Aletho News


Desperate Drug War Beneficiaries Spread Marijuana Legalization Disinformation

Ron Paul Institute | September 6, 2014

While local and state governments continue moving forward with reducing and eliminating restrictions and penalties regarding marijuana, drug war beneficiaries are desperately responding by spreading disinformation. One such effort is the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Traffic Area August report “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact.”

The report purports to be a balanced analysis of the effects of marijuana legalization in Colorado. In fact, the report is over 150 pages of deceptive pro-drug war propaganda.

One may wonder how much time and money the HIDTA spent on researching, writing, and producing the professional appearing report. Whatever the cost, the HIDTA people must figure it is a good investment of other people’s money.

While the Rocky Mountain HIDTA and its private and government allies spent hundreds or thousands of hours creating the agitprop, drug war writer Jacob Sullum had no trouble promptly rebutting a good portion of the report’s conclusions and exposing some of the rhetorical trickery that made the report particularly deceptive. Nonetheless, singers of prohibition praise from Cully Stimson of the Heritage Foundation to DARE enthusiastically promoted bite-size packets of the report’s disinformation.

As explained by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 28 HIDTAs, including the Rocky Mountain HIDTA, assist United States, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in fighting the drug war in areas that include 60 percent of the US population pursuant to the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. While a lot has changed in America since 1988, the US government’s drug war keeps going strong.

With more and more state and local governments moving away from prohibition of marijuana and this trend showing no signs of reversing, the HIDTA people, along with their connected police departments and other allied drug war beneficiaries, must be having some job security concerns. Drug war arrests, and marijuana arrests in particular, after all, help keep the police busy. US News and World Report writer Steven Nelson reports some of the Federal Bureau of Investigation war on drugs arrest statistics:

Data released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation show there were an estimated 1,552,432 arrests for drug-related crimes in 2012 – a slight uptick from the 1,531,251 drug arrests in 2011. Marijuana offenses accounted for 48.3 percent of all drug arrests, a slight reduction from 49.5 percent in 2011, which itself was the highest rate since before 1995.

Most marijuana-related arrests were for possession of the drug. By mere possession, there was one marijuana arrest every 48 seconds in 2012. Including arrests for distribution, there was a pot-related arrest every 42 seconds, the same interval as in 2011.

HIDTAs (with their $238 million in ONDCP grants) and US, state, and local police (with their “policing for profit”  through drug war asset seizures) are not the only groups that benefit from marijuana prohibition. There are many additional beneficiaries including prosecutors who push defendants who typically lack comparable legal resources along the guilty plea conveyor belt, private and public prisons that cage drug war convicts, treatment centers where people with no addiction problem whatsoever will opt to take part in court-mandated treatment as an alternative to being in prison, and arms manufacturers who have found new income in police militarization.

While it is important to counter deceptive propaganda with truth and logic, there is little reason to expect that the Rocky Mountain HIDTA report and other propaganda efforts will stop the general American trend toward greater respect for the right to grow, use, transport, buy, and sell marijuana. On marijuana, America it seems has turned a corner, with the country moving toward a patchwork quilt of marijuana laws that overall are much less prohibitionary and punitive than the laws have been over the last few decades of the war on drugs. People are seeing firsthand that very significant loosening of marijuana restrictions in parts of the country did not cause the sky to fall. Indeed, people are seeing that marijuana freedom, despite the prohibitionists’ dire warnings and continuing disinformation campaigns, is not dangerous.

With marijuana use coming out of the shadows of illegality, people are more and more recognizing that individuals who use marijuana, on occasion or regularly, are not so different from people who do not. Reality is overtaking hype.

Marijuana freedom is nothing to fear. Instead, as Ron Paul Institute Chairman and Founder Ron Paul says, freedom “brings people together, whether you are liberal or conservative or what, because people like to be in charge of their own life; they like to be in charge of their own money.” Despite the efforts of the Rocky Mountain HIDTA and its prohibitionist allies, Americans are rejecting the government and private drug war beneficiaries’ propaganda and experiencing the benefits of “live and let live” over “arrest, fine, and incarcerate.” Hopefully, this lesson will help create paths to greater respect for other freedoms as well.

