Snowman Adoring Jesus

A county in Florida wants to have their traditional creche display, but must comply with constitutional rules, after all. So they’™re going to put a snowman in the scene. It’™s supposed to be the middle east, right? Wouldn’™t the darn thing melt?

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Bigfoot Only in Florida, right?

In DeFuniak Springs, FL, they’™ve got a creche at the courthouse. For all you atheists, a creche is that arrangement of figures centered around the adoration of the baby Jesus. You’™ve got the holy family there, Mary and Joseph, some shepherds who’™ve seen the signs in the skies that a savior is born, and those wise men bringing gifts to Jesus. (I’™m sure Jesus would have preferred a furby or a playstation over Myrrh, whatever that is. Heck, give the boy a hoola hoop or something.) This year’™s creche is going to include a snowman. Yes, a snowman adoring the baby Jesus.

From the Northwest Florida Daily News:

The annual Nativity creche on the Walton County Courthouse lawn will look a little different this year.

The County Commission decided this week to include secular items such as a snowman to the display after Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent the county a letter in July claiming that the creche is unconstitutional.

. . .

In the letter to the county that included wording from one of the rulings, Americans United stated that by displaying only the Nativity creche, ‘œWalton County has endorsed Christianity, improperly conveying the message to ‘nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.’™ ‘

I hate to clue them in, but snowmen are inanimate things. They cannot adore the Christ child. They don’™t have brains. Besides, Jesus was born in the Middle East, and any snowman traveling there to pay homage would surely melt, and we don’™t want to have children crying over a melted snowman, do we? I’™d suggest putting a yeti in there instead, or something like that. An abominable snowman, if you were. Imagine! You could say it came all the way from the Himalayas or something, a long way to see and honor the Prince of Peace. That would be IMPRESSIVE!

Friday, November 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Why Is the Legacy Media Ignoring Rudy Giuliani’s ShagGate?



Those of us who eat, drink, and sleep presidential politics have been perplexed since Rudy Giuliani announced his GOP candidacy: why is / was this guy basically getting a free pass on his past personal indiscretions, and why does the legacy media continue to perpetuate the ‘œAmerica’™s Mayor’ myth? If a Democratic Party candidate had the skeletons of Bernie Kerik and Judith Nathan rattling around in their closet, they would have been drummed out of the race a long time ago – by fellow Dems.

But for some reason, Rudy remains almost untouchable by his fellow GOP candidates and the legacy media. Is it his connection to 9/11? Does he have, errr, compromising pictures of Fred Thompson and Chris Matthews? While ShagGate has been kicking around on the fringes of the news cycle for most of this week, ABC broke the latest details on Thursday:

Well before it was publicly known he was seeing her, then-married New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani provided a police driver and city car for his mistress Judith Nathan, former senior city officials tell the Blotter on

‘œShe used the PD as her personal taxi service,’ said one former city official who worked for Giuliani.

Yet, when I was starting my day today, I turned on the TV, flipped back and forth through the various news networks for nearly an hour, and nothing. Bupkis. CNN, MS-NBC and Fox all had stories on the salt-in-food controversy, CNN went with a story of a homeless Salvation Army bell ringer being canned, everyone was still talking about Tuesday’™s GOP debate, but nothing on ShagGate. Nothing.

Let’™s make this really, really simple:


I know that my shout-out above won’™t fit on a bumper sticker, but fer chrissakes, from a news reporting standpoint it just doesn’™t get any easier. There’™s not much need to further flesh out the story. We don’™t even need any more dirt. Giuliani should be smart enough to withdraw from the race on the merits of this incident alone, before indictments are handed up. If the allegation of his misuse of taxpayers funds doesn’™t rate an investigation by the New York State Attorney General, I’™d be very surprised.

The details are still simmering and approaching a low boil, but still, I sit here wondering:

What in the hell is it gonna take to wake up a legacy media that’™s apparently slept through the last seven years?

