07/08/08 - John Stossel

ABC reporter John Stossel & DTN reporter Dean Becker spend the half hour discussing the drug war & Stossel's latest article at Townhall.com

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Guest: 
John Stossel
Organization: 
ABC NEWS
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Century of Lies, July 8, 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: It’s a joy to have with us today a real newsman, whose full out efforts to investigate the stories he covers has earned my respect over the decades. Nineteen Emmy awards and one of the few nationally recognized broadcasters who actually understands the drug war or who is at least willing to say so. I’m proud to have as our guest on this edition of Century of Lies, Mr. John Stossel.

Hello, sir.

John Stossel: Hello.

Dean Becker: Hello Mr. Stossel. Thank you so much for being with us.

John Stossel: Thanks for having me.

Dean Becker: John, you’ve delved into the subject of drug war for well over a decade now and latest article you had published in TownHall.com I think could earn you a place on the LEAP board of directors. Would you outline that piece for our listeners, please?

John Stossel: I was in a marijuana celebration, from the Marijuana Policy Project, and they were all excited because the New York Legislature, one house, had passed a medical marijuana bill. And I said ‘How pathetic.’ I mean, you’re celebrating what should be just so obvious. That if someone is sick and medical marijuana helps shouldn’t they be allowed to have that? But more importantly, in a free country, don’t we own our own bodies? Once we’re an adult shouldn’t you have a right to poison yourself if that’s your choice? What gives the government the right to boss us around like that? Everything should be legal. The only intellectually consistent position, if you’re saying we own our own bodies and we are adults, is that crack and heroin, everything should be legal. These are not the demon drugs the DEA has made them out to be. Most people who experiment with them give up their drug or their addiction, depending on what you call it, on their own without a program to help them. And this hysteria is just doing vastly more damage than the drugs themselves.

Dean Becker: There are indications that the roadblock is being broken. That major newspapers -- they’re not going as far as your piece -- but the New York Times just last week had one ‘Not Winning the War on Drugs,’ the L.A. Times had one featuring Judge Jim Gray talking about ‘This is the U.S. on Drugs.’ It’s an issue whose time has come, is it not?

John Stossel: I don’t know. Jim Gray and I have been saying this for, I’ve been saying it at least ten years, Jim Gray at least, I think, eight years. If that makes it the time having come, I haven’t heard Barack Obama say anything along those lines. The politicians still run from it.

Dean Becker: Well, OK. You have more time in grade at this than I and I guess that maybe I’m a little too optimistic. But I speak to various groups in the Houston area as a former cop, member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, mostly Lions Clubs, people average age of about 75, and I’ve only found one person out of about fifty that I’ve talked to this past month that thought the drug war held any water whatsoever. I think it’s a case of we’re deceiving ourselves or believing in, I don’t know what it is, sir, a tribal taboo. You just can’t talk about changing these drug laws. Your thoughts on that?

John Stossel: I agree. It’s kind of like a tribal taboo and, look, because I defend free markets get invited to speak by conservative groups and for 25 years I’ve gone to rock-ribbed conservative groups and said ‘Look, prohibition didn’t work. Drug prohibition is worse. We forget that alcohol prohibition created Al Capone and the Mafia. Now this war is creating groups so rich they could afford nuclear weapons. Why are we doing this? To protect us from ourselves. Then we give the government the right to have exercise police come into our homes and tell us what to eat and make us run laps and do push-ups. Plus, what are we protecting ourselves from? The drug crime? Well, no, the drugs don’t cause the crime, maybe the worse is meth and cocaine sometimes makes people do nasty things, but 99% of the crime is because it’s illegal. Nicotine, our governments says, is equally addictive as heroin yet no one’s knocking over 7-11s to get Marlboros. It’s the law that causes the crime because the sellers can’t rely on the police to protect their private property so they arm themselves and form gangs and the buyers steal to pay the high prices.’

And when I’m finished with that, even these conservative groups seem supportive. And it’s funny. There’s been Bill Buckley, a lot of people on the right who are the ones who have spoken more strongly against the drug war. But I still don’t see a movement. I see these pathetic little attempts to get medical marijuana legalized but everybody just accepts that it’s right for America to bomb peasants in Colombia to stop the cocaine supply which it doesn’t do anyway.

