New York Going to Pot

January 3, 2019 / News / Crime & Courts
New York Going to Pot

BY NATHAN RILEY

On or about April 1, New York will go to pot. That was the conventional wisdom at a well-publicized mid-December Albany conference on legalizing recreational marijuana. That assessment was quickly confirmed by Governor Andrew Cuomo himself.

Making pot legal will be a prime objective of his third term, and things can move lickety-split. A Democratic governor with progressive Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate could advance the bill in the state budget, due on the first day of April.

That would be proof positive that ending the partisan gridlock between the Democrats and Republicans in Albany will will bring change — fast.

Cuomo has decided that his way to greet a new era is to reform the criminal law, create a new industry, and discover new ways to bring money into the state for badly needed programs. Legal adult use is expected to create all these benefits.

In a December 17 speech, the governor previewed his plans for New York. The criminal justice agenda would “address the forms of injustice” that befall minority residents — both by legalizing marijuana and ending cash bail. Imposing cash bail on people too poor to have the money leads their families to becoming victims of extortion or forces them to plead guilty to charges that the wealthy could fight. There are, Cuomo charged, two kinds of justice — “one for the wealthy and one for everyone else.”

Marijuana has had an outsized importance in the criminal justice reform push. Legalization both unlocks a forbidden pleasure and is a gateway for ending mass incarceration, a major cause of black and brown poverty.

In New York State, about 64 percent of the black and brown prisoners come from seven New York City neighborhoods: “Harlem, and the Lower East Side in Manhattan, South/ Central Bronx, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brownsville, and East New York in Brooklyn, and South Jamaica in Queens.” These men are parents and their families suffer because the primary wage earner is locked in prison based on coerced pleas. City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that neighborhoods with the lowest household income had the highest marijuana arrests rates. The State Health Department concluded that the benefits of adult use in combating this crisis of community poverty outweighed the longstanding objections to marijuana legalization.

What remains unresolved is one of the most contentious issues in the discussion: Where will the revenues from taxing legal marijuana go? With a fast start, it is expected that legal pot could bring in hundreds of million in the first year and nearly a billion to state and local governments annually going forward.

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That optimism is based on using the State Liquor Authority to administer the program. The SLA already regulates bars, retail sales outlets, and distributors for alcoholic beverages. Marijuana is not expected to bring greater problems than those already presented by alcohol, and many supporters believe it will improve the quality of life for many users. The SLA is in a position to jump-start legalization.

The coalition that supports legal adult use brought hundreds of people to Albany on December 11 and 12 under the leadership of the Drug Policy Alliance, the George-Soros-funded group that has called for a new drug policy since Ronald Reagan was president and whose importance keeps growing. The group is attracting additional interest because it won’t back away from its view that ending stigma and offering health care to opioid users includes legal access to heroin in safer consumption facilities where they would have medical supervision. That perspective is based not on the view that drugs are “bad” but rather that their consumption should be integrated into the public health system, allowing people to use drugs in ways that reduce harm.

Switzerland and Holland offer users heroin-assisted treatment. In Switzerland, only a few people choose heroin. Most users choose buprenorphine or methadone, which are both available to New York users. The intriguing fact about Switzerland is that nobody stays on heroin forever; users taper off at their own pace. The opioid crisis in the US remains deadly: since 2010 more 20,000 New Yorkers have died from an overdose after buying drugs in the underground economy.

It’s the firm conviction of the Drug Policy Alliance that legalizing adult use of pot alone will not end the drug crisis.

Joining the DPA in the Marijuana, Justice, Equity and Reinvestment Conference were Jim Capolino + Company, representing many entrepreneurs interested in legal marijuana, and the Katal Center, a group dedicated to ending mass incarceration. Other members of the Smart New York Coalition include public defenders, farmers, parents and friends of people who overdosed, and the staff of many state legislators.

By the end of December, Mayor Bill de Blasio offered his endorsement of legal pot, adding to the momentum for change. But the mayor flatly opposed giving the SLA authority to regulate marijuana. Even though the city’s nightlife industry attracts visitors from across the globe, de Blasio’s report claims the SLA “severely limits the ability of New York City to respond to alcohol-related quality of life issues that arise at the community level.”

At the Albany conference, one theme received constant play: that allowing localities to control the rollout brings delays and forces supporters to reargue the question in town after town. Even in communities where voters overwhelmingly support legal weed, local towns councils around the country are voting to opt out of legal sales. In Royal Oak, Michigan,, according to the Detroit Free Press, voters approved legal pot by a 70 to 30 percent margin, only to see the city commissioners vote 4-3 to prohibit marijuana businesses.

