Is the War on Drugs Real? — Drugs, Medicine and Pharmaceuticals

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Introduction:

Perhaps few subjects are more complex than the relationship between drugs and medicine.  While the word drug often denotes something “illegal”, medicine comes across with very benign connotations.  Drugs are bad for you.  Medicine is good for you.  However, what is the difference between a drug and a medicine?  Do you have to be sick before it is medicine?  Does everyone occasionally need medicine but no one ever needs drugs?  Why are some drugs legal and others illegal?  Why is it that some legal drugs are illegal unless we have a prescription?  In this blog, I will try to provide you some “divergent” views on drugs and medicines and the Pharmaceutical industry.

Pharmaceuticals:

First, we need to define the term pharmaceutical.  We can find the following definition online:

Adjective:  1.  relating to medicinal drugs, or their preparation, use, or sale.

Noun:  1. a compound manufactured for use as a medicinal drug.

It is important to understand the distinction between the medicinal use and the non-medicinal use of drugs.  Obviously, any drug can be used for either purpose.  However, the “moral” authorities which include the government, your neighbors, various religions and others who believe they have a right to dictate human behavior have used this distinction to decide when it is a crime to use drugs and when it is perfectly okay.  Thus, in many states I may now use marijuana but only if it is for a bona fide medicinal purpose.  If I want to simply use it like I use alcohol or caffeine or nicotine for recreational purposes, it is illegal and I will find myself in jail if I get caught.

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This distinction between drugs and medicine is further complicated by the fact that some drugs are simply considered “bad” drugs whether they have a medicinal use or not.  This category of “bad” drugs once included alcohol when (as many of you are aware) the 18th amendment to the US Constitution was passed to ban its legal use.  Prohibition was perhaps one of the most misguided episodes in American history.  However, it does have the unique distinction of being perhaps the only time in our history when a substance was banned strictly on moral terms.  The prohibition against alcohol was primarily based on the idea that drunkenness was a threat to the moral fiber of the nation.   Since then, our “War on Drugs” has been based on several reasons but morality is no longer a major reason.

Let’s get one thing clear from the start.  There is no “War on Drugs” in the USA.  If there were a war on drugs, then bars, cigarette shops, coffee shops, liquor stores, drug stores and doctors’ offices would be raided and closed.  Doctors, baristas, druggists and Pharmaceutical CEO’s would be arrested along with the rest of the drug pushers on the street.  We would need to build an entire prison system to house all the pharmaceutical executives, managers and workers who routinely make and sell drugs.

The “War on Drugs” is a sham, a myth and a hypocrisy of epic proportions.  There are two reasons for this so-called war.  The first is prejudice and the second is monetary.  These two reasons are curiously intertwined.

Docs and Big Pharma

Prejudice as a Factor in the Drug Wars:

Our prisons today are overflowing with people who have used or sold illegal street drugs.  Drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines make up the bulk of illegal drugs sold on the street.  The majority of people selling these drugs are poor.  Minorities make up a disproportionate number of the poor in America.   Consider the following facts:

war on blacks

Poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics greatly exceed the national average. In 2014, 26.2 percent of blacks and 23.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 10.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12 percent of Asians.National Poverty Center

Of course, if minorities are a large percentage of the poor and if the drug war is really an attack on the poor, then it should follow that minorities will make up a larger percentage of those convicted of drug crimes and sent to prison.  The facts support this:

  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
  • African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 25% of the US population
  • About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug
  • 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites

The facts support that the so-called “War on Drugs” is really a war on the poor.  Why war on the poor?  Because they are regarded as a threat to the lifestyle of the wealthy.  The wealthy in America are of course predominately White.

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“96.1 percent of the 1.2 million households in the top one percent by income were White, a total of about 1,150,000 households. In addition, these families were found to have a median net asset worth of $8.3 million dollars.”  — America’s Financial Divide: The Racial Breakdown of U.S. Wealth in Black and White, Huffington Post, 2015

It is seldom mentioned but wealthy people are fully aware of the fact that healthy non-drug addicted citizens make better workers.  Furthermore, non-drug addicted people who are addicted to hard work are less likely to break into your house in the middle of the night and steal your Gucci purse and your Rolex watch.

On the other hand, if you are poor and uneducated, drugs might seem like a decent way to spend a day rather than knocking on closed doors for a job.  I spent four years in the military from 1964 to 1968.   Any war is an ideal breeding ground for drug use.  Consider the daily effects of stress, confusion, attacks, wounds, death and uncertainty.  The military was rife with drugs when I was in.  Would anyone like to guess how much illegal drug use there was during the Vietnam War?

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“In 1971, a report by the House Select Committee on Crime revealed that from 1966 to 1969, the armed forces had used 225 million tablets of stimulants, mostly Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), an amphetamine derivative that is nearly twice as strong as the Benzedrine used in the Second World War. The annual consumption of Dexedrine per person was 21.1 pills in the navy, 17.5 in the air force, and 13.8 in the army.”  — The Drugs That Built a Super Soldier, The Atlantic, 2016

 The above article concerns speed only and does not deal with marijuanaMy own personal experience was spending many weekends high on pot mixed with copious amount of whatever liquor we could get our hands on.  Beer would do if liquor was not available.  There were also many who simply sniffed glue and destroyed their brains.  To the best of my knowledge, I knew of no one who was ever busted for drug use on any base I was stationed at.  The moral is that it is okay to use drugs if they help you kill people but not simply to feel good about yourself.

