Thursday, January 26, 2006

SSDP sues the government

SSDP filed suit today against the U.S. Department of Education over a Freedom of Information Act dispute. All we want is a state-by-state breakdown of the 175,000 students who have lost financial aid to the HEA Drug Provision. But even though SSDP is a nonprofit organization, the government won't give us the data for free because, they claim, it could lead to drug legalization and that we might somehow profit!

Below is our press release. Please sign up for important SSDP news and action alerts!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 26, 2005

Education Department Sued for Withholding Information

Student Group Seeks to Expose Impact of Drug Law

Government Says Info Could Lead to Drug Legalization and Profiteering

WASHINGTON, DC – One of the largest student organizations in the country sued the U.S. Department of Education today over a Freedom of Information Act dispute. The group, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), wants to know how many people in each state have lost financial aid because of a law that blocks eligibility to students with drug convictions. Congress is expected this month to scale back the law, which has stripped aid from more than 175,000 students nationally since being enacted in 2000.

SSDP, represented by the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit stems from a refusal by the government to waive a hefty fee to provide the data. The Department of Education erroneously claims that providing the information is not in the public interest, but instead could further the commercial interests of those who might profit from the legalization of drugs.

“The requested records reveal how the government operates when determining who does and does not get financial aid,” said Adina Rosenbaum, the Public Citizen attorney handling the case. “The public interest in disclosure of the records clearly outweighs SSDP’s nonexistent commercial interest in the information.”

Added Scarlett Swerdlow, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, “It’s no big surprise that the government is afraid to reveal the true impact of its punitive Drug War policies. If citizens and legislators knew how this misguided and ineffective policy impacts their communities, we would be much closer to erasing it from the law books. Blocking college access to thousands of would-be students only makes our nation’s drug problems worse.”

Although the Department of Education is willing to release the information, a records officer said that SSDP hasn’t provided enough evidence to demonstrate an entitlement to a waiver of the $4,000 processing fee required to compile the data.

A copy of the suit is available at http://www.ssdp.org/SSDP_v_DOE.pdf

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an organization with college and high school chapters, is committed to providing education on harms caused by the War on Drugs, working to involve youth in the political process, and promoting an open, honest, and rational discussion of alternative solutions to our nation's drug problems. Visit www.DAREgeneration.com. Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Visit www.citizen.org.

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Contact Tom Angell at tom//at//ssdp.org for more information.

11 comments:

kaptinemo said...

Given that the Department of Education is a taxpayer-funded entity, and that every taxpayer has an intrinsic right to access the data that has been collected using their hard earned (and forcibly expropriated!) tax revenues, this goes beyond speciousness and enters the realm of the absurd. Somebody at the Dept of Ed. had better retrieve their brains from storage and re-insert them in their craniums...unless that storage area is actually located in their gluteus maximii, in which case there's little hope for them. Such brass deserves a whuppin'.

800 pound gorilla said...

I can name 3 groups who would benefit from legalization:
1] Crime victims - including victims of terrorism.
2] Taxpayers
3] Drug users - especially those who are dependent on drugs for treatment of conditions that would be better treated with banned drugs.

Ultimately the War on Drugs is fueled by the dangerous drugs mythology. There are no standards for restrictions. The controversy about reclassifying the "miracle diet pill" as an over the counter drug should show drug control for the farce that it is. The DEA admits on its site that alcohol is exempted from the Controlled Substances Act. I have formally requested in writing for a complete list of exempted drugs through Defazio's [Oregon 4th District] and the methodology of tests to ban drugs [gee stupid me - it plainly states in writing that the ONLY standard is "potential for abuse".

If there were objective standards that could be imposed they would be stated by the DEA. Anyway I was blithely ignored. They didn't even try to discourage me with exorbitant fees for the list - because then they would have had to admit that there were other "exemptions" allowed. I bet an official list of exempted drugs would be worth $4000 or more from drug policy reform organization

Anonymous said...

Number of lawsuits brought against the US Government by stoners: 3

Number of lawsuits won by the stoners so far: 0

good luck! ha ha ha ha ha ha.

kaptinemo said...

Anonymous, I'm sure you've heard the old childhood tale that begins with "For want of a nail..."

It will take only one successful lawsuit to cause the kind of scrutiny of how the entire issue of illegal drugs has been so poorly handled in this country to be brought to the public's notice.

In doing so, the impetus to begin the process of dismantling the fraudulent and wasteful apparatus of the DrugWar will gain traction. As it does, more and more public inquiries will be made, more scrutiny applied, more pressure exerted politically.