The big battle in Albany might not, in the end, be over SLA control, but rather over how to use the money. Should it be returned to seven city neighborhoods where the poor have long found their lives criminalized or should it go into a general pot for the billions needed to rebuild the subways and public housing?

Updated 9:07 am, January 3, 2019 published at gaycitynews.com

Tumblr’s Ban on Porn is Wrong

Hi

This message is for John Bothman, member of the Board of Directors of Tumblr. Please forward.

Dropping porn from Tumblr leaves me deeply offended. Like millions of others on Tumblr I found people as weird as I am. I’m 76 and like young men; Porn is not an option, it’s a source of profound pleasure. Without it my sexual life is drained of significant vitality. I’m not some lonely guy sitting in front of this computer. I enjoy sex with attractive vital men who enjoy fellatio including my best fellow a friend for 14 years. Porn is an important addition. It is the deeply pleasurable recollection of my pleasant affairs. At 76, my active sex life is a source of pride.

I am not alone there are millions like me whose histories are replete with orgiastic moments. I know that because we find each other on sites like Tumblr. To have our wishes and memories discarded precipitously and without just cause is offensive. A possible flaw in the decision-making is the sense of disgust that surrounds pornography because the practices often convert pain to pleasure and mutuality is forsaken for games of dominance and submission. But the spread of pornography is associated with widespread compassion for sex workers, the LGBTQ community, and recognition that in some respect most of us have queer habits when it comes to sex. The notion that porn is bad for us is controversial and improbable.

Parents all over the world live with the knowledge that their children watch porn and porn enables teenagers to have mature discussions with their school teachers and other students that advances sexual education. Far from being offended, many students exchange nude pics of each other, a practice that raises eyebrows but is in fact safe sex. There seems to be a predisposition towards pornography in this country as great as among the ancient Romans. Pornography has been around for centuries; a sign of the pleasure enjoyed by viewers.

Shutting pornography down is falling prey to the illusion that banishing the problem will make it go away. But it won’t because Tumblr and porn are so entwined that the website will lose an extraordinary number of users and the chief executive will be called to task for this loss of business. It won’t be forgotten; users like me will have an animus towards the site. Tumblr will remain mired in controversy. Tumblr’s prosperity will be called into question, and its reputation will suffer.

For make no mistake, this drastic action is giving aid and comfort to those who would revive anti-pornography laws and eviscerate the free speech decisions that made the industry legal and aboveboard.

And its revenues are in the billions. It employs all races, all income groups. Pornographers don’t ask if you graduated from school or went to prison they are looking for performers who can be sexually convincing. It offers work to people who face obstacles applying for other work. It’s a business to be regulated and responsive to public opinion like all others. Tumblr should not ban it.

There is a graceful way out. Before Government embarks on a change it asks for public comment. Tumblr would be well advised to consult its users and interested parties. These conversations will bring better policy outcomes and increased harmony.

