Coke Is It!

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Break out the parachute pants, Members Only jackets, and official Don Johnson stubble shavers!

In one more sign that '80s nostalgia is just around the corner, the Justice Department, which just released its latest annual National Drug Threat Assessment, calls cocaine "the greatest drug threat" to these United States.

Reports the Washington Times, "In ranking cocaine just above methamphetamine as the top threat, the report maintains there are almost no places in the United States where a potential buyer would not be able to find the drug for sale." Not that ubiquity shouldn't be confused with growing use rates. Per the Times,

The report, posted on NDIC's Web site…indicates a slight increase in the number of U.S. adults snorting cocaine ? about 5.6 percent in 2002 compared with 5.3 percent in 2001 ? and shows cocaine use among adolescents "appears to be trending downward."

It found that use declined from 1.8 percent in 2002 to 1.6 percent in 2003 among eighth graders, from 3.4 to 2.8 percent among 10th graders and from 4.4 to 4.2 percent among 12th graders.

Additionally, fewer teens are taking crack, the more powerful, smokeable form of the drug. It also found that use among 10th graders declined significantly from 2.3 percent in 2002 to 1.6 percent in 2003. Among 12th graders, it slipped from 2.3 percent to 2.2 percent.

The feds estimate the illegal drug trade at $64 billion a year.

A bit ago, Reason's Jacob Sullum delved into the question of whether, well, crack cocaine is the heroin of addictive drugs. And I assayed the formula for one of the most worn-out genres of journalism, "the new drug of choice story."

[DOJ link via Free-Market.net]

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  1. Jennifer,

    Anti-depressants do not exist to cure “shyness” as you say. No, they aren’t for everyone, and yes, they are probably overprescribed. However, real people see real benefits from drugs like Wellbutrin, Effexor, and the like. Some children DO benefit from Ritalin. I’m as much in favor of “illicit” drug legalization as the next libertarian, but it is unintelligent and dangerous to equate prescription drugs with recreational drugs. They are wholly different things.

  2. Beast and Meister Brau (aka Chow) were great beers for my poor college years. It was cheaper than soda. Sure it’s one level above Olde English, but it’s still better than Miller High Life.

    Rick James: What did the five fingers say to the face?

  3. pottsy, i think the point is that they’re offered up in commercials as a shyness cure, the traditional stronghold of recreational chemicals.

  4. Pottsy,
    What dhex said. I have seen drugs advertised as a shyness cure. Likewise, while I don’t doubt that SOME kids benefit from Ritalin, I think most kids on Ritalin don’t need it. When I taught high school, I had one class where more than HALF the kids were on some sort of drug. According to school authorities, these were some of the drugworthy symptoms:
    –Being a 17-year-old boy who fidgets and acts bored during a monotonal lecture in biology class

    –being a fifteen-year old girl who got depressed after her boyfriend dumped her

    –ANY behavior which made your teachers or parents unhappy.

    A lot of parents have found that giving their kids pills is a hell of a lot easier than giving them attention.

  5. Mo-
    Eeew. Yuckola. I never knew anybody really drank that stuff; I figured they just used the cans to build pyramids in their front yards.

    By the way, I’ll bite–what DID the five fingers say to the face?

  6. Mo–

    SLAP!

    I’m Rick James, bitch.

    (Glad somebody got that.)

  7. I’m as much in favor of “illicit” drug legalization as the next libertarian, but it is unintelligent and dangerous to equate prescription drugs with recreational drugs. They are wholly different things.

    There are really just two kinds of drugs. The ones the pharmaceutical cartels have found a way to patent and/or make money on, and everything else.

    You can rest assured. If it’s an off patent or “natural” chemical that is found to effectively compete with any overpriced prescription, they’ll find a way to ban it. You think ephedra, l-trytophan and coca leaves are impossible to get because they’re dangerous?

  8. Pavel-
    In keeping with what you said, the government insists that marijuana has no medical benefits, yet at the same time they okayed an expensive prescription drug called “Marinol” which is basically synthetic THC. You know, for the people who would benefit from medical marijuana if marijuana had any medical benefits, which it apparently does not, so have some Marinol instead.

    That would have made a lot more sense if I were stoned.