September 7, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

Israeli Eradication of History: Disappearing Mosques

By Jonathan Cook | Al Akhbar | July 9, 2012

The discovery of a rare aerial photo of Jerusalem in the 1930s, taken by a Zeppelin, has provided the long-sought after proof that when Israel occupied the Old City in 1967 it secretly destroyed an important mosque that dated from the time of Saladin close to the al-Aqsa mosque.

The destruction of the Sheikh Eid mosque – in an area widely considered to be the most sensitive site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – revives questions about Israel’s continuing abuse of Islamic holy places under its control.

The issue has been in the spotlight recently because of a growing number of arson and vandalism attacks by Jewish extremists on mosques in Jerusalem and the West Bank, in what are termed “price-tag” attacks designed to dissuade the Israeli government from making diplomatic concessions to the Palestinians.

Following the torching by Jewish settlers of a mosque near Ramallah two weeks ago, Dan Halutz, a former military chief of staff, admitted there was no political will to find the culprits. “If we wanted, we could catch them, and when we want to, we will,” he told Army Radio.

The question of whether Jerusalem’s Sheikh Eid mosque had survived up until modern times had been the subject of heated debates between Palestinian and Israeli scholars. The discovery of its location is not of only historic and academic interest. Earlier this year, before the aerial photo was unearthed, development at the spot where the mosque once stood led to damage of what was left of the building below ground, archaeologists now admit.

Israel’s Antiquities Authority, its chief archaeological institution, dug up the mosque’s remaining foundations and disinterred a human skeleton, believed to be Sheikh Eid himself.

The site of the mosque is next to the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), a raised compound of Islamic holy places that includes the al-Aqsa mosque and is flanked on one side by the Western Wall, a major Jewish prayer site.

Control over the Haram al-Sharif is contested by Israel, which believes that the mosques are built over two Jewish temples destroyed long ago. There is growing pressure from Jewish religious groups to be allowed to pray on the Haram al-Sharif, and some extremists have threatened to blow up the mosques so that they can build a third temple.

A provocative visit in 2000 to the site by Ariel Sharon, then leader of Israel’s opposition, backed by more than 1,000 police triggered the second intifada.

The remains of Sheikh Eid mosque were destroyed during excavations carried out as Israel prepares the area next to the Haram al-Sharif for the construction of a large visitor centre.

The plan is part of a series of changes by Israel to the area near the Western Wall that has been fuelling tensions with Palestinians. The alterations violate international law because Jerusalem’s Old City is occupied territory.

Benjamin Kedar, vice-president of Israel’s National Academy of Sciences, who discovered the old photo after searching archives in Germany, called the treatment of Sheikh Eid mosque “an archaeological crime.”

The mosque, which originally served as an Islamic school, built by Malik al-Afdil, one of Saladin’s sons, is said to have been one of only three such buildings remaining in Jerusalem from that period. Its provenance and location are described in a 15th-century document. After the burial of its most famous preacher, Sheikh Eid, two centuries later, it became a major pilgrimage site for Muslims.

The mosque, it now emerges, was destroyed during the wholesale levelling of the Mughrabi quarter of the Old City – a war crime that has been largely overlooked by historians – in the immediate wake of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Under cover of dark, Israel sent in bulldozers to clear the area, forcing nearly 1,000 Palestinian residents out so that a wide prayer plaza could be created in front of the Western Wall.

The plaza became the nucleus for the re-establishment of an enlarged Jewish quarter in the Old City, which is gradually encroaching on the Muslim and Christian quarters through the activities of settlers and armed guards assigned by the Israeli authorities to protect them.

The visitor center is the latest plan in a long-running campaign by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who is in charge of the Western Wall, to strengthen Israel’s hold on the area around the Haram al-Sharif, in what is seen by many Palestinians as an attempt to bolster Israeli claims to sovereignty over the compound of mosques.

The rabbi’s Western Wall Heritage Foundation oversees the Western Wall tunnels, which were opened in 1996 during current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous premiership. The opening sparked violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces that led to dozens of deaths.

The Heritage Foundation is also attempting to relocate the Mughrabi bridge, a ramp now used chiefly by non-Muslims and Israeli police to reach the al-Aqsa compound, to further expand the prayer plaza in front of the Western Wall.

The visitor centre, which would be built close to the Mughrabi bridge, has aroused opposition from a group of dissident Israeli archaeologists. Yoram Tzafrir a professor at Hebrew University, recently told the Haaretz newspaper: “It might be said that the demolition of the Mughrabi quarter in 1967 was necessary … to allow masses to reach the Western Wall – not to build a new [visitor] building.”

