12/02/08 - Kevin Zeese

Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy regarding the financial impact of the drug war and the US financial fiasco + Terry Nelson reports for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition + "commercial" for the Uri-Liminator!

Century of Lies
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Kevin Zeese
Common Sense for Drug Policy
Download: Audio icon COL_120208.mp3


Century of Lies, December 2, 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.

Dean Becker: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. Here, in just a couple of moments, we’ll bring in our guest, Mr. Kevin Zeese. He’s President of Common Sense for Drug Policy. He’s a renaissance man for all types of reform: drugs, votes, and now regarding the financial fiasco. But first, I want to bring you this from Mr. Tom Angell. This is about an event that’s actually going on as we speak.

Tom Angell: My name’s Tom Angell. I am the media relations director of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition: a group of law enforcement officials, corrections officials, DEA, FBI, prosecutors, judges, et cetera, et cetera, who fought on the front lines of the war on drugs and see that it is not working. This Friday, December 5, is the seventy-fifth anniversary of when we repealed alcohol prohibition in the United States, back in 1933. We had a situation back then when Al Capone and gangsters were running rampant in our cities. They were making incredible amounts of money off of the illegal alcohol market. Not only that, but we just could not afford to keep enforcing an ineffective prohibition policy. So, our nation’s leaders had the good sense to recognize that and move to repeal alcohol prohibition in the midst of the Great Depression because we could no longer afford it.

Fast forward seventy-five years to this week. We’ve got a group of LEAP members who fought on the front lines of the drug war and who know it’s not working that are converging in Washington, D.C., to send the important message to lawmakers that, just like we couldn’t afford to wage alcohol prohibition during the Great Depression, we cannot afford to continue to wage today’s failed prohibition, the war on drugs, during our current economic climate. It just doesn’t make sense and we just can’t afford it any longer.

Dean Becker: Well, who are some of the folks that will be speaking?

Tom Angell: We have Terry Nelson, who has a thirty-plus-year career as a federal agent with Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Customs and other agencies, so he’s seen the effects of the drug war, not only here at home in America, but in Mexico, in Latin America. We also have Richard Van Wickler, who is the current active duty corrections superintendent in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, so he can talk about not only the personal stories of folks he sees locked up in his facilities who don’t need to be there, but also the immense budgetary impact of sending so many people to jail every single year who don’t belong there.

Dean Becker: Tom, if folks would like to learn more about this effort, is there a place on the web?

Tom Angell: Any citizen, no matter who you are, who realizes that today’s prohibition is just as, if not more, ineffective than the last prohibition we repealed, they can go to www.WeCanDoItAgain.com and send a letter automatically to their federal and state elected officials letting them know that we’re sick and tired of paying for this ineffective prohibition; that we can’t afford it any longer. We repealed a prohibition once seventy-five-years ago and we can do it again.

So, folks can go to www.WeCanDoItAgain.com and find out more.

Dean Becker: All right. I want to thank Tom Angell for that. And as I said, that event is actually going on right now as we record this Century of Lies show in Washington, D.C., at the Press Club.

And with that, I want to bring in our guest, Mr. Kevin Zeese. Hello, Kevin.

Kevin Zeese: Hey, how are you doing? Thanks for having me on.

Dean Becker: Kevin, thank you so much for being with us. You’ve been at that Press Club. It’s a gathering place for journalists hopefully to gain national exposure, right?

Kevin Zeese: Exactly:

Dean Becker: And, you know, LEAP is trying their best to just speak the truth: to present the information and, you know, hopefully engage in some sort of dialog, debate, about this issue. Your thoughts, sir?

Kevin Zeese: Well, the truth is definitely on our side and the folks at LEAP provide a very important voice. You know, their experience as law enforcement officers who’ve worked in the field can really tell the front-line truth of the inability of the approach we’re taking, the drug war approach we’re taking, to reducing the harm and controlling drug abuse. So I think that they’re very important spokespersons.

We try to, at Common Sense for Drug Policy, we put out a thing called Drug War Facts. If they go to DrugWarFacts.org they can find any information they need, fact-based information, facts and citations to the original source and really be expert in the truth about the drug war and its effects. And we cover, probably, three dozen issues, from racism and AIDS and needle exchange and medical marijuana and marijuana and cocaine and death, and you name the issue and it’s covered there. And its just facts and citations. So DrugWarFacts.org is a great place for you to go to get the truth and then share the truth with as many people as you can: through letters to the editor, through calling into radio shows, to conversations with neighbors.