The sanctimonious politicians who make drug laws in this country should be shot.  Am I being too “divergent” in my condemnation of these hypocrites?  Believe me, I could not be too hard on them.  Consider the damage that their greedy misguided policies have done to our nation and our citizens.  Millions of people have languished in jail only to serve their sentence and find that when they come out, they are even worse off than when they went in.

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Consider the effects of a felony record for drugs in America:  A convicted felon in Connecticut faces the following array of restrictions and constraints:

  1. Loses the right to become an elector and cannot vote, hold public office, or run for office, although he can have these rights restored
  2. Is disqualified from jury service for seven years, or while he is a defendant in a pending felony case (CGS § 51-217)
  3. Loses the ability to have firearms
  4. Could lose a professional license or permit,
  5. Employers can ask job applicants whether they have been convicted of a crime although federal anti-discrimination laws place some restrictions on the use of criminal histories.
  6. The State Board of Education (SBE) cannot issue or renew, and must revoke, a certificate, authorization, or permit to someone convicted of certain crimes. The SBE can also take one of these actions if the person is convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or of such a nature that the board feels that allowing the holder to have the credential would impair the credential’s standing.
  7. The Department of Children and Families must deny a license or approval for a foster family or prospective adoptive family if any member of the family’s household was convicted of a crime that falls within certain categories, which can include felonies.
  8. Landlords can evict a tenant who was convicted of a violation of federal, state, or local law that is detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of other residents. Federal and state law for public housing allows eviction based on conviction of certain felonies. Different rules apply to elderly people.
  9. Someone convicted under federal or state law of a crime involving possession or sale of a controlled substance is not eligible for federal assistance for higher education expenses for certain periods.
  10. State law bars anyone convicted of a drug possession or use felony under federal or state law from receiving benefits under the temporary assistance for needy families or food stamp programs unless the person (1) has completed his court imposed sentence, (2) is satisfactorily serving probation, or (3) completed or will complete a court imposed mandatory substance abuse treatment or testing program (CGS § 17b-112d).

You have served your sentence for possession of a marijuana joint.  You might have served between one and five years.  You are now ready to return to society and be a hard-working honest citizen.  Regard the above list!  No one will hire you. You cannot get a student loan.  You cannot get certain licenses and even some landlords will be legally able to not rent you a place to live.  What would you do?  What would Jesus do?  Well, unfortunately, many of these people are not you and they are not Jesus.  Thus, a life of crime on the street seems to offer more preferences for some than begging for money with a cup.  Besides, every business endeavor has certain risks and the gains from drug dealing may seem to far outweigh the risks, particularly when you consider the alternatives.

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What Role Does Greed Play in the So-Called War on Drugs?

Pharmaceutical companies are huge and make huge profits.  They are consistently listed among the top most profitable companies in America.  Here are the top ten most profitable drug companies by market value:

  • Johnson & Johnson: $276 billion (market value)
  • Novartis: $273 billion
  • Roche: $248 billion
  • Pfizer: $212 billion
  • Merck: $164 billion
  • Sanofi: $134 billion
  • Bayer: $123 billion
  • Novo-Nordisk: $118 billion
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb: $115 billion
  • AbbVie: $110 billion

In 2016, the Pharmaceutical Industry was at the top of the list for most profitable industries.  Forbes, citing data from Factset, recently released its list of the 10 most profitable industries of 2016. “Pharma: Generic” led the way as the most profitable industry with a 30 percent net profit margin”

  1. Pharma: Generic: 30%
  2. Investment managers: 29.1 percent
  3. Tobacco: 27.2 percent
  4. Pharma: major: 25.5 percent
  5. Internet Software and Services: 25 percent
  6. Biotechnology: 24.6 percent
  7. Savings Banks: 24 percent
  8. IT Services: 23 percent
  9. Regional Banks: 23 percent
  10. Major Banks: 22.9 percent

https://www.surepayroll.com/resources/blog/the-10-most-profitable-industries#sthash.rVW6a7fs.dpuf

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Please note where the tobacco industry is on this list.  Now ask yourself this question.  Do you think either big Pharma or Big Tobacco wants competition in the form of legalized drugs?  I hope you answered NO! to this question because there is ample evidence that both industries spend a great deal of money lobbying against drugs that would pose competition to their industries.

“Both pharmaceutical companies and alcohol brands are spending money to keep prohibition around, too.  As we reported last year, certain anti-cannabis academics are funded by big pharma.  Alcohol companies are also lobbying against legalization.  In one example, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors made campaign contributions to a committee dedicated to preventing marijuana legalization and taxation. 

 To summarize, police unions, prison guard unions, for-profit prisons, and drug and alcohol companies spend huge sums of money each year to keep cannabis illegal, and why?  Because it ensures job security and profits.”  — The Top 5 Industries Lobbying Against Cannabis Legalization Will Infuriate You by Sara Lilley in Leafly

Perhaps you are inclined to think that the prejudice and greed fueling the drug industry is not that bad.  Perhaps you do not mind that America has one of the highest rates of incarceration of any developed country.  Perhaps you do not mind that millions of your citizens are in jail for smoking or selling a joint.  Perhaps you are happy smoking and drinking and do not want any other drugs.  Maybe you feel that “Big Pharma” is on your side and helps you with all the new medicines they have coming down the pipeline.  If so, you are living in a fools’ paradise.  Big Pharma is more likely to steal from you and or kill you than the drug pusher on your street corner.  In fact, they do so every single day.