Ocasio-Cortez Remains True to Her Left Roots

Alexander Ocasio-Cortez has a history of hard work; she fits my impression of the sharp NYC server who understands the power of looking good and acting smart. It makes us-the customer happy – while making the firm -her allies the Democrats-prosper.
AOC, her initials are becoming a shorthand identifying the fierce Representative from the Bronx and Queens, has solidified her reputation for drawing attention to critical issues and she did it before she was even sworn in. She attended freshman orientation and immediately made the new Democratic House of Representatives focus on a critical left-wing demand.
Her call for a “Green New Deal” will be debated. This catchy phrase pleases the old and the young; it combines climate change and jobs. Instead of environmentalist destroying union jobs, they would be creating new industrial jobs for the 21st Century. This slogan is a boast announcing that the radical is practical. Transforming ideas make political sense.
By doing this she is keeping her word to the groups that started her on the road to Congress. The Green New Deal is more than just a slogan, it calls for institutional change. AOC demands that the House create a Committee for a Green New Deal with broad jurisdiction that will command the attention of the nation and show that Democrats are more than words. “They will do something about Climate Change and creating new jobs.” And not only that they will create jobs, and if they are smart they will offer support to those in the fossil fuel industry who will lose jobs.
This aphorism about politics is worth remembering: everyone is in favor of better mouse traps except mice. It means there are two sides to every question. A political conflict is underway and if it results in a compromise then it seems worthwhile to remember we can come back to the issue. AOC’s Climate Change Committee causes problems; its jurisdiction would overlap with the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that will be chaired by Frank Pallone of New Jersey in January. And he is standing firm, and we don’t know how this conflict will end.
Ocasio-Cortez believes idealism is good politics. She understands her young supporters care deeply about righting wrongs. Democrats can benefit from this energy, but historically party leaders have dampened this enthusiasm leaving the left disheartened. AOC is challenging this faith that the center knows best, and she did it before she had taken office.
Her allies – the Sunrise Movement – grabbed headlines with a sit-in in Nancy Pelosi office including the demand that Democrats stop accepting contributions from the fossil fuel industry. A decision whose impact must be carefully weighed. Banning the producers of energy from petitioning their government through the Democratic Party is not an obvious solution. Making lawmakers think twice about accepting coal and oil contributions is a smart idea. To say a demand has problems is not to say it is bad. Resolving conflicting demands is a basic obligation of lawmakers.
The sit-in provoked a hysterical reaction. NY Times headlined, “A Left-Flank Protest on Day 1 Signals a Democratic House Divided.” A video shows AOC pledging “solidarity” with Speaker Pelosi, but the quotes never made it into the body of the story. The Times may have believed her statement were only boiler plate and the left was about to split the party. Pelosi remained calm. No arrests were made, and Pelosi may well have admired AOC’s easy manner with the demonstrator and her positive response to their passion. In the end it was the Intercept that got the story right. “Ocasio-Cortez’s break with decorum could, paradoxically, open up space for her to ultimately support Pelosi on the House floor.” And that is what happened.
Ocasio-Cortez backed Pelosi for Speaker noting that her challengers were all from the right.
This challenge dates back to AOC’s election that shook up the Democratic Party in New York City. She ran against Joe Crowley, the leader of the Queens Democratic Party and a front runner to replace Nancy Pelosi, the current leader of the House Democrats. Joe Crowley was fourth ranking member of the House leadership-a man with a future with millions in his war chests. His name is widely recognized in New York City and Washington.
At the start of this story AOC was tending bar in Union Square and and made a decision that will become the stuff of legends. She quit her job and went out into the freezing rain and emotional frenzy that was Standing Rock. There the cause of Native American rights got married to the environmentalist cry “no more fossil fuel.” A responsive government would conscientiously reduce carbon emissions that make earth hotter. The Indians were protesting the building of an oil pipe line from Canada south into the United States. The part of the pipeline that went through their land could leak and poison their water. It was a crazy project that meant wasting clean water to flush oil from tar sands. Any conscientious government would have forbidden it; instead Canada provided subsidies. Because the project was Canadian the State Department honchoed the licensing process for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and as the Obama administration entered its last months, it looked like the pipeline would be built and go right through the land of the Standing Rock Sioux.
Well the best tactic for the environmentalists was a protest and it had to be big, it had to be national because the target was the President to stop the pipelines. The Native Americans and their environmental allies camped out as the weather got colder tensions mounted. The demonstrators stood up to local sheriffs and Energy Transfer Partner’s security personnel amidst fears of a violent takedown. Observers thought demonstrators would be killed and local cops put out the story that they could be attacked.
In this cauldron, Ocasio-Cortez showed her stamina and ability to stay passionate while remaining analytical. She became a leader among people who are zealous about righting wrongs. She impressed enough people that they said why don’t you run for Congress. So she started off with nothing but a promise to be a left-wing candidate against Centrist Democrat Joe Crowley. But as a candidate she was blessed; she inspired her followers to work hard; when she met voters they were impressed. Grass roots organizing worked and she quickly became well known.
She picked her friends wisely including the graphic artists at Tandem NYC who designed the yellow poster showing AOC striking a heroic pose. On their website, Tandem NYC described their success: “Alexandria is bold and her aspirations were even bolder. If she pulled it off, we knew it would be representative of a larger movement so we didn’t shy away from highlighting that and we communicated honestly on her behalf.”