Dean Becker: There was a story, I guess a couple, three weeks back, they found a major stash of hash in Afghanistan. And it surprised me that rather than pouring gasoline on it they dropped a couple of five hundred pound bombs to destroy that hashish. What’s your thoughts on that?

John Stossel: I didn’t know about that. Maybe that’s just this righteousness that comes from ‘I’m destroying something evil. I’m going to blast it to smithereens.’ I don’t know.

Dean Becker: We see the numerous stories in the newspapers and the TV all the time now, it really seems to be escalating, that deal with the blowback of our drug war policy. You know, the international wars, the overdose deaths and so forth but nobody this respected -- you were talking about this -- not even Obama, nobody high in government ever seems to question this ‘Groundhog Day’ decades long repetitiousness of it all. And do you know why?

John Stossel: They don’t think it’s a vote-getter. Politicians pander. That’s why I like politicians less and less. They rarely lead, even on good things. And until you can convince your listeners and I can convince mine that the war does more harm than the drugs then the politicians won’t come around. And it’s tough. Normally on these things I say ‘Look, the wonderful thing about America is we have fifty states. You can have an experiment and we could see what’s better.’ But the problem there is like what you get with Needle Park in Switzerland or to some extent in Amsterdam, that then all the drug trade goes to that one place and some of the people are unsavory folks who don’t, aren’t very socially responsible and it doesn’t make a good impression and then the drug warriors can say, ‘See all the evils of drugs?’ and then repeal those laws.

Dean Becker: There was a situation in, I believe it was Brixton, over I guess in a London suburb, where they made marijuana a low law enforcement priority and they did talk about how more problems were found there. But again it was a haven or a magnet for the black market. The black market creates its own havoc, does it not?

John Stossel: Sure. And if you’re a pothead you’re more likely to be hanging around in the public park getting wasted and be behaving, maybe having public sex, behaving in ways that the town elders don’t like and if you’re town is liberalized that you’ll attract more of those people.

Dean Becker: You know, we are -- this is the Century of Lies program, I want to alert the listeners and we’re speaking with Mr. John Stossel, a noted ABC reporter -- and John, it seems that there are only a handful of reporters that openly discuss the subject of drug war. In Mexico, many of them will be killed if they do so. And I wanted to ask, why are so many reporters so silent here in the U.S.?

John Stossel: Because reporters love the government and they think regulation is a good thing. Just about, no matter what it is. Even my colleagues who I know have used drugs, they say, ‘Well, I could handle it but the government needs to protect us from other people.’ And I’m not popular with my peers for my general anti-regulatory stance but my head turned around because I’ve been a consumer reporter for 35 years and I watched regulation fail on every front. Economic regulation, drug regulation, government sucks at doing almost everything. We need limited government to keep us safe but otherwise government should leave free people alone. That’s why I’m a libertarian and the libertarians are right.

Dean Becker: I’m with you. OK, now, I envy you John. You’re able to get John Walters or one of his allies to come on your shows to discuss, I guess, some aspects of the drug war. Now they realize I won’t be kind so no one ever comes on my show to defend their policy. And I want to ask you, is it always necessary to give both sides of the story when one side is founded in ignorance and flourishes only because of propaganda and fear?

John Stossel: Well, I would say ‘Yes.’ And I think your characterization is unfair because they’re not just spreading propaganda and fear, they genuinely believe that the law will reduce the harm. They focus on the harm they’ve seen among some addicted family and they genuinely believe prohibition will stop that. I think it’s important to give their arguments and then make yours.

Dean Becker: Well, OK. I’d love the opportunity, I’ll be honest there, but...

John Stossel: They don’t talk to me that often either.

Dean Becker: OK. Now, having discussed that thought, the politicians, the reporters, your friends and others that have never investigated the beginning of this drug war, have never looked at the reasons why it came into existence and perhaps don’t look at the blowback, the international ramifications that create more death, disease, crime and addiction. It’s a simple task to learn the truth of this matter. Why do you think most folks don’t do it?

