The failure of drug prohibition: a “pot” bust in Corpus Christi

Flash back a few years to the old Miller Lite commercials where they’d show two people asking to watch two different sports on TV, then a third guy says, “Let’s watch both” and then taps a bottle of beer on the TV which automagically tunes to a channel where the announcer says “Miller Lite presents…” followed by an improbable combination of two sports such as “Full Contact Golf.”

Well, that commercial played through my mind yesterday as I pondered whether I needed to write a long-overdue article about the failure of drug prohibition, or yet another article about an incredibly dumb police blunder. And then, I see a mention of  this crazy story on my Twitter stream. Why not write about both, in one post?

As reported by Corpus Christi station KRIS-TV as well as, some members of the Corpus Christi Police Department thought they were making a rather large marijuana seizure.

The cops haul their prize load of over 300 plants into the station, and start testing them, only to get the biggest surprise of all: these were just ordinary weeds, not pot. (Specifically, horse mint.) Corpus Christi’s finest, indeed. It’s amazing how much yard work cops will do when they think they have pot plants.

Of course, were we to handle drugs as a social problem, not a legal problem, there would be nothing for the cops to do about these weeds, whether they were the weed (pot) or just garden variety. Indeed, there are many organizations specifically formed for the legalization of marijuana, and others not actually part of the organization that at least support the legalization of marijuana even if most other currently illicit drugs remain prohibited. Before I had to start paring down the accounts I was following on Twitter, I had been following the Twitter accounts of several such organizations (I don’t even have their sites bookmarked here, but I could probably find many of them again). Groups like Drug Policy Alliance are in a small minority, but it doesn’t make their arguments any less valid.

So you wonder why I’m in favor of ending drug prohibition. No, it’s not because I want to go down to my corner store and pick up a bag of cocaine or heroin the same way I get a 12-pack of beer. It’s because of the answers I get when I pose the simple question: what has drug prohibition actually done for us?

For one, it’s given many jurisdictions a convenient excuse to hire many, if not an excess of, police officers. These cops wind up doing things like writing traffic tickets during the inevitable lull in “real crime.” More often than not, the traffic stops are rarely about safety, but often an excuse to conduct warrantless searches of vehicles. Any contraband found during a consent search usually results in a conviction. For details, see the videos at; I’ll summarize here by saying usually it is a bad idea to consent to a search (this includes allowing police to enter your premises without a warrant).

Next, when the cops and prosecutors successfully do their new jobs, we, the taxpayers, wind up footing the bill for the prison stays of most of these drug users, space that could be better used housing real career criminals that actually do pose a real danger to society. (Some do get probation but even then the probation departments still wind up having to spend money on drug testing and programs like the SAFP (Substance Abuse Felony Penalty) program in Harris County, which could arguably be better utilized on reducing the caseloads of rank-and-file probation officers by hiring more of them.)

Another aspect of drug prohibition is that it artificially drives up the cost of the now-prohibited drugs. This means that for the junkies to keep getting their fix, they wind up committing other crimes such as theft and fraud. So yes, you’re reading this right: the drug prohibition laws actually cause more crime, not only from the prohibition of possession and manufacture, but also as a side effect from the inflated prices.

Finally, there’s one more effect that needs to be said, even though it’s probably the aspect I honestly feel least comfortable talking about. The measure of career success of most prosecuting attorneys is how many cases they have won, and such things as having lost few cases. This is usually accomplished by aggressively “trumping up” charges and getting clients to plea bargain down to a lesser offense, often more serious than one the evidence actually supports. The fewer cases that go to trial, the better the “batting average” for the prosecutor, as once charged, the only path to “not guilty” is through trial. The more cases get handled by plea bargain, the more cases the courts can handle; a prosecutor that lets too many cases go to trial is likely not to build favor with judges and have a short career as a prosecuting attorney.

I don’t disagree with plea bargains in principle. However, they make the enforcement of unjust laws even more unjust than they already are, and serve to skew the perception of the fairness of the court system to the average citizen when used to enforce unjust laws.

While I agree in principle with the idea of limiting recreational drug use to an acceptable level, I believe drug prohibition has failed to accomplish this and in many cases has made the problem worse. The Corpus Christi incident only serves to underscore this colossal failure. I’m sure there are others like it, that this is neither the first such case, nor will it likely be the last.

Drug prohibition: just say no.

On rumors, hoaxes, and social media

For a change, I feel it is time that I write an entry about something I did that wound up making me look dumb, or at least below my usual level of intelligence. To be fair about it, I was not the only one to fall for it.

