12/25/11 Special

Century of Lies

DTN Special: Best of 2011 with Craig Watkins, DTN speech, Dorsey Nunn, Dr. Robert Melemede, Michelle Alexander, Christian Parenti, Ethan Nadelmann, Diana Washington Valdez

Audio file


Century of Lies / December 25, 2011



DEAN BECKER: Hello my friends. Welcome to this last edition of Century of Lies for the year 2011. Today we’re going to take a listen back to many of the guests we’ve had over this past year and we’re going to talk about you and the need for you to do your part in the madness of drug war.

If you want to catch up on the full year you gotta begin with the most recent Cultural Baggage show but for Century of Lies we begin with the April 18t h show with the District Attorney of Dallas, Texas, Craig Watkins.

CRAIG WATKINS: And so, in reality, you can’t blame a certain segment of our community to think that law enforcement is not a good thing.

We shouldn’t believe in it because what we’ve seen in our communities is that law enforcement doesn’t work for us. When we call 911, they come when they’re ready.

When we want law enforcement to come out and protect us, they may be more concerned with the victim having a traffic warrant as opposed to the guy who had been shot laying in the street and figuring out who did that. Law enforcement did that.

So, when we came in, we wanted all communities; and the reason we wanted to do this is because we would not have been successful. And we can be successful. If we don’t have buy-in for all those communities—especially those communities where crime is prevalent in the underserved communities—we want those individuals to feel comfortable when they call the police.

Understand that if a crime is being committed in your community that the DA’s office is going to take it seriously and they will pursue prosecution fairly to make sure not only that the person is punished, but at the end of the day that there is an element of rehabilitation there. So when that person comes back to our communities that they are equipped to live and survive without continuing to commit crimes.

And so, what gave us this platform? What provided this conversation that we are having with the country right now, was this little unit that we established in 2007 called the Conviction Integrity Unit. And I don’t think anyone that has been involved with it—if they tell you that we foresaw this—they would be lying to you, because we didn’t. The goal at the time was really just to take an honest look at individuals who had claimed that they were wrongfully convicted, and to fix it.

And so, as a result of taking an honest look at that in Dallas, we have been put in a position to exonerate more individuals for crimes they didn’t commit than any other place in the country.

DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Craig Watkins, the District Attorney of Dallas, Texas. Recorded around the date 4/20. I gave a speech at Texas Southern University at a conference titled, “Incarceration patterns of of African and Latino Americans.” These are my closing thoughts.

DEAN BECKER: When aspirin and Tylenol kill almost as many people as do all these hard drugs combined…when alcohol and tobacco kill over half a million U.S. citizens each year – by what rationale do we continue to believe in this policy?

We leave the sale in the hands of the barbarians and criminals. That’s where the government prefers that it stays. Before the prohibition of these drugs a gram of pure cocaine could be bought at the drug store for 25 cents. Now the youngsters out there are buying a contaminated, often polluted gram of cocaine that can go over 100 dollars per gram. Prior to the drug war a month’s supply of heroin could be purchased from Sears Roebuck for a dollar and they would throw in a syringe as a bonus as well.

Back in 1900 1 and one-half percent of us were addicted. Today, after all of this hoopla, 1 and one-half percent of us are addicted. After 40 years, 50 years, more than 100 years of drug war it’s time to face facts. The Drug War is a pipe dream of men who have long since died. It has become a quasi-religion. A belief system that attracted many [inaudible] within law enforcement and the criminal justice system to speak from ignorance, bigotry and support of primitive screeds, platitudes and irrational tradition.

Those who make their bones from this policy (and, by God, the cemetery is overflowing from their efforts) cannot now back down from their prior pronouncements. They dare not jeopardize their reputation, their legacy by now embracing the truth that drug war is vacuous, hollow and a horrendous mistake.

Until we face this truth these cheerleaders for drug war, these drug war addicts will continue their eternal chant, their everlasting rain dance in the eye of this drug war hurricane.

The answer to the Drug War – legalize. Stop funding Bin Laden. Gut the cartels. Eliminate most of the gangs. Let Pfizer produce it and let Walgreens sell it. Judge adults by their actions like it used to be instead of the contents of the baggies in their pocket. We’ll then have lots of room in prison for anybody who would dare sell drugs to our children.

