BFTN #22 2018-10-15
October 15, 2018
War On Drugs 3.27 “The Evil Empire”
October 24, 2018
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Part TWENTY-SIX of our series on the WAR ON DRUGS – “Just Say No”


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Show Notes:

  • So we’re back in the land of “it’s the individual’s fault for being weak”.
  • And he wanted to make major changes to the law.
  • He wanted to get rid of the exclusionary rule which prevents evidence collected in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights from being used in a court of law.
  • So an illegal wiretap for example.
  • If the FBI use an illegal wiretap to arrest you, the entire case can get thrown out.
  • He  wanted the Posse Comitatus Act further relaxed to let soldiers and sailors make arrests.
  • He wanted new wiretap authority.
  • He wanted to expand preventive detention.
  • He wanted to let police officers serve on secret grand juries.
  • Reagan’s Justice Department also demanded broad new powers to confiscate citizens’ property upon suspicion — not proof — of drug trafficking.
  • The 1970 RICO laws nor the 1978 forfeiture laws didn’t go far enough for Reagan.
  • They didn’t let the government take real estate, for example.
  • Stash pads, marijuana farms — and, for that matter, people’s homes — were therefore immune.
  • The current laws also prevented the government from seizing assets until after an indictment was returned, on the theory that at least the minimal evidence needed to indict a person should be required before their property was confiscated.
  • Reagan’s Justice Department wanted all that reversed, along with the law requiring police to give people notice that their property was about to be seized.
  • Better to grab the assets first, went the thinking, and then file the notice or present the evidence to a grand jury for indictment.
  • Finally, the Justice Department wanted a new authority — never hinted at in previous law—to seize “substitute” assets, assets that are completely legitimate but equal in value to the allegedly tainted goods.
  • And Reagan got nearly everything he wanted.
  • And he didn’t even need to go to the mattresses to get it.
  • It was all mostly included in the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 – sponsored not by Republicans, but by Democrat Joe Biden.
  • It expanded drug trafficking penalties and federal “civil asset forfeiture,” which allows police to seize and absorb someone’s property — whether cash, cars, guns, or something else — without proving the person is guilty of a crime.
  • Under the federal Equitable Sharing program, local and state police get up to 80 percent of the value of what they seize as funds for their departments, which critics say creates a for-profit incentive to take people’s stuff.
  • More about that in the next episode.
  • And Joe didn’t stop there either.
  • The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was sponsored and partly written by Biden.
  • It ratcheted up penalties for drug crimes.
  • It also created a big sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine — even though both drugs are pharmacologically similar, the law made it so someone would need to possess 100 times the amount of powder cocaine to be eligible for the same mandatory minimum sentence for crack.
  • Since crack is more commonly used by black Americans, this sentencing disparity helped fuel the disproportionate rates of imprisonment among black communities.
  • And then – he co-sponsored the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.
  • This law strengthened prison sentences for drug possession, enhanced penalties for transporting drugs, and established the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which coordinates and leads federal anti-drug efforts.
  • And he didn’t stop there!
  • He sponsored more anti-drug laws in the 90s and 2000s,
  • But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
  • In short, Biden helped write and co-sponsored two of the most important pieces of legislation in the punitive war on drugs — the 1986 and 1988 laws — and helped create the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine.
  • And he was at least partly behind other laws that perpetuated mass incarceration and increased police powers.
  • So it wasn’t just a Reagan or Republican effort – the War on Drugs was now bipartisan.
  • About 1.3% of the population.
  • These guys peg it slightly higher, around 2.5%.
  • When Stephen Jacobs went to visit Carlton Turner, Reagan’s drug adviser, he came up with the idea of using comic books to spread the President’s message.
  • Stephen Jacobs had managed public relations for Jimmy Carter’s Energy Department and had come up with the idea of a comic book, financed entirely by the Campbell Soup company, featuring the villainous superhero Energy Waster.
