Cultural Baggage, January 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 pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.
Hello my friends. Welcome to this special edition of Cultural Baggage. This morning the flags are flying at half-mast in Dade County, Florida to honor Judge Eleanor Schockett who passed from this earth on January 12. The following is taken from a YouTube video I recorded last month in New Orleans with Judge Eleanor Schockett.
Judge Schockett: If you want to get rid of cases you plea bargain. But that doesn't mean that people are going to get justice. Forget it. There is no such thing as justice. I'm sorry that I ever used the term. You tell somebody “if you want to get out of jail, sign this piece of paper.” If you don't want to get out of jail right now, if you're sure you're innocent and you want to plead innocent, well you can stay here another six months or a year before we'll get around to trying you. Now, is something wrong with that folks? I think it is.
Are you a better or more efficient judge because you coerce people in taking pleas? I've actually tried to talk people out a plea and I would say to them “this plea is a trap.” They know you can't make probation. They probably also know that they're not going to be able to convict you. Because they don't have time to convict you, they don't have the money to bring the policeman in, whatever, they just want you out of their way. And they don't have to worry because you will plea and you'll violate your probation because most of the time you're homeless and you can't live up to the criteria and the probationary requirements generally are so ridiculous that nobody can survive them.
You have to use triage in the justice, don't call it justice, in the judicial system just the way you do in a hospital. There are only so many patients you're going to be able to take into an emergency room. You have to take the most important. And they're not willing to take the most important.
They are looking for statistics, they want to see how many cases they can get off the books and off the streets in a hurry. The policemen want to make a lot of arrests because it helps their statistics with the legislature. The prosecutor wants to make the policemen look good. And this is the way they do it.
It was when I was in criminal court that I saw how bad it was. And I related it back, things had only gotten worse. They hadn't gotten better. The statistics have gotten worse. It was cheaper to get drugs, more people were getting killed on the street. What have we been doing in all these fifty years? What was the benefit? I couldn't see it.
I used to say there were people in my own motions calendar, I am going to, my new life's work is going to be drug reform. I can't stand this anymore. We need to do something to help people, not to hurt them. And I'm seeing the politics, the dirty under side of all of this.
So, that's how you found me here today. Because, fortunately for me, when I retired from the bench I went online to try to find an organization. And I couldn't find one that was for me because I don't use, I don't drink, I don't have friends or relatives or family that are in prison because of the unfair laws. None of these applied to me.
But then the president of one of the Florida organizations put me in touch with Jack Cole and that was a marriage made in heaven. He invited me up to the DPA conference in New Jersey at the time and we've been working together ever since. And this is what we need to do. My patience with stupidity has run very thin.
I'm tired of people pretending that they're being tough on crime, they don't need to tough on crime, they need to be smart on crime. You don't have wars internally. So don't tell me this is a war on drugs because it's a war on people. Its not a war on drugs. And why? They don't really even know.
I've talked to an awful lot of prison officials and what every single one of them tells me is that you cannot take drugs out of a maximum security prison. And I ask you, if you can't take it out of a maximum security prison how are you going to take it out of a grammar school or a high school? You're not.
With that, I want to bring in our guest for this show. He was scheduled a couple of weeks back but he is one of the founding members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. And we'll get a chance to talk about Eleanor and the mission of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Mr. Peter Christ. Are you with us?
Peter Christ: Yes, Dean. She said it all didn't she?
Dean Becker: She said it so well and so often, every time she was called upon despite her cancer...
Peter Christ. Yep.
Dean Becker: ...and her infirmities, she was there.
Peter Christ. Yes. I was just so happy that at least we had the conference back in December where we got a last chance to spend a little time together and stuff like that. Its a sad loss. Not just to LEAP and, obviously, to her family and to the people knew her but even people who will never know her name. They don't know how much they lost because she was such a powerful voice.
Dean Becker: I don't know if ever we'll replace the likes of her but perhaps through her work and her words she can give inspiration to others to study this issue and to carry that banner as well.
Peter Christ: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's, she was so, wonderful, I don't know if you're aware of this, but she was also one of the board members of LEAP.
