More on Howard Dean and Drugs

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Colby Cosh digs up more half-coherent old interviews from the Democrat darling. I'll spoil his conclusion:

In fact, it seems there isn't much doubt that Dean is a Drug Warrior in the conventional mould (bigger budget for the DEA, incinerate the meth labs, nuke Colombia, etc., etc.); he just hasn't met with a really tough interviewer yet. His "a little of this and a little of that", I suppose, tells us all we really need to know. Howard Dean, M.D., can use hard drugs casually and grow up to be governor of a great state; Joe Lunchbox, N.D. (no degree), is a different matter altogether.

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  1. This isn’t fair to Dean. In the interview Colby cites, Dean says,

    “We need to treat drugs as a public health problem.. That’s difficult to do. We actually don’t have a lot of drug users in our jails; the ones we have in there are drug users who are also dealers. Jails not a particularly effective way to get people to stop using drugs; treatment is.”

    You can say the country is too far to the right on the drug issue, but Dean’s position puts him squarely on the left and doesn’t make him a “Drug Warrior in the conventional mould.”

  2. Speaking of the war on drugs, Lou Dobbs @ 6pm on CNN this week is having a special every day this week on “The Forgotten War”, aka the drug war. 2 interesting things from yesterday, a poll asking if the us should do more on the war on drugs (72% no, 24 yes, 4 maybe), and the quote of the day on his website:

    “No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”
    – P.J. O’Rourke

  3. When did Vermont become a great state?

  4. “Jails not a particularly effective way to get people to stop using drugs; treatment is.”

    Considering that Dean also says he is against legalization, the above comment can at best be seen as a euphemistic way of saying that you can stay out of jail if you follow our orders for taking treatment.

    Well, at least he’s willing to pay some minor lip service to the possibility of medical mary, which is about as far as we can expect any mainstream politician running for prez to go right now, as piddly little as that is….

  5. Oggez,

    I guess that means Thomas Szasz is squarely to the left of Dean.

    We don’t need to be treating any kind of private behavior choice as a “public health problem.” The public health nazis already have too damn much power.

    The public health approach is even WORSE than criminalization. With criminal penalties, at least the State is limited by your sentence; once it’s up, you’re free. When the therapeutic State’s angels of mercy treat “illness,” on the other hand, you’re in their clutches until they decide you’re “cured.” Jeez, man, get a copy of “Clockwork Orange” (or C.S. Lewis’ “That Hideous Strength,” for that matter).

  6. Kevin Carson,

    Man, you missed One Flew Over The You Know Where!

    Frankly though, I think nonfictional examples might carry a bit more weight…

  7. What I really think we need in this country is a public health approach to the disease of medicalizing behavior.

  8. Somebody who wants to treat drug use as a medical problem rather than a law enforcement problem is certainly preferable to the drug warrior we have in the White House.
    Libertarians need to concentrate on changing the debate, and on electing legislators – regardless of party – who support an end to the drug war.
    Attacking someone who is clearly more moderate than the incumbent President is misguided.

  9. We dont know how or when the drug war will end, but end it will. Prohibition did not end because the government decided to treat alcoholics. If involuntary medical treatment is assault, what would you call involuntary medical treatment for something that is not a disease? The first federal narcotic treatment centers are over 70 years old so this is not a new direction.

  10. I see the propaganda on TV but I don’t see illicit drugs as a health problem. Certainly not the level of say obesity and all its related issues; heart disease, diabetes, etc. Illicit drug use as a health problem is an epidemic of drug warrior hot air fouling up the ozone! If Dean wants to contribute to this bullshit, then he really isn’t seperating himself from other repbulicans and democrats, at least on this issue.

  11. Interesting point Phill.

  12. I looked at other, scattered Net resources about Dean’s stand on the “War on Drugs” specifically; I probably should have made a compendium. Here’s a link that may cut a bit closer to the heart of the issue: “I am really in favour of hammering dealers,” Dean says. “You know they are merchants of death and destruction and misery.” As best I can tell, he’s a medicalizer AND a drug warrior–worst of both worlds, absolutely.