And that worries some people...like you, or you wouldn't be 'here', trying to gloat, now would you? Your laughter has a hollow ring to it...and deservedly so, given that 11 States so far have passed medical cannabis laws and more are considering doing so, despite official Fed displeasure.

Keep laughing, if it comforts you. As the DrugWar unravels, you may find it is your only consolation...

Mycos said...

There's no point in using reason with these laughing fools. They believe what they believe due precisely to their inability to use reason when thinking. Drug laws are a fine example of how they seem to believe that laws justify themselves merely by their very existence... "otherwise they wouldn't be laws" the reasoning goes. This circular way of thinking prevents independent thought --- which the government hates. Independent thinking might mean asking for real answers as to why everybody is working longer yet getting poorer, while a few very rich are getting even richer. If people no longer accept that the poor are poor because they're lazy and/or on drugs, then the government is going to have to do something real about the problem instead of blaming the victims like they do now. It's such a convenient scapegoat/excuse that they wont let go without a battle. And because the truth about drug use is very different than what they've been saying (and the "haha" idiot believes), the battle starts with suppressing those facts, hence the necessity to sue.

Mycos

Jonthon said...

Mycos:
While I understand your frustrations, I urge you not to block our detractors into the same category. Sure, many of them will never be convinced. And for that very reason, our message should not be addressed specifically to them. However, I think you'd find that the average Joe is actually much more sensible about drug use than the government and our detratcors would have us believe. They are that golden "middle ground," and to whom our rational, fact-based messages should be directed.

all hail independent thought,
Jonthon

Mycos said...

Unfortunately Jonthon, I think you give that golden middle ground to much credit. The reason Rush Limbuagh and his ilk have managed to capture such large audiences is because people who think for themselves...intellectuals, if you will....don't need talking to. They are aware of the facts already and because the facts speak loudly to regulation, harm reduction, etc. in place of the WOD, they hold our position already. OTOH that large middle ground consists f sheep who don't read studies to get their info. They get it from info-tainment shows like Limbaugh and or FOX news. Therefore I suggest strongly that our message be couched in the same confrontational, black and white, oversimplified tone as that delivered by Coulter and someone like Howard Stern.

You may think that its impossible to do both... That they are mutually exclusive, but I don't believe it is. We just need to point out the tax-dollars being wasted, the threat to innocent people from overzealous LEO's, the horror stories about what has happened to such people, about the murdering LEO's, prison guards, DEA agents, etc., but do it in the same angry, derisive, cynical manner that the right has used so effectively to oversimplify matters. Because sadly, the more that the average intellect has to "chew" things over, the less likely they are to swallow them. And years of lies cannot be overcome by reciting a couple of facts. That's sad, but it's also true.

Jonthon said...

Mycos:
I respectfully submit that you are wrong on many levels. The left is not the only side with intellectuals. Rush Limbaugh has a huge audience, but so does Jon Stewart. If you choose to couch your message in black-and-white terms, you will advance a culture war that we don't want while you also preclude us from reaching any answers that might fall in that illusive grey area (where most truth actually lie). Your pessimistic attitude of the average Joe makes me wonder why you might ever try to influence opinions at all.
However, your second paragraph I agree with quite a bit, and it reminds me of George Lakoff's "Don't thnik of an Elephant." In that work, he suggests that when facts are presented to a frame that doesn't match, we'll keep the frame and the facts will deflect away. As you put it "years of lies cannot be overcome by reciting a couple of facts."
The difference in our strategies is that I advocate couching our language in a frame that appeals to rational people in the grey area of the political ideology spectrum, of which there are many. Back it up with facts such as those that you suggest, under theme of equality and social justice (which are progressive values.)
Contrarily, you suggest a more divisive, affrontive tone. This seems like unnecessary defensive psoturing to me, which makes especially little sense given that we are outside the status quo. We cannot hope to enforce upon them our reason; we will need to appeal to their better sense of humanity if we hope to get them to accept our truths.

if there is hope [wrote Winston], it lies in the proles,
Jonthon

Mycos said...

No, I suggest a more derisive tone be taken with the likes of Coulter, Limbaugh, Malkin et al. precisely for the same reason Jon Stewart has the audience he does....because he points out what profound idiots they are. Ask yourself why Limbaugh and Coulter have such large audiences. It's surely not because they're right about things. It's because they appeal to a sad but true aspect of human nature and that is that it feels good to to have someone famous point out to you that you are smarter and better than "those other idiots". The right wing has been able to ride the insecurities of middle America to the top, to war, to a police-state, by taking advantage of a particular trait of comedy and humor. Most jokes have someone as a victim that were laughing at. Try thinking of a victimless joke yourself. Yes, they're out there, but their rare.


