You are browsing the archive for 2018 December 22.

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How Drug Prohibition Created the Fentanyl Crisis

December 22, 2018 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

As we’ve long suspected, fentanyl is killing more people than heroin, according to a new report from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). Does this mean that our drug-taking citizens have developed a taste for a new drug that gives a more powerful high? No, those deaths are a direct result of drug prohibition, and the numbers will continue to go up until we realize, once again, that prohibition doesn’t work.

Everyone knows that prohibition means drugs will often be adulterated, but prohibition also makes drugs stronger. Before alcohol Prohibition, beer and wine were the most popular drinks. After Prohibition, however, the cost of beer increased by more than 700 percent while the cost of high-potency spirits increased by only 270 percent. Smugglers and bootleggers preferred high-potency spirits because they are easier to transport illicitly. Consequently, distilled alcohol and fortified wines became almost 90 percent of alcohol consumption after Prohibition, compared to 40 percent before.

This is known as the iron law of prohibition. When drug traffickers fear getting caught, they prefer the highest potency version of a drug. During alcohol Prohibition, speakeasies were essentially bars that only served Everclear, but that didn’t mean Everclear was actually the most in demand. And, sure enough, after Prohibition ended, people quickly returned to low-potency beer and wine.

The introduction of fentanyl to our drug markets demonstrates the iron law of prohibition at its most dangerous. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, and it’s significantly more dangerous than traditional poisons like arsenic. A lethal dose of fentanyl is between 2 and 3 milligrams, compared to 100-300 milligrams for arsenic. There are 300-500 lethal doses in just one gram of fentanyl.

[pullquote]Nevertheless, due to the nature of black markets, we don’t really know what the demand for fentanyl would be in a legal or decriminalized market.[/pullquote]

That potency is useful for drug smugglers but dangerous to users. Fentanyl’s potency means hundreds of doses can be smuggled in the tiniest crevices of envelopes, packages, and shipping containers, and neither sufficient manpower nor adequate technology exists to stop it. As can be seen in the NVSS report, fentanyl began flooding the drug market in about 2014. In 2011, oxycodone was the No. 1 killer with 5,587 deaths. Fentanyl was 10th with 1,662. Then the government started cracking down on prescription opioids, and people started dying of fentanyl overdoses in shockingly large numbers. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Good riddance to James Mattis — Trump's last general

December 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon

The “adults in the room” were never going to save us from Trump’s tweets and tantrums

The word “unprecedented” is being used a lot by retired generals, political pundits, and national security experts discussing the resignation of General James Mattis as secretary of defense yesterday. No one could remember a member of any president’s cabinet resigning without lobbing a few words of praise at the president who appointed him, but Mattis did just that on Thursday. His letter of resignation, it was noted, did not even feature a citation such as “sincerely” in closing. Mattis simply signed his name across the middle of the bottom of the page and left it at that.

The word “anxiety” is also flying around. The nation’s capital awoke this morning to a headline in its hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, which read, “’A morning of alarm’: Mattis departure sends shock waves abroad.”

“In China and Russia — U.S. adversaries that were cited in Mattis’s resignation letter as deserving of tough treatment — there was open anxiety that the world had just become more vulnerable to conflict,” the Post reported. The post quoted Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel saying, “With him [Mattis] gone, this really marks a juncture in the Trump presidency. Now we have an unrestrained Trump, which is a dangerous signal for the year ahead.”

Even Trump allies like Senator Mitch McConnell couldn’t find a silver lining in the cloud forming after Mattis’ sudden and unexpected resignation. In an unusual break with a president he has followed down every rabbit hole Trump has dug, McConnell said he was “distressed that he [Mattis] is resigning due to sharp differences with the president.” Wow, that was brave, Mitch. We’ll be sure to put “He was distressed” on your gravestone.

So how did we get here, to this place where in a single week, one cabinet secretary resigned in disgrace, another cabinet secretary resigned in disgust, the stock market continued to tank, the government faced a shutdown that will further cripple …read more


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Here's why Trump is a great gift to America

December 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Jeremy Sherman, AlterNet

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He demonstrates what tyranny is and that it can happen here.

Assuming he goes down in flames before he causes us to; assuming that what’s left of our democracy ends him before he ends what’s left of our democracy, Trump will have been the best thing that ever happened to America, indeed, among the best for our global survival imperative – figuring out how to spot and thwart the asshole impulse in human nature.

You can’t thwart what you can’t spot. Even with all our experience with the asshole impulse, we’re still lousy at spotting it.

Trump is the absolute best, the greatest, the most tremendous negative role model we could ask for. He is the e-z reader of sleazy leaders, the large print edition, the 1st grader’s Where’s Waldo or word finder puzzle for spotting assholes.

Sure we’ve had other asshole leaders before. But even the worst, the ones who killed the most people and lasted the longest could be mistaken for their ideology. Stalin could be mistaken for a Communist. Hitler for a Nationalist. Assholes wear camouflage. They dress up their tyranny in poser principles.

Trump is different. He’s generic. He has no ideology to distract us. He’s essence of asshole, authoritarian distillate. He’s pure, uncut, unalloyed, unadulterated by any tinge of cover-story ideology. Eau de asshole.

People the world over cry out for room to live their lives the way they want. Even the strictest fundamentalists want their freedom to demand a closed society. Everyone wants to have their way, and to the extent possible, we should let em. Live and let live. Freedom of speech, freedom of association, but of course, not unlimited freedom.