I mean, we just got to spread the word and advocate for a change in this failed policy.
Dean Becker: I want to come back to that thought, perhaps a few moments in here, but I want to down to this. You know, I told the listeners that you’ve been involved over the years. Heck, you were the PR guy, the press secretary, was it, for Ralph Nader a couple of election cycles ago?

Kevin Zeese: That’s right.

Dean Becker: And you work towards establishing a valid voting mechanism. You work towards...

Kevin Zeese: That’s right. In addition to my work at Common Sense for Drug Policy, I run a group called Fresh Air Clean Politics, the website’s FreshAirCleanPolitics.net, and we, you can see on there we have several projects. One is Voters For Peace, which is trying to end the Iraq War and reduce the military budget, which is half of the discretionary spending in the United States and as big the whole world’s budget combined for armaments. We also work in True Vote to try to get an electoral system we can trust: get away from these paperless electronic voting machines and move toward a paper-based system that can be audited and recounted. We’re also dealing with Climate Security: Voters For Peace and Friends of the Earth have teamed to form a group called Climate Security that looks at the climate change issue as a national security issue affecting our safety as well as from, you know, military and terrorist attack, but also focusing on economic and environmental security. And then finally we’re working on the economic issues by dealing with the bailout and trying to put forward ideas for a new economy. This current economy collapses and has done so poorly for so many many Americans. The vast majority of Americans really do not get their full benefit from this economy. It really is an economy that satisfies the top one percent of the wealthiest who currently have 95 percent of the wealth in this country - it’s kind of an amazing thing that they have as much wealth as the bottom 95 percent combined.

So, we’re trying to work on all those fronts. And drug policy, of course, is an issue that we, I’m concerned about, because it really highlights the injustice of our criminal justice system. We have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners even though we only have 5 percent of the world’s population. We can’t continue to sustain that kind of an approach to dealing with so many people, more than two million behind bars. It really is an embarrassment to the ‘land of the free’ to be spending the kind of resources we do on that and to have such a very large prison population that’s really energized by the drug war and our ineffective approach to dealing with what really is a health problem, which is drug abuse.

Dean Becker: Mr. Kevin Zeese, I want to thank you so much. You know, you, in just so few words, outlined it so very well. And I want to talk about the financial ramifications of this drug war, if you will. We talked briefly the other day and, you know, I know you’re aware of this but so many people, even in drug reform, fail to make note of the fact that, yes, we’ve invested a trillion dollars trying to stop the flow of drugs, but, at the same time, we’ve given ten trillion to the terrorists, the cartels, the paramilitary, the gangs, the street-corner vendors selling drugs to our kids. It’s an upside-down, insane equation, is it not?

Kevin Zeese: It is. We really hurt ourselves in two ways: not only do we spend tens of billions a year of state and federal money to try to enforce our way out of a health problem with a very aggressive and expensive law enforcement policy that is the least effective approach and most expensive approach, but we also, you know, provide tools for cartels and gangs around the world and even in our cities. And it’s almost like the oil situation where we buy so much oil from dictatorships in the Middle East and then we go to war with the dictatorships in the Middle East and it’s almost like a, we feed them with our money and then we fight them with our resources and everybody’s happy except the people, because of people making money off these wars. And the same is true with the drug war. You see in Afghanistan, with the increase in poppy production since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and removed the Taliban. You see it in Mexico with the incredible drug war that’s going on south of our border and, you know, 6,000 people killed, tens of thousands of Mexican troops, lots and lots of U.S. dollars in the war down there.

And so you can really see that we are, kind of, stoking the problem with our drug purchases and with the black market profits that go to criminals in these countries and we’re undermining our budgets - state budgets are going to be going through tremendous cuts, just today Obama’s meeting with state governors who, they say, you need a $600 billion bailout to make their budgets balance. I mean, a $600 billion bailout to make their budgets balance. And so we are hurting ourselves in multiple ways by pursuing a policy that we know doesn’t work. We have tried this policy literally for decades, since, you know, President Nixon declared war on drugs in 1968, I mean, and since that time this approach has just been...


Dean Becker: Oh! Did we lose Kevin?

Kevin Zeese: I’m still here.

Dean Becker: Oh, Kevin, it dropped out for a second. Now go ahead. You were saying?

Kevin Zeese: I was saying that, you know, we’ve pursued this policy since Nixon in 1968 declared a war on drugs and it’s been a policy of failure after failure. I can’t think of any significant successes along that route. Any success we have is temporary and results in actually a bigger market rather than smaller market.