 

Graphics are a tool the unrich use to challenge establish authority. You don’t have to depend on TV with arresting graphics. Recall the silence=death posters from ACT-UP to remember how graphics can attract attention and arouse curiosity. And that is exactly what Ocasio-Cortez did. She was the women who made a living keeping customers cheerful and knew how difficult it was to pay rent and then clothe and feed a family. And the people who lived paycheck to paycheck were her people. That was the essence of her appeal, and she won handily spending $861,699 while Joe Crowley spent $3 million or more. It wasn’t money that made the difference it was effectively communicating using cell phones and emails to reach thousands and thousands of voter while collecting small donations from well wishers all over the City. Her supporters canvased neighborhoods in the Bronx and Queens.
Her election surprised and confounded the media. Her quest was written off, because of course Joe Crowley would win. The attitude was even worst. Media implied she was a hypocrite, a Latinx women running against a white man because the demographics of the District had changed-the Spanish-speaking were a majority. A ludicrous theory that supposed all Hispanics support each other and that whites only support their own. It implies that Ocasio-Cortez the anti-racist used racism to get elected. Reporting like this confounds idealism. Framing ideas in this way is bad for the country. It’s a burden on the idealists who are presumably going to lead us out of the present crisis.
The election on June 26 made the daily press look naïve. The Bronx Latinx neighborhoods that voted with the Bronx Democratic Party voted for Joe Crowley honoring their agreement to back him. White neighborhoods in Queens excited by a new left candidate who shared their passion for an idealistic government turned out for the exciting woman from the Bronx who understood and practiced small d democracy. Her margin of victory was huge 15%. It was a landslide that energized the left and made Ocasio-Cortez a national political leader.
And in the first week in D.C., she was talking to demonstrators conducting a sit-in and backing their demand a Committee be selected that will promote a Green New Deal. She refused to turn it into an anti-Pelosi moment. She pledged solidarity and if Pelosi becomes Speaker she would back her. It caused the NY Times reporters to say the crazies wanted to take over the Party, but other realized that AOC tapped into the energy of thousands of young voters. Democrats should be eager to keep them happy.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants the United States to become a social democracy like the governments in Europe, and she stands for a fierce presentation of the ideas on the environment and income security. The tensions between these new Democrats the progeny of Occupy Wall Street and the Bernie Sanders campaign will play out in the next two years. Democrats should want these voters on their rolls, and if they push them away the U.S. may find itself with a third party that is anti-imperialist and seeking big government expenditures to correct social inequality. A split in the Democrats could leave the Trumpites in charge for years. Democrats must heed this call for transformational leadership.

Iron Law of Prohibition at Work in Overdose Death Epidemic

72,000 overdose deaths is the latest Center for Disease Control estimate for 2017. It’s a huge number; more deaths than AIDS took in a single year. Beyond speaking of increasing support for vague “public health” measures, the New York Times story blamed substances more than policies for this painful failure.

But drug war opponents do blame criminal justice. It’s called the iron law of prohibition: the greater the intensity of law enforcement, the higher the potency of the drug. A former director of NORML in 1986, Richard Cowan, summed it up “the harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs.”

When alcohol was prohibited, beer and wine disappeared, and the bootleggers made gin often described with gallows humor as “bathtub gin” industrial alcohol mixed with flavoring in a tub that on occasion poisoned the drinkers.

Today the poison is fentanyl ordered on the internet from China and delivered in packages like the thousands of other items. Of course, if we had friendly relations with this emerging power we could negotiate restrictions, but under Trump such requests are impossible.

The kick this drug adds to heroin and lately to stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine is an example of the iron law.  None of these drugs are made with any protection for the consumer. Different policies can produce different results.

In 2015, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction published comparative statistics for overdose fatalities. Portugal which decriminalized all drug use in 2001meaning drug users and their street level suppliers no longer fear arrest or police intrusions had 3 overdose deaths for every million citizens. The second lowest rate. Clearly decrim hadn’t caused the disaster of increased use and endangering children that the prohibitionist warns will happen if police are replaced by public health officials.

The European average overdose deaths per million was 17.3, the United Kingdom was way above average at 44.6, while for the Dutch it was 10.2

In the United States, using a different statistical base from the UN Office of Drug Control, in 2015 the death rate was 245.8 per million people between the age of 15 to 64 [https://www.statista.com/chart/9973/drug-related-deaths-and-mortality-rate-worldwide/].

August 31 is International Drug Overdose Awareness Day and the United States is pledged to increase treatment and access to overdose prevention medicines while also increasing police enforcement.

The iron law of prohibition suggests the increasing the intensity of law enforcement and implementing tolerant public health measures will conflict or an even create worst public health problem.

With desperate brevity, the current problem in the U.S. can be examined under this lens. In 2000 when doctor prescriptions for pharmaceutical opioids were high and before warnings spread that doctors oxycontin pills caused addiction, the pills were easily diverted. But 20-20 hind sight reveals opioid related overdoses were low during this unregulated era.  As restrictions on pharmaceutical supplies increased overdose deaths started to increase.

