#179 Shadow Conventions: Wash. Post Gets It, But Time Doesn’t

Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000
Subject: #179 Shadow Conventions: Wash. Post Gets It, But Time Doesn’t

Shadow Conventions: Washington Post Gets It, But Time Magazine Doesn’t


DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 179 July 27, 2000

In an effort to raise consciousness about important issues overlooked
by the two major parties, political commentator Arianna Huffington is
organizing “Shadow Conventions” to coincide with the Republican and
Democratic national conventions. One of the issues to be highlighted
at the Shadow Conventions is the disastrous war on drugs.

In a piece from the Washington Post this week (below), columnist Judy
Mann makes it clear why the war on drugs must be confronted. She
illustrates how millions of Americans have been hurt by the drug war.
Mann also shows how the major parties have written off those millions
of Americans by keeping discussions about reform off the agenda.

On the other side of the spectrum, Time Magazine this week published a
report on the Shadow Conventions that casually dismisses the need for
drug policy reform. The story suggests Huffington tossed drug
prohibition into the mix of issues at the Shadow Conventions merely to
gain funding from billionaire George Soros. Anyone who has read
Huffington’s columns on the drug war in recent months knows she offers
a passionate and remarkably frank analysis (see http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n896/a01.html?194759
and http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n882/a02.html?194759 for
example). If Time’s reporter had analyzed the subject using facts
instead of speculation, surely he would have seen it is the drug
warriors themselves who are trying to squeeze every dime they can from
drug problems, not Arianna Huffington.

Please write one or two letters: one to the Washington Post to support
Mann’s assessment of the tragedies of the drug war; and/or another to
Time Magazine to tell editors that drug policy reform is crucial for
the future of America, even if political elites don’t want to talk
about it.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


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Source: Washington Post (DC)
Contact: letterstoed@washpost.com

Source: TIME (US)
Contact: letters@time.com



US DC: Column: Make War on the War on Drugs
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n1055/a03.html
Newshawk: Doug McVay http://www.csdp.org/
Pubdate: Wed, 26 Jul 2000
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2000 The Washington Post Company
Page: C13
Contact: letterstoed@washpost.com
Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071
Feedback: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/edit/letters/letterform.htm
Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Author: Judy Mann, Washington Post
Cited: The Lindesmith Center / Drug Policy Foundation:


The Justice Department has just issued another indicator of the damage
being done by the war on drugs: An all-time high of 6.3 million people
were under correctional supervision in 1999–1.86 million men and
women behind bars and 4.5 million on parole or probation, 24 percent
of them for drug offenses.

The criminal justice system reached 1 percent of the adult population
in 1980. Its reach now exceeds 3 percent–about one of every 32
people. Our $40 billion-a-year war on drugs has created more prisons,
more criminals, more drug abuse and more disease. An estimated 60
percent of AIDS cases in women are attributed to dirty needles and

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision probably will spur more
litigation in the drug war, as prisoners use the ruling to appeal
unusually harsh sentences.

The court ruled that any factual determination used to increase a
sentence will have to be made by a jury, not a judge. While a judge
can use a standard of the preponderance of the evidence in sentencing,
a jury must decide beyond a reasonable doubt, says Graham Boyd,
director of the Drug Policy Litigation Project of the American Civil
Liberties Union. “If the government wants to impose draconian
sentences for drug crimes, they should have at the very least to prove
their case to a jury by a criminal standard, and that hasn’t happened
in the past–amazingly.”

That’s just one example of the civil rights casualties of a war in
which paramilitary police raid people’s homes and authorities seize
their assets without due process, flying in the face of the Fourth and
Fifth amendments.

A few politicians are brave enough to declare the obvious: The war on
drugs hasn’t worked. New Mexico’s Gary E. Johnson (R) was the first
governor to call for marijuana legalization and other major drug
policy reforms. Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.), a candidate for the U.S.
Senate, is the first major-party politician to run statewide with a
platform that includes prescription access to heroin. They will speak
at the “shadow conventions” to be held at the same time as the
Republican and Democratic conventions to address three issues of
critical importance that organizers say are being given short shrift
by the two major parties: the drug war, campaign finance reform and
the growing gulf between rich and poor.

Drug policies affect millions of people who have family members behind
bars. Some of them will be at the shadow conventions. They will put
names and faces on this whole failed drug war effort. Many of them are
likely to be black. While African Americans constitute 13 percent of
the illegal drug users, they account for 74 percent of those sentenced
for drug offenses. Convicted felons lose their right to vote, a
backdoor way of reinstituting Jim Crow laws.