Friday, November 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Devil’s In The Details? Not If You Ask Most Americans

More Americans have a literal belief in the devil than believe in Darwin and his theory of evolution. Makes a person want to dig out the Ouija Board and look into the future’¦but I’™m going to stick with my Tarot Cards’¦I’™ve found the results are much more to my liking.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Welcome to the latest American renaissance’¦a loathsome return to the ‘œdark ages’. A new poll tells us that more Americans believe in hell and the devil’¦literally’¦than believe in Darwin’™s Theory of Evolution. The only good news’¦and I say as much with all available facetiousness’¦is that nearly two thirds of all Americans believe in miracles. Why is that good news? Because it now appears it’™s going to take a miracle to get this country tracking on a set of rational rails and not hitching it’™s wacky wagon to a messianic magic carpet.

More Americans believe in a literal hell and the devil than Darwin’™s theory of evolution, according to a new Harris poll released on Thursday.

It is the latest survey to highlight America’™s deep level of religiosity, a cultural trait that sets it apart from much of the developed world.

It also helps explain many of its political battles which Europeans find bewildering, such as efforts to have ‘œIntelligent Design’ theory ‘” which holds life is too complex to have evolved by chance ‘” taught in schools alongside evolution.

It further found that 79 percent believed in miracles, 75 percent in heaven, while 72 percent believed that Jesus is God or the Son of God. Belief in hell and the devil was expressed by 62 percent.

Darwin’™s theory of evolution met a far more skeptical audience which might surprise some outsiders as the United States is renowned for its excellence in scientific research.

Only 42 percent of those surveyed said they believed in Darwin’™s theory which largely informs how biology and related sciences are approached. While often referred to as evolution it is in fact the 19th century British intellectual’™s theory of ‘œnatural selection.’

What I find so baffling is that in real life you can’™t get most of these people to accept hard and fast facts’¦but when it comes to faith, they’™re willing to believe in the cookie monster. Global warming’¦not a chance. No connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11′¦not on your life.

If the above data isn’™t enough to convince you we’™re on the fast train to rampant regression, not to worry’¦there’™s more data to report.

More born-again Christians ‘” a term which usually refers to evangelical Protestants who place great emphasis on the conversion experience ‘” believed in witches at 37 percent than mainline Protestants or Catholics, both at 32 percent.

OK, it was just a few months back when James Dobson and Focus on the Family released the following statement with regards to Harry Potter.

‘œWe have spoken out strongly against all of the Harry Potter products.’ His rationale for that statement: Magical characters ‘” witches, wizards, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, poltergeists and so on ‘” fill the Harry Potter stories, and given the trend toward witchcraft and New Age ideology in the larger culture, it’™s difficult to ignore the effects such stories (albeit imaginary) might have on young, impressionable minds.

At the time, I assumed Dobson was opposed to Harry Potter because it glamorized ‘œwitches, wizards, ghosts, goblins [...]‘ to children’¦leading young people to embrace irrational notions and engage in irrational fantasies while distracting them from their religious studies. Little did I know that nearly a third of all Americans actually believe that witches exist and probably think the Harry Potter books were written to recruit more witches.

I guess I shouldn’™t be surprised. Many of these same people believe that Tinky Winky and Sponge Bob Square Pants are characters created by militant homosexual sympathizers that are intended to indoctrinate children into the gay lifestyle. When did a duck stop being a duck?

I must admit I’™m totally flummoxed at the number of foolish and fallacious fixations. Have they become the means by which people disconnect from the harsh realities that permeate their increasingly complex lives? Are average Americans so disconnected from the practice of reason and an understanding of the technology that surrounds them that they seek comfort in the simplicity of these virtual fabrications?

I don’™t know the answers to my questions’¦but I do know it’™s increasingly important for us to find them before we return to the logic that believed witches would float if tossed into a body of water’¦fully ignoring the fact that the accused was condemned to death either way. If they did float, they would be put to death for being a witch; if they sank and drowned, they weren’™t a witch’¦but nonetheless dead? Frankly, we’™re not that far from the wholesale suspension of cognition.