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They steal from you with exorbitant profits.  Who do you think pays for all their advertising and research?  They actually spend more money on advertising than they do on research.

“Prescription drug companies aren’t putting a lot of resources toward new, groundbreaking medication, according to a recent report in BMJ, a medical journal based in London. Instead, it’s more profitable for them to simply to create a bunch of products that are only slightly different from drugs already on the market, the reports authors said.  The authors go on to say that for every dollar pharmaceutical companies spend on “basic research,” $19 goes toward promotion and marketing.” — Pharmaceutical Companies Spent 19 Times More On Self-Promotion Than Basic Research: by Alexander Eichler

Big Pharma also leads all industries in spending your money on lobbying.  From 1998 to 2016, they spent over 3.5 billion dollars on lobbying.  This was more than a billion dollars higher than for the next highest industry which was insurance.  — Top Industries.

ee545df3eb331cc722ed7088791e9a5eAre you still wondering why drug costs are so high? Did you really think it was all research and development costs?  The three major factors are:  Profits, lobbying and Marketing.  How much do you think these all add to the costs of your prescription drugs?

Well, perhaps you still do not care.  After all, if the drugs do their job, what do you care if they cost a lot.  Perhaps your insurance pays it all anyway.  Well friend, what if you knew some of these drugs were going to kill you?  Do you think I am exaggerating?

Here are some examples of potentially lethal side effects:

“Baycol, which lowers cholesterol, was strongly linked to a potentially fatal breakdown of muscle tissue.  Approved in 1997, it was voluntarily withdrawn four years later.  The anti-inflammatory drug Duract spent just one year on the market. Approved as a strictly short-term use product, the FDA found serious liver problems with people taking the drug for longer than what was recommended.

In 1985, employees of two drug companies were fined and/or sentenced to community service for not reporting adverse events involving the blood pressure drug Selacryn and arthritis drug Oraflex.” — Drug Side Effects Explained

Of course, drug companies do not want to kill you because that could result in costly litigation and even worse, bad publicity.  Thus, most drugs come with a lengthy disclaimer and long list of potential side effects.  These are more designed to protect the drug company than you or your health.  You will probably not be able to read the small print on the label and even if you are able, you will probably not have a clue what they are talking about.  On the odd chance that you do know what it all means, it would not matter anyway, since what is your recourse?  If you are in pain and have gone through the process of obtaining your prescription how likely are you to decide that you will not take the risks associated with the drug?  But, and here is the important “but”, all drugs, even over the counter drugs have potential side effects.

viagra

And this brings us to another major factor affecting the cost of drugs.  This is the cost for Big Pharma to cover its butt when caught doing something wrong.  A report by Pubic Citizen noted the following information:

In December 2010, Public Citizen published a report that, for the first time, documented all major financial settlements and court judgments between pharmaceutical manufacturers and the federal and state governments since 1991.  At the time of the report’s publication, almost $20 billion had been paid out by the pharmaceutical industry to settle allegations of numerous violations, including illegal, off-label marketing and the deliberate overcharging of taxpayer-funded health programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Three-fourths of the settlements and accompanying financial penalties had occurred in just the five-year period prior to 2010.  At the time of the report’s publication, there was no indication that this upward trend was subsiding.

adhdThere are many other egregious practices that go on in Big Pharma and which are beyond the scope of this blog.  My point in writing this was first to help alert you to the hypocrisy of the so-called drug wars and second to bring to your attention the inordinate amount of effort and money that Big Pharma spends in trying to get you to buy their drugs.  If you watch TV or read any mainstream magazines, you cannot help but become inundated with ads for drugs to cure any problem you can think of.

larrythecableguyprilosecThe drug companies are the biggest pushers of drugs in the world today and all for a profit.  The fact that these drugs may help your condition is very secondary to Big Pharma’s primary goal which is profits.  The fact that many drugs should not be taken long-term and may have life threatening side effects is also not particularly important to the drug industry.  Between the ignorance of many medical doctors anxious to provide a fast treatment and the greed of the drug industry, you had best become a very informed and cautious consumer of any drugs you are going to take.  You should also be skeptical of any information provided by the drug industry.

Time for Questions:

What medications do you take?  Why?  What has been your history with drugs?  How informative has the drug information you have received been?  What do you think about all the drug advertising on TV and in magazines?  Do you think we live in an addicted society? Do you think the Drug War is real?

Life is just beginning.

 “People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”  ― Wendell BerryThe Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Play “Whack a Mole” with the World

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The saying is often noted but just as often ignored that “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”  — Santayana.   To this profound advice, I would argue that my following observation is equally true and that it has resulted in an equal number of policy disasters and misadventures.  To wit:  “Those who do not recognize the patterns around them are doomed to failure.”   I came by this observation in the middle of a night while pondering the intricacies of playing the “Whack a Mole” game

There is a game that children play and it is called “Whack a mole.”  Have you ever played this game?  If not, view the game at “Whack a Mole”.  Basically, it involves a series of plastic moles that keep randomly popping out of different holes.  You get points for each mole that you whack before it drops back into its hole.  No sooner do you “Whack” one mole then another one pops up again.  [If you would actually like to play the game, you can play a free fast paced version of the game at “Whack a Mole.”]  They call it Smack and Bash at this site.

