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November 2007



Odds and Ends

“bullet” Interesting Cannabis Thread over at Daily Kos. Grassroots liberals understand that the lack of leadership within the Democratic Party on changing marijuana laws is sending some of their young people to the Ron Paul camp. “bullet” Drug War cheerleader and former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is officially gone as of this morning. […]

Ron Paul (updated)

There’s a lot being written about this “fringe” candidate recently, and in some pretty high places. And it’s not just about him, but about the movement his candidacy has spawned. Witness the mostly excellent article by Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie in the Washington Post (and also picked up by other papers)

…it’s clear that […]

The drug war is a malignant virus that feeds on the Constitution

In today’s Washington Post: Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request by Ellen Nakashima

Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers. In some cases, judges have granted the requests […]

Open Thread

“bullet” Drug Sense Weekly

Happy Thanksgiving

What Jeralyn said

Like most Americans, I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

What I’m most thankful for is that I’m not in jail eating processed turkey on a plastic plate.

Obama did drugs?

Old news rears its head (and probably will several times more in this election cycle). I’ve talked for years about Obama’s admission to using drugs when he was a teen. The big issue for me is that he has talked about using drugs as a youth and was able to become a success, and yet he brags about passing laws to imprison and deny opportunities to other youths who make the same “mistake.”
Well, in a talk with high schoolers on Tuesday, Obama mentioned his youthful indiscretions:

“You know, I made some bad decisions that I’ve actually written about. You know, got into drinking. I experimented with drugs,” he said. “There was a whole stretch of time that I didn’t really apply myself a lot. It wasn’t until I got out of high school and went to college that I started realizing, ‘Man, I wasted a lot of time.’”

Well naturally, this has become the big deal again, and has become the talk in all the media and among other people who consider themselves important:

‹I respect his honesty in doing that. One of the things we need from our people running for office is not this pretense of perfection. The reality is all of us that run for public office…we‰re all human beings. If we haven‰t made mistakes, don‰t vote for us, ‰cause we‰ve got some big ones that are going to happen in the future.Š


“It’s just not a good idea for people running for President of the United States who potentially could be the role model for a lot of people to talk about their personal failings while they were kids because it opens the doorway to other kids thinking, ‘well I can do that too and become President of the United States,’” Romney told an Iowa audience today. “I think that was a huge error by Barack Obama…it is just the wrong way for people who want to be the leader of the free world.”

Fox and Friends

Fox and Friends kept up the jokes and laughing in the next segment. Gretchen Carlson said speaking of drinking a presidential candidate was talking about drinking and a little drug use, and said we’re talking about Barack Obama. Gretchen also said he said he was a junky pothead and that’s where he was headed. […]
They then had the right wing radio host, Mancow on who said he used to smoke it up all the time with Barack Obama, he said Obama was hilarious. And the Fox and Friends crew just laughed and laughed as Mancow made fun of smoking pot. Mancow also told the Fox and Friends crew that he loved the idea that they were talking about a man who got high and wanted to become president when they had Ron Paul, who was high right now. More laughter ensued.

Calvina Fay:

“A person in his position has an obligation to be very clear about the seriousness and illegality and potentially deadly results of using drugs,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation.
She said the two most effective weapons against teen addiction are emphasizing the harm drugs can cause and stressing societal disapproval of using them.
“He basically violated both of those,” Fay said.
She said Obama’s telling kids he did drugs and came out okay might also lull parents into being less alarmed about their kids’ dabbling with banned substances.
“His outcome was very different from what we normally see. Most kids that use drugs don’t become presidential candidates,” Fay said. [emphasis added]

Yes, that’s true. And most kids who use marijuana don’t become heroin addicts either. Also, most kids that drink milk don’t become presidential candidates. Most kids that breathe air don’t become presidential candidates.
OK, so what do we have available to us? The media, ever ready to pounce on drug stories for a laugh, plus It-was-youthful-indiscretion-for-me,-but-I’m-locking-you-up hypocrites (Obama, Giuliani), and pro-ignorance moralists (Romney, Fay). Great choices.
What I’d like to see: “I used drugs as a teenager, and I was lucky. I didn’t get arrested and have my future ruined. I didn’t get drawn into the criminal networks that control the drug trade. And I didn’t run into problems with abusing drugs. If I’m elected President, I’ll see that young people get the education they need to make good choices, do my best to insure that a bad choice won’t ruin their lives, and stop ceding control of drugs to the black market.
Update: Froma Harrop has a great take on this.

Open Thread

“bullet” At Grits for Breakfast: Texas’ Worst Court: Cops can hand out dope to create snitches. Also see his update.
“bullet” I’ve been hesitant to write much on the jet that crashed full of cocaine and whether it was tied to the U.S. government. It’s all so murky and hard to sort through. But that’s the kind of sifting that Bill Conroy does, and he has some of the speculation here.
“bullet” Mark Souder is a real head case (but then we knew that). Scott Morgan has the recent details.
“bullet” Jacob Sullum’s article The Addict’s Veto is not just about gambling.
“bullet” Robert J. Caldwell strikes again in an ignorant piece about Plan Mexico the Merida Initiative: Drug War Allies

Critics, mainly the left in Mexico and assorted liberals in this country, are labeling the Merida Initiative “Plan Mexico.” That’s intended as an unflattering reference to Washington’s long-standing program of paramilitary assistance that helps Colombia fight drug trafficking, terrorism and a narco-funded communist insurgency.