Makes a person want to dig out the Ouija Board and look into the future’¦but I’™m going to stick with my Tarot Cards’¦I’™ve found the results are much more to my liking.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Thursday, November 29th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Do you GOPTube?

Righties question the questioners. So what else is new?

Commentary By: The Xsociate

After reading through some of the blog posts about last night’™s YouTube GOP debate the consensus seems to be the candidates did pretty awful. This was no doubt in part due to the types of questions CNN chose. While the network had already assured ahead of time there would be no ‘œgotcha’ style questions because Americans can’™t be trusted to pick good questions (as if CNN has any claim to fame in that area), outrage has nonetheless taken hold in Right Blogotopia. Not so much over the actual substance of the questions mind you. Most of them could care less about gays serving openly in the military or abortion unless, that is, it can be used as a wedge issue to divide Democrats. No what matters is always the messenger, in this case the supposedly ordinary Americans who were allowed to submit questions for the debate.

The righties have apparently taken to scouring the questions posed at last night shindig and finding that not all of the Tubers signed that loyalty oath that the Repubs are so fond of. Whether it was an openly gay ex-general asking about gays serving openly in the military being a Hillary supporter or an abortion questioner being an Edwards fan, righties are now saying this failure to disclose the political leanings of the Tubers is more evidence of liberal media bias. Some are even alleging that CNN specifically chose questions that would make conservatives look back.

Anyone else get the feeling they’™re just ashamed that out of so many questions submitted, so few could be included that didn’™t make the right look completely batshit crazy?

(X-posted at The Xsociate Files)

Thursday, November 29th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

When Rumor and the WaPo Collide – is Obama an Islamic Sleeper Agent?

They say that a salacious rumor can circle the world before the truth even gets out of bed in the morning. When a very stupid wingnut rumor gets repeated in the Washington Post, ‘œthey’ are not far from wrong.


The Washington Post is acting as a proxy for the GOP again – not catapulting propaganda, mind you, but enabling the wingnut rumor mill (and therefore lending the WaPo’™s credibility to the stupidity).

Is Barak Obama an Islamic sleeper agent in the U.S.? Apparently, there’™s enough whispering in the turgid waters of the wingnutosphere that the editors of the WaPo are willing to lend their megaphone to the idiotocracy. Jill deconstructs the story in a Brilliant at Breakfast posting:

This is how it works, folks. Wingnuts put something ‘œout there’ ‘” Obama is a Muslim spy. Hillary is fucking her female Arab assistant. John Edwards had an affair. It doesn’™t have to be true; it doesn’™t even have to have anything to it other than what’™s pulled out of wingnut ass. All Republicans have to do is put something ‘œout there’ and out-and-out lies become just an ‘œalternative view’ deserving of equal time to facts. Because as Stephen Colbert said, facts have a liberal bias.

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani DOES have ties to terrorists by having a government that harbored Khalid Sheikh Muhammed as a business client, and it’™s nowhere to be found in either Washington Post or New York Times’¦


I don’™t know how progressives combat this kinda horsepucky. As we all know, stupid rumors like this will circle the wingnutosphere (and the world) ten times before the truth even wakes up.

And this is how Conventional Wisdom’„– is born’¦

Thursday, November 29th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Cats and Dogs Sleeping Together

It’™s the end of the world. Yes, boys and girls are having fun, and evidently when that happens some religious types go out of their way to figure out whether the ‘œfun’ in question is sanctioned by the bible. And then. . . here comes the whining.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

It’™s the end of the world. Trying to top opposites day, and that thing where kids wear their clothes inside out, a Des Moines School has cross dressing day. Seems like a harmless way to spend a day during ‘œSpirit Week,’ but not according to some. To them this is a cause to be alarmed about. Straight from WorldNetDaily, attempting, as always, to take the title from the late great newspaper WeeklyWorldNews as the only accurate news source:

One parent, writing on a blog shortly after the cross-dressing promotion, hardly could contain the outrage.