John Stossel: They’re intellectually lazy in some cases. I don’t know that it’s that convincing of an argument on any front. I mean, you’re, but beginning of the war that it was passed because people were scared of blacks -- that’s true for the Davis-Bacon law which I would say most of the people, most of your listeners on the left would support, which requires paying union wages on government work projects, and the genesis of that was that white union organizations in the North didn’t want blacks doing the work the less. So there’s a lot of racist laws and how they began is less important than what they’re doing today. Davis-Bacon is a bad law and the drug war is bad.

Dean Becker: My city of Houston in many categories leads the world in it’s incarceration rate. I used to open the show with ‘Broadcasting from the Gulag filling station of planet earth.’ And I wonder why those who are impacted, the families and the communities that are impacted by this do not speak up more, do not get more involved in helping overturn these laws. Your thoughts on that?

John Stossel: They aren’t politically connected people. But if you are -- if you’ve just been raided by the cops you probably live in a poor neighborhood and they came in the wrong door, they knocked down the door, they terrorized your family -- you just don’t have the same political clout that the richer people have.

Dean Becker: Going back to your piece in...

John Stossel: Also, let me just say you’re assuming that in those neighborhoods most people are against the drug war. But that’s not been my experience. When I go into poor neighborhoods I find most of the people confuse the harm from the war with the drugs themselves and they are big gung-ho supporters of crackdown on drugs. They don’t understand that if it were legal it wouldn’t be in their face and there wouldn’t be the crime.

Dean Becker: Going back to your piece, ‘Legalize All Drugs,’ there was a couple of paragraphs here kind of dealing with that subject. That your assistant had kind of ridiculed you, saying ‘How could you say such a ridiculous thing that every drug should be legal?’ And ‘heroin and cocaine have a permanent effect’ and so forth. It is that legacy, that tribal belief I guess, that keeps those neighborhoods from wanting to end it, right?

John Stossel: Yeah. And if you see a junkie on your street, a woman prostituting herself to get the drug, it’s hard to think that legalization would be better. You have to think through how, well, it would be as cheap as Marlboros and she wouldn’t have to prostitute herself and she would be taking it in private and not hurting herself and a lot of people take this stuff and, in countries where it’s legal, England for example, and hold down jobs. But it’s hard to imagine what life would be like once government has already distorted the rules.

Dean Becker: Yeah it is. Now we have, over the years.. I’ve interviewed scientists and doctors and many people, I think, whose opinions we should value and so forth and, again, it comes back to the, I offer cash money, even, to any drug warrior, give it to his child’s college fund or something, if they would just spend ten minutes with us, clarifying the need for this drug war. What is your thought, insofar as, we talked about there’s not necessarily a change at hand, but do you feel that some of these politicians, I mean there are some state reps, a couple of national congressmen who are speaking in this regard and why, or how, will we motivate other politicians to change their stance?

John Stossel: Beats me.

Dean Becker: [laughter] Well, OK. John, a couple years back there’s a former cop, his name is Barry Cooper, he made a bit of a splash with the release of a video that told people how not to get busted. And I saw him a couple of places on cable and network TV, CNN, Fox, and maybe ABC. Now, I too am a former cop, I’m now broadcasting on about fifty-plus radio and TV stations on the U.S., Canada and Australia and yet no major publication or network has made mention of the 469 radio shows I produce each year. And I wanted to.. I figure I’m reaching at least a few million listeners a year yet I "get no respect". And I wanted to get your response to that.

John Stossel: [laughter] Well, nobody gets much respect. I mean, Rush Limbaugh barely got any respect until this week when the New York Times did a story on him that was not a hit piece. Hugh Hewitt, Laura Ingraham have huge audiences. In fact, you on the left are more likely to get some media respect. Al Franken, and Air America got article after article despite having a miniscule audience so I just think we shouldn’t be out there to get applause from our peers and we’re mostly not going to get it and we should just do our job which is to tell people what we know and do research and tell people what we conclude.

Dean Becker: OK. Now, I see enormous blowback from the drug war on the international scale and more death, disease, crime and addiction but I think the average person out there who thinks ‘Oh, it doesn’t impact me, my kids aren’t in jail, it’s not something I want to bother with,’ but it’s starting to extend more and more into things like needless millions of urine tests, prison labor producing goods that undercut legitimate American businesses and, truth be told, it just seems to me we can no longer afford to lock up these people we’re mad at, whose morals have offended our morals. Your thoughts on that?

