07/22/08 - Rick Noriega

Tex Rep Rick Noriega running for US Senate + Roger Goodman running for re-election as Wash state rep + Ada Fisher disses Obama's drug use

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Guest: 
Rick Noriega
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Century of Lies, July 22, 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: Ah, yes. So glad you could be with us, my friend. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. Today is an all politician program. In a few moments we’ll hear from Mr. Roger Goodman who’s running for reelection as a representative for the state of Washington. But first up we’re going to tune into a discussion I had with Mr. Rick Noriega who’s running for U.S. Senate.
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In a first for our programming, I’m proud to have with us today a candidate for U.S. Senate, Mr. Rick Noriega. He’s running for the seat now occupied by Mr. John Cornyn. He has five terms in the Texas House of Representatives. And with that introduction, I’d like to welcome Mr. Rick Noriega.

Rick Noriega: Thank you, Dean. I appreciate the opportunity to be on your show.

Dean Becker: Thank you, sir. I appreciate your service, not just to our state but to our nation. You have spent a couple of decades in the Armed Services as well, right, sir?

Rick Noriega: That’s correct. Twenty-seven in all, starting out as a private and, you know, working our way up, I guess, to rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Dean Becker: Lieutenant-colonel is not an easy rank to achieve. Not many reach that grade. And, again, I appreciate your service. You have served a term in Afghanistan as well, have you, sir?

Rick Noriega: Yeah, that’s true. That’s correct, but I’ll tell you -- you know, I’ve got to give credit to a whole lot of other people on whose shoulders I stand that have also served and allowed me to get to this point in my life.

Dean Becker: You have done many great things while serving Texas as a representative. I want to ask you about a certain bill that was passed in the last session. It was House Bill 2391, which would allow law enforcement to no longer arrest and jail people for minor crimes: four ounces or less of marijuana, graffiti, check writing, things like that with less than a $500 value. And yet there’s only one district attorney in the state who has taken advantage of that bill, signed by the governor, and I think it was a unanimous or near unanimous endorsement by the legislature. What is your thoughts on that lack of adherence to that House Bill 2391?

Rick Noriega: I really haven’t looked at its implementation and what the net result has been so far. And you’re bringing it to my attention, frankly.

Dean Becker: OK, sir. I will tell you this: that in Harris Country, as best I can surmise, the number of marijuana arrests for less than four ounces is totaling in several thousand people thrown into jail for minor amounts of marijuana.

Rick Noriega: Well, I’ll tell you what. We’ve really had to re-look our criminal justice system in terms of non-violent offenders, putting additional resources into treatment and substance abuse treatment in particular. So many folks, the first time they ever get to deal with any kind of substance abuse issues that they may have is once they’re incarcerated, which is very unfortunate. We have had to go back, as a state, and look at that issue.

Dean Becker: They’re still arresting people for microscopic amounts, not even enough to be seen, but they find an empty baggie or something and they run it under the microscope and call it a felony. Texas now leads the United States and the United States leads the world in its incarceration rate.

Rick Noriega: Well, we have to look on the front-end on the issues of, again, as I mentioned, you know, substance abuse and trying to get folks help prior to them having to treat them while they’re incarcerated which is so much more expensive as a matter of policy. What is clear, especially with violent offenders and others, I mean, Texas is a ‘don’t mess with Texas’ environment but it has led to where we’re having to deal with it on the back-end versus smartly dealing with it on the front-end. We’ve probably been a bit draconian in, you know -- the intent obviously is people breaking the law but we’ve got to, we’ve got this other societal issue in terms of substance abuse.

Dean Becker: I hesitate to say this because most folks have not spent the 20,000 hours I have investigating the origins and the development and the draconian policies of this drug war like I have, but I want to say this, sir, that most politicians do not realize that aspirin and Tylenol kill more people each year than do all hard drugs combined even though they’re made by untrained chemists and cut with household products. We have, I think, to fully open this dialog, to really examine what we’re up to and I’m hoping that, should you be elected, sir, that that was something that you might do, is to take a brand new look at everything we’re doing in regards to this drug war.

