Posts Tagged ‘war on drugs

17
Oct
10

Defining change

I don’t know what it says about me that my favorite film of the past few months is a glacially slow, uber-dreary Romanian film by Corneliu Porumboiu, Politist Adjectiv.  Well, okay, that’s not entirely true.  I know what it says about me; it says that I’m exactly the sort of overeducated liberal elitist that the teapartiers have been complaining about.  Oh yeah, and I’m probably corrupting the youth of America with my radical marxist and/or fascist agenda, too.  Infecting them with my fact-and-reason based ideology. Sorry about that.

 

Yup, lots of shots of this guy, standing and looking sad. Romanians really know how to sell a film.

 

I can’t really recommend a film that reaches its dramatic climax when one guy reads dictionary definitions to another guy, though.  As much as I approve of dialectics in the classroom, it doesn’t make for the most exciting cinematic experience.  By all means, though, look it up if you’re into that sort of thing.

So, I don’t think I’m going to be giving too much away by describing the film.  Just in case, though, spoiler alert:  It’s all about a cop who doesn’t want to arrest a kid for smoking a joint.  As he points out to his bosses, the marijuana laws in Romania are a little anachronistic.  For all intents, simple possession has been decriminalized all across the more liberal countries in Europe.  The cop in this story points out that people smoke openly in Prague and Paris, and he complains that the 3-7 year prison sentence that the kid will receive is going to weigh too heavily on his conscience if he goes through with the arrest.  He keeps repeating his opinion that the draconian marijuana laws in Romania are on the cusp of being changed, but his bosses disagree.  More importantly, though, they disagree with his underlying belief that he has the right to consider his own views and feelings.

If that sounds familiar, that just means you’ve been paying attention.  Eric Holder’s recent statement to former DEA directors on the hopefully/potentially immanent passage of just that sort of decriminalization in California has been getting a lot of press coverage lately.   Holder isn’t really saying anything surprising when he asserts the DOJ’s strong opposition to Prop 19.  Just like it isn’t surprising that the DOJ will appeal US district court Judge Virginia Phillips’s injuction on the “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy that the Obama administration has been trying to end, and just like it isn’t surprising that they’re also going to appeal U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro’s finding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.  As odd as it sounds, our current Attorney General seems to feel that it’s his role to enforce the laws that we have, rather than the laws that he and his boss want.

 

Remember when this doofus was the top cop in the country? Yeah, I didn't think so.

 

Frankly, I’m not sure I understand all the hand-wringing from the progressives about this entirely-unsurprising discovery.  Wasn’t their complaint about Bush that he wasn’t following the law?

 

...that is to say, it used to be, back when we weren't doing it.

 

Well, okay, there were lots of complaints.  But I’m sure I remember hearing that one, too, among all the rest.

I don’t know about the rest of the complainers, but I voted for Obama – in part, anyway – because I wanted a return to rational, honest governance, not because I though he would just approve whatever I thought was right.  I wanted government to follow the law, and to improve it when they didn’t feel like it was effective, rather than just making shit up the way the Bush Administration did.  And for the most part, that’s just what we’ve had.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been happy to see more dramatic change – for instance, finding a way to fix Bush’s banking catastrofuck without simply handing bankers all the cash they wanted, or closing Guantanamo despite the difficulties, or choosing not to read my emails, etc. – but all things considered, I’m not unhappy, and I don’t think I understand why more people don’t share that sentiment.

 

At least the spelled his name correctly.

 

Well, that’s not entirely true, either; I suppose I do understand why all those Tea Party folks suddenly discovered that they cared about deficits as soon as Obama took office.  I’m just really surprised that anyone takes them seriously.

As I can’t seem to stop myself from repeating, if anyone deserves blame for the terrible economy, it’s the republicans who tanked it for us all, and then  decided that they’d rather see the country go down in flames than appease the black guy who happens to have been elected president of the US.

 

Remember when it was so important that we have "an up or down vote"? Yeah, I didn't think so.

 

I’ll reserve a little of that blame for the weak-kneed democrats in the Senate who can’t seem to overcome the handicap of an almost historic majority to actually, y’know, pass any of that legislation that they were all elected to pass, but the two don’t really compare.