Dean Becker. No. I did see that. I even referenced that on the YouTube video, but she, again, despite these infirmities, she was still speaking.
Peter Christ: Oh yeah, she was a powerful voice on the board. I mean, there's a lot of, she brought a lot of stuff and we're going to miss her input and stuff like that. That's just, because you need a lot of different views of this thing as you can possibly get and she brought that view from the bench and her own personal view and stuff like that and like I said, she'll be greatly missed.
Dean Becker. Peter, let's just assume there are some listeners out there who don't know what Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is. Why don't you tell them about LEAP.
Peter Christ: OK. We formed LEAP back in 2002, an initial group of five of us. And we have now grown from that five people to over 9,000 members. Anybody can be a member of LEAP. We divide our membership internally between everybody else and law enforcement.
Our main purpose is to educate on this issue and we spend 90% of our time in Rotary clubs, Kiwanis clubs, Lions clubs giving presentation all throughout the country on this issue. All of our speakers come from that group of law enforcement people that are in LEAP, so whenever there's a LEAP speaker out it's always somebody that has law enforcement in their background. Out of that 9,000 membership probably about 900 of them are people from law enforcement.
We have everything from judges, as we just heard Eleanor so eloquently, and all the way down to local police officers and everything in between, or as a local cop said to me a while ago, you mean from local cops all the way down to senior federal judges.
Dean Becker: (Laughter)
Peter Christ: So it all depends on your perspective.
Dean Becker: Yeah it does.
Peter Christ: But I believe we bring a voice from law enforcement. You know, you may not agree with our conclusion on this issue but you cannot tell us we do not know what we are talking about. Because we all come from the trenches, we fought this drug war earnestly, a lot of us as true believers, believing that we were doing what was best. Only through time to see that this was a totally wasted effort on the part of this nation and that we needed to change and that's what brings LEAP together.
We have one single point at LEAP and that is to end drug prohibition. For the more informed, basically, to eliminate Schedule One from our Food and Drugs Administration's role of ways of scheduling drugs: to end the prohibition and move to a regulated and controlled marketplace.
Now I always like to point this out, we at LEAP have no position on what that regulated and controlled marketplace should look like. It may go from everything to taking these currently prohibited drugs and make them only available through prescription or maybe some of them over the counter, whatever. That has to be worked out.
What we all agree at LEAP is that any form, any form, of a regulated and controlled marketplace is better than a prohibitionary marketplace that creates crime and violence in our society by creating an underground.
Dean Becker: Peter, I like to think that the speakers of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition have made a difference perhaps in the political marketplace, if you will. That, at least a few, of these Presidential candidates are beginning to address the drug war, it doesn't get a big round house discussion going because most of them choose to ignore it, do they not?
Peter Christ: Yes, that's true. In fact this is first Presidential election, thanks to people like Ron Paul and Kucinich and Gravel, who have broached this issue and started the discussion a little bit.
In fact, there's a group out of New Hampshire that put out a report card on the Presidential candidates, you may have seen it at the DPA conference, it's interesting because four of the people running got A's or A+'s on their position on drug policy. And when people said are we making a difference, my answer is “if you would have done that at the last Presidential election nobody would have got above a C.”
So this is a change and this is the kind, you know we're involved in a major change in the way our society sees something, and they have been sold this drug policy from our government for the last 50 years and to think you should legalize drugs is, you'd have to be insane, I mean if you've been listening to everything the government's been telling you.
It's kind of like, I like to use this explanation, if you go out in your backyard on a beautifully clear star lit night and you lay down on the grass and you stare up into the heavens for an hour, you have to be an absolute fool not to figure out that the Earth is the center of the universe because everything you see up there is going around us and the only way that's possible is if we're in the middle. And then somebody has to come along and explain to you why that observation is wrong.
And if you've lived in this culture for the last fifty years you have to be a fool to think we should legalize drugs until somebody comes along to do the same thing and explain why that's wrong. Drug legalization is not about the drug problem,
I mean it will have an impact on the drug problem, but that's not really what it's about. Legalization of drugs is about the crime and violence, the underground that terrorists, that are funding themselves from this marketplace that we have given them because we have decided to use a policy of prohibition that gives all regulation, control and profits to this underground rather than a regulated and controlled marketplace where we licensed distributors, laws, and a way to control this drug marketplace.