John Stossel: I totally agree. On 20/20 a week from Friday I’m going to talk about sex and why are we locking up polygamists? There are hundreds of thousands of them, most of them just are adults who choose to have two wives or more wives. The wives aren’t coerced into it, it’s different if they’re forcing child sex on somebody but in most of the cases the women are sister-wives and the ones I met seemed to like each other more than they liked the guy. What business is it of the state to intrude upon that? There are lots of these examples. We have government that grows and grows and people meekly put up with it. The Founders fought a war for liberty and we are voluntarily giving it back. Bit by bit the smokers rolled over on all the anti-smoking rules, all the car safety rules that force you to pay for more safety than you might choose for on your own, the regulators, if they’re not regulating, they feel they’re not doing their job.

So people say under Bush regulation was reduced but the truth is that 50,000 pages were added to the federal register every year under Bush. The regulators don’t stop. They feel they always have to do more. And until Americans say, ‘Shut up. Get out of my life. None of your business,’ it’s going to keep going that way.

Dean Becker: A few weeks back I did a show with a gentleman here, a Mr. Ray Hill, who's a decades long activist for gay rights. And we drew a lot of comparisons between the two wars, if you will, the war on gays and the war on drug users and there were many...very much...

John Stossel: Except gays are winning.

Dean Becker: [laughter] Exactly. But again, they have spoken up, they have knocked the door off their closet and no longer are willing to take the bull shift, if you will, from politicians or cops or anybody. And I think, perhaps drug users need to do the same thing.

John Stossel: It’s somehow easier to speak up and say ‘I’m gay and I’m proud of it,’ rather than ‘I’m smoking dope and I’m proud of it.’ Well, I guess people could do that. I just think they’re less likely to.

Dean Becker: Well, yeah, but there is a small movement. It’s called Cannabis Consumers Union, I think it is, I am a member of that myself. People just need to get over it, as you say. I mean the harms of the drugs are so much less than the harms of drug war. We need to reevaluate our whole scenario. Right?

John Stossel: I’m in agreement there.

Dean Becker: John, you have astounded me over the years. You had a piece, how long ago, seven, eight years ago, was it called just ‘The Drug War?’

John Stossel: ‘War on Drugs. War on Ourselves.’

Dean Becker: Yeah, and it was part of what awakened me.. that it was possible to speak the truth and not get blasted for it. When I first began doing these programs I expected the front door to get kicked in every night by either the cops or the cartels because it’s just a dangerous subject, or had been. For me, I feel free and liberated because I’m able to talk about it now.

John Stossel: You also have a gun around your ankle.

Dean Becker: [laughter]

John Stossel: But look. We live in America. They rarely kill people for what we say. So I don’t think it’s courageous to say this. People will disagree and my drug special was one of my lower rated specials. The audience spoke by saying, ‘Oh, I don’t want to think about that.’ But it’s not like being in South America where you might get killed for disagreeing with the government.

Dean Becker: Well, I am in Houston, sir. [laughter] Put that in the equation. We have a criminal.. justice system here, it’s being investigated, the Sheriff, the D.A. resigned because of his drug use, and it just goes on and on, the blowback. Our jails are so overcrowded we’re shipping them to Louisiana, we’re responsible for about fifty percent of the prisoners behind lockup now at the state level, and primarily for microscopic amounts of drugs. I even had the D.A. candidates on about a month ago and both of them were talking about the need to change our sanctions, I guess, to lessen the severity of the penalties.

John Stossel: I’ve often heard them argue, ‘Yeah, well, he’s pled guilty to possession of a miniscule amount but in fact he was carrying a knife and he is a danger to society and that’s only what he pled to.’

Dean Becker: Right. Yeah. Always looking for the hammer to lay down the law. Well, John, we got just a few minutes left and I kind of wanted to hand it off to you, if you will, to see if you can share your conviction, perhaps motivate some of the listeners out there to step up the plate, to do something about ending this 93-year-old fiasco.

