Calderon forces others to utter the L word

The first time he said it, I picked up on it and it was later covered by Time Magazine. Now he’s repeated it, this time in a speech to the Americas Society and Council of the Americas in New York (picked up by Reuters).

“We are living in the same building. And our neighbour is the largest consumer of drugs in the world. And everybody wants to sell him drugs through our doors and our windows,” he said.

“We must do everything to reduce demand for drugs,” Calderon added. “But if the consumption of drugs cannot be limited, then decision-makers must seek more solutions — including market alternatives — in order to reduce the astronomical earnings of criminal organizations.”

He did not go into more detail, but the remarks appeared to be a softening of Calderon’s attitude towards state regulation of the market for drugs, which could curb the power of the cartels by taking away their profits.

Now it’s got legs. CBS Early Show realizes the news value and tries to get him to talk. Note how Calderon refuses to be drawn in to say the word, but rather leaves it to the U.S. to define the obvious need for “market alternatives.”

Early Show: “And you said ‘if drug consumption can’t be limited here, decision-makers must seek more solutions.’ You talk about ‘market alternatives.’ Are you talking about legalizing drugs?”

Calderon: “I’m talking about market alternatives, market solutions; the point is the astronomical […] that the criminals have, come from the consumption in the United States, that must be addressed. And my point is, either we reduce consumption, or we need more alternatives, more solutions, to at least analyze, and among them, of course, we need to include the market alternatives.”

In other words, “I didn’t say ‘legalization.’ You said ‘legalization.’ If you’ve got some other alternative to the black market, then fine, bring it forward, but there has to be an alternative.”

Again, I disagree completely with Calderon’s militarization of the drug war in Mexico, but I do admire this “market alternatives” approach. He’d get dismissed immediately if he used the L word, but with “market alternatives” he forces others to define it and got CBS to say it.

Update: To clarify, I do not mean that people shouldn’t use the ‘L’ word. They should. Merely that for Calderon’s particular personal situation, the “market alternatives” line is useful.

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31 Responses to Calderon forces others to utter the L word

  1. Tom Angell says:

    Why do you think he would be “dismissed immediately” (what do you even mean by that?) if he used the L word? I don’t agree, and maintain that even if you think that’s true, it’s not a good idea for reformers to go around telling people that if they agree with us they’ll be “dismissed.” I believe that political leaders who prove themselves forward thinking enough to say what is obviously on so many other people’s minds will be rewarded politically. And even if they wouldn’t be, our job as reformers is to at least get them to think they will.

  2. Pete says:

    Tom, I’m saying that for Calderon personally (not people in general), it makes more political sense to use the “market alternatives” word to get other people to say it. Calderon isn’t everyone. He’s his own unique category – a hard-line drug warrior (about as hard line as you can get), with clear interest in getting military assistance from the U.S.

    I’ll clarify, though I didn’t think I needed to, that I don’t mean that for everyone.

    • Pete says:

      And, quite frankly, if every politician who is currently afraid to say “legalization” would start talking about the need to have a discussion about finding market alternatives, I’d be thrilled.

      • if drug policy reformers would start talking about legalization, i’d be thrilled

        • I’m personally torn on the issue. The truth-speaking, cold, scientific, let’s-call-a-spade-a-spade part of me that’s informed by so many years of drug policy studies tells me to say LEGALIZE.

          The part of me that’s in marketing and informed by people like George Lakoff, Robert B. Cialdini and, well, hypnosis in general which asks that we try to bypass the critical factor in order to make things happen, tells me that while *I* (and you, Brian!) am a friggin’ intellectual tower of strength we might end up working against our long-term goals because we refuse – yes, REFUSE – to acknowledge the fact that as a metaphor/frame “legalize” brings up a huge collection of bullshit that the drug warriors have pounded into the heads and hearts of the average man. Drug Warriors may well WANT us to use that word, because THEY defined it in such a way that it’s hard for us to win on their home field.

          Torn, yes, but I’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish this goal.

        • Emma says:

          I’m agreeing with Jesper (no button to reply to his comment, maybe too many levels of comments?). It’s critical to be pragmatic and consider what are the most effective phrases and arguments to use. Ideally, groups like DPA should be getting professional advice using focus groups and polls. There must be lots of sympathic public relations people who might volunteer advice.

