Fear Mongering: The Media on the Government Shutdown

Fear mongering isn’t just done by cultists and tyrants. Although many of the dictators of today and days past did have it down to a T, our media happens to be one of the best fear mongering machines around. How about the North Korea debacle of recent times? It was the only subject on the news, only to be dismissed again by the masses and forgotten until the news took another recent shot at it. And Syria? We have only been following news on Syria when there are horrendous events happening leading up to what seems to be an intervention initiated by the US. Fear mongering is central to every major subject covered by the media.

Related Article: Imminent Western Intervention in Syria

No wonder our government doesn’t tell us everything; we would be in a constant state of hysteria, running around and threatening each other to protect our family and property. Let’s say, for instance, that beyond the fear mongering hype we knew there was to be a global crash of all computer systems and all the data was to be reset because we were dawning on a new millennium. Oh right, the panic of Y2K. Oh HOOO!!! What if we knew precisely when the world was going to end? Ahh.. December 21, 2012. Boy did that rattle the cages.

Related Article: NOT Another 9-11 Article

Fear mongering is omnipresent in all facets of our lives. Maybe I can spin it another way to get you riled up [after all I am representing a media of sorts, and boy do we like to spin things (tops, pizzas, balls, mouse scrollers, clocks, globes)]. The media is making the government shutdown seem more severe than it needs to be. Let us explore a couple of facts about our government:

How about the fact that there have been 18 government shutdowns since 1976! Take a good look at that list of reasons why the government shut down. Most of them are political disputes that couldn’t be solved so they took the battle to the people, showing their supporters how they stood by their policies and wouldn’t budge. No possible fear mongering there.

How about the fact that neither you nor I were influenced by the shutdown? Nothing actually happened (to us and our daily lives) when the government took a break. In fact our government probably saved a whole lot of money during the shutdown.

Another fact is that Obamacare is in high demand, causing its own shut down of government websites resulting in a blindsided president? Wasn’t Obamacare at the root of the problem of politicians disagreeing in the first place? And yet here it is slowly starting to function and in extreme demand. If you’re going to practice fear mongering, start screaming about the failure of the Obamacare website.

Lastly, it is a fact that the stock market didn’t crash due to the shutdown, people didn’t withdraw all their funds to cause a high volatility in the market place, and investors just kept on investing. So much for all that fear that was being tossed around.. but the government shutdown did happen, and it may happen again if budget problems aren’t solved.

Related Article: TVs, Brains, and Zombies Oh My!

All the while the people of this great country will stand by and listen to live broadcasts in order to be the first to know of any revolts or uprisings taking place. And for what? To be prepared damnit! If the media practices fear mongering and says the situation is severe then we should go buy water and food supplies for the next couple of months, go get a gun to protect ourselves (not that we shouldn’t anyway), and of course find ways to secure our wealth and protect our property! All this for something that is purely word of mouth. If only the game “telephone” was this effective at getting a point across.

Oh misery! What is the point? I am not saying we should be oblivious to world events. In fact it is important that we embrace world events such as the recent protests in Egypt over governmental control, instead of blindly accepting the fear mongering that is fed to us. However, we often forget that a great deal of media is formed on opinion, and the stronger opinions always jump out at us more than the calm, forgetful opinions and facts. Maybe it is time to turn off the news? Maybe it is time to forget about the 9 o’clock updates of recent events on channel 9, 7 , 5, 2, etc. The saying “ignorance is bliss” perfectly pertains to the media and its relentless fear mongering.

Cheers to being ignorant of the media and its senseless fear mongering!

 

 

Research:

Government Shutdown in the United States

PRY: The danger of dismissing North Korea’s nuclear threat

North Korea on high alert, threatens US ships with “horrible disaster”

Y2K Bug Britannica

December 21 2012

Government shutdown? Panic on the markets? Buy stocks.

Obamacare website problems blindsided the President

ObamaCare Facts

 

Wondergressive: Clouds of Western Intervention Loom over Syria

Wondergressive: Imminent Western Intervention in Syria

Wondergressive: NOT Another 9-11 Article

Wondergressive: World Protests: Can You Hear Me Now?