As I thought about this game, I began to see how it applied to numerous efforts that we undertake to bring about change.  Understanding the game, I could see how futile many of these efforts are and clearly why they are doomed.  Let me give you four examples that will show you how pervasive the “Whack a Mole” game is in politics and US policy:

  1. Eliminate the Mafia
  2. Win the war on drugs
  3. Defeat terrorism in the Mideast
  4. Stop the arms race

 1.  Eliminate the Mafia:

The Mafia may have begun in the United States in the second half of the 19th Century.  The US law establishment has been waging a war to eliminate the Mafia for well over 100 years.  During that time they have killed or arrested the following Mafia leaders:

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It should be noted that this list includes only the leadership in just one crime family.  There are at least a dozen or more Mafia crime families in the USA.  Each one has a history of crime bosses since the early 1900s.

treeCrime bosses get eliminated or changed in a number of ways. Some die.  Some are murdered.  Some are arrested.  Few if any ever simply retire.  This last fact is good for our law enforcement agencies, since it helps keep them occupied with finding and catching Mafia leaders.

So for over 100 years now, the FBI, the Justice Department and every police department in the USA have been playing the “Whack a Mole” game with the Mafia.  They no sooner whack one Mafia leader down and another pops up in his place.  What fun!  At the taxpayers’ expense of course.

  1. Win the war on drugs:

Drugs starting becoming a major problem in the USA with the competition between cigarettes, alcohol and other substances designed to give someone a feeling of either being up, down or out of it.  We know that in 1920 the US passed the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution making the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol illegal.  Few who have studied any history can forget the fiasco that Prohibition entailed.  Alcohol continued to flow while crime, murder and mayhem associated with alcohol increased dramatically.   Did we learn anything from this?  Following is a short list of the major drug laws and “banned” drugs in the USA.  (By the way, alcohol and nicotine and caffeine are all drugs and at one time or another have all been banned someplace in the world)

1906 The Pure Food and Drug Act was passed, forming the Food and Drug Administration and giving it power to regulate foods and drugs, and requiring labeling of contents on foods and drugs. The most important effect on the drug problem was the demise of the patent medicine industry. Drug addiction began a dramatic drop.
1914 The Harrison Tax Act was passed, effectively outlawing the opiates and cocaine.
1915 Utah passed the first state anti-marijuana law. Mormons who had gone to Mexico in 1910 returned smoking marijuana. It was outlawed at a result of the Utah legislature enacting all Mormon religion prohibitions as criminal laws.
1922  Narcotic Drug Import and Export Act – Intended to eliminate use of narcotics except for legitimate medicinal use.
1924  Heroin Act -Makes it illegal to manufacture heroin.
1937  Marijuana Tax Act

1938    Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act

1942    Opium Poppy Control Act

1951    Durham-Humphrey Amendment

Established more specific guidelines for prescription drugs: habit forming, safety, and evaluation of new drugs

1951    Boggs Amendment to the Harrison Narcotic Act

1956    Narcotics Control Act

Intends to impose even more severe penalties for narcotics violations

1965    Drug Abuse Control Amendments (DACA)

Strict controls over amphetamines, barbiturates, LSD, etc.

1966    Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act (NARA)

1968    DACA Amendments

Provides that sentence may be suspended and record expunged if no further violations within 1 year

1970    Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act

Replaces and updates all previous laws concerning narcotics and other dangerous drugs. Empasis on law enforcement.

1972    Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act

1973    Methadone Control Act

1973    Heroin Trafficking Act

1973    Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Remodels Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs into DEA

1978    Alcohol and Drug Abuse Education Amendments

Sets up education programs within Department of Education

1984    Drug Offenders Act

Sets up special programs for offenders and organizes treatment

1986    Analogue (Designer Drug) Act

Makes use of substances with similar effects and structure to existing illicit drug illegal

1988    Anti-Drug Abuse Act

Establishes oversight office: National Drug Control Policy

So here we see the efforts of over 100 years of drug policy to stop people from using, enjoying and abusing drugs in the USA.  What has been the result?

“America is at war.  We have been fighting drug abuse for almost a century.  Four Presidents have personally waged war on drugs.  Unfortunately, it is a war that we are losing.  Drug abusers continue to fill our courts, hospitals, and prisons.  The drug trade causes violent crime that ravages our neighborhoods.  Children of drug abusers are neglected, abused, and even abandoned.  The only beneficiaries of this war are organized crime members and drug dealers.” — Stanford University

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For an excellent article on the costs of the drug war in the US, please see:  (“The Hidden Costs of America’s War on Drugs” by Joseph D. McNamara, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

As it should be clear, the US Government, the FDA, the FBI and most mainstream churches in America have been playing the “Whack a Mole” game with drugs since the Puritans first landed at Plymouth Rock.   First they “Whack” one drug down.  Then another one pops up.  Then they eliminate one drug lord and then another one pops up.  They defeat one drug cartel and then another one takes its place.  Our drug enforcement agencies are so busy playing “Whack a Mole” that they don’t have any time to deal with the reasons behind the influence and attraction of drugs.  Instead they just keep on “Whacking Moles.”

