Friday, July 16, 2010

Tit for Tat, and a Turn for the Worse?: Car Bomb Kills and Maims in Ciudad Juarez

Could the Mexican drug war worsen? (Note the following graphic video from Ciudad Juarez TV outlet Canal 5.)

It seems so. On Thursday 15 July the Mexican drug trafficking organization (DTO) La Linea detonated a car bomb in Ciudad Juarez. La Linea are a rival organization to the Sinaloa "Cartel."

Mexican authorities believe the group used the car bomb--which killed four, three at the scene and one in hospital--as retaliation for the arrest of La Linea's Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, also known as "35".

It's the first bomb to have detonated in Ciudad Juarez in living memory. And it was also a trap for police and ambulance workers and one reporter -- all of whom had arrived to assist or document the body of a dead/or injured man dressed as a police officer in a vehicle. While they worked on the man's body, the bomb in the vehicle went off. The cameraman was injured in the blast.

Scenes of the aftermath appear in the following video, which comes by way of UK's ITN.

Making the police a target of narcoviolence should come as no surprise. Since President Calderon's strategy of using the Army to target the drug trafficking organizations has failed both in Juarez and across the country, the Mexican State has turned to using the Federal Police, directed by the Attorney General Arturo Chavez Chavez. This puts another institutional actor into an already heady mix to combat drug trafficking organizations. For what it's worth, Attorney General Chavez quickly discounted that the car bomb was a new tactic in the arsenal of narcoterrorism.

Also in the past week, Mexico's Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont resigned. This position takes responsibility for implementing President Calderon's national security strategy. No reasons were given for the resignation, but some analysts, including Andrew Selee of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute, believe he walked from his job for political reasons, not those of national security.

Yet news of the resignation came as Mexico's Attorney General released statistics demonstrating that the number of dead in the Mexican drug war had almost reached 25,000 people since 2006.

And now of course there's a new grim tactic of killing, the car bomb, which can be added to the repertoire of beheadings, torture, mass graves, and disappearances. The car bomb may yet prove to be a turning point, but it's an unwelcome addition to a macabre moment in Mexico's contemporary history.

School District Makes Good/Bad Choices on Random Student Drug Testing

When Edmond School District officials in 2008 and 2009 unveiled a proposed random drug testing policy similar to one recently introduced by the Deer Creek School District, more than a dozen parents and school patrons showed up at a public forum saying they opposed the policy. About half that number spoke in favor of the testing.
More proof that it takes community involvement to oppose wasteful and invasive random student drug testing programs. If your school district is thinking about implementing one of these programs, contact SSDP and we'll help you speak out.

Sadly, this same school district is likely to implement a policy that will randomly test students involved in extracurricular activities like sports. Grant Gower is the head football coach at Deer Creek High School. In the 1990's he helped implement student drug testing program at Tecumseh High School which led to the Supreme Court Case, Earls v. Board of Education. He had this interesting tid-bit to say:

"At the core of the issue, we're trying to provide a safe environment for our students," he said. "There's no question that drugs are a part of society. There's not any place in America that is immune from the drug issue. We're trying to protect and keep our students in a safe environment. We're not out to catch anyone."

Ironically, allowing students to participate in extracurricular activities is exactly what provides them with a safe environment. This drug testing program will do nothing more than stop students from participating in such activities by, contrary to Mr. Gower's statements, catching them.

For a nostalgic (and hilarious) look back at arguments against drug testing, check out this awesome video of former SSDP Executive Director Kris Krane destroying a drug testing profiteer on Fox News.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Marijuana Legalization Ballot Statements Offer Contrasting Realities

The ballot arguments for Prop. 19, California's initiative to legalize marijuana, seem to claim two different realities.

On one hand, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) president Laura Dean-Mooney argue against Prop 19:
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) strongly opposes Prop. 19 because it will prevent bus and trucking companies from requiring their drivers to be drug-free. Companies won't be able to take action against a "stoned" driver until after he or she has a wreck, not before.

The California Chamber of Commerced found that "if passed, this initiative could result in employers losing public contracts and grants because they no longer effectively enforce the drug-free workplace requirements outlined by the federal government...

Proposition 19 is simply a jumbled legal nightmare that will make our highways, our workplaces and our communities less safe.
Interestingly, the "protect the children" claim was left out of the argument. Nobody can deny that marijuana prohibition has been an outright failure because marijuana is currently easier for kids to get than alcohol. It seems that the opposition is trying a new approach:

"Employers who permit employees to sell cosmetics or school candy bars to co-workers in the office, may now also be required to allow any employee with a "license" to sell marijuana in the office."
It is far too unrealistic that your co-worker would actually be permitted to sell marijuana on your coffee break. The opposition has attempted to create a wild scene where marijuana is carelessly regulated.

Retired San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara, former Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, and retired Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Stephen Downing argue for Prop 19:
Prop 19. maintains strict criminal penalties for driving under the influence, increases penalties for providing marijuana to minor, and bans smoking it in public, on school grounds, and around minors.

