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This Is Your Time Wasted on Anti-Drug Ads

11 Oct

Originally uploaded to Flickr by ApeLolz

With methamphetamine use soaring in Montana in the early ’00s, a group called the Montana Meth Project tried to fight back with a series of TV, radio and print ads depicting the damage the drug can cause. Montanans were bombarded with images of adolescent prostitutes and vicious criminals – and in recent years, meth use has apparently declined in the Big Sky state. Success, right?

Actually, probably not. A recent University of Washington study found meth use was already dropping – as it was in neighboring states – and that the ads had “no discernible impact on meth use.” (As the invaluable sums up.) That should come as no surprise. As I reported a while back, even the federal government’s many lavishly-funded anti-drug ad campaigns have been found to accomplish essentially nothing.

The Real Problem with the Gaza Blockade

9 Jun

Much more important than the back-and-forth about Israel’s (lethally bungled) raid on a boatload of (deliberately provocative) protesters trying to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip is the bigger question it raises: what to do about the blockade? Without a doubt, its critics are right to say it inflicts terrible human suffering on civilian Palestinians. But it’s also a fact that without it, Hamas would smuggle in even more rockets to lob at Israeli civilians, not to mention whatever other weapons they could get their hands on to help further their goal of wiping Israel off the map.

But here’s another fact about the Gaza blockade: as a tactic, it just doesn’t work. This kind of attempt to pressure another nation into doing your will by squeezing them materially almost never does. It pretty much only ends up hurting innocent civilians. The economic sanctions imposed on  Serbian-controlled Yugoslavia during the Bosnian war didn’t make Belgrade stop supporting Bosnia’s genocidal Serbs. They just made life incredibly difficult for ordinary people, without changing the behavior of their leaders at all. Ditto the sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Ditto, for that matter, the bombing of civilian centers in World War Two. (There might be a case to make about sanctions having helped end  apartheid in South Africa, but to me that looks more like they at best hastened something that was inevitable anyway. Very different from these other situations.)

If anything, this kind of collective punishment tends to make the locals rally around their leaders, not seek their overthrow. There’s nothing to suggest Hamas is losing popular support in Gaza because of the blockade – probably the opposite. I don’t know what the solution is, but it’s pretty obvious the status quo just isn’t working, and never will.

One of the Gaza flotilla ships, impounded in Ashdod. Thanks,

Souder Resigns, Stoner Students Rejoice

18 May

Goodbye, Mr. Souder

I’m not only enjoying Republican Rep. Mark Souder’s resignation – after he was outed for having an affair with a staffer – because he’s another moral hypocrite caught in the act. I’m also delighted because now we can say goodbye to one of Congress’ most hardhearted and bullheaded Drug War cheerleaders. As the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim says,

“Souder championed and vigorously defended perhaps the least forgiving law on the federal books: the denial of federal student aid for any student convicted of drug possession, no matter how minor.”

That law cost at least 20,000 kids their student loans. Way to teach America’s youth a lesson, Mark.

McCain: “Build Pointless Border Fence!”

11 May

I don’t really expect John McCain to show the slightest shred of integrity in these desperate, perhaps final days of his career, but I was at least hoping for common sense. Nope. ABC News reports that McCain’s newest television ad “blames illegal immigrants for ‘home invasions [and] murders’ and calls for the completion of the ‘danged fence’ along the U.S.-Mexico border, reversing years of criticizing such a barrier.”

What’s infuriating isn’t just that the senator has reversed his once-sensible position on immigration in favor of the crudest kind of Mexi-baiting. It’s that this stupid fence doesn’t and won’t work. I pointed that out in Mother Jones when they started building it, and the guy who heads the program for the Department of Homeland Security recently confirmed it to the LA Times:

“The supposedly state-of-the-art system combining sensor towers, communication relay systems and unattended ground sensors has been bogged down with radar clutter, blurred imagery on computer screens and satellite time lapses that often permit drug smugglers and undocumented workers to slip past U.S. law enforcement agents, government officials candidly admit. “It was a great idea, but it didn’t work,” said Mark Borkowski, executive director of the electronic fence program at the Homeland Security Department.”

Mr. Borkowski, could you please have your people call Sen. McCain’s people?