  1. Defeat terrorism in the Mideast:

The beginning of terrorism in the Mideast can be traced back to the Assassins sect that began in the eleventh century.  Wikipedia notes the following:

“Assassins (Persian|حشاشين}} Hashashin) is a name used to refer to the medieval Nizari Ismailis.  Often described as a secret order led by a mysterious “Old Man of the Mountain”, the Nizari Ismailis were an Islamic sect that formed in the late 11th century from a split within Ismailism – itself a branch of Shia Islam.”

wac-a-terrorist

Modern terrorism is actually a form of asynchronous and asymmetric warfare.  One side being more powerful than the other side (asymmetric) forces the other side to avoid one to one confrontations or pitched battles in favor of random unpredictable strikes (asynchronous).   Terrorism is a means of striking back at a more powerful enemy and avoiding what might be an assured defeat by not confronting your opponent in a pitched battle.  History is full of episodes where fighters and even entire armies engaged in such warfare.  In the US, the Indian Wars often followed such methods of warfare.  The battle against Geronimo being a prime example.

Terrorism in the Mideast since George H.W. Bush and through the Obama administration seems to be following the pattern that I have called “Whack a Mole.”  Using drone attacks, surgical strikes, clean bombing, decapitation strikes, discriminant deterrence, hunter killer teams, kill boxes, and counterinsurgency attacks, the US military attempts to “neutralize” the power of the “terrorists” who have their own panoply of attack methods.

If you look at what has happened over the past twenty years in the Mideast in terms of the War on Terrorism, you can clearly see the “Whack a Mole” game at work.  We eliminate one of their leaders, they destroy some of our soldiers with bombs, IEDs or suicide attacks.  We then strike back at their leaders and then it is their turn again to kill us.  We “Whack” them and then they “Whack” back.

whack-a-moleEach time we kill one of their leaders, another one pops up to take their place.  Each enemy group we defeat seems to be immediately replaced by another enemy group.  Our Army, Navy Air Force, Marines, armament industries and politicians never seem to get tired of playing the “Whack a Mole” game.  Keep in mind, that while the game might be great fun for these groups, there is a cost to the game.   To date the financial and human costs are:

Financial Cost of the War on Terror : 

“A recent Brown University study, for example, pinned the cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria at about $3.6 trillion from 2001 to 2016, using the $1.6 trillion operations costs as a baseline but also accounting for counterterrorism costs.

Adding in money appropriated for war spending and on homeland security in 2017, the total reaches $4.79 trillion. This figure also includes future obligations for veterans medical and disability costs ($1 trillion through 2053) as well as interest on borrowing for wars.” — Politifact, Linda Qiu, October 27th, 2016.

Human Costs of the War on Terror:

Afghanistan and Pakistan:  173,000 dead and 183,000 seriously wounded.  (2001 to 2016)

Iraq:  1.9 million killed (1991 to 2003) and 1 million killed (2003 to 2015)

For the figures I used above as well as for other estimates and detailed breakdowns of casualty figures, see the following sources.  The above figures are low compared to some estimates.  None of these figures include the deaths in Libya, Syria, Israel, Turkey, USA or Palestine which should also be considered as deaths from the War on Terrorism.

  1. Stop the arms race:

The final example of a “Whack a Mole” game that we are caught in deals with our oft stated goal to stop creating more dangerous and more expensive weapons of war.  We call this the “arms race” and we have played it with Great Britain, France, Russia and now China.  I will briefly explain how the game works.  You will readily see that it is a version of the “Whack a Mole” game.

arms-race

Step 1, we conceive of a weapon that nobody else has or has even dreamt of having.  It must be dangerous, expensive, frightening and have the potential to kill millions or at least thousands.  Step 2, we spend billions of dollars on R&D to develop the weapon.  Step 3, we then spend billions of dollars to produce the weapon.  Step 4, we then sell the weapon to any military agency in our own country that will buy it.  Step 5, after a sufficient period of time has elapsed (but before the weapon is obsolete), we sell it to other friendly countries that will buy it.  We must start with the highest bidder.  Step 6, after we have sold it to all our allies or potential allies, we wait until they have sold it to any potential enemies.  This might take a year or so.  Finally, after our enemies have now acquired the same weapon potential (even if in a slightly modified form) we then loudly proclaim that:

“Our nation’s security and ability to defend itself is being undermined by the weapons that our enemies have.  We must build new and better weapon systems.  We must increase defense spending.  We risk falling behind in the ability to defend ourselves.”

Then we start the process all over again from Step 1.  

It is the “Whack the Mole” game, albeit a modified version of the game.  We build the weapons to whack our enemies and then they buy the weapons or build similar weapons to whack us back.  Then we build weapons to counter their weapons and then they build or buy weapons to counter our weapons.  We have been engaged in this game since 1776 with every single weapon system that has ever been devised.   Think of the Atom bomb.  How long did it take Russia to develop a similar bomb?  Think of the Hydrogen bomb.  How long did it take the Russians and others to develop a Hydrogen bomb?