I am not for gradual change to the drug laws. Quoting Martin Luther King, Junior, ”Gradualism is so often an excuse for escapism and do-nothingism which ends up in standstillism.”

The Drug War is an abomination and it must be ended.


DEAN BECKER: Well, what do you think folks? Will I someday be able to let out my feelings?!

OK, here we go. From May 14th, this is Dorsey Nunn. Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

DORSEY NUNN: Well, because it’s a sleeping giant. In a lot of black neighborhoods could be formally incarcerated people and drug addicts. You know, I hate to say that, there’s a lot of us running around. You know, at this point if you go into a college and you at Texas University; you should ask yourself, do you know somebody like me? You know? I mean not like me now, but do you know somebody like I used to be?


DORSEY NUNN: You know? Because I think that it’s almost impossible to be a black person in this country and not be impacted. When they think about the rate of incarceration per hundred thousand, they may be chasing a lot of other people but they got a particular passion for the way that they chase us.

You know, we’re probably four times more likely to go to prison than a Latino. We’re 10 times more likely to go to prison than a white person. And when those numbers are looked at in regards to women, it even gets further off the hook.

So if they figure like they need to care about they’re community, then they need to look at this question clear-eyed and actually consider this question. What happens if we have something that’s particular and peculiar to us that we’re not addressing?

I assume that if we own in the Southern part of this country and we look at that border, they may be chasing a whole bunch of other people. But when they say ICE, we know they’re chasing immigrants; and if we get real particular about it, we know they’re chasing Latinos. We don’t look up at the Canada border and say, “ICE has a problem.”
We look at the southern border and say, “We got a problem.”

We will even evaluate it whether or not—did they justifiably kill somebody? You know, they can kill me and the only thing that they got to mention is that I’ve been to prison before. And it seems to reduce the standard of proof that it was justifiable or not. So, like, if I get shot, they’re going to say, “Oh, well you know he was an ex-felon…”

DEAN BECKER: “…and we thought he had drugs.”

DORSEY NUNN: You know, “And we thought he had drugs, we thought he had a gun, we thought he had—you know, he’s an ex-felon.” And somehow, there’s almost a, “well, you know, we lynched him, but he was black.”


DEAN BECKER: Dorsey, please share your web site with my listeners.

DORSEY NUNN: My website is—two of them: Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, they can google there and find our web site. Or they can google, “All of Us or None” and find our web site.

DEAN BECKER: Dorsey Nunn, thank you very much.

DORSEY NUNN: Alright, you’re welcome.


DEAN BECKER: I get to see Dorsey Nunn just way too seldom. He’s quite a man. Next up, Dr. Robert Melamede from May 26th.


ROBERT MELAMEDE: You got to understand in order to reset that thermostat to inhibit the AIDS related illnesses we need to consume cannabis. The alternative that’s helpful to a certain degree is to use omega-3 fatty acids like found in fish oil and things like that and hemp oil as well. Because those become the precursors for your endocannabinoid.

Certain amount of tweaking you can do with the thermostat with just nutritional supplementation. But, in general, for most of us as we get older and you want to sleep better and replenish more during that sleep and all the other benefits that come with cannabis use, you know, you got to use it.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well the good thing is you mentioned earlier sixteen states—I think it was Delaware, the sixteenth now. And the—there are still those snipers, if you will—I was just talking about that are trying to shut down the laws in Montana and elsewhere, who are trying to inhibit the potential or the possibilities. Trying to say that marijuana is such a threat that, you know, you can't keep it indoors, I don't know.

ROBERT MELAMEDE: It is a threat to those people because those are the un-high people. Those are the people who are fundamentally cannabanoid-deficient. They have lived a much more fearful life. They wanna regulate everything so that they understand because they only have a little channel to go in.
You know, they’re afraid of nudists, they're afraid of change, because they’re not biochemically equipped for change. In order to change your mind about something, in order to be open-minded, you gotta be able to forget the dogma. You've gotta be able to step out of the boxes that you’re trapped in and you know be flexible neurologically and be open-minded—you're cannabanoid system is what makes that happen.