There was an incident among my Facebook friends where someone cheerily spread a hoax involving the Facebook group “Becoming a Father or Mother Was the Greatest Gift of My Life.” This particular variant of the well-documented hoax was falsely attributed to Mike Woods, a news reporter for Fox 5 WNYW in New York City, who in fact did not report this story.

Yet, the person in question passed it along with no verification under the guise of “better safe than sorry.” It takes literally minimal effort to verify the veracity of something of this nature, and all one needs to remember is and one’s favorite Web search engine, usually one of, Bing, Google, or Yahoo.

In that discussion I said something too good to remain confined to Facebook and eventually disappear, so I’ll repost it here:

A lot of the other hoaxes cite “someone at (IBM/Apple/Intel).” One does surprisingly well to assume it’s the janitor until and unless that “someone” is identified by name and position within the company.

Fast forward to Saturday night/Sunday morning, when rumors of the passing of Ronnie James Dio began to circulate on Twitter. I waited until what I thought was a reputable source (in this case, reported it, then posted it to my Twitter account as confirmed. At that time, Ronnie was still alive and his wife was trying to counteract the then-false rumors that he had passed away. As soon as I found out the news was in fact untrue, I tweeted a correction, going as far as to send a direct message on Twitter to someone who expressed dismay at my report. This was at around 2am Houston time.

Of course, Ronnie passes away for real at 7:45am that morning, the news outlets all report it that day. Not surprisingly, I really feel like an idiot, but I take consolation in knowing that several otherwise reliable news outlets (including a Houston Press music reporter) fell for the initial bogus death report as well. And maybe I was a bit too hasty to pass along the news, and should have waited for a more credible confirmation. I also misreported it as a hoax, when in fact a more accurate statement would have been a premature death report and/or an exaggeration of Ronnie’s true condition. Then again, when I’m this far from the source, I can’t tell the two apart.

The lessons we can all take away from this?

  1. Don’t be too quick to pass along news. Consider your sources carefully before passing something along. When in doubt, check it out first., search engines, reputable news sites, even trusted friends if you know they do not just pass along any old rumor.
  2. In the age of social media, news travels that much faster. It also means rumors can travel that much faster. Think before you hit send.
  3. We all make mistakes.
  4. Don’t exaggerate the condition of someone near death, especially someone famous. It may get picked up and turned into a rumor.

Retaliation, Australian style

As reported by TG Daily, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had his passport taken from him upon arrival in Melbourne, Australia, and was later told his passport would be cancelled. I have verified this story with other sources and none of them cite an official reason.

Thus, we are then left to assume that this is direct and wanton retaliation for Julian’s activities related to Wikileaks, specifically (quoting the article):

Last year, Wikileaks published a list of websites which were to be banned under the government’s proposed internet filter. While the aim of the filter is to block extreme pornography and the like, the blacklist included a number of more prosaic sites such as those of a travel company and a dentist.

Assange said that shortly after his passport was returned he was questioned about a hacking offence committed when he was a teenager.

(I’ll get to the second part in a bit.)

From the looks of things, it appears the Australian government has serious issues with the freedom of information. It is a safe assumption that Australia’s own citizens will be paying for this filtering system through government taxes. As such, they have the right to know what exactly this filter is blocking, and I would also argue the right to opt out of it should they so choose. The blocking of a travel company and dentist, among other obviously non-pornographic sites, falls well within what Australia’s citizens have a right to know. In fact, depending on exactly how the filtering works, it’s something the rest of the world has a right to know as well.

This is an egregious case of censorship by the Australian government and to say the least, it really burns me up. My question: since it is obvious Julian does not like Australia, what is the point in not letting him leave (the obvious consequence of a cancelled passport)?

Now, about the second part. I am quite disturbed that the government of Australia would bring into play an offense Julian committed nearly two decades ago (and an obvious misdemeanor at that), and imply that it is somehow relevant to who he is today. It isn’t, really. If a misdemeanor from 19 years ago is being worked into the reason his passport is being cancelled, we have even more reason to despise and distrust the Australian government.

Interesting sidenote: Until reading about him on Wikipedia, I didn’t know Julian was the author of the Strobe portscanner. In my early years learning about network security, I used Strobe for many portscans prior to learning of the existence of Nmap (I did not begin using GNU/Linux until 1998).

Teaching the wrong lessons with a week’s detention for candy swapping

The zero-tolerance policies in schools are apparently expanding in scope, and not surprisingly, living up to my preferred dysphemism for them: zero-intelligence policies. This example may be just what you need if you’re looking for a great excuse to home-school your kid(s). (I know it seems like I’m on a run of school board and school administration disciplinary blunders. I may have one more like this, and then I’ll switch to something else.)