Still, it was gratifying to read that some people in law enforcement have an awareness of history, and understand what’s actually going on here.  I’m talking about the former San Jose Chief of Police, Joseph McNamara, who was recently spotlighted in an article from the stoner-friendly Huffington Post.  Here’s the money quote:

“As we saw with the repeal of alcohol prohibition, it takes action from the states to push the federal government to change its policies…”Passing Proposition 19 in California will undoubtedly kick start a national conversation about changing our country’s obviously failed marijuana prohibition policies.”

His view seems persuasive, and sensible.  It’s not like the Feds can just tell us that they’re planning to ignore their own laws, but at the same time, they’re not going to be able to oppose the will of the states if they all decide to decriminalize marijuana, and it’s starting to seem like all of the states are on the same page.

And all things considered, I’m kinda glad that the republicans have decided to abandon their traditional “states’s rights” argument rather than stand with the rational center of the nation on this issue.  Not because I woudn’t like to see the policy end that much sooner, but just because I don’t like the idea of sharing even a little ideological ground with these clowns.

 

Dale Robertson, head of TeaParty.org. Back before the Tea Party leaders knew well enough to avoid being photographed.

 

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25
Aug
10

Less is less (no matter what the Feds say)

Gil Kerlikowske and the usual suspects over at the ONDCP have recycled their hysterical, illogical arguments in today’s L.A. Times, this time in support of the continued criminalization of marijuana.  Reefer Madness in the house, yet again.  I’ve outlined my opposition to their arguments in the past – the logical fallacies, the self-serving untruths, the ridiculous defense of the status quo, etc. – so I won’t re-hash those points.

Well, are you, punk?

I did notice something new this time, though.  Responding to the carefully-defensive wording of Prop 19, the drug warriors have come up with a new dumb argument that rivals even the dumbest of their previous arguments.  Kerlikowske is arguing that decriminalization will not only NOT free up all of those law enforcement officers currently wasting their time busting people for weed, to go after real crime, but that it will create even more drug policing work.   Less is more, apparently.  Can “up is down” be far behind?

You could say the devil is in the details (though I think he’s actually writing press releases for the ONDCP).  Regardless, here’s what Kerlikowske is talking about:

In their attempt to seem like reasonable people who don’t actually want to corrupt the youth of America, the Prop 19 backers went to great lengths to assure voters that they only want to decriminalize the evil weed for adults.  You can check out the full text for yourself here, but basically, they’re saying just what we say about cigarettes and alcohol, spelling out the punishments that would apply to adults who provide minors with weed, with the added prohibition about imbibing around minors.  Translation: No weed for kids, no getting high around kids.  Doesn’t seem so very objectionable, right?

Here’s what Kerlikowski and his writers have to say about that seemingly-reasonable proposal:

Another pro-legalization argument is that it would free up law enforcement resources to concentrate on “real” crimes…Law enforcement officers do not currently focus much effort on arresting adults whose only crime is possessing small amounts of marijuana. This proposition would burden them with new and complicated enforcement duties. The proposition would require officers to enforce laws against “ingesting or smoking marijuana while minors are present.” Would this apply in a private home? And is a minor “present” if they are 15 feet away, or 20? Perhaps California law enforcement officers will be required to carry tape measures next to their handcuffs.

I could point out that cops pick and choose the laws they want to enforce depending upon their mood, and if they so choose, they could enforce a whole raft of onerous, burdensome laws that would take up all kinds of time and effort.  For example, they could choose to enforce that bit about “arresting adults whose only crime is possessing small amounts of marijuana.”  But then, as Mr. Kerlikowski so disingenuously points out above, that would be a pretty ridiculous burden.  And from the sound of things, they don’t seem to have any problem ignoring that law.  After all, when the head of ONDCP tells you that cops don’t bust people for small amounts of weed, I guess you have to believe him.

Will life imitate art?

Alternatively, I could point out that Kerlikowski is basically calling all cops stupid – and not just a little stupid, either.  I dunno, but when the head of one of the largest law-enforcement agencies tells me that the po po have to use a tape measure to figure out when something is happening in the presence of another person, it makes me wonder if we should allow those guys (and gals – equal opportunity stupidity here) to carry guns.  After all, if they’re that stupid, they just might forget which end goes bang.

