Cultural Baggage / December 12, 2010
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
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 pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.
Hello, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Today we are going to have a couple of guests share their thoughts with us. A bit later, we’ll hear from Joy Strickland. She’s with Mothers Against Teen Violence.
First we’re going to be speaking with Kathy Stout. She’s a professor with the University of Texas, El Paso, the city that’s just adjacent to the most deadly city in the plant, Ciudad Juarez. We’re going to be talking about the situation in Mexico and what we can do to change this equation. With that let’s go ahead and welcome our guess Kathy Stout. Are you with us?
Kathy Stout: Yes I am. Hi, Dean.
Dean Becker: Hello Kathy, good to hear your voice. Kathy, the situation in Mexico has really grown more tenuous, I would think, over the last couple of years it’s not really getting any better is it?
Kathy Stout: No it isn’t. The murder rates have skyrocketed. If you can imagine a city of a million and half people in 2007 with 200 or 300 murders going up to 1600 in 2008 and 2600 in 2009.
We are about to top the 3000 mark in 2010. This, mind you, is with the militarization of the border, both sides of the border and with the heavy presence of the Mexican federal police, which some accuse of being responsible for some of the murders.
Dean Becker: And certainly and some abuses, some rapes and torture and theft thrown in the mix as well, right?
Kathy Stout: Yes, the situation has really become chaotic because a few years ago the violence seemed to be related to competition between cartels. Namely, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Juarez Cartel and more lately there’s seems to be all kinds of other organized criminal activities going on.
Maybe its independent kings, maybe it is gangs that are affiliated with the cartels, maybe it’s a new business market niche of the cartels but there are car jackings, kidnappings and extortion. Some say that the federal police are also involved in extortion.
Dean Becker: Kathy this brings to mind, I mean, there’s a somewhat similar situation going on in – well, it was happening in Iraq and it is now going on in Afghanistan, where they find some second in command, head of the Taliban and they tout that as a success, in means that they are succeeding.
But the same thing could be said in Mexico where, well, in most recent instances, it was Tony Tormeta who was shot down, I believe, that lately they captured the head of the “La Famila” this is not crippling these organizations at all, is it?
Kathy Stout: No, it isn’t. I think you’re on to something there. You kill one and it’s like a hydra phenomenon, six more, ten more, grow in its place and there is also competition among people who are struggling in the top position. So, I think the strategy of going after high visibility drug lords, really is ineffective.
Dean Becker: Now Kathy, you’re afflation with the University of Texas in El Paso, through that association there have been several seminars and other gatherings to talk about and perhaps formulate necessary changes to this situation.
This coming week there’s also going to be a situation where you guys, by that I mean, the city of El Paso is going to hold a panel discussion in regards to journalists who are being persecuted.
Kathy Stout: Yes.
Dean Becker Please go ahead.
Kathy Stout: Yes. Actually in early December there was the 5th and 6th of December, there was a national and international or bi-national and intra-American meeting of journalists. It meant to call attention to the journalists who have been got killed and the journalists that are threatened and the journalists who have been killed, the journalists that are threatened and the journalists that have disappeared.
So, the meeting was very interesting. There were high level publishers and journalists from both side of the border talking about the difficulty of writing the news and even using a byline when drug cartel and organized criminal people and the military and federal police are watching carefully.
In fact, the just yesterday on December 11th, there were three journalists in El Paso who are seeking asylum. There was a fund raiser for them because they are literally – they fled for their lives.
The reason that all this is important to you and to the viewers is because without free press you don’t have much of a democracy.
There are places in other cities according to people and experts at these conferences where the news no longer reports killings and it doesn’t report abuses and it doesn’t report cartel activity because journalists are afraid to report this activity.
They have been threatened. They have been told to black out this news and that’s what they do. So, if that begins to happen in Ciudad Juarez and in other big cities, that is bad news for the fragile democracy that, I hope, I think, continues in Mexico.