Wondergressive: TVs, Brains, and Zombies Oh My!

Read for Pleasure to Significantly Boost Intelligence

 

According to a recent study from the Institute of Education in London, children between the ages of 10 and 16 who read for pleasure are significantly better at math, spelling and vocabulary compared to their peers.

The study, conducted by Dr. Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown, examined 6,000 young people who had been observed by a 1970 British cohort study. The study focused on how often teenagers read during childhood and their subsequent scores in math, vocabulary, and spelling at ages 5, 10, and 16.

Related Article: Brazilian Prisoners Read Their Way to Freedom

The study found that:

those who read books often at age 10 and more than once a week at age 16 gained higher results in all three tests at age 16 than those who read less regularly.

As a lifelong, daily pleasure-reader myself, this struck me as remarkable news.  Reading for pleasure, something I find incredibly entertaining and engaging, has been shown to be intellectually beneficial, even in the realm of math!

The best part of the study though is that the researchers found that reading for pleasure is even more important for cognitive development than the parent’s level of education.

The combined effect on children’s progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree.

This means that we are in control of our cognitive development in the same way that we can exact change on our genetic dispositions through epigenetic markers. However, parents can still play a vital role in their child’s development by reading regularly to their kids.  Children at age 5 who had parents who read to them scored better in all three tests when they were 16 compared to children without bedtime stories.

Related Article: Neocortex: How Human Memory Works and How We Learn

While it is surprising that reading for pleasure can have such a wide array of benefits on the mind, Dr. Sullivan explained that:

It may seem surprising that reading for pleasure would help to improve children’s maths scores, but it is likely that strong reading ability will enable children to absorb and understand new information and affect their attainment in all subjects.

The study showed that it is also highly important for parents to use a high vocabulary when speaking to their children as this will greatly boost the child’s vocabulary from an early age.

460578715_5acbd5643e_z

“Geeky is beautiful” staticflickr.com

As Dr. Sullivan notes in her conclusions, it is is important to encourage children to read for pleasure. One of the best ways to do this is to show children the fun of reading.  Turn off the television and explore a world written on pages with your child.  Go to those worlds with them from an early age, and they will likely continue to independently read for pleasure for the rest of their lives.

Related Article: TVs, Brains and Zombies, Oh My: The Effects of TV on the Mind

Find out what your child is truly interested in, be it mystery, science fiction, fantasy, drama, romance, adventure, etc. and shower them in books. Their superior intelligence will be all the thanks you need.

 

Sources:

http://www.ioe.ac.uk/

http://www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/news.aspx?itemid=2740&itemTitle=Reading+for+pleasure+puts+children+ahead+in+the+classroom%2C+study+finds&sitesectionid=27&sitesectiontitle=News

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohort_study

wondergressive.com/2012/08/28/epigenetics-and-altering-your-dna/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/04/04/tvs-brains-and-zombies-oh-my/

https://wondergressive.com/2012/12/13/brazilian-prisoners-read-their-way-to-freedom/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/06/12/neocortex-how-human-memory-works/

 

 

Team Red=Team Blue, the Syria Episode

The anti-war movement has been a noted absence in America for the last several years. To me this has been a cacophonous silence, something much more evident and noteworthy precisely because of its disappearance.

My explanatory thesis of this phenomenon is very brief “Team Red=Team Blue” argument. Democrats and Republicans actually disagree on very few things. Outside of a few fractious issues like gun control and abortion rights, there are few real differences between the two parties. And indeed, these issues are used as banners to corral followers precisely because of their very intractability. The call for stricter gun control regulation is dead in the water. Abortion rights were settled in Roe v. Wade, and despite all of the War on Women talk, they aren’t going anywhere on the national level.