Dean Becker: And yet, the... I’m amazed that, you know, you see these referendums, ballot initiatives and so forth, various cities and even states that declare, you know, want to make law enforcement efforts against marijuana the lowest priority. Or lessening the penalties and making it easier for medical patients to travel the streets carrying their medicine. And yet the police chiefs and the district attorneys always stand up and say, you know, ‘It’s not our job to define the law,’ and yet, they very much try to define the law after the voters have made their choice.

Your thoughts on that?

Kevin Zeese: Well, it’s awfully hard to tell somebody whose self interest, their budget and their salary, is based on the current strategy that it’s wrong. And while they claim not to make the law they certainly do challenge it when the people try to make the law. And its been really heartening to see across the country the success of medical marijuana initiatives, the success of the marijuana decriminalization initiative in Massachusetts this most recent election - a landslide victory for ending the law enforcement approach dealing with marijuana possession. In every state, excuse me, every city where the lowest prosecution priority, making marijuana the lowest prosecution priority has been put on the ballot the people have voted for it. And so, people seem to be way ahead of the politicians on this, and ahead of the police. And, as I said in my first comment, it’s really important that a group like LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is out there speaking because these are people who have worked in law enforcement, and now that they’re no longer taking a salary from the drug war enforcement that they were involved with, can tell the truth and they are telling the truth. And we really need their voices heard to move this agenda forward.

Dean Becker: As I understand it, December 5 makes 75 years of drug prohibition...

Kevin Zeese: Right.

Dean Becker: And it also, you know, it just...I’m sorry, that’s for the repeal of alcohol prohibition...

Kevin Zeese: Right.

Dean Becker: ...75 years, and December 14 will make 94 years of drug prohibition, following the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act.

Kevin Zeese: The Harrison Narcotics Act, right.

Dean Becker: And, you know, we have to stop and look at this. I mean, you know, there’s all kinds of injustice: the financial fiascos and worry about votes and so forth. But this is one area where we own the moral high-ground, every scrap of evidence is ours if its based in legitimate science, and so we have to stand up. Kevin, we’re going to take just a one minute break and when we come back we’ll talk about what people out there can do...

Kevin Zeese: Great.

Dean Becker: ...to help end this.

Kevin Zeese: Great.

[somber bagpipes playing Amazing Grace]

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the abolitionist moment. The Taliban is thriving. The Cartels are capitalizing. The gangs are gathering greenbacks. Deaths from overdoses and street-corner shootouts are increasing. Addiction to drug war has proven more deadly than drug use. Thirty-five million arrests, eleven trillion dollars and 94 years later the drug war lies moldering, stinking to high heaven. This policy has devoured the lives of generations of our children and yet you remain silent. Please join other abolitionists in overturning this illogical and unreal policy of drug prohibition. Please visit EndProhibition.org. Do it for the children.

Dean Becker: OK. Once again, you’re listening to the Century of Lies show on the Drug Truth Network and Pacifica Radio. Our guest is Mr. Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy and, I think, one of the strongest patriots I’ve ever met in my life.

Kevin, your thoughts? It is time to do something about this drug war, is it not?

Kevin Zeese: Yeah. I think we, the drug reform movement, has pretty much won the argument on the facts. You know, I think that anyone who looks at the facts will come to the same conclusions that we’ve come to. What we have not won is the argument about the politics. We need to really focus our effort, I think more and more, on political organizing and that starts at the community level and you can do it just by knocking on your neighbor’s door and then continuing on down - holding local forums, holding town-hall meetings, organizing local voter initiatives on key aspects of the drug war and really building a base of political support and showing the candidates who are seeking your votes that this is an issue that you care about, that this is an issue that is determinative for you. Really, politicians, you don’t win by just being right. You win by showing political power and that is really where the drug policy reform movement is now. They need to organize that political power. Because this drug war is so devastating to so many people, particularly in urban areas and minority communities, as well as in the rural communities where methamphetamine is taking hold. These are policies that are causing more harm and costing more money. We choose to take the most expensive and least effective approach.

But what we’re lacking is not the arguments: we’re lacking, now, the political muscle. And, so, I urge people who are interested in this issue to think about running for office themselves, getting involved in local political parties, whether they’re Democrat, Republican or third-party, starting to talk to the legislators about this being a very important issue, and organizing their friends and neighbors so you can have a political force that can make a difference. And that will be what ends the drug war. It’s not going to be winning the argument on its face because we’ve already done that. We’ve got to now show the political power and that’s a much tougher challenge but one that we have to engage in now.

Dean Becker: You know, folks, I want to share with you a little bit about what defines my perceptions of Mr. Kevin Zeese. He was the attorney who rode with and advised the Journey for Justice group who went across Texas in recreational vehicles with big marijuana leaves on the side, sometimes with electric wheelchairs leading the way of medical marijuana patients. They traveled from prison to prison talking about the need for justice, talking about the need for medical marijuana. And, Kevin, if you would, tell them the story ‘The Battle of the Bullhorns’ if you will?