Barb Heki is a board member for the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, and was ecstatic about the parental response.

‘œI’™m just praising God there is a church with so many families that would take a biblical stand and decide that we’™re not going to put our children under anti-Christian indoctrination any longer. That’™s refreshing and encouraging,’ she told WND.

I can remember having all sorts of dress-up days back in the day, and that was over 30 years ago. Get a grip, folks. This is neither news nor is it something to be alarmed about.

You know, the alarm here may be Bill O’™Reilly’™s fault. Isn’™t he late in ramping up his annual ‘œWar on Christmas’ shtick? If he had that campaign going, maybe it would give some of these folks something to do.

Thursday, November 29th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Who Put That Gay Man In The You Tube?

The buzz about gays in the military created by tonight’™s GOP debate raises a good question. Why should women and gays be forced to suffer the inability of many straight men to evolve beyond their noticeably arrested and obviously immature sexual constructs? As I think about it, that may be the best argument for electing a woman or a gay president.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

I’™m sorry but stupid was just brought to a new low. The tubes are abuzz over the fact that CNN allowed a question about ‘œdon’™t ask, don’™t tell’ from a gay man who serves on a committee for Hillary Clinton. Perhaps I’™m mistaken, but the YouTube format didn’™t require a disclosure of party affiliation. Granted, the incident makes CNN’™s vetting process appear rather careless, but are we to believe that the question is invalid because the questioner isn’™t a card carrying Republican?

If that’™s the case, then shouldn’™t Anderson Cooper be disqualified from moderating a GOP debate since he is gay? Maybe we should only allow Republican moderators at Republican debates and Democratic moderators at Democratic debates? I swear, we’™re becoming more of a banana republic each day. I suspect the debate process for electing an eighth grade class president may have more substance and credibility’¦and certainly less whining from the inane partisans.

Speaking of substance, I guess I’™m wondering why asking the GOP candidates their position on gays in the military is off limits for a former officer simply because he will apparently vote for a Democrat. Think about it’¦how many gay people do we expect to vote for a party that routinely opposes most, if not all, measures that would afford gays more rights and greater equality?

Further, after hearing the answers to the question’¦especially Duncan Hunters diatribe on not wanting to upset the predominantly religious conservative members of the military’¦why on earth would gays vote for the GOP? His answer is wrong on so many levels such that I refuse to waste any more of my time and energy detailing the reasons. Those who understand the reasons get it’¦and those who don’™t, aren’™t unable to; they simply don’™t want to.

I just love the argument that we can’™t consider allowing gays to serve openly because we’™re at war. Using that same logic, gays ought to be exempt from a draft if America ever determines it needs more troops because they can’™t attract enough volunteers. Sounds good to me’¦let the straight people protect us all from harm. We gays will plan the ticker tape parade if and when we ever win one of these wars.

Moving on, if the rank and file of the GOP agree with the answers given, why be afraid to have these candidates spell out their positions? Who are they trying to fool anyway? Should we believe that if the Republican candidates can avoid expressing their positions with regards to gays, no one will be the wiser or attempt to discern where they stand? That’™s the funny thing about bigotry these days’¦people know when it exists and they get testy when someone forces them to acknowledge or demonstrate it.

Following the debate and the ‘œexposure’ of CNN’™s duplicity, I went and read comments on a number of right leaning blogs. While the bigotry amazes me, the belief on the part of countless straight men that every gay man is interested in ogling them is mind-boggling. We scorn the Saudi’™s for their absolutely antiquated treatment of women’¦highlighted by the recent sentencing of a rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in prison’¦treatment that is premised on the fear that every women is so vulnerable to her carnal desires that her body must be completely hidden from view and she must be forever forbidden from being in the presence of any unrelated male’¦unless accompanied by ‘œher man’.

