June 10, 2008

Bob Barr Sees the Light . . .

And recants his drug-warrior ethos:

For years, I served as a federal prosecutor and member of the House of Representatives defending the federal pursuit of the drug prohibition.

Today, I can reflect on my efforts and see no progress in stopping the widespread use of drugs. I'll even argue that America's drug problem is larger today than it was when Richard Nixon first coined the phrase, "War on Drugs," in 1972.

America's drug problem is only compounded by the vast amounts of money directed at this ongoing battle. In 2005, more than $12 billion dollars was spent on federal drug enforcement efforts while another $30 billion was spent to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders.

The result of spending all of those taxpayer's dollars? We now have a huge incarceration tab for non-violent drug offenders and, at most, a 30% interception rate of hard drugs. We are also now plagued with the meth labs that are popping up like poisonous mushrooms across the country.

While it is clear the War on Drugs has been a failure, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that reality. We need to look for solutions that deal with the drug problem without costly and intrusive government agencies, and instead allow for private industry and organizations to put forward solutions that address the real problems.

It gives me hope that my brain won't get calcified when I'm his age.

h/t: Memeorandum.

Posted by Attila Girl at June 10, 2008 03:22 PM | TrackBack

I don't know about privatizing drug rehab programs.... Why not a government-funded system, available to everyone, that provides real treatment and diversion and recovery rather than insanely punitive measures designed to boost the prison complex and its profit margins?

Not everything government-funded is bad. And the open market is not the answer to every problem. Too often, a free market solution means that poor people get nothing, or get the McDonalds version of the solution.

McRehab is not going to be good enough, perhaps especially for the poor, those with more reason to fall into despair-induced drug use in the first place.

Every dollar spent on drug treatment, or on education, or on preventive medicine, or on literacy programs for prisoners, or on similar projects, produces a SEVENFOLD return in the form of lower recidivism, shorter parole times, lower rates of AIDS and other expensive health problems, and higher taxes paid back into the system. 7 to 1. Pretty good odds.

Let's just pay for proper rehab, instead of turning it over to some insurance beancounter's bottom line.

Posted by: Rin at June 10, 2008 04:49 PM

I'm sorry, Rin. You're quite right. It's usually government-run institutions that are most responsive to people's needs. I mean, there's the Post Of . . . wait. Well, there are the public sch . . . oh, darn. Of course, Housing and Urba . . . the Dept. of Comm, the IRS, the Department of Educa . . . hm.

Well, I'm sure there's something out there that supports your argument. As soon as I can think of it . . .

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 10, 2008 06:28 PM

The only methods I can see that would reduce drug use in the US are unacceptable from a Constitutional viewpoint.

Our criminal justice system cannot even keep criminals serving time from getting drugs. If that goal is out of reach, then keeping drugs out of anything even remotely resembling a free society is AFI (absolutely impossible).

Posted by: John at June 11, 2008 04:07 AM

Certainly there is a certain inefficiency in government programs... but that's not inherent in the concept of government programs, but in their implementation. Just as religion is often used to justify torture, oppression, and murder, but those practices are not inherent in the concept of religion.

A well-run government program, funded efficiently by taxpayers pooling their money for the good of the community, is the most effective way to get services to the bottom tiers of the society, fairly, impartially, universally.

For-profit enterprises would serve the top tiers well, obviously. Private hospitals, schools, and rehab clinics are lovely and effective.

But the corporate world has not shown much interest in taking care of the little guy. They don't provide decent wages or insurance or safe working conditions, beyond the level to which the government forces them to rise.

The very purpose of a corporation is to maximize profits while minimizing costs. How well will that serve an impoverished teen drug addict with no assets?

I'll agree all day long that government programs have had serious flaws and have produced serious frustrations in those they should have served. But that doesn't mean that it is impossible for government programs to be efficient, well run, cost effective, and -- because they don't operate on a profit motive -- far superior to private services.

Medicare is an example, by the way. It runs at an overhead of something like 4%, while private insurance providers-- which have to make the CEOs and shareholders rich, and must therefore minimize outlay while jacking profits -- run at an overhead of 30+%.

Let's make government programs better, not shrink government's ability to fund programs so much that it can be drowned in a bathtub.

Posted by: Rin at June 11, 2008 09:26 AM

Rin, I wasn't suggesting that the ideal rehab programs are for-profits; I was suggesting that the idea rehab programs are sensibly run nonprofits--usually composed of those who have directly experienced the problem they are trying to solve.

I think it's much better to have members of the community controlling these efforts, rather than government bureaucrats. I agree that for charity work, the nonprofit model is more practical. Of course, a lot of the people who do this kind of outreach do in fact have some kind of religious faith, so that has to be factored in: do we fund the churches and synogogues who are back these efforts with public money? Or do we let them do their own fundraising?

Given how generous Americans are, if we keep taxes as low as possible it will keep a lot of charities/nonprofits healthy.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 11, 2008 10:22 AM

Run by people in the trenches, I can understand. Funded by individual choice seems more risky.

