Monday, July 17, 2017

Witness to Clinton Foundation Corruption in Haiti Arkancided in Miami?

miamiherald | Klaus Eberwein, a former Haitian government official, was found dead Tuesday in a South Dade motel room in what the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office is ruling a suicide. 

“He shot himself in the head,” said Veronica Lamar, Miami-Dade medical examiner records supervisor. She listed his time of death at 12:19 p.m.

The address where Eberwein’s body was discovered according to police, 14501 S. Dixie Hwy., is a Quality Inn.

A supporter of former Haitian President Michel Martelly, Eberwein served as director general of the government’s economic development agency, Fonds d’assistance économique et social, better known as FAES. He held the position from May 2012 until February 2015 when he was replaced. He was also a partner in a popular pizza restaurant in Haiti, Muncheez, and has a pizza — the Klaus Special — named after him.

“It’s really shocking,” said Muncheez’s owner Gilbert Bailly. “We grew up together; he was like family.”

Bailly said he last spoke to Eberwein, 50, two weeks ago and he was in good spirits. They were working on opening a Muncheez restaurant in Sunrise, he said.

But it appears that Eberwein had fallen on hard times. An Uber spokesperson confirmed that he worked as a driver for awhile in South Florida.

During and after his government tenure, Eberwein faced allegations of fraud and corruption on how the agency he headed administered funds. Among the issues was FAES’ oversight of shoddy construction of several schools built after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.

Eberwein was scheduled to appear Tuesday before the Haitian Senate’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the head of the commission, Sen. Evalière Beauplan confirmed. The commission is investigating the management of PetroCaribe funds, the money Haiti receives from Venezuela’s discounted oil program.

Read more here:

Arkancide: The Clinton Body Count

theconspiracyblog |  How many people have died under very unusual circumstances ( ARKANCIDE ) that stood in the way of the Clinton Crime Family’s rise to wealth and power? The deaths connected to the Clintons are so numerous and so suspicious that there is even a term for it… ARKANCIDE (Don Adams / Died January 7, 1997)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Can It Be That It Was All So Simple Then....,

Ponzai Musk Tells Governors How Afraid He Is Of AI

recode |  Elon Musk doesn’t scare easily — he wants to send people to Mars and believes that all cars will be driving themselves in the next ten years. He’s excited about it!

But there is something that really scares Musk: Artificial Intelligence, and the idea of software and machines taking over their human creators. 

He’s been warning people about AI for years, and today called it the “biggest risk we face as a civilization” when he spoke at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island.
Musk then called on the government to proactively regulate artificial intelligence before things advance too far. 

“Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”

“Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry,” he continued. “It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

AI Used to Create Even Faker Obama

ieee |  Artificial intelligence software could generate highly realistic fake videos of former president Barack Obama using existing audio and video clips of him, a new study [PDF] finds.

Such work could one day help generate digital models of a person for virtual reality or augmented reality applications, researchers say.

Computer scientists at the University of Washington previously revealed they could generate digital doppelgängers of anyone by analyzing images of them collected from the Internet, from celebrities such as Tom Hanks and Arnold Schwarzenegger to public figures such as George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Such work suggested it could one day be relatively easy to create such models of anybody, when there are untold numbers of digital photos of everyone on the Internet.

The researchers chose Obama for their latest work because there were hours of high-definition video of him available online in the public domain. The research team had a neural net analyze millions of frames of video to determine how elements of Obama's face moved as he talked, such as his lips and teeth and wrinkles around his mouth and chin.

In an artificial neural network, components known as artificial neurons are fed data, and work together to solve a problem such as identifying faces or recognizing speech. The neural net can then alter the pattern of connections among those neurons to change the way they interact, and the network tries solving the problem again. Over time, the neural net learns which patterns are best at computing solutions, an AI strategy that mimics the human brain.

In the new study, the neural net learned what mouth shapes were linked to various sounds. The researchers took audio clips and dubbed them over the original sound files of a video. They next took mouth shapes that matched the new audio clips and grafted and blended them onto the video. Essentially, the researchers synthesized videos where Obama lip-synched words he said up to decades beforehand.

The researchers note that similar previous research involved filming people saying sentences over and over again to map what mouth shapes were linked to various sounds, which is expensive, tedious and time-consuming. In contrast, this new work can learn from millions of hours of video that already exist on the Internet or elsewhere.

The Robots are Just Us

BostonGlobe  |  Even AI giants like Google can’t escape the impact of bias. In 2015, the company’s facial recognition software tagged dark skinned people as gorillas. Executives at FaceApp, a photo editing program, recently apologized for building an algorithm that whitened the users’ skin in their pictures. The company had dubbed it the “hotness” filter. 

In these cases, the error grew from data sets that didn’t have enough dark-skinned people, which limited the machine’s ability to learn variation within darker skin tones. Typically, a programmer instructs a machine with a series of commands, and the computer follows along. But if the programmer tests the design on his peer group, coworkers, and family, he’s limited what the machine can learn and imbues it with whichever biases shape his own life. 

Photo apps are one thing, but when their foundational algorithms creep into other areas of human interaction, the impacts can be as profound as they are lasting.

The faces of one in two adult Americans have been processed through facial recognition software. Law enforcement agencies across the country are using this gathered data with little oversight. Commercial facial-recognition algorithms have generally done a better job of telling white men apart than they do with women and people of other races, and law enforcement agencies offer few details indicating that their systems work substantially better. Our justice system has not decided if these sweeping programs constitute a search, which would restrict them under the Fourth Amendment. Law enforcement may end up making life-altering decisions based on biased investigatory tools with minimal safeguards.