Kevin Zeese: Well, yeah, it was in 2000 during the Bush/Gore campaign and we went, started in Harris County which is Houston, which is the county which, kind of, feeds the immense criminal justice system in Texas. And then we went from, probably, about ten stops along the way and ended up in Austin. And we would go to these prisons and essentially take a spot and try to talk, through bullhorns, to prisoners -- we heard that they actually heard us, we actually started getting emails from their family members who heard us out there -- we go to the the communities around the prisons and leaflet, let people know about it. It’s a community organizing effort. I think one of the great moments in that journey is when we got to Austin we were joined by two busloads of people from Tulia, Texas. Tulia, people may remember, was the town that arrested half their, the black men in the town in one night and charged them with cocaine dealing even though when they searched their homes they found no drugs, no money, no guns. They still arrested them for cocaine dealing and the first person who went to trial faced a four-hundred year sentence and as a result some of them pled guilty to things they didn’t do and others were tried and found guilty in a very corrupt system that was led by an undercover cop who basically lied. And that was the beginning of Tulia, Texas, getting national recognition during the Journey for Justice. The New York Times happened to be there and wrote their story and that made national attention. And we worked three years on that and built a coalition of a range of organizations, the ACLU and latino groups and just a whole, religious organizations, came together to work for getting those folks out. And after three years we succeeded and got them all out and the undercover cop is no longer an undercover cop, in fact, he was prosecuted and the judge is no longer on the bench. He was removed, he lost the next election. So, it was a major victory all around and it started with, just doing that prison to prison Journey for Justice to try to highlight the injustice of the Texas criminal justice system.

Dean Becker: Well, Kevin, it was when I saw the kind of courage that you and the members of that journey had, it was the day of that march in Austin and I’m walking carrying a sign, walking next to a little seven-year-old black kid who had so much hope on his face. And that’s the moment I became a reformer. And I want to thank you...

Kevin Zeese: That’s what it takes, you know. It takes that kind of a connection, you know, and people should not be discouraged. I remember long ago I was doing a tour of Iowa and about six people showed up at a meeting that I was doing in Iowa and it turned out that out of six people, five out of six became life-long activists. So small audiences, you know, you want to get people active and so I appreciate you getting active, Dean. The work you’re doing with this radio show is great and you’re reaching a lot of people. I urge people who are listening to this to figure out what they can do to increase their activism as well. This is a time of change, a time of opportunity, and we need to take as much advantage of that as possible. So if you’re active already, get more active. If you’re not active, it’s time to get active.

Dean Becker: And, you know, you don’t have to lead a march or you don’t have to have a radio show to make a difference. Just do your part. Be sure to vote, write your congressman, send a letter to the editor and talk to your friends about their need to speak up. Because, as I was saying, we own the moral high-ground. Let’s do something with it.

Kevin, I want to give you a chance here to just talk in general about maybe the project that you’re working on.

Kevin Zeese: Well, I think the project that’s probably dominating right now, I mean, really is this economic collapse that the country is facing. And we are doing a project, a trans-partisan partnership with libertarian groups and progressive groups called Break the Bailout, you can see BreakTheBailout.com, it’s a fun website, you’ll enjoy the comic on the top of the page, BreakTheBailout.com. We’re doing a money-bomb this Sunday, December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, to get people united to fight this bailout and put in place an economy that works for most Americans. The current economy just does not work for most Americans. Health care, health insurance, is not working even for those who have insurance. The wealth-divide is extreme. We have one of the widest wealth-divides in the Western world. We have the highest poverty rate in the Western world. Even before this collapse it was not working, so we see this collapse as an opportunity to remake the economy into one that does work for Americans. And breaking the bailout is the first step so I urge people to check that website out. BreakTheBailout.com.

Of course, the other big project is trying to get us out of these two war quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can see with the selection of the national security team that we have our work cut out for us with the Obama administration despite him saying he’s going to end the war. It’s going to take some pressure by the citizens to make sure that happens. So go to VotersForPeace.us and join us in trying to end the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War and begin to reduce the defense budget, which is half the discretionary spending of the federal budget. So it’s an immense drain on our resources throughout the country. So those are things I’m focused on right now and I hope people will, you know, get involved and get active in whichever issue turns them on the most because, really, this is an unprecedented time in history. You look at the foundations of our economy are shaking, the finance system is shaking, debt is out of control, the fossil fuel economy is coming to an end, climate change is starting to hit, peak oil’s coming, starting to hit, no one trusts the corporations, the media, the Democrats, Republicans just not trusted. So this is all, to me, a sign of an opportunity for change. And with the Obama Administration coming in talking about change, I think we need to push the Obama Administration to even bring more change than the President-Elect talked about during his campaign. Because really we need some paradigm shifts on a number of issues including the drug war, the economy and our militarist foreign policy, to really make this country what it can be. And so I hope you’ll join us and get active. And all these projects are connected on FreshAirCleanPolitics.net. FreshAirCleanPolitics.net is kind of the overarching organization for all these projects so check it out and get involved and get active.