Rather, there is an abundance of perceived differences between the parties. The result is a battle of two brands to control the most powerful nation in the history of the planet, a struggle between Coke and Pepsi for literal world domination. The only difference is that I for one can clearly taste the difference between the Team Red and Team Blue of the cola world, whereas the Democrats and Republicans are both selling the same re-labeled talking points.

In the salient example of the Syria debacle, although both Democrats and Republicans are perfectly willing to support unnecessary military campaigns, the former party used to have a reputation as being staunchly opposed to foreign entanglements.

When W. Bush was in power, the anti-war movement was mobilized and powerful, with hundreds of rallies occurring in the US and globally between 2002 and 2008. On February 15, 2003, the world witnessed what some have called the largest protest in human history. The BBC estimates that 250,000 gathered in San Francisco, with another 100,000 in New York protesting the imminent invasion of Iraq. These numbers are dwarfed by the figures from Europe. Barcelona alone held demonstrations numbering 1.3 million strong. London was host to up to one million anti-war activists. Another million raised their placards in Rome.

The anti-war effort hit a profound snag, however, when many Democrats abruptly stopped participating in these rallies. According to this chart from Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Fojas, respectively from the University of Michigan and Indiana University, Democratic support of these protests nosedived between September 2008 and January of 2009.

I wonder what transformative event between those dates could have possibly changed their minds?

The authors explain their reasoning:

However, after Obama’s election as president, Democratic participation in antiwar activities plunged, falling from 37 percent in January 2009 to a low of 19 percent in November 2009, and registering 22 percent in December 2009….Since Democrats are more numerous in the population at large than are members of third parties, the withdrawal of Democrats from the movement in 2009 appears to be a significant explanation for the falling size of antiwar protests. Thus, we have identified the kernel of the linkage between Democratic partisanship and the demobilization of the antiwar movement.

Obama campaigned in 2008 on being the anti-war candidate. When he was still an Illinois State Senator in 2002, Obama expressed his views on the impending conflict in Iraq: “I don’t oppose all wars…What I am opposed to is a dumb war.”

The implications are very clear. Democrats were rightfully enraged about the war in Iraq and America’s other extra-curricular adventures in countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Oman. However, now that their party occupies the White House, they are not only less rabid in their opposition to war, but they actively campaign for military action.

It is clear that Team Blue only criticized the Iraq War because it was an easy way to attack the Team Red President. Now that Team Blue sits on the throne, it’s easy to see that the criticism was convenient but certainly not principled. Obama has instructed Congress to debate a possible intervention in Syria further in order to gauge Congressional support as well as the general public’s. This gesture is utterly meaningless, though, as the President has made it perfectly clear that he can take unilateral action against Syria with or without the legislature’s approval.

Speaking on August 31, Obama stated:

I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets…I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization.

Secretary of State John Kerry has also explicitly revealed the White House’s desire to intervene. Speaking in London, Kerry laid out the reasoning for US action:

I don’t believe that we should shy from this moment: the risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.

In the end, sending the debate to the legislative branch was nothing but political theater. If Congress favors military action, Obama can claim that he went through the proper legislative channels. He can also later blame any collateral damage on their approval, distancing his legacy from an unpopular intervention. If Congress fails to give him their support, he can blame any further loss of life in Syria on Republican obstructionism and use it as political fodder in the 2014 midterms.

Heads he wins, tails we lose. New boss, meet the old boss.

To be fair, regardless of Congressional deliberations and whether or not the White House even chooses to acquiesce to their judgement, I can’t imagine that any Republican president would have acted any differently than Obama has. Plenty of Republicans are also gung-ho for US action, including former Presidential hopeful John McCain.

But that’s the entire point, isn’t it? After all, Team Red=Team Blue.

 

Sources:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2765215.stm

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mheaney/Partisan_Dynamics_of_Contention.pdf

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88988093

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/31/statement-president-syria

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24016844

Mars, The First Frontier?!

In science news lately there has been quite a bustle about life on Mars. Not now, or rather, not about there being life on Mars right now, but about the likelihood of life on Earth originating from Mars. That’s right, our red brother could be responsible for the habitability of our mother Earth.