Prop. 19 keeps workplaces safe by preserving the right of employers to maintain a drug-free workplace.

Outlawing marijuana hasn't stopped 100 million Americans from trying it. But we can control it, make it harder for kids to get, weaken cartels, focus police resources on violent crime, and generate billions in revenue and savings.
The pro legalization argument also highlights the negative effects of the "War on Drugs". It acknowledges that prohibition has created more crime and violence by establishing a black market. While there is $14 billion in marijuana sales every year in California, none of that goes to our debt-ridden state.

CA Prop. 19 is currently winning, 50% yes to 40% no, according to a new SurveyUSA poll of likely voters sponsored by CBS 5 KPIX-TV. There is some speculation of a slight reverse "Bradley effect," where some voters are embarrassed to openly support Prop. 19, and are claiming opposition to a live interviewer. This may explain why SurveyUSA's automatic poll, without a live interviewer, shows more support for Prop. 19.

Digital Drugs Get You Even Higher with Pepsi and Aspirin

Oh man.

I just don't even know how to begin. The parents and teachers of Mustang High School in Mustang, Oklahoma are inducing themselves into a social frenzy not unlike a group of orgiastic cult members.

Although "we have no scientific evidence" that these sounds actually do anything, parents and paranoid citizens of Mustang, Oklahoma, have recently become convinced that their precious, doe-eyed, innocent teenage babies are being corrupted by the evil things they are listening to on their headphones.

Yes, apparently the children of Oklahoma have discovered something that scientists, musicians, doctors, hedonists, and snake oil salesmen throughout the ages would be clamoring to discover. The young people in Oklahoma have discovered the actual specific frequency and pitch with which to induce a state of euphoric, immoral and ambiguous intoxication!!!

That's right - audio highs! Digital drugs!

Right now you may be asking yourself, "What ever happened to playing 'Hotel California' backwards on a record to hear the Satanic messages?" But a new day has dawned. Come on, kids! Get your MDMA MP3 right here! Are your parents pissing you off? We've got just the thing! Buy a Cacophony of Cannabis CD or get a genuine bootleg beer buzz (disclaimer - this one may not actually work due to the low quality.)

Seriously, Mustang High?

I am reminded of the story my mother told me when I was a kid about the one time she got in trouble for drugs in school.

I think she was in 7th or 8th grade, and there was a rumor going around that you could get really f-ed up by mixing aspirin in your Pepsi. I believe she was in the bathroom with some friends (where we know all drug use to happen in after-school specials) when one of them handed her a Pepsi and said, "Drink this."

My mom, being a rather congenial person who was not allowed to drink too much Pepsi around her Depression-era parents, obligingly took the beverage and gave it a few swigs. The girls then all started laughing and told her what she had done. (They were rebels.) Mom thought it was all very silly and didn't feel anything strange at all from the concoction.

Sure enough, within an hour of the offending act, the counselor received word of the girls' morally and permanently self-damaging deed of drinking Pepsi mixed with aspirin. All were in trouble. All received after-school detention.

I remember thinking this was a hilarious story as a child. First of all, I loved that anyone would be so ridiculous as to believe aspirin and Pepsi would get you high, but then that one would get in trouble for it when it doesn't even do anything in the first place...whaaa??? I was so very glad that I was able to grow up in a much more civilized time when McCarthyism was no longer an integral part of living, and whole parts of society weren't controlled for not fitting the mold. (Well, more or less that is what I thought.)

I would like to suggest the following to the frightened adults of Oklahoma - GROW UP. Creating a mass hysteria and basing policy on fear of the unknown is exactly the stuff that makes up scary science-fiction stories and totalitarian regimes.

It also alienates you from your children.

I guarantee that there three groups of students in this high school reacting to this whole crazy ordeal: (1) the students who are playing a big practical joke on everyone; (2) the students who are rolling their eyes at their dumb classmates who act like Pepsi and aspirin get them high and at the administrators who believe them; and (3) the kids who are actually so indoctrinated by their parents that they are now genuinely afraid to download songs from their chemistry lab partners for fear of being attacked by demons. (Note: the kids in the #3 category are made fun of by kids in the #1 and #2 categories.)

Like so many communities out there, the parents and teachers at Mustang High have a serious drug problem - the problem of dishonesty and closed dialog with their kids.

Parents, if you want to truly deal with drug use issues when it comes to your children, please don't wail and scream "DANGER!!!" because of your own phobias and then proceed to punish your kids with baseless, crazy claims.

Here's an idea - try genuinely talking to them. Treat your kids as people, and give them real information. Become someone that they can trust instead of someone who scares and lies to them. Check out the Safety First Project and try to deal with drug use by doing things that have actually been proven to reduce drug use and the associated harms.

Drug use will never, ever be stopped by scare tactics and punitive policies. This most recent event in Oklahoma only illustrates the great divide that parents and teachers in this country put between themselves and young people. Truly, it is way past time for a new and honest conversation about drugs and drug use.