Rick Noriega: I think we just sometimes are skewed in what true happiness is. And we believe that true happiness is monetary things or the next title or the next job or the next relationship or whatever and as a result when they’re using all kinds of different stimulants or whatever to try to deal with a whole host of issues and societally we’ve got to get back to the basics of happiness which is those things of service and a family and a whole host of other things that. But I just think we get a little bit twisted. As a result people start using things and doing things. We’re being sold directly by pharmaceuticals, direct marketed which we’re one of only a couple of countries in the world that allow the direct marketing by pharmaceuticals to the individual. I was a little bit astonished when I returned from Afghanistan. I thought there had been some sort of epidemic of erectile disfunction...

Dean Becker: [laughter]

Rick Noriega: ...because of all the ads in magazines and all.

Dean Becker: As I said earlier, I appreciate your service in Afghanistan and as you’re probably well aware Afghanistan farmers are now growing some 93% of the world’s opium supply. They turn that into heroin and sell it mostly in Europe but it’s making its way to the United States as well. I understand they produce some several thousand tons more each year than world demand desires. Our implementation of this drug war is truly undercutting our war on terror. Your thoughts there, sir?

Rick Noriega: Well, we’re certainly in a hamster cage on some of these issues for sure. I mean, you know, we’ve got to find a way to, in that agrarian type of environment that there are crops that can be grown for, at a better price. The supply issue’s the very difficult issue to address. The demand side, again, back to the issues of substance abuse of how we, policy wise and education wise and at an early age deal with these issues before folks feel compelled to use things to try to make themselves, theoretically, feel better.

Dean Becker: We have, over the years, seen the complications of drugs like alcohol and tobacco which kill some 550,000 Americans each year. Yet they’re both legal, regulated, taxed by the government and accepted. And as I said earlier, the number of deaths from these illegal drugs ranges from some 3,000 to 6,000 per year and yet we’ve invested -- I saw an op-ed in the LA Times that indicated we spent two and a half trillion dollars trying to stop this flow of drugs. Your thoughts, sir? Isn’t that a waste of our expenditures.

Rick Noriega: When the government uses the term ‘the war on’ something that means it’s usually something you’re not going to get out the end of, whether it’s the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on poverty, the war on homelessness, ‘the war on’ something infers that, you know, you’re almost less that, trying to combat that non-stop, but, you know, without question I think there are metrics that show whether or not, on the war on drugs, based on what you kind of described at the outset, incarceration rates, usage, all those metrics that would show whether we’re getting our dollars worth as tax-payers in combatting this issue. And I think, you know, I think we should look more at the demand side of the issue because the supply clearly is always going to be there.

Dean Becker: I want to thank you once again. We’ve been speaking with Mr. Rick Noriega, running for U.S. Senate seat in Texas. Mr. Noriega, could you share your website with us?

Rick Noriega: It’s RickNoriega.com.

Dean Becker: All right. Mr. Noriega, I hope we can continue this discussion at a later date.

Rick Noriega: I’ll look forward to it. Thank you so much.

Dean Becker: All right, sir.

Rick Noriega: Bye-bye.

Dean Becker: Bye-bye.
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Well, today seems to be all politician day on the Century of Lies show. I’m proud to have with us a gentleman from Washington state who’s running for reelection as a state representative. And with that introduction I want to welcome Mr. Roger Goodman.

Roger Goodman: Hi, Dean. It’s good to be back.

Dean Becker: Well, it’s good to have you back, sir. It’s always very interesting to have you on the show. And let’s tell folks a little bit about the reelection campaign. How’s that going?

Roger Goodman. Well, this is actually going to be a close race for me. I’m not in a district that sways one way or the other. I’m in a so-called swing district and so I’ve got to fight hard to get reelected. My district is kind of like a microcosm of America. So I’m out there everyday, door to door, meeting the voters and doing what it takes. My opponent is a former incumbent with high name recognition so he and I -- it’s like two incumbents running against each other. My opponent also is opposed to the war on drugs. So we have a little sort of sub-text going on with two state legislative candidates, each of whom agree that the war on drugs is a drastic failure. So I guess, I’m not sure if we’re going to be getting into a debate about how we fix it. He may want to engage me in that. The campaign is not about that. The campaign is about what most legislative campaigns are about: education, health care, transportation. You know, things that matter on a daily basis to people. So the drug war doesn’t come up that much.