Meanwhile, judges in almost every state are using algorithms to assist in decisions about bail, probation, sentencing, and parole. Massachusetts was sued several years ago because an algorithm it uses to predict recidivism among sex offenders didn’t consider a convict’s gender. Since women are less likely to reoffend, an algorithm that did not consider gender likely overestimated recidivism by female sex offenders. The intent of the scores was to replace human bias and increase efficiency in an overburdened judicial system. But, as mathematician Julia Angwin reported in ProPublica, these algorithms are using biased questionnaires to come to their determinations and yielding flawed results.

A ProPublica study of the recidivism algorithm used in Fort Lauderdale found that 23.5 percent of white men were labeled as being at an elevated risk for getting into trouble again, but didn’t re-offend. Meanwhile, 44.9 percent of black men were labeled higher risk for future offenses, but didn’t re-offend, showing how these scores are inaccurate and favor white men. 

While the questionnaires don’t ask specifically about skin color, data scientists say they “back into race” by asking questions like: When was your first encounter with police? 

The assumption is that someone who comes in contact with police as a young teenager is more prone to criminal activity than someone who doesn’t. But this hypothesis doesn’t take into consideration that policing practices vary and therefore so does the police’s interaction with youth. If someone lives in an area where the police routinely stop and frisk people, he will be statistically more likely to have had an early encounter with the police. Stop-and-frisk is more common in urban areas where African-Americans are more likely to live than whites.This measure doesn’t calculate guilt or criminal tendencies, but becomes a penalty when AI calculates risk. In this example, the AI is not just computing for the individual’s behavior, it is also considering the police’s behavior.

“I’ve talked to prosecutors who say, ‘Well, it’s actually really handy to have these risk scores because you don’t have to take responsibility if someone gets out on bail and they shoot someone. It’s the machine, right?’” says Joi Ito, director of the Media Lab at MIT.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Money Laundering Makes the Drug Wars Go Round

gfintegrity |  My name is Jack Blum. I am a Washington attorney specializing in money laundering compliance and issues of offshore tax evasion. I am appearing on behalf the Tax Justice Network-USA and Global Financial Integrity. Both organizations endorse the bill sponsored by Senator Levin, S. 569, the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act.

The single most important tool in the toolkit of people trying to hide money from law enforcement and tax collection is the anonymous shell corporation. These shell corporations have no physical place of business, use nominee officers and directors, and as a rule do no business in the place of incorporation. Their sole purpose is hiding where money is, who controls it, and where it is moving, from law enforcement and tax collectors. These shell companies should not be allowed remain anonymous.

States that offer corporations to individuals without insisting on information on beneficial ownership are undermining the efforts of law enforcement to prevent crime, recover stolen assets and collect tax. They are also putting the United States out of compliance with international standards for customer identification. From our perspective gathering basic information about ownership for government use is essential to protect national security and to limit financial crime and tax evasion.

Anti-money laundering compliance is dependent on 'know your customer .' Without that knowledge financial institutions cannot evaluate the legitimacy of a transaction. Knowing that one shell corporation is owned by another shell corporation is not helpful. Having the details of the "owner's" directors who are usually professional directors who work for a corporate service company in another jurisdiction is useless. Financial institutions need to know who is behind a company to judge whether the transactions they monitor are suspicious. They need to know whether the beneficial owner is on the OFAC list, the other sanctions lists is a politically exposed person.

The proposed legislation would end the all too frequent use of loopholes in State incorporation laws to hide money.  Fist tap Bro. Makheru

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III's Ass-Clownery Knows No Limits

WaPo |  Not everyone in the public health community is convinced the new DARE is any better than the old DARE. A peer-reviewed study published last year found that the specific versions of the keepin’ it REAL curriculum used by DARE haven’t been tested for efficacy.

“The systematic review revealed major shortfalls in the evidence basis for the KiR D.A.R.E. programme,” that study’s authors conclude. "Without empirical evidence, we cannot conclusively confirm or deny the effectiveness of the programme. However, we can conclude that the evidence basis for the D.A.R.E. version of KiR is weak, and that there is substantial reason to believe that KiR D.A.R.E. may not be suited for nationwide implementation."

There’s no doubt, however, that DARE is currently making an effort to adopt more of an evidence-based approach than in prior years, when the program’s practices were largely driven by the belief that they were "pure as the driven snow." This brings us back to the central irony of Jeff Sessions’s remarks on Tuesday, when he yearned for a return to the DARE of “the 1980s and the 1990s.”

Decades of research are unequivocal: The DARE of yesteryear didn’t work, and it may have actually made the drug problem worse. Instead of embracing DARE’s new evidence-based practices, Sessions offered up a return to the bad old days of drug policy, when decisions were driven by gut feeling and political expediency.

We already know how that story ended: billions of dollars spent, millions of people imprisoned and stronger, cheaper drugs. DARE is already trying to turn the page on the harsh and ineffective drug policies of the past. At the moment, it appears the Justice Department is trying to revive them.

You Know It's True...,

theantimedia |  Already, the Department of Defense has created the Sentient World Simulation, a real-time “synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information, such as major events, opinion polls, demographic statistics, economic reports, and shifts in trends,” according to a working paper on the system.