  • He pitched the idea of a comic book about the evils of drugs to Turner and his team and they loved it.
  • They said “go do it – but you can’t spend any money”.
  • Comic books were all about black and white, good and evil.
  • Simple binary situations.
  • And that’s how they viewed drugs.
  • Drugs users and their pushers – bad.
  • People trying to stop the drug users and pushers – good.
  • At the time, a DC Comics series called “The New Teen Titans” was the biggest seller among the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders the government wanted to reach.
  • Jacobs blocked out an antidrug story line for DC and as sponsor lined up the Keebler cookie company.
  • The deal was that no ads could appear in the comics, but the trademark Keebler “elf” could pop up in the margins to pose such challenges as “At this point in her life, DRUGS were more important to Anna than anything else. Have you ever thought about what things are most important to YOU?”
  • Because that’s what you want in a civilised society – corporate-sponsored government propaganda being disguised as children’s entertainment products.
  • The first comic — titled “Plague!” — appeared in 1983, and as Dick Williams directed, the drug dealers were portrayed as leatherjacketed, sunglasses-wearing creeps who lurked around schoolyards or as highly organized businessmen who laughed over the deaths of their pubescent customers and escaped in fleets of helicopters.
  • The kids in the comic, though studiously multiracial, all came from intact middle-class suburban families.
  • Nobody in the comics had any reason to do drugs other than peer pressure, weak character, or the predatory tactics of drug dealers.
  • When the Teen Titans found the pushers, the violence was extreme — FOOM! SKREE-BLAMM! And though the Titans never kill —because, says the masked Protector, “then were as bad as they are” — the half-man half-robot Cyborg throws his enemies through walls because “nothin’ says I can’t enjoy beatin’ their heads in.” SPA-BOOOOOM! “Plague!” ends with a small blond girl admitting she’s “taken pot, hash, uppers, downers, cocaine and PCP. I’m a DRUGGIE, and yes, I’m gonna STOP!”
  • Nancy Reagan was so pleased with the effort she wrote a letter for the inside front cover urging kids to join the “battle” against drug abuse and reminding them that “the President feels as strongly as I do about winning this battle. His Drug Awareness Campaign put this material together and generous corporations paid for it.”
  • When Nancy Reagan convinced the Sultan of Brunei to donate $500,000 to the parents’ movement, the check was made out not to Rusche’s group but to the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, run by the wife of the Republican National Committee chairman, which seemed to spend all its time using the drug issue to unseat Democrats.
  • When the Reagans’ wealthy supporters lined up to donate to the First Lady’s cause, the money was directed to the Nancy Reagan Drug Abuse Fund.
  • One such donation occurred while the Reagan administration was considering a Saudi request for AWACS planes; King Fahd gave the Nancy Reagan Drug Abuse Fund $1 million.
  • By the end of the Reagan presidency, the fund held almost $5 million.
  • (According to Nancy Reagan biographer Kitty Kelley, only about 10 percent of that was distributed to drug-abuse causes; the rest was transferred to the Nancy Reagan Foundation in Los Angeles, where it remains.)
  • On July 4, 1984, Nancy Reagan visited Longfellow Elementary School in Oakland, California, where a class of fourth-graders had been assembled to visit with the First Lady about the nation’s drug problem.
  • Surrounded by reporters and cameras, and backed up by U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello, the First Lady sat with a semicircle of children and talked about the dangers to children of drinking alcohol and taking drugs.
  • A fourth-grader asked Mrs. Reagan what he should do if his friends press him to smoke pot.
  • Mrs. Reagan then spoke the magic words, adding the “something” Carlton Turner thought was missing from the Ad Council’s “Say No to Drugs” campaign.
  • “Just say no,” she said.
  • But Just Say No did something insidious.
  • In fact, it reduced the debate to a single word.
  • Don’t talk about why people use drugs, the slogan said.
  • Don’t ask why Halcion and malt liquor are legal drugs while marijuana and cocaine are not.
  • Don’t talk about the difference between drug use and drug abuse.
  • Don’t talk about the tendency of prohibition to promote violence and the use of stronger and more dangerous drugs.
  • Don’t talk about the lives, taxpayer dollars, and civil liberties sacrificed for the Drug War.
  • Don’t talk about the culture and race wars waged under the Drug War battle flag.
  • Don’t talk about the medical potential of illegal drugs.
  • Don’t talk at all.
  • Just say no.

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