The overdose deaths examined in 2000 were traced to pharmaceutical pills, by 2010, pharmaceuticals were a declining cause while heroin was on its way up. People who formerly depended on pills had become injecting heroin users. In 2000 deaths from fentanyl were virtually non-existent by 2017 it was the major problem and what’s worse fentanyl is now mixed with meth and cocaine making these stimulants surprise killers. This is the paradox of the iron law, when pharmaceutical pills were easily found, there were overdoses, but history makes it clear the level of overdoses deaths were low, and public health measures could have kept this number down without any police involvement.

Today the drug war is renewed by alarm over overdose deaths, Sheila Vakharia Phd a Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance reports that stimulants are a growing cause of overdose deaths. The CDC’s latest national overdose data [https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm] – for the period between December 2015 and December 2017, she wrote in an email, showed “cocaine-involved overdose deaths  went from 6,841 to 14,058 (over doubled) and methamphetamine-involved deaths went from 5,777 to 10,523 (80+% increase).” In NY state over the same period “cocaine-involved overdose deaths went from 354 to 690 (almost double- 95% increase) and methamphetamine went from 36 to 133 (269% increase!!).” This problem is not going away.

What should have been done around 2000 when it was discovered pharmaceuticals were being used by drug users was an intensive education campaign about how to recover from overdoses and instruction on how to minimize harm from using the pills.  A long-range strategy would also have looked at why these pills were becoming attractive to users while regulators attacked the false advertising of Purdue Pharma. One reason for the increase in addiction is that users thought pills were safer than injecting heroin.

This perception is correct but these pills being legal could also be controlled with relative ease and that is exactly what happened; the pills were cutback and users started injecting heroin and then dealers started cutting heroin with fentanyl and we really saw deaths explode reaching the 72,000 figure.

Enforcement also creates other problems. So-called synthetic marijuana, it’s plant matter that isn’t pot and why this is critical will become apparent shortly. What gets a person high is spraying a chemical, designed to mimic pot but never tested for safety, on the plant matter.

This is another way enforcement enters the picture. Synthetic marijuana is potent but cheap, $2/3 for a joint that can get a person high most of the day because one toke makes most people blasted. This makes it attractive to the homeless and it is also attractive to people on parole (who are often homeless) who are drug tested constantly, but because the chemical that is sprayed hasn’t been labeled illegal by the DEA and can be sold legally. And what this means if the parolee is drug tested, he or she is listed as clean. Surveillance of drug users follows the iron law, it makes user seek ever more dangerous and potent substances

Criminalizing a person’s intimate habits is a bad even fatal idea.

And let us conclude with a great leap of faith. Opposing the prosecution of users and their dealers is something that conventional politicians like Andrew Cuomo support reluctantly, while the inexperienced politicians like Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout are proving to be open minded about new methods of coping with drug use. From this perspective their inexperience becomes an asset.

Warren Demonstrating She is the Leading Candidate to Replace Trump

A Senator, whose reelection campaign is eclipsed by speculation about her running to replace Donald Trump breeds a certain impatience, a smart alec scoffing “what makes her so special.”

One way to meet this challenge is with oration, a deft presentation of ideas. This is what Elizabeth Warren did with a rousing speech to the democratic wing of the Democratic Party at the Netroots Convention. These activists support candidates who reject corporate money and are fed up with neo-liberalism and its failure to energize much less offer substantive benefits to the 99%.

Her remarks in New Orleans weren’t off the cuff, the speech was prepared — an optimistic program for uniting the left with their uneasy compatriots in the center.

Her compelling argument for unity spells out left wing principles but with a presentation that commands the respect from more traditional Democrats. In this reading, she addresses how she would govern. It’s only a sketch but it displays a clarity that hold out the promise that would make her a leader of Congress and the nation

The Senator has close ties to these political geeks, she reminded her audience that Netroots pressed Congress to pass the Consumer Financial Protection Board, her brainchild as a Professor at Harvard Law School.  The scholarly article captured the popular imagination with this persuasive argument — consumer protection agencies safeguard children from dangerous toys or make cars safer for adults and children, but no agency protected the public from dangerous financial agreements.

The CFPB wasn’t created “just because a professor had a good idea.” Warren called it “an uphill fight. Wall Street spent more than $1 million a day lobbying against this agency.  They called in every favor, pulled every string, hired every lobbyist they could find, trying to stop us.”