In recent years, other scientists have conducted research and even experimentation in attempts to show actual evidence of the Simulation. Heads turned last year when theoretical physicist S. James Gate announced he had found strange computer code in his String Theory research. Bound inside the equations we use to describe our universe, he says, is peculiar self-dual linear binary error-correcting block code.

team of German physicists has also set out to show that the numerical constraints we see in our universe are consistent with the kinds of limitations we would see in a simulated universe. These physicists have invoked a non-perturbative approach known as lattice quantum chromodynamics to try to discover whether there is an underlying grid to the space/time continuum.

So far their efforts have recreated a minuscule region of the known universe, a sliver of a corner that is but a few femtometers across. But this corner simulates the hypothetical lattice of the universal grid, and their search for a corresponding physical restraint turned up a theoretical upper limit on high-energy particles known as the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin, or GZK cut off. In other words, there are aspects of our universe that look and behave as a simulation might.

With news that there are two anonymous tech billionaires working on a secret project to break us out of the Matrix, it’s hard to know whether we should laugh or scream in horror. Simulation talk is great epistemological fun and metaphysical amusement of the highest order, but it may speak to an underlying anxiety regarding the merging of our reality with machines, or an underlying existential loneliness. It’s even been posited as a solution to the Fermi ParadoxWhy haven’t we met aliens? Well, because we live inside a world they built.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What Do You Expect When Your Drug Czar For The Drug War Is A General?

The drug-connected crime problem isn't all about the junkies - it's about the dealers. Especially the violent crime problem. The key to dealing with drug crime is drying up the profits of the illegal market. Reliance on incarceration has only made the power of organized criminal gangs stronger. It hasn't broken a single gang. A lawless marketplace staffed entirely by criminals who protect their inventory and personal safety with arsenals of weaponry and enforce and regulate business disputes with gunfire is a pretty unique business model. A global business that ranks third in revenues after arms and oil and hides its profits with sophisticated money laundering techniques that allow the top players access into corridors of political power while providing unparalleled liquidity advantages in business competition is a pretty unique business model.

Nixon's early 1970s globalization of the War on Drugs was ostensibly aimed at enlisting all UN members in a united effort to shut down drug supplies at their source. What resulted instead was much closer to a U.S. imperial protection racket for drug kingpins, with the US holding the power to confer a status of impunity on politically favored players overseas. In return, those who benefited were able to target internal law enforcement efforts at culling their business competition, which typically worked to produce results sufficient to bolster their anti-drug credibility.

In Dark Alliance the late investigative journalist Gary Webb documented connections that led through multiple Latin American countries- El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Mexico- to drug rings operating in several regions in the US. He wasn't alone in his investigations, either.

The big picture that results when that research is reviewed is that the political and military leaders of a great many Central American and Caribbean nations during the Cold War era were provided with protected status in the transshipment of cocaine in return for maintaining pro-US policies in their countries.

General Bueso Rosa in Honduras; Hugo Banzer in Bolivia; the Salinas brothers in Mexico, and other Mexican governments before and since; Sandoval Alarcon in Guatemala; Trujillo and Noriega in Panama; the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, in the 1970s; Uribe in Colombia, Cedras/Emmanuel Constant FRAPH junta in Haiti; the JLP in Jamaica - this US policy is blatantly in effect right now in Afghanistan, the top source nation for opium and heroin in the world. It has been in effect from the outset of US intervention in Central Asia. It has become standard U.S. necropolitical operating procedure.

But back to Dark Alliance, Danilo Blandon, the Contra-connected supplier who furnished most of Rick Ross's cocaine, offered him an unprecedented deal soon after establishing that he could move large retail quantities on the street: consignment, no money down, at a kilo price that worked out to less than $20/gram.

Ross was able to move 200 kilos a month. That's over 2 tons a year, at a time when the DEA was estimating the annual US supply at 70 tons. Blandon was a true drug kingpin. Up until the Blandon-Ross connection was dismantled, with the help of Danilo Blandon, who received immunity from prosecution and earned around $200,000 as a paid FBI informant for providing testimony to take down a huge LA cocaine ring that he.was instrumental in enabling to boom to an unprecedented level.

Danilo Blandon's supplier was Norwin Meneses, who had been identified as an even bigger kingpin by US Federal law enforcement since the 1970s. Meneses was the brother of the Somoza-era chief of police, and at least one other general in Somoza's Guardia Nacionale, which eventually became the largest Contra faction, the FDN, under military commander Enrique Bermudez. Meneses also benefited from some sort of arrangement with US authorities, remaining free of prosecution, residing in the US and traveling back and forth between there and Central America without interference.

Blandon was not Meneses' only wholesaler and Meneses was not the only person involved with Contra resupply who had a long history as a major drug supplier and transporter into the USA. The Contra effort made use of a network of long-time Cold War era US intelligence/covert operations agents including a nucleus of Cuban exiles drawn from the ranks of Bay of Pigs battle veterans.

Some 8% of the 1500 Bay of Pigs veterans, about 120 of them, had been identified as kingpins as early on as the late 1960s. Mostly heroin, at that point- supplying the NYC market out of Union City, NJ. They later showed up everywhere from Southeast Asia to the Argentine Dirty War, and eventually as field operators in the Contra effort.

Speaking of the neofascist junta-era Argentine military, they became the first overseas liason to the formation of the Contras in the Reagan era, offering them a safe haven and working to train and equip the Somocista Guardia Nacionale in exile in 1981.