Dean Becker: All right. Mr. Kevin Zeese, thank you so much. We’ll be talking to you early next year, all right?

Kevin Zeese: All right, thanks a lot.

Dean Becker: All right. Bye-bye.

Kevin Zeese: Bye-bye.

[Commercial Break]

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This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I’ve spent more than three decades in the war on drugs and testify that we will never arrest our way out of this problem. I’m also constantly amazed by the prognostications that can come from allegedly intelligent people. Here’s an example.

I read the following information published by the United Nations Office of Drug Control on 27, November.

“The opium industry is largely funding the Taliban’s war budget and is a major source of revenue for criminal groups and terrorists in Afghanistan despite becoming less important to the country’s overall economy,” according to the United Nations report released in London. “Despite reduced cultivation, production and prices the Taliban and other anti-government forces are able to make huge profits from the drug business by imposing a ten percent charge on economic activity. With so much drug-related revenue it’s not surprising that the insurgents’ war machine has proven to be so resilient, despite the heavy pounding by Afghan and allied forces,” said UNODC executive director Antonio Maria Costa. “Since they are hoarding opium they have the most to gain from lower cultivation. This will drive up prices and result in a re-evaluation of their stocks,” he said. “The only way to keep production and prices down -- and thus keep money out of the Taliban’s pockets -- is by destroying high-value targets like drug markets, heroin labs, trafficking convoys moving to the southwestern border,’ Costa said.

I completely disagree with that assumption. If the Taliban is hoarding the surplus opium and the UN is able to reduce the production, will this not increase the demand and profit for the Taliban? I’m amazed that statements such as these are not exposed for what they are. Every person in Economics 101 know that if you reduce the supply you drive up the cost and if you have a large stockpile then will greatly increase your income. Yet apparently the UN policy is to reduce the supply and help out the Taliban. It is absurd.

To legalize and regulate the production would do far more to cut off the Taliban’s source of revenue and, because the prices would then tumble, it would not be profitable to produce the crop. We at LEAP call for a different approach to our drug problem and that is total legalization of drugs and the implementation of a system of regulation and control for the criminal issues and a system of education and treatment for those that choose to use mind-altering substances. Let’s spend the money on education and treatment instead of incarceration. We all want a better future for ourselves and our children.

Speaking for LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, at www.LEAP.cc, this is Terry Nelson signing off.

The Little Dealer Boy
Sung by: Stephen Colbert and Willie Nelson

Willie: I have no money in my coffer
No gold or silver do I bring
Nor have I precious jewels to offer
To celebrate the new born king
Yet do not spurn my gift completely
Oh ye three wise men please demur
Behold a plant that smokes more sweetly
Than either Frankincense or Myrrh
And like the child born in this manger
This herb is mild yet it is strong
And it brings peace to friend and stranger
Good will to men lies in this bong

Willie: And now my wonder weed is flaring
Stephen: Are you high?
Willie: Looked like that special star above
Stephen: Can it be?
Willie: Pass it around in endless sharing
Stephen: On Christmas day
Willie: And let not mankind bogart love
Stephen: You’d smoke my tree
Willie: And the wise men started toking
And yea the bud was kind
It was salvation they were smoking
And its forgiveness blew their mind

Willie: And still that wonder weed is flaring
Stephen: Are you high?
Willie: Looked like that was once above
Stephen: You’re so high
Willie: Pass it around in endless sharing
Stephen: Dude, man, dude
Willie: And let not mankind bogart love
Stephen: You’re really high, I’m going to tell your Savior
Willie: And let not mankind bogart love

Dean Becker: All right, my friends. Christmas season is fast approaching. Thought we’d play a little Willie for you. That was from the Colbert Show, of course. Be sure to join us for this week’s Cultural Baggage. I hope to speak, or be carrying, some of the press conference from LEAP there in Washington, D.C.

Next week, our guest will be Martin Lee, author of Acid Dreams. We’re also going to have a colonel from the CIA who used to hand this stuff out like candy. And as always, I remind you there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, 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. 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