He then goes on to say that that’s unfair, Plan Mexico is so not like Plan Colombia, and Plan Colombia worked anyway. Which is both factually incorrect and a bizarre self-defeating argument.
“bullet” For a much better view of Plan Mexico, check out this excellent, detailed and referenced discussion at Chicago Indymedia by Jennifer Truskowski: Public Demand Grows For President Bush To Reveal Details of Plan Mexico
“bullet” Link [Thanks, Allan]

The illegal drugs trade in Britain is worth a staggering £8billion a year and involves 70,000 street dealers, secret Home Office research revealed yesterday.
Major importers stand to earn more than £16,000 every day and run their operations like a business. Some even have a list of salaried employees.
The drug barons have little fear of being caught and view jail as nothing more than an “occupational hazard”, the study reveals.

“bullet” LEAP on the Presidential Trail: NH Cop to McCain: Drug War Blows [Thanks, Allan again]
“bullet” Another must-read by Radley Balko: Casualties of the Corrupt Drug War

Richard Paey interview

He’s out of prison now, pardoned by the Governor, and Radley Balko interviews Richard Paey. A must read.

Drug Warriors are losing it

Somebody needs to keep an eye on the major drug warriors. I think their world may be crumbling and I worry about some kind of disgruntled postal worker kind of explosion. The latest is this rather unhinged speech by UNODC’s Maria Costa in Spain. It is the whining of someone who’s pet cause isn’t getting […]

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win

There’s a particularly odd post over at the Drug Czar’s place: Analysis: Setting the Record Straight on Cocaine Data.
It’s odd, because it doesn’t follow the usual drug czar post of standard propaganda and self-congratulatory pap. This post notes specific claims that have been made refuting the drug czar, and then attempts to counter them.

Those facts, however, were not enough to stop the advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) from attacking the Director‰s statement, seeking to dismiss this positive news in drug policy. WOLA argues that the cocaine shortage is a meaningless blip and one more exercise in drug policy futility, which is their traditional policy stance virtually no matter which way the evidence cuts.

Yes, this is startling. They didn’t just ignore the criticism. They didn’t just ridicule it as being nonsense from “legalizers.” They actually engaged the criticism, complete with naming the opposition, linking to it, and demanding a public analysis of the difference in opinion.
This says to me that the ONDCP is scared. They’re increasingly being seen as nothing more than the lying propaganda machine that they are. The press is no longer simply regurgitating their claims. Even Congress may be getting skeptical of their truthiness.
Now, who’s right on the specific cocaine availability trend numbers between ONDCP and WOLA? I don’t know. I haven’t spent a lot of time analyzing this, nor can I. My understanding is that the city specific numbers ONDCP was using were based on internal data and that the methodology and raw data to verify it had not been made available to the public, so it couldn’t be independently verified. WOLA probably used a different set of numbers, and probably none of the numbers can very accurately reflect the price or availability of cocaine. Additionally, as others have eloquently explained, even if true, massive cocaine shortages are not a sign of victory, but merely signal a demand for more supply (which will step in to meet the demand), and a short-term increase in violence and drug substitution.
What I can comment on, however, is the notion that this is a reason to claim that the war on cocaine in Colombia is working, and deserves further funding. And to do so, I need go no further than the U.S. Department of Justice and their new National Drug Threat Assessment 2008 (pdf). On Page 1:

Large cocaine seizures and strong cocaine interdiction operations appear to have disrupted the ability of some foreign DTOs to supply cocaine to the United States and have caused many U.S. cities, primarily cities in the eastern United States, to experience decreased availability of cocaine during the first half of 2007. In certain cities, these shortages have continued through October 2007. However, Mexican DTOs will most likely undertake concerted efforts to reestablish their supply chain, and because cocaine
production in South America appears to be stable or increasing, cocaine availability could
return to normal levels during late 2007 and early 2008. […]
Potential South American cocaine production increased in 2006 as Colombian coca growers adapted their growing practices to counter intensified coca eradication. Despite increasingly aggressive coca eradication efforts, U.S. Government estimates of coca cultivation in South America indicate that cocaine producers potentially produced 970 metric tons (MT) of pure cocaine in 2006 (see Table 1 on page 2), a 7 percent increase from 910 MT in 2005 and the highest level since 2002. Coca growers, primarily in Colombia, have sustained and seemingly increased overall cultivation in South America by
expanding growing operations to areas where large-scale coca cultivation had not been reported previously. The U.S. State Department reports that 2006 was the sixth consecutive year of record aerial spraying in Colombia, surpassing the previous
year‰s record by 24 percent. Intelligence community reporting indicates that many of the
fields in the new growing areas were most likely planted away from traditional cultivation areas where eradication has intensified. Intelligence reporting also indicates that Colombian coca growers have responded to eradication efforts by the radical pruning (drastically cutting back the bush, often down to the ground, to protect the plant from the herbicide) and vigorous replanting of sprayed coca bushes. These practices allow for more rapid regeneration or replacement of sprayed fields.

Yeah, the Drug Czar isn’t looking too good right now.

[Thanks, Nick for the NDTA link]

Update: Alex has an alternate theory on this ONDCP post: Tabitha Temperance