In the previous year, the Argentines had provided the principal base of support for the military coup in Bolivia that put the Cocaine Junta into power, in July 1980. DEA agent Michael Levine, the top field agent in the Southern Cone of Latin America at the time, contends that this was done in collaboration with the local CIA faction down there, who were bitterly opposed to Jimmy Carter's "human rights" foreign policy, which had brought pressure to bear on right-wing President Col. Hugo Banzer Suarez to relinquish his martial law "autogolpe" rule and hold elections. The Cocaine Coup successfully derailed the ascension of a civilian government to power.

Banzer had long-standing connections to the US, having been trained at the School of the Americas, Ft. Hood's armored cavalry school, and as a US diplomatic liason in DC. He was also affiliated with the Falange Socialista Boliviana, and the Latin American Anti-Communist League affiliated with WACL; with the international right-wing assassination program known as Operation Condor, along with his ideological allies in Pinochet's Chile and the Argentina junta. Banzer's family relations and associates were also busted repeatedly in the US and Canada for smuggling cocaine; one case involved his son-in-law and another his chauffeur, iirc. And one of Banzer's cousins was Luis Arce Gomez, one of the chief plotters of the Cocaine Coup.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Race Obsessed Youtube Dips**t Ignorant of Oregon's Legalization Status

theantimedia |  Oregon’s state legislature just reduced penalties for drug possession in a bill also intended to reduce racial profiling by law enforcement agencies.
H.B. 2355 passed both the House and Senate last week and reduces possession of illegal drugs to misdemeanors rather than felonies as long as the person in possession does not have prior drug convictions. According to a press release issued on July 7 by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, the bill provides for “the reduction of penalties for lower level drug offenders. The bill also reduces the maximum penalty for Class A misdemeanors by one day to avoid mandatory deportation for misdemeanants.”
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According to the text of the bill, drugs like LSD, MDMA, cocaine, meth, oxycodone, and heroin are essentially decriminalized in small amounts. Each drug listed is accompanied by the following text, indicating possession is only a felony if:
“(a) The person possesses a usable quantity of the controlled substance and: (A) At the time of the possession, the person has a prior felony conviction; (B) At the time of the possession, the person has two or more prior convictions for unlawful possession of a usable quantity of a controlled substance.

The “misdemeanor” title applies for varying amounts of different drugs. For example, the maximum allowable amount of acid is up to “40 units,” while individuals may have up to five MDMA pills or less than one gram before their “offense” crosses the line into a felony. Less than two grams of cocaine constitutes a misdemeanor.

As Rep. Mitch Greenlick, a Democrat representing Portland, told Portland-based health outlet the Lund Report:
We’ve got to treat people, not put them in prison. It would be like putting them in the state penitentiary for having diabetes… This is a chronic brain disorder and it needs to be treated this way.”
When you put people in prison and given them a felony conviction, you make it very hard for them to succeed,” he added.

Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House?

mondoweiss |  Clinton lost the battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan in last year’s presidential election because they had some of the highest casualty rates during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and voters there saw Clinton as the pro-war candidate.

By contrast, her pro-war positions did not hurt her in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California, the study says; because those states were relatively unscathed by the Middle East wars.

The study is titled “Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House?” Authors Francis Shen, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, and Dougas Kriner, a political science professor at Boston University, strike a populist note:
With so much post-election analysis, it is surprising that no one has pointed to the possibility that inequalities in wartime sacrifice might have tipped the election. Put simply:
perhaps the small slice of America that is fighting and dying for the nation’s security is tired of its political leaders ignoring this disproportionate burden.
Their study argues that there is a direct relationship between those states that gained Republican votes from Romney’s defeat in 2012 to Trump’s win in 2016 and those states that have higher casualty rates in Middle East wars.

At, Ed Krayewski summarizes the findings:
A new study attributes Donald Trump’s victory last year to communities hit hardest by military casualties and angry about being ignored. These voters, the authors suggest, saw Trump as an “opportunity to express that anger at both political parties.”
Krayewski summarizes the data behind the conclusion:
The study… found a “significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” The statistical model it used suggested that if Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had suffered “even a modestly lower casualty rate,” all three could have flipped to Hillary Clinton, making her the president. The study controlled for party identification, comparing Trump’s performance in the communities selected to Mitt Romney’s performance in 2012. It also controlled for other relevant factors, including median family income, college education, race, the percentage of a community that is rural, and even how many veterans there were.
And here are the authors themselves on the moral hazard at work here. The people who decide are not suffering as much.

The Drug War Has Profoundly Compromised Prosecutorial Integrity

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is probably the single greatest disappointment for me with 45's administration. His anti-drug stance is retrograde cover for reinstituting the prosecutorial savagery which resulted in mass incarceration over the past forty years.  AG support for harsh or mandatory minimum sentences, coupled with the claim that it provides a vital service in making cases as leverage to flip people to inform on their associates, was the essential recipe for transforming America into the incarceration nation.

Even when it's used as prosecutors claim it is intended to convict ringleaders, the threat of harsh or mandatory minimum sentences to intimidate people into betraying their friends and family members is ethically suspect and legally corrupt. Claiming that it's used to dismantle illegal drug networks is at best historically suspect. In terms of practical results, this policy is has wreaked havoc and proven corrosive in terms of breaking down any pre-existing structures of social trust, community, and friendship that might have been built over time.  The explicit message of this policy is that treachery and betrayal is an act worthy of reward. The worst punishment is reserved for those who demonstrate loyalty and integrity. Drug Warriors justify this policy by asserting that Drug Dealers are already lower than murderers or violent rapists, and thus have no integrity to preserve, because they deal Drugs. But that isn’t the worst of it. What’s really ethically indefensible is the difference between the way the policy is described by politicians and prosecutors to the general public, and the way that it’s actually employed. 