Everyone gives to the cute-baby rescue fund. How many people give to the HIV-positive hooker who needs rehab for heroin fund?

One advantage of government funding and oversight is that a program has to be equally available to all, regardless of whether s/he's nice, religious, smart, or useful to society.

If a private or religious organization will provide help indiscriminately, to all who need it, regardless of affiliation or background or personality, then I'm ok with government funding of that program. Otherwise, the government has to organize its own programs and provide services to all, even the unseemly.

The faith-based initiatives programs of the Bush administration took my tax money and gave it to programs that limited services to members of certain groups (and helped build conservative mega-churches along the way). That's not an ok way to spend my money.

Posted by: Rin at June 11, 2008 10:33 AM

"Helped build conservative mega-churches"? Source? I'd never heard that the mega-churches were linked with faith-based initiatives.

Speaking of faith, your faith in the government (and therefore, possibly, in human nature) is touching.

My argument for faith-based programs--particularly WRT problems like severe drug addictions and homelessness--is that they are often in the best position to make demands from their clients that the actual behavioral component in their problems actually change. The government cannot do that (again, as John points out, if we are assuming we want to live in a free society). Only religion (or some kind of belief system) can really make that demand.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 11, 2008 11:01 AM

only faith makes rehabilitation possible?

I don't think I buy that!

in an enlightened society, one in which more-or-less healthy people have access to jobs and dignity and forward movement toward happier lives, even a total athiest can be persuaded to kick his addiction and try for a better life

(with, I suppose, the threat of prison as a quiet motivator if he doesn't -- and a free society can still be one with punishments for bad behavior)

It shouldn't take a belief in God to be able to believe in or work toward a better life on earth.

Posted by: Rin at June 11, 2008 11:53 AM

You might want to read the first third of the Alcholics Anonymous "big book," less as a sort of literal statement about the nature of addiction, but as (1) a history of one of the great American contributions to world culture (Kurt Vonnegut placed it above jazz music!); and (2) a document about the nature of human transformation; pay particular attention to the work of William James as it influenced the thinking of the Oxford Group, and the chapter "We Agnostics."

It's a quaint work, but it certainly had flashes of amazing insight.

You and I share the same goals, but I

- do NOT want the state punishing people simply for having addictions, and

- do NOT want a entity with the coercive power of the government to be in charge of anyone's attempt to transform his or her life. That is placing too much power into hands that are already powerful enough.

Talk to Jack about this--I do believe that AA was the beginning of a transformative moment in his life. The insistence that there be a "higher power" in one's life does not equate to an a belief in God qua God, but only an admission that where one's addiction is concerned, one doesn't have all the answers.

A lot of people are furious that judges send people to AA, and therefore violate the "separation of church and state." But if the state is going to have a dog in this fight, it must be by finding out what grassroots approaches are already working--and assisting them--rather than forcing change from above.

If Rational Recovery works, fine--let it have some support (places to meet, etc.). If Secular Sobriety works, fine--give it a presence, or some meetings, in a recovery house for athiests.

But the state is not, cannot, be in the business of transforming lives. Down that road lies fascism.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 11, 2008 12:47 PM

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic "Let the issues be the issue.

About Joy W. McCann: I've been interviewed for Le Monde and mentioned on Fox News. I once did a segment for CNN on "Women and Guns," and this blog is periodically featured on the New York Times' blog list. My writing here has been quoted in California Lawyer. I've appeared on The Glenn and Helen Show. Oh—and Tammy Bruce once bought me breakfast.
My writing has appeared in
The Noise, Handguns, Sports Afield, The American Spectator, and (it's a long story) L.A. Parent. This is my main blog, though I'm also an alumnus of Dean's World, and I help out on the weekends at Right Wing News.
My political philosophy is quite simple: I'm a classical liberal. In our Orwellian times, that makes me a conservative, though one of a decidedly libertarian bent.

8843.jpg An American Carol rawks!
Main AAC site (Warning: sound-enabled;
trailer starts automatically.)

Buy Blogads from the
Network here.

This is one of the last pix
we took before we left
the house in La Caņada.
I think it's very flattering
to Bathsheba the .357.

"The women of this country learned long ago,
those without swords can still die upon them.
I fear neither death nor pain." —Eowyn, Tolkien's
Lord of the Rings

KhawHeadShot.jpg Free Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani!
See Jane Novak's "Yemeni Watch" blog,
Armies of Liberation.
Free journalists and dissident bloggers, worldwide!