Here is a list of rifles that have been used in the USA since the War of 1776.  The following list does not include carbines.  For a full list of weapon systems and their history see:  List of individual weapons of the U.S. Armed Forces – Wikipedia

  • M16A3 (5.56×45mm NATO) (USN SEALs and USN Seabees)
  • M16A2 (5.56×45mm NATO) (USAF, USCG, and US Army)
  • M27 IAR (Infantry Automatic Rifle) (5.56×45mm NATO) (USMC)
  • Mk 16 Mod 0 (5.56×45mm NATO) (USSOCOM)
  • Mk 17 Mod 0 (7.62×51mm NATO) (USSOCOM)
  • M14 SMUD (Stand-off Munition Disruption rifle) (7.62×51mm NATO) (USAF)
  • M39 Enhanced Marksman Rifle (7.62 NATO) (USMC)
  • XM8 (Lightweight Assault Rifle system) (never issued) (5.56×45mm NATO)
  • XM29 (Kinetic Energy and Airburst Launcher System; 5.56×45mm NATO and 20 mm airburst munition (XM1018)(early)/25 mm airburst munition) (experiment canceled)
  • Advanced Combat Rifle entries (concluded 1991)
  • Future Rifle Program entries (canceled)
  • Special Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW) entries (concluded/canceled)
  • FN FAL (battle rifle, trialled as T48 against the T44 and T47 to replace the M1: lost to the former)
  • Olin/Winchester Salvo Rifle (battle rifle, 5.56mm duplex)
  • M14E1 (Selective Fire Rifle, 7.62×51mm NATO) (never standardized)
  • M16A1 (5.56×45mm NATO)
  • AR-15/Colt Model 601/602 (5.56×45mm NATO rifle) (USAF and SOF use only)
  • XM22/E1 Rifle (Selective Fire Rifle, 5.56×45mm NATO)
  • Mk 4 Mod 0 (Suppressed Rifle, 5.56×45mm NATO)
  • M1 Garand Variants (E1-E6 and E9-E14) (Semi-Automatic Rifle, .30-’06)
  • Mk 2 Mod 0/1/2 (Semi-Automatic Rifle, 7.62×51mm NATO)
  • M1 Garand (Semi-automatic rifle, .30-06)
  • M1941 Johnson rifle (Semi-Automatic Rifle, .30-’06)
  • Model 45A
  • M1946 rifle (never used in active duty)
  • M1947 Johnson auto carbine (Semi-Automatic Rifle, .30-’06)
  • Gyrojet rifle (13 mm) (never issued)
  • Pedersen Rifle (.276) (competed unsuccessfully with M1 Garand to become primary service rifle)
  • Pedersen Device (attachment for Springfield M1903, .30 conversion)
  • M1918 BAR (.30-06)
  • M1903/A1/A3 (Bolt-action rifle; .30-03, .30-06)
  • M1917 Enfield (Bolt-action rifle)
  • Model 1907/15 Berthier rifle (Bolt-action rifle)[14]
  • M1916 Mosin–Nagant (Bolt-action rifle)[15]
  • M1895 Navy (Navy Lee, 6 mm Navy)
  • M1892/M1896/M1898 Rifle (a/k/a Krag Bolt Action Rifle; .30-40 Krag)
  • M1885 Remington-Lee (Bolt-action rifle; .45-70 Gov)
  • M1882 Short Rifle (.45-70 Gov.)
  • M1882 Remington-Lee (Bolt-action rifle; .45-70 Gov.)
  • M1879 Remington-Lee (Bolt-action rifle; .45-70 Gov.)
  • Remington-Keene rifle (Bolt-action rifle; .45-70 Gov.)[16]
  • M1875 Officers’ Rifle (.45-70 Gov.)
  • M1873/M1879/M1880/M1884/M1888/M1889 Springfield (a/k/a Trapdoor Springfield;.45-70 Gov..: .45-55-405 & .45-70-500)
  • M1872 Springfield (a/k/a Rolling Block Springfield; .50-70 Gov.)
  • M1865/M1866/M1868/M1869/M1870 Springfield (a/k/a Trapdoor Springfield; .50-70 Government)
  • Sharps carbine/rifle (Breech-loader; .42-60-410) (.52 caliber issued to Berdan’s 1st and 2nd US Sharpshooters in the US Civil War)
  • Henry rifle (Lever-action; .44-26-200)
  • Spencer rifle (Lever-action; 56-56 (.52-45-350))
  • M1863 Springfield
  • M1861 Springfield (.58)
  • Colt revolving rifle (Colt Model 1855; 6/5-shot revolver rifle;.44/.56)
  • Greene rifle (Bolt-action breech-loader)
  • P53 Enfield (.577 (.58))
  • P51 Enfield Musketoon (“Artillery Carbine”; 24″ barrel, .69)
  • Model 1854 Lorenz rifle (Rifle-musket, .54, .58)
  • M1859 Sharps (‘New model 1859’, breech loader; .52, .56)
  • M1855 Rifle-Musket
  • M1855 Rifle (Percussion muzzle-loader; 58-60-500)
  • M1847 Musketoon (Springfield, .69)
  • M1842 Musket (Percussion musket, .69)
  • M1841 Rifle “Mississippi Rifle” (percussion muzzle-loader;.54, .58)
  • M1840 Musket (flintlock musket;.69)(later percussion)
  • M1835 Springfield (flintlock musket; .67 cal)
  • M1819 Hall rifle (Harper’s Ferry;Breech-loader)
  • Model 1822 Musket (Flintlock Musket) .69 (later percussion)
  • Model 1816 Musket (Flintlock musket; .69) (Later Percussion)
  • Model 1817 Rifle (‘Common rifle’;Derringer, Johnson, North and Starr; Flintlock rifle, .54) (later percussion)
  • Model 1814 Common Rifle (Deringer, Johnson; Flintlock rifle; later percussion; .54)
  • Springfield Model 1812 Musket (Flintlock musket; .69)
  • Model 1808 Contract Musket (Flintlock musket; .69)
  • Harper’s Ferry Model 1803 Rifle (Flintlock rifle; .54)
  • Model 1795 Musket (Flintlock musket; .69)
  • 1792 contract rifle (Flintlock rifle; .49)
  • Charleville musket (Flintlock musket; .69)
  • Brown Bess (Musket; .75)
  • Kentucky Rifle (Flintlock rifle)
  • Ferguson rifle (Flintlock breech-loader; .69)

not-safe-yet

Do we call this progress?  Do you call this progress? 