Prosecutors routinely tout their use of the tactic as the use of informants to “bust up the ladder”- that is - to flip low-level retailers to snitch on the people above them in the hierarchy.  That's what's always depicted in the movies and on the teevee crime procedurals. Using snitches this way, the prosecutor claims he is working his way toward the “kingpin” at the top of the hierarchy.  The "kingpin" is finally made vulnerable to criminal conviction through informant testimony, or by having a snitch facilitate a transaction with government agents, as if there’s an ultimate "kingpin" whose conviction will lead to final victory in the Drug War. 

This simple plot line may hold a deep psychological appeal to children, buybull buddies, or people addicted to purely fictional crime procedurals - but there's no practical or historical reason to believe it's ever really happened, ever. Too many cases show that  drug selling organizations were dismantled in exactly the opposite manner.  The "kingpin" is the one who gets caught right up front and then receives lenient sentencing for informing on all his subordinates. 

Nicky Barnes is a name which comes to mind for buying leniency for himself and/or close relatives by ratting out everyone beneath him in his organization. Rayful Edmond is another prime example of the top-down snitching effect. 

Examining the stories of prisoners documented by FAMM and the Marshall Project shows cases where the heaviest time landed on the people at the bottom - people who literally had no one available to betray, no “substantial information” to provide to aid prosecutors. So all the time landed on the lowest underlings..  This is fine from the perspective of the harsh prosecutions system, because that System requires someone as a sacrifice to keep the numbers looking good and providing the image of an effective law enforcement campaign. (not to mention the profit motivation for the private for-profit prison-industrial complex itself)
People have been subjected to mandatory minimum sentences simply as a result of having once provided their residence or business as the location for a drug transaction. Mandatory minimums have been handed down for driving buyers and/or sellers to and from a transaction.  One instance of driving a buyer to the home of a seller is formally an overt act in furtherance of an illegal drug sale, and therefore all that’s required to convict someone of one count of “felony drug conspiracy.” 

Strictly speaking, millions of Americans have committed at least one felony in their lives. Anyone who’s gotten far enough into illegal drug use to purchase their own stash of weed and have acquaintances involved in the same activity has done the above at least once. From the prosecutor's perspective, conspiracy is conspiracy, no matter how minor.

Driving a friend over to a dealer’s apartment to buy a $15 bag of weed is taking part in a drug sales conspiracy, and conspiracy is a felony. Of course rendezvous like these take place daily in the underground marketplace. Most of the time the risk of getting arrested is negligible. In the event that someone is swept up in a raid and busted for that participation, felony conspiracy offers a lever for the prosecutor seeking people to snitch for them. This, notwithstanding the fact that someone who simply drives their friend over to a house and waits outside in the car while they do a deal may have no information of value to bargain with.

Meanwhile, those same ball-busting prosecutors reward those who have risen high enough in the hierarchy of a drug conspiracy to have detailed knowledge of its working and who can offer critical testimony against their companions with reduced sentences, comfortable confinement settings, or witness protection.

Monday, July 10, 2017

How Much Police Corruption Would There Be Without a Drug War?

Speaking of dysfunctional culture is only stereotyping when it's applied to all members of the group and/or if the claim isn't grounded by evidence - which is why it's imperative to dig deeper into how a given dysfunctional culture got to be so dysfunctional. 

I am now firmly convinced that the core of the problem is the political economy of the trade in forbidden substances. The trade in forbidden substances provides a broad-based source of economic sustenance that no other criminal activity can match.

The trade in forbidden substances provides advantages - or at least the appearance of advantages - that grant it the power to present an alternative path to upward mobility.  The dope game provides instant economic gratification without the lengthy effort and remote reward process linked with academic achievement. The dope game eliminates the uncertainty around future employment in the  non-criminal economy.  Honestly, without our current zero-tolerance drug laws, outside the trade in forbidden substances,  how many career opportunities exist in crime?  

Doing what, as muggers, burglers, bank robbers, car thieves?

Political discussion of the drug war/drug prohibition focuses exclusively on the phenomenon of forbidden drug use rather than on the economic dynamics of markets for mind-altering substances.

Think about that for a minute. 

Political discussion of the drug war/drug prohibition focuses exclusively on the phenomenon of forbidden drug use rather than on the economic dynamics of markets for mind-altering substances.

But the cost and consequences to society are not so much rooted in the use of forbidden substances, as they are in the existence and proliferation of a complicated multi-generational criminal supply chain operated by career criminals servicing a lucrative , high-demand market. Those socially corrosive consequences are concentrated in impoverished communities, and they don't assume the same level of significance in economically stable or affluent ones.

The appearance, growth, and maintenance of illegal drug markets in the present day begins in the middle schools and high schools; across the board, rich or poor, it's been that way for around 40 years. But there are crucial differences, the main one being that in economically stable communities the teenagers dealing the drugs don't view it as a means of upward mobility, a career path, or a means of supplementing household income.  They don't have to. 

The more affluent the community, the more this tends to be the case. Because necessity doesn't play the same role that it does in a low-income or impoverished community, there's much less violence associated with the illegal drug trade. There are many fewer pretexts for feeling the need to engage in violence when there are no issues about customer payment, minimal threat of holdups, or home invasions by rivals. There's no need to form organized self-protection syndicates to contend with those sorts of problems.