“But we beat ‘em.”

“We built a broad coalition of people” and that is the grand object of her speech, creating a “broad coalition” that will turn the November midterm election into a blue wave putting Democrats back in power.

But her unity isn’t of “can’t-we-all-get-along” variety. In this era of Trump, she calls it a “fight.” The “question, hanging over people’s heads, determining their fate: Who does government work for?

“The powerful corporations – the banks, the credit card companies – that had ruined these families’ lives just to make a few extra bucks?  They were getting away with it because those who ran the government weren’t willing to stand up for working people.”

She promises that behind closed doors she will fight for the many not the few. A promise she kept with a new bill that requires America’s billion-dollar corporations to put employees on their board of director.

Her respect for the left and her opposition to corporate greed makes her different from Democrats who plead for unity and while asking the left to tone it down and be “realistic.”

Her message is the opposite, the people united can emerge victorious and wrest control from the rich and powerful.

Like Abraham Lincoln, who described his childhood as “the short and simple annals of the poor,” Warren has distilled her upbringing into the pithy phrase, “I grew up in Oklahoma on the ragged edge of the middle class.” Saving nickels, her family made the down payment on a home, and then her father’s heart attack left him too frail to earn a good wage in a strenuous job. The bills piled up, fear cast a pall over the family, foreclosure loomed, her mom at 50 went to work for a minimum wage.

The pain and tension of life on the “ragged edge” remains seared in Warren’s memory. One morning, she went into her parent’s bedroom, and “my mother had out her best black dress.  You know the dress. It’s the one that only came out for weddings, graduations, and funerals.  She was crying.  She kept saying: ‘We will not lose this house.  We will not lose this house.’ She was fifty years old.  She’d never had a regular job.”

One obstacle facing the Senator is uncertain black support. It is my opinion that Elizabeth Warren can go to any black church or meeting and tell this story and walk out having establish a bond with her audience. She evokes the fear, recognizes the courage it takes to overcome the helpless feeling as bills pile up faster than the paycheck. These are experiences that unite the races, experience common to millions of Americans.

She also joins hands with Black America and repeatedly damns “racist law enforcement” and its spawn the war on drugs. She ties her support for legal pot to larger changes in the criminal justice system.

From her life story Warren’s point of view shifts, “For a long time, I thought this was a story about my mother.  About her courage, and her grit.” But “I came to understand that story…is also a story about government. When I was a little girl, minimum wage was enough to cover the basics for a family of three.”

Warren brings the message home, it’s the left-wing version of Make America Great Again. “When I was a little girl, minimum wage was enough to cover the basics for a family of three.  Today, a full-time minimum wage doesn’t pay the rent on the median two-bedroom apartment in any state in America.” The job that “saved my family fifty years ago wouldn’t even keep a mama and her baby out of poverty today.”

It wasn’t that long ago the government, “the guys in Washington set the minimum wage based on what it would take to support a family.” Today “Republicans who run the show make decisions like that based on what would maximize the profits of the big corporation.”

Unlike Bernie her fellow lefty Presidential contender, she isn’t locking in a number–$15— as salvation, but a principal, a welfare state principal: a just society supports a family. There are many ways to get there—low rent housing, higher minimum wage, healthcare with no co-pays or insurance premium—financed with higher taxes but government must have a realistic plan for insuring that people earn enough to pay their basic bills. Bernie of course support these policies, but he focuses on grievances and anger.

Warren emphasizes policy and applaudes the courage to fight the influence exerted by the rich and powerful. By highlighting the goal of establishing a minimum income that supports a family she is giving Congress and bureaucrats a clear goal that voters can rally behind.  This is the mark of an effective executive.

Warren and Sanders will muster the moral force of the government on behalf of housing, feeding and dressing families. Bernie’s urge is to mobilize public opinion and bring about a revolution. He reflects the sound judgment that when the top 1% have as much wealth as the bottom 90% there is surplus wealth that should be taxed. This approach has the advantage of turning higher taxes into a social justice issue.

What feeds his revolution is focusing on how unfair it is that so few should have so much. Sanders appeals to people’s anger with the wealthy, Warren appeals to people’s courage urging them to fight back. And like Bernie, she reminds everybody if the electorate unites, “the high and the mighty” can be “beat.”