          It is a simple fact that prohibitionists have made “legalization” mean “sold on the corner like coffee with no regulations”. It is not necessary to reclaim “legalization”. Rather, it is likely easier and more effective to use other phrases which will make people think instead of responding automatically.

          “Market alternatives” is excellent! Also, depending on the context: “regulation”, “public health strategies” (instead of harm reduction), “getting smart on drugs”, “ending prohibition”, “evidence-based policies”, “actual drug control”.

          For more on rhetorics I recommend essays and youtube lectures by Drew Westen of Emory University (IMO, he has much better advice than George Lakoff), Adam Curtis’ BBC documentary “The Century of the Self” (seriously, this is an eye-opening must-see about the history of public relations), and the book “Propaganda” by Edward Bernays (nephew of Freud).

        • jesper — altering the dialog is our primary mission. using the right language forces the debate, while euphemising our way along is bringing no actual progress and allowing the opposition to maintain their power. taking them and their lines of bullshit head-on gives us the opportunity to grab them by the rhetorical throat and choke the living shit out of them. we will win that game handily — but only by doing it and not allowing them to control the dialog.

          if they start saying that “legalizing” means idiotic shit, the thing to do is to get them to specify exactly how their doom and gloom pronouncements will come to pass. for example: “pilots high on heroin or LSD” — really!? pilots are all budding drug addicts with death wishes?

          and we can and should use those opportunities to ask them about how their own behavior would be altered if we brought the war on drugs to an end: “are you telling me that the only thing keeping you from mainlining heroin is it’s legal status? … if it were legal, you’d be the first in line to start jabbing needles in your arm?” they are utter fools spewing insane bullshit, so we need to stuff that in their faces at every opportunity and in front of every possible audience.

          when they try to use a word like “legalize” against us and infer (or even flat-out state) such nonsense as heroin in gumball machines, we have the opportunity to expose them as the cowardly charlatans they are, instead of tip-toeing around pretending that their bullshit has the slightest basis in reality.

          the only way out is direct confrontation and by refusing to compromise. we have the truth on our side as well as the intellectual and moral high ground. alcohol prohibition did not end one small step at a time — so, given that anyone with two sparking neurons can draw the parallel between alcohol prohibition and the prohibition of other recreational intoxicants, our marching orders should be quite clear.

          ultimately, we all know that the emperor has no clothes — so we shouldn’t be trying to help him get dressed.

        • I kinda agree on most of what you write here, Brian, but I don’t really see it as a compromize to select a different wording initially that doesn’t invoke the greatest level of resistance in the mind of the recipient.

          All I’m saying is that there may be some virtue in not immediately leading every discussion into a deep hole from which we have to dig ourselves out.

          Reframing something isn’t a compromise, it’s a stealthy trick to bypass the critical factor, allowing the recipient to actually think about it in a non-defensive way.

        • understood jesper — but i don’t recall from my history lessons anyone making the argument that using the word “slavery” was a bad idea and that we should refer to it instead as “the compromise of ones liberty based on the pigmentation of their epidermis and circumstances of birth.”

          similar nonsense (albeit in a different vein) is going on now with the marketing types trying to convince people that “corn sugar” is something different than high fructose corn syrup.

          so, i don’t believe we need to try to be tricky or invent new terms — and if we do, the prohibs will simply continue to derail us with the words: “you just want to legalize drugs.”

          therefore, i believe it should be obvious that word salad is not the way forward. we don’t need to alter the words — we need to use them to do judo on our adversaries.

          “cops say legalize drugs … ask me why” — kinda says it all.

  3. claygooding says:

    Calderon still wants the balance of the Merida money and equipment promised to him,,,and still not sent,,,as our legislators balk at sending money to a lost cause.
    The minute he “says” legalization”,those funds and equipment vanish.

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  5. darkcycle says:

    I must say, if that’s the intent (and clearly it is), This is brilliant strategy. By using that approach he can’t be attacked as a “legalizer”, yet he FORCES others to discuss it in the context of his remarks. And he does it by using “acceptable terminology”; by saying “market alternatives” he’s being conservative, prudent and allowing the Free Market Fairies to do their work.
    It’s more than I would have hoped for in the context of his position and the importance of “Plan Mexico” and the drug war money to his country.