Drug dealing money is side money, and middle-class or upper-class retail dealers are mostly in it for status and access to free supplies of product. Because problems of theft and violence so seldom arise, drug dealing in more affluent communities receives less notice from the police. And because drug dealing is nearly always viewed as a sideline, most middle class retail drug dealers give up the business at some point between their notice of admission to college and their graduation. There are problems, occasionally serious ones, but they mostly center on teenage drug use, not gun play in the streets associated with drug sales. The drug trade doesn't just take over, and run the neighborhoods.

Is this because middle-class drug dealers are inherently virtuous? Of course not. Is it a function of economic privilege? Almost entirely.

In a community in economic stagnation or decline, it's usually a much different story. Dealing illegal drugs presents itself as a multilevel marketing scheme that holds out the promise of a pathway to economic success. Like practically all multilevel marketing schemes, that promise is realized in only a handful of cases. But it still works more reliably than any legal multilevel scheme I can think of, especially in the short run. 

Age is no barrier to employment. In fact, in this dope game, minor status has distinct advantages. So it's easy for teenage kids to view illegal drug dealing as a career path. Except that it's a gravely serious business, with perils and implications that teenagers- particularly teenage males - have trouble appreciating. The risks are of an entirely different magnitude than they are in wealthier parts of town. 

By the time a teenage drug dealer turns 18 and becomes eligible for adult criminal penalties, it's often too late to get out of the business. Too many bridges have been burned to simply reset the counters to zero. At that point, jail and prison enter into the mix in a big way. And if you don't think there's any such thing as dysfunctional culture, consider the prevailing effects of jail and prison. The culture of confinement, violence, paranoia, mistrust, and anti-sociality tends to move out into the streets after a lot of people experience it firsthand. 

When these carcerally corrupted and now thoroughly dysfunctional people have children, the children assimilate that prison-culture dysfunction - just like children do everywhere else. That's a whole lot of multi-generational ugliness concentrated within a community. (and no Bee Dee, it's not the result of IQ-75 limitations)

Is this state of affairs racist? Yes. Because it didn't have to happen. 

Now that the rural white majority in this country are beginning to truly experience the same combined stresses from criminal syndicates, prison culture, street criminals, punitive policing, and the courts - as the law-abiding majority in low-income black majority neighborhoods have experienced over the last 40 years - there is a glimmer of hope that the drug prohibition may have to give.

Bottom line, however, this isn't a race-related problem. I'm not talking about a "Black thing" or a "Mexican thing." At least not since the bottom dropped out of a lot of majority-white regional economies in this country. Economically stressed white neighborhoods and rural small towns now deal with the same problems related to the political economy of the illegal drugs trade: 
  • breakdown of social trust
  • theft among neighbors
  • violence
  • family abuse
  • high rates of incarceration
  • loss of employment eligibility due to criminal convictions or addiction
  • increasing rates of self-harming behavior
The problems of having a huge chunk of the local economy reliant on drug money- and, yes, the type of welfare that advantages non-working people at the expense of their employed neighbors- begin to merge with harder and harder drugs use over time, as those communities, schools, and families spiral into dysfunction and desperation.  White kids are now increasingly subject to the same impacts - all of which works to put them in the same deplorable corner - as long as they can see and think clearly enough to suss out the analogous experience across race lines.

Oops, I almost forgot about the police corruption problem.  Severe police corruption has existed as long as the Drug War/Drug Prohibition. Matter of fact, police corruption has been a rapidly growing and metastasizing aspect of the larger societal dysfunction, and it threatens to dismantle the social contract between authorities and the communities whom they were formerly sworn to protect and serve.

So far it's 67 very long pages, with new stories added every week. Coast to coast. City and country. Judges, DEA, FBI, city police chiefs, county sheriffs, entire "elite" drug squads, small-town police officers, forensics scientists, prison guards... this list of stories is far from complete, and, it doesn't take into account the corrupt law enforcement people who never got caught, or who haven't been caught yet.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Drug Prohibition/War is the Dry Rot Within the American Body Politic

The corruption, dishonesty, social and ethical cannibalism within the sphere of forbidden substance users and those who prey on forbidden substance users -  has done more than any other single factor to bring on the climate of political malaise in this country.  Its still largely third rail status as a subject for national political consideration is a crucial indication of its importance. If Prohibition/War isn't the most important factor, it's certainly the most important unmentioned factor in the increasing antipathy of Americans to both traditional political parties.

For most of my lifetime, it's been out of bounds to broach the notion of drug law reform in a large public forum.   That decades-long evasion of honest debate on the relevant issues has enabled the Drug War- with its combination of unchallenged rationale and array of actual consequences - to exert a profoundly destructive effect on both official and unofficial institutions of this society. We're dealing with a corrosive situation that's been allowed to grow and fester for at least 40 years. Not drug use - but the illegal drug markets and the consequences to society of those markets. The society nurtured by that underground economy, which advantages hardened criminals over those who aren't as willing and able to resort to deceit and violence, has routinely exported the psychotic and antisocial values from jails into our communities.

We don't give nearly enough consideration to the negative consequences engendered by mass incarceration and what that has brought back to our communities from the bedlam(s) of the prison industrial complex. It is the criminal marketplace rather than the effect of forbidden substances which has acquired a hegemonic influence over our communities and popular culture. Who among us is factoring in the current state of most of our jails and prisons and what these contagiously export into our communities?  Who is factoring in the personal and public health problems and socially corrosive mentalities bubbling up out of prisons - which factors are incontestably worse than the worst impacts even of forbidden substance addiction, per se.