Really, though, it’s all the rest of us that he’s calling stupid.  Because he’s assuming we’ll believe him when he says that decriminalizing weed will force cops to bust more people, instead of less.   That’s not just a little stupid, either.

12
Aug
10

Support your local cartel

How many of us need to admit that the war on drugs is lost before we finally declare defeat and go home?  Does anyone in law enforcement or government seriously believe that keeping marijuana illegal does anything but enrich drug cartels?

The latest news from – of all places – Wisconsin:  ‘Marijuana Megafarm’ Hidden In Wisconsin National Forest

Cheesehead weedgrowers in the forest?   Nope.

Drug investigators believe Mexican cartels are largely responsible…Growing the drug here helps them get it to major American markets more quickly. They often import unskilled laborers from Mexico to help find the best land and tend their crops.

But why go all the way to Mexico when you can find good help right here?  The feds found evidence of money being wired to Modesto.  And then there’s this:

An unnamed informant arrested at the Seymour house told detectives on Wednesday he was in San Jose, Calif., several months ago when he was approached by a man who asked him if he wanted to work at a ranch. This person arranged for the man to travel to Green Bay, where he met Nunez-Guzman.

The informant said he helped dry marijuana at the house and Nunez-Guzman, also known as “Green Bay,” was the boss. He came to the house every 15 days to check on the operation and sent a runner into the woods every three days to check the crop.

Yep.  It’s that easy.  Time to declare “Mission Accomplished” and stop all this foolishness.

30
Jul
10

Don’t fear the flower

If I’ve given the impression that I despise all things that smack of political conservatism, I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that my all-time favorite blogger is the conservative ex-brit, Andrew Sullivan.  So, okay, he’s a gay intellectual conservative with the sort of firm grasp of political history that eludes most of his fellow conservatives, and he probably despises republicans even more than I do, but I still think my admiration shows that I can be just a little open-minded, every now and again.

Or maybe I just like him because he’s been such an open advocate for legalization.  Well, I should say that he’s been an open advocate for legalization at least from the time that he got busted for possession.  It’s still a pretty brave stance to take for such a mainstream conservative writer.

Anyway.  Hat tip to Sullivan for linking to this beautiful cartoon.  Makes you think.  If we can be so easily frightened into the paranoid world portrayed above because of a flower, how long before the kitten police spring into action?  Or maybe the next threat we focus on will be cartoons.  Won’t somebody think of the children?

03
Jul
10

Summer CAMP

It’s marijuana eradication season again, and Steve Elliot at News Junkie Post offers one more reason why in his latest post, “Marijuana Busts: ‘Where the Money Is’ for Police.”   Despite the political rhetoric about leaving the states to their own devices, the Feds are still applying pressure through funding practices that take on the appearance of a fiscal lifeline for struggling law enforcement agencies.   Elliot writes:

In addition to the $3.6 billion being spent by the U.S. Justice Department this year, augmenting budgets of state and local law enforcement, the federal government set aside last year almost $4 billion in additional economic stimulus package funds.

The White House is also spending about $239 million in 2010 to fund local “drug trafficking task forces” — which, in the real world, usually means local cops dressing up like Rambo and tramping about in the woods in a wasteful, quixotic and doomed attempt to stop the burgeoning marijuana industry.

Follow the link for an earlier Elliot diatribe against CAMP.

31
May
10

Support the troops, even when it’s inconvenient

I proudly served my country, and despite my grave dissatisfaction with the recent expressions of U.S. power, I feel my debt to U.S. servicemen and women in a profound way.   I know I’m far from alone in this sentiment, and even though we’ve become accustomed to using them as props, I’m happy knowing that respect for servicemen and women has become more of a default feeling than in the recent past.

Service comes with costs, as everyone knows.   I was fortunate.  I came out of my own service with almost no lasting problems and a whole host of personal improvements.  I know that I’m a better person than I was before my service, with a wider perspective on the world, a greater understanding of the inherent similarities of people everywhere, and a firm understanding of the tremendous privilege of being an American in a world rife with poverty, disease, oppression, commercial exploitation and hostility.

