Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Short Note On a Small "Victory"- Crack Cocaine Sentencing

Commentary-Revised December 17, 2007

One of the most bizarre twists in the United States Sentencing Guidelines that have for a generation controlled judicial discretion in the federal system has been the distinction drawn in many federal sentences between crack cocaine and ‘straight’ cocaine. Not entirely by accident that difference in severity for crack cocaine has been reflected in the disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics incarcerated for the crime. Recently the United States Sentencing Commission, the governmental organization that established the guidelines, did an about face for many of the crack cocaine offenses and reduced the disparity. Since the hysteria over crack cocaine has died down and further information has indicated that the differences between the two forms of the drug is not significant the Commission voted 7-0, over Bush Administration objections, to retroactively permit challenges to sentences in many of these cases. An estimated 20,000 prisoners could be positively affected by the decision.

Although leftists do not share the illusions in the capitalist justice system that one commissioner, Federal Judge William Sessions of the District Court in Vermont, expressed when declaring that this decision goes a long way to insuring a ‘color blind’ justice system we nevertheless will take such a 'victory’ when it comes along. And that I think is the point here. The Federal system is loaded, no, over- loaded with prisoners sentenced during the heyday of the “war against drugs” for crimes that should never have been crimes in the first place. I have argued, and continue to argue today, that drugs should be decriminalized. In most cases possession of drugs constitutes a personal preference and as such are so-called ‘crimes without victims’ and that is where it should be left-out of the court system. One estimate has it that some 60,000 of the over 200, 000 prisoners in federal jails are there for some drug related crime. That alone tells the tale. Moreover, multiply that figure by the numbers of drug prisoners in state and local facilities and one can only conclude that something is very wrong here. Down with the ‘war against drugs’. Decriminalize drug use now.

Monday, December 10, 2007



There appears to be something of a political law that bourgeois ideologues, venal as many of them are, do not retire but merely move on to greener pastures. At least that appears to be the case with one Karl Rove who until this past September served as President George W. Bush’s ‘brain’. No sooner had we seen him off to the rolling hills of East Texas the he pops up on the “Charlie Rose Show”. And his purpose? To muddy the waters about who and who did not act impulsively in the lead up to the ill-fated Iraq War. Rove is retailing the notion that the legislative branch, in this case, the august ‘slumbering giant’ United States Senate ‘bushwhacked’ the Administration into a rush to judgment. Okay, Karl have it your way. That, however, is not the real point here. The nefarious Mr. Rove is just getting a jump-start on history by influencing what the first drafts will look like. Oh, well. But mark this, some ‘objective’ historian writing about the Iraq War and the slow demise of the American Empire in fifty or one hundred years will, in order to give all sides their due, cite Mr. Rove’s remarks as good coin. Nice move, Karl. But know this also; there is no truth to be found in the man. Nevertheless, as I noted previously in the commentary reposted below written as a ‘tearful’ farewell to a departed foe in September here is savage class warrior.



Well by now everyone among the ‘chattering classes’ knows that Republican President George Bush’s ‘evil counselor’, one Karl Rove, has like so many in the recent past abandoned the sinking ship U.S.S. Bush and gone off to seek greener pastures in the hills of Texas. However, unlike most of the Bush ilk, the likes of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to a name a couple, I will miss Karl Rove as a target. Why? I will make a confession based on a very long experience in politics- I get along better with and better understand right wing ideologues than the usual mushy ‘consultant’ types who populate today’s political scene. The ‘band aid guys’ and the ‘scotch tape gals’ whose political program is a small grab bag of ‘nice’ things to tweak the capitalist system while leaving it intact and that solve nothing leave me cold. One only needs to mention the name of the apparently recently retired Democratic Party consultant and perennially ‘loser’ Robert Schrum to bring this point home.

Give me the hardball players, the real bourgeois class warriors, any day. They know there is a class struggle going on as well as I do and know and that, in the final analysis, it is a fight to the finish. And who will dare say that Karl Rove was not the hell-bent king of that crowd. Anyone who could get a genuine dolt like George Bush elected twice Governor of Texas and twice President of the United States without flinching knows his business. Imagine if Rove had had a real political street fighter like Richard Nixon for a client. Yes, I know in the end Mr. Rove and I will be shooting from different sides of the barricades but Karl was a real evil genius and I will miss that big target.

Karl Rove honed two basic propositions that Marxists can appreciate, even if only from an adversarial position. One was the above-mentioned sense of the vagaries of the class struggle for the bourgeois class that he has so faithfully represented. How he was able to grab the dirt poor and against the wall farmers of places like Kansas and the desperately poor of the small towns of the ‘Rust Belt’ as cannon fodder voters for a party that has not represented plebian interests since at least the 1870’s is worthy of study. The second was his notion, parliamentary-centered to be sure, of a ‘vanguard’ party. What? Karl Rove as some kind of closet Leninist? No. However, his proposition that the Republican party should cater to its social conservative base and drag whoever it could in their wake is a piece of political wisdom that leftists should think through more. That is a much better political approach than to rely on the current dominant ‘popular front’ strategy of organizing on the basis of the lowest common denominator issues whittled down to a meaningless point just to avoid antagonizing the Democrats instead of fighting for what is necessary. Yes, one can sometimes learn something from one’s political adversaries- Adieu, Karl.