Cultural Baggage, July 16, 2008
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the phamaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.
Dean Becker: Once again, broadcasting from the Gulag Filling Station of Planet Earth, this is Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker. Houston is a hellhole and we have it on the airwaves, we have it in the newspapers, we have it everywhere we go these days and I'm proud to have with us today one of my fellow broadcasters here at the mothership station of the Drug Truth Network, Minister Robert Muhammad, who has been on the years with his program, Connect The Dots. And with that welcome, I want to thank him for being our guest.
Robert Muhammad: I want to thank you, Dean, for having me on your program. I've always been an admirer of the Cultural Baggage and now I get get a chance to be on the show with you.
Dean Becker: Robert, thank you. And I was listening to you on the drive in today and you were talking about the very points, many of the the same points we're going to talk about today. The D.A. resigned because of his drug use. The Sheriff has been indicted. The federal government is inspecting our jail system. And, later this week, we have the head of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Conyers, coming to this city to dig deeper into this. Am I right?
Robert Muhammad: That's the truth. So this Friday, from 10 to 12 P.M. Central Time, he will be at our city hall. They're going to hold an informal inquiry and we're going down there to ask for a full congressional hearing, a field hearing, on the criminal justice, it may seem like an oxymoron...
Dean Becker: Put a comma in there. Criminal comma justice.
Robert Muhammad: Yes. Criminal comma justice system in Harris County. Houston, Harris County.
Dean Becker: Yes, exactly. We've been talking about doing this program for weeks but as time goes by the need for this discussion is just becoming more and more apparent. I began a couple of weeks back, I said 'Look, let's talk about the impact of this drug war on the black community,' because I'm white as any saltine, I don't live in those communities, I don't know first-hand, but I certainly see it in the papers and through discussions with friends, what it has done. Your thoughts, sir.
Robert Muhammad: Well, you can think about it from this standpoint: let's look at how families build wealth. When you talk about the Rockefellers, the Astors, the Duponts, the Rothchilds -- how they build wealth. They pass wealth from generation to generation. Now since this drug war has begun you think about a young man or young woman being arrested. OK? Whether it's for indiscriminate use or they would just, really have a jones, a high, a habit. They get arrested. I don't want to drag it out a long time but I want to paint a picture, a picture that's true. They get arrested, their mother or their father put up their house or put up their savings to get a lawyer, to bond them out, so that's their wealth that is being zapped. Then they got to pay for the lawyer, they got to pay for bond, they lose time from work, it goes on and on and on.
Say you go to jail, you go to jail, it's a felony. You go to jail for a felony now, Dean. Now you come out and there's twenty-five jobs you can't work and places you can't live. So, then, how do pass on wealth from generation to generation? You would think that if one generation came here, immigrant, laborer, worked his way up, put his children through college and then you expect those children from college to build wealth and then pass it on to that generation. But now what we have now is actually a retardation of our community. We have a generation that has less education than their parents. So you see it in that way. So, generationally it is absolutely destroying our community. And, more importantly, it's destroying families because fathers are being separated from mothers and now we have women going to jails, particularly black women going to jail at twice the rate of men, now in the twenty-first century. So now we have the women separated from their children and this causes a discontinuity in terms of family and family life. How can you build a society if your family's not strong?
Dean Becker: Exactly. I mean, if the bread winner is sent to prison the family goes on welfare, if they're lucky, if they're not denied those benefits, the children, perhaps, drop out of school earlier. And then there's always that black market in drugs that's enticing our children to those lives of crime or addiction.
I want to get to another point here but -- recently I've been tuning into the Showtime program, Weeds, and I captured this little clip I want to share here before we move on.
If you could make that out, but they were talking about, they were in a suburban, affluent area, talking about there were no junkies on the street corner and she's saying because they're not on the corner, they're inside with the air-conditioning. And in Houston, the people in the suburbs, they pick up the phone, drugs are delivered within the hour. And yet it's a whole other situation in the minority communities, right?
