Saturday, July 29, 2006

Should a cocaine using mayor be forced out of office?

What should a drug reformer say about a user of illegal drugs? Does it matter if the drug user is Rush Limbaugh, Noelle Bush, John M. Fabrizi, the mayor of Bridgeport, CT, Tommy Chong, or some ordinary citizen?

We don’t believe that people should be punished by the government for using drugs. Noelle Bush, Tommy Chong, and ordinary citizens do not hold public office. They have no responsibility for serving the public.

The issue regarding a public official, such as Mayor John Fabrizi, is not so much the question of whether he or she is one of the twenty million or so Americans who currently use illegal drugs, or the 100 million who have done so in the past. The issue more precisely is whether he or she has integrity.

Simply breaking the law is not a measure of integrity. A public official who, let’s say, fails to recycle when required to do so, or throws litter from their car, is a slob or is selfish and lazy, but does not demonstrate a failure of integrity that disqualifies him for office.

This is not an issue about whether the public official may have had impaired judgment in making an official decision. During World War II, Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, was consuming a quart of whiskey or more per day. U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was widely rumored to have been a very heavy drinker. Even impaired, their judgment was superior to that of most of us.

Integrity has to do with truth telling and intellectual honesty. Is the official trustworthy? When Bill Clinton had sex with Monica Lewinsky, his cheating on his wife revealed his low character, but that did not disqualify him from holding office. But when he committed perjury – lying in an official proceeding under oath – regarding his sex acts with Lewinsky, he demonstrated a lack of integrity that would have compelled an honorable man to resign, and would have motivated a political party of integrity to demand his resignation. However, while perjury was a blot on Clinton’s integrity and the Democrats who did not call upon him to resign, perjury did not rise to the level that warranted an impeachment. It did not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.

Bridgeport Mayor Fabrizi has, admitted a history of cocaine use, and we presume he is telling the truth. Like millions of other Americans he broke the drug law. But drug policy reformers hold that this law is itself wrong. People should not be punished simply for what they put in their bodies.

The test of Mayor Fabrizi’s integrity therefore rests now upon his intellectual honesty. Is he a man of principle and conviction, or merely an ambitious opportunist? A test of integrity is measured by how he speaks about the drug laws he violated.

Does he say, “I violated the drug laws. It is not good to violate the laws. But these laws are wrong and should be changed. I cannot support a law that punishes thousands of others in Connecticut for the conduct I engaged in, when I – and they – have not hurt anyone in a way that the law is entitled to punish. For example, I hurt my kids and wife when I lied to them and broke my promises to them. But the law does not punish a father or husband who breaks his promises to his family. I hurt my supporters and undermined the faith of citizens in the integrity of their government when I admitted that I broke the drug laws. Those hurt feelings and loss of faith in government or me does not warrant punishment by the state.”

But if the Mayor says, “My violation of the drug law doesn’t really count. More importantly, I continue to support those laws that send people who use drugs like me to prison – but I should not go to prison. In fact, I should not even lose my job for doing this thing that should send people to prison.” If that is the Mayor’s position, then he demonstrates the lack of intellectual honesty and integrity that warrants his removal from office.

I repeat: I am not calling for his resignation or removal from office because he used drugs. Breaking a stupid and counterproductive law that has been disregarded by almost 100 million Americans is not ground for forcing the Mayor from office.

If he is a hypocrite, intellectually dishonest, and lacking in integrity, then I call for his resignation from office. A man who insists that other people should be punished for what he did and insists simultaneously that he does not warrant punishment has no moral compass – he lacks the intellectual honesty that warrants entrusting him with the public’s business. Such a man would have no scruple insisting that wrongful acts – theft or bribery, for example – that ought to apply to others should not apply to him.

I am not calling for his prosecution. One’s attitude about the rightness or wrongness of a law does not, by itself, determine whether a prosecution is just. If Mayor Fabrizi is prosecuted, I urge him to seek jury nullification – to argue directly to the jury that law is wrong when it punishes a person simply for using drugs, and to ask the jury to find him not guilty. I urge him to demand that the prosecution justify the law to the jury – that it demonstrate the drug law reduces crime and protects public health. I have no doubt that any jury given the facts and the opportunity to judge the wisdom of this law will acquit those simply charged with drug possession.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

The drug war in Mexico

Laurie Freeman of the non-partisan, non-profit Washington Office on Latin America has written an outstanding report on the violence and corruption in Mexico flowing from the war on drugs.

Even someone who is used to the endemic corruption of Mexican law enforcement will be shocked by the pervasiveness of the drug cartel corruption.

Even more profound than the corruption is the effectiveness of the bloody violence that the cartels have inflicted to silence the news media and the public at large. Ms. Freeman writes,

"As the war between cartels rages, no one -- not police, not journalists, not ordinary citizens -- knows whom they can trust, so they trust no one."
Freeman details how the cartels manipulate the news media with bribery, violence and their own news managers. Cartels tell media outlets what stories cannot be covered or what facts must be omitted. Cartels provide incriminating videotape of their rivals crimes.

