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March 2009



About that cocaine video

I haven’t commented about the guy who’s been shopping around the video that supposedly shows Joe Biden’s daughter doing cocaine, because I just wasn’t interested.
Eric Sterling has it right.

This person is a disgusting sleazebag. […]
None of us would ever want a videotape of our child’s indiscretions made public. Persons who seek to profit from such indiscretions are contemptible.
All of us should empathize with Ashley Biden. Whether this video accurately depicts her or not, she has been victimized. We know that about twenty million Americans use illegal drugs, and that half of all American adults have used an illegal drug at least once. She is being held up to ridicule for something that does not deserve ridicule. Even if she had snorted cocaine at a party, her privacy has been terribly invaded. (It is worth noting that there will be people who will feel completely justified in attacking Ashley Biden because she is suspected of using cocaine. There will be people who will feel justified attacking Vice President Biden for the policy positions he has taken because his daughter is rumored to have used cocaine. He is not responsible for his adult daughter’s use of drugs.)

Well, it turns out that it’s even sleazier than we originally heard. The attorney that was shopping around the video has bailed, and now it appears that the guy with the video not only supplied the cocaine, but used a hidden camera to make the videotape.

Legal expert Stan Goldman told ‹Look, this is very serious business — even the government cannot conduct this kind of activity (although federal agents can possess drugs without violating the law). He could be charged with possession of illegal drugs, distributing them and also trying to profit from their sale. I‰m not surprised that that the lawyer ‘brokering the deal‰ ditched the guy because he could not be seen to be benefiting from the ‘fruits of the crime.’Š

I have plenty of disagreements with Joe Biden and his views on drug policy, but there’s no way that I would trade his daughter’s privacy for the mere opportunity of a cheap hypocrisy accusation. It is my hope that his daughter is left alone, that the videographer disappears (for his own good), and this “story” ends.
I also desire that every other person in the world who uses drugs without harming anyone else is left alone, and I will continue to fight for that.
One good bit of news. It appears that none of the newspapers approached was willing to bid on the video. Perhaps they have some ethics? (Or maybe they’re going bankrupt and just couldn’t afford it.)
Note: The Onion also has a funny take in their “person in the street” interviews…

George Furlong, Humane Officer: ‹I don’t get it. What’s the hook here? Does she do cocaine really well? Is it an impressive amount of cocaine?Š
Peggy Bryan, Watch Assembly Inspector: ‹If she was snorting it through one of those pocket Constitutions that Kucinich hands out, I‰ll go get my checkbook.Š

I’m starting to wonder if it’s intentional

President Obama’s no dummy. He’s intelligent and he’s educated. He’s from Chicago.
Is he purposely throwing softballs?

President Obama: Well, what‰s happened is that President Calderon I think has been very bold and rightly has decided that it‰s gotten carried away. The drug cartels have too much power, are undermining and corrupting huge segments of Mexican society. And so he has taken them on in the same way that when, you know, Elliot Ness took on Al Capone back during Prohibition, oftentimes that causes even more violence. And we‰re seeing that flare up.

Obama talking to CBS’s Bob Schieffer [Via Scott Morgan]
He’s got to be smart enough to know that talking about prohibition and Capone is just going to lead to talking about ending prohibition. Drug policy reformers have set that up for the past few years by heavily promoting the word “prohibition” in conjunction with the drug war. I even did some promotion of the Capone connection. A lot of people are going to make that connection.
Is he stupid? Is he brilliantly devious? What’s going on, here?

Coming out of the closet

Andrew Sullivan gets readers talking about the marijuana closet — the awkward place so many users reside that prevents them from talking openly. This convinces more to come out of the closet. Jason Kuznicki Positive Liberty comments on this development and hopes for more. I agree.

No more free rides?

Could it be that the mindless anything-goes-as-long-as-you’re-tough-on-drugs philosophy is showing cracks? “bullet” Editorial: Incarceration Lobby Deserves Tough Questions

Here’s a question to those who gathered in Sparta last week to criticize Gov. Jim Doyle’s public safety budget: Why does the United States, with just 5 percent of the world’s population, house 25 percent of the […]

Obama’s joke – the gift that keeps on giving

I can’t even keep up with all the press and attention that has been given to marijuana legalization in the past few days.
It’s resulted in a huge boost for this site with over 70,000 visits in the past two days (compared to the daily average of around 2,000). The Marijuana is illegal because, uh, uh… post was picked up on Digg, Raw Story and other sites. Interestingly, Digg also gave the Irv Rosenfeld piece I wrote several years ago a huge boost as more of the population are learning things we’ve known for some time.
“bullet” Kathleen Parker explains what Obama should have said:

‹Look, I‰m not ready to legalize marijuana tomorrow, but I do think it‰s time to take a fresh look at the effectiveness of some of our criminal justice policies. And I support Sen. James Webb‰s current efforts to do just that.
‹I also don‰t mean to make light of this issue because I know that a lot of kids wind up in jail who shouldn‰t. And I know from personal experience that smoking marijuana is not a career-ender. But I do want to study this issue carefully before I suggest any broad changes in policy. Thank you for your question.Š
Everyone would have gone home reasonably satisfied, if not quite ready to celebrate. Instead, Obama enjoyed a brief flashback and insulted his merrier minions.
As pot smokers blanket the White House with letters of protest, Obama may want to rethink his position. He not only has ticked off a portion of his grass-roots, so to speak, but, when the Chinese come to collect interest on those trillions, he may find it preferable that more, rather than fewer, Americans be mellow.

“bullet” Glenn Greenwald explores the Mysteries of logical reasoning

(1) Anyone who favors marijuana legalization just wants to get high without being hassled, and anyone who favors drug decriminalization generally is or wants to be a drug user.
Why is most everyone capable of understanding the egregious, illogical stupidity of propositions (2)-(8) — based on the bleedingly obvious premise that one can advocate the freedom to do X for reasons other than a desire to do X — while so many people embrace the equally illogical and stupid reasoning of proposition (1) as though it is so self-evidently true that it requires no discussion?

Update: See also…
“bullet” Mark Milian at the L.A. Times: Web lights up with protests over Obama’s dismissal of marijuana legalization

And on the social news website Digg, a story about marijuana benefits, decriminalization or reactions to Obama’s weedy treatment of the pot question has been voted to the home page every day since the town hall — and in many cases, multiple times a day.
So what does that say about the online audience? Considering that many political analysts attribute a major part of Obama’s election to his popularity on social networks, maybe he shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss something they clearly feel strongly about.

“bullet” This may not be at all connected to Obama’s statement, but it certainly adds to the sense that it’s becoming more possible to have the discussions…
Jack Cafferty, of CNN’s Situation Room: Commentary: War on drugs is insane

So how’s this war on drugs going?
Someone described insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time. That’s a perfect description of the war on drugs. […]
What do you suppose the total price tag is for this failed war on drugs? One senior Harvard economist estimates we spend $44 billion a year fighting the war on drugs. He says if they were legal, governments would realize about $33 billion a year in tax revenue. Net swing of $77 billion. Could we use that money today for something else? You bet your ass we could. Plus the cartels would be out of business. Instantly. Goodbye crime and violence.
If drugs were legalized, we could empty out a lot of our prison cells. People will use this stuff whether it’s legal or not. Just like they do booze. And you could make the argument that in some cases alcohol is just as dangerous as some drugs. I know.
Like I said … something to think about. It’s time.

How many joints in a year?

In the discussion about legalizing medical marijuana in Illinois,

Illinois State Police Capt. Mark Henry specifically cited a provision that would allow patients to grow as many as seven marijuana plants at a time. Henry said seven plants would produce more than 3,500 joints per year Ö meaning a patient would have to smoke about nine joints a day to use all the marijuana grown. He said police worry that the surplus would end up on the street.

Regardless of what you may think about the notion of getting 500 joints per plant (seems to me he’s expecting sick people to have amazing green thumbs), what should be the standard of how many joints per year is appropriate?
Let’s turn to the experts – the only completely legal distributor of medical marijuana in the United States: the Federal Government.
For their medical marijuana patients that they’ve been supplying for over 25 years, the Federal Government provides a tin of 300 joints to last 25 days. That’s 4,380 joints a year.
Sounds like proposed Illinois levels are considerably low by federal standards, even given Illinois State Police Capt. Mark Henry’s optimistic yield projections.

Drugs and Guns

The New York Times has an article about the drug war activities in Mexico: In Drug War, Mexico Fights Cartel and Itself
They mention Hillary Clinton’s well-publicized statements:

At the same time, American drug users are fueling demand for the drugs, and American guns are supplying the firepower wielded with such ferocity by Mexico‰s cartels Ö a reality acknowledged by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on her trip to Mexico last week.

Calderon has also complained about the American guns, and a lot of people (including politicians) have been talking about the need to stop the smuggling of guns across the Mexican border – guns easily bought at gun shows and retail stores in the United States.
This has led to more calls to militarize the border and stop smuggling both ways (people who say we can just stop smuggling by doing a better job of border control don’t quite understand the amount of legal traffic and trade across that border. Truly effective interdiction efforts would hurt the economy of both countries.)
And yet, let’s take a closer look at those guns…

On night patrol in Reynosa in November, soldiers came upon some suspicious men, who led them to a house that was packed with armaments for the drug cartels Ö 540 rifles, 165 grenades, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and 14 sticks of dynamite. […]
The war analogy is not a stretch for parts of Mexico. Soldiers, more than 40,000 of them, are confronting heavily armed paramilitary groups on city streets. The military-grade weapons being used, antitank rockets and armor-piercing munitions, for example, are the same ones found on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Are these being bought at gun shows in the U.S.? Unlikely.
Anybody who has followed the drug war in Mexico knows that there is another factor that is heavily involved here…

The cartels bring in billions of dollars more than the Mexican government spends to defeat them, and they spend their wealth to bolster their ranks with an untold number of politicians, judges, prison guards and police officers Ö so many police officers, in fact, that entire forces in cities across Mexico have been disbanded and rebuilt from scratch.