Pressure to change drug laws is mounting, and it is coming from
unlikely places, including farmers, who are forbidden to grow hemp,
the plant from which marijuana comes but which has other, non-drug
uses. The Lindesmith Center, which advocates drug policy reform, did a
survey several years ago that found more than 50 percent of farmers in
five midwestern and western states favored legalizing hemp. Only 35
percent were opposed.

“This was the first indication we had that the public, in fairly
conservative agricultural states, were supporting this,” says Ethan
Nadelmann, executive director of the center.

More recently, Hawaii and North Dakota passed legislation legalizing
hemp’s cultivation, and similar measures are “in play” in more than 10
other states, Nadelmann says. From 30 to 40 countries, including
Canada, have made it legal. “This is quite galling for farmers on the
northern border who can look across the border and see people growing
this stuff,” he says.

Nadelmann believes that both Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice
President Gore, the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates,
would be well served if they did some research on hemp. “It may be an
issue that a number of people care about, and it would be sending a
message they are willing to think rationally about the economic and
agricultural interests of farmers even when the product has a
relationship to marijuana.”

The Lindesmith Center is one of more than 35 public policy, health,
religious and racial advocacy organizations that sent a list of 10
tough questions to the presidential candidates during the primaries,
pointing out where the drug policies have failed and asking what they
would do to change them.

None of the candidates have answered, according to Kevin B. Zeese,
co-chair of the National Coalition for Effective Drug Policies,
although the groups will try to pursue the issue during the general
election campaign. “Unless the drug issue is forced on them, they
prefer to avoid it rather than confront it,” Zeese says. “Our basic
point is the drug war is bankrupt and our policymakers aren’t facing
up to it. We tried to construct those questions in a way that showed
the drug war methods are causing more problems than they solve, and we
got a range of groups to show a breadth of concern about this.”

Highly visible people, including Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura (I), are
now calling for a genuine debate on how to deal with drugs. Approaches
gaining support include legalizing marijuana (except for sale to
minors), prescription access to heroine, needle exchanges, taxing
drugs and redirecting most of the drug war funding into public health
and education.

We are a nation of intelligent and thoughtful people who deserve
better than overheated rhetoric and a drug policy dictated by crazy
hard-liners and pandering politicians. At the very least, in the face
of the well-documented harm the war on drugs has caused, we deserve a
debate on how to control the drug market in a way that works. This
lackluster presidential campaign would be a good place to start.


US: Time Magazine: The Arianna Sideshow
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00.n1052.a06.html
Newshawk: Come to the Shadow Conventions
Pubdate: Mon, 31 Jul 2000
Source: TIME (US)
Copyright: 2000 Time Inc.
Contact: letters@time.com
Address: Time Letters, Time & Life Bldg., Rockefeller Center, NY, NY 10020
Fax: (212) 522-8949
Website: http://www.time.com/
Author: Andrew Ferguson
Bookmark: MAP’s link to shadow convention items:

Note: Shadow Convention websites: http://www.drugpolicy.org/

THE ARIANNA SIDESHOW The Activist And Socialite Has Plans For Two “Shadow
Conventions” She Hopes Will Roil The Establishment. What Are They Really About

IT’S NOT EASY GETTING A political convention off the ground –
especially when the convention is not really a convention but a
“shadow convention,” and especially when the politics being convened
is not the old-fashioned kind but a new, revolutionary kind of
politics that will “transcend the old categories of left and right.”
Arianna Huffington has been learning this lesson the hard way all
summer. While Americans across the country – hundreds of them! maybe
thousands! – eagerly await the twin spectacle of the Republican and
Democratic conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, the syndicated
columnist and former Newt Gingrich confidant has been trying to round
up participants for a self-styled alternative – the Shadow
Conventions 2000, dubbed by sponsors as a “Citizens’ Intervention in
American Politics.”

“It’s really exploding in ways I could not have imagined,” Huffington
says, riding through downtown Philadelphia a few weeks before the
Republicans are scheduled to arrive. Today she has already held a
press conference, visited two newspaper editorial boards, met with a
dozen area activists and scouted the arena where the shadow revels are
to be held. But the complications never let up. An aide’s cell phone
beeps, and he hands it over. “Bill Bradley,” he says. Bradley has
unofficially agreed to appear at one of the shadow

“Bill!” she says, though in her heavily Greek-accented English it
comes out “Beeeel!” “How are you’?”

