03/11/08 - Virginia McDavid

Virginia McDavid, running for a congressional seat in the state of Texas dares to discuss the need for change to our drug laws + NPR interview of "The Wire" writer & extract from "Faces of Colombia"

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Guest: 
Virginia McDavid
Download: Audio icon COL_031108.mp3
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Century of Lies, March 11, 2008

The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.
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Dean Becker: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m glad you could be with us. Today we have invited to the studio Virginia McDavid. She is running for a Texas House representative seat, a democrat, and she has determined that she wants to talk about this drug war. Kind of a first for any elected official or anyone running for an elected office in the State of Texas and it’s really up to you to give her a listen. See how close she is your rationale, your position, in this regard. She’s running against an incumbent, Dwayne Bohac. We invited Mr. Bohac to be our guest and just yesterday I finally got in touch with his office and they said he’s busy at this time and that he will consider coming on the show at a later date. We’re also wanting to talk about the need for, I guess we’d say, citizen action, citizen involvement, citizen control of this situation and we’re going to talk about the fact that we have started up a new organization here in Houston, Friends of Leap, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and this is, there are at least hundreds of these members in Houston and I think once we expose this need for change, once we determine that we’re going to provide focus to that need for change and that we’re going to go after the local politicians to insist that they all talk about this situation, maybe they don’t think there’s any need for change but we will make a difference in the long run and, you know, I want to go ahead and play this track I captured from NPR. They interviewed this author from, the writers, if you will, from that HBO program ‘The Wire’ and let’s give it a listen. It will give us some talking points as we go forward.

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Narrator: A group of writers for HBO’s highly acclaimed, heavily reviewed and exhaustively discussed series ‘The Wire’ have written their last collective manifesto. Appearing in this upcoming week’s Time Magazine is ‘The Wire’s War on the Drug War,’ a letter written by Ed Burns, David Simon, George Pelecanos, Richard Price and Dennis Lehane. They say if they’re ever asked to serve on a jury in a non-violent drug case they will vote to acquit the defendant regardless of the evidence as a way to protest and undercut drug laws. The season finale of ‘The Wire’ wraps up, after five years, on Sunday night. We are joined from St. Petersburg, Florida, by Dennis Lehane, author of ‘Mystic River’ and many acclaimed novels. Thanks very much for being with us, Mr. Lehane.

Dennis Lehane: Thanks for having me, Sir.

Narrator: First, what motivated you to write this?

Dennis Lehane: As we saw the show coming to a close I think we just wanted one last sort of coda, if you will. Maybe to underscore one of the social points of the show, which is that the war on drugs doesn’t work.

Narrator: To understand this, if you were impaneled on a jury where the charge was possession or use of drugs you would refuse to vote for a conviction?

Dennis Lehane: Yes. Just as if I were on a jury in which it was possession or use of Jack Daniels.

Narrator: If, however, let’s say there was a gun charge involved, somebody had shot somebody to gain access to drugs, then you would consider voting to...

Dennis Lehane: Absolutely. It’s a different type of crime.

Narrator: Wouldn’t someone who says that they would disregard the evidence in a case, as a practical matter, almost certainly be excused from jury service anyway?

Dennis Lenhane: There you go. Our point right of the bat is we would be disqualified but we would say why. As we said in Season Three, and I think its one of David’s better lines or better theories, is ‘what the war on drugs needs is a paper bag.’ And what we mean by that is everybody understands they sell them in every corner store in America, a small paper bag, to drink a beer out of. That’s public drinking, that is against the law, and yet the paper bag allows police to look the other way and concentrate on what they’re supposed to do which is law enforcement.

Narrator: Even if just using drugs isn’t a violent crime the money that you give to a dealer supports some of the worst people on Earth who in fact do use violence.

Dennis Lehane: I agree with that argument on some level but I would put it to you: what would you have done during Prohibition? Is the blood of all the people who the Mafia killed during the 20s on the souls of our grandparents? So is the blood on Franklin Roosevelt who, when he legalized beer, said ‘I think it’s a good time to have a beer now?’ I mean, he was saying we failed, for thirteen years we had a failure of policy, and now I’m going to have a beer. Is the blood still on him?