Robert Muhammad: Yes. We have a culture where we like to sit on our front porch. Many in the suburbs sit in their back yard. There's more drugs used behind three-car garages with the Volvo and the Mercedes Benz parked outside. And anyone that knows that, knows that sometimes many of these children come in from the suburbs to the inner city to cop. So there's this disproportionate law enforcement presence in our communities versus the other communities and you can find that, there's a truism in Texas, 'it's better to be rich and guilty than to be poor and innocent,' in the this state and I can tell you I've seen the injustices and the inequity down there at the court room. If you got money, your people got influence, you'll find a way to get probation, deferred adjudication, your record expunged. But when it comes to us, you get that black mark on you. And now they're even going down into our children; giving them tickets on the juvenile justice level with the justice-of-the-peaces and they're absolutely marking them for life and tracking them through the system. So this thing is wrong and it's a waste of money. Non-violent offenders are being locked up in jail, Dean, and it's a waste of resources. We actually have a prison-industrial complex. When people say that, you know, kind of, 'it's tongue in cheek,' but it's true. There were cities in this state of Texas that did not want a correctional institution near them. If you'd have proposed it, came there and said 'We're posing to build a prison here,' they'd say 'Oh no, pardner, you ain't building that here.' But now it's flipped the script. They say 'Go on and build it.' Why? Because if I build it far away from here where Houston is and you go out to West Texas and I put those children, I sentenced those children to that institution, their parents and their relatives drive from there. They don't want to drive all the way back so, of course, they have to have a place to stay so up pops the Motel 6, the Motel 8 and of course they drove that way and ain't nothing but candy bars and snack machines inside the prison so now I got to have something to eat. So you got popped up with McDonalds, a Sonic, a Burger King and whatnot -- so you actually have an institution that's being built and fed through the prison-industrial complex. It provides local jobs, it provides -- you got to provide the supplies, these people need to wear clothes, they need to eat food -- just imagine down there, for instance, our Harris County jail, how much salt, just salt, alone is needed to season the food. How much milk, how much water and who gets that contract and who's making that money? It is indeed a growth industry.
Dean Becker: You bet. We've talked about it on this program, well, for years now. Houston leads the world in its incarceration rate. It is primarily young black and hispanics with microscopic amounts of drugs: whether it's a crack pipe that they can scrape a few crumbs out of, or if it's an empty bag that they can put under the microscope and verify that it is, quote, a hard drug. And going back to your thought about the prisons in West Texas; another benefit to that community is when the U.S. does it's census it gets to count those prisoners as citizens of that town and get federal funding for their infrastructure. It just goes on and on.
Robert Muhammad: That's true. The Community Development Block Grant is based upon population and the demographics of that population and it doesn't matter that these people are incarcerated, they're just counted in that. And you're absolutely right and so we going to have to look at this thing from top to bottom and you and I both, neither one of us condone the use of drugs of any kind, whether they're prescribed or non-prescribed, whether it's the street pharmacist or the one that's the CVS pharmacist, we don't condone that. We're simply saying that there's a greater crime going on and taking advantage of people who lack jobs, who don't have any blue-collar -- there's no blue-collar path anymore to middle class. And when you destroy the middle class in this country you're actually at war on the poor because the poor have but one choice: it's either get rich or die. That's the new mantra. There's no blue-collar path to that, you can't come and get a high school education or a G.E.D. and then work your way to own a house, a motorcycle, a truck and just live the quote-unquote American Life. Now it's either 'I'm going to hustle to get mine,' or nothing at all. And this is pervasive. It's pervasive in our media, it's pervasive in our literature. It's become now a part of our own ethos and we've got to break that cycle and we've got to -- but we gotta call the real demons out for who they are, those who are benefitting from the destruction of our youth and our community through this so-called drug war.
Dean Becker: Well, you know, but it's not just Texas, but there are many states and -- I'll talk about a couple of cities in Texas that have this inherent built-in racism that's so prevalent that the people who are part of it don't even realize it. The city of Tulia, in particular, I think it was 41 blacks arrested in one night: no drugs, no guns, no money was found. But they were all convicted on the word of a bigoted cop, who eventually was caught for his crime of prevarication, and the people were released. We've had the same thing in Hearn, we've had it in Palestine, we had it Dallas, mostly against the hispanic community, where the cops were lying. They were passing pool chalk off as cocaine or methamphetamine or whatever the drug-of-the-day was. We have to use this state in particular as an example of what not to do in America, of what not to do around this world. The powers that be, the D.A., the Sheriff, even the silence of the Mayor and the Commissioners is part of the problem. As you said earlier, we're going to have a major rally this week to speak to John Conyers, head of the House Judiciary Committee, about this problem. And people around the country need to speak up. That's the whole point of this. Silence is not getting us anywhere: ninety-three years -- we've arrested 34 million Americans for drugs -- it's just not going to benefit.