  13. The Onion said it best: if you have a job, pot is legal. If Joe Lunchbox can manage to keep out of much trouble, he can do all the drugs he wants in this country. Clinton and W getting elected are just the beginning. Almost all the major candidates going forward are going to have used hard drugs casually and paid no price for it.

  14. I believe in legalization, but I am also in favor of hamnmering organized criminals. Yes, it is bad policy to turn the sale of recreational drugs into a racket, but that doesn’t mean racketeers aren’t a problem.

    The “drug laws cause violent crime” argument isn’t very convincing when you keep sympathizing with the criminals.

  15. How about, “Drug laws create an unregulated black market that leads to violent crimes.”

  16. “You know they are merchants of death and destruction and misery.”

    Sounds a bit like the military. But then, I guess if we WANT them to be merchants of death and destruction and misery, then that’s ok.

    Here’s an idea – people don’t have a “drug problem”, they have a life problem. In the words of Chris Rock, “What, like The Ghetto was such a great place to be before crack? Everybody livin’ in a great big damn mansion until crack came in and dried up all the damn swimming pools.”

    People who have unaddressed problems, typically of the emotional and internal programming variety (“I don’t deserve xyz”, “I’ll never succeed”, “I should just give up”, blah blah blah) turn to whatever they can get their hands on. You’d think the drug warriors would look around and see as they are pounding away at drugs that people are just picking up junk food and over-eating and sloth and apathy; the “institution of marriage” sports a ever-so-healthy 50% divorce rate for first marriages, and 60% or so for 2nd marriages (and it gets worse after that), and if not for all the transactional and conversion costs and damage caused by divorce, the marriage failure rate would very possibly be over 75%.

    Looking further, the modern day bachelor’s degree is now generally equivalent to a 1950’s highschool education (according to a National Academy of Scholars study, if I recall correctly). I believe another study in the late 80’s showed that of those with a bachelor’s of science degree, 29% of whites and some 70%+ of blacks could not read and write at a 10th or 12th grade reading level (I can’t recall precisely – either 4 or 6 years below their formal training).

    And you know what – “drugs” didn’t do much of any of this. If illegal drugs just ceased to exist the problems would not particularly improve. A drive for excellance, virtue, and intelligence would not be the cultural result if somehow people couldn’t get their hands on cocaine. All the while the government drains away resources that would be spent on those kinds of far more pressing problems than the ones they dream up and obsess over (all symptom, no cause); the barbarians might be at the gates, but they aren’t narcotics.

  17. From a libertarian perspective, criminalizing and medicalizing may be two unacceptable methods of state control, but in the wider political debate, medicalization is a step away from stigmatization and a step toward decriminalization.

    To argue for medicalization nationally is risky. I don’t think it’s fair to bash Dean for his position on this because he couldn’t move much further toward decriminalization without making himself really and truly unelectable.

  18. joe,

    Are you taking rhetorical style lessons from Ray?!? Who here expressed any sympathy for organized criminals? I don’t see one post in this thread that even addresses drug dealing! That said, why would you want to hammer someone for doing something that you don’t think should be illegal? If they do other things that actually violate people’s rights, then sure, hammer ’em! Otherwise, leave ’em alone…

  19. all the major candidates going forward are going to have used hard drugs casually and paid no price for it.

    The vast majority of people in this country never touch hard drugs, unless you count alcohol and pot as “hard”. Most people have never tried cocaine, or heroin, or psychadelics (if those count as “hard”) and don’t want to.

    So unless getting high somehow makes you more likely to run for public office (hm… explains a lot, come to think of it) I fail to see why you think “all the major candidates” will have done hard drugs.