Narrator: Some of the most articulate and passionate proponents of drug laws, and in fact fierce and aggressive police action to enforce the drug laws, are people who live in inner city communities who say ‘drugs have ravaged our neighborhood, they’ve taken almost half of an entire generation from us. We have to stamp this out.’

Dennis Lehane: And there is absolutely no way I can argue against that argument. I am not arguing for mass legalization of drugs. I’m arguing for a different, more common sense approach to the drug war, if you will. I’m saying that I don’t believe that the drug war, as it is being fought now, is working.

Narrator: Did you learn something writing ‘The Wire’ that added to your knowledge that informs this letter now?

Dennis Lehane: Well, I think that I have always been very, very class conscious. I have very much a chip on my shoulder from growing up working class and seeing the world through those eyes. And so when I see what I consider is, at some level, a war on the poor then, yeah, it has galvanized me. Hopefully not in a preachy sense. I mean, my God, this is the closest we hope to ever come to preaching would be this Time article. At the very base we are story tellers. Our job is to tell an interesting story and hopefully we did that over five seasons.

Narrator: Dennis Lehane, speaking with us from the Porter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. Thank you very much.

Dennis Lehane: Thank you, Sir.
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Dean Becker: Once again, that was courtesy of NPR talking to one of the writers of ‘The Wire’, the HBO long term investigation, exposé of the drug war in the city of Baltimore. Now, Baltimore has its troubles, probably a larger murder rate than we do even here in Houston, but Houston leads the way insofar as drug arrests. The report came out, I guess it’s almost two weeks ago now, showing that more one in one hundred Americans is currently behind bars, more than one in nine young Black males is behind bars. And why? Because of this drug war. It’s a fiasco, it’s an upside down situation. We do have Ginny McDavid in studio with us now.

Hello Ginny.

Virginia McDavid: Hi Dean, thanks so much for having me on the program.

Dean Becker: You bet. You bet. I’m going to move your mic just a little. Ginny, we have, over the years, watched the implementation, the blowback, from this drug war and I’m proud that you, seeking an elected office, are willing to come in the studio and to talk about it. I’m not going to try to pin you down, I just want to learn from you how you perceive it and maybe what you could do as a Texas representative.

Virginia McDavid: Well Dean, my perspective as a CPA is wanting to save tax payers’ dollars and wanting to be smart with how we use our dollars and try and address violent crimes. We spend millions upon millions of dollars treating non-violent offenders and we need to be smarter about how we approach law enforcement and what our true problems are in society to go after.

Dean Becker: Well, exactly. Now, we have over the years arrested some 38 million Americans for non-violent crimes, clogging our prisons, clogging our jails, overloading our system, if you will. And in the meantime recidivism rate for drug crimes remains high but we keep releasing the violent criminals because we just don’t have room for them and it seems to just be a self-perpetuating thing that we don’t gain control, we don’t make that difference and it doesn’t seem to get any better if we just keep going down this same road, right?

Virginia McDavid: I totally agree, Dean, and drugs are the fourth leading cause of death, drug reactions in hospitals, but what I’m really concerned about is difference between, and who’s making the cut between what’s a legal drug versus what’s an illegal drug. There’s a tremendous amount of use even among legalized drugs, Heath Ledger, the superstar that just recently died, so I have a lot of concerns about why certain drugs are illegal, why certain drugs are not and why we have this discrepancy and who’s perpetuating these differences that drug abuse is not anything that any of us condone and we need to help people that seek drug treatment and need treatment for drugs but we’re not treating this problem the right way or the cost effective way and we need better solutions.

Dean Becker: From my perspective it’s all based on fear. Just this morning the Houston Chronicle said officials fear this salvia product and they’re now wondering if maybe they shouldn’t make it illegal, a controlled substance, and it’s just absurd that this rather innocuous drug, fifteen minutes of effect, should be put into the same pile and more arrests occur because of their fear. Because it is fear that runs the drug war. When Aspirin and Tylenol kill more people than all hard drugs combined it makes you wonder why we are continuing down this same failed road.

Now, as I understand, I’m bringing you hear to talk about this drug war, to open that dialogue, but as a CPA there are numerous things that could use the moneys that are being directed towards this drug war.