Some of My Homegirls— ERROR: http://rpc.blogrolling.com/display_raw.php?r=59e4b55f70f50de810150859b200a635 is currently inaccessible

My Amazon.com Wish List

• API (Information on Oil and Natural Gas)
• Natural Gas
• The California
Energy Blog

• The Alternative Energy Blog
(Solar, Wind, Geothermal, etc.)
• The Energy Revolution Blog
• Gas 2.0 Blog
• Popular Mechanics'
"Drive Green"

• Libertas
(now on hiatus, but they'll be back!) • Pajiba

Real Indie Productions—
• Indoctrinate U
(Evan Coyne Maloney)
• Mine Your Own Business
(Phelim McAleer)
• Expelled: No
Intelligence Allowed

(Ben Stein, Logan Craft,
Walt Ruloff, and John

Real Indie Production
and Distibution

• Moving Picture Institute


• First Installment: The Basic Story
• Hymers' History of Violence

• How Fun Is It To
Be Recruited Into Hymer's
Offbeat Church? Not Very.
• How I Lost My Virginity


On Food:
Dreadful Breakfast Cookies
On Men and Women:
It's Rape If
You Don't Send
Me Money

Women Talk Too Much;
I'll Date Dolphins

Men Are Kinky

Hot Cars,
Hot Girls

On Animation:
—the Commentary

On Religion:
Athiests and
Christians Talking
To Each Other

"Good grammar, and better gin."
—CalTech Girl
"I enjoy Little Miss Attila's essays."
—Venomous Kate
"Joy is good at catching flies with honey."
—Beth C
"Your position is ludicrous, and worthy of ridicule."
—Ace of Spades
—Suburban Blight


Teh Funny—
• Dave Burge
Interesting News Items

Civics Lessons—
Taranto on How a Bill Becomes Law

Editorial Resources—
• Better Editor
• Web on the Web
• Me me me me me! (miss.attila --AT-- gmail --dot-- com)
Cigar Jack

David Linden/
The Accidental Mind

Cognitive Daily

Rive Gauche—
Hip Nerd's Blog
K's Quest
Mr. Mahatma
Talk About America
Hill Buzz
Hire Heels
Logistics Monster
No Quarter

Food & Booze—
Just One Plate (L.A.)
Food Goat
A Full Belly
Salt Shaker
Serious Eats

Things You Should Do
(In the West)

Just One Plate (L.A.)

• Jalopnik
The Truth About Cars

SoCal News—
Foothill Cities

Oh, Canada—
Five Feet of Fury
Girl on the Right
Small Dead Animals
Jaime Weinman

Mary McCann,
The Bone Mama

(formerly in Phoenix, AZ;
now in Seattle, WA;
eclectic music)

Mike Church,
King Dude

(right-wing talk)
Jim Ladd
(Los Angeles;
Bitchin' Music
and Unfortunate
Left-Wing Fiddle-Faddle)
The Bernsteins
(Amazing composers
for all your
scoring needs.
Heh. I said,
"scoring needs.")

Iran, from an Islamic Point of View
and written in beautiful English—

Blogging Away Debt
Debt Kid
Debtors Anonymous
World Services

The Tightwad Gazette

Gentleman Pornographer

More o' Dat
Pop Culture—

Danny Barer
(Animation News) • Something Old,
Nothing New

(And yet more
Animation News)
Sam Plenty
(Cool New
Animation Site!)
The Bernsteins
(Wait. Did I mention
the Bernsteins
already? They're

Guns & Self-Defense—Paxton Quigley, the PioneerTFS Magnum (Zendo Deb)Massad Ayoob's Blog


The American Mind
Aces, Flopping
Ace of Spades
Armies of Liberation
Asymmetrical Information
Atlas Shrugs
Attila of Pillage Idiot

Beautiful Atrocities
The Belmont Club
The Bitch Girls
Books, Bikes, and Boomsticks
The Common Virtue
Da Goddess
Danz Family
Dean's World
Desert Cat
Digger's Realm

Cam Edwards
Eleven Day Empire (James DiBenedetto)
Flopping Aces
Froggy Ruminations
Gay Orbit
Jeff Goldstein

Mary Katherine Ham
At the D.C. Examiner
Hugh Hewitt
Hi. I'm Black.
Iberian Notes
The Irish Lass
In DC Journal
Infinite Monkeys
Intel Dump

Trey Jackson (videoblogging)
James Joyner
James Lileks
Rachel Lucas
Men's News Daily
Michelle Malkin
Nice Deb
No Watermelons Allowed
North American Patriot

On Tap
On the Fritz
On the Third Hand
Outside the Beltway

Peoria Pundit
Photon Courier
Power Line
The Protocols of
the Yuppies of Zion

Protein Wisdom

The Queen of All Evil
Questions and Observations
Right Wing News

Donald Sensing
Rusty Shackleford
The Shape of Days

Sharp as a Marble
Sheila A-Stray
Laurence Simon

Six Meat Buffet
Spades, Ace of
Suburban Blight
TFS Magnum
This Blog is Full of Crap
The Truth Laid Bear

Venomous Kate
The Volokh Conspiracy

Where is Raed?
Write Enough
You Big Mouth, You!


Support our troops; read the Milblogs!

Support a Blogger
at the LinkGrotto.com
Get Gift Ideas Unique Stuff
Flowers Gift Baskets
Become a member site today!