The Heritage Foundation has justified its activities by saying that excavations destroying Islamic history are necessary to unearth older, Jewish archaeological remains. In a statement referring to the Sheikh Eid controversy, it said: “Excavations in the area of the Western Wall are intended to reach the earliest levels possible. Clearly this cannot be done without destroying later periods, whatever they may be.”

The historic and current abuses of the Sheikh Eid mosque are reflected in Israel’s repeated dismal scores in international surveys on religious freedom.

In 2010 the US State Department published a report placing Israel in the same category as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Sudan. “Non-Jewish holy sites do not enjoy legal protection under [Israel’s 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law] because the government does not recognize them as official holy sites,” the report stated. The 1967 law stipulates a punishment of seven years’ imprisonment for anyone found guilty of desecrating a holy site, and five years for impeding access to a holy site. But Israel has given such status only to Jewish places of worship.

The State Department’s findings were confirmed last year in a freedom of religion index organized by US academics at Binghamton University, who awarded Israel a zero score.

The treatment of Sheikh Eid mosque has echoes of a current and more prominent dispute close by, in West Jerusalem, where Israel has approved a plan by the California-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre to build a Museum of Tolerance over the ancient Muslim cemetery of Mamilla, which includes graves believed to be those of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions.

Israeli media reported in 2008 that more than 100 skeletons had been unearthed and mistreated in excavations to prepare the site for construction work. The building of the museum has been delayed by financial problems caused by the global economic downturn.

While these high-profile cases have made headlines, violations of religious freedoms for the 1.3 million Palestinian Muslims living under occupation, who have citizenship, have gained far less attention.

The core grievance dates to Israel’s creation in 1948, when all land and property held in trust for the Muslim community was confiscated inside the borders of the newly established Jewish state. These properties – donated by generations of Palestinians to a waqf, or religious endowment – comprised not only holy sites and cemeteries but also schools, public buildings, shops and farmland.

After 1948, all of the waqf’s holdings, which constituted a tenth of the territory of the Holy Land, were seized by the state and, along with property belonging to more than 750,000 Palestinian refugees, passed to an official known as the Custodian of Absentee Property.

Only the mosques in the 120 Palestinian towns and villages that survived Israel’s establishment have continued to operate, though under strict supervision. Israel, which pays the salaries of mosque employees, controls all appointments and monitors sermons.

Some 500 other villages, which were emptied of their Palestinian population in 1948, have been razed, often along with any local mosques or churches.

In cities that are now almost exclusively Jewish, such as Tel Aviv, mosques and cemeteries were simply developed over. In one notorious incident, the large Abdul Nabi cemetery was passed to a development company in the 1950s and a five-star hotel and several housing complexes for Jewish immigrants built over it.

Most of the mosques that remained standing in the otherwise-destroyed villages have been desecrated, according to a survey undertaken by the Nazareth-based Human Rights Association in 2004. It found that these mosques, as well as Islamic shrines, had been made inaccessible, including to internal refugees living nearby. Some had been turned over to Jewish immigrants. For example, Caesarea, a former Palestinian coastal village that was transformed after 1948 into a wealthy Jewish community that is home to Benjamin Netanyahu, converted the Bushnak mosque into a restaurant.

Other prominent mosques in former Palestinian villages have been put to use as bars, night clubs, art galleries, shops, animal pens, grain stores and synagogues.

There is little that can be done to prevent such desecration in most cases because Israel’s 1978 Antiquities Law offers no protection to buildings dating after 1700.

Meanwhile, other, older mosques have been declared closed military zones, leaving them derelict. The beautiful Ghabisiya mosque in northern historical Palestine is fenced off and enveloped in razor-wire, while the Hittin mosque, built by Saladin in 1187 to celebrate his victory at the Battle of Hittin, close to the Sea of Galilee, has become a crumbling ruin, with refugees living close by forbidden to repair it.

Over the past 15 years, the two branches of the Islamic Movement have worked to identify and document the Muslim holy places that were destroyed and those that survived but are today off-limits.