According to biochemist Steven Benner of the Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in Florida, life came from a meteorite that originated from Mars. In essence, Mars has been deemed our creator. Let’s be serious for a second though, this is quite a discovery. Benner says that Earth was originally completely covered in water and that there was no room for life because of the corrosive effect water has on RNA. Why RNA you say? Without RNA there is no DNA and thus no life. So this meteorite, whether sent intentionally or sent due to a cataclysm on Mars, carried some RNA that helped spawn life on Earth. A little far-fetched, yet not all too unrealistic. To skeptics and critics Benner simply says:

Related Article: Sign Me Up For Mars!

It’s lucky that we ended up here nevertheless, as certainly Earth has been the better of the two planets for sustaining life, if our hypothetical Martian ancestors had remained on Mars, there might not have been a story to tell.

Now whether you are religious or you are completely for science in the explanation of human evolution/creation, this article still pertains to you! Is it so impossible to believe that maybe, just maybe we were created on Mars? That Mars, like Krypton, was in a state of panic and they sent out a ship to Earth to inhabit it? Or maybe we were expanding to Earth and some catastrophic events lead to the annihilation of life on Mars? Let us think about human history for a little; world wars, greed, power, resources, gain, want. We want and want and keep wanting, it is in our nature, and because of our wants and needs we destroy not only ourselves but everyone around us. Who says we aren’t just repeating some ancient history of ours that was completely forgotten due to complete, well almost complete, annihilation?

Related Article: Imminent Western Intervention in Syria

Whew. Tangent. Anyway, you get the idea. For all the time Earth has been around and our universe has been around, we shouldn’t get conceded with the idea that our four thousand years of recorded history is all the life our universe has to offer. Open your minds, there is definitely life somewhere out there. In that ever expanding universe, somewhere, someone, or something, is waiting. Cheers to intelligent life!

Related Article: Life, It’s All Over the Place

 

Research:

Wikipedia: Steven Benner

Science Now: Earth Life Likely Came from Mars, Study Suggests

Wikipedia: Krypton

The Fall of Atlantis

Wondergressive: Sign Me Up For Mars!

Wondergressive: Imminent Western Intervention in Syria

Imminent Western Intervention in Syria

As of this writing, the top headlines of the New York Times, NBC and the BBC are all spotlighted on Syria and how President Obama will proceed concerning the troubled nation. Astute and retentive readers will perhaps remember that my opening salvo for Wondergressive focused on the looming specter of Western intervention in the troubled nation. It now appears that this short-sighted interference is imminent and probably unstoppable, despite public antipathy. According to an August 26 Reuters/Ipsos poll, only 9% of Americans support Washington intervening in Syria.

The calls for action intensified after an alleged chemical weapon attack outside of Damascus last week that reportedly killed up to 1,300 people. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to the BBC on the President’s stance:

We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take…[Obama] has seen [all options and contingencies]. We are prepared. We are ready to go.

Syrian National Coalition official Ahmad Ramadan spoke on the pressing urgency of the West’s response to the strife in Syria:

There is no precise timing … but one can speak of an imminent international intervention against the regime. It’s a question of days and not weeks.

Here’s a snippet from my inaugural post in January, which still perfectly sums up my view on a Syrian intervention:

Much like Mugatu, I feel like I’ve been taking Crazy Pills watching this slow entrenchment into a state of permanent war. How is it possible that the US, helmed by equally bloodlust-y Democrats and Republicans, remains utterly incapable of learning from the abundant mistakes of our past?

It’s not as if one has to Indiana Jones these lessons of history from some hidden crypt. The US/UK led coup in Iran in 1953, which re-established the Shah to power, did not prevent the violence and reactionary backlash in that nation, but rather directly contributed to it. The Vietnam War was a prolonged, hellishly painful, and ultimately pointless disaster. The overthrow of the Taliban and installment of President Karzai in Afghanistan has not yielded the stable government we wished to create. Iraq remains a mess nearly a decade after our intervention. The US has sent military forces to central Africa to stabilize threats of terror in that continent, which will likely be just as fruitless.

