Zero Tolerance Nets Another Slimebag

What if we had zero tolerance for laws that have a lot of ugly side effects? Like busting an amazing teacher in front of her kids… for finding a couple Xanax pills… in a suspicion-less search of her car.

Herrick, 59, has taught at Roberts for 17 years. Parents describe her as “inspirational,” “talented” and “loving.”

She comes to work early so kids can finish projects they didn’t have time to complete in class. So many kids wanted to join her after-school art club that it had to be restricted to fifth-graders. More than one parent tells how she dropped by a student’s house, bearing art books that she thought might be of interest.

She’s a ferocious doubles tennis player, nationally ranked, so fanatical about her game that she hesitated a year before taking cholesterol meds that her doctor prescribed.

In 1995 and 1999, Herrick was Roberts’ teacher of the year. For 2005-06, she was teacher of the year for HISD’s entire Central District. And in 2009, she was busted.

In the middle of a class, police escorted her from her classroom. After she unlocked her car, police found a baggie with two Xanax pills.

Herrick said she has no idea how the pills got into her car, which other people in her family drive.

But no matter. She was hauled away from the school she loves in the back of a squad car and charged with possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. If convicted of that third-degree felony, she could serve two to 10 years in prison.

Even though she’s passed the drug test and a lie detector test, she’s out of the classroom for the time being. As Pete Guither writes, “It’s, you know, for the kids.

What if she does have a Xanax problem? Having teachers like this lady, personal habits and all, is what builds kids that never need to try drugs. How about the experience of watching your favorite teacher taken to jail? or growing up a paramilitary police state?

Rational Debate Across the Pond: House of Lords Wants Harm Reduction

What if Congress debated the prohibition of drugs for over 2 hours, finding surprisingly that most members already favored harm reduction policies and, in some cases, regulation over criminalization?

This just happened in the U.K.’s House of Lords. On January 22nd, a debate was held (full transcript) to encourage the government to send a senior (rather than a junior) Minister to the U.N.’s upcoming conference on drug policy, and for that representative to push for harm reduction rather than blanket prohibition. (background).

The transcript shows a frank and open discussion of the negative effects of prohibition on many levels of society. At some point I’ll pull quotes, but basically members desired increased funds for treatment, expressed dismay that the U.N. treaties prevented countries from experimenting with alternative policies, recommended the U.N. officially recognize the difference between use and abuse of drugs, and agreed that the 40 year old policy has been a failure at reducing the use, and especially reducing the harms of drugs in the world. One mentioned that, even if the goal was to “sustain” the current level of drug abuse (as our Drug Czar frequently states), that that level of abuse and the societal price of prohibition is too high to continue to tolerate.

If the U.K. is not the only country that wants to get smarter rather than tougher on drugs, we may see some revolutionary reform discussion come out of the March meeting in Vienna.

New Think of the Children argument

Daniel Rodriguez said there’s no such thing as a healthy discussion about legalizing drugs because young people take their cues from adult conversation.

“There are things I believe should not be open for discussion, and this is one of them,” he said. [El Paso Newspaper Tree]

Thank goodness we now have more excuses to stifle discussion on a subject. It’s not even laws that might send messages to children (kids read statutes), but even discussion of them (kids watch C-Span).

El Paso (right across the border from this catastrophe) has been the center of the drug prohibition debate when their city council unanimously voted to add a few words to a resolution asking for, among other things, an “honest open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.” But a request for debate in a city publication was evidently too radical, as state representatives swooped down to threaten the city’s future for federal funding.

Our real Message to Children about drugs?

Being an adult means drinking alcohol.

Youth exposure to alcohol advertising on television has risen by 38% since the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth began monitoring this exposure in 2001. From 2001 to 2007, the number of alcohol advertisements seen in a year by the average television-watching 12-to-20-year-old increased from 216 to 301. In 2007, approximately one out of every five alcohol advertisements was placed on programming that youth ages 12 to 20 were more likely per capita to see than adults of the legal drinking age. Almost all of these placements were on cable television, where distilled spirits companies in particular have dramatically increased their alcohol advertising in the past seven years.

Did you know alcohol advertising is one of those “self-regulated” industries? It was news to me. No bother, I’m sure with alcohol companies regulating what messages are sent to kids, we’re well on our way to a drug-free culture.