Robert Muhammad: The Nation of Islam's main thing that we're known for is criminal and drug rehabilitation and we have not a twelve-step program but a one-step program: it's called 'Just Quit.' You know, and it's based around the fact of people having knowledge of themselves and to see a person's life transformed through the love of them-self, love of god, family, and what they could accomplish if they were sober. You know, you can't fight a revolution high. You can't change life high. You can't even evolve into the human being you want to be high. You've got to begin the process of sobering up because -- I think a lot of us self-medicate because we look at the problems and they seem so overwhelming we literally go into mental-shock. But I would ask each and everyone of us, you know, to slow your roll and to really look at what's going on around you. You know what, Dean? It's like driving in your car. A lot of times if you drive down the block it's different than when you walk down the block. You get to see things in a different perspective...
Dean Becker: Detail.
Robert Muhammad: ...if you just slow it down a little bit and look at, as you say, the detail. The details of life. This is not fair and, yes, life is not fair, but it should be fair because life is not sustainable if it's not fair and we can't continue to take our best and brightest who have made mistakes and then absolutely condemn them to a life of second and third class citizenship when they might be the cure to AIDS, they might be the cure to cancer, they could be that next person who could be the one that can solve our energy problem. But because of what happened to them in life, because of this drug culture we've got -- we've got, what? Take a pill. Dean, you're stomach hurt, take a pill. Your head hurt, take a pill. You want to get pregnant, take a pill. You want to not get pregnant, take a pill. You want to stop taking pills, take a pill.
Dean Becker: [laughter]
Robert Muhammad: [laughter] We've got this drug culture that goes beyond just the illegal drugs but the legal drugs, too.
Dean Becker: We have to stop and think about, as you say, this drug culture. Who controls this thought, this arrangement, 'who benefits?' you were talking about earlier. And the pharmaceutical houses, Merck and Phizer and all them, they make billions of dollars each year. Giving us pills, we do a segment on this show -- a little later you'll hear an example of 'Name That Drug by it's Side-Effects' -- and the point being that for the most part most of the drugs do have side-effects and in many cases they're more dangerous or harmful than the original malady that we were trying to treat. We have been deceived. Aspirin and Tylenol kill more people than all hard drugs combined. What are we up to? You know, tobacco and alcohol -- 450,000 deaths per year. What are we up to? What are we really afraid of? And we have to think back to the beginnings of these drug laws -- Mexicans were a threat to the white man so they made marijuana illegal. Blacks were, they said, impervious to thirty-two caliber bullets so they moved up to thirty-eight because they were on cocaine, you couldn't bring them down. And they talked about Chinamen being a threat to rape white women when they were on -- entice them into the opium den -- so they made it illegal, in the beginning, just for the Orientals. We have been fed a bag of lies. We need to stop and think about why we do this and, following on that, how do we end this? And I think working together -- the City of Houston, I think, will be, again, I think it's been the example of the drug war in action and, I think, it will become a place to reexamine that whole policy and to help bring it to an end.
Minster Muhammad: Well, I agree with that, Dean. I mean, one thing about it, you know, I don't want people to get the impression that somehow, just that we're here at the mothership station, that somehow things are just so bad -- we really are grateful to have a station like this and to have a place where you and I can sit down at the table of humanity and have this discussion so that it can be broadcast around the world and people can hear what's going on here. There's a lot good in the Houston and Harris County, but as the honorable Elijah Muhammad told us, 'The good takes care of itself. We must correct the wrong.' It's the wrong that continues to be almost like this Houston schizophrenia -- when a city that will take 150,000 evacuees in from New Orleans in, and at the same time blame them for the rise in crime but not thank them for the FEMA checks that they got and our sales tax revenue is going up because they had to spend money to replace the things that they lost. I mean, it's that kind of schizophrenia, you know, in one sense where we're a great city of entrepreneurs and opportunity and then turn around at the same time, and we're the city that's the death penalty capitol of these United States. So we've got some things and some issues that we've got to work out because we go Jekyll and Hyde too much. And I think that this drug war is something we need to take a serious look at and really not going to demonizing people but look at it to how we save our children from drugs, how we can do more homeopathic and natural and holistic healing and try to get us away from using drugs because, in truth, some of our elders, our grandparents, right now they're living off the retirement that Merck and all of these companies provide in their IRA or in their, or in some of our 401-K plans -- they're being invested in some of these things. So we need to take a look. Like we want to divest from Sudan, divest from South Africa during the Apartheid, we need to look about divesting from these companies that are exploiting us and providing us wealth. And sometimes our silence is our consent. We can no longer be silent. We're going to have to look at things top to bottom but it takes us all being sober.