If in fact we can make drugs go away, and I ask that question at every presentation I give, “raise your hands if you think we can make drugs go away”, and nobody ever puts their hands up. So that's not a choice. If that was a choice then we're doing the right thing right now. But if that is not a choice, that that's not one of the things we are able to accomplish, then we have to change our policy and find something that works better.
You know I tell people all the time that when I went down from Syracuse, New York to New Orleans to the DPA conference, it would have been wonderful if instead of flying down or driving down I could have just wiggled my nose and appeared in New Orleans. That would be wonderful if I could have done that. The problem is, I'll rip my nose off before that ever happens. It's not possible.
And, if we could make drugs go away, that would be wonderful. But that is not one of our choices. So we have to start focusing on what we're going to do with the drugs here and what we're going to do is, what we will do eventually, is end this prohibition and start a regulated and controlled marketplace and deal with our drug problem in our society as an education and a health care problem and get the gangsters out of the business.
Dean Becker: Amen to that, my friend. Now I think the largesse, the accumulated data and respect that LEAP has been able to generate over the years is making a difference even in Texas. There is a local politician I won't name who is considering running as one of the planks for her election to be the end of drug prohibition.
Peter Christ: Wonderful.
Dean Becker: And it is through the work of good folks like Judge Eleanor Schockett and you and our director Jack Cole and the hundreds of others who wear the LEAP tee-shirt which says on the back “Cops say legalize drugs. Ask me why.”
Peter Christ: Uh-huh. We're not shy.
Dean Becker: We're not shy. (laughter) No, Sir.
Peter Christ: (laughter)
Dean Becker: And there are many who ask that question. And its always a blessing to me to see the look on people's face when that light goes on and they understand that it's, really the 30-second sound bite I usually present, people don't even have any other questions, they just smile and shake my hand. And it is a slam dunk if you just look at the facts and the logic.
Peter Christ: Its interesting. When you mentioned the 30-second presentation, when I get asked "why?" my response is “look it, before I explain to you why, let's see if we agree about one thing. And that is I believe that all these drugs, heroin, crack cocaine, Methamphetamine, marijuana, all these drugs have so much potential to do harm to individuals and likewise to society, that they must be regulated and controlled. Do we agree on that?” And 95 percent of the time you get a nodding head you're looking at, you know, well yeah.
Dean Becker: Sure.
Peter Christ: And then I tell them, “here's the reality. When you choose a policy of prohibition to deal with this problem, you give up all of your ability to regulate and control.
Who regulates the heroin that's sold on the streets of your community today? The Food and Drug Administration? No. The mob. Who sets the age limits on who they're going to sell these products to, the state legislature? No, the mob. Who decides the distribution points for these drugs, where they're going to be sold from, the zoning board? Nope. The mob. And who spends, without being checked by anybody, all the profits from this marketplace? And I'd like to point out, this multi-billion dollar marketplace, who spends all those profits? The mob. Now, I want to see them out of the business.
We did not legalize alcohol in 1933 because we decided that alcohol was really OK, you know, you should give it to your babies as soon as they're born, we're sorry we caused all this trouble, it's really wonderful, that isn't why we legalized alcohol.
We legalized alcohol because we realized as dangerous alcohol is, to let people like Al Capone control the marketplace did not make the problem better. In fact it made the problem worse. So we got them out of the business and then we dealt with our alcohol problem.”
And as bad as alcohol is, 150,000 deaths a year, highway accidents connected with alcohol which we brought down drastically over the last 20 years, all those problems, when you tell people, when they tell you, well, I get this and I'm sure you've heard this, we have legal alcohol-look at the problems we have with alcohol-and you want to legalize these other drugs?
And my answer to that is, well should we bring back prohibition for alcohol? And the answer I get is that, emphatically-well, no, that would be stupid. That's what we at LEAP are talking about. It isn't about the drugs, its about the policy of prohibition.