Race obsessives think that the main problem in America is drawn along racial lines. I disagree. The big problem in America is the long-term result of nearly a half-century of a profoundly and deceptively metastasizing Drug War. This dry rot has spread throughout our society corrupting banks, schools, police, courts, jails, politicians, professions, rents, housing, social welfare programs, the public health system, big pharma. 

The problems of forbidden substance misuse and abuse are dwarfed by the problems of Greed, Punitive Morality, Stigmatization, and Deception on both sides of the crooked line irrationally drawn by the forbidden substance criminal statutes.  The country would see a noticeable improvement within two years of effective drug law reform that worked to minimize the economic demand in the criminal marketplace: cannabis legalization, opioid addiction maintenance, a liberalized prescription and/or registry regime for some of the other substances, all while retaining laws against illegal sales operations.

In less than ten years, we might even get many of our worst schools and neighborhoods back on the path to recovery from that long-standing condition of beleaguered competition with the burdens imposed by the illicit economy.

Addicts Pawns in a Sprawling National Network of Insurance and Treatment Fraud

BostonGlobe  |  Drug users, desperate to break addictions to heroin or pain pills, are pawns in a sprawling national network of insurance fraud, an investigation by The Boston Globe and STAT has found.

They are being sent to treatment centers hundreds of miles from home for expensive, but often shoddy, care that is paid for by premium health insurance benefits procured with fake addresses.

Patient brokers are paid a fee to place insured people in treatment centers, which pocket thousands of dollars in claims for each patient. They often target certain Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, because of their generous benefits and few restrictions on seeking care from out-of-network treatment programs.

The fraud is now so commonplace that brokers use a simple play on words to describe how it works: “Do you want to Blue Cross the country?”

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Prohibition Has Been An Epic Policy Failure

Illicit drug markets were flourishing in white communities in the 1970s, and they continue to flourish in white communities to this very day. The crucial difference between affluent white drug markets and gritty black urban drug markets is the drive-through customer service provided to strangers in mostly black ghetto neighborhoods. 

White neighborhoods feature a drug market staffed by affluent teenagers doing it as a sideline for free drug supplies, social-peer status, and disposable income with a customer base of similarly well-heeled schoolmates and friends. Black and brown ghettos feature a market run in deadly earnest by poor and marginalized people viewing it more like a career choice- as their best chance at earning good money, fast money, and possibly even a boost to long-term upward mobility.

Open-air street markets are riskier all around, and much more criminogenic. But that's principally a function of the illegal marketplace, not the underlying commodity "drugs" being bought and sold. Prohibition has been an epic policy failure. Instead of success in curbing the use of officially forbidden drugs, 50 years of get-tough criminalization, zero tolerance, and mandatory minimums have resulted in;
  1. a state of perpetual civil conflict
  2. an unregulated supply of a wider array of harder and harder drugs
  3. diverse harder drug abuse by younger and younger people
  4. broad-based antagonism against police and government
  5. unparalleled levels of police corruption

Unfortunately, the respectable negroes of impoverished black ghettos made the same mistake as the morally upright but deeply hypocritical WW2 generation of adults in more affluent white communities.  Faced with an unfamiliar phenomenon (the newfound popularity of some legally prohibited drugs among the youth), they imagined that a law enforcement crackdown would solve the problem and reset their status quo back to more familiar conditions, back before the kids were smoking pot and experimenting with drugs. 

Let's be clear- the initial 1960s-era domestic "illegal drug problem" related almost entirely to marijuana; the heroin market was confined to "bad neighborhoods" in a handful of large cities, and it took years for the cocaine market to develop a significant consumer base anywhere in the country.

Instead, the resulting Drug War only made matters worse, across the board. Including problems of police brutality and the impression that a coercive regime was being imposed upon urban black neighborhoods by outsiders. Which is, yes, what the citizens originally asked for. But the source of the folly was the naive idea that "drugs" were the primary source of the breakdown of civic order, rather than the illicit markets empowered by a simplistic prohibition regime that was- and still is- rationally indefensible.

Even the most responsible black American parents of teenagers are in much the same position as practically every other ethnic population- there's only so much they can do to counteract negative peer group influence on their adolescent children, given the circumstances of the modern world. And the stance that "studying is a white thing" would have a lot less social currency in the absence of the attractions of economic success provided by opportunities in the retail illicit drugs trade. "Studying is a white thing" is part of a narrative of fake resistance promulgated by criminals and delinquents. It's an excuse proffered by nihilistic elements of the black lumpenproletariat - pornographically promoted by Madison Avenue - not by "black culture".

The source of the problem- the basis for the appeal of the story that tells boys to kick school to the curb and go for fast money and instant gratification- isn't the inherent criminality of "black culture", or black people. It isn't ethnically based. It's mostly about Pinocchio Pleasure Island. The real-life Pleasure Island of the drug dealing game. In the absence of a lucrative underground market in prohibited drugs, criminality is a pretty pathetic career path.  In the presence of that avenue of opportunity, it's a glamor profession. Or at least it contains enough glamorous aspects to make it a very attractive occupation, especially for teenage males at the outset. Remember what eventually happens to the boys on Pleasure Island.