Now let’™s break this down’¦is it the women they’™re worried about or isn’™t it more probable that these men don’™t trust themselves to act appropriately’¦so clearly they can’™t leave their women alone with another man? Truth be told, I’™m sure they’™re lack of trustworthiness is justified’¦but why in the hell should women be punished because these men are pigs? Last time I checked, it takes a boat load of man-sluts to make a whore. The absurdity is overwhelming!

The same mind set is at play when it comes to gays in the military’¦most of these men commenting on these sites apply their own sexual habits and thoughts to gay soldiers’¦totally failing to realize that gays have spent their entire lives demonstrating restraint and appreciating each other for more than just getting off. We have too if we want some semblance of a normal social life. We’™ve learned that it’™s possible to find friendships with people who could otherwise serve as sexual partners’¦and therefore we don’™t have to approach each other and all males as nothing more than sexual objects.

Many of these straight men are unable and unwilling to grasp this concept because they see all women as objects for sexual gratification. It’™s the cattle mentality’¦as long as they erect (no pun intended) fences to keep themselves from succumbing to their desires, they (the bulls) won’™t breed every woman (the heifers) they see. That’™s why they are so intimidated by the thought of showering with a gay man or sharing the same barracks. They can only visualize what they would do in a similar situation with women. So they see gays in the military as lacking the barriers they’™re reliant upon to maintain their fragile notions of propriety and fidelity.

Forgive me for generalizing, as I realize the following may be an unfair assessment’¦but why should women and gays be forced to suffer the inability of these straight men to evolve beyond their noticeably arrested and obviously immature sexual constructs? As I think about it, that may be the best argument for electing a woman or a gay president.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Thursday, November 29th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

The “Gotcha” in the GOP Debate – Was CNN Punked?

Let’™s play a game – what doesn’™t belong in a YouTube question that was asked tonight in the CNN/YouTube GOP presidential debate?


I was watching the GOP debate, and was struck by one particular question submitted via YouTube. If I recall correctly, the question was answered by Romney and Grandpa Fred Thompson, but that’™s really irrelevant. Actually, the question itself was largely irrelevant.

Watch the 20 second question below, and ask yourself: What element of this video simply has no place in a GOP debate? After CNN’™s ‘œgotcha’ experience with the Dem debate, you’™d think they’™d be more careful. You’™d be wrong.

Was CNN sandbagged? Or did Anderson Cooper pick this video on purpose? Either way, it was no accident that this eminently forgettable question was plucked out of the thousands submitted via YouTube. I’™ll wait a few moments to see if anyone saw the same weird thing that I picked out, then I’™ll post the answer in the comments’¦

Update: A quick observation on the debate itself – when Mike Huckabee comes across as the sanest, most articulate banana in the GOP bunch (granted, the bar has been set pretty low in the past seven years), and the only candidate who has actual convictions, you know the Republican Party is in a heap ‘o trouble. He was the only one of the candidates who was truly speaking from the heart and not faking it or putting on a facade. [[Sorry, supporters of Ron Paul, but your guy was exceptionally shrill tonight and seemed to get lost in his answer on Iraq. He should have had that one down pat.]]

The difference between Huckabee’™s presentation and the rest of the crowd was absolutely striking.

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Faith vs. Fact: Saying No To Science Because The Bible Tells Me So?

The United Nations is set to release data suggesting that the number of individuals infected with HIV is lower than previously believed. The announcement has led some to argue that the UN is misleading the world with regards to global warming. There is a dangerous trend by those on the right to discount fact when it doesn’t comport with faith. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen when it comes to the changing justifications for the war in Iraq.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

I’ve noticed a disquieting trend on a number of important issues with regards to those on the right. In summary form, the trend is to discount scientific evidence while promoting faith based biblical theories in order to advance a narrow ideological agenda.

The most recent example is the response to a report to be issued by the United Nations in which the organization will lower its’ estimates on the size and scope of the AIDS epidemic. Pouncing quickly, many on the right wasted little time in using the revelation to conclude that the UN’s data on global warming must therefore also be inaccurate…or fabricated.

Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting that the United Nations is beyond reproach or that they should be excused if, in fact, they chose to inflate their estimates in order to draw more attention and more funding to the AIDS crisis. Such actions are not justifiable and they only serve to undermine the organization’s credibility and the severity of the problem.

At the same time, the UN’s actions aren’t any more egregious than the efforts of the Bush administration to convince Americans that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Frankly, with the latter, the outcome wasn’t to revise the number of WMD’s found downward…the outcome revealed that the WMD’s didn’t actually exist and new justifications were hastily pulled from thin air.

As such, why would those who doubt the UN’s data, and seek to use one reevaluation of a decades long problem as the means to discredit all of the organization’s other opinions, still hold firm and fast to supporting a President and his many policies which have been proven to be blatantly wrong on numerous occasions? My own answer to this question is premised upon the notion that many people of faith would rather defend those amongst us who have been discredited or found to have been deceitful than to admit that their reliance upon faith, and their belief in those who espouse it as fact, may be a suspect construct.

It seems to me that, all too often, people of faith adopt an all or nothing perspective on issues, which simply precludes the possibility of rational debate and reasoned dialogue. While the AIDS crisis and global warming may eventually be determined to be less dire than once thought; why should this action, on the part of the United Nations, to correct a misconception lead us to conclude that we can’t or shouldn’t continue to acknowledge the seriousness and severity that does exist? Should a revision from 40 million infected to 33 million infected lead us to conclude that AIDS isn’t an epidemic in need of immediate and significant attention and funding?

Let’s look at a comparison. We’re currently spending over 10 billion dollars a month on the war in Iraq…a war that was initiated with reliance upon questionable data. On the other hand, the United States just recently committed to spend 15 billion dollars over five years to combat AIDS in Africa. Here’s the issue. AIDS has been a known killer of millions for over twenty years. Now that the UN has concluded its data may be inaccurate, are we also supposed to halt our funding? If so, then why do we continue to support funding for the war in Iraq?

And why the need to use the revised AIDS statistics as the impetus to assail the United Nations warnings about global warming? Is global warming a secular issue? Will rising sea levels only impact the non-believers? Are we to believe that faith will be sufficient to combat our disregard for the planet? Did god give us this domain to do with as we wished without regard for preserving and protecting it? Where in the bible can I find these seemingly inconsistent values?

Sadly, the battle isn’t limited to these two high profile situations. We’ve witnessed the same dynamic with regards to evolution and intelligent design; with regards to abstinence programs and sex education which includes information about contraception and the distribution of condoms; with regards to abortion and the administration of Plan B contraceptives to victims of rape; with regards to teen promiscuity and the new vaccination for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) to prevent cervical cancer; with regards to Terri Schiavo and end of life issues; with regards to stem cell research and the need to treat life threatening diseases and illnesses.

In the end, faith is not fact and while everyone is entitled to the faith of his or her choice; the choices of the citizenry should not be precluded by the faith of the few. Science needn’t be challenged simply because it fails to support one’s faith. In truth, as I understand it, acts of faith, by their nature, are not predicated upon fact…they are acts of belief premised upon religious values which can and should withstand the challenges of our imperfect human condition.

At the same time, because faith cannot be factually infallible, this nation established a separation between church and state, which afforded each individual the right to adopt the faith they preferred while preventing and protecting the individual from the narrow imposition of the precepts of any particular religious ideology. As such, our forefathers chose to establish governance based upon an adherence to that which could be determined factually while being careful to allow the individual to adopt and abide by their elected, and often disparate, religious beliefs.

