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July 2004



The California PTA knows the truth

Today’s Los Angeles Times reports: State PTA Backs Ban on Random Drug Testing

Across America, the PTA has long fought to prevent student drug use, but last month its California leaders found themselves sparring with federal drug officials in the state Capitol.

The two sides squared off in an Assembly hearing over a bill that […]

The Dallas News knows the truth.

Today’s Dallas News editorial had some welcome strong words about the investigation into the fake drugs scandal.

Nearly three years have gone by since authorities acknowledged that more than two dozen defendants had been falsely arrested and held in jail for possessing not cocaine but ground-up pool chalk. The scandal wrecked countless lives, including those of the defendants and their families most of them Mexican immigrants.

We’re counting on the city’s investigative body which is made up of two private lawyers and a team from the Dallas Police Department to produce a clear, detailed and thorough report that spells out the role that the department’s personnel and procedures played in the scandal.

Already it is clear that accounting controls and oversight of the narcotics unit were nowhere near adequate. We expect city officials to acknowledge and correct the flaws, regardless of how sweeping the needed reforms may be.

This kind of travesty must never be allowed to happen again. …

We need to get to the bottom of what happened, and the city has every right to dig and dig until it hits the floor no matter how much dust is kicked up in the process.


Weekend Reading

Baylen over at D’Alliance, the new blog at the Drug Policy Alliance, has been on a tear this week. “bullet” An interesting, if depressing, look at Kerry’s drug war connections. “bullet” Yet another new taxpayer program from the Drug Czar. “bullet” Check out Baylen’s review of “Saving Grace” at AlterNet. “bullet” Be sure to read […]

Two Personal Plugs

Warning: Non-drug-policy-related post. I usually stick exclusively to drug policy in this blog, but today I wanted to take a moment to make a couple of plugs — one for a show I’m producing and directing in Chicago which opens in a week (and therefore posting will be quite light). The other is for a new book written by my Dad. Obviously feel free to skip this post if you’re not interested or are in some way offended by one or the other.

“bullet” If you’re going to be in or near Chicago, check out the upcoming production of Ascent of the Living Canvas.

This is a live production based on The Living Canvas photography that I’ve been doing for the past 20 years, which involves using the human form as a canvas for textures and unique approaches to light and shadow. The photography has come alive for a series of performance pieces (“The Living Canvas” in 2001 and “The Living Canvas: An Oddysey” in 2002) incorporating movement, text, music, projections and the extraordinary expressiveness of the unclothed human form.
The new show, “Ascent of the Living Canvas,” adds digital projection and combines humor, beauty, and abstract social commentary on the issues of self-esteem and body acceptance.
Photography and direction is by me, choreography by my good friend Mark Hackman (of the amazing Chicago Dance Crash) and original composition is by Dennis Tobenski.
Performances are July 23 through August 28 (Friday and Saturday nights at 8 pm) at Boxer Rebellion Theatre, 1257 W. Loyola Ave. in Chicago (one block from the Loyola Red Line stop). Tickets are $15 and may be purchased online.
I’ll be at all the performances, so please feel free to stay afterward to chat.
For more information about my photography, visit The Living Canvas.

“bullet” I highly recommend this book: The God Connection: A Layperson’s Guide to the Bible by Francis Geo. Guither.

Yes, I’m promoting a book written by my dad. He’s a retired United Methodist minister, a great guy, and I can have delightfully frank and open religious discussions/arguments with him. Well, I started to read his latest book out of politeness (so I could tell him I read it) with that sort of have attention that I developed sitting through all those church services as a kid. But I really became interested. He explains the bible in ways that truly make sense, not as a rigid dictated set of arbitrary doctrines, but a genuine search for meaning and understanding. Here’s an excerpt

In the beginning, God!” Not what, how, or why, but Who? The Bible is a book about God.

Unfortunately, we try to make it a book of science, magic, and unquestioned history. We force it to do all kinds of things it was never intended to do. This book of religion, is the devout and inspired word of faith, coming from sincere, godly men and women confident that God really existed, and that God had moved in marvelous ways to give people, the ultimate creation, an abundant, happy life.