Warren is more artful and turns conservative arguments on their head. The Supreme Courts Citizen’s United decision held corporation are persons with rights including making campaign contributions, Warren adds theyh also have obligations. Her latest project is a bill requiring giant corporation be federally chartered to honor their obligations as citizens to employees, the environment, and social well-being.  This is an argument for the Accountable Capitalism Act. In an email blast, she reminds us this approach won’t cost the taxpayer a penny but it would give workers 40% of the seats on the Board of Directors of America’s largest corporations.

Bernie has a greater propensity to offend moderate Democrats who often turn to the rich for campaign contributions. What Warren understands and Sanders glosses over, no progress can be made unless both wings of the Democratic Party remain united.

It is here that Warren displays a knack that resembles Lincoln’s great accomplishment, he kept the Republican Party united by identifying a legal argument against slavery. The Federal Government had no authority to end bondage in the states, but its legal reach did extend to the West where no state governments had been created. This argument against slavery expansion kept the pro-Southern Republicans from New York City and the abolitionist working together and enabled the newly created Republican Party to take the White House

Creating a viable coalition is a critical task for any President and the Netroots speech demonstrated Warren’s appeal to the left wing of the Democratic Party even as she was making an appeal to moderate Democrats to stay loyal to the Party.

How is it that the few can command the many, she demanded? “What is it about our politics that prevents our government from working for working people?  How come the majority never gets to rule in Washington anymore?”

There is the power of money “because of Citizens United and the revolving door between industry and government, money doesn’t just talk in Washington.  Money shouts, money screams, money commands.  And a lot of politicians – on both sides of the aisle – follow the money.”  Let’s pause and focus what makes Warren different from other Democratic candidates: “politicians – on both sides of the aisle – follow the money.” She isn’t a Democrat who blames the Republicans for everything, and she implies that she would damn Democrats opposing her policies as unprincipled hirelings of the rich.

Another reason the wealthy impoverish working families, “Republicans have conspired to rig the rules of democracy itself – using everything from partisan gerrymandering to voter suppression to the census.  Thanks to their years of work, the system is badly tilted. The majority is cut out of government because Republicans create election districts only they can win.”

Democrats will “have to fight uphill the whole way.  But we are not without power.  We are not without hope.  And we are certainly not without motivation.”

The most immediate solution and the one that is cured by elections is getting working people united. “The rich and powerful learned that the best way to stop us from changing the system is to set working people against each other. So they’ve become experts at the politics of division.  Frankly, it might be the one thing Donald Trump is good at – well, that and kissing up to two-bit dictators.”

The politics of division, “Trump’s story” like the left’s maintains “working families keep getting the short end of the stick” but they never accept responsibility for “the decisions he and his pals are making every day in Washington. No, the problem is other working people.  People who are black or brown.  People who were born somewhere else.  People who don’t worship the same, dress the same, talk the same as Trump and his buddies.”

“They want us pointing fingers at each other, so we won’t notice their hand in our pockets!”

Warren is taking an early lead in the Presidential race because she has better ideas than the other candidates and promises to use the ideas to mobilize Congress and the voters.

 

 

 

 

New NYS Push Against Hepatitis C

BY NATHAN RILEY | Health advocates are making a concerted push to raise awareness of a disease about which many people are uniformed despite its growing prevalence: hepatitis C.

July 28 was World Hepatitis Day, with the World Health Organization focusing its efforts around the theme: “Test. Treat. Hepatitis.” And, now, New York State has started a Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force, announced July 27 by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The outbreak in the state is gathering force, and the best practices advice is now that when you get tested for HIV, get tested for hep C, as well. That’s not because of any specific link between the two epidemics, but rather due to the ease of managing your health care. In fact, many people who don’t consider themselves at risk for HIV could be infected with hepatitis C. Right now, such testing requires that a person ask for it.

Cuomo responds to evidence treatable infection growing among young people

In 2016, an alarming 14,745 new HCV infections were reported in New York — more than five times the number of new HIV diagnoses for the same year.

There is no obvious warning; a person infected with HVC can be otherwise healthy. The virus can hang out in the liver for years and cause no obvious discomfort.

New York State is responding with a new plan to unravel a critical dilemma, with public health officials estimating that half the infected population doesn’t know it. That problem carries a two-fold risk. First, hep C is treatable, so a person not knowing their status can unnecessarily harm their health. Treatment simply involves completing a regimen of medication and the virus disappears. An untreated person can also spread the disease.

The success in combating hep C is remarkable for a disease that wasn’t even identified until 1989. HCV lurks in the body and the blood. It was even spread by blood transfusion before it was identified.