Dean Becker: This is part of the problem that as the fear escalates, as these murders increase, as the hysteria widens.
Kathy Stout: Um huh
Dean Becker: More people are – well, I should say less people are willing to go to Mexico for tourist reasons, for dinner even, for any reason what so ever which is leading more people to be in desperate straights and therefore more willing to join these gangs. Am I correct?
Kathy Stout: Yes. Here in El Paso where many people have relatives and friends and used to be able to cross back and forth to go chopping and to go to supper and that sort of thing. That pretty much has come to a stop and that means that people who were employed and affiliated with those kinds of businesses don’t have jobs.
Even the export processing industry, the “maquila” industry, has lost some employees in the last two years partly because of the US recession and US economic problems.
The New York Times on December 12th has an interesting article about how the violence is up but investors, these foreign owned factories are still setting up shop and employing new people and how in the year 2010 60,000 new jobs were created, not totally recovering from the job loss that existed before.
I think shows the way in which profit continues to be made off of extremely cheap labor, labor that where a minimum wage of about $4.50 a day and where lots of people are earning about twice the amount of the minimum wage, about $9 a day and that doesn’t go very far in Mexico, it doesn’t go very far here, in fact it’s pretty much is an hourly rate – wage here.
So, there’s a lot of problems. Not just the violence and people thinking that maybe they need to turn organized crime in order to be able to earn some money but the exploitation that’s going on of people working, working very hard but not getting much value for their labor.
Dean Becker: Yeah, yeah. It’s well – I want to talk about perhaps some hope.
Kathy Stout: Yes.
Dean Becker: I’ve been, you know and you probably as well observing the daily newspapers. So, many stories talk about the horrors of Mexico and talk about the failure of this policy of drug prohibition.
Recently, a major magazine, The Nation, had a full issue dedicated and in fact the cover of the thing says “DARE to end the war on drugs” and one of those stories in there was talking about the killing in Juarez bears less resemblance between cartels than to criminal anarchy.
Kathy Stout: Um, hm.
Dean Becker: I was wondering if you would comment on that.
Kathy Stout: Well, like I mentioned before it’s either the cartels going into new business or it’s organized crime starting their own businesses but there is pretty much a breakdown of the “rule” of law.
Mexico’s law enforcement institutions have long been weak, have long been affiliated and complicit with crime but they haven’t been getting stronger now. So, yes there is a – yes, there’s a huge problem with crime and then an inability of law enforcement institutions to stop that.
Sometimes there will be major stories about “so and so” gets caught and then a day later they are released and there seems to be very little follow up. That is to say investigation and prosecution of people who have been picked up.
Let me also add something about hope and that is that people in Juarez are trying desperately to bring normal society. There are courageous people who are standing up, some of them are university students, youth, people who are doing weekly walks to call attention to the militarization not working, to call attention to their desire to end the policies that are not successful and that just seem to prolong the violence.
In fact, on January 29th there are mainly students on both side if the border that are planning a large gathering at the fence at the San Juan Park at Tampa [Avenue].
People on both sides of the border will gather in this movement called “Justice and Peace Without Borders” and it’s pretty much an anti-militarization movement. It’s a movement that says political mobilization is not criminal. It’s a movement that says we need more civil society activism to get our government to respond and to get them accountable for the problems that are taking place.
Dean Becker: Well, you know it’s necessary that the people –
Kathy Stout: Um hum.
Dean Becker: Do something because there politicians heads so deep in the sand that they need our help, our guidance. I saw a report there’s a new bill being put forward in the US Senate to escalate the war on drugs, to get serious.
Kathy Stout: Uh hum.
Dean Becker: And I can’t think of a more outrageous concept than getting — then jumping deeper into this well.
Kathy Stout: Yes, in fact, a lot of people around here think that the US government is throwing good money after bad, not only in the United States with the way in which drug policies are enforced and the cost of criminalization and all that, but throwing good money after bad with the US Merida Initiative that supplies equipment and technology to the Mexican military.