Not all truths came to them at one time! That never happens. Like all of us today, we start with a simple understanding, and move step by step to a higher comprehension. But God was real to them…very real! Like children in a nursery, they had to learn…piling up the blocks, experimenting, asking, “What is the will of this God we worship?” “How is life meant to be lived?” They learned the simple ABC’s first: “There is but one God!” They learned the higher mathematics later, “Love your enemies!”

It took time, lots of time! The prophets came along, and slowly like nurse-maids coaxing little children, they said, “Try this on for size: God is just!” and then, “Now try this: God is merciful!” And would you believe, “God is love”?

Through it all, God never changed: “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) But man’s understanding of God changed. Some growing did take place! Very little, it seemed. Now and then, they took a half-step forward, then fell back a step and a half.

You can buy it through the link above, either as an electronic book, or paperback, and for considerably less than it’s selling at Amazon (and I don’t get a cut from Authorbooks, but that’s fine).

Andrea Barthwell and the Illinois Senate Race

As has been fairly widely reported now, Andrea Barthwell was once found to have committed lewd and abusive behavior through inappropriate remarks during an office birthday party. The Illinois GOP is in complete disarray. Ditka is out, Ryan might still be in, Oberweis is looking fairly likely at the moment, and Ted Nugent has been […]

My letter to the editor

The Pantagraph today published my letter regarding the medical marijuana vote in Congress:

To the Editor: On Wednesday evening (July 7), the U.S. House of Representatives voted on an amendment (the Farr/Rohrabacher/Hinchey/Paul amendment to HR 4754) that would have stopped the federal government from using tax money to harass sick people using medical marijuana […]

Quick Notes and Reading

“bullet” You may want to avoid the war zone of Conroe, Texas during the extra-special additional one-year drug war that will be conducted there from August 1, 2004 to September, 2005, particularly if you’re black. (At D’Alliance). “bullet” Last One Speaks has info on Ann Arbor, Michigan’s attempt to legalize medial marijuana. At some point […]

Medical Marijuana vote

I was pretty upset with my representative’s (Jerry Weller) vote on the HInchey-Rohrabacher amendment. I not only called his office to express my displeasure, but wrote a letter to the Pantagraph, which should be published soon (I haven’t seen it yet).
Clearly I’m not the only one upset with Congress. Check out this scathing editorial in the Las Vegas Review-Journal yesterday:

What was appalling, on the other hand, was to see Nevada’s third representative — supposed conservative and constitutionalist Jim Gibbons — rise to vote against his own constituents, against common sense, against medical compassion and against the Constitution.

Although he “supports states’ rights,” Rep. Gibbons declared, “the regulation of narcotics and other drugs falls under the authority of the federal government. It is a matter of public safety and public health.”

Go back and read Article I, Section 8. There’s no authorization for the federal government to concern itself with “public health and safety” — which is why your police department, your fire department, and your local Health Department are all county or municipal entities.

Rep. Gibbons has surprised and shocked many Nevadans. Can it really be he’s no constitutionalist at all — that he’s really just in favor of the federal bullies going anywhere they want, doing anything they want, regardless of how they trample the rights of the states and the expressed will of the people?

What other extraconstitutional powers would he bestow on our brand new federal police forces under this ginned-up rubric of “public health and safety”? We hesitate even to ask.

Nice editorial!

President Bush announces free society

And I repeat to you — my own view is, is that if a state — if people decide to — what they do in the privacy of their house, consenting adults should be able to do. This is America. It’s a free society.

– President Bush 7/9/04


(OK, so this was in a […]

Good Guys and Bad Guys in the Drug War

Yesterday’s Grand Junction Colorado Sentinel had an interesting article:
Conflict over legalization a growing part of nation’s drug war by Ann Winterholter

The article includes some quotes from Sheriff Bill Masters, editor of The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War, who had some strong words about the drug war.

“It tarnishes every lawman’s badge in this nation. … It makes me sick.”

Masters said judges have told him today’s mandatory sentencing laws for drug cases have taken away their discretion and don’t allow them to sentence an individual to rehabilitation instead of prison time.

The increased numbers of arrests and prison sentences because of drugs are “gumming up the system,” he said.

In the year before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, there were 750,000 arrests for marijuana possession and one terrorist arrest, he said.

Does the drug war take precedence to the nation’s detriment? “Absolutely,” Masters said.