A long silence ensues.

“Oh, Bill, that’s ridiculous,” Huffington says at last. “No, no, no.
He’s just trying to make trouble, Bill. It is false. He does not know
what he is talking about.”

In time she hangs up, evidently having mollified Bradley. “He just saw
Bob Novak on Inside Politics,” she explains, referring to the
conservative columnist and the CNN political show on which he
regularly appears. “Bill’s worried because Novak says no one knows who
is financing our conventions. Novak says if people knew, they would
not want to appear. This is false.” She sighs deeply. “But this is the
kind of thing we will have to put up with. The Establishment hates
anything it cannot control. What it cannot control, it tries to
eliminate.” Huffington and her colleagues are convinced they have hit
on a formula that will roil the muddy middle of American politics,
from Bushies on the one side to Gorites on the other. Their plan is
media-savvy and politically astute.

Concurrently with the party conventions, an assortment of activists,
professional pols and celebrities with populist pretensions (from
stand-ups like Bill Maher to superstars like Warren Beatty) will
gather for four days of speechifying, seminar giving and satirical
merrymaking, all on the indisputable assumption that the national
press corps (and the public) will be so starved for spectacle and
spontaneity that it will lavish attention on them – and their
issues. CNN and C-SPAN have expressed interest in broadcasting some
sessions live.

“We want to throw light on the things that no one will be talking
about in the other conventions – and have a genuine debate, not an
infomercial,” Huffington says. She and her co-conveners – who
include Scott Harshbarger of Common Cause and antipoverty activist Jim
Wallis – have whittled their agenda down to three items. One day
will be devoted to campaign-finance reform, the next to the growing
income gap between rich and poor, and the third to “reforming” –
read liberalizing – the nation’s drug laws.

If all goes well, organizers hope, this trinity of issues will form
the nucleus for a “new politics,” re-energizing the half of the
electorate now so alienated from the old politics that it no longer
bothers to vote, Campaign-finance reform is the thread that ties all
other reforms together. “It’s no accident that the major parties
aren’t addressing the income gap and are ignoring the failed war on
drugs,” says Harshbarger, “The constituencies that are hurt by these
issues aren’t donating millions of dollars to the political parties.
Unless you fix campaign finance, you can’t move on to the other
issues.” Still, it seems a curiously arbitrary trio of concerns –
particularly the drug-war component, which scores scarcely a blip in
any catalog of the public’s disenchantments. Why single out drug laws
instead of guns, for example, or the environment, or educational
policy, or any of half a dozen issues with greater populist appeal?

One reason – ironically enough, given the convener’s hostility to
big money in politics – might be cash. A third of the convention’s
tab will be picked up by organizations funded by George Soros, the
international financier whose passion for ending the drug war has made
him an all-purpose bogeyman for political establishmentarians
everywhere. Other funding will come from foundations and individual
donors across a narrow span of the political spectrum, from the center
to the center left.

“Transcending the old categories of left and right,” after all, is a
favorite rhetorical trope of liberals who are tired of being dismissed
in a political culture that makes “moderation” the pre-eminent virtue.

NOTE: The rest of this article has been deleted for space reasons. To
read the whole piece, go to http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00.n1052.a06.html



To the editor of the Washington Post:

Judy Mann does an excellent job of summarizing some of the tremendous
damage done by the drug war (“Make war on the war on drugs,” July 26).
Sadly, the politicians and government officials who have the power to
stop the tragedy prefer to pretend there is no tragedy. It seems as if
the simplistic “Just Say No” mantra repeated to the point of nausea by
politicians in the 1980s has been replaced by an attitude even more
frustrating and dangerous: “Just Say Nothing.”

It’s well past time for more American leaders to face their denial and
break the silence.

Stephen Young


To the editor of Time:

Your article on Arianna Huffington and the upcoming Shadow
Conventions, “The Arianna Sideshow,” was a fair piece but I was
confused by the following:

“Still, it seems a curiously arbitrary trio of concerns –
particularly the drug-war component, which scores scarcely a blip in
any catalog of the public’s disenchantments.”

Barely scores a blip? Do you only read your own magazine? Get a clue.
There is an intense and powerful debate rising in the media of this
country. The drug war has taken the “land of the free” and made us the
most incarcerated nation on the planet.

Get out more often. In fact, step into the “Shadows” and see for

Allan Erickson

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