It has also antagonised the Israeli authorities by leading a campaign to restore many of the most important sites. When the Islamic Movement helped a group of internal refugees from the former village of Sarafand, on the Mediterranean coast, restore their mosque in 2000, it was bulldozed overnight in still-unexplained circumstances.

Even rare successes in the Israeli courts have made little impact in practice. Last year the Supreme Court ruled that Beersheba council must use the city’s imposing and recently restored Grand Mosque as a museum to Islamic culture rather than a general museum, as the council had planned.

However, in March the Adalah legal centre for the Arab minority in occupied Palestine, which helped fight the case, complained to the Israeli attorney-general that the council had ignored the ruling and was using the mosque to stage an exhibition on British and Israeli rule in the Negev. It also noted that the council had staged a wine and beer festival in the mosque’s grounds last year.

Nuri al-Uqbi, a Bedouin activist who has led a long campaign to try to restore the Grand Mosque to a place of worship, said: “I felt horrified and furious at this violation of the mosque’s sanctity. In the mosque there are plastic dolls and models wearing British and Israeli uniforms, some of them in shorts, among other exhibits that are irrelevant to Arab-Islamic culture or tradition.”

Beersheba council has refused to provide a Muslim place of worship in the city, despite its being home to 1,000 Muslim families and daily drawing many Bedouin visitors from the surrounding Negev. Other legal efforts related to waqf property have also come to nought. In 2007 Palestinians living in the historic city of Jaffa, now a mixed Jewish-Arab suburb of Tel Aviv, unsuccessfully petitioned the district court to discover what had happened to local waqf property.

The government refused to divulge the information, claiming it “would seriously harm Israel’s foreign relations”. This was presumed to refer to the damage that might be done to Israel’s image abroad should it be revealed to what uses the waqf property had been put.

The case is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court.

However, all the signs are that the court is unlikely to be sympathetic. In 2009, after a five-year legal struggle by Adalah, the Supreme Court rejected a petition demanding that the 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law specifically include protection for Islamic sites.

While agreeing that Muslim holy sites were generally in a “miserable condition”, it said that the matter was too “sensitive” for it to issue a ruling.

Under pressure from the court, however, the Israeli government promised to spend $500,000 on the maintenance of Muslim holy places, a sum that has been widely criticised by the community as “pitiful.” The money will be allocated by the Israel Lands Administration, which according to Adalah lawyers, “has done nothing to prevent the desecration of Muslim holy sites and in many instances played an active role in their desecration.”

Restrictions on Muslims’ freedom of worship seem likely to intensify in the months and years ahead. Late last year Netanyahu gave his backing to a law that would ban mosques from using loudspeakers to call residents to prayer.

Observing that there had been many complaints about noise, Netanyahu observed: “The same problem exists in all European countries, and they know how to deal with it. It’s legitimate in Belgium; it’s legitimate in France. Why isn’t it legitimate here? We don’t need to be more liberal than Europe.”

Netanyahu had apparently forgotten that he was not in Europe and that the Muslims he was talking about are not immigrants but the native population.

July 9, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Partisan Confusion

By Kevin Zeese | Dissident Voice | March 28th, 2012

I was standing outside the U.S. Supreme Court holding a sign that said: “Single Payer Now, Strike Down the Obama Mandate.” It was the second day of argument on the Affordable Care Act. As I watched the crowds it was evident this was an organized partisan event.

As the Washington Post reports, the mandate was a Republican idea that originated with conservatives: “The tale begins in the late 1980s, when conservative economists such as Mark Pauly, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of business, were searching for ways to counter liberal calls for government-sponsored universal health coverage. Pauly then proposed a mandate requiring everyone to obtain this minimum coverage, thus guarding against free-riders…Health policy analysts at the conservative Heritage Foundation, led by Stuart Butler, picked up the idea and began developing it for lawmakers in Congress. The Heritage Foundation worked with then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R) to pass Massachusetts’ 2006 health reform law, which required all Bay State citizens to purchase coverage.”

Someone from the Heritage Foundation came up to us, wanting to take a photo of our sign. I asked him – does the Heritage Foundation oppose the mandate? He said “yes.” I told him that the idea came out of the Heritage Foundation. He looked confused, mumbled an unclear answer “not since 2006” and walked away.