If you can own politicians and police forces, do you really need to smuggle individual handguns in from another country?
Bill Conroy at NarcoNews has done excellent reporting on the drug war and gets to the bottom of this in Legal U.S. Arms Exports May Be Source of Narco Syndicates’ Rising Firepower

The Obama administration is now sending hundreds of additional federal agents to the border in an effort to interdict this illegal arms smuggling to reassure an agitated middle-America that Uncle Sam will get these bad guys. The cascade of headlines from mainstream media outlets printing drug-war pornography assures us in paragraphs inserted between the titillation that the ATF‰s Operation Gunrunner and other similar get-tough on gun-seller programs will save America from the banditos of Mexico.

But in reality, while the main weapons are getting to the cartels from the U.S., they’re not being smuggled into Mexico, and so no interdiction efforts will help.

The deadliest of the weapons now in the hands of criminal groups in Mexico, particularly along the U.S. border, by any reasonable standard of an analysis of the facts, appear to be getting into that nation through perfectly legal private-sector arms exports, measured in the billions of dollars, and sanctioned by our own State Department. These deadly trade commodities Ö grenade launchers, explosives and ‹assaultŠ weapons Öare then, in quantities that can fill warehouses, being corruptly transferred to drug trafficking organizations via their reach into the Mexican military and law enforcement agencies, the evidence indicates.

That’s right, the ultimate source of the guns used by the cartels in Mexico? The U.S. government.
Hey, why should we be surprised? After all, one of the most dangerous groups in Mexico — the mercenary army for Mexico’s Gulf Cartel — is Los Zetas, which we helped train at Fort Benning in rapid deployment, aerial assaults, marksmanship, ambushes, small-group tactics, intelligence collection, and counter-surveillance techniques. So why shouldn’t we be supplying them the weapons as well?
Conroy follows the trail of the shipments of legal guns to Mexico, noting that while these weapons could be traced…

But that assumes the Mexican government, and our own government, really want to trace those weapons. A November 2008 report in the San Antonio Express News, which includes details of the major weapons seizure in Reynosa, Mexico, that same month involving the Zetas, reveals the following:

Another example of coordination problems occurred this month. Mexican authorities in Reynosa across the border from McAllen, seized the country‰s single largest stash of cartel weapons Ö nearly 300 assault rifles, shoulder-fired grenade launchers and a half million rounds of ammunition.
But weeks later, Mexican authorities still have not allowed the ATF access to serial numbers that would help them track down the buyers and traffickers on the U.S. side.

A former DEA agent, who also asked not to be named, says the shipment of military-grade weapons to the Mexican government under the DCS program, given the extent of corruption within that government, is essentially like ‹shipping weapons to a crime syndicate.Š

Conroy also notes that the State Department’s Blue Lantern program, which monitors the end-use of commercially exported defense articles had 634 cases in FY’ 2007, of which 143 were deemed “unfavorable.”
So we’re fighting an escalating drug war where both sides are funded and supplied by… us.
Over and over again in the drug war, we find the same kind of thing. The more we fight the drug war, the more damage we cause — more corruption, more violence, more criminal activity.

A strange game.

The only winning move is not to play.

How about a nice game of chess?

I get quoted

The student newspaper at Illinois State University did an article about legalization, and may do a series. Marijuana legalization to help economy Some of the quotes were accurate. The regulars could probably tell what I did say and what I didn’t. There’s some things I just wouldn’t say, but the overall sense was OK. Here’s […]

Marijuana is illegal because, uh, uh…

White House Spokesperson responds to follow-up questions by the press… Robert Gibbs spent several minutes further ridiculing the marijuana questions, sometimes with the press laughing as well, while trying to indicate that Obama was just trying to give a nod to the fact that the question had been voted very high, even though it was […]

Glenn Greenwald is a must-read

Jim Webb’s courage v. the “pragmatism” excuse for politicians Seriously. Just go over there and read the whole thing. But here’s a couple of paragraphs for you anyway.

What’s most notable about Webb’s decision to champion this cause is how honest his advocacy is. He isn’t just attempting to chip away at the safe edges […]