In a free society you don’t get to commandeer other people’s lives. You don’t get to tell people how to live …read more


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Yes, there is a war between science and religion

December 22, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

Science and religion are not only in conflict – even at “war” – but also represent incompatible ways of viewing the world.

As the West becomes more and more secular, and the discoveries of evolutionary biology and cosmology shrink the boundaries of faith, the claims that science and religion are compatible grow louder. If you’re a believer who doesn’t want to seem anti-science, what can you do? You must argue that your faith – or any faith – is perfectly compatible with science.

And so one sees claim after claim from believers, religious scientists, prestigious science organizations and even atheists asserting not only that science and religion are compatible, but also that they can actually help each other. This claim is called “accommodationism.”

But I argue that this is misguided: that science and religion are not only in conflict – even at “war” – but also represent incompatible ways of viewing the world.

Opposing methods for discerning truth The scientific method relies on observing, testing and replication to learn about the world. Jaron Nix/Unsplash, CC BY

My argument runs like this. I’ll construe “science” as the set of tools we use to find truth about the universe, with the understanding that these truths are provisional rather than absolute. These tools include observing nature, framing and testing hypotheses, trying your hardest to prove that your hypothesis is wrong to test your confidence that it’s right, doing experiments and above all replicating your and others’ results to increase confidence in your inference.

And I’ll define religion as does philosopher Daniel Dennett: “Social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought.” Of course many religions don’t fit that definition, but the ones whose compatibility with science is touted most often – the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – fill the bill.

Next, realize that both religion and science rest on “truth statements” about the universe – claims about reality. The edifice of religion differs from science by additionally dealing with morality, purpose …read more


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The Pentagon doesn't deserve the media's sympathies

December 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Ilana Novick, Truthdig

The prospect of a cut to the military elicited a storm of condemnation across the media landscape.

It is a sign of our times that our media attempt to decipher future government policy by analyzing the president’s tweets, like some bizarre game of telephone. Throughout November, there was speculation of a coming reduction in military spending, and when Donald Trump took to Twitter (12/3/18) to describe the $716 billion budget as “crazy,” media took this as confirmation.

The prospect of a cut to the military elicited a storm of condemnation across the media landscape. The National Review (11/17/18) wrote that “cutting the resources available to the Pentagon is a bad idea,” noting that, “for decades, America has short-changed defense” meaning “America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners, and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt.” In an article headlined “Don’t Cut Military Spending Mr. President” (Wall Street Journal, 11/29/18),  Senate and House Armed Services committee chairs James Inhofe and Mac Thornberry claimed the military is in “crisis” after “inadequate budgets for nearly a decade,” and that “any cut in the Defense budget would be a senseless step backward.”

More centrist outlets concurred. Forbes Magazine (11/26/18) began its article with the words, “The security and well-being of the United States are at greater risk than at any time in decades,” recommending a “sensible and consistent increase” to the budget. Bloomberg (19/11/18) recommended a consistent increase in military spending of 3 percent above inflation for five to ten years, while Reuters (12/4/18) noted the increased “risk” of a lower military budget.

What exactly was this “risk” that media were so worried about? Max Boot, neo-con fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations—who apparently still supports the Iraq War and demanded ones in Syria and Libya, while arguing that America should become a world empire—articulated the risk in the Washington Post (12/12/18). Describing a reduction in military spending as “suicide,” and claiming the US is in a “full-blown national security crisis,” he cited the work of a blue-ribbon panel that called for continuous hikes in military spending:

“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in …read more


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Robert Reich: The end is near for Trump

December 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, AlterNet

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Trump is a “dangerous menace.”

This morning I phoned my friend, the former Republican member of Congress.

ME: So, what are you hearing?

HE: Trump is in deep sh*t. 

ME: Tell me more. 

HE: When it looked like he was backing down on the wall, Rush and the crazies on Fox went ballistic. So he has to do the shutdown to keep the base happy. They’re his insurance policy. They stand between him and impeachment.

ME: Impeachment? No chance. Senate Republicans would never go along.

HE (laughing): Don’t be so sure. Corporate and Wall Street are up in arms. Trade war was bad enough. Now, you’ve got Mattis resigning in protest. Trump pulling out of Syria, giving Putin a huge win. This dumbass shutdown. The stock market in free-fall. The economy heading for recession. 

ME: But the base loves him.

HE: Yeah, but the base doesn’t pay the bills. 

ME: You mean …

HE: Follow the money, friend. 

ME: The GOP’s backers have had enough?

HE: They wanted Pence all along.

ME: So …

HE: So they’ll wait until Mueller’s report, which will skewer Trump. Pelosi will wait, too. Then after the Mueller bombshell, she’ll get 20, 30, maybe even 40 Republicans to join in an impeachment resolution. 

ME: And then?

HE: Senate Republicans hope that’ll be enough – that Trump will pull a Nixon.

ME: So you think he’ll resign? 

HE (laughing): No chance. He’s fu*king out of his mind. He’ll rile up his base into a fever. Rallies around the country. Tweet storms. Hannity. Oh, it’s gonna be ugly. He’ll convince himself he’ll survive. 

ME: And then?

HE: That’s when Senate Republicans pull the trigger. 

ME: Really? Two-thirds of the Senate? 

HE: Do the math. 47 Dems will be on board, so you need 19 Republicans. I can name almost that many who are already there. Won’t be hard to find the votes.

ME: But …read more