Effective Drug Warrior Posturing 101

When a policy doesn’t work no matter how many dollars and officers you throw at it, how do you keep the lights on and the citizens engaged?

Well, histrionics, demonization, war propagandizing, and hysteria have worked wonders in the past. Let’s listen to the President of the Philippines give them a shot:

… she ordered an “all-out war, an unyielding and unrelenting war against illegal drugs and their devil merchants.”

This is a great start. With “unrelenting” in there you make it clear the policy can never be altered. With so many people critical of the war, you can’t have people thinking they can just end it!

“A country awash with illegal drugs is a country compromised, its law-and-order institutions tainted and corrupted.” … “No other criminal activity does a better and faster job of tearing apart the social and security fabric of a nation than the trade of illegal drugs”

Good use of fear mongering with a dose of hysteria.

… calling on her fellow Filipinos “not to allow this menace to spread its tentacles, ruin our youth, and gnaw on the integrity of our law-enforcement institutions and our judicial systems.”

Tentacles, integrity-gnawing teeth; you’ve clearly got a demon. There’s no time for studying policy efficacy. Get a gun.

… she declared the all-out war because “governments that delay action against illegal drugs, or regard it as a routine police matter, do so at their own peril.”

Wow, blaming other governments for the failure and issuing veiled threats. She must have studied how we talk to Canada anytime they mention wanting to decriminalize marijuana.

The country’s anti-drugs agency, however, has branded the report [citing alarming use statistics] “unfair,” and said there were some errors in the data which were made as the basis of the report.

She didn’t address this, but here’s a suggestion: “In war you don’t waste time checking errors. Now get out there and do the same thing you’ve been doing for years, but this time really do it! One other thing: we can’t win a war without supporting the troops so we’ll be needing more tax dollars.”

Oustanding job overall, though she did fail to attack the credibility of policy opponents. If short on time, “they’re all stoners” is useful, but our outgoing drug czar John Walters recently offered this more nuanced technique:

Many of these [medical marijuana proponents] care little for the actual suffering and pain of others, but are instead using it to advance their own pro-drug agenda. [link]

Drug policy reformers are both pro-drugs and don’t care about people’s suffering. That’s a pro move.

40 Saves Lives

Suppose the federal government were to cap nationwide speed limits at 40 m.p.h. with the honorable goal of greatly reducing crash fatalities. They reason that being a little late is small price to pay for saving lives, and the public reluctantly agrees. Continue reading  

Hopes for 2009

In no particular order, I hope…

  • the release of IE8 will spur organizations currently standardized on IE6 to finally bite the bullet and either upgrade their users to IE8 or move them to other browsers. Killing off IE6 (and IE7 really) will significantly decrease web development costs and reinvigorate CSS by opening up a world of selectors and properties that have been unofficially “off the table” due to the prevalence of IE6. As bad as IE6 and 7 have been in comparison to its competitors, IE8 looks to be a major step forward for the default browser of Windows systems.
  • the popularity of IE8 will interest IE upgraders to try other browsers as well. While IE8 is great for the IE user, exactly what the web does not need is another browser market so dominated by one product that web developers move from web standards back to coding for the dominant browser. Although IE8 looks to be committed to standards support, there will be plenty of quirky rendering modes that ignorant developers will get accustomed to if they don’t test in other browsers.
  • Opera 10 will continue strides to increase compatibility with broken sites and stay so blazingly fast and handy out-of-the-box that I’m willing to do most of my browsing without the luxury of add-ons. As far as I know no other browser lets me put my addressbar and tabs on the bottom where I like em’; it’s the little things.
  • that the kids who vandalized a bunch of cars last night, including mine, will receive better parenting than they have in the past. God knows making them spend time with other messed up kids in juvenile detention or giving them permanent criminal records isn’t going to do anything positive for their lives.
  • that our family will have fewer health problems. For the past couple months illnesses just haven’t let up long enough for us to catch our breath. For several events we were looking forward to we were either out of town, sick, or just too exhausted to bother. A Roller Rebels bout, the Of Montreal show, Don & Sarah’s mixtape party…
  • that the new president will choose a drug czar with a background in harm reduction or, better yet, open a public dialogue to discuss if the current federal system (ONDCP, DEA, and CSA) is the right way to reduce the public harms associated with drug use.
  • that my friends and random readers (especially those, like me, who don’t use any drugs) will take some time to learn about what the War on Drugs is doing to the world. The top search engine results are as good a place to start as any, and, of those, the Drug Policy Alliance provides the best overview of the harms, while Rolling Stone describes the last 20 years and the battle of cocaine and meth. Since October I’ve found this topic fascinating, and every day I uncover more evidence that our current system based on blanket prohibition causes tremendous societal harm.
  • that the web will continue to be an exhaustive source of information about drugs, policies, and history and help people form educated opinions based on facts. I grew up knowing nothing about drugs but the old “this is your brain on drugs” ads, so when I started reading about the real science and history of illegal drugs it was quite eye-opening. First you realize how dangerous heroin and meth are, then you find to your shock that marijuana is hardly the drug the government makes it out to be, then that alcohol and tobacco are so much worse and you wonder why they’re exempt from the CSA, then you read about when alcohol was illegal and the havoc that caused, and finally you realize it’s not the drugs, but the prohibition causing the biggest problems.
  • that the media will continue its coverage on the harms of the War on Drugs in Mexico and continue to give voice to clear-headed intelligent criticism of drug policy as its done increasingly recently.
  • that online news sources continue to allow readers to openly discuss drug policy in their commenting systems. It’s obvious that more people are taking the time to do their research; the won’t please someone think of the children! arguments are thankfully falling from fashion, though I’m increasingly seeing the “sends the wrong message to kids” argument from drug warriors anytime anyone suggests reducing criminal penalties for marijuana possession.
  • I’ll play and record more music.
  • that Skate 2 will be as awesome as it looks.
  • state budget cuts will not cost me nor Kathleen a job. Did I mention the War on Drugs is damn expensive?
  • the recession will not cost Gainesville any of its awesome eateries. Yesterday at The Jones’ I had corn-flake-encrusted brioche french toast topped with almond whipped cream. It was possibly the most magical thing I’ve ever tasted.

