Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Help End Rockefeller Drug Laws

Posted in prison, War on Drugs by allisonkilkenny on March 13, 2009

NYCLU

12036314_400x400_frontIt’s Finally Happening

New York must reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws

The Rockefeller Drug Laws, enacted in 1973, mandate extremely harsh prison terms for the possession or sale of small amounts of drugs. Intended to target drug kingpins, most of the people incarcerated under these laws are convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses. Many of the thousands of New Yorkers in prison under these laws suffer from substance abuse problems; many others struggle with issues related to homelessness, mental illness or unemployment.

The Rockefeller Drug Laws create stark racial disparities in prison populations and exact an enormous financial toll on all of New York State.

After 36 years, the chance for true reform of these laws is greater this year than it ever has been.

On March 4, the New York State Assembly passed a strong reform bill, the first step on the road to a new direction for New York.

The same progressive bill has now been introduced in the New York State Senate where it faces a much tougher road to passage. Many senators have been intimidated by the scare tactics and misrepresentations of prosecutors who don’t want to give up their power over New Yorkers’ lives. And recent media reports suggest that Governor Paterson, who was once the strongest champion of Rockefeller reform, wants to cut a deal to put a band-aid on these fundamentally broken laws. What we need is real reform, not piecemeal fixes.

Send a free fax to your senators and to Governor Paterson urging them to put 36 years of failed Rockefeller Drug Laws behind us, once and for all. Tell the Senate to pass S.2855, and tell the Governor to sign it into law.

To find out more information about the Rockefeller Drug Laws, click here.

Tell me more

Talking Points

– For 36 years, the Rockefeller Drug Laws have done nothing to stop drug abuse or help people struggling to overcome addiction in New York. Public health experts agree there is a better way: treatment and rehabilitation.

– The Rockefeller Drug Laws have created unconscionable racial disparities. While 72 percent of New Yorkers who have used illegal drugs are white, more than 90 percent of people incarcerated for drug offenses in New York State are black or Latino.

– The Rockefeller Drug Laws have destroyed lives, families, neighborhoods and whole communities for decades. More than 25,000 children have been orphaned by our state’s drug laws. Sixty percent of people who have been incarcerated can’t find work a year after release.

– New York State could save $267 million annually by treating and rehabilitating those who need it. Our state can’t afford the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

– Judges must have the authority to do what they think is best in the interest of justice and public safety. Mandatory minimum sentences bust be eliminated and judges must have the option of sending people to drug treatment and rehabilitation instead of prison.

– New York State needs alternatives to incarceration programs in every county in the State. Experts agree: Some drug users need mental health services, treatment, education, and job-training programs instead of a jail cell.

SIGN THE LETTER HERE

VIDEO: NY Legislature to Vote on Overhauling Draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws

Posted in politics, prison, racism, War on Drugs by allisonkilkenny on March 3, 2009

Democracy Now

n52476290354_57251The New York State Assembly is set to vote Wednesday on legislation that would allow judges to send drug offenders to substance abuse treatment instead of prison. The legislation would also allow thousands of prisoners jailed for nonviolent drug offenses to have their sentences reduce or commuted. It’s the latest step in a long campaign to repeal the draconian Rockefeller laws. The laws impose lengthy minimum sentences on drug offenders, even those with no prior convictions. The laws have disproportionately targeted people of color, while giving prosecutors de facto control over how long convicts are jailed. [includes rush transcript]

Video Guests:

Kirk James, served nine years under the Rockefeller drug laws as a first-time offender. He’s now a social justice activist.

Caitlin Dunklee, coordinator of the Correctional Association’s Drop the Rock, a grassroots campaign to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws.

Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, Representing New York’s 35th Assembly District in Queens, has led efforts in the New York state legislature to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws.

Watch videos here

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U.S. Is Arms Bazaar for Mexican Cartels

Posted in guns, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 26, 2009
Officials say weapons from George Iknadosian’s store in Phoenix ended up in the hands of a cartel that included Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, right.(Left, A.T.F; right, Eduardo Verdugo/AP)

Officials say weapons from George Iknadosian’s store in Phoenix ended up in the hands of a cartel that included Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, right.(Left, A.T.F; right, Eduardo Verdugo/AP)

Note from Allison: I love how the conversation regarding Mexico’s political and social volatility is never framed as a problem with guns and/or the War on Drugs. Our policies on arms and a failing drug war are just fine. Those crazy Mexicans just need to get their acts together and figure out a bureaucratically corrupt system where corporations operate on the backs of the poor like we have in the good ole’ U S of A, and they’ll be a world power in no time!

New York Times

PHOENIX — The Mexican agents who moved in on a safe house full of drug dealers last May were not prepared for the fire power that greeted them.

When the shooting was over, eight agents were dead. Among the guns the police recovered was an assault rifle traced back across the border to a dingy gun store here called X-Caliber Guns.

Now, the owner, George Iknadosian, will go on trial on charges he sold hundreds of weapons, mostly AK-47 rifles, to smugglers, knowing they would send them to a drug cartel in the western state of Sinaloa. The guns helped fuel the gang warfare in which more than 6,000 Mexicans died last year.