Despite these recent foreign policy failures, governments still seem prepared and willing to intervene in Syria.

And yet intervene we should and shall!

Related Article: Clouds of Western Intervention Loom Over Syria

Dexter Filkins’ article in The New Yorker sums up the pro-interference mindset, not just for Syria but also for Iraq II and for nearly every other conflict in recent memory, in his very first sentence: “This time it’s different.”

My sarcastic and mocking rejoinder: “This time is always different. It’s last time that’s always the same.”

Filkins concludes:

What can America do? It’s not unreasonable to ask whether even a well-intentioned American effort to save Syrians might fail, or whether such an effort might pull America into a terrible quagmire…But how much longer are we going to allow those questions to prevent us from trying?

In other words, the US should continue to ignore its horrible record of Middle Eastern intervention altogether, despite acknowledging that it might further embroil America into a fetid and futile marsh of violence and occupation.

I understand the horrors of the Assad regime and lament the lives of the estimated 100,000 that have been killed so far. I acknowledge how terrifying and terrorizing the alleged use of chemicals weapons is for citizens there. However, I also acknowledge the historical reality that the West’s interfering might not only be ineffective in ending violence, but I also understand that in all likelihood an intervention will actively increase instability and promote political conflicts.

Chaos-in-SyriaBy arming rebel groups or by striking with cruise missiles to destabilize the Assad regime, Obama will be traveling on a well-trod, dangerous and predictable road. The ramifications of pursuing the role of Team America: World Police will likely create further discord within Syria. One does not have to look far back in history to see manifest examples of this.

After US and British forces bombed Libya to oust Gaddafi, various groups struggled for control of the government. US Ambassador Christopher Stevens wrote in his diary about the growing influence and threat of al-Qaeda in the region. He and three other diplomats were killed in the September 11, 2012 attacks on the Benghazi consulate. Unrest in Libya continues unabated.

After the 2011 Arab Spring revolution in Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown this July in a coup only a year after his inauguration. Violent protests between Morsi supporters and the anti-Morsi military have resulted in the deaths of nearly 1,000 in two days of fighting in August alone. And yet the US continues to send billions of dollars of aid to Egypt, including 4 F-16 fighter jets, despite the country’s lack of stability and a decidedly uncertain future.

Even when countries intervene under the best of intentions it fails catastrophically. Famously in the First Gulf War, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Iraq in 1990 after Saddam invaded Kuwait. Among other things, these measures denied Iraqi access to medical equipment and expertise, including supplies as basic as painkilling medication. As a result, an estimated 500,000 children died in the ’90s, unable to receive care refused to them by “well-intentioned” overlords at the UN.

Sickeningly, here is Madeline Albright, then US Ambassador to the UN and future Secretary of State under Clinton, defending this massive loss of life on CBS’ 60 Minutes, declaring that this horrendous loss of life was “worth it.”

Despite these crystal clear and relevant examples—all remarkably recent events—the US, UK and French governments seemed imminently poised to pursue yet another “peace-keeping” venture in the Middle East.

The West may be poised to support some some seriously shady characters within the rebel camp. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) represents a large subset of the anti-Assad factions. The SNC supports an organization called al-Nusra Front, which has been called “the most aggressive and successful arm of the rebel force.” The group is also a self-acknowledged wing of al-Qaeda and has admitted to having ties to extremist groups in Iraq. The US itself considers the group to be a terrorist organization, but has been urged by the SNC to not take action against al-Nusra, or any other group that aims to topple the Assad regime.

What could possibly go wrong when Washington aids and arms groups based on expediting immediate goals rather than focusing on long-term strategy?

Oh, right……that guy.

Dexter Filkins’ piece in The New Yorker argues that America needs to exert its might in Syria in an attempt to quell violence there. He does this despite recognizing that our track history in that regard is woeful at best, and that further Middle Eastern intervention could likely mire our military in yet another diplomatic swamp.

