BFTN #15 2018-08-27
August 27, 2018
BFTN #16 2018-09-03
September 3, 2018
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Part TWENTY-ONE of our series on the WAR ON DRUGS – “Broken Windows”.


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Show Notes:

  • Heroin addicts constituted about one-quarter of one percent of the US population in 1972.
  • But if you listened to the rhetoric coming out of the Nixon administration, they were like the hordes of hell.
  • The conservative Hudson Institute, set up futurist Herman Kahn after he left the RAND Corporation – BTW he was one of the nuclear strategists that Kubrick based Dr. Strangelove on – we’re going to be talking about him soon on the Cold War series – estimated that New York City’s 250,000 heroin addicts were responsible for a whopping $1.7 billion in crime, which was well more than the total amount of crime in the nation.
  • Presidential candidate George McGovern said in a speech on the Senate floor. “In 98 percent of the cases [the junkie] steals to pay the pusher . . . that translates into about $4.4 billion in crime.”
  • Senator Charles Percy of Illinois saw McGovern’s bid and raised him. “The total cost of drug-related crime in the United States today is around $10 billion to $15 billion,” he said.
  • Richard Harkness, an NBC reporter hired by the White House to manage public relations for the Drug War, wrote a confidential memo in May to drug officials throughout government, where he said:  “If we assume that 60 percent of the estimated 560,000 heroin addicts steal property to support their habit, more than $18 billion worth of property is stolen each year to pay for heroin addiction.”
  • Which was only about 15 times as much property that was stolen across the country each year.
  • A major study of the connection between addicts and crime was published in 1985 was called Taking Care of Business.
  • Seven researchers from a handful of colleges, along with a corps of graduate students, examined the junkie population in New York for eight years and found some surprises.
  • They discovered that while most addicts commit some kind of crime to pay for their habit, it’s mostly selling heroin to other addicts.
  • It’s not like most of them are breaking and entering.
  • In fact, if drugs were legal, most addicts would be leading largely law-abiding lives.
  • Most hold legitimate jobs or do legitimate jobs here and there to make their money.
  • The addicts who are thieves were thieves BEFORE they became addicts.
  • Krogh actually confessed to Congress in 1976, after he was out of the drug policy business, that he and his staff actually used to wonder if they weren’t just making the problem worse.
  • Whether it would, in his words, “lead to a shortage, increase the price, and thus compel addicts to commit more crime to feed their habits.”
  • Haven’t we seen this before in this series?
  • Back in the 30s when Harry Anslinger was stopping doctors from prescribing it?
  • And the Mafia got hold of it and jacked the price up by 1000%?
  • Here we are 40 years later in the story, no lessons learned.
  • And here we are today, recording this, nearly 90 years later, still no lessons learned.
  • Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control were telling the government that they found more people seeking treatment in times where heroin was abundant.
  • But still – nobody in government listened.
  • It wasn’t about facts – it was about politics.
  • Nixon was “tough on drugs” and “Tough on crime”.
  • Except when it came to bugging the Democrats and then trying to cover it up.
  • A reporter asked the new White House drug enforcer, Myles Ambrose, about a survey that had just been published: “I wondered if you are pleased with the trend among youth, particularly college kids, away from marijuana and back to booze?”
  • Ambrose chuckled paternally and said, “It recalls a happier day in which those of us who had the good fortune of going to college indulged in booze on more than one occasion, as I recall. It was beer. Lets say beer mostly. Yes I am very much pleased in that respect.”
  • That same year, 55,000 Americans died in highway accidents, most of them believed to be alcohol-related.
  • Another 33,000 died from alcohol poisoning or cirrhosis of the liver.
  • No death from marijuana has ever been recorded.
  • In early 1973, Harvard professor James Q. Wilson wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine which was an excerpt of his highly influential book Thinking About Crime which was published in 1975.
  • He had a pretty radical view on crime.
  • Up until then, the prevailing theory in social science was that crime was caused by social circumstances, such as a deficient upbringing, poverty, or racial discrimination.
  • To solve something like crime, these theorists argued, you have to get at the “root causes”.
  • Poverty, etc.
  • Wilson’s new argument was that criminal activity is largely rational and shaped by the rewards and penalties it offers.
  • His argument was that criminals generally choose to commit or not to commit a crime based on an evaluation (though not necessarily a conscious deliberation) of potential risk and reward.
  • The simplest way for governments to decrease crime is to alter the parameters of this calculation — either by increasing the punishment for committing crimes or by increasing the odds of getting caught.
  • He said it was a waste of time trying to rehabilitate criminals.
  • They are either essentially bad people and would just commit more crimes when they got out.
  • Or they are essentially good people who would go straight under their own auspices.
  • He suggested short, standardised sentences.
  • He’s also the guy who came up with the broken windows theory in the early 80s that Rudy Giuliani put into practice in New York in the 90s.
  • Broken Windows is the theory that visible signs of crime – like broken windows that don’t get repaired, or graffiti on the walls – create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes.
  • It was based on a social-psychology experiment in which breaking a window in an unattended vehicle planted in a neighborhood soon led to the complete destruction of the whole vehicle.
  • The theory thus suggests that policing methods that target minor crimes such as vandalism, public drinking and fare evasion help to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes.
  • It’s received a lot of criticism but I think the jury is still out on it.
  • But Congress opted instead of long, mandatory sentencing.
  • Such as ten years without parole for a first-offense cocaine-dealing charge.
  • Later in 1973, Congress voted on Nixon’s plan to combine ODALE, BNDD, and the drug-fighting functions of Customs into a single agency: the Drug Enforcement Administration.
  • And in his State of the Union in 1973, Nixon said he was going to ask Congress to pass new bills that would allow for imprisoning accused narcotics violators without bail before they have been convicted; and creating mandatory jail sentences of five years to life for heroin sellers.
  • a minimum sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment for major traffickers in drugs.
  • And for offenders with a prior conviction for a drug felony, life imprisonment without parole.
  • He also reintroduced Capital Punishment for certain Federal crimes.
  • The Supreme Court had declared it unconstitutional a few years earlier.
  • But as the Nixon administration came crashing down, with the President stepping down halfway through his second term to avoid impeachment amid the Watergate scandal, the war on drugs was kind of quiet for a few years.
  • In 1975, The Domestic Council Drug Abuse Task Force releases a report that recommends that “priority in Federal efforts in both supply and demand reduction be directed toward those drugs which inherently pose a greater risk to the individual and to society.”
  • The White Paper names marijuana a “low priority drug” in contrast to heroin, amphetamines and mixed barbiturates.
  • Colombian police seize 600 kilos of cocaine from a small plane at the Cali airport–the largest cocaine seizure to date.
  • In response, drug traffickers begin a vendetta–“Medellin Massacre.”
  • 40 people die in Medellin on one weekend.
  • This event signals the new power of Colombia’s cocaine industry, headquartered in Medellin.
  • Then in 1976, Jimmy Carter campaigns in favor of relinquishing federal criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
  • Carter’s drug czar, Dr. Peter Bourne, who previously worked for Jaffe in Washington, did not view marijuana, or even cocaine, as a serious public health threat.
  • In 1978, The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act is amended. It now allows law enforcement to seize all money and/or “other things of value furnished or intended to be furnished by any person in exchange for a controlled substance [and] all proceeds traceable to such an exchange.”
  • And then in 1980, Ronald Reagan swept into the White House backed by Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and once again drugs were seen as a great moral failing of individuals.

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