Dean Becker: We produce this show in the gulag state of Texas. We’re still arresting as many people as we can get our hands on. And I wanted to let you know that I just finished a discussion with Mr. Rick Noriega. He’s running for a U.S. Senate seat here against Senator ‘Big John’ Cornyn. And I asked him some very pertinent questions and, I’ll be honest, he, for the most part, just tap danced around it. He didn’t refute what I said but didn’t necessarily embrace any ideas for change. That seems to be fairly standard, still, in most states, state and federal level. Right?

Roger Goodman: Yeah. I think the challenge is, for any candidate, if they’re going to talk about this issue they have to frame it, they have to make the public understand that we’re not talking about drugs, we’re talking about fiscal responsibility, we’re talking about health care for people, talking about making our streets safer, we’re talking about our kids in schools, we’re talking about healthier communities, being honest with people. It’s not, you know, we try to, we turn drugs into this fetish and the opponents make it so easy to say ‘Oh, you’re soft on crime,’ or ‘you want to, you condone drug use,’ or ‘you just want to make it easier to use and hand it out to kids’, that sort of thing. And the public, they kind of eat it up. It’s very, very difficult to run on or talk about this issue in the electoral context unless you frame it right and not many candidates can do that.

Dean Becker: Mr. Noriega seemed to be a very intelligent man but when I started talking about certain aspects of the drug war -- one was that, you know, he had served in Afghanistan following 9/11 and I commended him for that but I said ‘It seems that in many ways our war on drugs in undermining our war on terror.’ And he didn’t specifically address it, just kind of talked about the need for continuing efforts. I didn’t quite get a response.

Roger Goodman: Well, it’s so clear. Here’s an example. I’ll say the war on drugs is undermining the war on terror and here’s why: because our borders, down in Texas in particular, are so porous and that’s because the drug dealers, the cartels and the kingpins and the nastiest people on the planet that we’ve given the drug business to have made our border porous. They can cross the border at will practically. And that makes our country unsafe in general. And so, because we have these illegal drug markets, rendering all control to drugs to these criminals, we’ve made the integrity, we’ve compromised the integrity of the borders of our country. That’s just one example. Other than, we can talk about Afghanistan producing 90% of the world’s heroin and so forth and it’s only because it’s an illegal drug market. If we regulated it that wouldn’t happen. That’s a little harder for people to comprehend. I think the security, or lack of security, on our borders is pretty tangible and if people think about it they’ll realize, well, one reason it’s not so secure is because the drug dealers have taken control.

Dean Becker: Well, here in Texas there’s a state representative seat that’s being contested by the incumbent, Dwayne Bohac, and the contender for that seat is Virginia McDavid. And I had a sit-down talk with her, she even came on my radio show once, but once she felt empowered or fortified with the knowledge, she was brave enough to even join the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Roger Goodman: That’s great.

Dean Becker: Because it’s a win-win if you, as you said, if you can frame it right. If you can tell the full story the other side has no defense, right?

Roger Goodman. Right. I mean, I think the public each day, day by day now, is starting to get the picture although the drug policy, you know, that issue’s not on anybody’s radar screen. But they know that statistics are being used to lie and to hide things. They know that we’re no safer and our kids are no safer and we’ve done nothing to address drug abuse. People know this and you know when I go door to door I’m finding more and more that people are bringing it up to me. When I talk about the criminal justice system being inefficient that’s the first thing they bring up. I don’t even have to mention it so much anymore. It’s like, ‘Yeah, you know, I think we should legalize drugs.’ I can’t believe people are saying this to me at the door and then of course I engage them and I say ‘Oh, absolutely.’ Without a regulatory scheme we have no way to control the market and we can’t bring in any revenue through taxation. It’s crazy. Yeah, I don’t know what we’re thinking. This is an upside-down mess. But people understand this more and more. And so we’re kind of riding a wave here. I think the public is going to come around because they know we can’t afford it and they know their kids aren’t safe so I’m talking about it, willing to talk about, more and more and more particularly since the last time I ran. When the other side hit me, they said ‘Goodman wants to practically hand drugs out to kids in the schoolyard.’ They overplayed it but people are smart. And they know this so my support increased when they tried to hit me on the drug war and being opposed to it, my poll numbers went up. My support went up. So I’m not afraid.