I have a much more simple suggestion concerning the West’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. History tells us that we shouldn’t do it. The American people tell us that they want no part of it.

So, just don’t do it.

 

Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/08/26/new-poll-syria-intervention-even-less-popular-than-congress/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/01/10/clouds-of-western-intervention-loom-over-syria/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23847839

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jVkfDQxPtInQwVg6G0zejv646uog?docId=CNG.d5f1d6f398b0170d098b3ce0afb1ae34.31

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/08/chemical-weapons-and-the-syrian-question.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/world/africa/libyan-violence-threatens-to-undercut-power-of-militias.html

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/79160.aspx

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765636070/Egypt-Son-of-top-Muslim-Brotherhood-leader-killed.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/10/us-f-16-fighter-jets-egypt_n_3574257.html

http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2000/mar/04/weekend7.weekend9

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/al-qaeda-affiliate-playing-larger-role-in-syria-rebellion/2012/11/30/203d06f4-3b2e-11e2-9258-ac7c78d5c680_blog.html

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2012/1212/For-newly-recognized-Syrian-rebel-coalition-a-first-dispute-with-US-video

War on Drugs Farce Continues Unabated

In unsurprising news, the War on Drugs continues to be farcical disgrace. In the most recent example of ineptitude and futility, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has released a report about an unprecedented rise in the development of new psychoactive substances (NPS). They also admit that the new illicit substances can actually be more dangerous than the ones the US has been attempting to eradicate for decades.

The UNODC reports:

 “This is an alarming drug problem – but the drugs are legal. Sold openly, including via the internet, NPS, which have not been tested for safety, can be far more dangerous than traditional drugs. Street names, such as “spice”, “meow-meow” and “bath salts” mislead young people into believing that they are indulging in low-risk fun. Given the almost infinite scope to alter the chemical structure of NPS, new formulations are outpacing efforts to impose international control. While law enforcement lags behind, criminals have been quick to tap into this lucrative market. The adverse effects and addictive potential of most of these uncontrolled substances are at best poorly understood.”

The irony is that if drugs like marijuana, cocaine and opium were legal and regulated, these new designer drugs probably would never have been created. After all, why buy a substance that can imitate a pot high when you can just pick up some pot? Keeping these drugs illegal ensures a market for alternatives, regardless of how much more dangerous they may be.

The UNODC even admits that there is no way to control these new creations because of the sheer complexity of their chemical structures. However, this won’t stop governments from trying to eliminate these new drugs by using force, the only tool they know. Over 40 states have enacted bans on synthetic cannabinoids alone. This futile game of Whack-a-Drug-Mole goes on.

The War on Drugs exacerbates the problems of illicit substances because it artificially lowers the supply, but can do nothing about the demand. Oriana Zill and Lowell Bergman of PBS’ FRONTLINE “War on Drugs” special explain:

“What keeps the drug industry going is its huge profit margins. Producing drugs is a very cheap process. Like any commodities business the closer you are to the source the cheaper the product. Processed cocaine is available in Colombia for $1500 dollars per kilo and sold on the streets of America for as much as $66,000 a kilo (retail).  Heroin costs $2,600/kilo in Pakistan, but can be sold on the streets of America for $130,000/kilo (retail). And synthetics like  methamphetamine  are often even cheaper to manufacture costing approximately $300 to $500 per kilo to produce in clandestine labs in the US and abroad and sold on US streets for up to $60,000/kilo (retail).”

There is intense competition to sell such a profitable product. The real, underlying problem with illegal drugs isn’t that they are dangerous—alcohol and tobacco are plenty dangerous– it’s that disputes are solved with gang violence rather than corporate lawsuits. It’s not as if Gang A can call the police or file a legal complaint when Gang B does something unseemly. A legal judicial framework is necessary to eliminate the violence now associated with the drug trade. After all, the same brutality was seen during America’s failed experiment with Prohibition in the 1920s when rival mob bosses were fighting for control over hooch. Alcohol is once again legal: When was the last time Coors and Anheuser-Busch had a violent turf war?