Virginia McDavid: Oh absolutely, Dean. One of my concerns with the State Legislature is at one point the State pitched in over half of its moneys towards public education. That percentage is now down to 38 percent. And that’s largely because we have to spend tens of millions of dollars treating non-violent offenders and incarcerating them. Law enforcement, incarceration costs, court costs et-cetera, it’s just taking away resources that could so much be better spent on real serious problems that we need to address to move forward in this State. I am running for Texas House district 138 and believe that my positions on this issue and many others contrasts very starkly with my opponent and I do encourage people to go onto my website at VoteMcDavid.Com to learn more about my positions. It’s a work in progress, we don’t have a lot on there about this particular issue but it’s coming. With your help, Dean. (laughter)

Dean Becker: And, again, as I said earlier, it’s just wonderful, it’s gratifying that we can begin the dialogue. I commend you, your courage and commitment to address this issue, to dare to speak of this need for change in the State of Texas. As that report indicated, about ten days ago, that more than one in one hundred people in America are now behind bars, that Texas took over from California in leading in that, and as we all know Harris County leads Texas by far in its rate of incarceration primarily because our DA refuses to recognize the laws passed by the Legislature that says he no longer has to send people to prison for microscopic amounts, he doesn’t have to call it a felony. Several other counties in Texas are just walking around that issue. He no longer has to arrest and incarcerate people for less than four ounces of marijuana but they insist, I guess it’s in the air who’s in charge now...

Virginia McDavid: (laughter) It’s changing in this county.

Dean Becker: Kelly Siegler and Pat Lykos both indicated that they can’t change their position, it would mess up their intake system. Perhaps the Legislature needs to get a little more serious in how to direct these law enforcement efforts, right?

Virginia McDavid: There’s a lot of pandering going on. This law and order and pandering doesn’t get us the results that we’re looking for. But Dean, also to add up to your statistic that one out of a hundred Americans are now incarcerated, that statistic is even more bleak among some of our minority populations. One out of 36 adult Hispanic men is incarcerated and one out of fifteen adult Black men is incarcerated and these statistics are mind-boggling and I’d be very curious to know, out of these statistics, how many are related to petty drug offenses.

Dean Becker: Well, I can tell you that it’s a lot of them. If nothing else it’s, perhaps, a drug lifestyle that leads people to, I don’t know, break into cars, pilfer purses or other mini-crimes, if you will, that are designed to afford the high-priced black market drugs, up to 17,000 times the market value, of they’re coming from the producers.

Virginia, we have had a few discussions and I want to invite you to participate with us. We’re having a Friends of LEAP get-together, it’s actually tommorrow night, and I’m hoping that you might be able to make it. We have it at 8:00, it’s going to be at Golden Corral. We’re going to give an announcement a little later to give full details, but we’re also going to, I’m going to try to bring in speakers, politicians and/or members, speakers from LEAP, the cops, the wardens, the prosecutors that are now speaking on the behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. This first meeting we’re going to bring focus to bear on Sheriff Tommy Thomas. We’re going to provide phone, fax, email, we’re going to get his secretary’s name, we’re going to make it possible for you, our dear listeners out there, to get involved, to open the dialogue a little farther, to get a crowbar and crack it open, begin to force these people to deal with this issue.

Virginia McDavid: Thanks, Dean, I’ll do my best to be there tommorrow night and I want to also thank you for providing me with some information about King County, what’s happening in Washington State, and they have a tremendous partnership of lawyers, doctors, pharmacists and other professionals to find more effective ways to reduce the harm and cost of drug abuse and also how to better protect children and wiser use of scarce public resources and I think what is happening in Washington State can certainly be a model for what could happen here in Texas.

Dean Becker: They have turned it around. They have stopped their arrests of people for minor amounts of drugs, for middle amounts of marijuana, in fact they pretty much don’t care about marijuana, it’s just if you’re becoming a nuisance, if you’re selling to school kids or something, then they might go after you. And we have to stop and realize, again, we have invested a trillion dollars into this. That’s enough money to fill a freight train almost a mile long with hundred dollar bills. And it’s money that could have been invested in roads and bridges, treatment.…

Virginia McDavid: Absolutely. In fact I just read the other day, Bush just asked for another $500 million to fight the war on drugs in Mexico. Half a billion dollars, where does it end and what is it accomplishing?