  9. I don’t think the government wants a drug-free America at all.

    Of course not, they want an America free from a specific schedule of drugs. This specific schedule is the chemical moral referent, and can be changed at any time. As long as you are not illegally using any drugs from that list, you are a moral creature in that respect. If that list changes (even if you do not change at all) and you are using a newly listed drug, then you are an amoral creature.

    The funny part is that Pavel is right – the schedule is a protectionist entity.

    And to think I used to wonder why there were anarchists.

    ..to equate prescription drugs with recreational drugs. They are wholly different things.

    Not in the ways that truly matter, Pottsy. At dosage time you choose whether or not to put the medication in your mouth, and why. While they are certainly not equal, the basic motivations to take them remain the same.

    Some children DO benefit from Ritalin.

    Some fat people benefitted from ephedra, too.

  10. the first place they should screen — Capitol Hill. Walk outside any federal building in Washington and marvel at the number of little plastic bags littering its neighboring alleys

  11. Jennifer,
    You can’t grow Marinol for next to nothing … duh.

    One of my “favorite” anti-med MJ arguments was that as a pain killer it was “only” as effective as Codeine. Last I heard, it’s a pretty effective pain killer (though it is sold OTC in the Great White North).

  12. That’s very insightful, dhex.

  13. There are really just two kinds of drugs. The ones the pharmaceutical cartels have found a way to patent and/or make money on, and everything else.

    What, because drug companies can’t figure out how to make money selling cocaine and pot? Please. Illiterate drug-addled fourteen-year-olds can figure out how to make money selling cocaine and pot. It isn’t rocket science. Implying that pharm cartels haven’t “found a way” to make money on pot is like claiming that the government is cracking down on pornography because the mainstream media haven’t found a way to make money off of pictures of naked women.

    And before you say “you can’t patent pot or cocaine” — you can’t patent alcohol or tobacco, either. Yet plenty of people have managed to get filthy rich selling those drugs.

  14. The greatest drug threats to America are pharmaceutical kickbacks.

    Parents of America: Learn to raise your own bastard spawn, or abort them before you get the opportunity to fuck them up. If you can’t manage your own life, chances are you can’t manage a child’s either. Keep that in mind while you’re fuckin with hats off.

  15. joe: what’s insightful? dope and booze curing shyness or monacles and cigarette holders being absolutely fucking debonair? 🙂

    personally, i’m all “fuck paxil and shit” but i’ve held too many heads out of the toilet and stayed up too many nights with people kicking paxil than i care to count. i know there are legitimate uses for the drugs – but giving them out to cure malaise is fucking dereliction of duty on the part of doctors.

    these kids need a priest. or a rabbi. or a monastic of some sort. or some yoga classes. personally, i like tai chi myself. or maybe a fulfilling career in the adult film industry. or a good hobby. or a bad hobby they find fulfilment in. etc.

  16. Both, now that you mention it.

    But don’t make the mistake of assuming that ADD, depression, and other psychological diseases don’t exist, or that drug treatment isn’t sometimes appropriate. For every overprescribed abuser you’ve seen, my mom has seen a teenager who went from suicidal/catatonic/hallucinating basket case to functional member of society after getting the right treatment.

  17. “For every overprescribed abuser you’ve seen, my mom has seen a teenager who went from suicidal/catatonic/hallucinating basket case to functional member of society after getting the right treatment.”

    Actually, Joe, I think it’s more like “for every fifteen overprescribed people I’ve seen, your mom has seen one who was helped.”

    I mean, c’mon. HALF of my class on these goddamned pills? If half of all humanity truly needed such things to function, evolution would have weeded us out long ago.

    I also find it suspicious that children in America seem to need these drugs at much, much higher rates than children in other industrialized countries. I call shenanigans on this.

  18. Jennifer, up till the 1960s, schools and parents would physically beat the little darlings into submission.

    We did not evolve to spend our youths in classrooms, so that argument fall flat.

  19. There are people in this world with real ADD, real depression, etc.

    They’ll rarely come out and tell you about it because it’s embarassing to be abnormal. It’s embarassing to wonder why your brain isn’t working like it should. And no amount of “sensitivity training” or legislated special privileges or whatever will lead to an environment where people feel no qualms about admitting that their brain doesn’t work properly. Sure, some of them will talk about it, but it isn’t easy.