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  7. claygooding says:

    Day 4: At least five arrested, one may be in critical condition

    Posted 2011-09-20 05:01:04 UTC by OccupyWallSt
    Early this morning at least five protesters were arrested by NYPD.

    The first arrest was a protester who objected to the police removing a tarp that was protecting our media equipment from the rain.

    The police said that the tarp constituted a tent, in spite of it not being a habitat in any way. Police continued pressuring protesters with extralegal tactics, saying that a protester on a bullhorn was breaking a law. The protester refused to cease exercising his first amendment rights and was also arrested. Then the police began to indiscriminately attempt to arrest protesters, many of them unsheathed their batons, in spite of the fact that the protest remained peaceful.

    One of the protesters received a large gash on their leg, another lost a tooth. Multiple police tackled a protester and sat on him as he continually warned them that he was experiencing an asthma attack.

    One of the medics on site informed the police that they needed to call an ambulance because this was a potentially fatal circumstance. They ignored him. We have no current information on this protester, but we hope that he hasn’t been murdered by the police.

    We are determined to remain a peaceful protest, in spite of the brutality we have witnessed.

    Updates will be posted as we receive them


  8. Duncan20903 says:


    ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;

    William Shakespeare, “Romeo & Juliet”

  9. rita says:

    Calderon: “We must do everything to reduce drug use.” WHY must we?

  10. Francis says:

    Here’s something I don’t understand about the conservative reaction to the “Operation Fast and Furious” scandal. So Step 1 of the ATF’s plan was to permit suspected straw-purchasers to complete illegal gun purchases, knowing that many of these guns would make their way to Mexico. Step 3 (and the stated goal) of the operation was to build a bigger case against the Mexican cartels suspected of being the ultimate buyers. (Step 2 was apparently a little hazy.)

    Well, it turns out that some of those guns were used to kill people. (Who could have seen that coming?) Here’s my issue with the conservative reaction. Conservatives are firmly in the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” camp, right? And they frequently point out that gun control doesn’t work because “if you outlaw guns, only the criminals will have guns.” So conservatives want to be ideologically consistent (hey stop laughing), they can’t really blame the deaths on the Obama administration which simply (temporarily) failed to enforce gun sale restrictions that conservatives oppose. (Of course, I’m not saying they can’t still think the whole thing is a scandal.)

    Anyways, this whole issue reminded me of that recent story on “drug-related” deaths exceeding traffic fatalities. Naturally, many conservatives blamed “drugs.” But if “guns don’t kill people” and are instead just “tools,” why don’t conservatives apply that same logic to illicit drugs?

  11. MaineGeezer says:

    Why must we reduce drug use? Good question. I might qualify the statement to say it would be beneficial to society if drug (that includes alcohol) users were all able to use their drug of choice responsibly. For instance, we would certainly be better off if drunk drivers stopped being drunk drivers. But would we be better off if a guy who has a beer after mowing his lawn switched to iced tea? Not that I can see. Let him have his beer, or his joint if he prefers, and leave the guy alone.

  12. Servetus says:

    Moderation is a good thing. Knowing your body chemistry is a good thing. Knowledge plus moderation can produce some surprising results. Here’s a typical example:

    “Differences in effects on atherosclerosis of regular moderate drinking and binge drinking” :

    Prohibitionists are absolutists when it comes to drug lore. To them, every little molecule kills. But the last laugh will be at the expense of the prohibitionists. Because they didn’t drink enough alcohol or smoke enough pot when they were younger, they’ll be the ones suffering from heart disease and any health problems marijuana smoking could have prevented.

  13. darkcycle says:

    What is this.. mod-er-ay-shun, of which you speak?

  14. darkcycle says:

    Hey Duncan…oddsocks is back…looks like we’re gonna hafta stake this one through the heart and nail it’s coffin shut.

  15. DdC says:

    Whistle-blowers Say Mexican Drug Cartels Throw Parties For US Officials
    Two former law enforcement officers allege that they cannot get anyone to investigate allegations that the Mexican drug cartels have corrupted U.S. law officers and politicians in the El Paso border region.

  16. paul says:

    Cato picked up on this story recently:

    With approval, of course 🙂

  17. warren says:

    Yhere is more money to be had at a large grocery store. Lets stop eating.

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