That’s not always the case, though.  In contrast to my relatively-benevolent experience, my partner came out of her service a little worse for wear.  She suffers from some permanent nerve damage, carries some lingering symptoms from a fairly intransigent infection and has a pretty typical case of PTSD.  I try to be understanding, but that’s not entirely in my nature so I fail from time to time.  Still I try to support her in her treatment and recovery, wherever that takes her and whatever is involved; part of that is helping her to improve her mental state.  I’m not the biggest fan of psychotheraphy, but I know that can be part of the solution for many people who have suffered as she has.  I have to admit, though, that I was a little shocked when my partner returned from a visit to a therapist with an unoffiial recommendation to treat her PTSD symptoms with cannabis.

Actually, that version of events messes with the narrative time-frame a little.   Like many who suffer from PTSD, she had been self-medicating for her symptoms even before she understood what was causing her problems and even before she started to see someone specifically for the PTSD.  True, she started out with a legal prescription to use cannabis to treat her debilitating migraines – and unlike all of the horrific prescription medications she’d tried before, the cannabis actually stopped her headaches, and without the raft of side-effects from the commercial-pharmaceutical options – but she soon found that the same medicine worked better at calming what she hadn’t learned to call her symptoms from the PTSD.

I’ve never been supportive of self-medicating.  In fact, I’m not a fan of medication in general.  I fear my pharmaceutical overlords much more than I trust them, and I’m not convinced that doctors can be trusted to shake off the enormous influence exercised upon them by those overlords.  That’s just part of the problem, though.  We’ve become a nation of pussies in many ways, and part of that is an overblown fear of pain.  Pain, in our current cultural climate, is something not to be tolerated.  I can’t count the number of friends and relatives who mindlessly swallow everything their doctors prescirbe them in the aftermath of even minor procedures and operations, without questioning how much of that crap is actually necessary and how much is simply convenient.    I don’t think I have a particularly high tolerance for pain, but I pride myself on not being a complete pussy, and I haven’t felt the need to deaden my senses after the last two surgical procedures I’ve had with anything more than aspirin or tylenol.  I have a stack of unused prescriptions for the harder stuff that I found to be completely unnecessary.  That’s not to say that powerful painkillers aren’t entirely appropriate in some circumstance and for some people; I’m just pointing out that pain meds are over-prescribed and over-used by a population that has stopped even considering the “whethers” and “whys” before automatically popping whatever pill comes their way.   Drugs are bad, ‘mkay?  Maybe cancer patients need Oxycontin, but do you really need smack to deal with an ingrown toenail?  I think not.  Maybe that’s just me.  Like I said earlier, being understanding is not entirely in my nature.

Anyway, as a result of my knee-jerk failure to empathize, I’d no doubt been harassing my partner about her increasing tendency to self-medicate.  So much so, that I’d convinced her to raise the issue with her therapist.  The therapist’s response?  “Good for you – in fact, you keep smoking your weed if that helps.”  I was shocked, if not exactly mollified.  It turns out, though, that she’d stumbled upon a fairly common solution, supported by some surprising cheerleaders, as the following article makes clear:

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it is developing a national policy, and the head of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access believes a VA policy allowing medical marijuana “is inevitable.”

“We’re all on the same side,” said Michael Krawitz of Virginia. “My goal is a good outcome for the veteran, and that’s their goal…The irony in this … is it’s a common thing for veterans to tell me, ‘The VA is telling me if I just stay away from medical marijuana, we’ll give you all the pills you want, morphine, whatever,'” he said.

And it’s not just the hippie press reporting the efficacy of cannabis in treating PTSD.  Dr. Irit Akirav and research student Eti Ganon-Elazar, working at the Learning and Memory Lab in the University of Haifa’s Department of Psychology recently published a report in The Journal of Neuroscience reporting on the promise of the weed – and nobody knows more about messed-up human brains than the Israelis, so I’m inclined to trust their study.

Anyway, to return to my original point, I’d like to offer yet one more reason to support the decriminalization of cannabis.  More than that, though, I’d like to suggest that we work a little harder to de-stigmatize the use of weed for the treatment of PTSD.  Our recent national adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have produced the largest population of returning, damaged soldiers since the end of the Vietnam War.  Those men and women served in dubious circumstances, but there’s nothing dubious about their service.   They deserve our support, in whatever way we can offer it.  If cannabis is better at treating the symptoms of the most ubiquitous harm that they’ll suffer as a result of their service, then we owe it to them to work to allow their doctors to prescribe them the best medication for their hurts.  Support our troops – but don’t just do it for yourself, and don’t just do it when its easy.  Give them what they need, rather than what’s convenient.