    Instead, most of the people with REAL problems are too busy just trying to deal with their problems and move on.

    Most of the people who say “I have ADD so give me special privileges!” don’t have ADD. They don’t know how embarassing it is. They just know that they can get special treatment from the teachers if they get a diagnosis, so they find an ethically-impaired physician who has no qualms about giving out a bogus diagnosis.

    And all these bogus diagnoses lead to a backlash where reasonable people become skeptical. But that’s OK. Most people who are responding well to treatment don’t want special privileges, so they won’t be upset when the special privileges are removed.

    I will admit anonymously that I have ADD. I teach part-time in the evenings at a small private college, in addition to my day job. I hold 2 jobs without anybody giving me special privileges for my condition because I have taken responsibility for dealing with it.

    So you can guess how angry I was a few months ago when a student showed me “medical” documentation that he has ADD and needs special accomodations. I resent the implication that people with ADD are somehow disabled and weaker. I’m certainly not disabled. I have 2 highly skilled jobs, and advanced degrees. Still, school policies and anti-discrimination laws required me to comply with his demands. Being young and part-time and untenured gives me few options. But, some day I will be a tenured professor with money in the bank, and then it will be a different story when some kid demands special privileges instead of dealing with his own problems on his own.

    Finally, my wife was diagnosed 10 years ago with schizophrenia. This was before I met her. She got treated. She sees her doctors regularly. And she has a normal life now and also works 2 jobs. You would never know it from talking to her.

    Mental illness is real, but the people who really do have it are the ones least likely to tell you about it, except maybe anonymously. We’re too busy getting our lives together and moving on. The ones demanding special privileges are probably just faking it.

  20. Jennifer, up till the 1960s, schools and parents would physically beat the little darlings into submission.

    Minus the “schools” part, this was a good idea. Unfortunately we’ve replaced good parenting with child “protective” services who show up ready to take children away from parents who had the audacity – and sense of responsibility – to spank their kids when they misbehave.

    children in America seem to need these drugs

    Seem is the key word. The need is an illusion, fostered by drug companies in order to get its product to consumers using the medical community as a proxy. People largely – and to their own detriment – trust their doctors. This trust insulates the pharmaceutical industry from the same measure of scrutiny to which society will glady subject, say, energy companies.

  21. I agree with RST. Not that I advocate child abuse, but what the hell is wrong with teaching kids self-control, rather than giving them drugs? Schools can’t give spankings nowadays, but making a kid stay after school or write a punitive essay would, in the long run, be kinder than altering his goddamned brain chemistry.

  22. rst,

    Replace “ADD” with “intractable pain,” and “Ritalin” with “morphine.”

    Do we really want to get so hysterical about overprescription than doctors are afraid to provide the treatment they deem appropriate?

  23. Dan–

    It wasn’t my intention to provide a blanket explanation for why all illegal drugs are made illegal and why they stay illegal.

    However, the fact remains. When a non proprietary substance does something effectively (besides make you die, like tobacco) it is a threat to highly focused profit interests. This is a big factor in why some drugs become controlled.

    Conversely, the interests that stand to gain from removal of controls are highly distributed. Truth be told, it’s in everybody’s interest. If marijuana became legal tomorrow, just about everybody would have an equal opportunity to profit from its production and sale.

    Basic laws of collective action at work here.

    For this reason, if alcohol and tobacco were already illegal the forces against them becoming legal would be great. They’d be even greater if either of those drugs had any benefits akin to an established drug already on the market.

    I don’t consider it a coincidence that the shittiest most bad-for-you drugs in existence happen to be the legal ones.

  24. Replace “ADD” with “intractable pain,” and “Ritalin” with “morphine.”

    No, that would be too far in the other direction. Pain management generally has a much more measured approach than psychiatry, however. The fact that there are opiates involved is part of the reason (tox screens for contraband before and during opiate prescription are required in a number of states), to say nothing for the fact that psychiatry has long yearned to be taken seriously as a medical science. In pain management to avoid the placebo effect, your expectations for relief play a large role in whether opiates are prescribed at all; in psychiatry the medications are prescribed to alter your expectation for relief. As a side note, you will generally not get morphine in an outpatient setting. At worst you’ll bounce between oxy- and hydrocodone.

