Alexander Cockburn

Alexander Cockburn’s latest post provides further evidence that he is moving to the right. He starts off by making the surprising announcement that he voted against California’s Proposition 19 ballot initiative, which would have more or less legalized marijuana use. Cockburn says he did so because “I didn’t see legalization doing our local Humboldt economy any favors, and I never liked the way the Prop was written anyway.” I take it that what Cockburn is referring to here is that the measure would have allowed the state and local governments to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana. Well, I would rather have that than people being thrown in jail for possessing the stuff. The measure was not perfect, but it was a step in the direction of eliminating this country’s draconian anti-drug laws. Cockburn is apparently less concerned about this than he is that pot growers in Humboldt County might be inconvenienced.

Cockburn then announced that he voted for Jerry Brown, and he “felt good about that too”. Brown is a rabid supporter of California’s obscene “Three Strikes” law, which has resulted in people being given life sentences for petty, non-violent crimes, and which has helped turn California’s prison system into a vast warehouse of human beings. He justifies this by saying that Brown was not as bad as his opponent, Meg Whitman. Cockburn used to be a critic of this sort of lesser evil argument. During the 2004 election, he inspired me and many other people with his steadfast resistance to the “Anybody But Bush” hysteria that was sweeping the left.

Cockburn’s website, Counterpunch, still carries some good articles, such as one by his brother, Patrick on Al Qaida, as well as one by Joseph Ramsey that rightly skewers Michael Moore. Yet Cockburn himself has become increasingly problematic. What’s more, he has become increasingly quarrelsome towards the rest of the left, as when he lashed out at Louis Proyect, who had rightly criticized him for his global warming quackery. One can only hope that Cockburn doesn’t go off the deep end the way Christopher Hitchens did.

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