Dean Becker: When I was talking to Mr. Noriega I mentioned a House Bill 2391 which was passed during their last session which allowed the local district attorney to no longer call for the arrest and incarceration of people for four ounces or less of marijuana, for graffiti, check writing, crimes under $500. That you could just write them a ticket and have them show up in court.

Roger Goodman: OK. Are they doing that in Travis County now?

Dean Becker: And I was just going to say -- Travis County is the only county in the state that has implemented that recommendation signed by the governor.

Roger Goodman: Uh-huh.

Dean Becker: And there was a story I was looking for a moment ago that talks about what has happened.

Roger Goodman: Has the sky fallen in Travis County?

Dean Becker: No. What has happened is, the newspaper said the police officers are free to go after more violent crimes, they don’t waste those hours at the jail and at the courthouse and that they’re actually saving money on fuel by not having to haul them back and forth to the downtown area.

Roger Goodman: [laughter] Well, you know, this is a, if all these people weren’t suffering everyday because they’re victims of the drug war this would be funny. But, you know, the clearance rate for other crime -- the clearance rate is when, not whether you convict somebody but whether you find somebody -- so the clearance rate for murder, for rape, for the really serious violent crimes, and I can tell you up here in Washington state, I don’t know about the rest of the country but I can almost guarantee it’s the same, the clearance rate has gone down from about 35% to about 27%. In other words, they didn’t even find anybody in three quarter of the cases of rape and murder and other violent crimes and the reason is because police resources have been diverted to chasing after drugs instead. And so we really don’t have a just justice system in many different ways. Not only are we unjustly treating people who are minding their own business but we’re not solving serious crimes. So maybe Travis County’s got it right and they’re switching their priorities.

Dean Becker: I’m not sure how to frame this question but it really boils down to the misplaced priorities. I mean our jails in Texas and my home town are so full they’re shipping them out to other facilities. They can’t provide medical services. They’re unable to, as we were talking about earlier, put the police where they need to be, on the violent crime. And even beyond that, the jail overcrowding means now the federal government is in our county jail today doing inspections because of this lack of facilities, lack of guards, lack of treatment, et cetera. We’ve got to just rethink how we want this nation to run. Right?

Roger Goodman: There might even be, I guess, civil rights violations going on in the prisons and jails just because of the conditions. That’s what you’re saying?

Dean Becker: Yeah, yeah. It’s a...

Roger Goodman: We, I’m hoping, and I just say it plainly: we’ve got to stop locking people up. And if they have a health problem let’s give them health care. If it’s a public health problem let’s use public health tools. And not, you know, incarceration and prosecution and supervision and all that. I guess, none of us were around for the prohibition of alcohol in the 20’s but we might be approaching the same point where we’re in economic distress, nationally, and we might not be able to afford it anymore. I mean we might not be able to afford it anymore and we’re going to have to figure out another way. So maybe it’s economics that drives it, just like economics drives the illegal drug market, economics might drive the demise of our approach to it. So we just won’t be able to afford it anymore.

Dean Becker: Well, you know, Roger, I’m trying to find the expert -- I’m always doing that on this program -- but I want to find the anthropologist or the psychologist, psychiatrist, someone who can explain and clarify this, what I have to call, right now, quasi-religion of drug war. That despite all the evidence to the contrary people cling to this belief that somehow it’s going to do some good. Your thoughts in that regard?

Roger Goodman: Well, it’s not so much whether the drug war is going to do some good but whether anything else -- if we do anything else, what do we hear, we’re going to ‘throw in the towel,’ we’re going to ‘let the genie out of the bottle,’ you know, all these...

Dean Becker: You’re going to ‘let them do it.’

Roger Goodman: We’re going to have ‘an army of zombies,’ that was one of my favorites. If we do anything else it’s going to be worse. And so at least, as the United Nations, what’s his name, Costa, the drug czar there, he said recently ‘we’ve contained the problem.’ I think that’s really funny. Because we’ve now ‘contained’ the drug problem, that’s about the best they can say. Of course we have not contained the drug problem because we’ve created a huge crime problem on top of it. But, you know, I’m not sure if the rhetoric is playing as much as it used to. People are wiser. People are discovering the truth in blogs and they’re not just going to watch on the nightly news. But it is hard to imagine how people can believe something in the face of, you know, just abject fact that this policy doesn’t work. I can only think that they are vested interests, that they have some personal advantage, some personal gain. And that’s true, of course, with the criminals. They don’t want the war on drugs to end because they’re making huge money. But it might also be the bureaucrats and the other public officials who are dependent, politically and financially, on this flawed policy.

