GOP Principles = Decrimininalizing Drugs?

Conservative blogger Kavon Nikrad argues that decriminalizing drugs is a sound application of  GOP principles of small government and, furthermore, would help the GOP increase it share of young voters and black voters.

Conservatives used to argue that the federal government cannot fix cultural problems through social-engineering legislation. That argument was right, and the results of the Drug War are living proof of it. It is time for the Republican Party to take the lead in ending this failed policy. It’s good for families, it saves money, and it will engender a new perspective on the humanity of drug users.

Nikrad points out that heavy emphasis on drug arrests since the time of Nixon have not reduced drug use, although costing billions of dollars.  He cites the case of Portugal to show that decriminalizing drugs and treating addiction as a public health issue is much more successful.

Slightly over a decade ago, Portugal decriminalized all drugs, choosing instead to treat the matter as a public health concern. The result has been a staggering 50% decrease in estimated number of addicts, as well declining rates of overall drug use and drug-related diseases.

It is heartening to see a conservative concerned about racial discrimination resulting from government action.  Nikrad notes that “Despite comprising only 12% of the population, 62% of those who are sent to state prisons for drug offenses are black. Black men are sent to prison for drug offenses at 13 times the rate of white men.”

He urges the GOP to advocate for decriminalization.  “This is Big Government at its worst and most discriminatory. Where are Big Government’s supposed opponents when racial minorities need them? Republicans should stand up for the black community and call for an end to the failed Drug War.”

Sources:

Kavon Nikrad, “Opposing the war on drugs: Good policy, good politics,” Star Tribune, April 18, 2013, P. A13. Reprinted in Kavon Nikrad’s blog of 4/17/13 under title “It’s Time for Republicans to End the Failed, Immoral Drug War.”  Online at http://kavonnikrad.blogspot.com/2013/04/its-time-for-republicans-to-end-failed.html.

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The Abayudaya Jews of Uganda

The Star Tribune of 3/24/13 carried a story about a unique Jewish community in Uganda, East Africa. The Abayudaya of Uganda began in 1919 when one African man studying the Bible under the direction of early missionaries decided that the Torah was the true word of God and became the leader of a growing indigenous community of Jews.  Under the leadership of Semei Kakungulu, the Jewish community grew to 3,000 souls.  But then they suffered persecution under Idi Amin who banned the Jewish religion.  The community migrated to the more remote district of Mbale near the Kenyan border where they have been slowly rebuilding.  Today the Jewish community lives in several villages and supports 6 temples, under the leadership of Rabbi Gershom.  Now numbering about 1,500, they run a school to teach the children Hebrew and observe the same Shabbat rituals and Holy Days as Jews around the world.

Sources and Further Info:

Video: Reconciliation in Kenya

The film below documents one project aimed at building reconciliation after inter-ethnic violence following the 2007 election in Kenya. Kenyan Patrick Mureithi made this documentary about the “Healing and Rebuilding our Communities” workshops held in a slum area of Nairobi which experienced some of the worst violence of 2008. This moving film lets us share the emotions of both victims and perpetrators as they struggle to come to terms with what happened and how they can build a more peaceful future. Be sure to click the “Show More” button at YouTube to read the full press release about the film and its remarkable director.

BACKGROUND: As Kenyans get ready to vote tomorrow (Monday, March 4, 2013) in elections for President and Parliament, we all hope that the violence following the 2007 elections will not be repeated. That election featured 2 presidential candidates, each representing a different, but large tribe. When the results were announced, the loser claimed that the voting was rigged. Supporters of each candidate took to the streets in mass demonstrations which turned violent with people wielding machetes and burning down villages. Over 1,000 were killed and half a million rendered homeless.

The horrors of this post election conflict led to many reconciliation initiatives and projects to prevent a recurrence including the Alternatives to Violence Project Kenya (illustrated in this film) – a Quaker initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. Other projects include Uchaguzi to aggregate & map citizen reports of election violations.

For more info, see “Kenyan Patrick Mureithi Hopes New Film Will Deter Violence After Elections” by Paul Nolan, Wall Africa, Feb. 28, 2013.  The article also describes the no-cost Faster EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) for relieving anxiety. This no-cost technique of tapping on certain pressure points on the body is a boon in a country with few psychiatrists and little access to mental health services.

Kenya: Crowdsource mapping of election problems

The Uchaguzi project is preparing for tomorrow’s Kenyan elections by enabling citizens around the country to instantly report any instances they see of voter intimidation, election violence, ballot stuffing or other irregularities. Reports will be aggregated and displayed in map form on the Web for all to see as well as forwarded to gov’t agencies and NGO’s for action. The public will be able to send reports via text messages (cell phones are the most popular and cheapest method of telecommunication in Africa), email, Twitter and Facebook. See the map showing incidents to date and access a sample report form at https://uchaguzi.co.ke/main.

The Uchaguzi project is an outgrowth of the Ushahidi crowdsourcing platform, developed by Ory Okolloh & others during the 2008 post election violence (over 1,000 killed) to keep track of killings, house burnings, etc. Since then the Ushahidi software has been used by human rights activists around the world – in Haiti after the earthquake to collect details of emergency needs, in Syria to give women a platform to submit reports of sexual violence, in Egypt to track over 2,000 incidents of corruption, and in Canada to collect & map reports of the numerous (often unsolved) murders of indigenous women. Too often the technical contributions of Africans are overlooked, and the developers of Ushahidi deserve more recognition than they have received.

Read more about Ushahidi and one of its founders, Ory Okolloh, in this 2011 article in the UK’s  Guardian newspaper or visit Ushahidi’s website.