Back home: in the State of Tennessee alone “opiod” abuse is killing each year as many people as were killed in Kenya’s Post Election Violence of ’07-08

This is a quote from an email bulletin I received today from the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.  She is an impressive woman I knew back in the local Republican Party in Nashville during the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations when I was in law school:

Earlier this month, I announced the formation of an Opioid Abuse Task Force to combat the epidemic of opioid addiction in Tennessee. In 2015, more than 1,400 Tennesseans died from opioid abuse and there are currently more opioid prescriptions in our state than there are people. We cannot let this problem get any worse, and that’s why I am proud of my colleagues for working swiftly to come up with solutions to this problem.

Back then in the late 1980s the state government was run by Democrats with Republicans gaining ground in federal offices and presidential campaigns, as in most of the South.  East Tennessee, where my mother grew up on a family dairy farm on the outskirts of a small town, had a Republican tradition as upland area that had been pro-Union or at least non-successionist in the Civil War, whereas the Confederate areas stayed fairly Democratic.  For this reason Tennessee had an unusually competitive two party system with genuine efforts to sway overlapping groups of potential voters.

In more recent years, although I have not had the opportunity to be around much the GOP seems to have gradually consolidated control and the Democrats have receded into the cities.  The GOP has simultaneously moved steadily to the right from being a center-right/right coalition back 25ish years ago and power has devolved from the party organizations to voters in open primaries (as in most Southern states voter registration in Tennesssee is not by party).  As politics has moved right, the culture has moved “left” as in the rest of the country and much of what we “conservatives” thought we wanted to conserve is not so much in evidence anymore, as reflected in part in the dislocations associated with things like the opiod epidemic.  

The opiod epidemic is a pretty fascinating story of policy, political and cultural failure–needless to say it’s embarrassing as hell to talk about and that much harder to solve.

Fortunately Donald Trump, leader of his new Republican Party spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Greater Washington today and promised a huge military build up to go along with the pre-existing program of paying pharmaceutical companies for the opioids.  So not to worry–next week back to our regularly scheduled programming about elections for Africans.

Don’t forget how hard Kenya’s politicians are working to hold the country back . . .

While the Sudan referendum and the Ugandan election take center stage, it is important not to forget that Kenya’s parliament is deadlocked on taking the necessary steps to move forward on implementation of the new constitution and that the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission has not been revived. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will be in Nairobi this week for meetings ahead of his planned public submission of request for indictments of key instigators of the 2008 post-election violence (necessitated by the Kenyan leadership’s unwillingness to implement local tribunals).

The Standard reports on more talk by Rift Valley MPs of a Ruto-Uhuru alliance for the 2012 elections. Thus the two most prominently identified suspects in organizing the potion of the post-election violence carried out by private militias would unite.

Capital FM reports that Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for the arrest of gays at a rally Sunday in Kibera.

And the Nation says that it has seen the secret U.S. dossier on Kenyan drug lords:

The report seen by the Nation says Kenya is not only a significant transit country for cocaine, heroin and hashish, but also a money-laundering hub.

“Quantities of heroin and hashish transiting in Kenya, mostly from Southwest Asia bound for Europe and United States have markedly increased in recent years,” the report adds.

The International Narcotics Strategy Report, that reviewed 2009 drug trafficking and money laundering in Kenya, blames lack of resources and rampant corruption for the two vices.

Kenya’s financial system, the report adds, may be laundering more than Sh80 billion ($100 million) each year, including an undetermined amount of drug money and Somali piracy earnings.

It indicates that money laundering continues unabated, despite Parliament passing the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Law, 2009, which was signed by President Kibaki on December 31, 2009.

However, the law has not come into force because the Ministry of Finance has not gazetted its commencement date although the Act indicates that such date shall not exceed six months after the date of assent.
. . . .
The report accused former anti-corruption boss Aaron Ringera, former Police boss Major-General (Rtd) Hussein Ali and the director of Police Training College Peter Kavila of frustrating investigations into the matter. Both have denied the accusations, with Mr Ringera threatening to sue the newspapers for defamation.

Parliament has put the Executive under pressure accusing it of not taking the war on narcotics seriously. MPs are now demanding that names of the senior government officers banned from travelling to the US be made public.

Internal Security assistant minister Orwa Ojodeh told Parliament on Thursday that he could not reveal the names because he was yet to receive the information from the US embassy.

On Sunday, the envoy declined to comment on the matter. He said he would give an official statement on the matter this week.

Independent sources told the Nation that those affected are three MPs — one each from Coast, Central and Eastern provinces.

Drug Enforcement Administration becomes latest U.S. agency to plan Nairobi office; Visa bans announced

U.S. Says Kenya Has Become Major Transit Route, Hub for Drug Traffickers, report Bloomberg’s Sarah McGregor and Paul Richardson.

Overlapping with human and arms trafficking, safe passage for terrorists, etc.–corruption and impunity in the justice system.

“Because narcotics trafficking is a major and growing threat, and is an integral part of the culture of impunity, it is vitally important that the Kenyan government intensify efforts to combat it,” he [Ambassador Ranneberger] said.
The presence of the drugs is feeding addiction within the country and money from trafficking is being directed to help fund political campaigns, Ranneberger said.

“Drug barons use their drug money to contribute to political campaigns and to buy influence with politicians and the media,” he said.

Four senior Kenyan government officials and one prominent businessman have been barred from traveling to the U.S. because of “reliable” reports that they are involved in the illicit drug-trafficking trade, Ranneberger said. Kenyan lawmakers must report sources of campaign funding and surrender money found to have been donated by convicted smugglers, he said.

The Kenyan public needs to know if officials in their government are "involved in the illicit drug-trafficking trade". Good for the U.S. not to grant visas to such people, but the confidentiality of the visa bar process means that it has limited utility in directly addressing corruption of Kenyan politics.