The useless not-see narrative blames the dysfunctions of poor black communities on a lack of moral character - a deficiency purportedly inherent to lower racial IQ or some allegedly monolithic "black culture." The useless BLM narrative blames the problems in impoverished black ghettos on some all-pervading, amorphous, undifferentiated, supposedly rampant white racism, i.e., an inherent moral deficiency of monolithic "white culture." 

Neither of those stories address the actual source of the problem.

Friday, July 07, 2017

A Turnkey Operation For A Totalitarian Society

The Federal government put policies in place that practically mandated a criminal monopoly over the trade in a wide array of illegal substances, while criminalizing the entire population with which users/dealers were most closely identified.  Leaving aside marijuana for a moment, and fast forwarding to the crack cocaine epidemic - while cocaine/crack can still be found as a street drug in this country; it's just that not as many people want it. They've seen how it can derail someone's life. Although both the supply and the numbers of cocaine users remain many times what they were 45-50 years ago. 

The criminalization and stigmatization of prohibited drugs users works to pre-emptively wall them off from most avenues of participation in legitimate society.  Their permanent stigmatization in the mainstream economy, effectively encourages them to confine their energies to participating in the criminal economy.  As for trends in urban violence, they're probably destined to cycle through for some time.

45 years of Drug War has made gangsterism dynastic. Furthermore, it has entrenched it through the prison systems. Alcohol prohibition only lasted 13 years and firmly established organized crime for two or three generations thereafter. What would the mafias have become if the "noble experiment" of alcohol prohibition hadn't been put to an end after only 13 years?  Along with Mass Incarceration, this is a crucial difference between the current Drug War and the Prohibition Era.

Then, when that situation eventually gets out of hand, the government steps in with well-funded militarization of the police, paramilitary tactics, and mass incarceration policies. It's a turnkey operation for a totalitarian society, and the justification for it appears entirely rational as long as the population thinks of it solely in terms of fear reactions and their relief, and never questions the flaws in the original premise that led to the breakdown of civic order in the first place. (Nixon's declaration of war on the left and on blacks for opposition to the Vietnam War)

Black Rifles Matter in Berkeley

SFBayview |  In 2015, Berkeley City Councilor Max Anderson voiced this eloquent opposition to militarization of the police during the annual Bay Area Urban Shield war games and weapons expo:
“The culture that’s cultivated by the type of training that you receive becomes the way you conduct yourselves …

“When I was in the Marines in the early ‘60s, all our pop-up targets that we practiced on were Asians. You know now they’re Middle Easterners, so it kinda shifts, and so the rationale and the justification for targeting people on these bases shifts along with it.

“And when military weapons follow military thinking into our police ranks, you know we have a problem. You know it’s a problem of association because when you’re in a combat situation, you’re thinking about survival, and you’re thinking about enemies and friendlies. And when you inculcate that into our environment here, and we start thinking about the citizenry as either being friendly or enemies, and react accordingly based on what designation we lay on people, then we’re sliding down that track.”

What could better describe the prevailing mindset of U.S. police? And we all know who’s on the enemies list that they feel compelled to kill to survive: Black and Brown people, Muslims and poor people.

Philando Castile, a Black citizen of Minnesota, calmly and respectfully told Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez, “Sir, I have to tell you I do have a firearm on me,” without pulling it out. Officer Yanez responded by firing the seven bullets that killed Castile as he sat in a car, then started screaming, sobbing and wailing, “I thought I was gonna die!”

What could better describe the prevailing mindset of U.S. police? And we all know who’s on the enemies list that they feel compelled to kill to survive: Black and Brown people, Muslims and poor people.

SFBayview |   Some 400 people packed a special city council meeting here on June 20 to demand that the city end its “shameful collaboration” with federal police and spy agencies. But the council, while widely hailed as “progressive,” ignored the near-unanimous popular opinion and voted to renew three controversial police programs:
  1. City participation in a Regional Intelligence Fusion Center and its “suspicious activities” domestic spying operation, coordinated nationally by the FBI and used locally to spy on Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
  2. City participation in the Urban Areas Security Initiative – and its annual $5 million Urban Shield weapons and SWAT team training expo – aimed at militarizing and increasing federal control over local police forces under Homeland Security. UASI promotes the model of the “warrior cop.”
  3. The city’s acquisition of a $205,000 bulletproof armored personnel carrier, partly funded by DHS (presumably anticipating some future wave of “civil unrest” in this small city)
Former mayor Gus Newport scolded the city council for going along with the various schemes for further empowering the police. “I cut my teeth in the civil rights movement by getting brutalized by police at the age of 11,” he said. “I would hope that you all have the principles, the heart and the concern for the people of Berkeley to make sure these (police programs) do not go any further.”

Many spoke of the racist impacts of these federal police programs. Sharif Zakout, with the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, said: “I want to be absolutely clear that Urban Shield was developed in response to 9/11 and the Patriot Act and is an Islamophobic and racist program.” AROC is part of a broad Stop Urban Shield Coalition, whose mobilization succeeded in driving the racist program out of Oakland in 2015. That was the year when “Black Rifles Matter” was the most popular t-shirt sold at the Urban Shield police expo.

Berkeley resident James McFadden said the Intelligence Fusion Center and UASI “are part of a continuous effort to consolidate federal control over local police … that escalated after 9/11 with the passage of the Patriot Act and creation of Homeland Security.” He said Berkeley, for example, should not be collecting data that can help ICE round up immigrants for deportation. “We don’t need a militarized surveillance state, or if unrest grows, a police occupation force as we saw in Ferguson, Missouri,” he added.