Dean Becker: You know, Roger, somedays the Houston Chronicle has, you know, out of ten or twelve stories on the front page about six or eight of them deal with the drug war, either specifically or tangentially, and I write a lot of posts talking about the truth, the fact, that could help the problem and I get so many people that, rather than refute my message, try to destroy me, saying I just want to get high and...Your thoughts there, sir?

Roger Goodman: You know, the people who are listening right now need to talk to their friends and neighbors and so forth about the nasty tactics that are used, you know, we really need to respect people’s privacy. We need to, like I say, provide health care to people rather than punish them. It’s all just, not only does it make sense it’s the humane thing to do. I can’t imagine promoting something that’s not humane. So the Drug Free America foundation, for instance, in Florida. The Drug Free America foundation, they say that criminal justice is the best referral system for treatment. If you need drug treatment the best way to get you into treatment is to arrest you. And I’m thinking ‘Wow. Who are you people recommending such a harsh, traumatic, expensive referral system for people who have health problems?’ I think most people see through this. The problem is that people are busy, they don’t think this is as important an issue that, as it really is. As I said, it’s connected to health care, criminal justice, environmental policy. I mean the drug war is so strategic to so many other issues. If we address it we could really improve our conditions but it’s just not on people’s radar screens. So the people listening now need to kind of talk about it and help everybody wake up a bit.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Roger Goodman, running for reelection as a state representative, the state of Washington. Roger, what’s your website?

Roger Goodman: I’ll give you two. One is RogerGoodman.org and I’m locked in a tight reelection campaign if everybody wants to help me out. And then the Bar Association work I do is KCBA, which is the King County Bar Association, KCBA.org and you’ll see the Drug Policy Project there with all sorts of information about what we can do instead of the drug war. We’re trying to fashion a workable strategy, you know, something that’s rational.
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Dean Becker: The following comes to us courtesy of WMNF, from the NAACP convention. It features the words of Ada Fisher, a congressional candidate and former detox director.

Dr. Ada Fisher: I support the candidate that I think is going to do the best job for the community. I mean, Mr. Obama has several shortcomings in my view. Now I must tell you, on the negative side, I have a personal bone to pick because Obama, in his book about his father, talked about his use of drugs. And I think it's disingenuous of people to vote for somebody for President when you will not allow a drug user in any secure facility or nuclear facility. Yet we as a nation, are willing to consider making somebody President of the United States I think that speaks very poorly -- Bill Clinton said he smoked but he didn't inhale, but he didn't come out and flagrantly say he used drugs -- and if that's going to be our standard God helps us in nuclear facilities and secure facilities that we don’t let people go in there who have this kind of history. And this nation must be very careful when it lowers the bar on who and what it will accept.

WMNF’s Mitch Perry: Well Dr. Fisher, let me pick up on that -- you mention Bill Clinton did not deny inhaling -- or I guess he did deny inhaling, but that came up in his campaign. George Bush, there were many rumors about cocaine that he never really dismissed, so isn’t that unfair to criticize Senator Obama for being forthright and honest about this, uh, admitting in his youth?

Dr. Ada Fisher: See, if you admit it, it should disqualify you. Otherwise, we'll have to let all those people who worked in these, who have applied for jobs in these facilities, worked in these facilities -- there is a reason that those rules are there. I was a detox director for 16 counties in North Carolina, so I have a great understanding about what drugs and what they do to people. And I know that in moments of weakness, people tend to revert those things that they've used in the past. I don't think it's disingenuous, I don't think its fair. If I ran for President of the U.S. and I had that history, I would expect people to look at that very carefully. We cannot have a nation high on drugs and have the President as an example. I’m sorry. I disagree with that.
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Dean Becker: Be sure to tune into to this week’s Cultural Baggage when we’ll have the voices of many of the attendees to the Netroots Nation Convention this past week in Austin.

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 help end the madness.

Visit our website, EndProhibition.Org.

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