  25. joe: i’m not making that mistake. they exist in my own family.

    but…the gulf between the person who needs anti-psychotics due to hallucinations, severe depression and other life-threatening/potentially dangerous and debillitating symptoms and the type of people that paxil and co. are being marketed to is VAST.

    and while i blame physicians in part i do sort of understand. someone comes to you with an essentially spiritual/political problem, but you’ve both been trained to think of these issues as medical.

    doctors long ago gave up saying “you need to go on an adventure” or “you need to abandon your wife/husband and/or kids because they’re making you sick” and other obvious fixes. and there’s no fucking way to help anyone reconcile the cognative dissonance of living on the planet of the apes and what passes for an understanding of ethics these days.

    there’s also a whole side essay about the pussification of america that fits into the end of here…but whatever. you get my point.

  26. Do we really want to get so hysterical about overprescription than doctors are afraid to provide the treatment they deem appropriate?

    I don’t think it’s inconsistent to argue that drugs like Ritalin are overcontrolled *and* overprescribed.

    Drugs in the same class as Ritalin are ridiculously controlled, down to the absolute number that is to be produced per year (this lead to a huge Ritalin shortage at one point in the ’90s).

    At the same time I see it as a complete hoax to treat these drugs as specially designed treatments for a “disease.” Do some people function better and “feel more like themselves” with a given drug? Sure. But these are both subjective decisions of preference not medical science.

  27. The paddle is still used in some schools. My nephew and a buddy found this out the hard way in the VP’s office a while back. No sympathy was forthcoming back home either. As long as parents give permission I think the old “board of education” can be an effective disciplinary sanction in schools. It was when I was there.

  28. dhex and Pavel, you do realize you are describing one subset of users, and there is another subset who actually do have serious diseases that are appropriately treated medically, right?

    For you to compare a kid who actually has ADD with a 17 year old who figets in math class just demonstrates that you don’t really know about the former.

  29. jesus fucking christmas, joe, read my shit first man!

    you do realize the population you’re describe is RADICALLY SMALLER than the population the drug is being advertised for? having heard stories from the legal and marketing departments of a certain major drug manufacturer, where phrases like “100% total market saturation” are bandied about in memos referring to the 18 and younger demographic for a bestselling antidepressant, i’m beginning to think that perhaps, just perhaps, intentions are less than pure. another favorite issue, btw, was looking towards a future where “cradle to grave” products would be available for brain chemistry alteration.

    unlike some in these parts i don’t necessarily think businesses are automatically run by enlightened philosopher kings simply because communists are fucking dorkwads.

    if anything this blitz makes it more difficult to identify the percentage of students actually afflicted with ADD compared to those who are blind with boredom from the soul-crushing deadliness that is high school, for example.

    i’m glad people have these choices overall, but i still think the behavior of certain companies and the doctors is repugnant. that has fuckall to do with the other percentage of the population with a legitimate medical problem.

  30. also: the medical treatment for that 17 year old fidgeter demonstrates the lack of seriousness with which doctors, school employees and parents take towards ADD. or ADHD or whatever it’s being called at the moment.

  31. >We did not evolve to spend our youths in classrooms, so that argument fall flat.

    No we didn’t. Nor sitting in front of computer monitors, dammit, but here I am.

  32. “for you to compare a kid who actually has ADD..”

    And just how do we identify the kids who “really have” ADD and aren’t just dull, dim, or bored? Are these drugs really helping kids, or does it only seem to help them because of our confirmation bias? Last I checked, American schoolboys and girls were scoring lower on standardized tests than their European coevals, and.. well, you already know what I’m going to say, so what’s the deal?

    By the by, Paxil, along with all other ‘antidepressants’ and ‘anti-anxiety’ medications, is an anti-cholinergic substance. Decreased production of acetylcholine is closely correlated with cognitive deficits, including impaired memory and problem solving ability.

  33. “Are these drugs really helping kids, or does it only seem to help them because of our confirmation bias?”

    Should read: Are these drugs really helping kids, or do they only seem to help them because of our confirmation bias?

  34. Think of it this way, Joe: kids who have cancer truly do need chemo or radiation therapy, but if doctors started giving chemotherapy to every single kid with a runny nose, then chemo, overall, would cause more harm than good, and get a bad rap it doesn’t deserve.