  20. ogged stated:
    medicalization is a step away from stigmatization and a step toward decriminalization.
    REPLY: medicalization is a step towards abandoning the rule of law, and a step toward reinstituting the inquisition

    I don’t think it’s fair to bash Dean for his position on this
    REPLY: Drug users, drug dealers, drug law legislators are all moral agents and there is no existential cop out.

    Medicalization of sodomy, of masturbation, and of bad habits in general, whether judged bad by self or others, was and is not the first step towards freedom. The best way to repeal a bad law is to enforce it strictly. If they abandoned all drug treatment and drug courts, prohibition would collapse on its own weight.

  21. I have a tendency to think that the process of becoming a public official, especially family dynamics, makes one vastly more likely to do hard drugs. But then, that’s just a guess.

  22. Oh, and one last thing: medicalization of a rather perfectly valid, if not neccessarily wise, personal choice reminds me of Psychiatry in the Bad Old Days (just a few decades ago, if your optimistic).

    I’m not sure I really see how medicalization steps away from stigmatization – as far as I’m aware, if there is any such effect then it is indeed exceedingly slow in working, and Alcoholism and a few mental illnesses seems to be the only ones to see much of an improvement.

    That and I really don’t see how putting people in low-grade psych wards and telling them they are ill is better than putting them in prison and calling them a criminal. Frankly, the former scares and discusts me even more than the latter.

  23. In the long run it doen’t matter in the least what Howard Dean thinks about anything. The only reason the top of the D party (Bill, Hill, & Terry) hasn’t slapped Dean back into obscurity is that he serves their current purpose. He is being used as a patsy. He is Hillary’s Mike Dukakis. At the precise movement when it seems the Deal lurch to left is killing the party, Hillary will step in to save the day – but still lose the election (thank God)

  24. GENE: Somebody who wants to treat drug use as a medical problem rather than a law enforcement problem is certainly preferable to the drug warrior we have in the White House.

    Steve: The current president also ‘says’ via his drug czar Walters that drug use should be a viewed as a medical problem, rather than jail. However the current federal budget ratio for enforcement vs treatment is still well over 10 to 1.

    However until they agree to stop arresting adults for simple marijuana possession, both men are thus stating that marijuana use indicates a medical problem that must be forcibly treated. In that regard – meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  25. ^Easy there! 🙂

    Well, we seem to be talking past each other, and I don’t know how to make myself any clearer. But I’m all ears for anything you’d care to pass on about how Dean acted differently than a conventional Drug Warrior or Bush when he (Dean) ran Phishland.

  26. Our views seem to be diametrically opposed: you believe that the government shouldn’t trouble peaceful drug dealers, only the violent ones. I, on the other hand, believe the government should crack down on violent drug dealers, and not trouble itself about the peaceful ones. Does that pretty much sum it up?

    Wars have been fought over less.

  27. Lets think about it; Bush vs Dean: Mr BIG government with massiive foreign intervention vs Mr. Even BIGGER government (is that possible?) with many foreign (U.N.) entanglements. Yeah, I need a drug now, something for depression.

  28. Well now that you’ve put it THAT way, heh-heh, yeah I guess so…

  29. it’s not fair to smear liberals by pretending that the motivation behind medicalization is the same as that behind criminalization.
    My reply:
    The motivation for both of these ideas is that people cannot control themselves.
    If medicalization were pushed to its extremes and be accepted by mainstream society, I could forsee a day where addicts would have access to drugs via doctors, and people who are not addicts would not have access. Such arbitaray access to property and its effects on the rule of law are not good prospects for freedom.

  30. Phill, do you think the crackhead prostitutes in last week’s St. Louis story are free individuals, making their choices without any coercion?

  31. I could show you the studies that demonstrate that alcoholics, cocaine users and heroin addicts regulate their behavior for reasons that are important to them. These are the worst case scenarios, so I dont really see the problem you are describing. Believe it or not, prostitution existed before the nightmare of crack. If anyone is not able to control themselves joe, it is people like you who seemingly are habituated to the idea of medicalizing behavior. I think you need court appointed treatment for language abuse , with regular testing to ensure compliance. This attitude is in keeping with the idea of using diagnosis as a weapon.