Until recently, public health officials focused on populations 45-65 and older, many of whom have now received treatment and so are not infecting others. The assumption was that HCV infection incidence was declining.

That optimistic scenario is now outdated. The disease has spread, and young people are testing positive for it.

There are many ways to become infected, but the activists from VOCAL-NY and Housing Works that prodded Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Health Department to prioritize the battle against HCV are active in keeping drug users healthy, through needle exchanges and other interventions. Injecting drugs is clearly one path for new infections, but so are needles in badly run tattoo parlors and straws shared while snorting drugs. The delay in authorizing Safer Consumption Spaces, where drug users can inject under the supervision of health care workers who provide harm reduction information, is one of the stumbling blocks to effective prevention efforts.

HCV infections can’t always be traced to a particular behavior because, unlike HIV, the hep C virus can live outside the body. State health officials advise that it isn’t easily sexually transmitted, but risks increase if partners have tears in their skin. It is also possible that infection can result from something as simple as sharing a toothbrush, given the virus’ resiliency outside the body.

The bottom line: get tested, and the only way to get tested is to ask for it. Every city sexual health clinic will test you for free. Go and ask for the full complement of STD tests, including for HIV, and tell them to test for HCV also. No appointments are necessary. If you visit your doctor’s office, insurance will pay for the test. But, again, your doctor is unlikely to suggest the test. You need to ask for it.

On my last visit to the city’s Riverside sexual health clinic on West 100th Street following a syphilis contact, I was in and out in an hour.

The rise in infections among 18- to 29-year-olds is particularly worrisome, that group including as it does women of child-bearing age. Infected young people, if untreated, will face major health problems later in life. Left untreated, HCV infection can be fatal.

The cost of hep C treatment keeps falling, and in the face of the epidemic barriers to treatment are toppling. The new rule is that if you test positive, you get the treatment — patients must no longer demonstrate that their infection has become serious.

New York State is now taking the epidemic’s resurgence seriously, providing money to Medicaid to cover treatment costs and allowing needle exchanges and similar service providers to become part of the testing network.

The state plan is the first in the nation “to take up the challenge,” said Housing Works CEO Charles King. Referring to Cuomo, King said the plan is “very much in line with his commitment in 2014 to end AIDS as an epidemic in New York State.”

This is an epidemic that affects heterosexuals as much as members of the LGBTQ community. Getting tested and then taking the medicine will cure the disease and eliminate the risk of transmission. Word of mouth always helps battle epidemics, so passing the information along to friends is a positive step everyone should take.

This article was posted on GayCityNews.com on August 2, 2018

Racial Bias Found in Westchester Pot Arrests

BY NATHAN RILEY | The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to marijuana enforcement in New York City’s suburbs.

Black and brown people are singled out for marijuana possession arrests in Westchester County, according to studies by the Drug Policy Alliance and suburban civil libertarians.

A new study of Westchester arrests found racial disparities comparable to the ones that mar city enforcement and provide evidence that legalization of pot would provide real benefits to communities of color.

Suburban county’s law enforcement pattern mirrors NYC’s

Per 100,000 people in Westchester, 15 whites but 182 blacks and 84 Latinos were arrested for possessing pot. Some portion of those people of color arrested face the risk of deportation as the result of this enforcement pattern.

The study, prepared by Kathy Kaufman of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform, found that between 2013 and 2017, one in 63 of Westchester’s black adult residents was arrested on a low-level marijuana possession charge — a probability of arrest for black people that was exceeded only by Suffolk County outside of New York City.

Young people of color were arrested more often than white youth, burdening them with a criminal record.

“Between 2013 and 2017, Westchester police arrested 1,059 youth under 20 years old for low level marijuana possession, accounting for nearly one in three (29 percent) arrests on that charge County-wide,” the study found. “Fifty-eight percent — a total of 2,322 people — arrested for low-level marijuana possession in Westchester County were 25 years old or younger.”

The report “Marijuana Arrests and Enforcement in Westchester County: A New York Story” sustains the argument recently advanced by the State Health Department that legalization would communities of color because an “emerging body of research” shows that “the risks to public health and social wellbeing of legalizing marijuana are smaller than previously thought” and the “the detrimental effects of the current marijuana enforcement regime” cause more harm than the alternative of making pot available for adult use.

The Westchester study was funded by the Drug Policy Alliance as it pushes for passage of laws to tax and regulate marijuana sales as is currently done in California, Colorado, and Massachusetts.

This story was posted on August 2, 2018 at GayCityNews.com