People wonder who inside the military or who in inside the government will ultimately be using some of this equipment and some of this technology because after all some of the cartels, in fact, cartels just south of here, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartels, are known for the way that they recruit ex-military recruit ex-police and perhaps along with that, some of the equipment from our very own tax payers.
It is not only a waste of money but it is a strategy that seems to be fueling the problem.
In fact, this organization, this cross-border solidarity movement, Justice and Peace Without Borders, is holding responsible both the US and Mexican policies for this chaos. The call the war on drugs, the futile war on drugs.
They call President Calderón program from last march, called “Todos Somos Juarez,” to say “We’re all Juarez” and that we need to invest in the city. We need economic development we need more education, etcetera, but the people involved in planning this activity are saying that there has really been very little money that’s come. So, there isn’t an investment in education and the economy.
If all the money that had been spent on military equipment, on the policing and the militarization strategy had instead been spent on economic development and better wages and more education, I think we would see a different situation in Northern Mexico.
Dean Becker: Well, once again we’ve been speaking with Kathy Stout. She’s a professor at University of Texas, El Paso. Kathy we have about a minute left and I want to just talk about perception.
Kathy Stout: Um, hum.
Dean Becker: It’s often said that 95% of the deaths in Mexico can be attributed to gang activity and yet, the truth be told, more than 95% of those murders are never solved. So—
Kathy Stout: Absolutely. Yeah and the percentage, you know that kind of figure is often used by the government, yet there is very little investigation of crimes and no prosecution.
Sometimes they make instant judgments after a death – saying – or after a shootout, “Oh, they were involved in the drug trade.” But nobody really knows. There is no investigation and there are no reports.
That has been a chronic problem in Mexico, not only now but for the history of the country and in lots of different places in Mexico. So, Mexico needs to get it’s law enforcement institutions in gear to actually do better work professionally.
Dean Becker: Indeed,
Kathy Stout: And investigate. You know, some even innocent bystanders worry when – if and when they would die, would their reputations die along with them? Because there are these snap judgments made “Oh, they much have been involved in the drug trade.”
Dean Becker: Yeah, too big a blanket to be throwing it around like that.
Kathy Stout: Absolutely.
Dean Becker: Kathy, in there a website you’d like to point folks towards?
Kathy Stout: Well, there’s probably a bunch if different websites out there.
When we had the conference debating the war on drugs in 2009, we did have a website called warondrugsconference.utep.edu. That’s still up but the information is not fresh and new.
It’s also a Drugwar40, let’s see, um, I think if people type in “Drugwar40” they are going to find the site that’s located on. There are people who are putting up material there. The Drug Policy Alliance is always a good place to look as well.
Dean Becker: Alright, Kathy Stout, thank you so much. We’ll be in touch in the coming year.
Kathy Stout: Ok, Dean.
Dean Becker: Thank you.
Kathy Stout: Bye. Bye.
(Game show music)
It’s time to play: Name That Drug By Its Side Effects
Flying projectiles, flu like symptoms, itching, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, low blood pressure, may affect heart function and immune response, should not be used by pregnant or breast feeding woman nor children by children under the age of twelve.
The answer: mistletoe. The American mistletoe is poisonous; deadly in fact, the European mistletoe is in clinical trials because it had been shown to kill cancer cells.
(Light Christmas music)
Rejoice in politicians that fence our treasury, our rights and freedoms for a penny on the dollar. Find joy in the million officials and agents, the guards and the wardens. Praise for Tasers, torture and eternal wars, for liars, thieves and murders on high.
What would Santa do? How about Jefferson? Franklin?
What will YOU do?
Indeed, holiday greetings everybody. This is Dean Becker you’re listening to the Cultural Baggage show on the Drug Truth Network on Pacifica Radio on about ninety independent stations in the US and Canada.