Of course, Democrats opposed this Republican idea. They saw it for what it is: a massive giveaway to the insurance industry that will lead to their entrenchment and continued domination of heath care. The idea was used by Republicans to oppose the Clinton health plan. Of course, the Clinton’s opposed it. But, by the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton supported the mandate (by then the insurance industry was a big financial backer of hers), but candidate Barack Obama opposed it. One of his campaign advertisements said: “What’s she not telling you about her health-care plan? It forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can’t afford it, and you pay a penalty if you don’t.”

So, while I was out there watching groups like the National Organization for Women, who supports single payer favoring this pro-insurance law, as part of a coalition of Democratic Party aligned groups, I thought, what if President McCain had passed this law. My conclusion, we’d have the same people out here protesting, they’d just reverse sides. This was really not about healthcare, it was about Obama vs. the Republicans in this 2012 election year.

The people protesting followed their leader’s orders, said the chants they were told to say, and held the signs they were given to hold, but they were confused. When we talked to people on both sides the partisan confusion was evident.

My colleague, Margaret Flowers, asked two women carrying an Americans for Prosperity sign (a group opposed to Obama’s law) whether they were on Medicare. They said “yes.” “Do you like it?” Again, “yes.” “Do you know Medicare is a government program?” A confused look. “Do you know the Republicans want to end Medicare, make it into private insurance?” “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You probably support Obama”; and they started to walk away. “No, we oppose ObamaCare,” the women stopped and listened again, “We think everyone should have Medicare. Don’t you think it would be a good idea if every American could have the Medicare you have and like?” “Hmm, yes” then, more confusion in their faces.

Then, talking to the Democrats showed equal partisan confusion. I explained: “We oppose the Obama mandate because we want to end insurance control of health care. We support single payer, Medicare for all?” Response: “So do I.” I asked: “Single payer ends insurance, and Obama’s law entrenches insurance more deeply in control of health care, aren’t those opposites?” Response, obviously not understanding what ‘opposite’ means: “It’s a step in the right direction.” I ask: “How can it be a step in the right direction when it is going in the opposite direction?” No longer able to say it is the right direction, spouts another talking point: “This is the best we can get, we can build on this.” Me, trying to figure out what the Democrat thinks there is to build on, asks: “But, if we want to end insurance domination, how do we build on a law that is based on insurance?” Unable to explain it, the Democrat answers: “We can’t get what we want.” I say: “Of course, not, if people like you and organizations like yours who support single payer, spend their time advocating for the insurance industry, we can’t get what we want. But, if people who support single payer work for it we could.” Answer: “But, we have to re-elect President Obama.”

Partisan confusion reigned.

And, sadly partisan confusion dominates our airwaves as well. Of course, the right wing radio continues to attack Obama and confusingly calls a market-based, insurance-dominated health law socialism. But, sadly the “liberal” media sends out equal partisan confusion. We were able to go into Radio Row, where all the liberal radio outlets were interviewing “experts” on health care. The talking points, like in the conversation, were repeated and repeated. When one radio host wanted to interview me, really debate me since he was a Democratic apologist, I sat down. An organizer in the room asked the host to speak with her. She came back and told me I had to leave. This was private property and only people allowed to be here were allowed to be here. I explained I was invited by a station to be interviewed. She explained: “I tell them who to interview. The stations have slots and we fill them.” I asked: “Do you mean only people who support Obama can be interviewed.” She explained “The Republicans do it to.”

So, partisan confusion reigns and it permeates the airwaves leaving many people confused. We need to clear the FOG (Forces Of Greed) and get the truth on the air.

Despite all this supermajorities of Americans have consistently supported single payer, whether inaccurately called socialism or correctly described as “Medicare for all” 60% or more support it. Why? For the same reason that the great salesman President Obama and his superb marketing team have been unable to sell forced purchase of health insurance: Every family, business whether large or small; and every doctor or other health care provider have suffered insurance abuse. Two thirds of those who go bankrupt from a health problem have health insurance. The American experience is that health insurance is expensive, provides inadequate coverage and tries to avoid paying for health care. We all know this. So, no matter what the politicians say – Americans do not trust the health insurance industry.

But, one thing the two parties in Washington agree on – they will protect health insurance at all costs. After-all, they are a great source of campaign contributions – as the two politicians responsible for forcing Americans to buy insurance, President Obama and Mitt Romney, well know.

Kevin Zeese is executive director of Voters for Peace.

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Partisan Confusion