Dean Becker: It doesn’t end, I guess, is, under the current circumstances, is the real answer. It’s gone on for 93 years, since the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914. And we have, I don’t want to say just frittered it away, it has gone into a lot of very powerful peoples’ pockets. You think of the terrorists and the cartels and the gangs have made more than $10 trillion dollars while we have waged this war meant to never to won and I want to talk about Texas. I mean, over the years, had politicians dating back to Sam Rayburn when these laws first got put into place and, going forward, people who have said ‘I’m tough on crime. I’m going to really ratchet up the effort. I’m going to stop this flow, I’m going to prevent our children from having access’ but with every step they take they increase the profit margin and take us further from resolution, right?

Virginia McDavid: I agree, and I think what’s ironic here in Texas is so many of us pride ourselves on our own individual decisions and we don’t feel like the government should be intervening with personal conduct issues whether it’s use of drugs, women’s reproductive freedom, who we choose or choose not who to be with, it’s ironic in a State where we want government out of our lives that they are so intrusive in this particular area.

Dean Becker: Intrusive is right. I mean, they feel they have the right to get a no-knock warrant, kick in our door, take our kids, take our house, our car, our cash, our worldly goods, our very lives, throw us in prison with sadistic prisoners and guards and then release us with a twenty dollar bill and a fare-thee-well and no driver’s license and then expect us to thrive. It’s got to change, does it not?

Virginia McDavid: Oh, no question, Dean, and one thing I wanted to add, you mentioned that Washington State is pretty much negated any kind of marijuana laws, it is known that marijuana can reduce nausea and here where we have such a tremendous medical center, along Fannis (Street) where we treat so many patients for cancer and chemotherapy, we know that there are medicinal uses of marijuana, and so this is another area that needs to be addressed, in a city that prides itself on being one of medical capitols of the world.

Dean Becker: So true. We’re speaking with Virginia McDavid, running for Texas House seat number 138, and I want to thank you for bringing that up because I get calls from patients, say from out of state that come to the Texas Medical Center and they get a recommendation from their doctor ‘you best get some marijuana, if you want to live, if you want to thrive, if you want to have a chance’ and they call me up and it’s really an iffy situation for me. I have to be very careful how I go about helping them but the truth be told, the American Academy of Physicians just two weeks ago, 124,000 medical doctors, not a bunch of hippies, came out and said ‘we do need to allow for medical marijuana’ and yet the government goons tour the nation saying ‘there is no medical evidence, keep it illegal, hook little Johnny of course’ and of course the truth needs to be brought forward. I’m not wanting kids to have pot, heck, in California where they have medical marijuana the use of children, using marijuana, has actually gone down. It just doesn’t have that allure when it’s Grandma’s medicine. We need to reassess what we’re up to. We need to redirect our efforts.

Ginny, give them your website once again. I want them to learn more about your...

Virginia McDavis: Absolutely. My website address is www.VoteMcDavid.com. I’m running in a district that covers all the eastern parts of Garden Oaks, Shady Acres, Oak Forest, it runs along some neighborhoods along 290 and pretty much covers the west half of Spring Branch, west of Blaylock, and what’s interesting about my district is we had an above average rate of people voting for Kinky Friedman in the governor’s election in ‘06 and I think Kinky Friedman supporters tend to be on board with this issue and want the government out of their lives in terms of personal conduct and so I think that my particular district is very concerned about this issue and how we can better address our tax-dollars to real problems addressing Texas.

Dean Becker: You know we’re putting together this show, it’s a Houston based focus, but I want to alert the other stations that carry the feed from the Century of Lies show, that I want to work with you, I want to work with your local officials, I want to work with you to bring focus to bear for that need for change in your State or community and to do that, you just get in touch with me and my email is Dean@DrugTruth.Net. Let’s work together, let’s bring focus to bear, let’s put these politicians feet in the fire and make them deal with the reality that is, in many cases, destroying communities, destroying families and futures. There is a better way and we need to work together to find it, to bring it forward.