    Just want to repeat: I don’t doubt that ADD exists; I just doubt that all (or even most) of the kids so diagnosed actually have it.

    Anybody ever see the South Park ADD episode? The ADD test involved reading “The Great Gatsby” out loud to a bunch of eight-year-olds; anyone who got bored was put on Ritalin.

  35. “But don’t make the mistake of assuming that ADD, depression, and other psychological diseases don’t exist, or that drug treatment isn’t sometimes appropriate. For every overprescribed abuser you’ve seen, my mom has seen a teenager who went from suicidal/catatonic/hallucinating basket case to functional member of society after getting the right treatment.”

    Thanks, Joe. You hit it on the nose.

    People don’t take prescription drugs for the same reasons they take recreational drugs. Of course, there is overlap, there are people who don’t need prescriptions who take them anyway to make themselves feel better. There are others who take prescription medication because after years and years of being at the bottom of a hole, unable to face the day or themselves, they have found one way of helping themselves not only cope, but flourish and succeed in life. To me that is a far cry from smoking a joint or snorting coke to have a good time. Anyone who can make such a huge generalization and equate the two understands very little about drugs in the first place.

    I’m surprised so many of you seem to want to rant so hard against the “evil” pharmaceutical companies and their ad agencies. You’d think this forum was more of a lefty hangout.

  36. dhex,

    Ok. You came awfully close to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    “And just how do we identify the kids who “really have” ADD and aren’t just dull, dim, or bored?” VV

    Because their behavior in their daily lives and response to tests is completely different, in a consistent manner that people familiar with the subject can spot a mile away.

  37. yeah, i’m fuckin’ rantin’, alright. 🙂

    seriously, what’s so hardass leftist about the idea that “social anxiety disorder” is more of a marketing term than a medical one?

    i know all sorts of crazy shit comes out in memos. and i work in marketing. but fuck, there’s just some shit that’s nefarious. “cradle to grave” is some nefarious shit.

    i’m not suggesting regulation. i’m not suggesting they be prevented from advertising or selling their products. or that legitimate medical conditions exist, duh.

    but i am suggesting that’s some nefarious, sneaky, low-down shit going on.

    cast me into the Aether of Che if you will.

  38. It’s funny to me that coke has a glamourous image amonge older people. I’ve always thought of it as the premium-grade white trash drug. Meth, for when you hit that scratch ticket.

  39. Notice how media always makes out an inanimate substance to be the “threat,” while police, and other active, well-armed drug warriors are assumed to be perfectly benign.

    At the very least, can’t media admit just a tiny bit of collateral damage?

  40. I always love it when drug use survey results are published. I filled out these surveys a few times in middle school in the early 90’s. The school officials would set us down in the cafateria, explain that we were to fill out these forms honestly and that no one would get in trouble for telling the truth. As soon as we started, you could hear whispers, “oh yeah, I’ve have sex 10 times a day..” and “sure, I do crack.” because teenage boys and girls like to thing they are tough. In reality I know only a dozen of my classmates had tried pot and a couple of the kids really involved gangs had done hardcore drugs.

  41. Several years back (in the late ’90s, I think) National Review ran an article challenging the addictiveness of cocaine. It’s been a long time, so I’m a little fuzzy on the details. But they examined the number of people, out of those using coke (in both rock and powder form) on a monthly basis, who moved up to weekly use. They made similar comparisons between weekly and daily, and other durations. They found that the vast majority of people using coke at a given frequency stabilized at that frequency without increasing it. And many would have long gaps of non-use, besides.

    I think the real test of addictiveness should be the absolute number of users whose use gets out of control, not comparison to some arbitrary yardstick like heroin. I suspect the addictiveness of all illegal drugs is exaggerated as a way for the drug warriors to sell their power to the public.

  42. joe, which drugs do you consider to be the glamorous one? Prescription meds?

  43. martinis and unfiltered smokes.

    preferably with a monacle and onyx cigarette holder.

  44. Pharmaceuticals are always the peak of style. Remember when Syd Barrett slathered down his hair with hair cream and Mandrax tablets?

