Families of state prisoners plead with Cuomo to relieve crowded conditions and stop the spread of the Covid-91 virus.

Pressure is mounting on Governor Andrew Cuomo to actively protect state prisoners from the Covid-19 virus.

Practicing social distancing behind bars, where people line up for everything from showers to meals, and most conversation take place on a face-to-face basis is difficult, if not impossible.

191 persons joined a virtual news conference on March 30th-a startling large number. Parents and friends reported that the individuals locked up in state prisons were terrified.

A conclusion buttressed by a New York Times front page story on the same day Prisoners ‘Terrified’ as Coronavirus Spreads Behind Bars.”  The article warned the virus is taking its toll in prisons across the Country.

Failure to act, will turn “New York Prisons into death camps,” warned Jose Saldana the Director of Release Aging People from Prison the group that organized the news conference. Mr. Saldana was released from NYS prison in January 2018 after 38 years and four Parole Board denials.

His warning was reinforced by a letter signed by public health experts on Friday the 27th urging President Trump to commute sentences for the “medically vulnerable population including persons suffering from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, or cancer.”

Conditions in prisons are often compared to cruise ships or nursing homes that have become epidemic hot spots. “These people are housed cheek-by-jowl, they share toilets, showers, and sinks; they wash their bedsheets and clothes infrequently; and often lack access to basic personal hygiene items. Adequate medical care is hard to provide, even without COVID-19” the experts wrote in their letter.

Michelle Lynn spoke up at the news conference on behalf of her father Robert Lynn who is 73 and has been in prison for 37 years. His petition for clemency was filed in 2016; He could go home tomorrow if the Governor agreed.

Saying the virus forced his hand three days earlier, California’s Governor Gavin Newsom “commuted sentences of 21 California prison inmates — including 10 convicted of homicides— and granted pardons to five others” reported the Sacramento Bee.

New York City experienced a rapid rate of increase in Covid-19 cases Robert Cohen said at the new conference. The danger called for “immediate action” explained Cohen, a member of the New York City Board of Correction, and 12% of the City jail population was released.

According to David George, the media contact for Release Aging People, the Governor has been asked at new conferences about protecting state prisoners and said the matter is under consideration, but no decision had been reached.

 

 

Politics in the Pandemic

2020 is still the election year, and President Trump is still the master of the news.

Today’s masterpiece is a morning tweet-quarantine New York, by the evening it became a compromise: a travel warning stay away from disease-infested New York City. A message that is music to evangelical ears who see the metropolis as Sodom and Gomorrah.

It plays well to anti-Semites and anti-wall streeters who believe Jews, and Jewish lawyers from the City are robbing the United State.

And Trump gets their approval without uttering one word against Jews. In fact, it’s a no brainer for a Republican, New York City and Hollywood are the devil’s playground.

And that explains a larger trend, Trump’s approval ratings are rising to all-time highs, the disapprovals fall fast according to 538.com. Trump is gaining popularity about 200 days before the election.

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are sidelined, they are not actively involved in fighting a deadly plague. What’s worst it is becoming impossible for Biden to wrap up his majority. The longer he must wait the more uncertain his lead becomes.

Governor Andrew Cuomo made the latest move. The April 28 New York Democratic Primary will now take place on June 23 a few weeks before the Democratic Convention.

In the meantime, Andrew Cuomo has shut down New York City and enforcing social distancing before national cable audiences. His plain-spoken come-backs-Trump is “grossly incorrect and ill informed”-displays the sting of the Governor’s sharp tongue. The contrast between his crisp talk and Biden’s stumbling speech is bad news for the Democratic front runner.

According CNN, “Cuomo’s pressers have become mandatory viewing” in the White House. The “New York governor’s command and directness driving Trump’s own desire to use the briefing room every day to drive coverage of the coronavirus.”

Neither Biden or Sanders command anything. They are on the sidelines. Cuomo is debating Trump.

And with New York joining other states postponing primaries until June, Biden’s majority is being postponed.

And to make matters worst four women have complained Biden touched them in sexually distressing ways. Videos are circulating about “Creepy Uncle Joe.” Bad news for the candidate who can only win with a strong vote from woman.

Joe Biden’s super Tuesday voter surge is dissipating. Will the convention end up picking the Democratic candidate?

Will a woman or Governor Cuomo become the Democratic nominee? In a year of abrupt changes more are coming.

 

Proclaiming Victory

Proclaiming victory. The left should shout with pride-it’s a Bernie Sanders victory! His two candidacies arrived at an historic moment and given us the rebirth of a left-wing political force, well-financed, with the capacity to stay in the race and learn from its mistakes.