John Stossel: So much of what I learned in college and what I learned from my peers was wrong. It’s the subtitle of my ‘Myth’ book, Everything You Know is Wrong. And this was another example. It’s so intuitive to want to have Big Mommy and Daddy protecting us, whether it’s passing more safety rules, policing the food supply in more ways, it’s harder to imagine that free people will work this out on their own and some have a right to hurt themselves, most won’t, but freedom works better. A limited government that keeps us safe and otherwise leaves us alone is what’s built America, for most of the history of country government was less than five percent of GDP. It’s only since Lyndon Johnson and the so-called Great Society that it shot up to the forty percent of GDP it is now. And this is not a good thing on all fronts. Thomas Johnson said ‘It’s the natural progress of things for government to gain and liberty to yield.’ And when it comes to the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs and the War in Iraq -- I think we ought to have fewer wars.

Dean Becker: I certainly agree with you, sir. Now it was a week ago today, it was the 35th anniversary of the founding, if you will, of the Drug Enforcement Administration. I’m looking at a little blurb here that says that the budget back then was $75 million dollars and now, 35 years later, they say it’s $2.3 billion and it hasn’t succeeded.

John Stossel: And that’s just the federal level. The total I’m told is $30 billion. Who knows what the unintended costs are?

Dean Becker: Right. And the op-ed in the L.A. Times from Judge Gray referenced over the lifetime of the drug war some $2.5 trillion has been invested into this drug war. Well, John, I want to thank you so much for being with us. I hope that you can, from time to time, find a way to fit into your schedule a chance to come back and visit with us here on the Drug Truth Network. And I want to thank you again for the hard work you have done to kind of open the doors for folks like me to further expose the futility of this drug war.

John Stossel: Well, it’s good to have cops who are speaking out. So good for you and nice to talk to you.

Dean Becker: All right. Thank you, Mr. John Stossel.
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Dean Becker: All right, folks. Once again that was John Stossel. I want to thank you for listening. I hope you understand that over the years I have tried my best to bring you the best, the brightest, the most knowledgeable experts and spokesmen to talk about this drug war.

John Stossel has invested years of his life into this. He has put forward his reputation, his status, in speaking out to end this drug war. It’s not a dangerous thing to do if you are educated, if you give yourself the background. As we were talking about the beginnings of this came from bigotry, the escalation just came from hysteria and propaganda and profiteering because that is at the heart of this drug war.

Who profits? Well, the cartels. But so do the cops. So do the politicians. So do the prison builders, the urine testers and millions of others who stand forth as quote-experts and knowledgeable on the subject. But when you ask them about the beginning of the drug war or the propaganda itself they are completely lacking information. They cannot defend this policy.

And I urge you to do your part. To speak up, to write that letter. Fifty words, put it in an email, put it in a letter, call up your representative and read the same fifty words to them. It can be done. It must be done, if we’re to stop the paramilitary in Colombia, the cartels in Mexico, the terrorists in Afghanistan, the gangs in the United States. If we want to curtail our children’s access to drug, if we want to basically eliminate drug overdose deaths except for suicides because if you can pick up the phone and call for help you’re not going to OD, you’re going to survive, and under the policy of prohibition you can’t call for help because to so means a prison sentence.

It’s really up to you to do your part. If you’d like to get some feedback from me I urge you to email Dean@DrugTruth.net. I’m speaking to, as I said earlier, various Lions clubs and other political and fraternal organizations in the Houston area. Next week I’ll be at the DailyKos convention in Austin and I hope to meet many of you there. It’s really up to you to end this. I admit I’ll never get the Pope or the President to visit with us here but that was pretty sweet with Mr. John Stossel.

Please be sure to join us on this week’s Cultural Baggage Show when our guest will be Mr. Ryan King of the Sentencing Project. We’re going to talk about disparities, sentencing, financial pressure, unlikely allies, more prisons equals less crime -- you know, the Drug War. And also on next Tuesday’s show our guest will be Roger Goodman. He’s a representative in the state of Washington. On next Cultural Baggage our guest will be Brother Robert Muhammad of the Nation of Islam.

Folks, it’s time to end this, it’s time to recognize the futility of this policy of drug prohibition and as always I remind you there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, common sense, in fact the drug war has no involvement with reality whatsoever. We’ve been duped. Surely the drug lords must control both sides of this equation. Please do your part to help end the madness.

Visit our website, EndProhibition.Org.

You know, I love you guys. Working together we’re going to get it done.

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