Dean Becker: Very well said. Once again, we're speaking with Brother Robert Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. He does a years-long program here on the mothership station, Connect the Dots, and I urge you to check out the website and it is KPFT.org, dozens of shows available online for your perusal. I would hope you would do that.
You know we talk about the City of Houston, I want to say once again, because we lead the world in our incarceration rate, we are the example for the rest of the world, the people up in Canada and Great Britain are still beating each other over the head whether they're going to make drugs more legal, if you will, or if they're going to make the laws tougher because of our influence. We have the money, we have the politicians and the quote-authority figures that lead this charge down this ninety-three year path of failure. We've got to examine the evidence. We've got to develop for ourselves the knowledge with which to move forward. You know, Robert and I can do everything we possibly can but we can't change this by ourselves. We need you, we need you to speak up. We need you to participate, to become a full citizen, to do your part. And with that, I want to give you just a few seconds, Robert, I got some other reports to get to.
Robert Muhammad: OK. I just, first of all, again, Dean, thank you and thank Cultural Baggage for hosting me and having this on this program today. But I can say it is up to us. You know, you can pass all the laws in the world you want to but as long as we're the number one consumers of illegal drugs and legal drugs in the world, we're going to have this problem and we're going to continue to have this problem. Why don't we all just decide that we're going to get off the drugs, get off the pipe, get off the pills, get off the booze, get off the cigarettes and let us decide to live a more healthy life, slow down so we can see, sober up so we can see, stand up so we can do and change the course of history by changing Houston by first changing ourselves. I want to thank you for having me on, Dean.
Dean Becker: Thank you, Robert.
It's time to play Name That Drug by its Side Effects!
Horrible side effects including death.
Time's up: The answer! And before I give you the answer let me tell you a little bit more about this product. It's found in baby food. It's a major component of the explosives used by the terrorists. And it's freely available in the hallways and used in the classrooms of every school in our nation. Prolonged exposure causes severe tissue damage. Inhalation of even a slight amount can be deadly.
Dihydrogen monoxide is a killer. Otherwise know as water.
Doug McVay: First the good news. Earlier this month the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy announced that millions of dollars in treatment funds would now be made available through Medicaid. Now the bad news. It's not really money for treatment. What has happened is that ten states have activated billing codes for the Centers for Medicaid Services to allow reimbursement for the government's Sudden Brief Intervention Referral to Treatment program, SBIRT for short. SBIRT funds are directed at health care professionals working in doctor's offices, trauma centers, emergency departments, prenatal and community health clinics, college campuses and even the internet. The federal government also applies SBIRT to its own employees through the Federal Employee's Health Benefit Program. According to ONDCP, the Centers for Medicaid Services has line-item SBIRT in its annual budget with a $265 million set aside to match state contributions for those implementing SBIRT codes. Ignoring privacy intrusions and insurance implications, the question is begged 'Where are people to go for treatment?' The feds have been more than generous in providing millions of dollars in vouchers for faith-based treatment, basically giving money to churches to run 12-step programs, yet we have given short shrift to substitution treatment, the only modality proven to actually work. In the 1990s the cost of methadone treatment was estimated at approximately $4,000 per year. I'll do the math for you: at that rate $265 million would pay for one year's methadone treatment for more than 66,000 new patients.
For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.
Dean Becker: Poppygate. Bizarre news about the U.S. policy on controlling heroin, featuring Glenn Greenway.
Glenn Greenway: According to the 2008 World Drug Report recently issued by the United Nations, Afghanistan's opium harvest last year was equal to nearly 2 million pounds of pure heroin, up 45 fold since the U.S. invasion nearly seven years ago. The trade of Afghan narcotics, which has been tolerated, even protected by the U.S. and its allies, is now responsible for over half of the war-ravaged country's economy. Ninety-three percent of the world's heroin supply is now believed to originate in the so-called fledgling democracy.