Virginia, I understand that there are those people at the King County Bar Association, heck, my good friend Roger Goodman is perhaps going to become head of the House Judiciary Committee up there because of his acumen and his understanding and, again, no one is willing to step into this studio and proclaim the need for more drug war. They just can’t do it. They avoid me, they ignore me, they refuse to come on the air and yet, the truth be told, there is a better way and I appreciate you, Virginia McDavid, for your...there was an old TV show, Bat Masterson I think it was, and he was ‘brave, courageous and bold’, now that’s rather redundant but the point is you have stepped up to the plate, you’re taking a swing at this and you are showing the courage that it really takes to make this change happen.

Virginia McDavid: Thank you, Dean.

Dean Becker: Let me just turn it over to you for some things you might like to say.

Virginia McDavid: OK. Just getting back to our high incarceration rate in this country, we incarcerate approximately 750 out of 100,000 population and Europe or any other country in the world doesn’t come anywhere close that with the exception of China, which is second with 1.5 million people incarcerated. It’s just not a smart way to approach crime and even the Department of Justice claims that we aren’t getting the most bang for our buck and public safety isn’t improved with the kind of incarceration levels that we have in this country and it’s especially bad here in Texas so we definitely need change. It could happen here at the State level, we could model our programs after what they’re doing in Washington State and hopefully nationwide make some serious changes on addressing serious crime issues and letting people pursue their own personal conduct if it doesn’t involve public safety.

Dean Becker: Thank you, Ginny. Now, I had a discussion with some folks at CBS earlier this week and the point is I think it’s 725-750 is the arrest rate per 100,000 here in the United States, the imprisonment rate. In South Africa under apartheid it was about 850 per 100,000. And in the United States, under this policy of drug prohibition, Blacks are arrested at more than 4,500 per 100,000. If that doesn’t speak of bigotry and twisted justice I don’t know what does.

Virginia McDavid: Sure it does. You had a public defender, and we don’t even have public defenders in Texas, at least not in Harris County, we have court appointed attorneys and we can’t assume justice is being administered in fair and equitable ways at all.

Dean Becker: No, no. And if you are a person of conscience, understanding, education, if you care about your community, if you care about the reputation of your community and the potential for your future, for your children, for the future, you need to step up to the plate, you need to participate, you need to get involved and, I’ll tell you what, we have just enough time, I want to go ahead and play this track for you and here we go:
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Please join with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition in sharing the unvarnished truth about this drug war with our elected officials. Friends of LEAP will meet each month and then phone, fax, email and visit with a different public official every month. The time is right, the need is obvious and working together we will demand that our politicians make the necessary changes.
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OK, for the Houston audience, we gave them the name of the location, the date and time and all kinds of factoids to hopefully lure people to come to this gathering of Friends of LEAP and I’d like to work with your community, whether you be up in Alaska or Canada or somewhere on the East or West Coast taking this Century of Lies feed, please get in touch with me, Dean@DrugTruth.Net. If you’ve got a local elected official who would dare to speak of the need for change, get in touch with me. We’ll put him on the air.

OK, I want to once again thank Virginia McDavid for being our guest. It’s VoteMcDavid.Com if you’d like to learn more.

The following is from a piece called ‘Faces of Colombia.’
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Faces of Colombia,
Faces of Colombia,
Four million people displaced,
Many people missing,
More than three thousand mass graves,
Shooting words,
Over 1,700 indigenous people murdered,
Thousands of trade unionists murdered,
A dismembered country,
A dismembered country.

Rich Colombia,
Immense Colombia,
Dancing Colombia,
Colombia in South America’s favorite corner,
Atlantic and Pacific.

People blame other people,
People blame other people,
To the missing people,
To the kidnapped people,
To the murdered people,
The performers of the conflicts,
Leftist guerilla groups,
Right wing paramilitary groups,
Government security forces,
Common delinquency,
Human rights violations,
Increasing military aid,
Increasing military presence,
USA
USA
USA
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Dean Becker: And as always I remind you there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, no medical data, in fact no reason for this drug war to exist. We’ve been duped. The drug lords run both sides of this equation. Do your part to end this madness.

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition.

The Century of Lies. This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by Gee-Whiz Transcripts. Email: glenncg@zoominternet.net