall how I and young colleagues talked about “dead wood” among our seniors who would vote on our job retention and who should make way for us and our peers. And I think it tragic that longtime loyal employees are thrown out of the workforce to make way for younger, cheaper replacements. When livelihoods are scarce, parental generations have real cause to fear that youth—especially poor and foreign youth—will replace them and make them permanent outcasts or worse. I understand that youthful resistance threatens adults, but I don’t accept that overpowering youth in the name of war or “security” leaves us older folks or our youth better off. Instead, a culture that is ageist—besides being racist, classist, sexist and xenophobic—promotes social disorder and instability. What say? Love and peace--hal