Like Prohibition in the 20s, the immense profitability of illicit substances has lead to an explosion in crime. In Mexico alone, drug-related violence claimed the lives of an estimated 60,000 people since 2006. Especially hard hit are journalists who try to shed light on the activity of the cartels. Mexico is the fourth most dangerous country for reporters, ranking behind only Syria, Somalia, and Pakistan. Over 50 have died or disappeared in the past seven years. In 2012, the bodies of two mutilated corpses were found tied up and dangling from a pedestrian bridge in Nuevo Laredo. A sign above them threatens:

“This is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the Internet. You better fucking pay attention. I’m about to get you.”

Whereas Samsung and Apple intimidate each other through legal action, drug cartels rely on more visceral tactics.

For all that drug war proponents get wrong about the evils of illicit substances, they have inadvertently stumbled onto a profound truth: Marijuana is indeed a gateway drug. However, rather than being an inevitable rung on the ladder to harder drugs, pot is instead almost universally a person’s first entryway into the black market. It teaches people how to find drug dealers and how to negotiate with them. It teaches them the rules of underground markets and how to avoid the police. It teaches and constantly reinforces a contempt for authority.

Some do use this information to seek out new highs, but nowhere near the amount that drug warriors would have one fear. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 12th-graders overwhelmingly prefer the softer stuff. The highest level of use in 2012 was alcohol, with 41.5% reporting that they had partaken in the past month. The second highest rate was marijuana with 22.9% having toked in the past 30 days. After that the usage rates nosedive: 1.1% for cocaine, .5% for methamphetamine, and .3% for heroin.

Exactly like Prohibition in the 1920s, current drug policy actively makes drug use more dangerous than it would be otherwise. For most high school students, it is dramatically easier to buy pot rather than alcohol for the blindingly simple reason that drug dealers don’t check for IDs. Another sinister aspect of prohibition is the lack of quality control. Pure coke or heroin can be cut with myriad substances in order to stretch the dealer’s supply and increase profits. Often these drugs are mixed with harmless products like baking soda, but not always. Dealers around the country have recently been cutting their heroin with fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller. The combination is extremely potent and often deadly. Since 2006, hundreds of deaths in Chicago alone have been attributed to this potentiality lethal combination.

By keeping business deals securely in the black market, drug prohibition ensures that users are at the whim of their providers. They certainly can’t call the cops if a dealer spikes his supply. Their only real recourse is to either shut their mouths or try to deal out some street justice, which only further exacerbates the problems of prohibition.

It’s time to end the damaging and pointless War on Drugs. While we’re at it, maybe we can end all wars against nouns. The War on Poverty and the War on Terror don’t seem to be terribly successful either, do they?

 

Sources:

http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2013/June/2013-world-drug-report-stability-in-use-of-traditional-drugs-alarming-rise-in-new-psychoactive-substances.html

http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/justice/synthetic-drug-threats.aspx

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/special/math.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/mexico-deadly-journalists-targeted-cartels-article-1.1334310

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10681249

http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs

http://www.buffalonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130607/CITYANDREGION/130609332/1002

Clouds of Western Intervention Loom Over Syria

syria  bashar al assad

Bashar al-Assad (Source)

The growing discord in Syria once again threatens to entangle the American military in another experiment in nation-building.

Keeping with the traditions (and ignoring the consequences) of the Military-Industrial Complex, the United States is currently engaged in seemingly unending military operations in over a half-dozen nations. These of course include Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the President has also acknowledged military actions in Yemen, Somalia, and also the African countries of Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

 The next big question is if the West is going to intervene and assist rebels in overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as the US and Great Britain helped overthrow Muamarr Gaddafi in Libya in 2011.

 The violence in Syria, which the BBC estimates has claimed the lives of 60,000 since March of 2011, has been widely decried in the West. In early December Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the predicted Syrian use of chemical weapons as being a “red line” in the sand, that once crossed would be grounds for UN/US intervention. Top generals in Britain have also signaled the possibility of providing military assistance to the Syrian rebels.