Here in just a second we’ll be speaking with our second guest. She heads up a group here in Texas Mothers Against Teen Violence. She written a great book I want to talk about as well. Here is our second guest, Joy Strickland. Are you with us?
Joy Strickland: I am. Hello.
Dean Becker: Hello Joy. Good to hear your voice. Yes, ma’am if you would, first off tell the listeners a bit about Mothers Against Teen Violence,
Joy Strickland: Surely, well, first of all thank you so much for having me – inviting me to be a guest on your show.
Dean Becker: Thank you it is a privilege.
Joy Strickland: Yes, thank you. Mothers Against Teen Violence was founded by myself back in 1994. It was – its genesis unfortunately based in a tragedy. My nineteen year old son was killed by – with a friend, by two juvenile delinquents under the influence of a illegal drugs and looking for someone to carjack and it was a random crime.
So, the organization started out as a community based non-profit delivering social services for the purpose of preventing violence. We – most of the services at that time were school based, comprehensive campus-wide prevention programs for kids at risk and also services for parents and mentoring programs.
To make a long story short, two years ago, I was listening to the radio and I happened to hear an interview by Judge James Gray of Orange County and, of course, you are familiar with Judge Gray.
Dean Becker: I consider him as a friend but go ahead.
Joy Strickland: Exactly and his interview and I read his book and my eyes were completely – it’s like the scales feel off my eyes because it gave an entirely different perspective of drugs and violence and violence prevention, which is what we were trying to affect.
So, as a result of hearing that interview, we began to rebrand our organization to focus on drug policy reform. So, that’s what we’re doing today.
Dean Becker: Ok, Joy. I’ll tell you what. I’m going to make a command decision here. Let’s play track 11 and let’s call joy back because our line just fading out on us here, Joy. We’re going to see if we can hook up better.
Joy Strickland: Ok.
Dean Becker: And we’re going to be back here in just a second.
Joy Strickland: Ok.
Marijuana: Threat or menace?
According to the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, marijuana use can lead to depression, suicide and schizophrenia. Never mind that the rate of schizophrenia is unchanged since 1945 and that people with schizophrenics often self-medicate with marijuana.
If you don’t believe, you must be crazy!
Alright, this is Dean Becker you are listening to the Cultural Baggage show. We’re trying to get our guest back on-line with a better phone number. We’re speaking with Joy Strickland,. She heads up Mothers Against Teen Violence.
It started out here in Texas. She has over the years, I think, come to understand better, the fact that the violence associated with most teen gangs and other activities is derived or a spin-off from the black market and the money that entices our children to lives of crime or addiction and that we can better understand or solve this problem by taking a better look at drug policy here in these United States. I’ll tell you what. Let’s hear from Mary Jane Borden – Track 10, if we could there, Phil and see if we can get back with Joy Strickland in just a minute.
Mary Jane Borden: Hello Drug Policy Aficionados, I’m Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts.
This week’s question asks: Which are the most harmful drugs?
Title 21, Chapter 13, Section A12 of the US Code contains the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that established five drugs Schedules based harm. Schedule I drugs are said to be the most dangerous. The other four Schedules suggest progressively less harm.
The United Kingdom has a similar classification system using the letters A, B and C. Neither includes alcohol and tobacco.
Several studies have compared the harms of different drugs.
A famous New York Times article in 1994 looked at nicotine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol and marijuana and found heroin to be the most dangerous, followed closely by alcohol. Cannabis and caffeine were deemed to be the least dangerous.
The American Scientist Magazine analyzed drug dependence and concluded, “Heroin and methamphetamine are the most addictive. Cocaine, pentobarbital nicotine and alcohol are next, followed by marijuana and possibly caffeine. Some hallucinogens—notably LSD, mescaline and psilocybin—have little or no potential for creating dependence.”
A similar analysis recently appeared in the British medical journal, The Lancet, that found, “heroin, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine [a]re the most harmful drugs to individuals… whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine are the most harmful to others.”