As reported on and KHOU-TV, a third grader recently received a week of detention for the most innocuous of acts: accepting a piece of candy (specifically, a Jolly Rancher) from a fellow student. Leighann Adair, 10, thus becomes what I believe to be a victim of one of the more egregious dimbulb school administration blunders.

By the time I hit the “publish” button on this story, this ludicrously stiff penalty for what is in all honesty, a rather benign act, will be over and done. But there’s nothing to indicate this won’t happen again. Knowing the school systems in this area, it probably will happen again.

From the KHOU story:

The girl’s mother said the incident has taught her daughter a lesson, but not the one her teachers intended.

“I told her, ‘Leighann, unfortunately you’re learning very young that life’s not fair,’” [Leighann’s mother Amber] Brazda said.

And from elsewhere in the story:

Jack Ellis, the superintendent for Brazos Independent School District, declined an on-camera interview. But he said the school was abiding by a state guideline that banned “minimal nutrition” foods.

“Whether or not I agree with the guidelines, we have to follow the rules,” he said.

The state, however, gives each school discretion over how to enforce the policy. Ellis said school officials had decided a stricter punishment was necessary after lesser penalties failed to serve as a deterrent.

Ellis said failing to adhere to the state’s guidelines could put federal funding in jeopardy.

I seriously doubt that the Federal government would yank a school’s funding over students sharing candy with each other. And if they do, we have much more serious problems with the portion of our government that oversees education.

Either way, this is a policy that quite literally reaches way too far.

Let’s compare the lesson the school is trying to teach Leighann with what she will actually learn walking away from the experience. Having been out of third grade for nearly a quarter-century, it’s a bit difficult for me to take my mind all the way back to the ripe young age of 10. But I’ll do my best.

The school’s lesson to Leighann and the rest of the students is “don’t eat candy at all, it’s bad for you.” While an admirable lesson on its face, it’s not entirely true for as long as it is eaten in moderation, candy won’t have nearly the detrimental effects on a preteen body as the school would like their students to believe.

The actual learned lesson of Leighann and her fellow students? If only “life’s not fair” was the only possible learned lesson here. It instead might be “our schools (and our governments) make arbitrary rules and enforce them in dubious and unfair ways.” I bet the social studies teachers in middle school will love having to undo that one. How about “sharing candy is bad” which may even turn into “sharing is bad.” Why bother teaching sharing is good in kindergarten, then? Or even “this shows the teachers and principals lack common sense and are unfit to teach us.” Zero-intelligence policies, indeed. And we wonder why we have high dropout rates? Why our kids dread going to school? Why our school system has the questionable reputation it does?

It may seem strange, but Leighann and I have one thing in common right now: we’re both glad summer is right around the corner, because it means we all get a three-month reprieve from this kind of low-IQ nonsense.

What country are we in again?

While I realize we’re past the mid-point of May now, this is an issue that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. I view my timing as 355 days early for next year. I try my best to keep the entries as timely as I can. Sometimes I do better than others.

A recent post to the Gateway Pundit blog at details the story of a San Francisco area high-school student, Daniel Galli, and four of his friends, who were kicked out of school for the day for wearing US flag shirts and bandanas on May 5th, observed by many expatriates as Cinco de Mayo, the day the Mexican army beat the French army at the Battle of Puebla. It’s not even strictly a Mexican holiday in Puebla, more along the lines of St. Patrick’s Day.

From the article:

Galli says he and his friends were sitting at a table during brunch break when the vice principal asked two of the boys to remove American flag bandannas that they wearing on their heads and for the others to turn their American flag T-shirts inside out. When they refused, the boys were ordered to go to the principal’s office.

If there had been credible, overt threats of violence towards Daniel’s group, I can see an offer to allow that group to take an excused absence for the remainder of the day in the interest of minimizing disruption. While I can understand the disapproval from the population at large, this would at least be a nominally defensible move from the school administration.

But it appears the vice principal stepped in where no such threats existed. All because these boys (and girls?) chose to express their patriotism for the USA on this particular day. (The story does not mention gender of Daniel’s friends; I did not want to assume they were all boys.)

This likely was handled in a fashion typical for high-school dress code infractions (an unexcused absence, with a grade of zero for all work missed). This is inexcusable in the United States of America for an expression of American freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Those who find the American flag that offensive, on a day which is not even a national holiday in a neighboring country, should carefully rethink their reason for staying in the US, taking into account such things as whether or not they are here legally.

As for me, I’m proud to be an American, no matter whether the calendar reads September 11th, February 2nd, July 4th… or May 5th, or any other day. Really, it’s just another day. The American flag should be no more offensive or “incendiary” on one day than any other day, to someone who really loves this country. Not only is the school administration out of bounds, but they completely missed the opportunity to teach a lesson in tolerance and community.