Mexican authorities have long complained that American gun dealers are arming the cartels. This case is the most prominent prosecution of an American gun dealer since the United States promised Mexico two years ago it would clamp down on the smuggling of weapons across the border. It also offers a rare glimpse of how weapons delivered to American gun dealers are being moved into Mexico and wielded in horrific crimes.

“We had a direct pipeline from Iknadosian to the Sinaloa cartel,” said Thomas G. Mangan, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix.

Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because the gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and they cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons.

The ease with which Mr. Iknadosian and two other men transported weapons to Mexico over a two-year period illustrates just how difficult it is to stop the illicit trade, law enforcement officials here say.

The gun laws in the United States allow the sale of multiple military-style rifles to American citizens without reporting the sales to the government, and the Mexicans search relatively few cars and trucks going south across their border.

What is more, the sheer volume of licensed dealers — more than 6,600 along the border alone, many of them operating out of their houses — makes policing them a tall order. Currently the A.T.F. has about 200 agents assigned to the task.

Smugglers routinely enlist Americans with clean criminal records to buy two or three rifles at a time, often from different shops, then transport them across the border in cars and trucks, often secreting them in door panels or under the hood, law enforcement officials here say. Some of the smuggled weapons are also bought from private individuals at gun shows, and the law requires no notification of the authorities in those cases.

“We can move against the most outrageous purveyors of arms to Mexico, but the characteristic of the arms trade is it’s a ‘parade of ants’ — it’s not any one big dealer, it’s lots of individuals,” said Arizona’s attorney general, Terry Goddard, who is prosecuting Mr. Iknadosian. “That makes it very hard to detect because it’s often below the radar.”

The Mexican government began to clamp down on drug cartels in late 2006, unleashing a war that daily deposits dozens of bodies — often gruesomely tortured — on Mexico’s streets. President Felipe Calderón has characterized the stream of smuggled weapons as one of the most significant threats to security in his country. The Mexican authorities say they seized 20,000 weapons from drug gangs in 2008, the majority bought in the United States.

The authorities in the United States say they do not know how many firearms are transported across the border each year, in part because the federal government does not track gun sales and traces only weapons used in crimes. But A.T.F. officials estimate 90 percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico come from dealers north of the border.

In 2007, the firearms agency traced 2,400 weapons seized in Mexico back to dealers in the United States, and 1,800 of those came from dealers operating in the four states along the border, with Texas first, followed by California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Mr. Iknadosian is accused of being one of those dealers. So brazen was his operation that the smugglers paid him in advance for the guns and the straw buyers merely filled out the required paperwork and carried the weapons off, according to A.T.F. investigative reports. The agency said Mr. Iknadosian also sold several guns to undercover agents who had explicitly informed him that they intended to resell them in Mexico.

Mr. Iknadosian, 47, will face trial on March 3 on charges including fraud, conspiracy and assisting a criminal syndicate. His lawyer, Thomas M. Baker, declined to comment on the charges, but said Mr. Iknadosian maintained his innocence. No one answered the telephone at Mr. Iknadosian’s home in Glendale, Ariz.

A native of Egypt who spent much of his life in California, Mr. Iknadosian moved his gun-selling operation to Arizona in 2004, because the gun laws were more lenient, prosecutors said.

Over the two years leading up to his arrest last May, he sold more than 700 weapons of the kind currently sought by drug dealers in Mexico, including 515 AK-47 rifles and one .50 caliber rifle that can penetrate an engine block or bulletproof glass, the A.T.F. said.

Based on the store’s records and the statements of some defendants, investigators estimate at least 600 of those weapons were smuggled to Mexico. So far, the Mexican authorities have seized seven of the Kalashnikov-style rifles from gunmen for the Beltrán Leyva cartel who had battled with the police.

The store was also said to be the source for a Colt .38-caliber pistol stuck in the belt of a reputed drug kingpin, Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, when he was arrested a year ago in the Sinaloan town of Culiacán. Also linked to the store was a diamond-studded handgun carried by another reputed mobster, Hugo David Castro, known as El Once, who was arrested in November on charges he took part in killing a state police chief in Sonora.

According to reports by A.T.F. investigators, Mr. Iknadosian sold more than 60 assault rifles in late 2007 and early 2008 to straw buyers working for two brothers — Hugo Miguel Gamez, 26, and Cesar Bojorguez Gamez, 27 — who then smuggled them into Mexico.

The brothers instructed the buyers to show up at X-Caliber Guns and to tell Mr. Iknadosian they were there to pick up guns for “Cesar” or “C,” the A.T.F. said. Mr. Iknadosian then helped the buyers fill out the required federal form, called the F.B.I. to check their records and handed over the rifles. The straw buyers would then meet one of the brothers to deliver the merchandise. They were paid $100 a gun.

The Gamez brothers have pleaded guilty to a count of attempted fraud. Seven of the buyers arrested last May have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and have agreed to testify against Mr. Iknadosian, prosecutors said.