A table from another substance analysis now appears on Drug War Facts, this study ranked twenty drugs by physical dependence and socially related harms. The table also shows their legal classifications in the UK and US.
Of the top five drugs rated as most harmful only one, heroin, is a Schedule I drug in the US. Of the nine drugs that had ranking among the least harmful, four, including cannabis, are Schedule I.
These facts and others like them can be found in the Crime and Addictive Properties of Popular Drugs chapters of Drug War Facts at www.drugwarfacts.org.
If you have a question for which you need facts, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll try to answer your question in an upcoming show.
So, remember when you need facts about drugs and drug policy, you can get the facts at Drug War Facts.
Dean Becker: Alright, I’m told we do now have Joy Strickland on line. Let’s get back with her. Joy, are you with us?
Joy Strickland: Yes, I am.
Dean Becker: Much cleaner. Much cleaner.
Joy Strickland: Yes.
Dean Becker: Now Joy, we were talking about your beginning and the organization teams of – excuse me, Mothers Against Teen Violence.
Joy Strickland: Right.
Dean Becker: And you’ve also written a book that kind of summarizes what happened with your son and the direction you’re now taking right?
Joy Strickland: Yes, exactly. The book is Joy in the Morning. I wrote this book primarily for people that have suffered loss, because I think so often when we have this kind of experience, it’s really another person that has gone through it and can really understand where we are. When I hear about the parents who have lost children and I wish that I could help them. So, this book makes that possible.
It is, it’s a memoir. The first half is a memoir. It’s about what happened to me at first and the impact of the next twelve months following the loss of my son. The second half is how I managed by God’s grace to recover. So, I talk about faith and love and gratitude and forgiveness and purpose.
Again, I really think it will inspire those who have or maybe those have never had a loss. The fact of the matter is of you live long enough you’re going to have a loss experience and think this book can be a big help in that situation.
Dean Becker: And the book, goes by the name, the title again is Joy in the Morning, right?
Joy Strickland: Joy in the Morning, yes. It subtitled a mother’s journey from tragedy to triumph. Joy we have about nifty seconds left. I want to talk about the fact that in the beginning you focus – your efforts were not quite what they are now.
You’re now, if I dare say, more – better understanding the fact that many of these problems associated with teen violence stem not from a third factor but indeed stem from the black market in drugs, right?
Joy Strickland: Right. 85% of all crime is drug related and when you peel back that onion and look at the drug related crime, you figure out that the crime is not caused by so much by the users but by drug prohibition.
So, with that information going forward, we positioned ourselves to rethink drug policy in Texas. We have monthly support – monthly discussion groups. We have house parties and an on-line network called “Project Rethink.”
We’ve been awarded $100,000 from the Open Society Institute for the purpose of establishing drug policy councils and educating the public throughout Texas about drug policy and how we can go forward and reform the situation that we have today.
Dean Becker: A worthy endeavor, I mean, Texas in many categories leads the world in its incarceration rate. It’s always a battle between us and California and maybe Louisiana but I think that per capita basis we maintain our lead
Joy Strickland: Right.
Dean Becker: In locking up our fellow citizens—
Joy Strickland: Right
Dean Becker: For minor, sometimes microscopic amounts of drugs. We’ve got just a little time left, so I want you to share your website with the listeners.
Joy Strickland: Yes, that is www.matvinc.org. Those letters stand for Mothers Against Teen Violence Incorporated, matvinc.org. Our phone number is 214-565-0422. That’s our office and we’re in Dallas, Texas.
Dean Becker: Ok. Thank you, Joy Strickland. Well, being that we were cut short, we’ll be back in touch with you in the New Year. Thank you so much for joining us.
Folks, I want to once again remind you that it is your responsibility to help end this Drug War. You got to do your part. 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.
Drug Truth Network programs are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.
Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.