And it's inevitably true that there're gonna be people who are endowed and there are gonna be deficient. And and again my whole hypothesis with blips and slips is that the un-high people—because they're looking backwards at what's happened, and want that to become the future—they have much greater common thought and that’s what gives them power. Especially when coupled with their fears and their aggression that also come from being cannabanoid-deficient. We have the wrong people running the world.

DEAN BECKER: Dang right we do. Now I like that, though. I like what you were just saying there Robert, and that's—they have a commonality, in that—

ROBERT MELAMEDE: You know, one of the things that I've been toying with, and I'm just speculating here, but because the fact that it's in mother's milk—there's gonna be a subset of people who are traumatized by childbirth, and will not receive the benefits like the PTSD benefits that you get from cannabis use. And these people suffer from post-birth traumatic stress disorder for the rest of their lives. I think that those are the people who become the blips.


DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Dr. Robert Malamede, president of Cannabis Science.

Now from June 19t h we hear from the author of “The New Jim Crow”, Michelle Alexander. Here’s she’s speaking at historic Riverside Church.


MICHELLE ALEXANDER: A vast, new racial under cast now exists in America though their plight is rarely mentioned on the evening news. Obama won’t mention it. The Tea Party won’t mention it. Media pundits would rather talk about anything else.

The members of the under cast are largely invisible to most people who have jobs, live in decent neighborhoods, zoom around in freeways past the literal and virtual prisons in which they live.

Many people are reluctant to admit it but today in the so-called era of color-blindness and, yes, even in the age of Obama, something much like a cast system is alive and well in America. The mass incarceration of poor people of color today is tantamount to a new cast system when specifically designed to address the social, political and economic challenges of our time. It is the moral equivalent of Jim Crow.

Now there was a time, I have to confess, that I rejected this kind of talk. I thought people who made comparisons between mass incarceration and Jim Crow or mass incarcerations and slavery were engaging in exaggerations, distortions, hyperbole. In fact, I thought people who made those types of comparisons were actually doing more harm than good to efforts to reform the criminal justice system and achieve greater racial equality in the United States. But what a difference a decade makes.

For after years of representing victims of racial profiling and police brutality and investigating patterns of drug law enforcement in poor communities of color and attempting to assist people “re-enter” into a society that never seemed to have much use for them in the first place, I had a series of experiences that began what I call my awakening. I began to awaken to a racial reality that is so obvious to me now that what seems odd in retrospect is that I had been blind to it for so long.

I state my basic thesis in the introduction where I write, “What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than the language we use to justify it. In the era of color-blindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for discrimination, exclusion and social contempt.”

So we don’t.


DEAN BECKER: That was Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color-Blindness.”

Next up, from July 22nd, John Gilbler, author of “To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War.”


DEAN BECKER: …reading from your book:

“When a person’s ruined body is crafted into a message the meaning is clear; this could happen to you. The dead must have done something to end up like that – crossed the line, spoken up – so better to do nothing, better to look away.”

That’s a horrible situation, isn’t it?

JOHN GIBLER: Absolutely and it goes to what I think is one of the most insidious and dangerous myths of this so-called drug war and that is, “If you’re dead – you’re dirty.” And, as soon as you end up, as in the description you just read, executed, you’re body discarded on the side of the street, often times with grotesque, theatrical displays of being wrapped up in tape or blankets or dismembered, hung from overpasses, that ritualistic, theatrics of execution leads everyone who sees to just assume, “Oh, this was an act of drug violence.” So-called drug violence. And, thus, anyone who fell victim to that kind of violence must have been in the game, must have been in some way involved. But we don’t know that. You can’t know that if you don’t investigate a murder, right?!

In here we can look at two key statements. One is Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, told CNN in an interview that 90% of the victims of the so-called drug war were people directly involved in drug trafficking. He doesn’t cite any sources. He gives no backup information or studies to justify his claims. He just said it in the interview.

However, there is a second revealing claim that is backed up by documentation. And, that is that the Mexican Attorney General’s office fully acknowledges that it investigates less than 5% of homicides that take place in contact with this drug war. So, in four and one-half years more than 41,000 have been executed – 95% of those murders are guaranteed impunity.