In one transaction, Mr. Iknadosian gave advice about how to buy weapons and smuggle them to a person who turned out to be an informant who was recording him, according to a transcript. He told the informant to break the sales up into batches and never to carry more than two weapons in a car.

“If you got pulled over, two is no biggie,” Mr. Iknadosian is quoted as saying in the transcript. “Four is a question. Fifteen is, ‘What are you doing?’ ”

We Are a Nation of Junkies Hooked on Media-Fabricated Outrage

Posted in media, politics, War on Drugs by allisonkilkenny on February 16, 2009

David Sirota

phelps_479089a

I’m not sure if it’s because we’re strung out on “Lost” episodes, or if it’s because we’re still suffering from a post-9/11 stress disorder that makes us crave “breaking news” alerts, or if it’s because the economy has turned us into distraction junkies. But one thing is painfully obvious after Michael Phelps’ marijuana “scandal” erupted last week: Our society is addicted to fake outrage — and to break our dependence, we’re going to need far more potent medicine than the herb Phelps was smoking.

If you haven’t heard (and I’m guessing you have), the Olympic gold medalist was recently photographed taking a toke of weed. The moment the picture hit the Internet, the media blew the story up, pumping out at least 1,200 dispatches about the “controversy,” according to my LexisNexis search. Phelps’ sponsors subsequently threatened to pull their endorsement deals, and USA Swimming suspended him for “disappointing so many people.”
 
America is a place where you can destroy millions of lives as a Wall Street executive and still get invited for photo-ops at the White House; a land where the everyman icon — Joe Sixpack — is named for his love of shotgunning two quarts of beer at holiday gatherings; a “shining city on a hill” where presidential candidates’ previous abuse of alcohol and cocaine is portrayed as positive proof of grittiness and character. And yet, somehow, Phelps is the evildoer of the hour because he went to a party and took a hit off someone’s bong.
 
As with most explosions of fake outrage, the Phelps affair asks us to feign anger at something we know is commonplace. A nation of tabloid readers is apoplectic that Brad and Jen divorced, even though one out of every two American marriages ends the same way. A country fetishizing “family values” goes ballistic over the immorality of Paris Hilton’s sex tapeand then keeps spending billions on pornography. And now we’re expected to be indignant about a 23-year-old kid smoking weed, even though studies show that roughly half of us have done the same thing; most of us think pot should be legal in some form; and many of us regularly devour far more toxic substances than marijuana (nicotine, alcohol, reality TV, etc.).
 
So, in the interest of a little taboo candor, I’m just going to throw editorial caution to the wind and write what lots of us thought — but were afraid to say — when we heard about Phelps. Ready? Here goes:
 
America’s drug policy is idiotic.
 
Doctors can hand out morphine to anyone for anything beyond a headache, but they can’t prescribe marijuana to terminal cancer patients. Madison Avenue encourages a population plagued by heart disease to choke down as many artery-clogging Big Macs and Dunkin’ Donuts as it can, but it’s illegal to consume cannabis, “a weed that has been known to kill approximately no one,” as even the archconservative Colorado Springs Gazette admitted in its editorial slamming Phelps. Indeed, it would be perfectly acceptable — even artistically admirable in some quarters — if I told you that I drank myself into a blind stupor while writing this column, but it would be considered “outrageous” if I told you I was instead smoking a joint (FYI — I wasn’t doing either).
 
That said, what’s even more inane than our irrational reefer madness is our addiction to the same high that every pothead craves: the high of escapism. Nerves fried from orange terror warnings, Drudge Report sirens and disaster capitalism’s roller-coaster economics, our narcotic of choice is fake outrage — and it packs a punch. It gets us to turn on the television, tune in to the latest manufactured drama, and drop out of the real battle for the republic’s future.

O’Reilly Smears San Francisco With Surreal Pseudo-Documentary

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on November 19, 2008

You heard it on FOX NEWS first, New Yorkers! It is safe to walk around Central Park at night!

Huffington Post

Bill O’Reilly is scared. As a daring crusader on the side of “traditional America” in the war against “secular progressives,” O’Reilly fears that the “far left” will push President-elect Obama to embrace their values. As an example of the horrors that would befall us if this were to happen, O’Reilly offers up a surreal pseudo-documentary of San Francisco. O’Reilly sends producer Jesse Waters, whose sole journalistic value seems to be his utter lack of shame at chasing after and ambushing anyone O’Reilly points his finger at, to San Francisco because it represents ‘far left government’ at work.

Watching this video, one would think that ninety percent of San Francisco’s population are either homeless, addicted to drugs, prostitutes, crazy, or some mix of all these. The video is an unbelievable smear on a great American city. The only thing worse than the video’s message is the production value. After showing the video, O’Reilly interviews Waters for insight into how San Franciscans can live in such moral and physical squalor. Waters basically says the citizens of Frisco have accepted, and adjusted to, the fact their city is a hell hole. Actually, the city is so beyond the pale that O’Reilly once said he wouldn’t mind if Al Qaida attacked the city. Watch and judge for yourself.

Watch it here.
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