The result is awesome- the left has a future. After two presidential campaigns-an in-your-face unapologetic socialist movement had the support of about 3 in 10 of the people who voted in the Democratic primaries. This is the rebirth of the left as a significant political force. It’s an historic moment.

Even after victories, Joe Biden is looking over his shoulder to see if the pandemic will tip matters in Bernie’s direction. The left is a power in U.S. politics, it should savor its progress and pursue its campaign to make capitalism fair and just with renewed vigor.

The Corona Virus has made Medicare for all a national necessity. A first step is the $150 billion in the economic stimulus to help hospitals treat the surge in patients.

An obvious sign that this is historic moment is the abrupt return of the bi-partisan Congress. Remarkably the United States Senate is in a can-do mood. This Republican body where votes often divided on party line have unanimously passed the biggest economic aid package in history. The virus and public health warnings have united the warring political parties—historic.

Moreover the aid package includes key Democratic demands like increasing the miserly unemployment benefits, and money for income-tax filers. Passing in record speed again with Republican support.  Even Trump joined in.

Of course, Bernie has little to do with these changes. Events caused this new cooperation. But Republicans and Democrats adopted policies that are compatible with Bernie’s ideas. It’s a testimony to the validity of his ideas, just as the failure of his campaign to win the nomination is a reason to revise the left’s program.

Anticipating that unemployment applications would go through the roof, the Senate’s $2 trillion package boosted unemployment insurance payment by $600. This is a radical move. The national average unemployment benefit check reports the Washington Post is currently $385 a week, which is “less than half the typical weekly paycheck in the United States.” Supplementing this money, most income tax filers will be eligible for one-time payments of between $1200 to $2400 and $500 per child. This is compatible with a guaranteed income, the socialist alternative to welfare payments for those belittled as needy.

Bernie insisted his plans weren’t radical. It turns out he is right. Confronting a public health imposed recession, Republicans and Democrats responded by helping the wage earner. Sander’s values and politics are majoritarian.

The package started at one trillion and but to become law it reached $2T, the path to unanimity required spend, spend, and spend more. Traditionally Republicans have criticized this policy but practiced it, the Democrats usually opted for a balanced budget. Bernie was identified with those who thought government spending would increase wages and economic growth. When push came to shove everybody accepted this policy.

The day after Senate passage came the news that the United States had entered a new era-3.3 million wage earners had filed for unemployment insurance. It dwarfed a 38-year-old record from 1982 when 665,000 applied in one week. This number is a mere fraction of 3.3 million, another sign that we are in a historic era. In the space of three weeks the United States has gone from full employment at 3.5% to projections of 5% or more.

A sudden government imposed economic downturn is a new historic reality. Only time will tell if it brings an authoritarian or democratic result. One thing is certain the left will fight for a democratic result.

Bernie’s plea for Medicare for all met a vicious counterattack from Democrats. The stand patters claimed it would harm those with gold plated health insurance exploiting divisions within the Democratic Party. The attackers called themselves pragmatists and take pride in their political realism refused to recognize that this line of attack weakened the Democratic Party. These supposed realists created conflict when harmony is a wiser course.  Bernie’s policies often strengthen the party by uniting the prosperous and those struggling to make ends meet. This is an opportunity the pragmatists rejected. They asserted, it would never work, it would never pass. In a few short weeks, this political realism evaporated.

Bernie would bring those who have seen their living conditions stagnate back into the Democratic Party. This 2 trillion-dollar package creates such an opportunity for Democrats. Bernie would be wise to point this out and try to persuade the pragmatist to try idealism. Leadership from the left is possible.

The Corona Virus has shown that Bernie is right, big activist government is in the national interest and in the Democrat’s best interest. The left shouldn’t be shy about pointing out the political realism of their policies.

Normally, politicians believe the candidate who articulates an optimistic view of the future wins.

The Democratic Party has yet to take advantage of the left’s view that global warming represents a unique opportunity to move the United States into a prosperous future.  The pragmatist should embrace the policy of rebuilding the American economy so that is environmentally friendly. This is the path to economic prosperity, higher wages, and shorter work week giving Americans more hours of leisure.  This is the socialist nirvana that the Left can urge on the Democratic Party.

The left will have an opportunity when it comes time to restore the U.S. economy to press its objective. Party leaders would do well to see the essential realism in left-wing demands.

Bernie has started the ball rolling. Events have demonstrated that the Federal Government not private enterprise is the safety net.  Bernie offers an alternative.  It is more than a safety net, it should be the engine of prosperity and may be just maybe after we will restore prosperity and bring climate change under control.

 

 

 

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.