And here we can really see what’s at work with that logic of, “If you’re dead – you’re dirty.” That’s just an assumption put forth and, in this case, with Felipe Calderon’s statement, it’s the highest official elected in the nation putting this out there, this 90% figure that he has no support for as if it were fact. But, the actual fact is the government doesn’t investigate anything and if there’s no investigation, if no one’s looking into trying to find out what actually happened – you can’t know.


DEAN BECKER: Once again that was John Gibler, author of “To Die In Mexico.”

Next up from August 12, Christian Parenti, author of “Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence.”

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: It was in Afghanistan that the idea of writing the book came to me. I was reporting from Afghanistan over a number of years and I did a series of stories on the opium poppy and the heroin economy. And one thing that farmers would say to me when they were explaining why they grew opium poppies was that it was draught resistant. And the first time I had done any stories on this was in 2002 and I did them for the next several years. Not 2002 - 2004…and in 2004 I didn’t even know that there was draught.

Well, it turns out, Afghanistan is suffering the worst draught in living memory. Opium poppy, the flower from which opium and heroin are produced, uses one-sixth to one-fifth the amount of water that wheat uses. Given the draught context that Afghanistan is in – it’s one of the only crops that is economically feasible for farmers to grow.

In the war there are two sides via the opium. There’s the government and the NATO forces who attack and oppose opium and the Taliban who support the farmers’ right to grow opium. So, growing opium is, to some extent, a form of adaptation to climate change. I mean, just a caveat here, climate scientist are clear that you can’t really blame one draught or one weather event on climate change but there is this pattern of increased draught, increased flooding, increased chaos associated with rising CO2 – so to that extent the draught in Central Asia and Afghanistan fits the pattern that has been predicted for climate change.

Would that draught had happened without climate change? Maybe, who knows, but it fits the pattern. So, to the extent that it fits that pattern and may, in fact, be driven by climate change – the growing of opium poppy by the Afghan farmers is a form of adaptation and …it’s a form of adaptation that helps explain why there is an endless line of recruits to join the Taliban because that is the side in the war that, along with all the religious ideology and the nationalist ideology (because the Taliban are pashtun, irredentist, nationalist, genophobic, pashtuned movement – they hate Tajiks, they hate Hazaras – they have a very ethnic agenda). Which is opaque when viewed from the outside but there “on the ground” it’s very much about ethnicity.

So, along with the religious and ethnics, there’s an economic thing which is connected to climate change. They’re the side in the war that will defend your family’s right to grow the one crop upon which they can survive given the extreme weather the region is facing.


DEAN BECKER: Again that was Christian Parenti.

And now from August 19th, another from my band of brothers, Norm Stamper, the former police chief of Seattle and a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.


NORM STAMPER: … we have found ourselves preoccupied with these strategies and these tactics that ultimately undermine police work and public confidence in police work.

And having spent 34 years as a cop I can tell you that it’s an absolutely essential, indispensable line of work, It’s an honorable profession but when we engage in those tactics we dishonor it.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. We see the bold display of those deviations from our basic rights on television shows like COPS and DEA where they threaten people, they scare people and they setup people and manipulate them.

NORM STAMPER: In the real world, this would be the traditional cop speaking, I’m not rejecting my own history and my own background, but there are plenty of occasions where we develop snitches who help lead us to the prevention of homicides and robberies and burglaries and the like. That’s been a part of police work from day one and it will always be a part of police work.

But we always kind prided ourselves… those of us who – myself – who identifies progressive police officers – as those who formulate sound rules and live by them. It’s when we deviate from those rules, it’s when we create rules, if you will, that are beyond the spirit of the Constitution of the United States that we find ourselves in big, big trouble. And it’s just not worth it. There are ways to do police work and there are ways to do police work. And unfortunately under the Drug War we have found lots of reasons to violate if not the letter then certainly the spirit of the constitution.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we’ve been speaking with Mr. Norm Stamper, one of my band of brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, author of “Breaking Rank – A Top Cop’s Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing”


[dramatic music]

DEAN BECKER: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. These men and women have served in the trenches of the drug war as prosecutors, judges, cops, guards and wardens. They have seen first-hand the utter futility of our policy and now work together to end drug prohibition. Please visit http://leap.cc


DEAN BECKER: Now from September 5t h, this is an interview I conducted with Ethan Nadelmann, the director of the Drug Policy Alliance at the Oaksterdam Cannabis Fair.