When a robber or rapist is arrested the community is made safer, “but when I arrested a drug pusher, I simply created a job opening in a long line of people willing to take his place,” wrote Jack Cole, an essayist in “The New Prohibition,” a former detective and undercover narcotics officer with the New Jersey State Police and the current executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

It’s a waste of money, Masters said, to have a clogged criminal system and 9-11 terrorists doing what they want.

Drug laws “just don’t work and it actually increases profitability for drug dealers,” Masters said.

The people and states should be allowed to decide on medicinal marijuana or drug legalization instead of the federal government forcing its will on all, he said.

“Do we need the federal government to be our nanny?” he asked

Good stuff. The article then goes on to interview a number of other local drug war professionals, who disagree.
The thing is, these are classic cases of drug war denial — you quickly see that they don’t agree with anything other than the drug war because they are completely blinded. They are unable to think beyond their limited world that has been shaped by the drug war.
The main sympton of this is noticing some bad thing that is a result of the drug war and using that as a reason to keep the drug war going.
It’s the equivalent of hitting yourself over the head with a club to stop your headaches, and claiming that if you ever stopped doing it, even for a moment, the headaches would be worse.
Here are some examples:
Tonya Wheeler, vice president of Advocates for Recovery:

“I don’t see that legalizing any of the drugs is going to make anything get better.”

The idea there would be less crime is unbelievable to her because the drug addicts would still be here. It doesn’t matter if addicts are buying crack on a street corner or at the drugstore, if they don’t have the money they are still going to steal to get what they want, she said.

And yet, real statistics show that she is wrong, partly because she can only view legalization in one way (selling it over the counter).
This report some time ago in the Guardian showed the lie to her statement (from my FAQ):

Switzerland is now leading the way out of prohibition. In 1994, it started prescribing free heroin to long-term addicts who had failed to respond to law enforcement or any other treatment. In 1998, a Lausanne criminologist, Martin Kilias, found that the users’ involvement in burglary, mugging and robbery had fallen by 98%; in shoplifting, theft and handling by 88%; in selling soft drugs by 70%; in selling hard drugs by 91%. As a group, their contacts with police had plunged to less than a quarter of the previous level. The Dutch and the Germans have had similar results with the same strategy. All of them report that, apart from these striking benefits in crime prevention, the users are also demonstrably healthier ( because clean heroin properly used is a benign drug ) and that they are more stable with clear improvements in housing, employment and relationships.

Here’s another blind drug warrior from the initial article: Sgt. Tim Grimsby, Grand Valley Joint Drug Task Force operations supervisor, who said:

If drugs are legalized and, for example, there’s a 30 percent increase in the use of meth, imagine the increase in premiums for health, home and auto insurance, he said.

Ahhh, but methamphetamine is essentially a product of the drug war. It’s an ugly drug that came about largely because of the additional drug war restrictions placed on the more stable and safe amphetemines. And I wonder where he gets the numbers for the 30% increase? Out of his ass, perhaps? Especially since the availability of alternate safer and legal drugs is likely to drive meth use to almost nothing.
Then we have former Mesa County Sheriff Riecke Claussen – a real winner. First:

We also aren’t winning the war against auto theft or child abuse, “but no one wants to legalize that,” Claussen said.

You could drive a truck through the holes in logic there. Is he really putting smoking a joint in the same category as car theft and child abuse? We aren’t winning the war against stupidity either, so I guess we’d better lock up Sheriff Claussen.
You see, where he gets sidetracked is opposing legalization in a vacuum. You can’t simply oppose legalizing something. You have to actually have reasons for it to be illegal.
Think of it this way. If you are in favor of legalizing marijuana, then you believe that there is not sufficient reason for it to be illegal. If you oppose legalizing, then you must think there IS sufficient reason for it to be illegal. You have to have specific justifications you can defend that something should be illegal in order to logically oppose legalization.
Claussen continues:

How do you measure how many people haven’t used the drugs because of the laws? It’s one of those “intangible factors,” Claussen said. “It’s hard to count things that don’t happen.”

OK, this guy’s completely over the edge. This statement is the ultimate nonsense defense — essentially saying “We need to keep locking people up and destroying families, because even though we don’t know that it’s having a deterrent effect, who knows? It might.”