21
May
10

Atlas Shirked, or, the Problem with Relying upon Libertarians

Following his surprising primary win in Kentucky, Rand Paul has become only the most recent public figure to reveal libertarianism as the sadly-deficient political ideology that it is; the hobgoblin of small-minded people.  Like his namesake, Ayn Rand, Paul has risen to prominence by touting a philosophy that appeals to the ignorantly-selfish, blindly-privileged masses lacking in the sort of rational perspective it takes to see the uneven playing field upon which we all find ourselves, those unwilling to see their own privilege when it becomes inconvenient.

All things being equal, libertarianism might be an appealing philosophy.  Call me when all things are equal.

If you’ve missed the entertaining display of political expediency and public ignorance recently emerging out of Kentucky’s Republican primary race, here’s Paul on the the Rachel Maddow Show, flailing to defend his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and institutional racism, in general):

Paul has been busy spinning his increasingly-contradictory views ever since, trying to make it look like he has some reasonable arguments underlying his objectionable viewpoints; and he’s been excoriated in the press and the blogosphere – mostly because he doesn’t.  As Ta-Nehisi Coates points out in his post, “The Proud Ignorance of Rand Paul,” these sorts of views seem to make sense in an inverse proportion to the amount of knowledge actually involved.

And this is where the problem comes closest to home – Cannabis activists have been overly-dependent upon libertarians for support for some time now, and that dependence might just become a problem as the realities of legalization set in.    After all, at some point, practical rules will be implemented to manage the coming out party for this billion dollar industry, and if there’s one thing Libertarians are bad at it’s the implementation of practical rules.

Bill Maher may be a useful spokesperson for the movement, but he’s no politician and politicians bring their own set of problems.  First of all, there’s the problem of consistency.  As Rand Paul’s own candidacy reveals, libertarians can be as changeable with respect to their deeply-held convictions as any other pol, and sometimes the appealing face of libertarian purity is simply a mask for the more typical biases of conservative populism.   Paul is running for office in Kentucky, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but even though he seems perfectly fine opposing the Civil Rights Act on ideological grounds, he doesn’t seem as consistently committed on all issues.   As Time Magazine reports,

Paul has lately said he would not leave abortion to the states, he doesn’t believe in legalizing drugs like marijuana and cocaine, he’d support federal drug laws, he’d vote to support Kentucky’s coal interests and he’d be tough on national security.

So watch out for those political winds, because the support you count on may blow away when elections hang in the balance.

But there’s another, even more significant problem lurking behind the appealing face of libertarian support for legalization, and that is that libertarianism seems appealing in inverse proportion to the practicality of its tenants.   Those paranoid fears of big business taking over the industry?  That’s exactly what a libertarian regime would bring about (if any such thing could exist).  Not because libertarians favor big business, but because libertarians turn a blind eye towards the routine exercise of practical power.   They choose not to acknowledge the realities that exist, because doing so would undermine their ideological positions, but that willful ignorance is the same as tacit acceptance of the status quo.  Just because you believe in a level playing field doesn’t mean it exists, and businesses have perfected the art of unleveling playing fields in the U.S.  for good reason – because it profits them to do so.  Turning a blind eye to that practice only makes their jobs a little easier.

I’ve been railing against the Tea Party movement lately, and not just because it so clearly basks in the racist, nativist, xenophobic climate of the aging conservative movement, but because it celebrates a platform of non-governance.  Non-governance in the abstract might sound appealing, especially given the problems that governance has presented us with for much of the 21st century, but given the practical power exercised in our society by business forces, retreat is surrender, and I’m not in favor of turning over the levers of power to the business interests who already have their greedy hands on too many of those levers.  Flawed though it may be, government is all that stands between the unimpowered citizenry and the evil that men do.  Attacking the sole force capable of representing our collective interests against those forces seeking to exploit our weakness is simply insane.  And if you had to come up with a philosophy that enshrines that sort of insanity, you’d call it libertarianism.

All things being equal, we wouldn’t have to rely upon government to protect our interests.  Call me when all things are equal.