Conclusions:

I started this blog off with the comment that if we fail to connect the dots and see the patterns in our lives, we are doomed to keep repeating them and failure will never be far away.  It is almost but not quite the same as forgetting the past.  There is indeed a similarity between my comment and Santayana’s famous quote.  However, I see it as a pattern that I have described as “Whack a Mole.”  How long will we go on whacking moles, killing people, spending money that could go to education, health care or eliminating poverty?

Time for Questions:

Do you think that we should be playing “Whack the Mole?”  How do we stop playing this game?  Do you think it is human nature to keep fighting and killing others?  Should we really be trying to ban every substance that people want to take?

Life is just beginning.

Falken:  Did you ever play tic-tac-toe?

Jennifer:  Yeah, of course.

Falken:  But you don’t anymore.

Jennifer:  No.

Falken:  Why?

Jennifer:  Because it’s a boring game. It’s always a tie.

Falken:  Exactly. There’s no way to win. The game itself is pointless! But back at the war room, they believe you can win a nuclear war. That there can be “acceptable losses.”

may_june_2014_cover_of_foreign_policy_magazine

No Time for Immigrants: Part 3

SIx months of the year I am what they call a “Snow Bird.”   Karen prefers we are called “Winter Residents.”   We live in Arizona City.   It is south of I-8 and just west of I-10.  It has been a major corridor for coyotes, drug runners and illegal or undocumented immigrants. There is hardly a week goes by that we do not have coffee shop stories of found pot bales, abandoned vehicles, spotters hiding in caves and illegal’s coming to homes asking for water or food. These stories are supplemented by our almost daily observations of border patrol vehicle searches and regular high speed police runs. One of our visitors commented that she had never seen so many police vehicles in her whole life as in our area. Last fall, one elderly resident who lived out in the desert was found murdered in her home. Nothing was missing but no suspects have been found. There are many folks in my area who will not venture out in the desert without being armed and there are many areas where you are warned to stay clear of. I routinely jog in the Casa Grande Mountains and while relatively safe, there have been drug busts and roundups of drugs and illegal immigrants within the past few months.  A short time ago,  I found a rifle with a telescopic site and a sawed off butt behind a cactus. I turned it into the police station where they were not too concerned about it. To date, my biggest danger has been a cactus that is known as a “jumping Cholla.” These things seem to magically find a way to get attached to you and their barbs are quite painful. I have had at least six attacks by them during the past few months.

The picture I am trying to paint for you, coupled with the fact of the ongoing drug war in Mexico, which is only about 120 miles from our front door (47,000 deaths and counting), is designed to give you some idea of the context in which many Arizonians find themselves. Gated communities, suspicion of neighbors, fear of criminal break-ins and an overall worry about the poor economy, housing foreclosures, and jobs (Arizona has led the nation in many of these problems) gives rise to a citizenry which is far from tolerant of anyone coming over illegally into this country. There is a great deal of fear in the nation as a whole ever since 9/11 and nowhere I think is it more evident than in Arizona. Fear and tolerance do not go hand in hand. However as Ben Franklin noted “Those who would give up their freedom for safety will soon find they have neither.” It is difficult to counsel this advice though when neighborhoods cannot be made safe and people are afraid they will become victims. So what does this have to do with stopping illegal immigration? Let me turn the clock back to help answer this question.

In 1963, I was sent to an Air Force station located in Osceola, Wisconsin. Coming from the east coast, I could not have told you where Wisconsin was if my life depended upon it. Furthermore, to be dropped into the middle of “Dairy Farm USA” was a major culture shock. Nevertheless, I adapted by marrying a woman from Thorp, Wisconsin and having my daughter Christina born in Osceola. Life was good for me in the service but money was short. I found local work doing migrant farm work and finally getting a part-time job (to supplement my service income) at a local nursery called Abrahamsons. It was at this place, that I had my first meetings with Mexican farm workers. Each season, Abrahamsons’s would bring in workers from Mexico to work at the nursery. The work involved digging, balling, burlapping, loading and then digging to replant trees for wealthy buyers in Edina and the Twin Cities. It was hard work. We dug and loaded from 6 AM to often after 9 PM at night. I was paid one dollar per hour. I do not know what my Mexican counterparts were paid because they could not speak English, I could not speak Spanish and my bosses warned me to never discuss salary with the other workers. Thus, I spent my days working in the fields, sharing food but no conversation with the other workers. Believe me when I say there were few local non-Hispanic people applying for these jobs. I have since been to other areas of the USA including Mackinac Michigan and Door County Wisconsin, where they rely on immigrant workers to provide services to locals and tourists. To say that illegal or legal immigrant workers are taking jobs and bread from the mouths of Americans is a shallow and false bit of rhetoric. I have heard it said that if these undesirable jobs were not taken by immigrants then the wages would go up and US workers would then apply for them. This bit of fantasy ignores two possibilities: 1.The work could go overseas to even lower wage workers or 2, The Law of Substitution says that other higher value added services could replace services that become too costly.  In any event, I have yet to see the “older” immigrants from America who are now second generation citizens clamoring for these hard dirty and low paying jobs.  