 In his first public address since June, Assad recently addressed his nation’s woes by stating:

There are those who seek to partition Syria and weaken it. But Syria is stronger… and will remain sovereign… and this is what upsets the West.

From Assad’s defiant remarks to the predictable responses of Clinton, Obama and the UN alike, the whole situation seems stupidly predictable: The West is poised to once again militarily intervene in the affairs of another Middle Eastern nation.

Much like Mugatu, I feel like I’ve been taking Crazy Pills watching this slow entrenchment into a state of permanent war. How is it possible that the US, helmed by equally bloodlust-y Democrats and Republicans, remains utterly incapable of learning from the abundant mistakes of our past?

 It’s not as if one has to Indiana Jones these lessons of history from some hidden crypt. The US/UK led coup in Iran in 1953, which re-established the Shah to power, did not prevent the violence and reactionary backlash in that nation, but rather directly contributed to it. The Vietnam War was a prolonged, hellishly painful, and ultimately pointless disaster. The overthrow of the Taliban and installment of President Karzai in Afghanistan has not yielded the stable government we wished to create. Iraq remains a mess nearly a decade after our intervention. The US has sent military forces to central Africa to stabilize threats of terror in that continent, which will likely be just as fruitless.

 Despite these recent foreign policy failures, governments still seem prepared and willing to intervene in Syria.

 Wait, why shouldn’t the US intervene? It is, by all accounts, a fairly frightful place to call home by Western standards. Tens of thousands of people have died in the last two years alone. The economy is largely nationalized. The Assad regime is known to detain, torture and disappear political dissidents. Shouldn’t I, as a freedom-lovin’ individualist want to liberate the Syrians from their oppressive government?

I certainly want them to become a free people and I am cheering for the rebels to oust Assad and hopefully create a more liberal and open state. I am, however, very wary of the West’s ability to facilitate such a transition.

The relative failure of Iraq and Afghanistan’s new governments stem from the same cause: The nations we interfered with lack the basic institutions that allow our governments to function with at least a modicum of respectability. The ideas of a secular state, governmental transparency and the rule of law took thousands of years to gestate and mature into even semi-workable facsimiles in the West. To think that we can simply plant these republican seeds and expect them to flourish in nations that don’t have the history necessary to properly nourish them is not only laughable, but such expeditions have proven to be exceptionally dangerous and detrimental to cause of long-term liberty.

The United States and the West in general need to simply stop meddling in the affairs of other nations. The cries for intervention in Syria are not even consistent with situations in the rest of the world. If the US were truly principled in this matter, we would have already invaded North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and even China for committing crimes against free society and democracy. We haven’t–and we won’t–because the State Department doesn’t see a payday in those nations that it apparently sees in Syria.

 The United States needs to return to the Monroe Doctrine of non-intervention. We need to remain neutral, not because we tacitly support the tyranny in despotic states, but rather because we have learned that interfering actually worsens and prolongs the pain felt in such failing states.

 I am not at all naïve enough to believe that such a reversal in US foreign policy is even possible at this stage. Tragically, the American Empire will continue to force its sticky, brass-knuckled fingers into the cookie jars of nations around the world, just like every other empire the world has ever seen. Though not for a long time yet, nations will eventually break and sever these fingers, chipping away our international influence.

The best way for the West to export its brand of freedom and democracy is through non-violence and voluntary free trade. If the US wishes to maintain its global position of military, political and economic dominance, we need to once again embrace liberty and withdraw our imperial intrusions from the rest of the world.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/16/world/obama-admits-us-fight-of-al-qaeda-has-extended-to-somalia-and-yemen.html?_r=0

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/12/14/letter-president-war-powers-resolution

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-12-03/world/35622995_1_nonessential-international-staff-chemical-weapons-assad-government

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9670289/Britain-could-intervene-militarily-in-Syria-in-months-UKs-top-general-suggests.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20924452

http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?page=country&category=&publisher=&type=&coi=SYR&rid=&docid=4da56d83a2&skip=0