DEAN BECKER: What’s your impression, sir?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well, it’s a very nice and mellow event. I’m a bit impressed that I’m not able to get into the medical marijuana area because I’m not a medical marijuana patient. So there is some sense of abiding by the laws and the guidelines here.

But I say this is a nice thing. It’s good commerce for Oakland. How’s much better to have this thing above ground than below ground.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, it’s raising money for the city and state and it’s peaceful, as you say. There’s no problems here at all.

ETHAN NADELMANN: That’s exactly right. It would be good for these things to be popping up all around the country. The interesting thing too is when you imagine some of the fears that people have around marijuana – if they were to see something like this, they’d see how simply normal it is. And, quite frankly, as far as I can tell there’s an absence of alcohol around here. So everything is just very calm and people kicking back and having a good time on a beautiful day at a nice street fair.

DEAN BECKER: Ethan, I made it into the smoking area and I want to tell you that many of those same folks are out here walking amongst us and I still don’t see a problem.

ETHAN NADELMANN: No, exactly Dean, exactly. It’s a shame that the feds got to get all worked up about this sort of thing. It would be nice to see this thing get fully legal so that we can stop playing games around the edges and people could stop winding up in prison for nothing more than marijuana. So, that’s what we’re aiming for, right?

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know last week was the recognition of Overdose Prevention Day and for many people who are using prescription pills and whatever to help their maladies they could benefit through the use of cannabis, don’t you think?

ETHAN NADELMANN: I think that’s right. But, I find myself oftentimes saying, when I speak to the folks who focus on pain management, I call them out and say to the extent that they are not including cannabis among the options for people who are struggling with chronic pain – they are not performing their medical obligations.

But I’ll tell you the same thing that I also say to the people involved in medical cannabis – that they should stop damning the opiates because for many people cannabis is not going to be the answer. For many people opiates are the answer. And the real answer here is not to favor one over the other – it’s to favor whatever works – whatever is safe and works.

Now, obviously, cannabis has the advantage that it’s safe. You’re not going to die of an overdose. But, for many people the opiates are going to be the only medication that works and people in the cannabis area have to respect that reality as well.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, once again, been speaking with Ethan Nadelmann, Director of Drug Policy Alliance, http://drugpolicy.org


DEAN BECKER: For years and for some of you for more than a decade you’ve been hearing me rant and rave about all the insane blowback from this policy. Well, here from September 30t h, “Whistle blowers allege corruption, cartel ties” so says a story in the El Paso Times written by Diana Washington Valdez.


DIANA WASHINGTON VALDEZ: I can say this much. We have been contacted in times past by various people. Many of them former law enforcement officers – either retired or people who transfer from one agency to another - who have made these kinds of allegations.

This is a little bit different because these are people who wanted to go public with what they knew and wanted to go public with the fact that they had been involved in assisting various agencies, including the FBI, with drug-related investigation. And, as a result of that involvement, over the course of nearly two years they were able to develop a lot of leads, a lot of information about not just low-level drug dealers but also corruption involving big names.

DEAN BECKER: And this is, I guess, the nightmare of a lot of people that corruption has really involved the army, the police and so forth on the Mexican side but it’s starting to show up on the U.S. side as well. Right?

DIANA WASHINGTON VALDEZ: I don’t think it’s started. I think this is one of the few occasions where we get a glimpse of how extensive it is. We have had, you know, along the border officers and Customs or Border Patrol or Sheriff Deputies – you name it… Police officers have been busted for possessing drugs or assisting drug dealers, that sort of thing.

But this is a little bit more…a bigger picture of what it’s like on this side. And how could there not be corruption on this side with so many drugs getting through. I mean there’s no other explanation for it.


DEAN BECKER: Diana Washington Valdez brought forward the information that the DEA is now laundering money for these drug cartels as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back over 2011 and will join us next week on both the Cultural Baggage and Century of Lies. We’re going to listen back to ten years of the Drug Truth Network. Please 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 Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org