  45. Gasoline and other volatile liquids. Mmmmm….huffing….

  46. The government wants a drug-free America–except for the drugs we give old farts so they can get an erection, and the anti-depressants we give people to “cure” shyness, and the Ritalin and Prozac we give to kindergartners who insist on acting like a bunch of goddamned five-year-olds, and the literally poisonous alcoholic beverages we serve at White House dinners (many alcohol manufacturers are financial contributors to Partnership for a Drug-Free America), and the. . .

    Wait a minute. I don’t think the government wants a drug-free America at all.

    However, I’ll buy the idea that cocaine is horrible, if there’s proof that George W. Bush was an eloquent public speaker BEFORE he went through his cokehead phase in the 70s. Now that would be an effective ad campaign–“Hey, kids! Avoid cocaine or you’ll turn into THIS!!”

  47. Whoa, i don’t know what white trash you’re hanging around, are these the people who make under 100 grand in Greenwich, CT or something? From my short experience the white trash drug of choice remains meth, produced in the homes of people with motors hanging from trees in their front yards.

  48. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

  49. Having been raised in the white-trash part of the South, I can testify from personal observation that the white-trash drug of choice is Milwaukee’s Best brand beer. Huffing spray paint would come in a close second.

  50. Apparently, Sen. Chuck Schumer didn’t get the memo that Crack is Back, because he’s been on a rampage about methamphetamine. In fact, he says, “Today the same warning signs that we once saw for crack are beginning to rear their head about crystal meth.” So if meth is the new crack, what does that make crack?

  51. “So if meth is the new crack, what does that make crack?”

    Crack Classic?

  52. Chuckie-boy is interested in one thing, and it isn’t accuracy. It’s media attention. Everything he does is calculated to get him the maximum exposure.

  53. Well, there is the guy in Louisiana trying to ban crack.

    Oh, wait, wrong crack. Sorry.

  54. Ah, Milwaukee’s “Beast.” It was avoided in my college days — even among those who lived on Old Milwaukee — and fell into the class of such don’t-touch swills as Iron City, Schaefer, Meister Brau (“Monster Brau”) and Grain Belt. Given those choices, no wonder some people end up inhaling paint fumes.

  55. I need a doll! Just one doll…

  56. dhex and Pavel, you do realize you are describing one subset of users, and there is another subset who actually do have serious diseases that are appropriately treated medically, right?…

    …But don’t make the mistake of assuming that ADD, depression, and other psychological diseases don’t exist, or that drug treatment isn’t sometimes appropriate.

    Unlike others here I’m going to take the hardline stance. Just for kicks. So pardon me while I take the Szaszian view for a test drive.

    I don’t think there’s any useful line to be drawn between the fidgety kid in school and person with a “real” disease. Neither one of them is real with respect to any organic breakdown of the brain. Both have a right to self-improvement through whatever chemistry they see fit.

    Any definition of “proper function” that proports to separate the Truly Sick from the Overprescribed Pretenders is as arbitrarily socially constructed now as it ever was.

    If consistent testable behavior is going to be your marker, it fails completely. Fidgety kids will fall into consistent patterns of Fidgety Kid Syndrome. Same with ADD. Same with Depression. Same with the Harried Housewife Syndrome in DSMs of old.

    People have always fallen into cognitive variations. Some of these variations have always sucked and it’s great that people have the technology to deal with it. But to say that these differences should be medicalized is to pick some arbitrary behavioral set of variations and say, “well…*this* is a disease, everything else is an individual variation in personality that people should just deal with.”

    The only thing separating the new standardbearers of the moral order (psychiatrists) from the old (the priesthood) is a superficial appearance of scientific validity.

  57. “…But don’t make the mistake of assuming that ADD, depression, and other psychological diseases don’t exist, or that drug treatment isn’t sometimes appropriate.”

    This quote in the above post should be in italics.

  58. Wait a minute! I thought ‘marijuana is the greatest threat to America’ of the illegal drugs.

    Oh, sorry, different part of the Justice Dept…

    Meanwhile, the suggestion that 5.6% of American adults ‘snort’ coke (thereby automatically making them AB-users, but I digress) is an absurd statistic.

    First it presumes they found 5% of a given random sample of American adults who would admit to using cocaine, an astonishing risk in 21st century America.

    Second it is DOUBLE the number cited in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2002

    see: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/druguse.htm #3

    At least this helps reinforce my belief that it’s getting harder and harder for public officials to lie to the public with each passing day of the 21st century.

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