Dean Becker: You know, on the first half of that video I produced of Eleanor on YouTube she talks about the fact that our goal, our objective, is to educate the people so they can contact their representatives and help bring about the impetus for that change. And it is really, I mean you and I, all the LEAP members can talk 'til we run out of words but its going to take the people looking at this. Examining this...
Peter Christ: Uh-huh.
Dean Becker: ...and seeing for themselves this need for change and to dare to speak the truth to those in positions of power, right?
Peter Christ: Exactly. In fact we had a situation in my old bailiwick back in Eire County, New York, I don't live their any longer but a couple of years ago the County Executive there, and it was a very interesting situation, there was a nun who was killed in her apartment and when they caught the guy that did it, he was a crack addict, so here's the situation: you're an elected official, you're standing over the body of a dead nun who has been killed by a crack addict, now nobody's got to write the speech for you, you know, we've got to get tough on drugs, we've got to build more...I mean that's the speech.
And instead he said we have to start talking about legalizing drugs. And he was lambasted, I mean you can imagine how the Press hit him and everything else, he's a sitting County Executive...but what happened was, because of LEAP, all of a sudden he had LEAP people standing around him, saying the same thing. And the people that were yelling at him were calling him crazy were people from law enforcement but yet standing around him were people from law enforcement yelling back. And that is the power we give to this discussion.
No matter who is telling you that legalization is stupid from law enforcement, we have somebody from the same branch of law enforcement that can stand at the other podium and tell them why they're wrong. And that's the strength we bring to this.
You know the idea for this organization was an idea that I had in my head, floating around, basically since I retired in 1989, and the idea for LEAP was based on Vietnam Veteran's Against The War.
Now for some of the younger people, they may not know what that was but when the Vietnam War was going on there was a lot of protest groups who were arguing against the war, and one of the groups that formed up, in fact one of their most famous members is John Kerry, were veterans of the war who spoke out against the war. And those were a group of people that may not agree with them on the war but you couldn't tell them they didn't understand, they didn't know because they fought it and I felt that a group from law enforcement would have the same kind of impact on this issue as those Vietnam, those courageous Vietnam veterans had on the Vietnam war.
If you remember, we ended that war. We got out of there. And we're hoping that LEAP will be able to be a, same kind of help in this.
You know, it isn't just LEAP. As you know from DPA and your years involved in this issue there's all kinds of groups that are involved in this movement for all kinds of different reasons, medical marijuana people, needle exchange people, treatment people, I mean people from all different aspects of prison, whatever you want to talk about and everyone of them has to do what they're doing even though sometimes we may disagree within the movement with each other about what should be done.
But we're all part of it. You know, it reminds me of a story I like to tell. When I was about 10-years-old my mother and father and I we're putting together one of those 5,000 piece puzzles on the dining room table and we worked on it for a few days and when you had some time you put some pieces in and everything and finally the puzzle was all finished. And my mother and I were standing there admiring the finished picture and my mother said to me “which is the most important piece?”
Now I knew that the first thing we found was the corners and then we found the straight edge pieces to get the frame done then you filled it in. So I said “I don't know, Ma, one of the corners or...?” “No, look at it. Which is the most important piece?” And as I was looking at it she took one of the pieces out of the puzzle. And she said to me “Is it complete?” and I said “No” and she held that piece in front of me at my face and she said “What's this?” Well, even at 10-years-old I wasn't completely stupid, I knew the most important piece when I saw it so I said “That's the most important piece, Ma” and she said, as she was congratulating me of my observation I was looking into her face she reached over and stuck the piece back into the puzzle and said “Now show me the most important piece.”
Well, I knew it was kind of up in that one section but I wasn't sure exactly which piece it was and while I was looking there she reached over to another piece of the puzzle and pulled out the piece and said “Is it complete?” and then it became obvious to me that all of them, everyone of them, was the most important piece and everybody that, at that DPA conference, no matter which aspect of society they were from, each one of those people was the most important piece in this drug war puzzle that we are trying to put together.
And none of them are more important than anybody else because any of us is removed from that picture the puzzle isn't complete. And we need a complete puzzle so people can see the picture.
So that's kind of my take on this. (laughter)
Dean Becker: Well, and it is. Each one of us is indeed an important piece, like I was referencing the need to contact our legislators.