  32. fyodor,

    I don’t think it’s dishonest to equate opposition to punishing someone with sympathizing with them. My comment was based on this, as well as other, posts in this space.

    “why would you want to hammer someone for doing something that you don’t think should be illegal?”

    I think running a racket should be illegal.

  33. joe,

    First part: I sympathize with drug dealers to the degree that I don’t think they should be penalized by the government simply for selling drugs. No more and no less than that.

    Second part: But isn’t that circular reasoning? I mean, if what they’re doing shouldn’t be illegal, then why should it be called a racket? I’ll leave it at this: messing with others’ rights to their own security and property (if they haven’t messed with the same of others) should be illegal, and pretty much nothing else. I don’t see where whether it’s done individually or collectively even enters into that equation, but if you wanna call it a racket if something that violates others’ rights is done collectively, well fine, ain’t no skin off my nuts neither way!

  34. fyodor,

    I like beer. But I’m glad Al Capone rotted in jail.

  35. joe,

    Agreed. However, my beef with Al Capone is for having had people shot and otherwise offed, not for selling beer at a time when doing so was illegal. If he had done the latter without doing the former, then I surely would not have been in favor of incarcerating him, and I suppose you could say I would have sympathized with him had he been jailed solely for that reason.

    Hmmm, are you suggesting that ALL drug dealers are also murderers?

  36. Gene Berkman:

    I attack everyone who is more moderate than me.

  37. I don’t care why they put Al Capone in jail. If they couldn’t get a murder rap, but found him in a warehouse with a few truck loads of kegs, I’d would have no problem with jailing him for alcohol posession.

    I don’t think all drug dealers are murderers. Nor do I think Howard Dean was talking about sending a SWAT team into every basement with a grow light. That certainly wasn’t how he behaved in Phishland.

  38. I don’t care why they put Al Capone in jail. If they couldn’t get a murder rap, but found him in a warehouse with a few truck loads of kegs, I’d would have no problem with jailing him for alcohol posession.

    I don’t think all drug dealers are murderers. Nor do I think Howard Dean was talking about sending a SWAT team into every basement with a grow light. That certainly wasn’t how he behaved when he ran Phishland.

  39. I don’t care why they put Al Capone in jail. If they couldn’t get a murder rap, but found him in a warehouse with a few truck loads of kegs, I’d would have no problem with jailing him for alcohol posession.

    I don’t think all drug dealers are murderers. Nor do I think Howard Dean was talking about sending a SWAT team into every basement with a grow light. That certainly wasn’t how he behaved when he ran Phishland.

  40. These are good replies. But it seems to me that medicalization is more disturbing in the abstract than in context. If you think liberals and conservatives are just pushing different methods of control, then I won’t be able to convince you of anything. But, in fact, liberals don’t think drugs are so bad and many of them would be happy to decriminalize drug use. Those liberals have won treatment options, not as an alternative method of control, but as a step toward decriminalization. As you all point out, medicalization needs to be watched very carefully because it’s liable to arbitrary abuse, but it’s not fair to smear liberals by pretending that the motivation behind medicalization is the same as that behind criminalization.

  41. Yes, Phill, coercion can sometimes be resisted. Now, answer the question: are crackhead prostitutes free individuals, making free choices without coercion?

  42. Absolutely they are. Why is it so hard to accept the fact that many people choose to do things that are foolish, destructive or distasteful? I was actually approached by some prostitutes on tuesday and they were obviously crackheads. They knew the streets and were more adept at hustling than I believe I ever could be. I have a tough time seeing a person who possesses such obvious skills as a victim.

  43. If Dean came out in favor of decriminilazatino of marijuana now, he would be demonized and would alienate too many people. No matter how he feels, he should stick to his ambiguous statements about public health.

    http://www.cures-not-wars.com/

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