Until this nation recommits to this formative construct, we will continue to indiscriminately attach ourselves to each news report that affords us the opportunity to advance narrow and nescient belief systems. At some point, faith must again become a bond of belief between the individual and his or her god…one that actually offers the comfort that is promised to come from a true act of faith. If this cannot be achieved, then perhaps its time we admit that we have abandoned true faith for that which can be falsely forced upon others in order to convince us that it must be fact. In the end, if one’s god exists, then putting forth the former while succumbing to the latter will do little more than sever us from the salvation we’re purportedly seeking.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007 by Daniel DiRito |

Fed Finally Narrows The Sentencing Gap Between Crack And Blow

The U.S. Sentencing Commission took an important step towards correcting the racial inequity found in the existing sentencing guidelines for those who possess crack cocaine versus those who possess powdered cocaine. Hopefully it will be the first step in reassessing our current drug enforcement strategy.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

We’ve all heard the expression “justice is served”…and while most of us leave the table feeling satisfied with what we’ve been fed; others are forced to swallow a less than palatable plate…one that contains an inordinate amount of one particularly foul ingredient. For approximately two decades, those individuals who have made the unfortunate mistake of choosing to partake of crack cocaine over powdered nose candy have been left to endure the lingering aftertaste that accompanies a recipe rife with ill-conceived and inequitable punishment guidelines.

In a move that begins to correct this long-standing injustice, the U.S. Sentencing Commission changed the guidelines to allow jail time to be reduced by up to fifteen months. The change is an attempt to reduce the 100 to 1 equation that was instituted in 1988 as an attempt to combat the sudden increase in the use of crack cocaine. Basically, the law stated that an individual had to possess 100 times more powdered cocaine than crack cocaine to receive the same prison sentence. As it turned out, the law imprisoned far more blacks for far longer periods of time for possessing far less cocaine than their white counterparts.

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Since 1988, possession of five grams of crack cocaine – an amount equal to five packets of sugar substitute – landed a person in jail for five years. But people caught with cocaine powder would have to possess 100 times that amount, or 500 grams, to get the same five-year stint behind bars.

It’s known as the 100-to-1 ratio. And because most people convicted of crack offenses are black and most convicted of powder cocaine offenses are white, critics have long argued that the disparity represents an egregious racial inequity in America’s criminal-justice system.

This week the US Sentencing Commission, with little fanfare, officially reduced its recommended sentences for crack-related offenses. [...]

As a result, up to 4 in 5 people found guilty of crack-cocaine offenses will get sentences that are, on average, 16 months shorter than they would have been under the former guidelines. Opponents of the 100-to-1 ratio applaud the commission’s move, but they say it’s just a first step because the so-called mandatory minimum sentences set by Congress remain on the books.

Many lawmakers expected that long, mandatory sentences for possessing or selling crack would discourage drug use. And because many perceived crack to be much more destructive than powder cocaine, Congress established the 100-to-1 ratio. In 1988, it passed another law that established a mandatory minimum penalty for simple possession of crack cocaine.

Since then, studies have shown that the crack-versus-powder sentencing disparity disproportionately affects minorities. Last year, 82 percent of crack defendants were black, according to the sentencing commission, compared with 9 percent who were white. For powder cocaine, it was almost the opposite: About 80 percent of powder-cocaine defendants were white and less than 14 percent were black.

It remains uncertain if the new guidelines will be applied retroactively. A follow up meeting is planned in November to consider that issue. If the changes were retroactive, the article indicates that as many as 19,500 individuals incarcerated for crack cocaine possession could have their sentences reduced by an average of 27 months.

The situation is a good example of the flaws that have plagued the war on drugs. While I don’t believe the use of cocaine is advisable, I do believe there is no legitimate reason to impose punishments that impartially penalize blacks. Some have suggested the best solution would be to make the sentences for powdered cocaine as severe as those for crack cocaine.

Personally, I don’t believe drug use can be extinguished through criminalization so stiffening the punishment seems like the wrong approach. I suspect those unfortunate enough to become addicted would be better served with improved treatment options and I wouldn’t be surprised if doing so would, in the long run, cost less to implement than the ongoing expenses associated with the existing criminal model.

At the very least, this current revision is a long overdue correction. Hopefully it will be the first step in reassessing our current drug enforcement strategy.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Thursday, November 1st, 2007 by Daniel DiRito |