So year after year, from the middle 40’s to the late 60’s, immigrants came over from Mexico and South America on a seasonal basis. Each year millions of these Bracero program workers would come and work in the USA. Most would go back home after the work was over. Some would apply for citizenship and stay in the US. The Bracero program favored Hispanic workers (there did not seem to be many Canadians or Europeans looking for farm work) and it seemed to create a rather orderly and neat influx and outflow of labor seasonally needed by US employers. Then the program was changed. Barred from working seasonally and denied access to work permits, many Mexicans and other Latinos took the easy road. Illegal yes, enforced no. That is until 9/11, when all hell broke loose. Never in the past 100 years had US citizens felt so vulnerable as after 9/11. Fearing for an influx of terrorists and watching unparalleled amounts of drugs crossing the border, we reacted to our fears by passing the Patriot Act, by beefing up Homeland Security, by building Border Walls, by making it a felony to repeatedly try to cross our borders, by greatly expanding the Border Patrol and by building large detention centers in the Southwest. My county Pinal is often referred to as “Penal County” and has numerous detention centers to house drug runners and detainees awaiting deportation. The number of anti-immigration bills started to proliferate state by state as the Federal government seemed impotent to deal with the crisis. Citizens armed themselves and formed border posses and watchdog groups to police our borders with Mexico. No one really seemed worried about those Canadians. I suppose ever since prohibition was rescinded, the Canadians have stopped smuggling whiskey across the border and are less of a threat to the US.  🙂

So let’s ask a simple question here?  Why do all of these illegals come to the USA? The answer is easy. Two reasons: Jobs and drugs. I wonder if the solution to the problem seems as evident to you now as it does to me. First, legalize drugs. Let the government tax them and let anyone sell them just like cigarettes, coffee and alcohol are sold. We have spent billions on a fruitless drug war and we have accomplished nothing. Furthermore, in light of all the drugs that Americans take, it is a hypocritical war to begin with. It is a war waged by idiots and morons who keep our prisons, courtrooms, and lawyers sucking our taxes and wages for no apparent gain. It is perhaps the most ludicrous endeavor that has ever been created.  It makes Alice in Wonderland look like a reality show.  We have become so blinded by the anti-drug rhetoric that we no longer have the ability to see reality. What did we learn from Prohibition?  “THOSE WHO FORGET THE PAST ARE CONDEMNED TO REPEAT IT!” Banning alcohol did not stop the use of liquor nor did it curtail organized crime. On the contrary, it gave organized crime the income and mandate to expand its power and territory and become even more powerful and dangerous. The same is true for the South American drugs, primarily pot and coke that we are trying to banish. The drug cartels have become so rich and powerful, they are immune to any efforts to abolish them.

The second reason illegals come over is to find work and to have a better standard of living.  To help others accomplish this, we need to create a new policy for temporary and migratory workers that represents the nature of work needed by immigrants and by employers in the USA. This policy needs to be fair and equitable but also realistic. The relationship we have with Mexico cannot be dictated by the relationships we have with Canada, Europe or any other countries. We need an equitable policy, but there is a difference between equity and equality. A fair and just policy must create a win-win both for our nation and for the immigrants we give visas or sanctuary to. There cannot be one size fits all for this policy. Part of this policy must be humanitarian. It is in our constitution and in our national charter to help others escape from tyranny, poverty and other calamities.  Part of our immigration policy must also be self-serving. We need to help our country become stronger and to better meet the needs of competing in a global economy. Realistically, we may have a cost attached to immigration.

Despite many arguments on the negative and positive costs of immigration, the best evidence to support a more liberal immigration policy is to look at our success as a nation over the last 250 years. Can anyone doubt that it was immigration that built and fueled the development of this great nation? We may need to balance short-term costs with long-term gains in a realistic immigration policy but to a good policy needs to be slanted towards tolerance for immigration and not intolerance. 

I have one final idea. Let’s take the development of an immigration policy away from the politicians and appoint a group of immigration experts from a wide range of viewpoints. Take twelve experts on this subject and put them in a room together. Give them four weeks to hammer out a new immigration policy. When they are satisfied that such a policy is realistic and equitable, let them distribute this policy to the newspapers and Internet websites for a review by American citizens. After four weeks of review, let there be a national referendum on the policy. A plurality of sixty percent should be needed to pass. If sixty percent can not be reached, the policy will be returned to the experts for further changes and amendments. Once a plurality of American voters has accepted this policy, it would be sent to the Senate and House for review and to become law. Woe to them if they could not finalize this policy.

Time for Questions:

There are many things you can find wrong with my suggestions. I can hear all the reasons why these ideas would not work. The question I have for you is this: “Can you find any better ideas.” The definition of craziness is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Maybe it is time we tried some new ideas; as Einstein said: “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” We need to discard our prejudices and biases and see things in a new light. What do you think needs to be done? When was the last time you wrote your representative to express your ideas? When was the last time you went to a party caucus or actively worked to help elect a representative? What could you do to help create a new and fair immigration policy for this country?

Life is just beginning.

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