After last week's dance with Venus and Jupiter, the waxing moon is now cozying up to fiery Mars. I saw them overhead last night, the moon ringed with an iridescent halo and the whole pretty picture framed by swirly white clouds.
The controversy continues to swirl around the mayor's decision to suspend Police Chief Darryl Perry, with Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and First Deputy Jake Delaplane weighing in at the Charter Review Commission yesterday. Both honed in on the meat of the issue: Kauai, like all the other counties in the state, put the police chief under the authority of a commission precisely to keep the position free of “coercive political influence.”
So why are our mayor and county attorney the only officials in Hawaii who seem unable to grasp that concept?
Of course, the desire to unduly control others isn't limited to Mayor Bernard Carvalho.
Just look at how the U.S. Supreme Court has decided it's OK for the cops to strip search anyone who is arrested, even if they have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband. Great, yet another tool the cops can use to selectively intimidate, humiliate and harass detainees, and yet another major erosion of our Constitutional rights.
If that wasn't bad enough, consider this fact, included in the New York Times' coverage of the high court's ruling: 13 million people are admitted annually to the nation's jails. And you know a disproportionate number are black, Hispanic and poor.
According to a recent article in The New Yorker:
Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height.
The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that. In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education.
The scale and the brutality of our prisons are the moral scandal of American life.
Yup, folks, it's a very sorry state of affairs in the “land of the free.”
But still the "clampdown" continues, with the Obama administration now selectively targeting medical marijuana activists in an effort to undermine the will of voters who have approved such uses. As the Los Angeles Times reported following yesterday's raid of facilities in Oakland:
Since October, U.S. attorneys have sent at least 300 letters to landlords of dispensaries in California and Colorado, ordering them to evict their tenants or face seizure of their property and prosecution. They have threatened local officials trying to permit dispensaries. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has pressured banks to close accounts linked to marijuana. And the IRS has audited dozens of dispensaries using an obscure provision of the federal tax code that prohibits drug traffickers from making any deductions.
Why the hell are they so afraid of a fricking plant? Because it opens people's eyes and hearts?
Meanwhile, as the U.S. continues to invest more resources in the prison complex and waste piles of money warring against drugs, terrorism and its own citizens, it seems the biggest threat to national security is, well, precisely that strategy.
According to an interview with Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in The Daily Ticker :
"What we do to improve our schools, our infrastructure, what we do to reduce the budget deficit…this is going to be critical in years and decades ahead. The most important national security question for the coming year is actually the domestic set of issues that involves the economy."
Or to return to the lyrics of The Clash's "Clampdown;"
I'm not working for the clampdownNo man born with a living soul
Can be working for the clampdown
Kick over the wall 'cause government's to fall
How can you refuse it?
Let fury have the hour, anger can be power
D'you know that you can use it?
The voices in your head are calling
Stop wasting your time, there's nothing coming
Only a fool would think someone could save you
What are we gonna do now?