The level of violence in the country is exploding. Suicide bombings and IED attacks are now daily occurrences. Last week, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-filled car into the gates of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, killing more than 40 people. Yesterday, at a remote outpost in North-Eastern Afghanistan, nine U.S. soldiers were killed in a close-range battle with insurgents. This, the deadliest attack on U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan since 2003, followed a separate incident last week when the United State dropped three bombs on a group of women and children accompanying a young bride en route to her wedding. Fifty people, including the bride, were killed in the incident. My humble and heartfelt sympathies to all the grieving families and bereft loved ones.
Even though the latest figures from the U.N. estimate that the Afghan heroin business provides as much as $400 million per year to the insurgency, the U.S. and its allies have largely refused to address the issue. U.S. Marines are ordered to carefully avoid so-much-as injuring the poppy plants which provide their enemies with weapons with which to kill them. U.S. led international drug control efforts very effectively subsidize the illegal opium harvest, with black market prices at point of origin about three times that of legal opium grown elsewhere.
Afghanistan perfectly illustrates the nightmare symbiosis between illegal drugs and terror. The War on Terror means more drugs. The War on Drugs means more terror. Drugs feed terror, terror feeds drugs.
It's long past time to stop this macabre merry-go-round. Rest assured that the guns and explosives which are killing us, our allies and Afghan civilians are paid for by international drugs prohibition. It's one or the other: War on Drugs or War on Terror. Your choice?
This is Glenn Greenway reporting for the Drug Truth Network.
Dean Becker: I think that's a very powerful report. I hope you had your ears on. I hope you were listening to what Mr. Glenn Greenway had to say. More drugs, more terror, more drugs, more terror. They do feed one another.
We have a report coming up here from Mr. Terry Nelson. He spent 33 years now working for the U.S. government as a customs, border and air interdiction officer. He now speaks for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Terry Nelson: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We at LEAP believe the war on drugs is a colossal public policy failure. We believe that drugs must be regulated and controlled and that to regulate and control something it must be legal. The war on drugs has caused so many consequences that it must be stopped before it does more harm. Here is a recent example.
A young man was arrested on Monday and jailed for allegedly delivering marijuana and LSD tainted cookies to a local police department. He was delivering the cookies as part of a community service work-off for MADD. Today the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that after 54 hours in the Lake Worth jail the eighteen-year-old Christian Phillips was released Thursday when tests revealed no drugs in the cookies he delivered to the Blue Mound and Lake Worth police this week. The felony count of tampering with a consumer product was dismissed and he will not face any other charges.
Phillips' attorney, Patrick Davis of Fort Worth, said 'We're just very disappointed that everyone went and convicted him right away. We're disappointed that no one ever gave him a chance.'
The Lake Worth and Blue Mound departments said the cookies still tested positive for drugs. Actually a cookie twice tested positive for marijuana at the Blue Mound Police Department but when they sent them to the Tarrant County medical examiner's officer they tested negative. Officer Cain, a 30-year veteran, claimed he could smell marijuana and he believes there was probably some residual of drug on the cookies. The medical examiner's test included a microscopic evaluation, chemical tests, and a gas mass spectrometry test, said the Lake Worth Chief. Although the tests came back negative, the Chief said that the odor from the cookies was so pungent that it irritated the allergies of some in the department.
I sure hope Officer Cain never stops me when I'm eating a cookie. And I trust that his nose will never be admissible in court again. And, oh, by the way, all the police employees that ate the cookies were drug tested and the tests came back negative. So the paranoia around these allegedly tainted cookies again signifies the total absurdity of the war on drugs.
The more than seven decades long war on drugs must stop and sanity must again prevail in our police departments. Many Texas police departments have dropped their standards because they cannot meet recruiting goals. When I was a kid almost everyone wanted to be a cop and today most kids fear the police instead of respecting and admiring them. Let's get the police out of the drug war policy game and get them back to policing crimes against people and property instead of consensual crime.
This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, www.LEAP.cc, signing off.
Dean Becker: I want to thank Brother Robert Muhammad for being our guest and, you know, I didn't get a chance to ask this question. I wish I had. And basically it revolves around this thought: that if white parents were facing the same set of circumstance that black parents do, that one in three of their children would be going to prison predominately because of the drug war, this drug war would have been over long ago.
Next week we will have Rick Noriega, running for U.S. Senate seat, and Roger Goodman, running for reelection in Washington State. And as always I remind you that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.
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