No Imagination Means No Change

“I don’t mind adopting a policy that seems strange to you if the result of it is going to make society improved…”
– William F. Buckley Jr. re: drug legalization

When drug policy reformers say “legalization”, it strikes fear into persons who have only experienced and imagined society under the effects of modern drug prohibitions. Most cannot picture a world where drug addicts were not safely locked away, criminalized, marginalized and cordoned toward the poor areas of our country. Those who cannot afford to escape those neighborhoods have never known a time when drugs were not so expensive that addicts must rob to afford them; when gangs did not violently compete on their streets for the drug market; when pushers did not offer a free taste to their children or entice them into the trade with easy money; when a large number of their fathers weren’t incarcerated or weren’t trying to find work with a criminal record; when police did not look upon them without suspicion.

None of us have known our southern border without the constant rush of harmful substances into the country, nor the reverse flow of billions of dollars and weapons into the hands of cartels that murder ruthlessly. None of us have seen peace south of our border; the existence of the coca plant seems to guarantee endless killing.

More prisoners; more violence; more harmful drugs; more spreading of infectious disease; more dangerous areas; more damage of foreign lands and peoples; fewer civil liberties; less respect for law enforcement; more assurances from our leaders that “our drug policy is a success”; more promises and goals of a drug-free world; more dire warnings that any alternative would certainly lead to the destruction of society.

Has it always been like this? This is how the world has worked as long as I’ve been alive, so this is surely its most natural and stable state, and how it must continue. After all, I’m told the alternative is unimaginable:

“It is hard to imagine an aspect of American life that would be enriched by millions of new cocaine, heroin or marijuana users.”
– John Walters re: drug legalization

Perhaps our ancestors could survive without a War on Drugs, but humanity simply no longer has the necessary skills to survive in such a free world; we would surely collapse into Mr. Walters’ imagined chaos. We can no longer educate our children that some legal activities are dangerous; we need our government to protect us from ourselves no matter the cost.

Please do not waste any time imagining a different world; our drug czars have done this and it didn’t look good. Definitely do not bother with the fascinating history of our drug laws, or how other civilized countries are having success reducing harm. These countries may save “lives” and money, but they are breaking our treaties.

More Drug War Victims Pile Up

Our War on Drugs has turned Mexico into a real war zone. Five more dead in Tijuana; 685 in one city in the last year; young men in rival cartels are gunned down, tortured, mutilated, beheaded, found in mass graves. Those who can afford to have left town, while the rest of the city lives in terror and economic disaster since Americans will no longer step foot there. Continue reading