Ehud Olmert is the first Israeli Prime Minister sentenced to prison

Olmert enters prison
Click to enlargeOlmert on the leftMoti Milrod

Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert started serving a 19-month prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice on Monday, becoming the first Israeli premier to be imprisoned and capping a years-long legal saga that forced him to resign in 2009…

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say this about George W Bush? Trouble is – even the anti-government Tea Party-types won’t join the campaign. Ideology still overrules any sense of fighting for justice.

Georgia homophobes want Christian sharia — 400 companies ready to say “Goodbye”

A coalition of more than 400 companies is openly opposing a Georgia “religious liberty” bill that is rapidly heading toward passage, with at least one major company already leaving the state over the proposal.

The proposed law would allow both individuals and organizations to refuse to conduct business with or otherwise discriminate against anyone whose marriage they find counters their religious beliefs. It also protects individuals from existing nondiscrimination laws in Atlanta and elsewhere.

A similar bill was dismissed last year, but the speed at which this year’s version…is moving has raised serious concerns among state lawmakers, business owners, the faith community and activists.

The bill passed both the House and, in a different form, the Senate this month. The most recent version bars the government from taking “adverse action” against a person or faith-based organization that “believes, speaks, or acts in accordance” with the religious belief that “marriage should only be between a man and a woman”.

Telecom startup 373k announced it would to relocate from Decatur, Georgia, to Nevada immediately after the Georgia senate voted in favor of the measure last week…

Based on the over 500 emails he’s received from members of his district and elsewhere, House Representative Taylor Bennett agrees there’s “overwhelming opposition” to the proposed law.

Just in the last week, roughly 100 businesses have joined a coalition of what is now over 400 companies opposing the religious freedom bill. The group Georgia Prospers, of which Moore is a member, includes a range of businesses – from Fortune 500 companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot to smaller ones across the state – in support of “treating all Georgians and visitors fairly”.

Several have cited fears that Georgia will suffer lost revenue, as in Indiana where public disdain for a similar bill, before it even became law, is said to have cost the state $60m. Atlanta’s chamber of commerce and visitors’ bureau produced separate studies citing a potential loss of $1bn to $2bn if the bill passes without civil rights protections.

The religious community is also represented among the many in opposition to the law. Nearly 300 clergy members in the state spoke out this week against the “overly broad, discriminatory” proposal.

This is part of the same range of defenses erected and attempted early days of the civil rights movement. Hard-core bigots can always rely on their officially religious peers to support any rejection of the rest of the nation moving forward. They get what they deserve when the civil portion of the United States decides to boycott backwards ideology and reactionary behavior.

I would be no more likely to support a business or social endeavor in a state with laws like this than I would have to deal with comparable bodies in apartheid South Africa BITD.

Want to go back to 19th Century bigotry – then you deserve a 19th Century income.

Drug bans are ineffective – Kofi Annan

In my experience, good public policy is best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not. Policy based on common assumptions and popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions.

Nowhere is this divorce between rhetoric and reality more evident than in the formulation of global drug policies, where too often emotions and ideology rather than evidence have prevailed.

Take the case of the medical use of cannabis. By looking carefully at the evidence from the United States, we now know that legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes has not, as opponents argued, led to an increase in its use by teenagers. By contrast, there has been a near tripling of American deaths from heroin overdoses between 2010 and 2013, even though the law and its severe punishments remain unchanged…

Globally, the “war on drugs” has not succeeded. Some estimate that enforcing global prohibition costs at least $100 billion a year, but as many as 300 million people now use drugs worldwide, contributing to a global illicit market with a turnover of $330 billion a year, one of the largest commodity markets in the world…

I believe that drugs have destroyed many lives, but wrong government policies have destroyed many more. We all want to protect our families from the potential harm of drugs. But if our children do develop a drug problem, surely we will want them cared for as patients in need of treatment and not branded as criminals…

The tendency in many parts of the world to stigmatize and incarcerate drug users has prevented many from seeking medical treatment. In what other areas of public health do we criminalize patients in need of help? Punitive measures have sent many people to prison, where their drug use has worsened. A criminal record for a young person for a minor drug offence can be a far greater threat to their well-being than occasional drug use.

The original intent of drug policy, according to the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs, was to protect the “health and welfare of mankind.” We need to refocus international and national policy on this key objective.

Kofi Annan details his arguments in this essay. A worthy read. He concludes with four regulatory steps – starting with decriminalization. He also reaches out to nations whose change to sensible policies have resulted logically in some solutions, a healthier context, success. He suggests they have a responsibility to lobby foot-draggers like the United States. They should be advocating wholesale in bodies like the United Nations.