Peter Christ: Oh, absolutely.
Dean Becker: To be that important piece because, you've had the discussions with these politicians, they know the need for change, they understand that it's going to happen, but they all don't want to be the one to step forward, to say those words.
Peter Christ: Well, you know its funny. And some of us in this movement, we got so caught up in our own stuff that we start to think that ,“why do you waste your time talking to that person, this person?”
I was up in New Hampshire the weekend before the New Hampshire primary and I was up there because there was a freedom festival a society put on and I was called up to speak. And in the hotel I was staying with was John McCain and his entourage so I leafleted a few of the entourage, I tried to leaflet him but he wouldn't take it, and there was a guy walking around the lobby that I, looked kind of familiar, I knew his face looked familiar but I couldn't place who he was, so at one point I saw him getting on the elevator.
So I had the LEAP tee-shirt on and I got on the elevator with him and he pushed the fourth floor, I pushed the fifth floor and as soon as the doors closed I started pitching him on drug legalization. You know, you got to legalize drugs, you got to regulate and control, and we're moving up the four floors and as we get to the fourth floor he didn't flee off the elevator-(laughter)-he kind of walked off slowly while we're still talking so I thought we still got a conversation going on so I joined him on the floor and we stood there outside the elevators talking for about seven or eight minutes and I gave him a brochure and a business card and talked to him a little about our issue and everything and then, as we parted, I felt kind of foolish doing this but I said to him “I know this sounds silly. I've been talking to you a few minutes here but I know your face, I can't place your name” and he looks at me very calmly with a smile on his face and says “Tom Ridge, former head of homeland security.”
Dean Becker: Whoa.
Peter Christ: So Tom Ridge, former head of homeland security, former Governor of Pennsylvania, now knows about LEAP. Now he may have taken that brochure and thrown it in the garbage, that's his business, you know, he does whatever he wants to do. Or he may have said, like he told me was going to do, he may have looked at the website.
You know, and he may have dismissed that, he may, but at least now he knows about us. And he knows that this is law enforcement speaking about this issue. And that is where the change starts and you never know who you're talking to. You never know.
You give the pitch, no matter where, I have a five-minute rule in my life, if I talk to another human being for five minutes we talk about drug policy. I don't care if it takes that long to make change at the 7-11, we talk about drug policy. Cause that's what I do, you know, but its interesting the people you meet. And as you well know its interesting how many people, once you open that door a crack, agree with you.
Dean Becker: Yeah they do.
Peter Christ: You know, it just... I do Rotary clubs, Kiwanis clubs, Lions clubs as we all do at LEAP. I always ask for people to join LEAP at the end and I average, 25 to 30 percent of the people I speak to at those kind of organizations sign up with LEAP on the spot. They get it.
Dean Becker: They do indeed get it. It's hard to support the continued funding of terrorists, cartels, and gangs...
Peter Christ: Exactly.
Dean Becker: ...children's easy access.
Peter Christ: Yeah. Once you make people understand that it's a choice that we're making. This isn't something we're stuck with, this wasn't handed down from the mountain someplace, we make this choice about this policy. And any choice we make we can change.
Dean Becker: Peter Christ, one of the directors of LEAP, one of the founders of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, we appreciate you being with us. We're just about out of time but I want to thank you for being our guest, Sir.
Peter Christ: Well, as one puzzle piece to another, it's been a joy being here and thank you for sharing you're audience with me.
Dean Becker: Thank you. All right, on January 27 there will be a memorial service for Judge Eleanor Schockett in Dade County, Florida and her sister has requested that in lieu of flowers or other donations, please contact Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, that's at leap.cc. I thought it appropriate that we close out this edition of Cultural Baggage with some final words from Judge Eleanor Schockett.
Judge Schockett: So he pulls out a crack pipe and I look at him and you say “you're charging this man who looks like death warmed over, with possession of cocaine, of what was inside this little pipe?”, and I looked at him and I said “don't you have anything better to do? Because I surely do. You don't put sick people in jail. You get them treatment"... and we never did.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, on behalf of engineer Phillip Guffey, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
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