Ground zero of the violence and corruption is at America's doorstep. Nueveo Laredo is the Mexican city at the Southern end of Interstate 35 -- a vital artery of the American heartland that flows north to San Antonio, Dallas - Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kansas City, Des Moines, Minneapolis and Duluth. Every day over 6000 trucks leave Nuevo Laredo for the U.S. carrying 40 per cent of all Mexican exports.

The cartels' rivalry is at an all-time high because of the efforts of law enforcement. In early 2002, the principal Arellano-Felix brothers of the Tijuana cartel were killed or captured. This strengthened the Sinaloa cartel to focus on Nuevo Laredo.

The Gulf cartel was also focusing on Nuevo Laredo. It enticed specially trained Mexican soldiers from the Grupos Aeromoviles de Fuerzas Especiales, reportedly given U.S. military training, to work for them, now known as the Zetas. The Zetas were hired by Osiel Cardenas to eliminate the local Nuevo Laredo traffickers, who were murdered in May 2002. But in March 2003, Cardenas was imprisoned, and Nuevo Laredo was "up for grabs."

Drug traffickers are now "the law of the land" in Nuevo Laredo.

Nuevo Laredo is now Mexico's "murder capital." Earlier this year the murder rate was more than double last years -- 114 murders through May 2006, compared to 45 in the same period in 2005. Shoot outs are frequent, some lasting as long as 30 minutes.

The report notes that, "as bodies piled up, on June 8, 2005, Nuevo Laredo's mayor appointed Alejandro Dominguez the new chief of police. Leaving office the first day on the job he was ambushed and killed by gunmen.

One feature of the public concern with the corruption and violence is the government's response, a special anti-crime operation, "Operation Safe Mexico," announced June 11, 2005 But this response has become merely a public relations effort.

Now every mundane law enforcement activity and achievement is lauded as a feature of "Operation Safe Mexico."

One of the principal objectives of the Operation is the investigation of major drug traffickers in Nuevo Laredo, but there have been no arrests of major traffickers in over a year of the intense federal effort.

Particulary noteworthy in the WOLA report is the recognition that it is illegality of the drug trade that is driving this violence. The report clearly explains the connection between absence of the usual market protections against fraud and violence of the established legal system, and the role of violence as the primary instrument of commercial regulation.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Danger and Proliferation of SWAT teams

SWAT -- Special Weapons and Tactics -- Teams, created to respond to hostage taking or other extraordinary events, have proliferated throughout the U.S. A very powerful new report by Radley Balko, entitled Overkill, is a very thorough history of their expansion. Congress encouraged the U.S. military to provide military hardware to police departments, and SWAT teams are trained by military units. Balko is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, and the author of the acclaimed blog, The Agitator.

SWAT teams, once found in only the largest cities, are now commonplace in medium cities and small towns.

A major result is that they are routinely used for commonplace police work. Routinely they are used for serving search warrants in drug cases. Balko has provided a stunning compendium of a decade of SWAT team catastrophes and misconduct.

If a critical component of a successful military action is proper intelligence and very careful planning and management, Balko reveals that paramilitary policing executes raids based on unreliable informants reports, and inadequate planning and supervision.

Read this report. Think about the vision of the framers of the Constitution, and the First Congress debating the Bill of Rights, and try to imagine their reaction.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"Stunning" new chemotherapy for substance abuse hailed in Washington state

A drug treatment approach called Prometa is credited by the Pierce County, WA, drug court with near-100% success in preventing relapse after 90 days, the Seattle Times says.

The approach is based on the administration of three medications -- the antihistamine hydroxyzine; flumezanil, which supposedly counteracts the effects of sedatives (but the drug is not found on Medline Plus; and the anticonvulsant Neurontin, also called Gabapentin. Of the three pharmaceutical drugs that are administered during the treatment, one is given orally and two are administered intravenously once a day for three days. A second cycle of infusions is administered about three weeks later.

The Seattle Times says, "Pierce County Alliance, the county's treatment center, found that 92.5 percent of the participants remained drug-free in the first three months of the trial — while 98 percent of the weekly random urine analyses tested negative for substance abuse. The relapse rate in drug court is about 50 percent." The Seattle Times story had nothing bad to say about this treatment approach and the article by Christine Clarridge could be used as a sales pitch:

"I've worked in this field 23 years and I've never seen anything as successful," Lisa Daheim said. "I watch people come in and it's literally as if someone took a washcloth and washed the wrinkles and anxieties and dirt and fears off of their faces. They look like different people."