It's not just me saying it but many right-wingers themselves attribute=e the rise of the far-right to Limbaugh and his ilk. All I'm suggesting is to start pointing out...and laughing extremely loudly...at the ridiculous position that most of the right holds.

You point out that there are right-wing intellectuals. Yes....sort of. But you'll also notice that the right-wing intellectuals are also the ones who are pointing out the problems with prohibition, with the Iraq war and the whole War on Terror. IOW, the smarter one is, the less one tends to hold the positions espoused by the right-wing pundits.

No. To simply point out the facts is what has gotten us all in the dire position we are all now in. To keep doing it is let them dig us all a deeper grave. To enter into an argument with these people with a wimpy "I respect your opinion, but I think...." is going to get you walked all over. It has already.

Jonthon said...

Mycos: "I respect your opinion," and value this discussion. If that means I am being walked all over, I'd have it no other way. Because any other way, is to allow me to walk all over someone else. Is the goal to trample society under competitive truths, to abrasively and arrogantly proclaim our truth to be more just than that of our opponents, or to seek a higher truth, and to lift society from such baseless, inimical conjecture?
Let me operationalize that. When Rush Limbaugh "and his ilk" (does your emotion cloud your understanding of their views?) state what you and I both seem willing to agree is not factual, are we best suited to decry these people liars, and to contest what they have said?
The man I referenced bewfore, George Lakoff, would suggest otherwise. For when you argue with Rush, you argue in his frame. We should seek instead to define our our terms, and to offer a more captivating narrative. We should hope to convince people by appealing to their values with our facts. To instead use our facts to denounce the values of others, can be no better than a snare. It has the unseemly effect of ostracizing the bystander, of giving them only a choice of two lesser evils.
I hope you see the value in this, because this is something the left really needs to answer for here. We have this over-reliance on facts of particular import to us, which allows us to be at odds not only with rightists but even with each other. We do not attend to a set of common values, only an agreement that our opponents are wrong. Coalitions built on this cannot endure.
To bring this around to the debate over drug legalization, I think even the existence of this blog is a testament to the principles of which I speak. We allow anonymous posts and rants from the gorilla because we wouldn't deny them any right we'd grant ourselves. We inherently realize that if no single entity lies in judgment of what is truth, the effect on the innocent bystander can be most powerful. Dissent can only reaffirm what we argue for, if it is indeed truth.
It is my utter conviction in the merit of these claims which that makes me evermore insistent on allowing dissent, and not "laughing extremely loudly at the ridiculous position that most of [our opponents] hold."

Mycos said...

I'm not sure I'm be very clear about what the intent is behind my urging of the left to take the Coulters and Limbaughs on using their own tactics.

I believe that if those persons among us who have quick wit and are politically well-informed start denigrating the positions -- and the people who expouse them -- we will draw out an audience from among that "golden middle ground". Hopefully that will include many of those who are now getting their politics from right-wing pundits for no other reason than they like their blunt style. It's my opinion that the average Joe is not very well informed on what is happening outside of their immediate daily concerns. More saddly, they really don't care about it either. This tells me that to gather an audience from among them, your going to need more than facts and figures about what's right and wrong wih the world. And the simple fact is -- confrontation sells. Witty innuendo, insidious insinuations and bold, blunt bigot-bashing can turn an otherwise dull subject into a conversation they feel is worth paying attention to. The success of Limbaugh, Coulter, and now finally Jon Stewart, speaks for itself. Always taking the "high road" very often means travelling it alone, particularly in a culture such as ours where the high road is seen to be the road that has the most in it for me. OTOH, preaching empathy and understanding for others is equated with "touchy-feely pinko liberals".

Time to push back. They've had a good long laugh at our expense due to an unrealistic expectation among many of us that the citezenry will eventually notice our decency and come flocking over to our side. Ain't gonna happen!
So it's time to start defending ourselves, and we can start by usurping that which has worked so well for them.....manipulating the fear of attack that has been actively and deliberately exaggereated in them. And sex-scandals! Their disappearing wallets is always an attention getter! Lets get right on down to pointing out the embarrassing personal habits that detail their hypocracy on certain "moral" matters. Sure, there's a fine line between that and simply getting into the gutter with them, but the line does exist. They started it. For me, that's good enough. Otherwise I'd have a problem "swift-boating" someone but I have no problem whatsoever swift-boating those persons who initiated such a tactic. The thing is.....I no longer have any tolerance for the intolerant. Bigot-bashing is now an honourable sport. And I'm certain that expressing this form of intolerance can be done in a way that appeals to middle-America. And that this is far more productive than the current ongoing monologue where we detail a more idealistic vision for the future.