"I've never seen anything that has as much promise ... as Prometa," said [Terree] Schmidt-Whelan [director of Pierce County Alliance treatment center], who has worked in drug treatment for 30 years. "One hundred percent of the people reported feeling better."
The Seattle Times says for private clients, the treatment costs $15,000. Prometa is a trademark of Hythiam, Inc., which describes itself as
a healthcare services management company formed for the purpose of researching, developing, licensing and commercializing innovative technology to improve the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.
The Hythiam business plan tells about the methamphetamine epidemic and how you can get in on the ground floor of this lucrative business. Andrea Barthwell, MD, formerly of ONDCP is part of the management team. The plan tells about the 2006 commercial launch, and the celebrity marketing plan featuring Chris Farley, the comedian who died 8 years ago.

Farley's image is prominent in billboards placed in Southern California with the legend, "It wasn't all his fault." The billboards generated 250 phone calls a day to Prometa.

Here are the business's goals for 2006

Goals for 2006
  • Leverage Gary, Indiana Drug Court pilot to promote PROMETA as standard for stimulant dependence in Criminal Justice
  • Capitalize on Urschel study results to promote the first effective medical treatment for methamphetamine dependence
  • Initiate reimbursement pathways through direct Medicaid pilots
  • Pursue adoption and reimbursement of payors through partnerships with Managed Behavioral Healthcare Organizations
  • Launch consumer marketing campaigns in key MSA’s
  • Continue to expand footprint of licensees nationwide
Hythiam's revenues have grown from $75,000 in 2003 to $1,164,000 in 2005. The business plan says,
Hythiam generally receives $6,400 per treatment for alcohol and $7,450
for stimulants for the private pay market
Hythiam is on NASDAQ as HYTM the business plan says.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Taliban getting funds from. . . illegal opium

From many perspectives, the news is that illegal opium cultivation and heroin refining is financing the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld adds his weighty voice to this conclusion.

So. . . do we do something different, or do the same old thing but expect a different outcome?

Increase opiate treatment and get a marginal reduction in demand. What else?

Does there ever come a time when analysts look at a major problem -- the likelihood that the Taliban, who were the allies of Osama Bin Laden in the 9/11 horrors, will regain power -- and conclude that a dramatically different approach might be called for?

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

13th Amendment Slavery abolition exception: prisoners

The New York Times reports on the Louisiana practice of using prisoners as laborers in private industry. The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified December 18, 1865, provides that --

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Police-run lemonade tent boosts officers' visibility in troubled neighborhoods

Creative Community Oriented Policing -- Eric

Corner stand cools off crime
Police-run lemonade tent boosts officers' visibility in troubled neighborhoods.

St. Paul, MN Pioneer Press

In a city beleaguered by a wave of murders, Minneapolis police believe they've hit on a new crime-fighting tool: lemonade.

After a test-run in North Minneapolis last week, police officers today will set up a lemonade stand at the intersection of 22nd Avenue North and Sixth Street North. The area has been battered by crime this year, particularly violent crime.

"We're putting the lemonade stand right in the middle of these high-crime neighborhoods," said Mark Klukow, a street officer and 11-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department and the one who came up with the idea.

Of the 30 slayings reported in Minneapolis this year, 16 have been in the 4th Precinct, the area of North Minneapolis that includes the intersection.

In their test of the concept at the intersection last Friday, Klukow and other officers attracted nearly 400 youth and drained 25 gallons of lemonade.

But they also reduced the crime, Klukow said.

"Putting the cops in these high-risk neighborhoods literally shuts down crime," he said. "We were in sight — literally in sight — of three dope houses. They were perturbed that we were there. Their clients moved. On a Friday, I would guess they (dealers) would dump half of their marijuana that they dump in a given week, because it's payday for a lot of people, and they want to have some for the weekend."

The lemonade stand is a 10-foot-by-10-foot tent, staffed by two to five armed, uniformed officers. The police close off half a street and set up a basketball hoop. The lemonade is free.

After today, the lemonade stand will be in a different neighborhood from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Friday.

Klukow said the main goals of the lemonade stand are to increase police visibility in the neighborhood, make a positive impression on kids ages 11 to 17 and listen to the residents' concerns.

Thursday evening, kids passed a football or rode bikes through the intersection, while adults stood nearby. Resident Cary Howell said she believed the lemonade stand is a great idea for the police.

"I liked the increased visibility," she said. "We need all the help we can get in North Minneapolis. And it helps the kids see the cops as human, as something other than what their parents tell them."

Sondra Hollinger Samuels, president of the Peace Foundation, a group trying to find solutions to the crime and the neighborhood's other issues, said the lemonade stand was an important step in improving police-community relations.

"Trust isn't given; it's earned. Setting up camp on a street that's needed police officers is a way to earn trust," she said. "We need that to effectively take back our community."

Hollinger Samuels is hopeful the initiative will help.

"Any attempt by police officers to … reach out to the community is way more than welcome, is way overdue, and as a community, we're so appreciative," she said. "At the end of the day, this is about healing relationships."

The stand isn't the only effort to tackle crime in North Minneapolis. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minneapolis police officials will announce today a new agreement with the State Patrol to boost police presence in the Minneapolis neighborhood.

David Hanners can be reached at or 651-228-5551.

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